Tuesday, June 6, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: O Great Spirit, Creator and Leader of all people, we are thankful to be gathered here today. O Great Spirit, I ask that You touch and bless each and everyone in this House. Grant that we, the elected members, will make only strong, fair and sound decisions on behalf of the peoples we represent throughout the Yukon.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Kathy Kushniruk
Mr. McRobb: I rise today to pay tribute to a former constituent, Kathy Kushnirik, who passed away on May 1.
Kathy K., as she was known to her friends, was a traditional wife, mother, leader and educator, a humble person loved and respected by so many. A member of the Crow clan of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations, Kathy was greatly influenced by her grandmother, Mrs. Annie Ned. Her native name was Tùtalma, and her strong cultural ties were evident in her life's work. She devoted endless hours to bringing First Nation content and programs to the school system. At the St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction, Kathy developed, out on the land, programs and culture camps for youth, including field trips to Aishihik, Carmacks, Hutshi and the popular summer gopher camp.
Kathy worked hard with everyone, from elders to children, to learn and strengthen Southern Tutchone cultural traditions, especially the potlatch. She was a founding member of the Dakwakada Dancers and worked hard to revive drumming and drum making. Kathy was elected to her council in 1998 and was deputy chief at the time of her passing. Kathy served on various boards and committees and worked to bring together people with differing views for the benefit of the whole community.
Earlier this year, Kathy's contribution to the Yukon was recognized in her being awarded the Commissioner's Award for Public Service. Respect, sharing, family, community, love of the land, honouring the wisdom and values of the elders, all characterized Kathy's life.
Predeceased by her mother and father, Lydia and George Kushniruk, Kathy is survived by her partner Frank; daughter Rosemarie; granddaughter Jonnie-Lyn; her sisters Florence, Sheila, Josie and Dianne; brothers Gene, Johnny, Steve and David; and many aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, cousins and friends throughout Canada and the world.
Speaker: We will continue with tributes.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak on behalf of the family of Kathy Kushniruk as well as in my capacity as the Minister of Government Services. I am deeply honoured on this first occasion to rise in this Legislature to pay a tribute to a Yukon woman and a member of the family.
Kathy Kushniruk was a traditional wife, mother, friend, leader and educator. She was a humble person, who was respected by so many. Education as well as the cultural practices were a big part of her life. She was also honoured by the Commissioner's Award and was given this award for her public service.
She will be dearly missed by not only her friends but by family. She will always be carried with me for the rest of my life. That is the case, as I understand it, with the lives of others, as well. She has played a very important role in educating Yukon people in cultural history and cultural practices. She has demonstrated respect, sharing, family, community, and love of the land, honouring the values and wisdom of it, as well as the wisdom of elders. These all characterized Kathy's life.
She took great pride in her culture and believed that strong ties to the land and Southern Tutchone traditions were the key to individual peace and to a healthy community. Our families, friends and First Nations have lost a dear member, but she was a great teacher and has left us many legacies that are with each of us. She will be dearly missed and will be with me for the rest of my life.
In remembrance of Bishop Thomas Lobsinger and Brother Hobe
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am honoured to have been asked to pay tribute on behalf of the House to Bishop Thomas Lobsinger and Brother Hobe who recently were killed in a plane crash on Fox Lake while they were on their way to Dawson to perform Easter celebrations.
Bishop Lobsinger was ordained a bishop on October 1, 1987, here in the Yukon. He was involved in a variety of activities that were very important to him, such as dealing with schools and working with other churches. He was an extremely compassionate man who wanted to help everyone. He was able to succeed at this by being accessible to a great number of people.
Bishop Lobsinger was a great sportsman. He was a golfer, a fisherman, and he even tried his hand at cross-country skiing. That's something I do quite often and I used to give him a bug every now and then about getting out there on his boards.
He enjoyed these activities with a number of friends and acquaintances. He was a man of the times. He was a man who, for the church, has done a lot here in the Yukon, and he will be missed.
After he had been here for a couple of years, he called upon a friend of his, Brother Hobe, to come to Whitehorse to help him with his work in the Yukon. Bishop Lobsinger had known Brother Hobe for years from their work on Vancouver Island and in Edmonton, so he knew what his capabilities and his commitments were to his work.
When Brother Hobe arrived here, he became the chancellor for the church and his duties were that of business administrator for the diocese.
Brother Hobe was a very quiet man. He was a man who watched and observed and commented. He was loved by all. He was a person who constantly travelled with Bishop Lobsinger on their travels throughout the Yukon, and he will also be missed.
Their passing will impact greatly on all Yukoners and, undoubtedly, they will be missed by all of us.
In remembrance of Henry Broeren
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak today to pay tribute to Henry Broeren, who passed away recently here in Whitehorse. Henry was born in Whitehorse General Hospital on March 19, 1930 to John Broeren and Agnes Boss. He was a grandson of Chief Jim Boss and the eldest of 15 children. Henry began his working life early, at the tender age of 15. His first job was aboard the SS Klondike sternwheeler working as a fireman and deckhand. That is where he earned the nickname "Captain Broeren". He worked there on the steamboat until 1949. From there, he went to Keno Hill and Mayo for a year. After a year, he came back to Whitehorse, where he had many jobs too numerous to mention. From 1975 to 1978, Henry's last job was up in the Arctic running a Cat and his brother, Denny, operated a grader. He was a well-known and experienced Cat operator. After that, in 1981, Henry took life easy, living off the land and running the trapline with Denny, his brother.
In the early 1980s, he met Pauline, with whom he shared the rest of his life. One of the things that made Henry happiest was spending time with his grandson, Anthony. Aside from his immediate family and good friend Pauline, Henry had a deep love for his grandkids. The love Henry gave was rewarded by these young people. He is also their loss. Thank you, Henry. We know that you will continue to guide them.
In the last few years, Henry worked with the Council of Yukon First Nations, Justice at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and Salvation Army halfway house. He spoke to people about First Nation culture and gave them guidance in their lives. He will be sadly missed by all who knew him.
Henry was a well-known and respected elder throughout the Yukon. He was the only male elder on the Ta'an Kwach'an Council and attended every meeting faithfully. Henry was part of a generation of First Nations that will be dearly missed by all Yukoners, but especially by First Nation Yukoners. His dedication to culture, fairness, those less fortunate and to each other was an example for all of us to follow. This generation that Henry was a part of is slowly passing from us. It is important for all of us to hear their words and understand their meaning before they are gone forever.
I remember Henry today for all of the good things he was and is.
Mr. Keenan: On behalf of the official opposition, I, too, would like to rise and pay tribute to the late Henry Broeren. I won't talk about the things that the member opposite talked about. He was all of those things, but he was much more than those things to many people in the Yukon Territory. I think Henry's true gift came later in life when Henry was called on to be an elder - a man of wisdom - for his First Nation. Henry thrived - flourished - in that role. It took 70 years of his life to be able to get to that point, to be a role model. He was a hunter, a fisherman, a cook. He was a helping hand wherever you would need a helping hand. Henry touched my family very closely with the passage of my father.
Henry had an intuition for people. He knew exactly when to show up at my mother's place. Not only has he touched my family, but anyone who knew Henry knew of his humour, his love, the tease in his eye that he had. The tease was not a mean, vindictive tease; it was a loving tease; it was an educator's tease; it was saying that sometimes, "Yes, you can do better, but doggone it, you have done the very best you can." Henry's greatest joy in his life was his culture, his people.
Henry was blessed to meet a beautiful lady later in his life, Pauline, and to have grandchildren. You could never really pin down how many people were in Henry's family because it was whoever was with him that day, and even more. He had a large extended family, and he shared himself with all of us. I think that we will remember Henry for his generosity, his humour. He is truly one of the elders that could walk with a foot in each world, and he was respected in each world. He was respected in the contemporary world that we live in today, and yet he brought forth many values from the past, and he exercised those values. I hope that all in this House can learn and work with the values that guided Henry's life.
Our condolences go to the family and to the people of the Ta'an Kwacha'an because I know he'll be greatly missed. God bless you, Henry.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am delighted to introduce today two visitors to our gallery, Mr. Jiang and Mr. Chen have joined us. They are representing the Economic and Commercial Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Vancouver. Welcome to our Legislature.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Assembly, pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act. I also have for tabling the report of the chief electoral officer of the Yukon on contributions to political parties during 1999.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the government contracting summary report for the last fiscal year.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House reaffirm the position taken by the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly that the federal Firearms Act is costly and intrusive and does not recognize the circumstances of Canada's rural and northern people; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to continue to support other jurisdictions in the challenge of the Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) mining claims that have already been staked when new parks or protected areas are created must be respected; and
(2) the claims staked by Canadian United Minerals, that were included in the much-expanded boundaries of the proposed Tombstone Park, are legitimate, bona fide claims that should be allowed to be developed without fear of buy-out or expropriation by the Liberal Yukon government.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that fuel prices are too high and that governments should become part of the solution rather than continue to be part of the problem of high fuel prices in Canada; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to show some leadership in reducing fuel prices by eliminating the territorial fuel tax to create a saving at the pump of 6.6 cents per litre for gasoline and 7.7 cents per litre for diesel.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the existing health care facilities in rural Yukon do not meet the needs of our Yukon seniors and that there is a growing urgency to address these requirements in light of the growth of our senior population; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to initiate planning for the construction of a multi-level health care facility in the City of Dawson and the Town of Watson Lake.
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) is a serious medical problem and requires resources in the areas of prevention and treatment; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon, in working toward the ultimate goal of healthy babies and healthy families, to continue to support the healthy families program, which works with new moms and dads and their infants from birth until five years; the new Alcohol and the Unborn Baby kit being used by public and community health nurses and alcohol workers; and making FAS a reportable condition by Yukon physicians.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that air access into and out of the Yukon is crucial for ensuring a healthy business community, supporting a growing tourism industry and servicing the resource industry; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to explore all options to ensure air access is improved after the completion of the current merger of Canada's two major airlines.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to pursue the creation of an interdepartmental committee to advise on programming for offenders.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to pursue the fair and just settlement of all outstanding First Nations land claims and self-government agreements.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Yukon Teachers Association: memorandum of agreement
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce to the House that on May 31, the Yukon government concluded a memorandum of agreement with the Yukon Teachers Association. The agreement is for a three-year term, effective July 1, 2000, and expiring June 30, 2003.
The memorandum is still subject to ratification by both parties, but I can say that increases to salary grids will be the total of seven and one-half percent over the life of the agreement. There will be an additional $635,000 to the professional development fund over three years and a department-directed training fund of $325,000 over three years. To meet the concern about the retention of teachers, a retention allowance of $1,000 will be paid to the returning teachers and paraprofessionals this year and $500 in each of the following two years.
This provision is only in place for the life of the agreement. Additional changes were made in areas of maternity/paternity leave, community allowance, and special leave, to bring teachers in line with other YTG employees.
The total cost of this settlement is $3.6 million over three years. $960,000 of that is devoted to professional development and direct training.
We are pleased with the terms of this agreement because it supports the professional development of our teachers. It addresses the need to keep valued Yukon professionals in our schools, teaching our children. Finally, it is a settlement that is in line with the budget constraints and still addresses the major issues of the Yukon Teachers Association.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Whether the statement just delivered by the minister is truly a short statement of new government policy, or whether the Liberals are simply patting themselves on the back, is very questionable.
Mr. Speaker, I find the statement delivered in this House today by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission amazing, and it's certainly premature. Mr. Speaker, the Liberal platform in the last election promised to fully respect the integrity of the collective bargaining process. One of the fundamental principles of free collective bargaining is that the employer does not try to influence bargaining unit members when a contract is being negotiated. With this statement, this minister has violated that principle. The teachers have not had a chance to consider whether or not they want to ratify the agreement recommended by the leadership, yet here we have the minister outlining the offer in this House, in a clear attempt to influence both the teachers and the Yukon public and to influence the decision of YTA members. Mr. Speaker, I believe the minister owes the members of the bargaining unit an apology for what he has done.
My second point about this ministerial statement is that it makes it clear that the tentative deal is essentially the same deal as was tabled previously, with the exception of a signing bonus for teachers and paraprofessionals. This is not a statement about new government policy, which a ministerial statement is meant to be. It is evidence of a political position given as an election commitment by the Liberals. I also find it ironic that after the Liberals have stated, on many occasions, the need to check O&M spending, their first spending decisions will increase O&M significantly. In that regard, I would ask the minister in his rebuttal to indicate to this House exactly what the increase to O&M this deal will result in, both directly and indirectly. Before we begin to consider this government's approach to budgeting, Yukon people deserve to have that information.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise today to congratulate the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon government negotiators for reaching a memorandum of agreement for the renewal of the current collective agreement.
Now, it's critical for the Yukon education system to be able to retain and attract a professional teaching staff. We all know that there's a worldwide teacher shortage, and Yukon is by no means an exception. Within the next eight years, it is estimated that over half of Yukon's teachers will be eligible to retire and that, within the next two years, half of our administrators in education will be reaching retirement age.
Mr. Speaker, while monetary compensation is important, it isn't the be-all and end-all. For example, in trying to retain and attract teachers to rural Yukon, we have to contend with the high cost of living and provide them with adequate and affordable housing. That wasn't even on the table. If you look at a pay schedule chart showing teachers' salaries all across Canada, you will discover that teachers in the north - in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut - receive the highest salaries. But when you factor in the high cost of living north of 60, that advantage disappears.
The challenge, therefore, is how we go about retaining and attracting teachers. I see that, in the memorandum of understanding, the negotiators have introduced a retention allowance or a signing bonus - whatever you want to call it. Signing bonuses a lot larger than are being proposed here are currently being utilized in many states in the southern 48 to attract Canadian teachers down there - a case in point being the former Member for Laberge. Clearly, he was attracted to the lure of better salaries and benefits available to him down in the States than he was sitting here in this Legislature or teaching here in the Yukon.
I would like to ask the minister in his response if he sees the signing bonus as a permanent feature of the collective-bargaining process in the future. As we are all too familiar, teachers also have to contend with a number of learning disabilities, including students with FAS/FAE. In many instances, teachers are simply asked to do too much. They are asked to take over the responsibilities from the parents that have been downloaded to them, and from the whole society. The burden on our teachers today is immense.
That is why, in our party platform, the Yukon Party proposed the establishment of a team of professionals - psychologists, counsellors, health and social workers - to assist teachers working with FAS/FAE students to ensure that students receive the attention they need.
Mr. Speaker, I am also aware of situations where there are teachers in the territory who have left the system to raise a family or for other reasons. They can't resume their teaching career unless they go back and go through a whole different rigmarole to requalify and stand in line.
I'm pleased to see that the new Liberal government has chosen to adopt one of our election campaign proposals to provide a teacher education program for individuals who already hold a university degree in other disciplines. Perhaps the government should also adopt another one of our proposals that would create a teacher education program similar to the Yukon native training education program for Yukon graduates as another means of encouraging our youth to live and teach in the Yukon. The Yukon needs experienced professional teachers and we must ensure that we are able to pay them a fair wage for their services and provide them with the additional benefits and training that will do much more than just encourage them to teach here, but also encourage them to become part of our society and to remain in the Yukon.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed in the way this ministerial statement was presented in the House before the whole program was ratified by the respective members of the bargaining unit, but that is the way this government has chosen to conduct itself.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like to thank the members opposite for their comments. I do appreciate the comments and will look at them from a constructive perspective.
With respect to the comments on one small factor as considered by the Member for Klondike that FAS children are burdens, I would like to stand on the record as saying that FAS children are people, not burdens.
The other fact - that the retention amounts are for the term of the contract and will be reviewed in three years hence - I am a little surprised that there is not more positive comment coming from members opposite, in that the previous government had maintained contact and was in discussion with the Teachers Association for approximately eight months and ended up not being able to speak to each other. The fact is that, when this government came into play, we invited the teachers back, meeting face to face, and came to an equitable agreement on both sides.
I do think that the comments in the ministerial statement are appropriate, as the Yukon Teachers Association has already publicly divulged that information, and I thought it was a courtesy of this government to let the members opposite know what the position of this government is, in general terms.
Speaker: This brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Budget, formerly tabled by NDP government
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, yesterday Yukoners witnessed the Liberal government making a choice to table the NDP government's budget without their names to stand by its contents - a budget which they had previously heavily criticized and voted against at second reading. Seven weeks have gone by since the election, and the government has a $60-million surplus. Liberal ministers now love to attend sod-turning events for new continuing care facilities and love to meet new charter airplanes that are coming in from Europe - all as a result of good works and funding in the NDP government's budget.
I'd like to ask the Premier why then do they refuse to be accountable, as they promised Yukoners, for the choice they made to bring in the NDP government's budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no refusal on the part of this government to be fully accountable for the expenditures - accountable also, Mr. Speaker, to the extent that I would remind the member opposite that, in the budget document, Supplementary Estimates No. 1, which I tabled yesterday, the accumulated surplus that the member refers to is estimated not, in fact, to be $60 million, but is estimated, as at the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2001, to be $14,724,000, as the member - should he take the opportunity to fully peruse this document - will see.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'll be anxious to see the Auditor General's public accounts in the fall, when they are published, and I'm sure it will produce a cumulative surplus in the vicinity of $60 million.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have been floundering around trying to come up with lines and spin to explain their actions in this case. This morning on the radio, on CBC, we heard the Premier say, "Don't blame me. It's the NDP." And this morning on a CBC interview she changed the tune and the new line was, "It's too expensive to change the names in the budget."
I'd like to ask the Premier why the principle of government accountability and ministerial responsibility is deemed too expensive so flippantly by this new Premier?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, being fully accountable for the expenditures of this government is exactly what we are doing and exactly what we intend to do over the term of this government. The member's comments are in reference to a specific question that I was asked this morning, and we stand by the fact that we didn't call the election. We didn't determine the date of the election call. What we determined, upon taking office, is that Yukoners deserved certainty and the member himself, less than a week ago, was demanding that I come into this House and that our government come into this House and table a budget.
We did that. We came in and retabled the budget in its entirety. We also tabled a supplementary, which outlined our immediate spending priorities.
Now, what is the member opposite really taking issue with? The fact that we did what we said we'd do? What's the real issue?
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we'll get to that in a moment. They didn't do what they said they would do.
First of all, Mr. Speaker, she has changed her line already three times now. Now it has changed from even this morning. First of all, it was, "Don't blame us for the budget. It was the NDP." Then it was, "It was too expensive to change the names in the budget," so therefore the Liberals couldn't be accountable for it, and now we have the new answer that they've whipped up for Question Period today in terms of their explanation as to how they're justifying their action in this case.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to ask the Premier, is this the kind of open, accountable government that she promised Yukoners when she campaigned before the electorate? Did she really indicate to them that she was going to pulling a sneaky tactic such as this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the only sneaky tactic is the member's inability to ask the direct question.
We promised Yukoners that we would be open and accountable. We also committed, throughout the election campaign, that we would honour the budget and that we would not pull the rug out from anyone. We would honour existing commitments. That is exactly what we have done. We committed to Yukoners that we would be a government that would do what we said we would do. We have done exactly that.
We came in and, as soon as it was practical, tabled the NDP budget in its entirety to provide Yukoners with certainty. We also tabled a supplementary budget, which outlined a few immediate spending priorities, exactly as we committed to Yukoners we would do.
Question re: Budget, formerly tabled by NDP government
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals made commitments on a lot of things. They made commitments on FAS/FAE funding increases. They made commitments to highway construction and the restoration of highway maintenance funding. They made commitments to increase services for alcohol and drug addictions. Mr. Speaker, what do we see in the supplementary budget? Seven weeks since the election, and with $60 million in the bank, they found $250,000 - a quarter million more - for prospectors for more grants, but nothing for these areas for which they made commitments.
Why do the Liberals say one thing in opposition, and now that they are in government, they cannot find the money to put into these important services that they played on Yukoners emotions for?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, shrieking questions is perhaps the only playing on emotions that is happening here.
The issue is that the Liberal government took office. We were sworn in on May 6. We committed, throughout the 30-day election campaign, that we would table the NDP budget. We would live up to existing commitments to Yukoners. The fact that we, as a government taking office, were left in that predicament of having to table the budget - the timing of the election call was not our choice. We dealt with it in the best way we could in order to provide open, accountable and good government for Yukoners. We provided certainty. We retabled the existing budget.
Now, the member and I are going to have many discussions about the surplus and the amount of the surplus. Certainly we will discuss those later in the budget debate and when the Auditor General tables his accounts. The member is correct in that. However, I remind the member to give a good hard look at Supplementary Estimates No. 1, which outlines, first of all, that the best forecast available from the Department of Finance puts the forecast at just over $14 million.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, with regard to the question about our spending priorities, there are three very key, very immediate spending priorities that are outlined that fulfil our commitments to Yukoners. In terms of the remaining commitments to Yukoners, we have every intention of honouring them. What is more, we have four years in which to do it.
Mr. Harding: I'm looking forward to this.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the member opposite that I never saw a commitment to $250,000 more in grants to prospectors in the election, but I did see commitments to increasing funding for FAS/FAE. I know the Liberals promised private group-home workers more wages. I know they promised a new Grey Mountain School to the people in Riverdale. The list is endless. But yet, Mr. Speaker, we don't see evidence of that in this budget.
In three weeks, the minister has gone from saying, "The buck stops here" to saying, "Don't ask me; I'm just the Premier." I want to say to the member opposite that if they didn't want to bring in our budget, why weren't they just honest with Yukoners, bring in a supplementary until they had a bit more time to bring in a new supplementary budget that would make good on some of the commitments that they put forward to Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have been completely honest with Yukoners. I have said from the beginning, whenever I was asked - in Carmacks, Mayo, Dawson, Old Crow, and wherever I travelled throughout Yukon and throughout the ridings in Whitehorse - if I would honour and if our government would honour the existing commitments. We committed to do that. We retabled the budget in its entirety.
With respect to the Yukon Liberal Party's election commitments, it sounds to me as though the member opposite would really like an autographed copy of our platform. If that's what he would like, I would be happy to provide it for him. The point with respect to commitments is that we did commit to turning the economy around, to increasing student financial assistance, and to youth in our territory. All three of those priorities are outlined in the supplementary budget, and what's more, Mr. Speaker, we're delivering on that commitment, particularly to the students, less than six months after taking office.
Mr. Harding: The Liberal government had a choice. They have had seven weeks since the election. They have got some high-priced advisors in from the outside. They have $60 million in the bank. They lobbied incessantly from this side of the House for changes in areas that they told people that they were convinced were important, that they convinced people they really believed in. And yet, in a supplementary budget, in seven weeks and with $60 million in the bank, what do we see as evidence of those commitments? Nothing, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I know why the Liberals tabled the budget. It's probably the best budget they are ever going to table in this Legislature, but they have to stand to be accountable for the budget that they decided to bring in.
So, I'd like to ask the minister why she would tell those groups out there - those constituency groups that were asking for more funding for things like FAS and FAE - that they now have to take a rain cheque, when she has $60 million in the bank?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, the member has not heard the questions from Yukoners, and I think that explains why we're over here and he's over there. The question from Yukoners was would we live up to existing commitments. We made that commitment, and we firmly believe that we should provide Yukoners with certainty. That's what good government is about. And that certainty means saying, "Yes, the extended care facility is going ahead; yes, the Mayo school is going ahead; yes, this funding is there." We retabled the budget in its entirety. We have delivered on commitments to Yukoners. One of our immediate priorities was a 20-percent increase to student financial assistance for students who will be attending university this September. We have delivered with this supplementary budget, and that's the important point.
In seven weeks, we're not going to fix all of the NDP mistakes. We have four years to do this - four years to live up to our commitments to Yukoners, and we have every intention of doing it.
Question re: Tombstone Park, mining claims in
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier about what her federal Liberal colleague, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, has branded as "nuisance claims" by Canadian United Minerals in the Tombstone Park.
Now, prior to the election, the Yukon Liberal position was to buy out or expropriate these claims. Then, during the election, the Liberal position changed to respect claims that have already been staked. There was no talk of buy-out. Now, immediately upon taking office, the Minister of Renewable Resources was thumping his buy-out drum again.
I would like the Premier to explain how the Liberal position of buy-out is going to encourage mining exploration and development in Yukon, especially when the vice-president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines has been quoted as saying, "If the government pursues the buy-out, it would be like slapping the taxpayers in the face twice." Now, where does this government stand? Is it this side of the fence, that side of the fence, or is it right in the centre of the fence? What is the game plan for the legitimately staked claims in Tombstone?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would invite the member to take a good, hard examination and a thorough look at Hansard, and at what I'm assuming are his own party's records. The first person to use the word "expropriation" in this House was his former leader. Perhaps that explains why he's no longer here.
The position on the Tombstone claims and the claims in the Tombstone Park has been consistent from the Liberal caucus from the May 6, 1999 media release we issued, to me standing before the member and before this Legislature today. We have recognized that those claims have been legitimately staked; we recognize the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement; and we recognize the process through which the exploration permit has recently undergone. We are completely respectful of these processes and the legal rights associated with them.
Mr. Jenkins: Gee, obtaining a clear, concise answer from the Premier or from a Yukon Liberal is like attempting to nail Jello to the wall. It's just about impossible.
In the paper just the other day, it's buy-out. We'll get some groups from the south to come in here and look at putting money up. Let's get rid of them. We don't advocate mining in that park. Yet they are legitimate claims.
Now, who is going to buy out the claims according to the game plan that the minister has? Will it be the Yukon government paying for it, because the federal minister has bounced the ball right back into the Premier's department? Is it going to be the Yukon government who pays a U.S. conservation group or preservation group? Just what is this government proposing? There's a very mixed message out there as to the direction they're going to take. All the Premier has amplified is one specific area: that they are legitimately staked claims, and that Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in have a legitimate, bona fide proposal in their final agreement. But what is going to happen?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would remind the member that we're in this situation in the first place because of the NDP and the NDP inaction on this issue. That being said, our government has said that we intend to work toward constructive solutions. I have signed a letter to Minister Nault on this issue and to the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, indicating to them that our government wishes to work toward solutions on this matter, recognizing that these claims are legitimately staked, recognizing that there are legal processes in place, recognizing also that we do not support mining in parks.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, earlier today we heard that the budget is all the fault of the NDP and that the NDP is responsible for the budget that this government has just tabled. They have to accept ownership of it. That is a reality. They have been duly elected, Mr. Speaker, as a government. They are responsible for this area, and that includes Tombstone Park. It is a territorial park. It is supposed to be the jewel in the crown of the Yukon. We heard that same scenario a number of years ago with respect to Kluane National Park by the current Prime Minister of Canada. The Premier is saying, "Let's make a deal." Can the Premier explain which part of no she doesn't understand from Canadian United Minerals? They have made it clear that they don't want to make a deal. They want to be allowed to proceed.
Does she not understand, and why does she persist in talking buy-out to the detriment of the Yukon economy? That message is going out, and it is rampant in the mining community to the detriment of mining exploration and mining here in the territory. Does the Premier not understand that, and what is she going to do to smooth the very troubled waters?
Let's not blame it on the NDP. The buck is in your park, Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, this situation has been recognized by a number of individuals and businesses. The member claims that there is great furore in the mining industry. There are also members of the mining community who have voluntarily given up claims in that park. The member full well knows that. The Government of Yukon has expressed the desire, for some time now, to work toward constructive solutions on this issue. We have never used the term "buy-out". I haven't used it, and neither has the Minister of Renewable Resources. So, let me assure the member that his use of those words are not our words. We have recommended, from the beginning, that we should reach a negotiated solution on this issue. As a government, we are endeavouring to do that. We have taken steps to do that by writing to both the federal minister, who also has responsibility in this area, as well as the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. We have signed off those letters.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Finance minister confirmed $250,000 in new grants for prospectors. At last month's gold show, she said that she wanted to be able to approve what she called "mom and pop applications" that couldn't be covered without increasing the NDP budget.
My question is for the Minister of Justice. Does she believe that the Yukon moms and pops, who can't afford a lawyer on their own, should be entitled to adequate legal services from the legal aid system?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the legal aid funding is currently under review. There is a question of whether anything can be afforded at this point. We should have some response to the legal aid review within a short period of time.
Ms. Netro: The Liberal caucus repeatedly stated that legal aid funding was not enough, even with the increases in the NDP budget that they have now adopted as their own. In opposition, they were fond of saying, "Ante up and fund the legal aid properly in spite of the federal Liberal cuts." Will the minister explain her priorities for legal aid funding, and how much she thinks should be added to the legal aid budget to cover those priorities?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as I have said to the member opposite, the Department of Justice is assisting in an external review of legal aid. We are looking at existing service gaps and pressures on the Legal Aid Society. We are looking at operational efficiencies and to more carefully identify the source of current overexpenditures.
Ms. Netro: Will the minister tell us what her priorities are for legal aid funding and how much money she will be able to add to that budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, until the operational review is concluded, we can't say how much money we will be able to add to the funding or whether, indeed, we will be adding any. We will wait for the review to be concluded.
Question re: Kidney dialysis machine
Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Health. A constituent of mine from Haines Junction has been forced to live away from her family, friends and culture because the Yukon does not have a kidney dialysis machine. Other Yukoners find themselves in a similar unfortunate position. I am sure that the minister would agree that we should do whatever is possible to acquire the necessary medical facilities here in the Yukon to keep our citizens here.
Given that they have $60 million in the bank, will the minister urge his Liberal colleagues to provide the resources to bring her and others back home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, yes, this was an issue that landed on my desk on the first day of operation. It has been a major concern of ours, and the department has done a review and is currently putting that together, and we're hoping that we'll basically come up with some of the solutions that will help develop what the member opposite wishes.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is ignoring the fact that there is $60 million in the bank and decisions can be made now and not be put off till later. There are lives at stake. There are family ties at stake. There are many people in the Yukon who are very interested in seeing this government do something now and not put it off. They have got the money. They know the issue is there. The minister was advised of this on his first day at work. I hand-delivered the letter personally, and I would like to know why he falsely raised the expectations of my constituents and others, only to disappoint us with these delaying tactics.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite knows well that, when you're spending taxpayers' money, it's not a matter of just saying yes or no. We have to do a complete review, and that's what we're doing. We've been in operation for a month. We have done that. We are now preparing a Cabinet submission, which will go to caucus, and decisions will be made. I think the member opposite well knows that.
I'm not sure about the $60 million. I keep seeing $14 million. I don't know where he's getting the $60 million. That's probably one of those things that are written up in the stars, because the reality is we've only got a $14-million surplus.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's the first day of Question Period, and already this government may as well hang up the "under review" sign - "we're going fishing" - on their door, because they're totally incapable of making a decision, even though, only a short month and a half ago, they were on the doorstep, they were at the meetings, claiming they were the answer to everybody's problems.
Now, I'm very concerned that the minister raised public expectations, but he has failed us and he's pleading poverty even though we left them $60 million in the bank - $60 million. We're not talking about a whole lot of money here, Mr. Speaker. It's only about double of the announcement to the prospectors only a few weeks ago. This is a golden opportunity to show Yukoners the difference between them and their Liberal cousins in Ottawa.
Can the minister tell us why he's forcing Yukoners, who have an urgent need for help, to wait one and a half years?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As I have said earlier, we are now at the stage where we can do this and complete it. We have all the evidence; we have all the material; we have all the information, and this will be presented to caucus and to Cabinet for a decision. I don't know how much more he wants us to do. We have done all we had to do. If they were so anxious about it, I don't know why they didn't do it when they were in government, because this isn't an issue that just came up on the first day that we walked in; this was an issue that has been there for a long time. We at least did something about it, and so, hopefully, we can make the right decision for the long term, because that's really where we're at.
Question re: Chilkoot Centre, Argus mall development
Mr. Fentie: Now that we are reviewing things, Mr. Speaker, let's review some recent history. During the recent election campaign, several Liberal members - most notably the Member for Whitehorse Centre - were very outspoken on the doorsteps and in the media against the proposed Chilkoot Centre complex in Whitehorse. My question is for the Premier and Minister of Economic Development. Was this just election-time posturing by individual Liberal candidates or is the official position of the Liberal government to oppose this development?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The position of the Yukon Liberal caucus, the Yukon Liberal government, our party, is, and has been, that the Yukon Liberal government will not tear up signed contracts. With respect to this particular project, the Government of the Yukon, the Liberals, have said that we will not unilaterally amend the existing agreement, nor will we withdraw from it.
Mr. Fentie: Let me take the Premier back to yesterday, and I quote one of her comments: "Yukoners desire and deserve certainty." This is a matter of certainty. That certainty is all about what the Liberal government's position is on the development. It's all very well for the Premier to say that she doesn't like the way previous governments did things, that she won't tear up the contracts, that she will not tear up signed agreements. The Premier has a decision to make on this matter. For the sake of clarity and certainty, will she now tell this House exactly what the position of the Yukon Liberal Party is on the proposed mall development?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I just stated the position. It is the same position that I stated on behalf of the party during the election campaign, and it's as I just stated in the House. We will not tear up signed agreements. There is a signed agreement between the City of Whitehorse, the Government of Yukon and this particular developer. It was negotiated by his colleague. I am certain he is fully aware of it. We have indicated that we will not tear up signed agreements. That's certainty. That is what Yukoners asked us for, and that is what we have delivered.
Mr. Fentie: That is all well and good, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier and the Liberal government will not tear up signed agreements, but what is their position on the mall development?
Mr. Speaker, in recent days and weeks, the status of this mall and the arrangement between the City of Whitehorse and the developer have become increasingly uncertain. My question to the Premier is this: has her government indicated to the City of Whitehorse how it intends to recoup the $750,000 in offsite infrastructure support from the Yukon government in the event that the developer defaults on the agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my communication with respect to individuals and other levels of government with respect to this particular development has been a recent letter in response to the Citizens Coalition for Responsible Planning. That is the only response that has been requested of me. In that response, I have indicated that it is my government's intention to ensure that the spirit and intent of the development agreement is fulfilled.
We have indicated - and I have stated twice before in this House - that we will not tear up any signed agreements, not with this developer, not with the City of Whitehorse, not with anybody. We are not a government that tears up signed agreements with Yukoners. We deliver on commitments. We do not agree with the way that this particular contract was negotiated. That was done by his colleagues, and if he has questions about that agreement, I invite him to ask his colleague.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, June 7, 2000. They are Motion No. 5, standing in the name of the leader of the official opposition, and Motion No. 4, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne, the Chair will provide the House with a ruling on the point of order raised by the Member for Klondike on June 5, 2000.
The Member for Klondike noted that the estimates accompanying Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, contain the names of ministers of the previous government. He referenced subsection 6(2) of the Financial Administration Act, which states: "Each member of the Executive Council is responsible for the management of the financial affairs of his department under the general direction of the Executive Council Member and the management board."
The Member for Klondike posed the question: "How can a previous minister, who is no longer a minister or even a member of this House, be held responsible and accountable for the budget that was tabled in this House today?"
The answer to that question is that former ministers cannot be held responsible or accountable for Bill No. 2 or the estimates presented with that bill. The current government has placed Bill No. 2 before the House and the ministers of this government are, collectively, responsible for answering to the House for its contents.
It is not the place of the Speaker of this Assembly to provide judgment on legal questions; rather, the Speaker is to rule on whether the rules established by the Assembly are being adhered to. There is no rule of this House that addresses the question raised by the Member for Klondike.
A review of the Assembly's working papers indicates that a precedent occurred in July 1985, when a new government introduced year-end supplementary estimates that included the names of the ministers of the previous government. That was a different situation from the one the House faces today in that all of the expenditures had already taken place under the previous government. It is, however, worthy of note because, as is the case with Bill No. 2, the new government in power had to accept responsibility for bringing those estimates to the House, for making the argument for their adoption, and for being ultimately accountable for them.
The Chair would also point out that there is a great deal of supplementary information contained in the estimates books, which is provided to assist members in their deliberations. This includes forecast expenditures of the previous year, actual expenditures from the year prior to that one, revenue summaries, organization charts and a variety of statistical information. The names of ministers fall into this category of supplementary information.
When the estimates for each department or corporation are considered in the Committee of the Whole, the procedure is for the programs and activities in operation and maintenance and the projects in capital to be cleared. Then, in each case, the total of the operation and maintenance estimates and of the capital estimates are voted on. The remainder of the information may be referenced and discussed, but it is not voted on by the Committee.
The Chair must, therefore, find that it is only the estimates associated with each department or corporation that are essential elements of the estimates books. Mistakes or inaccuracies in the other information provided will not lead to findings of points of order.
In conclusion, the Chair finds that the Member for Klondike does not have a point of order and that the House may continue with its consideration of Bill No. 2 at such time as it may be called for debate.
The Chair thanks members for their attention, and the House will now proceed to the next order of business.
Address in Reply to the Speech From the Throne
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER: We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious speech which you have addressed to the House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER: We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious speech which you have addressed to the House.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, it is with great humility that I stand here today as a representative of the people of downtown Whitehorse. It is with great humility that the people of Whitehorse Centre have given me the responsibility of representing them in this Legislature.
I would like to reply to the Speech from the Throne by introducing myself to the Legislature and presenting my priorities for the time that I shall have the pleasure to serve the people of this territory.
I am Mike McLarnon. Three generations of my family have lived in the Yukon Territory. I'm wearing my grandfather's regimental jacket. It was a regimental jacket that he earned when he came up, after he had fought in Korea, to work on the Alaska Highway. It is my shield and my confidence today.
I was born here. I have lived all my life in downtown Whitehorse. I am a product of the streets of downtown Whitehorse. My sensibilities, unlike members opposite, are urban. I enjoy the closeness of the people in my neighbourhood and the nearness to the city that I have. I hope one day that I may be able to raise my child where I was born and raised.
It is for these reasons that I asked my neighbours to support me in the last election. It is in this cause that I am here before you today. I want to ensure that downtown Whitehorse remains a place where people choose to live. I want to ensure that decisions made by this government and by this House reflect the needs of my neighbourhood. I am sure they will.
The heart of the city beats as strongly as it has for years. The downtown residents know their neighbours. They are involved in grassroots projects around the city. They are the glue that holds many of our community organizations together. Their frontline and commonsense approach to our problems has given me great guidance and direct knowledge of the problems we face. It is under these people's instructions that I will take my direction when I stand before you.
Downtown residents are the soul of our city. The lifestyle of the neighbourhood appeals to the creative. The uniqueness of the place enhances the Yukon's character. I support the artists in my area. They help us define who we are. They are our conscience and reflect more than the nuts and bolts of society and the grindings of everyday government procedure.
I am proud to know many of these people and will bring issues that affect their vibrancy and the vibrancy of our territory to this Assembly.
My riding has unique issues that must be dealt with to ensure that we can claim the same quality of life in the future as we had when I was growing up and that we have today.
Over the past decade, social pressure has compromised the lifestyle of my neighbours. The streets do not feel as safe as they once did. Children are increasingly coming across dangers in our society against which we have no protection in place for them. They find syringes, they are dealing on the streets with people they should not be dealing with. My neighbours are becoming increasingly more in the grip of poverty. We have to take a stand. We have to recognize the downtown area for what it is, and I am sure that, as when I got elected with the assurances of my party and my colleagues, I understand now the priority is on improving the life of downtown Whitehorse.
We must see the facts. While substance abuse is a Yukon-wide epidemic, it shows its face more on the streets where I live than in any other part of the city and most other parts of the Yukon Territory. The treatment of this problem is a high priority for me and a high priority to help the people in the area, in the riding and through the territory who face this every day and must deal and come to grips with the problems it creates.
Many of my constituents are in need of a comprehensive recovery program for addictions. We have failed them in the past, and we are here now to offer them hope for the future. We should understand the fact that Whitehorse is a hangout for the youth of our society. We should also understand, then, that people who live near the area where people come to gather are affected more by the crime that is generated by that traffic. This crime has become an unfortunate side effect and reality for my neighbours and constituents.
We must be proactive in dealing with the youth. I am pleased to say that our Yukon Liberal Party is going to be presenting initiatives on the youth directorate - presenting the ability for youth, governments and society to interact. We are going to be presenting an environment where we can create a constructive alternative to the streets and to the sins of downtown Whitehorse.
The fact that we have such a strong seniors community is an additional reason to ensure that the downtown streets are safe. I am proud to say that the people I have respected for most of my life still live in the downtown area. I take it as my personal responsibility to them that I ensure the issues of accessibility and health care are addressed on their behalf here. It was only a generation ago, if we all remember, that most Yukoners had to travel outside to see their grandparents. It is vital to the growth of our community that our families stay together and we offer opportunities for our seniors to be able to live within our riding.
Unfortunately, one of the things we are finding with seniors now is that, on fixed incomes, they are subject to the whims and policies of government. One thing that I sensed when I was growing up in the downtown area was that it was a working persons' riding. I now find that most of my neighbours are on fixed incomes or some kind of social assistance. They are in a position where they are dependent on the good will of government and the proper handling of issues that they deal with.
As I campaigned through my riding, I found poverty. It was endemic. It seemed that we had seen a concentration of the poor, of the disaffected, in the downtown area, whether through improper planning or through the policies of our government to treat problems. We have to understand now that many of the issues that affect my riding are issues of poverty, issues of need and issues that we need to correct. I am responsible for bringing these issues forward to my government, and I feel my government will give me the ear and the attention that these issues create and need.
I feel that it is time for the government's role to assist the people least able to help themselves. Unfortunately, when we deal with the homeless, it has always been someone else's problem. Homelessness in our territory has existed for ages. My first experience with it was when I met Wigwam Harry at his piano box 25 years ago. It is time that we recognize the significant homeless problem in our territory. It is time to understand we have to build a safety net for our poorest and for our least able.
One of the things I take pride in, in living downtown, is our heritage. I grew up in a part of Whitehorse that was distinctive for its architecture and for the people who lived there. I love the fact that my house was built with wood that came from the shipyards. When these houses are taken down, the stories that go with them also leave our memory. The memories of friendships eventually fade away. Each time it is taken down and a commercial development or apartment is built, a piece of my past goes with that heritage site.
We must look at the social impact of removing our heritage from the centre of our city. When we remove a heritage house, when we replace it with a structure that will increase the usage of that area, we are, in a sense, affecting the property value and the quality of life of the people who live around it. If a heritage house is replaced by apartments, then the value of all residences surrounding those apartments diminishes. What we then see is a cycle: as people will find that they cannot sell their house for its value, they also rent. They also allow their house to be sold for commercial development; we see the destruction of a neighbourhood. We have to stand against it. We have to look at downtown for the unique place that it is.
Other than issues with my riding, I am here proudly representing the fact that I am a small businessman. I have given up my businesses for the purpose of representing my riding. My past has placed me firmly in the tourism industry, and I plan to represent small business at the tourism table.
I am very pleased to find that we have a strong heritage and tourism platform, that all ears are open to the ideas that this presents and that we will be working and addressing First Nation tourism issues and First Nation cultural issues as a main part of our policy. This affects people in the whole territory. It also affects many of the people who have not been able, in my riding, to get in touch with their heritage. Many people who are affected are poor and broken. I hope that we can offer some sort of direction, some way to heal, through our policies, many of the people in our riding who are suffering and in need of healing. I am convinced the priorities of the Liberal Party will reflect the needs of my constituents. It is reassuring that at least six people - and I believe seven - of our Liberal caucus graduated from F.H. Collins High School. We went through our schools here. I think we can proudly say we were raised here and we are Yukoners. We will reflect, here in the House, the attitudes that we have carried all our lives.
Our platform deals with the treatment of substance abuse. We will address the rights of the homeless. We will strive to protect the heritage of our city.
Mr. Speaker, I am humbled in the knowledge of the responsibility placed on my shoulders by my neighbours. I ask this House to assist me in bettering the lives of the people of my riding and, in doing so, improving the lives of all Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Kent: Before I get into my speech, I would just like to say that, as a new MLA, I was witness to my very first Question Period and I'd have to say that the ratings for the Stanley Cup playoffs will probably be dropping over the next couple of weeks. That's way more entertaining.
I feel honoured and privileged to have been entrusted by the people of Riverside to represent them in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. I will do my best to render only sound, fair and wise decisions on behalf of my constituents. I would like to congratulate my fellow members of all parties on their election and re-elections to this House.
Special thanks go out to my family, friends and volunteers who put countless hours of work into my election campaign. Without them, I would not be standing here today. We ran a first-class campaign and I salute my political adversaries for doing the same.
Riverside has been a Liberal riding since 1992, and I want to continue the strong representation that Jack Cable provided for Riverside constituents throughout those eight years. Thank you, Jack, for deciding to retire. I hope you'll enjoy your new life as a farmer and I look forward to seeing your prize-winning potatoes and turnips at this year's Harvest Fair.
The riding I represent is one of the most diverse in the whole Yukon. Long-time Yukoners mingle with new arrivals. There are those well-to-do and those in need of social assistance. There are First Nation and non-First Nation people. There are seniors and there are young people starting out in life.
The challenge to me lies in representing the interests of these diverse groups, but it is a task I am confident I can undertake and succeed in carrying out. I have lived in my riding for almost 20 years, so I have a direct feel for the needs and desires of the residents. I will represent them to the best of my abilities.
At 31 years old, I am the youngest member of this House; however, I bring to the table 10 years of management experience, coupled with five years of small business experience. I am active in the community, and have served as president for various sporting associations over the past several years. I am confident that these experiences will contribute positively to a strong, diverse Liberal team.
While one eye is on my riding, I have several other responsibilities, one of which is my role as rural constituency representative. My plan is to work hard in rural constituencies to ensure that they have strong contacts in government. I will work in those ridings to make sure that rural residents feel that they have a voice in this government. I will be travelling to various communities during this mandate to gather feedback on issues concerning rural residents, which we will then do our best to address.
I am also entrusted with establishing a youth directorate that will have a direct voice in government concerning youth issues. The idea is to mainstream all youth issues into one central, simplified body, where they can then be more effectively dealt with. We will also be working hard to support employment opportunities for youth.
I would like to thank Premier Duncan for her leadership and guidance. I look forward to working with her during this mandate and beyond. I also look forward to working with all members for the good of the territory. I am eager to learn; I am enthusiastic and I will work hard to maintain and gain the confidence and respect of both my constituents and fellow members during this mandate.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to respond to the throne speech that was just delivered by the new Liberal government - the throne speech that wasn't.
Before I begin, I will say that I'd like to welcome all new members to the House - the new members who just spoke before me, the new member on my side of the Legislature, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. It's a pleasure to see some fresh faces in the Legislature, and I think it's a good thing.
Mr. Speaker, the thesis of what I'm about to say about the Liberal government is essentially made up of two arguments. Number one, this is a government that has demonstrated no vision. This is a group that, leading up to the election, for four years in opposition and throughout the campaign, indicated to Yukoners that they had answers to the problems facing Yukoners. They indicated that they had the foresight, wisdom and knowledge of the issues to make substantive, positive change.
But Mr. Speaker, what did we see yesterday? In my estimation, it was one of the largest embarrassments that I've seen in this Legislature - and in eight years, I've seen a lot of them. The fact that after seven weeks since the election, with all their advisors and caucus members, they couldn't come up with any statement about substantive problems that Yukoners are facing, whether it's a land claims settlement or the implementation, whether it's issues around economic diversification or the state of the mining industry, or the issues around Tombstone claims, or where they want to take education in the future. Nothing was said. Does anybody really know what this bunch opposite stands for? Can anybody really say that after hearing what they heard yesterday they have any sense of the direction that this group wants to take the territory?
Mr. Speaker, there was that incredibly sneaky move that they made on the budget. I tried to think of a different word for it, but really, there is no other word for it. That's all it is. Because, on one hand, they want to attend photo opportunities, take credit for the good things in the budget put forward by the NDP, and there are lots. It was grounded in public opinion, based on public consultation around this territory. But on the other hand, if there's a problem they want to say, "Don't call me. Blame the NDP." So, Mr. Speaker, it's quite ingenious in their own little world, and with their advisors from the PMO's office and the B.C. Liberals, but thankfully, Mr. Speaker - and we're already hearing it - Yukoners are seeing through it. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, many expected more from the Liberals, given what they said to the public in the election campaign.
It's also clear that this government doesn't work hard. The fact that, in seven weeks after the election, the best they can do is something you can write on a recipe card - thank goodness it was written in French too; otherwise, it would have been the smallest document we have ever had tabled in this Legislature - I have to say to the members opposite that it was an empty vessel. The only policies and the only direction they have are what were left to them by the NDP. When I heard ministers interviewed on the radio - and I heard them all in the honeymoon phase - not one minister had an agenda. The Tourism minister said she loved tourism because she gets to fly around on planes. The Minister of Government Services said he really thought that trolley was neat. The Health and Social Services minister went for a bike ride and thought about what he might want to do, and nothing came to him.
I was shocked, actually, that that was the ultimate amount of collective wisdom that emanated from the members opposite. What would they do if they didn't have our budget and our policies? One has to ask that question.
Why, Mr. Speaker, in that throne speech was there not one mention about rural Yukon? Why, Mr. Speaker, was there not one mention about their vision for handling the serious situation made even more serious by the federal minister that we're now facing in land claims?
Mr. Speaker, when I had the audacity to question the new Premier, who loves to tell us she's over there and we're over here, she said, "Well, I've only been in office 18 days." But in the election campaign for four years, she had all the knowledge, she had all the answers, she told us all she knew the issues, and she said she even had the connections of a special relationship with Ottawa.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we've seen what that special relationship is all about: patronage appointment to senator, Liberals in high places, exchanges with Ottawa, Prime Minister's Office consultants coming in to tell the Yukoners what to do. That's not a special relationship that's going to benefit Yukoners. We want to see the beef that's going to benefit the people of this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we've also seen from a government that's not prepared to work very hard for people, that wants to coast on our budget through this summer and take the summer off, that they're not prepared to put forward any concrete positions. Today in Question Period, on Argus, on budget accountability, on the issues they were asked about legal aid - could you believe that one? We had members from the Liberal Party inundating us daily about the horrible situation of legal aid. It was a crisis. But today that crisis is under review. And, Mr. Speaker, we got no indication. Even though they had $250,000 more in grants for prospectors in the supplementary budget, they couldn't find any money for single parents affected by the lack of funding in legal aid. What a difference. They say one thing over here, and now that they're in government, the Liberals say something quite different.
Mr. Speaker, the line you will hear, the line the public will hear for a long time, is, "Don't blame us. It's the NDP. I've only been in for a month. I've only been in for six months. I've only been in for a year. Don't ask me, I'm just the Premier." Get used to it.
Mr. Speaker, today in Question Period they were saying that there was only a $14-million surplus. Well, that's a projection out to March 31, 2001.
The projection as of March 31, 2000 - and they are the government now - for this year from that point on, is about $60,000. I could table a variance report to that end to prove it. Sorry, I meant to say $60 million. If it were $60,000, they might have an argument, but it's $60 million, so they don't.
Mr. Speaker, we've been treated to the edict from above, from the new Premier, that accountability is too expensive. She has now said, today on CBC, that it would cost too much money to change the names in the budget. What did it cost to print this Speech from the Throne and distribute it all over the territory? Heck, I don't know why they would do it, but the fact remains that they did. Now we're told that they don't have enough money for legislative accountability in this territory. It is the principle of ministerial responsibility. Mr. Speaker, this was truly a waste. Now, we are going to be treated to another throne speech - I would assume from the statements opposite - in the fall. Well, I certainly hope that, in the second go-round, they actually have one of their own policies and spending priorities reflected in it.
Mr. Speaker, I was extremely disappointed that the government that was going to fix the economy didn't mention it in their throne speech. I was extremely disappointed that they didn't have one new economic initiative. It's without question that the members opposite must learn to crawl, to walk and to run eventually on their own. But, I am surprised that, given all the statements before the election, they didn't have more in the way of answers.
I was also surprised, as I reviewed the limited documents we were provided, that there was no reflection of where they wanted to go with economic diversification. Do they intend to keep the trade investment branch alive? What do they intend to do with tourism marketing? Do they want to continue to market in Asia, as we had started? What do they want to do in the resource sector to deal with the substantial problems we have? I know that our forest industry is having problems with finding fibre. The mining industry is in a four-year funk as a result of the lowest world metal price cycle.
Did she come up with a statement of policy on the blue book, on the mine-permitting situation? Did she come up and announce decisively what she and Bob Nault cooked up on the Tombstone claims? Did she come up and tell people what she had intended to do about the mineral strategy and what concrete action and issues she was going to take? Did she come up and tell them that she concluded and will sign off, without any hesitation, the devolution agreement? No, Mr. Speaker. She came up and, out of the blue - because she had to have something to say - handed out $250,000 more in grants to prospectors.
Now, Mr. Speaker, that says something to me about two things. One, they don't know how to handle the policy work. Of course, I've forgotten the DAP process, about which nothing was mentioned. They don't know how to do policy work, and they don't know how to resolve the issues they said they had the answers for. Secondly, it tells me, without question, that when all else fails, they are prepared to hand out money.
So, Mr. Speaker, for a group that I heard a lot about - which opposed grants and what they call "handouts" - they now seem, when all else fails, to be prepared to provide that kind of assistance, as opposed to policy assistance on the tough issues.
Mr. Speaker, we'd like to know where they stand on Connect Yukon, an initiative we launched to try to connect this entire territory for high-speed Internet access. We wanted to see what their vision was in a new, technological era that's affecting the economy of this territory and this world globally - changing things like the Yukon has never seen before. I come from the community of Faro, and, without question, I have seen firsthand how the economy has changed traditional resource sectors, like mining, and how it's so difficult for Canadian mining companies to compete at these prices, with the transportation barriers that face the Yukon and that make it difficult to continue to have mines that operate. But, Mr. Speaker, what did the Premier do at the gold show?
Mr. Speaker, we would like to know where they stand on the community development fund. They sent a lot of shock waves out in rural Yukon. We don't know whether they are really committed to the community development fund. They said they are going to review that as well. They are going to make it more accountable. Mr. Speaker, many people feel that that is code for reduce, cut, bureaucratize a program that the communities actually love. They used to call it in opposition hosing down the communities. We preferred to call it listening to the priorities the people put forward in rural Yukon. We believe that it's important.
I believe you yourself, Mr. Speaker, had some very negative comments to make about the community development fund. I want to tell you, and I want to tell the members on the other side of the House, this was a very important program for rural Yukon. They, in rural Yukon, were able to bring forward priorities and ensure that they were implemented quickly and ensure that there was a level playing field. As a matter of fact, we were so good about distributions that an area - as opposed to the arguments and attacks that were made by the Liberals, who accused us of pork barrelling, when they were in opposition - didn't realize that the community that had benefited most from the community development fund was Dawson City and the riding of Klondike, and we didn't even have a member there, and we still don't have a member in that riding. We did it because we believe in all rural communities. And we believe that rural Yukon has a fundamental and very important place in this territory.
When we look at the spending commitments in the supplementary budget, frankly we were taken aback, because we had heard so much about Grey Mountain School. When they voted against the budget at second reading, they said that there wasn't adequate funding for the jail. They have made commitments out there to the software community, to people who work in technology, that they were going to increase, in the supplementary budget, the software component of the budget. That hasn't happened. Where is the commitment to museums and historic resources funding? Where is the commitment to more capital construction? I attended the chamber luncheon in the election buildup, where the new premier-to-be triumphantly told road builders that she was going to increase the amount of roadwork and construction, that the budget had been cut far too much. Well, Mr. Speaker, do we see the evidence of that? They could have done a lot of it this year. It could have been tendered and there could have been more road construction work this year and put a lot more people to work. Did they do that? No.
When we look at what they said to private group-home workers, when they told them that they were going to find ways to increase their salaries, do we see any evidence of that in the supplementary budget? No, we do not. We listened to passionate pleas from the members opposite about fetal alcohol syndrome and FAE, and alcohol and drug services and how the funding had to be increased. Legal aid. Child care. Every day more spending requests came from the Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, when I mentioned that today, they laughed. They chided me for bringing forward that they so much played on people's emotions - constituency groups out there. They thought it was funny. They thought, "Well, we're in government now; we're not in opposition, so we'll review it all."
Mr. Speaker, they said a lot about rural sewage facilities in their platform. But did anyone see any planning money for new rural facilities? Some of these plans, like Grey Mountain School, are already done up. They could have funded them immediately. But it wasn't in there.
What did they fund? Well, for certainty, I guess - in their definition of "certainty" - they funded $250,000 for prospector grants, increasing them - nothing about policy issues. What are they going to do about the protected areas strategy? What was their vision as expressed in the throne speech about that particular initiative? In the seven weeks since the election - it was seven weeks - what did they say about it? Absolutely nothing.
Mr. Speaker, where is that balanced budget we heard so much about? We heard so much from the members opposite about how they didn't believe in spending the surplus at all. They didn't believe there should be any red ink. They said it should be completely pay-as-you-go balanced budgets. What did they do in this supplementary budget? They increased the spending. They increased the current-year deficit. So, their little veiled reference yesterday to expanding health care costs - if they are to make up for what they said in the past about current-year deficits - tells me that health care is heading for some severe cuts by this government. They are thinly veiled and disguised so far, Mr. Speaker, but we'll be watching.
We are catching the signals they are sending about how they really have to watch the finances now, because, as the Health and Social Services minister said, it is taxpayers' money. I never heard one whiff of that from the Liberal members in the three and a half years I was in the government benches. They spent and they spent and they spent every day in Question Period, and they asked for more spending from the government. We will hold them accountable for that.
Remember all those weighty lectures from the Premier about households and how households can't spend more than they take in. But what did the supplementary do? It spent more. Mr. Speaker, the signing bonus for the teachers, with the hospital bargaining and with the college coming up this year, is going to be about $500,000 in this fiscal year. But it's not in the supplementary budget. That is another half a million.
Mr. Speaker, why are the Liberals so bent on saying one thing in government and another thing in opposition? Where's their credibility? They said they were going to do what they said but already, time and time again, in just a short term - seven weeks since the election - we've seen that they are violating the commitments they made to the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, we're very concerned. A lot of people are finding out more and more about this special relationship. On the doorstep, they were telling people, "Vote for us Liberals here because you will get more out of Ottawa that way, because they're Liberals there, too." But we're seeing that, time and time again, in this throne speech and in actions by the Premier, that she's not prepared to stand up for Yukoners. She's not prepared to fight for Yukoners. She'll put her Liberal bonds before her commitment to the people of this territory. We saw it at the gold show where Bob Nault dropped an absolute grenade on the table with First Nations after, a year ago, he raised their expectations. He told the Council of Yukon First Nations chiefs - and I talked to many of them - that he was going to look very seriously at the section 87 issue and he was going to try and find a solution for them on loan repayment. He waited till after the election, then came up here and said, "Sorry." We lost an entire year, but did we hear a peep out of the Premier? Did we hear her say to Bob Nault that he had inappropriately raised expectations? Absolutely not.
Mr. Speaker, a special relationship with Ottawa is all about patronage. It's not about benefiting Yukoners. They seem to be adopting the old Joey Smallwood saying, "To the victors go the spoils, bye," and I don't think that's what Yukoners want, and I don't think, when Yukoners voted for that special relationship, that's what they wanted to see in their government - a government that's addicted to power and patronage.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, while they were on the radio saying, "Don't blame us, it's the NDP budget," are benefiting because, at the same time in their throne speech, they mention the fact that it's the busiest construction season and busiest season in years. Well, why is that? It's because of our budget - the NDP budget - and the efforts we made on diversification.
So, they're coasting. They want to take the summer off, do some fishing, enjoy that little time that they have, take some more bike rides and think about what they might want to do, even though they had all the answers. They've got a substantive platform that they made tremendous commitments in. They made commitments on every doorstep in this territory. They're starting to funnel into our offices now as people are wondering what this government stands for and what they're going to do. They cut such a wide swath. We had the Liberal candidate in Dawson telling people, "Yes, you can mine in parks." We had the new Renewable Resources minister saying, "No, you can't mine in parks." We had the Premier saying, "Yes, you can mine in parks but, no, you can't mine in parks," and we had the federal Liberal minister saying, "It's all nuisance claims up in Tombstone and we're not going to let them mine, and we're going to talk to the Premier about buying them out."
Mr. Speaker, there were four different stories from four different Liberals and it depends on who they are talking to. If the new Renewable Resources minister is talking to the environment community, he is absolutely opposed to and aghast at the thought of mining in parks. If you're the Liberal candidate in Dawson City, "Absolutely, mine in parks; they can co-exist, no problem." When you're the Liberal candidate in Faro you say, Tombstone should be allowed to mine in Tombstone. All around this territory Liberals were taking different positions. Now there are four out there. We will find out what this government's real position is and we're going to force them to take one. Right now they are creating uncertainty out there. People are confused about what they stand for and it is time for them to own up to the fact that they are actually the government now.
This government made a choice in bringing our budget forward, a cognizant choice. With the mighty surplus they have of $60 million, and with all the advisors and hundreds of officials, they could have taken a bit more time to bring in a supplementary budget. They could have said to the Yukon public, "We are going to need a bit more time because we are putting our own stamp on this budget." Not that I believe that they actually needed it, but they would have gotten that grace from the Yukon people. They could have, as the Member for Klondike suggested, brought in a special warrant, even for another month or a couple of months, and said that they were going to substantially change that budget, because they did not believe in it. But no, what did they do? They kept NDP ministers' names in the budget and they said, "Don't blame us; it's their budget," and then they changed the story to say, "It's too expensive to change the names in the budget.
The bottom line is, on the position of accountability, they are not prepared to be accountable, and they told Yukoners that they would be. Mr. Speaker, a lot of people in rural Yukon are watching this government very carefully and I know that many of them will be disappointed that they weren't even mentioned in their initial statement - in their throne speech. They weren't even thought of for funding commitments in the supplementary budget, even though they had made promises to them. They are worried about a completely Whitehorse-based government. I wish that I could tell them that I had confidence that the members opposite had their best interests at heart.
When I see the evidence brought before me, I'm getting concerned. For example, when I look at Faro, commitments were made by the Liberal candidate and the Liberal Party there to increase funding in that area. They said in front of 40 or 50 constituents during debates that they were going to increase Yukon Housing Corporation mortgages so that the people in Faro could buy more houses. They said that they would use their special relationship to get mine reclamation funding. For years, the Liberal government has been sitting on $14 million that could go into work and creating jobs in Faro and some of the pits that are exhausted, like the Faro pit and the Van Gorda pit. Mr. Speaker, they could use that money to put people to work because the work has got to be done. It's not even new money. The Liberals promised my constituents that they would deliver on that, and I'm going to hold them accountable to that.
Mr. Speaker, people are watching to see what's going to happen with the TRUSCO, the holding company that was set up to hold the assets of the Faro mine. It has a cost to the territorial taxpayer, but we believed it was an investment and probably $1.5 to $2 billion in economic activity for the future, if zinc prices ever come back to a level that would allow that mine to be marginal and to operate, to flourish and put probably 1,000 Yukoners to work. People worry about the Liberal commitment in that respect.
Mr. Speaker, Liberals made commitments to new businesses in Faro - new sawmills, birch syrup businesses, boxed firewood businesses. All of this, the Liberals promised constituents. And I lost votes to the Liberals for those promises, because I had the audacity to question some of the economics of the Liberal candidate. I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, that I want to hold the Liberals and their candidates accountable for those commitments.
Mr. Speaker, without question, there was an unequivocal commitment by the Liberals to fund services in Faro. Again, I say to the members opposite that I will be watching them; my constituents will be watching them, as will many other rural Yukoners. We've already seen that some of the things they've said they have not delivered on.
Mr. Speaker, to summarize, I want to say to you and to the members opposite that they will have a chance. The Yukon public will hold them in their good graces for some time. It will give them some time to make good on their many commitments and will allow them to put forward some of their positions over the next few months. But I already know, see, feel and hear that people are already disappointed. Yesterday's throne speech did nothing to bring any further confidence to that end.
Mr. Speaker, this government has got to start showing that they have the ability to make a decision. They have to start showing that they are going to be accountable for their actions. They are going to have to start showing that they recognize that they are now the government. They are going to have to establish where they want to take this territory. They are also going to have to deliver on their commitments. Many of them could have been delivered with a little more hard work if they had rolled up their sleeves and got to work after the election. They would have been able to put forward a much more comprehensive package for Yukoners in the supplementary budget, and they would have been able to give some comfort to Yukoners that they want to take land claims implementation and final settlement negotiations and conclude them early in this year, so that we can move on through the rest of this century with a climate of certainty. Unfortunately, what we have seen is that they are going to have to learn that they are going to have to stand up to the federal Liberal government when they don't act in the best interests of Yukoners. Clearly, the federal minister threw a complete wrench in the economy of this territory over a year ago, when he raised expectations on two substantive parts of the umbrella final agreement and then told Yukon First Nations, after the election, that he was not prepared to live up to those commitments that he made. We are going to have to get the sense that this Liberal Premier is prepared to put her interests for Yukoners ahead of her interests for the Liberal Party.
So, Mr. Speaker, I wish the members well. I hope that they are able to respond to the needs of rural Yukon and the people of Whitehorse. I hope that they will be able to start to make decisions and bring clarity to situations. We don't need a royal commission or a review for everything, especially with the financial situation they have been left with. I hope that someday they will be able to deliver - in my preference, it would be in short order - an appropriate budget for which they are prepared to be accountable, and an appropriate throne speech that sets out an actual vision, one that is not the New Democrat's, in this territory.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I am deeply honoured to have been entrusted by the people of Porter Creek North with the responsibility of representing them in the Legislative Assembly for the next four years. I would like to thank my family, my workers who over the last two campaigns worked very hard in getting me elected, and my constituents. They have their trust in me, and I congratulate my fellow members on the election and on those who were re-elected.
There are a number of motivating factors that prompted me to run for office. As a resident of the Yukon for close to 35 years, I have watched our political representatives in government guide the territory through both good and bad times. Over the years I have offered constructive advice to those in power, and I have always felt that governments should be for the people and by the people. By this, I mean that governments must be honest, they must consult with Yukoners, and they must make decisions that are good for people of the Yukon.
In my role as a school principal for 29 years, I worked actively with the school community to bring about ownership and commitment. This is what drew me to the Liberal way of thinking. Yukoners want to be treated as equals. Decisions must be based on common sense and on what is best for all Yukoners and not just for a few. Government must be inclusive and ensure that the needs of all Yukoners are being met. I believe that government must look at the long term. By this I mean beyond the four-year mandate. We must make decisions that will be in the best interests of Yukoners over a 10-year-plus limit.
I have set for myself a number of goals. One of these goals is to address the needs of youth, much like my partner in the Liberal caucus, Scott Kent, and all the other partners in the Liberal caucus. We believe that we need a youth directorate.
We are committed to working toward trying to solve and resolve and work with youth and communities to bring about better programming. Youth are our future and if we don't look after our youth today, then we will be spending much more later on to rehabilitate them.
We must also evaluate our drug and alcohol programs. We must consult with all sectors of society to come up with positive ways to beat addiction. And this is not just government's role. This is all Yukoners' role. We have a part to play. We must not try to reinvent the wheel. Many of them have been invented already. It's a matter of sitting down and looking at what works for different people.
We must also work to break down the walls of government and all departments must work together as teams. We must have a one-window approach toward delivery of programs. We have many talented government employees, professional people. We have many talented people who do not work for the government. We have youth; we have First Nations; we have a variety of sectors of people who want to sit down and solve our problems. Government must provide that avenue.
There are many other goals that I have set for myself, but those are the three that I'm really going to be working on for the next year.
As many of you know, I've always been a very physically active person and I believe that we must balance our lives with a good physical development, a good physical workout. We must also look at what health services are. Health services are there to provide those needs for people who need it. We must try to build on positive programs to get people more active. I heard some words about the Internet, about Connect Yukon and all these things. These are all very good initiatives but, unfortunately, we must try to look at how people can be active as well. If we don't, then health costs will continue to rise at an alarming rate. We must promote healthy families, and we must ensure that our children will have the skills and tools to support us when we are in our dawning years.
I recently had the opportunity to attend the health minister conference in Quebec City. I can tell you that many provinces and territories are struggling to maintain their basic health services. We have our problems, but I can tell you, we are doing well in comparison with other parts of Canada.
I was always struck by the fact that when one looks at how health care is and how it will be, we don't realize what these costs are. We must be more realistic and try to build in that sort of confidence with our people to understand that it's good to have the guarantee and it's good to have the insurance, but we also have to learn that there is a reality behind everything we do.
I believe that we must also never tie ourselves into what we are hearing now and the words that are out there regarding a two-tiered system. That would be a disaster to medicare in Canada. We must promote healthy lifestyles. We must become active and people who are concerned about our welfare. We must be people who look at the realities of where we are and where we are going.
In closing, I would like to say that I got into this political scene because I honestly believe that we can make a difference. I would hope that both government and opposition can work together to find a solution for all Yukoners. The adversarial type of politics, even though that seems to be our structure, never does come up with, I think, the great ideas. If ideas come from all of us, then they should be recognized. If the ideas come from the opposition, they should be recognized. If the ideas come from the government, they should be recognized. I think that, basically, teamwork is going to get us a better system all around. We are not here to beat each other up. We are a small population. We are neighbours. We are people who shop in the same stores. I think the time has come that we look at how we can work for Yukoners both now and in the future. I know that if we don't, we are not going to make the progress that we could.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. It gives me great pleasure to rise today to address the Speech from the Throne. First, I'd like to thank the constituents of the Klondike for re-electing me to be their voice in this Legislature. The purpose of the Speech from the Throne is to lay out the direction and plan the government have to carry out in its mandate. The rules of this House recognize the importance of the Speech from the Throne by giving members equal time to respond to it as an appropriation bill. That's some 40 minutes of speaking time, as opposed to 20 minutes for a normal motion.
It has been said that brevity is the soul of wit. If this is in fact the case, this new Liberal government has to be the wittiest government on record, Mr. Speaker. A throne speech of some one minute and 40 seconds duration I would surmise is the shortest throne speech in the history of this Legislature, perhaps in any Legislature in Canada. One thing for sure that this government cannot be accused of is that of being verbose.
The central theme of the Speech from the Throne appears to be that if you don't know where you're going, or you don't know what you're doing, don't belabour the issue. Just be silent. I must say, Mr. Speaker, I had hoped for a little more; indeed, I had hoped for a lot more from this government. In view of the fact that the Yukon's poor economy was the number-one issue in the recent election, I had expected to hear the Liberal's plan on how they intended to turn this situation around. Well, Mr. Speaker, what do we have? We just look back to prior to the election. The Liberal leader told Yukoners that the Liberal Party didn't have to state its position on important economic, educational or health and social issues. People would have to wait for the election to find out where the Liberal Party stood.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the election has come and gone, and Yukoners are still left wondering where the Liberals stand. All we heard during the election is that the Liberals would work together with everyone in peace and harmony. It was enough to bring a tear to a glass eye.
The most concrete action the Liberals took during the entire campaign was to adopt the NDP platform hook, line and sinker - the NDP budget tabled yesterday. And then they conclude by saying, "We're just going to do it better." Consequently, I had my hopes pinned on this throne speech and that I and other Yukoners would finally know where Liberals stood on issues and plan to take this territory. One minute and 40 seconds just doesn't cut it, Mr. Speaker. The throne speech was, in effect, just a rain cheque. I didn't know this Legislature gave out rain cheques or that government gave out rain cheques. I thought you just got those at the car wash.
What the Liberal government is telling Yukoners is that they will have to wait until the fall to find out where the Yukon Liberals plan to take the territory. Mr. Speaker, that is some time into this Liberal government's mandate, and that is unacceptable. Running an election campaign and running a government are two entirely different matters. Now, if your party is successful in winning an election campaign, you're supposed to be ready to govern. We haven't seen any indication of that yet in this House. It doesn't even sound like it, Mr. Speaker.
What the Liberal government today appears to be asking for is a time-out, and time out just isn't in the cards. In opposition, the Liberal government avoided taking positions on important issues for the three and a half years they were in this House. Instead, they chose to criticize the government's action or our party's action in this House and previously.
Now, what it looks like is that the Liberals are just trying to gain another year of not having to make decisions, and it's simply not going to work. In government you have to make decisions, or time and events will make the decisions for you.
If we look on the final page of this throne speech, it states, "The legislative agenda for this session has been designed to deal with pressing matters." Pressing matters. Now, if you go out into any community in the Yukon and knock on virtually any door and ask them what the pressing matters were in the Yukon, you wouldn't find it is delivering an NDP budget into this House. You would find the pressing matters are the economy, the economy, the economy, jobs, education, health and social services. You'd find a whole series of situations being brought forward, and the biggest one - land claims - isn't even given mention. Not one iota of mention, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Liberal government should have played a mediator role between the Yukon First Nations and the federal government in reaching a compromise solution on the issues of taxation exemption and repayment of land claim negotiation loans. Instead, the Premier attends the gold show with the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. It wasn't a grenade that was dropped. It was a bomb. It was a bomb. The Liberals had gone on and on and on, ad infinitum, explaining to Yukoners that they had a special working relationship with the federal Liberals and, if they were elected, that special relationship would be called upon to deliver - to deliver what the Yukon needs to move ahead.
Settling those seven outstanding land claims is part of it - a major part. And that bomb was dropped. I am sure that the expectations of the Yukon's First Nations have been severely set back by Mr. Nault's ultimatum.
Now, what is going to happen is that the Yukon First Nations will just sit back and listen to the results of the next federal election. Hopefully, a new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs will be appointed once again. We have seen them come and go. Some have been great; I can't think of too many. Most of them have not been very progressive at all. It could be that the Liberals, federally, won't win the next election, so that special relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals - where does that put it? The bottom line is that Minister Nault's announcement is going to set back the Yukon some tremendous period of time before we can move ahead with the settlement of land claims, unless, of course, the Premier gets in there and does what she has the responsibility of doing: act in the best interest of Yukoners, not of the federal Liberals or the Yukon Liberal Party.
Another pressing matter is the lack of mining exploration and development. The proposal by the Yukon Liberals to buy out the mining claims staked by the Canadian United Minerals in the much-expanded Tombstone Park boundary is equivalent to the NDP government of British Columbia buying out the Windy Craggy mining claims, which effectively killed mining in that province for at least a decade, perhaps longer. The mining community just will not come back.
And it's interesting to note that the federal Liberal Minister of DIAND, whose department is responsible for mining in the territory, passed that political hot potato right into the hands of the Liberal Premier of the Yukon, saying the ball is in her park, she can decide what she wants to do.
Well, Mr. Speaker, up to this point in time, she is fumbling the handling of this very pressing matter. A buyout of these claims is the wrong message to be sending out to the mining industry at this point in time, especially with our current depressed economy and the lack of exploration and development in the territory.
We are at an all-time low for mining exploration and mining activity in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
High fuel prices are another pressing matter that Yukoners must contend with. During our recent election campaign, the Yukon Party proposed that government should become part of the solution rather than continue to be part of the problem by eliminating the fuel tax. This would result in a direct saving, every time you filled up, of some 6.6 cents per litre for gasoline and 7.7 cents per litre for diesel fuel, if you factor in the GST.
Where are we going on that? It's not even a pressing matter, not even mentioned in the throne speech.
The lack of rural health care facilities is another pressing matter. The people of Watson Lake and Dawson City would like to know what lies ahead for them, and where we are going. Health care is a major issue, but there's not one mention of it in the throne speech.
What about high power rates? They are a pressing matter that, similarly, have been left unattended. Our party proposed the elimination of the 1,500 kilowatt hour clawback to provide some relief for ratepayers. Now, this should be implemented now, prior to the fall, when everyone's power bill will be going up.
And I'm sure that we are going to be heading for a general rate increase sometime later this year, so all of our power rates can go up simultaneously. In virtually all the jurisdictions in Canada, they are going down. Ours are going up. I guess we want to buck the normal trends in Canada.
Legal aid funding is another issue that has reached the crisis stage and should be dealt with immediately. In opposition the Liberals pounded on that issue day after day after day in this House, but there isn't even any recognition of this problem in the Speech from the Throne.
The support for a youth drop-in centre in downtown Whitehorse is a pressing matter. The Youth of Today Society, with the help of clubs such as the Rotary Club and the Lions Club, have been struggling for over a year to create such a centre. They could use some help, or is that forthcoming?
The need to establish a team of professionals to deal with FAS/FAE is also a pressing matter that should be addressed now. Alcohol and drug abuse is a most serious and pressing matter in the Yukon. In Whitehorse there is a pressing need to establish a Crossroads-type alcohol and drug treatment centre. Where are we at with that?
And, of course, we have that wonderful federal Liberal initiative, the gun control law, which soon comes into effect. There is a need to exempt Yukoners and northern Canada from this unjust law. Where are we at? About the only mention of it was a motion tabled in this Legislature. That could have been dealt with.
Mr. Speaker, these are just some of the pressing matters that the Speech from the Throne should have dealt with. We haven't heard anything in the one-minute and 40-second undertaking to address these matters of urgent and pressing need.
Instead, we have the Premier of the Yukon standing up and blaming everyone else. "It's the NDP budget. It's the NDP's. Don't blame me. I've only been in office for this many days." I'm sure that story is going to be repeated. The length of time the Liberals have been in office will continue to grow, but it will be the same message that is sent out.
Mr. Speaker, not only is mining in shambles in Yukon - oil and gas. Where are we with respect to oil and gas exploration? The Liberal message is that they don't feel it's appropriate to allow oil and gas exploration on the wintering range of the Porcupine caribou herd. Well, that debate went through this House on a number of occasions. Leases have gone out, a $20-million commitment was made, and $5 million has crossed the palms of the Yukon government for that privilege in northern Yukon. Where are we at?
There isn't anything taking place in the Yukon - same thing with southeast Yukon. There is virtually no oil and gas exploration taking place in Yukon in comparison to the jurisdictions on either side of us. Why is that, Mr. Speaker? That is because of the message being sent out by this Liberal government. It's not encouraging the mining companies, and it's not encouraging oil and gas companies to come here and invest. It's not that we don't know that we are a highly mineralized zone or that we don't know that there are probably tremendous reserves of oil and gas underneath the Yukon's mantle. We are aware of a lot of it. We haven't taken the necessary steps to send a very good message out to the industry.
The last area that is providing some substance, other than government for the Yukon, is our visitor industry. This year, we are probably going to end up with a downturn in the visitor industry - a downturn because the majors are concentrating on the other areas of the north, specifically Alaska. So the number of individual visitors who will travel into Yukon appears to be headed downwards. There are big holes this summer from the major tour operators. What are we doing about that? I guess we are going to commit more money to our markets over in the Orient or something of that nature, when we have our biggest market, where we could get a virtual immediate return - the U.S. and including Alaska. What are we going to do about increasing our exposure in these jurisdictions? What about the rest of Canada, where we can invest and get an almost immediate return? No, we're not doing anything in that respect.
I'm disappointed, Mr. Speaker, that this government is going to take the tack of sitting back and waiting until the fall before they decide to put out anything, to provide some clear direction as to where they are proposing to take and head Yukoners. I'm just disappointed. This is a wonderful opportunity for them to do something. They have been elected with a clear majority. There's money in the bank. Cash reserves amount to some $60 million currently. In opposition they had all the answers. Today, now that they are government, they're running and hiding, they're going to study, they're going to look. They don't know what they're going to do.
I guess the assistants that they imported from Ottawa, from the PMO's office and from other areas of the federal Liberal government, are scurrying back to Ottawa now that the election has been won. Perhaps that's the case. When they went back to Ottawa, they said, "Don't do a thing until we come back." I don't know. I've heard that story explained in a different light, and it sounds very, very familiar.
But the economy of the Yukon today is in very dire need of strong direction and capable direction, which to date this Liberal government clearly has not demonstrated.
There's still hope in a light at the end of the tunnel. We have daylight for another month or so before it starts getting dark at night, Mr. Speaker, and then we'll have to rely on electricity or some other means to provide that light in the evenings. Whether we can afford it or not will depend on the policies of this government.
But that throne speech was a wonderful opportunity to address the land claims situation, address the economy in its various factors - the mining, oil and gas, the forestry, all of those areas - but we haven't seen anything - one minute and 40 seconds to say that they're going to address the urgent and pressing needs. That is not the case.
Mr. Speaker, in my motion the other day, I pointed out what I felt that this government should have done. We could have operated on warrants for a very short time until this Liberal government got their act together and provided the guidance that they've been elected to provide.
Instead, they've chosen to advance the NDP budget, the NDP platform and put out the suggestion that it's not theirs - they just have to do it because an election was called. Well, elections are called on a regular basis. Elections are called on a very regular basis. As politicians, we have to live with the consequences of those elections. When we are elected as a government, we have to be prepared to govern and to provide the direction for the Yukon. This government, to date, has failed to recognize that requirement. And I guess, in the months ahead, the previous NDP government and, indeed, the previous Yukon Party government. will learn that the fault is ours. Well, the buck stops at the Premier's desk.
I hope that the Liberals will provide the direction that is needed in the Yukon. We have a very small population, a very big area, but tremendous transfers from Ottawa. That money flowing in our direction is unbelievable on a per capita basis - unbelievable. It begs the question: do we need all the government we have? Do we need all the studies that we undertake to get to where we have to go? And really, when it comes to the end of the day, all we're looking for is a good standard of living, opportunities for our children and maintaining the lifestyle we have become accustomed to.
It's pretty simple. In order to do that we need jobs. We don't need a government handout. We don't need assistance. There are occasions when we need those programs, and they are very beneficial and worthwhile; I make that abundantly clear. But the economy has to be developed. There are First Nations out there which have settled, which have concluded their land claims. They have wonderful opportunities before them, but until the balance of the land claims here in the Yukon are settled, it's going to be very, very difficult to move ahead. The Premier has failed to address that issue with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. She missed a wonderful opportunity. I wonder how many more times she's going to miss it and how much longer we have to wait.
Mr. Speaker, I will look forward to the Speech from the Throne this fall, which I hope will spell out much more than what we have seen to date from this government.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: My comments on the throne speech for the Yukon's Thirtieth Legislature will be brief. I'll begin by welcoming the new Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the members for Riverside, Whitehorse Centre, Whitehorse West, Mount Lorne, McIntyre-Takhini, Riverdale North and Porter Creek North. Next, I want to thank the voters of Lake Laberge for their continued support. I am conscious of the honour they have bestowed upon me, and I pledge that I will represent them all faithfully. I also want to thank the many volunteers who contributed their time and energies so freely to make my re-election bid successful. Thank you for your confidence and support.
I believe all Yukoners owe thanks to the candidates from all parties who allowed their names to stand for election, and to the many hundreds of volunteers who worked so zealously to help make the democratic process work. Those of us who were successful have an obligation to all those who took part to carry out our responsibilities with respect and dignity. We will not always agree, but I pray that we never lose sight of the fact that we are all representing the people of the Yukon - rural and urban, male and female, First Nations and non-First Nations.
We have heard the throne speech and the criticisms of it; however, I believe the speech accurately reflects the new Liberal government, a government that gets right to the point. The budget is one of those points. We called this session of the Legislature to pass the budget. As the members opposite well know, we have chosen to use the previous administration's budget as an interim measure to ensure that Yukoners have certainty in our busy summer season. We could have taken the necessary time to prepare a totally new budget. That would be unfair to Yukoners who are depending on capital projects outlined in this budget. We believe it's in the best interest of Yukoners to deal with it and get on with business. Our priorities are starting to be seen in the supplementary budget now before you.
In closing, I would like to paraphrase Jack Cable, a gentleman who brought a measure of dignity to the Legislature. He said that, if we beat the political drum at the expense of the voter and the taxpayer, we would suffer and so would they. He recommended that we put their interests ahead of our own, and that will certainly be my goal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: My name is Lorraine Netro. I am from Old Crow. My mother's name is Mary Netro. I have five sisters. My son, who is 20 years old, works at the Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow as a teacher's assistant.
I am honoured to be here to represent my riding of Vuntut Gwitchin. I would like to say mahsi' cho to the people of Old Crow for their support and confidence in me. Also to Kathy Nukon and to Esau Schafer for placing their names forward in this election. I believe that we are all leaders in our own right and we have a lot of skills to offer.
My community of Old Crow is the most northern community in the Yukon, with no road access. Our only means of travel to the outside is by air, so we are very isolated. The population is approximately 300 people. I believe that my people have the best of both worlds. We continue to practice our traditional lifestyle, yet accept and integrate the modern ways through education and building strong relationships with outside organizations so that our First Nation government can provide effective services and programs to suit our people's needs.
The elders continue to provide guidance and support to ensure decisions are made in a good way. The youth take advantage of programs created through funding sources that strive toward their goals. However, we are always looking for equal opportunities for jobs, which are usually seasonal. Most of them are very fortunate to have family members who take them out on the land. Our excellent source of volunteers do ensure activities during special holidays. One example is the dogsled races over the winter season and the evening sports at the new school, which is our pride and joy.
Most of our gatherings and meetings are also held there. In order for us to continue to build a strong foundation for our community and our young generation, we need to concentrate on building a healthier and safer environment by holding on to our strong traditional values and respect for our people, land and animals. By doing this, we can also address our social, justice and housing issues.
One of our highest priorities right now is the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. This issue has been talked about for the last 20 years - the pressures from oil and gas companies to develop the coastal plain of Alaska, known as the 10-02 lands, which is also the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. The pressure is much greater with no support from the Alaska delegation in Washington, D.C. I have travelled to the United States on a few occasions, and this is an alarming and very scary situation for my people. We need a strong, continued support for the survival of the herd. Many people have worked tirelessly for a long time on the caribou issue. All MLAs before me have addressed this House with this same plea. I will continue to do that until we have protection permanently for that sacred place and also, again, for the survival of my people and the caribou.
Another special place for the Gwitchin people is the Fishing Branch, where we have rich ecological and heritage values. The salmon spawn there every summer and the bears birth their young. Our people celebrated the creation of the Fishing Branch protected area to ensure its value for future generations. The first ever intergovernmental accord was signed by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the NDP government. It has always been our position to have equal, strong relationships with other governments so that my people will be self-governing.
Our vision is clear. I will be the voice in this House to relate those concerns, not only for my people but for the people of the Yukon. I will work hard for my constituency. That is why I'm leaving for Old Crow tomorrow, to attend a special general assembly that is being held in our community. I will do all I can to make a difference, and I will do that in a good way, as was asked by my elders.
Mahsi' cho for your time.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne. I would like to thank, firstly, the people of Riverdale South for electing me again to represent them in this Legislature. They have honoured me with this responsibility. I would also like to thank the people of the Yukon for electing my party as the governing body in this House.
Over the next few years, I look forward to representing the people of the Yukon as the Minister of Tourism and the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation and the Women's Directorate. We are a government who will do as we say. We will honour our commitments. We will govern justly. Yukoners will know that they have been heard. We are blessed. The Yukon is the most beautiful place in the world to live. It is my intention to keep it that way.
Mr. Speaker, there are many issues that we will have to deal with over the next four years, and we will do our best. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: It is a pleasure to respond to the throne speech.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had three and a half years in opposition to develop positions. They were elected on April 17. They made all kinds of promises to the people of the Yukon. The Liberals have put forward their positions on mining, the environment, education, the economy, land claims and so on. They have raised expectations, and people expect a lot from this government, and we expect that government will produce in that manner.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals came out with a throne speech that everyone has been waiting for, but what we have all heard is very hollow. There is no vision in this throne speech, there is no direction, and they have shown absolutely no leadership. Is this what Yukoners are to expect from this government over the next four years?
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals were left in good hands. They were left with a very healthy surplus. There is room to move and make moves of their campaign commitments.
What will the Liberals do? What will their actions do? They give us a short, no-substance throne speech and budget speech. They table the previous NDP government's budget, which probably will be the best budget that they will ever present in this Legislature. They are tabling the budget without changes, and it is probably the best thing that the Liberals could do at this time. I am sure that many people out there in the communities are quite happy with that move. Summer is here, and the construction season has started. There are also huge expectations of how the Liberals are going to live up to their promises. Mr. Speaker, people want to know what the Liberals stand for.
What does this no-vision throne speech mean for my riding of Mayo-Tatchun? Until we get some direction from the Liberals, it means a lot of uncertainty. There are questions out there in rural Yukon - what is happening with the CDF program, which many of my communities have been benefiting from? Most recently, on the weekend, there was an unveiling of a mural, to which I invited many people to go and see in Keno City - a previous CDF project, which houses part of the artifacts for the museum.
What is happening with fire smart? A lot of the communities have felt a lot more comfort that a fire guard has been put around their communities and started around their communities.
What is happening with education and youth programs?
Where are the Liberals going in regard to the economy? What is happening with the construction of schools? If we are committed to public consultation and look at how departments work with school councils and the lists they bring up for capital constructions over the next four years, what is happening with that? In my riding, we are interested. Carmacks and Pelly have both been listed for schools on the list of the next capital projects.
Trade and investment - where is that going, and where is the direction from the Liberal Party on that?
One that has been talked about a lot during the campaign is the protected areas strategy. What changes are being made? When can we move, as a government, on protecting these special places we have in the Yukon?
What's happening with seniors programs? The biggest question out there, I think, right now is, having the Liberals being elected in Whitehorse - in all of the Whitehorse ridings, and none in rural Yukon - how is the Liberal Party - the Liberal government - going to deal with the rural communities?
Mr. Speaker, as an MLA who represents four communities, which does not include - there are only two people living there at this point - and three First Nations, I will be voicing my concerns in this Legislature, and I hope that government will take into account the rural concerns that we raise, and reflect them into their decisions in the future.
I thank you and I hope to see something in a lot more detail in the fall.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: My comments are with respect to the throne speech we all heard in the House yesterday.
It is truly an honour and a privilege to be here today as a member of the first Yukon Liberal government.
It is an honour and a privilege to be the MLA representing the residents of Riverdale North, which is comprised of individuals from all walks of life and all ethnic backgrounds. This is a group of individuals with a variety of concerns and issues, looking to a government that will listen and do what we say we will do. I owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to them for placing their trust and confidence in me. I would like to recommit to them that I will be visiting them and listening to them on a regular basis over the term of this government.
I especially want to thank a committed, motivated and dedicated team of family and friends who, for 35 days, kept me motivated and on track. I look forward to the challenges that lie ahead, working with a diverse and committed team of individuals on this side of the House. I will be looking to them for help and support in here and out there, working in collaboration, as I believe I will be able to achieve more than would be possible for me to achieve working alone.
I also look forward to the challenges presented from the members on the other side of this House, my colleagues from the Departments of Health and Social Services and Justice, and the Member for Riverside, all committing to listening to the ideas and suggestions that do come from the members opposite. I want to accept their constructive criticism with respect, as I honour their contributions to this government, in hopes that we will better serve all members of Yukon. I believe that we can all work positively and constructively for people in all areas of Yukon.
As Minister of Education, I had planned to say that I would immediately invite the Yukon Teachers Association back to the table to complete negotiations of their new contract with this government. I am pleased that I don't have to extend that invitation because negotiations have been successfully completed between the Yukon Teachers Association executive and the Public Service Commission.
We are now respectfully awaiting the positive ratification by all Yukon teachers, as recommended by their association. I would like to thank both the teachers association and the Public Service Commission for the successful outcome of these discussions and negotiations.
As soon as possible, I plan to move forward with the Education Act. I will also be working closely with the Department of Education to reorganize the Catholic school system, grades K through seven and eight through 12, which will require the construction of additional classrooms. We already enjoy one of the finest education systems in the country, but by working diligently and constructively with the department, inclusive of members opposite and members on this side, we can make it even better.
Yukon is very fortunate to have in place an impartial, dedicated and competent public service. As Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, I will ensure that hiring conducted in all ranks of the public service promotes equity within all sectors of Yukon and is representative of the demographics of the territory. Along with the department, I want to create an atmosphere in the public service where the public is treated with dignity and where all public servants can provide the best advice to government.
Yukon's most valuable natural resource is its wilderness heritage. As Minister of Renewable Resources, I will be working directly with the department, who will assist me in managing these resources wisely and to the benefit of all Yukoners, including the next generation, the next generation and the next generation after that. I know it's not going to be easy, but I recognize the need to preserve our pristine environment, to strive for balance between competing interests and to acknowledge the need to develop resources for economic reasons.
As directed by the Premier, I have already started discussions with the department to develop forest legislation in conjunction with Yukon First Nations. I have also requested that the department initiate a general review of the protected areas strategy and, most importantly, a review of the implementation process of the strategy.
Both the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Steering Committee and the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee, which includes all stakeholders, will be consulted during this review. To the credit of all those involved in developing the original strategy document, it has been lauded by other respected jurisdictions in Canada as one of the best of its kind, but only if the processes are followed. With the help of all members of this House, I am sure that we can make the Yukon protected areas strategy stronger and create certainty within our natural resource protection and economic growth within the territory.
During the first few days in office, I managed to visit most of the branches within the three departments under my charge, and I have committed to continue doing that on a very regular basis. I want to ensure that anyone within the public service is welcome to chat with me, and I extend the same invitation to all other members of the Liberal caucus.
As minister of these three departments, I am ultimately accountable for their conduct and successes in implementing the commitments this government made to all Yukoners. I have accepted these challenges, as assigned by the Premier. To succeed, I will continually strive to establish and maintain a good and positive working relationship with all my department deputies and senior staff, as they will be held directly responsible for ensuring implementation of the commitments made by this government.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me this time to express gratitudes and to summarize my ministerial commitments to the House and to all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to start by thanking the voters in the Kluane riding for electing me to the Legislature again. I look forward to serving them and all constituents in this term in opposition. I also look forward to working with all members of this Legislature for the common good of Yukoners.
In my role as critic for Renewable Resources and for Community and Transportation Services, I will be looking to ensure that the government fulfills its promises with regard to those portfolios, especially in the Kluane riding.
A major part of the responsibility of opposition is holding the government accountable. The throne speech is supposed to set out the direction of a new government. In looking at the 391 words of this throne speech, Mr. Speaker, it is pretty difficult to find out what direction they're going in. I think they had better follow the advice of the Liberal Prime Minister and start rocking the car back and forth and forth and back, and get back on the road again.
Mr. Speaker, the throne speech was so light on direction that, in reviewing it, it was pretty well impossible to find any direction at all. I hold this in contrast to what the now-Premier said in her response to our throne speech. I noticed that there are quite a few things missing. Some of these things could very easily have been in the throne speech, such as the fact that government accepts acting in a manner that merits public trust and confidence. Well, that's a very important direction, Mr. Speaker. It's not in the throne speech. Why isn't it in the throne speech? She mentioned it in her reply to the Speech from the Throne, but it's not in the throne speech.
Another quote from the now-Premier is: "Financial management is also about providing economic opportunity, and I believe that it is most unfortunate that this government has paid such scant attention to the tourism industry in a major address to the Yukon public. I trust this is not a reflection of the value that the government places on tourism." Well, Mr. Speaker, for someone so critical of the content of a throne speech, you would probably assume that if she ever got the chance to be in charge of the government, her throne speech would be beefed right up with direction on parts of the economy like tourism.
Mr. Speaker, is tourism even mentioned in the throne speech? No. Tourism isn't mentioned. Neither is any other sector of the economy. It's completely void of any mention about financial management at all.
Her very next paragraph calls the former Government Leader into account for not saying anything about his commitment not to raise taxes. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think there is some equal attention due there, but there's nothing in the throne speech to validate the now-Premier's campaign promises to fulfil our election commitment, which included a 12-percent tax cut. Instead, we heard on the radio, on the same day the throne speech was read, that in fact the tax cuts are now up in the air, depending on how much money is in the bank. Mr. Speaker, that's not putting out the direction of the government. It's saying, "Well, if there's enough money, if we don't cut this or that, it depends what comes out of the mix, there might be money for the tax cuts." That's not direction and that's not leadership. Direction and leadership come out of the direction that is in the throne speech. There's none of this in this throne speech, Mr. Speaker.
The Premier, in her reply to our throne speech, also praised the all-party committee. Well, where is the mention of the all-party committee in here? That doesn't cost taxpayers anything, Mr. Speaker. You don't have to go and look at the books again to see how much money there is before you mention anything about an all-party committee. It's not in there. Why isn't that in there? Is it that the Liberals, now that they're in government, have re-thought their promises of cooperation when it comes to board appointments?
Have they reneged on that promise? Is that why the all-party committee is not mentioned in the throne speech? Time will tell, I guess.
Another quote from her reply to our throne speech is that the throne speech tells that all Yukon children, women and men look to the members of this House for inspiration. I trust that all of us will not only serve as an inspiration by the manners we exhibit in this place, but that we will also serve as an example to all who enter here. Where is the inspiration in this throne speech? There is very little of what anybody would accept as inspiration in here. It refers to the former Speaker's prayer, which is fine, Mr. Speaker. It was a very fine prayer, but there is not much of anything else. It talks about the legislation that is being introduced in this sitting. It talks about a few other things - nothing with too much substance. It is more like a note on what this sitting is about, instead of the direction the government wants to take.
This might be fine if Yukoners are clear on the direction this government wants to take, but as you have heard from some other members of this House, one of the main concerns of Yukoners is the great uncertainty in the direction this government wants to take. Where are they going on some of these issues? Where are they going on the Tombstone issue? Where are they going on the Argus question? Where are they going on highway maintenance? The issues are plentiful, and there is no direction in here on where they are going on any of these.
So, in terms of substance with regard to the main issue of certainty of where this government is going, Mr. Speaker, a lot is left to be desired.
In the days ahead in this and the next sitting, for the remainder of this session, all of us on this side will do our best to hold the government accountable and to get on the record where they stand in regard to these types of issues. With that, I wish to conclude. I don't want, in my reply, to exceed the length of the throne speech because that would be in bad taste. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I am honoured and proud to have this opportunity to stand and speak in this House in response to the Speech from the Throne. I am also proud to have been selected by the people of McIntyre-Takhini, who have entrusted me to represent them to the best of my ability in this House. The throne speech mentioned our daily prayer, which states that only sound, fair and wise decisions should be made on behalf of the people we represent. It is for this reason that I will support the decision outlined in the throne speech to obtain spending authority for the current fiscal year.
This government promises to restore confidence in government by doing what we said we would do during the campaign. During the months and the years ahead this government will set out its own priorities based on our election platform, by representing the needs of all citizens of the Yukon and by bringing to the table our own experience and background as leaders of our communities.
My personal political experience began at a very young age. My uncle Elijah Smith, who raised me, was a Yukon First Nation elder. Elijah was not only well-respected here but well-respected throughout Canada, as well.
I've always carried with me the wisdom that my uncle passed on to us, through his leadership and with the things that he said. Elijah led by the strong example he set by sticking with the courage of his convictions. He never wavered when it came to seeking an equal place for First Nations in the Yukon community.
My beliefs and ideals come from the people I was raised with and from the experience I had as a person growing into adulthood in the Yukon Territory. I believe in a fair process and equity for everyone. I believe in the people of the Yukon and what they have to say and where they see the future of our land. Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow - this was and still remains a very strong statement made by Elijah to remind us of the need to reach an equitable settlement for land claims.
I am pleased to be working with a government that states that it will work with First Nations in a respectful and professional manner. I am also gratified that this government has stated that it will make the settlement of the remaining land claims our top priority. The process will not end there, however. The implementation of land claims will present some unique challenges for First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon. The special relationship between the two governments will require leadership by all parties.
This government has committed to working with First Nations on a government-to-government basis. Our government recognizes the inherent right of First Nations to self-government. We intend to work with First Nations to complete the devolution process without compromising ongoing land claims and self-government negotiations. I will personally work with this government to ensure that we use sensitivity in our relationships with First Nations so that we may better understand each other for the implementation of self-government for our children tomorrow.
During my brief time as minister, I have seen some of the same issues facing all Yukoners as those facing First Nations people. As a former band councillor for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, I was responsible for economic development and housing. I was involved with projects such as the relocation project for Kwanlin Dun First Nation and recovery plans for housing owned by the band. Those experiences are what I draw on to perform my ministerial duties today.
There are many people in this territory who face social problems. Some of these problems are the result of poverty, some of these problems are about neglect, and sadly, some of these problems are about addiction. I've seen all these problems firsthand in my experience as a member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and as a consultant working for various First Nation organizations. I have also seen poverty and other social problems within my riding and throughout the communities of the Yukon Territory. It saddens me that in this new millennium social problems and poverty have such a strong presence in our society. One of the greatest threats to our future of First Nations people of the Yukon, and to many other people in the Yukon as well, is poverty and the vicious cycle it creates.
The Yukon economy has frequently been about boom and bust. During the boom times, the poverty level might drop for a time, but there are always many people living in the margins of society, who cannot take advantage of the strong economic times. I have always been an advocate of sustainable and stable development that creates economic activity for the long term. Short-term thinking has undone many previous initiatives undertaken by governments here and elsewhere in this country. If we are to break the cycle of poverty, we must adjust our thinking and start planning further into the future for our initiatives.
As a member of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation economic advisory board, and as a board member of the First Nation's forestry program, and during my time as a band councillor in charge of economic development, I work at tackling this issue of sustainability from the perspectives of First Nations. I am now pleased to bring that perspective to a new table and with new faces to work with.
First Nations have a special and sincere relationship with the environment, our land, water and nature. This government recognizes that relationship, and I am proud to be a part of it.
I was elected by all the constituents in my riding. This riding is compromised of people from many ethnic backgrounds, and I intend to carry my responsibilities to them with the same respect and understanding that I had given to First Nations. This government is for all Yukoners and when we work to improve the lives of one segment of society, it will not be at the expense of another segment of society.
My riding has serious issues with respect to housing and with respect to social problems. I will work diligently to raise the quality of life for all of my constituents and for all Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan : Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to be able to stand and respond to the throne speech this afternoon. I would, first of all, like to say thank you to the constituents of Ross River-Southern Lakes for supporting me and putting me back in as their voice in this Legislature. It was very much a fruitful campaign as I went around and talked to the people and listened to their concerns. I will be bringing those concerns forth here to the Legislature.
Also, having won by a 51-percent-plus margin, this tells me that I have the majority of the support. It also tells me that I have other people to listen to, and certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to listen to all and endeavour to represent all.
I have said throughout some speeches I have made here many times that even the little children, and even the elders, and everybody in between, no matter what state of mind they're in at times, have something to offer, and it is very incumbent upon every person in this House to be able to listen to it. So, Mr. Speaker, I will respect all and I will represent all.
I'm very proud of the Yukon - but before I go into that I would like to welcome, on behalf of myself personally and the constituents of my riding, all the newly elected members of the territory. It's good to have you here, as my leader has said earlier. It's healthy change, and sometimes we don't have much control over that type of change, so expect that in four years. And we'll continue to work within this democratic system, because what we do have here is a democratic system, and I'm very much pleased and proud to be part of that democratic system. So welcome, all.
I think the Yukon is a unique spot, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre said. Three generations born and raised here. I think there are a lot of us who reflect that longitude or servitude, or however you would want to categorize it, of the Yukon here. That doesn't make us any more special than the people who moved here, who have seen this country and want to be part of the growing of this country. My experiences of travel and observation have proved to me that the Yukon is the most delightful place in the world. It has everything, including very good people.
It is very much a challenging time for us right now. We are becoming very much a spotlight. The world has a spotlight on us, with tourism. We're going through land claim negotiations. We are on the cutting edge of land claim negotiations here in the territory, by defining to the federal government exactly what should and could be within a land claim agreement.
The Yukon has something to be proud of. I don't singly mean the aboriginal people of the Yukon Territory, because I think finally the people of the territory understand that the land claims and self-government are good things for the territory. It's a wonderful thing for the territory.
I appreciate the so-many words in the throne speech - a minute and 40 seconds long. I also appreciate that they're on a honeymoon. I'm not going to stand here and thump anybody, not too seriously anyway at this point in time. But I would say that that drum that they talked about beating - don't make it a hollow drum. If they are going to talk and say something, be prepared to implement it and bring it forth for all to see. Do that, do that. Just don't pound on it. They said some things here that I listened to, and I'm hard of hearing, and I have to really concentrate to listen. If they live up to it, I'll be proud of them. I'll be very proud of them.
I appreciate the words from the Member for Porter Creek - South or North, I don't know at this point in time. He has priorities. He wants to represent them all. Well, those are my priorities, and, you know, it's hard to beat up shared priorities, but, for gosh sake, let's implement some of those priorities. Let's not just talk about these things, because if you talk and beat on an empty drum, you have just got a hula hoop - classics. Well, maybe it's not. Maybe the baby-boomer generation is bringing that back, too. But we don't need it here in this Legislature. We don't need it at all.
We've come a long way in land claims since the federal government - under Mr. Pierre Trudeau, I believe it was - in 1969 outlined a white paper that spoke about, well, integration instead of recognition, I guess, basically.
Now, in my mind, on the land claims in the territory here, the Yukon government has done a good job on it, recognizing and trying to find innovative ways to settle the land claims. It hasn't always been easy because different people have different expectations of what it actually means, but we have been there. There are land-use type issues in different areas, but the great motherhood issues are truly in the hands of the federal government.
Now you have a special relationship with that federal government and I would appreciate if you could exercise it. Not just to talk about it and not just to say I offered to do some conciliation between you and those.
I found through my political career that you have to be thoughtful. You have to think, you have to take your time, you have to understand what you talked about and you just can't pound the table. You can't pull a Nikita Khrushchev, take your shoe off and thump the table because there are 17 of us represented in this Legislature and, doggone it, everyone of us knows what the problems are, but we have to seek the solutions.
So, when I hear others on the other side of the House talk about listening, I will bring forth ideas and I expect that those ideas would be looked at. Like many of the new ministers, I have three o'clock moments, when you wake up at three o'clock and, boom, there is clarity there and you have the answer. Well, it's like a false dawn, at times. Make sure you have your pencil beside your bed, like I did, so I could write down those great moving things that I discovered at night. In the light of the day it's different.
So, I will be bringing forth some of those and I know that you will be bringing forth some, too, and I expect a good exchange, a healthy debate and a respectful debate, because I will certainly tend to lean that way. The heat of the moment, you will find, will take over here, but I expect that you will live up to your word.
I'd expect that we don't shoot for the sound bytes. Life is more on that side of the House than just a sound byte. I know that sound bytes sound really good in the morning when you wake up at six o'clock and you run to the radio and turn it on and there I am, but it is just a sound byte. That's okay for this side of the House, but you are talking on that side about this new way of doing things.
Solutions, I'm going to get back to. It's not just sound bytes, not just to go out there and say "I'm so happy and I'm so perky and all these other things, that you have to elect me on my personality". No, you have to have personality and you must have vision.
As you folks know, TROY is over here. Now, "TROY" is a wonderful word. And probably those folks know. I know Riverdale South knows TROY, because it has been said here many times. But it's the rest of the Yukon.
So now we've got you surrounded. It has been colourfully said before. We've got you surrounded, and don't forget about the rest of the Yukon. There are tools that we, as governments and as representatives of the ridings, can only put into place that have flexibility so that the communities might be able to use their own wisdom and set their own priorities. You will not get that, nor will you ever be able to capture that in this book. You won't be able to do it, because we'd put down too many doggone trees, and there wouldn't be enough time to read it. So, you have to give the tools to them.
Now, I heard the Member for Whitehorse Centre saying about the CDF, "Well, we've got to get rid of that." I ask you to be thoughtful about these things, because the CDF and TMF are tools. They are absolute tools that generate economy and build capacity, and that's what they are there for. So, that's what I would like to see. If you're going to take those tools out, what are you going to put in place for the communities?
I would suggest to you that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was born and raised in downtown Whitehorse. I spent a lot of time in downtown Whitehorse, too, over the years - a lot of time. I live in downtown Whitehorse right now, and I'll continue to enjoy downtown Whitehorse. But you know what? Whitehorse is not the only community, and Whitehorse decisions - and maybe I'm drifting a little over to the city's jurisdiction, but I think representatives need to hear it - have to take into consideration and fact the rural communities, whether they be a hamlet, advisory council, municipality, or, doggone it, a town. You do, because you guys who go to the mall and you folks who wander around here on Saturday and Sunday see rural Yukoners here spending money. And if you're independent business people in your other life, and have it farmed out some other way so that it's legal-like, recognize that they do have input. And you know what? They don't have much of a voice at different jurisdictional levels, except for this one right here.
So, you say you are going to do these things. I look forward to this fall's throne speech; I truly do.
In my riding, and I have a large riding - holy moly, to cover my riding I put over 10,000 kilometres in the election campaign, and, you know, I only hit some of the communities once. Now you guys probably did that by foot, hoofing around here in town, but we're all unique and you have to take different ways of looking at them, but in Ross River we developed the round table. I know the new Minister of Community and Transportation Services has been very much briefed on the round table and is understanding of where the round table is going, but it's a tool that brings the community of Ross River together, and so many times I have got angry and then I've got embarrassed and I've got hurt about the names that people would attach to a community or to people who live in a community. And I thought there has to be a new way of doing it, a better way of doing it. So we looked, we talked. It wasn't easy, but we have the round table up and going, and they are starting to put forth recommendations, and I expect that you would keep working with people like that.
Carcross, within my riding, is desirous of the same type of approach, maybe not with the same resources, but I'll be writing letters and conversing as I can, because I like to talk and meet people and be with people and offer my direction. But they want to have a new way of looking at things too. It's unique. So, we should look at what the people want to do.
In Tagish - well, you know, in Ross River-Southern Lakes, I have the main communities of Carcross and the main communities of Teslin and Ross River, but you know, hidden in between all that, tucked away behind the spruce type of curtain down there along the Tagish River and California Beach, is a really nice little community. It's a lot of folks who lived in Whitehorse who now live outside of Whitehorse, and they're elderly - gosh, I had better watch my words here because I'm getting that way too. I plan on living out in that country too. Why? Because, well, we have the best doggone health care in the country. Now, I forget which one of you said that, but we do, and I'm proud of that, and it takes resources. And we got thumped, and I'll have much to say about that during my budget speech - about showing me the money.
But at this point in time, we're talking about a throne speech. So, we have health care, we have people living in Tagish who benefit from that, who want to be here next to their grandchildren, and I think that's just wonderful. So we're going to have to be looking at that in different ways because they have come to me and said, "We need health centres. We're an ageing community. We don't have decent telephone access." Those things I'll be bringing in in a fruitful manner and I'll be talking to them about it.
I guess I have to talk about the land claim because it's difficult. Sometimes, as a minister, you have to think on your feet, you have to be on your feet. You're a minister seven days a week, 24 hours a day. You live in a fishbowl. Get used to it. But it also means that you have, based on your own particular systems, the opportunity to incorporate and do things now. Well, you missed an opportunity when the minister was here. I have got to say that. He created an expectation a year ago, dropped that bomb, got First Nations there, then came up and whacked them right in the face and said, "Nope." The Premier should have been there for it. She should have said, "Hey, what are you doing?" She has to work with them, so my advice is that I'd say she should do that. The government should plan.
I like the idea of planning for many, many years, because the Yukon Territory, especially in renewable resources, needs some direction, needs some real focus on the protected areas strategy. I love it. When I heard the Minister of Renewable Resources saying we have a doggone good strategy, I appreciated that. I very much did. Politics might get in the way of that, but, first and foremost, let's not forget the Yukon.
If we are going to keep it as a jewel so that our Tourism minister can keep promoting it as a jewel, then we have to protect it as a jewel, so we have to act on the advice as we get it, talk to our caucuses, but please, let's not miss the opportunities. Let's not raise expectations, because you just can't. There's $60 million in the budget. The Liberals say there's only $14 million. Well, we're going to talk about that over the next little while here.
But, you know, I guess it's how you do things and not necessarily what you do.
You can look at that two different ways, and, as I say that, I will look at that in many different ways. But people of the Yukon want our Yukon to be what it is. People move here for that. I think, as I look at it, that it is a real opportunity for us to be able to share in the parameters of what Yukon has.
Now, I spoke to almost every community in my riding except Teslin, because I think Teslin is a very unique little spot. I am very proud of Teslin. I was chief of that community for many years and was born and raised there. I just love it. But, you know, they are a First Nation that is true, they are innovative and have set parameters about how they want to keep their government and have put strategies together. I was a part of that. There are still guiding documents that can be done. They want to develop. They absolutely want to develop and have an economic base within that community. The First Nation is investing millions of dollars and is sharing that with the whole community, because that community doesn't necessarily think right/left, brown/white or whatever. They think community, and they are getting that way.
I think it is very important at this point in time, when there is no devolution of resources to us, that the decisions that the federal government makes reflect the priorities of the people. The people want to plan. The majority of the people want development, but they want planned development, so that it can still be a jewel, you can still catch fish and take tourists out. There won't be clearcuts here, and there will be local jobs for local people, and you can only do that with planning. I would encourage you to please look at that and find a way, because I think that is the spirit of Yukon. That is what the protected areas strategy reflects.
I don't ever expect that we're going to have a million people in the Yukon - at least not in my day. I don't expect we'll have 200,000 or even 100,000 in the Yukon in my day. It might be coming. The only way that we will be able to have those people, if they do come here, is by putting that seed in the ground, called planning, and working toward an economic base that is not just resource extraction, but it's pictures of spruce trees. There was a candidate during the election campaign who said that he never saw anybody making money from taking pictures of a tree. I wish I had been there, because I do. I know people who can do that.
So, we have to look. That shows that there is much diversity, and we have to be able to look at that diversity.
So, I look forward to the government's throne speech in the fall. I really want to see what their priorities are. I get a real kick out of them voting against every one of our doggone budgets - every one of them. And even a member, who is no longer in this House, told me on an Ottawa street one day that he wanted that government out - it was the Yukon Party at the time - yet he supported their budgets. To me, that's a mixed message. Okay? God bless him, because I enjoyed working with that gentleman - a wonderful man. But let's not give any mixed messages. That's a mixed message: they vote against their budgets; they accept their budgets.
The hon. David Keenan - that's something to tell my grandchildren about. The Liberal government's first move was to implement my department, but I take it as a compliment.
Thank you very much.
Ms. Tucker: I'm privileged and honoured to be speaking today in reply to the Speech from the Throne. I want to take this opportunity to thank the electors of Mount Lorne for their support and to extend a special thank you to my campaign team, which worked long and hard to help me reach office. I will do my best to be worthy of the trust and confidence that has been given to me, as I work for the benefit of all Yukoners.
I would like to express my great appreciation to the table officers of the Legislative Assembly, who work on the Yukon's behalf to ensure that the Members of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislature have the assistance we need to do our tasks. I would also like to take this time, on behalf of my constituents, to thank the outgoing MLA in the riding, Lois Moorcroft, who represented Mount Lorne in the previous two terms and did some very good work on our behalf.
I congratulate all members on their election or re-election to the House. As an MLA, I accept responsibility for my actions and expect the same of others. I would hope that the members of all parties in this Assembly take that to heart, tempering criticisms with praise and constructive suggestions when meeting.
We, as members, would all do well to reflect on where we came from, where we are and where we are going. We have a broad range of backgrounds and personalities in the House and our effectiveness as the governing body will depend largely on how well we can work together. It is my hope that we, as the Legislature, can come to an agreement on the major issues that are or that will be facing us, and that decisions reached will be for the benefit of all Yukoners.
I would like to reiterate that the Liberal Party will do all in its power to help fulfill and restore the public's faith and expectations in government. Yukoners of all political stripes and persuasion have spoken, demanding a change from attitudes and styles of previous governments. We want to break this trend of disillusionment. We want Yukoners to feel good about their government, and we want to seize the opportunity to ensure the well-being of all areas of Yukon society.
This starts with cooperation, not only among those of us in the Legislature, but between all governments - First Nation, federal, territorial and municipal. The Yukon is too small an area, with too few people, to become divided on major issues. Strength comes from working together to find solutions to problems that affect us all. This government is committed to sustaining and breathing new and healthy life into mining, forestry and tourism, as well as numerous small businesses in a variety of areas.
We need proactive long-term planning for all people. We need an overall affirmative plan of action, one that is comprehensive enough to all Yukoners in all walks of life.
Mount Lorne is an example of competing land uses, with many different issues and interests. We need to take the time to listen to Yukoners' vision of the future and set out a plan to help us get there. We need constructive solution and consensus building. We, the Legislature, need to be partisan and political to hear the people, and they are our bosses. The departments need to carry out the will of the Yukoners. We, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, must listen to all, ensure what we hear, to help us reach our dreams for the future.
It is my hope that we can all work together for the benefit of all Yukoners during this mandate. We have important business at hand and I look forward to working with each and every one of you.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First and foremost, I would like to state what an honour and a pleasure it is to be here on behalf of the people of Porter Creek South. I would like to express my thanks to my opponents in the last territorial election. In particular, I would like to extend a special thank you to Mark Dupuis, who entered the race and was a fine opponent - a gentleman. His behaviour set an example throughout the election campaign, I believe, for everyone. At all times he conducted himself with grace and was a fine opponent indeed, as was Mr. Carlyle.
I'd like to thank my campaign team as well for their very hard efforts. A 30-day campaign is exhilarating, exhausting, and exciting, and those are probably the limit of my e-words, but it is a privilege to run in an election, and I thank everyone who put their name forward. As I said, it's an honour to be here.
Another point I'd like to make with respect to the election campaign is to express my thanks to all of the volunteers throughout the Yukon, no matter what campaign they worked on. They worked very, very hard. I'd like to express my thanks to my caucus colleagues and all the Liberal candidates for their support of my leadership. As I travelled throughout the Yukon, from Old Crow to Watson Lake and the places in between, I heard from Yukoners who were very supportive and proud of the individuals in their community, and I worked with many, many, many volunteers who believed in the message that we are putting forward and were proud to be part of our team. We wouldn't be here without them, and we appreciate their efforts.
They worked very hard on our behalf, and the view on this side is different. I'm noticing with particular pleasure the windows from this side of the House.
As I don the role of leadership of this territory, I would like to acknowledge, with particular thanks, those who have gone before me: Mr. Ostashek, who led the territory from 1992-96, and, in particular, the former Government Leader, Piers McDonald. Mr. McDonald gave many years of dedication and public service to this territory, and we appreciate his efforts. I worked with both of those individuals, in particular the former Government Leader. I enjoyed that relationship, and he was a fine individual to work with, and I know his contribution to Yukon life will not be forgotten.
I must also say that as we made our way into the Legislature and walked down and bowed to the Speaker and so on, I was missing the former colleagues who have chosen the retiring style of life. I know that their advice will always be welcomed by all members of the House. In particular, my statesman-like friend and colleague, Jack Cable, I am sure will not be a stranger to this House.
Another point with respect to my role as of April 17, Mr. Speaker, is that I take very seriously and appreciate deeply the advice from members of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, who said to me, "To us, you will always be Pat," because that's who I am. It is something that I will never forget.
The process before us, as we were sworn in on May 6 and became the first Liberal government for the territory, was fulfilling a commitment that we had made to Yukoners. The commitment to Yukoners was about the future. It was about creating the type of government that we all could believe in. People were frustrated with elected representatives who promised one thing and, upon taking office, forgot that promise or failed to live up to that promise. Yukoners wanted elected representatives who did what they said they would do, and that is exactly what we have done.
We were elected on April 17, having committed that we would table the previous government's budget. We tabled it, in its entirety, less than a month after taking office. We did that for a number of very good reasons, and it started with the beginning of the election campaign when I was in Carmacks. That particular community was in the process of dismantling one recreation complex because they had commitments from a government to build another. I committed then that we would live up to existing commitments and not pull the rug out from under anyone.
In Mayo, I heard again and again, as I had heard throughout my time in opposition and as a private citizen in this territory, that successive governments had failed to deliver on a commitment for a new school. That money for a new school is in the budget. There is no way - no way - that I will be part of a government that failed to deliver on that commitment to Yukoners and to the residents of Mayo.
That school is a vital part of the community. It has been planned for a long time. The money is there. It's committed there. It will stay committed until that school is built. That's the sort of commitment that Yukoners are looking for.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, whom I welcome to this House, as I welcome all returning members and new members, mentioned commitments and expectations of the people of Old Crow in her maiden speech, and she talked about fulfilling a commitment that the elders had asked for in the campaign, which was a particular style of behaviour by members of this Legislature. I, too, heard that remark when I was door-to-door campaigning. I also heard concerns from that community about specific needs in that community, some of which - some - have been partly recognized in this budget. There are other needs we have heard from that community, for example with respect to the dump, that need to be addressed.
It's interesting that the members opposite should accuse us of not working very hard since we took office. That's one thing that all of my opponents have agreed upon. We may not always agree on specific issues, but I've heard agreement that you won't find a harder-working group of members. I have seen these individuals, ministers and those entrusted with other responsibilities, working extremely hard on behalf of their constituents. And they will follow the standard that has been set by my colleagues and I in previous legislatures, in that we won't just talk to our constituents at election time. They'll see us between elections.
We are a very, very hard-working caucus, and we intend to remain that way throughout our four years in office. Each and every one of us is working extremely hard, and we have been since we took office on May 6. We have been meeting with individual Yukoners who asked those same questions that I outlined earlier. "We have a commitment in this budget; will you live up to it?" The answer has been the same: Yes, because we are a government that will do what we say we will do."
There have been options that some of the other members have mentioned about Commissioner's warrants and interim supply bills. You could have done this, and you could have done that, and you could have done the other thing. The best option to provide good government for the people of Yukon, and to provide certainty, was to come into this House and retable the budget in its entirety. It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that not one member from the opposite side has said that this is not a good idea for good government of the territory. They have talked about ideas like, well, you should have changed the names, and you should have done this, and you should have done that. You should have gone for some of these other options. Those other options aren't presented as providing good government for the people of Yukon; they get to be all about politics, and all about ego, and all about things that people have asked us not to dwell on in this House. They have asked us to provide good government, open, honest and accountable government, and that's exactly what we're doing.
We are completely ready to govern, because we're ready to pass this budget, provide certainty to Yukon and to move on. It's unfortunate that in all the options that the members have put forward, passing this budget and providing certainty to the lives of Yukoners is not one of them that they have mentioned.
During the campaign, we said that the election was not about buying votes, not about raising expectations with unrealistic promises. It was about rebuilding the Yukon economy while protecting our social programs and respecting our environment. It's about creating a balanced approach. It's about providing good government.
Some of the issues in providing good government to my constituents - and Porter Creek South, while an urban riding, is representative of the Yukon in many ways, and I also consider my constituents, as leader of the party, to be all of the people of the Yukon. They can be assured that we will work very hard on their behalf. The issues of concern to my constituents are the settlement of land claims, devolution, the economy, the health and well-being of Yukoners, education and the future.
The members opposite have criticized this particular throne speech because they have said that it doesn't deal with any of those issues, that it doesn't outline some grand - I don't know what they're looking for. What this throne speech does, as the Member for Lake Laberge pointed out - to the point, it very neatly and succinctly, as the Member for Klondike pointed out - is that it very succinctly points out that the pressing business before this Legislature is to provide the government with the spending authority - spending authority, as was outlined by the previous government. It calls for passage of the budget.
It says that that's what we're here to do. It also states very clearly and again very succinctly that what we will do is come forward in the fall with a supplementary and with a more in-depth Speech from the Throne that outlines our commitments in greater detail.
The specific commitments and concerns of the people in my riding and concerns that I have outlined that are of concern to all Yukoners are issues that we will be addressing in Question Period, as was evidenced today, and certainly we are prepared to provide full and fair answers, which is an approach that is entirely consistent with our methodology and our party, and our discussions as a government about being open and accountable. It's entirely consistent with who we are and what we are, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign, we told Yukoners we wanted to create the type of government that people could believe in. We told Yukoners we'd do what we said we would do.
When the previous government called this election, it caused a great deal of uncertainty for many, many Yukoners. It caused uncertainty because the budget had not been passed. Contractors, non-government organizations and students were left wondering what they would or would not be doing this summer. Even in their own media releases issued shortly after the swearing-in, the opposition members were calling on us to deal with this budget; to do what we said we'd do and reintroduce the budget. They were calling upon us to do that, and now they seem amazed when we do what we say we'll do. I don't know why they're amazed, because every Yukoner expects us to do it and we are delivering on that. I don't know why they find that such a surprise.
What's surprising is why they don't seem to want to get down to the business of this House and deal with these issues, to get on with it. I thought we were finished talking about flip-flops when they moved over there. They still keep talking about them. What I said to Yukoners was that I would table the budget. I said it in the Chamber debate, I said it in Carmacks, I said it in Mayo, I said it in Dawson, I said it in Old Crow. I talked about it in Watson Lake. I talked about it in every riding in Whitehorse, and what we heard from Yukoners was that they wanted certainty. I also heard at the annual general meeting for Challenge last night, from a constituent from the member opposite's riding, a thanks - "Glad to see you did that, and glad you could put aside the petty, partisan politics and get on with the business by retabling that previous budget. Glad you did that." That was the exact quote.
We also committed to Yukoners that we would not rush in and throw money at problems, as so many previous governments have done. We will review our spending priorities. We outlined that in the throne speech, we said that during the campaign, and that's exactly what we're going to do. We're going to review our spending priorities so that we can put forward a well thought-out and responsible supplementary budget in the fall.
Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the Speech from the Throne is to outline the government's agenda. The Speech from the Throne has done that. The legislative agenda for this session has been designed to deal with pressing matters: the spending authority of the government.
This session of the Legislature has been called to obtain spending authority for the current fiscal year. It's not rocket science and it's not a surprise.
As was noted yesterday there will be a new session of the Yukon Legislature commencing this fall. It will begin with a Speech from the Throne. As I noted earlier, it will also include a second supplementary budget.
In this session we are also tabling a piece of legislation that amends the Income Tax Act, which will result in a two-percent reduction in territorial income tax for the 2000 taxation year. This is also a commitment that was made during the election campaign. If the members opposite are looking for the exact reference, it is the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce debate.
Members of the Legislature are also being asked to approve a bill that amends the Assessment and Taxation Act and a supplementary appropriation bill that targets some of the immediate priorities that I have outlined throughout the campaign and that I have spoken about particularly earlier today. The supplementary budget - our priorities that we are very proud of as the caucus, and they are not, as some of the members have indicated earlier, new spending. They are spending from within the existing budgets. They address appropriate issues that the impact on our investment community, students who are seeking higher education and youth at risk - key priorities that we talked about throughout the Yukon, throughout the election campaign. These spending priorities fulfill commitments that we made to Yukoners. We are a government that lives up to commitments made to Yukoners and fulfills our promises. We are not afraid of tough issues.
We will deal with the issues that my fellow members have outlined today - issues that are facing Yukoners, such as issues around addiction, poverty, homelessness and children in our education system afflicted with the condition known as FAS or FAE - tough issues. We are not afraid of these tough issues, and we will deal with these tough issues. And we will deal with them all in good time. The members opposite have gone on and on about, "You've been in office for seven weeks. How come you haven't got it all done yet?" It takes time. We are dealing with the immediate priority, and the immediate priority is the spending authority of the government. We are dealing with it appropriately, and we're dealing with it well.
The issues with regard to those I have just mentioned will not be forgotten by this government. They will not be forgotten, they will not be neglected, and we will not wait until the fourth year of our mandate to deal with them. We will be dealing with them, and we will be dealing with them in a constructive, thoughtful, balanced approach. We will be professional.
My colleague from McIntyre-Takhini spoke about our government-to-government relationships in his Speech from the Throne, and members opposite criticized us for not including them in this particular speech. I'm very proud of the initial relationships that we have established, particularly with the Grand Chief. I have had some very good discussions, as I have had other excellent discussions with some of the municipal governments in the territory - not all of them yet.
Some of the other chiefs, not all of them yet - all in good time. It's about the future. That's what we're about.
We're about fulfilling our commitment to have settlement of the seven outstanding claims as the top priority of this government. We're about finalizing and working toward devolution. We're about the Yukon economy and restoring confidence, welcoming investment. We're about the health and well-being of Yukoners. We, as a government, are about the future. We're starting by ensuring that we can get on with the future by getting on with the spending authority of the government.
Most importantly, Mr. Speaker, we are here - and several members have mentioned our daily prayer and about making sound, fair and wise decisions. We are also here because of the people we represent, and we're doing this, Mr. Speaker, because of the future and because of the children whom we represent. To me, they're the most important part of our future because they are our future. The Yukon we leave them is their future.
The way we behave in this Legislature shouldn't embarrass them. The decisions that we make should keep their future in mind. The work that we do - we will work to reach agreement with members. We will work to incorporate ideas, the good ideas, that are put forward. We will work with everyone in this House to do government differently. We will listen and we will respect all members of this Legislature, because that's what we're about. We're about doing government in a way that all Yukoners can be proud of. We're about delivering on our commitments to Yukoners to provide good government and, by doing that, Mr. Speaker, we've set out a Speech from the Throne, which was delivered yesterday to members, that asks us to get on with the business of doing government differently and to provide this government with the spending authority.
That's what we're asking this House to do - to provide this government with the spending authority so that we can get on with living up to the mandate that Yukoners gave us on April 17. Because, whether or not the members opposite are happy with the results doesn't matter. The voters have spoken and we are excited about the challenge. We are looking forward to being a good government for the people and we're looking forward to outlining our plan to provide that good government in greater detail.
Right now, we're looking forward and we're asking members to provide us with that opportunity that the Yukoners have entrusted us with by providing us with the spending authority to do that.
Mr. Speaker, I see by the clock that it is 5:30 p.m. I move that debate on Motion No. 14 be now adjourned.?
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 14 agreed to
Notice re: Address in Reply to Speech from the Throne
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Order 26, the consideration of a motion for an address and reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place on Wednesday, June 7, 2000.
Speaker: The time being 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled June 8, 2000:
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated June 8th, 2000)
Contributions to Political Parties during 1999: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer (dated March 2000)
Government Contracting Summary Report by Department (April 1, 1999 - March 31, 2000)