Monday, July 10, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGE
Speaker: Before proceeding to the Order Paper, it's my pleasure to introduce to the House a new page, Jason Small. Mr. Small will have made himself known to members through his other career as a reporter for a local newspaper. I would ask all members to welcome Jason to the House at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, two of my constituents, Dave and Irene Brekke, have joined us in the gallery today, and I'd like members to join me in welcoming them.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board 1999 annual report.
Speaker:Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Contracts let during transition of government
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Government Services. After researching a list of Yukon government contracts that have been let since the Liberals were elected here, there is one contract that stands out. The Liberals brought in some pretty high-priced friends from Ottawa to work on this government's transition. Can the minister tell the Yukon taxpayers what they received in return for a $5,000 day contract to this Liberal government's well-connected friends from outside the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If that question has to do with the transition costs, I will address the question from the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.
As the member is aware, part of the transition team hired by the Liberal government were members of the Canadian institute for public policy and others. If the member has a specific question on a specific contract, I would invite him to address it further.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I thank the Premier for that camaraderie.
Certainly the Yukon government policy requires that an outside contractor must at least have a Whitehorse business licence to carry out a contract in the city.
Can the minister tell this House if that was done with this contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there were a number of contracts as part of the transition team. The contracts included local Yukon individuals, as well as individuals from outside of the territory. To which contract is the member referring?
Mr. Keenan: The Premier can provide bafflegab all over the place, Mr. Speaker, but I am talking about the $5,000-a-day contract to outside contractors from outside of the Yukon Territory. I know for a fact that this contractor did not get a Whitehorse business licence. The Liberals spent $60,000 on their friends as soon as they were elected to government. They hired an outside contractor for $5,000 a day to be a part of their Liberal transition team. So, we have thousands of dollars just sailing right out of the old Yukon's economy from the pocketbooks of people here. To top it off, the government broke their own rules. I'd like to ask the Premier: does the Premier believe that this is a wise use of taxpayers' money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We, as a newly elected government in April, contracted with a number of individuals to form a transition team. The individuals from outside of the territory were Gordon Ashworth and David Zussman. David Zussman is the president of the Canadian Institute for Public Policy. Pardon me. The correct form is the Public Policy Forum. "The common ground that the Forum's diverse members share is a commitment to promoting excellence in government and in public policy." Mr. Zussman heads that forum; it is a Canadian forum. He and Mr. Ashworth also were involved and led the transition in the territory of Nunavut and a number of other individuals.
The Public Policy Forum is also valued because it's an advocate for the public good and not for individual advantage and I would advise the member that, yes, the government believes that the transition costs were well spent.
Question re: Oil and gas leases, call for nominations
Mr. Fentie:My question is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
Now, the Premier and the Liberals have made much of the need for certainty in relation to garnering investment and resource development in this territory. The Premier went on to place a great deal of focus in the oil and gas sector during recent trips to Calgary and, in a ministerial statement in this House, delivered a statement that the call for nominations would be in July. Is that in fact the case? Will the call for nominations for the oil and gas sector in this territory, as far as land sales go, be in July?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I said, in my recent address in Calgary to oil and gas executives and other executives whom I have met with, that we are targeting a midsummer date. That may be as early as early August, because I am very focused on the public consultation that is taking place with First Nation governments and that I had anticipated would take place this week. However, as I am otherwise occupied with the business of the Legislature, we will be pushing that back.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is the crux of the problem that we have here. It's a mixed message coming out of the Liberal government. We, in this House, were the recipients of a ministerial statement, which is a short, factual statement of government policy, that clearly laid out the fact that a call for nominations for oil and gas leases in this territory would be in July. Now, the Premier has just stated that that's not the case. It may be in August, maybe in fall. This is a problem for the oil and gas sector. They do require certainty. There's huge investment involved in proving up areas that would eventually become an area that they would nominate.
Can the Premier inform this House what the actual date is for the government of the territory to call for nominations, as far as oil and gas leases?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Government of Yukon is working toward a July date. The member opposite's colleague to his right harangued me repeatedly in Question Period and elsewhere regarding the public consultation, and I repeatedly stated that the first order of consultation was respectful government-to-government consultation. That was targeted for July. That's when I anticipate it taking place, and I anticipate us moving forward on this. However, the business of this Legislature has prevented me from travelling to Inuvik, Mayo and Old Crow, which I am fully prepared to do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Is the member suggesting that we should not proceed, or is the member asking me how diligently we are working on this? I can advise the member we are working very hard with the oil and gas sector with government-to-government respectful relationships, and we are working in other sectors as well, including the mining industry, and other ministers of this government are working on other issues such as forestry and tourism.
Mr. Fentie: Very interesting, Mr. Speaker. First off, the mining industry is non-existent, in the Premier's own words, due to world market conditions. Now, the forest sector is shut down. Under the Liberal watch in two short months, one of our main economic engines has ceased to operate and the feds are pointing the finger squarely at the Liberal government.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, the oil and gas industry wants to know when this government plans to call for nominations on land leases. This is not something that can be tentative. This is not guesswork. They need to know. The Premier has a duty to inform this territory and the industry: when will a call for nominations on oil and gas leases take place in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the real issue is the economy, and we are working diligently on all sectors of the economy. We have four years of NDP mismanagement that we're working on turning around.
With respect to the oil and gas call for nominations, I have stated that we were working on a midsummer call for nominations, and that is exactly what we're doing. That work involves respectful government-to-government consultations. We have undertaken that. It also involves being very clear and very certain with the industry, which is also exactly what we have done.
Question re: Group home for young offenders at Bear Creek
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister, in response to the petition by Bear Creek residents, which I tabled in the House, attempted to split hairs. Effectively, what he is saying is that the Department of Health and Social Services has a policy to consult neighbours when a group home for young offenders is established in their neighbourhood, but there is no policy for such consultation for setting up a home for young offenders under the Young Offenders Act. This is the type of bureaucratic double-speak that the previous Minister of Health and Social Services was so famous for. Now we have a new government, and they are blaming all the problems on the previous government, so where are the changes. Can I ask the minister when, or if, he is even going to change this policy of the previous NDP government?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the question - it is a very good one. Yes, we are going to change it. We believe it should be very clear; it should be transparent and all Yukoners should know exactly what's affecting their neighbourhood, so we are going to make a change.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, consultation with the neighbourhood about open custody homes for young offenders has been a long-standing issue in this House, and their establishment without consulting the neighbourhood has been spoken against, both by the MLA for Riverdale South and the MLA for Porter Creek South. Let me give you an example from Hansard on April 21, 1998. This is the now Premier speaking. "We talk more to our neighbours about paving the streets than we do about some of these issues, and I don't believe that this is right. No one is saying that these homes shouldn't be there. The issue is about knowledge."
Can I ask the minister what is the reason for this new and latest Liberal flip-flop on an issue of concern to the public?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'm not too sure what he means by "flip-flop", but I think we've always been of the opinion that we want to do what is right for Yukoners. What we would like to do is to move ahead with making sure that when any type of situation changes in a neighbourhood, we're consulting with neighbours. We are now in the process of drafting some type of guidelines that we'll be sharing with the House once they are complete so that we can make sure that this is what people want.
So, we're not flip-flopping; we're basically moving on to what I think Yukoners want and that is to be very clear about any changes that take place in their neighbourhood.
Mr. Jenkins: So much for changes in their neighbourhood.
Mr. Speaker, I have an announcement from the Department of Health and Social Services. "A community meeting for Dawson City residents interested in open custody caregiver homes". It is going to be held at the Klondike fire hall and the only ones who are invited to it are residents of the Bear Creek subdivision. How interesting - Bear Creek isn't even in the Dawson City limits, Mr. Speaker.
So much for this new Liberal agenda in dealing with the people in the appropriate areas. The residents of Bear Creek are not amused; nor were the residents in Riverdale and Porter Creek.
Now, the Premier, in her previous life in opposition, noted that the N.W.T. had a system of classifications for these homes which makes them public. Will the minister see to it that a similar system is adopted here, for the record, and will he seek the concurrence of the Bear Creek residents before using the home at Bear Creek as an open custody facility?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, thank you again for the question.
I'm not too sure what he means by it not being the Bear Creek residents. I mean, the petition, when it was submitted by the member opposite, was from the Bear Creek residents. So, why he is saying that it's not representing that area, I'm not sure.
Mr. Speaker, I think the point is that we're trying to ensure that meetings are open to everyone. If we address them to a specific area, it doesn't necessarily mean that it's restricted. I mean, all meetings are basically open to Yukoners. Specifically, if it affects a region or an area, we want to make sure those people living in that area know that it's something that's going to affect them so we want them to be there, but it's not restricted at all, Mr. Speaker. We're hoping that all Yukoners will see that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Who's splitting hairs? I think the member opposite is splitting hairs.
Question re: Youth hostel for City of Whitehorse
Mr. Harding: I have a question for the same minister on the issue of the youth hostel that has been proposed within the City of Whitehorse.
Much work has been done by a local Yukoner on this particular issue, but tonight city council will be facing a very serious decision regarding the future of this facility. It is regarding the future of the building. However, I want to ask the minister about the commitment of the Yukon government to this particular endeavour. So many people have come together to say that they are supportive of this. The previous NDP government had made some commitments to this Yukoner who was working so hard. The minister himself made the commitment to take the issue of funding for this building to Cabinet and fight for it.
I would like to know why the minister's colleagues didn't support continued funding for this youth hostel for the City of Whitehorse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, my department reviewed the application or the business plan that was presented to Cabinet. We had a number of questions about the business plan, but the big problem was the fact that there are already pre-existing youth hostels within the Whitehorse economy. There is another internationally accredited youth hostel, which is now being developed and will be up and running this year. It would be competing with this hostel that Mr. Martel wants to bring forward.
Mr. Harding: Well, isn't that interesting. This is the third spin line from the new Liberal government.
On June 16, in the Yukon News, the quote attributed to the Health and Social Services minister with regard to the youth hostel was that it makes too much sense not to be done. Then, premier Cunning said that it's chock full of asbestos, and that was the reason why they were not supporting this particular youth hostel.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services, who committed to Mr. Martel to take this to Cabinet for funding, why they keep changing their story and why his colleagues bailed on that commitment?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned before to the member opposite, there were problems with the business plan. One of the problems was the removal and the cost of removal of the asbestos in that building. If the member is talking about the article in the paper, perhaps if he'd gone eight more pages into that very same paper he would have seen the article on Bees Knees, which is a local youth hostel that is already running in the Yukon economy, in Whitehorse. Now, we will not subsidize with Yukon tax dollars the development of a hostel that will compete directly with existing privately owned hostels.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, that would be a fair position and an honest position if it was the one they took before the election, but the problem here is that the Liberals said one thing before the election, during the campaign, and now after the election. So, we can understand the merit of the principles espoused by the member opposite, but what the Health and Social Services minister told Yukoners was that it makes too much sense not to be done.
So, there was a commitment made and now a commitment that's not prepared to be honoured by this Liberal government - a classic case of the Liberals saying one thing in opposition and doing something else in government. Now, Mr. Martel's going to need the support of the Yukon government if they wish to see this through.
So, I want to ask the Minister of Health and Social Services, who made the commitment to take this to Cabinet and to fight for it vehemently, if he will stand here today and tell us that he will be behind this project with support and with financial resources to see this youth hostel come into reality?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite correct. It does make sense to have a youth hostel in the Yukon economy in Whitehorse, and that's why there is one, and there's another one being developed as we speak. So, I'm not too sure what he's talking about, again, as usual. But, to be absolutely clear, there's a real need in the tourism sector to have that level of accommodation and that's why it's out there, that's why the private sector is doing it, and that's why this government's not going to play around with the Yukon economy, with Yukon tax dollars, and compete against the businesses that are already in existence.
Question re: Haines Junction, Alaska Highway upgrade
Mr. McRobb: The Liberals campaigned on passing our budget as is, but, through examination in this House, we have found examples proving otherwise, such as the Liberal government's reneging on the multi-purpose community bus in Old Crow. Now, Mr. Speaker, they are reneging on the $400,000 appropriated to upgrade the Haines Junction portion of the Alaska Highway through town. Last week, the C&TS minister confused this appropriation for the main intersection in town and furthermore hinted that that project might not proceed this year at all.
Will she now set the record straight and keep the promise to the people of Haines Junction that the $400,000 will go toward upgrading their main street through town in this budget year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I met just last Friday with the Mayor of Haines Junction and one of the councillors, and that intersection was on the agenda for the meeting, and I expect we will have a decision on exactly what will be done with that intersection within a short time.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this project was already in the budget book. There is $400,000 in the budget to upgrade the main street in Haines Junction. It's not the intersection; that was an add-on, that's different. Let's be clear about which project we are discussing here. It's the $400,000 in the budget.
Now the minister wants to go out and re-consult on this. We have a letter from the Village of Haines Junction, which I have referred to numerous times in this House, requesting that street lights be put in, that the main street be upgraded between the main intersection and uptown, on this side of town. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is reneging going on by this government.
Will she clear the air and inform us that the $400,000 will be spent this summer as appropriated in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I just said, I had a meeting with the mayor and one of the councillors on Friday, and we will be determining shortly exactly what work will be carried out in this budget year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is really interesting. We had a budget that appropriated $400,000 to upgrade the main street in Haines Junction between the intersection and this side of town. This was a request from the Village of Haines Junction, and I was proud, as MLA in the area, to have this item put into our budget. It's a sign that we're listening to the communities and the needs of people in our communities.
Now, Mr. Speaker, it seems that the minister has reinterpreted this budget line. I can show her, right here, the capital community distribution: Haines Junction, Alaska Highway improvements and lighting, $400,000 - this document, February 18.
Now, she can go on about how she has met with people and will be meeting with people. They want to know if the $400,000 is going to be spent this summer as promised in our budget and as promised by the Liberals during the campaign, that they would pass our budget.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is suggesting that we have reneged on something. There has been no reneging.
Question re: Community development fund, continuation of
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would argue that there has been a great deal of reneging.
My question is for the Premier again in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Whitehorse Centre on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The word "reneging" and "renege promises" in reference, as it is, refers to lying. It actually is banned in Beauchesne's. I should refer to debates. October 25, 1962, page 1936 - it's actually listed in Beauchesne's, and the intention here was to accuse the minister of lying. I put it forward that, since the intention and words in Beauchesne's are there, this is unparliamentary language.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, the practice of this House regarding the language used in this House, what had been determined by previous speakers, and what is used commonly as language in this House is often very different from the practices of Beauchesne's. Therefore, before you rule on this particular item, I would ask you to do some research on the common practice of utilizing the word "reneging". It is certainly not, given the strong connotation of accusing a minister of lying in our House that perhaps it was attributed to Beauchesne and the practice in other Houses.
Certainly, if that is your ruling, given some research, we would not utilize that word in the future. However, we don't intend it to mean the connotation purported to it by the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: Order please. In the context in which the word was used, I didn't at the time find or feel that it was used in an unparliamentary fashion and I would just rule for us to proceed. I will research it, but I will have to research it after we sit here today. I'll ask the Member for Watson Lake to proceed.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying before the rude interruption, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development.
In the minister's own words, she stated in this House here today that the economy is the issue. Now we have a situation where, due to world market and no mining under the Liberals - delaying the access to stable timber and supplies - the forestry industry is down. Now we have a moving target for land sales in the oil and gas industry that breeds uncertainty, so we don't know where the oil and gas industry is going.
So, one of the vehicles that we have left for our economy is the community development fund. Can the minister tell this House and Yukoners if the Liberal government intends to continue with the community development fund, which is so desperately needed in the communities as far as job creation and community benefits go.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I want to thank the member for the question with respect to the Yukon economy. With regard to the Yukon economy, first and foremost there were a number of key sectors mentioned by the member opposite, and I would remind all members that in fact the Liberal government, since taking office on May 6, has been working diligently on all of those sectors.
Now the member made specific reference to the community development fund, and the member will recall that in January of this year, I stated publicly before the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce that I felt an evaluation of those funds was in order. Now, until such time as any evaluation work has been done, there is a line item in the budget that we are presently debating, or trying to debate, for the CDF. There has been a board appointed, and one of the issues was to remove the Minister of Economic Development from sole approval of these applications. That board has been appointed, and they have approved a number of the applications that have been received to date.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I'm glad to hear the Liberal government is working hard on the economy, but so far the results are higher unemployment, as the numbers in June prove out. Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the former Minister of Economic Development never did have sole decision making as far as expenditures in the community development fund. The communities are very concerned about this. They have witnessed this Liberal government, in two short months, deviate on many, many things: the Old Crow bus, the extended care facility in Watson Lake, and now the intersection work, which is a line item in the budget and is up in the air in Haines Junction. The communities want to know whether they should plan and produce any more applications for community development money or not, and it's desperately needed. That is a vehicle that creates jobs and benefits, especially in the outlying communities.
Will the Premier commit to those people that the community development fund will in fact continue in this territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to provide the member with an update with respect to the economy. Perhaps he is not aware of the media release recently issued in Vancouver by one of the mining companies, which comments that one of the reasons for their recent investment in the Yukon is the change in government. If I wanted advice on the economy and turning the economy, I will not be taking it from the members opposite. Yukoners have already passed judgment on their ability to manage the Yukon economy.
With regard to the community development fund, there were a number of applications that were waiting for post-election approval and review by the government and, to the best of my knowledge, all of those pending applications have been reviewed and a decision rendered on them.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that some media outlet in Vancouver and some mining company is now going to invest in the Yukon because of the change in government. But if the Premier is referring to Howard's Pass, that's been active since the late 1970s. The change in government had very little to do with this announcement by that company
There is a pattern developing here, Mr. Speaker. That pattern is the direct result of the fact that this Liberal government represents Whitehorse and this side of the House represents rural Yukon. There's a pattern developing in the community development fund today that shows that rural Yukon is being ignored and cast by the wayside.
The communities want to know, not about the community development fund monies in this budget, but in future budgets. What is in the future for the communities of this territory? Will they or will they not have access to community development fund money?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what's in future for all Yukoners is good government on behalf of the Liberal government - that's what's in future for the Yukon.
The member opposite said that he was really pleased about some media release in Vancouver. I, and no member of this government, wrote the media release. We did not - pardon me - we did not write the media release. We had no involvement in the media release.
There's a mining company in Vancouver that's saying one of the reasons that they are again interested in a particular property near the member's own riding is because of the change in government. That's the kind of work that we've been doing - working with all sectors of the economy in an attempt to turn the Yukon economy around after four years of NDP mismanagement. What we are doing is serving all Yukoners.
With regard to the community development fund, the pending applications have been reviewed and the member opposite will find that there is no disparity between any parts of the Yukon. The CDF applications were reviewed fairly and honourably by this government.
Question re: Community development fund, continuation of
Mr. Harding: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to follow up on this same issue with the Premier.
The Premier is so desperate that she's pointing to news releases in Vancouver to try to claim that she's actually making headway on the economy when in reality, in the forestry sector, we see a 125 real Yukoners out of real work in this territory. We see the unemployment numbers on the way up. Before the Liberals came to government, the unemployment numbers in March and April were much better - before they came to government.
The person the member opposite loves to quote used to say that the NDP had one of the best mines ministers in the country. It doesn't matter. What really matters is what is going on with the real lives of families in this territory who've got pink slips.
So, I'd like to ask the member opposite, because the community development fund is an important vehicle to rural Yukon, how she intends to change it to ensure that rural Yukoners stop getting cut out of the expenditure decisions for this important fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the only thing this side is desperate for is decent questions from the members opposite. We're just getting recycled questions.
I have said to the member opposite that the pending applications that were waiting for the election of a new government have been dealt with. They have been either approved or not approved, pending upon the existing criteria for the community development fund.
I have also said to the members opposite and the public that an evaluation of the community development fund would be undertaken by this government in light of the criteria, in light of where we have seen excellent projects and where we have seen situations where municipalities are left with trying to cover the O&M on projects. There are issues. It's not perfect. We said we would evaluate the community development fund, and we will do that.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I think rural Yukoners consider these questions important, and it's disappointing that the Premier, without answering them, would dismiss them and argue that they're just recycled questions when we have seen projects up in Mayo, Faro, Watson Lake and Haines Junction cancelled because this government seems to have no idea how to recognize rural Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I think that Yukon taxpayers, who have seen this government pay their friends $5,000-a-day contracts, Yukoners who are seeing that every day promises like the youth hostel are being fallen away from by the Liberal government, are going to be quite interested in what's going on.
Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the minister again: given that they continue to target rural Yukon for cutbacks, how is she, when CDF decisions are made in the future, going to provide confidence to rural Yukon that they are going to accurately be reflected in the equation and the decision-making process, and receive funding?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, all Yukoners want to see good government on the part of the people they elect. What we have done, and what I personally have done as leader of the official opposition and as Premier of the government, is to say that we would evaluate the community development fund. There are a number of questions that occurred to us, as opposition members, and are raised by us as the government.
One of those issues was the administration and who approved the grants. It was a serious question when we were opposite. One of the first steps that we have taken is to have the Minister of Health and Social Services, our representative, who has been assigned the task of dealing directly with members outside of Whitehorse, and others review the community development fund applications.
We are very concerned, overall, about the Yukon economy. The community development fund will be evaluated in its full context, as I committed to doing in January of last year.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Speaker, I agree with the Premier on one thing, and that is that all Yukoners want to see good government. We just don't know when it's going to start from the Liberal members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that people in rural Yukon are thrilled that the Minister of Health and Social Services is now in charge of, as they put it in opposition, the ministerial candy store. But we have to point out that the seniors in Watson Lake, who have already had their extended care facility, which was promised to them by the Liberals, pulled out from underneath them by that minister, who obviously has very little concern for rural Yukon, are not going to feel very comfortable about this.
Mr. Speaker, our office is receiving calls daily from rural Yukoners who are upset about their projects being cancelled or their community development fund applications continuously being undermined by the Liberal members opposite from Whitehorse.
I would like to ask the member opposite: in her review of the community development fund, how is she going to ensure that rural Yukoners are represented at the table so that community development fund applications are going to come forward for people outside of Whitehorse?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, in the last review of applications that were pending after the swearing-in, applications have been approved for rural Yukon. There was a huge subscription for the $3 million that was budgeted versus the $6 million that the NDP spent previously, which explains why we are in the fiscal situation we are in.
However, Mr. Speaker, the point of the member's question in how will this government represent all Yukoners. I can assure the member that we will do that and that we are continuing to do that, and we will do that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair will provide a ruling on the Question of Privilege raised on July 6, 2000 by the Leader of the Official Opposition.
The Leader of the Official Opposition met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the Office of the Speaker at 11:22 a.m. on July 6.
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege, and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the event took place on Wednesday, July 5, 2000, and was raised as a question of privilege on the following sitting day. There are many precedents of this House where members have raised questions of privilege on the next sitting day after the event being questioned has taken place. This allows members time to review Hansard to give careful consideration to the matter before deciding whether they will raise it in the House. Also, the House indicated its intent that a matter could be raised on a following sitting day when it adopted Standing Order 7(1)(b) and its requirement for written notice.
The question for the Chair to decide on, then, is whether the leader of the official opposition has raised a question which, on the face of it, is a possible breach of privilege.
The foundation of the question of privilege raised by the leader of the official opposition was that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who is the Deputy Speaker and the Chair of the Committee of the Whole, had given notice of a motion that was critical of opposition members for their behaviour in this House. The leader of the official opposition stated:
"[I]n bringing forward a partisan motion on members' decorum, the Deputy Speaker is engaging in highly inappropriate behaviour. I submit that his action in tabling a motion of this type violates the trust placed in him as Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole, and thereby breaches the privilege of all members of this Assembly."
In researching the parliamentary authorities, the clearest statement on this matter is found on pages 300 and 301 of House of Commons Procedure and Practice:
"[T]here has been controversy from time to time over the extent to which the Chair occupants (other than the Speaker) should remain aloof from partisan politics.
In 1931, when a question arose as to the propriety of the Deputy Speaker speaking in debate, it was generally felt that the actions of the Deputy Speaker must be governed by "good taste and judgment". Since then, and in the absence of any rule or guideline governing the political activities of Presiding Officers of the House or limiting their participation in debate or voting, the degree of participation has been an individual decision. In 1993, Deputy Speaker Champagne agreed to act as the co-Chair of her party's leadership convention. A question of privilege was raised in the House by a Member who argued that this decision affected the appearance of impartiality attached to the office of Deputy Speaker and that she was therefore guilty of a contempt of the House. Speaker Fraser ruled that, given the existing practice and the absence of clear direction from the House, Deputy Speakers have used varying degrees of discretion in terms of their party involvement. He clarified that they remain members of their political parties and, unlike the Speaker, may attend caucus meetings, participate in debate and vote. The Speaker ruled that the Deputy Speaker is not "cloaked with the same exigencies that are expected of the Speaker" and that the matter did not constitute a prima facie case of privilege."
Further review of other authorities such as Beauchesne does not reveal a basis for finding that this matter constitutes a prima facie breach of privilege.
If a matter such as this is not found to be a question of privilege, the question arises as to what action is available to members. The leader of the official opposition suggested that this matter could be remedied by the Member for Whitehorse Centre withdrawing the motion, that the motion be stricken from the record and that the Premier appoint another member as Deputy Speaker and Chair of the Committee of the Whole. The difficulties with those suggestions are that a member cannot withdraw a motion without the unanimous consent of the House, that this House has no history of striking anything from its records and that the House, not the Premier or any other individual, appoints its presiding officers.
However, there are precedents which suggest the approach to be taken when members wish to challenge a presiding officer. That approach is to bring forward a substantive motion which would have the effect of reversing a decision of a presiding officer or, if the concern is sufficient, which expresses a lack of confidence in the presiding officer named in the motion.
In this vein, the Chair would draw the House's attention to a ruling made by Speaker Bruce on March 10, 1999 when a question of privilege was raised that concerned the Chair of the Committee of the Whole of the Twenty-ninth Legislature. In that ruling, Speaker Bruce said:
"On a final point, it should be understood that the Speaker's ruling in matters such as these is whether, on the face of it, there is a question of privilege. If the Speaker decides there is not, on the face of it, a question of privilege, the result is that a motion to deal with the matter will not be given priority of debate.
"However, the House itself may decide, through a substantive motion moved in the normal way, that something is a matter of privilege. That is the House's choice.
"Also, a decision by the Speaker that a matter is not, on the face of it, a question of privilege does not stop members from bringing forward motions of censure against each other if that is their desire. Members themselves must make decisions about whether such motions are necessary to assist in furthering the interests of the House, including its order and decorum."
This concludes the ruling. The House will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 2 - First Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on Department of Justice.
Department of Justice - continued
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when we left general debate on Justice last Thursday, I was raising the issue of legal aid. The life-long, dyed in red wool Liberal Minister of Justice is not prepared to put any more money into the legal aid budget, and that is probably the biggest issue facing her department. This is in spite of the government's promise to restore and improve funding to legal aid when they were in opposition. We haven't seen any results.
The first supplementary budget that has been tabled by this Liberal government also doesn't include any additional funds for legal aid. When you look at the Department of Justice, their total budget is pretty well committed. Their discretionary funding is very minimal at best, so it is extremely important when an issue arises, that it be addressed and it be addressed head-on. The issue that the minister has on her plate is what to do with legal aid; how to address the shortcomings in the legal aid system.
What we have here is a government that, when it was in opposition, said one thing and, now that it's in government, is doing just the opposite. As the minister will recall, it was she who, just last fall, led the charge against the previous NDP government on the issue of legal aid. Now, if that was the charge that was led, when are we going to do something about it? That opposition, and the Yukon Liberals' repeated demand for immediate help - we now hear that there's a review underway and that there will be no decision until some report has been completed and finally digested within the government. So what we have here, Mr. Chair, is that the minister and her colleagues spend more time pondering promises they made in opposition. We have Yukon families who need financial support when they end up before the court systems, or for child custody or maintenance orders - they have to wait a little longer, sometimes to the detriment of the whole family unit. So, those in the most need receive the least amount of attention from this government, and it was that way under the NDP government, Mr. Chair.
And in opposition, our party and the Liberals hounded the NDP about the shortfalls in the legal aid system - hounded them - but nothing. Still, to this date, we are not seeing this government put their money where their mouth was, and that's the issue. They correctly identified the shortcomings in the legal aid system in the Department of Justice. This Liberal government has had an opportunity in the supplementary budget to put additional funds toward that cause. They have chosen not to. That is in spite of having a $56.2-million surplus as of March 31, 2000.
There is also the issue of circle sentencing, Mr. Chair. Our party has always been crystal clear with respect to this issue. This community justice initiative, circle sentencing, must be an issue that's faced square on. We have been opposed to the use of circle sentencing for sexual or violent crimes. Now, the contrast to the position taken by the Yukon Liberal Party - they have not been as clear as our party has been on where it stands on this issue.
And if you look at the Liberal Party platform document, it states, "encourage the federal government to develop circle sentencing guidelines." Well, Mr. Chair, I'm interested in hearing what position the Liberal government here in the Yukon is taking with respect to circle sentencing guidelines, and I'm also interested in what this government is doing to urge the federal government to do so because most of the success of the Liberals in this last election campaign was based on this wonderful cozy hand-to-hand relationship between the Yukon Liberal Party and the federal Liberal Party, but that relationship doesn't appear to be paying benefits to Yukoners currently, Mr. Chair, and I was just wondering why not. I know that Northwestel is looking at reducing telephone rates here in the Yukon, but certainly that shouldn't be an impediment to getting on the phone to the federal Minister of Justice and getting something moving along on this issue.
If the Minister of Justice, Mr. Chair, has some initiatives with the federal Minister of Justice, I'd ask that she'd table all of that information and table the correspondence that she has had with the federal Minister of Justice, because I don't believe that there has been any correspondence on the issue of circle sentencing flowing from the Yukon Minister of Justice to her counterpart in the federal government.
The other issue that the Liberals have been a little bit more opposed to is Bill C-68, the federal Liberal gun control law. But there's waffling. There's waffling by this Liberal government on the outstanding land claims issues and on oil and gas leases, to name just a few. Let's focus on the area that this minister can do something about immediately.
I would like her to give an overview on what she is going to do with respect to circle sentencing and what she is going to do with respect to providing additional funding to the issue of legal aid.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite is well aware, the Department of Justice is assisting in an external review of legal aid that was initiated by the previous government. Financial stability is important to the continued operation of legal aid, and until the review is concluded, we can't begin to address the funding.
As the member knows, there is an additional $125,000 in the budget that we are currently debating for the review and for additional funding to legal aid. The review is taking a very small part of that.
Under the previous government, legal aid ran up quite a deficit. There are several high-cost cases, which are expected to cause further extreme financial cost in the coming year. In order to provide financial stability to legal aid, we first must complete the review. I'm sure the member would agree that it wouldn't make sense to make decisions concerning the future of legal aid before the review is completed, and I expect to have that report within a matter of weeks.
As for circle sentencing, in relation to criminal matters, that's primarily a federal responsibility. Sentences are handed down by judges, and we all know that the independence of the judiciary is a long-cherished principle. As well, circle sentencing is community based, and based on the premise that each circle and each sentence needs to be flexible and in line with the individual case being heard.
During the recent consultations on restorative justice, many Yukoners commented on various aspects of the justice system. Dr. Carol LaPrairie, a noted researcher on circle sentencing, has indicated that further research needs to be conducted.
Both the Department of Justice and the courts agree that this research is needed and that clear perimeters for undertaking such research needs to be developed as a first step. The Department of Justice is currently exploring avenues for determining how this research might be best undertaken.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, so could the minister advise the House, with respect to legal aid, what the the timelines are for someone who is falling through the cracks, needs assistance, needs legal aid and can't obtain it because the budget is exhausted? What are the timelines for this minister putting something back into the pot so that these individuals are not left out in the cold, that they are duly represented and that they will have the backing of the legal aid system?
The intention is honourable. We have had review after review after review. We have had various groups come to the minister with the adamant position that legal aid is underfunded. Numerous women's groups have made that pitch to previous ministers on a continual basis, and yet we have to wait for a report that might be there in a couple of weeks and then we have to wait for a decision. Can we expect to see money in the supplementary budget this fall for this issue - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the legal aid system, as far as I know, has not been reviewed for at least seven or eight years, so the member, when he says that there has been review after review after review, cannot be referring to legal aid.
The review is looking at a number of issues, including the reason for current overexpenditures, and the workload is up but the overexpenditure is not all due to workload.
It is addressing some other inefficiencies, and I expect to have the review within the next few weeks. It shouldn't take that long after that to digest the recommendations and determine how to proceed from there. And I point out again to the member that, in this budget, which we are currently debating, there is extra funding for legal aid.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, why, when it comes to legal aid and supporting an issue, a government can immediately find a considerable sum of money to support the Timmers inquiry? But, for the basic legal aid system, which is sadly needing money, we have to wait for a whole process to flow, we have to wait for a report, and we have to wait for the minister to look at the report and get on with what is a self-evident fact, that legal aid has a shortfall of money in its budget. That's the bottom line. At the end of the day, after we have done all our review - we can look at this legal aid system anyway you want. But at the end of the day, there is a shortfall of money in that budget. What I want the minister to commit to is to include additional funds in the legal aid budget this fall. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member well knows, I can't commit to anything regarding legal aid until the review is complete.
Mr. Jenkins: That's simply not the truth, Mr. Chair, and the Minister of Justice knows it.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, when you are referring to "not the truth", are you referring to the fact that the minister is lying?
Mr. Jenkins: No, the statement is simply not the truth.
Chair: Then I would find that out of order and unparliamentary. Would you withdraw it or find another way to phrase it, please?
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. I'll withdraw the remark that the minister said what the minister said. It's inaccurate, incorrect, and it doesn't accurately reflect the truth, if you want to put it that way. So, we can twist it another way, Mr. Chair. But the bottom line is that, at the end of the day, there's simply not enough money in the legal aid budget. Now, we find considerable sums of money instantaneously for the Timmers inquiry. How was that done, Mr. Chair, when we can't find additional money for legal aid?
It's a political commitment that goes right to the Minister of Justice's desk, and she says yes. So, she could make the commitment on the floor of this House today and say, "Yes, we'll put more money into the legal aid budget." That's all I'm looking for: fund it to a level so that it works as it is required to work, because there are a lot of individuals who are falling through the cracks because they can't obtain legal aid, Mr. Chair, and a lot of these individuals are single moms, a lot of them are in the low-income level, and that is not fair. We do not treat members of our society that way, or we shouldn't, but we are.
Now, is the minister going to continue this trend? All she needs to say is, "Yes, we'll put more money in the legal aid budget in this fall supplementary." Can she do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If the supplementary budget in the fall contains money for legal aid, will the Member for Klondike support the budget - yes or no?
Mr. Jenkins: There's a good chance that I would, Mr. Chair, and there's a good chance that I would vote against the budget in its entirety, but that does not mean that I do not support initiatives within that budget. Just like previous NDP budgets, there are initiatives in that budget that I have praised and said I very much support, and I would do the same with respect to the Justice budget if there is a supplementary in it that includes money for additional legal aid. That's where I'm at.
I would support that part of the budget. Now just because one votes against the budget in total in opposition doesn't mean that they don't believe in a lot of the initiatives and a lot of the parts of that budget, Mr. Chair, and that's where I'm coming from. So what I'm looking for is a commitment for additional legal aid money in the fall supplementary. Will the minister do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in many areas the Member for Klondike and I are singing from the same songbook; however, it would be improper to prejudge the external review of legal aid. And I note with interest that the member is a member of the party that cut legal aid by 34 percent. Perhaps he would care to explain why.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the issue is the budget we are dealing with here. I understand it's an NDP budget that the minister has to defend, but let's look forward to a new realization of what we have to contend with. I have to remind the minister once again that, when the Yukon Party took office, there was a $64-million deficit. Currently, when the Liberals took office, Mr. Chair, there was a $56.2-million surplus. Now, if you add the $64 and $52 together, that's quite a gap. It's over 25 percent of the total budget of the Yukon government currently. That's a significant gap. When the Yukon Party took power, they had to take immediate and drastic steps to get a handle on the finances of this government, and they did so. And they didn't please everyone by doing so, but they did get a handle on it and left office with a very good accumulated surplus, which the last NDP government have passed on to the current Liberal government -$56.2 million.
And I'm sure that, at the end of the day, after this review is completed and this report is submitted to the minister, that the bottom line is going to be that legal aid is under funded. Now, does the minister disagree with that statement - that legal aid is currently under funded?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, one of the conclusions of the report may well be that legal aid is under funded; I won't disagree with that possibility. There are also other issues such as governance of legal aid, the choice of delivery model. There are some coverage issues like family law service in special cases - which are very, very important to Yukoners - financial eligibility, financial reporting, the relationship of the society to the Department of Justice and staffing issues including the role of the executive director, staff compensation and workload. It is a package, and when the report is received, I will deal with it. It would be improper to commit to additional funding until I see the report. Generally, the member and I are singing from the same songbook, but I cannot commit to additional funding until I see the report.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, let's take a different tack on this. If the report concludes that there is a shortfall of funding in legal aid, will the minister commit to bringing a supplementary back this fall that contains more money for legal aid?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member has now moved off into the hypothetical area, and I can't deal with a hypothetical issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well all the members of the Liberal platform in the last election campaign certainly did. There were a lot of promises made and a lot of promises given by candidates. Now, one by one, those promises are being reneged on, but let the record speak for itself. The minister is not recognizing the major shortfall in the Department of Justice, and that is legal aid funding.
Let's move on to another issue, Mr. Chair. What's going to become of the jail in Teslin? All we've heard to date is that all the former employees of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre will be accommodated and that there is another review underway.
I would be very interested in hearing what the minister's ideas are with respect to the future of this facility, what plans are in the making and what decisions have been made to date. Probably, we can move on to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the timelines for its replacement. I know that a study is underway, which concluded that that facility is obsolete. Here we are, a territory just over 100 years old, and virtually all our government buildings are falling down around our ears, depending on who you listen to or look to. Our population is shrinking; fewer and fewer people are being incarcerated; our economy is going backwards, and we need a new correctional facility. It's very interesting. Perhaps the minister could tell us what her thoughts are with respect to these two initiatives.
In opposition, the Liberals were extremely vocal about the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the Teslin facility. Just where are we moving, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have one last point on legal aid, with which the member began his remarks. What is important to the continued operation of legal aid is financial stability. The report will answer some questions in that area.
As for the Teslin Community Correctional Centre, in anticipation of the closure of that centre, there was a redevelopment working group created, with representation from the Teslin Tlingit Council, elders, the staff, the advisory committee, the Village of Teslin and the Department of Justice.
This group was set up to work with the department to determine possible future uses of the facility, including the development of criteria by which to determine the best options. The group had been meeting regularly since January to identify the principles and beliefs that should form the basis of redevelopment. That work is ongoing, Mr. Chair. The member was wondering about the employees; they have been accorded all rights provided to them within the guidelines of the Public Service Act and their collective agreement.
As for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, the budget contains a million dollars for work on planning the replacement for the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. There have been a number of studies over the past 15 years calling for radical improvement to it and the time has come to replace it, and we made a commitment to Yukoners that we would table the budget. We have done that. We are honouring the planning for the Correctional Centre that is in the budget and I hope during my mandate that construction will begin on a well-planned replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: While we are speaking of correctional facilities, the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has come under a great deal of criticism for its rehabilitation programming. Could the minister advise the House what steps are being taken to address the shortcomings that a number of members of our legal system - well, I guess the judges - have identified as being quite a problem. What is being contemplated in this area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there is a lot more to the Whitehorse Correctional Centre than a building. We are also concerned about the programming needs of the offenders who will be housed there. We're concerned about their health and mental-health needs as well, and all of those things impact on the facility layout and structure, so we're looking at the whole picture.
There is some existing programming, and we are aware of some inadequacies and are working to change that, along with the planning for the new facility.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a couple more issues that I'd like some kind of direction from the minister on.
There are a number of issues surrounding the law as it stands in our First Nations communities and the law as currently written by government. There appears to be some conflict with respect to the First Nations laws and the laws of Canada, and I'm referring to First Nation adoptions. Is there anyone within the department who has had a look at this area to see if we could expedite issues surrounding First Nation adoptions when they take a course of action through the First Nations, vis-à-vis through the government legal system, and how are they dovetailing?
It has been brought to my attention by two of my constituents who have had major, major concerns with this area. It's a difficult one to address, and there doesn't seem to be anyone there to coordinate or expedite these initiatives on the government side. So, I'd just like the minister to explain where the government is heading in this area and how people can rightfully achieve a successful adoption, employing one or the other method, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, normally, adoption is handled by the Department of Health and Social Services, but if there are some specific issues that the member's constituents wish to raise with my department, we can certainly see what information we can make available to them. I would be pleased to expedite that.
Mr. Jenkins: I am aware that this one individual has spent a considerable amount of time with the previous Minister of Justice to no avail. I know that it is just an ongoing issue with two constituents and yes, it does cross boundaries, but basically it rests with Justice as to how the law is written.
I thank the minister for her response and refer the individual to her directly to see if we can work something out.
Mr. Chair, Bill C-68 - that famous federal Liberal gun control law that we all hate. I am not asking the minister to speculate. I am asking the minister to tell us what her government is going to do in the Yukon with respect to this law; whether she is going to launch another court challenge of it, whether she is going to go down and ask the federal Minister of Justice in Ottawa to give some exemption to those of us who reside north of 60, as I suggested earlier in this House, or whether we are just going to bite the bullet and move on. The previous Liberal Senator, Paul Lucier, spoke very eloquently in the Senate on this issue and did a marvellous job, but at the end of the day it passed. It is law. It is being implemented.
It is a detriment to the way of life of many Yukoners - many Yukoners in the First Nation community. In fact, other First Nations in the north have taken it upon themselves to commence a court challenge.
I was wondering what the position of this Liberal government is with respect to such a court challenge? Would they be joining it? Should it be initiated by any of the First Nations here in the Yukon? Will they be adding their voice to it or are we going to play the usual Liberal line and sit on the fence, not making a decision one way or the other? Which way will this government be leaning?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Before taking any action to become an intervenor in the Nunavut/Tunavik court challenge or any other court challenge launched by a First Nations group on behalf of First Nations, the Yukon government would carefully consider all aspects of the matter and obtain legal advice. We would consult with First Nations people to ensure that this action is in the best interests of all Yukon people.
The process has gone pretty well as far as it can go legally. We intend to continue to lobby the federal government in opposition to their gun control legislation and would welcome the assistance of all parties, as I have said before. I think it is a bad law. It is designed to deal with a problem in the big cities and has no relevance in rural areas of the country. That said, while we may not agree with a law and its impact on law-abiding citizens, it is the duty of the Minister of Justice and the government, as well as the people of the Yukon, to defer to the courts and to Parliament.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Parliament has spoken. The only option is to defer to the courts. I thank the minister for her response that they would obtain a legal opinion.
Has the government not currently obtained a legal opinion on this issue? I see it as something that I would want to be asking a legal opinion for immediately, as to where we could proceed. What is the next step? What are we going to do? Once again, it would appear that the Liberals are sitting on the fence.
If the Liberal government has obtained a legal opinion, can the minister table it? If they haven't, why hasn't she?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, it is, as the Member for Klondike knows, a complicated issue. We are seeking legal advice, but it's not something that can be rendered with a snap of the fingers. It will take some time.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we're looking at the constitutionality of this law, I don't believe that is worthwhile pursuing. It is a dead issue. It would appear that the best avenue, Mr. Chair, is to align ourselves with a First Nations' initiative - perhaps another one stemming from the Yukon.
The minister can lead, follow or get out of the way. I would hope that, given the impact of Bill C-68 on Yukoners, she would lead, meet with the First Nation groups and see if there is any interest in pursuing this course of action. Will she undertake to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already said that this is a complicated issue. Any action we would take would have to be in the best interests of all Yukoners. A court challenge that would represent only First Nations people may not be in the best interests of all Yukoners. That is why we're considering all aspects of this and are in the process of obtaining legal advice.
Mr. Jenkins: The last thing we want to set up is a double standard; I agree with the minister. But if the standard is relaxed for First Nations, which I suspect it will ultimately be, we could make a very good case if we align ourselves with their initiative. And, just reading between the lines on the situation coming out of the eastern north, there's probably going to be a measure of success to their initiative, and, as I said earlier, if the minister is not consulting with the Yukon First Nations on this initiative, why is she not doing so? I see it as a very important one, one that she could probably get a lot of brownie points for if she were successful. Now, why not consult with the Yukon First Nations on this issue and see if there's a game plan that we can put together?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have already said that before taking any action to become an intervener in the Nunavut/Tunavik court challenge or any other, we would consult with First Nation people. Any action that we would take must be representative of all Yukon people - I say that again.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, sometimes that's not the case. Sometimes we represent certain sections and deal with certain sections of society, like in the case of legal aid. That's only applicable to certain members of our society. And there are a tremendous amount of examples, Mr. Chair, where we only deal with certain members or certain groups in our society. And the rules, while they may be in place for everyone - it would appear that the best initiative to contest Bill C-68 is one arising with the backing of the Yukon First Nations.
Like I said earlier, Mr. Chair, she could lead by example or sit back on the fence - the usual Liberal position - and do nothing until it's the end of the day and say, "Well, we consulted. We discussed and we can't do anything because it's now law." So, I just urge the minister to be proactive rather than reactive.
Will she do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the situation I'm trying to avoid, which the member opposite seems to favour, would see First Nations people exempt from Bill C-68 and all other Canadians, non-aboriginal Yukoners included, required to abide by it. That is not a situation I would like to see.
Mr. Jenkins: And thus, we extend it to what I suggest. We have C-68 exempted for north of 60, all across the north. It's a very valid, reasonable suggestion. This gun law was aimed at the principal cities in Canada. We both agree, Mr. Chair; that's not an issue. But the way to get a toe in the door and the way to get the federal government to start to listen to reasoning is to use a part of our population here - a very prominent part of our population - who, in large number, use firearms as a tool.
Now, we can't make a blanket policy for everyone, so I'm just urging the minister to sit down with the First Nations and be proactive rather than reactive - move ahead on a game plan that we can probably eventually all buy into.
If it initially is just specific to First Nations, then we go back to the courts again and make a case that it's discriminatory; it discriminates against the rest of us in the north. I'm sure we could win that one, but unless somebody takes a stand, we're just going to be saddled with C-68, which we currently are, Mr. Chair.
So, I'm urging the minister to be proactive, not reactive. Can she do that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are working on it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Department of Justice?
We will proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Management Services?
Ms. Tucker: The House leaders are in agreement to pass the department in bulk.
Chair: Do we have unanimous consent from the House to pass the entire Department of Justice and deem that all clauses are read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There seems to be unanimous consent.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Justice in the amount of $31,672,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: Do we have the same agreement for the capital?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: It has to be unanimous consent. Does the House deem that the entire capital budget be cleared and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been given.
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $1,233,000 agreed to
Chair: Does the entire budget for Department of Justice clear and carry? There needs to be unanimous consent.
All Hon. Member: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been given.
Department of Justice agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate on Yukon Development Corporation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the members will be familiar with the fact that the Yukon Development Corporation is voting a dollar. This underlines the self-financing nature of the Yukon Development Corporation and the fact that a board of directors has been assigned responsibility and accountability for directing the management of the corporation within the mandate prescribed by the government under the Yukon Development Corporation Act. The arm's-length relationship with the corporation means that it is the board and the management of the corporation that are best able to answer the operational questions about the corporation and its subsidiary, Yukon Energy.
I would like to advise members opposite that my government intends to continue the practice of bringing the chair and the president into the Legislature during the fall session to answer members' questions directly. I would like to further advise members that I have asked House leaders to negotiate a date for the appearance of these individuals as early as possible, so that it can be accommodated into everyone's schedule and line of questioning.
If members have specific questions about the corporation, I will respond as best I can. Specific operational questions I will note and have the corporation respond directly, but I'm prepared to answer general questions.
Mr. Harding: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Two issues - the port purchase. One of the options that was not ruled out at the time of consideration of the budget of the Yukon Development Corporation was to expand the definition of "infrastructure" and consider the possibility, at least - and it had never been fully determined - that there may be some validity in changing a cabinet OIC to encourage the expansion of the definition Yukon Development Corporation presently uses for using Yukon Development Corporation retained earnings for some substantive infrastructure issues, such as the port in Haines. We made no decision on this, but I would like the Premier to state whether or not they, themselves, are indeed considering it. The issue has a number of pros and cons. We would like to know - and so would other people, like the Utilities Consumers Group and others - whether or not they are considering this option?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member has quite correctly pointed out that in order for the Yukon Development Corporation to consider such a development purchase would require a change in the order-in-council. The issue of the port purchase is a matter that is being examined by the government and, as I indicated previously in Question Period, we are anticipating a conclusion to this issue this fall.
The Yukon Development Corporation Board, which I have met briefly with since the election, have a number of outstanding questions on this suggestion by the government and have made no specific recommendation to me regarding their views on it. Our own views are that we are looking at a number of options, including seeking other partnerships outside of the Development Corporation.
So, as the member stated, there had been no decision made by the previous government on that and this government has not reached a final conclusion on this.
Mr. Harding: Just so I'm clear, it is still a live option to consider utilizing some YDC funds for an expanded definition beyond simply energy infrastructure - correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is not the preferred option. We are looking for other options. Any suggestion would be a change to the order-in-council of the Development Corporation and that's not something we are contemplating at this time.
Mr. Harding: Well, that's a conflicting message. Okay. It may not be a preferred option. Half the time in government there's no such thing as "a preferred option"; they're all bad. But you have to pick one.
So, is it a live option or is it not a live option? On one hand, the Premier said it was and on the other hand she said that there are no plans to change the OIC, which would, indeed, have to happen.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the best way I can describe this issue for the member opposite without pre-judging any conclusions is that we are reviewing the issue of the purchase of the ports. We are very interested in this infrastructure. We're very interested in financing options for this, and we are actively seeking options other than the Yukon Development Corporation; however, I'm not slamming the door on that. It's not our preferred route for financing this, if we choose to do that.
I have not had a specific recommendation from the Development Corporation itself on this particular use of the dividends in the reserve, so I'm hesitant to prejudge that by saying, "Absolutely not; it's not something we're contemplating." The Development Corporation Board of Directors may came back and say, "Yes, we'd like to."
Mr. Harding: How about if I phrase it this way then? This will be probably easier for a yes-or-no answer.
Will she rule out the possibility, even though it's not a preferred option, that they may utilize YDC funds at some point for other than energy infrastructure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I would answer the member opposite that, under the current order-in-council, yes, I would rule it out unless requested otherwise by the Development Corporation Board and the general public.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd like to ask the Premier, if I may, just to describe a little bit to me about support for alternative energy sources.
It says in the platform, "...such as solar and wind generation." I was just wondering if there were any other ideas that the Liberals might have?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, the Development Corporation has a number of programs that they operate in terms of alternative energy sources: green power and wind turbine. Wind power previously has been a major focus of Liberal members' efforts. The member, of course, will recall the efforts of my colleague, the former Member for Riverside on this particular alternative energy source.
Wind energy has been a focus. The members opposite questions asked about in-stream turbines during the briefing session, but the focus has been on the existing energy alternatives pursued by Yukon Development Corporation, and we have not changed that direction.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, I understand that the board from YDC does have a lot to say here. I was just probing with the Premier if there was anything else that was out there, because certainly, in the land claims, there are identified sites, et cetera. And I'm wondering if there would be any energy put toward the development of those identified sites, anything like as such?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, the initiatives and preliminary discussions I have had with respect to First Nations and energy issues have been seeking partnerships in other initiatives, seeking interest in partnerships in terms of development, not necessarily Energy Corporation - it has been touched on in discussions but there has been nothing further.
Mr. Keenan: So would the Premier be open to suggestions - from communities or First Nation corporations, municipal corporations - to maybe further those identified sites within the communities?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, bearing in mind that we are working with an arm's-length corporation here, we are very interested, as a government, in not only espousing the public philosophy but living the public philosophy of working in strong government-to-government relationships. That would, of course, include the First Nation governments and municipal governments.
Mr. Keenan: I'll take that as a yes. I heard "respectful working relationships" but I'll take it that the government is open for those types of ideas. Great. That's good.
A real toughie here: the secretary to the Yukon Utilities Board is the last person who is now working upstairs, I understand. Is there going to be resources for them?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this particular position is housed in the Department of Justice, and I would anticipate certainly that that position would be filled.
Mr. Keenan: Has the expression of interest for the small-scale green power projects been tendered, and has there been a response back from that tender as yet?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that is a specific operational question that I will be delighted to ask the Yukon Energy Corporation to respond to directly.
Mr. Keenan: That would be fine with me.
If the Premier doesn't have things in her hands, I would very much appreciate it if she would get back to me - also with regard to the status of the energy solutions centre proposal.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will have the response prepared for the member opposite with respect to that issue.
Mr. Keenan: Maybe these fall under a line, but I would like the status of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line and the Carmacks-Mayo transmission line.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, just for the member's information, the member would want to be aware that I had indicated in my opening remarks that the chair and the president will again be recalled in the Legislature to answer specific operational questions this fall. However, the questions that the member opposite has asked will be responded to shortly.
With regard to the Mayo-Dawson line, the Yukon Energy Corporation expects to receive a system design report from B.C. Hydro shortly. It goes to the YEC and YDC boards for consideration. They review the matter and then submit the project to the minister. That is with respect to the Mayo-Dawson line.
With respect to any Carmacks extension, I have not been advised of the status of a report on that. The focus for my information has been the Mayo-Dawson line. As I said to the member opposite, the report and engineering work is expected shortly.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, Mr. Chair, that would suffice. I look forward to getting the information, so that I might be able to answer and ask some intelligent questions this fall, so I'd appreciate if that happens.
I'd like to also know if the Energy Corporation, as does Yukon Electrical, plan to do a general rate application this year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No. The Yukon Energy Corporation has committed that they will not be filing a GRA this year. I do not speak for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.
Mr. Keenan: On the governance's protocol, I'd like to know if the governance's protocol will be - if I could get an update on the progress and how the management will be restructured and, I guess, most importantly if it will be continued?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can advise the member opposite that I have had a meeting with the boards and discussed this matter with them. They are still continuing their efforts with respect to a new governance structure. There has been no final decision reached as of yet. There's an additional board discussion scheduled for later this month.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd ask your indulgence, please. The headphones are giving me a very hard time, but I'm going to get them fixed sooner than later. So, thank you, if I have difficulty sometimes hearing - no, I don't thank you for the difficulty of sometimes hearing. I thank you for your indulgence, if you would.
So, what I heard regarding the governance protocol is that the Premier is meeting with the board later on, and it looks like it would be continued. Is what I heard correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't want to leave the member opposite with the impression that I'm going to be making some decision or change with respect to working with the governance structure. What's happening is that the Development Corporation and Energy Corporation have been working, as the member knows, on a new governance structure. That work has continued. The election has happened. I have met briefly with the board to discuss it. They have continued their work. We are meeting again to discuss this toward the end of July to see what, of course, would best meet the future needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Thanks. I find that very helpful and I would appreciate an update before the first Question Period of the next session as to the outcome of that meeting, and the sooner the better. Thank you very much, I appreciate that from the Premier.
I asked a question on the Boswell Crescent power surge earlier this year and I got an answer of how great the Member for Riverdale South - what a wonderful job she does. Now that we have time to explore a little bit - could the member please tell me just what is happening with the Boswell Crescent power surge?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, this is again more of an operational question. I can advise the member of what we have done as a government.
As the member knows, the Member for Riverdale South has raised this issue as an opposition member and as a government member. The Yukon Energy Corporation has offered to make available to Boswell Crescent residents information that they are seeking and I have asked that I, as minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation, make myself available to meet with them, as well as officials from Yukon Energy Corporation and the Member for Riverdale South to explore their use of that information and to ensure that however Yukon Energy Corporation might be of assistance to them, that we have done so.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, certainly elections due tend to make people talk maybe differently than they normally talk during their other three and three-quarter years' of tenure. On the doorstep, it was, "We will be doing something", and now it's back to the Yukon Development Corporation.
One thing I won't do in here is I will not ask on behalf of other people if I don't have permission to ask them. So, right now I am telling you that I am on a bit of sensitive ground, but I did have one person come and tell me, "Well, that's great that they are doing that but how do we do it? We don't have the foggiest idea of how we would even enter into these books to look at it." They were quite confused and stymied by the whole process at the time.
I am wondering if the minister is going to make it user-friendly and do everything, because certainly if it wasn't categorically stated, it was certainly alluded to, that the Liberal government would stand by them through this and look at it, so that it did not happen again - with the reliability concerns again. Now, the Premier is saying that it is the Yukon Development Corporation. I am asking at this point in time if the Premier will be able to assist any of the people from Boswell. If they were supposed to be there on July 30 and they didn't get there until August 5, I wouldn't think that that is good assisting.
This is what they feel now. When I asked this question in Question Period previously and got back to the people, they were a bit confused by it also. So now, they are frightened. And if they're not frightened, they're at least confused and they need some assistance. I'm asking: will the Premier, at this point in time, provide that type of assistance to the people to help walk them through the YDC so that they might be able to take advantage of those programs to bring back dollars to their pockets?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first and foremost, nothing has changed in the position of the Liberal members in opposition or the Liberal government. Nothing has changed, other than the fact that we are no longer in opposition and we are in government. That has changed.
The Boswell residents and the issue, of course - and, as the member knows, this particular novel began on a dark and stormy night in October of last year, Halloween of last year. And it was shortly after that when the Member for Riverdale South began her efforts lobbying on behalf of the Boswell residents.
Now, the issue with respect to my responsibilities in the Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation - the Yukon Energy Corporation has seen, since before the election, and continues to see this as more of a Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. issue, as opposed to a Yukon Energy Corporation issue. Now, the Yukon Energy Corporation, in ensuring that it fulfilled its responsibilities, has offered to make information available to Boswell residents. What the member has alluded to is that this information can be very difficult to access. I can advise the member that we, the Yukon Energy Corporation, are assisting the Boswell residents in accessing this information. There has been staff who have been available to, for lack of a better word, walk them through the information so that it's very clear.
So, Mr. Chair, for the member opposite's information, we have acted - and we will continue to act - to ensure that where the Government of the Yukon, through the Yukon Energy Corporation, has responsibility, we will behave in a manner that is ever mindful of the fact that we are public servants.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much for that, Mr. Chair. Yes, I'd take exception to that. Something has changed. Certainly, the Member for Riverdale South had all the answers during the election campaign, and during the election campaign was spouting to people that if a Liberal government were elected, they would seek compensation for the affected residents. So, certainly there has been a change at this point in time and I take exception to the Premier saying there hasn't, because now we're hiding behind the Utilities Board.
Now what I had asked - not to stay with that - is that to make it user-friendly. People would not have to go into the files and look for the smoking gun in that case. They would not have to do that. What I have now is a commitment from the Premier that, for any affected residences, it would be user-friendly and the Premier, with her powers, would certainly be able to accommodate those people so that they will feel that they have been looked after. Does that about sum it up?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With some minors disagreements about words, yes.
Mr. Keenan: During election times I guess people say "categorically" and then, upon being elected, it's, "We allude to things." The nature of the game, I guess. I'd like to know then what's happening in terms of the reliability concerns that have been taking place. What has been taking place since that dark and stormy night?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, there are two. I would remind the member that there is Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.. While I have responsibility for one of those in terms of reporting to this House, I can advise that the work continues; there is recognition - certainly on behalf of the corporation that I speak for. There is recognition of the need for improvement and they're working toward that end. I am certain that, were the member to address the question to Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., he would find a similar answer. I understand that Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., as part of their capital plan, is to install new metres at the power interchange points to provide better data on power quality. So, there are efforts ongoing, I know that people take the issue of the quality of power supply to Yukoners very seriously, and my understanding is that they're working on it.
Mr. Keenan: I'd just ask the Premier if the Premier would be able to put that into written form for me, as to what's happening from the respective agencies on the reliability, just so I could have it at my fingertips. I'd appreciate that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will certainly have the Yukon Energy Corporation's response for the member forthwith, and I will write, on the member's behalf, and ask YECL to provide the same information.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate that. I have no further questions.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a number of issues that I'd like to explore with the Premier, Mr. Chair.
Let's look at the Mayo-Dawson interconnect and the extension from Carmacks to Mayo. If generally accepted utility practices were employed, costs were allocated, the capital cost was added into the rate-making base and the interest was accrued in an appropriate manner to this capital expenditure, this project wouldn't fly. It would require a capital investment from somewhere in order to make it work. It would also be subject to the Public Utilities Board, but because of some interference somewhere, I'm understanding that this project won't be coming under the scrutiny of the Public Utilities Board. The reason given is that it doesn't impact on the rate-making base, and it doesn't impact on the rate-making base because the capital is invested at a very low rate of return or no rate of return and the utility is not looking for a rate of return on its assets.
Now, if you use that scenario for any project in the utility business, you can make any project fly, but why are we specifically using this example, or this methodology, on this project, and why aren't we using it in other projects undertaken? To my understanding, this is the first time that this way will be used for a major capital undertaking - that it won't be under the scrutiny of the Public Utilities Board because it doesn't impact on the electrical rates charged, and it doesn't do so because the capital is fronted at zero or a very low interest rate to make it work.
Why are we using that method at this juncture for this project? Why haven't we used it before? Why, all of a sudden, now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was not involved in the decision to which the member makes reference. I cannot give him the specific reasons why this methodology was chosen. I will certainly look into his point. He makes an interesting case. I will look into it and I will respond in writing to that.
I just want to remind the member opposite, however, that we are still receiving reports on this project stage and that my notes also indicate that the Development Corporation would be publicly presenting the cost benefits. So while that's not a Utilities Board review, as the member has outlined, certainly I have been advised that there is an opportunity for public discussion.
So, I will respond in detail to the member as to why a decision was taken not to have a Utilities Board review, and I will also respond to the member and outline what the public consultation process is on this particular project.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the position I take, Mr. Chair, is that it should fall under the scrutiny of the Public Utilities Board, and if the minister cares to check with her colleague, the Minister of Justice, she'll find in the Justice budget an increase in funding for the Public Utilities Board that wasn't explained by way of a GRA because it's not anticipated that there'll be a general rate application by either Yukon Energy or Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. this year, this budget cycle. So, that begs the question: why was there an increase put in - and it was a sizable increase, Mr. Chair - the Justice department for Public Utilities Board operations and expenses?
I would submit, Mr. Chair, that an initiative such as this - the Mayo-Dawson interconnect, or whether it goes from Mayo to Carmacks initially, or however it proceeds - should all be under the scrutiny of the Public Utilities Board, because one way, the taxpayers are going to be paying the bill, and the other way, the ratepayers are going to be paying the bill.
All you have to do is adjust your loan charged to the utility company and you lower the interest rate or make it zero interest for 15 or 20 years, because we are talking about an expenditure in the order of magnitude of some $20 million. And $20 million will have an impact on the rate-making base. The interest alone on $20 million a year equals the cost of the diesel consumption currently, at the current rates in Dawson, which this is intended to serve. It doesn't displace all of the diesel either, because there is only five megawatts of installed capacity in Mayo. By the time you build your interconnect, subtract one megawatt for line loss from Mayo to Dawson and service Mayo and Elsa on that grid, at the end of the day you can't meet the peak, summer or winter, in Dawson.
When you start putting this kind of money up for a major infrastructure initiative, it should come under the purview of the Yukon Public Utilities Board. That is what I am urging the minister to do - be up front with this initiative - with this project - and show the people how it is funded, because it is either the ratepayers or the taxpayers that are going to pay for it.
Will the minister undertake to put this project through the scrutiny of the Yukon Public Utilities Board?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already committed to the member opposite that I would examine why the Utilities Board was not chosen, if in fact it has been entirely ruled out. I also indicated to the member opposite that we would - and certainly it is anticipated that the Yukon Development Corporation would be entirely upfront, to use the members words, about this particular project.
There has been a duly-appointed Yukon Development Corporation Board, which is getting the reports on this project. They are expected to receive them in the very near future. It has to go to the board for consideration.
They have to be comfortable with it, and, of course, the Development Corporation's role is to make sure that ratepayers are protected. It's a price increase as a result of the Lion's construction. The member knows that information quite clearly. I will not commit the Utilities Board to a review of this project without finding out, first of all, about the member's representations and, secondly, determining why that decision was made. I said I would examine it, and I would provide the member opposite with a response; I'll do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the reason it won't be submitted to the Utilities Board and what we were advised by the Yukon Energy Corporation was that this expenditure would not impact on the electrical rates, so I submit, Mr. Chair, that while they won't impact on the electrical rates, they'll impact on the taxpayers. So, one way or the other, we are going to pay for it.
The other initiative that comes under the purview of the current government is where we're heading for our electrical rate subsidy program. We have an initial block of energy that's provided across the Yukon from Old Crow to Watson Lake to Whitehorse for residential consumers, and there were some changes made under the NDP government where, after you went over 1,000 kilowatts a month, up to 1,500, that amount was clawed back, and in order to keep this program alive, the previous NDP government dumped $10 million into the program.
Now, just how long before this $10 million will be depleted? And that assumes zero growth because we are on a downturn in the economy, and assumes zero growth in electrical rates. When is it going to be depleted? This is a political decision. Are we going to go back to a more fair and equitable rate subsidy, or rate form scheme here in Yukon, or are we going to claw away on the current path? What's the Liberal position on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the program the member refers to is the rate stabilization fund. That fund is proceeding according to the schedules that were in place under the previous government. We do not anticipate any changes to the rate stabilization fund. As to the exact date for the depletion of the fund, I will have the corporation respond directly to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: I did a few little calculations, Mr. Chair, with current consumption of this rate relief fund and, given the state of our economy, it's going to be depleted faster than anticipated. So, D-Day is probably going to be upon us very, very quickly and it looks like it might fall within the mandate of this Liberal government.
I was appalled to hear that the Liberal government is not anticipating any changes or conducting any review on this rate subsidy or stabilization program, so I was curious as to what the Premier is going to do. It's an initiative that's going to affect all of us very, very quickly. She has said she's not anticipating any change and she has indicated that she will get back to us as to when this sum of money is going to be depleted.
The first question one would ask if one was a prudent business manager would be how much money we have in the bank to support and keep this fund flowing. That doesn't seem to be the question that has been asked. They just maintain the status quo. I want to know why this hasn't been given the attention it deserves.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I said to the member opposite that there is a current schedule in place for the rate stabilization fund. The fund has not changed since the election, the schedule for payment has not changed, and the current fund, as it stands now under that schedule, is not going to change.
In order to have a precise and prudent response for the member opposite on the question of when precisely the fund will be depleted, I have indicated that I will have the corporation respond with an exact date.
In terms of the future for the electrical ratepayers in the Yukon, that is of tremendous concern to us. We are examining and working with the Development Corporation and the Energy Corporation on these issues, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: I think that, at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, if we just listen to the Premier, the rates will have to go up substantially to keep this body afloat, given the current precarious financial position of the energy or the utility company and no major consumers.
Mr. Chair, one of the other initiatives that has been taken by the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation has been the issue of power generation utilizing wind. Now, at the end of the day, when is a determination going to be made as to whether this project is viable or not? What kind of costs are we anticipating for a kilowatt of electricity? It has been my experience that anywhere the temperature and the dew point come together under freezing conditions, the rime icing on the blades costs more energy to provide for the de-icing to keep them working than they actually realize in net benefits by way of power generation.
That has been the case all across the north. Even back in the days of the Northern Canada Power Commission, they had a wind turbine in the Northwest Territories that cost more to start, get up to speed and keep de-iced than it would generate in net benefits in electricity, and that hasn't really changed. There have been some improvements made on de-icing equipment, but at the end of the day, a kilowatt of electricity produced in the north utilizing wind generation is more expensive than the other methods - such as hydro or even diesel. I think the last numbers I heard were approaching about 17 cents a kilowatt hour.
Getting into the one-megawatt units, you could bring their half-megawatt units and bring the cost down somewhat, but they didn't really know how much, because they haven't really been tested in conditions of rime ice. There have been some initiatives in Sweden, but at the end of the day, the government has to make a determination whether to continue with this program or discontinue it. Now, we are all in favour of green power initiatives. There is not a problem there, but when it costs that much more to generate power than replacement power from any of the other alternate sources - when is the government going to make a decision whether to proceed or not with further investments in these initiatives?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member has stated a number of his views with regard to rime-icing problems and the quality and viability of green wind power, if you will. The member is well aware that there was funding put into these initiatives by the previous government, under the purview of the Yukon Development Corporation. Those initiatives are still underway.
There is an R-and-D project with respect to rime icing and climatic conditions. One would want - and I'm certain the member opposite would want - all the information to have been received by the government prior to making a decision. Particular projects are still underway and once they have been completed then I'm certain that the Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation will be providing the government with advice in this regard, and I would look forward to it.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm sure the minister would look forward to it, but will she do anything with it? The business decision has to be made sooner or later, and the business decision is whether we proceed with this initiative or not. Are there any timelines applied to this project? Two years, three winters or two winters, or what are we looking at? Because these projects can go on and on and on and on. At the end of a certain period of time, an assessment must be undertaken because we cannot rely, 100 percent, on wind-generated electricity. It is just not there all the time. Unless, of course, they installed the propeller directly over the Premier's head when the Legislature is sitting. We could then probably keep it going quite extensively, but given that we only sit for a very short period of time, we have to provide alternate ways of generating electricity. I just want to know the timelines on when this project is going to be analyzed as to its viability and whether further wind-power generation is going to proceed or not proceed? What are the timelines? Are there any?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do not have a specific timeline in front of me, so rather than give the member opposite the wrong information, that is a specific corporation question that I will have responded to. I'm certain that the member opposite would agree that, as the member opposite made reference to a business decision, that a business case will form the basis for that decision. I can assure the member that this is a green power initiative and the funding dedicated toward them would certainly indicate that there is a time frame coming.
Once that funding has been spent, there will be a business case made, and a sound business decision will be rendered once the business case is made. As for the date, I'll respond to the member directly.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for her answers in that regard, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, one of the other issues with electricity in the Yukon is Whitehorse, and Whitehorse has the dirtiest power, as it's termed in the industry, in Yukon. Some of the cleanest power is in Faro, which, incidentally, is on the WAF grid, and in Dawson, which is a stand-alone.
Now, dirty power is becoming more and more of a difficulty to contend with, given the amount of electronic equipment that we connect to our power lines. There have been a few initiatives taken in the last little while, but what is contemplated in the Whitehorse area to address the issue of dirty power? And I'm talking both brown-outs and also the issues surrounding power factors. Just the number of outages here is unbelievable compared to most other Yukon jurisdictions. Some of the stand-alone plants, Mr. Chair, have way, way better and more reliable power factors and availability. Whitehorse doesn't seem to be the case, and we're constantly experiencing brown-outs for one reason or another. Some of it has to do with rights-of-way not being cleared of brush and the trees falling on the lines, but occasionally the only one that can be justified is the occasional raven that shorts across two lines and causes a power outage. Other than that, there is a very serious problem with dirty power here in the Whitehorse area.
What steps is the Energy Corporation taking to rectify this? There are the suppliers of energy from Whitehorse rapids, from Aishihik and from the diesel power plant, and they provide the majority of the energy except for a small amount of hydro provided by Yukon Electrical.
So, the ball to provide reliable, steady power is more or less in the domain of Yukon Energy, not Yukon Electrical Company Ltd.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already answered this question as posed by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, and I indicated at the time that detailed initiatives by the corporation would be answered in the fall by the appearance of the president at that time, if the member wishes. He can ask the question then and express his political views at that time. Or, if the member wishes, I am certainly able to provide and will provide the detailed initiatives that have been undertaken by Yukon Energy Corporation.
And I recognized in my response earlier to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that there was room for improvement, that this has been recognized by the Energy Corporation. There is also a role, contrary to the member's views, for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., and I will be writing to them and asking that they provide a listing of their initiatives in this regard, which I will also provide to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I might correct the minister's statements. They are not my political views on it; they are the views of a great number of Whitehorse residents that the power here is not reliable and is called, in the industry, "dirty power". That's a given; that's not a political view, so I ask the minister to not confuse the two, Mr. Chair.
With respect to the initiatives being undertaken by Yukon Energy, I would ask the minister to send over a copy of their initiative plan, not just wait until the fall and question whoever might be in charge of the Energy Corporation at that time. I think that it's only fair that we see what the game plan is for the Energy Corporation to address this very important issue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I indicated to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that I was more than prepared to provide that information to him, in writing, as soon as possible. In fact, I used the word "forthwith". Certainly I'm more than prepared to provide it to the member opposite in writing.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for that.
The GRA - how can the minister be so certain that the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. is not going to be applying for a rate increase this fall, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would invite the member opposite to review Hansard. I said that the Yukon Energy Corporation would not be filing a GRA this year. That was their commitment made to the Yukon Utilities Board in 1998.
I stated, in answer to an earlier question, that I did not speak for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., nor will I.
Mr. Jenkins: So, there is a potential for a general rate increase application from the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. this fall, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do not speak for Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., nor will I.
Mr. Jenkins: That wasn't the question, Mr. Chair. I said there is a potential for a rate increase application from Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. this fall.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said to the member opposite that the Yukon Energy Corporation is not filing a GRA, a general rate application, as was committed in 1998 to the Yukon Utilities Board. There will not be a GRA filed by YEC in the year 2000.
Yukon Electrical Company Ltd. will make their own determination. I do not speak for them. As to whether or not it's a possibility, the member can ask YECL directly.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there is a potential, and a rate increase application coming forward from Yukon Electrical Company Limited could occur this fall, and that has to be dealt with, Mr. Chair. That's what I'm getting at, and no matter how the minister looks at it, the bottom line is that that is looming on the horizon, given the dependency on diesel fuel and given the cost increases that have been incurred in the utility business. It's inevitable; it's going to happen.
I recognize that the minister doesn't speak for the Yukon Electrical Company Ltd., but she should be anticipating the impact that it's going to have on the coffers of the Government of Yukon, because it will be significant across all departments, as well as the rate stabilization fund or the rate relief program that is currently in place.
Mr. Chair, if we could move on to one of the other areas under the Economic Development portfolio - the Kassandra situation. Currently, there has been one payment made - $1 million upon signing the agreement last July 28, and there is agreement to provide six additional quarterly payments. So, that amounts to some one and three-quarter million dollars that is currently paid out to 123 Inc.
Now, these are U.S. dollars that were paid out, and if we use an acceptable rate of exchange in Canadian dollars, we are looking at $2.625 million that flows to 123 Inc. The three parties represented in 123 Inc., one of which is the Government of Yukon, have been paid out just shy of $80,000 each. So, out of the total of $2.625 million, $245,000 has been paid out to the three parties. That means that the legal costs and disbursements are $2.38 million on this initiative.
I was wondering, given that the sole officer and director of that company is a Yukon solicitor acting on behalf of the three parties, has all of that money been expended on legal and disbursements, or is someone else benefiting in there by way of other than solicitor-client costs, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, first and foremost, I would remind the member that the Kassandra file - if the member opposite will permit me to use that term, which refers to the legal cases to which the member was referring - is being handled, and the lead role - if you will, in terms of the Government of the Yukon - is being taken by the Department of Finance. I am well aware of the member opposite's concerns in this regard, and I have outlined for the member previously that this is a very, very tangled and complex legal matter. As I have said before, legal costs and litigation are something that we are maintaining a balanced position on, with regard to settlement, of costs versus litigation.
The member is asking who else is being paid, other than the legal fees and the exact disbursements - Kassandra, TVX, 123. I'm certain the member would like to get into them all. It's a very complex legal matter. The Department of Finance is taking the lead role. If the member wishes to question me in the context of my role as Minister of Finance, I'd be happy to review that with him.
I understand why he bootlegged it into the Development Corporation. This is a matter that I do not wish to debate on the public floor, as there are matters that are sensitive in nature legally, and, if the member wishes, again I would offer a briefing and a discussion with me on this issue. However, the public forum for a debate on legal fees and on the position of the Government of the Yukon on this matter, I would suggest, is not the forum for some of these sensitive legal points.
Mr. Jenkins: If I happen to disagree with the minister, I don't think she'll find that to be an exception, Mr. Chair.
Well, given the tremendous amount of money involved here and given the taxpayers' exposure to other environmental cleanups and things of that nature and other related problems associated with this, and given the lien-holder's ability to lose out, I believe that it is a subject that should be broached and questions asked on the floor of this Legislature, Mr. Chair, and I will be doing so. So, if the minister wants to deal with it in her Finance portfolio, fine. But I would ask here to spend some time and have a look at some of the dollars that are transferring here, because the expenditures are in Canadian dollars, the funds being received are in U.S. dollars and, at the end of the day, there's a big gap there.
It is carefully laid out to present kind of a picture that is not one that would alarm one, but if you look at half of the legal costs and disbursements - or half of the $2.38 million - as being legal costs, just take a pen and, at $500 an hour for a lawyer, the minister wouldn't have to go very long to calculate how many hours had been put in there. There are only 8,000-odd hours in a year, I would remind the minister.
It is a big issue, and it's a big issue we can leave alone now. I'll be getting back to it in Finance, in general debate, when we get back into that area. Have we cleared general debate in Finance? I don't believe we have.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Okay, so I have an opportunity to get back to it there. We can clear this area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to respond to the member opposite's comments.
I have no hesitation in discussing public business on the floor of this House - no hesitation whatsoever. What I have said to the member opposite repeatedly when he has questioned me other times on this is that this is a very complex legal matter.
Yes, I am very well aware of the substantial dollars involved. I have discussed this particular issue on a number of occasions. I have invited - and repeatedly offered - the member opposite to have a lengthy discussion. My concern with regard to this matter is that there are parts of this, because it is a legal proceeding, that are inappropriate for discussion on the floor of this House.
Now, the member opposite can indicate whether or not he is prepared to engage in a discussion outside of this House on this particular issue, or he can continue to bully and badger and suggest that there is something that I am trying to not share with the Legislature.
I'm fully prepared to discuss this matter in Finance with the member opposite. It more appropriately belongs there, and it more appropriately belongs in another discussion.
Chair: Before we head on, I just would remind, in keeping of a cordial House, that we try not use words like "bully".
Mr. Jenkins: No one is bullying or badgering, Mr. Chair. If that were the case, we'd be here for a very, very long time.
I would like to thank the minister for the briefing that was provided to me by the Department of Finance.
I do have a whole series of questions on this issue, and we'll be dealing with it in general debate in Finance. I don't have a quarrel with that, Mr. Chair, but I'm not prepared to deal with this off the record. I believe that it's very, very important, and it's an issue that takes a long time for one to get one's head around and it has very serious implications, both potentially positive and negative on the Yukon and on Yukoners.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Yukon Development Corporation?
We'll go line by line then.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
On Less Internal Recovery
Less Internal Recovery in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Development Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Office of the Ombudsman?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite have received detailed notes with respect to the Office of the Ombudsman, and I would anticipate that the Members' Services Board will be dealing with this.
Chair: Seeing there's no general debate, we will proceed line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
Ombudsman in the amount of $124,000 agreed to
On Information and Privacy Commissioner
Information and Privacy Commissioner in the amount of $123,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on allotments?
Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $247,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $247,000 agreed to
Chair: We will continue on, then, to capital - there is no capital. Does the total budget for Office of Ombudsman carry?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $247,000 agreed to
Office of Ombudsman in the amount of 247,000 agreed to
On Elections Office
Chair: We'll now continue on to Elections Office. Is there any general debate on the Elections Office?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Mr. Harding: I have some questions with regard to the commitment to boundary redistribution. Is that better done in ECO? I can do it in Executive Council Office, if that's okay with the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if that's where the member opposite wishes to discuss it, that's fine with me.
Elections in the amount of $607,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Elections Office in the amount of $607,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now look at the Elections Office capital.
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Elections Office in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Chair: Is there any general debate on Yukon Legislative Assembly?
We will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
On Clerk's Office
Clerk's Office in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $479,000 agreed to
Chair: Sorry, we skipped Legislative Services. We will consider Legislative Assembly Office carried and go right back to Legislative Services.
On Legislative Services
Chair: Are there any questions on the activities? Does the total carry?
Legislative Services in the amount of $1,763,000 agreed to
On Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits
Retirement Allowances and Death Benefits in the amount of $446,000 agreed to
Hansard in the amount of $386,000 agreed to
On Conflicts Commission
Conflicts Commission in the amount of $13,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $3,087,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Legislative Assembly Office
Legislative Assembly Office in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Chair: Do the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Executive Council Office.
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to remind members that almost half of the Executive Council Office budget is through 100-percent recoverable programs of the Government of Canada, and the budget put before members recognizes that the government must use its resources wisely, and the priorities are, of course, as outlined previously to members, the completion and implementation of land claims and self-government agreements and devolution.
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of questions for the Premier. We've discussed a lot of these issues in some detail in general debate, but there are some noticeable activities occurring and some issues that we haven't gone into.
First of all, the issue of the Member for Riverside and the community liaison position - are the expenses from that funded from the caucus budget of the Liberals, or are they funded through ECO?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would anticipate the forthcoming expenditures to be funded from the caucus budget.
Mr. Harding: For example, there was a recent trip by the House Leader, as far as I am aware anyway - maybe some of my colleagues were told more - to an economic conference. Was that a trip approved by the Executive Council Office or was that caucus once again?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, the Member for Mount Lorne represented me, in my capacity as the Minister of Economic Development, at the Pacific Northwest Region Economic Conference in Oregon, and I'm happy to review her attendance with the member opposite during the Economic Development debate.
Mr. Harding: Yes, and I'll ask for a copy of the positions taken, speeches given and any policy positions taken. Could she provide that? I am giving her notice that we'll be expecting that in Economic Development debate.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can advise the member opposite there were no speeches given by the Member for Mount Lorne on behalf of the government, and there were no different policy positions taken from previous governments. It was an information participation, and I can provide the member with a copy of the Member for Mount Lorne's report when we get to the Economic Development debate.
Mr. Harding: And the cost of those expenses? The member is nodding her head so I expect to receive that.
As well, Mr. Chair, just on that point, there was some discussion, as I understand, among the House leaders about explaining attendance. And it's my understanding that it has been the practice of ministers or government caucus members who are attending business on behalf of the government paid for at the taxpayers' expense that it would be incumbent upon members to say where they were attending. In this case, we had some difficulty with this respect - and I may have the story incorrect, in which case the member can please stand up and correct me.
Is that going to be the policy of the Premier, that, when there are expenditures at taxpayers' expense, ministers or caucus members, should they be designated, will not explain to the House where they are?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the policy of this government is to answer questions directly on the floor of the House. This is the first time I have been asked about the Member for Mount Lorne's trip, her attendance, which was at my request. There certainly has been no effort made to not be forthcoming, to my knowledge, and certainly we as a government intend to be very forthcoming with members opposite. And I can advise the member that that was what the trip was for and that I will provide as much detail to the member as is available.
Mr. Harding: I appreciate that from the Premier.
The boundary redistribution issue was debated in this House under a review of the Elections Act and there was some discussion about it. What is the Premier's expectation with regard to the Boundary Commission or the review of the boundaries? Are the timelines the same as when they were discussed in the Elections Act or does she intend to speed it up at all, because they had raised some criticisms of the process that was proposed by the previous government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the electoral boundaries review and the Electoral District Boundary Commission was the subject of much debate when we were doing the Elections Act review on the floor of this Legislature. I have not pulled out the specific provisions of the act and don't have them in front of me. What I can advise the member opposite is that we, as a caucus, are very committed to seeing the boundary review happen, certainly within the term of this government, and we will be working toward that end.
As to the specific time frame, I have to pull out the act and take another look at it. One thing I can assure the member is that we certainly would not rush Yukoners in terms of opportunities to submit views. I don't see a lengthy, drawn-out process nor do I see a very contracted process, but I see an opportunity for Yukoners to submit their views and I'm certain that members of my caucus and other members of the House would join me in support for having this accomplished sooner rather than later.
Mr. Harding: Well, that was certainly the position taken by the former Member for Riverside, Mr. Cable, who was the lead on the issue and was quite critical of the previous government. I think there was some change of position as we got some concurrence from the Liberals with regard to the Elections Act.
The basic point was the argument around the next census and designing a process that will respond after the next census. I'm a bit surprised to hear that the member doesn't have a timeline other than within this term, because that was not the tenor of discussion. The tenor of the discussion was to start the review very quickly, and I believe that the process is even laid out, to some degree, in the act. Really, all I want to know is: is there any change to the thinking with regard to that by the Premier?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No. The member has suggested that we may have changed our position during the last debate in the twenty-ninth session as opposed to the thirtieth session. That's not in fact the case.
When we last discussed the Elections Act, we reached a position as a caucus that we wanted to offer our support to the overall improvements that were made to the Elections Act. We remain fixed in our view that a boundary commission would ideally be conducted sooner, rather than later. Ideally, certainly we'd like to see it this fall, but I don't know that that's possible at this point in time.
It's certainly an issue that's very, very fresh in the minds of voters, and it's something that we would like proceed upon, but again, we as a caucus need to revisit the act and the parameters we have within which to operate.
Mr. Harding: There have been two deputy ministers fired. What's the approximate cost of those packages for the deputies? What's the total?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that's a personnel issue and the member opposite knows I will not be discussing it on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, that's not the case at all. This is going to be a line item in a future budget. The reasons for the firing, certainly, I can imagine the member opposite is not going to want to discuss that. I'm not asking her that. All I want to know is what's the ballpark cost for the firings? Is it $300,000? Is it $200,000? These are items that will be budgeted.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There's a specific policy that has been set out with respect to severance and the member opposite also knows that there's a specific policy regarding severance costs for Cabinet and caucus employees, and I can advise the member opposite that that policy has not changed.
Mr. Harding: So will there be a supplementary reflecting the costs of the terminations in the fall?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The supplementary in the fall will accurately - Actually, more appropriately, next spring's budget will accurately reflect the expenditures of the government to date. The specific amounts attached to severance contracts and the specific amounts attached to Cabinet and caucus employee severances are just contained in an overall line item in Executive Council Office; they are not singled out.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, surely the Premier will appreciate that these monies are not budgeted. They have been paid out. They come from somewhere, so it shows up somewhere. So the member is saying that it won't show up until the spring. Why is that? According to the Financial Administration Act, when there is an expenditure made and it has been booked, then the member is supposed to, at the first available opportunity, come to the House for vote approval. Is that not the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the financial statements presented will accurately reflect the amounts spent by the government. So, when that is presented, certainly that will accurately reflect. It will reflect the severance costs for Cabinet and caucus employees with the change in government, and it will reflect any other costs.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, okay, well, that is all I wanted to know. I thank the Premier for that, Mr. Chair. I will wait to see that then, but I would estimate that we are probably looking at a figure of somewhere around $250,000 or $300,000.
With regard to the issue of land claims, I saw the news today at noon on CBC about the Kaska - interesting. It goes back to the issue of land claims mandate that has been given, about which the Deputy Premier spent 37 times or something saying that she didn't discuss those issues on the floor of the Legislature, yet we have the chief today discussing the whole issue freely in the public and the media. Of course, when the Premier came back, she told the Member for Klondike that there had been no new mandate given to the negotiators.
My question to the member, given that this is now a public issue - certainly with regard to the Kaska, and perhaps just for sake of the discussion, we will limit it to the Kaska. Is she going to be producing a new mandate for the negotiators, or will she be sticking with the old mandate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm just going to remind the member of a couple of points. First of all, with regard to the Kaska First Nation and the Kaska Dena Council, as the member opposite knows, they have a litigation underway with the Government of Canada and there are three parties at the table. We can't get back to negotiating with the Kaska at the Kaska table until they get out of court with the federal government. It's that simple, although certainly nothing to do with land claims is simple.
With regard to today's news report - I also read them with interest and anticipate reviewing them shortly.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, what a difference an election makes, because I can just imagine the members opposite if the former Government Leader, Mr. McDonald, had stood up and said, well, we can't do anything with regard to our own mandate "With the Kaska - even as the Yukon government; even preparing our own mandate - because there is a court case on, and it's as simple as that." Certainly the now Premier, when she was the opposition leader, didn't accept that in any way, shape or form, and said that there were many issues - section 87, the loan repayment - that there should be movement on and the Yukon government should take a leadership position in that respect. Now, she says she's not even going to be able to review her own mandate.
Mr. Chair, what is going on at the table with regard to the Kaska and the Government of Canada is irrelevant in terms of what the Yukon government can do with their own mandate. Should the Yukon government change their mandate and present it to the Kaska, it might change the court case. It might make those issues less relevant to the negotiating table. The Premier should not stand today and say that because there's a court case on she can't change her mandate. I don't understand how she can argue that. She is correct that the litigation will shut down the federal aspect at the table, but that doesn't mean that the Yukon government can't be developing their own mandate.
So, my question is: is she going to be providing a new mandate to her negotiators on the Kaska land claim?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite should know that the Yukon government is not presently negotiating with the Kaska. When I met with several of the chiefs, including the Chief of the Kaska Dena Council, I indicated that, when we return to the table, there is a Yukon mandate and we're ready to go. We are ready to resume negotiations. We don't resume negotiations without the other party at the table. Our mandate has not changed and we are ready to go when the Kaska and the federal government get back to the table.
Mr. Harding: But the chief is saying that they need a new mandate. Now, I'm not asking the Premier to go to a tripartite table when one of the parties is not there, i.e. the Government of Canada. I'm asking, are they prepared to develop a new mandate with the absence at the table and then signal that to the Kaska?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when I earlier indicated that I would review the comments, I was not putting anything under a 10-year review. I said I would review the chief's comments. I heard them at noon today as well. At this time, I would say no.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, with regard to the NGO funding, is there going to be a commitment by this Premier to NGOs, and will that be executed out of Executive Council? Is there going to be a long-term funding commitment to NGOs? What are her policy parameters for approaching that whole issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite knows that there was a long-term policy in the development stages. We have not yet examined that.
In terms of the individual NGOs and departments, they remain with the responsibility of the departments and we will look at the work that has been done on a long-term policy and determine if that meets with our long-term direction. Certainly, we are very supportive of long-term relationships, and we have said that on several occasions with NGOs. For example, there are a number of them that work with the Minister of Health and Social Services, and we have been very supportive of these long-term relationships.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, we will see how that pans out.
The economic round table with the Kaska - the Premier has discussed much and is proud of the seismic work, which is the follow-up on the three programs that were started last year under an agreement that was struck between YTG and the Kaska for more seismic work at south east. She said that that agreement was reached and it was something that had advanced things quite dramatically down there. What was different in the agreement, other than what is already spelled out in the Yukon Oil and Gas Act for a benefits agreement? Because it is already very clear, particularly on public lands.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Economic Development department took a lead role in terms of developing and negotiating the Kaska economic impact benefit agreement. I can advise the member opposite that what was different, if the member is looking for something different, was the ability to reach the agreement.
Mr. Harding: Isn't that just a little bit snippy. How does she think the agreement for three seismic programs for $10 million got reached last year? For the first time in 20 years, there was seismic work in the Yukon. So to say that there was no agreement reached and that was the difference I think is quite a stretch - not to mention the economic table. One of the things the NDP did was release Kotaneelee funding to the economic table, because there was some progress made in advance of conclusion of the land claim agreement. That commitment was made sometime before the election, and I'm sure it helped to provide some amicable discussions at the table for continuing on the agreement and the work that was already started under the NDP government. So, I would like to know the specifics of what was different?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I certainly had no desire to provide the member with a snippy answer. I was trying to be factual and I apologize if the member took it that way. What the economic impact benefit agreement does is it provides a template for a benefits agreement. It ensures that, in work that is undertaken, you try to maximize the benefit for all Yukoners, including members of the Kaska First Nation. The substantive content of specific agreements is negotiated with exploration companies. So, what this did was provide a template that was appreciated and agreed upon by the Kaska and the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Harding: Let me try this again. The Yukon Oil and Gas Act is very specific about what can form the template for side benefits agreements - particularly on public lands. So what's different about what was negotiated for the seismic under the previous government and this one? What's different from the Yukon Oil and Gas Act?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the act provides the authority to do this and says it must happen. For example, exploration work can't be initiated until a licence has been issued pursuant to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. A benefits agreement has to be in place before licences are issued. This is just a template agreement under the authority of the Oil and Gas Act.
Mr. Harding: I don't think that's correct. I believe the Yukon Oil and Gas Act - and I may be wrong, I haven't read it but I did sponsor the bill - speaks of the types of benefits that can be included in an agreement, speaking to work, job opportunities. It actually goes into some specifics.
So, what I'm asking the member opposite is: if that template already exists in the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, what's different about the new template that they reach with the Kaska?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps this will help the member. What this template agreement does is that it reflects the wording that's in the Oil and Gas Act. It doesn't set a precedent. It's not different. It simply follows the Oil and Gas Act, and key components are reflective of the wording in the Oil and Gas Act. Now, if the member wants to go into more detail on the specifics of the agreement, he may want to do that during the Economic Development general debate when we have had an opportunity to pull out the Oil and Gas Act and bring it back in, if he wishes.
Mr. Harding: I will, and could I have a copy of the agreement and the template that is the basis of the agreement?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I have some questions on devolution. The Premier and I, along with my colleague, attended the General Assembly of the Council of Yukon First Nations for awhile. The issue of devolution was discussed privately by me with a number of chiefs, and in early debate on this issue, the Premier committed that she was still hard and fast committed to the April 1, 2001 transfer of responsibility for resource management for mining and forestry. And she knows full well that some of the chiefs are opposed to that. Is she slipping from that at all?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps we should have started this debate with the discussion of whether it's pronounced dee-volution or devolution, because that's a huge discussion that goes on as well - just an aside as to pronunciation.
The member opposite asked if we were committed to April 1, 2001. We are continuing to make best efforts toward that date. Ultimately our concern is for devolution. Ultimately our concern as a government is to ensure that we get the best possible deal for Yukoners, and if it's not, then we won't proceed unless it is the best deal for Yukoners.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, we'll wait and see how that one plays out. The antithesis, I know, by our government to approach devolution was our complete frustration on the economic side with being separated from the levers of resource management. Frankly, the only resource that we got gratification out of actually having control over was oil and gas. And we had a lot of problems in forestry, which the minister is now experiencing and is going to be experiencing in some detail. We had a lot of problems with mineral withdrawal, staking and those types of issues, and her desire to see it will probably grow the longer she's in government. However, the road to devolution is fraught with peril, as she also probably knew beforehand and is now finding out. So we'll see how that plays out in the coming year, and in the fall and in the spring.
I just want to ask the Premier - today there was a position announced for Mr. Taylor, for the head of the Education Act review. What level of position is that? Is that a DM-level position, or was that a Cabinet decision? Is his salary being funded out of ECO or Education? What's going on there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The question asked by the member opposite is a question for the Minister of Education, and I will defer to him to answer it.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, can I have the question repeated, please?
Mr. Harding: I'd be happy to. The question to the Premier was: where will the budget for Mr. Taylor's salary come from? What level is he being paid at? Was it a DM-level Cabinet decision? What's the situation there?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, there was a release today to the news about Mr. Taylor. I do believe the salary range is $82,000 to $124,000, and the department has been instructed to find those funds internally for the position. Other specific and related information is of a personal nature.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that. There is one other question I need an answer to that is not of a personal nature. Was this a DM-level Cabinet appointment position, or was this a Public Service Commission hiring?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, this was an employment contract, and although he is not classified as a DM, it is at a DM level. He does report directly to me.
Mr. Harding: So, there was a determination by Cabinet to enter into this contract, correct?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, no.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, did the Public Service Commissioner just decide that this was the person to put in this position? I mean, how was this decision made?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, as I indicated in the press release, we feel that Mr. Taylor is eminently qualified to conduct a review of the AADAC. As a matter of fact, 10 years ago, the AADAC was reviewed and I believe it was the minister of the day at that time - Mr. Piers McDonald - who felt he was qualified to review it at that time.
So, with his previous experience on the review of the AADAC, his experience as an educator for over 20 years and his experience as the president of the Yukon Teachers Association, we feel he is qualified to be doing the job as he has been charged.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I don't want to enter that debate now - there will be another time for that as to whether or not the situation is the same as it was 10 years ago, before he was the Liberal leader and up on the stage with the Premier on election night on April 17, but we'll discuss that at another time.
I would like to know, when the minister says we decided, does he mean the Cabinet?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, a correction on that - I decided.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I guess the caveat to that answer was, "I decided on advice from the Premier," but we won't go there.
If I could just take the minister back to devolution and where we are heading. One of the major issues surrounding devolution is the Crown in right. Is the minister anticipating any further development on this front or is the status quo going to prevail and she is going to buy into the federal Liberal position with respect to the Crown in right in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was just asking whether or not the member opposite was aware that there is a forthcoming work - substantial research work. I wonder if the member opposite was aware that there is a substantial piece of research work forthcoming on that specific question and specific issue. My position, as Premier, has not changed since I was leader of the official opposition with respect to the Yukon Act and the Crown in right of Yukon, and my opinion as to whether that is a constitutional issue that poses difficulty for the present rewrite of the Yukon Act is that, no, it does not.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're not going to go anywhere, Mr. Chair, until we have some certainty surrounding that issue.
Now, what steps can the minister take to provide some certainty?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the difficulty is that there is certainty on that issue, and the member and I differ in our opinion. There are several constitutional lawyers who have spent a great deal of time and energy on this specific question and on this specific issue, and I would invite the member opposite to review that material.
The advice that I have received and chosen to accept is that the Crown in right of Yukon issue is - while the member believes it to be an issue, there are other constitutional folks who do not believe that it is of the same magnitude that the member opposite suggests. I have taken their advice as opposed to the member's.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if I do take exception to what the Premier is advising the House once again, Mr. Chair, so be it, and I have taken the time to review some of the various positions advanced by constitutional lawyers and some of the positions put forward, and I still see a need to provide certainty.
The Premier, Mr. Chair, might suggest to the House that she's comfortable with what she's heard, but the federal Liberals are not giving the Yukon the Crown in right. That's the bottom line. They are saying something to the effect that we have to be a province. There's a way to provide certainty. I would ask the minister to explore that avenue and look at that area. There is a very good possibility that this issue could be dealt with by the courts and the question posed and answered, and we would have a definitive response. We wouldn't be like the old ping-pong ball, going back and forth and back and forth, as we are currently, with some saying, "Yes, we do have a Crown in right", and pointing to a whole bunch of legal precedents, and some saying, "No, we do not have a Crown in right", and pointing to a whole bunch of areas where it is clearly demonstrated that we do not.
The issue is one of moving ahead. The only way to provide that certainty, Mr. Chair, is to have the certainty surrounding a Crown in right. Is the minister prepared to carry the ball forward? I'm not comfortable when she says that she is satisfied with the information she has received to date, that we do have a Crown in right. If it were contested, it could go the other way.
Certainly, when you look at the devolution process and what we are gaining control over and what we're not gaining control over, we're basically just ending up being the caretaker. This target date of April 1, 2001, is exactly that - a target date. The hopes of achieving it are probably very minimal.
There's a possibility, but it'd take a great deal of compromise on the part of the Yukon in order to achieve it. We'd have to buy in to virtually all the Liberal programs that are being sent our way on their terms and their conditions. Given that the Liberals are very good at dictating and not very good at negotiating, I guess we've got a real problem, Mr. Chair.
So, the question to the minister is: would the Premier consider a challenge of this issue to seek the determination of whether we have the Crown right and whether that could be determined by the courts? Is the minister prepared to pursue that avenue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is a definitive piece of work that is expected very shortly on this specific issue - the Crown right of Canada in the Yukon, this very specific question, the Yukon case - and that definitive piece of work is expected in the very near future.
Will the member opposite allow me an opportunity to review that work before I give a definitive no to his request to put this forward to the constitutional courts?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I take it that the Premier is referring to by this definitive work is another legal opinion. Is that not the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The individual who is performing this work and releasing the work is a lawyer. However, this is not referred to the constitutional lawyer's piece of work. Until I've checked with the individual involved, I'd rather not go further in that regard. I can provide the member opposite with a written response on this. I would say to him initially, however, that my position has not changed. I do not believe that this particular issue should be referred to the courts, as he suggested.
Mr. Jenkins: So, we have a definitive piece of work, Mr. Chair. What is this definitive piece of work entitled? Is it a legal opinion?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I did not, and this government did not, commission the work. I have learned of it. I have been told that it has been commissioned. I have spoken with the individual who is doing the work and I'm aware that the specific question of Crown in right of Yukon is being addressed.
I don't have - without speaking with the individuals involved, and the government contracting, or even being aware that it's public, I would not like to go further than to suggest that this specific question has been reviewed and I understand the review is to include other work and other legal opinions on this matter - this question of Crown in right of Yukon.
I have said to the member opposite before that the member's former leader and I were briefed extensively by the former Government Leader on this issues and by constitutional officials that the former Government Leader brought in to address this specific question. It's unfortunate that the member opposite's party was not satisfied with the answer. I am satisfied with the answer. I am also aware that the member is asking me, as his former leader asked the former Government Leader, to refer this matter to the constitutional courts. The answer is still no.
The new information that I am able to provide the member opposite is that it is my understanding that there has been a definitive piece of work on this specific question commissioned by others. More than that, in terms of information, I would like to check with the individuals involved before I respond more thoroughly to the member opposite; however, I will do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, at the end of the day after this report is tabled, call it what we want to call it, it is still just a legal opinion. It doesn't provide any more certainty that what we currently have one way or the other, no matter what side of the table it falls. And I am sure that that is going to be very much the case. The only way we can provide certainty around this issue is to refer the matter to the constitutional courts. Now, the minister is just waffling once again on the issue. She is stating or suggesting to the House that she wants to review another legal opinion before we move forward.
Now, I am sure we can find legal opinions that are going to come down on both sides of this equation. And I am sure that the feds are going to have a legal opinion that there is no Crown in right in the Yukon, and their constitutional lawyers who provide them with the advice that they want are going to say that is very much the case. Now, the only way we can provide certainty and move forward is to refer the Crown in right issue to the constitutional courts.
Now, why does the minister have to wait for another legal opinion to provide certainty for Yukoners? Why can't we move forward, pursue the matter to the constitutional courts, and get a ruling? We'll know for sure where we stand and we could take the appropriate steps with respect to devolution. Because what we have, Mr. Chair, is just part of the equation that we're dealing with. Unless you deal with the full components of the equation, it is not fair and not reasonable to assume the responsibilities for the various other agencies of the federal government that they currently hold in the Yukon - for us to undertake all of those areas.
It's just simply not practical and not financially viable, and it would be very, very foolish if we did.
So, why can't the minister take it upon herself to provide some certainty and refer the Crown in right issue to the constitutional courts? Why can't we move forward at this time?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The previous Government Leader, in light of the information available at the time, said no to the member's party opposite and said that this matter would not be referred to the constitutional courts. I was present at those discussions, and I didn't feel, as the leader of the official opposition, that that was necessary. I said no then, and I'm saying no now. I have said to the member opposite that there is additional work being done on this, and I'd be happy to let the member review it before I said no again. The best advice I have had and the most consistent advice I have had and my own personal choice in the matter has been that this is not necessary. In terms of wise expenditures of taxpayers' dollars, I would prefer to spend them by negotiating the best deal we can get on devolution. The member opposite's party has been absolutely consistent in their position that this matter should be referred to the constitutional courts.
The Liberal Party has been absolutely consistent in its position in opposition and in government that that is not necessary. So, no, this government is not going to refer the Crown in right of Yukon matter to the constitutional courts. It's that simple, Mr. Chair - no.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, well, I say again that the nicest thing about a lady who says no - it's always a pleasure when they change their mind, and I am sure that at the end of the day, our Premier is going to change her mind on this very, very important issue. Now, it's an extremely important issue, and one on which there are a lot of people on both sides of the equation. The Crown in right issue is not going to go away, and I would urge the Premier over the dinner break to perhaps spend a few minutes reviewing this issue, because the certainty that would be provided around a constitutional court challenge on this Crown in right issue would provide certainty, and we could move forward.
There's no certainty in the whole issue, because the federal Liberal government's position is not going to change - that there's no Crown in right in the Yukon.
That is certain, and all we have are a number of legal opinions, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., we will take a two-hour recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Executive Council Office.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, just before we broke for dinner, I did, inadvertently, pass some remarks. I'd like to retract them, apologize and move forward.
We were dealing with the Crown in right in the Yukon, and I was asking the Premier why she will not pursue a constitutional court challenge on this issue. It's a very important issue. I think, at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, we'll all come to realize how important it is. What the Premier is telling the House is that she is relying on another legal opinion with this commissioned report that's underway. That's basically all it is at the end of the day, Mr. Chair - another legal opinion, and the only way to provide certainty is for the courts to decide.
So, I'm uncomfortable with the position taken by the previous government, and the current Liberal government is buying into it, Mr. Chair.
There's no need to have certainty surrounding the Crown in right, and when you really speak with any of the constitutional experts - and I don't profess to be anywhere near up to speed as I would like to be on that issue -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Very modest indeed.
I was hoping that the government of the day would take it upon itself to pursue this issue. Now, it appears that the Premier is hiding behind this other commissioned report or legal opinion, and I'm hoping she'll see the light of day somewhere down the road and pursue this avenue.
I guess my requests are falling on ears that don't want to hear the message. I think that after the Premier and her officials have explored this issue in some depth, they'll arrive at the same conclusion that I and a number of the individuals whom I have spoken with have, and that is that, until there is a certainty of a Crown in right, we can't really move ahead all that well, Mr. Chair.
So, I'd ask the Premier to explore this issue and look at a legal challenge before the constitutional court on the Crown in right issue for the Yukon. Will she do so, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to thank the member opposite for his apology, and I would like to correct, for the record, the member's statements and my statements regarding the commissioned work. Over the supper break I took the opportunity to research this matter. The work I was referring to was not authoritative; it is a private individual who is very interested in this particular issue. It's his own private work and is working toward researching it and one day publishing it.
The member opposite notes that, over the years, there have been a number of different legal opinions on this question, and not surprisingly, Mr. Chair, those legal opinions differ. They do not all say the same thing. The Government of Yukon's position has been - and I supported it in opposition and continue to do so - that we do not support a constitutional court challenge on this particular issue. I appreciate the member's representations, and I will consider them. However, the member has asked for my position and I have stated it.
Mr. Jenkins: Can I ask the Premier why she will not pursue a constitutional court challenge? It's pretty well self-evident that the information she is going to be obtaining is just another opinion and there is no certainty surrounding the Crown in right. Why will she not pursue that avenue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: For the third time, I am not obtaining research work. I was making reference to a private individual's work. I am not obtaining it and neither is the Government of the Yukon. There have been a number of legal opinions rendered to the government and I, when leader of the official opposition, and as Premier, do not support pursuing this through the courts. Our focus has been on devolution and our focus on the real issue is who controls the land. That's the real issue for us as Yukoners, in our view. The member opposite is asking why we do not want to adopt his particular point of view; I do not share his point of view that our position lacks certainty. I know that there are others who share that view. Our position is very certain and we are pursuing the devolution process. We are working on it and that work does not include a constitutional court challenge.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what the Premier is saying is that we have a very certain position that's uncertain. It's like the difference between being the owner fee simple of a piece of property and renting the piece of property. That's the analogy that was brought forward to me. On the one hand, as a renter you have certain rights, certain obligations, but that's as far as it goes, Mr. Chair. The ownership is vested somewhere else. It's vested with the federal government. We are just the caretakers of the land and its resources. The ownership is vested with the federal government under the scenario that the Premier is advancing. And down the road, Mr. Chair, I believe this is going to come back to haunt us.
I'd like the Premier, if she hasn't done so already, to ascertain what a constitutional challenge would cost, and to come to the conclusion that she's definitely not pursuing it at this juncture, I believe it's not in the best interest of Yukon or Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
That's very important. I would ask that she have an understanding of the dollars involved in a court challenge of this nature, and we'll get back to it in the fall. As it stands, this devolution process is probably on hold.
I would suggest to the Premier that we're a long way off in the devolution process until, like with land claims, the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs changes again. Then we can perhaps move ahead with some certainty. There has to be a change of attitude at the federal level before we move ahead in devolution, Crown in right and the responsibilities. The federal government appears to want to download all the responsibilities to its tenants. That is what we will become: just tenants on the land on behalf of the federal Government of Canada. That's not done in any other jurisdiction in Canada - in any of the provinces, Mr. Chair. Why should we be so different?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has said that it is very important that the government recognize and realize the member opposite's and his party's point of view. It is equally important that the member opposite recognize that not everyone shares his view, that not everyone is of the opinion that this issue does not create certainty. Not everyone is of that opinion. Not everyone feels that the Crown in right of Yukon, as the member suggests, puts devolution on hold. That is not an opinion that I share, and it was not an opinion other members of this House have shared. The member has asked for the legal costs, and I know this information was provided to his former leader, so I'll make certain that we dig it out again.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it is a very important issue. I guess if you look at it from a political standpoint, if you are a party here in the Yukon, if you are a party that wants to move ahead, it appears to be an issue that is insurmountable in one's dealings with the federal government, so the easiest avenue is to just say, "Okay, we will agree that the Crown in right does exist, and we will proceed on the basis that it does, and we can move ahead with devolution." But what certainty does it provide to the devolution process and the end result? It continues to provide less and less certainty, and when you start looking at the mirror legislation that we are supposed to enact here to parallel the federal legislation that currently controls a lot of our resources, and you look in the sections dealing with Crown land, just how are we going to word those sections so that we can get around it? I can see why we spend millions and millions of dollars on legal wrangling to come to some conclusion that may or may not be correct, Mr. Chair, and may or may not be reflected in a subsequent court action.
But the Crown in right issue is one that's of paramount importance at the end of the day. So, we're not going to get anywhere tonight, Mr. Chair, so we can move on.
The other issue I'd like to deal with is the land claims situation. Last week in Question Period, Mr. Chair, I asked a question of the Premier with respect to the new federal initiative. The Premier stated categorically that it does not apply to the Yukon. I was hoping that she could now correct the record.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, the member opposite began his remarks by again dwelling on the Crown in right of Yukon, and again I would say to the member that there is no question that this is a very important issue. The member saying it's a very important issue is a good point. I would appreciate his recognition that not everyone shares that point of view.
The member's discussion about the federal proposal that was put forward - my discussions and suggestion that this did not apply to the Yukon is correct to a degree. It only applies to Yukon in respect of a specific claim. It does not replace the comprehensive claim process we have. The Yukon First Nations having specific claims falling outside of the comprehensive claims might have recourse to this process - and it's a "might", Mr. Chair. But that's determined by the circumstances of the specific claim. There were very unusual circumstances that the negotiators felt would ever have any applicability. It's not likely to be used by the Yukon. The reason for the federal initiative is the treaty process in Ontario. It wasn't envisioned to apply in the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the Premier for correcting the record. The other question that flows from that, Mr. Chair, is that the negotiated mandate for the federal government and the federal negotiators was extended. What happens on the expiry of that mandate, which is looming on the horizon? Could this mechanism not kick in also?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no, because we have a comprehensive claim. That was my understanding and was the member's suggestion, which is why I said that I didn't see its applicability in the Yukon. The mandate to which the member referred was renewed for two years, starting March 31 of the year 2000.
Mr. Jenkins: So, at the end of the two-year period, which is a very short period of time in government, even if it's a specific or comprehensive claim, there is no more federal mandate for the negotiators. There is a potential for this mechanism kicking in, primarily for specific claims, but it could be applied to the whole negotiating process, if there's no renewal of the mandate at the expiry of its current position. Has that been determined yet?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That, as I suspected, is a very hypothetical question. The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development indicated that at the end - actually, not at the end, but into the new federal mandate - there would be an examination to determine if there was progress being made and so on. The mandate would be examined on a regular basis. It would not just be two years and then we would check at the end of two years. There was ongoing evaluation.
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the interesting contracts coming out of the contract registry are sole-source contracts that originated with the Executive Council Office. I was wondering if there was any move afoot to reduce the upper limits of sole-source contracts, specifically when they come out of the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is not a discussion that has been broached by the minister responsible for Government Services. If the member wants to ask specific questions about an Executive Council Office contract, I would be pleased to try and answer them.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just the upper limits. If one looks at the contract registry, you can see that they are all broken down by various departments in the government. The most interesting ones flow from Executive Council Office. We are currently in debate on the budget for the Executive Council Office. I was curious as to whether the Premier had anticipated imposing new upper limits on sole-source contracts - specifically sole-source contracts out of Executive Council Office.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I take it that, at $5,000 a day, sole-source contracts are going to be the order of the day. When we hit up to the limit, we just issue a new contract. Is that how we're proceeding?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is referring to the contracts that were issued for the transition team. I did not handle the administration of those contracts. I was not the signatory on them. What I can advise the member is that, although the contract has some specific dates in it, the services provided to us were in excess of those dates. That was the bill for the contract. If the member opposite is referring to a contract to the Public Policy Forum, I would be happy to provide the member more details on that particular matter and Mr. Zussman's qualifications. I would also note that the member is suggesting that this is $5,000 a day; these contracts include the expenses of airfare.
Mr. Jenkins: It still works out to $5,000 a day, Mr. Chair, no matter how you cut it, and that's a pretty good pile of money for anyone.
The minister said that she hadn't signed the contracts, but I remind the minister that we are in ECO and she's responsible for this budget, no matter who signs the contract. I think it would be very important that the sole-source limits be reduced so that it has to go through a more comprehensive review before it's - it has to go to Management Board before it's rubber-stamped, as it lends itself to, shall we say, a very simple and easy decision.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my point with regard to the signature on the contract was that I would have noted that the advice did not terminate on a specific day, and I would invite the member to examine the contract. The fees indicate a specific amount per day, and that amount per day is not $5,000. It is $1,200 per day.
Mr. Jenkins: Just look at the total amount, the total number of days, and see what the total cost to the government is per day. You have to look at the total disbursements, too, Mr. Chair, to get a cost per day and that's what one normally looks at.
Could we just look at non-government organizations? A message coming out of this government currently, Mr. Chair, is one that, in the recent past, you might have been promised consistent funding over a period of time, but we're going to be reviewing it on an ongoing basis. That's the message coming from this government. I'd like to explore with the Premier why her new Liberal government is taking that tack.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, once again, the member's incorrect. The statement that I made was in response to a question from the Member for Faro with regard to the ongoing contracts with non-government organizations. The question: would the government continue with a policy of negotiating agreements with non-government organizations? I indicated to the Member for Faro that, as the Member for Faro well knew, I am certain, the Executive Council Office was developing a policy with regard to these contracts and agreements.
The policy, when the previous government left office, was not complete. When that work is complete, we will examine it. If it meets with our direction, we'll implement it; if not, we won't.
Mr. Jenkins: And does the minister have any idea of the chances of it meeting with her approval? I know she might be speculating, but given the certainty needed by these NGOs, it would be appropriate if we provide some consistent level of funding and sent a clear message. The message seems to be, "Review, study, 10-year review, ongoing and we'll look at it next fall." What everyone needs in the Yukon is some certainty, especially NGOs, and the main source of funding for NGOs has been the Yukon government. The sooner we can have some certainty in that area, the better off these NGOs will be.
What kind of timelines is the minister looking at before she sends a clear message to NGOs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was a clear message sent on April 17 and Yukoners have indicated that they wanted a government that wanted to work with them and that had good relationships with non-government organizations.
The member opposite wants a time frame. I haven't seen the policy as yet. When this government examines the policy, it will be given thorough consideration. We do have good relationships with non-government organizations and we have provided them with certainty. There are existing agreements in place and we live up to them.
As for a long-term government policy, it's under development. When that work has been completed, this Cabinet will review it.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that clear message. The mud in it is probably like the silt flowing in the Yukon River in some places. It is very hard to see through. The issue is to provide certainty to NGOs, and the only way we can provide certainty to NGOs is to have this government with a policy in place that is going to ensure that funding continues to flow to them. Will we see this before the next budget cycle?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I said that when the long-term policy had been developed, the Cabinet would examine it. I don't have a time frame on that.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Liberals made a promise in the election campaign - actually many promises, but one was with regard to fixed start dates for the legislative session, and the Premier is very excited about this one, as are we. We are excited about the fixed start dates, and we'll decide the end dates, but we will be looking forward to the Liberals living up to those promises. So when can we expect to see some tangible action in that respect?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am very much looking forward to the work of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, and I fully anticipate that they will be able to reach a fair and equitable and very diplomatically reached agreement with members of the opposition to fix the sitting dates for the Legislature. I am certain, and I'm certain everyone listening - and I know I have heard from public servants - is very much looking forward to having that set in the calendar.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, you know, having been in this House - and we had no agreement on the legislative session as to end dates or length of sittings - I also look forward to this discussion. However, I must point out that it wasn't the opposition parties who promised fixed starting dates or end dates. I believe the promise - I have it right here - refers to fixed start dates, so we are not really in a negotiating mood as an opposition. We just simply want the Liberals to deliver on their election promise. So when does she expect the Liberals to deliver on this promise? When will the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges meet?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's not up to me to call the committee. I don't chair it. I am certain the chair is looking forward to calling the committee as soon as members' schedules permit, and we can have a meeting this summer to discuss starting and ending dates. I'm looking forward to publishing those just as soon as they are available.
Mr. Harding: Well, the member opposite says "ending dates". But the promise in the campaign was published fixed dates for the commencement of Legislative Assembly sittings. It says "commencement". The ending dates are not really a part of the election promise. Is this another promise that we don't know about that the Liberals made?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member goes back in time to the discussions in the Legislature, the member opposite will know that I have been, as a member, personally calling for a calendar of sitting dates for the Legislature since I was first elected in 1996.
Mr. Harding: Well, Mr. Chair, as one member, I love going back in time and reading the Premier's comments back to her, but in this particular scenario, I am dealing with this very specific election promise. So, I will look forward to these constructive discussions as to how the Liberals are going to live up to this commitment on the commencement of Legislative Assembly sittings. I think that will bring some well-needed structure to the government. The opposition will be here, as always, dutifully responding on behalf of her Majesty to hold the government accountable.
We look forward to these published fixed dates for the commencement of Legislative Assembly sittings. We, on our part, promise not to hold the government in the House any longer than is absolutely necessary, as determined by her Majesty's loyal opposition, and that is exactly, as a matter of fact, what we've done this particular session.
But the next promise with regard to changing how government works is boards and committees. We haven't heard much about how the Liberals intend to deal with this particular issue. We did see today the appointment of Ken Taylor, the former Liberal leader up on the podium on election night, hugging the Premier. We know that he was very happy that they won the election, and now we know why. But we want to know more - at $124,000 a year at that - about the all-party committee. How many more Liberals are going to be appointed to key positions? When can we expect the committee to finally be in place?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the all-party committee was put forward as a motion by me in 1996 and modified later by the Member for Riverside to be an all-party committee, with respect. It named specific boards in order to try and reach the then NDP government and bring them on side with this idea. Although they had stated publicly they were prepared to do it, they completely reneged on that within a few short days of taking office.
My understanding is that work has been undertaken on this already, and it's anticipated that, again, the committee would be in place as soon as is practicable. We're working on it. We would remind the member that there are also a number of committees of this House that need to do some work in order to assist us with some of these projects.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Executive Council Office? No further general debate? We'll start off in line-byline.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support/DAP
Mr. Jenkins: Have we zapped the DAP, or what's happening there?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The DAP officials have continued their work, and my understanding is that the draft no. 14 is being worked on. We anticipate that the next public draft has a lengthy consultation period as well. DAP officials continue to meet and are working with NGOs at this point in time. It is my understanding that the second draft is later this fall - draft 14.
Mr. Jenkins: Tremendous detail, Mr. Chair. We're kind of interested in consulting with the NGOs that we're not going to be funding for much longer if the cause arises.
The commissioner for DAP - is that office now redundant?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Jenkins: So, what is the reporting process currently?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, DAP directorate to deputy minister of Executive Council Office, DM of ECO to the Premier.
Mr. Harding: I wasn't about to let the development assessment process go, because the Premier had many, many answers about DAP. She had it all figured out prior to the election, and the briefing note we just were read on DAP is a quite amazing briefing note. Committees are ongoing, discussions are happening with NGOs and consultation is forthcoming, and it will be brought together in the fullness of time.
The Liberals promised to finalize DAP and actually said it was a tremendous issue of uncertainty. This is, by anyone's estimation, an extremely difficult project and it's made more difficult by the fact that the feds are the ultimate legislators. But that didn't stop the Liberals, when they were in opposition, from saying the Yukon government should show leadership and take full responsibility for the outcome of this.
So, what is the plan of the Premier with regard to this issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'd remind the member that the Liberal Party, during the election campaign, spoke about a number of issues. We said we believed DAP to be important, that we would be working on it. We hoped to have it finalized in our term, and we do.
Mr. Harding: Is that the extent of the plan - the grand design by the Premier on this particular issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it would seem to me that getting the job done is a fairly important plan and that's what we intend to do. We're not going to accomplish everything in the first two months of taking office, and the member knows it.
Mr. Harding: Actually, it's three now and getting the thing done is an objective, not a plan. So, I'd like to know the plan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Okay, getting it done is a goal. Pardon me, I stand corrected by the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Member for Faro. It's a goal to get that done. DAP is, as the member knows, another one of these three-party processes.
The plan to get it done is that we need to ensure that DAP works for the Yukon and works for those interested in development - all Yukoners. Our DAP director is working on this with the federal government DAP person and with the First Nations DAP person. We're working at it.
If the member wants to see a workplan, I can provide it to him in writing.
Mr. Harding: Has the Premier issued any policy directives to the DAP directorate.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Harding: So, it's the same policy directives as the NDP government, correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, it is.
Mr. Harding: Does the Premier see any problem with reconciling that she was going to approach DAP in a different manner? She is nodding her head, yes. Then please, tell me how she is going to approach it, aside from the fluff?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have had a brief examination of DAP since taking office. I have not issued new directions to the DAP directorate. I'm very concerned that we see this matter completed in our first term. I will be working toward that end and I will be doing a thorough examination of their workplan once we have had an opportunity to do so - once we have passed this budget.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the Premier has had a brief examination and she is looking for a thorough examination, but she made a lot of statements about it. Going into the election and when she was the leader of the official opposition, did she have some observations or some specific action directives that she thought would aid the process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is the same member who, when he was in opposition said, "A little DAP'll do ya," and then he got into government and guess what? A little DAP didn't do any of us, at all - it didn't happen. I've said we would work on it - we are. I've said we would work on it, that is what we wanted to do; that is what we are going to do. I have some specific concerns about the DAP process. I have a lot of concerns that there were drafts of legislation that were completely unacceptable to Yukoners that went out for public comment. I'm concerned about that and I would like to ensure that this government does things differently. We haven't had an opportunity to do that yet.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I don't remember the mantra, "A little DAP'll do ya." Perhaps that was the famous Member for Lake Laberge, but perhaps premier Cunning could dig out a quote or two and remind me of it. I'd love to see that.
I would like to state to the member opposite that we actually did have a plan on DAP. We took some ownership of it and that could be considered, in retrospect, a questionable political decision, but I still believe it was the right thing to do for the territory, given its perils, politically, because it is a very, very challenging issue. We formulated the commission; we put quite a bit of political ownership to it; we took it out for public consultation with an aim to getting feedback early on. That was part of the plan. We got the feedback - 99-percent negative from people. But, nonetheless, we felt that one of the biggest complicating factors was the challenges we had in facing the federal government and their ultimate responsibility for delivering this legislation. Given the fact that we did present some nuances as to how to approach this issue, I am surprised that the Premier cannot stand up today and outline - even in anyone's estimation - three or four action initiatives she'll undertake other than a brief examination of it that she has already been afforded. Is there no sense of direction other than the grand rhetoric about bringing everyone together? Can she tell us maybe two action initiatives that she is going to undertake with regard to changing how DAP will be approached in the territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My reference was to the work that we had done so far, and I have told the member that we anticipate a more detailed response for him later in our mandate. The work that has been ongoing on development assessment process - we're at, as I said, the draft 13 or 14 stage of the legislation. The work of the legislative draft people is continuing. Any new approach would be in terms of how those drafts are discussed, and if there is an opportunity to approach reviewing a draft differently, there are situations - I'm sure that the member will agree - where a fresh set of eyes and new approach can render assistance to projects such as this. If there's an opportunity for that to take place, then we'll look at it. At this point in time, I have not issued new instructions to the individuals working on the development assessment process, and I don't anticipate doing that in the short term. However, in the long term we will be giving this matter thorough consideration.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on Cabinet and Management Support/Development Assessment Process?
We will go line by line.
Mr. Harding: Is this the line item where we will have identified the changes to the expenditure for the deputy ministers terminated in the fall?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, is this the line item where the commissioner for the development assessment process and his supporting staff were contained? As we no longer have a commissioner for DAP or supporting staff, shouldn't there be a reduction in this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if there were any reduction, it would be reflected in the next financial statements presented to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: According to the Financial Administration Act, as soon as we are aware of an undertaking or a change, it has to be reflected in the budget. We are fully aware that there's going to be a reduction in this line, unless, of course, the Premier is going to slough some other expenses under that line.
As it currently stands, we are aware that there's going to be a reduction in expenses in that line item. We no longer have the support staff for the commissioner of DAP, so we should see a reduction. Why isn't it being reflected?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member asked me earlier about the Cabinet commissioner on DAP. That person is no longer here. The DAP directorate continues their work. The staff is still working. They are still there. Compared with last year's 1999-2000 forecast, there is a four-percent decrease. It has been noted.
The member is suggesting some kind of spurious allegations about something that hasn't happened.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Administration/Secretariat/DAP in the amount of $1,010,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Cabinet and Management Support/DAP in the amount of $1,010,000 agreed to
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Harding: I have a couple of questions in terms of resourcing for this particular initiative. Given it's supposedly the number one priority of the Liberals, does the Premier anticipate that she's going to have to increase financial resources in this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm advised that any vacant positions have been filled and that if the demand requires it, we will provide resources to that particular branch.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on land claims and implementation secretariat?
Mr. Jenkins: We presently stand at $5.5 million for expenditures on this activity, Mr. Chair. What will it take to get things moving along? How many more negotiating teams and what additional resources does the minister anticipate putting toward a satisfactory land claims resolution?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What is required, as the member opposite knows and has spoken about in this House, is the resolution of the two outstanding federal issues. Those would not require additional resources in this line item in the territorial budget. However, I can advise the member, if he wishes to discuss those two items, that we have taken action on section 87, and I have spoken briefly with the Grand Chief again, as recently as this weekend, on the other outstanding matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have seven remaining land claims to be resolved. We have four of those land claims that are hung up on the two federal issues, which leaves us with three land claims that have a way to go, and two of them have a long way to go, Mr. Chair.
My question to the Premier, Mr. Chair: what kind of resources would it take to move these ahead?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what it will take to move these seven outstanding land claims ahead is movement by the federal government on the two outstanding issues, and I have stated for the member opposite what actions we have taken on those two issues.
What it's going to take with one of the other - for example Kwanlin Dun - is hard work on the part of the negotiating table. That negotiating table has been resourced, and, as I indicated to the member opposite, any vacant positions in land claims and implementation secretariat have been staffed, there are no additional resources required or demanded at this point in time and that, should there be, we will ensure that the resources are made available.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what active land claim negotiating tables are currently ongoing as we sit?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are three, Mr. Chair - Ross River, Liard and Kwanlin Dun - and we're working on the implementation work of Kluane.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on land claims and implementation secretariat?
We'll proceed with line items then.
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Mr. Harding: Could the Premier give a breakdown to the third party and us of the number of meetings since the election at those tables that the Premier identified, and a breakdown of when the next table negotiations are going to be undertaken?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll provide a written response to the member.
Mr. Harding: Can the Premier tell us tonight, with her officials here, how many meetings have taken place at the negotiating table since the election, for example, with Kwanlin Dun, Liard and Ross River?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there have been meetings scheduled with both Ross River and Liard, and there is an extensive schedule, including all of this week, with Kwanlin Dun. I can provide in a written response to the member the exact meeting dates, times and locations.
Mr. Harding: I didn't quite understand what the Premier said. Does she mean these are the first meetings that are taking place at the negotiating table?
She's shaking her head "no".
My question was: how many meetings have taken place to this point at the negotiating table with those three active tables she identified?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't have that information at my fingertips. I will provide it in writing to the member opposite.
Mr. Harding: Can the Premier give me a ballpark figure? At the Kwanlin Dun negotiating table, has there been one meeting, or perhaps five or 10? Has there been one meeting, or two, five, 10 at the Liard and Ross River tables? She can just ballpark and qualify her response - no problem.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This answer will be provided in more detail. I'm advised that there have been two to three meetings with Ross River, a similar number with Liard, and five meetings with Kwanlin Dun, and that's a ballpark figure. I remind the member that these are negotiators' meetings. Were they my meetings, I would be happy to have given them the immediate answer off the top of my head; I'd remember how many meetings I had, but I'm remembering for others. I'm not there.
Mr. Harding: Just with regard to that, we had some discussion earlier about the negotiating mandate and the Premier said that she wouldn't be able to take any new negotiating positions because the table was inactive because the federal government was in court with the Kaska. But she just stood up and said that there have been two to three meetings - ballpark - with the Kaska. What's the subject of those negotiating sessions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: They're land negotiations with Ross River and Liard, but they're not discussions with the Kaska Dena.
Mr. Harding: But these are band finals, so therefore one would think the Yukon government position with regard to each band final would be somewhat specific. So, that contradicts quite handily what the Premier said earlier, that she could not adopt new mandates with regard to these band finals, and yet she just told us they have had negotiating meetings with the Liard and with the Ross River. So, apart from the Kaska Tribal Council and their nation perspectives, there are band finals underway, as she just said. I'm curious in terms of the mandate and what negotiations are underway with those band finals with the court case on that she talked about earlier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what we're doing is following through with what was happening before the election. So, we're following through on land negotiations with Ross River and Liard. The reference that the member is making to our earlier debate was a newscast this afternoon, which made reference by the Kaska Dena Council to a new mandate. We are not negotiating with the Kaska Dena Council because it's the Kaska Dena Council who are in court with the federal government on three different issues.
Mr. Harding: So, is the Premier implying that the chief of the Ross River Dena was not referring to his band final agreement with regard to a new mandate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't have the newscast transcript in front of me. My understanding was that the reference was made to a mandate for the Kaska Dena Council, not specific Ross River and Liard land negotiations. If I'm incorrect, I'll revisit the transcript and advise the member accordingly.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is the minister responsible for what is supposedly her top priority.
We just had a two-hour supper break and we are going into another break and now she has officials who have all of that information provided through Executive Council Office, through public affairs - this is not difficult to obtain for the Premier and I would ask her to peruse it, because it is a very important question.
Now, the Premier said earlier today that she couldn't attend negotiating sessions, because there was a litigation underway with the federal government - the Government of Canada. I started posing the question about how they were going to approach this table, given this fact and, as the member knows the Liard First Nation - as has been the pattern the last couple of years - the Kaska Dena based in Lower Post and the Ross River have approached the negotiating table with commonality. Of course, they also have the tribal council with Chief Hammond Dick as a governing structure within their own nation.
The Premier said, this afternoon, that they couldn't engage in any negotiations whatsoever and that she would be hard pressed to even identify a change in the Yukon mandate with the federal court action underway. Yet, just now she told us there has been two to three negotiating sessions since the election, and that the tables were active. She just told the Member for Klondike that the tables were active.
My first question to her, arising out of that, is who is at the table - which parties?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I stated earlier to the member opposite, the Ross River and Liard are the land negotiations with Canada and Yukon. They are not the final and self-government agreements. I also told the member opposite that my reference to the court case was the court case of the Kaska Dena Council. They are the ones with the court action. My understanding was that the mandate questions were references made by the Kaska Dena Council.
Now, I have appreciated that the member has invited me to review the Blues and the news transcript at the break. I will certainly, after the break, advise the member accordingly, once I have had an opportunity to review both the news transcript and the Blues. However, I'm certain that the member is aware that what I was referring to was the Kaska Dena Council and the land negotiations at Ross River and Liard.
Chair: Order please. The time being close to 8:30 p.m., do the members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: One question? Sure.
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I beg your indulgence. On the issue of the land negotiations, is the member saying she's negotiating quantum with the federal government and the Ross River Dena? What land negotiations is she referring to?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The land negotiations are for settlement lands.
Chair: Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will recess for 10 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, at the start of my response to the member opposite, I mentioned that with Ross River and Liard, the tables were negotiating with respect to settlement lands. We're referring to lands that are required to settle these specific claims. These include some community and some rural blocks. For example, with the Ross River Dena Council, we are talking at the tables about interim protection, land packages, special management areas, and with Liard, we are talking about a balanced selection on parcels of land. Because we are dealing with land issues, these tables are still busy. What we are not doing is dealing with final and self-government agreements. Final and self-government agreements for the Ross River and Liard are negotiated through the Kaska. Kaska is a table that is not presently negotiating, because, as I explained earlier in the Blues, on page 606, to the member opposite, the Kaska have litigation and we are not negotiating bilaterally with them.
The member opposite is suggesting, also with reference to the news reports, that the government should be negotiating with the Kaska, and I reminded him in response to his earlier question that we are not negotiating bilaterally, that there is litigation that has to be resolved prior to that table recommencing.
Mr. Harding: The Premier said that she is not negotiating quantum but that she's negotiating settlement lands. Is she talking A, B, C or S lands?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I specifically did not use the word "quantum". I said we were talking about settlement lands. These lands that are being made reference to, some include some communities, some are some rural blocks, and they include a number of categories or the categories of land issues. I remind the member again that I don't negotiate land claims on the floor of this House, that this is information that I have from the negotiators who are at work at the tables.
Mr. Harding: What kind of settlement lands in the C and S category is she talking about?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking me about specific questions and specific land issues at that particular table, and I would suggest to the member opposite that I would offer a briefing to the member if he wishes to avail himself of it.
Mr. Harding: I will leave this particular issue. It's a good thing for the Premier that it's the middle of the summer and most Yukoners are enjoying their summer holidays. I'm sure she will have an opportunity over the summer to beef up on this and to adopt some new negotiating mandates. I'll leave it until then to conclude this discussion.
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $5,593,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $5,593,000 agreed to
On Intergovernmental Relations
Chair: Is there any general debate on intergovernmental relations?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this area of the budget deals with activities and relationships with First Nations around the Yukon, among other things, and I was just wondering if any of the Connect Yukon initiatives were contained within this budget. There have been considerable sums of money flowing to the First Nations for their involvement in that initiative, and it's kind of dispersed throughout the budget. Just what does this part of the activities cover off?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no Connect Yukon money contained in this line item. The budget covers off the staffing and salary of those who are dealing with such items as the government priorities, building relationships. This unit also deals with such intergovernmental relations as the efforts to work with our neighbour, the governor in Alaska, and provides coordination on issues such as representation at the Pacific Northwest Economic Region Conference just attended by the Member for Mount Lorne, and provides secretarial support services for interprovincial ministers meetings in cooperation with their departments, as well as western premiers and all-premiers meetings and current initiatives such as - there's a coordinating role for intergovernmental relations staff supporting departments in work such as the economic development strategy and social union framework initiatives.
There is a variety of national and international work that this unit supports the government with.
Mr. Jenkins: I was specifically wanting to know more about the First Nations involvement in this area - the sixth line item of expenditures, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Our intergovernmental relations with Yukon First Nations come under the land claims implementation secretariat, not this line item.
Mr. Jenkins: That's interesting, Mr. Chair. If you read the preamble, it says to coordinate and provide support for activities related to the Yukon government's relationship with First Nation governments and other governments within and outside Canada. So, is that incorrect, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it is of course correct. This government is working overall in this department and works in terms of our relations with Yukon First Nation governments and with other governments. The First Nation government initiatives are staff work, et cetera. It comes under the land claims implementation secretariat. This intergovernmental relations area is more focused on the support with governments within and outside of Canada. Although, as a department, of course, there is ongoing communication between the two branches.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like, Mr. Chair, this preamble is just, as the Premier would call it, fluff.
Mr. Chair, historically there has been a meeting between the leaders of British Columbia, Alaska and the Yukon. When is that next meeting slated for?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We're attempting to arrange that for August of this year. The Premier of British Columbia has not confirmed a date, and we're working with Governor Knowles. Certainly I would hope to meet with at least Governor Knowles as soon as possible. Mr. Dosanjh is intending to undertake a trade mission to India, so his availability is not certain at this time, but I'm certainly making efforts.
Mr. Jenkins: What is the location of the next meeting, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That hasn't been decided.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on intergovernmental relations?
There being no further general debate, we'll start with the line items.
On Intergovernmental Relations
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $2,061,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $2,061,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any general debate on policy?
Mr. Jenkins: Why isn't the Liberal government using any of this area of the budget, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member is making assumptions about the decrease in this line item. This decrease in the budget tabled by the New Democratic Party, the former government, was due to the completion of the economic forums.
Mr. Jenkins: It still begs the answer. The objectives of the Executive Council Office is policy. It's "to analyze policies proposed for Cabinet's approval; to coordinate interdepartmental policy development and issue resolution; to provide leadership on corporate priorities and develop policy for consultation." Well, we're at the beginning of a new mandate, Mr. Chair, and one would be of the opinion that that's where we'd be concentrating a tremendous amount of our effort, time and financial resources, and we see a reduction of almost half of that area. Can we anticipate a big supplementary this fall in this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the reductions are due to the conclusion of the economic forums and also due to the completion of the work of the special commission on the proposed Yukon Act amendment. This government has worked well with all of the 3,500 public servants employed by it, including those providing policy analysis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, usually at the beginning of a new mandate, there are a lot of new policies that are to be developed by the incoming government, and that doesn't seem to be the case. We have adopted the NDP budget. We have adopted their entire mandate with respect to land claims negotiations. We haven't seen any new initiatives and, come this fall, I don't want the Premier to fall back and say they didn't have enough money in the budget for that area, they couldn't develop any new policies, they couldn't develop any new mandates because they approved a budget that didn't have any money in it. It was reduced by almost 50 percent. I was just curious as to what reasons are going to be given this fall when we're back in this Legislature, Mr. Chair, for not having followed through with new policy initiatives with this new government. I hope it's not because there isn't any money in the budget.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
We will proceed with line-by-line.
Policy in the amount of $533,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Policy in the amount of $533,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on Public Communication Services?
Seeing no general debate, we will continue straight on to line items.
On Public Communication Services
Public Communication Services in the amount of $686,000 agreed to
On French Language Services
French Language Services in the amount of $1,608,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on the supplementary information?
Mr. Jenkins: I take the Premier to page 2-12, statistics for the 1998-99 fiscal year, major projects undertaken. Can she provide a breakdown of the projects undertaken by way of a legislative return or a written response?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly.
Public Communication Services in the amount of $2,294,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Services
Chair: Is there any general debate on aboriginal language services?
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Aboriginal Language Services in the amount of $1,100,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Management Improvement
Chair: Is there any general debate on Bureau of Management Improvement?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, are we proposing a creation of an internal audit under the Premier's guidance, or is there just going to be the same audit procedures followed as in the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the establishment of a bureau of internal audit was very important to me as the leader of the official opposition, and I have carried on with that. I have asked the Deputy Minister of Finance to discuss this with the Auditor General staff in terms of their recommendations as to whether the bureau of internal audit should be housed within Executive Council Office or Finance. Work is underway to ensure that that recommendation is put into place as soon as possible.
Chair: Is there any further debate on Bureau of Management Improvement?
On Internal Audit
Internal Audit in the amount of $157,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotment?
Bureau of Management Improvement in the amount of $157,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
Chair: Is there any general debate on Bureau of Statistics?
On Management and Information Services
Management and Information Services in the amount of $377,000 agreed to
On Operations and Research Services
Operations and Research Services in the amount of $287,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $664,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Chair: Is there any general debate on the office of the commissioner?
Are there any questions on the allotments? Does the total carry?
Mr. Jenkins: I refer back to my Crown in right issue. We could provide some certainty for the Office of the Commissioner and have her not just a servant of the Minister of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, but an actual Lieutenant Governor, if we establish the Crown in right.
Perhaps it's appropriate to put some more money into this area, so that we could pursue it. Currently, if the Premier were to talk to her federal Liberal counterparts, the Commissioner's role would not be what we envision it to be. Is the Premier afraid of slighting the federal Liberals, who are not prepared to grant the Office of the Commissioner the full status it deserves?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was no question in that. It was a comment. The budget line item for the Office of the Commissioner is, as has been outlined - there has not, to my knowledge, been a request for additional funds for that office. In any event, it is a line item in the budget as indicated.
If there were a request for additional funds, no doubt it would be considered along with everything else.
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $130,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Chair: Is there any general debate? Seeing none, we will go right to line items.
Ministers in the amount of $131,000 agreed to
On OIC Personnel
OIC Personnel in the amount of $1,203,000 agreed to
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $1,334,000 agreed to
Chair: As there is no line item for Cabinet commissions, we will go right to public inquiries and plebiscites.
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
Chair: Is there any general debate?
On Public Inquiries
Public Inquiries in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $14,876,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support/DAP
Cabinet and Management Support/DAP in the amount of nil agreed to
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Mr. Jenkins: Could the Premier advise what that refers to, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is 100 percent-recoverable funding from the Government of Canada. It refers to a number of specific implementation projects across the department, and I will provide the member with a written list of those projects.
Implementation in the amount of $376,000 agreed to
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $376,000 agreed to
On Public Communication Services
On French Language Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Public Communication Services in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems
Office Furniture, Equipment and Systems in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $6,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Executive Council Office in the amount of $388,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office agreed to
Department of Economic Development
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I sense the Member for Watson Lake would like me to introduce this budget for the Department of Economic Development. I would be pleased to do so.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd be delighted to start for the member.
In operation and maintenance, there is an increase in revenue of $100,000. This is due to increased revenues from the Kotaneelee field. The production price for natural gas remains strong, as the member opposite is well aware. The O&M expenditure reflects an increase in the distribution of the royalties to First Nations.
The industrial research assistance program has been transferred from the Yukon Housing Corporation. The program promotes the acquisition, development and use of technology by Canadian firms and will complement the products and services offered by the trade and investment branch.
There is a small increase in funding to the Yukon Placer Committee. It's conducting a major review of the Yukon placer authorization.
In capital funding, the CDF program is funded at $3 million. This is a reduction from last year's estimates of $6 million.
There is funding for a new program, the l'Association des franco-yukonnais centre. This is to build a cultural centre and is in conjunction with funding provided by the federal government. There is also an increase that is part of the supplementary debate, which is not on the floor at the moment.
So, I would invite the members' questions.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I don't think we have to rehash at great length the importance of the economy to the Yukon and where we're at, at this particular point in time. The seriousness of the situation is not one that escapes us here in this Legislature. It's something that we dealt with at great length, over and over and over again, in the last little while.
I'd like to begin with the minister with respect to the economy of this territory and the Liberals' commitment about rebuilding the economy. I'd just like to get a little bit of insight into what the minister intends with respect to rebuilding the economy. I, for one, look at the need to diversify our economy and strengthen sectors that are actually up and running and giving us some economic benefit in this territory. But above all, rebuilding seems to me a pretty strong statement. I'm just trying to get a better handle on what exactly the Liberals mean by rebuilding.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The use of the term "rebuilding" is in a large measure due to the serious state of the Yukon's economy, as the member alluded to in his opening remarks.
The Yukon has endured an economic downturn that we, as a government, pledged during the campaign to rebuild, to focus our efforts on that. The method for doing that and the priorities, on which I am in anticipation of the member's next question, first and foremost requires the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims in order to provide certainty for the Yukon's investment climate and for all Yukoners.
Our focus on the other sectors, if you will, of the Yukon economy, with respect to mining and resource revenue - with regard to mining, we have clearly emphasized our support for the mining industry in a number of key areas: the implementation of the blue-book initiative, the protected areas strategy, the inability of the previous governments to follow the process as agreed upon by all Yukoners - we will follow the process - and listening to what industry has to say. There was a concern that, even with the downturn in mineral prices, the mining industry exploration is down as well. It requires a kick-start, some attention, some focus by the government. So, that's with respect to the mining industry.
With regard to oil and gas, we have been complimentary of the oil and gas legislation in the common regime that has been worked on by previous governments. We are following through with that.
Also in the resource sector, of course, is the forestry industry. Their issues are in part to do with the timber allocation, and the Minister of Renewable Resources has taken a lead very ably on that issue.
With respect to diversification, there have been some initiatives by a number of previous governments and we are continuing our efforts to most importantly listen to what Yukoners in the private sector recommend to us. Of course, one of the first recommendations I received from the private sector was a ringing endorsement of our initiative, our election commitment, to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway Pipeline. I received strong endorsement from the private sector on that initiative and it was something that we have pursued during the campaign and following up from the campaign.
Mr. Fentie: In listening to the minister I heard a great deal about what the former government was already doing in oil and gas sector, for example. Aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway Pipeline route - that's nothing new - that's no news flash here. That was going on for some months already.
In the mining sector, for example, the minister recently launched one of the Liberal famous press releases in bold print about calling for flow-through shares. In September 1999, the Yukon Territory led the charge at the mining ministers conference and the energy ministers conference in Prince Edward Island on exactly that to stimulate exploration. It wasn't that long ago when the minister stated that the severe situation in our mining sector in this territory is due to world market conditions. So, let's just begin with the mining sector in the Yukon as one component of our economy. What does the Liberal government, through the Minister of Economic Development, intend to do in regard to stimulating mining in this territory beyond what already was being implemented? The fact is that the conditions we face here are directly related to world markets. How does the minister intend to turn the mining industry around? I want to point out something that in a lot of regions of this territory a downturn in the mining industry isn't new either.
It has been going on for well over a decade. The focus placed on it with the shutdown of the Faro mine, one of the last operating mines in this territory, has really brought this to bear here in the City of Whitehorse. But, in other regions of this territory, the mining industry has been, for quite some time, dead, shut down, kaput. What does the minister intend to do with regard to restimulating the mining industry and getting it up and running so that it again becomes one of our main economic engines?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon's share of Canadian exploration expenditures decreased during the term of office of the previous government. It went from 5.5 percent of all of the Canadian exploration expenditures in 1995 spent in the Yukon, to a low of 2.6, which was the forecast for last year.
Clearly, exploration and exploration dollars are fundamental to the mining industry. In that regard, we have directly and immediately upon taking office impacted this with an increase to YMIP. We have also directly and immediately impacted this with the insistence that we would follow the protected areas strategy as outlined, and that we would pull it back so that the difficulty that was experienced by the previous government through not following the process was dealt with, and that the implementation of the blue book would be a certainty, as one of the authors was elected to our government and our Cabinet, and, of course, there are our efforts also on the settlement of land claims.
So, the member opposite asked what we are doing specifically with respect to the mining industry. That's part of it. That deals with the hard rock. With respect to the placer industry, of course, as the member knows because he listened to my speech at the gold show, I am very well familiar with that particular industry. This budget increases the funding for work to review the Yukon placer authorization.
Mr. Fentie: Again, with things like the blue book, it's from a former administration and the Liberals are merely following through with it. As far as the protected areas strategy, I would submit the Liberal government has already blown it. The minister mentioned the gold show. The Liberals had a perfect opportunity - a golden opportunity - in Dawson City in regard to the Tombstone claims and the protected areas issue to set the record straight, to bring certainty to the mining industry that they claimed was lacking in regard to the protected areas strategy. The Liberals promoted, extensively, the way out of the situation in Tombstone, which, by the way, is a product of a land claim. It is a product of the land claim, so there's more to it than simply a protected area or park, but the minister failed to act. Their position was to buy the claims out. Instead, at Dawson City, there was an announcement of another $250,000 for grants to prospectors who yet are succumbing under this heavy load of uncertainty in this territory, which the Premier, or the Minister of Economic Development, has added to by not acting on the Tombstone claims.
So, we have some serious issues around this because, quite frankly, to date all the minister has managed to do is produce a briefing note. We, in this territory, need to know what the Liberals intend to do to turn the mining industry around, as they claimed they would.
So, there must be more than what the minister has just stated in this House. What are some concrete objectives and initiatives that the Liberal government intends to bring forward immediately to address the problem? Exploration is one thing, but the ultimate goal of exploratory work in the mining industry is to get a developing mine up and running. That takes hundreds of millions of dollars of investment. Without certainty, there is not that hundred millions of dollars of investment.
How does the minister intend to solve that problem, which has many, many facets among the issues in this territory, like land claims? More importantly, there is a serious problem on the investment stage in this country - in Canada as a whole - of being able to raise money in the mining sector. What does the minister intend to do about that situation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the member has asked me is: how do we, as a government, intend to have more operating mines at work in this territory? It starts with exploration. It starts with the work that is carried on in the field throughout the spring, summer and into the early fall. We have had a direct impact upon that work, within a month of taking office, by increasing the Yukon mining incentive program. That was our first and immediate step.
Secondly, what the mining industry asked us for during the election campaign and has expressed to me since then about what they require is certainty. The way to achieve that is by following the protected areas strategy as laid out and agreed upon by Yukoners, by having the issues from the previous government dealt with by implementation of the blue book. Again, I would remind members opposite that we elected one of the authors. We have the ability to implement that.
The settlement of land claims - there are three things: by having the minerals identified and the potential identified and assessed, by creating certainty and a level playing field, security of land tenure, working closely with Cabinet colleagues.
The member asked how we intended to achieve having operating mines in the territory. That's how we intend to do it.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I don't want to shatter the minister's world, but all those things are happening. The minister hasn't addressed the crux of the problem. We can talk exploration all we want in this territory and I believe that exploration is a good thing, but the minister has to answer this question: how can it be then, if the missing link in our mining industry in this territory is attracting exploration dollars, that we in this territory are sitting here with a number of permitted mines, exposed ore bodies - complete with mills - access roads to them, you name it? The only thing missing is a mine that is actually operating. They are just sitting there. Why is that?
Can the minister explain how this territory has all that, sitting and doing nothing, yet the minister believes that a $250,000 injection of dollars into the Yukon mining incentive program will help prospectors - which I don't have any problem with - go out there and look for potential ore bodies? That is good, but how does the minister explain the many number of mines that we have sitting here, ready to go into operation. They are ready and they are not operating. That is a problem and that problem extends far beyond this territory's borders.
So, when the Liberals make a commitment to the Yukon public that they are going to solve the mining problem, we want to know how, with the situation we are in today. Would the minister explain why the mines that are there, ready to go into production, aren't operating?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, first of all, I was delighted to hear that the Member for Watson Lake supports YMIP. I'm glad to hear that there was a "yes" to that.
The Member for Faro says that it was created by the NDP. That's exactly the problem. These were made-in-Yukon problems by the NDP government. We, in the Yukon Liberal government, are trying to fix them, one problem at a time. We are fixing them. The issue...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, maybe the minister would, just for a moment, consider this fact. These mines, these ore bodies, these mills, everything's sitting but not operating. Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, maybe the member opposite would just consider this fact. The Yukon protected areas strategy, as agreed to by Yukoners, was screwed up by the members opposite. We're trying to fix it.
The blue-book initiative took months. Years. We said we'd do it because...
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: The Member for Faro, on a point of order.
Mr. Harding: I believe that the Premier, perhaps and I'm not sure - I'll have to check the presses of the House, but she got a little carried away there and perhaps used unparliamentary language when she said the previous government screwed up.
Chair: On the point of order, Ms. Duncan.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd be delighted to withdraw "screwed up" and substitute the word "bungled". I'm certain that that's parliamentary.
Chair: So, you withdraw "screwed up"?
Okay, on the point of order then, it has been corrected.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with reference to the protected area strategy, that was one of the problems we are trying to fix. With regard to the investment climate to which the member makes reference, that investment climate will be enhanced with the settlement of land claims, by the creation of certainty, by devolution. Certainly I, along with many other Yukoners, offered to buy previous ministers of Indian Affairs and Northern Development pens so they would finally sign off and get these mines permitted.
The previous NDP government was a hurdle to the investment climate in this territory. We are working to change that view of the Yukon. We are a new government and there has been a new attitude - a welcome for investment - and efforts to ensure that that message has been carried out.
The members can judge for themselves, but it would appear to me that the message has been received. Now it's a matter of working to ensure that mines and investment are welcome and they're able to work in the territories.
Mr. Chair, I would move, in light of the hour, that you report progress on Bill No. 2.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that I report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. Harding: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Harding that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of 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 July 10, 2000:
Workers' Compensation Heath and Safety Board (Yukon) 1999 Annual Report (Roberts)