Wednesday, March 1, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will now proceed with prayers.
Speaker: We will now proceed with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the Trans Canada Trail Relay 2000
Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all members of the Yukon Legislature to pay tribute to the Trans Canada Trail Relay 2000.
The Trans Canada Trail runs from Arctic coast to Pacific coast to Atlantic Coast in Canada, a total distance of over 16,000 kilometres. The project was begun in 1992. When it's finished, it will be the longest, shared-use recreational trail in the world.
To mark the official opening of the trail later this year, a relay is taking place. The relay started February 14, with a bottle of water being drawn from the Arctic Ocean at Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories.
Pacific water will be drawn April 7 in Victoria, British Columbia, and Atlantic water will be drawn May 5 in St. John's, Newfoundland. En route to its final destination in Ottawa, the water will be carried by some 5,000 Canadians. On September 9, 2000, in a concluding ceremony, the water from the three oceans will be symbolically poured into a newly constructed Trans Canada Trail fountain.
The relay entered the Yukon February 22, on the Dempster Highway, escorted by the Canadian Rangers. It has passed through Dawson City, Mayo, Stewart Crossing, Pelly Crossing, Carmacks and Braeburn. Yesterday, it came down the overland trail, a trail my father used to drive a Cat train over, 60 years ago. I was honoured to carry the water from the overland trail on to the Takhini River, to the bridge. Today, the relay has circled Whitehorse, with the involvement of many, many schoolchildren and a number of seniors. Right now, Bob Moore is in mid-walk; he will be passing the water on to Lee Pugh at Takhini arena and Lindsay Dehart will then run it to Mt. McIntyre.
Tomorrow morning at 9:00 a.m., escorted by the Canadian Ski Patrol, the relay heads south as far as Teslin. On Friday, it reaches Watson Lake, where it remains until Sunday, when the relay leaves the Yukon and enters B.C.
People are taking this event very seriously, Mr. Speaker. There is a lot of emotion attached to the symbolic relaying of the water. From the time Scott Morash handed the water to me yesterday afternoon until I gave it to Jan Blair, I thought about the other hands that had lovingly passed it on all the way from the Arctic Ocean. I thought about the desire of Canadians to be united. This relay is a strong symbol of Canadian unity, as the trail will be when it is finished. This is an event that makes people think beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings.
They think about our country. On behalf of all of us, thanks to the organizers of the Trans Canada Trail Relay 2000, and thanks to the escorts and the participants.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: On behalf of the government and the NDP caucus, I, too, would like to recognize the hard work and effort that many Yukoners have contributed to the Trans Canada Trail initiative. There is no question that one of our strengths in this territory is the willingness of people to pitch in and help a worthy cause be successful. However, I find it ironic and unfortunate that the Liberals voted against the financial contribution that this government provided to assist those hard-working Yukoners attain their goals.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I rise to also pay tribute to the Trans Canada Trail Relay 2000. Over a period of eight months, 5,000 Canadians from all parts of the country will be participating in the longest trail relay ever to be held in the world. From February 19 to September 9, water from each of Canada's three oceans, at Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories, Victoria, British Columbia and St. John's, Newfoundland, will be relayed by carriers through each of our provinces and territories across this country of ours to Ottawa, where the official opening will take place. Here today, students from all over the Whitehorse area are accompanying the chosen carriers of the Arctic Ocean water through the city by traditional Yukon means and ways; on skis, snowmobiles, dogsleds, snowshoes and on foot. Yukon carriers will continue on to Watson Lake and further south, where carriers from the Province of British Columbia will join in the momentous event that is sure to be enjoyed and long remembered by all of us.
The Trans Canada Trail has been in the making, bringing together the efforts of thousands of Canadians from all over our vast country. It has taken eight years to bring this event together. When completed, this trail will be the longest, shared-use recreational trail in the world, measuring some 16,100 kilometers and touching all three oceans bordering Canada. In the Yukon, a tremendous amount of work and volunteer efforts have gone into the development of the trail throughout the territory that will provide Yukoners with a lifetime of recreational use and will link the territory to the rest of Canada.
I'd like to recognize Dawson's own Wendy Burns, who is responsible for the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Alberta portion of the trail. She will be going on to Vancouver to assist with that portion of the trail in British Columbia.
At this time, my colleagues and I in the Yukon Party caucus would like to extend our best wishes to all the officials and carriers involved in the relay, and would like to recognize those Yukoners who have helped to build and link this great trail across the territory.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event; it is history in the making and our caucus is pleased to pay tribute to this historical trailblazing and building achievement.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft: It is my pleasure today to welcome a former member of this Legislature into the gallery. Joyce Hayden served as the MLA for Whitehorse South Centre from 1989 to 1992 and was Minister of Health and Social Services and responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Recently, Joyce has published a book, Yukon's Women of Power: Political Pioneers in a Northern Canadian Colony. I hope that her research inspires more women to participate in the Yukon's political process, and I'll be happy to provide a copy for the Legislative Library.
I'm sure we all welcome Joyce here today and thank her for her work.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Harding: It's my pleasure to table the Administrative Procedures for Environmental Assessment of Major Mining Projects in Yukon: A Draft for Consultation. This project is otherwise most often known to Yukoners as the "blue book" and this is the draft for consultation.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Hon. Robert Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, erred in implying that the mining claims stakes by Canadian United Minerals within the proposed boundaries of the much-expanded Tombstone Park are nuisance claims;
THAT this House recognizes these claims as being staked in accordance with the existing mining legislation and regulations; and
THAT this House opposes the position advocated by the Yukon Liberal Party that these claims should be expropriated.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cable: I have some questions for the Minister of Economic Development, but before getting to those questions, I would like the members to join me in welcoming the grade 11 class from F.H. Collins and their teacher, Mr. Paul Deuling.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Skagway and Haines port access
Mr. Cable: The questions I have for the Minister of Economic Development relate to the Alaska port lands acquisitions.
The government announced last fall that it had taken an option on lands in both Skagway and Haines for possible port facilities. There was some negative comment in the media about the lack of consultation with the people in Skagway, and when the minister was questioned about this in the House in November, he told us he was doing his homework in this area. Yet, at the end of December - December 28 - a local newspaper carried an editorial that had appeared in the Skaguay News on December 22. This editorial, as reprinted in the Whitehorse Star, started off as, "Has the Yukon government lost its mind?" Then it went downhill from there. The editorial talked about some problems, and it ended up by saying, "Maybe the Yukon government will see the light and dump the study in the trash where it belongs. In the meantime, the city should make it clear that buying the land does not guarantee the Yukon a port. It will just guarantee them a long, expensive fight."
Now, I know the minister has been doing some homework in this area, so where does this purchase sit with the people of Skagway and the Skagway town council? Are they on side for the construction of port facilities, or are we, in fact, looking at a long, expensive fight?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this port, right from the get-go, has been described, from the first interview I did on CBC the morning after we announced it, as a very long-term venture. It's designed to protect port access for Yukoners 10, 20, 50 years out, well into the future, long after every member hopefully in this Legislature is on to some other venture.
Mr. Speaker, I would say that the situation has changed quite dramatically from the time that the member references those articles. There have been meetings in Skagway. This particular initiative is an insurance policy for the Yukon Territory, much in line with what we've done in Haines to secure, or try to secure, long-term port access there for western Yukon and to ensure that, if there is further cruise ship traffic that makes it difficult for mining companies and resource companies and people who want to ship goods to get their products out, we'll be able to have a place for them to engage in that important business.
I should point out that the area we're looking at was identified in October of last year in Skagway's own community plan as the last remaining piece for commercial port development in Skagway. And it was a business transaction. It was one that we had to use agents to do on our behalf because of the competitive nature of the different players who wanted this piece of land.
Mr. Cable: Okay. Well, let's look at that. The Mayor of Skagway was on the radio in mid-February and he took a more conciliatory approach - more conciliatory than the editorial I just read out - presumably as a result of some spade work done by the minister's officials. But the mayor did point out some zoning problems and indicated that some of the people in the area were concerned about losing their peace and quiet.
When is it anticipated that the necessary requests for zoning changes will take place?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have to repeat to the member opposite that this piece of land is an insurance policy for Yukoners. It's small money in the big scheme of things. If you look ahead 10 or 20 years, you have some vision about where exports are going in this territory. Look at some of the mining projects that will eventually develop, like Kudz Ze Kayah on the Wolverine property. Many will note the news that has just recently come out in that area and what's going on with Minto. Hopefully they will go into production this year.
We have to ensure that we are able to find a route for those companies to ship their products out of the territory, and it's important that we look long term. So, while I point out again to the member opposite, the plan that Skagway put forward identified this piece of land for precisely the use for which we have considered it. However, our first option remains to use the AIDEA terminal and the White Pass dock, should we be able to work out good arrangements for mining companies in that vein. However, I must say that it is a very important backup plan for this territory.
Mr. Cable: Let's say that there's nothing wrong with long-term insurance, but we would like to know what that insurance is.
The Mayor of Skagway, when he was being interviewed, was asked how the concerns of the people who are surrounding the port property area will be met. He said, "Without having a project, or an idea of what the government would like to put on that property, it would be difficult to even address that question. But the process will have to go through a public hearing phase and congestion, traffic, storage and all that would have to be addressed." So, just where is the minister going on this, other than purchasing this insurance policy? Is he looking at the government constructing and running a port facility? Is he looking at a public/private partnership? Just how far has his thinking gone down the road?
Hon. Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we are not trying to create a port right now. This is a long-term option. In terms of trying to get permitting and zoning in place, no, we haven't embarked on that plan at all, because we don't have a project. We don't have a port. We don't have the finances or the partnerships to build a port. That's not our objective. Our objective here right now, in the short term, is to have an insurance policy, so that we can ensure that mining companies, resource companies and Yukoners, who want to export goods and services, will have an opportunity to do that out of the Skagway area well into the future.
We also have taken it one step further for western Yukon with regard to Haines, and we think that, looking out into the future, we will have to go through these types of issues - if we have a desire to create a port - as any private sector company would, or any public/private partnership that wants to engage in further development of a port or any other business venture that you might want to bring forward - a mine or a forestry permit. You have to go through appropriate zoning criteria, and you have to go through proper environmental assessment. We have done some of the baseline work, but it's not our plan in the short term to build any port.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions today for the Minister of Tourism. But before my questions, Mr. Speaker, I note that the former Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has joined us in the gallery today. Esau Schafer is present with us.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, financial statement
Ms. Duncan: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Yesterday I asked for all the numbers on the operations of the Beringia Centre, for a complete financial record of what the costs are - internal, external, maintenance, revenues, costs and services of any and all kinds that are provided by any department of the government opposite. This morning, when I got to my desk, there was no large envelope, Mr. Speaker. There was no information, which I requested in April, the Member for Lake Laberge requested last December and again yesterday. The minister has committed to providing this information, and, yet, we still haven't seen it. When will we see this information?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Yesterday, I did, in fact, on the floor of this Legislature provide the information that was requested of me. I provided it on the floor of the Legislature, and I can do it again.
The revenue from April 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999 was $76,761. Revenue from April 1, 1999 to February 14, 2000 was $69,127. The visitation from April 1, 1998 to March 31, 1999 was 21,043 people; visitation from April 1, 1999 to February 13, 2000 was 20,395 people.
As the member knows, we have money in the budget this year for the Beringia Centre. There is $300,000 provided in here for the completion of the curbing and the landscaping, so we are working toward providing information to the member opposite on all aspects that we're doing.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, yesterday when I asked the minister for the complete cost accounting, he reeled off some of those figures. Indeed he did say that there was $347,000 in the budget for the O&M for the 1999-2000 fiscal year. And in his budget speech on February 24 - he noted it today, although he didn't yesterday - he said that there's $300,000 for access and landscaping around the Beringia Centre. No wonder the public is confused as to how much money is actually spent each year on Beringia. The minister cannot reasonably expect a volunteer board such as the MacBride Museum to take over this heritage attraction without a full and complete cost accounting of the Beringia Centre.
I've asked the minister: where's the financial information? I'll ask the minister the question this way: has there been a full and complete financial accounting of the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: I don't think it's the public that's confused, Mr. Speaker. I do believe that it's the leader of the official opposition who is confused because I've consistently stood upon my feet here, provided the information to the member opposite - the budgets, the past budgets, the O&M costs. I've spoken about how it's integrated among government.
What the member actually really wants to know is how we are working with MacBride, and we are working in a very honest, open environment. I am providing every opportunity, every aspect of government's tenure, of government's input, into Beringia. That is being provided in a very honest and upscale way toward the people.
We're in the process of negotiating right now. The numbers are on the table - the O&M, the capital aspirations are on the table - and we're talking to them. We are going to be successful - this I do believe - and we'll continue to work toward a successful conclusion, and we will continue to be an open government, especially through this process, as we are always.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, a full and complete cost accounting would tell the members of the MacBride Museum such information as how much is spent on signage, how much is the electrical bill, why the number of visitors has gone down by 17,000 over a period of years - that kind of information. That's not information that the minister is giving in the House. That kind of detail should be given to MacBride Museum. It's a reasonable expectation. It's something that I've asked for repeatedly in this House.
The second or third time I asked for this information, the minister's response to my question, "Will the member get that information?" was, "I can say absolutely, most assuredly yes, yep, ah-ha, yippers." The minister said, "Maybe I could even say yes for the third time in this debate."
Well, where is it, Mr. Speaker? It doesn't take a year to walk downstairs. Why can't the opposition caucuses have a complete and full cost accounting of the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, gosh, ah-ha, yippers, we are providing that information. The cost accounting of the Beringia Centre is absolutely on the table with the folks over at MacBride. We're very open. We're providing all the information. We're providing the visitation - I've even provided the member opposite with the reasons for some drop in the visitation.
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to work with the MacBride Museum Society to make this successful.
I'd also like to take the time again to point out that this government puts its resources to heritage - $400,000 over and above last year, Mr. Speaker, for historic sites and heritage resources. $50,000 into the Rampart House, a $25,000 increase to the Yukon Historical and Museum Association.
So, not only are we open and honest, Mr. Speaker. We're also putting our resources to a much treasured resource, to our tourism - the heritage of the Yukon Territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are providing everything and we will continue to provide everything.
Question re: Alcohol and drug addiction, lack of treatment programs
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Alcohol and substance abuse in the Yukon is public enemy number one. There is no age restriction and it afflicts many Yukoners from the very young to the very old. Many Yukon infants are born with FAS. And after years of denial, this NDP government has finally admitted that this is a fact.
Unfortunately, however, our health and social service system, our justice system and our education system have not been able to cope with the Yukon's most serious health and social problem of alcohol and drug abuse. There are no adequate alcohol and drug treatment services available to Yukoners, especially to rural Yukoners. By default, Yukon's justice system has ended up trying to deal with the Yukon's alcohol and drug addicts.
Last December, a Yukon judge exposed a lack of proper treatment programs and the lack of coordination among government departments in trying to address this most serious problem. For this, he was severely criticized by this minister, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to ask the minister what he has done to correct the flaws and deficiencies revealed by this judge?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, first of all, Mr. Speaker, I think the member has taken some licence with my comments. I don't believe I criticized the judge at all. I believe what I did do was suggest that perhaps the judge in this case was not aware of the many programs that we have actually begun.
I am pleased to acknowledge that the member does have the ability to listen to the radio, because this is where he seems to be getting his questions.
However, I can go through, if the member would like, a very exhaustive list of plans that we have undertaken to try to improve alcohol and drug services. Not only have we undertaken a variety of things regarding such things as trying to highlight our services to youth, I believe what we've done with the community healing fund has been trying to extend out to communities. A number of First Nations have been beneficiaries of those funds. A number of programs have begun and a number of programs are underway. Tatlmain Lake, which the member might be familiar with, is one example of that.
So, I believe we are addressing many of the concerns. One of the issues that has been raised by the judicial committee is the question of young individuals - young people with FAS who find themselves back in the justice system, and we've attempted to remedy that with the opening of the Balsam Residence.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, what the minister has really just said is, "I'm right, the programs are there, I guess the judge is out of touch with reality." But he has to deal with it on a day-to-day basis, unlike this minister, who is quite removed and remote from it. This minister is living in a dream world if he believes that alcohol and drug counselling services currently being provided are anywhere near being able to address the current demand for treatment services.
Is the minister not aware that there are long waiting lists for the current services that are totally inadequate to cope with the extent of Yukon's problem? What is this minister going to do about it?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, Mr. Speaker, after being forced into it, I will read out the list of the drug and alcohol strategy. I had hoped to avoid having to go through that, but since that seems to be what the member wants, I will satisfy his urges in that regard.
I guess I could start with some of the programs that we have begun with young people and move on from there. For example, alcohol and drug services now has targeted two positions - one treatment, one prevention - to work with youth. I was just at F.H. Collins over the noon hour and had a chance to see the facility there that we work out of. This position is divided between F.H. Collins and the young offenders facility. We have brought in mandatory alcohol and drug treatment for all our group homes, so we're trying to get the message out to younger people there.
We have been focusing our prevention position primarily in the primary grades. We have developed a drug and alcohol kit for grades 1 through 3 teachers, and we have been working with Elijah Smith School on a pilot project for alcohol and drug prevention with primary children. This began in January. We have been working with Porter Creek High School and we've developed an alcohol and drug curriculum for grade 8 students and so on.
We have $150,000 in this particular budget highlighted for services for the healthy family initiative, and one of our targets there is families at risk. We now have, as I said earlier, mandatory alcohol and drug awareness programs at the young offenders facility and, as I said, at our group homes. We contracted with Ancient Voices, a First Nation-oriented addictions program for two 10-week camps this year, and we continue, wherever necessary, to make appropriate placements for young people.
The Youth Achievement Centre also has alcohol and drug awareness incorporated into its programs. I can go on and on.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm listening. I'm not hearing what the public is saying to me, and what the reality is. The minister is on a different wavelength and in a different world. The minister is going on and on, but the minister, with his closure of Crossroads, has actually reduced alcohol and drug services here in the Yukon, rather than increase them.
Recently, two judges stated that the Yukon isn't doing enough to address its overwhelming alcohol and drug treatment problem. And one even referred to the current programs as an embarrassment. Now, rather than criticize the judges for exposing the inadequacies of the current system, what will the minister be proposing as a solution to Yukon's alcohol and drug treatment programs? What's he going to do? Is he going to have a look at it or is he just going to sit back and say, "They're there; they're good"?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I would say that the member's first step in this should be actually to read the budget, take a look at the funds that are in there, and perhaps he'll have a better understanding.
As I recall, this was the member that called on us to close down Crossroads - if I'm not mistaken, I believe he was. And now all of a sudden, he's had one of these road-to-Damascus experiences and he thinks he knows better. I find this particularly ironic from that member considering his previous positions.
I believe that if the member had actually taken the time to listen to probably - if I'm judging right - the most recent statement by judges, there was condemnation there for the medical services branch and their delivery of alcohol and drug treatment. I need to remind the member that medical services branch is a federal responsibility, and if he would like to join me in denouncing the federal government in their abandoning of fiduciary responsibilities to aboriginal people, I'd be more than happy to enlist his support.
Question re: Alcohol and drug addiction, lack of treatment services
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services on alcohol and drug abuse here in the Yukon.
Drug abuse is a legal problem today, rather than a health and social service problem. Now, it is the Liberal government in Ottawa that's responsible for the issues up here. I guess it's always somebody else's problem, with this NDP government. They just can't face up to their responsibilities and do something about it.
Social service problems here in the Yukon, in a large part, stem from alcohol abuse and drug abuse. In the Yukon, alcohol is a contributing factor in nearly all of the court cases before us, and an estimated 30 percent of the criminals here are chronic alcoholics. If Health and Social Services and Education were providing effective alcohol and drug treatment services, Yukon jails wouldn't be nearly as full.
One of the solutions that is being advocated by the justice system is to have court-supervised treatment services. This may in fact be a good idea.
My question to the minister is why are these proposed solutions having to come from the justice system rather than from Health and Social Services? What leadership role is this minister playing in addressing Yukon's chronic alcohol and drug problem?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, this is coming from a party that proposed putting women in jail while they were pregnant to prevent FAS, so I have a little bit of difficulty with the member's postures now.
Now, the fact is that the proposed so-called drug courts were based on an Ontario model. I think that model may be somewhat ambitious for us, and it was actually directed to the question of injectable drugs, primarily such things as injectable heroin and cocaine, and it was based on, as I said, a very large urban model.
Whether or not that has some credence in our system is something that I think would have to be determined by our judicial system here rather than Health and Social Services. The regulation of controlled substances is in fact a matter of the federal Criminal Code. I am sure that the member is probably aware of that. I am always impressed by the member's encyclopedic knowledge of illicit drugs in this territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the low blow from this minister. I guess the minister must be living in some dream world if he doesn't believe the Yukon has a cocaine and IV drug-use problem. I want to commend the Yukon judges for speaking out on the issue. If this minister was doing a proper job, they shouldn't have had to, but they are there and they are having to face the reality of the failure of this minister to address his responsibility. It's obvious to many Yukoners that this minister is incapable of playing a leadership role, so I would ask that he turn this task over. Let's have a public inquiry on it so we can begin to address this chronic situation as a health and social service problem rather than leaving it to the courts to deal with it. And going back, that was the same issue that I asked the minister to look at with respect to Crossroads. Let's have a look at it. I didn't tell him or ask him to cancel it; I said let's have a look at it. I'm asking the minister if he will consider an inquiry into the drug and alcohol programs and facilities we have here in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Well, I'm sure that after we get through having the Auditor General look at other proposed malfeasances that this member has brought up, we can maybe look at that. As a matter of fact, what we are doing is looking at an internal review of our drug and alcohol programs. We have been in touch with some agencies outside that have a measure of expertise in that. We're looking for areas where we can be developing our services. The member here is doing a considerable amount of posturing. I would suggest that we have been working comprehensively with schools. We have been working on a whole variety of methods to do alcohol and drug prevention with our young people. We are working with our communities. We have done, I would say, considerably more than the previous party did to address this problem, and we believe that we are going to continue to work in that regard.
The member's postures, once again, for his inquiries are merely another sop to his ego.
Mr. Jenkins: What a ridiculous answer and what a ridiculous approach to a very, very logical question, Mr. Speaker. If this minister isn't part of the solution, he's part of the problem.
I'll address my final supplementary to the Government Leader and ask him to establish an inquiry into Yukon's alcohol and drug problem with a focus on finding solutions rather than finding fault with our current system. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Sloan: Mr. Speaker, I love the phrase, "You're either part of the solution or part of the problem." Part of the problem - considering what that member does in his occupation, I would really question that logic.
I have already said that we are beginning to look at how we can review our programs, how we can develop our programs, and we will continue to do that. We've been in touch with British Columbia, which has a review unit as part of their alcohol and drug programs, and that's what we're continuing to do.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre takeover by MacBride Museum
Ms. Duncan: Yesterday in my questions, I made reference to the government negotiating with the MacBride Museum to turn over the Beringia Centre to them. The minister has also made reference to these negotiations in his response, and I use the word generously.
The minister has set a deadline of March 31, 2000 for this transfer. That's 30 days from today. I asked the minister yesterday if the transfer was going to happen by March 31. The minister ducked the question. Perhaps the minister has been better briefed today.
Is the transfer going ahead on March 31 of this year?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I have not ducked the question. If anything, what this government has done is to provide opportunity to the MacBride Museum Society through the department to help evolve the process. We have hired a contractor. Maybe the member opposite doesn't like the contractor, but certainly we paid for the contractor and we've let the MacBride Museum, with us, choose them.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, we're going to do a set of principles, as I said, for the funding, for the staff, for the gift shop, for the heritage interpretation and the public interest, and yes, we are looking to complete the transfer by the end of the fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister has made reference that they are looking to have this completed by the March 31, 2000 deadline. There are a number of people waiting on this decision, including, perhaps most importantly, the students who work at the gift shop over the summer. Their summer job depends upon it. They want to know what lies ahead.
If the deal doesn't go through, what's the minister's contingency plan for the operation of the Beringia Centre this summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, as we've said consistently from the beginning, it should have been based on a community control model. That was a mistake from the concept of the program of Beringia. We're certainly looking to have it evolve over to community control and we're looking at options of how we might do that. Of course, the first option is to be working with the Historical and Museums Association and with the MacBride Museum, and that is our sole intent: to turn it over to a community control based group.
Ms. Duncan: The Beringia Centre has been losing money every year since it opened: about $240,000 for the last two years. During that time, the NDP government has done nothing to improve the bottom line. The government still hasn't even completed the turning lane for the buses - another broken promise. Uncertainty over who's going to be operating the Beringia Centre this summer isn't helping.
Why doesn't the minister have a contingency plan? The minister can stand on his feet and say, "Well, this is our option. This is the option we're pursuing. What if it doesn't happen by March 31, 2000? Who's going to be operating the Beringia Centre this summer?
Hon. Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat appalled at the words the member is saying. We're definitely working toward making the transfer work. We're looking at every aspect that we can. We're looking at and examining the interdepartmental relations for support for the Beringia Centre.
We also have said that they have the revenue-generation opportunity. We're not taking that; we're providing that for them. We're providing many opportunities to come together. It's a complex situation. We have to make sure that the people who receive it feel comfortable. We're working with them on a people-to-people basis.
As for cuts to heritage and cuts to Beringia - that's absolutely a falsehood.
We're looking to create new turning lanes. We're looking to promote it. We've been adding dollars for marketing toward it. We're continuing to try to make it work, and a step to making it work will be a transfer to community control. I did not say I did not have a contingency plan. My first aspiration is to hand it over to the MacBride Museum, and if that all fails, we'll be looking at different alternatives to have it fall within community control. So we are going to continue the fine work that we're doing in heritage. Thank you for raising the question.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 210, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Hardy.
Motion No. 210
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the federal Liberal government has cut health care;
(2) the Yukon government has sheltered the impact by increasing health care spending on initiatives like the Whitehorse General Hospital, recruitment and retention of nurse practitioners and construction of an extended care facility;
(3) Yukon people are suffering from Liberal health care cuts through long waiting lists for surgery at hospitals in Alberta and British Columbia; and
THAT this House demands the federal Liberal government use a portion of its surplus to fully restore health care funding to the provinces and territories.
Mr. Hardy:It's not often we are given an opportunity to compare budgets that reflect the value of two different parties - two parties that profess to listen to the people and two parties that are very different in their beliefs of a just society and how they deliver it. One week ago, we brought in a budget that was developed through consultations with the people of the Yukon. The First Nations were involved. Municipal governments were involved. One that listened to all people in our society: the Anti-Poverty Coalition, the chambers of commerce, the Chambers of Mines, the unions, and the communities.
It's also a budget that listened to the strong concerns of those who recognized the importance of our environment. Our budget was a reflection of those needs.
What have been the comments on this budget? I won't go listing all the praise because there has been a lot. There hasn't been a huge outcry in any area, especially health care. If anything, there has been a tremendous amount of praise for the work that has been done to ensure that we have a health care system that we can be proud of in this territory, even with cuts. Not cuts brought by us - we put more money in - but cuts from the federal Liberals.
A poll was conducted a few months ago, and one of the questions that was asked was around health care, and the results of that poll said 72 to 73 percent of the people in the Yukon were happy, were pleased with the work that this NDP government has done for health care. And we are the only jurisdiction to continue to invest in health care in Canada, Mr. Speaker, even under the draconian axe, the draconian cuts, that the federal Liberals dealt this country in 1995-96.
So, what have the feds been doing in regard to health care? It is my belief that they are the single greatest threat. They are like a cancer on health care. They have brought about a crisis in this country from coast to coast to coast by their actions, starting in 1995-96 and leading up to the budget that we will be discussing today and their actions regarding health care. They have broken the dream of the father of universal health care in Canada, in this country, Tommy Douglas. The work that was done by him and his colleagues in Saskatchewan, which led to a national medicare system that allowed all Canadians to receive free medical attention and care and which has been in for many decades, has now been attacked.
When medicare was established, the feds were committed to providing 50 percent of the costs, to share equally with the provinces and the territories. Since the Liberals have been in power, they have brought that down to 13 percent. Comments have come out of Alberta in regard to this 13 percent and the fact that it originally started with an agreement and a commitment of 50:50. Now, because the federal Liberals have been withdrawing from that, and now their contributions are only 13 percent, some provinces - specifically Alberta - have been saying that they no longer have the authority or the right to set standards, to insist upon a universal, publicly funded, publicly driven health care system.
It was all brought about by transfer payments that give the feds the hammer, I guess, to ensure that there isn't privatization. Transfer payments are important because they allow Ottawa to police the Canada Health Act, which sets rules for medicare. If provinces don't abide by the rules, Ottawa can threaten to withhold money. The policing power has been used in recent years to prevent for-profit clinics from charging people for services that are supposed to be free, but there is continuing pressure to allow private sector medical services. Alberta has announced that it plans to set up private hospitals, a move which many observers believe would open the way for a two-tier health system. I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination to understand what a two-tier health system would mean. If you're from a lower income family, and there is a two-tier system in Canada, you would not have the opportunity to access all facilities to address the needs that you may have.
However, it's an illness, a life-threatening illness. In most cases, as it is done in other countries that have two-tiered systems, you would be put into a service that possibly, and generally, is of lower care, while those in our society who have the money will be able to get the best care, will be able to get the best equipment, will be able to hire the best trained people, and they'll have the Rolls Royce of care. Meanwhile, as they drive by in their BMWs and Mercedes and their Rolls Royces to their private hospitals - to their private care facilities - they'll be driving by underfunded public systems, in which the majority of our population in Canada, if we ended up in a two-tiered system, would be going to.
That is not the dream of the majority of people in Canada for our medicare system, but that is what's being proposed by Alberta, and that is what's being brought about by the actions of this federal government, and they precipitated this. It started in 1995, 1996, when they put in a ceiling and brought in cuts, and they put a crisis into our system. They were the ones who developed the cancer that's bringing down our system, and they have to carry the guilt.
Where would it take us, Mr. Speaker? What about the communities in the Yukon? What about the people in Whitehorse and the communities in the Yukon? Would we have a different standard of care within Whitehorse, and there would be standards of care totally at odds with what people in Whitehorse have, in Ross River, in Old Crow, Watson Lake and Dawson?
How would people get to the hospitals?
I watched a show last night on The National in regard to eye treatment. Already, there's a two-tier system in Alberta, and they actually showed a publicly-funded hospital that does eye treatment and they showed the private funding, and there's quite a difference. I'm not saying at this present time that there's a difference in treatment or quality of practitioners, but there is a difference in cost and I, for one, know that many families that are having a hard time making ends meet, that have children who may have eye problems, will not be going to those private clinics, will not be able to pay the extra $2,000 an eye to jump the line to get ahead of other people who need it. Basically, to cut in front. Money talks in Alberta. There's no question about that.
Now, Paul Martin said he felt this was a 50:50 budget: 50 percent of the surplus toward taxes, tax breaks, tax incentives; and 50 percent for our social structure. What did he say? The guiding philosophy was 50:50 within this mandate, Martin said on Monday, after delivering his third balanced budget. In fact, if you take a look at those projections, we are very close.
Well, I would suggest that Mr. Martin go to those eye doctors in Alberta, because he definitely needs some adjustment to his eyes and his way of thinking.
This is not a 50:50 budget. Mike Conlan, president of the Canadian Federation of Students, says, "81 percent is going to tax cuts and 19 percent to social spending."
Eighty one to 19; that's not 50:50. Or, as Alexa McDonough, the NDP federal leader, says, "For every dollar spent on tax breaks, Mr. Martin and his colleagues have spent two cents on health care."
Now, it's my understanding that the single biggest issue in all the polls conducted in Canada of what people want to see money spent on, what they have said time and time again, has been health care.
Down south, there are lineups in hospitals; there are waiting lists. You can wait months and months to get surgery in certain areas.
People responded by saying, "Please, put more money back into health care. You took it out; put it back, help it. It's our life-support system. It's in need. Help it.
So, what does he do? What has he come up with? An 81-percent tax cut because, in his eyes, that's the number one issue, not health care. It never has been, never will be. It never has been, never will be with the Liberals, no matter what they say. It never has been, it never will be, and we've seen it time and time and time again - 19 percent to 81 percent. There was a dollar spent on tax cuts, and two cents spent on health care. Yes, they've given their two cents' worth.
This is the federal Liberals' way of balancing surpluses in spending. They are the ones who are affecting the health care in this country, Mr. Speaker.
As the provinces and territories have had to deal with the feds' lack of support, they have made cuts which have resulted in lineups and waiting lists for Canadians. Everywhere, except in the Yukon, we have had those. We in the Yukon believe in a universal medicare system, publicly funded and providing total accessibility, not one based on how much money you have or how much insurance you carry, as in the United States, and definitely not one where, as in the United States, depending on how wealthy you are, it dictates the type of service that you will receive. In the Yukon we didn't do this, and we didn't just say it; we actually put money into it. Even though we were facing cuts, even though we have been facing cuts year after year under the federal Liberals, our minister has put money into health care and has lobbied hard for it. By our actions, we can be judged in this territory, and I can assure you that Liberal actions to date, and the neglect they have shown in their new budget, brands them as betrayers of the public system for medicare.
Mr. Speaker, it's not just medicare. They couldn't even just say health care. They are giving a $2.5-billion infusion into the health care system, which they took tens of billions of dollars out of. I believe they have extracted $22 billion from it, so they're giving back $2.5 billion. But it's not $2.5 billion this year; it's $2.5 billion over four years.
And that's to be divided among 10 provinces, three territories. So you can imagine how much the Yukon is going to get in the end. And I believe the Minister of Health - Member for Whitehorse West - when he speaks, will probably inform us exactly what amount that is and how much it really helps.
But you know what I'd like to go over - just because I believe there really is a difference, and when I first spoke - well, there is an opportunity for us to compare two budgets. It's a great opportunity, and we can compare it around health care. And we can compare it with the idea that the federal Liberals have something - and I don't have the correct figure, but I would estimate something in the neighbourhood of a $100-billion surplus over the next five years. So they're giving tax breaks over the next five years. They're giving $2.4 billion to health care, a $58-billion tax break over the next five years, $2.4 billion over the next four years for health care - again it shows you that 50:50 balance that Mr. Martin likes to talk about. But we can compare them with their huge surplus and us with the limited amount of monies that we have, and see what has been done.
Let's see: increased spending on health care by the millions of dollars; increased funding to the Yukon Housing Corporation; an opening - something I was very, very pleased to see, as I have constituents who needed this - of seven beds at the Thomson Centre; building a new health centre in Teslin; establishing a community addictions treatment fund.
And what else? A CT scanner coming in here, and this is a major purchase. Oh yes, of course, one that's going to affect many people in my riding, one that I think we should be very, very proud of, and I hope the opposition joins us in celebrating the new continuing care facility that will be going in.
What about the children's drug and optical programs, Yukon child benefit, low-income family taxes, the Child Development Centre? We have funded a second rural outreach in that area. Direct operating grants, youth strategy. These are long term. Recreation centres, which we're supporting, all contribute to health. Compare it. I beg a comparison. This is wonderful stuff. Compare it. Compare the budgets.
Reproductive health and education, training trust funds, health fairs for schools, a dental program second to none anywhere in Canada. What other areas have we worked on? The pioneer utility grant, Yukon seniors income supplement, the Head Start program, the Pathways program, pharmicare, travel for medical treatment, chronic disease and disability benefits program, and a childcare subsidy. We started a healthy family initiative, kids recreation fund - something I was just talking about with a few people at a sporting event a few days ago. The recreation fund has had a tremendous impact for a lot of people where, before, they may not have been able to afford to get their children into activities. Now, there's actually a place they can go to apply for money that helps ease the burden of start-up, such as one of our most expensive sports, hockey.
It's one that Canada likes to wrap its flag around. But we're finding many, many families that can no longer afford to allow those children to participate.
If you think about it, many of our greatest athletes have come from lower income, working-class backgrounds and, as the sports have gone up, we've been losing those children. They haven't had those opportunities. They haven't been able to participate because, when it comes right down to it, nowadays in a lot of communities it is, "Do you have the money? If you have the money, we can talk. If you don't have the money, you walk."
The Liberals' notion of balance in this budget - well, they've balanced the books. Good for them. It looks good on them. They bowed to the corporations and the Taxpayers Federation and, boy, did they ever bow. The Taxpayers Federation said they exceeded all their dreams. They didn't just meet their requirements. The Liberals went far beyond it in their budget, and they're falling all over themselves with joy. Corporations get huge breaks again. Here we go again, down that lovely road.
And they blessed the rich because it's important that the rich make more because there's a trickle-down effect. Eventually, that money trickles down and finally hits the street and somebody out there gets a little bit, but after it's gone through the rich. That's the way you distribute money equally in a just society.
But, in doing so, they've broken faith with Canadians on health care on this budget, and they've bankrupted our farmers in their dealings with NAFTA. They've burdened our kids with lifelong debt.
On this budget they surely have. They haven't addressed the schooling issue. The core funding has been cut to universities, colleges and trade schools. They have not addressed the concerns of increased debt load that these students are getting, nor the tuition fees that are keeping many of the kids out of school.
They've burned the unemployed. There is no question about that. How have they done that? Look at UI or EI, or maybe in two years they'll have a different name for it - no "I". They've cut back. They've made it practically impossible for people to collect and, on top of all that, they've blamed the poor.
In their view, most of our problems in this society are because of the poor. I can almost hear the Member for Klondike saying this, "Get off your duff; get off the street and get a job, you useless bum." I can almost hear those words. I've heard those words before.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The member opposite says everybody puts words in his mouth. No, I don't think we have to put words in his mouth. He talks enough to fill up any mouth there is out there.
The cuts by the federal Liberals since 1995-96 amount to more than $22 billion. Now they're putting $2.5 billion back in to be shared between education and health care, as I said, among 10 provinces and three territories.
This is over a four-year period, and we really are supposed to be grateful. We are supposed to be falling all over ourselves with this wonderful way of dealing with the provinces and the territories and the people of Canada. Take away and give back a little. It's like starving the prisoner and then, when you feed him a paltry amount, a crumb, a few crumbs, he will be grateful. He or she will be so grateful.
I, for one, am not planning to participate as a prisoner, especially around health care and around education. I plan to speak up, like many of my colleagues, and fight for those universal programs and enhance them, not cut them; improve them, not change them into a two-tier system. I was proud to see our MP, Louise Hardy, and her colleagues leading the fight to save medicare. Last night on The National, the reporter said it was only the NDP asking questions about this. All other parties have gone back to the billion dollars of waste and pork barreling. Now, that's an issue, and they have been hammering away at it for a couple of weeks, but there is a greater catastrophe happening out there, and it has been happening for a few years, and it's irresponsible and negligent of the opposition parties not to take this federal government to task over their lack of contribution and support in health care and education, in childhood development, in housing.
What did they do? Other than the NDP, they've gone back because they've got something on a Liberal - a couple of Liberals, two of them that should be included - Jane Stewart and Pettigrew - both are responsible in that department, not just one - and they got them on pork-barrelling. And that's great; they're hoisting them now, and they've been hoisting them for two weeks. And if they had any responsibility - if the Reform or Conservatives, or the Bloc had responsibility - they would deal with what's happening, what's slipping right by their eyes, and what's happening and the crisis that's facing health care. And so it makes me proud to be an NDP when I see that we at least are taking this government to task for their betrayal of our program.
What we're witnessing is a party of principle - the NDP in this case - debating this unequal budget, and all the other opposition parties are running around looking for a scandal. The reporter wondered at the end of this report how long the NDP could carry this fight for medicare. Well, I say the NDP can carry this fight until there are no governments left in Canada - only corporations running it, the way the Liberals are driving it and to whom they respond. But I believe the NDP will carry this fight; we're the ones who brought medicare into this country and we're definitely not the ones who are going to be abandoning it like the other parties.
I believe they'll never abandon this fight. They'll never abandon the fight to prevent privatization and into an American-style delivery system.
People like to trumpet the Americans on a lot of things - and they do a lot of things very well - but I can tell you right now that when it comes to medical care for their people, they are not very successful. Studies have shown that they have the highest delivery system in all the industrialized countries, with the poorest return. They have a phenomenal amount of scandal and corruption throughout their system. They pay more per person for lesser treatment, across the board, than any other industrialized country, but this seems to be the model that many of the proponents of privatization are trumpeting.
What they do is try to find fault with our system, and any little thing they can find, they trumpet. But you know what the problem was quite a few years ago? There was very little fault with our system. We had good doctors, good nurses, good practitioners and good administrators. We had good professionals working in the hospitals. We had a system where people could walk in and get treated - ongoing, long-term treatment, short-term treatment - and it was covered. And they weren't backward treatments; these are classy places. These are first-class places.
Our hospitals, compared to anywhere else in the world, are first-class. Our medical profession is first-class. Because of that, they had to create a scandal; they had to create a problem. If they were going to get this to be privatized, they had to create a stress point in our system. And what was the easiest way to do it? They cut funding, squeeze it, make it harder to deliver the programs and start to create waiting lists.
And they did that, and they began it in 1995-96. The Liberals began that squeeze, and ever since then, their actions have been bringing about a crisis within our system, our universal program. They are part and parcel of the problems that we are facing.
Now, within every system, there can be improvement, and I believe the people within the medical system work to improve their delivery. They are dedicated, they want to help, they take oaths of service. The problem was that there wasn't that dedication at the political level. So, what we have seen is a crisis being created federally that is transferred down into the provinces and territories, and in every place in Canada they have had to react to those tremendous cuts that they had taken away from them - the amounts of money - and it did cause a stress throughout the system.
The first area that reacts is Alberta - immediately, into privatization. That's how they react to it. Go into privatization. There are no studies out there that prove that privatization is cheaper - none. There are no studies that demonstrate privatization is a better delivery system - zero. But this is how they're dealing with it: go private.
And what does that bring about? It brings about the two-tier system, as I mentioned earlier. It ensures that people can buy their way to the front of the line, if they have money.
It also creates a greater amount of cost onto any person out there, because now they are also paying out of their pocket, not just through their taxes.
Albertans - Ralph Klein, who likes to say that he's lowering the taxes or that there are no taxes in Alberta - sales tax, and that he's lowering the taxes - is talking nonsense. The moment you have to start paying for services that were delivered free, you can consider that a tax, if it was brought about by the political powers that be. In this case, that is what has happened. It has been brought about, and I consider it a tax.
I mentioned earlier the reaction to our budget and the reaction to the federal budget. Now I would like to go through some of the quotes from some leading experts from the provinces, whether they are Tory, Liberal or NDP - what they have to say about this health care budget or, lack of health care budget.
A disappointed Dr. Hugh Scully, the president of the Canadian Medical Association, states that "This hardly revitalizes the system. What it doesn't do is take into account an increasing population, an older population, advances in technology, advances in knowledge." Dr. Scully goes on to say, "Our calculation was that we needed $1.5 billion to health alone this year, just to address the problems that everybody recognizes within the system." What do we have? I believe it is $1 billion, and that's to be shared among health and education.
The budget increase won't fix the crisis in acute care, update old technology or heal the shortage of medical and nursing professionals, let alone build new programs. "It is very difficult to imagine that this amount of money in this budget is going to be able to address those issues," Dr. Scully goes on to say.
Dr. Peter Clouthier, Professor of Health Economics at the University of Toronto, remarked that huge tax cuts in the budget show Canadians where the government's priorities lie. He said that tax reductions are on the front burner, and health priority is not only on the back burner but mostly on the floor. Laurie Rector, head of the National Anti-Poverty Organization, called the budget "disappointing". We're seeing tax cuts that will benefit higher income families and do nothing for lower-income families. She says the document did little more for the homeless than provide modest funds for shelters, which, she points out, do nothing to eradicate the problem.
The Canadian Federation of Students has been asking for $3.7 billion in dedicated transfers for post-secondary education. That would have restored federal funding to 1993-94 levels seven years ago. Mr. Conlin goes on to say that whatever modest tax cuts families in Canada see, they're going to pay for it probably double or triple in tuition fees increases.
Here's an interesting comment - and I think it gives you an idea of where the Conservatives are coming from. This is the Conservative leader, Joe - who? - Clark. Everybody remembers him. He said that with this budget, the government is clearly more worried about its political position than about the country's economic position. Now, this is a tax-cut budget. Just listen to this. He said that Martin should have cut more personal and corporate taxes and tried harder to reduce the debt. This is an election year budget, not one that is focusing on Canada's need to compete internationally. His whole concern is about having more taxes, more cuts. Those are your Conservatives for you. They don't care - not about health care.
The absolute number one priority of Canadians is health care. In this budget, for every dollar in tax cuts, the government has been able to come up with two cents for health care. The NDP leader Alexa McDonough said that already.
Ken Georgetti, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, says, "With a huge surplus and a strong economy, the government had an opportunity to balance our country's present needs for health care and child poverty alleviation with our future needs for an educated and skilled citizenry. Instead, they surrendered to the champagne set." Oh, yes, what we're all probably aware of in here, the reactions of the ministers and government leaders. Bernard Landry: "Jean Chrétien wants to strangle the provinces and Quebec in particular in areas of health and education." - Who is Bernard Laundry? - Even the Liberal opposition yesterday supported the Quebec government's position that Ottawa should have further increased transfer payments to the provinces.
Mike Harris. Everybody knows about the other Mike out there who is working hard on privatization. This is a man who supports privatization. This is his view of what has happened. He bitterly criticized the $2.5-billion addition to the Canada health and social transfer over four years as insufficient to halt the further erosion of medicare in Canada.
"In the future it's endangered as we know it," says Mike Harris. Mr. Harris noted that $2.5 billion in CHST spending announced in the budget is not a permanent addition to federal spending on health care. On a permanent basis, they are still paying less than 10 cents on the dollar toward covering the cost of the health care system in Ontario."
Nova Scotia's Tory Premier John Hamm said that poorer provinces will suffer because the federal government has leaned heavily toward tax relief and put little new money into health care and education.
"All the provinces" - and I would suspect he also means the territories - "are having difficulty maintaining the medical standards that Canadians expect," said Dr. Hamm. "They had the cash, they had the opportunity to assist the provinces in this and they chose to do otherwise."
Dr. Hamm said he approves of reducing taxes, but the federal government went too far in that direction. "It's a balancing act and the balance is out of whack."
Mr. Klein - Mr. Alberta - criticized Ottawa for not significantly increasing Canadian health and social transfer payments. He noted yesterday's increase means $100 million for Alberta, which he committed to devoting to health care, while noting it is only enough to keep the province's hospitals open for six days.
Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow said the budget was a big disappointment because it failed to balance tax relief with restoration of the social safety net. It falls far short of what the federal government, with a $50-billion surplus, should be doing by way of restoring health and education services. It fails to advance a balanced approach. Though Mr. Martin bragged about it being balanced, he is being condemned, because the figures do not lie in this case. There was no balance.
Once again, John Hamm, Nova Scotia's Tory Premier, says the federal Liberals got carried away with tax cuts, saying, "The $2.5 billion announced for health care and post-secondary education is not enough." They had a big surplus, they had a choice and the choice was not to support health care. The choice was not to support education. The choice was otherwise.
"The Liberals had the resources to save our public health care system, but they lacked the vision." Alexa McDonough. She goes on to say, "Paul Martin's cuts put Canada's health care system on the critical list. Now he has prescribed a low-dose remedy for a slow recovery when strong medicine is needed. Budget measures for 1999-2000 are no more than painkillers, providing an illusion of relief, while the underlying disease remains. After this budget, emergency rooms will still be overcrowded. After this budget, waiting lists will continue to grow. After this budget, two-tier Americanized health care will expand in Canada. Home care, pharmacare - both Liberal election promises - were dumped from the so-called health budget."
I heard a phrase today. I should repeat it for this one: "Another broken promise." By the Liberals, another broken promise.
The federal government cut transfers by $22 billion since 1995. Canadians will have to wait five years before half of this amount will be returned.
Laurel Rothman, national coordinator for Campaign 2000, the group that is working to try to eliminate child poverty - and I think we all do remember the motion that was brought forward by Ed Broadbent, over 10 years ago now, that was unanimously supported, and the promises made by the Liberals since that time to eradicate child poverty, and the failure to do so. We all remember those promises. Laura Rothman's comments were, "What we have seen today is a missed opportunity to develop a comprehensive plan for all children and families." It is the absolute truth on that.
Shirley Douglas, Tommy's daughter and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Coalition, said that the budget was the beginning of the end for the health care system today. They did not defend it. Today, they beat the hell out of it.
This is a budget that hits the poor, the homeless, the children and the students the most. It's a budget that denies there is a problem with the funding for health care and education, for the seniors and the families, and denies that there is a problem with the homeless.
Education, which has been lumped in with the health care transfer, will suffer, because the greatest pressure right now is on our health care system. And it remains to be seen how much money will actually make it over into the educational field, something that the federal Liberals were negligent about, as they should have put some money aside and transferred it specifically for education. But now, with the tremendous pressures under health care, I believe the education portion will suffer. Areas that education needed money in were core funding back to the universities, colleges and trade schools, assistance with soaring tuitions, programs to help our young people and student debts.
Now, the government is willing to work with the banks and sign whatever deal they want. They're corporate sponsors, but they won't start from the student side. They won't come from the perspective of a student who is trying to get an education, so they can be productive in this world and they can make a good living. They start from the perspective of the banks, looking down at the students, not from the students looking up and trying to get in, or trying to pay their debt.
I can assure you that the federal Liberals are addressing the brain drain, because they're going to make it so difficult for anybody to graduate that we won't have to worry about a brain drain down south - we won't have any left. Schools will be closing, except for the private ones.
They failed. There's no money for national child care and an early child system in this budget. Again that ties in with health. All studies have shown the importance of early intervention, whether it's to do with adequate food, stimulus or caregiving. They failed in this. They had a choice; they made their choice; 81 percent to tax cuts. The tax cuts, they assume, I guess, are going to solve all problems.
When you think about it, the way they did this with health care, it's like, you know, a family where a father walks out on the mother when she's going to have a baby. She has to get to the hospital and she only leaves with enough money to get a cab halfway. From there, she's going to have to get out and walk.
They're not going to give any more. So he not only abandons the program as he's leaving, but he throws a little bit on the floor to get her halfway to the hospital.
You know, it's not from lack of input that we ended up with a federal budget like this - whereas our budget involved lots of consultation, lots of input, and lots of people brought in. Our budget reflects that input, and a lot of people see it out there. This budget, people tried to give input. Organizations and associations tried to. My belief is that there is only a very small group that gets the ear of the Prime Minister and the Finance minister. There is a group out there that has been doing this. I believe for about six years they've been putting out what they call an "alternative federal budget". This one they called, "Healthy Families: First Things First". I think there was a real belief in this country that this was a health budget and was going to be a health budget. Now, tax cuts were going to happen - I mean, that was pretty well known - but there was also the belief that it was going to be balanced and money would be directed back toward the territories and provinces.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: As my colleague from Kluane says, that is what the premiers wanted, as well as our Government Leader. I do know that the Member for Whitehorse West, the Health minister, went down and spoke strongly about ensuring that there would be money brought back to this territory in health transfers. I think there was an assumption that this would happen.
The people who drew up the alternative federal budget are coordinated by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Choices, which is a coalition for social justice. This project is a broad range of national and community organizations dedicated to showing what they consider are sensible and workable alternatives to the government's fiscal and monetary policies.
Now, their recommendation, which they ensured the Liberals got, was that the government should address the growing social deficit by reinvesting the budget surplus in the programs that ensure healthy families and healthy communities. The alternative federal budget, "Healthy Families: First Things First", proposes a strategic reinvestment in health care, child care and development, housing, enhancing environmental sustainability and reducing poverty. New spending in 2000-2001 would include $2 billion in national childcare and early education services, $3 billion in health care, including home care, $5.5 billion to bolster family income security through the child tax credit, $2 billion for a national housing investment fund and $1.5 billion for investments in infrastructure.
The alternative federal budget would make these investments while maintaining a balanced budget throughout its five-year planning horizon. The federal debt would also be reduced at a similar pace to the federal government's current projections. The benefits of spending the budget surplus on tax cuts or paying down a debt are negligible when compared to spending on public programs that would stimulate job creation and economic growth in Canada, said Jim Stranford of the Canadian Auto Workers, one of the budget's authors.
Polls have consistently shown Canadians prefer spending on a wide range of areas, including health, education, child poverty, environmental protection, and reducing unemployment, over tax cuts. Studies have also shown that spending on tax cuts creates fewer jobs than does social spending.
Now, I'm sure that they are just one group that does a lot of work to try and get some input into the shaping of a budget but, in this case, they hit a stone wall, because none of what I just read has been reflected in this budget.
Our health care, as we know it today, has changed from what we knew 10 years ago. I suspect that the changes in the next five years are going to be even more drastic. They are being brought about by financial pressures. They are also being brought about by an aging population, by a greater need for acute care and by identification of needs within our society, as we recognize FAS/FAE and other environmental concerns that are affecting people throughout this country. I suspect that there will be growing pressure on our health care system.
Instead of responding to it, what I feel is happening is that it is being destroyed. The federal government had a huge surplus. They could have put money directly into health care to restore the funding that existed back in 1995. They could have recognized the pressures that are facing the deliverers of the system and supported them. They could have brought in training for the nurses, the nurse practitioners and the caregivers.
They could have put money into home delivery systems. They could have kept control. They could have kept that hammer to ensure there would be a universal program from coast to coast to coast. They are not blind, or maybe they are. Maybe they haven't been in the hospitals where there are long lineups. Maybe they haven't had to have surgery, or maybe they had the money to buy their way to the front of the line, or maybe they go to private clinics now; I don't know. But if they went into the public facilities in Ontario, on the east coast, on the west coast, on the prairies or in Quebec, they would see the crisis that is happening.
They have a choice, and promises and dangling carrots are not going to address the needs of the people today. They're not going to assist the provinces to deliver the programs that Canadians have come to expect. They're not going to ensure that our loved ones are cared for, and we don't have to worry about thousands and thousands of dollars in hospital bills, or how we are going to care for them ourselves when we have no money or the ability.
They could have recognized the importance of a healthy childhood. They could have dealt with the homeless.
Now, I do know that many of the ministers do not drive or, pardon me, not drive - they don't drive either, they usually get somebody to drive them - but they do not walk around Ottawa. You can walk half a block off Parliament Hill and meet the homeless in droves. They're on every corner. They're on the streets. They're begging. Sometimes they have all their possessions in a shopping cart or in a garbage bag. Everything they have is in that garbage bag. Everything you see is what they own. That's what they sleep in; that's what they live in just half a block off Parliament Hill.
They could have seen that if they would have taken the time. They can go in the hospitals if they take the time. They could listen to people from all walks of life and what they have to say, if they cared. They could have put aside all their rhetoric, all the grandstanding and done what would have had an impact, because they had the money.
This is not about being broke; this is not about being in debt and this is not about being able to afford it. The federal government has a surplus. What this is about is choices and who you back, who you support, and how broad you are. This is about a caring society and a just society.
When you have the means to assist or to help someone, I believe that in this country, in Canada, it is our nature to do so. And it's a sad day when we see a government that feels that the way to help people is to give massive tax cuts, though it's not the number one issue with the people of this country - massive tax cuts that ultimately will benefit corporations most. Those who have a lot will benefit a lot, and as you spiral down to where you have not as much, that's where your benefit disappears.
It would be really easy just to say, "Tax cuts, great. I get more for myself." But that's not the way that Canadians are. I don't believe they are. I believe that most Canadians would like to be able to see each and every person have guaranteed health care, no matter what their income, and guaranteed education, so that all the young people and all the older people returning to school, or the people that have to be retrained because their job has been phased out, have that option to go back or to go in to some training or education, and then come back out with their heads held high and participate in this society that we call Canada.
For people in the Yukon, I'm proud that we have managed to keep the health care as what I consider a number one issue. I'm proud that we continue to put many of our resources into health care and not follow the lead of many of the provinces or the federal government and start cutting and slashing and denying, and allowing the set-up of private clinics. I'm proud that we put the care of our people and our society - my friends, neighbours, colleagues, communities - ahead of profit. The member opposite from Kluane was following a line of questioning the other day -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Klondike. Pardon me. Sorry. The member opposite from Klondike was following a line of questioning - it was a very confusing line of questioning, but I think ultimately he didn't want to come right out and say how absolutely evil O&M is and how horrible it is that we employ people as a government and that we should be slashing. He didn't want to come right out and say it -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: I'd just like to draw the Speaker's attention to the fact that the member who is speaking now is not speaking about the motion that we have on the floor for debate and hasn't been speaking about the motion for some time.
Speaker: On the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I think the member is incorrect; I believe that the Member for Whitehorse Centre is speaking to the motion. This is a broad-ranging motion. It affects all Yukoners, including all Canadians. I think the line and tack that he is taking is very much within the confines of what a motion debate should be.
Speaker: Order please. On the point of order, the motion is about health care and the actions taken by both the federal and Yukon governments.
As long as the Member for Whitehorse Centre can show his remarks are related to those issues, his remarks are in order.
The member can continue.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: After that interruption, yes.
I don't know if the member opposite, the Member for Riverdale South, is aware that talking about children is health and talking about food that they receive is health. Maybe she was referring to the point that I was actually starting to reference something that the Member for Klondike had said, and I will show you where that connection is, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, the feeling I got was that the member opposite, the Member for Klondike, was basically saying that the bureaucracy is growing too big, and part of that bureaucracy is health care. Health care makes up a huge part of our budget. It's within the O&M. If you follow that line of reasoning, which is a concern for me, you're going to start to cut those services that are already being cut, Mr. Speaker. And ultimately you have to really question the wisdom of a large department, one that we feel very strongly about, one that needs transfer payments from the feds in order to continue delivering the service, which we have been cut back drastically on, and the fact that our community would be more unhealthy if we took advice, such as that that came across the floor, and began to cut the civil service, cut health care departments and the delivery of service.
It would be more unhealthy. I believe we should not go down the road with this is the type of attitude.
The economy is starting to rebound. You don't attack and start cutting within your own domain if the economy is starting to rebound. We all know how there is a healthier atmosphere out there when the economy starts to rebound. Most studies have proven that, as people feel more positive and the outlook is better, then there are fewer visits to doctors, less counselling needed, whether it's for physical or mental health, and it all creates a benefit in the long run.
My concern is that this is a federal budget that sends out a distressing signal. It doesn't value the services that have been developed over 30 years within this country, and it's a continuation, since 1995 - a one-shot deal at $2.5 billion. This is not continuous funding - just in case people misunderstand it. You're not going to see continuous funding out of this. This is not continuous funding; this is a one-shot deal that they offered.
Now, the premiers from the provinces and the government leaders from the territories met and discussed concerns that they shared. I would say that the number one issue was health care within each of their provinces and territories, and the lack of funding and support from the federal government, and the fact that it has not lived up to its commitment, which was a 50:50 relationship.
They came out of those meetings - the premiers conference - with a request to the federal government to live up to its commitments, restore some of that funding, put some of that money back in and at least bring it back up to the levels of 1995-96, five or six years ago. The federal government did not listen. They did not listen to a single premier. They did not listen to our Government Leader; they did not listen to any of the Health ministers, including our Health minister, who is a strong advocate of the delivery of publicly funded health services. They ignored it all.
So, whom did they listen to? It doesn't take a great stretch of the imagination to figure that one out, when 81 percent of the spending of the surplus is directed toward tax cuts and only 19 percent to social programs. So, who carried the day? Who carried the day at the expense of our health system?
There's a little quote that I will read here - a little paragraph - from the alternative federal budget, "Healthy Families": "At this crucial juncture in our country's history, public policy is being shaped amidst a chorus of proposals for income tax cuts, an ongoing drive to dismantle and privatize public services. The public debate is being dominated by loud voices proclaiming dogmatically that the public good will always be served better when wealth is spent by individuals directly, rather than by their governments. According to this ideology, the sum of individuals' spending decisions will always yield a better outcome than collective spending in consumption organized through our governments." The alternative federal budget rejects this view.
I would suspect that they can reject it with a lot of statistical information. Now, I would suggest that there's not a person in here who's not concerned about our health care system. I hear the opposition members raising issues, often dealing with health care, often dealing with treatment, or childcare homes, or FAS/FAE, or lineups at the hospitals - something that I don't believe we have here. And I believe also that, across the way, they're very knowledgeable about the transfer payments; that is their job and they know who writes the cheques. But when they ask us to spend more money on health care, and we spend more money, they attack us again. And then on the other side, they said we're spending too much money - too much money is going to O&M - and it would be very interesting to hear the positions about this federal budget and what they're going to say about that. Do they agree with the federal Liberal government that only 19 percent should go toward social programs and 81 percent should go to tax cuts? Do they agree with cutting health programs and health transfers, or will they stand up and criticize the failure of the federal Liberals in balancing this budget and ensuring that more people receive the care that they have come to expect?
Canadians are very proud of their medicare system - very, very proud of it - even when it has been attacked by their own government, they're proud of it. I don't think the Liberals have been able to do a damned thing - pardon me, a darned thing -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: That is inappropriate language for this House. The member is swearing.
Speaker: The Chair heard the member apologize for his remarks, so the member can continue.
Hon. Mr. Hardy: My mouth is damming up. I have to get the water flowing here. Thank you.
So, Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very proud of the medicare system, and I believe Canadians will fight for the medicare system. Unfortunately, we have a government in the way that's preventing us from -
Now I have nothing to say.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Can I say that? I won't get called?
We have programs in the territory that need the funding of the federal government to make them work, and some we do jointly, others we administer the whole works.
We're very proud of those programs and we're concerned that, if the federal government doesn't recognize the growing needs within health care, we will be having to lose those programs. The pressure is tremendous upon governments across this country, and it has been said time and time again. When premiers and government leaders have meetings specifically to talk about this, when health ministers get together and this dominates their agenda, you know it's a serious crisis. When you go down to cities and see the people in the streets, the poverty, when you get - well, it's not usually an opportunity to go to the hospital, because usually it's either an illness or a sickness or an accident, but if you are in a hospital and you see the tremendous pressure and the lineups, then you know there is a crisis. When you see the shortage of nurses and nurse practitioners, you know there's a problem at our educational level.
Sometimes it's just an attitude. Sometimes it's for young people starting out. They look at the professions they can go into. They may care deeply about working in the health field but they don't see the opportunities there, or they don't see the type of work environment that they feel they can live in. We are seeing work stress loads that are far beyond what were around 10 years ago, a tremendous amount of burnout in the health field.
Mr. Speaker, if we, as governments, don't start to respond to that, I can't predict what kind of medical care we will have in 10 years. I don't predict a good one. And ultimately it's the federal government that has to live up to their commitments that were made decades ago. They have to recognize and hear the crisis that's happening throughout Canada, and they have to work together with the premiers, the health ministers, with the organizations and groups within the fields, to ensure that we have a medicare system that has been recognized throughout the world as the best - that we keep it, we maintain it and we enhance it. We don't go in the other direction. The budget that we have seen brought down went in the other direction, and I cannot support that kind of action.
Mr. Speaker, it is my hope that people will recognize the intent of this motion and that it's not a cry in the dark, that it will have influence upon those who have the ability to put assistance into this program and force them to do the right thing over the next while.
Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to thank the federal NDP caucus for all the research that was just reflected in the previous speaker's speech, and to remind the previous speaker that Liberal Premier Brian Tobin in Newfoundland also criticized the federal government for cuts to transfer payments for health care. The previous speaker conveniently left that point out. I also want to point out the Yukon Liberal caucus agrees with Mr. Tobin that the federal government should put money back into the system for health care. I'd also like to remind the Member for Whitehorse Centre that his government has just cut taxes as well, so he must be opposed to those tax cuts, as he is opposed to the federal tax cuts. A few discrepancies in the speech we just heard, Mr. Speaker.
We're looking at the motion that has been brought forward by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. The first point is very clear: the federal Liberal government has cut health care, and indeed they have - something to the tune of about $68 million since the five-percent base cut in 1996.
In the second point, we're looking at Whitehorse General Hospital and, of course, Whitehorse General Hospital was designed by the previous government, not this government. It was designed as a cottage hospital when, plainly, what we need here is a regional hospital.
The original design was manufactured, or built, with connections from all the health care staff who use that facility. The second one was not, until after it had been decided that that design was going to go forward.
The next point in the second clause talks about the recruitment and retention of nurse practitioners. It is an interesting thing, because what we have heard in our caucus over and over again from professionals in the health field, particularly nurses and nurse practitioners, is that what they want more than anything else - what they need - is respect, and that that's lacking. There is a lack of respect for nurse practitioners in our communities. There is a lack of respect for the nurses and what they do at Whitehorse General Hospital or in the clinics in this area. Right across Canada, this is an issue, and it's definitely an issue here.
So, there's more to it than just throwing money at the issue. There's a need to respect the fine work that our health practitioners do here in the Yukon. One of the ways we could certainly help is by starting a mentoring program. It is very difficult to take someone who is from, say, Ontario, just out of nursing school, and their practicum under a nurse practitioner program, and throw them into a very isolated northern community and expect them to stay there. It doesn't make an awful lot of sense. Those are the only nurses, basically, who are available in Canada right now. You have to get them right as they are leaving college, because the ones who have been out of college for awhile and have the experience have the very best - the plum of the plums jobs in Canada, because they can do it. Because there is such a shortage in this country, they can get whatever job they want.
So, if we are going to get relatively new nurses to the field, and if we are going to plunk them into the middle of very isolated areas, then I think we need to send other nurses, who are familiar with some of the dynamics of some of the small, isolated communities, particularly in the Yukon, out with them, so that there's a chance that those nurse practitioners, directly out of college and directly out of their practicums, will stay in those isolated northern communities for a couple of years. Maybe that's all they ever used to stay for, but two years is a lot better than two weeks, which is how long they're staying now.
The other point is that, if we are going to be looking at recruiting health professionals in our territory, then we have to start talking about positions that are other than term positions. There is no way that we can compete with all of the other jurisdictions in Canada that pay more and have, perhaps, a better climate - although not this year, of course. If we're only offering term positions, why would anybody uproot themselves completely from some lovely position - say, in Victoria - and come to the north, if it were only for a term position. People are only interested in full-time permanent positions, and all we are offering are term positions as CAT scan techs, radiologists, ultrasound techs - and that's a problem.
And the other thing I'd like to remind this government about is the way that they've treated CNAs. Prior to the last election in 1995, a number of the MLAs on the side opposite and the government side signed a petition saying that we should bring back the CNAs. Lo and behold, when they got into government, they took over the hospital and they didn't do that. The CNAs basically ended up loading freight for a good period of time until it was decided they really needed the CNAs on the floor, and not only are they working full-time at the hospital, but they're working overtime and have been since 1996. And that's a problem that I have. There is a certain sense that the people on the other side of this House in the government have a certain double standard when it comes to CNAs - the very practical nurses at Whitehorse General Hospital.
That is reflected again in this motion from the Member for Whitehorse Centre. We're talking about the retention of nurse practitioners, as opposed to the nurses who do such a good job over at Whitehorse General Hospital doing practical nursing - the certified nursing assistants.
The next point, of course, is the construction of the extended care facility, and we certainly do need an extended care facility. I mean, it just makes sense. All of us in this House are baby-boomers - except perhaps the Member for Faro, who is quite a bit younger than everyone else, but the rest of us are baby-boomers - and we are 50 percent of the population and, as we move forward through the demographics of the Yukon, we are finding that we are requiring more and more care in one way or another. Our eyes are going, our health is going, we're becoming less mobile, and our recreational needs are changing.
And we're having chronic health problems that have to be dealt with, and an extended care facility being built now shows a fair amount of foresight. It's unfortunate that it couldn't have been built before, because there have been waiting lists at the Thomson Centre and at Macaulay Lodge for a number of years.
The other point, of course, is that we are looking at the long-term needs of the people here in Whitehorse but we're not looking at the long-term extended care needs in the communities, particularly in Watson Lake. We are not planning for those future needs. We just put in four new hospital beds for respite, but we aren't looking at those long-term needs. What we're looking at is bringing people from Watson Lake into Whitehorse, and that's not a solution.
The third point is that we're talking about long waiting lists, and, you know, we live in this dream world up here. We don't really have waiting lists. It's absolutely incredible. If you are a senior and you break your hip when you fall, then within 24 hours, if there are no other complications of course, you can get a new hip at Whitehorse General Hospital, providing you live in Whitehorse, of course. It's absolutely incredible. And you might have to wait two or three months to have cataract surgery, but compared to what people are waiting for outside - which is years - it's not even a waiting list.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mrs. Edelman: I know. We do live in this fantasy world. I mean, after you go through the referral process from your general practitioner, you go to see the surgeon, and he can probably operate on you that week. It is absolutely, incredibly fortunate that we live in the Yukon and that we don't have to deal with the issues that they have to deal with down south. That isn't to say that we don't suffer from waiting lists down south. We certainly do. I have a dear friend now whose mother has a very aggressive cancer but has to wait for two months to have the cancer removed. And that doesn't work. You know, you can't wait two months for a very aggressive cancer to be removed, because you may not survive.
We've all got our stories. It's not a pleasant picture and we are suffering from that lack of funding to health care in the provinces.
I think we need to go back to how we ended up in that situation. Years ago, there was money given to the provinces under a general transfer from the federal government, and out of that money the provinces were supposed to take money and spend it on health care. But what happened was that they weren't doing that. They were using that money, putting it into general revenue and using it on a number of different issues. They weren't dedicating the amount of money that the federal government thought they were supposed to be dedicating to health care.
So, what the federal government did eventually was to create the Canada health and social transfer. Canada health and social transfer basically said that these dollars have to be "dedicated toward health for the people in your provinces." That forced the provinces to spend that money on health care, even though people, of course, had been blaming the federal government for a number of years at that point for the cuts to health care. But truly, at that point, the cuts in health care had been solely at the purview of the provincial governments, and we've certainly seen results of that in B.C. and Alberta, which is where we medevac most of our people to.
We've been coddled and we've been protected. We've been protected by the Liberals and we've been protected by the Conservatives. Of course, there will never be an NDP government federally, but we've been protected by them, because they've sent us millions and billions of dollars over the years. Seventy-five percent of our budget this year again is from federal transfers - $11,000 a person here in the Yukon - and I think we should keep that the best-kept secret in Canada, because if the people in Newfoundland knew about it, I think they'd be feeling that they needed a little bit more money.
We've been very lucky over the years. And if you add to that 75 percent of our territorial budget the millions that are spent up here in program dollars, CAPC funding, DIAND programs, youth and justice initiatives, education programs - money, money, money that just continues to come in here on a regular basis - you'll find out that we get more than $11,000 per person per year here in the Yukon.
We get far more than that. I have a listing here of just the federal health programs that are coming out of Ottawa, not the ones that are coming out of B.C. or out of the medical services branch. Under the CAPC program, we're getting $763,000 a year. Under CPNP, we are getting $338,000 a year. Under AHS, we are getting $393,000 a year. That's about $1.4 million extra in programming dollars that we're getting from the feds in health care. If you add to that the DIAND dollars that are coming in here, you're talking about multi-million dollars that are basically unaccounted for by people in this Legislature, money that comes into our economy every year and is spent on health care.
Life is good here. We have a lot of transfer payments coming to us. We have the perversity factor that saves us totally from any downturns in the economy. It was very well-negotiated and has certainly saved our bacon on a number of occasions. We have program money, and we have money from DIAND. In addition to that we have the best people in Canada. We have the most wonderful land that we all respect, and we have more space than you can possibly imagine.
For that reason, we have the luxury of paying attention to other issues. One of those issues is, of course, standards for health care. Right now, about 13 cents of a health care dollar comes from the federal government - out of every health care dollar that goes to the provinces and territories. That is supposed to enable the federal government to set at least minimum standards for health care so that, if you go to Newfoundland or Saskatchewan or B.C. or Ontario, theoretically you get the same standard of care. But that's not happening, because we haven't set a minimum standard for health care in Canada, and that's something that we need to do, and that's something we need to look at the federal government to lead us on.
One of the most interesting things about the previous speaker's conversation is that what he has neglected to note is that the NDP government has not taken a position on a two-tiered health system. This side certainly has. We put a motion on the floor. We feel very strongly that we do not need a two-tiered health system here in the Yukon. Of course, it's not likely that's going to happen anyway. We have all these millions of dollars that keep coming here year after year after year. It doesn't look like anybody really checks on them too carefully, because it just keeps on coming. It just keeps on coming and nobody seems to even add up how many millions and billions of dollars have come here in program dollars over the years. Nobody has done that. We have a lot of luxuries here. It is unlikely we will get a two-tiered health system, because we have an awful lot of federal money to support the single system that we do have. It is a socialist system of medicine.
One of the things that really hasn't been mentioned here, as well, is what wonderful medical staff we do have here in the Yukon - wonderful medical staff. All of us here, at one point or another, have used the health system in the Yukon, whether out in the communities or here in Whitehorse.
We have always had, until very recently, priority in health care when we've been medevac'd out to either British Columbia or Alberta. That has recently stopped. Part of that is, obviously, because of the federal cuts to health care in the provinces. But basically, the health care that we receive in the Yukon is exceptional. Part of that is, of course, because we have so much money. We don't have the burnout that you get in other jurisdictions, because there isn't enough staff to support you or not enough administration to support you or not enough supplies to support you. So, the staff that we do have here is well-supported financially. They are not burning out the way they are in other jurisdictions. That's something that we are very lucky about. Recently, of course, there have been some initiatives by this government on continued education for the health professionals that we do have here.
The motion will be supported by the Yukon Liberal caucus today. Once again, we do enjoy the best health care in Canada - 74 percent of Yukoners approve of the health care that we receive here in the Yukon. They approved of it strongly.
And that's something I think we all need to be proud of. I think we also have to thank our stars that we live here, because we have a wonderful health care system here, that's delivered by some wonderful health care professionals, and let's hope that we can keep them here. The constant worry that we all have is that the professionals that we do have here are going to be lured, particular to the United States, where they are being paid very, very well and have much more decent hours.
Once again, of course, the one thing that we don't do is tell our health professionals how much we respect the work that they do, and respect their level of professionalism. The Yukon Liberal caucus really does respect that level, and does respect how people go out of their way to keep their professional levels up, keep their certification up, and work the hours that they need to work in order to deliver a fine health care service here in the Yukon.
We will be supporting this motion, once again - another federal motion on the floor of the House again on Wednesday. It would be nice to discuss something a little closer to home again.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: It has been an interesting sort of discourse there, an interesting exchange, and I'd particularly like to thank my colleague from Whitehorse Centre for bringing this motion forward. The timing on this motion could not be better.
We now know what the federal budget is and, for the last several months, we have been getting coy hints - go to a meeting with Jane Stewart, it's going to be a children's budget. There are hints about a children's budget. We go for other meetings - well, expect money for health care.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we did expect money for health care. I think that many of us, if you judge by the reaction across this country, expected money for health care and were rudely disappointed.
I was on the phone today with Tim Sale, the Minister of Social Services for the Province of Manitoba. He, like so many of our colleagues across the country, is deeply, deeply disappointed and really feels betrayed - and I think that's the word. If we judge by comments from many jurisdictions, if we judge by comments from Premier Tobin -whose province has consistently played the Captain Canada card at all our federal/provincial meetings - that it was Newfoundland that would hold to a less aggressive stance with the federal government because, I think, in fairness to Premier Tobin, he fully expected that his friends in the Liberal Cabinet would come forward to rectify a major problem that is occurring with Canada's health care system, and it is a major problem. I think many of us were rudely disappointed, and not only from just the point of view of the actual monetary aspect, but also from the aspect of what we had expected from federalism.
Over the last number of years, we have come to believe in the phrase "cooperative federalism". We believe that this country is held together by mutual respect and mutual accommodation. The principles behind the national child benefit and the supposed principles behind the social union framework agreement all would have suggested that, and now we find out that it's the same old system - the federal government decreeing what kinds of services the provinces and territories will be able to supply to their citizens. I think this federal budget is a repudiation of the concept of cooperative federalism.
At every meeting - every meeting, Mr. Speaker - the message was clear, the message was consistent: restoration of the CHST - and not a one-time-only restoration of the CHST, but to restore it to the levels of what it had previously been and to seek an escalator clause.
When the medicare system in this country was established, it was established on the principle of 50-percent cost, to share the cost equally between provinces and territories and the federal government. This was the dream, Mr. Speaker; this was the concept that Tommy Douglas and others had envisaged, and now we have the reality. The reality is that the federal Liberal budget, despite the sentiments of the Canada Health Act, which assures equal access, actually denies it.
This budget will continue the system that is already here: 13 percent of the cost, 13 percent, Mr. Speaker. I am seriously concerned about what this means.
The Member for Riverdale South said, "Well, we've got a lot of money up here." Yeah, we do. We do reasonably well by our federal transfers, but I can tell the member that we could be doing a lot better. We could be doing much more for our citizens. We could be expanding programs. We could be adding to programs. We could be providing a greater degree of social and health possibilities for our citizens here if we had our funds restored to the previous level of CHST and formula financing.
We have not had that, and it hamstrings us. It hamstrings us, Mr. Speaker, despite all the investment that we make in this system. There are things that we cannot do because we simply don't have the resources, and this budget does not do anything to alleviate that.
What I am worried about, and what I'm worried about particularly, is that this budget will send a message. It will send a message to provinces such as Alberta, such as Ontario, which are moving to the point now where they're considering other options of health care delivery, which may include a two-tier system. I am concerned that this actually feeds into the concept of a two-tier system.
When you have a province such as Ontario, which is struggling with massive numbers of patients, with hospital bed blocking, sending patients to the United States for oncology, and they see this budget, the message is clear: let's forego the CHST, let's forego the Canada Health Act, and let's cut out on our own. And if it means two-tier, so be it. That's what this will send to Ontario. We're already seeing inklings of it in Alberta. Those ideas aren't being driven, I believe, so much by an ideological concept as much as a desperation concept because, quite frankly, people don't have the resources. Provinces and territories don't have the resources. This budget will not help.
What I'm really concerned about is what this will mean to citizens in those provinces who don't have, perhaps, the ability to go to a private eye clinic. Does this mean you go to the back of the line? Does this mean that you wait, that you get substandard care? This is one of my serious concerns. If you're poor, do you have to wait for ophthalmolic surgery? If you're rich, do you go the clinic and get it done overnight? I think we're heading back toward a Victorian system, one where there are wealthy barons and one where there are street urchins.
We know there is a gap between the rich and poor that affects the general health population. We know from international studies that a 10-percent rise in income generally translates to a 10-percent improvement in overall health. And conversely, a drop translates to worse health. What we have been able to do with a publicly funded health care system is reduce those inequities to make sure that everyone gets fair, equal access to the benefits of society, the benefits of a public system.
A two-tier system will simply exacerbate differences between people. As I said, the Canada Health Act was supposed to be universal. It was supposed to apply to all Canadians to ensure those who live in Goose Bay, Labrador would have the same access to care as they might if they were in Kitsilano or someplace like that.
The federal government has reneged on its commitment to cost share this program 50:50. Since 1995-96, the federal Liberal government has cut our formula transfer and the CHST, and, for us, that means $16.9 million a year. That is condemning us to death by a thousand cuts, Mr. Speaker; $16.9 million is a significant portion of our funding. It makes it much more difficult for us to adequately cover all the health care for our citizens in the Yukon. Yes, we're well-treated; yes, we have an excellent system; yes, we have excellent staff; yes, we have excellent nurses; but there are some things that we could be doing more of. There are some things for which we could be providing at a greater level of service. I would love to be able to do many more things, but, right now, our financial resources constrain us.
The amount returned in this CHST - and just by way of interest, Mr. Speaker, this year we will get $971,000; next year it drops to $473,000; it is $463,000 the year after, and $453,000 the year after that. So, the money that we're getting right now will not cover the forced growth costs in our system.
We're experiencing such things as average increases in pharmaceuticals of 15 percent. We experienced last year an eight-percent rise in airplane ticket costs, which translates to increased costs for medical travel. We have more seniors coming on. More seniors go on the pharmacare system. The pharmacare system is being hit by a double whammy: increased volumes and increased costs.
The amount added to in this week's budget is a one-time-only contribution. This is the federal Liberals up to their old tricks - they give with one hand and they take away with the other. They don't give any thought to what the impact is going to be on the system - the national system - over the long term.
We've seen them do the same thing with the Skookum Jim Friendship Centre; the Secretary of State withdrew funding. The Canada assistance plan was cut by hundreds of thousands. They backed off consistently from their fiduciary responsibilities to First Nations in terms of actual expenditures for health and social services. The Member for Klondike knows what the struggle is to get the funds from DIAND. The Community Horizon program for children was cut; the New Horizons program was cut. The Canada drug program was cut. In most provinces, the CHST contribution will result in no net increase in funding; this is downloading to provinces.
Over the last number of years, we have lost $68 million in formula and CHST. Despite this reneging - despite these cuts - we have, as an NDP government in this territory, increased spending on health care by millions of dollars, increased spending by funding to the Yukon Hospital Corporation - every year we have increased funding. We have made substantial contributions to mammography. We have committed to buying a CAT scan this year and increased the O&M to reflect that. We've increased the O&M funding to Whitehorse General Hospital by $750,000. We've increased the base capital contribution to Whitehorse General Hospital. We opened the seven beds at the Thomson Centre. We designed a continuing care facility, which is going to begin this summer. We've done Teslin health care. We've done diabetes education. We've increased funding to home care. We've piloted telemedicine. We've extended health care benefits for seniors and elders. We've developed community addictions, healthy family initiative, reproductive health and education plan, improved immunization rates.
Mr. Speaker, one of the reasons that we weren't slammed this past winter by some of the problems that occurred in southern Canada was because we did an aggressive immunization plan; that is not free.
Those are our dollars that are going in there. We've supported things that are related to health and that I believe are integrally related to health, such as the kids recreation program. We've supported school nutrition. We've supported early childhood development. We can go on and on and on, but the thing is that we did this in spite of cuts from the federal government. We did this in spite of cuts to our formula financing.
We can go on about who has spoken out nationally on this. I mentioned Premier Tobin - bitterly disappointed. John Hamm, a physician himself, says that this will be the crumbs of the banquet. Premier Klein criticized Ottawa for not significantly increasing the Canada health and social transfer payments. He noted that the increase for Alberta means that the province's hospitals can stay open for six days. Premier Romanow characterizes a big disappointment. Premier Harris has indicated that this will not do anything to prevent the further erosion of medicare in Canada.
It's unanimous, Mr. Speaker. Whether they are Tories, Liberals or New Democrats across this country, they are standing up and saying that the federal government missed the boat on the CHST. They missed the boat. They said they would listen. They made the right noises. But when it came down to it, they did nothing. They are jeopardizing the system.
The number one priority of Canadians has been health care, and I can't believe how this federal Liberal government is addressing that priority. I just simply can't believe it. I can't believe that the federal Liberals have provided more in tax cuts than they have in support for health care. There was speculation that this is an election budget for the Liberals. I hope it is, because I think people will stand up and say, "You missed our priorities."
How can Allan Rock champion a universal, publicly funded health care system that the federal government has withdrawn from the arena?
How can Allan Rock, Jane Stewart and others talk about national standards? How can they talk about national standards when they are doing everything to erode national standards? Mr. Speaker, this budget is a disgrace. I believe that, fundamentally, the federal government is condemning our national system to some very, very serious erosion. With respect to this, I would propose a friendly amendment that I hope my friend, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, takes in the spirit in which it's offered. I would like to offer that amendment now, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I move
THAT Motion No. 210 be amended by adding, after the words "Alberta and British Columbia", the following:
"(4) that the Yukon's portion of the Canada health and social transfer in the new federal Liberal budget is a once-only contribution that covers the cost to run the Yukon health care system for only four days; and
(5) that by failing to increase transfer payments to provinces/territories to the 1994-95 levels, the federal Liberal government is jeopardizing our universal health care system and encouraging the establishment of an American-style health care system in this country, contrary to the wishes of the Canadian people."
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services
THAT Motion No. 210 be amended by adding, after the words "Alberta and British Columbia" the following:
(4) that the Yukon's portion of the Canada health and social transfer in the new federal Liberal budget is a once-only contribution that covers the cost to run the Yukon health care system for only four days; and
(5) that by failing to increase transfer payments to the provinces/territories to the 1994-95 levels, the federal Liberal government is jeopardizing our universal health care system and encouraging the establishment of an American-style health care system in this country, contrary to the wishes of the Canadian people.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: I felt that this amendment needed to be added because I think there have been a great deal of numbers bandied around. There have been a great deal of numbers in the last few days with the federal budget as to large numbers. When you put things in terms of $2.5 billion, that sounds like a lot of money.
Mr. Speaker, we receive, on a per capita basis, one-tenth of one percent. This will translate to $2.3 million in our territory over four years. We divvy it up, and we end up with numbers that are wholly inadequate to meet the forced growth in this country. The reason that I brought forward this amendment was because I felt we needed to put it in real terms.
Yukoners need to know how much this federal largesse is, that it's enough to keep the system going for four days - four days.
Mr. Speaker, moreover, I wanted the message to come out very clearly that this is a one-time-only contribution. We have no assurances from Mr. Martin or Mr. Rock that there will be any kind of ongoing support for the Canadian health care system.
What we get are some mealy-mouthed kinds of hints, tantalizing hints from Paul Martin -
Speaker: The minister has two minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: If we get together, maybe there might be some more money coming.
Mr. Speaker, I've heard this song before. I heard it from Jane Stewart; I heard it from Allan Rock. It ain't gonna play. That dog won't hunt. This isn't going to work. Do they really think that we are that stupid - we, collectively, as Canadians, we, collectively, as jurisdictions - that we're going to buy this? Maybe, if you come to the table, we might throw you a bone.
This is one time only; this is not ongoing. This is not real support for a national system. I believe that the federal Liberal government in this country needs to get that message. They need to get it loud and clear, and I am hopeful that my friends across the floor will join us, because I think that it would be a clear message if all members in this House were join in a unanimous motion with these amendments in sending a message to our federal counterparts that this isn't going to play in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment to this motion, Mr. Speaker, our caucus can support the main motion and the amendment.
From one end of Canada to the other, the delivery of health care has been seriously deteriorating over the last decade. Cutbacks, decreased funding, staff layoffs, shortness of health care professionals, have resulted in a very sick health care system in desperate need of a remedy.
On Monday, the federal Liberal government proudly announced a $2.5-billion increase in health care funding to be transferred to the territories and provinces of Canada.
You know, initially when you hear the sum $2.5 billion - wow - that sounds like a tremendous amount of money, and indeed it is, Mr. Speaker. But, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre points out, the $2.5 billion announced turns out to be just $2.3 million for the Yukon. Now, that's spread out over four years, and the Yukon will receive just shy of a million the first year, this year - $970,000-odd. In each of the succeeding years, $470,000-odd, $461,000-odd and $450,000-odd for the fourth year.
So, when you look at the amount that's initially stated and see what is eventually going to flow to us for the cost of operating our health care system here in Yukon - a responsibility that we are charged with - we are left with very little funds flowing back into the coffers, compared to what has been cut over the many years.
Then you compare it, and over the years we have lost significantly. This is really peanuts, this small amount of money. Simply put, a one-time injection of $970,000-odd to be drawn down is inefficient and it's actually an insult to Yukoners. Indeed, the amount that the Liberals are putting back into the pot for health care across Canada is an insult to all Canadians.
The so-called windfall pales in comparison to the millions the federal government has slashed from the territory's health transfers, and it doesn't even come close to the almost $5 billion that the provinces and territories - or the over $5 billion - that the provinces and territories have been asking for.
It will not fully restore federal funding of health care to previous levels, and it does not account for the increased health care needs of an aging population, the advances in technology and knowledge, the increased costs of medical supplies and drugs. It doesn't even begin to cover these costs.
Mr. Speaker, one of the issues that I have been repeatedly stating in this House is that the largest challenge faced by rural Yukon is that of the attraction and retention of health care professionals to our respective communities. Now, currently, we're facing a shortage of physicians and nurses across Canada. More disturbing is that the physician population is aging. Fewer students are enrolling in medical schools, meaning that there will be fewer physicians to replace those who wish to retire.
Now, the decreasing resources, coupled with long hours - what is becoming increasingly poorer working conditions - have pushed many physicians and nurses toward other countries. We have had an exodus to the United States. We have had approximately 400 physicians per year move from Canada to practise in the U.S. Just recently, in August 1999, a public opinion poll, commissioned by the Canadian Medical Association, revealed that 51 percent of Canadians do not think that we have enough doctors practising medicine to meet our health care needs. Here in the Yukon, especially in rural Yukon, we are extremely aware of the shortage. Rural Yukon has a real problem attracting and retaining health care professionals.
Unfortunately, the failure of the federal government to restore health care funding to each of the provinces and territories, and the failure of this government to provide incentives that will attract and retain nurses and doctors, is not doing much to address this major problem.
If we are to avoid what appears to be a significantly worsening crisis, planning for the future here in the Yukon must begin today. We must develop creative programs for the retention, after recruitment, of medical professionals. Focus on the positive incentives, as well as an increase in undergraduate medical education, is needed to ensure that we have the resources to care for our population that is aging right across Canada.
Planning to meet the long-term needs of Canadians is integral. But, as we have seen, it is becoming more and more difficult to make plans when funding over the past decade, from the federal government, is decreasing, and our costs are rising.
Over the last five years, provinces and territories have repeatedly told the federal government that a publicly funded health program cannot survive without the restoration of historical amounts of health funding from the federal government. With much regret, that message just hasn't hit home with this federal Liberal government. The money has just failed to appear. It doesn't appear to be a priority with the Liberals.
As many of us have witnessed over the past years, the Liberals in Ottawa have earned a reputation for starting numerous pilot projects throughout this country and then, without any consultation or input, have just pulled the plug - pulled the plug from under Canadians' feet - by refusing to carry on with the funding for these programs. Yukoners have become all too aware of this exercise.
It's even difficult for the Yukon to recover from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs payments due to this territory, on behalf of services provided to our First Nation members here in Yukon. That in itself is very, very insulting to Yukon. Some of these payments stem back a considerable number of years and they now amount to millions and millions of dollars. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs has a fiduciary responsibility to provide for this care for our First Nations. The Yukon is providing that health care on the understanding that Indian and Northern Affairs pays.
It's like finding hens' teeth to get them to honour their commitments.
Let's look at legal aid, the anti-tobacco programs and youth programs, to name but a few examples of how the federal Liberal government has shown up at the beginning, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. They've eaten the cake, taken all the accolades. A year later they're gone, and there's no continued funding for these programs. That's it. If you want to continue with it, you fund it yourself.
Let's look at a recent example of where the federal government has taken credit where credit is not due - their recent announcement to introduce yet another program to help homeless people in Canada. The supporting communities partnership initiative program provided $305 million to communities affected by homelessness - all communities except the Yukon, that is. In their press release, Ottawa stated that they will work with the provinces and territories in this project, and yet none of that money is earmarked to come to the Yukon for this initiative.
Just as the Liberal government in Ottawa does not feel we have a homeless problem in the territory, it also doesn't feel we have a problem with youth at risk. The Youth Empowerment and Success program, the YES initiative, was an excellent initiative. It was one that I felt should have been continued, but the funding was curtailed - stopped. They pulled the plug, pulled the carpet out from under the youth here in the Yukon.
When we look back at the recent federal budget, there are a lot of good initiatives in it. But when we look at what the priorities are of Canadians and where we're heading with what Canadians have accepted and recognized as what makes Canada a great country, it is our health care system. Unfortunately, over the years, our health care system has deteriorated. It needs the attention it deserves to support Canadians in a manner that they deserve and require.
Mr. Speaker, as I said at the onset, we will be supporting the motion as amended.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Ms. Moorcroft:Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to speak to the amendment before us, introduced by the Minister of Health and Social Services. I think that this amendment is critical, because we're looking at what was introduced in the federal Parliament this week as the first federal budget of this surplus era. What we've seen is that the social action voices in the federal Cabinet have been left holding the short straw.
The Liberal government's plans for a new national early childhood education - something they have been promising for decades - and home care and pharmacare programs have only been paid lip service. There's no money on the table.
The federal budget has completely forgotten about the children's agenda and the social agenda. The whole thing - all the rhetoric about the children's agenda - has been hijacked by the tax-cut agenda.
The federal budget allows for $58 billion in personal and corporate tax cuts - $58 billion, Mr. Speaker. Compare that to only $2.5 billion for social transfers to fund health and education over four years, divided by 10 provinces and three territories. There is no question that Canadian's number one priority is fixing health care.
The Liberal government has abandoned its leadership in its efforts to fix the national health system. Canada's premiers, the leaders of each province and territory of all different political stripes, know that the citizens in their areas are concerned about health care.
Provincial and territorial first ministers made it clear to the Prime Minister that restoring the Canada health and social transfer funding was needed.
Last month's premiers conference in Quebec City put the request directly: provinces and territories need a $4.3-billion increase in transfer payments to bring them back up to 1993-94 levels. What did we get? We got $2.5 billion Canada-wide over four years to replace what the Yukon alone amounted to $68 million in Canada health and social transfer cuts over the past four years.
Mr. Speaker, health care and education spending are priorities for this government. In our budget - the budget that's before the House now - we've designed and are building a new continuing care facility. We've brought forward new diabetes education programs. We've increased funding to the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
We're purchasing a CAT scanner. We have increased home care funding. We opened seven new beds at the Thomson Centre. We have a new healthy family initiative that's benefiting the health of people across the territory. Now, compare that with the federal Liberal budget that was introduced this week. The federal government chose to give the nod to the tax-cut lobby and scrimp and save on social spending in the millennium budget.
The result is that, for every dollar that goes to tax cuts, only two cents goes to health care, which is the number one priority of Canadians.
The surplus in this federal budget is used to deliver cuts in capital gains taxes, the end of the surtax to high-income earners, more favourable treatment of stock options, and a huge corporate tax cut, rather than reinvesting in health care or in a meaningful children's agenda. The much-touted balanced approach is really a long-term tilt to the right.
The federal budget tabled this week is one more example of that.
Program spending has fallen from 16.4 percent to 11.6 percent, which is the lowest level in well over 50 years. Program spending will be $4 billion lower this year than in 1993 when the Liberals took office.
The small sum that has been put back into health care means that we will continue to go down the road to two-tier health care. The provinces are reading the message here, which is to go private. Consequently, Mr. Speaker, from all jurisdictions across the country, there has been a demand for a meeting with the Prime Minister to deal with the fact that they have failed to respond to the lack of funding for health care.
Before Tommy Douglas brought in the medicare program in Saskatchewan, which was extended to become a Canadian program that we're all proud of, families either had to go broke or go without. Canadians want to protect the compassion that our universal health care system means, but the federal government is not supporting that. They're not paying their fair share of health care. Even by the year 2003, the federal government will be paying just 15.5 percent of health care spending; it used to be 50:50.
Mr. Speaker, this budget does not build a health care system for the future. I'm supporting the amendment before the House and look forward to a vote on this matter before us this afternoon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased today to rise to speak to this motion and the amendment that have come before the House today. Indeed it's one of those extra-special motions, bashing the federal Liberal government, and I would like to echo the sentiments that have already been stated in the House this afternoon, and thanking the NDP caucus in Ottawa for their research, and for their research facts being tabled in the House this afternoon.
I can't help but think that if the side opposite were really serious about wanting support for this motion they would have perhaps taken a more - not conciliatory - adequate approach than what has been taken in the motion this afternoon.
The Minister of Education has made reference that the premiers and territorial leaders and ministers of health are demanding a meeting with the Prime Minister or the federal Health minister on health care funding issues. Their concern is over the federal budget that was tabled and seeking to put the case forward to the federal government.
I wonder if the reason for the motion before us today is that the Government Leader is looking for support from this Legislature or, perhaps, some kind of a backup to his representations to the federal government, if he indeed is going to make them. That's not clear from the news report - whether or not the Government Leader intends to be part of this demand for a federal meeting.
Our caucus is prepared to support the motion. We would have worded it and the amendment differently. However, we are prepared to support them. I would, however, like to point out a few points that I believe would enhance the record of the debate in this Legislature. The comments have been made, and many references have been made in the short time we have been in this particular sitting, Mr. Speaker. Again, this afternoon, we heard many references with regard to the federal budget and, with somewhat derogatory references I would suggest, to the former federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and I would remind members that their former correspondence will come back to haunt them in that regard, as this government lobbied quite substantially for money from that HRDC, which they now see quite fit to criticize in the House.
There are a couple of other points with regard to the budget for health care funding, points that my colleague from Riverdale South has made with regard to funding for the post-secondary education and health and social services that comes to the Government of Yukon from the Government of Canada. Indeed, the Government Leader in the House noted for all of us present that the impact of the federal budget tabled on the February 27 would be $971,000 to the positive for the Yukon; the next year it drops down to $473,000, then it drops down to $463,000, then $453,000 in the following three years. These are one-time transfers. That's information from the Government Leader. My point in relaying it is that perhaps that information could have been used to put the motion forward more constructively than what has been done.
I also note, Mr. Speaker, that there is a very high satisfaction rating from the Yukon in the poll that was commissioned by someone - that there is a 74-percent approval rating of the Yukon's handling of health care and health care issues.
The other points that can be brought forward with respect to the health care funding in the territory and nationally - there have been many, many figures bandied about this afternoon, again thanks to the federal NDP caucus for their research. There are also other figures than can be used, and, after awhile, Mr. Speaker, it starts to sound to the general public like - and there's a quote I'm sure the Member for Whitehorse Centre would love to provide me about lies, damn lies and statistics.
The point is, Mr. Speaker, there is all kinds of information about health care funding. There are all kinds of points that have been made, many of them raised by one of the members opposite about different quotes from different premiers of all different political stripes and from different Health ministers decrying the cuts in the health care funding in the budget that was tabled by the federal government.
The Liberal caucus is clearly on record as stating that we support the motion that decries these cuts. We also have put forward a motion, unlike the members opposite, who seem to think it's their sole purview to champion health care in support of maintaining our health care system and not advocating the two-tier system that others recommend and others are so strongly in support of.
The members opposite do not have a lock on support for health care or health care funding. This side has spoken often about the needs within our health care system, areas where we believe federal and territorial funding could and should be targeted because health care, at its very essence, touches every single person. It's about the people. It's about caring for those who are in need of medical assistance.
I'd like to state also that I appreciate the Member for Riverdale South who also took this opportunity in discussion of our health care system to applaud those who work in this environment on all of our behalf.
The work they do cannot be underestimated.
We also, I believe, do have a very good health care system here in the Yukon. We are very lucky and very fortunate. There isn't one of us in this House - and there are many of our constituents who come to us and talk about the excellent treatment, the ability that we have, as Yukoners, to receive treatment when it's necessary outside this territory on an as-required basis.
We support the motion in being able to continue to do that. We believe in the health care system for Yukoners. We believe it should continue to be a good system. There should be no doubt in Yukoners' minds that the health care system we applaud here today isn't just the result of the work of this government. There have been many, many Yukoners, long before this Legislative Assembly sat here in this building, who have worked hard on this.
I can recall the debate, as I'm sure the Member for Whitehorse Centre can, when we switched from YHIS to medicare premiums, and then when an NDP government took them out. I can remember that debate in the public.
And we can remember when there was a hospital in Dawson and there was a hospital in Mayo. Indeed, our education system recognizes the former doctor in Mayo, Doctor J.V. Clark, in naming the school after him in recognition of his work in this territory.
We have a good system here in the Yukon, and I will continue, as will all members of the Liberal caucus, to fight for that system as a one-tier system, not a two-tier system. We'll argue against the federal cuts just as strongly as any of the members opposite.
We'll support the motion, and we'll support the amendment before us today.
Mr. Fentie: Briefly on the amendment, I couldn't help listening to the Liberal leader's comments, and for somebody who supports health care, the motion, the amendment and all that goes with it, her opening remarks accusing this government of bashing the federal government - and accusing us of using the NDP federal caucus to do research for us - are ridiculous comments.
Furthermore, for somebody who supports health care in this territory, it's very confusing and somewhat ironic that the Liberals continually vote against the expenditures that this government makes in health care. In fact, this government has increased expenditures in health care, and the Liberals can't have it both ways. It's one or the other, and we have seen time and time again in this Legislature where the Liberal leader has stood on her feet and defended her federal Liberal colleagues on just about every issue that we face in this territory that has impacted us in a negative manner. The Liberals have continued to support their federal puppet masters in Ottawa. At least the Yukon Party will make a stand and fight for Yukoners. The Liberals will do no such thing, and all Yukoners should be aware of that party in this territory. They stand for absolutely nothing. In fact, they're very confused and not sure what direction to take.
I must say, Mr. Speaker, that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, in bringing forward this motion, does so with the highest of principles and does so in a very timely manner. There's no question that what the federal Liberals have done with this budget is jeopardize the universality of our health care system.
In fact, they have probably sent us down the road of two-tier health care and privatization in health care, and it's a disgrace to have the Liberal leader stand in this Legislature and accuse us of federal bashing; that is simply not what we're doing. We stand here on this very serious issue and are going to do everything we can on this side of the House to ensure that universality in health care is maintained, and we will do it with every bit of our mental and physical capacity.
Mr. Speaker, I support this amendment, and I would hope that the following speaker from the Yukon Party will do the same.
Mr. Ostashek:Interesting debate. It's not often we get a chance to debate a motion when we're watching the Liberals and the NDP both jockeying to see who is the saviour of health care in Canada. It's quite ironic.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: Well, we have to get some excitement into this debate somehow. It's been pretty blasé so far. We hear the NDP continuing to bash the federal Liberals. We hear the local Liberals trying to continue to support the federal Liberals, at the same time they know there's an election coming up and Yukoners are going to be looking to them to see where they stand on these issues. So they're sort of caught in this never-never land, in between supporting their federal cousins with the territorial election staring them in the face.
We on this side - the Yukon Party - don't have any difficulty at all in supporting this motion, or the amendment to the motion. I do have a few comments I'd like to make on the whole issue of health care in Canada and the federal budget.
I'm not going to stand here like the Member for Whitehorse Centre and say everything was wrong in the federal budget, because it certainly wasn't. He made some interesting comments, that there were things in the federal budget he could support but there were things in the budget he couldn't support, so he's against the federal budget. That's what he accuses the Yukon Party of all the time with their budgets. You don't support health care because you didn't vote for our budget. You don't support increased payments for people on social assistance because you voted against the budget. Then they go up and use the same tactics when it's to beat up on the federal Liberals - talk about inconsistencies. They're almost as bad as the Liberals.
Before I get into what I want to say about health care in Canada in general and my feelings on it, I'd like to make a couple of comments on the Liberal leader's presentation here, because she made some interesting comments. One that I made a note of was when she said she saw when medicare premiums came into the Yukon. She also saw when the NDP did away with medicare premiums. What she failed to say was that that was the price that the territorial Liberals extracted from the NDP to prop up a minority government. That's what she failed to tell Yukoners. It was the Liberal party in the Yukon that supported -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Mr. Harding, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: I want to remind the member that the Liberal leader wanted to run for them, not for us.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Speaker, give her another six months. While she said she's against a two-tier system, and while now she's coming out against her federal Liberal cousins, that clearly hasn't been her record in this Legislature over the last three and half years.
In fact, they've been great defenders of everything the federal Liberals have been doing.
Mr. Speaker, I was disappointed with the federal budget for the fact that there was only $2.5 billion of one-time payments put into health care. I have great difficulty with a federal government that believes they ought to call the shots but they don't have to pay the bill.
I believe when universal health care started out, it was supposed to be a 50:50 deal between the provinces and the territories with the federal government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: It was 55; I stand corrected. It was 55:45, but the fact remains, now the federal government is paying somewhere around 10 percent, and they still want to call the shots. Is it any wonder that Canada's moving to a two-tier system?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: It certainly is their fault and God, this is terrible, because I usually don't agree with the Member for Faro very often, but I have to now. I sort of find that unpalatable, Mr. Speaker.
The fact remains, if our health care system in Canada fails, it's because of the federal Liberal government. They were quick to cut out massive amounts of money every year from the health care system, and then they tried to repair with tokenism of a $2.5-billion one-time payout.
Yet, we could lose $1 billion in the Human Resources department and the Prime Minister dismisses it. It doesn't really matter - $1 billion. A billion dollars would have gone a long way to help restore some confidence in our health care system in Canada.
I was very, very concerned when I heard the criticism about Premier Harris this morning on the radio, and I can't quote him directly because I don't have it in front of me, but he said something to the effect that if the federal government wasn't going to continue to contribute its fair share to health care, the provinces would have some hard choices to make.
They would either have to cut services more, which they couldn't do, or they would have to raise the money from either the public or private sector. I think there was a very clear message to the federal government in that statement, "from the public or the private sector". That sounds to me very similar to what Premier Klein is doing in Alberta. While I agree with a lot of things that Albertans are doing, and that the government down there is doing, I don't agree with the two-tier health system. I don't agree with it at all.
But they're totally frustrated. We have a dictatorial Prime Minister and a federal government that is not prepared to pay their fair share of the bill, yet they're going to dictate how health care needs are to be delivered by the provinces and the territories. That is not fair, and the system will not work that way.
It's little wonder that there has been a hue and cry for a first ministers meeting. The budget that was put out by the federal Liberals was very short in addressing health care premiums.
I heard the members opposite saying there was $58 billion in tax cuts. But I also heard the Reform spin on their reply to the budget speech that there was $85 billion in new spending programs, when you took everything into consideration. But health care wasn't in there. It's not a priority for the federal Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, I don't believe our government in the Yukon is without blame either, when it comes to delivering health care services and doing a good job of how they spend what little money we do get from the federal government.
We watched the Minister of Health and Social Services waffle all over the place when it comes to rural doctors, rural nurses. He still, today, hasn't got a program in place to deal with a very serious issue. He's quite prepared to pay more in medevacs than he is to come to a reasonable resolution of how the services can be provided in the few communities that we do have doctors in.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Ostashek: "Just picked up a couple more doctors," he says. Well, good, we'll see how this works out.
But the fact remains that this government has been driving too hard a bargain with the people who deliver medical services in rural Yukon. And I know it's a tough situation for the minister when he looks at the costs involved and the small number of people that there is to serve, but yet all Canadians are entitled to the same level of service. That's why we have such lucrative transfer payments from the federal government. Even though they are cutting back on health and social services, when we look at our transfer payments compared to Newfoundland, we're in a very generous situation, and this government has been quite content just to sit here and redistribute the transfer payments we're getting from Ottawa and not do anything to make things better for rural Yukoners. Sooner give it out in medevacs, I guess. I don't know; that doesn't make much sense to me.
There have been many speakers before me today on this issue. Our Member for Klondike I believe summed it up quite eloquently - the position of the Yukon Party and how we feel about the federal budget and the cuts to the CHS transfers, and I don't have much more to add to it than that.
I support the motion and I support the amendment. I would hope that the federal government would pay heed not only to our voice but, if this is a voice of disappointment and anger that's going across the country, in Legislatures across the country, it is because of a federal government that has the financial resources available to be able to deal with the health care crisis in Canada - and I call it a crisis, because the delivery of health care services is a crisis - but no, it doesn't appear to be a high priority for the federal Liberals. As a result of that, all Canadians will suffer.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Phillips: I want to enter into the debate here briefly just to say a few words about this motion. I, too, will support the motion as presented by the Member for Whitehorse Centre and, as well, will support the amendment that was put forward on the floor of the House by the Health and Social Services minister.
Mr. Speaker, I have some concerns about what has happened in the last federal budget. Unlike some members of the NDP, I fully support the tax cuts in this federal budget. In fact, I would encourage the federal government to go a little further in the future, because I believe that part of the problem with Canada today is that we pay some of the highest tax rates in the industrial world, so we should be moving in that direction if we have the money to move in that direction. That is where -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Harding: We can't fix all the Yukon Party tax increases overnight, but we're doing our best.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Mr. Phillips: Mr. Speaker, the member who just spoke could do a lot more to help the Yukon economy if he decided to purchase some of his goods and services locally. I think that would be a good start to help the Yukon economy. If you're going to spend $30,000 or $40,000, you should try and do it locally.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: I would ask that the Speaker rule on the member directing his debate to the motion and not direct it toward members opposite.
Speaker: The Member for Porter Creek North, on the point of order.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the Member for Riverdale North was just responding to the Member for Faro when he jumped up and made comments that had no relationship to the motion at all.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Mr. Phillips:I appreciate the ruling, and I'll carry on with the motion.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's important for us today to be sending a clear message to the federal Liberal government in Ottawa with respect to health care. My concern, I guess, is the fact that there are many, many Canadians who are now aging. I know we have had statistics given to us by the Minister of Health and others, about how our health care costs are going to rise dramatically in the future, and how Canadians are going to need more and more health care as we age. There's no time to be tight, so to speak, with funding toward health care.
My concern is that Canadians must be rather confused and puzzled by the recent announcement by the Finance minister with respect to this budget, because he spun the budget to say it was a tax budget, but he also was putting a large infusion of cash into the health care system. And you know, the money that he put into the system sounds like an awful lot of money, but, when you break it down for each jurisdiction, it's not very much at all. In fact, in some cases, it doesn't cover three or four days of operation of some governments.
I think that, in a way, is extremely cruel. It's cruel to the people who are in Vancouver today from the Yukon waiting for cancer treatment and can't get the proper treatment.
Some will die before they get the treatment, waiting in the lineups. It's cruel to the people who are waiting with children in the Children's Hospital, because they can't get the proper treatment, Mr. Speaker, and it is an extremely cruel way to try and trick Canadians into thinking that this infusion of cash will actually reduce those lineups and increase the opportunities for people to survive major health crises in this country.
Mr. Speaker, I think that it's also a very cruel way for the federal Liberal government to say to people, "Here's the budget, here's my budget speech, but if I get enough pressure from everyone out there, I might be able to find some more money for health care." This is what he said the other day, and I'm wondering why he's taking the time to play with those people's lives when we know there are lineups today, when we know there are shortages of nurses and doctors and equipment in the medical system today, and when we know that they cut millions of dollars from the program several years ago, and this in no way reinstates any of that - or very little of that. Why is the Minister of Health playing these cheap political games with the lives of these Canadians who are ill? I think it's cruel and unwarranted and I think we should be sending a strong message to the minister.
Mr. Speaker, I will support this motion and the amendment, as I said before. I believe we need universal health care in this country. It has been a fundamental part of Canadians' lives. It's something we expect and it's something that should be brought back to at least the standard it was. We should have enough money in the budget to allow for increases in costs, which we seem to be getting all the time.
Mr. Speaker, I would make a suggestion to the Yukon public out there, though. As we all know, it is the federal Liberals who are making this decision to not fund health care.
But the federal Liberals and the territorial Liberals are one and the same. When they have their fundraising, they all fundraise together; they all go to the same meeting; they all split the pot. So, prior to the next federal election, we're going to have a territorial election so, as Yukoners, we can send a clear message to the Liberals in Ottawa by throwing out all the local Liberals. I would recommend that the position the federal Liberals have taken today is a survivalist position -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Phillips: - the territorial Liberals, is a survivalist position. They are just trying to survive this. Today, for this brief moment in the House, for this Wednesday afternoon in the House, for about two hours, they hate the federal Liberals. But they'll walk out of the House tonight, and they'll be organizing a fundraising dinner in May with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to raise money for the next territorial election. Yukoners know that they are one and the same.
So I'm urging Yukoners - if they care about universal health care, if they care about the medical system that we have here today - that there's a real opportunity for them to send a message to the federal Liberals, and that is, in the next territorial election, to vote for the Yukon Party as opposed to the Liberal Party and, for sure, we will ensure that the federal Liberal minister, who is gutting the health care system, will get the message.
Hon. Mr. Hardy: It's always wonderful when you can bring forward a motion that unites the Legislature. The Yukon Party is supporting the NDP on this motion because they recognize the truth behind this motion. The Liberals are - big question? I believe they are supporting the motion, but then they make accusations.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: They're wondering what the question is.
There are still some things to cover. Again, I'd like to go back to a point that was made earlier that I and others have made, and it's a point of choice. By making choices, you define who you are. The federal government had a lot of choices to make in drafting their budget and it was definitely known throughout this country and by the caucus that people expected money to be spent on health care - a substantial amount of money - at least to restore funding back to 1995-96 levels.
People expected the programs that are offered throughout this country to have continued support, but also to knit together again a program that we are proud of, that has been ripped apart, that has been drifting, that has been under attack, not just within Canada, but also from those in other countries that want to bring down this program that we have, the program we call medicare that unites this country.
One thing that the federal Liberals forgot when they were drafting this budget was that there are programs and there is a role that the federal government plays throughout Canada that unites this country.
One of them is universal health and the medicare system that we have.
We have seen this country brought to the brink of separation, and I would say that part of that reaction that came out of Quebec - and part of the reaction that came out, a lot of it out of western Canada, in response to Quebec's go-it-alone philosophy - was because the federal government has been pulling back from programs that unite this country. One of these programs is medicare.
In 1995-96, they directed - or, not even directed, they attacked. There's no question about it; they attacked the social safety net. They used deficit and debt as a reason to do it. Now they didn't make changes to the tax structure that would have brought in more money, such as the Tobin tax. I think most people are familiar in here with the Tobin tax, which is one-quarter of one percent on money trading - a movement of money, which would have brought, I think the estimate is $30 billion. That's how substantial it is, which would have definitely added to the coffers to assist to pay down the debt and to pay down the deficit. They didn't make changes in taxation. They didn't make changes in other areas of phenomenal waste, and we have HRDC's example of a billion-dollar scandal that seems to be floating around and drawing a lot of attention right now.
They have taken a lot of attention away from the health debate. They didn't do that. They directed their spotlight on health care. They directed their spotlight on housing, housing for low-income people. They directed their spotlight on UI, those people who are unemployed and have paid into an insurance program. So where are their choices? When they have to make tough decisions, where do they go?
They don't look to their backers, the bankers. They don't look to the corporations. They look to those who already are having trouble, and they attack the UI program. Massive, massive changes - that attacked people who are unemployed, who have paid into a program. They turned their attention - after they started withdrawing massive amounts of money and denying people's rights to be able to draw down on that fund by changes that they made, they moved their attention over to housing, low-income housing. They said, "That's history. We're not putting any more money to assist people in low-income housing. CMHC has gone. The provinces and territories will have to go it alone."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Riverdale South, on a point of order.
Mrs. Edelman: Once again, Mr. Speaker, would the Speaker ask members of the House to direct their attention to the amendment on the motion and the topic that we're supposedly discussing today?
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: There is no point of order; that's exactly what the Member for Whitehorse Centre is doing.
Speaker: There is no point of order. The member may continue.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad you ruled that there is no point of order.
They turned their spotlight on housing. Now, it's not housing for the rich. It's not housing for people well off. It's not housing for people down in Rosedale and places like that. No, no, no. It's the housing for single mothers and fathers and low-income people. That's what they attacked. They did it again. They turned their spotlight - "Ahh, there's another vulnerable group. They don't deserve anything. They're bleeding the system. Let's get rid of them. Let's attack them." And they did.
There's no more CMHC, no more low-income housing, and we have a major crisis in that area, and there's a tremendous movement afoot to fight back. This affects the health of our nation - another national program gone. This affects the unity of this country. They turn their spotlight one more time, to health care - "Ahh, the sacred cow. It is definitely not our idea. It came out of the prairies - definitely not one of hours - from Tommy Douglas and his caucus. We can get rid of it. We can start to withdraw our support. We can start to withdraw our transfer payments. We can start to squeeze. We can start to hurt people." So that's what they did, Mr. Speaker.
They cut, they cut and they cut till it hurt and it hurt so much that a crisis formed. That's why we're in this situation right now. As I said, not only did it unravel what we know as medicare, it has started to create a fragile environment where people start to leave that area of work. Not only did it do that, but also it threatened the very unity of this country.
Every national program that can be accessed from sea to sea to sea has been chopped and has been attacked. Well, eventually there gets to be a point where we ask: are we a country any more? Are we a federation? Are we a collective? Do we need a central government? What are they doing? Do they have a role? That becomes a question in people's minds. What they see with their eyes is: maybe not.
So, we have the madness that ensued over the Quebec question - separation - and the madness I speak of is the way the Prime Minister dealt with it and how close it came to actually being voted in.
And through that whole period of time, never once did he take credit for his role in creating the environment for it to happen.
So, we have to ask ourselves, what role do the feds have? Send money, to fight for devolution, so we can have more autonomy here, so we can make our decisions that affect the people here by the people here? Maybe their whole role is to collect taxes, collect money, and maybe dole it out to the ridings in which they have people elected, give to unappointed people to come out and hand out as candy to the masses? Take a lot of trips?
I don't know - what role?
I am a person who believes in a federation. I'm a person who believes in a central government that has a role in this country. I am concerned that the federal Liberal government is not fulfilling its role.
Do they listen - do the feds listen? I think the members opposite, who were in government previous to us - the Yukon Party - probably quite willingly will say no, they don't listen.
You write them, you phone them, you lobby them, and then they go and do what they want. Look at forestry - do they listen? Absolutely not. Look at - I mean this is not brain science. We don't need a crisis in the forestry industry. We don't need people up in arms and picketing and driving huge trucks up on Main Street in front of the federal building. It's not brain science. You can't sit down and figure out something that works for people.
And speaking of health care, there are demonstrations happening throughout the country. The demonstrations in front of legislatures throughout the country are happening over health care. The ministers - the health ministers - time and time and time again have outlined the problems they are facing back in their provinces and territories. The leaders, the premiers, the Government Leader, are all saying the same thing: there is a crisis; we need assistance. And it's very simple to trace where the crisis started and how to resolve it. There is a need for more funds to be put back into health care. Do they listen? Absolutely not. Two cents to the dollar - two cents to health care, a dollar for tax breaks.
Now, there is always need for tax reform. There is absolutely no problem with it, and the member opposite is correct. Don't knock tax cuts. But $58 billion in tax cuts, and $2.5 billion for health care is not a balance, no matter how the man spins it. No matter how he looks at it or how he juggles it, it is not a balance. We could have had $54 billion for tax cuts and put $4 billion more into health care. Then we wouldn't be having this debate. But they couldn't even squeeze out a tiny little bit more - $2.5 billion dollars over four years. It's absolutely embarrassing. I'd be embarrassed to be a Liberal if I was one. I'd be ripping up my card.
Actually, I take that back. They are not Liberals. They call themselves Liberals, but they're not Liberals. They make the Reform look like they're Liberals. This is insane.
It's something we all believe in. Medicare is something that unites this country.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment to the motion is that the Yukon's portion of the CHST in the new federal Liberal budget is a once-only contribution.
And what does it say? Four days - once-only contribution. There's nothing to even look down the road for, except - what was it the minister, Mr. Rock, says? Maybe if you're good, you might get a little bit more money from me - maybe. But I'm not going to give it to you now. I don't care if health care is in dire straits; I don't care if there are wait-lists that are 18 months long to get surgery; I don't care if there are people dying because they can't get in; I don't care if there are lineups in the hospitals. That is not a crisis to me. That's what he says - that's not a crisis to me. Maybe I'll give you a little bit more, but what are you going to do?
That's a question - I wonder, in going through his head, is he playing a little bargaining game here?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Riverdale North says he wants us to beg. I happen to agree with him. I think the arrogance at the Parliament is so huge now that we have to beg. They're trying to force us, and we see it in all kinds of little things, not just health care - in little diplomatic things and the way they deal with us when they come up here. Who's allowed to attend the meetings? A very select group of people are allowed to meet with certain ministers or governors general or senators - a very select group of people in the Yukon.
I don't think they understand that, in the Yukon, we treat each other on a pretty level basis. We value each other, whether we sweep floors or we own multi-million-dollar businesses.
We associate; we have a beer together. They come up here, and they say that that person's not good enough to sit beside me, or this person's not good enough to talk to me. Arrogance is growing, and it's these very actions that worry me because, when a government gets arrogant, bad decisions are made, and this is a bad one.
When an opposition gets arrogant, really bad decisions are made by the opposition.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Debate on Motion No. 210 and the proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 99 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: Committee is dealing with Bill No. 99, main estimates. Is there further general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, a few questions were asked yesterday and the day before that I will report on. First of all, a question was asked respecting penalty revenues on property taxes and how much these revenues amounted to. The figure for 1997-98 was $31,000; for 1998-99 it was $88,000, and to date it's estimated at approximately $58,000.
As I mentioned yesterday or the day before, the Government of the Yukon is watching the court action initiated by a local bank against the City of Whitehorse to determine what the implications might be and what precedents might be set. At this time, we are not taking any action on that front at all.
A question was asked about the FTEs on the payroll. For the year 1999, there were 2,784 FTEs. The same in March - that's in March, the current month but a year ago - 2,784. In March of 1998, there were 2,781, and in March of 1997, there were 2,633. The significant jump there from 2,633 to 2,781 is in part accounted for by 137 FTEs transferred as a result of devolution of the health transfer phase 2.
The estimate on the private sector job creation is about 647 jobs for the capital budget, as estimated by the Department of Economic Development.
Chair: Is there further general debate?
Committee will proceed to the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The operation and maintenance budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 2000-01 totals $3,087,000, which is a decrease of $65,000, or two percent, from the 1999-2000 forecast.
The capital budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 2000-01 totals $20,000, which is an increase of $10,000. That's a 100-percent increase over the 1999-2000 forecast.
There are five programs in the vote. In the legislative services program, there is an overall decrease of $24,000. That's broken down as follows: there is an increase totalling $17,000 in the Legislative Assembly. This is due to a 1.3-percent increase in MLA indemnities and expense allowances, as required by the Legislative Assembly Act.
There is no increase budgeted for MLA travel or fringe benefits.
Caucus funding has been increased by $4,000, due to additional caucus employees being eligible to claim the Yukon bonus. Otherwise, no change has been made to the allocations to each caucus. It is expected that a future supplementary appropriation would provide additional funding to the caucuses, if at all. This will be based on the same percentage figures as are used to calculate increases in salary of Yukon government employees, as agreed to in the recent round of collective bargaining.
Legislative committee funding remains the same as last year at $14,000.
There has been an increase of $3,000 in Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA, activity to cover slight increases in memberships and travel.
In Legislative Assembly Office, the estimates for this program will be increased by $2,000 over the 1999-2000 forecast, to a total of $479,000.
Under retirement allowances and death benefits, the budget for the retirement allowance and death benefits program is $446,000, which represents no change from the 1999-2000 forecast. There is an adjustment in the amounts allocated to each item of expenditure.
Government contributions to the MLA pension fund have been increased by $12,000, reflecting the increase in MLA pay as of April 1, 2000 and the actuarial evaluation of the fund as at March 31, 1999. This is offset by a $12,000 decrease in consulting services. This $12,000 had been provided in the past fiscal year to cover the costs of the triannual actuarial evaluation of the pension fund.
The budget for the Hansard program is $386,000, which is a $91,000 decrease from the 1999-2000 forecast. This is largely due to payment of overtime rates on the Hansard contract that ended on August 31, 1999 and transition to a new contract. Members will note that the amount being budgeted in this fiscal year is identical to the actual amount spent in 1998-99.
The conflicts commission program, upon the recommendation of the conflicts commissioner, remains at $13,000.
The 2000-01 capital budget of $20,000 is an increase of $10,000 over the 1999-2000 forecast. The main item being provided for this is a replacement photocopier for the Legislative Assembly and elections offices.
I will try to answer whatever questions I can, with the Clerk's help.
Chair: Is there further general debate? Seeing none, we'll proceed to Legislative Services.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Legislative Services
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Legislative Assembly
Chair: Just to let members know, the Chair will wait until there's an indication from both opposition parties before clearing an item.
Legislative Assembly in the amount of $1,216,000 agreed to
On Caucus Support Services
Caucus Support Services in the amount of $499,000 agreed to
On Legislative Committees
Legislative Committees in the amount of $14,000 agreed to
On Commonwealth Parliamentary Association
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in the amount of $34,000 agreed to
Chair: Any questions on the stats?
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,763,000 agreed to
On Legislative Assembly Office
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Clerk's Office
Clerk's Office in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
Chair: Is there general debate?
On Retirement Allowances
Retirement Allowances in the amount of $446,000 agreed to
On Death Benefits
Death Benefits in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $446,000 agreed to
On Transcription Services
Transcription Services in the amount of $344,000 agreed to
Broadcasting in the amount of $40,000 agreed to
On Electronic Services
Electronic Services in the amount of $2,000 agreed to
Hansard in the amount of $386,000 agreed to
On Conflicts Commission
On Conflicts Commission
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $3,087,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there general debate?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, the budget forecasts for this department show a decreased overall spending of $456,000 for the Executive Council Office during fiscal year 2000-01. As members will note, 47 percent of Executive Council Office's budget flows through 100-percent recoverable programs. The forecasts have increased recoverable programming related to a number of agreements with the federal government, land claims, aboriginal languages, French languages and the Bureau of Statistics.
The proposed budget recognizes that the government must continue to use our resources wisely and ensure that priority initiatives are fully supported. This budget provides the necessary funding to support key areas: the completion and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements, the transfer of the Northern Affairs program of DIAND to the Yukon government and the work of the development assessment process.
Under land claims, these estimates demonstrate the government's commitment to concluding outstanding land claim and self-government negotiations. The proposed increase in spending of $20,000 will enable us to meet our commitment to support implementation projects, as committed to in the First Nation final agreements. It also provides for the level of staffing and operating costs necessary to support negotiating groups working to complete land claim and implementation agreements. This budget will also support the effective implementation of agreements and continue to build and maintain strong, respectful government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations.
Under devolution, Mr. Chair, Yukon people want to control their future. By gaining full management control of our lands, forests, water and minerals, we can make decisions together that reflect the values and priorities of Yukon people. Negotiations continue with the Government of Canada and Yukon First Nations, and efforts made to raise the awareness of key politicians in Ottawa earlier this month will pay off later this year.
We have made significant progress and I have every confidence we will meet our new target date to effect the transfer of April 1, 2001.
While work remains to be done, major financial issues have been addressed and our key requirement that devolution be a fiscally sound proposition for the Yukon will be met.
Leading these discussions to a successful conclusion is the principal task of the intergovernmental relations branch in the Executive Council Office working in concert with affected departments.
Under the DAP program, the budget proves our commitment to getting DAP right for Yukon people. The DAP unit continues to negotiate the design of the draft legislation as well as its implementation and funding. We will consult Yukoners on another draft of the legislation and have a workshop when we are satisfied that the interests of Yukoners are reflected in that legislation.
Resources for conclusion of the DAP work have been allocated under the Cabinet and management support branch. Until legislation is passed in Parliament, the expenses are covered under the implementation funds.
Under capital expenditures, they are forecast to increase $25,000. The increase reflects the Land Claims Secretariat's contribution to capital-funded implementation projects throughout the government.
I look forward to any questions the members have.
Ms. Duncan: The Government Leader and I had quite a discussion during the general debate on the budget about land claims, and the Government Leader provided an update as to the current status of the outstanding land claims.
My understanding from the minister, in reviewing that debate, was that essentially four of the outstanding claims, given best efforts, et cetera, could be resolved fairly quickly and, if the minister were providing a date, I had a sense that it was spring or fall. Perhaps he could confirm which of those it was, and that there was no real new date for the others that are outstanding?
I wonder if this is because we've given up setting dates for these and, instead, applied our efforts to focusing on the task at hand, which is resolving this long-outstanding issue.
Perhaps the minister could address that point. Also, my understanding of what the federal minister said about the principals meeting is that there seemed to be a real desire to get land claims moving - assuming the minister is able to get an extension of the mandate through the federal Cabinet - and once that had been achieved, there would be a real push to try to resolve these outstanding claims.
My concern is if there is a real effort applied, have we enough staffing, et cetera, or does the Government Leader anticipate any staffing changes in the land claims branch?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, first of all, Mr. Chair, as I indicated the other afternoon, there are four claims that essentially should proceed fairly expeditiously. White River is about to go to ratification. Ta'an Kwach'an have indicated they're prepared to go to ratification this summer, based on the agreement achieved to date and the settlement of the outstanding financial issues that they have identified with the federal government some time ago.
That leaves Kluane and the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. In the case of Kluane, there are essentially three issues: the loan repayment, the section 87 rolling implementation and the specific claim in the national park. Obviously, if the two large issues can be resolved and the referral of the specific claim to another table can be achieved, or some resolution of that claim can be achieved in the context of the main table negotiations, then there are no other issues, to my knowledge, that are outstanding.
In terms of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, there are, again, two big issues to overcome, and there are some minor land issues to address, which I would suspect would be accomplished fairly quickly.
So, in terms of those blocks of claims, I would hope that, when the federal minister and the First Nation leaders and the Yukon government come together in late May, we will have an opportunity to hopefully close the two major outstanding issues. Based on some of the media reporting I heard after the meeting - from those people commenting on the principals meeting - there may be some difficulties resolving the section 87 rolling implementation issue, but, as I said, my understanding of what was stated at the meeting was that the federal minister was going to have a discussion with the federal Finance minister and was going to seek to determine whether or not there was any interest at all in seeing a change to the policies with respect to section 87 rolling implementation and, if so, then he was going to try to secure a meeting between First Nation leaders and the federal Finance minister. If not, he was going to report back that there was not going to be any change of federal position.
So, that's where that issue stands, and I don't know precisely when people will be getting back to each other to deal with it. I would only assume that it will probably be in a matter of weeks, based on the tenor of the discussions.
With respect to the loan repayment, I indicated before and I'll repeat that the federal minister did indicate that there was a concern about the national implications of loan-repayment forgiveness, that it was not simply a Yukon issue, that it was a national issue and that the money involved, if supplied nationwide, would be in the many, many hundreds of millions of dollars. So, consequently, this is no small matter for the federal government.
Clearly, the federal minister indicated that he was probably not going to be able to realize all that the First Nation leadership had requested. However, he was going to try to make the best efforts to provide some benefit and try to direct resources to the tables in other ways.
He said that that he was going to urge his negotiators and officials to be creative in finding ways to provide some economic incentive, or some replacement of the resources that First Nations feel they have lost from protracted negotiations, to the tables that are outstanding right now. This would be a subject of the discussions in May, when we all came together. I suggested at the meeting - as I think I mentioned - that we would try to not only close those issues, but also see if we can't get the negotiators to hone the issues down to actually try and close the negotiations for those outstanding claims at the same time, with the principals present. If the negotiators can get close, then that may well happen.
I indicated there was one fly in the ointment, and that is that the federal mandate may not be secured by the end of March. If that's the case, the federal government, under Treasury Board guidelines, indicates that they cannot flow money to negotiators. They may have it, but they can't flow it. So, that would obviously affect federal negotiators and funding for First Nation negotiators. So, there may be a period - we're going to try to keep it short - between the end of March and whenever the mandate is secured where there will be no negotiating tables. So, we obviously have a lot of work to do for the balance of this month. We're going to try to find something creative to resolve the two big issues. But, in any case, there is a resolution to return in May, around the time of the gold show, for a principals meeting to try to bring some closure. I read that there was a very good atmosphere at the table and a real willingness to try and make things happen.
In terms of the Kwanlin Dun claim and the two Kaska claims, the Kwanlin Dun have indicated that they may need more than two years to negotiate their claim.
The minister indicated that he thought that two years was good enough, and it may well be. Whether it is or it isn't, it can always be extended, I suppose, but there will at least be an extension to deal with that.
With respect to the Kaska claims, I take it that there is a disagreement about what was expected of the outstanding legal action that is on the table between the Kaska and the federal government. This legal action has caused the federal government, under its own policy, to put a halt to the negotiations while the litigation is going on. Subsequent to the meeting we had, the Kaska tribal chief has indicated that there will be no putting claims into abeyance until the tables are up and running. So, as the federal negotiator is reported to have stated in the press today, we are in a Catch-22 situation. We need to be able to have a table to negotiate, but there is obviously a difference of opinion as to how to get that table started.
So, I can't really say what's going to happen with respect to the timing for the Kaska claims. The Liard claim is largely negotiated as a stand-alone claim, but the transboundary claim has no table. We have negotiators ready. Regarding the Ross River claim, so far, the negotiating table, as I understand it, has not been closed down, and there are some negotiations going on. As I said, we are over half way in terms of completing that claim.
So, unless there is a negotiating table for the transboundary claim, we won't see closure to the Kaska interests. I just don't know when that's going to happen. There may be a break so people can accommodate their needs and get back to the negotiating table, but until that happens, nothing will happen.
Ms. Duncan: It wasn't my intention to make the minister re-plow that discussion, but I do appreciate the update and going through it. I was curious as to whether or not the minister anticipated any staffing level changes in the Land Claims Secretariat of Executive Council Office.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: At this point, no, Mr. Chair. There is a lot of work to keep people busy. We have negotiated a couple of intergovernmental agreements, which we are serious about, between the Yukon government and the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Nacho Nyak Dun. We are eager to see these agreements not only negotiated but also implemented, and so we will be tracking those and ensuring that the intergovernmental relationship is secured. We are also negotiating other intergovernmental agreements with other interested First Nations. We are on top of that, of course, pursuing the implementation of the claims themselves. We have had some active tables going on, both in terms of taxation and PSTA negotiations. Those tables continue, and there is a fair amount of work to be done. I don't anticipate a significant change. There might be an employee or two somewhere, but I'm not aware of it and I certainly haven't given any direction one way or another with respect to that matter.
Ms. Duncan: With respect to devolution, there were some questions raised in today's media reports. Unfortunately, I don't have anything other than the media reports with respect to questions raised by Kwanlin Dun about devolution and land claims proceeding at the same time. Is it the minister's intention to respond directly to the Chief of the Kwanlin Dun, or is there some other information the minister can provide the House on that particular discussion and the concerns raised by the chief?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I've spoken to Rick O'Brien about the concerns that they have with respect to their claim and the other community development issues that they have raised. I've indicated that we should meet and we are going to meet to discuss a wide variety of issues. We've met before; we'll meet again.
I've indicated that I believe that we can pursue, fairly and honestly, the negotiation of the Kwanlin Dun claim, that there is a clear commitment on the part of this government, at least, to finalize that claim. It will probably take a year or two. The chief is probably correct about that.
I do not see, however, the need to hold devolution of resource management until the claim is complete. We think that there are very good reasons for securing the devolution of responsibilities for resource management from the federal government as soon as possible. We've had many, many problems. Yukoners have experienced many problems on many fronts and we think that they can be helped along, or certainly advanced, in a more coherent and effective fashion if Yukoners are in charge of these resources and their futures.
So, it would be certainly infinitely better to deal out the federal bureaucracy in the management of resources and deal directly on an intergovernmental relationship basis between the Yukon government and First Nation governments on a variety of issues.
So, I'm keen to see both happen. We are going to put energy into securing satisfactory settlement of both. We'll show creativity and flexibility, but I don't see that it would be appropriate to put one off until the other is secured.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with respect to the devolution, the minister, in answers to previous questions in the House, talked about the need to have a look at the functions of government at some point, once devolution is complete, because there are a variety of issues, of course, to address.
Now, it's anticipated that devolution will be completed by April of next year. Has there been any work done on this sort of a process at this point by ECO?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I would characterize any work that has been done so far as sort of a blue-sky kind of analysis. I do intend that there be a much more professional and detailed analysis and a written analysis of the organization of government and what options there may be for some reorganization once devolution is complete. A lot of work would have to be done to determine what options there might be for the government a year from now and two years and three years from now, but there are clearly some difficulties experienced even now between departments, given that the Yukon government itself has been built as a result of a number of unrelated devolution exercises and there has not been a great deal of thought as to how to better integrate the operations of government.
So, there will be some work done in the coming year, hopefully well in time for the transfer of resources.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Government Leader made mention of intergovernmental agreements with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Nacho Nyak Dun. I wonder if the minister would table those in the Legislature or provide copies of those intergovernmental agreements? And I'm interested to know whether or not they anticipate devolution and if there's any talk of joint program work in those intergovernmental agreements?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I can table the agreements. There's not much that the government is doing right now that is anticipating devolution. We want to take things when they happen, but there certainly is work being done between governments on a variety of fronts to try and make things as efficient as possible in terms of community development and the aspirations of both orders of government. So, yes, in time there will be some action on this front, but the member will be able to see from the intergovernmental accords to date that we have a number of priorities that we want to meet. One purpose of the agreement is to ensure that the attention of the public service and the government workers for the First Nation are working on the same things at the same time.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, has there been a priority list established for those working on the same issues at the same time. Has there been a meeting of the minds of the government leaders to indicate what areas are priorities? For example, is social assistance programming an area that has been established as a key priority?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are elements in both agreements that do have an impact on social assistance programming. Perhaps the member could be more specific; that's a very broad field. But, certainly, community development - I'm trying to see if I can find a copy of one of the agreements here, which I can use to give some sense of it.
What I can do for the member is that I will find a copy of the agreement and it will become much more clear as to the nature of the work to be done.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I could rephrase the question. In delivery of social assistance payments to individuals who find themselves in need, individuals may end up going to different offices. There are social workers paid by different agencies, meeting different needs, in communities. Is that the sort of item where the Government Leader is discussing with the chief and council how to coordinate services and work together on this specific issue - share resources? That's just one example. I'm interested in two questions: is that the sort of thing that they're talking about, first of all; and secondly, what are the priorities for those joint initiatives?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I say, if I had the agreements in front of me, I'd be able to lift out the priorities. I have a sense of what the priorities are for both, but I want to be accurate, because this is for the record, obviously. So, I will secure the agreements and show them to the member and the terms of the actual projects that are underway between the departments will become clear.
With respect to the sorting out of responsibilities, I'm certain that, in various areas, there has been work done to make clear the responsibilities between the various governments, and ultimately ensuring that the responsible government is accessible. I could perhaps ask the Minister of Health who, I'm sure, would be more than happy to explain some of the work. That might assist the member.
Hon. Mr. Sloan: There have been a number of child welfare protocols worked out with First Nations. We have several in place and, most recently, some trip up the North Klondike Highway indicated some other First Nations that were interested in developing that process. It's more of an agreement in principle with First Nations as to how, particularly in cases of child apprehension, as will occasionally occur, the kinds of procedures - who is supposed to be informed and what kinds of participation the First Nation is seeking in decisions around a child's welfare.
There have been some indications from some First Nations that they would be interested in issues of shared services. We have had, on some occasions, First Nations indicate to us that they would be interested in, if you will, seconding some of our SA staff to assist them in administering certain programs. And, of course, we have some ongoing discussions where it may make sense to share services - Old Crow being one where, clearly, with the number of non-First Nation citizens in that community, it makes sense that the First Nation might deliver it on our behalf. So, these are things that we are interested in exploring. Certainly, in the case of Old Crow, it would seem to me to make eminent sense. We are certainly interested in pursuing those in the future.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to receiving the agreements from the Government Leader and reviewing them, and I thank the Minister of Social Services for that explanation. That is exactly the question and situation I was interested in. The Yukon Act is certainly an ongoing process. A work in progress is a good way, I believe, to describe it. There is some funding that's allocated in the Executive Council Office for public discussions, et cetera. It's with the economic forums, as I understand it, and the economic forums are anticipated to be completed by May 31. We are still continuing with the public process on the Yukon Act. What public process does the Government Leader envision from this point? An additional forum in the fall, perhaps, or are some other public processes anticipated this coming fiscal year?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: First of all, let me just briefly return to the intergovernmental agreements. The agreement, for example, between the Yukon government and Nacho Nyak Dun includes five priorities, one of which is the coordination of social service programs to analyze existing programs, identify gaps, coordinate the delivery of the social services programs between the governments, and develop new mechanisms to increase the well-being and self-sufficiency of Nacho Nyak Dun citizens.
So, there is clearly some work going on in this particular area. I do know that there is some work going on in the sustainable communities initiative. There was some work done establishing a training trust fund focused on resource and environmental management training. There is the exploration of joint opportunities for economic development through EDA. So, there are a number of activities going on between the governments. These are the priorities, and the agreements call for updates by senior officials in both governments to the Government Leader and to the chief, who, incidentally, is here this evening. This agreement, as I say, is a serious attempt at coordinating intergovernmental functions.
In terms of the Yukon Act review, I would say, as I mentioned the other night, that I would be open to a discussion from other parties in the Legislature as to what they would like to see occur. The committee that reviewed the Yukon Act before indicated that there should be some more discussion, more public information around the basic object of devolution and a description of what the Yukon Act might do in terms of identifying existing political government institutions in the territory. So, we have done precisely that, and that public education continues.
I'd be happy to hear the member's opinion on what further public discussion should take place and if there is a need, if we all agree on the nature of the need to do a public review, then we will certainly try to secure the resources to undertake that activity.
There certainly will be some need for some more discussion with people in Ottawa, where the legislation will end up and begin its own process, so the resources for that will have to be secured as well.
I would point out to the members that we are expecting the economic forums to finish at the end of May, largely because that's the beginning of summer and people have other things to do. I've indicated to the people involved - and there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people - that if there is a desire to maintain the discussions into the next year or indefinitely, then we would be certainly happy to entertain such an idea. But we're going to wait for the evaluation of the forums that will be done when they're concluded and the recommendations from the people involved as to what they would like to see happen next.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a procedural question with respect to the Yukon Act. My understanding is that a Yukon Act would go through the federal Parliament sometime before Christmas this year. We have the mirror legislation to deal with, of course. The feds have to pass it first and then we have to deal with it. What's the process with the Yukon Act and also what's the procedural process with the DAP act?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: As I understand it, the federal government has indicated that, if all goes well, they will introduce the act at the end of October, when they expect Parliament to resume. Then it will go through as slowly or quickly as the parties in the discussion want it to go, I would guess.
There clearly remains a division of opinion as to what is essential for what to go first and what to go second. Nevertheless, we will have two opportunities to pass the mirror legislation: one in the fall and one in the spring of 2001. So, we will be well-positioned to be able to respond to whatever happens when it happens. I would hope we'll be able to have clear community consensus about the mirror legislation, because it's not exactly - there's no attempt at making any policy changes here. We just have to agree on what that actually means in law.
So, I would imagine that we'll have various lawyers working at it between now and then. In terms of any other legislation, if the DAP legislation is ready to go through Parliament, then clearly it will be the law of the land at some point, and we'll be able to pass legislation, too, which will bring our elements into effect. If DAP is not done, then we'll have to bring in successor legislation through CEAA - which we call YEAA - which will ensure that there is an environmental assessment process, no matter what, at all times. We're kind of hoping that we don't have to do that, and that the DAP legislation will be done and will be satisfactory to people, so that we don't have to pass different legislation, but time will tell.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the last of the economic forums are scheduled for the end of May, and the Government Leader made reference to recommendations, conclusions and evaluation of the forums. The forums that I have been able to attend have certainly generated a great deal of discussion among Yukoners, and one would not want to see recommendations lost. When does the Government Leader anticipate receiving some kind of a report from the forums - at the end of the summer or the fall?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, I would hope that we could get a report by May or June as to whether or not there is a recommendation to proceed into the future. First of all, there are regular reports of the various workshops that come out. They are on the Web site, and they'll be published and made available to everybody. I think that even some speakers' notes for the speaker series are also published on the Web site. So, for anybody who wants to get all this information, it's there.
The analysis as to whether or not to continue, I think, should be recommended to us as soon as possible so that if there is a desire to continue in September or October, then we have the lead time to actually do the preparation and get it started again in September or October, when people are back from summer holidays or are not away from their summer tourism business, and keep the focus on the forums.
In terms of my current inclination, I have heard nothing but good things about the forums. Some are better than others, obviously. Some speakers are better than others, are more inspirational or relevant than others, but overall, I have heard some very good commentary from people, particularly when there is a practical discussion dealing with practical issues, resolving practical problems. I have seen people already talking about wanting to get an update started on a particular subject or a particular area. There are, in fact, a large number of suggestions being made for that to happen. So I would suspect - and I don't want to prejudge things totally - that people want things to happen and continue. If that is the case, then we'll have to secure the resources, because I think this is a priority.
Ms. Duncan: It's my understanding that the entire cost of the economic forum is covered through the Executive Council Office. A look at last year's expenditures and those anticipated for this fiscal year would cover off the complete costs of the forums. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: No, some costs were borne by two or three other departments. They are sort of shared between departments. A portion of the costs are in the Executive Council Office. I don't have the latest update on the cost of the forums, but I can secure that for the member.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'd like to receive that information. The Bureau of Management Improvement is also under the Executive Council Office. The internal audit function, it's my understanding, has been essentially staffed by one individual who is seconded to another department, and during the lifetime of this government, this internal audit has been basically covered off by contract. I'm wondering if the minister could provide the current status of the audits that have been conducted by contract, how many of those we have been able to do locally and what is anticipated for the forthcoming fiscal year with respect to internal audit work.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: For the coming year, Mr. Chair, there will be an Audit Committee meeting - it's booked, I think, in the next week or two - where the workplan will be established for the year.
The member is quite right. The work of the audit branch has been done by contractors. They are outside contractors, meaning they're outside of government. They're inside the territory but they're outside of government. And they've completed a number of projects, which they will report to the Audit Committee when the Audit Committee meets. I chair the Audit Committee so, when I see the reports, then I'll know precisely what the progress has been.
But certainly, during this sitting and in the spring, we will have an opportunity to discuss what the audits are. Historically, we've made these audits public and I don't see any reason why that can't continue.
So, when the audit reports come to the committee, the committee looks at them, reviews them and, unless they send them back for something, they'll probably be published shortly thereafter and they'll be made public, I would imagine.
I've tabled some in the past. I've tabled ones that people asked for in the past and I'll table others again.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding from the minister's response is that the Internal Audit Committee, when they meet next week, will be then looking at a workplan for the next fiscal year. That's my understanding of what the minister just said.
We have an agreement that's also covered under the Executive Council Office, with respect to French language services. My understanding from the briefing is that we're in year three of five years, and there has been some additional funding this year from the federal government for that agreement.
One of the Association des Franco-Yukonnais' key points was an improvement of services at the hospital, and that's covered under this budget in a line item. What are the plans for that? There is an additional amount of funding budgeted. How is it intended that the services at the hospital will be improved for the Yukon's French community?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are a number of things that the government intends to do. First of all, there will be the ability to fund two full-time French language services staff for the hospital for the next two years, and they will be able to provide interpretation services seven days a week with this funding through the bilateral agreement. There will also be French language courses given to hospital staff, which started last year, and those will continue. And a strategic plan will be developed to provide some clear direction for the provision of these services at the hospital and at health centres in the coming years.
The member will know that we also appointed a francophone to the hospital board. This is one way to ensure that there is an easier contact from the francophone community to the hospital board. This has helped.
We also are continuing the funding for four positions in Health and Social Services to provide services in French to the French community. These are francophones in positions that are doing normal work. They are not simply additional positions for which the people speak French. There is a much greater capacity to translate and communicate in French in the branch itself.
So, those are some of the things that the government is doing. As long as, of course, the funding continues, I think we'll have licked this problem.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Government Leader spoke earlier about intergovernmental accords and intergovernmental agreements between the Government of Yukon and Yukon First Nations. What about the other northern leaders? There used to be an agreement where the Governor of Alaska, the Government Leader and the Premier of British Columbia met. Now, there have been various changes of players since this Government Leader took office. What is the current status of those meetings and any discussions with the other two northern leaders?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the other two northern leaders, as the member I am sure is aware, will be arriving in Whitehorse two days from now for a northern leaders meeting on Saturday. There will also be an opportunity for Fran Ulme from Alaska to participate at a working lunch as well as a dinner on Saturday night. There will also be, hopefully, some representation from the Government of British Columbia at the working lunch and the dinner, but the B.C. Cabinet was only appointed today, so the notice may be a bit short for the premier to come, but we'd be happy for the deputy premier or even the minister responsible for northern British Columbia. That would be satisfactory.
The northern leaders meeting was arranged some time ago. The agenda has been set and contains a number of issues that are of common interest to all jurisdictions. Obviously, our relationship with the federal government on a number of subjects figures prominently in those discussions. Devolution does, land claims negotiations does, of course, and even postal service rates will be raised.
I would suspect that economic development in the north will be raised. It was indicated to me today that the federal budget speech did not contain a reference to economic development funds for the north, and we were informed today by DIAND staff that there is not any money secured either inside DIAND or in government to support economic development.
So, we're obviously somewhat concerned about that. It didn't make the cut, so there are some expectations out there that we should try to deal with. That will be another issue that will be raised.
There are going to be some pan-northern issues. Our tourism agreement is obviously an issue. I'm certain that we'll be at least talking - probably not agreeing - about pipeline activity. I heard that the Northwest Territories Legislature got quite excited about the fact that the Yukon Legislature and the Yukon government were advocating a pipeline, so they are speeding up their activity, and I'm sure there will be lots of talk at some point about how we will relate to each other on these subjects. So, I guess there is a wide range of subjects. They're all fairly important - everything from education in the University of the Arctic to, as I say, the economic development agreements and formula financing. There is a lot to discuss. It's a day-long meeting starting Saturday morning at breakfast.
Chair: Do members wish to recess? Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee is dealing with the main estimates. We're on the Executive Council Office. Is there further general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple more questions, and then I'll pass it over to the Member for Porter Creek North.
The minister mentioned the northern leaders meeting and that there was a very full agenda for Saturday. Is there a point at which there is going to be discussion about a further date for the next meeting? We were fortunate to have the Arctic Winter Games and be able to schedule this meeting, et cetera, but we seem to have gotten a little off track in terms of regular meetings, at least among the B.C. premier and the Alaska governor and the government leaders. Was there a date for those?
And then, of course, there are, as the Government Leader refers to them, the pan-northern issues. Are there dates for further follow-up meetings in that regard?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, the government leaders meetings started last summer because there was a feeling that we needed to come together before the premiers conference and so, Government Leader Okalik hosted that conference in Iqaluit. We resolved, though, that it would probably be a good opportunity to get together during the Arctic Winter Games because that is a time when the ministers will generally be travelling anyway to see the games. So, we've decided that this year it will be during the Arctic Winter Games time and, two years from now, we will probably follow up on it in terms of the Arctic Winter Games schedule. We may well continue with a March time if we decide to go on an annual basis. There is certainly plenty to talk about on an annual basis.
Now, there is also the option, of course, of having a pre-meeting before the western premiers conference - when we'll all be getting together anyway as well - which we'll also discuss. That's another option. We have resolved to come together regularly, certainly annually is the minimum. In terms of the meetings between British Columbia, the Yukon and Alaska, I think we're going to have to hope that the Government of Alaska and the new Premier of British Columbia will get along, and then we will have the meetings.
Ms. Duncan: We'll hope for the best.
The travel costs of the various cabinet ministers. The Government Leader has been asked annually for a number of years to provide those. I would ask him to do that again, and I have encountered some difficulty in finding the costs of the various 29 trade missions that have been undertaken by the government during its term in office, and I would ask that the minister would provide those as well. They seem to be covered in part by Economic Development, in part by Tourism and in part by ECO. Given that Executive Council Office seems to have responsibility for a number of things, I wonder if the Government Leader would take it upon himself to ensure that that information is provided.
Hon. Mr. McDonald:Mr. Chair, I can provide the travel costs for ministers. It will, of course, include travel costs for ministers on trade missions - all ministerial travel with respect to trade missions as well as regular normal business. I will see if I can provide that tomorrow or Monday.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I have numerous areas that I'd like to canvass with the minister in Executive Council debate, since this will be the last time in this mandate that we have to go over some very urgent and pressing issues, I think, that are going to be facing Yukoners in the next 12 months and on into the future.
Before I get into that, though, the Member for Porter Creek South just asked for travel costs for ministers. We'd like a copy of that, as well. I would like to just ask the Government Leader - we know the costs of the ministers will be included on the trade missions, but that really doesn't give us a good handle on what the trade missions are costing. I know that it may take a little bit of extra work, and I wouldn't expect it by tomorrow, but is there any possible way that the Government Leader could provide for the opposition an accounting of the trade missions, more or less in their entirety? Because they've been funded across different departments, and people have been subsidized to go on these trade missions with the ministers. We would like to have an idea of what these trade missions are costing, and if it's at all possible, I would urge the Government Leader to see if he could provide that to the opposition before this session is over. Could he possibly undertake to do that?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Mr. Chair, I'll undertake to get the work started if it's not started. I'm certain there's a way we can provide some information with respect to breaking down the costs of the trade missions. There's got to be a way, obviously, so I will undertake to try to do that.
Mr. Ostashek: Thank you, I appreciate that.
Mr. Chair, we don't have much time left tonight, but I'd like to get started anyhow in trying to break this down into pieces and get some of the things out of the road.
One of the comments that was made during general debate of the budget was the $15 million for starting the Fireweed Fund. This is what the proponents of the fund are requesting for start-up money - $15 million - if I heard the Government Leader right in his role as Finance minister at the time. I believe he indicated that they were pursuing the federal government for this $15 million. Let's just take it a little bit at a time, so we can get our heads around this.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Yes, Mr. Chair. As the member will know, there was a feasibility study done for the Fireweed Fund. There was a business plan done for the Fireweed Fund by the contractor, Graham and Associates, and in that analysis they determined that in order to be self-sustaining given the costs of managing the fund, the administrative costs as well as the ongoing costs of paying for or loaning money and absorbing any costs associated with the loans, they would need an equity base of $15 million. They suggested that that equity base might be secured in a number of ways but it could be in the form of a grant or loan to the Fireweed Fund board. This is a standard labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, of which there are many incarnations across the country. This is the only one in the Yukon, of course.
Now, this $15-million figure was floated with the federal government. Graham & Associates and I think somebody else - sponsors - went to Industry Canada and others to talk about a potential contribution or an interest-free loan to the fund. They used as rationale in part that the practice of the federal government contributing to these venture capital corporations is not uncommon across the country. So, they were basically making the case for this one in Ottawa.
I have raised the matter with the federal Minister of DIAND as well, in that he, firstly, technically still has some responsibilities for the northern economies, even though that probably hasn't been exercised in awhile; secondly, it was raised with him because he had expressed an interest in northern economic development.
So the theory was that they would get the loan from the fund. With the legislation that we have passed, they would be able to establish themselves, and with the tax break that we have identified, they would start the training programs for both the board and for those selling shares, and they would be off and running by, hopefully, the last quarter of this year. So that is a thumbnail sketch of this project. It is a project that was fronted by the Federation of Labour, it was co-sponsored by the Federation of Labour and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and it is meant to provide venture capital to businesses in the Yukon.
Mr. Ostashek:The Minister of DIAND, the Government Leader says, has expressed an interest in northern economic development. It doesn't appear that the Finance minister has the same desires, according to the federal budget that came out the other day, because I didn't see anything in there.
How much money does the territorial government have in the Fireweed Fund in terms of getting it together? Has there been any money given directly to the people, or is this just all internal money for passing the legislation?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: We have essentially paid for the feasibility study, and we paid for the business plan, and we've paid for the proponents to lobby for sources of funds to build their equity base.
It's less than $100,000, and it came out of the Department of Finance.
Mr. Ostashek: I just didn't catch where it came from.
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Out of the Department of Finance.
Mr. Ostashek:Is there a similar venture capital fund in the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair, I don't have my Finance material here. I would have to check. There are about 30 of these funds across the country. There is a table or a chart in the business plan, which lists every single Fireweed Fund, its progress, the day it was created - they tended to have been started in the late 1980s and early 1990s - and their progress, and who provided equity to the fund and how much. It is fairly comprehensively laid out. I will make sure that the member has a copy of the feasibility study, which contains all that information, and he can see where others are and who has contributed to them. He will note that the federal government has contributed to them in the past. Consequently, we would expect that they may be amenable to doing it again.
But, it was a concept initiated in the Yukon at the tax round table. At that time, the Chamber of Commerce and the Federation of Labour put it forward. It was recommended to the government, and we followed through.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I believe we already have a copy of the feasibility study. I don't have it here. My reason for asking if the Northwest Territories had one is because I thought if they did have one, being a small jurisdiction like the Yukon, there may be some resistance by the federal government to contributing $15 million to a fund here, as they did in the provinces where there are millions of people, whereas we have only 30,000 people here. That may raise some eyebrows in Ottawa. I don't know if it will or not, and I wish him every success. I was just more curious to know if there was one in the Northwest Territories and how much they were funded by the federal government, in order to make a stronger argument for the fund here.
Where does the territorial government sit on this now? I don't like to be pessimistic, but supposing that the federal government says no, or that it will only contribute $5 million if the territorial government contributes $5 million. What is the sentiment of the territorial government on it at this point?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, that's a tall order for us, Mr. Chair, to be matching a contribution from the federal government. We have to think about it. It's hypothetical, obviously. I expect it to survive, but $5 million is also an awful lot of money for the Yukon to take on as risk capital.
Our position right now is that we expect that the federal government should consider this a real opportunity to provide for a real boost, a real shot in the arm to northern economic activity. Access to capital has been consistently raised as a source of concern for businesses. We have tried a number of things in the past to inject capital into higher risk ventures - I don't know how many access-to-capital forum in this territory, often sponsored by the Yukon government, and sometimes by the Federal Business Development Bank or its recent incarnation. In every case, people are concerned about a lack of access to venture capital, which is, in fact, hard to get.
So, I would hope that the federal government would see its way clear to providing the base funding. I certainly wouldn't want to send them any signals here tonight that they've got a backstop by the territorial government. I think it would be a wonderful gesture on their part to northern economic development to fund a project like this, which clearly has such broad community support. There has been lots of experience for these corporations elsewhere in the country, and, for the most part, they've been working.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I want to talk a little bit about the DAP legislation. It's a piece of legislation that wasn't well-received by a lot of the general public when it first surfaced in, I believe, January of last year. It has gone back to the drafting boards after some consultation.
The comments that were made at the meetings that I attended were that this piece of legislation was so poorly drafted that it needed a complete rewrite, and that amendments to it wouldn't suffice.
Can the Government Leader tell me now what is happening with the DAP? Is it going through a complete rewrite or is it being tinkered with? Are there just small amendments being made to it or what is happening with it?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, there are some fundamental problems with the act. I would hope that the federal government hasn't taken what has been expressed here in the Yukon and proceeded to simply tinker with the legislation or what was produced before. There were some fundamental concerns that have to be addressed and the position of the Yukon government, of course, is that we would very much like them to be very much closer to the centre of the bull's eye than they were the last time. One would argue that they didn't even hit the dartboard the last time.
So, we've indicated that once we see the legislation, we'll be putting it out into a workshop format again and we will be trying to work through and understand it better. But we have had ongoing policy discussions about various elements of this legislation over the last number of months, and at each point that the governments come together and discuss elements of the legislation, we convene our working group, which is made up of conservation and development interests and the AYC and others. We convene our policy group and run various issues past them, let them know what is going on, what the nature of the discussions are and get feedback to take back to the table.
We don't know what the federal government is going to be doing with the final legislation. My negotiators are indicating that they think the federal government is getting a lot closer and that some of the stickier issues are probably closer to being resolved, like the issue around enforcement of decision documents. So, we could well be very much better off the next time around, but we will wait to see what happens when we see the legislation.
Mr. Ostashek: Well, Mr. Chair, during the last election campaign, in the NDP's A Better Way, they made a pretty bold statement about the development assessment process and said, "The New Democrats are the only party that has demonstrated the ability to reach that consensus." They're talking about bringing all the people in together in a one-window approach and basically taking ownership of this document even though it is a federal piece of legislation; I agree with the Government Leader. They proceeded to hold broad-ranging community meetings, with public involvement.
A document was brought out to the public last January that was supposed to go to the federal government in February. Now, that document, as the Government Leader knows, has been soundly rejected by, basically, investors in the territory. I heard a lot of criticism from the Conservation Society and the people on that side of the argument, that side of the debate, that the DAP didn't go far enough.
My question to the Government Leader is, were they caught by surprise that this piece of legislation received such a negative feedback from the public when it was launched? Could they not foresee, after holding hearings clean across Yukon, that the legislation wasn't going to be something that was going to get a good ride in public? Why was the document put out in that form, with a very short window before it was going to go to the federal government for legislation? That's what they were told at the meeting I attended at the Gold Rush Inn, I believe in January a year ago. Was the government caught by surprise that it received such a negative reception from the public?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Not particularly, Mr. Chair. There were some clearly significant problems with the legislation. There was a concern about what the federal intentions were and we had to make it very clear what our intentions would be, that we would not sign off the legislation until we did receive some indication of general community consensus in this territory.
The tensions certainly did rise between the various orders of government about the position the Yukon was prepared to take. But we felt very strongly about this.
Now, the member says that we effectively took ownership of the process by saying that we were going to ensure that the legislation met community standards. Now, I think he sometimes takes liberty with that notion of the Yukon government taking ownership of the legislation, meaning somehow that every iteration of the federal legislation is somehow the Yukon government's personal responsibility. I take a different view. I say that the Yukon government has made it very clear, has basically drawn its line in the sand and said that we will not allow this legislation to proceed until we have a consensus among the various parties.
Despite the fact that it's federal legislation, despite the fact that the federal government holds the pen, we're not drafting, we're not creating new drafts. In fact, what happens is that the negotiations take place at the table, we work with our working group, which is made up of Yukoners, and the legislation is taken back to Ottawa for two or three months. Nobody knows what's going on. Somebody back there, some lawyers, are working on it. Then it comes back, and we look at it and say that there are still some problems, there are obviously some big problems here and there, and we feel we know what the community is likely going to say about the various features of the act because we are the ones who have the working group with development and conservation interests. We have the Yukon Conservation Society, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the Association of Yukon Communities, among others, participating on that working group. So we have a pretty good idea about the sensitivities of some features of this particular draft legislation as it goes through its various forms.
Now, we have said that once it is done, even though we have our own working group, we still insist that the broader community has a chance to consider the legislation in a workshop format, meaning a comprehensive look at the legislation over a number of days. If, after that, we feel that there is a general acceptability, then we will sign off and say that this is something we can live with as it goes through Parliament. If we do not get it, then we will still stop it until we do get it.
Now, that's not my preferred way of providing legislation. To take the legislation out of the territory, literally, for a few months at a time, while people who are actually drafting it have no access to any Yukoner - they basically shut them out - this is bound to create difficulties. The process should be much more transparent than that. The integration between the drafters and the citizenry should be much closer as the legislation goes.
So, we've had to be very forceful about what we're prepared to accept and what we're not, and that we're not going to just let it slip past if we don't get a read from the public as to whether or not this is acceptable. That is what I mean by taking ownership. I think the member sometimes interprets that to mean that I take ownership of every single iteration that the legislation goes through. I do not. I take ownership of the final product. When we say that the final product is something that we think Yukoners will live with, I will stand by that. I will take whatever lumps are from whatever naysayers are out there.
We are not there yet. We want a better process. We want to continue to work with people on this legislation, and we will not let it pass and we will not sign it off until we feel comfortable with it.
Mr. Ostashek: I attended a meeting on DAP in January, where it got such a rough ride. I understand what the Government Leader is saying, but the fact remains that he spent a lot of taxpayers' dollars holding public hearings. That is fine; I have no qualms about that. But when this act came out, it was supposed to go to Parliament within a few weeks. The government should have known, by the legislation, after hearing from Yukoners, that it wasn't in any shape at all to go to Ottawa. Yet we had, in that meeting, the deputy commissioner of the territorial government basically selling this legislation to the people who were at the meeting.
So, if the government wasn't happy with it, why did it participate in taking the act out to the public? If, in fact, this was legislation that the federal government was saying was going to go to Ottawa in a few weeks, and if the Government Leader didn't agree with it, why did he participate in being out there and trying to sell it to the public?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, the member interprets the actions of the deputy commissioner as "selling the act". I don't interpret it that way at all. I think the deputy commissioner was trying to be helpful in trying to explain the thinking behind some of the analysis. The plan to go to Parliament was a federal plan. That's their plan. Our plan is to have an act that is acceptable to Yukon people. We're not going to boycott the agreements. I have people here who will go to a meeting, even if it's a bear pit. They still have an obligation to go to the meeting because the Yukon government is a player in these discussions. They're not the primary player. They're not holding the pen, but they're a player. They have a duty to represent Yukon people. If Yukon people want to vent in their face, then they have a duty to stand there and take it. We will not step aside from that process.
I fear stepping aside from the process because it would be the easiest thing in the world for people to say, "Well, if the Yukon government is not going to be there, they're obviously expressing neutrality, or something, and we'll now proceed." This legislation is too important for us to do that. One of the reasons we did make the strong statements about this legislation, and when we took office, we did say that whatever the federal government had that was drafted - they said it was basically done - was not good enough, because we didn't feel comfortable, and we knew the public wouldn't feel comfortable. We wanted a better process, and we're finally settling down into a cadence of better process. It has taken awhile.
But I don't blame people for being upset or angry over various features of the act. We will be there, in whatever forum, to try to make sure that the thing is done right - and we are. We are now, and we will until this is done. This legislation is going to affect us all. Once it gets locked in, because it's a negotiated piece of legislation under the Land Claims Act, it will be hugely difficult to amend it. So, it's got to be done right the first time - or as right as it can be the first time. We're not there yet, but we're hoping to get there in the course of this year.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, I agree we're not there yet. The fact remains, though, that the DAP commission was established by this government and the people were not only angry at the federal government at that meeting, they were angry at the DAP commission for allowing this legislation to be drafted in the form that it was and brought out to the public. The comments were that it was so flawed it couldn't be fixed, that they had to go back to square one.
It's been a year now and we haven't seen the other document that's coming out or what the federal government has done with it. I was hoping to glean some of that from the minister here tonight. He's speaking in generalities, and I'll accept that if that's all he's going to give us tonight, saying that it's a different act from the first one that came out. The first one had a long way to go, is what I'm saying, and this one may have to go back to the drawing board again.
When does the Government Leader believe - let me put it this way. After the experience with the first one, the Government Leader and his people must have a good idea of what Yukoners want to see in that act. They've been at this for three and a half years now. They must have a very good idea of what will be acceptable to Yukoners and what will not be acceptable to Yukoners. When the act comes back from the drafters in Ottawa, is the Government Leader prepared to take it out to the public even if he knows it's not going to be accepted by the public? Is he prepared to take it back out for another public airing, the way the last one was?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: The short answer is yes, Mr. Chair. We hope that the legislation that we're working on with the federal people and the First Nation governments will be a lot closer to acceptability by the broad community.
When the legislation is actually given to us and the federal government says, "This is our best shot. Given all the discussions we've had, this is what we think it should be," if that legislation is an ugly piece of work, then I can commit to the member right now that we will not only express concerns about it, as we have in the past, but we will also sponsor - pay for - citizens to come forward and meet the drafters face to face.
And we will force the occasion ourselves, even unilaterally because, as much as I would like to see things go along nicely, I want to ensure that we have the right product and if people aren't getting it, then we're going to sponsor, essentially, the confrontation. It's not a good process - I admit that - but if that's what it takes to get messages across, then we will make sure the messages are sent and received.
We do feel that we've got a good sense of what the public generally wants and when we deal with the various elements of the process, we have our own focus group, which are, as I say, made up of representatives of both conservation and development interests and other municipal governments. So, we have a sense of what their issues are going to be, and, as they go and as the First Nation negotiator says, "We must consider this or that," we go back to our focus group and say: "This is the nature of the conversation, and this is what was said. What is your reaction to this proposal?" And they say, "Well, we either do or don't like it," and we go back and we say, "Well, there is a problem, and we think a consensus on these issues can be achieved in this way."
Now, we, as I say, do not hold the pen on this project. So, if people insist on bringing back something that is not acceptable, it will still go out to the public. The public will still see it with all its warts, and we will have Yukon government people there too at the meeting or at the workshops or whatever we can do to expose the legislation in all its glory. We will make sure that the legislation - whatever draft it is - gets seen by people and people have a chance to work through it, understand it. If they don't like it, and we don't think there's community consensus, we will say, "Sorry, it may have taken three years, but it's going to have to take four years," because we're not just going to give up. It's too important; it's too significant to the future of the territory. We're not going to give up. So, we'll just have to keep on going back at it, and we'll pass the mirror legislation to CEAA, and we'll continue on with essentially CEAA as the assessment process until we get an assessment process that was identified through the land claims agreement that people can live with. That's our position, and we'll stand firm on that position.
Mr. Ostashek: This government and the previous government both view DAP as a one-window approach to permitting in the Yukon, and unless it is a one-window approach, many Yukoners say it won't work. I'd like to ask the Government Leader what he knows of the new draft that is coming out. Does he believe it is going to be a one-window approach? Is it going to accomplish what Yukoners and developers want it to accomplish? Is it going to accomplish what First Nations and environmentalists want it to accomplish?
What we don't need, and one of the biggest complaints that I heard at that meeting - I sat there for three or three and a half hours that night - was that this was another bureaucratic process that lengthened, not shortened, the time of permitting a project. Based on what the Government Leader knows of the latest draft of the legislation, does he believe it's going to reach the objective of many, many Yukoners and both his government and the previous government, and that it will be a true one-window approach to permitting in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, Mr. Chair, for it to be an absolute one-window approach, one would have to roll the Water Board process into the development assessment process. Of course, the member will know that the Water Board is entrenched as well in the land claims umbrella final agreements and the final agreements.
I know that there are a number of people out there who say they should be one, together. But the two have life in the land claims agreements, and they are basically locked in for all time.
But let me say this: it is a lot closer to a true one-window approach than it was before, in my view, if what is going on at the negotiating table is any indication. And I think that people will be encouraged by some of the developments that are taking place at the table.
I don't want to predict what the federal government is actually going to do in terms of this legislation, but, based on the tenure of the negotiations, my understanding is that it is better, and the negotiators know that the objective is a one-window approach in as much as the land claims agreement will allow that.
Mr. Ostashek: Mr. Chair, when does the Government Leader expect that the next draft will be back on the ground here in the Yukon and out of the bureaucratic offices in Ottawa? When is he looking at holding workshops or public forums on it, so that Yukoners can have another kick at it? When does he expect all that to take place?
Hon. Mr. McDonald: Well, as I indicated to the leader of the official opposition, we expect that the negotiations will continue this spring. Then, if past practice holds true, the federal government will take the sum total of those negotiations, and they'll probably take a few months and go off and do some legislative drafting. They do not show us what they are actually doing. We don't actually see the legislative drafting itself. We talk in terms of policy, and then somebody goes off and drafts something. They generally take a few months at a time after the close of negotiations for that to happen, so I would suspect that it will be late summer or early fall. If they do come back with a draft at that point, we will have a workshop. We will expose the work of the legislative drafters at that point.
Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McRobb: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 99, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled March 1, 2000:
Environmental assessment of major mining projects in Yukon: draft administrative procedures "Blue Book" (February 2000) (Harding)