Thursday, February 22, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It gives me pleasure to announce that the following students will be serving the House as legislative pages for the 2001 spring sitting. They are Carly Malloch, Alexandra Morrison-Rusas, Katja Schmidt and Nathan Sugden from Vanier Catholic Secondary School, and Monique Benoit, Brittany Kyle, Corinna Nettleton and Natalie Taylor from Porter Creek Secondary School.
Today we have with us Carly Malloch and Alexandra Morrison-Rusas from Vanier Catholic Secondary School.
I would ask the members to welcome them to the House at this time.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with pleasure that I would like to introduce to the House Mr. Paul Nordahl, the President of the Yukon Teachers Association.
Speaker: Order please.
Mr. Fairclough: I would ask members of the Legislature here to join me in welcoming the teachers from the Whitehorse area and also John Staples from the Canadian Teachers Federation.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I would also like to introduce to the House my mother, Mrs. Audrey Clare.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, it is with great honour that I would like to introduce my fiancé, Ernie Peter, and my son, Curtis Netro. Thank you.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to introduce Glen Everett, the President of the Association of Yukon Communities and the Mayor of the City of Dawson. He is with us in the gallery.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: If there are no further introduction of visitors, I have for tabling:
(1) the report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on the by-election in the Electoral District of Faro on November 27, 2000; and
(2) a report of the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly, made pursuant to section 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further documents or returns for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 4: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McLachlan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Government has made best efforts to oppose oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve and, more specifically, the 10-02 lands therein;
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) all levels of the Alaska state government including the Governor, Senate members and state representatives, have many times been made clearly aware of the Yukon Government's opposition to exploration and drilling in the Porcupine caribou herd's core calving grounds, and
(2) the Premier urged the Prime Minister of Canada to pass on the Yukon government's concerns on this issue to former President Clinton and to President Bush, which he did; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to continue to:
(1) voice its opposition to exploration and drilling in the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve; and
(2) urge the Vuntut Gwitchin, our most eloquent spokespeople on this issue, to continue their efforts to secure permanent protection of the 10-02 lands of the Alaska National Wildlife Reserve.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Ms. Netro: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) assuring continuity and quality of public education for our children is one of the most important responsibilities of the Yukon Government;
(2) the government has a duty to ensure that nothing it does or fails to do should stand in the way of meeting that public responsibility;
(3) members of the Yukon Teachers Association are now in a legal strike position and have begun to withdraw their services, as is their full legal right;
(4) it is in the best interests of all parties to the current dispute, and especially of students and parents affected by the interruption in the provision of public education services, to find a fair and effective resolution as quickly as possible; and
(5) that such a solution may be sought and reached while fully respecting the principles of free collective bargaining; and
THAT this House urges the two sides in the dispute to return to the negotiating table immediately and to bargain fairly and in good faith to reach a settlement without further unnecessary delay.
I give notice to the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) under the previous administration, the Government of Yukon clearly articulated, as a matter of policy, that temporary teachers who are members of the Yukon Teachers Association would be entitled to the same conditions and benefits as other teachers in any contract settlement between the Government and the Association; and
(2) while in Opposition, the Liberal Party MLAs supported the extension of employee rights to qualified temporary teachers; and
THAT, recognizing that the Education Act is currently under review, this House urges that the government introduce an amendment to the Act that would give qualified temporary teachers the employee status equal to that of other teachers.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Liberal Government should live up to its election commitments to respect the integrity of the collective bargaining process and to consult with employee representatives on implementing a mutual gains bargaining process.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the changes to the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly proposed by the Liberal Government of the Yukon infringe upon the fundamental rights of opposition members to freedom of speech and should be rejected.
Speaker: If there are no further notices of motion, are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Mr. Fairclough: Firstly, I would like to welcome the Premier back to the Yukon. I hope she enjoys her visit here.
Mr. Speaker, during last year's election campaign, the Liberal government made a lot of fanfare about restoring public trust in government. Is the Premier still committed to that goal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be home, and I look forward to being here for some period of time and debating the budget in the coming months with the member opposite. Public trust in government and restoring public confidence in government is an objective that we stated clearly in our throne speech and something that we are working toward every day.
Mr. Fairclough: One way for a government to build public trust is to be honest in what it communicates to the people. In the past few months, we have had at least two clear examples of this government issuing news releases that were completely misleading, the most recent one last week when the government claimed that the Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board had essentially agreed with the government on its challenge of a vote by members of the Yukon Teachers Association.
Will the Premier tell this House why she permitted two of her ministers to issue false and misleading information on behalf of her government?
Speaker: Order please. I'd remind members that it is unparliamentary to refer to falsehoods in this House, and I would ask the member to rephrase it, please.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I am merely stating what has been in the general public and in the media by this government. I believe that it is true and it has been asked by my constituents and people out there for this question to come forward.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: The Standing Orders clearly state that any use of the term "falsehood" is unparliamentary, and the member opposite is asked to withdraw the remark.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the statement of "misleading" does not denote "falsehood". It merely denotes the fact there has been a misrepresentation of the facts in the public, which would leave a perception that does not necessarily bear on what really is going on when it comes to this government's press releases. We have accused nobody of lying, committing a falsehood, or anything else. We merely want the government to provide the truth, the facts of the matter.
Speaker: Leader of the third party on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, regarding the term "falsehood," it depends upon how it is applied. In this situation, it is a reference to material provided in the press that's available to everyone. It's not a direct accusation made by the leader of the official opposition of the government of the day. It's just pointing out what has been portrayed in the press and asking it to be qualified.
Speaker: I don't follow the arguments of the official opposition and the leader of the third party. The leader of the official opposition clearly accused the Premier of allowing false statements to be issued into the public; and, to me, that is a direct accusation of a falsehood or of being deceitful or untruthful. Those statements may be interpreted one way or another, but it is inappropriate for members to use that language in this Legislature.
The leader of the official opposition may proceed.
Mr. Fairclough: Will the Premier tell this House why she permitted two of her ministers to issue information contrary to the facts on behalf of her government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite has a specific question about a statement by the government or a statement by the minister, I would invite that question. But the member is simply characterizing information by the government. He's not asking a question.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, on the first day, in the first set of questions, the government is already having problems answering them. The general public is asking those questions of us. The Premier is putting this spin on it. She can put all the spin she wants on it.
The fact remains that her propaganda department has been misleading the public. Last week, we were also treated to what might be a media first in the territory: her own Cabinet communications advisor, a political appointee, was using his own voice on government radio commercials that could be described as questionable, in terms of accuracy.
I would like to ask the Premier what steps she is taking to ensure that this type of situation does not occur again, so that Yukon people will have reason to start trusting this government.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners clearly spoke on April 17, 2000. They asked for a government that would restore confidence in government and that would be open and accountable. We have been those things and we will continue to do those things. We will continue to behave in that way.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. We have today, in this territory for the first time ever, a very serious situation in our education system with regard to the pending teachers strike. Today is the first day of that strike. Before this minister tries to hide behind the spin of not negotiating on the floor of this Legislature, I would tell the minister that the importance of this issue begs a very forthright answer.
Mr. Speaker, it comes down to respect of the collective bargaining process. This government committed to that very fact - respect for the collective bargaining process. Does this minister concur with his government's commitment when it comes to collective bargaining and the respect required?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, absolutely.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's comforting that this minister does agree with that commitment; however, recent developments show clearly that there is some question around that commitment.
Mr. Speaker, this minister is solely responsible for trust in government when it comes to the collective bargaining process. It's under his watch that we now have this serious situation. Can he answer this: why did he authorize the Public Service Commission to file challenges with the Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board, which he knew amounted to interference in the internal affairs of the Yukon Teachers Association, and clearly shows a lack of respect for the collective bargaining process? Will he answer that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It would be a pleasure to answer that question. As he has indicated and as I responded in the first, we do respect the process. There is a key word that is involved in this answer, Mr. Speaker, and it's called "integrity". It's of the utmost importance that the integrity of the bargaining process be respected. We were made aware that there were improprieties in the vote and, therefore, we had no choice but to seek a clarification as to whether the integrity of the bargaining process had been compromised. We have all received the decision on this issue, and we hope to resume negotiations with the Yukon Teachers Association as soon as possible. And we do respect the ruling that came down and we believe it to be a fair and equitable ruling.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I think that gets to the crux of the problem. There was no reason for this minister and this government to air that through the public media. That was an error in judgement. Now, this minister and his government have an opportunity here today to make amends for that error in judgement. Will this minister commit here today on the floor of the Legislature to invite the teachers back to the bargaining table and bargain in good faith and, with all due respect, to end this situation and get a deal with our teachers? Will he do so?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I couldn't agree more with the proposal as suggested by the member opposite, but I think it is important that we remember how this process started over a year ago, when the members opposite had provided a deal that they felt was fair and equitable, as stated by their Government Leader at that time, to be what the teachers wanted, what the teachers needed at that time. And I believe that every member on the opposite side, all of caucus and Cabinet were in favour of that offer as proposed.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Education.
There is a statement in the Liberal election platform that reads as follows: "Governing is all about listening all the time, not just at election time. Yukon Liberal MLAs have demonstrated their commitment to this by visiting constituents on their doorstep during the last four years."
I would like the minister to contrast that statement with an advertisement the minister recently placed in the "Coming Events" section of the Whitehorse Star: "Dale Eftoda, MLA for Riverdale North, will be available to meet with constituents, on constituency issues only, every Friday from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the Liberal caucus office in the YTG building. You are urged to phone ahead to make an appointment."
What a difference an election makes, Mr. Speaker. So much for being an open and accountable government that listens all the time.
Now, in view of the teachers strike, can the minister advise the House if he will be renting the Takhini Arena as his new office and extending hours so we can hear the concerns of all the parents and students, some of whom will be his constituents, about his action in provoking this teachers strike?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for that question, that same question. I am here on behalf of the constituents whom I represent in Riverdale North, and I am very proud to do that.
I am speaking for every member in Cabinet and caucus when I express the deep regret we are facing with this strike, Mr. Speaker. The Yukon is a small place where we meet one another at the grocery store and across the backyard fence. We know each other, often by first name. Our children play together on hockey teams. We go to each other's birthday parties. The Yukon is small enough to still be a family community. This strike is hurtful to all of us.
I know that parents are worried about the effect it might have on their children's learning. Students are anxious about finishing their terms and preparing for exams. I am concerned about preserving our society's admiration and respect for the difficult and important job that teachers perform every single day in the classroom.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that being the case, the Liberal government was elected with a clear majority. There was a budget surplus of some $60 million. Why haven't you been able to settle this issue with the teachers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as an individual person and as a Yukoner who cares about my community, I wish to express my disappointment that this dispute has come to so difficult a resolve. The inherent legacy that this government is competently dealing with was passed on by two previous governments, Mr. Speaker.
I regret that we are facing this strike. As the minister responsible for both the Public Service Commission and Department of Education, I commit to all Yukoners that I will do my best to bring this to a resolution as soon as possible, while keeping my commitment to finding a solution that is in the best interests of all Yukoners - parents, students, taxpayers, teachers and the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if that's the best the minister can do, it's probably time he stepped aside and allowed somebody to take the helm of this very responsible portfolio.
Can the minister advise the House how much the Liberal government paid for the information campaign he authorized in the local newspapers - the full-page ads and the radio ads - conveying the impression that the teachers are making too much money already by factoring in all their benefits as part of their salary? Does the minister believe that these ads are accurate? How does he believe they will help promote a settlement of the teachers strike?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is just an utter amazement to me that the member opposite can stand and speak with the conviction he does when it was his party that actually got the ball rolling. This is how the teachers now feel as a result of 10 years of abuse, of not being listened to, of being talked down to, of not being respected, of a two-percent rollback. Mr. Speaker, we're now trying to build that bridge again. We will be listening. I have been out talking to teachers. I have been at the schools. When this issue is resolved, I will be out there again, listening, building a bridge of respect and understanding of what our professional educators are in here.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Minister of Education. Earlier this week, the minister's department cancelled all field trips for the Yukon public schools because of the current situation between this government and the Yukon Teachers Association. Can the minister explain why he allowed this action to take place?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt on this side of the House - our first and primary concern is for the safety of all students and children in our schools. We have, just this morning, sent a letter over to the president of the YTA asking that he assure this government, for the safety and welfare of children, that he will not strike schools, so that we can again implement the field programs, the visits, that are ongoing in all schools. Our concern is safety and welfare of children first. If we can get that assurance from the YTA, then our programs will be reinstalled in the schools.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, the reason given by the Education department's spokesperson was safety, and that if something happened on a field trip when the schools are closed because of a strike, there would be no way of contacting the parents. That is a difficult excuse to swallow when you consider that many field trips take place over the weekends when schools are closed anyway. Will the minister now instruct his department to reconsider this decision and work out a protocol that would allow these valuable learning experiences to take place?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect for the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, if she would listen to the answer that I am providing, she would have known in the first question that I did answer the question. But I will repeat the answer again. We have been in contact and we do believe that we will get support on this issue from the Yukon Teachers Association. Our primary concern is for the safety and welfare of our kids in the class. And when they go on field trips, they want to know that there is somebody back at the school for emergency purposes who will be there to look after them if there is such an emergency. It is critical that we do have the support of the Yukon Teachers Association so that we can reinstate the field program initiatives in all of our schools.
Ms. Netro: Some of these trips take months to organize. Some of them involve a great deal of cost to the students and to their parents. Often they involve advance travel bookings that cannot be refunded. Is the minister prepared to reimburse parents and students for money paid in advance for field trips that they now can't recover because of his department's unilateral action?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many times I have to prepare and present an answer to the member opposite. Again, instead of reading the prepared script for questions in the House, if only they could just listen and respond to what we're saying.
Our concern is for the care and welfare and safety of our students in the schools. That is the department's responsibility. At first we had no idea what the actions of the YTA would be in the communities. We have learned today that the communities' 14 schools will be on strike on Tuesday. Therefore, we sent a letter over to the YTA this morning. We are awaiting a response. We may already have it. We are hopeful that it will be supportive in this initiative to address the concerns that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin had just outlined - that these field trips, programs and other things will be maintained.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Ms. Netro: My question is for the same minister.
Last spring, his deputy gave a written assurance to the Yukon Teachers Association that temporary teachers would get the same conditions and benefits as other teachers in any agreement reached between YTG and YTA. That letter became policy under the previous government.
Can the minister advise us if this government intends to honour that policy commitment?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to get to the bottom of an important policy matter here. It's important to know if that policy in still in effect or if this government has scrapped it the same way it has reneged on so many previous commitments.
The recent events concerning the government's very provocative challenges to the Yukon Teachers' Staff Relations Board seem to suggest that the minister doesn't agree with that policy. As minister of the Public Service Commission, why didn't the minister instruct his officials to honour the intent of that policy and not issue a challenge he knew would make this situation much more difficult?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I've already answered the question with respect to the integrity and the action that the Public Service Commission took in determining the validity of non-bargaining unit members to vote on the conciliator's report. I have provided an answer that it was to maintain the integrity of the bargaining process, and, as I've already indicated, we do agree with the ruling that came down.
With respect to the letter that the member opposite is asking about, the policy is still in effect, and that's where we are with that, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about government policy, not bargaining positions. We're not negotiating at all. It's the minister's job to work toward a negotiated settlement, and we urge him to get on with it.
I have one final question for the minister, and I would appreciate a simple yes-or-no answer. When the Education Act review is complete, will the minister bring forward an amendment to the act that gives qualified temporary teachers employee status, the same as other teachers?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to pre-empt the process with respect to review of the Education Act, and I would assume that that question will be addressed by the Education Act committee, and I will respect the recommendations that they make back to Cabinet.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. McRobb: My question is to the same minister, in his other portfolio, on another very important issue for Yukoners. The minister is on record telling stakeholders in the Yukon protected areas strategy that unless they start working together, he is prepared to "act unilaterally and decisively to make progress on establishing goal 1 protected areas." Will the minister tell us what kind of unilateral action he has in mind and why he appears to have lost faith in the consultation process?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I very much looked forward to this question in the House.
In the Whitehorse Star on Tuesday, February 13, the Member for Kluane stated: "Our government recognized that we made some mistakes in the Fishing Branch protected area as it was designated. We promised to work with all affected groups to improve the process and enshrine it in legislation. We recognize that it's going to take time and patience."
Well, Mr. Speaker, if they had respected the process of implementation instead of usurping the implementation process, we wouldn't be dealing with another conundrum and legacy that the members opposite have passed on to this government.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister doesn't get it. He's the minister now, the Liberals are the government now, and they still insist on pointing the finger a year later. I say, shame on them.
Mr. Speaker, this minister's track record on consultation has been very unimpressive, whether we're talking about teachers or resource interest groups.
In the Liberal wish book they called a platform, this government made a commitment to bring the Chamber of Mines back to the table on YPAS. I'm curious as to what table he's talking about. Will there be one forum to hammer out the difficulties with YPAS or will this government be dealing separately and behind closed doors, like they enjoy doing, with some other stakeholders, while others are respecting the process and participating in the public meetings?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the tenacity of the member opposite bringing forward a question on the issue and process that they obviously disrespected on the YPAS is just beyond my comprehension. If they had been talking to all the groups, saying the same thing to all the groups all the time, again, we wouldn't have to be fixing things on a continual basis. We, in 10 months, are finding more and more of those promises that have been broken and consultations they have made to different groups all the time.
Mr. Speaker, we are fixing things at this time, but the distrust, the damages and the innuendo that they heaped on the public before we took office is going to take a little more time to repair.
Mr. McRobb: I agree with the minister when he says that this is beyond his comprehension. We all know how this Liberal government treats the consultation process and how it shows respect to Yukoners. The gallery today will attest to that, Mr. Speaker. Now this minister and the Premier have issued dire warnings about unilateral action. Surely this isn't going to help with some very tricky and complex negotiations, which are already a half a year behind schedule, thanks to this minister's lack of direction. Will the minister tell us exactly what he intends to do to get the consultation process back on track and when - most importantly, Mr. Speaker, when - we can expect to see YPAS legislation introduced in this House?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I again refer to the article of February 13. It's the first time that the members opposite have admitted to making a mistake - although I am finding that very, very hard to believe. They made massive mistakes with respect to implementing the YPAS area. We do have the Fishing Branch, that's for sure, but it was shameful how they arrived at that by not respecting the process as it was put together by Yukoners and with the full complement of advisers who had put the process together. It is just shameful that they can stand up now and, in the paper, mention that it is going to take time and patience. Well, it is going to take time and patience to repair the damages that they have inflicted on the Yukon public.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Let me begin, on behalf of our government, by expressing our thanks to Yukoners from every community who participated in our pre-budget consultation meetings.
Since taking office in May 2000, and particularly through the months of January and February during these meetings, we have listened as people have shared their ideas and insights with us. The commitment that they have shown to making the Yukon a better place now falls to us to respect and to balance the sound perspectives that they have advanced.
The experience of the last few months has confirmed, beyond doubt, that an open budget process is a better budget process.
It is an inescapable fact of life that a budget always brings its own special vocabulary. We talk about operations and maintenance, of percentages and decimals, of surplus, deficits and revotes. These accounting methods and measures translate into a budget that is about the everyday lives of Yukoners. It is about managing your money to make the lives of all Yukoners better. It is about providing an environment where Yukoners have the opportunity and the tools to improve their standard of living. Budgets are about more than entries in the books of a government; they are chapters in the progress of a people.
Today's budget is the first chapter that we have written. It delivers on the seven priorities that were set out in the Speech from the Throne in October of last year: rebuilding the Yukon economy; maintaining quality health care; addressing alcohol and drug addictions; settling outstanding land claims; achieving devolution; developing infrastructure; and restoring confidence in government.
These priorities are not new. They form the basis of this government's contract with the people of the Yukon. Yukoners endorse these seven commitments because they are responsible and they are balanced. This budget works toward making these commitments a reality.
We must recognize that the Yukon is part of a larger economic picture. It is apparent that the American economy is slowing, and this is especially evident in their manufacturing sector and is reflected in both recent consumer and business confidence surveys conducted south of the border. This will, of course, have an impact on Canada, as the United States is our largest trading partner.
Fortunately, the Canadian economy is well positioned to weather this state of affairs, in part due to national efforts to promote international trade and, in large measure, because of strong central financial management. Most forecasters are expecting Canada to continue to maintain its extended period of growth, albeit at a more modest pace. The real Canadian gross domestic product is forecast to grow at three percent this year, rather than the 3.5 percent of previous forecasts.
Economic conditions in Canada as a whole influence many of the inputs into our formula financing grant. For example, if Statistics Canada revises Canadian local-provincial expenditures for the past three years by one-tenth of one percent for each year, our formula could change by a total of $3 million. We must, therefore, be mindful of the economy of the world around us.
The budget that is before you today shows a projected income of approximately $513.9 million. This is made up of $77.8 million raised in the Yukon, over $20 million in the Canada health and social transfer, $332.6 million in formula finance payments from Canada and $83.5 million in recoveries from a variety of sources.
On the expenditure side, the government is seeking authority for total spending of $535.5 million.
In addition, $2.5 million has been allocated to meet the contingencies. The spending estimates for operations and maintenance are at $428.2 million. This figure includes a substantial increase in superannuation costs. Effective April 1, 2000, the federal government implemented changes to its employer pension plan. Essentially, employer contributions to the plan have doubled. The result is a $9-million increase in our costs that is offset by a matching increase in our payment from Canada. Another substantial increase is the impact of the collective agreement reached with the Yukon Employees Union. This deal has increased our costs by over $8 million this year alone.
Capital costs are projected to be almost $107 million. The combined expenditures for operations and maintenance and capital will leave the Yukon government with a projected deficit of $24.1 million for the fiscal year. While this is a reduction in the size of the deficit from last year, we have nevertheless continued to draw down the surplus. This budget will leave an accumulated surplus, or amount of money still in Yukon's bank account, of $6 million.
Every year the government budgets for projects that do not proceed for one reason or another. Historically, these lapses, or money that is set aside and then not expended, are in the range of $10 million to $15 million. Given this history, I am confident that the plans outlined today, including drawing down the surplus to $6 million before lapses, represent sound financial management and make good use of taxpayers' money. We are using our budget to create as many jobs as possible while preserving the social programs that Yukoners have come to rely on as among the best in the country.
Above all else, this is a budget that focuses on rebuilding the Yukon's economy. This budget contains several initiatives to meet that end, including a substantial seven-percent increase in net capital spending over last year's main estimates and direct spending on job creation.
The budget also implements our previously announced tax cuts, which are now having an impact on people's paycheques and on our revenues. Capital projects have been chosen that maximize job creation, particularly during this current downturn in our economy.
Capital spending set out in this budget that has been tabled today will sustain almost 700 full-time private sector jobs. Part of that increase in capital is for programs that support and enhance our mining sector. As we heard in Mayo and in Whitehorse, people wanted money to go into mining. We heard that concern, and we acted on it. We increased the Yukon mining incentives program upon taking office and our support, based on your advice, continues. This program, which is designed to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities, is budgeted at more than $760,000.
Our government is also enhancing geological survey work by $64,000. In addition, there is $551,000 for a new cost-shared, regional mineral development program, which is currently under development with Canada.
Finally, there will be $550,000 spent on mineral resource assessments.
In capital dollars alone, we are spending over $3.4 million on projects and programs that create jobs for Yukoners now, while adding to the mining industry for the future.
We have also set aside funding to increase the Yukon's mineral exploration tax credit to 25 percent and to extend it for an additional year until April 2002. This is a refundable tax credit that encourages mineral exploration and received strong reviews during my most recent visit to the Cordilleran Roundup.
These expenditures are all designed to benefit the mining industry. Our government's efforts to enable the mining industry to return to its position of strength within the Yukon economy will continue throughout the year.
Our work in other sectors of the resource economy is starting to pay dividends. Oil and gas royalties are expected to hit the $9-million mark in the new fiscal year. These revenues, shared with Canada and First Nation governments, are contributing to Yukon's financial self-sufficiency. This winter, an oil and gas company is employing 60 Yukoners in the Eagle Plains area. And on March 14 of this year, bids will close on the second disposition of land in the same area. To support this growing industry, our new budget also contains $200,000 for continuing resource assessments relating to oil and gas exploration.
People throughout the Yukon have also spoken to us in our pre-budget consultations and in coffee shop conversations on the streets of communities about a pipeline to transport Alaska natural gas to southern markets. We are committed to the aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway as the route for this pipeline. A route has not yet been selected. Alaskan producers are spending $75 million U.S. on a feasibility study to select where a potential pipeline could be built. A decision is expected before the end of this year. Certainly the producers are well aware that the Yukon government and the Government of Alaska have endorsed and support the Alaska Highway route. Governor Knowles has said it, Mr. Speaker, and we have said it. Our way is the highway.
One of the essential ingredients in the discussion of a route selection is the preparedness of our government and the Government of Canada with respect to regulatory and environmental aspects of the project. A significant investment of time and money has been dedicated to our efforts to date, and an additional $750,000 has been set aside to continue these efforts. This is a substantial investment in a project that would be the largest capital project in Yukon's history. The possibility of a pipeline along the Alaska Highway has the potential to be far more than a construction project. The 1977 Canada/U.S. agreement on this pipeline includes a provision that natural gas would be made available to Yukon communities. This source of relatively cheap and clean energy would have positive effects on overall Yukon air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and would further foster economic development in the territory.
Although the advantages and potential of the Alaska Highway route are clear to us, we have not yet secured the project. Not all of the investment of this government will be spent on promotion of our preferred route. Mindful of the need to avoid unduly raising expectations, we will continue with public information meetings on oil and gas and pipeline development in the communities to ensure that Yukoners have up-to-date information.
In the past six months, staff from the oil and gas branch have visited Destruction Bay, Old Crow, Mayo, Dawson, Whitehorse and Watson Lake. Communities have requested that we continue with these public information sessions and that we continue to explore and expand training and education opportunities for Yukoners in this new industry.
The forestry sector is also recognized by our government as an essential part of our developing resource economy. We are sponsoring a forestry summit this spring that will bring together Yukoners from across the territory to assist in developing forestry industry policy.
Yukoners must take a leadership role in decisions that are consistent with our responsibilities for economic development. We would like to thank those people in the forestry sector who have provided us with their ideas on this summit and will help to make it a success. We will also continue to work with the federal government to ensure that timber harvesting agreements meet the needs of our citizens.
The Department of Economic Development is not alone in attempting to rebuild our economy. The tourism industry also provides many jobs for Yukoners and puts money from out of the territory directly into our economy. In recognition of this economic benefit and the need to expand this industry, we have designed the stay-another-day program. $785,000 is being spent to keep visitors in the Yukon longer by highlighting our natural beauty and our many attractions and events. Part of this funding has been targeted specifically for heritage- and arts-themed projects.
Mr. Speaker, expenditures by government also create jobs directly.
For example, money that goes to contractors as an incentive to hire local employees and to purchase locally manufactured goods, in the form of business incentive rebates, has been increased in this budget. The business incentive rebate is budgeted at over $700,000, an increase of $300,000 over what was allotted last year. This program helps to ensure that work stays in our communities and that we support local manufacturers.
Supporting local communities was one of the positive aspects of previous attempts to create jobs directly through capital funding arrangements. However, more accountability and a stronger commitment to working with other departments and governments on this type of funding were things that have been suggested by a number of communities. An audit of the community development fund, which will be released shortly, demonstrates significant problems with the administration of the fund and highlights the importance of our new internal audit function. To address these issues, we have revamped a number of funding programs.
Applications for the project Yukon, fire smart and arts fund will be accepted through a one-window funding office in the Department of Economic Development. Project Yukon, a $1.5-million fund, will support community priorities for infrastructure development, particularly those with a strong focus on job creation. Projects that improve community spaces, such as landscaping and trail improvement, are also eligible. A third group of projects that support social and recreational activity will also be considered.
The fire smart program is already well-known. In meetings in Watson Lake, Marsh Lake, with the Liard First Nation, in Teslin, Faro, Beaver Creek and Tagish, we heard about the success of earlier projects and the need to continue to make reducing fire risks in and around communities a priority. We also heard concerns about why the previous government failed to set aside any money for this fund in last year's budget. We have responded to this concern by including $500,000 for fire smart projects.
A new $500,000 arts fund will support the creative development of arts in the Yukon. Arts fund projects will also be accepted through the same one window to streamline the application process. Projects will be approved, as suggested by the arts community, Mr. Speaker, through a peer review process.
Fire smart and project Yukon applications will be reviewed with technical expertise from the departments of Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services and a member of the public.
The Minister of Tourism has also identified a $185,000 contribution to the Yukon Quest in this budget. The increase in funding has been provided to assist the Quest in securing private sponsors and to become more economically independent. The Yukon Quest has received a variety of government funding for years. We are creating certainty and reducing red tape by recognizing the need and the funding required up front. Event organizers can simply get on with organizing what has become an event we can all be proud of.
The MLA for Riverdale South, Sue Edelman, in her capacity as Minister of Tourism, has also been the lead on the Government of Yukon's participation in an air access study. This study will address the long-term prospects for improved air service to the Yukon. The study was funded as part of last year's budget and we have been encouraged to continue this work by the members of the Watson Lake and Yukon chambers of commerce.
Our partners in the air access study, the City of Whitehorse, the City of Edmonton and the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership, have indicated that it will be completed in April of this year. The air access study will then form the basis for future negotiations with air carriers. The Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership includes representatives from the private sector, heritage groups, the arts community and municipalities.
While Yukoners appreciate that government needs money to provide necessary public services such as health care and education, they also do not want to pay an unreasonable amount of taxes to support these services. Last year, we began a program of responsible tax relief, and this budget continues that agenda. Tax cuts help stimulate our economy by allowing people to spend more of their own money. On January 1, 2000, the territory's personal income tax rate dropped from 50 percent of the federal rate to 49 percent. On January 1 of this year, the rate dropped to 46 percent. These changes, taken together, mean Yukoners will pay $3 million less in taxes this year. Mr. Speaker, in 2002, the tax rate will drop again, to 44 percent, meaning a further $1.5 million in savings.
I would like to provide some examples of the tax relief that today's budget delivers. For a single person with one income of $30,000, Yukon income tax falls by an additional $73 this year, and the total savings by the end of 2003 will be $421. For a family of four with earnings of $45,000, Yukon income tax drops an additional $128 this year, and the total savings by the end of 2003 will be $746. For a family of four with an income of $60,000, income tax falls by an additional $173 this year, with a total savings of $997 by 2003. This tax relief means more money for Yukon families and more money spent in Yukon stores and with Yukon businesses.
Both as a preventative health measure and as a revenue measure, we have increased the tobacco tax by one cent per cigarette, or 25 cents per pack. This will result in increased revenues of roughly $550,000. The World Health Organization and the World Bank both recently released a report that supports a tobacco tax increase as an effective tool for lowering tobacco use. In higher income countries, the treatment of tobacco-related diseases swallow up to 15 percent of annual spending on health. As we are aware, health care costs continue to escalate, and we all must be looking at preventative measures to assist in keeping these costs under control. The additional revenue from this measure will improve our overall financial picture.
A healthy financial statement also ensures that we are able to fund the health care priorities of Yukoners. In fact, for the first time, over $125 million has been dedicated to the Department of Health and Social Services for operations and maintenance.
The largest portion of the budget, over $19.5 million, will be transferred to the Yukon Hospital Corporation on the first day of the new fiscal year. It is higher than last year and fulfills our commitment to maintain stable funding at the Whitehorse General Hospital. Another significant expenditure, $7.1 million, is for the Yukon hospital insurance services - in other words, medical coverage for Yukoners who receive hospital care in other jurisdictions.
As a government, we have made a commitment to provide stable funding to the Child Development Centre. This is a non-profit society that is the only Yukon agency providing therapeutic services to preschool special needs children. Accordingly, we have allocated slightly over $1.1 million for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
This government recently announced the first phase of our strategy to recruit and retain health care professionals. $140,000 has been set aside to fund initiatives aimed at both doctors and nurses. We recognize that there is a Canada-wide shortage of health care professionals and that competition for health care professionals will remain fierce. In consultation with the medical community, we intend to announce additional measures in the next few months.
An additional major expenditure in the health budget is funding in the amount of $9 million for the completion of the continuing care facility. In order to save money over the long term, our government decided to complete construction of the 96-bed facility at once. We are anticipating approximately $300,000 in start-up staffing costs. This figure will grow considerably over the next two years and will put significant pressure on our health care budget.
One other area of the health budget that is growing is the cost of providing children's residential services. This year alone, we need to increase our budget by $300,000.
At meetings with the Victoria Faulker Women's Centre, Yukon Aboriginal Women's Association, the Yukon Status of Women's Council, the Help and Hope Society in Watson Lake and the Dawson shelter, we heard a clear message: women's shelters do not have adequate resources to properly provide services. These groups provide care and support for women and their families who are in need. We have responded by increasing the operating grant to Kaushee's Place by $100,000, providing an additional $62,000 to the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake and a $62,000 increase to the Dawson shelter.
We heard from women's groups, organized labour and communities that government should put more resources into victim services and programming for abusive spouses. We heard you. And, to that end, we have put an additional $155,000 toward these services.
The Minister of Health has also set aside $100,000 to go toward increasing the per diem rates for foster parents by 16 percent. This is the first increase in nine years. Clothing rates will also be increased by 22 percent. Clothing allowances have not increased in 11 years. The remainder of the funds will be used to help assist with intake, recruitment, assessment and training for foster parents.
Other significant increases to non-government organizations this year include for Teegatha'Oh Zheh, a $50,000 increase for staff costs and training; a $39,000 increase to Yukon Family Services Association for staffing, and a $75,000 increase to Hospice Yukon to provide services in rural communities.
This government is also funding, for the first time ever, the line-for-life program. This is a program that provides an emergency notification system for seniors who require help.
In our government's first throne speech last fall, we emphasized our commitment to combatting our territory's serious drug and alcohol addictions problem. In November of last year, we moved ahead with the implementation of our strategy on alcohol and drug addictions and the creation of a new alcohol and drug secretariat to meet the needs of Yukoners who are suffering from the effects of alcohol and drugs. In meeting after meeting after meeting, including in Carcross, Old Crow, Haines Junction and with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, we heard that the government should be committing more resources to fighting alcohol and drug addictions. Today I am announcing that funding for the secretariat has been set at $2,360,000 for the first full year of operation. This means that we have put an additional quarter of a million dollars toward funding alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment. This is the beginning of implementing more comprehensive and enhanced services than have ever been available in the Yukon.
Prevention of FAS and FAE will obviously be a key component of the work that's done by the secretariat. Part of that strategy will be to create better awareness about FAS and FAE through education and prevention initiatives undertaken in our schools. This will mean taking a more aggressive and proactive approach than has happened in the past. The secretariat will also begin preparations to host the Prairie Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Partnership in May 2002. The partnership was put together to develop best practices and solutions for the prevention of FAS.
We are also looking forward to working with the federal government, which has signalled a new willingness in the Speech from the Throne delivered last month to work with all levels of government to reduce the incidence of FAS.
The recent first ministers meeting in September 2000 is a prime example of what Yukoners and governments can accomplish when they share a common goal. A historic agreement was reached on a comprehensive health action plan, and Yukoners are now seeing the positive results of that consensus. This year, for example, we will be purchasing three new ambulances, at a cost of $276,000, as a result of these successful negotiations in Ottawa.
While this budget addresses health care and addictions, it also sets aside significant resources for the top priority of our government: the settlement of land claims.
The settlement of land claims remains an essential part of the long-term economic success of our territory. Settling land claims will mean more certainty for all Yukoners. This budget contains over $6 million of funding for the continued negotiation and implementation of the Yukon's self-government and final agreements.
In addition, resources have been set aside in the Executive Council Office to assist in funding our new First Nations secretariat. The establishment of the secretariat was agreed to as part of the political accord between the Yukon government and Yukon's First Nations. The accord was signed on February 2 by Yukon's 14 First Nations, two tribal council chiefs, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations and by all 11 government caucus members.
The secretariat will facilitate and coordinate communications between our government and First Nation governments. This secretariat reflects the government-to-government relationships that have been established over the last nine months and is an ideal forum to discuss and move ahead on issues of mutual concern.
While working to settle land claims, we are also continuing to move forward with devolution negotiations. It is our intention to conclude a devolution transfer agreement this spring and there is funding set aside in the Executive Council Office for this purpose. Once signed, the agreement paves the way for the new Yukon Act to begin making its way through the House of Commons.
Gaining management and control over our natural resources is essential if we are to continue to grow the Yukon's economy. The recent experience with the transfer of authority for oil and gas from the federal government to the Yukon is a shining example of what progress can be made over a short period of time. We continue to aim for the transfer to occur on April 1, 2002.
The transition period will not be without its ups and downs, as we integrate new employees, take over administration of new legislation and assume new responsibilities and authority. Our preparations include a new Deputy Ministers Review Committee that is actively examining the renewal of the Yukon government, incorporating devolution, to ensure a citizen-oriented administration. It is only by preparing now that we can meet the challenges that lie ahead.
Another priority of this government is the continued expansion and upgrading of Yukon's infrastructure. In many instances, spending decisions have been directed by the communities themselves, as they identified infrastructure projects that they wanted to be undertaken on a priority basis. They have also stressed how important these projects are for creating work in their communities.
We heard from the Selkirk First Nation that improving the fire hall in Pelly Crossing was a priority for the community. The budget contains $35,000 for that purpose. The Liard First Nation said that the community needed an electric fence installed around the community dump. There is $15,000 set aside to make that happen. In a meeting with the Vuntut Gwitchin, a request was made for help to control riverbank erosion. This budget contains $50,000 to do that. In Ross River, we heard concerns about water projects. The result is $55,000 for improving water supply and $50,000 for work on a new water use licence application.
In community meetings in Burwash Landing and in Carcross, we heard the same priorities. We are addressing these priorities with $200,000 being spent on the construction of a new sewage lagoon in Burwash and $500,000 for the Carcross sewage treatment project.
The most talked about infrastructure in the budget consultations, and indeed throughout the year, is our network of roads and highways. While our road system remains the envy of the north, years of neglect by previous governments have left our highways in need of upgrading and repairs. Our government reversed the long-standing pattern of lower expenditures on highway construction in our supplementary budget of last fall. We have continued that trend today. Capital spending on highways is up another half-a-million dollars over last year, despite a $1.5-million drop in Shakwak funding. Over $29.7 million will be spent on highway construction. This is money well-spent and money that creates jobs for Yukoners.
Major projects include $23.5 million in Shakwak projects on the Alaska Highway. Another $2.9 million will be spent on a reconstruction project for the Alaska Highway, as requested during the budget consultation with the community of Haines Junction and as represented to the MLA for Whitehorse Centre, Mike McLarnon. There is also $900,000 for spot reconstruction of the Campbell Highway, as requested by the communities of Ross River and Carmacks, and $750,000 for a variety of pavement rehabilitation projects. This last item will improve the quality of our paved roads and provide for a safer, more comfortable ride for motorists.
This year's budget also contains $281,000 for increased maintenance of the Campbell Highway and Nahanni Range Road. This is the result of a request from the Watson Lake mayor and council. Leaders of both the municipal and First Nation governments in Watson Lake also requested that the government begin a preliminary study of an access road in southeast Yukon. That work will begin in the new fiscal year.
In the community of Mayo, there were concerns about the fact that in recent years the amount of work done on brush and weed control had been cut dramatically. This government shares those concerns. In the last two years, for example, approximately $500,000 in total has been spent on this type of work. In 2001-02, we have budgeted $620,000 for brush and weed clearing that will create jobs and improve the safety on our roadways.
There is also over $1.1 million in maintenance funding, which was requested by the village council of Mayo, for the Silver Trail, and $75,000 set aside for the upgrading of the Sawmill Road near Ross River.
While we have met a number of requests from communities for improvements to our road system, we know that ideas will continue to come in from across the territory. To respond to these requests, our government has set aside $400,000 in the rural roads program to allow community groups to complete small projects that are identified as priorities.
Some of the other requests that we heard were simple enough to address. In Burwash Landing, the Kluane First Nation asked for money to be set aside to clear snow from the community's roads in the winter months. We have addressed this concern.
Other community requests, such as the boat ramp and breakwater at the marina in Destruction Bay, and the need for increased fire safety in Tagish, have been addressed by setting aside $30,000 and $22,000 respectively for projects in these communities.
While creating jobs by maintaining our highways, we have not forgotten improvements to our recreational facilities. For example, as part of a multi-year commitment to the City of Whitehorse, $1 million is being provided for the new swimming pool that is being constructed this summer. There is also ongoing support for the new recreation complex that is under construction in Dawson City. $2.9 million will be transferred to the city on April 1 of this year. In Carmacks, there is another $1 million set aside to complete work on the new recreation centre.
A number of major capital projects related to education are also part of this year's expenditures. The Department of Education will spend over $11.8 million on projects, including the Mayo school. There is a also $1.6 million for expansion projects at Holy Family Elementary and Christ the King Elementary schools in Whitehorse. This is the final part of grade reorganization and will move the grade seven students from Vanier Catholic Secondary School to the elementary schools. In addition, there is $250,000 for work on the heating system at Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing and $400,000 to replace the heating system at Takhini Elementary School. There is also $750,000 set aside for the annual Yukon College capital contribution.
In some cases, we are spending money on infrastructure now to save money in the future. This is the case with the house-calls energy efficiency program, which is already in progress and will be completed during 2001-02. This program has targeted up to 2,000 primarily rural households for installation of energy-saving and comfort devices, practical tips and climate change information that reduce energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions.
A separate seniors initiative of the same program was started in February, which involved an expanded partnership including the Yukon Development Corporation, the Yukon Housing Corporation, Health and Social Services, Natural Resources Canada and the Yukon Electrical Company Limited.
Another example of how this government is spending now to save later is the recent expression-of-interest call for small-scale renewable energy supply projects that was issued in late January 2001. This is the first step in a two-part process that is planned for 2001-02. This proposal provides potential Yukon developers with business and investment opportunities for installation of green power generation facilities that meet the needs of electrical consumers. The priority is to displace diesel generation requirements in Yukon communities. This type of forward thinking is in line with that of a Yukoner who sent a submission to us by e-mail, asking that we invest in research and development of renewable sources of energy.
The Yukon Development Corporation is also launching a new renewable power sales incentive program. It complements the new and improved commercial energy management program that was started in the summer of 2000. Our experience to date shows that, for each dollar invested in CEMP, an additional four more are generated in expenditures to upgrade commercial facilities. The new program will facilitate the use of lower cost and renewable hydro surplus power by larger commercial, institutional and government customers. The result will be energy cost savings and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
The government is also embarking on a much larger project that will reduce our dependency on diesel fuel: the Mayo-to-Dawson transmission line, a multi-million-dollar energy infrastructure project. This project is good for ratepayers, a good investment for the long-term development of Yukon power network, good for the economy by creating business and employment opportunities during the up to two year design and construction period, good for the environment and good news for participating Yukon First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, we are also demonstrating our commitment to community infrastructure by participating in the latest federal infrastructure program. This partnership between federal, territorial and municipal governments will result in the Yukon government receiving $2.4 million over three years to help fund infrastructure development in the areas of water, sewer and solid waste management. Our government looks forward to working with municipal governments to identify projects that match the funding criteria for this program.
We are also maintaining the level of funding we provide in the form of comprehensive municipal grants, or block funding, to communities at $11.8 million.
While we have outlined the priorities of this government in creating jobs and building infrastructure, we have not lost sight of the environment. During our budget consultations, we received a request from the Tr'ondek Hwëch'in First Nation in Dawson City for resources to be committed to Tombstone Park. As a result, $255,000 has been set aside for work on the interpretive centre and for a seasonal park ranger for Tombstone Park.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, we are announcing today a number of initiatives that will help restore Yukoners' confidence in government. We heard in almost every public meeting, by e-mail and in voice mail that we received on a toll-free number, that we set up to receive input on the budget process, that governments must continually work to be more efficient. We also heard that no administration has ever before taken on the task of looking at government as a whole to see how it can be more citizen-oriented, simple and make more sense to the public. We agree completely and, in fact, have already been working to do just that.
The internal audit unit is up and running and has been given the task of conducting reviews and audits of programs to determine their efficiency and effectiveness. A second group, the strategic management unit, is assisting program managers across all departments in reviewing and updating their programs and beginning to implement accountability frameworks. These initiatives will result in a more effective government that is clearly focused on improving the economic and social well-being of the Yukon, and on recognizing that the citizens of this territory are its clients.
Restoring confidence in government is also about ensuring that Yukoners are fairly represented in this Legislature. This budget fulfills that commitment by providing the funding to review the Yukon's electoral boundaries. Last fall, we passed legislation creating the commission to oversee the review, and this budget contains $115,000 to conduct the public hearings. New boundaries that will be in place for the next election will ensure that Yukoners are fairly represented in this Legislature.
We are already fulfilling our commitment to reinstate community Cabinet tours, and we have visited Faro, Ross River and Teslin in recent months. This allows Yukoners to speak directly with elected officials about the challenges facing communities and families.
Another suggestion about restoring confidence has come from organized labour and Yukon business people. The suggestion is a simple one. The Yukon government should outline capital spending priorities in a fall budget so that companies can put bids together over the winter period and contracts can be awarded by the time the spring construction season begins. We agree with that suggestion, and we will be introducing the capital budget for the year 2002-03 during the fall sitting of the Legislature.
On April 17 of last year, Yukoners asked for change and we have delivered on that agenda. While change is a priority, real results will take time. We began with a supplementary budget last fall. We moved this government forward in implementing new directions on policy, and we have been able to achieve many of the changes that Yukoners have asked us to make.
This government has taken on the challenge of tackling the tough issues that Yukoners have told us they want to address.
We are delivering on commitments to review a number of important pieces of legislation. Reviews of the Liquor Act, the Education Act and the Wildlife Act are underway, and new legislation will be brought forward over the course of the next two years.
We have, in consultation with the community at large, put a new focus and a higher profile on alcohol and drug services for Yukoners.
Yukoners also told us they were concerned about the lack of accountability surrounding programs such as the community development fund. We told Yukoners we would review those funds and make them more accountable, and we have done just that.
Our government also committed to developing a new territory-wide museums strategy. Consultations on this strategy began last fall.
We have also kept our promise to continue televising the Yukon Legislative Assembly so that rural Yukoners can see their government in action and can make suggestions to us about how we can make government better.
We said we would fund the innovators in the school program, and we have done that by setting aside $57,000 for that program in this fiscal year. We made a commitment to establish a youth directorate. The MLA for Riverside, Scott Kent, is taking the lead on youth issues to show our commitment to our youth and to our future. We are also supporting youth employment opportunities with a $35,000 commitment to the Yukon Work Information Network.
Another commitment to youth that has been fulfilled is the 20-percent increase to post-secondary student grants. This change was made in June of last year, in time for the current school year.
We also promised to expedite payments from government to local suppliers of goods and services. While we have begun to do that with the introduction of the new acquisition card, which has meant faster payments for businesses that supply government with products, there is much more work that needs to be done.
In February of this year, we fulfilled a commitment to allow social assistance clients to retain a greater portion of employment income as an incentive to continue working. At the same time, we allowed single parents receiving welfare to stay at home until their children turn six, rather than two years old.
We also committed to providing more legal aid funding. We provided that increase in a supplementary budget last fall, and we are making it permanent in the budget today.
During the election campaign last spring, we heard Yukoners' concerns about the large cuts to heritage branch funding by successive governments. I will not stand here and tell you that these cuts can be restored overnight; they cannot. I can tell you that the Minister of Tourism has been working hard to restore money to the heritage branch, because when tourists come to visit the Yukon, we want to share our cultural heritage with them - a heritage that makes us all proud to call ourselves Yukoners. With that in mind, we have increased heritage spending this year by almost $470,000 over last year's main estimates.
While we focused our resources on these priorities, we are also living up to several expensive obligations passed on by the previous government. These include the Connect Yukon project, the Dawson City recreation centre, and the new continuing care facility. These items will have a cumulative impact of over $13.6 million on the main estimates this year alone.
If we all take a moment to think about it, this budget is the result of the efforts of many people. The people of Watson Lake and Whitehorse, Carmacks, Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay, Old Crow, Ross River, Faro and all of the communities in between are the authors of this document. We have worked hard to balance the priorities that Yukoners presented to us, and we hope that Yukoners see themselves reflected here.
Nous tenons à remercier le personnel du Ministère des Finances et du bureau des services en français du Ministère des Services Gourvernmentaux pour leur contribution à la réalisation du présent budget.
I'd also like to thank officials from the Department of Finance and our translators from the Department of Government Services for the work they have done in putting this budget together.
In October, when we delivered our throne speech, we said that, "as Yukoners, we envision a territory where opportunity is built upon the strength of our land, the diversity of our people, and the openness of our government." By participating in the budget process, Yukoners have added to the strength and openness that we hope to achieve during our mandate. We want to thank all Yukoners who actively participated in the creation of this budget. We will continue to listen to you, and we take pride in tabling the document that is before you today because it was created by all of us.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Merci. Mahsi' cho.
Motion to adjourn debate
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would love to respond to the Premier's budget, but I will stay in keeping with the past practice of this Legislature. I found it very difficult to hear what the Premier had to say because of the chants of the teachers strike outside, so I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that the debate do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 2:40 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled February 22, 2001:
Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Yukon on the by-election held in Faro on November 27, 2000 (Speaker Schneider)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated February 22, 2001) (Speaker Schneider)