Whitehorse, Yukon

Tuesday, December 5, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.

Speaker: I will now call the House to order.

We will proceed at this time with prayers.

Prayers

DAILY ROUTINE

Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.

Tributes.

TRIBUTES

In remembrance of Eiko Stenzig

Mr. Kent: It is with a heavy heart that I rise today to pay tribute to Eiko Stenzig.

Eiko was born in Garnholt, Germany, in 1943. He and his two brothers, Gerd and Götz, were raised by their grandfather and great-grandmother, as their father was a casualty of World War II and their mother died in 1946.

After finishing school, Eiko apprenticed for five years and became a master baker. In 1965, at age 21, he arrived in Canada, working first in Ontario, then relocating to British Columbia in 1967.

On April 24, 1968, Eiko accepted a job at Tourist Services in Whitehorse and was their faithful employee for the next 32 years as the business name changed to Super Valu and finally what is now Extra Foods.

Eiko met his future wife, Margaret, in Vancouver and she joined him in Whitehorse after their August wedding in 1969. The couple were blessed with two wonderful children, Amanda in 1972 and Mark in 1974. Margaret, Amanda, Mark and many of Eiko's closest friends have joined us here in the gallery today.

Eiko loved to work with his hands. He built two family homes in Whitehorse and a beautiful log home in Atlin, that the family uses for holidays. On Canada Day in 1991, Eiko became a proud Canadian citizen. His love for Canada and especially the Yukon was unmatched. Eiko and his family established a successful wilderness tourism company so they could share the Yukon's beauty with visitors from all over the world.

When my girlfriend, Christie, who has also joined us in the gallery here today, first introduced me to her best friend's dad in 1992, I later said to her, "Is he ever huge; I'm glad your dad isn't that big".

Eiko was, as his friend Bill Thomson put it, a gentle giant. He was quiet, honourable, well-liked and commanded the respect of many Yukoners.

Cancer took Eiko from us last week at the age of 57. Eiko's friends, Ken and Blaine Mason, performed a song for Eiko at his service. The song was entitled "Too Old to Die Young".

Well, Eiko, you weren't even close.

We will all miss you and we all hope you rest in peace.

Thank you.

In recognition of National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to recognize tomorrow, December 6, as a national day of remembrance and action on violence against women.

On December 6, 1989, 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique in Montreal were brutally murdered. In 1991, the federal government, through the Status of Women Canada, proclaimed December 6 as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Violence against women is a societal problem. It will take all of us working hard together to eradicate it. We must take time to remember the 14 young women who were murdered and to honour all women whose lives have been scarred by violence.

We must also take the time to plan for change. Through the Women's Directorate and other government departments, this government is working to prevent violence against women, and there is reason for optimism. Many government policies and laws are bearing fruit. The Yukon crime prevention and victims' services trust fund and the domestic violence treatment options program and the Family Violence Prevention Act are well underway and enjoy the full support of this government.

With projects such as the A Cappella North II survey, we hope to learn more about the lives of young women and men and to understand what changes have taken place in their lives since the 1995 publishing of the original survey.

Initiatives like the dating violence manual and the sexual assault prevention information booklet, which targets teens, are more examples of this government's commitment to continue the work of eliminating violence against women.

Our government is committed to work for real change in the lives of youth, women and men. I ask all members to think about the sacrifice of these 14 young women and how we can honour them through our actions in the future.

I also invite all members of the Legislative Assembly and the public to join me at the Elijah Smith Building at noon on December 6 to commemorate these 14 lives and to recognize their impact on us all.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ms. Netro: I rise today on behalf of the official opposition to recognize Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. Fourteen women were murdered in Montreal 11 years ago, just because they were women. December 6 has become a day that highlights the need for women to be free from violence. Men wear white ribbons to demonstrate that they support the need to end violence against women. The rose button demonstrates the commitment to end violence to women and children.

Violence against women has devastating consequences in many women's lives and has significant social and economic repercussions for society as a whole.

Every day, women are intimidated, harassed, stalked, assaulted and abused, often at the hands of an intimate partner. As a society, we cannot and must not tolerate this violence.

When we honour these 14 women on December 6, we must also recognize the women who are still experiencing violence in their lives. Fear of violence is still a fact of life for many women. We must continue to work together to eliminate violence in our homes, schools, workplace and neighbourhoods. We encourage the government to address issues of concern to women that will eliminate violence in the lives of women and children.

We encourage everyone to take time tomorrow and meet at the Elijah Smith Building at noon to show support to the commitment to end violence against women.

On December 6, let's remember those lives that have been and are being affected by violence against women.

Mashi'cho.

Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I too rise to pay tribute to National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women to commemorate the 14 women killed in Montreal on December 6, 1989, and to all women whose lives are affected by violence today.

Violence against women is absolutely intolerable and is something that we must continue to work hard to eradicate. Sadly, violence against women is all too prevalent and touches the lives not only of victims, but their families and the communities in which we reside.

The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women serves as a reminder of all the women who live daily with the threat of violence and those who have died as a result of violence, such as the 14 women in Montreal who passed away because of their gender. The white ribbon that each member is wearing also serves as a reminder of those whose lives have been touched by violence and what we can do as a community to end violence and make Canada a safer country for women to live in.

Ending violence against women requires the efforts of everyone. As legislators, it is incumbent upon all of us to continue efforts to ending violence and to protecting women in all aspects of their lives, whether in the home, in the community or in the workplace.

At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize the ongoing work of the Yukon Women's Directorate and women's groups in the territory for promoting women's interests and working toward the improvement of Yukon women's economic and social well-being.

Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

In recognition of the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer

Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise on behalf of the Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to the 2001 International Year of the Volunteer. Today is the launch of that effort.

The United Nations declaration of International Year of Volunteers 2001 gives cause for celebration to more than 7.5 million Canadian volunteers and 175,000 not-for-profit organizations. Throughout 2001, the world will honour the volunteers who do so much for all of us.

Volunteers are found in all capacities, performing many important roles. From search and rescue to coaching figure skating or selling raffle tickets, volunteers contribute a great deal to our quality of life.

In the Yukon many citizens volunteer for a wide variety of roles. I know many of the MLAs here are among those volunteers. Sports, the arts, various boards and committees, special celebrations and numerous other events are all dependent on volunteers for success.

Volunteers are the stars of our society. They contribute many hours to projects, service clubs, organizations and celebrations that would not exist without their efforts. Many volunteers are hidden from the spotlight. They play a small but critical role in the background. They are not there for the glory or recognition. They are there because they care.

Throughout 2001, there will be celebrations to honour volunteers and the contributions they make to our communities and our territory. I ask that all of us continue to encourage and recognize the very good work being performed by the Yukon's volunteers, and that through 2001 we recognize the value they add to life here for our citizens and our visitors.

I would just like to add that the MLAs are volunteering to sing a Christmas carol for the launch of this special year. I hope everyone will join us in the foyer at 2 o'clock this afternoon, and please bring your voices to help us out.

Speaker: If there are no further tributes, we'll proceed to introduction of visitors.

Are there any returns or documents for tabling?

TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS

Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I have for filing a legislative return that was tabled on November 7 of this year. The Member for Klondike incorrectly stated yesterday that he did not receive the return and alleged that the government had broken the law.

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

Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that:

(1) the Liberal Government campaigned on a promise to restore public confidence in government by modelling professional behaviour in the Legislature; and

(2) during the current sitting, Ministers have provided answers in this House that have not been consistent with answers either they or members of their political staff have provided through the media; and

(3) on various occasions, Ministers have not provided to the Opposition items of information that they have provided to the media; and

(4) such behaviour demonstrates contempt for the Legislative Assembly and for the rights of all members and leads to a further erosion of public confidence in the political system; and

THAT this House urges all Government Ministers to show respect for this House and its members by providing information as requested in a full, forthright, consistent and timely manner.

Speaker: Are there any statements by ministers?

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: Before proceeding to Question Period, a point of order was raised by the leader of the third party during yesterday's sitting, questioning whether unparliamentary language was used by the Premier when she said, "That this is not the case and that is not true."

Standing Order 19(1) states: "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member:

"(h) imputes false or unavowed motives to another member;

"(i) charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood;".

Also, as is set out in annotation 494 of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms, Sixth Edition, "It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by Members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsehood is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."

The Chair has given some consideration to this matter and the difficulties members seem to be having when they feel information provided by other members is not factually correct or that the interpretation put upon a certain set of facts is faulty.

Members must realize that it is not and cannot be the responsibility of the Chair to make determinations as to what information is correct nor upon someone's analysis of that information. It is firmly established that the Chair, and indeed all members, must accept that a member speaking believes that what he or she is saying is accurate. The House can only function as an effective deliberative body if its members operate on the basis that no member would ever deliberately mislead the House. It may well be that what a member is saying may be considered wrong or misguided. It is, then, entirely permissible for other members, when participating in debate, to provide what they think is correct information and interpretation.

Members will recall that, on October 25, 2000, the Chair ruled out of order the expression, "[T]he member knows that that is fundamentally untrue." That was contrary to Standing Order 19 because it was a clear accusation of a deliberate falsehood.

Yesterday, the Premier said, "That is not the case and that is not true." If this had been said in the normal course of conversation, it would not necessarily be interpreted as an accusation of a deliberate falsehood. For the moment, the Chair is willing to provide the benefit of the doubt to the Premier and accept that she was not accusing the leader of the third party of having intentionally misled the House. However, the Chair understands that all members have become very sensitive to all language that may imply, directly or indirectly, that another member has deliberately misled the House.

However, the Chair understands that all members have become very sensitive to any language that may imply, directly or indirectly, that another member has deliberately misled the House. The leader of the third party clearly demonstrated that sensitivity in yesterday's proceedings. It would therefore be very much in the interests of the House if all members took extra care in what they say in debate when disagreeing with the facts or argument provided by other members. Not only should members restrain themselves from using words like "truth" and "true", but they should also exercise caution when approaching those concepts. The parliamentary authorities are clear on the point that members cannot say indirectly that which they are not permitted to say directly.

While considering this point of order, the Chair also reviewed the point of order raised by the Premier with respect to the leader of the third party's use of the word "collusion". As stated at the outset of this ruling, Standing Order 19 prohibits imputing false or unavowed motives to another member.

Again, upon review, it may be that the word "collusion", used in some contexts, would not be unparliamentary. However, it is being used in the heat of debate and it has to be understood that hot words like this can lead to disorder.

The solution, of course, is for members to use greater care in the choice of vocabulary and to be sensitive to the reaction their words may arouse in others. The Chair is certain that all members will be eager to cooperate with this appeal from the Chair and thanks them, in advance, for their cooperation.

We will now proceed to Question Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re: Faro's representation in the Legislature

Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Yesterday we welcomed the new member into this House, who is the only experienced MLA sitting on the government benches who happens to be a rural MLA also. However, we couldn't help but notice that yesterday he was in the back benches. And it appears today that he is already moving up the ladder and in a ministerial position in where he is sitting today, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier tell us when she will be expanding or shuffling her Cabinet to ensure that the voice of rural Yukon is represented at the decision-making table?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I was delighted yesterday, December 4, to welcome another rural member to the Yukon Liberal Party caucus. I am certain that the folks in Faro are once again pleased to also have representation in this House.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, the Premier is avoiding the question on whether or not she will be doing a shuffle in Cabinet to make sure that we do have a voice in rural Yukon at the decision-making table. It's up to the Premier whether or not the new MLA makes it into the Liberals' inner circle. In any case, they shouldn't be too comfortable as the first legislative act of their Liberal government in this sitting was to amend the Elections Act to set up a commission to review the electoral boundaries. Can the Premier give the new Liberal member and the people of Faro any assurance that their representation in this House will not be eliminated in this boundary review?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the question has gone from shuffling Cabinet to the electoral district boundaries review, and I question whether or not the question is in order. However, I will answer the question, in continuation of our efforts to be open and accountable.

Mr. Speaker, the "inner circle," as the member refers to it, of the government is composed of 11 elected members. We are open, we are accountable, and we work with one another as a caucus in representing all Yukoners. The amendments to the Elections Act were fully debated in this House, and the member opposite is quite well aware that we now have 90 days for each party, as well as a retired judge and the chief electoral officer, to form a boundaries commission, at which point there is some time before there are recommendations, at which point there then is a public discussion. And I think it's about a year, if I recall the legislation off the top of my head, before recommendations come back to this House for debate. That is the Elections Act as we debated it, as per my current memory of it.

Question re: Dinosaur footprints

Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Tourism. Last year some 65-million-year-old dinosaur footprints were discovered near Ross River. This is only the second record of dinosaurs in the Yukon Territory, third if you count the Yukon Party.

Seriously though, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon's paleontologist has cautioned that the tracks were extremely fragile, and any attempt to move or collect them could destroy this unique record of the past. Can the minister tell us what role her department played in removing this significant find from Ross River to Faro?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, let's be clear. There are a number of dinosaur tracks around. I'm not too sure that the member opposite's clear on which ones he's talking about. There are dinosaur tracks in Ross River. I think he needs to be a little bit more clear about where he's going with the questioning that he has in mind today.

Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, it seems that the minister is a little fuzzy on this. I would urge her to listen a little more carefully.

Now, these tracks mysteriously disappeared from the original site soon after they were uncovered, only to reappear sometime later at the interpretive centre in Faro. In a letter to the Ross River Dena Council on September 29, the Mayor of Faro, who now sits in this House, apologized for the lack of consultation with respect to the dinosaur tracks being taken to Faro. He also stated that the heritage branch was to move the footprints to the Ross River school before October 11.

I see the minister nodding her head.

Can she explain why these footprints were transported to Faro in the first place and why they haven't been sent back to Ross River, where they rightfully belong?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think that, to be clear, there are a number of dinosaur tracks around. Some of them have been cast, and they weigh over a tonne.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has his GPS system out and he knows exactly where the tracks are. That's great.

There are a number of tracks. Some of them have been cast. The ones the member opposite is referring to are going to be moved to Ross River. My understanding is that they had already been moved to Ross River. He is obviously more up to date than I am. They are on their way.

But there are a number of tracks out in that area. I am sure that the member opposite is familiar with that area, as is the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, and he knows that there are a number of dinosaur tracks in that area, just like there are around Tyrrell in Alberta.

It is not unusual to have dinosaur tracks in the north. They are all over the place. I'm sure that the process is underway to have them moved. Like I say, Mr. Speaker, they weigh over a tonne. I know that there was a rumour out there for some time about how the dinosaur tracks, which weigh over a tonne, had been stolen. But indeed, we have kept track of where they are. If they are not already in Ross River, they are on their way.

Mr. McRobb: This minister is becoming very proficient at playing dumb. These are the tracks that were in the interpretative centre in Faro. Make no mistake about it. The removal of these footprints from Ross River to Faro has upset relations between the two communities considerably.

The former Mayor of Faro has admitted that removing this sensitive artifact from its original site was not the right thing to do. Will the minister send an open letter to the community of Ross River, apologizing for this incident, and also set a firm date when the community can expect the return of this artifact?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have an update on my briefing note - and, yes, I have briefing notes. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I have almost 400 briefing notes on this one department. I have three departments. So, yes, they are out of date on occasion, and I'm free to admit that.

The latest update that I have is that there is no room in the school for the display or a proper display, because this is a rather large item. We are looking at alternatives and they will, eventually, go to Ross River.

Question re: Asi Keyi special management area

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, we at least have a minister who reads her briefing notes. Some of the other ones just promise to get back to us.

I have a question today for the Premier. The number one priority of this Liberal government is the settlement of land claims and yet our Premier would lead us to believe that she was not fully briefed on all of the outstanding land claims and their relevant issues. The August 7 document reaffirming the land withdrawal for the new Asi Keyi Natural Environment Park is what I'm referring to. I just simply cannot believe that the officials within the department had not briefed the Premier on this very, very important land withdrawal. She may try to pass the buck and blame others, but the buck stops right at the Premier's desk. The federal chief land claims negotiator has stated that until the White River and Kluane final agreements are ratified, they're open to change and pointed to the land claims loan liability issue and the relief of section 87 as examples. Can the Premier explain why her government didn't request public consultation on this park issue, rather than simply reaffirming the previous government's arrangements on August 17 and keeping the whole issue a secret?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Klutlan Glacier, or Grandfather's Place, was agreed to as a special management area for a future park. It was agreed at the land claims negotiating table. And this particular special management area is part of a final agreement with the Kluane First Nation. I am so pleased that the member opposite has finally come out and publicly stated his opposition to our government trying to reach a final land claim agreement with this First Nation.

Mr. Jenkins: Here we go again with the minister putting words in my mouth and stating a position that is false - totally false.

Unparliamentary language

Speaker: Order please. I remind the member that words that imply a deliberate falsehood or untruth are not permissible in the House. Please continue.

Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Well, the minister is stating the facts contrary to what they are, Mr. Speaker, with respect to this. It is appalling that the minister hadn't received a briefing. She kept the whole issue surrounding the park a secret. And she is trying to tell us that she wasn't briefed on it. That is not true. It can't be true, Mr. Speaker. None of the parties...

Unparliamentary language

Speaker: Order please. I must remind the member again that uttering words referring to true and not true and falsehoods are not permissible. Please continue.

Mr. Jenkins: I would like to know why the minister can now stand on her feet and say that she wasn't briefed on the issue, she didn't know about it, she didn't want to change it. Why was she a party to this conspiracy of silence?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have advised the member opposite repeatedly that the special management area, known as "Grandfather's Place" in English, was agreed to at the land claims negotiating table. The previous Government Leader requested that Canada proceed as soon as possible on the withdrawal of this land, as it indicated goodwill at the negotiating table. Minister Jane Stewart committed to Kluane First Nation and the Yukon Government Leader that the withdrawal would occur.

I have said repeatedly in this House that agreement to special management areas through land claims agreements is part of the negotiation, that this was an important element to a final agreement with Kluane First Nation and with White River First Nation, and I find it very interesting that the member opposite has stated his objection to this government reaching a final agreement with those two First Nations.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was the previous NDP government that reached an agreement. The minister made that clear. That she wasn't briefed on this issue appears to also be her position, Mr. Speaker, which I find totally unacceptable.

Can the Premier explain why she has stated that the mining claims in the Tombstone Park should be bought out, and why mining claims in the new Aki Keyi Natural Environment Park should not be bought out? Why is there a difference in policy now, Mr. Speaker?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I must advise the member opposite that at the negotiating table in land claims, in particular with respect to this special management area, there was a commitment made. That commitment was realized over the summer and fulfilled with this special management area.

This special management area, or Grandfather's Place, is part of reaching a final agreement with the Kluane First Nation. This government is committed to resolving seven outstanding land claims and reaching final agreements with Yukon First Nations, and it's interesting to note that the member opposite does not support reaching these final agreements.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Point of order

Speaker: The leader of the third party, on a point of order.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, after your ruling today, I would have thought the Premier would have been much more considerate in her responses.

Our party's position and my position is supporting the settlement of all the land claims. That I have made abundantly clear. The Premier's spin on it is totally opposite and false to our position.

Speaker's ruling

Speaker: I can't really rule on whether that's a point of order or not. Of course, the leader of the third party continues to try to, in my view, embarrass the Chair by suggesting falsehoods in this House, and that is not acceptable.

I find that we are having a dispute of the facts between the Premier and the leader of the third party, and that is no excuse for the leader of the third party to continue on and to suggest that there are falsehoods and to use language that is likely to create disorder in the House.

I will rule on that right now and find there is no point of order and there is merely a dispute between members. Let's get on with Question Period. I ask the members to be judicious in their choice of words.

Question re: Argus Properties, government meeting with

Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in regard to the Argus Properties issue. Over the last few days, we have witnessed in this Legislative Assembly the difficulties in garnering information from the Premier when it comes to this issue. In fact, we had to get some of the main facts on this particular issue from the principal secretary in the Premier's office.

Now we know from all that has happened to date that there was threat of legal action, that the Premier sent a high-level emissary down to meet with Argus and that, subsequent to that meeting on September 11, all is quiet.

Can the Premier tell this House if she did indeed send her representatives down with a blank cheque to meet with Argus?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it's unfortunate that the member opposite feels that I have not been answering the questions on the Argus contract, which was signed by the previous government. I have answered the question.

The difficulty I have is when the member opposite stands up and asks if I sent the chief of staff to Vancouver with a blank cheque. No, I did not. Did the chief of staff travel to Vancouver? Yes. The difficulty is in the question. Again, I say to the member opposite: yes, the chief of staff travelled to Vancouver; yes, the deal is the same; yes, the terms of the agreement are the same. We as a government, since taking office on May 6, have tried to ensure that this agreement is concluded successfully, because we don't rip up signed agreements. We don't rip up signed agreements with Yukoners. I've said that over and over for the member opposite.

Mr. Fentie: Okay, in that case, Mr. Speaker, we now know that the money has flowed directly to Argus Properties. Will the Premier acknowledge on the floor of this Legislature that she is comfortable that both the City of Whitehorse and Argus have lived up to the terms and conditions that the Yukon government put upon their expenditure - the Yukon government's contribution - toward this project? Is she comfortable that those terms and conditions have been lived up to?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when I answered these questions from the member opposite in June, I said to the member opposite that the administration of the agreement rests with the City of Whitehorse. The $690,000 has been invoiced by Argus and paid to Yukon contractors. That's the money the member opposite is talking about. The city administers that payment.

Am I comfortable that this government has done absolutely everything we can to be facilitative of the agreement, to work with the agreement and to work with the parties to see it successfully concluded? Absolutely. That's as full an answer as I gave the member in June. It's the same answer today.

Mr. Fentie: Well, now we know why this Premier has been so evasive when it comes to this issue. The facts are that, under the agreement that the Premier continually falls back on, it is important to note that the contribution from the Yukon government was intended to flow to municipal infrastructure on public lands, which would include roads, signage, water and sewer, for example. We all know that in this particular case, that did not happen. The money flowed for property improvements on private land.

The Premier owes Yukoners and this House an explanation into the contradiction of the facts in this matter. Will she stand on her feet, correct the record and tell Yukoners that she did not live up to the existing agreement and that her emissary did change it to ensure that the money flowed to Argus to avert the lawsuit? It did not follow the terms and conditions laid out with the contribution by the Yukon government? Will she correct the record?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will state again for the members opposite that the City of Whitehorse paid out invoices that were owing to Yukon contractors. Yukoners received money that they were owed for work they had done.

I don't know why - I cannot think of a possible reason why the member opposite would have a problem with Yukon contractors being paid for work they did. I just don't understand the member's logic. Our government has consistently encouraged all of the parties to live up to the agreement. That is what the chief of staff did at the meeting, that's what I have done, that's what officials have done. Everyone has encouraged all the parties to live up to the agreement. And that is what we are continuing to do as a government. We are encouraging parties to see this agreement, signed by the previous government, successfully concluded.

Question re: CT scanner

Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Acting Minister of Health. Now, I am hoping that this acting minister can provide a much more coherent response than the full-time minister on the question of the CT scanner for the Whitehorse General Hospital. It was just last Thursday when the minister went on at great lengths about a Technical Review Committee as a new policy initiative to advise on technical change.

So I would like to ask the acting minister: can the acting minister advise us clearly, one way or the other, if a CT scanner is one of the items being reviewed by this committee?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes.

Mr. Keenan: Finally, an answer from the minister, Mr. Speaker - finally an answer. I wish that the minister, when she is wearing her Tourism portfolio hat, would be able to answer as coherently.

Now, it was just a few days ago that the Hospital Corporation's chief executive officer talked about plans to buy a newer, more sophisticated unit that is considered "the standard of care". Now, this unit would be able to help in the prevention of heart attacks and it would come with a price tag of $1.75 million. Does the acting minister consider this plan by the Hospital Corporation to be a knee-jerk decision, or does the government plan to add this item to the VISA bill that the minister was rambling on about?

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I'm actually not quite clear what the question is. We obviously support the Yukon Hospital Corporation; they have the ability to make their own decisions. There is a Technical Review Committee. We spoke about it in a ministerial statement earlier this month - or pardon me, at the end of last month. If it goes through the Technical Review Committee, then that decision-making process will be supported by this government.

Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister did not answer the question. I'll ask the question again. Does the acting minister consider this plan by the Hospital Corporation a knee-jerk decision? That's the second supplementary. I would like to carry on with the last supplementary. I understand that the minister has a reluctance to tip his hand about something that he might want to take personal credit for later. However, this money was put into this year's budget, and of course this year's budget, which has been debated, has been prepared by the New Democratic Party of the Yukon. Now, we included in there a CT scanner, and Yukon people want to know if this Liberal government will honour its commitments? So, just to set the record straight, let me ask the acting minister this: is the Yukon going to get a CT scan by March of 2001, as stated in yesterday's paper, and will this government be absorbing the full capital and operational costs of that unit?

Now, there are two questions in there for the minister. I would appreciate an answer.

Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I gather from the member opposite that he's not going to pay my VISA bill, which I'm a little disappointed about. But the issue as to whether the Hospital Corporation is going to buy a CT scanner - yes, apparently, they are buying a CT scanner. That's an issue that the Hospital Corporation has taken on. They're making a decision through the Technical Review Committee. This is a new way of making decisions, and it is removing those decisions from the political realm. That makes an awful lot of sense. Instead of a bunch of politicians here making decisions about health care equipment, the people who use it every day are making that decision. There is another issue around the CT scanner and that's to do with O&M and that issue has not been resolved. There are further conversations going with the Hospital Corporation about that issue.

Question re: Economic situation in Yukon, program funding

Mr. Fentie: My question is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.

Contrary to what the Premier has been telling Yukoners, when it comes to our economy the facts are clear that, under this Liberal government's watch, there are fewer jobs and fewer people in this territory. And those who are lucky or fortunate enough to be working are earning fewer dollars.

Will this Premier now, finally, wake up, smell the coffee and put some winter works money into the community development fund, the fire smart program, the trade and investment fund and the tourism marketing fund to put some Yukoners to work this winter? Will she do that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his recognition of my love for my morning cup of coffee.

The Yukon government is investing in the Yukon economy, very clearly and very strongly. We have been restoring Yukon's highway funding - funding cut under the NDP government. We have been restoring our information technology budget - funding the NDP cut. We have been restoring funding for historic projects - funding the NDP cut. We have increased the mining incentive program. We have lobbied for a new federal tax of flow-through shares. We have lobbied hard and aggressively promoted the Alaska Highway pipeline route. We have tabled the Electronic Commerce Act. We are investing in our tourism industry. We have reduced personal income taxes for all Yukoners - $2 million that we anticipate being spent in the Yukon economy, Mr. Speaker.

This government believes in the Yukon economy. We are rebuilding the Yukon economy and, most importantly, Mr. Speaker, we believe in Yukoners being back at work and having jobs that are meaningful so that they can -

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Exactly. As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says, Yukoners want a paycheque. They want to earn that paycheque and they want to go back to work.

We have been working very hard on rebuilding the Yukon economy so that they can do exactly that, in these ways and others.

Mr. Fentie: Well, in the first place, the Premier listed off a long, long litany of initiatives that aren't creating any jobs in this territory today. Hopefully, they will in the future, but they're certainly not doing that today.

Furthermore, I'm very, very interested in the Premier's comments about meaningful employment. What does the Premier think the community development fund is? What does the Premier think that the fire smart program is if it's not "meaningful employment"? What a slap in the face to those Yukoners who struggle every winter and try and survive on what little bit of money they make through programs like that.

Mr. Speaker, these funds are under review, according to this Premier and this government, but money is still flowing. We know that there has been money into the community development fund and into the arts community. People from around the territory are confused, trying to figure out why some of the projects are getting money, even though this Premier claims poverty, and yet they're not. Are there any changes in the criteria for the funds or the committees that make the decision? Can the Premier tell us that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the real issue for Yukoners is rebuilding the Yukon economy, which is what we committed to doing. That's the real issue for Yukoners, and the real issue for Yukoners is jobs, and that's what we're working on.

Mr. Speaker, the short list that I gave the member opposite - we can point to well over 600 jobs this winter that are a direct result of work that this government is doing in rebuilding the economy. We can point to that. I have named a number of them, Mr. Speaker.

And, again, I would remind the member opposite that there are Yukoners who are committed to the Yukon economy, who believe in our efforts to rebuild the Yukon economy, who are investing in the Yukon, including the former Government Leader - Lewes River Timber, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Expatriate. There are many, many others. These people are investing in the Yukon economy, they're putting people to work, and we are working every single day to encourage that investment and, as I said, rebuild the Yukon economy. It takes more than six months, after four years of NDP economic devastation, to rebuild the economy.

Mr. Fentie: Well, this government across the way - the Liberal government - is not rebuilding anything. In fact, they are flying by the seat of their pants and listing off things like the former Government Leader's investment in this territory, which certainly has nothing to do with what this Liberal government has been doing in this territory. It's because of his own hard work and intestinal fortitude that something like that is happening. It's the same with the other investors in this territory. They are not waiting for this government to do anything.

Mr. Speaker, this Premier has to start showing some leadership. We can't be sitting by the highway, waiting for a pipeline and a railway to show up. Will this Premier do the right thing? There are hundreds of Yukoners who could go to work this winter with fire smart and the community development fund. Will she do the right thing, put the money that the NDP put in their alternative budget into the supplementary budget, put those people to work and at least let them have some hope and a bit of happiness this Christmas? Will she do that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are doing the right thing. We are working hard on the Yukon economy. Mr. Speaker, 3,000 people left the territory under the NDP government. Voters in Faro, as recently as last week, showed what they thought of the NDP's ability to manage the economy.

We are working very hard on the Yukon economy and we will continue that good work.

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.

Notice of government private members' business

Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, December 6, 2000, under the heading of Government Private Members' Business.

Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.

Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.

Motion agreed to

Speaker leaves the Chair

COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE

Chair: Good afternoon everybody. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do the members wish to take a recess?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: We are going to take an extended recess so that we will all have the ability to sing off the same page for once.

Recess

Chair: I now call the Committee of the Whole to order.

Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued

Executive Council Office - continued

Chair: I believe Ms. Duncan had the floor.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. When we left discussion yesterday, we were in general debate on the Executive Council Office, and the Member for Watson Lake had asked a number of questions with respect to devolution and fire suppression and a number of other points with regard to devolution. I'd just like to restate a number of points for the House.

Again, the devolution transfer agreement is a highly complicated piece of work, involving a range of complex legal and administrative challenges. It was not accomplished or completed by the previous government or the government previous to them. If you will forgive the use of a colloquial expression, Mr. Chair, the devil's in the detail in this particular agreement. And I think that's parliamentary.

In legal drafting, there are substantive issues that pop up and that have to be addressed at the negotiating table, and that's what negotiators have been working on. And the Yukon Act has to reflect the devolution transfer agreement, and this makes it an even more complicated situation, given that we also are dealing with federal draftspeople.

So, for example - actually, forgive me, Mr. Chair. I won't get into examples.

We have consistently offered both opposition parties a substantive, detailed briefing on this highly complex and detailed agreement. The best place for the specific complex discussions around devolution is in a briefing session, where there is an opportunity to ask the negotiators questions and for me to reply also on the general overall direction of devolution.

This government is very committed to devolution. Our time frame - and our window, as I discussed in a ministerial statement - is that we have a legislative calendar in the Government of Canada - a parliamentary calendar - and, again, this is the Yukon Act, so it has to go through two Cabinets, the federal Cabinet and ours. And then, it also has to get on the legislative calendar and be passed by the House, and there's work to be done here.

So, our target date for the actual transfer is April 1, 2002. That is as I indicated earlier to the Legislature.

Again, I would say that this government is prepared, as the last government was, to organize a comprehensive briefing on this important and highly complex matter.

I can recall, as the leader of the official opposition, going through those briefings and they were very, very helpful. My role is to answer for the overall government direction and, again, I would state to members opposite that this government is very committed to negotiating the devolution deal and to negotiating it with the best interests of Yukoners in mind. We are very committed to that.

With that, and again the offer of a briefing, I would invite members' questions.

Mr. Fentie: I will close out by putting on the record, then, that one of the main reasons why devolution has been delayed to the extent it has is because, true to form, this Liberal government is reviewing the existing deal, which was done. So was the Yukon Act work done.

The question I have, then, for the Premier is beyond all that, because now we have added more problems to Yukoners' inability to do anything in this territory, given the fact that the federal government does not and will not respond to Yukon needs and Yukon issues. I'll ask the Premier this then: knowing that the Liberal government and this Premier were going to delay extensively the transfer of decision-making in this territory from the federal government by reviewing the existing arrangement and the existing deal in detail, why, then, did they not make representation to the federal government for joint decision-making in this territory?

Why did they not go to the federal government with that special relationship and simply say, "Okay, we're going to delay this. You're calling an election and we have to review the deal. Let's have some joint decision-making. Let's hammer out a simple arrangement whereby the Yukon government and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development jointly make decisions in this territory." Why didn't that happen?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: At the risk of putting you in a position where you are trying to decide a dispute between members, the Yukon Act final drafting and the devolution transfer agreement - the deal was not complete when the NDP government left office. The deal was not done. What has happened, since May 6 when we were sworn in - as the member knows we're very committed to doing devolution to ensuring that we get the best possible deal for Yukoners. And what we have been doing is working on that devolution transfer agreement, working on the substantive legal and administrative challenges.

There are many, many notes on the chapters of the devolution transfer agreement, and again, I would encourage either the leaders of the opposition parties or the members to participate in a complete and comprehensive briefing, because that is what this government, as consistent with practice, is very much encouraging members opposite to do.

Mr. Fairclough: I have a number of questions on devolution, too. But I would like to move on to other areas that I would like to ask questions on.

One in particular that comes to mind is the information that the Premier sent over with regard to travel. Now, it shows here that, in five months, the travel in the Executive Council Office is over by $11,000. Is there a more up-to-date figure that the Premier can share with us?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The response I sent to the member opposite was dated October 20, and it covers the Cabinet travel costs for the period May 6, 2000 to October 6, 2000. There was a summary of a table of information, and that is where the member is getting that figure from. There are also detailed pages that were attached to that letter. There would be more information available covering October 7 to today's date, December 5. I will be happy to have that compiled and sent over to the member opposite.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Executive Council Office has a budget for travel. We're already $11,000 over. What is the anticipated amount that would show up here for an overbudget in travel?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is a difference in the amount of money that has been spent. There is also a difference in the method of accounting for this.

In our efforts to be open and accountable, we have shown - and are trying to show - ministerial travel as opposed to that in the departments, as the previous government did. We are trying to consolidate it within one particular area. That is the reason for the difference in figures. So, of course, the money that is in the departments for ministerial travel would then be available to be recorded here.

We are fully accounting for our travel. I will provide additional information to the member opposite. It will be recorded so that the member can subsequently ask the questions.

Mr. Fairclough: This would complicate matters. We are talking about ECO travel, and the same information that the member gave to me has departmental travel. For example - this is by a number of different departments - for the Premier and some of the staff she has taken, it is over by $20,000, just in her department. There is a limited budget in each of the departments. I flipped right back to the very first page, and just in ECO alone, it is over $11,000 in five months.

Does the Premier not think that is excessive?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, I don't. If the member opposite is noting the page that says, "expenses covered by other departments," what we have tried to do- unlike other messes such as showing ministerial travel through departments - is show it clearly, openly, and in a more accountable fashion by showing it in Executive Council Office. And, no, I do not believe that this is excessive. This money was very well-spent.

I can outline for the member opposite the results of this travel: $20 million to the Yukon in health care spending, lobbying for the multi-billion-dollar Alaska Highway pipeline, research facility on climate change, hosting the first-ever agricultural ministers' conference, 2,200 charter seats from Europe to the territory, and calls for nominations and so on and so on. A good portion of this travel also has to do with ongoing national discussions on health care, which other members and I have engaged in.

It's very important that Yukoners' views be on the record on this, and what is particularly important is that it shows results - $20 million to the Yukon in health care spending is as a result of a good portion of this travel. So, yes, it's money well-spent.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, you get a certain amount of travel monies for Executive Council Office. Would good fiscal management mean trying to be within budget?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, certainly. Good fiscal management is also recording expenses in the area in which they occur, and that's what we have been trying to do. Rather than bury these figures somewhere else, we are being open and accountable by showing them in the Executive Council Office.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the numbers don't add up, and I don't believe that the Premier is saying that the departmental travel is included in that, because it's much higher than what would show up in that particular line item. This is Executive Council Office and not through the departmental.

We have, I would think, an excessive amount of dollars in travel, and I'll bring that up during the debate in the different departments.

When did this change? When did this new method change? Is the Premier able to bring forward to me something that's a little clearer? Because it's complicating the matters if you're including everything in one line item in information provided to us. It's almost like there's hidden travel in here. Where can we look at what dollars went to what travel on this particular piece of paper - the very front page? Is there more information that we can get on this so we can have a clear picture?

Because right now, as it stands, in six months, you are $11,000 over your budget. What happens to the rest of the year? You don't travel?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, we have been open and accountable and we are showing the expenses in the area where they occur. We have recorded ministerial travel. Rather than in the departments, we have recorded it in Executive Council Office and shown the expense. So the expense is shown against the trip that occurred.

The information is very detailed for the members opposite. For example, on May 22, there is attendance at the western premiers conference and there is a meeting with foreign affairs. It is outlined as paid for by the federal government. There is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region summer conference, which has been participated in by a number of governments. There is the annual premiers conference. There is the meeting with Paul Martin. There is the meeting with Governor Knowles.

These are shown - for example, rather than put the meeting with Minister Martin against the Department of Finance, which might have been done by the previous government, because there are a number of broad issues discussed, because it is representative of the government and because it is ministerial travel, it is shown in Executive Council Office. And, yes, there have been $11,283.56 more spent than the allotted budget line. What happens now is that the budget is required to be met through reductions in other expenditures.

The members opposite might recall the NDP trips to Irkutsk in the Sakha Republic, Russia and Hunan that produced no economic benefit for Yukon. We are talking about bringing back $20 million in health care spending as a result of some of these trips. That is money well-spent.

Mr. Fairclough: What is the Premier telling the general public right now? They have included all this in the $11,000 in all the departments, which means, what? No more travel? I noticed that there is a trip that the Minister of Health and Social Services is on. What is that for - a minister's trip?

I'll just flip you back to another page here, in Yukon Housing, where the minister took his executive assistant to a two-week conference. That's not even ministerial travel. It was a two-week conference on CMHC, to be updated. Now, you could have spent a good couple of hours and got all the information you need from your housing department, but in that one trip he blew the whole budget and went overbudget by $2,000. Is that fiscally responsible?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again I would remind the member opposite that what we have done is shown the travel against Executive Council Office as opposed to burying it in the departments.

With regard to that specific trip, what happened was that the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation attended one of the - if not the first - CMHC conferences in many years and, rather than pay for the Premier and the Minister of Economic Development to subsequently attend a meeting of northern development ministers in Goose Bay, the minister for Yukon Housing Corporation attended that on my behalf. So he accomplished those two meetings and also some meetings in Ottawa with one trip.

I am advised that that CMHC conference was the first one in 10 years, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Fairclough: It's not a ministers meeting, Mr. Chair. It is for updates on what the CMHC program is all about, and we know we have already had that devolved to the Yukon government but not with a First Nation component. If he or his staff wanted to have an update, then they would go and do those types of trips. Ministers travelling to that seems to be very excessive.

It's not just a trip like the Premier may take to meet in Ottawa, which could be for a one-day meeting and you would get all the information you possibly need. This is a two-week trip, costing $12,000 in total in that one department alone, and the Premier feels that this is fiscally responsible. I think otherwise. I think that you're already overbudget. The government is already overbudget in travel, and yet there are still people going out on travel.

Is the budget going to be increased for the departments or ECO? Maybe the Premier can let us know whether or not there is a change in policy with regard to travel?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already told the member opposite that what we are trying to do is provide better accounting to the Yukon public in the Legislature. Rather than burying these trips, we are showing them within a line item. The overexpenditure will be made up within the existing allocations.

Mr. Fairclough: We have travel that is recorded here - not all of it by the way. I have some questions in regard to the chief of staff who is not on this paper. It's not updated. It's not proper information that was given to us. So, something is wrong there. I'd like clarification if the member can go back and talk to the department about where this travel is. The member also said that any additional travel that will be taken by the Executive Council Office or other departments is going to be over the budget, because they have spent all their money already, but there will be reductions in other areas. Can the minister tell us what areas will be reduced?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: We're not going to the Sakha Republic, Irkutsk, Russia and Hunan for starters. Mr. Chair, I did ask, in response to the member's question, why the particular trip noted was not listed in here. The difficulty there is that it was an error; it was an omission. I have asked that we go back through this and make a double-check against everything. There was an error committed. It was an error of omission and I apologize to the member opposite.

I have also committed to the member opposite that we will provide an additional detailed listing of any travel that has taken place since this letter was signed. It's a matter of common practice, Mr. Chair, for members of the opposition, at the beginning of Executive Council Office debate, to ask that this information be tabled. We're more than prepared to that. The member opposite wrote me and I responded promptly, and I will continue to keep the member updated.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the information that was given was inaccurate. It didn't reflect the true travel that government had, and it could be more trips, too. I don't see where there's any - who is paying for the travel, for example, for the Member for Riverside on his trip back to the Yukon on the Alaska trip, or tagging along with the Premier to go to a funeral in Montreal? Those are unclear, and the Premier has not given us any clear information on that whatsoever.

I'd like to ask the Premier about opening up the Alaska office. Why would she go and open an office in Alaska, rather than Alberta, for oil and gas?

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Kent: I'd just like to advise the House that former member Flo Whyard has joined us in the gallery, and if you could join me in welcoming her at this time.

Applause

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if I might respond to the member opposite, I am trying to recall the date of Mr. Trudeau's funeral, and it escapes me at the moment, but I would suggest that it was after the date of October 6, when this report was made. That's why it's not shown here. This is up to and including October 6, and I have indicated to the member and apologized that there was one trip missed on here. This does not throw the entire report into disrepute. We have fully and openly accounted for all of the trips up to and including October 6, 2000, and I have indicated to the member that I would provide the member opposite with a subsequent report.

Now, about the Alaska office, perhaps the member could elaborate. I'm not certain of what he is speaking.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, going back to the travel, I asked the Premier whether there were new policies put into place by this Liberal government. Is it giving the go-ahead for all departments and ECO to go 25 percent above their normal travel? Because we're already over. Is there a caution out there to not travel unless, for example, you're bringing something home to the Yukon? What is the Liberals' policy in regard to this?

You have already gone overbudget so there must be a message that has been given to all the ministers in regard to travel.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my apologies. Mr. Trudeau's funeral was on October 4, and it's shown on the first page of the information I provided the member. At the bottom of the first column, two trips are shown: October 1 to 4, Canadian Energy Pipeline Conference and attendance at Mr. Trudeau's funeral, by the principal secretary and me.

The policy with respect to travel for ministers and for government is that Management Board has asked for a better accounting of travel. My understanding of the past has been that the sum total of travel was reported twice a year and it was not broken down to within Yukon and outside of Yukon. That has been the past practice. We have asked for a better accounting to Management Board of travel. That is the only change. The change on our part is an effort to be more accountable and vigilant in the spending of public money.

Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier tell me if it's a new government policy for her to be taking her staff members to things like funerals? I understand all the premiers going to something as significant as this particular funeral, but it has quite an expense to it. So is there a new policy within this Liberal government to include that type of travel paid by taxpayers' dollars to go to a funeral?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is absolutely common practice, if not stated policy, that leaders and politicians travel with staff.

In terms of my accompaniment to Mr. Trudeau's funeral, I also attended the Canadian Energy Pipeline Conference, at which I was a guest speaker. There was support provided to me there. And in terms of attendance at Mr. Trudeau's funeral, I can advise the member opposite that every single Premier with whom I spoke travelled with, at a minimum, one staff person. And in the case of Mr. Kakfwi, there were two, if not three, individuals accompanying him.

So this is not only common practice for this government and previous governments to the Liberal government, it is common practice throughout the country.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, by the information that we got, it is common practice of this Liberal government to be taking staff along with them on most of their trips. It has always been a practice with every other government to take staff people with them, especially their executive assistants, but in this case, you have already gone to a certain point - to Calgary - and then went on from Calgary to Montreal.

Chair: Order please. I will just remind members - and, as one of the worst offenders, I completely understand - to refer their remarks through the Chair.

Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Sometimes it becomes difficult when we are referring back and forth to the member's travel.

I don't believe this is very good fiscal management at all. The paperwork that has been provided to us is already over in a matter of months. You would have thought that the Liberal government would have taken some time and done their homework at home before going out on some of these trips. The Minister of Tourism was off on a trip the day after being sworn in. I would think that she would have been trying to get up to speed so she can take the proper Yukon message out there and lobby for Yukoners. We are already overbudget with regard to travel, Mr. Chair.

I would like to ask about a movement of a couple of different areas: the French language services and the photography unit that is here in the building. I don't see the reflection of that move to another department. Why is that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with regard to the member opposite's opposition to this government's travel, their job in opposition is to oppose, oppose, oppose. They oppose it when we take the trip, and they oppose it when we don't take the trip. That's their job. The member and I will agree to disagree on that.

With respect to the point on the changes in Executive Council Office, that will be reflected in the next year's budget.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier has a different opinion than I have in regard to travel. I don't believe that - I would not support the Premier to travel on taxpayers' dollars for just a photo op, for example. If the Premier's out on a trip to represent Yukoners, then do that. And I'm referring back to Chrétien's visit to the Yukon Territory. I thought that the Premier would have a lot more time to discuss matters with him when he was here than she actually did in her eight-minute bus ride down from the airport. I believe that there were more serious meetings set up - breakfast meetings in Alaska - that could have, again, advanced the positions that this government has been putting forward and put more seriousness to it.

And the member said that both the French language services and the photography unit would show up in next year's budget. Are they moved now or are they in the process of moving?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's in process.

Mr. Fairclough: A quick question in regard to the stats branch. We had some part-time people that left. Have these people been replaced?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, those staff are on a project-by-project basis, so when a project is completed and the funding is used for a particular project then those staff are not there.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I understand that these are part-time people who have left and this has caused some delays in some of the important things that government wanted to do; for example, the report on the exit survey that was so important to us to find out what people really wanted to see in the Yukon and the number of people who have been visiting us.

I would like to ask a question in regard to the youth directorate. What are the plans for that?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am unaware of delays with the statistics branch, but I take the member's comments seriously and will follow up on them.

With respect to the youth directorate, as minister responsible for the Executive Council Office, I have given the instruction or the request to the Executive Council Office staff that they act as the coordinating agency in the work that's being done on this. The work has been done by our Member for Riverside, and very ably done, in researching this particular issue.

In preparation for questions in the Legislature, the Minister of Education has been briefed on the long-range plans, or the work to date, step by step, with regard to the youth directorate, and the planning for consultation with youth.

So, I would invite the member opposite - I could do one of two things. I can invite the Minister of Education to respond to these specific questions as he has been briefed to do, or I can invite the member opposite to ask those questions in the youth directorate - pardon me - the Department of Education debate.

Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the Premier can get some of the updates for me on that. I would like to know where it's at and how completed it is.

With regard to the Member for Riverside - it's basically a community liaison - what is used for performance indicators for this liaison person?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The performance indicators for this - not only the Member for Riverside, but for all the members and our ability to work with Yukoners - are going to be very clear at the next election. In the interim, the way that we are managing our work, in terms of representing all Yukoners, is that all of the MLAs have taken on working with specific communities and individuals, and we are working as a government to revitalize and ensure that we have good, strong communications with all Yukoners, whether they be communities, First Nation governments - we had a lengthy discussion about that yesterday - or municipalities or other governments.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm having difficulty getting my head around the minister's explanation of ministerial travel and travel within Executive Council Office.

My understanding of the situation is as follows: we have all of the departments budgeted for ministerial travel to a degree and for the travel of their respective department officials. That's in the existing budget. Now, it seems that coming into play here, we have a Management Board decision. And let's make it abundantly clear that the Management Board is the Cabinet, which has made a decision to transfer a lot of the ministerial travel out of the respective departments and lump it all into the Executive Council Office, along with a lot of the travel of some of the Executive Council officials and political appointees, whether they're on contract or otherwise.

So at the end of the day, we have a spike in travel within Executive Council Office that has resulted, at this point in the fiscal period, in them being $11,000 overspent. We still have basically almost five more months before the fiscal year-end. Has the minister given any consideration to presenting the figures as they were originally envisioned to be presented, with the allocations going to the respective departments? And if not, why not? Because we're comparing apples to oranges, and then partway through the budget cycle, we throw a whole new part into the equation, which distorts it. And the expenditure of money is like the spreading of manure, Mr. Chair. Especially when it is piled up in one big heap, it kind of smells, but when it's spread all around, it usually does a lot of good and it accrues some benefits. But in this case we have it all in one great big lump in this Executive Council Office.

So it gives rise to the question: what would the books look like if the accounting practices that were in effect when this budget was presented to the House were carried forward?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a couple of points that need to be clarified for the member. First of all, Management Board is a subcommittee of Cabinet, so that is clear for the record.

What also needs to be clear is that we have not transferred funds between departments. What happened is that this government took office and passed the NDP budget; and what we were receiving, as I had received in opposition, were figures around travel. And what we as a government, as Management Board, have said is: "Look, we want to fully and openly account for this to the Yukon public. We don't want to bury the Minister of Economic Development's travel in the department. We want to clearly state it and show it and summarize it."

Now, the member opposite is taking issue with the way we have presented this information.

We were responding to a request, as we anticipated doing. Bearing in mind that these are Management Board documents and that there is some confidentiality around what has been presented so far - pardon me - what are past figures, what I will do for the member opposite is undertake, so that it's easier for comparison, to do a comparison with NDP government where they show travel and a comparison if we were to show our travel the same way and present it the way we have. We will undertake to do that.

As I have just committed to the member opposite, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, we will update the figures that we have provided him.

Mr. Jenkins: It gives us more of a comparison. We see a budget and we anticipate where a lot of the expenditures are going to be incurred with that budget, and then part-way through the budget cycle, a Management Board decision, which is, in effect, a decision of Cabinet - yes, it's a subagency but it's the same individuals making the same decisions and saying it's another board but it's one and the same, Mr. Chair. They're synonymous. And we come up short. We come up overspent in travel in Executive Council Office by some $11,000.

Given the amount of overexpenditure and what was originally budgeted in this line item, where do we envision we're going to be at the end of the period of time, March 31, if we're going to account for ministerial travel in this format?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said I will provide that information to the member opposite.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we must have some idea as to where we're going to be at the end of the cycle. We can't just leave this one and say, yes, we're over $11,000 in this line item. We have five more months to go in our fiscal cycle. We have come back in the various departments, virtually all of which are overspent some $37 million and, on the scale, the Executive Council Office is number 6 in overexpenditure in O&M costs, at some $1.2 million.

We are looking at a sizable sum of money. I am sure the minister must have some idea as to where we are going to be at the end of the fiscal period with respect to accruing ministerial travel and Executive Council Office travel in the manner that has been determined by Management Board. I am sure that the submission to Management Board must have come up with an aggregate sum in this regard. If they didn't, we are flying by the seat of our pants as far as controlling our finances. We must have an idea as to what we are going to spend or what we're budgeting for that line item in total. It is not prudent, fiscal management to leave an open-ended cheque book there. Or as the minister so aptly described it, just an open VISA card that doesn't have any maximum limit on it for ministerial travel - just pay as we want to go and go as often as we care to go - especially in light of some of these questionable expenses that are charged to Executive Council Office, like the Yukon Housing minister and officials going to a CMHC conference for some two weeks. That should be rightly, in my opinion, in another department. It is an initiative directly attributable to another area. It is a stretch to put it in the Executive Council Office. And it's even a stretch to send the minister for a two-week conference on standards for CMHC. That department has its own budget and area of expertise. So we've stretched it there.

In how many other areas have we stretched the envelope, Mr. Chair? All I want to know is, from the minister, where are we going to be at the end of the fiscal period? The minister doesn't have an idea; she'll get back to me. Well, why doesn't the minister have an idea? It is her responsibility to have an idea as to where the government is heading and what costs we are going to incur. I am sure that those numbers are there, and I would very much appreciate them during the course of this debate.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite doesn't like the way we've presented the information. The member is suggesting that we should have presented the information, for example, on one particular trip, where the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation travelled on Yukon Housing business, on Economic Development business, and on Executive Council Office business, and that we should have divided those trips into three and shown them in each department. Well, if we do that, certainly, every single department will be on budget in ministerial travel.

What we have done here is show it as a lump sum. Yes, I do not dispute the fact that it's $11,283.56 overbudget as of October 6. We can go back to showing it in departments, and then every single department, including Executive Council Office, will, at the end of the year, show ministerial travel as on budget, because it hasn't been accounted for in the past in the way that would show in one department, and that's what we're trying to do. We are trying to be more open, more accountable, list every single trip, every single expense, and show it as an item in the Executive Council Office, rather than burying it in departments.

Now, if we go back to putting it in departments as the member opposite suggests, he would have no idea. He wouldn't have had this information.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Pardon me? The member opposite apparently wishes to respond.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that is not accurate information. We could ask for ministerial travel. In the past, we've received ministerial travel for the various departments, and we've always received an overview of the ministerial travel for the course of the fiscal period on a department-by-department basis, Mr. Chair.

At the end of the day, the total amount of expenditure for government for all departments will be exactly the same, but we budgeted for it one way. We understand it one way. Partway through the budget cycle, the Management Board decides to make a change, a change in their accounting policies and how they accrue this travel and how they account for the travel, so we've got it in one big pile.

At the same time, why can't we make an amendment in the budget to change the budget to reflect how Management Board has dictated ministerial travel is going to be accounted for, or wait for the next budget cycle?

Mr. Chair, just because the Liberals didn't have the ability to develop their own budget and they adopted the NDP budget, and they said they were going to live with it - well, they're only going to live with the portions that they like. They are going to cherry-pick the areas they do not like and throw them out and cast them aside, which is becoming more and more obvious as we go along.

I don't have any quarrel with the Management Board direction. The Management Board direction that all ministerial travel be accounted in one pot and that it be presented in that manner appears to be a reasonable one. But at least dovetail it to the budget that is available for it, because right now, we are going to be overspent at an alarming rate.

And also, Mr. Chair, if you take the ministerial travel by department and ECO, and go back to the respective departments and look at how much they are requesting in this supplementary, some of them will be well-overspent. Their supplementary would be considerably higher again. Although the Yukon Housing Corporation is only requesting another $299,000, what we have is a CMHC conference - a housing ministers conference - that Mr. Wayne Jim and his executive assistant Dan Cable attended, at a cost of almost $13,000. That is a sizable sum of money for a conference in Ottawa and Goose Bay. We are not told of the involvement of this minister in other initiatives at that same time, until the minister mentions it in the House. Maybe rightly, all of those costs shouldn't be accrued to the Yukon Housing Corporation or to the department.

But right now, they are all accrued to the Executive Council Office. We set the rules down in one way. Why are we changing midstream? That's what I am getting at. Why change midstream?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, because of the member's earlier words; that he had no quarrel with this Management Board direction - no quarrel - feeling that it was a reasonable one. It is because Executive Council Office should rightly be publicly accountable for Cabinet ministers and ministerial travel on behalf of this government. That's why.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, okay, fine. Let's accept the minister at face value and let's accept her rationale. But why do it midstream through a budget cycle? It is very, very hard to cross-reference and it takes an inordinate amount of time for the minister, the minister's officials and all of us here to dovetail something back to a budget that was presented earlier. You don't change horses or accounting policies in midstream. And that is effectively what we have here - a complete change in accounting policies partway through the fiscal period. That is not prudent fiscal management, Mr. Chair. And that is what I am relaying to the House and to the minister in the hope that she can see the light.

It is going to take a tremendous amount of time for officials within the minister's department to cross-reference all of this back. It's going to take all of us - and then we are comparing apples and oranges. Why wasn't the decision made at the end of the fiscal period to start with implementing this Management Board initiative? Why did we change horses in midstream? Why did we change it? It throws everything out of kilter and it really distorts it. And it appears on the surface that the minister is trying to hide something. That's how it appears.

That may or may not be the case, but at the end of the day, by taking this initiative and implementing it partway through the fiscal period, it sets all of those indicators off - that we have implemented this new procedure and this new policy for accounting purposes because we have something to hide or to bury.

It gives all of those indications, Mr. Chair. Why would the minister want to do that? Because it doesn't add to more open and accountable government. On the contrary, Mr. Chair. It sends the opposite signal and the opposite message out there.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The documents that I received over the successive years as an opposition member - that information that the member refers to as accounting for ministerial travel - were provided as a courtesy and in response to a question. There was no line item in these budgets that said "ministerial travel". It was very difficult to pin point. So, this isn't a matter of this government hiding anything or even the suggestion that we're hiding anything. We have been open; we have been accountable and it will show as a line item in future budgets that we write as ministerial travel or as travel in support of the government's objectives. This should be accounted for. It shouldn't be buried in departmental expenditures. It didn't show as a line item previously. We want to account for it. We want to answer to the Yukon public for it and that's what we're doing, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, if that's the case, Mr. Chair, for accounting purposes, it would have been very, very easy, given the existing budget, to put another line in each department for ministerial travel, so it's clearly identified, clearly enunciated and rather self-evident, instead of this convoluted method that we're employing, that gives all the appearances that the minister wants to hide something. What didn't they just bring in another line item in each of the departments and clearly identify ministerial travel? That would have been the simplest way to go, from an accounting standpoint.

I'm sure the minister's knowledge of accounting is such that she would agree with me, Mr. Chair, and it would have been a very, very easy way to proceed. At the end of the day, we would all know what the ministerial travel item was in each department and we could clearly identify with each department and each minister for ministerial travel. It would be a very simple exercise. We could have used the existing format, existing budgets and the totals would have been there. At the end of the day it's all going to net out the same, or gross out the same, or it will be a gross amount of money that we have expended on ministerial travel, which appears to be the case, Mr. Chair.

The question for the minister, in case she has forgotten it or missed it, as I suspect she has, is why wasn't one line item instituted in each of the department's budgets that clearly identifies the ministerial travel for that department?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this government chose to be more open and accountable. We are showing the travel on behalf of the government in Executive Council Office. The member has aired his views and I disagree with him.

Mr. Jenkins: Doesn't the minister agree that the easiest way - normal routine accounting practices - would be to put a line item in each department clearly identifying ministerial travel. Wouldn't that have been the easiest procedure to follow? Yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, if we can't get to the basics of accounting, I don't know how far along the course the minister got. We have learned a new type of math. It's called fuzzy math, I guess. That's synonymous with the Liberals, whether they are in the U.S. or Canada.

I submit that for standard accounting policies and standard accounting practices we have a budget for all of the departments. Yes, it was an NDP budget, because the Liberals didn't have the wherewithal or the ability to develop their own budget, but the easiest way would have been to put a line item in each one of the departments for ministerial travel, and clearly identify what the ministerial travel was for that minister and that department. We would have no quarrel and no arguments. It would all be upfront.

The minister could then stand on her feet and be very, very proud of being a more open and accountable government. But instead, the minister compiles it all into one department. Some of it is missing. It's an error or omission or an oversight or whatever explanation we have, but it's not all there. And, at the end of the day, we in opposition end up having to ask question after question of this minister to find out and understand where all the money was spent, by whom, and when.

We know full well that some of the papers that have been presented by this minister in the House are not a complete recounting of all the departments' travels in Executive Council Office and all her officials' travels within Executive Council Office. That's it.

From an accounting standpoint, the minister disagrees with me, but at the end of the day I'm sure that if she goes back to her department, she'll find out that the easiest way to outline ministerial travel would be a line item in each department. Why didn't she proceed in that manner, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for the speech. We have proceeded in a manner that is open and accountable, and we will continue to do so. And what's more, we will continue to show results for this travel.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I submit that much of this travel was for political purposes. It was not for government purposes. You know, if we wanted to look at some of this travel, it's highly questionable as to its intent, its purpose and its results. The minister takes pride in standing on her feet and mentioning that the Minister of Health has attended a conference. We have trip costs anywhere from $5,000 to just under $2,000 each trip, and we start looking at the results. Well, the minister, we're told, got another $20-million windfall for Yukon. I submit, Mr. Chair, that had the minister not even been in attendance we would probably have received the $20-million windfall. We might even have received more.

Mr. Chair, at the end of the day, what we have is the Executive Council Office spending an inordinate amount of time on travel. They've overspent their budget, and the minister tells the House that she's open and accountable, but she can't give any idea to the House as to how much overspent the department's going to be on travel at the end of the fiscal period.

We are just over half way through and they are $11,000-odd dollars overspent currently.

Well, if we look at what they have currently spent - year to date - and extend that from now until the end of the fiscal period, perhaps that is more of an accurate reflection of where we are heading. All we have is a government spending more money on itself, not spending money in an accountable manner that is fiscally prudent.

So once again, the minister must have an idea as to how much this one line is going to be overspent at the end of the fiscal period. Management Board submissions - and I've had kind of a briefing on what they are, and it's a basic accounting function that is presented. The political implications are presented also, Mr. Chair. But on the accounting side, it usually spells out the total amount of expenditures that they are expected to incur.

And all I'm asking is how much do we anticipate spending in this line item from now until the end of the fiscal period? If the minister is going to get back to me on it - I am sure that one of her officials up there listening must have some sort of an understanding and can provide her with an accurate briefing of where we are heading and how much we are going to spend. And I would very much appreciate that number. Can the minister provide it?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will provide that to the member opposite.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I am waiting for it. Where is it?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I said that I will provide that to the member opposite. There are a number of items that need to be verified, including what different ministers anticipate over the following three months - January, February and March - and balance of the month of December. That information will be provided to the member opposite when I have it.

Mr. Jenkins: It will probably come in the form of a supp at the end of the fiscal period. That's probably the soonest the minister will get a handle on it, and it will be interesting to see how the budgeting process works within this Liberal government, Mr. Chair.

Let's switch gears for a minute here, and see if we can get more of an understanding on one of the other areas covered under Executive Council Office, and that's the minister's responsibility for land claims.

If we look at the latest initiative from the federal government and we look at the minister's position with respect to the creation of the Asi Keyi Park, Mr. Chair, we're getting a very mixed message from the Premier as to her involvement in what transpired.

The number one priority of this Liberal government is the settlement of Indian land claims here in the Yukon. There are seven land claims yet to be settled. We're relatively close on five. Two need a lot more work, but five are relatively close. Seeing that it's the number one undertaking of this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that the department officials provided the Premier with a complete and thorough briefing on every one of the seven outstanding land claims. That would be one of the first steps any fiscally prudent and politically astute leader would undertake.

Now, I'm sure that the Premier has had a complete and thorough briefing on all of the seven remaining land claims and, for the record, I'd just like to ask the Premier if that is, indeed, the case.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the briefing for me on this particular issue - settlement of land claims - has been on an overall-issue basis. For example, if negotiators are working on issues around a section of a final land claim such as municipal taxes, the briefings take place on an issue-by-issue basis, and additional land claim work would be, for example, the review of the offer by First Nations to establish a common forum. So that's the nature of the briefings that take place.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister has failed to answer the question. What I asked the minister is if she has had a thorough and complete briefing on all of the seven remaining land claims yet to be settled here in the Yukon, yes or no.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again, my briefing has been on an issue-by-issue basis with respect to setting mandates and dealing with negotiations today.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I don't know what we're trying to relate to the House, Mr. Chair, but is the minister saying that she hasn't had a complete and thorough briefing on all seven remaining First Nations land claims that are outstanding here in the Yukon? Is that what the minister is saying - yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have said that I am briefed on an issue-by-issue basis regarding land claims, as those issues relate to setting mandates and dealing with the mandates. That's how I am briefed, on an issue-by-issue basis.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I understand that the minister, at this juncture, has to be extremely cautious giving her response in the House on the formation of this Asi Keyi Park. She has to be very - well, she has to probably deviate from a standard yes-or-no answer.

She's basically saying to the House that she hasn't been briefed on a lot of the areas. At the end of the day, that appears to be what the minister has been hiding behind. Either she, number one, hasn't been briefed, or, number two, she hasn't understood the briefing. Now, I don't know which one it is, Mr. Chair, but I find it quite appalling and disgusting that the number one issue on the platform of this Liberal government was the resolution of the seven remaining Indian land claims here in the Yukon.

Given the inordinate amount of time that the minister has to huddle with her officials to come and respond to simple yes-or-no question, this tells me that she's having trouble dealing with this one outstanding issue surrounding the withdrawal of the land for the Asi Keyi Park. There had to have been a briefing, at some juncture, on their land claims situation. An important issue like the withdrawal of that amount of land here in the Yukon has to be brought to the minister's attention and, if not, why not?

The minister's hiding her hat behind - it was signed off previously and she hasn't looked backwards. Well, Mr. Chair, no one that I have spoken to has suggested that that's the way that the land claims and land claims briefings have been taking place.

The department is recognized as a very, very capable department that consistently briefs the minister responsible - usually the Government Leader - on land claims.

And as thorough and comprehensive a briefing as possible has always been provided. So it sounds like at the end of the day either the briefing wasn't provided to the minister or the minister didn't understand the briefing. Now, which one of those two answers is correct, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have said repeatedly in this House - and I have explained to the member opposite the procedure. On this particular order-in-council land withdrawal, I have explained that thorough briefings with respect to land claims and the status at the tables and so on takes place on an issue-by-issue basis. That is what has taken place up to today's date.

I thank the member opposite for his speech. I am not going to provide him with a yes-or-no answer.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I submit that the minister knew full well of the formation of this park. She probably didn't know the exact date that the order-in-council withdrawing this land was going to take place, but she knew full well, well in advance of it occurring, that it was going to happen. Now, the date that it was going to happen was probably out there and unknown to all, except for the current government of the day in Ottawa. And for the record, I will say that the minister hid that information, did not take it out into the public domain, and she should have provided that information to the public domain, given the importance of that information, Mr. Chair. Because all parties are at the land claims table representing specific interests. And the Government of the Yukon is at the land claims table representing the interests of Yukoners. If this government is not there doing that, who is?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, land claims negotiations do not take place in public and they do not take place on the floor of this House.

Mr. Jenkins: We're not negotiating land claims on the floor of this House. This is a fait accompli. I'm asking about the procedures and the arrangements that took place between the current Yukon government and its leader, the Premier of the Yukon, and federal officials and land claims officials in the Yukon, and I can't get an answer, Mr. Chair.

I find it appalling, Mr. Chair, that this minister won't stand up and tell the House what took place and what occurred and what involvement she had. That's all I'm asking - that she be forthright and clearly represent what happened, because the school of public opinion is out there and that clearly indicates that the Premier of the Yukon knew full well in advance that this land withdrawal for the Asi Keyi Park was going to take place. She did not know the exact date, but she did know it was coming down the pipe.

I further suggest, Mr. Chair, that her briefing provided her with that information on this very important area of those land claims. She is choosing to hide behind this whole front and keep that stiff upper lip.

But, Mr. Chair, someone has to represent the interests of Yukoners at the land claims table, and that's why the Government of Yukon is there. Otherwise, Yukon wouldn't be represented. It would be an initiative between the federal Government of Canada and the First Nations. The Yukon really doesn't need to be at the land claims table, and given the representation we're receiving under this new Liberal government, I submit that an open and accountable government is not the case. We have a very secretive government that acts in collusion with its federal counterpart, the federal Liberal government, to the detriment of Yukon.

That's where we're at. So I'd ask the Premier to come clean and tell us if she knew that the formation of that park was underway - the Asi Keyi Park? Did she know from her briefing after she gained political office that this park was going to be created - yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already answered this question. I have already issued a ministerial statement on this particular issue in this Legislature. I have answered the questions.

The member opposite clearly does not want to see a final agreement reached with the Kluane First Nation and the White River First Nation.

I do not appreciate the member's continual accusations of my abilities or his continual accusations that I am in some way not being forthcoming with the House. Mr. Chair, I'm avoiding using the word "lying." The member opposite is accusing me of that. That's the way he does politics; it's not the way I do politics.

Chair's ruling

Chair: Order please. I did not hear any evidence, or I would have called the member to order on an accusation of lying. I've been listening for it today, and since this has been pointed out before, I would ask that the members be judicious. And that's also on the accusations that are being blamed on that.

In this case, I have been watching for it, and I have been following the Speaker's ruling. So, I would really ask members on both sides to be sensitive to this, as I have found today that there have been no direct accusations.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I've asked the question of the minister, and I would ask once again that the minister respond. Was she aware that this park was going to be formed, and was she made aware through her briefings after she gained the office of Premier - yes or no?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already answered the question.

Mr. Jenkins: All we have is a very vague reference to the minister sort of knowing about it, after the press release came out of Ottawa. And I submit, Mr. Chair, that my line of questioning is quite reasonable and I can't see why the minister is refusing to answer the question, other than that she obviously has something to hide and something to be ashamed of. That's the only thing I can conclude. And, once again, I ask the minister that question - the same question, the same minister.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Same question, same answer. I have already fully answered this question in the House.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps we can stand aside this department until the minister comes back with some forthright answers.

Mr. Chair, I move that we stand aside the Department of Executive Council Office until such time that the minister can come back with some appropriate answers.

Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Executive Council Office be stood aside until a later date. Are we agreed?

Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: The nays have it. The department will not be stood aside.

Motion negatived

Mr. Jenkins: At the end of the day, the minister should start answering some of the questions that are posed to her and not hang her hat on some ministerial statement and some previous initiative. If we don't get it on the record, I am sure that the minister is going to once again avoid the answer.

So the question is a very succinct question. And I am sure that this new briefing note might spell out some more added insight into the vast area that this Premier is responsible for. The question for the minister is this: when was the minister made aware that the Asi Keyi Park was going to be created in the Yukon? What was the time frame?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already indicated, in my ministerial statement, the answer to that question.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the public perception is that the minister knew about it well in advance of the announcement date coming from Ottawa. The public perception is that the minister hid that information from the public view, and the public perception is that this minister didn't want to deal with it or have a look at it or even make any announcement of this impending land withdrawal.

Why is it that the Liberals had one position with respect to mining claims contained within a park boundary, and I refer specifically to Tombstone, where the minister's position was to buy them out - virtually expropriate them? Now that they're the government of the day, Mr. Chair, they have no position. They don't want to buy them out.

I asked a question earlier today. The minister failed to respond. Let's go back to it once again, Mr. Chair. Same question. This time I'm hoping for a response.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite opened his remarks by saying that the public perception is that this government has somehow behaved less than honourably, and I would respectfully submit that the public perception is not that. I would invite the member opposite to speak with any members of the public I have spoken with over the past number of days, which include the president of the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, to name two. I would invite the member opposite to speak with the representative of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, whom I haven't spoken with, but who has spoken publicly about the public perception of this government.

I'd invite the member opposite to talk to any of a number of people about the public perception of this government. The public perception of this government is that we are absolutely committed to the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims, that we believe in the negotiation at the table, and that we believe in working with the other two parties at the table to resolve the seven outstanding land claims. The public perception is that we're doing that and, at the risk of blowing our own horn, the public perception is that we're doing a good job.

Mr. Chair, with the criticism of this special management area, the public perception is that the member opposite does not support reaching a settlement with Kluane First Nation.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, we were kind of on the right track there for a little while, Mr. Chair, but the last statement is completely false. It's wrong.

Chair: Thank you. Thank you for correcting your language.

Mr. Jenkins: It's wrong. I very much support the settlement of First Nation land claims. In fact, on the floor of this House I have suggested many, many ways in which a settlement can be achieved and we can move things along. Unlike the Liberals when in opposition, most of the initiatives that I bring forward in the House, Mr. Chair, have a component to them of offering a solution, and that has been the case with respect to my approach to land claims.

At the end of the day, the Yukon would be much better off seeing the land claims settled and we can all move forward in unison. But I'm extremely apprehensive that this Liberal government is going to be successful in settling all seven.

Seeing the special relationship that Yukoners bought into here in the Yukon, between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals, one would have thought that things would have moved ahead. Things would have moved ahead and accelerated in this area, but they appear to be stalled or moving rapidly in reverse.

We have a previous Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, Mr. Nault, who appears to be vehemently opposed to providing any flexibility to extending the date of the resolution of land claims, beyond what it currently is.

His date is hard and fast. He said we'll have to wait and see. He was totally inflexible with respect to the two areas that are proving to be an impediment to land claims, and that is the repayment of monies borrowed for negotiating purposes by the First Nations and section 87, the income tax issue. And until there's some movement on these two fronts, Mr. Chair, I don't believe that it's going to be a rapid progress to settle the land claims here, the seven remaining land claims.

And I'm sorry to see the Premier taking the tack of hiding behind the land claims process to create more territorial parks, because we still have six left to go. Does that mean we're going to create six more parks here in the Yukon? Is that the case? And are they once again going to be done in secret? And once again, will the minister deny any knowledge or involvement with them? And once again, will the minister only say after it's a fait accompli and it's accomplished, "Well, that's the federal government and it has nothing to do with us"?

There are three parties at the land claims table, Mr. Chair, and the Government of the Yukon is there to represent the interests of Yukoners. Why isn't the Premier doing that, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the land claims negotiations involve three parties: the First Nations, the Yukon government and the Government of Canada. The Government of Yukon is very ably represented at the table for specific negotiations with very hard-working, able public servants at the negotiating table, and they are there representing Yukon. And I personally - and our party - is very committed to the settlement of these seven outstanding land claims.

Mr. Jenkins: I submit that those same very able, hard-working officials have briefed the minister on the establishment of this park well in advance of it occurring. And the minister either ignored the fact that it was occurring, chose to ignore it or didn't hear the briefing and failed to even raise the question about what was going to happen with the mining claims within that existing park. That was the case with the establishment of the Tombstone Park.

This same individual in opposition had one position with respect to mining claims within parks - that they shouldn't occur; that they should be bought out or they should be expropriated. Fine. If that's her position, why isn't she consistent with that position with the creation of this new park? Why has this government been very strangely silent in the area of the mining claims? Probably because the creation of a park is going to destroy the ability of the owners of those claims to develop them. But why is the minister, the Premier of the Yukon, taking two different positions? One with respect to Tombstone and a different position now with respect to the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are not two separate positions of this government.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, could the minister expand on that? Are we going to be buying out the claims in this Asi Keyi Park? Is that what the minister is telling the House? Because that was her position with respect to the claims in Tombstone.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The negotiations of specific land claims, including the land claim of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in and the land claim of the Kluane First Nation involves special management areas. And the specific negotiations take place at the negotiating table. Neither the member opposite nor I are party to those specific negotiations.

This government is entirely clear and consistent in our position that we are working toward the settlement of the seven outstanding land claims.

Mr. Jenkins: The government also has an obligation to protect third party interests. Those third party interests are the mining claims within the now-established park boundaries of Asi Keyi. Now, what is this Liberal government's position with respect to those mining claims?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the protection of third party interests is protected under the umbrella final agreement.

Mr. Jenkins: I'm well aware of the umbrella final agreement and its terms and conditions, Mr. Chair, but the government has to have a position with respect to the claims in the park. With regard to Tombstone, there was an initiative to buy out the mining claims there, spearheaded by this Government Leader, the Premier of the Yukon. There was a whole group that sat down and looked at that area for buying out the claims in Tombstone.

Now, what is the position and what is going to happen with respect to the mining claims within the Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my former answer should have been more complete. Third party interests are protected under the umbrella final agreement and the First Nation final agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, we don't have a final agreement on the Asi Keyi Park with the First Nations in that area, so it falls back to the UFA, Mr. Chair. So, the first part of the answer was correct, but why does this Liberal government have a double standard with respect to the treatment of mining claims? There is one set of standards for Tombstone and now another set of standards with respect to the mining claims in Asi Keyi. Why the double standard?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no double standard.

Mr. Jenkins: What is the treatment that the government is applying to the mining claims within Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the special management area known as Asi Keyi, there is recognition of third party rights in the umbrella final agreement and the First Nation final agreement.

Mr. Jenkins: What I'm trying to get at and what I'm trying to get an answer from this minister on, who is refusing to answer, is why this government is creating a double standard? There is one set of rules and one treatment of the mining claims established in Tombstone Park and apparently another set of rules for the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park. Why two sets of rules? Why a double standard? Why does the government want to create a double standard, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no double standard.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, will this Liberal government be buying out the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's no double standard. Third party rights are protected in the umbrella final agreement and the First Nation final agreement.

Mr. Jenkins: I'm well aware of that, but this government had a position with respect to the mining claims within Tombstone. It wanted to buy them. It wanted to buy them out, Mr. Chair. Now, is that same policy going to be applied to the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again, I would advise the member opposite that each First Nation final agreement is negotiated on an individual basis. If the member wishes to get into a discussion with respect to the umbrella final agreement or each First Nation's final agreement that we're working toward, I would advise the member that I do not negotiate land claims on the floor of the House.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not asking to negotiate land claims on the floor of this House. I'm just asking for this government's position and their policy with respect to the consistent application of a set of rules with respect to mining claims - that's all, simple. If I want to have a briefing on the umbrella final agreement, all I do is I reach into my glove box when I'm driving up and down the highways that the minister fails to keep clean most times, take out that little tape, and plug it in. It's "Understanding the UFA."

That tape is quite comprehensive and it gives one a very good understanding of the UFA. So perhaps the minister herself should listen to the tape, but what I'm looking at is the Liberal government's position and their policy with respect to mining claims within parks.

The minister is on the record as wanting to buy out the mining claims in Tombstone. That was the minister's position with respect to mining claims in one park. Now, what is the position of this minister with respect to mining claims in this new park? That's all I want to know, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the negotiation of special management areas is part of land claims negotiations. Third party rights are recognized in the umbrella final agreement and in First Nation final agreements. I don't negotiate land claims on the floor of the House.

Mr. Jenkins: We are not negotiating land claims on the floor of this House. I am just asking the government for their position with respect to these third party rights.

Land claims is an area that we haven't really dealt with. What we're looking at is a consistent application of this Liberal government's policies, and there doesn't appear to be a consistent set of rules.

What I want to know from the minister is if the same set of conditions that the minister applied to the mining claims in Tombstone Park will be applied to the mining claims in this new park, Asi Keyi.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the rules are extremely specific when it comes to third party interests. They are very clear and they have been very well respected under the umbrella final agreement, and they are clearly outlined in First Nation final agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again for the record, I'm conversant with the umbrella final agreement and some of the final agreements. I am more familiar with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in final agreement than I am with any of the others, because it pertains right to my hometown and area. But, still, Mr. Chair, this Liberal government appears to have a double standard. They have a double standard with respect to the treatment of mining claims within parks and I'm trying to get to it. I want to know why this government has a double standard for the treatment of mining claims. Or are they going to apply the same standard and attempt to buy out the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no double standard.

Mr. Jenkins: So, does that mean that the government is going to be buying out the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Grandfather's Place is a special management area negotiated under the Kluane First Nation land claim negotiations - land claim negotiations, which do not take place on the floor of this House. Both First Nation final agreements and the umbrella final agreements recognize and respect third party interests.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're no further off when the minister sat down than we were before she stood up.

What I want to know is if the Government of Yukon is going to be buying out the mining claims, and making representation to the owners of those mining claims owned by Archer Cathro in Asi Keyi Park in the same manner as they did for Tombstone Park? Are we going to apply the same set of rules? That's all.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The rules are contained in the First Nation final agreement and the umbrella final agreement and those are the rules that we will follow.

Mr. Jenkins: So, how did we get to the point of buying out the claims in Tombstone under this Liberal regime, Mr. Chair, and why can't we have a consistent application of rules all across the land claims process? Is it because the minister doesn't have the money or recognize the error of her ways with respect to buying out the mining claims? Or is it because the minister doesn't want to send a clear message to the mining community that we're not open for business; rather, we're creating one big park up here? What is it? Which way is the minister proceeding?

On one hand, a little olive branch gets thrown out with respect to a tax credit for mining exploration - a little, I might add, olive branch.

At the same time, we virtually have the lowest amount of mining exploration and mining activity ever in the history of Yukon in constant dollars. That's a fact. If we want to look at it in constant dollars, it's the lowest that it has ever been. Even during the depression of the 1930s, there was a very vibrant mining industry here in the Yukon. YCGC was going great guns. They were employing a lot of people.

This Premier has managed to do better than what the worldwide depression of the 1930s did to the world. She is managing to do more to the economy here than that depression ever did - turning it backwards. It is in part due to an inconsistent application of policies, and all of these stem back to government policies and government positions.

So, once again, I go to the Premier. Will the Premier be offering the same buyout of the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park as they have offered in Tombstone Park?

Chair: Is there any further general debate?

Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we are going to sit here and we can't get any answers out of the minister, that doesn't bode well for the government over there, Mr. Chair.

I just find it very appalling that this minister fails to respond consistently to a basic question. This minister, I submit, has created a double standard for mining claims and what happens to mining claims in parks. A double standard is being created and amplified by this Premier, and that double standard is one of the impediments to attracting the mining industry back to the Yukon.

And, at the end of the day, we all suffer, Mr. Chair. We all suffer.

So, once again, I ask the minister why her government is creating a double standard with respect to the treatment of mining claims in parks. We had one set of rules and one position with respect to the mining claims in Tombstone Park. Now we either have no position or we don't know what we're doing or we're going to buy out the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park. Which is it? Is this government going to be buying out the mining claims in Asi Keyi Park? Yes or no, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already answered the question for the member opposite. Third party rights are respected in the umbrella final agreement and they are respected in the First Nation final agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: That's not the answer to the question, Mr. Chair. It's just a wishy-washy way of walking all around and not addressing the question head-on. That's what we have.

The question is very specific. With respect to Tombstone Park and its establishment, there were mining claims within its boundary. The government negotiated and has attempted to negotiate a buyout of a lot of those claims. This Premier spearheaded it, Mr. Chair. Now we see the creation of another park in the Yukon. Another park, Mr. Chair. Six more to go. Within that park's boundaries, we see mining claims.

Now, is it the Liberal government's position to buy out those mining claims in the same manner as they attempted to buy out the ones in Tombstone? If not, why not?

I don't want the minister to stand on her feet and say that third party rights are protected under the UFA. We all know that. I'm looking for a consistent application of a policy, and obviously there must be one because this Liberal government came out in favour of buying out the mining claims in Tombstone.

Now, is that same set of rules going to be applied to Asi Keyi Park?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is referring to the negotiation of land claims and working within an umbrella final agreement as "wishy-washy", and I would respectfully submit to the member opposite that, as I have already stated, third party interests are recognized in the umbrella final agreement and in First Nation final agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have two sets of situations. We have a special management area, and we have a territorial park.

Now, is there going to be a consistent application of the rules - Liberal policies - to mining claims in these areas? Because at the end of the day, the Asi Keyi Park will be a reality. The boundaries might be altered somewhat, but if one takes verbatim the e-mail that I received - it was either yesterday, or maybe it came in yesterday, Mr. Chair - from CPAWS, they're probably more definitive with respect to this park than the minister herself is. So that organization has a firm handle on what's going on.

Is the minister suggesting I ask CPAWS what's going to happen to these mining claims within the park boundaries? They probably have a better understanding and more of an oversight or insight into what's going to transpire. Is that the case, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, was there a question?

Mr. Jenkins: Well, we can recess while the minister reviews the Blues, because she's not listening and not paying attention; she doesn't choose to do so, Mr. Chair. I understand that I'm here to hold the government accountable, and the minister is here to answer questions. Now, I'm asking the questions, and it's her responsibility to answer them.

Now, because she doesn't want to answer them, she is moving all around the periphery of the question and she is avoiding answering. She is very evasive in the answers that she is providing - or the non-answers, Mr. Chair. And given the tremendous responsibility we have vested in the Premier of the Yukon, and given the responsibilities for land claims and given that it is a top Liberal priority, I would have thought that her understanding and her knowledge on that subject material would be quite extensive.

But what we are seeing here on the floor of this Legislature is that the minister is very carefully couching her responses - that she only gets briefings on specific areas of the land claims process and specific areas that are on the table at that juncture for negotiations. And she really hasn't - we are led to believe - been given an overall comprehensive briefing on where we are at with land claims.

I just can't fathom the officials within that department - the land claims secretariat - not giving the minister a thorough briefing and not giving her an understanding of where all of the seven outstanding land claims were - at what juncture, what the outstanding issues were, what the next steps were, where we were going to evolve to from there, Mr. Chair. That that information wasn't provided to the minister is totally unreasonable for anyone to swallow.

Now, it might be that the minister didn't have the wherewithal to fathom the scope of the briefing, but at the end of the day the Yukon government is there at the land claims table to protect and represent the interests of Yukoners. That is what the Yukon government is at the land claims table for.

Otherwise, they could be absent, Mr. Chair. They could be completely absent, and it would be just an initiative between the federal government and the First Nations here in the Yukon.

So I go back to my original question, to which the minister has failed to respond and failed to provide an answer, dealing with the mining claims within Tombstone. This Liberal government had one position with respect to those mining claims. At the same time, we're seeing the creation of a new park in the territory.

Is the reason the minister is so mute and was so mute on it because there was a federal election underway and she didn't want to tip her hand? Is that the real reason? Why were Yukoners not advised of this forthcoming initiative and the creation of a new park? Was it because of the federal election?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have answered this question. I'll remind the member opposite that orders-in-council are not made public until they have been passed.

Mr. Jenkins: I'm not so much referring to the order-in-council. It's the imminent approach of the creation of the park and the withdrawal from staking order. When those orders-in-council go through, no one's really aware, other than the current government in Ottawa. That's not what I'm taking exception to.

What I'm taking exception to is the Premier's stating that she really wasn't aware that this was transpiring or underway. What I'm furthermore taking exception to, Mr. Chair, is the double standard that this government has created with respect to the treatment of mining claims within park boundaries. One set of rules for Tombstone Park. Now we're seeing another policy being established with respect to mining claims within Asi Keyi Park.

Why is this government bound and determined to create a double standard for the treatment of mining claims within parks?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no double standard, with respect. The member opposite takes exception to my answers. I have told the member opposite that third party interests are protected and respected in the umbrella final agreement and in the First Nation final agreement.

I have told the member opposite that this government is committed to the negotiating table and to being a respectful, productive partner at the negotiating table, along with the other two, in order to see the seven outstanding land claims resolved.

Mr. Jenkins: Let's leave that for a little while and we'll get back to it later in general debate. Let's look at some of the other areas.

The Bureau of Statistics - we appear to be out of step with the rest of Canada with respect to the compilation of a lot of statistics. With respect to housing starts, Canada uses the number of housing starts; the Yukon uses the dollar value of building permits issued. Why is there that kind of difference? Why can't we be consistent with the rest of Canada, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the reason why the Bureau of Statistics would use a different statistic is not known to me at this time. I will ask the Bureau of Statistics for a response on that.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's just one area, Mr. Chair. If we want to compare ourselves to the rest of Canada, we have to be consistent in our application of the information gathered and the way it's presented.

Is the minister aware of any other areas within the stats bureau where we compile the information differently from where the federal department of stats compiles them?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm aware of two things. One, the Bureau of Statistics uses a different methodology, so that it's more applicable to a smaller population, firstly, on general principle. The second point I would note is that I recall a debate between the member's former leader and the government leader of the day, Mr. McDonald, regarding the compilation of statistics about sales and vehicle sales. So, that's the only other instance I can think of, but I will ask for a full accounting from the Bureau of Statistics and provide it in writing to the member opposite.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, is there a desire to get in step with the rest of Canada and have the same uniform application of statistics? I'm referring, specifically, if we want to look at it, housing starts versus the total value of building permits this year. One does not translate to the other, especially given the large number of dollars spent on capital projects just now in Whitehorse. But if you look at the schools that have been built around the Yukon and the total value of their building permits, vis-ŕ-vis the number of housing starts, it really skews the numbers.

What are used in the rest of Canada, Mr. Chair, are housing starts. That usually is very good indication of market conditions and what's transpiring in the economy. Total value of building permits here will probably indicate an increase this year, given the vast number of government-sponsored projects and government initiatives. But, they're not indicative of the economy. They do translate to part of the economy, but it's a false comparison when one compares it to the rest of Canada.

So, is the minister concerned about this area and will we be getting in step with the rest of Canada or are we just going to go merrily along our own way?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: This is also done in concert with the Department of Economic Development. The science is the same. The concern is making sure that our statistics accurately reflect our small population. And I appreciate the point that the member has made, and I will provide him with a written response.

Mr. Jenkins: There are some of the other areas in the statistical review where all we use is government statistics from the last fiscal year-end. If you want to look at the number of government employees, and that is very outdated in the statistical overview. Why can't that be more current? We know the statistics on a month-to-month basis for the number of government employees. That's just an example, Mr. Chair. Why can't we be more current with the actual government itself and its statistics?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will look into the member's issue and provide him with a written response.

Mr. Jenkins: I have a number of issues surrounding the Cabinet office and the half-a-million dollar overexpenditure there, and it appears to be a lot dealing with the transition. Could the minister clearly identify what is actually transition money of that $539,000, just over half-a-million dollar expenditure, and what is the normal course of business?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Of the $539,000, the line item on page 2-3, $448,000 is for severance packages for Cabinet staff of the previous government; $62,000 is for the change in the calculation of the superannuation benefit; and $29,000 reflects the wage increase related to negotiated agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: What was the cost of transition?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the transition costs have previously been provided in this House. However, I will refresh my memory as to the amounts and the information that has already been provided in the House, and provide the member opposite with that information.

Mr. Jenkins: While we're on ECO, Mr. Chair, the Deputy Minister of Executive Council Office is usually a very politically sensitive position and usually moves with government. That has been the case in the past. When the government is defeated or changes, the Deputy Minister of ECO is usually one of the first to be out of a job.

I was just wondering - the minister mentioned yesterday that the current deputy minister has been seconded from the federal government to the Government of Yukon. Could the minister just outline how this came about? Because I'm not aware of this ever having occurred for the Deputy Minister of ECO before - a secondment at that level. I could stand corrected, Mr. Chair, but I don't believe it has ever happened. Just how was this negotiated? I'm sure this wasn't done in the back of the bus with Jean Chrétien but it must have been done at some juncture.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I must correct the member opposite. The deputy minister is not a secondment from the Government of Canada. I do not discuss personnel issues on the floor. However, I can advise the member opposite, because I have the permission of the individual involved, that this particular individual is on a leave of absence from previous positions and it is not uncommon for individuals to take leaves from other governments and become Cabinet secretaries in other governments. That's not unusual. Again, it's not a secondment. It's a leave of absence.

Mr. Jenkins: The minister in general debate yesterday clearly indicated that it was a secondment, according to my recollection. I could stand corrected, Mr. Chair, but that's my recollection of what the minister said.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the leader of the official opposition referred to a secondment; it is not a secondment. It is a leave of absence.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, could the minister just outline what is transpiring? There has been a reorganization of a number of departments within Government Services - the language, the photo end of it, and some of it has been moved over to Government Services. Where are we going? When was the decision made? What kind of an impact is it going to have on the budget for the various departments, or is the cost still being accrued to the respective departments?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I believe the member opposite is referring to the focus and transfer of the French language services to the Government Services. The focus of the Executive Council Office is on strategic management, as opposed to program delivery. The change will be reflected in next year's budget.

Mr. Jenkins: I am also aware of some other areas of government that have been reorganized in, I believe, Executive Council and Government Services. There are about three or four changes that we were given to understand were occurring. Why are we making the changes now? What's the rationale for these other changes? The language service one appears to be fairly straightforward, and the photography end of it is being moved around also. What's the rationale for that occurring, and what's happening?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The rationale is on having Executive Council Office deliver strategic management as opposed to program delivery and service delivery. Government Services is in the business of delivering services and that's why French language services and the photography unit have been transferred over there. That change will be reflected in next year's budget.

Mr. Jenkins: Just how much of a cost associated with this budget are we looking at being transferred over and what kinds of costs?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in order that I don't provide the member with an incorrect figure, I will get the exact amount and provide it to the member opposite. It's being transferred over to Government Services, along with the unit.

Mr. Jenkins: Are there any other internal shuffles of programs or service delivery agencies, or any other movements about that we are aware of or are anticipating doing or underway within the department?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Transfers from Executive Council Office to Government Services - no, not that I'm aware of or discussing.

Mr. Jenkins: No, I wasn't referring specifically to transfers from Executive Council Office to Government Services. I was referring to any other internal structural changes within Executive Council Office. Within Executive Council Office, are there any other structural changes?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Not structural changes. We have enhanced the Bureau of Management Improvement internal audit function. We have enhanced the land claims unit by the executive management committee, which I spoke of yesterday. We are assisting in the workload and the focus of the department by having an associate deputy minister work within the Executive Council Office - but structural changes, no. Enhancements and working with programming, yes. Those are the changes.

Mr. Jenkins: What additional costs are we going to see forthcoming with the establishment of the bureau of management and internal audit?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Right now it is being met within the resources that we voted in the past in this House in June, July - this summer. So, right now, it is being met by internal resources and in next year's budget it will be a line item.

Mr. Jenkins: What kind of total cost can we see Executive Council Office increasing by? What kind of total budget can we see there? Because there are a lot of initiatives that it looks like are going into that department and we still have just over four and a half months to go in our fiscal period before the year-end.

We have moved over a lot of initiatives to the department. We have established - or, as the minister so ably termed it - lodged an associate deputy minister within the department. There has got to be a cost associated with that. How many more FTEs are we anticipating within the department and how much more costs are we going to be incurring within that department?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the changes that I have outlined, we are working within the existing departmental budget, and that's precisely what we are doing. And with regard to next year's budget, well, the member opposite will see that in February.

Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Chair: We'll take a 10-minute recess.

Recess

Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.

We will continue with general debate on the Executive Council Office.

Mr. Fairclough: I have one question. I was asking the Premier about the office in Alaska and we did not get back to the issue.

I was wondering what the status of that is?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm not certain what office the member is referring to. That's why we didn't get back to it. I asked the member to elaborate. I certainly will provide the information, but I'm not sure what office he's referring to.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there is a direction from ECO to - there was a contract awarded to develop a paper to create a Juneau office, and I was wondering where that was at. It was a contract that went out this summer. What was completed and what was the result of that? Are we going to have a government office in Juneau?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that's a very good question. I don't have an answer for the member opposite. I am unaware of the contract. I will certainly find out, though, and I will get back to the minister post-haste.

Mr. Fairclough: I would appreciate that, Mr. Chair. This contract to Steve Smyth went out on June 23 and ended July 30, and it was to create and develop a paper for that office. If there was something that was completed, it's a direction that came out of Executive Council Office - a sole-source contract - but it was to open an office in Juneau. If that work has been done, I would like some information on it with regard to where the office will be, who is going to staff the office, how it's going to be staffed, and what the cost is for having the office in Juneau, and whether or not the government plans to open other government offices elsewhere, maybe in Canada, Alberta or B.C. If the member could give me that information - if she doesn't have it in front of her now, I'll just give her a minute to look through her information.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have the information of the contract. There was a proposal submitted to the Executive Council Office in June, and the proposal offered to research and prepare a discussion paper on the cost and benefits of establishing an office of the Yukon government in Juneau.

There was a subsequent service contract entered into with respect to the proposed research. So, it was a situation where a very well-respected individual had a proposal and some research work that he wished to do on an idea and the government felt it was worthwhile to examine the suggestion.

The details I can provide the member with are that the overall research was to increase the Yukon government's profile and work with the Alaskan government on alternative approaches for different issues. I have not reviewed the actual paper and, provided it is not confidential advice to the minister - certainly, in any event in broad terms, I could provide the member opposite with information that's available. That's the information on the contract.

The value of the contract was $3,600.

Mr. Fairclough: Was all of that paid out? I was just looking at, it was a high-end and it may not have all been paid out to the individual.

But, my concern is that there was some direction given out of Executive Council Office to look at the possibility of opening up an office in Juneau. It would be interesting, because it does have monetary values to it. Why Juneau and why not B.C. or Alberta? Why Juneau in particular? Is it for tourism reasons - having more contact with the government over there versus B.C. or Alberta, our other neighbours, or even the N.W.T.?

Hon. Ms. Duncan:Either I didn't elaborate on it or the member missed the opening part of my remarks, in that this wasn't a request from government. The Executive Council Office didn't tell Mr. Smyth to go investigate this. Mr. Smyth came to government with an idea that we felt was worthy of looking at. It's almost a chicken and egg question. This very worthy individual came to us with an idea and we thought it was worthy of examination, so we commissioned him to do that. The amount was $3,600 and, to the best of my knowledge, it has all been paid and the paper has been received. I haven't seen the actual paper. It is a discussion paper. I will make sure that if there is information that can be readily made available to the member opposite, I will do that.

Mr. Fairclough: The government must have had some interest in accepting this proposal and going out and giving out this contract. She looked at possibly opening up an office in Juneau.

And my question to the member is, why Juneau? Why wasn't there direction to other places, our other neighbours? And what came back as a result of this? Was there a good recommendation that this will be a good thing for the Yukon taxpayers or the Yukon government to keep in good contact with the people in Alaska? Why not Alberta or our other neighbours?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the proposal came from the individual to look at the office in Juneau. The proposal didn't come - you know, we'll also examine Alberta and NWT and British Columbia. The proposal came from the individual.

We thought that was an idea that we'd like some information on. We accepted the proposal and we paid the individual to do the discussion paper. I will make whatever exists from that discussion paper available publicly to the member opposite.

There has been no further examination or discussion of the results of the proposal at this point in time.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I understand that someone has come forward with a proposal like this, but it is a decision that was made by this government to go ahead with the contract. You must have had some reasons why you would have seen or would like to have seen an office open up in Juneau. There must have been a reason why Juneau was picked over other places - our other neighbours. It was just a simple question.

A person comes forward with a recommendation that you would like to check out, but there must have been more to this before government gave out this contract. There must have been more to it in even having a closer look at this particular contract to either expand it or really put more serious thought into implementing the recommendations that came out of it.

So, that was my question to the member opposite. Is that a policy? Someone comes forward with a good idea, throws it on paper, does some research and it becomes a contract? I just can't see that. I'm having problems with this, because this is new. It must be recommending an office to be established in Juneau.

So, these additional dollars are going out of our territory. I just want clearer thoughts about this government's position when it comes to people coming forward with good ideas and what other thoughts government has behind them.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the individual who put forward the proposal is a Yukoner who is doing a doctoral thesis with the University of Alaska. Maybe that is why Juneau came up, as opposed to Alberta or Northwest Territories. It was an idea - a proposal that came to government. It's no different from what has happened in the past.

A proposal was submitted to Executive Council Office in June. The proposal offered to research and prepare this discussion paper, and it has been done. I have not personally reviewed the discussion paper nor has our government. It has not come forward as a specific recommendation as of yet.

Whatever information is publicly available I will make available to the member opposite. I can't provide the member opposite with any more information than that. It was a proposal that came to us, and we said, "Yes, let's take a look at this." We paid the person who came forward with the idea to do it. We paid him $3,600 - well within the contract. It's all public information. I don't know what else I can provide to the member opposite.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, there's something wrong with this. Monies are going out and a contract is going out. Government must know why they gave out a sole-sourced contract like this. And it might be a good thing. We don't know.

I'm trying to get to the thoughts of government and why the decision to work in Juneau. If someone is doing a thesis in Alaska somewhere, I don't think that would be grounds for a contract with government. I would think there would be some thought put behind possibly having some funds going out of Yukon for the Yukon government - taxpayers' dollars - to run an office, and on recommendations coming forward and so on.

That's why I'm questioning this.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, for the member opposite's information, the individual whom we contracted is a born-and-raised Yukoner who came to this government with an idea on how to improve the government. And so, given the stature of this particular individual, we asked him to prepare a discussion paper for us.

The discussion paper has not moved forward at this point in time, and I will make the discussion paper - provided it is a public document, and I am advised that it is - available to the member opposite. It has not come forward to Cabinet yet for a decision. It's simply a discussion paper, a proposal that we received. We asked the individual, who is very well-qualified, to give us a research and a discussion paper. That's all it is.

It's just like other governments asking for white papers or green papers to be submitted. We've had them previously in this House during my term - at the very beginning of my term. Other governments have done this; it's not unusual. There's not anything missing in my answer.

Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I'm not questioning the individual who got the contract to do this. I'm not questioning that; I'm questioning the government's direction. The Premier is saying two things: the individual came up with a proposal and basically ran an idea by government, and it sounded good and he was told to go ahead and do it; and her previous answer was that she asked the individual to prepare a paper. So there are two different things here.

And she must have been thinking of wanting to open an office or whatnot in Juneau, and if that's the case, let us know and maybe it's something for us to look forward to in the future.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there's no inconsistency in my answer. I'm trying to answer the same question and give the same information. Perhaps I've used different words. The situation is that an individual submitted a proposal to the Executive Council Office to research and prepare a discussion paper on opening an office in Juneau.

On the cost and benefits of establishing an office of the Yukon government in Juneau, that idea and proposal were submitted to the department. The department said, "That's an interesting idea. We're interested in your argument." This individual is renowned. His reputation precedes him in that he was contracted by the previous government on a constitutional issue and on different issues, so there's nothing unusual about a department receiving a proposal and saying, "Prepare a discussion paper for us." That's what's happened in this case.

I have not seen the discussion paper. I did not personally see the proposal and ask that the discussion paper be prepared. This was all done through the work of the department. To me, that's doing what we as a government should be doing - listening to the Yukon public who are very well-qualified to provide us with this information.

The other point is that it's entirely in keeping with our platform, in focusing our trade missions closer to home to ensure they are cost-effective and accepting constructive ideas on the effective and efficient operations of government. That's all we've done in this case.

Mr. Fairclough: Well, as the Premier gets more and more information, we are starting to get some answers about why this particular contract and discussion paper was put forward.

At the beginning, the Premier didn't know why the contract was put out and that is my problem with this. Who makes the decisions here? There must have been some thought, other than there's a good idea. If that's the case, I can send letters out to many people that can write a lot of good ideas to the government and get all kinds of small contracts like this. Maybe that would be a job creator.

I wasn't trying to dig deep into this at all. I just wanted to know government's thoughts about a Juneau office - particularly in Juneau. I mean, government did not give this person a direction to open up an office in Alberta or N.W.T. and look at improved relations there, because that's a direction in their platform too - to stick closer to home.

The Premier did not give that direction. Is there another contract that's going to come across her desk to look at options or a discussion paper on opening offices in B.C., Alberta or N.W.T.?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this contract is under $5,000. It's for $3,600. It is well within the responsibilities of the individuals working within the government Executive Council Office to accept and receive this sort of constructive idea. There are no other contracts of this nature, to my knowledge, issued at this time by Executive Council Office.

Mr. Jenkins: It sounds like that if you have a good idea, send a proposal over to the minister and she'll issue you a contract for it and pay you whatever you ask, as long as it's under their limits. And if it's over their limits, then don't worry, be happy, because they'll just take it to Management Board and send over a contract again.

Mr. Chair, I have some other concerns with a number of other areas. I'd like the minister to tell us how the breakdown occurs. If we go back and use, just for an example, August 14, when the Premier attended in Old Crow the inauguration of the Millennium Trek with Senator Christensen. The trip cost was $2,182.50 for one day. At the same time, we have Mr. Roberts attending in Old Crow, and his trip cost was $1,075.60, and at the same time we have the Minister of Community and Transportation Services attending in Dawson to open the Millennium Trail with Senator Christensen.

I would imagine the initial expenditure incurred was a charter flight to Old Crow, or they probably all flew on the scheduled flight, but seeing that the minister was in and out in one day and given the length of time that the aircraft touches down in Old Crow, just how is a split arrived at as to who incurs what kind of expense on a charter flight, if it was a charter flight, and how much of the component did the senator, or the federal government on her behalf, pick up?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Millennium Trek arrived in Old Crow on the date that the member noted. I was invited, and at a previous meeting in the summer I had indicated to our then Member of Parliament that the Commissioner and the Senator and I had all been invited, and I offered to share the charter. Subsequent to that, Ms. Gingell was unavailable, as she was ill that day, and Ms. Hardy chartered her own aircraft.

On that particular trip, the Speaker travelled, as did Senator Christensen and I, to Old Crow. We travelled up that day, participated in the arrival of the trek and the community feast. Unfortunately we had to leave.

Minister Roberts was already there upon our arrival and subsequently spent several days after that in the community. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services subsequently travelled to Dawson to take part in the - actually it was the Millennium Trail, so it was a separate millennium event at that point in time. And I was participating in the Millennium Trek, which was the celebration of the Porcupine caribou herd, and the Millennium Trail was a separate event that was attended, again - the exact portion of the cost picked up by Senator Christensen, I will advise the member opposite. I just want to verify the figure with the department.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, the total cost of a charter of the type of aircraft available here in Whitehorse - and I would suspect that it originated out of Whitehorse - to Old Crow - I just don't see the other costs being reflected for the charter anywhere. And the only costs I see incurred are the $2,182.50 and then other costs associated with Minister Buckway on her inauguration of the Millennium Trail with Senator Christensen, more associated with Dawson as the destination, although we are given to understand now that it was Old Crow and then Dawson. Then we also have Mr. Roberts in Old Crow on August 14 at the same time.

Mr. Jenkins: What I'm getting at, Mr. Chair, is who is coordinating all of this travel? It looks like we have a number of ministers at the same place at the same time, arriving by all different means. We're talking of great costs when we're talking about a charter from Whitehorse to Old Crow return, and the amount that the minister has reflected in her trip cost of $2,182.50 is nowhere indicative of the cost of the charter out of Whitehorse. It's over double that, Mr. Chair. So, where are the other costs reflected for that charter? The minister stated that she put together the charter, and she invited along a number of other individuals. Where are the other costs?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that is the cost of the trip for myself and Senator Christensen, and the Speaker of the House also travelled on that particular trip. I believe that's everyone. There was an empty seat, and we did provide - coming back. I'm certain that that was the entire cost of that trip to Old Crow, which would include the charter there and back and our contribution to the community feast.

The trip to Dawson City with Senator Christensen and Ms. Buckway is a separate trip. Minister Roberts travelled throughout the Yukon and arranged his travel such that he was in Old Crow before we arrived for this one specific, short event and for several days afterwards.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm asking the minister, Mr. Chair, is where is the balance of the cost of the charter flight reflected? All we see is $2,182.50.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm certain that that is the entire cost, but I'll look into it.

Mr. Jenkins: The cost of the aircraft - the charter - is almost twice that, Mr. Chair. That's even less than the cost of the aircraft charter to go to Dawson and it's twice the distance. So, there are other costs incurred. Now, that is what I am concerned about. It's pretty hard to get a handle on the costs government is incurring when you see a breakdown and you know it doesn't accurately reflect the costs incurred by government for that type of charter flight.

Well, I'm sure the minister can just make a quick phone call. I'm sure it wasn't an ultralight, Mr. Chair, and that's under the hourly rate for a 206, never mind a twin. The cost of going to Old Crow return is actually twice the full rate. It's over twice the price reflected here in this $2,182.50. Seeing that the Minister of Health and Social Services was there at the same time, it begs the question as to why the activities of the ministers couldn't be coordinated?

Now, I'm sure the minister didn't paddle a canoe from Dawson, down the Yukon River and up the Porcupine to get to those meetings in Old Crow. So, he obviously flew there. We all know that the Minister of Health and Social Services is very much an outdoor activist, but it would be a stretch to even suggest that he paddled his canoe down the Yukon and up the Porcupine. So, he obviously flew there.

Isn't somebody looking at the interests of the financial implication, or do we all just make our own travel arrangements separate and distinct, even though we're all ending up at the same place at the same time? Why isn't the total cost of that charter reflected here? Where is the balance of the costs incurred reflected in the travel document?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will look into the exact costs of the charter on August 14 to Old Crow and get back to the member opposite.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it could be just another oversight on the part of the minister's department. It's very interesting, Mr. Chair, that as soon as we pick up something that doesn't tally, the minister isn't aware of it. Just a cursory overview of this would be enough to know what kind of costs are being incurred.

I would like to ask the minister, Mr. Chair, why there isn't someone within the ministerial travel area who coordinates the travel, especially when it involves a charter flight when a number of ministers are going to end up at the same place at the same time. Why isn't that done?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is done.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, if it's done, how did we have a charter flight on August 14 for Ms. Duncan and Senator Christensen, and at the same time, we had Don Roberts go into Old Crow, and both of them flew - all of them flew, Mr. Chair. Why wasn't that activity coordinated?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we travelled on different dates and we travelled for different lengths of time.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I asked the minister to reflect on the letter of October 20. I take the minister to - the heading is "Inside Travel for the Cabinet Offices". It says travel dates: Pat Duncan, August 14, Old Crow, inauguration of Millennium Trail with Senator Christensen, trip cost, $2,182.50. At the same time, we have travel dates, August 14 to 16, Mr. Roberts, Old Crow, health station staff meetings and community consultation, trip costs, $1,075.60. Why couldn't the minister have travelled to Old Crow on the same flight? Why couldn't the Minister of Health and Social Services travel to Old Crow on the same flight? Why did he have to go in by scheduled flight? He could have come out by scheduled flight if he came out on a different date.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Minister Roberts arrived and travelled at a much earlier point in time in the day on August 14 and stayed for a longer period of time on August 16.

The member may also recall that there was also a question around weather on that particular day and there was some question as to whether or not the charter would be leaving later in the day. Mr. Roberts flew on the scheduled Air North flight. It was his choice.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, it doesn't matter if it's a charter or the scheduled flight, they both fly by the same rules. If there's a weather problem, both of them have a problem getting into an area, so it's the same set of rules. It's the same limits on two different aircraft. So, let's not throw the weather out there.

What we have is no advance travel for Minister Roberts. If it said that he was in Old Crow or some other area before that, it would have made sense. But, on the same day, on August 14, Minister Roberts flew to Old Crow. On the same day, probably a little bit later in the afternoon, so that it could conform more appropriately to her schedule, Mr. Chair, the Premier of the Yukon and Senator Christensen flew to Old Crow on a charter flight.

And no one appears to be looking after the interests of the poor taxpayer who pays for all this. If the minister can't make connections, she just picks up the phone and calls Jean Chrétien, and he sends his jet for her. We know that. That cost the taxpayers some inordinate sum of money. The fuel burn alone, Mr. Chair, amounted to the same amount of fuel that the diesel generators in Dawson would use in an entire week. It's a lot of fuel being directed toward the greenhouse gases here in the Yukon and all across Canada, because that little old jet burns a tremendous amount of fuel. But why is it that on the same day, the same Cabinet is flying to the same place on two different aircraft? Why does that happen, Mr. Chair? Who's looking after coordinating the travel?

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Keenan is pointing out quite correctly that there are also issues around putting the entire Cabinet on one specific flight; so I thank Mr. Keenan for that advice from across the floor. And in answer to the member opposite's question, yes, the travel is coordinated in the Executive Council Office.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, when can we expect to see the total cost of the trip to Old Crow and where it's reflected throughout the balance of the budget? When can we expect to see that information?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I hope to provide that information Thursday afternoon.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, when one looks over all of this travel, it raises more questions than it answers, and it doesn't appear that anyone is really coordinating the travel efforts of ministers. It appears that it's an ongoing do-your-own-thing and make your own arrangements.

It looks like the minister has some more information on travel, so perhaps she can share it with us.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the House leader and I were discussing House business.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's put that one aside. I am sure it's going to be the topic of much further debate, seeing the way that this Liberal government manages the expenses of government. No one appears to have a hand on the purse. We charter when we want. We also put other individuals on the sked flight that arrives at the same place just a couple of hours earlier. They must be dealing with such extremely important people and issues that a matter of a couple of hours is all that important.

But at the same time, if there are two ministers on the same plane, there's no problem with them flying into Mayo, but to put two ministers on the same plane and fly them into Old Crow, I guess that's a no-no. We just saw that when the plane went to Mayo for a public meeting there, Mr. Chair.

All is not well in the way that this Liberal government is conducting business. I'm sure that we will see more often than not the expenses of government creeping up and the results going nowhere. We have looked at the issue surrounding the staffing. And I refer specifically to the land claims situation here in the Yukon and the number of tables that are operating and the movement of senior staffing people around. And it would appear that the longest serving, most knowledgeable individual has been moved over to Economic Development. Could the minister advise the House just what precipitated this change in the land claims secretariat?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, a competition, which the individual in question duly won.

Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, how many tables are we going to have operating under this government? And can the minister report any progress?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Seven tables and one common forum.

Mr. Jenkins: So, we currently have one table operating for every one of the outstanding land claims. Is that what the minister is saying?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The common forum is not a land claim table. It is a common forum.

Speaker: Is there any further general debate?

Mr. Jenkins: I was waiting for an answer on the seven tables, Mr. Chair - an explanation. I just would like further explanation about the common forum.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are seven tables. We're negotiating land claims and self-government agreements.

Mr. Jenkins: The minister must be awfully tired of trying to explain herself, Mr. Chair. She's not doing a very good job of it.

Mr. Chair, I take the minister back once more, to where we're at with the seven tables. Are they operating seven tables? How frequently? Just how active are they? And where are we at?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, meetings are scheduled and active work is going on. The White River, Ta'an Kwach'an and Kluane First Nations' negotiations have moved along quite well over the past number of months. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation is openly working with the chief land claims negotiator. The Ross River and Liard tables are also active, and we are working with Kwanlin Dun, as well, at the negotiating tables.

Mr. Jenkins: I have just one final request of the minister before we leave general debate on this department. I would ask that the minister ensure that I receive a copy of all of the correspondence sent to the official opposition in response to the questions raised in the House. Could the minister confirm that she will do so, please?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly.

Chair: I will have to ask formally if there is any further general debate.

As there is no further general debate, we will continue, line by line.

On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures

On Cabinet and Management Support/DAP

Cabinet and Management Support/DAP in the amount of $46,000 agreed to

On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat

Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $276,000 agreed to

On Intergovernmental Relations

Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $56,000 agreed to

Mr. Jenkins: I'm just asking for an explanation on policy, Mr. Chair.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: On the policy line item, $11,000 reflects the wage increase related to negotiated agreements; $30,000 is for the increase in the calculation of superannuation benefits; and $150,000 is allocated for Yukon Act legal work and public education.

Mr. Jenkins: Yukon legal work - is this above and beyond what we're anticipating? Why are we anticipating so much legal work now, Mr. Chair?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's Yukon Act legal work, so it is the legal work and the public education around the Yukon Act.

Mr. Jenkins: The Yukon Act was pretty well in its final draft form. I'm sure there was some tinkering done with it. Why are we spending $150,000 on the legal issues surrounding the act?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it was not complete. Again, this involves also the devolution transfer agreement, and we're also working with federal legislative draftspeople on this. Again, I go back to my comments regarding the substantive complex legal and administrative issues surrounding the devolution transfer agreement and also the Yukon Act, and that is what this money is allocated for.

Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the Yukon Act, is any consideration being given to two of the more important areas that have been left off the shelf by this Liberal government - the Crown in right and offshore boundaries?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we've had this debate before. My answer stays the same.

Mr. Jenkins: We've got $150,000, and we're not even going to explore these two areas - the Crown in right and offshore boundaries?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is $150,000 for Yukon Act legal work and for public education surrounding the Yukon Act.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I still have a grave concern that we're ignoring two areas that will probably, at the end of the day, come back to haunt us, Mr. Chair, and that's the northern offshore boundary issue. The government of the day is completely remiss in addressing this responsibility for control over this area. It's not even on the table for discussions with the federal government. I find that very, very disconcerting, given that there's a potential for a pipeline going across our northern boundaries, and it will be under the care and control of the Government of the Northwest Territories.

It won't be in Yukon waters. It will either be in federal waters or Northwest Territories controlled waters, because our boundaries are the historical high-water mark, even though the federal government has seen its way clear to provide offshore boundaries to Nunavut and N.W.T. that are different from ours. I find it very, very disconcerting that the Premier won't take the government to task and at least negotiate the same boundaries as these other jurisdictions have. Why, Mr. Chair?

The other concern I have is the Crown in right. All it will take is a challenge before the constitutional court to find out for certain where we are with respect to this issue. Once again, I guess because the Liberal government here in the Yukon doesn't want to raise the ire of their Liberal counterparts, which they're in collusion with in Ottawa, they just avoid the issue, hoping it will go away. But, Mr. Chair, it's not going to go away.

Development may or may not occur in the Yukon and our northern boundary. Given that the pipeline through that area might be some $1 billion or $2 billion less expensive than the Alaska Highway - to go across the northern park and down the Mackenzie - it's most interesting that we are not even pursuing the control of our offshore boundaries.

The minister and I have had this discussion, but she seems to be steadfast in not even entertaining an approach to the boundary and the Crown-in-right issues.

But we can budget $150,000 for this initiative, Mr. Chair. I guess the charter flights up there to have a look at our northern boundary are going to be quite expensive. There's a whole series of parks up there, but that's about it.

So, when are these two issues going to come to the forefront for this government? Is it going to be after the fact, probably with the announcement of a pipeline that will be in our offshore waters, and, at the end of the day, we don't have any care and control over it? Is that what's going to take place here in the Yukon? I hope not. But it could very well happen and occur in that manner. Now, why doesn't the minister want to see the Yukon treated in the same manner as the other two northern territories of Canada?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are being treated in precisely the same manner as the other two territories; in fact, we are ahead of them in terms of devolution discussions, which are part of the Yukon Act. I have been very well-advised, as the previous Government Leader was, on the constitutional nature of these discussions, and the advice has been quite consistent, and it was advice that was shared with the member opposite's former leader. The member opposite simple refuses to accept it.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, there are some things that one has difficulty swallowing, like some of the numbers that the minister puts forward in this House for ministerial travel, like some of the explanations for the park creation - Asi Keyi - like some of the explanations for what she said at meetings with mining executives in Vancouver. It just doesn't add up.

Here is another area, once again, Mr. Chair, where we have an initiative by this government - or non-initiative by this government - and yet we're moving ahead with the Yukon Act. But the two very critical areas - our northern offshore boundary and the Crown in right - are left completely out of the loop.

There are papers presented. There are legal arguments presented from both sides with respect to the Crown in right. But the northern offshore boundary issue is a critically important one. And we are a few years away from a pipeline coming anywhere near the Yukon - three, four, five, six, seven years possibly before anything is built.

But mind you, the Alliance Pipeline's tentacles are being spread into the Northwest Territories as we speak, to pick up the vast reserves of gas that have been uncovered with the almost billion dollars' worth of exploration that has taken place over in that territory. But here in the Yukon, we can't even get our act together for the care and control of the lands on our northern boundary.

At least in the Northwest Territories, everyone appears to be singing from the same page of the same songbook, Mr. Chair. Here in the Yukon, all we have is the pipeline hype surrounding a pipeline that may or may not occur within a short period of time. We are all asked to hang our hats on this wonderful initiative.

I see the Liberal language cop in the backbenches over there. He is probably hanging on to every word that I'm speaking, Mr. Chair, taking it to task and getting ready to fax out a press release. We have a window of opportunity while this is on the table for discussion with the federal Liberal government in Ottawa.

Yukoners were sold on this wonderful relationship between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals in Ottawa - that this tremendous relationship was going to pay awesome dividends to all of us here in the Yukon. Well, someone must have hidden the chequebook, because no one has seen any dividends flowing. All we have seen is a U-Haul economy with people exiting the Yukon to find work in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and elsewhere.

The Yukon has so much potential, Mr. Chair - so much potential in the mineral industry, so much potential in the oil and gas industry, so much potential in the timber area - but all we're doing is creating more and more government, and the areas that we should be examining and should be addressing, like our northern offshore boundary, are being ignored. Now, why is the minister choosing to ignore the northern offshore boundary issue? Why isn't that being dealt with?

Chair: Is there any further debate on this line item, Mr. Jenkins?

Mr. Jenkins: Well, I was looking for an answer from the Premier, Mr. Chair, but obviously she either doesn't want to provide one because she's incapable of providing one, or she doesn't know. So it has to be one of those two points - either she doesn't know or is incapable - and that's a sad day for Yukon.

Mr. Chair, we have the other issue of the northern offshore boundary being defined between Yukon and Alaska, and I'm sure the minister is aware of that initiative. And just where is that in the hopper, and is any attention being paid to that issue?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: The international boundary is a federal government issue.

Mr. Jenkins: I'm very much aware that it's an international boundary, and I'm very much aware that it's a federal issue. But it is a border out in the ocean, the extension of the border between Alaska and Yukon, as it carries up into the ocean, and Canada has one position and the U.S. has another.

And it could impact on oil and gas exploration in the Beaufort. It's not just a case of sovereignty in that area, Mr. Chair. It's a case of the mineral potential and the oil and gas potential underneath the ocean. It's an issue that could impact on Yukoners.

So, at the end of the day, why isn't the Government of Yukon even asking where it's at and if it's being moved ahead? Is the Government of Yukon even aware of it? Are they moving it ahead, or is it just mute on it and it's another area they don't want to discuss? What's the problem?

Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Canada/U.S. boundary dispute off of Alaska is not the subject of this $150,000 for Yukon Act legal work and public education.

Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, it all ties into the Yukon Act. It all ties into our offshore boundaries. It all ties into - well, the minister is shaking her head, but perhaps a briefing is in order. Obviously something has been missed in the very short briefing the minister has had. But there is quite a bit of controversy surrounding the boundary between Alaska and Yukon. It's not very well-known, and I would have thought that the Premier, being who she is, would at least have an up-to-date briefing on an area of potential reserves of oil and gas and minerals at the bottom of the Beaufort.

But, you know, we can miss the boat once again, Mr. Chair. We'll probably all take different boats or airplanes up there to have a look around, after it's part of Alaska. Hopefully, there might be an initiative that moves forward if Bush is elected and development takes place in Alaska. We can at least, hopefully, hang our hat on that and that some of the spinoffs accrue to us here in the Yukon.

At the end of the day, Mr. Chair, it's probably going to be in Canada's, or Yukon's, best interests to see development go forward, to see Bush elected in the U.S. and more activity take place. The offshore boundaries in the Beaufort I am sure will come to the forefront, and I'm sure that the boundary between Canada and the U.S. will be the subject of much discussion.

If we start looking at some of these initiatives, Mr. Chair, they're just simmering on the backburner. Just simmering. And nothing is going to take place until we realize the economic benefits that may or may not accrue to Yukon as a consequence of oil and gas exploration or mining activity and its subsequent exploration at the bottom of the ocean. It sounds pretty far-fetched now, but we only have to look back a few years to see the tremendous amount of activity in the Beaufort Sea out of Tuk. You only have to spend a few days and drive up to Dead Horse and go into ARCO. They'll take you for a tour of the facility up there. You have to pay and pay well. The First Nations up there, who have organized the tour and own the hotel, have a pretty good package put together up there, but it offers a tremendous insight as to what is transpiring in an environmentally sensitive manner up in the North Slope of Alaska.

This has resulted in tremendous wealth accruing to the State of Alaska, Mr. Chair - tremendous wealth accruing to what is called "the permanent fund", which has resulted in no state income tax. In fact, at the end of the year, they get a cheque.

So, we look at the North Slope of the Yukon, we look at the Yukon Act and we look at $150,000 here in this budget, and this government doesn't seem to have any clear direction as to where we're heading, other than steer the course. Steer the course with what has been provided to them. No foresight as to the economic potential and no foresight as to the economic potential derived from oil and gas or its mineral potential. I find that appalling.

If I could get an answer from the Premier on this very important issue of the Yukon Act and our northern offshore boundaries as to where see sees it heading, other than it's mute. We're not going to do anything. Why not? It's a very important, critical issue. Why aren't we doing something on it?

I'm sure that somewhere there are some briefing notes that the minister can enlighten us with - with her tremendous ability at reading script - and tell us why we're not going to go there Mr. Chair. There has got to be some answers there.

Now, I guess we just close the books and we all go home. But we're here to debate a very important section of this budget and the minister is refusing, once again. We can't get an answer. So, if the minister could stand up and give us an answer, we can move forward.

Hon. Ms. Duncan: You know what? The three weeks in the spring of 1997 was larvicide and grader blades. This one is just about the same. Thank you, Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Ms. Duncan: How many lug nuts on a grader blade? That was the question. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is entirely correct. The point the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is missing is that the difficulty with that line of questioning is that the previous party had done it to the previous government. So, unfortunately, it's a long-established tradition that we seem to spend hours and hours and hours allowing one particular individual to hold up substantive, clear debate on any given topic or issue, asking such questions as how many lug nuts are on a grader blade in Old Crow.

Mr. Chair, with respect, the $150,000 in this line item is for legal work on the Yukon Act and for public education and discussion surrounding the Yukon Act, which is our constitution.

The member opposite has asked me before about the offshore boundary issues. I have advised the member before, in writing, as to what the Yukon government has been doing on the offshore boundary. I invite him to go back and examine last spring's legislative returns.

With regard to the Yukon Act and the offshore boundary and the Crown in right of Yukon, the constitutional advice being provided to the member opposite and the constitutional advice being provided to this government are different. The member opposite and I disagree on that issue, just as the previous Government Leader disagreed with the previous leader of the Yukon Party on that particular issue.

The point is, Mr. Chair, that this government is working very actively and very hard. I find it amazing that the member opposite apparently supports drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge and supports an offshore pipeline. I'm glad that the member opposite saw fit to put that on the record, because I'm certain that the hard-working individuals in Economic Development and those individuals involved with the Foothills pipeline project would find the member opposite's support for the offshore pipeline quite fascinating.

Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Chair, the spin that this minister can put on a situation is just tremendous. What we have is my position for the record clearly stated. I support the Alaska Highway pipeline.

What we have, and what I explained, is a potential for a pipeline across the northern part of Yukon and down the Mackenzie Valley, seeing that it is almost $2 million dollars cheaper or less expensive, Mr. Chair. It is between $1 million and $2 million less expensive to proceed in that manner.

There is already an oil pipeline extending as far up as Norman Wells. That is in existence. The Alliance Pipeline tentacles are now being extended into the southern part of the Northwest Territories. So, it's a normal progression for a pipeline to extend its tentacles out and before we know it, with the exploration program that is underway in the Northwest Territories, we will see a whole series of gas pipelines extending into that area. That's what we will see, Mr. Chair.

As for drilling in ANWR, this House was unanimous in its position. I was part of that position. And the minister is taking the situation and attempting to turn it around 180 degrees, so that white comes out black. And she is trying to do that in a lot of areas, Mr. Chair. She is trying to do it with respect to the claims in Tombstone. She is trying to do it with respect to the claims in Asi Keyi Park. She was trying to do it in what she said to a group of the mining fraternity in Vancouver with respect to Minister Nault. She is trying to do it all the time - make black appear white. And you can't because, at the end of the day, the record speaks for itself.

The press picks it up. They know when something is said that doesn't accurately reflect the reality of the day. We're seeing this more and more often. I'd be very hopeful that the Premier would take a different tack than the one she's taking. It's in the best interest of debate in this House if we move forward and the minister responds so we can have common-sense, sensible answers. But we're seeing nothing but non-answers. We're not seeing anything but the questions turned around and posed back again as different questions. We're not seeing anything but the minister's ability at throwing a situation back that's totally inaccurate and does not reflect the position of our party or me.

So, at the end of the day, where are we? We have a line item increasing $191,000. We have an explanation for $41,000 of it. The balance of some $150,000 is dealing with the Yukon Act. The two major issues that are not being addressed in the Yukon Act as it's presented are the issues surrounding the northern offshore boundary of Yukon and the issue surrounding the Crown in right.

With this Yukon Act going forward, is any new initiative or any new discussion ensuing with respect to the Crown in right, or are we still back at square one?

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Jenkins: The minister just said no. So, I can't fathom, Mr. Chair, why these two important, critical items would be swept off the table and ignored completely. These are two important items - extremely important items - and their potential is very vast. The recognition of the Crown in right is an important step in the evolution of Yukon. Heck, we have a Crown attorney sitting in the back benches over there now, after the last act was passed. I don't know if we have a Crown in right, though, with respect to the Yukon. We don't know where we're going on this important initiative.

But I'll go back to the northern offshore boundary, as to why, Mr. Chair, we are ignoring that area and ignoring the potential for oil and gas and for mineral exploration in that area.

The benefits will still accrue to Canada, but with respect to oil and gas, they'll accrue to the federal government. They won't accrue to Yukon, as they are currently doing in other areas of Yukon, Mr. Chair. That I find very, very unnerving, very disconcerting.

We only have to look at the Northwest Territories to see the tremendous amount of drilling that took place just a very few years ago in the Beaufort Sea. And we know that they've uncovered oil and gas and oil and gas reserves. They just have to be proven to the quantities necessary to justify their extraction. And that's going to take more exploration, Mr. Chair.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Jenkins: It's going to take more exploration, and it's interesting to note, Mr. Chair, how we've gone from the northern offshore boundaries and the Crown in right to discussing hair and the hair appearances here.

The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was referring to not giving up his ponytail, like the Member for Whitehorse Centre currently gave up his hair for a very beneficial cause here in the Yukon.

But let's go back to the area that we have before us for discussion. We have the Yukon Act and $150,000 on the table. We have the two most important issues not even in the equation - in the hopper - for discussion.

Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.

Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress.

Motion agreed to

Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.

Motion agreed to

Speaker resumes the Chair

Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?

Chair's report

Chair: Mr. Speaker, the 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 the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Members: Agreed.

Speaker: I declare that report carried.

Ms. Tucker: 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 5:56 p.m.