Thursday, June 8, 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 recognition of Yukon Seniors and Elders Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is a tribute to the Yukon elders and seniors, Mr. Speaker. Id like to rise in the House today to pay tribute to the Yukon seniors and elders during this week that is dedicated to them. We wish to recognize our seniors and elders for their invaluable direction and guidance that they provide us in all aspects of our lives.
Because they are our mentors, we cannot undervalue their importance to the Yukon and to our decision-making process.
We are proud that our seniors are choosing to remain in the Yukon rather than spending their later years in the south. This allows us to take advantage of their skills, expertise and knowledge to enhance the lives of our youth.
An indication that our seniors are remaining in the Yukon is demonstrated by the increasing numbers of people participating in such vibrant groups as the Yukon Council on Aging and the many seniors programs available.
We are grateful for the worthwhile contribution that our seniors and elders make to our communities and hope they continue to guide us in our lives.
Mr. Harding: In my capacity as a critic for Health and Social Services and leader of the official opposition, I would like to also rise to pay tribute today to Seniors and Elders Week.
Yukon seniors and elders have made, and continue to make up, a very important part of the fabric of our society. This special week of recognition for seniors and elders provides an opportunity for all of us in the Chamber to reflect on that contribution. It provides an appropriate occasion to consider how we, as legislators, can best meet the needs of those who are getting on in years.
As we move into this new century, we recognize that seniors and elders will continue to make up a large segment of our society. More and more people are choosing to call the Yukon their home for their retirement years and we should be grateful for that fact.
Thanks to advances in health and fitness, we also know now that many people are able to remain active and independent longer. We should also be grateful for that fact. As legislators, we also recognize that an aging population presents major challenges for public policy. We need to ensure that the voice of seniors is not marginalized or dismissed, because our society needs to draw on the wisdom that comes from their experience.
We need to ensure that the means exist for seniors and elders to remain active and independent for as long as they choose. We also need to ensure that appropriate social support is there for them when they need our help. Id like to ask all members in this House to join me in saluting our elders and seniors throughout the territory and to put some extra thought this week into how we can continue to honour our obligations to them, not just for a week but year around.
Further to that, Mr. Speaker, I think its important, given what has recently taken place, with regard to the remains of the forgotten soldier and bringing them back to a good resting place for Canadians, that we remember the seniors who also served so well on behalf of us all and gave us this great country that we now have. I think they should also be included this week as we think of the seniors and their contributions.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, Im pleased to take this opportunity to pay tribute to Seniors and Elders Week. The celebration of seniors and elders this time each year provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the positive aspects of our aging population and to acknowledge the contributions seniors and elders make to their families, to their communities and to society at large.
Our seniors and elders are a diverse group whose culture, language, health status, location and income levels vary dramatically. Regardless of where they live, their background or lifestyle, the vast majority of seniors play an immensely positive role in the lives of families and communities. As caregivers to spouses, families, friends and neighbours, seniors and elders play a vital role in reducing health care costs. They provide a wealth of history and knowledge. They offer a sense of continuity and serve as an anchor point through the transfer of knowledge and values between generations. They contribute actively to society in many ways. They have done so all their lives, and now they continue to do so.
At least one study suggests that Canadian seniors provide unpaid help of a value equivalent to between one-quarter and one-third of all old-age pension and guaranteed income supplements paid out each year. The economic value of the volunteer work done by our seniors is estimated at between $764 million and $2.3 billion annually; that in itself is significant. Thank you, seniors and elders.
Here in the Yukon, were proud to have a very active senior community numbering over 4,500 people over the age of 55 years. Organizations such as the Yukon Council on Aging, the Seniors Information Centre, the Watson Lake Signpost Seniors, the Yukon Order of Pioneers among many other associations continue to play an integral role representing and assisting our Yukon senior population.
Id like to commend the work of these groups and would like to extend our best wishes to all Yukon seniors and elders for a productive and fun-filled week of activities.
Indeed there are many among our Yukon seniors and elders who possess a wealth of information and experience from whom this new Liberal government could certainly benefit. I would urge this government to consult with our seniors and elders and heed their advice.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with great pleasure that I would like to introduce Stella Jim and Paddy Jim, Yukon First Nation elders. I would like to thank them personally for their contribution of traditional knowledge to the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report. I would also like to mention that they are the parents of my colleague Minister Wayne Jim, MLA for McIntyre-Takhini.
Speaker: Before calling for tabling, the Chair notes that the Member for Klondike, when tabling documents yesterday, gave a description of those documents that did not conform with the practices of this House. Members should be aware that they are to inform the House only in the most straightforward way about the documents being tabled. They are not to comment on the contents of those documents. If members wish to debate the subject or content of tabled documents, there are other opportunities provided in the proceedings of the House to do so.
Returning to today, are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with great pride that I table the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report.
Speaker: Reports of committees.
Introduction of bills.
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the hon. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 45(2) be appointed Chair of the Members Services Board;
THAT the hon. Pat Duncan, Trevor Harding, Peter Jenkins and Cynthia Tucker be appointed to the Members Services Board;
THAT the board consider:
(a) Legislative Assembly,
(b) Ombudsman (including Information and
(c) Conflicts Commission, and
(d) Elections Office;
(a) space allocations,
(c) caucus funding,
(d) Media Gallery House rules,
(e) seating in the Assembly, and
THAT the board fulfill its statutory responsibilities, including those in the Ombudsman Act, the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act and the Legislative Assembly Retirement Allowances Act, 1991.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the hon. members Trevor Harding, Eric Fairclough, Peter Jenkins, Scott Kent, Mike McLarnon and Cynthia Tucker be appointed to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts;
THAT the said committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods; and
THAT the Clerk of the Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the hon. members Mike McLarnon, Trevor Harding, Peter Jenkins and Cynthia Tucker be appointed to the Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments;
THAT the said Committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods;
THAT the said Committee review such new regulations as it may decide upon;
THAT the said Committee review such other existing or proposed regulations as are referred to it by the Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the hon. members Scott Kent, Sue Edelman, Dennis Fentie, Peter Jenkins, Mike McLarnon, Gary McRobb and Cynthia Tucker be appointed to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges;
THAT the said Committee have the power to call for persons, papers and records and to sit during intersessional periods;
THAT the said Committee review as necessary such Standing Orders as it may decide upon;
THAT the said Committee, following the conduct of any such review, report any recommendations for that amendment to the Assembly; and
THAT the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly be responsible for providing the necessary support services to the Committee.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) Yukon seniors and elders are entitled to a high quality of health care and other social support so that they can continue to live a life of dignity in the society to which they have contributed; and
(2) the Yukon Liberals have made a number of specific commitments to Yukon seniors and elders that are not reflected in either the main estimates or the supplementary budget tabled this sitting; and
(3) these commitments include maintaining stable funding for the Whitehorse General Hospital; expanding the number of nursing care beds for the elderly to ensure there are no waiting lists for our seniors; improving respite services; constructing independent living accommodations for the elderly in those communities where the need exists; ensuring that the existing home care program is funded to adequate levels to support seniors in their own homes; and working to ensure that each community is staffed with adequate numbers of doctors and nurse practitioners; and
(4) the operating surplus of approximately $60 million that the current government inherited from the previous administration is sufficient to support many of these commitments; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to put adequate funding in its fall supplementary budget to meet these specific commitments to Yukon seniors and elders.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukon First Nations should not be held solely responsible for causing all the delays in settling Yukon Indian land claims because there have been successive changes in government at both the federal and territorial levels, changes in comprehensive claims policy and continuing judicial interpretation of aboriginal rights and title over the 27 years of negotiations; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon to accept their share of responsibility for causing delays in settling Yukon Indian land claims and agree to negotiate an agreement that will enable Yukon First Nations to retain a more equitable portion of their land claims settlement compensation.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukons health care services are currently being eroded due to a shortage of health care professionals; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to implement programs and incentives that will attract and retain health care professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, doctors and dentists.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current federal Liberal governments devolution proposal is a bad deal for Yukon because it transfers the environmental liability for managing lands and resources to the territory without transferring the ownership of these resources, and it fails to recognize the Yukons offshore northern boundaries in the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukoners are better able to spend their own money on things they want and need rather than have this government spend their money for them; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to implement an immediate 10 percent personal income tax cut.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Statements by ministers.
Western premiers conference in Brandon, Manitoba
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to provide a brief report to members on the outcomes of the western premiers conference that I recently attended in Brandon, Manitoba.
This conference provided me with my first opportunity to express our governments perspective on intergovernmental issues. It also provided me with an opportunity to highlight two issues of great importance to Yukon people: responsible economic development and devolution. The basis of my remarks was a paper entitled Northern Priorities, Challenges and Opportunities. I would be pleased to make this paper available to members should they wish to have a copy.
It was the result of a cooperative effort by three territories -Nunuvat, Northwest Territories and Yukon and it was led by Yukon. The conference provided an opportunity to make and renew relationships among premiers in the west. This meeting may have been unique in that the numbers of premiers attending the meeting for the first time out numbered those who attended a western premiers conference before. Those attending the conference for the first time made significant contributions to the discussions.
The higher cost of doing business in the north, is not a concept thats foreign to provincial premiers. After all they, too, have northern areas in their provinces that face many of the same obstacles that we do, including the great distances between communities and the higher costs of doing business.
I did take the opportunity to inform them of a very significant difference between the provinces and the territories, and that difference is the participation of the federal government in providing economic development programming in the south and the absence of any such support for the three territories.
Its clearly in the provinces interests to support federal government participation in northern economic development programming since the economic spinoffs of such activities spill over to their jurisdictions also.
I also took the time to explain the importance to the north of gaining jurisdiction over land and resources, but the needs, aspirations and capacity of the three territories are different and must be respected.
I provided a brief update on the Yukons devolution discussions with the federal government and the need to proceed with amendments to the Yukon Act. I was very pleased to see that the premiers endorsed these initiatives through the communiqué that were issued to the media. There were a number of other issues that were discussed which are of great interest and importance to Yukon people. Premiers received the western Finance ministers report, which outlined the importance of full restoration of the Canada health and social transfer to 1994-95 levels.
Premiers discussed the sustainability of Canadas health care system, and I took the opportunity during that discussion to highlight a unique cost driver to the north that provinces do not have, and that is the transportation of patients. Territories were also successful in gaining recognition of northern needs regarding the transportation infrastructure. Premiers agreed that a per-capita basis for allocating transportation infrastructure funding yields an insignificant and clearly inadequate share to the territorial governments. Yukon government officials have brought this support to the attention of those in the federal system who are developing the allocation formula. We will be watching closely to ensure that the federal government responds in a way that provides the Yukon with a reasonable share of funds for this program.
Im looking forward to building on these successes and taking these issues forward to the annual premiers conference in Winnipeg in August.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Harding: I thank the Premier for her report on her participation at the western premiers conference, and Im glad there were a significant number of premiers on hand, but I must say to the member opposite that, really, the first opportunity she had to express her views on an intergovernmental forum was when the federal minister of DIAND was recently in the territory at the gold show. That was an extremely important forum for Yukoners, because the issue of land claims and mining certainty around policy development was placed firmly on the agenda by Yukoners.
However, we did not hear much from the new Liberal Premier on either the issue of the bomb that was dropped by the federal minister Mr. Nault on the land claims process at the gold show, after he had, over a year ago, raised expectations on two fundamental issues: section 87 and the loan-repayment provisions of the umbrella final agreement. These raised expectations caused the land claims process to grind to a halt for a year, as they waited to see what the minister would deliver. Unfortunately, he took everyone by surprise, with the exception probably of the Premier, at the gold show, yet we did not hear her speak out clearly on behalf of Yukoners and the need to settle these agreements. We heard no position on the position that the federal minister took at that particular gold show.
Mr. Speaker, this has created tremendous uncertainty in this territory. When the federal minister talks about negotiating into the coming years, it doesnt give us much comfort - where we have many claims that are essentially completed from a Yukon government negotiating perspective - that we are going to get closure to these agreements.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier mentioned in the statement the need to increase funding to health care. We think thats very important. We think that the Liberal government in Ottawa has an obligation to the provinces and territories to return much more of the $12 million that they took out of those budgets, which has had a tremendous negative impact on the provinces and territories and their ability to provide good health care services.
The Premier mentioned that she raised the issue of jurisdiction over resources, yet we did not hear - its funny, Mr. Speaker, she spoke out about it at the western premiers conference, but in her own throne speech and in the budget speech, there is not one mention of how she intends to proceed, particularly with the wrench in the spokes that the federal minister has thrown in the land claims process. I believe that devolution negotiations and processes are even more in jeopardy.
Mr. Speaker, in February 1998, federal Minister Paul Martin promised in his budget speech northern economic development funding. He made a very large commitment to the north, and Premier Okalik and Premier Kakfwi were quite upset, as was our former Government Leader about the lack of ability or desire by the federal government to made good on that 1998 commitment to the north for economic development funding for infrastructure.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has to speak out more strongly. I know she raised this issue, but that commitment is over two years old now, and we need to see this so-called special relationship, which the Liberals campaigned on in this territory, actually pay off for the real-life benefit of Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, we need those strong positions taken.
I heard today on the radio - at noon - that there was a commitment to the north for northern economic funding of some $10 million across the entire north. Its a mere pittance. It wont be a drop in the bucket for the Liberal government here to even come close to fulfilling a modicum of their election promises in this territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would say that theres a lot more work to be done by the Premier. We need her to stand up very forcefully on behalf of Yukoners on these important public policy issues. We need her to be out there expressing her views, not just when she goes into these conferences, but here in the territory when we have federal ministers like Mr. Nault come in here and take positions that affect the lives of Yukoners and are hurting our ability to provide certainty and create a good climate for investment, have land claims negotiations completed, to carry on with the implementation of the claims that are completed, and to move this territory ahead in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, would like to thank the Premier for her overview of her attendance at the western premiers conference.
Mr. Speaker, this ministerial statement by the Premier clearly demonstrates what is wrong with this new Liberal government. The Premier travelled all the way to Brandon, Manitoba to tell the western premiers about northern priorities, challenges and opportunities, and chose to highlight two issues of great importance to Yukoners: responsible economic development and devolution.
Mr. Speaker, Id like to ask you what is wrong with this picture. Id like the Premier to explain how she is going to proceed with responsible economic development and devolution without first dealing with what was supposed to be the top priority of this new government - the settlement of Yukon Indian land claims.
Why did the Premier choose to turn the spotlight on these two issues rather than focus on the obvious, the seven remaining outstanding land claims settlements? Whatever happened to the Liberal slogan of doing what they say they will do?
With all due respect, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners would have been much better served by having the Premier remain home to consult with Yukon First Nations about how to overcome the two major federal Liberal obstacles to settling land claims in Yukon: the taxation exemption issue and land claims negotiating loan repayment issue.
Perhaps the Premier, in her response, can explain how she is going to promote responsible economic development in the Yukon with half of the land claims remaining outstanding. Where is the certainty over land tenure going to be for investors, whom the Premier wishes to attract? What investors will want to come to the Yukon and invest in a project that could very well be challenged by First Nations before the courts?
Mr. Speaker, if the Premier cannot use her special relationship with Ottawa to bring the Minister of DIAND back to the negotiating table with a more open and positive attitude, then the courts, rather than the negotiating table, could become the forum utilized for dealing with the unresolved land claims.
It is time for her to pick up that red phone and dial Ottawa.
What about devolution? How does the Premier plan to proceed with devolution without any progress being made on land claims? Just how is that going to work? Does she have the agreement of the grand chief and the chiefs of the seven First Nations to proceed with devolution prior to achieving land claims settlements? I think not. Proceeding with devolution prior to achieving progress on land claims will only make devolution another obstacle in settling them.
The best economic development program the federal government could provide to Yukon is a change in attitude and a willingness to resolve the outstanding land claims.
The other issues raised at the western premiers conference, such as the sustainability of Canadas health care system and transportation infrastructure funding, serve to show just how out of step the federal Liberal government is with many Canadians.
It was the federal Liberals who slashed health care funding in the first place, causing the system to break down. Perhaps the Premiers close connection with Ottawa can help resolve Canadas health care problems as well.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier states that she is looking forward to the annual premiers conference in Winnipeg this August and will be away from the Yukon all next week, despite the fact that this is the first Liberal/NDP budget that has yet to pass this House. I would suggest that the Yukon may, in fact, be better served if she stayed focused more on the issues that demand her immediate attention here at home.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners have heard me speak very clearly for the last three years in this House. They have heard me speak as recently as in the last three days that the House has been sitting, on their doorsteps and in their communities.
I have spoken very clearly about this governments position on land claims. We consider land claims and the settlement of the seven outstanding claims to be a top priority. In this regard, since taking office, I have attended the principals meeting, and I have also had several meetings with the Grand Chief, Ed Schultz, and with our own officials. We are working very hard on settling the outstanding Yukon land claims issues. There are Government of Yukon issues to be resolved, and we are ensuring, as one of the parties at that table, that we are making absolute best efforts in that regard.
As to the question about why land claims and the settlement of land claims were not on the agenda at the western premiers conference, I can advise the member that that agenda is set some time in advance and was established well before my taking office. We dont choose the agenda at the last minute. However, I did use the opportunity to raise the issue of transboundary claims with Premier Dosanjh when I had the opportunity to do so.
With respect to the northern economic development strategy and the news report that the interim leader of the opposition heard on the radio, the member is making reference to the northern dimension of Canadas foreign policy that was announced this morning, and that the Member for Riverside is attending on behalf of the government. The $10 million is part of the northern dimension of Canadas foreign policy. It is not the northern economic development strategy that I made reference to in my remarks.
With regard to that northern economic development strategy, it is a commitment that the federal government has not delivered on, which was made in 1998. It is something that we are working very hard to ensure they deliver on. As has my predecessor in his communications with Minister Martin, I have also addressed communications to Minister Martin in that regard.
The members have commented on the strength of the arguments that I presented at the western premiers conference and the strength of the arguments that I presented in the House. Mr. Speaker, Yukoners will certainly be the judge of whether or not we are able to deliver on our commitments to Yukoners. Certainly, we on this side of the House are looking forward to doing our best to do just that.
1999 state of the environment report
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today in regard to the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report, a follow-up to the first report issued in 1995. Pursuant to the Environment Act, this report is required to be tabled in the Yukon Legislative Assembly. This second state of the environment report was prepared by the Government of the Yukon with the assistance of Canada, the Council of Yukon First Nations, the City of Whitehorse and Raven Recycling. It presents a status report of where the state of the Yukon environment stood in 1999. Scientists, government and non-government organizations, educators and industry can use this encyclopedic reference to monitor changes occurring with Yukons environment. State of the environment reports provide baseline information and an early warning of potential or emerging environmental problems, so that appropriate action can help us avoid or mitigate problems.
This major reference is not a policy document and does not make recommendations. The reports information can be used by decision makers when preparing policies and legislation intended to maintain a healthy environment.
They can use the report to track changes and progress that have occurred since the 1995 report was issued, identify challenges that have not been met since being noted in 1995 or identify challenges that have recently emerged.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many professionals, scientists and technicians who contributed to the science in this important work. Equally important is the contribution and perspective of the Yukon First Nation elders, whose work is part of this report. I would like to recognize the contribution of Stella Jim, Paddy Jim, Charlie Dick, Rodney Blackjack, Rowena Flynn, Johnny Smith, Henry Broeren and Matt Tom, as well as the assistance of the Council of Yukon First Nations for the excellent traditional knowledge work. This report is being sent to printers, and we hope to have it widely available in approximately three to four weeks.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I, too, would like to acknowledge the hard work put into the state of the environment report by all the individuals identified. If I had a copy of the report, I would be able to read their names out, too, Mr. Speaker, and pay tribute to that good work.
On the matter, it is my understanding that ministerial statements are to provide new policy to this House. What weve heard this afternoon is more of a tribute. I would suggest to the members opposite that they recall their own words when they were in opposition about calling us to task when they believed a ministerial statement was not a statement of new policy. From what we heard this afternoon, there is no new policy at all in this ministerial statement. It is completely void of anything of substance. It is more of a tribute.
The state of the environment report was published prior to this government coming into office. It is something that is a joint effort with the federal government and others.
What Yukoners are more interested in hearing, Mr. Speaker, is where this Liberal government stands on issues of importance to the environment.
This morning when we heard there was a major environmental policy statement coming down on the environment, I immediately thought we would be responding to some of the more critical issues, such as the mining in Tombstone Park issue that was raised in this House during the first week. Instead, we heard a tribute to a report containing no new policy at all.
I think its time for the Liberal government to clearly state their position on the environment, tell Yukoners what they intend to accomplish on the environment. Such direction was also missing from the throne speech, Mr. Speaker. So far, theyve had the opportunities to tell us what theyre going to do on the environment. They had the opportunity in the supplementary budget to finance new environmental initiatives, but nothing was done. Nothing at all.
They say they believe in the Yukon protected areas strategy, but they dont have a plan to implement it. When will we see protected areas, parks and special management areas in the Yukon that are representative of all the ecoregions in the territory?
A few weeks ago, Mr. Speaker, the Premier was quick to lay out $250,000 for the prospectors. There was nothing for the environment. It would have been a perfect opportunity, while she was in Dawson City meeting with the various stakeholders, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and others, to announce a policy statement on the environment, but there was nothing.
Yukoners are wondering what the Liberals record is on the environment, Mr. Speaker. They had a platform in the last election. What is in it? In opposition, we heard them talk about a number of matters including Tetra Paks and flaking bridge paint. They were talking about the protected areas strategy. So far, we havent heard anything in response to their previous positions.
It was one thing then and nothing now. If this last week is any indication of what this government is taking on the environment, then I would suggest that Yukoners are very disappointed. There has been very little of any substance. I hope that we wont have to wait long to hear their position on some of these issues -
Speaker: I would ask the member to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins:I rise to respond to this ministerial statement on the tabling of the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report.
I would like to initially thank all of those who participated and worked so hard toward the development of the study and this report and thank them for their involvement. Pursuant to the Environment Act, a state of the environment report is to be completed once every three years, along with interim reports in the intervening years. The purpose of state of the environment reporting as outlined in the Environment Act is to provide early warning and analysis of the potential problems for the environment, to allow the public to monitor progress toward the achievements of the objects of the Environment Act and to provide baseline information for environmental planning assessment and regulations. In short, it is designed to answer four basic questions: what is happening in the environment, why is it happening, what is its significance and what are we doing about it?
As a minister also stated, the report is required to be tabled in the Yukon Legislative Assembly as pursuant to the Environment Act. While I am pleased to hear that the minister has a good understanding of what the Yukon state of the environment report is all about and what its purpose is, I would have much rather heard him speak about the contents of the 1999 report. Better yet, I would much rather have had the minister provide the members opposite with a copy in advance, so that we could have responded in an appropriate manner.
As I seem to recall, the previous NDP government was often criticized for not providing copies of reports to members opposite well in advance of receiving a ministerial statement, and rightly so. As former members of the opposite bench, members of the new government are fully aware that it is simply out of courtesy that information be provided to the oppositions prior to it being tabled - particularly when this information is the subject of the ministerial statement. I would have really thought that, having been on this side of the House, this new Liberal government would have learned from the previous governments mistakes. So much for promises. So much for the Liberal slogan of doing what they say they will do.
In the future, perhaps the minister could postpone making statements until documents are made available to members in advance before he and his colleagues choose to take another opportunity to grandstand instead of tending to the business of the day. The information contained in this ministerial statement does not qualify as a ministerial statement.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to receiving the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report and hearing more about its progress.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do appreciate the comments that floated across the House. I was hoping that there would be more of a positive response. I will check with the Clerk to see if documents accompanying the ministerial statements can be provided earlier. I am not quite sure of the practice, but I will check with the Clerk on that. The concerns that were brought up by members opposite, that it did not indicate policy, I dont believe that the environment report was meant to be a standing on policy. It is meant, as the Member for Klondike rather eloquently put it, primarily as baseline information, and it is to provide early warning and potential for emerging environmental concerns. That is where this government will be designing its policy. The members opposite will be seeing that there is definitely a Liberal plan that we will be forwarding at a later time.
So, I hope that the members opposite will exercise a little patience, and we will get the information to them just as complete and as honest, open and transparent as this Liberal government committed itself to doing during the election and post-election.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tombstone Park, mining claims
Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Finally, we are sensing some clarity in the confused Liberal position on mining in parks. The Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources have both said that they do not believe that mining belongs in parks, and specifically not in Tombstone Territorial Park. Does the minister agree with the recent decision by the federal government to grant a mining developer a five-year exploration permit within the boundaries of Tombstone Territorial Park?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member has directed a question concerning the Tombstone Park and previous statements from this party and government with respect to Tombstone Park and the mine. I would like to restate for the member that the Yukon government respects the federal governments existing review process for mining land use, as we have stated consistently in opposition and as we have previously stated.
The Liberal government is faced with a situation that was created by the previous administration. Legitimate claims were staked and, after they were staked, the previous government placed a park around them. That is a point of fact, and the member well knows it. I would remind the member that the position of this government is not going to change. We respect the process.
Mr. McRobb: Ill be sure to bring the Premiers response to the attention of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, and Ill be glad to see what they have to say about it. Were all aware that an exploration permit is not the same as a mining permit, but the result of this decision by the federal government has added to the uncertainty about this Liberal governments commitment to keep mining out of parks. This matter is urgent.
The management plan for the Tombstone Park is now being designed. Let me ask the Minister of Renewable Resources - and I would ask the minister to respond, because Yukoners want to hear his position - the following question: what specific steps is he taking to ensure that Tombstone Territorial Park will remain a wilderness park, as required under the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have written to Minister Nault with respect to this issue, and I would be happy to provide the member opposite with a copy of that letter if he wishes.
Mr. McRobb: Very disappointing, Mr. Speaker.
The Liberals have said that the Yukon government should buy out the existing claims - period, full stop. The minister is responsible for ensuring that the Tombstone Territorial Park management plan is fully implemented.
Once again, my question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources. Is he now prepared to act on his governments promise to buy out the existing claims, and if so, when will the purchase offer to the claim holders be made?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I find it very disappointing, Mr. Speaker, that, when we offer to share information, the member reacts so negatively.
I have indicated I have written to the minister on this issue, and Im happy to provide a copy of the letter to the member opposite, should he wish it. There are a variety of interests and concerns here: we have a Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement; we have legitimately staked mining interests; we have a federal government that has responsibility in this area. The Yukon government is one voice in this process, and our government has consistently stated that we are working toward a negotiated settlement of the mining interests in this area, and thats what we are doing, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Tombstone Park, mining claims
Mr. McRobb: Well, thats very disappointing, Mr. Speaker. I think Yukoners expected more from the Premier and this Liberal government than excuses on why they arent taking action.
We know theres going to be a buyout, so theres nothing to be gained by a lot of fancy dancing. The Liberals told the voters there should be a buyout. They demanded a buyout by the previous government. The minister wants a buyout. The federal minister wants a buyout. But yesterday, the Premier tried to deny they ever said buyout.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals campaigned on creating certainty. Let me ask the Premier this: how can she create certainty for the Yukon public when theres so much uncertainty and confusion within her own caucus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I indicated a moment ago, in response to a previous question, and Ill say it again for the member, that this government wants a negotiated settlement on this issue and, to that end, we have taken action and written to the federal minister. As well, we have written to the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. I am quite prepared to provide my letter to the minister, Robert Nault, to the member opposite. I am more than prepared to provide that letter, as I have previously stated.
I have also said that there are a variety of interests at work here and we are one party. We have a Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement, we have legitimately staked mining interests and legislation around them, and we have the federal government that also has responsibility in this area. This government is interested in a negotiated settlement and those are the steps we have taken with the federal government. We have written to the federal government and to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. I have offered to provide the letters. Im not certain what more the member opposite wants.
Mr. McRobb: There is no end to the excuses as to why they cant take action. Yukoners expected a lot more, listening to them during the campaign and when they were in opposition. To them, it was a simple matter. They urged us to buy out the claims. Now, they are in government, they have the power to do it, and all we hear are reasons why they cant do it.
My follow-up question is for the Premier. We know that the developer has said that hes not interested in being bought out, and who can blame him? With a five-year exploration permit in hand, hes in a pretty good bargaining position, and the meter is ticking. The price is going up every day. When will her government buy out the claims so it can honour its commitment to creating Tombstone Park as a wilderness park, without increasing the financial burden on Yukon taxpayers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, lets review a little history for the member. The reason that were in this situation is because of the inaction of the previous NDP government. This government has stated repeatedly that we are interested in a negotiated settlement; there are mining interests; the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement is in place; and the federal government also has responsibility. We are interested in a negotiated settlement. We have written to Minister Nault on this issue and to the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation. We have taken action - something that is foreign to the members opposite because they did nothing on this issue, and thats why were in this mess in the first place.
Mr. McRobb: Here we go again. They blame the previous government for everything. Its time for them to take responsibility. They have been in government almost two months now. The Premier has met with the Minister of Northern Affairs. They could have put an arrangement together. She says they didnt even talk about it, Mr. Speaker. Their principal secretary said it was on the agenda. Its really confusing to hold this government accountable on this issue. As critic for Renewable Resources, its very difficult to nail them down about what they did and didnt do based on what they have told us because the contradictions are plentiful.
Once again to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, the federal minister told the environment community they would contribute to a buyout if the territorial government would ante up. In other words, he expected the Premier to pull out her chequebook first. When will the Premier settle this matter once and for all?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, by failing to ask to have the land withdrawn when they took office, after presenting a thousand-name petition to this Legislature, we had legitimate mining claims staked in this area. The fact that they are there and the fact that we are dealing with this situation and - Mr. Speaker, Id remind members that we are dealing with it. We have recognized that there is more than just the Government of Yukon involved in these discussions. We have written to the federal minister. We have written to the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. Im happy - as I have said earlier no less than three times or more in this House - to provide the member with my letter to Minister Nault. This government is interested in a negotiated settlement and thats what were taking action to try and reach.
Question re: Tombstone Park, mining claims
Mr. Fentie: Well, it looks like the Premier has added Renewable Resources to the smorgasbord of portfolios she has taken on and maybe thats why we cant get an answer on this question. The rudder has fallen off the Liberal flagship from overload.
The Premier points to the fact that the Yukon government is only one party on this issue. Well, let me point out to the Premier that the other parties are waiting for the Yukon government to state the case, to proceed with resolving this issue, including the Minister of Indian Affairs.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government has, on many occasions, made much of the fact that it is a government that will do what it says. It will do. And in opposition, they said a lot. During the campaign, they said a lot.
Given the fact that the Liberal government has said there will be no mining in parks, and the solution for the Tombstone claims is a buyout, my question to the Premier is this: will the Premier now inform this House how they intend to do what they said they would do in regard to buying out the Tombstone claims or are they going to allow mining in Tombstone, given the fact that there are now five more years of exploration taking place? Which will it be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I want to reassure the member opposite that this caucus, including all of Cabinet, works as a partnership.
Mr. Speaker, I would restate for the members opposite: this government is faced with a situation that was created by the previous administration. Legitimate claims were staked and, after they were staked, the previous government put a park around them. Those are the facts.
The member has asked what action we have taken. I have indicated to his colleague, the Member for Kluane, that I have written to Minister Nault. If the Member for Watson Lake wants a copy of that letter, Ill be happy to provide it to him.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I thank the Premier for that. At least that will be some evidence of what the Liberals intend to do. Would she please table that for this House?
Mr. Speaker, weve established the fact, over the last few days in this Legislature, that its true that the Liberals were demanding that the Yukon government buy out the claims. Its also very clear that they oppose mining in parks.
Furthermore, the Premier states that the NDP put a park around the claims. Thats not the case at all. The Tombstone is a product of a First Nations final agreement. The Liberals, in opposition, disregarded that fact and demanded that the Yukon government buy out those claims.
Will the Premier now confirm that it is indeed the Liberal governments position that there will be no mining in parks and that it is their intention to buy out the Tombstone claims? Will she now confirm to this House that that is the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Ill confirm to this House a number of things. By failing to ask to have the land withdrawn, the NDP government, as they were then, failed Yukoners. They failed the 1,000 people who put their names on a petition asking for just that. Their failure is something that this government is dealing with, and were dealing with it by trying to reach a negotiated settlement, by taking action as one of the parties involved. By taking action and initiating discussions, we are attempting to reach a negotiated settlement on this issue.
Question re: Tombstone Park, mining claims
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Liberal government and the Premier cant hide behind the NDP government on this one, as they did with the budget that they just tabled in this House. It is a fact that the Premier has cast a blanket of uncertainty over the mining industry in this territory over this issue. The Liberal government now has the opportunity to correct a glaring contradiction of their commitments to Yukon people. The Liberals have found $1 million for a signing bonus for the teachers, they have $250,000 more for prospector grants, and they have $60 million left in the bank by the NDP government.
My question to the Premier is this: for the sake of certainty for the mining industry, will the Premier now begin negotiating a buyout with the company for the Tombstone claims - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the glaring point that the member seems to have forgotten is the 1,000-name petition that the NDP opposition presented to this House asking for the land to be withdrawn, and then in government, it took them more than seven months to act, and thats why we have this problem in this first place.
Im not hiding behind anything. Im pointing out the NDP facts. Those are the facts of the situation.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Ill be delighted to share my solution with the members opposite. The solution is that this government, as one of the interests at the table, wants to reach a negotiated settlement, and we have taken steps to do that. I have already indicated to the member opposite that I would be pleased to provide copies of my correspondence to Minister Nault on this issue. Ill be happy to do that. If the members wish that I should table it - although this is not the appropriate time - Ill be happy to do so when the House next sits.
Question re: Land claims, unresolved issues
Mr. Jenkins: My question today is for the Premier.
At some point in time, I would appreciate the Premier explaining the difference between purchase and buy. As I see it, its a distinction without a difference.
However, my question today concerns land claims. Yukon Indian land claims have taken 27 years to negotiate, and we still have seven claims unsettled. Mr. Speaker, I cant see any of the seven First Nations ratifying their claim if they are required to pay back between 55 and 65 percent of their land claims compensation money to the federal Liberal government to cover the negotiating costs. Effectively, the Liberals are blaming Yukon First Nations for all of the delays in settling land claims. I dont think that this is very fair whatsoever.
Earlier today, I read into the record a motion that would attribute the delays in settling land claims to all three parties, and believe that this recognition by both territorial and federal governments should result in a negotiated agreement enabling Yukon First Nations to retain a more equitable portion of their land claims settlement compensation.
Will the Premier and her colleagues support this Yukon Party position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Id be happy to elaborate on the Yukon Liberal position with respect to land claims. We have indicated that the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims is our top priority. We have taken action in this regard on a number of points, as I outlined earlier. First of all, I met with the Grand Chief at the earliest opportunity, and we have also met since the principals meeting to discuss a number of land claims issues. We are working actively with the Grand Chief and with other chiefs with outstanding land claims in efforts to ensure that we are, in fact, doing what we said wed do, and ensuring settlement of these land claims is our top priority.
I would remind the member that it has been a long four years since there has been a land claims settlement, and were looking forward to improving upon that.
Mr. Jenkins:Well, four of the seven remaining land claims are hung up on the payback of the negotiating funds and the taxation issue - both federal. During the recent election campaign, Yukon Liberals made much of their Ottawa connection between them and the Yukon Liberals and that they would be able to use that special relationship to make the federal Liberals more responsible to Yukon issues and concerns. I havent seen it demonstrated yet. Mr. Speaker, I have referred to it as the umbilical cord that ties this Yukon Liberal government to the mother Liberal government in Ottawa.
Will the Premier undertake to use this special relationship to make the Minister of DIAND change his mind about placing the full blame of not settling land claims on the Yukon First Nations? Will she go back, use her influence - which may or may not be there - get the minister back to the table and get him off those two points and ready to negotiate on them? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier of this territory, I committed to all Yukoners that the settlement of land claims would be our top priority. It has been since taking office, and it will continue to be our top priority until we can reach a settlement on these seven outstanding claims. I have indicated to the member opposite that I have taken steps in this regard, and I will continue to ensure we make best efforts to do that.
Yukon also has issues that are outstanding at the land claims tables, and we are making sure that we are resolving those issues, and negotiators are making best efforts as I am.
Mr. Jenkins:The issue is one of the first orders of importance. It has been identified by all of us as the settlement of land claims before we can move ahead, yet the Premier identifies all sorts of other issues and the western premiers conference - this has not come to the forefront yet. The Minister of DIAND, in his attendance at the gold show, threw a bomb right on the table.
Now I dont underestimate the challenge facing the Premier to get the current minister to change his mind. I am hoping that it wont be a mission impossible as it stands, but there will be no progress in the settling of the land claims until the minister comes back to the table and those two issues are dealt with- negotiating of the dollars and payback, and the taxation issue.
The economy of the Yukon wont move ahead until theres some certainty surrounding land claims. Will the Premier undertake to put this at the top of the list, not just pay lip service, and do something about it - get the Minister of DIAND back to the table, get him to do something? Or are we going to have to wait until the next federal election, until theres a new minister of DIAND or perhaps a new federal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike has made reference so often to the forthcoming federal election, I wonder if hes planning to change his house of location.
No one is underestimating the challenges before us - no one. We are one party. The Government of the Yukon is one party at the table. As a party at the table, we have a number of issues that are in our domain to resolve, and we are working on those. Negotiators are working on those. There are meetings taking place. As the minister responsible for land claims and devolution, I am being briefed regularly on the land claims issues. I have met regularly and will continue to meet with the Grand Chief on these issues. We are also going to continue our best efforts with respect to the other parties at the table.
Question re: Chilkoot Centre, Argus mall development
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Premier, and it is with regard to the Argus development. The Liberals have criticized at great length and campaigned against the Argus development, specifically with regard to the Yukon governments financial contribution to the off-site infrastructure. The Premier has continually resisted answering questions on this matter by stating that the Liberal government will not tear up signed agreements.
My question to the Premier is this: now that the City of Whitehorse has served notice to the developer that it is in default, will the Premier now retract the $750,000 contribution from the Yukon government - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member is so interested in the details of the agreement, why doesnt he ask his colleague, who negotiated it?
Im happy to answer the question for the member. The answer for the member is that its not this governments job to enforce the covenants by the developer and its not this governments job to issue the default notice under the agreement. Its not our role within the agreement. The member can ask and re-ask, and re-ask; its not our role within the agreement. And if he wants the details of the agreement, I encourage him to ask his colleague, who negotiated it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, thats simply not good enough. The Premier and the Liberals across the floor are the government. Whats the point of me asking my colleague? You make the decisions now; youre not in opposition any more. Given the fact that the city has served a notice of default, the said agreement that the Premier is hiding behind has now been drop-kicked through the goalposts of life and is quite dead.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has a decision to make. Will the Premier live up to the position the Premier herself and her Liberal colleagues have taken in opposition and during the campaign, and take back the $750,000 in off-site infrastructure or leave it with the city? Which will it be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Its not this governments role under the agreement to enforce the covenants by the developer. Its not this governments job to issue a default notice. Under the terms of the agreement, it is the City of Whitehorse and the citys engineer that make that choice. This government, unlike some other governments, respects the rights of other governments to make their own decisions about the interpretation -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: - this government respects the rights of other governments to enforce the decisions about the interpretation of the agreement that they are a party to. Its not this governments role to enforce the convenants by the developer or to make the citys decision. There are duly elected officials at the city and a city engineer who, under the terms of the agreement, make that decision. And I am certainly, as another level of government, not going to tell them how to make their own decisions. Thats their right, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the city has made a decision. It has given notice of default as of June 1.
Mr. Speaker, this is looking more and more like a government that does not do what it said it would do. The Liberals were clear in opposition and during the election. The Member for Whitehorse Centre stated during the election, "Election time is when voters have a say. Any opponents to the Argus project should ask their NDP candidates to be accountable for their support of this project. When the corporate welfare is withdrawn, Argus can then decide whether it wants to build on a level playing field." Theres the Premiers colleague clearly stating when he uses the term "corporate welfare is withdrawn" that its a Liberal position.
I go on, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. The Premier has stated in her budget response - the very same budget that the Liberal government has tabled in this Legislature, and I quote, "$750,000 for a multi-million company to develop a mall in downtown Whitehorse and $125,000 to help single mothers deal with custody and maintenance issues through the legal aid office." And I remind the members that the Liberals have tabled the same budget.
Mr. Speaker, this is the Liberal budget. The Liberals are on record. Yes, the deal is dead. Will the Premier now recoup the $750,000 and allocate the funds to legal aid to help those single mothers she so cared about a few short weeks ago, or will she leave it with the city? The Premier has a decision to make. Which will it be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you for the opportunity to remind members that the $750,000 was in the 1999-00 budget, not as I had indicated yesterday in my response.
Its not this governments job to enforce the covenants of the agreement by the developer. Its not this governments job to issue a default notice under the agreement. Thats the choice of the city and the choice of the city engineer.
If the member opposite has an issue with the way the agreement was negotiated, and certainly we have talked about the way the agreement was negotiated, I invite him to talk with his colleague. We didnt negotiate this agreement. The covenants of the agreement are as follows: that the Government of the Yukon does not enforce the covenants by the developer, nor do we issue a default notice. Thats the role of the city and the city engineer.
I would also remind members that, if the project does not proceed, it will not falter as a result of the Yukon government.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 3: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 3, Second Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 3, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, by way of this bill, we are requesting an additional $1,653,000 in spending authority for the current year.
These monies are required for several items that are immediate priorities of our government. The first is an increase in the vote for the Executive Council Office. We are acting as a conduit for the federal governments contribution to l'Association des Franco-Yukonnais centre. This expenditure is, of course, totally recoverable and has no impact on our surplus-deficit position. We recognize the importance of this project to our francophone citizens and welcome the federal recognition of its value to Yukon.
The second item for which funds are needed is to increase the monies to be made available under the Yukon mining incentive program for prospecting, exploration and development activity. This is an initiative, Mr. Speaker, that the mining industry itself and a number of individuals have said is a key point to expressing our encouragement for them and our encouragement of their activities. This $250,000 increase was announced by me at the Dawson gold show and is recognition by us of the critical importance of mining to our Yukon economy. This initiative will go some way to improving the viability of the industry and will, we hope, pay large dividends in the future.
During the election campaign, we promised to enhance student assistance grants. These are grants that many Yukoners, including many members of my own caucus, have received in the past, and I look around the business community, the professional community of Yukon - doctors, nurses, many teachers - who, as Yukon students, have received this funding, have obtained their post-secondary education and have then returned to Yukon and are making valuable contributions to Yukon life. The request in the Department of Education for $496,000 represents a 20-percent increase in these grants, and it is the fulfilment of our commitment to young Yukoners during the election campaign.
Its not simply a commitment to young Yukoners, but there are many parents who are assisting these Yukoners to attend post-secondary institutions, as well, and I would be remiss if I did not mention that. Of course, I need not remind members of the rising costs of education and the difficulty our students and their parents have in meeting these costs.
One sample university that we looked at, Mr. Speaker, has shown an increase in tuition costs in excess of 110 percent since the last time that these grants were even examined for an increase. Im absolutely delighted that with the passage of this supplementary and acceptance of it by the House, we will be able to put these in place for September of this year. The additional funds we are devoting to these purposes will address some of these problems to a large extent.
Mr. Speaker, we are asking the House to approve almost $200,000 more in the Department of Justice for the youth leadership project. Our youth are our future, and the activities to be undertaken with this initiative will help prepare them for the years ahead, when they will be sitting where we are today.
Mr. Speaker, it is apparent that our government has many other priorities and plans for the improvement of the quality of life for our citizens. We will be addressing these in future budgets. The contents of this supplementary are only a beginning, and I look forward to the support of all members for its passage.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, todays supplementary was, I must say, quite a surprise for us - or, the supplementary when it was introduced that were speaking to today. We had expected, given the extent of the Liberal promises in the election campaign and what they had said, that this supplementary budget would contain much more of a reflection of those financial commitments.
The Liberals made a lot of promises, Mr. Speaker. Today, I read a motion into the record about all the promises they made to seniors and elders in this territory, with staggering cost implications. They have got to get started now, if they even hope to deliver on them.
They made promises for a new jail in the vicinity of $20 million capital construction.
Mr. Speaker, this government is rapidly gaining a persona for skirting the issues and for doing the exact opposite of what they said they were going to do.
If you look at tax cuts, they said they were going to bring more tax cuts in as the tax cuts we brought in were not good enough. Yet, Mr. Speaker, we now hear them backing off.
On Argus - they campaigned against Argus, the off-site infrastructure commitment, but now, today, the Premier says once again, "Its not my problem." The city has said they are in default, so the territory would be well within its right to ask for that $750,000 back, Mr. Speaker, and they could put it into dialysis; they could put it into child care; they could put it into legal aid, or any number of areas. They campaigned against this particular initiative.
When we look at legal aid, we heard the hues and cries from the Liberal benches about the lack of funding in the budget we proposed. They demanded money now and they said anything else was an excuse. But, Mr. Speaker, do we see anything in this supplementary? Absolutely not.
Mr. Speaker, they said one thing about FAS and FAE funding being in a crisis situation, and theyve done another by putting no money in this budget for that particular project.
They said they were going to put more money into software development so that our trained technical people in this territory would have some work opportunities and would be able to do more in this territory and stay here and improve the IT industry. But, Mr. Speaker, weve seen none of that.
Mr. Speaker, when it comes to highway construction and maintenance, promises that they made to increase highway construction and maintenance, we have seen none of that in this budget.
This supplementary budget has been devoid of any of the numerous commitments they have made.
But, Mr. Speaker, we have to give them credit on the issue they made. It was a nice little move that they made in the election. I have to give them credit for increasing the student financial assistance. I know every student out there who is struggling from the Liberal cuts in Ottawa saw that as a pretty enticing little thing to seize hold of, and Im sure they got some significant votes as a result of that. But I have to tell the members opposite, much as its good that they increased the student financial assistance grant here in the territory, the real problem is in Ottawa where the Liberal government has been hacking and slashing grants to post secondary education, which is hurting all Yukon and Canadian students. Youll see protests of tens of thousands of students around this country who are feeling the pinch of this reality brought to them, courtesy of the Chrétien government in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, I also have to say that, with regard to the youth initiative that is in the budget, we are always pleased to support initiatives for youth in the territory. We are not quite sure exactly how this particular funding initiative is going to work in its entirety yet, but we certainly consider funds directed in the area of working with youth to be a good investment. We made many of them, and the NDP official opposition will certainly be supportive of the initiatives put forward in that direction.
In the area of the Yukon mining incentive program - of course that program was created by a former NDP government - and the grant that they proposed, I suppose the prospectors would always say that it would be a good investment and you could always provide more grants. However, I want to ask a question: when you weigh more grants for the prospectors against a lack of funding for legal aid in this budget, when you weigh them against lack of funding for increased alcohol and drug services, for services to seniors and for more home care, and when you weigh them against the lack of funding that they put into youth, you have to question what their priorities are. And, really, what that particular initiative was about was the fact that the Liberal Premier went up to the gold show without anything to say about real issues like the development assessment process, blue-book revamping, the federal mine permitting system or the land claims process. They had to say something so they said, "Well, lets give a grant increase." Mr. Speaker, I hope it does something for the mining industry, but one has to wonder, given all the levels of commitments out there, whether thats going to have the right impact.
Mr. Speaker, we are very concerned about the mixed messages and the questionable priorities of the members opposite. They are in a honeymoon period with the Yukon electorate. They have shown themselves in the four days of this sitting to have a questionable level of competence. People in rural Yukon are very, very concerned about the direction that this government is taking the territory, that they cannot state equivocally any vision or any sense of future direction. They have indicated no desire in the throne speech to reach out to rural Yukon and the people there.
In their supplementary budget, they have ignored commitments they made to increase water and sewer, infrastructure and recreation funding for rural Yukon. That could have been reflected in this supplementary budget.
They still have not announced how they intend to make the community development fund more accountable. Many in rural Yukon are wondering what that means precisely, whether its going to mean its more bureaucratic, whether the funding is cut, whether people will be able to have their MLAs represent them in terms of forwarding their priorities.
Mr. Speaker, this budget could have been increased $750,000 simply by doing what they said they were going to do with regard to Argus. They said they wouldnt tear up a signed agreement. Well, Mr. Speaker the agreement is in default and the city has served notice. They could legitimately ask the city - or the case could be made - for that funding back. Now today she says it will go ahead regardless of the $750,000. Well, I challenge her to try that. Why doesnt she take the $750,000 back? Ask the city for it?
That money was given for a specific purpose for off-site water and sewer. The Member for Whitehorse Centre said it was corporate welfare. But, Mr. Speaker, what a difference an election makes. The Liberals say one thing and do another. It is staggering just how many examples of that we have just exposed in this little mini session, in which we have had a little, mini throne speech and a little, mini supplementary budget, with little, mini answers from the government ministers - very mini answers.
But you know, Mr. Speaker, I have got to give the Liberal Premier credit. She skirted the issue of Tombstone fairly well today, but that decision will come home to roost. With regard to the mistakes she continues to attribute with regard to the Tombstone Park, which we cant wait to fax up to the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, I want to say to her that we cant wait to see how she handles interim protection through her revamped Yukon protected area strategy. She's going to have fun with that one, and well enjoy it as well. We will enjoy it a lot because there are a lot more protected areas to be created. Interim protection is going to require - if they want to avoid this problem that she has referred to as inaction - interim withdrawal of an entire study area at the earliest possible stage of identification of a protected area.
No doubt, this will cause some consternation in the mining industry. So, I cant wait for the new minister to stickhandle that little puppy around - and well help him with it.
Mr. Speaker, we saw today how a government that works in partnership gets the Renewable Resources minister muzzled. We saw how a Premier has got the bulk of the portfolios of the government and wont even let the new Renewable Resources minister answer a question in the Legislature from the Renewable Resources critic. Thats some kind of partnership. Thats some kind of leadership. And that shows a lot of faith in the new Renewable Resources minister. Im not surprised, but thats going to bear out well in the coming months and years for the opposition parties in the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say about this supplementary budget that we were taken aback by the lack of funding commitments, and we were disappointed in how much the Liberals played on the emotions of the people of this territory - social assistance, people with FAS/FAE and people with needs in the health care system. All of these things they said were important to them, but with $60 million in the bank and hundreds of officials working for them, a stroke of the pen could have put more in this supplementary budget for these people they said they cared about. But no, thats not to be the case.
So, what can the opposition say at this point? Were waiting and seeing, like every other Yukoner. They can get through the odd Question Period without completely falling apart, but they are going to have to make some decisions - until, of course, we have to get a question to the Minister of Tourism, and then the show is going to be over. I only wish she was the Health and Social Services minister. It was a good move by the Premier not to give her that. Thats okay - we havent forgotten, and the new minister will be hearing all about them.
The media is starting to report how the Liberal government said one thing and how opposition comments are starting to haunt them. Oh, I see the Premier rolling her eyes. She loves to do that. She bats her eyes and sniffs everything off and taunts across the floor, "We won, you lost; we won, you lost; we won, you lost," as she gloats about the election results.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: We, the Liberal government, would like to see professional conduct. We would appreciate it if the members on the other side also displayed professional conduct. Making personal references on a point of order is inappropriate.
Speaker: The Member for Faro, on the point of order.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I am merely pointing out the actions of the members opposite. If the member opposite laughs in this Legislature, is it out of order for me to point out that the members opposite laughed? We believe in professional conduct. Wed like to see it from the Liberal benches. Wed like to see the House leader read the rule book.
Speaker: There is no point of order.
Mr. Harding:There are so many spurious points of order from the Liberals, who are espousing professional conduct. I wont go into what happened yesterday in this House about professional conduct, because I believe there was a sincere apology made. But, Mr. Speaker, if they continue, we are going to have to point out to people that, again, even in that area theyre saying one thing and doing another.
So, Mr. Speaker, let me get back to my comments on the supplementary budget. As the Liberals gloat about the fact they won and say over and over again in the House that they won and the others lost, theyre only two months in, but even in those two months they could have done a lot more to live up to the commitments they made. But theyll be given some time by the people who voted for them, and for a while theyll probably get away with blaming the previous government for everything, whether its the Tombstone claims - no matter what commitments they made to resolving it - or land claims, or whether its Argus. But well make sure that people start doing what they did to us when we were in government; they started asking us for our position and start demanding decisions of the government.
And when we made them, we got some supporters and we got some detractors, and thats whats going to happen with the Liberal government. And, Mr. Speaker, the way they are handling these issues by continuing to skirt them is only making our questions that much stronger for the fall, because they are skirting the issues, they are blaming the previous government, they are bidding up the price of things like the Tombstone claims. Every day they wait. You know, the federal minister gets on the radio and says, "I cant make a move until I hear from the Premier." She has written a letter to him. Well, its going to take more than a letter; its going to take a cheque. Thats the move hes talking about.
And of course, Mr. Speaker, theyre going to try and say different things to different people. I cant wait to hear the speeches they make about revamping the protected areas strategy. There will be a lot of people who want to see major changes in the mining industry - a lot of people. Some of them are campaign managers for the Liberals, and some of them were candidates. But those arent the changes that the folks in the environmental community want to see. When she talks about solving the inaction problem of the territorial government under the NDP, Im looking forward to seeing how she handles the protected areas strategy revamping.
Mr. Speaker, Im surprised that theres no money in the supplementary budget for the mineral strategy. This was an issue that the Premier had chastised the former government for, and she had said that there should be more funding in there for the implementation of the mineral strategy. That again is something thats not in this particular document.
Mr. Speaker, we heard yesterday that the Premier is going to be cutting the tax cuts the NDP brought forward. This is an interesting move, considering she said that they should have been increased more when they were announced. She talked yesterday about how she cant continue the sustained spending of the NDP. Well, that is a big joke, because all that she has done since she came in is to spend more. And this supplementary doesnt even include the $500,000 of this fiscal year thats going to go out in signing bonuses to the YTA members.
So, Mr. Speaker, the O&M costs of government are going up. This is from a Premier who told us she didnt believe in red ink or current year deficit financing. She didnt believe in tapping into the surplus. "Pay as you go," she said, "Thats what Yukon families have to do with their households." Im looking forward to watching the balancing act in the next budget she brings forward, particularly the supplementary in the fall, because she cant have it both ways. Either she believes in red ink or shes going to present a balanced budget. If she presents a balanced budget, Im interested in seeing what programs and what services for Yukoners shes going to cut, and we already know shes going after the NDP tax cuts for Yukoners. Shes going to cut.
Mr. Speaker, with those types of decisions will come a greater sense of accountability for the members opposite and well be there, right along with them, to ensure that the people of the Yukon see that decisions rest in their lap. They are there now, but theyll be given a little more time.
Even our caucus, when we came into this legislative sitting, expected more. We didnt expect to see such chaos on the benches opposite, such unpreparedness for the legislative debate, a throne speech that was so hollow, a supplementary that was so lame, an inability to give clear answers to questions and an inability to make decisions. We thought they would have done more at this point. We were actually quite surprised. We thought they would have been, well, better, frankly, but we had, I guess, overestimated their ability.
Certainly, they convinced a lot of Yukoners they believed in a lot of things that, so far, they havent demonstrated through any of their actions that they did. Quite the contrary. Theyve done precisely the opposite of what they said they were going to do, and as we listen to the media reports and the media talking about legal aid and Tombstone and the areas that they have already flip-flopped on, such as tax increases and numerous other areas, Mr. Speaker, its becoming readily apparent to Yukon people that they are not a government who does what they say they are going to do.
Theyre not a government that has the policy wherewithal to deal with certainty. As a matter of fact, they have just created more uncertainty. The folks from Canadian United Minerals must be just wringing their hands.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Speaker, this is just going to go on and on and on. I am certainly looking forward to the debate, but I wish the government would take some action, because Canadian United Minerals - for every day that the federal minister says he is waiting on the Premier to make a move, I think hes bidding up the price. Of course, now weve had such a conundrum in the Liberal caucus. There are newsletters going out saying, "The Liberal position is simple. It is to buy out the claims." There are headlines in the paper: "Duncan says, Buy out the claims." The new Renewable Resources minister is saying, "Were going to buy out the claims." Then, in an irony of ironies - it was a huge guffaw for us yesterday when the Premier stood up to clarify the record: "We never said wed buy out the claims." It was hilarious then when the Member for Klondike tabled the documents proving that thats not the case at all. They dont have a clue about what theyre doing over there, Mr. Speaker. They dont know what they said. We heard about that in the media and on the radio. Its going to become a mantra for the members opposite.
It is interesting to note, as well, that for a Premier who was very critical about business trips made by the previous government, she is toodling off next week. She just toodled off to the western premiers conference and came home empty-handed. She is going off again. She had some Chinese officials in here the other day. I wonder if she told him how she chastised any kind of activity with China, and what a waste it was, and how she dismissed the possibility that theres anything Chinese investors could want in the Yukon - or vice versa - for Yukon business people.
She chastised the fact that there are ever going to be any tourism opportunities for Yukoners with China. I think thats pretty short-sighted, considering there are thousands and thousands of companies and people lining up to try and get a piece of those markets, because they are so huge, as they open up their economies. But, you know, she has an inferiority complex for the territory and doesnt think that Yukon people can go out there and do business. I read in the media reports that officials had a meeting with Total Point Communications.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, we in the Yukon Liberal government believe it is important to model professional behaviour in the Legislature. We would like to encourage all members of this Legislature to model professional behaviour. The remark just made by the member opposite does not reflect that principle. The remark that member just made imputes false motives, as stated in the Standing Order. Our leader does not have an inferiority complex for the Yukon Territory. That is imputing a false motive and a false idea in our member. If she states it publicly, it is one thing. If it is imputed to her, it is another.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the members opposite have not modelled professional conduct in this Legislature. We have seen it with these spurious points of order. I simply stated that if she thinks that Yukoners have an inferiority complex, then that will be reflected in her policies. Thats a perfectly legitimate point of debate. Its not inappropriate professional conduct.
Mr. Speaker, I havent had to stand up in this House and apologize, and I wont, when Im well within the confines of debate. I know that the Member for Whitehorse Centre got up and read out his little point of order, as he was ordered to do upstairs, but this is very rude to keep interrupting debate with these spurious points of order.
Speaker: The Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, theres no point of order. Its just a dispute between members. That is it.
Speaker:Order please. The Chair cannot find that there is a point of order.
Mr. Harding: I would urge the Liberal backbenchers, before theyre given these documents to read out by the Premier, that they check into the rules of the House.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Well, they obviously didnt read them very well because the Speaker just said they had no point of order. So, Mr. Speaker, when they talk about professional conduct, let me just say to them that one of the ways to conduct yourself professionally is to know the rules and not to interrupt debate of members with spurious points of order.
So, once again, before I was rudely interrupted for probably the third time by the Liberals with absolutely no point of order, I would say that it will be interesting to see how they create opportunities for Yukoners abroad, because I know a lot of Yukoners who are interested in business opportunities in Asia, in Alaska, in British Columbia, some in South America. And some of them are very legitimate. Some of these Yukon businesses - and even, Mr. Speaker, as much as we were chastised for it, opportunities, I think, in the future will arise in some of these quite far-away markets. I think Yukon business people have the ability - companies like Total North Communications, who, as I read in the news, was meeting with these Chinese officials. Im not sure if that is the case, but it was certainly reported. They have an opportunity in many ways to reach out and find new markets. And I think thats a good thing, because were in a race competitively, Mr. Speaker, with the rest of the world. And, like it or not, globalization is a fact of life in this territory, and its affecting us in ways we have never experienced before. I think it has most impacted the mineral industry and some of the traditional resource sectors, because it has put a sustained downturn in metal prices around the world.
The drive to technology and capital flowing into technology stocks has created a major, major shift in the way that Canadian resource extraction companies are having to operate. And it makes it therefore more incumbent on Yukoners, whether its tourism or products that we have, to reach out and expand the size of our market. There are only 31,000 or 32,000 people here, so if we want the economy to grow, weve got to grow from within, and outwardly.
So, Mr. Speaker, we were criticized for - what did they say? - expensive trade missions and spending thousands of Yukon taxpayer dollars with nothing to show for it. And in the meantime, Yukon kids with drug and alcohol problems go without. Mr. Speaker, I think that was the Member for Riverdale South.
Interestingly enough, in her first interview as Minister of Tourism she said she really liked that idea of being a Tourism minister because she got to fly around on planes a lot. What a surprising comment from someone who just, on February 22, said that she didnt really like those expensive trade missions because Yukon kids with drug and alcohol problems go without services. What a difference. That was then, when they were in opposition; this is now, when they are in government.
Mr. Speaker, its also interesting to note, as I look through many of the comments that were made and the issues that were identified as criticisms of our budget at the time it came forward. I have already pointed to some of them, but there were many - there were so many. Thats why we expected the Liberals in their supplementary to make some pretty fundamental changes to the budget. They had the time and they had the money, but you know they were so desperate to avoid accountability, they didnt even change the names in the budget, even though they are fully responsible for it.
On April 25, Finance officials told us there was $41 million before lapses, a week after the election - a week before they were sworn in. If I put the surplus when they came to power at about $60 million, with the Auditor Generals report in the fall, it would probably be between $55 and $60 million - somewhere in there.
They say, well I heard the defender of the government - the archangel, the principal secretary - say, "Well, there are going to be revotes." Liberals dont have to revote anything. Its a choice. You want to revote or you want to continue on with the project, you revote. You dont want to revote, you dont revote. We cant revote, were not the Management Board any more, and were the opposition. They want to revote, they revote.
So, if theres less surplus, thats their choice and thats their decision. As of March 31, 2001, if they have spent the surplus down, because all they have done is spend more, down to $14 million or $20 million or $10 million or $5 million, that will be their decision and their doing, and they will be accountable for it. After all, they could have cut $25 million or $30 million out of the budget in this supplementary had they chosen to do so.
Now, of course, they havent made a decision yet, so we didnt expect to see that. They have only increased the spending. They are going to have to reduce. We have already got commitments now from the Justice minister for more legal aid and a dialysis machine. The Health and Social Services minister said that there needs to be more funding for the continuing care facility, so we are just chalking these up. They havent had their first budget session yet - a real one - and Im so much looking forward to the outcome of that.
Of course, there is Grey Mountain Primary School.
Then of course, they said there wasnt enough money in the supplementary budget for the jail. Many of you will remember that. They said a million bucks isnt going to buy any kind of jail. So, we expected to see an increase in the supplementary budget for planning, for some beginning of construction on the jail that they campaigned for. However, we didnt see it in the supplementary budget. That was a surprise to us. We will hold them accountable to that.
Theyre going to have a lot of commitments to honour in the fall supplementary. They have managed through these strategies - if one could call it that; I dont know if they really thought it through though - of putting forward this angel-food-cake throne speech and supplementary budget to sort of delay and pause for the summer, to have a little time and try to give themselves a little breather. It just puts more and more expectations on them for the fall. They have promised now that they are going to deliver, just you wait. We are going to see some new policies. We are going to see some new economic initiatives. We are going to actually see some content from the government. We are going to make some decisions.
Thats what they told Yukoners. They actually said that in the election campaign. We expected them to do it now, but they are in their honeymoon throes, so they will get a bit more time from the public. However, come the fall, the ministers will be out enjoying the summer. The Yukon kind of goes to sleep a little bit in the summertime. The Premier will be travelling here and there. The Tourism minister will be flying around in planes like she likes to do. Everyone will kind of relax a bit. School is out and people go on holidays. What happens in October? We come back to this House. Then, given the bar they have raised and how high they have raised it, we are going to have some very interesting times in this House.
It has already been fun - much more than I had anticipated, given what we have seen from the government. The most difficult problem for the opposition has been: which broken promise do we focus on today in Question Period? Thats a tough decision to make for the opposition. Were just confounded by who gets to attack a broken promise first, and which one it will be. We just dont know what to do. There are so many already. Its a smorgasbord of broken promises. Its a smorgasbord of delays, indecision and excuses.
I can remember when they used to chastise the NDP government for not making decisions and for blaming the previous government or blaming the federal Liberals. Today, it was hilarious to listen to the Premier say, "Nobody underestimates the difficulty of these land claims issues." Well, Im going to have fun with that one.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, for four years, told us these were not difficult problems: we should just settle them, and it shouldnt be a problem. When we said, "Well, there are difficult federal issues," they said, "Dont make excuses and dont blame the feds."
Because the Yukon is a very accountable, political jurisdiction, they got away with that in the election. Ive got to give them credit. They held the NDP accountable for the mining industry even though they dont even have control. They held the NDP accountable for land claims, even though wed done a lot at the negotiating table for the Yukon government, but Mr. Nault - thanks to his infinite wisdom a year ago - came and told us that he was going to take another look at those two big issues, and everybody at the First Nations chiefs table at that time - the transboundary claimants, Kaska, Kwanlin Dun, and the Grand Chief at that time - said, " Excellent". I believe Chief Richard Sidney was acting Grand Chief at that time, if my memory serves me correctly.
I can remember talking to the Government Leader at that time, Mr. McDonald, after that meeting, and he said that Mr. Nault had just raised expectations dramatically. He couldnt get through the meeting without saying he was going to seriously look at making a major change in those areas. So he did it, then he found that there was absolutely no way his Liberal colleagues were going to agree to more funding in that area.
So, he came up after the election, conveniently timed, and told people, no, he wasnt going to do anything. Imagine. If he had done that just before the election, that equation would have changed. No, he waited till after.
I heard the representative of the Yukon Assembly of First Nations on the radio the other day talking about the federal ministers position, and I think it would have fundamentally changed at least some of the views in this territory.
And we heard, during the election campaign, from the Liberal Premier, about how easy it was to solve land claims. Now she has turned herself into a mediator, a letter writer, and, Mr. Speaker, most of all an equivocator.
Will the Member for Whitehorse Centre call me on a point of order on that one?
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals voted for the largest tax increase in Yukon history when the former Member for Riverside - a man whom I like a lot - Mr. Cable, voted for the Yukon Party budget that raised taxes to historic levels in the territory. And yesterday we heard that they intend to cut the 12-percent tax cut that the NDP was bringing forward. That was after they said that they should have been cut more when the budget was announced. And they legitimately think that people are going to believe that this is a government that does what it says it is going to do? How long do you think Yukoners are going to buy that, when every day we point out four more areas where they have broken their promises and done the complete opposite of what they said they were going to do? Its like shooting fish in a barrel.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Well, well get to pork barrels in a minute. We cant wait to see the boards and committees appointment mechanism that the Premier is going to construct - speaking of pork, because we can remember how the Liberals said that this should be an all-party committee, and people should have a right to participation in all this. So, its going to be interesting. They said the same thing about CDF and every other board and committee. So, well be watching to see how they deliver on that. Well be watching to see.
Were surprised that the new alcohol and drug commission has absolutely no funding in this supplementary budget to make it a reality. And there are lots of questions about this so-called commission - what it is, what its going to be, whos going to work in it, whether they will be public or private employees. There are many, many questions about this commission.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the public wouldnt allow us to question the government this early for very long on these particular issues. They are going to want us to give them some time to develop a strategy, to implement it. Well be prepared to do that. Well be prepared to let them think about what they promised and get a few more budget briefings from Finance and see precisely what their financial situation is. They are then going to realize, "Wow, if we spend that much now, we are really going to have no surplus by the time we go to the polls the next time," and then there will be a lot of interesting times for the opposition members on this side of the floor.
We have already heard signals that really alarm me about health care cuts, and we know how well Liberals cut health care. We have seen it federally for so long. They dig right in to those health care budgets, Mr. Speaker, and they cut and they slash. And one veiled reference they had in the budget was to health care. That speaks volumes. That says that they are going to be cutting into health care. But at the same time we are getting new commitments for spending and new services in that department. So, from an opposition point of view, its quite delicious. What Im most worried about, though, is the public and what kinds of signals are being sent out to the public. And Im worried about whether this Liberal government stands for anything. In this case, its pretty clear that they dont.
We wondered, after we heard about the flaking bridges, where the money was for bridge painting in the supplementary budget. I mean, after all, its summertime. They could have let some contracts out and painted all those bridges that the Premier was so worried about.
I see the Member for Whitehorse Centre now has a dictionary out, so hell be checking my every word. He should get Beauchesne, Mr. Speaker, to see whether hell pop up again and read another speech that someone has written for him about unparliamentary professional behavior.
Mr. Speaker, we were surprised that the taxes have continued in a number of other areas, but well talk about that later.
I want to say to the members opposite, as we look at the supplementary budget, that its hard to be overly critical of the expenditures that they have identified. One can question perhaps their priorities, but who can argue with whats in the budget for expenditures, except for what they chose not to spend money on.
So, Mr. Speaker, theyll have some time to think about things a little bit more, to talk about where they may intend to place their priorities. Well see more of their so-called professional conduct in this House, where they are continuously told that they do not have points of order. We are going to see more heckling, Im sure, from the Member for Whitehorse Centre because he has very few opportunities to speak, except when he is given a speech on a spurious point of order. This will be interesting.
We also saw an alarming trend by this government to escape accountability. Wed like to see the Premier stand up and defend the budget. They finally voted for it last night, but this is a budget they chose to bring in. They said it was for certainty. Well, thats the only thing they brought certainty to, because when its the mining industry, or their position on land claims, or their policy positions on the development assessment process, alcohol and drugs, or taxes so Yukon families can do up their budgets, they are all over the map.
Mr. Speaker, I think it is a sad day for this Legislature when a government tries - it didnt work very well - to say, "Well, well bring in this budget, but dont blame us; its the NDP." Its a sad day to run from accountability, but it is indicative of the members opposite. It has been indicative from the time they were in opposition. It has been indicative from the election campaign, and they were successful at it. Ill give them full credit. Its not the kind of strategy or way I like to do things. I also have to give some respect to the Yukon Party during the campaign. They didnt fare well, but at least they said what they stood for. The media and public are starting to see a Liberal government that doesnt have any substance. They are not really bound by principles; its more power and patronage. Were going to see more patronage. We saw evidence of a special relationship, where a long-time Liberal was appointed to the Senate here. It will be interesting to see what happens with the administrators position. It will be interesting to see boards and committees and what happens there.
Mr. Speaker, I think that as Yukoners see some of the issues that have already arisen from the performance of this government in just four days - its becoming increasingly apparent when you look at the state of affairs and their lack of attention to seniors issues in the supplementary budget, after the major bold commitments that I read out today in the budget speech. These commitments have multi-million dollar price tags associated with them.
Grey Mountain School alone, I bet, is going to cost $5 million to $6 million. The new jail is going to cost $20 million. Well, there is the new dialysis machine. They have decided now to go ahead with the off-site infrastructure - water and sewer - for Argus. They have decided to make the decision to continue on with that expenditure that they criticized, so they dont recoup the $750,000 that they have the choice to ask the City of Whitehorse for. These are all choices that they made. These are all decisions that the Liberals felt were important to them.
Mr. Speaker, well be speaking out on behalf of those constituency groups, those private day home workers who were given clear indications and who were left the clear impression that the Liberals were going to increase their wages. They met with the people involved in IT software implementation development during the campaign. I saw a letter from the Liberals. They left a clear impression that they were going to do everything possible to increase that budget in the supplementary, because we were losing good information technology people. But what do we see in the budget for them with a $60-million surplus after lapses?
They came into power with a tremendous financial footing, but did they see to make good on that commitment? No, Mr. Speaker, they told them all to wait until the fall. So, well have to wait on legal aid. Thats not as much of a crisis anymore for them. But their old comments are going to come back to haunt them, because they asked for everything, virtually every day.
Mr. Speaker, there are some very interesting decisions they are going to make around oil and gas leases and where they are going to move ahead in that area. The industry has been lobbying them to move ahead, to release more land for oil and gas. Theyre also being lobbied not to do that. Theyre going to have to make a decision.
I look forward to the results of that, and I look forward to that process.
But, Mr. Speaker, whats most striking and of concern to me is the total lack of substance, the total lack of any sense of direction or vision. They cut a wide swath in the campaign. They would go to an environmentalists door and say, "What a mess that Tombstone is. Were going to buy those claims out. Well fix that." Theyd go to a miner and theyd say, "Well, were going to up the mineral exploration tax credit from 22 to 30 percent and, man, that NDP has turned the whole darn territory into a park, and we need the economy."
Some people bought that. A lot of people bought that. But, Mr. Speaker, theyre also watching. Theyre also watching. Were watching to see what happens with Connect Yukon. Theres no more funding in this supplementary budget for that. Rural Yukon is waiting to see how the minister is going to deliver on that. I understand the Premier has moved it back into C&TS. Theres a lot of pressure on C&TS and that minister to deliver. This is an important project for rural Yukon. Theyre supposed to be starting this year. It was scheduled. This minister has an obligation to ensure that continues. The expectations in rural Yukon are that the phone service will improve and, when she was critic, she said it wasnt good enough and it would have to reach every home.
So, Mr. Speaker, we cant wait to see how shes going to do that, but we dont expect she will, because Liberals say one thing in opposition and do something else in government.
Theres kind of a theme developing here, dont you think? Dont you think, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker, I know you cant comment on that; Im asking you rhetorically. Let me say that when it comes to Connect Yukon, there are some significant expenditures. My colleague to my left, who represents Ross River, knows that it is going to cost about $4 million to connect Faro and Ross River. Special expenditure to Connect Yukon. We know it has got to be done. We have committed to doing it. Areas in Mendenhall dont even have phones. The former critic was absolutely outraged about that - the Member for Lake Laberge. So, we will be interested to see how she amends the program to ensure that thats not the case anymore. It was an outrage for her when she was in opposition. Now shes the minister.
Mr. Speaker, wheres the money in the supplementary budget for the youth directorate? What exactly will that be? Are they going to do anything about gasoline prices? Are they going to do anything about electrical rates?
I remember going to a speech - a great speech, an extremely partisan speech - by the now Premier, then leader of the official opposition, to the Chamber of Commerce. It took a lot of shots at the government. I have got a copy of that speech. I keep it close to me. Near and dear to my heart. Lots of good stuff in that speech.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: In that speech she said that electrical rates were just far too high.
Did anybody see any action yet in the last two months about electrical rates by this government? Maybe it will happen in the fall.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Yes, my colleague just said, because its all about the future, I guess these changes must happen in the future.
The Premier said that shes got four years, but people cant wait four years. The clock is ticking.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday she committed that there will be no diesel riders on electrical bills, I hope she talks to the chair of the Yukon Energy Corporation Board about that. I hope she talked about it before she announced it on the floor of this Legislature. But theres only one way to do that, and thats to tie into Development Corporation funds - retained earnings - and subsidize the rates more, because there is going to be a fuel rate rider. Obviously she missed that briefing or didnt understand it. Thats very possible.
But, Mr. Speaker, you cant argue too much with the minimal expenditures in here, the programs that they have decided to fund. You can question why they didnt fund this and why they didnt fund that, when they said they were going to, and weve done that.
You can ask when they are going to do it. You can muse about when they will actually announce their first policy. I hope today wasnt the extent of the policy work of the government. The state of the environment report is an excellent document and a lot of people worked hard on it, but it is not a policy.
The pre-emptive elaboration on the bargaining negotiations with YTA was not a statement of policy, with the exception of the new signing bonus policy of this government. And we heard on the radio this morning about health care professionals - shortages of nurses and doctors and long waiting lists. Mr. Speaker, if ever there was a need for a retention bonus it would be there. Surely they will respect the fine professionals there as they respected the fine professionals - the members of the YTA. The proper thing.
Of course, there are some fine professionals at the college, as well, who are fine educators, committed to their jobs. We have got to keep these fine professionals, and they, too, will probably need a signing bonus. And, of course, there are all of the Yukon government employees - fine, hard-working people - some blue collar, some professionals, engineers, people like that, people we need to keep. Im sure theyre looking favourably at the new Liberal policy of signing bonuses. So, I wish the PSC minister well. He can try and sunset clause them all he wants. That dog isnt going to hunt.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the members opposite that there are consequences to their actions. It was all easy for them to criticize the government. They used to write ranting letters to the editor. It worked pretty well, I guess. Theyre sitting over there. But the downside of that is that when you write those ranting letters and you have all the answers, its all so easy, but when you get into government, you have to deliver. You have to deliver, and they havent done that.
Mr. Speaker, they call the community development fund a "slush fund". Mind you, I havent seen any reductions in this supplementary budget, nor do I expect to see any reductions in the community development fund. They said it had a pork-barrel smell. I suppose that this summer or in the fall well be hearing - it was certainly pork barrel for the Member for Klondike. He received a lot of that pork in his riding, and so did a lot of people in Whitehorse, too - a lot of members over there.
But Mr. Speaker, let me say to the members opposite that well be waiting for their new CDF policy in the fall. Over the summer, we expect them to conclude their new policy, because it was of utmost importance and a big issue to the Liberals.
This was an issue. They were outraged at the lack of accountability.
Ive just been reading some old media quotes from the now Premier this afternoon. She was completely indignant about the pork barrel smell emanating from the community development fund. Im sure shell have a new policy for us on the community development fund in the fall, on how these funds will be distributed, so that we will no longer, as she once put it to me, pit one community against another. Shes going to develop the perfect policy for implementing the community development fund. There will never again be someone upset that they didnt receive the funding. No longer will there be one community pitted against another. No longer will one community have an application rejected and another one have it accepted. Because thats what the Liberals promised. Thats what they implied to people that they were going to do.
Mr. Speaker, they put forward a motion on the Alaska Highway natural gas transportation system when they were in opposition, but was there any funding in the supplementary budget to support that initiative? What do we have instead? We have, last night, Premier Kakfwi meeting with Premier Dosanjh. You had the Liberals, when they were in opposition, kicking the heck out of the B.C. NDP government, and we sent that Hansard down to inform the people there of the view of the new Yukon government. But, lo and behold, when you have a constructive working relationship and you void it - we saw Premier Kakfwi down in B.C. signing an agreement thats going to lead to the paving of the highway all the way up to Fort Liard. That is going to benefit the Northwest Territories at our expense.
Mr. Speaker, how is the Premier, given all the disparaging things she said about B.C., ever going to have any ability to work constructively with the premier there?
And, Mr. Speaker, who is the loser in all that political game that she played? Well, its certainly not the Northwest Territories. They have a deal to get a road paved, infrastructure monies for Fort Liard, which is going to cut the southeast Yukon and Watson Lake out of the equation.
Have we seen anything from the Premier yet that would indicate she has the foggiest idea - as we continue to fall behind the Northwest Territories - that she intends to put together a cogent strategy for attracting that pipeline investment? I understand she may be going to Calgary next week. Well, she should have gone to Calgary a couple of weeks ago to attend. She chose to go to avoid accountability in this House. Its a pattern of this government: dont be accountable for everything. On Argus - "We cant do anything; its up to the city." On land claims - "Ill be a mediator with the federal government, but thats the extent of our ability." On Tombstone - "Were just one party at this table, even though we told and promised the Yukon people that we will buy them out." And everybody is waiting. On legal aid, they said they wanted to have more money. They demanded more money. The Member for Riverdale South played on the emotions of these people, people who were in crisis mode. She told them she really cared and, Mr. Speaker, pulled the rug out from underneath them in the supplementary budget. Its outrageous.
Of course, Mr. Speaker, now they think it was all clever lines that they had when they were in opposition. Ive heard them heckle that over. Its not clever. Its undermining the entire credibility of their government and this Legislature, that they would now construct a supplementary budget that ignores something they said was so important.
Mr. Speaker, when the Premier was questioned on our budget, on her ideas for a supplementary budget to our budget - which they had voted against - she said that there were a number of areas where they would spend it differently, and thats what election platforms are for.
So of course we took her at her word - mistakenly - and we thought that she would bring in a supplementary that would reflect the platform. Well, they chose a couple areas, but they made ten, probably hundreds, of commitments, some of them with huge price tags. They have got to get started if they even have a hope of delivering on them. And if they spend more and run up the cash register and create even more red ink, they are going to have more difficult Cabinet meetings and budget prep sessions. And as the backbenchers come in and demand that their constituencies be funded, and as rural Yukon puts demands on them, because they are not represented, they are going to see, as they are finding with each Finance briefing and with each meeting; it is very difficult. They had all the answers before.
Mr. Speaker, when I look at many of the comments of the Liberals in opposition - task commitments they made, firm commitments they made, implied commitments they made - the list is virtually endless. The political tide swings very quickly in this territory, as both parties on this side of the House know, particularly in Whitehorse. If you look at the vote patterns and the swings over the last few years and the Cabinet ministers record of re-election, youll see that in actual fact it is more hazardous to your political career to be a Cabinet minister than it is to be a backbencher, if you look at the record, because the cabinet ministers are on the front lines for the tough decisions.
The former Health and Social Services minister from your riding that you won, Mr. Speaker, used to say that he didnt realize he was such as evil, scummy guy until he became the Health and Social Services minister.
When he had to say no to people on a daily basis, who came in with the most gut-wrenching problems, he found it very tough. And he couldnt just come down here and say, "Yes, well fund it." He had to take it on the chin. He did many times, and he took it on the chin with the voters at the end of the day. But thats the job. Its about making decisions and being accountable, and we were. Were prepared to be accountable for Argus. Were prepared to be accountable for the Tombstone decision we made to create the park. Were pleased with that park. It settled a land claim that would not have been settled without the decision to create that park.
I cant wait to see how the Liberals handle this whole issue of interim withdrawal. One of two things will happen: theyll make the change and have a real hot potato on their hands; or they wont make the change, and there wont be a protected area in the next four years. Thats my prediction.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, well see. These decisions arent easy. I hear the Liberal ministers talking now about everybody working together, holding hands, and getting along. They are going to find out pretty quickly that even in their own party, because they have said everything to everybody, they have this incredible spectrum of interests. A lot of former Conservatives, former New Democrats and all kinds of people who havent been active in the past joined them, because they have a belief that the government stands for a particular thing. As they make decisions, they are going to find out that there is going to be a transgression within their own ranks, especially when you look at issues like protected areas and other more controversial ones.
Its funny. When they were on the doorstep, I bet you that when they were campaigning, when someone raised an issue, they didnt often say, "Yeah, thats a real difficult problem. You know, the NDP has been trying to work hard on that. You should work together with them to try to resolve this problem. Everybody will put their collective heads together, and youll figure it out, and the territory will be much better for it."
I really dont think there was much of that going on with the Liberal candidates. I think, rather, what they said was: "Yes, thats right. Youve got a good point there, and we think government can do more. As a matter of fact, just read the Liberal platform and some of the previous commitments we have made, and we will fight Argus to the last breath, and if youre upset about that particular project, Ill tell you, Im going to give one heck of a speech tonight to the "folk-the-mall" folks, and Im going to fight this with every last breath." But, Mr. Speaker, now its a bit of a different tune from the Liberal ministers: everybodys got to work together; its all one big Yukon; were going to take things forward as we work through the next millennium.
Mr. Speaker, I was surprised but not disappointed to hear that from the members. I think a lot of the members over there are well-intentioned. Dont get me wrong. This is, many times, a difficult game and business that we have, and a job to do, but its not all about just good intentions. Everybody has good intentions. I can tell the members opposite that we all thought we were well-intentioned, too. Im sure the Yukon Party, when they were the government, thought they were well-intentioned as well. But its rough, and when you challenge, and you cut and thrust on the doorstep in the election campaign, and you make positions, and you challenge, and you throw out things, you can expect that that will boomerang back. And it is. So they should not be taken aback by that or, worse, think theyre above it, because theyre not. Nobody is.
Mr. Speaker, I was interested that the supplementary budget didnt contain anything for my riding, because the Liberal candidate there - another Liberal - promised things in the platform that were quite expensive and very difficult, but he had no problems promising them. He was going around showing a video of birch syrup business opportunities and how he was going to, with the help of the new Liberal government, ship boxed firewood to new markets, particularly in the United States, I think. And some people who were out of work - some of them for a couple of years - thought that was pretty nifty.
So, Im looking forward to seeing how the Liberals are going to create jobs in my riding in that area, and Ill be holding them to that.
As well, Mr. Speaker, they promised more funding for Yukon Housing Corporation mortgages, in front of 40 people at the leaders debate. We have already received some correspondence saying that they didnt make that commitment from a couple of the EAs when they were searching for it. I can tell you that I have checked back with the constituents who attended that meeting, and theyre absolutely crystal clear as to the commitment that was made. It was unequivocal: the Liberal government will provide more. Not "may", not "maybe", not "in the coming years" - they will quickly move to provide more. Thats going to be a challenge. I was surprised when he made that commitment given that theres a board of directors at the Housing Corporation, but hey, its the Liberal platform, who am I to argue with it.
I was surprised that the Premier didnt make any reference to the buffalo hunt in the supplementary budget and how she had proposed as her - I remember her one big economic initiative that shed proposed was selling some buffalo burgers. There is no funding in this budget for the buffalo burgers.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Was it buffalo burgers to the Japanese? Well, we shouldnt laugh, but they are going to take their trade missions and keep them closer to home. Its unlikely that the buffalo burgers will make it to Japan, but they might make it to Yellowknife or Alberta or perhaps Anchorage or Juneau. Were interested to see how this buffalo burger factory gets off the ground with the new Premier, seeing as how it was her pet project.
Mr. Speaker, there is so much I could say, not about the supplementary budget for whats in it, but about whats not in it.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals said, when they were in opposition, "Well tell you what were going to do about the economy when the election is called." When the election was called, they said they would implement our budget and our agenda. Then they said, "Were not going to tell everybody our ideas, because the NDP will steal them." Well, Mr. Speaker, we cant steal them any more. Were waiting for them to tell us what their ideas are. We cant steal them. They can announce them every day in ministerial statements. Theyll be first off the mark, so we implore them to start announcing some of these wonderful ideas.
You know, the Premier said to me in the mining debate that mining is all about attitude. Shes going to find out really quickly what they think of her attitude with regard to these Tombstone claims and when she starts making changes to avoid any of the inaction on interim withdrawal for the Yukon protected areas strategy. If she doesnt - and if they actually do make a protected area, which I do have some doubt about - theyll find out, particularly after she buys out Canadian United Minerals - if she does make good on that promise, which is also in doubt - its going to be a really interesting staking business going on in this territory. And they had better keep their maps for study areas in a vault, because there is so much mineral potential in this territory that its amazing. And when they try and resolve some land claims issues around special management areas, they will see very quickly how so-called inaction will be hung around their necks. I think they really believe that its inaction. I think thats an experience, a naïveté on their part, but I think they really believe that thats all it takes to solve these protected areas problems.
We heard in Question Period today some fine skating by the Premier - for now Ill give her credit - on the issue of the Tombstone claims - blame the previous government. I can just hear them in their caucus meeting revising their lines. Just stay on the ground, blame the previous government and tell them we wrote a letter to Nault. So, she said that six times and thats fine but -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: - maybe seven times, maybe nine times, but the decision will have to be made as to how theyre going to handle it. The Premier just said that Im going to carry on until 5:30 p.m. I want to assure this House, and you, Mr. Speaker, that you wont have to listen to me until 5:30 p.m. today. I know that comes as a great disappointment to the members opposite, and my colleagues, but fear not, I shall return.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Riverdale South is even disappointed about that. Im shocked. I thought she would have been at least happy that I wasnt going to speak until 5:30 p.m. Maybe she doesnt care.
But it will be interesting to see how they handle those issues. And today they skirted it again, but Mr. Nault was pretty clear. I heard his voice clip on the radio, and he said that hes waiting on the Premier. So, over the next few weeks of this session, well be continuing to poke and prod and question and hold accountable the government.
The line used today will probably change as quick as the lines about the accountability in the budget where first they said, "Well, dont blame me, blame the NDP." We got a lot of comments about that flippant quote from the Premier, the one who had said, "the buck stops here" just a little while before. Then it changed that it was too expensive to change the names in the budget and then they had a completely different reason. Well, I think the lines on the Tombstone today will last for a little while, but well be here. So, many of these issues with such indecisiveness remain hanging.
Mr. Speaker, its our duty, in these hallowed halls, to ensure that these questions and this accountability is brought to bear, and we will do that, for as long as it takes, because we cant leave these things hanging. Theres just too much uncertainty.
When the Premier shows an inability to make a decision and the caucus shows incompetence, we have to question them.
Mr. Speaker, when she steps in front of the Renewable Resources minister who is charged with delivery on this buyout plan, it indicates very quickly a lack of confidence in that minister, and the media will start to write about that lack of confidence and the fact that the Premier has given herself all the portfolios because she doesnt have confidence in the depth of her Cabinet and her caucus. They will say, that, obviously, because she doesnt allow them to respond in that portfolio; she doesnt have confidence in the ministers. And they will be right. Mr. Speaker, theres absolutely no reason why the Renewable Resources minister cant answer questions posed by his critic in the shadow cabinet about these claims and what they intend to do. The hoarding nature of the Premier on the issues will become readily apparent, and that will not send a good signal of confidence from this government to Yukoners in rural Yukon or Whitehorse.
Mr. Speaker, what is this government going to do on forestry policy? They had a lot to say about the forest strategy. One thing about our government is that we did so much that they had a lot to criticize, whether it was forest strategies or local hire or other policy initiatives that we brought forward - energy commission reports - we did a lot of things, and when you do things in government you put them on the table and the opposition goes after them.
The corollary to that is that if you dont do things in government, you end up in the scenario that the Yukon Party was in when they were in government. They didnt do a lot of policy or strategy. They did virtually no policy and very little in the way of legislation. But they got lucky. They got a huge upturn in the Canadian and world mining prices. That was before we got hit with Bre-X. The junior sector was cooking along like never before. So, they got a good base - Faro started up again. That made all the difference in the world to the government in this territory. Because even if a lot of Yukoners dont like Faro, if youre the Finance or Economic Development minister, and 1,000 more people are going to work, and the spinoffs are rippling through this entire territory, people are benefiting from them - they dont even realize. There are $100 million in purchases being made in local businesses, and more people are being hired, and businesses expand - companies like Golden Hill Ventures are getting multi-million-dollar contracts and putting lots of Yukoners to work, people are coming in from the outside, and theyre spending money here, too. I mean, this could make a huge difference.
But Mr. Speaker, what happened to the Yukon Party is that they started getting picked apart for what they did by absolving themselves of the responsibility of collective bargaining with their employees. The economy wasnt good enough for the people of the Yukon. They wanted to see diversity in the economy. They wanted to see new legislation in key areas. They wanted to see a protected areas strategy. The Yukon Party didnt want to rock that boat, so they tried to just keep it on the level and not get themselves into too much trouble. However, a couple of things turned the apple cart there - things like the Taga Ku decision early on in their mandate.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals have adopted a similar strategy, with the exception of the Taga Ku decision. But Im not so sure that its a good one. Time will tell, as the Premier so eloquently said in Question Period today.
Yukoners will hold them accountable. What they do with their strategy now is delay, defer, prolong, review, and it brings decision day closer to election day, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. My experience is that its not always a good thing, and Im talking about when we were in government with the Yukon Party. However, they probably didnt suffer as much on the Taga Ku decision, because they made it earlier on in the mandate, wrong as it was.
So, Mr. Speaker, when they start building up commitments on land claims and commitments to buy out Tombstone - and every day the clocks ticking on that one - changes to the protected areas strategy, legislation - we cant wait to get our mitts on this legislation - this is going be interesting. The Renewable Resources ministers ears perked up there. It is going to be interesting. We will enjoy it. And were hoping that the right balance is struck, having been the victims of an election in which voters, at least in Whitehorse, decided we didnt strike the right balance on both sides of the equation.
We had people furious about the environment voting Liberal and we had hard-core miners and people in the mining service sector voting Liberal, because they all thought the Liberals were going to do exactly what they wanted for them. And they told them they would. So far they havent done anything. But for a while the voters, those people, will be pacified. We finally got that doggone NDP out of there. We didnt want that guy from Porter Creek North back in there either. Lets try something new.
But, Mr. Speaker, as Yukoners savour this third flavour of political parties in the territory, theyre finding out it has a somewhat bland taste. Theyre finding out that its difficult to nail down quite what it smells or tastes or feels like.
Theres not much pizzazz. It promises to have a long finish in its flavour. But, Mr. Speaker, that raises expectations. We have yet to see any substantive statement, either in the media or the public, before, during or after the election that gives us any inkling as to whether or not they have their own ideas, or that they have their own chutzpah.
The statement in the platform - its interesting. I know the Member for Klondike will know a lot of supporters that the Yukon Party had in the road-building industry. They said that capital spending in the highways has been cut in half under the NDP government. They were going to restore capital construction budgets, which I know would be of interest to those grader operators and those road contractors. I disagree with their numbers, but, nevertheless, those are their words and they will have to live by them. Mr. Speaker, Im sure the Member for Klondike is going to say on behalf of those road builders, "Where is the money in this supplementary? You have it in your pocket. You have the surplus. You have the ability to deliver."
I lost a vote in the election campaign because the Liberals promised to restore highway maintenance funding. I have already sent the supplementary budget to this person and said, "I told you so; they wont deliver, and they havent." Because they wanted it this year and they expected it this year, because it means a job for them and work. They have been let down already. They told me they made a mistake.
Mr. Speaker, elections are won or lost in this territory, traditionally, by about 400 or 500 votes. It just tick, tick, tick, one at a time. We are already getting a few of those ticks so early on in this mandate for the members opposite.
Disappointment reigns in many quarters. Mr. Speaker, this government, who refuses to put the money into capital maintenance or capital construction, used to say in this House, "Capital - good, O&M bad," but we have had a complete flip-flop on that particular thesis that they used to pursue in this Legislature. What have we seen? We have seen nothing for capital and more O&M, and then the Premier has the audacity I think, sadly, she probably believes it - "We cant keep spending into the red ink like the members opposite." So what does she do to back that up? She increases the spending. Of course, the supplementary doesnt even reflect the half million for the YTA. And I cant wait to see how she is going to fund the demands that will be placed on her by YEU, the Housing Corporation and the college now that signing bonuses were announced as the new policy of this government. And after two days of questioning, the Public Service Commission minister finally admitted they were signing bonuses. I read it in Hansard just today.
Mr. Speaker, what about heritage branch funding? It is a big priority, they said. Even in a speech after the election, the Premier came down from above and told the people of the Yukon that she would restore heritage funding and make it all good, but, Mr. Speaker, did we see that in the supplementary budget? Absolutely not. Frankly, we dont know what she was talking about in the first place, because we did more heritage investment than any other government in the history of this territory. So I guess it depends on the type of heritage funding youre talking about. If you are going to put a bunch more money into Beringia, and call that heritage funding - thats what I think they are talking about.
It will be interesting to see what happens there. Were waiting with bated breath on that particular little move - say no more, say no more.
Mr. Speaker, we saw lots of interesting promises for small business. Im sure the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce is keen about the Premiers announced backtrack on her commitment to even reduce taxes more.
Mr. Speaker, the platform says, "Pat Duncan and the Yukon Liberals recognize that restoring confidence in government will not be an easy task." Well, never was a truer statement spoken, especially the way they are performing. If they intend to do it any easier, they had better change course pretty quickly.
They said they were going to develop comprehensive YTG implementation plans that enhance the potential for the success and implementation of land claims agreements. Mr. Speaker, wheres the beef? Wheres any evidence whatsoever that that indeed is going to occur?
Mr. Speaker, theres so much to talk about and so little time. This is only a 35-day sitting. And its so soon after the election. The public doesnt want to hear too much from the opposition. Some of them will say, "Oh, theyre just bitter about the election." So, we will have to take that into account as we do our questioning, but even in the face of that from some citizens, we have a duty.
Mr. Speaker, their platform and talk in social programs about how our government had insulted the medical profession - well, Mr. Speaker, it will be interesting to see how this government deals with the long lineups we heard about today.
We heard about how they are going to build respect. As I said earlier, my former colleague didnt realize what an awful fellow he was until he actually had to say no to somebody, and they didnt like it. When he came into Cabinet and said, "Come on you guys, we have to have this, its a really important need," we all said, "Yeah, we all have a list about a mile long too." We can do this, but we cant do that and youre just going to have to live with it. Thats what happens. Thats when people really get tested, and you find out if you really have a team or not. So, all the talk about team from the initial honeymoon interviews that CBC did will be put to the test. I have already seen a few things - and I dont want to mention them now, because they may learn to stop - that are going to weigh a heavy burden on them. But, Mr. Speaker, the list is endless.
What about the blue-book process and revamping the mine permitting process - fundamental, iron-clad commitments of the Liberal leader? There is nothing in the supplementary budget. What are they going to do with rural roads? Rural Yukon is extremely worried. I just heard someone on the other side heckle out that they should be. Yes, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal backbencher, whoever said that, is right. With the record and the lack of interest shown in the throne speech for rural Yukon, that Liberal member who said they should be worried about rural Yukon is bang on the money.
We have heard them talk about Grey Mountain Primary School and commit to building it. I dug out a choice little commitment the other day on that. But what about rural Yukon schools? Will they be forgotten in this equation? What about other services in rural Yukon with major capital price tags?
Well, we have two Riverdale members in this House, so a lot of people in rural Yukon are making the equation and the jump that that will receive attention first. So, well see.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Pardon me? Three Riverdale members? Well, Riverside is both. I stand corrected. The Premier spoke the first correct statement she has all day. Mr. Speaker, I have to apologize for that. It wasnt necessary.
Mr. Speaker, I forgot Riverside, so there are three members with constituents in Riverdale, on the Liberal benches. I probably forgot Riverside because I havent talked to the gentleman who represents Riverside today.
Mr. Speaker, this summer we thought that the Yukon Liberals were going to implement more for youth programming for jobs, for employment, given that its the season for the youth to come home to go to work. But that evidence is not in the supplementary budget either. In the fall, theyll be back in school. Granted, theyll have 20 percent more on their Yukon grant, which is a good thing, but they probably will receive a tuition hike on the other end, courtesy of the federal Liberals, that is going to outweigh any benefit of that particular initiative. Weve got the Liberals robbing Peter to pay Paul here, Mr. Speaker. The federal Liberals take it away, the Yukon Liberals hike it up 20 percent. The left Liberal doesnt know what the right Liberal is doing.
Mr. Speaker, Im detecting distinct hostility from the members opposite.
It will only grow, trust me.
This bunch opposite raised expectations in the public that they would create jobs. In March and April, we saw quite good increases in the job numbers, before they came to power. Our diversification initiatives were working. Of course, on one hand, while they have criticized the budget with, "Dont blame us; its the NDPs budget," they have said that this is going to be the busiest construction season in many years; a lot of people are going to go to work.
Ive enjoyed watching the rebirthing of the members opposite as they stood yesterday and voted in favour of an NDP budget. A bright light shone down from above, gave them - perhaps it was your prayer, Mr. Speaker - the wisdom to make fair, honest decisions. And bringing in our budget was a good move, because its a great budget. The Liberals will have trouble topping it, particularly with their level of commitments to people - tacit, implied, in writing - theyre huge. They will learn that the people out there to whom they even implied those commitments will now say, "You made a commitment." And theyll be in the paper and theyll be in your office, and we will echo their words because its our duty, and well do it over and over again, and it will become truth. And the members opposite will do what they did yesterday. They stood up and stuck their foot in a bear trap, and just before the Member for Klondike tabled the proof that they had said that they were going to buy out the claims, the Premier stood up and said, "We didnt say we would buy out the claims."
Well, I didnt say it. Well, I only implied it - its this, its that, its a negotiated settlement, and "Wed sit down and talk about it," and "Im sending a letter to the federal minister." I guarantee to the members opposite that it wont work. Im speaking from experience. But thats what happens. Perhaps some of them who have been around recognize this, and perhaps some of them dont.
But, Mr. Speaker, I think its interesting to note today that, when we witness what has occurred with the supplementary budget, there are so many questions. And I have to have an extensive debate with the Premier about land claims in Committee of the Whole. I have to have an extensive debate with her about devolution and about finances, because there is so much that has to go on the record now as we await the fall. I have no choice but to engage the Premier, who is trying to escape accountability for the budget. But she is going to have to defend the budget she voted for, and shes going to have take positions on issues that occurred before and since she has become the Premier. So, well have that debate. Im sure shes looking forward to it as much as I am. We will get to the bottom of some of these issues, or well be in here for 35 days, I guess. That is the length of time were allowed. Im sure well get to the bottom of them. Im sure she has got answers. She keeps promising us that shes going to give us answers and decisions.
We have also got a lot of time to spend on Argus in Committee of the Whole. Argus is going to be important in Committee of the Whole because we want to know how the Member for Whitehorse Centre is going to continue his fight from within.
He can participate in that debate, too, and I look forward to that. I hope he does better than he did on his point of order. I look forward to the debate.
Mr. Speaker, were going to spend a lot of time in Economic Development on Tombstone and were going to ask over and over and over again for answers. The members opposite will be tested. They may refuse to give us answers, but I would argue that that will be reflected in their epitaphs after the next election - that they were a government that didnt have answers and didnt provide them.
So, either way, its good for us.
Mr. Speaker, Im enjoying opposition immensely. Its good to be back here, to get an opportunity to hold the government accountable for a change after catching the rocks for a while.
Im interested in a number of things. I remember when we talked about devolution with the Premier, and Im wondering what the caucus is saying. I can remember the now Minister of Health and Social Services speaking so eloquently at the hearings on devolution. Whats the rush? Maybe hes still saying that in Cabinet. Mr. Speaker, there are deadlines, there are commitments that have been made and there are expectations out there.
Mr. Speaker, I know that Kwanlin Dun does not want devolution - the member opposite from Kwanlin Dun. I remember discussions with the chief before the election. He told me he was going to run as an Independent, and hold the balance of power, to do everything he could to fight devolution. So, I look forward to seeing what that influence does to devolution in this territory.
With the statements of the federal minister, I await seeing how the atmosphere surrounding devolution to the First Nations, who had previously been on board, feel about it now. I think that it is interesting to note that the challenges that the members opposite face are many. But it is of their own doing as a result of comments they have made, positions they have taken or not taken. But we will get to the bottom of many of these issues in this session and in the fall.
Ill just conclude by saying to the members opposite, as they contemplate land use planning - major commitments to land use planning - good luck to the Renewable Resources minister. Batten down the hatches. Its going to be interesting - Education Act review, bargaining with the hospital - and he may find that they may not take the argument that theres a board responsible for the Hospital Corporation. He might even have a few people in the lobby up here. Ive seen it before.
Mr. Speaker, with these big projects, lots of luck. They are important to the Yukon. I hope that they can deliver. When they do well, we will congratulate them for it. When they mess up, we will tell them that, and we will point it out to the Yukon public, as we have done in four days in this House. It is important for this territory that they start to show people what they have got.
Make some decisions. Show some positions. They need to show that they have some character and principles. Show that they stand for something - make a move. Like the federal minister said, "Make a move. Premier, make a move on Tombstone."
They can coyly sit there now and smile and grin, because the public will let them for awhile, but judgment day is coming in the fall and beyond. We look forward to it.
With regard to the supplementary, kudos to them for bringing forward the increase to the student financial assistance. It was a heck of an election move. With regard to mining assistance and more grants to prospectors, well, the NDP started that program. Its hard to say whether it couldnt be put to some good use. With regard to funding for youth, who could argue with that?
So, Mr. Speaker, while we question their priorities, we criticize heavily their lack of direction, vision in the budget speech and supplementary; we criticize their lack of ability to deliver on commitments, even though they have the money. We look forward to the intricate debate of the budget and getting it to more extensive toing and froing on the substantive issues that this Legislature must deliberate on over the next few years.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That was amazing. Im impressed. Just amazing.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the supplementary budget speech.
As stated by the Premier, Yukon people need certainty - certainty that the organizations that rely on government for funding will be able to continue to operate and provide valuable services to Yukon people.
In some instances, this is a substantial portion of their funding, and it may mean the difference between being able to hire employees or not. Yukon people recognize our efforts to minimize the disruption in their lives, and they have the confidence in this government to do the best we can in this situation.
During the election campaign, we committed to enhance student financial assistance grants for those students pursuing their post-secondary education. As the Minister of Education, I am pleased to announce $496,000, which has been allocated to the Department of Education, Advanced Education branch, as a fulfilment of our promise to increase the student financial assistance by 20 percent. To Yukon students, this means an increase of $496,000 per year in additional financial assistance for students under the Yukon grant process. It is interesting to note that although the cost of living has increased over the years, the Yukon grant has not seen an increase since 1982. The NDP was in office most of that time and chose not to make it a priority or a consideration.
For those students under the training allowance process, this means students will be eligible to receive $84 per week. This is particularly beneficial to those students attending Yukon College, whether their programs are in Whitehorse or in the communities. To some, these amounts might not seem to be a significant increase. However, to students attending post-secondary school, either here in Yukon or outside, it may alleviate some anxiety about their finances.
I do not believe that it is necessary to remind the members opposite of the rising costs of education and the difficulty our students and their families have in meeting these costs. We hope that the additional funds we are devoting to student financial assistance will greatly assist in addressing some of their problems.
Although not in the supplementary budget, it is worth repeating that the Yukon Teachers Association negotiations included in the settlement smaller classes, maternity and paternity benefits, and retention allowance. These will ultimately benefit all Yukon school children.
Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that our government has many other spending priorities and plans to improve the quality of life for Yukon citizens here in Whitehorse and in the rural communities. These will be addressed in future budgets. The contents of this supplementary budget are only a beginning, and I look forward to the support of all members for its passage.
I would also like to mention that the provision of $250,000 for the Yukon mining incentive program and the $197,000 for the youth leadership project were also promises that this government had made. We are about delivering on those promises,and this supplementary budget will accommodate that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I take you back to the Liberal election pledge. What we have heard ad nauseum is, "We will do what we say we will do."
Well, to date, we havent seen anything of the sort. But it begs the question: when will the Liberal government do what they say they will do, and how will they do what they say they will do? The documents that usually flow from those election campaign commitments are called the "Speech from the Throne" and the "budget". Well, what we saw, with the presentation of Bill No. 2, the main estimates for 2000-01, and the Liberals saying, "We are going to do what the NDP said that they were going to do." In the background, they say, "But were going to do it better."
Now, all Yukoners were basically told to hold their breath, that the Liberal governments true intentions were going to be spelled out in a supplementary bill, The Second Appropriation Act, 2000-01. This would be a bill authored by the Liberals themselves - a bill that would reveal the Liberal governments real priority. Its an awfully thin document, once again, Mr. Speaker. I guess we should ask for a drum roll.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to do a comparison between what the Liberals said they were going to do during the election with what they have presented in this House in Bill No. 3. As I run through the Liberal election priorities, at the top of the list is "Land claims settled quickly". The Premier and her colleagues, travelling around the various ridings in the Yukon, sent that subtle message that this Liberal government, should they be elected, would have a very, very close working relationship with the federal Liberals.
That tying together of these two entities would see the land claims come into focus and settled very quickly. And Im sure there were conversations between the federal minister, Mr. Nault, responsible for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, and the Premier - certainly between their respective offices - on this topic. The first presence that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs has in the Yukon, after holding out an olive branch to the First Nations of Yukon almost a year ago that he would carefully consider the issue of taxation and carefully consider the clawback of compensation money for negotiations he was going to review those two very outstanding issues, and he was going to get back.
Well, Mr. Speaker, he certainly did get back. He got back to Yukon and attended the gold show and threw a bomb into the middle of the meeting, a bomb that was a disappointment to all of those First Nations who have yet to settle land claims and to those First Nations who have settled land claims that thought there would be another avenue open to recoup a few more dollars.
Im just terribly disappointed that, other than during Question Period, land claims has kind of been hidden on the back burner.
Were on to devolution, development or other issues that the Premier carefully enunciated that she spoke on at the western premiers conference.
Well, Mr. Speaker, until land claims is settled here in the Yukon, I cannot see or envision the development of the Yukon going anywhere. We are stagnant today, and this wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals is not producing any beneficial results. Yet, if we look at the next election priority of this Liberal government, "Proceed with devolution to help create certainty." Wow. How can we proceed with devolution when so much of it hinges on the settlement of land claims? It sounds like this new Liberal government has the cart before the horse. Its easier to pull on the end of a rope and pull somebody up than it is to push on the end of it and try to move something. It just is not going to work. It hasnt worked and I dont care what kind of a stiffening process this Liberal government or their federal Liberals use to stiffen that rope, you still cant push the cart ahead that way. So, they have got things backwards. They have got the cart before the horse.
Then we move on to some of the other election priorities: "Administer the mining acts as written now after devolution." We dont really have a choice there. With the transfer of responsibility comes mirror legislation, and it really has to be the same as the existing legislation. Oh, I imagine therell be some attempt to sneak in some new initiatives or something of that order. I really dont know how successful this Liberal government is going to be in that area.
But the transfer of this responsibility will ultimately occur. Today, I really cant find anyone in the federal bureaucracy who is willing to admit that they want to see this happen or are a supporter of it. The same holds true among First Nations that I have spoken with. There appears to be more of a trust in the federal government than there is in the Yukon government in many respects. I guess thats a product of distance from the governing area of Ottawa, and the ball has been flubbed many, many times. It has been severely fumbled by successive levels of Yukon government.
Then we go on to the other Liberal election priorities. They are going to listen to Yukoners concerns about DAP, the development assessment process. Oh, listen. It doesnt say anything about what theyre going to do about it. They dont really have a position. There isnt anything identified in this supplementary budget that they have tabled. Then they are going to implement the blue book to streamline the permitting process and get development permits more quickly. Commendable, commendable. I really dont know how anyone is going to attempt to do that, other than in a lobbying effort, when you dont have responsibility for that jurisdiction.
Then, of course, there are those neat, little window dressings. They are going to continue with the Yukon geoscience program, the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit, the Yukon mining incentive program - which, Mr. Speaker, there is mention of.
Right out of the blue, another quarter of a million dollars is dumped into the pot for the Yukon mining incentive program. That is one of over a hundred initiatives mentioned by this Liberal government which is actually in this supplementary expenditure. Congratulations.
Then we look on to the Liberal election priorities. They are going to respect valid mining claims. We are referring specifically to the claims in Tombstone Park. We have listened as the Premiers position went back and forth, back and forth. She attempted to sit on the fence as long as she possibly could with respect to the Liberal governments position. To one group, the Liberal Party position appeared to be, "Mining cant take place in parks." To another group, "Well buy those claims out." That is the Liberal Party position. Yet, when the Liberal candidates and the Liberal Party were speaking to the mining community, it was, "We respect valid mining claims and you should be able to go in there and mine them." The law is the law. In claims legitimately staked, the claim holders have a right, through due process, with appropriate environmental screening, to go in and do the exploration work that they wish.
Mining can take place in an environmentally sound manner. The rules for people engaged in that profession today are such that they have to adhere to those rules. There is no way around it, but it was interesting to follow the Liberals with respect to the Tombstone mining claims in terms of what their position was. It varied considerably, depending on the groups they were speaking to or with. And, of course, this wonderful relationship with the federal Liberals was going to be to their advantage, and that was going to work very much to the advantage of all Yukoners, and they would have no problem dealing with this issue. Yet, even in Question Period today, Mr. Speaker, we listened as the Premier waffled back and forth, back and forth, trying to explain herself and trying to explain the documents that I personally tabled the day before, pointing out that she had misspoken herself.
Mr. Speaker, one of the other Liberal election priorities was to bring the Yukon Chamber of Mines back to the table on the Yukon protected areas strategy and establish standards for mineral testing in protected areas. Now, thats a pretty interesting statement, and one that, on the surface, we will all buy into. It was actually the Yukon Party that adopted the protected areas strategy to protect a certain amount of our Yukon. But the trend today seems to be that we have annihilated any possibility for mineral exploration or any chance of a mine coming into production. We dont log anything anymore; we have some visitor industry that is seasonal, and oil and gas exploration is on hold. I guess the only jobs were going to create as a consequence of this, Mr. Speaker, are the keepers of the gates around this Yukon park.
Mr. Speaker, I look forward to seeing how this government is going to bring the parties back to the table on this extremely important issue.
Lets get into another area that this supplementary budget, Bill. No. 3, does address, which this Liberal government has honoured - a 20-percent increase in the Yukon student grant. But it must be pointed out that the Liberals are opposed to the Yukon excellence award, which can provide students with up to $9,200 over and above these student grants. The Liberal government is opposed to the Yukon excellence awards. So, yes, on one hand they giveth, and on the other hand, they taketh away considerably more. Is that fair? Is that reasonable? I guess Yukoners will have to decide, but I do welcome this additional supplementary money for Yukon student grants.
Move down the list of broken promises though - a 14-percent increase in the heritage budget. I havent seen any of that identified in this budget. It just isnt in there. It wasnt in the throne speech. It just looks like something that was set on the door to win the last election. And coupled with the heritage department, the Liberals advanced the territorial-wide museum strategy.
A strategy of that nature would take some time to develop, to consult with the various stakeholders and put it together.
Speaker: Order. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I counted 122 commitments, and lets look at how many have been examined in this Liberal supplementary budget. Four of them. Executive Council Office, $710,000 for lAssociation des Franco-Yukonnais centre, flow-through money from the federal government. Economic Development, another $250,000. Education, almost $500,000 for students assistance grants, and, in Justice, $197,000 for an increase dedicated to the youth leadership program.
Mr. Speaker, of the 122 commitments the Liberals talked about, I can see only the student grant increase and the youth leadership program conforming to their slogan, "We will do what we said we will do." Two out of 122 commitments is pretty pathetic. Wheres the vision? Wheres the plan? It is very telling that the Liberal MLAs chose not to speak to the $500 million plus main estimates but chose to speak instead to this minor appropriation bill.
Mr. Speaker, I will not be supporting this. It doesnt hold true to their election promise.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to speak to this budget at second reading. This budget includes a line item for the youth leadership program. The leader of the official opposition said, at the beginning of his one-hour-and-45-minute speech, that hes not sure how this funding initiative is going to work. Under his government, it wasnt going to work.
The NDP was going to let this program disappear. There is no funding for the youth leadership program in the main estimates that were drawn up by the NDP. We are fixing the NDP mistakes, one at a time. This is one of those mistakes that we are rectifying.
This government has placed a priority on youth and youth programming. This valuable and constructive program that targets high-risk youth, particularly in the communities, is one that we felt was worth continuing this year. The youth leadership program was started in 1997 in three communities, with community development funds and the financial support of five departments. These were Community and Transportation Services, Justice, Health and Social Services, Education and the Womens Directorate. By 1999, the program was operating in seven communities, with interdepartmental funding of $219,000.
As I have already noted, the NDP had no plans to continue with this program this year. It was determined that supplemental budgeting for the necessary money was the most expedient method of ensuring the survival of this program - that, and electing a government that cares about youth. Thats the Yukon Liberal government, Mr. Speaker. Action is necessary now. This is a summer program for delivery at a time when young people are out of school. This program was designed for communities with high rates of youth crime.
A visiting role-model, youth recreational leader travels to targeted communities to deliver recreational programs to youth leaders in their home communities. More than 60 youth have been trained since the program started. These newly trained community leaders remain as a resource for other young people in the community. Some 600 youth have taken part in the program to date. I am convinced that this type of initiative is key to working with young people and communities in a proactive way, as compared to reacting to and labelling the bad kids in a community.
The question may be asked: why are we funding this program solely through the Department of Justice, rather than attempt joint funding as in the past? Justice was the department that initiated the program, and it continues to be the most interested in the maintenance of this program. Crime Prevention Yukon continues to be a significant client of the department, and this program is primarily one of crime prevention.
It is for these reasons, Mr. Speaker, that I encourage the members to support this line item in the supplementary budget. Again, I say that action is necessary now. It is a summer program.
I also want to speak in support of our other initiatives in this budget. The increase in student grants for post-secondary education must also be delivered now, Mr. Speaker, when they will be of assistance to Yukon students. Our mining grants are also an initiative that deserves the support of all members. I am amazed at the Member for Faro for criticizing the spending of money on mining exploration. Im sure his constituents in the mining community of Faro would be interested in his position. I would ask all members who support youth, education and mining exploration to vote in favour of this budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to speak in response to the supplementary budget, albeit a very small supplementary budget. But a point to note, given the Liberals adversity to O&M spending, is that it does dramatically increase O&M spending in this territory - a very interesting fact. I wonder if thats another one of those Liberal commitments - kind of forgotten or gone astray.
However, let us look at the supplementary budget as it relates to the promises and commitments made by the Liberal government during the election and also to the many, many demands and statements they made during their tenure as the official opposition and, in fact, the third party in this Legislature.
Government spending is to address our social and economic needs in this territory.
On the economic side; it is true that the territorial Liberals have put up $250,000 for prospectors under the mining incentive program. Like I said yesterday in this House, Im very hopeful that in the fullness of time, that will produce something. But anybody who has ever been involved in mining exploration, and has actually been out there doing the work, spending the money themselves, will know how quickly $250,000 gets used up and how very few results come from that. However, it is definitely something toward trying to deal with the problem that we have in the mining sector. But there is much more.
For instance, the Tombstone issue is definitely an issue that is harmful to certainty in the mining sector in the Yukon Territory. It is also harmful to investment in the mining sector in the Yukon Territory. So, if you couple that with this expenditure in the supplementary budget, one would wonder exactly what the mining industry really thinks. On the one hand, the Liberals are allowing exploration to continue in a park - a product of a land claim - but on the other hand they have signalled very clearly to the mining industry that there is no mining in the parks and, specifically, in the Tombstone Park.
That is a mixed message, and that and that alone is what drives investment away. There is no certainty coming from the Liberal benches on this issue. The Premier had a number of chances already in their short term - in their short tenure as government here over the last seven weeks - to effectively address that issue: to stand up, be counted, deal with it and move on. Instead the Premier tried to hide behind what she termed NDP mistakes. Well, I think the Chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the people of that First Nation are very, very disappointed that the Liberals consider a product of their final agreement - their land claim - as a mistake. That's a mistake, all right, Mr. Speaker; a mistake on the Liberal governments part; a mistake on the Premiers part.
Beyond that, they were clear in their demands that the NDP, when in government, buy out the claims. It is a fact. Yet, when they have the ability to make that decision and to deal with this issue in a manner that they implied it should be dealt with, what do they do? Nothing. Even the federal government is waiting for the Premier to make that decision.
So, I would ask the Premier to expedite her response on this issue as to whether there will be mining in Tombstone or if they will be buying out the claims. That step alone will do much, much more in bringing certainty to the mining industry and attracting investment in the mining sector for this territory than the $250,000 grant to prospectors.
However, as I said, Im very hopeful that that expenditure, in the fullness of time, will definitely bring results. Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, we have a commitment, and this is one, when it comes to the supplementary budget, that the Liberal government certainly could have addressed. They have committed beyond any doubt to highway maintenance in this territory. And yet they state in this Legislature that theyre just going to go with the NDP budget. The supplementary is a few of their immediate priorities, and well have to wait until the fall for the rest. Well, by the time we get back into this Legislature with the Liberals long-awaited Supplementary Budget No. 2, Jack Frost is going to be in this territory. Highway maintenance simply is not something that we do when the ground is frozen. So, that tells me that the commitment that the Liberals have made in terms of highway maintenance, which they could have addressed with this supplementary budget, has now been ignored and in all likelihood is just something that they said during an election campaign, but are going to just simply forget about.
They had an opportunity with this supplementary to address highway maintenance in this territory. If their intention in saying and committing to that fact was to increase money and funding toward highway maintenance, they had $60 million in the bank. They could have definitely put that in this supplementary. Theyre the ones that said it was a priority. Where is it?
Another commitment around the Yukon economy that the Liberals have in their platform is to host a welcome-back-to-the-Yukon conference on resource development. First, we have this debacle around Tombstone - a big problem for the Liberal government. Theyre handling it badly. Secondly, in the supplementary budget, why wasnt there some expenditure there - some line item; some dollars - put toward this hosting of a welcome-back-to-the-Yukon conference?
Whats the matter with now? Are we to wait again for the fall, for further into the Liberal mandate, at the end of the Liberal mandate? When is this welcome-back conference going to happen?
Mr. Speaker, another issue that is a blaring problem for the Liberals is a commitment around the economy to encouraging cooperation, not confrontation, among all stakeholders, and what they have done with Tombstone, in fact, is not encouraging cooperation at all, but it is definitely leaving the view that there is land-use tenure uncertainty, and that, in itself, will trigger confrontation among stakeholders. Certainty is what moves us off of confrontation and moves us into the realm of cooperation. Without it, shes a free-for-all, Mr. Speaker.
Land-use planning issues - where, in this supplementary budget, if this is such a priority for the Liberals and the economy, is that expenditure in this supplementary? That could have been put in, but I guess we have to wait again for that also.
Mr. Speaker, we have to look at a number of other issues with regard to the Liberal commitments as they relate to the supplementary. Its interesting to note that the Liberals have committed to finalizing the development assessment process, the DAP legislation. Well, there is another party involved here, besides the Yukon government, and thats their Liberal cousins in Ottawa, those people in Ottawa, that government in Ottawa that has never yet been responsive to the needs of this territory.
What is the Yukon Liberal government going to do about DAP? The NDP government was very clear: until the legislation is right, it is simply not going to be implemented. We sent it back to the federal government and said, "Try again." We wanted no part of what they had for legislation, because it simply was not going to respond to the needs of this territory.
Mr. Speaker, one of the main ingredients of rebuilding the Yukon economy, as the Liberals put it - the NDP and I consider this to be diversifying our economy. Even though the mining sector is down, there are still many, many other facets and sectors of our economy that are operating and contributing greatly to this territory. The trade and export side of our economy is extremely important because its a mechanism and a vehicle for Yukoners - Yukon companies and businesses - to look beyond our borders, instead of looking to government and continuously requiring government funding. Its a vehicle to broaden our horizons, look beyond our borders, and break into new markets, where our people, our companies and our small businesses can market their products and talents outside of this territory. And believe me, there is a big market out there.
All you have to do, Mr. Speaker, is to look at the forest sector. In forestry, since 1994, under the Yukon Party government, when we had a total shutdown of our forest industry - the NDP government took it from that point to where we are today. The export of lumber from the Yukon Territory since that time to now has increased by 400 percent.
Ill just give you some rough figures, and these are approximates, but as I see them, having some knowledge about sawmilling and the forest sector.
Lets just take one plant in the southeast Yukon situated in Watson Lake. If their operation continues as it is today, at two shifts, their annual projection of through-put for lumber is 50 million board feet. In one year, that is a significant production of lumber and every stick of that lumber is sold. That product is finding its way to seven states in the United States of America. Thats from a little community in the Yukon, Watson Lake -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, its a wonder why, in this supplementary budget, with such an important facet of our economy, which has done a great deal to help diversify the Yukon economy, there is nothing here. Absolutely nothing. I guess we wait again until next fall. But let me remind the Liberals that next fall is too late. Today is when it counts. This is the important time. The forest industry cant wait. By not paying attention to that in this supplementary budget, the Liberal government may very well have set in motion a situation that I hope doesnt happen. If our forest sector shuts down, as it did thanks to the federal Liberals slapping a moratorium on access to resources in this territory when it comes to forestry, we are going to take another major hit when it comes to certainty of investment in this territory in the resource sector.
So, now we have the Liberals. Through their indecision on Tombstone and their inability to act as they said they would act, we now have a major cloud of uncertainty over the mining industry.
If we have a failure in the forest industry, thats another main economic engine shut down. The Liberals have to act, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, its important to know also that the Liberals have committed, in their platform, to infrastructure development, and this is an interesting one. Their commitment is to review and prioritize the sewer and water infrastructure needs for all Yukon communities and begin planning for their construction - begin planning for their construction. Why, then, is there not some money allocated in the supplementary budget to begin that planning? Its not here. Maybe they have some other way of doing it, but I would assume, given the scope of what water and sewer and what it takes to actually put that into a community, that the planning would start now, not later.
Mr. Speaker, support alternative energy sources - well, lets go back to the forest sector. A main component of our forest industry today is the ability to use residual fibre to produce energy. The Yukon Liberal government had an opportunity here with this supplementary budget to allocate funds toward that very thing. What about looking into, through government research, the ability of this territory to seriously use residual fibre to produce electricity? That means we would be shutting down diesel generators. That means wed be doing a lot -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: That means we would be doing a lot in this territory when it comes to global warming, the quality of our air, and our commitments, thanks to the federal Liberal government, under the Kyoto protocol. I have no more time left Mr. Speaker, though I have many, many more issues that I would like to bring up and I think we can save that for debate in Committee. I just would like to say that Im disappointed at whats before me in this supplementary budget. After the Liberal machine rolled into power in the last election, I expected a lot more. Maybe in the fall, but, as I pointed out, a number of issues are now issues and the Liberals have failed when it comes to those issues.
Speaker: If the member now speaks she will close debate. So, does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, just for the enlightenment of the Member for Klondike, yes, the Member for Faro spoke at some length, and he even praised our supplementary budget, briefly.
Mr. Speaker, we are very pleased to have brought in a supplementary budget that acts upon some of our immediate priorities, that delivers for students in time for this fall an increase to the student grant. The Member for Faro indicated it was an election ploy - quite the contrary, Mr. Speaker. This was a decision we reached in opposition, recognizing that the NDP government - governments, successive - and Yukon Party governments had not acted upon this real need of students since 1982.
The Minister of Justice has spoken very eloquently about the youth leadership project and the immediate need to fund this particular project and how important it was. This particular initiative was sadly lacking in funds and did not have the funds to operate this summer in the budget that was tabled by the previous government.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to commend the supplementary budget to discussion in Committee of the Whole, and, indeed, we are looking forward to it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 8 yea, 5 nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: Order please. The time being now just past 5:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:31 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled on June 8, 2000:
State of the Environment Report (Yukon) 1999 (dated May 2000)