Wednesday, November 1, 2000 - 1:00 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 Women Abuse Prevention Month
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as the minister responsible for the Women's Directorate to recognize November as Women Abuse Prevention Month, and I'd like at this time to tribute every man, every woman and every child who ever got out of an abusive situation.
I'd also like to say a special word of thanks to the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, which heads up a steering committee to coordinate events for Women Abuse Prevention Month. Members of the steering committee include representatives from Kaushee's Place, Les EssentiElles, Yukon Status of Women, the Women's Directorate and the RCMP, among others.
The Women's Centre will be coordinating a healthy relationships workshop on November 9, an introduction to assertiveness workshop on November 21, a presentation of a book, Gift of Fear, on November 15, and a brown-bag lunch with Shirley McLean of the Yukon College social worker program and Leah White, the women's advocate from the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, on November 16.
Through the centre's dedication and coordinated efforts, information about domestic violence and how we can all work toward ending it will be shared throughout the month.
For a month, we will come face to face with the facts and figures, images and ideas that show the damage violence against people of the Yukon does on a daily basis. We will be reminded throughout November of the violence and abuse that poison too many Yukoners' lives and too many families. Then, November will end but the violence will not.
But there is good news. For years, the Yukon Women's Directorate, the status of women colleagues and the women's organizations across this country have been working on raising public awareness about this issue, and it's starting to pay off.
Comparisons of statistical data from 1993 and 1999 point to a decline in the rate of spousal violence. In the five years preceding the 1993 survey on violence against women, about 12 percent of women reported being assaulted by their spouse. Data from the 1999 general social survey on victimization reported a decline from 12 percent to eight percent over a similar time period. There was also a slight but statistically significant decline in the severity of assaults between these two time periods.
During November, the Women's Directorate will be replaying the six-part radio drama, Getting Free, on CKRW. This drama examines the insidious effects of spousal abuse. I invite Yukoners to listen on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, starting on November 7, and I urge the members of this House and all Yukoners to actively participate this month and every month in working toward ending violence and abusive situations.
Mr. Jenkins:On behalf of the Yukon Party, I rise to pay tribute to Women Abuse Prevention Month, as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of prevention programs in bringing an end to violence against women.
While strides have been made to reduce physical abuse against women, violence sadly remains a frequent reality for many today. Clearly, ending violence against women through prevention is the key to lasting change and making lives safer. Supporting women who have been abused will always be of critical importance, but we must also look at the root causes of violence and must continue efforts to change attitudes and behaviours that allow violence to happen in the first place.
We are all aware of violence in our society, and while we want the violence stopped, we must all take a share in the responsibility of helping to prevent abuse in women's lives today. As legislators and members of communities, we must all work together to support victims of violence and to develop prevention programs, which will change the beliefs and attitudes that allow violence against women to continue.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Women's Directorate, the numerous women's groups in the territory, and individuals for their work and continuing efforts in helping to bring about such change.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes, I will proceed to introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling the Intergovernmental Relations Accord between the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in government and the Government of Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the letter of intent regarding communities not included in Connect Yukon dated March 31, 2000; the contribution agreement for the Marsh Lake infrastructure build dated April 12, 2000; and the service management agreement for Connect Yukon dated April 1, 2000.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I have a report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for presentation.
Speaker: Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Economic development programs review
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to inform the House of this government's plans - a new policy initiative - to review new economic development programs.
As hon. members are aware, the government is committed to spending taxpayers' money wisely. As part of this commitment, we will be reviewing several programs that fund community and economic development projects.
The community development fund has been in place for three years. The fire smart program, which has been administered through the community development fund, has been in place for two years. The time is right to ensure these programs are effectively meeting their objectives and the needs of Yukoners.
To do this, a management improvement program has been instituted in the Executive Council Office. This government will undertake a management audit of the community development fund and the fire smart program this fall. This audit will provide independent information on the operations of both programs. This information will be used to help improve or redesign the programs to better meet their overall goals.
This also meets our platform commitment, Mr. Speaker, to review government funding programs and it addresses our top seven priorities.
I want to assure hon. members that the government has heard the views of community and other organizations about the benefits of these programs.
We, too, believe that aspects of this community development fund and the fire smart program have value.
At the same time, we have also heard concerns about these programs, particularly about the way they were managed by the previous government. We need to ensure that those concerns are addressed.
During the current fiscal year, we have allocated millions of dollars to community development fund programs. We have respected existing funding commitments. Now it is the time to make sure that these funding programs are effective. We will be taking some time to carry out the program audits, design program improvements and talk to Yukoners about their views on redesigned programs.
At the same time, the Department of Tourism is carrying out consultation on possible arts funding. The results of these consultations will also help to inform discussions about the future of the community development fund. We believe that the reviews and consultations are an important part of ensuring that public funds help communities - and are an important part of ensuring that government delivers programs in an effective manner.
As hon. members are also aware, funding has been made available to businesses and other organizations through the trade and investment fund and the tourism marketing fund. We also plan to review these programs later this winter, once the audit of the community development fund and the fire smart program are complete.
Again, these audits will be designed to inform decisions about how funding will be provided to the business sector in the future - whether it is to support tourism activity, the cultural sector or efforts to promote trade and investment.
As with the other funding programs under review, no further allocations will be made under the trade and investment fund and the tourism marketing fund, until the reviews are completed. We expect the assessments of these funds will be concluded in the next fiscal year; decisions will then be made on their futures.
As I have outlined for hon. members today, these reviews are part of our commitment to Yukoners to spend their money wisely, and to get results that they want from government. We look forward to working with members of this House and with Yukoners to ensure that this is the case.
Mr. Fentie: I rise today, Mr. Speaker, to respond to this ministerial statement - which again, is not government policy, but merely an announcement - that this government, true to form, is going to review, postpone and delay.
We, on the official opposition side, pointed out that these particular programs - CDF, fire smart, the tourism marketing fund, the trade and investment fund - were indeed being killed by the Liberal government. And at a time in this territory when these types of programs would go a long way - a long way, Mr. Speaker - to assist and alleviate the hardships that Yukoners, especially in rural Yukon, are facing today, this cold-hearted government, in their pursuit to put their own political, partisan spin on government programming, has turned its back on Yukoners.
One has to ask, Mr. Speaker, why, when this government, in tabling their budget two days ago, informed this House that there was indeed a $64-million surplus. It is completely unacceptable, with that kind of money in the coffers, that they - while we do not dispute that it is entirely their right to review programming - would stop funding to community groups, to organizations, to small business in this territory to help them survive this winter.
One also has to ask, if this was a part of the Liberal plan, why did they not do this review this summer? They have been in power for six months. This review could have been completed. If there were going to be new programs, they could have already been implemented in this budget. It is these members across the floor who said, in this spring's sitting, "Wait until the fall; we will bring forward to this Legislature our priorities, our plan for Yukoners." It is obvious their plan is to punish those who did not support them.
How long will this review take? How much longer are Yukoners going to have to wait before they can make a decision? Should they phone their banker and say, "I can no longer make my payments. Come and get my equipment"? Are parents going to have to wait before they can say to their children, "There will be no Christmas this year"? This government is creating that situation for Yukoners.
They use the excuse that they have heard from some unknown sources that there are concerns with these programs. I would argue that there is a multitude of support out there in this territory for these programs because of the positive results that have been achieved by the community development fund, by the tourism marketing fund, by the fire smart funding and by the trade and investment funding.
Right now, today, communities in this territory have their applications in for fire smart funding and are wondering why it's not forthcoming. So, this government has also turned its back on the safety of communities when we live in the midst of a boreal forest. They have stopped everything, Mr. Speaker, and they will be held accountable.
They also say that, once they have completed this so-called review, they will then provide the results to the business sector. What about the community groups? What about municipalities? What about all the agencies -
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, unfortunately.
What about all the agencies that are eligible for this type of funding and put it to good use? Mr. Speaker, this is, indeed, a dark day for this territory and its people.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to respond to this ministerial statement announcing yet another review. It must be pointed out once again, Mr. Speaker, that this is not a ministerial statement that conforms to the terms. It is just the announcement of another review.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this government is big on reviewing but extremely small on taking any action to improve Yukon's devastated economy. I must take immediate issue with the statement that this government is committed to spending taxpayers' money wisely - far from it, Mr. Speaker. If such were the case, this government would not be proceeding with a $23.5-million Connect Yukon project in its present form. It would be renegotiating it. Nor would it be building the $27-million Mayo-Dawson transmission line without going through some business case and present that business case to the House.
That aside, Mr. Speaker, this statement today is going to make a very bleak winter for Yukoners even bleaker. With the failure of the supplementary budget to create a winter works program, the last ray of hope for Yukoners finding some work this winter with programs such as the community development fund, fire smart, the trade and investment fund, and the tourism marketing fund - that light has been switched off. There's not even any light created at the end of the tunnel. We were waiting this fall for the mini-budget. That has failed Yukoners.
They have turned the light off. The Premier's timing couldn't be worse, Mr. Speaker. While these programs could benefit from a management audit, I totally disagree with the Premier stating that the time is right. The time is not right. This is the worst possible time to conduct these audits. I would urge the Premier, on behalf of all unemployed Yukoners and for people in the communities who are looking for some help from these programs this winter - don't kill that hope. Delay the audits until next summer. Help put Yukoners back to work this winter with these programs.
This government has $64 million at its disposal to help create jobs in Yukon this winter, so money isn't the issue. It's management and skill at doing something with the economy. The claims that the Liberal government had only a $14-million surplus were simply not true. The Premier failed Yukoners with a $37-million mini-budget to put Yukoners to work. She has only increased the operation and maintenance costs of this government. That's where the money is going.
So, I would ask her not to fail Yukoners once again. Delay the audits until this summer and help create some winter works jobs right now. Can she do that? I don't believe so. The timelines for completing this management audit aren't even spelled out. Is it six months, 12 months, or a year? No, it could be done next summer. What is the urgency with starting a management audit right now on these programs that could be putting Yukoners to work this winter?
We have got to have some hope. It has all been killed.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, on the bootlegged point by the members opposite about ministerial statements, I would remind them to examine Hansard. On December 1, 1993, the hon. Mr. Phillips: "I rise today to report to members of the House." On November 22, 1999, the hon. Mr. McDonald: "I want to take this opportunity today to provide an update to members of the House."
The members opposite continually complain that they're not provided with information when, in fact, ministerial statements have been delivered to them on time, unlike past practice. They are entirely consistent.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I must point out, on a point of order, that the Premier - the Minister of Economic Development - is wrong. This morning, in the House leaders' meeting, we were informed that this ministerial statement was about the pipeline. Now, we face the fact that it wasn't about the pipeline at all; it is about all these programs and funds.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, the way the Member for Watson Lake recounted the House leaders' meeting this morning is exactly correct. We were told that this would be a ministerial statement on the pipeline initiative. That is simply not the case.
We also said that, because of the change in hours, Mr. Speaker, that we would be receiving these a half an hour earlier. The House opens a half an hour earlier. Such was not the case. We were told that we would get it at 11:00 a.m. There is such arrogance on the part of the Liberal Party.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On the point of order, I have in my hand a signed copy of receipt of the exact ministerial statement that was read by the Premier, dated 10:59 a.m. The agreement was to provide them by 11:00 a.m., to both the NDP and the Yukon Party. The statement is here and it is signed.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Order. I find there is no point of order to rule on. With that, I would ask the Premier to continue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the opportunity to continue in response to the members' statements. I would also point out, Mr. Speaker, in the members' comments in response to the ministerial statement that, while they stood on their feet to pay tribute to ending violence, both of them referred to "killing" the program. If we're truly going to contribute and do this, then we end the violent language in this House.
The members opposite have suggested that the priorities of this government have not been laid out, when in fact seven priorities were laid out in the throne speech, and those are priorities that affect all Yukoners - land claims, devolution, turning the Yukon economy around, dealing with substance abuse and addictions in our communities.
We have heard - as I mentioned in the ministerial statement - support for the community development fund, as well as the fire smart program. We have heard support for this particular project from communities, from individuals and from distinct groups.
We have also heard a number of questions that have been asked. We've heard them when we were in opposition, and we've heard them as government. Municipalities have asked us, "What about dealing with the long-term O&M? What about the fact that the community development fund doesn't allow for things like the purchase of team uniforms, like ongoing funding for specific projects?"
The member opposite has suggested that we have not issued any fire smart funding for this year. That is quite simply, Mr. Speaker, because in the 17 days before we took office, the NDP government spent $2.5 million on CDF. No fire smart applications have been called for this year, because the members opposite spent all the money. It's quite simple.
We said we would spend taxpayers' money wisely, and the member opposite from the Yukon Party suggested that if we were doing that, we would renegotiate Connect Yukon. Well, maybe the member opposite has forgotten, but Yukoners haven't forgotten that it was his party that invoked Taga Ku on Yukoners and the expense to Yukoners of that folly - talking about renegotiating agreements.
The previous government, Mr. Speaker, used these funds as political slush. The frenzy of spending in the run-up to the election was disgusting - $2.5 million in 17 days. When this government took office, the money for the year had largely been spent. Yukoners have demonstrated that their votes can't be bought. People of Haines Junction remember the member opposite walking around town, trying to figure out how to spend the CDF money.
The funds have some good features; we have said that. They need better management, so we are taking the time to get things right. Public servants and the people who administer the funds have come forward with some very good suggestions already. We will improve upon them. The public will be consulted. I look forward to working with the members opposite of this House ...
Speaker: Order please. The Premier has one minute to conclude.
Hon. Ms. Duncan:... to bring forward concrete, well-thought-out proposals to fix these tainted funds. Thank you.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Klondike group home, safety issues
Mr. Keenan:Mr. Speaker, yesterday the government caucus refused an opportunity to debate a motion on the safety of children in care. They chose, rather, to debate - and this is in the minister's own words - a housekeeping motion to preserve the Liberal caucus and the Liberal staff for quality time at home. They are doing this while children in care suffer.
On Monday, the minister repeatedly answered all questions regarding group homes by saying that the move to take over provision of services at 16 Klondike was an operational decision. The minister insisted that the decision was made by the department officials at Health and Social Services and that the safety of the staff and the children was a primary consideration.
I would like to ask the minister: what instructions has he now given his department to address these unspecified safety problems and how quickly will they be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for that question. As I mentioned earlier, the reason for the cancellation of the contract was for the safety of both children and staff. That is always the underlying factor when anything like this is taken into consideration. This is a very, very fragile situation, and it is one that is not taken lightly.
The director of family and children's services, as well as the Assistant Deputy Minister of Social Services, have been revising plans on how the department is dealing with residential services. And the idea, Mr. Speaker, the goals of the revision are to ensure that we follow the process of safety and security for all. The staff has been researching and has found that we must do a better job, Mr. Speaker. And if we cannot, then we must follow those steps.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've got to thank the member opposite for a non-answer and I've got to also thank him for a lot of political rhetoric. Again the member opposite has not answered the question.
The last time that we raised this issue the minister also said that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board report was another reason that they should be concerned about the safety of these children and the staff. If there had been another way to address these issues, he said, they would have done it another way. But at the same time he could not explain what this operational decision might again cost Yukon taxpayers. Is the minister now prepared to tell this House how much extra it will cost his department to address the safety issues to which he has referred in this House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Yes, we know that these costs will be more. When the Gibbs report was completed back in 1998, there were 49 recommendations, and two of them were not addressed by the government of yesterday. That's the members sitting on the other side, Mr. Speaker. And one of them was on salaries for employees. And Mr. Speaker, the problem that we have, of course, is that in order to attract and maintain good staff, you have to pay good money for it. The current costs will be approximately $10,000 more a month in order to maintain the program under our jurisdiction.
Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Speaker, I must point out that the question was not answered, that the member again gives political rhetoric, blaming others.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon deserves leadership and I'd appreciate it if, at some time, that could be provided.
Our first concern - and we certainly hope that the minister shares it - is for all the children who are in government care. We regularly get calls from foster children; we get them from the teachers. They're heart-sick, as we are, because they are doing their very best to deal with very troubled children. But what's happening? They can't even get the information that they need from Social Services. They cannot get the information.
We advised the minister that there are young people in the system who have had as many as 43 separate placements. Forty-three, Mr. Speaker. And with all these concerns, we asked the minister to call for a public inquiry into the Yukon Territory's treatment of children in care.
Will the minister now do the right thing and initiative a comprehensive and independent and very public inquiry into the Yukon's child welfare system? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you once again for the question.
Mr. Speaker, the question is a very serious one and it's one that concerns us as a government. It's unfortunate that the government of yesterday was not as concerned about this same issue when they were in government. They were there for three and a half years, and what we did get was one study, which eventually ended up with the government of today having to cancel a contract. So obviously, their monitoring and their mentoring weren't very secure.
As I mentioned earlier, the staff of family services branch has been researching this area. They have been discussing it extensively with other jurisdictions in Canada, and they are having similar problems, Mr. Speaker, with child welfare. It seems like child welfare has become a destination for many troubled teenagers.
And to cast the blame for these problems solely on the government would be very narrow. We have a responsibility, Mr. Speaker, under the act, but communities have a responsibility, and the members opposite have responsibilities in ensuring that we follow proper procedure.
The problem is a community problem.
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The department staff are completely aware of this. We are working and trying to build for the future.
Question re: Aeromax Industries Inc., aircraft manufacturing
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, recently there has been a great buzz in the Yukon about the possible establishment of an aircraft manufacturing plant by a company from the State of Washington. Apparently, the company goes by the name of Aeromax International and is situated in Bothell, Washington. Now, the Premier has stated in this Legislature that she has spoken with company officials, as well as the company's local representative. Can the minister advise the House about what steps she or her officials have taken to determine the viability of this project or the company behind it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for the question. Yesterday, I indicated to the member opposite that I would provide copies of correspondence that I had signed with regard to this specific proposal. I can advise the member opposite that this will be provided to him and to the leader of the third party.
Basically, the letter to Mr. Patrick Palmer of Aeromax in Bothell, Washington states that, "We appreciate your expression of interest in the development of a manufacturing plant in Yukon, and we welcome an exploratory visit from Aeromax officials." That occurred in June, as I stated yesterday to the member opposite. The current status is that officials from Aeromax are to provide Economic Development with more information about their proposal and more information about themselves as a company prior to the government evaluating it. We are waiting for information.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, we in the opposition have been doing some research ourselves. Aeromax International Limited is not listed in Bothell, Washington's phone book. Its supposed corporate office does not even have a telephone. Aeromax International Limited does not have a City of Bothell business licence. It is also not a member of Bothell's Chamber of Commerce.
We have also contacted a long-established company in California with an almost identical name. That company's CEO has been inundated with calls from Yukoners, including the City of Whitehorse, all of whom are trying to locate this supposed aircraft manufacturing company, Aeromax International.
The Premier has just stated that she has corresponded with Aeromax. Can the Premier enlighten us as to how communities like Watson Lake, Haines Junction and anybody else interested can make contact with this company?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What the member opposite has done, prior to asking his question, is that he has raised specific questions about a specific company on the floor of this Legislature. I endeavoured to communicate to the member opposite that we, in the Department of Economic Development, and I, as minister, were asking some very clear questions and were waiting for some more information before we went any further. We are waiting for an actual concrete proposal. We are waiting for information about the company. That is information that has not yet been provided. We have had one preliminary meeting with this company. We have said that if they want further interest or support from the Government of Yukon, we need a whole lot of questions answered.
We are waiting for that information. We are doing what government should do, which is their homework, before proceeding any further. That's what we're doing.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would like to point out that the meeting was back in June, so they're taking a long time to do homework.
I'm sure that the Premier is aware that both the City of Whitehorse and the Faro Sustainable Development Corporation have already signed separate memorandums of understanding with this company - letters of intent, Mr. Speaker.
In the case of the Whitehorse memorandum, the company called itself Aeromax International. In the case of Faro, it called itself Aeromax Yukon Limited. Mr. Speaker, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Yukon Chamber of Commerce both told us that they have no listing for either Aeromax Yukon or Aeromax International, neither does the Yukon government's own corporate registry.
Yukoners want to know: is the Premier chasing a phantom here, or does she have some concrete information that she can provide about what is starting to seem more and more like another partisan Liberal backroom deal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have told the member opposite on no less than five occasions that the ball was in the company's court. We did as we would do with any person interested in doing business in the Yukon. We sat down and heard from them. Then we said to them, "You come back to us with more information." They have not done that. They haven't done that.
As a result, nothing has happened - N-O-T-H-I-N-G, nothing.
If the City of Whitehorse and Faro -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. I can't hear the Premier's response.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Nothing has happened with this company - nothing. If they choose to work with the community of Faro and the City of Whitehorse, and those two legally entitled entities want to enter into this, the Department of Economic Development is working with them and will provide whatever support is required. But no official from our department has recommended the signing of anything. We are waiting for information. This government does its homework.
Question re: Group homes, staffing and quality of care
Mr. Jenkins: Nothing - it sounds like the word to sum up the economic stimulation that this Liberal government is providing to the Yukon these days.
I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Yesterday in this House, I presented a motion of urgent and pressing necessity, calling upon the government to create an independent inquiry, pursuant to the Public Inquiries Act, for the purpose of examining the quality of care being provided to high-risk children and youth in government and private sector group homes in Whitehorse.
Unfortunately, the minister and his Liberal colleagues denied me the unanimous consent to proceed with my motion, which demonstrates that this Liberal government is prepared to put partisan politics ahead of the well-being of children in Yukon, which is very unfortunate.
In the mail today, I received a bulletin from the Public Service Commission, advertising 17 positions for residential care workers: 13 part-time positions, and four part-time positions, at a cost of approximately $746,000. It's almost three-quarters of a million dollars.
Would the minister confirm that these positions are for the staffing at 16 Klondike group home?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: These positions are being advertised, as the member opposite has said, for the purpose of staffing group homes, Mr. Speaker - not specifically the one that is being referred to here, but that will be one of them that will be staffed by this call for people to respond for employment.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the government is going to be taking over all the group homes one by one. Now, one of the immediate impacts of the government taking over a service previously provided by the private sector is that the costs go up. I know of situations where children in government care today are costing a half-million dollars for one child.
In view of these costs, can the minister assure this House that children in government care will be receiving, and are receiving, better care than they have been receiving in the private sector group homes? Can the minister provide that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: On one part, the member opposite talks about spending too much money and then talks about not spending enough. So I guess it's that same thing where, what is right? Do we spend enough? Do we not spend enough? I would hope that we spend what is necessary to ensure the safety and security of all children. That is our approach.
Mr. Jenkins: What I'm saying is we are charged as a government with the responsibility to look after these children. Now, some of it's done in the private sector; some of it's done in the government sector. Now the minister can't give assurances because he doesn't know that the government sector is providing better levels of service than the private sector. And the only way he can find out is to create an independent public inquiry, which I now call upon him to do. Will he call that public inquiry under the Public Inquiries Act for the purpose of examining the quality of care being provided to high-risk children and youth in government and private sector group homes in Whitehorse? Will the minister do that? That's the only way to provide some certainty.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: People on this side have some difficulty with the opposition in that it's either too much money, not enough money; too many reviews, now they want some more reviews. I don't think they know where they're at. They sound like they're all good Liberals. They know we should all basically do what we have to do. There we are. I guess my problem would be that we really don't want them anyway, so we'll have to carry on with the team we have.
Children are very important in our lives and in the lives of the community. And remember, the problem that we have is that the members opposite are using children for political gain. That's what they're doing, Mr. Speaker. We are doing what is best for children. We do not take decisions lightly when we have to take over contracts. We do not do it at the drop of a pin. If the members opposite, when they were government, felt that they were responding to all these issues, then they should have been doing what they had to do. They did nothing, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The question is, we are working hard at trying to come up with solutions that are going to work for children. And our department is working very hard at doing that.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Fentie:My question is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. We have heard many, many times in this House, the Liberals stand and say, "We are a government that does what it says it will do." One of the Liberals' biggest commitments in the campaign to Yukoners, especially as it relates to public servants, was that they would bring forward whistle-blower legislation. Can the minister tell us today what instructions he has given the Department of Justice to begin drafting this legislation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda:We are still in discussion with Executive Council Office and the public service in designing that type of legislation. As the member opposite is certainly aware, it certainly is a delicate issue. As politicos, we have to be very cognizant of the fact that the Public Service Commission is at arm's length. So we are working, proceeding toward that, and when I do have some more information, I will be more than willing to share it with the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we on this side of the House, the public servants and Yukoners are becoming concerned. There are too many examples of this Liberal government deviating from their commitments, whether it be the Member for Whitehorse Centre's commitment in the campaign of retracting the three-quarters of a million bucks to Argus, whether it be the multi-level care facility in Watson Lake, the bus in Old Crow - there are just too many examples. Will the minister tell this House when he believes he will bring forward whistle-blower legislation?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite, I would love dearly to provide a definitive date when we would be bringing that forward, but, then again, there is a good possibility it could be in the spring.
I will be providing a ministerial statement in this session toward the whistle-blower legislation; but, again, I remind the members opposite - and they are certainly aware of the difficulties in this whole issue - that it is very, very sensitive. Again, I will let him know that I am working with the Public Service Commissioner, as am I involving the Executive Council Office on this issue.
Mr. Fentie: In the first place, Mr. Speaker, it was the Liberals who committed to this legislation. Now we have the minister saying this is very delicate, a very serious matter. It is sounding more and more like deviation. There are rumblings already, rumblings of political interference and problems in the public service.
I ask the minister: will he commit here today to bring forward whistle-blower legislation so that the public servants in this territory can work in a comfortable environment by the spring sitting? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, there is obviously no adequate answer for those who choose not to hear.
I, as respectfully as I possibly could, indicated to the member opposite that we will be moving on this. I have given him as up-to-date information as I possibly can, but he chooses not to hear that. I did indicate that, in this session, I would be making a ministerial statement on that, that I will be continuing to pursue, with the Public Service Commissioner, moving in that direction. And, quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, that's as honest as I can be at this time.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, operation of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Tourism.
As the minister is aware, earlier this year it became necessary for the heritage branch to make some new arrangements for the operation of the gift shop at the Beringia Interpretive Centre.
Can the minister provide us with an update on that matter? Has the new concession operator been identified?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, no.
Mr. McRobb: It's no secret that the previous proprietor of the gift shop has gone on to endeavours as the Member for Whitehorse Centre. In fact, the member's disclosure statement, filed in the Clerk's office, confirms that his spouse, Jeannette McLarnon, became the sole proprietor of his business, Mike's North, on the day after the election in April.
Can the minister tell us if any personnel from the heritage branch were involved in any direct discussions or negotiations with the Member for Whitehorse Centre after April 18?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that I have deliberately tried to distance myself from, because it is an operational discussion. It's not a policy issue. I don't meddle in the day-to-day workings of my department. I know that previous governments have done that; we don't.
What I can say to the member opposite is that, as this is a very important issue to him, I will get him a written response on it as soon as possible, so that we all have up-to-date information for him.
Mr. McRobb: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, it would appear somewhat unusual - possibly even unorthodox - for the member to be holding discussions on the concession contract after divesting himself of the business, as his disclosure statement indicates.
Can the minister tell us who initiated discussions between the member and the heritage branch staff? Was it the member or did it initiate from within the department?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I do not carry out the business of every single person within my department. I do not interfere with the workings of my department on a daily basis. I have never done that. I know that the people who were in government previous to us made a great show of doing that regularly with the public service.
What I have promised the member opposite is that we will provide a written report on this issue. I know it's important to the member opposite, and I will get a written report to the member opposite on that very issue.
Question re: Beringia Interpretive Centre, operation of gift shop
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I didn't ask if the minister was meddling, and I wish she would answer the questions because it takes them a long time to respond in writing - sometimes two to three months - and we're not prepared to wait that long. That's why we're asking questions today.
At the time these discussions began, the Member for Whitehorse Centre was going around town, taking every opportunity to tell people - even within the department - that he was going to be the new Minister of Tourism. Now, it's not difficult to imagine that government employees might have reason to feel uncomfortable, or even intimidated, conducting contract negotiations with an elected member, who might soon become their political boss. Does the minister not agree with that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No.
Mr. McRobb: I just want to get this point clear, Mr. Speaker. Does the minister think it is appropriate for an elected official, who has convinced himself that he is about to be made a Cabinet minister, to conduct contract negotiations with employees of the department he might be named to head?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No.
Mr. McRobb: We're only beginning to scratch the surface on this issue, Mr. Speaker. So, I'd like to ask the minister this: when did she become aware of these discussions, and what action did she take to resolve an obviously unacceptable situation?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat again to the member opposite that I did not interfere with this process. I deliberately did not interfere with this process. I do not interfere with the natural processes that occur within my departments - any one of them. That is not what I do.
And the member opposite wonders what I do do as a minister - what I should be doing - my job, which is to bring forward government policy and to make sure that my departments work well. But I do not interfere with the day-to-day workings within my departments, and I will provide a written response to the member opposite about his original question. And there isn't any more that I can do, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School, relocation of French immersion
Mr. Fairclough: There has been a lot of talk in this Legislature about schools. And the NDP government had followed a process that was laid out by the public in having school council chairs meet and put together priority lists. The Old Crow school and Ross River school got built, and the Mayo school was budgeted for. Mr. Speaker, will the Minister of Education confirm the plans are underway to move the French-immersion programs from the Whitehorse Elementary School to a rebuilt Grey Mountain Primary School?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There are ongoing discussions within the department on enrolment in the Whitehorse schools The department has been charged with that responsibility. I have not been apprised, nor have I asked for any specific information until that process is complete.
Mr. Fairclough: It appears the government has already made up their mind and they're just talking about it within their department. The MLA for Whitehorse Centre has been heard to say at social functions that the Liberal government's plans to relocate the French programs at Grey Mountain Primary School and establish a downtown campus for Yukon College at Whitehorse Elementary School. Would the minister inform the House what consultation has taken place with parents, with school councils and with schools, and what programs are involved?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I had just indicated in the answer previous, this is a process that we're looking at. We're looking at the whole enrolment and capacity in Whitehorse schools.
The member opposite has indicated that it's under review, and he's absolutely right, because we don't bulldoze ahead; we don't make promises that we can't keep; we don't commit to things that are unreasonable without following through on a review, on caucus, until we can make sound, reasonable decisions, Mr. Speaker. That is the Liberal way, and that's how we'll govern the territory.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Liberal way, Mr. Speaker, is without consultation.
The MLA riding reports, by both the Members for Riverdale South and Riverdale North, provide an update on the Grey Mountain School, "the little school that could". The update says that the Liberal commitment to build a new school stands.
Mr. Speaker, would the minister now admit that the commitment to Grey Mountain School was part of a political agenda and does not reflect the concerns of parents or the priorities of the department or the chairs of schools councils?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'm not quite sure of the source of information provided by the interim leader of the official opposition in that question. I'm sure that parents are very concerned with respect to Grey Mountain School. That was very, very evidence during the election, and he knows that.
The enrolment and capacity in the Whitehorse school, yes, is a review, and the members of the previous government are certainly aware that there are systems and changes that have to be reviewed and looked into. The member opposite is also alluding to the fact that we don't consult, that we don't provide information. That is quite wrong. We will be conducting information sessions and consultation on the enrolment and capacity in Whitehorse schools.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Question of privilege
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a question of privilege pursuant to Standing Order 7(1).
Mr. Speaker, my question of privilege pertains to comments made in this House yesterday by the Minister of Education, as reported on page 151 on Hansard. The specific comments read, "Chief Hager insisted that the conversation include the interim leader of the official opposition. Immediately upon hearing that request, we sent a request down to find him. He refused to come up." There was a lot of emphasis put on that.
First of all, I give thumbs up to Chief Hager for involving his MLA in important issues pertaining to his community. But, Mr. Speaker, I would like to give my version of the events that took place.
It's true, the minister did send a person down to call me up to a meeting, but, Mr. Speaker, the bells were already going for the Legislature to start. It was only a few minutes, and I did not refuse to come up and meet with the ministers opposite. What I said was that, after the Question Period, I will be available to meet with them.
Mr. Speaker, my duties are to this House, and I felt that his comments were causing embarrassment, and it really questions my credibility. And Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that minister has made that type of comment to me. I feel the minister is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and I'm asking the Minister of Education to withdraw his remarks and to apologize for them.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, what I related yesterday in the House was exactly what happened. I do realize that the circumstances that were evolving were rushed and hurried, and we were following a process that we had committed to the members opposite that we would follow, by way of providing information as it occurred.
As we got the information, I was immediately in touch with the folks up in Mayo, which I had, also, followed through with at the suggestion of the interim leader of the official opposition - getting a hold of Chief Hager, not the deputy chief, but Chief Hager. We managed to get hold of Chief Hager. I was on a conference call with two folks up in Mayo, as well as Chief Hager. It was Chief Hager who explicitly said that he wanted his MLA present.
And when we heard that - not a problem. We sent a message down to advise his MLA from Mayo-Tatchun to come up and listen to the message that we were giving to Chief Hagar. At the same time, Chief Hager wanted him to hear the message we were giving. We did realize that the hour was getting late with respect to coming to the House. We still proceeded, because of the urgency of the situation. The members chastised me yesterday for giving a ministerial statement on it, which expressed my concerns and passed information on to the residents of Mayo. Oh, that was not the proper thing to do.
We did get a hold of Chief Hager. His instruction - and I am sure that the Minister of Government Services will verify it, as will others in the room - was that Chief Hager did not want to discuss the issue until his MLA was there. We tried to get him up there so that we could provide the information at the same time. The message came back, "We will wait until after Question Period." Well, we were honouring the request of Chief Hager, and we felt it important enough to do it then, regardless if the bells were ringing. It was at his request, specifically, that we sent the message down.
So that was how it happened. We had to put Chief Hager on hold. He came over here and sat in the gallery. We then followed through. I sent messages across the House and to Chief Hager to meet at the earliest possible time. We did not violate the member opposite's privilege. I provided the facts as I knew them. He refused to come upstairs to talk with the chief, regardless of what was happening in the Chamber here, because we felt the message was important. We wanted to provide information as quickly, as expediently as possible, and it was at Chief Hager's request that we followed through on that.
Speaker: Order please. Order.
Given what I have just heard, I'll take the comments under advisement, and I'll provide the House with a written ruling tomorrow.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 21
Clerk: Motion No. 21, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake
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;
(2)the outward migration of Yukoners to other parts of Canada to seek employment has increased dramatically since this Liberal government took office;
(3) the Yukon Liberal government has contributed directly to this situation through such ill-advised decisions as postponing the construction of a new school in Mayo, and failing to take action to solve the crisis in the Yukon forestry sector;
(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;
(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;
(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. Fentie: Let me begin by stating to this House that, if today is going to be wasted, it will be due to the Liberals, the members opposite.
This matter is a crisis matter. It is an emergency situation. Our economy in the territory is in a deplorable state, and it has worsened, to a great degree, under this Liberal government. It has worsened for a number of reasons, many of which I will try to point out today, during this debate.
Mr. Speaker, to be able, as the Liberals have claimed, to rebuild an economy - and really, the commitment should be to continue to diversify the Yukon's economy - one would have to have a plan. If a carpenter is going to build a house, he will have the floor plan, the measurements, the height and thickness of the walls, and the pitch of the roof - all those things before he commences constructing the house. This government, upon taking office April 17, has willy-nilly proceeded headlong into an economic morass in this territory, because they have no plan.
We have waited, through two throne speeches, for the plan and the direction. Where are we going? Where is the blueprint? We have yet to see it. Yet, they make claims that they are creating jobs and rebuilding the economy. It is not so. That is simply not the case. In fact, the reality is that they are dismantling the economy, brick by brick, program by program, and initiative by initiative in sectors where there were jobs and benefits and growth taking place. They ensured that that was stopped.
They are dismantling this economy at their peril, unfortunately, in their zest to put their own partisan, political spin on what they deliver in this territory during their short reign, I'm sure. They are sacrificing Yukoners; they are sacrificing Yukon workers, Yukon families, Yukon children, Yukon companies. They are sacrificing our ability to attract investment in the territory, because they have created such an uncertain climate that people are now seriously opposed to investing in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has stood on her feet in this Legislature and made a claim based on statistics that the unemployment rate is lower under the Liberal reign. But to be able to stand in this House and use statistics to argue your case, one must understand how to read statistics, how to compare the data and one must always compare apples to apples, oranges to oranges. The facts and the statistics are, when properly critiqued and compared, that if we took the time frame of September 1999 to September 2000, the unemployment in this territory has increased since September 1999 to September 2000 by 1.5 percent. The workforce has shrunk by 500. Now, Mr. Speaker, we are about to receive new statistics which will now include the fact that a large portion of Yukoners, who were employed in the service sector because of the tourism industry for 90 days of the summer months, are now going to be unemployed.
There are no more tourists, so that figure is sure to increase. The Premier mistakenly has tried to make the case that, under their government, they have lowered unemployment when, in fact, the Liberals have increased unemployment - increased it.
It's also important to note, when we look at the statistics, that when 500 people leave the workforce, that means, in all likelihood, that those 500 people have left the Yukon. Now, I'm sure we can all agree that no matter what economic engine we have in this territory, the fuel that allows that engine to run is cashflow. Without it, the engine stops. With no cashflow, that economic engine ceases to operate and is no longer contributing to our economy.
Let's just do some quick math, Mr. Speaker. If 500 people have left the workforce in this territory, and they averaged $40,000 a year, if they were working in this territory, what does that equate to - $20 million annually in cashflow? This is a serious, serious matter. We in the official opposition bring forward this motion today because it is a crisis situation.
Now, the Liberal government has made much, time and time again, of wanting to work cooperatively, of even asking this side of the House to work cooperatively. I submit, Mr. Speaker, to you and to this Legislature that, if that were the case, one of those members would stand immediately on a point of order and inform this House that they wished to seek unanimous consent to move this motion to a vote and pass it and form a committee immediately so that we, collectively, can address a matter of pressing and urgent need.
Let there be no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that this is going to be one of the toughest winters this territory and its people have faced in a long, long time. All through this sitting, we are witnessing how the Liberals are shutting down economic engines.
We'll begin today, Mr. Speaker, with one of those engines, and it is forestry. Now, no matter what the members opposite may think, the facts are very clear. Forestry was one of the few resource-based industries that, at this time, here in this territory, was an industry that we could definitely - definitely - have running.
The Premier has made excuses about prices. Well, the Premier should know - because it is her job to know as Minister of Economic Development - that lumber prices rise and fall on an annual basis. It is a fact of life.
There was a vibrant, running forest sector in the southeast Yukon. Mr. Speaker, that forest sector tried - through private investment and through some very minimal assistance from the previous government in training dollars - to operate under the existing regulatory regime.
The federal government simply does not respond to Yukon needs, no matter what area, whether it be in mining, whether it be in forestry - and I'm sure we're going to run into a number of road blocks in oil and gas, thanks to our federal government - whether it be in the land claims process, whether it be in devolution, or whether it be in health care. No matter what, the federal government does not respond to the needs and desires of the Yukon Territory.
Therefore, it's important - vital - that a Yukon government, to the best of its mental and physical capacity, represents and protects Yukoners' interests in all matters that have a connection to the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, when we look at forestry, there was absolutely no need for that industry to shut down. The simple matter is that access to timber was the key element. Now, the Premier has also used the excuse that, when the corporation came forward - not for taxpayers' dollars, for private sector dollars, the immigrant investor fund. When the corporation comes forward, the Premier also makes the excuse that there was no business case. Well, there are a number of problems with that particular statement by the Premier. In the first case, there is no business case without stable access to timber. Therefore, the company, in trying to help a situation in a rural community in this territory, to keep people at work, to keep providing benefit to the economy in this territory, said, "All right, you, the Liberal government, are now going to delay the process that would result in stable access to timber, therefore provide bridge financing, and we will try and exist and survive under this delay, but you must help. You, the territorial government, the Liberals, must come forward, and you must help."
There were many other options open to the Premier in this regard, but in that cold-hearted manner that this Liberal government is showing time and time again, the Premier and this government turned their backs on not only an industry, a corporation, which had provided millions of private sector investment in this territory; it turned its back on a community and its people and left them out in the cold for no reason, Mr. Speaker - absolutely no reason than that of politics. The community of Watson Lake resoundingly defeated the Liberal candidate, and Watson Lake was immediately punished.
Mr. Speaker, I want to point out the erroneous approach that the Premier has taken to a business case. Firstly, I stated that a business case, in forestry, means that there first must be stable access to timber. But let's look at what was really happening. The forest sector in the southeast Yukon was one step away from either the Yukon government assisting with bridge financing or achieving stable access to timber, to receiving upwards of $16 million more of private sector investment. This would have resulted in cogeneration, kiln-dried lumber, finger-jointing, furniture blanks, greenhousing, the growing of our own seed, silviculture, and jobs in the neighbourhood of 300 to 400. In fact, the business case in the southeast Yukon in the forest sector was so good that a world-renowned cogeneration firm - Seaman's Company - was willing to participate by putting money on the table. Investment firms out of Calgary had money on the table. The Premier did not even bother to review - as this Liberal government seems to always want to do - those facts.
Not only that - we also had the ability to burn domestic garbage. And, with cogeneration being developed from residual wood out of the manufacturing side of this industry, it shut down diesel-produced electricity. Has the Premier not heard of global warming and the commitments of this country to reduce emissions? I find it astounding that with all the information that was available to her and with all that just one step ahead, this Premier turned her back on it and shut it down.
That is simply the sign of a Minister of Economic Development who has no plan, no vision, no view - no nothing.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there's much more. But I want to point out that, no matter what happens in the forest sector, the people of Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon will remember that day, when this Liberal government turned its back on them and walked away. And that is going to result in a very, very depressing and devastating time for that community. Not only are we in a situation where our unemployment rate in the southeast Yukon is skyrocketing and may reach well over 20 percent - thanks to this Liberal government - this community has faced already, and continues to face, an exodus of people, businesses and equipment. They are going elsewhere to work.
As I speak here today, trucks are heading south to Grande Prairie, Alberta to haul logs - leaving home to go to another region in another jurisdiction, so that they can make a living and pay their bills, when we are surrounded by a resource - hundreds and hundreds of square kilometres of that resource. This government, under the leadership of this Premier and this minister, did nothing - did not lift a finger. That in itself is a tragedy. It did not have to take place.
The Premier also didn't recognize the fact that the First Nation, the Kaska, had well in excess of half a million dollars of their hard-earned money invested in this industry. Yet, the Premier wants to develop good, cooperative relationships with the First Nations? She turned her back on the Kaska people also.
Mr. Speaker, there is much more, when we look at the situation that is the direct result of this Premier's and this government's inaction.
Unfortunately, and contrary to the commitment that the Liberals made in an election campaign to bring certainty to this territory, they have done a great deal to add to uncertainty, because now investment dollars, even in the forestry sector, have dried up.
So, let's look at the big picture. Over the years - and the Liberals seem to miss this point - we have had mining. Mining has been shutting down in the Yukon Territory for almost 15 years. Canada as a nation is losing its share of investment dollars in mining exploration, development and production. That is a fact. So, we have lost, because of the uncertain climate in this territory, investment dollars in mining also.
It has got nothing to do with what political power or what political party is in power. It has got to do with two very important facts. First off, there is the federal government's virtually ridiculous approach to allowing industry to permit, to develop and to operate. There seems to be absolutely no consistent basis on how the federal government applies any type of regulation, whether it be land use or any other matter. And it's a constant problem for the mining industry, as it is for the forest industry, and as it is, I'm sure, going to be for the oil and gas industry.
The federal government does not respond to Yukon needs. It never has and it probably never will.
Now we have a government across the floor that has a special relationship - or so they claim. Where were they when the federal government - who is responsible for managing our forests in this territory - shut down the industry, because they couldn't even get the industry access to timber? And I'll point out how ludicrous this is. Three hundred miles from the community of Watson Lake, there's another community in British Columbia that harvests one million cubic metres of wood a year.
Granted, they have a rail head; granted, they have oil and gas; but also, Mr. Speaker, because of the certainty of access and the positive approach to allowing development, there is in excess of $500,000,000 invested in that community of 7,000 people - 300 miles from the Yukon border and the community of Watson Lake.
This year, under this government's watch and the federal government's management, we couldn't even get 60,000 metres of a summer cut happening. What is wrong with this picture? It's ridiculous. That is why this special relationship that the members opposite claim to have seems to not be working. Or is it the fact that the Liberals across the floor are just simply not going to bother to criticize, oppose, fight, or do anything in terms of representing and protecting our interests in this territory when it comes to the federal Liberal government? We would like to know.
We, on the other hand, when in government, did take on the federal government, and we did make things happen. Let's look at some of those facts, Mr. Speaker. While under our watch, forestry in the southeast Yukon, and indeed in the Yukon itself, was the recipient - that sector, that economic engine was the recipient - of millions of dollars of private sector investment. We, under our watch, reduced a cut that many people in this territory thought was too high by close to 100,000 cubic metres. We, under our watch, reduced raw-log export - jobs and benefits streaming out of this territory - to a mere trickle. And we, under our watch, increased the manufacture of a product from our forest sector by some 400 percent. That, Mr. Speaker, is a government that takes action. That, Mr. Speaker, is a government that protects and represents Yukon's interests.
Immediately upon taking office, that situation changed. One can only conclude that there was only one reason why that happened: the members opposite were playing politics - playing politics with the future of the Yukon people. I find that totally disgusting.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier has made much about mining, and she has said, "Look at all we have done. We have, for example, Copper Ridge Exploration Inc. writing this wonderful letter that shows - now that we know where the goalposts are, I emphasize, even though we are still under federal management and have this possible five-year timeline just to get a permit - that we, the Liberal government, are doing great, signed by Mr. Gerald G. Carlson."
Well, here is a letter from Copper Ridge Exploration Inc. It was written to the Yukon Chamber of Mines, signed by Mr. Carlson. In the relevant passage - I want to quote something, and this is under our government's watch and Minister Harding's reign as mines minister in this territory. He writes, "I believe you have one of the better mines ministers in Canada, who is doing a reasonably good job of working for the interests of the exploration and mining communities." He is pushing hard for a Manitoba-style system of land use planning and exploration incentives. The Manitoba program has worked, and exploration in that province is alive and well. The Premier, if she is ever to be successful as a Minister of Economic Development, is going to understand what stock hype in the mining sector is all about.
So, the same company was as supportive of the last government as it is of this government. The fundamental problem here is that there is still no mining, whether it be the largest ore body in the world or not.
The facts are that we have any number of mines in this territory already permitted, with mills in place, infrastructure in place, roads in place, distribution infrastructure and equipment in place. They're all sitting rusting. Why is that? Well, when it comes to mines that are already there, ready to go into production, it's because there's no profit. And when it comes to exploration and the development of new mines, there are two things: no profit and the red tape that the federal government has placed on us in this territory, because they don't care.
Now, we all believe that one of the ways to solve that problem is devolution, but that, too, is now delayed. So it comes back to the point of this motion.
Mr. Speaker, we need to create economic development and jobs and benefit for Yukoners now, not years down the road. Who is going to be left? It has to happen today. I don't dispute focusing on developing oil and gas and focusing on trying to get mining back up and running, and improving the situation or forestry or anything else, but we must recognize that, when it comes to our economy, each one of those things is only an individual economic engine. There's still much more, and we must address that "much more" now, here today.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier, recently on the radio when bringing forward this budget - in which, by the way, the lion's share of expenditures, in my preliminary view, is all operation and maintenance, with very little in job creation - the Premier states, "Are there going to be winter works monies available for Yukoners this winter?" She says no, and then states, "Are there Yukoners working?"
"Yes, there are." Well, we agree - there are Yukoners working, but a great number of those Yukoners are in government jobs, or in businesses that have spinoff benefits because of government jobs. What about the rest of Yukoners who aren't working? It's this government's duty and responsibility to ensure - to ensure - that they can go to work, earn a living and feed their families, especially when this government is sitting with literally millions of dollars in its coffers. I can only wonder what they're going to do with this money. And the signals that are starting to come forward are very concerning.
Mr. Speaker, the hardships to be faced in this territory because of this economic situation and because of the inaction of this government are also going to increase problems socially. The social and economic situation in this territory are entwined. For all those people who can't work, it's despair. Social problems become ever increasing. That translates into ever-increasing costs in health care and other issues, such as justice. The list goes on and on and on. This government is creating a domino effect that is going to make the situation even worse - much worse than they may even be able to handle.
Mr. Speaker, that is why this motion is on this floor today. Unlike the members opposite, who thought that one of the most important and pressing things we should do in this government for the people of this territory is change the sitting hours of this Legislature, I couldn't find a Yukoner, to save my soul, who was even interested in changing the sitting hours.
Because the member asked me why this side of the House went on about it for two days. It is because we pointed out that this government across the floor is wrong in what they're doing. There was a vehicle in place to deal with those matters. There was a vehicle in place to change sitting hours if we so desired. The Liberal government chose to neuter that committee and make it useless. It is no more. And now, as long as this government's in power, anything that we change in this Legislative Assembly, when it comes to the rules, procedures and privileges, is going to have to be done on the floor of this Legislature. That's a ridiculous approach to take when we have all the problems that we are about to face in this territory - socially and economically.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education said that we chose it. Now, I don't know how else we can get this through to them. We did not bring forward the motion. It was the Liberals who brought forward that motion, not us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Now we've got the Minister of Community and Transportation Services trumpeting away that we wouldn't come to the meetings. The documents speak for themselves. We did come to the meeting; we did agree.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Now the Minister of Education says we're repeating it. Well, we're repeating it because it doesn't get through to that side of the House how serious the situation in this territory really is. I can't figure out where they think they're taking us.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Here we have the prize of the fleet over there, the Minister of Education saying, "dealing with our legacy". I've just pointed out, based on the facts, that unemployment has increased under that government. And in all likelihood, social problems are going to increase. We've got group homes now under siege. We have schools and children in unhealthy, unsafe conditions being completely ignored.
The number of excuses that we've heard from the Liberals when it comes to the Mayo school are too numerous to even remember.
It begins with, "Oh, the bids were overbudget. My goodness, shut her down, the world stops; the bids were over budget."
Well, for as long as this government's in power, you're going to be facing that particular situation on an ongoing basis.
The point is, even if that were the problem, even if -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: - even - well, now we have the Minister of Education again, going off, telling us all these wonderful things, and showing us all the knowledge he has.
Well, look, the facts are that it was this side of the House - the NDP government - that put $7.5 million into a budget to build the school, and solve the health and safety problems of Yukon children and staff.
It was that government on that side of the House that postponed, delayed, maybe even cancelled that contract - we don't know. There have been so many excuses coming out of there, nobody's sure any more.
Even if the problem in their minds was the fact that it was overbudget, I ask a simple question: why did they not sit down with the contractors and say, "Look, people, we have a problem here. We have a problem here. Let's see if we can't work this out; (a) to ensure that we do the right thing on behalf of the children, the staff, and the people of Mayo; and (b) ensure that those people in Mayo have a job this winter, can feed their families and earn a living." That was an option open to this government.
And I'm sure once that came into their minds, they came up with another excuse. Oh, the technicality in the bids. Ha. Oh, there's another problem they're going to face constantly. Have they looked at a government tender package? You have to be a Philadelphia lawyer to get it right, and we're asking Yukoners out there, struggling away to survive, to be letter perfect.
That's another bum excuse. Mr. Speaker, all these things are pointing to a very serious problem on the Liberal benches. They don't care. They are bent on one thing and one thing only: partisan politics.
Now Mr. Speaker, there's another burr in my bonnet when it comes to Liberals. This economy, as critical as it is - we have a serious situation when it comes to the members opposite and the federal Liberals and anybody else involved. It's a lust for power. And the lust for power is ahead of everything else. The federal Liberals act the very same way that these Yukon Liberals are acting - arrogantly, our way, the Liberal way. We even have today, in this territory, in a situation so critical, a senator - and instead of her, our senator, actively beating the federal government into submission to do something in this territory - what have we got? We have got mother Yukon, wrapped in that Yukon flag, actively campaigning for a Liberal candidate in the federal election while on the public dole.
Speaker: Order. Order please. I would ask the member to be cautious with his words. Please continue.
Mr. Fentie:I'm being very cautious with my words. I believe nothing I have said is unparliamentary.
Why is the senator not actively pursuing, out of the federal government, something to assist this territory now in this winter when we so desperately need it? Oh no. Instead, she's campaigning.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Minister of Tourism, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has no idea what the senator is doing and what the senator is not doing. Our understanding is that the senator is working very hard for the Yukon.
Speaker: Opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I recognize that. We heard the senator on the radio promoting the fact that Yukoners should vote a Liberal candidate in because that is the only way to improve the situation in this territory. Yes, she is working very hard on the Liberal federal election.
Speaker: Order. There is no point of order there, but there certainly is a dispute between members, and I will ask the member to continue.
Mr. Fentie: Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, why do we even have a Senate? Why do we have a Senate? Why don't we take that $40 million to $50 million we blow every year on that Red Chamber - that useless body - and give it to homeless people?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, there is the Minister of Education again, showing us that depth of knowledge. He is saying, "This is the Yukon; that is Ottawa." Well, you had better look at where you get your money from - sorry, Mr. Speaker. I would ask the minister to look at where we get our money. It happens to be Ottawa. It is called transfer payments. The minister must understand this. He is the Minister of Renewable Resources. Ottawa is the manager of our resources, our lands. It is Ottawa, Ottawa - Ottawa in everything that goes on. Of course we should be after Ottawa.
Back to my original point, Mr. Speaker. Why do we even have the Senate? Let's take that 40 to 50 million bucks, give it to homeless people, put it into job creation - anything - and send all those partisan appointments home.
There is another example of how little regard the Liberals in this territory have for the crisis we are in. We now have, running in Faro, while still being paid as an administrator for the community, the Liberal candidate. Have these people no sense of what is right when so many people in this territory are suffering?
Some Hon. Member: A point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Minister of Tourism, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the side opposite is enjoying attacking people outside of this House who cannot defend themselves, and the member is hiding behind the privilege that he has in order to do that within the walls of this Legislature. Mr. Speaker, this has to stop.
Mr. Fentie: I'm not attacking anybody outside of this House. I am merely stating the facts. I am merely stating the facts about what's going on. That's what I am saying on the floor of this Legislature. Secondly, as the member would well know, I don't have to hide from anything. There's nothing that I have to hide from. I have a right to stand in this Legislature and say my piece in representing my constituents.
Mr. McLarnon: The member opposite should remember that he is allowed to say falsehoods in this House, but is not allowed to say them outside of the House without being sued.
The ex-mayor of Faro resigned upon nomination. So if the member is going to say that he is still on the public dole of Faro, then he better make sure his facts are correct.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, if we check the record, I did not say that the ex-mayor of Faro was on the public dole. I said we have an administrator in Faro now running for federal office.
Speaker: In my view, we continue with a dispute between members; however, I caution the members not to make inflammatory remarks so that this debate gets out of control.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, there was an express purpose to what I have just stated. We have just witnessed how passionately the members across the floor jump to their feet to protect other Liberals - and that's what they're doing when it comes to the federal government. They jump to their feet, not to protect and represent Yukoners' interests, but to protect and hide the deficiencies that the federal government imposes upon us in this territory.
That is a problem and that's why we have such a critical situation in our economy. That's why we're going backwards, not forwards, Mr. Speaker. In postponing the Mayo school, the members opposite are asking people in Mayo, who can least afford it - who shouldn't even have to - to bear the brunt of that decision. We on this side - and I personally - don't view that as right. It is the government's responsibility to bear the decision. The money was booked; it's in the budget; the contracts were tendered; the foundation is built and people have been trained. Right now, that construction should be ongoing in Mayo. Those people should be working and they should be looking toward a happy Christmas and a much brighter winter than they are now.
We get back to the point of the requirements of our economy now and what government does to assist in that area. The community development fund and the fire smart program were two vehicles that targeted expenditures - albeit government money, but it targeted expenditures in communities for initiatives brought forward by special interests groups, agencies and municipalities to do two things: create jobs and benefits for their people and provide either community assets or good, positive initiatives for each community in this territory. Now the community development fund, the Liberals opposite have made much about it being a political slush fund, and I find that pretty odd, given the fact that the Liberals are notorious for pork-barrelling. If we want to talk about political slush, let's look at what goes on.
Why did our senator get chosen? Liberal. Why did our commissioner get chosen? Liberal.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: I don't dispute that. The Member for Whitehorse Centre, in his in-and-out thoughts when sitting in this Legislature, just said, "Could it be because he's a member of high standing?" I didn't say he wasn't. I say that there are many other members in this territory who are members of high standing; however, they have one fault. They're not Liberals.
Mr. Speaker, let's talk more about pork-barrelling and political slush. One of the most important reviews that has taken place in this territory is our Education Act review. Now, without any consultation, without any discussion, without any proper competition, we have suddenly another Liberal operative pop up as the chair of the Education Act review. The people in the communities who were actively working on this review didn't want that situation to happen. They asked for it not to happen.
Furthermore, again there are a number of very qualified Yukoners who could have also taken on the job - all the more reason to put it out through a proper process where other Yukoners had an opportunity. We had two former ministers of Education. In fact, we had the possibility - should that person have been chosen, maybe, if there was a process to allow them to, we had the person who helped design the existing Education Act. If not the fact that he wasn't Liberal, he may have had a chance. Without any sort of consultation or any sort of process, this government, talking about political slush and pork-barrelling, chose - you know who - a Liberal.
Mr. Speaker, it goes further. Part of our education system that's extremely vital and important is our teachers. And we first heard, during contract negotiations, when problems arose and the negotiations stopped, with no closure, and the teachers would not accept the offer on the table, the Premier said, "It's not about money."
It's not about the money, and yet before the phones were even hooked up upstairs for the new government - the incoming government - we had a partisan, backroom deal on the table of $1 million. This was a signing bonus for the teachers, which the membership, so distraught at how it took place - because of the partisan connection of the president, a.k.a. Liberal sign-hanger in the campaign - resoundingly voted against that million bucks. That's political slush, Mr. Speaker, at its best.
So, the other side of the House - the members opposite - accusing this side of the House of political slush, when it comes to the community development fund, is wrong. The members know full well that every application was screened and reviewed by a technical review committee of members of the public service. Ministers did not review those applications, and the ones that qualified, were eligible and met all the criteria - those were the ones that were brought forward. How can that be political slush? Using that excuse, the Liberals have now cut off another lifeline to Yukoners in this territory to work, to provide a living for their families, to pay their bills, and to have some hope. They have cut off that lifeline.
They call it a review. Well, I can tell you that it's dead, and they're going to come up with something else, because they're moving the money elsewhere.
At the rate they are handing out partisan political goodies, I think we all can understand where the community development fund might wind up. Mr. Speaker, over the course of the three and a half years, and before that, it did much good in communities of this territory. It did much good in creating jobs for people. It was a positive program, a positive element of the Department of Economic Development, and now it is gone.
Mr. Speaker, we also know that approximately $200,000 was placed into the Premier's riding for the ballpark, directed by the now new chair of the community development fund committee, the Member for Porter Creek North. We all remember in this House how the Member for Porter Creek South was demanding that we, when in government on that side of the House, politically interfere with the process so that her ballpark in her riding would get some money. On the one hand, we have accusations that it is a political slush fund; on the other hand, we have the now Premier actively berating the government, when were in government, to interfere with the process and give her riding that money - hypocritical, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: I would like to rise to point out that the member opposite has no evidence and is in fact being quite inflammatory by accusing our Premier of political interference. In fact, I was sitting at the meeting. The Premier was, in fact, in Calgary. There was no way in the world there could have been political interference. The member opposite has stated something that he completely knows about and is misrepresenting any facts that he may know.
Mr. Fentie: The member opposite has made a point of order on something that I'm not even talking about. I'm talking about the Premier, when in opposition, berating the government across the floor to interfere politically to make sure that the ballpark in her riding received money. That was a year ago. The member opposite from Whitehorse Centre is talking about today.
Speaker: After listening to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, I find that his remarks do not make a point of order. What this amounts to is a dispute between members on the facts.
However, I might add that I heard the official opposition House leader use the word "hypocritical", which has been found to be unparliamentary in some Houses. With that, I would ask the Member for Watson Lake to continue.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: I will retract "hypocritical", and replace it with "the Liberal members opposite seem to be confused with the facts".
Mr. Speaker, our economic situation warrants action now. So far, in the six months that this government has been in office, we have received nothing but platitudes about futuristic possibilities.
Now, I want to go into oil and gas. We all agree that the development of an oil and gas industry in this territory is crucial. It's going to be part of what helps this territory to progress. The construction of an Alaska Highway pipeline will be the biggest event in this territory since the Klondike Gold Rush.
As the Klondike Gold Rush changed the course of this territory, so will the Alaska Highway pipeline. However, why we're here this afternoon debating this motion is now - the need now. The Alaska Highway pipeline is futuristic. At the very best, if all things come together favourably, construction will start no sooner than two years from now. Are the Liberals and the Premier asking Yukoners to wait two years before they can go to work?
And as I stated earlier, there are going to be problems when it comes to our federal colonial masters in Ottawa, who do not respond to Yukon needs. And there's more.
This government, upon making its top priority the settlement of land claims, has also established another position that they must deal with. They are promoting the building of the Alaska Highway pipeline contrary to that very commitment to the First Nations. And I'll tell you why, Mr. Speaker. The First Nations are publicly on record stating, "Land claims first; pipeline second."
Now let's look at what's happening in land claims. First off, it has been 30 years, give or take some time either way, that land claims have been negotiated in this territory. Unfortunately, the members opposite, thanks to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who made a glaring error in the eyes of the First Nation people in this territory by announcing in this House that 30 years ago it was the Liberals who started land claims in this territory - that's a slap in the face to every First Nation member in the Yukon Territory. Land claims began in this territory thanks to the people like Elijah Smith and many others who came together as a Council for Yukon Indians and the initiative was, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. That's what began land claims in this territory, not the Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, that is a big-time booboo by the Member for Whitehorse Centre. First Nations will not take that kindly, not after all they have been through. When we get back to our colonial masters in Ottawa, it's with good reason they want self-government, to get out from under the ridiculous way Ottawa tries to manage this territory.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Now we have the Minister of Health saying, "Talk about the Yukon." If the minister would have been here for the last hour, he would have heard all -
Speaker: Order please. It's not proper to refer to a member's absence.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: I'll retract that, Mr. Speaker, gladly, and say that if the minister had been listening, he would realize that his comment is completely out of context with what has been going on in this Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Speaker, the land claim issue is a big one when it comes to the oil and gas pipeline and to the development of oil and gas, the industry itself. The hotbed for an oil and gas industry in this territory is the southeast Yukon, and with good reason. That's where the known resource is; infrastructure is close by; market demand is right there; the Alliance Pipeline is now well under construction; the need to fill that pipeline and get the gas to market in Chicago, Illinois is pressing. So, for development of an oil and gas industry in this territory, it's a natural that it begins in southeast Yukon, even though companies have great foresight in this area and are also bidding on land sales up in Eagle Plains.
But let's point something out. Where's the market from Eagle Plains? Where does it go? That's a very futuristic approach. They want to do it because they want to know what's there, and then they want to be able to plan many years down the road - a minimum of 10. Even though they explore under the conditions of their permit within five, nothing may happen there for many years to come.
So the natural place to go is the southeast corner.
Now we get back to the land claim as it relates to the development of an oil and gas industry. The Kaska people, who are negotiating their land claim as one nation - that means all the Kaska people, whether they be in Yukon or B.C. - are negotiating their land claim as one nation. The Kaska people are willing to do this to expedite the process so that the negotiations would include transboundary.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what is this government across the floor prepared to do in that regard? The B.C. government is ready and willing to go to the table. The federal government is ready and willing to go to the table. The Kaska are prepared and ready to go to the table. Where is the Yukon government? All we hear is, "Our priority is the settlement of land claims." I know, from talking to the Kaska recently, that they're unsure of what it is this government wants to do.
We've stood on the floor and asked the members opposite - the Premier: "What's the mandate for the settlement of land claims in this territory if it's your top priority?" The answer: "We do not negotiate land claims on the floor of this House." Well, how revealing a mandate to this Legislature on what they plan to do about the fact that the Kaska people want to negotiate their claim as one nation - all the Premier would have to do is say, "We concur, and we are going to do that." We didn't even get that answer.
Uncertainty - how is the oil and gas industry going to view this? How is the oil and gas industry, which so badly wants to get into the southeast Yukon, going to view this? I'll tell you how. The Premier is very proud that $6.7 million is being invested in exploratory work - which, by the way, is probably all going to go to seismic - in southeast Yukon.
Across the border - and, in fact, from the Kotaneelee to go across the border into the Northwest Territories is approximately six miles - $1 billion is targeted for exploration and development in the Northwest Territories. Why? Because the First Nations in the Northwest Territories, the Government of the Northwest Territories and the people in the Northwest Territories have shown and proven to the oil and gas industry that there is certainty for their investment.
We still wait for this government, after six months of being in office and making the claim that their highest priority is the settlement of land claims, to show us how. What is the blueprint? Where are we going? Nothing but platitudes from across the floor, Mr. Speaker.
So, the oil and gas industry, whether it be exploration, development or pipeline, is futuristic. That is why this motion is on the floor today. We are talking about the needs of Yukoners here today, now. What is this government going to do?
Now, in the spirit of cooperation, we have put in this motion. Let us put together a group of us - put our heads together, and together address this problem. Nothing came from the Liberal side. The motion has been on the table for three days. If it would have been us, given the situation, no problem. No problem.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Now we have the brain trust from the Liberal benches, the Minister from Whitehorse Centre, saying, "Four years." Well, under our government, I have just proven by the stats that the unemployment factor was lower than it is today under this government when the stats are applied correctly, and apples to apples are the comparison. I have also proven that over 500 people have left this territory. They are out of the workforce, which is approximately $20 million in cash flow lost.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. I cannot hear the member's words. Please continue.
Mr. Fentie: I will ignore the comment from the Member for Whitehorse Centre, because it is going to be a long, long, three and a half years. Believe me, things have a way of following one golden rule: what goes around comes around.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: So, Mr. Speaker, could I make a suggestion that we find out what it is that the Minister of Tourism is trying to accomplish? It looks like the minister is trying to welcome me with open arms.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, we have a serious problem. It's a crisis, it's an emergency, and we don't seem to be able to get from the members opposite, from this Liberal government, anything that would reasonably or remotely address this crisis. Instead, they make it worse. Since taking office, they haven't begun rebuilding the economy; they have been actively dismantling it, destroying what was there. Why? Because it put partisan politics ahead of everything else. The members across the floor seem unable to get beyond their partisan, political views and do the job they were elected to do and represent this territory and its people in a manner that produces positive results.
And I find it a little insulting now to continually hear the members opposite ask for cooperation, because I have yet to see any indication that the members opposite really want to cooperate on anything. There has been no indication that they are even remotely cooperative in any way, shape or form.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, now, we have the Minister of Health going on again about SCREP, which we already punted through the goalposts of life. There is no SCREP any more, thanks to this government. And if the Liberals want to sit there and meet themselves, I ask you, "How do they make those changes?" If they think they're going to come in here and make changes without due process, they had better think again.
That's not how things are done in a democracy, and if they want to continue with that route, it's at their peril. The Minister of Health and Social Services says, "All-party committee." How much clearer can we make ourselves? First off, they say they want to be cooperative and create an all-party committee for appointments. But what's the first act? The minute they take office, out come the pork chops. And they start making partisan, political appointments before they get around to even talking about an all-party committee.
Now, the Minister of Health and Social Services is laughing. He's laughing at Yukoners who won't even be able to put Christmas presents under a Christmas tree this winter. He thinks it's funny. I will be sending this clip to everybody I know in this territory. This minister laughs at the plight of Yukoners who cannot make a living, who have no means -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. This is getting completely out of control here. I overheard that and it was too loud. Member for Whitehorse Centre, please retract that.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McLarnon: I retract that.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House Leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the member opposite has made some inflammatory remarks. The Minister of Health and Social Services was not laughing at the plight of Yukoners. The Minister of Health and Social Services was actually laughing at something that he said, and it had nothing to do with the plight of Yukoners.
The members on this side take the plight of Yukoners very seriously. And the points that you are trying to make in sending transcripts of Hansard to the public is exactly why you are making these statements, which we consider to be misspeaking the facts.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, did you want to speak on the point of order?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: No, there is no point of order.
Speaker: I find that this is a dispute between members and that there is no point of order. I will ask the Member for Watson Lake to continue.
Mr. Fentie: So, getting back to where we were in this debate, before the Minister of Health began his joyous laughter about the plight of Yukoners, I -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the member opposite has misspoken himself again. I would like to set the record straight. The Minister of Health and Social Services did not laugh at the plight of Yukoners. The Minister of Health and Social Services was laughing at the antics of the member opposite.
Speaker: I find that there is no point of order. Setting the record straight is not a point of order; it is merely a dispute between members.
Mr. Fentie: So far, Mr. Speaker, though the members opposite may think it's funny, all they've been able to bring to this House when it comes to the development of our economy, the future of our economy and where our economy is at today are futuristic possibilities and so on and so forth. There is nothing that pertains to what we're going to do in this emergency, in this crisis situation we find ourselves in today - not one thing.
Worse than that, with literally millions of dollars at their disposal, they choose now, according to this ministerial statement that the Premier brought forward this afternoon, to do a review on one of the few remaining things left in this territory to help out the situation and provide jobs and benefits to Yukoners.
All summer - in fact, let's look at it this way, Mr. Speaker. In opposition, the Liberal government was very vocal about the community development fund and about the fire smart funding. I point out that the Member for Riverdale South is on record publicly saying that the money that this party, when in government, put toward fire smart funding - that member told the Yukon public that it's not enough. It's not enough money, she said. Today, the Liberals even killed that amount, shut it down.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Tourism, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out to the Speaker, who of course is listening, that that is violent language, and it's not acceptable within this House - minutes from a SCREP meeting, when we had SCREP meetings, in the past sitting of the Legislature.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: The word I used does not reference violence to anybody whatsoever. It is a verb that is pointing to the fact that the Liberal government has completely annihilated these programs.
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, I believe SCREP made no such ruling. I think there was only a suggestion to bring it to a future meeting. We all know what happened to the committee after the government motion this week, so there is no point of order.
Speaker: Order please. I have been advised that violent or sexist words - it's true, it was reviewed in SCREP. It was recommended that it not be used in the House, but there were no amendments to the rules. I believe the other part of it was that the Speaker was not to rule on it. Members were to cooperate and not to use such language.
With that, I find there's no point of order, and I ask the member to continue.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Again, I get back to the fact that the Member for Riverdale South, when it came to the fire smart funding that this government implemented to put people to work in Yukon communities - to lower the risk of loss of limb, life and property during a wildfire, should it occur - stated publicly that it's not enough money. Yet here today, we see that that government has ended even that amount. There is no expenditure until they review, postpone, and delay.
I can't for the life of me figure out, Mr. Speaker, if that was the case, after all the Liberals in opposition said, why they did not undertake a review of these programs immediately upon taking office. It's not rocket science to instruct officials to go and review these programs.
Instead, Mr. Speaker, in a cold-hearted, arrogant approach to how they're dealing with rural Yukon, specifically, they chose to do the review now, right at the start of winter, when Yukoners and Yukon communities - especially in rural Yukon - so desperately need that funding. And then the Premier stands on her feet here today, and says that the former government spent it. So what. Of course we spent it. We put it in the hands of Yukoners. So what, Mr. Speaker? We put it in the hands of Yukoners, where it was doing some good. Unfortunately, this government has yet to bump hip to that fact.
Mr. Speaker, they didn't have to do it this way. They could have put more money into it. They're the government.
It's a matter of choice. Well, I'll tell you what choice is happening on that side of the House. The choice is being made to ensure that they take care of their friends.
If you look at this budget, they are moving money all around.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Order. Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe the member has misspoken himself. To clarify: the money on the community development fund grants was spent between April 1 and April 17, when the election took place - and Yukoners have spoken about the long-term implications of community development fund grants.
Speaker: I do not feel that we have a point of order here. It is merely a dispute between members. I would ask the official opposition House leader to continue.
Mr. Fentie:I find it very, very unfortunate that we had, yesterday, the Minister of Health berating and admonishing this side of the House for wasting time in this Legislature. Well, through my debate on this motion, which I am entitled to debate on the floor of this Legislature, I have now been interrupted countless times with frivolous points of order that are being ruled as not being points of order.
Who is delaying the procedures in this Legislature? Who is really delaying that? Worse than that, who is delaying any benefit that Yukoners will receive from what this government should be doing? It is the Liberals across the floor. There is absolutely no reason why more fire smart funding was not brought forward in this budget to address the crisis we are in today in this territory economically. There is no reason why more money was not put into the community development fund. There are any number of projects out there that this government, if it had any sense of what is going on in this territory, would have put money toward to help the situation this winter and alleviate the hardships that Yukoners are going to face, thanks to this government's actions and decision-making which result in serious, serious problems for the people of this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we heard lots from the members opposite about how they were broke. They were claiming poverty, saying, "There's nothing left. The NDP spent it all." Well, the Auditor General refutes that in a big way - a $64-million accumulated surplus at the end of that fiscal year. The Premier, who is now the Minister of Finance, had best get brushed up on how to read a budget and how fiscal year-ends really operate. They are not in a poverty situation. They are accumulating money to do something that may very well - may very well - put this territory into debt.
Now, we have seen a lot of signals out of that side of the House about the crisis in our highways. Which crisis is this? Have these members driven the Alaska Highway? Have these members no recollection of what has gone on in this territory for decades? What crisis are the members opposite referring to? If it is the Liberals' view that we should pour $50 million, $60 million or $70 million into, for example, the Robert Campbell Highway, how do we pay for that? How are we going to pay for that expenditure? This side of the House and Yukoners should know. Is it going to be a public-private partnership, which would inevitably put this territory into debt, or are you going to raise road taxes on our fuel? For what reason? Mr. Speaker, for what reason?
Under the former government, money was being budgeted for the Robert Campbell Highway. Adverse sections were being done. Is there a reason why this crisis has been developed by the members opposite - the crisis that has forced them to hoard money and force Yukoners to sacrifice and carry the brunt of their decision-making now, this winter?
Do the members not understand that megaprojects of that ilk are probably going to have to go out to broad tender, which could also rule out Yukoners going to work and other companies. Furthermore, road building is seasonal. What about the winter? That's why we talk winter works.
Do the Liberals not have a conscience about what is going on in this territory, given the decisions they've made to date? Can they not see the error in their ways?
Mr. Speaker, these members opposite, in tabling their budget - and I'm not sure who all is responsible for crafting it - have made government bigger. Instead of money flowing in a manner that targets areas of need where it will do the most good for this territory and its people, we have monies flowing to make government bigger. And that's a sad statement, given the situation we're in.
The Premier has been asked in this Legislature, "Where are the jobs? Where are the jobs in the oil and gas sector? Where are the jobs in the mining sector?" Now the Premier said, "Expatriate." Just because the Liberals got voted in, Expatriate decided to go exploring. They are trying to take ownership of what Expatriate was doing at Kudz Ze Kayah this year. Well, I've got to tell you, Mr. Speaker, there is a small company in the Town of Watson Lake that is disgusted at that comment. That company got the contract. The monies were booked before this government even came into power. That company hustled and worked and got itself that contract - not this government.
It was a private sector corporation that put people to work - not this government. And furthermore, it was such a small, small contract that that very company still has to work outside the territory to survive, and that happens to be in British Columbia.
They are not happy with the Premier trying to lay ownership on the fact that their due diligence, their hustle, their hard work got themselves a contract, put a few people to work - not happy at all. And they also pointed out to me that, after the Premier's visit to the mountaintop of Kudz Ze Kayah, the whole operation was shut down four days later because the company concerned was a little worried about where we were going - a little concerned, a little worried about where we were going.
This territory is in trouble; this government across the floor has no plan, no direction, no vision, and we are going backwards, and it is Yukoners who are paying the price. They're either packing up and leaving or, in the short term, trying to find work elsewhere, having to leave their homes and their families just to make a living.
The Liberals are famous for attaching themselves to other people's initiatives. There's good reason why the claim is made that Liberals lead from behind. There's good reason why nothing came from this government when in opposition - this group, these members across the floor when in opposition - on what they would do when it comes to our economy. They said, "You'll have to wait till the election, and you'll find out." They did not have any plan whatsoever. That's a sad statement to make by someone, by a group, by a party that had been duly elected to have that plan, that had been duly elected to put Yukoners to work - not just two years, or five years, or 10 years down the road, but now.
Instead, they choose to go in a totally opposite direction and put Yukoners out of work. Mr. Speaker, another real problem with how the Liberals are approaching things is that they are so lost in what to do, they even have to make claims that "we" cut taxes, referring to the Liberals cut taxes. Well, Mr. Speaker, all they did was adopt initiatives already created by the former NDP government. It is the NDP in this territory that cut taxes for Yukoners to put money back in their pockets, not the Liberals. The Liberals merely adopted something that they knew full well that Yukoners wanted. That is why I say that this government is leading from behind. How can we progress in this territory when we have a government that has no leadership, no direction, no vision, no place to go?
They did not take government in the April 17 election; they fell into it. Unfortunately, they landed on their heads. And now they are spending a lot of Yukoners' time, sacrificing Yukoners, trying to get back on their feet. That is a sad, sad statement for a government. Where is the accountability on that side of the House for what they have done? Instead, we just get more ridiculous, misconceived attempts to read stats, more empty promises, more empty platitudes, no substance, no content.
Mr. Speaker, we urge this Liberal government in this motion today to get together with the opposition parties, sit down, let us go and find any way we possibly can to alleviate the problems that Yukoners are faced with today.
If the Liberal government here in this territory really wanted to, as I pointed out earlier, they would have stood on their feet, immediately upon this motion beginning its debate, on a point of order and asked for unanimous consent to pass this motion and immediately begin the process of convening that committee. This is a matter of urgent and pressing need. This is an emergency. It's a crisis, and they must act.
Now, I'm going to be very interested, though I don't know who may follow my debate today on this motion. I would hope it's the Minister of Economic Development, but one never knows with the Liberals. It might even be the Minister of Health. I would hope that they come forward with something positive, something we can take to Yukoners, something that we can give Yukoners as hope. I would hope that the Liberals finally, here this afternoon, lay out a plan, a vision, a road map for where we're going economically in this territory. It is critical that they do so. People can't wait. Yukoners can't wait. They need to know now. They need to be able to tell their banker, "Yes, I will be going to work within a day or two days or a week, and I will be able to make my payments." Or, if it's not the case, they need to be able to tell their banker that they can't do it, and they must make arrangements then to rid themselves of the debt.
Yukoners need to know what they can tell their children this Christmas, those who don't work. In my community there are already families splitting up because of the pressures brought upon them because they can't make a living, because they can't feed their families, because they can't pay their rent, can't pay their bills.
That's not a situation we, in this territory, should be in, when this government had, at its disposal, a surplus of $64 million, as the Auditor General has pointed out. It's not right, Mr. Speaker, and it is simply not good governance.
Now, maybe there is a possibility here that the Liberals are still trying to learn what it is to govern. But I would argue that that excuse holds no water, because if they needed to learn how to govern, my question to you, Mr. Speaker, and to this House is, "Why did they bother running in the election?" They told Yukoners they had a plan. They told Yukoners they knew where they were going. They said to Yukoners, "Vote for us, and we will make it better." They said to Yukoners, "Vote for us and we will make this Legislature a kinder and gentler place. We will improve how this Legislature operates." What a joke. This has become worse than it has ever been, thanks to the members opposite.
Mr. Speaker, there has to be some way we can get through to the members opposite - punch through that partisan brick wall that they have before them. There must be a way that we can convince the Liberals that this is the most pressing matter in the territory today and that they must act now. When stating that the South Yukon Forest Corporation had no business case, did the Premier factor in that the shutdown removed $55,000 per day of cashflow that was injected into the community of Watson Lake and this territory? Did the Premier factor in that many of those people in Watson Lake travelled to Whitehorse to rent rooms, buy gas, buy groceries, buy clothes and buy supplies? They can't come now. They have no money and no jobs.
Did the Premier forget about $16 million for cogeneration, kiln-dries, finger-joining, pellet plant, greenhousing, silviculture? Did the Premier not factor that in? And with the millions of dollars that the federal government has available for rural Canada, why did the Premier not at least lobby her federal friends in Ottawa for something? She chose to do nothing. Instead, there wasn't a business case. All the options open to the Premier were ignored, and now Yukoners suffer. The people in Watson Lake suffer, and there is no reason for that to be happening. It's solely their responsibility for the plight we are in today - not only in the Yukon as a whole, but in communities like Watson Lake. It is solely the responsibility of this government, this Liberal government across the floor. And they will have to answer for that.
In the next election they will be judged on what they've done so far. Many of the things that they have done to date will simply not go away in time. And in the next election, they will be there. What they've done today will be issues in the next election. We've heard the Liberals say many times now, in a very condescending manner, "That's why we're over here on the government side and you guys are over there." Well, I would give the Liberals some advice: don't get too comfortable over there, because at the rate you're going, it's not going to last long.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: Well, there we have the Minister of Health with a real boner saying, "Ten years." Why would a minister of the Crown come out with a remark like that? A minister of the Crown should be more astute than that.
That's ridiculous, Mr. Speaker. If it is the Minister of Economic Development who gets on her feet today to respond to this motion, I have some questions: first off, we have asked time and time again how many jobs has this government created since they have taken office April 17. So far, the answer we have got is a bunch of mumbo-jumbo. How many jobs? One, two, three, five? Tell this House; tell Yukoners so they can be assured that the Liberals opposite are doing something. How many?
I want the Premier to stand on her feet and explain to this House how she is going to balance the land claim issues, the environmental issues as they pertain to the Alaska Highway pipeline. Given the positions that the environmental community has taken and that the First Nations have taken, I want this Premier to stand on her feet and tell this House and tell Yukoners why, now, they're reviewing programs that could have really helped people in this territory now and in this winter? Why a review now? Why did they not do it before, or why did they not wait until this spring? The Premier owes that to the Yukon public. The Premier owes that to people in Mayo and Watson Lake and Haines Junction and Pelly Crossing and Stewart Crossing and Dawson City. The Premier owes that to the people in Whitehorse, who, by the way, more and more, are starting to say, "Oh-oh. We made a mistake. We made a mistake. This government has done absolutely nothing."
Mr. Speaker, it is even worse than that. The people in Whitehorse here are now realizing that this government - this puppet government of Ottawa - who only follow what their masters in Ottawa say they should do, are also a government that is not led by elected people but is led by a small centre of influence peddlers of partisan, Liberal ilk.
That's a major problem, Mr. Speaker, because it's the elected people who must put aside, once they take the seat of government, their partisan views, and govern for the best interests of every Yukoner in this territory, no matter what political party they belong to, no matter what political stripe.
This government has failed in that area miserably. Mr. Speaker, I want the Premier to explain what I say to my constituents this winter, this Christmas, as they sit there with nothing. I want the Premier to get on her feet and explain what I am to say to my constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I want to know from the Premier if she even believes that our economic situation is in crisis. And I can see that the Premier and the Minister of Tourism both think that this is a very funny situation, and I'll be sure to clip that and send it to my constituents.
Not only does the Minister of Health think it's funny, we now have the Premier -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, I would like the member called to order for using insulting language, and saying that the Minister of Tourism was "laughing" at the situation.
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Another rude interruption by the government House leader. All of us here were witnessing the Premier and the Minister of Tourism giggling and snickering away, here in the course of debate in this Legislative Assembly.
So now we have this righteous government across the floor chastising us in this House because of our opposition to how they were changing the rules. The Minister of C&TS even went on to say that we wasted the time of this Legislature because it's nothing but housekeeping, which shows and proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that that government across the floor - this Liberal government - has little regard for this institution and for democracy. They will be judged, Mr. Speaker. Beyond any doubt, they will be judged.
Speaker: Again, I obviously didn't witness anything there, and I didn't hear anything.
Again, I feel that the government House leader attempting to set the record straight is not a point of order and is merely a dispute between the members.
I would ask the official opposition House leader to continue.
Mr. Fentie:When the Premier gets on her feet, I would also like her to explain when the Premier thinks we will be receiving some jobs in the oil and gas sector. She made the claim that $6.7 million are being injected into southeast Yukon. We have yet to find one Yukoner who has gone to work down there. In fact, one of our local exploration companies, Mak Exploration, couldn't find work in the Yukon. They are now working in seismic in Dawson Creek, British Columbia. All I want to know is: how many? How many have gone to work?
I talked to Kaska people today about all of those who were trained for seismic work. I asked them how many - none. In fact, they are phoning the company in Dawson Creek for work. They are going to Dawson Creek, British Columbia. I asked the Premier why, if there is so much money being spent on oil and gas exploration and there is aeromagnetic exploration being done right now, today, is Frontier Helicopters pulling out of Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon. Helicopters are what we need to do aeromagnetic exploration. Why are they leaving?
Mr. Speaker, things are so bad right now in communities like Watson Lake that the doctors are even leaving. This government is in trouble, and this government had better get it right and had better get it right quickly.
It is high time that this government show Yukoners - this House, the opposition and anybody else who's willing to look and listen - where they're taking us, because so far, it's a grim, grim picture.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: And what a fine performance from the Member for Watson Lake. And "performance" is probably the best description of it.
The member has put forward a motion which, rather than being constructive, has tried to suggest that the government - which I must state has been in office since May 6, not April 18. The members opposite were still winding down their affairs, so this government did not take office until May 6.
The members have repeatedly suggested in the debate on this motion and earlier questions in the House that we have done nothing but increase the size of government. I would again remind the members opposite that a good portion of the money in Executive Council Office is for severance packages for the previous government. So, perhaps they want to rethink that particular criticism, but we'll get into that in supplementary debate.
The issue is what this government has done since May 6, in terms of the Yukon's economy, which we agree - because it was throughout our election platform - needed to be rebuilt. And that's the best description for it: the economy needed to be rebuilt. So, what have we done?
Well, let me remind members opposite, first of all, that the current unemployment rate is 9.7 percent, which is two percent lower than when this government took office.
We recognize that more people need to go to work. Mr. Speaker, that's precisely why we have been working on the economy. Let's talk about what the Yukon economy is. It's mining; it's resource-based; it's oil and gas; it's tourism. Ultimately, it's about our resources and our people, and we recognize that people need to go to work.
Unlike previous governments, we're working on both short-term and long-term economic development for the territory.
First of all, the settlement of land claims is a top priority. Settlement of land claims provides the kind of certainty that the investment climate is looking for and, despite the words of the opposition members, we have, in the six short months, taken several very concrete steps toward the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims. I remind members, the establishment of the common forum, the work on section 87, the work on the repayment of loans, the principals meeting. We have taken steps and we are continuing to take steps. Every single opportunity I have to meet with a First Nation chief - whether there is a land claim settled or not - I take that opportunity. I ask the same questions: how can we work together; how can we support our communities? And, without exception, those First Nation chiefs have told me that we need to put Yukoners to work, and I agree.
We have talked about some of the things we can do. We have talked about training programs. We have talked about efforts; we have talked about work outside their traditional territory but within the vicinity, and work that is available and ongoing.
The members opposite want to know what is happening now. Mr. Speaker, I'm reminded of the - and I'm searching for the right word - type of individual who is usually of a slightly younger age than members on this side, who wants and needs that instant gratification. "You have been in office six months; why haven't you created 5,000 jobs and turned the Yukon economy around like that? Well, it doesn't work like that.
We are doing things; we are doing things now. We have done things. Every single day since we took office we've done things. We've worked toward the settlement of land claims. We've worked toward devolution. And ultimately, Mr. Speaker, we've worked on rebuilding the Yukon economy - not with band-aids, not by throwing buckets of money like the previous government did, trying to buy votes, but by working on the economy, by working on the mining sector, by working on tourism, by working on our resource-based industries, by helping people, by rebuilding our infrastructure.
The members opposite want to know what's ahead in the immediate term. First of all, this winter work - in the Department of Tourism there are two feature films planned for this winter. Each one of those feature films can draw anywhere from $700,000 up to $2 million into our local economy. Yukoners saw the benefit this spring of what a film can bring to the territory and what commercials can bring. I've heard business person after business person stop me in the street and say, "Yes, wow, did that ever bring a lot of money into the economy." They also talked about how much money they could get for renting extension cords, but I'll deal with the Minister of Tourism on that particular issue.
The shooting of these films employs Yukoners, it puts money into hotels, restaurants and suppliers, as well as many other aspects of the Yukon economy. And contrary to what the members opposite are trying to suggest, I would caution them, prior to hurling insults about the supplementary budget, to perhaps examine it and attend the supplementary budget briefings, which we have committed to doing, unlike the previous government. There are also two commercials that will be filmed in the Yukon this winter, and each of these employ up to 15 people. These are the committed issues and planning opportunities. There is also, of course, the option for a great deal more.
Now, the Member for Watson Lake went on and on and on and on. However, he talked about the mining industry. And contrary to what the member opposite suggests, exploration in the territory is increasing.
Copper Ridge has announced promising results in the west grid area, and I listened with great interest to his comments about the former Minister of Economic Development and the suggestion that I have a long way to go to even closely approximate that minister. Well, I have no desire to be that minister.
And, Mr. Speaker, I have a great desire to continue to live in the Yukon Territory after I have finished this particular job.
Copper Ridge is providing jobs this winter. Expatriate Resources is doing additional exploration work this fall. These companies employ Yukoners. A friend of mine from high school, I was surprised to find out, is the camp cook at Expatriate on a rotation with another individual. There are Yukoners, life-long Yukoners, at work in the field. They are working, and Expatriate is providing jobs this winter. There are oil and gas permits, development and exploration permits that are being issued; and that is winter work.
There are winter festivals and carnivals that this government has supported. These are put on by local Yukoners, and they employ local Yukoners. And, Mr. Speaker, they attract visitors who also contribute to our economy, visitors from both within Yukon and outside of the territory.
There are also thousands of dollars being spent on highway camp facilities maintenance this winter. There is almost a half a million dollars being spent on winter gravel crushing. Clearing on the Shakwak project is another $200,000 to $300,000, and highway construction will continue on the Shakwak, employing 50 workers until December, and it is expected to reconvene in March.
The clearing of the Carcross sewage treatment site, depending, of course, on approval of the water licence, will also provide winter work.
We, in the short term - in the short six months that we have been in office - are participating in a common forum with First Nations to assist parties in addressing the Yukon-specific issues, specific issues about which the previous government said, "Oh, no, all our work is done. There's nothing left to do." Well, there is a common forum to resolve those outstanding Yukon issues.
We increased incentives to junior mining companies by $250,000. I have met, and I will continue to meet, with investors.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Education is reminding me that the side opposite voted against that incentive.
I have met and will continue to meet with investors. I have met with them outside of this territory and within this territory. I will meet with them wherever and whenever I can get a meeting.
We are initiating a new program to help restore the Yukon's mining industry. Mining is important to this government. The MINE program focuses on management, information, investment and infrastructure, networking and education in the mining sector. It is more than the previous government has done. It is more than any previous government has done. I have successfully -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun calls across that that is my opinion. The member is absolutely right. It's this government's opinion and it's Yukoners' opinion, and Yukoners spoke loudly and clearly on April 17 - a resounding opinion, and that opinion reflected on the previous government.
In the next election, Yukoners will also speak their opinion. In the meantime, it's up to us to represent these opinions and speak about them fairly and wisely in the House.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite are attempting to make denigrating remarks. Rather than give them any airplay, I would like to suggest that perhaps they should use both ears because, regardless of what has been said, this government has successfully lobbied the federal government for a new tax credit program. This government has - thanks to efforts at first ministers meetings and work with both the Premier of the Northwest Territories and the Premier of Nunavat - lobbied the government for an economic development agreement; and were the federal election not on at this point in time, I would like to be announcing it.
The Department of Tourism is implementing a stay-another-day program, which previous governments have not done. It's estimated to bring millions of dollars more into this territory, just by sharing the Yukon Territory with our visitors one extra day.
We're working with the Convention Bureau to promote the Yukon as a convention destination. It will bring more visitors and more dollars to the territory. The Convention Bureau has been an issue that previous governments have absolutely failed to deal with. From the early 1980s, until this government took office, it was shuffled from here to there, and not provided with the appropriate funding to do the job. We're working with them.
And, contrary to what has been suggested by some, the Mayo school will be built this spring. It's a capital project, and it will be employing Yukoners - just as building the foundation employed Yukoners.
Benefit agreements for exploration are under negotiation with Nacho Nyak Dun and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and they're expected to generate more jobs this winter for Yukoners.
There are a number of buildings that are under construction this winter. The value of building permits is up by 15 percent this year overall, which absolutely should prove to the opposition that yes, there are things happening in the Yukon economy, and yes, there is winter work in addition to all the projects and all of the activities I have outlined.
Mr. Speaker, the best judge of all this is to go down, in any given community, to a local coffee shop or, perhaps in some communities, the rec centre where children are playing, where people are around, and you will ask the parents there - ask the local electrician I saw the other night at the pool, "What are you working on this winter? How tough is it out there?" I said, "You know what? The opposition stands up and tells me every day that there's no work. What do you think?" His response was: "Yes, I'm working on l'Association des franco-yukonnais building. I will be working until probably late January, early February. I'm going to take some time to spend with my children, and then I'll be back at work this spring."
There are projects, and there is work happening. That is just my example. Every single person on this side of the House certainly hears that. I would urge the members opposite to really listen to what the community has to say, because that's what we have been doing.
That's the short term. You know, despite the barbs from the members opposite, the NDP had four years to work on the economy. What did they have to show for it? The unemployment rate was an awful lot higher then than it is now. Under the NDP, the unemployment rate averaged 13 percent, and it topped out at over 17 percent. I'm not expecting their advice on how to fix the economy.
What's in the long term, Mr. Speaker? Members opposite have chastised me for not going to Calgary, and then chastised me for going to Calgary. They don't support the pipeline, and they do support the pipeline. And they don't support reviews of programs, but then, "Oh, you should review them." They can't make up their minds.
I would strongly urge them - as I have offered substantive briefings on devolution, I would offer them a substantive briefing on the homework on the Alaska Highway pipeline project. I would offer them a review, in detail, of the treaty of the Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity, of the environmental permitting, and of the work that is ongoing, in terms of the assessment of the project today. I would urge them to take advantage of this briefing because this is information that is important. It's vitally important, in terms of promotion of this project. While the members opposite have roundly dismissed my efforts - Mr. Speaker, at this point we do not have a project and there are other proposals on the table. I will promote the selection of the Alaska Highway route over and over and over again, and I will support it with the facts. I would urge the members opposite to join me and make up their minds, to support the Alaska Highway pipeline project and get the facts.
They clearly don't know them. The only fact the Member for Watson Lake has is that he hasn't done his homework on this issue. There's a lot of work to be done, a lot of work to be done.
If we are successful in having the Alaska Highway route selected as the route for the pipeline -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The member opposite shouts that it's a given. It is not a given. If the member opposite would do his homework, he would realize that there are four producers who are going to make this decision: the State of Alaska, BP Amoco Canada, Exxon Gas and Phillips, and if those individuals don't hear from the Yukon and should choose something which is environmentally unacceptable to the Yukon, such as an over-the-top route or a mid-Yukon route, which I would challenge the member opposite to defend to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation - I would challenge the member to defend selections of those routes to Yukoners.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Could we allow the Premier to continue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I was saying with regard to the Alaska Highway pipeline route, I would offer briefings to the members opposite so that they are fully aware of this information, and I would challenge them to join us in supporting the promotion of the Alaska Highway route. I would challenge them to support us.
The Alaska Highway pipeline - the members opposite regard it as pipe dreams and something we shouldn't be pursuing. That's certainly contrary to the advice I have had from every single Yukoner.
We have not just focused our efforts on the promotion of the pipeline route. We have also worked hard on exploration for oil and gas.
The members opposite know, or ought to know, that Anderson Exploration has committed to spending $20.4 million over six years on exploration activity in Eagle Plains. There are three new applications for exploration programs in southeast Yukon starting in 2001, and that includes an estimated expenditure of $6.7 million and will employ Yukoners. If the Member for Watson Lake just doesn't get it, I'll give him that answer in writing.
We're increasing our funding for our highway construction and maintenance. Never again, not under a Liberal government in any event, will we see our infrastructure allowed to slide the way it was under the NDP government. This work will employ Yukoners. It's important to Yukoners and it's building for the future. That road infrastructure is one of the key things that differentiates us from our northern neighbours to the east. We have what the Northwest Territories and Nunavut do not have, which is world-class road builders and, until the NDP took power and they let it slide, a world-class road system. We are going to spend the money and we are going to maintain that road system. And we are going to improve it. And it employs Yukoners. This is money that the previous government didn't spend and this government is restoring highway funding.
I spoke earlier about Expatriate Resources. There's also the Howard's Pass project. If it should proceed, it has the potential to employ hundreds of Yukoners. I have met several times with proponents of the project, as well as other individuals. It's important to us overall that we send a clear message to the mining community. That message has been and will continue to be that this government is rebuilding the economy by settling land claims to provide the certainty they seek, and by dealing with such issues as the protected areas strategy through mining exploration, with additional money that we put in this year.
That is just mining, but that message is consistent to oil and gas, because they asked for the same thing - certainty. We have control of oil and gas through devolution, through the work of previous governments - governments, and ourselves as members of the opposition. We worked on that, too. The members of the opposition seem to think that somehow they were solely responsible for every piece of legislation. I can recall for hours debating the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act with the now interim leader of the opposition explaining the rules of natural justice over and over on the floor of the House. Those initiatives are very important because, just like in the mining sector, that provides certainty to industry; it helps industry grow. We are rebuilding the Yukon economy. We are doing it through work, through clear messages, and because, unlike members of the opposition, we want to continue to live here and bring up our children here.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, that is quite the message from the member opposite about the economy and response to this particular motion. She did not say anything about it at all, about what they were going to do. They listed off a whole pile of initiatives of the NDP and did not say anything new about what they were going to do for Yukoners. She talked a lot about mining, talked a lot about oil and gas, tourism and the people. That was industry for the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I was quite amazed that the Premier could not even mention the forest industry in the Yukon. She did not mention that at all. There was mining, oil and gas, tourism and the people. That is what she sees as industry in the Yukon.
And, Mr. Speaker, I could see why the Premier would say that. There was no support for members in Watson Lake at all when the industry was in trouble and could have used some government support and government presence. They weren't there. They weren't there for the people in Watson Lake.
Mr. Speaker, the First Nations themselves have a lot of interest in this industry. That's not even recognized by the Liberal government at all. They have worked hard with the previous governments and industry to try and get things going on their own. Many First Nation corporations have been involved and have become involved and have set up businesses and put people to work, and the Liberal Government of the Yukon did not show any support for that. I guess it wasn't important then, and it's not important now. Will it ever be important? Will the Minister of Renewable Resources ever stand up and support these corporations in putting people to work? It hasn't happened yet. I guess they are too busy making backroom deals in oil and gas, and in mining.
The First Nations, I know, in Mayo, Carmacks, Pelly, Haines Junction, Teslin and more, including Liard, have all become involved in the forest industry and have put together corporations to deal with these things, and they have put people to work.
During that time, the Liberals didn't lift a finger to help them, and it's a shame. Now, all of a sudden, they are working with the First Nation and trying to get industry up and going with them. I'm quite surprised that, all of a sudden, they take that route, when their actions speak differently. And, Mr. Speaker, if they were in support of this, why didn't they mention it in their throne speech? That's the document that's laid out for Yukoners to use for the next four years - the throne speech. That's what's important to the Liberal Party - the throne speech and their platform. They talk a lot about the MINE program. How did that happen? Where does that fall, anyway? It falls under the mineral strategy. It wasn't developed by the Liberals but, hey, they have taken it and run with it. But those who have worked on it, those in the general public who are involved in the industry, know that this is not true. That's what the Liberal government is bringing forward.
Speaker: Order please. The reference to truthfulness, or suggestions of falsehood, is not acceptable in the House. It is unparliamentary. Please continue.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the general public knows differently. They know differently from what has been put forward by the Liberal Party. Their big platform is oil and gas and mining. That's going to rebuild the Yukon economy. Tourism? Yes, it's doing well, but because it was doing well under the previous government, there is not a whole lot of emphasis being put on it right now, but that industry has potential to grow, or it could very easily fall, depending on natural things, like weather and so on.
We've seen the decline in the tourism industry this summer. What was that due to? Well, the Liberal government taking over, I guess, and not moving things the way they should be moved in that department.
Many businesses have seen less and less profit this year, but the Liberal government said that they were going to do things differently, and pick up this industry. They were going to concentrate on road traffic. "Closer to home" is what the Minister of Tourism had said - Alaska, B.C., Alberta; that's where they were going to concentrate, and where the biggest concentration in tourism was going to be.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the day the Tourism minister gets sworn in, she's on the flight out of the Yukon. That's "closer to home". Gone - gone for dinner somewhere, I suppose, to speak on behalf of Yukoners about the industry, when all she knew was what she gathered, I suppose, as opposition, but not where the department was. I don't believe that she could have been updated in an afternoon to go out and speak on behalf of Yukoners in an effective manner. But she liked to fly - that's what she said to the public. She liked flying around to different places and communities, and trying to do some PR work there, following in the tracks of the previous minister, in trying to bring more people to the Yukon.
Everything that has been announced so far has been NDP initiatives, including having more flights to the Yukon and including the stay-another-day program that the members opposite had said. They can't look deep into what has been worked upon by the previous government. They're trying to make a claim that yes, this is what the Liberals are all about - about working hard.
But the fact is that the NDP initiatives are going to have to carry this Liberal government for a little bit longer, and you'll see that by the way that that government halts strategies that were put in place by the NDP and by the hard work of the commissions that were formed. The recommendations that have been put forward by the commissions are now being followed. They don't have a problem going and cutting a ribbon on an NDP initiative - like the wind turbine, for example. All of a sudden, they turned green and saw cleaner air in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. They said they would do things differently. Why couldn't they give that recognition to whom it should go, credit where credit is due. They do not do that.
As a matter of fact, the Minister of Education couldn't even invite the MLA for Ross River-Southern Lakes to say a few words at the opening of the Ross River school. That's a new government restoring confidence in government, Mr. Speaker? We made sure that the government knew that it was wrong of them to do that, and the Minister of Education did come forward and say that this would not happen again and will recognize that. I look forward to it, because there are going to be a lot of them. There should be a lot of them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: No, there should be a lot of recognition, and credit should be given where credit is due. The Minister of Education says, "Yes, it will happen." And I'd like to see it happen. It should happen.
I really would have liked to have heard that when they talk about the Mayo school, because it is in the budget and we did follow a process. It's in the budget and we followed process. As a matter of fact, the Liberals could not even put their name to the budget, Mr. Speaker - how unusual. Look through the budget; their name is not even put to it.
They left it with the previous ministers. That's how bad it was at the time. So the Liberal Party coming forward to say that they're putting these projects into gear is wrong. They should be giving that recognition. Even at that, do you think we would get that? No. What they have done, though, is give Mayo a present - a Christmas present - a gift-wrapped foundation for the community. It's all wrapped and ready for Christmas, but no jobs. Now there are promises of jobs, and I look forward to that. As a matter of fact, I've suggested some that could be very beneficial to the students in the school and to the community. It would give them some sense of hope now that the students are forced to stay in that school for another year - forced by the Liberal government, because they did not pay attention to the contracts that they were in charge of. They would not even admit to or apologize for mistakes being made. The new and improved new standards in government; that's what they want to put forward.
I really wish that the Minister of Education would honour the agreements that he put forward to the House in the budget. They wanted to pass our budget in its entirety and bring certainty to Yukoners and quickly proceeded to start cutting away at it. And that's certainly not building any trust in the First Nation community, I can tell you that. It's working the other way around. If the government would only listen to a few of the things that we are saying, things could be improved. That issue won't be going away. The First Nations are obviously voicing them loud and clear in regard to the school matter.
And I would hope that the Liberal government would follow the process that has been laid out by his department and the chairs of school councils in bringing together a priority list, and not have to fulfill a political agenda - a promise made during the campaign - and override such an important process and involving people in the process. I am referring to the Grey Mountain Primary School, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, oil and gas is a big issue for the Minister of Economic Development. It is like it is almost a new issue in the Yukon - oil and gas, a new issue. It is like waving the big flag about oil and gas in the Yukon. They say we do not even support that industry at all. I think that could be corrected maybe down the road if they do want to respond to this motion again. That could be corrected.
We brought down devolution and oil and gas, brought it into Yukon's control, and, Mr. Speaker, many people have benefited from that. Members opposite did not even make mention of that - the revenues that are coming in, how it is split up between First Nations. They were fully part of this devolution of oil and gas to the Yukon. They are benefiting from it, and what did they do with the revenues that were generated from this? They put it into economic development - many of them did, trying to create more work, trying to think of new things to do.
Now, we have other areas that I think government could be really concentrating on: diversification. Instead of being buried in oil and gas and mining forever, they have not put together any new thoughts, new ideas about new things and different things that Yukoners could do.
Trade and investment was not at all a priority for the Liberal government. It wasn't at all. But now we have the Premier booking trips as far away from Canada as you possibly can. They have sure followed the direction put forward by the NDP government.
Now, we are obviously facing some tough times in the Yukon. We have been for awhile now, since the Faro mine went down. People in Whitehorse and businesses all felt the impact of that mine going down. Those supplying services and so on to this particular mine have all felt it. Some have left. A lot of them have downgraded their businesses.
I think that could have been a message to the Liberals right there - that things that happen in the communities do benefit a lot of the businesses here in Whitehorse. I have been encouraging as many people from my communities to make sure, when they are buying groceries, gas, a hotel room, furniture or anything in Whitehorse, to say that they are from the community and that they are contributing to business in Whitehorse.
It was even brought up as an idea by someone that maybe we should be stamping our money to make sure that the message gets to businesses in Whitehorse here that the dollars are coming from the communities. Of course, we're using a lot less cash and we are using basically a cashless system, and that won't give you a true reading at all on this. But the fact of the matter is that Yukoners, particularly First Nation people, spend a lot of money in the Yukon economy.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I do hope that the members opposite would look at the direction that this motion has given and concentrate on trying to do things collectively here in the House, rather than using their majority to vote this motion down.
I thank the Member for Watson Lake for bringing the motion forward. It is a good one, and it's about time that the Liberal Party, the Liberal government, started talking about the economy, because the last time we brought a motion forward, Mr. Speaker, they all ran out of the House because they didn't have anything to say. Hopefully, they have something to say now.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon:The Member for Mayo-Tatchun asked us to give credit where credit is due, and I'll be happy to do that. Thank you, members across the floor, for giving us this deep economic hole that this government has to fix. Thank you very much for sending 3,000 people out. The 500 people we see leaving right now are the NDP hangover that we're getting rid of.
We are in a situation right now where we're asked to consider a bill that we have no faith in; we have no faith in the motion for a number of reasons. Earlier today, we found that the NDP were not allowed to use the word "hypocrisy" in the House. We're rather surprised at that, since they're very familiar with that word, but we will understand the Speaker's ruling.
I'd like to define the word "hypocrisy" to give everybody an idea of why they weren't allowed to use it.
"Hypocrisy", according to -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I think that the Member for Whitehorse Centre is just trying to pull an I-fool-you prank here, or something like as such. He comes into the House, speaks about hypocrisy, he's saying it's an unparliamentary word, and then wants to stand on his feet and define it.
He said it three times, alluding to the members of the official opposition and, of course, to the leader of the third party in his comments.
Mr. Speaker, I do believe that we've heard enough of that rhetoric, and we should get on and keep our focus on the motion.
Speaker: Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I'm actually not referring to anybody with that. I'm defining the word so that I can make sure that everybody understands why I can't use it.
Speaker: I have to agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, that there is a point of order here. I was about to call the member to order when the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes stood up, and I would ask the member not to refer to "hypocritical" or any part of that word in the future, and please continue.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, since I can't use that word in reference to the NDP, then I probably won't have much to say.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the government House leader is consistently standing in the House today, speaking about insulting language. The Member for Whitehorse Centre speaks about not using a certain word, and then gets up and certainly alludes to that being the case on this side of the House.
That is absolutely insulting language and I encourage the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who campaigned on "a better way", and doing things in a different fashion and being good and articulate, to stand here and to focus, Mr. Speaker, on this, because I would surely love to hear the words of this business person.
Speaker: It's my belief that the comments do fall within Section 19(1)(j), "uses ... insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder." I'd ask the member to refrain from that and, with that, to continue.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I actually understand, so I have come up with synonyms. There are a number of them. I have checked through but, unfortunately, most of them are unparliamentary, so I won't use them, so I have had to come up with my own definitions: self-acknowledged inconsistency. It sounds a little too long, so we can't use that. Then we can also come up with words that are not defined in the English language but make sense. One of the words that comes up to me is NDP-aucracy. NDP-aucracy would define saying one thing and doing another, and that's where we'll go from here.
Why I have to use those words -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Speaker, the Legislature is not to be inventing words. The Legislature is to be articulate. I know it gets rather emotional at times, and the members opposite can get very emotional, as I can also. I'm known for my country-bumpkin ways at some times, but I never try to stand here, invent a word, and then smear it onto the government. I would not do that, Mr. Speaker, and I do not appreciate it being done to me and this side of the House.
Speaker: I have to agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that under 19(1)(j), I do find that there was an attempt there to use language that may create disorder in the House, and it is insulting. I ask the member to refrain and to continue.
Mr. McLarnon: Okay, Mr. Speaker, I'll go on a different train of thought. And one of the reasons why I'm bringing this up, though, is the fact that we are asked in this House to believe at the end of the motion, which states that the opposition would like to have us believe that they will finally join an all-party committee, that they will finally deem themselves to lower themselves to the Liberals to work hard to come off their ideological platform and sit down and talk to us, sit down and cooperate with us on behalf of the Yukon people. Well, it sounds good in principle. We've said it at least 20 times, asking for the opposition to join with us.
Why would we believe that the opposition would take seriously their own motion when, for years, and even in this session, they had proposed all-party committees? When finally they are offered an opportunity to sit in on an all-party committee, we find that for innumerable years they never really meant it. They really didn't care. It was politically correct. When finally somebody has the guts to propose it, when finally somebody has the fairness mind to pass it through the Legislature, we find that it was a sham, that it was a front, that it certainly didn't reflect the deep realities within the party.
So why, when we see in their motion another NDP motion for an all-party committee, how can we vote for it? How can we believe it? Where is the credibility?
That's what I asked about and that's what I'm wondering about. Since there is no word in the language to describe it that is parliamentary, I will have to leave it to the Yukon public to come up with the word. I certainly know that it will be unparliamentary.
Now, we looked at three examples, in a motion yesterday, of three committees that sit down and talk about the economy. They talk about the ways in which the economy can be recovered. The NDP had an opportunity to suggest names that would give us the guidance that we need. These boards are the Yukon Development Corporation Board of Directors, the Yukon Energy Corporation Board of Directors and - and I don't know if anything speaks more to the economy than the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
So, when we asked for them to participate in helping us come up with economic decisions and come up with the leadership needed to get us out of the deep funk that the NDP put us in, we were refused. How can we possibly take them seriously when they ask us to join another committee? How can we possibly look at this with anything but incredulity? Then again, I guess that's the point many people in the public are already making.
Now, when we talk about words that we can't talk about, we also have to look at the pot calling the kettle black. Let's talk about patronage. If we are associated with pork, as the other side has suggested, then I present to you the meat-packing plant. I present you the people who blacklisted Liberals. They would not allow them jobs. Many people working on this side now had to run for jobs in the government, because they weren't allowed, by the other party, to get them. We had to beat their own members to get them.
The NDP took steps not only to politicize boards, but they also politicized our public service. We saw it every day. We knew it was happening. But does it matter now? No. We are supposed to forget the sins of the past. We are supposed to look at it and say that it never happened. We are being asked by the other side to forget it.
How can we forget the number of reappointments that were done before the NDP lost the election, when it became apparent before April 17 that they were going to look - the rushed reappointments that were made to boards - to people who would be there for four years, in the vague and ethereal hope that they would ever be forgiven by the Yukon public for what they have done to our Yukon economy, that they would ever have the chance to sit on this side of the House again.
Now, one of the reasons we ran is because of the blatant and utter patronage that the NDP inflicted upon the Yukon Territory. Some of the 500 people who are leaving the Yukon since we got elected were NDP hacks who have lost their jobs. We just paid $440,000 in severance to people who will no longer be able to find honest work in this territory because they were dishonest for the last four years.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, calling members of the public and public servants dishonest is extremely unparliamentary, and I would direct you to review section 19(1)(j): a member shall be called to order when he "uses abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder."
I would like to remind you that in the last 10 minutes you have struck down this member three times. It is only fair, Mr. Speaker, that, after three strikes, he is out, and I would suggest that you signal to the member that he has no more time for debate, and that this Legislature has no more time to listen to such insulting language.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. McLarnon:Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the only reason that I made it is that I felt it was coming from the other side that cheap shots have come through. I will withdraw my remark, for the simple fact of the matter is I have not defined anybody, and I apologize.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(1), the subject matter of which the member opposite speaks, has been, and continues to be, very derogatory and inflammatory. He has basically come out and said "dishonest former public sector employees". He referred to them specifically, and that is very unfair. Those statements should be withdrawn. I don't know how many times we're going to have to hear from this member in the manner that he is delivering his address to this motion here today. It's a sad state of affairs for this Legislature, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I have to agree with the leader of the third party on his submission regarding the point of order; however, the Member for Whitehorse Centre did withdraw those remarks, and that is acceptable. However, the remarks by the Member for Kluane are something new for me. The Chair had not before considered suggestions made by the Member for Kluane that a member may, or could, be ordered to cease speaking altogether if that member continues to violate the point of order.
Members may wish to reflect on the Member for Kluane's suggestion, and give the Chair advice on that point in future.
I would ask the Member for Whitehorse Centre to continue.
Mr. McLarnon:I understand the point of view, and I'll continue on something less inflammatory, but something that's still equally as galling to us.
Let's talk about the CDF. Let's talk about what we're being asked to do. We're being asked to dump more money into a program that was used as a political pork barrel to try to win an election.
Let's talk about fiscal management and the use of money. $2.5 million was spent in 17 days, right during an election. Now, if this does not look like political opportunism, I don't know what does. Just to explain to the members across the way, though, from a businessman's point of view, what that means. That means you've spent $5,643 for each vote you got - for each vote that the members across the way got - $5,643. Fortunately, the rules of our government do not allow that to be distributed to each individual, but $5,643 does not equate to a very good use of money to buy votes.
We'd ask you to consider why, in any sense of fiscal management - once the fund has been spent irresponsibly by the government previous to us - would it be renewed? Why should the coffers be filled again, when we do not have any idea if the programs work? We know they don't buy NDP votes. We know that. That was proven in the last election. So, we can certainly look at this and wonder what it does, who benefits, what the best control of it is. And this is what building an economy is.
I'm going to give you a business perspective. I'm going to give you a business perspective on how economies are built. You can use a small business analogy of how economies are built, by leaping into a small business. You go in with a business plan; you build your inventory, you look at who your customers are going to be, and will your business survive.
You do not look at it and buy everything from the first salesman who comes along, nor do you put on a sale right away when your first month might be down. Why you don't do that is because you want a business to last for years. We use this analogy in government. What we look at in our plan is giving our private sector the tools and the economic environment to employ people and to give lasting jobs. A winter works project is not a lasting job. A winter works project is a job that ends when winter does. What does this do for the economy as a whole? Very little. Nothing lasting. What are the priorities of this government? To create those jobs that will last well after we leave, well after the next government goes. Ten years at least - we're looking at long range. We're not looking at band-aids; we're not looking at knee-jerk reactions. Band-aids and knee-jerk reactions do not build economies.
Now, one of the things that a member from the opposite side said - and I really need to point out - is that you can take these winter works jobs to the bank and the banker will be happy. Bankers will not give loans on temporary jobs. Bankers will not secure mortgages on temporary jobs. I realize that the members across the way have not been in their own businesses and probably have never talked to bankers on a serious level. I'm not including the Member for Dawson for this; he did not make that comment. I know the Member for Dawson probably rolled his eyes when he heard that. The Member for Dawson knows what I'm talking about. Building economy is more than band-aids. Building economy is more than looking at the short-term solutions. That's what this government is about: looking at the long-term solutions; creating the business environment where people can succeed; creating the business environment where families know what they're going to have two years down the road, not four months down the road when the next job handout is. This is the difference between a Liberal government and an NDP government. The NDP government made communities dependent on them because they controlled purse strings and they controlled the amount of spending that went into communities. They didn't create economies out in those communities. Those economies are local economies.
The strength that we will build will be lasting - the economic strength that builds self-esteem, the economic strength that builds long-term planning and growth. The short-term fix? Yes, the short-term fix is attractive, but the short-term fix also is something that does not help in the long term. We do not want those communities to be dependent on government. Those communities don't want to be dependent on government. The Yukon workforce does not want to be dependent on the government. The last thing they want to do is be dependant on the government.
Governments change. We have already talked about patronage. We have talked about the fact that sometimes people feel that they have no shot at a job when there is government there, when a certain government is in there. We are in a situation where we must correct this. Yukoners are free. Yukoners are independent. Yukoners want to stand on their own feet.
What we're going to do in our long-term plan is offer them the ability to do that, give them the environment to do that. We are not looking at bandages. We are not looking at knee-jerk reactions. The supplementary budget that we placed gives some indication of the path that we will follow when a long-term spring budget comes in. There are some indications in there.
What we have to do is focus on the long term, and the long term, in our case, isn't very long. It does not focus on the immediate needs because the immediate needs always will come first, but are they the best solution? And I can tell you, the best solution for the Yukon Territory is to have a vibrant private sector working in strong areas of economic growth, and not a private sector that's dependent on contracts, handouts and the largesse of government.
What I ask the members opposite to do is to try to understand or at least read an economics textbook to understand what economics is. It is building an entire system where the private sector can exist and government helps in the delivery of private sector programs. Government does not replace the private sector. What we on this side are about is building a strong private sector that will give Yukoners jobs for a long time, not for just a winter.
I thank Mr. Speaker for his patience with what we have gone through. The rhetoric I heard from the other side inflamed me into emotion and anger. I apologize for my comments earlier. It certainly didn't become the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I will now allow another socialist diatribe from the other side.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, today is indeed an occasion. I rise in support of an NDP motion. That is very much an occasion for me, but what this motion says and what this motion speaks to is the state of our economy. That, Mr. Speaker, is the main area we should be focusing on and doing something about. This government has chosen not to.
The current state of the Yukon economy has gone from a recession to a depression, if you want to go back to the textbooks and look up the definition of a recession, and count how many quarters you have to be going backwards before you hit a depression period. We are just about there. That, in itself, is appalling, given the state of the economy on three of our borders. We share a border with Alaska. Their economy in the resource extraction area is considerably ahead of ours, especially in the oil and gas and mining fields. Yes, mining activity has slowed down in Alaska, but they still have a U.S. $1 billion industry in that state. What's interesting is that 80 percent of that mining activity is taking place by Canadian companies in that state.
We look to the Northwest Territories. We look to the oil and gas industry in that territory. It is currently anticipating expenditures of approximately $1 billion over the same period of time that the Premier here in the Yukon gets up and says, "Oh, we have $5 million and we have $4 million." They are looking at $1 billion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, we have got gas here, too. It is Liberal gas. The potential for oil and gas in the northern part of the Yukon and southeast Yukon is equally as ripe as some of the areas in the Northwest Territories that are currently being explored. That is a reality. There is a producing gas well in the Kotaneelee field in southeast Yukon. It has been tied in to the gas pipeline that extends up from Fort Nelson for quite a number of years. In fact, if the Liberals of the day look at their sources of revenue, they will find that a good deal of the dollars flow from the royalties that that well produces.
The Yukon could be self-sufficient and a net exporter of energy if this government would do something about this area, Mr. Speaker, but they have chosen not to. So much for the oil and gas industry.
The mining industry, on which the Yukon was created, is probably at an all-time low ever for the Yukon. There was considerable activity in the mining fields even during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Not now. This year, mining exploration in constant dollars was the lowest it has ever been in the history of the Yukon.
That, Mr. Speaker, speaks loudly for the political climate here in Yukon and the conditions under which mining exploration dollars can flow. Money knows no boundaries. Money moves where it's going to get its best rate of return, and there are other areas of this world where Canadian mining companies can invest. The rules are established, and they know they can put money in and make a dollar. The same holds true for oil and gas, and oil and gas exploration. What we have currently is lip service being paid to the Yukon with respect to its potential for oil and gas exploration - lip service.
I credit the political masters in the Northwest Territories, including the First Nation leaders, for coming together and having a uniform position. They are both saying the same thing at the same time, and that has attracted oil and gas exploration activity to that region of Canada.
What do we have here now? We have a government that was recently elected with a substantial mandate. That's a given. They have money in the bank. That has been substantiated by the Auditor General. Contrary to what we have heard from the Minister of Finance, the Premier, it's not $14 million; it's some $60-odd million. So, the issue is not one of not having a mandate to govern. It's not one of not having the money to put into projects. What's left over? All that's left, Mr. Speaker, is the ability or lack thereof.
That's exactly what we are seeing demonstrated here in the Yukon today - a lack of ability, a lack of ideas, a lack of ways to go about rebuilding this economy.
And what we're hearing now is that this Liberal government is focusing on the long-term rebuilding of the Yukon economy. Well, there's the short term also, Mr. Speaker. The short term has to be identified, and we have to look at what we're going to do to feed the families that remain here.
We look at what has been working, and the Premier, in her words on this motion, mentioned a few areas where the government has taken up the charge and pointed to an area where we're going to receive some benefits. She pointed to the film industry, as to the potential for creating jobs here in the Yukon, and I agree with the Premier. The film industry has a great potential for creating jobs and pumping up our economy, and it's short term; it can happen very quickly.
But then, you would think that that would be identified in the budget, with moving a little bit more money in that direction so we can attract more films to that area. But what do we see? We see a reduction in that budget by some $333,000, Mr. Speaker. So on one hand, we're going to rely on the film industry; on the other hand, we're cutting the budget for marketing and promoting of these things, and assisting with producers who want to base here and do something here in the Yukon. It doesn't make sense, Mr. Speaker.
And the Premier, in her address, went on and spoke about winter festivals and carnivals. Well, I wouldn't hang your hat on winter carnivals and festivals as creating a great economy. They do contribute; they can be enhanced upon. But it's not going to pay the rent and buy the groceries year-round, Mr. Speaker.
Then we hear about highway projects. The Shakwak project is going to be continuing until just before Christmas. The Premier is absolutely right. It's exactly the same as the contractor did last year. This is not any new money. This is money flowing from the coffers of the United States of America to the Government of Canada for the Yukon government to spend on this highway initiative.
So much for band-aid solutions. What we've heard today is that this Liberal government has no idea and no solution. I don't think they really expected to be elected.
We've heard a lot of hype about the community development fund. We've learned now that there is speculation that a lot of it was slush fund money. It is an interesting perspective that one has on the community development fund when one lives in rural Yukon and looks toward Whitehorse. It's an entirely different view than when one looks from Whitehorse out, Mr. Speaker. This Liberal government wouldn't even begin to see or appreciate the difference.
Community development funds have been put to a multitude of uses and purposes throughout the Yukon Territory, to the benefit of a great number of individuals. Yes, there is room to monitor it and look at it. Yes, there have been abuses. No one will deny that. But you don't cancel a program that works, or review it and perform a management audit, when this community development fund and its funding can be put to work immediately to create jobs.
It seems that the initiatives of this government are to take all of those areas that aren't working, bring them in-house, expand government to encompass them, and, if there's the least bit of controversy surrounding an initiative, we'll review it perform a management audit on the CDF fund.
Mr. Speaker, the community development fund, the fire smart fund, the tourism marketing fund and the trade and investment fund have all created jobs during their lives - jobs and, in a lot of cases, structures, initiatives and capital projects that have gone on to spur more jobs and create more economic activity in Yukon. But now we have shut that opportunity down, that opportunity for this Liberal government to address some of the economic woes here in the Yukon and put some people to work this winter. It's not going to happen. That's a sad day for Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and a sad day for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I went through the supplementary budget, and I, like a lot of Yukoners, was expecting it to contain some hope, but I couldn't identify one concrete initiative in that budget that would help boost employment this winter. I just couldn't.
I know that a lot of individuals who are currently working in private sector group homes, just before Christmas, might be transferred to the employment of the Government of the Yukon. They may or may not be, I don't know. It seems to be the government of the day's initiative to take more and more of the programs, create more and more government, and review, review, review.
Band-aid solutions. What we have is an economy that's haemorrhaging. We need to look at more than just a band-aid. We need to look at initiatives that are going to create short-term and long-term benefits. And the tripod on which an economy is built is transportation, energy and communications. There is money in all the pots. Let's start looking at what Yukoners anticipated from each one of these initiatives and what we're going to end up receiving at the end of the day through the communication initiatives of Connect Yukon. We're going to be paying for something that, in fact, Northwestel had to provide and is mandated to provide.
Now we have a new initiative from the federal Liberals: Connect Canada. I don't know where these initiatives all dovetail, but with the energy field and the communications field here in the Yukon, it used to be that just the ratepayers paid for energy and communications. We've taken great strides. Now we've got both the taxpayers and the ratepayers funnelling money into these initiatives. And the benefits are questionable as to their timing and cost to Yukoners. What we have to do is come to some arrangement.
If we look specifically at the mining field, we have to come to some arrangements with the federal government - who has care and control over these areas - so that we can have a realistic opportunity for individual mining proponents to come in and explore, go through the permitting process within a reasonable length of time and have reasonable terms and conditions applied to their operations.
Now, there was hope out there, Mr. Speaker, that by electing a Liberal government here in the Yukon, the attachment between the Liberals in this House and the Liberals in Ottawa would serve that purpose. On the contrary - its distance has grown farther and farther, the opportunities fewer and fewer, the maze of paperwork that a mining proponent and operator has to go through is at an all-time high today. The way the current system is set up is a deterrent to attracting investment in the mining community here in the Yukon. Anyone on the operation end of things, when you look at what you have to get involved in on the reporting end, it's equally cumbersome and equally awkward.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, I was very much in favour of this motion and will be supporting this motion. There is a short area that I would like to propose a friendly amendment to. We know now that an all-party committee does not work. The Liberals have clearly demonstrated that, and I propose the following amendment to the motion:
THAT Motion No. 21 be amended by deleting the words "an all-party" and substituting for them the words "a public-private sector working".
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. leader of the third party:
THAT Motion No. 21 be amended by deleting the words "an all-party" and substituting for them the words "a public-private sector working".
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of the amendment to Motion No. 21, and just for clarity, the way the motion would now read is: that this House urges the Yukon government, as a matter of urgent priority, to convene a public-private sector working committee to examine practical measures it can take to provide jobs for Yukon people this winter.
Mr. Speaker, that amendment has been made necessary, in my opinion, as a consequence of the way that the Liberals have addressed the issue of all-party committees here in the House and in SCREP. They've virtually been ignored, and I'm sure that when the Member for Watson Lake tabled this motion, his expectations were similar to my own, in that he anticipated all-party committees to be a workable arrangement.
Now, as a consequence of poor faith - and well, whatever you want to call it - on the part of this Liberal government, what we have seen is a failure of all-party committees to reach consensus.
This restructuring of this motion in this friendly amendment would provide a vehicle for government to get out there and do what has to be done and address the issues that could turn the economy around.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, on the amendment, it is interesting that the member opposite, who just withdrew his membership in an all-party committee called SCREP, as well as the NDP who voted against an all-party committee to make appointments to boards and committees, would suddenly find an interest in this again and misrepresent the position of the government side. The members on the government side, to be absolutely clear, were the ones who brought forward a motion to work with all parties in this House to make appointments to boards and committees. The side opposite voted against that. This side of the House tried to have a number of meetings with SCREP, and the side opposite decided not to take part in an all-party committee.
It is interesting that the NDP had an all-party committee within their motion, and it is even more interesting that the Member for Klondike is at least acknowledging that that does not seem to be a way that the side opposite wants to work with the government side.
I think it is interesting, too, that the amendment talks about a public/private sector partnership. The $333,000 from the Tourism budget that was taken out of the film commission and reallocated within the budget - there is $20,000 still remaining in that line - is for a public/private partnership on an electrics package that is supported by Mr. Toohey, who is the expert on films in the Yukon Territory. That public/private partnership is something that we think could work.
When we were on the side opposite, Mr. Speaker, over and over and over again, we supported the notion of a public/private partnership.
The NDP at that time was in government and, because of some sort of misapprehension of what a public/private partnership was - I quite honestly don't believe that they really knew what that meant - they voted against private/public partnerships. So, it's not surprising that the public/private partnership on the electrics package, which is being very well responded to by the industry, is again not something that they're interested in. It's not surprising that the side opposite is not interested in an all-party committee - the Member for Klondike is not interested in an all-party committee - but what's more interesting is that the NDP still think that's a possibility. Clearly, their actions over the last four months indicate that they're not at all interested in working with this side of the House, Mr. Speaker.
So, we will be voting against the amendment. We will also be voting against the motion, to be absolutely clear. And, Mr. Speaker, the offer is still there. If the side opposite wants to work with this government, we'd like them to come and help us.
Mr. Fentie: On the amendment, firstly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the Minister of Tourism's comments and point out that we, all along, this week, in this Legislature, have made the claim and made the point that the Liberals are wrong to place the changing of night sittings and procedures and rules in this House as a priority over the crisis situation we're in in our economy.
It's also important to note that the minister just diminished that critical situation we find ourselves in by making the comparison that somehow the importance of appointing members to boards and committees is right up there with the problems we face today in our economy and the hardships Yukoners are facing.
The motion that was tabled was all about collectively putting our heads together. This is on an emergency basis. It has nothing to do with all-party committees to make appointments to boards. It has to do with us sitting down, because the Liberals have no direction or vision on where to go with this problem, and focusing on what we can do now to address the needs of Yukoners.
The amendment, given the actions of the Liberal benches today, was brought forward because the Yukon Party obviously had no choice. We may very well have amended our own motion. If the Liberal government were serious about addressing this situation, as I pointed out earlier, they would have stood on their feet and asked for unanimous consent for this motion to pass, and we would get on with the job. They did not do so. This amendment is intended to strengthen the original motion by bringing in the public and private sector to address this emergency situation. It is a matter of urgent and pressing need. We need to do something about our economic situation now.
I overheard the Member for Whitehorse Centre talk about band-aid solutions and the short term - so on and so forth - and that the Liberals were working on long-term solutions to the economy. That proves that the Liberals don't even have a fundamental understanding of what makes up the Yukon economy, because most of our people who are small business operators in this territory require short-term measures so that they can survive to get to the long term. That is the crux of the problem. The Liberals don't understand our economy. They have no vision and no plan. We are going nowhere.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLarnon: Our party will be voting against the amendment, but I would like to suggest that I have a feeling that the Member for Klondike has an ulterior motive to this. Having full knowledge that the NDP destroyed the economy in the first place, I'm sure that the way he's looking at this is the fact that you never invite the arsonist to sit on the rebuilding committee. And so, in this case, what I would suggest is he knows who fully is to blame here, and so why have the people to be blamed sit in and give us more advice? So, we won't be supporting it, but I certainly understand the spirit in which the member put it forward.
Mr. Keenan: It gives me pleasure indeed to be able to speak to the amendment. And, of course, I'll move to support the amendment. I'd like to explain why I would be supporting the amendment.
An all-party committee and a private sector working group certainly make sense, because it is not government opposition that has all the answers, it's the people of the Yukon that have the answers. It's up to us - and it's incumbent upon us - to listen to them.
So, certainly, as we move through the motion, I could very much support the amendment of the motion. And the reason why I say, again, that I can support the motion is because it will be bringing people together.
I heard some rhetoric on the other side and I've got to say I quite enjoy it, actually. It's something that, I think, is a Yukon style. And we can always get the point across. We say emotional things, but it's just so much more than that. I remember speaking last week and the Member for Riverside paid a compliment to me - and I appreciated it. I thought about it a bit. I would mention that I hope that, after four years in this House, I'll be able to have that emotion.
Certainly, I always enjoy the antics and the way the Member for Whitehorse Centre speaks, because we might be very close to each other. We speak from emotion; we speak from what we wish to have and what we hear from the people.
Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I can understand where the Member for Whitehorse Centre comes from, but I would like to point out that the spirits that fuel me are slightly different from the spirits that fuel the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. Speaker, we talked about band-aid solutions. The economy has been suffering as of late. And worse - it's on a slippery slope, I guess you might say. But if there were a fester, or if our child or dog came home and the nail were ripped off the foot, or my child's thumbnail were lifted, we would treat it. That treatment, Mr. Speaker, would be a band-aid. It would be, because that band-aid will keep or will start the healing process, if I may. We have to start with that.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I know that the Liberal government has been taking some awful hits of late. As a matter of fact, just two months after the election, a fellow I do not know came up to me on a Whitehorse street and said, "Dave, I didn't support you, and I'm sorry that I didn't." I thought about that, and I said, "Well, that's the political process." It has a lot of personality-driven initiatives within the process.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have to get away from that personality-driven type of process. I said in a speech the other day - yes, it was just the other day - that if we were all thrown into a room together, we could come out with an initiative that would be good for the Yukon Territory. And yes, Mr. Speaker, that would include an all-party committee for the economy.
We could play politics - I guess I could say it that way - with the all-party committees. The members opposite have a point; we have a point. Mr. Speaker, this has nothing to do with all-party committees and structures. This has to do with the economy. Now, the reason I'm saying that is because I want to help. I'm a Yukoner. I'm a born and raised Yukoner. And I want to help because I have a vision for the Yukon Territory, and I want to see that vision, in part, implemented.
That vision, Mr. Speaker, includes the umbrella final agreement and the First Nations territorial final agreements. It includes all peoples of the Yukon, and my fingerprints are over all those documents because I have not simply been here for a few short years to become impassioned. I have been on this earth for 49 years, and I have held that passion for this country since then, and I have had open arms and hands for the people. I want them to be here, and I want to work with them.
It has been reported in the newspapers - it says that while the new government hasn't portrayed itself as a monument of bursting creativity - I agree. I recognize they're the government, and that's exactly what we're trying to do to help, Mr. Speaker, because there is a very basic fundamental difference between Whitehorse and the communities. And yes, I realize that the Liberal Party might have rural seats in terms of Lake Laberge and Mount Lorne, because they do have rural connotations, if I may say it in that manner. It's not really the same thing, but if people want to get out and enjoy themselves, I guess that's rural, because the Yukon should be there for all to share.
Mr. Speaker, George Johnston brought a car into the Yukon Territory. Oh god, it was many years before the highway was here. There was a man of vision. It was a vehicle, and he shared that vehicle with the community. Could you imagine the change in Yukon history if Mr. Johnston took the tires off that vehicle and put it up on stumps all year-round and said, "You may look at it but you can't use it?" Well, Mr. Speaker, he didn't do that. He took summer tires and replaced them with winter tires - a seasonal change. He had to do that so that we had a vehicle. We had a vehicle for the people, and that vehicle included -
Mr. Speaker, the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is giving me a little smirk, a little smile. I would certain encourage the member to listen because I'm not trying to preach. I am trying to impart some direction in a very kind and gentle manner.
Speaker: Order please. I'm sure the member will show the relevance of his remarks to the amendment of the motion.
Mr. Keenan: So, Mr. Speaker, as we talk about including the private sector working group into this, well, that private sector working group has to be able to include the communities. And the communities have some very special people out there, Mr. Speaker, who would be able to very much identify that, no, the CDF is not a slush fund. Any of the other issues - the TMF, the fire smart programs - would only be embellished if we added the amendment to the motion and brought people in. Again, it could only be done in that manner.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we are not here to blame people. We are here to advise people. So, I certainly appreciate where the government comes from, but I would encourage the members to vote for the amendment to the motion. I would encourage the government to vote for the motion itself, because there could be nothing but goodness that comes out of this - absolute goodness.
That's exactly what we want for the Yukon Territory, because, if we do not have band-aid solutions, and a government looking forward with a vision, then we have nothing, and the amendment to this very critical motion will mean absolutely nothing. And there will not be a bright future for people. We will not have the commercials and the televisions here, because there will not be a Yukon.
So, I can only support the amendment as it is shown and I can only support the motion as it is laid out. I thank you very much for the time, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
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. 21 negatived
Speaker: If the member now speaks, the member will close debate.
Mr. Kent:It is with pleasure that I rise on the opposition's private members' day to respond to the member opposite's queries about the economy.
Firstly, I want to speak to the fact that we voted to keep the all-party committee in the original motion because I still have faith that all-party committees can function in this House.
It's plain to see that the economy is not as robust as all Yukoners would like it to be, but it's equally plain to see that we in government are doing our best to take positive steps to get the Yukon's economy back on its feet.
One of our seven priorities outlined in the throne speech was rebuilding the economy. And we are seeing to that with a variety of initiatives. At the root of these initiatives is the need to create jobs for Yukoners. While the unemployment rate has fallen some two percent since we took office, that doesn't mean that we are or that we will rest in our efforts to create new jobs for Yukoners. We can't afford to have an unemployment rate of 13 percent, as was the average under the NDP's reign of error. Nor can we afford an unemployment rate of more than 17 percent - a dubious pinnacle also reached during the previous government's mandate. Even at 9.7 percent, where the rate stood in September, we realize that rate is too high, and as we speak, the wheels are in motion to bring business, money and jobs into the territory, keeping both the short term and long term in mind.
The Yukon Film Commission has secured no less than two feature films for production in the Yukon this fall and winter, and four more feature films and one documentary are in the works but are, as yet, unconfirmed. Plans are in place for five commercials to be filmed in the Yukon this winter.
The German film shot here last year brought $1.6 million into the territory for an investment of $170,000 and provided some 1,600 person-days of work for Yukon residents. That's the equivalent of nearly four and a half person-years of work. That German film that was shot here last year also reached friends of mine in the carpentry industry. It reached the business where I was formerly employed. We sold thousands of dollars worth of goods to the film companies.
The upcoming films will also provide jobs for Yukoners, as they are each expected to spend anywhere from $1.5 million to $15 million in the territory each. Each of these films will employ Yukoners for two to eight weeks, providing 2,200 Yukon person-days of employment. Production costs for the commercials near $250,000, of which a large chunk will stay right here.
Commercials can employ as many as 15 people for up to four days. The Minister of Tourism has also secured more flights, and at least another 2,200 seats are booked to fly to Yukon from Europe starting in the spring. Other economic efforts include the fact that we are assisting the mining companies through incentives and lobbying efforts. In addition to the signed deals listed previously, we're continually building on the tourism potential of the Yukon.
We are in constant contact with First Nations to ensure that they are confident that their voices are being heard, not only economically but socially speaking, as well. And we are listening to them.
For the long term, potentially the most significant economic news in the Yukon's history lies in the proposed Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
The Premier has been tireless in her efforts to convince the concerned stakeholders that this route is to the benefit of all. The economic effects of the pipeline to the Yukon have been talked about in the billions of dollars. And this would not be a five-year wonder, by any stretch. Hundreds and hundreds of jobs would be created to build the pipeline and many of those jobs would stay after its completion.
The infrastructure surrounding the pipeline would also be huge, as countless businesses and services would be necessary to support both the construction and maintenance of the pipeline. Job spinoffs would be immense, not only directly related to the pipeline, but also due to the increased interest oil and gas companies could not help but have with the pipeline in place.
That interest is already here from oil and gas companies, as the recent land sales attest.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the economic reality we are in right now. We do realize that the economy needs fixing and we are taking concrete, well-thought-out steps to rectify the situation. We would love to be able to snap our fingers and have everyone working, businesses flourishing and people clamouring to move to our beautiful and potentially rich territory, but it just doesn't happen that way.
Long-term economic viability and a sustainable economy is what we hope to create. We won't be a band-aid government. We can't fix the economy overnight. Real change takes time and real change is what we want, and what all Yukoners want and need.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we are opposed to this motion. We are not a band-aid government. We are a 10-year government. We believe in the long term.
Mr. Speaker, that is what Yukoners want. They want security for the future. They do not want band-aid fixes. Unfortunately, when the members opposite were in government, they did not communicate with the people, and the people told us very clearly that the only way we can go is to have surety in where they are going in the future.
Winter works programs - I have heard those words mentioned many times here, Mr. Speaker, and over the years that I have been on this earth, I have seen and not necessarily been part of winter works programs, but I have experienced them with some of my relatives and so on. Again, that is just a temporary measure. It does not lead to long-term development.
We appreciate the fact that people want to work, and if you look at the current unemployment rate of 9.7, this is a full two percent lower than when this government took office. That tells you, Mr. Speaker, that the day we took office, confidence was building.
Unlike previous governments, we are working on both short-term and long-term economic development for the territory. And of course, our number one priority, Mr. Speaker, is land claims. We want to see this done. Unlike the members opposite, when they were government, who did not recognize that this was the number one point in the economy of Yukon, we do. We believe that all Yukoners want to move ahead. We were told this time and time again, and we believe that we are on the right track.
It's unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that so many people have gone to Alberta to work because of the last government's view of the economy. That's why we believe that if we work together as a team - we have offered. I have heard the phrase "olive branch" mentioned. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes made the comment about the "olive branch". He was very expressive and very emotional about it. I mean, we have offered that olive branch from day one. They want to slap us with it, rather than try to work with us.
I mean, Mr. Speaker, the all-party concept was an idea that came from the members opposite many times. We believe that we have responded and acted. It's unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that we had to do it the way that it was done, but that's the democratic process. It's sad that the members opposite don't realize that we want their input. They have some valuable ideas. We believe in what experiences they have, and we believe that together we can work on solutions for the Yukon.
As was mentioned by many of my colleagues on this side of the House, there are many things happening here. The tourism sector, under the leadership of the Member for Riverdale South, has taken a leap to the sky, Mr. Speaker, because of the ingenuity and the resourcefulness of that minister. And I think the important part here, Mr. Speaker, is to realize that we want the economy to move - not spin its wheels, Mr. Speaker, but to move.
And so tourism, with the films that are going to be shown this winter, the commercials -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I hear the member opposite saying, "Well, it's only three days, it's only two days."
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, body language is also a form of speech, and that type of body language from that minister across the floor is very condescending and it's insulting to this side of the House. It's also a shame that this drivel that we're hearing from the minister is intended to talk out the clock on this very important and crucial debate in this Legislature. It's a sad day for the Yukon people and it's a sad day for this territory that this Liberal government does not recognize that there are needs now. They have turned their backs on Yukoners. Shame on the Liberals.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, the language used by the member opposite is unparliamentary. It is also inappropriate for the member opposite to be commenting on someone's body language and his interpretation of it, as opposed to the others.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 21 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 1, 2000:
Intergovernmental Relations Accord between the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Government and the Government of Yukon (signed September 19, 2000)
Connect Yukon: Letter of Intent re the communities not included in Connect Yukon (dated March 31, 2000); Contribution Agreement for one Marsh Lake Infrastructure Build (dated April 12, 2000); Service Management Agreement for Connect Yukon (dated April 1, 2000)
Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges: First Report (dated November 1, 2000)