Wednesday, December 13, 2000 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: J.V. Clark School design changes
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Minister of Education.
Yesterday, the minister said he was committed to making changes in the Mayo school design to save some $700,000. He also said this government would honour the commitments made to the community of Mayo. He can't have it both ways, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister now correct the record and will he be making major changes to the Mayo school design with or without the approval of the community?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier and I had indicated to the residents and the council in Mayo in November - and the Premier, at each commitment that was made, acknowledged the commitment and agreed to the commitment. We had also committed at that time that the town was notified that there would have to be required changes to bring the cost factor down and if there were any changes that they didn't completely agree with, then those changes wouldn't be implemented. So, there was an understanding, Mr. Speaker, that changes would have to occur - and they will have to occur - to bring the costs down. The changes that we are talking about will not be impacting on program; they will not be impacting on room size; they will not be impacting on overall school size. The foundation is there and we're going to, at the end of March of next year, be starting construction on that foundation.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the changes will be made with or without the approval of the community, Mr. Speaker. The minister has already indicated that as many as four contractors may be bidding on the new tender. The only reason that these changes are being made is so that government won't face a lawsuit for bid shopping. Why is the minister trying to tell the people of Mayo that these are not significant changes? At the same time, he is telling the contractors that they are significant.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We had committed to the folks up in Mayo that we would not be making substantive changes to the building, and they were fully aware of that. As a matter of fact, during the break, the Premier and I both walked around and talked to residents. They are aware that some of the factors in the school will have to change.
And the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is correct in that with the changes to accommodate the $1-million overbudget expenditure on that building, the changes will be required to bring that factor down. We are hoping that, through the competitive bid process with potentially four contractors, we will be able to build a school that the residents in Mayo want for the dollars provided in the budget - the former NDP government budget, which we have adopted as our own. And we will build it to that budget, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, the Premier said in the community of Mayo that there will not be any changes to the school. Any changes would be for the good, and this minister is not following the same direction that has been given by the Premier. Once again, this government simply will not admit when it has made a major mistake. Contracts can go overbudget in Whitehorse but not in Mayo. Developers in Whitehorse can snap their fingers and this government will let them walk away from their contractual obligations.
Will the minister now admit his mistakes and give instructions for the construction to proceed without any significant changes?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the people in Mayo have been waiting 26 years for a school. For 15 years they have been promised. They were promised by both governments represented by members on the opposite side that, after 15 years, they would have a new school. They have held the community to ransom for 26 years in total - 26 years in total.
So, as we have indicated, we are committed to the budget that they provided us with. We said we would live with it. We cannot continually, continually, continually go overbudget by millions and millions of dollars. It just seems unrealistic that the members opposite can't grasp the fact that you can't keep going into deficit budgets year after year after year.
Question re: J.V. Clark School design changes
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this is for the same minister, Mr. Speaker.
This is the government that brought in a $37-million surplus but couldn't find the dollars to make sure that the project happened. When it comes to projects in Whitehorse - "Go ahead. Overbudget? No problem." But for the communities, it's no way.
Mr. Speaker, there are changes proposed for the school that are major - the mezzanine, for example, and the stairs and handrails and the gym. This government is proposing changes to the floors, walls, ceiling and roof.
The Village of Mayo put in their amount of money, $500,000, to enhance the gym for community use, and this government is cutting back on their commitment to that community. Mr. Speaker, how are these proposed changes being rationalized? Why won't this minister drop those changes?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I had thought that the members opposite had at least some semblance of understanding of budgeting and of surplus versus deficit - of debt. So, Mr. Speaker, what we are doing is acting responsibly. We committed and we will honour those commitments that were made with the folks in Mayo.
It really is unfortunate that the members opposite continually antagonize, as opposed to, in this particular situation, being somewhat more supportive. I understand the opposition's position here in the House - that they have to disagree, challenge and hold us accountable. I agree with all the wonderful, fluffy words they use on the other side. But there are times that we should be grouping together and acting responsibly - and that means responsibly with taxpayers' dollars.
The Premier and I are going to be held accountable to the commitments that we made to the residents of Mayo, and we will follow through on those commitments.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, there was no problem for that government to approve $500,000 for Hamilton Boulevard, but when it comes to children, they refuse to put more money into the budget for something as important as a school. The community has been working to design this school for two years, and this government is coming forward, without consultation with the community, and continually trying to cut out the design that the community had put forward, Mr. Speaker.
There are increases to O&M costs and several of the proposed cost-saving measures, such as changing of the insulation from the cellulose to fibreglass, which is a 38-percent decrease in energy efficiency, Mr. Speaker. They have gone from triple-pane windows down to double-pane windows, which are again a decrease in energy efficiency of 35 percent. It doesn't address the priorities of this government in regard to energy efficiency.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, will the minister now drop those changes, go back to the original design and have a proper school built for the residents and the students in Mayo and not just a matchbox design?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, you can almost become speechless with the continuing negative rhetoric that comes across. And this member is representing his constituents in Mayo. You would think he would want to be a little more supportive than talking about Mayo becoming a matchbox school. That's disgusting. And the agreement that we had in front of Chief Hager and the minister responsible for Government Services was that we wouldn't be ransoming the children in Mayo in discussions in this House. But obviously, the member opposite isn't going to be holding to that commitment - obviously.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is directing changes to be made to the school. So he and that government are not honouring the commitments that they made to the people in Mayo. First they promised that they would pass the budget in its entirety, which involves the Mayo school, and then they postpone construction. And now they go to the community and make another promise that there would be no changes to the school. That's from the Premier herself, and I have the minutes of the meeting in front of me and the commitments by the Minister of Education. And now they want to make changes so that they can retender the contract. Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some hidden agenda with regard to the contract itself. On one hand they are making changes, and on the other hand they are juggling the books. With regard to the electric boiler, for example, the recommendation is to go and find financing somewhere else and take it out of the original costs.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question?
Mr. Fairclough: Why won't the minister drop the changes and go back to the original design as agreed to by the community of Mayo?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: He is very right in that we adopted their budget as our own. And in their budget they had identified a cost for that school, which we are obligated to follow through on, and we still spend that money on the school - and the so-called matchbox school that he is alluding to.
We had made commitments in Mayo and we are honoring those commitments. We are following through on our commitments to provide the best school that Mayo can get, and if they wanted a more expensive school, then the NDP should have put more money in at that time. But a $1-million overexpenditure is unacceptable for Yukon taxpayers. And they talk about a $64-million surplus - well, let's not forget about the $33-million deficit.
Question re: Group homes, staffing and quality of care
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Back on October 31 of this year, I presented a motion of urgent and pressing necessity, calling upon the government to establish a public inquiry into the operation of public and private sector group homes. The minister and his Liberal colleagues decided to put partisan interests above the well-being of children in care here in the Yukon and denied me the unanimous consent required to debate this serious issue, which was most unfortunate.
Since that time, the government has taken over the operation of the 16 Klondike group home from the previous private sector operator. It is questionable, however, if children in government care are better off than those in private sector group homes, which speaks to the need for an independent inquiry.
Now, I have heard reports of children in government care being placed inappropriately with other children who have serious behavioural problems, as well as reports of other problems. Is the minister aware of these serious problems, and what does he plan to do about them?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we have many problems in our society, many problems in the communities, and we have many problems in Whitehorse. And it's not just for government to come up with all the answers and solutions. We are there as an emergency backup support for families, for communities, but we're not there to address every issue that there is in a community.
Yes, I'm aware of the fact that we have problems. Yes, we as a government are addressing those problems that are brought to our attention, and yes, Mr. Speaker, when we have to intervene, we do so for the safety of our children and our families.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what an inappropriate answer from this minister. Emergency backup - that's all that they're there for. I submit that the government is there to look after children placed in care, usually by the court system. Look at the takeover of 16 Klondike Road. That costs three-quarters of a million dollars and requires the hiring of 17 residential care workers. It costs the government more to run these group homes themselves, yet there is no guarantee that they are meeting the needs of children in care any better than the private sector.
How can the minister assure the public that these government-run group homes are being run properly? How can he give that assurance without a public inquiry? The minister doesn't even know what's going on in his own department. Call a public inquiry into these group homes, Mr. Speaker. Will the minister do so?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I'm always amazed how the Member for Klondike knows everything. I mean, he knows everything about everything that goes on in the Yukon, and he comes across like the expert of experts. Mind you, Mr. Speaker, I think a lot of it has to do with bravado. Obviously, when you present that kind of an image, it's almost like it's believable, but it isn't. We know where it comes from.
As I shared with the member opposite, we do have problems. Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'm looking for constructive solutions. Our department is always searching for constructive solutions. We don't have all the answers.
Yes, there are times when we have to take action. It's unfortunate, but when that happens, it's there to protect children and families. I would like to ask that all of us work together and try to find creative solutions. If it means doing something that we have not normally done, I'm interested in that, too. But to say that we're going to move ahead on something specific at this point, when there have been no real specific issues raised by the member opposite, I would have to say, no, we're not going to do that at this point.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, what an answer. Here we have a very serious problem with the children in care in group homes, and the only way that the public can be assured that the proper operation for group homes for children at risk, run by the government or the private sector, is through the creation of an independent public inquiry into their operations.
Now, the minister is asking for suggestions and asking for ways that we can all work together. There is a very viable suggestion to the minister. Have a public inquiry into their operation, see how they are run, see what's wrong, see what we can do to correct them. Will the minister do what's right and establish that inquiry now, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I once again have to share with the member opposite that we have been criticized because we review, we research, and we do our homework. We're criticized heavily by the members opposite for doing that. Now, we're being asked to review again. Let's get out there and find out what really is happening. I have no problem doing that, Mr. Speaker. I think that's very important. We always have to look at what we're currently doing and where we want to go in the future.
To say that I'm going to commit myself to the specific request at this point and time, I would have to say no. But I'm interested in exploring with all members how we can better our system. And if that's one of the suggestions, then it's one that we can talk about. But I cannot commit our government to making that kind of a decision at this point. It takes far more than just a question being asked. But I think, obviously, if we know that there is smoke, there must be fire and we have to find out where things are at. So, I'm quite interested in other ideas as well, Mr. Speaker, in order to find solutions.
Question re: Cabinet makeup to represent rural Yukon
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier on a subject I raised a few days ago. The government caucus has now an MLA who represents a truly rural riding, not just two partially rural ridings in the Whitehorse periphery. When does the Premier intend to shuffle her cabinet to make sure the voice of rural Yukon is represented at the decision-making table?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as much as I appreciate the member opposite's advice on how to organize this government, they had four years over there to organize a government. And we are here and we have a caucus that ably represents all Yukoners in a very open manner and in a very inclusive manner. Our entire caucus, for example, was involved in what formerly used to be called the Cabinet tours to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes' riding. Our entire caucus attended those, as our entire caucus will be in Teslin in early February.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, this government has been in office for over seven months and has gone through two legislative sittings. Rural Yukon has not been treated well by this government. The Premier has also had a chance to see her Cabinet in action, just as the people in the Yukon have. And I will resist the temptation to give an assessment of her various ministers because I don't want to wade into the choppy waters of unparliamentary language. But clearly, a shuffle is due.
Will the Premier announce a Cabinet shuffle to ensure that the public's business is in competent hands before the next legislative sitting?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for reading his very carefully constructed question. I only wish that the members opposite and their research staff would spend more time on researching real questions for this Legislature. It's clear they're out of them, if this is the best they can do for Question Period.
Our government is not only open and accountable; our Cabinet was very carefully constructed. And while I appreciate the member opposite's advice, I will take it under advisement. Our assessment will come in due curse.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that's the reason why we're asking the questions. It's because of answers like that from ministers.
One of the areas causing great concern is the lack of economic leadership from this government. We're on a major downhill slide, and things are getting worse every month, and this government is doing nothing to correct the situation. Yukon people are frustrated and they're frightened. The Premier obviously has too much on her plate to do anything that her job demands.
Will the Premier do the right thing and resign her Economic Development portfolio to another caucus member for the reasons cited in the motion tabled by the Member for Watson Lake?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for reading the motion that was presented by the Member for Watson Lake into a question. The members opposite have provided their assessment of my performance as Minister of Economic Development to the Yukon public, and that is their role, I suppose, to do and certainly they're right. I appreciate their constructive criticism; however, the answer to the question is no.
Question re: Trade mission to China
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, that's not what the public is telling us that they would like to see.
I have another question for the Premier. Last week, there were reports in the Globe and Mail that the Team Canada mission to China is running into some serious difficulties. Can the Premier advise the House if she still intends to accompany the Prime Minister on this trade mission?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have indicated to the Prime Minister that, yes, I would attend.
Mr. Fairclough: Several premiers have cancelled their plans to go on this trade mission, including most of the western premiers. Can the Premier tell us what her government hopes to accomplish with the Team Canada mission and what is being done to ensure Yukon business will be able to explore business opportunities in that part of the world?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of initiatives that have been taken. At last count, there were four groups interested. I'm using that term as it includes non-government organizations interested in this particular trade mission.
I just would like to correct the member opposite's assertion with respect to my colleagues, the western premiers. Premier Okalik has also indicated his attendance, as they are interested in pursuing trade options for Nunavut as well. Premier Kakfwi has yet to determine whether or not he will attend. Premiers Dosanjh and Klein are facing elections in the spring and may call them earlier; hence, the reason for their non-attendance. A new premier will be in place in Saskatchewan, perhaps, two days before Team Canada leaves, which is the reason for Saskatchewan's non-attendance, and Premier Doer has yet to indicate whether or not he will attend.
Mr. Fairclough: This Liberal government has been extremely quiet about trade and investment. People in the business community are wondering if this government supports their effort to expand into outside markets?
The Premier was very critical about efforts of the previous NDP government, but those efforts were revealing concrete results in many parts of the world.
One investment area that was being developed was combining the English language study opportunities with wilderness adventure here in the Yukon.
Will the Premier tell us if this Liberal government is moving forward with that program using the money that was in the budget that this Premier adopted earlier this year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points that I need to address in the member opposite's question.
First of all, the member opposite is absolutely correct. I was very critical of the previous government's trade missions to the Sakha Republic, and I remain so today, because I, for one, as Economic Development minister, have not seen any results from that. There have been results from some efforts with regard to English-as-a-second-language programs, and we are certainly pursuing those and being of assistance where we can.
Another point I would like to make, Mr. Speaker - the other note that the member might take under advisement - is that, should my colleagues from some of the neighbouring provinces choose not to attend, that does afford me more of an opportunity to discuss Yukon issues with the federal government officials on the plane.
Question re: Arts funding, agreement with DIAND
Mr. McRobb: Well, that's another example of how this Liberal government said one thing in opposition and is doing something completely different in government.
My question today is for the Minister of Tourism. Recently the minister has been meeting with art groups in Whitehorse to talk about arts funding. During at least one of those meetings the minister spoke about a new economic development agreement through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs worth $10 million over the next five years.
Can the minister advise the House just how much of that proposed agreement would go directly to supporting arts programming in the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I dearly wish that the member opposite would just come to the meetings, so he could get the story straight. First of all, our government is actively pursuing economic development agreements with the Government of Canada - the federal government.
We are looking at a number of different ways we can fund the activities of the Tourism department. Some are under heritage; some are under the arts and some are under economic development and are to do with tourism infrastructure.
The exact figures for the economic development agreement have not been determined. We are in active negotiations, at the bureaucratic level, with the federal government. We will continue those negotiations. We are nowhere near the point where we are looking at exact figures, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: It's another case of how this Liberal government does not respect the Legislature, Mr. Speaker. It's interesting to speculate as to why the minister would raise expectations in the Yukon arts community about new funding from DIAND before the details are available to the public.
I would like to follow up with the minister about her own approach to arts funding. Her department has been doing surveys on how to replace existing funding from the community development fund and tourism marketing fund. Is the minister considering handing over the decision-making on arts funding directly to the arts community, just as she plans to hand over the tourism marketing fund directly to the tourism industry?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are a number of suppositions here that are just absolutely not related to reality. The first one is that apparently there is a $10-million economic development agreement. Where the member opposite got that figure is an absolute mystery. Perhaps he should attend these meetings, instead of getting second-hand information that is less than accurate.
The second thing is that I never, ever attached a figure to the economic development agreement. If it were up to me, I would ask for $100 million. I would ask for $200 million, knowing darn well that I wouldn't get it.
It just goes on and on and on. Apparently now the arts community is going to dole out money to themselves. This is an interesting mix up of the facts. The reality is that, for many years, the arts branch has been allocating funding in grants through a process called peer review. Peer review is what is used by federal governments across this world.
And what it says is that other artists are the only ones that really know what is good quality art and what is not. And truly speaking, Mr. Speaker, I would have trouble figuring that out myself. So it's a good thing that we do have this peer review process, and that process is going to continue.
As for the tourism marketing fund being allocated to the Yukon tourism marketing partnership, this has not been decided. This is also pure conjecture and speculation from the side opposite. None of this is real, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the minister clarifying a very fuzzy situation and making it very crystal clear. I am sure Hansard will speak for itself.
Now, the minister told one arts group recently that the Liberal government is, and I quote, "getting out of the business of making decisions because we aren't very good at it." At least the minister and I can agree on one thing. But what about public accountability for public funds? Surely the minister isn't proposing to throw a $10-million bone into the yard and let competing interests in the arts community fight over it. Can the minister explain how she will ensure that all regions and all artistic disciplines will receive equal consideration for funding, and not just the larger, more organized arts bodies in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, this is downright humorous. I mean, the side opposite just continues to read their questions without listening to the answers from the previous questions. There is no $10 million. It doesn't exist. This is a fantasy. And the whole question is based on this supposition. It doesn't exist.
Now, as far as throwing money out to the arts community - this government fully supports the arts community. It also supports the heritage community. It also supports the private sector, which offers services to tourists who come to the Yukon, as well as to Yukoners. That is an important part of what happens in tourism.
You know, if I had $10 million, Mr. Speaker - there is a song about this. Perhaps it should be the new song that we are looking for for the Tourism branch. But there is no $10 million. We are not giving it to anybody to give away because we don't have it.
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Mr. Fentie: In order to debate the public's business expeditiously in this Legislative Assembly, we in the official opposition will be asking for unanimous consent to stand down the motion we have called for debate this afternoon.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Mr. Jenkins: In order to expedite the business of the House and deal with the public's business, the Yukon Party would like to stand down the motion that we called for today, and I am requesting unanimous consent of the House.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everybody. I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 3 - Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01 - continued
Chair: We will continue with debate on Bill No. 3, Third Appropriation Act, 2000-01. We're on Economic Development line-by-line and we were discussing revenues.
Department of Economic Development - continued
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures - continued
Chair: Ms. Duncan had the floor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. As you just noted, when we left the line-by-line debate in the Department of Economic Development we were discussing a line item, $4.1 million in revenue. This is gross resource revenue. It is an estimate for an increase of oil and gas revenue flowing to the Yukon. The Member for Watson Lake has asked me exactly how much of that revenue is available to the Government of the Yukon, so to speak. The member put it somewhat differently, but for the sake of discussion - how much is available?
In the 2000-01 main estimates, the resource revenue was estimated at $2.9 million. In this supplementary budget, we're estimating an additional $4.1 million in oil and gas resource revenues. Of the additional $4.1 million, $2.4 million is removed from our formula finance funding arrangement.
So in essence, of the $4.1 million, $2.4 million is paid to the federal government, which leaves a balance of $1.7 million. Of that $1.7 million, $1,326,149 is available to the Yukon government. To First Nations, the amount is $373,851. There are assumptions built into that in terms of settlement of agreements and other points with respect to the formula, so these are estimate figures only, and they may be subject to further adjustments.
Now, the members opposite suggested that, given that there was an additional amount of revenues - and I have just confirmed that the actual figure to Yukon is $1,326,149 - members opposite put forward an argument seeming to believe that Economic Development would have this money available for programs within that department, programs such as the oil and gas unit or the trade and investment unit or others.
This is not the case, Mr. Chair. What is the case is that that additional million-plus revenues is available overall in Government of Yukon revenues and, as such, it becomes subject to the overall Government of Yukon pressures, such as the pressures to meet the needs and costs of our health care system, our education system and other areas where government is involved, such as growing Yukon industries, including tourism, oil and gas, the mining sector and others.
The members opposite have suggested repeatedly in this House that this government is doing nothing for the Yukon economy as a result of our overall budget expenditures.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: And the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes says, "You're doing something." The member is absolutely correct. We are doing a number of things.
We are investing in the Yukon. First and foremost, we have reduced personal income taxes for all Yukoners. By reducing personal income taxes, all Yukoners will be taking home more money. Not only did we do this action, Mr. Chair, but we did it in such a timely manner that Revenue Canada will be able to produce their tax tables reflecting the change.
Hence, Yukoners will see this change in the beginning of the year. There will be more money to spend by Yukoners in Yukon stores on Yukon products in all Yukon communities. This is a throughout-Yukon initiative.
When the tax cuts are combined with the federal tax cuts, it means millions of extra dollars in spending. This helps to stimulate the economy.
We've also been restoring highways funding. As I've said repeatedly, this is funding the NDP cut. We've been restoring our information technology budget, funding the NDP cut. We've been restoring funding for historic properties, funding that was cut under the previous government.
We have increased the mining incentive program by a quarter of a million dollars. We have lobbied for and obtained a new federal tax credit for flow-through shares. We've been lobbying hard for the Alaska Highway pipeline route, which the members opposite seem absolutely unable to come to a conclusive position on. And we have discussed it at great length in this Legislature.
We have also done such initiatives as the Electronic Commerce Act, promoting e-business in the territory, Mr. Chair.
And we have shown significant investment in our tourism industry through such programs as the stay-another-day program. We are investing in our film industry through the Yukon filmmakers development fund and the Yukon film incentive program.
Mr. Chair, not only are we as a government demonstrating our leadership and investment in Yukon and Yukoners, the public have also demonstrated their investment and their faith in the Yukon economy.
There are a number of business initiatives that are very well-known to Yukoners. One of those had a grand opening on Saturday - the Lewes River Timber and Dakwakada Forest Products. Their alliance is called "Northern Lights". Again, I mentioned to members opposite there is a private sector group actively planning a major tourism development in cooperation with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
Mr. Chair, we are seeing results in the short seven months that we have been in office and these results mean more jobs for Yukoners. Additional funding for the Yukon mining incentive program meant an additional number of applicants in excess of 50 that were approved under that program. Local mining supply and service companies, Mr. Chair, benefit from that expenditure.
We have been reminding members opposite to visit our Economic Development Web site and, although they may not be logging on to it, other people are. In the last two weeks alone we have seen in excess of 400 other individual people accessing this Web site for information on the oil and gas industry in Yukon.
$4.5 million is being spent on roads and highways work. Some of this work is not finished and will be completed early in the new year. This is work for Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
Our recent announcement of $500,000 toward the information technology, or IT, budget was welcomed by Yukon's IT Industry Society, even though members opposite criticized this expenditure. It's very fascinating to me, Mr. Chair, that, at times, the members opposite love to stand up and say, "But that was our initiative." And then they criticize us for actually implementing it and living up to agreements with Yukoners.
The film incentive program has generated $2 million in direct spending in the Yukon. The total value of Yukon's international goods exported in the first nine months has increased. It is greater than it was by some 40.4 percent in the same period in 1999.
Specifically, Mr. Chair, many government projects are employing Yukoners - 600 jobs. This government's capital projects, information technology projects, design and maintenance projects, heritage and film initiatives, land development projects, facility maintenance and renovation projects all create jobs for Yukoners.
It's estimated that the capital budget for this fiscal year, including the supplementary, is responsible for the equivalent of over 600 full-time jobs in the private sector, or FTEs. One FTE is based on a 40-hour work week, working 50 weeks per year.
Capital building projects - Stats Canada has reported that commercial building permits are up by more than 10 times what they were in September. Building permits have been issued that total almost $12 million for October alone, mostly in rural Yukon. The continuing care facility is expected to create employment of over 80 FTEs. Completion of the Ross River school employed the equivalent of another eight to 10 FTEs. The rec centres in Dawson City, in Ross River and in Carmacks, Mr. Chair, employed another dozen FTEs, and the upcoming Mayo school, with construction starting by the end of this fiscal year, will provide approximately 32 FTEs of employment.
The roadwork that is being undertaken in the Community and Transportation Services budget, including the supplementary - there is $90,000 on highway camp facilities maintenance this winter, half a million dollars on winter gravel crushing, and work on the Shakwak will be resuming this spring, and the Hamilton Boulevard, which has not been spoken of well in this House, nonetheless employed over 15 full-time equivalents.
There are demonstrable results for Government of the Yukon expenditures and the leadership being exhibited in the Department of Economic Development. I am very pleased with the work that we have undertaken to date. I am confident in the results that have been shown. I know that we have a great deal more work to do. In the first seven or eight months that we have been in office we have made a very good start, and we intend for the good work that we are doing to continue.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I thank the minister for that overview, that snapshot of all the hard work of the NDP, the former NDP government, and how that contributed to this Liberal government's ability to stand on the floor of this Legislature and this minister's ability to stand on the floor of the Legislature and trumpet all those jobs that the good works, the vision and the good governance of the former NDP government provided for Yukoners.
However, we are dealing with the supplementary budget that has been brought forward by this government and by this minister, in particular, when we come to the Department of Economic Development, and there are some serious problems in the Yukon's economy and we are simply not getting the leadership required to address those problems.
So, without further ado, Mr. Chair, I think it's time to move on past this particular area in the budget and get on to other areas in line-by-line so that we can hopefully ferret out some sort of answers from the minister about what she's going to do to assist Yukoners this winter because of the desperate straits they are in.
I, personally - when the minister made the comment about not seeing me at the Northern Lights grand opening, although I have talked personally to a number of the proponents of that operation because I feel that it is an important link in the overall development of a forest manufacturing sector - was busy setting up and organizing, through adopt-a-family initiatives, the bringing down of a number of presents and items for families in Watson Lake who find themselves, today, unable to even to purchase a turkey for Christmas. That's what I was doing instead of cutting a ribbon.
So, I'm prepared now to move on further into this budget.
Chair: I see no further questions on revenues.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $736,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mr. Fentie: This is just for a matter of clarity. We had cleared O&M and we're dealing with the section on revenue of $4.1 million.
Chair: As far as I understand, I asked about revenue first and then I go back to O&M, so that we had not cleared O&M yet.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $15,000 agreed to
On Community Development Fund
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this is an area in the Department of Economic Development that has long, long been a very positive initiative in this territory. It goes back for years now. All one has to do is go out and tour Yukon communities to see the positive results that the community development fund has brought.
First off, the community development fund is a fund that allows communities, municipalities, public agencies and groups to come forward with projects that they design, that they develop, that they want to see happen in their respective communities, and it does a number of things from that point. First, it is a targeted expenditure by government to create employment. The fund itself, just to look at the number of applications and projects that have been approved, shows that there are hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of person hours of employment where people are earning a living in desperate times when they need it. It results in those very same people spending their money in their respective communities, helping the cash flow of each and every one of those communities.
Furthermore, because these projects are brought forward by communities and their people, it tends to lift community spirit because of the positive results that are achieved. Because the communities are doing it themselves, the spirits of the communities are uplifted and that, in this time of need, is also very, very valuable. And it's done through a small expenditure from government.
We in the official opposition have long since been aware of the positive elements of the community development fund. We support the community development fund wholly, in its entirety. We do not dispute the Liberal government wanting to review such a fund to improve it and make it better.
What we find a problem with, what we oppose, is stopping it altogether while that review takes place. That is why we developed our own supplementary budget for this sitting, to address some of those needs that are out there, especially in rural Yukon. Because rural Yukon does not have the benefit of large government employment, of a large government workforce, like Whitehorse does. The communities in rural Yukon, especially in winter, go through some very difficult times. They suffer. Hotels close, stores close, businesses lag behind in their accounts payables. All kinds of difficulties arise during the winter in rural communities and the community development fund and the fire smart program went a long way to address those difficulties and help the situation across the board in each and every community. That is why we developed and brought forward a supplementary budget.
Now, in our supplementary budget, in this particular area under the community development fund and the fire smart program, we have put forward an expenditure of $3 million. There is $2 million for the community development fund. I think the results of the legislative return on the community development fund, which the minister tabled in this Legislature, speaks for itself with the long, long list of projects in every community in this territory and what it is doing and the amount of people it's putting to work. The newly elected Member for Faro can give testimony to what the community development fund has done in his community, given the shutdown of the Faro mine. I don't think there's any argument about the positive elements that this community development fund gives to us and to the people of this territory.
On the fire smart side of things, we put in $1 million, because we know full well, given the history of the fire smart program - which was brought in by the former NDP government, and the now Minister of Tourism loudly proclaimed, when we brought in the first half a million dollars to start the program, that it wasn't enough. That minister proclaimed to the public, for all to hear, that it was not enough. That means to me that, at that time, this same minister, the Member for Riverdale South, took the view that the fire smart program was vital to the Yukon and that we should have put more money in. Conversely, when it's this government's turn to make the decision to put the money where its mouth is, what does it do? They shut it down. They shut it down completely.
Now, let's just quickly look at some fast arithmetic here, and what it means. Take the community of Watson Lake, which spearheaded the fire smart program, and, as in every other community that has successfully commenced with the program, it is done in phases. A community like Watson Lake, in a matter of days, could put together their next phase in the form of an application for money from the fire smart program. With a $50,000 investment into the fire smart application in the community of Watson Lake, we would put six people to work for four months in Watson Lake, earning a decent living. We don't have to dispute on the floor of this Legislature how many people in communities like Watson Lake are in need of earning a living.
Now, that's just one example. The Liard First Nation, in the Village of Upper Liard, could also bring forward another application within days, and with another $50,000, the same thing can happen - six people for four months.
So, in an area in the southeast Yukon that is in an economic depression and in desperate need of work, $100,000 could put 12 people to work for four months this winter.
We don't need to be chartered accountants to figure out what that means in terms of cash flow in the community of Watson Lake. Those same dozen people buy groceries, buy gas, buy oil, buy beer, buy hoagies at the convenience store - they spend their money. Today they are not. They are not spending their money because they don't have any. This government has lots of money. This Liberal government has the ability, without any problem whatsoever, to bring forward a $2-million community development fund initiative and $1-million fire smart initiative to help put people to work this winter. It will lift community spirits and help people get through the long, hard winter. They can earn a decent living; they can play a meaningful role in this territory. This is a good thing and it is a small price to pay by a government that started their mandate with $64 million. Mr. Chair, I ask the Minister of Economic Development, will she - I encourage the minister - bring forward another supplementary that reflects a $3-million expenditure in the community development fund and the fire smart program? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite and I have had many discussions about the community development fund. I would remind the member opposite that I appreciate his remarks that the community development fund is not without positive results. There are results that are very visible throughout Yukon with respect to the community development fund. The fund was not without its criticisms and not without its problems. For example, the funding, as it was set up, did not allow for such things as the purchase of team uniforms. There were consistent applications for that sort of funding. There was also difficulty surrounding long-term O&M costs. While it is a very laudable decision and very widely supported by individuals, and there is a lot of work that goes into building particular facilities, there are also long-term implications that need to be addressed.
There is also working with municipalities and First Nation governments. I have had representations from several Yukon mayors with regard to the community development fund and how it seemed to work at cross-purposes with municipalities. Yes, there were good things accomplished by the community development fund; yes, there are criticisms that need to be examined. We are doing what any new, responsible government would do in that we are taking a look at the information and evaluating where we go from here.
Now, the member opposite's consideration and concern is that we're not continuing to spend money while we do that. Well, $3 million was budgeted by the NDP government for this fund, and I have already tabled for the members opposite the amount of grants and the amount of community development fund projects that were funded in the 17 days before they left office - between April 1 and April 17 - and the commitments that were made. We have spent the available funding for CDF on CDF. We have also spent, or we are seeking on this particular date and at this particular line item, an additional $455,000 for overcommitted projects. These are our commitments that have been made that have, for one reason or another, either gone over or have been committed and the funds have lapsed and this is the additional funding required.
The member opposite doesn't dispute our right, as a government, to look at the fund. He said that on his feet. He said that they don't dispute that. The issue is that the member opposite wants us to pour another $3 million into this fund while we look at it. We made the decision, as is our right to do, that we would put money in this supplementary budget for $7.5 million for health care, additional funding for individualized education funds, for additional teachers' resources in our classroom, educational assistance, for students' financial assistance. And those benefits, Mr. Chair, are felt throughout Yukon.
The members opposite like to make much and try to pretend that we have somehow ignored, or are ignoring, the very real difficulties throughout Yukon in Yukon's economy. We are not doing that. We are seeking long-term constructive solutions for building of our economy. We have chosen to address, in the supplementary budget, health care, education and other initiatives.
I have said that we are examining the community development fund. I have indicated why. I have expressed repeatedly, on the floor of this House and elsewhere, our support for fire smart. We are seriously examining fire smart and we are very supportive of it - the Member for Riverdale South and I, in particular. The member opposite says, "Well, in the meantime, just give out $50,000. Do this or do that."
There's also, Mr. Chair, the element of fairness that must be applied here. If you are going to fund fire smart applications, you have to ask for them and you have to give all communities a fair opportunity to apply. There is no funding available to do that for the balance of this fiscal year. I've explained that to the members opposite. The members opposite suggest that we should have put more money into the community development fund and fire smart in this supplementary budget. We did not do that. We made a very real choice. It's not their choice; however, it was our choice to make and we made it. And we made it for very good and sound reasons. We have appreciated their arguments. We understand them. We are working on the overall picture of the Yukon economy.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun says, "No, you don't." I have information for the member opposite. Yes, we do understand the very real needs throughout Yukon. They are not restricted to Mayo. They are not restricted to Ross River. They are not restricted to Watson Lake. They are not restricted to Old Crow. Issues in our community are throughout Yukon and those issues include the very real health care issues, such as substance abuse, such as dealing with children's welfare, such as dealing with our economy, which affects every single one of us from Porter Creek on Ponderosa, to Watson Lake, to Old Crow - everywhere. These are the issues of Yukoners and this government has chosen to deal with them. And we've chosen to deal with them in the very real ways of meeting our health care needs, the education of our young people and dealing with the long-term issues in our economy of rebuilding the Yukon economy.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I find it astounding that this minister somehow thinks that we disagree that they're focusing on health care and making expenditures there, that they're trying to rebuild the economy and focus on long-term solutions. We don't. We agree. What we are saying is that you don't have to have Yukoners suffer through a long, hard winter when you're sitting on a surplus, as of March 2000, of $64 million.
What is this, some kind of joke? What is this Liberal government doing with all that money? We are talking about the ability of many, many Yukoners to go to work this winter and earn a living. Are you asking these same people, who may not be here when the famous pipeline commences construction two to five years down the road, to wait the two to five years? Are you asking Yukoners to sacrifice all that time? How are they going to pay their bills? How are they going to put food on the table? How are they going to clothe their children? They're not going to stay here.
This minister has made a decision, all right. And it's not based on good, sound, fiscal management, because there's lots of money. It's not based on economic leadership, because economic leadership would lead one immediately to understand that there's much more to our economy that what's in the long term. There's the now and there's the need for a government in this territory, given the situation that we're in, to address those needs.
Furthermore, there's a real problem across the floor with the Liberal members. When we, on the floor of this Legislature, debate and discuss the terrible straits that we're in, economically, for many Yukoners, we have the Minister of Health and Social Services and the Minister of Tourism openly laughing about it. This is serious business.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: There is a point of order. You are avowing false motives to the members on this side of the House. There is no one on this side of the House who laughs at the plight of Yukoners. We are very aware of the plight of Yukoners and that is why we ran for office.
Mr. Jenkins: You know, could I ask the government House leader to quit wasting the time of this House with these frivolous points of order. They are not doing anything to continue with the debate at this Legislature.
Mr. Fentie: There is no point of order.
Chair: On the point of order, I would point out that there were no rules broken. I feel that there was nothing said that could not be stated as an opinion, and so as a result, opinions are certainly allowed to be expressed in this House, so there is no point of order. Mr. Fentie, please continue.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you. Furthermore, it is the same Minister of Health who stood on his feet in this Legislature and said that he has knocked on doors and talked to people on social assistance and they are happy. Well, I would argue that, for the most part, every one of those people on social assistance, given the chance to go out and earn a meaningful dollar, would throw out the social assistance and go to work on a program like fire smart or on a community project funded by the community development fund.
The business we are dealing with here is the need to address the issue and the situation that Yukoners are in right now. The solutions are simple. The government has lots of cash available. A winter works program this winter is not going to break the bank or create a trend that will compromise us in the future if this Minister of Economic Development and this Liberal government are so confident that they are going to rebuild the economy, as they have said time and time again. Because if that is the case, then the need for community development fund expenditures will diminish at some point in the future.
So, the minister is arguing against herself. We on this side of the House in the official opposition are saying - because we have been approached by many, many Yukoners, by municipalities and by First Nation people, asking us to try and do something - "You have the means, it's a matter of choice, and we encourage you to do it. That's why we brought forward the supplementary budget. Will you at least try, through a winter works program this winter, to help all those Yukoners who are in such desperate need? "
Furthermore, no matter what, nothing will be perfect, not even the repackaged new community development fund that this government will bring out, because the Liberal government knows how well it works. What they're trying to do in this review is package it so it becomes a Liberal invention, so that they gain the political kudos.
Now, come on. Why would you want Yukoners to sacrifice so the members opposite can gain the political advantage? That's not acceptable. The money is there, Mr. Chair. The ability is there. Fire smart applications can be brought in within days, and a few days after that point, once the technical review committee - which has a very good set of goal posts in place. Furthermore, there are high priority areas in fire smart needs and there are low priorities. It's not rocket science to figure out. People could be going to work in a matter of days in this territory, and this government would receive great accolades for making that move.
Will the minister now relent and do something in this area? Will she bring forward a supplementary budget that reflects community development fund initiatives and the fire smart program so that Yukoners, especially in rural communities, can at least accrue some benefit to help them survive this winter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has repeatedly made his point. The member opposite has repeatedly referenced economic leadership. Economic leadership is also recognizing that the figures in front of the member opposite are a $33,817,000 deficit. That level of spending is unsustainable. It is clearly demonstrated.
The economic leadership demonstrated by this government in recognizing the deficit situation and dealing with these issues is economic leadership that I, and the individuals on this side of the House, stand behind. The member had four years to demonstrate his economic leadership and that of his party, and Yukoners have spoken. Now they have spoken and given us an opportunity to demonstrate ours. That's what we are doing and that is what we will continue to do.
Mr. Fentie: Well, in the first place, 57 percent of Yukoners did not vote for the Liberal Party, for this Liberal government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The member says, "They didn't vote for the NDP." Well, at this point in time, the Liberals are who have the decision making in their hands. Yukoners are asking for these things. This minister refuses to recognize the needs of Yukoners. She is turning her back, especially on rural Yukon. One can only conclude that that is because their support is in Whitehorse.
Mr. Chair, it won't take long for the MLA for Faro to be demanding some community development fund money and some fire smart money, because his constituency will be putting him on notice in short order. They are not going to sit there and twiddle their thumbs all winter long.
Mr. Chair, furthermore, this minister continues to make the argument of a deficit. Yet, a $3-million expenditure this winter for winter works - if this minister is so confident in her ability to rebuild the economy - is not going to impact a deficit trend because the need for winter works programs will diminish. The minister is making our argument.
I ask again, because I feel there are a number of members on the side opposite and in Cabinet who agree with us on this side. They agree that there is something that should be done this winter to help all those Yukoners who need it.
I ask this minister again, will she bring forward a supplementary budget immediately that will reflect those needs? Will she help these Yukoners this winter? She has the means. She has the money. The choice is this minister's. Will she do so?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I heard was a request from the member opposite to join Cabinet, and I would certainly have to consult with my caucus on that particular subject.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The members opposite seem absolutely stubborn in their refusal to accept the fact that there is an estimated annual deficit for the year 2000-01 of $33,817,000. And I have told the members opposite and advised them over and over again - and over and over again, including as leader of the official opposition - that the level of spending was unsustainable.
The member opposite also needs to be very aware of the fact that there are pressures in the budget that affect all Yukoners, including health care spending.
We are dealing with those. We are also dealing with the issues of unemployment in our Yukon. It's not just in the communities. We are all faced with this. We on this side of the House have partners who are involved in Yukon daily life. We have constituents we speak with on a regular basis. There are individuals throughout Yukon who are concerned about the Yukon economy. It is not the sole purview of the member opposite to stand and rant about the economy or rant about this government and the decisions we make.
We answer to Yukoners every single day for the decisions we have made and are making. We gave long and careful thought to the construction of this supplementary budget, to what is contained therein and to the needs of Yukoners. We have addressed the fundamental needs of health care and education and the Yukon economy, and we are doing that within the financial means we have available.
The solution of the member opposite is not our solution, and I would respectfully request that the member opposite consider that there are differences between us. On this one point we will agree to disagree.
Mr. Fentie: It's a sad day when a Premier, a minister, would interpret my asking - as a member of the official opposition and a duly elected member of this Assembly - this minister to help out the many, many Yukoners in need by bringing forward a supplementary to address those needs to be a rant. That's disgusting.
This isn't a rant. I am trying to do my job to help Yukon people who are in need of help. We in the official opposition see a way to have that addressed this winter. We know that there is lots of money. We know that the minister's excuses are simply not going to hold water with Yukon people. They know better. And when they find out this spring that the surplus is going to be, at a bare minimum, $45 million, after they suffered through a hard winter with no work when this government had the ability to do something in areas like fire smart and community development funding, they are not going to be pleased with this Liberal government.
Mr. Chair, it is obviously fruitless trying to convince this cold-hearted government why it is necessary to help Yukoners now, this winter. It's the compassionate thing to do. If this government ever wants to be known as a government that is compassionate, well, they are going to lose that. They are going to lose that by this decision.
I would point something else out: our health care costs are going to increase this winter. They are going to increase maybe by way more than the $3-million injection of capital into a community development fund and fire smart, because people are out of work and people's spirits are at a low, and because of issues developed from that, especially in rural communities. Health care costs will increase because of that high unemployment and that despair that people find themselves in. That's going to happen this winter, and this government can only blame themselves.
One more time, I urge this minister to be compassionate, to think about all those Yukoners who are in need now and who would do anything to work for four months. Will this minister at least set aside her hard view on what she thinks is right and help those people out? The Liberal government has the money. The tools are there. The vehicles for that money to flow are in place. All that it takes is a decision, a compassionate decision by this minister, and many, many Yukoners will be uplifted. Will this minister bring forward a supplementary for winter works now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the reference to showing a complete lack of respect for individuals as a member of the Legislature - I would suggest that "rant" is mild compared with referring to someone as "without compassion", "cold-hearted", and "stubborn". Members opposite have used words like "incompetent", "failing to understand", "unrepresentative of our communities," and on and on and on. Those are not policy criticisms. Those are personal criticisms. The member opposite has made a criticism of our decision and our management of the funds of this territory - the taxpayers' money - of Yukoners. He has criticized our decisions to not add additional supplementary funding to this particular supplementary budget for the community development fund.
I have heard the criticism, I respect the member opposite has made the criticism, the decision has been made, and my point to the member opposite is neither stubborn nor without compassion. We are choosing a different path to help Yukoners and to work with Yukoners.
While the member certainly is more than welcome to give - and I'm happy to hear it - constructive criticism, this is a particular point where the member and I disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have never heard so much bafflegab in my entire life, Mr. Chair, as what has come out of this Liberal government during debate this session. All we are hearing are excuses upon excuses upon excuses. The bottom line is that the economy of the Yukon is devastated. We're in a depression.
One of the fastest ways to create some employment this winter is by the use of these three funds. The community development fund has been a tool employed by the previous government. It's a good suggestion, Mr. Chair. The trade and investment fund is another area that could be looked at and utilized. What we're seeing, though, is a lapse. It's a $241,000 lapse in the trade and investment fund. The other area is the fire smart program. That could be used to put Yukoners to work this winter. The other suggestion that the Yukon Party offered, Mr. Chair, was to convene a public/private partnership to look at ways that government spending could enhance employment.
What we currently have is a government that is void of any ideas. They are reluctant to get into any of these funds to stimulate the economy because there has been some criticism of them in the past. Well, in government, praise is usually the absence of criticism. There is always going to be someone who is opposing what you're doing. It doesn't matter what. Right now, those opposing the Liberal government initiatives are fewer and fewer because, number one, Yukoners are having to leave the Yukon to find employment. They are finding employment elsewhere, other than the Yukon. That is a consequence of the policies of the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals.
The other area we must look at is that the public, by and large, doesn't care if the government has a surplus or a deficit, as long as they've got a job and their home life is satisfactory and they have money flowing into the home.
More and more in Yukon, that is not occurring, Mr. Chair. Jobs are scarce. Other than government and government-related employment, there's not much going on in the private sector here in the Yukon.
What this Liberal government's position is is that we're taking a different path. Well, fine, Mr. Chair. No one has a quarrel with the Liberals taking a different path. But let's make sure that that path is open, that it's not full of rocks and debris and snow and accumulation of a whole series of things that are impeding the economy of the Yukon.
I would suggest, Mr. Chair, to the minister that that path is very full of all sorts of debris impeding the economy of the Yukon. An action needs to be taken and taken very, very quickly. And there seems to be a lack of initiatives by this government. They have the tools at their disposal, and those tools are, number one, they have money. They inherited a surplus. Yes, it's being drawn down by accumulated deficits, but by the time we see the fiscal position of this government on March 31 of this coming year, I'm sure that there will be a great number of lapses and that the financial position is going to be, probably, not much different from what the current position is, in that we'll probably see in the magnitude of $40 million or $50 million in total carry-forward surplus.
Now, the other area that you have to have as a government, other than money, is an idea, an idea that Yukoners will buy into and that will put them to work and stimulate the economy.
None of the initiatives that have worked in the past and been acceptable here in the Yukon, whether it be a public/private partnership to explore ways of spending government money to stimulate the economy, which worked under the Yukon Party, whether it be the trade and investment fund, community development fund or fire smart that worked under the NDP - none of these initiatives are being looked upon with any sort of favour by this government. They're not even being considered, Mr. Chair. What's done is done. We're not even going forward. We're just going to review, review, review and thank you very much for bringing it to our attention. You have made your point, sit down, we're going on our merry way.
Yukoners expected more from this Liberal government, Mr. Chair, than what we're seeing and what we're receiving.
We were told to look favourably upon them because they had this wonderful relationship with Ottawa. The only benefit that's going to probably accrue in the next little while is that the Premier's going to be flying off to China. I don't know, maybe we can establish a chopsticks factory here or something. But the benefits that are going to accrue from the minister flipping off all over the world on the Team Canada trade missions are certainly questionable, given the state of our economy, our dwindling workforce, and the inability of the Minister of Education to train anyone - it just goes on and on and on and on, Mr. Chair.
Every time you turn a corner with this government, it's no. And other than a few political patronage appointments that are extremely well paid, the rest of the Yukon, specifically rural Yukon, is suffering.
Now, this CDF could come into focus and it could benefit Yukoners, as could the fire smart and as could the trade and investment fund.
Let's just look at the black and white. Under capital, under Economic Development, the total revenue was estimated in the 2000-01 budget as being some $3,021,000. There is a windfall profit coming from revenues from oil and gas resources of an additional $4.1 million. The total amount in that department is up by $4.1 million, and yet the government sees its way clear to only spend $2 million of that in the Economic Development portfolio.
I have yet to hear of a sound initiative coming out of this government to put Yukoners back to work this winter. If there is, what is it? Which one of these plans is the government going to use? And why not the community development fund? Why not the fire smart? Why not the trade and investment fund? Why not convene a private/public partnership meeting to see how government spending can be used to enhance the economy and put Yukoners back to work? Because the bottom line is that it is about an economy.
Now, this Premier, as Minister of Economic Development, has done probably the worst job that has ever been demonstrated by any Minister of Economic Development. We are not seeing any initiatives being put forward under this minister, Mr. Chair. And that's appalling. If there is, tell me how many jobs that this minister is creating this winter with this economic development program. Total capital expenditures of some $9.6 million - and it takes an O&M side of it, an administration side of it, of $6.9 million. So where are the jobs being created this winter? Now the minister is probably going to read off the Shakwak jobs and a few others, but by and large, there is a void of jobs in Yukon. Our economy is going backwards.
This minister is not taking any steps to turn it around, and she can't argue that she doesn't have the tools at her disposal. She points to a deficit position. Well, that's just drawing down our bank account, which currently stands at almost $65 million. So what excuse is this Minister of Economic Development going to use next? And what is she going to do to put Yukoners to work now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have already answered the question about the number of jobs that are created by this budget and the work that is ongoing throughout the Yukon.
The Yukon economy was not destroyed in the seven or eight months that I have been Minister of Economic Development, and the member opposite knows that. The member opposite stood on his feet and voiced the same criticism of the former Minister of Economic Development and, I'm sure, the minister before that, but the House was not graced with the member's presence at that time.
The member opposite has voiced his criticisms, and I'm certain that the next comments from the member opposite are quite predictable. I have, however, already answered the question.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the community development fund?
Community Development Fund in the amount of $466,000 agreed to
On Association franco-yukonnaise Centre
Association franco-yukonnaise Centre in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Micro Loan Program
Mr. Fentie: Can the minister inform the House if there has been any uptake on this micro loan program as of today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I met with Dana Naye Ventures as recently as this morning, and I have preliminary figures. I'd like to finalize them before providing them to the member opposite. We're looking in the 13 to 15 range, but I will provide them to both parties in writing following the session.
Micro Loan Program in the amount of $105,000 agreed to
On Mineral and Oil and Gas Resources
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP) in the amount of $8,000 agreed to
On Geological Surveys
Mr. Jenkins: Well, why are we doing any geological surveys and resource assessments in the Yukon when the minister is determined to create one big park here?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the $64,000 line item in this particular amount is the collective agreement and superannuation increase. I'm pleased to hear the member opposite vote against the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: My question still stands. Why are we doing resource assessment when this minister is determined to create one big park in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the $64,000 in this line item is for collective agreement and superannuation increases for the hard-working people of the Yukon. That's what the $64,000 is.
The line item in terms of geological surveys - the geological work by this particular unit in Economic Development has been nationally and internationally recognized, and their work is very much appreciated. In fact, I have had several supportive letters with regard to their work. I took the opportunity this summer to visit with the geologists at work in the field, and their data is instrumental in reviewing areas that are of high mineral potential for the Yukon's future development.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question still stands, Mr. Chair. Why are we doing all of these resource assessments when the minister is determined to create one big park here in the Yukon?
Chair: Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, obviously, Mr. Chair, the minister's not answering, but it would appear that, between the federal Liberals and the Yukon Liberals, all we're seeing being created under this Premier and her Liberal Party is a whole series of parks here in the Yukon. I'm just curious when the next announcement is going to be made of the next park? Perhaps the minister can share that with us, Mr. Chair.
So, what's the need for all these assessments if we're just creating a whole series of parks here? In fact, the only advantage we can see is probably that, down the road after all the parks are created, we can give a contract out to Skookum Asphalt to pave the rest of the Yukon. All there will probably be left is a couple of square kilometres left to pave if you eliminate the bottoms of the rivers and lakes, Mr. Chair. But why are we doing all these assessments, Mr. Chair, if all this minister is going to do is create parks here in the Yukon?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the minister's failure to answer that question clearly indicates that that's exactly the case, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate on geological surveys?
Geological Surveys in the amount of $64,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessments
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, $520,000 was already voted to date on resource assessments. Now, in this supplementary we are adding $105,000. Did we find something with the $520,000 that warranted another $105,000 expenditure or is there a specific area that this money is targeted for?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: For the Member for Watson Lake, $16,000 of it is for collective agreement and superannuation increases; $89,000 is additional fieldwork and a geochemical study. The precise nature of that fieldwork I'll elaborate on for the member opposite in writing, as I'll get the details from the geochemists involved.
Resource Assessments in the amount of $105,000 agreed to
On Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis
Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis in the amount of $612,000 agreed to
On Capital Maintenance Faro Mine
Mr. Jenkins: What's our total exposure for the Faro mine?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this line item shows a decrease because the memorandum of understanding is not yet in effect, so it's a decrease from the original capital maintenance of the memorandum of understanding. If the member should choose, I can arrange a briefing for him on that.
Mr. Jenkins: I'm not looking for a briefing. I'm just looking at a position as to what the total exposure is for financial liability to the Government of Yukon for the Faro mine, if the minister can put that in writing and send it over.
Chair: I believe there is a nod of assent there, so will that be acceptable, Mr. Jenkins?
Mr. Jenkins: The minister has agreed to do so, Mr. Chair. Is that what I'm given to understand?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Capital Maintenance Faro Mine in the amount of an underexpenditure of $100,000 agreed to
On Corporate Policy
On Centennial Anniversaries Program
Mr. Fentie: Could the minister elaborate on exactly what this is? We, on this side of the House, thought the centennial anniversaries program was kaput, gone, finished. Where is this money going?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, that's a good question. It is very reminiscent of the former Member for Riverdale North.
The Yukon government made the commitment of $500,000 under the centennial anniversaries program in 1995 and an additional $200,000 under the community development fund in 1999, so there were these previous commitments of previous governments out there. The project took several years to meet the conditions of the centennial anniversaries program and construction was delayed until this year. Construction should be completed and the facility opened in the spring of 2001.
This supplementary amount of $424,000 is a revote of money previously approved but not spent.
Mr. Fentie: A revote to where? Where is this project?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To my knowledge, it's under construction. I won't be in Teslin until February 6, but that's what I'm advised.
Mr. Fentie: So, it's Teslin. Our understanding on this side of the House was that this money had already flowed. Was there a reason why it didn't flow as originally planned and is back in this supplementary? Because, as the minister said, it is a revote. Is there a reason why the money didn't flow?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My understanding was that the project took several years to meet the conditions of CAP, as I have already stated. CAP is the centennial anniversaries program. Construction was delayed until this year.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has just arrived. Perhaps he would like to provide members of this House the details on this. It is a revote. The supplementary amount is money that has been previously approved by previous governments, but not spent. Perhaps the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes would like to enter into the debate.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for the offer. Yes, I do have some suggestions. I have just been speaking with the First Nation in this regard. They would like the cash. They would very much like the cash to be there. The cash has been sitting around since 1995.
As a minister, I have worked with the former Economic Development minister to ensure that those funds rolled forward in a government-to-government relationship.
I understand that the department reneged on that. You may check that if you choose. What they have said is that the cash will flow on a percentage basis as it is completed. Now, the territorial government has put in $700,000 - and some change, let's say - on this project.
The Teslin Tlingit Council has put in over $2 million of their own cash because they believe in the community initiative and diversifying the community for the beneficiaries of Teslin, and that includes native and non-native people. There are training programs working there and there are people getting jobs there at this point in time. What we did with the community of Pelly Crossing as a democratic government in our reign - much to the chagrin of the Yukon Party - was treat it as a government-to-government relationship. We said that this is a community need; it's identified, and we agreed with it and we gave them the money to spend as they saw fit.
I would ask the present minister if the present minister would consider forwarding those dollars to the Teslin Tlingit Council so that they may continue with their project. And yes, the minister is absolutely right when she says that it will open in May. So I would ask the minister to be able to consider that as a government-to-government relationship.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This government is very conscious of making sure that we do maintain respectful government-to government relationships. I thank the member opposite for bringing this to my attention, and we will work on resolving that in the near future.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister.
Centennial Anniversaries Program in the amount of $424,000 agreed to
On Trade and Investment
On Trade and Investment Fund
Mr. Fentie: Why?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: $3,000 is for collective agreement and superannuation increases, and $244,000 is the balance of the program that is returned to surplus in order that it could be used for such items as the $455,000 in additional funding put into the community development fund. While this program is being reviewed, these monies are being shown as a return to funding in order that we might allocate funds in other areas.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's evident, given the fact that this government has now postponed - shut down, reviewing, delaying, cancelling - or doing whatever with the trade investment fund that that's the reason for this money being moved out. It's because they planned on not proceeding with this fund.
Let me point out to the minister that, given the documents she tabled in this House around the trade and investment fund, there is something very evident about those expenditures. This minister has stated that this Liberal government is going to rebuild the economy. Well, obviously, one of the mainstays in rebuilding any economy is for its businesses - entrepreneurs, manufacturers and the people who come up with some sort of economic initiative in this territory - to have the ability to market themselves, what they do, and their products beyond Yukon. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out, either. We only have 30,000 people here. We need to get the markets. The trade and investment fund under the former NDP government was an extremely successful vehicle to do that.
Some of the shining examples we have in this territory today resulting from the trade and investment expenditures are such things as the Yukon Brewery, which is now marketing its product in places as far away as Ontario. And the Member for Faro should well know that another entrepreneur, upon the shutdown of the mine, came up with a brilliant idea - Midnight Sun Plant Food. And through a small expenditure toward Midnight Sun's marketing initiative, we have another successful example, and this Faro entrepreneur is now marketing his product in 1,000 Home Hardware stores across this country.
In doing this, he has created 10 jobs - 10 jobs in a rural community - through his hard work, his initiative, his ideas, and with a small bit of assistance from a Yukon government that had the vision and economic leadership to market his product. Bingo, we have success.
Now, let's look at this a little further. We in the official opposition have brought forward our own supplementary budget to address the need for winter works. Part of that budget is in this area is a $700,000 expenditure in the trade and investment fund. Let's take Midnight Sun Plant Food as an example. If we spent $20,000 on Midnight Sun Plant Food's marketing, which resulted in a successful venture creating 10 jobs in this territory, that means that with a $700,000 expenditure we could have 35 such projects - such successes - in this territory. If we go a little further then, if each one of those is capable of producing 10 jobs and there are 35 projects that could be marketing themselves outside this territory, that's 350 jobs for Yukoners.
My question to the minister is this: why wouldn't the minister continue on with something that has the potential of creating that kind of employment in this territory? Why wouldn't the minister do so?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my former colleague from Riverside would say that we are re-ploughing tilled ground in that we have already dealt with a number of these issues.
This government has made a choice to review and examine these programs, their successes and areas for improvement. That is what we're doing and that is what we chose to do with these funds.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I say to the minister then, how is it that you are ignoring the fact that a company like Yukon Brewing has an opportunity to break in to one of the toughest markets in this country when it comes to selling its product - beer - in British Columbia. How can this minister stand on her feet and ignore the fact that that may produce a great number of jobs right here in Whitehorse for Yukon people?
The minister's decision is going to make it very difficult for this Yukon company to market its product further than it has today. Furthermore, Midnight Sun Plant Food has an opportunity to go offshore, not only to the United States, but also into the Asian market. Without any assistance from the trade and investment fund, it's going to become a lot more difficult for Midnight Sun Plant Food to increase his market and therefore increase his ability to create jobs for Yukoners.
Will the minister rethink her decision? Continue to review the trade and investment fund but, as we in the official opposition have brought forward, out of her massive surplus of $64 million as of March 2000, will she put forward a supplementary of $700,000 to assist Yukon companies in further marketing themselves outside the Yukon in order to help create employment for Yukon people? Will she bring forward that supplementary?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already answered the question.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the minister didn't answer the question. The minister came up with some loopy Liberal comparison that we're replowing tilled ground. We're talking about economic development; we're talking about job creation; we're talking about very, very successful examples of what trade and investment funding did for Yukon companies who, without it, may not be marketing their products outside this territory. And I asked the minister whether she will, given those successes and given the potential of trade and investment in this territory for Yukon businesses, bring forward a supplementary that reflects a $700,000 expenditure to help Yukon companies market their products outside the Yukon, therefore helping to create employment in this territory for Yukon people. Will she bring that supplementary forward? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this supplementary budget does create work for Yukon people. It does meet the needs of Yukon people; it does address them. And I have already responded to the member opposite that there are issues and successes and questions surrounding not simply this particular fund, but others - the community development fund. And I'm sure the member will make the same argument with the tourism marketing fund. This government has examined the funding that was available, lived up to the commitment to Yukoners, and we are looking at these funds. That is our task.
The supplementary budget that we are bringing forward is the one before the member opposite, and I will not get into discussing individual successes nor individual criticisms of the funds.
Mr. Fentie: The minister, as stated, did bring forward the budget that the New Democratic government had brought in. She did honour those expenditures, as the documents she tabled here reflected, but then immediately pulled the rug out from under those people. She left them in the lurch, turned her back on them like she has on so many other things, turned her back on Yukon Brewing, turned her back on Midnight Sun Plant Food, turned her back on the forest industry in southeast Yukon, and turned her back on the people of Mayo and the Mayo school. The list goes on and on and on.
Mr. Chair, I asked a yes-or-no question. Will the minister bring forward a supplementary budget of $700,000 expenditure for trade and investment so that Yukon businesses and companies can further market their products outside this territory, helping to create jobs that benefit the Yukon people this winter? Will she do that - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the supplementary budget this government is bringing forward is the one before the members opposite.
Mr. Fentie: The minister's answer is testimony, Mr. Chair, to how little this minister cares about the plight that Yukon people are in. It's also testimony to a serious lack of vision when it comes to the Yukon economy. It also is testimony to this unbridled desire to eradicate everything the former government has accomplished and done on behalf of Yukon people. And this Liberal government will pay the price for that in the very near future.
This minister refuses, whether it be through community development funding, whether it be through fire smart funding, or whether it be through the trade and investment fund, to do anything now, this winter, to assist Yukoners.
Let the record show that after repeated questioning and encouragement and urging to try and do something for those Yukoners who are in desperate straits, this cold-hearted government - this closed, secretive government, this government that could care less about anyone outside of their support base - has simply ignored the requests and turned its back on all Yukoners who find themselves in need this winter. I think the minister's answers in this regard speak for themselves. The Yukon public will not forget, and this territory is in deep, deep trouble under this minister's economic leadership.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I couldn't help but listen to the debate and then listen to the responses from the Premier, the minister responsible for Economic Development. I'm very, very concerned by her response.
What she is saying to the House is that she has no confidence in the ability of Yukoners, in many, many walks of life, to succeed and no confidence in the projects that currently have been successful but want to go further - we have no confidence in them, and we're not going to be funding them.
And there are a number of very, very prominent examples of success stories of Yukon manufacturers exporting Yukon-manufactured products out of the Yukon. But this minister is saying that this government has no confidence in these people and initiatives - no confidence in the brewery, no confidence in Midnight Sun Plant Food. "We're not going to fund them any further. And furthermore, we're going to reduce that line item by some $241,000." Reduce it, save it - because we're not going to spend it. "We're going to put this whole initiative under review."
So, I'd just like to thank the minister. It's becoming more and more clear as we get into the position of her government - it's becoming more and more clear all the time - that the minister's confidence in Yukoners does not exist. It is void, and she is not going to fund any of these initiatives whatsoever because she does not believe in Yukoners. That's a fine statement for a Premier of this territory.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let the record reflect that that was not my statement, it was the member opposite's statement and were I to interject on a point of order, it would have been merely seen as a dispute between members.
Trade and Investment Fund in the amount of an underexpenditure of $241,000 agreed to
On Infrastructure Development
Mr. Jenkins: Now, what kind of infrastructure is the minister developing? Is this a series of political patronage appointments for her Liberal colleagues?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can advise the member opposite that this funding has been utilized for the Department of Economic Development to work with other departments in the Government of Yukon with respect to the air access initiative, spearheaded by the Department of Tourism. A number of departments have cooperated by funding this initiative.
The Yukon Entrepreneurship Centre has been funded under this line item. There have been a number of legal costs incurred by the department, including those associated with the development of oil and gas regulations. And there is also funding to cover the port costs from the previous government and the extension of the options by this government.
Mr. Fentie: I would like to briefly explore with the minister the decision on the ports. Now, I don't think that there is any argument that a vision brought forward by a previous government to ensure and guarantee that the Yukon has access to tidewater for all time was not a vision of merit. However, unfortunately, given all the work that had been done by the previous government, when this Liberal government came to office, they expended more money on extending these options so that they could find a way and an excuse to get out of it, because, again, it's another example of them eradicating any of the work that the former government has done.
And then we find out that this minister, this Premier, has compromised and possibly traded away our ability to access tidewater by a simple agreement that says, "We will share information with Alaska and the Chamber of Commerce in Skagway, and we will have mutual press releases." What kind of Mickey Mouse, lame-duck agreement is this?
This is a serious issue. This government is committed, by their very own platform in the election, to developing infrastructure. Why would this minister jeopardize this territory, its future, and landlock this territory? Because there are no guarantees that, without ownership, we'll ever have access to tidewater through Alaska. How can this minister say to the Yukon public that it's okay, we're going to have mutual press releases, and we're going to share information?
The minister should know well that when Curragh Resources was trying to get up and running and needed to get out through the port of Skagway, it was a very difficult time for the Yukon government in dealing with Alaska once they sensed our need. They played hardball, and there's no reason to believe they won't do the same again. We had an opportunity to guarantee ourselves that access.
Furthermore, if this minister at some point realizes this dramatic error in judgement in how it's going to negatively impact this territory in its future, especially economically, and if this minister would want to rethink and change that decision and suddenly purchase that property, we know for a fact that today the cost of that property has risen through the roof.
Can this minister explain to this House, firstly, why such an error in judgement was made and, secondly, can she assure this House that we will, when needed, have access to tidewater through the port of Skagway?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite ought to know that this initiative was started. The option on the port in Haines was secured in October 1999 and the option on the port in Skagway was secured in August 1999.
The April election occurred four days prior to the expiry of the original option on the Haines property. This government did not make a decision in haste. We extended the options for a period of time in order to fully evaluate all of the work that had been prepared on these options and all of the information that had been gathered. We not only examined that information, Mr. Chair, but also sought partners in such an endeavour, should the Yukon government proceed.
We investigated partnership with First Nations, with partners in southern Canada and with the business community. No one was able, financially, to come to the table. And the cost of development and proceeding - this was simply a piece of land in Skagway, as the member knows, and a dock in Haines -was prohibitively expensive for this government. And our infrastructure commitment is for infrastructure in the territory.
The member opposite makes much of his experience in government in terms of negotiating and trying to deal with the reopening of the mine at Faro. The member opposite isn't the only one in this Legislature with that sort of experience. We thought long and hard as a government about pursuing these options and, in the overall context of the Government of Yukon's financial picture, decided not to at this time. And, yes, I have every confidence in speaking not only with Yukoners and Yukon business people but with our American neighbours, as well that, yes, we will be able to maintain our access to tidewater. I have every confidence in that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's little comfort that this minister has every confidence, because Yukoners know differently. They know that this is a huge gamble. They know that we have lost a golden opportunity and they know that if we ever in the future want to solidify and assure ourselves access to tidewater through any kind of ownership, it's going to cost a heck of a lot more than it was going to today.
Furthermore, when the minister states that she couldn't find any businesses in this territory who are financially capable of entering into a partnership in a purchase of the port options in Alaska, surprise, surprise. We're in an economic depression. There are no businesses in the Yukon capable of entering into something like that. The whole purpose of it, though, was to ensure that in the future our economic fortunes would continue to grow and diversify.
I want to point something else out to this minister, who just recently cut a ribbon at a secondary manufacturing facility in Whitehorse. Some of the product that they're going to develop - and hopefully they will be successful in this area - will be Japanese-grade product. Now, how are we going to get it to Japan if we can't get through Alaska - shoot it out of a cannon?
The only choice, then, is to go all the way to Vancouver. We have lost our competitive edge. We are approximately 1,000 miles closer to the Asian market than the port of Vancouver. That gives Yukon manufacturers a huge, competitive advantage if we have guaranteed access through the port of Skagway.
It has happened before, whether it be ore concentrate or Japanese sawed logs. To Japan - we in this territory have kept a port in Skagway very busy. And if we lose that ability, it's going to severely restrict and compromise our economic future. So let the record show that, no matter what the minister states as good reasons and rationale for this decision, it is testimony to a severe lack of vision and economic leadership.
Mr. Jenkins: Actually, the Premier is just avoiding the question of whether or not we need a port. The real reason why we don't need any port access is because as soon as the Yukon becomes one big park, we'll have nothing to export and will no longer have need for a port. Coming more and more into focus is the position of the federal Liberal government and the Yukon Liberal government.
Infrastructure Development in the amount of $540,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $2,023,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to the Department of Finance, which for our purposes starts on page 6-3.
Department of Finance
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Department of Finance?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the department is requesting $361,000 in additional expenditures. These monies are largely for the impact of negotiated wage increases and the superannuation rate changes. There is also a provision for the cost of a Land Claims Secretariat employee who is on temporary assignment to the Department of Finance and for some recoverable work on native taxation studies.
Members will note that investment income is projected to be much higher than the sum in the main estimates. This is principally a result of the accumulated surplus being higher than anticipated at the time the main estimates were being prepared. There's no bottom-line impact to this additional revenue, since it is offset on a one-to-one basis in our formula grant.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I just need some supplementary information, Mr. Chair. I would like the Minister of Finance to provide me with a list of all of the numbered companies in which Yukon has an interest and what the extent and involvement of their interests are.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is, I believe, making reference to the only initiative of this type, which is 123. However, I will provide the member with a written response.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, just off the bat, Mr. Chair, there's the numbered company that the Yukon set up to flow the immigrant investor funds through to Connect Yukon, and then there's 123. I just want to know for sure how many numbered companies Yukon has an involvement in and just what the involvement is, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we'll survey the Department of Justice and double-check on that.
Mr. Jenkins: And is that an undertaking to provide that information?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury in the amount of $361,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the operation and maintenance recoveries?
Are there any questions on the revenues?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $361,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: As a matter of interest, the City of Dawson has requested loans from the Government of the Yukon. Just when is that going to flow - loans for third parties? Is that going to be forthcoming, or are they going to have to shut down the projects underway?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have not, as of yet, received the formal request from the City of Dawson. Certainly, when we receive it, we will act upon it expeditiously.
Loan Capital in the amount of $1,000 agreed to
Loan Amortization in the amount of nil agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Department of Government Services
Chair: Do members wish to take a five-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a five-minute recess then.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Government Services.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to provide an overview of the Government Services supplementary estimates.
Overall, the department is forecasting an increase of $1,838,000 in O&M expenditures, $236,000 of which is being offset by increased recoveries. In addition, $739,000 is due to collective agreements and superannuation cost increases. Two $120,000 contributions were paid, one to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation to coordinate employment and training opportunities for First Nations during the continuing care facility's construction, and the other was to the Miles Canyon Railway Society for trolley operation last summer.
An increase of $38,000 was added to an existing contribution agreement with the Technology Innovation Centre, which was a partner in hosting the first very successful information technology conference this fall.
The remaining $585,000 financed new leased space, CRTC hearings, maintenance of a line service delivery, property insurance increases, and IT business continuity plan testing.
The capital expenditures are increasing by $25,000. However, as you are aware, the responsibility of the Connect Yukon and the rural telecommunications projects was transferred to the Department of Community and Transportation Services in the spring of 2000.
The budget transfer of $2,900,000 and the respective recovery of $200,000 are reflected in this supplementary. Essentially, the department's capital expenditures were increased by $2,925,000. Two-thirds of this figure represents a revote, or carry-forward funding, of projects budgeted but not completed in the last fiscal year.
New funding of $135,000 is for the cost of a collective agreement and superannuation increases. $302,000 is a result of an increased business incentives rebate, and $500,000 is to restore the information technology funding for capital maintenance upgrade and replacement of our new central information technology infrastructure.
The budget for the current fiscal year reduced the government-wide capital allocation by $2.2 million from 1999-2000. This amount, although only a partial restoration, is the first step toward ensuring that appropriate funding levels are established for IT. It is only with adequate funding that government can support both current and future initiatives of service delivery improvements to the public and generate jobs, innovation and growth in Yukon's high-tech sector.
At this time, I will be pleased to answer any questions members may have.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd like to start with the IT scenario. It seems to me, Mr. Chair, that most of the dollars put into the supplementary budget are for government spending on government. It looks to me like there were deputy ministers and other folks out and about within the departments who got a lot of their wish lists for Christmas a bit early. So to me that really doesn't mean IT spending. I'd like to get the minister's opinion.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I'm not really clear on the question that was asked. Maybe the member opposite can rephrase his question with a little bit more clarity.
Mr. Keenan: Yes, I can, certainly. We're spending over $500,000 in the supplementary budget on computer screens. We do have funds that are out there that are for the technology end of things. I see no money in there. I want to know the reason why.
Does the minister consider computer screens in offices within this government to be IT, or does the minister still wish to carry on, and if he does, why is there not any money in the funds?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the monies that have been plugged in - they are part of IT. And it's where all the infrastructure and equipment and that - it is being plugged into. That's part of the technology.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Chair, but that does not answer the question. I would still maintain that this is spending money on government. We do have other avenues out there, such as training trust funds. Is there anything new in the minister's mind that he could do to enhance IT spending outside of government and if the minister does, then how does the minister plan to do that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We can say that we are looking at other ways of cutting costs - ways of telecommuting, so to speak. We are looking at other ways in which Government Services can use a one-window approach on computers, whereas there are licensing permits and different other programs and bill payments. We are looking at other avenues in which we can advance the use of information technology.
Mr. Keenan: Then if I could carry on just a bit more on just that one particular subject. How does the minister feel that he is going to encourage the need in the private sector for people to expand their horizons? How does the minister plan on doing that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: First of all, I think that by utilizing technological equipment, you'll need skills either from private sector vendors, such as PricewaterhouseCoopers, Lane Systems Group, Maltby and Associates. These are specialized skills that are set. We impact the marketing of computers and information technology. Not only do we do that, but we are also encouraging the use of telecommuting systems with Government Services. We are probably, in a national sense, one of the fortunate ones who are looking at IT as a ways and means of cutting our rural and remote problems in the communities.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, what the minister has spoken of are - I know they must get awful tired of hearing this - their democrat initiatives. What I specifically asked was if there was anything new on the horizon for people who are outside of government. So, it's not government spending money on government but people who are actually in the IT field outside of government not getting the spillovers or the leftovers off the plates of government. What is there in the minister's mind in the future for him to be able to enhance that industry in the Yukon Territory? Does the minister have any futuristic plans? Does the minister have any dreams, does he have any visions, and how is he going to implement them?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, again, we have been establishing the one-window approach with IT. We're looking at probably a directory, for instance, so you can look at governments, and it will have a compilation of both municipal, territorial, provincial and federal governments as a one-window approach as a way of cutting time and effort in finding out where it is that you can get your information from within government.
We are looking again at the one-window approach, and that is something that I see as a real plus for this government.
Mr. Keenan: This will be the last question on this, because I still haven't got an answer to the question. What I'm hearing is briefing book material. It's departmental progression, I guess you could say.
I was wondering if the minister himself, in a political position or political thinking - because we are politicians, and politicians are encouraged and must show leadership. They have to be at least 10 years ahead of themselves or they have to back up and say where we're going.
This has clearly and purely always been the essence of government. This government, especially the Health and Social Services minister, seems to have hit a speed bump in thinking on this thing, so I would encourage the Health minister to certainly listen to what I'm saying because I am going to get to him next.
I do have these types of questions. So, politically thinking, how is this government going to expand on the IT for the future? How are the people who are listening out there, the entrepreneurs, going to feel encouragement?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Certainly, Mr. Chair, we do have vision. We have vision, and that goes four or five years down the road. I can agree with the member opposite on that.
The thing right now is, in principle right now, to try to keep up with the rate and capacity of development and of new, innovative equipment that keeps leaving us so far behind. I would say that in order to keep up with the fast pace of the development of information technology, then we must keep on top of what is available - fibre optics, new modems, new high-speed Internet systems. And we are keeping on top of it.
In the future, we are looking at ways the computer systems can best serve the needs of Government Services.
Mr. Keenan: I imagine it's similar to the Department of Health and Social Services then, in that it has got a 10-year vision, but we still haven't filled in the blanks. I certainly got the response to that now.
I would like to talk about the CRTC hearing. I understand that it took $114,000 for the consulting and printing costs associated with the presentation.
At this time I would like to point out that after the minister did go back - I know the minister says he didn't go back. But after it was pointed out from this side of the House, in a presentation by my colleague, the Member for Kluane, that what was noticeably absent was no protests to - I believe - the $5 charge that he was looking for and that the periphery of Whitehorse, such as Tagish, Marsh Lake, et cetera, would still be subject to long-distance rates. It looks like it's going to be different at that point in time now.
So, I would like to know if the minister can give me a breakdown on the $114,000 and at this point in time acknowledge that it was working in partnership with the official opposition and together for the people of the Yukon that we came through on this.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is correct, it is $114,000. Much of it was spent on consulting and advertising costs associated with the government's participation in CRTC hearings.
Mr. Keenan: I asked the minister for a breakdown. I'd appreciate a written breakdown on the $114,000. And the minister never answered my second question. I'd like to ask that again. Will the minister at this point in time acknowledge that it was by working in partnership with this House and the official opposition that we were able to identify that people could not afford the $5 increase, and that people within the periphery of Whitehorse should not be subject to long-distance phone call charges. And it took this side of the House's presentation to the CRTC to get that acknowledged. It was after the fact that the minister then stepped up to the plate and said he agreed. I'd like acknowledgement of that, please.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we've went through this once before earlier on in our session - spring session or the fall session - and at that time, the member opposite did raise the question. However, it was stated that we did make our application and we did make our presentation to the CRTC hearing. There was nothing done after the fact.
Mr. Keenan: So much for working in partnership. The opposite side extends and says we'd like to extend the olive branch. We want to hear your ideas. We want to consult. We want to review. Yet, when there is something that's brought forward, not in a mean-spirited way, but in a camaraderie-type way and it is not acknowledged, well, Mr. Chair, that's appalling. Mr. Chair, that is absolutely appalling.
I know how the opposite side of the House holds Mr. Mostyn of the Yukon News in such high regard for his accurate reporting, but I would like to point out that it was also Mr. Mostyn, in the newspaper, that did point this out to the public at large.
So, Mr. Chair, I would like to take the time now to thank Mr. Mostyn for rightfully pointing that out to the people in the Yukon Territory, and especially to the people that are affected in the surrounding areas and in the communities. For it was the New Democratic Party, under the guise of our Member for Klondike, that brought this forward. Thank God for the Member for Kluane for bringing that forward.
So, Mr. Chair, I'll never get the opposite side to acknowledge that we do want to work together, that we can work together, and that we're capable of working together, but there should be recognition.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I do recognize that, yes, there are possibilities and that there are possibilities of working together. I'm sure that there are a lot of people who have actually seen water coming from rocks and that there, but there are possibilities out there.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, while the member's stumbling around in the valley bottoms and not knowing that you can get water from rocks - it's blood that you can't squeeze from rocks. So I correct the member opposite, and maybe one day during this Liberal government's very short tenure, through constant and persistent squeezing, we will be able to squeeze some blood from the stones that are opposite. But only time will tell.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to talk about red-tape reduction. Is the red-tape reduction thermometer still up at the T.C. Richards Building?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Nope.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, that does tell me that when the New Democrats were in power, they had a vision that red tape would come down. And red tape did come down.
I remember that, when I was a member of the Cabinet - I see the Member for Laberge is sitting up there grinning and chuckling again - we reduced, we reduced, and we reduced. And now, I guess the chambers feel, well, like me - appalled that there's a Liberal government in place and feels that red tape is not going to go down. And what have they done? They took the thermometer down because they have no vision or they have no hope for the future.
Mr. Chair, if that's not the case, then what's this government going to do other than implement this NDP initiative on red tape? What is the member's vision?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, at the present time, again, we're looking at visions. We really don't need a thermometer to say that we haven't impacted the red-tape program.
And at this present time, the components of the service leadership include the services leadership program, a service-quality training course for government employees, combined with a hands-on workshop designed to find concrete ways to improve public service.
We also have the universal change of address system - a one-window approach - allowing citizens and businesses to change their address with multiple departments using only one request form. This system is now in effect.
We have the blue pages project, which is redesigning the government's phone number listings in the Northwestel's phone book using common sense subject headings, with territorial, federal, municipal and perhaps First Nations governments all being listed together in one index to make it easier and quicker for the public to find the services they need. The result will be seen in the 2001-02 phone book.
We also have the citizens first 2000 comprehensive survey of 3,200 Yukoners, asking them to rate the quality of service they receive from all levels of government.
Those are just some of the service delivery improvement initiatives that we are working on. We understand that there are 167 of them and we have approached a large majority of these projects.
Mr. Keenan: I'd just like to get the member to explain that service delivery 2000. It sounds like a measurement tool. Is that what it is? Is it a measurement tool?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The member opposite is correct. It is a measurement tool to measure the government's services to the public, the results of which will provide an independent and accurate profile of how well Yukoners are served by their governments for the first time. Then it will be used to establish a baseline and will be comparable with results from the rest of Canada.
This is a joint project of Government Services and the federal government and the Institute of Public Administration of Canada. The surveys were sent out in May and the results will be available in October.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I would like to move along here, if I may.
It was on September 14, 1951, when I entered into this world and, by gosh, I never expected anybody else to be out celebrating September 14, especially this year. But I understand that there was a national boogie going on at that point in time. I understand that the Minister of Government Services, along with his executive assistant, travelled pretty well across the breadth of this country, and I do know that it was, in part, to celebrate my coming into this world.
Now, all that set aside, I'd like to get into really specific dates, and I'd like to know where he was for that whole period - the whole period he was on this excursion, this national boogie that they went on - from September 14 to October 2. So, I would like a complete itinerary. I want the hotel expenses, meal expenses, the car rentals. I want everything. I want the list of the people they met in Ottawa, Labrador and wherever else they went.
Because I went to three continents in less than a week, I believe it was, during my tenure as Tourism minister and brought home really good results, which the present Tourism minister is currently bragging about, and I did that in less than a week on three continents. So, for the love of me, I cannot see how this is justified. So I would like the member opposite to stand on his feet and justify this now.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I commend the member opposite for his travel outside of Canada to do whatever out there and with whomever on his tour. However, I am more than pleased now to prepare a small summary of my trip within Canada to places like Ottawa, Fredericton and Goose Bay. We would like to say at this time that we see no problem with that.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, Mr. Chair. I did not ask for a partial. I want complete, and I will expect that the minister would comply - with himself and his executive assistant under national celebration. I would very much appreciate that. So, I will take it that I will get the complete breakdown and the itinerary of who was met. Can I get a nod or a yes?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I went through this previously with the member opposite in one of the Question Periods, but I will reiterate that I went to Vancouver and met in Vancouver with the regional officials of CMHC to talk about a number of concerns with regard to housing in the Yukon and as a precursor to the ministers meeting in Fredericton also.
Issues around First Nation housing were discussed, along with mortgage insurance in small communities. I went to Fredericton in the fall for the housing ministers conference. We talked about homelessness in Canada, affordable housing in Canada, and rural and remote housing. The conference was attended by ministers and officials from every jurisdiction in Canada, including the three territories, as well as the federal minister responsible for the CMHC, Alfonso Gagliano.
I must also point out that the last time, I think, that we had an all-ministers housing conference was over five years ago. I think it was about eight years.
I also instructed senior officials to continue work on an action plan to increase the supply of affordable housing, market housing.
We had discussions with the federal minister about the need for greater support from the federal government. Canada has committed to working with provinces and territories to help address these housing problems. The housing portion was very meaningful and constructive. We went back to Ottawa from Fredericton to meet with Minister Gagliano, Minister Manley and senior officials from Minister Nault's office.
In the meeting with Minister Gagliano, I spoke of the need to address housing problems in our rural and remote locations, and especially First Nations housing issues. I also discussed with Minister Gagliano other non-housing related issues, such as federal support for the Alaska Highway pipeline and the need for the federal government to establish a northern economic development program. Minister Gagliano was pleased to hear that we have actually made a mark out there.
In the meeting with Minister Manley, the minister responsible for Industry Canada, I stressed the need for a northern economic development agreement and for federal support for the Alaska Highway pipeline project, as well as the need for infrastructure investment in the Yukon Territory.
I also met with members of Minister Nault's senior staff to talk about the northern economic development work in the Yukon government offices with regard to my own ministries, and I met with staff regarding Ottawa activities. From that lobbying in Ottawa, we went to Goose Bay. Acting as the Minister of Economic Development, we found that it was a little bit too expensive to have - being that I was over in the eastern part of Canada and it conflicted with some of the travel that the Minister of Economic Development had, rather than fly all the way back to the Yukon, I acted as the Minister of Economic Development and completed government business in Ottawa.
And virtually all territorial and provincial ministers or officials were present at this meeting, except Quebec. Northern economic development was the main topic of this event, but many other issues were discussed both in the open meeting and in private.
In a private meeting with Minister Nault, I reiterated the Yukon government's position on the Alaska Highway pipeline project. I also stated that there was a need for a territorial-based northern economic development agreement.
In addition to these Yukon land claims and the state of the Yukon government's commitment to completing land claims as quickly as possible - and upon my return to Vancouver - I arranged a meeting in Vancouver with Jenny Kwan, the B.C. minister responsible for housing, to talk about some of the approaches B.C. was taking with respect to homelessness, seniors housing and low-income housing.
Ministerial meetings with federal counterparts are part of governing in Canada and often lead to fruitful results, such as more money for health care, money for roads and cooperative action between governments. We're working hard on this side of the House to establish good working relationships with other governments.
Mr. Keenan: I very much appreciate that, Mr. Chair, but I got that in Question Period the other day, and it didn't even answer the question then. So I'd like to be very specific. This sounds like a lobby trip. It sounds like a "Oops, we're halfway across Canada; we want to get to the rest of Canada, so what can we do? Well, I can be the whole Cabinet, and I can go and lobby all these people."
Mr. Chair, that wasn't the purpose of the trip in the first place. What I'm asking for is an itinerary, the set dates.
I've been a minister. I know that when I fly out of here, I know where I have to be; I know when I have to be back. They weren't Christmas-shopping excursions; they weren't birthday boogies; they weren't any of those things.
So what I'm asking for is the itinerary. I want the itinerary laid out. I don't want filler in the Blues or filler in the Hansard. I just want the itinerary laid out. And if the minister or his department would please supply the itinerary, the expense sheet, the whole bailiwick that goes with that, then that would suffice.
Mr. Chair, I'm not even going to ask the member to acknowledge that because, I believe, I have said it three times in this debate now. That's what I want and I would expect it by legislative return. That's fine.
I just want to ask one more question. It's to do with the Mayo school. It has got to be quite a fiasco here - a political football - and it's very unfortunate that the Education minister, the Health minister, the entire Cabinet is not backing the people of Mayo. It's unfortunate, I guess, for the people of Mayo that they do not have a sitting member of government, although, Mr. Chair, never before under our tenure, had that happened.
When we were in government we ensured that all shared access to the programs. In this case, that is not the case. Now I know, Mr. Chair, that we have to do drastic redesign work on this school to be able to stay out of court. I believe it was Dowland Contracting that had the contract in the first place. I'm wondering how discussions have gone with Dowland Contracting. Is there any information on that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I believe that there are no further discussions with Dowland Contracting except notification, by way of letter, saying that they have been disqualified and they are still welcome to approach with another bid on the newly revised design of the Mayo school, which will be underway and we will be opening doors by January 2002.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have some questions of the minister regarding a few areas that he oversees. I'll take the minister first to the contract registry on the Net. I'm noticing, more and more frequently, errors in the description of what companies provide. We uncovered one in Community and Transportation Services where a licence plates manufacturer was described as providing groceries to the Government of the Yukon. There are other instances where - and I know the suppliers in my area - they have grocery stores supplying building materials.
There's a whole series of errors, which quite frequently appear on the contract registry. What steps is the minister taking to provide some sort of checking on the contract registry to ensure that the descriptions are accurate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Since the time that we found a few of the errors in the contract registry, we are asking that the departments double-check these listings and their backgrounds. We realize it is a problem, and we're working on it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the minister's information, as a cursory overview, I uncovered four errors, and only one has been corrected. If that is an example of the accuracy, I'd suggest that the minister is not doing his job.
Mr. Chair, one of the other areas I have some concerns with is with respect to the various areas of Connect Yukon and who is responsible for what. Now, we're given to understand, from the debate in Education that Government Services is responsible for the rental of the fibre optic line between the main server in the headquarters of the Department of Education and all of the rural schools. What does that cost?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, this is an item that Education is handling. If the member opposite would like, we can get that information to him.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, yesterday I had virtually the same debate with the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education told me that it was an area that Government Services looked after and was providing. So, today we have the Minister of Government Services saying that it's the responsibility of the Minister of Education and that that's what he provides.
As soon as the ministers figure out who is responsible for what, could they kindly let us know?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we certainly know what it is that we're doing in our departments, and we will be working together on providing this information for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're at it, Mr. Chair, this Connect Yukon initiative is spreading all over the map. It's an initiative that was begun in the Department of Finance with the flow-through money to the numbered company. Then the money was flowed through to Northwestel.
Initially, the domain for Connect Yukon was in Government Services. That has been subsequently transferred to Community and Transportation Services. But when we look at the debt-servicing component of the loan, that still rests with Government Services. And then, yesterday, the Minister of Education said that the rental of the fibre optic cables from the Department of Education's headquarters over here on Lewes Boulevard to all of the rural schools was the responsibility of the Department of Government Services, not the Department of Education.
So, one minister is correct and one minister is incorrect, Mr. Chair. Which way is it? That's what I'd like to get at.
And could the minister have his officials sketch out where all of this Connect Yukon maze flows from and flows to?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, if the member opposite wishes us to provide a briefing for him on that and everything associated with it, then we will provide it for him.
Connect Yukon is an agreement with Northwestel that was transferred to Community and Transportation Services. It was a $2.9-million agreement, of which $90,000 was for wages and consulting services for the development of Connect Yukon infrastructure spent prior to the transfer date.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to take the minister up on his offer of a briefing, as long as the minister also attends, along with the minister of towns and trucks and the Minister of Education. Can we have a concurrence that all four of us will be in attendance, so that all four of us can get an understanding of how this maze unravels? Is the minister in agreement, and will he provide the briefing on that basis?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The more, the merrier, Mr. Chair - the more, the merrier.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't believe that's a commitment, Mr. Chair.
In light of a lack of commitment, I'd like a written overview from the department about the actual involvement of Government Services in Connect Yukon. And we'll go back to Community and Transportation Services with the same request about how each department plugs into it, because there appear to be some discrepancies about how the various departments of government plug into this whole system. I just want to get a clear understanding of this maze.
Mr. Chair, another area I'd like to explore with the minister is the amount of money that was spent on consulting for the CRTC hearing. What was the actual amount of money spent on the consultants for the CRTC hearing? Never mind the money spent on advertising, the publication of notices and the duplication of materials. How much did we spend on hiring a consultant to develop the position?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We'll definitely have to get back to him with that figure. We don't have this in terms of consultation. We have, in totality, $114,000, but, at this point in time, we don't have a breakdown of advertising and consulting costs associated with the government's participation in the CRTC hearing.
Mr. Jenkins: Seeing that breaktime is coming up, perhaps the Minister of Government Services and the Minister of Education can get together with the minister of towns and trucks and come to some understanding as to who is responsible for what in the Connect Yukon project. Maybe we can get a breakdown of that number for the CRTC hearing, Mr. Chair.
Chair: The time being 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will take a 10-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will continue in general debate on Government Services.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I was hoping that during the break the minister might have had the opportunity to enlighten himself about the relationship between Education and his department - as to who did what, where, when and why - with respect to the provision of service to the rural schools from the server over here and the server over here in Riverdale in the headquarters of the Department of Education. The Minister of Education indicated that this was looked after by Government Services. And the Minister of Government Services said no, it's the Minister of Education. I was hoping that the Minister of Government Services would have clarified that during the break and he'd have some sort of response at this juncture. Does he?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, Government Services deals with operational networking and the needs of the government, as well as technology and telecommunications development plans and policies. Community and Transportation Services is implementing the Connect Yukon project at the request of Minister Buckway.
Both departments are working closely together to ensure future planning is coordinated with current Connect Yukon projects.
Government Services is also working with the Department of Health. However, I can say that Government Services has assisted in the telehealth pilot project that is already underway in Dawson. Plus we helped put together major funding applications for the Yukon-wide project.
Again, we can sit down at a later date with the member opposite to address specifically who does what, and which department does what with respect to Connect Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for his overview. So, it does appear that Government Services is responsible for that area of the budget, and I thank the minister for that, although we don't seem to have an understanding of it.
Could the minister explain where we're at with the community infrastructure rollout, which will provide community government offices with faster access to the Internet? Is this for all government departments except the Department of Education, which is separate?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The community infrastructure rollout that the member opposite speaks to - I imagine that's the one. It is setting up networks within each community and Government Services is one of the departments that will be setting up services within government.
Mr. Jenkins: LIMS - where are we at with that initiative?
Hon. Mr. Jim: As to the land interest management systems, even though the various phases of the LIMS project were presented to the public through a tendering process, no local company bids were received for the proof of concept and details of the design phase. NovaLIS Technologies were discovered during the detailed design phase and invited to respond via an RFI, as was the City of Whitehorse with their claims systems.
The package more than met the needs with respect to functionality, infrastructure, compatibility and budget, while the claim system primarily presented by a Manitoba company was not compatible with the existing infrastructure, did not meet the function needs, and did not present a budget of any sort. The land titles and disposition components have now been in production for over a year now and are being used daily by five different entities, which include YTG departments, Crown corporations and federal government departments.
Mr. Jenkins: What is envisioned as the completion date for the full implementation of LIMS?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The implementation of land titles and land disposition components of LIMS as a result will - we have a mapping component, activities that are on target with the convergence of C&TS paper maps to digital being complete. There are the implementations of land titles and land disposition components of LIMS, which have resulted in better service to the public, greater efficiency, cost-savings, greater accuracy.
Mr. Jenkins: One of the other interesting aspects is that the cost of insurance to the government has gone up. Now, the only area where there has been an increase in insurance rates across the board has been in the aviation and marine industries. Property has actually gone down. How are we blessed with an almost $100,000 increase? They have either gone down or they've flatlined.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I think the main problem that we have now is insuring schools. Schools are considered a high-risk component for insurance companies.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's not exactly 100-percent accurate, Mr. Chair. All of the new schools being constructed are equipped with sprinklers. Their risk assessment or analysis would put them in one of the lowest categories, even given that there is a volunteer fire department on staff in most of the areas. But the fact that most of the schools do have a sprinkler system and are connected to a municipal water supply or have their own water supply and pumps in the structure means that their risk is very, very low. The only exceptions are a number of the trailer schools, like Mayo. Has our insurance gone up because the government's intention is to have another bonfire like we had with the old school in Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we went out twice to the public, asking for rates, and that's the best rate we could come up with - $54,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, what is the rate the Government of Yukon is paying per $1,000 of insurance on general buildings and then on buildings where the risk is protected by sprinklers?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The unit cost per $100 of replacement value equals about six cents for office or warehouse locations, eight cents for the Whitehorse schools, and 12 cents for the rural schools. Our increase is in the vicinity of $290,000.
Mr. Jenkins: A 12-cent rate is higher than most industries are paying in rural Yukon through probably less of an annual premium, so there's something amiss here, Mr. Chair. That must be a high-risk school like Mayo, a series of trailers or something, even given the amount of deductible that we're carrying, and I believe the deductible on schools is $1 million, is it not? Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, it is, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: So, with $1 million for each and every occurrence, I'd be inclined, Mr. Chair, to send that back and go back out to tender because we're paying too much, especially given the insurance market conditions these days and the risk analysis. Because most of the schools - and I will qualify that - with the exception of the trailer units are a very, very good risk and pose no threat for fire.
If a fire does start, it is usually confined to a small area, so a total loss would be precluded in everything except for Mayo, Mr. Chair. I'd have some serious reservations if I were a business person and my staff brought me back such a quote and such a request. I'd take it back to the department and tell them to go out and shop the market once again, or change brokers, Mr. Chair.
I just have one other question of the minister. District heating at Pelly Crossing - this is a new one. Where did that initiate? And if the minister could just send me over a copy of the study, I'd appreciate it, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Not a problem.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Corporate Services in the amount of $330,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Information Services in the amount of $585,000 agreed to
On Supply Services
Supply Services in the amount of $164,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
Mr. Jenkins: Just before we clear this line, I want to make it very, very clear to the minister that what I'm looking at for the Connect Yukon is a written overview as to what involvement the various departments of government have and dovetail it together with a flowchart for the money and a flowchart for responsibilities. Could the minister agree to provide that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: That's not a problem, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to be included in that mailing list if I may.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, that's not a problem.
Technology and Telecommunications in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Property Management
Property Management in the amount of $599,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on operation and maintenance recoveries?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $1,838,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Business Incentive Policy
Business Incentive Policy in the amount of $307,000 agreed to
On Information Services
On Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems
Corporate Computer Equipment and Systems in the amount of $1,271,000 agreed to
On Technology and Telecommunications
On Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $2,810,000 agreed to
On Community Access Program
Mr. Keenan: I'd just like a breakdown.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the $60,000 is a revote for the community access technologies program, started by municipalities and non-government agencies in 1999-2000. It is yet not completed; however, we will be giving a breakdown.
Community Access Program in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
On Property Management
On Capital Maintenance and Upgrade
Capital Maintenance and Upgrade in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Building Development Overhead
Building Development Overhead in the amount of $33,000 agreed to
On Energy Conservation Retrofits
Mr. Keenan: I would like a breakdown, please.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We will be more than pleased to prepare that for him and have it available.
Energy Conservation Retrofits in the amount of $172,000 agreed to
On Common Facilities
Mr. Jenkins: Could I get a breakdown, please?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The common facilities increase of $564,000 consists of the following: $558,000 was a revote to upgrade the waterfront track and make the trolley operational; $6,000 was for space planning for federal programs devolving to the Government of Yukon; $5,000 is to prepare a district heating plan for Pelly Crossing; and $5,000 is savings in Dawson's space plan.
Mr. Jenkins: That doesn't add up to over half a million dollars.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, it looks as though it does add up. We have $558,000, plus $6,000. That's a total of -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, and then you have the revotes there of $6,000. And $5,000 and $5,000 also there. That brings it back down to $564,000.
Common Facilities in the amount of $564,000 agreed to
On Property Management Equipment
Property Management Equipment in the amount of $46,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on capital recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Government Services in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services agreed to
Department of Justice
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'll just outline very briefly the amounts requested and the reasons for these budget requests from the Department of Justice.
This supplementary budget adds a total of $2,733,000 to the O&M budget and would bring the revised O&M vote to $34,602,000 for the 2000-01 fiscal year, of which $2,242,000 is forced growth.
On the capital side, this supplementary budget adds a total of $177,000, increasing the capital vote to $1,410,000 for the current fiscal year.
The O&M increases cover an increase in personnel costs of $1,102,000 as a result of collective agreement increases and an increase in the employer portion of superannuation. The superannuation cost increase is 100-percent recoverable as an income transfer from Canada under the formula financing agreement.
An increase in the court services branch of $221,000 is due to the addition of a second Yukon Supreme Court judge, the replacement of a territorial court judge on sabbatical, and increased justice of the peace training costs.
An increase in the legal services branch of $375,000 is due to revote costs associated with the consolidated statutes French translation project and to increase funding provided to legal aid.
There is an increase in the consumer and commercial services branch of $75,000 to cover the cost of inquests rescheduled last year by the coroner's office. There is a decrease in the community and correctional services branch of $180,000 resulting from the temporary closure of the Teslin Community Correctional Centre. There is an increase in the crime prevention and policing branch of $1,140,000 to cover the cost of the RCMP collective agreement increases and policing services costs.
The capital increases cover a revote of $90,000 under the management services branch to complete and implement the integrated case management system project.
There is a revote of $87,000 under the community and correctional services branch to cover Whitehorse Correctional Centre building and office space renovation, repair and replacement costs and to continue planning for a new facility.
I'd be pleased to answer any questions.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of questions for the minister. Can the minister tell us what the government has worked out with the Teslin community for the Teslin Community Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Discussions are currently underway with the Teslin Tlingit Council with respect to possible future uses of the facility. We are awaiting a response from them.
Ms. Netro: Could I ask the minister to provide me with that information once she receives it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, we can do that.
Ms. Netro: Can the minister tell us what the time frame for those answers might be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm hoping it will be sooner rather than later. The Teslin Tlingit Council asked us for some information, we provided it to them, and we are waiting for their response.
Ms. Netro: That didn't answer my question. Would it be six months, or a year from now?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure when the Teslin Tlingit Council will be responding to us. As I said, I hope it will be sooner rather than later.
Ms. Netro: Well, Mr. Chair, I hope it's sooner.
I would also like to know about the $1,140,000 that's in the community policing. Would the minister please provide me with a breakdown for that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, would it be more appropriate to wait for line-by-line or would you like me to do it now?
Ms. Netro: Mr. Chair, I would like that information now.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: A collective agreement increase of $655,800; utilities and heating oil, $53,000; fuel, $57,000; the summer student program, $25,000; a particular murder investigation, $93,000; auxiliary policing training, $25,000; and an aircraft engine rebuild for $244,800.
Ms. Netro: Was a portion of this money included in the Kwanlin Dun community policing?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Netro: Those are all the questions I had.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, one of the largest amounts is $1.1 million for additional costs for the RCMP for our contributions to the policing contract. Is there any sliding scale in our contract that shows the number of members that the Yukon pays for going down with our population? Or are we set to funding a specific number of members here in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would approve any increases or decreases, but the RCMP determines their operational requirements themselves. As far as I know, there is no sliding scale, as the member is suggesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given the number of detachments that we have throughout the Yukon, and given the number of members in those detachments, usually Watson Lake and Dawson run short one member from the complement that's allocated. Most of the other communities are three-person detachments. I believe Faro might be going down to two, or it's slated to be combined somehow with Ross River. But at the end of the day what we have is a tremendous number of members based here in Whitehorse. When we look at the number of members that are actually serving at the Whitehorse detachment and the number of members at head office, just how much are we paying for in the way of members?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the main estimates have the statistics for the number of officers in different areas. Nothing has changed since the main estimates.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, something has changed, Mr. Chair. The population of the Yukon has gone down steadily. The amount of activity around the Yukon has decreased accordingly. The number of incidents that are occurring has gone down. So should there not be something in place to reduce the cost of the RCMP when the population base decreases, on a proportion basis, and on the number of police officers to our population - when we convert the ratio, we have the highest number of RCMP members of any place probably in the world, Mr. Chair. Is the minister not concerned with that area?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: So, the Member for Klondike is suggesting we should be cutting the RCMP.
As I'm sure the member knows, we have a new chief superintendent who will be beginning work in the new year, and one of the things he'll be doing is assessing the staff he has and determining whether it's sufficient, too many or too few. And I look forward to meetings with him when he arrives. But as I said, determination of the staff is the responsibility of the RCMP.
Mr. Jenkins: No one is suggesting we cut the number of members. What I'm suggesting is that there has to be something in the formula that, when our population increases, more members come into place. When the population goes down below a certain level, there is obviously not the need for the number of police members we have. That's what I'm suggesting to the minister - that there has to be some sort of sliding scale in the formula. And if there isn't, why isn't there?
Further to that, Mr. Chair, just what was the commanding officer's bonus last year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, that's an internal RCMP matter. The member is out of line in asking about it.
We're in a five-year national contract with the RCMP. We're toward the end of that contract.
Once again, the RCMP determines the required staffing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the fact still remains that the commanding officer of the division receives a bonus at the end of the fiscal year, based on how closely he comes to his budget. They are public funds that fund the RCMP, Mr. Chair. Why isn't this information public information?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I have no knowledge of any bonuses. That would be an internal matter to the RCMP if, indeed, such a bonus exists.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is treading on treacherous ground if she is suggesting that she is not aware that the chief superintendent receives a bonus and she is not aware of the amount. Obviously, the time that she spent driving around in a police car in the Whitehorse area wasn't sufficient to fully apprise her of all aspects of the RCMP enforcement.
Just how much are the auxiliaries costing the government? I understand that they are doing a fine job and the new act is in place. Are there any problems in this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The auxiliary training costs are $25,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Have there been any problems in this area brought to the minister's attention? If they have been, what has happened?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, but since the member is asking, I am sure that he is aware of some.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, finally we have an intelligent remark from the Minister of Justice. So I will take that at face value. But we will leave that and explore it in future debates.
We also notice a tremendous increase in the main department estimates for superannuation and a contract cost increase of $1.1 million, but I am more concerned with legal aid, as to the money that has gone into that area. How much more effort is it going to take on the department's behalf to address the shortcomings in the legal aid area of the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We believe that the Yukon Legal Services Society and the department have worked out the difficulties that have been experienced in the past and that we will be on a much better financial course in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I wasn't only referring to the shortcomings in the financial area. I was referring to the whole legal aid issue across the board.
The main issue that crops up all the time is that it doesn't have adequate funding. Now, that appears to have been addressed by the Government of Yukon picking up the deficit position and providing it with additional funding to meet its ongoing obligations.
Mr. Chair, what I'm more concerned with is this: is this program on solid footings now, and are there any other areas that need to be addressed to ensure that the legal aid system delivers what is expected of it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, in terms of funding for the Yukon Legal Services Society, the access to justice agreement with the federal government is up for renewal. The federal minister had promised additional funding, in general terms, to legal aid across Canada at the meeting we had in Iqaluit. Since she still has that portfolio, I'm hoping that she hasn't forgotten that commitment, and I plan to remind her about it. As the member knows, we are in the budget planning process now for the next fiscal year, and legal aid will certainly be under discussion.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I point out for the minister that it was the federal Liberals who cut the legal aid budget and cut it severely. Now they have promised to put some money back in, but I must remind the minister that that was before the federal election. This is now after.
Now, what assurances does the minister have that we are at least going to maintain the status quo - not even increase? Have any assurances in a written form been provided by the federal Minister of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No correspondence has been received as yet. The Cabinet was just named earlier this week.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, has the Minister of Justice taken it upon herself to write to the federal Minister of Justice, either before this election or currently, to apprise the federal Minister of Justice of the shortcomings in the legal aid system and the need for the federal government to come to the table and bring more money, or at least restore the original money that was there? Has the minister done so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the federal minister and I were both in attendance at the Justice ministers meeting in Iqaluit, where this was a hot topic. We spoke about it at length. As I have already said, she did commit to additional money, and I shall be writing to her shortly to ensure that she hasn't forgotten that commitment. It is not just the Yukon that is asking for restoration of funding for legal aid. It is all the jurisdictions in the country.
Mr. Jenkins: If I could offer the minister a little bit of advice, the best way to cover one's backside is to ensure that these conversations are confirmed in writing to the federal minister to ensure that that money does eventually flow. It raises a red flag when it's actually there in black and white, versus just a conversation. Because at the end of the period of time, Mr. Chair, it may or may not occur. I suggest and highly recommend to this Minister of Justice that she take the initiative, write to her federal counterpart, and just confirm her conversation and her attendance at that conference, and spell out in no uncertain terms that she's seeking the restoration of the monies that have been subtracted from the legal aid budget by the federal government in the past and the restoration of the funding to what it originally was and, in fact, indexing it for inflation and topping it up, because the scope, the sphere has been broadened.
The minister, after I raised the issue just a few minutes ago, said yes, she would do so. She's going to write to her. That, I guess, spells out how novice this minister is, Mr. Chair, in that she hasn't taken the initiative and done so before. Usually immediately after the conference is the best time.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if we leave that one alone and the minister has taken the advice, we can move on to another area.
Walls are falling down at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and it was the Liberals' position, while in opposition, that a new correctional centre be constructed. How are we progressing in this regard, Mr. Chair, and have the safety issues at Whitehorse Correctional Centre been identified? Well, they have been identified, Mr. Chair. Have they been corrected to the satisfaction of all?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The safety issues have been corrected to the satisfaction of the fire marshal, and the department has been working on the technical and program planning required for the replacement of Whitehorse Correctional Centre. My officials have just about completed, I think, preparing a workplan outlining all the steps, and the planning is going along very well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, to satisfy the fire marshal is one thing. What it means is that the panic hardware is on the door, so they swing open to the outside with only so much effort on the door and people can - the right of egress is well laid-out.
The other areas are the safety concerns inside the facility. Now, have those safety concerns been addressed to the satisfaction of the authority having jurisdiction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Just how many deficiencies were there, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the deficiencies are long-standing. The member is well aware of what they are, but if he'd like another copy, I'm sure we can supply it.
Mr. Jenkins: Please, Mr. Chair, the minister is getting very sarcastic.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: I'm just amazed at the tenor and tone of the minister's responses. And now she's sitting back there laughing at herself, I guess.
Mr. Chair, these are important issues. Once more I would just like to take her back to her ride around in the police car on that moonlit night. I'd like to ask the minister if she did indeed expand her understanding of law enforcement as a consequence of her time riding around Whitehorse in a police cruiser?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I found the experience most interesting. For the record, I will point out that I was not laughing. The member continues to invent what's going on on the opposite side of the House from where he is, in an attempt to embarrass the government. And the member is the one who is sitting there laughing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, so much for the minister's overview of things. I could probably suggest to the minister that she talk to her colleague, the Minister of Tourism, and her other colleague, the Minister of Education. There are hospitality courses offered at the college that she might do well to take.
Mr. Chair, going back to the Teslin jail, the minister mentioned that it's a temporary closure, and yet she expanded on it at great length, saying that they were consulting with the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Does the minister have an explanation for her overview that this is a temporary closure? Is it envisioned that the Teslin facility will be reopened, as it originally was, as a correctional facility?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Until a decision is made to close it permanently, it is properly referred to as a temporary closure.
Mr. Jenkins: That begs the question, Mr. Chair: when does temporary become permanent?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, when a decision is made to close it permanently.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Liberals are not very good at making those hard decisions, so we can probably see this temporary facility in existence for quite an extensive period of time before anything happens.
But there is a wonderful opportunity for this facility to be transferred over to the owners of the land that it occupies, and they can proceed with a number of initiatives with respect to the facility, or they could be contracted to operate the facility. So a multitude of areas could be explored, and I look forward to hearing from the minister as to how she is proceeding with these opportunities for the Teslin Tlingit Council.
All that she says is that she has written to them. What kind of offer is on the table, and what kinds of initiatives are being suggested by the Department of Justice?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I said to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin - perhaps the Member for Klondike wasn't listening - discussions are currently underway with the Teslin Tlingit Council with respect to possible future uses of the facility. A great many possibilities have been discussed. We are waiting for a response from them. I will not provide the member with details, because I do not wish to prejudice those discussions. We do not negotiate contracts on the floor of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, what an attitude from a Minister of Justice. And now this Minister of Justice is just beginning to learn the portfolio and learn how to spell "justice". Well, Mr. Chair, I am just appalled.
What we are here to do is to look at various ways that we can enhance society here. And the minister has a serious responsibility in her Justice portfolio role. Could the minister table the letter sent to the Teslin Tlingit Council on this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I will table nothing related to this initiative. Discussions are underway with the Teslin Tlingit Council. I do not wish to prejudice those negotiations. The member opposite may wish to scuttle them, but I don't. Therefore, the negotiations will continue as they are. We are waiting for a response at this time from the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, all I can conclude - and I'm sure the House will eventually conclude - is that the minister doesn't understand that there currently exists a memorandum of understanding between the Government of Yukon and the Teslin Tlingit Council on this initiative, that the structure actually occupies land owned by the First Nation there, and, in the course of a period of years, the whole facility will revert to that First Nation.
So what do we have to hide from public view? We want to give the best possible opportunity to the Teslin Tlingit Council for an initiative. That's what I'm suggesting to the minister. But the minister, because she either doesn't know or doesn't understand the issues, hides behind and masquerades behind this façade that she won't discuss it and it's all confidential. Well, nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Chair. And I'd urge the minister to apply some reason to her answers and to get a thorough briefing on this initiative before she comes back with these nonsensical answers in the House.
Now, once again to the minister, could she just table the letter to the Teslin Tlingit Council outlining the initiatives?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair. I certainly am aware of the memorandum of understanding and what will happen when that memorandum of understanding terminates. We are a number of years away from that point, and I will not prejudice the negotiations currently ongoing between the department and the Teslin Tlingit Council. The member will have to be patient, which is something new for him.
Mr. Jenkins: Can the minister tell us what involvement the Village of Teslin has in this initiative?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the department is currently working with the Teslin Tlingit Council to establish meeting dates with the Teslin Community Correctional Centre Working Committee, which includes people from the Village of Teslin, as well as from the Teslin Tlingit Council.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it sounds like the minister found her briefing notes over there, Mr. Chair. I thank the minister for her response.
Mr. Chair, this minister is obviously not up to speed on her department, and not up to speed on the initiatives she is carrying forward. As a consequence, she's not prepared to answer fully and clearly any of the questions posed to her in the House.
So, let's just go line by line, clear the department, and we'll get into the general debate next spring on this initiative. Because by that time, we will expect this Minister of Justice to be fully conversant with all aspects of her departments and fully conversant with the budget presented. There will be no excuses. It's her department and her budget, and by then she will have been minister for long enough to not have excuses whatsoever for not understanding the initiatives and the goings-on within her department.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike doesn't understand the meaning of the word "confidential". I look forward to line-by-line debate.
Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Management Services
Management Services in the amount of $129,000 agreed to
On Court Services
Court Services in the amount of $431,000 agreed to
On Legal Services
Mr. Jenkins: A breakdown, please.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is for the following: collective agreement increases of $37,000; superannuation increases of $71,000; a revote of funding for the consolidated statutes project totalling $75,000; and the additional funding of $300,000 for legal aid.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the minister saying that we had to go outside of the department for advice on how to assemble the consolidated statutes project, Mr. Chair? Is this an outside contract that was let, or was it done in-house?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the work being performed on the consolidated statutes project is being done partly in-house and partly by a private contractor.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, why is a private contractor needed? Don't we have enough lawyers within the department?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the French-language portion is a specialty, and we don't have enough lawyers on staff to do all of that work.
Mr. Jenkins: So the only area we went outside the department was for the translation. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair, that is the project to translate the consolidated statutes.
Legal Services in the amount of $483,000 agreed to
On Consumer and Commercial Services
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, one only has to have a series of companies in various jurisdictions to see how quickly annual reports are filed - in British Columbia for incorporated companies there, and for annual reports filed even in the Province of Quebec. In the Yukon it's quite a bit different. Why can't we have a standardized, simple system for re-filing of annual reports of corporations, similar to, let's say, British Columbia?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon has a corporate affairs registry system which has considerably simplified the process from the manual system that it used to be a few years ago. I suspect the member is suggesting that it isn't perfect, but I do believe that we are working toward that. If he requires further information, I can ask the department to provide it.
Mr. Jenkins: No, what I am suggesting to the minister is that she look at what is in place in other jurisdictions and if she could look at the annual filing for a corporation in British Columbia as to what paperwork flows and what paperwork flows here in the Yukon, and what it costs in B.C. versus what it costs here in the Yukon to file your annual report. It's a very simple one-page form in British Columbia that is spit out by a computer, and you just certify it and sign it and send it back. In the Yukon, a lawyer has to arrange for all of the documentation to file.
Why can't we have a simple, simple system, the same as British Columbia or the same as the Province of Quebec? I am familiar with Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia. And ours takes the most time of any of those four jurisdictions, Mr. Chair, and that shouldn't be so. And if the minister is suggesting that it is simple, I suggest to the minister to have a look at it. Because the Province of B.C. spits out a computer-generated form with the previous year's information. You just sign it off, file it back and send your cheque in with it. Very, very simple. In the Yukon, it is not so.
Actually, we should be able to do it right on the Internet pretty quickly. We have the ability with this e-commerce, and it's done that way in many of the states, Mr. Chair. Now, when are we going to get into the 20th century? Never mind the 21st.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We are moving toward being able to do that on the Internet, as many government departments are moving that way. We are always looking for efficiencies, and I thank the member for his suggestions.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, she thanks the member for his suggestions. Is she going to do something with it? Because it's an area that deserves to be closely examined and adopted. Now, you don't have to be an Einstein, Mr. Chair, to take something from another Canadian jurisdiction and apply it to Canada.
Is that my Christmas present from the Liberal Party? Well, Mr. Chair, I've just received a wonderful Christmas present from the Liberal Party; and I don't know whose face is on there, whether it's the Premier's or - very, very interesting, Mr. Chair. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank whoever in the Liberal caucus sent me over this wonderful gift. I certainly appreciate it. I'm not sure if I'll be playing with it. It's probably more appropriately played with by my new daughter or my dog. I'm not sure which.
Mr. Chair, the initiative surrounding the computerization of these forms is something that should be in place here in the Yukon. Now, what are the timelines for instituting some sort of a review and changing over to something far simpler than we currently have?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Thank you, Mr. Chair. The process of simplifying things is already underway. I don't have timelines in front of me for when it will be completed to the member's satisfaction, but I can ask the department for that information.
Mr. Jenkins: So, could the minister elaborate and send over the review as to what areas we are examining and what areas she's indicating are being reviewed at this juncture, Mr. Chair? Could she just send that over by way of legislative return, Mr. Chair?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I've asked the minister a question. I've asked the minister if she could send over the information by way of a legislative return covering just what areas they're examining with a view to reducing the paperwork and simplifying the process within consumer and corporate affairs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I've already indicated to the member that I will ask the department to supply that information. If the member wishes it in the form of a legislative return, that can happen.
Mr. Jenkins: That can happen, but do I have the minister's assurance that it will happen? There's quite a difference between "can" and "will". Now, as the Justice minister, the minister should be well aware of these differences.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further debate on consumer and commercial services?
Consumer and Commercial Services in the amount of $204,000 agreed to
On Community and Correctional Services
Mr. Jenkins: Is this to replace the wall in the shower that fell down at Whitehorse Correctional Centre, Mr. Chair, or what are we spending here?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Collective agreement increases of $180,000; superannuation increases of $328,000; and a decrease of $180,000 from the Teslin Correctional Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: While we're on the Teslin Community Correctional Centre, what is it actually costing us to maintain it - to keep the heat and lights on, and to keep somebody there looking after it? What is the monthly or annual cost of that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I can get those costs for the member. The department saves $30,000 a month for each month that the facility remains closed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'm not asking what they save. I'm asking what they spend to keep the building heated, lit and insured, and whatever other costs are incurred. There has to be grant-in-lieu of taxes. There have to be electrical and heating bills, some custodial costs, and a minimum of ongoing O&M to at least change the light bulbs that are burning out every now and then. So, there have to be ongoing costs. For the minister to say that we're saving so much every month or every year, that doesn't indicate anything. What I'm seeking are the costs that we are currently incurring to keep the lights on and everything going there, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the grant-in-lieu of taxes is approximately $29,500, and I believe it costs about $60,000 to $80,000 a year, depending on how cold it gets, for the place to be mothballed.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we're pretty well at $100,000 a year, and then there is the electrical bill on top of that. The minister said it costs $60,000 to $80,000 to heat the building.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thought I heard the minister say that it costs between $60,000 to $80,000 a year to heat the building, depending on how cold it gets. The minister can probably restate her position, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is $60,000 to $80,000 for everything. The difference depends on the amount required to heat the building, which depends on how cold it gets, which depends upon the weather.
Mr. Jenkins: Does that include custodial services? There has got to be somebody on-site. Is there somebody on-site on a regular basis or does property management just check on it? Because if there is somebody on-site on a full-time basis, we are looking at about $35,000 right there, minimum cost, when you gross up their basic salary, Mr. Chair. So the numbers are a little bit far-fetched.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Government Services checks on the building on a regular basis.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what the minister is saying is that the grant-in-lieu is $29,000, the electrical and heat bill is $60,000 to $80,000 a year, depending on how cold it gets, and then Government Services is included in that amount because they check on the building on a daily basis. Okay, so we've got a cost for the whole year. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Once again, we have had this building vacant since this Liberal government came into power and nothing is going on with it. It is a shame that we are spending that kind of money and we haven't come to any arrangement with the Teslin Tlingit Council for its takeover or its operation in a six- or eight-month period - pretty well eight-plus months, Mr. Chair.
So, what other expenditures do we have here on correctional facilities that we can identify and clearly - we have some costs that we were incurring in the mains for Whitehorse Correctional Centre and its ongoing planning process. Just where are we at on the planning process for the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I believe I have already answered that question. The planning process is coming along very well.
Mr. Jenkins: The planning process is going on very well. Here we have a minister of this government, Mr. Chair, standing up and answering the question with, "The planning process is going on very well".
What I'm looking for is this: what stage of the planning process are we at; what kind of costs have we incurred to date; what is envisioned; are we replacing on the existing site; are we moving somewhere else? What options are being explored? What are the timelines for the various stages? What is the order of magnitude and cost estimates? I'm not asking her for the final design because I know she probably is not even close to the final design.
But, Mr. Chair, this was an initiative that was asked for by her Liberal colleagues when they sat in opposition. Time and time again the current Commissioner of the Yukon would stand up and ask for the replacement of this facility. He would go on exploring the area regarding deficiencies and he did an excellent job of outlining to the House the problems surrounding WCC in its operation and its inadequacies as a facility. That was clearly identified, clearly brought forward to the floor of the House, Mr. Chair.
I asked the current Minister of Justice where we are at with respect to the planning process for the replacement of this facility, and I'm told it's going along quite well.
Well, I expected a lot more. I expected a lot more from this Liberal Minister of Justice. I expected a lot more from this Liberal government. I expected a lot more by way of answers, Mr. Chair, and by way of solutions to a number of these problems.
The least the minister can do is to outline for the benefit of the House where we were at in this process, what steps have already been taken, what steps remain to be taken. I suspect strongly that we won't see in the mains next year the replacement of the facility, but we could very well be seeing that. Because after all, it's a Whitehorse initiative; it will be established here in Whitehorse, and they'll probably cut another million dollars out of the school in Mayo so that they can build this facility here in Whitehorse in the next budget.
So where are we at at the end of the day? Whitehorse - we do it right away, it counts, we move on with it, we move forward. Rural Yukon - we don't even do anything but just cut the budget, slash it. We've created two Yukons: we've created Whitehorse, and we've created the rest of Yukon, or TROY, Mr. Chair.
And here we go again, with another minister doing virtually the same thing. We have seen the Minister of Education create the same standards of two Yukons and, in Whitehorse proper, two different levels of delivery of education - never mind rural Yukon and contrasting it to Whitehorse. This Minister of Education delivers two distinctly different levels of education - one in Whitehorse and one in rural Yukon - and then in Whitehorse, he delivers two distinctly different levels of education - one in the Catholic school system and one in the standard school system. And now we have the Minister of Justice delivering two separate sets of initiatives.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Photo op.
And now we have the Minister of Education heckling in the House because he can't stand the truth. And the Minister of Health and Social Services is just sitting back, relaxing, and wondering when his turn is going to be. It's coming, Mr. Chair. It's coming.
So, 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.
Some Hon. Member: Disagree.
Chair: The disagrees have it.
Mr. Jenkins: We obviously can't get an answer from this Minister of Justice about anything. We cannot even get the basic -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Oh, they have a word for people who give gifts and then take them away. Now, that I thought was a gift given to me by the Liberal caucus or one of the members of the Liberal caucus and I come to the realization now, Mr. Chair, that that was stolen from someone else and then given to me and now they take it back, Mr. Chair. How appalling this government works.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: The same thing happens in Mayo. They steal the school away from the residents of Mayo and now they give it back to them - maybe - but a million dollars less of a school, Mr. Chair. Here we go again. This is the Liberal way of conducting the business of government in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. I am simply appalled.
Mr. Chair, I was hoping that, at the end of the day, we would see some direct, concrete, beneficial answers flowing from the Minister of Justice, especially after the Minister of Justice went for her little midnight, moonlight ride-along with a member of the RCMP.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Buckway on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike loves to indulge in personal attacks. He is doing this to all the members on this side. They have no place on the floor of this Legislature.
Chair: Ms. Buckway, I'll have to ask you to elaborate. What did you feel was personal and pointed there?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike does this on a continual basis - talking about moonlight rides, et cetera. It is constant and denigrating, and it's not related to the policy that we should be discussing in here.
Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order. The minister can't even answer a simple question on the point of order as to what was derogatory in it because there was nothing derogatory. I was just pointing out to the House, Mr. Chair, that the Minister of Justice went along as a ride-along with the RCMP on a moonlit night. And that is, in fact, the truth.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, on the point of order, if the members on this side find many of the references made to be personally denigrating and abusive, possibly the members opposite would consider raising the level of debate to the matters at hand and stop referring to points of order as rude interruptions.
Chair: On the point of order, I find there is no point of order. I personally did not find the midnight moonlight ride anything but a description. This is an opinion.
I do encourage members to understand that the level of debate is affected by what I would consider to be insulting comments, but until they are pointed out, the Chair will not rule on them.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Well, the government House leader did have a good initiative. She suggested that we raise the level of debate, and I would urge her to take that up with her caucus and provide significant answers to the significant questions that are raised here in the Legislature, because, as of lately, the ability of the ministers of the day to answer specific and direct questions is extremely minimal and, in many, many cases, non-existent. They have to get back to us.
And they don't know or they don't understand, Mr. Chair. So it's a sad day.
Seeing that I can't call for progress, we've got to talk the clock out. It's amazing, Mr. Chair.
I would submit that what we have is a minister who, while enthusiastic about her responsibilities as Minister of Justice, the follow-up doesn't appear to be there. That's quite evident when the Minister of Justice here is dealing with the federal Minister of Justice. It's only common courtesy, when you're meeting a federal individual and you discuss an area, that you send a letter confirming the areas discussed and asking that funds flow in the manner that was outlined - or additional funds - and we look forward to further discussion on this initiative.
But the follow-up of correspondence is of critical importance, and this minister, I guess, being a new minister, has not recognized the importance of follow-up correspondence to her federal counterparts. Before an election, she's probably going to hear one thing from the federal minister, and after the election, there could very well be something entirely different.
We don't want to see the Yukon shortchanged by the federal Liberals as they are being shortchanged by the Yukon Liberals. I would hope that the federal Liberals would at least honour their commitment, Mr. Chair.
So, while we are at an impasse while we await the announcement of the new Cabinet that the federal government is going to swear in, it is strongly suspected that some of the same ministers are going to be granted the same portfolios. I have been told that they expect no change in Indian and Northern Affairs and that Minister Nault will remain as its minister. I find that a sad day for Yukoners, given the wonderful rapport developed between our Premier and the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. It doesn't appear that we are going to move ahead in any manner with respect to land claims or the federal government devolution to Yukon. As a Yukoner, those kinds of things really concern me.
Chair: The time being 6:00 p.m., I will now rise and report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, 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 of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare that report carried.
Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.