Wednesday, November 29, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to the Arts Centre Act, I have for tabling a copy of the Yukon Arts Centre Corporation 1999-00 annual report and financial statement.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for filing with the Clerk a number of documents that describe 189 sole-sourced contracts from the Executive Council Office for the fiscal year 1999-00. These sole-sourced contracts total over $1.3 million and were authorized by the previous NDP government.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Liberal Government of Yukon to reinstate funding for the Community Development Fund to help create jobs this winter while ensuring a fair allocation of funding among communities and introducing a system of accountability.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Motor Vehicles Act amendments
Mr. McRobb:My question is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
The minister is pushing to amend the Motor Vehicles Act in a way that would increase responsibilities and safety risks for employees in her department. I'm referring to the 17 or more highway patrol officers who will be charged with the task of ticketing drivers, impounding vehicles and so on. The minister has not explained how she plans to mitigate these risks to employees or resolve the serious, outstanding safety concerns. Will the minister acknowledge the seriousness of these safety issues and set this legislation aside until she has done the necessary preparation, including consulting the public?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is referring not to the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, but to a task analysis and risk assessment of work being carried out on weigh station and enforcement staff. The task analysis and risk assessment has nothing to do with the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act before us, as the member well knows.
The task analysis and risk assessment are being done because, in 1999 and again in 2000, under the previous administration, staff employed in the weigh station and enforcement section of the department raised concerns relating to personal safety. We are dealing with those concerns.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's wrong. The minister knows that there is a connection between this study and the amendments in the bill.
Now, the minister and this government were so desperate to find legislation to table this fall, they neglected to do their political homework. It's clear that this legislation was rushed. It is not even mentioned in the Premier's throne speech. Now we have controversial legislation disguised as housekeeping being forced on Yukoners. This has raised alarm bells in the public and among public service employees.
Why won't the minister wait until the current task analysis and risk assessment has been completed before moving ahead on these controversial amendments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I repeat, for the benefit of the Member for Kluane, that there is no connection between the task analysis and risk assessment and the minor amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that are currently before the House.
The department consulted on this task analysis and risk assessment, and we determined that we needed to undertake this work to determine the level of risk involved in the work that the staff perform. And we are expecting the final report in December or in January, and at that time I am sure that it will be available for the member.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister is not answering the question. She fails to recognize the direct connection between these safety concerns and these amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that this government didn't even consult on.
Now, the minister needs to show some leadership here. She is not paying attention to the safety of her employees. The minister isn't interested in what Yukoners have to say. She didn't even notify them, Mr. Speaker. The first that Yukoners knew about this was through a radio report about two weeks ago - nothing from the government.
Now, we have put on record how similar legislation in British Columbia has resulted in serious risk to highway personnel who are now forced to be accompanied by RCMP officers when they are carrying out these duties on the open highway -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member get to the question?
Mr. McRobb: Will the minister now agree to stand down this legislation to allow time for consultation and proper analysis so that we don't have to make the same mistake here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: In general debate on the Act to Amend the Motor Vehicles Act, the Member for Kluane was accusing my staff of harassment of the trucking industry. Now, he's defending them. I find that very interesting.
The safety concerns were raised in 1999 and again, in January of this year, the previous administration did nothing about them. This Liberal government is dealing with those concerns, which have nothing to do with the amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act.
Question re: Gun control legislation
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. The Yukon's new Liberal Member of Parliament is on record as being opposed to the federal gun registration law. This provides this Liberal government with one more link in their so-called "special relationship" with the federal Liberal government. What steps is the minister now planning to take with her federal counterpart to resolve the deep concerns that Yukon people have with this law?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I, too, am opposed to Bill C-68. I'm on the record with that opposition; this entire Liberal government is on record as being opposed. I note with interest that the federal NDP has supported gun control, so it's interesting that the official opposition has the same apparent relationship with their federal party as we do.
A letter is in the works. As soon as I have a federal minister under this new government to send it to, it will be on its way, expressing our continued opposition to this legislation.
Ms. Netro: It's no secret that the northern Canadians don't like this law, and the federal minister almost lost her seat because of it. A short while ago, the minister said that the Yukon was looking for other avenues to fight this legislation. The registration deadline is only a month away, and the clock is ticking.
Has the minister suggested any specific options to the federal minister, such as postponing the registration deadline for six months while a long-term solution can be worked out?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I'm sure the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is aware, we have just had a federal election. I have said a letter is in the works to go to the new minister as soon as one is named, and we will continue our opposition to Bill C-68. Having a Member of Parliament who is from the same party will be a benefit.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't answer my question. The minister obviously isn't making much headway on the legal front, and the Supreme Court of Canada has rendered its verdict. The only solution left now will be to have a political solution.
Perhaps the minister could suggest that a panel of northerners, possibly chaired by the new Yukon MP, be set up to make recommendations to the federal Cabinet. Would the minister be willing to do that, to ensure that Yukon views are heard in Ottawa and that Yukon concerns are addressed?
Will she make that suggestion?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: That's an interesting suggestion from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and one that I would be happy to look at.
The federal government is well aware of our opposition to Bill C-68. The problem has been getting them to do something about it, and we continue to work on that.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'd like the House to join me in welcoming a former teacher and colleague of mine, Clarke Blysak, who is up in the gallery.
Question re: Water testing
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services today.
I would like to read a motion to the minister and see if it sounds familiar. The motion reads as follows:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that local water testing in the Yukon would aid the private sector and all levels of government in obtaining accurate water-test results; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to promote the private sector development of a certified water-testing laboratory in the Yukon.
Now, that motion was presented to this House by the Member for Riverdale South, while in opposition. It is still a valid motion. I would ask the minister, now that the Liberals are in government, when she is going to implement it? Or are the previous Liberal motions, like many of their election promises and commitments, nothing more than window dressing? It was a good idea in opposition. Why isn't it a good idea now? Is the minister going to move ahead on it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Community and Transportation Services is leading a review of the demand for a local water-quality testing lab in Whitehorse. We expect to have the report completed early in the new year.
In 1994, DIAND had studied the feasibility of building a water lab in Whitehorse, but determined it to be unfeasible. We are seeing if the situation has changed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we just look back into recent history, the Tagish water advisory issued in September and the recent Watson Lake advisory have two things in common: potable water testing was done on a monthly basis. When the water was finally tested, nothing was found. It's like closing the barn door after the horses have all left.
Can the minister advise the House if she will undertake to implement a more frequent standardized water-testing program in Yukon communities to protect Yukon's potable water supply? Will she at least do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are standards in place. Safe water supplies are a priority for all Yukoners. Municipal water supplies are tested in accordance with municipal water licences or under direction from the environmental health branch, Department of Health and Social Services.
The Department of Community and Transportation Services maintains community water supply points in the unincorporated communities of Carcross, Ross River, Old Crow, Keno and Tagish. Current test results from C&TS-maintained community water supplies indicate that zero levels of microbiological organisms exist. There are standards in place, as I said and as the Member for Klondike is well aware.
Mr. Jenkins: What has been adopted is the Canadian drinking water standards. What isn't consistent here is a standardized program of testing across the Yukon. The effluent discharge is the federal domain. They have in place a complete set of regulations and rules for testing in that area. The potable water supply, which is much, much more critical to the health of Yukoners, does not have a standard, across-the-board set of rules for all Yukon communities. That's what I'm asking the minister to implement along with a lab to conduct the testing. Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway:Incorporated municipalities are responsible for the provision and safety of their water supply and are subject to regular inspection and testing by the medical health officer or health officers. Currently, environmental health, the Department of Health and Social Services, provides laboratory testing for microbiological organisms for water supplies that are submitted by the incorporated, unincorporated and First Nation community water supplies.
I say again that we are leading a review of the demand for a local water-quality testing lab in Whitehorse, and that report should be completed early in the new year.
Question re: Travel by political staff
Mr. Fairclough:I would like to follow up on the question I asked the Premier yesterday. The Premier said that she didn't believe her chief of staff had done any outside travel on government business prior to October 6. Now that she has had a chance to review the record, can the Premier now confirm that there was a trip to Vancouver that doesn't appear in the travel list she provided?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I should point out for the member opposite that when I indicated that, I was not certain of the entire travel list that had been provided to the member opposite, in terms of individual staff travel. I indicated to the member opposite, however, in the same answer that I would go back and check on the details of the chief of staff's activities since her appointment. I have not had an opportunity this morning to do that; however, I will commit to provide that answer to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it would appear that this trip might have more to do with the Premier's other role as the Minister of Economic Development. Perhaps the travel in question came out of the department's budget rather than from ECO, where political staff travel normally comes from. Can the minister tell us why one of her top political advisors would be going to Vancouver to discuss Economic Development department business?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is clearly on some kind of a fishing expedition about the activities of caucus and government staff. I would tell the member opposite, if he has an allegation to make about the activities of one of the staff or actions taken by one of my staff, he should make it. I would ask the member opposite, in all graciousness, to make that accusation or to ask me directly outside of this House.
This is some kind of a campaign by the members opposite to discuss the actions of political staff and individuals who have no opportunity to defend themselves. Our staff is made up of honourable individuals. We have asked them to do specific tasks, and they are doing them. And Mr. Speaker, we appreciate the good work of our political staff, as well as the public servants in the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I'm asking questions about the actions of this government in spending taxpayers' dollars. They said that they are open and accountable. Well, be open and accountable to the questions. Just answer the questions instead of hiding behind written forms and so on. You haven't been in government all that long. We need the Premier's help with this. She can answer as Premier, or Minister of Economic Development - whichever she prefers.
At the time period we're talking about, the contract situation between the City of Whitehorse and Argus Corporation had become pretty tense, with talk of possible lawsuits on both sides. Can the Premier tell us if she or any member of her senior political staff held any direct discussions with Argus officials about the situation, either here or outside of the territory?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to ask a question about a contract that was signed by the previous government, I'll answer that question. If the member wants to continue to engage in smear tactics about individuals and actions they may or may not have taken in their jobs, I'm not going to answer that question - it's entirely inappropriate. My staff, be they political or the hard-working public servants of the Yukon, do a very good job. They are honourable individuals, and they have behaved honourably, as well as this government.
We have been open and accountable to the member opposite. The member opposite asked me in a letter dated October 20. I responded. He asked for the details of every bit of Cabinet and caucus travel. I provided him with a written answer to that.
The member opposite is simply on a fishing expedition in an attempt to smear an individual.
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, certainly, not answering questions is getting to be the norm around here, and mailing is getting to be the norm too. And that's not right. But I'll take another crack at getting an answer from the Minister of Health and Social Services, if I could. And this is in response to the non-answers that the minister gave me yesterday.
Now, in July, the minister said that a committee had been established to develop criteria and protocol for implementing the CT scan program. He also said that one staff member was completing training and at that time he recognized that planning had been going on since the unit was promised in response to a direct request from the Hospital Corporation. Now, this doesn't sound like an unplanned and a knee-jerk response to me, and that's in the minister's own words, Mr. Speaker.
So now could the minister please say, given the planning that has been ongoing, when we can expect the implementation of a CT scan program?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, I respond by stating what I stated yesterday. We are an open and accountable government. We believe in partnership. We believe in consulting with those people who have expertise in their various fields. We don't have all the answers. Much like the government of yesterday, they had all the answers, and guess what? Monies were put into budgets when no clear analysis was done of whatever they were going to do, so obviously you end up with a shortfall. And I think, for us, we are doing our homework. We don't want to be in that same kind of a situation.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I would suggest that the minister should check with the deputy, because the deputy minister was a major part of this whole process. Now again yesterday, the minister said that if this item was put into the line budget and was approved, they would be preparing for the eventual purchase of a CT scanner and would be doing the training.
Now, the minister should follow his own advice and do his homework. That is what should be happening here. He should read the budget, Mr. Speaker, because it is contained in there, and it has been approved by this government. So why won't the minister drop his condescending act, drop the bafflegab and give the program the green light?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The theatrics of the member opposite are always something that comes to the House. Maybe some day an Emmy should be given.
And I think that we have to stick to the facts. I have stated over and over again that we are working with people who have knowledge, understanding and the ability to make good decisions. Of course, Mr. Speaker, that takes time. And that is where we are at right now.
The technical review committee is assessing, analyzing and looking at - with the Hospital Corporation - what they want to do here. I am not going to say, "Just go purchase it," just because I saw it in the store or in the Superstore. This is a major item. It takes time to do the right thing, and I have to say that the committee is working very hard in making sure that we make the right decision for the future of the Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: I am pointing out the facts, Mr. Speaker, and one fact I will again point out is that this government that we have ruling today had a completely different attitude when they were in election mode. That's a fact.
Here's another fact. The CT scanner is only one of the items in this budget that the Liberals campaigned on and which the minister has not implemented. That's another fact.
Here's another fact, Mr. Speaker. The SA rate increase, the home care programs, and the facts go on.
When will this minister stop hiding behind a review committee chaired by someone who doesn't even live here any more, and when will the minister honour the commitments in his government's own budget? When, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am quite willing to submit to the members opposite a review of what the technical review committee is really looking at, and I'm quite willing to do that in a legislative return in the future, if they so wish.
Again, Mr. Speaker, you have to look at the fact that there are a lot of things happening in a variety of areas in the government and, of course, as I said earlier, we don't knee-jerk respond just because it was in the budget. We're finding that, for many of the items put in the budget, very little review had gone into them, very little discussion, very little analyzing of what the issues would mean. This is what takes time.
This government does its homework. I'm sorry to say, Mr. Speaker, if the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is anxious, it's obvious because they didn't do their homework and they feel if they just throw money at it, it magically will appear. Of course, we know what happens then. We end up with many more problems because you haven't looked at all the issues.
I really trust the review committee. The former chair of the review committee is gone, but that is not the review committee; that's just one person. We have many people on this review committee and they're all local Yukoners who live here in the Yukon, and if we need technical advice we go outside for that.
So, thank you, Mr. Speaker, we are moving on all these issues.
Question re: Health care, government advertising
Mr. Keenan: Again, Mr. Speaker, I accuse the minister of just smearing bafflegab around the territory.
And no, Mr. Speaker, I do not need a legislative return. This is called oral Question Period, where the ministers are supposed to be able to stand on their feet and speak to the policy. If they don't know what the policy is, they should be speaking to what should be the policy. I point that out for a little bit of political one-on-one for the members opposite.
Now, Mr. Speaker, during this month, there have been two health report cards released as newspaper advertisements by this government. The first report card provided figures on wellness and the health status. Some of these figures dated as far back as 1994. Why is the minister basing these so-called health care report cards on information that is six years old?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I believe it is wonderful that Yukoners can find out where their health care is at today. The unfortunate thing, Mr. Speaker, is that sometimes you can keep your head in the sand and not realize that Yukoners want to know what their health care is doing for them. They also want to know where they can go with it in the future. In order to do that, you have to analyze issues as they appeared in the past, where we're at now and where we may want to go in the future.
Why we would not want to use history as part of our future is a concern to me. Everything has to be moving along with some kind of reference points. If the member opposite is concerned about using reference points as to where we were and where we are now, I think the member opposite has a few problems. Because, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners are very clearly behind the issue of knowing what kind of health care system we are offering.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, again I'm amazed. I'm absolutely amazed. The fact is that since 1994, this is the fourth Health minister. Obviously, this Health minister doesn't have a success on his horizon, so he's going back to look for successes and making them look like their successes.
Well, Mr. Speaker, Yukoners know that the level of health service has decreased. The New Democrat government put in a budget to do something about it and now the Liberal government of the day is doing absolutely dick about it. That's appalling.
Now, there has been concern expressed that some of these figures may be misleading. In fact, one of the senior medical personnel in the territory has publicly disagreed with some of the information.
Now, from his previous line of work, the minister surely knows that an effective report card contains suggestions for how to improve in areas that need improving. It's called homework, Mr. Speaker.
Before the minister gives a standard lecture about consulting, doing it right -
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely. What specific direction has the minister given his department to address areas where these report cards suggest improvement is needed?
Hon. Mr. Roberts:I appreciate that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is finally recognizing that these report cards have some value. I think that's marvellous that the members opposite have finally realized that Yukoners want to know what and how their health care system is operating.
The issue of report cards is also a two-way street. We're looking at feedback from the communities. We're looking at feedback from Yukoners. We want Yukoners to have some idea of how they can give feedback to us as to how we can improve the system. We don't have all the answers, Mr. Speaker.
We are trying to work with Yukoners. The department is taking under advisement all responses. There will hopefully be many of them, because we have just begun the report card process. This is going to be an ongoing activity of this government and many governments in Canada, because this is what is required for the future, because Canadians have to know what health care costs are and where we're going with our health care system.
Mr. Keenan:I can agree with the minister. It is a two-way street. So, Mr. Speaker, I would actually suggest that the minister get on either side of the road instead of chasing his tail in circles and implement the budget that contains many of the issues that we're talking about here today.
The second report card provided information on health expenditures - the ratio of residents to health care workers, long-term care, beds and costs. Yukon averages are compared to Canadian averages. The minister surely recognizes the many unique factors that contribute to our escalating health care costs.
Now, I'd like to ask the minister what measures were used to account for the Yukon's higher cost of living or to compensate for the fact that many Yukon doctors do not work full-time? And please, no bafflegab - just answers.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has just undermined a profession that provides Yukoners with basic health care, by criticizing whether they work half-time or full-time. I don't think that's in the purview of that particular person to make that kind of a statement, Mr. Speaker. That is the right of each individual to do what they wish to do. They don't have to be criticized for what they want to work or how they want to work or what time they want to work. I am shocked. I am appalled that the member opposite would take this kind of tack. That's a criticism of a very strong professional group of people who provide our basic care.
And, Mr. Speaker, the important part of looking at cost is one of the reasons why we want Yukoners to understand what our health care system is all about. We want to be proactive, Mr. Speaker, not reactive. And that's why we are taking our time: to ensure that we are consulting with all the appropriate professionals, with the Yukon public so that they can also have input as to where we should be building our health care system. That's one of the reasons we are looking at more proactive things. And we want Yukoners to feed that back to us - so we are doing the right thing.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 41, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 41
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Yukon First Nations should not be held solely responsible for causing all the delays in settling Yukon Indian Land Claims because there has been successive changes in government at both federal and territorial levels, changes in comprehensive claims policy and continuing judicial interpretations of aboriginal rights and title over twenty-seven years of negotiation; 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 claims settlement compensation.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have on the floor for debate today is a very important motion, Mr. Speaker. It is a very important motion in that it addresses one of the major concerns and impediments to the settlement of land claims here in the Yukon, and that is the repayment of monies advanced to the First Nations for negotiating purposes.
Now, any situation that continues for some 27 years - almost 30 years - in ongoing negotiations, and does not come to a conclusion cannot be construed, by any stretch of the imagination, as being the responsibility of one party only at the negotiating table. It is an issue that must cross more and be attributable to other parties at the table. There are basically three parties at the negotiating table in Yukon: the First Nations, the federal government and the Government of Yukon.
In the body of my motion, I mentioned a few areas, and I'd like to expose a few myths with respect to the motion. One myth is that Yukon First Nations are solely responsible for all of the delays in the 27 years it has taken to negotiate land claims in the territory. Now, that's contained in the body of the motion.
The other myth I wish to expose is that the Liberal government in Canada, under Prime Minister Trudeau, was responsible for starting and accepting comprehensive claims in Canada. This simply isn't consistent with historic fact.
Prime Minister Trudeau and the Liberal governments were not supportive of aboriginal rights in Canada and, in fact, had prepared the 1969 White Paper on Aboriginal and Treaty Rights that proposed doing away with these rights. Let me quote some excerpts from a speech made by Prime Minister Trudeau on aboriginal treaty rights in Vancouver. He presented that speech on August 8, 1969.
And I quote in part, "We have set the Indians apart as a race. We've set them apart in our laws. We've set them apart in the ways the governments will deal with them. They're not citizens of the province as the rest of us are. They are wards of the federal government. They get their services from the federal government rather than from the provincial or municipal governments. They have been set apart in law. They have been set apart in the relations with governments and they've been set apart socially too. So this year we've come up with a proposal. It's a policy paper on the Indian problem. It proposes a set of solutions."
Mr. Trudeau went on to say, "Well one of the things the Indian bands often refer to are their aboriginal rights and in our policy, the way we propose it, we say we won't recognize aboriginal rights. We will recognize treaty rights. We will recognize forms of contract, which have been made with the Indian people by the Crown and we will try to bring justice in that area and this will mean that perhaps the treaties shouldn't go on forever. It is inconceivable, I think, that in a given society one section of the society have a treaty with the other section of the society. We must be all equal under the laws and we must not sign treaties amongst ourselves and many of these treaties, indeed, would have less and less significance in the future anyhow but things that in the past were covered by these treaties like things like so much twine or so much gun powder and which haven't been paid this must be paid. But I don't think that we should encourage the Indians to feel that their treaties should last forever within Canada so that they be able to receive their twine or their gun powder. They should become Canadians as all other Canadians and if they are prosperous and wealthy they will be treated like the prosperous and wealthy and they will be paying taxes for the other Canadians who are not so prosperous and not so wealthy whether they be Indians or English Canadians or French or Maritimers. And this is the only basis on which I see our society can develop as equals. But aboriginal rights, this really means saying, 'We were here before you. You came and you took the land from us and perhaps you cheated us by giving us some worthless things in return for vast expanses of land and we want to reopen this question. We want you to preserve our aboriginal rights and to restore them in us.' And our answer - it may not be the right one and it may not be the one which is accepted but it will be up to all of you people to make your minds up and to choose for or against it and to discuss with the Indians - our answer is 'no.'"
That's Prime Minister Trudeau back in 1969, August 8, Mr. Speaker. The answer was no.
"If we think of restoring aboriginal rights to the Indians well what about the French who were defeated at the Plains of Abraham? Shouldn't we restore rights to them? And what about the Acadians who were deported - shouldn't we compensate for this? And what about the other Canadians, the immigrants? What about the Japanese Canadians who were treated so badly at the end of the last war? What can we do to redeem the past? I can only say as President Kennedy said when he was asked about what he would do to compensate for the injustices that the Negroes had received in American society. 'We will be just in our time. This is all we can do. We must be just today.'"
Mr. Speaker, that last sentence makes sense. We must be just today.
And on that, I suggest that what we need here is an arrangement that will advance the land claims situation by proposing that all parties agree to an equal share of the funds, a one-third, one-third, one-third split, a three-way split, with the federal Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and the First Nations each picking up a third. At least the suggestion of this sort of a compensation package would move this initiative forward.
If we look back at what Mr. Trudeau said then and what has happened, the Liberals have once again changed their minds. So, what made the Prime Minister and the Liberals change their minds? Well, it was the Calder case, the Nisga'a and the Supreme Court of Canada that caused this 180-degree about-face of the Liberal government.
Attempting now to attribute the recognition and protection of aboriginal rights to the Liberals, and especially to Prime Minister Trudeau, is an attempt to rewrite the history books. It was the First Nations people themselves who fought in the courts for this recognition. They deserve the credit, along with the judiciary. They are who deserve the credit for changing this and reversing 180 degrees another ill-thought Liberal position. That was the first myth.
Let me deal with the second myth concerning the federal Liberal government laying the blame for the 27-year delays in settling land claims solely on the Yukon First Nations. There have been many, many changes in policy over this period of time, Mr. Speaker - many changes in policies at the federal level that contributed and caused delays, judicial decisions that had to be looked upon in light of the ongoing negotiations. These are areas that have caused delays, not the First Nations themselves.
We go on and look at our now famous Minister Nault and his very short and infrequent visits to the Yukon during his tenure as Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. There was also his initial presence at the gold show in Dawson City where, after he gave his famous speech there, he was persona non grata in Yukon.
And we look at what Mr. Nault said about the loans and repayments. He went on to say, "The loan issue is always going to be a matter of concern. And we made it clear that the national policy doesn't allow us to change our process, but we can certainly work at other ways of resolving those issues," said Nault."
Well, Mr. Speaker, here's an opportunity for the Government of Canada, the Government of Yukon and the First Nations to sit down and address one issue that has basically stopped land claims here in the Yukon - the issue of loan repayment.
Now, if we go and look at some of the other news clips at the time, Mr. Speaker, about what Mr. Nault said: "Some of the issues that need addressing at the land claims tables are specifically loans taken out against land claims settlement. First Nations have already spent up to half of their settlement in land claims negotiations and some are trying to negotiate forgiveness of those loans." Can you blame them, Mr. Speaker?
Half of the monies that are forthcoming after land claims are settled have been used up in negotiating. That was never envisioned at the onset - never envisioned at the onset. Nault said that the forgiveness of those loans will not happen. The loans issue is always going to be a matter of concern, and we make it clear that the national policy does not allow us to change our process. But we can certainly work at other ways of resolving those issues, and the key reality is not so much one or another issue, it's the whole scenario of just what is on the table here in the Yukon.
People look very carefully at what's going on across the country versus what's being offered in Yukon. Now, that kind of focus is a little bit more definite. If you synthesize what Mr. Nault says there, the Yukon is so small an area, we really don't matter in the vast scheme of things in Canada. We're just a small, little, colonial entity stuck up there in the north, with a little bit of history attached to us. That's about it.
But, really, you don't matter up there. We've got to look at the vast Canadian scheme. It doesn't matter if it's land claims, gun control, taxation, all of these areas; that's the Liberal attitude toward the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. We're just a colonial power.
The interesting part of the equation, Mr. Speaker, is that we could move ahead, we could see a resolution of a number of these other land claims, because there are only really two major federal impediments in the way of four of those seven land claims that I'm aware of. This is probably one of the biggest stumbling blocks, and we haven't been able to address it. Well, it's a credit to the federal Liberals and now the Yukon Liberals, who just want to continue stumbling along in the dark. The Yukon Liberals are now the apologists for the federal Liberals.
We used to be gaining more and more independence from Ottawa, Mr. Speaker. That's not the case. What we're seeing is a firm reattachment of the umbilical cord between Yukon and Ottawa. What we're seeing, Mr. Speaker, is more and more of a connection between Yukon and Ottawa, and more often than not, it's not serving the interests of Yukoners well.
Mr. Speaker, what I'm proposing in this motion is that we don't blame everything - in the delays of land claims settlement - on the First Nations, and that, with respect to the money that has been advanced to the First Nations to negotiate land claims, all three parties at the table share equally in that cost, and furthermore, that we hope that by doing that, we can see a resolution of this major impediment.
And I would urge, Mr. Speaker, all-party and unanimous support of this House on this very important issue.
Mr. Speaker, during the time of land claims negotiations, it's kind of awkward for a new federal minister to get a handle on what is transpiring in the process, given that, since the inception of land claims, we've probably gone through 20 federal ministers of Indian and Northern Affairs - some 20 ministers. And it's no wonder that things are not moving ahead.
Let's recognize that the portfolio of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs is also dynamically opposed, in some respects. On one hand, we have a minister responsible for First Nations; on the other hand, at the same time, this minister is responsible for northern development. And the scales don't always tip equally, Mr. Speaker, in either direction.
Currently, we see some federal Liberal initiatives. Just recently, there was the creation of a new park here in the Yukon, and you'll have to excuse my pronunciation, the Asi Keyi natural environment park, which was created in the Kluane Game Sanctuary. The Territorial Lands Act - the withdrawal order went through on November 14 of this year. No one has really heard about it, but for the federal government to have undertaken this kind of an initiative, the Liberal government would have had to have signed off on it here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. We haven't heard boo. Here's an initiative where one of the ministers would have been accorded a wonderful opportunity to make a ministerial statement - but no.
Probably this area was left aside and not dealt with because it might have rocked the boat a little bit in the federal election that was underway here in the Yukon. It might have rocked the boat and maybe tipped the scales in a different direction. So we'll just leave it alone; we'll ignore it. But it must be made abundantly clear that for this initiative to have taken place, the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals were in collusion with each other and they knew full well which way the direction was going to go with respect to the creation of another park.
What is so upsetting is that we are using land claims or the protected areas strategy to create another park here in the Yukon, not the due process of the territorial Parks Act or even the federal National Parks Act. And this appears to be just the beginning. So how can we, on one hand, blame the non-settlement of the land claims on First Nations for causing the 27-year delay when, behind closed doors, these kinds of initiatives are underway and occurring. What we have is the creation and the withdrawal of an additional 2,739 square kilometres of land in the Yukon. Does anybody over there know anything about it? Not very likely, Mr. Speaker.
We have an obligation as Canadians, as Yukoners, to see a just and fair settlement of First Nations land claims.
I'm hopeful that the impediments that are in the way of seeing a conclusion to the seven remaining land claims here in the Yukon can be addressed. We can't continue to procrastinate and go on forever and a day, seeing these situations unresolved.
My motion provides for a three-way split of the costs. I would encourage the Liberal government of the day to give careful consideration of the implications and support this motion. I'm sure the official opposition will see their way clear to support this motion, because it's going to benefit not just First Nations, but all Yukoners.
We have a horrible economy, Mr. Speaker. It's getting worse. We're losing Yukoners constantly. They're moving to other areas of Canada to find work. They're moving to other areas of Canada to gain the benefits of viable employment, because it doesn't exist here. The only viable entity here in the Yukon is government, and all we're seeing currently under this Yukon Liberal government is more government.
We need to look at some of the areas that historically the Yukon has relied upon to provide livelihoods for Yukoners. We need to see the development.
But now it appears, Mr. Speaker, that the federal Liberal government, in collusion with the Yukon Liberal government, is going to make Yukon one massive park from border to border, one massive protected area.
Yellowstone to Yukon - one only has to look at some of the documentation today coming out of some of the environmental groups to see the extent of the withdrawal of land that is being proposed.
To see the extent of very highly mineralized - known mineralized regions - being suggested or proposed as eco-regions or parks, I find very disconcerting. Really, what we do is create these wonderful parks - Kluane is an example, Mr. Speaker. It's a beautiful park, but all Parks Canada's involvement out there is keeper of the gates. If you don't want to hike in there or spend some time on foot, you really can't see any of that park.
This looks very good on paper, when you're sitting in an office in an ivory tower over in Hull, Quebec in the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, but the reality of it has to be addressed and we have to live with it constantly here in the Yukon. A park preserves an area - yes - but a park could also benefit us by way of our visitor industry. Kluane is not even close to realizing its potential because of the impediments of access into that area.
We're seeing another park created in the western part of Yukon, right next to Kluane, in the Kluane game reserve. At the end of the day, what are we going to have? Land claims will probably go on. The mandate will be extended, negotiations will continue and the First Nations will continue to be in debt. Very soon, it's not going to be 75 or 85 percent of the negotiated funds flowing to the First Nations that are being used up to negotiate the land claims; it will be all of it. Then what happens? What is the incentive to even consider going on?
There isn't any; there isn't anything whatsoever. If you want to look at the total amount of money we're looking at, on a one-third, one-third, one-third basis, Mr. Speaker, Canada gives away more than that to some Third World countries in the course of a year. These are our fellow Canadians - our aboriginal Canadians - our First Nations we were speaking of. It's only fair and fitting, Mr. Speaker, that we treat them fairly and in a timely manner. This one-third, one-third, one-third split would do that. Hopefully, it could advance the cause of land claims, and I'm asking for the support of all parties here in the House today for this very important motion, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. McLarnon: I have to admit that I understand the intent of the motion put forward to us, and I believe that the motion speaks truth in many ways. In fact, the way I see it, it's a motion that comes out of frustration with the process that's taking far too long. It was never expected, by any of the parties, when they originally thought of this idea. The way I look at it, the Member for Klondike has brought up a point that all Yukoners think about as one of the long-running and unfortunate circumstances and involved discussions that in no way could be predicted. In no way could it have been anticipated when the umbrella final agreement happened, along with all the optimism that was brought about at that time.
So, I understand the frustration expressed by the Yukon Party. I understand the frustration expressed by the First Nations that are being affected by this. What I would ask is that this House considers Mr. Jenkins' motion for what it says. There are implications in what it asks for, and I will consider all speakers and what they have to say before making my mind up on this.
I thank the Member for Klondike for bringing this very important issue to the floor of the House, and I would give kudos to the Member for Klondike for bringing this to the attention of the Yukon public.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon recognizes the significance of the loan issue to the finalization of the outstanding land claims. It would, however, be inappropriate for Yukon to formally negotiate or become involved in the loan repayment issue. It is a federal issue, and Yukon is not going to assume responsibility or financial obligation for the resolution of the loan issue. It's between Canada and the First Nations.
Yukon has never been a party to any agreement on negotiating loans, nor on their repayment. The issue is strictly between Canada and the First Nations.
Also, Yukon was not a party to the drafting of chapter 19 of the umbrella final agreement, which sets out the manner in which the loans will be paid back and the rate at which interest will accrue.
However, Yukon recognizes that the loans repayment issue is the product of a lengthy process, as the Member for Klondike has pointed out, which will cause an inequity among Yukon First Nations. Yukon recognizes that this may have a huge negative economic impact upon those First Nations that have taken longer to finalize final agreements and that it may be a disincentive to settle.
Mr. Speaker, I have many more notes on this particular subject. In fact, Yukon has raised the loans issue with Canada and with First Nations and has encouraged the parties to work toward a solution, but Yukon is not in a position, nor is it appropriate for Yukon, to become involved in the loan repayment issue, which is between the First Nations and Canada.
I would like to suggest, however, to the Member for Klondike, that we - and I am certain that all members of this House - are very committed to the settlement of outstanding land claims.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would therefore like to move THAT Motion No. 41 be amended by deleting the words following "Yukon Indian Land Claims and agree to" in the second paragraph and substituting for them the words: "continue negotiating all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all three parties."
And I would put forward this amendment, which is a friendly amendment, and I will speak to it shortly, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Porter Creek South that Motion No. 41 be amended by deleting the words following "Yukon Indian Land Claims and agree to" in the second paragraph and substituting for them the words: "continue negotiating all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all three parties."
Hon. Ms. Duncan: While some of the delays in the settlement of land claims might be attributable to either one or the other of the parties, the most basic reason for the lengthy time period in negotiations is that negotiations like the Yukon First Nation claims have never been undertaken before, and all parties miscalculated the length of time needed to complete them.
The Yukon's process is unique in that it requires an agreement in principle, an umbrella final agreement and then First Nation final agreements with each First Nation. And this has taken longer than expected.
Other Canadian First Nations may see a much shorter time period between the AIP and the final agreement, which does not result in the high loan accumulation to the time of compensation. None of the parties anticipated that some First Nations would be in a position of having to pay back a large portion of their compensation.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I would remind the members opposite that - and this applies to the Yukon government, I believe, previously and certainly ourselves - we have raised the loan issue with Canada and First Nations and encouraged the parties to work toward solutions. Yukon is not in a position, nor would it be appropriate for Yukon, to become involved in the loan repayment issue, which is between the First Nations and Canada.
We are, however, absolutely committed to the settlement of outstanding land claims, and the Member for Klondike has raised that important issue on the floor of the House today. And the amendment, which is a friendly amendment to the motion, recognizes that commitment and recognizes that all outstanding issues must be negotiated to the satisfaction of all three parties.
I commend the amendment to the motion. I believe it more substantively reflects the situation, and I would encourage members to support the amendment.
Mr. Jenkins: On the amendment, when I read the motion that I have before the House, Mr. Speaker, and I look at the proposed suggested friendly amendment, what I see is an amendment that renders the basic motion sterile. All it does is perpetuate what exists. And I do have to disagree with a couple of the points made by the Premier when she spoke to the motion, in that she said that none of the parties at the outset recognized how long it was going to take to negotiate land claims, because it had never been done before here in the Yukon.
That's very much the case but, over the period of time, over some approximately 20 federal ministers of Indian and Northern Affairs, Mr. Speaker, there have been constant changes in federal policy, and those changes have added to the negotiating timetable. There have also been some federal court decisions handed down, and I add that these decisions have impacted on the land claims negotiations here in Yukon. Virtually all of these initiatives are in the federal domain. Yes, I agree with the Premier that the Yukon wasn't included in the funding for negotiation purposes nor the repayment schedule, but what we have today is a situation where land claims are stalled, and they're stalled because of two primarily federal issues that are on the table.
One is this area that we have before us in the form of a motion today, Mr. Speaker. If we're not to go back to the table and have kind of a way out that could be agreed between all parties, we really are no better off than we were before this motion came to the floor of this House.
So, at the end of the day, we're just back to square one. We're back to negotiating and addressing - as the amendment says, "continue negotiating all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all three parties."
Well, Mr. Speaker, that may never happen. That may never occur. Negotiations are a give-and-take type of situation. The parties that are going to have to compromise their position, if this situation is going to move ahead, are one, the federal government, and two, the Government of Yukon. Unless there is an initiative from those two fronts, we are going to be right where we are today for a great, long period time into the future. We're not going to be moving ahead.
I would very much like to see this motion proceed in its original format. I'm having a great deal of reluctance supporting the amendment, because it basically renders sterile the original motion - a suggestion for how to proceed. I don't believe that is the way we should go. We should have some sort of a game plan, some sort of a solution, some sort of an offering. We do not. We have to go back to the land claims negotiating table. If Yukon is going to be successful, we have to have a resolution of land claims in the not-too-distant future. On the surface, this amendment to the motion basically says what we all know. It doesn't offer any window of hope or opportunity.
I'll give some thought to supporting the amendment after I listen to the Premier and her thoughts as to why it's a good amendment.
I believe we can come to some sort of a consensus but, at the end of the day, if the amendment to the motion is not going to move the process ahead, I can't support it. I don't believe it does, Mr. Speaker. I'll take it under advisement and have a look at it. I don't really believe that it's going to have the effect that the motion originally intended; it basically strips it and renders it sterile. That's not the intent. By saying that we'll continue negotiating to the satisfaction of all three parties versus having something definite and concrete to go to the table with, I think we're losing sight of the intent and the direction the original motion took us. For that reason I think it's probably not in our best interest to support the amendment. But, as I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I'll wait to see what the Premier has to say when she rises and speaks to the motion.
Mr. Fentie: At first glance on the amendment, I can understand why the mover of the motion has some concerns with this. I think we all can agree that this motion should receive unanimous support in this House. However, I can also understand the side opposite, the government, looking at the motion at first glance and being a little bit apprehensive about judiciary responsibility falling on to Yukon's plate, which none of us agree to. So, the amendment that was brought forward by the side opposite - and I understand what we're trying to do here - could be strengthened a little bit.
And I'm only going to put this on the floor in verbiage, and maybe the members opposite will want to rewrite their amendment, and that would be that we go with the amendment as it states by adding: "after continuing and negotiating all outstanding issues to the satisfaction of all three parties and having the federal government deal immediately with section 87 and the loan-repayment issues." Amend this motion so that those issues are put on the federal government's plate where it belongs.
The First Nations are saying that they want section 87 dealt with and that, because of the extended length of negotiations, in some cases over half of the monies that they settled for, in agreeing to the umbrella final agreement, have been used up. I think it's incumbent upon the federal government to deal with those two issues - specifically the loan-repayment issue. So if we could word this amendment to reflect that and ensure that that is in there and put it on the federal government's plate where it belongs, I think we can pass this motion as amended and move along.
Would the members be interested in redrafting the amendment to reflect more of the fact that it's the federal government's fiduciary responsibility?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, just on the amendment, I know where the government is coming from in bringing forward this amendment and, just to follow up the Member for Watson Lake's comments on this, it does change the intent of the motion. And I think what the Member for Klondike was wanting to get at is to have some more push in resolving the compensation issues.
I agree with the Member for Watson Lake that maybe we could add a few words to that - continuing the outstanding issues - but there could be some focus on those two other issues that are out there: resolving the repayment and section 87. We should not call it section 87, though. It is - I don't know what other words to put in there, but I will look forward to the Premier's response on this. Maybe she could add one sentence to that.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would suggest that in order to reach total House consensus on the amendment and the motion, that we respectfully request the Speaker to allow a five- or 10-minute recess so that House leaders may convene to discuss options on this motion - or the three leaders, Mr. Speaker, so they can look at the content of this. It is certainly a worthwhile motion to be considering at this time.
Unanimous consent re recess to consider Motion No. 41
Speaker: Order please. Does the Chair have unanimous consent to call a 10-minute adjournment for the purpose of the leaders conferring?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I believe that the Chair does have unanimous consent. I now declare a 10-minute recess.
Speaker: I will now call the House back to order.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker:The hon. Premier, on a point of order.
Unanimous consent to not proceed with Motion No. 41
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The three leaders have met and agree that the settlement of land claims and the federal issues of compensation and taxation are a matter of urgent and pressing necessity and it is a very important motion for this House. We agree that this matter must be agreed upon and discussed by the three leaders and brought forward at a subsequent date.
Therefore, I would ask the unanimous consent of the House, not to proceed with Motion No. 41 at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: Official opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Unanimous consent to not proceed with Motion No. 53 and Motion No. 54
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, in order to expedite the business before this House, the official opposition at this time requests unanimous consent for Motion No. 53 and 54 not being called at this time. It is our view in the official opposition - and with great concern - that we get on with debating the supplementary budget on behalf of Yukoners and would ask this House to support such a request.
Speaker: Is there an unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do the members wish to take an abbreviated recess because we have just had one?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess, with a recess at 4:30 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: I believe Mr. Jenkins has the floor. One second, please, Mr. Jenkins.
I have to say, while I recall, that I do believe Ms. Duncan adjourned debate at quarter to four; and so I am going to go against my better recollection, and I will say that it's true, Ms. Duncan did, in last speaking to this, have Hansard. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. We were in general debate on the supplementary budget. The Member for Klondike had asked several times that consideration be given by the management committee to the issue of health funding and an examination of the amount of Yukon's health care costs.
Certainly, that's a nation-wide concern. It's being dealt with nationally by Health ministers, premiers, first ministers, the Prime Minister; and locally I indicated to the member opposite that we would certainly be prepared to give it consideration for the management committee.
Mr. Jenkins: The issue before us and the review that I have requested of the Minister of Finance on the Department of Health and Social Services is a little bit more encompassing. If you look at the total amount of dollars that are spent within this department and look at it on a per capita basis, it's one of the highest in Canada on a per capita basis.
Does the minister have any kind of broad sweep of the brush as to what the per capita spending on health care is in Canada versus Yukon? I'm sure that's going to come up. When we look at it across the board, we break it down to doctors and we break it down in a whole series of areas. But when we look at the whole department, encompass the same initiatives in other jurisdictions and look at what it breaks down to on a per capita basis, the Yukon, from the figures I have seen, is one of the highest, if not the highest, in Canada.
Now, I haven't seen how it's breaking down in the Northwest Territories because their figures are not broken out into two separate entities for all of the areas for Nunavut and N.W.T. They don't seem to report, and the figures reported on are 1999 figures, and Nunavut just came into existence a short time ago, Mr. Chair.
I would like to ask the minister if we have any breakdown of figures, because this is an important area that we're discussing in general debate, and I would like to follow through with some of the policy initiatives and how they're impacting on the budget in this area.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I don't have those figures at my fingertips. I can provide the information to the member opposite or he can ask the Minister of Health in the line-by-line Health debate. If he does not have them at his fingertips, I am certain that the Minister of Health and Social Services will likely have them in preparation for that debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm sure that the Minister of Finance can confirm that the Yukon has some of the highest expenditures per capita of any jurisdiction in Canada. Is she aware of that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would suggest that it is, yes, certainly, among the upper levels. Whether or not we are in fact the highest, I'm not going to say until I have seen the figures.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I share that concern with the minister. I have a hard time breaking out Nunavut and the Northwest Territories from the equation as to how their cost centres are going to be established. However, we do have one of the higher costs per person for the provision of health care. How we spend our money is probably of equal importance and has to relate the value we receive for the expenditures.
Does this Liberal government have any policy with respect to the initiatives that they are taking in-house that used to be in the private sector under Health and Social Services, and now are gathered in, being brought into the fold and operating under the umbrella of Health and Social Services. Seeing that this kind of initiative is an initiative that has to be dealt with at the management and Cabinet level, because it's not something that is dealt with in-house in the department, I would prefer to ask a number of these initiatives on this area of the budget of the Minister of Finance. Because they are more encompassing than just Health and Social Services. The decision has to be made at the Cabinet level by this government because they are undertaking a new policy initiative and new policy direction. So there has to be some policy in place. Just what is that policy, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is suggesting that we have adopted some kind of a policy on privatization or non-privatization. That is not the case. That has not happened. Management Board, Cabinet, the entire government and the entire country are very concerned about health care costs. The member opposite knows that in those health care costs there are some legislated costs and there are some that are not.
The only new policy is the very clear commitment of this government of dealing with the issue of substance abuse and that is a very clear, not so much policy, but commitment of this government. And that is in the health field.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, there have been a number of areas in the private sector that have been brought under the umbrella of the Government of Yukon by the previous NDP government, and now it's continuing under this Liberal government. Does the minister have any idea where we're headed with respect to the takeover of NGOs in the private sector? How many more will occur? Or is it occurring only when they have problems? What kind of policy are we establishing in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite, I believe, is making reference to decisions around the Gibbs Group Home issue and other issues in that particular area. I would remind the member that this government is very concerned about people, and we're interested in solutions that meet people's needs in health care, substance abuse, addictions, child care and health needs. That's just within the Department of Health. We're interested in solutions for people.
There has been no change in the policy with respect to how this government relates with NGOs or with Yukoners. We're interested in working with them and finding solutions for people.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the solution usually ends up with a program, which is out in the public domain, being taken over by government. There must be some kind of an initiative within government in order for this to occur. If we look at the takeovers of government that occurred in Health and Social Services just in the last term under the NDP and that are currently occurring under this new Liberal government, there has been a whole series of them, Mr. Chair.
Well, if you look at the Salvation Army home, it was taken over by Government of Yukon - the Crossroads program and the group homes previously, and the group homes presently. More and more Health and Social Services areas are coming under the umbrella of government or are government run, whereas previously they were in the private sector and we had a fixed cost associated with them.
We know we still have a tremendous degree of problems in these areas even after the government takes them over, Mr. Chair, and we just can't seem to get a handle on it. That's why I've urged the Minister of Finance to address the whole department with a management audit to look at all of the areas, probably save and except for the Whitehorse General Hospital. But there's a whole series of areas where we're spending a tremendous amount of money, Mr. Chair, and I'm not convinced that we're receiving value for our money.
We only have to look at the new initiative - the substance abuse initiative or the alcohol abuse, it's all encompassing - and see the new directions that the Liberals are taking or will be taking and the costs associated with that, vis-à-vis what we currently are spending in that area.
So obviously, it has been recognized that the current expenditures on substance abuse are not producing satisfactory results, and we're going to embark on a new direction. Now, that holds true for a great number of the areas encompassed by Health and Social Services. The minister doesn't have a handle on his department, Mr. Chair, if you want to just spell it out in a very forthright manner. And it's an awfully big department to get a handle on, and it's a difficult department to manage.
But at the end of the day, all we're seeing on the floor of this Legislature, Mr. Chair, is a budget that constantly calls for a supplementary budget for Health and Social Services because the department is overspent. And if you look at the budget for the last decade, you get a clear picture of all of the departments and which ones have been consistently overspent. And at the top of the list is the Department of Health and Social Services.
Now, as legislators, the only opportunity we have to examine what's going on in the department and in the Department of Finance is when the budget is presented or when we see the supplementaries. And the supplementaries are usually more of an indication of how well the departments have performed and how close to budget they are. And when governments change, the new government is always going to say that the previous government underbudgeted, or they didn't do it right and we're going to do it better. But we've been through three different governments. We've been through a Yukon Party government; we've been through an NDP government; now we're into a Liberal Party government. And the same holds true for all of the parties, Mr. Chair.
I believe that there was one area where the Yukon Party did balance the budget and did actually show a reduction over expenditures. But if we look back over a decade, Health and Social Services has been consistently overbudgeted, and it calls for the Minister of Finance to address her responsibilities and have a look to see what's causing these continual overexpenditures in this department. When you add up the mains, the supplementaries and the capital, and if you want to look at it on a cash-flow basis and you add in the accounts receivable for this department, we're at about $150 million-plus in O&M and capital and in AR for the year. That's a significant component of the budget. It by far exceeds any other department within the government of the day - all 23 departments, Mr. Chair.
The minister has indicated that there isn't any policy. It appears that everything is approached on a case-by-case basis before they're brought in-house. So, what we're talking about is crisis management. Is that exactly what's going on? Does that encompass what is occurring within the Department of Health and Social Services, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member started out his comments by saying, "We know we have a tremendous degree of problems." There are a number of issues in health care, and they aren't just Yukon issues. They're national issues.
The member has suggested a management audit. I have repeated several times in the House that it's a worthy suggestion.
The member has said that we must determine value for our money. Well, that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to demonstrate that to Yukoners through the accountability report cards, and are accounting to Yukoners and Canadians on health care. We're trying to do that and I would invite the members opposite to take a close look at those report cards.
And we have only just begun. They are a step in demonstrating to Yukoners and answering exactly the question the member started out this afternoon asking. In comparison with the rest of the country, how are we faring? And there are a number of issues: how are we faring in the rate we immunize our children, in full-term pregnancy birth weights and number of doctors? There are all of these issues that are Canadian health indicators. And we are trying to communicate how Yukon is doing in that respect with Yukoners through the report cards and through other methods.
The member opposite took a cursory glance at the discussion paper on the report on alcohol and substance abuse addiction and determined that it would cost too much. Well, I can tell the member opposite that it is costing Yukon society and Yukoners far, far too much not dealing with this issue. And this government is going to deal with this issue. And the member opposite might not think that it is money well-spent, but we sure do.
The member also launched into personal attacks which, quite frankly, this side of the House is increasingly weary of, because they are not conducive to the discussion. The member has said that the Department of Health and Social Services is difficult to manage. Well, nothing worth doing is easy, Mr. Chair. And we are going to do it and we are doing it.
The member's favourite phrase is that at the end of the day this department is consistently overspent. Well, I disagree with that. The health care costs in Yukon and throughout the country are an issue. They are a major issue. And how we as a territory and how this country deals with those health care costs is a critical issue. The national leader of the NDP talked about it through an entire election campaign. And we will be judged as to how well we deal with that issue over the next four years.
I have every confidence in the Minister of Health and in all members of this government to deal with the health care costs issue and with other issues.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I certainly don't share the Minister of Finance's opinion with respect to the department and the minister responsible for the Department of Health and Social Services. On the contrary, Mr. Chair, I think that at the end of the day we'll see a very dismal record and dismal performance by that minister.
Mr. Chair, the issue is that we are spending a great deal of money on health care in the Yukon - a tremendous amount. One only has to look at an examination that was done of all jurisdictions in the world not too long ago. It clearly points out that Canada is indeed spending a great deal of money. It's not the greatest amount per capita spent by any nation, but when it comes to the value received for the money spent, we're way down the list. That's where I'm heading, Mr. Chair. That's where I'm heading with the suggestion that a management audit be conducted of the Department of Health and Social Services.
I believe it is quite important that, one, Yukon delivers adequate health care, and two, that we receive value for our dollars. The Premier, the Minister of Finance, is ultimately responsible for this area. I hope she's not trying to pass the buck to the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Mr. Chair, we have a whole series of problems within that department, and I have heard nothing about the government doing anything but throwing more money at these problems.
Now, if we look at the issues surrounding substance abuse, it would appear that we're setting up a whole new agency to deal with it. So obviously we have determined somehow that the existing programs, in spite of the tremendous expenditures we've incurred dealing with these programs, are not producing satisfactory results.
We've got a government that's recognized that and dealt with that one little area. I applaud them.
I didn't know I had the ability to dim the lights, Mr. Chair, but -
Some Hon. Member: Well, you can chill the air; you can dim the lights.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I thought that was the Liberals who were going to dim the lights. They'll probably go off, under their governance, completely. Will the last one leaving the Yukon turn the switch off?
But, Mr. Chair, this Liberal government has recognized one area of the department where there's a problem and where we're not getting the results we believe we should be obtaining. And I don't have a quarrel with spending more money on an initiative as long as we have some indicator or some way of measuring. And of all of the individuals that come and bang on my door for assistance in dealing with government, a large number of them are for issues pertaining to the Department of Health and Social Services. And there are also a large number of them dealing with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. So we have the same minister responsible for both of these agencies and both of these areas of government, Mr. Chair.
So, as I said earlier, this minister has a big task.
Mr. Chair, if we can conduct an overview of one area of the department, why can't we extend that overview? And all the minister has said is that she'll take it under advisement, she'll look at it. But I haven't heard any commitment as to a guarantee that we will conduct a management audit on the Department of Health and Social Services. I'm very, very confident that if this were undertaken, there would be many areas where we could streamline and enhance the delivery of services and, at the same time, reduce costs. I'm sure that's what we could do within that one department of government, Mr. Chair.
Because there's such a windfall of money and a $64-million surplus that has fallen into the Minister of Finance's lap, Mr. Chair, there's no real desire on the part of government to address the basic needs and the basic necessity of government, and that's to provide the highest consistent level of service to Yukoners at the best possible cost.
We're attempting, on the first part of the equation; the second part of the equation, at the best possible cost, is out the window. It's not even there for consideration.
So, if the minister can commit to a management audit of the Department of Health and Social Services, I can move on to the next area I have for general debate on this budget, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already given the member opposite as much of a commitment as I am prepared to make on the floor of this House, and I would invite him to move on.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the minister not believe this would be a very worthwhile exercise, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is asking me for my opinion. That question is not appropriate at this particular point in the debate. If the member wants to proceed in general debate in Finance, I'm more than happy to do that.
We have discussed the management audit of Health in the Yukon for several hours now. I have committed to the member opposite that we have a management audit committee, that I am prepared to look at the suggestion, and that I have already begun to wrestle with this issue, as have our Cabinet and caucus.
We are dealing with it and that is as much of a commitment as I'm going to give the member. I'm not going to talk about what the terms of reference of such an item should be. I'm not going to go any further than how far I have gone, and if the member opposite is not satisfied with that, then that's unfortunate.
Mr. Jenkins: To succinctly spell out what the Premier said, it was that if the member is not satisfied, he can take a hike. Because really, at the end of the day -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, the member opposite is rephrasing my words. He is not quoting me, and rephrasing is not appropriate. I challenge the member. That is not what I said.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. The Premier is just irritated because she can't address her responsibility. I asked her just to address and answer the question succinctly and as well as she can. There is no point of order. It's just a dispute between members.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. Keenan.
Mr. Keenan: On the point of order, I certainly agree with the Member for Klondike. The Member for Klondike asked a question. I do believe, as I listened to it, that he got a very distorted answer. The Member for Klondike condensed it and put it across the floor into simple words. There is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: On the point of order, reinterpretation in a derogatory fashion of what the minister has provided as information on this side of the House is inappropriate.
Chair: On the point of order, in this case this is definitely a difference between members. There is no point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Well, before I was so rudely interrupted by the Premier, I was asking a very specific and succinct question. And I notice that the Minister of Renewable Resources was jumping into it. Probably the next thing that we will see before this House is a request for the language cops and the Liberal caucus to have bullet-proof vests and packing pistols, mace handcuffs and the whole nine yards, like the way the Minister of Community and Transportation Services will have her highway enforcement officers dressed very, very shortly, Mr. Chair. We already have the game branch dress that way - packing their big pistols - and I guess that language cops will be next.
So I was interested that the Member for Riverside didn't get into the debate. He is our resident Liberal language cop, but fortunately he deferred to the Member for Riverdale North.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we could throw in the Member for Mount Lorne, but it wouldn't add anything to the debate, so we'll just go back to the initial question.
But I will be interested to see the Liberals march in here very soon, suitably attired with their bullet-proof vests and their side arms.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, they will probably have to be registered until the federal Liberals take them away from them, but we will have everyone in the Yukon registered and disarmed. The biggest armed camp will be government.
I point out that that was another federal Liberal initiative that's carefully being implemented by this Liberal government, even though, on the face of it, they say they disagree with it.
But let's go back to the issue before us, and that is this supplementary budget that spends some $37 million, shows a 6.5-percent increase in the cost of government, and doesn't produce any additional winter jobs for Yukoners. It doesn't do anything to improve the economy. It's just government spending money on more government.
Now, I think it is very, very important, Mr. Chair, that government looks at itself - looks inward, at the areas in which it's having difficulty addressing and keeping costs in line. Let's not just blame it on the rest of Canada or say it's a Canadian problem. Let's focus on the Department of Health and Social Services. Yes, it's happening all across Canada, but we have a problem here in the Yukon that the Minister of Health and Social Services is not addressing. That is the constant overexpenditure by that department - a consistent overexpenditure. It's the largest line item of all 23 line items in the Government of Yukon, and it is consistently coming back to the trough to meet its obligation for more and more and more money.
It deserves a special examination. It deserves a management audit. The only way we are going to get to the root of the problem is if the Minister of Finance commits to a management audit, as she rightly has the ability to do. Whether she exercises that ability is another thing. It is certainly within her domain. But it's easier to hide behind something and just throw money at it than it is to get in there, analyze the situation and fix it.
That's a function of government, and usually the first step in such an initiative is a management audit. Now, why doesn't the Minister of Finance agree to conducting this kind of a management audit? She said she'll take it under advisement, she'll have a look at it, but she won't commit.
So, where are we going to be at the end of the day? We're going to be right where we started. I'm looking for a commitment from the Minister of Finance to implement a management audit on the entire Department of Health and Social Services, save and except the Whitehorse General Hospital. Will the minister commit to that undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I really must correct the Hansard record regarding the Health expenditure by the member opposite. Health is not consistently overspent. It is certainly a rising expenditure, and it's certainly a major expenditure of the Government of Yukon.
And I have already committed to the member opposite that the government is looking inward, as the member has suggested. I've already made the commitment that Health is part of that inward look. My commitment is so strong on this that I have taken immediate steps to strengthen the Bureau of Management Improvement, the management audit function of the Government of Yukon. We have re-established it within the Executive Council Office, as recommended by the Auditor General. We have put that function in place. Health will be considered as part of that inward look. I have given the member a commitment already on the floor of this House.
Mr. Jenkins: Basically, what the minister is saying is that it's an inward look across all government. But the focus should be on those departments that we are having difficulty with. The one department that we're having the most difficulty with, and the most concerns arise about, is the Department of Health and Social Services. That's a given. That has been consistent for a good number of years, Mr. Chair, and Yukoners are suffering as a consequence of the inability of this government to deliver adequate health care. They have created and continue to perpetuate a two-tiered health system in the Yukon - one for Whitehorse, another one for rural Yukon. That's an established practice now, and nothing seems to be changing, because we have a Minister of Health who won't address his responsibilities and go out and actively recruit health care professionals to the Yukon.
You have to recruit them and retain them, and you have to put in place a fair commensurate package that's going to retain our existing health care professionals. That obviously isn't being done, seeing the exodus of health care professionals here in the Yukon.
We're going backwards, and the minister chooses to give out a report card in the form of a whole two-page centre in the Yukon News, spelling out what a wonderful job his department is doing. When one digests the information provided, one can clearly see that a great many Yukoners look at it and say "Wow, now that doesn't accurately reflect what's transpiring in the Yukon. It's an awful lot of money, but I can't get in to see a doctor."
If I come to Whitehorse to have a child, I can't go anywhere else. I have a hard time finding some government agency that's even going to look at me and look after me in Whitehorse, Mr. Chair. They virtually tell me to take the bus. Go down and wait for a couple of weeks. Other northern jurisdictions do not have that problem - not to the same degree as the Yukon does. The Northwest Territories has established a series of residential apartments in Yellowknife and in Inuvik for the sole use of people in those centres to obtain health care services of one sort or another. We don't have that here in the Yukon. We have some residences in the hospital that you may or may not access, but it's pretty tough. And that's just one little problem with health care.
Group homes are obviously having problems. The minister won't identify with them.
It requires a management audit to look at the far and wide encompassing range.
With the broad stroke of a brush, the Minister of Finance - the Premier - says we're going to have an inward look. Because the Auditor General said so, we're going to re-establish the management audit team. Well, I read the Auditor General's report and I read the notes attached to it and I didn't see anything in there that said that there was a need to re-establish the management audit. I didn't see anything there, Mr. Chair, so I don't know where that information is coming from. A lot of steps were suggested. Perhaps it's in the form of an audit letter or a letter to management from the Auditor General and, if so, could the Minister of Finance share that with us?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Auditor General advised me that, in discussing the re-establishment of the management audit function, it should be lodged within the Executive Council Office and not the Department of Finance.
Mr. Jenkins: So this all took place in discussions. Is there anything written on this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The management audit function of government and Bureau of Management Improvement is very important to me personally, as a politician. As the Minister of Finance, I felt that it is a very important function of government that has not received the attention it should have under the previous government.
The immediate step I took as Minister of Finance was to meet with the Deputy Minister of Finance and say, "How can we strengthen this?" Because there are areas that need to be looked at, including Health. I said that. Also, as a courtesy and as is required of the Minister of Finance - or as is suggested - I met on several occasions with the Auditor General and his staff. I asked that question as part of a larger discussion.
I am trying to convey to the member opposite the intention of this government, which is honourable, open and accountable. And I would invite the member, if he has a question about the management function, as I did in my last response, to ask me in Executive Council Office debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, with a broad sweep of the brush, we kind of shuffle this very important initiative off to another area. And we will probably end up chasing it around so many different departments that we won't know where it rightly sits.
The important issue for the government is service delivery and cost control. We are failing with respect to service delivery.
We're not doing a good job in that area in the Department of Health and Social Services. That's abundantly clear. The minister, under her breath, says that's my opinion. Well, that's an opinion shared by a great many Yukoners, especially in rural Yukon. At the end of the day, what we need is to have a look at this department and come to a clear understanding as to its role, function and how it's providing the services it's providing, and see what we can do to enhance service delivery.
I'm not suggesting we create a whole new government. I'm just suggesting to the Minister of Finance that we must look after the important areas. All areas of government are important, but the Department of Health and Social Services has a whole series of problems in it. The minister is failing to commit to anything other than a general examination and cursory overview, as she will be doing for all of the departments. Because in her opinion and in her words, the management audit and management responsibility is quite important. Well, it is quite important, but of more importance is the actual service delivery to Yukoners. That's the most important issue, and that's where this government is failing. It's not doing its job properly, Mr. Chair. The only way to get to the bottom of it is to conduct a full-blown management audit of the department.
Now, why is the minister hesitating and just waffling around the edges and throwing this department into a generic management audit - an inward look, as she termed it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm not doing that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that was a very extensive answer. She's not doing what?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has suggested in his tagline or his final comment that I was just doing a broad-brush approach and that I was doing this inward look, and it's not what I'm doing.
I have committed to the member opposite that there is a re-established Bureau of Management Improvement and internal audit, that we're dealing with the management of government and that we're dealing with the issues around health care costs. The Department of Health is one of the departments in government, and we will be looking at Health, as we will be looking at a number of other areas. I've already given the member opposite that commitment. I am not going to do anything more than restate that commitment.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's explore with the minister the timing and which departments are going to be looked at first under the management audit and this internal audit review committee and management review committee. Which department is at the top for immediate review? Which will be first, and when are we going to be starting on this process, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I answered this question three days ago. I told the member opposite that we're required by law to do the Environment Act and do the environmental audit. That is a requirement that is in legislation and is partially underway, and the immediate project under this re-established area is the funding program of the government. And subsequent projects will be the discussion of the committee, which includes me, which assigns the departments. That committee has not yet met.
These initial tasks were of key priority. They have until January to report on one of them. The January report is on the funding agencies, so it's immediate. The larger projects will be assigned by the committee, and that committee has not yet met. When it does, when there's a time established and when more details are publicly available, I'll provide them to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister has said, to sum up, is that the management review team hasn't met, but we're doing the environmental audit. We're also doing the CDF, TIF and fire smart audit programs, but we haven't met to decide what we're going to do, but these were a top priority.
So, obviously, there has to be some determination made as to where we're heading first and where we're heading second. From there, there has to be an undertaking as to where we're going. The minister obviously has given an undertaking for, number one, the environment, and for, number two, CDF, TIF and fire smart to probably delay any of these funds going out to any of the Yukon communities to create employment this winter and make it harder on Yukoners. But at the conclusion of the audits on the environment and the CDF, TIF and fire smart, there must be something coming up for the next position.
The decision, I would suggest to the minister, has already been made, or hasn't even been considered. It's one or the other. And the minister is probably going to hide behind saying, "Well, it's a committee decision. We need the committee when we have to make a decision that we want to postpone, but when we need the committee to do something the decision is there. Just rubber-stamp it."
We're obviously underway with a number of audits. Why not start right next with Health and Social Services?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it doesn't matter what I stand on the floor of the House and say; the member opposite is going to stand up and say the opposite.
Let me outline for the member opposite exactly what has occurred. On April 17, the people of the Yukon spoke. They elected 10 Liberal members. On May 6, Cabinet was sworn in. Shortly thereafter, as Minister of Finance, I met with the Deputy Minister of Finance and indicated to him that this particular function of government - the Bureau of Management Improvement, we'll call it that - an internal audit function was very important. As the Minister of Finance, it is a priority.
I subsequently met on at least two occasions with members of the Auditor General's staff. I asked their advice as to where these particular individuals and this team should be lodged within government.
The member opposite doesn't appear to want to listen to my answer. He has the same bored look on his face. Well, Mr. Chair, I'm stating the facts. I'm dealing with trying to convey some information to the member opposite. The member opposite wants to go on for six hours on whether or not this government will do a management audit of Health. I have committed to the member opposite that we are dealing with all of the departments of government. I will provide the member opposite with a time frame for Health, once a decision on that has been reached. There has not been a time frame set. The parameters have not been set, the terms of reference have not been set and the decision as to whether to hire inside or outside consultation has not been set.
The member opposite wants to go on and on and on and on about this. He's had a commitment - he has one. Go back and reread Hansard. It's there. The member opposite simply wants to delay a discussion, desired by other members of this House, of the Department of Health. If the member opposite would like to move on to that department and continue to subject the Minister of Health to the type of attack that he has waged against every other member of this House, save for his colleagues to the left of him, that's his issue. It's not our issue.
The issue for me and for people in the public is how this government is managing the finances of this government. If the member opposite has a specific question in general debate that I have not already answered, I'll answer it.
Mr. Jenkins: Just to convey to the Minister of Finance the public sentiment, the public really doesn't concern itself with whether the government is overspent or underspent. The public concerns itself with the services that government has been mandated to provide, especially when it doesn't adequately provide those services or look after Yukoners. And that is where I am headed, Mr. Chair. We have a department that is not addressing its responsibilities, and the Minister of Finance, the Premier, is in charge of the government and the buck stops at her desk. That is where it stops.
And all we hear is the rhetoric surrounding an inward look, a management internal audit review committee, and we'll let you know when we get into the areas that concern us, and we'll deal with those. But what is left unsaid is the importance of maintaining the quality and consistency of services to Yukoners through the provision of the various aspects of the Department of Health and Social Services. And that department has a lot of problems in providing adequate service delivery for Yukoners.
And I don't feel that I should leave this alone, because it's our responsibility to hold the government accountable. They don't want to be held accountable. The minister is waffling. He is not definitive in when a management audit will be conducted on the Department of Health and Social Services. She has walked all around the question. She has waltzed through it several times. She has deflected to various other areas. And at the end of the day, the minister really hasn't committed to when and how a management audit is going to take place in the Department of Health and Social Services.
It's going to be in the hopper with everything else. But first, we have to complete the one on the environment, and then we have to complete the CDF, TIF and fire smart ones, because they are in our election platforms. So we have the officials in ECO with the big chart of election pledges and platforms. It doesn't matter about service delivery to Yukoners. The Liberals are able to tick off another pledge. That's all. We have kept this pledge, Mr. Chair.
I guess what we have is a housekeeping government, giving the opposition the brush-off and trying to deflect from the reality of the responsibilities they have. Yes, they have a clear mandate, but coupled with that mandate is the requirement that they govern, lead and provide the services that government is charged with providing in a cost-effective manner. We're not seeing that occur, Mr. Chair. Does the minister anticipate this ever happening during her term of office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have stated many times on the floor of this Legislature that we are very concerned about the delivery of services to Yukoners, both in the health care field and elsewhere. We are working on ensuring that we, as a government, are able to deliver the best possible service we can to Yukoners. I have said to the member opposite that a management audit is one tool to examine health care service delivery. I have committed to the member opposite that we will examine it. It's one tool. There are many others for improving the delivery of health care services to Yukoners. We are very concerned about this issue, and we are dealing with it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's switch gears for a few minutes, and we'll get back to that, Mr. Chair. Let's go into the next census adjustment. When is that anticipated for Yukon? Is the government anticipating a downturn in the amount of money we're receiving from the federal government on the income side, and to what extent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the next census is in three years. The official has advised me that it seems quite often that the census projections seem to come in higher.
The specific formula issues - the projections have been estimated in a fiscally conservative manner.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there a fail-safe in that, or will there be a clawback in the census adjustment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, there would be a clawback. Just as we can receive the windfalls, the previous government received quite a substantial amount of money from census data when it came out. Yes, there is a possibility of a clawback.
Mr. Jenkins: And what is the federal government predicating their transfers on? What kind of a population figure currently has been taken into consideration - that we've lost over 10 percent of our population - or is that adjustment going to take place at the date of the census adjustment? Are we running at an artificially high population level?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, they are taking into account population decreases. We'll only know by the census whether it's enough or not, but the estimate by the Finance official is that it is enough at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Given that there is always a discrepancy between the federal census for population and the Yukon health care census for population, just where are we at currently, Mr. Chair? There is a gap. What kind of a gap are we currently looking at, and has that been growing or shrinking?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, there is a difference. It has not changed significantly. The member opposite will be provided with the exact difference.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the Minister of Finance tell us how we determine, on the formula financing, the population level? Do the officials within the Department of Finance convey a figure to the federal government, or is there some sort of arrangement arrived at between census periods? Because a few years ago, we benefited from a tremendous census adjustment transfer payment of some $12 million, as I recall, but that was based on the population being about 34,000, according to health care stats. The federal stats were somewhat less.
Given that we have lost over 10 percent - approximately 12 percent - of our population, how is this figure derived and how is it maintained over the period of time between censuses?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the federal government uses the census data, and in between the censuses they use the tax returns, and with a very complex formula based on the number of tax returns, they impute population. In Yukon, to figure population, we use health care registrations.
The future projections that are contained in the budget are done by the Department of Finance here, and they are prepared for me and members of the Legislature. We do those projections based on the federal projections.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that they are predicated on income tax returns and given that the north has one of the highest rates of non-filing income tax returns, is it based more on the remittances received by Revenue Canada for employee withholding? I have trouble getting my head around it because there is a big gap at tax filing time as to the number of people who should file and do file. And the north has a higher incidence of non-compliance of filing than any other area of Canada. How does the government deal with that area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member missed a portion of my last response. I said that the federal government uses the census data. In between that, they use tax returns. And from those tax returns, they impute this, based upon a very complex formula. They estimate our population, and assumptions, such as X percentage of people don't file, are built into that.
In actual fact, we are pretty much at the national average in terms of filing because of initiatives like the child tax benefits, and so on, which have encouraged people to file. The member has said that we had a higher rate of non-filing, and it seems to be that, based on current information, we are about average in that respect.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the figures coming from Revenue Canada indicate that the north has a high figure of non-compliance with respect to filing - the north. And it didn't specifically break it down to the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut. It just says the north. And I was just curious as to how this worked and how it was factored in. And, given that the fiscal year-end for corporations could be any one of the months of the year, what do we look at - just the fiscal period of April 1 to March 31 of each year? Is that the window we look at? And then, for a personal, do we look at just the calendar year, which is the normal period?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: For this discussion, when we're talking taxes, we're talking calendar year and personal taxes, because we're talking about population census; we're talking about personal. So, yes, it's the calendar year.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we have a large number of personal corporations that could have just a calendar year or any month of the year for fiscal year-end in that. That would show up in the population census. It has to be a component of the exercise, and I was just wondering and curious as to how it was factored in. It certainly has to be part of the equation - a corporate filing for individuals or small, private or single-person corporations.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I go back to the point I made about the formula. What they use to impute population does factor into figuring out the population. For 2000-01, in dealing with the formula, they would be looking at the previous 12-month year or calendar year. So, at some point during that year, a personal corporation, such as the member opposite, would have filed. The point is that, when it's examined, it's well enough into the next calendar year so that the concern raised by the member opposite would likely be captured.
Mr. Jenkins: Likely the concern raised by the member opposite would be captured. It doesn't provide me with a great deal of comfort, but we'll leave that.
Currently, if the minister could just send over what Statistics Canada and the Department of Finance consider to be the current population of the Yukon - because it's a figure that varies considerably from the health care statistics, and I'd very much like to know what that current figure is, and I don't know if it's computed annually or for what period of time. I don't think they would go through it and compute it monthly - maybe semi-annually, I don't know. What is the period of time it's computed, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We'll send the information over.
Mr. Jenkins: What period of time is the population census computed by the Department of Finance? Is it just done once a year, or how frequently?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the federal government does this several times a year. The most recent one was done in September. Finance officials for the Government of Yukon are doing this all the time. They are examining this information. The information as to exactly what the federal estimate of our populations was in September and the most current figures used by the Department of Finance will be sent over to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like the federal government does it quarterly, and the Department of Finance does it more frequently. The last time they did it was September, so the next time, I would suspect, would be December. So, is it done quarterly by the feds and monthly by the Department of Finance in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the federal government does this twice a year, so the September figures were done in June. As I said, the Department of Finance is doing this on a constant basis, but at a minimum of monthly.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for sending over those monthly figures for the last little while. I just like to see how they contrast to the health care stats as to where we stand. I know there's a gap, and it would be interesting to see if that gap is widening, closing or remaining constant.
Can we just explore with the Minister of Finance where we're at with the perversity factor?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With regard to the figures we were previously discussing - the population figures - it's more the rate of change than the actual difference in figures that the member has to be concerned about. I believe the question was the rate of the perversity factor - that was where we're at. The overall perversity factor is 1.04861 - 105 percent.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that doesn't appear to be changed very much from the spring of this year. I think we were about 104 at that juncture, but the trend is just up or down one or two points.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it changes slightly as new data comes out, but it's just within a percentage point or two, it seems.
Mr. Jenkins: In light of the anticipated tax cuts in other jurisdictions and the pending flat tax that will probably be coming in in Alberta, has the department conducted an examination of where we'll be on this scale, and what does that examination conclude, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Order please. Since there is a possibility that there's an odour in the House due to chemicals and paint, I'm going to ask that Committee recess now instead of at 4:30 p.m., while we check this out.
So we'll recess for 15 minutes while we check out where the odour's coming from.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and I believe at this point, Ms. Duncan has the floor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike had asked me about the tax rates by provinces and what work we had been doing in terms of our formula, et cetera. And basically, the short answer is that when other provinces lower their tax rates, it has a positive effect on our formula and on the amount we receive. There hasn't been a lengthy paper prepared in the Department of Finance, but they are certainly looking at the tax reductions in provinces in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, where does Yukon currently sit in the scheme of provincial/territorial taxes? We used to be right at the low end of the scale and we have moved up significantly. Just where are we at currently?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as the member is aware, some of the provinces are moving to this tax-on-income structure, so that makes the comparisons harder.
However, for the member's information, the tax rate comparisons for the 2000 taxation year are as follows: Yukon is at 49 percent; Newfoundland is at 62 percent; P.E.I. at 57.5 percent; New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba have gone to this different structure, so they're harder to compare; Saskatchewan is at 48 percent; Alberta is at 44 percent; B.C. is at the different structure; N.W.T. is at 45 percent; and Nunavut at 45 percent.
Mr. Jenkins: Where have we changed, relative to where we were? Let's go back a couple of years. We were right on the low end of the scale. Where are we now on a scale of 13? We used about nine or 10. Where have we moved up the scale? Because this has a significant impact on our formula financing and the perversity factor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I said to the member opposite, it's hard to compare with provinces that have moved to this different structure. That comparison is hard to do. So, whether we're at six or seven on a scale of 13 - we're about the middle, in any event. We have moved up, so to speak. We're about the middle now.
Mr. Jenkins: In spite of the minister saying that it's hard to compare because some of the jurisdictions have gone to a different taxing arrangement, that comparison is obviously made on a continuing basis by Canada, and it impacts significantly on the perversity factor and the formula financing. It's one of the major components of formula financing.
Has the department examined the pending Yukon income tax cuts that were just approved in this House and examined the impact they will have on the formula financing perversity factor? Just what kind of a change will this make?
Hon. Ms. Duncan:Our tax cuts that we make in this Legislature and by this Cabinet are outside of the formula. We lose the value of what the cuts are.
Perhaps this would help the member opposite: the lowering of national average tax rates has reduced the perversity factor - so the national tax rates. In 2000-01, the formula grant would be $3.4 million lower, if it wasn't for the fact that there had been this reduction in other taxes. As tax reductions in the provinces take effect, then the favourable impact on the perversity factor increases.
Mr. Jenkins: Just when does the perversity factor become adjusted? Is it after the filing date of the other jurisdictions when the tax component is known? When does that kick in? If we're looking at personal income tax, the filing date is April 30 of each calendar year, and it would take some time after that date for the Government of Canada to determine what they've collected on behalf of all of the provinces, save and except for the Province of Quebec because the Province of Quebec collects their own personal income tax and corporate income tax. So, save and except for the Province of Quebec, when is that determination made by the feds? Is there some sort of a date when we put everything in the hopper and it's filtered through, or is it just an extrapolation of some of the data that has historically been available?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the rate reductions, as they're announced by provinces are fed into the model, and the release of data is much the same as the population - about twice a year is the estimate by officials.
As taxes are returned and years are closed, there are adjustments made. Now, clearly there's also weight to different provinces. Clearly, Ontario carries a greater weight. Also, the member should be advised that the amount of time it takes to close on PIT - personal income tax - returns is about two years.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, let me get my head around this, Mr. Chair. It takes two years after the filing deadline to close on that previous fiscal period, so we would be just closing on 1998, filing in April of 1999 - 2000-01 this next April. That's a pretty extensive lead-time. There must be some other way that they track or monitor this on an ongoing basis, Mr. Chair, than the actual closure some two years after the filing of April 30.
I was wondering, if you look at a business, most employees remit via withholding and employers remit monthly or every second week or whatever the case may be, and the reporting period - all the federal government sees is one big lump sum. As to the breakout as to what is actual withheld taxes - what is EI, and what is CPP - those are not determined until the employer files, I believe, at the end of February.
So that would be the earliest date that they would see a break out - the Government of Canada. There has to be some way that this is monitored other than the two-year close after it, and there has to be some other ability within the Department of Finance to more closely observe what is transpiring.
I, certainly, as a business or even a government Finance individual, wouldn't want to look at a close some two years later on any initiative. So we are talking 30 months after the fact. That's a significant period of time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The two-year figure that was a close - at least three or four times during the year, this is monitored. So there is a far closer monitoring. What I am saying to the member opposite is that at the end of the year, there would be a figure given to the Department of Finance officials, and then there would be an adjustment. There are three or four times, and as those adjustment come in, the gap, if you will, gets closer and closer.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister just confirm that the federal taxation rate doesn't impact on the formula financing, that it is consistent all across Canada, that it is just the provincial and territorial levels? I just want to get that on the record. I didn't know if it was in the total equation or not, but I couldn't see why it should be because it's consistent across all of Canada.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the record, it's just the provincial rates.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any other area or any other agreements in the formula financing that are coming up for review or that we should be concerned with or aware of, Mr. Chair?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Netro: I would just like to bring your attention to the gallery, to help me make welcome Wendy and Malcolm Boothroyd. I travelled with them in the States and they helped the Vuntut Gwitchin with the caribou issue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I certainly thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. It's good to have visitors in the gallery. We appreciate them.
With respect to the formula itself, there do not seem to be any major concerns at this point in time. There are a couple of matters that I have discussed with the federal Finance minister. However, there are no major issues with the formula at this point in time.
Mr. Jenkins: Were the couple of matters that the Minister of Finance discussed with the federal Minister of Finance dealing with the formula financing? Is that what the minister is saying? Perhaps the minister could elaborate on that. The only area in which I am aware of discussions having taken place between the Yukon Minister of Finance and the federal Minister of Finance is on the issue surrounding the tax credit for mining investment.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in August I met with Minister of Finance Paul Martin. The key reason for my meeting was to deal with the settlement of land claims and - if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun will forgive my incorrect reference, section 87 - the taxation issue around land claims. That was the key focus of the meeting.
The other issues that were raised in that meeting were the mineral exploration focus flow-through share funding program. That was discussed at length. The other two issues were the Canada health and social transfer. Because the territories have a different formula finance arrangement than the provinces, when the provinces sustained a cut to CHST, a cut that has since been restored, the territories were affected differently.
I wanted the Minister of Finance to be aware of that. That was in August. So, in September, when we met with the Prime Minister at the first ministers meeting, we were able to say as territories, "Look, you have restored the CHST, in part, to provinces. You need to also examine the cuts you made to the formula." So, that was certainly an issue.
The only other matter is that there are ongoing discussions at the officials' level between the federal and territorial governments as to how they interpret some closed years versus not closed years in the formula, but the arguments are very convoluted, if you will. They would take quite a long time to explain, and I would be happy to go through them in detail with the member opposite, if he wishes. That was really a minor point - well, it wasn't minor, but it wasn't the focus of my discussions with Minister Paul Martin. The focus was on the other.
One of the points I made with Minister Martin is that under the formula agreement, for example - and all three territories are the same - there is no route of appeal. If the Finance figures in Ottawa are different from the territory's Finance figures, it's Minister Martin who makes the decision. There is no other appeal route. So, I made that point, and he was quite sensitive to that and urged his officials to be more than fair with the territories.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it sounds like a summation of debate in this Legislature. If we have an excellent idea and put it forward in opposition, and it's not accepted by the government of the day, there is no route of appeal. Perhaps the minister should take heed of her own advice, which she gave to the federal Minister of Finance.
Mr. Chair, on section 87, while we're there - has the department done any analysis of the impact of the formula financing on Yukon should the taxation of First Nations go either way - come into full force or not come into full force? What are the implications of section 87? What will be the financial impact on Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it does not affect our section 87, and how it's administered does not affect the territory's finances.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it clearly indicates that there will either be more or less income tax payable by residents in the Yukon. With a cursory overview into the formula, it would clearly indicate that we're raising more money from our own sources, and it should have an effect on the perversity factor. Why does it not? Is there some fail-safe mechanism that we're not aware of?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The perversity factor is based on income rates, not volumes, and this is seen as a volume increase.
Mr. Jenkins: I realize it's set on the rates across Canada - the provincial rates and territorial rates in the 13 jurisdictions - but I also know that how much we raise from our own sources impacts on the formula financing and has an effect on it.
Given that the First Nation population here in the Yukon is approaching some 30 percent, and if half of the First Nations are employed and paying income tax, we're looking at a significant number of taxpayers here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. Ultimately, it would have an impact as to the settlement one way or the other of this outstanding land claims issue. What would that impact be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it has an impact on the formula; it doesn't have an impact on the perversity factor, which is what the member's question was. And this matter is fail-safed under the formula. There are no additional revenues collected. By this method, it's fail-safed under the grant.
Mr. Jenkins: What the minister has said is that no matter which way it's settled, the Yukon can't lose. Is that right, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Yukon loses if it's not settled - most definitely - because we're not going to settle the seven outstanding land claims until we resolve this issue. We lose in that respect, but financially, as I said to the member when I started out, the resolution of this matter does not have an impact on the territory's finances, no.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's where I was heading, Mr. Chair - that the settlement of it one way or the other doesn't impact on the finances of the Yukon Territory because it's fail-safed. The issue surrounding section 87 is an issue that, unless the Government of Yukon takes hold of it and brings it forward along with the other area - the loan repayment - nothing is going to happen here in the Yukon. We're going to be more and more reliant on the federal government, Mr. Chair, like we are today.
It's interesting to see the current trend - and I'll explore that later with the minister as to how much of the total budget is derived from Ottawa, and compare it to where we were - go back to the early 1970s, or once every decade - 1970, 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990, 1995 and 2000. And it's quite interesting as to where we are as to revenue from our own sources vis-à-vis revenue from Ottawa flowing in to the Yukon. And, I guess, it is looked upon with a great deal of delight because it's really the only thing that's contributing to the economy today - government and government spending.
It used to be the mining and the mining fraternity. And it could very well be the mining fraternity, the oil and gas and the forestry industries, but I don't see the benefits we are going to accrue from a whole bunch of parks created here in the Yukon like we are currently seeing.
Let's go back to the formula financing. Are there any other components of the formula financing - any other agreements contained in there that are going to be showing signs of either a positive or a negative change for Government of Yukon's financing? What areas should we be looking at, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The areas to examine are the tax rate reductions in the future by provinces, which will impact positively. The CHST argument - Canada health and social transfer argument that I made with the Finance minister and the Prime Minister - this discussion that I spoke about earlier is an interpretation of statistics. Naturally, I hope that Minister Martin sees the resolution of that issue our way, but we'll continue to work at that at the officials' level. Those are the only areas that the officials and I can think of that are areas that are important to pay mind to on the formula in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: There has been a tremendous downloading of responsibility to Yukon from Canada with the pension plans and the superannuation. Will the minister just explain what has happened in the initial phases? Even some of the departments weren't sure. They said that they had to absorb the cost themselves, whereas it appears that it is coming out of a central pool of money to meet the initial obligation for superannuation. Just where are we at? Could the minister provide an overview of superannuation and the takeover by YTG of this initiative and this program? What will the ongoing costs be to Yukon, above and beyond what they were in the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all, the contribution - how this all came about. The member was in the House when I was on that side as well, and we had this discussion with the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
The employer's portion under pension reform has increased, and I don't know where the member is getting the idea that departments had to absorb that, because that is not the knowledge of officials in Finance or my knowledge. We received an additional contribution to our base - the $9-million figure that's in the supplementary budget - as an addition because of this increased pension cost.
Basically, the federal government did some pension reforms; there was an increased cost to the territories; the territories said, "How can we deal with this? We can't afford this." The federal government has recognized that unique situation and has provided the funding for it. So, basically it's a wash. The departments didn't have to absorb that.
In terms of the larger discussion of repatriation of the pension from Ottawa to Yukon, that's an issue that I'm aware of and something that I am supportive of, and it's under the responsibility of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. So, for answers to detailed questions on the repatriation efforts, I would invite the member to ask the Public Service Commissioner. I can provide some details, but they are really the responsibility of the Public Service Commissioner - the repatriation issue. The funding issue is basically a wash.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the money actually transfer to Yukon on this initiative, and are we responsible for the investment component on this area at all?
I know Canada and the Canada Pension Plan don't have any of that invested in instruments of investment; it basically is just a constant rollover. That's why we're probably going to see some problems down the road.
Just how is this administered by Canada? Is it actually invested somewhere in instruments of investment, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: On the repatriation issue of the pension - the actuarial value of the pension and so on and the transfer and how that may or may not ultimately be worked out - again, I would focus repatriation questions to the Public Service Commissioner, and there's a lot of work being done in that area that's not finalized yet, by any stretch of the imagination. It consists of discussions and work being done.
The actual $9-plus million that we're dealing with - it's the pension contributions by the employer. The Public Service Commission and the public service employees are part of Canada's and the Government of Canada's national pension plan. So the increased premiums are the $9 million that we're dealing with. So yes, the Government of Canada actually sent us a cheque for our employer portion, and yes, we actually sent it back to them.
Mr. Jenkins: Would these funds actually be held in instruments of investment, or are they just in general revenues and rolled over?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The $9 million comes in as part of general revenue in the year and we send it back. If additional monies are available during the year, then they are invested as part of the banking arrangements.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm referring to the actual Government of Canada holding of these funds for pension purposes. Are they actually invested by Canada, or does it just go into general revenues, like the Canada Pension Plan, and it's just a rollover fund, where it's paid into general revenues and paid out of that same fund as required?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The superannuation fund is just paid out of general revenues. The member is correct in that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, a move was afoot a short time ago that's going to be more and more difficult to do, with the likes of the Canada Pension Plan. If, at the onset, the money set aside for pension purposes was actually invested in the money markets in secure investments, we would have been much better off than just dumping it all into general revenues. What was counted on at the time was the issue of the growth in the economy to overcome and keep pace with the obligation to pay out. But we're soon going to be meeting D-Day, where we're not going to have enough money in the Canada Pension Plan. Is the same going to hold true, given that it's paid out of general revenues, for the superannuation - the pension plans of employees of government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm advised that with the Canada Pension Plan, the Government of Canada is starting to invest because of the very types of arguments the member opposite has made. That's not the case with superannuation. It's shown as an obligation by the Government of Canada, and one certainly believes that the Government of Canada will meet its obligations. There is no separate fund.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I know the repatriation issue is an issue that comes under the Public Service Commission, but given that the Department of Finance will have a tremendous amount of input into this initiative, just where are we at? Because we're probably, at this juncture, speaking of a great deal of money that has currently been invested by the employers and the employees into this program. Just where are we at? What is the order of magnitude of total amounts currently held on behalf of Yukon employees, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member may not be aware, but we do have an actuarial valuation of what the transfer value could be, but we haven't reached agreement with the federal government on that amount. We can provide that amount to the member opposite, and I will do that.
Overall, in terms of the discussions, we're actively working toward discussions with persons and sectors involved in repatriation - the Employees Union, and there may be others interested. We're at the preliminary stages of working on this particular repatriation issue. We're not in agreement with the feds on what the value is, and we are pursuing discussions with the union on that.
Mr. Jenkins: The actuarial evaluation - was that done by the federal government or Government of Yukon on behalf of its employees? Just who did this undertaking?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We had one done. The Government of Yukon commissioned one.
Mr. Jenkins: And how does the federal government substantiate its position and differ in value from what the actuarial study has concluded? Have they provided their own in-house actuarial study?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I don't have that level of detail with me as to precisely the points of difference. We will look it up and provide the member opposite with a written response.
Mr. Jenkins: Has there been any thought given to this type of investment portfolio coming back to the Yukon as to how we could maximize benefits for Yukon with its investment potential? Is this area being explored? Is there a paper being done in-house, or what is being looked at? Because if we look currently at those areas that the government can invest in, they are severely restricted, other than giveaways that have occurred from time to time. But it is somewhat restricted, and agencies of government like the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board - I have some concerns currently, given the discussions yesterday in the House where the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board officials indicated that they were going to increase their investment revenues by some $5 million to $12 million. I could stand corrected on those figures, Mr. Chair, but that would necessitate investing in high-risk securities.
Is there any thought being given to - after repatriation of these funds - the types and methods the government would employ for investment purposes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We haven't developed an investment policy for these funds, per se, when and if they come over. The key issue for our government and our caucus has been the very, very strongly held concern that we see this as something that can't be - it's people's pensions. Government isn't the one - it shouldn't be able to be tampered with.
We want to see this as outside of government, per se, in the sense of - the member opposite made reference to, "We have seen some investments before of Yukon Development Corporation funds in a sawmill." We wouldn't want to see something that went wrong. We wouldn't want to see that happen with pension funds.
Should this happen - like I said, the actuarial evaluation hasn't been agreed on, the structure hasn't been set up, so, no, there's not a huge paper prepared at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: I do have concerns, given that the largest players in the money market are currently the pension fund managers. They're one of the largest players today and they do not always make wise decisions. We only have to look at the Ontario teachers' plan and the loss on Bre-X and things of that magnitude. There are significant gains to be made but also we have to be very cognizant of our responsibilities to ensure a wise and careful investment of these funds.
In fact, today, that's what individuals are working for.
One of the items of interest was in the order of magnitude of about $1 million sent over to the RCMP for wage increases and superannuation. Now, given that there is a turnover of the members in Yukon on a constant basis, how does the superannuation work with respect to a member of the RCMP posted in Yukon? And they move all across, and wage increases - just where are we at? Don't tell me to go to the Minister of Justice, because this dovetails right into the Finance portfolio. The Minister of Justice won't even begin to understand it, even though she took her moonlight ride around Whitehorse on the last full-moon night with a member of the RCMP and had her eyes opened. But with respect to the financing of the RCMP, I'm somewhat more concerned, Mr. Chair.
Another million dollars on top of our basic contractual obligation - where do we currently stand? What is it costing us a year for the RCMP? How does this additional $1 million break down? How does the superannuation component reconcile with the in-and-out flow of members posted here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, most importantly, before we leave the issue of pension funds, the concern is working with Yukon government employees on this issue. The minister responsible is very concerned with the repatriation discussions, as I have been as an opposition member, and that they only be done with the joint effort of the Government of Yukon and its employees.
The $1.4-million additional expenditure in the Department of Justice for the RCMP contract - it's detailed expenditures. It's more than just wages and superannuation. On my feet, I'll advise the member of the precise amounts of that detailed expenditure.
In terms of superannuation, it's the employer contribution to this. The movement of specific members doesn't make any difference to our contribution to that, and I'll provide the member with the detailed breakdown.
Mr. Jenkins: Just where do we sit with the RCMP contract today? What is the basic amount for the contract? This kind of an increase must break down to a majority in superannuation, Mr. Chair, at $1.4 million.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Prior to the $1.4-million increase, the amount for the RCMP contract was $10.927 million. As to where we're at in the specific life of this contract, I'll have to check with the Minister of Justice and get back to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Are there any riders in this contract, given that the population is going down? We've lost 10 percent of our population. Is there going to be a reduction in the size of the police force necessary in the Yukon and, if not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Justice will have the details when we get to that line debate in the supplementary budget.
Mr. Jenkins: I thought the Minister of Finance would be well aware of contracts that the Government of Yukon has with the various agencies, given that the order of magnitude of a $10 million annual contract, and an increase in just over a million dollars this last fiscal period. I'd suggest to the Minister of Finance that that would tweak my interest as to what it entailed, what it involved and how we could look at ways of mediating this cost increase. If we look across all levels of government, do we need all of the policing we're currently paying for?
That's the question.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as Minister of Finance, I take my responsibilities very seriously. The Minister of Justice has this contract as a line item in the portion of the budget for which she bears responsibility. She will have the complete details of the contract with the RCMP and the details of the increased expenditure contained in the supplementary when we get into line-by-line in Justice. Does the member have any questions in general debate for Finance?
Mr. Jenkins: My question for general debate, Mr. Chair, in Finance, is, given the decreasing population of the Yukon, do we need to spend all that much money in that area that we're currently spending?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Ask the Minister of Justice.
Mr. Jenkins: I was hopeful that the Minister of Finance, as Premier, would take her responsibilities seriously and question and have an understanding of the order of magnitude of expenditures she is incurring in the various departments, Mr. Chair. But such is not the case. Pass the buck, and I'm sure with that heads-up, the Minister of Justice will be able to answer all of the pertinent questions when we get there, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: With a smile she'll do it, I'm told. Well, Mr. Chair, I guess we can look forward to the Minister of Justice's response in due course.
Mr. Chair, there was kind of a disparity across the departments in the briefings that were provided, in that some of the departments indicated that the superannuation they had to budget and account for in their departments - they didn't - and some of the other departments said it was just a flow-through initiative. But there was a mixed message delivered by the departments.
I was there. I had an understanding of the subject matter, and that was the case. And I am just pointing out for the Minister of Finance's benefit that the departments weren't all completely conversant with how the issue surrounding superannuation worked and how it was just a flow-through amount from the federal government back to the federal government. So at the end of the day, it turns out to be a wash, but it has to be accounted for as a line item in the various departments' budgets, Mr. Chair.
One of the other areas that probably deserves a second look with respect to some sort of a management audit is the tremendous increase in staffing levels and money that has been allocated to Renewable Resources. And I would like to explore a management audit on this department next, after we deal with Health and Social Services, which the minister may or may not conduct a management audit on. But of all of the departments of government, this one department has been growing in size.
In fact, it is probably the most intimidating department to be presented a briefing on. One sits down with about a dozen different officials from that department, and all the other departments usually present their position with one or two individuals. I was just curious as to whether or not the Minister of Finance was going to be addressing a management audit to see if this department could be streamlined, or if we are going to buy some more guns and bullet-proof vests for the minister to farm out, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the member opposite for the information that there was a mixed message with respect to some information that he was presented with - some mixed messages from the department. We will double-check that. I thank the member for sharing that with me.
I have attended briefings from the Department of Renewable Resources, and they are indeed very thorough in them. They do a very good job of briefing members of the opposition on each and every expenditure in their department.
Mr. Jenkins: I was looking at how the minister felt with respect to a management audit of that department, given that it's the fastest growing department in the number of employees within it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have been around and around and around the management audit question several times now. The Environment Act audit - and, say, the environment reporting, for example, is one of those Renewable Resources responsibilities. Where that department, which also delivers services much used by Yukoners and much valued by Yukoners, would be in the list of management audits - I would suggest it's less time-sensitive or critical than the Department of Health, but again, the management audit committee will meet and determine that.
Mr. Jenkins: Less time-sensitive - on the contrary, Mr. Chair, it's very time-sensitive. Had the Minister of Renewable Resources stood on his feet and given an announcement as to the new park in the riding, it would probably have cost the Liberal government the last Yukon election. But, be as it may, they chose to ignore the fact that a new park had been created, and had been created through a land claims process. So, the department's initiatives are very time-sensitive.
I would very much have appreciated seeing a ministerial statement some time before. It was November 14 when the order-in-council went through on the federal level, withdrawing the lands for this new park. So, we have a lot of time-sensitive material. But the issue is the great increase -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Eftoda, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike is factually incorrect. The fact is that the area identified is a special management area and has not even entered into any processes with respect to park status or anything like that. So, just to set the record straight, Mr. Chair, I want to notify the Yukon public that the Member for Klondike is in error.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. The member has set the record straight. It was a dispute between members.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back to Renewable Resources. Let's go back to the issue we're facing, and that is the call for a management audit on this department. It is one of the other departments that is growing at a very, very tremendous rate, Mr. Chair, and it should probably be the second government department that is looked at for a management audit. Does the minister not agree? When will this be undertaken?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess, at the end of the day, we're not going to accomplish very much, seeing the order of magnitude of the minister's answers. At least they're definitive, now that we're getting into some specific questions.
Does the minister not agree that of all the departments of government, this is the fastest growing department and has been for the last couple of years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll ask the minister to set the record straight. Which department has acquired more full-time employees, contract employees and other types of employees than Renewable Resources?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, well, we know it's not the third party that has acquired the most employees.
Which department has gained or lost the greatest number of employees? We all know how the member opposite feels about public servants, and the member opposite would love this government to spend multimillions of dollars every year doing management audits and not focus our energies and time on delivering services to Yukoners. This is just a veiled attack on the public service, and I don't want to participate in that.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister kindly correct the record when she misspoke and said that the Department of Renewable Resources wasn't the fastest growing. She disagreed with me. I said that the Department of Renewable Resources was the fastest growing department and has been for the past couple of years as far as FTEs. And if that's the case, can the minister agree with that or disagree?
I'm stating for the record that the Department of Renewable Resources has been the fastest growing department and has acquired more employees than any other department of government over the last couple of years. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite asked me if I agreed with him. I stood on my feet and said, no, I don't agree with him. And will I participate in a veiled attack on the public servants of Yukon? No.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's go back to the question, because the minister has failed to answer the question.
Now, I'm not sure if she can answer the question. She probably doesn't have the information there, but so be it. The Minister of Renewable Resources is right beside her, and surely between the two of them, they can share some sort of an understanding of the reality of their respective departments and what it's costing.
I'm stating for the record and I'm seeking the minister's concurrence that the biggest growth in government in FTEs has occurred in the Department of Renewable Resources. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Whether the Department of Renewable Resources has more employees than the Department of Health and Social Services before or after the devolution of health care services; whether Renewable Resources has more employees, if you include teachers, than the Department of Education and whether the Department of Tourism has enough employees to do all of their jobs - that is not a burning issue with Yukoners. I would suggest to the member opposite that this is nothing more than a veiled attack on public servants. It is not part of the general debate on Finance.
If the member opposite wants to stand in line-by-line debate and ask every single minister how many FTEs are in their department, then that is available, and certainly we will provide the member opposite with that information. But I am not going to stand on my feet and agree with the member opposite, because I simply disagree with him on most occasions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it's obvious that the Minister of Finance is somewhat upset because she can't answer the questions. They are very straightforward questions and she has chosen to ignore them and not answer a very specific, direct question. What we are charged with in opposition is to hold the government accountable. How can we hold the government accountable if they won't answer the basic questions? They waffle, march and dance all around - it's amazing. There is a little bit of red tide in the sails out there and I'm not sure that it hasn't gone to some of the heads of the government of the day, Mr. Chair.
It's not going to go on forever. Sooner or later, the reality of running a government has to set in. And running a government in the most cost-effective and efficient manner is part of the equation.
The number one exercise of government is to provide the highest consistent level of service to our population, in the most cost-effective way.
The Liberals, both the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals in collusion with each other, are only creating one big massive park here in the Yukon. They've destroyed the mining industry. They've destroyed mining exploration. There's virtually no oil and gas exploration. There's virtually no logging and no forestry. All of the resource extraction industries that we have relied on for so many years have been thrown out the window. One by one, they have been annihilated by the federal Liberal initiatives. They're acting completely in collusion with the Yukon Liberals. That's a fact.
Just go out there and see what we have for business opportunities today. There's still a resemblance of something in the visitor industry, but, my gosh, contrasted to what's happening in other jurisdictions, Mr. Chair, we're not even the fourth little critter on the udder, that's how much substance we have in the way of opportunities here, Mr. Chair.
This is a Liberal government. It has the largest O&M budget ever in the history of the Yukon - the largest ever. Our population - we've lost over 10 percent of our population. Our citizens have to move elsewhere to find suitable employment, because it no longer exists here in the Yukon.
The Minister of Finance is making an accusation that I made a veiled attempt to criticize the public sector. Far from the truth - far from the truth. I have a great deal of admiration for the public sector.
I have less admiration for the political leaders. In fact, I'm sure that Yukon is going to follow suit and the admiration for the political leaders here in the Yukon will diminish as time goes on, in spite of a tremendous opportunity - a vast majority at not only the territorial level but at the federal level, as well.
It appears, Mr. Chair, that we're going to enhance our colonial status, so the Gore-Tex individuals from downtown Toronto and Ottawa can come up here and hike in Kluane and some of the other parks. Their own private little hiking domain. Never mind settling the Indian land claims. Never mind putting in place conditions that are conducive to attracting mining exploration and mining investment. We have learned from the Minister of Finance that mineral deposits stop at the Yukon border. It's amazing, simply amazing, given that the Tintina Trench is probably the one most highly mineralized zone in North America, Mr. Chair. But it appears that it stops at the Yukon border.
We don't have a Pogo deposit, and we don't because there's one great park and there's no incentive to go in there and explore any more. And the Premier of the Yukon is out trying to buy out the claims in the area adjacent to Pogo. That bodes well for the mining industry, Mr. Chair.
We only have to look at the current park that's going to be created in the Kluane game sanctuary, Mr. Chair. That has a number of mining claims in it, and I'm sure the minister will make some sort of approach to the mining company that owns those claims to buy those out also. I don't know whether we're going to negotiate a buyout or expropriate.
I guess it's the minister's choice. We have a serious economic condition here. We have gone from a recession to a full-blown depression. The only possible major employment here is provided by government. And what is this Minister of Finance doing? She is shovelling money out the door at every initiative that's going to create more government. Why doesn't the minister bring back a supplementary budget that would put some money into CDF and put some money into other initiatives that will create jobs this winter? That's what Yukoners are looking for today, Mr. Chair. That is not happening.
Why doesn't the minister go out and create a private/public partnerships to see what we can do with taking the capital expenditure of government and spending it wisely to create jobs here over the course of this next winter?
We can focus on it very quickly. It can be done in a very short order of time. But, number one, there has to be the political will to put Yukoners back to work and recreate the economy here. All we hear from this Minister of Finance, the Premier, is the lip service to that position. All we hear from some of the other departments and their officials is, "We're studying it" or "We're reviewing it" or "We're going to conduct a management audit on CDF" or "We're going to conduct another audit on TIF" or "We're going to do another management audit on the fire smart program". Well, Mr. Chair, I submit that if a small amount of money were provided to all of these areas, it could put a lot of Yukoners to work this winter.
Now, why is there a reluctance to provide employment to Yukoners by this government? I don't know. I'm amazed. It's probably because they don't have to go to the polls for approximately another four years, Mr. Chair, and they don't really care about Yukoners. They don't really show any concern for Yukoners. They just merrily come into their offices when they want to, when they're not out eating cake and cutting ribbons. They come into their office - they don't even have to go to the bank. Their paycheques are direct deposit to the banks. So we know there's some efficiency in the Department of Finance, Mr. Chair. It's doing a good job depositing cheques into the bank accounts of the Liberal government of the day.
Mr. Chair, I'm simply appalled that this Minister of Finance, the Premier of the Yukon, is not taking seriously the plight of Yukoners, not taking seriously the economic conditions that currently exist in Yukon, and not doing something with the $64-million surplus that she inherited when her government was elected into power. Mr. Chair, why not?
I guess because it's harder to do something positive than it is to do nothing and just deal with a whole bunch of acts and bills that are housekeeping and that they found when they came into power, Mr. Chair. They found that they really didn't have a game plan, they really didn't have anything that they wanted to do, other than perhaps the Minister of Tourism. She wanted to review the Liquor Act so we could have a liquor store on every corner, and that's about the extent of it. We're either going to do one of two things under this review: it's either to make liquor more available, or to restrict it. It's one way or the other.
We might even maintain the status quo. I don't know. But that shows you where the focus of this Liberal government is. It's not on the area that it should be, and the area that it should be is the economy.
I don't know when this government is going to wake up. There is a crisis in the Yukon. There is a crisis in the economy. We are going backwards at an alarming rate. There is no real incentive for anyone to invest money in the Yukon for any purpose at all. We start to look at the initiatives that this government is touting. The Alaska Highway pipeline - we all agree that it would be a heck of an opportunity for Yukoners. But the question is: after the Alaska Highway pipeline comes through the Yukon, how many Yukoners are going to be employed on maintenance on it? What will be the benefits accruing to Yukon? If you look back at the accord that was signed back in the 1970s with Foothills as to the total amount of expenditures they would incur dropping off gas at the various areas, and ask how much it is going to cost to drop off gas in the various areas along the pipeline, it's quite interesting, Mr. Chair, quite interesting.
It might even be time for us to look at some of those areas before we delve into it any further. Because at the end of the day, the exercise is to put Yukoners to work.
All we have to do, Mr. Chair, is contrast the initiatives - the lack of initiatives - here in the Yukon with the tremendous initiatives that are being developed in the Northwest Territories. Just cross over the border in southeast Yukon and see the level of activity that we currently have there, Mr. Chair. It is simply amazing. In the same period of time that the Yukon might experience $20 million worth of oil and gas exploration, the Northwest Territories is going to experience almost a billion dollars worth of oil and gas exploration. There is an existing oil pipeline from Norman Wells to Edmonton. There is an extension of the gas lines into the Northwest Territories. They will be pumping gas out of the Northwest Territories into the grid before there's another well drilled in the Yukon that's tapped into the existing pipelines in southeast Yukon, Mr. Chair.
The Kotaneelee field has been in place and pumping for quite some time, but there isn't an incentive for the gas industry to come up and expand on that field. They'll do it just over the border in British Columbia, and they'll do it just over the border in the Northwest Territories. In fact, one of the second largest gas finds in Canada was just over the border in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Chair.
I suppose the next thing the Premier is going to tell me is, "Well, that gas find stops right at the border; there's not much of a chance of that gas field extending over into the Yukon." And we know that's false, Mr. Chair. We know we have a tremendous potential for oil and gas in southeast Yukon, as we do up in the Eagle Plains area.
But, at the end of the day, Mr. Chair, what are we doing to encourage these areas? At least in the Northwest Territories the government of that region and the First Nations there are singing from the same page of the same songbook, and they're moving forward together.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I report that we move progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, 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 Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the 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 5:55 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 29, 2000:
Yukon Arts Centre 1999/2000 Annual Report and Financial Statements (March 31, 2000)
The following Legislative Return was tabled November 29, 2000:
Interpretation Act changes: regarding the definition of "bank" and federal Bank Act changes
Oral, Hansard, p. 226
The following document was filed on November 29, 2000:
Sole-source contracts by Executive Council Office for the years 1999/2000: contract summary sheets