Monday, February 26, 2001 - 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.
In remembrance of John Hatch
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, it is the tradition of this Legislature to honour those who have made a significant contribution to the Yukon Territory.
Today, I rise on behalf of the Legislature to pay tribute to the life of John Hatch.
John was born in 1937 in Quebec and he is survived by his mother Cathleen Rudd of Montreal and his sister Mary Gates of Australia.
It's a story that Mary tells that gives us a great idea of what John Hatch was about. When she was visiting from Australia in John's house with a whole bunch of friends over to visit, Mary needed a mail key to the mailbox. At that point, 20 people presented the key to the mailbox to Mary. His house was open, his life was open, but at the same time, that openness did not stop him from giving, and that's what we're here to remember today.
John moved to the Yukon around 1975 and became a resident of the Whitehorse Shipyards. Around that time, the building he was living in was one of the oldest existing buildings in the Yukon Territory - and in Whitehorse for sure. It was slipping to the river; it was eroding, and it was a burned-out shell. John, with the time, love and effort, restored that building and saved something for all Yukoners to remember - a legacy to our past.
He also, at the same time, put his life into the culture of the Yukon Territory, and that's how John will really hold his legacy in the Yukon Territory. He was involved in the Storytelling Festival, the Yukon Quest and the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous. He was tireless in his efforts for Yukon Learn. As well, he was one of the original board members for the Second Opinion Society. Without his work, we would be in an emptier place today.
Now, in his professional life, he was able to give us photography; and that's what John was, a man of focus. He has given us exhibits that will document our lives and give them meaning years down the road. I hope that this legacy will be front and centre whenever we want to remember John.
He was part of the colourful five percent. In my opinion and the opinion of his friends, they got it wrong by four percent. He truly was in the top one percent of people in the territory with character, eccentricity, creativity and genuine love. That love showed itself in many ways to our Yukon visitors who came through. John opened his arms to them and opened his house to them. People from many countries stayed in John's bed or camped out on his floor. It wouldn't be uncommon to go through the campground in Carmacks and see John entertaining 40 or 50 people who had come around for stories of the Yukon.
He also was a spiritual man. John was a Buddhist. His philosophy of life was a calming influence to his neighbours and friends. As you drive by his house, which was still in the Shipyards, you can see the prayer flag, which was put up in memory. The prayer flag will fly until it tatters. But John's life will stay forever with us. As a Buddhist, he is reincarnated and we will feel that spirit throughout.
We will never know how many people he helped. We will never know the extent to which he gave. What we do know, though, by the people around when John passed on - the hundreds of people who came to his memorial and the friends who came and contributed to this speech today - that John was loved and John was remembered.
John, in his last days, fought for the rights of the Shipyards residents, and I ask every member of this Legislature to remember John when we are considering legislation and how it will affect the least powerful in our society. John fought hard and well for his neighbours. He also fought well for what he believed in. We will remember John in the classic John phrase, "Mmm, mmm, I think we will."
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of Dolly Josie
Ms. Netro: It is with great pleasure that I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute in honour of Dolly Josie. Dolly was a respected member of Old Crow who passed away October 21, 2000. Dolly was born on August 30, 1930. She raised a big family, leaving behind nine surviving children, 11 grandchildren and one great grandchild.
Dolly was raised in the traditional and cultural ways of the Vuntut Gwitchin and she passed those same teachings on to her children and the people of Old Crow. She shared her wisdom and knowledge freely. She left behind a legacy of good things. She had such a love for the land that she would spend as much time as she could out on the land. She took her grandchildren out to the spring camp in Crow Flats at Schaeffer Lake so she could teach them our traditional ways. She loved to teach those around her so that they could have strong ties to the land and resources, which we depend on for our survival. In the summer months, she spent time at the Twelve Mile camp with her family. This is where she felt at peace.
Dolly was a strong speaker and an excellent role model for our people. She often spoke strongly from the heart on issues that concern the Vuntut Gwitchin.
She tried hard to follow in her mother's footsteps. Her mother, Sara Abel-Chitze, was also a strong spokesperson for Vuntut Gwitchin people. Dolly shared her knowledge of the land and resources in north Yukon. She had a wealth of experiences to draw on, and even at the young age of 70, she was still very active. She always wanted to be out on the land, to see the caribou, to make dry meat. She wanted to cut and dry fish, to pick berries and to enjoy the clean and healthy lifestyle in the bush. Most of all, she wanted her descendants to know the ways of the land. That is where, as Vuntut Gwitchin, we get our strength. We must maintain that connection.
In closing, I would like to say thank you for giving me this opportunity to share with you some of the teachings of a remarkable woman. She left behind a legacy, and it is now up to each of us to carry on her teachings. We thank the Creator for loaning us a wonderful, loving, caring mom, grandmother, sister, auntie, friend, and teacher. One of her wishes was that the young people know who they are, speak their language, and know that they are from a strong and proud nation. That wish will be fulfilled by those whose lives she touched.
I share with you one of her quotes from a meeting that was held at an elders conference last spring: "We want people to work together good. We have to talk lots before decisions. We have to talk before we can work together. White people and Gwitchin people, we have to talk. White people have to talk to us about what they are going to do, and we have to share what we are going to do. This is how to work together good."
This is a very special time for people in Vuntut Gwitchin, when they are preparing to go out on the land. As they go out on the land, our prayers are with them for safety.
Speaker: If there are no further tributes, we will proceed to introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, joining us in the gallery today is Mr. Chuck Halliday, visiting from Sechelt. Chuck is no stranger to the Yukon. He's a former member of a number of key Yukon organizations, including the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Industry Association and many others. While he is certainly no stranger, we are very pleased to welcome him back.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. McLarnon: It is my pleasure to table the documents entitled, "Advice Under the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, to Mike McLarnon, MLA, Whitehorse Centre, January 25, 2001".
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the 2001-2002 budget creates bigger government and fails to promote the economy; and
THAT this House urges the Liberal Government to amend the 2001-2002 Budget by reducing the Operation and Maintenance Budget and by increasing the Capital Budget to help create private sector jobs.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Budget consultations
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier in her role as the Minister of Finance. Last week the minister tabled her first real budget and made quite a noise about public consultation that had gone into it. Will the Premier tell us exactly how many pre-budget meetings she had personally conducted as well as when and with whom? And will she provide that information in writing before the end of the week?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I have indicated several times in the public, this budget is a Yukon-made budget. We started with work by our whole caucus and all the deputy ministers doing some preliminary work on the budget. We followed that up with our entire caucus taking on travel throughout the Yukon, listening to what communities have to say on the budget. We also included, in our tours, the officials from the Department of Finance for which I publicly thank them.
Unlike the previous government, I would be happy to provide to the member opposite, in writing, a list of meetings that I personally attended, although certainly the list of public meetings is also readily available in the newspaper. We can gather that information and do some research work for the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: We all know that the Premier spent a considerable amount of time away from the territory last month while the budget was being finalized. Mr. Speaker, I do have a follow-up question for her. Will this minister tell us what pre-budget meetings were conducted by other members of her caucus? And will she provide a written list, by Friday, of who was involved in those meetings, including MLAs, political staff and departmental personnel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, although they have an ample research budget, it appears that the NDP are incapable of clipping the public notices and so on of our budget tours and our caucus consultations.
While I have indeed worked hard on behalf of the territory both within the territory and out, I also have attended a number of the meetings, contrary to what the member opposite would like to suggest.
So, yes, we will provide the member opposite with the information. Although it's already publicly available, we'll compile it and provide it to the member.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for that. What we want is accurate information that's coming forward from the members opposite on our request. What I have been asking for from the Premier herself may not always be in public notices.
Can the Premier tell us, from her own knowledge, approximately what percentage of requests from communities and groups actually receive funding in this budget that she tabled last week, and will she, again, provide full written lists of the requests made during the pre-budget meetings?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that we have done differently from what the previous government did. First of all, we involved all of caucus in the initial work on the budget and all of the deputy ministers in the room at one time. I previously asked the former Minister of Finance to provide written notes of these meetings, but I never received them. We, on the contrary, will provide the members opposite with a list of all of the public meetings, all of the consultation meetings, and who attended them.
As for what requests are in the budget, the member has only to read the budget speech to recognize that, throughout Yukon, priorities identified by communities are in the budget document.
Question re: Teachers, collective bargaining
Mr. Fentie: My question today, Mr. Speaker, is for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Last Thursday, in this House, the minister confirmed to this Legislature and to Yukoners that his government will honour and does honour the commitment to ensure that temporary teachers receive the same conditions and benefits as, indeed, teachers do themselves.
That being the case, Mr. Speaker, why did this minister take the unprecedented action of negotiating with the teachers in public when it comes to the temporary-teacher issue and make a tense situation much worse, driving the teachers into a strike position? Can the minister explain that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I did answer that question last Thursday, and I thought I answered it thoroughly, but I will answer it again for the member opposite.
There was a question, quite simply, about how the vote was conducted. And in order for us to be able to move forward and to ensure the integrity of the bargaining process, we asked the Staff Relations Board simply to check out the process to ensure that the rules were followed and that there would be no question about that. We did get a report back, and I would be more than willing to table tomorrow a copy of the report. But the report did indicate its ruling. We respect the ruling, and we believe the ruling to be fair and equitable. So if we want to recognize and acknowledge that, we're prepared to move forward.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would submit that the voting by the teachers union is a sidebar to the real issue here, and it begs the question that all Yukoners are now asking: what is this Liberal government's position on collective bargaining? There seems to be little to choose between the Liberals and the Yukon Party when it comes to collective bargaining. The Yukon Party simply legislated collective bargaining out of existence. This Liberal government is circumventing, in a subversive manner, the collective bargaining process by going public.
I might add that other unions are watching this. I might add that the government unions and the nurses are all very vigilant when it comes to this minister and his government and collective bargaining.
Is it the case now that this government - this minister and this Liberal government - are now going to legislate the teachers back to work? Is that what is happening here?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Very good. That was a very good try. As I indicated, and I will repeat again, we felt the integrity of the bargaining process had been compromised slightly by allowing the vote to occur that brought into question some of the members who were participating in the vote. We did contact the Staff Relations Board in Ottawa and we did get a ruling on it. We respect the ruling. We are moving on - we have moved beyond that, but as is very typical with the members opposite, Mr. Speaker, they love to dwell and live in the past because that is all they have got to deal with right now. So, we are moving forward and we do fully recognize and appreciate the bargaining process.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we are moving forward, Mr. Speaker, and that is directly into a serious, serious problem in this territory, especially when it comes to the children of this territory, whose education, by the way, is now being compromised. When it comes to integrity of the process, it is this minister and this government who attack the integrity of the collective bargaining process by going public. But let us in this Legislature think about the children of this territory and their education. And there is a way out of this that we all should be committed to. Will this minister, in a meaningful way, invite the teachers back to the table immediately? Let us negotiate properly at the table as it should be done. Let's get a deal and end this issue once and for all, here and now. Will the minister, in a meaningful manner, invite the teachers back to the bargaining table?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I let the House know that, about 9:30 a.m. this morning, there was a letter that did go over to Mr. Paul Nordahl, President of the YTA. It is a very short letter. With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read it into the record.
"During any labour dispute, it is incumbent upon the parties to the collective to take stock of the issues on an ongoing basis. As a result of the discussions with the executive director on Sunday [just yesterday] a number of options have arisen that may be worth exploring between the parties. If you are interested in exploring these options, please call my office to arrange a mutually convenient time to meet."
Mr. Speaker, we are willing to go back to the table. We have indicated that. We will be going back to the table without the prompting and without the innuendo and insinuations from somebody across the way, who is suggesting that we are doing anything but the honourable thing. Mr. Speaker, we are going to the table.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, accusing this side of the House of innuendo in the comments that he just made - in accordance with your ruling, the member is accusing us of falsehoods. I would ask you to rule on this matter, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: I will rule on it. Unfortunately, I can't rule on it today, because I would like to look in the Blues to see exactly what was said. I will bring in a ruling on it tomorrow.
Question re: Budget, inclusion of capital projects
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier.
Now, the budget address states that capital projects have been chosen that maximize job creation, particularly during this current downturn in our economy. Capital spending set out in this budget will sustain almost 700 jobs. The word "sustain" has been carefully chosen by the crafters of this budget because it gives the impression that 700 new jobs will be created, when, in reality, all the budget is doing is sustaining 700 existing jobs. It is very clever indeed, Mr. Speaker.
In view of the fact that all the major capital projects in the budget, such as the Mayo school, the extended health care facility and road construction were all announced by the previous NDP government, can the Premier advise the House why she didn't announce any new major Liberal capital projects? Can she give a breakdown of how many jobs are going to be sustained by each of the capital projects announced by the previous NDP government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the member opposite for recognizing the budget as clever. We worked very hard on this budget. We worked with all Yukoners and I'm sure Yukoners appreciate the compliment he has just paid them.
In fact, this job does exactly what the member opposite and many others have urged us to do, which is to increase the spending on capital, especially on highway construction, Mr. Speaker, which, under the previous governments, including both the NDP and the Yukon Party, fell from $22 million to under $4 million. Now, that's exclusive of Shakwak. And our road infrastructure is the envy of the north. We need to maintain it and we need to spend money on it.
The member asks what new projects are in that. We have increased that spending. There are a number of new projects that will be undertaken on that. There is $400,000 on the rural roads program, and there are other capital projects, including completing the extended care facility, the Mayo school, recreation facilities in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Carmacks, and $800,000 on water and sewer projects in Ross River, Burwash and Carcross. Overall, we have increased capital spending by seven percent. And, what's more, we did exactly as organized labour and business asked us to do, which the member opposite has failed to compliment us on, which is switch the capital budget back from being in the spring to the fall when bids can be prepared.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that's quite the spin. The reality is something else.
Now, the Premier and some of her Cabinet and caucus colleagues travelled throughout the territory, pretending to consult Yukoners on the budget when, in fact, the budget was already established. And, as now clearly demonstrated with the tabling of this budget, what we have is the second Liberal/NDP budget, budget number two - NDP/Liberal.
Can the Premier explain her statement in the Budget Address that capital projects have been chosen that maximize job creation, when, in fact, no new projects were chosen? And if these NDP projects didn't work for the NDP government in turning the economy around, how are they going to work for the Liberals when we now have 14 percent unemployment?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite persists in his belief that we were not listening to what Yukoners had to say. Well, the facts speak for themselves. If the member opposite takes the time to go through the budget speech and the budget document very carefully, the member will hear Yukoners' voices throughout that document. He will hear the comments from Destruction Bay about the marina. He will hear the comments from Burwash about having their roads cleared. The requests from the communities were not big-ticket items; they were straightforward requests that the communities asked for and which we took the time and made sure were included in the budget. We made sure that we listened to what communities had to say. We all heard their voices and their voices are reflected in the budget document.
As for the road construction and the projects that are underway this summer, I will agree with the member that Shakwak is not a new project. Finally completing and dealing with the corner at Pine Lake and the Champagne-Aishihik corners on the Alaska Highway on the road to Haines Junction are new. This government made some tough decisions. We have acted upon the advice of the community and the community is going to see that delivered.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again I get lectured. But, you know, I really appreciate the Premier and her approach that they are spending money on highways. Because the Premier has stated that, "Our way is the highway." Can the Premier advise the House if this statement was referring to the Alaska Highway that Yukoners are using to head south to find work? Or is it the Dempster Highway that Yukoners in great numbers are using to head north to find work in Northwest Territories? Which highway is it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do apologize to the member opposite if I came across as lecturing. That was not my intent. I am just so excited about the work we did on this budget and the budget itself, that I just can't help but sing its praises to the member opposite. The member opposite doesn't seem to want to take my word for it, that we did work very hard on this budget, so perhaps the member would care to read Sam Holloway's comment in Friday's Whitehorse Star, Mr. Speaker, where he said, "For that effort, and especially for encouraging the out-of-work miners of the Yukon, I thank her very much."
The Yukon community has stopped me and my colleagues throughout this weekend's Rendezvous when many of them were in town and complimented us on the work that we have done. The work in this budget not only brings back capital spending on our highways, which was desperately needed and which was decimated under the previous two governments, it also deals with the real issue of water and sewer programs in our communities.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: It doesn't decimate the highways budget. In fact, it increased, and it was doubled under the Yukon Party government. So get the facts straight. If the Premier could relate the accuracy of information to this House, it would be much appreciated.
Speaker: There is no point of order here. It's a dispute between members. May I ask the Premier to complete her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the short conclusion to the member opposite's question is that this is a good Yukon-made budget. We're very proud of it and all of the items contained in it, including the maintenance of our health care spending, as well as the highway construction spending that's contained therein and the jobs for Yukoners.
Question re: Alcohol and drug secretariat, executive director
Mr. Keenan: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services, Mr. Speaker, and I would certainly hope that he wouldn't be as defensive about his budget as the Premier, because we're just doing what we're supposed to do, Mr. Speaker, and that's to ask questions of the budget.
So, Mr. Speaker, I've been looking at the position of the executive director for the alcohol and drug services, which has a closing date of March 5. Now, it would be reasonable to expect that that successful candidate won't be known before April 1. So I was wondering if the minister could tell me when he expects the new director to be at his or her duties?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I was waiting anxiously for a question from the member opposite. I met him in Teslin on my way back from Watson Lake, and we had a brief discussion at the gas pumps there. He was asking how things were going to go, and I just said great, because I'm full of all this good country oxygen.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, we only have 30 minutes for Question Period, and I'm not really interested and I don't think the public is interested in the gas shop conversation.
So I asked the member a question. I'd please like the time retracted from what the innuendo was and add it on to the Question Period so we might get to the facts of the Question Period.
Speaker: I find that there is no point of order. It is a dispute between members.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that the member opposite still has a good sense of humour. That's something we need in here.
At this point, I can't give you a definite answer as to when this particular person will be in place. We're just in the process of advertising right now. Whatever time the government takes for that, hopefully it will be as soon as possible. I can't give him any more of an answer than that, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to thank the good-humour man for that answer.
Now, this posting contains a lot of interesting information. There are a few information items that do require clarification. On page 6, it shows an annual budget that is in excess of $3 million for 2000-01. Does the minister seriously expect to spend this $3 million on this initiative and the secretariat between now and the end of the year?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We are already spending a good part of that money on programs that are being offered to alcohol and drug services. So, these are ongoing programs. We haven't suddenly stopped our programs, just because we are going to move in a new direction. We are still moving ahead. We have put some extra dollars into there, so that once the person comes on board, we can start looking at sitting down with our partners in the communities and throughout the Yukon to develop further initiatives.
Unfortunately, I am not able to give him a line-by-line, because we don't have it at this point.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I don't think we have much at this point, Mr. Speaker.
The budget just released last week speaks to $2.36 million. Now, the posting speaks to $3 million. The amount that's budgeted will allow for a deputy minister. It will allow for administrative support, but it will not allow for the expansion of front-line programming and staff. I must point out, Mr. Speaker, that, during the election, the Liberals had all the answers. They campaigned from the left and are ruling from the right, but at that time it was urgently needed.
I must say that this government is spending money on their number one priority and that is themselves. It is not on the people, as they said they would do.
Will the minister explain why this figure was published as part of the job posting when there has been no vote on that amount? Is he prepared to step down for this leak and break in budget confidence?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, this announcement has been long in our history here as government. I don't know what the member opposite is talking about.
The obvious factor, when we're looking at development, is that you have to have some dollars there to work with. We just could not say, "Well, there's no money." So we have taken the dollars that have already been spent in alcohol and drug services under the health jurisdiction and have just put it under a separate category. That's all we have done, and I don't know what the member opposite is searching for.
To identify monies and how we're going to spend it, we're already spending it on a lot of programs that we're now offering in alcohol and drug services, Mr. Speaker. It's not something new. It's ongoing. So there's no mystery there, and there's nothing meant in this whole process.
Again, we want to consult with our partners in the future. And before we can do that, we need a person - somebody with those kinds of skills and abilities - to do that. We're hiring one person, Mr. Speaker, not as many as the member opposite is trying to indicate that we're hiring. We're hiring one person. We're using the current staff now working for ADS. They are a very competent group of people. We're going to work with them in the new direction. We're not hiring a whole department.
Question re: Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
Ms. Netro: My question is for the Premier. Just over a week ago, the Member for Riverside gave a speech before the members of the Alaskan oil industry and government in Anchorage. According to the speech on the Economic Development Web site, the member said nothing about this government's commitment to protect the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. A few days later, the same member gave an interview on the radio, during which he said that he had reaffirmed this government's opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Is the Premier concerned about the mixed messages her government is sending on oil and gas development and the impact of those messages on her government's credibility on this question?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no mixed message from this government. Our government's position has been very clear, and I have stated it for the member opposite many times. I have also provided the member opposite with copies of my correspondence with the Prime Minister on this subject and in January, I also spoke with the Prime Minister on this subject. There has not been an opportunity to advise the member opposite of that conversation; however, I have spoken with the chair of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board about it.
This government, as past governments, has indicated to the Canadian government and to the United States government that we are opposed to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We have consistently stated that in my meetings with Governor Knowles and in my meetings with the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister has stated that to President Bush and Clinton.
Ms. Netro: Mr. Speaker, our new Liberal MP told me last week that he would be in Washington today, lobbying for protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At the same time, the federal Energy minister is in Washington promoting a North American energy accord.
Can the Premier tell us which message her government expects the U.S. Congress to hear most clearly: the one from the high-profile Cabinet minister or the one from the backbencher MP?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would advise the member to examine her question very, very carefully. Canada's position on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has been very clear, and it has been reinforced by the Prime Minister, by the Minister of the Environment and by Minister Goodale.
Larry Bagnell, our Member of Parliament, is also very well aware of that message and has carried the same message that Yukon has carried on this subject.
Ms. Netro: This sounds like another example of how the liberals are flip-flopping on the issue of protecting the Porcupine caribou. Can the minister give her assurance that she will continue to use the so-called "special relationship" with her Liberal colleagues in Ottawa to keep pressing for the protection of the Porcupine caribou calving grounds?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This is another example of the member opposite reading her questions, as opposed to listening to what the answers are or giving any time to speak with any of us on this side, or to follow up on any conversations that we have. Our position as the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada's position has been very, very clear on this subject. And I would invite the member opposite to re-read that. And I will re-provide her with copies of correspondence, if that is what she wishes.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. McRobb: Last week I tried to get an answer out of the Minister of Renewable Resources about the Yukon protected areas strategy. However, instead of answering the question, the minister just blamed everything on the previous government.
It is now nearing the end of this government's first year in power. People expect this minister to accept the responsibility that goes with being in government and conduct himself accordingly. Both the Premier and the minister have said that YPAS legislation would be introduced in the next fall sitting of this Legislature. The Liberals also promised Yukoners that they will do what they said they will do. Will the minister commit to bringing in YPAS legislation to this Legislature by the fall?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: That is exactly what we said during the election, and we will be doing that. But I think it bears repeating that the damages incurred by the previous government on a certain sector of the public - namely, industry and mining - and breaking down the barriers of trust and commitment, go far deeper than obviously the Member for Kluane understands or even wants to understand. I think that it's very unfortunate that we are at this result, in getting the repairs done to the implementation of goal 1 areas. The Premier and I are working very diligently and meeting with industry, mining, and other private sector individuals, getting them back to the table with the other 20 members who are moving forward in the repairs to the damages imposed by the members opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister fails to live up to the responsibility expected of him in government and he continues the finger pointing. Well, I want to remind the minister that when he points his finger, there are three pointing back at him - one, two, three.
This government's own timetable indicates they're six months late. These delays must be overcome before this minister can make some progress in YPAS designations.
Another concern I had that the minister failed to address - I see he's having a good time over there, Mr. Speaker - dealt with the potential for backroom deals being made outside the public process.
Let me ask the minister again: will he assure this House there will be only one set of YPAS negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is good to know that the member opposite can at least count to three.
I would also remind the member opposite that there were 11 steps of implementation toward the goal 1 protected areas, and those steps were not applied correctly. No, they can't count that high. Thanks. And as a result of that, the government of the day created a tremendous distrust among a good sector of our population, to the point where they find it very hard to trust any government on what it says it's going to do. But we will, Mr. Speaker. We will persist; we will get them back to the table. We will move forward. There is going to be a YPAS; there will be protected areas in the territory. That was our commitment during the election, and we will do that with all Yukoners on side.
I will acknowledge that he says it's going to take time and patience. I don't think he has any idea what that means, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can withstand the personal attacks. Let me also assure the minister that I can count much higher than 11. In fact, this morning, I counted to 30, because I think that's about how many more months this Liberal government has in government.
Now, the minister continues to point the finger, but will he tell us how he intends to bring the parties together, as the Liberals said they would do?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I can't believe that they are trying to pass on advice to this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, on how to conduct negotiations. One of the things that we're very good at on this side of the House is listening, and we make every attempt to answer the questions for the members opposite. Quite frankly, after getting into the third session and listening to the advice offered by the other side, it's very obvious that we don't need it because we are doing fine without it. I think that we will only get better at it.
So, we will have these people back to the table. The Premier and I will conduct meetings individually to encourage these people to get back and build trust. We will listen to what they have to say and will take that into account in YPAS.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask members of this Legislature to join with me in welcoming well-known Yukon artist to the Legislature, Jim Robb.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - previously adjourned
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan. Adjourned debate, Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure this afternoon to respond to the budget tabled last week by the Finance minister. In order to do that, I will take the minister's own budget speech as a guide but I intend to give a more accurate picture of what this Liberal government is actually doing with this very large budget for the fiscal year 2001-02 by providing the necessary background and content.
At the very end of her speech, the minister said that her government will continue to listen to Yukon people and that she is proud to table what she calls a Yukon-made budget because it was created by all of us.
Mr. Speaker, I don't want to give any offence or cause any disruption in this House so I will refrain from saying anything that might imply that this statement is in any way dishonest or misleading. I will say that it's an exaggerated statement and I will say that it's a self-serving statement. I will say that it is a classic example of Lib-speak at its best - the spin of the week, possibly the spin of the month, even.
Mr. Speaker, let me acknowledge early on that people in the Yukon communities did participate in the pre-budget consultation meetings. Of course, we don't know how many meetings took place or how many people attended these meetings. We also don't know from her speech how many meetings the Finance minister personally attended and how many she off-loaded to other MLAs in the Liberal political staff while she was busy elsewhere.
That's why we asked the minister for that information just a few moments ago. Still, we don't know two things about the pre-budget consultation. First, we know that the idea of seeking pre-budget advice from Yukon people is not new, in spite of what the member opposite would like the people of the Yukon to believe. In fact, every budget that the previous government tabled clearly reflects the priorities of Yukon people, expressed directly by the Finance minister of the day. Second, we know that consultations took place much later this year than they have in past years. Those who are familiar with Yukon government procedures know that most budget-making decisions are made several months before the budget is tabled. Those who are familiar with the budget-making process know that the departments and the ministers have their wish lists on the table before even the Sears pre-Christmas wish book arrives in town. With that in mind, it's hard to accept the minister's claim about a made-in-Yukon budget that is, in her words, about everyday lives of Yukoners.
The minister simply did not start early enough or take enough time to develop a budget that truly reflects the current needs and priorities of Yukon people.
In her speech last week, the minister told us that budgets are chapters in the progress of people. Those were her words. This budget, she told us, is the first chapter that her government has written. Well, Mr. Speaker, maybe we should have stopped at the table of contents. If this is all we can come up with after almost a year, don't expect the next three chapters that her government has written to make this book a best-seller.
In fact, if these first chapters are any example of what the whole Liberal book will look like, it should be recommended as bedtime reading for people who have trouble sleeping, Mr. Speaker. This budget does not meet the traditional requirements of a certain celebration: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Instead, what we have is something old, something older, mostly borrowed, and nothing new. This is merely a patchwork of programs inherited from the previous government, juggled around, and given new names. A nip here, a tuck there, add a little and take a little, and you can pretend that we have a brand new quilt, Mr. Speaker. I will go into that in more detail a bit later.
Those of us who are part of the previous government should be flattered, I suppose. Perhaps we would be if this budget provided any evidence that this Liberal government has any idea of its own. Or that it knows what it is doing with the initiatives that it has borrowed.
On the first page of the budget speech, the minister repeats the Liberals seven-point mantra from the throne speech: economy, health care, addictions, land claims, devolution, infrastructure and confidence in government. She goes on to say that this budget works toward making these commitments a reality - Lib-speak spin of the week.
The first amendment that the official opposition introduced to this budget should be the speech itself. To make the sentence more accurate, it should read: this budget contributes mostly nothing toward making these commitments a reality, other than what the previous governments have already done.
Mr. Speaker, the budget speech goes on to pay lip service to the fact that the Yukon is part of a larger economic picture. It notes that the American economy is slowing down, and it accepts somewhat optimistic forecasts that Canada's economy will weather this storm.
One thing it does not do is recognize the impact of future transfer payments from the steady decline in the territory's population under this Liberal government. There's no sign of this downward trend coming to an end, and the national census being taken later this spring will no doubt paint a very bleak picture in terms of our population. Yet, in spite of that evidence, the Finance minister's tune is still, "Don't worry, be happy."
Well, Mr. Speaker, it's hard not to worry when you see the situation growing even worse with every new set of monthly figures from the stats branch. And it's hard not to worry when you see more and more people pulling up stakes and leaving the territory because they have lost faith in this government's ability to manage the economy.
It's hard not to worry when the Finance minister and her colleagues are so caught up with themselves that they either don't notice or don't care how bad things are here in the Yukon and how bad things could become.
How else can we explain the minister's modest expression of concern about how economic conditions in Canada, as a whole, might affect the formula financing grant. There was not one word about the impact that a smaller population will have on the tax revenue from the territorial resources, and not one word about the impact of a smaller population and smaller transfer payments from the federal government down the road.
Don't worry; be happy; everything's okay. That's what the Liberals want you to believe. That's Lib-speak. It's the spin of the week.
Last fall, we urged this government to take immediate and decisive action. We asked them to introduce a supplementary budget that would create badly needed jobs this winter so that more Yukon workers and their families would be able to stay here and earn a decent living. In spite of our urgings, the Liberal government did nothing. The supplementary budget, which is large - the $37 million tabled last fall - was mostly about government spending on itself, not addressing the problems of the economy.
Mr. Speaker, I'm very disappointed to see that this new budget for the fiscal year 2001-02 is not much different. And once again, we have record spending - a total of $538 million worth, including a contingency fund of $2.5 million, which is probably earmarked for something. This is where Lib-speak gets interesting. According to the Finance minister, the budget for 2001-02 includes a projected deficit of $24.1 million for the year. And she says that this will leave an accumulated surplus, or a savings account, of only $6 million as of March 31, 2002.
Let's take a closer look at these numbers. Let's look especially at the expected lapses - in other words, the money that's put into the budget for a given year but doesn't get spent in that year. What the Finance minister has done is include the lapses when it's convenient to her but not include them when they're not convenient.
In this case, she has chosen to underestimate the lapses of the 2000-01 fiscal year and ignore the lapses from the 2001-02 fiscal year altogether. According to Lib-speak, at the end of the current year - about a month from now, - the government will have about $30 million in their savings account and, once the bills for the current year are tallied up, they expect the savings account will grow to approximately $45 million. And you have to remember that this is the same government that insisted that it had a much larger accumulated surplus this year than it actually did. According to the Liberal math, the savings account was anywhere from $14 million to the actual figure of $64 million, which the Auditor General of Canada confirmed in October.
Now, the Lib-speak line is that there was only $30 million in the savings account at the end of this year, plus $15 million in lapsed funding. When you consider the commitments that the Liberal government haven't lived up to in the NDP budget that they adopted, it doesn't take much of a calculator to figure out the unspent money from this year, which would actually be much higher than normal. The lapses from the Mayo school fiasco alone are probably running close to $5 million. With more money going into the 2001-02 fiscal year and lapses from the year taken into account, the accumulated surplus at the end of March 2002 will actually be much more than the $6 million that the minister talks about.
So, why would the minister use that figure? There are probably a couple of possibilities.
Either she doesn't yet understand how the budget projection works or doesn't fit in with the Liberal agenda to use the real figures.
This Liberal government has certainly demonstrated its willingness to cry poverty when it wants to hold public demands in check. The Finance minister herself talked over and over again about fiscal responsibility. In fact, in her speech last Thursday about sound fiscal management and good use of taxpayers' money - and in that same paragraph in which she changes her mind about deficit financing and finally admits that drawing down the surplus is not necessarily a bad thing. In that respect, we should acknowledge the minister's growing understanding of public finance. At the same time, we should encourage her not to get too carried away and let the savings account get too close to the bottom to deal with any contingencies that may arise.
According to the budget speech, this budget, which focuses on rebuilding the Yukon's economy, we are told that it includes a substantial seven-percent increase in net capital spending, as well as direct spending on job creation. Surely that's a good thing, given how little attention this government has paid to the economy and job creation so far. But let's translate that, and you'll notice that the Finance minister's exact words were: "a substantial seven-percent increase in net capital spending over last year's main estimates and direct spending on job creation."
First of all, when the minister talks about increases in net capital spending, she's simply saying that the government is using slightly more money of its own for this purpose. That's because there is less coming in as a direct recovery from somewhere else. In this case, it's less money coming in; it's less U.S. money this year being spent on the Shakwak project. And if you believe in Lib-speak - and we certainly don't , Mr. Speaker - you are supposed to be impressed by the fact that there is $106 million worth of capital spending in this budget. Well, here's a news flash for the Finance minister: that $106 million is exactly the same as the actual capital spending in the 1999-2000 fiscal year.
When you consider how much fuel prices and other business costs have gone up in that time, the actual dollar value of capital projects in the coming year will be less than it was in 1999 and 2000. In fact, the budget speech even contains a chart showing that the percentage of the total government expenditures going toward capital projects has actually gone down in this budget to just below 20 percent. So when you strip away all of the Lib-speak, the pattern is clear. More spending on government operation and maintenance and less spending on capital projects.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it clear that the official opposition does not buy into the notion that the previous Liberal government or the Yukon Party has, that O&M is good and capital is bad.
Spending on programs that truly benefit Yukon people is an important part of providing good government. And I'd like to go on the record as saying that there are programs in this budget that we do support, especially the ones in the Health and Social Services field. There are other programs where we have concerns that there might be too much emphasis on administration and not enough on actual program delivery, and we'll be going into that area in considerable depth during departmental debate.
I should also make it clear that our party does not buy into the notion that jobs in the public sector are somehow not real jobs.
The Yukon is blessed with very hardworking and dedicated public employees, including teachers, school administrators, health care professionals and a variety of others, who provide important frontline services to Yukon people. Their contribution to the Yukon economy is vital, and they deserve to be treated with respect.
Having said that, I would like to return briefly to the Lib-speak in the minister's budget speech on the matter of private jobs. It was raised today in Question Period. When you look carefully at this section, Mr. Speaker, you'll see that the minister's actual words, "capital spending set out in this budget that has been tabled today will sustain almost 700 full-time private sector jobs." It does not say "create" - it says "sustain" jobs. The reality is that there is little or no hard evidence to suggest that this budget will create any jobs over and above the recurring, seasonal jobs in construction that traditionally flow from the government spending.
We will also be going into that area, of course, in much more detail in the departmental debate. And let me just say that, before you fall for the Lib-speak, it's important to look at what this government has done so far. A few examples should do.
The Liberal government has fumbled a major capital project in its first year - the Mayo school construction. They also backed away from offering any winter works programs this year, claiming that it had no money and it wanted to review proven programs like fire smart and the community development fund. It put the previous government's aggressive effort to expand and diversify the Yukon's economy through the training and investment strategy on the back burner. It closed the doors to guaranteed access to tidewater in Alaska for Yukon resources and manufactured goods. Now, with this budget the Liberal government is diluting the commitments of job creation projects in Yukon communities even further by cutting a very important program that was supported by communities - the community development fund. They have cut that significantly - by one third, at least - and increased the time it will take to make funding decisions on that program. I should also point out a glaring example of Lib-speak in the minister's reference to fire smart funding during her pre-budget consultation during which the minister claims her government heard concerns about why the previous government failed to set aside any money for this fund in last year's budget. Well, the minister is just plain wrong, and she knows it.
The previous government's practice was to provide funding for fire smart through the community development fund and they also have made commitments to do top-ups in the fall supplementary budget. With a surplus of $64 million last year, the minister could have done the same thing. The fact is she chose not to do so, and Yukon communities, of course, are the big losers.
In short, when you cut through the Lib-speak on economic development and job creation, the main message that comes through is this: mining, sure, if there's anybody left who wants to do it; roads, at least until the American money runs out. What about a pipeline? Maybe. Maybe even a railroad, if we cross our fingers and cross our hearts and don't cross the Americans. Oil and gas - if somebody else doesn't get all the business first. Forestry - if we have to and if the federal Liberals let us. And tourism, if we can come up with the right theme to attract them here and get them to stay a little longer and spend a little more.
In short, Mr. Speaker, this budget reflects a government that has, in my view, no vision of its own in its content and just rearranges deckchairs instead of steering a firm course into the future.
It is the budget of a government that believes you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, and maybe, if you put new names on things, takes credit for work someone else has done.
You can even fool all the people all the time. Income tax cuts are a great idea - an NDP idea - but we'll just keep that little fact to ourselves. Increased taxes on cigarettes? No, not an NDP idea. The NDP promised it would not raise taxes, and it didn't. That one is actually a Liberal original - to increase taxes. The trouble is that the thinking doesn't go far enough. According to the Finance minister, an extra two bits on a pack of cigarettes will persuade people to quit smoking cold turkey. That's just like the disgusting pictures the federal Liberals are counting on to do the same thing.
Along the way, this little cash grab that she mentioned will also put an extra $550,000 into the government's bank account. In the minister's words, additional revenue from this measure will improve the overall financial picture. Let's be clear, Mr. Speaker. Our caucus fully supports this government's goal of wanting to decrease the amount of use of tobacco, especially among young people. We know that tobacco is a killer and that there is a huge cost to individuals and society. It seems to be a double-standard that comes forward from the minister opposite. Here we are trying to encourage people in the Yukon to quit smoking, when we have all seen the pictures in the papers and the media of the Premier standing beside the Prime Minister, trying to sell cigarettes in China.
We laughed at that, too.
Since the Liberal government has decided to use tax increases to fight tobacco use, I have a suggestion for the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health, and I'm sure that our Health critic would agree on this. Instead of putting the $550,000 that he expects to make on the tax increases to general revenue, I urge you to consider putting the money directly into programs to help smokers overcome that deadly addiction. Perhaps it could be used to reimburse people who are successful in quitting for the cost of prescription and stop-smoking aids, such as Zyban.
As I said earlier, the official opposition will have no trouble supporting many of the program funding measures in this budget, particularly in the area of Health and Social Services. That support is due largely to the fact that so many of these expenditures are extensions of what the previous NDP government was already doing. And I'm pleased to note, for example, that this government has made a commitment to maintain stable funding for the Child Development Centre and the Whitehorse General Hospital. When we were on that side of the House, we increased the funding to the Child Development Centre and the Hospital Corporation.
Somewhere in the Lib-speak, however, we seem to have lost track of last year's budget commitments to provide capital and O&M funding for the CT scan unit at the hospital. We will, of course, be pursuing this matter again with the minister in this sitting.
Mr. Speaker, the additional funding to Kaushee's Place in Whitehorse, to the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake and to the women's shelter in Dawson City is also welcome news. While we all wish for the day when such shelters are not necessary, it is good to see the important work they do for Yukon families being recognized.
I'm also pleased to see increased funding for the victim services and programs for abusive spouses, as well as the proposed new line-of-life program to help seniors in emergencies. I look forward to hearing the details of those programs, of course, from the Minister of Health and Social Services.
At the same time, it was disappointing not to see a commitment to new, stable, long-term funding agreements with other non-governmental organizations. I hope the Minister of Health and Social Services will be able to bring forward some good news on this front during this sitting.
Another area of disappointment is a rather paltry sum that has been set aside for recruiting and retaining health care professionals. The shortage of doctors and nurses across Canada, particularly in the northern and remote regions, has become acute, and the competition with jurisdictions such as Alberta is intense. The minister's speech indicates that the government intends to announce further measures to attract medical professionals in the next few months, and I urge the government not to delay in getting concrete initiatives in place as quickly as possible.
This brings us to another Lib-speak and the habit of rewriting history, which has become a hallmark of this Liberal government. I am referring to the announcement, or should I say reannouncement, of funding for the new continuing care facility in Whitehorse.
In order to save money over the long term, our government decided to complete construction of the 96-bed facility at once. Those are the Finance minister's words, Mr. Speaker, not mine. And they would be fine words, indeed, if they conveyed anything new. But the simple truth behind the Lib-speak is that the 96-bed facility was and is an initiative of the previous government, not this one. Once again we see a government with no plan and no vision of its own, taking credit for work that was done by others. Again, we might feel flattered if we had more confidence in this government's ability to follow through.
It is interesting to note that Yukon no longer enjoys the status of spending the second highest amount per capita on health care in Canada. We have now slipped to third place, behind Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. And with the federal government starting to restore funding in health care and education, another interesting pattern is emerging. Under the previous government, our spending on education and health was not only maintained, but even went up, at a time when Ottawa was cutting transfers to these areas. Now, the trend is being reversed. Ottawa is spending more and the Yukon government is spending less. The cuts to O&M spending in education for both public schools and advanced education are quite significant. And I think that it is fair to say that it is not a healthy trend.
Mr. Speaker, just as we, on this side, fully support efforts to reduce tobacco use, we also fully support meaningful efforts to combat the alcohol and drug addictions. Having said that, here we are confronted with basically another classic example of Lib-speak. This time, we have another reannouncement of a reannouncement, based on an announcement the Minister of Health and Social Services made many months ago, and I am, of course, referring to his pet project, the alcohol and drug secretariat. That leads me to suspect that the close relationship between the Ottawa Liberals and the Yukon Liberals has, at least, taught this government one thing: how to spin the same story eight times in eight different ways in the hope of fooling people into believing it's something new.
The Finance minister's friend and counterpart, Paul Martin, is famous for this technique, so much so, in fact, that it's almost impossible to tell where Martin's budget ends and the next one begins.
This is what our famous minister had to say last week, "Today, I am announcing that the funding for the secretariat has been set at $2.36 million for the first full year of operation." What the minister should have said is: "Today, I am announcing an additional $250,000 to set up a new, centralized bureaucracy to coordinate and deliver alcohol and drug services." That's what the announcement should have said.
Time alone will tell how effective this new secretariat will be, or how much of the funding that is set aside will simply be gobbled up by administrative costs.
Certainly, on this side of the House, we would like to see more emphasis put on programming, and particularly on the community-based alcohol and drug treatment programs, and we will be pursuing this matter with the minister quite vigorously. And, with some reservation, we do support the additional attention this government intends to pay to the troubling problem of fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects.
Our support would probably be much stronger if the budget actually included a financial commitment to go along with these fine words of the budget speech. As with many other initiatives, however, this government seems to be waiting for the federal government to make the first move.
Mr. Speaker, it's well-known that two of this Liberal government's seven priorities are settling outstanding First Nation land claims and achieving devolution of the Northern Affairs program from the federal government to the Yukon.
For that reason, it is mystifying to see so little of this budget dedicated to reaching those objectives. In the case of land claims, for example, total funding for land claims and the implementation secretariat in the Executive Council Office has increased only $100,000, or, two percent. This also includes the long-delayed development assessment process, which we have heard very little about ever since this Liberal government has taken office.
Intergovernmental relations, apart from First Nations relations, has gone down by 13 percent. To translate that from Lib-speak into something more accurate would seem to suggest how much real importance this government is placing on the devolution file.
There is a statement in this part of the budget speech that we intend to pursue in some depth later. The Finance minister said that preparations to assume the responsibilities include a new deputy ministers review committee. It is a review committee that is actually examining the renewal of the Yukon government incorporating devolution to ensure a citizen-oriented administration. At the same time as spending on intergovernmental affairs is going down and both the development assessment and land claims secretariats have modest increases, the budget for Cabinet management support has gone up by 63 percent and government audit services shot up by a staggering 105 percent. I will return to these items in detail later, along with the so-called strategic management unit, which is supposed to help the government's goal of restoring confidence in government.
This brings us to the section of the budget speech dedicated to developing infrastructure - not the section on the environment, because there isn't one, and not the section on education, because there isn't one of those either. I guess those aren't really the priorities of this government.
Certainly, the budget speaks loudly by its almost complete silence on those topics.
Now, when we look at this government's spending plans for community infrastructure, what we see at work is the Liberal jellybean theory of planning. What the minister has done is sprinkle a number of jellybeans around the territory so that she can say that every community got a little something. Here are a few examples mentioned in the budget speech: $35,000 for a fire hall in Pelly Crossing; $15,000 for an electric fence around the Liard First Nation community dump; $50,000 for riverbank erosion in Old Crow, and $55,000 for improving Ross River's water supply. Those four items, which are pretty typical of how this government has responded to community requests, come to a grand total of $155,000 worth of infrastructure projects through the Community and Transportation Services capital budget. What the budget speech didn't say is that that same department will be getting the same amount - $153,000 to be exact - for computer equipment and system for its own use. That equation pretty well sums up the spending priorities of this Liberal government, and we'll be very interested to receive the Finance minister's list of what was requested in each of the pre-budget meetings so that we can compare that to what the various communities and organizations actually received.
On big-ticket items, there is more money for highways. We agree with the Finance minister that the jobs this spending creates will be welcome to our current, depressed economic climate.
At the same time, the official opposition will have some very pointed questions for the Finance minister and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services about what is not in this budget.
For example, where is the long-term commitment to fixing the Tagish Road, which was in the NDP's long-term capital plan? Where is the $1 million a year that our government identified for improvements to the Campbell Highway? If those items are in there, they are well-hidden. Why? Because this government has not bothered to present a long-term plan for capital spending. When they were on this side of the House, they criticized us for not including a long-term plan in the first two budgets that we presented. Now the shoe is on the other foot. And in their haste to patch together a budget following a very late start on pre-budget consultation, maybe they simply ran out of time, or maybe the Finance minister is waiting until this fall, when she comes back with a separate capital budget as she has promised in her speech.
On the positive side, I am glad to see that the government has agreed to honour the NDP commitments to long-term funding agreements for recreation facilities in Whitehorse and Dawson City. It still remains to be seen how the question of funding for sewage treatment in Dawson City and Carmacks will be resolved. And it is good to see more money being put in to road-side brush and weed clearing, which is a problem that we brought forward to this government's attention during last year's very wet summer season. And as the MLA for the Mayo-Tatchun area, I am also glad to see a needed investment of $1.1 million for the maintenance funding for the Silver Trail, and I know that the community of Mayo has also asked this government to pay attention and spend some money on the Silver Trail, especially between Mayo and Keno.
I'm also encouraged that this government appears willing to honour the commitments made by the NDP for recreation facilities in Carmacks. At the same time, the Liberals have appeared to abandoned the priority list for the school capital construction. As a result, planning work on both the Pelly and the Carmacks schools, which was to start this year and the next, has been moved, or been bumped, off the priority list and replaced with the expansion projects on the two Whitehorse schools.
Now, with the Mayo school project out to tender, we have a number of questions on this side of the House about where the government plans to go next in terms of school projects, and how it will be making its decisions - whether or not it will be honouring the priority list that was put forward by the department and the chair of the school councils from across the Yukon.
Another major infrastructure project that raised many questions is the Mayo to Dawson City electricity transmission line. The budget speech acknowledges that this is a multi-million dollar project, but the government has yet to explain what the impact of this expenditure will have on the financial picture of the Yukon Development Corporation.
One of the key questions to the electricity ratepayers is what this megaproject means for the future of the rate stabilization fund, which has kept electricity rates stable for the past three years.
I have two final observations on infrastructure, Mr. Speaker. First, it is good to hear that the Yukon stands to benefit from participating in the federal infrastructure program. Still, we have yet to see just how far the expected $2.4 million will actually go in terms of infrastructure for water and sewer and solid waste management projects. Secondly, I should point out another classic example of Lib-speak. Here's what the Finance minister said: "During our budget consultation, we received a request from Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation 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." That's the Liberal spin. Now, here's the translation: $260,000 for work on the Tombstone Park was identified this year in the NDP government's long-term capital plan. It was included in the main estimates for 2000-01. The good news is that the Liberals have at least decided to honour the commitment, and the bad news is that, once again, they are trying to pass the idea off as their own.
Mr. Speaker, that brings us to the final section of the budget speech that we heard last week - the section about restoring confidence in government. And I mentioned earlier that there were some expenditures in the Executive Council Office that have a bearing on this important goal. One is the internal audit unit set up to review the efficiency and effectiveness of programs. The other is the strategic management unit designed to help programs manage and review and update programs and implement accountability frameworks.
If these two units do what is claimed, they might, in fact, contribute to public confidence in this Liberal government, which it sadly needs. However, with a combined price tag of $602,000 in the coming fiscal year, it remains to be seen if this will be money well-spent. A new bureaucracy to check up on the bureaucracy might not be the best way to go in the long run.
Now, we have already seen major increases in the Executive Council Office's O&M budget for Cabinet support, probably in part to cover the high-flying habits of the Premier and her colleagues. If we finally get to see results, and this government starts making real progress on its seven priorities, that will improve public confidence.
If the government starts demonstrating that it has some vision, that it knows where it's going and how to get there, especially on the economic front, that will improve public confidence. And if the Lib-speak ends and the government starts talking straight with Yukon people, that will improve public confidence. Most of all, if this Liberal government starts really listening to people and treating them with respect, that will also help improve public confidence. And, Mr. Speaker, that includes my translation of the budget speech from Lib-speak to something more accurate.
Certainly, before I conclude, I do have to recognize that, within the budget and in my riding, there are some benefits that will be going to the communities that have been outstanding for a long time. The big one, of course, is the Mayo school.
Although the budget reflects $2.2 million this year, it would have been nice to have simple wording within the budget that shows the carry on, which is going to be a revote from the previous budget, to be included as a total package for the school. I think that anybody reading the budget is wondering where these large items are and why they weren't even mentioned. And, like I said earlier, there seems to be hidden messages throughout the whole budget about the amount of dollars that the Yukon government actually has and what is on paper in front of them to look at.
There was a lot of mention about the Campbell Highway and improvements that need to be there. Some recognition was given to the Campbell Highway, but I can't help but notice that even with the NDP budget, when the Liberals took over the administration of that budget, they did not carry on the continuation work that the NDP had. And I know that the Member for Faro is very, very familiar with that road and the chipsealing that was put in place from the junction in Carmacks which was to continue. And now we are back to patching up the roads in spots. And it would have been nice to have that continued on and at least give us some really good road to Little Salmon Lake and beyond, and look at the major safeguards and safety issues that are on the road beyond Little Salmon and right around to the other side.
When the Premier mentioned that there was $1 million for the Carmacks recreation centre, I thought that this was new monies, but after going back and checking through the NDP budget, it was broken down into two years so that we were not bringing down our surplus dollars in that year, and we recognized this as long-term funding.
But what I have been told is that the project, because of its size and so on, went overbudget even before construction began, by some $800,000. The Premier herself told this House that she would not be letting any project that has been underway, letting any municipalities or organizations left holding the bag. And I hope that comes true. Maybe that should be reflected, even as a capital project, if the member wants to bring that forward in the fall session under the capital budget.
What I also did not see in here was a follow-up on the school councils' priority list of planning for completions of two other schools that have been on their list, by the department and the chair of the school councils. One was the school in Carmacks, and the other was the one in Pelly Crossing. I have not seen any planning money in this budget at all. Now it has slipped to another year. And, of course, the question, when I go back to my riding is: why wasn't it reflected there? Certainly, we can get some really clear answers from the Minister of Education on that.
I also didn't see any mention - and this becomes a bit of a problem, and that's why I mention it so much - of the long-term plans that government should be putting in place. There is none from the Liberal government, and I cannot take anything back to my community to say that there are monies in place for planning or whatnot. There has been strong support for infrastructure to communities, but I have not seen any commitments in the form of dollars to the sewage system in Carmacks. This was talked about by several people on the government side, and I was surprised not to see that reflected.
The Selkirk First Nation is not a municipality; they don't get block funding, as we all know, and they have to plan, work with governments and departments, and work harder than most to try to meet the needs of the community. I know that they came forward to the government with a five-year capital plan, and one of their first priorities was the fire hall in Pelly Crossing. It is good to see money in there. I don't know what the whole project is. I do know that the Village of Mayo had been asking for a new fire truck, and they followed up with a letter that came from the Department of Community and Transportation Services from the previous government about doing repairs to the truck, and when its life expectancy has run out, it will be replaced. That's up and gone, and it hasn't been replaced yet. So I hope that the government takes note of that.
Also, Keno has not been mentioned. It is a destination for tourists. As most of you know, if you go up there, there's lots to see there. It's not a very big place, of course. As far as communities go, they're not mentioned at all for receiving any type of money for any improvements to infrastructure in that area. I was disappointed in that, and I know the members opposite will be raising their concerns about project commitments in their communities, and I look forward to debating this budget in the departments in much detail. When you look at the budget that the Liberals put forward and the budget speech presented by the Premier, and you look at what the NDP produced in 2000-01, you can see the flow right into the Liberal budget. That's good to see, because that shows that the programs that were introduced by the NDP and the projects have had a lot of strength to them and a lot of meaning behind them. Although they were criticized by the Liberal government in the past, they have now come to realize that these are important and they have chosen to continue on with some of these projects.
That's a good sign, although the important ones have been cut - like the community development fund, which means some areas have a tough time accessing any type of money. For example, Stewart Crossing needs a place for their children, like a youth centre. This type of fund would have been ideal for that. I hope that, in the future, the government will top up the community development fund, although they broke it down by having the arts fund and saying that different types of organizations could apply to this fund. It's just not the same any more; all of a sudden it's made tougher.
That basically concludes my response to the Premier's budget speech. I know that many others have a lot to say on this, and I look forward to hearing some of the responses from the government side, too.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: To begin with, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Premier Pat Duncan for delivering an informative and captivating budget. This is long in coming, Mr. Speaker. It's a budget that captivates and translates Yukoners' needs and future. It is rather interesting that the member opposite talked about the supplementary budget a bit in his response. And the member opposite forgot to mention that over three-quarters of that was to pay their VISA bill. That's why it was such a huge supplementary budget, because the VISA bill had been outstanding for the last three and a half years. So we had the courage to pay it off.
And the other point I noticed is that the opposition still believes that they are government for some reason. They are constantly referring to their own projects and to what they have done and where they have been. And, of course, we obviously know where they are now. So, Mr. Speaker, it is very important to understand the background and the backdrop for the response.
I am confident that the members for this House really enjoyed the speech that the Premier gave us last Thursday. This considerate action by the Premier to have the speech done on a Thursday was for all of us, in that we at least had the weekend to prepare our response. That was a very productive move by the Premier.
On a more personal note, I spoke to many people over the weekend, and they expressed to me that they were glad that they had heard the budget speech. I was up in the gallery, after I went into the foyer after the speech, and spoke to many of my colleagues up there at least until the last one left. And for many of them, they had never heard a Speech from the Throne or a Premier's speech, so it was really insightful for them.
They believe more of that should happen. The speech has definitely reached Yukoners, and it definitely has reached a level of awareness that Yukoners were involved in this building of the future, as was shared here earlier by many of our supporters, by going out to the communities and finding out what they wanted. And where they want to go in the future is very important. We did not assume, Mr. Speaker, that we had all the answers.
This budget speech is about Yukoners, and each one of us on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, has taken the time, the energy and the insightfulness of sharing and having our constituents share with us what they would like to see in the future. I think it is a landmark for the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, to have the caucus on this side involved with the development of the future, along with our government support people and the people who hopefully make it happen.
We have heard some familiar thoughts and some unique thoughts. Mind you, the Yukon is unique. Its people are unique; they have wide-ranging opinions, and we're very thankful to Yukoners for having the energy and the support and the openness, which, I think, is the key thing - the openness and the honesty to come forward with their opinions.
In days gone by, Mr. Speaker, I think many Yukoners felt that they couldn't be honest about where we should go in the future, but I really believe that, this time around, Yukoners felt that they could give us their honest opinions about where we should be.
Our Yukon community visits also provided us with some valuable insights, and, of course, we have asked for their top priorities. We listened. We asked about the service of government because we are a service-oriented party. We want to see government service people and, Mr. Speaker, this is what the people of the Yukon are saying: the government is there to serve them.
We did not promise the sun, the moon, the stars, but we did promise them a hope, a future.
The budget delivers on Yukon priorities - priorities that this government has been talking about for the past 10 months. We are talking about 10-year priorities, Mr. Speaker, not three-and-a-half/four-year priorities. Unfortunately, that has been the rule of many governments in the past and it has gotten us nowhere. We have politicized almost every little bit of the Yukon, which I think is unfair. Yukoners want to be part of the solution.
Priorities like rebuilding the Yukon economy. Yes, slow in coming, Mr. Speaker, mainly because of, I would suggest, the attitude of former governments as to how it should be done. Also because of mining, which is way beyond many of us, but we have done our bit there to try to fix it. Addressing health care, which is fundamental to all of us. Addressing drug and alcohol addictions. I am very pleased to hear from the members opposite that they want to ask a lot of questions about drugs and alcohol because we have been asking questions for years. Hopefully, we can collectively come up with some answers. The big problem we have is that it has been ignored for so long.
Devolution, land claims and infrastructure that the leader of the second party spoke so eloquently about - yes, Mr. Speaker, we, as a Liberal Party, are about infrastructure for long-term benefits.
And last but not least - and, by the way, it's on a horizontal plane that we have our priorities - is restoring confidence in government.
Mr. Speaker, the fact that we have involved our government in setting our direction, setting our future and setting this budget, I think, demonstrates that we are very positive about involving all sectors of the Yukon economy.
These priorities can help create a healthy Yukon and a well-balanced Yukon. These priorities focus on maintaining what is working in government and improving the areas of government that need improving.
Before I got involved in government, Mr. Speaker, I felt that I had some knowledge and understanding of budgets and how governments operate. Since I joined this government and have been in government, I found there is a vast difference in really understanding what the demands are on all sectors, in order to present a balanced picture to Yukoners. It's a very, very difficult task.
You know, Mr. Speaker, it is very important that we do the right things first. If we don't, we pay in the long run. You can't buy people off. Unfortunately, in past governments, that may have been what was going on. We have to really look at how we build infrastructure and that we involve Yukoners honestly in the whole understanding of governance. It's not just 11 people on this side and six or seven on the other side deciding the fate of the Yukon. It's all Yukoners deciding the fate of Yukoners.
As I said earlier, it's our role in government to serve people, to help people understand and do whatever it takes to see that government does its job.
I will attempt to do this today by putting the Yukon's budget into perspective. When we hosted many of the meetings in my riding, many of my constituents did not understand surpluses and deficits. I did not understand them, Mr. Speaker. It is not one of those topics out there on a daily basis.
It's jargon, and it means very little unless you're in it all the time, Mr. Speaker, so we have to find ways of communicating with our public about what government is all about. We have to be able to demonstrate to Yukoners that it's not our words that make government nor make policy - it's actually doing things. It's important for me and my colleagues and my caucus members to relay the facts about government in an easily understood manner, and that's going to be the challenge for all of us, Mr. Speaker.
Where does the Yukon fit in the picture of Canada? Obviously, if the economy is doing well in other provinces, why is the Yukon not doing as well? Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, there are probably many reasons for it. We are very dependent upon the federal government, and we're dependent mainly because of our population and our jurisdiction - it's so large and so vast. We are also very dependent upon primary activities like mining, which, when the market goes down in the rest of Canada, obviously - or the rest of the world - we pay a heavy price here.
It's very important for us to put all things into perspective. It also has something to do with looking at how formulas are put together - formulas that translate into dollars in our economy. One of the issues is specific funding like the Canada health and social transfers, which are also based on population. When you have a small population, you get a small amount of money. If you have increasing costs that are escalating at a rapid rate, then you have to find ways of paying down your expenditures. It's very important, Mr. Speaker, to understand that if we don't have these dollars to pay off our bills - we are a government that cannot go into debt; therefore we have to look at ways and means of balancing it.
It's important for Yukoners to know that there isn't a bottomless pit to our funding. Unfortunately, we are not in the situation where we took over a budget or a surplus of $80 million, like the last government did, Mr. Speaker. They had a surplus of $80 million and, of course, we ended up with a surplus of $64 million, as the Auditor General says, and $35 million of that $64 million had been spent by the former government. So we were down to $30 million. So there you are, Mr. Speaker.
What the opposition does is make a picture out there that there's a $60-million surplus. There never was a $60-million surplus. They never share with the public that they had spent half of it before they even stepped out of office, and I think, Mr. Speaker, they spent most of it between April 1 and April 17, because, by that time, we were in deep trouble when it came to paying off our debts.
In this budget, we have increased our capital spending by over seven percent, and we're looking at infrastructure - I think the members opposite are very pleased about that - especially roads that, under their watch, weren't looked after. They depended on the Shakwak to inflate their road money, which was American money, not ours.
Capital spending means new projects, not salaries. We are attempting to rebuild the economy through our mining initiatives, through the Minister of Economic Development - again looking at some very hard work done with the federal government to bring about a little more of a challenge, a little more of an incentive to reinvest into mining. So we thank our Premier for that.
There will be over $3.4 million in new projects and programs that will create jobs for Yukoners and, of course, oil and gas. We are just moving ahead - trucks going up and down the highway. It's just unbelievable. Again, it's because of the openness that this government has. We are very -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I feel so good today I want to be helpful to the minister. The trucks that are heading up and down the highway are heading to the Northwest Territories, so maybe he should correct the record because they're not coming to the Yukon.
Speaker: I find there is no point of order here. It's merely a dispute between members.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I find again, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite can't take any facts for what they are. Many of these trucks are going to Eagle Plains. That's why the lodge there is full, right up until break-up. We have 60 people working there. I'm not sure the members opposite know that, or if they even want to know that, because it also shows that we're doing something.
Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to a lot of people. I have really tried to connect with Yukoners, and I think our caucus and our government believe that that's the way we make change.
I know for a fact that many of my colleagues felt very positive about the responses they got from Yukoners about how this budget should be prepared and about the future. They really tried to understand that putting budgets together is not a simple matter, and the more we translate these issues, Mr. Speaker, into what Yukoners can really go along with is very important.
Another initiative in the budget is the tourism stay-another-day program. The Minister of Tourism, my colleague, has worked very hard at trying to ensure that travellers will stay another day and this should translate into more dollars here for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, it's very important for us to understand that we're working very hard. In our 10 months we have done probably what no other government has done over their three- or four-year mandates. We have done so many successful ventures. We have people thinking positively. We have people looking at the Yukon and saying, "This is a place to invest."
The interesting thing about it, Mr. Speaker - the Member for Dawson speaks very loosely about his town. They have never been so busy, so obviously there are a lot of good things happening there. I think there are very few unemployed people there, so obviously something is happening that is correct. I think that one of the important parts about listening to Yukoners is really looking at how we, as government, can build together. And I think that the important fact for us is to try to develop what we feel are the important issues in our health care. We had many people respond to how we have packaged our - what they call "user-friendly" budget, because they believe that budgets have become so distant from the people that when they read them they don't know what is in them. And we have tried to do that, Mr. Speaker.
We have raised the tax on tobacco. I believe that this is a prevention method, and research and statistics show that that is the best way of doing it, along with all the other methods. It's not the only way, but it is one of the better ways. When it hits the pocket, people tend to think twice if maybe they want to do this. We know that smoke-related health care issues are among the highest in the health care system, and we have to start tackling those issues even much stronger than we have been in the past. We also have many rising costs in chemotherapy. We are doing many of our treatments right here in the Yukon, so those are rising costs that we have to try to really support.
We also know that we have a lot of issues in the whole area of our mental health. We need a lot of support and a lot of backup. We have a lot of resource people. We have a lot of people working very hard at trying to include Yukoners in the development of building their own vision of how we should work together.
As the leader of the official opposition pointed out, the chart on page 10 of the budget speech puts Yukoners in third place for per capita spending on health. Hallelujah, Mr. Speaker. We want to lower that even more, and we still want to offer the best health care system in the country. We don't want to be the highest spenders, Mr. Speaker. We want to look for better ways of ensuring that Yukoners take control of their own health and believe in prevention versus spending all the dollars after the fact.
What the member opposite also mentioned is that last year we were second. There seems to be a little NDP denial going on there, Mr. Speaker. Our position is that health care expenditure is only reflected by the fact that the difference between this year and last year is that Nunavut was not on the chart last year. So obviously there's a misunderstanding there.
The fact remains that we are among the top three in Canada's per capita expenditures on health, Mr. Speaker. We do spend a lot of dollars on a per capita basis. For the first time in the history of the Yukon, we're spending over $125 million, which has been dedicated to the Department of Health and Social Services for operations and maintenance. Now, if that isn't an indicator of maintaining our health care system, then I don't know what is. As we mentioned earlier, our Liberal commitment to maintain stable funding to the Whitehorse General Hospital still stands. We are transferring over $19.5 million to the Hospital Corporation.
We are also very much aware of the situation with doctors and nurses all over the country. This government has done far more in the recruitment of doctors and nurses than any previous government, and yet it's not enough. We know that, and we appreciate the opposition pointing that out to us. It's not enough. We're in a crisis state, Mr. Speaker, in some of our health care areas. So we've got to work long and hard. We're working with the doctors; we're working with the nurses. We have put forward some initiatives there to work closely with them. They want to be partners in our health care system.
We have set aside $140,000. Is it enough? I don't think so, Mr. Speaker, but we are now working on building that next stage of how we work with our partners. We don't do this willy-nilly, Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Dawson would like to think - just go out and do it. We actually talk to our partners. We actually get feedback from our partners.
Other areas of need in Health and Social Services are those services provided for residence for children. We cannot ignore the growing concern, and we have over $300,000 for that particular support.
Our social network is important to Yukoners. We met with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Association, the Yukon Status of Women Council, the Help and Hope in Families Society in Watson Lake, and the Dawson shelter. The message was adequate funding to provide proper service. We have responded, Mr. Speaker. Kaushee's receives an additional $100,000 from this government. By the way, that's the first time in the last number of years that they get an increase. There is $62,000 for Help and Hope in Watson Lake. And I was just there in Watson Lake, talking to the people there. They are ecstatic with the Liberal government, that we deliver. And there is $62,000 for the Dawson shelter, Mr. Speaker. We have delivered.
We have also heard about the adequately resourced victim services and programming for abusive spouses - $155,000 through our Justice department. Again, Mr. Speaker, we have delivered.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the next item - I think past governments should be ashamed for not responding to this very important role that our foster parents play in the Yukon. They are some of our most important support people in our communities. They had not received an increase for 11 years. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, any government not giving these very worthwhile support people just a cost-of-living increase, just for clothing, just for the rates, the taxes. Many of these people - I spoke to them - they have felt that for years, they should have had at least some increase. It's maybe not what they wanted, the total amount, but it's a beginning. The first government in 11 years that is going to be dedicating $100,000 to increasing foster rates. We think that's marvellous in recognizing the work of these people.
Many non-profit organizations have not received increases to reflect an increase in demand for their services. Unfortunately, we are not able to respond to every NGO. We have listened to Teegatha'a Oh Zheh - $50,000 for staff and training. Again, another support for a very important service in our community. The Yukon Family Services Association will receive another $39,000. Many of the rural communities obviously know what that means. It means that they, themselves, will be seeing that kind of support because we have people going to the rural areas and we think it's very important that the rural areas have this kind of support. As you know, the CDC, the Child Development Centre, spends a lot of time in the rural areas. So does Yukon Family Services. We're very pleased with being able to announce increased funding for these very important organizations.
In the area of drug and alcohol services, we have put aside $2.36 million for the first full year of operation. Mr. Speaker, this is the first time in the history of the Yukon that we have put money into a separate secretariat to address this plague in our communities - the drug and alcohol plague. It's very important, Mr. Speaker, that we try to address these issues on a much higher profile than we have in the past. We have added another quarter of a million dollars to the regularly assigned dollars for drug and alcohol services, and this is to really look at how we, as a community, can start to build positive programs. Is that the total amount? I doubt it. It's the beginning.
At least, again, we as a government delivered. We said that addictions and substance abuse is a problem, and we have delivered. Are we finished? No, we have, I would say, another nine years to really maybe start to see some progress, because it is going to take 10 years to see some results.
The Liberal government recognizes that we need to do a better job treating Yukoners with addictions. I would just like to pass on something that I have mentioned to many people in my constituency and during my community visits. Last August, the review of the government's alcohol and drug services showed that there were problems in the way services were being delivered. The review provided some recommendations on how to provide better service and how to treat Yukoners more effectively. And in our first 10 months in government, we have delivered.
In order to move ahead, you need leadership, and if we continue to go the way we have gone in the past, nothing changes. So the whole objective in creating the secretariat was to address a new leadership that was directly answerable to the minister so that we can get some high profile support from all community members. And, again, this is a stage; it is not one of the final answers. We are not completely confident that everything will happen the way we have done it in the past; we are hoping to see changes. And that is the idea in not sort of closing all of the doors.
A careful consideration of Yukoners is very important for us in developing the future in alcohol and drug services. We are tackling this issue head-on. A quarter of a million of dollars is a quarter of a million dollars, and that is more money than past governments have put in that area. So I believe that we are delivering again.
Our goal is to be efficient and to be effective. We know we have old governments on side. We know that city governments, town governments and First Nation governments want to be part of the solution, but they need resources, they need support, and they're very optimistic about where we're going and how we're going to work together.
It's our goal to unite Yukoners in healing our communities, and it isn't clear, Mr. Speaker, but again, $250,000 is more money than has ever been put in drug and alcohol services in the past. It's very, very important that we recognize that.
We don't have all the answers, as a government. What we can do, Mr. Speaker, is try to open some doors so those people out there, being our Yukoners, can really contribute to the solutions.
When I hear people raise issues with children, adults or the disadvantaged, no matter how it comes out, I see it as a message for Yukoners that we have a job to do. It's not up to government to have all the answers. It's not up to certain individuals to have all the answers; it's up to all of us, as Yukoners, to have answers. We must use all our resources.
We have heard this from our community visits, Mr. Speaker. I can tell you that I really enjoy visiting communities, because you're talking with people, face to face, and they have a lot to tell you about what really needs to happen. And this government has taken that on as one of its primary challenges in trying to ensure that we reflect what Yukoners want and need.
We heard from many Yukon communities and constituents that throwing money at a problem does not make the problem any better. That was one of our big problems in the past, Mr. Speaker. We have thrown money everywhere, but with no rhyme nor reason. Mr. Speaker, we are putting rhyme and reason to programs and to direction. We are trying to work with Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Ross River asks for examples. I'd be here probably for the next three days if I had to give him examples. That's not the objective of this exercise.
We have heard that Yukoners want honesty, they want transparency, and they want people to be involved. We'd have to look at the quality and structure of our program, and we're going to do this together, Mr. Speaker. We have to look at health care in the big picture, not the little picture. This problem of health care, this problem of governance, this problem of working with each other, is not somewhere in Ottawa. It's right here. It's us working together. We have to work collectively. We have to provide opportunities for people to respond to what we're doing right and what we're doing wrong. That shouldn't be a personal reflection. That should be a reflection on where we should go collectively.
As I said earlier, there is a limit to how many dollars we have, and we really have to look at how we spend them in the best interest of all Yukoners.
FAS/FAE, Mr. Speaker. This government, along with past governments - I think finally the last government recognized sort of halfway through its mandate that there was a problem with FAS/FAE and they actually even would speak about it aloud. Up until that point, they had to be sort of hit over the head, that there was a problem. We know that's a serious problem in our communities, and it's a problem that we have to keep addressing. It's a problem that we as Yukoners have to solve. The government can't solve it by itself, but we as a community can solve it.
I think the important part for us, Mr. Speaker, is to ensure that when we're looking at health care, we look at it from the collective point of view. We have some very pressing problems throughout Canada.
Just recently, we mailed a report card to every Yukoner, and I have heard nothing but positives about our report card. A lot of Yukoners don't realize what our health care system is all about, and we probably were the first off the mark with this new initiative of reporting back to Yukoners. We are very pleased about how it turned out. Is it the masterpiece? Is it the perfect piece? I wouldn't think so. It's another way of trying to communicate with Yukoners. We're going to be doing a lot more of that in the future. Yukoners want to know how they can be contributors to a better system in the Yukon. It's not always with their hand out; they also want to have a hand up so they can give us some advice and give themselves some advice on how they can do a better job in their communities.
I think the other very important factor when you look at health care, Mr. Speaker, is the whole issue of how we can build what I call that future image. It's important to talk to our elders and our seniors, and draw from their experiences as to what has worked in the past and what they see wrong with our system and how we can better it for the future.
Our system isn't perfect, Mr. Speaker. We know that. Our costs are accelerating at an alarming rate, and remember, the pot is very small - a $6-million surplus in this budget. Any kind of major disaster would wipe that out in an instant. So we have had to be very frugal and we have had to be very cautious in how we spend our dollars, but I think we have done a great job in trying to build for the future.
I believe that we have looked at a number of other issues here that are going to lead us to a better health care system. Soon we will be looking at an active living promotion, which I think is very important for all of us. We as government and we as Yukoners want to be actively alive. We want to know what we can do for ourselves. I think this has been a movement that many of us believe is part of our lifestyles today, but we have to encourage more people to take this on as a way of building their own health. I think the important part for us is that we have to take ownership of our future. When I say "we" I mean the collective we - that's Yukoners, not the politicians on their own, because the politicians come and go. Yukoners are here forever. But we have to make sure that we give information to Yukoners so that good decisions can be made.
I think the important part for us is to ensure that we, as Yukoners, understand that they can be a part in the future. And we as a Liberal government have been working very hard at doing that. I would invite the members opposite to contribute to that visionary approach toward building for the future, rather than being, I would call it, destructive or negative. Be positive and offer solutions. Because I believe that together we can come up with ways of trying to build a better Yukon. I have heard from many seniors. I have been meeting with seniors over the last number of weeks, along with my colleagues, and it is very inspiring to listen to what they have to say about where we are at and where we should go. They believe very strongly that we have got one of the best health care systems in the country. They want to maintain that, but they also understand that it needs to be worked on, needs to be developed and brought into the 21st century, if we are going to call it that. We need to move on into the future because if we don't, we are not going to be able to afford our system. And this is why the whole emphasis in the Yukon and in Canada right now is to reassess our whole health care system.
It's not just going to go away. Yes, we have pressures; yes, we have challenges. We're not going to solve these by digging a hole and burying our head in the sand, Mr. Speaker. I think we have to be upfront about things that work very well. We have to be honest about things that are not working very well and see if we can better them. We just can't keep adding layer upon layer, Mr. Speaker and, unfortunately, sometimes governments can do that without realizing that they're not being efficient any more.
From my perspective, I believe this first Yukon Liberal budget is a good foundation for building that future. Is it perfect? I would be wrong in saying it was, but it's a good foundation for the future. It's open; it's transparent; it can be criticized; it can be improved; and I would invite the opposition members to contribute to that in a positive way. Good, solid suggestions, good, solid ideas, will not be turned away, but criticism for criticism's sake, just because you want the front lines somewhere, isn't going to buy any improvement. It has to be what I call "built in the Yukon, made by Yukoners."
Particularly in health care, we have shown that we believe in our health care system. We are going to be spending over $125 million. The last government started the extended care concept. We maintained it and we improved it. We added 24 more beds, Mr. Speaker, because we knew that we were going to need them by the time it was finished being built. So when good ideas come forth from whomever, we will build on them. We're not going to throw them away.
So, Mr. Speaker, that tells you that we are an inclusive government - ideas come from the bottom up, not from the top down.
I am very pleased to support this budget. I am very pleased to be a partner in helping craft this budget. I am very pleased to say, Mr. Speaker, that we have also used and developed an idea here that all Yukoners can be involved in one way, shape or form. We think that's the way we have to go in the future, Mr. Speaker. The important part for us, when it comes to health care, is that it will affect all of us. And who knows when it will strike one of us, who knows when we'll need it. That's why it's there. It's an insurance plan for our future.
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his remarks.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I thank the Premier and my caucus colleagues for being partners in this process. I thank Yukoners. I thank the government people who helped us arrive at this budget, because this is what it was: a made-in-the-Yukon budget. And I am pleased, Mr. Speaker, to say that this is the beginning of the 10-year foundation for good government and good delivery of services.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, after sitting through the last presentation, I concluded that if the Yukon were full of greenhouses and if the information were funnelled into those greenhouses, it would allow everything contained therein to grow at an alarming rate, but such is not the case.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond to this 2001-02 budget presented by this novice Liberal government.
And true to a Yukon Party position, I like to start off by offering a number of accolades for the areas where there is a welcomed increase in spending and then go on to critiquing what the budget will not do for Yukon.
The welcome news is, by and large, the increased funding for NGOs - women's facilities and such, victim services, the new lines of life. The welcome increase in funding is also recognized by the visitor industry - the increase in marketing, increase in support for a number of events. On the municipal front, the welcome news is that there's no reduction in municipal block funding. The status quo is being maintained. But I'm alarmed with the current trend of this government to lend the various municipalities funds and not budget for those funds in the normal routine course of each year's budget, as has been the trend in the past.
That pretty well sums it up, Mr. Speaker, for the benefits and the positive aspects other than that government will be maintained, the roads will be plowed, and schools may or may not continue to be operated, the health care system might be functional. But what we're seeing is the largest O&M budget in the history of the Yukon - all this when the economy has gone from a recession to a full-blown depression.
And the definition of the depression is outlined in any textbook, and one only has to see how many fiscal periods we have been going backward to qualify for that distinct position. Of all of the jurisdictions in Canada, the 13, we have gone backward the fastest of any of them, Mr. Speaker. That, in itself, is alarming.
So what do we have? We have this so-called first Liberal budget. Now, this first Liberal budget virtually follows the path of the preceding NDP budgets, and follows the same basic formula of having the government spend more and more money on itself while the population continues to decline, as Yukoners are forced to leave the Yukon to find jobs elsewhere.
The Yukon Party, prior to the budget being released, called upon the Liberal government to hold the line on O&M costs of government and increase the capital budget. They didn't listen; we didn't expect them to. They're all up there in their own little ivory towers, thinking they're doing a very good job. O&M spending by this government is up $35 million, and the reality of it is - contrary to what the Liberals have presented - capital spending will be down. What is being portrayed is the main estimates capital spending being up by some seven percent. We know what happened to the main estimates by how much has been deferred from last year, Mr. Speaker.
While that comparison bodes well for political mileage, until you ferret out the truth, Mr. Speaker, the reality one finds is quite to the contrary.
If you look at the capital projects being undertaken by the Liberals, virtually all of the major ones are just carry-overs from the previous NDP government. I don't even know why we needed a new government. We could have just taken the existing NDP platform, like the Liberals did, and carried through with it. This Liberal government is going to become known as the NDP Liberals or Liberal NDPs. It is being suggested that that's flattering, but it's not intended to be so.
If you look at the previous projects - the Mayo school. I am very hopeful that it will go ahead this year. It will probably come back to haunt this Liberal government in the form of a potential charge for bid shopping, given that there has been no basic change in the floor plan of the recently tendered documents. But so much for the political wisdom to cancel the Mayo school project. But let's wait and see what happens with respect to the Mayo school. I am very, very hopeful that an excuse will not be found this time to cancel that much needed project.
And then there is the other major capital project, the extended care facility. And that is just a continuation of a capital project started by the previous NDP government. Of course we listen to the Minister of Health expound on how it has been improved upon and enhanced. Well, so much for political spin and political rhetoric.
What we have is a government that is spending $33 million more, having the largest budget in Yukon's history of $535 million; and this budget isn't going to be putting Yukoners back to work, Mr. Speaker. There's not much optimism that can be derived from all this government spending, because the Liberals' economic policies are destroying development in the territory, if it hasn't already been destroyed and exited the Yukon.
If you look at the Liberals' position with respect to spending $3.4 million on mining, on the surface - to the layperson, to you and I, Mr. Speaker - that would appear to be a formidable increase and could provide much benefit to the mining industry. And on the face of it, it could very well occur that way, but the reality is quite something else. The reality is that the mining industry is very, very concerned with this government and their approach to the protected areas strategy. What we are seeing is a proposal to remove 40 percent of Yukon's land area from all development through the creation of 16 new parks. That's what we're seeing. That's what the mining industry is concerned with; that's what the mining industry is afraid of. They know it's going to happen. There's a committee that has been struck to look at it, and virtually everyone in the resource sector has seen how badly flawed and how one-sided the makeup of that committee is. They don't want any part of it.
Until that committee is brought back in a structured manner with equal representation from the resource sector and with equal representation from the environmental sector, we're not going to get anywhere with creating a level playing field and providing any certainty to the resource extraction area.
What we are doing is we are determining the course for the future of the Yukon with respect to resource extraction. It isn't just going to happen here any more; we're just going to be one big park, surrounded by armed guards. As I speak today, we have the mining recorders out in Regina, learning how to carry pistols. Canada Parks are going to be armed. We have this federal Liberal position of disarming all Canadians, but everyone in the resource area is going to be packing a great big nine-millimetre pistol on their hip.
It will be interesting in a few years' time, Mr. Speaker. Of course, we have that much-loathed Canadian institution, the Canadian Gestapo - more formally known as the federal Department of Fisheries - which seems to make their presence known, striding around with great big flak jackets on and pistols on their sides at any given opportunity. I wonder when the last occurrence was of a fish biting a fisheries officer here in the Yukon - to the extent that they need to carry and be armed to that extent, Mr. Speaker. But that's where we're heading.
We are creating a whole series of parks here in the Yukon, through various mechanisms - one being the protected areas strategy, not to mention land claims. We're creating another series of parks through land claims, not to mention the creation of more federal parks here in the Yukon.
In a few years' time, I can see the Government of the Yukon being the keeper of the gates and nothing else. That is going to be a sad day for Yukon, given that the Yukon was created as a distinct region of Canada because of the resource extraction industry.
Now, contrast what is happening in the Yukon to the Northwest Territories today, Mr. Speaker. The Northwest Territory brought down one of the largest budgets ever, at some $700-odd million. They have a surplus, for one of the first times ever, and it is as a consequence of the mining and oil and gas industry and the monies flowing to their respective coffers from the benefits of these major industries. And if you just look at the oil and gas industry, are the trucks coming through here going up to Eagle Plains? Yes, they are. But for the window of opportunity of some six weeks of work up in that area, Mr. Speaker, there are not a great deal of Yukoners going to work in the oil and gas industry in the Yukon here this year. If you start chatting with the helicopter companies, each helicopter company has about a two-week window of work, divided among three firms - that's it. If you start chatting with some of the other suppliers, about the only one that has a lock for the whole period and will be able to provide service for the entire amount of efforts that are being done in Eagle Plains is the lodge there.
And yes, there is a great deal of oil and gas. Yukon could actually be a net exporter of energy instead of a net importer of energy. It used to be said that of every dollar that changed hands in the Yukon, 25 cents went out of the Yukon to purchase energy. I don't believe that those statistics have altered significantly in the last little while. Probably they have changed somewhat because of the closure of a good deal of the mining activity that used to take place here. But there has been no encouragement to see any approach made to the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs on behalf of any of the shutdown mines to see them come back into production. If you start looking at the mine in Elsa and the approach made by the Nacho Nyak Dun First Nation to the minister, they are probably miles ahead in any approach made by any group to put back into production a mine that is not functioning.
One of the other areas and one of the largest spending areas is the Department of Health and Social Services. If we start looking at that department and the increase that it is seeing, it is quite significant in itself. It is the largest department in the Government of Yukon, but what we are witnessing is the creation of a whole new department of government to deliver a service. We are going to be spending $2,360,000 setting up a new bureaucracy to deal with alcohol and drugs - $2,360,000.
When we look at the serious FAS/FAE problem, and we look at what we're spending there, there's really only $10,000 devoted to education and prevention. I guess, Mr. Speaker, what we have is the Liberal approach to governing - create a bigger government to serve fewer and fewer people.
Let us look at some of the priorities of this Liberal government, and the Liberal news release summed it up quite well. The priorities include $30 million on highway construction - really no change from last year; $4.9 million for recreational facilities in Dawson, Carmacks and Whitehorse. Well, most of that money - or a good part of that money - is going to be loaned to the respective communities to address their needs. In previous budgets, it has been a line item.
Then we go on to see $11.8 million on educational projects, including the Mayo school, which I spoke about earlier; $9 million for the completion of the extended care facility; $2.36 million for the creation of an alcohol and drug secretariat, creating more and more government. The size of government today is at an all-time high. I believe the population is at an all-time low for the past six years. I could stand corrected by about a half a year, Mr. Speaker, but it's virtually at an all-time low. We're going backward, not forward.
If we start looking at the community development fund or what was the community development fund, it comes back with a new title. It's now called project Yukon. Project Yukon has $1.5 million in funding. Contrast that to last year, when the funding level was some $3 million, Mr. Speaker, or the year before, when the level of funding was $6 million. Now, no one is going to deny that when community development funds were spent in the past, there were some difficulties with the accountability, and the Yukon Party's position was to maintain community development funding but introduce a system of accountability to ensure value was received for the money.
What did the Liberals do? Well, they froze the community development fund, replaced the program with project Yukon, and reduced the funding to a third of its size some three years ago. Community development funding was one of the tools that government has in the past used to pick up the economy and do something with it virtually immediately - another missed opportunity, Mr. Speaker, by this Liberal government. We now have half a million dollars back on fire smart, and that funding will be welcome, Mr. Speaker.
It's very interesting to see some of the areas that are only highlighted and that are costing a great deal of money.
Connect Yukon - where are we at with the transfer of some $20-odd million to Northwestel? When are we going to start seeing the benefits in the areas where we were told we were going to see benefits? As a Yukoner, I do know that my telephone bill has gone up. It has gone up at an alarming rate these last number of years. Government of Yukon is spending more and more money on providing the basic infrastructure. I, as a ratepayer, am paying more and more. When am I going to see benefits accruing to me? When are my constituents going to receive the benefits that all other Canadians take for granted, Mr. Speaker? We will welcome that day.
Now, if we want to see the visitor industry grow, we are going to have to work on the highways, we are going to have to work on the airports. There is still work to be done on the Whitehorse Airport so that wide-bodied aircraft can be received. And Dawson City's airport, that is not just a story in itself; that has degenerated into almost a joke. When you look at the summary of the report compiled by Transport Canada under the number of operating deficiencies that that airport has, it stands to lose its operating certificate allowing scheduled airliners to even land on that surface unless the Yukon takes some immediate action. Once again, we have another one of those wonderful programs that, while the airports were under the federal government, it was safe, there was no problem, go ahead and operate, but then comes devolution. We transfer the airports, which were categorized as Arctic A B and C airports, from the federal government's responsibility to the respective territorial government.
Then the airports are operated and owned by the respective northern government. And Transport Canada just maintains its basic police authority, to ensure that everything is safe. We're finding out more and more often that what was safe and okay before, or overlooked, is no longer safe as soon as the airport is devolved to the Government of Yukon or Government of Northwest Territories, and millions of dollars are required to bring it up to a standard to ensure its safety.
Now, if this is one of the pitfalls on one minor little program devolved from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, with its resulting financial liability - yes, we're going back to the federal government to see if we can pick up a few million dollars to address these shortfalls in the certification for the airport. But just how far along and how well is the Yukon being received in Ottawa for this funding?
We are a long, long way from Ottawa. When the concept there is to make the Yukon one big park and probably rename one of our big mountains after someone else, I don't think there's much enthusiasm to address the needs for an airport in far-off Dawson City, Mr. Speaker.
Those are some of the areas that are pitfalls when responsibility is transferred from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, where Yukon just maintains the facility and the federal government maintains the responsibility to ensure its compliance. They are just the watchdogs. They are the police, in effect.
We're going to see more and more of this, as more and more is devolved from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, and it should be an interesting day when we pick up all these additional costs and identify with them, Mr. Speaker.
So where are we at? I didn't really see any money identified for any of the infrastructure needs, other than the major transfer of funds for Shakwak, which is a relationship between the Government of the United States and the Government of Canada. The money is just transferred to Yukon to administer and oversee the continuation of an ongoing project, Mr. Speaker.
I didn't see any initiative for any bridge requirements that are sadly needed in the department to enhance our visitor industry, such as a Yukon River crossing at Dawson. It's not identified. Virtually all of the feasibility studies have been completed; fisheries studies have been completed under the last two governments, one being a Yukon Party government, one being an NDP government. So I thought common sense would prevail and, just because government changed, we shouldn't stop the process; we should continue the program.
Mr. Taylor, when he was the Liberal Party leader, was going to continue with it, but we know what happened with his bid for political office, Mr. Speaker.
Let's look down the road, too, to devolution. The minister, the Government Leader, the Premier of the Yukon, was recently quoted in the Hill Times as identifying with the Yukon becoming a province in all but name only.
Try and walk that one by most Yukoners and see how well it's received, Mr. Speaker. Devolution is going to put a tremendous amount of responsibility on our shoulders - a tremendous amount of responsibility. From where I sit, coupled with that responsibility, the tools - not just the financial tools - that are going to be required to administer those areas do not appear to be forthcoming to Yukon. That's a sad day for our territory.
It's a well-known fact that there is a tremendous amount of environmental liability associated with the past operation of mines here in the Yukon. The order of magnitude is in the hundreds of millions of dollars when you add up the potential environmental liability. Where's that money coming from, Mr. Speaker? Maybe that's why this government is holding off negotiating and finalizing with the teachers. They need that money to clean up some of the abandoned mines. I don't know.
We start looking at the areas where we could make life more comfortable for Yukoners, for you and I, my fellow constituents, and that's through the services that are provided by Yukon and what is charged for them.
If you look at the electrical power rates in British Columbia and look at the electrical power rates here in the Yukon for a similar size apartment or house, it's a contrast like night and day.
Why should it be that way? There's the same amount of water up here. It's virtually running over the dam in Mayo. We're going to build an interconnect line to Dawson. Why not give the people of Mayo the benefit of the doubt and sell them secondary power for heating purposes? Why not do that instead of curtailing it?
It used to be the United Keno Hill Mines purchased secondary power at just less than a cent a kilowatt to fire their boilers. That grid ran at just about 100-percent capacity, whereas today it runs at 10 to 25 and has done since the shutdown of United Keno Hill Mines. Why weren't provisions made in some of the government facilities in Mayo to use electricity as a means of heating or the ability to cycle off those fuels? There are all sorts of opportunities where we can reduce the O&M cost of government. We can provide better and more competitive rates for energy to Yukoners that are not even being looked at, Mr. Speaker, and are not even being given one iota of identification in this budget.
If we start looking at the electrical rate relief program, the Yukon Party's position was to restore the rate relief program by eliminating the clawback on consumers who utilized more than 1,500 kilowatts per month - no movement on that area whatsoever. All we see is this current Liberal government maintaining the line, implementing the position of the previous NDP government, as they have done in virtually all facets of this budget. All we have is a name change, Mr. Speaker, in the government of the day; there's nothing else.
Government really has four years in its mandate, or four budgets. This is budget number two. There are two more to go. The way to go is not to create more and more government. The way to go is to provide at least a window of opportunity out there so that industry would be welcomed back to the Yukon, so that the resource-extraction industry would be welcomed back. It figures that it is not coming back, and it won't come back until such times, Mr. Speaker, as there is some finality and certainty surrounding what lands where are open for exploration and how mining claims are going to be treated by all levels of government. There is just too much uncertainty out there.
And, yes, we start looking at income tax. There was an opportunity to really look at a reduction in income tax during the first go around by this Liberal government in their first budget or in their second budget, especially when our personal tax rate is a percentage of the federal tax rate. The federal tax is coming down, and the Yukon could have done much more, much better, much faster than what it did. I believe that my net saving is around $50. So, thank you.
I believe, as the Minister of Finance said in opposition, that it might buy a tank of gas or a case of Pampers. I can assure the Minister of Finance that she hasn't bought Pampers for a few years, because $50 won't buy a case of Pampers, Mr. Speaker.
We start looking at some of the other areas where this government could have done something. They could eliminate the tax on gasoline. They could eliminate the tax on diesel fuel for personal use. They could have lobbied the federal government to eliminate the GST, that wonderful tax that Chrétien ran on in one election that he was going to eliminate. Scrap the GST.
Why not lobby the gentleman once again to eliminate the GST on electricity and heating fuels? That would go a long way to benefit Yukoners. I don't see one iota of an approach here in this budget to deal with any of these issues, especially given that the seven percent is on an ever-increasing value for heating oil, propane or whatever medium is used to heat residences or businesses. Businesses have an input credit so it balances out, but a private individual does not. That could have put a lot more money in the pockets of Yukoners than virtually anything else - by lobbying the federal government to eliminate the GST or by eliminating the Yukon territorial tax on oil and gas products for personal consumption.
While we're talking about taxes, one of the other areas that there's no movement on is that wonderful tax on tetra packs, the juice-box tax or the lunch-box tax. Why hasn't there been any movement to eliminate that to at least make the tax on a box of juice in a kid's lunch equal to the refund.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: There are so many areas where this government could have done so much to benefit Yukoners, and they have not done so. I do have to concur with the Premier in her one statement. She said, "Our way is the highway" in her budget address, and one can only conclude that in order to find a job, her way is the highway - either the Dempster Highway up to Inuvik, or the Alaska Highway south - because there's very, very little in here to get the Yukon economy back up and running and to encourage development. This is a very sad day and a sad budget for Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you very much.
Mr. McLarnon: It's my pleasure to rise and discuss the budget today, for I feel I was an integral part in its construction, as were all Yukoners, and also, it has been the most inclusive process I have ever seen to bring a budget down that reflects the needs of Yukoners and reflects what we think money should be spent on.
I call this a transitional budget, though. And why I say a transitional budget is because it still reflects priorities of past governments that we have to finish out before we can go forward with the true needs of the Yukon Territory.
When we sat down and designed the budget, our first meetings were with caucus. We had ministers from the departments there to give us briefings, but there was a ghost in the room. That ghost was the previous government and the priorities set there. This is why we reflect the building of the Carmacks recreation centre, the extended care facility and the Mayo school. What these represent, though, is the fact that we have kept our word, that we have followed through, that the certainty we created by adopting the first budget would be carried on and then, in the second budget, it would start to reflect more of our priorities. And what are those priorities? They are building a Yukon economy, they are maintaining quality health care, addressing alcohol and drug addiction, settling outstanding land claims, achieving devolution, developing infrastructure and restoring confidence in government.
There are certainly a number of these reflected, and all of these priorities are reflected but some of them stronger than others, and I'm very proud of some of the ones that have come forward.
I'm talking about, for example, first of all, something that affects my riding with the large number of bars, the large amount of drinking establishments, and the fact that the alcohol and drug treatment centre is in the downtown core. I'm talking about the very bold moves, good moves, made by this government in addressing this problem. What we had before was a situation where there is no extended care for people needing to recover, intermittent day use for people who needed help immediately. You could find yourself in a position where you know you need to quit, you know you're having a problem, but the government could not respond to you if they did not have the resources or the plan or the facilities to be able to help you out.
At a time when economics take their toll and in a boom or bust economy like the Yukon Territory, and that does happen, the rise of alcohol and drug abuse is alarming. It's about time that we take control of this and the creation of a separate secretariat with the sole task to attack this problem without being worried about other people looking at their budgets within the departments, without being scrutinized within departments, this now stands alone as a department that will have a task-oriented goal of curing the Yukon of this plague, and I do say "plague".
I'm very proud to see not only the creation of a better system based on the AADAC model and based on consultation with Yukon alcohol and drug workers but also an increase of $250,000 into its budget. What this means is hope. What this means is that somebody can stand and hope one day to get out of the mire and the mess that alcohol and drugs have created for them.
One of the other things that we did when we drafted our health care budget was take a look at FAS/FAE. We are developing guidelines with the federal government to attack this problem, to make sure that we are on board and to make sure that the federal government knows the needs. That is why we're having the conference here for best practices. This is a problem that the Yukon territorial government is a leader in addressing in this country. We bring it to the national forefront. This was never discussed in ministerial meetings down south when we had the federal ministers meetings. Our minister bravely brought it forward. Our minister is taking the lead for the country in addressing this.
When we take a look at a few other things that affect my riding, I'm also proud to say that we have been able to put more money into women's shelters. There is one in the downtown core. My riding has one of the lowest mean incomes in the territory. We have more than our fair share of poverty and, unfortunately, with poverty often comes the social problems and the marital breakdown. These shelters at least help provide some relief for victims. You'll also notice there is also money in for programs for abusive spouses, because the cycle doesn't stop until somebody wants to stop it, and that's what we want, and that's what we'll put money into.
One of the other things in my riding that I am very pleased to see has helped, even though my riding isn't affected about this - but the Justice building is in my riding, and the people who will be going to the Justice building with a low poverty line - again, poverty is well-represented in my riding - will be able to achieve some legal aid and some assistance. With the commitment that we have put forward to ensure that all people are represented fairly in front of the courts, I am pleased to be able to represent this and take this to my constituents as something that we have done in correcting a problem that existed for years - no more fighting about who pays the money because the money is paid.
Also if we take a look at Health and Social Services, they have paid attention to a cry from our foster parents, from the people who give of themselves freely. We have responded to people who open up their hearts and open up their homes to allow somebody who needs help in. Now, they have been doing it often from their own pocket. We have responded and we have recognized that there haven't been raises in clothing allowances in 11 years. We have recognized this call for help that has fallen on previous governments' deaf ears, and we did take the chance to correct it within our first budget as the territorial Liberal Party.
Now, we talk about a few things. One of the things that I have a personal joy in seeing is our commitment to the Yukon Quest. We wanted to create an event and a venue for mushers in the Yukon Territory to participate in a world-class arena, and one of the problems that the Quest has had is the ability to find a major sponsor. We are going to give them the way to find a major sponsor. We are going to give them the assistance so that we can produce more Kleendehns, so we can produce more Frank Turners, and so we can produce more people in the dog-sledding race and an industry that surrounds it.
My wife's store at the airport has certainly received some benefits from the Yukon Quest, as all tourism industry stores, shops and service providers have, during this welcome respite from winter in our tourism industry. I'm pleased to see the Quest, Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous and Thunder on Ice as priorities and anchors on which we can place our winter tourism campaign.
Now, we have also looked at other areas. One of the things that I'm also pleased about, as a boy who was raised in Destruction Bay, is the repair to the road between Destruction Bay and Whitehorse; specifically, the corner as you come in around Champagne. This was known, way back, as Baltimore's Corner, named after a man who used to run off that road at that corner like clockwork. As a result, we have fixed a problem that has existed since the 1960s, when this corner was named. Since the 1950s, it has claimed lives. It has claimed not only lives, but money and fear every time one goes through it. We are fixing it. It's something that should have been done years ago. Again, with a new government with new priorities, it's now being taken care of.
We have to look at a few other things. I am going to theme this because I feel a rebuttal to the speech by the interim leader of the official opposition is needed. The interim leader of the official opposition referred to this budget as a "don't-worry-be-happy budget". I do not believe that the interim leader of the official opposition understands the role of budgets and the role of government as I see it, and as the people in my party see it.
Our budget is more tuned to the Bachman Turner Overdrive song, "Taking Care of Business". Why? Because the government is not responsible, nor should it be, for creating economy. It should be helping the private sector create that economy. This is why I stand here as probably one of the most ardent anti-socialist in this House, and the reason why is because my view, as a private sector person, is that the role of government is to set the table for business, not to sit at the table with business. We are there to create an investment climate, a place where people will want to put money, a place where people will want to come and work, will want to build highways, will want to build industry, capital and assets. That is the important thing about what the Yukon government is doing here. We are setting the table for business to come and sit, and sit for a long time.
Government creates, in many cases, if we are to spur our economy, unsustainability, and I will talk about this in a second when we talk about vision. The leader of the official opposition accused us of having no vision, so let me tell you mine.
Our government has seen the economic wasteland that has been created over the last four years of government bumbling, government intervention, and I would put it in a sense that it is moribund. We are now looking at an economy that is going to need a jump-start, going to need to get the electric shocks on it, and who is going to put that on? Well, we see a number of possibilities.
First of all, the pipeline. You don't think that's a possibility? The energy crisis in California right now, the energy crisis in Texas, the energy crisis in Watson Lake, all scream for this to happen. It will happen down the Alaska Highway and, when that happens, not only the one to two-year boom will happen. Then you get the ability for the oil and gas industry to expand, to explore, to build lines to where we know there's oil and gas in the Yukon Territory. That is years of work, years of sustainability.
When I was a young lad, we used to go to Fort St. John. When I was three and four years old, I saw my first drilling equipment. They're still drilling in Fort St. John.
They still have services that work there to supply that industry. The government didn't create it. The government didn't drill those wells. The government didn't do that. It was the private sector. That is one of the most vibrant parts of the B.C. economy that has suffered from the same political interference from the same party that we currently were rescued from by the people on this side of the House.
Not only do we have the industry coming out of the oil and gas, but we also have, at that point, all the guarantees that the Yukon will receive that gas. When we receive that gas in the communities along the highway, we get a cheap source of energy. We get the infrastructure put into the towns to receive that energy. Again, there are economic spinoffs, not only just for Yukon residents, who will receive cheaper power and cheaper heating, but also for the industries, which can now come up and work with affordable electrical prices, affordable heating prices and affordable costs of doing business. All of this spawns from a vision - and it is a clear vision. It becomes more clear every day. And this is what we're talking about: setting the table for industry to come in here and be a part of our economy, rather than hoping that the government will find some magical economic solution within their limited budget to come up with an economic miracle.
The way the Yukon is right now with the mining and the way that we have to bring the miners back to the table after four years of distrust from the members' party on the other side - four years of not understanding the rules from the party on the other side - we now have to bring these miners back. It's a slow process. Four years of ruining the reputation of an entire territory can't be fixed in 10 months. We are doing our job. We are listening. The issues are out there. We certainly understand their complaints and we have reflected that in the budget. When one takes a look at our budget, we have increased money for prospectors. We have lobbied the federal government. Instead of removing the GST on oil and gas, as suggested by the Member for Klondike, we lobbied them for a tax break to help start our mining industry up again. The Member for Klondike has claimed that he has a net benefit of $50 out of these tax breaks. What I would suggest to the member opposite is that he invest in the Yukon mining industry so that he can take advantage of the Yukon transfers. You get 25 percent.
I will go into the cigarettes later. The Member for Klondike has brought up cigarettes - perfect tax. I smoke. I am happy the tax went on.
I'd like to explain a few things to the interim leader of the official opposition. One of the things I'd like to explain is that the rise in the cigarette tax does not stop people hooked on cigarettes from smoking. It costs them more, and that money goes into a health care system that may keep them alive once the cigarettes have taken their toll. What it also does is stop younger smokers from starting. Budgets are important to 12 and 13 year olds. If they can get cigarettes, that 25-cent rise will deter people from doing it. It is a positive step. How anybody can complain about a rise in the tax of cigarettes, except for smokers, is beyond me. And smokers know they're killing themselves, so there is a price to pay if you want to kill yourself. I'll be happy to pay it. Hopefully, I'll be able to quit; hopefully, this gives me -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McLarnon: I know. And I'm beautiful.
I'll be happy to pay it. I hope others will be happy to pay it, and maybe it will make them stop. If it stops one person from smoking, it saves the tax system over $500,000 in medical care. So if a 25-cent tax in the price of cigarettes can save us $500,000 down the road, it's a double duty.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McLarnon: Now, the Liberals are being accused of bad math, and I'd like to remind the Member for Klondike that he has a case of bad history. The reason why I'm saying that is that, as we just got scolded for cutting the community development fund, it's very easy for me to remember a Yukon Party government completely eliminating it for four years.
I will remember that, as when you were talking about two percent for teachers. The Yukon Party government reduced the salaries of every teacher teaching in 1994 by two percent. It translates to 13 percent today, and that's what we're dealing with.
That's what we are dealing with.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McLarnon: I would correct the members from the NDP; we did not support it. Now, the Member for Klondike - and I won't pick on the member from Dawson very much because he does have some good ideas, and he is certainly not a socialist, so a lot of the problems I have are certainly not problems with him. I would like to remind the member from Dawson that giving the excess capacity of the Mayo dam to Mayo, which he says, is not a good use of this resource. What this resource is meant to do is power a mining industry. Now, without a mining industry, you power industry where it may be. That grid from Mayo all the way to Dawson City will help the people along the gold creeks of Dawson City, will help the people who are considering putting mines in the areas, and it will help the tourism industry along the highway. That is a much better use of a resource rather than selling it off cheaply because you don't have any use for it. Make a use for it. The use for it is sitting right in Dawson City, which has a problem in the wintertime - between the ice fog and the smog you can't see your hand in front of your face, but we burn diesel continuously there. Clean power, cheap power, something to build the resources along the highway, something to build the resources in the mining areas through there - there is nothing wrong with that. It is a good idea; it encourages the economy. Again, it is infrastructure that helps the private sector create jobs.
Now as we are going through, there are a few things that I am pleased with. The interim leader of the opposition referred to the fact that there is nothing in education. Well, as a past student of Christ the King High School, as a person who believes strongly in the Catholic school system, I recognize that there is something in there to help education to relieve the overcrowding and rectify the problem in the Catholic schools with grade reorganization. We have identified money to alter these schools and renovate these schools so that the teachers and the students can get a fair and honest education there without being overcrowded, without having to go to school on the stages. It was only a request that was sitting there for the last four years. Obviously they didn't talk loud enough. I am glad they talked to us. They didn't have to talk loudly to rectify an injustice. To rectify something that was wrong is certainly something that we can do and we have done.
This government listens.
Another thing I'm quite interested in through the nature of my business past is heritage, and I'm pleased to say that we're keeping our promise of restoring heritage funding. In fact, museums - something that we have in every one of our communities, something that attracts people, something that is a driver for economic development in small towns like Keno - are getting another 22 percent toward their funding, something that was asked for years ago. The museum strategy is going ahead. The museum strategy will look at funding and look at how we can cooperate together, look at better ways to make the museums self-sustaining and, at the same time, make visitors go to them. This is a large part of a plan to properly use the resources that we have.
This is also reflected in the fact that the Department of Tourism has put forward the stay-another-day program. Since my days sitting on the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce as the tourism plan officer, this was the goal. This was 1992, 1994. It has always been a priority but never been reflected. Why this is good is because the marketing has proven we can bring people here. It has proven that visitors will come to the Yukon Territory and they have expectations. Unfortunately, marketing has to work throughout the entire trip or you miss opportunities to show part of your Yukon and for the visitors to spend time and money in your Yukon. That's what we're doing here. It supports the heritage community, it supports the arts community, and the most important thing - and we'll get back to the theme - is that it helps the private industry in the Yukon Territory.
We have been looking at a few of the items in the Yukon budget, and I'll just go through a few that I also enjoy. One of the things I got a chance to do as I was spending my time in January in the Yukon was go through community tours.
On the community tours, I had the pleasure of visiting Old Crow, Dawson City, Ross River, Marsh Lake, Teslin, Haines Junction. It was very good. There are a lot of priorities out there; there's never enough money in any government budget to fit all the priorities, but certainly we heard first-hand what people wanted. In that case, that's when we see things like Ross River asking us to make sure that the erosion problem is taken care of in front of the village. In that case, like sitting in a Haines Junction public meeting and being told that the road is a problem, that there are too many corners, that it's unsafe at times. We heard that. When we were in Old Crow, it's the same thing. We heard about erosion and we heard that there were problems with the bank. In a town in an area like that, there's not much room between the bank. When it starts to go, you have to pay attention to it.
I enjoyed my visits. Up in Dawson City, we heard other priorities, priorities that we will be placing, hopefully, in future budgets, and that's the process that we went through.
Now I'd like to talk about a few things. First of all, when we go and take a look at our alcohol and drug secretariat again and we talked about FAS/FAE, we did discuss it with them. We invited the FAS/FAE people to come and talk to caucus. We understand their needs. One of the reasons that it's not being completely addressed with money right now is because, once the needs have been addressed, it's important to coordinate them with other deliverers of service. This will happen this year in our conference and best practices.
When we take a look at rural communities, one of the things that was also asked of us was to ensure that the rural roads program stays, and that helps us deliver stuff like the sawmill road in Ross River, which I had a chance to go out and see. It gives us a chance, also, to ensure that local contractors get those jobs and keep them in the community, and we did see good examples of that.
Now, over the next few years, we're going to see the rise of better cooperation and better consultation. These will happen, for example, in the First Nations secretariat that was brought into reality through the budget and through signing a political accord with every First Nation chief and every member of the caucus on this side. The First Nations secretariat will allow us to respond and First Nations need to coordinate governance better, and it is an excellent start in bringing the Yukon to the land that I envision and that so many people, like Elijah Smith, envisioned, where we can work together and where we're not sitting on two sides of the negotiation table but, again, working on the same side of the table.
Now, I was noticing that the member from Dawson City gave us bad reviews on the idea of devolution. Well, I'd like to know if the member from Dawson City says the same thing to the forestry industry, which has been asking for it, or to the mining industry, which talks about too many levels of bureaucracy and the federal government killing the mining industry here. Are those the same words that the member from Dawson uses in those meetings? I would say not. It's too important to take control of our own destiny.
From a member who represents a resource riding where a significant amount of people work in the mines, I certainly know that when push comes to shove, the people of that riding will want less regulation and to be able to go to a place where they can talk locally about the problems, rather than having to make phone calls to Ottawa. That's what we hope to do with devolution. Yes, there are some problems. Then again, we're not introducing it this year. It's being negotiated and will be brought forward in future years with the problems that the member from Dawson has talked about.
Now, we take a look at the price of government, and we talk about the fact that government is growing. The government is affected by the same factors as every business in private industry.
We saw gas prices and fuel go up 40 percent last year. We have to pay that for that. It was never accounted for in previous governments' budgets. Our supplementary last year covered a lot of these costs, and it's honestly reflected in this budget. What you see in this budget is what you get. There are no hidden costs. We've asked the departments to give us a full accounting of what they spend. I can tell you that no minister here wants to go to the Management Board with something they slipped on or missed in the budget themselves. It's something that we want to do with strength. We want to make sure that we know what the costs are going in, because it gives us a fair evaluation of what we have to spend and what we don't have to spend.
Now, I see not only the possibility of the pipeline being built, but also the railroad. I've already been involved in discussions on the railroad with the Alaskans. I look at this as a way to develop our resources. What we have is a vision of possibilities and a vision of hope. I would like you to compare this vision to the same vision that gave us a dock in Haines, Alaska, which we couldn't use because the government that was about to buy that dock single-handedly killed the mining industry in this territory. The only person I can only see using that dock is a cruise ship to bring up a whole bunch of people to look at all our brand new parks by the time they're finished.
What I'm saying now is that that airy-fairy idea of economic development does not work. It is the same idea that we have to take a look at in what we have done with our funding, which is to remove all the areas in which we might not have a level playing field. I want you to compare planning for something that we know is inevitable. There will be Alaska gas in the United States. If you take a look at other programs and the lack of vision in this, such as the ineffective granting programs like the community development fund and tourism marketing fund. These were non-sustainable. The marketing dollars that one company would use one year - if they didn't receive it from the government the next year, there would be no marketing. It was non-sustainable.
There are also possibilities of patronage. We know that the simple fact of the matter is that the kings of the patronage game do not sit on this side of the House. Now, it was an expense and it also created an uneven playing field. One person could get money in an industry where another person couldn't. One person survives and another person doesn't. We stopped that, again, setting the table for industry, not telling industry what to do, not favouring one person over another. This is the problem with the Yukon and the way it is right now and what we have to fix, we have to fix an entire philosophy. We went from a society of hewers of water, miners of ore, to grant writers, to people expecting the government to do it. This is socialism gone wrong. This is why the wall came down in Berlin. The government cannot plan what private industry can do.
This is why the last and most endangered political party in this country is the NDP. The economists ran out on them 10 years ago. Their voters ran out on them in the last election. B.C. is the last bastion. Take a picture of it. I understand right now the Premier of B.C. has had a look at the polls, and he's riding it right to the end. There are a few guys who need their pension. So have a look at it, take a picture of it. You've got to do it, because it's the only way your kids are going to know what one looked like.
Now, when we also look at a few of the things that we have done here - I've talked about the tax cut, we've talked about the federal tax cuts, the ability for our government to lower the taxes while the federal government taxes are going down makes a substantial saving. It is a saving for all the people who are working in the territory and all the people who are trying to live on fixed incomes. These people save money; it has been translated to them already.
These people, like the seniors, are also people we listen to. And I will talk about something that I am especially proud of, and that is our government's support for the Line of Life. The Line of Life was started by Tony Castonguay - a very close family friend. It started with a good idea, with a core of people that he knew it would help. It has been driven by volunteers since then. They are getting tired and their resources are getting meagre.
The Line of Life helps senior citizens when they are not able to help themselves - when they fall down, when they can't reach communications, and when they can't get help. It is important that we recognize the facts of what our seniors live with and the disabilities that age brings them. And it's important that we give them a way to function in a society without fear.
So, a small amount of money went into it, but it means a lot to people in my riding because I also have a lot of seniors in the riding, as well. One of the things that I also am pleased about is the fact that our government has stated a fact and kept a campaign promise again to keep the Innovators in the Schools program going. This is experiential science. This is a way to have hands-on ideas and actually translate what you are taught put into a fun setting, so you can see what happens. The innovators program is well run and, in fact, one of my constituents runs this program, and I am extremely pleased with what she has done. I am extremely pleased with this program and I am glad that we were able to continue it.
Now, we are really quite proud of the seven tenets of our budget. To get into a few more, I will just review my notes.
We have talked about developing infrastructure. Infrastructure is more than just roads. Infrastructure is also the ability for the government to be able to deliver its programs. One of the things that we are also paying for this year - one of those ghosts in our budget that has come from previous years - is Connect Yukon.
But Connect Yukon does give the ability to get the information out into the communities, and we are looking at larger ways of expanding it. When we look at the budget that we have there, Connect Yukon, though, does not cover phones to rural areas. One of the things that is not in our budget, but we have heard about from the communities, is phones to rural areas. We have a minister who is committed to making sure that the timeline has been kept, and I'm proud to see that that will be done.
Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things in here - the recreation complex in Dawson City. We were in Dawson, we saw the work being done on it, and we saw the need for it. The recreation complex is the first in a long line of projects going on in Dawson City, which needs a lot of capital infrastructure. Dawson City has larger plans and higher ideas of what they need in the town, and these ideas have been expressed and noted for our Minister of Finance.
The one thing that we have done as well is create a youth directorate. I have been able to do a little bit of work with the hon. Member for Riverside, and I'll let him get into it more. It directly gives us an idea of the consultations that this government does to ensure that their idea is accepted or even if it's necessary. The consultation process included parents, teachers, user groups. It included processes and had questionnaires, focus groups, as well as boards and committees understanding what these meant.
This is much like the process that we went through when we developed the budget. Where we developed the budget was in meetings, for the first time sitting down with DMs, talking about the technical needs of departments and what the commitments were. Then we went to the communities to find out if these needs that were assessed by our deputy ministers and by the staff of the Yukon territorial government reflected community needs.
We sat down through two agonizing and tough days, just to look at certain items. What I can say is that this budget has a little bit of my sweat and a little bit of my tears in it, and a lot more of other ministers'.
Now, we also have to take a look at the realities of the budget. Not only have we tried to stay away from the government being the guide and being the pilot for our industry, but instead being a shepherd and the person who can help - a servant to the industry.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McLarnon: When we do this - I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, you disturbed me to the point now where all the important things I was thinking about, I can't remember anymore.
So, what I'll do to conclude is say that this is a transitional budget. This is much more reflective of the needs of Yukoners than the previous government's budget - the one that we brought down. This starts to speak to the priorities of the Yukon territorial Liberal Party. There are seven tenets, as I said, and let me summarize four of them again. The seven tenets are: we're building the Yukon economy; maintaining quality of health care; addressing alcohol and drug addictions; settling outstanding land claims; achieving devolution; developing infrastructure; and restoring confidence in government.
We have addressed every one of these priorities in here. We'll be able to do it next year, when the ghost of governments past have finally disappeared and been exorcized from our minds and, hopefully, from the minds of the Yukon public.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I'd like to thank the government for applauding me as I stand on my feet. I must say that I certainly do enjoy that, and it's a privilege to be able to attempt to massage just a little bit of common sense into the members opposite, if I may.
First of all, though, I'd like to say, welcome to the Legislature to the people in the gallery. It's certainly a privilege and a pleasure to have you here, and if there's anything that we can ever do to help, please let us know.
I sit back and I guess, as per usual, I never have a prepared speech or things written out as eloquently as I should have or as pointedly as I should have, but I guess that certainly is just not my style of doing things. I do have ways of getting the points across, so I guess I'll just start.
Many of the members across the floor said that they had been stopped in the street in the last few days and have talked about the tough decision-making process they have had to make. They certainly made them in the Liberal way. Let me tell the folks here in the Legislature that I certainly, too, have been stopped in the street. People have asked me pointedly, "When are you going back to work?" I have said, "Hey, I'm on my way." "No, no, no, no. That's not what we mean. When are you going back to work?" That tells me that people want a change. People want a change.
Mr. Speaker, this is only the first year of a four-year mandate. I have to agree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre. I've got to. Because he said that things got screwed up so badly in the last four years. I agree with him. It has been the fourth year - just this last year. That was not under the New Democrat tutelage. It was under the Liberal way.
So, Mr. Speaker, I have to say "fuzzy-wuzzy". Everything is grey - just a different shade of grey. There have been songs written about that. But fuzzy-wuzzy seems to be the way that the Liberals want to do things, so I would say that maybe fuzzy-wuzzy was a Liberal and nothing else. Because they like to keep it grey, because then they can go and do things. "No, no, no, no, no, I didn't necessarily say in the campaign that I was going to do those things, because then I was a leftist. Because certainly then I understood what had to be done to win the election."
So, they have little clichés: show me the money. Show me the money. There were impassioned statements in the House. Now, I stand here and ask where the money is that they were so impassioned about awhile ago for non-striking teachers to give them what they need. I mean, fuzzy-wuzzy was a Liberal. It's gone.
That Liberal way is starting to become much more transparent, and it's much more right than it is left, let me tell you.
We have a Health and Social Services budget, and I would like to thank the Minister of Health and Social Services, because certainly it's a dogfight when you get into their Liberal way of identifying things, and I guess the biggest dog on the block was the Minister of Health and Social Services. So I do support some of the dollars that have been put into Health and Social Services. As to the allocation of them, well, we will have ongoing dialogue about that.
Again, I have to go back to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, because this isn't going to be just strictly rebuttal. I tell you, it's going to show some leadership, too, here. But the member talks about socialism gone bad, socialism gone wrong. Well, he made a comparison to the Wall. Mr. Speaker, we do not represent communism - never have. This side of the House does not believe in communism, but we believe in equality. We believe that people should have the basic right to health care, to an education, access to information, just the Bill of Rights - the Constitution and what's defined in that - of Canada. We believe in that, Mr. Speaker. And we do not say we believe in it this time and not at this time. We believe in it straight through, and it is our principle, Mr. Speaker.
Was there a bit anywhere within the Liberal platform about taking away the universality of some of the programs? No, Mr. Speaker because, if there were, I bet you wouldn't be a Liberal. You're at that age, Mr. Speaker, where you might have to start choosing and identifying your party affiliates, because your party is going to do something that maybe you don't necessarily like, Mr. Speaker. And that's dividing the people.
I've heard so much spoken here about land claims and about self-government issues on that side of the House, how it's supposed to bring the people together. Yet, we open our arms to land claims, because it's a real sexy thing to do and it looks good, with empowering the First Nations and empowering municipalities. But, holy moly, on the other side of things, as they're getting a little group hug over here, they're taking away from people who need it. But have they said that? Did people vote for them to do that? No, never happened, never did.
But they recognize that they have to do it. And why are they doing it? Well, Mr. Speaker, I think it speaks to a basic lack of vision. If you come to a problem, and you can't go over it, around it, or through it - what do you do? You just don't pack up your books and truck off down the road. You just don't go trucking. You stand there and show some leadership, and you develop your vision. And you do it through consultation with the people - absolutely. This government prides itself on consultation. Mr. Speaker, how many people can you put into a Cabinet room? I do believe that that's where their consultation takes place. And then when they do hear people say these things - because I was at some of those meetings. I don't see them reflected in the budget. I don't see people standing up and saying, "Oh, yes, take my access to health care away, because the folks next door make a couple of thousand less than I, and they need it more." Mr. Speaker, that's lack of vision, and I say that's appalling.
As for the minister - while the Member for Whitehorse Centre was down in that good socialist country, he should have learned to be a little more animated. He certainly had the opportunity to listen to Castro there and to bring home some of that vision. It's a terrible vision, but it's a vision. They have a vision. And I don't see that vision here.
So, Mr. Speaker, you can't pick and choose campaign promises. You can't say that you're not going to tinker around with health care and, as a matter of fact, "We're going to make health care better." They said that. But have they done that? No, they're back-dooring it now. So, at some point in time - maybe during Question Period - I'm putting the member on notice that I'm going to ask him that exact question. I'm going to ask him what the concept was that he saw in his mind that said that we have to go to universality without looking for a vision, looking at other ways, or talking to different people. I'm hoping there would be a basic answer to that, and not just a talking-down to the rube from Teslin, as he likes to think.
These folks here across the hall think they put the benchmark on everything. It's the first time that a caucus has gone to the communities and listened to the budget requests. It's the first time that we have involved the caucus. It's the first time that we have involved the Cabinet outside of the Management Board. It's the first time that we have involved the deputy ministers. That's ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
As a government, we were out there. We had meetings scattered throughout the Yukon as much as we possibly could, and it was done with caucus, it was done with Cabinet; it was done on an ongoing basis to listen to the people.
So for the Liberals next door to say that this is a benchmark, well, shame on you - shame, shame, shame, because I don't give them shame for distorting the truth. I give them shame for having a lack of vision for ways to do things. That is absolutely shameful for a government to say that they are an actual government and then to be rudderless, stuck in the bathtub, going around. That's what it is, Mr. Speaker. That's what I can compare it to.
But I must say that thank God the deputy ministers were in that room, because at least somebody was showing leadership on how to build a budget and how the budget should be reflected. I can absolutely see that it was put together mostly by departments and, I guess, as we get into it, I will identify what I see. So thank God for the deputy ministers being there with their skills and their knowledge to help build this first budget.
Mr. Speaker, I have to point out that this isn't the first Liberal budget. This is the second Liberal budget. Now, as I say that, people are going to refute it and say "No, that is not necessarily true." But they took a budget that we campaigned on, that rural Yukon accepted, that Whitehorse did not - there's a split there, and there's certainly room for these folks across there to think. And what did they do? They were so shocked to win the election - maybe yourself included, Mr. Speaker. Everyone was so shocked to win the election that, my God, what do we do? Oh, I know, we'll adopt that budget; we'll leave their names in it, and then we'll say, "When we don't do these things, well, that's the way it is because it was by a previous government."
I mean, Mr. Speaker, for some of the people in most need - the single mothers on social assistance, the single fathers on social assistance - we made some changes for them to stay home longer, and I applaud that. But did we do anything to put any extra dollars into their pocket? Inflation goes up but they don't. That's appalling, and they say, "That was the NDP budget." That was our budget. So, that's their second budget. Two more to go, I believe, and I certainly hope that we'll see a bit more in there.
Another thing I'd like to take credit for, Mr. Speaker, is that there wasn't going to be a budget tour. There was not going to be a budget tour, no matter how big the eyes the Member for Laberge makes at me. They could flop out on her cheeks, but she won't be surprised at that because there was no mention of a budget tour until after - I believe it was even after the Chinese New Year, and that's a little later than our regular New Year. And why? Well, because I was just stirring up my community a bit, saying, "Hey, write a letter to them, identify what you want, because I took you through an open process of helping you identify what it is that you want, what it is that you need as a community."
Mr. Speaker, I have a plaque from the community of Ross River, and it's simple. It says, "Thank you for caring". That speaks volumes, because I included them. It was rough at times, and this wasn't happening here, so I told the round table that they should make some identification and make sure that they involve the people. So I'd like to ask: did the Minister of C&TS involve the community of Ross River for the allocation of the resources, the limited resources for the Campbell Highway, and ask what would make it safer? I think not.
Mr. Speaker, did they talk about the access road into Ross River? I think not. Would they put up a notice of it? Yes. As a matter of fact, as I have gone through and perused this budget, I do not see one thing reflected - pardon me, River Road that Ross River had wanted.
Mr. Speaker, in times of this economy - it's tough times and it's certainly going to get worse because Uncle Sam next door has little effect on Uncle Jean and his next door, and that trickles to the Yukon Territory.
They think things are going to get better. It is going to be a little bit tougher to think, Mr. Speaker. So much for a special relationship and everything else that they talk about.
So it was the community of Ross River that made the folks get out, not even the Finance minister. As for the folks in Teslin, I didn't even see a person from the Finance department there. And I knew everybody in the room. I didn't see anybody from Finance.
So, of course, they weren't looking at the logical things of it. They were out looking at, how can I win this riding? Hmmm, I am going to come into Keenan's home town and I'm going to kick his butt. Well, Mr. Speaker, it ain't going to happen. I ain't saying that I am indispensable. What I am saying is that I'm open and I'm accountable. And I am right through the front door, I don't run through the back door. No siree.
The economy is in such a schmoz, I guess, at this point in time that to carry on an economy we have to look to diversify it. And the community of Ross River is such a wonderful community, we are looking at ways to diversify. They weren't looking out to thump anybody, they just wanted to say, well, maybe we could just get more tourism folks here if we fix up the road; if we put in a garbage can and an outhouse at this spot here, at this beautiful little bend. I have all that documentation and I will probably be tabling it in the House in the next 20 days or so - 30 days, or whatever it is - just to let the folks know that the community did ask and the community wasn't reflected.
So what are we doing? We are trying to say, we will keep them in that little corner, because we like them in that corner. And the more we feed them - if they want 10 peanuts, we are going to give them five, and not their colour choice either. We are not going to give them their colour choice, because we are going to give that to them in the third year. And it's called an election budget. Well, Mr. Speaker, I am standing with an election budget right here. The record budget in Yukon history. It's an election budget. It's also a very devious budget, Mr. Speaker, because they say that they have $6 million in the bank. Oh, Mr. Speaker, I tell you there is some pretty devious bookkeeping going on in this budget. And it's very devious, because if you look at the Auditor General's report of $64 million in the bank as of the end of that fiscal year, that's what we left these folks.
There's some pretty creative bookkeeping happening here. Why? Because they would rather thump on people and tell them what to do than listen to the people, and they pride themselves, Mr. Speaker, on listening. They pride themselves on speaking, but you must take action on what you hear, and when you speak to people, you must speak with kindness. Maybe I should take a lesson from that sometime, Mr. Speaker, but right now I'm speaking to the Yukon Territory, to point out the inadequacies of this Liberal government.
No vision? Beat them up. Universality? Divide the elders. Say we're bringing the communities together here, but we're dividing them over here. Again, it's just purely a fiscal exercise - a fiscal exercise because there's only $6 million in the bag. Well, my goodness, it's appalling, absolutely appalling.
So, I'd like to convey to the people of Ross River, thank you very much for kick-starting the Liberal initiative of going out and talking to the communities. They had to do it in such a ramshackle way that they had to throw all the backbenchers out into the communities, because the Premier was flying off over here. She beat us up when we flew over there and brought home jobs, and then she slapped herself on the back when she said, "English is a second language". We brought that home.
Mr. Speaker, that's appalling. That was an established initiative under the Tourism department a year ago. We brought those people, because we looked and listened to people, and we knew we had to diversify the economy. When I see people walking around the streets of Whitehorse and the communities at this point in time, I think, I'm happy, because are they learning something? We're learning something, and we're doing things in a different way - a better way, Mr. Speaker - and not trying to shove something down somebody's throat, and saying eat it, I don't care if you're not hungry.
The New Democrats showed them the menu and told them that there was some tough specials here. But we had to do it, and we did it. We absolutely did it.
So, a process is not new. I will be the first one to pat you on the back when you do something new, and I'll remember. And I don't mean spin of the week. Gosh, Mr. Speaker - spin of the week. I'm going to have to buy little teddy bears and award the spin of the week so that folks over there will have something to hug and the recognition that they received an award for a spin - my, my, my.
And then for the Minister of Health and Social Services to say there is $3,360,000 in this job posting, but there's only $2,360,000 in the budget - they're hiding money. That's hiding money, right there, Mr. Speaker. I'm sure glad I got everybody's attention over there. It's just great. Keep the humour. I heard those words in Question Period today, and I will be asking about that. We have gone out and captivated Yukoners' involvement - DMs, caucus, Cabinet. There's a little bit of smell around that, and it sure isn't the cheese.
Restoring confidence in government - holy moly. I can see why the Premier never wanted to get out into the communities. Restoring confidence? Mr. Speaker, I think that if the folks across the floor started to do a little bit of homework and show some leadership, people would have confidence and it wouldn't be, really, a restoration for this side of the House. It would be a restoration from their platform so that they would be able to do those things.
We'll take you over to Carcross. I go to the communities and yack to people in a low-key way. I sit and have coffee with them and talk about their aspirations. Of course, I know a lot of folks in the area. Some of them are relatives and some aren't, but we don't look at it like that. I ask, "What can we do? How can we help?" So, I went over to the town of Carcross, waltzed in, and one fellow said to me, "How come you gave the lagoon to the band?" Now, Mr. Speaker, I'm talking to a First Nation member here when I'm saying this.
And I said, "Well, what do you mean? We're trying to empower communities and trying to do good things for the communities."
"Yeah, but you did it."
I said, "I did it? It seems to me the Liberals have been in power for a year."
"No, but you did it because it was a land swap."
So, you see, Mr. Speaker, there's a positive element that could have been positive if they had said the truth to that person. Yet as soon as somebody says, "Oh, my God, I thought that's what he wanted to hear. Well, I have to go now. I've got a meeting in the Cabinet room," they're out the door.
Did they talk about the positiveness of giving a job to the community, of how there should be local hire, how there should be training issues around there, how it should be local initiatives and industry used? No. They played the blame game. They said Davie Keenan did it, and they're out of here, and you talk to him. Well, rudderless - rudderless in the sewage lagoon. My good God. When they had a chance to say this is a good thing, they run scared with their tail between their legs. That's not leadership, Mr. Speaker, because leadership requires a tough decision-making process and equality. That, my friend, is socialism, not looking after the haves and letting the have-nots be there. Socialism means giving everybody a crack at the pot. You can't lead a horse to water. You can't. You cannot lead a horse to water and make him drink. But certainly the Member for Whitehorse Centre - just grab him right by the ears and shove his head in the water and say drink or drown. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not our way of doing things.
Mr. Speaker, no tourism in Ross River and no access to tourism - I guess at some point in time I'm going to have to be asking the Minister of Tourism if the $50,000 for marketing the area in last year's budget was actually used, or if it was gobbled up in a department or put into something else. I'll ask that question.
In Tagish, my God. Again, we're trying to diversify the economy. We're looking to make highways safer for locals. We're looking to bring more tourism impact into the Tagish area, into the Carcross area, and they've got such a chance to be able to do that. But are they going to be able to do that? No. Like a constituent of mine says, we've got the last eight miles of unpaved route in the Yukon Territory, even some of the tote roads from the Member for Klondike's mining community are chipsealed, are they not? Did I not do that in my budget for you because I was recognizing the value of tourism? And we take a major artery, and we leave it as such?
Mighty poor weight in the Cabinet room, I have to say. Mighty poor weight. Just awful, Mr. Speaker, just awful. But, oh, we'll give them that $40,000 access for fire safety. We'll absolutely be able to do that for them.
Mr. Speaker, that was what the design of the rural roads program was.
So, Mr. Speaker, you can take hundreds of thousands of dollars out of one program, give them a $40,000 program over here and say that this is a good thing. Hiding money - let me tell you, big time, really, really big time.
They talked about the Champagne-Aishihik model. Well, I think the Champagne-Aishihik treatment model is funded by the feds, and I think it's funded by the feds through the residential school treatment program. There might be sporadic dollars in there, so they're going to model something after something other people - oh, gosh. Mr. Speaker, again not much leadership.
I have a challenge for you out there. In Carcross, there's a heck of an initiative coming up - the Don't Fence Me In Society. They're looking for help. I will be sure to send them the ideas of the ministers involved as to how they can access that program, and I would expect that it should fit the program. Of course, we have it fuzzy-wuzzy again, saying we're going to do it our way, the Liberal way, but these are just going to be tests, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I go to Teslin - and I forget what Teslin's got in this year's budget. It's seven grand, I think. I understand there was a 30-horsepower Johnson motor stolen from one of the government shops. Is that to replace that motor?
We asked for a tabling of the revotes. It hasn't come. It hasn't come, Mr. Speaker, because some folks in the department maybe don't necessarily like what the community of Teslin - the First Nation of Teslin, the Mayor of Teslin identified. It was a walkway across the bridge, because there are students that live on the other side and we must make it safe for them. The bridge is a graded bridge. It's part of the Trans Canada Trail. You can't walk on it in cowboy boots. I don't know who walks with cowboy boots anyway, but you can't walk on it in cowboy boots with heels.
You can't carry a horse across there or walk a horse across there - and there are lots of those things that come across the highway, as you are probably aware of in your previous life as a policeman on the highway and knowing those things. Yet it was sent to the bureaucracy that they don't want to do it. So what does Teslin get? $7,000, and we are going to gobble up another $450,000? More money being hid. That's what they think of Teslin. I don't know if it's because it's the birth place of the old kid here or not, but it's certainly what they think of Teslin.
It's all about empowering rural communities and helping communities. I've been an instrumental part and a major part of writing land claims and self-government agreements in here. I was the minister that brought into this House the Municipal Act, and they are empowering pieces of legislation that allow communities to move forward. I used to hear from a city councillor who now sits at his house as a minister that you shouldn't be downloading on those folks - don't be down loading on the municipalities. Well, my God, Mr. Speaker, how much money are they loaning up there, Pete? They are loaning a lot of bucks. If that is not downloading through bullying, I don't know what it is. But that is downloading. They are saying, "You want it. We know it's our responsibility, but we will loan you the money to do it and you can take away from the rest of your programs for a few years because this is what we are doing to you. You don't like it? I will use the money for something else."
I see and hear where they say that they were going to - one of the promises there was that we will have to look at O&M funding for some of the attractions, so there are attractions in Teslin at the heritage centre. There are attractions at Carmacks. The New Democratic Party, under Finance minister Piers MacDonald and myself, empowered the Dawson City Arts Society to help diversify the economy in Dawson City and to be able to give them - for a limited time only, Mr. Speaker , but it was done - O&M funding to get them up and running. They are starting to be very successful up there. Do I see any of those gambles? And it is a judgement call, a judgement gamble in this document? No, we don't see that there.
Because maybe it's a gamble, or maybe it requires leadership, and it just ain't there.
Carcross museum, they have been planning a museum there. It's the birthplace, I guess, of - well, this gentleman would like to say that Klondike is the birthplace of the Gold Rush, but nah, if it wasn't for Patsy Henderson and Skookum Jim from the Dakw clan of Carcross, there wouldn't be one. So again, Mr. Speaker, what are we going to do? Call an election? I think so.
So, rural communities - community development fund. I heard the Finance minister the other day, when she was talking about cuts to heritage, she said from mains to mains. She had it qualified. She was just sort of glaring at me as she said it, because it was a macho thing to do. Mains to mains, it's up. I challenge the Finance minister to look at all of the supplementary funding, look at the community development fund funding, look at the tourism marketing fund funding, and compare that to heritage, and you're going to see where your mains to mains is down.
Well, Mr. Speaker, there's a direct challenge to the Finance minister, the premier of the Yukon Territory. I'm just asking her to quit being fuzzy-wuzzy. I'm just going to say that we don't need another shade of pale here. We have enough of that now. We just need some leadership and concise involvement of the people to move forward, and we need some action - definite action.
The report card that was mailed out on health care to every Yukoner - I mean, the Member for Klondike and I, in the last sitting, I guess, or the last time we all sat in this big House here to talk about the policy, spoke about that. There were articles in the newspaper that said, well, that's not right, that's not right, this is all schmoz. Yet it was mailed out to everyone in the Yukon Territory as a propaganda tool.
Well, I guess we're going to have to get into that a little bit too, but hey, as the man stands there and says, "We have the best health care in Canada. I have just come from a meeting of the Health ministers." Mr. Speaker, it was a New Democrat party that solidified that in the Yukon Territory. It was the New Democrat Party - that good socialist party - that said there shall be access for all.
And do you know what, Mr. Speaker? We even took away the surcharge, that monthly charge. And if you've been around the Yukon as long as I have, you will remember that charge. But that was taken away, and it was equality. Now they pat themselves on the back and say, "Oh, this is good stuff that we've done. Holy moly, I'm a good minister. Boy, I'm going to get something in my Christmas stocking besides coal this year." Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think so, because if they're going to go out and promote universality - and I'm not saying that's a good or bad thing, but in absence of a vision, it's a bad thing. Well, their arm is just going to get a little shorter and won't be able to reach out and touch them on the back.
I mean, the pioneer utility grant - I pointed out inadequacies of the pioneer utility grant. I talked to folks and said, "Are you getting this?" And they said, "Well, no. We didn't know about it." So, we put the department on notice that these things are out there. All of a sudden, folks started saying, "Well, I'm eligible for this." What did the government do? Well, not very much. They'll say one thing - and I like to say they will campaign from the left and rule from the right.
Mr. Speaker, when we called them on it, and asked who they talked to on this, they replied, "My God, we didn't talk to anybody." So they had to quickly call some meetings. Mr. Speaker, they called it consultation, but when you table a document with two options, is that consultation or is that dictation? I guess dictation is when you take it back. I mean dictation in the sense that it's either/or, and that's it. What's your choice?
Mr. Speaker, they were so stunned that folks said, "Well, you've got to look at it this way and that way, and maybe this person needs it more than I need it." But they didn't even have the aspiration or the politeness, I guess, to go out and talk to the elders in the communities. "No, we talked to this couple down here, gave them the options, and planted a seed. That's all I really care about."
Then they come with that old Workers' Compensation Board solution, where, you know, holy man, I'm getting beat up right now a little bit because things aren't quite right and desirous of people, and people are packing signs and everything like that, and saying we're really bad. So I'm going to ask him, in the past, what was good. I hope I'm going to get some really good stuff back there on what was good so that I can say this is where I'm going in the future.
That is not leadership; that's chasing your tail. And Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what the Department of Health and Social Services wants to do at this point in time - say we have done a good job, we sent out the report card. They say there's a limit to the dollars we have.
Well, you know, the cigarette tax, at 25 cents a pack, close to half a million dollars - I'd like to challenge the minister to put those dollars right back into the prevention. We have the highest capacity of teenage smokers in this country, and I guess teens are even getting younger, because I have seen some teens that looked to me to be only nine years old, walking around smoking a cigarette.
So I'd like to see if the member would do that - not just throw it here and there, but make it targeted - because I kind of thought that, maybe, it's not a good thing and not a bad thing, and I had it come to my mind and talked to a few people on it, but if we can do it that way and get people to quit, that will be a good thing for the world.
Mr. Speaker, within Tourism, I know that we're doing good things in tourism, and we'll continue to do good things, but it seems to me that the thrust of the department was always to have a world-class destination status, and that's what I worked very hard at. Now it seems to me that we just want to have them stay another day.
I guess, Mr. Speaker, in a way, that's a good thing but, in another way, I'd like to challenge the Tourism minister - where's the product development? I heard the Member for Whitehorse Centre say it was haves and have-nots. Where's the product development that said we're marketing here and doing this, and if they didn't have it, they couldn't market. But the tourism marketing fund was so much more than about marketing. It was about product development, because one of the pillars - and there are four pillars. Maybe the Tourism minister should make a presentation to caucus. Some of them might stay awake, actually, if they did, and then they'd see exactly what it is that's going on within the Tourism department. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but if they take away and give it to here - well, Mr. Speaker, if there's a void here and that void is product delivery, and that product development is of a pillar that has been identified in our tourism strategy, then I would say that it was an inadequacy and that we should be putting more money into it.
Mr. Speaker, there are oil and gas revenues that are put together, maybe much to the chagrin of some folks, but they're coming to the coffers of the Yukon Territory and have been spent now. I do believe the other side of the House, when we brought that act in, voted against it, and if they didn't vote against it, they voted for it. It wasn't their initiative, and they're trying to take credit for it. Well, to all the 28,000 folks who are listening to me speaking right now - or maybe it's only 28 - I want to say that that was a New Democrat initiative and that the New Democrats were showing leadership again. We weren't repackaging, like the alcohol and drug strategy initiative. No, no, no, no, no. Two hundred and fifty thousand new dollars into alcohol and drug services. Okay, Mr. Speaker, if you look at the vehicles of empowerment and the tools that we have used and developed for community identification, such as the community development fund and the health fund, I would think that there would be more than $250,000 allocated. So I would think that all it is, is an accumulation of an existing pot, squeeze it together here, make it fit, put it over here and call it this, and then, by golly, let's go out and hire another deputy minister so we can make this thing run the right way.
Well, that's page 1 of my notes.
Mr. Speaker, there was a picture of a young lady who was in Vancouver, from Haines Junction, I believe - Mr. McRobb's constituent - who needed a kidney dialysis machine. There have been CT-scanners identified, and there have been local people out in the territory who have been trying to raise money. Well, I'll just echo the Member for Riverdale South, "Show me the money". Show me these things in the budget, Mr. Speaker. This is the great people's budget. People have said, "This is what we want to see in the budget." Well, holy-moly, I'm looking, and I don't see any of these things in the budget. And these would be cost effective. It has been pointed out to the Member for Klondike and myself, as we get beat up by the Member for Porter Creek North, that you could offset these in reductions of travel, all sorts of things, of sending folks out and back. There are ways of looking at it.
We're going to download to the communities and we're going to promulgate the rest of them. I guess promulgate means in this case we're going to distort the truth a little bit.
But that's the way it is.
Mr. Speaker, as I look at the social assistance rates and the people who suffered, it tells me that if they're going to say, "Well, you can't have this but we'll give you more access to this over here," it tells you that that Ontario-Conservative-Harris style, attitude - people sleeping in the hallways in hospitals, anybody on social assistance or welfare is no good. That's the attitude coming forth, and I don't like it, because it's pretty hard times out there in rural Yukon and in downtown Yukon.
I saw a friend a couple of days ago. That friend, Mr. Speaker, was in a predicament I would not want to see a friend or anybody in. That friend was collecting things out of a bin, just to live. This friend is not an alcoholic; this friend is not a drug addict. This friend is down on his luck.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Mr. Keenan: In the middle of January, for him to be in that position, in a bin, looking - Mr. Speaker, it's absolutely appalling, and I can say that the Mike Harris attitude is absolutely here.
So my little pep talk here, Mr. Speaker, is not to beat him up, but to show folks that, yeah, I have concerns. I have quite impassioned concerns. I am going to be bringing these concerns to the floor of the Legislature.
I want some answers. I don't want another shade of grey; I don't want another shade of pale. I want you to just take that old rug, shake her out, and do what you said you were going to do.
And, Mr. Speaker, if the folks around here do what they say they're going to do, well, then it will be a better Yukon, because we've got to quit with the campaigning from the left and ruling from the right, because people remember. People remember. And you said you were a transitional government - I agree with you.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McLachlan: I am pleased to make my introductory speech in this Legislature in reply to this very important document, which is going to chart the progress of this government in the coming year.
Before I do, I want to reply to a couple of inaccuracies that have been recorded in the previous speaker's speech. He referred to running out. I want to remind members opposite and the gallery tonight that last Thursday, when the teachers were present in this gallery, we did not run out. We didn't hide in the caucus rooms. When the session finished, each and every elected member on this side went forward to talk to teachers on the second level, to solicit their opinions directly and hear their concerns. We appreciated it and they appreciated that one-to-one contact, as well. We didn't run out.
When it comes to running out, I want to remind the leader of the official opposition that when the pre-budget was being held in Teslin, it was his member who left the meeting early. It was his member who left the meeting so early that he forgot to even notice that there was a representative from the Department of Finance there. That's the result of the Teslin meeting.
I also want to remind members opposite that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes has taken great exception to the amount of money in the budget for Ross River. If he checks the community figures, there is well over $1 million there. A large part of that is the highways budget, under Community and Transportation Services. But there is more than the little bit of work on the access road that he refers to. There are many more projects there that are worth a lot.
I also want to remind everybody present, including our gallery, that on January 22, two members of this caucus were present for a round table meeting in that community. They listened. They responded to a request and listened. Nine short days later, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and her executive assistant also went for pre-budget consultations. Those two visits in the month of January, combined with a visit in October by this caucus, represented more Liberal members in that riding - that community - than that particular member has been able to put in during the last year.
The Member for Klondike and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun have made a great to-do about the process of the pre-budget consultation. I travelled to the north part of this territory and enjoyed it very much. The messages that we heard in those communities would start like this: couldn't you do it this way? We think it's great if you work it this way; could we assist in this way? Those were the messages we heard in those communities. That's why this document you see before you today is handcrafted not by the politicians saying, "We're going to do it this way, and not listen."
This document in front of you today is the message that has been transmitted to this government from almost everybody at those public meetings, in the ordinary walks of life, who got a chance to put their two-bits' worth into the budget.
And we enjoyed it.
I also want to remind the gallery that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun and the Member for Klondike each have a budget themselves as leaders to do the very same thing, to go into the ridings and listen and to hear. Do they do it? No. Have they tapped that budget? No. Why? Good point.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: If the Member for Faro wants to be giving information out to people in the gallery, at least the information should be accurate. What he has been saying now with regard to us on this side of the House, including the Member for Klondike, when going back to our ridings and getting feedback, is utterly not true.
We have been to those meetings. I didn't go to the one in Pelly Crossing, but I did go to the ones in Carmacks, Mr. Speaker, and you were there, and I was there. And also, Mr. Speaker, in order to give a community ample time to think up some projects and to give good direction to government, you'd think there would be lots of time put forward by the government to let the community know about the meetings taking place in the communities.
The same day the members opposite go to Mayo, they staple up a sign on the board ...
Mr. Fairclough: ... saying there's a meeting today, and expect a huge -
Speaker: Order please. I'd ask the leader of the official opposition to state his case on the point of order.
Mr. Fairclough: I am getting to that and I have mentioned it a couple of times. First of all, there are inaccuracies in the members opposite and the information they are bringing forward. And I don't believe that is what he should be doing on the floor of this Legislature, and I am correcting him on that.
Speaker: The Chair doesn't have any problem making a decision on the point of order right now. There is no point of order. There is simply a dispute between members. There is nothing near a point of order here. At that, I would ask the Member for Faro to please continue.
Mr. McLachlan: I stand by my statements. And had I a chance to reply to the point of order, the case is clearly referenced to the leader's budget money we are making, not within the riding to the individual communities throughout the territory, whatever the riding. The reason simply is that it is easier to bash the government members than to try to get the headlines on the process we use to collect the facts and do the work that went into making this budget. That is the point I am making.
The Minister of Finance has stepped forward to the plate with a very strong message for Yukoners and moved the personal income tax rate down five full percentage points, from 49 percent to 44 percent over a two-year period. That, at a time when revenues to government are generally slower. This move carries five times the impact that the previous administration was prepared to move on. Their proposed rate cut was a single point from 50 to 49. We are doing what many regard as the proper thing to do when the economy begins to slow. We are returning to Yukoners a portion of what is rightfully theirs. Tax revenue paid to us is being returned to them in order to provide a much needed economic stimulus.
We're fulfilling a mandate that only government discretionary power can do - an adjustment of fiscal policy measures when needed. Project Yukon will provide funding to a variety of community projects throughout the territory. The process has been revamped, improved and streamlined. That's in an effort to make the best and most efficient use of government funds, a complaint that we heard many, many times throughout the territory - somebody got something that somebody else didn't, when they had exactly the same. Why? We believe we have fixed those problems.
The fire smart program is there again. We acknowledge that it was a good program and provided benefits to Yukon communities. The continuation of this program will provide job opportunities in Yukon communities.
A separation from the main block of funds, which were all collectively lumped together under CDF, has been put together in a new arts fund, which will be set aside for that group. I'm going to leave the refinements of this move to my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, who has worked closely with this group of people in her fine work in the department.
Mr. Speaker, reduced international metal prices for our more commonly known metals - lead, zinc, silver, gold, copper and nickel - have resulted in an unusual situation, where almost no Yukon metal-producing company can operate profitably. When the territory's mining sector is down is no time to turn one's back on that particular sector. Ladies, fellow members, I'm going to tell you that this government is not going to do that, despite press reports you may hear to the contrary.
We have embarked on an ambitious program to encourage exploration work, through the exploration tax credit program. We have set aside in excess of $1.9 million, designed solely to encourage exploration, prospecting, mapping and mineral development programs that have, as their end result, a view to unlocking the mysteries of the geological features of this territory that will hold the key to the territory's vast, undeveloped mineral potential.
It's this government that provides the basis for the private sector to develop even further potential. International metal prices, simply by their various nature, are subject to external forces of supply and demand, over which no government has control. That's precisely the situation that has put a damper on future economic growth in the mining sector at Faro, at least for the time being. But this Liberal government has not abandoned Faro. There is a second community to be visited in this government's schedule of community tours.
The Premier, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and myself, had subsequent, recent meetings with the municipal council to explore a number of options of how we might work together to better accomplish a number of objectives desirable to the community. Those initiatives are going to be ongoing.
This government continues to follow with interest an increasing number of private housing sales in Faro at bargain-basement prices. This private sector initiative would bring new residents, new income, and new taxpayers to the territory.
We have also committed $200,000 toward its part of the memorandum of understanding to be signed among DIAND, YTG, and Cominco, who are the principal debt-holders of the Faro mining properties. We will follow through with our part on that.
The house marketing program has been taking place in Vancouver, in Anchorage, and here in Whitehorse, and the initial acceptances we are getting shows that the program is beginning to work. We are all keeping our fingers crossed.
Mr. Speaker, the government has set aside $6 million for a continuing settlement of outstanding land claims. It's my fervent hope that one of those settlements will be with the Ross River Dena Council. That would make such a huge difference in the Ross River area, but its most important development could be a better long-term relationship between Ross and Faro. That relationship has worked well in two different areas already and has improved significantly over the past three years, since the cessation of mining operations at Faro.
For the past two summers, DIAND has funded a scrap metal removal program at the Faro mine site and the available positions have been shared 50:50 between Faro and Ross River. Courtesy of the Minister of Education, the territory's department of advanced education has also invested significant monies into training programs that have benefited both communities on this project. Sometimes that really thick - three inches thick - metal on the truck boxes requires specialized training for cutting up, and not everybody has those skills.
The two communities have worked together to construct the Dena Cho Trail, a recreation of the historic 40-mile journey from Ross River to the Faro area that led to the discovery of mineral potential in the Faro area. This new cooperative approach can only be strengthened by a settlement of outstanding land claims in the area.
During our community consultations - which we spent so much time on, I would remind members opposite - we heard from a number of small communities that a lot of roads throughout this territory were there because of resource development projects, whether that be mining or logging. And we were asked not to abandon them because the resource project was not there or had currently fallen on bad times. And we shall not.
The community of Mayo has asked for some upgrading on the gravel surface of the road to Keno City. It took a particularly hard beating with the heavy rainfall last summer, and that disrupted some important tourist traffic. C&TS has responded to that request with more than $1 million on the Silver Trail road.
I'd like to point out another inaccuracy with the leader of the official opposition. He complained that Keno City didn't get anything and, in the next breath, acknowledged $1 million for the Silver Trail. Granted, some of the improvements will probably go on the Stewart Crossing-to-Mayo portion, but a very large part will be continued northward from Mayo and Elsa to Keno City - another inaccuracy on the part of the official opposition.
If only we could get them to come to the meetings on a regular basis, they would understand the problems in their ridings. In fact, when I add up the capital in the Mayo-Tatchun riding, the central part of this territory, I see a greater commitment of funds by this government in a single budget year than has been done in the previous two years with the other administration. This, I would remind members, was when this member was a Cabinet member and voting on those projects - at least we think he was voting on the projects. The other two heavyweights aren't here any more, so we're not sure who carried the weight in those Cabinet meetings.
A similar request for improvements on the Campbell Highway between Faro and Ross River has resulted in a $900,000 construction project on two very bad sections of that highway. Members, we are doing what we were asked to do: we are fixing the dangerous parts of the road.
Two major infrastructure projects stand on the threshold of development in Yukon's history under this Liberal administration, awaiting only a green light from two different starting points. It has been 35 years since major power line construction has been carried out in this territory. At that time, it was a product of Canada, not of Yukon. The Yukon Energy Corporation's tie-in from Mayo to Dawson will be the territory's first home-grown major power line project. At a significant investment of well over $20 million, it will provide much needed jobs in this territory and bestow socio-economic benefits on the Nacho Nyak Dun and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in bands.
I want to remind the members opposite that it was a former leader of the official opposition who, in the 1980s, said that, without significant infrastructure availability on power developments and placements, the territory's economic picture would take a back seat to many missed opportunities. He would have been proud to see how important the next link in the picture is to completion, even though it is Liberals who are doing it.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre hit it right on the nail when he said, "The availability of the power will provide the opportunity for major infrastructure development in the area." That's precisely the case. One hundred and forty-two miles of new high-voltage transmission line will add significant capacity for the territory. The structure developments may not be there now, but they will subsequently be, and we will give them the chance.
A significant additional development that we believe is poised to add to Yukon's base infrastructure is the prospect of a natural gas pipeline through this territory. Although results of the year-long, $75-million U.S. study aren't expected until December or January, this government stands committed to providing funding to move that project in our direction.
The project is simply too big for Yukon to turn its back on. The original agreement of 1977 that provided for lateral takeoffs to communities along the route is the type of opportunity that could lead to additional resource development in this territory. Industry needs a reliable source of consumption. An Alaska Highway pipeline project is going to do precisely this. The opposition parties would do well to board the train on this project before it leaves them at the station with an invalid traffic ticket.
Mr. Speaker, I commend the Premier - it's up to you guys and gals - for the creation of this first-ever Yukon Liberal full budget, and I urge members, including those opposite, to support this worthwhile project.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of our government's 2001-02 budget.
This is a budget that we can be proud of. When in opposition, I often spoke about the important role of the Child Development Centre. I spoke about how 500 families in the Yukon deal with the centre every year because of the host of early-intervention services that the centre offers to Yukon children. Now, in this budget, our government is providing stable funding to the centre.
This financial support to the tune of $1.1 million for the fiscal year 2001-02 will help to ensure the hard-working people at the centre can continue to assist the children of the Yukon, particularly those in rural Yukon.
In opposition, I spoke frequently, and I still do, about the Yukon's problem with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. Constantly I would bring up the need for government to address this issue, and this budget does. This budget allocates $2,360,000 for the first year of operation for the newly created alcohol and drug secretariat.
In May of 2002, we will host the Prairie Northern Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Partnership. This will give us more insight into the development of best practices and solutions for the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome. Prevention is the most important key to the secretariat, and we're doing something about our commitments in this area. We have put an additional $250,000 into alcohol and drug abuse prevention and treatment.
This Liberal government recognizes that we need to do a better job treating Yukoners with addictions. During our community visits - and, Mr. Speaker, I was quite pleased to take part and hold two of those visits in Whitehorse as well as one in Mayo and one in Carmacks - we listened to the people who had told us how alcohol and drugs had affected them personally. And this crucial information helped us to review the government's past alcohol and drug services. The review was completed last August, and it provided some recommendations on how to better deliver services and how to treat Yukoners more effectively, particularly in rural Yukon.
In our first year of being in government, we have begun to change the way we deliver services to those who have addictions to alcohol and drugs, and, of course, Mr. Speaker, alcohol is a drug. We will hire an executive director who will oversee the formation of the alcohol and drug services secretariat, and this will mean careful consideration of the recommendations that came forward in the review. We are tackling the issue head on. We said we would, and we are.
The structure of the secretariat emphasizes the crucial importance of working with other government programs. Our goal is to be more effective and, obviously then, more efficient.
The federal government and First Nation programs are integral components in the development of the alcohol and drugs secretariat. It is time for Yukoners to work together to heal our communities, our families and our friends.
This additional $250,000 is a message loud and clear. We intend to deliver these programs in an effective and efficient manner. We're going to do this by working with First Nation governments, by working with our skilled professionals, and by working with our communities. We are tackling the tough issues.
When in opposition, I frequently spoke about the problems that come during poor economic times. Women's shelters see an increase in traffic. This budget provides increased funding to Kaushee's Place, the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, and the Dawson City shelter in recognition of the problems that they have with those increased numbers. We have delivered.
Our residential services for children have been operating without sufficient funding, and we cannot ignore this growing Yukon concern. In response, we have chosen to increase our budget by $300,000. Our foster parents, who have not received an increase in nine years - that would be three governments: two NDP and one Yukon Party - will now receive an increase. We have begun to do this by setting aside $100,000 to increase their per diem rates.
And the members from across the way find that terribly amusing, but it really isn't.
Many non-profit organizations have not received increases to reflect an increase in the demand for their services. We listened to that concern, and we increased our contribution to Teegatha'oh Zheh by $50,000 for staff costs and training. Also, Yukon Family Services Association will receive an additional $39,000 in their funding for staffing. Hospice Yukon will receive $75,000 for providing services in rural communities.
Services to all Yukoners need to be maintained. Seniors in my riding have frequently discussed with me their concerns with health care issues. We are maintaining quality health care. It's a priority of this Liberal government, and I believe that it is a quality of care that is expected by all Yukoners.
Over $125 million has been dedicated to the Department of Health and Social Services for their operations and maintenance, and this is the largest ever. We are following through on our Liberal commitment to maintain stable funding for the Whitehorse General Hospital, something that hasn't happened in the past.
We have committed to transferring over $19.5 million to the Yukon Hospital Corporation. We are very much aware of the situation with doctors and nurses all over this country and, indeed, Mr. Speaker, all over the planet.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the time being almost 6:00 p.m., I move that the debate do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Riverdale South that the debate be now adjourned.
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. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 26, 2001:
Conflict of Interest Commission (Yukon): Advice Under the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act to Mike McLarnon, Member for Whitehorse Centre (dated January 25, 2001)