Whitehorse, Yukon

Monday, June 19, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.

Speaker: I will call the House to order.

We will proceed at this time with prayers.

Prayers

DAILY ROUTINE

Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.

Tributes.

TRIBUTES

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I'd like to introduce a very well-known person to the Yukon, Mr. Ted Harrison, who is in the gallery with his son Charles and Charles' partner, Kate. Could I ask the House to welcome them?

Applause

In remembrance of Robina (Nicky) Harrison

Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have been asked on behalf of the House to pay tribute to Robina (Nicky) Harrison. Now, Nicky was - and that's her nickname and the name that everyone knew her by; I never called her Robina once, but I did call her Nicky lots of times, and she called me lots of things lots of times - in Malaysia from 1958 to 1963. This is where she met Ted. Nicky was a staff sergeant in the U.K. Women's Corps. That's where they got married. After their stint in Malaysia, they went to New Zealand for three years, from 1963 to 1966, and that's there Charles was born.

Now, I have known Charles since he was a baby, because we first met this family back in 1967. When they left New Zealand, they went back to England for 18 months, and the call of Canada became their motto. This was a time when Canada was hiring or soliciting many teachers from outside the country, and Ted was one of the 50 who worked for Northland School Division, where I was for one year.

One of the things that I think is very important to recognize about this special woman is that she had a special place in the hearts of many Yukoners. Nicky passed away in Victoria on March 21, 2000, three months short of her 80th birthday.

When we were in northern Alberta, I had my first stint in the Yukon in 1965 when I came up here for one year with my wife, and I returned to university, went back and then taught for one year in northern Alberta. And this is where we met Ted, Nicky and Charles.

Now, Ted, Nicky and Charles lived here from 1968 to around 1995, and then moved on to Victoria. When we were teaching in northern Alberta, we became very close friends. I wasn't that political at that time, but I had some ambitions to be involved in the teachers' association, and I got involved with the local of the Alberta Teachers' Association, and so did Ted. Ted became our media person and, of course, Nicky became our guide.

I can recall that the call of the north came very distinctly one night, when Ted, Nicky and Charles were over at our place having supper, and I showed them slides of Carcross and the Yukon. We went for a walk and, as Ted often does - he muses and is a philosopher - he said, "I must go there." So, the following month we were in Calgary attending an ATA meeting, and the Yukon was there doing its recruitment. So, we ended up being interviewed by John Ferbey and Hank Bugara, whom I think many of you might know.

I was offered a job at Christ the King High at that time. I became principal. I always wondered how I got to be a principal at such a young age. I said that, well, if you returned in those days, they made you an administrator automatically, because the movement of teachers out of the territory was about 75 percent. So, if you came back, it's obvious that you liked it.

Ted and Nicky were assigned to Carcross. During this time, our relationship grew even more, because going back and forth, we ended up going alternate weekends. One weekend, they would come to town and we would go to Carcross. Of course, during those times, we had our three children, and so they grew up with Charles, and we became very close.

Nicky was a person whom you respected, because she respected you. Long before the women's movement ever became a reality, this was the expectation that Nicky had of herself. She had very firm views about things. She was very open about sharing these ideas, and she made sure you listened to her ideas.

She gave respect, and she expected it in return. Nicky was a person who said it the way she thought it, and it was always concern for finding good in everybody.

Nicky was the foundation of the Harrison family. She was the guide for Ted and, of course, for Charles in those days, who, I remember, was just a going concern. She would protect them from the elements, and I don't mean weather elements - she did that too - but from all aspects of their life in the Yukon. She was the organizer, and she was the connector of many Yukon friends. Nicky had another side to her: she was also the life of any gathering/party. Nicky, in her younger years, I am told, was the entertainment. She was a fun-loving person. She was always cordial, and, because of her Scottish heritage, she basically was a person who was very honest. She was a positive influence with all the people with whom she came in contact.

One of the other aspects of her long standing here in the Yukon was her contribution to the education system in Yukon. She was one of the founding kindergarten teachers who began our present program. At that time, the Yukon kindergarten program was in its beginning stages and it was independent of the school system, but Nicky had a lot to do with bringing it in as part of the education system. We were one of the first places in the country to have kindergarten as part of our public school system, and Nicky was one of the pillars of that program.

Nicky was loved by all of the people whom she worked with. Students, when they became adults, did not forget their kindergarten teacher, and she was always remembered, Mr. Speaker. I recall that because many of the students whom I had as a principal in the many schools I went to always remembered who their kindergarten teacher was.

What they remembered about Mrs. Harrison was the fact that she made learning interesting and would take her students on all kinds of interesting field trips. Nicky was one of the pioneers in our Yukon kindergarten program.

And she should be remembered as a teacher who always had a smile on her face and who loved the people she worked with. In her latter years in teaching, she taught at Jack Hulland, which was my last place of employment. I didn't have the opportunity to work with her there, but I didn't have to; I heard about her for years after because many of the children she had in that system ended up sending their own children back to the same school, and they could always remember Nicky.

On behalf of the Yukon Legislature, we offer Charles, Ted and Kate our deepest sympathies, and we thank you for your contribution to Yukon life. We thank Nicky for her contribution to Yukon life. Robina (Nicky) will be missed by all Yukoners, and we thank you for having known her.

Thank you.

In remembrance of Pushinder (Bobby) Brar

Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the House to pay tribute to Pushinder, or as he was best known in Faro, Bobby Brar. He passed away last week unexpectedly due to some health complications, and it was quite a shock in the community of Faro and around Yukon for the people whom he knew.

Bobby did a lot of volunteer work in the community of Faro. He was a long-time president of Local 1051 of the steel workers union there, and he was the president at the time of his passing. He also put tremendous effort into the community, serving the food bank in some of the community's toughest times. I knew Bobby very well. I met him some 14 years ago when I first came to the Yukon and worked at the Faro mine. Bobby was always someone who was very proud, as a working person, of the simple life that he led. He was known for his shovel operation, which was essentially the top job in the pit.

He did that for many, many years and was proud of his ability to operate heavy equipment. Bobby always enjoyed a good laugh, and he and his partner, Shirley, were some of the most hospitable people whom I've ever met.

Whenever I used to go to their house, they were always very quick to bring out some chai tea or beer or a cup of coffee or whatever you wanted or whatever you asked for. They would always lay out a nice spread so that you felt very welcome and very at home and always engaged in some good discussion.

I just want to say that Bobby will be missed. On behalf of the New Democrat caucus and this Legislature, we would like to extend our condolences to Shirley, his family and his friends. We are very sad to see Bobby go and he will be missed.

Speaker: Are there any visitors to be introduced?

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I'd like the privilege of introducing my family members today. With us today is my sister, Helen Charlie, my son, Curtis Netro, and my very good friend Ernie Peter, who is from Arctic Village, Alaska.

Thank you.

Applause

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, at this time, I'd like to introduce His Worship, the Mayor of Dawson City, Glen Everitt.

Applause

Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?

Are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?

Are there any bills to be introduced?

Are there any notices of motion?

NOTICES OF MOTION

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should continue to promote aggressively the Yukon's interest in the Alaska Highway pipeline.

Mr. Harding:I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the Yukon Liberal Party campaigned in the recent election on a promise of providing certainty to Yukon businesses and Yukon people; and

(2) the Yukon Liberal government is seeking legislative support for a budget first tabled by the previous NDP administration, which it has now adopted as its own; and

(3) the three-year capital plan, included with the Budget Address of February 21, 2000, is an integral part of that budget; and

(4) it is important to provide certainty to Yukon people about several major ongoing projects, including replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, upgrade to the Old Crow airport facility, and numerous recreation, sewage, land development and other infrastructure initiatives; and

(5) the Premier has acknowledged that the territorial government's finances are in a healthy condition, including an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to make an unequivocal commitment to Yukon people that it will fully honour the commitments in the three-year capital plan that was included with the Budget Address, as of February 21.

Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Mountainview Place trailer park, located on Range Road, is an ill-conceived, poorly planned project that will not provide an affordable alternative for the owners of older trailers to relocate there; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Housing Corporation not to proceed with the sale of these lots, but instead to turn the project over to the Department of Community and Transportation Services for a complete reworking of the design of the project to correct the design flaws and to ensure the creation of larger, more competitively priced, affordable lots.

Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the Yukon Liberals, particularly the Member for Riverdale South, promised during the election to seek financial compensation for residents of Boswell Crescent whose property was seriously damaged by a major electrical power surge on October 31, 2000; and

(2) the Liberal government has broken faith with the people of Riverdale by failing to honour this commitment; and

(3) the Yukon Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000, enough to provide interim compensation to residents affected while it pursues a final remedy from the appropriate electrical utility; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do, by introducing a supplementary budget in this legislative sitting that sets aside part of the accumulated surplus to establish a compensation fund for Boswell Crescent residents.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) while it was in opposition, the Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment to parents in the Riverdale area of Whitehorse that a Liberal government would construct a new Grey Mountain Primary School; and

(2) neither the throne speech nor the supplementary budget presented in this House on June 5 indicated how the Liberal government intends to honour that commitment; and

(3) as of March 31, 2000, the Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to live up to its commitments by putting the appropriate resources in its supplementary budget this fall to begin the necessary planning and design work for this school replacement project.

Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the federal arms legislation, commonly known as Bill C-68, fails to recognize the realities of living and working in northern Canada; and

(2) the recent decision by the Supreme Court of Canada upholding the constitutionality of this legislation does not resolve the outstanding concerns that northern people have over universal, mandatory gun registration; and

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to establish an all-party committee of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to work collaboratively with other governments, including Yukon First Nations governments and the leaders of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut governments, to seek a northern exemption from the application of the federal gun control legislation north of 60 degrees.

Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the Yukon Liberal Party is on record supporting the construction of a multi-level health care facility in the community of Watson Lake; and

(2) recent statements by the Minister of Health and Social Services have cast doubt on the commitment of the Yukon Liberal government to make good on this promise to the people of Watson Lake; and

(3) neither the throne speech nor the supplementary budget introduced by the Liberal government indicated how the government intends to honour this commitment; and

(4) the accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000, is sufficient to allow the government to meet its commitment to the people of Watson Lake; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do by putting the appropriate resources into a supplementary budget to begin planning and design of the promised facility.

Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) the Liberal government has taken the position that mining is incompatible with wilderness parks and specifically the Tombstone Territorial Park; and

(2) the Liberal government has further taken the position that mineral claims staked within the boundaries of Tombstone Territorial Park by Canadian United Minerals are legitimate claims; and

(3) the granting of a five-year exploration permit to Canadian United Minerals with respect to these claims increases uncertainty about the future status of Tombstone Territorial Park as a mining-free wilderness area; and

(4) this uncertainty has been compounded by recent comments by the Minister of Renewable Resources that failure to negotiate a settlement of these claims would result in a mine in the park; and

(5) while in opposition the Premier stated that the territorial government had a responsibility to buy out these claims; and

(6) as of March 31, 2000, the Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to live up to its commitments to buy out the existing claims without further delay, and to set aside adequate funding for that purpose in a supplementary budget.

Speaker: If there are no further notices, we'll proceed. Are there any statements by ministers?

MINISTERIAL STATEMENTS

Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Point of order

Speaker: The hon. Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.

Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would like to point out pursuant to section 11, sub 3 of our Standing Orders in this legislature that a ministerial statement may be a statement of short, factual government policy.

Further, Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges made recommendation that a ministerial statement be made only on subjects of significance and primarily for the purpose of announcing a new government policies. I would point out that this statement here today does nothing of the sort. It merely is an overview of the Premier's travel schedule and announces the former NDP government's policies, especially in oil and gas and in the mining sector, and in the protected areas strategy. Mr. Speaker, given the facts, I would ask you to rule on this matter. The Liberals-

Speaker:Order. This statement has not even been given yet.

Mr. Fentie: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, I have risen on a point of order.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker:No, that's not the way I understand the rules. Sorry.

I will allow the statement to proceed right now and come back with a ruling for the House at a later date.

Investment in Yukon: meetings to promote

Hon. Ms. Duncan:I rise today today to give the House an update on my trip to Calgary and Vancouver to promote investment in the Yukon. As members are aware, last week I attended the World Petroleum Congress in Calgary. This year's forum, which was the first to be hosted in Canada, was attended by all major companies in the oil and gas industry. It was an excellent, international forum for promoting responsible oil and gas development in the Yukon.

While in Calgary, I also had formal meetings with the executives of several companies, including West Coast Energy, TransCanada PipeLines Ltd., Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd., Anderson Exploration, BP Amoco Canada, Atco and Chevron Canada. I also met informally with Premier Ralph Klein.

During these meetings, I provided three clear messages: our strong interest in seeing the Alaska Highway pipeline built through the Yukon; our plans for a second lands sale in the northern Yukon; and our efforts to reach an agreement with the Kaska to reopen the southeast Yukon to exploration.

Point of order

Speaker: The leader of the official opposition on a point of order.

Mr. Harding: I rise to raise a point of order with regard to this ministerial statement. The opposition has been given this statement and we have reviewed it. Now, should we wish to raise a point of order as to its content, the cat is already out of the bag, Mr. Speaker, if we have to wait until after the entire ministerial statement is read. The Premier has already said that she is rising to give an overview of her trip. Those were her exact words; therefore, we would ask you, Mr. Speaker, to rule at this point that this is not a short, factual statement of new government policy, rather than waiting. Should we wait, it's obvious that the ministerial statement will be delivered, so therefore, Mr. Speaker, I would argue and request your ruling that this is not, indeed, a short, factual statement of new government policy under which our Standing Orders are clear with regard to ministerial statements.

Speaker: The hon. Premier on the point of order.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the ministerial statement is provided to both opposition parties prior to its delivery in the House as a matter of courtesy. And as a matter of courtesy, this has been done in the past, and it is a practice that has been followed by our government.

Had the member reviewed the ministerial statement completely, there are a number of points with respect to government policy that are new information for the member.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: Speaker Robert Bruce provided the House with a ruling on November 24, 1999, on ministerial statements. To assist the House at this time, I'm going to quote a portion of that ruling:

"The ruling covering ministerial statements is to be found in Standing Order 11(3), which, in part, states: 'On Ministerial Statements...a Minister may make a short factual statement of government policy.' The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges recommended, in October of 1979, 'That Ministerial Statements be made only on subjects of significance and primarily for the purpose of announcing new government policies.' The House concurred in that recommendation.

"A review of the ministerial statements made in this and previous legislatures reveals the obvious point that they are not always on government policy. For example, on November 22, 1999, the Government Leader provided the House with information on the timing of devolution. He did not provide a statement of new government policy, but he did quite properly and appropriately use a ministerial statement to provide the House with important information about the devolution process.

"It is not necessary for the Chair to spend the time of the House outlining the variety of legitimate purposes ministerial statements have been put to. The point is that they have been used in many ways that have not been objected to and that have expanded their use beyond statements of government policy.

"The issue of whether ministerial statements have been used primarily for the purpose of announcing something new is not so easily determined. Ministerial statements of the past can, of course, be found in Hansard. A simple review of those statements, however, does not reveal whether they were new or whether they might have been reannouncements of something already known.

"An important point about the issue of 'newness', which was identified in the ruling of November 8, 1999, is the difficulty when points of order are raised questioning whether a ministerial statement contains enough that is new to justify its being given. Such points of order can only be raised after the ministerial statement has been given. Therefore, if the Chair were to rule a ministerial statement out of order after the fact, it would not be possible to let proceedings continue and opposition members would be denied a chance to respond.

"As members will be aware from the ruling of November 8, 1999, Yukon legislatures since 1979 have chosen not to develop what Deputy Speaker McRobb described as 'a more definite and helpful description of the purpose of ministerial statements.' The Chair, therefore, has given consideration to practices found in this House and in other legislatures across Canada and has found the following to be generally accepted guidelines for ministerial statements and for responses to those statements:

(1) Ministerial statements are to be used to allow a minister to provide the Assembly with information of interest and urgency on government policy or administration when no other proceeding offers a suitable opportunity.

(2) Ministerial statements and the responses to them should be brief, factual and specific.

(3) Ministerial statements and the responses to them should not refer too directly to previous debate in an argumentative manner.

(4) Ministerial statements take place when no motion is before the House and the statements and responses to them, therefore, should not contain partisan debate or argument.

(5) The purpose of ministerial statements, as is set out in Annotation 350 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, Sixth Edition, is to 'convey information, not to encourage debate.'

"In conclusion, the Chair has found, from a review of the general practices in Yukon and other jurisdictions, that the central feature of ministerial statements is that they should be brief, factual and specific, and that neither the statements nor the responses to them should contain partisan debate or argument. Secondly, it is clear that this and other Houses have accepted that there are legitimate uses of ministerial statements that go beyond the wording of Standing Order 11."

Therefore, the Chair will permit the Premier to continue with this ministerial statement.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to advise the House and the public of the Yukon, properly and appropriately at this point in the forum and in our Legislature's sitting, that while in Calgary attending the World Petroleum Congress recently, I met with West Coast Energy, Trans Canada Pipelines Ltd, Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd, Anderson Exploration, BP Amoco, Atco and Chevron Canada, and I met informally with Premier Klein.

During these meetings, I provided three clear messages with respect to the Government of Yukon's position: our strong interest in seeing the Alaska Highway pipeline built through Yukon, our plans for a second land sale in northern Yukon and our efforts to reach an agreement with the Kaska to reopen the southeast Yukon to exploration.

Mr. Speaker, I was unequivocal in meetings with pipeline companies and BP Amoco. BP Amoco is, of course, a Prudhoe Bay gas producer. The Yukon government will do everything in its power to oppose any northern routes for shipping Prudhoe Bay gas. In our view, pipeline proposals that would see gas shipped through a pipeline off the Yukon's north coast or onshore, either through Ivvavik National Park or central Yukon, are unacceptable.

Any of these routes, which would link to a Mackenzie Valley pipeline, would have to pass through environmentally sensitive areas. They would all require the creation of new transportation corridors. We cannot - we do not - support this.

In our view, the Alaska Highway pipeline project provides the best option to move North Slope gas south. It follows an existing transportation corridor. It avoids the sensitive terrain of northern Alaska and the Yukon, including the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. As such, it would be significantly less damaging to the environment. At the same time, I made it clear to industry that the Yukon requires economic benefits from the pipeline. This government is committed to working hard to ensure Yukoners secure these benefits as we aggressively promote the Alaska Highway route.

I have informally discussed the pipeline project with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. We will be undertaking government-to-government discussions on these issues related to the pipeline. I have also had meetings with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to promote the Alaska Highway route to the producers.

As members may be aware, the previous government had committed to the oil and gas industry to have an annual sale of oil and gas rights. While the process started last December, it was not completed prior to the call for the election. We have initiated the second step in that process. We are currently consulting with affected First Nation governments on the areas to be included in the call for nominations. I have made it very clear that this government will follow the process that has been put in place by the working group on the common oil and gas regime. We anticipate that the call for nominations will be sent out at the end of July.

While I was in Calgary, companies were also very interested in our progress in reopening the southeast Yukon to exploration. Last year, this area was closed because of a disagreement.

Any of these routes, which would link to a Mackenzie Valley pipeline, would have to pass through environmentally sensitive areas. They would all require the creation of new transportation corridors. We cannot - we do not - support this.

In our view, the Alaska Highway pipeline project provides the best option to move North Slope gas south. It follows an existing transportation corridor. It avoids the sensitive terrain of northern Alaska and the Yukon, including the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. As such, it would be significantly less damaging to the environment. At the same time, I made it clear to industry that the Yukon requires economic benefits from the pipeline. This government is committed to working hard to ensure Yukoners secure these benefits as we aggressively promote the Alaska Highway route.

I have informally discussed the pipeline project with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations. We will be undertaking government-to-government discussions on these issues related to the pipeline. I have also had meetings with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. We will continue to work with all stakeholders to promote the Alaska Highway route to the producers.

As members may be aware, the previous government had committed to the oil and gas industry to have an annual sale of oil and gas rights. While the process started last December, it was not completed prior to the call for the election. We have initiated the second step in that process. We are currently consulting with affected First Nation governments on the areas to be included in the call for nominations. I have made it very clear that this government will follow the process that has been put in place by the working group on the common oil and gas regime. We anticipate that the call for nominations will be sent out at the end of July.

While I was in Calgary, companies were also very interested in our progress in reopening the southeast Yukon to exploration. Last year, this area was closed because of a disagreement.

As members are aware, the Oil and Gas Act requires that consent be obtained from the affected First Nations before activities can take place and can be permanent where no land claims exist.

I made it very clear to industry that oil and gas activity in Yukon must provide economic benefit and opportunities to Yukoners. My officials have been meeting with Kaska representatives, and I'm very pleased about the progress made to date. I'm very hopeful that a final resolution will be reached this week. This would allow exploration activity to resume this year.

Following the meetings in Calgary, I hosted a "Welcome Back" luncheon for mining executives in Vancouver and, afterwards, met with the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board. The "Welcome Back to Yukon" luncheon sparked a great deal of interest. In fact, Mr. Speaker, we had to relocate to accommodate those who had expressed an interest in attending.

My remarks to the mining industry were very clear. There will be no new protected areas in the Yukon until the problems with the current process are addressed. I want to have the mining industry back at the table as a full and willing participant. I am committed to ensuring that proper resource assessments are completed, and that the process is clearly defined in legislation.

I made it clear that improvements will be made to the environmental assessment process through implementation of improvements to the administration of the permitting process and through devolution. I emphasized that there will be no changes to the mining legislation after devolution. I also spoke about the low levels of exploration spending in the Yukon, which is, of course, of particular note to the Yukon. As a result, I am urging the federal Finance minister to take another look at enhancing flow-through share deductions. National leadership on this issue is critical; it is important that members of the House and of the Yukon public be advised of this statement.

I spoke to the mining industry about land claims and, in particular, about the importance of settling the remaining seven claims. This government will be working diligently to this end.

I also told the industry this government understands its strong interest in the security of mineral tenure and its concerns about the uncertainties associated with park creation. I made it clear that this government does not believe that mining activity should take place within parks. At the same time, I assured the industry that the Yukon has always provided for security of mineral tenure. This will not change, even with respect to mineral interests within the Tombstone Territorial Park area.

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate to all members of the House that the meetings in Calgary and Vancouver were very worthwhile. I believe industry has received a clear message from this government. The Yukon offers strong prospects for investors in our natural resource sector.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Fentie: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to respond to this ministerial statement. The evidence before us does show that it's not a ministerial statement or a statement of Liberal government policy, but a confirmation of the Premier's travel schedule and a reiteration of the NDP government's policies in oil and gas and mining

Mr. Speaker, it's important to note that the Premier makes a number of claims which, by the way, are quite confusing, given recent history in this Legislature. A number of these issues that are in the ministerial statement were questions asked here in Question Period and during Committee of the Whole debate where we got absolutely no answers. And when we did finally get something out of the Deputy Premier, it contradicted what the Premier was stating. Whether the Premier was on this trip to promote the Alaska Highway pipeline or, in fact, if it was for land sales. We now find it was for both. I guess the issue there would be the fact that no process has commenced. To date, the Premier's commitment to call for nominations by the end of July seems to be a tall order, and we would ask how the Premier intends to carry that out.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the Premier's message - three clear messages to industry - is very interesting because the third one is about reopening southeast Yukon. When did it close? Under the NDP government, for the first time in years, there was actually exploration activity in oil and gas. It's funny, after a couple of months of Liberal government in this territory, the southeast Yukon is now closed.

Mr. Speaker, furthermore, when it comes to certainty for industry, the Premier states that she informed industry that there will be absolutely no new protected areas in the Yukon until the process that's already begun - a review of the strategy - is undertaken and complete. I point out that that process was already begun under the NDP government.

Furthermore, her own Minister of Renewable Resources stated last week, on June 16, that there is, in fact, a protected area ongoing at this time. So much for certainty for industry.

Mr. Speaker, when the minister or the Premier gets back on her feet, there are a number of questions that need answering. Why are we so far behind the Northwest Territories in the promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline? The Northwest Territories has actively pursued this issue while the Premier sat here and wondered what to do about it. The Premier in this territory, the Premier of the Liberal government, is leading from behind when it comes to the Alaska Highway pipeline.

Furthermore, what is the Liberal position on mining in parks? Given the Tombstone issue, we obviously have a situation that's very unclear and the Liberal position was, at one point during opposition and during the election, very clear: buy out the claims. They have refused to do so to date. So much for certainty in mining in parks.

Mr. Speaker, furthermore, where and when will land sales take place in this territory? Can the Premier answer that?

In short, Mr. Speaker, this was not a ministerial statement. This was simply an announcement of the Premier's travel schedule and policies of the former NDP government.

Mr. Jenkins: I am pleased to respond to this ministerial statement concerning oil and gas development and mining in the Yukon.

It's interesting to note that Yukoners learn more about the positions of this new Liberal government when the Premier is away from the Yukon. That is my first observation.

The Premier stated that she delivered three clear messages to the oil and gas industry while she was in Calgary. The first message was that the Yukon strongly favours the Alaska Highway pipeline route rather than the offshore route.

In her closing comments, I would like the Premier to explain the discrepancy between this message and the one in her news release of June 12, which only referred to the Alaska Highway gas pipeline as an afterthought.

The main purpose of the trip, according to the news release, was to promote oil and gas development in the Yukon, not the pipeline, Mr. Speaker.

This statement has the appearance of damage control because the Northwest Territories government was more effective in promoting the northern route, the Mackenzie Valley route, and this new Liberal government was caught flat-footed. Now the Liberal's spin doctor is trying to make up for some lost ground.

The second clear message involves plans for a second land sale in the northern Yukon. In view of the fact that it is the position of the Liberal Party that there can be no oil and gas development in the northern Yukon, unless it is approved by the Vuntut Gwitchin, I would ask the Premier to table that agreement with the Vuntut Gwitchin in this House now. If there is no agreement, I would like the Premier to explain why she is not living up to her election commitment to do what she said they were going to do.

The third so-called clear message is the soon-to-be-announced agreement with the Kaska to reopen the southeast Yukon to oil and gas exploration.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, this announcement flies in the face of the Liberal Party commitment in the recent election campaign. The Liberal Member for McIntyre-Takhini, now the Minister of Government Services, made it clear that there would be no resource development in southeast Yukon until the Liard First Nation land claim was settled.

Is this yet another example of Liberal candidates making commitments that this government has no intention of honouring, like the continuing care facility in Whitehorse and the multi-level health care facility in Watson Lake? Perhaps the Premier, in a rebuttal, can give a clear message to Yukoners about what election commitments, made by their candidates, they do intend to honour?

Once again, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are being treated to the spectacle of having this new Liberal government adopt the policies and positions of the previous NDP government, rather than adhere to their own Liberal policies, positions and election commitments.

Let me now turn to the mining sector, Mr. Speaker, and the Premier's "Welcome Back" luncheon for mining executives in Vancouver.

The first clear message she gave to the mining industry was that there would be no new protected areas in the Yukon until the problems with the current strategies are addressed. While I am pleased to see that the Liberal government recognizes that the strategy is fundamentally flawed, I am not convinced that this government has the solutions to fix the problem. Most of the 23 ecoregions have yet to be protected. One of the major problems I foresee with the Liberal plan is delay. The longer the protected areas strategy is delayed, the longer the uncertainty for the mining industry will be maintained.

In a rebuttal, I would ask the Premier to map out some timelines for the protected areas strategy. When will the Yukon protected areas strategy legislation be tabled in this House and when will the full strategy be implemented?

The second clear message was the improvements to the environmental assessment process, through the permitting process and through devolution. While the Premier hasn't made much of the blue book initiatives, she hasn't stated a clear position on the development assessment process legislation, which ultimately will be the mother of all environmental processes in Yukon. Does the Liberal government intend to adopt the ownership of this federal legislation, as the previous NDP government did, or will she leave it in the hands of her federal Liberal friends in Ottawa, and then criticize the final product?

I want to make it clear to the Premier that the mining industry does not see devolution as a positive development. Many of them have concerns about the so-called mirror legislation. They are concerned about the free-entry system to Crown land and how mining claims will be respected.

The Windy Craggy solution proposed by the Yukon Liberals for the buyout of the Canadian United Minerals claims will have a far-reaching impact on the mining industry in Yukon.

Mr. Speaker, I have received reports about the Premier's Vancouver meetings. The Premier was reported to have said that the Minister of DIAND, the Hon....

Speaker: Order please. The member has 30 seconds for wrap-up.

Mr. Jenkins: ...Bob Nault was persona non grata in the Yukon. Can the Premier explain how she is going to be proceeding with the seven outstanding land claims - the most important issue - if she has alienated the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's good to be back. I can't refer to the constructive comments from the members opposite, but I will take the opportunity to briefly address the comments.

First of all, with respect to Liberal Government of Yukon policy, the statement regarding the pipeline is clear and unequivocal with respect to the two proposed northern routes. That clear and unequivocal message was one I delivered to the industry in Calgary. It is something that they had not heard before - that clear and unequivocal opposition to any of those two northern routes through that environmentally sensitive area.

With respect to the member's comments on the call for nominations, I made it clear to the industry and to others - to everyone throughout Yukon - that we are supportive and will follow through on the process. In that regard, the process calls for respectful consultation with First Nation governments - respect ensures that there is discussion, there is dialogue and there is listening, and that is what we have undertaken.

The discussions with the Kaska is new information that I provided to this House as well, that officials have been meeting with Kaska representatives. There has been progress made on their discussions, and I'm hopeful that a resolution will be reached on those discussions this week. That would allow exploration activity to resume this year.

With regard to the mining industry, the Member for Klondike has suggested that the mining industry did not appreciate my comments on devolution or the protected areas strategy.

I closed my remarks to the mining industry noting that they had heard many promises from many politicians, and that they had also seen a number of political speeches. On the cover of those political speeches, it invites listeners to check against delivery and I have invited the mining industry to do exactly that.

We'll be speaking with them in the fall, and they're invited to check against delivery to ensure we have lived up to our commitments, and we intend to do just that.

Speaker: This then brings us to the Question Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re: Extended care facility, Watson Lake

Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Premier and it's to do with government accountability.

Last week, we witnessed a low point in this Legislature with the Minister of Renewable Resources trying to distance himself from the position that the Liberals have promoted for quite some time and during the election: the construction of an extended care facility in Watson Lake. In fact, the minister even went on to state on the floor of this Legislature that, if that was a commitment made by a Liberal candidate, they made it on their own.

Why does the Premier condone a minister of her Cabinet refusing to acknowledge a position that the Liberals promoted in opposition and during the election?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, there are a few things I should clear up about what the member opposite is saying, so I'd like to set the record straight.

First of all, my colleague, Sue Edelman, discussed new initiatives for seniors during the campaign.

Even if you were to look at the Blues from June 15 - on June 15, the member opposite made the statement here - in one part of it, he says something to do with extended care, and in the other part, he says "multi-level", in the same article. So, I think sometimes we may be talking about two different things.

In her newsletter to her constituents in the spring of 1998, Ms. Edelman made the point that, yes, we have to look at multi-purpose facilities of some sort - dealing with housing facilities, multi-care or independent living for seniors. We know that the previous NDP government did not address these issues. We know that because nothing was done the whole time the NDP was in government. Now we are basically trying to address a situation that has been there for 12 years. This was brought up back in 1988, when the issue of multi-care situations was brought up in the House at that time. So, it's not something that's brand new, and we are committed to looking -

Speaker: Order please. Answer please.

Mr. Fentie: Well, that's an example, Mr. Speaker, of why we asked the Premier today, instead of the minister, because the minister doesn't know what he's talking about.

The facts are that the Liberals have, in the past and during the election, supported and promoted the building of an extended care, multi-level care facility in Watson Lake. Will the Premier now undertake here, in this Legislature, to commit to the fact that they did promote that very facility, and when will they commence construction?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, our promise was to express Yukoners' concerns. We did what we said we would do. The member opposite stands and asks why the Liberals haven't built an extended care facility in Watson Lake, yet while the Liberals were in opposition, we repeatedly relayed Yukoners' concerns about the care of seniors in communities. We continued to ask government if they were willing to address the issue. We now know they deemed it too expensive.

In opposition now, the Member for Watson Lake frankly admits that while he was a member of the NDP government, the seniors of Watson Lake were not worth the money it would take to meet the seniors' needs.

That's right, Mr. Speaker. The elderly have needs, and the Member for Watson Lake admitted last week that those needs made him cringe when he was in government.

Now that he is in the opposition, he wants us to build an extended care that he has put a label on. What makes the member so different now that he is in opposition? His belief is still the same. When the member truly understands what he is talking about, we can then respond with how we are going to try and work with the community. That's the name of what we are all about. We work with the community. We want to know their needs. We want to know what they need, and we will do that.

Mr. Fentie: Well, all I can say is that that is a bunch of rubbish. The Liberals have promoted this fact. The difference between an open and accountable government, such as the NDP had, and the Liberals is this: I, as the representative for Watson Lake and a member of the NDP government, told the seniors in that community that there was no way I could deliver an extended care facility. Instead, we focused on home care - keeping seniors in their homes. We focused on programming, such as handyman and companionship. We increased funding for the Signpost Seniors Society. We did a lot for the seniors in that community; however, the Liberals have played politics on the backs of the seniors and elders in the community of Watson Lake. They promoted building an extended care facility. We did not.

When will the Liberals live up to this commitment and commence planning construction for the facility in Watson Lake, as they promoted they would do?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have personal ties with seniors. I, as I have said before, am just about in that level of being a senior. We have, while in opposition, promoted seniors. We have established, in the first week of the sitting of this Thirtieth Legislature, that we will continue to promote seniors, and the Yukon government does promote seniors because we believe in seniors.

I stand in support of the press release issued April 6, 2000. Our Liberal platform related expanding the number of nursing care beds for the elderly, the construction of new seniors housing complexes in communities where the need exists, and a commitment to ensuring that funding for senior home care programs are adequately funded.

It may appear to the member opposite that we are committed to building an extended care facility in the community of Watson Lake. It's understandable. The English language is a bit of a difficulty with him. Yes, we have to be aware of the commitment; we have to know what people want. We haven't really had that opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to do that. And, basically, we have to look at what people in Watson Lake want. We want to sit down with them; we want to be partners with them. We don't want to do what the NDP did - for example, the trailer park boondoggle. I mean, we don't want to do that. We want to do it right. We want to do our homework with Yukoners; we want to work with Yukoners. Every Yukoner has the ability to recognize the problems that exist in their community, and we want that to. We have ideas, but we don't have them all. The community -

Speaker:Order please. Answer please.

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we want to work with communities to find out what their needs are.

Question re: Extended care facility, Watson Lake

Mr. Harding: The Liberal escape from accountability, the fleeing from accountability, continues. Mr. Speaker, the answers of the member opposite are pathetic.

The minister just stood up and said that they want to know what the seniors of Watson Lake want. Well, maybe I'll read him a quote from the Member for Riverdale South, his colleague, from 1998. "A multi-level health care facility has been identified as the number one capital priority of the Town of Watson Lake, and that request has never been acknowledged by the NDP," said Edelman. They just don't seem to be listening to these Yukoners.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we know for a fact that the NDP did not promise this facility in Watson Lake, but rather, as a ploy to the seniors in Watson Lake, apparently, the Liberals did. So I ask the Premier, because the Minister of Health and Social Services is incapable of answering: when will she do what she said she was going to do for the seniors of Watson Lake?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess I have to repeat myself. I understood that they had a very capable, clear picture of what we're trying to do, but I guess they don't.

We have here the same Riverdale South, if you want to call it that. It says here, "Watson Lake's number one priority for capital spending is a multi-level care facility." I can read from that, too.

It didn't say anything about an extended care facility here; it said "multi-level". That could be anything. We don't know what multi-care facility means to the people of Watson Lake. Even Isaac Wood, our former candidate, made the same statement. He never said at any time that it would be an extended care facility.

So, I think what we have to look at is the fact that this is not a new problem. This problem that Watson Lake needed some type of facility for their seniors has been with us for 12 years. We want to be part of that solution.

Thank you.

Mr. Harding: The minister is splitting hairs. He's saying, "We didn't promise an extended care facility." He's talking about a multi-level health care facility, but he has given a commitment to neither the seniors nor the elders, other than the commitment that was given during the election campaign.

So, Mr. Speaker, we've got the commitment on video - and we will be happy to provide it to the public and to the members opposite - from the debate where the Liberal candidate promised the seniors and the elders of Watson Lake that particular facility.

So, I'd like to ask the Premier: will she go to Watson Lake within two weeks after this sitting's ending and tell the seniors of Watson Lake, "When the Liberals say something, they do not mean it"?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we are aware of the commitment to the community of Watson Lake. They are a very energetic group of people - and that's what we need. They have even developed a design, as I understand, for a facility - a design that they believe will address the concerns of seniors.

Kudos to them for having committed to their goals. I think that's what we want from communities. We want their input. They took the initiative when the NDP government did not support what they wanted.

The spirit of dedication is something that the Liberal government can relate to.

We have been dedicated to achieving the best for Yukoners. As a government we have to determine how to give the appropriate care required for seniors. And, really, that's the whole approach to consultation. It's called "honest consultation". It's working with the community, not coming up with the ideas and presenting them to the community and saying that this is what you should have. We want their input, and we want their input from what their knowledge is and where they want to go. I don't know how much more of a commitment we can give, Mr. Speaker. That basically is a commitment that I think most people would appreciate, because we want to be part of the solution, not the problem.

Mr. Harding: The Liberal government is the problem right now. They said they want to work in the spirit of dedication, whatever that means. I suggest to the members opposite that they should start to do what they said they were going to do in the election campaign. The minister just told me that the seniors have done the design. The Liberals very clearly made the promise for a multi-level care facility in Watson Lake to seniors who worked on their campaign, because they believed the Liberals. So I ask them: where are the dollars?

I want to ask the Premier once again: within two weeks of this House rising, will she go to Watson Lake, meet with the MLA for Watson Lake and the seniors of Watson Lake and the elders there and tell those people that when the Liberals make commitments to people, you can't tell whether they were saying it because they meant it or whether they were just saying it to get elected?

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we welcome the advice of communities. We welcome the advice of our seniors. We are a listening party, not like our NDP predecessors. We like to do our homework with Yukoners. We work with Yukoners. We have the ability to recognize problems. Every Yukoner has the ability to recognize the problems that exist in their communities. We recognize that there are problems associated with senior care within the communities of the Yukon. As I said before, we have ideas, but we don't have all the ideas. I'm not going to commit to going within the next two weeks, but we will be going to Watson Lake. We will be going to every community to basically find out what their needs are. We are committed to that, Mr. Speaker, because we are a party that cares, we are a party that consults honestly, and we are a party that wants to work with the people.

Question re: Takhini Bluffs mobile home park

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, on Mountainview Place, known as the Takhini Bluffs trailer court.

Now, during the recent election, the MLA for Porter Creek North made a commitment on April 14 that, if elected, a Liberal government would move to free the taxpayers from a commitment to the future of the Takhini Bluffs trailer court. He noted, at the time, that this development had cost taxpayers almost $2 million, and it was a virtual ghost town.

One solution he proposed was to review the cost of withdrawing the lots from the marketplace until needed. The second solution was to try to sell the lots by hiring some fast-talking private sector huckster to try to pawn these lots off on poor, unsuspecting Joe Public.

Can the minister advise the House which solution he has now adopted?

Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, this government will continue to provide home ownership options to Yukoners. This government will be very concerned with the health and the safety of residents of mobile home parks. The current mobile home strategy is not working and because those facing the highest risks to health and safety are not moving out, the Yukon Housing Corporation will evaluate the mobile home strategy this coming winter.

Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the Liberals for imposing upon us another review of a situation.

Now, Mr. Speaker, when you look at the Liberals in opposition - especially the Member for Lake Laberge, following the Yukon Party lead - they were very critical of this project.

Can the minister explain how the Yukon taxpayer is going to be free from the commitment of the future of this trailer court if the government accepts the Member for Porter Creek North's first solution about withdrawing the lots until needed?

How will these lots ever be needed in their present form, and how will the taxpayers recoup their almost $2-million investment in this project?

Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, again I say that we have total confidence in the Yukon Housing Corporation and the goings-on with this Mountainview Place. We would also like to make it known again that the mobile home strategy will be coming this winter.

Mr. Jenkins: How interesting, Mr. Speaker. Before the election, Yukon Housing Corporation was totally incompetent. Now, they have tremendous confidence in the corporation. How can this change overnight? It's amazing what an election does for the Yukon.

Yukon Housing Corporation is trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear on this infallible project. Just look at their literature: Mountainview Place, affordable home ownership in a new community. It's a ghost town. How is a smooth-talking huckster going to do better than this?

I would ask the minister if he would go back to the drawing board and re-examine the entire concept. What are the timelines for this review that is being undertaken by Yukon Housing Corporation, and what are its terms of reference? Would the minister kindly table those two items?

Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, the previous government, again, tabled the Mountainview Place and, again, this government is looking at resolving some of the outstanding issues that have been left sitting there - lots not being open - free, still not being occupied. We are faced again with another previous government development strategy that they somehow saw fit to be the ideal thing for Yukoners.

Again, there will be, upcoming this winter, the mobile home strategy. We, the government, feel very confident in the Yukon Housing Corporation, under the direction of this government, and the goings-on with the Yukon Housing Corporation at this time.

Question re: Heritage branch funding

Mr. Fairclough: During the election, the Liberal Party made many promises to Yukoners. They also made many commitments in their platform. Before and after the election, the Liberals committed to giving heritage adequate funding.

Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Tourism. In the Liberal platform, the Liberals said that they would increase heritage branch funding. Is the Liberal government still committed to this increase?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker. This government does what it says. This increase will come forward. It will be looked at in conjunction with a number of other capital projects or other O&M funding that's going to go into that department. Absolutely, there will be an increase in funding for cultural industries here in the Yukon Territory - absolutely.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, we suspected that would be the answer. I ask the member why it wasn't reflected in this supplementary budget that was put forward by the Liberals. The Liberals, while in opposition, supported heritage, and wanted to see a facility built in Dawson and one built in Old Crow. They also said that they would increase the heritage funding immediately.

The Premier, at an annual convention of the tourism industry, said that her government's dedication to tourism will remain, and said: "We will build upon the past by researching and preserving our historic resources. Consultation with a new territory-wide museum strategy and restoration of the heritage branch funding are not just words from our platform. They are our commitment to you and all Yukoners."

Mr. Speaker, on the one hand, they say that they would increase heritage funding immediately. They didn't show it in this -

Speaker: Order please. Question please.

Mr. Fairclough: The Liberals are breaking their promise. Mr. Speaker, when will this new territory-wide museum strategy begin, and when will see an increase in dollars for heritage?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, we're working on the terms of reference for the territory-wide museum strategy as we speak. That is a commitment that this government made. That is a commitment that this government will deliver on.

As to the increase in funding for the heritage branch, it's happening. We're looking at that right now in terms of all the other capital commitments and O&M commitments this government has. There were consistent cuts to that branch over the course of the last four years when the previous NDP government was in power. We are trying to rectify yet another of the NDP's mistakes.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals said they would increase heritage funding immediately. There are $56.2 million in surplus. The Liberals gave prospectors $250,000 and that wasn't even a promise. They promised to increase heritage funding immediately, but they don't seem to follow up on what they say they are going to do.

Will the minister now commit to bringing forward a supplementary in the fall sitting to reflect their promise for more funding in heritage?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, what this government has already said over and over and over again is that the fall supplementary budget will better reflect the aspirations of this government to govern over the next four years. Quite clearly, commitments will be met. That is a commitment that this government has already said they will follow through on. We are going to follow through on not only the consistent cuts that the NDP made to heritage branch funding, but also we will look at a museum strategy. We're already working on the terms of reference for that strategy. We do what we say we will do.

Question re: Boswell Crescent residents, power surge compensation

Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation.

On October 31 of last year, there was a wind storm that affected much of the Yukon with power outages and downed trees, and the most damage occurred as a result of a power surge on Boswell Crescent that affected 39 homes, and resulted in tens of thousands of dollars in damage costs.

During the last election, if that means anything, the Member for Riverdale South had promised to residents of Boswell Crescent that, if elected, a Liberal government would seek compensation for affected residents.

So, my question to the minister is, when will this happen?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm delighted to answer a question about the hard work done by the Member for Riverdale South, both when she was a member of the opposition and as the Minister of Tourism. She has been and is a strong constituent representative for residents of Boswell Crescent and residents of Riverdale South. The Boswell Crescent energy issue that the member refers to involves more than simply the Yukon Energy Corporation. I can assure the member opposite that the representations by the Member for Riverdale South - the excellent representations on behalf of the Boswell Crescent residents - will certainly be attended to by our government.

Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the biography on the Member for Riverdale South, but that is not really the question I asked. I'm quite pleased to hear that there is an allusion to the point that there might be compensation. Can the member opposite tell me how, when and who's going to make the decision? Will it be complete compensation for the people?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thanks again for enlightening the entire Yukon as to the excellent representations that the Member for Riverdale South has given to her constituents, both in this Legislature and outside it.

In terms of the issue regarding Boswell Crescent and the unfortunate incident last year, there is more, certainly, than the Yukon Energy Corporation involved. This matter has been brought to my attention and is a matter that is under discussion and will be reviewed with all the parties involved.

Mr. Keenan: I guess the real question that should be asked here is, when is a promise a promise? That's the kind of question that should be asked here.

Again, I would like to know if it is going to be full compensation and when it is going to happen. The people have been hanging by their fingernails over there waiting. They've been getting terribly mixed messages from this government. I would like to know when, and if it's going to be for the full amount of compensation that they're asking for. When, Mr. Speaker, is it going to happen?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the real question is just what a darn good representative Riverdale South residents have. That's the real question, right? She is a very good representative, and I'm sure the member is well aware of that.

With respect to the Boswell Crescent issue that was raised by the member, both as a member of opposition and as a member of the government, it's a matter that is not simply the sole issue with respect to the Yukon Energy Corporation. It's a matter that involves other parties, and certainly it is an issue that is of priority to this government. And the moment it has been resolved satisfactorily to everyone, I would be delighted to share that information with the member opposite.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Question re: Government appointments

Mr. Harding:The Member for Riverdale South said lots in opposition, but the problem is that, in government, she's not delivering for anybody. We've heard nothing in two months about the all-party committee for boards and committee appointments that the Liberals promised this territory - again, a promise not made by members on this side of the Legislature, but by the Liberals. We hear now that the former Liberal leader is leaving his job as a teacher at a local high school, and the word on the street is that the Liberals are lining up a nice, juicy, plum job for him. I'd like to ask the Premier if she can tell Yukoners if she has any knowledge whether or not the previous Liberal leader will be going to work in a job appointed by the Liberal Cabinet here or in Ottawa?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that the member opposite realizes and recognizes that this is a personnel issue and something that really can't be discussed in the House at this time.

Mr. Harding: Another example - I suppose this is confidential, too, like any basic land claims discussion. "Mr. Speaker, don't ask us about the budget, it's the NDP's; don't ask us to live up to our commitments, that was just a candidate." And now we have: "Well, we can't tell you whether we are going to hire the former Liberal leader or not for a political appointment."

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier again: is there a job lined up here that is going to be decided by the Liberal candidate or the Liberal Cabinet or the federal Liberal Cabinet for the former Liberal leader?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, we're not going to speculate on what the Cabinet is proposing to do with people outside the Legislative Assembly at this time.

Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I smell pork in the air. It's pretty clear from the answers today that there are a number of high-profile Liberals - in the absence of this all-party committee, that the Liberals promised Yukoners that they're not going to live up to - who will receive some nice, juicy appointments. There will be jobs for Liberals who worked hard on the campaigns - except for those people in Watson Lake who were made promises to - the seniors and elders there - and we've now found out have had the Liberals turn their backs on them. We're now finding out that there are some juicy jobs lined up for those good Liberals.

I want to ask the Premier again: will she tell this House if there are any appointments going to be made for the former Liberal Leader by the local Liberal Cabinet for the federal Liberals, that she has any knowledge of?

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, again with all due respect to the member opposite, we are not going to be discussing members of the public in this Legislature.

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Speaker: We will now proceed to government bills.

GOVERNMENT BILLS

Bill No. 21: Second Reading

Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.

Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a second time.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the contents of this bill will not be unfamiliar to the members present or the public. The previous government had announced its intention to table legislation that would introduce several tax measures, to be effective beginning January 1 of this year. During the election campaign, we promised that we would honour those proposed changes to Yukon's tax regime. The tabling of this legislation is that promise fulfilled.

In a competitive market for investment dollars, it is apparent that competitive tax rates are an essential ingredient for success. This does not, of course, mean that one must match the lowest available tax rate of other jurisdictions. There are many, many factors that contribute to economic competitiveness, and tax rates are only one of those factors, albeit an important one.

The trend in Canada and globally is toward less onerous tax rates. Over time, Yukon's rates have moved up in relation to the rest of the country, because others have lowered theirs. An example of this can be seen in our formula financing arrangement, where the perversity factor has declined over the years. The perversity factor is a reflection of the relative tax rates in Yukon vis--vis the rest of Canada, and a portion of its decline is attributable to the Canadian national average tax rates being lowered over the last number of years. The Yukon government has recognized this and begun a program of tax reduction initiatives. We will continue this program. The legislation I have tabled is only a first step in the process.

I understand that the proposals embodied in the bill before us today came out of the tax round table. I'd like to thank the members of that group and members of the public for their participation in the round table and the suggestions that they brought forward. To my mind, the round table was an excellent idea, and it's one I intend to adopt and continue in the future.

I look forward to meeting with the group, once I have time and the opportunity.

The reforms contained in the bill that I just presented address several aspects of our tax structure. Firstly, it contains a reduction in the general Yukon personal income tax rate. As Yukoners - and prior to these reductions - our tax rate, which is stated as a percent of the basic federal income tax, payable by a taxpayer, was 50 percent of the basic federal income tax. In other words, upon completing the first portion of their tax calculation on the income tax form, if a Yukon taxpayer owed $1,000 in federal income tax, their Yukon tax would be 50 percent of that figure - $500. Passage of this bill will see that 50-percent rate drop to 49 percent, effective January 1, 2000.

This reduction in taxes amounts to a two-percent decrease in the Yukon personal income tax that will be levied by our government, beginning this tax year, and which, of course, we will all, as individuals, be filling out in our tax forms next year. Yukon taxpayers will be keeping, for their own purposes, a larger portion of their income, which they work so hard to earn.

We are very pleased to be able to propose this measure. It demonstrates a commitment to making the tax system fair and less burdensome to our citizens. At this time, we are not proposing further reductions in income taxes for years beyond the current year. We will be studying the financial picture of the government over the course of the coming months and will announce any additional income tax initiatives in future budget speeches. I believe this to be the prudent course of action to follow; one that will ensure that any further tax relief is, in fact, affordable for our territory.

Another measure contained in this legislation is that which establishes the rate of the tax credit for investments in the Yukon's labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, the fireweed fund. The proposal is that this credit be at a 25-percent rate. This is high in comparison with other jurisdictions in Canada and, as such, should help to ensure the success of this important investment vehicle - an investment vehicle that we, as members of the opposition, promoted and endorsed, and one that I am pleased to see in place upon taking office.

A lack of venture capital has been a problem in the north and in remote locations in Canada. This was, of course, the impetus for the fireweed fund legislation, and we are determined to do all in our power to promote the operation of the fund. We, and I am certain every member present, wish the fireweed fund every success in the future.

The final substantive matter dealt with in this bill is the establishment of a Yukon research and development tax credit, and we are all cognizant, Mr. Speaker, of the importance of research and development to the maintenance of a healthy and vibrant economy in a global marketplace. Research and development spending, properly targeted, can ensure that businesses in the Yukon achieve and retain technological currency with the rest of the global economy.

In addition, there are numerous spinoff impacts as a result of research and development being carried out, and these will be of obvious benefit to the territory. To this end, we are introducing this tax credit. The rate of the credit is being set at 15 percent, and an additional five percent will be available if the research is done in conjunction with Yukon College. To make this credit even more attractive, it will be made refundable.

It is our hope that this credit will, over time, encourage the expansion of R&D activities in the Yukon and make the Yukon and Yukon College an attractive location to carry out such work.

This initiative will help enable Yukon businesses to compete with the best in the world in their area of expertise.

Mr. Speaker, this bill also contains some minor housekeeping matters, but the items I have spoken to comprise significant measures that are being proposed. It's our goal to ensure that Yukoners enjoy fair and competitive tax rates that permit them to benefit from the fruit of their labours and develop diverse and financially sound business enterprises.

This legislation will go some way to achieving that goal and I am pleased to be able to present it to this House.

One of the commitments the Yukon Liberals made during the election was to pass the NDP budget. We did this for one important reason: Yukoners needed certainty. We were hearing on the doorsteps that businesses, NGOs, students and others were worried about what would happen after the election. They were worried, because they had been trying to plan for their summer - the busiest construction and tourism season in our territory.

We made a commitment to Yukoners that we would pass the budget that had been tabled by the previous government. We were not going to be a government that would come in and start tearing up contracts with Yukoners. We were not going to be a government that put businesses and companies at risk by cancelling projects they were counting on. We kept that commitment to Yukoners. We did what we said we would do.

This applies to the tax legislation that I have tabled before the House, because part of that commitment was to provide Yukoners with a tax cut. It's not often that a government can stand in the Legislature and tell the Yukon people that they'll be seeing a real cut to their taxes. Other governments have promised to cut taxes; a Yukon Liberal government is doing it. This tax cut will be of benefit to all Yukoners. It is not targeted at a specific tax range or a specific income level. This is not a phantom tax cut that was promised in the past, but never actually delivered. This tax cut is real. Mr. Speaker, it means a two-percent reduction in the personal income tax that Yukoners will pay. Other governments have talked about it, Mr. Speaker. This government is doing it.

Now, I'm well-aware that members opposite are going to try and criticize the government for this tax cut. They'll say it was their idea and the Liberals opposed it when the NDP introduced it. They will say that it doesn't go far enough. The members opposite will say we should cut taxes more. Well, the members opposite need to remember that they just talked about a tax cut. They introduced the concept of a tax cut just before they called an election.

It's sort of like a carrot hanging out for the voters, Mr. Speaker. Both the Yukon Party and the NDP have had opportunities to cut taxes, and they haven't followed through. This government is cutting taxes, and this government is cutting taxes for all Yukoners. We made this commitment to Yukoners, and we're keeping it.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Now, the members opposite are telling us it isn't enough; we should be matching the NDP's phantom 12-percent tax cut they told Yukoners about at election time. The Yukon Party will say that we should be matching their phantom tax cuts, that they talked to Yukoners about at election time.

Mr. Speaker, we didn't try and buy Yukoners with a tax cut during the election. What we're doing is following through on a commitment we made to pass this budget. This is the only government that is producing a real tax cut for all Yukoners. We are going to be fiscally responsible. The interim leader of the official opposition keeps telling us, "Cut more. Cut more taxes." Well, Mr. Speaker, we don't jeopardize the future of Yukoners by acting in a financially irresponsible manner. We will do what we say we will do, and we will be fiscally prudent and responsible.

As all members of this Legislature are aware, due to the spending patterns of the previous NDP government and the passing of this budget - this budget we committed to Yukoners to pass - the surplus will be down to $14.7 million at the end of the 2001 fiscal year.

Mr. Speaker, it's important to do what's right for Yukoners. Being responsible with people's money is what's right for Yukoners. And as we have always told them, "We need to check the books." Before we commit to any future tax cuts, we will check the books. If the amount of the surplus is such that a responsible future tax cut can be made, we will do that. We will not make commitments on future tax cuts without knowing exactly what the impact on the Yukon will be. That would not be responsible, and that would not be us.

What is important, Mr. Speaker, is that we're following through on another one of our commitments to Yukoners. I'm urging all members of this Legislature to vote in favour of this bill. This is a bill that will reduce the personal income tax of all Yukoners by two percent for the 2000 taxation year. We are a government that is proud to be able to tell the citizens of this territory that we have cut their taxes and, Mr. Speaker, we didn't do this in an election budget. We did this during the first year, the first six months, the first three months of our mandate.

Mr. Speaker, I'm proud of this piece of legislation and, again, I would urge all members to vote in favour of this bill.

Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I guess I want to begin by reminding the Premier that the NDP, in the budget before the one that they voted against initially at second reading and have now tabled, brought in seven new tax measures. For the first time in the history of the territory, there was actually tax reduction prior to the budget that we put forward in the election year. Seven credits were put forward and implemented and put into law by the previous NDP administration, including the major cut we made to low-income families. We cut their taxes dramatically. That was in the 1999 budget.

Now, of course the Liberals voted against all of those initiatives. It's amazing the revisionist history that the Premier just spilled out on the floor of this Legislature. Mr. Speaker, there are so many weak links in this new Liberal government that it's hard to know which one to start tapping on first - the Premier or any of the ministers. Just pick one.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to remind her that, on the budget and the tax cuts that are contained in the plan, along with the multi-year capital plans, we voted for them at second reading and voted for them at third reading. The members opposite voted against them at second reading, and, miraculously, after the election, became much more enamoured with the tax-cut plan of the NDP, with the exception of the second and third years. Now, my understanding of the plan, as I remember it, is that as of January 1 of this coming year, 2001, there will be an eight-percent reduction in Yukoners' taxes.

I think that's fairly substantial. And I thought that, when we announced a 12-percent plan, it was a pretty modest, reasonable plan - sustainable. At the time, however, the Liberal leader, then in opposition, said that it wasn't enough and that the Liberals would do more. But now we have her standing up with righteous indignation in the name of fiscal responsibility and telling us that it's impossible to make those kind of commitments, even though it was no problem the day after the budget when she was on the radio telling Yukoners the NDP didn't do enough, saying that the tax cut we proposed would only buy Yukoners a tank of gas. Now she's telling Yukoners in government that she has run out of gas on tax cuts, and she's not even prepared to implement that. Liberals say one thing in opposition and do another thing in government - consistently. If there's one thing we've proven in this legislative session, time and time again, every day in Question Period - it's just a free-for-all trying to determine which broken promise and which thing Liberals said they would do that they're not doing, and we will ask about it. The fodder is endless. Our game boards are full of broken promises by Liberals that we have to expose for the public.

Now it appears that the Premier is are still bent on backing out of the tax cuts for Yukoners. I think that's a sad thing, particularly when she played upon them in the election campaign to get elected by saying that the Liberals should do more and would do more. She said that she was going to be big on the tax-cut agenda before the election; now she's hedging. But, Mr. Speaker, she says she can't do it because she has to study the financial position. She just told me last week in this House that, as of March 31, 2000 - the election was on April 17 - the surplus was $56.2 million. Now, on the floor of this legislature, we had another commitment. She said she can't make a commitment to tax cuts. Well, I ask her why they can't make a commitment to tax cuts, but today they did it to more funding for heritage.

Last week, they committed to more funding for highways - big money, big dollars. In the election, they committed to multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake. The week before Question Period, they committed to a kidney dialysis machine and the O&M costs. They've committed to expanding the beds in the continuing care facility. They've given $250,000 more in grants to prospectors.

But, Mr. Speaker, the roulette ball is stopping on tax cuts and the Premier says that she can't make a commitment in the name of fiscal responsibility. Nobody in his or her right mind would buy that hollow argument.

And I'm talking to more and more Yukoners who are completely in shock at the level of incompetence of the members opposite. I know that there are certain people in the media writing articles, trying to teach them how to do their job in a more speedy fashion. But, Mr. Speaker, being in the House and being in government is an acquired skill, but not everybody gets that skill. The Liberal dog just ain't gonna hunt.

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the Premier though, on bringing forward more NDP initiatives and lauding the initiatives started by the former Government Leader - the tax round table. She's going to continue on, just like she did with the budget, with more NDP policies. I think that's a good move because they were good policies for Yukoners. The labour-sponsored venture capital fund is one that we initiated, created, implemented and brought forward. Now the Premier said, "Well, we brought forward a motion." Big deal - we brought forward 800 motions in this legislative session, and the opposition and the backbenchers have brought forward motions. What actually becomes reality? What becomes reality is what we brought forward legislatively and manoeuvered through the political process and made a reality.

So, because the Liberals tabled a motion, what does it mean? Sweet tweet.

You think because they tabled the motion it was the first time anybody thought of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation? That's ridiculous. I also want to say with regard to the R&D tax credit, which was another NDP idea, that it is a good idea - an excellent idea. I also want to say, in comment to the Premier, who said that this was the busiest construction season in many years, that this was another good move by the NDP: the continuing care facility, other capital construction projects, and the money we gave the City of Whitehorse for the new pool. An excellent move by the NDP, and I congratulate her for recognizing us for that.

But what is missing from this equation is any notion, other than that the Premier has run out of gas on tax cuts, that they have any of their own ideas. Have they even floated a trial balloon on any tax credits, on any tax cuts or on any new economic initiatives? The Premier is all proud of herself that she had a meeting with some oil and gas companies. Does she think that never happened before? Of course she did. That's her job. Big deal. She met with some mining companies. One hundred people came.

Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many times we met with a hundred miners. We met with a thousand miners in big rooms, where we talked about mining policies and the blue book we were bringing forward, the initiatives there. We talked about devolution, we talked about land, we talked about all that. And we actually made progress on it. But so far, the Liberals in that area, or in tax cuts, have not produced anything.

She'll get a good response, because people are there to listen. They want to hear. Their agenda is clear. You take YPAS, for example. She has announced a review. I read in the paper that the chamber is fundamentally opposed to earlier interim withdrawal. I'd like to know how she's going to avoid another Tombstone situation then. If she doesn't have immediate interim withdrawal and change the strategy, guess what's going to be staked? Guess. I can just imagine. She's either going to agree with the environmentalists, who want earlier interim withdrawal or she's going to agree with the miners, who are completely opposed. There's no group hug in this one. This is a decision, and I can't wait for the fall, because the clock is ticking on this government already.

A lot of Yukoners are really disappointed already. I mean, I'm shocked at how short the honeymoon has been for the members opposite. Our office is flooded with phone calls from people who are just aghast at the lack of direction - the rudderless ship called the Liberal Party. And today's performance in Question Period was probably among the worst I have ever seen in this House for answering questions. I mean, the floundering of the Health and Social Services minister is going to become legendary, and this was supposedly a shining star for the new Cabinet. Let's see if the vote in the next election is going to be what it was this time in that riding. I can't wait.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals talk again about the construction season. It's interesting to note again, on Argus, that we now see the Liberals have once again agreed with Argus. I'm sure we're talking about a political decision here to say that Argus has met the conditions of the agreement, rather than a legal decision, and perhaps, conveniently, a combination of both.

So, here you have the Liberals on one hand saying that it's a busy construction season. A lot of it will take place with regard to Argus, which they campaigned against but are now seemingly completely in favour of. Like the tax cut bill, we have the members opposite saying one thing in opposition and doing something completely different in government.

Now, one of my favourite topics with the Premier - because I really think she actually believes this, which is kind of scary - is that the Liberals cannot sustain the spending patterns of the NDP. Therefore, she and her ministers can commit every day, and, every day in the House, there is new spending on highways, construction projects, heritage and you name it - more money for everything. But then she says on tax cuts, "The buck stops here." Well, it's pretty clear. She's not big on tax cuts. Why? Because it's the NDP agenda.

Also, she's finding out, day by day, as the Minister of Finance, that she can't live up to the commitments she has already made. So, they've tried a new angle, where they are saying to people, "Well, we're not accountable for the budget. We're not accountable for what other candidates said in the election campaign unless they're in this House. As a matter of fact, we're not even accountable for promises made by candidates that are in this House." Witness the Member for Whitehorse Centre and Argus, and other members here, such as the Member for Riverdale South. So now you have small businesses in court, which are waiting for all this to end. Did the Liberals ask for their money back from Argus and the city? No. They are in support of the project, then brag about the construction and what's going to happen.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals can't have it both ways. They can't talk about NDP spending, with the big surplus they have left, and then spend more. Surely, as the Premier admitted, if the level of spending of the NDP, which was reasonable, can't be sustained, she's right when she says that the Liberal spending can't be sustained, as she did in Committee the week before last, because she has already committed to much more spending in the fall, so she's outspending the NDP. One wonders how she reconciles her pledge to be fiscally responsible, when she argues that the NDP spending can't be sustained. Yet, day by day, more money is being committed by the Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a government about Whitehorse. It is becoming more and more clear to people, such as those in Watson Lake, where they were told, "We will build you this multi-care facility." As far back as 1998, they were promised this by the Liberals. It went on during the campaign. Now, we have the members opposite telling the people of the Yukon that they are not responsible for those commitments.

It is outrageous. Every day - I think there were probably four examples again today, and two or three of them were even new. There were the trailer park bluffs, the position with regard to all-party committees for appointments, and now we have the smell of pork in the air.

Every day, two or three things are brought up in this House that remind people just how much the members opposite said to get elected. They didn't care. They don't seem to have any conscience, Mr. Speaker. It's becoming unbelievable. It was as if the principal secretary whips them all up into a frenzy and says, "You're all right, you're all right. Now don't let those guys get you down in there and just go in there and you give them this and you give them that." And he writes letters to the editor. He's frantically writing letters to the editor. I mean, the skin on these people is obviously shell-thin. It's not even one letter to the editor, and it's off to the races. We've got to respond. We've got to protect our phoney-baloney jobs.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it's on and on and on. The principal secretary must have told the Member for Riverdale South, "No matter how many times you're proven to not do what you say you're going to do, stand up and say, 'The Liberals do what they say they're going to do.'" She didn't even quite get that right, even though it was probably written out for her.

But, do you know what, Mr. Speaker? Yukoners don't believe it. I have more and more people coming up and saying, "My God, what have we done? Why did we put a completely inexperienced, rudderless ship in charge of this territory?"

I know the Premier was proud of herself, coming back from Calgary. She has now taken a position for land sales in July's call for nominations. I think that's very interesting. I think it's very interesting. Has she told the Porcupine Caribou Management Board? Has she told the local environmental community, after committing to more consultation? The Liberals committed to more consultation before the election, before they moved into any further land sales.

They also said that they'd work on more protected areas before they'd do any more land sales, and now we find out that any new protected areas are going to have to wait until after the review, but the land sales are going to go ahead. I think they've got some explaining to do to Yukoners.

I know long-time New Democrats who voted Liberal because they thought and they actually believed - and I told them they were wrong - that the Liberals weren't going to do any more land sales in northern Yukon. Mr. Speaker, I saw that one coming a hundred miles away.

One trip to Calgary, and the Premier comes back and announces she's doing a land sale. I knew that was going to happen, because what else is she going to say down there? "Sorry, we left Andersons stranded up there, and Northern Cross. They bid $20 million and there's no infrastructure there and there's only one land sale. We're going to have to wait three or four years to have another one?" I don't think so. But it's a choice the Liberals made.

I almost called another point of order, because I listened to your second ruling, Mr. Speaker, and you said the ministerial statement, under your new rules, should not provoke political debate. Well, the comments she attributed to the NDP do just that, because they are partisan. They are political and they're not accurate. There was no Cabinet decision to proceed with any other land sale in the north Yukon. We wanted a mandate from the people before we did that.

So, the Liberals proceed to another land sale in north Yukon. That's a choice they're making, and they have to be accountable for it. So, we will hold them to what they said.

Mr. Speaker, I remember that in Committee of the Whole, the one time I actually got the Liberals to take a position on anything, they said they would not proceed with land sales in north Yukon. It was the only unequivocal statement the Premier ever made when she was in opposition - before Vuntut Gwitchin agreed. And we have got the Hansard.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Harding: Development - she says now it's development. Mr. Speaker, we have reviewed the Hansard and we feel very confident that the minister is doing a reversal here.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we're not saying there shouldn't be more land sales and we're not saying that the wishes of the people who are interested in protecting the 10-02 lands shouldn't be respected. The Premier is going to have to make the decision, and I look forward to watching that debate occur.

So, Mr. Speaker, let me just say once again that this is an excellent NDP initiative. I think the tax cuts are an excellent NDP initiative. I think the R&D credit is an excellent initiative. I think labour-sponsored venture capital is an excellent initiative. What more can we do but vote for this bill because it's ours, and ask the Liberals to come up with some of their own ideas to help stimulate the economy, and ask the Liberals, should they be so gracious, to continue on with our tax-cut agenda that we proposed, because they told Yukoners they would even do more. So all we are asking is for them to do what they said they were going to do.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Kent: I rise today on behalf of my Riverside constituents to express my pleasure with the personal income tax rate decrease announced in this bill.

This Liberal tax cut of two percent will benefit everyone and does not discriminate in any way. Seniors and young people, First Nation people and non-First Nation people, lower income families as well as higher income families will all benefit. It is truly a tax break across the board. This Liberal tax cut is a positive initiative in increasing the amount of disposable income for all Yukon taxpayers, a fact that all Yukoners can appreciate.

Thank you very much.

Mr. McLarnon: I'm pleased to be able to talk on taxes today and give my own personal perspective on what happened during the election. During the election, we had the NDP government stand up, propose a tax break, put it to the vote, discuss it in the House and then never vote on it. They made it an election issue. They brought it to the front, to the Yukon, for Yukoners to judge them. The Yukon expected, no matter what, since the idea was on the table, that it be offered to provide certainty.

The Liberal Party adopted that we would at least adopt the two-percent tax break. It said two parties are offering the two-percent cut. I truly believe the constituents in my riding chose the one party that would make sure it delivered the two percent.

Now, tax cuts are positive for my riding, especially in the downtown area. Two percent means that there will be two percent more money on the street, which means two percent more business for the small businesses in the downtown area, which means that we'll probably see a two-percent rise in parking, which means that it will go right to the city to help clean our streets, keep the downtown core as it has traditionally been - a place for small business and for people who need every cent they can get.

So, I compliment the NDP for bringing the bill forward. I wish they had passed it earlier. And I compliment my government leader for sticking to the commitment to give the people in my riding and constituency more certainty.

I actually look at it, with the amount of money a two-percent increase in downtown businesses will bring, that this may be the best economic proposal the NDP has put forward in four years. I would ask the members opposite to stop holding the Yukon people hostage with their best idea, because if they are going to leave one stamp on the territory that we do not have to fix, it will be this one. I would ask that when this comes up for debate in Committee of the Whole that the members would allow this to proceed, so that we can allow Yukoners to get on with their business and understand that they can certainly count on two percent more money in their pockets.

I would ask the members to understand that my constituency and the people in my riding are watching the opposition - not us - on this. They understand that this should go through the House smoothly; that it should go through the House without controversy or filibuster. It should go through the House with little more than the attention it deserves for being a credible step forward.

The focus is on the principle of why we are here today, and that was that the NDP chose to hold the Yukon public hostage with their election. Why the Liberal Party is here today on this side of the House is because when we said we would deliver on the two-percent tax cut, that was good enough for the voters of my riding and our territory.

The Member for Faro has asked us to focus on reality. Well, in legislation, this is about as real as you get. This proposal brings into reality the ethereal economics of the NDP and finally focuses on the one good idea that they had throughout to create more money in the small business pockets of this territory.

I would like to thank the minister and my Premier for proposing this to make sure this is on the agenda. I'd like to thank the members opposite in advance for their speedy passage of this bill through the House, and I'd like to now turn over the floor to the member opposite.

Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, the bill we have before us today is very interesting when you look at it from the Liberal standpoint - what the Liberals have said previously in opposition, and what they're stating by presenting and tabling this bill in this House at this juncture. The Liberals could easily have afforded a 10-percent tax cut right off the bat, but they didn't. That was in spite of their commitment to tax reductions. Members will recall that the Yukon Liberals, during the election, committed to the NDP budget, including the proposed tax cut of two percent within the previous NDP government's budget.

Now, that's what the campaign promise was from the Liberals. Well, in spite of that commitment, the act before members today states that the government will establish the new rates of Yukon income tax for the 2000 taxation year and subsequent taxation years. That's quite a difference from what was in the previous NDP budget and what is before us today, Mr. Speaker.

I'm sure that the Premier could explain this rather blatant discrepancy between what was said before the election and what this government is proposing today. Again, we have a very glaring example. This Liberal government is failing to do what they say they're going to do.

Now, let's just look at what was proposed, Mr. Speaker. When you have a reduction, every one-percent reduction in personal income tax translates into a reduction or a loss of three-quarters of a million dollars. You start looking at that and start analyzing the budget of the Yukon. You start looking at things like the perversity factor. I'm sure that the Premier will explain in great detail the intricacies of the perversity factor and the impact it has on the money flowing to the Government of Yukon in due course.

But, because of declining tax rates in other jurisdictions in Canada, what occurs is our position - the Yukon's position on the average scale across Canada - increases, which impacts on the perversity factor, which then impacts on the flow of money to the Government of Yukon.

In some respects, it can be called failsafe. In some respects, it hurts us. But this perversity factor, if you want to go back four years, was around $1.60 or $1.56, Mr. Speaker. When we last explored it, when the NDP were in government and they tabled the budget this spring, it was down to $1.02. Now, that in itself doesn't sound like quite a change, but the bottom line is that it puts $40 million more into the Yukon coffers than what was there previously. So, by keeping the tax rate artificially high, the perversity factor impacts considerably on federal government transfer payments to the Yukon.

Now, it's not something that everyone will get their heads around very, very quickly, given the tremendous briefings that I know the new Liberal government has gone through to date and their demonstrated ability to answer questions in this House as a consequence of those briefings, but I'm hoping that they'll have an opportunity to analyze, in great detail, the heart of the whole financial transfer system between the federal government and the Yukon government.

Mr. Speaker, we have virtually come to totally rely on the federal government for our O&M and capital dollars, and, in some respects, the capital dollars were also reliant on the United States of America for their transfer payments from U.S. to Canada to Yukon for the construction of the Shakwak project.

So our dependence on the outside governments has increased alarmingly, but in order to have tax cuts - which we should be having, Mr. Speaker - we have to grow the economy. We have to grow the economy to make up for those tax reductions. That can be done by providing certainty in the oil and gas sector and in the mining sector, and also in the forestry sector. But, in order to provide certainty in the resource sector, we go right around the circle and we come back to the impediments, and the impediments remain exactly today what they were four years ago - the settlement of the Yukon Indian land claims. There are seven remaining to be settled, Mr. Speaker, of which four are hung up on the federal government's position with respect to taxation and loan repayments for negotiating purposes.

Given the wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals and the Premier's presentation at the mining get-together in Vancouver at one of the meetings - in which she clearly indicated that Mr. Nault is persona non grata in the Yukon and that she wouldn't be welcoming him back - I'm sure Minister Nault will not be the guest speaker at the welcome-back-to-the-Yukon conference that the Liberals are going to host, unless there's a complete reversal in his attitude toward Yukon First Nations.

I don't see that happening. I don't see that happening at all. Perhaps after the next federal election, when there is a new government in Ottawa and a new Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, we might have a little bit of certainty in that portfolio.

Let's look back, Mr. Speaker, to when the Liberals were in opposition and to what they said with respect to the NDP budget that was tabled this spring. The Liberals stated categorically at that time that the NDP spending cannot be sustained - interesting. The NDP platform was one of a firm tax reduction. The Liberals said they were going to propose the same tax reduction.

Now, the Liberals have a clear mandate, and what do we see? Well, I guess the NDP budget couldn't be sustained - that level of spending - so the Liberals are already increasing it. They are increasing it, in spite of their position that the NDP were, I guess, basically fat cats on the block. I don't know. There's a flip-flop if you could ever have one.

When we look at this bill before us - the proposed tax cut of two percent within the previous NDP budget, which, we were told, the Liberals were going to move forward with, and in spite of that commitment, the act before us today only establishes new rates of Yukon income tax for 2000 and subsequent years. We had a clear road map under the NDP, which the Liberals campaigned on adopting.

They haven't done it, Mr. Speaker. They've changed their position once again. I wonder why.

The Liberals, during the election campaign, went on at great length to say that we could have a busy construction season if we had more money for highways. Well, where is it in this budget? I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it in the supplementary. It just isn't there.

The Liberals went on at great length to say that they will start the multi-level health care facility project in Watson Lake. It's not in the supplementary budget. It isn't anywhere. In fact, the Liberal government of the day is backing off and hiding so far back down the road that you probably couldn't find many people in their caucus who would even identify with that issue being an election issue. It's just well and good that it's extremely well-documented and it's actually on videotape.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on and on about the flip-flops of this Liberal government, but this one glaring issue is certainly a testimony to their limited abilities at analyzing a financial situation and doing what is best for Yukon and Yukoners.

A tax cut in the personal income tax area would benefit those working. It will not benefit those who don't have incomes. It will not do that, Mr. Speaker.

Unfortunately, more and more Yukoners are having to leave the Yukon, find work elsewhere, and they're managing to do that. Alberta, Ontario, Northwest Territories and many other jurisdictions in Canada are receiving our tradespeople and our skilled workforce, and they're enjoying the tax reductions that are an indicator of how those respective provinces got their economies back up and rolling again, like Alberta, like Ontario. And it can be done here, Mr. Speaker, but it's not going to be done with a wishy-washy approach such as we have before us today.

It would be nice if, for once, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals did what they said they were going to do. They certainly haven't adopted the NDP position or their budget in this respect, and they had an opportunity to enhance that position, enhance the personal income tax cuts, probably even look at some other taxes that Yukoners have on their backs that could be reduced or eliminated. But, no, I guess, sit back, take what the Premier deems to be the high road, laugh - but she's missed the whole point of the exercise. The exercise is to get the economy of the Yukon back on track to provide some certainty to the main drivers of our economy, and grow the economy, attract new investment, and attract new people for the added work that we're going to be having here.

But what are we doing? We see a government that is probably not doing anything for the last remaining viable industry - the visitor industry. The main drivers of our visitor industry are the transportation corridors. We have the Taylor Highway closed for three days. I bet the Premier or the Minister of Tourism didn't make one phone call to the Governor of the State of Alaska to ask, "Hey, can you put a little thrust on this and get that highway opened?" I don't even think the Minister of Community and Transportation Services did anything but confer with her officials. And we have the situation surrounding the airport in Dawson, where you can land and then you go and park your aircraft over in Mayo and take a bus back to Dawson after you have discharged your passengers because you can't leave your aircraft in Dawson; there isn't any place to park it. Itinerant aircraft bring in a great number of visitors.

So, what do we have? We have the oil and gas industry - in spite of the minister's attendance in Calgary - that's pretty well dormant. We have the mining industry and, in spite of the minister's attendance at a luncheon in Vancouver, we won't see any new initiatives this year. In fact, we'll probably be at an all-time low for mineral production, both precious and base metals and precious and base metal exploration. That's how pathetic it is.

I don't think Anderson is going to entertain any kind of involvement in exploration this winter, unless some additional leases are put on the market, which, when we go around the circle, is heavily dependent on the settlement of the land claims in southeast Yukon and the involvement of the Vuntut Gwitchin in Old Crow.

Mr. Speaker, we have a lot of potential, but when you look at the Alaska Highway pipeline, I think the Premier is dreaming in technicolour if she sees that as a reality. The product is owned by someone else, and the market is somewhere else. We're just a transportation medium between those two extremes, and it's going to be done in the most cost-effective, environmentally friendly manner. Whether or not it includes the Yukon is speculation. In fact, chances are that that decision, like the price of gold that is set every day -

Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes for wrap-up.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

That decision about the corridor used for natural gas transportation is a decision that, like the price of gold that is set every working day, will be made in London, England. It won't be made in the Yukon. It will be made by BP, which is the major owner of BP Amoco, Alyeska Pipeline, and all of the Alyeska entities.

It's probably something that the Premier could obtain a briefing on, in order to have a better understanding of what is going on in that area.

I'm disappointed that this government, in spite of so many big promises, is providing so little, when there's so much potential, so much opportunity, and they are not running with a deficit. There's over $55 million in the bank today.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'd like to preface my remarks today with a comment about the previous member's lack of competence in the Yukon economy. Mr. Speaker, I fully believe that the Yukon economy will rebound, and it will rebound because of a number of programs that are being sponsored by this government to help our economy rebound. Some of those programs work around the pipeline; some of those work around bringing mining back to the Yukon, but the Yukon economy will rebound.

Today, I'm speaking on the issue of tax cuts for Yukon people. Mr. Speaker, we do what we say we will do. We said we would provide a break in personal income tax for Yukoners if the budget would allow for it, and now we're delivering on the promise. The Liberal government delivers on its commitments. We know that the Yukon economy is not doing well now. We also know that Yukoners need to invest within the Yukon. It's simple math - diversification is a good thing. Diversifying our spending habits is healthy for the Yukon. If the minimal income of Yukoners is diversely spent or invested, this can help the Yukon economy. The Yukon Liberal government is providing more disposable income for Yukoners. This tax cut will give Yukoners a little bit more to spend, hopefully within the Yukon. This could promote economic development within the territory - at the local grocery store, at the hardware store, or by attending one of our local festivals. Yukoners can determine the value of this tax break, and, Mr. Speaker, this tax break reflects that Yukon Liberals are committed to rebuilding the economy.

This government is trying to pass a bill to give Yukoners a tax break and put more money in Yukoners' pockets.

Yukoners can feel confident that a Yukon Liberal government will do what they say they will do, and I completely support this bill, just as I did the first time it was tabled within this Legislature.

Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak out on behalf of my McIntyre-Takhini constituents and all Yukon people about the two-percent tax cut introduced by this government.

For the hard-working people of the Yukon, every little bit of savings helps. This is an important first step for a government that said it would do things differently.

Mr. Speaker, during the past two administrations we had, first, an income tax increase from the Yukon Party, and then a lot of talk with no action from the NDP on income tax reduction.

We promised during the campaign, we would introduce income tax cuts and we did. Once again, this government does what it says it would do. Working families with many expenses - they work hard, but the money is always tight. And believe me, I know this and we know this from personal experience. This tax cut is a strong indication from the government that we are committed to improving the lives of Yukon families by leaving more money in their pockets.

I look forward to reviewing the future spending needs of the government to determine if there will be more tax cuts possible for the hard-working Yukon families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today to speak on Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.

Yukoners have not had a personal income tax cut since this act's inception. There was, however, an increase, as mentioned by my honourable colleague, in the percentage of personal income in 1993 and 1994. We, in this government, believe that, in an age of rising inflation, it is important for Yukoners to be able to access as much of their income as possible.

I am happy to say that this reduction begins in the 2000 taxation year, and I am sure the residents of Riverdale North, as well as all Yukoners, will approve of this tax cut.

As the Premier mentioned earlier, we are also pleased to announce, as part of this act, a research and development tax credit and a fireweed fund tax credit.

I hope all members of this House will join me in approving Bill No. 21, as it is a benefit to all Yukoners.

Ms. Tucker: The Liberal government's tax cut is good news for all Yukoners, including my Mount Lorne constituents, as there are many small, independent businesses in Mount Lorne. Many people in my riding are working hard to survive our present economic downturn and we all hope that this tax cut is a positive step toward helping keep their businesses and, in many cases, keep their homes and to stay within the Yukon.

It is my hope that this tax cut will add impetus to the overall Yukon economy and get more money back into circulation. Tax cuts stimulate all sectors of the economy, and this is one step in getting the economy back into order. We are taking a look at the books, and we are hoping to be able to make further tax cuts down the road which will, again, benefit all Yukoners. Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise to support Bill No. 21. This is a very positive step in the future of the Yukon. The Liberal tax reduction is probably one of many that will happen in the future. It is my pleasure to speak on how we as a team - we as a listening party - have once again responded to Yukoners. During the election campaign, we said we would reduce taxes. Now we have announced that we will, in fact, follow through with that promise and reduce personal income taxes, allowing Yukoners to keep a larger portion of their income.

This income tax decrease shows our desire to make the income tax system less arduous to Yukoners. Undoubtedly we all have our priorities on how our hard-earned dollars should be spent. This will allow us some further discretion, Mr. Speaker, on how we can spend, even if this is a small amount to start with.

I fully support the government's desire to relieve the tax burden on Yukoners and realize that many constituents in Porter Creek North will welcome this tax decrease. As my colleagues have said, we have many small businesses here in the Yukon, and they need this break. This should have happened four years ago, and I'm proud to be part of the party and the government who will bring it to fruition. In days of rising costs and already high prices, the tax cut will be a benefit to all, and I would like to encourage Yukoners to be part of that process of delivering government to people. I am proud to be one of the, what I would suggest, tax cutters for the future.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise today in support of Bill No. 21, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act. The passage of this act will fulfill another Liberal Party campaign commitment. We said we would pass the budget of the previous administration, and we will do that, Mr. Speaker.

We promised that we would look at the books and, if there was sufficient money, we would reduce income taxes. We are doing what we said we would do.

As all Yukoners know, Mr. Speaker, we are coming through a difficult economic time. Over the past three years under the previous NDP government, 10 percent of the Yukon population put their homes on the market and headed south because they couldn't afford to stay here. I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, in the first session of a Yukon Liberal government, to be able to pass this act. Many politicians have claimed to want to lower taxes. Few actually do reduce taxes.

We will be criticized for not providing even greater tax reductions. Those who criticize us will be the same people who try to confuse Yukoners with last year's $60-million surplus and the $14 million that will be left after we pass this year's budget. We are demonstrating that we do what we say we will do. Something else we say we will do: if there is sufficient money in subsequent years, we will reduce taxes even further. Any reduction in taxes will be of benefit to my constituents in Lake Laberge, Mr. Speaker. The tax credits contained in Bill No. 21 will also help.

We said we would lower personal income taxes. With this bill, that is what we are doing. I urge all members to support this bill and, by doing so, to demonstrate their support for Yukon families.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm delighted that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has a sense of humour.

I'd like to thank my colleagues for their support for Bill No. 21. I appreciate their confidence in this bill, and I'd like to thank the members opposite for their comments in the spirit for which this Legislature was intended. I appreciate their constructive comments, Mr. Speaker.

A number of comments have been made about commitments during the election campaign, and what exactly was the Liberal commitment on this tax cut. Let me restate it for the members and restate it as I have restated it already. This was a question asked of me as leader of the official opposition in January 2000, and it was a question asked of me during the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce debate. The question: would we institute and live up to the tax cut proposed - never passed but proposed - by the previous government? I stated over and over again throughout the campaign but specifically at those two instances, Mr. Speaker, that we would live up to the initial commitment, which is proposed and in this bill, and, before going any further, as is fiscally prudent and responsible, we'd look at the books. And that's exactly what we're doing.

We said we'd cut two percent, and we're actually doing it - real action as opposed to phantom tax cuts from the former government.

Again, I'd like to thank my dear colleague from Klondike for his advice regarding taxes and remind him, in case the member has forgotten, that it was the Yukon Party that raised taxes while in office.

The member has also raised a point with respect to transfer payments, and the member is absolutely correct. The Yukon Liberal government is trying to rebuild the Yukon economy. And, notwithstanding the member's comments or version of events, I feel very positive about the efforts we have made so far. I feel they have been very constructive, and we are working with industry, with Yukoners, with First Nation governments throughout this territory to rebuild the Yukon economy, to resolve the seven outstanding land claims, to continue our efforts on devolution and to work on northern economic development. We are working diligently on these issues and we intend to continue to do so. We're not going to accomplish everything within the first two months of taking office, Mr. Speaker. We can't fix all of the NDP mistakes overnight. We are, however, working on these issues, and we will continue to work on these issues, thanks to the support of the members for Bill No. 21. Again, I would commend this initiative to members opposite and encourage them to support it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members: Division.

Division

Speaker: Division has been called.

Bells

Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.

Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.

Ms. Tucker: Agree.

Mr. McLarnon: Agree.

Mr. Kent: Agree.

Mr. Harding: Agree.

Mr. Fairclough: Agree.

Mr. Keenan: Agree.

Mr. McRobb: Agree.

Mr. Fentie: Agree.

Ms. Netro: Agree.

Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.

Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, one nay.

Motion for second reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to

Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.

Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.

Motion agreed to

Speaker leaves the Chair

Committee of the Whole

Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is now dealing with Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01. Is there any further debate?

Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued

Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to continue on where I left off on Thursday afternoon. And for those who were unfortunate enough to miss the tail end of the debate Thursday afternoon, they missed out on a spectacle in this Legislature. The acting Premier was trying to rag the puck but ran into the goal post and knocked herself out and wasn't able to call the House down, and we had to leap to her assistance to do it. And I want to thank her for that, because it gives me the opportunity to step up to the plate first this afternoon on the general debate.

The question I asked that she did not answer was this: how does the Liberal government intend to follow through on its offer for us all to work better together for the benefit of Yukoners?

They have had the weekend now to think about this, so I expect a better answer than the one we didn't get Thursday afternoon. I want to point out a few examples of why I ask this question again because certainly the position they have taken so far has been very adversarial, Mr. Chair, and I would like to go through a few of these now.

First, there is the letter to Bob Nault, the one that was acknowledged following my questions on Tombstone last week. This letter was provided to their friends, provided to the media but withheld from us until Monday of the following week. Mr. Chair, that is not respectful of the job we have at hand in trying to hold the government accountable for what it says and what it does. If we are kept in the dark as to what action it's taking, how can we possibly hold the government accountable? By not providing us with that information, the government is hindering our progress in holding them accountable. I have had a few people over the weekend break ask me why they would do this. Why would they hinder our progress in holding them accountable for what they have said and done?

I am at a loss for explanations. I guess time will tell, but it strikes me that they have something to hide as far as their actions go, in comparison to what they promised Yukoners. So, the letter to Bob Nault was the first example.

The second was tabling reports and forcing us to speak to information that we don't have, when it is a simple matter to provide us with such information in advance.

The third one is ministerial statements that don't qualify as such, and that are more or less public relations announcements, that consume time in this Legislature at the beginning of the Orders of the Day and waste time discussing ministerial statements that do not reflect matters of significant policy of the government.

Mr. Chair, I know you're probably wondering why or how this can relate to the general budget debate, but it all ties in to how the taxpayers' money is spent.

The news releases. There is very slow delivery of government news releases. Quite often, we're the last to receive them.

Again, this does not put us in a position of knowledge and it is not respectful of our position in holding them accountable. Quite often, Mr. Chair, I'll check the public Internet site and find a news release on that Web site long before we ever get a copy delivered to our office.

There are slow responses to our letters on behalf of constituents. These responses are often dated a week before we receive them. If they were in the milk delivery business, Mr. Chair, there wouldn't only be sour grapes; there'd be sour milk. What's happened to the week in between when they sign the letter and we get it? It's a simple matter of going down a flight of stairs.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: The Member for Lake Laberge is laughing at this, but let me assure her this is a serious matter to Yukoners who contact our office and request responses to information, which are obviously being withheld from us.

So, that certainly is an area we're concerned about.

The meeting in Vancouver last week - the issue around that was raised by the Yukon Party representative as being very disrespectful in that the Legislature was not notified in advance. Mr. Chair, there is no reason for not letting us know what types of stakeholder involvement are planned. This is the Legislature. This is the forum for discussion and passing information and debate on issues, and certainly it would have been an easy matter.

Just the week before, we were treated to a throne speech and budget speech and even a supplementary budget speech. There was no mention in there at all about these meetings. We found out about them by listening to the radio news. That's not respectful, Mr. Chair.

The discussion with Bob Nault at the gold show in Dawson City was another area where there were contradictions. The principal secretary said that the Tombstone buyout was on the agenda but the Premier said it wasn't.

Mr. Chair, once again, it's very hard to get clear, unmixed signals from this government, and it certainly makes it difficult to hold them accountable when there is more than one story. The refusal to discuss land claims in the Legislature was a very interesting point. All that the Acting Premier was asked was to acknowledge whether a new mandate had been given to the negotiating table. A simple yes-or-no answer would have sufficed. Instead, we got a steadfast refusal and blanket packaging that, "The Liberal government will not negotiate land claims on the floor of this Legislature". Well, what a pitiful display.

Acknowledging whether a new mandate has been provided is not negotiating. There are no negotiators here. It's simply an acknowledgment that a new mandate had been given. Obviously, from the answer given, we can assume that no new mandate has been given to the bargaining table on land claims.

Just like everything else, Mr. Chair, this government is very unable to make decisions. They say they are a listening government, but from what we can see, they're listening all right. It goes in one ear and goes out the other, and there's no decision to follow, no sense of direction at all.

Another matter has been the several frivolous points of order raised in this House. They interrupt our members when we are trying to engage in dialogue on these important issues. I think it is certainly an impediment to engaging in a cooperative relationship between all parties in this Legislature when such adversarial interruptions take place. The government should be setting an example. After all, it campaigned on raising the bar of model behaviour in this Legislature. It was the Liberal Party that said that they wanted to improve behaviour in this House, but the record speaks for itself. It has been only two weeks, and just look at the list I cited here, and there are more.

The lack of openness and accountability to the public through this Legislature is another one. It's very difficult to get information from the government on what it's doing. They personally attack and accuse us when we are only trying to hold them publicly accountable for what it's doing.

I'll give you an example. Last week I asked the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about their promise to increase the highway maintenance budget. The answer was thrown back at me in a completely inappropriate way, and she mocked my passion about the issue and threw it back at us because, according to her, we decreased highway funding when we were in government and we cut the funding, but certainly that is not true, as I indicated to her in my response.

In addition, I pointed out to her once again that it's our job to hold them accountable. When they campaign on a promise, when they campaign on increasing funding, when they campaign on doing things better, and when we don't see those promises being fulfilled, then certainly that flags an issue for us to raise in this Legislature to hold them accountable, which is what I was doing. So, Mr. Chair, to have your ministers on the other side throw back to us these questions, when we're holding them accountable, only indicates to us their lack of openness and accountability, especially when they're topped up with personal attacks and accusations.

The evasive behaviour, Mr. Chair, in not answering the questions is also another area that I'm very concerned about. Why aren't we provided with information so we can properly assess the government's action on these issues and where they stand and so on? But instead we're given very evasive responses. All of this is not consistent with their promise to model professional behaviour in this Legislature and to restore faith in government. In addition, they failed to accept responsibility for their promises by instead challenging our record, despite having campaigned on those issues. Quite simply, they are not doing what they said they would do, nor are they doing it better than we did before.

Now, I'd like to ask the Premier or Acting Premier or whoever would like to try to answer this question: how do they propose to unite us in working for the betterment of Yukoners when they take such an adversarial position?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, that was quite an interesting dissertation by the member opposite. That, "Woe poor me"; the NDP in opposition are having difficulty adjusting.

The general debate on this budget is a very important exercise. The member has chosen to divert from that to give us a "Woe, poor me, you didn't give me an answer to my letter within two weeks." Mr. Chair, with all due respect, we have at least answered letters, which is far more than some can say. And where there has been a delay in responding, I have signed some off myself and rewritten them to the point of apologizing for any delay if it's more than two weeks. And we have, where it's appropriate, provided letters to the opposition when it concerns their riding. We have been diligent in that regard, as we will continue to be.

To suggest that the ministerial response today was not a statement of government policy borders on the absurd, Mr. Chair. This government's unequivocal position with respect to two northernmost routes on pipelines are objections, voiced clearly and unequivocally to everyone, and is not information they had heard before, and it's information that the public wants to know, and the investment community south of this territory and east and west wants to know.

Our position and our message to the populace in the global economy with regard to three other items that I noted today - the disposition of oil and gas rights in northern Yukon, our work with the Kaska First Nation - is very important. It's work that Yukoners are asking us about.

It's key that we inform the public, through the process of this Legislature, of what we have been doing. That is our role and that's what we're doing. The member opposite may not like it, because it interferes with their camera time; however, it's our job to do that and we will continue to do that and we'll continue to do it well. Thanks very much for the constructive comments.

The member has said he's very concerned about this government's behaviour. Well, I would note for the member the presence of the entire government throughout every bit of all of the first two weeks of this sitting. Unlike some governments, we have modelled professional behaviour, both inside this Legislature and out - and we will continue to do so. And we'll continue to do so, Mr. Chair, because that's what we've been asked to do by the public and that's what we will do. Again, we will deliver on our commitments.

Now, the most important commitment that Yukoners have asked us about is this budget. They've asked us if we would table the budget in its entirety and if we would pass it, and with the constructive work of the members opposite, we'd be delighted to do that.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is a case in point. The member didn't answer the question. Once again, how does the Liberal government intend to follow through on its offer for us all to work better for the benefit of Yukoners?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it starts with the member opposite focusing on general debate on this budget and us moving on from general debate to discussion of the line-by-line, which we are fully prepared and delighted to do.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, here is another case in point of their evasive behaviour. I've been waiting for an answer to this question since last Thursday afternoon. It's a very simple question. It means a lot to me. I have a personal interest in it, because the members opposite, Mr. Chair, were quick to jump on my offer to work with them for the betterment of Yukoners.

All we have heard from the members opposite so far are jokes about us. They are ridiculing this offer to work with them for the betterment of Yukoners. It's a serious matter, Mr. Chair. The members are all smirking.

I'll relate something that I heard at the doorstep only two months ago. I banged on nearly every door from Whitehorse to Alaska. People want us to work together on their behalf for what's best - not play politics in this Legislature, as the members are fully prepared to do. I would really like an answer to the question: how does the government propose to get all parties to work together for the betterment of all Yukoners?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm delighted to answer that question again. We are fully prepared to work with the members opposite and to pass this budget, as we have said we are willing to do. Working with the members opposite in 1985, the official opposition passed a similar document in four days. This opposition asks how we intend to work with them. Well, we have been more than prepared to work with them. Every single minister and every single member has come in, fully prepared to do line-by-line debate in the budget. We have been fully prepared and have answered every question in general debate. The members opposite don't like the answers.

The answers to the questions have been given. They will be restated, and I will restate for the member for the next half hour and will come back at 7:30 p.m., and I'll restate again for the member - how do we intend to work with the opposition? We have come in here prepared to work, more than prepared to work. It's the members opposite who don't like the answers and are not prepared to work. If they were prepared to work, why aren't we moving on?

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the evidence against this government is building and building. The stack of paper will be getting higher and higher, because every time she gets up to answer a question, in reality, there is no answer.

I'm beginning to believe that they don't have answers to the questions. Otherwise, why wouldn't they give us the answer? Maybe they're finding it a little more difficult on that side of the House, Mr. Chair. I don't know, but it certainly would be inspiring if they could use some of that listening ability to make a decision and provide an answer.

This issue won't go away, Mr. Chair. It's a very important matter to not only us, but to Yukoners as well. Until we hear some constructive proposals from the side opposite, we will just assume that they are bankrupt of ideas, that they are unwilling to work with us, or that they choose to continue to use their club of being in government to beat us over the head when it comes to information, discussions in this Legislature, letting us know what's on the agenda when they meet with the minister, or letting us know whom they're meeting with in these important meetings outside. It's rather unfortunate that it has come to that already, in only two weeks. The government has no commitment to work with all members of this Legislature for the betterment of Yukoners.

I want to move on slightly. It wasn't long ago when we heard about the commitment for the all-party committee. It was the priority for the Premier, and I believe that the Acting Premier related this the other day. Is this something that the government is prepared to do now?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the member started out saying that this issue won't go away. Well, we're not going away, and they're not going away. We are going to, for the benefit of the taxpayers of Yukon and all of those who are listening to the Legislature on their radios in their offices and their cars and in - 93.5 doesn't broadcast as far as Beaver Creek. I was going to suggest they were listening in Beaver Creek as well, but our broadcast licence doesn't go that far. But I'd be delighted to talk about the broadcast licence when we move into line-by-line debate.

The issue is that our role at this point in time is to focus the debate on the general debate of this budget and to also move into line-by-line. It's interesting the member used the word "assume", and I would remind him of the comments about that.

And the other point was that the member was quite offended that, for some reason, the government wouldn't tell the member opposite whom we were meeting with. And it seems to me that when I stood up in the House today to convey the meetings that happened and the messages that had been given, I got roundly criticized. So the members opposite can't have it both ways. They talk about us making up our minds, but what about the members opposite? The members opposite have chosen to use the first half-hour, at what cost to Yukon taxpayers, talking -

What remote question did the member have that related to general debate on this budget? Not one. Provide a focused, clear, general debate question, and the members on this side of the House will be more than happy to answer it.

Mr. McRobb: The evidence is getting higher and higher, Mr. Chair. The question to the Premier was: are they prepared to form an all-party committee now? I believe that relates to general debate. That was the question, but there was no answer. I'll ask it again: are they prepared to establish an all-party committee now? I'll give her a little clue, Mr. Chair. I have talked it over with our caucus, and I believe there is an indication from the Yukon Party caucus that we're prepared to move on this immediately. Even over the supper break, Mr. Chair, I don't think there is a lot of red tape required in establishing an all-party committee. Let's cut the red tape, cut the crap, and let's form it now so we can work together.

Unparliamentary language

Chair: I would ask the member to refrain from using unparliamentary language in the House.

Withdrawal of remark

Mr. McRobb: I apologize for that, if it was unparliamentary. I think I was referring to a former political party, but anyway, if we can work together on this, is the Premier prepared to take action now to form this all-party committee? We're ready.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for restating the question. I would like to ask the member to indicate to me, given that they are the proud authors of this budget, where the all-party committee would be found, and I'd be happy to debate that line.

Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, they're the ones with all the research. You only have to look up in the gallery during Question Period and you'll see about a dozen of them up there with their pens and papers -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. McRobb: Excuse me, Mr. Chair, I stand corrected. I have been informed that they are handlers, not researchers. The example of all-party committees as the priority of the government can, I believe, be found in Hansard for June 15, and I'm looking through it now. I know it's in here somewhere. The Acting Premier, I believe, enlightened us with that revelation about just how high a priority it was.

Is the Premier now saying it's not a priority? Does she now want to delay this? We're ready to go now.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I asked the member opposite a question. This is general debate. We get to go back and forth. That's what it's about. I asked the member opposite to point to the line item in the budget where he felt the all-party committee belonged, and I'd be happy to debate it. I haven't heard an answer.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, again, another example of evasive behaviour and the lack of will to be open and accountable in this Legislature. General debate is not anchored in the line items. That's what line by line is after we get out of general debate. Furthermore, there's another intermediate process, called general debate, for each department.

This is broad general debate on the budget, where anything is open season and it applies to every department.

This all-party committee can have a number of functions. The Member for Riverdale South, the Acting Premier on the Thursday past, seemed to prefer to limit its function to a selection of people to boards and committees, but that's needlessly so, Mr. Chair. This all-party committee can expand its functions, and I would ask the Premier again, is she prepared to work with us on the immediate establishment of an all-party committee?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have stated throughout this afternoon and previously that our government is more than prepared to work, that that is what we are doing, and we are prepared to work with all members of this Legislature to ensure that this budget is passed to provide certainty for Yukoners.

The NDP promised all-party committees and didn't deliver in four years. We promised that there would be an all-party committee and we will deliver.

The members opposite seem so anxious to speak, Mr. Chair, let me give them the floor.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, the Premier is being very evasive on this matter. Yukoners expect us to work on their behalf, constructively and cooperatively.

I have just consulted with the representative of the Yukon Party and have been informed that he is prepared to meet during the supper break, as we are, to make progress immediately on an all-party committee.

Now, the Premier has said it's a high priority. Can we meet during the supper break to get this committee up and rolling?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the highest priority of this government is to get this budget through the House. Are the members opposite prepared to pass this budget?

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, this is just more evasiveness, more unanswered questions and more broken promises. We've heard from them on their priorities, but they're not delivering.

I would also recommend to members opposite that, maybe in their next job, they not go into the pizza delivery business either, because they don't deliver. They're going to end up with a trunk full of cold pizzas and a bunch of hungry customers - just like we're hungry, on this side of the House, for information, and we have a bunch of constituents who want to know.

Can the Premier advise lowly members on this side of the House when we can expect to be contacted about setting up an all-party committee or to be invited to a meeting to set it up so that we can participate in appointments to boards and committees and other functions of this government?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the response that I have given to the member has been very clear: we are prepared to work with members of both opposition parties to pass this budget. Right now, our focus for the taxpayers of Yukon in this Legislature is in general debate on passing this budget.

Now, the member has delighted in asking if our caucus was prepared to work through the supper break. We're more than prepared to work through the supper break to pass the budget. However, I would note that making that sort of arrangement is not possible, given the hour with the Chair, and it is completely disrespectful to those who work with this House in recording what we do and ensuring that we do receive Hansard, et cetera, and working with them.

The member wants to discuss at length the rules of this Legislature and how we might work together. One of those key points, of course, is the ability of the House leaders to work together to discuss how we might proceed in debate, how we might move debate along in order to process these -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Liberal government is more than prepared to pass the budget, Mr. Chair. We - our House leader, the members of our caucus - are more than prepared to work with members of the opposition. Unfortunately, the opposition members have shown that they are ill-prepared to ask meaningful questions about this budget. They do not want to move on into general debate.

Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Excuse me, I have the floor.

Mr. Chair, we have indicated that we are fully prepared to work with the opposition on passage of this budget, which is what we were elected to do. It's what we committed to Yukoners to do.

We are willing to engage in general debate. Certainly, if respectful arrangements can be made, we'll be happy to work through our supper break tomorrow - tomorrow evening. We'll be happy to work to ensure that this budget is passed. We are more than prepared - and, yes, fully capable - of doing it with the respect of the members opposite. Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, respect works both ways, which means listening, working with members, and passage of this budget. That is what we would like to do.

Mr. McRobb: Well, it's very disappointing to discover now that the Premier feels that this debate is a waste of time and money, primarily because of Hansard costs.

I would refer her to the tail end of Thursday's Hansard, when her 2IC - her second-in-command, the Acting Premier - ragged on and on and on about nothing, wasting time. Then, she didn't know how to close down this Legislature. She was asking the deputy minister how to do this, which is highly inappropriate. She was expecting the public service to provide political advice, especially during the Legislature. She doesn't believe me, because it doesn't show in Hansard. I do have an audiotape in my office that I would be pleased to replay for her.

This discussion set a precedent last week, when we dialogued with the Acting Premier about the all-party committee. It went back and forth, not only from members of her party, but also the third party. So, again, we have a bit of a contradiction here. There is a contradiction within the Liberal ranks.

Some people over there say one thing. Others say something different. When are they going to be more consistent in their messages? The Premier now refuses to discuss an all-party committee because it's not part of general debate. The Acting Premier, only going back a couple of hours ago in terms of general debate, was on a roll discussing the importance and the priority to her and the Premier of all-party committees.

Now, let's advance this discussion and cut to the chase. The leader of the Yukon Party is prepared, and we are prepared to put our names forward and participate in an all-party committee to work for the betterment of the Yukon on behalf of all members of this Legislature. Will the Premier now give us an idea of when the Liberal government is prepared to take us up on this offer?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite wishes, I can restate the comments from the Minister of Tourism.

The member is asking when the Liberal government will fulfill its commitment to establish an all-party committee in this Legislature. The motion we brought forward in opposition suggested this and the then-NDP government had four years to deliver on it. We got absolutely stonewalled and shut down by the then-Member for Lake Laberge - stonewalled - and the Yukon Party member should, if he were to revisit his files, recall those discussions.

The member opposite is asking, in general debate on this budget, when we will deliver on that commitment with respect to a number of - actually, it's not one commitment. The member opposite has asked when we will demonstrate respectful relationships in this House. I would advise the member that we do that every day and have done it since we took office, and we will continue to do it.

The member opposite has asked when we will establish the all-party committee. Certainly within the term of this government we will do that. The Minister of Tourism indicated it would be within a year; certainly we will do that. The member has stood up and asked about an all-party committee. Is that the all-party committee for appointments to boards and commissions? Is it the all-party committee of SCREP? Is it the Members' Services Board? Those appointments have been done.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you for the kibitzing from the benches opposite. However, I was pointing out that those efforts have already been done. I would also point out for the edification of members opposite that the all-party committee does not require a budget and is not part of the general debate of this budget. Should the members wish to move on, I would be more than pleased to get into the general debate on this budget.

And the Member for Klondike raised the issue of the formula financed funding arrangement, which the member intends to get into in detail in the Department of Finance, and the members opposite raised the issue of heritage branch funding - the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. And I'm certain the Member for Riverdale South will be delighted to deal with that in the line-by-line debate in Tourism. In general debate on this budget, the financial summary has been outlined for members before and shows an increase in our territorial revenue, an increase in the Canada health and social transfer, and a decrease in the transfer from Canada.

The members opposite, although they did not appreciate it, did receive a full report well in advance - and certainly well before the NDP would have provided it had they been in government - regarding the western premiers conference, and will recall that the Canada health and social transfer was a key element in the discussion with the Premier's representative at that conference. The Canada health and social transfer is very critical to all provinces and is an issue that there was unanimity on among provincial premiers. It is certainly an element of this budget that leads to discussion in terms of projection of our financial picture as to the results of those discussions.

Our position and our support for the premiers positions - that unanimous position - has been very helpful and is something that I look forward to restating at the premiers' conference in early August. Certainly I will be asking leave of members, as I anticipate we'll still be in general debate on this budget in early August, so I'll be asking leave of members to present that very key position.

With regard to the all-party body to study appointments, I would remind members that, interestingly enough, in the two short months that the NDP were in office in early 1996, there was a news story about how the NDP's then-House leader said in an interview, "I am making a public commitment right now, and I've talked it over with the Government Leader, and I've told the opposition that we'd be shooting for the spring sitting for some recommendations done." My, oh my, oh my, that never happened, did it?

That never happened, Mr. Chair. That never happened: that all-party committee that was to study appointments to boards and committees. I sat with the Member for Laberge and watched that former member - not the current member, my apologies - stonewall on this issue, and the NDP government was absolutely intractable on their position. There was no way that they were going to do that.

On December 2, 1996, you bet they were going to do that, Mr. Rag-the-puck himself was standing in the media suggesting that that was going to happen. However, it didn't happen.

We, on the other hand, have said very clearly that we would do this. The Minister of Tourism, in my absence, has said that this will happen within a year. The difference between them, Mr. Chair, and us is that we do what we say we'll do, and, within a year, it will be done.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, we are prepared to pass this budget on this side of the House, but we also want some answers. She is the Premier. Surely she must have the answers.

Now, a moment ago, she challenged me to find the reference in Hansard on the commitment from the Acting Premier. Here we go, Mr. Chair. On page 223 in the Blues: "The Premier and I have talked about this so often, over so many years, that in some ways, we knew that it had to be one of our top priorities immediately" - "one of our top priorities immediately", Mr. Chair. Well, the Yukon Party and the NDP are prepared to immediately engage in this process immediately. We're prepared, over this supper break, which starts in 10 minutes, to establish an all-party committee.

Can the Premier please indicate, given that I have located and read the reference to her - let's be unequivocal about this; let's be consistent - if she is prepared to delegate someone to meet with us over the supper break to establish how we're going to get this committee going?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I indicated to the member opposite, as my colleague has indicated to the member opposite, that we would be prepared to fulfill this particular commitment within a year. The important aspect of the legislative and political processes - I'll just beg leave to remind the member - is that there are a number of committees that had to be put in place and have been put in place. One of those committees will also address the rules of procedure and the rules of this House.

If the members opposite are suggesting that they are fully prepared to meet with the House leader over the supper break and determine the progress of business in this House, I'm certain the House leader would be prepared to accommodate that. However, I would also remind the members opposite that, should such a meeting take place, and should such agreements be made as has been the practice, because it was necessitated by issues at these conferences, that the commitments made at the House leaders' meeting and in discussions with opposition parties will be detailed in writing, as well, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings or future miscommunications - or alleging such.

The all-party body to study appointments - and I believe that is what the member is referring to, although the member has never made that absolutely clear - does not require budgetary authority. It requires the collective will of this Legislature.

It is something that this government is fully prepared, unlike the previous government, to live up to, and we are fully prepared to live up to that commitment within the first year of taking office. Unlike the former government on Monday, December 2, 1996, we will not say, "I'm making a public commitment right now, and I have talked it over with the government leader, and I have told the opposition that we'd be shooting for the spring sitting to have some recommendations done."

We're open, as we have been in the past, to reconsidering how it's done - "I'd be looking for trying to get some all-party participation." That was then and, unfortunately, the ensuing four years of procrastination, inability to deliver, has meant that - post-election and pre-election, it was a commitment that I made, a commitment that my colleagues made, and it's something that we are fully prepared to live up to.

We are not going to fix all the NDP mistakes or live up to all their failures. We are going to do what we said we'll do. We're not going to fix all their mistakes in the first two months of taking office.

The point that I made in response in the same interview is that we had a new Legislature and we had an opportunity to do this in 1996. Unfortunately, the NDP did not do it.

We have a new Legislature with many new members; many new members who are somewhat disenchanted, I might add, with the inability of the members opposite to focus their debate in questions and discuss the business at hand, which is the budget. In any event, we are fully prepared to deliver on this commitment and I have indicated to the member that we'll do so within a year.

We are not going to be badgered or bullied on the floor of this House into a timetable other than focusing on the business at hand, which is general debate on this budget. We are focusing on it and that's what we are fully prepared to do. I would invite members to ask their questions specifically on the general debate of this budget or, if they are fully prepared - we are - to move into the line-by-line debate on specific departments.

Mr. Chair, the time being 5:30, I would suggest that perhaps you adjourn for the supper break.

Chair: Do members wish to recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: We will recess until 7:30 p.m. this evening.

Recess

Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.

We will continue with general debate on the estimates.

Mr. McRobb: We were discussing the all-party committee and how we, the parties on this side of the House, are willing, at this immediate time, to join in with the government, if it so wishes, in establishing a committee.

I am not sure if I heard a commitment before the break or not to discuss this with the House leader, but I did raise the matter with her just a few moments ago. Apparently, she has received no instruction to get the wheels going on this all-party committee yet. So, I would ask the Premier that, when the appropriate time comes, to let us know.

Also, in reviewing her comments on the many examples I cited - I guess you could refer to them as uncooperative behaviour - it seems apparent to me that one of the reasons why the government is behaving this way is to get even.

That seems to be quite apparent; it's all about getting even. All we hear about are examples dredged up from the past about how they were treated and now they're giving it back to us. So, I would call upon the Premier and the side opposite to rise above the differences of the past. This is a new era now. They're in government. Try to turn the page on all that stuff and do what's right for Yukoners and try to establish a new, co-operative working relationship - one that we on this side of the House are eager to participate in. One of the best ways is through this all-party committee. So, whenever they're ready, Mr. Chair, give us the signal and we'll be there.

In the meantime, some of the members have raised the issue about appointments to these boards and committees. In the meantime, the possibility of patronage has been raised. I would like to ask the Premier if she's willing to commit to a moratorium on board appointments in the interim period?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, I am not prepared to make that commitment on behalf of the government, Mr. Chair. There are immediate issues that need to be dealt with before a number of these boards that require a quorum. While we are engaging in the process, we intend to ensure that the business of government continues, just as we have endeavoured to ensure the business of government continues by passage of the budget.

Mr. Harding: We'll return to that issue at the appropriate time. Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the Premier, and it's certainly my intention to try and get some answers from the Premier. I hope we don't bog down on some of these issues. We had a difficult time last week with the Acting Premier and getting answers to some questions. They were very basic. Frankly, I just stopped bothering to ask her after a time and waited for the Premier to return because I need to get some responses from the Premier.

This was news to us today - the oil and gas land sale - because last week we had been asking about this issue and were told that there was no oil and gas land sale discussion in Calgary, and we read today that there certainly was. The Premier said in her ministerial statement that she met with Anderson, and Anderson no doubt would raise the issue of another land sale because they are sitting on a $20-million bid for an isolated parcel in north Yukon.

So, I want to ask the member - I didn't quite understand what they were getting at in the ministerial statement today. The member opposite said the process for the second land sale had started in December; that's not the case. Internally, Economic Development was obviously working on planning for it. There had been no Cabinet decision prior to the election on whether or not we would proceed, and we felt certain that we needed another mandate to proceed on another land sale in north Yukon. So, while it is correct to say that Economic Development had begun the planning, there were a number of internal issues. Renewable Resources had raised considerable flags because they were also planning a new protected area in the Eagle Plains region.

There was quite a bit of debate about what area would be open for nomination and what would be open for a candidate protected area, and thus become a study area. So, could I ask her, have they begun the formal process because, as the member should know by now, the process of the bidding takes some period of time? You have to have a period of consultation with the First Nation governments.

The members opposite have also committed to further public consultation. There is a process for getting the call for nominations and then it has to be put out to industry again. So, have they started the formal consultation with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and Tr'ondk Hwch'in and Nacho Nyak Dun? And, second, when do they expect the formal bid process to be concluded where a bid can be awarded and companies can apply for their exploration licences?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is referring to - and I'm sure he's fully aware as the former Minister of Economic Development - the second step in that wired diagram is the government-to-government consultations with First Nations. We have initiated that, and the First Nations are the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Nacho Nyak Dun, the Tr'ondk Hwch'in, as mentioned by the member opposite, as well as the Tetlit Gwich'in First Nation, and that formal letter to begin the process has been signed off and sent.

Mr. Harding: When did the Premier do that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The letter was signed off - I will double-check this with the correspondence, but it seems to me that it was done on the Sunday before I left, which would have been one week ago, June 12. I believe that that is when I signed the letter off, but I will double-check and forward that information for the member.

As well, the member has asked for the time frame for when the bids will be awarded. In order that I do not give the member erroneous information, I will give the member a detailed time frame in terms of the response dates and bids, although my ministerial statement made reference to early July for one of the steps, and the land sale is expected in early 2001. That is quite a lengthy time frame in order to ensure a full consultation.

Mr. Harding: So, that seems like an extended period of time. Are the Liberals wanting to extend the time? Because the seismic work, should it go on this year, would take place this winter, so they have made a decision not to worry about that and to essentially extend the period of time - is that correct?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, because we were very cognizant about ensuring that there was enough time for the consultation process and all of the steps to be fully engaged, so to speak, we determined that that extended time frame would still meet with needs of all Yukoners to ensure that we are conducting this in an orderly and responsible manner. So, the completion of the 2000 land sale is being extended to early 2001.

Mr. Harding: So, is it anticipated by the member's officials - I'm sure she was just travelling with some of them to Calgary - that work would get underway - and the accepted bid - in the winter of 2001 or the following year?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would say that the land sale is not anticipated until early 2001 - January or February - so it would take some time for work to then further proceed.

Mr. Harding: I would like to ask the minister: was this a miscommunication between the Acting Premier and herself? You know, she was very clear last week, telling us that she was in Calgary to discuss the pipeline, not land sales. Obviously, if the member is meeting with Anderson, there is going to be a discussion about land sales, or was that the case? Can she tell us? She said in her ministerial statement today that she talked about land sales. So, perhaps she could clear that up for us.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would be delighted to. The focus of this trip was oil and gas activity. So, the pipeline proposal was very much key. I would advise the member opposite that the pipeline issue came up in every single one of the meetings, although the member makes reference to Anderson Exploration and, I'm certain, in further questioning, will make reference to Chevron. Those meetings also were pipeline discussions.

In terms of the land sale discussions with Anderson Exploration, and discussions with Chevron and others, the focus was on, again, the common oil and gas regime and if we were following through with the commitment to work with industry and the second land sale. We indicated that we were following through on that. The Member for Riverdale South was quite right; I wasn't selling leases, so to speak, on a corner of southwest Calgary. I was meeting in the boardrooms with these companies. I was discussing the whole gamut of oil and gas activity in the Yukon. That included the future.

The meeting with Anderson Exploration was just one of a number of meetings. It was very positive and well- received.

Mr. Harding: I don't doubt that, Mr. Chair. They already have a significant stake in the Yukon, at Kotaneelee. It was the first successful bid or land exploration rights parcel in some 20 years, so that's good. The Premier should continue that work.

However, there certainly are issues that the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and environmental groups have raised. The member will know, because she joined in with them to blister yours truly as much as she could, yet I see her proceeding with another land sale. I note that there were a lot of people who didn't expect that from this government.

With regard to the issue around the pipeline, she said today that the company that she met with had never heard from this government that the Yukon would vigorously oppose the over-the-top route. I don't know what's she talking about there or who told her that, but that's erroneous information. I personally have attended meetings with West Coast; I have directed the DM and officials in the oil and gas branch numerous times to make that message clear and have done it myself, as has the former Government Leader. So, perhaps there are some specific individuals within companies who hadn't heard that before, but I just wanted her to know that this position has been taken before and it's an extremely easy one for the Yukon to take, for two reasons: one, the calving grounds are far too fragile an ecoregion to be messing with the proposal that perhaps Harvie Andr has put forward. The other thing is, the Mackenzie proposal, on its own, does not make sense without the spur into the Prudhoe Bay natural gas potential. My view is if they want to build a Mackenzie spur, that's fine, but only if the Yukon-Alaska Highway route is under construction. Otherwise what is going to happen is eventually they will connect over the top. So, I don't agree with the Premier who said, on the radio, that the Mackenzie routes and the Alaska Highway were not competing. I do think they are competing. If we don't have construction at the appropriate time of the Alaska Highway pipeline, the pressure will be immense to join the Mackenzie to the Prudhoe Bay reserves. Well, let me just stop there and ask her if she agrees with that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't agree with all the assertions that the member opposite has made, and I would welcome an opportunity to engage in a vigorous discussion with him on this topic of pipelines.

First of all, the message with respect to our government's vigorous opposition to the two proposals for the northern Yukon - the offshore and the under-the-park proposals - I apologize to the member if he feels that the previous government had conveyed that. The message I received from industry was -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member has asked me which companies. BP Amoco and the three pipeline companies that I met with stated to me that I was absolutely clear, and they had received the message, and that was the first they heard the message from the Premier. That was the message that was given to me in the meeting. If the member wants to dispute that, that's between him and the companies. The point is that they have indicated to me they've received the message and said I was very clear in that message.

The other situation that the member may or may not be aware of is that there have been a number of developments by the Arctic Resource Company, or ARC group, and press conferences, and so on. So, that's the sort of information - at the risk of putting a pun forward, it's a very fluid, gaseous situation in that it's changing its state on a number of occasions. I'm not trying to give a pun, but that's the word that came to mind.

So, I'm not going to argue with the member opposite. I am sharing the information that I was given.

The member asked me if I agreed with the statement that the Mackenzie Valley route and the Alaska Highway route are competing. That is the view of some. There are others who feel - and there have been a number of public articles about it - that these are not necessarily competing routes, but will both be constructed at some point. There have been two articles to that extent, and I would be happy to forward those to the member opposite.

They have opinions that have been expressed by the pipeline companies. Nonetheless, I think what the member is suggesting is that it is a requirement of this government, no matter who was on this side, to aggressively promote the Yukon in this regard. And that is exactly what we are doing and what we intend to keep doing. And I would certainly welcome, if the member opposite wished to engage in a briefing or discussion on this, I would certainly be pleased to do so.

Mr. Harding: Well, that's what we're doing. And I do think the Mackenzie route is competitive as it relates to the Alaska Highway route and the Prudhoe reserves, and even the industrial lateral. But we won't resolve that here; perhaps we're not even in great disagreement. Arctic Resources, or I'm not sure if I can remember the exact term - Harvie Andr's group - have put out lots of press statements, they've been nothing but press statements. They've not done much in the way of substance. They've got a new chief executive officer, I understand - or they've brought someone new from another large group on to lead up the charge and give them some credibility. But they've been making incredible, inordinate promises out there to try and build hype around this route. Ultimately this is going to be driven by economics, and I think it's important we continue to raise public awareness about the issues in the Yukon. Is the Premier going to continue on with the pipeline advisory group and the public body that was started by the NDP?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the letters that were - just before I get into the public advisory group, the member suggested that it would be driven by economics. I would also suggest that the decisions will be driven by the producers. And the Member for Klondike mentioned two of them today: BP Amoco and Phillips, but neglected to mention Exxon, who are also decision-makers in this respect.

The pipeline advisory committee: there were letters sent out prior to the election by the previous government. Those letters were pulled back until such time as the election had been decided. And we have not proceeded with issuing those letters at this point in time. The advice directly from a couple of the groups that I have had an opportunity to meet with has been to proceed with this.

And we are examining the options open to us with respect to ensuring that the oil and gas unit in Economic Development is well-resourced and has the ability to work with all facets of Yukon life: with government-to-government relations, with business community relations, with labour relations and all of those issues. I'm sure the member would appreciate that, while we have excellent staff who are working very, very hard, they also require the resources to ensure that they're able to fulfill the functions that we ask of them and also that we ensure that the proper communication and steps are in place for working with Yukon communities.

Mr. Harding: I look forward to this supplementary in the fall. It's getting bigger and better every day.

Mr. Chair, we made a start with the $100,000 in this budget, but certainly this is going to be deserving of resources, and so are many other things, and that'll be the decisions the member opposite is going to have to make.

With regard to the meetings she had with the oil and gas and pipeline officials, could she please provide me with a list of the companies and the officials with whom she met?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, I'll have that information provided to the member. I can endeavour to do that this evening after the break or, if he wishes, we can provide it by legislative return tomorrow.

Mr. Harding: Did she have any speaking engagements or just private meetings during this business trip?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: There were no speaking engagements in Calgary. There was - just to run through for the member - on the Tuesday evening, in spite of the delayed arrival of our flight, there was an evening meeting with West Coast Energy and TransCanada PipeLines and two officials from Foothills. On Tuesday morning there was a meeting with BP Amoco, Anderson, Chevron, Atco, and there was the evening function arranged by Premier Ralph Klein at Spruce Meadows, and I had an opportunity again to meet with the MLA for Calgary, who works with the U.S. House Committee on oil and gas. And, again, I also met with more officials from West Coast and TransCanada, and Thursday was the public speaking engagement in Vancouver.

Mr. Harding: Well, I'll look forward to that list. The member is quite right - I look forward to seeing it and reviewing with those whom I have spoken with in the past and contacting them regarding her comments that they apparently relayed to her.

As well, I guess she was treated to some good old-fashioned Ron Southern hospitality at Spruce Meadows. Did the Premier attend some events there, or why at Spruce Meadows?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Spruce Meadows was asked by Premier Klein to host the Canada Night for the World Petroleum Congress. So, there were a number of showcased Canadian talent, including Tom Jackson, Susan Aglukark and the RCMP musical ride. These were all in the event of showcasing Canada. I might add that most of the provinces and territories had a large booth there, where they were giving away product. The Yukon did not have a booth at that. As the member full well knows, the decision had to be made prior to the election, and the cost of that booth for the return was quite enormous. For example, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by the Northwest Territories, and there wasn't a soul at their booth for most of the evening. They were in the Nova Scotia booth enjoying free lobster.

So, that was the reason for the evening. It was not some particular event that I, alone, attended. It was Premier Klein's event.

Mr. Harding: I understand. The issue that the member raises about the speaking - did Premier Kakfwi have any speaking engagements in Calgary?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, he did not. Premier Kakfwi did not attend.

Mr. Harding: With regard to another issue - devolution - what is happening on that file? The other day, the Acting Premier said it was still on schedule for April 1 next year. What is happening? What is happening internally in government, and what is the plan the Premier has for delivery on this?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: With respect to devolution, the timetable given by the Acting Premier in my absence is quite correct. We are continuing to work very hard on that file. My predecessor in this position made certain that, were there any questions on the devolution file, we, as opposition members, were certainly welcome to a briefing, and I would extend that same invitation to the members opposite. If there is a briefing that they wish, I certainly will have officials made available to them.

Mr. Harding: I may take her up on that, but I prefer, on the policy questions, to actually engage the Premier, rather than officials. This has to be driven by the Premier. The political work is going to have be done by the Premier, not the officials.

The Premier has said that the timeline is still committed to April 1, 2001. What's her plan for restructuring? Does she intend to take all the departments in, as they are currently structured in DIAND, and then engage in a restructuring process? Has she geared up Renewable Resources or Economic Development for the engagement of the new programs that will be inherited from the federal government? Is any work being done in that area?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite correct that there is political work to be done on this file. I am happy to answer those policy questions on the floor of the House. The actual negotiation of the devolution agreement - the nuts and bolts - is certainly being done at the officials level. That particular information is available to the member.

With respect to the transfer of employees, our focus has been on proceeding with devolution at this point.

The Member for Riverdale South noted that we would be undertaking the planning exercise following the passage of the budget and recess of the House. It's my intention, at that point, to further discuss the type of planning exercise with our caucus.

There are a number of options open and we're looking at them. In the interim, the Minister of Renewable Resources and I have undertaken to ensure that our communication is working well and that we are communicating to our employees our desire to ensure that our work with industry - bearing in mind our responsibility for environmental stewardship and the legislation that we would be accepting in this House - can be delivered and we're able to meet our needs. We're working on that.

Mr. Harding: The member said, "negotiations". We have a letter from Bob Nault, prior to the election, stating that the issues have been resolved and the timeline is going to be respected. It was the most firm commitment to that effect that I've ever seen from the federal government.

So, what negotiations is the member referring to?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the negotiations I'm referring to are the discussions at the officials level. While it was perhaps Minister Nault's opinion - and I haven't seen the letter that the member refers to - that everything was done, we need to be certain that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed to ensure the very best deal for the Yukon. There are still some issues we're working on in that regard, and they are much the same as those issues when the former member was in office.

Mr. Harding: Has she relayed to the Kaska, to the Kwanlin Dun and the CYFN her firm position, after the election, that the timelines should be April 1, 2001, and that the deal is essentially done?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didn't relay that the deal was done because, as I just said to the member opposite, we're still working on the nuts and bolts of part of the agreement. It was the member's words that the deal was done.

With respect to communicating with the Grand Chief of CYFN, we have had a number of discussions with regard to Yukon issues. Our focus, in those discussions, has been land claims. I have indicated to the Grand Chief that we are very committed to this process. I have also stated that very clearly with the Kaska First Nation.

The meeting with Kwanlin Dun: although the Chief of Kwanlin Dun and I have met informally, we have not, as yet, had a formal sit-down meeting to discuss a number of issues. A bilateral is the common reference for it. We have not had that discussion as of yet and I am anticipating it to be scheduled shortly.

Mr. Harding: Well, in my view on the devolution - and certainly the Premier hasn't told me any different - the deal's done. I mean there's some teensy technical issues and details, but we have an agreement. Maybe the Premier could stand up and tell me, if that's not the case, where the issues are that are deal breakers. Unless the feds are introducing new issues to the table, which is quite possible, the deal is done. A federal minister committed to that. We were ready to go last year with the deal. A federal minister backed off, not the Yukon territorial government.

Let me ask the Premier on a new subject with regard to the port facilities and Haines - a major infrastructure purchase for the territory. I would like to ask her two things: one, is she going ahead with it and two, how's she going to fund it if she is?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, just to reference the opening part of that comment, those "teensy technical issues" include such things as how environmental liability payments would flow and there is the odd new wrinkle being introduced, like what happens if it's half way through a year as opposed to April 1, 2000. How do you facilitate payment? Those sorts of things are what officials are working out. We're working very hard on that file. Again, I would restate my offer to have those detailed negotiation issues made available to the members opposite.

With respect to the ports, the best description for it is that it is under review. I was hesitating over using those words, because it is not an issue on which the government has reached a decision in terms of how we intend to proceed or not proceed on that project.

Mr. Harding: Well, what's the timeline on the option? Can the member refresh my memory? She is obviously dealing with the issue.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: There were a number of options. We were able to extend the time frame on those. The time frame in terms of it being dealt with by this government would, I anticipate, be in the very near future - before the fall.

Mr. Harding: So, the option was extended to the fall. What's the extent of the option? Maybe she could be more specific.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm just recalling that discussion. We can extend the option to purchase, it seems to me, until, I would say, the end of June. I will confirm that and get back to the member. In any event, we are very aware that the matter has to be reviewed. It is a time-sensitive issue. The government must reach a decision on this. When I say that the matter will be dealt with before the fall, I am referring to September 1.

Mr. Harding: I am confused. Maybe the Premier can enlighten me. The option right now extends to the end of June, which is essentially 11 days, but she's going to make a decision in the fall. Did I not understand her, and there has been a further extension?

I see that she is looking for some information, and that is fine. Just on that question - I will wait until Economic Development to get into it in more detail - can she just answer that question and tell me what she means by June 30 being the deadline, but making a decision in the fall?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, of course, one of the options would be to extend that deadline further. That would also be one of the options.

I appreciate the member's patience. I will gladly give the member a full outline of the time frames and specific dates, either when we return after the break or, if he wishes, tomorrow by legislative return, or in line-by-line in the Department of Economic Development.

Mr. Harding: Thank you. I'm going to explore that further - and payment options. I want to know what's being considered by the government. Perhaps we can explore that further with the critic. Let me just say that it is a very important issue. It's not one that is on the minds of everybody in the Yukon right now, but certainly how it is handled by the government could have a big impact on the future.

With regard to Argus, I want to ask the Premier: the reports I have heard is that the city has met with Argus and territorial officials, as well. They have stated that, at this point, the position that is being taken by the territorial and municipal governments is that Argus has not defaulted on the agreement. Is that a legal or political opinion, or both?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The opinion is a - let me back up, or let me rewind the tape for the member opposite.

First of all, the Argus agreement - the member is fully aware of all of the covenants of that agreement. They were tabled in this House in my absence, I believe. The opinion that Argus has not defaulted on the agreement has not been issued - that is something I have stated in writing. I have not simply referred to it as a political opinion. It has also been reviewed by the legal counsel.

Mr. Harding: So, the Department of Justice has said that, in their opinion, the agreement has not been violated. Is that correct?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is my understanding, although I would not make reference to the Department of Justice. It is the lawyers who are used by the Department of Economic Development who have provided that opinion.

Mr. Harding: Could the member opposite provide us with the opinion?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, if it's without prejudice and is a matter that can be publicly put forward, I will do so. If it is not a matter that is for public consumption, I am certainly happy to ensure that the member opposite receives the information under whatever requirements we're under as to its release.

Mr. Harding: Well, I would like to get that. Should the conclusion be that I will not be provided with it, again, we will ask this in Economic Development debate, because I would like to seek more clarity. The Premier should check to ensure that there was a legal opinion undertaken, and it confirms precisely that: that the agreement was not defaulted on. Certainly, I think there are grounds for the argument that it has been defaulted on.

I have a question for the Premier with regard to trade. It was interesting to note, as my colleague to my left pointed out, some officials from the Chinese consul general in the Yukon some time ago. They were introduced in the gallery. As much as the Premier, when in opposition, liked to take shots at the trade agenda of the previous government, I would suggest to her that she will find that there are a number of Yukon businesses that are interested in markets in Asia. Several of them are quite notable. As well, markets in South America and other parts of the globe, are, I think, worthy of continued work.

However, I do know that the member was very critical of this agenda in opposition. She committed to keeping trade missions closer to home, as I believe the phrase was. Does this mean that, philosophically, the view of this new government is going to be that opportunities such as Taiwan and other parts of Asia or China, where thousands of companies are lining up to try and get a piece of it, are off the table?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to follow up on the previous comment with respect to the legal opinion. I don't believe that the legal opinions are provided normally, as a matter of course, tabled as a legislative document, and I suspected that in my answer. So what information the member is looking for we will endeavour to provide under whatever restrictions that we are under.

With respect to the trade missions, the member is quite correct. We strongly urge the government to ensure that their trade missions are kept closer to home, philosophically. We also are aware that there are a number of Yukon businesses that are interested in opportunities that are further away, so to speak. In terms of the trade agenda for the Government of Yukon, we are very focused on turning the economy around. We are very focussed on issues that are close to home: mining - and I neglected to mention that I also met with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board on the way through Vancouver - and oil and gas. Those are two key issues.

The Member for Riverdale South has outlined our planning session following the close of this session, and certainly the trade area is one area where I have asked for some very key pieces of information in order to discuss with my caucus colleagues how we best meet our commitment to Yukoners on focusing our trade missions closer to home.

Mr. Harding: Well, thank you, but could the Premier be more clear? She said that she want to keep it closer to home but she's aware of other opportunities. I mean, which is it going to be? Is it going to be closer to home, or is it going to be taking in opportunities further abroad?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Is the member asking me if I'm going to participate in the Team Canada trade mission to China in November?

Mr. Harding: No, I'm asking her if the department will provide support to companies that are seeking markets that are further abroad than Alaska, B.C., Alberta and the Northwest Territories, which seem to be the areas she thinks the Yukon is best able to compete in, or will they provide support, as they have done in the past, to companies that want to do business in China, Taiwan and Chile?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: In our planning, we will be looking at the specifics that have been delivered upon - where we have had success and where we can make best use of resources. So, if the member is asking if we'll continue to provide assistance to businesses that are exporting to Taiwan or elsewhere in Asia, we're looking at those issues as a department, and we will be advising the member in due course. We will be following through on our commitment, however, to focus closer to home. That is something that we committed to.

Mr. Harding: Well, that's what I thought, Mr. Chair. I mean it's pretty clear what's going to happen here. The Premier's going to get some briefings and it's going to be apparent that there are opportunities out there. I suppose it was a good political move for those who don't see the Yukon as having those opportunities abroad.

I'll make the obvious point. She said that she's going to be focusing on areas where there has been success. Well, the member won't know if they'll meet with success until you go there and you find the opportunity and you make something happen out of them. So, to look at them in retrospect or hindsight and say, "Well, we found good opportunities there. So, while we criticized the previous government for finding them, because we've now had success, we'll support them." This is in keeping with how they've handled everything else.

I hope the Premier isn't going to China. I mean, she's already predetermined that China was a complete waste of time for the previous government to investigate. So, she's not going to China - is that correct?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, China is a very good example of what we're looking at. I'm not going to travel to China unless I have a solid business case for doing so. The only reason that I have even said, "Yes, I'll look at it" is because it's a Team Canada trade mission, which is different from the other trade missions where Yukon has gone on its own. Again, we're looking for solid business cases here. We have solid business cases in Alaska, particularly, and the business community I have met with since taking office has been very clear - they believe we need to expend more energy in the Alaskan market. Others have spoken about opportunities in northeastern British Columbia. That's also an item that Premier Kakfwi and I discussed in terms of ensuring that we fully explored the opportunities closer to home.

Mr. Harding: Well, the premise of the member's argument is that that wasn't done before, and that's completely ridiculous. It was. We conducted extensive trade missions. I personally travelled to Alaska a couple of times with businesses and the forest commissioner. I can think of one trade mission where I had 26 Yukon businesses travel to two cities in Alaska with me. They had tremendous success, but there's a big world out there.

While I agree that efforts should be put into those areas, companies in B.C., Alberta and Saskatchewan are all over the world. They're all over South America and Asia. There are people who are making millions of dollars just introducing people in China, because those markets are so huge. If you can just get a piece of them for a product you can actually deliver, you could do a lot of good for the territory.

The business community is split. Some of them see the world as being simply very near to us; others see an expanding globalization in the economy and say, "Yeah, we want to take advantage of those opportunities." And they're actually doing it now in other countries that are a little further abroad.

You don't go somewhere because of its geographic specificity; you go somewhere because of its ability to create a market for the product for the specific territory. So, I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens, but I would expect - I'll make a prediction. I'll make a prediction that the member opposite will attend a trade mission further abroad than Alaska, Alberta, Northwest Territories or B.C. within the next - well I won't give her the specifics, but in the next very little while.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, it wasn't a question, Mr. Chair, so I'm not going to enter into an argument with the member opposite. We're having a good general debate focused on the issues, and I just would urge the member, by all means, to make a specific prediction - he certainly would urge us to - so I would commend him to do that.

Mr. Harding: Well, I can't say a year, because then she'll wait a year and a day, and then she'll prove me wrong, so I'm not going to. But I know she's not going to go to China because she has already said - and the quotes are extensive - that it's a complete waste of time, that the Yukon can do nothing there. So I know that decision is already made. So the officials who are saying it's probably a good idea to travel with all these businesses, and thousands of companies are lined up in the United States and Canada trying to get into Chile, and we have some inroads there already, and it would be good, and I can just hear what they'll tell her. But I know that no matter how hard they work, she already knows that there's nothing in China for Yukon businesses. So I know that decision has already been made by her. But I am interested to see about some of the things that are happening in Taiwan and some of the things that are happening in Chile, and some of the other trade missions that will be considered by Team Canada. Because I know what will happen; she will get out there, and she'll see the opportunity, and she'll - like so many other issues with the Liberals - become enlightened as to the realities out there. I can already see it happening with regard to her position on oil and gas. All it took was one trip to Calgary.

Mr. Chair, lets move on to another subject. No sense pumping a dry well there. There will be plenty of opportunity to see this unfold in the coming year or two, I'm sure. I want to move into the issue of appointments.

There have been lots of squirreling around with regard to appointments. I mentioned a couple today. There are rumours abroad that even the paperwork has been drafted for the former Member for Riverside for the Commissioner's position. The rumours are abound that the former Liberal leader, who attempted to seat Mount Lorne in the last election, is being groomed for a position. There are even rumours that the Liberal candidate who ran against me in Faro has also been having discussions at the federal and territorial level with the government about what particular positions he might be considered for.

So, would the Premier tell me if she has had any knowledge of discussions, either in the federal ranks or in her own, with regard to these individuals and potential appointments to jobs?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite roundly criticized me for bringing any personnel issues on to the floor of this House, and I certainly will not discuss them, nor will the Public Service Commissioner, who would deal with any Government of Yukon jobs. The member is referring to any appointments by the federal government. There are all kinds of rumours and innuendo that the member put forward, and I will not discuss those issues on the floor of this House.

Mr. Harding: Well, that's rich. I'm not talking about public service hiring jobs. I'm talking about Cabinet appointments to jobs at the federal or territorial level. So, nice try - not even a nice try. I'm talking about the Cabinet deciding DM-level positions that are created for a certain amount of time, that the Premier and her Cabinet will appoint. I'm talking about discussions she may have had with the federal minister or others at the federal Cabinet level about these particular people whom I mentioned being appointed to positions. Has she had any discussions like that? I would not want her to politicize the public service or personnel issues within the Public Service Commission, absolutely not.

I can appreciate that position fully, but I do want to say to the member opposite that I'm talking about a different ballgame. And she can clear up the rumours right now. All she has to do is tell us the truth.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Positions or appointments by either our Cabinet or the Cabinet in Ottawa are not discussions that I'm going to engage in on the floor of this House. Decisions that are made by Cabinet are relayed in the appropriate way to the appropriate bodies, no matter what that Cabinet decision is, and that's how they have been conveyed in the past and that's again how they will be conveyed.

Mr. Harding: Well, I'm not asking her about discussions in Cabinet. I'm saying, does she have any knowledge herself, as the minister, of discussions about the consideration of positions for these individuals whom I have mentioned to Cabinet-appointed posts, federally or territorially?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't speak about federal Cabinet issues because I'm not a member of federal Cabinet. And as for our own Cabinet, I do not speak about Cabinet discussions on the floor of this House, nor will I.

Mr. Harding: Has she had any discussions with federal officials or politicians herself - not Cabinet discussions but just discussions - about appointments of the people whom I mentioned to federal or territorial positions?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am not going to discuss either Cabinet decisions or personnel issues on the floor of this House. That's not how business is done by this government.

Mr. Harding: Well, let's move into the next subject then. I got all the answer I need on the last one.

With regard to land claims, we had an extensive discussion about land claims. Now, the Premier was away but she will know that, while she was in opposition, our government shared information with her, as the critic, about general, high-level issues at the land claims table, specific YTG issues at the negotiating table - what was left on the table, what broad issues were being negotiated. It didn't get into specifics too much and didn't get into any of the negotiating at the table.

Now, the Acting Premier stated that those discussions were confidential, and I would take great issue with that. I think that it is important for the Yukon public to have some sense of the issues that are outstanding and whether or not there has been a new mandate given by the previous government without even going into the details of that mandate.

Does she share the same view that somehow there's a new position with regard to that and that we should not have any sense whatsoever, as the Yukon public, of issues at the table and whether or not a new mandate has been given?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, Mr. Chair, let me remind the member that, in fact, we were not, in opposition, given briefings at a high level on land claims. The former Government Leader and I had discussions on the floor of this House. The Government Leader provided an update, when asked, in general debate on Executive Council Office or in Question Period, in general terms, on the status of the negotiations as they were proceeding.

The member specifically asked my colleague if there had been a new mandate issued. I would remind the member opposite that - and I think we are up to the thirty-eighth time - we don't negotiate land claims on the floor of this House and that also, of course, the mandate is issued by Cabinet. And, as I stated earlier this evening, we don't discuss Cabinet decisions or Cabinet discussions on the floor of this House, either.

Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, that's a completely ridiculous position by the Premier, and equally as silly as the one taken by the Acting Premier.

First of all, it is in order to relay the Cabinet decision to the Yukon public. It's right in the Standing Orders. The discussions are secret, but the decision is not secret. So, Mr. Chair, it's perfectly acceptable for the Premier to let the House know if a new decision was taken by Cabinet to issue a new mandate.

Now, whether or not she wants to go into much detail about what that mandate is, that is another issue. She can freely discuss, as has Bob Nault discussed in public and in the national media, how long his mandate was going to continue and whether it would change with regard to the Yukon. But why would the Yukon Liberal government not even state whether or not they have given a new mandate to negotiators? I don't understand that, particularly when the Premier has speculated on Bob Nault's mandate.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would ask the member, since we seem to be exchanging information, to state where I have speculated on Mr. Nault's mandate. The Member for Riverdale South has stated quite correctly that we don't negotiate land claims on the floor of this House, and if we were to say that Cabinet had a discussion or did not have a discussion, we're already getting into that. That's the point the member was making. We stated over and -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: - I guess the member doesn't want an answer.

Mr. Harding: Well, she wasn't giving me an answer, Mr. Chair. I mean, obviously, you know, what is this, some big secret? We've got to hire some Inspector Clousseau to figure out whether Cabinet is discussing land claims? Oh my God, Cabinet is discussing land claims; the cat's out of the bag. Of course Cabinet is discussing land claims. How does that impact on the negotiations between a particular First Nation government and the Government of the Yukon? It doesn't. Of course they know that the Cabinet is discussing land claims. What's important or not is when they tell the Yukon public that they're making progress on the claims, surely they can stand up and tell the people of the Yukon that they have provided a new mandate to the negotiators to engage in these discussions. So, to tell the people of the Yukon that they have given a new mandate is not discussing land claims and negotiating land claims on the floor of the Legislature; it's completely different. It's apples and grapefruits. Does the Premier not see that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member's view is not one I share. If the member wants to talk about what progress we're making on specific land claims - the apples, as he referred to it - I am happy to share that information, as my predecessor has done. I'd be delighted to share what discussions we have had and if the member wishes, I will certainly do that.

Mr. Harding: Well, can she tell us whether she has given a new mandate or not? This is a different position than the Acting Premier was taking. I'm glad she's taking it. I mean, hopefully we don't have to put the cone of silence over the whole Legislature while it's being done, but I want to know what the basic outstanding issues are, which she has just said she'll tell me after the break. I'd also like for her to reconsider not telling me whether or not she has issued a new mandate.

I can tell her right now if she answers that question, I won't ask her the details of the new mandate.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, if the member would like to continue this now or after the break, I would be pleased to do so. If the member wants the specifics of where we're at in terms of the negotiations, an update in general terms, as my predecessor has done - all right, fine.

The key, as the member knows, was the principals negotiations in May that were scheduled and the report from that has been very public. I would challenge the member opposite to review the comments made at the media conference by the First Nations.

Since then, in terms of where each specific table is at, we have engaged in general discussion on the economic round table, which was begun by our predecessor. The discussions are proceeding well. With a number of the specific Yukon issues with regard to Kwanlin Dun - the member is aware that the Carcross-Tagish First Nation have currently suspended negotiations. Of course, the member is rather infamous for his comments on the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, and those were repeated at length in this House. With regard to the other issues, four of the First Nations have two key federal issues outstanding. Those are issues about which the member is well-aware. We have discussed them on the floor of the House.

With regard to making progress on the federal issues - section 87 and the loan repayment issues - we are endeavouring to work diligently and push as hard as we can to ensure that our Yukon issues at these tables are dealt with and that there are no outstanding Yukon issues, once the federal issues are resolved.

Chair: The time being 8:30 p.m., we will take a brief recess. Committee will recess for 10 minutes.

Recess

Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on estimates.

Mr. Harding: Before we left for the break, the Premier was indicating that there were some issues outstanding in a number of the claims. Is it still fair for her to say that the Kaska claims and the Kwanlin Dun claim are the furthest off from a Yukon government negotiating perspective?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would state that that's certainly a loaded question. The Kaska have a number of litigation cases, and the principle has been that, as long as there's litigation, no negotiations will take place. With regard to the Kwanlin Dun, certainly there are a number of long-standing issues that - there's a lot of work to be done on this, and the chief and I have both acknowledged that in discussions, and we believe that, with some hard work and diligent work, we can make good progress on that particular outstanding claim.

Mr. Harding: Is the Premier still working on waterfront issues with the Kwanlin Dun?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not privy to exactly what has gone on at specific tables today or last week for that matter. I'm not at the negotiating table with the negotiators. That's their job, and we entrust them to do a very good job. So, what specifically is being discussed at the Kwanlin Dun table at this point, I'm not privy to that.

Mr. Harding: Well, does she know whether the waterfront discussions have been concluded or not?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, I do not.

Mr. Harding: Is the Premier telling me that she doesn't know whether the waterfront discussions are concluded with Kwanlin Dun or not? Really?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not negotiating land claims on the floor of this House. I'm not at the negotiating table. If Kwanlin Dun has signed off on a particular point, I am not, at this specific moment in time, aware of that. I will certainly research the answer and get back to the member.

Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm shocked at the Premier's answer, frankly, that she hasn't been briefed on whether there are still waterfront issues or not, and whether or not they have been resolved. One would think that you would know that.

Has she given the negotiators a new mandate? Or are they still operating under the same old mandate? What's the difference? Have they been given a new mandate?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member just does not want to go there. That would be akin to us getting into the negotiations. That would be akin to us outlining that on the floor of this House, and that is not what we are about. It is not what we intend to do, and neither did the previous government. What the previous government has done is that the Government Leader of the time has stood on his feet on the floor of this House, in response to questions, and not discussed specific mandate issues. The previous Government Leader stood up -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: And I'm not going to answer that question.

The previous Government Leader stood on the floor of this House and outlined, in very broad-brush terms, specific progress reports. The previous Government Leader would go through and talk about the status of the negotiations with White River, Kluane, Ta'an Kwach'an and the progress at the economic round tables, Carcross-Tagish First Nation and Kwanlin Dun, and speak about the federal issues, in general terms. That's what the previous government did; that's what we're doing, in response to that question.

The previous government did not go on at length about mandate issues. Those are Cabinet discussions. We are not going to. I will give the member the same answer that was given to him previously.

Mr. Harding: Well, yes, the previous government did state if it would give it a new mandate or not. Yes, the Premier has a point if I'm asking her to go into specific mandate issues: how big an SMA did she authorize, or what community land parcels is she discussing, or what is she willing to give up on the waterfront for a deal. Yes, okay, then the Premier would have a point, but if I'm standing here asking her if she has at least delivered a new mandate, what's the secret?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think we're getting to the point where the member is starting to see where we're coming from, and I certainly have understood the question, the member's comments to the contrary notwithstanding.

I am more than prepared to provide the member opposite with broad-brush discussions, as was previously done. I'm not going to get into the specific discussions of a mandate, as the member has just recognized that we won't do on the floor of this House. That would not be appropriate.

We have said that the settlement of land claims is our top priority. I've said many times that we're rolling up our sleeves, we're working on these issues, we are being briefed, and we've instructed individuals to make best efforts. The member can read into that, surely, whatever he wishes. The point is that we are not discussing the mandate, as the member has noted, on the floor of this House. As the member has said, that wouldn't be appropriate.

Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I just want to talk about land claims for a moment with the member opposite, if I may.

A member of your own caucus, in his opening statements in the House, spoke about being raised by his uncle and how his uncle had nurtured him and taught him traditional ways and, I'm sure, contemporary ways - ways that would blend together to bring the Yukon to the forefront of negotiations or whatever, in the country in Canada. That was a long, long time ago. That was in answer to the infamous White Paper that was put out by the Liberal government. We talked about Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. Everybody knows that.

Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow was put together by consultation and talking to people. A lot of people talked and came together on it. We then went into structured negotiations after massaging a mandate with the federal government. We had to massage that. They had to ask and say, "What is it that you mean?" It went this way and that way and this way and that way. That's why you now have the cutting-edge agreements in all of Canada, and I would even say, in some cases, in all of the world. We, the Yukon government, are putting that on the table to show cooperation and how we might be able to work together.

We went to the agreement-in-principle stage cooperatively by talking back and forth on these issues, so that they would get a deeper understanding of where the people were coming from.

Because it's certainly not just certainty for the non-native people; it's certainty for the native people in this Yukon Territory also, who need to have certainty provided. We need it pretty much for our communities also.

We went through the agreement-in-principle stage in an open way. We went through the umbrella final agreement stage in an open way. We went through the First Nation final agreements in an open way - so open, as a matter of fact that I, as chief at the time, invited the community - everybody. Now, certain people seated in the back will smile and think that they have been in the Yukon for 25 years and they know this process intimately and here we are going to make it, and we're going to make it right. I expect more from you. I expect more from you. The leader was not asking you at this point in time what your mandate was. We know what the mandate was -

Chair: Order. Order. I would ask the member to refer comments to the Chair.

Mr. Keenan: We would ask, Mr. Chair, that the government provide that type of atmosphere at this point in time right now, because we are not only looking for betterment for all people of the territory, but we have some people - we on our side - that are caught up in uncertainty right now, because they have final agreements. They have certainty in their final agreements, but the ones that don't have that final agreement are waylaid by certain issues of mandate. We are asking and providing advice. Are you going to address that? Pardon me, Mr. Chair, is the government going to be overcoming that hurdle? And that's the question that we, as a caucus, are asking. We're asking for a simple yes or no.

And to back away because of the Acting Premier's comments last week, I think, is not totally right. We're all on a learning curve in this Legislature right now, and I think that we'd better start answering some of these questions. As we move forward with these questions, things will evolve, because certainly we're not here to beat up anybody; we're here to bring things to awareness and we're asking good questions right now. And we deserve good answers.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member opposite's perspective with respect to the land claims negotiations. The land claims negotiations with respect to questions being asked on the floor of this House - and I appreciate the member's perspective that they are, I believe he used the term, "good questions". I stated earlier that I am prepared to provide a report in a similar vein as to what has been provided before. I am more than happy to do that.

The members opposite seem fixated on speculative questions on the mandate. I am not going to speculate on the land claims mandate with members opposite any more than I'm going to speculate on who is going to be the next leader of the NDP. That's not the issue. Speculation does not belong - and speculation is not a good question. The member is asking me and suggesting that we negotiate land claims on the floor of this House. There are three parties at that table, as the member full well knows. The member has indicated that there has been a First Nation that has said that there are issues around the Government of Yukon mandate. What First Nation discussions is the member referring to?

Mr. Harding: Earth to the Premier, earth to the Premier. Has there been a new mandate given? Yes or no? It's a simple answer. It's not specifics of the mandate. I told her already that if she answers the question, I'm not going to take the next step. Why does she keep saying that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Sunshine to the Yukon. We hope it's going to come.

The member opposite wants me to stand here and talk about Cabinet discussions on a mandate. Or not?

If the member wants to suggest that there is a specific First Nation that has trouble with the Government of Yukon mandate, let him ask. But that is not what the member is asking. There has been much discussion about the federal mandate for negotiations. If the member wants to talk about the federal mandate, I invite him to discuss it with the federal minister. If the member wants to talk about CYFN's mandate, I invite him to talk about it with them.

The issue for the member is whether or not the Government of Yukon is proceeding with land claims negotiations. That is what we're doing. The member wants me to negotiate on the floor of this House. I am not going to do that. The member opposite has said that.

Mr. Harding: Well, I will let the leader of the third party continue with this if she wants. We are going to go into Executive Council Office general debate, as well, and we can talk about this further. I think her position is complete lunacy. Everyone I have talked to has said the same thing.

I don't know why she can't understand the nuance of the question, as opposed to getting into the -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Harding: The Premier just said that I don't understand the nuance of the question. It's very simple. I said that the new government has told Yukoners that they are making progress at the land claims table. I said: "Did the new government give a new mandate to the negotiators that was different - a new mandate?" The Premier said that I wanted to discuss the specifics of the mandate in the Legislature and negotiate land claims on the floor here. That is completely different from me standing there and saying to the Premier, "What were the specifics of the land claims mandate that she provided recently to the negotiators?" It is completely different.

I can't wait for the fall. Let me ask the Premier on a different subject.

Could she give us a copy of the speech she gave to the miners in Vancouver?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd be delighted to provide a copy of that speech.

Mr. Harding: Any chance we could get it tomorrow?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly. All documents have been provided to members opposite in a timely manner, and it will be down to their office first thing in the morning.

Mr. Harding: Thank you. When does the Premier hope to conclude the land claims? Does she have a date yet, given all the briefings and extensive work she has already completed? When does she expect them to be complete?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, as the member knows, there are three parties at the table. We would hope that we can reach resolution on the Yukon issues at the table as quickly as negotiations can proceed. The member wants to go on at length about mandate; the federal mandate was a two-year extension to negotiations. Certainly, best efforts, we would hope to have Kwanlin Dun concluded in that time. With Kaska Dena, as I indicated earlier, there are litigation issues. The difficulty is also with two federal issues, section 87, one of the tables - Carcross-Tagish First Nation - is suspended as a result, and the other is with regard to the loan repayment issues.

The CYFN have briefed the media, and I am certain the members have looked at the transcripts of that on their immediate view following the principals meeting. There is also a CYFN general assembly coming up the end of the month where the Grand Chief will be providing an update from their perspective. From our perspective, we are working on it. I'm hopeful that we can conclude within the two-year time frame; however, we will make certain that we make best efforts.

Mr. Harding: Well, what does she tell the mining industry when she meets them? Hopefully she didn't give them that speech, because she said it was the key to creating certainty. Does she have an estimate? Did she give them an estimate for when she hopes to conclude the land claims? I mean, after all, a week before the election, she said these section 87 federal issues weren't a difficult resolution.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't recall a specific date, and I'm certain I didn't give a specific date. I said the same thing to the members of the mining community that I say to the members of this House: we're making absolute best efforts, and the settlement of land claims is a top priority of our government. I was not asked in the Question Period afterward by anyone for a specific date.

Mr. Harding: You know, it's interesting. The Premier just mentioned mandate discussions. So, we get more information from the Yukon Legislature about the federal mandate of the land claims negotiations than we get about the Yukon government position. That's quite ironic, I think.

Mr. Chair, let me ask the Premier this. She mentioned she met with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board - another solid NDP initiative. Does she want to continue on with the formation and creation of this board and its workings?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The board indicated to me that their original time frame for an assessment of their effectiveness was a two-year time frame, and they've not completed that.

The board indicated to me that they were desirous of continuing their work, and I have indicated my support for that.

Mr. Harding: So, is the Premier saying that she's going to try it out for two years? Is that her view, or is she just taking their lead, and if they like it, she'll continue after this?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, what I said was that the original establishment of the board was for two years. That was my understanding and the board's impression as well. That two years is not complete. The board has indicated that they feel that they would like to continue this trial period, if you will, and that there are elements of their workplan that they are interested in pursuing and providing advice to the government on.

The member is fully aware that there are some very fine minds around that table, individuals who have a great deal of experience and are interested in providing advice to this government, and, as with all public advice, we're certainly interested in receiving it.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, for the record, I would ask that the Premier, when she's tabling any documents or information for the official opposition, send me a copy of the same material.

I have listened with - well, I have listened, but I didn't expect to hear what I heard with respect to the mandate for land claims. But let's maybe go at this from a little bit of a different tack. Currently, is the existing mandate for the territorial land claim negotiating group the same as it was under the NDP government?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The instructions to officials to make best efforts to settle land claims have not changed.

Mr. Jenkins: So, I would take that to mean that the mandate is the same now as it was, say, six months ago.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment that the settlement of land claims would be a top priority. We are doing that. We have encouraged the 3,500 professional public servants who work for us, in all manner of occupations including land claims negotiations, that this is a top priority, and we have encouraged them to make best efforts to settle outstanding land claims.

Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds like the officials have a very clear and precise understanding of where they're heading and what they're doing. It sounds like the Premier is lacking the understanding. So, I'd like to thank the Premier for that information and move on to a couple of other areas.

I would appreciate knowing what the government's involvement currently is in the Kassandra mine, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will respond. This is a very complex legal issue, and I have been made aware of it both by officials of the government and by members of the community at large, and if the member will just indulge me for a moment, I'll provide the member with some detailed information with regard to that.

As I said, this is a complex legal issue, and I would suggest that it would be best dealt with by the member opposite being provided with an extensive briefing by officials, and I would offer that to the member and certainly to members of the official opposition if they wish.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would like to get this information on the record, Mr. Chair. That's why I'm asking for it here today.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to provide legal opinions on the floor of the House - table them - the member has a specific question: have we changed instructions to lawyers? Have we changed the Government of Yukon's involvement in this particular case? There have been no such decisions made.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the legal opinion has recently been rendered in Toronto, Mr. Chair; TVX lost the court case. We're moving on from there. So I'm not asking the Premier for a legal opinion. I'm asking the Premier to spell out the Yukon government's involvement in Kassandra in this initiative.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon's entitlement is subject to the successful conclusion of litigation, which is before the courts. Now, the member has indicated that there has recently been a decision rendered with respect to TVX, and the legal costs of the proceedings are to be paid from proceeds received by 123 Inc. from TVX, and the entitlement to those proceeds are the subject matter of legal proceedings. This is a very tangled legal ball of yarn, so to speak, involving a number of companies: Curragh; the member has mentioned TVX; the member has mentioned 123 Inc. I have a four-inch binder on this particular issue, and I have been briefed by members of the community. If the member wants a specific question answered, I would again invite him to - if the member wants it on public record, I'll be happy to provide a legislative return to a specific question.

Mr. Jenkins: No, Mr. Chair, we're not going to go there. What I want is for the Premier to spell out the Yukon government's involvement in Kassandra. I'm not looking for a legislative return. I just want to know the Yukon government's involvement in Kassandra. Now, recently TVX lost the court case. Well, I won't go any further, but the Premier is fully aware. She says she has had a briefing. And I guess it goes back to the old situation where you don't ask a question in this Legislature that you don't know the answer to. So I'm aware of a number of these areas but, for the record, I want the Premier to stand on her feet and tell the House what the Government of Yukon's involvement is in this company, this series of companies, and what they hope to achieve through this court action, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon is potentially the recipient of a substantial windfall arising from a position taken as part of the receivership of Curragh. The windfall would entitle the Government of Yukon to approximately 26 percent of $4.5 million U.S., less legal fees, which may be in the range of $1 million U.S. dollars. In addition, the windfall would include 26 percent of a 12-percent carried interest and of a 12-percent participating interest in a gold mine in Greece owned my TVX. The value of this interest, the exact question asked by the member opposite, is difficult to determine.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite clearly would like to have a copy of the notes that have been prepared for me, and I've offered those to the member before. If the member wishes, I'm more than happy to provide them to the member.

Mr. Jenkins: I want to know what the Government of Yukon's involvement is. The Premier has spelled out the benefits that may or may not accrue to the government should they be successful in this litigation, but to date, the Yukon has not been successful. So, what is the government's involvement? Who is retained? How much has it cost to date? How much money has the Government of Yukon spent to date on this action, or are the legal people retained on a contingency basis, or are we using in-house staff? What are we doing and how are we doing it, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon's entitlement and legal fees and the decrease of that, as I stated earlier, are subject to the successful conclusion of litigation presently before the courts. The Yukon government's 26 percent is held with DIAND and certain lien claimants in 123 Inc. The company was incorporated to hold the interests of all of these parties. 123 Inc.'s actions are directed by the solicitor for the lien claimants in accordance with the terms of an agreement between Government of Yukon, DIAND and the lien claimants.

Legal costs for the proceedings are to be paid from proceeds received by 123 Inc. from TVX, although the entitlement to the proceeds are presently the subject matter of yet other legal proceedings.

In answer to the member's question, we are one part of 123 Inc., as I have noted to the member. And, as to the exact amount of the legal fees and the department paying them, I will have the written advice for the member tomorrow. The officials do not have them with them, and I do not have them in front of me, although I am aware that - and of course, the member is also well-aware, since the member is so well-versed on these issues - there is 123 Inc., TVX and Curragh. It is a very tangled series of legal proceedings. Legal fees for 123 Inc. alone are estimated in excess of $400,000 - I believe is the amount. I had noted this earlier; however, as I said, we will provide the exact amount paid by the Government of Yukon in this tangled court proceeding, for the member, tomorrow.

Mr. Jenkins: Could the Premier also provide the number of shares issued in 123 Inc. and a breakdown of the shareholders in 123 Inc.?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we will provide that information requested by the member.

Mr. Jenkins: Recently, a court decision was rendered in Toronto on TVX. Could the minister outline the implications of this litigation as a result of that decision?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the full extent of the recent decisions are being examined by legal counsel, and we will provide that to the member once we are aware of it. I'm assuming that the member's conjecture is about further legal costs and where the government might be headed. I would caution the member that we will await legal advice before proceeding further.

Mr. Jenkins: So, the decisions with respect to any further litigation will be made by Management Board or at the Cabinet table?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, ultimately, of course, decisions involving financial issues with this government are made by Management Board. I would remind the member that we are but one part of this entire action - one of the parties. There are others, so any decisions made are also made in consultation with other claim holders.

Mr. Jenkins: Is in-house counsel being utilized in this endeavour, Mr. Chair, or are we engaging outside counsel?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I just double-checked. Yes, it's outside counsel.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and could the Premier also indicate the names of the outside counsel that has being retained, how they were retained, the basis of retention of this outside counsel, and the costs that the Government of the Yukon has incurred to date by retaining this outside counsel?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will provide the member opposite with that information. The counsel would, of course, have been retained by the previous government, and the member will be provided with that information as well as the costs incurred to date and the names of the firms involved.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the Premier was as forthcoming with her answers to some of the other areas that we have discussed, we could move ahead very, very quickly. I would like to thank the Premier for her answers so far. I do have another series of questions surrounding this issue, but I'll await the documentation that is going to be sent my way tomorrow and will probably get into a more thorough examination of this issue in the Premier's other portfolio, the Economic Development portfolio.

I'd like to explore with the Premier some of the issues to see if we can provide some certainty with respect to the mining in the northern part of the Yukon and to the land claims. I don't want to get into the debate, whether we buy out or we purchase, I'd just like the Premier to spell out how she proposes to negotiate with the owners of the claims in Tombstone and who is going to put up the money for the acquisition of these claims in the event they are purchased.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the letter that I sent to Minister Nault was tabled in this House, and that outlines clearly the government's desire to reach negotiated settlement and time frame, and our intention as to which official was assigned to receive a response from the federal government. We have also, of course, written to the Chief of the Tr'ondk Hwch'in. We have not received permission to table that letter; thus it hasn't been provided to members opposite. However, I can assure the member that we indicated that we wish to make best efforts to reach a negotiated settlement, and we are anxious to have a response to our letter from the federal minister. We also asked, as the member will recall, in that letter - there is a time frame associated with that letter of August 18 for officials to have reached discussions.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it comes down to who pays. Who will be paying?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the member opposite is speculating wildly.

The member has prejudged the negotiations to suggest that there are all sorts of other options that may or may not be acceptable. I would encourage the member to keep an open mind. There are all kinds of negotiated options.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, yes, Mr. Chair, there are all kinds of negotiated settlements, but I take the Premier back to some of the other initiatives where mining claims were purchased in order to settle land claims and I take the Premier back to the Arkona situation in Lousetown for a few claims there that the federal Liberal government paid $1 million for.

If you want to look just south of the border to a project that would have and could have been a tremendous boom to the Yukon economy for servicing the mining industry, it was the Windy Craggy operation. We could have done extremely well with providing goods and services and employment opportunities for Yukon residents at that mine site, but it didn't come to pass. There was a buyout figure there and who paid was quite well-demonstrated.

So, it's a question that begs an answer. Is the Premier just going to grandstand on the fact that they're not buying it out, but purchasing it. They're one and the same, if the Premier cares to check the dictionary.

I just want to know who will be paying, because the mining company is not going to be the same as Archer Cathro that had mining claims right on the top of Tombstone or right adjacent to the top of Tombstone. They gave up those claims willingly, because they knew the potential of the main pinnacle of Tombstone for a park and they agreed with that.

The mineral potential that Canadian United Minerals has uncovered - and uncovered through diligent research of that area - is another issue, Mr. Chair. It's another issue that the Premier probably hasn't given any thought to, other than to say, "We have to win this election, and the easiest way to do so is to promise this to this group and that to that group." But, at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, someone has to pay the bills. Now, will that someone who will be paying the bills be the Government of the Yukon or the federal government? Has the Premier spent some time with Minister Nault, spoken to him at great length, asked him to come to the party and bring the necessary funds so that he can buy out these mining claims?

Mr. Chair, I don't think there's much hope of Nault doing anything for the Yukon, other than perhaps throwing another bomb our way. The bomb that he dropped at the gold show is still reverberating through the mining community. It is still having serious repercussions, in spite of the Premier's attendance at a mining get-together in Vancouver and a series of meetings where she clearly indicated that Minister Nault wasn't welcome in the Yukon any more. It's amazing that we just have the ability to convey the message to the groups that we currently need the support of.

Well, the election is over. The Liberals are now in power; they are empowered to govern the Yukon. I was just curious as to when they are going to start, because everything to date has been either adopting the previous government's position, or waffling back and forth, or it's confidential. And those aren't the answers we are looking for. We in the opposition know what are confidential issues, and we know what is kept in confidence, but when we are dealing with policy issues, we are just asking specific questions about specific areas, and we are hopeful that the government of the day can provide clear, concise answers to these policy questions. Obviously we are disillusioned.

Mr. Chair, the time being just about 9:30 p.m., I move that we report progress.

Motion agreed to

Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.

Motion agreed to

Speaker resumes the Chair

Speaker: I will now call the House to order.

May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?

Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, 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 have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Speaker: I declare the report carried.

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.