Monday, June 12, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: As we commence proceedings today in the Assembly, we ask for divine guidance. May the deliberations in this House be characterized by temperance, understanding and reason to the end that we may better serve those who have made the members of this House guardians of, and trustees for, all of the citizens of Yukon.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In remembrance of Bessie John
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of all members of this Legislature in paying tribute to a well-known elder and grand matriarch of the Upper Tanana people.
Bessie John was born to Lucy and White River Johnny in the spring of 1923, just north of Beaver Creek at Sourdough Hill, or Nìi'ìi. She was raised in the traditions of the Upper Tanana and Northern Tutchone people and given the native name, Nel Nah.
For people of her generation, "your life was your work and your work was your life." It wasn't easy surviving the long, extremely cold winters on the land in the remote north. Her family kept on the move between Coffee Creek and Little Scottie Creek along the Yukon/Alaska border.
Although Bessie could not participate in the public school system, she painstakingly learned from her own elders about the geography, place names and traditional stories of the Scottie Creek drainage in culturally appropriate ways, every bit as formal as our western education.
Later in life, she appreciated the adult education training course, started by the Yukon Vocational School. She was extremely proud of her son-in-law, then-Government Leader, Tony Penikett, whose government supported the native language initiative.
During the Council for Yukon First Nation's general assembly at Aishihik in 1989, it was Bessie's uplifting and emotional speech that convinced the chiefs to accept the White River First Nation as the fourteenth Yukon First Nation at the land claims table.
Training as a native language instructor at Yukon College was another highlight of her life. She was honoured when John Ritter, now director of the Yukon Native Language Centre, learned to speak in her language. Mr. Ritter also designed a program in which adult native people, with little formal education, could earn a teaching certificate.
At Yukon College in 1992, Chancellor Pierre Berton presented Bessie with her teaching certificate. She taught the upper Tanana language at the Beaver Creek school from 1989 to 1993, before retiring in 1994.
In the year following, she helped produced the Upper Tanana-Scottie Dialect Glossary, which, Mr. Speaker, I tributed in this House on April 15, 1997.
Bessie was very, very proud of her heritage, and she loved to express herself through storytelling and singing. She recorded information on native medicine and many native songs for television and radio and was a regular guest at the Yukon International Storytelling Festival in Whitehorse. Her daughter, Doris Johns, assisted in her language and cultural work. Her only other daughter, Lula Johns-Penikett, assisted her in recording traditional knowledge, along with good friend, anthropologist Norm Easton.
Predeceased by her mother and father - Lucy and White River Johnny - brothers Peter Johnny and Joe Johnny, and half-sister Cecilia Johnny, Bessie is survived by her husband Edgar Albert; sisters Jenny Sanford and Marilyn VanderMeer Sanford; brothers Tommy Johnny, Patrick Johnny and Chief David Johnny; daughters Lula Johns-Penikett and Doris Johns; sons Richard Johns, Gordon Johns and stepson Robert Johnny; and many grandchildren and other relations throughout the north.
Bessie passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on June 3, 2000, at St. Paul's Hospital in Vancouver after a lengthy heart operation. Her funeral services spanned the past three days, from Beaver Creek to Northway, Alaska, and Sourdough Hill, or Nì'ìi', where she was laid to rest yesterday afternoon.
Bessie's love of her language and pride in her native tradition are irreplaceable. She will be greatly missed by her people, friends and relations throughout Alaska and the Yukon.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce three guests who are in the gallery this afternoon. They are Rachel Grantham, director of the Whitehorse Community Choir; Joan Stanton, president of the choir; and, Pam Lattin, the vice-president of the choir.
The choir has brought great honour to the Yukon. The Association of Canadian Choral Conductors have selected the choir's Voices of the Klondike, a choral concert celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Klondike Gold Rush, as Canada's outstanding choral event of the last two years. That is a wonderful accomplishment, and speaks to the hard work of the director, the executive and every choir member.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a letter to the hon. Bob Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, signed by me as Minister of Economic Development.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should implement an action plan to deal with FAS/FAE that would include the following:
(a) prevention programs to eliminate or reduce alcohol consumption of high-risk parents in order to foster the birth of healthy babies;
(b) early diagnosis of FAS/FAE before the age of six;
(c) supporting people and families with FAS/FAE through a wide range of services, such as professional counselling and foster homes, in order to provide a stable, nurturing home environment for those afflicted with FAS/FAE, especially those between the ages of eight to 12;
(d) a team of professionals trained in psychology, personal counselling, social work and health to be formed to provide services to Yukon schools in order to provide support for FAS/FAE students and their families; and (e) investigation of the feasibility of establishing group homes for adults with FAS/FAE.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Education, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Services, implement a student alcohol and drug treatment program as an alternative to expulsion from schools for students caught using alcohol and drugs.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that a Crossroads-type inpatient alcohol and drug rehabilitation centre should be re-established in Whitehorse.
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
It is the opinion of this House that highways, airports, communications and other basic infrastructure systems are the foundation of our Yukon communities;
THAT development of infrastructure in the Yukon is all about improving the quality of life of all Yukoners; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to:
(1) ensure community involvement in the design of government-funded projects;
(2) review and prioritize the sewer and water infrastructure needs for all Yukon communities and begin planning for their construction; and
(3) support alternative energy sources such as wind and solar generation.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon must continue to build upon the success realized in our tourism industry;
THAT the Yukon must continue to capitalize on our natural environment and historic and prehistoric past; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to:
(1) partner with the Yukon Convention Bureau, communities and local businesses to promote the Yukon as a convention destination;
(2) work with the tourism industry and other stakeholders to develop visitor attractions and other tourism infrastructure to encourage all-season tourism throughout the Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Income tax rate increases
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the Premier on the Liberals' flip-flop of the day.
In 1992, during the election campaign, the then-former Yukon Party leader in the now-infamous quote said that, at that time it would have been obscene for the NDP government of that day to raise taxes. He promptly got into government and did just that. Now we have a Liberal Premier who told Yukoners that our 12-percent tax cut wasn't enough and that she would cut more. As soon as she gets into government, she then tells Yukoners she'll be raising their tax rates.
My question to the Premier: why did the Premier tell Yukon families that she'll cut their taxes more than the NDP did and then get into government only to jack their taxes back up?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the NDP government had four years to cut taxes. They waited until the very last portion of their mandate to even make an attempt at it, and then did not pass the budget that reflected those tax cuts. I committed to Yukoners throughout the election campaign that we would implement the initial tax cut and we would examine the books further. And that is exactly what we have done in the bill that is coming before this House.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member is inaccurate. First of all, the NDP, two years ago, cut taxes first for low-income families in this territory and then funded and budgeted for a 12-percent tax-cut reduction for Yukon families so that everyone could benefit. The reality is that there is plenty of money in this budget. The government has a huge surplus. The problem is that there's not enough money to fund these tax cuts and the huge list of Liberal promises out there, and, with every Finance briefing, they're learning how difficult it's going to be.
Mr. Speaker, I want to read a quote by the Premier, on February 22 of this year, where she said, in response to our tax cut plan, "I think the government could have gone further with this initial tax cut. We could have gone further one additional point." Mr. Speaker, that was then, this is now.
Will the Premier commit to reducing taxes more and say to Yukoners unequivocally that she will not jack their taxes back up?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I said, and let me quote for the member opposite, "If the current spending patterns were to continue, the surplus would only be $4.5 million at the end of the 2002-03 fiscal year." We are doing exactly what we said we would do with Yukoners. We said we would take a good look at the books, and that's exactly what we're doing. We're implementing the tax cut for this year, and we're looking at the books. We will examine our options for the future. We will do that in light of the NDP pattern of spending down the surplus to where the projection is only $4.5 million at the end of 2002-03 - a surplus, Mr. Speaker, that will not allow for the pressure points we are experiencing such as escalating health care costs.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, we'll get to that. This is the Premier who told Yukoners that what the NDP did in the way of tax cuts wasn't enough. The Liberals said they would cut taxes more. This is the Premier who is sitting on a $60-million surplus, and today is telling Yukoners that she is going to jack their taxes back up, creating even more uncertainty for those Yukon families.
I would like to ask the Premier, how are Yukoners going to know when she says something she really means to do, versus when she says something just to get elected?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is right on one point. This is the Premier. The member is not right when he says we are sitting on a $60-million surplus, as he full well knows. If the member would examine the budget books, he would see that there is not a $60-million surplus. I would encourage the member opposite to examine them fully.
During the election campaign, when asked directly if we would implement the tax cut, I said we would implement this year's and we would look at the books. That is what we're doing.
Question re: Income tax rate increases
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I read the quote of the Premier to the Yukon public on February 22, this year, where she clearly committed herself. She is not doing what she said she would do. But, because the Liberals have been spinning this tale about the state of the surplus when they took over government, we have no choice today but to table a confidential Management Board document that shows that, as of April 25, this year, one week after the election and only one week before they were sworn in, the Department of Finance officials predicted a $41-million surplus for the last fiscal year. That is without factoring in the traditional $15 million to $20 million in lapsed funding, which will push the surplus closer to $60 million, when they took over government.
What will the Liberals spend of the surplus in this budget year, and in supplementaries, is their responsibility and they have to be accountable for that. I might also point out that their supplementary spends the surplus down even more. They haven't cut any spending. So, with all this money, why is the Premier saying that she is going to cut the NDP tax cuts that she previously said were too small?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the budget documents, as the member full well knows, in the Supplementary Estimates No. 1, indicate that the estimated accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2001, is $14,724,000.
The Yukon Liberal government is, and will be, prudent fiscal managers. We said we would implement the tax cut for this year and we would examine further tax cuts once we have had a good look at the books - that's what we're doing.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this is a big Liberal flip-flop.
First of all, she just quoted the surplus at the end of 2001's fiscal year. That is the Liberal's year. The surplus at the end of March 31, 2000, was the NDP year, and we left them $60 million in the bank. So, Mr. Speaker, it's a question of choices.
Now, we've seen a Liberal government, in five days in this House, make promise after promise and then break them. First of all, on Tombstone, they said they'd buy out the claims, now they're backing off. On Argus, they campaigned against the Yukon government's infrastructure commitment. Now, they're saying they're not going to back out on it, when they have the opportunity with a dead deal.
On legal aid, they said they cared about it and it should be funded now and, with their supplementary, we saw no funding.
And now on the tax cuts that they said were too small, they're saying they're not prepared to cut them more, as they promised Yukoners. All of this in five days.
Mr. Speaker, why doesn't the Premier do what she said she'd do and cut taxes more?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we said we would look at the books. That's what we're doing. We said we would. We tabled the NDP budget in its entirety in order to provide Yukoners with certainty. That's what we have done.
We have said we will treat people with respect, which is exactly what we have done. We have respected the terms of the Argus agreement that was negotiated by the previous government. We said we would be prudent fiscal managers and that is exactly what we are doing.
We have implemented the tax cut for this year. We will look at next year, when we've finished looking at the books.
Mr. Harding: The fact remains that she said the tax cuts were too small; she said she'd cut them and, today, with a $60-million surplus, she could provide certainty to Yukon families who are doing their budgets. With regard to Argus, she could ask for that $750,000 back from the city and buy a kidney dialysis machine. She could put more money into legal aid. This is all about choice. She is saying she couldn't sustain the spending of the NDP, and is using that to justify cutting the tax cuts. Well, Mr. Speaker, she has done nothing but spend more: $250,000 for prospector grants, a million-dollar signing bonus for the YTA.
With this huge surplus, why did the Liberals abandon this 12-percent tax cut plan of the NDP's they said was far too small, and will the Premier now commit, unequivocally, to restoring that and adding more to it, which she said she was going to do before the election?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wants to bootleg all kinds of issues into this question. Let's respond to some of them.
First of all, the reference to the terms of the agreement with the teachers is a reference to a retention allowance, and I would encourage the member to examine that in detail.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The retention allowance deals with a specific issue, which we heard throughout the campaign.
With respect to Argus, the NDP government negotiated this deal. When they were in government, it was not unfair; it was a great deal, it was a wonderful deal. Now, they have changed sides and, all of a sudden, they want us to rip up deals with Yukoners. We are not going to do that. The deal is not dead, and I do not have a choice, contrary to what the member opposite is kibitzing across the floor of the House.
We treat other governments and citizens with respect. I said during the election campaign that we would implement the initial year of the tax cut. That is exactly what we have done. With regard to speculating on future tax cuts, we will look at the fiscal situation of the Government of Yukon, and we will be prudent fiscal managers.
Question re: Seniors housing, extended care facility in Copper Ridge
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services on the new continuing care facility in Copper Ridge. The minister's recent decision to develop the full 96 beds rather than just proceeding with phase 1 construction of 72 beds is, I believe, a wise decision and I commend the minister for making it.
While the facility is a much-needed one, the Member for Riverdale South, at the announcement last June, questioned the location of the facility in view of its distance from the hospital, the increased operational and maintenance costs, the difficulty in commuting for families and friends, as well as the fact that most other senior services are located in downtown Whitehorse. She raised the concerns again during the election, and in a letter written on behalf of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, the Liberals went so far as to state that the location of the facility was making seniors second-class citizens.
Does the minister have the same reservations about the location of the facility, or does he disagree with his Liberal colleagues and support the decision of the previous NDP minister to locate the much-needed facility in Copper Ridge?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, as you have heard, we have issued the contract as of last Friday. Work has begun, and we have not changed the location. We have agreed with the work that had been done in preparing the residence and the site for where it is now going to be. So nothing has changed.
Mr. Jenkins: So during the election campaign, we have one story to win the election. After the election is concluded, we come forward with another story. We have found we can't do anything about it, it would appear. Well, during the election the issue of the location was raised by some seniors at the door. So I'd like to ask the minister if he is confident that Yukon seniors and elders have been properly consulted and that the majority of them are in agreement to construct a new extended care facility in Copper Ridge. Can he give the House that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Being in the job for five weeks, I guess we could probably answer a lot of questions with a lot of surety. But I have to say that this was one project that was done right, as far as looking at consulting with the stakeholders, as far as dealing with the various people who are basically going to be affected by this particular residence. After the briefing notes had been prepared and shared with me, I felt that this was how we should do all our projects, and so I have to commend the fact that this was done right. And I don't think we want to change it because we do things right.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, it is clearly pointed out that the Liberals have one position when they are fighting an election, and then, after the election is over, they read their briefing notes, they read the reality of the situation, and they conclude that it's one project that is done right.
Can the minister also advise the House if he agrees with the previous NDP government's decision to change the Thomson Centre into a level 1 and 2 facility, when it was designed to provide the highest level of care and has immediate access to the Whitehorse General Hospital? Does that make the same amount of sense as the previous evaluation, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: At this point, we haven't decided what we are going to be doing with that particular facility. We are taking one step at a time. We cannot answer all the questions at this point but, over time, I'm sure we will come up with what is in the best interest of Yukoners.
Question re: Education policy regarding home-schooling
Mr. Fairclough:My question is to the Minister of Education. It is essential to involve the public in shaping the best possible education system to serve the needs of all of our students. I was disappointed that the Liberal government ended Conversations in Education early and suspended the dialogue with communities that many Yukon people enjoyed and participated in.
Can the minister tell me if he has met with the Yukon Home Educators Society and parents to continue discussions on improvements to the policies for home-schooled students?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, I haven't.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I'm quite surprised with the answer that the minister has given. In opposition, the Liberals said that the distance education policy administered by the Department of Education was discriminatory and should be changed "forthwith".
Does the Minister of Education agree with the Member for Porter Creek South that the distance education policy is discriminatory, and has he given any direction to change this policy?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, again I cannot give you a qualified answer at this time. I would be more than willing, at a later date, to supply a qualified answer to your question. I'm sorry.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals were in opposition, this was important to them, and they questioned the government over and over on it. As a matter of fact, their Premier wrote a letter in December stating that the Department of Education is obliged, in her view, to provide the necessary resources for home-schooled students to receive distance education courses by early January 2000.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the NDP government has left a surplus of $60 million to the Liberal government. Can the minister outline what is the estimated annual cost for making this change in policies, what the changes to policies will be and will he be bringing forward a supplementary budget in the fall to cover the costs of distance education courses for home-schooled students?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I do understand that the Premier did meet with the groups on a frequent basis and there will be adequate time where the Premier can brief me on those issues. I will be meeting directly with them when time allows, and that will be in the nearest future as possible.
Question re: Oil and gas, pipeline route
Mr. Fentie:My question is for the Premier in her capacity as the Minister for Economic Development, and it relates to the development of the oil and gas industry here in the Yukon.
Recently, the Premier, in a speech to the Chamber, stated that the development of the oil and gas industry here in the territory is a tremendous opportunity for Yukoners. The Premier also went on, as leader of the official opposition, to table a motion in this Legislature that encouraged the Yukon government to aggressively promote the development of that industry. In recent days in this Legislature, we have witnessed the Liberal government do a complete reversal on many of their priorities and commitments, whether it be land claims, taxes, Tombstone claims, legal aid, the Argus issue. They're on the run from those priorities. It could be compared to a fugitive running from the scene of a crime.
Can the Premier inform this House in what order of priority does the development of oil and gas industry rest with the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as we have spoken at great length throughout the election campaign and in this House in the short time we have been sitting so far, the top priority of the Liberal government is the settlement of land claims, devolution, turning the Yukon economy around. With respect to turning the Yukon economy around, that includes oil and gas. As the member full well knows, I will be participating in the World Petroleum Congress National Petroleum Show in that regard, with respect to promotion of Yukon's oil and gas. Prior to the end of the election campaign, I had also taken steps in terms of pipeline promotion.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's interesting. The Premier has just stated that when it comes to the economy of this territory, the oil and gas industry is a very high priority. Yet, when the Premier had an opportunity to attend the annual Pipeline Energy Association meeting in Calgary a short time ago, the Premier neglected to do so. However, a competing jurisdiction for a pipeline route into market in the south, the Northwest Territories, had their Premier at the association meeting, and the Premier from the Northwest Territories lobbied heavily for the Mackenzie route. It's a given that the development of the oil and gas industry in this territory is directly linked to the development of infrastructure - in short, a pipeline to be able to send product to market.
Can the Premier explain why the Premier did not represent this territory and the Alaska Highway route at such an important annual meeting of the Pipeline Energy Association?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will be attending, at a minimum in the next six weeks, two very important meetings, with respect to pipelines and oil and gas development in the Yukon. They are the World Petroleum Congress and the National Petroleum Show this week, and there are other meetings scheduled early in July, specifically for the Yukon with respect to meeting with petroleum executives. There are a number of them that have been scheduled.
With respect to Premier Kakfwi, and his efforts, Premier Kakfwi has quite correctly recognized that there is an opportunity and he has spoken on behalf of his territory. I don't answer for his actions and he doesn't answer for mine.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm glad the Premier of the Yukon government recognizes the importance that the pipeline has to the Northwest Territories. Unfortunately, she didn't represent that fact at the association's annual meeting.
It's all well and good for the Premier to attend the world conference, but the Yukon will be lost on the world stage. This is a huge conference. The Premier will probably have trouble getting lunch.
At the pipeline association meeting, the Premier had a golden opportunity to take political leadership and state the Yukon Territory's case when it comes to the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Can the Premier table today for this House any letters she may have written - a record of phone calls, records of meetings - anything that has to do with the Yukon Liberal government's position of aggressively promoting the oil and gas industry and more specifically, the Alaska Highway pipeline? Will she undertake to do so today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, there are assistants who are listening to this and I would respectfully request that the letters I exchanged with the Prime Minister during the election campaign be tabled for this House. As well, I am prepared to list for the member opposite, who seems so desperately interested in my schedule, the number of meetings I have had with Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. and Westcoast, as well as meetings with other individuals, such as the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and others who have spoken with me about this initiative.
The Yukon Liberals have been absolutely crystal clear with everyone with respect to this pipeline. Our commitment was to progressively promote it and that is precisely what we have done from the middle of the election campaign and on. My summer and the time over the next immediate few weeks will be focused on meeting with executives and ensuring the Yukon's voice is heard.
I also made representation on this with respect to the western premiers and spoke with my colleagues about it at some length.
There are a number of factors to do with this pipeline that need to be emphasized and need to be pointed out to individuals, and we are working on aggressively promoting it
Question re: Land claims, unresolved issues
Mr. Harding: I must point out to the Yukon public that when it mattered most on the ANGTS project, the Premier was AWOL.
With regard to the issue of land claims in this territory is another area - a so-called top priority - where the Liberals have missed the boat. Five weeks after the election, at the gold show, there was a terrific opportunity to settle a number of Yukon land claims and to move the land claims process ahead immensely. A year after Minister Nault told Yukon First Nations that he was going to make major moves on two substantive, key issues that would settle a number of claims in this territory, after the election here in the territory, he came up, backed out and dropped the bomb on the table saying he was no longer going to do what he said he was going to do.
I'd like to ask the Premier a very simple question. Does the Premier agree with Bob Nault's position on the loan-repayment and taxation issues, or does she support Yukon First Nations' issues and positions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The NDP was in power for four years. They signed one land claim. The Yukon Liberal government has been in office for less than two months. Settlement of the seven outstanding land claims is a top priority with our government. The action I have taken at the principals meeting and the position I have taken since is to ensure that Government of Yukon issues are resolved and that our government is making best efforts to ensure that these seven outstanding land claims are settled.
Mr. Harding: The Premier avoided the question. She did not answer it. I'm going to ask her again, but first of all I'll give her a history lesson. In terms of the issue around land claims and the agreements that were signed, she is conveniently forgetting the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in land claim and the fact that if these two issues are resolved, there will be four more claims that are essentially finished from a Yukon perspective.
So let me ask her the simple question again, and she can answer it for the Yukon public clearly and concisely. Does the Premier agree with Bob Nault's position on the loan-repayment and the section 87 issues, or does she support the Yukon First Nations' position? What is her position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let me answer for the member, very clearly, so that he understands it. Settlement of seven outstanding land claims is a top priority. We have made every effort since taking office to ensure that none of the issues at the seven outstanding land claims tables are Yukon issues, and the member full well knows that there are Government of Yukon issues. I would remind the member that if he revisits his public exchange of correspondence with the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, he will recall that there are Government of Yukon issues that need to be resolved. Those issues will be resolved. Settlement of seven outstanding land claims will be, and is, a top priority of this government, and we will ensure that best efforts are made.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is skating on some thin ice. The Yukon public will clearly hear that she did not answer the question. Now, this is the Premier who said one week before the election with regard to the taxation issues, "I think it's a matter of Paul Martin's been here before. Let's get him to the principals meeting in May - that's the one at the gold show - and resolve this log jam. It's not a difficult resolution." That's what she said one week before the election. Then we had the gold show and, lo and behold, look at what Minister Nault had to say.
I'm going to ask her once again: will she answer a simple question? Does she support Minister Nault's position on the loan repayment in section 87, or does she support Yukon First Nations' position - which one?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was not at either the previous principals negotiations or these ones. The member opposite needs to remember that we have said that the settlement of seven outstanding land claims will be a top priority, and they will be a top priority. They are a top priority. I do not speak for Minister Nault, nor do I speak for the grand chief. I speak for Yukoners. That's my task, and that's what I intend to do. In speaking for Yukoners, they want to see - we all want to see - the settlement of seven outstanding land claims done and accomplished forthwith. And that's exactly what we're trying to do.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to the Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a brief recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Before we start on general debate, I would like to thank the members of this House for entrusting me with the position of Chair of Committee of the Whole. I promise to be non-partisan. I promise to be even-handed. I promise to ask the members to respect the decorum and leadership of the House that we show to the people of the Yukon Territory. That being said, I would like to now proceed with general debate on Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have spent some time tabling this piece of legislation. I would remind members again that the timing of the election call created uncertainty for Yukoners in that, by adopting this budget, we are endeavouring to cause as little disruption as possible to the economy and to government operations, and it is for that reason, and that reason alone, that we proceeded with the numbers before us. I am certainly looking forward to members' questions.
Mr. Harding: I welcome the opportunity to talk about uncertainty, because there has been a lot more uncertainty created in the territory as a result of the actions that have been taken by this Liberal government thus far. The only saving grace for them that they've demonstrated so far is the NDP budget, which I believe was a good move for them to bring forward, because it's doing a lot to create work in construction opportunities out there in the Yukon public. We see, by the March and April employment numbers, the economy, because of the NDP budget, is certainly starting to turn around and create some work in the territory.
But there are a number of issues that I have to explore with the Premier extensively, and I look forward to doing that today and next week when she returns from Calgary. I think it's going to be incumbent on the Yukon people to see, in a whole host of areas, exactly what the positions of this government are, as they pertain to key issues that are out there in the minds of Yukon people.
I'm going to be asking her about the Tombstone claims. It's very apparent to Yukoners that there has been a backtrack by the Liberal government on buying out the claims. One only has to read the letter that I received today - the member tabled it - in which she is already setting up the equation that she intends to be backing out of the commitment to buy out the Tombstone claims. And I have to tell the member opposite that, with regard to a negotiated settlement, I am sure that if the price is right, they will have a deal on the Tombstone buyout, but every day that the Premier delays, the price is going to go up.
Now, the member likes to say that the situation is there because of NDP inaction. Well, I must tell her that the course that was taken that resulted in the claims being finalized was basically that the mining company had the right, under the Quartz Mining Act, to stake claims. Under the protected areas strategy, it called for the identification of study areas, not immediate interim withdrawals. As a matter of fact, the mining industry had protested that immensely - the fact that once a study area is defined, there should be an immediate withdrawal. They asked for map notation. The time we took to ask for the withdrawal of the area to work its way through the federal government process - the federal government, her Liberal colleagues. It takes months, sometimes six months.
The same thing happened with regard to Fishing Branch, and the only way to resolve it will be having in the Yukon protected areas strategy immediate mineral withdrawal and a quick-responding Liberal federal government to that request by the Yukon government. The ultimate solution is going to be a change to protected areas, should the Liberals wish to make it - which will result in immediate withdrawal - and a Cabinet decision - which will be rendered by devolution - that the area will be withdrawn from mineral staking. That will require that we do, indeed, conclude devolution. Otherwise, no matter what decision is made at the territorial Cabinet, you'll still have to go through the painful delay, a long process of removing areas from mineral staking.
I am sure that, should they buy out the claims of Canadian United Minerals - I'm sure that if the price is high enough, anybody is willing to look at an offer because they're in business to make money - that a new industry will be created in this territory. I'm looking forward to seeing how, in the future, the government deals with that.
As well, I want to talk a lot about the budgeting philosophy of this Premier, because it used to be amusing to me to listen to her talk about "red ink", saying that the government shouldn't bring in current-year deficit budgets, when she has just brought in a supplementary budget that increases the current year's deficit - thus, more red ink. Yet, in Question Period today, she stood up and said that she can't keep spending like the NDP, even though she has spent more than the NDP. So, she's trying to have that one both ways. The public may buy it for awhile, but certainly, my job in opposition is to hold her accountable and point out that she is not doing what she said she was going to do.
I have read and researched her second reading comments on the budget, when they voted against the NDP budget, and we're going to have an extensive discussion about her comments then versus her comments now; her actions then versus her actions now; her actions since she brought in this particular budget and statements she has made since then, when she increased spending.
I want to extensively explore Argus with her and the Argus decision and the fact that the Liberals have now committed to continuing funding the "corporate welfare", as the Member for Whitehorse Centre was fond of calling it. It's going to be, I think, important that it's exposed to Yukoners that the Liberals now have a choice to cancel the funding to the Argus mall for the infrastructure and deal with the tax revisions, yet are now making the decision to continue to fund it.
The deal that was signed by the New Democrats is dead and we'd be more than happy for this government to continue the policy of not breaking signed agreements, as long as they're valid. In this case, it's a choice for the Liberal government to kill the Argus deal, because it has been violated by the other party, in our estimation.
They have an ability to take $750,000 back to the city. That money was granted for the sole purpose of the infrastructure commitment to the offsite water and sewer. We are puzzled as to why it was called corporate welfare by the Liberals before the election and why, now, they're continuing to hand Argus and their subsequent main tenant, Walmart, this particular funding.
They found it quite atrocious in the election campaign, and actually received a lot of support from the people who felt they were going to kill the deal. Now we see the government has the choice and they don't take it.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have to have an extensive discussion about that. We will survey that issue in some detail. I also want to talk about where the surplus is at. I want to know what the projected lapse funding is going to be for the year ending March 31, 2000. The Liberals were sworn in some five weeks after that. The election was on April 17. The last document that I have from Management Board indicates that Finance officials were contemplating a $41-million surplus prior to lapses. I would like to know what the lapses are? I expect we will end up somewhere with a projection coming out in the Auditor General's report of $55 million to $60 million, and that will be the sum that the Liberals will end up starting their government with.
Now, they did not have to bring in the NDP budget. They did not have to increase spending as they have chosen to do in this fiscal year. What the surplus is as of March 31, 2001 is the Liberals' own making and the Liberals' own responsibility. They have to be accountable for that. It's a matter of choice. They're the government now.
The Premier could have - if she was, as she said in opposition, against red ink - come in with a supplementary budget that actually reduced spending, thus bringing up the surplus as of March 31, 2001. She chose, contrary to that, to actually increase the deficit, drawing down the surplus. We have been seeing spending commitments from ministers daily in the papers, which is very enjoyable for us, for continuing care facilities, a $1-million signing bonus for the YTA, more for legal aid - and we know now, with the immense shortage of health care professionals, that they will be dealing with the retention issues for them.
This is only going to serve to further create more what the Premier, when she was in opposition, liked to call "red ink."
One thing she signalled of great concern that we have to explore is health care cuts. She has continually mentioned one specific about cost overruns and areas she wants to target for cuts, and that is health care. Her colleagues in Ottawa have proven very adept at cutting health care.
We, the Yukon New Democrats, increased funding in that area dramatically in our time in government, and we believe that it is a necessary and important fundamental service for Yukoners, and in particular seniors. We want to see that funding committed. So, I want to know if she is prepared to give a firm commitment that she will, indeed, not cut health care at all and, in fact, increase funding in that area, as her ministers have indicated they will be doing.
As well, Mr. Speaker, we have to scope out numerous issues with the Premier around legal aid. We will have to talk extensively about devolution. It is a very important issue for Yukoners. I know that the government is relatively new, but we have to know what their vision is and what their sense of priorities are. We have to know where they want to take this territory with regard to land claims settlements and implementation, because seven of the First Nations already have final agreement. They are very anxious in many cases to move on with implementation. There are a whole slew of issues around implementation that are of some consternation to First Nations with band final agreements.
One of the most extensive problems we had in opposition was dealing with the federal government and ministers, who were either unwilling or unknowing about the extensive commitments that were made to program service transfer agreements. The funding for those agreements has been woefully lacking by the federal government.
Implementation issues are paramount, in our estimation, along with the settlement issues.
So, Mr. Chair - and I would like to welcome you to your position - there are a lot of issues that have to be scoped out in general debate, and there are also some more minor, but nonetheless important issues that we are going to have to deal with in the coming weeks.
So, Mr. Chair, I look forward to this debate and I want to assure the member that we, on this side of the House, are more than prepared to move this expeditiously along but we have to have answers. One of the things that was painfully apparent today in Question Period was on the issue of whether the Premier supported Yukon First Nations or Bob Nault with regard to loan repayment and section 87. She was not prepared to answer that question in a very open and accountable way, and it's important that she's very open and accountable, as she promised Yukoners, because they have expectations that she is going to act in that same vein that she promised. However, today we saw the skating and the evasiveness surrounding an important issue and I think it's incumbent on us to flush that out a little bit.
Mr. Chair, I would also like to say that we have numerous questions on the economy. We want to know where the Premier, who is also the Minister of Economic Development, is going to go economically. We have seen nothing from this Liberal government economically, absolutely nothing. So far, in two months, we have seen them take steps backwards economically.
A big bomb has been dropped in the land claims process. We have seen continued uncertainty - we heard today that the president of the Chamber of Mines is down in Ottawa talking about how the Liberals are destroying the mining industry in the territory, creating tremendous uncertainty. This whole Tombstone buyout issue is going to be an albatross for this Liberal government until they resolve it.
We also have to get to the bottom of just who is going to make the first move, because Minister Nault said he was waiting on the Premier with regard to a cheque for a buyout offer. I want to know what the initial buyout offer is going to be to Canadian United Minerals and what they are prepared to spend. I know they don't, of course, want to give us their entire hand as to what they want to pay Canadian United Minerals for this buyout that they promised Yukoners, but we would sure like to know what their initial offer is going to be.
I want to get a sense of the magnitude of whether this was a serious commitment by the Liberals or just one to attract people who indeed wanted those claims removed from this wilderness park, and that will be an interesting discussion.
Of course we also have a lot of questions about boards and communities that only the Premier can answer, and we have a lot of questions about how they are going to be changing the boards and committees process - as they have promised - to make it much more inclusive and non-partisan. They campaigned on that.
We have questions about the issues surrounding the community development fund and all of the other boards and committees that they campaigned on providing performance indicators for and, as well, campaigned on improving the accountability. So there are some interesting issues there.
All is well with regard to Health and Social Services. There are some significant issues which we have touched on just briefly because there has been so much in other areas in Question Period on the issues that are going to certainly come within the purview of the Premier and the Finance Minister - and we have to do some scoping surrounding those issues as well.
There are some extensive discussions we have to have with the Premier with regard to the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We know that she has already missed a tremendous opportunity to support Yukoners' interests in getting that pipeline. We want to know what her plan is from here on in. We thought we would probably see, given the talk from the Premier before the election, some more funding for this particular endeavour in the supplementary budget. That was not to be the case. We also feel that - we were surprised, frankly, with regard to the Yukon mineral strategy, the blue book, the development assessment process, the Liberals had absolutely nothing to say in the throne speech or their first budget speech. And, along with completely cutting out rural Yukon in those particular speeches, we have some concern about that, because it indicates a lack of decisiveness, a lack of direction and a lack of any new vision on the economy.
By the good graces of the NDP budget, the job numbers have improved, but we expected more from the Liberals, in terms of new ideas. I think, basically, what they have been bent on now is renaming NDP programs to put their own sort of twist on it and claim that they have come up with a new idea. Over two months, their record in that regard is very transparent to the average Yukoner.
We're very concerned about the protected areas strategy and where this Premier intends to take it. Is she going to have, for example, immediate interim withdrawal requests with study areas? That's a good question. We haven't heard any answer from the Premier on that - no statement whatsoever. She has committed to putting it in legislation, but I don't think she really knows what she's dealing with regarding that. Are we going to receive that legislation this fall? We would expect, given what she has talked about with uncertainty, she's going to have to deliver it this fall, because people in the territory are demanding it. Right now, the Liberals, according to the president of the Chamber of Mines, are destroying the mining industry in this territory. So, Mr. Speaker, uncertainty is a severely difficult problem.
I know the Member for Klondike is extremely concerned about how the development assessment process is going to affect development. I know that we, on this side, share the same concern and are, frankly, disappointed that we have received no statement whatsoever from the Liberal Premier with regard to dealing with that issue of uncertainty.
But I think it's becoming quite apparent that the government really isn't sure how to approach these key issues. We have seen advisors in from the Prime Minister's Office; we have seen people who have worked for B.C. Liberals coming up to advise the Premier. We know the B.C. Liberals are very anti-land claims, and that is a concern to us. They have campaigned against the Nisga'a treaty. We know, with regard to land claims, that this government is weak, given the issues stated by the federal minister, Mr. Nault, in Dawson City, and we saw it today in Question Period - an inability for the Premier to take a position, whether with regard to Yukon First Nations or Minister Nault on loan repayment and section 87.
This is a significant concern to the NDP caucus and the official opposition, and we're going to have to flesh these issues out a little bit.
Mr. Chair, we saw a lot from the Premier, and she talked a lot about fetal alcohol syndrome in this Legislature in opposition. We were completely blown away to see no funding in that area in the supplementary budget. We thought for sure the Liberals meant what they said they believed in when they were in opposition, but yet there was $250,000 more in prospector grants but nothing to fight fetal alcohol syndrome in this territory. That says something about a questionable list of priorities by this government. People really believed that the Liberals cared about this issue, but setting up a commission - as they have developed as their be-all, end-all ideas - comes fraught with its own list of concerns, and we will get into that in due course. We're doing a lot of preparation for engaging that debate, and I look forward to that particular endeavour with the members opposite.
We have a lot of questions about the highways. The Liberals committed to increasing highway construction budgets and maintenance, and we've seen no evidence of that. I know that a lot of people could be put to work if the Liberals would have put more dollars into highway construction and maintenance. We have seen no evidence of that in the supplementary budget, and they have $60 million in the bank. I know from talking to a number of the contractors that they are hurting. They feel that the Liberals have abandoned them on this commitment that they made, and we are going to hold them accountable for that.
Now, they have promised us all, they have said to hold off, just wait, there is going to be a new supplementary budget in the fall, and there is going to be a new opportunity, a new budget speech, a new throne speech, and we are going to lay out our priorities and our spending commitments. Well, Mr. Chair, we have put the Liberals on notice in this legislative session, when they are still on their honeymoon, that we very much look forward to the fall session. We are beside ourselves with anticipation for this hold-off budget in the spring that is going to produce major moves in all of the areas that they identified as problems.
They asked for money, not four years from now, not three years from now, not two years from now, but they used to ask us for money now. They'd say, "Put the money in the budget now. You've got the money; put it in the budget now."
Today, we heard a motion from the Member for Riverside, talking about planning and strategizing and creating funding needs well into the future. Well, when you look at areas like the Carmacks sewage system, we were told to fund it now by the Liberals in opposition - no ifs, ands or buts. Fund it now. And so we are going to be expecting them to carry out the words that they said they were going to do, and that means a fall supplementary.
I want to read a comment from the Premier. In her second reading speech, when she was criticizing the budget the NDP just tabled, she said, "What about the sewage and water systems in Ross River, Carmacks and the growing community of Marsh Lake?" - the House leader's riding
Well, Mr. Speaker, it's very clear that they're going to have to deliver on these commitments because they've raised expectations that they're going to deal with them, and, Mr. Speaker, we can have a lot of discussion in those areas, because these are very, very large items. Nonetheless, the Premier felt, in opposition, that it was something that should be dealt with immediately. And certainly, the Member for Riverdale South expressed similar opinions.
The financial picture of the territory when the Liberals came in was extremely rosy. It's better than anywhere else in the north - and, I would argue, probably better than anywhere in the country - because the government has, on a per capita basis, the size of the surplus the Liberals inherited from the NDP. We hope they spend it wisely, but we have to say with regard to the issues that we've dealt with so far, we are very, very disappointed.
I guess I'll begin with the Premier - there so many issues and so little opportunity this week to talk to her - with the issue of deficit budgeting in the current year deficit and her commitment to not using red ink.
I will just read her a quote from her second reading speech, just to refresh her memory. "How have the NDP chosen to present our financial picture? We can accuse them of using bright, Harrison-like bold colours, and they can accuse the official opposition - as they no doubt will - of using dull browns and greys. The fact is, since 1996 when this government took office, there has been a lot of red ink in the NDP budgets. There have been four budgets all with deficits, Mr. Speaker, of $10 million, $8 million, $21 million and, this year, a $27 million-deficit." Which they have just increased.
So, Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Premier, is she planning on bringing in balanced budgets?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, that was quite a performance by the interim leader of the official opposition. There were a number of issues touched upon for the edification of members and the camera.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I caught that, as the member has so duly noted.
There were a number of issues. There was only one specific question. This government and I, as its Finance minister, intend to be prudent fiscal managers. The situation is such that there is an estimated accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2001, of slightly over $13 million. Whether or not that is enough to have in the bank at any one point in time for a surplus is a question that many Finance ministers have wrestled with. The member knows full well that we cannot have debt, and the question really that the member is asking is, "Do we intend to ensure that there is an adequate surplus? Certainly, we, as prudent fiscal managers, will do our best.
Mr. Harding: We're going to be here a long time. That's just not going to cut the mustard, Mr. Chair. Question Period has a time limit and the Speaker can save the member by the bell. In Committee of the Whole, that's not the case.
I want to ask the Premier again: is it her intention to bring in balanced budgets?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: You're right, we're going to be here a long time.
Is the member asking if we intend that the revenue and expenditures should be equal, in that form of a balanced budget?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Harding: I thank the member opposite for a clear answer. Well, the problem with that is that it's a complete turnaround from what she said when she was in opposition. It's a problem for her; it's certainly a good thing for the opposition.
Mr. Chair, she talked a lot. There are lots of quotes. We have done our research and found all kinds of things she said about red ink and NDP budgets. But, she's now telling us that she will not table balanced budgets - meaning, her budgets will not have a revenue picture that exceeds a planned expenditure. I just want her to confirm that once more. The Premier is telling us that she will not table budgets where the revenue picture exceeds the planned expenditures. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is not what I said.
Mr. Harding: What did she say?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the issue is whether Government of Yukon's revenues and expenditures are going to be equal. That certainly would be a goal. This government will be prudent fiscal managers. The way the NDP were spending money, we would have been down to a surplus of $4.5 million. That is not sustainable. We cannot continually table deficit budgets, without at some point running into debt, which we are not legally able to do.
What the member is trying to do is play an elaborate word game so that he can fax Hansard from here to eternity, suggesting that I am not a prudent fiscal manager and neither is our government. That is exactly what we intend to be.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, she didn't answer the question and, again, I must say, she has just accused the NDP of overspending. Did she or did she not make a decision to table the NDP budget and a supplementary that increased spending in the fiscal year ending March 31, 2001?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we tabled a budget - retabled the NDP budget in its entirety. It was - and it still is, because it is still the same budget - a deficit budget. The additional supplementary budget, which is not what we are debating right now, calls for an additional $943,000 in expenditures. That money is from revotes.
Mr. Harding: Did they have a choice to cut the expenditures?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, if we had cut the expenditures, we would not have retabled the NDP budget in its entirety and we would have pulled the rug out from under people. We would have been in a position where it would have been extremely difficult to cut expenditures given that, prior to taking office, $212 million had already been appropriated through Commissioner's warrants. So, to turn around and try and cut any of those expenditures would have been difficult in the extreme.
Mr. Harding: Could Cabinet have made a decision to cut the expenditures?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Could Cabinet have made that decision? Not and been honest with Yukoners, we could not have.
Mr. Harding: Well, we'll get into a lot of areas where the Liberals have not been entirely honest with Yukoners, but I want to ask her: could the Liberals, at their Cabinet table, have made a decision to cut the expenditures they tabled in the supplementary and main budgets?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member is being somewhat hypothetical. We could have made a decision, because we were elected and have spending authority. Would we have done that? No.
Mr. Harding: That's not what I'm asking her. Could she have cut the expenditures - yes or no? Could Cabinet have done that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just stated - yes, we had the legal authority to do that. We could have gone in and suggested all manner of things. Unfortunately, our options were limited, in that $212,370,000 had already been spent. It would have been a matter of going in and examining those expenditures, and it would have been totally against our principles.
Mr. Harding: So, the member just agreed that the Liberal Cabinet had a choice. They could have cut expenditures. They chose not to. So, Mr. Chair, what that says is that the Liberals have made a choice. They made a choice to table a deficit budget this year.
The Minister of Renewable Resources is shaking his head, "Yes, yes." But what he doesn't understand, because he wasn't in the House, is that for three and a half years his colleague on his right stated that a government should not table a budget where the planned expenditures exceed the planned revenues. So, this is all new to me. It's not new to him because he was a part of the decision or the choice to table a current-year deficit budget and make another decision - make another choice - to increase the expenditure, thus increasing that current-year deficit, which came as a surprise to me, because I had listened to untold numbers of comments from the Premier that she did not believe in that.
She has further muddied the waters by saying that she can't keep spending like the NDP, even though she's spending more than the NDP. So I want to ask the Premier this: will it be her policy to table budgets in which planned expenditures exceed their planned revenues?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Some years, as this year, expenditures will exceed the revenues that come in. Sometimes they will be in balance. Most importantly, we cannot go into debt, and the spending pattern exhibited by successive NDP governments consisted of all deficit budgets, which spent down the surplus projected to somewhere around $4.5 million. That level of spending is not sustainable. It is our intention to be prudent fiscal managers. This is the Yukon taxpayers' pocketbook we're looking after, and we're going to do that responsibly and thoughtfully.
Mr. Harding: Is the Liberal level of spending sustainable?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As tabled in this NDP budget? No.
Mr. Harding: Then why are they spending more?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because this is not new money; it is money from revotes, and that is the supplementary budget, which we're not yet debating.
Mr. Harding: Is she arguing that that has no impact on the accumulated surplus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no, I am not. I am suggesting that the member focus the debate. He's talking about the spending in the supplementary budget. We're dealing in general debate on this budget. In general debate on this budget, the deficit that was tabled by the NDP and retabled by the Liberal government - this level of spending - is not sustainable.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, well again, the Premier has just admitted that the supplementary expenditure she has made was a choice to spend more. At the same time, she's arguing that the expenditure patterns of the NDP were not sustainable.
She has also admitted that the spending patterns of the Liberals, who are spending more than the NDP, are not sustainable.
So, it brings us to the question, Mr. Chair, of what exactly she intends to do.
She said, "Some years we will spend less than we project for revenues and some years we will spend more." How does that reconcile with her earlier concerns, as the leader of the official opposition, about red ink and current-year deficits?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I said that, in some years, expenditures will exceed the inflow; in some years revenues will exceed expenditures and, in some years, they will be in balance. Over time, we have to maintain an accumulated surplus as is required by law, and that's what we intend to do.
The member opposite has asked my opinion on successive deficit budgets tabled by the previous NDP government. That level of spending was not sustainable. It spent down the surplus in 2002-03 to $4.5 million and, as the member well knows - because he touched upon them in his opening remarks for the cameras - there are serious areas of concern with respect to government spending - points of pressure - that must be recognized and dealt with, and we intend to do that.
Mr. Harding: Well, the Premier has opened up a few doors with that. The Premier presumably knows now what the March 31, 2000, year-end lapses are and what she's going to have either to budget or what she's going to have to revote and what the surplus projections are for March 31, 2000. She has admitted that the Liberals, level of spending at the present time is not sustainable.
She said that there will be years when there'll be projected expenditures exceeding revenues that are projected. Does she believe that, next year, she's going to have to bring in budgets where planned expenditures do not exceed planned revenues?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking me if I'll table a deficit budget next year. I will be examining the books over the course of the summer. That's a hypothetical question.
I'm not going to say next year's will be a deficit or a surplus, until we've dealt with a number of issues before us.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, we've got to get to the bottom of this, because if she's saying that the Liberal level of spending is not sustainable, but more commitments are being made and she's saying the surplus is down to $14 million, if she tables another one that has the same sized deficit, she's saying the accumulated surplus will be gone. So, I have to ask her, and I have to find out, if she's going to make cuts to deal with that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we won't know the budget projected surplus or deficit next year until we have gone through the books. The estimated surplus, as of March 31, 2001, is over $13 million. That's what we're looking at right now.
So, as whether next year's budget will be a surplus or a deficit, there are a number of factors that will have to be taken into consideration - and they will be taken into consideration in due course.
Mr. Harding: What does the Premier know about normal anticipated lapses? What's the usual number of lapsed funding? What is the usual number in millions, on average, over the last couple of years? Surely, she's been briefed on that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it was $14 million this year. I was well aware of that and had been briefed. My understanding is also that that is normal, that it can be $12 million to $13 million, so $14 million is not extraordinary.
Mr. Harding: Which year is she talking about - March 31, 2000, or March 31, 2001?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The estimated lapses at year-end on the year 2000 is $14 million.
Mr. Harding: So, she is expecting, as of the year-end March 31, 2000, that the surplus will be between $55 million and $60 million. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite used the figure 2000?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: March 31, 2000.
The forecast accumulated surplus - March 31, 2000 - is $56 million, as the member well knows. The estimated lapses at year-end is $14 million of that. That is the estimated surplus at year-end, the year 2000. That is prior to the previous government spending in excess of $200 million in Commissioner's warrants.
Mr. Harding: Oh, Mr. Chair, that is so weak. The Premier had an ability to bring in this budget that she has brought in, or not. She had an ability to make revotes, or not. She has an ability to bring in a supplementary budget, or not. The Liberals made a choice. The Liberals are accountable for this fiscal year, and they will be accountable for what is left as of March 31, 2001. We can't do it because we are not the government. She is the Premier, they have choices to make. That's what government is all about. And, Mr. Chair, it's pretty clear - we've just learned, and it has been confirmed by the Premier - that we left the Liberals $56 million in the bank. They have choices to make. When they became Cabinet - and even leading up into Cabinet with their transition team as to whether they were going to continue to sustain the budgetary spending priorities that the NDP had put forward, which projected a current-year deficit of $27 million.
They made a choice to do that. Now, the reality is that it won't be that, because it will be lapsed funding, as the member just said. Traditionally, it's around $12 million to $15 million. The same thing will hold true as of March 31, 2001, which is now projected at somewhere around $14 million. But, given the way the Liberals have been spending since they came in, which the Premier admitted can't be sustained, and given the commitments that have been made on a go-by-go basis by ministers as they get asked questions by the press, she's going to have a tough time dealing with that. So, it's interesting to now hear that she has become a believer in current-year deficits when, in fact, she was quite the opposite in opposition.
So, I'd like to ask the Premier, now that she has admitted that they took over with a $56-million bank account: did they anticipate, given that it's still early, I realize, that there will be a traditional level of lapses in the fiscal year 2001?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the member opposite said we had choices when we took office. The member is absolutely right. We could have behaved in the traditional NDP manner and yanked the rug out from under people. We didn't do that. We behaved responsibly and soundly, as prudent fiscal managers. We retabled the existing budget, and we are answering for it.
The member has said, "She is going to be faced with some tough choices." The Liberal government will be faced with tough choices. Nobody said it was going to be easy. We are fully prepared to make those tough choices.
Now, with respect to the fiscal and financial picture of the Government of Yukon, the member opposite loves to stand on his feet and say, "Oh, yeah, we left them with a $60-million bank account."
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: $56,218,000. That $56,218,000 also includes a deficit budget that they tabled - $27,551,000. In our supplementary, we spent under $1 million. Take that into account, out of the bank, because let's also bear in mind that they had already spent half of the year's budget, and the surplus, which is the real state of the bank account - the projected surplus for 2001 - is $14,724,000.
The revote, the lapsed funding at year-end, comes to this House for a revote, as the member knows. The estimated revotes, this year, are $13 million.
Mr. Harding: What's a revote?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Money that has to come back to the House to be revoted.
Mr. Harding: Does the government have to revote this money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Not necessarily. It depends on whether or not the commitment has been made. As the member knows full well, we certainly wouldn't yank the rug out from under someone and cancel the extended care facility or the Mayo school as NDP governments have done. Where there is no commitment and money has not been expended, there is a choice, as the member knows.
Mr. Harding: Precisely; there is a choice and that's what it's all about. Choices, now, isn't it? So, on one hand, the Premier criticizes us for increasing our level of spending, saying it's not sustainable. Then she increases spending more and says the Liberals' pattern of spending is not sustainable, and she criticizes us for bringing in special warrants and spending the money so we didn't put people into uncertainty so they could begin projects. On the other hand, she says that we yanked the rug out from under them. How does she reconcile that? On one hand, she criticizes us for special warrants so that people can start to go to work. On the other hand, she accuses us of yanking the rug out from underneath them. How does that reconcile?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would suggest to the member that I have probably spent more time reconciling bank accounts than he has, in a former life. It is very straightforward. The bank account, as the member loves to refer to it, is not $56 million. There are commitments to Yukoners. The estimated surplus at the end of March 31, 2001, is $14,724,000. It doesn't matter how long the member wants to discuss this issue; that's the fact.
Mr. Harding: I just asked her if they are expecting the traditional level of lapses in the year ending March 21, 2001, and she said yes. So she already knows that she is going to have more than $14 million. She has admitted that this year is $56 million. We can't be responsible, on this side of the House, for the expenditures of the Liberal government. A noted Yukon political scientist made the same argument, which I read the other day. It's about choice. Now, politically, I suppose the member opposite, on one hand, wants to distance herself from any of the tougher decisions and take credit for contracts that are going out and continuing care facilities that are going up and job numbers but, on the other hand, say, "That's not our budget." However, while it may be a good attempt at a strategy, it is not going to wash because, whatever the deficit is, or the bank account at the end of this fiscal year, that's a Liberal decision and they're responsible for it.
Has the Premier directed Management Board or departmental officials to hold off on any of the expenditures shown in the NDP budget she tabled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, there has been no such Management Board directive; however, I would caution the member that it is my understanding that that sort of discussion, such as tabling of confidential government documents, is an area that we may not want to discuss this afternoon.
Mr. Harding: Au contraire, Mr. Chair, we do; we do want to discuss it. I didn't ask the member whether she has given any formal Management Board directives; I asked if the Premier has directed Management Board or departmental officials, either as Premier or as a constituted body of Cabinet or Management Board, to hold off on any of the expenditures shown in the NDP budget.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Harding: The Premier has just told us that everything in the NDP budget will go ahead and that she has not told anybody to hold off.
I'd like to ask her: have any of the ministers had discussions with deputy ministers or Finance officials on items that remain in the budget but will not, in effect, proceed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is asking me if the ministers have had any discussions with their deputies about holding off on expenditures in this budget. This budget has not yet passed the House. When it passes the House, it's my understanding that there are certainly no projects in here where I have said, "No, this isn't going to happen," and I don't expect that any of my ministers or deputy ministers have said that. However, I have not asked them that direct question.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, it's disturbing that she hasn't discussed this issue with her ministers. Is she telling this House that she hasn't talked with her ministers about implementing the directives contained within this budget that she just tabled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite's fishing for some specific project that he believes we have said won't go ahead, and there has been no such discussion. Our caucus and Cabinet discussions, which are not a matter of public record, have been around passing this budget through the House, so such expenditures as have begun already or were close to beginning, such as the Mayo school, are items that we certainly anticipate going ahead with. We said we wouldn't pull the rug out from under anybody, so if there's a planned expenditure and a commitment made to Yukoners in this budget, we intend to follow through with it.
Mr. Harding: Well, I'm so glad to hear that, Mr. Chair.
Let's talk a little about multi-year projects and the commitments in multi-year projects. There was a capital plan put forward in the NDP budget. Now that the Liberals have tabled the NDP budget, are they committed to all the long-term capital plans that were tabled with the budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have committed to those projects that have started and that will start this year. We have not committed to the rest.
Mr. Harding: Have they had any discussions about which projects may or may not be included in the future multi-year capital plans?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Unless the project is committed to start this year or has started this year - no.
Mr. Harding: Does the Premier anticipate - as leader and Premier - projects that she foresees will not be planned or will not go ahead that are contained in the multi-year capital plan?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not going to speculate on future budgets. We agreed and we've committed to passage of this budget because, as we've said, there are summer plans in place by Yukoners, so we've committed to the passage of this budget and have committed to the projects that have already begun. Future speculation on what may or may not be in a future budget is not something I'm going to entertain.
Mr. Harding: Well, let's get it specific then. The Tagish Road is contained in the multi-year capital plan. The Liberals say that they're going to proceed with the funding that was scheduled in this fiscal year. Is the Premier committing to continue along with the program in the next fiscal year, or is she leaving that open?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I already said that I'm not to speculate about what may or may not be in future budgets. If the member wants to go into detail on the Community and Transportation Services budget, where that program is contained, he's welcome to do that; however, we have to pass general debate first.
Mr. Harding: So, let's just get this crystal clear. The Tagish Road, for example, is contained in the three-year capital plan, and work that is going on this fiscal year ending March 31, 2001 will continue as tabled by the NDP and further tabled by the Liberal government. But beyond that, those citizens in Tagish are receiving no commitment to the second layer of work to be done on the Tagish Road. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I already stated that our commitment is for what is in this budget, half of which has already been spent. The member wants to discuss a specific road and a specific road project and I certainly invite him to discuss that with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services; however, I would assure him again that we are not going to speculate on what will be in future budgets. What we are committing to do is pass this budget through the House, half of which has already been spent.
Mr. Harding: I don't want to discuss this with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. I'm using the Tagish Road as an example. There are many; I could use another. I am just using it to bring some symbolic clarity, for no other reason. It could be any of the long-term capital projects.
Just so I understand what the Premier is saying - just so I'm clear, and so Yukoners are clear and we can tell them with clarity what we heard - even though there is work going on this year on this particular project, this government is not committing to carrying on with the multi-year plans beyond this fiscal year.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are not going to leave the Mayo school half-built. We are not going to abandon the extended care facility once the sod has been turned. We are not going to do what the previous government did and leave the NDP road to Beringia half-finished with an unenticing bar across it for several years. We are not going to leave projects half-done. We are committed to this budget. Where a substantial project has been started, we will of course finish it.
Beyond those substantial projects, such as the extended care, the Mayo school and several others, I am not going to speculate on what will or will not be in future budgets.
Mr. Harding: Well, that's excellent. I'm enjoying this question terrifically. It's excellent trolling.
We will talk about Beringia at some great length. I'm surprised, given the high words from the member opposite, that there wasn't anything in the supplementary budget to deal with increased funding to Beringia. We'll wait for the fall with bated breath. This is going to be one doozy of a Supplementary No. 2. This is going to be one doozy of a throne speech, because the decisions and the commitments have been racking up. This is good. We're glad that it's in the fall. The government is going to be well over their newness and their recent honeymoon with the voters.
I have to ask the member: with regard to these multi-year projects, she said that all the substantive projects that are funded in this year will continue to be funded to completion in the future years. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I said was that we would not leave a project like the extended care half-built, and like the Mayo school, half-built. Those are projects that are committed to in this budget. Those commitments, provided we can get the budget through this House, stand. That's what we have said to Yukoners, and that's what we will do.
Mr. Harding: Let's look, and, at the break, I'll dig out the multi-year list. Now, she has identified a couple that she has committed to on a multi-year basis. So, we'll go through them, one by one, and we'll find out which ones she has committed to and which ones she has not. That will be a good exercise because then we can let Yukoners know what the Liberals are committed to and what they're not. So, we'll come back to that when I get that list. Perhaps if my officials are listening - I guess I can't call them "my officials" any more. Perhaps if our staff is listening, they can send us in a list, and we can proceed in that vein, because she has now gone on the record as supporting some projects in multi-year phases, but she's ambivalent in terms of naming others. So, we'll have to go through them and identify where there's going to be multi-year funding for sure and where there's not, and which projects they are and which projects they aren't.
Let's talk a little bit about the issue of - we have done a lot on budgets so far. We have concluded that there was a $56-million surplus when this government took over. Those numbers are in. We have concluded that the Liberal Premier is now a proponent of current-year deficit budgets, whereas she was not when in opposition. We have concluded that they expect the traditional level of lapses in the year ending March 31, 2001. We have concluded that, in her words, the Liberal level of spending is not sustainable. This has been productive. We have also concluded that she is going to carry on with multi-year funding, which the NDP had proposed, of all substantive - I believe that was the word she used - projects.
And she went on to name a couple that she is absolutely committed to. Well, Mr. Chair, looky here. We now have the list of multi-year projects.
Chair: Order. I would like to remind members that we are now in general debate, and while specifics may be used to illustrate points, we will be going line by line further on in the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I would ask you to review past practice in this Legislature and opposition questions for the years that I have been a member of this House. I will respect your ruling, but I will respect it in the willingness that the Chair expresses to review precedent. I can remember, as a minister, extensive, lengthy, extremely broad questioning on issues. At times they were focused, as a corollary to that, on line items. What I am trying to establish today is how the Premier - the Finance minister - is going to approach the issue of long-term capital plans and implementation of funding, because it is extremely important to Yukoners. I think general debate, as a collective, should allow me to do that.
Now, she has put on the table specific items: Mayo school, for example. I didn't do that. She did. I used Tagish Road as an example. She has now told me specific items that she is going to use to illustrate that she is committed to their long-term funding. So, in order for me to establish whether they are indeed committed into the future, I have to find out, and I think general debate is certainly a way to do that. If we are restricted in that capacity, that would certainly be quite a departure from precedent.
So, Mr. Chair, let me ask the Premier this, then: what is her definition of a substantive project? Would the Old Crow airport facility be a substantive project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd remind the member that, while he is crowing that he has managed to conclude something, the numbers are published. The numbers are there for everyone to see and the numbers are readily understood by the Yukon public.
I have stated and our party members - our candidates, our Cabinet ministers - have stated that we will live up to existing commitments. So, that applies to long-term and future budgeting. If there is an existing commitment, we will live up to it.
I used examples. The member can attempt to use other examples and to attempt to frustrate debate. That's not going to happen. We're not going to speculate on what will or will not be in future budgets. We are going to live up to the existing commitments in this budget that was tabled by the NDP and retabled by the Liberals - the main estimates. We will live up to the commitments in this budget.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, if there's a frustration today, it's the member's own comments that are causing it. She just said in her statement she's going to implement the spending even into the multi-years that are identified as commitments in this budget. Then she turned around and said she's going to implement this spending in this budget. I'm trying to find out whether she's committed to the multi-year or whether she is not, and she has contradicted herself in that last statement she made.
So, I freely admit, I am frustrated, so I have to continue to ask the member.
She has also raised this issue of what is a substantive project and what is not. She made the bold statement that substantive projects will receive multi-year funding, as identified in the NDP budget. That begs the question of what is a substantive project in the definition of the Premier. People out there - for example, as I mentioned in another speech, the Old Crow airport facility, or, as another example, the Tagish Road - are depending on what the Premier says. The buck stops with her. We're trying to establish just what her mindset is, and we're trying to establish what qualifies as a substantive capital project, one that's going to receive the benefit of her favour as Premier for multi-year funding.
She has mentioned the Mayo school, and what was the other example she mentioned?
She's not helping me out any more. She's not cooperative any more. She's frustrating debate.
But, Mr. Chair, she has not mentioned others, so perhaps she could stand up and tell us what qualifies as a substantive capital project. Is that a monetary value? Is it $100,000 or $1 million? What's a substantive capital project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, one of the points that everyone enjoys about general debate is the opportunity to go back and forth on different issues and to exchange views. Perhaps I could ask the member: what is a commitment to Yukoners?
Mr. Harding: Well, it's called a long-term capital plan project listing, and we put it in writing and made the commitment to Yukoners. So, I'm trying to find out if the Premier is making the same commitment. So, what is a substantive project, by her definition?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, a substantive project is getting this budget through the House this afternoon and in the next couple of weeks.
This is the commitment to Yukoners. This is the guiding document. This is the document that we retabled in the House at the request of Yukoners. This is our commitment to Yukoners: to pass this budget, to live up to what's contained within it.
I'm not going to speculate on what's going to be in future budgets. I'm not going to speculate if we enjoy the support of the Yukon public if, after our first term, we might do who knows what? I'm not going to speculate on that. I'm not going to speculate on what we might do in our second year, our third year or our final year of our current mandate. What I am going to do is to be accountable for this document. I'm going to live up to a commitment to Yukoners to pass this document, to do what's in it and, furthermore, to be prudent fiscal managers while we're doing it.
Mr. Harding: So, if she's not going to raise any further commitment, she is now saying that no multi-year projects will have definite funding in the following years. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am not speculating on future budgets.
Mr. Harding: So the Mayo school may or may not receive capital funding next year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Mayo school is a commitment in this budget. We're living up to the commitments in this budget.
Mr. Harding: Yes, but it's also a multi-year commitment. So, is the Mayo school receiving funding for that commitment for next year, or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said I am not going to speculate on what's in future budgets and I am not going to do that. I am going to live up to existing commitments. Once the spending authority has passed this House, as the member I am sure is aware, we will be doing our planning for future budget years - future expenditures - that's planning that's already underway to some degree. We will live up to the commitments in this budget, and I am not going to speculate on what's going to be in next year's budget.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Premier has just changed her position in the last 10 minutes on this issue, on the floor of this House. How are Yukoners going to get any certainty from this Premier when, under a little bit of questioning, she completely throws up another trial balloon? She just lectured us that she's not going to pull the rug out from under the Mayo school like the NDP did, so if there is funding in this year, she's going to provide the funding for next year. Then she just stood up a minute ago and said she's not going to make any commitments for the Mayo school for next year's budget. Why is she changing her position every 10 minutes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not - however the member wants to paint it. I have said, over and over again, we will live up to the commitments that are in this budget, and we will do that. We want to pass this budget through the House and get on with the business of doing government, which is what Yukoners asked us to do. We have retabled this budget in its entirety to provide Yukoners with certainty. That's what we're doing. We want to pass the budget and we want to live up to the commitments that are in it. In every community, there were a number of commitments made to Yukoners. We want to live up to the commitments that are in this budget and we will do that.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, thank you. We'll review Hansard and it will be clear that she has changed her position in the last 10 minutes and I will review that with her.
Now she said she wanted to provide certainty, but she has just told this House that multi-year capital projects have no commitment under her administration for the following fiscal years. How can that develop any certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are commitments in this budget. We'll live up to those commitments. We are not going to pull the rug out from under anybody. We are going to live up to this budget. There will be future budgets tabled by the Liberal government and we will answer for them, and we will come to the House with them. But I am not going to speculate on what is going to be in those budgets right now on the floor of this House. We have planning exercises and government has exercises in which budgets are developed. We will be doing those, as governments do. We will also be passing this budget and living up to it.
Mr. Harding: I don't see how this is creating any certainty for anybody. People are going to start work on the Mayo school this year, but the Premier has told us that she's not committed to funding it next year. People are going to start work on other projects like the Tagish Road. Citizens of that particular area are going to come to depend that this is going to be completed, but the Premier has just told them to forget it. You'll have to wait and see.
People in the area of Faro and Ross River and Carmacks are looking for work to be done on the Campbell Highway, but the Premier has just told this House and those people that they are going to have to wait and see. Even though these are multi-year commitments, she is not prepared to commit to them. They may or they may not receive the funding next year to complete the school. How does that bring certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with respect to specific projects, there is a commitment with the contractor that the contractor will do X and that the government will pay X amount of dollars. It's an exception when those projects are entirely contained in one budget. In fact, the member will well recall that there are a number of different schools that have been in a number of different budgets.
Multi-year projects don't have commitments beyond the current year, because that would require multi-year voting and our House doesn't have it. What we have is a commitment to projects. So, we have a signed contract with the general contractor for extended care. We will live up to existing commitments to Yukoners. We will do that. We said that we would do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Completing projects that are started? You have to assume, Mr. Chair - and I know that this is a stretch for some of the members opposite, but you have to assume that there's a certain amount of rationale to government decision making. There's a budget here. This budget contains commitments to Yukoners. For specifics, the member wants to talk about different construction projects. There are a number of commitments to Yukoners. We will live up to them. That's what we said we'd do.
There are some stand-alone projects, and there are some that stretch over a number of budgets. We will live up to the existing commitments that are in the budget, which we are endeavouring to have passed by this House.
Mr. Harding: Well, thank you. We have just got our third position from the Premier in the last 15 minutes. First of all, she said that substantive projects will get funding in each fiscal year to complete the projects. Then, she said that she's not going to commit to future-year funding. And now, she has just stood up and said, "Those projects, which have signed, long-term commitments will receive multi-year funding, but others will not." Why does she continue to change her position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member and I could argue all afternoon. I don't feel I have changed my position. The member is trying to suggest that I have. My position has not changed from April whatever, or March whatever - March 13, when the campaign started. We will live up to existing commitments to Yukoners. We're not going to pull the rug out from anybody. We're not going to leave anything half-done. We're not like that. We want to live up to the existing commitments in this budget. That's what we want to do, and that's what we are doing.
Mr. Harding: That is - I don't know how I can get this through the Premier's mind - but that is a change. She's the Premier now. What she says now is very important, and when she, with nuances, changes her position and, in many cases, boldly changes it, it has an impact. When she says that she'll live up to commitments in this budget, that's different from saying she'll live up to commitments for multi-year capital plans and funding. Does she not concede that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Concede what, Mr. Chair? We said we would live up to existing commitments. That's what we're doing. We said we would not pull the rug out from under any Yukoners. In fact, we used that exact expression many, many times. Concede what? That we want to pass an NDP budget - that they're the authors of the budget? It's already been stated. Concede what? That we're accountable and responsible for it? You bet, and we will be responsible, prudent fiscal managers. If I'm conceding the fact that - I can't see what I'm conceding. We're doing what we said we'd do.
Mr. Harding: Good, good, good, Mr. Chair. So that means that, for the folks who live around Tagish or who are relying on the Tagish Road, some work is being done this year, and there's an identified amount for next year in the multi-year plan, and they can expect to receive that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we will live up to existing commitments.
Mr. Harding: So, was that an existing commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This year, what's in the Community and Transportation Services budget line items will be debated by my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The overall commitment that we made to Yukoners is that we would retable the NDP budget in its entirety. What's in this budget is the same thing as was in this budget when it was first tabled. It's still there. It's in its entirety. That's what we said we'd do, and that's what we're doing.
Mr. Harding: Well, again we have a shift in position, depending on when the Premier gets up.
Does she believe in these multi-year project commitments? Does she believe in that long-term planning? Are they a good idea?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we, as a caucus, will be doing some long-term planning after the House rises, and we will be examining the fiscal situation of the government. It was prudent planning to suggest to Yukoners that we would retable this budget, as the member knows, and it's prudent planning to get it through the House, and it's prudent planning to examine the options in the future. We are living up to our commitments, and we will be planning.
Mr. Harding: That's kind of fuzzy, Mr. Chair. The Premier has told us today - has she not? - that she will live up to multi-year capital commitments for all projects that have been started in this year. Correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I've said is that our government will live up to the existing commitments in the budget. That is what we have said.
Mr. Harding: No, that's not what I asked her.
I said that the Premier has committed to completing all projects started in this fiscal year that are identified in the long-term capital plan. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the long-term capital plan, while it may have been tabled with this budget, is not this budget document. This budget document has commitments to Yukoners. It has commitments such as a new school in Mayo and the completion of the Ross River school. It has a number of Education and other departmental commitments in it. We will live up to existing commitments.
Mr. Harding: So, if there is an existing commitment that started this year, the Liberals will continue to fund it into the multi-year? Correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we will live up to existing commitments in this budget.
Mr. Harding: We could round and round the mulberry bush, and we will. But that's not what I asked the Premier.
Now, the Premier has to understand the implications for Yukoners here. When she wants to try to skirt around the issues, she's not being very accountable, not being very forthright with the people.
Now, she has given us three different views of the world in the last half hour. First of all, she said yes to substantive projects and she named the Mayo school. That will be funded in the long term. They won't pull the rug out from under anything.
Then, she said that she's not going to make any commitments in any future budgets on the floor of this Legislature. So, I asked, well, if that's the case, how can the people in Mayo be assured that there is going to be funding in the next fiscal year's budget for their school? Then, she said that, well, if there's a contractual long-term commitment, then they can be assured that they will receive long-term funding from this government. So, there are three different positions, the three different times she got up.
One can only conclude that the Premier doesn't have a clue what she is doing, because she's not building any certainty with citizens out there who are relying on her every word. Now she's telling Yukoners that she will live up to the commitments in this budget. So I'm back to asking the question, what does that mean? Does that mean that the citizens who live along the Tagish Road or the citizens up in Old Crow, who want to know that their airport is going to be completed, are going to get their funding right through to completion? Or does that mean this year's money will be there, but they will review it at the end of this year and see whether they finish the job or not? Which one?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I'd remind the member that we are not in lines yet; however, in the Department of Education budget, there is money budgeted for the Mayo school. We said we would live up to the commitments in the budget and that is what we are doing. And it doesn't matter how many ways the member tries to slice and dice it, we are in general debate in the budget and we have said we'll live up to commitments and that's what we are going to do. And I've said I'm not going to speculate on future budgets and I'm not, so we can just keep doing that.
Mr. Harding: Well, she has again changed her position. She said - she just said - "We are not going to make any commitments in future budgets." She wasn't going to speculate. Well, that's a very important policy area for the Premier and she sort of walked within and - I mean, we have enough Hansard quotes already for our own purposes on this, but I must get to the bottom of this issue because the Premier has to learn that she can't just take three different positions in 15 minutes and not expect to be called into accountability for it.
I'm sure the Member for Klondike - from the Yukon Party - has been listening to this and he's probably wondering whether these multi-year expenditures are going to be lived up to, or whether they are not. Now, he may not want them to be, because he voted against this budget.
When I go around the territory and I talk to citizens in Tagish - and I will be - I want to be able to say with some certainty whether the Premier is committed in the long term to what we proposed in our long-term capital plan and budget. Whether we pass budgets here in this House, and the dos and don'ts of the Financial Administration Act and legislative procedure is one thing. That's very important, but the Premier is a politician, and the people - the citizenry - will ask her, "Will you commit, Premier, to completing this road, or this building, or this sewage system, or this jail?" And, as a politician, she has the duty to say whether she is going to commit or not.
Now, today, she is committed and she is uncommitted. She said she is committed to everything in this budget into the future, then she said it is only for substantive projects. When I question her on the definition of "substantive project", she has offered nothing. Then she says, "Well, that's not really what I said. What I meant was that if there is a contractual commitment over bridging different fiscal years, then we'll live up to that." That's a different position. Not all these items are contractual commitments. So, on behalf of the citizens we represent, it is incumbent on us to get to the bottom of this, to get a clear, concise answer from the Premier, to have some certainty provided. So, I have to ask the Premier, with regard to long-term planning, is it the position of the Liberal government that they will honour long-term contractual commitments to multi-year spending, but they will not necessarily honour other expenditures that are decided on a year-to-year basis?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, what we have said is that we are committed to this budget, and we are. We are committed to passage of this budget, and we are committed to living up to the commitments to Yukoners. On behalf of the citizens whom we all represent, that's what we said. I also said that I am not going to speculate on what might or might not be in future budgets, and I'm not going to do that.
Mr. Harding: So, next year, will there be funding for the Mayo school and Tagish Road?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that the member would like to ask that question in the line-by-line debate in specific projects. The money that was allocated - the member has highlighted the Mayo school. That was in last year's budget, and that's in this year's budget. It has to get through this House. That's what has to happen. You have to walk before you can run, Mr. Chair. We have got to pass this budget.
Mr. Harding: Well, frankly, I'm trying to get the Premier to crawl, and we're having trouble with that because she doesn't seem to be well-educated about the budgeting process and about what her commitments mean to Yukoners - or don't mean, for that matter.
The Premier said that the buck stops with her. Today, she's trying to pass us off to other ministers to take this into a line-by-line item debate. This is not a line-by-line item debate. This is a debate about the long-term capital expenditures of this government. She has stood up three times in 15 minutes and has taken three different positions.
So, in response to the question about the Tagish Road and Mayo school, she just stood up and said that the Mayo school is in this budget, and it will have funding in the next budget. She didn't answer the question about the Tagish Road. For questioning purposes, one could substitute in there "Campbell Highway"or "Old Crow airport facility". I just want to know: will there be funding, through to completion in the multi-year capital plan, by the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I pointed out earlier to the member that we, as a Legislature and as a jurisdiction, do not have multi-year project funding. That would require multi-year voting, and we don't have that.
Completing projects that have been started - I pointed out to the member that rational, reasonable people expect that the Liberal government would live up to existing commitments. Rational, reasonable people expect that. That's what we said we'd do, and that's what we're endeavouring to do, and we will live up to the commitments that are in this budget.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I'm asking the Premier - I'm not asking her about legislative process. If she goes to a meeting in Tagish and someone stands up and says, "Are you going to fund us right through to completion on the Tagish Road?" because they know what the project is. The MLA has indicated that it's over three years, that this amount of dollars is going to be allocated, and this is the amount of work that's going to be done.
If the Premier stood up and said, "Well, we can only commit to this year because we're not allowed to even contemplate publicly what we might fund or give you a commitment to what we might fund," she'd be laughed right out of the meeting. The Premier can propose - and can state as a politician - to the citizens that she's going to fund, and she has the majority to do it, so technically, no, we have to vote each year. Yes, we do. But she's got a 10-member majority, so if she says that she's going to fund the Tagish Road for three years, who's going to stop it? Is her back bench going to revolt and say no? Are her ministers going to walk away, throw their hands up in the air and say no? She's got the majority. So, if she says to the people of Tagish or the people of Old Crow, "Yes, your project was in the NDP budget that we tabled, and yes, we know it's over three years and yes, we're going to fund it," great. It will be funded. And yes, we'll come in here every year and we'll go through the democratic process of voting the budget, but the reality is, as long as all 10 Liberal members stay committed to supporting it, it will pass, and thus the funding will come.
So, she ought not to cling to legislative procedural arguments when she is the Premier. It holds no water out there among the public. The question is, can we, as legislators, such as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, go to his constituents and say, with some certainty, yes, the Liberal government has committed to continuing the funding for the multi-year project list over the life of the project, as was proposed. That is the essence of what they need to know. That is the essence of what all three of us on the front bench need to know.
I know the Premier might not recognize this, but for the people of Ross River, Faro or Carmacks, for example, a mult-year commitment to the Campbell Highway is an important issue. What she has told us today are three different things. First, we don't know whether it will qualify for funding under her criteria, because she said that they will fund in the long term list if it's a substantive project. Second, she said that she's not going to make any commitments whatsoever for future years. So, I started asking her if that means that the Mayo school that you just said will receive funding will not receive funding? Third, she got up and said that anything with a contractual commitment over the multi-year will continue to receive funding in each fiscal year. That's very unclear. The Premier has been very unclear.
So, the uncertainty that has been created out there, just like her handling of the Tombstone buyout issue and the land claims with Mr. Nault's statement, is starting to mount. The uncertainty about what she's going to do with taxes and what she's going to spend of the accumulated surplus is starting to mount. This, in the two months since the election.
For the first time, the NDP government gave communities some certainty about long-term planning in the budget. Of course, you lay your expenditures out there and you can be criticized for them. We were; we were accountable. The voters spoke, certainly in Whitehorse, and we are now in opposition. It is obvious that we were prepared to be accountable.
What I want to say to the member is that, by giving me three different stories, based on which way the questioning is going, she is not creating certainty.
So, she is the member telling people in the territory that unless there's a long-term contractual commitment that extends beyond this budget year, they will make decisions on future years' spending on a year-to-year basis?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I am saying to the member, and what I have said to the member, and what I will continue to say to the member for the rest of the afternoon and the next 76 days, if that's what the member intends, is that the Liberal government will live up to existing commitments that are in this budget. We have said that to Yukoners, I'll say it again, and I'll say it again. We will live up - we're not going to pull the rug out from under anybody. We will live up to the commitments that are in the budget as was tabled by the NDP and retabled by us.
I have a lot of respect for this Legislature, and I'm not going to prejudge or speculate on the future or future budgets. Likewise, I have a lot of respect for my colleagues and for Yukoners. What Yukoners need to know and what they want to know, is: would we live up to what's in this budget? Would we live up to the funding that was tabled by the NDP for X, Y, Z? We said, throughout the campaign and throughout this afternoon, that we will live up to existing commitments.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, that's not a clear answer and we're going to have to keep going back to this until we get a clear answer, because we have an obligation on behalf of our constituents to take a clear message back.
I have great respect for this Legislature. I have great respect for my colleagues and this House, but frankly, that's why I'm asking these questions and why I need a clear answer. My constituents, the members' constituents - everybody - wants to know what the Premier's policy is on long-term funding, and she doesn't have one that has been clear yet. There have been three different policies today.
There are a couple more ancillary issues that I must also get into on this particular topic. Mr. Chair, is it the policy of the Premier that only multi-year capital commitments, which have contractual multi-year obligations, will be funded?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it is the policy of the Premier; it's the policy of the Minister of Tourism; it's the policy of the Minister of Government Services; it's the policy of the Minister of Department of Community and Transportation Services; it's the policy of the Minister of Renewable Resources; it's the policy of the Minister of Health and Social Services and it's the policy of the Member for Mount Lorne and the Member for Riverside and for Whitehorse Centre and for Whitehorse West that we would live up to the existing commitments in the budget - and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: That's not the answer to the question. The Premier is skirting the issue.
Mr. Chair, I can assure the member, I'm not looking for her group-hug policies. I mean, she did that on the opposition benches. She's the Premier now, and I want to know if the money's going to flow. That's what I want to know.
So, let me ask the Premier again: is it her policy that multi-year funding commitments will only be given to long-term capital projects if there is an existing, long-term capital financial commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, despite the derogatory remarks about group hugs and so on from the member opposite, we said we would come in, table the existing NDP budget - retable - and that's what we did. Whether or not the money is going to flow is the exact question that we were asked in the campaign, and the exact answer I gave was that we would honour existing commitments and that's what we are doing by passing this budget; we are honouring existing commitments.
Mr. Harding: Well, no she's not, with all due respect, honouring existing commitments, because there's a long-term capital plan. And these commitments go into this year and next year and the following year. What she is telling us now - she has told us many different things. I mean, she's not going to pull the rug out from under anything. She's going to fund all of the substantive projects into the coming years. But what she's telling us now though is - I can't go back with certainty - nor can my colleagues on either side of me, to constituents and say that, for the Campbell Highway, they know that there's going to be a million bucks in the budget next year, because the Liberal Premier has said she will not commit to that funding for my constituents and for the members on either sides of me. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What is in this budget and what is in this document, the long-term capital plan 2000-01, in the mains, the first column in this document - which is this budget. The first column in this long-term capital plan is this budget. This budget is what we told Yukoners we would do - this budget - and that's what we're doing. This budget is what we told Yukoners we would do; it's what we committed to Yukoners. What I will not do is speculate on future budgets. I will not speculate this afternoon on future budgets. What I will do is defend this document, and this document contains commitments to Yukoners, and that's what we are living up to.
Mr. Harding: So, she just said that the Mayo school has no commitment for funding for next year for construction.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just said that, if the member wants to get into lines, there is $5,480,000 for the Mayo school. That's what is in this budget, and that's what we will live up to. I'm not asking the member opposite to defend the fact that there was $2 million last year for the Mayo school. I'm not talking about last year, and I'm not going to talk about next year. I'm talking about this year.
In discussing this, the member should assume - as in excess of whatever the figure was for the percent of Yukoners assumed - that the Liberal government would be prudent fiscal managers. That's what we are going to do, that we would live up to existing commitments and be prudent fiscal managers in the future. That's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: So, is there a funding commitment for the Mayo school for construction next year or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not speculating on future budgets. I'm endeavouring to pass this budget, and this budget has $5.4 million for the Mayo school. If the members opposite assist us in passing it, that money will certainly be spent.
Mr. Harding: So the Mayo school does not have a commitment for capital construction funding next year - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Mayo school has a capital construction project commitment for $5,480,000 this year, and that's what we're living up to.
Mr. Harding: How does that create certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Because we said we'd be rational, Mr. Chair. Because we said we'd be prudent fiscal managers. We committed to the people of Yukon that we wouldn't pull the rug out from under anyone, and we won't do that. We will live up to the commitments. We said we'd be rational; we said we'd be prudent fiscal managers; we said we'd do what we set out to do, which was to provide Yukoners with good government. We will pass this budget. This budget includes, since the member wants to dwell on it, $5.4 million for the Mayo school. Interestingly enough, that's a school that - let's see - Conservatives, Yukon Party and NDP governments - all of them - pledged to build, and none of them actually did it.
Mr. Harding: So, when I am in a meeting with my constituents, and they ask me about the Campbell Highway, I'm going to say, no, the Liberal Premier won't give me a commitment to fund the Campbell Highway next year, but don't you worry, because they are going to be prudent fiscal managers, and they are going to be rational. So, you just settle down - simmer down now. Don't get too excited, because the Premier will be prudent and rational.
Mr. Chair, that is not going to cut the mustard for the Premier or this MLA. Therefore it is incumbent on me to get to the bottom of this issue. And this is only the first one. How many times is she going to change her position? She has already changed it four times on the Tombstone buyout. Wait until we get into that. I mean, we're probably up in the dozens.
The Premier has just said - this is the fourth position on the Mayo school. Let me ask her this: is the Mayo school a long-term contractual commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member started out his question talking about the Campbell Highway. There's $1 million in this budget for the Campbell Highway, and that's what we'll live up to. There is $5,480,000 for the Mayo school, and that's what we'll live up to.
Mr. Harding: Can they count on $1 million next year for the Campbell Highway?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not going to speculate on what's in next year's budget. I'm not going to speculate on that. We will live up to the commitments in this budget. We will be prudent fiscal managers. We will be rational about what we do.
What the member really wants is for me to lay out a list of priorities and reel off a great long list and restate all of our election commitments so that he can then cherry pick them when he comes back in the House and say, "Well, you didn't do this in your throne speech." I would remind the member that this is June 12, so we have been in office since May 6. We aren't going to accomplish everything in six or seven weeks.
This is the spending authority. We are endeavouring to pass this budget and live up to these commitments. We will do just that, Mr. Chair. We will live up to the commitments. We will live up to the commitments in this budget.
In the fall, there will be a throne speech and there will be a supplementary budget, and there will be more years of Liberal government budgets. There is plenty of time for the member to assess our priorities and to try, as the opposition is elected to do, to ensure that we are held accountable, that we do what we said we'll do. And I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to being held accountable, to do what I said I'd do, as are all of our party members.
What we're trying to do right now is pass the NDP budget and be accountable for it and move forward with the business of government. I would encourage the member opposite to do the same.
Mr. Harding: That was a nice speech and all. It did my heart good to know she's enjoying being held accountable, but is there a long-term contractual commitment or not for the Mayo school?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is $5,480,000 in this budget for the Mayo school. We intend to pass this budget. That's what we'd like to do. We'd like to pass this budget and we'd like to move on with spending that $5,480,000, and get on with finally turning the sod on this school, finally ensuring that that community gets a school. That's what we're trying to do, that's what we want to do, and that's what we're looking forward to doing.
We need to pass that money in this budget.
Mr. Harding: Is there a long-term funding financial commitment beyond this budget for the Mayo school, for construction?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's $5,480,000 in this budget for this school, and that's what we intend to spend, once we have passed the spending authority in this House.
Mr. Harding: Is there a contractual financial commitment, long term, beyond this fiscal year for the Mayo school?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Does the member want to see the Mayo school built? I'm sure his colleague does, his colleague to his right. The money to begin construction on that school is in this budget. That's what we want to pass - that $5,480,000.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I think we want to see it built; that's why we put the money in the budget. Secondly, we want to see it finished and that's why I'm asking her if there is a long-term contractual financial commitment to the construction of that school? Is there or isn't there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we're not in the lines. To my knowledge, that contract for the Mayo school has not been let because we haven't passed this budget. Once the contract is signed, it's a contract with Yukoners and we'll honour contracts.
Mr. Harding: Could she not have approved that funding through the special warrant?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm just double-checking. I believe at least a portion of that money was in a special warrant, and I will confirm that and pass it on. I'm sure the member could do it himself; however, we will send a copy of the special warrant over to the member.
What I was not certain about was whether or not the contract had been tendered, and I'm not certain of that. I will double-check at the break to see whether or not the contract for the Mayo school has been tendered.
We will honour commitments. We will honour contracts with Yukoners. That's what we do.
Mr. Harding: So, the people in Mayo can expect a funding commitment of $2.2 million in the next fiscal year for the final construction of their school - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I certainly haven't signed off a contract with the general contractor for that school. I'm not going to answer that question. I would be delighted to answer it; however, I will answer it in writing to the member.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, let's take it back to a higher plane, then. We wouldn't want the Premier to leave something hanging for Yukoners by getting too many specifics about the long-term capital plans.
From what I gather now - and it's difficult to tell, because the position has changed substantially - they are going to continue to fund in the multi-years, in accordance with our long-term capital plans, as long as it is a substantive project. They are not going to pull the rug out from anyone and leave them hanging. Therefore, it is pretty apparent to us that they are saying that, whether or not there is a long-standing contractual commitment, they are going to honour long-term capital plans. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I have said is that we, as a government, will honour the commitments that are in this budget. That is what we intend to do. We also are not in the habit of ripping up contracts or ending signed agreements with Yukoners. We believe in honouring our commitments and honouring our contracts. That's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: Those are just complete wishy-washy answers from the Premier. We need specifics.
You know, when the Mayor of Carmacks wanted multi-year commitments for the recreational centre, we responded by giving them multi-year commitments for funding - put the recreational centre in Watson Lake, Dawson City. We told these people for certainty, for purposes - she has already told us today, she believes in long-term capital planning, but yet she won't provide any long-term capital planning or vision. She has completely contradicted herself three or four times, on the issue, in one short questioning period.
So, I would like to ask her, will she give people, who are expecting long-term capital plans, letters that state that she will, into the future, propose budgets that continue to keep that long-term spending commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was stating earlier that we would live up to commitments to Yukoners. I have said it all afternoon. I have also said that we will honour our contracts with Yukoners, and I am not certain how much more the member wants. If the member was asking me to speculate on when we're going to be tabling our long-term capital plan, I'm not going to speculate on that in this House. Normally they're tabled with the mains.
Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee will take a brief recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We'll continue with general debate on the estimates.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I indicated prior to the break that I would obtain an answer for the member with respect to the Mayo school. I'm advised that the tender is to be let in July of this year, and we will, of course, honour contracts with Yukoners. Once that tendering process has been completed and there is a contract in place, we will honour that contract.
Mr. Harding: Does that include into subsequent fiscal years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we will honour the contract with the Yukoner - I hope it's a Yukoner who wins the contract. We will honour that and honour the funding commitment, as the contractor will honour the completion date of the school. The anticipated completion date, which I believe is what the member is asking for, is July 2001.
Mr. Harding: What about long-term capital projects that aren't triggered by a contractual arrangement over multi-years? Will they be funded, too?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we, as a government, are going to honour existing commitments. I'm not going to speculate, on the floor of this House, on future commitments by the government.
Mr. Harding: So, if you're a non-government organization and got, for argument's sake, $100,000 this year, and you have just heard what the Premier said, is the Premier saying that the non-government organization will not get $100,000 next year and she will not give them any long-term certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What the Premier has just said is that this government will honour existing commitments and that I will not speculate on future commitments or future budget expenditures by the government. I will not speculate on future budgets this afternoon.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Premier herself said, in the throne speech, that Yukoners desire and deserve certainty. What she has just told this House is that an NGO - Yukon Learn, the Yukon Chambers of Mines, the chambers of commerce, and many other NGOs - can have no expectation that, if they receive funding in this fiscal year, they will receive the same or a greater level of funding in the following year. Is that not the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what we said was that Yukoners desire and deserve certainty, and I noted with interest that the Member for Watson Lake underlined those points when they were stated in this House.
We are adopting this budget in order to cause as little disruption as possible to the economy and to government operations. It's for this reason and this reason alone that we are proceeding with the existing budget. I will not, on the floor of this House, speculate on future budgets.
Mr. Harding: So perhaps she would answer this question then. I want to establish it very clearly for the people we represent. What she is indeed saying then is that NGOs cannot expect, if they receive funding this year, to receive the same or similar level of funding in the following year. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I want to establish very clearly for the member opposite that, as we have said, for all Yukoners, I want to establish certainty that we will pass this budget through this House. We will honour existing commitments. We will honour what is printed in this budget. I will not, nor will anyone on this side of the House, speculate on future budget commitments - not this afternoon.
Mr. Harding: Well, that doesn't provide certainty for anybody. So today we have established that, unless there is a contractual obligation, as on the Mayo school, that bridges different fiscal years, they won't honour any long-term commitments that are identified in the capital plan. They will not honour long-term commitments in funding to non-governmental organizations. So, these hard-working citizens, who are planning their budgets and trying to ensure that they can provide services outside of government to Yukoners in important areas, the Premier has just told them that, as they plan for next year - it'll be okay for this year but as they plan for next year - they have absolutely no financial commitment. So, they may or they may not have funding. Does she think that is an appropriate and fair way of conducting government public business?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, do I think that fear-mongering by the members opposite is an appropriate way to do public business? No. What I think is an appropriate way to do public business is to provide Yukoners with certainty, not to call an election without a budget being passed in the House so that every single program, every single project, every single contract with the government is up in the air.
Everywhere we went, we were asked, "Will you honour this? Will you do this? Will you live up to the existing budget?" We are not prepared to have the government wondering and speculating month to month, through the authority of Commissioner's warrants or an interim supply bill. We are prepared to honour existing commitments to Yukoners. We honour our contracts with Yukoners. We will do what we said we'd do, which is pass this budget.
Mr. Harding: So, the Premier can end the fear-mongering, as she put it, right now. Will she give long-term funding commitments to the mayors and municipalities affected here? Will she give long-term funding commitments to NGOs so that they can plan and prepare? Will she give each NGO a letter, identifying a long-term capital plan on the Executive Council's list? Will she give them long-term funding commitments?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are commitments in this budget to Yukoners. There are contracts with Yukoners. There are contracts with Yukoners in this budget. We will honour those contracts. We don't rip up contracts. That's not the type of people we are. We said we would honour existing commitments, we would honour this budget, and that's what we're doing. I have said for the member opposite that I will not speculate on future budgets.
Mr. Harding: So, will she make a commitment to NGOs that she will continue on the same level of funding, not greater, that was provided in this budget so they can have certainty in the coming years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We will honour the commitments in this budget. That's what we said we'll do, and that's what we'll do.
Mr. Harding: So the answer is no.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The answer is that we'll honour existing commitments. There are a number of commitments that were made to Yukoners, and there are a number of contracts with Yukoners. There is a Yukon contract signed with a Yukon company to build the extended care facility, and we'll honour that contract. That's what we are going to do. I will not stand on the floor of this House and speculate on what our budget will be three years from now, two years from now. That's not what the purpose of this general debate is, and that's not what we are going to do on the floor of this House. We are going to talk about honouring existing commitments to Yukoners, and that's what we're going to do. We will do what we say we'll do.
Mr. Harding: The policy of the Liberals is to, on a year-to-year basis, decide how they're going to fund non-government organizations, such as Yukon Learn and the Chamber of Mines - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The policy of this government is to live up to the existing government commitments that are in this budget. Where it's year two, where there's a commitment with a Yukoner, or where there's a contract with a Yukoner or a Yukon organization, we will live up to it. That's what Yukoners asked us for and that's what we will do.
Mr. Harding: That's not the answer to the question. That's not the question I asked her. I said: is it the policy of this government to provide funding to non-government organizations on a year-to-year basis and to provide funding to capital projects solely on a year-to-year basis, unless there's a long-term contractual commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The policy of this government, as we stated during the election campaign, is to live up to the commitments that are in the budget. That's our policy. That's what we said we'd do: that we would live up to what was in here.
The priorities of the Liberal government and future plans of the Liberal government will be outlined in the throne speech this fall, and in a supplementary budget, which I know the member will give his full and fairest consideration. I'm certain he will do that. What we are doing now is expressing our accountability for the budget that was previously tabled by the NDP. We are accountable for it and we will answer questions on it.
The commitments to Yukoners - the key commitment that we made - was honouring this budget and honouring the contracts, and that's what we'll do. Our future spending plans will be outlined all in due time.
Mr. Harding: It's becoming readily apparent with this Premier that if you ask her questions often enough, you can get her to commit to just about anything. First of all, when she tabled the budget - remember that quote on CBC Radio the next morning? "Well, don't ask me, it's the NDP." Now, a scant five days in this House, only four days of Question Period, I think, and it's the NDP budget, and we tabled it, and we're accountable for it - amazing. I guess opposition does work, after all.
But, Mr. Chair, back to the issue at hand. And the Premier continues to avoid answering the question clearly and concisely. She's not doing any favours to the Yukon public by creating this turmoil of uncertainty. There are expectations in the public that go beyond this fiscal year, and this budget that she tabled was predicated on long-term planning and commitments into the future. What we have heard today is a myriad of responses from the Premier - nothing clear, nothing concise. We have been told that she'll honour all of the multi-year commitments. We have been told that she'll honour substantive multi-year commitments. We have been told that she'll honour long-term, financial, contractual commitments. So, I guess the answer is (d), all of the above.
But, Mr. Chair, this is a sad day - another one - in the short life of this Liberal government for certainty for those NGOs. And it's a sad day for municipalities. One thinks of Carmacks, and one thinks of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that we were asked over and over again to construct, and to construct it yesterday, and to fund it now.
Today, what do we hear from the Premier? A desire to escape accountability, to avoid answering the direct question, to take her message box and continue to espouse that, even though it is not reflective of the question that has been asked of her. This creates more and more problems for Yukoners.
This is a Premier that wouldn't even put her minister's name in the budget for the Mayo school, but wants to take credit for turning over the sod at that project. Talk about the Premier trying to have her cake and eat it too.
She told us today that she believes in long-term planning and long-term commitments. Yet, when I asked her about the people - these are real Yukoners here and these people are waiting for their commitments - she won't stand up and tell us whether she's going to fund them or not. Mr. Chair, there is a simple reason for that. We all remember those hollow words she gave us in the throne speech about how Yukoners' desire and deserve certainty. Every day, she's finding out just how expensive the Liberal wish list of commitments is. She's finding out that there's plenty of money to do what we laid on the table, but there's not enough money to do what we laid on the table - which she also laid on the table - and pay for everything else she promised on the doorsteps, on the radio and in the speeches prior to and during the election.
All those expectations that she built and all those promises - real, actual and implied - are coming home to roost. I was reading an interesting story today in the Yukon News about the YTA negotiations. A million-dollar signing bonus. Some say, "Not good enough."
We had the minister bragging the other day about his abilities at the negotiating table and, in only so limited a time, he could resolve this issue. But now we find out it's not really going to be a week or two. It's going to be the fall before there's a vote.
Interesting, isn't it?
All these things are starting to become quite prevalent to the members opposite, and I'm sure it is for the Minister of Finance by this time. I'm not sure about all her colleagues, because they continue to spend money in the media, which is welcomed by us.
The people out there who see, in this budget, as an example, correctional reform, a new facility, $1 million in this year. What the Premier said today is that, even though they campaigned for this new facility and that even though the former Member for Riverside asked questions incessantly about this particular project - the Barr Ryder report, we all remember that - and how it should be built and that it should be built now, not in the future. Then, when the budget came out, they said $1 million is not enough for this facility. That's a joke.
The Premier is telling us today, in one of her stories, that that facility cannot expect the $2 million in the next fiscal year and $6 million following that.
She has also said, in contradicting herself, that substantive projects will have their funding continue on into multi-years. How does that provide any certainty? In 10 minutes, she contradicted herself.
Now, I know she kind of thinks it's amusing over there now, but it's not amusing to those Yukoners who are expecting this government to deliver. And we have to know what the Premier's policy is, and every time she gets up she says something different. Then she sticks to that line for awhile and then she changes it - some kind of quasi-Liberal certainty, I guess. For a Premier who campaigned on creating more certainty in this territory, I have got to tell you that the Yukon public is going to be extremely confused about where they stand.
One has to wonder about Connect Yukon. One has to wonder about the Technology Innovation Centre. One has to wonder about the hospital and their capital budget. One has to wonder about the protected areas strategy, film incentive funds, and all those NGOs out there. We don't even have certainty coming from the Liberal caucus on numerous issues. One minister is off telling us they are going to fund the continuing care facility and the money is going to have to be found, while the Premier is standing in the Legislature saying, with the Mayo school, that there may be money in next year's budget to finish the project or there may not be.
So, it's really, really difficult to get any sense that's there anything other than a rudderless ship opposite. When we go on our community tours and we talk to citizens, it's going to be important for us to know what the government intends to do. I know that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, when he does a constituency meeting in Tagish, is not going to be able to tell them for sure what this Premier is going to do with the Tagish Road, because on one hand she said she was going to fund it. She said she wasn't going to pull the rug out from under anything substantive. Well, I would bet that the folks on the Tagish Road who use it think that's a pretty darn substantive project, and I would challenge the Premier to tell them it wasn't. She'd get an argument about that. And the people up in Old Crow who know that in this budget, when the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin speaks about items in the budget in a community meeting, she has to know whether the airport facility is going to be completed. On one hand she can say yes, because we know this is a substantive capital project and the Premier said she wasn't going to pull the rug out from anything like that. But on the other hand, the Premier has also said that for NGOs and other projects that are in the multi-years, she's only committing to this fiscal year. We're going to have to take her at her word that she is going to fund substantive projects like the Campbell Highway, like the Old Crow school, like the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, and that she won't pull the rug from underneath these important multi-year projects, upon which this budget is predicated.
This whole budget, which they have now introduced and support, is based on public consultation.
It's very important that that work, grounded in the public psyche, continues, particularly in rural Yukon. I recognize that the Premier doesn't have any seats in rural Yukon, but I've got to tell her, it's a very important part of this territory and these projects mean a lot to those people.
This symbolic equivocation we've gotten today, where there is not a clear message, is not going to play very well with people in rural Yukon, because we're going to have to explain to our constituents out there that the Premier has taken two positions. We're going to tell them they'd better write a letter to the Premier and get a multi-year commitment in writing because, on the one hand, she says if it's a substantive project and if it's based on multi-year funding, they'll get it. On the other hand, she has tried, after opening that door and making those statements, to then back away from that right here on the floor of this Legislature this afternoon.
I don't know how she seriously believes - maybe she doesn't - that this is going to create certainty. This is going to create anything other than certainty. So, I'd like to ask her to stop the evasiveness, to be accountable, to end any notion of fear-mongering, as she put it. For those projects in the municipalities where there is an expectation - and one can look through the list, whether it's Mayo, whether it's the new jail, whether it's the Hospital Corporation, whether it's the mayors of Faro or Carmacks, or the First Nation governments - will she write them letters and tell them that she will fund the projects that they want to go ahead with, which are identified in this long-term capital plan, in multi-years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have stood on my feet many times this afternoon, and I'll do it again, saying that we will honour commitments, that we will live up to contracts with Yukoners. It's fascinating that the member opposite should, many times - for hours - this afternoon urge me - earlier today in Question Period and dates previous - to yank the funding on the Argus project and not live up to our commitments and to not live up to the contract that he negotiated. Now, he's standing on the floor of the House, asking me to do what I said I'd do all along, which is to honour commitments and live up to contracts for Yukoners. It's not going to be this government that yanks the rug out from under anybody. It's not going to be us who don't live up to contracts, and it's not going to be us who don't live up to commitments to Yukoners. We will do what we say we'll do.
And the member has gone on at great length, reviewing what he feels has happened in the debate this afternoon. Let me review it for him again. We said - and I have said repeatedly - that we will live up to the budget. We'll honour commitments to Yukoners. There is a line item in here that says that there is a dollar for XYZ Corporation. Once it's voted and passed through this House, we'll live up to it because we will do what we say we'll do. If there's a line item that calls for a sign contract with a Yukon company, we'll live up to it because that's what we said we'd do. We will live up to contracts. We won't tear them up. We won't say, "No, we changed our mind." We'll live up to this. We said we'd be prudent fiscal managers, and that's what we'll do.
As a point of information, I have also provided the member opposite with the information that the Mayo school will be tendered in July, and that the expected completion date is July 2001.
You know, it's interesting, Mr. Chair, that the member has urged me repeatedly in this House to yank money from a deal that he negotiated and has also said, "Well, the Liberals made promises; no, the Liberals didn't make promises. Yes, they had a platform; no, they didn't have a platform." One of these days, we'll hear some consistency on that from the members opposite.
We have a commitment with Yukoners. The commitment with Yukoners is that we would table the budget and that we would live up to the budget; that we would do what we said we would do; that we would honour existing commitments; that we would live up to contracts; we don't tear them up; that we would be prudent fiscal managers; that we are ever mindful that this is Yukon taxpayers' money at work, this afternoon in this Legislature and being debated in this Legislature. We will do our best with it. We are doing our best as we speak, to live up to these commitments and pass this budget.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, her best is far from good enough for this territory. She has fallen very, very short. Comparing Argus, the long-term capital plan and commitments out there to the non-government organizations and the municipalities and the First Nations is like comparing apples to grapefruits. With regard to Argus, I'm glad she brought it up. The Member for Whitehorse Centre campaigned heavily against it, gave speeches, called it corporate welfare. She, herself, told people it was a handout. It was wrong. We lauded her on her stance not to break a signed arrangement. We lauded her on that, but that deal is done. Frankly, I think it was an excellent deal. We were accountable for it and we still are; however, it's done because the tenets of the agreement were not respected by the other party; therefore, she has every right to ask the city for the money back which was given for that specific purpose. So, all we're asking the Liberals to do, in regard to Argus, is what they said they would do. Tear it up. Corporate welfare. Why would you give a handout to those multi-billion-dollar companies? All that good rhetoric the members used to gain votes for those who where opposed to that project during the election campaign.
And, you know, we are in the process of sending out the true story as to what the Liberals have done since they got into government into some of the Whitehorse ridings where it was an issue. We have to set the record straight and hold them accountable for this broken promise.
And when the Liberals say, as they did with Argus, that they were opposed to it - vigorously opposed to it in some cases. When there's an opportunity to go back on the deal because it's busted by one of the parties, then we ask the question of why they wouldn't do it. Why wouldn't they do what they said they were going to do? Why would they go back on a promise to the people? In this case, in the long-term capital plan, it's something completely different.
The Premier has brought in a budget that's predicated upon long-term planning, but yet she has thrown the whole thing into a tailspin by being unequivocal about her long-term commitments to things like the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the Old Crow airport facility, the Campbell Highway, Tagish Road. And she has given us four different stories today about her commitments. We're going to pick one. We're going to pick the one we like, but that doesn't stop me this afternoon from having an obligation to expose the inconsistency and the lack of certainty that the Premier is creating with her merry-go-round of positions. We go round and round the mulberry bush - round and round - and after she is questioned for about 10 minutes she changes her story.
We keep going - another 10 minutes, another story. But, Mr. Chair, we can keep going. Hallelujah. We will get to the promised land with this issue, because this is an important policy decision in the general debate of this Premier. Uncertainty with NGOs, the municipalities, the First Nations governments, people who work at the jail, inconsistencies with past statements - this is no way to run a government, Premier.
People don't know who is going to get sliced and diced by this Liberal government. It's already looking like she has got health care right in her sights, just like her leader in Ottawa, Mr. Chrétien. What else will the axe fall on? What else will this Premier determine is not substantive? What else will her and her cohorts view as replaceable so they can plop in one of their numerous promises? We haven't even got to them yet.
Where is that? There it is.
And when I think of the Carmacks recreation centre, for example, although I don't believe there is a contractual commitment, we made a commitment. We gave a letter to the mayor saying, "You will receive funding in multi-years because we know how important that facility is to the people of Carmacks." And on one hand, the Premier today said that she wouldn't pull the rug out from under that - it's a substantive project - but on the other hand, she said, in another answer to a question, that she wouldn't make any further long-term commitments.
So, let me ask her, will she write a letter to the Carmacks mayor and council and say to them that she'll fund them $1 million in the next fiscal year so that they can have certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have been, in opposition and in government and in the campaign, in close communication with Yukoners from throughout the territory and we will continue to do that. We will respond to letters, we will respond to requests, we will respond to the members opposite in a thoughtful, consistent manner.
As I have stated to the member opposite, we will live up to the existing commitments in the budget. We will honour our contracts with Yukoners. Part of that contract with Yukoners is openness and accountability. It's doing what you say you'll do. It's being prudent fiscal managers. We're going to be all of those things as a government.
We have committed, in the immediate future, to the passage of this budget, and that's what we're working toward. There are a lot of commitments to Yukoners. There are a lot of expectations on the part of Yukoners that are contained in this budget. Yukoners have expected - once we indicated that we would - that we will pass this budget and that they can continue on with the projects that are in here and with the funding that is contained in this budget. We committed we'd pass it and that's what we're going to do. We have said over and over again we don't tear up signed deals. There has been reference made to one of those signed agreements. We didn't sign that agreement. In fact, the money isn't even in this budget; it's in a previous budget. There's a signed agreement with Yukoners, and we don't rip up those signed agreements.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, signed agreements are only good as long as all the parties live up to the commitments that are made in them. In this case, Argus is not. Therefore, it would incumbent, one would think, on a government who campaigned against a project to ask for the funding back, given that it was provided for a very specific purpose - for off-site infrastructure.
The Premier has done anything but live up to her commitment to do what she said she was going to do. She has done anything but live up to her commitment to do what she said she was going to do with regard to certainty.
Let me ask her this: who is next? Will the Yukon Fish and Game Association have long-term funding next year? What about the Trappers Association? Do you believe one answer of the Premier today? She says that as long as they're substantive, they'll receive funding. Well, I think they're substantive, so we'll extrapolate from that that they will receive multi-year funding. But, on the other hand, she says that she's not prepared to commit on this year. There are two distinctly different positions.
Then, Mr. Chair, she took another position: that as long as there was a long-term contractual commitment, such as a contract that has been let for bridges in different fiscal years, it is an area for which she will have a long-term funding commitment. Then she tried to hide behind legislative procedure and to say that she, as Premier - of all things, if you can believe this, Mr. Chair - could not make a commitment in the long term outside of this budget. Can you believe that? What would the mayor or counsellors of Watson Lake say, when they wanted to build a rec centre in Watson Lake, if the Government Leader of the day said, "I can't give you a commitment beyond this budget year." What would the Mayor of Dawson say if the former Government Leader had said to him, when he was lobbying for funding for recreation facilities, "Sorry, I can't give you a commitment beyond this year."
He would have said, "You're out of your mind. Give us a letter stating that you're going to provide so much funding over so many years." That's the basis on which this budget is predicated. Long-term planning - something she said today, as well, that she believes in, but is not prepared to demonstrate through her actions. Talk is cheap, and so far, she's done a lot of talking about being rational and fiscally prudent, but we're seeing no evidence of that. Basically, she's casting a cloud of uncertainty over the whole budgeting process, and that does precisely the opposite of what she said, Mr. Chair. So, this mantra she's concocted for herself of doing what she said she was going to do is pure folly and fiction.
So, I'll just ask her a simple question again - she has real trouble answering simple questions. Would she be prepared to give the mayor and council in Carmacks, for the recreation centre there, a letter stating she'll fund them for another million dollars, as per the long-term capital plan, in this budget? Would she be prepared to do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am prepared to respond to direct questions from Yukoners - most definitely. I am prepared to honour existing commitments. That's what I said we'd do. The member opposite loves to stand on his feet and say that I won't - he uses the word "commitment" in long term. What I have said is that I'm not going to speculate on the contents of future budgets. I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to get into, "Will this be there? Will that be there? Will you do this? Will you do that in year two or year three?" That's not what this debate is about. This debate is about this budget.
We're honouring the commitments in this budget. We're doing what we'd said we'd do. I am not going to speculate on future budgets. I will respond to correspondence, letters to Yukoners, as I have committed to do from October 1996 when I was first elected. When asked by Yukoners, I respond to Yukoners. When asked by the member opposite, "Will I provide a letter to the Mayor of Carmacks?" - if the Mayor of Carmacks writes me a letter, of course I will respond. If my constituent on Ponderosa writes me a letter, of course I will respond. If that person, whoever it is, asks me a question, I will respond. I will respond, as I have done with the member.
We're saying we will live up to commitments in this budget. We'll honour signed contracts with Yukoners. That's what we're doing.
Mr. Harding: What an astonishingly inadequate response by the member opposite. She's just said that when the mayor and council in Carmacks, who received $1 million this year in the budget to build a recreation centre, want to know if this Premier is going to give them another million to actually finish it so they don't have to build half a recreation facility, she can't really tell them because she's not going to speculate on future budgets.
Where is the Premier coming from? That's good fiscal management? That's prudent? I think not. Why would she create that uncertainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not creating uncertainty, however much the member would like to speculate upon it. What we're talking about and what the member is asking about is that there is some hypothetical budget expenditures that I am not going to speculate on. What I have told the member opposite is that we'll honour existing commitments, I have said that. I have said that we'll honour contracts with Yukoners. If there is a commitment for whatever in this budget - pick an example.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member wants to go through each department, line by line, and pick examples and ask if we'll honour commitments. We're not there yet. We are in general debate on this budget. The system allows for general debate and then it allows for line by line. We will honour commitments to Yukoners. The commitments that are in here, we'll live up to. I'm not going to speculate on the contents of future budgets. We will honour contracts with Yukoners. Where there is a contract with a Yukon company to build something - a Yukon company to build a school or to build an extended care facility - we will honour those contracts because that's what we are about.
We have made the commitment to Yukoners. We expressed that we would live up to those commitments that were on the financial plate, if you will, of the government when the election was called. We said we would live up to them, and Yukoners expressed their views on that on April 17.
We said we'd live up to these commitments, and we will.
When this budget is passed, we will carry on with the business of living up to those commitments.
We will come back in the fall with a throne speech and a supplementary budget, and the time being 5:30 p.m., I believe Mr. Chair wants to adjourn.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., Committee will recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 2.
Mr. Harding: Did the Premier, over the supper break, obtain a clear, concise position on multi-year capital planned funding?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my commitment to Yukoners has been very clear and it hasn't changed since we started this discussion at - what was it - 2:30 this afternoon.
We will live up to existing commitments that are in the budget, and I'm not going to stand on the floor of this House and speculate on future budgets. There is a commitment in this budget to a specific budget. We will live up to it.
Mr. Harding: She has already said something quite different from that, though, Mr. Chair, so I would beg to differ with her. She should have her officials, and perhaps the principal secretary, read Hansard and maybe he'll answer for the Premier tomorrow should this get into the media, but it's on the record that the member has taken three different positions this afternoon.
The official opposition - I mean as much as we would like to take the Premier at her word that she's going to be fiscally prudent and that she's going to be rational, that's just not good enough for our constituents. And it's important for us to know that the Premier recognizes the consequences of her decisions, because she's not the official opposition any more, she's the Premier. So when people in Carmacks look at this budget and they see that there is a million dollars in funding for a recreation centre and they look at the long-term planning and they see a million dollars next year, they know they'll receive that funding. Will they?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I've said all afternoon and I'm going to clearly be saying it all evening - and I guess I should apologize to the folks in the Hansard office because there are only so many ways you can say the same thing over and over and over again. We are going to be accountable for the document that's before this House. We made a commitment to Yukoners that we would retable the budget in its entirety, so projects in Carmacks, projects in Mayo, projects in Dawson, projects in Old Crow, O&M funding - not just capital projects - payments to our professional public service, payments for social assistance, post-secondary grants for the fall of this year - all of these commitments are in this budget. We are going to honour them, just as we said we would do.
We're living up to a commitment to Yukoners to pass this document, to do what's in it and to be prudent fiscal managers. That's what we're going to do. If we want to spend hours and hours and hours on general debate discussing that same item, well, that's what we're here for.
Mr. Harding: So be it, Mr. Chair, the Premier has spoken. However, what the Premier spoke is not a clear statement. It's skating. It's not being unequivocal. It's far from doing what the Liberals said, and I have to ask her, in the long-term capital plan, for example, the Carmacks recreation centre - will there be a million dollars they can expect in the next fiscal year? Is she prepared to make that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member seems quite intent on discussing each project, a community at a time. The answer is not going to change. We said we would live up to the commitments that are in this document. We would be rational. We would be prudent fiscal managers. We said we would honour the commitments in the budget; we would honour contracts with Yukoners where we have entered into a signed agreement, where the previous government has entered into a signed agreement. Where the previous government has entered into a signed agreement, we are going to honour that; even though we may not agree with the way it was negotiated and we may not have done business that way, we are going to honour existing agreements.
So, Mr. Chair, we have a contract with Yukoners; we have contractual obligations with Yukoners, as a result of commitments in this budget. We will honour those contracts. It is very interesting, Mr. Chair, because I was asked this very question many times throughout the campaign. It started, actually, in Carmacks, with the mayor and council who asked me if I would live up to commitments in the budget, and I said, "Yes, I would," and that our party would.
Then the campaign went on from there, and I could do the entire north highway, as the Member for Kluane is fond of stating. Throughout the campaign, we were asked, "So, there's a commitment for XYZ in the budget. Will you live up to it?" Yes, we will; yes, we will. My answer didn't change, just as my answer has not changed all afternoon. We will honour the existing commitments in this budget, and we will honour the contractual arrangements that we have with Yukoners.
As I said, it is very interesting now to listen to the debate about some of those contracts. I was asked about them over the supper break. The constituent was absolutely amazed about the questions that we were being asked by the opposition. They had just taken to heart the notion that oppositions just oppose, oppose and oppose. It doesn't matter that they negotiated the deal. It doesn't matter that it's their deal. It's oppose, oppose. That is their job in opposition.
Well, there is a contract. There is a legally signed agreement. We are going to live up to it. There is a legally signed contract with the general contractor to build the extended care facility. My colleague signed it last week. We will honour that. That extended care is a commitment in this budget. We have a contract with Yukoners, and we will live up to it. That's what I said we were going to do, and that's what we are going to do. While we are in the process of doing that, we are going to be sound fiscal managers. This is taxpayers' money, and we are ever-mindful of that.
While we are not the authors of this document, we are accountable for it, and we will be. I am looking forward, as are all my colleagues, with great delight to answering the line-by-line questions, once we have cleared this general debate.
Mr. Harding: Well, we talked to a couple of constituents, too, over the supper break, and they couldn't believe how little knowledge the new Premier has about what's in the budget. Given what she just said, I guess she can just put my mind at ease. For the Carmacks rec centre, for example, will they get a million dollars in the next fiscal year to finish their rec centre?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, where we have signed contracts with Yukoners, we will live up to them. We have a commitment right now with Yukoners that we'll honour the budget commitments, and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: Excellent. So, the policy now is that if they have signed, long-term contract commitments, they'll be honoured. What about a case like a long-term commitment for highway funding, where it's not a signed contract? Will people in Tagish or along the Campbell Highway, for example, receive the funding in the long-term capital plan in the next fiscal year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what about a long-term commitment, like the school in Mayo, where we had the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, as he was then, commit to the school - pardon me, it was just Mayo - where we had successive, somewhat conservative governments promise over and over that yes, that school would be done; yes, that school would be built. And we had the NDP governments - two of them that promised it, and a third that promised it. Construction of that school finally made it to the budget. It's in this budget, and that's one of the first questions I got in that particular community: would I live up to that budget line item that had money for the Mayo school? Yes, Mr. Chair, I would, and this government will. That money is in this budget.
I gave the member some further edification with respect to the progress of that particular expenditure. Because it's contained in Commissioner's warrants, we're not waiting for a spending authority vote by this Legislature, although we are hoping to pass this budget before the end of June - maybe it will be July. We'll see the progress that we make today.
The point is that we have said that we will honour the commitments to Yukoners, and we'll do that.
The Mayo school is one such commitment in this budget and we're going to honour it.
Mr. Harding: Well, the Premier talked, but didn't answer the question.
The question was, what about items like the Campbell Highway and the Tagish Road - work like that that is not a long-term contractual arrangement. Can they expect to receive funding in the long-term capital plan that was identified in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's interesting that the member should choose the particular example of the Campbell Highway. Again, like the Mayo school, it has been one of those, "Yup, gonna do that; gonna do that," and that "gonna-do-that" message never seemed to happen.
And so, what Yukoners asked for is a government that would do what they said they would do, and we have made commitments to Yukoners. They're outlined in our platform. There is a clear commitment that I've discussed ad nauseum this afternoon to implement this budget and we're going to live up to those, and we will do what we said we'd do, which is implement this budget.
With respect to speculation on what might or might not be in future budgets, I'm not going to speculate on the floor of this House about future budgets. I'm going to do my best, as I said I would do, to be accountable for this one, and I'm going to answer the member's questions on it.
Mr. Harding: Well, therein lies the certainty, because I can't nail down what this Premier's policy is. Frankly, I don't think she has one, because she has changed her story four times this afternoon and this evening.
We need to know whether this Premier is going to honour long-term commitments. Now, first of all this afternoon, she seemed to be saying that any substantive, long-term commitment would be honoured. She followed that up by saying that any contractual, long-term commitment would be honoured. She followed that up by saying she wasn't going to honour any long-term commitments in this budget. Now, tonight, she's talking about the Mayo school.
The Mayo school is under construction. I believe the school councils met and they chose Old Crow - perhaps the Premier thinks when the school burnt down in Old Crow that we shouldn't have replaced it for a couple of years. We put Ross River down there, we started that and they are well on their way and, of course, Mayo. We identified funds in this budget for Mayo, and that was the process that we had embarked on with school councils and it seemed to be just ducky. However we've got a Premier tonight who is telling us that, in her opinion, people who do not have signed long-term contractual commitments, such as NGOs or people who are interested in highway work, don't have any level of commitment from this Premier for future year funding.
The member talks about the Campbell Highway. Apparently, she hasn't done much research on the budget, because she should look at the Campbell Highway over the last four years. She talks a good streak about the capital funding and all they're going to do. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they're going to build a jail in Whitehorse, increase highway construction funding, increase highway maintenance funding, build a school in Carmacks, Grey Mountain School, finish the one off in Pelly, and build a new continuing care facility. They're dreaming, Mr. Chair.
Let's talk about that. Actually, I will just make a note here and we'll talk about that when we get this finished.
With regard to the other projects that are not long-term contractual agreements, could the Premier tell me: is she going to honour the long-term commitments in this budget to these long-term capital financial responsibilities and obligations that Yukoners are expecting?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member spoke about financial obligations and commitments to Yukoners. I would remind the member that that is the reason why we retabled the budget in its entirety. It is because there are financial commitments out there to Yukoners. Yukoners are depending on this budget to be passed. Many of them are waiting for projects to be signed. Many of them were waiting for the budget to clear and the election to be over with so that they could get on with their specific project with certainty.
We have said that we will honour the commitments in the budget. We will do that. We are endeavouring to do that by endeavouring to pass this budget in the House. Although, of course, I would remind the members that in excess of $265 million has been spent through other appropriation authorities, there is still a responsibility on our part to pass this budget. The responsibility, we feel, is to honour the existing commitments that are in here. That is what we are trying to do. We said to Yukoners that we will retable the budget in its entirety. There are specific projects in this budget. The public was concerned about those specific projects. We've lived up to the commitments that we made, and we will continue to do so.
The member speculates that he's looking forward to discussing Liberal budgets in the future. So are we. We aren't the authors of this budget. We'll live up to it. We are looking forward to tabling additional budgets of our own, in addition to the supplementary I have just tabled. We are looking forward to the other ones, and we are looking forward to continuing to do what we said we would do, which is to live up to our commitment to Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: Well, let's start with that commitment. Of course, we authored this budget; we stood by it when the Liberals voted against it, we voted for it again, just last week when the Liberals brought it forward. So, we take no issue with the budget we put together and the Liberals are now accountable for, and have brought in.
But, some of the projects identified here, and part and parcel of this budget, were long-term commitments to people out there in the Yukon public. All we're trying to do is to ascertain what this Premier's policy is, clearly, with regard to long-term projects - capital commitments. Her story changes hourly. This afternoon it was changing every 10 minutes.
So, the Premier will have to forgive us if we are concerned about people in Carmacks, who have assurances of the money this year, but as part of the same project, the Premier is not prepared to say she will fund next year.
We are concerned about the people in Old Crow. The MLA from Vuntut Gwitchin was telling me that they are already starting to work up there, laying out the foundation. But, we have to be sure because there is no long-term contractual commitment right now that the funds will flow next year and the following year.
Now the Premier says, "Well, we'll be rational." Well, that's not good enough, because, so far, there has not been very much rational coming out of this government. Your credibility in rural Yukon is becoming rapidly eroded and in Whitehorse, likewise.
Our staff tells us we'll get the Hansard from this afternoon, probably before 9:30 p.m., so we can review the ever-changing positions of the Premier on this issue, and I can ask her verbatim if the Blues are incorrect or not with regard to her changing positions.
So we're trying to find out, on behalf of the citizens we represent, whether there's going to have to be a long-term, signed commitment before they can be assured that there will be funding in the budget. And if you look at the Campbell Highway or the Tagish Road, people have an expectation based on this budget because the principle behind this budget was long-term planning - which the Premier said she supported, by the way, but is not backing up with her statements. It's a simple answer. The Premier only has to give a simple answer: that this long-term capital plan will be honoured, that people who are out there planning will have this plan honoured. That's all she has to say. Why won't she say it? Why would she try to convince people, or try to confuse people, as to her intentions and create all that uncertainty?
Now, we wonder about the reserve fund for Dawson City. All the Premier has to do is say that she's committed. That's all we want. Is she committed to this long-term capital plan?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, our commitment to Yukoners is to pass this budget, and that's what we are endeavouring to do. I cannot, and I will not, speculate on future budgets on the floor of this House. The member indicated that he was looking forward to reviewing those future budgets. We're looking forward to them, as well.
We will live up to our commitment to Yukoners in the short term, in the long term, in the immediate term, and throughout our term. We will live up to our commitment to Yukoners. First and foremost, we are in general debate on this budget, and in this budget we committed to live up to what's contained in it and to be accountable for it to Yukoners, and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: This is very frustrating because we don't know what to tell our constituents; we don't have any certainty. The Premier won't give us any certainty, won't bring any clarity to the policy, changes the policy on the fly. She says she's not going to make any commitments in the long term, but yet on the Mayo school and continuing care facility she now, again, has changed her position. So how do we know what her policy is?
When I get asked about the Campbell Highway, or the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin gets asked about the airport funding, we honestly can't say if the Liberals are completely committed. For about 10 minutes the Premier was this afternoon but then she quickly - maybe she got a message box from upstairs and crawled back inside it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Mr. Harding: Maybe the principal's secretary caught her just before she stepped out of his message box. But, you know, when we look at the pedestrian walkway along the Nisutlin Bay bridge, and you see the planning money this year - made a commitment to the people that, after the planning, the capital funding would flow. But, what do we hear today from the Premier? If it's not in this year's budget, don't count on it. That's not good enough. What are the NGOs hearing from this Premier? If it's not in this budget, don't count on it.
What about the new sewage lagoon in Burwash? What about big tickets like the new jail. I mean, I'm absolutely astonished that the Premier, after all the lobbying and all those delicious Hansard quotes we have over the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, wouldn't just stand up and say, "Yes, that funding is going to be there over the next couple of years."
People expect that of the Liberals, given their previous statements.
So, on one hand, we will take from her that substantive projects will not have the rug pulled out from underneath them. That was her position for awhile this afternoon. We'll hold her to that. I think then she figured out what she was saying, didn't want to be tied down and changed it to the message box she's in now. So it's apparent to us that she has some inconsistency; perhaps it comes from within her own caucus. Perhaps if she determines, as we knew would happen, that there is no way she can fund, even with $56 million in the bank, everything she has promised - their promise to increase the wages for private group-home workers alone is going to cost millions. The commitments we read out the other day that they made to Yukon seniors are going to cost millions and millions of dollars, but she has all of the answers. She's still on the message box of what she feels the NDP made a mistake on. Mr. Chair, how those words will come back to haunt her.
So, we're at a Mexican standoff. The Premier won't give us the assurances we need. We don't know what to tell our constituents. We're here to represent our constituents. Members who will be going back to their ridings this weekend want to know what to tell their constituents. The Premier says if it's a long-term contractual commitment and the contract has already been tendered for long-term spending commitments, they'll live by that. She's less clear in other statements.
This is a conundrum for us in the opposition. The reason, for example, we worked on the Nisutlin Bay bridge was because parents in the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' riding identified it as a concern for the kids, walking on it in the evening.
Now, the Premier has not given us a commitment that she will address that safety concern for those kids. So, how is the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes expected to respond to his constituents? There is no contractual commitment to that expenditure. Of course, the Premier tried the line that she is not entitled to make a commitment for expenditure beyond this legislative budget session or this fiscal framework. That is ridiculous. I am asking her for a political commitment. Will she fund it? Will she fund the $450,000? Yes, next year, we will go through the budgeting process in here, but out there is what counts when we talk to citizens.
I can't tell people on the Campbell Highway with any assurances. It wasn't long ago that we were told by the Premier that the entire Campbell should be BST'd. Now, we're not even sure about a commitment for $1 million in funding next year in the long-term capital plan, even though she said that she agreed with long-term capital budget planning. But, again, this is a government that doesn't do what they said they were going to do, time and time again.
It's incredible. We never, in our wildest dreams, thought when in opposition that this government would be so open and so vulnerable so early in their mandate on so many fronts. They've left everything hanging. They've left expectations for everything to the fall. They continue to criticize the government on every issue and blame the NDP. It's only when we force them into taking responsibility, as the Premier did today on the budget, saying she was accountable for the budget. Tuesday morning, on CBC, I heard her say to everybody in the Yukon, "Don't ask me about that budget; just ask the NDP."
So, it shows that opposition works in governments that have a majority. They can be held accountable. It also shows that this government, that was at first unprepared, is learning that it's going to have to be accountable and responsible for their expenditures. Unfortunately, we still don't know the simple answer to that question.
I think of those people in Carcross and their sewage treatment facilities - long-term commitments - $300,000 in this fiscal year. Why spend the $300,000 if you're not prepared to make a commitment to $500,000 next year? So, why doesn't the Premier get up and make that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member had a gem of wisdom in that previous question. He said, "Out there is where it counts." And the member opposite is exactly right - out there, outside of this Legislature, is where it counts. What we said to Yukoners is that we would honour the commitments in this budget, and that's what we're doing. We said we'd live up to these expenditures; we'd honour these commitments; we'd retable this budget in its entirety - all of it, every last page, including the hollow vessels of criticism about, "You didn't spend $15,000 changing the names." No, our egos aren't that huge. We didn't have to do that.
We said to Yukoners that we'd table this budget; we said we'd live up to it, and we said we would do what we said we would do.
The member said, "What assurances can we give Yukoners?" Well, we spent 30 days throughout Yukon talking about those assurances, and Yukoners clearly expressed their views on April 17.
The members love to crow and try and suggest there is some new voting pattern in the Yukon. Well, the new voting pattern is the increase in popular vote for the Liberal Party. That's the new voting pattern.
What do non-government organizations hear? Well, I attended a couple of annual general meetings since I have taken office in this particular responsibility. What do they hear? They hear, "The funding agreement is in place. No, we didn't walk into office and send you a fax saying it was cancelled, like some other parties have done in the past. We didn't walk in and rip up agreements. We didn't walk in and say, 'Oh, everything's on hold. Freeze. Can't do this,' like some other parties have done." No, we didn't do that. We acted responsibly; we acted prudently and we acting rationally. We did what we said we were going to do. We retabled the NDP budget in its entirety. Mr, Chair, we will live up to it. It's out there that counts. It's out there that Yukoners have asked us to do this. It's out there that Yukoners know we are doing this and it's out there that really matters.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, the member opposite, - if you can believe this - just said that the reason that the former government didn't want their names in the budget was for egos. Imagine that. The government wants their name out of the budget because of our egos. Does that make any sense whatsoever? If you wanted your name in the budget, with an "honourable" beside it or something, then perhaps you could argue it was over ego. But then she says, "Our egos aren't that big." This is the Premier, who on the first day, was standing on her desk - "We won; you lost. We won; you lost." She was taunting the former Member for Porter Creek North who is not even in this House any more, like Cassius Clay over Sonny Liston, for crying out loud.
Mr. Chair, Cassius Clay at least knew what he was doing in the ring; the member opposite hasn't proven anything yet. I thought that was particularly low and showed a massive ego by the Premier, but of course she stopped doing that for some strange reason. I had hoped she would continue, but I'm sure someone with some dignity and some sense reminded her that that probably wasn't a good thing to do.
I hear the Premier chuckle over there, perhaps she should continue engaging in that behaviour. I hope she does. I think she should. Keep taunting. Keep it up. I challenge the Premier to do it every Question Period. Keep reminding the public that you won, the Premier won and everybody else lost. I'd love to see it. The only people who have lost are the communities because they are obviously underrepresented by this government, and this government isn't prepared to respect how important these capital commitments are to this territory and to their communities. Let's face it: a lot of what we are talking about all day is rural Yukon. And you know some of these communities may have only one project or two projects a year, and they're asked by YTG always to prioritize and to put things down in a way that will allow YTG to respond with an appropriate funding vehicle or method.
Yet we can't even get a commitment today from the Premier - the basics, like the Carmacks recreation centre, which has already started, is going to have a million dollars in funding next year. We can't even get a commitment that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre is going to have $2 million next year for beginning construction and $6 million in the following year. "Why?" one might ask and has been asking.
Well, there are a couple of conclusions. One: the Premier doesn't really know what policy she's going to implement with regard to these long-term plans. Two: she has no intention of implementing these long-term plans. Three: they have other priorities because they've found out how expensive their election commitments are and they don't want to be nailed down to these particular commitments.
Any one of those conclusions gives us concern. And if she's got any more conclusions, please stand up and enlighten me.
One has to wonder about other long-term commitments. What about the Canada Winter Games? It's not a contractual commitment; it's a political commitment. It's going to cost money every year. Is the Premier going to continue on with that, or is she going to end that arbitrarily, too?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of points. First of all, before the member decides to harangue my record further with respect to a comment I made once, I would invite him to revisit Hansard of March 27, 1997, and I would invite him to revisit Hansard of April 2, 1997. And I would invite him to take another revisit throughout Hansard pertaining to his comments.
My comment, previously, with respect to the replacement of pages is, we could've taken this budget and replaced pages. That wouldn't have been retabling the budget in its entirety. It also would have been an expense that need not have occurred because the fundamental parliamentary issue was this: were we prepared to be accountable for it - which we are quite prepared to do and have said we will do.
The member seems to want to divide Yukoners - rural versus urban. We don't want to do that. We want to work on behalf of all Yukoners, as we were elected to do. We want to provide Yukoners with good government, because all of us were elected to serve the Yukon people.
We want to do that, and we want to provide Yukoners with good government. Providing them with good government gave us a couple of options upon taking office. Because the NDP hadn't passed the budget, it gave us a couple of options. We could continue with Commissioner's warrants, and we could have - well, I suppose some members could have gone fishing. But we could have operated on Commissioner's warrants. That isn't the legislative authority. It's another form of spending authority.
We looked at an interim supply bill, which, when the NDP first took office in May 1995, was passed in four days by the opposition, and then they had to come back to the House and substantively repass the Conservative Party's budget. That also, of course, plunges Yukoners' programs, projects and businesses into complete uncertainty.
An interim supply bill and Commissioner's warrants don't give Yukoners the legislative authority that this House does when it passes the budget. Passing the budget does what we said we would do, in that it provides Yukoners with certainty for the projects that are contained in this budget. It provides Yukoners with the certainty that we said we would pass the budget and retable it in its entirety, and that's what we did.
There are funding agreements in place that are spread over several years. I can think of a number of non-government organizations that have funding agreements. Those funding agreements are in place. This budget is in place. We're not going to tear them up. We're not going to come into office and have some kind of uncertainty like, "Oh, yeah, we forgot to include that amount for that non-government organization in that Commissioner's warrant - oops", thereby having people left in uncertainty. We're not going to do that, and we aren't doing that.
We are attempting to pass the budget, which we are not the authors of but are prepared to be accountable for. We're prepared to answer the questions. My ministers and I are prepared to answer the line-by-line debate on the budget, and I'm prepared to answer more questions in general debate. However much the Member for Faro would like to try and suggest that my message has not been consistent, or that I have somehow erred, or that we aren't doing what we said we'll do, the message isn't going to change.
I've said it since 2:30 this afternoon, and I'm going to continue to say it. We'll pass this budget. We'll honour the existing commitments. We'll look forward to the future budgets.
Mr. Harding: Well, the message has already changed several times. I don't know what the Premier is talking about. She has already taken three different positions on the same subject. This is her latest lock-in position, but it doesn't mean anything, because it's -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I've just learned that I can't get the Hansard Blues until tomorrow. We can go back to this Monday. It's pretty clear - the Premier is looking perplexed again.
In terms of determining the policy environment that we're operating in, I look, from a general budget debate perspective, and I see a project like the Tantalus School in Carmacks. It's identified as long term, but there's no funding for this year.
As a matter of policy, would a project like that qualify for funding next year, under the new Liberal government, given that it is identified in this budget, which they say they are bringing in.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Is the member moving into line-by-line debate in Education?
Mr. Harding: Absolutely not. I'm asking her, as a matter of general policy - no luck, Premier, sorry. The buck stops here, as she said.
She said she was going to bring in the commitments. Well, there's a commitment. Is she prepared to fund it? There are expectations out there.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is entering into line-by-line in the Education debate. He's asking me - and I'm not the Minister of Education - about a line in Education and about a future project in Education. If we are clear in general debate, I'm sure that this side will stand and say "Clear" any time that the members opposite wish to move forward on the general debate. We'll be delighted to do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes really wants me to stand here for 12 days and talk about larvicide, I can do that, too. I'm sure the Minister of Community and Transportation Services would love to do it. And we're prepared. We would be delighted to discuss the general debate of this budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: General debate? The member is asking me to speculate on whether there is a project in the future. I'm not going to speculate. We'll live up to existing commitments in this budget. If he wants to talk about an existing line commitment, let's move into line by line.
Mr. Harding:In that, is this: now she's telling me that I can't ask her questions in general debate about her policy as to how she is going to implement long-term capital plans? I don't think so.
The issue is one of general policy, and if there are issues that have been identified for expenditure, will she implement them? One of them is the Tantalus School. She is saying that, as a matter of policy, she won't respond to that. Why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm saying as a matter of House procedure that we're prepared to do general debate on the budget. The member is suggesting that the long-term capital plan that was tabled with the budget speech by the previous government is part of this document; it's not. What is part of this budget document that I tabled is the 2000-01 mains.
We're prepared to discuss that and, for interest, the member wants to discuss a specific project and speculate whether it will be in future budgets, I've said we won't go there. We're not discussing that. We're discussing what's in this budget. We're not discussing if, four years down the road, there might be who knows what; we're talking about what's in this budget and what's in this budget are specific commitments to Education, Government Services, Justice, all kinds of departments - all kinds of lines that we'd like to be debating.
If the member wants to continue in general debate, as to whether or not we will honour the commitment to table this budget, we'll honour the commitment. Will we live up to what's contained in this budget? Yes, we will.
Mr. Harding: Well, let's talk about that then. The new correctional facility was criticized by the Liberals for not enough funding. The amendments for this particular project, funded in this budget we're talking about, doesn't make much sense if she's not prepared to fund it in future budgets.
So, why won't she just stand up and say she's going to fund the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre, as it's envisioned in the long-term budget plan?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is $1 million identified in the 2000-01 mains for the Justice correctional reform new facility. We're prepared to honour that.
Mr. Harding: Then, no more?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not going to speculate on what's going to be in next year's 2001-02 forecast, Mr. Chair. There is $1 million contained in this budget; that's what we are endeavouring to pass through this House; that's what's contained in the line item in the budget and the member is invited to discuss this in the line-by-line.
If the member wants to go through every one of the lines in the 2000-01 mains in the capital side, in the long-term capital plan, the answer is going to be the same. These are the commitments that are in this budget. This is what we are going to honour - the commitments that are contained in this budget. I'm not going to speculate on what is going to be in future budgets. I'm not going to do that.
Mr. Harding: Why did you do it with the Mayo school and continuing care, then?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I said also that this government would honour signed contracts with Yukoners, and I outlined two areas where there were signed contracts. We also spoke about Argus, where I'm honouring the member opposite's signed contract. We honour signed contracts with Yukoners. We're a government that does what we say we'll do. We're a government that endeavours to reach agreements on all fronts. We're a government that is honouring a fundamental, basic commitment to Yukoners to pass the budget - the budget that was not passed through this House when the election was called. We said we would honour the commitment in the budget, and that's what we're going to do. We're very committed to providing good government to Yukoners - to doing our best.
Mr. Chair, I don't know how many times I have to say it, but I will continue to say it, and perhaps the member will recognize that what we have said is that we will honour the budget that's before us; we'll be accountable for it; we'll do what we say we'll do, and we're looking forward to doing that.
Mr. Harding: So, the Mayo school contract has already been tendered, already been let?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I indicated to the member that the contract would be issued in July.
Mr. Harding: So, is there a contract, or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We envision a contract in July. The tender will be issued in July. There is $5.48 million in this budget to build the Mayo school. Authority for that money was given under the Commissioner's warrants, and the contract tenders are about to go out, and we will honour our commitment, which is in this budget. We'll honour that with Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: So, she's making a multi-year commitment to a project in an area where there's no contract awarded right now - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Mayo school had some planning monies committed to it in the last budget. The community, the school council, teachers, students and the public had a commitment with the Government of Yukon for that school in this budget. We said we would honour that commitment.
The monies in the budget to be spent on the Mayo school - that was the way it was presented to the Commissioner for authority. That's the way that money will be spent. That is doing what we said we would do. It has taken a long time for the Mayo school, the J.V. Clark School, to be rebuilt. It has taken a long time to get to the point where any government could stand in this House and say that the tender would be issued.
There is a signed contract in place with the extended care facility.
We have said that we will honour the commitments that are in the budget. Yukoners expect it of us, and that's what we're going to do.
Mr. Harding: Well, I don't dispute the merits of the Mayo school. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the former Minister of Education should be congratulated, along with the NDP government. However, that is not the question. What I asked the Premier: she is making a multi-year commitment in the absence of a signed contractual arrangement to have to do that, fiscally - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member has asked me if we have signed the contract for the Mayo school. No, we have not yet signed the contract for the Mayo school. We have a commitment with Yukoners that the money would be there. We had a commitment with the Commissioner, when we presented the warrant, that that's how that money would be spent.
We have a commitment that we would table this budget. We have a commitment that we would honour what's in this budget. We have a commitment that the $265 million in Commissioner's warrants, which we asked the Commissioner to sign - pardon me, we only asked for 50-some of that. The former government asked to sign - that the money would be spent the way it was supposed to be spent on committed projects, and that's what we're doing. Now we're endeavouring to pass through this authority, the balance of the budget. That's the entire document. Those are all the commitments to Yukoners, and we are going to go through them line by line.
The message to the member opposite and all of the members is that we are doing what we said we would do. We said we would come in and table the budget in its entirety, and that's what we're doing. We said we'd come in and defend it, we said we'd come in and be accountable for it, and accountable is what we are for the money that's being spent. We're accountable to the Commissioner for the Commissioner's warrants, we're accountable to this Legislature, and we're accountable to Yukoners.
Yukoners are going to hold - I think the member has used this term before in the House - our feet to the fire, on getting this budget through the House and on our future budgets. We are fully prepared to be accountable to Yukoners, and we're fully prepared to be accountable for this budget, including expenditures like the Mayo school and all the other projects and commitments that are outlined here. We will be fully accountable for them, and we are looking forward to it.
Chair: Order please. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue debate on the estimates.
Mr. Harding: Before the break, the Premier said something that I thought was very true. We were starting to get somewhere. She said that even though there was no contractual commitment on the Mayo school, and even though she told us that that was their policy - if there was a contractual, signed agreement, they would honour multi-year spending commitments - they had a commitment with Yukoners. They had a commitment to the people of Mayo. Therefore, they were going to commit to multi-year funding of the Mayo school. I take no issue with that whatsoever. As a matter of fact, that's precisely what I've been arguing all day.
Adopting this budget means adopting other commitments to NGOs, to a new WCC, to Connect Yukon, and to road construction. To not stand and say that those commitments will be honoured is not bringing any certainty to Yukoners.
And I would argue that the Premier has a commitment to the people of Carmacks and the rec centre for a million dollars next year. Perhaps, as a matter of policy, she would explain how she would apply her criteria to the Mayo school versus her inability today to say she'll make a multi-year commitment beyond this fiscal year to a project like the rec centre in Carmacks.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has talked about expectations of Yukoners, and the expectations of Yukoners were very clear. The expectations of Yukoners were that, should the Liberals be elected, the budget that had been tabled in February would be retabled in its entirety and, depending on the state of the Legislature, would pass. I'm sure that Yukoners also expected something similar from the NDP government. Had an NDP government been elected, they would have expected that this budget would have been retabled in its entirety and, depending on the will of the Legislature, would pass the House.
Yukoners also expect that their legislators would come to this place and do due diligence on the expenditures of the government and examine them, and they expect that a budget will be passed every year, no matter who is on this side of the House.
Yukoners don't expect - in fact Canadians generally don't expect - that legislatures are dissolved in the midst of a budget debate.
It has happened, but not very often. Usually, it's just at the very beginning; it's not in the middle of the budget debate.
Anyway, the election was called and the election is over. Expectations of Yukoners are that the duly elected Liberal government would come in and retable the budget in its entirety and would, since we have a majority, pass that budget, and we would live up to our commitments to Yukoners, and that's what we're trying to do.
Now, the member has gone on and on about the Mayo school. I'm sure the former Minister of Education - I'm sure she must be listening - would be saying, "Boy, I wish I'd had that support for the Mayo school when it was before Cabinet many times." All these projects that the member talks about and pledges such support for and such commitment to - they had four years to do it. They had four years. This was their last budget. It is being retabled in its entirety. It is being lived up to by the Liberal government.
We will be accountable for it. For the specific project of the Mayo school, the foundation was tendered on June 8 - it's in the Friday, June 9 paper and the further construction is expected to be tendered sometime in July. The Mayo school amounts in the special warrant were $100,000 in April, $100,000 in the May warrant and $5,282,000 in the June warrant; so $5,484,000 total. Interestingly enough, Mr. Chair, that's exactly the amount that's in the budget, it's exactly the amount that we committed to in the election campaign, it's exactly the amount that's contained here, and it's exactly the amount we want to achieve further spending authority for by passage of this budget.
We have been given the authority through the Commissioner's warrants, and the balance of the budget needs to be passed through the legislative authority of this House, and that's what we want to do.
Mr. Harding: Nice speech. Mayo school; no contractual commitment or multi-year funding commitment for the Premier. Carmacks; no contractual commitment, no commitment to multi-year funding by the Premier. What's the policy reason?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The policy is a commitment to Yukoners. The commitment was that we would table this budget. The commitment is that we would table it in its entirety. The commitment is that we would be accountable for it. The commitment is that, in the 2000-01 mains, there's a number for O&M - well over half of the budget is O&M. That's a commitment to specific purchases, that's a commitment to salaries, that's a commitment to program funding like social assistance, and that's a commitment to the people of the Yukon. That's what that is. The commitment for the specific capital projects, the commitment for the O&M funding and the commitments contained in this budget have been retabled in their entirety, and they will be lived up to by the Liberal Government of the Yukon.
Mr. Harding: Mayo school - no contractual commitment. The Premier says that they have a multi-year funding commitment - great. Carmacks - no contractual commitment, no commitment of multi-year funding from the Premier. What's the policy reason for the difference?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Mayo school has $5.4 million-plus in this budget. Other projects have specific amounts allocated to them. We will live up to the projects contained in this budget. We will honour existing commitments.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Premier said that they would honour the multi-year commitments to the Mayo school. Is she now saying she will not honour the multi-year funding commitments to the Mayo school?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I said that there's a commitment for funding for the Mayo school in this budget. The member loves to talk about that particular project and other projects. We will go through the projects in the line-by-line debate.
In general debate, in the general direction of this budget, the general view from this perspective of this budget is that there is a series of commitments to Yukoners. There are how many hundreds of pages of commitments to Yukoners. Those commitments include O&M spending; they include specific capital projects and a variety of commitments to Yukoners. We will honour existing commitments, which are contained in this budget.
Mr. Harding: The Premier said that she would honour multi-year capital commitments to the Mayo school - multi-year. Is she now telling this House that next year's capital commitments for the Mayo school will not be honoured?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member has become focused on - I suppose that's a good word for it - is the comment I made earlier in reference to honouring commitments to Yukoners and about honouring contracts. The member has good reason to be sensitive on this point, as he knows full well that one of those agreements that we're honouring - again not our negotiated agreement, but theirs - is a particular signed agreement that the member wants to go on in Question Period about, asking if we will honour it. He is asking why we don't yank the funding. Why are we honouring that agreement? He keeps asking me, "Why are you honouring that agreement?"
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Allow me to rephrase that.
The member has said, "Why don't we yank the funding because the agreement is dead?" Well, as the member knows full well, the agreement is not dead, and the member ought to recall that the agreement specifically allows for a variety of provisions. That agreement is something that we will honour. We have said that we will honour agreements and contracts, and that's what we'll do. There's a tender for the foundation for the Mayo school on June 8. There's an understood agreement that we will be open and accountable with Yukoners, and that we will live up to the spending authority granted by the Commissioner, that we will do what we said we'll do and spend the money, as we have asked her, and indicated to her that we will spend it. That authority was granted to the previous government during the election period and to this government post-election period, while we brought this budget to the House, which was an agreement that we made with Yukoners.
Yukoners voting in the election is a contract, if you will. It's a contract with their elected MLA, that that MLA will do their best, that that MLA will do what they said they will do post-election campaign. We have done what we said we'd do. We said we'd come in and table the NDP budget, and that's what we're doing - that's what we have done. And what we're doing now, today, and throughout the forthcoming time of debate in this Legislature, is being asked to be accountable for these funds, and that's what we'll do.
The member is asking me to account for specific commitments in this budget, and we will honour specific commitments in this budget. We will honour them. We honour commitments to Yukoners; we honour our contracts with Yukoners; we honour agreements with Yukoners. We do what we say we'll do.
Mr. Harding: Yes, Mr. Chair, this is the government that does what they say they're going to do - except for Tombstone buyout, except for a quick conclusion of negotiations with the YTA, except for Argus, except for legal aid, except for land claims, and the list is just growing every day.
We'll have another daily flip-flop with the members opposite.
You know, Mr. Chair, Yukoners are quickly learning the pitfalls of electing a government that said whatever it took to get themselves sitting in those seats opposite, and it's painfully apparent to anyone listening today that the Premier is not doing what she said she would do.
She talks about the foundation of the Mayo school - great. She says she has honoured them in multi-year commitment. Is there no construction in Carmacks? Are they not underway? Yet the Premier sees fit to toy with these people and tells them she's not going to tell them whether or not they'll have a contract next year or a commitment of $1 million to finish the project, because she hasn't decided yet.
People who've been waiting for a new correctional facility - what was the quote in the throne speech? Yukoners desire and deserve a certainty. They're flying in the face of that. We've had a Premier refuse to even give the most basic commitment to these people in these communities for these projects. We've had a Premier who has changed her position four times this afternoon, which will be painfully evident to her when she returns on Monday and we review her comments with her. I'm going to be anxious to hear the blah, blah, blah speeches of her trying to explain that.
But, Mr. Chair, it's so important to these communities. When you look at the community school in Mayo - $5.48 million, $5 million net for this year, but next year the estimate is $2.2 million to complete.
The Premier said once today that she would honour that commitment, that she wouldn't pull the rug out from under it, particularly on a substantive project, but yet, for some unknown policy reason, there seems to be a very arbitrary trend here.
For the Carmacks recreation centre, she says that there is no commitment beyond this year, even though that project, as I understand it, is being constructed. With the Tantalus School, where there has been a lot of work, a lot of discussion and clear consensus among the communities that it should be the fourth school to receive funding after Ross River and Mayo, she is not prepared to tell them either. This is the Premier who tells Yukoners that she does what she says she is going to do and creates certainty?
And as we try and suss out what the policy is through this general debate surrounding long-term capital commitments, we think of other areas where we try to fit the square peg into the round hole of this Premier's policy thought process, whatever it may be.
We've got the Canada Winter Games coming up in 2007, and the Yukon expected to bid. There is a political commitment to Yukoners, year after year, to help provide infrastructure for those games. But, according to this Premier, that's not good enough for her. Every year, Yukoners will have to go hat in hand to her, and she'll make the decision on her funding.
And it's only if she deems you on a year-to-year basis to be substantive and rational, that you will receive your funding. She's taking the Yukon back to before the days of block funding with this approach, where she keeps her finger on the trigger for all funding, keeps people on the hook every year, all those non-government organizations, social NGOs, business NGOs. As long as you toe the Liberal line, the Premier will give you some funding. But, she is not prepared, in the capital side, to give you long-term commitment, unless she signs a hard contractual relationship that she'd be legally bound to fund.
As a matter of fact, the only area where we have seen her do that is the Argus. She has the opportunity, because of a change in the relationship with the proponent, to ask for the money back. But, she hasn't done it, I guess because, either they support the project or they kind of want to have $35 million in construction work going on. So, I don't know how business people and students and rural Yukon residents are going to have any certainty they are going to get proper telephone and Internet services, or are they going to have to wait to see which way the political winds are going to blow from year to year with the Premier.
This is a Premier who told Yukoners that she was going to provide certainty. When we look through the lengthy list of important projects to rural Yukon, the sheer fact that she's telling non-government organizations to take a hike, and she's telling people whom she previously worked with to lobby for Whitehorse Correctional Centre to be built, the new one, they will just have to wait and see.
Those people, I am sure, would have thought that that would have been a given in Liberal policy. They wouldn't expect the answers they are getting from the Premier today. We'll have to flesh that out.
I'm sure that when people hear that NGOs are no longer going to have long-term funding, and I'm sure when they hear that there's no long-term commitment for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, when they hear in Carmacks that they can't count on the $1 million next year for the rec centre, and when the Mayor of Dawson hears that he can't count on the millions of dollars for his projects, the Premier will be backing down. I am virtually positive about that. Not only that, we will make sure she does.
This is a Premier who used to try to tell the New Democrats, when in government, that the ultimate long-term commitment of public/private partnership was a creative and innovative way of creating work - long-term commitments. The longest, actually - 20-year leases to construction companies on the highway. In Nova Scotia, they were going to build them 32 schools. There were leases for 20 years back, with higher rates of interest than you would pay if the government borrowed the money themselves.
But, today, we have a Premier who, unbelievably, can't even stand here and tell Dawson, Carmacks, Old Crow, Faro, Ross River or the people of Tagish that the funding identified for the long term - for their projects - is going to exist. We, as the official opposition, will be forced, as a result of that, to let them know this.
So, in a de facto manner, the Premier will realize that she has just told these people they can't count on it. So, we'll have to make a list, or just use this list - it would be very easy, and we'll let these people know. They'll be surprised. Did you know that the Yukon Liberal government refuses to make a long-term commitment to more funding for the Campbell Highway? Did the people of Tagish know, when there was $750,000 for road work this year - and we told them through newsletters and on the street that they were going to have more work next year, and when the Liberals said they would implement our budget - did they know that they only meant for this year? Has someone been snookered here? I think so - rural Yukon.
Did the people who listened to the Liberals say they thought that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre should be built now because it was too old and was a health-and-safety trap - and that $1 million in our budget just wasn't enough - know that they're now making no financial commitment for next year for construction?
Did the environmental community know that, when the Liberals said they'd pass our budget, those long-term commitments to their funding that were made were not part of their commitment? Unless, of course, they qualify, through some bizarre policy plane that the Premier is on, where you eke in under the wire for her definition of "substantive", and I'm not quite sure what that is. I don't think she is, either.
Did the people who want to plan the Canada Games know that the Premier is not prepared to extend the commitments for funding to them in the long term?
Do the people up in Old Crow who are working on the new airport, a very important facility for the community, know that the Premier has just told this Legislature that they can start it, but they can't be sure of having the money to finish it? I don't think so. They will know. And that is from a government that says that they are going to provide some certainty. I don't think so.
So, the easy thing for the Premier to do is to try to help these Yukoners, who've been fighting hard for these projects and who have received funding, by providing them with some sense of commitment to their projects.
Funding in one year and cutting a project halfway through is not reasonable. Yet she won't stand up and actually say that, so I have to conclude, as I said earlier, that there is something amiss here. Why won't she tell us right now, for example, that she'll provide the $1 million next year to fund the Carmacks recreation centre, which has already started? Why wouldn't she do that? It's simple.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, there are a number of points that the member opposite has raised. Starting with that contract that keeps coming up in the Legislature, this is the contract that the member just seems to have a memory lapse with respect to, because the signature on the contract is the member opposite's, and it clearly states that, should a particular event happen, which has happened, there is a period of 30 days before anything further happens.
So, if the member opposite doesn't recall that, I'm advised that this agreement can be made public, and if my understanding is correct, I would invite him to revisit it, certainly prior to tomorrow's Question Period.
However, if he wants to pursue that question on Monday, I'll be delighted to respond to it.
There isn't an opportunity, certainly at this point in time, for me to ask for money back and, as I've said before, we will honour contracts. We don't rip them up. That's a confusion with another government; we don't do that. We don't rip up signed contracts with Yukoners or with other people.
The member has talked about the people of Dawson, Old Crow, Beaver Creek, Watson Lake, Teslin, Haines Junction, Burwash, Destruction Bay, Faro, Ross River, Carmacks, Mayo, Pelly Crossing, Tagish, Marsh Lake, the people of Carcross; all of those people - all Yukoners. What commitment did we have with them? What did we say we'll do? We said we would table the NDP budget in its entirety; although we weren't the authors, we would table the NDP budget in its entirety. We also said that we would live up to the commitments in that budget; that's reasonable, that's what Yukoners expected, that's what Yukoners on the street have complimented us on, have said, "Good for you. Can't be easy going in there and talking about a budget that you're not the authors of but good for you. Glad you could get on with this, glad you did that, and glad you're getting on with the business of governing the territory. Glad you did that."
Now, the member opposite has tried to suggest that because I'm not speculating on future budgets in this House that there is no long-term plan, that I should have tabled a long-term capital plan with this budget. All in due time. I'm not going to negotiate and sign off on seven outstanding land claims in the first 18 days of taking office, either. That may come as news to the member opposite, but it's not news to the public of the Yukon. The public of the Yukon asked us, wanted us, suggested to us that we table this budget, that we pass this budget, that we respect the hours and hours that professional public servants put in this budget, and that we respect the views of Yukoners that are contained in this budget and that's what we've done. We will honour the commitments that are in this budget.
That's what we said we would do and that is what we have done. We are putting this budget before the House. We are accountable for this budget, because that's what we said we would do - all in good time. In the fall of this year, there will be a supplementary budget. In the fall of this year, there will be a throne speech. When the mains are tabled next, there will also be tabled, in the budget documents, the long-term capital plan and the other budget documents, the fiscal position, et cetera. Those documents will all be tabled in due course. What we are trying to do, in this initial period of office, is ensure certainty for Yukoners by passing the budget that had been tabled in the House.
I am not going to get into a speculation about what's going to be in future budgets, any more than the member's former leader would get into that kind of speculation in the House. We have given a great deal of thought as to the options before us, after the election. We believe that providing certainty for Yukoners by passing the existing budget - or the budget that had been tabled - is the appropriate course of action. We believe that this is the right thing to do for Yukoners - to pass this budget. That's what we want to do.
We also believe that we were elected to provide open, accountable, fiscally prudent, good government for Yukoners - government that they could be proud of, and government that they would look at and say, "Good for them. They planned that project; they followed through on their commitments, and they did what they said they were going to do."
This budget is for the fiscal year to March 31, 2001. Prior to the end of the fiscal year, there will be a new budget tabled by the Liberal government. It will be a budget that we author. It will be a budget that is tabled with our long-term plan and will further outline our commitments to Yukoners. What will be in that budget is not something that I'm going to speculate about today on the floor of this Legislature, because my role on the floor of this Legislature today is to be accountable for the existing budget that's tabled and the existing commitments that are in it. We have said we will honour them.
We've talked about the different existing commitments that are in there. We are prepared to honour what's in this 2000-01 main estimates - this budget document.
We are prepared to go line by line on this. We are prepared to discuss general debate and there will be general debate, I'm sure, over the following days and for how ever long the members wish to pursue the general debate and the line-by-line debate. We are here to be accountable for this budget and we are going to do that. We will honour that commitment to Yukoners and we'll honour that expectation of Yukoners, which they carried through the election campaign. They asked, we answered, the answer was the same throughout the campaign, the answers been the same since we started this 2:30 this afternoon, or whatever time it was. We will honour the commitments that are in this budget.
If the member wants to talk about future budgets, future years - if the interim leader of the official opposition wishes to discuss what's in future budgets in future years, I'm not going to speculate on them. We are here to do a job, which is to pass this budget and we will present and author our budget and our long-term plan in due course. To suggest that we would not have a long-term plan for Yukoners, that I, as Minister of Finance, or that our government would go year-to-year without tabling such a long-term plan, is an unfortunate misunderstanding from the member opposite, because it's simply not the case. I'm certain that the member knows that. We will table a long-term plan. It's tabled with the mains, it will be tabled in the spring and we will look forward to debating that budget that we author, as we are looking forward to debating this budget, which we did not author.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Chair. From the sounds of it, the Premier is going to need help with the next budget, as well, and we will be prepared to do that and provide that assistance. You know, Mr. Chair, of course, Yukoners wanted that budget passed, because it was based on long-term commitments and respect for them: respect for communities, for First Nations, for people who wanted long-term funding commitments for non-government organizations. What the Premier has now done is throw a great cloud of uncertainty over that.
The reason Yukoners liked the budget was because of the long-term planning.
You know, I'm also pleased to hear that the Premier is now saying that there is a 30-day extension for Argus. So, presumably, what she's telling us is that at the end of 30 days, if the tenets are still not met, she can't ask for the money back. We look forward to that.
She also said that, as far as she was concerned, she wasn't going to speculate on future years' budgets. But that's not the case, either, because she has said that substantive projects will continue to receive funding for multi-years and will not have the rug pulled out from underneath them. So, she has committed and speculated. So, which will it be - is she going to pull the rug out from under these substantive projects in multi-years, when there is supposed to be new funding, or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we said when asked about the expenditures in this budget that we wouldn't pull the rug out from under anybody. We wouldn't tear up signed agreements with Yukoners; we wouldn't send press releases that nixed funding, like other governments have done, as opposed to talking with Yukoners; we wouldn't freeze spending; we wouldn't say no to projects; we wouldn't throw Yukon businesses and Yukoners into a cloud of uncertainty by coming into office and rewriting the entire budget, operating on warrants and authorities. We didn't say that.
What we've said was, we may not have authored this budget, however we will live up to it because it is important to Yukoners that we live up to the commitments that are there. And there are commitments in this budget. There are many, many, many commitments to Yukoners, and while we didn't author them, we'll live up to them. There are some programming commitments in here that the member hasn't even asked about, and certainly in the line-by-line debate, I know we'll talk about them. The member has dwelt upon a few specific capital projects.
This budget is a commitment to Yukoners. This budget is a commitment, and we said we would honour it. The commitment is for specific funding expenditures, and we said we would honour them, and that's what we're doing. We'll honour the spending authority that the Commissioner issued to the previous government, we'll honour the spending authority that has been issued to this government, and we'll honour the legislative authority once this budget has passed this House.
The commitments that are in this budget will be honoured. We will table in the spring, with our budget - a budget that we author - the long-term capital plan of our government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Faro has suggested, Mr. Chair, that I report progress, and I'm quite -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member has suggested that I report progress, and I'm prepared to do that. Although it is not quite what new members of this House envision as progress, I'm prepared to move it.
Chair: The member has moved that we report progress on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:29 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled June 12, 2000:
Tombstone Park and mineral interests within park area: letter (dated June 6, 2000) to Hon. Robert Nault, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (Canada), from the Hon. Pat Duncan, Premier (Yukon) requesting meeting between officials
Management Board document showing projected unconsolidated financial position of Government of Yukon at April 25, 2000