Monday, October 30, 2000 - 1:30 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Crime Prevention Week
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise today on behalf of the entire Legislature in recognition of Crime Prevention Week, which runs from October 28 to November 4, 2000.
Crime Prevention Yukon has coordinated this week for many years in an effort to increase Yukoners' knowledge and understanding of crime prevention. This week provides an excellent opportunity to showcase the dedicated work of Yukon people. It is important to recognize that we are doing many positive and exciting things with our children, youth and communities that provide the building blocks for safe communities.
"Crime Prevention, A Community Challenge" is the theme of the week. It speaks to the importance of collective action in making our homes, neighbourhoods and communities safer.
There are many events scheduled for this week. Applications have been received for community assistance grants from Carmacks, Faro, Mayo and Watson Lake to assist with the safe Halloween activities planned by those communities. In Whitehorse, there is a public display at the Qwanlin Mall, a gathering of the Whitehorse Safer City Partners, the safe Halloween program and the Building on Strength conference.
The Yukon government supports Crime Prevention Yukon in their efforts to promote effective crime prevention methods. We believe that Crime Prevention Week 2000 will help to achieve this.
We are committed to working with Yukon people to make our homes and communities safer places to live.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes, we will proceed.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I would like to ask the Assembly to join us in welcoming the employees of 16 Klondike group home to the Legislature to watch the proceedings today. Please join us.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the public accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ending March 31, 2000. And I have for tabling the Government of Yukon projections. These are the financial projections and our supplement to Bill No. 3.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 2: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Bill No. 3: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 3, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline would create
(1) hundreds of direct jobs for Yukoners, both during construction and after gas is flowing;
(2) hundreds of more jobs indirectly related to the pipeline;
(3) millions of dollars of spinoff revenue and income for Yukoners in all sectors of the economy;
(4) a higher profile for the Yukon in the eyes of the oil and gas community; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that statements made in this House by the MLA for Kluane prove the NDP does not support the pipeline; and
THAT this House urges the Member for Kluane and the official opposition to drop their opposition to the government's efforts to secure the Alaska Highway route for the proposed natural gas pipeline.
Mr. Fentie:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon people who want to work and need to work face severe hardships this winter because of the failure of the Liberal government to address the territory's economic situation in a decisive and responsible manner; and
(2) the outward migration of Yukoners to other parts of Canada to seek employment has increased dramatically since this Liberal government took office; and
(3) the Yukon Liberal government has contributed directly to this situation through such ill-advised decisions as postponing the construction of the new Mayo school and failing to take action to solve the crisis in the Yukon forestry sector; and
(4) this government has further aggravated the situation by abandoning programs such as the community development fund, fire smart, the tourism marketing fund, and the trade and investment fund, which were creating jobs in communities throughout the territory; and
(5) the throne speech delivered at the opening of this sitting failed to provide any clear economic leadership or sense of direction to improve the territory's employment and business climate; and
(6) the Auditor General's report will confirm that this government entered the current fiscal year with an accumulated surplus of more than $55 million; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government, as a matter of urgent priority, to convene an all-party committee to examine practical measures it can take to provide jobs for Yukon people this winter.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current federal Liberal government devolution proposal is a bad deal for Yukon because it transfers the environmental liability for managing land and resources to the territory without transferring the ownership of these resources and it fails to recognize the Yukon's offshore northern boundary in the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the federal Liberal government to recognize the existence in the "Crown in right of Yukon" and agree to amend the Yukon Act to legally enshrine this recognition; and
THAT, failing this federal recognition, the Government of Yukon seek a reference to the Yukon Court of Appeal under the Constitutional Questions Act, to determine the existence of the "Crown in right of Yukon".
Devolution of Northern Affairs program: update
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'd like to provide an update on the status of the transfer of the federal Northern Affairs program to the Government of Yukon.
Devolution is a priority for this government. We have devoted significant resources to concluding a devolution transfer agreement that represents the best deal for Yukon people. It's fair to say that the Yukon and Canada have reached agreement around the critical concepts, if not most of the details.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the hard work of staff throughout the territorial government who have contributed to the devolution process. This has been a multi-year process involving officials from many departments and demanding, at times, an extraordinary level of dedication. Devolution negotiations began in earnest in 1996 when the first federal proposal was tabled. The framework built since then by succeeding governments is a solid one and one that I look forward to completing in the near future.
You may recall it was the intent of the parties to conclude negotiations by July of this year. The federal legislation needed to enable devolution, as well as amend the Yukon Act, was to have been introduced in the fall session of Parliament, with passage in time to allow for an April 1, 2001 transfer date.
These are complex, multi-party arrangements that we are trying to achieve.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, ministerial statements as listed in Standing Order 11(3): "a minister may make a short factual statement of government policy."
Now I know, Mr. Speaker, you have ruled previously on this, but what we have is a repetition of the same situation. This is not a short rendition of government policy. There's no government policy being reported on. What we have here is a no-progress report and it should be tabled under different sections of the Daily Routine or Orders of the Day.
It is not a ministerial statement, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The hon. government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, the ministerial statement, as delivered, conforms to the current rules. There is absolutely no doubt about that. If the members opposite were available to attend meetings, this issue could be resolved expeditiously.
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we, in the official opposition, can only concur with the leader of the third party. This ministerial statement is not a statement of policy by the government. If it is the Liberal intention to convince this House that it is, then announcing that devolution is delayed as a government policy is showing some very deficient leadership on that side of the House.
There is absolutely no question that this simply does not conform to the Standing Orders of this Legislature.
Speaker: I just need a minute here. I have some documents with me; I just have to decide where I'm going to start.
Previously in this House, we referred to Speaker Bruce's statements in his ruling of November 29, 1999. I believe it was November 29. Sorry, it was November 24, 1999.
In that ruling, Speaker Bruce made suggestions as to the guidelines that might govern the content of ministerial statements. For today, I think it would be appropriate to allow the Premier to conclude the statement, which will allow the opposition members to respond.
Furthermore, I would urge members of this House, through the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, to meet as expeditiously as possible, in order that we may get some guidance for the Chair on these statements. Currently, I do not have that.
With that, I would ask the Premier to continue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I was saying, as members may recall, it was the intent of the parties to conclude negotiations by July of this year. The federal legislation needed to enable devolution, as well as amend the Yukon Act, was to have been introduced in the fall session of Parliament, with passage in time to allow for the April 1, 2001 transfer date.
These are complex, multi-party arrangements that we're trying to achieve, and although negotiators have given it their best, the devolution transfer agreement is not yet concluded. With the federal election being called, it's not possible now for the federal devolution legislation to be brought to Parliament until next spring at the earliest.
It is clear to Cabinet and me that we need to reset the effective date of transfer to April 1, 2002 in order to meet our goal of a seamless transition.
Actually, this new date is helpful to us in several ways. First Nation leaders have advised me they'd prefer more time to conclude outstanding land claims negotiations. I've consulted with officials who see a 2002 target date as a welcome opportunity to better prepare for and implement the administrative work needed to ensure this seamless transition and the priorities negotiating the best deal possible. It's better to take this extra time now to get it right.
A 2002 transfer date does not mean a delay in concluding negotiations on a devolution transfer agreement. The governments of both Yukon and Canada are committed to concluding negotiations as soon as possible. In fact, negotiations will continue for the immediate future, until agreement is secured.
Our goal now is to conclude an agreement in time for consideration by the new federal Cabinet as soon as possible. This will be an agreement our government is willing and prepared to support. We would then see federal enabling legislation introduced into Parliament as early as next spring, with approvals in place by next fall.
As a demonstration to the House of our commitment to the process, I will advise members of this House that copies of the current drafts of the mirror legislation will be tabled with the Clerk for your review. This is the legislation that, had events allowed, we were scheduled to debate this fall. In fact, you'll find it very similar to documents that were tabled with the House last fall, and for very good reason.
The mirror legislation is intended to replicate as nearly as possible the federal laws now in place with respect to resource management in the Yukon. The Waters Act, Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, Placer Mining Act, Quartz Mining Act and Environmental Assessment (Yukon)Act. They were changed from their federal counterparts only when necessary to ensure the territorial version fits into the context of Yukon laws and governmental institutions.
I asked that the most current drafts be tabled for information so that the House could see that some minor changes have been made since last year in response to both stakeholders' comments as well as some legal issues that were identified during negotiations. Members will see that these changes do not run counter to our commitment to enact mirror legislation and thus ensure this seamless transition, making sure services to the public continue without disruption or confusion.
Our government intends to schedule the mirror legislation for debate and passage in a future session in discussion with the opposition House leaders. We will have a solid legislative framework in place long before the transfer date, ready to receive our new responsibilities and jurisdiction.
Devolution will happen, Mr. Speaker. Our government is committed to concluding an agreement as soon as possible. We have the continuing support of Yukoners. We have worked long and hard for this goal, and we will reach it - and with devolution we will advance the constitutional, political and economic evolution of the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough:I rise to respond to the ministerial statement on a non-progress report. This is not a ministerial statement; it is a press release. It does not mention anything of new government policies. It could have simply been a press release. The Yukon Liberals are basically making an excuse for the federal Liberals not living up to a commitment. The dates have changed from 2001 to 2002 with no guarantee.
Now, we are going to have a new minister in place, possibly, if the Liberal government wins the election. It could possibly be a minority government, in which a lot more discussions could take place and timelines get bumped back.
The statement does not say anything about what negotiations are left. What are the issues that are on the table? List them out, and what are the timelines for completion?
This statement is just another reminder that there is less certainty out there in the forest industry. Are there interim measures that the Premier will bring forward for things like the timber harvest agreement process? What happens to land claims? Which comes first - devolution or land claims? These are questions that are out there in the minds of Yukoners right now.
Are land claims to be negotiated before devolution takes place? Is that the message that the Liberal government would like to put out to Yukoners? Or is she saying that devolution is shelved; it's put on the shelf? It's supposed to be a top priority of the Liberal government. And why is she throwing in the towel so early, Mr. Speaker? Devolution means, to Yukoners, that we would finally be in control of our destiny. We would be masters of our own destiny, in control of our resources.
This statement brings more uncertainty to the economy. It brings uncertainty to the forest sector. It brings uncertainty to the mining sector and to environmental assessment. And certainly, if the Liberals win the next federal election, it is our understanding - and the public's understanding - that Parliament would reconvene. What the Yukon Liberals are saying is that they want to delay it, even though legislation could be forwarded this fall as scheduled.
Now, devolution is supposed to be a high priority, Mr. Speaker, but the Premier, instead of going to Ottawa, lobbying the federal government to deal with legislation this fall after the election, chose to simply shelve devolution and put Yukoners on hold for another year-and-a-half.
Shelve, postpone, delay - that's the Liberal way.
And that was their update to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, and I think it's an outrage. Yukoners deserve better but, under this Liberal government, they are not getting it.
One week ago, the Liberals introduced the throne speech: seven points of priority that they would be graded on. Well, they just bumped two off in one short week. Land claims is no longer a priority. It's mining and oil and gas. And devolution is not a priority. I would say that the Liberal government is failing badly.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the recognition.
I wish to respond to what the Liberals call a ministerial statement. It is, in fact, a no-progress report. It contains no new statement of government policy. What it does is just report on how inefficient this government currently is.
Mr. Speaker, the present devolution package is a bad deal for Yukoners. It has been the position of the Liberal Party of Canada, ever since the days of Pierre Elliot Trudeau, that Yukoners are not entitled to own Yukon's lands and resources. The Liberals were even opposed to electing Yukoners to run their own government. The Liberals wanted to keep Yukon a colony of Canada by ruling the Yukon through commissioners appointed by them and responsible to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
The current devolution package is a sellout. Under this Liberal deal, Yukoners will accept environmental liability for lands and resources we do not own. Further, under this Liberal deal, the Yukon will be giving up its claim to jurisdiction in the Beaufort Sea. How can the Premier stand up in the House and propose that Yukoners accept this Liberal deal? She claims that her government is opposed to a pipeline crossing Yukon's northern offshore waters, yet she accepts this federal Liberal package, denying recognition of Yukon's claims to its offshore waters.
Now, who is the Premier serving - Yukoners or Jean Chrétien? Who is going to stand up for the rights of Yukoners? We have a puppet Liberal government in the Yukon whose strings are pulled by the puppet masters from Ottawa.
The only good news in this statement is that devolution has been delayed. I'm sure that the seven Yukon First Nations who have yet to reach a settlement will be pleased, because now the Yukon Liberal Government of Canada can focus its attention on settling land claims, which was supposed to be the top priority of this Liberal government.
The message to the Premier should be clear: use the delay to negotiate a better deal, a deal that grants the Yukon ownership of its lands and resources and recognizes Yukon's offshore northern waters. If you haven't got the wherewithal to do this, say "no thanks" to your Liberal friends in Ottawa.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the members opposite have responded to the ministerial statement today with their usual "don't do as we do, do as we tell you" attitude.
This report on devolution eminently qualifies as a ministerial statement. The member opposite makes reference to land claims negotiations and that somehow they are not a priority. Again, I would commend page 3 of the throne speech to the member opposite. The negotiation and settlement of seven outstanding land claims are a priority of this government, just as I said in my second sentence: "Devolution is a priority of this government." I have no idea how many times I have to say it before those words will finally sink in.
Providing a ministerial statement on the update on devolution is very appropriate in light of the federal election call and questions that Yukoners have asked that, had the members of the opposition been doing their homework, they would have asked.
Nothing has been shelved; nothing has been postponed. Yukoners deserve the best deal, and that is exactly what they're going to get because Yukoners are trusting this side to work with Canada and negotiate the best deal, and that's what we're doing. And the hard-working public servants, who have put in yeoman service negotiating this deal and working on it, have been doing their best on behalf of the Yukon, and this Cabinet will only accept a devolution deal when it is the best.
A number of factual inaccuracies were stated, and I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that we have offered, many times on the floor of this House, a briefing for members opposite by the devolution negotiators. We have offered several times. And I would encourage the members opposite to avail themselves of that opportunity and, in short, do their homework.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Klondike group home, transfer to Health and Social Services
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It's regarding the government's decision to take over operation of the group home at 16 Klondike Road. It has given the importance of stability in children's lives, and especially these children.
I'd like to ask the minister and get him to tell us what steps that the government is taking to ensure that these children have consistency of care and programming during this transition.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The safety of children and staff is our primary concern as a government. The decision to give notice to a contractor was strictly an operational decision that was made by the department and officials of Health and Social Services.
The services provided by the home will continue without interruption.
Mr. Keenan: Operational - it doesn't sound like there's a human touch in there at all, Mr. Speaker.
Well, Mr. Speaker, in British Columbia, the negative impact of multiple foster placements has been recognized, following the Gove report. It is now a requirement that a case must be reviewed following five placements.
As a result of the Gove inquiry, the Ministry of Social Services has also recognized the importance of regular and consistent care with children's social workers.
What specific steps has this minister taken to ensure that children are not subjected to this kind of continued upheaval in their lives, and are guaranteed some type of consistency of care during their formative years?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'll thank the member opposite for that question.
Mr. Speaker, the safety of children and staff is our most important issue in this particular case. The decision to give notice to the contractor was strictly, as I said earlier, an operational decision.
The services provided by the home will continue without interruption. We are now in a period of 60 days, within which the department staff will support the contractor's staff. During this time, the staff from the group home will be encouraged to submit their applications to the Public Service Commission. So after the 60-day notice period has passed, the home will be run by Health and Social Services to ensure client safety and care while residing in the home.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you again, Mr. Speaker, for that high-handed attitude. If safety is a primary concern for the people in the group home, I would suggest that the members should get the Minister of Education to look at the Mayo school again, because there certainly are issues of safety and health of children there.
The minister, again, has a duty to ensure that the lives of children in our care are disrupted as little as possible. Not surprisingly, children who are shunted from one placement to another often exhibit significant emotional problems. In this case, in the group home alone, we are talking about children between the ages of 13 and 18 who, in some cases, have already had as many as 43 placements - 43. Is the minister concerned about this extraordinary level of placements? If so, is he prepared to commission an independent inquiry into all aspects of how his department handles children who need to be placed outside of their families?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you again for that question. As I said in my previous two responses, the safety of the children and staff is really our number one concern. As I said earlier, the decision to give notice to the contractor was strictly an operational decision and was made by the Department of Health and Social Services. As I said earlier, the services will continue without interruption.
The department has worked with the contractor, Sandra Gibbs, for nine years. During that time, Sandra has shown great dedication to the children and youth that she served. All of the contracts with Ms. Gibbs will remain intact. We hope to work with her to ensure a smooth transition for the young people residing in the home.
I should also tell the House that we have an eight-page summary from Workers' Compensation regarding 16 Klondike. That is another reason why we have to be concerned about the safety of staff and residents of the house.
Mr. Speaker, may I add that, if the previous government did not review the home as they should have when they were in government and did not solve the supervision and the treatment of these problems, it is mainly because they were negligent. I rest with what I have said: that the safety of the clients, of the people living in the home, and that of the staff are the main reason for taking over the operation in 60 days.
Question re: Klondike group home, transfer to Health and Social Services
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I feel like I have just been lectured. Not anywhere did I hear the answer to the question. I asked the minister if he was prepared to commission an independent inquiry into all aspects of how this department handles the children in need.
During the last election campaign, the Member for Riverdale South assured group home workers in the private sector that a Liberal government would ensure that their wages would be the same as those of public employees doing the same work.
Now, with the takeover of 16 Klondike Road, the government will obviously need to spend more on wages for this important work. Can the minister tell us how much more his department will be allocating to wages for group home workers during the current fiscal year, and what other programs this money will come from?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, thank you again for the question, but I guess I must repeat myself over and over again when you don't understand the answer. Over time, it might be understood then.
The reason why the government has taken over the operation of this home in 60 days is for the safety of both the residents and of the staff. The important part of this question is that I have no accounting at this point in time of how much that is going to cost. The issue here is the concern that we have for the safety of the people staying there and working there. That's the reason why we have taken this action, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Again, that was another non-answer. It was just a bit of blame and very high-handed rhetoric.
I expected that the minister would stand up and say, like the Minister of Government Services, that it was just purely hypothetical. Hypothetical. The department has set December 19 as the takeover date for this facility - one week before Christmas. That hardly seems fair to the 21 employees of the group home, who have been given their lay-off notices, and it certainly doesn't seem fair to the children involved, especially at that time of the year when many emotional issues come forth. We have a right to expect some type of continuity of care.
Can the minister tell us how a change in staff a week before Christmas is in anyone's best interest in this situation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the question. Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of what emotional traumas go through many lives in this territory. The member opposite has not got a corner on the market for what happens to people at different times throughout the year. I think it's important to realize that this is not a light issue. It is a very serious issue, and we do not take it lightly. If it could have been done any other way, we would have done it.
This was our main concern: the safety of children and staff. That is the main reason why this had to happen.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we're continually hearing about any other way. That "any other way" - the Liberal way - seems to me to be awfully high-handed.
The staff at the group home has been invited to apply for the jobs at the group home. Since consistency of care is so important to the emotional well-being of the children, can the minister again explain what steps are being taken to ensure that this staff is given priority in hiring in order to facilitate a smooth transition that will allow the children to maintain relationships with their current caregivers.
Please try and answer the question, so that the next time I stand up, I can say, "Thank you for the answer."
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I will try not to be as dramatic. I suppose I could be if I wished, but I will try to stick to the facts.
We are trying our best, as always, to ensure that there's a smooth transition. The important point is that all employees of the Gibbs' 16 Klondike group home can apply for these jobs. They will go through the same process that all government employees, or prospective government employees, have to go through - through the Public Service Commission. Consideration, again, will be based on their experience and on a number of other factors.
May I remind the House, once again - and I have to say this - when the previous government did the review of this home, they could have solved the problems at the time when they were in charge. I think this shows that we are trying to deal with the issues and respond to the issues, as is needed. That was not an easy decision. We understand about the timing of the year. We didn't ask for this timing. It is based on a lot of evidence and support, making this change necessary. If we had not, there would have been even more difficulties.
Question re: Connect Yukon project
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals adopted the NDP election platform because they had no vision or sense of direction of their own to offer Yukoners. Consequently, we see the Liberal government proceeding to implement many questionable initiatives of the previous NDP government, specifically the $23.5 million Connect Yukon project, and now they have decided to implement the previous NDP government's $27.2 million Mayo-Dawson transmission line project.
Recently, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce expressed alarm about the questionable benefits of this project, calling it a ball and chain for Yukon ratepayers.
Can the Premier explain to the chamber and other Yukoners why she is proceeding with this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I can explain to the member opposite and interested Yukoners why the Mayo-Dawson transmission line extension contract has been discussed. First of all, this project has been on the books for some years, including years under the previous-previous administration associated with the member opposite. The business case is there to show that it makes sense to stop buying diesel engines and fuel and to use the excess capacity in Mayo. We had a very good discussion at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce annual general meeting about this particular project, and I'm looking forward to a very good discussion about this project also when the chair of YDC and YEC attends the House, which we are attempting to schedule as soon as possible.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister failed to answer the question. It's just to get off diesel fuel, Mr. Speaker.
The Premier's well-known flight to Ottawa, at the spur of the moment, burned almost 10,000 litres of fuel - about the same amount of fuel that Dawson burns in a week. Interesting.
Just prior to the election, the previous NDP minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation announced that there would be a new president of YEC and that the previous president of YDC/YEC would become the new president of YDC.
Once again, the Liberal government has followed through, and I'd like the Premier to explain why she is supporting this very costly duplication of senior staffing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would invite the member to review Hansard, because I did give an answer to his previous question.
Perhaps it was his effort to compare avgas and diesel, which he was thinking was such a witty line, and he was tripped up and did not hear the answer.
The reason for the appointment of a president to YEC is, first of all, that it is not an order-in-council appointment, and it was a directive issued by the previous minister in a March 7, 2000, letter to the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: For the Premier's information, diesel fuel and jet A and jet B are virtually similar fuels. Avgas is something else.
All these approvals for senior positions have to be ratified by Cabinet, the Premier knows fully well. The Liberals, aside from following the NDP game plan, promised to be open and accountable, so I'd like the Premier to advise what public consultation she has had regarding the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, and the YDC/YEC restructuring. And I'd like to know if she's going to be making a commitment to submit this to the Yukon Utilities Board before the go-ahead decision is granted.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The kibitzing from the former energy commissioner is humorous indeed, Mr. Speaker. It momentarily distracted me from answering the member opposite, who I had forgotten was such an expert on high-flying.
The member opposite may not be aware that there is a business case to support the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line; that, indeed, there was a discussion of it by the Yukon Utilities Board, in 1992; that there has been a separate evaluation of the project by B.C. Hydro; that the project will create jobs in his own riding of Klondike - however, that fact seems to have escaped the member opposite.
Also, it will create jobs in Mayo, and the First Nations - both Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, and Nacho Nyak Dun - are most supportive and have entered into an agreement with YDC on this. Most importantly, what the member opposite fails to recognize, or appreciate, is that ultimately this will result in lower power bills for Yukoners.
Question re: J.V. Clark School, construction jobs in Mayo
Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Minister of Education. Last week, the Minister of Education promised to repair some of the damage that his ill-advised decision to postpone construction of the new Mayo school has caused. He assured this House that the Liberal government was actively seeking out work for Mayo residents this winter.
Can the minister now tell us what kind of project he has in mind, when will it start, and how much will it cost Yukon taxpayers to make up for his blunder when it comes to the Mayo school decision?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I really do appreciate the question and, first of all, having them recognize the fact that it is a postponement of the school construction and not a cancellation. So I am glad they got that one point straight.
I am working with the Minister of Government Services and his DM to identify those jobs that will keep four to six members of the community working, as requested by Chief Hager.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is a very interesting answer, because 12 people - 12 residents - in Mayo took the level I carpentry course. What about the other six? We hope that the minister has something in the works for those other six people. They are Mayo residents also out of work, trained workers out of work.
Does the minister have plans for similar winter work projects for people who have taken government-sponsored training but who are not able to take that training into the workplace this winter?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, in a government-to-government meeting with Chief Hager, the Premier, Minister Jim and me, he specifically identified four to six individuals who will need assistance by way of this government providing work in that community over the winter months until the startup of school construction, and the Premier committed that we would assist and will find work for those members.
As I already indicated, the Minister of Government Services and I are working on that as we speak.
Mr. Fentie: The former NDP government provided training trust funds for people in the forest sector. Those funds accomplished a feat that has over 100 people working full-time in jobs in saw-milling. Now, the biggest economic boom in the southeast Yukon is the renting of U-Haul trailers as these same people go to jobs in B.C., Alberta and the Northwest Territories. My supplementary question is for the Premier, who is also the Minister of Economic Development. Given the deplorable state of the Yukon's economy, will she introduce a winter work program right away in all Yukon communities, as she is willing to do in Mayo, to fix her government's mistakes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have indicated to the member opposite that the Yukon Liberal government is committed to turning the Yukon economy around. And in so doing, what we have delivered on is a second land sale, work in oil and gas in the north this winter, work in southeast Yukon in the oil and gas exploration sector this winter. We have delivered, through the efforts of the Minister of Tourism, an additional 2,200 seats and visitors coming to the Yukon starting early in the spring.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member opposite is interested in the answer, I'll continue to give it. A number of other areas we have been working on include the MINE program - and I will be delivering an update to the mining community in the check-against-delivery program. And there is additional work going on this winter in that Expatriate Resources and Copper Ridge Exploration Inc. are both doing drilling this winter, which was not planned at the beginning of the fall.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Fentie: That begs the question then, given the fact that Yukoners, when the Liberal government told them that the Liberals are going to rebuild the economy, weren't told that they were going to dismantle it first. The Premier just stood on her feet and said that there is land sale in Eagle Plains in the north Yukon, there's activity in the southeast Yukon in oil and gas. Could she stand on her feet then and tell us how many Yukoners are working in the oil and gas sector in the southeast Yukon and in north Yukon? How many are working today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows, because it happened in 1999, that Anderson Exploration committed to spending $20.4 million over a series of years on their exploration permits, and that is $20.4 million spent employing Yukoners. There's a second land sale, which will close early in 2001. There's exploration work going on in southeast Yukon this fall.
If the member wants precise statistical information, does he want to argue again about the unemployment rate under the NDP government, an all-time high of 17 percent, or the unemployment rate under the Liberal government, 9.7 percent? We're all concerned, on the floor of this House - very concerned about rebuilding the Yukon economy and about putting Yukoners to work.
The way we believe in doing that is by rebuilding the Yukon economy, through confidence in the oil and gas sector, through confidence in the mining community.
We also believe in certainty, Mr. Speaker. We believe in certainty. We're negotiating land claims; we're proceeding on devolution. We're doing exactly what we said we'd do.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I asked the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development, how many jobs have been created by this Liberal government now and this winter, when people in this territory desperately need those jobs.
Mr. Speaker, we had 125 families working in the forest sector in Watson Lake. Yukoners are well aware of the federal government's inability to respond to Yukon needs and how they have bungled and stumbled and fumbled forestry and mining in this territory, shutting it down - effectively shutting it down.
After being warned last May that there were options available to this Liberal government, what did the Premier do in lobbying her federal friends in Ottawa to ensure that a shutdown did not take place?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have lobbied the federal government on a number of issues, and with respect to the timber harvest allocation, THA, process, in the short term we're working with the federal government to come up with a THA process that's acceptable to Yukoners. The members opposite, most especially the Member for Watson Lake who prided himself on being the forest commissioner, had four years to work on this issue. In his capacity as forest commissioner, he produced a forestry strategy that was not endorsed by Yukon First Nations, and he spent thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money on trips to New Brunswick.
Earlier this year, the member opposite criticized the government for not getting South Yukon Forest Corporation a long-term timber harvest permit, yet when he was forest commissioner he took a different position.
Mr. Speaker, this government has lobbied the federal government on THAs. In the short term, we are working with them to come up with a THA process that is acceptable to Yukoners. We have also lobbied the federal government on section 87, in an effort to resolve one of the key issues at the land claims table. We have also lobbied the federal government on the outstanding loan issue. We have lobbied them on that. I have lobbied them on formula financing funding arrangement issues, which somehow the members opposite never seem to talk about. We've lobbied them also on issues such as health care. We have delivered an additional $20 million to the territory, but somehow the member doesn't think we're doing enough. What would the member suggest?
Mr. Fentie: I would get new briefing notes, if I were the Premier. I asked about winter works and jobs now.
Mr. Speaker, the THA process was complete. It was timelined for September. This government - the Liberal government - took a hand in delaying that process. That's why bridge financing was asked for.
I just pulled off the net, Mr. Speaker, a little item from the federal government. It's entitled, "Rural Canada: Strong Communities." In this information are literally hundreds of millions of dollars available to rural Canada. How much money did this Premier ask the federal government to provide to keep the forest industry going while they stumbled through the THA process?
We know for a fact that the federal government was willing to put $3 million on the table to keep the forest industry running. This government would not participate as they were asked to by First Nations and the federal government. Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, I would urge the member opposite to think very carefully about his questions and perhaps do a little more homework than he has done. It is obvious from his questions that he has no faith in his party. It's no wonder he's shopping for options, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, we have lobbied the federal government on a number of issues. Where have we delivered? There is $20 million in additional health care funding.
Maybe the member opposite doesn't care about health care costs, but all other Canadians, including Yukoners, certainly do.
The member opposite tells me - calls from across the House - that he is asking for jobs. Let's talk about the jobs this government is providing. The mining sector - did we do what we said we would do? Yes, and I will be delivering that in an address to the mining industry on November 6. I encourage the member opposite to look at the mine program.
The oil and gas sector - the members make much of the fact that, according to them, no one is at work. Well, tell that to the people who will be working for Anderson Exploration in the winter; tell that to the people in southeast Yukon who will be working next year.
Let's talk about the people who are working on aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline. Heaven knows, it is not the members opposite that are working on that particular project; their opposition has been loud and clear. The THA and forestry process has been very ably lobbied for by the minister responsible for Renewable Resources. Let us talk about 2,200 extra charter seats -
Speaker: Order please. I must ask the Premier to conclude her answer. Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Alaska Highway gas pipeline
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. My question is for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
As the minister is aware, we in official opposition are in support of the Alaska Highway gas pipeline. That fact is misrepresented by this Liberal government, and they ought to be ashamed of themselves, putting out press releases and wasting time in this Legislature to argue against that. That does not mean we necessarily agree with how this government is approaching the proposed pipeline in the context of the Yukon's overall economy.
The Premier has taken a position that the Alaska Highway route is preferable, because the necessary permits are in place. Does the minister support the Premier's view on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, yes.
Mr. McRobb: The minister must be aware that the Yukon Conservation Society feels those permits are so old that the whole project should be reviewed. So far, the minister hasn't taken a public stance on that matter. Let's see if we can knock this Liberal off the fence, Mr. Speaker.
For the record, how does the minister reconcile the Premier's view that the environmental and regulatory work has been done, with the views of the conservation community that a re-examination is in order?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will respond to that question for the member opposite's information. The pipeline environmental review was completed and the certificate granted in 1982. It has been the consistent position of this government that that environmental permit, which met the standards of the day, would require refreshment. It would not require starting at ground zero, unlike some other projects that are proposed.
For the member opposite's information, our platform said that we would aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline route, and that's what we have been doing. We will continue to do that, in spite of the member opposite.
The member opposite may not be aware that, on August 31, I wrote to the Yukon Conservation Society inviting them to meet with me and my officials to talk about this, and I understand that since that time, although they have not responded to me directly, they have met a number of times with the officials.
The member opposite may also not be aware that the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society have praised the Liberal government for consulting with the public on their efforts in oil and gas.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that hardly addresses the question, and I would ask that the Minister of Renewable Resources respond to my question, not the Premier or the de facto Premier upstairs.
Now, the Yukon has control of the oil and gas resource. If the Prime Minister stops calling premature elections that are completely unnecessary, we might get control of the rest of our resources and be able to put Yukoners to work. The environment barely rated a mention in this government's throne speech.
Can the minister tell us what role environmental protection will play in any concrete action this government eventually takes to promote economic development in the territory? It seems that everything is under review or is delayed. What concrete action will the environment minister take, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, in that de facto bid for the NDP leadership speech that the member opposite just gave, he tried to bootleg in the economic development and the environment. My responsibility is Economic Development. I will advise the minister what role environment has played.
Let's talk about what role environment has played in the development of oil and gas, to date, since this government took office. In terms of aggressively promoting the Alaska Highway route, we have determined, through the work of officials, that indeed the 1982 certificate is entirely appropriate; however, there is refreshment required.
We have also spoken with the Yukon Conservation Society, in writing and in several meetings. As part of the pipeline unit's workplan, they have met, since our taking office, with representatives, including the executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, CPAWS, and a number of Government of Yukon officials. There is an update of the status and reasoning behind some of the efforts that have been taken by the government.
In terms of oil and gas exploration, there were extensive discussions held, prior to the call for nominations being released. I would remind the member opposite to examine the CBC 7:30 a.m. newscast, August 24, 2000. It quotes a letter from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, praising the Liberal government for consulting with the public before opening up land to oil and gas development.
We have worked very well with environmental groups, including the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society as well as the Yukon Conservation Society. We have worked well with those groups, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I must ask the Premier to conclude her question.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of privilege.
Question of privilege
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on a question of privilege.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a question of privilege, as is my right in this Legislature under the Standing Orders. I rise on that question of privilege with grave concern for due process and the procedures in this Legislature.
The Liberal government, in a high-handed manner, is attempting, through an unprecedented act, to debate a motion on the floor of this Legislature, which would change the rules, the procedures, the due process of this Legislative Assembly. As a member of this Assembly and a member of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, I am insulted that they would take this tactic. This is nothing more than a schoolyard bully using the high-handed manner of their majority.
Mr. Speaker, I would point out that, with the Liberals wanting to change night sittings, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges is the agency, the committee that instituted night sittings in this Legislature.
Furthermore, in a meeting of the standing committee on September 27 of this year, we discussed night sittings, among other agenda items including the second motion the Liberals have brought forward regarding an all-party committee. We discussed those items and we all agreed, with four members in Liberal benches opposite present, that we would bring those agenda items back to SCREP November 1, 2000, at 10:30 a.m. Instead, the Liberals, in this unprecedented manner and act, have decided to try and ram something through this House without following due process. All that has to take place is that meeting November 1.
You have instructed a number of times in this House that that committee meet. All that has to take place is that committee meet. The recommendations would then be brought forward to this Legislative Assembly. Instead, in a climate in this territory where so many other priorities for Yukoners are front and centre: our health care, our education, our economy; the Liberals choose to waste the time in this House debating a frivolous motion that is redundant because the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privilege would have made these changes anyway.
Mr. Speaker, I think this is a travesty. I think this Liberal government is simply going totally over the top with their numbers in majority, and they have not been able to grasp the fact that they committed - committed - to this House and Yukoners that they would do things differently.
Well, Mr. Speaker, they are. They've made this House, and its procedures, much worse than ever in the past, and it's time that we in the opposition - as we intend to do - hold them accountable for their actions.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: On the point of order, the Member for Watson Lake made no point of privilege. There was no complaint. The member has just wasted our time in this House, without actually making a formal complaint. He rose on a point of privilege, and made no point of privilege. I would ask the Speaker to remind members what a point of privilege is, since there was no specific complaint against the House there.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, there was a very, very valid point of privilege raised by the Member for Watson Lake, and that deals with the business of this House, and how it's conducted, and the rules under which we operate.
What we have, Mr. Speaker, is a Liberal government that wants to change those rules. There is a committee struck to deal with those rules, and you yourself, Mr. Speaker, are referred constantly to that group to deal with various issues that have been raised here, right in this sitting.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there's obviously a problem with the way the Liberals currently perceive the operation of this House, and that is coming through abundantly clear in the heavy-handed manner in which they're wanting to change things.
There's a proper procedure; there's a committee. In that committee, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals currently hold the majority of members. So it is fait accompli; through the democratic process in that committee - if all their members attend - they would have the majority.
What we have instead is a Liberal government that is more concerned with abolishing evening sittings, with spending time on other-than-government business to which they were duly elected. The evening sittings were established so that people who work in the daytime would have the opportunity to come here, come into this Legislature and watch their elected officials and what is happening. What we have is a complete abdication of the responsibilities of the current Liberal government and in taking a process away from the committee responsible for it and bringing it forward in the form of a motion here in this House to deal with it. It is a waste of the time of this House when it can be dealt with in the proper forum.
That was the point of privilege raised by the Member for Watson Lake. It is a very valid point of privilege, and I strongly support that position he has taken.
Ms. Tucker: On the point of order, I refer to the Standing Rules on a member being called to order during debate: 19(i) charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehoodor imputing false or unavowed motives to other members.
The members opposite had the opportunity throughout the summer to attend SCREP meetings, which they failed to do. There have been numerous attempts to arrange SCREP meetings with the members opposite. We would be happy to participate in meetings, and we could reach some agreement. The members opposite state that we were wasting government time. Then I am assuming from that that members opposite would be happy to pass the motion, since they have agreed to it in principle.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, in the first place, I would instruct, or at least advise, the government House leader to practice what she preaches. She is imputing false motives on this side of the House. We are taking exception to the method in which this government has circumvented the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
That is the issue at hand: due process in this Legislative Assembly.
I'd like to further point out that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, in admonishing me for getting up on a point of privilege, has even made the case that it is not my right to do so. I disagree, Mr. Speaker. It is every member in this Legislative Assembly's right to stand on a question of privilege. Our due process is under attack by this government and it's high time that they changed their attitude.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, the next SCREP meeting is slated to be held on November 1. That's two days away. That's when this matter should rightly be dealt with, as well as a whole series of other issues that we're having difficulties with. You, yourself, Mr. Speaker, are having difficulties with the interpretation.
So, I would respectfully submit, Mr. Speaker, that this be dealt with under SCREP and be dealt with in the proper forum, at the proper meeting that is slated for November 1, and not be taken point by point with a motion here in the House, wasting the valuable time of the House.
Speaker's ruling on question of privilege
Speaker: If there are no further comments, the Chair is now prepared to give a ruling on the question of privilege raised by the official opposition House leader.
The official opposition House leader met the notice requirement found in Standing Order 7(1)(b) by submitting a written notice to the Office of the Speaker at 10:55 a.m. on today's date. 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, the question of privilege must be raised at the time that the event occurred or on the next sitting day. In this matter, the Chair finds this event to be taking place during this sitting day, as the government has directed that Motions No. 1 and 2 be called today.
The question for the Chair to decide on, then, is whether the official opposition House leader 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 official opposition House leader was that the government has encroached on "the rights and privileges of all MLAs" by calling motions for debate that would result in changes to the Standing Orders. The official opposition House leader notes that doing so compromises the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
In reviewing the Standing Orders of this Assembly and the parliamentary authorities, including Beauchesne, the Chair has not found any basis for the matter raised by the official opposition House leader for the finding of a breach of privilege. The main privileges that the House must be concerned with are those guaranteeing freedom of speech and the right of the House to govern its own proceedings. Calling these motions for debate does not infringe on any member's freedom of speech.
In assessing the right of the House to govern its own proceedings, an argument may be made for asserting that the House has the right to debate these motions. Otherwise, the House might find that it cannot deal with issues that have been sent to committee. As an example, the public accounts stand permanently referred to the Public Accounts Committee. The members of this House, however, are not and should not be restricted from raising matters related to the public accounts in here even though they stand referred to a committee for consideration.
The Chair, therefore, must rule that the matter raised by the official opposition House leader does not constitute a breach of privilege.
This concludes the ruling. The House will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Government motions.
Motion No. 1
Clerk: Motion No. 1, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Roberts.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services
THAT the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended, effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted, by:
(1) replacing Standing Orders 2(1), 2(2), 2(3) and 2(4) with the following:
2(1) The time for the meeting of the Assembly is at 1:00 p.m. on each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday unless otherwise ordered.
(2) On each sitting day, at 6:00 p.m., the Speaker shall adjourn the Assembly without question put, and the Assembly then stands adjourned until the next sitting day unless otherwise ordered.
(3) When the Assembly rises on Thursday at 6:00 p.m., it shall stand adjourned until the following Monday unless otherwise ordered.
(2) renumbering Standing Orders 2(5), 2(6) and 2(7) as Standing Orders 2(4), 2(5) and 2(6).
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise today in support of this motion. Mr. Speaker, I heard the opposition, and I do agree with many of the things that they said. It's just unfortunate that we have to go this route. I firmly believe that the changing of hours of the legislative sitting requires careful consideration by all members. I encourage all members sitting here to listen to what this can mean to you, and to your life.
Yukoners want a quality of life, a quality of work, a quality of environment and a quality representation.
We believe that the new hours promote equality, because they enable the members of this Legislature to operate within regular daytime hours.
We do not expect our constituents to come to us. It is our job to go to them. We are not going to do this at their place of employment. We are not going to do it after 10:00 p.m. These new hours enable us to do our jobs at a reasonable time of the day, reasonable for all Yukoners to be able to contact our constituents when it's convenient for them.
Mr. Speaker, we believe that Yukoners value families and understand the importance of time spent with their families. These new hours will allow for quality family time. Let me explain. I'll give you some examples of how members of the Legislature and government staff can choose to spend more time with their families. They can take time to call their families, write their families or plan family activities. They can increase their participation in community events, participation in sports, general participation in their health, whether that's getting a good sleep or practicing meditation. I can think of many ways to improve the health of Yukoners with reasonable hours available as a result of changing the hours of the legislative sittings. The bottom line is that we are working the same amount of hours as Yukoners, and the opportunity for Yukoners to visit the Legislature is still here.
The proposed hours of 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. are completely open to the public, Mr. Speaker. From 5:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., those people who work regular day hours can come and watch their government in action. With advanced technology, we are able to reach Yukoners through television and internet. The first hour of the Legislature, which includes Question Period, is aired on TVNC at 9:00 p.m. every Monday through Thursday. And, by the way, a lot of people watch that, Mr. Speaker. That's why the opposition really searches hard to get the last camera time, as the member opposite from Watson Lake did. He really wanted to show the outrage of trying to change something that is practical and has common sense.
Those with VCRs can set to tape the dynamic exchanges between members. The straight-through sitting will allow Hansard staff and Legislative Assembly staff to have reasonable hours at the end of the working day, and they will not have to work a split shift. People generally do not like to work split shifts. Government morale -
Some Hon. Member:Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order. Official opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, although I would value listening to the words of the member opposite, I cannot forego a point of order.
Pursuant to Standing Order 19(1)(j), a member can be called to order if he uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder. By implying that this side of the House does not even have any common sense, I think, spells that out very clearly, and I would ask that member to retract that statement.
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: On the point of order, I did not hear the hon. member say that they had no common sense, and whether or not this would be a disagreement between members - because a lot of people I know also agree that they do not have any common sense.
Speaker: Well, unfortunately, there was so much background noise here, if that was said, I did not hear it either. I am not able to rule on that at this time, not until I review the Blues. With that, I would ask the minister to continue. Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre just stood on his feet mere seconds ago and reiterated the same statement, that we do not have common sense. I would ask that member to retract that statement. That is very insulting, in maintaining that members on this side of the House do not even have common sense.
Speaker: It was my interpretation of the comments that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was repeating what had been said. I find that to be a dispute between members, and I will ask the member to continue.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. After being rudely interrupted again, another point is that, with great consideration from the members opposite, this motion provides one extra hour of debate time on private members' day, so that is a real plus.
We have made many attempts over the summer to meet with the opposition to discuss these changes explained within this motion. We also had a meeting scheduled for this morning. Not one opposition member showed up. That was this morning, Mr. Speaker, at the SCREP meeting. This is an indication that the members of the opposition do not want to meet outside the Legislature to make government more efficient. Had the member opposite met with us, we could very well have resolved issues of timing, quite easily, and then saved the debate on time in the House for issues that would be important to our constituents.
Just a note, Hansard costs $968 an hour. This is a valuable service and one to be respected. Are we respecting the service by debating housekeeping issues on the floor of this Legislature? The members opposite certainly support the notion of wasting taxpayers' money, because they could not meet to discuss the issues in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
I have here, in my hands, the SCREP log with points that were called. On August 28, the opposition was called for a SCREP meeting, but they were unavailable. On September 6, they were called again. Of course, they were not available. On September 13, another meeting was to be called, and it was again cancelled. On September 14, there was another attempt to contact the members opposite, but this was unsuccessful because no one was available. On September 18, a letter was sent to all the members of the opposition to ask for a meeting. Again, this was supposed to be a meeting but was cancelled. On September 23, we actually had a meeting, and I actually went to that meeting. It was the only meeting that I know of at which everyone was there.
And then, on October 27, a memo was sent out again, requesting a meeting to discuss night sittings, and, on October 30, as we've just said, Mr. Speaker, they did not show up for SCREP this morning. So there we are. I enter that into Hansard. We have tried many times - eight times - to have a meeting to discuss these issues.
This committee is a place where issues like this are discussed. No discussions have taken place with the members opposite. This is why, Mr. Speaker, we are bringing forward this motion in the Legislature. It is a housekeeping detail. We agree -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: This is housekeeping, and it shouldn't be brought to the House, Mr. Speaker. This should be solved in SCREP. But we have tried - as I have said - eight times, Mr. Speaker. We tried to connect with the members opposite, but they were never available.
With this in mind, Mr. Speaker, we had to bring it to the House. The only action remaining is to vote in favour of this motion, and I encourage the members to do this for the reasons I have just stated.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that is a strange way to encourage the opposition to support changing hours in this Legislature.
First, let me point out that this is a frivolous motion. It shouldn't be here - as the minister himself pointed out. This is housekeeping, and it should be left in the hands of the standing committee.
But there's good reason why those members opposite are bringing this forward. They don't want night sittings, Mr. Speaker. They don't want night sittings because people come to this gallery to watch their politicians debate the issues, and this Liberal government has shown, since the day they took office, a propensity to stay in the shadows and hide from public scrutiny.
They have even hired people to answer for them in the public forum.
That is simply unacceptable when it comes to elected people. It's the elected people who must stand on their feet and answer to the Yukon public who put us here. This motion is a bunch of garbage.
The member opposite made statements in reading his log that weren't even correct. He stated that we met on September 23. I'm talking about the standing committee. That's wrong. We met on September 27. He also didn't inform this House that one of the proposed dates for meeting was cancelled because the Liberals couldn't make it. This is complete rubbish and is making a mockery of this Legislative Assembly.
Furthermore, he states that no discussion took place on these items. Well, I refer him to the minutes tabled in this House a number of days ago that clearly outlined that night sittings were on the agenda and were discussed. It was agreed, at the September 27 meeting of SCREP, that we would reconvene on November 1 and deal with night sittings, as well as a number of other agenda items. It is customary. It is due process. It is how this Assembly operates under attack by this Liberal government.
The Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, in meeting on November 1 at 10:30 a.m., simply would have discussed the items on the agenda and made recommendation to this House on any changes to the Standing Orders.
The Liberals have circumvented that process. They have circumvented that process because the underlying issue is that they are running from public scrutiny. They don't want to see people in this gallery watching them debate the issues, because they are an empty, hollow vessel. If government were a dam, the Liberals would be a leak in it. That's how bad this situation is. Throne speeches with no blueprint, no road map, no direction, nothing.
You know, there's an old adage, Mr. Speaker: empty drums make the most noise. We're hearing a lot of noise from that side but there's no content, no substance. That is a travesty to this House and its democratic processes.
Mr. Speaker, there are other motions that the Liberals have brought forward in regard to what the standing committee deals with - all-party committee. They wanted to debate that on the floor of this Legislature, and yet, when they had the opportunity upon taking office to create an all-party committee on appointments, what is the first act? The Liberals start making partisan appointments to appease and take care of their friends first. Then, after the fact, they come and ask the opposition, "Be agreeable, be nice. Come and work with us. We're great people." Give me a break. They have absolutely no scruples when it comes to due process and democracy in this territory.
There is little wonder why the Liberals on that side do not oppose the federal Liberal government. In all likelihood, they are in line, hoping for some partisan appointments down the road, whether it be an ambassadorship or a senatorship. They are all in line at the Liberal trough, hoping for a long-term ability to feed off the public dole.
Mr. Speaker, I am insulted, as a member of this Assembly, to have to stand here and debate such a ridiculous motion that they have brought forward. The Minister of Health has more important things to deal with. We have problems in our health care system. What is the minister doing about those? Nothing. He is standing here, trying to convince this House that we should change night sittings, change the hours of this Legislative Assembly; and then he makes the ridiculous comment that it would add one more hour to private members' business. Well, there is little wonder why, over the years of history of this Assembly, the public has named that day of private members' business on Wednesday "wasted Wednesday". The Liberals have now made Monday "wasted Monday".
A one-hour increase in debating private members' business is not what this Legislative Assembly requires; it's not what's needed. We need a government across the floor to present to this House the road map, the direction and where they're taking us. If they truly want us to cooperate in the best interests of all Yukoners, those are some of the things that should be coming forward from that government.
The members opposite are playing games, Mr. Speaker. Then the minister stands on his feet in debating this motion and makes the claim that we did not show up for the SCREP meeting this morning. Well, that is the most high-handed remark that the Liberals have come out with yet. We are rural MLAs. I walked in to my office this morning at 10 minutes to 9:00 to be informed that I have a SCREP meeting at 9:30. That's not acceptable. I just finished driving 285 miles. Surely these members aren't that shallow and short-sighted that they can't grasp the fact that that was nothing more than political gamesmanship. And to bring it to the floor of this Legislature is pure rubbish.
We the opposition, as duly appointed members of the standing committee, are willing to meet; and we have met. And we have agreed upon an agenda and a subsequent date. And those items on that agenda are meant to deal with the Standing Orders in this Legislative Assembly - not in this manner - this high-handed, schoolyard bullying manner that the Liberals have come forward with. There are many, many issues in this territory that we should be dealing with, not this frivolous motion. Our economy is in crisis. We are in trouble. People are streaming out of this territory. Families are now facing what is supposed to be a happy season, a good time for all where we put aside our political differences. Christmas is a great time. Not now, not in this territory. There are families out there who are now worrying about their ability to even put a simple present for their children under a Christmas tree. Thanks to this government across the floor - this cold-hearted government who have turned their backs on Yukoners, especially in rural Yukon. They're ignoring the situation we're in - the crisis we're in.
Instead of dealing with issues like that, we have a Premier standing on her feet, making the claim that we are developing oil and gas. Well, I have to tell you something, Mr. Speaker. The first time oil and gas development took place in the Yukon Territory was in the late 1950s. It was Dallas Drilling, rig one, that drilled on the B.C./Yukon border. The reason I know that is because it blew up. They hit gas. It was 40 years ago that oil and gas development was started. In the 1960s, Spurry Rainbow drilled just a few miles out of Watson Lake. In 1979, the Alaska Highway route was permitted. It has been with us for a long time. The Liberals did not invent it.
The only reason why the oil and gas pipeline down the Alaska Highway has become an issue is because of market demand and return on investment. The prices are high enough now that a move toward constructing that pipeline is warranted. It has nothing to do with what the Liberals have done, because, quite frankly, all the Premier has done in oil and gas is create briefing notes.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: I rise on a point of order, section 19(1). The member is out of order when he speaks to the question other than the question under discussion, which is ours, with regard to the session. I do not see how oil and gas has anything to do with this.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it is completely relevant. What we have is just another Liberal interruption to the proceedings of this House. It is unnecessary, really unwelcome and not required.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse Centre is now even trying to restrict the opposition's ability to debate the motion they brought forward. I am merely pointing out why we should not be debating this motion. It is entirely within my right to stand in this Legislature, debate this motion and make my point as to why it should not be here. I believe I am entirely in order.
Speaker: I believe the opposition has a right to be heard. Continue please.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Getting back to my point, Mr. Speaker, our economy is in such a state of crisis that we should, in this Legislature, be actively pursuing initiatives, programs and anything we can do to help Yukoners now and this winter. Oil and gas, pipelines and mining are all futuristic. Those are jobs that benefit the future. It is important to give Yukoners a sense of how we are going to get there. It is important to give Yukoners some hope that, if they stay here, things will be all right. This Liberal government has failed in doing so, and yet we have to stand here and debate a frivolous motion of this nature, when the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges would have dealt with these issues 48 short hours from now.
I cannot believe how the Liberals, in this arrogant manner, very similar to the federal Liberals, are proceeding in this House.
There is much documentation - oodles and oodles of documentation on how the standing committee has operated. It is the standing committee that brought forward night sittings into this Legislature. There is a reason to have that gallery. The gallery is in this House so that the public can come and scrutinize their elected officials. The Liberals are trying to cut that out. The minister made the point that it is on TV. I'm telling the members opposite that there are Yukoners who don't have TV because they can't afford a TV. Or they don't have cablevision because they can't afford cablevision. Many Yukoners - even rural Yukoners - chose, when in Whitehorse, to come here - even supporters of the members opposite - in the evenings, sit in that gallery and scrutinize their elected people at work.
I openly accuse the Liberals of trying to squash that ability of the public to do so. That is a very high-handed approach to the rules and the processes in this Legislature, and it is an attack on democracy.
We are answerable to the public in any forum they so choose to watch us do it in. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini has made a gesture to the gallery. The reason nobody's in that gallery is because we're debating this piece of junk the Liberals have brought forward as an important matter of interest for this House and the public. It's not the case, Mr. Speaker. It's not the case at all.
The Liberals should be ashamed of themselves for their action. They should be ashamed. In fact, the Liberals should seriously consider thinking of resigning as a government, because you're not acting as a government. You're acting like schoolyard bullies - like schoolyard bullies, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I would refer again to the rules of debate, 19(1)(j) "uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder;" referring to the terms "junk" in reference to this motion; "garbage", "schoolyard bullies".
Speaker: I have to agree with the government House leader. I've made some notes here, too, regarding "high handedness", "bullies". "Junk" was the word referred to, and I find that it is insulting language to use those comments.
I would ask the Member for Watson Lake to continue, and to try to be cautious. I know our hearts are pounding here, but we must try to be cautious in our speech.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this act is unprecedented. This act has never taken place in this manner. Changing rules and due process in this Legislative Assembly has never taken this tack. This motion is frivolous. This motion need not be here on the floor of this Legislature. This motion is redundant. Forty-eight hours from now, the standing committee would have made the recommendations to this House in all likelihood to change night sittings, to deal with a standing committee, to deal with the start date of a fall sitting, to deal with regular start and end dates of legislative sessions, to deal, Mr. Speaker, with an item so dear to your heart, ministerial statements. It's on the agenda as agenda item (d), for the November 1 meeting. To deal with laptops in this Legislature, to deal with decorum in the House, leaving before the Speaker adjourns, and language, an item that you just ruled on. All these, including amendments to motions, time limits on debate on private members' business, anticipation guideline in Question Period - all these items for the SCREP meeting for November 1. The whole intention of the standing committee is to take items like this, discuss them in due process, democratically, and bring forward to this Legislative Assembly recommendations for changes, should there be any.
It goes on further to add all-party standing committee on appointments as an agenda item - all-party agreement on legislative sittings, which is the memorandum of agreement in the Standing Orders. These are the items that were slated for the November 1 standing committee meeting, and yet, here we are today, standing in this House, having to debate this motion.
The Liberals did not have to bring this motion forward. They do so out of political gainsmanship. They have absolutely no qualms about putting partisan political gainsmanship ahead of the plight of Yukoners; ahead of the issues of Yukoners; ahead of due process of this Legislative Assembly; ahead of democratic process. They have shown that by bringing this motion to the floor of this Assembly for debate.
I find it extremely, extremely upsetting that we in this Legislature have to go through this, thanks to the members opposite. I hope subsequent speakers from the Liberals can convince us that this was, in fact, a good thing. I hope members opposite can convince us on the opposition benches that there was a need - a need - to bring this motion forward today. I hope that the members opposite can prove to us that there was some validity and merit in what they are attempting to do, given the fact that in 48 hours, the business of this House in relation to its rules would have been dealt with. It is imperative upon them to do so. It is their duty to do so. The previous speaker, the Houdini of health care for the Liberal government, did not do that when he got on his feet to speak.
Speaker: Order please. I find that comment, "Houdini of health care", to be insulting and likely to create disorder. Thank you.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: I retract that. I only meant I would like to see the minister get out of this one.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, further to that, the minister, when opening up debate on this motion, made some statements that there seems to be some discrepancy, given the minutes. I ask the Liberals opposite, when each and every one of them get on their feet to debate this motion, to try and convince this side of the House - this opposition - that what we are doing here is relevant - relevant to this House, relevant to the democratic process and relevant to Yukoners.
It is their duty to do so. It is the Liberals who brought this motion to the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, in good conscience, even if we, on the opposition side, agree totally with the changes, we cannot get beyond the fact that the method in which this is being done is wrong. It's entirely wrong. There is a serious, serious breach of due process. We, as Members of the Legislative Assembly, have a duty - all of us - to ensure that due process and the way the procedures and the proceedings of this Legislative Assembly are conducted are done so in an open and accountable manner.
The Liberals, on the other hand, with bringing this motion forward, leave us with little else but one conclusion: that they're not really an open and accountable government. They're hiding in the shadows, hiding from public scrutiny, doing everything they possibly can to avoid the issues of the day, thinking they'll go away. Well, they're not going to go away and they're getting worse, much worse.
I ask the opposite benches why. I'll ask the Liberal government why aren't we dealing with something of importance? Why aren't we dealing with our economic crisis? Why aren't we dealing with the situation that is developing in our education system, with politicizing the Education Act review and the teachers turning down that partisan backroom deal that the Minister of Education agreed to? Why aren't we dealing with the serious concerns and issues in our health care system? Why? Why today are we not dealing with the fact that, for two months, there has been no home care nurse in the community of Watson Lake? Why aren't we dealing with that?
No respite care in the hospital, no spare ambulance, two doctors now leaving - those are serious issues. That's what should be brought to the floor of this Legislature.
Why aren't we dealing with the fact that many more people are leaving to go to work elsewhere? Trucking companies like Watson Lake Bus Lines, Bee Jay's Services, Al Gioia Trucking, Rudy's Transport - all going to work elsewhere. That's a tremendous amount of cashflow being ripped out of a community that desperately needs to maintain that cashflow.
Those are important issues. Why did the Liberals not bring forward a government motion, as we did today, asking to convene an all-party committee to address the emergency situation, the crisis we're in economically. Instead, they bring forward a motion to change night sittings and the hours that this Legislative Assembly sits. And they call that a priority? The Liberals maintain that that's important to Yukoners? Not.
I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this change, no matter what takes place here today and beyond, is not a burning issue with the Yukon public. It merely is a burning issue with the Liberal government, in their headlong approach to hiding from public scrutiny because they have no answers. They have no vision. They have no direction. There are deficiencies in leadership. There are problems, problems on that side of the House, and we, on this side of the House, will be exposing those problems. Here, every day in this Legislature, we will be exposing those problems, and we are doing so right now, by debating this frivolous motion.
We are exposing the fact that the Liberal government ignores the issues of the day and brings forward, as the Minister of Health pointed out, a housekeeping motion, for debate on the floor of this Legislature, completely circumventing and compromising a long-standing committee that dealt with the rules, procedures and privileges of this House.
It's heavy-handed, it's arrogant, and it should not be. I beseech the Liberals, the members opposite, to rethink this approach. Come back to this House with something that is of importance. Take this motion off the floor. Let us deal with the real issues in this territory. Let's get on with the job we were elected to do. Nowhere did I see in any political party's platform that we should be changing night sittings or the time that this House sits. That was not in anybody's platform; that was not in any discussion during the campaign. No party committed to do this. Suddenly our friends opposite launch this little item.
Mr. Speaker, we have to get to the bottom of this, and that's why we will debate this motion on the floor of this Legislature, each and every one of us, to ensure that we expose what a unprecedented act this is, what a travesty of the democratic process that this is.
I urge the Liberals also to rethink their second motion that they've called for: an all-party committee on making appointments. How can you be ramming this down the opposition's throat after making the partisan appointments that you've made already? It begs the question, Mr. Speaker, of why, upon taking office, the Liberal government did not convene an all-party committee to deal with appointments.
The same holds true for this motion we're debating today. We discussed it in SCREP. We dealt with it in SCREP. We agreed in SCREP on what the next steps would be. The Liberal government has completely short-circuited that process by bringing this motion to the floor of the Legislative Assembly.
Now, I ask this Legislative Assembly to look at the body of the motion. It says, "The time for meeting of the Assembly" - and this is the change they want to make to Standing Orders 2(1), 2(2), 2(3) and 2(4). And it begins with 2(1) of the Standing Orders of this House: "The time for the meeting of the Assembly is at 1:00 p.m. on each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, unless otherwise ordered." I ask the Liberals, when they committed in the SCREP meeting of September 27, to bring forward their ideas on night sittings and changing of times of this House. Instead, we find out that their idea is to use a heavy-handed hammer, using their majority, to ram it through this Legislative Assembly.
What precipitated the Liberals choosing 1:00 p.m.? Why 1:00 p.m.? Why is that? We didn't hear it from the first speaker, the Minister of Health and Social Services. So, how do we accept this when we don't even know why that time was chosen?
The Minister of Health and Social Services just kibitzed about coming to the meetings. Well, we went to the meeting. We agreed at that meeting when the next one would be. It's not us who have changed anything. The Liberal government, in playing their political games, are the ones who are trying to change things.
Mr. Speaker, where did they come up with 1:00 p.m.? There is such a thing as lunch. We all are busy. Why choose 1:00 p.m.? Why not 2:00 p.m. and sit until 7:00p.m.? Why not that? Why did the original speaker, the mover of the motion, not stand on his feet and explain to this House, if he wanted our cooperation, why he chose 1:00 p.m.? There must be some rationale, though it escapes us at this point in time. In picking that time, what was the rationale?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Now, I just heard the Premier talk about a part-time MLA. That gets my juices going, I will tell you, because when I looked out in the parking lot all summer here, I did happen to notice something: empty parking lot. Yet, I am being scolded by the Minister of Tourism across the floor, because I parked in an empty stall in the parking lot, that it is for ministers' parking. I ask, where were the ministers? Talk about part-time, we have a part-time government who is so lost - just like Moses in the desert. For four years we will be wandering around here, so lost, that they bring this forward. Unfortunately, it might happen that way. That is a scary thought.
Mr. Speaker, we go on to the next one. Here is another one. They want to change Standing Order 2(2): "On each sitting day at 6:00 p.m., the Speaker" - yada, yada, yada. So, you all know what that means. But what they are saying is our sitting hours are now 1:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. Why 6:00 p.m.? Why did the mover of the motion not explain that?
Mr. Speaker, indulge me. Again, the Premier is kibitzing about why didn't we show up for meetings. The proof is on paper. The proof is in writing. The opposition showed up on September 27 to deal with this, among many other items, in the standing committee. We, including the four Liberal members, agreed at that September 27 meeting to reconvene November 1, 10:30 a.m., to deal with and bring closure to the items on this agenda. The Premier, in her kibitzing about why didn't we show up for meetings, leaves one wondering who is briefing her on what's taking place in the standing committee.
So, again, I get back to my point. Why didn't the mover of the motion explain to this House what is the reasoning, the rationale, for changing the sitting times from 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. and shutting down night sittings?
He makes the point that there is some obscure reason why they're doing this. We, on this side of the House, have made the point that they're hiding from public scrutiny.
I would ask again, when the next Liberal speaker gets up, that they provide this side of the House with the rationale for 6 p.m. There are reasons why the original timing was put in place. Mr. Speaker, this gets to public scrutiny. When this Assembly adjourns at 5:30 p.m. for a two-hour break pre-night sitting, it is customary for constituents and members of the Yukon public to have an opportunity to discuss the business of this House during the course of that day and what may be coming up in that night's sitting. Public scrutiny. The Liberals, in this unprecedented act, have now removed that capacity for the Yukon public's ability to access their elected representatives.
I can recall time and time and time again, when at a supper, a constituent has brought forward an issue, even when we were in government. I can recall the number of times sitting here at night when, on that side of the House, people in that gallery were watching their government at work, watching their elected officials at work. The Liberals have stopped that. Again I point out and I can only conclude that they are scared, scared to death of public scrutiny.
Mr. Speaker, we then go on to other issues, other issues that we're looking at when we deal with the body of this motion. By removing night sittings and concentrating the times that this House sits between Monday and Thursday, it also impacts all through the day when the Yukon public will be able to access their officials to bring forward the issues that are important to them, to be able to deal with their elected officials in the business of government. The Liberals again are removing that ability for the Yukon public to be part of these proceedings. I find it unacceptable, totally unacceptable that we should be debating this motion on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, there is much more that we must be looking at. The members opposite seem to think that they've got some kind of a stand to make here by making the claim that the opposition does not attend SCREP meetings. Well, they're a little confused, Mr. Speaker. The opposition does attend those meetings.
The results of those meetings - and given the fact that this is a very new sitting - it's in its infancy - of this Thirtieth Legislature. It was a very short time ago that we met, and in a very short time we'll be meeting again. So, how can the opposite benches make that claim that we refuse to do so? I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker. They're trying to justify this unprecedented act. They're trying to justify it in their own minds, because the public is not buying it; the public won't buy this one little bit. They're trying to justify in their own minds that this is the right thing to do and that they'll ram this down the opposition's throat, whether they like it or not. That's not going to work. It's not going to work, Mr. Speaker. This motion does not belong on the floor of this Legislature. There's no reason for it to be here - no reason whatsoever.
And then I want to point out again that, upon arriving at my office this morning at 10 minutes to 9:00 for my first meeting at 9:00, I was handed a letter instructing me to attend a SCREP meeting at 9:30 this very morning. I would ask the members opposite to really think about this and to consider it, consider that letter and what they requested. How does that compute into a kinder and gentler elected body for the members opposite? How does that relate into making this Legislature a kinder and gentler place? How can that possibly entice us on this side to be cooperative? How can that entice us on this side of the House to sit down and debate motions of this kind or discuss issues of this kind and compatibly come out with a decision?
Mr. Speaker, these are points being made to show that the members opposite have taken upon themselves to do something to change the rules of this Legislative Assembly, to ram it down the opposition's throats, no matter what, and completely rewrite years and years and years of how this Legislative Assembly operated.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education/Renewable Resources/Public Service Commission - all of which have major problems for him to deal with - makes the point that they are doing government differently. I will say they are; I will agree with that statement. They are doing government differently. This has never happened. This has never, ever taken place in this manner before in this Legislative Assembly. They are doing government differently. In a very, very arrogant and heavy-handed manner, they are conducting the business of government and this House. Unacceptable. It is unacceptable to the opposition, unacceptable to the Yukon public, unacceptable to anything that we find dear in due process and in democracy.
Mr. Speaker, night sittings, agreed to by the standing committee, were there for a purpose. They were there so the public could come here and observe. It goes back to over 20 years - 20 years of how this House operated. Night sittings were implemented through the standing committee. Why not change it through the standing committee? There is absolutely nothing from the previous speaker, the mover of the motion, to indicate what it is that the Liberal government, the members opposite, are truly trying to achieve.
What is it they're trying to achieve with this? Is it going to fix our economy? Is it going to solve our problems in health care, in recruiting doctors and nurses? Is it going to solve our problems in getting better home care, in order to, as the members opposite have claimed, keep seniors and elders in their homes as long as possible - the quickest way to healthy living for our seniors and elders. By the way, that's no news flash, either, Mr. Speaker. That has been around with governments for a number of years now: that in our health care system our seniors are much better kept in their own homes as long as possible, because they're more comfortable, which then translates into healthier living.
How does this motion today deal with our problems in the education system? I ask the members opposite how is that possible? I cannot - though I've tried, since the Liberal government gave notice of this motion, to figure out what it is they're attempting to do.
I've thought it through over and over and over. And I feel quite disappointed that the members opposite would come up with this feeble excuse that the reason they must bring this motion forward - must debate this motion - is because the opposition will not meet.
Some Hon. Member: A point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: I would ask the member opposite to withdraw the words "evil" excuse. Again, it's inflammatory and imparts false impressions upon us. We are certainly not evil.
Speaker: Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: In order to expedite the business of this House, I'll retract "feeble", and replace it with "suspect".
It's a very suspect excuse, making the claim that the opposition will not meet to deal with rules, privileges and procedures of this Legislature.
Because it's simply not the case. We've proven it. We've tabled documents to prove it. The facts are that we do meet and that we will meet.
However, it brings to mind the question of why the Liberals chose to do this. What course do you think the opposition can possibly take now? What is it that the Liberals expect from the opposition benches? Where do we go from here? I, as a member of the standing committee, now must ask the question, "What's the point?" Why do we have a standing committee? What are now the issues that the standing committee should deal with? What is the standing committee going to do now? The Liberal government has taken a new tack of how we deal with the rules and procedures of this Legislative Assembly. The Liberals have decided, because they have nothing else really to talk about, to debate motions on changing the rules and procedures of this House on the floor of the Legislature. So what is the point of having a Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges?
Pardon me, Mr. Speaker, I don't mean to put you to sleep. I'm doing my best to be excited.
What is the point of having members? What is the point of having the four members from the Liberals sit on that committee? What is the point of having my esteemed colleague, the Member for Klondike, sitting on that committee? Why would my esteemed colleague from Kluane and I sit on that committee if this is what we are going to do?
Here we go again. If you want to keep me on my feet until the cows come home, the Minister of Government Services is going about it the right way. The minister said, in kibitzing across the floor, to attend meetings. I repeat again that we have shown in documentation, beyond a shadow of a doubt -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, but now we have the Minister of Health kibitzing about us attending one. I rest my case, they have just admitted we attend meetings. And we agreed at that meeting to have a subsequent meeting on November 1, 2000 at 10:30 a.m.
I rest my case, proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the members opposite are mistaken in their position and in their comments, because we on this side of the House do take it seriously when it comes to the rules and the procedures of this Legislative Assembly. We take it very seriously, and that's why we take such great exception to this approach by the Liberals and the motion they have brought forward here today, with absolutely no thought. I believe the Liberals have decided that the way to snooker the opposition on this one is, "We have 10 members and they only have seven members."
Sorry, for a moment there I forgot that our colleague from Faro has now moved on - my colleague from Faro who has reached a crossroad in his life and made a life decision. I applaud him for that. Beyond that, Mr. Speaker, they, as I was pointing out, have 10 members in this Legislative Assembly - a big majority - and they think they can snooker the opposition by making this unprecedented move on the floor of this House. They think that they can get us.
Well, I have got news for the Liberals opposite. We, in the opposition, in representing our constituencies and holding the Liberal government accountable, have many more things at our disposal to ensure that we can do so, and one of them is standing on this floor and debating this frivolous motion to its justified and inevitable end.
Mr. Speaker, we have to make sure that at every juncture we ferret out why it is that the Liberals are so desperate and want to so badly change the rules and the procedures of this House. That, Mr. Speaker, is part and parcel of why we will be debating this motion.
It is our job, our duty, as elected representatives of Yukoners, to ferret those things out. Why is it that they want so desperately to do this? We must ferret out why they keep and continue to make the claim around the standing committee and the opposition attendance. Do they not realize that, in calling all these meetings and setting meetings, we in the opposition, who happen to be rural MLAs, must make travel plans and do a number of things so that we can attend the meetings with due notice, as is proven by the September 27 meeting? We all, coming from the far reaches of the Yukon, attended. There is good reason for the Liberals opposite, the government benches, to make due consideration of the fact of where we live and what is involved in us getting packed up, coming to the City of Whitehorse to sit down in a meeting and discuss issues like this.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: My colleague from Kluane just pointed out a very important fact. In the wintertime, we must also drive and travel in adverse conditions. Unlike driving around the streets of Whitehorse here, we must go many miles with nothing in between. These are not easy things to do, and we, on this side of the House, merely say that we will attend meetings, as we have shown we will. But we also need due notice.
I say, as a member of the standing committee and a member of this Legislative Assembly, that I am totally justified in asking the Liberal government, when calling meetings of this nature, that they give the opposition members due notice, given the fact of where we come from and what the logistics are in attending these meetings.
I would also submit that when we do have one and we as members of that committee agree that this is the course of action we will take and these are the next steps, I would also ask - and I'm justified in asking this - that the Liberal government honour those agreements. Otherwise, why would we attend the meeting and make decisions at that meeting to have a subsequent meeting to deal with the issues as they pertain to the Standing Orders of the Legislature. What is the point? Why are we doing this?
It begs the question now that we, the opposition, have proven that we do attend SCREP meetings, that we did agree - based on the minutes - it's in writing - on what the next steps would be. I must ask the Liberals opposite - the government on the opposite benches - what precipitated their ignoring that agreement and ignoring the fact that in 48 hours we are meeting to deal with that very issue - the night sittings and times that this Legislative Assembly sits? What precipitated their doing that? What happened to the agreement?
This is the crux of the problem. What we have here, constantly, is the members opposite trumpeting that they are a government that does what it says it will do. Yet, when we look at this particular situation, we now see a government that, in contradiction to an agreement made a few short weeks ago - on September 27 - has chosen a different course. How can we, in the opposition, and Yukoners believe that this truly is a government that does what it says it will do, when it can break an agreement of the standing committee and its members.
I accuse the Liberal government of breaking that agreement. I accuse the Liberals opposite of ignoring the fact that the standing committee had met on September 27 and set a subsequent date to deal with issues. I accuse them of ignoring that for their own partisan political gamesmanship. And they do so at their peril, and they do so on the backs of Yukoners.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education just asked me whether I believe my previous statement. I would answer by saying that, when I met with the Liberals on September 27, after driving 285 miles to get here, I believed them when they said, "We all agree that on November 1 at 10:30 a.m. we will meet and deal with these agenda items." I believed them. How can I believe them now? How can I believe anything they say now, when they have completely shattered my trust in them? Shattered it, Mr. Speaker. Ripped it right out of my soul. How can I believe what they say from this point forward when they can't even honour commitments they make in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges? I ask you, Mr. Speaker, how is that?
Mr. Speaker, this unprecedented act must not go unchallenged. We, in the opposition, will challenge it with everything at our disposal. We intend to fight this to its inevitable end. We will not allow - allow - this heavy-handed government to just merely run over the opposition and ignore the real issues of Yukoners. We will now allow, without a fight, this course of action that the Liberal government has set us on.
I believe, Mr. Speaker, that there are ulterior motives here. I've pointed out that the Liberals are scared to death of public scrutiny. There has to be more behind this in breaking the trust of the members of the standing committee - in breaking trust with Yukoners when they committed to the Yukon public that they would be a government that does what it says it will do. There has to be more behind this.
We're going to ferret that out in this debate, Mr. Speaker. We're going to ferret out those reasons, if we have to extract them one at a time and debate this motion every day - every day in this sitting - until we find out what it is the Liberals are attempting to do, in taking this unprecedented act.
Mr. Speaker, there's absolutely no need for them to bring this motion forward today; none whatsoever. None whatsoever.
To subsequent speakers from the Liberal side, I believe, if you want to re-establish that trust with members of the opposition who are members of SCREP; if you want to re-establish that trust with the Yukon public that you are a government that does what it says it will do; you will tell this House -
Speaker: Order please. I'd ask the member to direct his comments through the Chair, please.
Mr. Fentie: I retract "you", Mr. Speaker. The Liberals opposite will tell this House what it is they're attempting to accomplish by this motion, in this debate today.
I beseech the Liberals to come clean with Yukoners. There are far too many examples - this motion included, and the breaking of the agreement at SCREP on September 27 - where this government is lacking in its commitment; where this government has not honoured their commitments.
They said they'd rebuild the Yukon economy. They did not tell Yukoners they'd dismantle it first.
Mr. Speaker, they said there would be no cuts in health care, no cuts to services. Why, then, has there been no home care nursing in Watson Lake for the next two months? Is that not a cut? The Liberals have to get on their feet here today - and whatever subsequent days it is that we debate this motion - and explain that to us in this House, to the opposition benches, and explain it to Yukoners, because today, in this unprecedented act, they have broken that trust. They have broken that trust with the members of SCREP; they have broken that trust with the members of the Legislative Assembly, and they have broken that trust with the Yukon public. That is a disgrace; a disgrace to this institution; a disgrace to the democratic process in this territory, and a disgrace to the rules and the privileges of every member of this House. The Liberals should be ashamed, ashamed for this action.
I ask also that the Liberals rethink not only this motion, but the next one that they have on the Order Paper. Pull these frivolous motions off the business of this Legislative Assembly, re-establish that trust with the opposition and the members of the Standing Committee on Rules, Election and Privileges, stop this nonsense, and we, on November 1 at 10:30 - less than 48 hours from now - will deal with each and every one of these issues and bring them to an agreeable conclusion as the standing committee is intended and charged to do. They could re-establish that trust with Yukoners by doing so.
It does not hurt to back up. No one will hold you at fault. In fact, the Liberals opposite may gain in stature by doing the honourable thing, by stopping this ridiculous debate and getting on with issues, dealing with issues that are truly important to Yukoners.
We just received a supplementary budget, Mr. Speaker. We have a number of items of legislation on the Order Paper. Let's get on with that business.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Then why, if the Minister of Renewable Resources says "exactly", did he allow his colleague, the Minister of Health, to sponsor and bring forward this motion? If it's truly the Minister of Education's and the Minister of Renewable Resources' view that we should be dealing with the supplementary budget and those pieces of legislation here on the floor of this Legislature, then why will he not stand on his feet on a point of order and instruct the Speaker that the Liberals are willing to remove this motion from the floor, put these issues back where they belong with the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, and get on to dealing with the supplementary budget and the legislation before us. Will the member do that?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are going to listen to me. I didn't start this. The Liberal government precipitated it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, we've got three of them kibitzing now. We've got the Minister of Health, we've got the Minister of Education and the Premier saying, "Yes, you did. Yes, you did." Are we in a sandbox here, Mr. Speaker? Are we children in a sandbox arguing about whose toy it is?
We have proven the course of events beyond a shadow of a doubt. We have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, here today, that there was no need for this motion to be brought forward. We, in the opposition, have done so. Mr. Speaker, how can the Liberals lay claim that it is we who precipitated this? We did not precipitate this, and I'll point out another reason why I say that.
A very short time ago, though I don't have a copy in front of me, the Liberals put out a press release - ah, here it is - before this debate was even called. Here we have a little bit of a press release from the Yukon Liberal caucus, from the word wizards busily at work upstairs.
I want to read a passage, Mr. Speaker: "The Liberal government proposes extending legislative hours." Now, that in itself is one thing, but when you look at this, we come to realize and we come to the conclusion that the Liberals had no intention, none whatsoever, of allowing these issues to be dealt with in the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges - no intention at all. They had every intention to waste the time in this Legislature - to chew up time in this Legislature - so that we in the opposition could not spend those hours, those minutes and that time, dealing with their legislative agenda and their supplementary budget. I might add that, on many occasions, the Premier said this fall, "We will lay out our direction."
Mr. Speaker, this press release also lends credence to the opposition's view and position that the Liberals are intent on circumventing the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
The Liberal benches are intent on muzzling the opposition and on compromising the opposition's ability to hold the government accountable. That's what we are elected to do, and the Liberals have taken it upon themselves to ensure that we are limited, and restricted, in that regard.
That's not acceptable, Mr. Speaker. That is why we, in the opposition, will debate this motion, until we extract from the Liberals, until we ferret out from the members opposite what it truly is that they're trying to accomplish.
Mr. Speaker, I find it also insulting, - and they have the right, under our rules, to bring this motion forward, as the Speaker himself pointed out here in his ruling - that they would launch this press release. Why?
As I asked earlier, which political party, what member of the public, wanted to see hours changed, night sittings cancelled? Where did that take place in the election campaign? In fact, where is that in the contract that the Premier claims is a contract with the Yukon public? Where is that?
We want to know. The opposition wants to know where that is in their contract with the Yukon public. This is entirely a Liberal government initiative. They are doing their level best to stay in the shadows, to avoid the scrutiny that is coming; to try to neutralize and compromise and circumvent every possible thing they can.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Under the rules of debate, 19(1)(i) "charges another member with uttering deliberate falsehoods or imputes false or unavowed motives to another member..." He is implying that we have ulterior motives for bringing this motion forward. I would like to clarify that bringing a motion forward on the floor of the Legislature is the ultimate exercise of democratic privilege for the opposition and for government.
Speaker: Opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I say "ulterior motives", Mr. Speaker, because the mover of the motion has not, in anything that the member stated previous to my debate of this motion, showed the opposition why it is that we are doing this. So I can only come to one conclusion. That is not contrary to the rules of this Legislature. I am merely pointing out that there has to be a reason why, and I am asking for it.
Speaker: Order. I find that, really, the members of the House on either side should never question the motives of a member bringing an issue forward. I find that the word "ulterior" imputes unavowed motives to another member, and I would ask the member to refrain from using that language. There may be a different rationale, but "ulterior motives" falls into the "imputes false or unavowed motives", as stated in 19(1)(h) of the rules of debate. With that, I would ask the member to continue.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: I, on this side of the House, then do fully retract that statement, unlike the Liberal bench's inability to retract this motion.
In continuing, Mr. Speaker, how can we on this side of the House have faith that what we're doing here is for the good of this Assembly and for Yukoners, whom we are here to serve? How can we have faith in that, given the fact that we are going about this issue in this manner?
Example after example is coming forward of how this government is not a government that does what it says it will do and how this government has erroneously made statements in this House. I point to the fact that they made the claim numerous times in this House that the accumulated surplus was only $15 million. Well, at the beginning of the fiscal year, numbers right out of this budget tabled here today by the Premier show that the accumulated surplus at the beginning of the year 2000-01 is $64 million. How on earth can we have faith on this side of the House to work in a cooperative manner to change how we do business in this Legislature when we see these examples cropping up? How can we do that? How can the members opposite actually ask us to do that? That is why we have to ferret out what the rationale for this is. What is the government's rationale? Why are they changing it? Now, if they wanted to be agreeable and work in a cooperative manner, they could have had in this motion another little item that said we want to change the Standing Orders accordingly, cancel night sittings, go from 1:00 to 6:00. But because we want to make sure that the public has the appropriate time to scrutinize what we are doing, we will extend Question Period to 40 minutes.
I didn't see that in here. Why isn't it in here?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's saying to me to put forward an amendment, do my job. Well, I want to point out to the Premier that I am doing my job in exposing the fact that the Liberal government is avoiding public scrutiny. I am doing my job, in exposing the fact that the Liberals seem not to be able to even understand simple bookkeeping that's on fiscal year-end. I am doing my job, in exposing the fact, Mr. Speaker, and bringing forward documentation that shows that we in the opposition met with the standing committee to deal with these issues, and proceeded to agree on a subsequent meeting, and how we were going to manage and deal with these items. I am exposing the fact that by bringing forward this motion, the Liberals have broken that agreement and broken that trust. The list goes on and on and on.
Mr. Speaker, I have a real concern here. I have a real concern here, that this Legislative Assembly is heading down the wrong road. The changes that are proposed, in themselves, are not the problem. Those are not the issue. How it's being done - there is a dramatic shift in how we do business in this Legislative Assembly. It's disrespectful to the members of this House. It's disrespectful to the members of the standing committee. That's where my concern lies. This dramatic shift away from how business was done historically, this rewriting of how, historically, we have managed and handled the rules and the proceedings of this Legislature - my concern and the concern of the opposition is how it's being done.
This shift is wrong. I implore the Liberals to recognize that fact. What the Liberal government is doing here is this: breaking trust, breaking agreements and trying to come up with excuses that would explain what they are doing by pointing the finger at an opposition that has done everything it possibly could to deal with the issue before us on the SCREP agenda.
I have a concern with why the Liberal government is choosing this direction. That concern drives me to continue this fight daily, day in and day out, in this Legislature, to expose that side of the House for what they really stand for and what they really are. They, beyond any other issue, came to this Legislature to implement good governance. On behalf of the Yukon public, on behalf of the Yukon taxpayer, on behalf of the staff of this Legislative Assembly, on behalf of the public servants of this territory, the Liberal government came here to implement good governance. This act today is an abject failure in that regard, and we in the opposition will expose that fact.
Mr. Speaker, far be it for me to use up all the time here today on this debate. I would like to hear from the members opposite, if they can convince us on this side of the House that there was a worthy reason - that there is merit to this - and if they can explain themselves as to why they have broken the agreement at SCREP on September 27. If they can do so, we in the opposition may very well take a different tack. As it stands right now, we in the opposition cannot support this motion as it is laid out. We in the opposition cannot allow this to proceed unchallenged.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon: My response will be succinct. My response is to point out that the wasteful blathering of the Member for Watson Lake in this House has now cost the Yukon taxpayer $1,306.80.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak to this motion.
What we have is the Liberals using this motion in the House to take the reality of the focus away from what they're doing. Currently, we have a Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, that is lost. We'll call it a ship at sea, rudderless, no focus, no direction. We have an economy here, Mr. Speaker, that's going from bad to worse. We have gone in technical terms from a recession to a full-blown depression. That is the state of our economy. We have no initiatives coming out of this Liberal government with respect to winter works projects.
Thus, Mr. Speaker, I guess all they can do is refocus their initiative and emphasis on procedures and operations like the Legislature here, and try to put the spotlight on changes. One only has to look at the Liberal caucus media release that came out on October 24. The headlines were that the "Liberals propose extending Legislature's hours."
That's not the truth, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order. I would remind the member not to refer to "truth" and whether something is the truth. It's an insulting comment, and it imputes false or unavowed motives.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
The headline on this Liberal caucus media release says, "Liberals propose extending Legislature's hours". That is incorrect. It is wrong. It is false, because it does not propose extending the Legislature's hours. But yet, that's the headline.
What it says is that this Liberal government wants to eliminate night sitting hours. What it says also, indirectly, is that this Liberal government is more concerned with their own well-being than the business of government. Night sitting hours were originally initiated so that Yukoners could come to the Legislature in the evenings and see their elected officials at work. Most individuals here in the Yukon work during the day. At night, it presents them with really the only opportunity they have to see what is going on here in the Legislature. Yes, we could argue that televising some of the proceedings has allowed an opportunity for people to view what transpires in this House. By and large, that is a wonderful opportunity.
It is a wonderful opportunity, Mr. Speaker, for Yukoners to come and see what is going on. It's also a wonderful opportunity for committees and appearances to be made by various groups and individuals in the evening. But we're going to do away with that.
And how are we going to do away with that, Mr. Speaker? We're going to do away with it by usurping the authority that SCREP is empowered with to look at these areas, look at the Standing Orders, and adjust them accordingly.
I have attended one meeting. It's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that, at the one meeting I did attend, two members from the official opposition and I were in attendance and the Liberals had two members initially and two of their other members were late arriving. Yet, SCREP is being criticized as not being effective and efficient and we can't get it to sit. That's patently false, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I'd like to remind the member that charges of another member uttering falsehoods or anything in that nature is not acceptable in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
At the meeting of September 27, the agenda was agreed to, and the next meeting, it was unanimously agreed by all seven individuals in attendance, would be November 1. The agenda was set. One of the items on the agenda was the changing of the sitting hours.
And what we have, Mr. Speaker, is that on Friday, around noon last Friday, October 27, our office received a letter from the Member for Riverside saying that we're scheduling a SCREP meeting for Monday morning. Well, thank you very much.
It's very, very difficult to adjust an agenda at that late a date. It's very, very difficult, Mr. Speaker, so the rationale that's being explained in this Legislature by the Liberals, that they are not able to schedule a meeting of SCREP and can't get full attendance - if it was done in the normal manner in the course of business, that wouldn't be the case, Mr. Speaker.
I am aware of one meeting that was scheduled. All agreed to attend, and it was subsequently cancelled by the Member for Riverside, who suffered an accident that wasn't related to his duties and responsibilities here in the Legislature. But the meeting was cancelled.
So what we're faced with, in spite of having this scheduled for our November 1 meeting of SCREP, is a waste of the House's time on this very frivolous motion, because the Liberal government is bound and determined to railroad this initiative through.
We look at the areas that this Liberal government should be concentrating on, Mr. Speaker, and they're not. We have a lot of hype surrounding the pipeline, the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. But I'd like to point out, Mr. Speaker, that we currently have quite a Liberal pipeline here in the Yukon. It's full of Liberal gas, and it won't burn.
It is proving to be of no economic value to Yukon. We want to look at the economy. The Minister of Finance, the Premier, went on and on and on telling the House that there is only a $14-million surplus. Then we have the supplementary estimates tabled that clearly indicated that there was an accumulated surplus on March 31, when they took office, of $63,926,000. The lapses rolled into it, but the estimated accumulated surplus, when you remove the prior year accumulated deficit, was still $30 million. That is twice as much money as the Premier - the Minister of Finance - told the House was available.
The economy is in ruins. Yukoners are leaving in droves, and this House, at the insistence of this Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, is debating a motion whose only service will be to the members of this Legislature, in not having to sit in the evenings. I questioned if there would be a saving with Hansard costs. I was told no; there would not be savings. It was a wash; the number of sitting hours would remain the same. The cost of Hansard would not increase, nor would it decrease, as a consequence of this change.
So, this frivolous motion must be debated here today.
And we are told that it is going to benefit the official opposition: one more hour for private members' business on what has come to be know as wasted Wednesday - so much for motions, so much for debate in this Legislature. Now what we have is wasted Monday as well as wasted Wednesday. And if this motion doesn't pass the House today, we'll probably have wasted Tuesday as well, Mr. Speaker. Let's look at the all-party committee on appointments. In opposition, the Liberals went on at great length that this should be a priority, establishing this board. It's part of SCREP - another example of an area that our side agrees with. We agree with the formation of an all-party committee, but there's a proper procedure for implementing this kind of change. There's a proper body that is structured to address these types of initiatives and these suggestions of change. But what we have is the Liberal government cherry-picking the plums for partisan political appointments of their friends, and after all of those areas have been satisfied - and there's still a few more to go, Mr. Speaker, and we're anxiously awaiting those appointments - then this all-party committee is going to be structured, formed and allowed to deal with appointments - so much for SCREP, so much for even forming a group to look at these areas.
I am very, very disappointed to see this very heavy-handed way that this government has taken to deal with these issues.
SCREP is rightly formed to address these issues, and it's interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the SCREP consists of four Liberals, two from the official opposition, and myself. The Liberals currently hold the majority on SCREP. They have the majority. Perhaps they just don't understand the democratic process and how a majority works, and they have to resort to tabling a motion to deal with an initiative that rightly belongs elsewhere.
Mr. Speaker, I can only conclude that the Liberals are awash, in not knowing where they're heading or what they're doing.
But I must compliment the Liberals on one initiative. I did pick up their budget for 1999-2000 and I looked at the section on economic development and I was amazed, Mr. Speaker. I opened it up and it encompassed the full range of the Liberal initiatives. It said, "This page left blank intentionally."
Mr. Speaker, that sums up very, very succinctly where this Liberal government is taking Yukon and Yukoners.
The economy, in the last federal election, was the main area that people were concerned with. Currently in the federal election, it's health care. And these are all relevant -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I refer the Speaker to the rules of debate, 19(1)(b) - when a member speaks to matters other than the question under discussion.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. What I was speaking on was entirely related to the issue before us, and they all tie in together. It's just a rude interruption by the government House leader.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, in order to expedite this business that the Liberal government has brought forward, it may be advisable that these frivolous points of order cease and desist, and allow the members on this side their due right to debate this motion.
Speaker: It's my feeling that this is a dispute between members, and I would ask the leader of the third party to continue.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the Speaker for his ruling.
Mr. Speaker, if we look at the areas that are concerning Canadians and concerning Yukoners, they sometimes dovetail, they sometimes do not. In the last federal election, the initiative and the emphasis was on the economy in Canada, as it was in the Yukon. But back in those days, our economy was quite robust.
Here, in the Yukon currently, the issue is health care. And yet, Mr. Speaker, this government chooses to not even acknowledge the economy. We spend all our time here, this first sitting day, debating a motion that should be dealt with in SCREP, while our economy tumbles further into the basement.
Mr. Speaker, we have a very serious problem, and the government of the day can't see the forest for the trees. I guess they're out counting the leaves on the trees; and they've all fallen to the ground. So there's one very significant task before them, Mr. Speaker.
This Legislature plays a very, very important role in Yukon. This Liberal government is more concerned with the operation and the hours of sitting in this Legislature and wants to spend a considerable amount of time and effort discussing those areas when the emphasis should be elsewhere. The emphasis has to be where it rightly belongs, and that is in creating jobs, creating opportunity. This Liberal government given Yukoners a set of binoculars. But, like the government of the day, we are told to look through the wrong end of the binoculars. We are not getting closer to anything; everything is appearing to be farther away. That, in itself, is extremely disappointing.
We have this rudderless Liberal ship cruising the oceans, not addressing its responsibility. Its responsibility is to ensure that the services provided to Yukoners are done in the most cost-effective and expedient manner. The simplest definition of government is to provide the highest consistent level of service at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer. The opposite is the truth here, and it is coming more and more into focus. Especially when you look at the supplementary budget, Mr. Speaker, as to where we are spending more money. This Liberal government's supplementary is spending more money on itself than ever before.
Speaker: Order. I must advise the member that he has two minutes.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what I can say is that there is an abuse of the powers of SCREP being undertaken by this Liberal regime. And there are a number of areas that fall under SCREP that should be looked at, which probably will not be. There's the issue of the Cabinet commissioners. Should that be contained in the Standing Orders? The number of sitting days - all of these initiatives. At our first SCREP meeting, we were told that, well, everything is off the table, that we're not honouring that. The parties to the agreement are no longer at this Legislature, so it doesn't hold true. What a tradition that is being broken, and why? This initiative is not going to do anything to put Yukoners back to work. And it's going to show the very heavy-handed way that this Liberal regime is dealing with the business of this Legislature. We're not saying that we do not concur with this initiative; we're just saying that it is being done in a very inappropriate and unnecessary manner. These decisions and these changes rightly deserve to be debated in SCREP, should remain there, and must remain there. The power and authority vested in this government is being abused in addressing the changing of hours of this Legislature in the manner that this government is doing so, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to speak against this motion.
I heard this motion being called a priority. I sit here and I listen to the different speakers as to why this motion is a priority. I heard mention of families.
When I was elected in April this year, I put my name forward to be elected in my community to represent them in this House, and I am here today to represent my riding. When I put my name forward for the election in April, I made a commitment to myself and to my people to do whatever I needed to do in this office to represent Vuntut Gwitchin, to speak on their behalf and to represent them in Whitehorse in whichever way I need.
When I sit here and listen to what is being said about the priorities of this government and the waste of time that we have to spend on something like this, I feel very disappointed.
My time in Whitehorse is very valuable, not only for myself, but also for my family.
My time in Whitehorse is based on what I can do in a positive way while I'm here. I spend my time in Whitehorse during the legislative sitting, and whatever free time I have, I make sure I go back to my riding.
We talk about these hours. The Fridays that we have off sometimes give me the opportunity to fly back to Old Crow, spend time with my family, address some of the issues and concerns of my community, and meet with the chief and council if I need to. Those are my priorities.
The time that it takes for me to go home to Old Crow and to come back to Whitehorse, without missing any time here, is three days. I can leave on a Friday and come back to Whitehorse on a Sunday, and to me those days are very important. I need that connection with my family, my friends, and my constituents, because for me, that's part of my value system.
And not only that, we have a lot of other issues and concerns in front of us. I just spent three days in my community, and had a chance to talk with many of my people.
There are health concerns and issues. I hear them mention elders housing and elders care. I have many questions around that from my community. We make mention of alcohol and drug-use prevention, and ways to work with the people to address these concerns with no mention of social programs. I have questions and concerns around that. There are things that I need to address around our education system and I have issues with Justice. There is talk around oil and gas and the pipeline industry coming to the Yukon. There is the public information session tonight concerning my area in north Yukon. Yet, I have sat here for the last three hours, and we have talked about priorities being changing the hours. I like to be effective in my job; I do not like to waste my time. I need to have these hours consistent and yet have time to spend with my family and my friends.
And when we talk about the timing of what we do, we have copies of the supplementary budget. There is so much to address in that area. Each of us comes from different communities, and each of us have concerns and issues we need to address, and not only in that area, but with different departments in our role as critics. And we do need this time to address those issues.
One of the areas that will always come up until a decision is made in another country, in another area, is the protection of the Porcupine caribou. And the election in the United States is coming up very soon, and that in itself is making our people very nervous, because the decisions that are going to be made about the 10-02 lands are very crucial. The decisions that are going to be made in this House concerning north Yukon are very crucial, and being part of that decision-making process is very crucial to my people, that they have a voice at these tables.
Addressing these concerns in this House is very important. When we sit here and talk for three hours about time, how am I going to explain that to my grandmother when I talk to her and she asks, "Grandchild, what business did you take care of today?" I'll say I listened all day to people talking about how important time is, and she'll say, "Time is very important." She has always told me that.
When we take on a job and a responsibility, we take it very seriously. I have been taught to be on time, to do whatever kind of job that I was hired for, to do it in a good way and to give it my best. I am here, trying to work in this government process and to learn in a good way how this system works, and I'm beginning to wonder.
Ms. Netro: I again would like to say that we address these issues where they need to be addressed, and with that, Mr. Speaker, I recommend
THAT Motion No. 1 be amended by deleting the expression "effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted" and substituting the following: "at a time that is mutually acceptable to all parties in the House once concurrence has been sought from and given by the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges".
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin
THAT Motion No. 1 be amended by deleting the expression "effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted" and substituting the following: "at a time that is mutually acceptable to all parties in this House once concurrence has been sought from and given by the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges".
Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 1 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well, I am rather appalled that the Liberals would use their majority to defeat democracy on this motion and barge ahead with their motion that would be better dealt with in a committee of this Legislature, rather than on the floor of this Legislature, at the expense of the taxpayer. This is both a diversion of our mutual energies and a waste of money.
It has been pointed out by several speakers that, not only have the Liberals endorsed wasted Wednesdays and they want to lengthen wasted Wednesdays, they have also created a wasted Monday and perhaps a wasted Tuesday if they persist in bringing this motion forward again tonight and again tomorrow. This is also based on their lack of cooperation dealing with us on this side of the House by example of their vote against this amendment, which was a very cooperative amendment to the motion.
We extended an olive branch to them to reassign this matter to the appropriate committee. They rejected that olive branch, and instead used their club of a majority government to defeat this and persist in prolonging this debate here today.
Well, what a shame. What a shame, Mr. Speaker, the voters of the Yukon, the electorate back on April 17, didn't know how this government was going to act when they got in power. They promised they would do things better. Well, Mr. Speaker, this isn't better. I don't think it's better; my colleagues don't think it's better. The representative from the Yukon Party doesn't think it's better. Who does think it's better?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: The government House leader - the new Member for Mount Lorne over there - says, "us." Well, the Liberals believe this is their version of a better way; to have a wasted Monday. This won't produce any results.
I don't know if we can attribute this to their naïveté and youngness in government. Maybe it's their directionless, their rudderless ship. They don't know what they're doing. That's the bottom line. And if they did know what they were doing, they would have waited two days until the SCREP meeting. They could have beat us up there, but at least there would have been a process. I'm learning a lot of unfortunate things about how this government operates.
Perhaps it would be better phrased, "doesn't operate", because the wheels of this Legislature have come to a grinding halt. There is basically no production. We're having to expend our energies on fighting this motion, which usurps democracy, usurps process, and shows just how arrogant a government can be.
Would it be truthful to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker, to campaign in an election and say, "We're going to do things better" when, in fact, what the government-in-waiting really intended to do was to beat up the opposition at every turn?
Mr. Speaker, this isn't the only example. In the last few days, there are other examples. I think it's relevant to this motion to inform listeners and inform people of the Yukon about the other examples.
One of them is a motion by the Member for Riverside today, saying the Member for Kluane - myself - doesn't support the pipeline. What a bunch of rubbish. What a waste of time in this Legislature. Then follow it up on their caucus press release from last Thursday, which essentially said the same thing.
Mr. Speaker, that's complete rubbish. Not only do I support the pipeline, but all members in the NDP here in this Legislature support it and so does the member for the third party. There was absolutely no basis for the government to create a case otherwise, but it shows their heavy-handedness, as does defeating this motion today by trying to ram this down our throats without due process.
It just shows how arrogant this bunch in government can be.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I'd like to raise a point of order on 19(1)(j), the use of abusive or insulting language, in this case violent - "clubbing", the use of "arrogance"; "ramming things through".
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, there's no point of order. If the government House leader would care to read the rules, there is no way those rules can be applied in the context of what I have said. It merely reveals how thin-skinned they are over there to hear the truth.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, it appears that the Liberal House leader just wants to prolong the debate here in the House and is rising at every opportunity to chastise the official opposition for their positions taken. It's just a normal course of debate; it's probably just a disagreement between members.
Speaker: Order. I find that the comments by the member tend to be insulting and are likely to create disorder in this House, as in his rebuttal he mentioned "thin-skinned". Those comments only serve to inflame everyone in this House, and I'd ask the member to make attempts to use professional language, and with that, I'd ask the member to please proceed.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's becoming more difficult to determine just what is acceptable language in this Legislature, and perhaps that's another item for SCREP, if the Liberals don't beat us to the punch - am I allowed to say that, Mr. Speaker? - and try to force a motion down our throats, as they are with this one here.
Mr. Speaker, this is indeed regrettable that the Liberal government has chosen to throw out any chance of cooperation with members on this side and to apply this matter to the proper committee - SCREP, the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges - and waste time and money to debate it today, probably tonight and probably tomorrow. Then what kind of a meeting are we going to have on November 1? What kind of a meeting will there be after two full days of useless debate? What kind of promise does that hold for that meeting? Should there be any cooperation on this side of the House after no such cooperation on the government side? I suppose we will try, Mr. Speaker, but we know what will happen. The same thing is happening here today.
Now, this Liberal approach to democracy reminds me of their approach to public consultation. I am referring, Mr. Speaker, to the example cited by the Member for Watson Lake, as I can reiterate. There was one-half hour's notice of this proposed SCREP meeting this morning - one-half hour. Not only is that highly unfair - and I will get to why it's unfair in just a moment - but it is very heavy-handed of a government to expect us to attend and then to criticize us for not attending this impromptu, sudden meeting.
Well, Mr. Speaker, it says a lot about the character of this government, and the more I see, the more I don't like it. The more Yukoners I talk to, I discover more people out there who don't like it, and I can only hope, for their own good, that they change in the very near future and do what they said they would do. Where's the check on delivery on this? Where's the bringing of more respect to the Legislature? Where's modelling professional behaviour in the Legislature? Where's working cooperatively with all parties in the Legislature? Where are all these avowed promises now? Well, they're in the trash can. They're in the trash can, and people will be disappointed. They'll be let down by discovering the truth about this Liberal government. It's a letdown.
Now, we heard from the Member for Watson Lake and the Member for Klondike about the half-hour's notice. Mr. Speaker, if we had nothing to do in the mornings, perhaps we would have attended the meeting, but I want to take a minute to ensure that you are aware of some of the responsibilities that rest upon us, some of the things we're required to do in the morning.
On this particular morning, we had a caucus meeting lasting about 45 minutes, starting at 9 a.m. Well, Mr. Speaker, this proposed SCREP meeting by the Liberals started at 9:30 a.m. Right off the bat, it was impossible for us. Then, 15 minutes later, at 10 o'clock, I had a briefing with the Department of Tourism on the Arts Act, and that went on for about 45 minutes. Then I worked to prepare some motions, and that required research, and then prepared for today's Question Period.
Well, Mr. Speaker, then we met again at about 1:00 to review how things stood. There was no time for a SCREP meeting, and to discuss what? There was absolutely no time. If they were sincere about really having a meeting, they would have given us proper notice; they would have given us sufficient information to review prior to the meeting in order to encourage productiveness at any such meeting. Nothing in that regard was done. It was simply 30 minutes' notice on a very busy Monday of a very hectic week. There shall be a meeting at 9:30. Well, sorry, Mr. Speaker. We have our priorities. We are not about to get thrown off our agenda by this government. We have our responsibility to our constituents and to others to perform, and at any time when suggested meetings come up, we have to quickly appraise whether they are worthwhile, whether there is time, whether we have the resources to deal with them. Obviously, it was not an option today. Instead, we hear the Liberal members in this Legislature criticize us for not attending. We could have dealt with it at 9:30, they say.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: What a bunch of bunk, Mr. Speaker. It could not have been dealt with. That is the basis for their argument here today. What a meritless case. No rationale whatsoever. It is embarrassing - very embarrassing. This matter does not belong on the floor of this Legislature. The Hansard costs alone are approximately $1,000 an hour. This could have been dealt with in a SCREP meeting at virtually no cost.
We could have been on to other matters. Today there are a number of pieces of legislation - well, pretty light, but at least we could have started in. There's the supplementary budget that we want to get to and deal with. There is the matter of the $64-million surplus that the Liberals have denied since they were elected. The Auditor General has proven that it exists. We even underestimated it at $56.2 million. It's now $64 million. All this we are eager to get to, so why did the Liberals delay, delay, delay. It seems that it's the Liberal way - delay, review, why not do tomorrow what you can do today. Delay, review, delay - that's the Liberal way.
Well, I think that Yukoners are smart enough to see through this Liberal smokescreen. They're smart enough to realize they are being punished for political purposes. What this government obviously wants to do is starve Yukoners for three years, put on the Santa Claus outfit, and then hand out the goodies. It's the approach used by the Prime Minister, and since this government takes its orders from the Prime Minister's Office, it's approach they're going to use too. Well, Mr. Speaker, we can see through it, and so can Yukoners. We will expose it, and in the remaining days in this Legislature, we will hold them accountable for not doing things better, but in fact doing things a heck of a lot worse. They ought to be ashamed.
Members of the Liberal Party, if they're aware of what I and other members have revealed here today, would be running in demanding a refund on their memberships. They'd be demanding a refund, because they ought to be ashamed to be a member of a party that behaves in such a disrespectful manner to Yukoners.
Now, I mentioned that this approach of heavy-handedness is very similar to their approach to public consultation, and I want to talk about this. I know my time is running out, but I want to get this in, because I recall the Member for Porter Creek North - our infamous Health minister, the one-minute-we-have-a-dialysis-machine-the-next-minute-we-don't minister, the yes-the-CT-scan-is-in-the-budget-but-just-a-minute-we-created-a-board-to-review-that Health minister, and so on and so forth.
I recall in the spring he pounded us - I hope that's parliamentary - on how we didn't do public consultation right, and how the Liberals know how to do it right, and how they will do it right, and they really do good public consultation.
Well, Mr. Speaker -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb:Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of glaring examples to disprove that so-called logic. One of them was the consultation on oil and gas leases with the Vuntut Gwitchin. I recall this example very well, because I asked several questions on it in this Legislature.
After a little session on accountability, Mr. Speaker, it was revealed that the only consultation this Liberal government had with the First Nation was that they mailed them a letter. They didn't even hear back before they proceeded calling for the nominations. "By the end of July," they said, "it'll be done. It's a done deal." Well, Mr. Speaker, they soon found out that that form of consultation doesn't work. They soon found out that Yukoners don't have an appetite to be force-fed that raw type of consultation.
There was another example very recently - the meeting in Mayo over the Mayo school cancellation. Then they held a meeting so quickly the First Nation chief and many council members didn't have a chance to attend. They were pre-booked in Whitehorse. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's really considerate and fair public consultation, isn't it?
And now, here today, we see how fair and considerate this government really is when it comes to consultation with the members opposite. All they had to do was wait two days for this meeting. We all could have discussed the issues related to this matter but, no, they had to introduce a motion and waste the time in this Legislature. Well, that's despicable. I'm ashamed just to be part of it. It's a waste of time and money.
I know, looking across, Mr. Speaker, into the eyes of these Liberals, not all of them disagree with me. I know, deep down -
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, indeed it does give me pleasure to be able to stand and speak to this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I have to say, though, that I suffered some pretty anxious moments in this Legislature since it reconvened this fall, and certainly this is one of them.
I have always attempted to listen to people. Sometimes it's very difficult, not simply for the fact that I'm handicapped in both my ears and have difficulty hearing, but simply for the fact, Mr. Speaker, that I have the personality, as I was raised, that if it's not worth listening to then you shouldn't be listening to it. It's just an absolute waste of time. And, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre says, I'm right.
But Mr. Speaker, I'm talking about politicians. I'm talking about people who will say anything and do anything to get elected.
What I was hoping was that what this caucus across requires - including the backbenchers who do say they have input, but obviously they do not -is leadership. There is such a significant difference between leadership and politicians. Mr. Speaker, if you look at this side of the House, you will see where there are two leaders. This House has leadership represented in it, and thank God that the communities are represented with leadership.
When the Member for Porter Creek North - is that where Mr. Roberts is from? North, South, does not much matter; they are all the same. When he stood on his feet and said it was just frivolous housekeeping, well, my jaw dropped all the way down to my belly. In some cases, that is not very far, but in this case it is a long way. I was astounded, and I was shocked that the member would actually say that.
I delved into my thinking, to think about what it takes to be a leader. What is a leader all about? Because, in my political career, which has reeked of leadership, it has been so much different than this. When I had something to say, I went out and I said it. If people would not listen to me, I made sure that they listened to me. But before I made sure they listened to me, I made sure I was speaking to the right person. I did not occupy a seat the second bench from the top, leaning against the right, of course - after school days, sitting there, going like this. That is not leadership - absolutely not leadership.
It's game-playing. It's just playing a game of politics. But to actually think that the voice of the people, and the time frames of the people, that the people have - because not all people are leaders, not all people are politicians. Some people are generally happy where they were and where they are, and that's where they should be.
But is it not incumbent upon leadership - or politicians in this case - to make the distinction and time for people to come and listen? Because if a person gets off at 4:30 in Teslin - and these are true facts, Mr. Speaker - and they want to come in here and see what their MLAs are doing, or even in some cases to scare the bejeepers out of government, when can they do it? They drive all the way in. They'll have a quick sandwich, a cup of coffee, hug the little woman - in some cases, she comes with them - and come to town. And they would be sitting in there at 7:00 to observe and to look. Well, Mr. Speaker, they're stripping - they're stripping - the people of that right. And I say that's not right. But I do say, Mr. Speaker, that that must be the Liberal way. The heavy-handed Liberal way, Mr. Speaker, and I think if you go back to the Liberal way and doing it "my way" - well, the only reason why that statement comes out is because "the end is near", Mr. Speaker. And I would agree, that even six months into this mandate, if the Minister of Health and the other Cabinet ministers - and I will not include all Cabinet ministers in that category, but most of them - will continue to do those things, Mr. Speaker, the end is closer than they think, much closer than they think, Mr. Speaker.
Because as I see this, it is an attack on democracy. It's an outright attack on democracy, and what for? Well, it's simply just frivolous housekeeping. So maybe on Monday nights, I don't get to watch Monday night football, so, my God, I'm hooked on Monday night football because I've always had the opportunity to see it, but now I have to serve the people, but, gee, I'm just a politician who is frivolous anyway. So, I'll put a motion into the House and say that this is what we're going to do.
And, Mr. Speaker, they circumvented natural and due process. If the folks across the way - I apologize for calling them folks, Mr. Speaker. If the Liberal politicians across the way would take the time to get their heads out of wherever they are and to come down and listen to the real people, to the grassroots people who are mostly represented by the crew on this side - and yes, I include even the Member for Klondike in that statement.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Get used to it, because I'll be here. Mr. Speaker, I don't say "I'll be here" frivolously. I say I'll be here because I choose to be here, and I'll be here by taking the time to listen.
Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what this is all about. We shouldn't be high-handed. We shouldn't be uppity about it. We shouldn't be part-time government. No, what we're here for is to act on the wishes and the will of the people and, by gosh, that takes leadership, of which I see none across the way.
If the Premier allows one of her Cabinet ministers to introduce a frivolous motion, just simple housekeeping, Mr. Speaker, my heart's a little sorer than I ever thought it would be, and I was absolutely trying to give the members across the way a bit of a honeymoon. Unfortunately, it only lasted five minutes because they wanted to pull the ring right off that finger.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 5:30 p.m., the Speaker will now leave the Chair until 7:30 p.m. tonight.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will resume debate on Motion No. 1. I will call upon the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes to continue.
Mr. Keenan: And you're timing me, too, Mr. Speaker. I so much appreciate you taking this up.
I think that, earlier, I was talking about the difference between politics and leadership. It has been known in some cases that one can campaign from the left and rule from the right. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think what we have here today is a very classic example of campaigning from the left and ruling from the right.
I think that with $60 million or so in the bank, maybe we can implement a little bit of those leftist ideas that the New Democratic Party left for the Liberal Party. Even though there was, again, a commitment to the budget - or stated commitment to the budget - there certainly was not an implementation of the budget as it was laid out.
So, Mr. Speaker, I really feel that the government of the day - a short day - should be looking for more ways to reach out to the people, to hold their hands out to the people. Certainly, this side of the House, as so elegantly stated by the Member for Kluane, would hold out an olive branch, and when you hold out an olive branch, you make yourself vulnerable for attack. Yet, we have held out that olive branch. And what have we got? Black and blue wrists - nothing but black and blue wrists from being slapped at.
But, Mr. Speaker, politics and leadership is much more than just a simple game for retired folks. It takes real people. No, I wasn't taking a shot at anyone in the back benches over there - not at all would I take a shot at anyone over there. But I do want to talk about what politics is. Politics and leadership - it's something that has been with me from day one. And I went out and fought for the people. And I say the people, Mr. Speaker, because the people whom I fought for are all the people in my riding.
Mr. Speaker, I did not have to be a paid political representative, as an MLA, chief, councillor, mayor or anything, to be able to represent them, because that's what we want.
Mr. Speaker, if we put everybody, including my colleague from the Klondike, into a room and said, "Come out with a solution", we would come out within a week's time with a solution if there's a time frame. Because you could cast aside the spurs that you ride each other with at that point in time, Mr. Speaker, and you could start to focus for leadership of the Yukon communities.
I see the Minister of Renewable Resources shaking his head over there saying, "The kid is just into another pipe dream", or something like this. But, Mr. Speaker, get used to it, because I'm here for the people and I'm here to say that I have to represent the people. And if evening sittings are part of that, Mr. Speaker, then so be it, because the monumental decisions that come from this floor will not just be in a three-year mandate, or three-and-a-half, or four-year mandate, or five-year mandate if the Yukon Act is changed. Well, it's a 10-year plan, but for gosh sakes, he might be into another career looking for another pension by that point in time. So I really don't know what the Member for Riverdale North is really talking about some of the time.
Mr. Speaker, the implications will be here for generations. Generations. And some of the implications that generation will gap - if I can say it in that way - will be definitely detrimental to the people of the Yukon Territory.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we don't see it so we can see our colourful faces on TV. What we sit here for, Mr. Speaker, in the evening session, is so we can talk to the gallery, and look at that gallery, Mr. Speaker. Look at it. People are frightened to come in here now, Mr. Speaker, because they don't know whether it's open or closed. It's an outrage, Mr. Speaker, an absolute outrage.
Mr. Speaker, if the Liberal Party continues to shut out the people of the Yukon Territory, all I can see happening is their heads getting bigger, and Mr. Speaker, I might have to call on the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, in his role as Government Services minister, to make the doors just a little bit wider, Mr. Speaker, because that's the only way the heads will be able to get out of this building, Mr. Speaker.
Because, Mr. Speaker, I accuse the Liberal Party of running on pure personality. Mr. Speaker, I do not see any leadership over on that side of the House, because if there were leadership on that side of the House they would be taking - and actually implementing - a thoughtful approach, a kinder, more considerate approach. That is what they would be doing.
But, Mr. Speaker, earlier in Question Period today, I believe it was, the Member for Riverdale North stood up and said, "I don't have to speak with emotion." Well, if politics and leadership is not emotion, what is it? What is it? I ask you to answer that question for me.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Nine-to-five job with a part-time government, because they bring their past work habits forward. Now, some of those work habits are not good work habits, because I am not here for the paycheque. I am not here for anything but to represent the people and to listen to the people and to actually extend an olive branch across and ask if we may - and it will never happen again, sir. It will never happen again, sir, because, Mr. Speaker, you can take an olive branch that is eight feet long, put it on that side, and all you get back is kindling. Well, that is not the way we work. Let me tell you, I come from a consensus-style of leadership. Is it socialist, capitalistic, any of those things or all of those things? I would say it was a bit of all of those things, because the way I was taught is that you have to listen to people. You have to listen to the folks who have something to say. Sometimes it takes a shot of courage for some people to speak to you.
Mr. Speaker, would you actually smell the breath of the person who is listening to you or talking to you, or would you try to look into the person and see what that person is trying to say? I suggest that the government would not do that, whereas I would stand and listen to what people had to say, because, certainly, out of the mouths of drunks and little children - all people - come words of wisdom. It takes leadership to be able to implement that. You just don't do that, you just don't get off at 6:00 in the evening, go home and watch Monday night football. This is not about watching Monday night football.
Mr. Speaker, when he said it would aid the political staff and the caucus - my God, some of us are from over 200 or 300 miles away - some from 100, another from 500. We don't have the luxury of going home and holding our arms open to our families. I go home and my head goes, too. My head continues to move and think. And, yes, I do think for the other side, because my heart is on the other side, also. My heart is in governance - not for the Liberal Party, not for the Democratic Party, but for the people of the Yukon. They are the people I represent - all of those people.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have a couple of examples of casework that I'm doing. And you know what? I'm doing that casework not in my riding, but in Liberal ridings, because they phoned up their Liberal MLAs and said, "We can't get anywhere with those folks, Dave. Some of them have even driven by three or four times." But Dave Kid walks in and says, "Yes, sir, what can I do for you?"
"Well, to the best of my understanding, sir, this is going this way."
"Yes, ma'am, I know you can get that way. But no, ma'am, don't look at it that way. Try to look at the betterment for all and the constraints that people have." Mr. Speaker, I'm doing that casework in your riding and in other ridings, and that's what I'm here for.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to slip off and watch HBO or Monday night football. No, no, no. I'm here for the people, no matter how much people move and shake their heads, going "No, no, no, Dave." We'll put the moon and the stars aside and say I'm just a silly fellow. No, Mr. Speaker, because I, too, have a thick skin. I have skin to the bone, because that's what it requires. And when somebody says something to you, don't go, "Ouch, that hurts. Don't do it again." Say, "I'm sorry. What did you do that to me for?" "Oh, you have something to say."
Mr. Speaker, I accuse the government of running. I sat in that seat over there. The gentleman to my left - and I loved sitting to my left with this gentleman. Fill the House, Mr. Speaker. We had that right filled with people. I did not back down. I spoke about the goodness of land development, and what we were doing as a government for the people of the Yukon Territory. And you know what? I didn't do it for a thank you, because I sure didn't get the thank you from that side of the House. I just got told how ludicrous I was. But you know what? They claim it as a victory. The government claims it as a victory now. And it was just this poor, little, humble socialist who allowed that government, that side of the House, to be able to move forward with it.
So, Mr. Speaker, it's more than about political staff and caucus having the evening off. It's about caring, about wanting to care, and putting your heart right on your sleeve, and listening to people.
And Mr. Speaker, when you start to alter the hours, unilaterally, with a great big club, and just knock it right out of the old park - well, Mr. Speaker, that's politics. That's surely not leadership; it's absolute politics.
Mr. Speaker, I guess I just don't have time for politics any more. I just can't stand here and say things that they -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude his remarks.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to make an amendment to Motion No. 1, if I may.
THAT Motion No. 1 be amended by deleting the words, "THAT the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended, effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted, by", and substituting for them the words "THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges be convened within the next seven days for the express purpose of considering a recommendation to this House with respect to amending the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, by".
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes
THAT Motion No. 1 be amended by deleting the words, "THAT the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended, effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted, by" and substituting for them the words "THAT the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges be convened within the next seven days for the express purpose of considering a recommendation to this House with respect to amending the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, by"
Mr. Keenan: Well, I certainly hope that the members opposite can see that there is certainly an olive branch being extended to them by this motion. This motion is asking for seven days, so that the members on the opposite side might understand - or at least attempt to understand - the implications of what they are doing.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I retract you from the government and say that I hope that the government might understand what they are doing. They do not realize that, through this uppity, high-handed, my-way-Liberal attack on democracy is not going to get them anywhere. All it's going to do is get them deeper into the water that they're in. I don't believe that they want to be in that water or even know they're in the water.
This seven days will buy them time to think about the implications of where they're going and where they want to go. Right now, where they want to go just ain't where they're going.
Thank you very much.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, may we have a ruling on whether this motion is substantially different from the amendment that was previously tabled and voted down? They look substantially the same to me.
Speaker: The official opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the motion is not in any way, shape or form similar to the original amendment. The original amendment was, after the fact, allowing the standing committee to make this decision by amending the motion accordingly. This amendment is an amendment that is instructing this Legislature to pass on, within seven days, the issues to SCREP, for the committee to bring back recommendation to the House with respect to the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly by making the changes in the main body of the motion. It is substantially different. In checking it out with the Clerk, which we did beforehand, we were given assurances that it does conform to an amendment to a motion in this Legislature, so we brought it forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, this amendment that is currently being proposed by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is substantially different from the motion proposed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. Go back to the amendment to Motion No. 1 that was proposed by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. It said that Motion No. 1 be amended by deleting the expression "effective the next sitting day after this motion is adopted" and substituting the following: "at a time that is mutually acceptable to all parties in this House once concurrence has been sought from and given by the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges."
And this amendment that is currently before us from the MLA for Ross River-Southern Lakes is quite different in context and body. It basically instructs that the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges be convened within the next seven days for the express purpose of considering a recommendation to the House with respect to amending the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. So while we'll agree with your ruling, Mr. Speaker, the body and contents of both motions are considerably different, and I will respectfully submit that this motion is valid, in form and should be allowed to be proceeded with.
Speaker: The Chair has found, after my review of the two amendments that, although there are some similarities, I really believe that there is enough difference for them to be substantially different, and I will allow it to continue.
Mr. Fairclough: It appears the government is anxious to get out tonight as they don't like to have evening sittings. That's why we're here talking about it. It's a pleasure to be able to speak to the amendment that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has put forward. We have, I propose, what I thought were proper manners in bringing forward the amendments. They are friendly and have no confrontation in these amendments. Yet the government's side doesn't seem to take this seriously at all, and they know that they are going to get their way. They are voting and will vote against any amendment that is brought forward by this side of the House.
It doesn't seem to affect them at all. I suppose this, to the Liberal government, is restoring confidence in government - a new way of doing things, a heavy-handed approach. I wonder where they took their lessons, by the way they're acting today. I think they got a lot from the Liberal government in Ottawa - the way they do things with the rest of Canada. It doesn't matter what Canadians say and Yukoners say, the Liberal government would make a law that affects us, as small communities, tremendously, for the rest of our lives and changes our way of living.
And that's the same approach that this Liberal government is taking in this regard. Here we offer an amendment to the motion that's friendly; it gives governments and opposition the time to deal with this whole issue, to work it out, and that's why we have avenues that are laid out in the Standing Orders to do these types of things. That's why they're there.
The Liberal government is not about to follow those rules. They don't like those rules. They change them. They want to be open and accountable to the general public out there, but they're not showing it here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: They want to be efficient. The Minister of Education says they want to be efficient, want to save monies. And here, this is their efficiency. Here is a school that's budgeted as a $7.2 million project, and their efficiency is to shut down the jobs this winter, put people out of work, save it for another time when maybe they can look for dollars.
First of all, it was a money thing; then it wasn't a money thing. It was the contracts, and now it's back to the money thing. And the Premier is contradicting what the Minister of Education is saying, by saying that it is not a money thing.
Where is it? What do we tell the general public to believe that the Liberals are saying? Is there any truth to what they are saying about the throne speech, what they promised to Yukoners over the next four years? I think the general public is going to be questioning that tremendously over the next little while.
Well, they have pleaded poverty over the last six months. There's no money left. The Premier stood up in this House, Mr. Speaker, with her Finance advisor and said that there was money, that there was a surplus in last year's budget - $56.2 million is what she said. Yet she allowed her caucus and the rest of Cabinet to say something different. Now, what would you call it? Is it misleading the public? Well, that is a good one. That is what I would call it, too.
Today, they tabled a budget that says something different. A $64-million surplus - it was higher than we thought. It was higher than we thought, Mr. Speaker, but they chose to take a different avenue and not have the proper information given to the general public. Is that restoring confidence in government? I think not.
Once again, Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government is acting without thinking things through properly and thoroughly, as they did with the Mayo school. They cancelled it, without even thinking of people's jobs. Right here, they are bringing forward a motion, which they say is a priority.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I believe the member misspoke himself, and I'd like to set the record straight. The project in Mayo has been deferred; it has not been cancelled.
Speaker: Official opposition leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the member has just told me that they were acting in a more efficient manner, and it doesn't help when the government side pops up on frivolous points of order, wasting the time of the House. There is no point of order.
Speaker: This is not a point of order. This is simply a dispute between members. I ask the opposition leader to continue.
Mr. Fairclough: So rudely interrupted by the government side again.
Well, Mr. Speaker, they talk about efficiency and wanting to do things differently in this House and to restore confidence in government, but everything they brought forward from the day they got elected - it started raining, first of all - we haven't seen that. The general public hasn't seen that, and the departments haven't seen that, and now, people are questioning what the Liberals are all about.
They spent four years in opposition, and they were sitting on the fence. For four years, they said that they would bring their position out, and it didn't come out. They would bring it out during the last campaign. All through the campaign - no position. That's where they had already started, that they weren't really going to be bringing forward true information to the general public, and it started right there.
Then it was, "Wait until the throne speech." Well, we had one, and then we went on to another throne speech. And it laid out four years of direction that the government will be going in.
People are picking it apart right now. They have priorities here.
Here is another one: without thinking, knowing full well the federal government is going into an election, they say that we will have devolution. That is another thing. Where does that stand, as far as being open and accountable to Yukoners? Now we have an election coming up which could delay devolution, which is really important to Yukoners - to First Nation people, who have been fighting at the table and the public service transfer agreements, PSTAs. I have not heard the government say a thing about that. They probably do not know very much about it. They have to go and read their briefing books again. But that was not important. Devolution was, until they saw it disappear for another year.
But there was no focus on going out there and lobbying Ottawa, which will reconvene after the election, and make sure this is bumped up as a top priority to move things ahead. So really, was devolution a top priority for the Liberal government? Well, if the Liberals are not going out there and pushing hard for Yukoners, I have to say it is not.
So, already there is one X off their seven points that they were going to be graded on in their throne speech over the next four years. I know they made it as small as they can, too, because they do not want other things to come into this. I believe there are so many important issues out there right now that need to be dealt with to get the economy moving, like the development assessment process, for example. Nothing was mentioned in the throne speech about that.
Now, we had a whole process laid out here. SCREP was supposed to be dealt with. The government side found that maybe it was too much work to come to another meeting. That is why they want to cut back hours. I do not know. Is this a nine-to-five, part-time government? It certainly seemed like it.
They said they were going to be open and accountable. Is that only during the days, now that we have an opportunity to come in and listen to the procedures in the Legislature, and they're not able to do it? Why have a gallery? Is it just for the day, to have some cameras, and some staff people sit up there during the day, Mr. Speaker?
I think, out of respect for those who cannot make it to our daily proceedings in this Legislature, that we have evening sittings for people to come in and watch what's going on in the Legislature. I have to say, Mr. Speaker, it is quite new to people. They don't experience this all that often. You can go down to Ottawa, sit in the peanut gallery.
When the cameras came in, and people saw what took place in the Legislature, it was nothing they expected it to be. I can say that the Liberals, when they were in opposition, didn't call for cutbacks in the amount of time being spent in this Legislature. They didn't do that.
What they did do, Mr. Speaker, is call for more dollars to be put forward, and put cameras in. It was more dollars be put forward at that time.
But now, they're penny-pinching. What they're going to do is save a few thousand dollars, and they come out with a supplementary budget of $37 million. What kind of work did that create for Yukoners out there? Might give a lot of their friends a good paycheque. We all know that. I mean, everybody's talking about it.
An over $100,000 paycheque is pretty healthy, for helping out on the campaign. And that's not over yet. There are other people who need to be put to work - candidates, Liberal candidates.
Why, I'm waiting for the day the Liberal government is going to give Wilf Tuck a DM position.
I guess not.
Here, they go and cancel the school, Mr. Speaker, and what shows up in the budget for Cabinet offices is almost the same amount that would have gone into the overruns that the members opposite said, for the school. This is their Cabinet office - $539,000. That's quite a bit of money for a Cabinet.
They are getting rid of deputy ministers and putting more monies into their high-paid staff, Mr. Speaker, and yet with all of this, they would not come forward and even agree with the amendments that were put forward by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. In seven days, they could have done it. Seven days - that's all it took.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order please. Please allow the member to continue.
Mr. Fairclough:The government side is upset. They are thin-skinned. They can't handle it. My goodness, I would really have a hard time to really think about what amendments could come forward with regard to the daily procedures next year. Maybe the time will be cut in half again, so that the Liberal government could say that they saved a few thousand dollars and then come out with a huge supplementary budget as a buyout. What is this? A mini-budget?
Of course it is. The Liberal government came out with that. There must be an election coming up, eh? Wow, it is really something. The Education minister should be ashamed of this one, money going into Cabinet dollars and nothing going into the community school.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Want me to read it all?
Speaker: Order please. Please continue.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The government side is getting antsy.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: They say that they are saving money. Yet, when it comes to priorities of the Yukon, it is gone. Their priority is bringing something like this forward for us to deal with in this Legislature. When it comes to the community development fund, where communities do benefit from not only small projects but big ones, too, there is no mention of it. There is nothing mentioned of it in the throne speech. There are other important things, too, like the trade and investment fund or the tourism marketing fund. Where is the priority there? Well, I believe the Liberal government tried to make up for six months of writing the throne speech, trying to throw big money at things in the supplementary.
I heard the Member for Whitehorse Centre saying, "We don't throw money at things to try and resolve the issues; we do not throw money at things." It is going to come back at them, and we are going to make sure that we bring all the monies that governments are throwing at things right now. It will come back to him, Mr. Speaker. This is not motion day Wednesday. We are dealing with a government motion, which, you would think, would deal with some emergency issues that are out there in the community; but, I believe, they sat down and thought about this a lot, and this is what they came up with.
Why? Why this? Well, one of the big things they said they would be is open and accountable. Yet they're not facing the general public out there and not even having an evening sitting here. They couldn't even do that.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fairclough: I would think that the government might have something to do with the fact that we don't have the TV time being aired right now. I wouldn't put that past them at all.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that the Liberal government strongly consider this amendment to the motion and have the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges deal with this matter and not vote against the process that is already laid out and here for us to work with. Those are our tools here, and the Liberal government is effectively eliminating them, and it's a shame.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment to this motion we have before us, Mr. Speaker, it might be prudent at this time if I suggested a way that this new Liberal government could avoid any future conflict and we could get on with the business of the House with respect to this motion and the amendment. It might be prudent, and I know I would be in agreement, if there was a unanimous consent to withdraw this motion that we have before us. We could all agree, and we could refer this motion, as amended, and the amendment, to SCREP, where it rightfully belongs.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Now, I'm hearing all sorts of suggestions from the government of the day, Mr. Speaker, that they have tried it eight times. Well, Mr. Speaker, this government might have presented an opportunity to meet eight times, but many were presented at the last possible moment, and on one occasion, it was the government of the day that had to cancel a meeting.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was of the opinion that we could probably move on with the business of the House if a motion to withdraw this motion was tabled, and that motion was given unanimous consent. I would support it, and I'm sure the official opposition would support that motion.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at what we have before us. This amendment to this motion is very, very straightforward. It proposes that the rightful body - the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges - be convened to address it. In other words, that the body that is empowered with dealing with these changes be given the responsibility and move forward in addressing these areas. And I guess, Mr. Speaker, the reason that the Liberals are taking the tack that they are is that they probably don't have confidence in those from their party who sit on this committee - the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges.
They don't have confidence in the four members from their party; that they will toe party lines and be in agreement as to where we're heading, and how we're going to achieve the political dictates of probably someone sitting up in the office instructing them on how to proceed.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals were elected, in part, on their ability to convince the Whitehorse and area electors that they were going to restore confidence in government and do it better. And with the initial, pathetic Speech from the Throne, the response from the Liberals was, "Just wait; this fall we're going to set out our direction and our initiative, and where we are taking the Yukon."
And incidentally, we only have around $14 million in the bank. That's all we're left with. It's interesting, Mr. Speaker, that that has not proven to be the case. Currently there is an amount approaching $64 million in the accumulated surplus at the end of the year that would be reduced by the accumulated deficit. But there's still over twice the amount of money there than what this new Liberal government acknowledged. And I find it very, very upsetting that one of the main areas of responsibility, the finance area, the Minister of Finance, the Premier, can't get a handle on the numbers.
And what I find more interesting are the Government of Yukon's projections as to where we're heading for the next four years under this Liberal government mandate. We're going from an accumulated surplus, the end of the year, the actual 1999-2000 of $64 million. It's projected to be $45 million next year, $27.5 million the year after, $15.5 million the year after, and $12.5 million in the year after that. I find that to be extremely, extremely upsetting. Now what is going on in the wonderful world of finance over there in this Liberal office?
It is very interesting that in the Northwest Territories, the only problem they have, as reported on the 6:30 news this morning, is that the Employment minister in the Northwest Territories says he is getting ready to train up to 3,000 northerners for work in the oil and gas industry. That's today, Mr. Speaker.
We hardly have any jobs that are going to employ Yukoners in the oil and gas industry. We are hanging our hat on a pipeline coming through the Yukon very quickly. It all goes back to the way the government conducts business. The way the government conducts business is this motion that we have before us. It should rightly be referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. That is where a decision of the magnitude of what we are debating here on the floor today must be made, should be made and hopefully will be made, Mr. Speaker.
We look at what is going on with respect to some of the other areas that, in opposition, the Liberals touted that they were going to change. They were going to do better. The appointments of people to boards and committees was going to be an all-party appointment board. What we end up having is the suggestion that that board may or may not be convened in the future, but that's only done after all the nice political plums have been given out, by way of patronage appointments, to well-known Liberals.
We look at the economic situation once again and we look at what the Liberals said when they were first elected to power. They were going to steer the course and adopt the NDP budget, so that we could proceed and get on with business. In how many areas has this happened and in how many areas has this not occurred? We are finding out, more often than not, that the Liberals are doing less and less of what they said they were going to do.
And we have before us this evening a very good example of doing government better the Liberal way. We have a motion that we are debating, when it rightfully should be an area that goes before the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. What the amendment to the motion reads is abundantly clear, very specific, and will go a long way to restoring some confidence in this Liberal government if they adopt it. I guess they are politically naive in many, many respects, and they are going to learn the lesson the hard way. That in itself is very disappointing, in that things are not slowing down; they have just about come to a grinding halt until we deal with this situation. There are many, many other areas where we could be devoting our time and energies with the result that we turn this Yukon economy around. We have a look at ways that we could develop Yukon, not other than a one-way highway south.
About the best business to be in today is the moving business, either moving vans or U-hauls, but it is pretty well one way out of the Yukon, one way primarily to Alberta, some to British Columbia, some back to Ontario, and some to the Northwest Territories. That is very disappointing. For many Yukoners here today in this Legislature, their families received their start here in the Yukon because of the mining activity and related supply industries that serve the mining industry. They received their start in the lumber industry and the various sundry industries that supply goods and services to that area.
Today, mining and mining exploration here in the Yukon are at an all-time low. In fact, in constant dollars, I'm given to understand that it's the lowest it has ever been since the Yukon was established as a distinct jurisdiction of Canada. That I find appalling. An area of Canada that was given birth to by way of the mining industry - the Yukon was created out of the world's greatest gold rush. It was carved out as a distinct region of the Northwest Territories because of the mining activity that took place here.
It's very, very disconcerting, Mr. Speaker, that we see mining and mining exploration destroyed. We see oil and gas activities given a lot of hype, but we don't see any Yukoners going to work in that field, unless, of course, they're going to work in that field in another territory or province of Canada or outside of Canada. I know quite a number of Yukoners who are employed in this area, and none of them are working in that field here in Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, there is hope. The resources in the ground will remain in the ground. They're not going to be extracted under this regime, given the uncertainty surrounding the political climate here in the Yukon. And the Alaska Highway pipeline, which I support and my party supports - but unless this government does something to provide some certainty around it, we can't all hang our hats on the comings of an Alaska Highway pipeline. It may or may not occur. Given the world price of oil, and the uncertainty surrounding it, it might be a fait accompli that it's not necessary in a few years.
We have gone through the pipeline hype once, in the 1970s; we have it again under this Liberal regime, to no advantage to speak of, other than that the supplementary budget is going to spend another $600,000 on this hype.
Mr. Speaker, the oil and the gas remains in the ground in the Yukon. We've got tremendous potential. The minerals remain in the ground in the Yukon. We have tremendous potential in that regard. And our greatest asset, our people, are leaving because they can't find work here, and they can't find work because of this government. This government made some promises. They were going to do things better; they were going to provide some certainty and what do we see? The first real order of government business is a motion on the floor of this House to make things a little bit more cozy for their members, a little easier. The number of sitting hours do not change.
The hype surrounding the press release certainly is very misleading, but that's the world of politics from the Liberal set of very tinted, rose-colored glasses. At the end of the day, Yukoners are suffering. Yukoners are looking for opportunities. Yukoners are looking for opportunities for themselves, their families, their neighbours and all of us here. Now we're all not going to be receiving good, Liberal patronage appointments and hundred-thousand-dollar-a-year jobs. There are just not enough of them to go around, in spite of another $37 million of government spending. But I'm sure those political patronage appointments will be made, and made at a convenient time to this government. But what are those political patronage appointments going to do to instil confidence in this government? They're not. In fact, they're going to do exactly the opposite.
This government was elected, in part, because they were going to do things better; they were going to do things like restoring confidence in government. In fact, they've destroyed confidence in government and they're continuing to destroy it at an alarming rate. Just ask the people of Mayo who had confidence in this government that they would carry through with the initiative of constructing a school in that community - a much-needed school to adequately house the students in a safe environment.
Safe from the standpoint of the air quality, safe from the standpoint of adequate heating and ventilation, safe from the standpoint of disease-free environment. Now, the jury is still out on the air quality testing, and I am sure we are going to have a whole lot of rhetoric surrounding who lost what and why the air samples disappeared and what we are going to do, take more samples, and the minister is going to stand up and say, "Yes, we are going to test again and again and again and probably again until we get the results we are hoping to achieve to prove to you that there is not really a problem." Then there are the jobs in Mayo. We have the minister standing up and saying, "We are going to provide some certainty for those individuals who were trained as carpenters. Half of them will find a job somewhere. The rest of them, well, they are probably self-starting, inasmuch as they knew that this government would not honour its commitment."
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins:These individuals are self-starters. They had gone out as soon as they knew that this government would not honour its commitment to continue with the construction of that school and found employment elsewhere, just like a lot of other Yukoners have had to do. We have to move forward. We cannot all sit and wait for a political patronage appointment from this Liberal government to pay the grocery bills, the ever-increasing utility bills.
Mr. Speaker, this motion, as amended, and the amendment are very, very straightforward. I would urge the government of the day to consider this amendment to this motion. I would urge them also, Mr. Speaker, to withdraw their main motion to which I would give consent and, I am sure, if it were tabled, to which the official opposition would also give their consent so that we have a unanimous consent to withdraw the main motion, and we can get on with the business of this House, which is providing good government, rebuilding the economy of the Yukon, and not wasting the time of this Legislature.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I wish I could say it gives me great pleasure to rise again and speak to this motion. Of course, I'm speaking to the amendment to this motion, and quite frankly, I'm very disappointed to have to speak to this.
I'm very disappointed in the Minister of Education, who repeatedly pipes up from the front bench over there, casting insults and aspersions across the floor. He certainly is not modelling professional behaviour in the Legislature, and I point that out -
Some Hon. Member:Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I believe that the member misspoke himself. If he would like to refer to the comments of the Minister of Education, they were that the member opposite is frequently disappointed, rather than the aspersions, allegations et cetera.
Speaker: Order. Member for Kluane on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I don't know what the member opposite was muttering there, but it had nothing to do with what I heard from the Minister of Education, and I already described what I heard from him. So I think this is a frivolous point of order - one of many today from this member - and it furthers my point that they're certainly not modelling professional conduct in this Legislature.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, what we have is just a constant interference by the House leader of the government of the day as to what is going on and what is transpiring, just to try to sidetrack the members as they are speaking, as they are rightfully allowed to speak. And what we have is just a dispute between members. I'm not sure if it's orchestrated by the Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, as to how they're to interject, but it's certainly not conducive to the business of this House, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It's my impression that it is exactly a dispute between members and not a point of order, and with that I would ask the Member for Kluane to continue.
Mr. McRobb:One would think that they'd finally get it, after all these rulings that technically dismiss any validity to these rude interruptions, and it might teach them to maybe sit down in their chairs and try to model some of that professional conduct they campaigned on.
Now, on this amendment, I looked it over and I think it's even more of an olive branch than the first one. It shows that we, on this side of the House, are trying hard to be diplomatic and to resolve this matter, giving the government a back door, so to speak, and a way out. We know already that they get pretty hard-nosed and defensive and their pride is running high over there. It's election time again and they are all fired up. We all know how seriously they take their jobs, so we decided to even take a softer approach and give them a period of seven days to come up to a SCREP meeting as a way out.
I'm willing to bet that when this comes to a vote, they will all vote against it. Do you know why, Mr. Speaker? They are all required, over there, to vote as a block. Even though, it's clear to us, on this side of the House, looking into their eyes, that they are not all in favour of voting against what we're saying, because they can see the merit in what we're saying. They know, from their own discussions at the caucus table, that they have been heavy-handed and led down the garden path by the de facto Premier, Mr. Cunning. He has called the shots.
They are probably going to have some pretty hard words for Mr. Cunning, such as, "You're not down here; you don't have to sit here and listen to this stuff. You are up there, laid back in your easy chair and your radio on mute. You're probably reading comic books again. We've got to go down there and bear this out. It's not easy for us to do that, especially when our constituents are going to find out that we're wasting time in the Legislature and the opposition is right." That will just add to the severity of the day of reckoning. It's happening already over there. We're seeing a bit of a revelation happening.
They are realizing how phony a government can be, how phony a party can be when it comes to campaigning and modelling professional conduct in this Legislature, on promising Yukoners they're going to work for their best interests, and they're going to work hard and everything else. It has been a joke among the public service and business people and other Yukoners already; this is a nine-to-five government. Well, obviously that was even an overstatement. Now they're a one-to-six government - for 60 days a year, a one-to-six government. And only half of those days are night sittings for two hours. They couldn't take it, Mr. Speaker. They couldn't stand the heat. Well, I say that if they can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, call an election, do something, but don't mislead Yukoners for the remainder of this long, unbearable term, because we're going to get the word out. We're going to let people know what's going on in here, and they're not going to get away with this; they're not going to get away with it.
Now I want to respond to a few of these so-called points made by members opposite. One of my favourites over there is the Member for Porter Creek North. He thinks so highly of himself, and he holds himself in such high esteem that I want to test his argument. There were eight attempts to set up a meeting to discuss this matter with the opposition parties. Well, what a string that is. First of all, we go back to the SCREP meeting that occurred on Wednesday, September 27. At that meeting, it was agreed to meet on November 1. And here we are; they couldn't wait until November 1. They had to bring this motion in because they didn't want to sit on Monday night or Wednesday night. Wednesday night may have been possible, because at SCREP we may have agreed to change the rules. But they couldn't take it. They said, "No way, you're not going to get us in there two hours on Monday night, there's a football game, and I'm next in line to read that comic book from the de facto Premier, and we've got better things to do. We're a one-to-six government now."
Mr. Speaker, it is irresponsible for a government to behave this way, especially when it had so much work to do, and it's been mentioned and questioned. Is this the high priority of this government - to make its job a little easier, to reduce its hours - not extend the hours, as the press release says, but reduce them? Is this the priority?
Well, Mr. Speaker, for those Yukoners out of work this winter, and next summer, and the year after, and the year after that - there's very little we, on this side, can do about it because the Liberals are in government. But we're going to make sure that we get the message out to those people: part of the reason they're unemployed is because this government didn't put them as a high enough priority to discuss winter works and other economic initiatives on the floor of this Legislature, and instead took up time debating this useless motion. It's disgraceful - absolutely disgraceful.
Now, back to the SCREP meeting. I was reviewing my SCREP file and some of the material in here is very interesting, because the Member for Porter Creek North insists they tried eight times to deal with this matter of becoming a one to six government. Mr. Speaker, the first time I heard about a one-to-six government, I believe, was this morning. I didn't hear about it before. I didn't even hear about it at the last SCREP meeting on September 27, which came after several of these so-called attempts described by the Member for Porter Creek North. Well, already there is a glaring contradiction.
But I want to point out something. In this correspondence, dated September 25, from the Clerk of the Assembly, there is an attachment called "SCREP subjects for the fall session from the Liberal committee members".
Item number 3 is night sittings. There are 10 items here that they wanted to raise in SCREP. Item number 3 is night sittings. Do you know what they told us they wanted? Well, it was not about becoming a one-to-six government. It was that they wanted a night sitting to count as a whole extra day. Do you know what that means? That means they would get paid for six days, only working four days. That is the Liberal way. It is all becoming crystal clear. I want to roll this up a little bit, here. With all these programs under review - the community development fund, tourism marketing fund, the training investment fund, other things under review, highway funding, infrastructure investments, Mayo school - and all the things that are delayed - the Mayo school, Connect Yukon, other rural Yukon, devolution that we just heard about today - it seems with this government it is all under review or delay. Review and delay - that is the Liberal way.
Mr. Speaker, no doubt, you have heard of "our way or the highway." I used to think that was the Liberal way because of their arrogance and heavy-handedness, and they know better than anybody else. They do not want to consult. They just tell people like they told the Vuntut Gwitchin about the oil and gas leases in north Yukon. They sent them a letter. They sent them a letter and they called that consultation. Or the meeting in Mayo to discuss the school was done so quickly that chief and council members, mostly in Whitehorse that day, did not even know about it in advance. Yet this member across the floor has the audacity to go on about how the Liberals do public consultation right, not like the NDP. We do it right, he says. And he went on and on. Now, we all know the rules in this Legislature are such that it is not a fair process, because it is not very often that people being criticized or addressed by one side get a chance to get right up and respond to it. I believe this was one such instance, otherwise I would have got right up and countered what that member said.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the opportunity, but fortunately, there is the opportunity now to address that glaring contradiction - that glaring misrepresentation of the facts. Just as I address the misrepresentation of the facts from the Member for Riverside and the Premier with regard to our position on the Alaska gas pipeline, which we unanimously endorsed on this side of the House. Our budget set that out as a priority by allocating $100,000 - more than any previous Yukon government - toward promoting that pipeline. We encouraged Foothills to set up shop here in Whitehorse. We created oil and gas. We did all kinds of stuff. It just really shows and enlightens us as to how arrogant a government can be.
So, back to the SCREP meeting. If, at the last SCREP meeting, the Liberals defined their issue with night sittings to be something they wanted to count as an extra sitting day, and if it was agreed at that meeting to meet on November 1, then they have no case, because their issue of becoming a one-to-six government was not brought up at any opportunity, other than the 30-minutes' notice we received this morning. We all had a very busy day to start this week off. I outlined some of the things I was doing this morning. Over the supper break, I had the chance to think of a few more things that occurred this morning, and I wish to share them with you now.
I had some constituent calls to make. My computer needed maintenance, and the fellow came down and we got it working. Most of all, I met with a constituent of one of the Liberal MLAs. Why? Because this constituent was not able to get a meeting with his MLA. I asked him why and he said he didn't know. Every time he goes, he just gets ignored. He is not able to meet with his MLA and ends up talking to some staffer - one of the Liberal handlers, I guess, is what he was referring to. It wasn't even the de facto Premier; it was one of the handlers.
And, Mr. Speaker, he was very disappointed in this government, and very disappointed in his MLA. Well, I offered to help him set up the meeting, so I called upstairs. And after about 15 minutes of running around, he finally got a meeting. He finally got a meeting for Friday, so we'll have to wait and see what happens. But, Mr. Speaker, more and more Yukoners, like that fellow this morning, are discovering what we have already learned. This is a one-to-six government; it doesn't care; it only wants to make its job easier; and it wants to lay back like Premier Cunning was in the election photo, and just cruise through this first term in office.
They already had their first budget gift-wrapped and delivered to them. They already had a lot of the hard policy work all churned out of the mill for them. For instance, the energy policy. Well, I worked hard, and so did the members of the energy commission - two years, Mr. Speaker - to develop that energy policy. And that policy was awarded a prize from a federal institution, just very recently, but who took the credit? The Liberals did, of course. They like to take the credit. It doesn't matter if they did the work, they'll take the credit. We've learned that about them, too.
I was up there the day the wind turbine opened. So was the Premier, and a few of her handlers. Didn't see the de facto Premier.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: He was probably on another one of his comic books. But, anyway, no mention, Mr. Speaker, of that wind turbine being part of the $18 million in energy infrastructure announced in September 1998 at the conclusion of the Cabinet Commission on Energy's work. No mention at all.
Instead, they had their pictures in the paper; they had their voices on the radio; they had their press releases out there. They took all the credit for it. That's fine; hey, that's fine.
What about Mount Logan? Oh, Mr. Speaker. I hope there's another day for this one, because this is a priceless example of how the Premier ignored Yukon law, ignored the wishes of Yukoners, and rounded the circle, and came back to scoop the credit.
And then we have the Liberal-appointed senator backing her up. They're scratching each other's backs, Mr. Speaker. I'm waiting for the day when there is some accountability about this relationship - the Commissioner and everybody else all scratching each other's backs. Let's have some accountability here. It's a little too much. I just hope that more Yukoners discover the truth and come to realize what we already know about this Liberal government and reflect that attitude the next time they vote.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm quite taken aback by what has taken place here in this Legislature this afternoon. In the face of all the points that the opposition has brought forward, urging the government to stand down from such a high-handed attempt to change the rules in this Legislature - an amendment that gave the government the ability to put this back into the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges - and they voted against it. They voted against an amendment and then, in the case of voting against that amendment, they voted against the committee itself.
True to form, as we pointed out this afternoon, the Liberals are indeed intent on circumventing due process in this Legislature. The voting record shows that. Unanimously, they voted against a friendly amendment, which would have resulted in the very same thing that the Liberal government is trying to achieve, but it would have been done in the proper manner. It would have been done through the proper processes. It would have been done as things are meant to be done in this Legislative Assembly.
The Liberals have put a very, very black mark on this House and its proceedings, and it's a dark day in this territory for the democratic process. And it's the Liberals who must take the responsibility for that situation.
It is completely mind-boggling that they would vote against the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. The opposite side maintains over and over and over that they wanted to meet, that the standing committee has to meet, that we have to deal with these issues. So we did meet, and look what the results are. Why did the Liberals want to call that meeting on September 27? Was it some kind of a sideshow? Was it window dressing? What was the reason for meeting on September 27 and going through all that to set the subsequent meeting on November 1, only to come to this point here in this Legislature? A very low point, I might add.
Mr. Speaker, the amendment we brought forward originally by the Member for Vuntut Gwich'in was an amendment that was intended to be a cooperative approach to this issue, a way so that this House could find a way to agree, to achieve a consensus and move ahead and get down to the real business of this Legislature and the real issues of this territory. It didn't change what the Liberal government was trying to achieve with their motion. In fact, I would argue that it strengthened it. It enhanced it because it put it into the proper context and in the place it should have been. They voted it down.
Now, you would have noticed that this side of the House, upon bringing forward the amendment, stood down. We, even in the face of smaller numbers, outnumbered by the Liberals opposite, we stood down on that amendment. We stood down because we were willing, after all of the chastising by the members opposite and all the claims they've made about us working cooperatively. We stood down on that amendment to bring it to a vote, Mr. Speaker.
What did the Liberals do? They slapped the opposition right in the face. It was unbelievable to witness how, when given that opportunity, after the opposition had stood down and offered to work in a cooperative manner, they did the unthinkable and unspeakable and voted against the amendment and the standing committee.
We go on, so we try again. We have brought forward another amendment that would give the government a way to address this issue, so that we could, in a cooperative manner, bring resolution to it. We would put it in the hands of the standing committee, where it belongs, and get on with dealing with the business of this House and issues so important to Yukoners. Not one member on the opposite benches would even get up and give one sentence of reply in the affirmative to what we were trying to do cooperatively - work with the government to solve this issue.
I ask the Liberals to put themselves in the shoes of the opposition here today. Remember back when, a few short months ago, it was the Liberals in opposition. They were constantly yammering and crying about SCREP meetings and all these things that were wrong. Mr. Speaker, the Premier has said to me, "When did we call SCREP?" We had a SCREP meeting - the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges. It's well-documented. There are minutes for it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: There are minutes for that meeting. We did our duty. We didn't bring forward frivolous motions to the floor of this Legislature to change the rules and the procedures of this Assembly. As government, we did the right thing.
We called a SCREP meeting, and invited them - the Liberal opposition - to attend.
Speaker: Order please. I'm having a difficult time hearing the member.
Mr. Fentie: I'm having a difficult time myself, Mr. Speaker, with all the kibitzing over there. At any rate, we did the right thing. We called the SCREP meeting to deal with the issues, as they pertained to the rules and the proceedings of this Legislature. Not in this manner - we didn't bring forward a frivolous motion - no.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I can recall when, on the government benches, we heard lots from the opposition about the dire straits of our economy. And yet, when asked - when the Liberals were asked publicly - what they would do about his situation, they said, "Call an election. We're not going to say anything until you call an election, and then we'll provide the Yukon public with what we would do."
So, Mr. Speaker, we all awaited that magical moment for the Liberals to provide some indication to the Yukon public about what they would do with the economy, and what happened? They adopted the New Democratic agenda. They brought forward and tabled a budget that they voted against in second and third reading in this Legislative Assembly. Sorry, I stand corrected - first and second reading in this Legislative Assembly.
They voted against it, and yet, a few short weeks later, they brought the very same budget forward into this House and passed it. That was one of their answers to the Yukon public on the economy: "We're going to bring certainty here; Yukoners have asked for certainty, and they want the NDP budget."
All we've seen since then is the slice and dice of movement by ministers in departments, chopping that budget to pieces, and punishing areas of the Yukon - ridings in Yukon - that refused to buy in to this hypothetical view that the Liberals were presenting to the Yukon public. They punished rural Yukon.
Watson Lake, Mayo - what is next? Dawson City and their recreation complex. The list goes on and on and on. I cannot for a moment fathom why, in the face of all that, this government is attempting to do this. Why, in all that has to be done here, in all those crisis situations that we are dealing with across the spectrum in this territory - why?
We have given them a second chance. Mr. Speaker, here before us, again, is an amendment that would allow this Legislative Assembly to move forward in a cooperative manner that would allow the standing committee to take these issues, to deal with them, to make recommendations to this Assembly and accordingly make changes to the Standing Orders. That is the way things are done. What is next in the Liberals' move to change how we conduct ourselves and how we deliver and implement government in this territory? What is next? Question Period? Is that over? Are we going to deal with a motion in this Legislative Assembly that cuts Question Period to two minutes, five minutes, no minutes - no Question Period? Are we going to have to sit here and debate a motion on ministerial statements that allows the ministers opposite hours and hours and hours of time here, reading off these wonderful progress reports on nothing - no policy, no direction, just excerpts from briefing notes?
We were in government, too. So was the Yukon Party. They understand what is going on here. Briefing notes are something merely to give ministers at least a basis idea of what is happening within a department. It by no means is what sets direction. That is why we were elected. We set the direction - we, the elected people - and you, on that side of the House, as the government and Cabinet.
So, what is next, Mr. Speaker? If we can't deal with this issue properly, in a cooperative manner, as it should be dealt with, what is coming next from this Liberal government? It's very disturbing - very, very disturbing - about what's taken place so far. I just simply cannot condone this type of action by a government, and nor can Yukoners. And Yukoners will judge this day - not tomorrow, but there will come a time when they will judge what has taken place here.
The Liberal government has simply not delivered. Now, the Premier made much about the contract with Yukoners. Well, I would submit, Mr. Speaker, that in this short period of time - six months since this government took office - that they have broken that contract, smashed that contract, ripped that contract and flushed that contract. There is no longer a contract with the Yukon public. That's what this Liberal government has done.
They have spent more time ensuring that they pay off Liberal operatives, Liberal influence peddlers and their friends, and they have forgotten about why they were elected. And I have been wondering why we don't hear any criticism of the federal Liberals, who bear a great responsibility for the situation we find ourselves in in this territory, whether it be economic, environmental or social.
There hasn't been one peep of criticism, not one demand, nothing coming from the Liberal government here in the territory as it pertains to the management of this territory by their federal counterparts in Ottawa. So I've given a lot of thought to that, and I believe that the special relationship that has been bandied about so much by the members opposite is merely one of being puppets on a string. They listen to what the federal government instructs them to do here in the territory and follow course. And I find that astonishing, because the Liberals opposite were elected to represent and protect Yukoners' interests on all fronts, on all matters when it comes to any level or order of government. There are so many contradictions in this government's approach in the brief six months that we've witnessed them operate that I, along with all Yukoners I've talked to, am very, very disgruntled and disappointed.
Even this evening at supper, people are saying, "What are they doing? What do they stand for? Where are they taking us? Why are we debating sitting times in this Legislature? What's the point? Why did they bring this motion forward?" Why is that, Mr. Speaker? When the Liberals had a chance on the floor of this Legislature a few short months ago to debate the economy of this territory, what did they do? They stood up and walked out. They turned their backs on Yukoners right here in this Legislature and they're doing the same thing today by turning their backs on the members of this Legislative Assembly, on the members of the standing committee and, in fact, again on Yukoners. This is not something that, if I were on the Liberal benches, especially the back benches, I would be very proud of.
And it smacks of some bad advice from political advisors, which seems to be coming on a regular basis, given the fiascos in the Watson Lake forest sector, in the Mayo school, with the Tombstone issue, with the miners gathered -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. With the miners gathered all in one room at the gold show, sitting there in astonishment, as the federal minister announces, "There is no mining, folks, but we're certainly going to protect that environment." What happened to a balanced approach?
It is the Premier herself who maintains that, because they're Liberals, they're a centrist party; therefore, one can only hope that there is a balanced approach.
Not so. Not in this government. There is no balance; there's no direction; there's no vision; there's no substance; there's absolutely nothing going on. That's not balance. That's not balance at all.
Mr. Speaker, we have tried everything on this side of the House to solve this problem for the Liberals with the mess they've got themselves into. And yet they will not relent. The stubbornness, the arrogance, and the ego on that side has taken precedence over what is near and dear and important to the Yukon public. And I am totally insulted that we must do this, and it's the Liberals who are responsible.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker:Order please. Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the amendment defeated.
Amendment to Motion No. 1 negatived
Speaker: Is there any further debate on the main motion?
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thought you were coming over to our side of the House for a minute there. I would have to say that, Mr. Speaker, your mind is clear. You were thinking correctly when you made the first ruling: that the amendments should have been agreed to and the motion defeated.
But the motion put forward by the government is a government motion, and it is supposed to be of urgency out there in the general public, but what the members opposite found was something they could talk about to make and save a few thousand dollars and hide from the general public. Were they serious about this motion? I think not. They could not even speak to the motion themselves. The Premier could not even speak to the motion as put forward.
They couldn't speak to the amendments. So, it's quite obvious that the government is using a heavy-handed approach in this matter, to push through a motion in the House because they have the majority to be able to do it. They don't even have to speak to it. I think that's an insult to Yukoners, in putting what they say is a very important issue forward to deal with at this time. The economy wasn't important. They didn't want to talk about the economy.
As a matter of fact, in the spring sitting, when the NDP government brought forward an economy motion, the Liberals walked out of the Legislature. It wasn't important then, and it isn't important now. What's important to them is to have less time in this Legislature - less time for the general public to be able to come and watch the proceedings in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I think it's an outrage that this is the only motion of importance that the government side could dream up. They didn't talk about the economy or the environment, and they didn't bring a motion out about social problems we're having in the communities. I guess those were important during the campaign, but it's quite obvious they have changed their mind and are heading in a different direction - to be less accountable, so the public doesn't see them bringing their points forward that they say are very important points.
In my view, they have brought this motion forward, as with many other things they have brought forward, without really thinking it through and what it means to the general public.
It's a shame that they brought it so quickly when the very issue that they're bringing forward in a government motion could have been dealt with through a different avenue, one that has been agreed to by all of the members here - procedure. And they couldn't follow through with that. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, it is November 1 when they were to deal with this particular issue. But they chose not to. They chose to ram it through the House. Maybe that's the whole idea, to try and show the general public out there that they can do this. Maybe what they're trying to say to the general public is that this is the new standard for the Liberal government. Would they be accurate by saying that? By ramming things through the House because they have a majority and not respecting due process, that's restoring confidence back in government. Is that how it is? Is that the Liberal approach - a heavy-handed approach, take it or leave it?
And, Mr. Speaker, even their caucus and Cabinet ministers couldn't even speak to the motion itself. That's how important it is to them at this point. The Health minister said he said it all. Just like they said in the campaign when they said that they'll pass the NDP budget in its entirety and bring certainty back to Yukoners. That's what they said, but their actions were different - just chopping and cutting, taking away jobs from people. And in their minds it's okay to do this, until the public speaks out.
Mr. Speaker, when it came to major projects, such as the Mayo school, the people in Mayo did speak out. Those who had an opportunity to go to the evening meeting at short notice - that's the new way, I guess, of a Liberal government calling a public meeting that morning, everybody be there, and on election night, too, Mr. Speaker - municipal election night. People are listening to radio; they're interested in what takes place in other communities.
And, Mr. Speaker, the Premier accepts that type of approach to Yukoners. It's a shame that we have to go this route. I would say that their whole reason behind wanting to cut out evening sittings, to save money, is not what they said it is. They said that about the Mayo school. It is the money; contracts are higher than their bank account. And one time they say it isn't; it's the bid and the contracts that got all messed up, then back to the money issue.
And that's a shame that they had to do that, Mr. Speaker, because the supplementary budget that's tabled here certainly doesn't show that there's a lack of money. It is a mini-budget that the Liberal government has come forward with, to what? Create jobs? I don't think so.
But, Mr. Speaker, I could tell you that there are dollars in here that reflect priorities of the Liberal government. It certainly wasn't the Mayo school. There are Cabinet offices, though - $539,000 extra for Cabinet offices. What does that say to the general public?
The Yukon is in a recession. The economy needs to be revitalized. The Liberal government is not even concentrating on that. Down the road, oil and gas - of course, if that pipeline goes through, it will bring jobs. But people need jobs now. So the Liberal government says that the economy is an issue, and they want to rebuild the Yukon economy, and this is the very first government motion that they bring forward that is supposed to be - Mr. Speaker, I think I'm boring you.
Mr. Speaker, it is supposed to be of public urgency. This motion is to be of public urgency, and the government members could not even speak to it?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I do not think that is right. That is certainly not restoring confidence in the government and doing things differently in this Legislature. They said it was more efficient and that they were concentrating on efficiency, but their actions do not show that. I pointed this out with the Mayo school. They wanted to stop the project at the footings, with the subfloor down, because it was getting to, what - minus 10 degrees? and they could not handle people working outside at time and a half doing only half the work that they thought?
Well, maybe this is consistent with the way they are, because the Liberal government in this House only want to work half the time and not evenings.
The rest of the important issues out there in the general public, as far as the Liberal government is concerned, are under review. That's what they call it now - under review.
Now, the CDF and the tourism marketing fund are under review - important things. But when it really comes time to make decisions on these important issues, where is the government? Where is the Liberal government when it comes to education and health? Not out there wanting to deal with them, not out there wanting to face the public, not out there wanting to have the general public sit in this gallery and listen to what the debate of the day is. No, they're hiding behind reviews. They're trying to get away from the public by not having these evening sittings, and I feel that they are doing the general public wrong. They want to save money, but the Premier herself had no problem jumping on a plane and flying to Ottawa to have dinner with the Prime Minister - only $30,000. But, hey, - that was for fuel.
That wasn't counting anyone else who had come with them. And with that, Mr. Speaker, they didn't even have the courtesy to offer the Yukon MP a ride down. That same offer was given to Piers McDonald, the government leader, and he refused it. He could not justify the money being spent; it is taxpayers' dollars.
It's quite obvious that the government side is getting a little antsy again and trying to interrupt the debate on this motion.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 9:30 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 1 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 9:30 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled October 30, 2000:
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2000 (Duncan)
Government of Yukon Projections: 1999-00 Actual to 2003-04 Projected Actual (Duncan)
'Mirror' Legislation (August 31, 2000 Draft): Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act; Waters Act; Placer Mining Act; Quartz Mining Act; Environmental Assessment Act (Duncan)