Tuesday, February 27, 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.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: I'd like to invite all members of this Assembly to join me in welcoming the teachers from the St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction.
Mr. Keenan: I, too, would like to take the opportunity to introduce some school teachers from the Carcross school. Please help me welcome them here.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with pleasure that I would like to introduce Mr. Deuling and his Grade 11 class from F.H. Collins.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the audit report, community development fund, fire smart, February 22, 2001, government audit services, Bruce Demchuk, Acting Director.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Notices of motion.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy was developed through the dedicated efforts of a wide variety of interested groups and organizations throughout the Yukon;
(2) the Government of Yukon promised to conduct a review of that strategy in light of difficulties that arose with respect to its implementation in the creation of the Fishing Branch Protected Area;
(3) the review process has fallen far behind schedule and has not been successful in terms of keeping all the stakeholders fully involved; and
(4) it is essential to complete this review in a fair and timely manner, in order to meet the government's goal of enshrining the protected areas strategy in legislation this fall; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Renewable Resources to make renewed efforts to bring all parties back to the review table and to work with them in the spirit of cooperation in order to fulfil his commitment of having the necessary legislation in place before the end of this year.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Premier erred in her statement to the House on February 26, 2001, when she accused the previous Yukon Party Government of decimating capital spending on Yukon highways, when records clearly show that the current Liberal government is spending approximately a third of what the Yukon Party Government spent on highways, excluding Shakwak funding; and
THAT this House urges the Premier to apologize to the House for her allegations and agree to make a commitment in the future to only present correct information to the Legislature.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion? Are there any statements by ministers?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity. I would just like to introduce to the House Mr. Paul Nordahl, President of Yukon Teachers Association.
Speaker: Before proceeding with Question Period, a point of order was raised by the official opposition House leader during yesterday's Question Period with respect to remarks made by the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
The statement made by the minister that the official opposition House leader objected to was as follows: "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."
The official opposition House leader said, when raising the point of order, that "(A)ccusing 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."
Although he did not cite a Standing Order, the Chair must assume that the official opposition House leader had Standing Order 19(i) in mind as that Standing Order states that it is out of order to "charge another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood."
The dictionary definition of the word "innuendo" is that it is an unpleasant insinuation, whereas a "falsehood" is an untrue statement or a lie. The use of the word "innuendo", therefore, does not constitute a direct accusation that a deliberate falsehood has been uttered.
Although the Chair does not find that the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission violated Standing Order 19(i) by using the word "innuendo", the Chair again notes, as was done in a ruling on December 5, 2000, that members have become increasingly sensitive about the language used in this House. In this regard, the Chair would draw special attention to two other paragraphs in Standing Order 19, being paragraphs (h) and (j), which state, respectively, that it is out of order to "impute false or unavowed motives to another member" and to "use abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder."
Members of both sides would do well to reflect upon the nature of the language that has become commonplace in this House and, when they have the floor, to keep in mind the restrictions against imputing unavowed motives and using insulting language. As the Chair said on December 5, 2000, members must be cognizant of the effect that certain words will have during the heat of debate and to take greater care in the choice of vocabulary.
The Chair is sure that members understand that rigorous adherence to civility in debate would reduce disorder in this House and, consequently, do much to enhance the reputation of the Legislature and its members.
The Chair thanks members for any efforts they are able to make in this regard.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Oil and gas industry, promotion of
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development. It's a well-known fact, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier has stated on many occasions that this Liberal government is going to aggressively promote the oil and gas industry. To date, Yukoners are wondering where are some of the results of that aggressive promotion?
Can the Premier tell this House, beyond what was already created under the previous government in oil and gas, what her aggressive promotion of the oil and gas industry in this territory has produced in the way of benefits and jobs for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'll be pleased to respond to that question.
The member opposite may not be aware but perhaps should be that Anderson Exploration is actively employing upwards of 60 people in their work on their property in the northern part of the Yukon. Our second land sale and land disposition is currently underway. That closes on March 14. The member opposite criticized me several times for promoting this and for promoting the oil and gas industry. We have worked with First Nation governments and with industry with others with regard to how well the process is working and how we can improve it, working toward a third land disposition.
In terms of aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline project, we have had a number of community meetings, including one in the member's own riding in Watson Lake. I have spoken at a number of conferences, which the member, contrary to his question, continually urges me not to do, and I have also spoken with the producers undertaking the $75-million feasibility study on routes with regard to employing Yukoners.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was trying to be constructive on this matter. It's a huge, huge issue for Yukoners. We are in an economic crisis, and now the minister is accusing me of things that just simply are not correct.
But she did bring up the community meetings. The community meetings, as we all know, are being carried out throughout the Yukon with regard to oil and gas. Does the Premier know that her own officials, when it comes to the issue of oil and gas development and the Alaska Highway pipeline, are actually downplaying these initiatives in our economy in a very, very clear attempt to not raise expectations.
I ask the minister: what has her aggressive promotion actually produced, other than what's already in progress in oil and gas? She did not answer that question. What has this Liberal government produced, to date, in 10 months, in oil and gas in terms of jobs and benefits for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, 60 jobs in Eagle Plains this winter, a second land disposition, which closes March 14, and permits issued to ensure Anderson can conduct their work this winter. How much more specific do I need to get for the member opposite?
I stand behind my previous response. The member has criticized me for going to Calgary, Vancouver and Ottawa to work on these specific issues. Read through Hansard from last year. The member continually criticizes me for doing this aggressive promotion. He is demanding to know the results. I provided him with the results, and he is now trying to suggest something else.
Will the member please make up his mind and ask a clear question?
Mr. Fentie: I think the problem is that we need a clear answer. The questions are clear. The minister, outside of all the rhetoric, has brought up Anderson Exploration. And it's reasonable to believe that benefits in jobs for Yukoners come from investment from the oil and gas industry. Now, Anderson Exploration recently had their annual shareholders meeting in Calgary. They have committed $60 million to oil and gas exploration and development north of the 60th parallel. Unfortunately, the Yukon is the recipient of only $6 million of that $60 million.
Will the minister now, here in this House, tell us how this Liberal government intends to entice the oil and gas industry to invest more in the Yukon so that we get some real benefit in jobs created in this territory? They are needed now, not long into the future. Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Anderson Exploration has work commitments of $20.4 million in the Yukon. The Department of Economic Development, which is under my responsibility as minister, is actively working under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act passed in this House. They have issued seven licences representing over $10 million in exploration activity and over 260 kilometres of seismic work. Anderson Exploration is commencing a 275-kilometre seismic program in Eagle Plains, creating 60 short-term jobs. Three licence applications are pending for seismic programs in southeast Yukon this spring.
We are working toward the completion of the regulatory regime to provide stability and certainty for the industry. Geoscience exploration and licence administration regulations are scheduled for this spring. Drilling and production regulations and royalty regulations are to be completed over the next two years. We are working with industry, specifically with regard to the latter - I have referenced it a number of times - in Calgary, as the member opposite has suggested. We are also continuing to pursue discussions with the federal government with regard to offshore. The department and I have worked on creating training and employment opportunities for Yukoners, working with my colleague, the Minister of Education. We are also working very hard and fostering local business opportunities that lead to establishment of a Yukon oil and gas supply sector. I trust that is specific enough for the member opposite.
Question re: Economic outlook
Mr. Fentie: Well, that was a lot of detail from the minister. Unfortunately, she doesn't explain the fact that all these things began under the previous government. That's where it started. This Liberal government to date, in 10 months, hasn't produced anything.
Now, let's look at this economic picture here in the territory a little more in depth. The minister has just tabled some documents to try and justify where her government has slashed or re-jigged a number of NDP programs, and these programs were providing jobs for Yukoners. I'll be very interested to see the audit report, because I'm sure that the Liberal version of history will be interesting reading. But there is another government report we're looking forward to, and it's not about the past, Mr. Speaker. It's about the future. Will the minister tell us when she intends to release the Yukon's economic outlook for next year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of openings in the member opposite's preamble to his actual question - a number of them. With regard to the member opposite suggesting that the previous government started the discussions on oil and gas regulations, I think, his new-found colleague to the far left or right of him, depending on where you're sitting in the House, would take issue with who actually started that discussion.
With regard to the audit report that has just been tabled, I am quite certain that the member is going to find it fascinating reading. The reasoning for this government, in an open and accountable fashion, working with more citizen-oriented programs to provide better service to Yukoners, is very clearly outlined. I know he's going to enjoy reading it.
The economic outlook is being examined in light of the budget that was just tabled, and I anticipate its release very soon.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister again is incorrect. The discussions did take place long ago in oil and gas, but it was the former government that brought in the Oil and Gas Act, which triggered the activity we see today, not this government across the floor. The Yukon Party couldn't get the job done. It was the NDP that completed the job and created the common regime that now sees the results, albeit small, in oil and gas.
The minister also states that her reviews of the community development fund and so on and so forth are going to be a vast improvement. I don't know how that can be when, in her budget, she has cut the community development fund by 50 percent.
Mr. Speaker, this government and this minister are now stating that they want to review the economic outlook as it relates to the budget. Well, let me help the minister. I can tell her here and now, without even seeing the review, that they're both bad. The budget does nothing - nothing - to instill hope in Yukoners, and the Yukon economic outlook is going to be grim.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member please get to the question.
Mr. Fentie: My question, Mr. Speaker, is this: apart from the lacklustre attempts in the budget speech to pull non-existent jobs out of a hat, what is this minister doing, right now, to fix this mess we are in economically? At least give one tangible example.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, let me give the member opposite tangible examples of the jobs that are created by this budget. There is an estimate of private sector job creation prepared by the Department of Finance, and then examined by the Department of Economic Development, on each budget. In 1998-99, the private sector estimated number of jobs created by that NDP budget was 331.9. In 1999-00, the estimate was 620 private sector jobs. In the estimate prepared for the budget that we have just tabled, the number of private sector, full-time jobs created is 677.7. Those are the Department of Finance figures, as estimated and reviewed by Economic Development. There are 700 private sector jobs outlined in the budget documents that are up for debate.
The member opposite can challenge those figures all he wants. We are using the same estimator and the same individuals who worked on their budgets. Those figures are independent figures. They are prepared by our professional public servants. They are an estimate of the jobs. That is what we are doing.
Mr. Fentie: What the minister is really doing is talking about it but not doing anything concrete. The jobs the minister alludes to are jobs that were already there. There are no new jobs in this budget - none whatsoever, Mr. Speaker.
I started out questioning today by making the offer of trying to be constructive, so I will ask the minister this question. This situation we're in economically is a crisis. The official opposition has made an offer, with no response, as yet, from the minister, in terms of an all-party process so that we can get after this economic crisis we're in at a political level. Will this minister commit here on the floor of this Legislature today to convene an all-party process so that the three political parties in this Legislature join forces to address one of the most serious situations this territory has ever faced? Will she do that for Yukoners?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite purports to be constructive. The Yukon voters spoke loudly and clearly about who they wanted to manage the economy, on April 17 of last year. We all know this is a serious situation. This government is doing a good job of listening to what Yukoners have to say. We are very concerned about the economy. We are working on those issues.
We have presented a budget that the member and I are looking forward to debating. This budget creates jobs in our economy. It recognizes needs in our economy. It works to employ people, and it also addresses the social needs, the health care needs, as well as specific priorities requested by communities. These are contained in the budget documents, and I'm looking forward to debating them.
What this government is doing is working hard on all of these issues, and our performance will be judged by the Yukon people.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Now, the Premier has made much of the Liberal government's initiatives in the budget address that are supposed to promote mining in the territory. She talked about the mining's incentive program, the geological survey work, a new cost-shared mineral development program and $550,000 for mineral resource assessment. None of these initiatives are going to amount to anything for the mining industry, and they are not going to encourage them to come back because of three words "protected areas strategy."
When the Yukon government signed to the protected areas strategy in 1992, the strategy was based on the concept of multiple use and called upon the government to protect 12 percent of the land area by the year 2000. Currently, according to Yukon government statistics, the Yukon has 15.3 percent of its land area protected. So the territory has actually exceeded its commitment. This Liberal government has betrayed the protected areas strategy by eliminating the concept of multiple use and plans to turn the strategy into a legislative vehicle to create 16 more parks in the territory.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much. These parks could encompass 40 percent more of the Yukon's land area. My question for the minister is this: can the Premier advise the House what percentage of Yukon's land area she is prepared to have withdrawn from all development? What is the percentage - 30, 40, 50, 60, 70? What percentage of the total land area in the Yukon is the Premier prepared to withdraw?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'll answer that question. There was a motion brought forward in the House today that we have to recognize and acknowledge the damage that was done by the previous government in the implementation aspects of goal 1 protected areas. In our communications with all stakeholders at the workshops, both from my office and from the Premier's office, we had indicated a willingness to move forward in a very positive and constructive manner and listen to the concerns and issues after the damage had been repaired. Unfortunately, that is going to take a little longer than had been anticipated, because the damage was so extensive in how the process was totally usurped by the previous government.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the stand-in for the Premier failed to answer the question as to how much of Yukon lands will be withdrawn and will be protected.
Uncertainty over land tenure destroys mining investment here in the Yukon. Mining companies are not going to invest millions of dollars exploring for minerals, only to have their discoveries included within a park boundary. Now, prior to the Premier attending the Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver, I asked her to make a commitment to no more parks being created in secret. She did not make that commitment, so I am going to ask her today to make that commitment. Will she make that commitment today, not to create any more parks in secret?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, with all due respect to the process, we are making best efforts to have the damages that were incurred upon the implementation aspects of goal 1 protected areas repaired. We are getting all key stakeholders back to the table. It's going to take a much more concerted effort than has been attributed to that process to date, but we will do it because we are tenacious enough to get it done.
The offer that was extended by the Premier, until this process is reviewed, repaired and enacted, is that there will be no new goal 1 areas designated.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again the question has failed to be answered. What we have is the Premier flying off making commitments and the Minister of Renewable Resources standing in and answering for her. What we have here is a government that wants to welcome mining back to the territory.
Will the Premier make the commitment to ensure that mining and other resource users will at least be given equal representation to environmental lobby groups on any committee established to review the Yukon protected areas strategy? We have to have a level playing field with equal representation for all. Will the Premier make that commitment that that will be the case with the Yukon protected areas strategy review?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, there was excellent representation at the beginning of the workshop that was all lined up before the group of seven decided to leave. There was representation from business and mining. It was probably the most equal and balanced setting, and a great opportunity for finding balance in the repair to the damages incurred upon the process by the previous government.
So, we did have those people there once. The trust factor by the representatives of mining and some businesses has been so shattered by the so-called backroom deals that I've been accused of making, that it's going to take some time to build up the confidence that we are moving and respecting the comments and constructive criticisms that they do provide.
Question re: Firefighters, compensation to
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board today.
Now, we have seen a lot of coverage in the national media lately about the high rate of certain types of cancers among firefighters. At the heart of the issue is the fight by firefighters to have cancer covered as a workplace injury. Has the minister discussed this issue with the WCB? Has he given any direction to include cancer as a compensational injury for Yukon firefighters?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: No, we haven't at this point. But it's a point that I would raise with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, so I thank the member opposite for raising it at this point.
Mr. Keenan: So, I take from the member's answer that he is going to have that discussion. I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker.
Ontario automatically provides compensation to firefighters who have been there for 20 years and have developed cancer. The New Democratic government in Manitoba is apparently considering similar legislation.
Now, if this minister hasn't given that direction about it, when can we expect that legislation to be brought into this House?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: According to the Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs, the AYFC, the problem of occupation-caused cancer has not yet manifested itself in the Yukon. That's probably why it hasn't been an issue up to this point, but I take note of what the member opposite is saying. Obviously, it's something that is going to happen, if it is not already happening. I will definitely be raising it with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. I think it's important that we be proactive rather than reactive.
So, again, I thank him for that alert about this very serious problem.
Mr. Keenan: Certainly, I'd like to see the minister be proactive in this issue and not wait for something to happen, because when cancer does strike, it strikes not just one person but many people within the extended family. So I certainly would appreciate if the minister could be proactive, discuss it with the board, and see if we can get it into the Legislature for this fall sitting.
Now, in my second supplementary and to the same minister in his capacity as the Minister of Health, I have been speaking to local representatives of the fire chiefs association, and we understand that a major occupational hazard for firefighters is the contracting of HIV and hepatitis C when they respond to accidents.
At present, the firefighters have to provide the costs of their own inoculations against these illnesses. Has the minister had any discussion with the Minister of C&TS about this issue, and will they be looking to provide those inoculation costs for the firefighters?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The Association of Yukon Fire Chiefs is really concerned, as the member opposite has said, about the exposure to hepatitis A and B and other blood-carried problems. The fire marshal's office is taking a proactive approach and is consulting with the Department of Health and Social Services to make hepatitis B vaccinations available to all volunteer firefighters.
So there is discussion and action going on at this moment. Again, I thank him for that alert. I think it's a very important one.
Question re: Web site, lack of access to
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Government Services. Now, for the last little while, something has been missing from the department's page in the government Web site, as I've been learning the computer and finding out these different things. I'm talking about the link to the Yukon government's Yukon hire policy. Has the minister abandoned that policy, or has the government just decided that no one should know about it, because it's not there?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. It is a computer error, and there is not a link. There is an error in the site, and we're all working at getting it fixed.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I think it's very evident that in any answer you get from the Liberal Party, they're certainly looking to blame somebody. If it's not the past government, it's the computer, but never themselves, Mr. Speaker, and I would like to point that out as certainly wrong.
Now, the budget speech makes much reference to extending the business incentive rebates, and I hope that the government plans to do more than just promote the Yukon hire, because that just won't cut it, I tell you.
I have a related question regarding the government Web site. Yesterday, the Member for Porter Creek North had spoken about how thoughtful it was of the Finance minister to be able to table her budget on the Thursday so that people could have the time to study it and to read it over the weekend. Can the minister explain, then, why his department shut down the government server on a Thursday evening for the whole weekend so that no one could get access to the budget?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, we definitely had to do some upgrading of the servers. That's probably not a common practice of the previous government, but certainly we are trying to do some upgrading of our servers, and we gave ample notice. We gave ample notice of two weeks that we would be doing upgrading of this server. We apologize for the inconvenience that we may have caused for the users; however, we'll definitely look after the problem.
Mr. Keenan: I think it is becoming a recurring theme based on yesterday and today. First they play the blame game and then they follow it up with an insult. Then they attempt to answer the question. It is a recurring theme and I would just like to point that out to the 28,000 Yukoners who are listening to us today.
Now, the timing of this communication breakdown is very unfortunate, especially for a government that claimed in their first budget that they want everybody to see it. They claim to be open and accountable, yet, of course, they hide it. Now, there is a big workshop coming up soon on how government can use the information technology to provide information and services to people. We have received numerous complaints about outdated, incomplete information on the Yukon government Web site. I would like to know, what direction has the minister given to make sure that all the government Web sites are accurate, up to date and accessible to the public so that they can prove that they are an open and accountable government?
Hon. Mr. Jim: The member opposite may recall that yesterday we mentioned a little bit about telecommunication services. We have worked very diligently on the issue of telecommunications and information networking with Government Services and with rural communities in the Yukon. We will continue to do as best we can. We have actually brought up the amount of dollars that were being provided by the previous governments. We have been working very diligently with electronic commerce, Internet Yukon, the national broadband task force and a number of different programs that bring up the level of services - not only the level of services but the quality of services with the Internet and also in information technology.
Question re: Seniors support services
Mr. McRobb: Well, just more finger-pointing from the Liberal government. It is high time they accepted the responsibilities of being in government. They have been there a year now. People are looking to them for some solutions and not just casting blame.
This question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Liberal election platform promised significant increases to services for seniors, including more nursing care beds, independent living facilities in the communities, and support for seniors living in their own homes. The new budget is a big disappointment in terms of living up to those promises. What process is the government using to identify the special needs of seniors in smaller Yukon communities, such as Haines Junction?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: As the member opposite knows, it's a growing problem. It is a growing issue, with seniors staying in their own homes. It's very important that we, as a government, believe that this the best place for seniors, if that is where they wish to stay. Obviously, they want to stay in their own communities, as well.
So, it's very important that we assess the situation on a regular basis. My understanding is that this is done on a yearly basis by the Health department, with seniors in the various communities and with the public health nurses, as well, in order to look at what the needs are. Of course, these are translated into some thoughts and ideas for government then to make decisions about the route they must follow next.
The member opposite can rest assured that we are looking at the problem. We are trying to continue upgrading how we respond to it. If he has more information that will be helpful in this process, I would welcome him to give it to us, because I'm sure it will help us make a faster decision.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, projects like the new 96-bed continuing care facility in Whitehorse - another NDP project this government is trying to claim credit for, by the way, and that was after a long jog, obviously, because the minister was against the project in the campaign but came along to realizing the merits of it later on. Anyway, that project is well underway, and that's good. However, the needs of rural communities just don't appear in this budget. That's a big disappointment to people who believed what the Liberals were saying on the doorstep a year ago.
What is the government doing to ensure that these needs are not only properly identified but also met? Does the minister have a game plan?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just to correct a couple things for the member opposite, we've been in office for 10 months, and we don't have all the answers. We never pretended to have all the answers. We rely on a lot of resources. We rely on a lot of resources to provide us with input, and that takes time, Mr. Speaker. Working with communities takes time. You have to visit communities; you have to consult with communities. To say that we have an instant answer today in order to make a decision tomorrow - we don't. We know that that is going to provide us with, hopefully, that backup information that we need to make that decision.
The game plan, as the member opposite has talked about, is really to consult on a regular basis, so that when the need is there, we're proactive, that we're there before we have to be reactive. Hopefully, that's what we're doing at this point, Mr. Speaker.
Just also, if the member opposite would take an assessment of the monies and dollars that were spent in the communities throughout the whole budget, the member opposite would see that they're more than equitable. To say that they haven't been equitable, I think the member opposite hasn't read the budget, because we make sure we look after all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure viewers will detect the recurring theme here. The minister says he doesn't have all the answers. Well, I predict 30 months from now the Liberals still won't have the answers, and when Yukoners find that out they'll press the ejection button on election day.
Communities such as Watson Lake and Haines Junction have identified issues around the care of seniors and elders in their communities. This government's own statistics in the O&M budget show an increasing need for these services. How is this government prioritizing community needs and how many more budgets do we have to wait for before rural communities have access to the options they have already identified?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Speaker, to have an instant answer and an instant solution would be presumptuous of us, because we don't, as I said, have all the answers but we definitely want people to have input into how we arrive at decisions. That's why we went about the territory consulting with Yukoners about how to prepare this budget, because it was a made-in-the-Yukon budget.
It's very important to look at the number of initiatives that have been put in this budget to help seniors. Number one, energy initiatives that have been taken with great initiative by the minister of housing in trying to again encourage and support those people who stay in their own homes.
If we felt, at this point in time, that there was a need for building extended care facilities in the communities, there's no doubt about it, Mr. Speaker, we would be starting that process. It's out there. We know that there is the concern that's coming to the front here, but it's not there yet. The numbers are not there yet. That's why we moved to expand the extended care here to 96. We knew the numbers were there. But in the rural communities, we know that the numbers are starting to move up there, and the preparation for that is identifying the numbers and then moving on to make those decisions about building for those people in those communities.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to inform the House that the government private members do not wish to identify any items to be called on Wednesday, February 28, 2001, under the heading of government private members' business.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, quite often, we do have visitors come into the gallery during the proceedings. I would like members of this House to welcome Chief Robert Hager and his wife Christine, and also Jim Brohman, the union representative of PSAC.
Speaker: We will now proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading - continued
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan. Adjourned debate, the hon. Mrs. Edelman.
Speaker: I would ask the Member for Riverdale South to proceed and remind her that there are 32 minutes left in her time allotment.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No problem, 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.
I spoke yesterday about the important role that the Child Development Centre plays in our community and how, in this budget, this government is providing stable funding to the centre. I also spoke about the problems we have with fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects, and how this budget allocates significant financial resources toward the treatment and prevention of this disease.
I spoke of how this government is doing something about it and how this Liberal government recognizes that we need to do a better job of treating Yukoners and their addictions, and how we will work with all Yukon communities to address this and other health issues.
An important component in our efforts to minimize the effects that drug addictions have on our society is the role played by shelters. Women's shelters provide a safe haven for women and their children in what can be terrifying circumstances. The shelters allow separation and a point from which healing can begin. This budget provides increased funding to Kaushee's Place, the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake and the Dawson shelter. Mr. Speaker, we delivered.
We are well aware of the fact that doctor and nurse shortages are occurring throughout this country, and indeed throughout the world. Yukon is no exception. We are developing a recruitment and retention strategy in consultation with Yukon's nurses and doctors. Dollars have been set aside to begin meeting this need.
My colleague from Whitehorse Centre spoke yesterday about his support of our initiative to increase the tobacco tax by one cent per cigarette or 25 cents per pack. I, too, am in complete support of this initiative. I have always been a strong supporter of prevention. Getting people to stop smoking and even more importantly, keeping our children from ever starting, will go a long way to reducing many of our health care costs into the future. We have increased funding to the Line of Life Association of Yukon to ensure that their work can continue. Keeping seniors in our homes - and we just heard about that, of course, during Question Period - in familiar and comfortable surroundings for as long as possible is an ultimate goal of our government.
Our budget has increased the per diem rate to foster parents by 16 percent. We have increased funding to health and social services organizations, or non-governmental organizations. We have also increased the transfer to the Yukon Hospital Corporation.
One of the things that is really different about this government is the way in which we are funding social assistance. Rather than jacking up the prices or jacking up the rate for social assistance, we made two political decisions, and they are long-term solutions. The first decision that we made was that, unlike the Yukon Party who cut or changed the job search requirement for mothers who are on social assistance, we went back and said that if a mother is at home with her child until age six, we see a benefit in that. We are not going to go out and make that mother look around for a job when that child is two years of age.
The reason for that is that we see benefit in having parents stay home with their children and provide that early intervention, that early support in their development. That was a conscious decision that we made. It was a decision that is supported by our political beliefs and our policy. It's something we came through with, and it's a long-term solution to social assistance. It's not a band-aid - just add extra dollars. And that's what the side opposite continually says we need to do. It's a long-term solution.
More than that, we have added dignity to work. We have done that by not clawing back social assistance when a person goes out and gets a job while they're on social assistance. Under previous governments, when a person was on social assistance and they went out and got a job and got some money coming in, that money would be clawed back. So there was a disincentive to go out and become self-supporting. There was a disincentive to get off social assistance.
Our government has taken a totally different approach. We have said that we won't claw back. If you're trying to get off social assistance, we support you in that. We support you in that. Mr. Speaker, there is dignity in work. We support that.
And I'll tell you a story, Mr. Speaker. It's a story about the history of our country and dignity in work. In the 1930s, during the depression - the real depression - there were many individuals who rode the rails in Canada. Or, as some people would say, they rode the rods, because under the train cars, there were rods and those rods were attached to the brakes, and there were many people who were out of work, particularly young men, who would ride those rods underneath, and they went across our country looking for work. There was no work. It was the depression. There was no social assistance. There was no dignity. There was no work.
Some of the things that used to happen to those young men was that the police who ran the rails would take their night sticks, tie them to the back of the train, and when the train took off, those night sticks would come up and hit those individuals who were on the rods or riding the rails across their country looking for work.
That wasn't a good thing. They were looking for work, and when the trains would slow down, the whole landscape would come alive with young men looking for work, going to the next stop, getting on the train, riding the rails and riding the rods. There was a real problem. People had no dignity. They could not find work, and there was a suggestion in 1938 that perhaps those young men who were looking for work, going from spot to spot to spot on the trains, they should go out on a ship. And this was well-supported by the people of Canada at the time. They should be put on a ship, sent out into the middle of the ocean, and that ship should be sunk, and that was the type of respect that they were given. They were looking for work.
Now, one year later, in 1939, they were called the princes of Canada. They were asked to go out and defend their country. Suddenly they had value; they had dignity within our society. We respect and value individuals in our society who are trying to find work, who are trying to work, and that makes an awful lot of sense.
We also respect and recognize the value of people who stay home with their children and parent them until they are sent into the education system. There is value in that, as well. We respect the work of women and men who stay home and parent their children, and we respect and value individuals who go out and try to find work, and that's what we did. We made those changes to our social assistance, and that has been very much decried by the side opposite.
Mr. Speaker, that is a part of our society - we respect those who go out and find work.
Mr. Speaker, we also delivered on our promise to increase legal aid funding. This budget makes that increase permanent and, again, we delivered on our promises. The Liquor Act review is well underway. This act has long been in need of an overhaul, and we are doing just that. Community consultations are almost complete. There have been some public stakeholder and special interest meetings that still have to be held, and they should be complete, hopefully by the end of next week.
The review is on schedule and on budget. Again, we delivered on our promises. The Premier and I spoke at length about the need to review this Liquor Act. It's our oldest and our first piece of legislation. It hasn't been completely overhauled for over 20 years. It was time to change. It was time to reflect the attitudes and beliefs of the Yukoners who currently live in our territory.
I feel confident that over this next year and over the next three years - and, indeed, past 30 months - our economy will improve. Our winter tour operators are running full-out. The Asian market continues to grow. Many of the people in this House have seen some of our visitors from Japan on the main streets and buying lots and spending lots of money in the Yukon Territory. That's a good thing. That's a very good thing. And these visitors are staying for three or four days. They're spending a lot of money. These are our aurora tourists, night viewing of the northern lights and daytime shopping.
The Yukon Quest has a huge following this year, and the banquet, I understand, was a real sellout. The Fulda Challenge brought in many new people and provided enormous exposure for the Yukon, with hundreds of millions of Europeans watching. Mr. Speaker, it's my understand that the viewing audience for the Fulda Challenge in Europe is 617 million people. That's an awful lot of money, Mr. Speaker. That's an opportunity for the Yukon. That's great exposure. The Trek over the Top was a success again and was a big help to Dawson's winter economy. We have become a real winter destination.
I have travelled to Alaska, and I have travelled to Edmonton, and I have travelled to several countries in Europe, where I witnessed the global interest in Yukon as a destination. There's a real lure or lore about the Yukon. There's a fantasy that people have about coming to the Yukon. There's a magic about this place, something that people see as a dream, and we have it. Our industry is growing. Our tourism industry through the stay-another-day program is growing, and I'm sure that it will grow even more quickly than ever.
The stay-another-day program came about through discussions with the Yukon Tourism Marketing Partnership. Speaking of the YTMP, the partnership has been enhanced with the addition of representation from Yukon municipalities, from the arts community and from the heritage community.
European markets are looking very good. Unfortunately, our American cousins may be staying at home because of the slowdown in their economy. But getting real numbers so that we can accurately track our growing tourism industry is important, and we are going to do that in many ways, including the creation of an accommodation act. The accommodation act will also include RV parks, bed and breakfasts, as well as hotels. It's very important that we have good numbers to make good business decisions.
The department is preparing a discussion paper, after which we will be getting input from industry representatives, and we will have a better way to measure who our visiting tourists are, how long they're staying, and what they're doing. We can better then apply our marketing efforts toward supplying that demand.
The area of greatest growth is certainly our winter tourism market. That is where we have seen the largest growth in the tourism sector of our economy, and it is likely where we will see growth in the coming years. But we are not just going to sit back and do nothing about improving our tourism industry. No, Mr. Speaker, we are working very hard to attract more visitors to Yukon summers. We are going to be working very hard to ensure that the stay-another-day program works, because any extra day that a visitor stays means more money in our Yukon economy. It is estimated that if we can just get people to stay for four more hours, we can get them to stay overnight. If we can get them to stay and go to a show or have a bean supper - maybe in Mayo - then we can get them to stay for another night. If we can get all of those people to stay another night and stay another day, obviously then we have the opportunity to increase the dollars going into our Yukon economy by $13 million. That's the opportunity that we have to increase the dollars going into the Yukon economy - by $13 million.
The leader of the official opposition says that the Minister of Tourism - I'm the Minister of Tourism and I like to travel. That's true, because, rather than sitting in my office hoping that people come, I'm actually out there getting them. I'm telling them what's so great about the Yukon and why they should come here.
Mr. Speaker, I was just at the RV show in Edmonton. Not very glamorous you would think, but we had people six deep at our booth. We had people in the next booth requesting to sit beside the Yukon booth next year because we attract visitors, we attract Yukoners, people to come to the Yukon. I had the Mayor of Dawson City with me, I had myself, I had a representative from the Klondike Visitors Association and I had a representative from the Department of Tourism. Nobody got by us - nobody - and they all requested information about the Yukon Territory. They were all interested, or at least so they told us anyway, in coming to the Yukon Territory at some point.
We are being very proactive in our search for Yukon visitors.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Tourism department is the lead on the air access study and I know that increasing our tourism industry will help us to negotiate better terms with air carriers, and that will benefit all Yukoners. We are a government that delivers.
A large group of musical Yukoners, organized through the Recording Arts Industry Yukon Association, or RAIYA, recently returned from the folk alliance held in Vancouver. The event was a huge success. Yukoners were highlighted at several events during the conference, and that means that even more of our talented musicians will be heard in faraway places. This, too, helps Yukon's profile, which in turn will help to increase our growing tourism industry.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is about rebuilding the Yukon economy. Our suffering mining industry will receive more support from this budget. This budget goes further to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, without which obviously we would have no mining. If there aren't people out there looking for it, it's not going to be found.
That's what prospecting is all about. And we know that the first step in ensuring a health and sustainable mining industry is a strong and vibrant exploration industry. Exploration has a positive economic impact on our local economies, and there are many people in my riding in particular who have grave concerns about our economy in general and our mining industry specifically. And these are people who can tell you quite clearly what the local impacts of a healthy and strong exploration industry are.
If it weren't so windy today you could probably drive to Eagle Plains or, even better, fly there, and see for yourself the positive benefits of exploration. The mining industry needs access to land and a fair regulatory regime to be successful. We are working very hard to supply these needs. We are working very hard to give all Yukoners the certainty they need to prosper here in the Yukon Territory.
We are a land rich in natural resources. We have deposits of gold, silver, lead, zinc and copper. And there are several deposits permitted and ready to go. Some are seeking funding and some are awaiting a rebound in metal prices. When they do open - and I know that they will; I have hope and I have faith - then we will be a more prosperous community.
All Yukoners will benefit from the opening of the Minto deposit near Pelly Crossing, the Wolverine Lake deposits near Ross River, Sa Dena Hes out of Watson Lake and the Keno Hill mines near Mayo.
Our placer mining industry is in poor shape. Low metal prices and a federal regulatory morass have stifled this industry, but this government is continuing to communicate with our federal counterparts. We are good at that. We will continue to fight for the placer miner and the farmers of the north as well, our oldest and strongest family-run industry. Our best bet for a strong economy is a diverse economy - an economy with many components to it. That is the vision of this government: a strong industrial sector.
Mining, logging and local manufacturing, and a healthy business sector, will provide many products, services and jobs for Yukoners. Our business community, however, does not need us interfering with what they do best. Our business community needs a level playing field, and that is what we will give them. This government will not provide government incentives when they're completely harmful to existing businesses, unlike previous governments. We have a growing list of products and services that are being exported globally - some of those are music, and some are out of a need to survive the poor economic conditions that came out under the previous government's administration, and some, as completely new products, from the creative minds of Yukoners. Our cultural industry will continue to grow. This budget will help to ensure that we have a healthy economy well into the future.
The Yukon is largely unexplored for oil and gas, with activity coming to almost a complete stop in the early 1970s. The industry is beginning to make a comeback. The Yukon government assumed responsibility for its oil and gas resources in 1998 and, yes, Mr. Speaker, when we were in opposition, we certainly voted for YOGA, or the Yukon Oil and Gas Accord. We certainly voted for that, because it was an opportunity for Yukoners in the making.
This government has worked hard to ensure oil and gas exploration continues to increase. We are becoming increasingly competitive in the global market, and this government fully intends to facilitate and foster new oil and gas activity and, to be clear, Yukon's economic future burns brighter as an exporter of natural gas, and we move closer to becoming financially self-sufficient.
As the Premier said in her budget speech, "Our way is the highway." The Alaska Highway pipeline comes closer to reality with each passing day. It does, Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, it does. We are meeting with gas producers and pipeline companies to exchange information and to be sure that we're up to date on new developments. This government keeps in contact with government officials in British Columbia and in Alaska, as well as with the National Energy Board, although this route and, in fact, no route, has yet been selected. We, as government, are going to keep well-informed of all the issues surrounding the Alaska Highway route and give that information to Yukoners on a regular basis.
We intend to be mindful of Yukoners' concerns about the pipeline and, through preparedness, intend to ensure that Yukoners receive maximum benefits from this project, should it go ahead.
Mr. Speaker, we have a vision for the Yukon that Yukoners chose, and we respect that choice. It was made by the majority of Yukoners. We will do our best; we can do nothing less.
Mr. McRobb: There are a number of things in this budget I'd like to respond to. As usual, I try to categorize them, starting with general comments, followed by departmental comments, and closing with riding comments.
To begin with, in the general category, I'd like to point out that nowhere in this budget speech is there that famous Liberal quote from the election campaign and in the six months following: "We will do what we said we would do." It's nowhere to be found in the speech, Mr. Speaker. Why is that?
Well, I've given it some thought, and I think other people have given it some thought, and it's because already there are broken promises. The Liberals have not fulfilled promises they made, expectations they raised. The number of teachers in the gallery today and the other day, Mr. Speaker, attests to that. There are a number of broken promises. So, obviously, when something doesn't quite go their way, they move to eliminate it. And I believe that's why that phrase was not mentioned in this budget speech, the first-ever Liberal budget speech.
Another one, Mr. Speaker, is that, in reviewing the Premier's budget reply one year ago, she pointed out a number of things. One of the main criticisms she launched at our government was the fact that we brought in a deficit budget.
What does she and her Liberal colleagues do, Mr. Speaker? They also bring in a deficit budget - $24 million. She praised the balanced budget approach. Is the Liberal budget balanced? The answer is no. So her words, which I can recollect quite clearly, ring rather hollow in this Chamber at this point, when she and her government had the opportunity to do what they said they would do.
There are a couple of other things in the Premier's budget reply speech of a year ago, Mr. Speaker, that I would like to touch on. She indicated that there are four main points that the Liberal government would fulfill - land claims, DAP, YPAS, and change in attitude.
Well, Mr. Speaker, where are we on land claims? They were supposed to be settled in January. There have been no announcements. What is happening?
In doing some research for today, Mr. Speaker, I found, in looking through transcripts during the campaign and over the summer and fall, that it was clear before the election that the federal government was prepared to move on the two roadblocks preventing the conclusion of land claims in this territory, and they had agreed to a principals meeting at that time. Well, I want to remind people of that today, because the Liberals have conveniently forgotten to remind people about that. Instead, they have put their own spin on this very important issue by claiming all the credit themselves.
Mr. Speaker, that agreement for the federal government to move on those two outstanding issues was made during the previous government's term as territorial government.
The now Premier, in her budget reply speech one year ago, also criticized us for not doing enough in Old Crow. Compare this year's expenditures in Old Crow with last year's and you will find that they are greatly reduced. She questioned our government on why there wasn't an eduction truck and a water delivery system in Old Crow. Is it in this budget? The answer is no. Another reason why that phrase was excluded from the speech, Mr. Speaker.
Something else that I found in the transcripts of the election campaign was another quote by the Premier, saying that they would fulfill their 122 campaign commitments, which they costed at only $4.2 million. Why aren't those commitments in this budget? These Liberals have spent well over $1 billion so far - two mains budgets plus a large supplementary budget in the fall. If it's just a matter of $4.2 million, why didn't they deliver? Why didn't they do what they said they would do? Good question.
The Premier also claims that this is a made-in-Yukon budget. Well, again, at the risk of being deemed a nattering nabob of negativity, I have to point out that it's not a made-in-Yukon budget. How could it be when the consultation process occurred too late to really make a difference? The consultation process must be carried out in the fall - in September and October - like the previous government ensured, to provide people with enough time to consider what they want to say and provide their input, and, most importantly, for that input to be considered and developed into a budget. The Liberal government ignored that.
Mr. Speaker, I recall back in June, in one of these speeches, the explanation of how the budget consultation process should occur in the fall of 2000 in preparation for this budget. I went into detail on how the Liberal government should consult people in the Kluane riding and the various communities, including spelling out the logistics, the need for adequate notice and so on. Did they do it? No. Another broken promise, another reason why they seem to forget that phrase that was all too common only months ago.
Mr. Speaker, 700 jobs - well, that's not new. We find out they are short-term jobs. That the Liberals are continuing 700 short-term jobs is what they meant to say. Well, remember only a couple of short months ago, when this Liberal government refused to accept the constructive recommendations proposed in the supplementary budget tabled by the official opposition? What was one of their main excuses at the time to not adopt our constructive suggestions to create winter jobs? The record speaks clearly for itself, but for those who can't remember or don't want to remember, their main line was: "we are wanting to rebuild the economy, and we're not interested in short-term jobs."
Well, Mr. Speaker, what a difference a couple of months makes, because that's the focus of their whole budget - 700 short-term existing jobs. That's another reason not to repeat that common phrase in the budget speech, Mr. Speaker.
What about the economy? What are the Liberals doing to get the economy going? They have killed economic diversification, trade and investment initiatives. They cancelled the ports. Yesterday we heard one of the Liberals say the ports weren't any good because all they would do would be to bring in cruise ships with people to see the new parks, and that's an airy-fairy approach to economics, and he didn't support it.
What a short-sighted view, a view that is not consistent with the approach this Liberal government took during the election campaign or in the months following. Another broken promise, another reason, Mr. Speaker.
What about the community development fund? The Liberals campaigned on continuing all the programs in the budget tabled by the NDP government before the election call. Mr. Speaker, we all know now that what this Liberal government did was punish Yukoners for a whole year, while repackaging the program into a red and white package they can call their own. Well, that's shameful, and that's not living up to what they said they would do.
Just this weekend, we have the Silver Sled dog race in Haines Junction, an event that expected support from the community development fund. Did they get any? The answer is no. There was no funding. The Yukon Quest gets $185,000; there is nothing for the Silver Sled, Mr. Speaker. They're on their own.
So much, again, for this Liberal government's promise to support the communities and not just focus on Whitehorse.
I might add that, in defence of this event, it's a very good event. I understand that there was a foot of fresh snow in Haines Junction last night, and I would invite everyone to go out there and take in this event. It is extremely worthwhile.
While I am at it, I would also like to point out that this weekend in Beaver Creek is the annual curling bonspiel. It's the first big event in the new curling rink, also funded and built with assistance from the community development fund, Mr. Speaker.
Well, the reviews on project Yukon, the Liberal replacement for the community development fund, have only just begun to trickle in, but it won't be until this program has undergone due inspection that credible reviews will be heard. The Liberals have yet to provide us with any information on what this program is all about. From what I understand so far, it's not all very good, Mr. Speaker. There are some limitations on this program that are very disappointing to many people out there in the public.
What about the fire smart program? There is only $500,000 in this budget. That's not enough. I know projects in the Kluane riding are going to total more than half of that. What about the rest of Yukon? This government campaigned on reducing the fuel load next to communities. Yet, when it comes time to deliver in a big budget - the biggest budget ever, with a $24-million deficit - what did they do? They reduced the program.
The fire smart program, historically, has much more than a half million dollars in it. Again, Mr. Speaker, another reason why the Liberals conveniently forgot to re-mention that all-but-forgotten quote: "the Liberals will do what they said they will do"
As if the fire smart allocation isn't enough to be ashamed of, Mr. Speaker, in their budget speech even - and this is really unprecedented and unexpected from a government that campaigned on improving relations in the Legislature - the Premier, in reading her budget speech, attacked the previous government. The Liberals couldn't rise above it. They couldn't resist the temptation. They attacked the previous government for not having fire smart as a separate line item.
Well, whoop-de-doo. What's the significance of that? There is no significance, Mr. Speaker. The program was alive and well, and functioning as it should as part of the community development fund. So what have the Liberals done? They have only reduced it, and certainly haven't fulfilled their promises or expectations from Yukoners.
The tax cuts are another area, Mr. Speaker. The Liberals are taking full credit for it. Did the Premier, in her budget speech, give any recognition to the previous government for proposing this initiative? No, not a word. Instead, shortly after the election, the Premier doubted whether this Liberal government would even continue with those tax cuts. It wasn't until we brought pressure in this Legislature that they finally committed to doing it, and it wasn't until the other day when the budget speech was tabled that we knew they would continue with phase 2.
Look at what they've done, Mr. Speaker. They have repackaged it in red and white wrappings and called it their own. Well, that's fine. I guess when you are desperate for acknowledgement and product, one can expect an extreme reaction. The Liberals yesterday said that their budget is reminiscent of the famous song by Bachman Turner Overdrive, "Taking Care of Business." I think it is more symbolic of one of their other hits, "Let it Ride", because many, many of the features of this budget were developed by the previous government.
What about education? I see the Education minister having a good time over there. What is in the budget to indicate that this government wants a high quality education system, one that promotes the retention of our teachers? What is this government doing? There is nothing in the budget to indicate specifically that there is money there for a new wage agreement for the teachers. They only refer to the contingency fund, but they won't even admit that that will help pay for any salary issues coming out of the bargaining process. I say shame on them, because I know what they said at election time and the teachers know what they said at election time. They raised expectations, they promised respect, and now they haven't delivered. And this is the forum of accountability. As a member of the opposition, it's part of my job to hold them accountable. I know that it's not pleasant for them to sit through this, but it's all part of the job.
One more final point in the general area, Mr. Speaker, is that now the Liberals don't want to hear our suggestions. Shortly after the election, over the summer and fall, they opened their arms to us. They said, "We're here to listen; please provide us with your constructive thoughts, and let's all try to work together."
Well, Mr. Speaker, we tried that approach, and it has failed. We tabled a constructive supplementary budget in the fall. They said, "No way." They attacked us for doing it. They came up with flimsy excuses that did not stand the test of time, even a three-month test of time, Mr. Speaker. January, February - it's almost March - it did not withstand the test of time, the short-term job excuse.
Mr. Speaker, there isn't time for me today to count the number of constructive suggestions we've given this novice government, nor is there time for me to count the number of ways they've rejected our constructive suggestions; and now they're saying they know better. Just yesterday, the Minister of Education, in his other role as Minister of Renewable Resources, went on about how they know best - they don't need to hear from other Yukoners; they know best. Well, Mr. Speaker, it didn't take this government long to get arrogant - not long at all.
I know I'm not the only one counting the months left in this term. There are probably 30, Mr. Speaker. Let's hope time flies in the remaining two and a half years unless this government starts to see the light and reverse its bad ways and opens its arms, takes a more conciliatory approach not only with the opposition but with members of the public and the public service, because they aren't treating anyone with respect.
I could talk about SCREP; I could talk about the government motions; I could talk about the all-party committee. The list goes on and on but there isn't time today. I want to move on to the second category, the departments for which I'm the responsible critic.
Firstly, in the area of Community and Transportation Services, on the road budget, we see the Liberals pounding themselves on the chest for an increase of $2 million in capital spending. Two million dollars, and $1.5 million of that is decreased Shakwak funding, which I understand is deferred at their discretion, which builds a theory they want to bring in more in years 3 and 4 when it's closer to an election.
Well, $2 million is a drop in the bucket and falls far short of what this Liberal government committed to. The minister herself committed to me in December that, in order for this government to fulfill its promise to restore highway capital funding, there was an amount of money required in the range of $20 million to $25 million per year. How does $2 million compare to that, Mr. Speaker? Well, it's about eight percent.
So, what we see here is an eight-percent solution from this Liberal government.
The minister, on that occasion, also indicated that O&M would have to increase a couple of million dollars a year. Well, we do see an increase in O&M, but I would guess that most of it will cover fuel and wage increases. So, is there a real net increase in O&M in C&TS? The answer is no. The minister acknowledged that wages and fuel would have to be subtracted, back in December. Another reason not to include that famous quote in the budget speech.
What about the cuts to the Campbell Highway and Tagish roads? You don't hear about that in the budget speech. This Liberal government wants us only to hear the good news. That's all they want the Yukon public to know about - the good news. That's why our jobs are so important here in the ranks of the opposition of this Legislature, to expose the Liberal government on the other side of the ledger, and that list is a lot longer than on the good side of the ledger.
What about the rural road upgrade program - reduced 60 percent, Mr. Speaker. This program was part of the community suite of programs. The Liberal government promised they would not ignore the rest of the Yukon. They promised they wouldn't just focus spending in their ridings.
Mr. Speaker, this was a very successful program, providing valuable funds to upgrading Yukon highways and employing Yukoners. I want to emphasise that last point, because you wouldn't see outside construction companies bidding on rural road upgrade program projects, Mr. Speaker. So much for local hire and so much for doing what they said they would do.
Where's the long-term plan? Mr. Speaker, in our budget last year, we provided a three-year, long-term plan. The Liberal government campaigned on multi-year budget financing. They campaigned on it. One of the first things I looked for in the budget was a long-term plan. Was it there? No. It was only this coming year. There were no projects identified in years following. There is no long-term plan. Another broken promise.
The Premier also spoke rather strongly about the need to develop public/private partnerships, or P3s, to build roads and bridges. Mr. Speaker, are there any in this budget? Another broken promise.
There is some good in the brush and weed control. However, it's only a 12-percent increase on a yearly basis.
I also want to recognize the good of the upgrading on the Alaska Highway between here and Haines Junction. The $2.9 million is a good first step but, Mr. Speaker, it is not new. These projects were all identified. They were all on the shelf. In our three-year plan, we committed to doing these projects on a continuing basis each year until they were done.
There are also some question marks in the department, Mr. Speaker, such as the recovery of money from the sale of lots for the Hamilton Boulevard expenditure. The minister is formerly a professional in the field of real estate and I recall that when she was on this side of the House, she made it quite clear that she was a real estate professional. But, in her reply, I would sure like to hear her analysis of what the prospectus would be for the sale of those lots in the coming year regarding recovery of that expenditure for Hamilton Boulevard, which was in the order of a couple of million dollars or so. That would be very interesting.
I want to touch now on the Department of Tourism. I am pleased to see the Liberals following through on several good programs developed by the previous government. They are now bathing in the glory of several trips from the European market and so on, and it's encouraging to hear the minister stand up and repeat many of the same things spoken in this House very meaningfully from the former Minister of Tourism, my colleague from Ross River-Southern Lakes.
But I am a little concerned about what appears to be a reduction of the funding to arts groups that are now forced to screen their applications through the Department of Economic Development. You can rest assured that we will be pursuing this in the days ahead. There is also less money in the Tourism budget for research and strategic planning, for product, resource assessment, for artifact inventory and cataloguing. There is no line item for the Thandlat study, no money designated for DNA research. These are important areas that this government has heard about and failed to deliver on. More broken promises.
What about the promise of having a representative from the Department of Tourism attend every European trade show? There is nothing in the budget to indicate that that promise has been fulfilled. It's another reason.
What about Beringia centres in Dawson City and Old Crow? It was good enough for them in opposition but where is it now? They had lots of money. We know that the Auditor General confirmed $64 million at the beginning of this fiscal year. And since then, we know that it has been proven. The oil and gas revenues have shot way up. We see this in other provinces, like B.C. and Alberta. This government has the money. Does it have the conviction? Well, let's say there are different answers to those two questions.
This government ballyhoos that it has increased the heritage budget by some $470,000. I can't find it. I can't see it in there. I'm looking forward to the departmental briefing. Maybe we can chase that one down, too.
I'd also like to add that the cultural industries really need more support than what this budget provides.
On the Department of Renewable Resources, again, more information will come to light during the departmental briefing, which hasn't occurred yet, but I'd like to point out that there's one project, at least, that was in our long-term plan - the Tombstone interpretive centre - which this government again, in its speech, claims as a new project all its own.
Well, look in last year's long-term plan, Mr. Speaker, and you'll see it there. It's not new at all. Maybe the minister can explain, when he gets up, why resource assessments are down 40 percent. What exactly does that mean? How will that affect the Yukon protected areas strategy assessments, or the land use planning assessments, or the land information management system? Maybe he can clarify that.
At the same time, maybe he can explain why capital projects are down two percent and, at the same time, general management is up 14 percent. Mr. Speaker, it's examples like that that lead me to believe that this is not a made-in-the-Yukon budget; it's an ivory-tower budget. For those who aren't familiar with that term, the ivory tower is a common term Yukoners use to describe this building - it reflects on its colour. I think it's also indicative of who put this budget together. It was the politicians and the bureaucrats, Mr. Speaker, increasing the size of government at the top end and decreasing capital projects that are on the ground out in the communities.
What happened to the climate change analysis? It's reduced, too. Mr. Speaker, we know that there is a major conference coming up next month on climate change, yet this government appears to have reduced the budget for it. It says one thing, and does another.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I know my time is running low, but I'd like to talk about a few things in the riding of Kluane. To begin with, the Premier said they heard about the need for road upgrading at the public meeting in Haines Junction. I was at that meeting and, in the context of all the other suggestions, I would say that it is extremely inflated. It's blown out of proportion. Yet it makes its way into the budget speech.
What about all the other things that were mentioned at that meeting? The Liberals haven't followed through on them. They couldn't follow through because the budget was already written, Mr. Speaker. It was too late.
These budget consultation meetings were intended to confirm what they had already decided in the ivory tower. They were out there seeking confirmation. They were hoping somebody would go to the meeting and say what they had already crafted in the back rooms. That's all it was.
The Premier said, about the Alaska Highway upgrading to Haines Junction, that there are three corners that apparently make up the $2.9 million being spent; that for years they have been cleared of trees but the previous government did nothing. Another example of how they couldn't resist the temptation to stoop and attack the previous government, instead of taking the high road and taking a more cooperative approach in this Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, the Pine Lake corner, I understand, is one of them. It wasn't cleared years ago. It was cleared last spring. Why can't this government get its information straight?
The other corners, I understand, are at Champagne. Well, which of them were cleared years ago? I drive that road frequently, as the members opposite like to remind people. I don't see them. Where are they?
On a sad note, I note that Haines Junction gets only $141,000 in this budget. That's aside from the highway improvements, some of them many miles down the road, and certainly way outside community boundaries. Now, that's just a small portion of what the previous Yukon government provided to them last year. Mr. Speaker, last year it was $582,000; this year it's only 24 percent of that - another example of how this government is ignoring the parts of the Yukon outside the Liberal City of Whitehorse. You can look at the political map and see a red dot in the middle. Now, outside of the recent Faro example, they have to broaden their views. They said it - following the election, they promised they would consult with the communities and represent all Yukoners. Again, they're failing to do that.
I have the minutes from the Village of Haines Junction meeting on January 24. I note an interesting anecdote spoken by the mayor. "With reduced territorial funding opportunities and a reduced budget for the Yukon Convention Bureau, it is time for the village to reflect and re-evaluate priorities."
What messages is this government giving to the communities? What messages are they delivering? Good question.
Look at Destruction Bay, only $30,000. That's less than the fire smart project they would have had this past year, if this government hadn't cancelled the program.
What about Burwash Landing? Aside from our sewage lagoon project, identified in the long-term plan, which had already been started, there's only $53,000. That's shameful, Mr. Speaker. And yet the Premier talks about increasing the road maintenance in the community. Well, fortunately, last night, I chased down that rabbit and discovered some correspondence dating back to December 1999, when winter road maintenance was requested by the community, and it's clear in the response on December 15 from the former minister, Mr. Keenan, that that work is already being done by the department. So what's new here? Mr. Speaker, there's nothing new here. Maybe it's just another revelation that this government doesn't know what the departments are doing.
Look at Beaver Creek, only $19,000 for the whole community in the next year -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: That's disgraceful, Mr. Speaker. There is $10,000 for a campground. Which campground? The nearest campground I know is miles down the road. Does that leave nine percent? That's just a small portion of last year.
What about a commitment to our teachers to retain them in the communities, Mr. Speaker? On a recent trip to Beaver Creek, I spoke to several teachers along the way, and I heard about that. I heard how their expectations were raised. And again, there's no delivery.
Mr. Speaker, there isn't time for me to cover the rest of the issues, but I'll flag what some of them are very quickly. Seniors housing - another commitment not fulfilled. The Aishihik Lake Wilderness Treatment Centre asked for some basic, fundamental support during the public meeting. Is there anything in this budget? No. What about the budget consultation process? There was no notice in Beaver Creek. Ads were placed in Friday papers that don't arrive there until Monday evening; however, the meetings were at Monday noon. Mr. Speaker, nobody knew about them.
And then they change the venue for the meeting. What a joke. You know, back in June, I invited them to ask me to attend these meetings. Did I get an invitation? Instead I heard that at their meeting with White River, they asked where their MLA was. What did the Premier say? "I can't speak for him; I don't know where he is," was the response that I was told. That is shameful. That is not working together. When a member of the opposition volunteers to take part in these very important meetings, this government should be responsible enough -
Speaker: Order please. The member's time has expired.
Mr. Kent: It gives me great pleasure today to respond to what is clearly a Yukon-made budget and a people budget, contrary to what the Member for Kluane would have you believe. I am going to let a lot of the ministers rebut some of his comments when we get into departmental briefings. But something that I would like to speak about is his insinuation that there was no community involvement in this budgeting process.
I was fortunate enough to travel to some of those communities as some of my colleagues did, and I can tell him from the budget speech directly, I don't what speech he was reading, but the Selkirk First Nation told us that they wanted improvements to the fire hall - there was $35,000 for that. The Liard First Nation said that the community needed an electric fence installed around the community dump - $15,000 for that, Mr. Speaker. There are many, many examples of community wishes in this budget: $52,000 for increased fire safety in Tagish and Destruction Bay. Capital projects go on and on. $3 million is the amount that is going to be spent in Haines Junction.
This document, Mr. Speaker, was constructed not solely by government, but with input from Yukoners from all walks of life. For the first time ever, departmental deputy ministers were directly involved in the total budget process, and for the first time, all of caucus took part in community consultation tours, where we listened closely to what Yukoners wanted to see in their budget.
Mr. Speaker, this is a budget that reflects the commitments we made during the election campaign and concerns we heard on Yukoners' doorsteps last March and last April. And here is something for the Member for Kluane: we are doing what we said we would do.
Last fall, at the Foothills Pipe Lines reception, I spoke with a local businessman, and I promised him that Liberal priorities would continue to emerge with the tabling of our spring budget. I'm happy to say, Mr. Speaker, that that is a promise we have kept.
Another one of our promises, Mr. Speaker, was to create jobs and revitalize the private sector, which has suffered under past governments. It's a big hole we have to crawl out of, but we're on our way up that ladder.
Capital costs in this budget are estimated at $107 million, approximately 20 percent of our total budget, Mr. Speaker. This is a full 10 percent higher than the next closest jurisdiction in Canada, showing our commitment and duty to supply job opportunities for Yukoners. By providing jobs, we provide an avenue for an influx of money in the territory. That, in turn, strengthens the economy, which was largely ignored by past governments, and that's what I'd like to address now - rebuilding the Yukon economy, which is on our list of seven priorities.
Capital spending is up seven percent. My constituents in Riverside will be happy to hear that this spending will help sustain 700 full-time, private sector jobs.
A large part of rebuilding the economy involved creating a better mining climate, which we have taken steps to do by continuing our effort and support for the Yukon mining incentives program, to the tune of $760,000 for this fiscal year alone. Also this year, Mr. Speaker, geological survey work is up $64,000. Approximately $1.1 million has been earmarked for resource assessments and development.
The exploration tax credit has been increased to 25 percent and extended through April 1, 2002. In total, there's $3.4 million in capital spending for mining in this budget.
Our government values mining, and we hope that, through these initiatives, we will be able to bring environmentally responsible and economically feasible mining back to our territory.
Oil and gas is an emerging industry in our territory, and we're seeing the benefits of our first call for bids right now. Today, there are more than 60 Yukoners working in the Eagle Plains basin, and I look forward, as do many of my constituents, to seeing the future economic impact this industry will bear, as more parcels of land are explored.
The anticipation of a pipeline is also very apparent in my riding, as well as with the people I talk to in Carcross, Tagish, Teslin and Watson Lake. There's cautious optimism regarding a pipeline, but everyone is aware of raising expectations too high. Yukoners remember the pipeline hype of 1978. Many Yukoners remember it a little bit better than I, as I was 10 years old at the time. They know enough not to overreact at this time. However, there is nothing wrong with preparing for the possibility, and that's what we're doing.
If a pipeline announcement comes, as we have been told, by the end of this calendar year, we will be ready to jump into action to take best advantage of the tremendous economic opportunities that this project would provide.
Mr. Speaker, U.S. oil companies are also preparing for a pipeline possibility. Part of their preparation would positively affect the Yukon. Three major companies have said that they are going to spend $75 million U.S. on a pipeline feasibility study. Approximately $5 million to $10 million of that will be spent on the Yukon portion of the route.
Yukon business people informed me that they felt that they had expertise to offer in this study. All they want is a chance to prove it, and they may well get that chance. I raised this issue in Anchorage earlier this month with officials from the pipeline study group. I'm pleased to report that they will be in the Yukon sometime this spring to allow Yukoners the chance to see what kind of work they may be able to take advantage of under this program.
The Pacific Rim mining, oil and gas trade show that I went to shows this government's commitment to business. If I can borrow a phrase from the Member for Whitehorse Centre that he used yesterday, we are attempting to set the table for business. Last year, at this conference, only government officials attended. This year, we took several business representatives from the communities of Haines Junction, Faro and Whitehorse, as well as a city councillor from the City of Whitehorse.
I know from talking to them at the conference and since then that they found the experience very beneficial and have many deliverables to show from the trip. I'm quite sure that next year there will be even more representatives from the private sector, along with government officials, in Anchorage.
Mr. Speaker, another area of economic stimulation that we are looking at is the forestry industry. Forestry is another valuable resource that needs to be responsibly developed. I hope the upcoming forestry summit can provide insight into how we can properly manage our timber from an environmental as well as an economic perspective. Riverside contractors and all Yukon contractors will be able to take advantage of the business incentive rebate increases of $300,000. I know the tourism operators in my riding will benefit from the $785,000 directed toward the stay-another-day campaign. Project Yukon, fire smart, and the arts fund will help create jobs and build community infrastructure.
I heard many concerns about these programs from Carcross to Tagish to Teslin to Watson Lake, as well as from non-profit societies throughout the Yukon, and I'm pleased to stand here in support of my government's commitment to inject money into these worthwhile programs.
Mr. Speaker, I've been thanked by many Yukoners in the grocery stores, coffee shops, and on the streets for our bold tax cuts. Coupled with federal tax cuts, these are making a substantial difference in the take-home pay of Yukoners. A reduction to 44 percent of the federal rate by 2002 will mean even more disposable income for Yukoners. A family of four with an annual household income of $60,000 will see almost $1,000 more in their pockets during this time. That's a very significant figure, Mr. Speaker.
While the Minister of Health will go into greater detail when his department comes up for budget debate in the days to come, I cannot help but applaud today's several health and social initiatives that he and his department have developed for this budget for Riverside residents and for Yukoners.
Two of these initiatives have special meaning for those in my riding, namely the Child Development Centre and Kaushee's Place. Since the budget speech was given last Thursday, I have spoken with board members from both organizations and they expressed pleasure with the funding allotments. I look forward to meeting with both boards in the next few months to listen to more of their concerns, ideas and suggestions.
I also applaud the department for setting aside $100,000 toward increasing the per diem rates and clothing allowance for foster parents. These are badly overdue increases in areas that were neglected under past governments.
Also important to many in my riding is our funding of the Line of Life program, which provides an emergency notification system for seniors who require help.
Many of my constituents are concerned about social assistance and, as a caucus, we have discussed this program at length. We need to make sure that people who need assistance get assistance. This government wants to encourage those people on social assistance, who have work, to stay at work. We have done this by increasing the allowable amount a social assistance recipient can take home from their job. This allowance used to be $50 a month for a single person; now it is $100. For a family, it's gone from $100 to $150. So Yukoners on social assistance who have found a bit of work can make up to $150 before it's taken out of their assistance cheque.
This government has put more money into the pockets of these people on SA. We have also given mothers and fathers on SA more time to spend with their children before having to look for work. We know the early years of childhood are the most important ones, Mr. Speaker, and if parents can take care of their children longer, this can only help our future generations.
The new alcohol and drug secretariat will go a long way to properly addressing addictions in our territory. I am particularly happy with the work that we have done on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. This is a 100-percent curable disease that unfortunately touches every community in the Yukon. By working with our partner NGOs, other provinces and territories as well as the federal government, we can hopefully cure this disease and gain a better understanding of those afflicted with it.
We have also committed to provide more legal aid funding, and we will now have done so on two different occasions. We provided that increase in the supplementary budget of last fall and are making it permanent in this budget.
The settlement of outstanding land claims is also one of our seven priorities, and we are making progress in settling the seven remaining claims. To this end, the new First Nation secretariat will provide a very useful tool whereby we can address issues of common concern. The $6 million that we have allocated for settling the agreements will help bring closure to a process that has been labouring since 1973. We have to settle these claims, Mr. Speaker, so that we can bring economic certainty to our territory.
Infrastucture development is also another one of our main commitments and another area that we have strongly addressed in this budget. We heard on our consultation tours that this is a main priority for Yukoners as well. Rebuilding water and sewer, highways, schools and recreation facilities are all high priorities in this budget. Education will spend more than $11.8 million on projects, which, of course, includes the Mayo school.
Highway spending is pegged at $30 million, a drastic increase over the past government's pattern of cutting highway spending. The rural roads program, which I heard about in Tagish and Teslin, will see $400,000 available to upgrade roads in and around the communities. Almost $5 million, Mr. Speaker, will go toward recreation facilities territory wide and, of course, two Catholic schools will see $1.6 million in expansions.
On a more personal note, I'm pleased to see the government's continuing commitment toward the establishment of a youth directorate. Bringing Youth Toward Equality, or the BYTE group, a youth advocacy group, and staff from the advanced education branch of the Department of Education, have held focus group meetings with youth in communities around the Yukon and in the Whitehorse area.
Consultations with these youth and youth service providers took place between October and December of 2000. Well over 600 questionnaires were filled out, and 82 percent of young people who filled out these questionnaires said that the establishment of a youth office was a good idea.
It's this information, Mr. Speaker, which will be used to guide the development of a youth directorate. We are committed to youth, as they are our future. While speaking at the recent youth conference, I realized how much talent and dedication our youth have, and I look forward to giving them a forum where their ideas can come forward to government.
This budget excites me now because I can see some of the concerns and issues that I heard on the Riverside doorsteps when I ran last March being delivered in this budget.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Kent: The Member for Watson Lake asks, "Where?" If he will bear with me, I will tell him.
For the constituent I talked to on Donjek Road, there is the increased heritage funding that she asked for. For constituents on Hanson and Donjek, legal aid funding has been increased. As to the letter I received during the campaign from my constituent on Tagish Road regarding the Catholic school expansion, we have done that. We are doing what we said we would do.
For the person on Tatchun Road, we are working on fetal alcohol syndrome and fetal alcohol effects. My constituent on Kluhini Crescent asked about the funding for the Line of Life program. We delivered that. Support for mining came up throughout my campaign, but particularly from two constituents on Teslin and Wickstrom roads. We have done that.
A single father on Jeckell Street asked if he would be able to retain more earnings from work, and that it wouldn't be clawed back from his social assistance. We are doing that.
Mr. Speaker, the consultations for next year's budget have started already, and I know they have for all of us. We are listening to Yukoners. We are talking to our constituents. I know that many of us have committed to a walk-around of our ridings in May, and I look forward to being able to stand in this House this time next year and deliver on promises, concerns and commitments that were made on the doorsteps of Riverside again.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, I think that this is a good, conscientious budget, crafted by the people and for the people of the Yukon. It's a people budget, Mr. Speaker, and that's what we're all about.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, thank you. I rise today to express my support for the 2001-02 budget. I would like to take this opportunity to inform the members in the House of some of the very good projects this government will be undertaking with this 2001-02 budget.
To begin with, I would like to say that I have enjoyed the opportunity of working with many dedicated people in government departments and Crown corporations. Using my previous experience and partnering with their sound advice have allowed me to begin working on the challenges we face in trying to provide better programs and services to the people of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon economy needs to be revitalized. There is no doubt about that. We have heard the members opposite demand that we, the government, wave a magic wand and create jobs that they, themselves, helped destroy through their wasteful spending and by causing uncertainty in the resource sector. Yukoners have paid the price and there is no magic wand.
Revitalizing the Yukon economy will come from hard work and focusing on honest, realistic agreements that investors can understand and believe in.
It is also very important that we do what we say we will do. This government is doing just that.
We are on the brink of some very exciting developments that will determine the future of the Yukon and our quality of life. The Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline project, the oil and gas sector development, devolution, completing land claims, the new telecommunications technology expansion to the rural communities, stimulating our small business sector, stimulating the knowledge economy sector, encouraging new investment and increasing tourism traffic are a few of the ways whereby the economy will begin to grow again.
The world will learn that they can trust the Yukon government once again. Mining companies, junior development firms and investors must once again have faith that government will do what they say it will do. No wiggle room, no bafflegab, no multiple messages - honesty and integrity is what is needed. This government is delivering honesty and integrity.
As Government Services minister, I am very excited about some initiatives that we are undertaking that will improve the delivery of government services and programs to Yukoners. A number of technology-related initiatives will be rolled out over the next year that will see the territory advancing further into a knowledge-based economy and assist in streamlining service delivery by government departments.
Officials in Government Services are working closely with Industry Canada to ensure that Yukon receives the maximum benefit through the national broadband task force. The task force is reviewing not just the provisions of new high tech telecommunication services, but they are also exploring selected e-business topic areas so that the public may reap a greater reward from using these new digital systems. Other issues that the broadband task force subcommittees are reviewing include creating new social benefits through their increased technology applications and how to maximize them. They are also looking at how we can develop a sustainable local economy, and they are identifying the barriers to success in small rural settings like the Yukon.
This government, in partnership with the federal government, Yukon First Nations and the private sector, is exploring other important issues that will help to establish a healthy and sustainable information technology sector here in the Yukon.
I am pleased to say that there will be sound annual information technology conferences this fall. The overwhelming success of the IT conference last October highlighted the desire of all Yukon communities to become more involved in the digital revolution. Individuals from all walks of life attended last year's IT conference, and they stated that IT is extremely important to the future of the Yukon and that they encourage events such as the IT conference to continue.
Small businesses, tourism operators, First Nations, municipalities, educators and individuals in every corner of the Yukon are eager to get on the information highway to further develop their business opportunities in the global marketplace, to access a wider range of information and to pursue personal interests.
Through the telecommunications network upgrades, schools in the rural communities will be provided with high-speed data capability, so that the EduNet-distributed learning program may begin delivering a new digital curriculum.
An electronic superhighway delivering a new digital curriculum between the communities will provide the opportunity for education programs that have never been offered in rural Yukon. With the input and the participation from our partners in education, I'm sure that there will be many exciting new programs available to students and families in the future.
I'm very pleased to note that we will be working closer with the Council of Yukon First Nations to create a telecommunications development project, or projects, that will see increased use of the digital economy to future opportunities for cultural, economic and social development for all First Nations.
Part of this cooperative approach to rural technology development includes providing more computer skills training, identifying commercial opportunities, and job creation in rural Yukon. The Yukon First Nations have much to offer to the world. We will work together to help take full advantage of the new digital economy.
Mr. Speaker, we are reducing red tape - not just talking about it but actually doing it. A number of new projects that we have launched this session deal with streamlining the delivery of programs and services to Yukoners, wherever they are in the territory. Simply stated, we are working to make it easier for Yukoners to get what they need from Yukon departments, wherever they live in the territory.
We are also establishing a program that will encourage government Yukoners to provide suggestions on how we can improve the delivery of programs and services. Many people working in government have excellent ideas on how to improve the way we do things. All that has been missing in the past has been a way for them to put forward their ideas. We are going to make this happen, and I believe we will see some very innovative ideas submitted that will bring further improvements to the way government serves the public.
The construction of the Mayo school will commence this spring. The school has been redesigned through consultation involvement with Mayo community members, as well as the contracting community and the architect. The redesigned school will be more than just a place of learning for Mayo. It will be a place for community meetings. It will be a place for sporting events and for other recreational activities.
It will be a place where the community comes together for a variety of purposes.
There will be construction jobs in the Yukon this year. I'm hoping that many Yukoners, who are economically exiled to Alberta by the former NDP administration, will decide to return home and work on these projects. It would also be nice to see old friends again.
Some exciting things are happening in the Yukon Housing Corporation. The Yukon Housing Corporation, like all members of this government, is concerned about the high costs of home heating. In January of this year, Yukon Housing introduced a series of special incentives designed to help Yukoners deal with the increased costs of heating their own homes. The response to this initiative has been very strong. Yukon Housing Corporation has responded to approximately 200 inquiries and has received approximately 70 applications. In previous years, the response was three, maybe four - less than a handful, I would say - inquiries or applications, so it is actually very impressive that these programs are now being accessed by Yukoners for home energy.
I am pleased that our budget includes funds to continue with these initiatives. We introduced more flexibility under the home repair programs to better meet the needs of homeowners. We are encouraging Yukon homeowners to replace old and inefficient heating systems, that will save money and fuel consumption. This saves the Yukon consumer money, but everyone else benefits as greenhouse emissions are reduced by upgrading to newer and more efficient heating system.
We reduced the cost of the EnerGuide home energy evaluation program to encourage more homeowners to learn how they may keep their homes warmer, save money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
We introduced a three-percent interest rate for landlords. I want to improve the energy efficiency in their buildings. Since we have introduced these program changes in January of this year, 186 Yukoners have made inquiries about the special incentives. And we have, as of today, 64 homeowners taking advantage of these innovative energy saving programs.
Included in this budget is a $100,000 payment to the seniors housing trust fund and $40,000 to offset the costs of the home and yard maintenance program under the seniors housing trust. This is a new initiative designed to assist seniors who will live in their own homes. This government believes in home ownership. We have increased the home ownership program budget by almost $2 million. This is a 27-percent increase from the last fiscal year. This additional $2 million means that more families, especially young families, can access mortgage financing. It means that more Yukoners can purchase energy efficient homes. It means that more Yukon home builders and tradespeople will work this year.
I would like to take this opportunity to advise all members of the Legislature that the Yukon Housing Corporation is placing a new and pivotal role with Yukon First Nations. We are working with a number of First Nations in the development and implementation of housing policies. We are creating mentorships to assist with the development of Yukon human resources. We have been listening to Yukoners, and we have heard what is important to them. Community meetings, telephone calls, letters, e-mails and standing in line at the grocery store have been some of the ways that Yukoners have expressed their concerns and ideas about how government serves them.
We are hearing those concerns and we are acting on them.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my thanks to the many people around the Yukon who have taken the time to tell us what is important for them and their families. They have shared their visions of the future with us and we have heard them. The Yukon economy will become stronger. The people who have left for greener pastures over the last few years will return to raise their families here. We will see sustainable development. We will respect the natural beauty of the land and ensure that it remains for generations to follow.
I think being new to political life is a positive thing for me. I still think like a citizen. I still understand the challenges that Yukon families face in their daily lives. I also understand the responsibility I have to ensure that the quality of life for 30,000 of my friends and neighbours gets better.
Ms. Netro: It is my pleasure this afternoon to respond to the budget that was tabled last week. We hear that this budget is a made-in-Yukon budget and that it was created by all of us. I acknowledge that the Yukon communities did participate. We heard every community mentioned in that budget. My recollection of pre-budget consultation in the previous year was very different from the one that I witnessed in my community.
In the Education department, for example, there was a reference to the Education Act review and the capital projects. There was no mention of the importance of the needs of the students and teachers.
We have always heard from people throughout the Yukon and from the people in our communities about how important education is. It is one of the top priorities for our communities. The budget does not address the support that we need for our students and for our teachers, especially in key areas such as the overloaded position of the speech pathologist. The communities need specialized positions within our schools; and in my community in particular, you heard it mentioned to you that we are badly in need of a special needs teacher and a counsellor. Those positions are key in making the education system better for the students, to help them learn more of what they need to learn to come to a place like Whitehorse and fit into the education system out here. The information from the budget gives me little indication of the needs that are being expressed by the communities. If my community mentioned the needs for the specialized teachers or the councillor positions, I'm sure that every community in the Yukon is in a similar position.
There's a lot of emphasis placed on capital projects, such as building the Mayo school and the renovations that are being made to the different schools throughout Whitehorse, and that's good. We did ask for that, and it's good to see that happening. However, what I notice is that there was a long-term plan to build a school in Carmacks, and there is no mention of that in the budget, while there are other expansions happening throughout the Whitehorse area.
Dollars were cut from the training; dollars were cut from the youth strategic fund. I'm wondering how this is going to reflect on the job preparation for this great oil and gas pipeline that I keep hearing is going to happen in the next few years. I have asked that question before, and I'll ask it again. What are we doing to address that issue of training and preparation for these great projects that are planned?
In the area of Justice, there's the $300,000 mentioned as an increase for legal aid, and that's a reannouncement from the last supplementary; it's not an increase. While I'm encouraged to know that monies are going toward plans for a new correctional facility, as the NDP had planned, we would have liked to see more money go to the programming now.
I will have more questions in this area when we get into the Justice department debate. It is also encouraging to see an increase in public education in the Women's Directorate and also the increase in dollars that is going into the safe homes and for victim services. While I see these increases for these programs, I am also wondering about the community access to these programs and dollars. Some issues were voiced at the budget meeting in Old Crow. Again I bring to your attention the special needs teacher and counsellor positions in the school. And one of the things that I would like to find out in the near future, if it is in the budget, is how we are going to address the seven priorities that are listed in the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Yukon territorial government accord. There are seven priorities listed within that accord, and I take that as a commitment to my riding.
Another one of the issues that we hear a lot about, especially these days and especially today when the legislation has been put before the House in Washington is the caribou lobby issue. In the past year, this has been a very sensitive issue, not only for my community, but for the Gwitchin Nation as a whole. I have heard in the news and from people within the nation that this issue, again, is of top priority.
This is not only because our way of life is in jeopardy and the survival of our culture and traditional ways, but because another country is making the decisions on it. I am encouraged that we are supported by every level of government. We always have been, and we do appreciate that. But today, right now, is a very crucial time for the Gwitchin people. We need to have our voices heard. We need our governments to help speak up for us in this area as you travel to the different parts of the country, and especially in travels to Alaska or into the United States.
Another one of the issues brought before you when you met in my community was the plans for the new airport facility, which includes the visitor reception. I hear a lot of talk in this budget regarding tourism within the Yukon Territory. We would like to be a part of that. I know that plans are being made to tap into resources in Whitehorse, yet I don't see any dollars in the budget for that project, unless I'm looking in the wrong place. If I am, please help me.
But that is something that I know my community was looking forward to for a long time, and I'm very concerned that I don't see it in there. That project has been planned for the last three years. We talk about the economy. People are looking forward to working on that project. It's one of concern for safety. We actually have a plane landing in Old Crow six days a week. And in the summer months, there are planes coming in from other parts of Canada; people are flying their own private planes, and our airport is a busy place in the summertime. I believe some of you have experienced landing at the airport when you have at least 15 passengers on that plane and you all assemble in that terminal, plus, at the same time, your baggage is coming in. It takes time, and it's a safety concern. That's something that the community was looking forward to, and that's something that I will be addressing again in the future.
Again, I would like to say that I feel encouraged when I see the community development fund appear under a different name.
But again, the cuts to that funding are issues for me, because the communities - not only my community, but the communities throughout the Yukon - depend on those dollars, and especially in the winter months, when we have those long, cold winter days and when we do need projects happening to keep our people working so they can provide for their families. I bring to you, again, the social issues that were mentioned at the budget meeting at Old Crow, not only from people who were at that meeting, but from leadership, from the Vuntut Gwitchin chief and council in the area of health and social services.
Again, I feel encouraged because I see an increase in the alcohol and drug area, and again, I'm hoping that we will have access to some of those dollars to address those concerns - not only in my community, but in other communities throughout the territory - and to address our concerns about FAS and FAE - not only in our communities, but in our schools, in prevention.
While I have the topic of the caribou lobby issue fresh in my mind, I don't see any mention or any commitment in the area of the environment.
I'm not sure what you heard in the communities in that area, but I know that, where I come from, environment is again very important. Our elders always talked to us about taking care of our land, our animals and our waters, and there is work going on in our traditional area. At the last public meeting I went to in my community before I left, that exact topic was brought up by one of the elders. It's of great concern to them because there are activities happening in the Eagle Plains area, and it's not far enough away for them. Again, it's not only for Old Crow. I'm sure that every community in the territory has that same concern.
I heard one of the councillors, in her speech to the community at New Year's, say that she was very proud to be Vuntut Gwitchin because she had an opportunity to travel to southern Canada the week previous, and what she had witnessed while visiting one of her friends on one of the reservations down south really made her think about what it is that's important to us as a people and that we don't take any of the direction that the elders give us for granted.
We live in a fast-changing world. We are keeping up to that fast changing world as Vuntut Gwitchin. And yet, while we are doing that, we need to hold on to what we have, and that is in all areas of our livelihood. And those are, again, to take care of our lands, to take care of our waters, air and animals and to meet our basic, daily needs. With that I mean in the area of our social concerns and our daily lives and in our professional lives.
If we are going to move forward in our community to keep up with this fast-changing world and with some of the industries that we would like to tap into, such as tourism, we do need to address these other issues, such as the airport.
I have other areas of concern that I will be addressing at a later date.
In closing, I would just like to say that, again, I will find out where, in the budget, the seven priorities are listed. With that, I would just like to say mahsi'cho.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is my pleasure to speak this afternoon in support of this government's budget. I will be brief. I don't wish to subject the members opposite or the Hansard staff to the full 40 minutes of my time. I parted company with one of my favourite teeth this morning, courtesy of the dentist. Those of you who are listening to me don't need to share the pain.
Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government is following through on our campaign promise to restore confidence in government. In order to do this, we have sought a balance between job creation and program spending. Tax cuts and increases in capital spending will gradually create a much better environment in which Yukon people can generate more jobs and personal wealth.
Unlike the previous government, we have delivered on our pledge to reduce taxes.
Mr. Speaker, the people of Laberge have told me that they wanted tax breaks. They wanted to be listened to when they had concerns. They wanted government done differently, and they wanted government to help local workers find work.
This year, the business incentive rebate is budgeted at over $700,000. This represents an increase of $300,000 over last year. We are supporting local manufacturers and helping local employers compete.
Mr. Speaker, the only increase Yukon taxpayers will see in this budget is the increase in cigarette taxes. As mentioned in the budget address, the World Health Organization and World Bank both cite increasing the taxes on cigarettes as an effective tool for reducing tobacco usage. Deterrence is one of the most effective ways of preventing future smoking addiction. If this increase deters youth in any way from getting hooked on tobacco products, I applaud it.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane said that this government left the Silver Sled dog race in Haines Junction out in the cold, while supporting the Yukon Quest.
The Member for Kluane is conveniently forgetting that his government, the previous NDP government, spent the community development fund before the Liberal government took over. There was no money left for anyone to apply for. Haines Junction residents need to know that.
I share that member's appreciation for the Silver Sled. It is a great event, and one that I have had the privilege of helping out with, but the Member for Kluane is also conveniently forgetting that the Yukon Quest is an event with the potential to attract a great deal of media attention and, therefore, a great deal of tourism - winter and summer - to the Yukon. Such attention and such increased tourism will make it possible for smaller dog races, like the Silver Sled, to gain more attention from outside the Yukon. The Tourism department is doing the right thing by supporting the Yukon Quest. The spinoff effects will benefit the whole territory.
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition insists that people are leaving the territory in droves because of the current administration. They are conveniently forgetting that people were already leaving in large numbers during their administration. It takes time to turn that around, and the Liberal government is doing that. There are people who are returning to the Yukon because they know this is a good place to live.
The Member for Kluane said that the government deliberately decreased the Shakwak project by a million and a half dollars so we could increase it again before the next election. The word I would like to use in response to this would be ruled by you, Mr. Speaker, as unparliamentary, so I won't go there. This small decrease should be no surprise to the opposition. As the Member for Kluane should have known, the funding is $25 million or less each year, depending on the projects. We can't deliver $25 million of work on Shakwak this year. We have planned and budgeted for $23.5 million on 30 kilometres of the Alaska Highway. To increase the scope to more than that 30 kilometres of road would cause unnecessary hardship on the travelling public.
The Member for Kluane says he drives the road in his riding frequently. He must be doing it with his eyes closed. How can he fail to see the section near Champagne that was cleared years ago? It has been there for a long time, and it was there a couple of months ago when I went to Haines Junction. I submit, Mr. Speaker, that it's there today. Perhaps the member could open his eyes. The waiting is over, and we are beginning what I hope will be a new era in road construction and maintenance.
The Premier said yesterday, quite correctly, that capital funding on highways, "Under the previous governments, including both the NDP and the Yukon Party, fell from $22 million to under $4 million." The Member for Klondike, in his motion earlier today, is asking the Premier to apologize for saying that capital spending on our highways was decimated under the previous two governments. The original definition of "decimate" - its Latin root - was to reduce by 10 percent. The Yukon Party government did that. The current, more common, definition of "decimate" is more like to devastate. The NDP had certainly done that, so the Premier has nothing to apologize for.
The highways capital budget in 1992-93 was over $22 million; it was down to $17.5 million by the time the NDP took over from the Yukon Party, and under the NDP, the highways capital budget was cut every year until it was under $4 million last year. We have turned that around. It will take awhile to get back up to where we need to be, but we are making a start.
In my duties as Minister of Justice, there was a large and difficult issue awaiting me when I first arrived in this position. Legal aid had been underfunded by the territorial government and by the federal government for years. This government has begun the process of repairing the years of damage that underfunding has caused to our legal aid program. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin said this was a reannouncement. It is not.
At the time it was first announced, it was one-time funding. I have decided to make it a permanent increase in the hope that the board of the Legal Aid Society will be able to increase the scope of services they provide, which is something the community has asked for.
Mr. Speaker, we went out into the Yukon communities and we listened. That is why there is an additional $100,000 in the operating grant to Kaushee's Place, an additional $62,000 to the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake, and a $62,000 increase to the Dawson shelter. We also heard from Yukoners, who told us over and over again that more funding was required for victim services and for programming for abusive spouses. We have put an additional $155,000 toward this program and I'm proud to stand on my feet today to tell this House that this government listens to Yukoners.
The members opposite have objected to the Liberal government's pre-budget consultation. We did not hear that in the communities, interestingly enough. People were pleased to see us. But I believe that every time a member of our caucus speaks to a Yukoner, we are having a pre-budget consultation. We are listening to Yukoners. We are receiving many wonderful ideas for making government better.
I look forward to discussing my departments in detail with the members opposite when we get into departmental debate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with great pleasure that I rise today in response to this government's first budget. It is a speech, Mr. Speaker, about people, for people - the people of Riverdale North and the people in all communities - for all Yukoners.
It is a speech that shows we are open and accountable and that we are willing to listen. It is a speech that reflects what Yukoners want to see now and in the future. It is a people speech, Mr. Speaker. And people are what the Yukon is about. From the private sector to government, from outfitters to miners, from clerks to CEOs, we are in this territory together. It is a place that we call home. It is a place where we have all chosen to live for a wide variety of reasons, and this budget reflects the diverse wants and needs of all Yukoners.
Overall, the budget is a very solid piece of legislation, one that will serve Yukoners well for this fiscal year and years to come. And, as with my colleagues, I would like to talk about some specific areas which I feel are particularly noteworthy.
As the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, it has been my focus to restore confidence in the public service. Too many times the public service has been criticized for their inactivity and private agendas. Too many times, Mr. Speaker, the finger of blame has been pointed at the public service. But in reality, it has been the constant and damaging interference by previous governments in set processes. I, along with the Public Service Commissioner, am working hard to restore the confidence in the public service. Public servants need to regain their pride and self-worth, but it will take time to heal the wounds created by the previous government's transgressions.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would just point out to the minister that restoring that confidence with the public service and with such people as the Yukon Teachers Association shouldn't be done in public. It's a strange way for this minister to restore that confidence. I would ask him to try harder.
Speaker: I don't see that there's a point of order here at all. It may be a dispute between the interpretation of what is said by one member to another. Certainly, it is not a point of order, and I will ask the member to continue.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It is a direct result of what the member opposite did just now that we are attempting to change, in attitude and in action. It is also going to take that same commitment by the Public Service Commissioner in bridging and restoring the confidence in government with the teachers. That is going to take a little while longer. What the teachers are expressing is a problem with governments of the past.
We will, Mr. Speaker, succeed, with the willingness that will be exhibited by this government.
We all should remember that the government is essentially a corporation and that the public is the client of that corporation. We need to better serve our clients: Yukoners, ourselves, the public service and teachers.
We heard from Yukoners the value of the fire smart program, and we have included a half a million dollars toward this project. People, especially those in the communities, told us on our budget tours that earlier fire smart projects were extremely worthwhile and invaluable, so we have taken the steps to help secure a reduction in fire risks in and around communities.
The Member for Kluane had also indicated that we weren't willing to listen and cooperate with members opposite. Well, I beg to differ with the comments that he provided during his ramblings in response to the budget. We have listened to the Member for Watson Lake, in his reiterations that the fire smart program was a good program. Not only have we listened to the Member for Watson Lake, we have listened to many of the people in the communities.
Speaking of communities, we also listened, and are acting upon, feedback from many Yukoners about the value of the former community development fund. We have responded with project Yukon by tightening up the process by which the funds will support communities priorities for infrastructure, focusing on local job creation.
Alongside job creation are tax cuts. More jobs mean more money in the pockets of Yukoners. More money in the pockets of Yukoners means more spending on local goods and services, and more spending on more economic activities that will assist growth within this territory.
With our tax cuts announced through 2002, a Yukon family of four, as mentioned by my colleague for Riverside, with a family income of $60,000, will see almost $1,000 more directly put back into their households. The significance of this, as he had indicated, can surely not be underestimated.
As the Minister of Renewable Resources, I am excited about the up and coming forestry summit, which will bring together Yukoners from across the territory to assist in developing forest industry policy. I would like to thank those who have worked so hard, and those who will continue to do so, to make this summit the success it will be.
Again, Mr. Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that we are building on processes that were started by the previous government, and that the forest activities initiated through the commission on forestry will be expanded upon, built and strengthened as a result of listening to Yukoners.
I also look forward to continuing to work with the federal government to ensure that timber harvest agreements meet the needs of all Yukon citizens.
The Premier, during her tenure as opposition member, was concerned with Tetra Paks, or juice boxes - that they were being unfairly taxed at the expense of children. I am pleased to say that the public consultation regarding a change to the beverage container regulations is now in process.
I am also very pleased to say that I am looking forward to hosting the annual meeting of the ministers and deputy ministers of agriculture during the summer. The invitations have gone out and we expect to be receiving confirmation in the very near future. Agriculture is a burgeoning industry in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, and this conference will be a great way to showcase the progress that this industry has made in the territory. The department also expects to be hiring a consultant to assess the feasibility of establishing various types of infrastructure for agriculture and for the industry during this fiscal year.
The Department of Renewable Resources will also be continuing to work on plans and designs for the Tombstone interpretive centre. Funding has also been included for the park ranger for both the Tombstone Territorial Park and the Fishing Branch Ecological Reserve. We have recognized the cultural importance of these areas to both the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nations.
I am also pleased to announce that there will be an expanded campground season from early May to the end of September, and this was done as a direct result of listening to Yukoners, both in Whitehorse and in the communities, because, Mr. Speaker, that is what we said we would do and that is exactly what we are doing. We are doing what we said we would do, despite the rhetoric that we hear from the Member for Kluane.
We heard from Yukoners that they rely on our campgrounds during the fall for a myriad reasons, some of which are hunting, fishing and recreational use. We also recognize that the shoulder season of our tourist industry is also expanding and will also be utilizing these campsites. We listened, we consulted, and we are acting. We are doing what we said we would do.
We are undertaking a much needed, much overdue review of the Wildlife Act, which Yukoners have told us, and told previous governments, was in dire need of review and updating. Phase 1 of the review is currently underway - we have sent out questionnaires for Yukoners to return to us, reflecting their stance on a number of very important issues and proposed changes. We will gather this information and will formulate a new act that will better serve those of us who enjoy our splendid outdoors.
It is because we are not afraid to attack, to recognize, to acknowledge the difficult issues that are out there, and we will continue to do that as government. Our departments are undertaking important projects in relation to our renewable resources, such as what the Yukon Housing Corporation calls the energy efficiency program, which will be completed this fiscal year. This program will reduce energy bills and greenhouse gas emissions. And for those, I applaud the minister in charge and his department.
The Yukon Development Corporation is launching a new renewable power sales incentive program which, too, will result in energy and cost savings and a reduction of greenhouse gases. This is nothing but positive, Mr. Speaker.
Contrary to what some would have people think, the Yukon protected areas strategy is not broken. The Yukon has not seen one protected area develop as a result of this strategy, using the process as it was designed. Also, the strategy is not solely the responsibility of the Department of Renewable Resources. The initiative is also coupled with Economic Development and Tourism. Renewable Resources doesn't have - and recognizes that it doesn't - the expertise within the department in areas of geology, oil and gas or tourism. They seek out those experts in other government departments to assist in the assessments that do occur, if the process is followed. I am sure that the ministers of Economic Development and Tourism will add to my voice that YPAS is a joint effort between our departments. If it hadn't been for the previous governments' political meddling and backroom deals, then perhaps some Yukoners wouldn't be so fearful of the protected areas strategy.
As the Minister of Education, I am pleased to advise that the level of student financial assistance will continue for the up and coming fiscal year. And, as noted in our platform, funding will also be continuing for the Innovators program. I believe that the Member for Whitehorse Centre eloquently expressed the benefits of that program.
I would also like to report that the training trust fund in advanced education branch has been renamed the community trust fund to better reflect the intent and purpose of that fund.
I am also pleased to say that school councils have taken the initiative to form an association of Yukon school councils, boards and committees, and that the department is assisting them with funding to get established. I would like to take this opportunity to thank those individuals who have worked expeditiously and exceptionally hard to get the association up and running. It has been a difficult volunteer task, and I commend those individuals.
I am also pleased to see many major capital projects relating to education included in this budget. Construction of the Mayo school will begin toward the end of next month, Mr. Speaker. We are expanding the two Catholic elementary schools - Holy Family and Christ the King Elementary - which are in the final stages of grade reorganization, which will better utilize the resources in our schools. We have allotted funds to work on the heating systems in Takhini Elementary and Whitehorse, and we have put funds toward the design of the school addition for the heating upgrades of Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing.
Through my visits to the communities, through my colleagues' visits to the many communities - not only during the budget review, Mr. Speaker, but as active travel to get in better touch with the needs of communities - and with better interaction with my constituents and in discussions with Yukoners in general during the past 10 months in office, I have listened to what Yukoners have had to say and learned what their concerns are. It is my job, my duty, to act upon this feedback, and this is how I pattern my day.
If I'm not and if the government is not listening to Yukoners, then we are not doing our jobs, but we are listening. We are listening to the people, and as I stated at the outset this is a people budget. I would encourage any and all Yukoners to contact me, my staff or any of my colleagues or their staff. In government, we only hear the negative spins of the opposition, so it is good to hear from Yukoners that we are on track and on the right track.
I would like to thank each and every Yukoner who has taken the time to contact my office with their comments during the current labour dispute with teachers. We are here listening, and I am also listening to teachers, Mr. Speaker.
People like the way we operate. People like to be heard. People like the fact that we are listening. People like how we are open. People like how we respond, and people are telling us that we are doing a good job in government, Mr. Speaker, after only 10 months.
The NDP are experts at making sweetheart backroom deals, Mr. Speaker. They wrote the book on it, and I'm glad to say they took that book when they left the offices that we now occupy. They seem to think that they knew better than the public service. They didn't respect processes, and they certainly didn't respect the public service.
I would suggest that they review the auditor's report on the community development fund. In less than four years, $15 million was shelled out - much of it to their political friends. Those are the kinds of bills that this government was left to pay. Yukoners stood up and were counted on April of last year. And their votes spoke volumes about what they thought of an ineffective NDP government.
Mr. Speaker, we acknowledge that we have inherited those problems. We acknowledged in the previous budget that they are our problems and that we are willing, able and eager to deal with those problems. And that does include the 10 years of abuse that have been heaped upon our educators in this territory. We are making best efforts to listen to what they have to say, and I am confident that we will find an equitable resolve to our dispute at this time. And then it will be my responsibility over the next three years to build the bridge of listening, of respecting what they do and how they service our children in the whole of the territory.
Part of good government is being fiscally responsible. There is no reckless spending in this budget. There is a common sense applied to those areas that Yukoners are telling us they want addressed. The people budget can be nothing less.
I thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Tucker: Before I commence speaking directly to the budget, I'd like to comment on how we as government found things since we took office.
We were elected on April 17 and took office on May 6. We tabled today the report on the community development fund, and I'd like to use this program as an example. It says, "The audit examination revealed that there was political involvement with some projects beyond that which was required by the makeup of the community development fund board. For examples ..." and it lists a number of examples where funding limits were exceeded. This paragraph summarizes. It says, "This political involvement subverts the established process to fairly review and evaluate applications in an orderly way. Further, this places the managers of the program in an awkward position of being directed to violate the program terms of reference." That's what we found when we looked at the community development fund grants, and that's why we put a hold on them until we could evaluate them by the auditors and find out what was happening.
On behalf of the constituents of Mount Lorne, it gives me great pleasure to take this opportunity to share my views and optimism in response to the budget. I'd like to express my appreciation and admiration to the department staff and to my colleagues, who worked very hard, and the dedication we have all invested in this document before us. I would also like to thank Yukoners, who cared and shared and participated in the pre-budget consultation process actively undertaken by this government, for it is Yukoners' input, coupled with the priorities and commitments of this government, that form the basis for a responsible and balanced approach to our future.
This budget represents the red thread, linking the Liberal government's seven priorities together.
We need to settle land claims and achieve devolution. We need to develop infrastructure, maintain quality health care, address alcohol and drug addictions, and restore confidence in government. The sorry state of the economy rests on a variety of causes, and these are hotly disputed by the various members opposite.
The Liberal government, however, has taken up the challenge to turn that around by investing in our communities, not just monetarily, but through consultation and partnerships. It is through a spirit of cooperation that we, as Yukoners, can ensure a brighter future for the territory, whether it is on the doorsteps of the constituents, at local advisory council meetings, on the street or in the corporate boardroom. We must also begin extending our hand to Alaska and to the rest of Canada to both share and benefit. The government and my colleagues are listening to the real concerns facing this territory and acting upon them.
It is encouraging for me, as a responsible member of this Legislature, to see tough, sound decisions being made, decisions that reflect and balance the myriad of issues facing Yukoners.
I know that many of my constituents in particular welcome the job creation and tourism initiatives, incentives to contractors who hire and purchase locally, the $1.5 million for community infrastructure and, of course, the cash injection to the fire smart program, while reducing personal income tax rates. We appreciate all of these. These are tangible measures in the budget, intended for meeting the needs of Yukon citizens and rebuilding the Yukon economy within the confines of sound fiscal management and accountability.
The key to much of Yukon's success lies with the settling of outstanding land claims. This has always been a priority of the Liberal government and it remains at the top of our list. In the interest of respect and cooperation, the Yukon and First Nation governments signed a historic political accord to improve communications and strengthen our working relationships. Many Yukoners who committed to making the Yukon their home share the deep feelings and responsibility that the First Nations have for the land and for the future of our children. Although the grievances and injustices endured by the Yukon's first people can never be fully compensated, we can still do our utmost to realize a fair and just settlement of the claims to reshape and enhance the socio-economic potential of the territory. By investing in successful negotiations and implementation of the claims, we bring hope, unity and justice home to rest for all of our children tomorrow.
Another priority that we share with the First Nations is the transfer of federal responsibilities to the Government of Yukon. Our target for concluding the devolution agreement is April 2002, and this will bring new life to our economic prospects, along with new challenges. This government intends to be fully prepared to meet those challenges by sound planning, information sharing and establishing early implementation measures. We are very encouraged by the dedication of the departmental staff in this regard.
Dear to my heart and to that of many is infrastructure development as a basic necessity for every community. The Liberal government is devoting substantial resources toward rural water and sewer projects, maintenance and construction of roads and highways, and recreation and education facilities. We have not overlooked the needs of our seniors. We are doing more to provide accessible housing and to provide health care in the communities.
The state of the environment is a concern. Alternative energy sources - our government is working hard to meet the needs of our constituents at every turn.
I'd like to mention some of the initiatives for my constituents in Mount Lorne. The budget contains $750,000 for pavement rehabilitation, a few kilometres north of Constabulary Beach up to Army Beach. We have $300,000 in the Lewes River Bridge safety retrofit. We have $13,000 going into the Golden Horn fire hall breathing apparatus purchase; $25,000 going to the Golden Horn area plan and zoning. We have $50,000 for the Southern Lakes solid waste project - and this is a study for the options for waste disposal, of which Mount Lorne is included in the pilot project. We have $10,000 for solid waste pilot projects, again, and $140,000 overall.
As the Liberal government emerges from the yokes of past administrations, our record will show that, although in some instances, real results take time, we will deliver on our commitments. We will try to settle land claims, and we will manage taxpayers' money wisely. We recognize the significance of the tourism industry to the Yukon economy, and we are taking steps to rebuild that economy. We will balance the development of our resources while protecting the environment. Rural communities are important to us. Seniors and youth are important to us, and we are working diligently to create healthier communities.
We will use all the tools that we have put in place so far, such as the internal audit unit, community Cabinet tours and the strategic management unit, and we will make difficult decisions in order to meet our obligations to our constituents.
My colleagues have spoken eloquently of specific initiatives in this budget. However, rebuilding our economy is about more than money. A healthy and vibrant economy is a reflection of a healthy people. Wealth and happiness are not synonymous.
The members opposite seem to be fixated on monetary aspects of the issues. We also need to focus on our health and preparing for economic opportunities that will be coming forward in the upcoming years. Metal prices will come back up; we are setting the scene for oil and gas resource development and training; the world markets will again make the Yukon an attractive place to invest, if we are ready for it.
And "ready" means being an attractive place to invest not only our money, but for people to invest their lives. We Yukoners need to focus on how to be a healthy, educated, sharing community to benefit from an improved economy and not to just escalate our social problems with our new incomes.
Statistics say that about one in 10 people have an active substance abuse problem. We are overwhelmed in the health and education fields by demands on our resources that can be avoided by healthy living. We need to spend money in education and health to turn unhealthy trends around. Active living in our communities will bring down costs in dollars but, more importantly, it will raise our quality of life because we will be actively participating in our community's wellness.
I am very proud of all the volunteers in our community sports and social programs. In the Mount Lorne riding, the Marsh Lake loppet had over 300 people involved. The Mount Lorne hockey rink held a player development coaching weekend that made national television's Hockey Night in Canada last Saturday. There are volunteer fire departments in Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne, and the Golden Horn fire department, which led the way in about 1984, did such an excellent job with the volunteer group that other areas followed, with the assistance of government funding.
It is the people who make a community. In many cases, the use of government funds has worked against the community spirit. Some people get paid, some people don't, and suddenly our volunteers disappear and the government is expected to pay to have people help their own friends and neighbours. We all need to pitch in and participate in healthy living strategies and in educating our people.
The alcohol and drug services secretariat is an excellent concept that will become reality. The Yukon needs a treatment centre with residential options for people at risk. Crossroads was closed under the NDP, and no other alternative live-in treatment was made available. Regardless of social and ethnic background or location, people in the early stages of treatment need a residential option to get well enough to deal with other issues, such as family abuse or residential school abuse.
I will follow the secretariat with much interest, and I hope all Yukoners will and all Yukoners will respond to us and tell us what their needs are.
We are putting money into infrastructure to assist access in the communities and better environmental processes through sewage treatment and waste disposal projects. But also, the Yukon protected areas strategy must balance between the economy and the environment. We need to find a balance between all the interests, and the initiatives have to be supported by the Yukoners. If it's not supported by all Yukoners, it will fail. And as we all know, anything done by one government can be changed by another, so let's get it right. I encourage all interests to participate in this process and be heard.
Today, the biggest business in the Yukon is government - federal, territorial, First Nation. Like it or not, until we have an economy raised from our current ashes, we need to be able to meet our people's basic needs. With our current resources, each of us has to start working on initiatives to attract investments. For example, we have a wonderful cultural history in our First Nations, and more people are coming to the Yukon to experience this heritage every year. Our Tourism minister is working on strategies on shared initiatives to promote the Yukon.
Each department is working for Yukoners. Yukon Housing is developing initiatives to help those hard-to-house people, to upgrade the Yukon's housing stock and make more accessible housing for seniors. Government Services has been serving all of the departments faithfully and well, both in supply and services, property management and development, and in communications. There is progress. The capital budget has been moved to the fall and will give contractors a jump on the construction season. We've listened to them.
Community and Transportation Services is out there, beavering away, sometimes underwater - like last summer - and in the roads and sewers and the community services. And, speaking of infrastructure, I was at the Rendezvous Sourdough Revue the other night and saw the Member for Klondike's alleged plan for the new Dawson bridge construction. Very innovative. However, I noted that the Tourism minister had some concerns there.
The Yukon is a beautiful and wonderful place to live. We are not all doom and gloom. The economy will improve. We need to be ready, healthy and educated to benefit from this improvement. We need to be proactive in sharing our communities in the rewards of health and our commitment to the future.
Mr. Fentie: So much to say and only 40 minutes to say it in. But let me begin.
First, I will openly admit and offer to the members opposite that there is a great deal of good expenditures and positive expenditures in this budget. There are certainly budgetary items that Yukoners throughout this territory and in the many communities wanted to see. Those are definitely parts of what budgeting is all about.
The important point to note here, though, is that budgets reflect more than just the public's priorities; it also reflects government priorities - the government of the day.
Now, when we take a cursory look at this budget, something jumps out at you immediately. The fact is that it is the biggest budget ever tabled in this territory - some $535 million. And right after that fact, what leaps out of the pages of the budget is the fact that most of this money is being spent on government, which reflects government priorities.
Now, the Liberals are making much about the budget, and so they should. We, on this side, understand what it takes to construct, to put together a budget of this magnitude.
It's not easy. And the Liberals - the members opposite - make much of this.
Their speeches also reflect something very important. If we were to go back through Hansard over the years, I guarantee you that we would find the very same speeches from the government side when talking about their budget that they have just delivered in the Legislature. That's part of what we do here. That's part of politics.
Really, the test is when this budget is implemented and what effects it has on the communities. What are its impacts on the people of this territory? Those are the keys to any budget.
I also have to point out that when we budget - and if we are going to be fiscally responsible - budgeting must not be year by year. Governments can't live from paycheque to paycheque. The paycheque I am referring to, of course, is the massive amount of money transferred from Ottawa to this territory. We can't live on that transfer, from one to the next. There has to be much more in this territory that collectively provides for social, economic and environmental stability and, of course, supports a lifestyle that we have all come to cherish.
Having said that, there's something very evident again that jumps out at you in this budget. It comes to the issue of long-term plans. Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that in the budget speech under long-term plans is a blank page.
Nothing - it's a blank page. That's disturbing because, again, it reflects the Liberal government's inability to either show us their plan or the fact that they may not even have one, and that is concerning when it comes to fiscal management and fiscal responsibility. I go on further in that regard when it comes to this budget, because it's very evident that much of this budget is an extension of previous budgets. This Liberal government is merely following through with many initiatives begun under the former NDP government. They are proceeding with those. They're not new programs. They are initiatives and programs and expenditures that Yukoners said we want, and this Liberal government did provide what Yukoners wanted through those NDP programs - the former government's programs.
Now, they have added a little here and there to try and cover their political butts but, at the end of the day, the realities speak for themselves, and it's in the pages of the budget, and that's what we, in the official opposition, contrary to the haranguing across the floor that all we do is criticize - no, our job is to show Yukoners, as we debate this budget, some of those hidden facts and hidden agendas. I'll give you an example.
We know from the Auditor General's report, fiscal year ending March 2000, that this government had, when it took office, $64 million in surplus.
We also know by their very own projections, subsequent to taking office, through supplementary budgeting. We also know by their very own projections, tabled here in this Legislature, that there was at least a $45-million surplus at the fiscal year-end, March 2001. Strange as it may seem, those have all disappeared in this Liberal budget. Those are some of the things that we are going to ferret out as we debate this budget.
This government has claimed poverty but it's not the case - they have lots of money. I submit to you that the members opposite, on the backs of Yukoners, have taken the time to try and get a political handle on what they are doing. In other words, they put their political face, their political future ahead of Yukoners. Prime examples of that are fire smart and the community development fund. Now what these members opposite would have you believe is that they had to stop all of that funding even though Yukoners were crying out for it, especially this year. They had to stop it all so that they could do an audit. That's complete rubbish. They stopped those funds and did the audit because the then leader of the official opposition, now our Premier, called it a political slush fund. They had no choice. They had no choice, in order to save political face, but to come up with an audit. Now, bearing that in mind, what direction do you think the auditors were given by the Premier? I submit to you that the audit was skewed anyway. It was intended to come out as it did.
The real issue here, Mr. Speaker, is that this Liberal government across the floor forced Yukoners to suffer through this long, hard winter while they produced this rubbish called an audit report. That is a shameful, shameful act by a government that knew full well that (a) they had the money, (b) there was a need, and (c) they could have proceeded with fire smart funding and CDF funding through this winter to help Yukoners while they did their political work to try and repackage these programs, which they have. CDF is now called project Yukon, with a whole bunch more Liberal red tape attached to it, which, given the amount of money that they have also put into it, is probably going to do a lot less than need be. And the fire smart program, this audit by the way points out, is a very valuable program.
So, the question is why did the members not proceed, through a supplementary budget this fall, to put Yukoners to work and help out in the communities where it's so badly needed? That's a question that this Liberal government will have to answer.
Mr. Speaker, I don't dispute that we, on this side of the House, could support many of these expenditures. I certainly support increasing funding to the Help and Hope for Families Society of Watson Lake. After all, it was the former government, the NDP government, that began increasing funding for such vehicles to help women and children who are in desperate need. And I commend the government and the members opposite for continuing with that trend and that so badly needed expenditure, especially now that they have destroyed the economy and that the social ills in this territory have dramatically increased, especially in rural Yukon.
We in this House can support many of the expenditures in the budget. The problem is, when you take it in its total, in its entirety, then there are major questions.
Now, let us go to what the Liberals call their contract with the Yukon public, and it begins with rebuilding the economy. We have to have a plan to rebuild that economy. Since taking office 10 months ago, the Liberal government, the members opposite, have offered us no plan, no road, no blueprint, on how they intend to do so. This much-awaited budget, all Yukoners thought, was going to provide that picture. It was going to provide that blueprint on how. It was going to give hope - hope to Yukoners that there was going to be something in their very near future, so they can hold on.
But in this budget, sadly, there is not - not even that hope. So, I ask the members opposite how they can make the claim in this budget that they have created - and I'll quote from the speech: "Capital spending set out in this budget that has been tabled today will sustain almost 700 full-time private sector jobs." I am totally astounded that the Premier will make this claim. The Premier knows full well that these aren't new jobs. Most of them aren't full-time jobs. If you take highway expenditure, where the biggest portion of this capital expense is going, those aren't full-time jobs; they're seasonal jobs. They're jobs that are there every year. When you take a look at the bulk of the rest of the capital spending, it's all projects that came from the former government.
And they are projects that end, and they are not full-time jobs. And therein lies the major problem with this government and its contract with the Yukon public. How can the Yukon public trust in a government when these kinds of flippant claims are being made by the Premier and the members opposite to disguise their inability to address the devastating economic situation we are in?
Mr. Speaker, fundamental elements in our economy are key to the short term, interim and long term, and nothing in this budget addresses any of those. Surely, after 10 months and the so-called consultation with Yukoners on this made-in-Yukon budget, the Liberal government opposite could have come up with one initiative that would have created one tangible full-time job - not here.
Now, I have to say to the members opposite that the more you try to explain yourselves, the worse it's getting. We, on this side of the House, have made an offer, at an all-party level, to sit down and attack this economic issue we face in this territory at a political level, where all parties focus their efforts on trying to find some solutions now that will certainly help in the long term.
The members opposite have made much, over and over and over again, of calling on the opposition to be cooperative. Well, there we are - we're trying to be cooperative. There's no uptake. None whatsoever.
Are the Liberals fearful that we, on this side of the House, might actually have an idea or two that will help this situation? What is the problem?
The Liberals are playing politics with Yukoners, and that's a dangerous game. What Yukoners will do in the next election is pass judgement on that fact.
Now, the Premier herself is promoting oil and gas. That's the panacea. We have a pipeline coming down the highway, folks. Stand back, she's going to get busy.
Well, I can tell you something. I grew up in the oil and gas boom in Fort St. John, British Columbia, and the biggest impact we're going to have on the pipeline is the wind as it goes through here. Yes, we will get benefits; we will get some jobs; and we will get access to natural gas. But it's certainly not a panacea, and there are certainly many more areas this Premier could focus on and aggressively promote in terms of helping this Yukon economy.
Furthermore, when it comes to oil and gas development in this territory, the former government started it all with the development of the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. That is the mechanism that triggered development. Unfortunately, the Liberals haven't enhanced that. They haven't moved that ahead, and here we sit in this territory, while hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in the oil and gas sector in the Northwest Territories, and the Yukon is receiving very little.
One oil company itself, Anderson Exploration out of Calgary, has committed this year to $60 million in oil and gas development and exploration north of the 60th parallel. The Yukon Territory this year is receiving $6 million. There is $54 million going into the Northwest Territories.
Why can't this Liberal government at least entice the oil and gas industry to invest a little more? Let me help the Premier - I'll tell you why. Because this is not, under this Liberal government, a very attractive place to invest. And the proof is in the pudding. The money is not coming here; it is going elsewhere. Furthermore, when Yukoners asked the Premier's travelling road show on oil and gas who they could contact and how they get involved and how to get benefits and where they could go, they couldn't even get a phone number. Nothing.
How are we going to benefit from this government's so-called aggressive promotion of the oil and gas industry when it doesn't even produce a contact number for people in the Yukon who are capable of supplying services and goods? They can't even phone anybody to even let them know they exist. The mining industry is another area this government - the members opposite - said they were going to fix. Yet, in this speech, it is evident that they realize now that they are not capable of fixing it, and the mining industry isn't going to come to the Yukon tomorrow morning just because the Liberals have taken office. The external forces in the world have seen Canada losing, year by year, a market share of investment in the mining sector. There are many reasons for that but there is one constant, common denominator.
There's a Liberal government in Ottawa, and now there's a Liberal government in the Yukon Territory. And I heard the mining industry itself state this one fact that they'd like to see solved more than anything: that the Liberal governments of this country and this territory apply land use regulations consistently so they know what the heck it is they're supposed to be doing.
Furthermore, even in light of all the problems that the mining industry faces in this territory, this government is throwing money at prospectors, which we hope, on this side of the House, will produce some results. But I can tell you this: we can prospect all day, day in and day out, forever, and if there's no investment, we're not going anywhere. So the question has to be asked: could the money have been better spent elsewhere? That's what budgeting is really about - making those choices. Again, that's a political choice, not a realistic choice.
Mr. Speaker, forestry is an area where we had some hope. We could have really had something that provided some benefit for Yukoners and alleviated some of the downward pressure in our economy. It could have created jobs for Yukoners. Unfortunately, this Liberal government stumbled. Now, all the blame cannot rest on the members opposite; and I, for one, openly admit that it's not all their fault in the forest sector.
We have another agency - the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development - involved that must get their ship in order. But, again, it's another lost opportunity. That's what I said. The ship left the dock a long time ago. We have had forestry in this territory since its beginning. For us to be in the situation we are today is totally unacceptable. Communities and people in this territory have for years and for decades been dependent on the forest resources that surround their community. To have the situation we're in today, again I say, is unacceptable.
Beyond all that, Mr. Speaker, in this territory, when it comes to our economy, government does have a major role to play. And it's through government expenditure that we can inject cashflow into communities that help businesses, especially small businesses, survive, flourish and, in some cases, grow, but it has been a fact of life in the Yukon for a long, long time that government expenditure is having a direct impact on the economy. That's because we're not self-sufficient, and we're not going to be unless we get - and get started now - down that road of self-sufficiency.
This budget, which should have certainly taken us some miles down that road, has to stop at the starting point because there's nothing in it that heads us toward self-sufficiency. It's making government bigger.
Those are not the answer, folks. Much more has to be done. We, in the opposition, are going to be asking those questions as we go through department by department, trying to ferret out what it is that the members opposite are really trying to accomplish. But at the end of the day, the budget itself - although we support many of its expenditures - cannot be supported in its entirety because it falls short of the mark, a mark that was set by previous governments. In trying to manufacture a political package to this budget, the members opposite have fallen short. That is why we cannot support the budget in its entirety.
Now, I value some of the commitments made by the members opposite that come from the communities. I really commend the members for taking the time to put some of those into this budget, because it's not easy. We all know that starting with the budget process, you begin with the department's wish lists. Then we poor politicians have to sit there and break all of that down with the limited resources we have and try to balance the whole thing. It's not an easy job. I'll admit that openly. For anyone to be successful in budgeting, it requires a great deal of work - a great deal of work.
Mr. Speaker, another part of the contract that this Liberal government has alluded to is maintaining quality health care. We support maintaining quality health care.
There's nobody on the street. Anywhere in this territory you went and talked to people, support for quality of health care was there. We know that. But we have some commitments, especially campaign commitments from the members opposite, that haven't materialized in either supplementary budgets or now in this first-ever Liberal creation called the 2001-02 budget. What happened to those commitments? Where are the commitments to extended health care, enhancing health care in communities like Watson Lake and Haines Junction? There's nothing there. Instead, we have, subsequent to a report from AADAC, a secretariat for alcohol and drug abuse.
Now we look in the budget and there's a $2.36 million expenditure on the secretariat, which is all well and good. It sounds good. Boy, we're going to go right after this difficult situation in our society, this ill in our society. But beyond the initial look at $2.36 million is a very important fact. There's only approximately $200,000 and change of new money here. This is smoke and mirrors.
So the minister, when we get to the Department of Health in debate, is going to be answering a great many questions on what exactly is the secretariat going to do over and above creating more government when it comes to actually implementing on-the-ground help for Yukoners who are afflicted with drug and alcohol addiction.
That's the key to that expenditure. Though the Liberals, with great fanfare, make the claim that they are attacking the problem through this secretariat, there is evidence here that it is nothing more than window dressing. I hope that that isn't the case, but the numbers will bear out the truth. Numbers never lie.
Another real beauty is restoring confidence in government. I couldn't help but listen to the Minister of Education, who also is the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, talk about that fact as it relates to our teachers. And I don't want to belabour the point, but I just want to say one thing to the minister: the teachers are on strike. I find it hard to fathom that this is somehow restoring confidence in government.
There is a fundamental problem here and it is the minister's and the government opposite's complete lack of respect for the collective bargaining process. In the first instance, right here in this Legislature, the minister brings forward a ministerial statement patting the Liberals on the back about how they settled the teachers strike and the NDP couldn't. Big ministerial statement. The minister and the government forgot a very important thing: the collective bargaining process allows the teachers to vote.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Hon. Minister of Education on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker. I made no announcement to this House that I had settled a teachers strike.
Speaker: I was going to give you the opportunity to reply. I find that there is no point of order. There is a misunderstanding or a dispute between members and I will ask the Member for Watson Lake to continue.
Mr. Fentie: I don't want to strike a nerve with the minister. I'm trying to be constructive here and point some things out. It begins with that.
The ministerial statement brought into this House was all about how this government had reached the tentative agreement. But the minister, as I said, forgot about the collective bargaining process, which allows teachers to vote on that agreement.
Now we go farther. Now we go down the road to where we are today. We go to a step in the bargaining process that is called conciliation. Instead of allowing the process to evolve and do it as it should be done, the members opposite - the Liberal government - launched all these missiles in the public news about a compromised vote by the teachers and on and on. It's no wonder they're on strike. The minister took a tense situation and shot it through the roof by antagonizing the teachers. That's not bringing back respect to the collective bargaining process, and that is certainly not restoring confidence in government.
I asked this minister on the floor of the Legislature if they would invite the teachers back to the table and bargain in good faith and in a meaningful manner, and get a deal. I can only hope, for the sake of educating our children, that that's what takes place. I urge the minister and the members opposite to do that - to take the high road and stop the political rhetoric in the public media. Let's deal with the teachers as we should, which is through the collective bargaining process. So much for restoring confidence in government, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, I live in a riding - Watson Lake, the southeast Yukon - that has been devastated in the last few months.
And again I'll stand here and not point the finger entirely at the members opposite, at this new Liberal government. I won't do that because it's not the case; it's not all their fault. But I would ask them to do something, to not come up with these smoke-and-mirror comments in the budget speech about how they're improving the economy and creating 700 full-time jobs, when it's an error. It's an erroneous comment; it's not the correct information.
I would ask them to do something concrete to actually create some benefit and some jobs. In the communities like Watson Lake this winter, a fire smart contribution would have put at least six people to work for four months. In a community that's suffering from well over 20 percent unemployment, six people working for four months is a big plus. Instead, we waited for the audit. What do I go home and tell my constituents? Do I tell them they starved to death all winter for this? It doesn't add up.
Mr. Speaker, this government has in its power the capacity, the money and the ability to do more, yet they choose not to.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fentie: The Member for Klondike says the ability is a stretch. Well, I, for one, am going to give them the benefit of the doubt, because it is not entirely their fault. There are many external forces that I pointed out here at play. But I would suggest this: for the sake of Yukoners, expedite improving our economic situation, and let us, the political parties, get together in an all-party process, and let us collectively put our heads together and try to come up with at least one initiative that would help the situation.
If we can do that, we will restore confidence in government. That's what people are crying out for. They're tired of us sitting here, criticizing each other - politicians arfing away in a meaningless, never-ending circle. Let's do something concrete, and I challenge the Liberal government to accept my offer. I will work diligently, along with my colleagues, as I'm sure the Member for Klondike will, on such an initiative to try and alleviate the situation we're in. So let us do something, and that is one way, one vehicle, that we can help Yukoners address the economic crisis and restore confidence in government. There are no political boundaries out there in the situation we face today, and I challenge the Liberals to stand down on protecting their political turf and let us do the right thing.
Mr. Speaker, achieving devolution - a pretty easy part of the contract, given the fact that the deal was already negotiated. There wasn't much left to do, other than sign on the dotted line. But, again, there are delays because the members opposite wanted to review it, maybe there's something else they could do, and the list goes on and on. To make a long story short, they are saying that devolution is upon us in April of 2001.
My apologies, and I correct myself - 2002.
So, devolution is a pretty big initiative for this territory. It is a massive undertaking, and Yukoners are starting to ask, when they see things like 700 full-time jobs and a lot of the comments in the budget speech - and when they get a real good close look at the budget, there's a question that comes to mind: what is this government doing to make ready the Yukon, especially the Yukon government, to absorb this massive entity called the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development here in the Yukon?
Where are the expenditures in the budget that are setting us up to take down those powers? Where are the expenditures in this budget that will ensure a smooth transition? These are elements that aren't visible. And I would remind the members opposite that this is a contract with the Yukon public.
Settling outstanding land claims - well, that is the number one priority for the members opposite, and I hope that they can achieve it.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: Already? Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I hope that the members opposite can achieve that, because there is one area - the settlement of land claims in the Yukon Territory - that will go a long way toward bringing certainty: certainty for First Nation people and all Yukoners. But I see a problem. We talk about protocols and all of those wonderful things. Where in the budget is there a substantive commitment to a government-to-government relationship that the land claim commits us to? It's not there.
These are the fundamental elements of the Liberal government's contract with the Yukon people. Very little in its budget really, really shows how they are going to achieve those fundamental elements of their contract. We, in the official opposition, are going to do our best, in a constructive and, hopefully, productive manner in debating this budget, to try and improve the situation. I can only ask the members opposite to reciprocate in the same manner.
We heard a lot of criticism and a lot of fingers were being pointed at the former government. That is not going to help the situation. That is counterproductive. Let's get on with doing the job and doing it properly, because we have one contract that we have to answer to, and that is the contract with the Yukon voter. We have to show results. Otherwise, the voter will cast a vote that reflects what we do here in this Legislature.
It is our duty, so let's do it right. We can, collectively, on many issues come together and improve our lot in this territory. It's a challenge I offer to the members opposite. Hopefully, they will rise up and accept.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is an opportunity for me to speak and close this part of the debate on the 2001-02 budget.
When I delivered this budget speech as Minister of Finance, I was, of course, working from a very carefully, thoughtfully prepared text that Yukoners had worked on collectively. Today, in closing debate, I get to speak from my heart to Yukoners, with the facts in front of me, and I also get to respond to some of the criticisms from the members opposite.
First of all, again Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my thanks to the people involved in developing this Yukon-made budget. Thanks to Yukoners from every single community who participated in the pre-budget consultations and who offered us their thoughtful, well-constructed, very serious advice. I'd also like to especially express my thanks to the officials from the Department of Finance and the translators from the Executive Council Office and the staff at the Queen's Printer. Although I have had an opportunity to personally thank these individuals, I'd also like to publicly thank them because they worked many hours as we laboured over this budget and double-checked and re-checked figures and made sure that every single word was exactly what we had intended to convey.
It has certainly been an interesting couple of days listening to the opposition members, in particular, criticizing the budget that we have tabled. I have also enjoyed the remarks of my colleagues, and I would like to thank them for their support and for their comments on behalf of their constituents, on behalf of Yukoners.
We are doing what we were elected to do, what Yukoners asked us to do, and what we committed to Yukoners we would do. We listened and have taken advice, and we are, I believe, with this budget and by our actions, not only in this Legislature but outside of it, providing what Yukoners asked for: open and accountable good government.
The leaders opposite have criticized us and said that we conducted the budget consultations too late, that I should have travelled to every single community, that we shouldn't have been the team that we are when a number of us travelled. They said that the deputy ministers have always been involved, that they submit their budgets. The irrefutable fact is that we opened up the budget process, that it is the first time that all the deputy ministers were in one room with those lists.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, in his own inimitable fashion, is criticizing this and suggesting that my facts are in error, Mr. Speaker. I speak from what the deputy ministers long-serving with this government have told me.
We also included not just Cabinet in that room, but all of caucus was in that room, examining those lists. We recognized what financial parameters we were working within, the real financial state, and we recognized at that point the expensive obligations that the previous government was passing on to us and that we committed to Yukoners we would fulfill.
And, Mr. Speaker, we travelled to communities as soon as was possible in January following a Christmas break that many governments throughout the territory take. I, myself, travelled to Beaver Creek, Burwash, Destruction Bay and Watson Lake. I also met on a number of different occasions with different groups in Whitehorse, including organized labour and the chambers of commerce and the Chamber of Mines.
I attended the meeting with the women's shelters from throughout the territory, including also the aboriginal women's group, where they told us, "We don't want you to raise social assistance rates; we want you to fix the problems. We want you to fix these strange anomalies in the system where people are not encouraged to work, where the people are penalized when they are trying to do other things." And we did that. We heard, and we reflected those comments in our budget. We also heard about the unfortunate situation in many of these shelters, given the economic situation in the Yukon and other factors. We heard of the situation of these shelters requiring money to be able to offer programming, to be able to pay staff, to be able to provide the service they want to provide to the communities - a much-needed service. We recognized that, and funding is in the budget.
Some commented, "Oh, these comments are too late to be in the budget." The facts speak for themselves, Mr. Speaker. Communities' voices and what people said to us are in this budget document, and they're referenced in this budget document. The mayor and council in Mayo told members of our caucus and the members of the Finance team who travelled, "You have to deal with the Silver Trail. It has been years since you recognized that highway. You have to put money into it." And we did.
I have just elaborated on the comments from some of the community service organizations and their needs. They are reflected in this budget.
We also committed, during the election campaign, to not pull the rug out from under anybody. We have not. We have lived up to the expensive obligations in Connect Yukon, the Dawson City recreation centre and the continuing care facility. And we didn't just live up to the continuing care facility. We said, "All right, we're going to do this. Let's do it right and get the added capacity that was originally intended for that building and do it." We did that. We did what we said we would do.
We also talked about managing the territory's finances. We committed to dealing with an audit, for which the members opposite have chastised us regularly. Again today I listened to the Member for Watson Lake ask, "Well, why did you do that?" Well, Mr. Speaker, one of the commitments we made was to restore confidence in government.
That's why we looked at the community development fund. We heard about it for years, in opposition. We raised it on the floor of this House. The public, door to door - certainly in Porter Creek South - said, "Give us some accountability. Under the NDP government, $16.73 million of taxpayers' money has been spent. Give us some accountability for it." We said, "Look, we are not going to go in as politicians and do this - get an auditor and let them have an independent look." The audit report was done. We have it and the audit says that there is a lack of stated roles and responsibilities in the community development fund. There is a lack of specific project criteria. There was political interference in which projects were funded and there was a lack of evaluation of the program.
The member said, "Oh, you should just put more money into it anyway, regardless of the fact that you are looking at the fund." Well, nobody puts gas in an engine if the motor is seized.
You fix the problem, and that's what we did. We looked at the fund. We said, "What's the problem with it?" We got the report, we have the report, and we said that we heard from the communities that this was needed. We heard from the communities that they appreciated the fund. They also recognized the problems. So we said, "All right, let's deal with that. Let's make it specific. Let's make the roles and responsibilities clear, and let's evaluate what we're doing so that we can be open and account to Yukoners for that money."
We have always, in opposition and in government, said that fire smart was a good program, and the audit report says that as well. It's such a good program, Mr. Speaker, that we did what we said we'd do, and we put it as a line item in the budget and made sure the money is there to fund it.
Members of the public who have been interested in these funds have been provided with the number to call. The budget has been announced; the funding has been announced; the criteria have been announced; the program officers are waiting by the phone to deal with those issues.
And the member opposite from Watson Lake, suggesting that we - I was really quite frankly disturbed by the member opposite from Watson Lake in particular, who consistently chastised public servants throughout his speech - shame. In particular in the area of job creation, the member opposite suggested that we took the 700 jobs we note in the budget speech and, somehow, we just willy-nilly plucked them out of thin air and threw them in the budget speech. As I told him in Question Period, those are Department of Finance - and evaluated by Economic Development - public servant figures. The public servants are independent.
They don't deserve to be chastised on the floor of this House or criticized for those figures when they're provided, any more than we would criticize them for any one of the accounting figures in there.
The member opposite is also somehow suggesting that there are not that amount of jobs and that these numbers are not dealing with any new projects. Well, I can tell the member opposite that recognizing the needs for the Catholic elementary school expansion is something we committed to during the election campaign. We recognized it and it was badly ignored under the previous government - badly ignored.
And the member opposite is suggesting political interference because he happens to believe the Yukon News column that can't even get the fact right that the Holy Family school is not in my riding. Let me correct that record, Mr. Speaker. It is in the Member for Porter Creek North's riding. And my children don't attend either of those schools, so any charges like that of some nefarious plot are quite incorrect. We're dealing with the very real problem that was raised when I was door-to-door campaigning with the Member for Whitehorse Centre. I spent hours in a backyard one afternoon listening to the need and how it had not been addressed, how it had been ignored by the NDP. We came to government and we went to the Minister of Education and said, "Look, we know this is an issue." We went through the very difficult decisions of the budgeting process. We have dealt with that. And it creates over nine jobs this year in this budget.
There is the other new project. Now, we all know that the corners from Whitehorse to Haines Junction have been cleared and brushed I don't know how many times - many times over. Public knowledge will tell you that it has been more than two or three, but nobody has managed to find the money to fix them, to actually take out the corner, put in the new road and deal with it.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we did. We are committed to infrastructure - $2.9 million in this budget and 19 jobs. Well, the members opposite may not appreciate it, but I can tell you that the people in Haines Junction - the people who live all along that particular road, from Whitehorse to Haines Junction, and those of us who have occasion to visit Pine Lake campground in the summer - are certainly going to appreciate that. And I can tell you that the road construction people are going to appreciate it even more.
These are just a couple of the criticisms by the members opposite that I wanted to respond to. Overall, this budget is about our contract with Yukoners, settling outstanding land claims and devolution. The member opposite said, "Well, there's nothing in devolution to deal with the transition of the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs staff to the Government of Yukon." Well, re-read page 13 of the budget speech: "The transition period is not going to be without its ups and downs as we integrate new employees, take over administration of new legislation and assume new responsibilities and authority. Our preparations include a deputy ministers review committee that is actively examining the renewal of the Yukon government, incorporating devolution, to ensure a citizen oriented administration." This side of the House has not forgotten, and will not forget, that it is the people of the Yukon that we are here to serve. It's only preparing now, we can assume -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, we have not forgotten an attitude of respect for our professional teachers, doctors and nurses.
We care very much and value the services that these Yukoners provide. Respect is also about our behaviour in this Legislature, Mr. Speaker. And our behaviour is reflected in more than just the debate on the budget. It's all year long during the sittings. And I especially would like to recognize the fact that we have many of Yukon's professional teaching force who have joined us here today in the gallery. It's not very often - in fact, this is the first time in my short time here that this number of people have been here for general debate past Question Period. The public sees Question Period and the media stay for Question Period, but they don't stay for this time in the Legislature. And the media doesn't cover the whole of the House. It is a message to Yukoners.
I have a very clear message. One of my favourite parts of the budget is the comment that budgets are about more than just the numbers. They are about more than the accounting measures. They are chapters in the progress of a people. And this is the first chapter that we have had to write. And what does that chapter say? That chapter says that our contract with Yukoners will be fulfilled, that we will continue our efforts to settle land claims and to achieve devolution, and that we will maintain quality health care.
And the Member for Watson Lake says that everyone in the Yukon says that. No one said it better than the community of Destruction Bay, in my mind, when they said to me, "You know, we know that there is a fiscal situation in the territory, we understand the economic situation, and we understand the tough decisions that you have to make. Whatever you do, if you can't find the money to help us with the marina, which is our top priority, make sure that you maintain our health care."
That's what we did. We put the money in. There is more than $137 million toward health care and social services.
The Child Development Centre, which was so passionately defended in opposition by the Member for Riverdale South - her work continues and her staunch defence of that particular service continues - is here and recognized.
We are going to complete the extended care. The Member for Porter Creek North, who dealt on a daily basis in a previous professional capacity with many foster parents, saw that need. It is recognized in the budget for the first time in many, many years. That clothing allowance needed to be increased. We all know that the price of clothing for children has escalated over many years. We know that there has been no per diem rate increase. We know that no one has offered the training. Mr. Speaker, we have recognized the need and responded.
The need in our communities throughout Yukon to address alcohol and drug addictions is there. We are going to deal with this issue. The Minister of Health refers to it quite correctly as a plague. It affects every single Yukoner in their daily life. It has to be dealt with. It's about restoring confidence in government by doing what we say we'll do, by living up to former commitments. When we say we're going to look at a fund before we put more money into it, we do it.
By responding to the needs and responding to recommendations and by how this budget is presented, we said we'd do government differently. As members of the opposition, we were given a budget on a Monday and asked to respond on a Tuesday. We provided ample time for the members opposite.
We have also done something that none of the members opposite whom I've heard speak have noted. And, in fact, it's a comment that many of the members of the fifth estate have missed, as well. It's just one line item in the budget, but it is fundamentally important to people who bid on contracts in this territory, and that's moving the capital budget to the fall. They've asked for years for this to be done, and we did it. It means hard work over the summer months for all of us. We're fully prepared to do that, because that's what Yukoners asked us to do. And it wasn't just the contractors, and it wasn't just the infrastructure alliance, and it wasn't just one or two individuals; organised labour came up with that suggestion, and we heard it in at least half a dozen different communities.
Some members have suggested that we have only retabled existing initiatives - nothing new, nothing special. Living up to and ensuring that money is there for legal aid, that it wasn't just a one-time deal, is there. Saying we're going to increase student financial assistance, doing it, and then ensuring that the increase stayed, wasn't a one-time thing. We said we'd rebuild infrastructure, and we have.
The Minister of Community and Transportation Services said earlier that we don't have enough money in the Community and Transportation Services budget. Well, like other Cabinet ministers, she has also recognized there's only so much money to go around, and she has also recognized that, let's do the most with what we have, even if it means tackling the tough issues of saying, "Yeah, we're finally going to deal with that section of the highway."
The minister has also responded to the Member for Klondike asking me to apologize for saying that capital spending on our highways was decimated. She has already responded quite eloquently, as she does, and I appreciate that. She set the record straight.
The Member for Watson Lake has also criticized us for our work in economic development, because this budget is also fundamentally about rebuilding the Yukon economy. The Member for Watson Lake criticized us for developing a strong oil and gas industry. I just do not understand why the Member for Watson Lake is choosing to criticize that one area where, without exception, people stop us in the street and say, "Good for you; we're glad to see the people working; don't let up on that; keep after that pipeline issue and keep working on oil and gas." We're seeing results for it. The member opposite does not understand that the permits in Eagle Plains for oil and gas rights have work commitments of $20.4 million and that there are 60 people working. The conducting of annual dispositions of oil and gas rights is clearly working with the process as outlined and as supported by us. It is delivering on our commitment. It's rebuilding the Yukon economy.
A second call for bids closing this month is work that we have been doing over the last year with First Nation governments, with communities, with Yukoners. Issuing seven licences representing over $10 million in exploration activity and over 260 kilometres of seismic work is rebuilding the Yukon economy. It's work that is funded in this budget, and it's work that we're doing. The member opposite continually says, "Let's be constructive and let's applaud them for what they are doing." There's your chance.
Mr. Speaker, I will not dispute the fact that the previous government worked on oil and gas. I won't dispute that. Yukoners spoke about that work on April 17 last year. They asked us to finish that job. They asked us to rebuild the Yukon economy, and that's what we're doing.
We are also working to complete the regulatory regime - that nuts and bolts work of government that is so important and provides certainty to industry - pursuing discussions with the federal government on a shared offshore oil and gas management regime, creating training and employment opportunities, fostering local business opportunities. The member opposite was perfectly well aware of the $75 million U.S. study that's being undertaken by the producers in Alaska. I didn't see any of the members opposite, if they are so interested in working together, supporting my efforts in writing those producers, urging them to come over and also urging them to work with Yukon businesses, and to make sure that when they go from 50 people to 90 people in this project, it's Yukoners who are involved. If they are so keen, where are they, Mr. Speaker?
Mr. Speaker, what is the Yukon government doing? We have over $3.4 million in capital spending that supports mining, including an enhanced Yukon mining incentives program.
We have an increase in the business incentive program - up to $700,000 to help support local manufacturing and employment.
There is $785,000 in expanded tourism programs and $2.5 million in the project Yukon arts fund and the fire smart programs.
There is $750,000 to help prepare for the Alaska Highway pipeline to continue our efforts in providing Yukoners with the information, including the phone number that was provided in Watson Lake on whom to contact for information on the Alaska Highway pipeline and oil and gas development in general.
There is $30 million on highway construction and $400,000 for rural roads.
There is more than $800,000 for water and sewer projects in Ross River, Burwash Landing and Carcross - the most fundamental part of infrastructure. The Member for Riverdale South loves to discuss the fundamental important infrastructure. It is also, Mr. Speaker, about our environment.
There is also $4.9 million for recreational facilities.
There are also income tax cuts, which I am going to challenge the Member for Klondike to vote against. Vote against the income tax cuts.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, regardless of what the Member for Klondike thinks of these tax cuts, they will provide Yukoners with an extra $3 million in extra income, and that money will be spent locally, because Yukoners support other Yukoners in their businesses.
Capital spending in this budget will sustain - regardless of how the members opposite like to chastise our public service - 700 private sector jobs.
We will build the Mayo school. We will complete the other projects. Yukoners have also, in terms of work that we have been doing, won recognition for being one of the best booths at the annual RV conference in Edmonton. We have signed a political accord with the Council of Yukon First Nations. The Yukon filmmakers development fund is working. There is a second call for bids. There is the Yukon Housing enhanced home repair program, which I am pleased to say - because I know this is particularly important to individuals in your riding - is also very helpful to seniors who want to stay in their own homes. There is a major issue for our seniors, particularly in Whitehorse, and in Whitehorse West: who helps them? How do we help them to make sure their homes are energy efficient and that the home repairs can be conducted? Thanks to the good work of the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, with the Yukon Housing Corporation Board, we have dealt with that issue, and the money is contained in this budget. And it's a new initiative. We are making sure that programs that were previously funded are line items in the budget and that they are recognized and are there.
We are open, we are accountable, and we have been working on this budget. And thanks to the input and advice from Yukoners, we have a Yukon-made budget. When I stood on my feet and said that it was created by all of us in the Yukon, it was, and it is restoring confidence in government. How we live up to the budget, how we keep out commitments to Yukoners and how we continue in our efforts to provide good government for Yukoners will be seen in the forthcoming days. We get to debate this budget with the members opposite over the next number of days, which we are certainly looking forward to - just as we are looking forward to the results of our efforts of rebuilding the Yukon economy.
Mr. Speaker, it's a good thing we're debating this budget now, because this summer, when Yukoners are at work, the members' arguments will be shown for what they are. It's always good to hear advice from the NDP on how to run the economy, since 3,000 people left under their initiatives.
Again, they outline their opposition to the pipeline over the last couple of days. Although they profess to support our efforts to maintain quality health care, we have put Yukoners' money to support that and ensure that it happens.
We are addressing the alcohol and drug addictions. We are working on settling outstanding land claims. We are working on devolution and achieving devolution. And, we are developing infrastructure. Our work with all of this and how we do our job - as the Member for Kluane has rightly pointed out - will be judged by the voters. We are looking forward to that.
Our work on listening and our work in our communities - the Member for Mount Lorne has travelled throughout her community. She is present at all of the meetings of the community associations in her riding. She hears, first-hand, the issues in the community and makes sure that she can come back and say, these are the priorities. These are the priorities identified by the people of Marsh Lake.
The people of Tagish - their priorities have been identified, as Yukoners' priorities are reflected throughout the budget document.
Mr. Speaker, this budget document before all Yukoners, which was created by all Yukoners, is a document that I'm very proud of. All of our caucus worked very hard on it, and we had to make some very tough decisions. I'm confident in the job that we've done. I'm confident in the plans that we have outlined. I know that the work doesn't stop with tabling this budget, that we will continue to examine these expenditures very carefully, that we will continue to ensure that we check against our priorities, that we check against our contract with Yukoners, that we ensure that we are delivering on it, that the projects undertaken are the community priorities, that they are rebuilding the Yukon economy, that they will help us address issues such as alcohol and drug addictions, and that they will develop our infrastructure.
All of our efforts are going to deliver on that most fundamental commitment of restoring Yukoners' confidence in government, because nothing speaks louder than our actions - doing what we say we will do. When we say we will treat people with respect, we do, including on the floor of this Legislature, ensuring that we travel to listen to what people have to say. Most importantly when a community says, "We don't want a traffic light, we want a marina; we don't want a stop sign," or, "We want our stop signs in a First Nation language," that we come back and ask, "How can we do that?"
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for McIntyre-Takhini reminds me that it's a new way of consultation, in that Yukoners' voices can be heard in this budget, and they will be heard, and they will continue to be heard.
Again, Mr. Speaker, before I close, I would like to express my thanks to the people who have helped us.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. I can't hear the member speaking.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, I was waiting for some of the behaviour that our teachers do not tolerate in their classroom to cease.
The issue of the budget debate, Mr. Speaker, is something that I'm looking forward to. Again, I'm very proud of the work that we have done. I know that the work doesn't stop here and, again, my thanks. Merci. Mahsi'cho.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 4 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 for second reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Speaker: This House stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:45 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled February 27, 2001:
Community Development Fund/FireSmart Audit Report (February 22, 2001)