Tuesday, June 20, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: As we begin proceedings today in this Assembly, we ask for divine guidance. May the deliberations in this House be characterized by temperance, understanding and reason, and may we, the elected members of this House, serve all Yukon citizens with dignity and honour. Amen.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper, it is my pleasure to introduce to the House a new page, Taryn Hill, from Porter Creek Secondary School.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling, in response to requests from members opposite, the itinerary for my travel to the World Petroleum Congress National Petroleum Show. I also have for tabling: the Canadian business Globe and Mail report, "Gas demand could spark two pipelines", Globe and Mail, Wednesday, June 7; the National Post article, "Tax plea from Yukon"; and the Globe and Mail article from Monday, June 19, "Yukon makes pitch to mining firms". And I have for tabling the speech that was given by me at the Hyatt Regency in Vancouver on June 15 to the members of the mining community. This has been delivered, as committed to opposition members in advance, Mr. Speaker, and I can advise that we will not be tabling the legal opinion, as has been the practice of past governments, and that the additional information requested by members is forthcoming.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 4: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Harding: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal Party promised during a recent election campaign to increase the amount of mortgage money available to the Yukon Housing Corporation to residents of Faro who want to buy their own homes;
(2) the throne speech and supplementary budget tabled at the beginning of this sitting both failed to address these commitments; and
(3) the Yukon government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to do what it said it would do and make more resources available to Yukon Housing Corporation for mortgage funding in Faro.
Mr. Keenan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment to construct independent living accommodation for the elderly in those communities where the need exists; and
THAT neither the throne speech nor the supplementary budget introduced at the beginning of the current sitting makes any mention of how the Liberal government intends to honour this commitment to our seniors and elders, and;
THAT the Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to do what it said it would do by tabling a supplementary budget that provides the Yukon Housing Corporation with sufficient resources to make independent living accommodations available to the elderly in all Yukon communities, where the need exists.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Party campaigned on a promise of supporting employment opportunities for young people in the Yukon, as well as creating certainty for investors;
(2) the Liberal government has chosen to adopt, as its own, the budget previously tabled by the former NDP administration;
(3) the three-year capital plan, which is an integral part of the budget first tabled on February 21, 2000, makes an ongoing commitment of $1.5 million a year for training trust funds, and;
(4) the Premier has acknowledged that the territorial government's financial situation is healthy, including an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million, as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal government to honour its promises of creating economic certainty and providing employment opportunities for young people by confirming, through a supplementary budget, the commitment in the three-year capital plan to provide ongoing funding for training trust funds.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the legal aid system in the Yukon is facing a crisis due to major cuts in funding for this essential service by the federal Liberal government across Canada;
THAT the extension of legal aid services to civil matters such as custody and maintenance enforcement is crucial to the well-being of many Yukon parents and children;
THAT the Yukon Liberal government has repeatedly taken the position that territorial funding for the legal aid system is not adequate;
THAT both the throne speech and the supplementary budget tabled on June 5, 2000 failed to address this urgent need;
THAT the Yukon Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to live up to its commitments to the Yukon families who need financial assistance in dealing with the courts, by introducing a supplementary budget that will provide appropriate funding for the Yukon legal aid system.
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that, during the election campaign, the Liberal Member for Riverdale South raised expectations in the mineral investment community by stating that a Yukon Liberal Party government would increase the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit from 22 percent on eligible exploration expenses to 30 percent, and neither the throne speech nor the supplementary budget now under consideration made reference to this Liberal campaign commitment;
THAT the Yukon Liberal Party promised to create certainty for investors by telling them what the rules are;
THAT the failure to make a clear commitment about the future of the mineral investment tax credit is adding to uncertainty in the investment community at a time when the exploration season is already underway;
THAT 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 Liberal government to do what it said it would do by tabling a supplementary budget that honours its commitment to increase the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment to Yukon people that it would increase funding for highway maintenance and highway construction if it formed the government; and
THAT the throne speech and the supplementary budget tabled at the beginning of this sitting both failed to make any mention of how the Liberal government intends to honour this commitment; and
THAT Yukon communities, travellers and contractors should not have to wait a full year before seeing the benefits of this commitment; and
THAT the Yukon Liberal government had an accumulated surplus of at least $56.2 million as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to live up to its election commitment by introducing a supplementary budget that provides increased funding for highway maintenance and construction throughout this territory.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to the Question Period.
Question re: Oil and gas industry, public consultation
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Liberals promised a balanced approach between development and protection of the environment. Actions speak louder than words. They refused to go to Washington to speak on behalf of the Porcupine caribou herd, but they didn't hesitate to promote the development of oil and gas land rights in the herd's habitat region while in Calgary last week - another broken promise.
Yesterday, the government said that it is calling for nominations on the sale of oil and gas land rights by the end of July, but, last Thursday, the Acting Premier told us that the Premier wasn't doing that - another contradiction, Mr. Speaker.
My question today is for the Premier. Before starting the process to solicit bids from the petroleum industry for the land sale, can she tell this House when she received permission to proceed from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of the Yukon is committed to holding sales of oil and gas rights on an annual basis. That is a commitment that we are living up to. The process for doing that is underway. A step in that process is the government-to-government consultation process. That government-to-government consultation process is undertaken in a very respectful manner and has begun with letters that have gone to the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Nacho Nyak Dun, the Tetlit Gwich'in First Nation, and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. The conversations in Calgary that the member refers to were discussions around the oil and gas industry in the Yukon, including pipelines and including government's future commitment to holding sales. There was not specific discussion.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, another broken promise and another question not answered.
I asked the Premier when she received permission from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to proceed before soliciting oil and gas land rights in the habitat region of the Porcupine caribou herd. When?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is not listening to the answers that have been given, Mr. Speaker. My answers are very clear. The process for this activity in Yukon is very clearly outlined. Step two of that process is discussions with other governments - respectful discussions in an ongoing manner. That is exactly what has happened. We have undertaken that consultation.
I am not going to offer the member copies of that correspondence, unless the members of the First Nation governments wish me to do so; however, I can assure the member that it has taken place. The letters have been sent.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, isn't that interesting. It wasn't long ago that the Premier stood in this House in opposition and promised Yukoners that no action would be taken until the consent of the Vuntut Gwitchin was given. Now we discover that it's another broken promise. Furthermore, we discover that the Liberal interpretation of public consultation means sending them a letter. We asked for a specific detail and we are told that it's confidential, just like many other issues they say are confidential, so they won't discuss them on the floor of the Legislature.
I would remind the Premier about what she said March 4, 1999: "My position on behalf of my party is that development should not proceed until the Vuntut Gwitchin is prepared for it to proceed." When did her position on this change?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there has been no change of position. I am well-aware of what the member is suggesting. Let me re-outline for the member opposite what the process is. First of all, there is the preliminary review; step two is government-to-government consultation with First Nations. That is exactly what has been undertaken. In our open and accountable manner with the opposition, we have provided the information to them that we have undertaken step two. That is information that I have made public in this House and elsewhere. We are keeping members of the public informed that we have taken step two. That is exactly what we have done, and that is entirely consistent with respecting other governments at work in the Yukon on behalf of their constituents.
Question re: Oil and gas industry, public consultation
Mr. McRobb: Well, it's very interesting, Mr. Speaker. Again, my question was not answered: can the Premier tell us if the First Nation has responded to her letter - yes or no? I'm concerned. We're hearing from several Yukoners who are very concerned about the lack of consultation from this government. They want to know what type of consultation is going to occur before the end of July. While she's on her feet, maybe she can speak to that. They're worried that the horse is out of the barn. This is a slippery slope. She has called for expressions of interest from the oil and gas industry. She has got the process engaged, and it's too late to shut it down now. They haven't heard from the Vuntut Gwitchin - unless she can tell us now if they have.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member is fear-mongering and trying to suggest that this government has not behaved in an open and accountable manner, and that is simply not the case. The members opposite know full well the process. The common oil and gas regime legislation was debated at length in this Legislature.
The issue is preliminary Yukon departmental review. Step two is consultation with Yukon First Nations and, actually, other First Nations as well. The Tetlit Gwich'in have also been advised of this in writing.
The consultation process has begun. There are further additional points at which public consultation occur in this process, which members opposite know full well. And, should the member require it, I would be delighted to ensure that there is a briefing just to remind them of the process for this.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, that's an insult to Yukoners. This government promised Yukoners they would consult before this type of activity takes place. Now we find out that what really happened is that they sent a letter and, probably before the letter even arrived at the desk of the Vuntut Gwitchin, she's down there engaging in these discussions with the oil and gas industry - completely disrespectful.
Now I want her to describe for us the public consultation process that they intend to create by the end of July. Can she explain what type of a process, including public consultation, the Liberal government intends to follow through on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is following through on two things: first of all, a commitment to industry; and we are also following through with the process that has been outlined and clearly debated and made public many, many times, both in this Legislature and out. And that process is for government-to-government consultation with First Nations. That's step two of this process. A review is then conducted of that input.
The activity that the member refers to as having taken place is the activity of consultation with First Nations and the activity of working with Yukoners and companies interested in Yukon. That's the activity that has taken place. This government is doing its work; that's what we were elected to do.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is rather disappointing to boards and councils like the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and the renewable resources councils. Where are they in the process? She didn't answer the question about what involvement the public can expect by the end of July. I'd like to remind her of the environment questionnaire during the election campaign when 82 percent of the Liberal candidates, including the Premier herself, committed to consulting the public and identifying conservation goals before offering more land to the oil and gas industry, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, in her own questionnaire, she committed to consulting the public and identifying conservation goals before further land is offered to the oil and gas industry for exploration and development.
Can the Premier indicate to us why her position has changed and what type of consultation this government intends to take?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this government, this Premier's position, has not changed. What I have stated to the members opposite is that we have issued the letter to begin and initiate the government-to-government consultation process with First Nations, as has been set out in the common oil and gas regime. The member is suggesting that I was downtown on 505th Street, Southwest Calgary, hawking Yukon land. That's not the case. The commitment that I made to industry was that this government would fulfill commitments for a second land sale. That's what we spoke about, in general - very general - terms. The consultation process is very well known by industry. They fully understand how this wiring diagram of consultation works, as does the public, and I have spoken most recently with representative groups of the public on this and we will continue to -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is asking how we will conduct our consultations with members of the public and Yukoners. In a completely respectful manner, which is not what they enjoyed with the NDP government.
Question re: Land claims, unresolved issues
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds more and more like the Liberals have one set of rules to get elected and another set of rules after they're elected.
I have a question today for the Premier. In her statement yesterday about the "Welcome Back to the Yukon" luncheon that she hosted June 15 in Vancouver for mining executives, she talked about giving clear messages. One clear message that she gave to the mining executives at one of her meetings was that one particular individual will not be welcomed back to the Yukon. That person is none other than the Minister of DIAND, the hon. Bob Nault. The Premier told the mining executives that the Minister of DIAND would not be invited back to the Yukon. Effectively, the DIAND minister is persona non grata here in the Yukon. Will the Premier confirm that this is what she told the mining executives in one of her many meetings?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would challenge the member to table the comments that he alleges that I made. The member opposite knows full well that I delivered very clear messages to the mining industry, in terms of their relationship with the Government of Yukon. I also invited those members present to check against delivery, which is exactly what we'll do. We will deliver on those clear messages, and we are working at doing just that.
The member knows full well that many Yukoners were disappointed with Minister Nault's recent visit. I do not answer for Minister Nault's actions, nor does he answer for mine. I would challenge again the member to table the comments that he alleges I have made.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the Premier failed to answer the question. Did she make the comment that Minister Nault would not be invited back to the Yukon? So much for this special Yukon/Ottawa Liberal relationship, Mr. Speaker.
In view of the fact that one of the major impediments to bringing mining back to the Yukon is the seven outstanding land claims, can the Premier explain how she expects to promote these settlements, when she has told one of the key players, the Minister of DIAND, that he won't be welcome back.
Can the Premier advise the House which position she now supports? Does she continue to support the federal Liberal position on taxation and loan repayments for the First Nations, or does she now agree with the Yukon First Nations on these two outstanding issues?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let the record reflect that the member has not only failed to ask the question, but he has failed to substantiate his point. The Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment during the election that the settlement of land claims would be a top priority of this government. It is a top priority, and it will continue to be a top priority until such time as the seven outstanding land claims have been settled.
Mr. Jenkins: That's in spite of the fact that the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the hon. Bob Nault, will not be invited back to the Yukon by the Premier. Okay, that's interesting.
This wonderful bridge that we had between the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals has now been burned, first by comments made by the Minister of DIAND and now by the Premier herself. Can the Premier explain how she is going to welcome mining investment back to the Yukon when there will be no progress in settling land claims until the present Minister of DIAND has been replaced? Has she received confirmation that the hon. Bob Nault will be replaced in the rumoured Cabinet shuffle in Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only time we have seen no progress in the settlement of land claims is under the previous governments. The NDP government signed one in their four years in office. We have chiefs from Yukon First Nations publicly commenting and referring to members opposite's statements on land claims as not being particularly helpful to the settlement. Neither are the member's comments. This government committed very strongly to Yukoners, and I have committed in the House and out of the territory, as well as throughout the territory, that settlement of the seven outstanding Yukon land claims would be our top priority. It is our top priority. We're working on it -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are one party at the table, and we have issues that need to be resolved, and we're working on them.
Question re: All-party committee to make appointments to boards and committees
Mr. Harding: Last night the Premier admitted that she is still using our land claims negotiating mandate. I will remind her that we settled, from a Yukon negotiating perspective, four land claims in our mandate.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Liberal Premier a question on patronage. During the election campaign, the Liberals alone promised an all-party committee for appointments to boards and committees. They are now telling the public that they will wait a year to deliver on this simple promise. We have talked to the Yukon Party, and they are ready now, as are we, to cooperate and participate on this initiative. Will the Premier agree to a moratorium on all boards and committees appointments while we establish the committee this week?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, isn't it fascinating how history changes itself when it's delivered by the member opposite? We stated last week in this House - and I stated last night - that we would establish, within one year - within one year - of taking office the all-party committee to appoint members to boards and committees.
In our time in opposition, we worked unsuccessfully, I might add, with the NDP government, because it was that member opposite who, on December 2, 1996, stated in the local paper that he had spoken with the Government Leader and, yes, the NDP government was going to do that. They had four years and didn't do it.
We have said that we will do it within one year, and, Mr. Speaker, we will.
Mr. Harding: Well, let the record show that the Premier didn't answer the question again. Mr. Speaker, the NDP had a terrific record. We appointed all kinds of prominent Liberals: Mark Smith, Pam Buckway, Doug Bell - the list goes on and on - to boards and committees. But it's plain to see what's happening here. The Liberals want a delay in implementing this committee so that they can stack these boards and committees with long-term Liberal partisan, pork-barrelling appointments. This is going to render, by the time they get around to it, this all-party committee absolutely useless.
Mr. Speaker, we're ready now; we can do it this week. Will the Premier agree to a moratorium so that we can conclude the all-party committee this week and make the appointments that we need to make?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, isn't that just typical? The member would stand here opposite and roundly chastise, with the most righteous indignation I've ever seen, the members opposite for even mentioning a single name in this House. Listen to what the member has just done. Well-meaning Yukon citizens who have no ability on the floor of this House to speak, and the member opposite is making spurious allegations. That kind of behaviour, Mr. Speaker, is exactly why people would come to their doors and say, "Will you please work at bringing a new tone to this Legislature?" And that's what we're trying to do. I answered the question last night with respect to an all-party committee. The members opposite want us to, in less than two months, fix all the NDP mistakes. They had four years to establish this committee - four years. And not only that, but they had members of the opposition then who met regularly trying to do this with the NDP government. They had four years and didn't do it. We have said we will do it within a year - a very reasonable time frame - and we'll do it.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the NDP didn't promise this. This Liberals did, along with a whole bunch of other things. Now the Premier just stood up and said I mentioned people who can't defend themselves in this House. I mentioned her colleague right behind her, Pam Buckway. Mr. Speaker, she was appointed to boards and committees by the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Premier a very serious question. Now that we've heard that the Liberal leader is going to be handed a plum job by the Liberals, and we have also heard that the former Member for Riverside has been asked to be the next Commissioner by the Liberals, and we have also heard that the former administrator, who ran for the Liberals in the last territorial election, is getting a plum lined up by the territorial and federal Liberals. We need to clear the air on this patronage gravy train that the Liberals are sending out of the station at full speed.
Why won't the Premier agree to the moratorium this week, while we form this committee now? We are ready.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: I stand today to ask the leader of the official opposition to withdraw the name used. He used a member's name in the House. It is under convention that we are not supposed to use members' names in the House.
The Member for Lake Laberge is the Member for Lake Laberge, not, in this House, Pam Buckway.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, this is not professional conduct by the Liberals to use spurious points of order to disrupt Question Period. I was simply pointing out that Pam Buckway, as a private citizen, along with the other citizens who were named to prominent board and committees, was named by the previous NDP government to make the point that, as private citizens, we were very respectful of different political philosophies and engagement in different political parties. We brought them forward to public decision making in this territory. It is a legitimate debating point. Mr. Speaker, I wasn't referring to her as the Member for Lake Laberge, because I was talking about her as a private citizen Pam Buckway, when she was appointed to the union commission.
Speaker: I find that, overall, there is no point of order; however, I ask the members to be cautious not to name persons on the floor when they are addressing members opposite, please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in response to the question - the member's fishing trip - the member is making allegations about individuals who are outside of this House. I am not going to speculate on those issues, any more than I am going to speculate on how long the interim leader intends to sit or whether or not the Member for Watson Lake intends to be the future leader of the NDP. I'm not going to speculate on those issues on the floor of this House. I am not going to speculate on personnel issues or appointments by any Cabinet - this one or any other Cabinet. I'm not going to speculate on that.
I would remind the member, who urges us to respect the process and respect what they did, that I do not respect a member who publicly states that he has spoken with his Government Leader and - "Oh, just right away, we're going to form an all-party committee to make these appointments, and we're going to do it. It's been talked about, and we're going to do it." They had four years, and they didn't do it.
So, to be bullied now, and for members opposite to suggest that we're going to do it within a week because they happen to be ready - we committed that we'd do it within a year, and we will do it within a year, which is far more than that member opposite ever delivered on.
Question re: Telephone access rates, proposed increase
Mr. Keenan: My question is for the Minister of Government Services. I'd like to know if it's this government's position to oppose the 20-percent increase for basic local phone access that Northwestel has proposed at the recent CRTC regional hearings.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, we have many services now being delivered to the public that are dependent upon information technology. An example is the motor vehicles branch. Have we opposed that? Yes, we say that the quality of service and the affordability has to be comparable to the rest of Canada. Yes, we have made a stand on it, and yes, we presented this case at the CRTC hearing.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, on June 15 in this House, this minister said that he opposed the 20-percent rate increase in the presentation that he made to the CRTC. He said at that time, "We put it to the CRTC hearing in the last couple of days and we took a stance that we're not for the $5 raise. We oppose this $5 increase to the rate." Mr. Speaker, I have that transcript right here, that was presented to the CRTC, and there's not one word about the government opposing that rate increase. Not one word. Can the minister explain this discrepancy?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, what we said was that the quality of services and the prices have to be comparable to the rest of Canada in that they're affordable. That was our stance. The question was asked, do we oppose the $5 increase, and we said yes. We made a stand on this.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly what the member opposite says is not in the submission. I take issue with that. I will table this tomorrow - and it's in a fancy form - to prove to the Yukon government and to the Yukon people that that is not what had happened.
Will the minister write to the CRTC immediately, with a supplementary submission, making clear that the government is opposed to Northwestel's proposal for a 20-percent increase in its basic local access rates. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, we are looking at this and we are reviewing the situation and we are definitely looking at this as a concern on the government's behalf, and we are dealing with it.
Question re: Old Crow airport expansion
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Old Crow airport is the transportation lifeline for the Vuntut Gwitchin. The NDP government, before the House, included $215,000 this year to begin the Old Crow airport expansion and the new terminal building. The previous government made a commitment to complete this project during the next three years. Can the Premier tell me and my constituents whether she supports the completion of the Old Crow airport expansion?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Design work for the construction of the new Old Crow air terminal building will be proceeding during 2000-2001 under the guidance of a local building advisory group. Construction of the facility will be scheduled in accordance with the community's development priorities.
Ms. Netro: In debate in this House, the Premier has not been clear about the future of long-term capital plans. She has only committed to present-year funding. My constituents would like to know for certain whether the Liberal government will fund the Old Crow airport expansion. I would like to ask the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for certainty. Will the Liberal government give a firm commitment to the funding for the completion of the Old Crow airport expansion and the new terminal building?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, we will do what we said we would do, and we will live up to the funding commitments we have made.
Ms. Netro: The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is refusing to give me a straight answer, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't make sense to start a project and not finish it. Surely the government can see this. Why won't the minister tell the people of Old Crow whether she will support the completion of the airport expansion and the new terminal?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, we are aware that there is some community concern about the airport. We will live up to funding commitments we have made.
I note with interest that the previous administration didn't table a long-term capital plan for their first two years in office. We've been in office since May 6. I guess they think we're Superman.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Ms. Tucker: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.27, I would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, June 21, 2000, under the heading Private Members' Business.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 22: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a second time.
It has been moved by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, hon. Members of the Legislative Assembly, today I am pleased to introduce two amendments to the Assessment and Taxation Act. Yukon people will benefit from these amendments. One reduces red tape, while the other affords rural Yukoners more time to defer making payments for electric and telecommunications services.
The first amendment will allow designated historic sites, located outside of municipalities, to be exempt from property tax. This includes privately held or leased properties and those held by non-profit societies. This amendment will provide additional disposable income to the owners of these properties, to be used to maintain and preserve heritage structures.
Historic sites are designated by the Department of Tourism's heritage branch, after a property owner makes a one-time application for assessment under the Historic Resources Act. The assessment determines whether the property can be designated as a Yukon historic site. After designation as a historic site, Community and Transportation Services will implement the property tax exemption for the property.
Designation as a historic site will require the property owner to enter into a historic resources agreement with the Yukon government. Such an agreement provides for the maintenance, preservation or protection of a site. The agreement is binding and will be registered on the property title in the land titles office. Amending the act would guarantee the exemption for properties with a historic resources agreement, giving certainty to all parties.
Mr. Speaker, the second amendment to this act extends the time period during which people in rural Yukon are allowed to defer making payments to the Yukon government for electrical and telecommunications services.
This payment appears as an item on their property tax notice each year. The amendment to the act extends the deferral period from 10 to 15 years for a property owner to repay their government-assisted financing for these services to their area. The amendment also guarantees that a property owner living in the same area, who is already paying a local improvement charge for a stand-alone electrical or telecommunication service, will not have to pay two charges at once. Under the amendment, the owner of the stand-alone system would be able to defer making payments to the government for their share of the wider area network for 15 years, or until such time as they hook up to the service or sell their property.
By making the deferral periods for repayment of government financing the same for wider area systems and stand-alone systems, the owner of the stand-alone system will be spared the burden of having to pay two local improvement charges for utility services at the same time.
So, Mr. Speaker, I support this amendment for the good that it does for rural Yukoners. The deferral option provides temporary property tax relief to those property owners who do not immediately want the system's service when it arrives in their area.
The amendment maintains fairness and equity among neighbours by requiring all property owners to make the appropriate financial contribution at a later date.
I thank you for your attention and look forward to discussion of these proposed amendments with the members opposite during Committee of the Whole debate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to also rise in favour of the heritage property tax exemption bill today, and also hear the favourable review from the member opposite about this fine NDP initiative, because, Mr. Speaker, we respect our heritage and appreciate the Yukon's rich history. This is reflected in the bill for protection of our heritage and history.
This was one of the seven major tax initiatives that our government introduced in the 2000-01 year budget. This bill sets the stage for the 12-percent income tax cut reductions that the NDP government committed to. These are the same tax reductions now, Mr. Speaker, we hear that the Liberal government is reneging on. If they would respect the other components of our fine work - the groundwork we did and left for them - Yukoners would be more pleased. Instead, they're quite upset about the 10-percent tax hikes being imposed by the Liberal government. In comparison to what we left on the agenda, this is a considerable amount.
Yukoners deserve these tax decreases. It surprised us to hear, so early in this Liberal government's mandate, how they're prepared to raise taxes. Certainly, that is not consistent with their previous approach on taxes. We can recall, not long ago, their complaints that the tax decreases were not enough. Well, this bill is part of those seven major tax initiatives.
The heritage property tax exemption will mean that the owner of a building designated as a heritage site under territorial legislation and located within Yukon government taxing authority would not have to pay property taxes on that building. Mr. Speaker, that was a request we heard from communities, people and other governments in the Yukon.
It's all about respecting our heritage. It's about respecting our rich history. And, like many other things the previous government did, Mr. Speaker, we respected the views and wishes of Yukoners. Ideas like the heritage property tax exemption act that were born in the budget consultations undertaken by the government every year.
As we know, Mr. Speaker, each fall the former Government Leader would head out into the communities and meet with other governments and First Nations and people in each community to hear what their priorities were. This gave the public and other governments and communities the opportunity to plug their concerns, their priorities and their views into the process used by the government in developing the budget for spending the taxpayers' money in the following year. It is a very effective process, Mr. Speaker, and one that we're looking for the Liberal government to continue.
I'll be following up in Executive Council Office general debate on that matter, because I'd like to find out exactly what consultation process this government intends to follow each year in setting the budget. Does it intend to listen to Yukoners, as we did - and how we listened to them on this bill - to protect our heritage and our rich history, or are they going to invite only their friends in the back room? Which way is it going to be, Mr. Speaker? Because already in Question Period today we heard that their form of consultation does not mean dialogue or discussion with groups before they decide what to do. This is in direct contrast to what was promised by this government prior to when they formed government. They promised to listen to Yukoners; they promised open and honest consultation, and they promised open and accountable government. Mr. Speaker we have seen anything but that.
In only two weeks and one day in this Legislature, there are countless examples of how this government has abrogated its responsibility to Yukoners to fulfill its election commitments. What was such a high priority only two months ago, Mr. Speaker, is now way down on their list, way down on the Liberals' list of priorities. It's no longer urgent. They don't care. The answer we're getting back is that they have four years. Well, four years is a long time to wait, a really long time for Yukoners to wait.
How would these priorities be determined, Mr. Speaker? Which consultation process will they undertake first? Who decides the importance of these consultations? Is it a battle in the Cabinet room? Is it the Premier herself? Is it the party insiders, the backroom friends? How is it decided?
Mr. Speaker, we encourage them to follow a process like the one used by the previous government. It was open and accountable.
I recall, in the Kluane region while attending these meetings, these budget consultation meetings with the former government leader, hearing about the importance of our heritage, hearing about the Yukon's rich history and the need to protect it, hearing about how there is a need for legislation in order to enshrine that protection in legislation.
Mr. Speaker, it means work. Drafting legislation means work. It means more paper, more meetings, more effort put into government. That's something we have seen a lack of so far from this Liberal government.
That is how much of a priority it intends to put into actually governing this territory on behalf of the public. They're fully prepared to go out and knock on doors in their ridings and try and get re-elected. They're fully prepared to fly around the country and attend meetings, go to ground-breaking ceremonies, openings of new buildings, and hand out grant money and whatever. They're quite prepared to take the glory, but are they prepared to do the work? I don't think they know what the work means. It took a lot of hard work to develop this legislation - a lot of hard work. I'm not sure if the members are prepared to invest that same type of hard work into the legislation they intend to bring forward in the coming years. So far, we haven't heard what that legislation is going to be - the throne speech gave us no inkling.
The throne speech is the very document used by a new government to set out its direction, to reveal to Yukoners what they can expect from the new government. It's a golden opportunity for the government to lay out its priorities, reveal to Yukoners its agenda and for the public to discover what the government is all about. Instead, we got 391 words, in a two-page document in large type, that didn't identify any of that. It was completely void of direction or any information Yukoners would find useful about the direction this government plans to take, and it was certainly void of any mention of any legislation upcoming in the entire mandate, which could extend up to four years - no mention at all, Mr. Speaker.
The only legislation mentioned were the two bills that were drafted and completed by the previous NDP government. I know this, Mr. Speaker, because I sat in some of those meetings that were required to develop this bill. I took part in some of the meetings where Yukoners were consulted on the importance of heritage to them. I listened to the views of other governments, such as First Nation governments and local municipal governments, on the need for the Yukon government to fulfill its role in developing this legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I don't know if the Liberals really understand what the work is all about when it comes to governing this territory on behalf of the public. It doesn't mean collecting the glory from the opening of these new buildings. It means the hard work of these meetings. Soon Yukoners will discover that these openings will come to an end. Pretty soon these government ministers will find themselves with too much time on their hands. They won't have anything to do. Why? Because there's nothing in the hopper.
The time for preparing legislation for the fall legislative period is now. In fact, in the previous government, we had, in the hopper long ago - about two months before would be our deadline for developing legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I hear the Minister of Community and Transportation Services emphatically shouting out, "Well done." She essentially said that in her opening remarks about our legislation, that she is here on the floor of this Legislature taking the glory for but she can't contain her enthusiasm. She's got to shout it out while I'm still talking, so, obviously, she was quite impressed with the fine work the NDP government did.
I'm not sure, Mr. Speaker, if voters in Destruction Bay and Beaver Creek would be too impressed because, out of 96 votes in those communities, unfortunately for the Liberals, they got none. They were skunked. Skunked.
So, Mr. Speaker, I want to leave them with the notion that governing means hard work. It means meetings on weekends, meetings in evenings and on Friday afternoons. It doesn't mean skipping out and going to the local watering hole and missing important meetings on Friday afternoons. It means investing in work.
Mr. Speaker, I hear the Member for Whitehorse Centre giving directions on his favourite watering hole, and that's exactly what I'm talking about. We're not interested in how to get to the watering hole. We're more interested in holding this government accountable. That's our job over here - holding them accountable for their promises, and we have got them all documented. We have the campaign platform; we have got their commitments; we have it all here. Today in Question Period they heard about public consultation, how we want to hold them accountable for what they said.
Mr. Speaker, it's all about accountability.
That's our job here. Governing is their job - that's their job, Mr. Speaker.
Did we once hear the minister point out that it was the NDP who drafted this bill? No, Mr. Speaker. She wanted to take the credit herself. There was no mention of how it was us who put in the hard work on this bill. They want to take all the glory. That's fine, Mr. Speaker, let them take the glory. But what's coming in the fall? The fall legislative period, so far, is bankrupt. We haven't heard of one bill coming to the floor of this House; not one. We've seen the Liberal light version of just about everything - from answering questions during Question Period to throne speeches and budget speeches and just about anything else. There's no substance to it.
Yukoners are very disappointed - very disappointed. We're getting phone calls every day from people who said they supported the Liberals in the last election and how they're sorry now, because they never knew it would come to this. They never knew they would be like this. They thought they would be accountable. They thought they would restore confidence in government. They thought they would do all the things they promised. What a disappointment. Absolutely, what a disappointment.
I thought I'd give them a chance. I thought they would be a lot better - a lot better - than they are too, but I'm disappointed too. We're all disappointed. Anyway, we look forward to holding this government accountable. I think we have more than enough to work with on this side of the House in doing that. Certainly our jobs over here won't be easy, because there is so much material to work with. I certainly hope the government intends to work as hard as we do, because we would like to see them produce something and make a decision on something.
That's another whole ball of wax, Mr. Speaker - making decisions. I'll get to that another time. I think the time is about to expire.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm very pleased to respond to An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act. As the minister pointed out, this act will allow designated historical sites located outside of municipalities to be exempt from property tax. Currently, properties wishing to gain such an exemption must be reviewed on an annual basis by the department, Mr. Speaker. The act before the House today will eliminate the need for this case-by-case approach with the requirement of a one-time application that will guarantee the exemption for designated historical properties. Not only will these steps reduce unnecessary red tape, such changes to the act will encourage the preservation and maintenance of historic sites in the territory by providing certainty to owners that this exemption will be made available to them.
I do have a couple of concerns, Mr. Speaker, and I'd like to ask the minister to have a look at these areas. Have all of the various types of situations been covered off? When a property has been designated a heritage property, will the government register a caveat around that property that will allow it to remain a heritage property with certain terms and conditions? I guess the other concern is if it's a residential heritage property and it becomes a commercial property, and the undue advantage that might come about by way of not having to pay the property taxes on that property if it's in close proximity to a similar type of commercial undertaking.
Those areas have given rise to concern in other areas of Canada, and I was just wondering what the thinking of the day was with respect to those areas.
The other concern is, with the coming into force of this act, there will exist kind of a downloading on the respective municipal governments to put in place a similar type of legislation that could impact considerably on the tax base of some of the municipalities. I refer specifically to the community in which I live, Dawson, that if it's required or becomes mandatory that they exempt heritage properties from taxes, it again could, number one, have an impact on the tax base and, number two, have an impact on unfair commercial advantages.
The designation that is required in other areas of Canada appears to be somewhat different from the designation that is being advanced here in the Yukon. I was hoping that the minister could research that area and provide some details as to how this comes about and how we compare to other jurisdictions - primarily provincial jurisdictions - which have similar pieces of legislation in place. Montreal is one of very significant importance. It has this type of legislation in place.
A community like Dawson has quite a number of designated national historic sites as well as heritage buildings. I recognize that this act is not imposed over municipalities, but it is precedent setting; it could have an impact, and it could be construed that this is the next step municipalities will be made to follow.
Having said that, I am pleased to offer my support for this bill, and I'm pleased that this new government has chosen to bring this particular piece of legislation forward.
While I commend the government for taking this initiative, I am somewhat - actually, not somewhat. I am extremely disappointed in this government's failure to do what it said it would do; that being the restoration of funding for Yukon heritage. When I look through all of the literature that the Liberals had during the election campaign, not once did I see anything pertaining to this piece of legislation. I did see a tremendous amount of mention about restoring funding for Yukon heritage.
Now, as members will recall, the Liberal members, while in opposition, had much to say about heritage and the importance heritage plays in our ability to attract visitors to the Yukon. I guess, on one hand, the Liberals are now going to say that yes, they might not have mentioned this historical property taxation amendment in their literature, but it does play a role in Yukon heritage. So, what we have here is another Liberal stretch.
During the recent election, the Premier and the Member for Whitehorse Centre pledged to restore about $470,000 in heritage funding that was cut by the previous NDP government in its last budget. They spoke of a territory-wide museum strategy that would involve all communities in finding efficiencies and solutions to some of the problems out there, which haven't been addressed on a territory-wide basis for a number of years. They spoke of a strategy that would include the future of the Beringia Centre.
Members also stated their commitment to investigate the need for a historic resources centre that would create laboratory and library facilities to support research and preservation of heritage material. Despite these promises to value and protect our heritage resources, this Liberal government has come up empty-handed once again. All of the main issues, Mr. Speaker, on which the Liberals campaigned are not present in any of the budget material or subsequent bills that are being advanced in the House. Of some 120 promises, two initiatives have advanced.
Mr. Speaker, when this government was in opposition, they talked about heritage as a top priority. They now have the opportunity to make changes, to restore funding and to see their commitments through. We know of the commitments. Where is the funding? It sounds like a hamburger patty with no beef in it, and no chicken either. A lot of window dressing but no beef.
In opposition, the Liberals labelled the previous NDP budget as a desperation budget, with no depth, no vision and not enough money for heritage. And yet, this Liberal government today has chosen to adopt this very same budget, Mr. Speaker.
Now, if that's not enough, they failed to deliver on their commitments to areas that were once deemed top priorities, but they don't hold water any more, now that they have been elected. That's clearly reflected in this government's first supplementary budget.
Unfortunately for Yukoners, doing what we say we are going to do does not mean we say we are going to do it. It is just not happening. Campaign on a slogan that we are going to do what we say we are going to do, then run around and not do it. What it means, Mr. Speaker, is when the Liberals say something, they don't mean it. So much for this open and accountable government.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services summed it up in Question Period quite well today, Mr. Speaker, when she said that we're not Superman. Yukoners' expectations are not for a Superman, but for elected officials who do what they say they are going to do. There are 122 election commitments made by the Liberals, and one only has to go back through previous sittings of this Legislature, when the Liberals were in opposition, and see what they said on many of the key issues of the day. Yes, they are not a Superman, but they don't appear to have a grip on their responsibilities, an understanding of the issues or the ability to deliver on any but a few of the promises and commitments they have made.
Mr. Speaker, I will be supporting this bill. But so much for good government and governing with pride and integrity - I'm disappointed that the Liberals have not brought forward more of their platform in this bill or in subsequent bills to this House. They had a wonderful opportunity, they had a window and they have failed Yukoners.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think I need to start by saying that this side of the House is very proud of what they're doing in this government, and we're also very proud of the other members of this Legislature and the voice that they bring to the rural areas of the Yukon. We're not overly proud of some of their behaviour, though, at times.
I'd like to preface some of my comments today with a response to the Member for Kluane. The member wasn't clear what was on the table for discussion today. This is an act that offers a tax break to individuals and non-profit societies who own heritage sites in the Yukon outside of municipal boundaries. This is a real tax break, Mr. Speaker, not a phantom one. The previous government tabled this bill prior to the election; our party supported it then and we support it now. Our government does what it says it will do.
The side opposite doesn't seem proud of the legislation and the budgets that they authored. They continue to delay the passage of not only this bill, but the budget that they authored as well.
And, as for the Member for Klondike, it's refreshing to hear occasionally constructive criticism. The Yukon Party has done that. The Yukon Liberal Party also used to offer constructive criticism. One of those examples was that there should be an all-party committee for appointments to boards and committees; that never happened.
Now, to be clear, the fact does not address the constant and consistent cuts that were done by the previous NDP government. That's something that we're going to be working on over the next three and a half years. This act adds to Yukoners' economic certainty, much like retabling the budget that was authored by the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, our history is incredibly important, and so is the need to preserve our heritage. By preserving our heritage, we are preserving our history. This act would provide legislative certainty for the exemption from property tax for historic sites outside municipalities that are owned either by non-profit organizations or by private owners. And that restatement is for the Member for Kluane. This exemption in legislation provides a greater certainty, permanency, and shows our commitment to the preservation of our historic resources.
There is great support in the heritage community for programs and initiatives such as this one, designed to allow owners to better care for the heritage resources that they own. By allowing tax relief, home owners and non-profit societies would be provided with additional disposable income, which could be used to restore and preserve heritage homes and sites outside of our communities.
In order to be eligible for the tax exemption, the property must be designated a Yukon historic site, and this process can be initiated by the owner of the property or the minister responsible. This initiative helps to ensure that future generations can visit heritage sites and realize what life was like for people who lived and travelled throughout this territory so long ago.
Our government wishes to help retain the unique character of our heritage so that future generations can learn and be inspired from these sites. Yukoners have indicated that they are proud of our heritage and wish it to be preserved. This action provides a level of government support. It is well-known that tourists are looking for authentic heritage attractions and environments. Heritage tourism is a growth industry and, by providing a truly historic experience, the Yukon can take full advantage of this market.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I was pleased to hear the Member for Kluane repeat what I said about the benefits of this legislation. The rest of what he said, unfortunately, had nothing to do with this bill. However, it did neatly fill in the time until the camera was shut off.
The member spoke about respect. Mr. Speaker, respect is something I don't give lightly. For example, it's difficult for me to respect the two previous administrations for cutting the C&TS highway capital budgets from $20 million eight years ago to less than $4 million in this fiscal year. I can't respect that. That's a cruel thing to do, especially to the people of rural Yukon; the same people they claim to represent.
I am pleased that this government is proceeding with a two-percent reduction in personal income taxes. The Member for Kluane also said, "Four years is a long time." The last four years seemed a lot longer than that.
The Member for Klondike had some concerns. He asked if we would register a caveat on a property to allow it to remain a heritage property. Mr. Speaker, a historic resources agreement will be negotiated with each property owner before designation. That agreement is intended to be a covenant, which will run with the land and provide for the maintenance, preservation or protection of a site.
The agreement will outline each party's commitment and it will be binding, through registration of the document in the land titles office. The Member for Klondike was commenting on what we did and didn't mention in our campaign literature. If we had mentioned everything in our campaign literature, the member opposite wouldn't have been able to lift our platform, not even if he ate his spinach every day.
Saving the best for the last, if this An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act was such a priority, I would have to wonder why the NDP government didn't pass it this spring. It only went to second reading at that point.
I thank the members opposite for supporting this legislation.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Shall we take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Fifteen-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is dealing with Bill No. 2, First Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of questions for the Premier. She said yesterday that she met with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board when she was in Vancouver. And one of the members of the board who was appointed by the previous government was Mr. Klingmann from Minto Explorations Limited. And we were expecting a decision by, at the latest, this month, as to whether or not it was going to operate. We were working on this prior to the election campaign, and the Mexican company that had purchased Asarco Inc. was up in the Yukon. Could the Premier tell us if there has been a decision rendered on production or construction of the production facility and subsequent production by Minto Explorations and the Mexican ownership group now that has replaced Asarco Inc.?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite may not be aware that in May, Mr. Klingmann experienced ill health, and I'm certain that all members wish him a speedy recovery. He was travelling, when I met with the Mining Advisory Board, and sent his regrets. I was not advised of a decision by the representatives of the company at that meeting. However, I will have the officials prepare an advice note to the member opposite, if there is any new information available on that particular subject.
Mr. Harding: And the same thing - perhaps you could provide this for the debate on Economic Development and get the appropriate briefing on the Finlayson Lake project.
Nunavut, the Northwest Territories and Yukon all travelled to London for a two-day mining seminar before some of the top analysts there. We travelled with Barramundi Gold Ltd., Cominco and Expatriate Resources. At that time, Harlan Meade, who is the CEO of Expatriate Resources, had extensive meetings. I spoke before the investment community. Prior to the election, they announced that they had engaged in a new arrangement with Cominco, to essentially buy into and take over the Kudz Ze Kayah property, to expand their holdings in that area - that belt, along with the Wolverine deposit.
There was some indication, at that time, that they had raised a million dollars out of the funding, but that they wanted to engage in a $3-million exploration program. Does the Premier know - or perhaps she could tell me later on in Economic Development general debate - whether they've actually successfully completed that financing? If not, how much is being projected by Expatriate? I'm sure the mining facilitator would have some idea about exploration spending in this upcoming year.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have also enjoyed a number of meetings with officials from Expatriate - the detailed information that the member wishes was not discussed. I will provide that, as the member has suggested, during Economic Development debate.
Mr. Harding: Does the Premier anticipate that the numbers this year in mineral exploration are going to increase over last season? Does she anticipate, this year, any mines coming into production?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The projection for mining exploration activity is down further from last year. The survey indicating that information was done just prior to the election. There was some renewed interest by the investment community, a number of whom attended the address I gave in Vancouver. We are hopeful, of course, that the numbers will be greater than realized, as happened during the member opposite's time in office as well. It's not unheard of for exploration figures to surpass what has been predicted. For the member's information, the prediction is low this year.
With respect to mines coming on stream within the term of this government, we are certainly working to that end. The prediction for opening dates, et cetera, is detailed information that I'll provide in the Economic Development debate.
Mr. Harding: I'm not asking for detailed information. She should have some idea. I mean, Minto has been ready to go. The mills are across the river. The mill footings are poured. Essentially, what Minto is waiting for is a financing deal with the new Mexican conglomerate that purchases Asarco.
With regard to other potential properties, perhaps she could tell me if I'm missing something. I don't see anything else. I know that what may become Yukon Zinc Company, which is currently Expatriate Resources, is interested in putting together a business plan and permitting the Kudz Ze Kayah Wolverine, but I don't know if they have decided yet whether they want to be an operating company or just a junior and flip it back to a major.
Does she see anything other than that that are potential properties, other than Faro and Sa Dena Hes - and the price of zinc shoots through the roof?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is one property that the member opposite hasn't mentioned, and that is the United Keno Hill property, which has been tied up in the courts forever, and decisions are expected this month. That particular property is still recognized as a significant reserve, and there are bodies interested in operating that as a mine and interested in seeing it in operation as a mine, and certainly this government is one of them.
In terms of the financing information, et cetera, that the member makes reference to, if the member wishes to advance into general debate on Economic Development, I'm certainly prepared to do so.
Mr. Harding: Well, there are a number of issues. I've flipped through the speech that the Premier gave to the mining community and found it quite interesting.
It's going to be interesting to see. It's one thing to say they're going to review protected areas. What will really tell is what the movement is within the review of the strategy. There's already going to be a gauntlet thrown down on the issue of interim withdrawal and early interim withdrawal. The Premier is going to have to deal with the question of - if she doesn't succeed in devolution, and all indications are that I don't think she's going to, given what Mr. Nault has done and her inability to make a clear statement as to how she's going to approach that. I think that that's certainly going to spell out very clearly. The president - or I think it's the vice-president of the Chamber of Mines - was recently quoted stating that they are completely opposed to early interim withdrawal.
Of course that's how you end up with Tombstone situations, where claims are staked. You have a study area; you have, in the previous strategy, a map notation. But you don't have interim withdrawal, and then you also have a delay. Once Cabinet in the Yukon makes a decision, it will take three to six months for the feds to actually remove the area from mineral staking withdrawal. So, how does the Premier foresee resolving that issue? Because that is going to be absolutely critical if she's really hoping to increase certainty.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, there are three key points to increasing certainty for not only the mining industry, but for all Yukoners, and the first of those is the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims. And, as I've indicated repeatedly in this House, we're working on that. And the second, of course, is devolution. And the member yesterday was talking about a done deal and is now saying that it's not going to happen. As the member knows full well, there are issues that are still at the officials level, at the working level, on the devolution agreement. And we're working on those, as we're working on the outstanding land claims that are Yukon issues that are at the table.
The other point is a very clear message to industry regarding the protected areas strategy and how we are working on that, and we have given those. We have recognized that there were problems with the process, and we are endeavouring to work on those. It's not going to all be accomplished overnight. We are working on these issues, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Harding: Well, the Premier said that the number one issue is settling outstanding land claims, but we heard yesterday that she has the same mandate as the NDP. So, it's interesting, if she felt it wasn't an effective enough mandate when she was in opposition, that she would be continuing on with the same mandate in government.
Yesterday, I asked her about the waterfront issues. She couldn't answer with regard to the Kwanlin Dun negotiations. It is incredibly surprising to me, considering she's the Premier and supposedly calling the shots on the mandate on that critical question.
With regard to devolution, the deal is done for an agreement in principle. The question is now: do the Premier and the persona non grata federal minister have the chutzpah to do the political work - not the tenets of the agreement? The agreement is a done deal. The question is, can she deliver politically? And that is what we will be watching.
The member opposite says that it is not a done deal. Well, I have a letter from Bob Nault, which I will dig out and provide for the member opposite. There are only small, technical issues. We have covered every serious substantive issue in the agreement in principle. We signed an agreement in principle. It is a matter of record. How the member opposite can state that there are big, back-breaking issues in terms of the substance of the devolution issues, I think is incorrect. There are other issues; for example, Kwanlin Dun is not in favour of moving ahead with devolution before land claims. The Kaska has started to express similar positions. Those are not related specifically to the devolution nuts and bolts but rather an ancillary position that relates to the negotiations and which priority they should have. Those are two different tracks. They are fundamentally different tracks.
We had an agreement from the federal minister that devolution issues with First Nations would be met head-on, and we would work to resolve them. I think the first PSTA that was ever negotiated with the federal government was on devolution issues, because we took that seriously. However, I am certain that, with Bob Nault's comments, First Nations are going to be even more concerned about devolution in advance of land claims. I can understand why the Premier said that Bob Nault wasn't going to be invited back to the Yukon, because he has created a lot of problems for her. I can tell the Premier he created a lot of problems for the NDP government when, a year ago, he walked into the CYFN meeting and told everybody he was going to deliver on changes to loan repayment and section 87. Then a year later, a month after the election, he comes up and said that he can't deliver. So, we have a conundrum here.
With regard to the member's clear message about YPAS, the proof in the pudding for the mining industry will be in the eating, and she will find herself subjected to the same criticism that the previous NDP government was if she doesn't take clear positions on the issues - i.e., interim withdrawal. We reached a strategy with the mining industry and all those involved that said interim withdrawal would follow a defined study area. That's how things like staking takes place, because you do map notation in advance of interim withdrawal. Someone who knows what the study area is and wants to go staking can still stake. That area may eventually be what the group determines is the park or the protected area. So the question is, is the Liberal government committed to an early, immediate interim withdrawal once a study area is defined, or will she be approaching it from another way, saying that map notation will continue, and only once the study area is completely defined will they go for notation? And then, how will she deal with the fact that it takes three to six months to get it through the federal process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member is asking me has to do with the review process. That is what we are working on. That is what we intend to work on within the time frame that the Minister of Renewable Resources and I have indicated publicly.
I would just like to refresh the member opposite's memory with regard to devolution. I said, last night, that there are still some nuts and bolts items that are being worked on at the devolution negotiation table. Now, the member opposite might want to stand and say that the deal is done and that there are no major issues there. However, one of the key issues at the table is the environmental issues. They are very important. There are some tough negotiations going on around those issues. That is what is being worked on.
It is not a done deal by any means. The member opposite chuckles and thinks that it is a done deal. We don't believe that, at this point. It is not a done deal.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is asking what I was doing in Ottawa. I was in Ottawa at the invitation of the then-Government Leader on the Yukon Act. I was not discussing the nuts and bolts of the devolution agreement. I'm not a negotiator. I don't negotiate there.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, the Yukon Act. The Yukon Act is part of the devolution. The Yukon Act also has tough negotiations going on around it. There is a lot of work to be done. There is a time frame in which we hope to complete this work. That's what we're doing. That's what we're targeting. That's what negotiators, who are working very diligently, are doing. I have offered, as the member's former leader offered me when I was leader of the official opposition, briefings on this issue in order that the opposition can be fully updated on these issues.
Now, if the members would like to avail themselves of this offer, I am certain that the devolution negotiator would be happy to provide that briefing. These are nuts-and-bolts issues that they are working on. They are hard negotiations, just as the negotiation of land claims requires some hard, steady work on the part of negotiators. That is what they are doing.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not here to dispute that negotiators are working hard. That's not the point. I'm here to be briefed by the Premier. That's what this whole environment is all about - the Yukon public. This is a public forum.
Now, I see what's happening here. We're getting a Premier who's acquiescing to new demands by the federal government, because there's an AIP. Is there not an AIP?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is suggesting that I'm acquiescing to new demands by the federal government. In fact, the federal government is the moving target. We are steadfast in saying no. The member wants a full briefing on the floor of this House from negotiators. I can advise the member that some of the tough issues at the table are environment issues, processing of payments. Those are some of the tough devolution issues that are being discussed. I don't negotiate devolution agreements on the floor of the House.
I am advising the member, quite within this forum and the rules associated with it, what some of the sticky issues are, just as the member's former leader has stood in this House and said that the issues were the payment for environment and environmental liability, forest fire suppression. The other two escape my memory at the moment - what the former government leader said. What I'm advised is that the devolution issues that are being discussed right now - one of the key issues is the environmental liability issues. Those are still on the table from when the former member was on this side of the House. Another one of the issues that was discussed and that the feds have alternated their position on on occasion at the table has been the question of April 1 - one date versus another date, in terms of processing the transfer. We have focused on April 1 being the best time for transfer in terms of fiscal responsibility.
With regard to devolution, the best way to put it to the member opposite is, "It ain't over 'til it's over." We're still working on it.
And if the member wants more detail from negotiators, whose task it is to negotiate this agreement, I'm happy to make them available to the member.
Mr. Harding: I rest my case. We had a deal on environmental issues and forest fire suppression. Now, the Premier has said that it's the federal government moving the target. She's remaining steadfast in her the position. Then she should be saying, "We've got a deal. It's a done deal. The federal government is moving the target." Why isn't she saying that, instead of saying that we're still negotiating? If she says that obviously it indicates that she is prepared to move as well. She's shaking her head. I mean, it's a basic premise. The issue was resolved. She said the issue is resolved. She said that the federal government is moving the target; we're remaining steadfast. So why does she stand in this House and tell the Yukon public and the federal officials who are listening - they have people who actually do nothing and, believe it or not, listen to this House, clip Hansard and send it to bureaucrats in Ottawa. So, she's now telling us she's still negotiating. Why didn't she say that it's a done deal on these issues and stand up for Yukoners and remain steadfast? Instead she's indicating weakness and then she's prepared to move further even though we've got a deal and an AIP. Do we have an agreement in principle or not? The answer is obviously yes.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is not logical. How can I stand here and suggest to the Yukon public that we have a done deal when the deal has not been done? It wasn't done under the previous government and it has not been completed. There is an agreement in principle. That is not a done deal.
The member is shaking his head and saying that I don't understand and that I'm somehow weakly presenting the Yukon government position. You can't have a done deal unless both parties are agreeing to it and have agreed on dotting every i and crossing every t. What I'm telling the member opposite is that the i's aren't all dotted and the t's still aren't crossed.
Yes, the feds do change their position from time to time. Our position has been fixed and focused. We're negotiating the best deal we can for Yukon, and that's what the negotiators are doing.
Mr. Harding: Well, what we're doing is getting snookered by the federal Liberals in this so-called special relationship. Mr. Chair, she says she remains steadfast, yet she's still negotiating. That's a complete contradiction.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Yes, she's remaining steadfast in her position, but she's still negotiating. If she's remaining steadfast in her position, then what is she negotiating?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the obvious answer to that is: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? For heaven's sake - I'm steadfast in our position that we want the best deal for Yukon. How more clearly could I spell it out for the member? Our negotiators are working. Our position is to get the best deal we can for Yukon. The member has stood in the House and said, "The deal's done." The deal is not done until both parties agree, and all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed. All the i's aren't dotted, and all the t's aren't crossed. They weren't when the member opposite sat over here, and they're not yet. We're working on it.
What on earth is the member trying to suggest? If the member wants to start negotiating for the federal government, I would suggest that he run for a seat in the federal election, although the chance of an NDP government being in Ottawa are highly unlikely in my lifetime or the member opposite's.
That's not the issue here. The issue is: are we working on the devolution agreement? Yes, we're working on it. Is the deal done? No, the deal is not done. It wasn't done when the member opposite was here, and it's not done yet. We're working on it.
Mr. Harding: Well, the deal was done, and we have a new Liberal Premier - a rookie - who is caving in to her Liberal colleagues in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, let me try this tack with the member opposite: what is her position on the big issues remaining - on the environmental liability question and forest fire suppression? What is her position on those?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The forest fire suppression question was when the member opposite was here on this side of the House. It has not come up recently as an issue in the devolution. There are two issues that are sticky.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the members opposite want an answer, I would suggest that they listen for it.
The issues right now on the devolution table and in the devolution negotiations are: payment for environmental liability. This is not a question as to whether or not the payment would be made, which it was when the member opposite was here. The question is how that payment would be made. The reason for that is because, as the members opposite full well know and all of our members know, it's been an issue in this House - how those payments are transferred under health care. We're making sure that those issues don't repeat themselves. That is one of the issues at the negotiating table.
The other issue is, as I have alluded, that, every once in awhile, in the process of negotiations, the feds come up with, "What happens if we did this on this date?" Or "What happens if we did this on that date?" This changes the financial structure of the deal. April 1 is the fiscal year-end for both the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada.
Now, if the members opposite want further details on the nuts and bolts being discussed at the devolution table, I would be happy to have negotiators provide them. Those are the points that I have been advised are the key points at the negotiating table at this point in time. I am not going to negotiate them with the members opposite.
The Yukon government is ensuring that we get the best deal that we can for Yukoners. The member opposite has stood in the House and said, "Well the deal was done when we were in office." Well, Mr. Chair, there is an expression, "Show me." If the deal was done when the members opposite were in power, where is it? Why hasn't devolution happened?
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to change gears here for a minute, Mr. Chair, and ask the Premier where the legislative returns and the information she agreed to provide today are? I have yet to receive them. I recognize that today is not over, but at the end of general debate yesterday afternoon, there were five occasions on which the Premier agreed to provide information. One was the analysis of the last legal decision, and that was agreed to be provided once the government was aware of it. So, there are four pieces of information that I have not received as yet. I was hoping that information would be forthcoming.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm pleased to rise and read into the record that information. As this is a sensitive legal matter, that is how the information is going to be provided to the member opposite.
To date, the legal fees regarding TVX, 123 Inc. and Kassandra - the Government of the Yukon's share of legal fees - is approximately $338,000. This includes negotiating the agreement with TVX.
The number of shares issued by 123 Inc. and shareholders - the Government of the Yukon is not a shareholder - and we are advised that the names of the shareholders of 123 Inc. cannot be made a matter of public record under the Ontario Business Corporations Act. As for the names of current outside counsel retained and how they have been retained, the outside counsel is Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt of Toronto. Mr. Fred Meyer is the lead lawyer. Osler has been involved in the Curraugh proceeding for a number of years. They were chosen by agreement among the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Government of Canada, Government of the Yukon and the lien claimants. As for the impact of the recent court decision, TVX was unsuccessful in their appeal of the Alpha decision, whereby the Alpha group was determined to have an interest in the Kassandra mine.
The impact on the Government of Yukon is that an avenue of confirming our interest in Kassandra has been closed; however, there is still our action against the Alpha group. It is worth noting that the appeal decision was made on a technicality and not on the merits of the case.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask the Premier if she is aware of whom the shareholders are in 123 Inc.?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, I'm not.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to ask if government officials are aware of whom the shareholders are in 123?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the officials tell the Premier who the officials are in 123 Inc.?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've advised the member opposite that, under the Ontario Business Corporations Act that cannot be made a matter of public record. I have received extensive material on this case and I'm certain that officials will make me aware of that information; however, I'm not going to violate the Ontario Business Corporations Act on the floor of this House.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking the Premier to violate any act, anywhere. What I'm asking is that the Premier have the information as to whom the principals in 123 Inc. are, so she knows who those officials are. I'm not asking that that information be made available on the floor of the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Premier if she has had a briefing as to what the potential further legal costs might be for the Government of the Yukon, should this case be pursued further.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have been advised that the legal fees come out of a deal made with TVX, that there is not further additional cost to Yukon. I can advise the member opposite that the officials in the Department of Finance are kept advised of this on a regular basis, and, should there be any additional cost or anticipated expenditure, of course that would come before Management Board and it would be dealt with at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: That certainly doesn't answer the question that I posed. What is the potential exposure to the Government of the Yukon for additional legal costs should this case proceed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, right now, attempts are being made to negotiate and settle this issue, and, should those negotiations fail, then there would be a review of this matter and a determination of whether or not to proceed further, and there would at that time be an estimated anticipation of the costs.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the first questions usually posed when you're looking at advancing some litigation is: what are the potential legal costs, and what is our exposure, should we lose?
Now, that's all the information I'm looking for, Mr. Chair. I'm sure that information is readily available to the Premier, and I'm sure she has an understanding of where I'm coming from, because that's usually one of the first questions that is asked when you review a decision.
If we carry it to the next step, what's our exposure for legal fees, and what costs might we incur should we lose? Now, that's the information I'm looking for, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd invite the member to listen to the answer. The member talked about advancing litigation. What I advised the member in my previous answer is that negotiations are going on at the present time to settle the matter. We are not looking at advancing litigation at this point. We are negotiating, and we are one part of this situation.
I also advise the member that should those negotiations fail, the matter would come back before us, and, of course, that is a question we would ask. That's a question that has not been asked at this point in time because we are in negotiations for settlement.
Mr. Jenkins: That's an internal question that one always asks, Mr. Chair. One asks that question right at the beginning, before you even consider negotiations: what are our options? One of the options you explore is advancing the litigation, negotiating, but you spell out all of these options, and you spell out the costs associated with each, and you spell out the resulting potential exposure in dollars and cents - implication-wise.
Now, those numbers should be readily available to the Premier, and if not, she's not doing her job. I'd like that information, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I know the member opposite fancies himself a lawyer and fancies himself quite wishing that the member was in a different position.
However, there was an appeal filed by the previous government. The appeal has failed, as I have advised the member. The situation is such that negotiations are underway. If those negotiations fail, as I have outlined to the member, then an estimate of proceeding would be discussed at that time. It is part of the agreement with TVX, which the member fancies he knows so well. The situation is that the appeal failed. Negotiations are underway. This matter has not come back before this government. The negotiations are underway. It's part of an agreement. If the negotiations fail, then the matter comes back before us, and, as the member opposite has so strongly urged, we will be more than happy to do our job.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like we have to wait until down the road before this government's going to do its job. Currently, the implication is that they're not doing their job.
Mr. Chair, this issue is an extremely important one as the implications for quite a number of individuals are quite significant. The decision, should negotiations fail, to proceed with a court case - going to trial on this matter - is that a decision that will be made by Management Board, or by this Premier and her Cabinet? Where is the decision to proceed going to be made?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the system is such that Management Board comprises the majority of Cabinet and the decision would come before Management Board for decision. If the action proceeds forward, then a legal bill would also come out of the TVX monies.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm trying to get on the record, Mr. Chair, is whether to proceed or not to proceed is a decision of this government. Is that the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I just stood on my feet and said it's a Management Board decision, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the Premier for her responses, and I will be taking her up on her offer to provide a briefing on this at the earliest convenience. I would suggest Thursday morning, if that could be arranged, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my officials will ensure that they are available Thursday morning for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: During Question Period today, Mr. Chair, I asked the minister about her various meetings in Vancouver. I questioned her on her remarks about Minister Nault not being invited to the Yukon again by her or her government. Her response was to check against delivery. Those remarks were not made at the Hyatt Regency luncheon, to the best of my knowledge, when she had the podium. They were made at subsequent meetings. Can the minister either confirm or deny that she made such remarks?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will not. The discussions that I held with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board were discussions that were held in confidence. The member opposite is, I would suggest, speculating. This government has a very strong intergovernmental relations record in terms of working with other governments within Yukon and outside Yukon. I would invite the member to review the most recent western premiers conference, when the Yukon presented the northern economic development strategy and received the full support - unanimous support - of all western premiers.
The Yukon has been a very vocal voice, joining all premiers in their unanimous position regarding the Canada health and social transfer with the federal government.
I would remind the member opposite that this Premier and the members of this government neither defend nor laud the actions of the federal government - any of the ministers. The federal government ministers do not defend this government on the floor of the House of Commons either. We do not intend to do that in the future, and I am certain that neither do they.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if I heard the Premier correctly, Mr. Chair, she's not going to confirm or deny that she made such remarks. But she's going to once again sit on the fence and not say anything one way or the other. And we heard quite a bit of gobbledegook surrounding the direct question, and it's a very simple question: did the Premier make such a remark when she was in Vancouver? Yes or no? I don't need a song and dance about this, that or the other things - her attendance in Calgary, that she doesn't answer for the federal minister and the federal minister doesn't answer for her, and I don't need the issue that it's confidential. Because every step that the Premier takes, she is the Premier of the Yukon. And everything she says, one way or the other, at one time or the other, will get out into the public domain.
So what we have is a case of the Premier letting her guard down and saying something she knew would be acceptable to the audience she was catering to at that time. It's a usual Liberal ploy that whomever they're speaking with, they will give them the information and the answers they feel they want to hear. But, Mr. Chair, they've been elected now; they don't have to continue that kind of diplomacy. They can be up front and say things the way they are. And when they say them, they can at least admit to them. That's all I'm asking: did the Premier say such words? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I am not going to discuss my private conversations on the floor of this House. The Member for Klondike doesn't relay his private conversations with other elected officials, nor do we challenge him on them on the floor of this House. If the member opposite wants to discuss every private conversation that I've had since I became the Premier, then so be it. The answer will still be the same.
Mr. Chair, I'm looking for respectful conduct in this House, and I don't discuss private conversations that I've had with anyone on the floor of this House without their permission, just as I don't table documents without their permission, or file them with the Clerk without their permission. I had a conversation with a board and I am not going to discuss that private conversation with the member opposite, nor do I ask the member opposite to talk about his private conversations with the Mayor of Dawson in his role as the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, like I said earlier, Mr. Chair, the Premier of the Yukon is enjoying excellent political company. She's right up there with the President of the United States as to the meaning of various words. A private conversation is a conversation between two people. Now, that wasn't the case. This is a conversation between the Premier and an entire group of people, and the content of that conversation is going to be made public one way or the other. I don't have to prove it. I'm making the allegations and the Premier doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to say, "I said that" or "I didn't say that". She's moving all around and deviating tremendously and hiding behind the words, "It's confidential." You know, stand on the fence.
I would applaud the Premier for saying that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs is not welcome in the Yukon. I feel the same way after I heard him at the gold show. He isn't going to do anything for the Yukon. In the mining community he certainly won't do a darn thing. In the settling of the First Nations seven remaining land claims, I'd suggest to the Premier that they're on hold until such a time as the federal government changes ministers. There won't be any type of negotiation until the four claims that are hung up on the two federal issues are addressed.
Once again, Mr. Chair, I would ask the Premier if she made the remarks that the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, the hon. Bob Nault, won't be welcome back into the Yukon again, or she won't be sending out an invitation. I can't remember. I have the words actually written down in my office. I can't remember exactly the way they were put, but they were to the effect that he wouldn't be welcome back here or invited back here any too soon.
Is that what she said, or didn't say?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, we can engage in this line of questioning all afternoon. My answer is not going to change for the member opposite. I have indicated to the member that my conversation with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board was a conversation I had with them and that that conversation was a conversation between us. If the member opposite wants to suggest that I'm going to make public every single conversation I have had, then that's simply not going to happen.
Yes, I am fully aware of the roles and responsibilities. I have told the member many times that I don't speak for Minister Nault, nor does Minister Nault speak for me. I have said this over and over again, over and over again, and we can say it over and over until 5:30 p.m. today if the member wishes.
I had a conversation with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board, as I am expected to do, as I asked to meet with them, as the chair of the board enjoyed a meeting with me. If the chair of the board wanted the minutes made public, that would have happened under the previous administration; however, it clearly did not. I enjoyed the meeting with them. They provided me with advice. I indicated to them that I was interested in receiving their advice, and there's a strong element of Yukon expertise and expertise from elsewhere. The member wants to go on ad nauseum about whether I'm going to defend Minister Nault. I have stated clearly I'm not going to defend Minister Nault.
The question about how Minister Nault conducts himself or his business - he's answerable to another leader, other than I, for that.
Mr. Jenkins: So, it sounds like the Yukon Liberals take the credit when the federal Liberals make a decision that's beneficial for Yukon, but when the federal Liberals make a decision of no benefit or sets the Yukon backwards, like a couple of Minister Nault's recent decisions have, the distance is greatly increased between Ottawa and Whitehorse. Well, it's the same distance both ways, whether you're going to Ottawa or coming back. That's what geography would teach the Premier.
I would urge her to re-solidify this wonderful relationship that she campaigned on during the last election - the great relationship between the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals, and the great relationship between the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, who is responsible for Yukon, and herself. What we were told during the election and the reality of it are two different things.
The Premier, rightly so, took a swipe at Nault and said what a lot of people probably expected her to say, to maintain her popularity, I guess. It had nothing to do with the reality of the day. But what is she going to do? She won't admit to having said those words, but neither will she deny she said them. That speaks loads, Mr. Chair, for what she actually did say, because I stand categorically on the information I received that those words were actually spoken by the Premier. She hasn't refuted that. She just came out and said, "check against delivery."
I don't think that if the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs were looking at any appointments, Premier Duncan would be considered at this juncture.
So, the pork-barrelling goes on.
If we look, Mr. Chair, at the presentation by the Yukon Premier at the Hyatt Regency, I'm very much amazed. This could have been delivered by the former Minister of Economic Development, the Member for Faro, equally as well as Premier Duncan. It probably could have been delivered better. In fact, it would lead me to conclude that they both had the same words craftsman. Instead of being Harding hype, what we have is Duncan hype. But they are synonymous now; there doesn't appear to be any difference between them.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: The hon. Member for Faro on a point of order.
Mr. Harding: I heartily object to that last comment by the Member for Klondike.
Chair: There is no point of order. Would the member please continue.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm very pleased to see the renewed enthusiasm in this issue, but could the Premier just advise the House how she is going to get back on track with the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development for the betterment of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member's premise for the question is absolutely wrong. The member and the truth are not very close acquaintances. The difficulty with the member's premise is that -
Chair: I would ask the Premier to be careful with her references, and maybe to withdraw that comment.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair. I withdraw that remark and extend my apologies to the member opposite.
The member has suggested that relations with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development or the Government of Canada are off track. The member is fundamentally wrong in his allegations. They are not off track. Minister Nault has been advised of the Yukon view on a number of issues and the relationship continues at the officials level. People are still meeting on a number of key negotiations at the officials' level and renewing those discussions.
In terms of Minister Nault and I, or Minister Martin or any of the other federal ministers, I am focused at this point in time in my efforts as Premier, in meeting with Yukoners and in the passage of this budget, which is what we were elected to do. We're focusing on those issues, spending our time and energies on passage of the budget, on working with Yukoners and on working with those interested in investing in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I might ask the Premier, Mr. Chair, to refocus. Whether the budget passes this House this month or next month or even the month following is immaterial. The main driving force in the Yukon is the economy and that must be addressed. The main impediment to furthering the economy of the Yukon is, number one, settlement of the Indian land claims. Four out of the seven remaining Indian land claims are hung up on two federal issues. With respect to mining, all that is in the domain of the federal government.
We do have some leeway with oil and gas. We would have a lot more leeway in southeast Yukon if the land claims were settled in that area, but so much is dependent on the relationship between the Government of Yukon and the federal Liberal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. For that relationship to falter or indeed even stop momentarily is an impediment to the Yukon. And the Liberals were, in a large part, elected because of their platform that they, as Yukon Liberals, had an extremely close working relationship with the federal Liberals. And that relationship has kind of come unglued.
Now I'm not suggesting it's the MV Titanic Yukon, but, you know, we've got a real problem. And unless the issue of a relationship is built upon, we're not going to go anywhere. And the Premier has indicated that there's not a problem. Well, if there's not a problem, can the Premier advise when we're going to see some benefits of this wonderful Liberal relationship between the federal government and the Yukon Liberal government? Because to date we have been going backwards.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon will be able to, as I invited the mining community to do, check against delivery and determine what we have accomplished as a government working with First Nation governments, working with the federal government, working with municipal governments, working with industry. That's what Yukoners will be able to do. Yukoners will be invited to do that throughout our mandate.
We are also, as I told the member, working on these issues. The first task, in terms of spending authority, is passage of the budget. And the member is quite correct: we can continue in general debate and debate the budget throughout June, July, August and September, and then move directly into our legislative session. While we're doing that, we are continuing to work as a government, to meet with First Nation chiefs, to further our work at the federal government level, in terms of positions put forward to the government, seeking their response through correspondence and electronic mail. We are working with all governments within the territory and outside of it. We are working with the governments of Alaska, Northwest Territories, British Columbia, other governments, the federal government, First Nation governments. Our work is continuing.
We also have a task at hand: passage of the budget in order to achieve spending authority. Now, if the member opposite has a specific question in general debate, I'd be delighted to answer it. With respect to the member's suggestion that there is some difficulty with our relationships with any government or individual, I would invite the member to provide me with details on that because, to my knowledge, our government does not have a difficult relationship with any other government. Certainly, that view was not expressed at the western premiers conference or at any of the other premiers conferences. In conversations I have had with western Finance ministers, there has been a positive, cordial, working relationship all the way around, and I thoroughly expect that to continue.
I also fully expect that my colleagues and I will deliver on our commitments to Yukoners to provide good government and to work on what we have outlined as our priorities before Yukon voters.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister failed to note that there's getting to be fewer and fewer Yukon voters and our population is eroding because of the lack of economic activity here in Yukon, Mr. Chair, but be that as it may, I guess the rose-coloured glasses are still quite prevalent in the honeymoon that the Yukon Liberals are enjoying.
I'd like to explore with the Premier the issues surrounding the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and what position we have for a fallback. Let's recognize that the product is owned by a couple of companies in Alaska. The market is in the Lower 48. The exercise is to transport a product we don't own to a market that's not ours. What's the most cost-effective and beneficial way, not for Yukon but for the United States? What the U.S. is looking for is security of supply. They're looking for the best and most cost-effective way of moving a product from the North Slope of Alaska to the Lower 48.
Now, I agree with the Premier that it would be ideal for the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline to proceed. The right of way is all there. Everything is in place - licensing. Probably some additional work has to be done.
But in many of the camps and with many of the people whom I know in the industry, it's not the favoured route, Mr. Chair. It's not the favoured route for a number of reasons: additional distance, cost. Across the northern part of the Yukon and down the Mackenzie Valley, it's 200 and something miles shorter and over a billion dollars cheaper.
Now, I guess when you don't understand money, a billion dollars is just a billion dollars. But I'd like to ask the Premier what the fallback position of the Government of the Yukon will be should it not come down the Alaska Highway. How are we going to capture some of the benefits that would accrue to the north from the construction of such a massive project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of the Yukon's position has been clearly supportive of the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The member is quite correct in that there are key decision makers involved in this project. The producers will make a decision, and the pipeline builders, construction companies, will also make their decisions.
The position - and the member's suggestion that the Alaska Highway pipeline route is not the favoured route - is in part our efforts to ensure that it is the favoured route. There are a number of very, very clear advantages to the Alaska Highway route. The member has mentioned the right-of-way. There is also the existing certificate of public convenience and necessity. There are also the existing gas production and construction facilities. There are also the advantages in terms of the regulatory process. There is the regulatory process, the anticipated head start, that we have on the Alaska Highway pipeline. The member has suggested that either the offshore route or the "under the park", as we refer to it, routes would be more favoured.
We have clearly, with the producers, stated that we oppose those routes now and that we will vigorously oppose them at the time, should they be further advanced. We have been absolutely unequivocal with them on that issue. The decision, although it's not ours to make, is anticipated to be made within this year, and we are making best efforts in ensuring that we do our homework to make sure that the Alaska Highway pipeline route is the favoured route. We have pulled out - and we will continue to pull out - all the stops to do what we can to ensure that that is the chosen route. It is clearly the most advantageous - environmentally, economically, existing regulatory legislation. It is very clearly advantageous for the producers, and we are making every effort possible to ensure that they are fully aware of that and of our position.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that position, Mr. Chair - it might surprise the Premier - is not shared by many in the oil and gas industry, and I would just like to ask the Premier how she intends to deal with a decision on this matter that might not even come through the Yukon. The Liberals' position with respect to the offshore boundaries of Yukon was that we really didn't have to follow Nunavut or the Northwest Territories. The boundaries of the Yukon are historical high water. You just have to go to the Northwest Territories. Actually, Northwest Territories probably has care and control of the offshore waters in the northern part of Yukon.
The pipeline could be buried. But when that was pointed out to the Liberals, it wasn't really an issue; they didn't take exception to it and didn't really want to bother their friends in Ottawa with this issue.
But what comes around goes around, and what goes around comes around. And we could potentially have a pipeline laid across the northern part of Yukon, outside of the boundaries of the Yukon Territory, that we would have no control or jurisdiction over. It would be a decision made by Canada and the Northwest Territories, and how would Yukon benefit? Well, I guess we would have some trucking through the Yukon on the way up to Inuvik. They would stop in Whitehorse for a load of fuel and a sandwich, I guess, and we'd all have to be dependent on that business that's going somewhere else.
But I'd like to know, if we can't sell the Alaska Highway pipeline and that doesn't come into focus and occur, how is the Yukon going to be involved in this project? And what benefits will accrue? What's our fallback position? Any prudent business manager analyzes the various options. And as a government, that series of options is before this Liberal government. Now what's the fallback position? How are we going to benefit if it doesn't go down the Alaska Highway?
And the minister is wrong about another area, in her assessment of the pipeline going down the Alaska Highway, and it's a concern that has been pointed out to me on a number of occasions: it goes through a major earthquake zone that there are serious concerns about. But that's not even mentioned at all. Let me make it abundantly clear: I'd like to see it go down the Alaska Highway, but in the event that a decision is made that we have no part of, I'd like to see us with a fallback position so we can reap some of the benefits of the construction project and benefits perhaps from the use of the product out of that pipeline.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: O ye of little faith - way little faith. The member is suggesting, at the outset, that the Yukon government and Yukoners cannot sufficiently state their case about the advantages of the Alaska Highway route to convince producers of it. I can assure the member, as I have done earlier in this House, that at least one of those producers heard the message loudly and clearly that this was the most advantageous route.
I can assure the member opposite that at least one of those producers was very open and listened to what we had to say, and has heard regularly from officials at the officials level - from Government of Yukon officials, to officers in their company at the other-than-president level - on the advantages of the Alaska Highway route.
The member is also completely erroneous in his view of the north Yukon. The member has not even mentioned the First Nation's settlement in the north Yukon, and the fact that that settlement agreement does not recognize any potential pipeline benefits or rights-of-way. That is completely contrary to Yukon First Nation agreements, which do recognize the pipeline issue.
The member is also completely incorrect in his view of Yukon's legislative authority offshore. It's unfortunate that the member has pursued that age-old argument presented by former Yukon Party members of this House.
There is jurisdiction for Yukon, and I will provide the member with the briefing note on that, with a constitutional synopsis, which outlines what our role is. Part of our role, in order to ensure that Yukon's voice is taken into account on these issues, is the establishment of an offshore intergovernmental committee.
Officials have already taken steps in that regard. That is underway, as the member I'm sure should know, or thinks he knows.
I've quite frankly come to doubt the member's support for the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The member is so entrenched in the election campaign and in opposition that he fails to recognize that this is an area where Yukon can speak in harmony with a single voice on behalf of all Yukoners, and we can present eloquently and well our case to producers on the advantages of this particular project.
We are endeavouring to do that, as in the steps that I have publicly outlined for members opposite. We're working on that and, as I have said to the member - and I used the colloquial phrase - we'll pull out all the stops to do everything we can, and we will do that, as we will do everything possible that we can to oppose the routes the member is advocating, which is offshore in the Yukon and under the park. These are completely and environmentally unacceptable. They are not acceptable to Yukon and we will vigorously oppose them in every forum open to us.
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Committee will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd just like to point out for the Premier's benefit that I have a tremendous amount of faith in Yukoners. What I do not have faith in is this Yukon Liberal government doing what they say they are going to do.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Premier to table the report or paper that she has that outlines Yukon's offshore jurisdiction. Can she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. I will have that provided to the member opposite and will table it in the Legislature as soon as it's made available.
Mr. Jenkins: For the benefit of the House, could the Premier perhaps outline some of the points made in this document with respect to Yukon's offshore jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't have them immediately in front of me. They are my recollection from discussions with constitutional individuals, when discussions were taking place with respect to the Yukon Act. This same argument was presented by the Yukon Party at that point in time. There were opinions given in those discussions, and there were opinions that I sought on my own, as leader of the official opposition at the time, with respect to the Yukon and the offshore and the boundaries of Yukon, which was what the focus of the argument was at the time. I do not have that research material with me in the House or in front of me. However, I will make it available to the member opposite in a very timely manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the information in that paper the basis for the Premier categorically stating that the Yukon has offshore jurisdiction in that region?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would indicate to the member opposite that I will review Hansard. However, my position has been that we will categorically and unequivocally lobby against any of the alternative two pipeline routes that are proposed: one across the North Slope offshore of the Yukon and the under-the-park route, which crosses the Richardson Mountains.
I also advised the member opposite that there was work being done on the part of officials to put together working committees that would deal with these responsibilities, and I will also provide that information to the member as well.
Mr. Jenkins: The northern part of the Yukon, and indeed part of the park, is subject to Inuvialuit land claim settlement. So really, we have a group of First Nations that are primarily resident in Alaska and the Northwest Territories and have the land claims up in the northern part of Yukon and have jurisdiction. And currently, the former Premier of the Northwest Territories is the president of the Inuvialuit Development Corporation, Nellie Cournoyea. So what would appear is that we have the land claims in that area controlled by a First Nation that is resident primarily outside of the borders of Yukon. We have a leader of that First Nation development corporation who is well-versed in the politics of the Northwest Territories, indeed she was the premier there for a number of years, and their lobbying position is quite a well laid-out position.
They're advocating that the pipeline proceed in that area, and it would appear that all the First Nations in that region and the Government of the Northwest Territories are really all singing from the same song sheet. Now, that does a lot when an oil company or any resource company comes into a region.
I was wondering just how the Premier of Yukon is going to counter their position when the land claims in that area are held by a group outside of Yukon, and she's dealing with the former Premier of the Northwest Territories who is now the president of their development corporation. They attended the pipeline conference in Calgary. They were there, advancing their position along with a number of the elected officials from the Northwest Territories. Yukon wasn't present; we just go to the world stage. We don't deal with the realities of pipeline construction and oil and gas issues that are regional to the northern part of Canada. No, we just go to the world stage, Mr. Chair.
I don't know if the Government of the Yukon is anticipating buying shares in any of the print media, but perhaps they should. Well, I don't know if Mr. Black would even consider an investment from the Government of Yukon.
Press coverage is meaningful to those lay people who consume that type of paper, but the people who are going to make the decisions on this issue would probably only give that paper a cursory overview. They deal with the reality of it.
So, I'd just like to ask the Premier, Mr. Chair, how she intends to counter the proposal from the Northwest Territories.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the pipeline conference that the member alluded to and suggested that we were somehow remiss in our duties in not attending, I would remind the member, took place within less than a week of our taking office. Yukon was well-represented by officials at that pipeline conference, and decisions with respect to the pipeline are going to be made by the producers, world players. Those world players were at the World Petroleum Congress, and I met with one of them, one of the three - very good meetings.
Now, with respect to who has offshore jurisdiction and offshore boundaries, et cetera, I have already committed to the member that I will provide information from those who are more learned than I on the particular subject. I would advise the member, however - and the constitutional folks really enjoy those discussions. The issue for governments is, in an example like an offshore project, whose workers' compensation rules apply.
I can advise the member that that was one of the points we used in our discussions - his former leader will recall that - and we have been assured that it would be Yukon's. Now, the regulatory issues and permitting processes with respect to an offshore project, and the same issues with respect to the under-the-park route, which is not a transportation corridor for anything but caribou, Yukon would be involved in any of those discussions. Yukon has stated, very clearly, that we oppose those two options - vigorously oppose. Categorically. We oppose those two options, and we will continue to do so.
The member has not stated which route he is advocating. The member has simply stated over and over again that the Yukon's position is apparently not acceptable to the member. The member seems to be advocating the offshore route, so I would ask the member, of the two northern routes the member seems to be a proponent of, which of those two he favours - under Ivvavik National Park or the offshore of the Yukon?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister has failed to answer the question about how she intends to deal with the Inuvialuit and the Northwest Territories governments combined, and their positions. Just to oppose it vigorously - how? By saying that we have jurisdiction for workers' compensation? Come on. That's pure bunk, Mr. Chair.
With respect to my position on the matter, I have categorically stated in the House that I favour the Alaska Highway pipeline route. I favour it. I'm not wasting the House's time. I'm not even considering wasting the House's time. I'm asking the Premier what her fallback position is if this does not become a reality. There are a number of other options open to Yukon, and there are a number of other potentials, like the Dempster lateral. That hasn't even been explored or discussed. It could be a very good fallback. What is the Liberal government's position with respect to the enlarging of the Tombstone Park? There is currently a move to enlarge Tombstone Park so there's no pipeline right-of-way down the Dempster. What is the Liberal government's position on that matter, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have answered the member's question many times. Yukon's position is that we favour, we advocate and we will aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline option as the route. We will aggressively promote it, and that is exactly what we were doing.
We are vigorously opposed to either the two northern offshore or under-the-park routes that are proposed. The decision is not ours to make. The decision is that of the producers. The best way that we can see - and the member has yet to suggest any other options - to aggressively promote that option is to speak directly with the producers who are making the decision and the pipeline builders.
The Dempster lateral, which the member refers to, has a permit in place. The exact wording on the permit - I will advise the member that it has been renewed. There is existing work in place. The Yukon has, in short, done everything it possibly can with respect to offshore, in terms of urging that the intergovernmental committee be put in place to deal with these issues. We have urged that it be put in place and are working toward that.
We are also ensuring that our constitutional homework is done with respect to the offshore in the Yukon. We are ensuring that we promote the Alaska Highway and do our homework on that issue. We are doing our homework on the Dempster lateral. We are doing everything we can in promoting the Alaska Highway and ensuring that all other avenues that are anything to do with the Yukon have been dealt with and that we have done our homework in this area and that we are doing our utmost in this regard. If the member is suggesting that there is some other meeting or some other avenue we should be pursuing, I invite the member to make that suggestion. There have been no other options presented to me that we have not pursued. We have every potential meeting, and we are continuing to do that.
We are resourcing the department to ensure our socio-environmental liaison - every avenue - has been covered. We re-listened to the 700 hours of the Lysyk Inquiry that the Member for Lake Laberge heard in their original form and ensured were taped and preserved. We have examined every word contained in that. We have met with federal government officials and the assistant deputy ministers committees in Ottawa on this. I have written to Minister Goodale with respect to renewal of permits on the Dempster Highway. We have stated categorically our opposition to the offshore and the north Yukon route with producers and pipeline builders. I have indicated to Premier Kakfwi in the Northwest Territories that the Alaska Highway route is the preferred route and urged him to read the article that was recently published in the Globe and Mail, which quoted pipeline producers on this. I have met with the pipeline folks on this, and, again, if there is some avenue or some suggestion that the member has about us doing something better, I'd be delighted to examine it. I don't know what that is at this point in time, and I haven't heard the suggestion from the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just take these one by one. Let's start with the Dempster lateral. What is this Liberal government's position on the expansion of Tombstone Park's boundary to include the pipeline right-of-way?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have written to Minister Goodale on preservation of that right that existed along the transportation corridor. I have written to renew that permit - I believe that's the correct word. If the member opposite requires that correspondence, I will forward it to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Tombstone Park is a Yukon park, Mr. Chair. It's established under the Yukon Parks Act, so the Premier has complete care and control regarding the boundary size and whether the sizes are based on the recommendations that come to her table. I would like to know this Liberal government's position on the expansion of Tombstone Park's boundaries to include the pipeline right-of-way. What's her position, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My position on the Dempster pipeline right-of-way has been to ask Minister Goodale, in writing, to renew the existing permit. The member is suggesting that there is some other avenue that we could pursue in that regard, and I would invite the member to state what it is.
It is a previous document that was issued by the federal government and it's a legal right, which we have asked that they renew.
Mr. Jenkins: But what I'm asking the Premier, Mr. Chair, is, what is her Liberal government's position on the expansion of the Tombstone Park boundary to include the pipeline right-of-way?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Liberal government's position is that the pipeline right-of-way should be renewed. That's what we have asked the federal government to do, because it's under their purview to do that, and that's what we have asked them to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, the Premier has failed to answer the question. Is she in favour of expanding the Tombstone Park boundaries to encompass the pipeline right-of-way?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have written to Minister Goodale to renew the pipeline right-of-way on the Dempster, and I will provide the member opposite with a copy of that letter. Beyond that, there is no other information that I can provide to the member opposite. I have written to Minister Goodale on this. I have asked that the pre-existing document be renewed, and that is the position of the Liberal government. That permit should be renewed; that is our position.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the Premier has failed to answer the question. My question to the Premier is, what is the Yukon Liberal government's position on the expansion of the Tombstone Park boundary, to include that area where the pipeline right-of-way exists? Are they in favour of it, or are they not in favour of it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this government has not been asked about the expansion of the Tombstone Park boundaries. We haven't been asked about them. What we have been asked to do is to do our homework, ensuring that Yukon's existing permits were renewed. We have been doing exactly what the member suggested - well, it's not that member who suggested it, but what the Yukon public has suggested we do, which is aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline project and to ensure that our position is well known on other pipeline proposals.
Our position has been to do our homework on these efforts. I will happily provide the member opposite with an answer to the question that I have been asked. The suggestion is that we renew the permit. I have asked the federal government to do that. No one has asked about the expansion of the proposed boundaries. No one asked this government about that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, Mr. Chair, let the record reflect that the Premier has failed to answer the question. I'm aware that there's an existing pipeline right-of-way down the Dempster. It is the Dempster pipeline corridor. They have a permit in place for X number of years, and then it comes up and is subject to renewal. The Premier supports it. She made that abundantly clear. I would like to thank her for that information, but that was not the question.
There is, currently, a move to expand the boundaries of Tombstone Park. I want to know what the Liberal government's position is. Will they allow the boundaries to proceed, through an expansion, to cover and include the pipeline right-of-way?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is asking a hypothetical, speculative question. We don't answer those questions and we're not going to answer a hypothetical question from the member opposite. Check the rules. We don't answer hypothetical questions, and we're not going to speculate. What if it rains tomorrow? What if the sun shines for the next six months while we spend time in general debate, listening to hypothetical questions from the member opposite? It is a hypothetical, speculative question. It will not be answered by this Premier, nor any members of this government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's take a different tack. Would the Premier be in favour of a pipeline existing in a park?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, it doesn't get more hypothetical than that.
Mr. Jenkins: The Premier has categorically stated she's not in favour of mining in parks, and it's not a hypothetical question. There is a potential for the Tombstone Park boundary to go over the highway. Now, would the Liberal government be in favour of allowing a pipeline to exist in a Yukon park? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The minister responsible for Renewable Resources has reminded me that there's another ice age coming, too, and we're still going to be in general debate on this budget.
The hypothetical, speculative questions from the member opposite are entirely out of order. In general debate, if the member wants to ask a hypothetical question about what I'm having for dinner tonight, go right ahead. I'm not going to answer that. I'm not going to answer a hypothetical, speculative question.
What if the producers decided tomorrow that the Alaska Highway was the favoured route? What if the producers made a decision tomorrow that the offshore route was their choice; what would we do then? I've stated clearly, we oppose those routes. We will aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline project - aggressively promote.
I've offered the member all kinds of information on that. I've offered the member the document that I have signed off on the renewal of the permit for the Dempster lateral pipeline. I've offered the member the information on that; I've offered the member all kinds of information. I'm not offering the members, and I will not, an answer to a hypothetical, speculative question.
Mr. Jenkins: It is not a speculative question, Mr. Chair. The Liberals' position on mining in parks is that they don't want to see it happen. They don't want to see it occur.
The question to the Premier, Mr. Chair, is about pipelines in parks. There is no speculation whatsoever. There is a potential for pipelines in parks or through parks. Now, is this Liberal government in favour of it or not in favour of it? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is speculating that the park boundaries would encompass this. The member is speculating that the Dempster lateral might be built. The member is speculating on all types of items.
That kind of question has no place in this general debate. I'm not going to answer a speculative question any more than I'm going to speculate on whether or not the member will be successful in his bid for the leadership of the Yukon Party, or whether or not the interim leader will still be here six months from now. I'm not going to speculate on those matters, and I'm not going to speculate on the expansion of park boundaries, and I'm not going to speculate on whether or not there will be a pipeline in a park, or whether or not the sun will come out tomorrow. That's what weather forecasts are for.
The member can ask me this question in the balance of the time today, and the member can ask me this question again tomorrow as we begin general debate. I am not going to answer a speculative question.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is called the runaround. It is called a Premier who is not prepared to address her responsibilities.
It would appear, Mr. Chair, that the Premier has not done her homework. I guess the messenger boy is off to get more information for the House, so I'd like to thank the Premier for seeing if she can provide more information on this subject.
We have a pipeline right-of-way down the Dempster. We know that. What I'm asking the Premier is if she would approve of the Tombstone Territorial Park boundary expansion if it encompassed the pipeline right-of-way. Is she in favour, or is she not in favour, of allowing a pipeline to run through a park? Yes or no? I'm specifically referring to the Tombstone Park.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member's disparaging comments about my colleague notwithstanding, we have come into this House fully prepared to answer questions in general debate on this budget - fully prepared. The member is choosing to speculate and will next be asking me if I intend to close the Dempster Highway. I have advised the member that speculative questions will not be answered. I have offered to provide the member opposite with written communication from the government in this regard, and what I have stated, and I am prepared to provide that, as we have expressed our preparedness to provide all sorts of information to the member opposite.
The member is asking about a decision that may or may not come before Cabinet, in terms of expansion of park boundaries - may or may not. The member is asking if the existing permit would or would not continue to exist. Would we allow such a project or would we not? The issue is such that we have taken steps to ensure that existing permits are in place and continue to be in place.
We have taken steps to aggressively promote the southern route. We have taken steps to aggressively oppose two northern routes. The Dempster lateral, to which the member referred, is not on the radar screen of at least one of the producers. It is not even on the radar screen - to just reinforce for the member just how hypothetical the question is.
It is very reminiscent of 12 days of larvicide debate, which I am sure the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes recalls fondly. I have advised the member that I am not going to answer a speculative question. I have advised the member of just how speculative that question is.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has just advised me that I don't know the cause of mosquito larvae. The member is quite correct that I would not wish to engage in a larvicide debate. I'm certain that the current Minister of Community and Transportation Services is looking forward to that and to discussions about gravel.
The point for the member opposite is that our steps in this regard and what is within our purview to make decisions on - because other requests have not come to Cabinet - is to initiate correspondence with the Minister of Natural Resources Canada and advise him of our recommendation to renew this existing permit. That is what we have done, and that is what I have offered to provide the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds very interesting, Mr. Chair. What we have is a Premier who is stating that, with respect to the Dempster lateral, it's not on the radar screen of one of the oil producers. That is most interesting. And yet the companies in that industry took the time to secure a right-of-way and go through the appropriate process many, many years ago, because they anticipated the need for that corridor and for a pipeline right-of-way some time ago.
Currently, the minister's own government is preparing for land sales to the oil and gas industry in that northern part of the Yukon for this July. So, eventually, there is a potential for a possible oil or gas pipeline down the Dempster. It exists. It's a reality.
Now, let's contrast that with the position the Yukon Liberal Party has taken with respect to mining claims in parks: mining is still a federal responsibility, and its care and control is still a federal responsibility. The Yukon Liberal position is that they are opposed to mining in parks. Fine, but if the boundaries of the Tombstone are extended over the Dempster Highway, in the corridor, and is not maintained wide enough for the Dempster Highway lateral - no. And it wouldn't really matter to 99.9 percent of the people that the pipeline could go through the edge of the park.
So, in one respect, we have a government that is opposed to mining development in parks, even though they don't have control or jurisdiction over it - they are legally staked - and wants to buy them out or purchase them. I don't know which way the minister wants to spin it today. Those two words are synonymous. They mean exactly the same thing.
On the other side of the equation, we have the Premier stating - or, she won't state what her position or her government's position is with respect to a pipeline going through a Yukon park. We have a potential for two pipelines in the Yukon running through Yukon parks. We have the northern part of the Yukon, where there is a park and a potential for a pipeline to go through it. And there is a potential for the Tombstone Park boundaries to be expanded and the Dempster lateral could be contained within the park's boundaries.
I'm just asking the Premier of the Yukon to state her Liberal government's position with respect to the Tombstone Park and whether she would permit the pipeline to go through it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have advised the member that I would file the letter that I sent to Minister Goodale regarding this issue, and I will advise the member that it says that the discussions are underway between Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. and Natural Resources Canada to extend the Dempster link agreement. This is the agreement. So "permit" was an incorrect choice of words by me. It's the Dempster link agreement. The agreement was initially entered into by the Government of Canada and Foothills Pipe Lines Ltd. in 1978 to provide a transportation option for Mackenzie Delta and Beaufort Sea natural gas reserves. This represents a commitment by the company to build the pipeline in order to transport Mackenzie Delta gas to market. Foothills has a mapped route for the pipeline that follows the Dempster and Klondike highways, but there is, contrary to what the member has stated, no right-of-way reserved for the pipeline. There's a corridor along the Dempster Highway that is excluded from the Tombstone Park. The corridor is intended to allow for infrastructure development including a possible pipeline. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the steering committee are aware of the government's reasons for excluding this corridor from the park. We also dealt with Foothills in the establishment of the corridor to ensure it would meet the company's needs. And, further to this, the issue has been for the Government of Yukon to confirm with the Government of Canada the Yukon's strong support for the renewal of the Dempster link agreement.
So, not only are the member's questions hypothetical - and I note that the member used the words, "but if", and if "if" isn't a hypothetical word, then I don't know what is.
The member has also suggested that the Tombstone Park doesn't recognize the infrastructure corridor when, in fact, as I have just noted on the record, it does recognize the infrastructure corridor.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister's officials for apprising her of information that she should have had, and let's look at one of the other issues that we were discussing earlier: the constitutionality of the offshore rights of Yukon in the northern part of our territory.
Is the paper that the minister is going to be tabling the same position paper that was obtained under the Yukon Party, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I learned a long time ago not to rely on Yukon Party advice on anything - a long time ago.
The documents to which I am referring - the member was not present. His former leader was, so perhaps I can relay the information to the member. During the discussions surrounding the Yukon Act - and the definitions of the boundaries of the Yukon Act are contained in the Yukon Act itself - the suggestion was raised by the Yukon Party that the boundary issue should be dealt with, and the Yukon Party had presented documentation in this regard. The position of the previous government was that there are additional arguments on this issue, which the Yukon Party had not necessarily taken into account, and there was some discussion around the boundaries of Nunavut, the offshore boundaries of Nunavut, and how islands were or were not part of Nunavut, and how the high-water mark is traditionally decided as a boundary, et cetera.
There were discussions with constitutional officials in the committee room at the time, which reassured Yukoners that the offshore issues were dealt with in the redraft of the Yukon Act to the degree required at this point in time. On my own, I also reviewed the Yukon Party arguments and discussed them with individuals.
What I have provided to the member today in this House is my recollection of the discussions at meetings and key points that were contained in various documents and in discussions. What I have said to the member opposite is that I am more than willing to provide those differing opinions to what the member has put forward, how Yukon's authority and ability with respect to offshore and jurisdiction are perceived and presented by this government, and how we are working on offshore issues. I am happy to provide that information to the member opposite, and I also further committed that this government would be pleased to provide that information in a timely manner. And we are prepared to do that.
What I used as an example for the member, and what was used as an example in the discussions with respect to offshore jurisdiction - and it is the same discussion that other provinces have had with respect to offshore developments - is the question of whose jurisdiction applies in such situations as a workers' compensation claim? That was the example that was used. So, when someone asks the question of who has jurisdiction two miles offshore or who has jurisdiction 12 miles offshore, if an individual is working in that location, the workers' compensation that applies in the case of the offshore is provincial, which is, in this case, the Yukon. That was the example that I used for the member to bring it home and to make it clear how the offshore jurisdiction discussions played out in those meetings.
I've also said to the member that I would outline, and have outlined for him, in writing, what steps have been taken with respect to the offshore and intergovernmental committees in this regard.
I would, of course, remind the member that this is not simply a Canadian issue. Even the U.S./Yukon - Mr. Chair, let the record in Hansard reflect that the member has agreed with the Premier on a particular point. The member has agreed that Yukon shares a boundary - Canada shares a boundary - with Alaska. There are international boundary issues here. Many discussions take place, in far bigger forums and with far more eloquent speakers, on these issues.
This government is prepared to provide the member with the information he has requested and the arguments that have been presented. I would remind the member that the issue is the promotion of the pipeline. The issue for the member is the opposition by the Government of Yukon to an offshore or an under-the-park route. The member has not expressed his opposition to those two routes, and I certainly haven't heard the member issue any opposition to them. I'm curious about how the member reconciles that particular stance with his new-found colleagues.
The member has not expressed his opposition to those two routes, and the Yukon Liberal government clearly has.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, may I move that you report progress?
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:28 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled June 20, 2000:
Speech given to mining executives in Vancouver, B.C., by Premier Pat Duncan at a "Welcome Back" luncheon (June 15, 2000)
The following Documents were filed June 20, 2000:
World Petroleum Congress/National Petroleum Show (Calgary, June 13-15, 2000): Premier Duncan's Itinerary
Development in Yukon: newspaper articles related to