Tuesday, November 14, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this 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 National Addictions Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Earlier today, I was honoured to participate in the Circle of Light ceremony to mark the beginning of National Addictions Awareness Week.
I rise today to pay tribute to the men and women across this country who, for the past 20 years, have worked tirelessly and often without recognition to begin and maintain National Addictions Awareness Week.
This week has been chosen as an opportunity to provide information and promote activities that create an awareness of addictions, substance abuse, the hazards of substance abuse, and to encourage a healthy lifestyle. It also celebrates those who are recovering from their addictions.
Over the years, the event has maintained the theme "Keep the circle strong." This now familiar logo represents the growing circle of people and families and communities who have chosen and who support the addictions-free lifestyle.
With approximately 600,000 volunteers and participants across Canada, that circle keeps growing stronger in the Yukon.
We honour the countless volunteers, who have come together through dedication and hard work to make a difference in our communities.
I believe that National Addictions Week provides us with an opportunity to learn more about the impact of alcohol and drug abuse, and I am pleased that alcohol and drug services is participating in this very important week. Addictions affect many Yukoners. Increased awareness and understanding can help reach more individuals and families who require help for their addictions.
It is fitting, Mr. Speaker, that only last week we announced that we were looking at a new structure for alcohol and drug services. I believe that this will allow for a better service for those people who need our assistance. I salute the Yukon partners who are working toward community solutions for addiction problems.
Ms. Netro: On behalf of the official opposition, it is my honour to pay tribute to National Addictions Week. I would like especially to pay tribute to those who work in the alcohol and drug counselling, as they guide and support people who come to the decision to live a healthier lifestyle.
All across the nation this week there are celebrations of sobriety through gatherings so that we can see that life is good, that there is a choice of how one may live their life.
Resources such as treatment centres, counselling and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings provide the stepping stone to begin our journey on the right road. Traditional ceremonies in our First Nation communities help to build that foundation strong. Alcohol affects each one of us, in our families, our relatives and friends, the communities where we live. Our responsibility is to model a healthy lifestyle while giving encouragement and hope to those who struggle.
Our vision for our generations to come is harmony with oneself, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our hope is to heal from our past. It takes courage and faith to change and to face those challenges. I speak from experience. I am grateful today for the many gifts of living a sober life, and we do need to keep that circle strong.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also rise to pay tribute to National Addictions Awareness Week.
For almost 20 years, National Addictions Awareness Week has been recognized and promoted by Canadians throughout the country as an opportunity to raise awareness about the risk associated with alcohol and drug use, as well as proven ways of reducing those risks.
In Yukon, alcohol and drug abuse remains the major social problem confronting Yukoners today. Alcohol and drug abuse is destructive to personal relationships and contributes to domestic violence. It is a significant factor in health care costs to Yukoners and is a significant factor in the commission of crimes. Sadly, misuse of alcohol during pregnancy is causing increasing concern among Yukoners because of the disabilities that those persons suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome, fetal alcohol effects encountered, and the widespread impact of these effects felt in our society.
This week presents an opportunity for Yukoners to realize the important role we all play in preventing addiction and developing healthy lifestyles. It provides an opportunity to focus on early intervention programs to promote the development of healthy children and encourage community actions to promote healthy choices, and it presents an opportunity to celebrate our successes in addiction awareness.
I am very pleased to offer my support to these important initiatives and would like to recognize those individuals throughout the Yukon who have helped make this week the success it has become.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have two legislative returns for tabling.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return, a letter to Mr. McRobb dated November 6, on the Beringia gift shop; a letter dated November 9 to Mr. McRobb on the Beringia gift shop; a letter dated November 10 to Mr. Fairclough on the Beringia gift shop; and a letter to Mr. McRobb on today's date on the Beringia gift shop.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) personal attacks are inappropriate and have no place in the business of this House;
(2) such negative connotations cast negative public opinion on all members of this House;
(3) such behaviour, from both government and opposition members, impedes all members from effectively dealing with the business of the House; and
(4) all members of this House should strive to model professional behaviour in the House.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukon First Nations should not be held solely responsible for causing all of the delays in settling Yukon Indian Land Claims, because there have been successive changes in the government at both the federal and territorial levels, changes in comprehensive claims policy and continuing judicial interpretations of aboriginal rights and title over the 27 years of negotiations; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon to accept their share of responsibility for causing delays in settling Yukon Indian Land Claims and agree to negotiate an agreement that will enable Yukon First Nations to retain a more equitable portion of their land claim settlement compensation.
Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?
Alaska Highway pipeline project
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I rise today to inform Members of the Legislature of our ongoing efforts to fulfill our commitment to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline route. As members are aware, this route would bring many long-term economic benefits to Yukon people and businesses - benefits that would remain long after construction of the $8-billion project is completed.
Construction of the Alaska Highway pipeline will lead to permanent jobs. It will also reinforce the important role of Yukon communities as supply and service hubs. It will provide access to natural gas for Yukon communities along the route. Most importantly, the Alaska Highway pipeline will encourage exploration and development of Yukon's eight oil and gas basins, leading to long-lasting economic benefits for the territory.
We began early in our mandate to secure the Alaska Highway pipeline project, and we are building on that momentum. The supplementary estimates now before the House provide another $612,000 to support increased efforts and activity related to the pipeline project. This additional funding reflects this government's commitment to securing the route and to ensuring the Yukon is well positioned to benefit from the project. This funding will support aggressive marketing efforts both within and outside the Yukon.
I want to assure members that we have already been working hard to get our message to industry producers and pipeline companies, and to politicians in Alaska and in Canada. Our message has been simple and effective. The Alaska Highway pipeline project was the right choice 20 years ago and it's the right choice today.
I have spoken to key players in the oil and gas industry at several well-attended and well-received conferences in Calgary. I'll be speaking this Thursday in Anchorage at the annual general meeting of the Resource Development Council for Alaska. The theme of the conference is "Alaska Resources: Expanding Opportunities". Other guest speakers include Alaskan Governor Tony Knowles and Michael Stewart from Foothills Pipe Lines. The audience will include North Slope oil and gas producers, pipeline companies, and Alaskan business, community and political representatives.
We have been talking with Yukoners about the Alaska Highway pipeline projects at several functions over the past few months, organized by the Whitehorse and Yukon chambers of commerce and the Rotary Club. My officials have also met with the conservation community. As well, we have recently initiated discussions with First Nations, which will be ongoing. Mr. Paul Birckel has been contracted as the First Nation liaison coordinator who will be leading these efforts.
Mr. Birckel is working with other specialists in our pipeline unit to address the many issues related to this project and to work toward a successful outcome for the Yukon.
Supplementary funding has been proposed to provide the resources necessary to undertake the legal, environmental and engineering analysis involved in the pipeline project. We are also looking at what regulatory regime would be required during the construction phase.
As well, this funding will also allow this government to discuss the project with Yukoners in their own communities. We want to take every opportunity available to speak to Yukoners about this project and explain why this government is devoting time and resources to it. We want to hear from Yukoners about how we can maximize the economic benefits of this project. Yukoners need to be active participants in the development, securing benefits for Yukon while protecting the environment. We also want to ensure that Yukon people will be able to take advantage of training, jobs and business opportunities that will come from a project of this magnitude.
As part of the Alaska Highway pipeline strategy, the competitive advantage of this route must be effectively communicated to all stakeholders and to governments. We have done this by meeting with natural gas producers, pipeline companies and federal government agencies, such as the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency.
With expanded staff and capabilities, the pipeline unit can more effectively engage and communicate directly with Yukon people and First Nations government to discuss issues, outline benefits and opportunities, and enlist support for this important project.
I am filing today, for all members, a comprehensive listing of meetings undertaken since July 2000 regarding the Alaska Highway pipeline project, copies of the speeches I have given, both here and in Calgary, and a fact sheet on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Mr. Fentie: I rise again today to respond to what is not a ministerial statement from the Liberal side, but a re-announcement of a reannouncement of a reannouncement of the announcement that this Liberal government is going to aggressively promote the pipeline. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's a no-brainer.
The former government aggressively promoted the pipeline. We, in the opposition benches, aggressively promote the pipeline. Chambers of commerce in this territory aggressively promote the pipeline. Yukoners in general are aggressively promoting the pipeline.
The problem here is that this is the only economy plank that this Liberal government has to offer the Yukon Territory. What this statement should be, Mr. Speaker, is a written apology to Yukoners for the hardships that this government has placed upon them. This government has shut down the forest industry. It shut down the Mayo school. Many, many jobs and benefits for Yukoners are gone - hat in hand gone to the mining industry last week to announce that there is no progress in mining, devolution is delayed, land claims are delayed, we've repackaged the mineral strategy, or a component of it, and called it the MINE program. There's nothing on mining, nothing on the horizon - no winter works when it's so desperately needed, the community development fund cancelled, fire smart cancelled, and now the biggest blunder of all, the cancellation of the port options in Alaska, which may have one of the biggest negative impacts on the Yukon's economy ever. Again, it's a glaring example, Mr. Speaker, of an empty, hollow vessel for a government with no vision, no plan.
Mr. Speaker, this is all that this government seems to be able to grasp when it comes to the economy. No matter what, as long as the price holds and there are profits to be made and there are markets for that product to be marketed to, there will be a pipeline, and those who put the money up to build that pipeline will have the final say. It's high time this government got off their tails and started doing something about this economy now, not five to seven years down the road.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this so-called ministerial statement that has effectively been taken from the Premier's meeting calendar. This is no new statement of government policy here. All we have is the restatement that the government supports the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline route - something that every Yukon government has been doing since the 1970s.
While Yukoners are appreciative of the Premier's efforts to support the Alaska Highway route, they do not believe that we should be laying all of Yukon's economic eggs in one very precarious basket. Yukoners are becoming increasingly concerned that the Premier's exclusive and singular focus on the pipeline is doing a disservice to other segments of the Yukon economy.
The Premier's recent trip to Mayo to explain why our government was not proceeding with the construction of the Mayo school this winter clearly demonstrates no immediate government will to stimulate the economy. Aside from the predominant concern about protecting the health and safety of the Mayo schoolchildren and staff, the construction of the Mayo school would have provided Mayo residents and other Yukoners with some much-needed jobs this winter. The unemployed people in Mayo need jobs now. They can't wait for a pipeline.
Similarly, the forestry workers in Watson Lake needed some help from this Liberal government to keep their jobs. They received none. Many of them now have left the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, they couldn't wait for five to 10 years for the pipeline to come, if it indeed comes at all.
Since October of 1999, Yukon's labour force has decreased by some 600 workers. If they had believed in all these wonderful statements about all of the hard work the Premier had been doing on the pipeline and stuck around, the Yukon's employment rate would have currently been 13 percent, not 9.7 percent. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, they couldn't wait around. They couldn't live off the Premier's pipeline hype. They had to leave the Yukon to find jobs in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and other jurisdictions - some of the jurisdictions that have economic leadership. In the Yukon, there's none.
Some Yukoners gave this new Liberal government a chance to show some leadership and some vision. Those Yukoners swallowed a bitter pill when this government adopted the previous NDP government's budget. Those Yukoners were told to wait until the fall, when the Liberals would table their own budget and indicate where they were taking Yukoners; they would provide the light and the vision and the hope.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals' throne speech and mini-budget has been tabled in this House. There is still no economic leadership, still no vision, no winter works programs. The economy is stagnant; we're receding into a depression. There are no jobs for Yukoners this winter. Worst of all, there's no hope. The Yukon is losing its young people because there are no jobs to keep them here. The Yukon is losing its skilled labour force and its entrepreneurs because there's no hope, no opportunities, no vision. It just isn't there. The light has been shut off at the end of the tunnel.
Instead we have a self-satisfying Premier flying helter-skelter all over Canada and the U.S., promoting a pipeline, because she is afraid to come back home and face the harsh economic realities that she has helped create.
We expected more from this Liberal government. When will they wake up and do something to address the harsh economic realities here in the Yukon? We need vision; we need hope; we need opportunity. Everything is dormant. We're going backwards. When is this government going to do something, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first of all, in response to the criticisms with respect to the ministerial statement, I would submit to the members opposite that the ministerial statement was entirely in order. I would reference them to page 5645 of Hansard, on November 22, 1999, when then Government Leader McDonald stood on his feet to take the opportunity to provide an update to members of the House.
I am repeatedly asked by members of the public what this government is doing, and what my activities have been in regard to fulfilling our commitment to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline route. Today I provide the public with that information, and - should they choose to listen, and view - members of the opposition with that information as well.
We told Yukoners we would aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline project, and that's what we're doing, and it's entirely in order to report on that to the House.
It's interesting to hear the NDP today - the Member for Watson Lake - talking about how that party supports the pipeline. That was not the position taken by the Member for Kluane on October 24. He described the pipeline as a flop. That is noted in Hansard. He described it as a "one-time wonder" that "could leave a big black hole in its wake". That's a Hansard quote, Mr. Speaker.
I also note that they seem to be taking their lead from the federal NDP candidate, who, last week, came out against the pipeline.
The Member for Watson Lake described it as a "far-off pipe dream" during his media releases this summer. In a recent press release, he said that promoting the pipeline wasn't worthy of discussion. Today, that's a different response. Today, the members opposite say that everyone supports the pipeline.
"Everyone supports the pipeline" is a phrase they choose to use when it suits them. Clearly, it has not. There is a great deal of information that needs to be shared with Yukoners. There is a lot of discussion. There is a lot of work to be done, and we've budgeted the funds to do the work. The members opposite would suggest that this is all we are doing on the economy, and I would invite them to take a good close look at Hansard and a number of speeches on what this government has been doing.
We are very aware of the situation in the Yukon. We see it. We talk with people, and most importantly, we listen to people. And we listen to their questions as to what this government was doing on one specific project, and we have provided answers. This project is gaining momentum. Last week we saw the opening of the Foothills Pipe Lines office in Whitehorse. It was interesting to see the members opposite there, despite the fact that they have questioned our support for the pipeline.
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to support the pipeline project. As I mentioned, I will be in Anchorage this week at the Resource Development Council meeting. Officials are going to be in Ottawa, meeting with some other counterparts from DIAND and national energy offices, and we're optimistic that our work will pay off with an announcement on the routing of the pipeline sometime early in the new year.
Mr. Speaker, an important announcement of routing is critical to the Yukon, and I'm sure that such an announcement of the selection of the Alaska Highway route would be greatly supported by members of the Vuntut Gwitchin who do not support the construction of an offshore pipeline route.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Executive Council Office, service contracts
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier on a subject I raised last week. The Premier has provided some information about a series of sole-sourced contracts to James Almstrom for a variety of different functions, and I'd like to thank her for her response. Unfortunately, her response raises some other questions.
Can the Premier explain why Mr. Almstrom's hourly rate from the first contract with the Executive Council Office to the second from the same department went up from $150 an hour to $190 an hour?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I note with interest that the member opposite is, once again, raising questions of the Liberal government's sole-sourcing contracts to an individual to whom the previous government also sole-sourced contracts. As to the specific differences in the contract, I have provided the member opposite with the information and the contracts themselves, and I will provide him with a more detailed explanation if that's what he wishes.
Mr. Fairclough: According to the contracts the Premier supplied, a lot of the advice Mr. Almstrom was providing in these two contracts could be described as political advice. In any case, these two contracts only cover three months' worth of work, at a cost of $74,325.
Can the Premier tell us what steps she took to determine whether or not there were qualified Yukon residents who could have performed these services at a more reasonable cost to taxpayers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the same unique qualifications that Mr. Almstrom provided to the previous government he also provided to this government. Those qualifications include his experience working in the Yukon and, most especially, his experience drafting legislation for the Yukon. The previous government sole-sourced this individual. So did we.
Mr. Almstrom was retained to provide advice and that's precisely what he did. I provided the member opposite with copies of the contracts. Would the member indicate exactly what he's fishing for?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I was asking whether there were qualified Yukon residents who could have done this job. The NDP hired this person for $54,000 for a whole year's work. On July 20, Mr. Almstrom received a sole-source contract worth another $60,000 for work between July 20 and September 30. This time the contract was with Justice for legal advice to various departments, and we know that Mr. Almstrom's rate has gone up now to $225 per hour. According to the government's Web site, Mr. Almstrom has another contract running from next March 31, worth $37,000.
Will the Premier explain why this government would give over $150,000 worth of sole-source contracts to a single consultant, especially when that consultant did not meet the Yukon residency requirement under the Yukon government's local hire rules?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Mr. Almstrom was raised in the Yukon and has done legal contract work for the Government of Yukon in both the 1970s and 1980s, and as recently as during the previous administration.
He is uniquely qualified in terms of legislative draughtsmanship and uniquely qualified in some of the other aspects of the work he has provided to us. Mr. Almstrom has provided good work. He was sole sourced within the rules, as was done by the previous government. I've offered the member opposite more details, if he wishes, on what sort of work and some of the specific projects that Mr. Almstrom has been working on.
Now, if the interim leader of the official opposition has difficulty in Mr. Almstrom's qualifications, why did then the previous government hire him? It was because he was uniquely qualified. He is very good at what he does.
Question re: Executive Council Office, service contracts
Mr. Fairclough: It is obvious that the Premier is skirting around the question and not wanting to answer it. I have another question for the Premier on a related matter.
According to the government Web site, the Executive Council Office issued a contract worth $42,000 to a contractor named Grant Pauls for First Nation relations. Can the Premier tell us why that sole-source contract does not appear on the government's contracting summary report that was provided to the House last week?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the sole-source contract to Grant Pauls was requiring the specific skills of this individual to undertake development work for the First Nations summit and the secretariat. If the member wishes, that information can be provided to him, as well.
The contracting authority is through the Executive Council Office and the First Nations relations secretariat. I believe that the member opposite has been briefed on the work of the First Nations relations secretariat and the summit work; however, if he has not, I can arrange such a briefing for him.
Part of this work was leading up to the summit meeting that government Cabinet and caucus had with all First Nations chiefs.
Mr. Fairclough: I have not been briefed, but I do have a scheduled briefing for Friday.
Mr. Speaker, the $42,000 sole-source contract is supposed to run from September 25 to December 31 this year - three months' work, sole-source, for $42,000. Can the Premier tell us what Mr. Pauls is expected to do under that contract, and will she provide a copy of the actual contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I've already stated that I would provide a copy of the actual contract, and my understanding is that it runs to the end of the fiscal year, which is far more than three months from now. As I've already said to the member opposite, we required the specific skills of this individual to assist in the development work in preparation for the First Nations summit and in ongoing work with the First Nation relations secretariat. This work has been very ably provided, and the member opposite, in his briefing on Friday, will be made aware of it, and this was specifically a non-partisan issue and was designed to be non-partisan and is work that this government is undertaking in continuing our efforts at strong intergovernmental relations with Yukon's First Nations.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the contract is for September 25 to December 31 this year. Now, we're talking about a lot of money here, Mr. Speaker. $42,000 for three months comes down to approximately $160,000 a year for some pretty vague terms of reference - all this, with no tendering, no competition, no posted job description. And apart from being the son of a Liberal campaign manager in Ross River-Southern Lakes in the last election, can the Premier tell us what this contractor's qualifications are for this job?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I find it reprehensible for the member opposite to suggest that Mr. Pauls, who is a former employee of the Kaska First Nation, would not be acceptable or able to transfer a skill set to the Government of Yukon, a skill set that requires groundwork in preparation for a First Nations summit. Mr. Pauls has excellent experience, and, if the member opposite wishes, I will provide him with a copy of Mr. Pauls' resumé along with a copy of the contract.
Mr. Pauls is very well-qualified, and the success of the First Nations summit and its ongoing efforts is a credit to both Mr. Pauls and other individuals involved in the First Nation relations secretariat. In his briefing on Friday, I'm sure the interim leader of the official opposition will appreciate that there has been very good work done, both prior to this government taking office and since. And that very good work has been done, not just by the government benches but by individuals like Mr. Pauls.
Question re: Mining claims, tourism uses of
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier in her capacity as the minister responsible for Economic Development. It's no secret that mining in the territory is currently under siege, due in part to the Liberal government policies, both at the federal and territorial levels. Placer miners today are barely hanging on, and some of them, in order to stay in business, have established gold-panning tours of their operations and established some visitor facilities for mining tours, just to make ends meet.
Now we have some federal mining inspectors trying to make life difficult by stating that these tourism operations are an inappropriate use of a placer claim. Is the Premier aware of these situations, and what does she plan to do about it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have not been made aware of that specific action by a federal mining inspector in my recent discussions, as recently as last Tuesday, with members of the placer mining industry. I have not been made aware of that specific situation.
I have been made aware of the issues that the placer mining community is facing around fuel storage-tank handling regulations - the extreme difficulties there - and also the difficulties around the review of the Yukon placer authorization. And our government has taken steps on both of those particular issues to assist the placer mining community, and I'm certain that once I have been made aware of the full details surrounding the situation that the member opposite raises, we would be pleased to take it up with federal inspectors. And I'm certain that the Minister of Tourism would be willing to support me on that, in ensuring that this practice is able to continue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's not just one operation; there are three that have been brought to my attention. And this Liberal government was elected because it claimed to have this wonderful, special relationship with the federal Liberals in Ottawa. Now, so far, all that this special relationship has done is provided for Liberal patronage appointments and Liberal contracts.
Will the Premier tell the Minister of DIAND to call off these few overzealous mining inspectors and have them stop harassing Yukon placer miners? Will she do that? There is a whole series of areas where it appears that the inspection department has overstepped their bounds, narrowly defining regulations that are impacting very, very severely on the mining community. Will she talk to the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and get these mining inspectors called back?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already spoken and written to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development with regard to two issues: fuel storage handling regulations, as well as the Yukon placer authorization and the Yukon placer committee.
With respect to the specific issue that the member opposite has raised, the moment there has been a minister sworn in as responsible for Indian Affairs and Northern Development after the federal election, I will be speaking to them and writing to them on a number of issues, and they include settlement of land claims, devolution, the Yukon economy and northern economic development strategy, as well as specific mining issues, including the administrative procedures for the blue-book process, as well as the specific placer authorization issues of the placer authorization, the fuel storage-tank handling regulations. And I will also raise this issue, as I have committed to do in my first response.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I hope the minister has more success in dealing with the federal minister than she has had to date, Mr. Speaker.
My third supplementary is to the Minister of Tourism. I want to ask the Minister of Tourism if she will add her voice to her colleague's - the Premier's - and lobby Ottawa to rescind these mining inspectors who are having a dramatic impact on the lives of placer miners when they're involved in a tourism-related field.
Will the Minister of Tourism do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I already committed in my first response that I have the support of the Minister of Tourism in so doing, and I will restate that for the member opposite.
Unlike the members opposite - the individual who's in search of a party, and the party in search of a leader - we're a team over here, and when we stand and say we're going to do something, we do it.
Question re: Takhini River subdivision, street light
Mr. McRobb: Well, we'll see about that, Mr. Speaker.
My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Today I received a letter from the minister in response to a question I asked her some time ago, about installing a street light at the school bus stop near the Takhini River subdivision, west of Whitehorse on the Alaska Highway.
Will the minister confirm that this light will be installed as soon as possible, and can she tell us when she expects that to take place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I write a great many letters to the member opposite. I can't recall the details of that one, and I don't have it in front of me, so I'll have to check.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I thank the minister for that information.
Another letter to this minister from one of my colleagues requested street lighting at the Tagish and Chootla subdivisions. The minister turned down that request, however, because it did not meet her department's specific criteria.
Now, although there have been a number of accidents at that location, the minister turned down the request for lights, apparently because there haven't been any accidents after dark. It's rather obvious that the minister is more concerned about following departmental guidelines and criteria than she is about the safety of those residents.
Why is this minister gambling with people's safety, by hiding behind bureaucratic reasons for not doing the right thing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As is his practice, the member opposite is fear-mongering once again. I will also check on the details of the second letter he's referring to.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, it would be nice if the minister could at least answer some of these questions.
There has also been a request of the minister for street lighting between Upper Liard and Albert Creek subdivisions on the Alaska Highway north of Watson Lake. The residents are still waiting for a response to their request. As in the other examples, there are adults and children who walk this unlighted stretch of Alaska Highway every day in the dark.
When will the minister address the very real concerns of those residents and install the necessary lighting, or does she intend to continue hiding behind the bureaucratic response that she has given?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: With regard to the third letter that the member mentioned, I believe the response to that was signed last week and should be in his hands shortly.
Question re: Highway maintenance funding
Mr. McRobb: Well, let's see if we can get an answer to this one, Mr. Speaker.
To the same minister, in a closer examination of this government's supplementary budget, which promised substantial increases to highway maintenance programs, it is disappointing to discover that no such increases are shown.
The minister has said publicly that she has fulfilled her promises to restore highway funding.
Mr. Speaker, in the spring sitting, the Liberals said we could check on delivery in the fall. Well, it seems more like a bounced cheque and no delivery.
Why is the minister not increasing highway maintenance program funding as she promised and has claimed?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is an increase in highway maintenance funding in the supplementary budget that we will be debating shortly. It takes more than six months to fix all the NDP mistakes. The cuts to the highway budget took place over a number of years, and we will replace that funding gradually.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that didn't answer the question. The question: why didn't she increase it as she promised?
Now, the budget increases to the transportation division of the highway maintenance department are for weed control and repair to roads and highways from washouts and other mudslides that occurred this past summer, which was extremely wet. Those are not for any new maintenance programs as promised by this minister. Yukoners were promised more money for the increased highways maintenance, and this government has not delivered on that promise.
Why does the minister prefer to expend her resources on creative bookkeeping and smoke and mirrors instead of introducing new highway maintenance programs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Community and Transportation Services has been working very hard with me on restoring funding. As I said, we can't fix all the NDP mistakes at once, and we will be restoring that funding over a period of time, starting with this supplementary budget.
Mr. McRobb: At what point is this government going to stop pointing the finger across the floor and take responsibility? They're the government now. They said, "Check on delivery in the fall." It's bounced check and no delivery.
The minister says that she's spending more money on maintenance of the highways, but Yukoners don't believe it. The highways in southern Yukon this past weekend were a complete mess. It took far too long for the roads to be cleared and sanded. I don't see any new money for winter highway maintenance in this budget at all. When this minister made a commitment to increase highway maintenance, I don't think Yukoners were willing to wait until the end of this government's term before getting it.
The minister promised to substantially increase the funding to highway maintenance. Will she admit that she has not fulfilled that commitment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would be nice if, once in awhile, the member opposite would listen. I have said that we will be restoring that funding, and we will do so beginning with this supplementary budget.
Question re: Land claim settlements
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier has said that YTG is working in a common forum with CYFN and several individual First Nations that haven't concluded their agreements. In her response a few weeks ago, she failed to answer one straightforward question, so I'll give her an opportunity to answer this one again: is land quantum one of the issues being discussed at this common forum or side table?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the way the common forum has come about, as I said to the member opposite at the time, is that there is a real desire on the part of all Yukoners to see land claims resolved. There are two outstanding federal issues, and the members have been advised of our progress in working on those. There are also Yukon issues that have to be resolved at the table, and that's what the common forum is about. They are dealing with Yukon-specific issues with First Nations who have not settled their land claims. What precisely is being discussed at that table on a claim-by-claim basis - I am not negotiating the claims, as the member opposite knows. If the member wants to ask a more general question in terms of mandate, which is more appropriate for the floor of the House, I'd be happy to answer that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was a mandate question. I asked if land quantum was one of the issues being discussed at this common forum. Did the Premier not give that mandate to negotiators or those who are at the table? Now, the federal government isn't involved in this common forum, and the Premier said and recognized that there are two main stumbling blocks - section 87 on taxation and the whole question of loan repayments. Now, the position taken by the current minister of Indian Affairs really hasn't helped this at all. In her discussions with the federal Minister of Finance, has the Premier received any indication that the federal government is willing to budge on any of these two matters?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have. As I committed during the election campaign, I would raise the issue of section 87 with the Minister of Finance. That was exactly what my meeting with him was about. During the course of that meeting, the Minister of Finance did give an indication that recognizes, first of all, that it was a Department of Finance issue - section 87 - and not a DIAND issue. The Minister of Finance said that section 87 was theirs to deal with.
He also committed to me that they would look at it and examine solutions, once there were other initiatives undertaken by the First Nations. I have discussed those, as well. My understanding from regular briefing from officials is that work on reaching solutions on section 87 is ongoing and that there are hopeful signs of progress.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the federal government has been looking at the whole issue of loan repayments for a number of years. As a matter of fact, First Nations have made suggestions on how this could be dealt with.
Now, the federal Finance minister has been quite outspoken in favour of a moratorium on debt repayments to heavily indebted poor countries. In a news release on September 24, Mr. Martin said that it is unacceptable that the promised debt relief has not been delivered. At a recent G-20 meeting, he took up that same cause.
Given her special relationship with the minister, I would like - and she did say that there were movements there - to ask the minister this: has the Premier encouraged the federal Finance minister to take a position on First Nation loans repayment that is consistent with his position on debt relief to poor countries, such as Burkina Faso and Uganda?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I indicated to the member opposite what my discussions were with the Minister of Finance on section 87. The member is asking me if I also dealt with the issue of loan repayment with the Minister of Finance. It was discussed, very briefly, and recognized as a Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development issue.
I also indicated to him in the meeting - to Minister Martin, in the meeting - that our government was supportive of working with First Nation governments in resolution of these claims, and we were urging the federal government to do so, as well.
So yes, this government has taken up the cause on both the outstanding federal issues. We continue to do so, and we will continue to do so after the federal election on November 27. These are very important issues.
There are also important issues - Yukon issues - that have to be resolved, and we're making good progress on those. I'm very proud of this government's record of working on intergovernmental relations with Yukon First Nation governments, and a recent letter from the Grand Chief Ed Schultz would also recognize that this government has done good work in terms of working on our intergovernmental relations.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline project training programs
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Minister of Education regarding training programs. This government has based its economic development plans on a potential Alaska Highway pipeline project. This afternoon, the Premier said that this government wants Yukon people to take advantage of the training and job opportunities that will come from a project of this magnitude.
This pipeline is in the future, but if it happens, trained skilled workers - especially welders - will be required. Training for a specialized welder's ticket for pipeline work takes several years.
What program is this government putting in place right now to train Yukoners, so that if the pipeline becomes a reality, Yukoners can work?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am very pleased to hear that at least one member from the opposition has faith that the pipeline will be going ahead. The advanced education branch of the Department of Education is in dialogue with the pipeline unit and looking at the scheduling expectation with respect to training for that need.
Ms. Netro: People who may like the training and opportunity to work on the pipeline may not live in Whitehorse. The minister has said he supports the concept of training trust funds. What training trust funds or other programs is this government prepared to offer in the communities so that rural Yukoners have the same opportunities available to them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite is right on the mark with respect to training trust funds. We have indicated in the House that we are reviewing those training trust funds, but there is still opportunity to use those training trust funds. As a matter of fact, just last week, with Challenge, we entered into a longer term agreement to provide surety for them for training needs - not only in Whitehorse, as the Challenge director had indicated - but also it provides surety for program delivery through Yukon College into the communities. So that's how we're using them. We're using them a little more wisely. We're providing opportunities through Yukon College, through advanced education, in training. So I think that is a very good indicator that we're looking to get training needs identified in the communities. If it's not always possible to go on the road because of the equipment required for training, then at least it gives planners an opportunity to indicate programs that are coming down the road, put them in Yukon College, and allow those members in the communities to address their needs and take advantage of that.
Ms. Netro: Now is the time for training programs to start if Yukoners are to be the ones with jobs on the potential Alaska Highway pipeline project. Now is the time to provide training programs, given the poor economy. Now is the time to plan for the future.
Will the minister commit to providing adequate training programs, beginning this winter, to allow Yukoners to get the job skills they need?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I just answered that question. We are providing opportunities through extended funding, through a trust fund, because the business plan that was presented to the government made sense. It was reviewed adequately by the department and then approved by Management Board and Cabinet.
So, we are recognizing that the community needs skills. Again, I commend the member opposite for recognizing that there will be a pipeline going through southern Yukon and for encouraging this government to provide training for those skilled persons, whether they're in Whitehorse or whether they're in the communities. As the Premier has indicated time and time again - although she was criticized for announcing the pipeline again earlier today - we will have those skilled individuals ready and in place when they are needed with the pipeline coming.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, November 15, 2000. They are Motion No. 21, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake, and Motion No. 5, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I'd like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party to be called on Wednesday, November 15, 2000. They are Motion No. 6 and Motion No. 8.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 3: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 3, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to continue with my response from last week.
Mr. Speaker, the supplementary budget that has been tabled here is $37 million. Now, just weeks before it was tabled, the Liberal government was crying poverty to Yukoners, saying that there was only $14 million left in surplus by the previous government. They knew the facts. They knew it was higher, yet they misled, in my mind, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners, on this very important matter, saying that there was only $14 million, when, in fact, there was $64 million left for the next government to take over and apply to new programming.
$37 million did not create any winter works this summer. It basically made the territorial government grow by 6.4 percent in O&M. This supplementary budget has no forward vision and has no forward movement. It's not about a budget or the economy. It's a budget about government.
It has no winter works, no jobs and, of course, no leadership.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberal's claim that the election was all about the future, and certainly it's spelled right out in their platform, but in their throne speech, it was all about the past and a reannouncement of NDP projects.
Their economic priorities, they say, are all about the future - pipeline jobs, for example. It's in the future; it's not about now. What we're getting back from the general public, Mr. Speaker, is: jobs now, what can we create this winter, and what can we have in place for people to be working throughout this winter and throughout the Christmas season. There's nothing in this supplementary that gives people any hope in that respect at all.
Forestry jobs - where did those go? It's all about the future, down the road sometime, when they take over the resource. It's not about now. When the industry in Watson Lake was in trouble, what did the Liberal government do? Nothing is what they did. They did not lift a finger to go and help the people in Watson Lake to try and maintain an industry in that part of the county or anywhere else in the Yukon when it comes to the forest industry.
They made big promises to Yukoners about the budget - that they would pass the budget in it's entirety to bring certainty to Yukoners. Yet there are major cancellations, or delays like the Mayo school, which could have provided work. The members opposite now have committed to the community of Mayo that those who have taken the training will actually have work very soon and throughout this winter until such time as the school construction gets underway late this winter or early spring.
I thank the minister opposite for taking the time to come to Mayo - and the Premier - to hear what the residents of that community had to say, and to hear how they felt about this important project in their community. That will maybe give a little bit more weight to what I have to say, and the questions I bring forward from that community, about that school. It's obviously very dear to the people in Mayo. It's very emotional, in speaking to many of the residents. I do hope that the discussions that took place, the concerns that have been raised in that community, are well-heard and taken seriously, because those are issues that had been raised with me over our term in government. Certainly that community has sacrificed a lot with regard to having this school built.
As raised by Chief Hager, they gave the go-ahead to have work done on the Dawson school, and there were also the delays due to the fact that the Old Crow caught on fire and burned down. There was a priority to have that school built. They recognized it; they really wanted a school built, but we showed them basically a plan that we were following, and said, "This is how Mayo fits into the whole scheme of things in replacing this school." And they accepted that, and it was very difficult for them to hear the news - especially when the school was already under construction.
And I do hope the Minister of Education appreciates the hard work the chair of the school council in Mayo did to do research about the mould that has been discovered in the school, and the seriousness with which they take that particular issue.
It was good to see a crew up there cleaning the school and trying to make it better and a little more healthier for the schoolchildren in Mayo.
But I did ask the member this in Mayo. I didn't get an answer, but I would like him to think about it. Should the tests come back after the cleanup in the school and the counts are high and are generally higher than accepted, what is the backup plan? The people in Mayo have talked about possibly wanting their schoolchildren to be out of that environment, so where do they go? Suggestions were made - for example, the basement of the hospital, which is empty and could possibly be used for classrooms. That's the type of thing that the community would like to know. Is government willing to go in there and take some action if necessary? It may never happen. It may be that the school is healthy and that the cleanup, as a matter of fact, took care of the problem. So, it is a precaution that the community would like, and I hope that the members opposite would take that seriously and that there is some work provided for the trained people in Mayo to continue their training this winter.
Mr. Speaker, we have a supplementary budget that has a surplus left to the Liberals of $64 million - a lot healthier than was expected, even by the official opposition on this side, knowing what would have come forward through Management Board for what would have been the surplus. But we're spending that down fairly quickly. And I was, I guess, a bit surprised to see a long-term projection of spending going up and the revenues going down, and also our surplus going down dramatically to what I would think is a critical dollar amount of $12 million.
I believe those figures are not very accurate. I think they could have better reflected the amount of lapses from previous years. I think those lapses were quite small. I'm not sure why it was written up in that manner but, to give some really true figures to Yukoners out there, I think the Liberal government should come back and tell Yukoners what the four- to five-year projection should really look like under the Liberal government. The projections, which I don't have in front of me right now, are not flat-lined. They are changed from one year to the other - a $1-million change.
There has to be a reason and a lot of calculation to make that change. That's why I asked the members opposite if they really have spent a lot of time making sure that the projection was right and that the information could be given to Yukoners to see where this Liberal government is going over the next four years.
Now, we were fortunate enough to have increases from the federal government of approximately $21 million this past year, which really could give Yukoners a boost to the economy and put people to work. We also expect to get this additional amount of 3.5 percent to four percent every year for the next few years. I really would like to see that type of increase go into Yukoners' pockets, which could be recycled into businesses around the Yukon, and give a little bit of a boost to the economy and more hope to Yukoners.
I really question, at the end of four years, the Liberals coming forward and telling Yukoners that a $12.5 million surplus in 2003-4 is sufficient to take care of any types of emergencies that Yukoners could experience, whether it's flooding or fire, damages to communities. We have not heard any explanation of that at all in the Premier's opening of the supplementary, and I hope that whoever gets up on the government side could explain that a little more clearly to Yukoners.
Now, the Liberal government had said that it's all about the future. This fall, Yukoners were waiting for the Liberal government to come forth and really spell out where they would be going over the next four years. What we've seen is the throne speech, which is a bit different from the platform. The platform lays out what and how government is going to do it, but the throne speech is a document that Yukoners can take forward and say this is what the Liberal government will do over the next four years. And it's way different from the platform of the Liberal party. And I'm quite surprised at that. I mean, there's a lot less in there than I think should be. There's not a whole lot of mention, of course, about the environment or youth or any women's issues at all.
The other thing is in regard to operation and maintenance. Now, what's been presented to us by this Liberal government is a supplementary that they would like us all to review and pass and be in favour of.
One of the things in opposition the Liberals have been very vocal about is the government's operation and maintenance.
And at that time, I guess, O&M was bad, and capital was good. Now it seems like there is a switch around, and - not in a budget, but in a supplementary budget, which is very large - there is a huge increase in O&M.
Normally, you might have a budget that has an increase in your main budget of 1.5 percent or one percent, but this is 6.4 percent in a supplementary budget. And I hope that all members opposite would speak to this, because obviously they've reviewed it collectively and are in favour of it and can speak to it.
Now, I know the Premier knew about the surplus. She mentioned it in this House not long ago, with the advisor from Finance. At that time, it was $56.2 million, and yet she allowed the ministers and backbenchers to continue to tell Yukoners that it's only $14 million. I think it's a shame that government went that far and used that type of tactic on Yukoners - claim poverty, and then come out with a huge surplus and spending spree -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe that the member is misspeaking himself on recording what this side of the House has said. The difference between the figures quoted by the members opposite and by the members on this side has to do with whether surplus figures are at the beginning of the fiscal year or at the end of the fiscal year.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, if the member really wants to know, then she can go back and check what she said in this House and what the other members have said in this House, and she can compare it to what I've been bringing forward. And I know I would be correct, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, this is not an accurate way of presenting the case in the House by the government House leader, Mr. Speaker. What we have is a clear outline of the figures as stated by the Liberals. The political spin they put on it at that time and the political spin that is currently being put on it by the government after the reality has set in are miles apart. All we have is a dispute between members, not a point of order.
Speaker: I find that there is no point of order, it's a dispute of the facts, which resulted in a dispute between members. With that, I would ask the leader of the official opposition to continue, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to continue after that rude interruption.
That particular member has just tabled a motion to deal with decorum and I would ask that member to go back and read the Standing Orders and be clear on them as when to interrupt proceedings like this, and not waste the time of this Legislature or taxpayers' dollars.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things in this supplementary that are questionable. The members raise and have recognized a $4 million expenditure for the collective agreement. What our public servants are now doing now is waiting for these additional dollars. It's additional money to what they got already in their agreement. That means a 16-percent increase in their wages, and they are waiting for it. Is it going to be retroactive to the beginning of the fiscal year? Is it for the whole year or is it a Christmas gift to the public servants from this Liberal government? Are they expecting to settle and give the teachers a huge settlement to up the ante with the public servants? There are a lot of questions in that regard, and I'll certainly be asking a lot of questions in regard to that $4-million expenditure.
There's also money in regard to getting the Yukon Act up and going this fiscal year, knowing full well, and probably in discussion with the federal government, there are going to be delays. Additional money of $150,000, what is that saying? What does that really do? Is there going to be some side work and new positions taken by this government and when is that going to be brought forward so Yukoners can have a view and have a look at it? Basically, negotiations and devolution is already done. Although there is more recognition of it now, it didn't seem like it was an important issue. Now that there is a delay, the Liberal government says that there is more time to deal with the issues and to negotiate. The negotiations are done; the federal government is working on the Yukon Act so they can pass it through the House of Commons and that won't happen until 2002.
It's a different story when the Premier is down talking to the mining community. Devolution was important at that time and there was no commitment to work aggressively to try and make sure that this was on the table and under discussion with the federal government when they resume sitting after the election. This could be dealt with in a hope that the Premier is saying that she would be committed to that and not have it delayed and keep the date of April 1, 2001, as it has been delayed for a year prior to that. Yukoners were looking forward to having control of our resources and not having more federal policies being developed and applied and putting Yukoners in a more difficult and tougher position.
I haven't seen any monies in here stating the Liberals' preparedness to take over this resource. Although there are monies going toward the Yukon Act, there's a delay, so there really are inconsistencies here with regard to having this resource devolve down to Yukon. And it would be nice to get some clarity on it.
As mentioned by the Member for Kluane, there is a commitment by this government in this supplementary budget for roads and highway improvements of $380,000, yet the questions came forward - and simple ones. The member has answered them in her letters but could not recall - on these very important issues - after telling us in the House that the Yukon highways were in crisis, and letters have been written and responses have come back, but she could not remember those particular line items that the Member for Kluane has raised.
We would like to know what the action plan is. Is there more plowing of snow or clearing of trees? What's happening this winter? Is this their winter works project?
There's $150,000 going to sports and recreation. The Member for Whitehorse Centre - this is an inconsistency. The Premier said that they are a team, but one member could not say the same thing as the other. One does not like the recreation facilities; the others do and put money toward it. I guess that's the difference between the backbenchers and the Premier's Cabinet making decisions without even the rest of caucus knowing what those decisions were.
There's over $600,000 toward promoting the pipeline and securing the route. I thought that this was already done.
This land was set aside, and a map notation done with regard to this particular pipeline, and a right-of-way was already established. A lot of work was done on the environmental impacts. I do believe that there could be a lot more. The Premier has not even identified that. Should this project get bumped ahead and maybe start a lot sooner than we think - next year or the year after - I would think right now would be an excellent time to start dealing with environmental issues, because they're huge.
You have to remind people about the possible impacts that this particular project will have on Yukoners. In just remembering the last time Yukoners came face to face with this project, there were a lot of concerns out there, and I don't believe that it's going to be any lighter right now, when decisions are made that this particular project will go ahead. They know the pipeline goes under lakes, and through First Nations lands. You cannot just say, "We've looked at it; it looks good. Approved." It just doesn't work that way with Yukoners, and I'm sure the Liberal government is going to be quite aware of this, when it does come to the discussions with community people. It's not about Whitehorse; it's about the Yukon and what happens in the Yukon.
Now, $600,000, in my mind, is a lot of money to do this. I would really like to see a plan set out on how this expenditure is going to be spent for the next few months. We have $100,000 that was already in the budget to do work on this pipeline, another $600,000 for the next six months. I would think that the Liberal government must be expecting a bigger lapse than they have given to Yukoners on that one sheet of paper that's provided with the supplementary budget.
Now there are monies to deal with increased medical travel. There are issues of the doctors' contracts. And these are big and important issues to all Yukoners.
I know that the members opposite - the Premier and the Minister of Education - had some concerns in regard to services in the communities by the people in Mayo, who stated that they don't have a social worker any more. That person is gone and their courtworker is gone. And because of the shortage of dentists in Whitehorse, Klondike Dental, which goes out to the communities, doesn't know if they're going to the communities any more, which puts additional hardships on Yukoners in having to travel to Whitehorse. That type of thing could be addressed in the supplementary budget.
The doctor in Mayo - there are rumours that he will be leaving. And it will be a sad thing, because people like him there. Other communities that he has served, like Pelly and Carmacks, also like his services. It's easier for them to get a doctor's appointment in that community - in their home town community - even though they are living in Whitehorse. They wait all this time to get an appointment with a doctor, but you can go back to your community and get dealt with there. So, those are essential services to the community that I think should not be taken lightly. And it's only going to grow larger. And we could have a very, very serious problem on our hands in no time.
Now, the Premier also mentioned the income tax cuts; that two percent has been put in the budget and that they will support it. They didn't the first time, though. They voted against it. The members opposite voted against that tax cut and now it's okay. But they also mentioned publicly that, over the next few years, the long term projection that the NDP had for an income tax cut of 12-percent was gone. Now, they support it.
It's interesting to note that they jump from one day to another on this - whatever, I guess, is popular at the time. Of course, we felt that that was the direction that Yukoners gave us when we went to all the communities. They wanted to see more monies in Yukoners' pockets and we responded to that.
Also identified in here is a small expenditure of increases in the main budget - a two-percent increase to social assistance - and yet we're more than halfway through our term, and this Liberal government - I guess they're still waiting and learning the books or still learning what the budget is all about - did not give the green light to this particular expenditure. It's a shame, because it's not a very big increase to those who are getting the basic monies that are needed to survive. There's a two-percent increase. When will we get that and would it be retroactive, like the dollars that were budgeted for in the budget? It should be there, and there should be no excuses for having this type of money delayed and tied up and going to something else that's more important to this Liberal government.
I have a lot of questions with regard to the Mayo school. I think that the public has voiced them quite well, and I may have questions about that down the road. It's not something I want to continue to question over the next little while, but I'll certainly be monitoring the activities that happen with the health of the students in that school and the ongoing changes and construction of this big project for that community.
The Liberals did not like the community development fund when they were in opposition. I don't know why, because it has done so many important things to the communities inside Whitehorse and outside. The review of that particular fund, the cuts, delays. Right now, I think the Liberal government is learning quickly how Yukoners feel about this particular fund and the importance of meeting the priorities - as small or as large as they may be. This particular fund is available when no others in government are available. It's my thought anyway that the Liberal government will have this fund in place but repackage it and call it something else, like they will be doing to so many others.
I would like to know more about this Liberal government's position on the 3Ps that they had promoted so much in opposition. Yukoners would like to know where the Liberal government is going on it. Will there be a project on the Campbell Highway, for instance? And who's going to end up owning that particular highway? And if the government does, are we mortgaging Yukoners' futures to pay for this particular improvement to the highway? That's the type of thing that Yukoners are asking us to ask in this House.
Now, Mr. Speaker, there is $37 million in the supplementary budget, and I don't believe that it is the creation of many jobs for this winter. It has targeted some of the points that the Liberal government has stated that they would like to be graded on, but I don't believe that they are true to the words that are listed in their platform or the throne speech.
I find it a shame when their number one issue and number one priority is settling outstanding land claims, but their throne speech and platform do not even say anything about implementation of agreements which is, I would think, a tougher job than negotiating land claims. It is a key to increase economic activities in the Yukon and that's why it was put forward. They gave no other reasons. They didn't say they would like to see the views of First Nations followed through in having self-determination and self-governing First Nations; those weren't the reasons for settling land claims at all. If there was really a true belief in these agreements, why didn't we get a response from the Premier when it came to issues that the federal government has been bringing forward that breach final agreements. How come there was no support for Yukon First Nations by this Liberal government when that took place on the many occasions? Why? Well, obviously that interest just isn't there.
We have First Nations that have been negotiating for quite a long time, some that are not negotiating but are waiting for some internal work between them and the federal government. The Ta'an, for example, throughout all the NDP term of three and a half years, have not negotiated. They have been waiting to have this separation and recognition as a government under Indian Affairs so that they can move forward and ratify their agreements.
I haven't heard anything at all with the Liberals, in wanting to do that.
The second priority was rebuilding the Yukon economy. Now, the opportunity - after adopting the NDP budget - could have been focusing a lot on giving Yukoners jobs this winter, when they're really badly needed. I mean, there's no doubt that the members opposite know the impact of the Faro mine, or the price of metals, and having almost all of our mines closed down. The most recent one is in Dawson, which is ready to shut its doors. We'll have no mining left.
Now, the forest industry, which was starting to pick up and be a bit more healthy - if the Liberal government was truly serious about rebuilding the economy, why couldn't they support the economy that we have? Was there support for placer miners out there - the $250,000 grant? Where has this Liberal government gone in trying to change the systems out there for environmental assessments - the long delays that take place, which are really holding up a lot of the placer mining that takes place in the Yukon?
They want to develop infrastructure - that was in the Speech from the Throne - yet there were no additional dollars to do more work on Connect Yukon, for example. I notice that there are monies moved in there for the schools, but what happened to this particular infrastructure that was very seriously needed and wanted? Where was, and where is, the consultation with communities, with people in Whitehorse, and with the businesses and non-government organizations?
On maintaining our quality health care, well, there are important things that have been budgeted for that are gone and are not being done in this budget. People were looking forward to having the CAT scan here. There was no mention of that by this Liberal government. There was no mention of what is going to happen with this particular piece of equipment, about the O&M, and how it's going to be set up and working. Yukoners have nothing at all from this Liberal government in this particular case.
Now, there also are monies that have gone into alcohol and drug awareness, with no consultation with the department, no consultation with communities or organizations that are out there. It's just basically a political push, but I know the Liberal government is going to say that they're really heavy on consultation. But I would like to know what their definition of that particular word is, because are they consulting internally between ministers and not even between departments on this particular issue? I know the department was quite surprised about where the minister was going with this particular expenditure.
And we asked for openness and accountability of this Liberal government all the time, and we haven't received it. We ask questions in this House. The ministers who were not asked the question get up and answer for another minister - or non-answers.
If the Liberal Party really wants to be accountable, why can't they just answer the question? Even the simplest and easiest questions that they could give an easy answer to are not answered. They're skirted around with all kinds of suspicions, but there are no answers.
The other thing is that there's obviously a lot of money put toward these government-to-government relationships between First Nations. People are working and getting paid a good chunk of money on this. I haven't seen any progress out of it yet, but I believe the government is committed to this. I would like to see it happen. I would like to see the secretariat set up and do the things that could result from it, and not jump the gun like what is happening right now. I'm sure that, down the road, the government would realize that they have been jumping the gun on this particular issue of building strong government-to-government relationships.
Now, I haven't heard much from the Premier at all on DAP, the development assessment process, which is a one-window approach that developers could take and not have to go through the hassle of different governments and different departments and get a runaround on this. It's supposed to be a streamlined approach. I haven't heard anything at all from this Liberal government about how the process is going and whether or not this is going to be developed with their friends in Ottawa and also with First Nations.
It's important, and we all understand the delays. People wanted the delays. Yukoners and First Nations wanted the delays. But where is it going from here with this Liberal government? We'd like to know; Yukoners would like to know.
The Executive Council Office - one of the initiatives was to ensure effective communications and consultation with the public on government programs and policies and activities. Well, those are really nice words to use. It would really be nice if you could actually follow up with that and do what you said you were going to do with this particular line item. People want to be consulted; they want to be heard. They want to make sure that they have proper timelines for consultation and not have things come to the community when other things are happening - like when there's an election going on on that day, to come into the community and do very heavy consultation on that day, as with, for example, the Education Act or the Liquor Act, which is scheduled for the 23rd of this month in the community of Carmacks.
Mr. Speaker, I have a lot of questions about the departments as we go through in the Committee of the Whole, and I will be raising them, and I have given a little bit of a heads-up as to what I'll be raising, and I hope that we do get answers in the Committee of the Whole.
I thank you, and I will have other people, I know, who would like to respond to the supplementary budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to speak to this supplementary budget - this supplementary budget was intended to provide new direction and new hope for Yukoners.
The Liberal government told us to wait and that they would provide that new direction and new initiative in the fall of the year. Well, fall has come and gone, winter is here. We see a $37-million expenditure before us in the supplementary budget, Mr. Speaker. And what do we have? More and more government.
The O&M cost of government will be increasing by a further 6.5 percent. That's what we have, Mr. Speaker. It used to be that O&M was bad, capital was good. We've been all over the wall as to what's good and what's bad. Unless you're inside government today, the economic conditions here in the Yukon have gone from bad to worse. For many, they've gone from worse to impossible. Yukoners are choosing to leave the Yukon in droves to find work elsewhere. One would have thought that this government would address the economic shortfalls by creating some winter works projects. All we have is pipeline hype.
I'd like to point out that we currently have two pipelines here in the Yukon. We have one pipeline between Ottawa and the Liberal government here, and it's full of Liberal gas, and it's not doing anything beneficial for the economy of the Yukon these days. The second pipeline I've discovered runs from the Minister of Education's office here in Whitehorse to the Mayo school, and it's full of bleach. It's not doing anything but cleaning up a problem that they failed to address.
What we see, more often than not, is the creation of two-tiered systems here in Yukon. The Minister of Health has created a two-tier health care system - one for Whitehorse, another one for rural Yukon. That I find appalling, Mr. Speaker.
We have a shortage of health care professionals all over the Yukon. All I see is a minister, Mr. Speaker, who is failing to address this issue head-on. What he is doing is just offering positions for physicians on a salaried basis. The old fee-for-service concept that worked, continues to work and provides some sort of incentive, is gone. Why? We can't really find a good answer, Mr. Speaker, other than the provision of health care by this government is deteriorating in rural Yukon; it's deteriorating in Whitehorse, but the cost of providing that service is spiralling upward at an ever-increasing rate.
Some of the areas that the government promised they were going to honour and respect in the NDP budget when they tabled it - like the increase in social assistance - have not occurred. It appears to me, Mr. Speaker, that this Liberal government has gone through the budget after it was passed, and cherry-picked those areas that they could eliminate. That falls contrary to the promises that this Liberal government gave to Yukoners. They said Liberals would listen to Yukoners. Well, they might be listening, but they're not hearing.
And that gets us to the crux of the problem that is not being addressed here today, Mr. Speaker, and that is the economy.
We don't have to go very far to see what can be done with an economy that's resource based. If you want to look to the east - to the Northwest Territories - and see what the government and the First Nations in that area have accomplished with respect to building their economy, it should show the way as to what can be accomplished here in the Yukon.
I did learn from the Premier the other day that geological formations stop at the border. She was, at that time, referring to the Pogo deposit in Alaska. That, I find, is very interesting. All of the Tintina Trench is a very mineralized zone, Mr. Speaker, and it starts in southeastern Yukon and it enters Alaska north of Dawson. Virtually all of the known deposits that have been mined or are being mined in the Yukon are located within the Tintina Trench. There are some exceptions, but they're predominantly in that area.
But what are we doing here in the Yukon? We're creating more and more protected areas and more and more parks. Just how much of the Yukon is going to be withdrawn from staking, Mr. Speaker? I don't know. I can't get an answer from this Liberal government. I don't know if it's because they don't know or if they have a hidden secret agenda, but at the end of the day, the mining community won't set foot in the Yukon until they know the rules that they are playing by.
In the Northwest Territories, there's a clear indication of which way to go and what to do. If we look at the permitting process here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, it takes just about five years to get a mine through the permitting process.
Contrast that to other areas where, in some cases, the environmental regulations are equally as strict, if not more strict than what we have here in the Yukon, and the permitting process is considerably less. It's more realistic, and at the end of the day, there's some certainty surrounding the mineral deposit as to whether or not it can go into production.
In Alaska, if we want to look at the mining end of things, Mr. Speaker, currently, today, it enjoys a billion dollars worth of economic activity - a billion dollars. Those are U.S. dollars. In terms of Canadian dollars, they would be just over one-and-a-half billion Canadian dollars. So, it's quite significant. And I guess more significantly is the fact that about 80 percent of that money and the exploration dollars and the production dollars are derived from Canadian-owned mining entities in the State of Alaska. It's very interesting indeed.
We look at the oil and gas in the Northwest Territories and Alaska. In Alaska, the amount of dividends flowing from the oil industry has given them their permanent fund, which has been invested, which has resulted in every Alaskan who has resided in that state for a year or longer receiving a dividend cheque of, this last year, approximately $2,000 U.S.
The Yukon has the same mineral potential as Alaska. It might even be greater. We have proven reserves of oil and gas here in the Yukon. The Yukon could be in the same situation that residents of the State of Alaska are, in that the royalties could accrue into a fund and, instead of paying territorial income tax, we could receive a dividend cheque from the Government of Yukon annually.
Why not? It's too far-fetched, too hard to understand, and it doesn't involve receiving a grant. But at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are suffering from the lack of any foresight, any opportunities, and they're leaving the Yukon in droves - 600 fewer in the workforce from a year ago to current day. That says it all.
Another interesting statistic, if you want to look at the revenue sources and you go into the Department of Community and Transportation Services and look at the tremendous decrease that the department is anticipating with respect to licence plates - it translates to 600 fewer licence plates issued to private vehicles here in the Yukon to the end of this fiscal period. That should say something, Mr. Speaker - 600 fewer vehicles, 600 fewer in the workforce and increasing all of the time.
The Yukon, in many respects, has a shortage of very skilled tradespeople, because they've had to leave the Yukon to find work, and they're no longer here. That in itself is appalling. But we do have more and more government, Mr. Speaker. We do have more and more areas operated in the private sector being closed down and taken in-house by government. Just ask the Minister of Health what he's going to be taking over next and at what cost. But more importantly than what it's going to cost, ask about the improvement in service delivery. Will there in fact be an improvement in service delivery, and will it in fact serve the purpose for which it was intended?
That's going to be harder and harder, if not impossible to ascertain. And that's the problem with taking these programs in-house, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look at what could have been done. What could have been done is establish a winter works project. The Premier, in her capacity as Minister of Finance and Minister of Economic Development, could have summoned a private sector/government sector group and put it together, and looked at ways of how the capital dollars could be best spent here in the Yukon to create employment this winter. That hasn't been done. We've seen projects cancelled left, right and centre - projects that could provide winter work and some hope, and meet the expectations of Yukoners. The Mayo school is just one. If that project had gone ahead, Mr. Speaker, it would have provided a number of jobs for the residents in Mayo. More importantly, it would have provided a lot of the tradespeople in Whitehorse an opportunity to work. So much for winter works.
The other area that Yukoners are not feeling any satisfaction from is the promise that the Yukon Liberals would have a wonderful relationship with the federal Liberals. This special relationship would have afforded Yukoners access to all sorts of opportunities and wonderful potential for business and growth - you name it. The expectation level was raised to a height that I haven't seen here in the Yukon for quite some time.
At the end of the day, that wonderful relationship deteriorated very, very rapidly, soon after the visit of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to the gold show in Dawson, and that minister did a wonderful job of telling the mining industry what he thought of it, where it could go, and what he was going to do with it.
So, what is left of the mining industry today is just a mere pittance of its original important self. The exploration dollars have moved elsewhere where they're welcome and well-received. Mining exploration - money - knows no political boundaries. It goes where there are known deposits, where it knows it's going to be well-received and can put those deposits into production and make a dollar. It's a very simple exercise. It's an exercise that this government should take heed of. Because at the end of the day, in spite of what we hear from the Premier with her frequent visits and buying $7,500 lunches in various areas, at the end of the day, the mining community's presence here in the Yukon is at an all-time low.
Mr. Speaker, this past year, exploration dollars that were spent in Yukon were the lowest ever seen, if you want to put it in constant dollars, in the history of the Yukon. And that spans all of the time during the Depression, where mining still played a very pivotal role and there was still a tremendous amount of work in the gold fields in the Klondike.
So, we've virtually destroyed mining with the uncertainty that this government is perpetuating. Oil and gas - we're told maybe $20-million worth of exploration in the next four or five years. Contrast that, Mr. Speaker, with the approximately $1 billion that's going to be spent in the Northwest Territories in that same period of time.
One has to ask the question: what are we doing wrong here? Or perhaps the easiest question, because the answer would be simple, is: what are we doing right here to enhance the economy? The answer to that question would be far simpler to answer, especially by this government, because the answer is, "Nothing", Mr. Speaker.
If we look at the forestry industry, yes, lumber prices are at a very low point right now, but we only have to look at northern Alberta and we only have to look just down the Alaska Highway at Fort Nelson, where a lot of Yukon loggers and truckers are currently working. Why? They have a game plan. They have a game plan that works, and it's the government of the day...
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: ...that sets the priorities.
Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed and appalled that this $37-million worth of expenditure will do nothing but increase government O&M spending by some 6.5 percent. It will not create any winter works. In fact, the Premier, in one of her remarks, said we're going to have winter festivals. I guess that's what we can rely on - winter festivals but no winter works.
It's a sad day for Yukon when, given the surplus of almost $65 million, Mr. Speaker, this government can't see its way clear to do anything with respect to winter works projects or present any more opportunities for Yukoners than what they have. Economic activities and opportunities for Yukoners are Alberta or elsewhere - the Northwest Territories, Alaska, everywhere but in the Yukon, and that's a sad, sad day for Yukon.
I see wonderful opportunities that could have been done if the private sector, the official opposition and the third party were taken in. We could have accomplished something together, but that opportunity hasn't been extended. We're going to have to rely on the dismal performance of the Liberal government here in the Yukon to head us down the road - to where? We don't know. No hope, no vision, no future - such is the Yukon today. I qualify that - that's the vision today under the Liberal government.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I think it's fair to say that most Yukoners are very disappointed in this supplementary budget - more on what it doesn't contain than what it does contain. What I'm speaking about is assistance for a lot of Yukoners - ordinary Yukoners - who will be facing a very tough, long and cold winter. The challenge for them is to put food on the table and try to find some work.
I know that in the previous government it was a priority to try to do something for those people. Now obviously this government has no compassion toward those people at all. They've cut just about every program or it's under review or delayed. Those programs are the very tools that provide food on the table of ordinary Yukoners, especially in the wintertime.
I know that in meetings I attended as part of the previous government, we tackled the challenge of developing winter works and one such program was very successful. The feedback I received has all been positive - that's the fire smart program. The Member for Watson Lake and I advanced this matter, which received approval, and subsequently employed many Yukoners in communities during the past few years.
What this one program - I want to just speak on this for a little while, because it provides a very good example of what winter works are all about. The fire smart program was part of the community development fund, which I believe provided about half a million dollars a year. Now, in some years we supplemented that to a much higher amount because of the demand. The demand was coming from the communities in the Yukon and Whitehorse through applications made to the Department of Economic Development.
Now, a lot of these applications that were approved and considered were part of multi-year funding arrangements. I know there are a few communities in my riding of Kluane where such arrangements were made. The Mendenhall subdivision had embarked on a multi-year program. I know Haines Junction was to launch a multi-year program. Destruction Bay was in a multi-year program. I believe Beaver Creek was, as well. There were also other applications. This is one rural riding. I'm sure in the other half dozen rural ridings, there are similar applications, as there are in the Whitehorse ridings. Well, the benefit of this program was not only to reduce fuel loading in communities and increase safety and protection from fire, but it was to develop local economies by employing Yukoners who live in those communities.
And the difference between that money and other monies is quite simple. In contracting, let's say, highway construction work, there's a risk of losing that economy to outside contractors. There is no risk of that in the fire smart program and the application of that program in the communities. Whatever was spent through fire smart applied directly to people in each community who did the work. Furthermore, that money would circulate in those communities and be of significant benefit to rural Yukon and parts of Whitehorse.
Yukoners expected programs like fire smart to continue. In fact, this Liberal government campaigned on introducing the NDP budget in full, and they also committed to continuing the community development fund and the fire smart program. Mr. Speaker, we know differently now.
There are no fire smart projects this winter. This government has not been compassionate in dealing with this issue or in fulfilling it's promises. They ought to be ashamed for the grief and hardship they will impose on many Yukoners. In some of the communities I mentioned I have spoken to people and they're quite upset. They're upset at what has happened. They had prepared themselves for multi-year projects. They had made commitments to work on projects like the fire smart, but this Liberal government has pulled the rug out from under them. Now, they have nothing. Mr. Speaker, what are those people to do? Does the Liberal government expect them to go down and apply for welfare or SA? They won't even increase the SA rates like they promised they would. Where is the compassion?
Today in Question Period, I asked questions about rural lighting, and safety to children and residents of the territory. There's no compassion. Still we get bureaucratic responses and the minister hiding behind the department, reading from briefing notes and not even being familiar with the letters signed today by the same minister.
Mr. Speaker, some of these ministers, it appears, don't have short-term memory or a long-term memory. They can't recall what happened earlier in the day or six months ago, during the campaign. I guess that just makes our job a little bit harder, because it's up to us to remind them. We are charged with the task of holding them accountable. When things like that - the commitments they made and they're responsibilities - don't occur to them or get lost in the shuffle, well, we'll try our best to round them up and bring them forward - if it's possible to do that to all of them, since there are countless examples. We try to do the best job we can with our limited numbers on this side.
It goes beyond the fire smart program. There's the community development fund. I know that many communities are very, very disappointed that this government has chosen this time to do a review of the program that it campaigned would continue. Mr. Speaker, why couldn't it have continued the program as ongoing, while it conducted the review?
Mr. Speaker, it's because this government is without compassion. It wants to take credit - as much credit as possible - for whatever it does. If that means repackaging, it will do it. If it means hardship for Yukoners, no problem, they'll do that, too. If it means cancelling programs and reintroducing them at a later date under a new Liberal name, well, hey, that's the name of the game. That's what they're up to, Mr. Speaker. Guaranteed, just about every one of these programs will be re-introduced with some Liberal moniker they'll be pumping themselves up for, because what we've seen from this government is not a whole lot more than empty promises, chest thumping, ribbon cutting and cake eating. It seems that's the Liberal way, Mr. Speaker.
This legislative sitting, we see skimpy legislation and a supplementary budget that spends money on government - not Yukoners, but on government. The Liberal-lite version of the fall sitting, Mr. Speaker. They're more interested in housekeeping than they are in providing leadership, direction, certainty, and providing for Yukoners.
They're more interested in dealing with housekeeping items. When something comes up that challenges their integrity, maybe holds them a little too accountable, they like to sweep it under the rug. It's all part of their version of a housekeeping government.
Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes for the priorities of this Liberal government. After years in opposition, we heard them say how they would do things better. I remember two terms ago when the lone Liberal, Mr. Cable, represented the party. He was going to do things better. Then three and four of them formed the next term. They were going to do things better. But when it came to motions on the economy in this Legislature, they had nothing new to offer. In one instance, about a year ago, they all walked out. They said, "Wait until election time; you'll hear what we stand for then.
Then I introduced a motion on the economy in the fall sitting last year; they had one representative speak to it, but the contribution was without substance. Nothing substantial was contributed, even though I appealed to every member, at the outset of the motion, to act beyond their partisan ways, to try to do what's best for Yukon and to try to do what's best for the constituents by tabling any idea they had on the floor of the Legislature that afternoon. Well, Mr. Speaker, just last week I reread the transcript of that Wednesday afternoon debate, and I saw just how hollow the contribution was from the Liberal Party. At least the Yukon Party had something to say.
The former leader talked about a seven-point plan to get the economy going. The Liberals didn't even have a plan. They still don't have a plan. It's a ship without a rudder. They have no plan. They spend their time looking after themselves, making their jobs easier, and looking after their Liberal friends. But the rest of Yukoners - ordinary Yukoners - I guess don't matter. This is borne out by their actions.
In the spring they said, "Wait until the fall." Whenever we asked a question, no matter on what - the economy, dialysis machine, whatever it was - it was, "Wait until the fall. Our priorities will be set out in the supplementary budget in the fall." Well, we asked them to bring in a spring supplementary to get Yukoners to work in the summer.
Yukoners could have been employed on many, many things, including road maintenance work. As it was, Yukoners and others faced hazardous driving conditions along roadways with tall vegetation restricting their vision. And this issue has been raised several times. It took a long time for the minister to respond - almost until Mr. Jack Frost looked after the problem for her, did the minister respond. That's not being reasonable, that's not being compassionate, that's not being responsible. That's playing politics. The money is there.
In the spring we referenced a surplus of $56.2 million. They doubted that. They said, "No, no, that's wrong. It's way too high." We said, "Well, let's wait until the fall when the Auditor General releases his report."
Well, the auditor's report says we were wrong, but only because we underestimated the surplus. It's actually $64 million, Mr. Speaker - an extra $8 million. Well, an extra $8 million - is there a dialysis machine? No way. Did we get crop vegetation right away? Not a chance. Did we get CDF funding? No way. Fire smart - how about fire smart, then? It's only half a million. It could have employed a lot of Yukoners this winter. Did we get fire smart in this budget? Forget it. It's not the Liberal way. Review, delay, postpone seems to be the order of the day.
Mr. Speaker, if this government had any compassion toward Yukoners, it would have acknowledged that huge surplus and would have allocated a reasonable portion of it for winter works, and we on this side would probably be in support of this budget. As it is, I can't speak for my colleagues collectively, but I have a real problem supporting this budget because of its lack of compassion for Yukoners this winter. They had the money, but they didn't have the compassion.
Mr. Speaker, they put politics ahead of everything else. They want to repackage all the programs. They want to try to get their spin on the reasons why these programs are delayed, want to try to get Yukoners mad at the previous NDP government. They want to try to influence Yukoners - that Liberals are the best thing since sliced bread. Mr. Speaker, it doesn't matter. To most people, that's just politics. They're more concerned about whether they have a job this winter, about whether they can put food on the table this winter.
This government has failed them. I know that, since the election, a lot of people who supported the Liberal Party - not from Destruction Bay or Beaver Creek, because they had zero votes in those communities, but elsewhere - admitted to me that they made a mistake, because it didn't take them too long to see through the smoke and mirrors of this Liberal government and find a very self-centred government, more interested in making its life easier than helping Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, that analysis holds true today, some six months later.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: We saw the priorities a couple of weeks ago, when this government brought forward a motion on extending sitting hours. It was debated for hours in here. It could have waited a day and half until the SCREP meeting. But no, they decided that forcing it through was more important than process. Again, the priorities have been on themselves, stomping their feet down and saying, "It's our way or the highway." Well, Mr. Speaker, a lot of people are coming to the unfortunate conclusion that it has to be the highway, because they're forced to leave to find work, because this government hasn't been compassionate, hasn't produced anything that will help them. It's all under review. Postpone, review, delay; it's the Liberal way. That's what we've discovered, and a lot of Yukoners are discovering it, too. It's very unfortunate.
Then we have a Premier who stands up in her budget address, in the beginning of this series, attacks us for not supporting the pipeline. Mr. Speaker, it's false, completely false.
Speaker: Order please. I ask the member not to refer to false statements or anything of that nature in the House.
Mr. McRobb: I realize the rules here do prohibit that, and I apologize.
Mr. Speaker, it is simply not the case. We on this side do support the pipeline. The Premier took the comments out of context and exaggerated them completely. Our comments were directed on their single focus and the abandonment of the rest of the economy.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Ms. Netro: I have a few comments on the supplementary budget.
This budget is not about the economy. It is about the government. With $64 million in the surplus, very little is spent on what is important to the people of the Yukon. There is no vision, therefore there is no movement forward. The economy is priority. The Liberal government's economic priority is all about the future. When we look at the supplementary budget, it talks about future jobs, future constructions, future mines, land claims in the future and devolution in the future; $37 million in this supplementary budget is all about the future, spending thousands of dollars on outside initiatives so that we might have jobs in the future. That gives me a message, Mr. Speaker. It tells me, "Let's hurry up and get ready for the future."
I look at that and it just reminds me of a little story. When I was growing up I used to hear from the elders that it's good to plan for the future, but we live in today. And I still believe that very strongly today, whether it be in my personal life or my professional life.
I can have goals, but what can I do today to make a difference? We're almost into the middle of November. People are getting ready and starting to think about Christmas. Christmas, to me, is about family - about spending time with family. It's about being at home. And especially in my community, it's about community gatherings. It's about building stronger relationships and reconnecting with old friends. And Christmas, to me, is about children.
We're talking about the lives of children in the Yukon when we talk about budgets. We talk about making a difference in people's lives today. Not about what the pipeline is going to bring 10 years from now, or what's going to happen with the mining industry in five years depending on the prices.
The number one priority is our land claims. And that's going to be put on hold until next year. Each one of those is very important to people throughout the Yukon, not only First Nation people, but all people.
When I think about our economy, I think about my community and other communities throughout the territory.
As we prepare for the Christmas holidays and go into the new year, it's not only about money. It's about having a good life and about teaching our children. Today, we pay tribute to alcohol and drugs services and National Addictions Week. I support that money we put forward in prevention, but what I'm here to tell you is that it goes further than that, and there's a lot more that can be done in our communities in those areas. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: we need a lot more money spent on social programs.
As our people in the communities prepare for Christmas and try to enjoy a holiday with their children - I'm not talking about buying toys. That's all a little extra, if we could bring that to our families this year. It's about the people in Old Crow being able to take their families out on the land between Christmas and the new year, so that they can go hunting and trapping, because some of them do use this time to take their kids out and teach them how to hunt and trap for winter animals.
And with that comes a great expense - to buy gas to get to where their camps are, and while they're there, they go a great distance sometimes to haul wood to warm up their tents.
We talk about youth and how important they are to us. Our youth is experiencing a great deal of difficulty these days to find jobs, to get training, to attend school in a good way, to have the funding for that. They need a lot of encouragement. And again, I speak from experience. My son is a young adult, and it takes a lot of encouragement to move forward in this day and age. In the communities, sometimes it's more difficult for them to come down to Whitehorse to attend school down here for whatever reasons, and one of the biggest reasons is making the adjustment. We have to encourage training at the Yukon College campuses in the communities.
This government talks about pipeline jobs and the great boom that's coming to the Yukon. If that is going to happen, we need to have that training available in our communities.
I don't see any mention in the budget about issues around services for women. I know that the women in my community require many of the services that are only available in Whitehorse. And when we talk about safety concerns for those women in the communities, it causes a great deal of stress, not only for them but their families. They have to be removed from their normal community environment to move to Whitehorse. And sometimes they have to separate from their children or from their parents who depend on them for that extended care. We have to take all these into consideration and make sure that we have monies available in the communities for resources that we really do need.
There has been talk about safe homes for many years. I have seen notes from the past statements that have been in this House on how important safe houses are for communities, and I look forward to following up on those statements and following up on those issues.
The winter works programs that have benefited my community are going to be cut through the CDF program. All the programs that were made available to my community and other communities throughout the Yukon are under review, and this causes a great deal of uncertainty to people. They have no idea from one month to the next if they are going to be working tomorrow or if they're going to be just working for a couple of weeks.
There have been a few projects in my community that have been very successful with the CDF funding, and right now there is uncertainty there because of that. There have been projects that have been started and now are half-finished, and we're wondering what is the next move. Where do we go from here?
The people in my community rely on jobs, especially through the winter season. That is the most difficult season for us, not only because there are few jobs available. For those with families to take care of, they not only have to worry about their winter supply of food but many of them are also concerned about their supply of firewood. This might seem simple - like a simple problem - but it's not.
You need the means to provide every level for our families, and if we don't have an income, the stress is that much larger. And if I go to apply for social assistance to provide for my family, I don't get that much, and the two-percent raise is not in effect to date.
Most of the people in my community are more than willing to work. It is not a good feeling for them to be walking to the social assistance office and to depend on that type of funding. And I know what happens for those people when they have to do that. They lose a certain amount of dignity, because sometimes they're not able to provide for their family. For them to be able to do that, they need to work.
Speaker: Order please. Member has two minutes to conclude.
Ms. Netro: And that's what this budget is not providing. As I said earlier, all the programs are under review.
There's money available for the mining industry. There's money being pumped into the pipeline, trying to get all the industry to come to the Yukon. In the meantime, the average person out there is wondering, "What am I going to do next?"
There is a lot of uncertainty throughout this territory. And this time of year is not the time to put our families under a great amount of stress, not only because we would like our children to have a good Christmas and New Year's holiday, but so that we would be able to gather in our communities in a good way - so that we would be able to say yes.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mr. Keenan: It indeed gives me pleasure to be able to stand and speak about the budget. Maybe not about what's in the budget, but certainly to be able to speak on behalf of the communities within my riding.
Mr. Speaker, every government deserves a honeymoon. I usually start off with that statement in the last six months here, but unfortunately this honeymoon is very, very short. I don't say that from a personal perspective. I say that from a perspective that is brought to me from the people in my riding.
The Liberals are now government, although my colleague from Kluane likes to say that we've got them surrounded. And there's a lot more than humour to that. There's a lot of deep thinking in that statement, because what we have with the last election is a clear distinct split - an absolutely clear, distinct split. The power base for the Liberal Party is in Whitehorse. The communities and the outlying areas feel somewhat dejected, I would think. But as I went around this summer talking to them, they said, "Give them a chance, Dave. Everybody deserves a chance and we expect you to give them a chance. We expect you to work with them and try and provide some solutions." And I said, "Absolutely. Absolutely, I will try to do that and provide some ideas."
So when we went into the first legislative sitting, when we sat in this House for the month of June and part of July, we rose on our feet to give direction, to allow direction to be able to flow. Because direction certainly is not just a one-way street. To communicate is to have listening skills and speaking skills, and to stand on your feet and speak for the people that give you that mandate. Well, we did that. And I took the Liberals at their word when they spoke about it all being about the future, and their platform was out there, and it's all about the future. I did do that. I gave them the honeymoon grace period, because I thought that everything in the platform, in it's all about the Future, might be reflected somewhat in the supplementary budget.
The people from the communities and the Whitehorse community were expecting that after the love-in - after that little love-in that happens every time a government is brought forth and the new government is put into place - there would be some action, that people would be listening because the Liberals said, "Come to me. Come to me. I am your saviour."
Well, Mr. Speaker, I think that the most common pose we see in this House when the Liberals speak is this. So how can you can come to me when the government is hugging themselves, still patting themselves on the back, not listening to the people out there. Talk about disillusionment, Mr. Speaker.
Our budget, the New Democrat budget that this government is working on, is the basis of this government and is a good socialist document, Mr. Speaker. It's very good because it hits everything. It hits the economy, it hits people where they need to be hit, I guess - maybe poor choice of words. But it reflects upon the needs of the people.
Now, the needs of the people, Mr. Speaker, which could be from a two-percent social assistance increase, to CAT scans, to finding partnerships for dialysis machines - there's a broad spectrum, a very broad, deep spectrum of needs out there. Now, this government has gone out, is still patting themselves on the back, still hugging themselves, and has not done what they said they would do. They have not done that. This - I could say unparliamentary words, but that would just get me booted out of here, and that's not exactly what I want because I put my name and reputation on the line so that I might be able to speak on behalf of the people.
What has happened so far is beans - absolute beans, Mr. Speaker - because this document is all about the future. Well, everything is in the future. We don't live in a parallel world to reality. We live in reality. The reality, which this government had the opportunity and time to put into and reflect in the budget document, is not there, Mr. Speaker. Maybe the communities do live in a parallel world. Maybe that's what it's all about, and we have to look and find new ways of trying to work with a government that does not respect the people out there.
So I guess that is their job, because, Mr. Speaker, the millions of dollars that have been spent has been on us. It's on making government bigger.
Mr. Speaker, I had the pleasure of being at a friend's funeral just a few moments ago, so I missed out on a lot of what was taken, but it gave me time to reflect as I came down. Because that person I was with, we spent eight years of our lives together trying to make things better for people. So, it calmed me down as I thought of things, and I thought, "Keep carrying on," because this Legislature will be in action after we're all gone. The only thing that we can expect out of this Legislature is hopefully a fitting tribute.
So, Mr. Speaker, we're at a time and place where we can make things happen. That's what we're here for. We're here to provide leadership. We're here to implement leadership. We're not here just to talk about implementing leadership. We're here to do it.
Mr. Speaker, as I think about this, maintaining my calmness, my cool and collectedness, I start to think, well, if we spend all these millions of dollars and suddenly O&M is good, where just six, seven, eight months ago, it was bad, even though it contained within the O&M budget a CAT scan - things that people really needed in this territory. It was bad.
But now, Mr. Speaker, the sky is red again - or blue, or whatever it is in la-la land - because that's the colour of what it is now. But it's just a pipe dream, because the people's needs were reflected in that budget. It's not being implemented; they brought forth a supplementary budget, making government bigger. Mr. Speaker, there's nothing reflecting the needs of the people.
Now, Mr. Speaker, unemployment in the territory is running at 14 or 15 percent. That's in the territory as a whole. You can go into communities in the Yukon Territory where unemployment is running at 80 percent. Mr. Speaker, I reflect those communities, as people on this side reflect those communities. So, I guess in la-la land, the colour of the sky is this. In reality, the colour of the sky is of need. And the people thought maybe that they could trust or work with the present government of the day.
Mr. Speaker, they cannot, and people are starting to see that.
This government is putting a stress on communities - a deep stress on communities. This government is allowing departments to run government. Departments, Mr. Speaker. Administrative beings of this government are running this government. That was never the way it was when we were in government. We worked with the departments and we worked with the communities. I take great pride in going up into your riding, Mr. Speaker, and working with the people up in your riding and listening to those people. And I do it in a few other Liberal ridings.
I'm not saying this to be mean or boring or malicious. I'm saying this because this is a reality, Mr. Speaker. Already there's sort of a mutiny inside the circle of muskox, I guess you might say. The people within the circle are starting to say, "Hey, what are you protecting me from? You're not protecting me from anything, so obviously you're hiding me from something, and you can't hide me from reality."
So, this side of the House will continue to do that good work and break down the stress of the people in the communities. Because our government, our Finance minister, our Government Leader - who did not mind being called the Government Leader, which was a time-honoured tradition in the Yukon Territory - when you go from a Government Leader to a Premier, it seems to me that there's a heck of a shift in there, Mr. Speaker, a heck of a shift - a mind shift, because suddenly, "I'm the Premier. The buck stops at my desk and I do not have to listen to the people, but I can listen to the departments because the departments are out in the communities."
Mr. Speaker, that's not a human touch. It's not a human touch, and what we need to do is collectively put that human touch back into this Legislature and reflect it in the budget, because the people of the communities - and when I say the communities I mean Whitehorse, also - are used to a government that cares.
Mr. Speaker, at any given day in my community, I can cry by 8:30 with elders, laugh by noon with young people, and cry again with elders, any day, because emotion is up and is down, because it reflects reality. When my Government Leader, my Finance minister, went out and actually spoke to the people and tried to reflect some of those needs within the budget, they saw that as a good thing. They expected that to be continued, but it is not being continued. So all that does is add a stress.
The community development fund, the tourism fund and the rural roads funding were vehicles of empowerment for communities, so that they could identify within their hamlet, within their mayor and council, within their chief and council or, in some cases, Mr. Speaker, such as in Tagish, a community club.
They do not relish in the fact that, "I am the Premier of the community club, I am the Government Leader of the community club, or I am the President," because what it reflects is the community mandating people to identify the needs and to work with governments of the day, including First Nations governments, Mr. Speaker, so that we might move forward as a community.
Well, Mr. Speaker, holy moly, but I do think that the axles are done busted on those vehicles. Now, they say they're not, but all they do is have them propped up, and put some kindling underneath the axles. But Mr. Speaker, if they have the tires off the ground, they're just spinning. It's no help to anybody, because now there is not even a process where they can speak to the Prime Minister or - oops. Wow, let me withdraw that. Heaven forbid. But where they may speak to the representatives of the government, so that they might be able to put in what their desires are.
So now what we have are community clubs, advisory groups, mayors and councils, and many other government structures throughout the territory wondering, "What do we do?" They wonder, "They haven't been here to talk to us and they're taking away our community empowerment. What do we do? What do I do about my fire hall? What do I do about the playground toys? What do I do about the nursing initiatives? What do I do about just the simple volunteerism, where it was nice to have people come by and say, 'I hug you, I respect you, I love you for what you're doing for the benefit of Yukon society'."
Well, Mr. Speaker, whack - stick that out, and it just gets whacked! But again, Mr. Speaker, my communities need something - the communities of Ross River-Southern Lakes. What are they going to do with the Tagish Road? Is the Tagish highway going to be completed, Mr. Speaker? Those are things that they're wondering about. They're wondering about whether there are going to be any winter works? Are there going to be any fire smart programs put into place?
And, Mr. Speaker, under the tutelage of the forestry commissioner when we were in government, the gentleman - the forestry commissioner - had a very strong personality. And that personality drove the Cabinet to make sure that we understood what the backbenchers wanted; what private members needed for their communities. They weren't identified simply because they're a backbencher and you have to stroke people off - no. We looked at it because Yukon society needs these things.
If you live in the bush in Tagish, are you less worthy than a person who lives in Riverside? Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker - absolutely not.
Yet it starts to seem that it is that way now. That's the way people are feeling, Mr. Speaker. And why are they feeling this way? Because the government of the day has put them in that position.
So, Mr. Speaker, people are wondering about those initiatives, and it amazes me that the government folk, the Cabinet and the private Member for Whitehorse Centre, who had plenty to say before the election, are silent now. They're silent in their majority - the silent majority. My God, Mr. Speaker, that's embarrassing for me - absolutely embarrassing. Are they ashamed of the budget? There are winners and losers in the budget. You didn't put the budget together together? The buck stops at one desk, and I guess that's where the budget was put together. And who suffers? The people on social assistance, the people with kidney diseases. The people need the help - not government.
So what are we going to do for these stresses that are added on to the communities? What are we going to do? What is happening with the Teslin Correctional Centre, where everything was going to happen? It was just going to go click, click, click and click. Mr. Speaker, that thing is so far off the tracks right now that if we laid a new set of tracks, we wouldn't know who the engineer was, because it has simply been put on the back burner. And yet, government said, "We are going to do these things." And when I checked and asked questions in this House previously, "Yes, we are going to continue to do these things." Well, certainly, continuation is absolutely nothing, and nothing ain't worth nothing, but it's free, I guess - just to quote Kris Kristofferson, Mr. Speaker.
So, there is no consultation, yet the Minister of Health says he takes great pride in consultation. Well, Mr. Speaker, I challenge the member opposite, the Minister of Health, to show some leadership, to go beyond listening and get into - and heaven forbid, Mr. Speaker, but to get into that implementation mode, that listening mode from what we hear. And, Mr. Speaker, I hope you will be courteous enough to give me a two-minute warning. I'd appreciate that.
It didn't happen for the previous member, and it was just a slight maybe. Maybe I didn't hear it, but I'd appreciate that.
Mr. Speaker, again, it's all about the future. The immediate needs of the community, Mr. Speaker, are not about the future. They're about putting a little bit of food in the belly - maybe too much - but others out there suffer. They don't have the ability just to say, "Well, okay, I guess I won't do it today and do it tomorrow." You can't do that at mealtime, Mr. Speaker. That simply cannot be done. So what are we going to do? Are we going to put it all into the future? They have even got the audacity, Mr. Speaker, to say that we don't support the pipeline; yet when we ask environmental questions, they just stand up and say that that was done 25 years ago. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think not. And the more I talk about it with people, well, they say, "No, Dave, it's not done, and we'd appreciate if you'd talk a little bit about it."
Now, Mr. Speaker, I will get back to leadership and talking about consultation and implementing consultation. When is it going to happen? Because people out there are saying, "Well, we've got to give them this chance, Dave. You've got to talk to them." I've talked to different people - very prominent individuals in the community - and they say, "Give them the chat."
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate that.
So, Mr. Speaker, the government is ashamed of their budget. None of the members opposite will speak about their budget, yet I remember when it came to economy time, Mr. Speaker, and we were on that side of the House, we put forth an economy motion. What did they do? Well, shucks, Mr. Speaker, they put their hands under their armpits and walked out of the House again. Is that leadership? Mr. Speaker, I say that is just cosmetic leadership, and what this country needs, this territory needs, is much more than cosmetic leadership. It needs actual leadership. It needs on-the-ground leadership. It needs to be able to tighten the belt and open the belt at different times when it's needed. And that is not happening.
So in the name of humanity and of goodness and doing it the Yukon way, let's get out there and involve the communities, Mr. Speaker. Let's listen to the communities, and let's implement the communities, because this is not about politics; this is about reality, and we do not live in a parallel world, Mr. Speaker. We live in the Yukon singularly.
Mr. Fentie: It is with a great deal of concern that I rise today to speak in second reading to this so-called supplementary budget. It's quite obvious that the official opposition will not be supporting this budget in second reading, and we have a great deal of questions and work to be done in Committee when it comes to this budget. I must say that this is a pathetic attempt at budgeting by the government across the floor.
What we have here, contrary to Liberals' commitments to Yukoners that, come this fall, they would be bringing into this House not only the road map of where they were taking us - which was their throne speech which turned out to be anything but a road map - they would be bringing in a budget that would be testimony to their spending priorities, to dealing with what they call "a shattered economy". The Liberal government has had a great deal to do with shattering that economy in the six to seven months that they have been in office.
With none of the other members of the Liberal party speaking to this budget, it's evident that they have also great reservations so they're leaving it up to the Premier. What they have done is made government bigger. They have simply put money into making government bigger. Nothing here goes anywhere toward helping out the economic situation in this territory.
A paltry $612,000 into aggressively promoting the pipeline - well, that's good, however very futuristic. The Premier's words in this Legislature recently were qualified by the statement, "If the pipeline gets built". Mr. Speaker, there's a lot at stake here, and the Liberal government has done nothing to address the issues, the real issues of this territory today.
They made the claim that, according to their much-wanted throne speech - this empty, hollow vessel of platitudes and motherhood statements - they were going to address alcohol and drug addictions. What have they done? They throw a million dollars at creating another level of bureaucracy without any work on the ground, accepting recommendations from an outside interest out of Alberta that this is the way things are done, and they jump. But none of this is helping addictions. It's creating a bigger bureaucracy, another level, making government bigger. So much for their sixth commitment to Yukoners, the contract with Yukoners.
Settling outstanding land claims - there doesn't seem to be a lot in this budget that would point to the fact that that is still a priority with this government, and we all know what's happening with land claims in this territory. As with everything else under this government: review, postpone, delay, and now we know it's cancel, too.
Given the port decision, Mr. Speaker, it's quite obvious that the pattern that's being developed in the last six to seven months by this government is: dismantle everything that the former government had in place, get rid of it, stomp on it, throw it out. By the same token, they're stomping all over Yukoners for their own partisan, political gain.
This budget was supposed to be the first step, as their press release says, toward rebuilding our shattered economy and creating healthier communities for all Yukoners. What is this, some kind of a joke, Mr. Speaker? How does this budget remotely reflect that statement to the Yukon public? This is a pathetic, pathetic bill brought into this Legislature by the Minister of Economic Development.
There has been very little thought in this. There is no evidence that the minister is supplying leadership. We see a lot of department wish lists in here, in making government bigger, but there's nothing here that would indicate that the Premier, the Minister of Economic Development and the Liberal government in this territory know where we're going and how we're going to get there and how to deal with the issues today.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget, given the situation this territory is in, should have reflected a substantial expenditure for winter works so people in this territory could go to work and put food on the table. There's not a nickel - not a nickel - for a winter works project - nothing. That is a sad, sad statement. This Premier doesn't even have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to the federal government, who continue -
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the member to keep his remarks parliamentary and not refer to abusive or insulting language.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would rephrase that. This Premier does not have the will to stand up to the federal government, which continually puts up roadblocks in some of the most important sectors in this territory's economy - forestry, mining - and will soon discover that they're going to throw a few of those little roadblocks at the development of oil and gas in this territory and, possibly, the pipeline.
This government will not criticize or oppose the federal Liberals, and I ask why? Why is that? Why do they not protect and represent Yukoners' interests? I think that the answer is simple. They're trying to shoulder their way into that big old federal Liberal trough to try and fatten up their resumés. They are not about to criticize or oppose the federal Liberal government in this territory. They're going to follow their instructions to the letter. In doing so, they sacrifice Yukoners.
People have left in droves. Does this Premier care? Does this cold-hearted government really care about those people who had to go away from home to try to make a living? Did this Premier - and this government - even consider for a moment in their decision to shut down forestry what the ramifications were to this territory? And then they come out with a feeble motion talking about the THA process.
Well, the Liberals are government now, and they should know full well that there have been active THAs in this territory for a long, long time. The forest industry was here in this territory since the beginning. They did nothing.
The Marie Antoinette of the Yukon government turned her back on 125 families and walked away. This government, in failing to act with this budget to address the critical situation that we're in economically now - this winter and beyond - has failed the Yukon public and failed the Yukon public miserably. The Liberal government took office with a $64-million surplus in the bank. Yet, all they did with a $37-million budget is make government bigger and move some money around. Nothing to address the critical situation we're in.
Priorities, Mr. Speaker, are very important when it comes to government and supplying leadership. This government's priorities were not the Yukon public, were not the situation we're in economically; their priorities were changing sitting hours and administrivia. That's what they brought to the floor of this Legislature.
Time and time and time again, this government - not only in opposition, but the Liberals now in government - had an opportunity to tell Yukoners what they were about, where they were taking this territory, what they would do to address the situation we're in - nothing, remaining in the shadows, hiding, hiding from public scrutiny, trying to muzzle the bait so that they don't have to be accountable to the Yukon public for the mess they have put this territory in. And it's a severe mess, one that we may suffer the consequences of for years to come.
This government says that infrastructure is a priority - developing infrastructure. The mandate for the Premier's own department as Minister of Economic Development - supporting the development of established and emerging industries, encouraging the exports of goods and services. This is the mandate of the minister's own department, and what do we have? We don't have any encouragement of established and emerging industries or support. It's quite the contrary. Shut it down, shut it down. That's what this government has been doing. When it comes to export of goods, we have now been limited and our future has been jeopardized in terms of access to tidewater. Now, that decision boggles one's mind.
For a government to make the claim that they are very, very much in support of infrastructure as a priority, to turn their back on our ability in this territory to achieve ownership for access to tidewater is right up there with the bunglers in Ottawa who allowed Alaska to take the whole panhandle, the whole coast.
This is the bungle of the century in this territory, and it's this Premier - this Liberal government - who promoted such a mess. Doesn't the Premier understand that our economy is going to very much be impacted by our ability to market offshore? More importantly, has the Premier never heard of the fact that the Japanese are very interested in certain resource products that we can manufacture and ship out of here?
This is a north-south thinking government. There is an east and a west. This government is showing Yukoners today that they simply haven't got the ability to lead this territory anywhere. They have no ability to budget. They don't even understand fiscal year-ends. They have oodles of money to deal with, yet the projections show clearly that this government is going to increase the size of government and decrease targeted expenditures that would help put Yukoners to work - help bring some hope to the people of this territory.
Further to that, this Premier, this Minister of Economic Development, this Liberal government, are driving investment away from this territory. It's a sad state of affairs, Mr. Speaker, that we are subjected to such a lame duck attempt at helping Yukon people through budgeting. And it is a lame duck attempt.
And Yukoners now realize the problem we're in - that this government has put us in - and many, many Yukoners are now very sorry about the vote they cast April 17. We've heard many times this Premier state in this House, "Well, that's why we're over here," meaning government side, and that's why we're over here, meaning opposition side. Well, I have some free advice for the Premier: don't get too comfortable over there, because at the rate you're going, you're not going to be there very long. It will be lucky if -
Speaker: Order please. I would remind the member to please address his remarks through the Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Liberals might not even make their mandate, at the rate they're going. The Yukon public is now becoming quite angry at what this Premier and this Minister of Economic Development and this Liberal government are doing. They are sick and tired already of the empty, hollow words with no action.
Does the Premier not understand what's ahead of us this winter in this territory? Does the Premier even care? Does this Liberal government even care?
They are wreaking havoc on this territory that has never been experienced before. Through their lack of leadership, their lack of compassion and their high-handed manner, this take-it-or-leave-it government, this cold-hearted government is completely turning their backs on Yukoners and feeding us a line that, "We're going to have a pipeline in five to seven years and that'll fix everything." That's the only economic plank this government has. Well, there's a lot more; there's much more.
Mr. Speaker, I find it very concerning that we have come to this juncture. There's going to be a lot of work in Committee on this budget, believe me. There is going to be a lot of work on this budget. Somehow, we have got to get it through the Liberals' heads that they have to do something here. So, we're going to spend some time in Committee working on this budget, and I hope the members are true to form when they say they want to work cooperatively, because that's what it's going to take.
That's what it will take, Mr. Speaker, some cooperation from the members opposite, from this government - this take-it-or-leave-it government. They have to change their attitude. Their arrogance must be set aside. Their lust for power that all Liberals seem to have and the similarities between this government here in the territory and the federal Liberals are becoming more and more evident. Those things have to be set aside. Good governance means you take care of the needs of people; you supply leadership and direction; you take on the hard issues, deal with them. You can't hide from them. And it's from there that good governance is implemented, not the way this Liberal government is doing things, not the way they're acting. And surely, sitting at the caucus table, there had to have been, with the nine members who sit at that table, some input-
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: - into this budget. I can't for the life of me believe that all those members sitting at a table couldn't come up with something better than this. The only conclusion I can come to is that the Premier herself - the buck stops at her desk - refused to accept any sort of suggestions. This counterfeit government, Mr. Speaker, has got to answer to the Yukon public, and that's why we're here in opposition, to hold them accountable.
We will not be supporting this budget in second reading, and we intend to do a lot of work on this budget in Committee of the Whole debate.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she'll close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I could close my debate with an impassioned speech rebutting each and every one of the allegations of the members opposite, but that would run the extreme risk of sinking to their level.
I could tell Yukoners that I and our government have heart. We are compassionate. We are capable of doing this job. The members opposite have suggested otherwise. That gets into an argument all about personalities and all about perceptions, and that's not what Yukoners asked us to do for them. It's not what we were hired, effectively by Yukoners on April 17, to do. We were hired and asked by the people to talk about spending money; to talk about good legislation; to talk about how the territory's - their taxpayers' dollars - are spent. We weren't asked to indulge in personal attacks.
I am very proud of the work of this side of the House in the supplementary budget. What it has done is enable us to continue or to initiate a number of important services for the benefit of all Yukoners. We, on this side, make no distinction where Yukoners come from. We want to work to serve all of them.
We're asking members to vote on operation, maintenance and capital spending - an increase of $37.2 million - and an increase in the annual deficit of roughly $5 million.
The interim leader of the official opposition used statements like, and I quote, "misleading" when I tabled financial figures. I would caution the member opposite to take the advice of his former leader and use temperance and caution in his remarks. He says the previous government always planned to have $20 million in accumulated surplus. If that were the case, why did the long-term plan, tabled with the 2000-01 mains, show it dipping well below $20 million for the current and the next two years?
The plan we've tabled is much healthier, Mr. Speaker. And the $12.5 million in 2003-04, which the member opposite says is low, is considerably better than the $5-million plan for that year under the NDP government.
The member opposite says that if the economy is improving, why are revenues declining. Well, firstly, Mr. Speaker, our plan's revenues are about the same as the NDP's plan showed, except for the first two years where ours are higher, and we have explained at length why that is the case. Revenues are lower for several reasons: one, the tax rate reduction - tax cuts this government is delivering on. They're not phantom. They're not pie in the sky. They're not some election promise. They are delivered. Yukoners can count on that. They'll be there.
The increase in oil and gas revenues has not been carried forward for future years because we are fiscally responsible, we are fiscally conservative, and because, Mr. Speaker, all of us know they can drop as quickly as they have risen.
The member opposite and several members have gone on and on at great length about operation and maintenance expenditures and how alarming they are. These operation and maintenance expenditures are increasing for two reasons: superannuation, which is recoverable, and a negotiated wage increase - negotiated, and shown accurately in the budget statement. Again, I caution the interim leader of the official opposition - temperance and caution.
We have a number of new initiatives in this supplementary budget. Again, I remind members that there are $9 million of increases due to adjustment made to that transfer to cover additional costs we have to bear under the public service superannuation plan, and that each department has been granted increased funding for the new collective agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the increase includes additional monies for the Hospital Corporation and Yukon College. These are working people, hard-working people who work on behalf of the Government of the Yukon throughout the territory, and that's a negotiated wage increase.
Mr. Speaker, there are also new initiatives. Time and time again, my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, answered the Member for Kluane - there are increases in the money allocated to improve our road infrastructure. The money is in the supplementary budget. She said it time and time again, and time and time again, the member opposite refused to hear. There is no answer for those who refuse to hear. There is no answer for them, because they refuse to hear us give them. They won't listen.
In one department alone, the Department of Education, there is $400,000 for increased utility costs. There is $100,000 for additional educational assistants - meeting the needs of children throughout Yukon - in-classroom support for students with learning needs. There is $200,000 more for substitute teachers in our classrooms. There is an expenditure to see much-needed security increased during weekend and evening hours at the Whitehorse Public Library. There is $25,000 that will lead to individualized education plans to eliminate the current backlog.
And they have the audacity to say that we don't care about children or their education, that we're not compassionate or that we haven't heard from the communities, like teachers, educators, parents and the taxpayers of Yukon. Mr. Speaker, not only have we heard, but we have committed and we have delivered in this supplementary budget. And yes, we're going to take the credit for it.
We also are going to make our already excellent education system that much better during this term of this government. And Mr. Speaker, they can count on it.
Let's talk about the other issues that supposedly, if you listen to the diatribe of the members opposite - pardon me, if you listen to the words of the members opposite that we don't care about people. Well, what's the health care system about but people?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker:The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: I think the words that the member is using, even though she qualified it and substituted it, another is still on the record, and I ask her to withdraw that from the record. It's unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I understood that my correction of the words was a withdrawal. If the member opposite would like a formal withdrawal, I'd be delighted to do that.
Speaker: I think it's sufficient that the Premier did withdraw her remarks, and with that I'd ask her to continue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker.
I was talking about another fundamental, essential need in our communities and a fundamental commitment of Yukon Liberals - in fact, of Liberals throughout the country - and that is our health care system. This is so important to us. The maintenance of our health care system, should I be allowed to finish, despite the catcalls from the members opposite - this supplementary sees more than $7.2 million in new operating monies flowing to our Department of Health and Social Services. Over $4.5 million is for the price and volume increases in the department's programs that that previous government would not and could not and did not budget for. This is about services to people, and it's important.
The members opposite again charge building a bigger bureaucracy. Mr. Speaker, I challenge them to show us that in the budget figures. If building a bigger bureaucracy is putting in a negotiated wage increase and building a bigger bureaucracy is dealing with our public servants in a respectful manner, then they have a lot to learn about budgeting. Clearly, we have corrected the budgetary deficiencies, which we inherited from the previous NDP government. We've begun a number of new initiatives in keeping with our election platform and promises.
Our budget addresses a lot of things. Among them, Mr. Speaker, is our relationship with First Nation governments in our efforts to work with Yukon people toward a better Yukon, and revitalizing the Yukon economy and rebuilding the Yukon economy. And the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin spoke eloquently about the worry Yukoners have about our economy. We shared their concern, and we are working every single day to rebuild it. But, Mr. Speaker, you can't rebuild it in six months, not after four years of NDP devastation. It takes a little longer.
We're working on it. We're working every day, and, what's more, we'll do it. We are maintaining and enhancing quality health care and a one-tier system, unlike what others proposed. We are expanding Yukon's tourism opportunities. We are improving highway maintenance structure. Over and over and over again, I remind the Member for Kluane and others that we are working on this, but we are also dealing with upwards of 10 years of decreasing expenditures on our highways that we cannot correct in six months, but we've started, which is far more than what they did in four years in office. We're providing housing for our seniors, many of whom live in your riding, Mr. Speaker. We are dealing with legal aid.
We heard from Yukoners, we heard from members opposite, and we have acted and responded, just as a responsible, good government should do. We are dealing with issues that have been previously ignored. We're dealing with them, and in this supplementary budget we're dealing with them well. We've responded to Yukoners' needs, we have budgeted appropriately, and we're managing Yukoners' money in the way they have asked us to - responsibly and well. And, what's more, we will continue to do so.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite are making, as they usually do, remarks off the record, and I would challenge them, if they feel that way, to not defame those who are not present in this House.
The leader of the third party has suggested that the economies of Northwest Territories and Nunavut are booming. The member, in his own inimitable fashion, is wrong. The latest unemployment figures from those two territories show a much higher unemployment rate than Yukon. The N.W.T. is at 13.7 percent, and the unemployment rate in Nunavut is over 20 percent. The latest unemployment rate in the Yukon is just over nine percent. We agree that that's too high, and we are dealing with it. Under the NDP government, the unemployment rate ranged from 13 percent to 17 percent.
Where was their winter works program? No such thing under the NDP government. No such thing as dealing with the Yukon economy. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin talked about uncertainty. The uncertainty, with all due respect to the member opposite, was not created by this government. But this government is dealing with it.
We aren't going to restore confidence in the Yukon's economy overnight. But we've made a very good start in six months and we are going to continue. And what's more, we're putting people to work. We are generating hope and confidence and we're spending Yukoners' money wisely.
We don't have something called a winter works project, Mr. Speaker. The opposition believed it would be some panacea to the economy. What we have are many, many projects that employ Yukoners, that are taking place this winter, and we are rebuilding the Yukon economy.
We recognize that more people need to get to work, and that's why rebuilding the economy is one of our top priorities. We're working on both short-term and long-term economic development for the territory.
The members opposite challenge us and say, "What work?" And again, over and over again, I have stated in this House some samples of the projects that this supplementary budget provides.
Again, Mr. Speaker, there is no answer satisfactory to those who will not hear. There are feature films. There are commercials. There is exploration that has taken place. There is work ongoing. There are oil and gas permits. There are development and exploration permits. There are winter festivals and carnivals that we supported immediately, not waiting for some opposition question such as I used to have to pose. There's $90,000 on highway camp facilities maintenance and $500,000 on winter gravel crushing. There is clearing on the Shakwak project and clearing on the Carcross sewage treatment site.
We are working very hard at putting Yukoners to work, and Mr. Speaker, I'm looking forward to continuing to do so.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 8 yea, 6 nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Bill No. 2: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 2, standing in the name of the hon. Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 2, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 1999-2000, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this bill will see appropriations for the 1999-2000 year finalized. It will grant retroactive approval for several departmental votes that were overspent for that year. In total, departments were underspent for the year by some $12.7 million, but because each department's operation and maintenance and capital expenditures are separate votes, individual overages are considered an overexpenditure of sums previously approved by this House. The largest O&M request in this supplementary is for the Department of Health and Social Services.
It is no secret that health costs in Canada are escalating rapidly and that this trend has certainly reached the Yukon, as is apparent from the document the members have before them. The department exceeded its spending authority by a little more than $3.2 million, an increase of almost three percent.
Mr. Speaker, the document that I am referring to has a blue cover and says 1999-2000. It was tabled for members opposite and distributed when all the public accounts were tabled.
The specific reason for these overexpenditures in the Department of Health are many, but much higher than budgeted costs for group homes and volume of price increases for out-of-territory medical travel and hospitals, chronic disease, pharmacare and extended health costs account for the bulk of the shortfall.
Fortunately, there were some offsets, notably in social assistance and child care subsidies, but these fell far short of the new demands on the department's resources.
The Public Service Commission requires an additional $650,000 for the leave liability account in its operation and maintenance vote. Members who were in this House previously will know that this liability was frozen at $30 million several years ago. The actual liability is now much larger than this and, from an accounting point of view, the appropriate way to record it is on the basis of an actuarial calculation.
The sum being requested here will bring the recorded liability to that actuarial value and thus avoids our financial statements being qualified by the Auditor General.
The Department of Renewable Resources is asking for $85,000, largely as a result of the recoverable projects it undertook in the latter part of the year.
In addition to these O&M, or operation and maintenance, items, the Women's Directorate requires a small sum. Only one capital vote was overspent and that was for a photocopier in the Legislative Assembly Office, which was required for the purposes of the election.
The final result of the year's operation was an annual deficit, Mr. Speaker, of $16.5 million. This drew the accumulated surplus down from over $80 million to less than $64 million.
The annual deficit was less than that previously shown in Supplementary No. 2 for the year. The first reason for this, of course, is the lapses, which are a normal occurrence in the Yukon and which, for the most part, are merely being revoted again this year. The second reason is an increase in our revenues, especially the formula financing grant. This grant is subject to a number of external factors, which are constantly reviewed by Statistics Canada. The latest revisions to the formula inputs reflect the health of the Canadian economy and provincial finances. These factors have had a very positive impact on the formula and the bottom line of the government.
Despite this unexpected infusion to the formula, an annual deficit in excess of over $16 million was incurred, and this clearly cannot go on forever. We must mind our future spending and do our utmost to ensure that our appropriations are spent on the programs that matter most to Yukoners and are spent in the most cost-effective manner possible. We intend to do this, and I'm certain that all members share that goal and will work with us to achieve it.
Mr. Speaker, again I would remind members opposite that the expenditures in the bill before members are for the finalizing of the accounts for 1999-2000 and are, in fact, retroactive approval for several departmental votes, which were overspent by the previous government.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Okay, I'll just go to the question. Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: I think the ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No.2 agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue with clause-by-clause debate on Bill No. 22.
Bill No. 22 - An Act to Amend the Elections Act - continued
Chair: We are currently on clause 409 of An Act to Amend the Elections Act, Bill No. 22. I believe that Ms. Duncan had the floor last.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this act and the specific clause we're debating are very straightforward. I would commend it to members, as I have done on my previous remarks, and also remind members that we have accepted worthwhile amendments - an amendment that was put forward by the member from the Yukon Party. And we have moved on to 409 with regard to boundaries and the function of the commission. It spells out the function of the commission: review the existing electoral districts established under the Electoral District Boundaries Act and make proposals to the Legislative Assembly as to boundaries, number and names of the electoral districts of the Yukon.
Now, members opposite were trying, once again, to suggest there was some issue with regard to detailing the work to be done, but this section merely states what it is that previous boundary commissions have done. For example, the most recent one by Mr. Lysyk, section (d), deals with the number of electoral districts and this is entirely in keeping. So, there is nothing untoward. There is no suggestion of anything other than clearly enunciating the work to be done by the commission.
Mr. Fentie: Well, when we left this debate some days ago, the Premier and I were discussing this clause for one specific reason. The amendment, as it's structured and states, has included, over and above what the old legislation spelled out in this particular clause, the word "number". Now, the Premier has said, on many occasions, that there is no hidden agenda in this bill - no hidden agenda and no untoward motives. Well, let's just try and explain for the members opposite where we, in the opposition, are at with that.
We didn't think there was a hidden agenda on September 27, when we went to SCREP. Well, little did we know, a few short days later - or months later, or whatever it was - that we would be debating on the floor of this Legislature a motion with the agenda items from the meeting in SCREP. We didn't know there was a hidden agenda there. We didn't know, when the Liberals committed to pass the former government's budget, that that meant clip it, snip it and turf out anything that might be beneficial to non-Liberal supporters. We didn't realize there was a hidden agenda in their passing of the budget.
When they said they were going to review community development fund, tourism marketing fund, trade and investment fund, and fire smart, we didn't realize that the hidden agenda was to cancel the programs. When the Liberals made the commitment to rebuild the Yukon's economy, we didn't realize that the hidden agenda was to dismantle it first. When the Liberals committed to bringing forward a budget this fall that was going to address their priorities and be the first step toward rebuilding our economy and the first step toward healthier communities, we didn't realize that there was a hidden agenda to make government bigger. When the Liberals said they were going to review the options for the ports in Skagway and Haines, we didn't realize that the hidden agenda was not to proceed with those options and virtually landlock the Yukon Territory, thanks to the visionless government. We didn't realize that hidden agenda was there. The list goes on and on and on. That's why we're questioning this clause.
The commission, as it is structured with this amendment, will also bring forward proposals to the number of seats in this Legislature.
We in rural Yukon have to fight to maintain fair representation. The number of seats in this Legislature is a key element of fair representation in this territory. So, can the Premier, to expedite debate, get on her feet and amend this clause by removing the word "number" and the commas before and after? Then we can move along. Would the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, and again I will explain to the member opposite, who has spent some time outlining that the member opposite does not have any faith or trust in this government, and the member opposite has that as, I suppose, his right.
I'm asking him, then, to take it away from the personal issues and focus on the legislative drafting that has been done here. The drafting has put in "number" for very specific reasons, so that the role of the commission is clearly outlined.
I remind the member opposite that the difficulty around some of these issues is that we want to take a proactive stance in terms of dealing with the issues of boundaries as opposed to waiting for a legal challenge, such as was suggested by the other parties in this Legislature last spring.
This is not - and the member opposite suggests that rural Yukon is fighting to maintain its presence, and that's the member's viewpoint. There's nothing to prevent, in dealing with this, the electoral district boundaries commission perhaps purchase into the member opposite's view, saying that there should be more seats in rural Yukon and less in Whitehorse. There's nothing to prevent the commission saying that Whitehorse should be represented by two members or one member. There's nothing to prevent all of that.
What we're doing is opening up the possibilities. We aren't afraid of that. I don't think Yukoners are afraid of it. In fact, I know Yukoners aren't afraid of it, because they've asked us to do this.
All we're doing with this clause - and no, I will not amend it, because this spells out what the boundaries commission has within the realm of the possible. Everything. They can talk about boundaries, they can talk about area, they can talk about names, they can talk about number of seats. There's nothing to prevent that, and all this is saying is that they can have the discussion. It still comes back to this House, and it goes back to the public. All this does is open the discussion. It opens a door, rather than slamming the door shut and implying a closed mind.
Mr. Fentie: Well, first I must correct the member opposite. This isn't personal. It's not personal at all. And I would further go on to correct the member opposite that it's not that I don't have any faith in this Liberal government; I don't have any faith in any Liberal government, wherever they are - federally or territorially.
The problems we face in this territory today, for the most part, can be directly attributed to Liberal governments, as far back as you want to go. Mr. Chair, this is not a closed-minded approach. This Legislature should decide and discuss the number of seats in this Legislature before any commission does. This commission, as structured, should only be dealing with the area boundaries and names of electoral districts, not coming forward with proposals of changing the number of seats. Because quite frankly, if you look at the Lysyk report and if you look at the historical data that's involved here with the number of seats in this Legislature, there has been one exception made already for rural Yukon, which is Vuntut Gwitchin. That means to me that we obviously have a problem with our population base being centred in Whitehorse.
Therefore, in all probability, increasing the number of seats in Whitehorse is what's going to happen. Now, will the Premier get on her feet and explain to this House what her position is on the riding of Faro - keep it or discard it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll get on my feet and talk about the necessity of every single Yukoner to be represented in this Legislature, and I'll talk about the need for every single Yukoner to be represented well.
The member opposite is saying that because section 409, which outlines what the commission should do, includes the word "number", there is some issue with that section. Will the member opposite then please explain why, in the Electoral District Boundaries Commission Report, 1991, there is a section D, recommendations, the number of electoral districts. And it raises Faro, Vuntut Gwich'in, Klondike, Kluane. If we didn't include this, how could the commission deal with it? Will the member explain that?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, it's this government that wants to bring forward amendments to the Elections Act. Now, whether the word "number" is in this amendment or not is the issue here - number of seats. This is all about a commission that will focus on number of seats in this Legislature, due to population distribution.
What we are saying on this side of the House is that we have 17 seats today, and that should not change. Now, you may want to have the commission look at the areas, the names of electoral districts and the boundaries. Fair representation in this House is what this issue is all about.
Now, I asked the Premier to give us, in this House, her view about what's going to happen to the Faro riding. Is the Faro riding going to be supported by the Liberal government to continue as a riding with a seat in this House, or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as a member of this House, I'm not going to prejudge the work of an electoral district boundaries commission. And, as the Premier and as a member of this government who has brought forward amendments, what we have said very clearly to all Yukoners is that we care about this issue and we care about representation. It's not a focus on number of seats. The member opposite is trying desperately to make an argument where there isn't one to be made.
What the commission is focusing on is, in each area, things like density and rate of growth, accessibility, size and physical characteristics, facilities and patterns of transportation and communication, and available census data, just as the previous government proposed. As well, it's focusing on number of electors appearing on the most recent official list, any special circumstances, boundaries of municipalities and, for the first time in legislation - in election legislation and in boundaries commission - considering boundaries of First Nation governments.
Is the member opposite suggesting that that's not important - that public input, which is required under this legislation and this amendment and which was not required under the previous act that their government passed. And this was much to the horror of members of the opposition who proposed reasonable amendments, which they refused to accept, unlike what we have done and already demonstrated.
Mr. Chair, section 409 talks about boundaries, numbers and names of electoral districts. We continually refer to the Member for Klondike as the Member for Dawson, because the Klondike riding has changed over a period of time. At times, it has included Eagle Plains, at times it has not. It's perfectly reasonable that the commission, which will be composed of five reasonable Yukoners, should be mandated to do the job that we, the Legislature, have asked them to do. And we, the Legislature, will consider their recommendations. That's all we're asking.
The member is trying to suggest all sorts of spurious motives, and is trying to drag in some kind of argument where there isn't one to be made. This is a reasonable, positive amendment, and it simply reflects the work of previous commissions.
On page 51, since the member seems unable to find it, of the electoral district boundaries commission - number of electoral districts. I do not believe the member, in all good conscience, really believes what he's trying to suggest.
Mr. Fentie: Well, you bet I believe it, because the Liberals across the floor are supported here in Whitehorse, period. Rural Yukon has always had a problem in dealing with that issue, because rural Yukon, far too often, has been forgotten. Now, this government, across the way, in six to seven months has already given us too many examples of how they turn their back on rural Yukon. That's what the issue is about - fair representation. There's no need to charge this commission with dealing with number of seats. Why? Why is that? The original legislation doesn't have that in there. It's legislation developed with the Lysyk report in mind. Why the difference? Why is "number" in here now and wasn't in the former legislation? Will the minister explain the rationale for adding "number"? What's the reason?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To address a deficiency in the legislation, for the same reason that "public input" is required in this amendment. It was a deficiency in the previous act.
Mr. Fentie: No, it wasn't a deficiency in the previous act. What rationale does the minister have for making that statement?
This change, this amendment has been brought forward by the Liberal government opposite, making the claim that the original legislation was deficient. It's not so. The deficiency here is with the government across the floor not understanding that the big issue for this Legislature to deal with is the number of seats in this Legislature and fair representation for rural Yukon. Rural Yukon is, quite frankly, tired of getting kicked around by Whitehorse. Rural Yukon wants fair representation in this House, wants a fair share of the government action, not like it's getting now.
Everything out in rural Yukon that was slated to happen and was happening, this government has taken great pains to ensure that they shut it down. So that's why we're taking issue with this amendment, and we're saying remove "number" from this clause, and then exactly what this commission is going to be doing will be much clearer. Will the minister remove that one word to expedite debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Speaker. It addresses a deficiency in the existing legislation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, in that case, continuing with this amendment as it's proposed may very well set up a deficiency in representation for rural Yukon in this House. Will the minister answer my original question? What is the Liberal government's position on the riding of Faro? Does the riding of Faro continue no matter what the commission says? Will the Premier support the fact that the riding of Faro will continue to have representation in this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already said to the member opposite that I support every single Yukoner being fairly and adequately represented in this Legislature by MLAs who do their homework, who do their jobs, and who come here to reasonably debate. That's what I support, and that's what I will continue to support. And I support all the individuals, no matter what their political stripe, who have the courage to put their name up for public office. It is precisely because I support fair and equal representation in this House that I have put forward, as the leader of the government, these amendments to this House for consideration, as I supported them in opposition and as I supported them in my working life.
Electoral district boundaries commissions are a fact of life. We've brought forward a very good amendment to the Elections Act to allow the electoral district boundaries commission do its work, and that's what we want it to do, because we believe in fair representation.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I don't agree, because the Liberal government opposite has already shown too many examples of where they're not being fair to rural Yukon. Therefore, we can only conclude that this is another attempt to further that cause that the Liberals opposite seems to have: to ignore rural Yukon.
This issue of number of seats doesn't have to be dealt with by the commission. They can deal with boundaries, areas and names. But if the Premier is saying to us, on this side of the House, that there's no problem here, then all we have to do is look at the fact that the whole set-up of ridings and seats in this Legislature is based on population. So, if we extrapolate that into what this commission's going to do, in all likelihood it's going to increase ridings in Whitehorse and decrease ridings in rural Yukon.
That is not something we accept on this side of the House. We want a firm commitment from the Liberal government, who is sponsoring this legislation, that rural Yukon will maintain its number of seats as they are today.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps this would help the member opposite. In 1991, under the NDP government, the way this section was written, the purpose of the commission was to review the area boundaries, names and representations of each of the electoral districts, and make recommendations respecting any way in which they should be altered.
All we've done is taken that section, 3(1), of a piece of NDP legislation that was passed when they were in government, which gave us the electoral district boundaries commission that recommended numbers. All we've done is modernize that in language, and have the legislative draftsperson take that section and put it in here.
It's not a plot. I don't know how many times I can say that to the member opposite. What we're trying to do is the right thing for Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we would hope that the Liberal government is trying to do the right thing. But again I point out that there are many, many examples of where they've done the wrong thing - the wrong thing entirely. So Yukoners are a little worried about this.
Now, the member goes back to 1991. Well, there have already been amendments to that, and it's right here. And the section we're dealing with, clause 409, does not have the commission dealing with number of seats in this amended legislation. So why is the minister being so stubborn about one word in a clause?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The member across asked me why I am. I'm not being stubborn. I'm standing up for rural Yukon. If this member really truly cared like she says she does, she would immediately get up and remove that one word from clause 409, and we can move debate along. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Act permits the Yukon Legislative Assembly to have 19 seats. At present we have 17. If there is no electoral district boundaries commission that is mandated to deal with area, boundaries, representation, names and numbers, how would the Legislature's size increase? Can the member answer that question?
Mr. Fentie: Because the recommendation, in all likelihood, is going to come back that boundaries be changed to reflect the changes in population, especially here in Whitehorse. They've increased in a number of ridings - probably beyond the 25-percent plus or minus. Secondly, there are decreases in rural Yukon. Thanks to this Liberal government, they're leaving in droves. People are leaving rural Yukon, so therefore, in all likelihood, there will be seats that exist today, right now in this Legislature, that may very well be below the 25 percent. What we're saying is that the legislation, as it is written, commits this commission to deal with number of seats. We're saying no. We should be dealing with how the number of seats are reflected in this Legislature, not a commission. This commission can make recommendations on electoral boundaries, on area, and on names.
Now, the Minister from Community and Transportation Services - we can see why that department is slowly going into a tailspin. All you have to do is think a little bit about this. Changing boundaries can be done without changing the number of seats in this Legislature. When you put "number" in this amendment, that commission is going to deal with the number of seats also. You can certainly change boundaries, electoral names and areas without decreasing or increasing the number of seats in this House.
Will the minister, in the spirit of cooperation, set aside this clause, and we'll come back to it later?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, no. The member opposite is making - his arguments are going around and around in circles. I feel like I'm watching a new puppy chase its tail, because it's not making any sense. I hope he's having fun.
Some Hon. Member: A point of order.
Point of order
Chair: On a point of order, Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like for the Premier to withdraw that remark, referring to my colleague as a puppy - absolutely disgusting. No matter how much the minister stands up and jokes about it, it's still disgusting.
Chair: Mr. Keenan, it was an analogy - a simile. Ms. Duncan did not refer to the member as a puppy. She said "like". Analogies and similes are not - I'm not asking for a withdrawal.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I appreciate that you're not asking for withdrawal, and that I was in fact making a simile. I have spent many conversations, albeit private and outside of this House, admiring the new friend of the member who addressed the remarks to me, and that's what came to mind.
I apologize if I offended the member's sensibilities. I do believe the member is making a circular - he's not making an argument. He's giving me a circular discussion.
If the commission does not have the ability to also deal with number and only deals with boundaries, then we end up with anomalies, or we could end up with anomalies. I'm not saying we would, because I'm not going to prejudge the work of the commission. We could end up with a situation where the boundaries commission, the five learned Yukoners, could recommend that Ross River-Southern Lakes should be two ridings. But they can't talk about increased numbers because the members opposite don't want them to touch that. They don't want them to talk about it. It could go whichever way these five learned Yukon individuals suggest, and in any event, they're only recommendations to the Legislature. The member opposite and I are responsible to Yukoners and to our constituents. We have to vote on this, and if the member would like, what we can suggest is something that other people whom I have worked with have suggested.
I am at a loss as to how to make this any more democratic or open or public or inclusive than we have in this legislation. All we're doing is asking five Yukoners, including his own party representative, to be named by the interim leader, to look at this issue and to consider these things, and that includes number of seats, because if we don't ask them to increase or to look at the numbers, how are they going to do that? How are they going to come back and say: "Look, the Yukon has grown, and there should be 19. Dawson needs two, Ross River, Teslin and Carcross should be two seats, not one." How can the commission come back and do that if we don't give them the authority to do it? How? The member can't answer that.
How can we show that the Yukon has grown? We don't want a judge coming down, issuing a judgement and telling us how to organize the Yukon Legislative Assembly. We want Yukoners to do it, and that's the ultimate point of respect for Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, firstly, I'm not making a circular argument at all. In fact, I'm quite to the point. Remove "number" out of the clause, and we'll pass this clause.
Secondly, the member knows full well, because I've stood on my feet here this afternoon and last week on this very issue. It's about representation for rural Yukon - period. Now, the minister is trying to convince me that rural Yukon will increase in seats. Well, how do you know it's not going to decrease in seats? Therefore, with that unanswered question, removing "number" from this clause even makes more sense.
Now, the minister has a duty to the Yukon public outside of Whitehorse. The minister has to deal with the fact that rural Yukon has great difficulty in being able to keep itself afloat because of the demands that Whitehorse puts on this territorial government. There are great differences out there between the City of Whitehorse and communities in rural Yukon - great differences - and in most cases, they don't get addressed. And this is an example of how to further that problem by allowing a five-member commission to come into this House with recommendations that may very well have an increase of seats in Whitehorse and a decrease in seats in the Yukon Territory.
With that Liberal majority across the floor, it's no big secret to this side of the House what's going to happen with these recommendations. Therefore, we're saying, don't charge the commission with number of seats. Let them review boundaries and areas and electoral names and districts, but do not charge them to deal with number of seats. That's what we're saying. If that's circular, then I'm missing something.
The minister has a duty to rural Yukon also, and it's high time she stood up for rural Yukon. What we're asking for is for this clause to reflect everything in it except that one word. Can the minister explain why she will not undertake to do that? If she's so convinced that this commission is going to be the answer, then why is the minister so worried about removing that one word?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already answered the member opposite's question. No, that will not be removed. It's in there to allow the commission to do the work. It addresses a deficiency in the legislation. I've answered the question.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, it adds deficiencies to the legislation, based on what representation is going to take place in this Legislature.
Now, the minister makes the claim that she has answered the question by just simply, offhandedly throwing it out that the other legislation is no good, the old legislation is no good, it has to be changed, and we the Liberals are the only ones who know how to change it to make better.
What we're offering here is a way to even make their changes better by removing one word. This commission should not be charged to deal with number of seats. And that's why this legislation and amendments that were brought forward recently, under the former government, section 409, reflected that. It did not charge or commit the commission to dealing with number of seats in this House.
Now, the minister seems awfully confident that this is the right legislation. How can the removal of one word submarine this wonderful piece of legislation sponsored by the minister? Can she explain that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not removing the word. I disagree with the member's friendly amendment. I've answered the question.
Mr. Fentie:I haven't amended it. I've been merely dealing with the minister on one word in one clause, clause 409. I haven't amended the clause. I'm suggesting that we could expedite debate and move along, with just one word being removed.
Obviously, the so-called cooperative Liberals across the floor are anything but. Now, the minister who brought this piece of legislation into this House probably should have done a little more homework on this.
But obviously that didn't take place, because they have an agenda here. That agenda is to focus on their support base and to heck with rural Yukon. It's just another example.
Now, the member doesn't have to agree with me. In all likelihood, she's not going to. However, we in the opposition who represent rural Yukon are extremely concerned about rural Yukon and we want to make sure this legislation isn't deficient. And we're saying that having that one word in this clause makes this piece of legislation deficient in itself. So we're asking for the removal of that one word.
Now, I haven't had any reason brought to this side of the House by the minister in the two days that we've debated this that shows me or comforts me that we can stand down and allow this clause to pass as it is. Now, if the member wants this to move along, then we're going to have to get some sort of assurances or comfort that this clause will not create a situation where we've got a real deficiency in representation in this House - Whitehorse versus rural Yukon. Can she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it doesn't matter what I say to the member opposite, we're not removing the word "number" in this clause, and I've made that clear to the member. The member opposite and I disagree. The member says it's not an amendment. Well, deletion of a word to a clause is an amendment. We're not amending that clause to remove the word "number." The member opposite and I disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I did ask for reassurance. Do you want to roll up your sleeves? I did ask for some reassurance and comfort that this clause, as it is worded, would not create a deficiency in representation in this House - Whitehorse versus rural Yukon. I didn't hear any assurance. I didn't get anything from the member opposite that would remotely resemble comforting the opposition and people in rural Yukon on what's happening with this amended legislation.
Will the minister at least give us an attempt at comforting rural Yukon that a deficiency in representation for them will not happen because of this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it cannot happen. These are only recommendations to the House.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, that's the crux of the problem. They are recommendations to the House with a Liberal majority across the floor. What we want from the minister are assurances that rural Yukon's representation in this Legislature will not decrease. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already done that. These are only recommendations to this House. The member opposite can accuse us of all sorts of things. They are accusations. They are Hansard for the member opposite to mail out. This is only empowering Yukoners to make recommendations to the Legislative Assembly. That's all it's doing.
Mr. Jenkins: I have listened with great interest to what the Member for Watson Lake had to say with respect to rural representation, and it is an issue. It is a major issue out there, Mr. Chair. I guess what the Premier is attempting to do is hang her hat and hide it behind a commission or a review on this matter.
The Yukon Act, which governs the number of electoral districts in the Yukon, has a couple of restrictions - one on each end. One is that the least number of sitting members we can have is 12. Now, perhaps it is appropriate at this juncture that we have a recommendation that we reduce the number of sitting members in this House to 12 - six from Whitehorse and six from rural Yukon.
When you start looking at case law that has been established under the Charter of Rights, electoral boundaries have had a deviant factor of no more than 25 percent. When it exceeds 25 percent, there has to be very just and ample cause. I guess the way it's properly stated is this: save for stated exemptions or undefined, extraordinary circumstances, boundaries must be drawn in such a way that deviations do not exceed a specific range, typically plus or minus 25 percent.
That's what we're dealing with, but we do have some extraordinary circumstances here.
Now, on the other extreme, in order to achieve this voter parity, if you want to look at it that way, Mr. Chair, we could expand this Legislature to 20 members. Under Lysyk, it went from 16 to 17. We can go to 20. But what will happen? Three more members will be derived from the Whitehorse peripheral areas. That is the only way to achieve voter parity, and it leaves rural Yukon - that area of Yukon that has created so much for the economic well-being of Yukon - cast adrift.
Under this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, we have taken virtually - I won't say every area - but most areas of government and created two distinct Yukons: Whitehorse and rural Yukon. This only serves to amplify that situation.
Now, why would the minister want to proceed in that direction, because at the end of the day, if this is allowed to remain in this act, we will probably end up with a couple more seats added to Whitehorse and perhaps not too many changes in rural Yukon. Again, it's representation by population, I guess. But when you kill all the economic incentives, when you destroy all the industry that exists in rural Yukon, and when you set government policies in motion that deter and detract from any kind of mining activity or oil and gas activity in rural Yukon, all you end up with is a central hub of activity here in Whitehorse. Now, why would the Premier want to do that, Mr. Chair? I don't know. That's where we're headed.
We're pretty well there now, but this will only serve to amplify and accelerate that move. That's not fair. That's not what democracy is all about.
Democracy is about fair representation. It doesn't necessarily always have to be equal. It has to be fair. That's why there are clauses in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been used as the basis for court challenge for voter parity and electoral representation. There have been decisions made. Granting some exceptions, undefined extraordinary circumstances - boundaries must be drawn in such a way that deviations do not exceed a specific range. Plus or minus 25 percent is a typical range, but it's save for stated exceptions or undefined extraordinary circumstances.
Mr. Chair, we are currently probably one of the most overrepresented areas of Canada. We are currently one of the most economically depressed areas of Canada. Mr. Chair, we need some hope, and hope isn't adding to this electoral body or redefining the number of seats and moving a whole bunch into Whitehorse. And I sense some of the stuff that's in the Liberal pipeline - that Liberal gas - is coming forward on the other side of the House, Mr. Chair. But at the end of the day, we want something that's fair, workable and representative, and maintains rural Yukon's presence in this Legislature. Why is the Premier so adamant that this clause must remain the way it is stated? Why can't she look at standing it aside and coming back with something more constructive to the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, I admire the member opposite's ability to generate Hansard, however incorrect it is, so he can fax it out to Faro. Too bad he doesn't have a candidate.
There were a couple of comments made by the member opposite that were quite questionable. There is a discussion between an official and me with respect to the Yukon Act. I understood it to be 19 seats, not 20. I will verify that.
The member opposite has talked about Faro representation.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Before I raise numbers in the House, I do my research. The Premier is wrong. The Yukon Act allows for a minimum of 12 and not more than 20. Now, if the Premier wants a copy of the Yukon Act, I'll be happy to send it over for her review.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's no point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, these facts will speak for themselves, and there's no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I indicated that there was a discussion between the official and me as to whether it was 20 or 19. My understanding had been 19, because of a desire to have an uneven number.
Now, I am happy. Perhaps the member is examining some - he says he does his homework; that would be a first for the member opposite. I'll be happy to examine it, and I would suggest, Mr. Chair, that in light of the hour, you report progress.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: How condescending of an attitude and approach does this Premier want to take in this House? Here's a government that's saying it's going to do it a new way and provide some more decorum in this House, and the whole approach is very condescending.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: On the point of order, I would refer the member opposite to his own remarks and to the fact that I had previously answered the questions very calmly and very reasonably. And the member opposite's own preamble was designed to engender and incite debate in this House. My manner was not condescending. I indicated to the member opposite that I had discussed it with officials, and I would look at it.
Chair: On the point of order, I find that there have been what I consider to be shots being fired across the floor from both sides. And in the Committee of the Whole, that is allowed, and there is no point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The time being close to 6:00 p.m., I would move that you report progress on Bill No. 22.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that I do now rise and report progress on Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 22, An Act to Amend the Elections Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 14, 2000:
Alaska Highway Pipeline Project: fact sheet; list of meetings since July 2000; speeches given in Whitehorse and Calgary
The following Legislative Returns were tabled November 14, 2000:
Income Tax Act (Federal): reason for an amendment
Oral, Hansard, p. 272
Income Tax Act, An Act to Amend (Yukon): taxation year
Oral, Hansard, p. 263-264
Beringia Interpretive Centre Gift Shop: letter (dated November 6, 2000) to Mr. McRobb, Member for Kluane, from the Hon. Mrs. Edelman, Minister of Tourism re contract status
Oral, Hansard, p. 183
Beringia Interpretive Centre Gift Shop: letter (dated November 9, 2000) to Mr. McRobb, Member for Kluane, from the Hon. Mrs. Edelman, Minister of Tourism re questions asked on November 6, November 7, and November 8, 2000
Oral, Hansard, p. 252-253, 283, 312-313
Beringia Interpretive Centre Gift Shop: letter (dated November 10, 2000) to Mr. Fairclough, Member for Mayo-Tatchun, from the Hon. Mrs. Edelman, Minister of Tourism re role of the Executive Council Office
Oral, Hansard, p. 343
Beringia Interpretive Centre Gift Shop: inventory list
Oral, Hansard, p. 253