Wednesday, June 21, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Tribute to National Aboriginal Day
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to National Aboriginal Day.
Former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc declared June 21 as National Aboriginal Day four years ago to honour First Nations cultures and to recognize the many contributions our first peoples have made to Canada.
In the Yukon, these contributions have been unparalleled in every area imaginable - in politics, the arts, education, environment - the list goes on.
Our First Nations people have worked incredibly hard to preserve the rich cultures and languages that helped make this territory a very special place.
Members of this Legislature join me in feeling proud and blessed that we have had the opportunity to spend our lives in the Yukon surrounded by such a vibrant First Nations presence. Certainly it has shaped me, as it no doubt has shaped all Yukoners in one way or another.
National Aboriginal Day gives us an opportunity to gather, to celebrate, to learn from one another. It doesn't stop there. I encourage all Yukoners to take the opportunity every day to gain a greater understanding of all cultures that make up the Yukon.
I encourage everyone to enjoy the next four days of celebration and to examine the various exhibits and to attend the celebrations held throughout the Yukon.
Günilschish. Mahsi' cho. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: We, too, would like to rise and pay tribute to National Aboriginal Day. Much is said in terms of our aboriginal people - of course, of which I am one. It's all true - if I can say it - it's all true. This country was built by the aboriginal people and for the aboriginal people, if I could say it in that manner. We'd like to share the land with everybody, and I think that's what makes this country so great. The Premier spoke about our languages and our cultures and I, and our caucus, hope that we'll be able to preserve these and take them as our guiding documents into the future.
I think, most preciously, I would like to mention our elders and our children, because they truly are the future. You look around the Yukon Territory and you see the Alaska Highway and the different highways that we have throughout the Yukon Territory. Originally most of those highways were trails blazed by the aboriginal peoples, so I'm very proud to be of aboriginal ancestry and very proud to be in the House and very proud to be able to stand here today and ask all people to just reach out and hug your aboriginal neighbour today.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also rise to pay tribute to National Aboriginal Day. The best tribute that Yukon can pay on this National Aboriginal Day would be to advance land claims in Yukon. National Aboriginal Day, Mr. Speaker, is a national day of celebration, officially recognized by the Canadian government in 1996. That's when former Governor General Romeo LeBlanc proclaimed June 21 National Aboriginal Day to honour First Nations, Inuit and Métis cultures, and to recognize the many contributions aboriginal people have made to Canada.
June 21 was chosen because of the cultural significance of the summer solstice and because many aboriginal groups already marked this day as a time to celebrate their heritage. Setting aside a day for aboriginal people marks an important step in the wider recognition of aboriginal people's important place within the fabric of Canada and their ongoing contribution to Canada.
Mr. Speaker, I join with the rest of my colleagues to recognize and celebrate today, National Aboriginal Day.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Jenkins:I would like to introduce the former Member for Riverdale North, the next Member of Parliament, the hon. Doug Phillips. I guess he's not honourable any more. I don't know.
I guess he is the new MP for Yukon and the current and recently elected president of the South M'Clintock Association.
Speaker: Before calling for tabling returns and documents, the Chair notes the Premier, when tabling documents yesterday, made a statement about documents which would not be tabled. Members are to restrict themselves to a straightforward description of documents being tabled. If members wish to explain why certain documents are not being tabled, there are other opportunities in the proceedings of this House to do that.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling three documents: a letter to the hon. Ralph Goodale, dated May 30, 2000, respecting the renewal of the Dempster link agreement; a legislative return, which details the Yukon's offshore jurisdiction, which was discussed in Hansard, pages 291 to 293. It is a briefing note outlining background information on Yukon's offshore jurisdiction. The third legislative return is an answer to a question from the interim leader of the official opposition respecting the dates of correspondence and timelines.
Mr. Keenan: I have for tabling the Yukon government's presentation to the CRTC regional hearing. I have also for tabling the presentation to the CRTC by the official opposition.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) physical fitness is an important component of health; and
(2) Yukon people deserve access to the outdoors and facilities, where possible, to pursue physical fitness; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to support the public facilities and programs that enhance physical fitness and promote long and healthy lives for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the NDP were poor fiscal managers in government; and
(2) the previous NDP government recklessly spent down the surplus; and
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the previous NDP government tabled a deficit budget of $27.5 million for the 2000-01 fiscal year;
(2) the estimated revote of lapses for the 2000-01 fiscal year is $13 million; and
(3) the previous NDP government left an operating surplus of $14.7 million for the 2000-01 fiscal year; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to be prudent fiscal managers and spend money wisely and in the best interests of Yukoners during its mandate.
Mr. Harding: The Liberals tabled our budget and are spending more, but I give notice to the following motion, Mr. Speaker:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) during the recent election campaign, the Yukon Liberals made commitments to increase the wages of workers in private day homes; and
(2) neither the throne speech nor the supplementary budget introduced by the Yukon Liberal government has made any reference as to how the government intends to honour this commitment; and
(3) the Premier has acknowledged the territorial government's finances are in a healthy condition, including an accumulated surplus of more than $56.2 million dollars as of March 31, 2000; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to do what it said it would do, by introducing a supplementary budget that provides the necessary resources to the Department of Health and Social Services to increase the wages of private day home workers.
I give notice to the following motion as well, Mr. Speaker:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal Party made a clear commitment in its election platform to make the settlement of outstanding land claims its top priority; and
(2) the resource sector has confirmed that settlement of these claims is crucial to providing the certainty needed in order to make investment decisions affecting the Yukon; and
(3) the Premier has advanced the position that settlement of the remaining claims is not a difficult resolution; and
(4) recent statements by government members have successively weakened the priority status the Yukon Liberal government has accorded to the settlement of these claims; and
(5) statements by the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs have cast considerable doubt over the willingness of the federal government to address the two major federal obstacles to the resolution of outstanding land claims; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to call upon the Prime Minister of Canada to direct the Ministers of Finance and Indian and Northern Affairs to provide federal negotiators with a more constructive mandate that will make a timely resolution to the remaining Yukon First Nations land claims possible in order to create certainty for all Yukon people.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT Standing Order No. 45 be amended by
(a) adding the following new provision:
"(4) At the commencement of the first session of each Legislature a Standing Committee on Appointments shall be appointed to review and report on appointments proposed by the Executive Council to those boards, commissions, councils and committees identified in the motion appointing the Committee."; and
( b) renumbering the remainder of the Standing Order accordingly.
THAT the government caucus appoint three members, the official opposition appoint two members and the third party appoint one member to the Standing Committee on Appointments; and
THAT the terms of reference of the Committee be as follows:
(1) The Committee may review appointments proposed by the Executive Council to:
(a) the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors,
(b) the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors,
(c) Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board,
(d) Yukon Lottery Corporation,
(e) Yukon Recreation Advisory Council,
(f) Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board,
(g) Yukon College Board of Governors,
(h)Yukon Electrical Public Utilities Board, and
(i) Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
(2) The Committee may also review such other appointments proposed by the Executive Council as are referred to it by the Executive Council or are referred to it by a separate motion of the Legislative Assembly.
(3) The Committee shall prepare a report within 45 days of receipt of a proposed appointment, and such report shall contain:
(a) the decision of the Committee as to whether it would review the proposed appointment,
(b) where the Committee has decided to review the proposed appointment,
(i) the recommendation of the Committee as to whether the appointment should be made, or
ii) a statement that the Committee has chosen not to make a recommendation, and
(c) the reasoning the committee chooses to include respecting its decisions or the recommendations.
(4) The right of the Committee to report on a proposed appointment continues in those cases where the Commissioner in Executive Council or, if applicable, a Minister has found it necessary, due to legal requirements or operational needs, to make an appointment prior to the expiration of the 45-day period.
(5) The Chair of the Committee shall present all reports of the Committee to the Legislative Assembly. If the Legislative Assembly is not sitting at the time a report has been prepared, the Chair shall forward the copy to all Members of the Legislative Assembly and then release the report to the media and the public.
(6) The Committee shall hold its meetings in camera and is empowered to call proposed appointees as witnesses. The Committee may also invite ministers to appear as witnesses.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Oil and gas development, public consultation
Mr. McRobb:It's becoming increasingly clear to Yukoners that the Liberals don't do what they say they will do. Each day in this House, more examples of arrogance and evasiveness emerge. Yesterday we heard the Liberals stonewall on the upcoming patronage appointments, then the Premier circumlocuted on her recent comments to mining executives. So much for being open and accountable, Mr. Speaker - another broken promise.
Now, the Premier stated her position in this House on March 9, 1999 that the Liberals would not proceed in developing oil and gas in the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd until the Vuntut Gwitchin are prepared for it to proceed - are prepared for it to proceed, Mr. Speaker. Should the Vuntut Gwitchin decide it is not prepared for the development to proceed, is the Premier prepared, as she promised, to pull the call for nominations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I responded to the member opposite's question yesterday. And I further outlined in a legislative return today giving the date when consultation was initiated with First Nation governments.
As the member is well aware, the important process to be followed first and foremost involves respectful consultation. That has been undertaken, and it has started. That has been outlined with time frames for the member opposite in a legislative return today, if the member has forgotten the process that was outlined by the previous government.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the only members in this House who have forgotten anything are the Liberals in their commitment and promise to Yukoners to consult them before they put this process in motion. The horse is out of the barn now and it's too late. If the Vuntut Gwitchin decide they're not ready to proceed, it's too late to stop this process. The Premier did not listen to them. They sent a letter, and they went. That is not respectful consultation. They say one thing and do another. The credibility is very low.
Now, I would like to ask again: will the Liberal government keep its promise and hold off on any oil and gas development until the Vuntut Gwitchin are prepared for it to proceed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First and foremost, I would suggest that the Premier's credibility is not low, and I would invite the member to revisit the transcripts of this morning's news reports.
Secondly, I would advise the member opposite that the public process is very, very clear, and it has been undertaken as has been outlined. The first step in the consultation process is to begin discussions with First Nation governments. That has happened.
The member is trying to suggest that I have been down on 5th Street, southwest Calgary, hawking land sales. That is not what I have done. I have met with industry and advised them that we will continue to follow the existing process and that we will live up to it. I also said that I had initiated the process, as has been outlined, and that we will follow that process. I would invite the member again to revisit that process and have a look at it, because that's what we're doing.
Mr. McRobb: The Premier didn't answer my question. It's sounding more and more like the Liberals promised whatever they could to get elected. So much for being open and accountable, Mr. Speaker. I would like to ask again: should the Vuntut Gwitchin decide it is not prepared for the development to proceed, is the Premier prepared - as she promised - to pull the call for nominations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would invite the member opposite to revisit the public process that has been outlined. The call for nominations is not until step three in this process. It's a public process that was outlined by the members opposite. It is one of - if not the - most public processes in all of Canada.
This government has a very respectful process. We work with First Nation governments. We work with all governments in the territory and out of this territory. Step two in the process is government-to-government consultation with First Nations. I outlined for the member in a legislative return today that those letters were signed on June 9 and sent to four First Nations: Tetlit Gwitch'in, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, Nacho Nyak Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
They weren't sent by snail mail either, if that's the member's next question; they were sent via express to ensure they were delivered. The consultation process has begun. We stated we would conduct respectful negotiations and discussions with First Nations and all governments, and that we would be a government that acted openly and accountably and with respect - that's exactly what we're doing.
Question re: Oil and gas development, public consultation
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, it's very interesting - another question not answered, another promise not kept. It's more and more revealing to Yukoners every day of what this government intends to do in terms of public consultation. They send a letter, and then they go do whatever it is they want to do. They don't wait until they hear back. They didn't hear back from the Vuntut Gwitchin before promoting this to the oil and gas industry. They didn't hear back from the boards and committees before doing it. It's a one-way street.
It is becoming evident, each and every day, Mr. Speaker, that the list of broken promises is getting longer. Can the Premier explain why she didn't live up to her promise to first consult the public and identify conservation goals before offering further land to the oil and gas industry for exploration and development? For her assistance in answering this question, I'd like to highlight that point: before offering further land.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, let me highlight for the member opposite another legislative return and information given to the member opposite and not heard. I have stated the public process. I have outlined it with time frames in the legislative return for the member opposite. I have stated and restated and restated in this Legislature that step two of the public process in this is to begin consultations in a respectful manner with First Nation governments, and that is what we have done.
The review of that input is the second step. Then, and only then, is there a call for nominations. My commitment to the oil and gas industry was that we would follow this process and that we were working in this process toward a second land sale committed to by the members opposite and the previous government.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is still not answering the question. Why did they break this promise to first consult, before they offered up this land to the oil industry - to first consult? We're not getting an answer to that question.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday I mentioned - and I will repeat it again today - that 82 percent of the Liberals promised, including the Premier herself, to consult with the public on identifying conservation goals before offering more land to the oil and gas industry. In reviewing the environmental questionnaire, I have discovered that all six Cabinet ministers felt the same way. They all agree to consult before offering the land up.
I would like to ask the Premier again: should the Vuntut Gwitchin decide they are not prepared for the development to proceed, is the Premier prepared, as she promised, to pull the call for nominations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane is not listening to the answers.
First of all, the second step in this process is consultations in a respectful manner with First Nations. The member is trying to suggest that we somehow bypassed the duly elected governments of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation, the Tetlit Gwich'in First Nation and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, that we somehow bypassed and were disrespectful of those duly elected governments. The first step is consultation and initiating consultation in a respectful manner with First Nation governments. That is the step we have taken. That's what we're doing: consultation.
The member is suggesting, yet again, that somehow I or some member of this government have been down in Calgary selling land for oil and gas. That is not the case. What we have stated is that we will follow up on commitments made by previous governments -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the members are interested in the answer, I would be delighted to provide it for them. We have said that we will follow the process as outlined and that we are working within this process. It is a common oil and gas regime that is well-understood by industry -
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please conclude her answer.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, another question unanswered, another promise broken. This issue is not about process. It's about keeping your promises. It's about doing what you said you would do. It's about the Liberals living up to their promises to Yukoners. Obviously they're not doing that.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to remind her about the role of some of the boards and councils established under the umbrella final agreement that are charged with the responsibility to ensure the protection of Yukon's resources. Why didn't the government consult them before announcing plans to call for nominations in a month? I'm not asking her for the date of the letter she sent. I want to know about their consultation with those boards and councils and what they said about her going to Calgary, promoting this oil and gas land before determining these things in consultation with them.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member is referring to the umbrella final agreement. The member knows full well that giving life and meaning to the umbrella final agreement means working with First Nation governments in a respectful manner. The respectful manner, as laid out for the development of oil and gas and for land sales, is for the second step in that process to be consultation with duly elected First Nation governments, such as the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Tetlit Gwich'in First Nation, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation and the Nacho Nyak Dun. Those are the First Nations I have written to, and those letters have been sent. The process is clearly outlined in the legislative return that has been tabled for the member opposite, and I would invite the member opposite to take a good look at it. It's one of the best common oil and gas regime pieces of legislation. The member opposite stood in this House touting it over and over again, and we're following it.
Question re: Alcohol and drug services, creation of independent commission
Mr. Jenkins:I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. During the recent election campaign, the Liberals promised to create an independent alcohol and drug abuse commission to be the sole agency responsible for funding alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment throughout the Yukon.
Now in general debate in Committee of the Whole on June 15, the Acting Premier stated that the independent alcohol and drug abuse commission is a new project that would require legislative authority. In view of this statement and the fact that this commission is to be independent and the sole agency for funding alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment throughout the territory, can the minister advise the House if he will be tabling in this House an alcohol and drug abuse commission act similar in nature to the Workers' Compensation Act, which was also established as an independent agency?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has asked a question about the drug and alcohol commission. We are exploring our options. We did state that as one of our points in our platform: that we would look at alternatives for servicing the needs of alcohol and drug problems in our territory. We have had many discussions right now with many of the stakeholders, but we are just in the preliminary stages with trying to look at where we want to go with our whole process and our commitment.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there is a commitment and they are proceeding with it. That's what I concluded from the remarks made by the minister. Can the minister advise the House how the current staff in the alcohol and drug services branch will fit into the creation of an independent commission with the sole responsibility for alcohol and drug abuse? Will they be offered positions in this new agency, laid off, terminated, privatized? Are there any negotiations ongoing with the Yukon Employees Union?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We will respect all the statutes that are in place. We do not make such comments about privatizing. I don't know where they are coming from. They may privatize, we will not. That is not what we are all about. What we are going to do is, number one, look at where we are at. The services that we have now are providing a need. We believe there are more needs out there. We are going to take some time in coming together as to how we are going to assess these needs and then we are going to move from there. And we are going to do that with Yukoners; this is not going to be a unilateral decision made from Cabinet or from caucus. It is working with people. It is looking at their resources and it's looking at their strengths. We do want to make the right decision here because we're looking at a 10-year plan, not a two- or three-year plan.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister summed it up quite succinctly: the services out there are providing a need. He's absolutely correct; there's a need for services. Now, it may be that the creation of this independent alcohol and drug abuse commission is going to be effective and beneficial - but 10 years, when you only have a four-year mandate and you are part way into it and it doesn't look like anything is going to change for the first year. How is this commission going to work? How will it deal with the problems we are facing - FAS/FAE. Is the minister saying that the employees in the current drug and alcohol services are incapable of dealing with the problems that we have and that the work can be performed better under the guise of this new agency? Is that what he's saying? Or just where are we headed in this 10-year program?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We're not like the opposition; we're not like when they were the former government. They tended to work on two- and three-year plans. We are working on a long-range plan that is good for Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. And in my experience here in the territory, it has always been that we no longer can afford to look at the short-term plans, because quite often they don't work. What we have to do is look at the long range.
And, Mr. Speaker, what we are going to do is touch base with those jurisdictions that already have this type of a plan in place. We're going to draw on their resources, and we are going to draw on the resources of Yukoners because we have a lot of experience in this area. We have a lot of employees who work very hard in the areas of alcohol and drugs. We want to utilize their resources. We very much believe that Yukoners can offer and deliver a program that can be first-rate. I have mentioned this many times before. This is not a big bureaucracy. It's only big because we want to make it that way. And I am committed to working with Yukoners; I am committed to coming up with a program that all Yukoners will embrace.
Question re: Legal aid funding
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice has been asked about legal aid funding several times in this House, and she has been unable to tell us what her priorities are. The previous government started a comprehensive review of the legal aid system and added money to the budget to support civil legal aid for families in need. I ask the minister to tell this House: does she support additional civil legal aid funding for single parent families, who have been denied access to the legal system?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I support the completion of the review before we make any further decisions about legal aid.
Ms. Netro: The first time I asked the minister about increasing legal aid funding, she said that there is a question about whether anything can be afforded at this point. The Premier has acknowledged there was a $56.2-million surplus when the Liberals took office, so I cannot understand why the Liberal government has not put more legal aid funding into their supplementary budget - something they said was needed when they were in opposition. When will this Liberal government bring forward a supplementary budget for legal aid funding, which they said they would do?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, as I have said repeatedly in the past, the legal aid program is under review. That review began in February under the previous administration, and I expect that a final report will be available within the next few weeks, perhaps in early July. I'm looking forward to receiving that report, but I cannot promise anything without first studying the recommendations.
I say again that the surplus the members opposite talk about is a figment of their imagination. It is a $14-million surplus.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, a review is too late for many single parent families in the Yukon. The judiciary and the Canadian Bar Association have publicly stated that legal aid funding needs to be increased. The NDP government increased legal aid funding. The Liberal opposition said the additional money wasn't enough. Why did the Liberals tell the government and the public that they would increase legal aid funding and not put any more money for legal aid in their supplementary budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the government's priority for legal aid is to ensure that a long-term solution is in place that addresses the key issues facing this service and meets the needs of all Yukon people. I will not make any commitments on the legal aid program until I have studied the report.
Question re: Pioneer utility grant increase
Mr. Keenan: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. A number of seniors and elders in my riding are very concerned about the rising cost of heating fuel and propane. This minister has used a lot of words to describe the valuable contribution of seniors and how we should help them to stay in their homes as long as possible. Will the minister put those words into practice by immediately raising the pioneer utility grant to help the seniors and elders meet the increased costs of heating their homes?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm not sure that's a question for me. I'm not connected to heat and all those kinds of things that he is referring to, but I definitely, as I have said in previous -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Are you finished?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely astounded, and I have seen some moments in this Legislature, but for a minister to stand and not even know who should be answering the question on that side shows very much a lack of leadership.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I'd like to refer to the specific rules and Addendum No. 1 on guidelines for Question Period. "A brief preamble will be allowed in the case of the main question and a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question."
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this is not a point of order at all. The member, in his preamble, was doing exactly as the rules set out for us to do. We have been doing this for the last nine days and today in this Legislature the same way, and this is simply not a point of order, just a rude interruption.
Speaker: Although it's true that the rules are such that allow members to give a brief preamble, it hasn't been followed in the House for some time. Isn't that correct? So, at this time, without some guidelines, I'm not prepared to rule that the point of order is valid.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for those wise words.
Mr. Speaker, let me direct my question, then, to the Premier if the Minister of Health and Social Services does not know his department. I'll just continue to direction my questions to the Premier.
During the election campaign, both opposition parties promised to increase the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent. The Liberals did try to play catch-up, without making any real commitment, though. Let me quote the promise made by the Member for Riverdale South, and it's still on the Liberal Party Web site, "We're committed to making sure that seniors have the services they need, like pharmacare and the pioneer utility grant. These are essential services for our seniors and we will support them."
Will the Premier now, on behalf of her government, demonstrate their support for this essential service by increasing the pioneer utility grant in time for this winter?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We care about seniors. We have spent a lot of the last nine days talking about our commitment to seniors. I think, basically, we want to do what is right for Yukoners. We've made that point many times before; they are our guides and actually, the member opposite has made that point many times himself. So we would basically want to work as a party, as a government, to ensure that we support our seniors in whatever way we can.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, here we go again; you say one thing to get elected and then when you become the government you have an absolute lack of clarity in what leadership is really all about. There is a $250,000 for grants to prospectors - nothing for seniors. This minister has already reneged on the Liberal commitment to seniors in Watson Lake, and now what's he doing to all the other seniors and elders who are worried about being able to stay in their own homes? Mr. Speaker, there's $56.2 million in the coffers; we don't need excuses. I'd like to ask the minister: why doesn't he bring forth a supplementary budget to raise the pioneer utility grant by at least 25 percent while this House is still sitting so that the seniors might have some cash in their pockets for this coming winter season? Will the minister please do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have listened to the member opposite; he has made his point. We care about seniors. I am pleased that you do underline that every time you mention it. I'm really happy that you support where the Yukon Liberal government is. We believe in seniors; we believe in consultation; we believe in people. It's much like when they were in power; I didn't ever see where they had increased anything, other than use it for electioneering purposes. Here we are, trying to pass the budget - their budget - and they are not able to get on with it. So, Mr. Speaker, who really cares about Yukoners? It basically has to be the government of the day, because we want to see this budget through. We want to make sure there is certainty in our economy. I think the important part about it, we keep hearing this sing-song about the $60 million. They're trying to make people believe there is a $60-million surplus. It's their books that tell us there is $14.7 million - their books.
Now, we've taken on the responsibility, Mr. Speaker, and we're making sure that the public knows, that every Yukoner knows, that what we're dealing with is their budget, and we're trying to follow through on it.
Question re: FAS/FAE, funding for services
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, what bafflegab from the Health and Social Services minister - we're not getting any answers whatsoever, just talk, talk, talk, talk, talk. It's really difficult to understand - after the minister is done and you read what he said - what he is actually talking about. They are all hollow, empty words about how much he cares, but certainly, actions speak louder than words.
I want to ask about FAS/FAE. The Liberals, time and time again, in stacks of press releases, told Yukoners that there was a need for more resources in FAS/FAE to fight the terrible influence in the communities of alcohol and drug abuse and what it's doing to the future of this territory. Yet, in the supplementary budget they brought forward, there was $250,000 for prospector grants, but nothing to increase FAS/FAE funding. Will the minister bring in a supplementary budget this session to put more money - put his money where his mouth is - for FAS/FAE services in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, we hear the hollow, empty vessels of criticism. When they were in government, they didn't do any of those things. They denied there was a problem with FAS/FAE for at least two and a half years, until it was firmly resounded by the opposition that we had a problem. That's on record. That is shameful that they did not recognize that we had a problem.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, sir, we will. We will work with those people who are most directly affected. We have met with many of our stakeholders already to discuss ways and means of trying to solve this issue, and we are continuing to do that. As I said before, consultation is the key word here, and it's called being honest with Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: Yes, we have seen how the Premier does consultation. They send a letter and then make an announcement that they're completely locked into. We've seen how they've done consultation with the seniors and elders in Watson Lake, where they promise a new extended or multi-level care facility there, and then, in the first two months of government, go completely off the rails on that promise. They cut their candidates loose, saying that they're not accountable for them.
They bring in an NDP budget and then say that they are not accountable for that. Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. In the case of this minister, we get nothing but hollow answers.
Will he bring in a supplementary budget to increase the funding for FAS/FAE services in this territory, which they promised to Yukoners and about which they told Yukoners they cared when they were sitting in opposition.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, you can believe that in the future this government will respond to the needs of FAS and FAE. We believe in the needs of our people.
As I said earlier - I guess I have to repeat it again - they had three and a half years to do something, and they only did something in their last year. I don't understand why they want us to do something in two weeks. We can't fix all their broken promises.
I think it's important, Mr. Speaker - they constantly deride the rest of us because of our positive initiatives. They expect us to do, in two and a half weeks, what they couldn't do in three and a half years. I can't believe it. But then, again, I guess if you're looking for camera time, that's what you do.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, you got the minister over there, who says, "In the future, we are going to start acting in the best interests of Yukoners." I guess that's what the Liberal slogan was all about when they said, "It's all about the future." Nothing for Yukoners right now, but just wait for the supplementary. This is going to be the messiah of all supplementaries - in the fall. We can hardly wait.
Now, Mr. Speaker, they told the people in this territory that they actually cared about FAS/FAE. They told the people of this territory that they actually cared about the seniors and elders. They called the situation of FAS/FAE a crisis. Yet, what were their funding priorities in the supplementary budget? There was $250,000 more for grants to prospectors and zero for people in need of alcohol and drug services and FAS/FAE services.
Why and how can they reconcile this obvious disregard for this important need and important service in this territory?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: A very good point was just raised. If it is so important to them now, then why wasn't it in their own budget, the budget that they were trying to pass here?
It's very interesting. As I've said many times, we are to fix all of their mistakes, all of their problems, in two and a half weeks. We have been in session here for close to nine days. We have not passed the budget that they submitted earlier, which was in place for 10 days. So we're on this budget for 19 days at this point in time, and they don't want to pass the budget. For some reason they want to hold it up. They're not interested in what Yukoners need. If they wanted the budget to be passed, Mr. Speaker, we would have done it in two days. Instead they're holding the House up; that's exactly what they're doing.
Our commitment to FAS and FAE will be far more than $250,000 that he keeps alluding to, but we are going to plan with our stakeholders, we're going to work with the people who are affected by it, and we're going to develop a plan that will be here for 10 years minimum.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This bill will provide spending authority for the departments of government in the event that the main estimates have not cleared the House by July 1. In addition to the warrants that were signed by the Commissioner to cover spending or commitments incurred for the period April 1 to June 30, the present legislation asks for an additional $33.1 million. This will bring the total appropriation authority the government has in hand to $298.1 million. This relatively large sum has not, of course, all been spent, but the government requires appropriations in order to make commitments on contracts that will be paid for in future months.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, it is interesting, you know. We just heard from the Minister of Health and Social Services that they can't get the budget through, they can't bring certainty, but yet here we are debating a bill that provides spending authority to continue on with the budget planning in process. I really don't understand what they're talking about. On day nine, we have seen people absent from this House for whom we have questions, and we have been doing that very methodically, moving through the budget. This provides the spending authority for the members opposite to proceed with the plans in the budget.
The rookie Minister of Health and Social Services over there has been complaining about 19 days debate on a budget. Mr. Speaker, I was in a session in this House for 76 days once, and after nine days, he's standing up and saying, "Let us go, let us go; I want my summer holidays to begin." They have work to do. We're here doing our jobs, and we're moving methodically through this budget. Today there's an interim supply bill that is going to allow the government to have spending authority, and there is a lot that we have to hold the government accountable for. We have seen so many promises fall by the wayside, and it's very clear that -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: I hear the minister saying that he's trying to correct mistakes. I think he should be worrying about trying to correct the mistakes he has already made in two months and start focusing on that, because that's a real problem.
We have some serious weak links opening up in the Cabinet ranks of the Liberal government. The Premier is so embarrassed by the minister that she doesn't let anybody but the principal secretary talk to the local media. He has to answer for all the ministers, because apparently she's afraid that the ministers don't even know how to respond - the accountable, elected ones - so they have to have their principal secretary respond. It's something we have never seen before. The Premier obviously feels that, without a doubt, her ministers are incapable or incompetent to respond to the local media. So, we have seen trends like this continue. They haven't been seen much before in the past in the territory.
We are exposing the inability of the members opposite to produce any policies and platforms. The Minister of Health and Social Services said that the NDP on this side of the House didn't like their policies. They don't have any policies. They haven't made one policy initiative or statement in this entire legislative session, with the exception of signing bonuses for the YTA at the collective bargaining table. They haven't implemented one new economic initiative. They haven't told Yukoners in any way, shape or form what they plan on doing to try and stimulate and continue to diversify this economy. They table our budget - the NDP's budget - and then say, "Don't blame us, it's the NDP." They stand up and say that they are accountable for the budget, and then they stand up and accuse the NDP of reckless spending when they brought in a supplementary that spent more than the NDP. And then, Mr. Speaker -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: Pardon me?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding:Mr. Speaker, I'm shocked. The members opposite are accusing me of using up debate time for making solid, legitimate points about how inappropriate their behaviour - Mr. Speaker, the public out there should be listening to the yelling coming across the way from the other side. These are the Liberals who said they would bring more professionalism to this House, that they wouldn't engage in heckling, that they would be the models of good behaviour in this House, and I can barely hear myself think from the heckling that I'm receiving. Mr. Speaker. It's hurting my feelings.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to the members opposite: they promised the Yukon that, come the fall, there will be the supplementary. Well, I say to them, given all the promises - and we just heard the Minister of Health and Social Services - if you keep talking to him, he always coughs up. He said, "Our commitment to FAS/FAE is going to be a lot more than the $250,000." So, we look forward to seeing that in the supplementary budget.
Mr. Speaker, we know there are commitments out there. They have said that they're going to respond to legal aid. They said they were going to purchase a dialysis machine. They said they're going to put more money into the economic development branch in certain areas. They have said they're going to increase the cultural industries and heritage budgets, but yet we have the Member for Riverside stand up and talk about the reckless spending of the NDP.
Mr. Speaker, this will be the mother of all supplementaries. Everything is, "Wait till the fall. We're going to tell you our policies in the fall." But before the election it was the Premier telling Yukoners, "Wait till the election; then we'll tell you what we're going to do." Now it's, "Wait till the fall, then we'll tell you what we're going to do."
Mr. Speaker, there are so many inconsistencies from the members opposite, so many things we have to expose. It's really quite apparent, as we go on throughout this legislative session, that the Liberals don't do what they say they're going to do. I can't believe the numerous promises and commitments that they have been evasive on, that they have avoided coming through on for Yukoners. Today in Question Period we saw the Premier try to stand up and talk about the Yukon Oil and Gas Act and the process unveiled in that for delivering on land sales.
Well, we know the Yukon Oil and Gas Act is good. It was an NDP act that was unanimously passed in this House. That's not the point. The point is that the Premier said she wasn't going to do these land sales without the permission from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation for the development. She has broken her promise. Then she told the environmental community she'd consult before she went out for land sales.
It's clear, Mr. Speaker, that she's not doing that. She has already started the process. She refuses to answer the question whether she will pull the call for nominations, like she promised, if the Vuntut Gwitchin doesn't allow the development to proceed.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's clear that the horse is out of the barn with regard to the oil and gas call, and that's fine. That's a decision that the Liberals have made. They have to be accountable for that.
Mr. Speaker, we're here to hold them accountable. I am shocked, frankly, that this bill would be brought forward for interim supply and that we would still hear, in the midst of this interim supply bill, which would give them spending authority, the heckling and complaints from the members opposite about the budget.
Mr. Speaker, we know that the members opposite are anxious to get out of here; they want to go on holidays, but they cannot abrogate themselves of the responsibility to do their job as government ministers and government Cabinet. They have a lot of work to do for the fall because they have promised a throne speech; they have promised more funding for just about everything under the sun, and they have promised to balance the budget. So, Mr. Speaker, they have a lot of work ahead of them.
One of the things that we, in opposition, have to do is ensure that we hold them accountable for their promises and point out to Yukoners that they are not doing what they said they would do when they mess up. And Mr. Speaker, we are also here to congratulate them when they undertake a solid initiative. Unfortunately, we have seen precious little in the way of solid initiatives from the members opposite.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Harding: The members opposite are signalling that I should stop now because the camera is off, but I want to tell them that I am fundamentally committed to what I'm saying. It has nothing whatsoever to do with whether the camera is on. I know they are motivated by the camera. I know that that's their driving force. I know that what leads them through the desolate despair and hollow void of the agenda they have is their love for the camera.
We heard the Premier tell us that we should be listening to the transcript because she's the darling of Chevron. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, we know the Premier like they don't know the Premier.
Mr. Speaker, we found out that the people in the Yukon who really care and who really matter are the ones who should be concerned about what the Premier is doing here.
Mr. Speaker, it's nice that she was enthusiastic in her meeting with Chevron, but the bottom line for Yukoners is that they said that they're not doing any work up here until she settles land claims. They also said that Anderson also said that they're not doing any work. So, it's great that the Premier is enthusiastic. It would be nice if she actually delivered with some substance in this territory and actually starts to do what she says she's going to do. We are more than prepared to pass interim supply. This would give the government spending authority. They'll be able to carry on with the budget - our budget - that we passed and that they have now said that they are accountable for.
Mr. Speaker, we look forward to the fall, as well, when the Auditor General reports on the fiscal situation. He will show that when they took over, there was a $56.2-million surplus, and I would suspect it's going to be even more.
So, I say to members opposite that we will be supporting this interim supply bill so that the government operations can continue on, and we can continue to debate and discuss this budget and hold them accountable for what they're doing.
Mr. Jenkins: I, too, will be supporting this interim supply bill, Mr. Speaker, but let's just have a look at what we're accomplishing here. The interim supply bill will commit approximately $300 million of a $500-million budget, when you add the interim supply bill to the warrants that have currently been in use.
This is the largest budget - $500 million - ever in the history of the Yukon. On the opening day of this session, I presented an option that the government should have - and I bet by now they're wishing they had - explored it. What is becoming abundantly clear as we proceed through this sitting is that this new Liberal government is totally unprepared to govern.
They are totally unprepared with any policies. Virtually all we've heard of are the window dressings and the wonderful ceremonies and the great speeches about how wonderful and what potential we have, and 10-year plans but, really, there hasn't been anything concrete come forward with respect to the position of this Liberal government. And that in itself is very, very disappointing - very disappointing to me and probably very disappointing to all Yukoners. And the Premier might have thought that the accolades presented to her or given to her by the oil and gas people were great, but the message that came through is the message that we are not going to be doing anything in the Yukon until the land claims are resolved. That message was driven home by Chevron, Anderson and, I'm sure - although it wasn't reported on the news media - a lot of the mining companies.
So what do we have today, Mr. Speaker? We have the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon Territory. We have no oil and gas exploration. We have fantastic potential in those areas. We are probably going to hit the lowest ever mining exploration spending in a decade or so - that's this year. We're probably going to have the lowest level of mineral production in a long, long time. It used to be that mineral production in the Yukon was two or three times the budget of the Yukon government. Now it's just a drop in the bucket. But there's hope on the horizon. There is a tremendous amount of potential here in the Yukon, a tremendous amount of potential in the people in the Yukon and a tremendous amount of potential in our natural resources - our forests, our minerals and our oil and gas.
But it's going to take a government with a plan, with the ability and with the intestinal fortitude to sell those plans and carry them forward. Sadly, Mr. Speaker, to date this Liberal government has demonstrated none of the above. The ability that they have demonstrated is the ability to speak well for the Yukon at the various conferences and events they attend. They have very sharp scissors for the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and very sharp knives for the cake-cutting ceremonies. But other than that, the Yukon is stagnant, Mr. Speaker, and I find that appalling. We haven't got much hope, and it'll be until the fall before we see any hope. The more we see this government in action, the less chance we see of any hope.
So, Mr. Speaker, in spite of the government of the day not taking some firm, concrete advice that I provided to them on the first sitting day of this legislative session, I don't know. It looks like we might have to advance another interim supply bill at the end of next month.
All we are looking to get out on the record, Mr. Speaker, are the policies that this government wants, and we'd like some clear, concise answers. This government leader and her ministers have been remiss in providing them to this Legislature, and that in itself is extremely disappointing. We could move on very, very quickly if the answers were forthcoming - definite, definitive answers that outline the policies and the game plan of this new Liberal government.
We look forward to hearing them, because it's very, very hard to pry them out one at a time. It's agonizing, but if we have to, we will, because that's what being in opposition is all about. That's what our responsibility is: to ensure that this government and their policies are kept accountable - that's what it's all about.
Now, I want to make it abundantly clear, Mr. Speaker, we're not delaying this budget. The problem is that this government is not answering questions that they have to answer about this budget. That is the problem summed up very succinctly. This interim supply bill will ensure that the government continues its operations for the next month, and I support this interim supply bill. It's a routine, housekeeping initiative.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan:There is a temptation to respond to the rhetoric of the members opposite. Suffice it to say that this government doesn't provide Oscars; they're given out by another institution. And it wasn't that stellar a performance by either of them.
This bill that's before us provides spending authorities for the departments of government in the event that the main estimates have not cleared the House, and we are all well-aware of the purpose of this bill, and I strongly commend it to the House to move it through to Committee for debate.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee will be dealing with Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 4 - Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am certain that all members of the House are well aware of the purpose of this bill. It requests $33.1 million in appropriation authority for the month of July in order that the government can continue to function if the main estimate debate remains incomplete.
Since we've obtained special warrants for the period of April, May and June, the sums being requested for the department here are in large measure one-ninth of the remaining expenditures in the mains.
I welcome questions from the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: We don't have any questions per se, Mr. Chair. We concur with the reason for this bill. We only suggest that the Liberals should have taken another tack at the onset of this sitting, so that we can get on with the business of governing Yukon in a much more expedient fashion than the Liberals have demonstrated to date, by their presence here in the House.
You just have to look at the initiatives that are underway around the Yukon to see how sadly we are lacking in any sort of development in so many areas where there is such tremendous potential and to just look at a couple of those areas.
There is the oil and gas industry, and the Premier's attendance in Calgary. That was great. Both Chevron and Anderson spoke highly of the Premier and what she had to say, but the underlying message is: "Don't bother coming back to talk to us until you're in a position to sell something or offer something, and you can't do that until such time as land claims are settled in the Yukon. So, thank you very much. You're a great lady. It was a great speech, but just go away and do your work. Get on with it and get the land claims settled up there, and then we'll have a serious look because there's tremendous oil and gas potential."
I'm sure that virtually the same message echoed from the mining community. We have a wealth of mineral potential underlying the mantle of the Yukon, Mr. Chair. Yet, as a consequence of the political bungling and a relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals that may or may not exist but was a main campaign platform plank in the last election, the benefits are not accruing to Yukoners as a consequence of this wonderful, close-knit relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals.
So much for mining, mining exploration and oil and gas. In forestry, we have a little bit of potential there but, again, it's largely dependent on the settlement of the land claims.
So, if the government of the day could focus their attention in dealing with the realities of Yukon issues, we might be much better off, instead of calling this House to order and not having a budget of their own, but someone else's and wanting to fumble through the budget in very short order - a budget which is the largest budget in the history of the Yukon, Mr. Chair - and when we look at this interim supply bill, this is just a standard housekeeping procedure.
So, we're in support of it. We have nothing against the bill itself, and we'll support it, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will now go through Bill No. 4.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 4 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now turn to Bill No. 21, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
Bill No. 21 - An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have previously introduced this bill and spoken to it, as have many members of the House.
This act will bring forward the provisions of a cut in personal income tax to all Yukoners and, further, it allows for provisions for tax credits for the Fireweed Act, which is a particular fund that has been supported by all members of this House when in government and when in opposition. It's a particular fund that I know many Yukoners are looking forward to seeing in place, and I'm certain Yukoners are looking forward also to the tax cuts proposed in this piece of legislation.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Briefly, it's very pleasing for us on this side of the House to see the Liberals proceed and move forward with this legislation that the NDP government, the former government, developed. Unfortunately, the Premier and the Liberal government fail to indicate to Yukoners what's beyond this bill that the NDP constructed. I think it's important that all Yukoners understand and know where this government is taking them. The NDP on this side of the House fully support the tax bill and look forward to its assent.
Mr. Jenkins: This is one of the 120-odd election promises that the Liberals are honouring, but when we look at it and see that it was originally tabled by the NDP, it falls far short of what the NDP were proposing. And it gives a two-percent tax cut for one year only. What happens at the end of that period of time is uncertainty.
And in the current Minister of Finance's own words, when she was in opposition, this tax cut will effectively, for someone in a $45,000 a year income category, buy a tank of gas, some diapers or some minimum amount of dog food for a dog musher. Now, what has changed from then to now is, really, nothing. There isn't anything that has changed. I guess there is one thing that has changed, Mr. Chair. Now, it probably won't buy a tank of gas. And at the end of the year, the end of this fiscal period, where are we going to go from there?
When you contrast the tax cut with the indicated budget surplus of $56.2 million at the end of March 31, which I am sure will be confirmed by the Auditor General in due course - and in spite of what the Liberal government of the day is saying, it will be the Premier's signature, as Minister of Finance, that signs off on those auditor's statements, which, in all likelihood, will clearly indicate that the surplus will be some $56.2 million, the accumulated surplus.
It will be a signature of the Premier, as Minister of Finance, that signs off those financial statements. So, all of this nonsense that the Liberals are currently talking about with respect to the surplus only being $14-point-something million is just a projected surplus at the end of this next fiscal period, Mr. Chair. Let's start comparing apples to oranges. Perhaps the Department of Finance can provide a briefing to the government of the day and to the ministers to explain what accumulated lapses and deficits are all about. We would save a lot of time in the House if they had an understanding of those issues.
After it's all added up at the end of the fiscal period, we have $56.2 million, and this government, while honouring one of its election platforms, sees its way clear to provide but a two-percent tax cut. When you start looking at that two-percent tax cut, that is on the federal amount. When you calculate your income tax, you first calculate your federal component payable. Then you calculate the 50 percent of the federal as being that portion that is the Yukon tax due and payable for income tax purposes.
When you look at the current proposed reductions and reductions that are coming down the pipeline from the federal government, and you look at this two-percent reduction and extrapolate those numbers, let's see what that does for Yukoners at the end of the day.
But I will give the Minister of Finance credit. It does honour one of the Liberal positions. But they could have done much more and gone much further. They could have spelled out tax reductions for the next period of time, as some of the other jurisdictions in Canada have done, but no, they chose not to. They could have done something similar to what the Yukon Party proposed in the last election: provided immediate 10-percent reduction to Yukoners on their taxes payable; but no, this new Liberal government has chosen not to.
There seems to be some paranoia about this budget surplus and where we're going to end up at the end of the day, Mr. Chair. And I do have concerns with that, given the amount of spending commitments that the Minister of Health and Social Services is committed to. They are very, very extensive, and when you add up all of the election commitments that the Liberal platform was based on, the Premier of the Yukon will be headed down to Ottawa with hat in hand seeking some more funds from the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, in one form or another, to balance the budget up here.
Mr. Chair, I will not be supporting this tax cut because it really doesn't accomplish what this government should be accomplishing, and that is reducing the tax load for Yukoners - keeping pace with the rest of Canada. Our cost of living up here is considerably higher than the rest of Canada, and yet the major jurisdictions in the rest of Canada are enjoying tax reductions well in excess of this two percent.
The government currently has the money in the bank to offset the reduction in income tax. Every one-percent reduction translates into a $250,000 reduction in revenues to the Yukon government. Now, I'm sure the Premier is getting a briefing from her advisor as to how that works out and the mathematics involved, but she will find that that's a correct statement, Mr. Chair. I'm hoping she'll be fully apprised as we move along.
The bottom line is this: what does this two-percent reduction accomplish for Yukoners, when this government could do so much more at this juncture and provide so much more tax relief for Yukoners, and they have chosen not to. That, in itself, I find extremely disappointing, Mr. Chair.
What we need to do here is grow the economy. But this year, Yukon is probably going to be going further backwards in all areas, where we have so much potential and opportunity. Now, the ball is in this Liberal government's court. They either do not have the ability to run with that ball, they don't have the skills or the stamina or something. But something is definitely very, very wrong when they choose to slight Yukoners with such a paltry tax reduction.
I'm disappointed. I know they can do better. Perhaps as they learn and understand the system that they're working in, they will be able to do so. I look forward to that time.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
On Clause 5
Clause 5 agreed to
On Clause 6
Clause 6 agreed to
On Clause 7
Clause 7 agreed to
On Clause 8
Clause 8 agreed to
On Clause 9
Clause 9 agreed to
On Clause 10
Clause 10 agreed to
On Clause 11
Clause 11 agreed to
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that you report Bill No. 21 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Committee will now go to Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act.
Bill No. 22 - An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike had raised some questions yesterday when I spoke to this, and I would like to respond to him. He had asked if all of the various types of situations have 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?
Yes, a caveat will be registered in the land titles office outlining each party's commitments, and it is binding on each party for the life of the agreement. The authority for this agreement is designated under the Historic Resources Act by the minister responsible. The agreement is intended to be a covenant running with the land, providing for the maintenance, preservation and protection of the site.
The member had also asked that if the property is being used for residential purposes at the time of designation and subsequently changes to a commercial use, will the property then have a tax advantage compared to other similar types of commercial properties. In real dollar terms, the overall potential for a monetary advantage is unlikely. That is because a property owner responsible for a designated site has the legal obligation to fulfill terms of the agreement, which include protection, maintenance and preservation of the site, as I have just mentioned. Property tax dollars that would have otherwise paid for either residential or non-residential use would assist with the cost associated with fulfilling the terms of the agreement.
There will be a cost to the property owner to fulfill the terms of the agreement. This property tax exemption is government's contribution to assist with the preservation of the designated site.
The member had asked if this can be considered a downloading of responsibility to the municipalities as a future requirement and cost. The Yukon government respects the municipality's property tax jurisdiction. This legislation is solely intended for application within the Yukon government's taxation jurisdiction, which is rural Yukon. It will in no way erode the municipality's property tax base. The municipalities may, at their discretion, adopt or enable a similar provision by way of bylaw permitted under the Municipal Act; however, it is doubtful that a municipality would implement a tax exemption that seriously eroded their tax revenues.
Most municipalities currently issue a grant equal to taxes by way of bylaw to many active, non-profit organizations, which could also be extended to the heritage community if deemed appropriate by the respective municipal councils. This applies only to territorially designated sites. The Historic Resources Act enables municipalities to make their own municipal-level designations for which they have responsibility. The City of Whitehorse has passed such a bylaw and has so far designated six buildings.
The member also asked how we compare to provincial jurisdictions. Other jurisdictions appear to be different - for example, Montreal. He asked if there was an explanation. The Yukon tax proposal and the Historic Resources Act are based on the legislation and experience of the southern provinces, all of whom have developed provincial legislation for preservation of historic buildings. The City of Whitehorse heritage management plan lists various tools for incentives, such as financial incentives, direct grants, the heritage trust fund, preferential fee structure, development incentives, zoning concessions and building code equivalencies, administrative incentives, priority routing of permit applications and the permit view process and public-awareness programs.
Part 2, section 12(1) of the Historic Resources Act states that the minister may make grants or loans and may supply professional or technical or other services to help the owners of historic sites restore, repair, maintain, preserve, protect or promote the site. This is in keeping with wording in other provincial legislation and other provincial incentives. Larger cities such as Vancouver, Edmonton and Winnipeg can offer performance grants, discretionary grants, direct loans, loan guarantees, tax relief, municipal tax credits, property tax exemptions for charitable organizations, rezoning, conditional uses, zoning concessions, density transfers, expediting approvals, property standard concessions, preferential leasing of rehabilitated buildings by the municipality, management standards for municipally owned structures, sales tax rebates on building products, and so forth.
The federal government, as part of its last budget, is currently developing the framework for a national register in trust, based on the American model that allows extensive federal tax incentives for sites designated by provinces, and I hope that answers the member's questions.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give the House an idea as to the total number of properties in the private sector in the Yukon government's taxing authority that would potentially qualify under this new legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are currently no sites designated under section 14 of the Historic Resources Act. I'm not sure how many there would potentially be under the heritage branch, but we are estimating only a handful.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we move forward on a piece of legislation like this, we look at the tax implications and the benefits. Now, we must have in our grasp some sort of a handle on the total number of properties in the private sector within the taxing authority of the Government of the Yukon that could potentially qualify. You know, to say that there are just a handful - I'm sorry, that just doesn't wash. There has got to be a little bit more of an analysis conducted than that, Mr. Chair. And I see that the minister now has her briefing notes, and I'll allow her to respond.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said, exact numbers of buildings that would be affected are not available. We estimate that the property tax exemption will result in a loss of $5,000 to $10,000 to the Government of Yukon in annual property tax revenue. The Finance department has confirmed that a decision to forfeit property taxes on these heritage properties will not affect the formula financing grant.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we're going to exempt just the improvements on the land, or are we going to exempt the land and the improvements from taxing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it would depend on the agreement made with the individual property owner, but normally it would focus on the improvements.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, okay, how is this agreement going to come into force? In what cases would it include the land? In some places in rural Yukon, the land is of considerably higher value than the improvements, especially when they're older and they have been depreciated.
Under what cases will the land be exempt, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I would be pleased to explain how it works. The Historic Resources Act defines a historic site as one designated under section 14, part 3, of the act. I can go through that at length if the member wishes. The minister may designate any site as a historic site, when satisfied that the site is, whether in itself or by reason of historic resources or human remains, discovered, or believed to be at the site, an important illustration of the historic or prehistoric development of the territory or a specific locality within the territory, or of the peoples of the territory or locality and their respective cultures, or the natural history of the territory or a specific locality within the territory and has sufficient historic significance to be so designated.
A property owner who wishes to apply for tax exemption will petition the minister responsible for heritage to designate the property as a Yukon historic site. The Department of Tourism's heritage branch will then complete an assessment under authority of the Historic Resources Act. The Yukon Heritage Resources Board will undertake a further evaluation and will advise the minister on whether they feel the property merits designation. Prior to designation, the minister will negotiate a historic resources agreement with the property owner, and these will, as I said, vary with the property.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't have any quarrel with the intent of the bill, Mr. Chair, but when would the property that is under question - when would the land be exempt? I can see, at all times, the improvements being exempted, but can the minister make a case for the land being exempt? If so, what would that case be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I have said, from the Historic Resources Act, if the site - and the site includes the land and improvements - is in itself, or by reason of historic resources or human remains discovered or believed to be at the site, an important illustration of the things I just quoted. So, there will be cases where the land is a part of the site, and there will be a case where the land is not important and the improvements are. That will vary case by case. I can't speculate.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not asking the minister to speculate. I'm asking the minister to be hard and fast in the application of a set of rules. Graveyards are exempt from taxing authorities, and improvements are always on land. I don't know where the Yukon would have a taxing authority for something not on a titled or leased piece of land in the Yukon. Perhaps I'm unaware of some circumstance, and perhaps the minister can advise me.
In all cases that I'm aware of, the improvements would be situated on a parcel of land, and I'm just looking for an example as to when that land would be included in the tax exemption. I can buy the minister's arguments at all times for the improvements, because the improvements are of historical significance.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If there is a large parcel of property, and there is a site on a relatively small portion of that land, it may be that the agreement would only cover part of the land. But as there are no sites currently designated under section 14 of the Historic Resources Act, I cannot give him an example.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's just extrapolate what we have before us. We haven't defined the age or vintage as to what would be considered a historical object here in the Yukon. It's a relatively new, recent period of time. Is that not correct? What is the period of time that we're looking at for an object to become of historical significance?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The determination of the things the member is asking about - vintage - rests within the Department of Tourism, as they are responsible for the Historic Resources Act.
Mr. Jenkins:So we're tied to two pieces of legislation that are extremely important, and I believe it's 25 years, and after a certain number of years beyond that, you have to apply for a permit to remove that building or that object out of the Yukon. I'm not sure what that point is. Currently, I believe it's 50 years, which is current history - in some of our lifetimes, I might add. But when you start looking, and I'm looking down the road, and the minister answered the question that I posed to her the other day in speaking to this bill at second reading, which was: when it starts off as a residential property and switches to commercial, could there be an unfair advantage given to that commercial-property owner now, vis-à-vis being adjacent to someone doing the same thing with the same age of business. The minister's response was that they have a tremendous amount of upkeep on that building, and they have to follow through with maintaining the conditions of the caveat of the agreement.
Well, so be it, Mr. Chair. That brings me full circle. Could the minister find that information as to when the land would be included and what are you going to do? Subdivide the main parcel of land to include just a small area and register the caveat against that small subdivision? There are a lot of legal implications and a lot of cost implications associated with bringing forward this type of initiative. I want to make sure it works, and I want to make sure it works for the betterment of not just one or two properties, because I'm not aware of too many properties that fall into this category within the taxing authority of the Yukon government.
So, that is an important issue - the issue as to when it will include the land. When will the land be exempt along with the structures, or the improvements as they're called, in the Assessment and Taxation Act?
That's the key question, the critical question. I haven't heard a definitive answer yet, Mr. Chair, and I'm still looking for one.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there are already cases where a portion of a parcel of land is set aside for a different use than the rest of the parcel, as in agricultural properties.
Mr. Jenkins: So, is that going to be enshrined in the regulations somehow, that only the land underneath the historical building or structure will be subdivided out of the main parcel of land and only that parcel of land will be subject to tax exemption? Is that what we're looking at, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the amount of land that would be involved would be the amount of land that, with the improvements, has an historic significance, as I have indicated to the member, but what he is suggesting is something we can look into.
Mr. Jenkins: I take it these will all be done by regulations; they're not going to be in the act itself, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It will be either regulation or policy, it would not be in the act itself.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not too comfortable with things being in regulations when they can be enshrined in legislation and you have a definitive policy, because the regulations tend to move back and forth depending on the political winds of the day. And the political winds are very, very light these days, and I find that quite an interesting statement in itself. Is there any way we can look at bringing back this act with those enshrined in the body of the act? Or does the minister wish that I propose an amendment, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I refer again to the example of an agricultural property with a home on it, where the land immediately around the home is taxed at an entirely different rate than the portion of the property which is used for agricultural purposes.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, but the question to the minister was dealing with the regulations containing this information or the act itself. And I was asking the minister if she wanted me to move an amendment to include that portion of the regulations in the act. I'm quite prepared to do so, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Historic Resources Board criteria will determine these things. The Heritage Resources Board has an opportunity to develop review criteria that will apply to all properties to be considered.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to thank the minister for her response, Mr. Chair, but it doesn't provide long-term certainty to this act, such as would be available should those proposed regulations be part of the body of this act, and I'm sure that the minister can concur. What I'm looking for is some certainty as to the rules surrounding the various initiatives that might come forward to the board, and when they are in regulations, they can be changed at the whim and want of the executive council member. When they are in the actual legislation, they have to come to the floor of this House before they can be altered or changed, and they're subject to public scrutiny and public debate.
Now, I want to make it abundantly clear that I very much support this type of legislation. I also want to make it clear that I want to see the rules set out so that they are consistent and don't allow an unfair advantage in the commercial sector. And I want to see the rules also set out so that there is not a great deal of land on which these improvements would be situated that is exempt from the taxing authority - only that parcel of land where the actual structure is contained, or a reasonable amount associated with it, Mr. Chair.
But all of these decisions are outside of the purview of this Legislature. They're going to be done by regulations or by another board, and I don't think that is totally reasonable, Mr. Chair. So, I'm asking the Minister to consider enshrining a lot of that into the body of this act. Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I will point out to the member that the Heritage Resources Board falls under the responsibility of the heritage branch of the Tourism department, and they will be developing criteria which we would be pleased to get to the member when they are developed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I hear the Minister correctly, what we're being asked to do is pass an act and pass a bill for which we don't have any idea of the downstream consequences. Is that what she's saying?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's always interesting to hear the Member for Klondike talk about downstream consequences. Actually, the timing in many ways is quite coincidental.
Today, I met with a national body that is looking at setting standards or designations for historic sites and historic buildings, and the consultation process should be finished by the end of the summer. Setting those standards or reasons that you would designate a building or a site historic is something that we've been looking at in this country for many, many decades, and it's something that's almost here. The member is absolutely correct; there is a call for those sorts of standards right across this nation, and it's happening, and it will happen at the end of this summer, hopefully, and it will go to the federal Cabinet to be passed by the Government of Canada.
I know when I was at the municipal level - and when the member was at the municipal level as well - we were looking for that. We were looking for some sort of criteria to designate something as a historic building or not a historic building, or as a historic site or not historic. That's the sort of criteria that this group is working on. The member is totally correct; it's not just built heritage that we're looking at, but sites as well.
Hopefully, we'll be working on bringing those designations into the Yukon legislation within the next two years. That's my hope, anyway, as minister responsible.
Mr. Jenkins: So, if we're not going to have the ability to designate for another two years, why do we need this act at this juncture? We're just putting the cart before the horse.
The Minister of Tourism is speaking of the National Historic Sites and Monuments Board, and that's been in existence for a considerable length of time. It recently met here in the Yukon. It spent some time in Dawson. It's looking at designating Dawson with a greater deal of certainty with respect to its historic significance. Currently, in the Dawson area, there are 34 designated national historic sites. They are in various stages of restoration by the federal government. Some of them have been completely restored. Some of them are just shored up and stabilized. That's the federal position, Mr. Chair.
In the Yukon, the length of time a structure has had to be in existence is considerably less than the federal initiatives. The federal initiatives go through a considerably longer period of time. Structures have been in existence for a considerably longer period of time before they can be designated a national historic site.
It, in itself, is a board that has a tremendous amount of background and influence on the historical buildings in Canada, from coast to coast. The issue before us is one of keeping the playing field level and recognizing and ensuring that historic buildings are maintained. Now, I firmly support those two initiatives, Mr. Chair.
On the side of the initiative, keeping the playing field level, I'm detecting a tremendous amount of uncertainty as to how the rules are going to come downstream to us, because everything flows downstream to us from Whitehorse, especially where I live.
So, my concern lies around a historic site being designated as such being given a tax-exempt status for, let's say, a one-acre or three-acre parcel of land, subsequently being converted to, say, let's use a service station or a highway lodge and added on to and kept in the historical significance and creating an unfair business advantage for that owner. That's the area that I'm wishing to explore with the minister. How is this kind of avenue going to be kept under the watchful eye of Government of Yukon, because once it's done - once the caveat is registered - that's it.
Removing a caveat from a property is a very lengthy process. Both parties have to agree. If both parties do not agree, it has to go to the courts. So, how are we going to address this issue, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Tourism has said that she will be bringing in legislation on this area within a couple of years. I believe we are putting the horse before the cart, because this initiative would provide legislative certainty for property tax exemption for historic sites, again outside municipalities, that are owned either by non-profit organizations or by private owners. There must be an agreement drawn up with the government, and that agreement would outline each party's commitments and be binding because the document would be registered in the land titles office. The taxes that they would not be paying they would be spending on upkeep of the property.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm probably one of the few people in the Yukon who owns a building that's over 100 years old, and I can tell the minister that the upkeep on that property is not significantly different from a current property, so I don't believe that argument washes.
What I'm looking at is the unfair advantage that could occur should this go into the commercial sector, and what kind of rationale is the minister going to provide should that take place, or is the caveat going to be registered against the property that it can't be used for commercial purposes? Is that part of the equation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, as I said, an agreement specific to each case will be drawn up. What the parties to that agreement determine is not for me to say. We are talking about a total of $5,000 to $10,000 per year in tax exemption.
Mr. Jenkins: My gosh. We are supposed to be forward-thinking individuals who have the best interests of the Yukon at heart, Mr. Chair. The Liberals certainly are not displaying that. You have to look down the road, because buildings are growing older. What are the implications in 25 or 50 years from now, with this piece of legislation? What potential does it have? And it has a great deal of potential to preserve the historical values of the Yukon. That heritage is part of our history, and it's part of our visitor industry. It's another area that we could build upon.
It would appear that the minister doesn't have a firm handle on what this is all about and the downstream implications to all of us. She just puts this bill through and abdicates the responsibility to another board to determine all the causes and effects. That's not fair. There should be something in there that ensures that we can move ahead in a uniform manner, that there's not an unfair advantage should a historically designated property go into commercial use. That's one of the concerns I have, and there isn't anything in there to address that. Everything is subject to an agreement between the property owner and a board that's not even within the minister's own department, Mr. Chair.
So how does the minister intend to address it? Or is she just going to live with the consequence of the decision of someone else whom she has no control over, or no ability to control or no ability to direct? Is that what's going to happen? That's what appears to be the case, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Minister of Tourism has said that she will be bringing in legislation to address this, and it is up to the heritage resources board to develop criteria.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd be much more comfortable seeing the criteria that surround this. If the minister could kindly table that information, I would certainly appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'd be pleased to table the rules when they are developed. I note that a property owner proposing a change in use that's significant - that would, I presume, include a change from a dwelling to a commercial establishment - must have ministerial approval from the minister responsible for heritage, which would be the Minister of Tourism, before they could make such a change in the original agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: So the minister is confident that there's no cause for alarm, no cause for concern. In two years' time, we are going to have legislation in place that will cover-off this area, but we're going to pass this act immediately and, for the next two years, I guess this wonderful Liberal government - which doesn't have a clear understanding of where we're heading and how we're going to get there - will look after things. Is that going to be the case, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would seem to me to make more sense to have this in place first, to put the horse before the cart, since there are, at this time, no such sites designated. Then, that way, when somebody does bring forward a site they wish to have designated or the heritage branch has a site they wish to have designated, we would have this legislation in place.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure the department has some sort of an understanding as to the number of potential structures that would come under this classification and their taxing authority.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I've already said, we expect it to be a handful, with total tax implications between $5,000 and $10,000 a year.
Mr. Jenkins:The other concern is that most of these buildings, given the age and the Assessment and Taxation Act, the improvements are based on Whitehorse replacement costs, less observed depreciation. So a lot of these structures would be depreciated to very little if not anything. Is there any move afoot to look at appraised value or assessed value for purposes of these properties, or is the Yukon government moving more on their assessment base to market value? Where are we heading in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are not proposing to make any changes in the way that such properties are taxed. However, there are other provisions in various places in the government for the property owner to apply for grants for various purposes.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not looking at grants from other sources of government. I'm not looking at that side of the equation at all. I'm looking at dovetailing the legislation that we have before us into the real world out there, to see its implications and to see its impact on Yukon. And I can see some very positive benefits - some great potential - but what you don't want to disrupt is the commercial marketplace by creating an unfair advantage. If the minister wants to stand on her feet and assure this House that, as a consequence of this piece of legislation coming into force, there won't be any unfair commercial advantages created, I'll be happy with it.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it is certainly not the government's intention to create any unfair advantage and I'm sure that's one of the things the board will look at when they're developing criteria.
Mr. Jenkins: So, I take that to mean that the minister can provide her assurances that there won't be any unfair commercial advantages when the assent is given to this act and that there won't be any unfair commercial advantages created? Is that her statement categorically, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I say again, it is not the government's intent to create any unfair commercial advantage.
Mr. Jenkins: By the minister's own words, - they're carefully couched, Mr. Chair, and that would lead me to conclude that there is potential for unfair commercial advantage. Is that not the case?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's the member opposite who is carefully couching his words. He obviously sees something in the future that he's not explaining.
Mr. Jenkins: The current minister, who is fresh in her job, might want to spend some time with her colleague, the Minister of Tourism, and find out what occurs when such a piece of legislation, affecting the taxes, is put into place. With my background and her background - it's in municipalities - you have to look, as I said earlier, downstream to see the implications across the whole, broad spectrum, and there is a potential for creating an unfair commercial advantage, and what I want the minister to ensure is that the playing field will remain level, that there won't be an unfair commercial advantage created as a result of this piece of legislation coming into force. That's all, and I'm looking for the minister's assurance in that regard, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll say again that it is not our intention to create an unfair advantage for anybody. It is our intention to have a level playing field.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I could call those words words for which you would call me to order, so I'll refrain from doing so, and will just see if we can persevere and get the minister to address her responsibilities and categorically state that this legislation will not create an unfair commercial advantage. That's all I'm looking for, and then we can move on. It might not be her intent, and I don't think it's anyone's intent, Mr. Chair, that this legislation would create an unfair commercial advantage.
We're looking solely at the heritage side of the equation. But it is our role as legislators to look at the whole picture. I recognize that the minister is new in her job and probably hasn't had the extensive briefings, given the time frame that she has had in office, and hasn't come to totally realize what her role is. I'm here to help. I'm with the government, Mr. Chair. I just need the minister's assurances that this piece of legislation will not create an unfair commercial advantage. That's all.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will issue instructions that this legislation will not create an unfair commercial advantage when the criteria are developed.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
On Clause 4
Clause 4 agreed to
Chair: Before we go on to the title, will the members accept that there might be, as a typo - instead of the Twenty-ninth Legislative Assembly, we are in the Thirtieth. Would we accept that as a typo?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 22 out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, and Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act; and has directed me to report them without amendment.
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: Based on the agreement between the House leaders, and pursuant to Standing Order 55(2), I would request unanimous consent for Bill No. 4, Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, to be called for third reading at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Bill No. 4: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 4 has passed this House.
Bill No. 21: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker:It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 21, entitled An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now read a third time and do pass. Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Harding: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yea, one nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 21 has passed this House.
Bill No. 22: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Community and Transportation Services that the Bill No. 22, entitled An Act to Amend the Assessment and Taxation Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Are you prepared for the question?
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 and that Bill No. 22 has passed this House.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
committee of the whole
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Ten minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will now continue general debate on estimates.
As general debate is concluded, we will begin with the estimates. We will start with the Department of Tourism.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Department of Tourism
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I am presenting the 2000-01 operations and maintenance and capital estimates for the Department of Tourism. Tourism, arts and our heritage are of great importance to this government. Our government will build on our successes in the arts, heritage and tourism sectors.
In order to build, we must have a plan. Our base for building will be founded on input from Yukon people. The Department of Tourism will ask for Yukoners' ideas on how to value and protect our history with the creation of a museum strategy.
Industry will have an equal say in tourism marketing and promotion through the Yukon tourism marketing program, the YTMP.
This budget lacks the vision we will need for the future, but it will allow us to step back and re-examine our long-term priorities for the future. Through this budget, we will continue to support our important North American and European markets. We will continue to look into new and emerging markets, especially those that support our winter season. We will partner with the Yukon Convention Bureau, municipalities and local tourism businesses to develop tourism in other areas.
Learning vacations, conventions and a Yukon event poster are ways to get visitors to stay longer. Tourism is everyone's business, and we recognize the work of the non-profit sector in putting on festivals and events that encourage visitors to stay yet another day.
Through the tourism marketing partnership that the government and industry have set up, or the Yukon tourism marketing partnership, we will start to invest our marketing money wisely. We will find ways to use our joint buying power to better promote the Yukon and to create other funding partnerships with Alaska, the Canadian Tourism Commission and our northern partners: Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.
The heritage branch is committed to heritage-related land claims and core projects through this budget. We will continue to work with the First Nations and communities on historic site development and excavations. Through the museum strategy we will investigate the need for a historic resources centre. This will give us a better understanding of our history while preserving our valuable heritage for future generations.
The Yukon is blessed with a setting of raw beauty and peace that inspires us to express our artistic vision. The world is only just waking up to the talent of our artists and our musicians. We need to be ready to share our arts and culture with the rest of the world. We support the arts; we will begin the steps to create a new arts act. Art education in schools will help to foster young talent. Film and video production, sound recording, book publishing and new media are areas of interest and growth for our young and experienced talent.
A growing number of skilled Yukon crewmembers and the marketing efforts of the film commission have led to change and growth of the local film industry. The Yukon could see a dramatic increase in direct spending this year. We expect to see a record-breaking year for film production.
We look to a bright future with solid planning, with a government that's listening to Yukoners. We support small and home-based businesses that are building blocks for creating a solid tourism and arts future, and we respect the cultural traditions and history of the past. We must find ways to involve youth in tourism, arts and heritage through our youth initiative program.
As Minister of Tourism, I will lead in preserving the past and building the future in partnership with the people of Yukon. I will now take your questions on the operations and maintenance and capital budget estimates for the year 2000-01.
Mr. Fairclough: I will be brief in my comments about this department. I would like to make a few comments and send a few questions over to the member opposite. Tourism certainly is an important part of Yukon and Yukon's industry. For a long time now, the aboriginal people have kept this very close to themselves and it hasn't been until lately that we've been showing off what we have to the world. There's a lot of interest in what we have in the Yukon, and a lot of interest from people overseas wanting to come to the Yukon Territory, and it's reflected in the flights that are coming to the Yukon from overseas. The Yukon is comparable to everywhere else, I think, in the world, if not a better place - a more interesting place - for visitors to the Yukon.
I have a couple of questions regarding some commitments the Liberals made in regard to tourism. I asked the minister whether or not they were going to increase funding for the heritage branch, and the minister said that they will be. It wasn't reflected in the supplementary, but there was a commitment that it will be coming in the fall supplementary. She had also said that there will be increases in other capital in the fall supplementary and in O&M. The minister said that on June 19 in response to a question I asked in regard to heritage funding. Is this still the case? Are there still increases?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As previously noted in the House, we certainly have made the commitment to increase heritage branch funding. It was cut consistently over the last four years. Now, the commitment was that some of that funding would be reinstated in the fall supplementary budget. Not all that funding will be reinstated in the fall budget. That will happen over time.
Mr. Fairclough: So, from mains to mains, is that stable funding, as there are no cuts from mains to mains?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the commitment is that we will be increasing funding over the next three and a half years to the heritage branch. That is the commitment, and so there will be an increase in funding in the next - well, I guess in next spring's budget. That will be for the budget year 2001-02.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said that we were cutting funding, and I was just asking whether, in her opinion, there were any cuts from mains to mains.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have a chart for the last three and a half years that does map out those cuts over the last three and a half years. If the member opposite would like, I would be happy to circulate that document to the side opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: What I was trying to get at is: the member is saying that we have been cutting the funding from heritage. I just want to know what her understanding is from mains to mains. It is my understanding that it remained stable.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the O&M has remained stable, but there have been cuts to capital from mains to mains in the past. I think that's the issue that the member is trying to get to.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister has now said that there haven't been any cuts in that aspect. You can say that there were increases in Government Services for other things in heritage, such as the Taylor House. There were monies provided for capital projects in Government Services. Is that correct?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we can go through this at great length, if the member would like. There have been cuts to capital in the heritage area of this budget, and that has happened over the last three and a half years. There have not been increases in some of the funds, where there was a promise to increase those funds. Some of those funds include the signage fund that was in this budget. That was never increased; therefore, people are doing with an awful lot less in the way of signage across the Yukon. That is one of my priorities as a minister - better signage for historic sites across the Yukon Territory. That commitment will be reflected in future budgets, as well.
As I was saying to the member opposite earlier, I do have a chart that clearly indicates the cuts to heritage over the last three and a half years under the NDP government. I will circulate that document to the side opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasn't the question. I asked whether there has been an increase in dollars in Government Services for heritage and heritage buildings.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, quite often funds are transferred from one department to another. That is one of the areas where there has been some movement in this particular department to Government Services. That is true. I think the member is trying to prove the case because that happened, that there really haven't been any cuts to this branch. When you look, mains to mains, over the last three and a half years, there have been cuts.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister earlier said that there were no cuts in the O&M from mains to mains.
Now the minister has committed to increases in heritage funding, which would be reflected in the next supplementary budget this fall. She also said that there would be an increase in capital projects and O&M. Can the minister tell me which capital projects she foresees are going to be reflected in the supplementary in the fall?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, some of the restoration of the cuts will occur in the fall supplementary budget. The majority will happen over the next three and a half years. As to the specific projects that are going to be addressed in the fall supplementary budget, or any other budget, that is not on the table for discussion right now. What we're talking about is this budget. When we table the next budget, then the member opposite will find out exactly what those capital projects are going to be.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, this is general debate and I would remind the member opposite again that she did say - and this was in Question Period - that there would be increases in the fall supplementary. I don't want to know what they are. I just want to get an idea of what we could look forward to. She said there'd be increases in heritage funding. It's not happening in this supplementary, but it will happen for sure. Those were her words.
I'd like to ask the minister - she also said that there'd be increases in cultural industries in the fall supplementary. Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that the member opposite is making wild generalizations from the comments made during Question Period. Very clearly, we said that our priorities will be reflected in the fall supplementary budget. There was no specific commitment to the fall supplementary budget; however, there is a commitment that the priorities of this government will be reflected in the fall supplementary budget, but our priorities will also be reflected over the next three and a half years.
Very clearly, tourism is an industry that we support, much as the members opposite supported it when they were in government.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I realize that and expect that there will be increases, as the member said, over the next years, but she also said there would be increases in cultural industries. I just want to know a bit more about that so I can look forward to this in the fall.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this government does what it says it will do. There has been a commitment made, and there will be a commitment to cultural industries indicated in the fall supplementary budget. I'm not going to say exactly what that commitment is going to be, and the member knows I can't do that. He has certainly been in this seat before, although not this particular ministry. He knows exactly what I can commit to and what I can't.
This is something we are going to go out and talk to Yukoners about. We're going to do our own caucusing, and we're going to come back to the side opposite with a supplementary budget in the fall, indicating our support for a number of different items, some of which were outlined in our platform and others that are ongoing concerns of this government.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, all I wanted to do is to get some idea - maybe this side of the House can help the members opposite to create this. There was a commitment to the general public during the election and afterwards, most recently in this House. That was a very big commitment by the Liberal Party, and people are looking forward to it and are asking me questions. I can turn them over to the minister opposite, but I would also like to play some part in giving some answers to constituents who ask me these questions.
Can you give us a hint about what increases we can see in the supplementary budget for cultural industries?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this government has always been very supportive of the film industry, a growing industry here in the Yukon, one that's growing in leaps and bounds. It's going from $1 million to pretty close to $3 million this year, part of that because of the incentive program that the previous government introduced. So I would expect that there will be continuing support for the film industry here in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: There was a commitment to have a new arts act in place for the fall. Has this legislation been drafted?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I restated that commitment to tabling a Yukon arts act this fall in my speech that prefaced this budget, and, obviously, we're going to be doing it this fall. As far as the drafting is concerned, it's in the process. We're working with Community and Transportation Services on that project now.
Mr. Fairclough: Is it on schedule, and will it be ready for the fall?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it will be ready for the fall sitting.
Mr. Fairclough: The Liberals said that they wanted to concentrate on the rubber-tire traffic into the Yukon. I was wondering what the minister's thoughts are on venturing into the Asian market. She mentioned that in her opening remarks about the Asian desk. Maybe she could tell us more about that.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, at this point we are looking at sustaining the advances that have already been made in that market. So, we're holding at the same level that we have committed to as a government in the past.
Mr. Fairclough: That's interesting, because the Liberals have not always supported the trade missions that the NDP government went on. And there was a commitment to concentrate more close to home - in Alaska and the rest of Canada - and now the Liberals will be following the NDP direction in branching out and looking further - overseas - to bring more people into the Yukon. I guess that was reflected in the support of increased air traffic to the Yukon. I would like to ask the minister: are there any incentive tours, like we had with Fulda, to the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As the member opposite knows, Fulda is coming back again next year.
I think I need to go back to the issue about the North American. This government is committed to that 82 percent of our travellers who come up the highway or come to the Yukon from North America. I mean, that is our biggest market, and we're going to spend a lot of energy in that area, trying to get people to stay for another day. If we can just get them to stay for four more hours - and this is something that I heard from the Tourism minister at the time - then we can increase their spending in the Yukon dramatically. Right now, the average spending is $65 for a person passing through the Yukon in their RV, and that's, quite frankly, not enough, and we're aiming for more.
Part of that is a marketing program that is targeted toward the military in Alaska and those families travelling back and forth constantly throughout our territory, and that will help, we believe, in trying to get people to spend a little bit more time here. We know that people in Alaska will come here for festivals, that they will come here for sporting events, and so we are going to be spending a little bit more energy trying to get people to do just that and spend a little bit more money. That's a market that we know we have got, and we're going to continue to work within that market.
We're also looking at bringing Canadians up here and giving them a reason to stay here, particularly the ones in northern B.C. because we have a lot of connection with them as well. So, we're talking about spending a little bit more on festivals and a commitment - a strong commitment - to festival funding, similar to what they have in other jurisdictions - Prince Edward Island in particular.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the minister said that she would be concentrating closer to home, mostly for rubber-tire traffic. Can she just tell us what her schedule is over the next little while for travelling and so on? Is it any different from what was laid out by the New Democrats?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have confirmed going to ITB in the fall, as every other government has done for the last few years, and going to the Alaska Visitors Association meeting in Alaska. My hope is that I can spend some time at the RV shows in California in the spring, and that would be the only change.
Now, I know that when I was at the municipal level, we spent a lot of energy going to the RV shows. They're not as glamorous, perhaps, as some of these wild tours across the world, but going to those shows brought in a lot of benefit to the Yukon Territory. And the City of Whitehorse quite often had a booth with the City of Dawson, as a matter of fact; and those were very productive dollars spent in marketing.
Mr. Fairclough: I was just wondering if the minister could tell us what her priorities are in the Department of Tourism.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are a number of issues that we'll be concentrating on over the next three and a half years. The first thing is that we've heard very clearly from the industry that there is a lack of reliable figures that are available to make financial decisions on. And those figures and the collection of those figures are going to be a priority for this government.
There is also going to be greater priority put on policy in that department. There is almost a complete lack of policy within the Tourism department, and we are going to be spending a lot more energy in that area. And of course the figures will help support the policy, and those figures will help people in the Yukon make good business decisions. And the thing to remember is that, in Alaska and in every other jurisdiction, those numbers are readily available; they're collected in more or less the same way from year to year. That's the sort of process that we want to get going here in the Yukon.
In particular, we want to support rural Yukon, who have been asking for these figures from their VRCs for a number of years and have not received them. We are going to be giving those figures out. As a matter of fact, I directed the department just last week that those figures will become available to rural Yukon again.
The problem with the VRC figures, as the member opposite is quite aware, is that they are not really indicative of what's happening out there. The border crossing figures are of far greater accuracy. The ones that come from the VRC are just people that we manage to trap in our VRCs as they go throughout the Yukon.
So, those figures are good in a more general sense, but they are not as accurate as the visitor border crossings.
Of course, the greatest priority right now is air access. It's a huge issue. The Department of Tourism is taking the lead in this area, with Government Services, Community and Transportation Services and Economic Development. We are working together to ensure that we have good air access into the Yukon. That has been a real problem, and the merger has created real problems. We have lost whole fare structures for conventions. We've lost the ability to have a year-round, competing airline come into the Yukon, therefore creating a market, so that we can go to Air Canada and say that this is the sort of area we want to go into: "What are you going to offer us?" They are the only one that is year-round right now, and that is a real concern, not only for our jurisdiction, as the member is aware, but for every jurisdiction in Canada.
There are tremendous problems. There are problems with check-ins at the airport. We don't know if the student standby fares are going to stay. We don't know any of those things, and that is the sort of discussion we need to have, not only with Air Canada, but on a national level, as well.
We have already started that process. It started with my very first national Tourism ministers meeting. I'm going to be having another conference call with those ministers in July. We've met with the industry. I've met with a number of municipalities on this issue. It's something we need to have a unified voice on. It's really important that we make sure that we have good air access to the Yukon. Our economy depends on it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, you could tell that the minister was clearly missing in Question Period. She is trying to make up for it with lots of talk, but I do enjoy that. I'd just like to shorten the answers a little bit. Here's a yes-or-no question that the member could give us: does the minister agree with the figures in the department's budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This is the budget that I'm tabling as the minister. Obviously I agree with it. As for this member going on and on at great length, the member opposite knows full well that I'm quite renowned for my extremely short speeches, and I kind of thought that he'd enjoy having a little bit more detail on the answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell me what changes she would like to see to reflect her Liberal commitments?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are some areas as far as budgeting within the Department of Tourism. There are some items that are in capital that might be better in O&M, and O&M items that might be better in capital. Those are things that we're looking at changing over the long run. We have a business plan that we're working on in the department.
I think that the tourism marketing partnership that was developed by the previous government, as well as a lot of the links that we have with TIA and with other tourism initiatives in the territory, need to be strengthened and built upon, and that's what we want to do. Part of that is providing what government normally does provide to an industry, and that's figures - for example, its support with policy and support with legislation, and that's the enabling role that I would like to see the Department of Tourism go into. It's also slightly changing the way we do business by the marketing plan and the business plan that we'll be developing over the next three and one-half years. There already is a business plan for the department; it needs to be massaged into something that's more workable for the people who are in that department.
Mr. Fairclough: I have all kinds of questions in this department, but I would like to move on and give my colleagues an opportunity to ask a couple of questions.
One thing, though, the minister had said in her response -I'm not sure whether it was in Question Period or in response to the throne speech - but she did say that tourism was only the number one industry in the Yukon by default. Does she still agree with that? I believe that, for a long time now, we have been marketing the Yukon. Its beauty, its people, its language, its culture and heritage are what sells it. It wasn't by any accident that people are coming to this territory, and I don't believe it was by default. The mining industry could be down, but the tourism industry is built on what we have here in the Yukon Territory.
Does the minister still believe that it is the number one industry by default?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes. That is reality. Our economy has been based on mining since the 1800s. Yes, it is by default. Nevertheless, the work that previous governments have been doing has brought us into this century very, very well. We're well-equipped. As far as marketing plans, we're well-equipped as far as having a product here that's very sellable.
I was extremely impressed when I was down at - I'm sorry. Am I going on at too great a length for the member opposite? I can shorten this answer dramatically. He's indicating to me that I could shorten the answer dramatically.
I'm extremely proud of what Yukoners have to sell in the world marketplace. What we have to sell is absolutely astounding. We live in the best place in the world, in my mind. Absolutely. We're number one but, truly, it is by default. That's reality.
I am also saying that the dollars that are coming to us through tourism are not as great as they have been in the past for mining. That is a reality as well. But I'll tell you one thing: we're doing very, very well in tourism, and it is largely because of what previous governments have done to develop this industry here in the territory.
Mr. Fairclough: Finally, we got recognition from the Liberal Party about the good work the NDP and previous governments have done in the Tourism department. Mr. Chair, the number of people coming to the Yukon has increased over the last three and a half years and the Yukon has a lot to offer people all over the world. I think we are going to see a continued increase in the number of people coming to the Yukon Territory.
But I don't believe we arrived as the number one industry by default at all. I think it was the many, many years of building this industry to make Yukon a destination for the world.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn it over to my colleague or others who would like to ask a few questions.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, if the House would indulge me, I would like to introduce Randall Kendi and my son, Curtis Netro, to the House. Could you please help me welcome them to the Legislature?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what we have today is the minister of fun, as they are always called, dealing with the Tourism budget. Like the previous speaker, I had some concerns with what's going on in the last remaining industry here in the Yukon and the steps we're taking to support it or annihilate it - I'm not sure which way we're going.
Let's start with one of the most topical areas of concern, Mr. Chair, and that's dealing with our marketing thrusts. I'd like the minister to provide an overview of the various marketing thrusts and explain why we are so heavily concentrated in the Asian market where the conversions do not occur and the rationale for spending some sums of money in that market currently. We just don't appear to be getting the conversions out of the Asian market that we should, and it would appear that the markets we could concentrate on, that do convert extremely well for Yukon, like the European market, we are standing down from, or not increasing our exposure there.
We have a German-speaking European market that is extremely well-developed, Mr. Chair, and we have a lot of visitors from that part of Europe - from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. But we're ignoring the other markets in Europe that deserve attention, which convert well - Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Italy. We're not spending the efforts or time there that we should be. We are concentrating on the Asian markets, Mr. Chair. Why?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite and I have discussed this over a number of years, and we are actually quite ad idim on this particular subject. It's my intention to spend more energy in the North American markets and the European markets. That's absolutely what's going to be happening in the future.
In this budget there has been a commitment of $300,000 to spend on Asia-Pacific markets, and that does include Japan, but it also includes Australia and New Zealand. The reality about these markets is that they take a lot longer to develop. There have been some particularly successful familiarization tours that occurred in the early spring, but, absolutely, we need to spend more time on the European markets. There is a lot of money that has gone in there, and we need to build on that success. I absolutely, totally agree with the member opposite for once on something.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are in sync. That begs the question as to why aren't we moving some of our money that we have currently deployed in the Asian markets to the other markets that convert very, very well for Yukon. Those are long-term commitments, long-term money, and I refer specifically to the money we're spending in the Asian markets. Australia, New Zealand - we have a long-term working relationship with that area, and we have agents in that area who represent us extremely well.
The markets that we're trying to break into - the Japanese, the Taiwanese, in which we have a presence, and the other Asian-Pacific countries. I can recall attending sessions 15, 20, 25 years ago on how to break into the Japanese market. It looked like it would convert extremely well. Masses of people were visiting everywhere and spending oodles and buckets of money, Mr. Chair.
I can remember one speaker at a convention in Anchorage saying that the first thing you have to have is "wah". I'm probably not pronouncing it correctly, but it means that they have to understand you and you have to understand them. The north - Alaska, Yukon and the Northwest Territories - have not been able to create that "wah" very well. While there is potential there, it doesn't look like it's a market that we should be spending some considerable sums of money in.
When we contrast expenditures in that market to expenditures in Europe and we see the results in the next visitor season, I think all of us can stand up and be proud of the efforts and time we spend in that market.
So, I would urge the minister to reconsider her priorities for her spending in this one area and to move it out of that market. Move it to where we will get some returns, but we have been maintaining the status quo for quite some time, and that raises alarm bells with me. It will be a year before we see some money moving out. Why can't that money be moved out of that area and moved into European marketing or North American marketing? The market that we're ignoring and that we need, which has immediate conversion, is Alaska. Why are we not putting our dollars where we're going to get some returns?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is completely aware of the fact that we're working with the Klondike Visitors Association on a number of different initiatives. One of them is to work on the Asian market. Another one is to work on marketing to Alaska. It is a great potential market. We can go a lot further in that area.
As far as the Asian Pacific market, we're doing well in Australia and New Zealand and we're doing well in winter tourism with the Japanese market. I have asked the department to reprofile the marketing budget. I have asked the department to do that. This budget will ensure our marketing efforts in Europe and North America can continue to be successful and we're also going to be building on what we have already done in Asia. There are some successes in that market, albeit not obviously as large as there are in Europe and North America, and in particular in Alaska.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm glad that the minister recognizes the markets and where we're getting the conversions from. So it begs the question, why are we not addressing the European market with more money? Why aren't we taking it out of the Asian market in this budget cycle and moving it over to Europe?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I just said to the member opposite that we are reprofiling the market and doing just what he asked. We are doing that. We're reprofiling the marketing budget and we are putting more money into the North American and the European markets.
Mr. Jenkins: There's a new, fancy catch-word: "reprofiling" the budget. I'm sure the minister's officials were staying awake nights thinking up some new terms.
Now, could the minister be more specific as to what reprofiling the budget is going to ultimately result in, and what areas are going to be concentrated on, and the timelines for this wonderful reprofiling to occur?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Part of that reprofiling, of course, is putting more money into the festival funding. Festival funding is where we're hoping to get dollars to spend on attractions that will bring Alaskans to the Yukon. Some of the events the member opposite and I have talked about include sports events. Dustball, for example; we have always talked about how many visitors we get for Dustball. We get a lot of dollars coming into the economy when we have Dustball. Dustball means we're bringing in people from Alaska.
For example, the Gathering of the Clans is the only opportunity north of 60 for a lot of children, in particular, to compete in Scottish dance. That's a real opportunity. It's also an opportunity for Alaskans to come and see what we've got in the way of retail - what's available here. It brings a lot of Alaskans over here. We want them here because they do not come over as visitors; they come over just for specific events.
Some of those events are sports events, some of them are cultural events, and sometimes they just come over to shop. But they won't come over as the typical tourist, although there are problems with the way that we define visitors in our territory. Somebody who is coming from Dawson, for example, into Whitehorse, and staying in a hotel, in some ways is actually a visitor, because that's not money that would normally be in our economy from people who live here.
So, those people are visitors, but we don't count them as visitors. And those are the sort of figures that we need to be looking at. How much of that travel in territory, for example, are we not taking into account? Maybe we need to be marketing to the more rural communities, or Whitehorse needs to be doing more marketing specifically in Haines, where our connections are, where people can't go anywhere else - or in Atlin. Those are the sort of things we need to look at, and we are.
We are reprofiling the budget, which means we are transferring dollars around from one area to the other. Basically, that's what reprofiling means: it's a new word for "massaging"; it's a new word for "creative". The latest word this year is "reprofiling".
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the one area that she doesn't have to market in is rural Yukon. We really don't have any choice. We have to come to Whitehorse for virtually everything. It's the seat of government, it's the hub of transportation, it's the shopping mecca of the north and, more often than not, for medical attention, because it has been taken away or eroded in rural Yukon. So, in virtually every area we have to come - those of us who reside in rural Yukon - to Whitehorse for goods and services and everything, even to get the minister's attention.
I'm told that there's going to be the ministerial dog-and-pony show around the Yukon under this new government once again, so we'll look forward to seeing that.
But let's get into the specifics as to how much money is being moved where, where's it coming from, where's it going and when it's going to occur, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are going to be transfers of monies from one area into another. That area is from the Asian Pacific marketing into the North American, because that's where we can get the best bang for our buck right now. That's where it's going. And this is done with the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. It is done on direction from them. They're the ones who are doing our strategies. Some of those strategies are based on the visitor exit survey, and I know we have had extensive discussions about that in the past, as well, but they are based on the best figures we have available.
Once again, we don't have great figures available. You go to Alaska and they have 10 times the figures available that we do, and that's what we're going to be looking at.
Mr. Jenkins: We don't have great figures. Are we speaking - how are we speaking? Figuratively? Just how much money are we talking about, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I might point out that the member opposite cuts a fine figure of a man.
I would expect that that figure - and I can't commit to an exact figure, because we're still in the process of reprofiling - however, I can say that it will be in excess of $100,000 dollars to change that into the North American and European marketing. I think that the important thing to remember is that this is coming from the industry - that's where it's coming from - and it's based on the best figures that we have available to us.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm pleased to hear that it's coming from industry, because industry has to pay its bills from the money it generates from this income, which we get, primarily, from our visitors. We want to get the best bang for our buck. Fortunately, government doesn't have to rely on industry to pay the taxes here; we just go back to that big pot in Ottawa and draw down most of our money. So, we have an opportunity to spend wisely, and I'm pleased to see that its being redirected internally, Mr. Chair.
What the minister is saying is that there is somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 - shall we put the figure there? This is the sum of money that is being moved around for North American and European marketing. When is this going to take place?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are some housekeeping issues that we have to deal with on the transferring of funds. We are in the process of going through those steps. These are not insurmountable hurdles, however, and they are happening as we speak.
Mr. Jenkins: Internal hurdles - insurmountable internal hurdles. Thank you, Mr. Chair. If they're insurmountable, internal hurdles, it means they're not attainable, according to my understanding.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Oh, they're not insurmountable internal hurdles. So, okay, we have internal hurdles, but they're not insurmountable. Now I've got it. I was wondering what these internal hurdles are and what the timelines are for this occurring. If there are some impediments, what do we have to do to move them aside?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: These are more paperwork issues, M. Chair, and they are issues we are going to be dealing with at the Cabinet level.
Mr. Jenkins: Given the performance of the Liberal government in the House to date, is there the ability in the Cabinet to deal with these issues? Is it something that is going to be dealt with forthwith, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have great pride in this side. We are doing a very good job of governing this territory, and we certainly have a wide, wide pool of expertise in a number of areas, and we are going to be governing this territory very well, and you had better believe that this issue is going to be dealt with expeditiously.
Mr. Jenkins: So I would take it to mean that, by the end of this month, we will have a decision and the monies will flow to the alternate locations. Nine days - June has 30 days. Nine more days.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite knows that this government has come to a grinding halt while we wait to pass the budget. That's one of the issues that we're dealing with. It's the biggest issue right now in the governance of this territory. The whole government has come to a grinding halt while we pass this budget.
We are going to be doing our very, very best, but as far as running around on specific issues - we're giving it best efforts. This is an important issue to me as the minister responsible, and we're going to do the very best we can.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will take a recess until 7:30 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue debate on the estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we broke for dinner earlier this evening, we were just exploring with the minister a whole series of new words that I'm going to be placing in the new Liberal dictionary that this government is creating - this "reprofile" is a new word, along with "retention allowances" and "buyout" and "purchase". There are a whole series of new words. It's going to be very enlightening to look at the definitions of these various words, as redefined by the Liberals, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of dollars that have been allocated to specific events, such as Sourdough Rendezvous. Could I just get a bit of background as to how this came about, where it came from and what it's all about?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's my understanding that those items have been previously funded under the tourism marketing fund.
Mr. Jenkins: That brings me to one of my long-standing issues: that comes out of the capital side of the budget.
Now, I'd like to grab an understanding from the minister as to what constitutes a capital expenditure. Now, I know that in the business world a capital expenditure is clearly defined, and it has to conform, dovetail into the Income Tax Act. It's clearly defined as to what a capital expenditure is. But when we get into government, the line kind of - well, there isn't a line. There's just a big fog as to capital expenditures. If you want to look at property management, painting a building is a capital expenditure. In the private sector, painting is an expense. It's written off in the year that it is undertaken.
I'd like to get my head around how this tourism marketing is classified and qualifies as a capital expenditure.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's one of the many items I want to look at when we re-examine the budget process for this particular department. The member and I have often had this conversation about how some things belong in capital and other things belong in O&M. That's exactly the case in this particular department. There is a lot of stuff that's in the wrong spot. That's one of the things we're going to be looking at with our business plan. I will tell you that next year, when this is a Liberal budget that's brought forward, it's going to look vastly different. There is going to be O&M where O&M belongs, and capital where capital belongs.
Now certainly, when there are larger expenditures, they have ended up in capital in the past in this department. It's not just this department. There are many other departments where there is a similarly strange line about what belongs where. But that's one of the things we're looking at, and it's going to be a fairly extensive change - this particular department's budget.
Mr. Jenkins: So, within the department - let me see if I can get an understanding of this, Mr. Chair - is there a clearly defined line now as to what constitutes capital and what constitutes O&M?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, theoretically it is usually a one-time expense, but that hasn't always been the case in this department and that's certainly not what's reflected here in these numbers. And like I said, this is something that concerns me greatly, and it is something that we are going to be looking at in a reorganization of the way this department budgets. I agree with the member completely. We're having a vigorous agreement.
Mr. Jenkins: So, let's just get some timelines, Mr. Chair, on when this wonderful change within this department is going to occur so that we can compare apples to apples. Will we see it in the fall supplementary or will we see it in the next cycle of budgets prepared by this new Liberal government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'm aiming for the next set of mains, so we're talking about the spring of 2001. It speaks toward changing objectives within the department, and it speaks to making sure that this government is offering good, transparent bookkeeping so that somebody can come in and see what makes sense as far as budgeting within this department.
Mr. Chair, as I was telling the member earlier, I am aiming for the main estimates in the year 2001, the spring budget. That's as soon as I think that that's possible to bring that forward.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister mentioned changing objectives, Mr. Chair. What objectives within the department would have to change in order to accommodate an accounting function that would be, in my opinion, rather straightforward and easier to understand?
Mind you, I'm not suggesting that we reprofile the accounting; I'm just saying or suggesting, Mr. Chair, that we advance normal accounting procedures.
So, what objectives would we have to change within the department to accommodate this need?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I dearly wish I'd never used the word "reprofiling", quite frankly.
We're talking about moving money around within one line in the budget - that is the term that I was using when I was trying to come up with something. You'd better believe that I'm probably never going to use it again.
The change in objectives - I think what I'm trying to bring across is that this government has slightly different capital priorities and that those will be reflected over the next three and a half years in this budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll try to understand that, Mr. Chair, but I'm hoping the wavelengths will dovetail sooner or later.
The breakdown of expenditures toward tourism marketing were supposed to exceed $6 million, yet when I add it all up within the budget I don't come to that amount. Where is the balance coming from? Is that partnerships? What is it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there are a number of initiatives in the department that have co-sponsors and partnerships with other levels of government, with the private sector, and other initiatives within the government as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Just while we're on that, Mr. Chair, what is the level of matching funds? Let's go case by case. Let's go CTC, and let's go into just the balance of the private sector.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The ratio right now is 1:3. We can circulate to the members opposite a chart that will reflect those numbers.
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister kindly break out CTC's funds in that equation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Certainly.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this is probably the only industry that's going to sustain the Yukon for the next little while. We've got the mining industry - and the balance of the economy is in the toilet, to be blunt. But tourism is the shining light on the horizon. I was just wondering, when there are so many opportunities abounding, why we miss so many.
Let's just zero in on one. It's currently the 100th anniversary of the White Pass and Yukon Corporation. They still exist in name. I've been invited to events in Skagway and Seattle. I understand that some events are going to take place in Vancouver. In the Yukon, I haven't heard boo about White Pass. Here we have a corporation that was, at one time, outside of the Government of Canada, the largest property owner in Yukon. It's their 100th anniversary. The new company operates a visitor attraction that is the most rapidly growing visitor attraction for attendance for about the last four or five years. It's enjoying double-digit growth as far as its expansion and inroads into the visitor market is concerned. That's phenomenal in the Yukon and Alaska in itself, but what are we doing here in the Yukon with respect to the 100th anniversary of the White Pass?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's my understanding that the White Pass and Yukon Route have put this program together on their own. We have offered to work with them, and I will be attending the last spike, and we will be trying to work with them in any way that we can. But like I say, they want to do it on their own, they are doing it on their own, and we can only do so much.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I know that all they requested was a little bit of marketing initiative, but here I see a golden opportunity that they've missed. And I guess if we go and drive the last spike again and recreate that - I don't know where we're going to find the original cast of actors to do so, but be that as it may, I see an opportunity that has been missed. And I think that if we look at the whole schedule of anniversaries that have taken place over the Yukon, this was another one that we could indeed build upon. But somehow it got out of the loop. I would like to know a little bit more about the background so I can understand why it was out of the loop, why nothing materialized, and why we aren't doing more to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the White Pass and Yukon Route.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We're not aware right now of any initiatives that we are sharing with White Pass. We have offered to work with them, but I will be checking with the rest of my officials tomorrow and get more detail on that for you.
Chair: Just a reminder, please, not to refer to speakers as "you". Please use the Chair.
Mr. Jenkins:I guess we have to look a little bit better upon each other and how we conduct ourselves in the House.
I'll look forward to the Liberal government of the day abiding by the rules. Sooner or later, it will dawn on them that the rules exist and they have to be followed, and I'm hoping it's soon.
Mr. Chair, can I just explore, a little bit more, this marketing initiative, the various marketing partners and partnerships? I'd appreciate receiving a list of the various organizations and groups receiving marketing support in this budget cycle and probably a breakdown of the total program and how we're partnering - just an analysis of the various marketing initiatives. If the minister could provide that - I'm not looking for it immediately, but the day after tomorrow would be fine.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I would be happy to provide that information to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Tourism North - I'd like to know where we're at with our involvement in that initiative, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Tourism North, as the member is quite aware, is a joint program with Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia and the City of Prince Rupert. A lot of this had to do with the money that was given in reparation for the ferry disaster out of Prince Rupert.
Now, that money is spent on the north to Alaska program and we are still having joint meetings with that group, looking at other initiatives for this year. It is my understanding that it is for this year's initiatives that these meetings are taking place.
Mr. Jenkins: So, just a short number of years ago, Mr. Chair, the only involvement was the State of Alaska and Yukon and I'm aware that B.C. came back into the loop. But how did Alberta and Prince Rupert get in as special entities on their own?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Prince Rupert has always been in that particular program. The understanding is that Prince Rupert has always been in there. But, as for Travel Alberta, my understanding is that, after the ferry blockade at Prince Rupert, there was a bus circle route that went through Alberta and that's why the money went toward Alberta and that's how they got involved in the program. All in all, what it does is promote northern travel.
Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to provide further detailed information for the member opposite at a very near future date.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not trying to trap the minister; I just want to get an understanding of this issue.
I got some ugly stares from the Liberal government leader, which insinuated or implied that I was not quite up front. I'm not trying to trap the minister, as I said earlier; I'm just trying to get something on the record so that we can all move ahead. This is the last industry that we've got that's providing some substance and some potential for the Yukon and I want to see it grow, please believe me.
I'd appreciate a response from the minister, a legislative return or just a letter on where the tourism north program starts. Actually, Prince Rupert was out of the hoop for awhile, as was Alberta and all of British Columbia. For awhile, it was just the Yukon and Alaska that moved ahead.
After the blockade of the Malaspina in Prince Rupert, British Columbia opted back in and they were, in large part, funded by the CTC money that flowed from the federal Department of Fisheries minister's announcement that he was going to ante up.
How Alberta got back into the equation, I'd appreciate an understanding of that. I'd also appreciate an indication as to who sits on the board currently. There's no need to rush out and get into pork-barrelling here, Mr. Chair. It's a functional working board, and I was hoping I could just have a list of those who are involved from all sides.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Previous comments notwithstanding, I'd be happy to provide that information for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other documents that normally is a very worthwhile document is the visitor exit survey. I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of that survey, Mr. Chair. When it's based on information some number of years old, just how meaningful is it? I was wondering how meaningful a document it is. When you start to look at the previous time a visitor exit survey was done, by the time it was finalized, it appears to have been some one and a half to two years later after the end of the season. What takes so long? I've seen visitor exit surveys done in Hawaii that are produced virtually monthly and assembled on an annual basis. I've seen many other jurisdictions that can produce these visitor exit surveys in a much quicker manner than we are doing here. It's a document that is produced in-house.
So, I am somewhat apprehensive about the value of the document when it is so late. Also, why does it take so long to produce when other jurisdictions can produce them a lot quicker? And, what are we going to do to improve the length of time it takes to get these visitor exit surveys out and into the hands of those who can use them? They can be and are very useful tools, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I agree. The exit survey in the Yukon is produced the fastest in Canada. That is the way it is right across Canada. We are the fastest. The last one was the fastest in Canada.
Previous to that, there was a real problem. 1994 figures were used and released in 1996. By then, things had changed dramatically. 1987 figures were released, I believe, as late as 1990. But the reality is that they are produced very quickly, because they are very in-depth figures. Now, raw data can be released a lot faster. We are making every effort that we can to release the raw data faster to the marketplace. I have already given direction to the VRCs across the territory. As soon as figures are collated or brought together, then we will release them.
As far as the visitor exit survey, this is useful information even today, but it's presented in such a way that it is interpreted on a higher level. That's what takes the time.
I'm not too sure what level of information the member is looking for. This is actually fairly high-level information for Tourism.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm not questioning the level of information that's being provided. I'm just questioning the timelines it takes to produce this information. The minister must recognize that we're virtually one of the smallest jurisdictions in Canada, also, and to compare ourselves to other jurisdictions in Canada is not really a fair comparison, because we are in an international marketplace and we have to compete with other jurisdictions that can put this kind of information together extremely quickly and use it to their advantage.
It is a tool. It is a very useful tool, Mr. Chair, and I'm very, very hopeful that, under the direction of our new Minister of Tourism, we can see some increases in the input of information and the way it flows out. I'm looking forward to having these documents produced in a more timely manner, but the fallback position that it's the fastest one produced in Canada - I'm not even prepared to entertain that as an excuse for why it takes so long to produce.
The information is readily attainable. We're talking a very, very small population base that attracts a great number of visitors, but the greatest number of those visitors are here for virtually a matter of hours. They are the ones who enter into the Yukon via Skagway, turn around at Carcross and go right back to Skagway.
That is probably one of the largest numbers of visitors that enter the Yukon. For their benefit, to analyze that, you know it wouldn't take very much of a mathematician to go down to the general store in Carcross and count up the number of ice creams or bottles of water that are sold. It's not significant, and the impact on the Yukon's economy is not horrendous. Probably the greatest amount of money Yukon would receive is that portion of the fuel tax for the small portion of the highway that the motor coach travels on. Other than that, the benefits that accrue to Yukon are very, very minimal.
So when you extrapolate the numbers for Carcross, and you zero in on the number of visitors we're targeting, we are not talking a great number of visitors. To put together this visitor exit survey should be a very straightforward exercise. I'm not questioning the quality of the information; I'm not questioning the depth of the information. I'm just questioning the time that it takes to run through the system.
I'll look forward to more current information, numbers - border crossings I can obtain quite readily, airports in-planing and deplaning passengers is quite readily available. The previous government did cut me off from getting medevac statistics out of Dawson and some of the other airports, so we've had to circumvent this gag order and find other ways of getting information. Information is critical to making decisions, and that information is the basis on which we market and promote. I'm only hoping that this plan that the minister has will come into focus. When is the next visitor exit survey planned and what is the timeline for it?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to go back to some of the comments the member has made. The first thing is that the visitor exit survey is done every four years, so the next one will be released four years from now.
The Yukon tourism marketing partnership has a committee that's looking at what figures are useful to industry, and they are going to be giving us direction as to what and when is the best time to receive those figures. That's a really important fact, Mr. Chair, because there's no sense us producing numbers that don't make sense to the people who need it most. We want to make sure that we have numbers out there that are useful to the people who are going to be consuming those numbers, if you take my meaning.
The figures are going to be given to industry on a regular basis. That is my commitment as Minister of Tourism: we're going to have a lot more data collection. More numbers are going to be collected and there will be more policy.
As for the 5,000 people a year whom the member spoke about - the ones who come up and eat the ice cream cone in Carcross - we have taken those figures out of the numbers we are giving to industry. You can rest assured that we have taken those 5,000 individuals out of that raw data.
Now, the thing is is that it is raw data and is of limited value to people. What we have done is to go back to industry and ask, "What do you want?" They are telling us what they want, and that makes a lot of sense. That's why the partnership was such a good idea, and that's why it should have been done a long time ago. Now it's working quite well.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other impediments to the growth of our visitor industry is air access to Yukon. The Whitehorse International Airport has been expanded. It is an initiative that our party supported because we could see the benefits that would accrue to Yukon as a consequence of expanded airport facilities and, included in that equation, terminal facilities.
But, we appear to be on the short end of the stick, Mr. Chair, given the current merger of Canadian and Air Canada. Probably with the headquarters based in the east, Air Canada is going to have the same thoughts as anyone else. They're going to concentrate on east/west and international travel where they are extremely competitive, and anything north/south in Canada seems to extract an extra pound of flesh from the people having or wanting to fly that way - to the detriment of our economy and the growth of our visitor industry. Could the minister, perhaps, just go over the steps that she and her officials within her department are taking? I'm sure they have been in contact with Air Canada to see what we can do to improve air access with our year-round carrier.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Tourism is taking the lead on this issue. It's a very important issue, not only to Tourism, but to C&TS, Economic Development, Government Services, Finance and every section of this government, as well as to the private sector, obviously. It is extremely important to our economy. So far, at my first meeting as Minister of Tourism, this was at the top of the agenda. This is a national issue. Tourism ministers right across this nation are trying to deal with this issue. It's extremely important and there are similar problems in every jurisdiction. There are lineups around airports to try to check in. People get to the top of the lineup and then find out they're in the wrong terminal or in the wrong lineup. There is the disappearance of whole fare structures. The convention fare structure is almost in the process of disappearing now. We only have it by fluke right now. We are looking at student standby fares and what has happened to them. Medical evacuation fares - all of those are part of the air access issue.
What we have done is that a couple of departments have met with the VP of intergovernmental affairs with Air Canada, Mr. Port, and we have spoken at great length with him about how important keeping Air Canada competitive in the Yukon is and getting it into that hub.
In addition to that, our department has met with municipal officials in a number of communities. We have talked to other departments and we've spoken to the industry, and we want to present a unified voice to Air Canada. That's extremely important. We want to make sure that we're not off in a hundred different directions, that we're speaking with one voice to Air Canada.
They have a monopoly here and that is a really big problem. We've always had a monopoly here, but there was also another national carrier. The problems that we've had in the past are nothing compared to the problems that we could be having in the future. Therefore, we are using every ounce of energy that we have to deal with this issue. It's extremely important; the member opposite is absolutely correct.
But what we can't have happen is to have one community or one industry off doing negotiations on their own. We have to speak together as Yukoners with one voice, and that will give us strength in the negotiations with this huge corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: That was very well-spoken. It's probably an initiative that, if a motion was moved to that effect, I don't anticipate any problem with probably attaining all-party support, because this is the lifeline of Whitehorse to the south.
But I see some glaring similarities in our approach to this initiative, as I did with the Minister of Finance, the Premier of the Yukon, in her approach to the Alaska Highway pipeline.
What's her fallback position? Do we have any other options?
Now, I think it's very important that we explore other avenues in this regard, Mr. Chair, and I look and I'm fortunate enough to live in Dawson City, and in Dawson, I'm the same distance from Whitehorse as I am from Fairbanks.
Air North flies to both, and in Fairbanks, I can get on Alaska Airlines and fly from Fairbanks directly to Seattle and back to Vancouver for $209 U.S. So, throw on another 50 percent and it's just over $300. Now, try and get an airfare out of Whitehorse, 12 months of the year, for $300 to Vancouver, and that's return. The only time that I can't do that is over some of the long holidays, when those fares aren't available. I guess I don't get the $5 Vancouver airport improvement fee; I have to pay the international one, but still, when you add it all up at the end of the day, it's much less expensive for me to go that route and down.
And then, given the number of direct flights that go into Anchorage International Airport that we could be tagging onto, I think it's probably very, very beneficial if the Yukon explored other ways whereby we can improve our air access.
Some of the other suggestions that I'd make to the minister, Mr. Chair, are that we explore some of the other carriers, some of the discount airlines, if you want to call them that, or even our own Yukon-based Air North to see if they're looking at expanding. I think this would be extremely beneficial. You only have to look to the east where the various First Nations have become involved in airlines. And, indeed, in the Yukon, Old Crow has got a piece of the action in Air North currently. So, I see a lot of potential and a lot of opportunity.
When I come down to Whitehorse, if I want to jump on Air Canada or Canadian, or whatever you want to call it, tomorrow to go to Vancouver, I'm look at about a $1,500 bill. Now, in anyone's money, that's a lot of money.
Mind you, on the days that Canada 3000 flies, I can get one heck of a better rate, but only the flight that virtually arrives and departs at the same time Air Canada now does. That has been the case. Competition is a wonderful, wonderful way of getting the rates to where we can live with them.
So, I would urge the minister to explore a number of these other avenues, and I'm hopeful that she's equal to the challenge of having a backup position, unlike the Premier of the Yukon, who doesn't seem to have one with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have been investigating other possibilities since the very beginning. There are other airlines in Canada, and that is certainly one of the options we have been looking at. WestJet and the other discount airlines are possibilities. There are other national airlines in the United States that fly nationally. We have been doing that, right from the very beginning.
The department is certainly open to any new initiatives, and we explore everything we can. That's part of being responsible. This is a huge issue for the Yukon. We're very much aware of that. We haven't put all our eggs in one basket, not by any stretch of the imagination.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister envision any success on any of the other initiatives in the near future?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we're looking at a lot of different options right now. If one is successful, that's great; if two are successful, that's even better. We're looking at a lot of different options. We envision that some of them are going to be successful. We're working very hard in that respect.
Mr. Jenkins: Any timelines for success on any of these initiatives, Mr. Chair? Or is it another 10-year plan?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, there's nothing wrong with 10-year plans. It is good to look ahead. Truly, we're looking at a six-month timeline with Air Canada. We're also negotiating with other airlines at the same time.
Mr. Jenkins: With respect to charter operators coming into Whitehorse, are there any new initiatives that are anticipated in that area, such as European charter operators? I'm talking international now, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it doesn't look like there are going to be any more airlines flying in directly from Europe; however, the airlines that are flying in from Europe next year will be increasing their number of flights.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other impediments to the growth is the state of the airport, specifically in my community, Mr. Chair. I know that's under the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, but that airport is proving to be an impediment to the growth of our visitor industry in the Klondike and, indeed, the Yukon's visitor industry. I'm hoping that you, as Minister of Tourism, will take it upon yourself to speak with your colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and maybe we can advance some initiatives with respect to the Dawson City Airport. Number one, it's probably in the tightest place or the narrowest point in the Klondike Valley, between Dawson and Flat Creek. The weather situation creates weather systems at both ends of the airport, and, furthermore, it's strictly a day VFR airport. And of course, the surface of the airport is still gravel.
There is still several million dollars in the federal government coffers that could be called upon to address some of the needs - whether that's enough or not, after the Arctic A, B and C airport transfer took place. So, I'm hopeful that both these ministers can get together and see what they can do for the visitor industry in the Yukon because access is all-important.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Regional issues are very much part of the air access larger picture. We've spoken already to officials in Watson Lake; we've spoken to some officials in Dawson City; obviously we hear regular comments from the Member for Klondike. We work very closely with Community and Transportation Services; we always have. This is an issue that crosses both departments, and we will certainly be keeping the members opposite updated. It's an important issue to all Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other principal access routes is the highway system, and I refer specifically to the Taylor Highway that was blocked. The State of Alaska did not demonstrate much enthusiasm to throw men and equipment at it to get it reopened, and it was subsequently closed for four days. Did the Minister of Tourism make a call to the Governor of the State of Alaska on this very important issue and ask the governor or any of the governor's officials if they could speed up the process? I know the Minister of Community and Transportation Services didn't, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm sad to say that I did not. Had the member made me aware, I certainly would have gone and done just that. I don't expect the member opposite is the right one to keep me informed on these issues, and I will certainly be on top of it in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, these are some of the things in which a Minister of Tourism, Mr. Chair, could really assist Yukon. We can't rely on the Minister of Community and Transportation Services because her briefing notes are there but she only reads them at Question Period. Other than that, I was hopeful that the Tourism minister would spend some time and just stay on top of these very important issues. She seems to have a very dedicated trend recently, and I look forward to listening to the news and following up on some of these.
So, I thank her for it and, in future, should we have any major washouts, I'll certainly give her a ding.
Mr. Chair, one of the other initiatives that the Liberals, in their campaign, promised a tremendous amount of money for was heritage. I know, in debates previously, she pointed out where we were heading with the increase in funding in the next budget cycle, but I'd like her to spell out what she envisions for the Beringia Centre. Will we be looking at that centre refocusing on how it was originally envisioned so that it could eventually pay its own way, or are we going to be looking at farming out its operation such as almost occurred under the previous government? Where are we heading with the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, on a very temporary basis, we're going with the Friends of Beringia model, slightly modified. We're working with the Transportation Museum to operate that particular facility.
We will be looking at the Beringia Centre, along with the other museums, as part of the museum study. That study should be starting fairly shortly and we'll be looking at a number of issues around culture and heritage and where we need to go with that in the long term, possibly even a 10-year plan.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if we're looking at the Beringia Centre in the museum model, there's not possibly ever going to be a day when it can pay as it goes, but if we wrap it up into a resource centre, the business plan clearly demonstrated that it could eventually pay its own way.
Are we not aiming to let these facilities pay their own way eventually, or are we just going to continue with them as being a cost? You know, in many respects it's a necessary cost. I'm not arguing that point, but there is a potential for making this facility a facility that could pay its own way if we coupled it with a resource centre. Now, where are we with respect to that initiative?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's interesting. When we were in Watson Lake, we were speaking to the people who were working in the Northern Lights Centre, and they spoke about the fact that because they're a science institute, they're not included in museum funding.
Those are the sorts of issues that we need to look at in the bigger picture. Beringia is one of those issues. There are many, and we are not going to be looking at it individually; we'll be looking at them together.
The Member for Porter Creek South, the Premier, has spoken in this Legislature at great length. I remember her spending an entire afternoon speaking about the Lord study, the former museum study, and I will never forget her words on that subject. Clearly, we need to do this again. But I'm not going to be looking at just one museum or one institute. We're going to be looking at the bigger picture, and part of that bigger picture is going to be looking at a heritage resource centre. It may be attached to Beringia; it may not. That's one of the issues that we're going to look at in the study.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have to disagree with the minister, Mr. Chair. What we don't need is another Lord study because it's the biggest set of bookends that I've ever seen. The information is there and it could be used as reference material and it was extremely beneficial, but that was an extensive undertaking, and I'm not convinced that we need a replica of that study.
The number of museums and quasi-type museums throughout the Yukon have increased, and one of the initiatives that is getting people into the museums is our passport program. That appears to be working very, very well.
Is there any move afoot to enhance or increase the passport program, Mr. Chair? For awhile it was just virtually impossible for anyone to get into it. Is it still occurring or is that one dormant now?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, there are two things. I need to go back with the member to speak about the larger picture. We do need another study. Not all the recommendations in the Lord study were followed. Perhaps they shouldn't all have been followed, but if the member thinks they made a great bookend, so did a lot of other people. I think that's the problem. If we're going to do these studies, we have to make sure we start implementing them; otherwise we're wasting our time; we're wasting our money. In particular, we're wasting the energy of the industry that comes and speaks to us about these issues. Absolutely - we're going to do the whole picture. We're not going to do it here and there. Otherwise, we're making political decisions about an industry and that's not right.
Now, regarding the passport program, there have been a couple of increases. There has been the Binet House, and there has also been the Northern Lights Centre added to that program. We are looking at increasing it again in the future. Absolutely.
Mr. Jenkins: So, for purposes of the museum program and funding, the Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake is not considered to be eligible for funding, but, for the museum passport program, it is. How are these decisions made?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, this is one of the many things that we're going to be investigating in the museum study. It doesn't make sense. There's a lot of stuff that just doesn't make sense. These things happened over time. Some of them were political decisions. They just don't make sense. That's why you have to look at it in the bigger picture. That's why you need a business plan for this department that makes sense. That's why you need to move things from O&M to capital, capital to O&M. That's why we need better figures. That's why we need policy people. That's why we need a museum study, and part of that study is going to be looking at a heritage resource centre. There's a lot to fix here. This has been the combination of many, many years of people playing with the ministry of fun.
And it's going to take a long time to clean it up. And you're right that it doesn't make sense that it's in the passport program, but it's not funded under the museum program. The reason it's not funded is because the branch takes very literally the guidelines under the national museum program. It doesn't make sense. I think we need a Yukon solution to this, and we have to look at what we're doing with Yukon First Nations and in all of the other industries that work with culture and heritage, as well. It's definitely something we want to look at in the larger picture. I don't want to do a medium or small job on this, and I don't want to do a half-job on this. I want to do the very best we can for Yukoners - and the very best for future generations, as well, and we will.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'll make one suggestion. The very best she can do is to increase the paid attendance at all of these attractions. That passport program was extremely beneficial and worthwhile, Mr. Chair. Perhaps by enhancing that passport program and having a little bit different or bigger or better prize at the end of the period of time, we might be able to attract more individuals around the Yukon. I can tell you that after the Binet House in Mayo was added to the passport program, their visitation shot through the roof compared to what it was before. Prior to that, people would drive right by, turn, go up to Keno and spend their time at the museum there, as if Mayo didn't even exist. And there is a very, very good attraction in Mayo in the Binet House. Why it was out of the loop for as long as it was, I don't know. I just see a lot of opportunities for such attractions to be in this passport program and to get many more individuals to travel around the Yukon.
So, it probably takes a little tweaking. I don't think it takes - what's that new catch word we had here earlier? We're not going to go there, I don't think. Let's improve and enhance on what we have because these attractions are all, in themselves, very worthwhile visiting and having a look at. I try to make a point of going in and visiting each and every one of them once a year, just to see what's happening and what has transpired.
It's enjoyable now to go up to the Beringia Centre, where we have the Beringia Centre and the Transportation Museum both together. The only thing now is that it takes considerably more time to do it all than it used to, when one would just go to the Transportation Museum. So be it. That's the exercise that we're engaged in. We need to get the people in there, keep them, and make sure they spend as many dollars here in the Yukon as they possibly can - not just come in, buy an ice-cream cone, turn around and leave.
So, I am pleased that we are moving ahead on that. Are there any timelines for all of this to occur? I know that the minister bit off a big chunk. I was hoping we could have something in place where we could have a clear, definitive direction and clear, defined lines for museum funding, as well as what qualifies and what doesn't in the next budget cycle. Is that possible? Perhaps I should ask: is that probable?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, as we have mentioned many, many times in previous debate, we're looking at all of our priorities together as a government, all the departments. We're looking at all our priorities, and we'll see where this is in that list of priorities after our planning exercise.
I am very aware of the fact that people are making financial decisions based on the information that would be coming out of such a study, and that's something that I'm going to be bringing forward to my colleagues in that planning exercise.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually, in the whole scale of things, heritage falls to the bottom of the pile for some reason, and it's something that we can use very much to our benefit. We should be preserving it, we should be displaying it, and our heritage is extremely important - both our First Nation heritage and our recent mining heritage, which gave birth to the Yukon as a distinct territory of Canada.
On that note, Mr. Chair, are there any initiatives with the First Nations with respect to heritage and coming forward in the foreseeable future? I know there are a lot of discussions underway, but what is actually transpiring in that regard?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is quite correct. There are a number of initiatives that are being negotiated and discussed right now. The member is aware that we have certain obligations under the umbrella final agreement, in chapter 13.
The other thing about a lot of the First Nation issues is that they usually take place in smaller centres, and so the effect of these initiatives is far greater than it would be, say, in a larger centre like Whitehorse. So, those negotiations have to be done well. They have to be done in a respectful way with the local First Nation. That takes time.
The ones that we're working on right now, of course, are in Carmacks, Pelly Crossing, Dawson and Teslin. A lot of those came out of the centennial anniversaries program. In addition to that, we're working with the Ross River Dena Council, the Kwanlin Dun, Kluane First Nation and Carcross-Tagish. Like I say, there are a number of ongoing initiatives. I don't know if there are any that are particularly close, but we will keep members opposite apprised as they come forward.
Chair: The time being 8:30 p.m., do members wish to take a short break?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Chair: We will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I will call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with debate on the estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other initiatives that appears to be under development is the purchase of a building in Whitehorse - the Irly Bird building - and the creation of a 500-seat bingo hall. What is the Liberal government's position on this type of a visitor attraction? How do they view gambling? Does the minister see an expansion of gambling in the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, that's a municipal issue, as far as that particular project is concerned. The member knows that.
As far as expansion of gambling in the Yukon is concerned, that's one of the issues that we will be discussing in our planning exercise, when all of caucus sits down and goes through our priorities.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, no, the initiative to rezone that area from what it currently is, to accommodate that need, is a municipal issue. As to the licensing for gambling purposes, that is a territorial government initiative. I would like to know if the government has a position. Will they be licensing it after the city rezones it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, first of all, that's a Justice issue. They are the department responsible for that licensing. However, I can say that, at this point, I don't see any reason why they can be turned down, but I think that's an issue that needs to be better explored with the Minister of Justice in that department debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for her response on that issue. Probably just as I go through the last of my notes and the notes that I have made - that we're going to be changing the department's objectives - I'd like to go back and once more get on the record the actual position with respect to the Beringia Centre. Is this government in favour of the resource centre construction adjacent to Beringia, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, the campaign promise that the Yukon Liberal Party made was to examine the feasibility of a Yukon heritage resource centre. There is no connection to any particular structure attached to the feasibility examination of that project. However, we have committed, and I have committed, that that subject will be part of a museum study that will be conducted within the Yukon Territory over the next three and a half years - hopefully sooner than later.
Mr. Jenkins: So, Mr. Chair, if I understand the minister correctly, we have what is going to transpire this summer with respect to the Beringia Centre. It will be operated in conjunction with the Transportation Museum, and over the next three and a half years, we're going to look at what's going to transpire. Is there any way to put more definitive timelines on this review and focus in? Because the museum issue is a very important issue, and the certainty of its funding is critical to the museums being maintained and enhanced, and a game plan to make them more self-sustaining and get more paying customers through the door is always welcomed. I was hoping the minister could put better timelines on this initiative than what she currently has - three and a half years.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I can't give a more succinct timeline at this point, but I very definitely will have a more succinct timeline by fall, when next this House goes into session.
What I have done is to instruct my staff, through the deputy minister, to be more proactive in the marketing of the Beringia Centre for this summer. That staff member will be starting that project at the end of this month.
The member is really well aware that much of government right now has come to a grinding halt while we pass this budget. A number of priorities are being dealt with by the department - briefing notes, et cetera, et cetera - that won't be necessary when the Legislature rises. At that time, staff will be able to pay more attention to what they should be paying attention to, and that's the running of this government.
Mr. Jenkins: I must say that I'm somewhat appalled that government has come to a grinding halt because this Legislature is sitting, and there's no reason whatsoever for that. Now, I realize the departments have a very, very heavy load in having to retrain a new series of ministers. But, my gosh, government cannot come to a grinding halt, Mr. Chair. There are day-to-day operations of this government that must continue. They have to continue. And for this minister to blame some of these initiatives not proceeding on the operation of this House and getting this budget through - the operation of this Legislature is a function of government. So let's not pass the buck; the buck has to remain firmly in the court of the government of the day to conduct the affairs of government and to operate in this Legislature simultaneously. You were elected to fulfill a role and a function, and if you're not able to do it, call another election.
Chair: Order please. I would ask you to refer your remarks through the Chair and not use the word "you".
Mr. Jenkins: If the government of the day is not able to do it, Mr. Chair, call an election, get out of the way; let's start over again. Because government has to continue, and government operations must continue at the same time that this Legislature sits and we function in this Assembly here. So I think it's probably that the minister just misspoke herself with respect to a grinding halt having occurred in government.
Now I know the current government wants out of here awfully bad, as probably does everyone else, but be that as it may, this is the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon, and it's our responsibility in opposition to hold this government accountable for their spending, for where it's being spent, and to question policies and changes in policy direction.
That's what it's all about. The system of government that we have, while it isn't perfect, is probably one of the best in the world. Let's recognize that. Let's accept it. Let's move on. I would ask the minister, Mr. Chair, that she not refer to the Legislature causing the business of government to come to a grinding halt.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have a dedicated public service in the Yukon. They work very hard. During the time that the Legislature is in session, there is a great deal of attention paid to the workings that go on in this Legislature. That's a reality. The member opposite talks about how this side of the House doesn't want to work, doesn't want to be here. That's absolutely ludicrous. This side of the House called the Legislature back into session. This side of the House wants to work hard, far harder than some of the members opposite, who don't seem to be willing to extend hours to work hard to pass this budget, to get this money out in the Yukon economy.
To be absolutely clear, this budget reflects the policies of the previous government. We tabled it - lock, stock and barrel. Those are the previous NDP policies in this budget. Those do not reflect the policies of the Yukon Liberal Party. That is very, very clear. We have never deviated from that message; that's the way it is. If the member wants to sit all summer, we'll sit all summer. I have absolutely no problem with that. I have already said that a number of times. You want to sit here until the end of August; we'll sit here until the end of August. I want to be absolutely clear that that is not a problem. I would enjoy spending more time with the Member for Klondike.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair, but I doubt this minister would find much enthusiasm for what she is suggesting here in the House tonight. There is not much enthusiasm whatsoever. All we're looking for is clear, concise answers in an orderly manner, and we can move on.
Mr. Chair, I have just about exhausted the line of questioning I had in general debate. I know some of my colleagues in the official opposition have some further questions of the minister, and I'll look forward to continuing, should the need arise.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'll never sit and duke it out with the minister of fun, because I believe in the honeymoon period also. I'll just be specific to my riding and maybe I'll stray a tad, just from conversations I've been listening to from across the floor.
There has been a letter sent to the Minister of C&TS and I believe it has been c.c.'d to Tourism. The letter is about signage promoting the Southern Lakes area, especially the Carcross-Tagish loop. Is she looking for any more dollars in the future toward signage, and are you going to be able to honour these working relationships with the community?
I know these questions are C&TS related, but there is also signage within the departmental budget of Tourism, too, and I think it's applicable at this point.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I was indeed c.c.'d that letter, and we are working on that issue. It's an important issue. I was absolutely amazed to see - was it last year? A publication was put out with 101 things that you can do on the Carcross-Tagish loop. It was a wonderful initiative - absolutely a wonderful initiative. There were things that I hadn't even thought about, you know, having lived in that area for most of my life.
I do know that that issue has gone to, I believe, the sign committee. Now, the Yukon tourism marketing program does have a sign committee. The member is aware of that, and those issues around signs are universal; it's not just within the member's riding.
I will get back to the member. I will follow through on this with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and I will get back to the member opposite as soon as possible.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was wondering, though. I don't believe that the Chamber of Commerce is a member of TIA. How do the people who are outside TIA membership and the marketing partnership get represented?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, my official is pointing out something that he is very much aware of. You don't have to be a member of TIA in order to join the Yukon tourism marketing program.
Certainly, we did receive a letter from the Chamber of Commerce in Carcross, and we are looking forward to resolving those issues with them.
Mr. Keenan: I was wondering, Mr. Chair, how do you communicate with these people and let them be aware of some of these programs that are within an umbrella organization such as TIA without them actually being a member of TIA. There are a lot of people who are small entrepreneurs or small business people, I guess you could say. How would they get in contact, how would they get in touch, how did they become a meaningful part outside of this partnership?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'm very much aware of that issue. I know that TIA doesn't have a complete membership of every single tourism-driven industry in the Yukon, and it's something that I'm working on. I really have seen that in a couple of other groups that aren't involved with TIA, and it's something I'll be working on in the very near future.
Mr. Keenan: I accept that answer, Mr. Chair, and I would appreciate it if I could have some written communication back as to time frames, et cetera, that I could share with my constituents, please, from the Tourism department on this. It's mostly a Tourism-led initiative because they are attempting to - and I don't want my constituents to have to come to C&TS and then get referred over to another department. There's one lead, and I heard Tourism would be the lead on it.
I'd also like to ask a question. I know that I gave the instruction to the department to, please, before the season actually started quite some time ago, go out and do some workshops with people in Carcross and the Tagish area, and I think that's a good initiative that we should be doing throughout the territory. I know that the department is very busy, especially the industry services and others, but I'd just like to say, as my colleague to my left has said, it doesn't really work for all.
I have another question - you don't have to stand on your feet now - for which I would like written confirmation. On the tourism regional plans and development, it all ties in with the entrepreneurship and spreading out of the ideas of would-be businesspeople. The tourism regional plans, I know, are about a year and a half behind.
Chair: Order please. I would ask the member to refer through the Chair, rather than using the word "you".
Mr. Keenan: Would the member have any ideas about when this might be happening? Are they going to be speeding up the regional development plans? Pardon me, Mr. Chair. Are they going to be speeding up the regional plans on behalf of government to be able to get all regions up? Because certainly there is more to the Yukon than the Klondike and Whitehorse.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, first of all, I have instructed my officials to get back to the member as quickly as possible about that signage issue. That will be followed through on by my department and by my officials, working with Community and Transportation Services. The member opposite will be contacted extremely soon on that issue.
What the member needs to know is that the department is going to all communities this fall. They've already been doing regular visits in a number of communities so far this summer. As far as the regional plans go, they are done every 10 years, as the member is aware. That is not often enough. What happens is that because they are done once a decade, a lot of the recommendations never get implemented. That is our greatest concern. If we do them more often, that's good, but if we don't implement any of the recommendations, there is no point in the whole exercise. So, what we're looking at is speeding up the process for doing the regional plans, and also looking at implementation of the recommendations that come out of those plans. To us, that is the greater priority.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I might be able to suggest a solution to the member opposite, on behalf of the official opposition. The tourism regional plans are done every 10 years; you are absolutely right. They make great bookends in a lot of cases, because the capacity within the department is just not there to go back and massage or help enlighten the community or the region.
I think that an idea that might be good is what we had embarked on - or started to embark on - and that was if the member would take the Department of Tourism and partner with the Department of Economic Development and do some road shows. I know that when I was talking to the folks in Carcross, they didn't expect much more than a day or two of introduction to government and how they might be able to find capital resources, different programs, different ideas or just someone to talk to at times. Wouldn't that be a possibility that could be looked at?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Absolutely. The department is following through on that initiative. It's a really important point. Those communications to the rural communities often aren't as good as they could be. And that's part of that process: to get the faces attached to the names attached to the voice at the other end of the phone, so that people can make those connections with the appropriate departments. That's the case in every department. People don't know who to phone. They don't even really know the information that they really need to get. So, this is something that we're working on. It's practical, and it makes a lot of sense.
I hope that the member opposite can keep us updated if there are people with particular issues who are having problems getting through to government, because we would certainly like to expedite that process.
Mr. Keenan: In the region that I represent, along with the Member for Faro, there's a very aggressive group called CRFT, the Campbell Region for Tourism opportunities. Within the budget, $50,000 was allocated for this group to look at the development of tourism within the Campbell region, and that would maybe include the trip from Watson Lake, up the Campbell Highway and back to the hinterland - those types of things. Is the $50,000 still secure in the budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Absolutely. There have been no changes to the lines in this budget, to be absolutely clear. There haven't been changes to the lines in the budget. Certainly, within the line, I would imagine that there is occasionally some moving around of dollars, but the commitments in this budget are the commitments that we are keeping. That commitment is solid.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, we know that that particular region has not been marketed as much as it should or could be. It is definitely coming together. The communities of Ross River and Faro are very much working together. They're looking very much to diversify their economy. They realize that the mining at this point in time is not here for us in the Yukon Territory, so they're looking to be able to diversify their communities. It's very much a challenge. One is a contemporary community that in most other places in Canada at this point in time would be a ghost town. Yet the community has very much struggled and shown a lot of perseverance in diversifying its economy.
Different folks who live in the community of Faro have reached out, and, my God, we've been watching them on television here because they do have a spirit to diversify and to stay where they are.
Would it be possible for the minister to look at continuing some ongoing support for these types of initiatives over the next few years?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Our commitment is to local groups or local industries that are already offering services in the way of tourism marketing, et cetera, to their communities. It doesn't make sense to go out and reinvent the wheel. If there's something that's already happening within a community that's successful, then you should support it - absolutely.
Mr. Keenan: I take it that there would be consideration of ongoing support for the initiative that has happened within the Campbell region. Is that correct?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I can't make commitments beyond this budget cycle, but I can say to the member opposite that we would support local initiatives first.
Mr. Keenan: I'm sure that the member opposite will be able to expect a visit from the folks who comprise the CRFT.
I spoke sparingly, mind you, to the member opposite over the past few years about working and making things better for the Yukon Territory. I must say that I'm a bit frightened, if I could say it, at points in time, by the inexperience of the folks opposite, but certainly always willing - well I have no choice - to work with people. So I will work with people, and I would do that even if I did have a choice.
I feel that, as we move toward these marketing partnerships, we're focusing on an industry that is comprised with only people who are underneath an umbrella. There are many people who are outside that umbrella - many, many people outside that umbrella. There are four pillars, as the member knows, and there's a lot of marketing and sexy language in marketing. But there are certainly four pillars that we know of that we focus on that would market the Yukon Territory. The land and the First Nation people's product are primarily the two top initiatives that people come to see from around the world, because it is intact here.
I'm wondering, now that we have more of a marketing partnership focused under the umbrella organization, where do the people who are outside the umbrella organization, the would-be entrepreneurs, go to find resources? What is the member going to do for them, to get them up so that we have authentic product delivered by authentic people?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, earlier in the debate, I expressed to the member opposite my concern about the fact that there are so many people outside of TIA, which I think is the organization that the member is talking about. Those groups may not be getting communicated to as best they could. That is a concern that I have talked about with my officials and we are going to be addressing.
As far as First Nation product or the development of First Nation tourism potential in the Yukon, we have a commitment to them, as a government, to work with them as partners to develop marketing opportunities.
Let me go back. People come to the Yukon, as the member has just said, to see the genuine thing, the real thing. And, we have got the real thing. So, it only makes sense for us to spend a little bit of time and a little bit of money on developing that product and developing it so there's a standard that is met. If we go out and we sell a substandard product, we don't do ourselves any favours because people won't come back and that word will spread like wildfire. When the member was the Minister of Tourism, he probably had to deal with more than his share of bad rumours. I remember an incident around water. The fact is that we have to develop good product and that is something that I am very concerned about as a minister, as a member of this government and as a Yukoner. I don't want to be out there promoting a less-than-stellar product, because it just doesn't pay off in the long run.
Mr. Keenan: So can I take it, Mr. Chair, from the minister's answer, that the minister will be looking at programs or a dog-and-pony show or an opportunity to go out and spread the word and to actually get them to facilitate the process? Maybe sometimes we're going to have to drag somebody by the back of the hair over to that wonderful business centre over there to learn development. That's very much my concern. I struggled with that when I was in the position and I can certainly understand the current minister's problem, but I surely would expect that the current minister would continue to work to bring this authentic product forward.
I have one - well, maybe two more questions.
I listened with open ears, I guess, to get a deeper understanding of the reasoning behind providing O&M funding to the anniversary program. If we're going to be looking at developing operational funding and doing marketing for and on behalf of the Northern Lights Centre in Watson Lake - and I heard the member say that previously - is that going to be an open invitation to marketing or looking at O&M things for any of the other anniversary program initiatives that were carried out?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we absolutely did not commit to ongoing funding for the Northern Lights Centre at any point. What I was speaking about in the debate previously was the fact that a place like the Northern Lights Centre doesn't fit under the criteria for museum funding. That's a real problem, because it's very much a worthwhile initiative. We need to look at it in connection with all the other museums that are out there, or other initiatives that are similar to it, and we want to do that under a museum study. That was the commitment made.
Mr. Keenan: So, I could be led to believe that the government would assist the heritage centre that is coming into the community of Teslin - I believe it's a $2.5 million endeavour - to showcase First Nation items in an overall marketing initiative. What type of assistance are you going to be offering those folks?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, all groups are eligible under the tourism marketing fund - absolutely.
I think it's important that, under a museum study, we look at all the groups that are involved and that includes First Nations, the science centre in Watson Lake, local museums in Whitehorse and in all the outlying areas.
We have to look at the whole picture, not one thing here and another thing there, so we don't give line items to one agency and not to another. It doesn't make sense, because when we start doing that, then we're making political decisions as opposed to providing good government and that doesn't make sense in the long run for Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, we have a program that has been opened up that is primarily focused on museums and the passport program. It has been opened up with crowbars, I guess, as it should be, Mr. Chair. But does that mean now that you do this study on museums? Some of these are not really museums.
The heritage centre in Teslin is not a museum. It's going to be a for-profit organization. I believe there is one in Carmacks that is of the same stature. I believe there is another one under the anniversaries program in Dawson City. Will you be consulting with those folks and looking to find ways?
I see the member nodding her head, so that'll be fine for me. Put it on the record.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Absolutely. That's the problem. A lot of these don't fit the typical criteria and that's why they need to be included within this process, because we're not looking just at museums, we're also looking at culture and heritage in a much more global sense.
I think that I need to mention right now that we are actively pursuing economic development agreements that we should have received under the western diversification program. The Premier has written to Minister Manley, saying that we're very much interested in those economic development agreements that the western provinces have received, but we have not. Part of that is funding for those projects, similar to the one in Teslin.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I was again listening to the minister speak of the Beringia Centre earlier this evening, and good luck. I want that to work, too. I want it very much to work. I think it could be an added asset to the Yukon Territory. I don't think it is at this point in time. I think it started off ludicrously, from the very beginning of the project - absolutely. It was a Yukon Party red herring, and we just tried to make it better. Good luck, and I appreciate the challenge that the member has. I certainly appreciate the challenge, and I know that the government will rise to that.
That brings me to another line, if I could. Attractions are needed in the Yukon Territory. Does the government plan on building these attractions? What is the process for identifying these attractions, and what is the process for putting some of these attractions into the private sector for development, and not just by government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I believe that the member opposite is referring to a program that was started under the previous government, looking at attractions in the Yukon. Much of that was shifted particularly into winter tourism attractions. We are waiting for a report on that, and we are expecting it momentarily. At that point, the parts that are public can certainly be shared with the members opposite.
We are not looking at investing Yukon government dollars into infrastructure at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Speaking to the deputy to your left, are you referring to C2E2?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think that subcommittee of Cabinet tried to develop the icon study. Is that the project that the member is referring to? He is indicating that yes, that is the one they were studying. Somehow or another, it became a project involving a winter tourism destination study. That project is going to be giving a report to us very shortly.
Mr. Keenan: That would be fine, and if you would please forward a copy to our respective Tourism critics when it's released, we'd very much appreciate that. It doesn't start off with a focus on just primarily winter tourism, but on the need of attractions here in the Yukon Territory. I certainly thank the minister for that.
I have just one final question. I asked it previously, just a few moments ago. I'd like a certain clarity in my mind. It's the would-be entrepreneurs who have the idea for a product but don't have the product. They are outside all of these other programs and initiatives. I hear from the minister that I could write something in my newsletter saying, "Would-be entrepreneurs, call 1-800-de-da-de-da-de-da, and there will be assistance for you, and people will be able to work with you through the identification of whatever that product could and would be."
Those are all of my questions.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we're refocusing the department to deal with those issues within industry services. We're trying to get people into the business centre, and we appreciate any help we can get from the member opposite in trying to get people to the right place to hear the right message about how they can improve their lives economically.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions that I'd like to explore with the minister. One of them is following up on my budget reply speech a couple of weeks ago about the $25,000 for upgrading the existing VRC, toward a study with Parks Canada. Can she confirm if that's in the budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I did some investigation on that after the member brought that forward in his speech. That was never in the budget. It was unfortunately cut by the previous government.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that isn't quite correct. It was put back into the budget before it was finalized. It may not be a separate line item in the budget, but it was certainly part of the budget. I can provide some information to confirm that - probably not tonight. We're pretty late in the schedule here. Maybe the minister can provide us with some more information on this. I see she's getting passed a note now.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I need to tell the member again, the answer is no; that was cut by the previous government. The direction given to the department was that it was not to be included in the budget. That is very, very clear. That is the message. That's what happened. The member opposite obviously has a different message that was given to him, but the reality is that it never made it into the budget. The direction was never given to the department to include it. If anything, it was quite clear that that item had been cut from the budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not going to debate this point with the minister tonight. I'd like to move on to the other point I raised in my budget reply speech a couple of weeks ago about marketing the Haines Junction convention centre.
Can the minister indicate whether she was approached about that by people, and could she give us an update on where that stands?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have been approached and the message is that that group wants to get their own house in order first and then they will be coming back to us with a better plan.
We're looking, in the long run, at support for that centre out in Haines Junction. For example, the people who might be coming to a convention centre might be looking for a five-star hotel or they might want to go to a hotel that may require some work in the future. Those are the sort of long-term projects that we're looking at that will go with the convention centre.
As for the group that the member mentioned, they will be getting back to me, I gather, when they have their plans in place.
Mr. McRobb: I mentioned a few of the unique aspects of that convention centre a couple of weeks back and, in retrospect, I realize I didn't mention all of them. Certainly, the fact that Haines Junction is about the only community in the territory with a first class convention facility outside of Whitehorse is significant. Kluane is one of the areas with a regional tourism plan now being finalized, and that plan certainly points to the potential in this facility, if it's marketed properly, in producing benefits for the entire Kluane region. Can the minister give us an idea of what she has in mind when it comes to marketing this facility?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's not what I would like to do to promote this project; it's what the local people who are working with that project want to do. I'm not going to go off and dream stuff up about how this should be marketed; I think I would rather hear from the people in that area about what they see as a good business plan or a good plan to market the convention centre. It's a beautiful, beautiful centre, and I love driving out to the Junction. You come around that one corner and all of a sudden there's the St. Elias Range and it takes your breath away. I mean, that's one of the most attractive centres that we have in the Yukon, and we need to use it more. This government is strongly committed to conventions. That's a convention centre for the Yukon; obviously we want to support that. But I do want to hear the message from the local people about how they want to market it first before we go off on some sort of endeavour that may be working against them.
Mr. McRobb: That's a fair point, Mr. Chair. I suppose maybe she could enlighten us on what types of programming she has in mind to assist in the marketing of such a facility?
I would like to move on to the regional tourism plan. I know she is familiar with the situation analysis that has been produced. In the section, "Next Steps", at the end of the document, it says there will be reviewed input at public meetings, options drafted for the plan, market-match priorities produced and identification of the needs of the subregions. Can she undertake to provide me with that information, possibly by tomorrow? Is that too early? If she could just give me an indication, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think you have to realize that there are different levels of information. We can give you very detailed information that will take longer, or we can give you a general overview that would be available tomorrow.
What I will do is give you the general information tomorrow, and I will give you more detailed information as it becomes available. I will definitely have the staff do that.
In the meantime, Mr. Chair, I'd like to move progress on Bill No. 2.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
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, 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've heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being 9:30 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled June 21, 2000:
Dempster Link Agreement renewal: letter (dated May 30, 2000) to Hon. Ralph Goodale, Minister of Natural Resources Canada from Hon. Ms. Duncan, Minister of Economic Development (Yukon) supporting extension of agreement
The following Legislative Returns were tabled June 21, 2000:
Yukon's offshore jurisdiction in the Beaufort Sea: briefing note
Oral, Hansard, p. 260
Oil and Gas land disposition: consultation process initiated; land sale process timeframes
Oral, Hansard, p. 260
The following Documents were filed June 21, 2000:
CRTC Regional Hearing (June 13, 2000), Whitehorse, Yukon: Yukon Government Presentation by the Hon. Mr. Jim, Minister of Government Services.
CRTC Regional Hearing (June 13, 2000), Whitehorse, Yukon: Official Opposition Presentation by Gary McRobb