Wednesday, April 11, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of National Wildlife Week
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As all of us are aware, the Yukon government, through the Department of Renewable Resources, has been an active participant in the National Wildlife Week for many years. By coincidence, it also falls just in time for our annual Celebration of Swans events being held in several communities this year. A flyer is arriving in Whitehorse, Carcross and Tagish mailboxes today and tomorrow to outline some of the events that are part of the celebration.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to see if there is any event that they can enjoy for themselves, their families and friends. It's a fascinating agenda. At the same time, Yukon schools have received the information packages to help young people learn more about the value and importance of our wildlife resources.
National Wildlife Week was declared by an act of Parliament in 1947 to honour Jack Miner, one of the founders of Canada's conservation movement. This year's theme, "Our community includes wildlife - does yours?", is very appropriate for us here in the Yukon. We are very aware that our community includes wildlife.
It is very timely for the Gwitchin and the people of Old Crow as we talk about the value of the Porcupine caribou herd to their community and hear the concerns of the World Wildlife Fund. It is timely for all those who have responded to our present review of the Yukon Wildlife Act, and it is timely when we talk about the protected areas strategy and how we may be able to use that strategy to protect and preserve habitat and wildlife populations that are part of our community. It is time, as we talk about the progress being made to restore the Southern Lakes caribou herd and the value of that population to the Southern Lakes communities.
Mr. Speaker, many organizations, such as the Yukon Fish and Game Association, also play an important role in promoting public awareness on the value of our wildlife resources. National Wildlife Week is honoured each year and does serve to help promote an awareness of the values of our wildlife population.
Let us not forget that every week is National Wildlife Week in the Department of Renewable Resources, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: I am also pleased to rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to National Wildlife Week and Jack Miner.
National Wildlife Week is celebrated throughout Canada during the week of April 10 each year. National Wildlife Week was established to honour Jack Miner. The National Wildlife Week Act was passed in the House of Commons in 1947 to ensure an everlasting memorial to Jack Miner's conservation efforts. The secondary purpose of the act was to encourage public interest via nature study groups.
The bill was passed without one dissenting vote. This was the first occasion since Canada's Confederation that a bill was passed unanimously. A pioneer in conservation who made significant contributions to recognizing the importance of preserving wildlife and nature, Jack Miner earned the reputation as the father of conservation. His many accomplishments include his work to save the Canada goose. As early as 1927, Jack Miner suggested that the Prime Minister take action to prevent pollution in the Great Lakes. He was recognized for his efforts by Canada, the United States and Great Britain. The Canadian Wildlife Federation has sponsored National Wildlife Week since 1963 and provides educational kits and events to schools, outdoor education groups and youth groups each year.
This year's National Wildlife Week theme is "Our community includes wildlife - does yours?" The theme encourages Canadians to get involved in wildlife conservation.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon's wildlife is diverse and relatively abundant. Environmental problems here are still minor compared to those in many parts of the world. However, it is clear that human activity is creating climate change, long-range air pollution, and regional and local habitat disruption is affecting some populations.
The Yukon's land and wildlife provide a livelihood and well-being for many Yukoners. This wealth has sustained First Nations for thousands of years and has attracted many others to live here. Of great importance to one of our major economic sectors - tourism - is the fact that this natural splendour now attracts thousands of visitors to experience what we have in the Yukon.
There are many local National Wildlife Week events planned for all ages to appreciate our good fortune in having more wildlife and wildlife habitats intact than most places on the planet. We can celebrate the swans' arrival at Swan Haven, learn about peregrine falcons at the MacBride Museum tonight or attend one of the many scheduled biodiversity-awareness events.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage everyone to get out, enjoy spring and participate in an event that recognizes the importance of wildlife conservation.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also rise to join with members in paying tribute to World Wildlife Week and the founder of the organization, Jack Miner.
Canada's north is often referred to as the last frontier, home to some of the planet's largest species of wildlife and ecosystems. Approximately 77 percent of Yukon is wilderness, comprising 61 species of mammals, four species of amphibians and 278 species of birds. Compared to all of North and Central America, where 41 percent is wilderness, Yukon's wildlife is especially diverse and remains relatively abundant. From all corners of the territory, Yukoners have a deep and abiding feeling for the Yukon's environment and its wildlife.
According to the 1999 report, The Importance of Wildlife Viewing to Yukoners, Yukon residents far exceeded all provinces in the percentage of residents who participated in wildlife viewing in 1996. Whereas the Canadian average was 18.6 percent, the average for Yukon was 27.9 percent. For Yukon First Nations, the health of our wildlife is an intrinsic part of their culture and lifestyles. Though the lives of most Yukoners are not as closely dependent on the land as in past decades, hunting remains important to many as a way to acquire high-quality food and a reason for spending time outdoors.
For other lifelong Yukoners and Yukoners who have chosen this area, the environment is one of the major reasons for them having done so. For visitors, the abundant wildlife that calls the Yukon home is one of the major reasons for making the Yukon a destination.
While we are blessed with an abundance of wildlife, this is not to say that the rest of the world or the Yukon, for that matter, is without challenges. It has been reported that the Earth's plants and animals are going extinct at an alarming rate - a rate that some biologists have estimated at about 100 species per day. Many more species are at risk, including some that live in the Yukon.
The challenge for Yukoners is to preserve and protect our wilderness habitat for our children and future generations, while at the same time giving careful consideration to Yukon's economic future, ensuring a balanced outcome that provides a level of security to all interests that derive benefits from our land.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: On behalf of the Premier, I would like to table the following legislative returns. One is to the leader of the official opposition, responding to a question with respect to Yukon Government Fund Limited.
And there is a second response for the MLA for Kluane from March 26 with respect to Tombstone Park mining claims.
Another legislative return is in response to the MLA for Watson Lake from March 5, with respect to the oil and gas pipeline database. Also from March 5, a response to the MLA for Watson Lake on potential natural gas costs to consumers.
There is a response to a question by the MLA for Watson Lake on April 2 on the Canada/U.S. softwood lumber agreement.
There is a response to a question by the leader of the third party from March 12 with respect to the Alaska Highway pipeline right-of-way.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the establishment of the Yukon Permanent Fund will benefit Yukoners in the present and for generations to come; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to:
(1) consult and work with Yukoners around the structure of the Permanent Fund;
(2) listen to what Yukoners have to say about how they would like to see the permanent fund and the interest it accrues best put to use; and
(3) refrain from politically interfering with the day-to-day operation of the fund, once the parameters of the fund have been established in consultation with Yukoners.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Extended campground season
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is with great pleasure today that I announce, on behalf of the territorial government, a policy change to extend the campground season. This government has received numerous requests to extend the campground season in both the spring and the fall.
Mr. Speaker, we have listened, we have heard, and we are doing what we said we would do.
There is significant demand to extend the campground season from both Yukon residents and from Tourism Yukon, which is marketing the shoulder seasons. Extending the campground season will be consistent with these efforts to draw more visitors to the Yukon outside the peak visitor season.
Campgrounds are public facilities, and the public wants to use them if weather permits. There have even been calls from municipal governments, which see Yukon campgrounds as attractions that increase local business.
I am pleased to say that the more popular campgrounds will be opening in early May and closing late September or even late October. Again, this is weather permitting. In previous years, the seasons ran from approximately May 24 until shortly after Labour Day.
We have listened to the tourism industry. We have listened to the Yukon hunters and fishers. And we are very pleased to do this for Yukoners.
We feel that this will also benefit the additional tourists from Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere in the world who visit us in the shoulder seasons. Visitors realize that Yukon is not just a high summer season destination, but also a spring and fall destination, as well. An extended campground season will accommodate the longer time period, when direct flights are scheduled to arrive here from Europe.
As Yukoners, we always look forward to the first signs of spring - swans, snow buntings, crocuses, and we eagerly await the opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors. In the fall, we look forward to the crisp morning air - the air that kills the blackflies - and allows us to put away the lawnmowers for the season.
I would also like to inform the members opposite and the Yukon public that they can purchase their campground permits at all visitor reception centres, territorial agents, liquor stores, from campground staff and from over 100 private vendors, displaying the campground permit posters.
The cost of the permits remains the same as last year, being $8 per day for daily permits, $40 for a Yukon resident annual permit and $120 for a Yukon resident three-year permit - something this government introduced last year.
Permits are free for Yukon seniors over 65 years of age.
Mr. McRobb: It is a pleasure to finally rise to a ministerial statement based on government policy. Now, we all know that ministerial statements should be a short, factual statement based on government policy and this House, all too frequently, hears ministerial statements that are more of a camera shot or a photo opportunity for the minister to stand up and grandstand about something. Just yesterday, I believe, we heard something that would have been better intended as a tribute rather than a ministerial statement. So, it is finally a pleasure to rise and respond to a government policy.
Now, that said, Mr. Speaker, what a policy we finally have. To quote a recent statement from the members across the way, we are really scraping the bottom of the barrel this time. Now, we are pleased - make no mistake about it, we are pleased - that there will be more time for tourists and Yukoners to enjoy the great outdoors in our many great campgrounds. However, Yukoners might not have the financial resources to enjoy the benefits of this new policy initiative because this Liberal government has failed to provide the economic means or produce jobs so they can go out and enjoy the recreation. In fact, most people I know who are camping these days are out there because they are gathering food for their freezers; they are having a struggle to make ends meet. We see the number of applications for moose hunts or bison hunts - I think that is an indication of how bad things are out there.
Now, I am wondering where the priorities of this government are. Now, it's nice to extend the campground season a bit on both sides, but where are the other policy initiatives from this government? It's good to see that the minister finally has an iron in the fire, so to speak, but where is progress in other major policy areas, Mr. Speaker? Ministerial statements are opportunities that the minister can take advantage of to let this House know about government policy initiatives, and instead, we are getting announcements like this. So, I would encourage the minister to roll up his sleeves and let's see some work on developing these other areas that reflect the priorities of Yukoners.
Now, to govern means to conduct the policy and affairs of state. This government would rather go camping itself, as soon as they can, so they won't have to think about the mess they have made, Mr. Speaker. And I would invite the minister to maybe put aside a weekend next summer; I'll go camping with him, and maybe we can sit down and discuss what some of the more significant policy matters would be for this government to introduce in its term, because there are plenty of them out there and it's time that we finally sat down and tried to address some of them.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to respond to this ministerial statement on extending the campground season. While this may be a new policy for the Liberal government, the previous Minister of Community and Transportation Services under the Yukon Party, Mr. Bill Brewster, did it as a matter of course.
The next ministerial statement we have from this Liberal government will likely be taking credit for reinventing the wheel, Mr. Speaker.
While the extended opening of Yukon campgrounds is a good thing that the Liberals have just become aware of, they should also be aware of the fact that there is a need to fill these campgrounds with tourists and visitors heading to the Yukon or through the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. As it now stands, Yukon campgrounds are going to be used primarily by Yukoners, aged 25 to 39, who are leaving the territory with their young families because of the disastrous economic policies of this Liberal government, of which we will be debating one later in the afternoon, specifically the protected areas strategy.
Also, Mr. Speaker, expectant mothers from rural Yukon who are required to be in Whitehorse for at least two weeks or more to await the birth of their child will be occupying campgrounds around Whitehorse as a consequence of the disastrous policies of the Minister of Health and Social Services in this Liberal government.
With high fuel prices, stiff competition from other jurisdictions, and uncertain economic times here in the Yukon, the Yukon is certainly going to have a tough time maintaining its previous visitation numbers. More likely, those numbers are going to remain flat or, in fact, decrease.
So anything that this government can do to attract more visitors to our area is very much appreciated. The extended campground season opening is one such initiative. I support it and I commend the minister for rediscovering it.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It's nice that the members opposite got their commercial in, like the one about tasting corn flakes again - that kind of punch.
The Member for Kluane did not have a ministerial response at all. I would challenge him on that. It's all about showtime. They are very good at it. They know how to do it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, we haven't had all our acting lessons yet, like the members opposite did.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, that's right. As the Premier says, we would never ask the taxpayers to pay for it.
I would like to thank the members opposite for the traditional drivel that they do pass to this side of the House. It's getting weaker and weaker all the time.
We feel that extending the campground season, even by a few weeks, is something that has been wanted by Yukoners, tourists and business people - particularly in the communities - for a long, long time. I am sure that the previous Minister of Renewable Resources was lobbied by more than just a few Yukoners to extend the campground season, but still chose not to act on that request.
We recognize that we must take care of Yukoners, first and foremost. The outdoors is a great part of most Yukoners' way of life. For some of us, it is a weekend camping trip with family at a favourite fishing hole. For others, like trappers and outfitters, it is their livelihood.
I'm sure that all of us, at one time or another, have used a territorial campground or day use area and appreciated that the roads were plowed, the facilities were clean and that there was wood at the campfire boxes.
We are building the economy, and tourists are part of that economy. We are getting more ecotourists visiting the territory every year, and they use our campgrounds. I'm sure you have seen an increase in the number of RV rental places in the territory, and we need to address the increased traffic coming north. We can't have tourists stopping at the side of the road, in driveways or in gravel pits because they can't find a campground. There are few places in the world where tourists can go and really, truly experience true wilderness. The Yukon is one of them, and I am very, very proud to live here and be a part of that.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Klondike group home, safety issues
Mr. Keenan: As the Minister of Renewable Resources said, "It is showtime." Here we go.
I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Now, in the fall, we asked repeatedly about the safety issues at the group home at 16 Klondike Road. At that time, I can say that we received no answers.
Recent debate and media coverage have raised the issue again. These safety concerns were first focused around issues of worker safety and resulted in a review by the Workers' Compensation Board. Since then, the government has taken over operation of the group home. I would like to ask the minister this: have the safety issues raised by staff all been resolved since the government took over the operation?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, they have been.
Mr. Keenan: An independent audit was done just last fall. After a great deal of resistance, we were finally handed a copy by the minister late yesterday afternoon.
So I would like to ask the minister: what has the minister done to address the issues raised by the safety audit since the department took over operations? Or has the minister simply just dismissed the report?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess spending about three days on this wasn't enough for the members opposite. I guess they want more to keep the issue in the profile. I am not sure what their objective is, because I think this has been a long-stemming problem. Even under their mandate when they were the government, this particular home was an issue. To be suddenly surprised that the government would take it on as something that they wanted to operate - it shouldn't be a surprise. I mean, I think they are trying to make more out of this than there really is.
It's unfortunate that they are doing it on the backs of the unfortunate. I really believe that this is not healthy for those people who are staying in these particular residences, to keep profiling the issue when there are no issues at this point. I think that it is important to know that any time recommendations come forward, we look at recommendations. If it means that we have to make changes in order to better the lives of those people in our care, then we do that.
Mr. Keenan: I would like the record to show that the minister had an opportunity to answer the question but decided to grandstage, and that is his very own word. He decided to take the camera time and do a little bit of grandstaging.
So I would like to know again: what has the minister done to address those issues? I understand that very few of the group home staff who had established relationships with the youth within this facility were hired once the government took over the operations. I also understand that the new staff hired by the government have now left 16 Klondike. So I would like to know how much staff turnover there has been since the government took over. What does the minister think is behind that turnover? Again, these are simple questions.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is always good at saying that we have never answered the question. I did answer the question. If the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes doesn't want to hear the answer, as I said in previous responses, that's that member's problem, not mine.
The staff turnover obviously is a management operational problem. It's not something that I get involved with. I don't operate these particular homes or residences. I don't micromanage. I leave that up to the staff that we employ. They're highly competent people. Obviously we want the highest quality people we can find because, as I have said on many occasions, the children, the young people staying in these homes, are not the easiest children to work with. It takes very competent people.
If the member has information there that I don't have about the turnover of staff since we have taken over, I would appreciate receiving it, because that's not what I'm being told, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, either the member is trying to present something here that is not necessarily the true picture or the member has something that I don't have, and that quite possibly could happen.
The important part for me, Mr. Speaker, is that I don't micromanage my responsibilities. I leave that up to my very highly competent staff.
Question re: Klondike group home, safety issues
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'm not asking the minister to micromanage. I'm asking the minister to show some leadership. The minister had shown leadership in the fall by taking the group home away from the proponents under the auspices of doing a better thing, a real thing. So, I beg to differ with the minister; he does micromanage.
Let me also say that the safety concerns identified included concerns about staff training, the number of staff on duty and the staffing requirements to cover all the shifts. The safety audit made it clear that increased staffing was absolutely necessary. These are not new words for the minister.
Has the staff at 16 Klondike been increased, and how much more is it costing the government to run this program directly?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I gather that the members opposite don't get the message. This has been a long-standing problem with 16 Klondike. It is obvious that the government of yesterday did not resolve the issues - three and a half years in government and they did not resolve the problems. We are in office for one year - almost one year - and we are doing something about it. We've already done something about it within that year.
So I don't know if it's guilt or whatever, but I'm not sure what kind of message the member here is trying to give to the public. I know that we have dealt with the issues. We don't move into situations without looking at what the consequences are going to be.
My understanding is that there's a training program. The selection process for picking employees to work at this is at the highest level that we can obtain. If former employees don't get jobs, then obviously they didn't have the skills that were needed in order to deal with the situation. It is all done fairly through the Public Service Commission applications. These are not hand picked or sole sourced, as some might say. It's done using the public approach.
I think it's very important that we put all the facts on the table.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister can stand there and blame the government of yesterday, but it is the leaders of today, of which the Minister of Health is one. Yes, I am pointing out and identifying problems and giving concrete suggestions, and it does seem that the minister does his infamous duke-out, which the minister loves to do - "grandstaging" he calls it.
I've already mentioned the staff turnover. Surely the minister must understand that stability and consistency are some of the most important things to our young people. And these are young people whose lives have been very, very disturbed. It takes a long time to gain the trust of young people when they've been shunted from one residential setting to another - in some cases, 42 times, as you have heard before, in 16 short years, Mr. Speaker. A lot of them have never experienced unconditional love from anyone.
High staff turnover has a very serious impact on the ability to maintain -
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. High staff turnover does have a serious impact on that.
So, I would like to ask the minister this: what is the minister doing to address concerns about hiring, training and keeping qualified group home workers employed? What is the minister doing?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think the number one issue here is ensuring that you hire the most competent staff that you can. I think that's number one, Mr. Speaker. I think number two could be empowering that staff to be owners of the program, looking at how the future should unfold. Number three is working with all of the partners, which includes caregivers, parents, family, and resource people utilized in helping young people like this.
But for me, again, that's kind of what I'm doing. I'm kind of micromanaging here. I'm saying what I would have done as a person who was right down there, working on the front line. That's not my job. But those are the kinds of things our department is doing. They are very resourceful and competent people and, as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes stated, these are very difficult children. They wouldn't be in this situation if they didn't have many problems. So they bring many problems to the situation. So obviously it takes day-to-day planning with these young people because they're up and down all the time. The longer we keep this in the public light, the longer it takes to settle down and get on with the job of healing. I'm not sure what message the members opposite are trying to present here.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister can stand on his feet and say all the politically correct words that he'd like to say. He can talk about empowerment; he can talk about healing; he can talk about working with partners. But for goodness' sake, when is it going to start? It has to start at some point in time.
Now, a concern that has come to my attention is that female staff - especially female staff - are finding it difficult to cope at 16 Klondike. The word in the street is that the residents - the residents - are running the show. So is the minister aware of this problem, and what has the minister done to address it, other than the rhetoric of empowering, healing and all of those politically correct words? What is the minister doing?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: My understanding is that the member opposite has more information than I have. It's a bit like the report that the Member for Klondike had before I even got it. I don't know how the Member for Klondike got the report, so I present the same kind of response to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes. He has got more information than I have. I have not heard that. What I am hearing -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, the Member for Klondike says that it is not hard. Again, one of the rude comments that the Member for Klondike likes to make. We are trying to raise the decorum here in the House - that is not the way to do it.
The important part, Mr. Speaker, is that we believe, with our staff, that we have made substantial gains in trying to gain the trust of very troubled youth. We are working with our professional staff to bring about change. That change won't happen overnight. Now, if the members opposite think that just because we have taken over the program, that everything is cured, then they are living in another Disneyland. Mr. Speaker, it takes time; it takes energy; it takes professionalism. It takes members from the opposition to understand that these are very fragile people. So every time you bring up the issue, it makes their job much more difficult. I am disappointed in the members opposite, that they believe that this is a way that they are going to attack a problem.
Question re: Parks, designation of land tracts
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Premier. Of major concern to resource industries and businesses in the territory, is the future disposition of Yukon land. Currently there are three national parks in the territory, a fourth being created in the Kluane game sanctuary, and a fifth being proposed for Wolf Lake, near Teslin. Now, added to that total are the three territorial parks, settlement land for Yukon First Nations and the Tetlit Gwitch'in of the Northwest Territories, as well as five special management areas yet to be created under land claims. There are also 16 more protected areas having a minimum size of 5,000 square kilometres each. I estimate that well over 50 percent - and perhaps as much as 70 percent - of Yukon land area will be withdrawn from development.
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The government House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: There's a provision in the Standing Orders to prevent the use of props.
Speaker: I find there is a point of order there. Props are not to be used in the House. I ask the member to please conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a piece of information to send over to the minister, Mr. Speaker. I'm tabling that information.
Does the Premier agree that this massive withdrawal from Yukon lands is cause for concern?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what I will wholeheartedly agree with is the fact that the member opposite is not only out of order in his use of props, but the member opposite is out of order in his facts and out of order in his assessment and interpretation of what he considers to be the facts.
The member has failed to appreciate not only the Standing Order with respect to props, but the member has failed to appreciate the fact that we also have a rule regarding anticipation and we have a very clear understanding among members in the House.
Perhaps if the member would put some time and effort into his legislative procedure and attending SCREP and the business of this House, I'd be pleased to debate with the member opposite. I'm looking forward to discussing with the member opposite the Yukon protected areas strategy, which is what he's getting at, and this government's economic development agenda, which is also very strong, as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development also outlined at noon today.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the minister once again has failed to answer the question. I was referring not just to the protected areas strategy but the total amount of land being withdrawn from the land base of the Yukon - all categories of land. I suspect it's over 50 percent; perhaps as much as 70 percent of Yukon land will be withdrawn from development.
Does the Premier agree that this is, indeed, cause for concern?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is making assumptions. The member opposite is fear-mongering. And the member opposite is, once again, not doing his research. His very question abandons his party's support for the settlement of land claims. I guess they don't support the settlement of land claims. He has abandoned his former leader's support for the Yukon protected areas strategy, including the Whitehorse mining initiative.
The poor member opposite really doesn't know where his party stands on any of these issues. Our party, on the other hand, is very clear. We have been crystal clear in our support for the settlement of land claims, which includes the negotiation of special management areas. We have been crystal clear in our support of the protected areas strategy, and we have been absolutely clear - in fact, champions - of not only the mining industry, the forest industry, the oil and gas sector, and the tourism industry, as well - true champions of economic development in the territory. And, Mr. Speaker, we're proud of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, the Premier has failed to answer the question. The question, once again, to the Premier: it's estimated that as much as 50 percent - or maybe as much as 70 percent - of Yukon land will be withdrawn in one form or another. The Yukon Party does support the protected areas strategy and the settlement of land claims - all of those issues that the minister is hiding behind. The question once again has not been answered. Can the minister put a figure on how much land, in total, is going to be withdrawn from the Yukon's land base? Is it 40, 50, 60 or 70 percent? How much is it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member is hiding behind some hypothetical mathematical equation. He's hiding the fact that he doesn't really support the settlement of land claims, including the negotiation of special management areas. He really doesn't support the Yukon protected areas strategy and the philosophy behind it, and the Whitehorse mining initiative. He really doesn't support those things, shown by his very question and by the very fact that he fear-mongers about these initiatives.
He doesn't support the fact that this government has made strong strides in developing our economy. We have provided employment and worked with people and various sectors of our economy in creating jobs. And we're doing that without losing support, without giving up on working toward settling land claims, and without abandoning the protected areas strategy. We are doing this in a balanced, fair manner, and we will continue to do so, in spite of the fact that the member opposite does not support this.
Question re: Yukon Act amendments, Crown in right of Yukon
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, once again, to the Premier - she has failed to answer the last question. Let's try again. The present proposed Yukon Act amendments are predicated on the long-held federal Liberal position that the Crown in right of Yukon does not exist. I'm aware of at least three legal opinions that prove that the federal Liberal position is wrong.
Now, the consequences of the federal Liberal position are severe, in that the position of Commissioner is the equivalent of a Lieutenant Governor representing Her Majesty in Yukon and owning the Yukon territorial land and resources - are all being denied. Now, under the Constitutional Questions Act, the Yukon government can refer the Crown in right of Yukon issue to the court of appeal for consideration. A favourable ruling by the court of appeal, which in all probability is very likely, would completely undermine the federal Liberal position and put Yukoners in the driver's seat in formalizing the role of Commissioner and allowing Yukoners to own their own land and resources. The Yukon has everything to gain and nothing to lose by such a ruling.
My question to the Premier: will she now seek a reference from the court of appeal on behalf of Yukoners on this very important issue, the Crown in right of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I find it interesting that the members opposite have grown so close for several questions. The member opposite has a problem in that he reviews a legal opinion, and clearly, despite this new close relationship, he doesn't have anyone to bounce ideas off, because he would realize that his question is not only extremely convoluted, but it has been answered several times in this Legislature. The answer that I gave the member last time we were in the session and the time before and the time before, and the answer given by the previous Government Leader to the member opposite's question was, "No" then, and it's "no" now.
Question re: Shelter for homeless, agreements with hotels
Mr. Keenan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the recognition. I have another question for the Minister of Health and Social Services, if I may. Now, the government recently closed the transient shelter at the Sarah Steele Building and they contracted some local hotels to provide rooms for those without a place to stay. Now the justification was that it would cost much less to contract out than to provide the service. So, now I would like to ask if the minister, based on the Premier's answer, would just move a little closer to an answer.
I would like to ask how many local hotels have agreements with government and how long do those agreements run for?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: At this point we have two hotels that I know of: one is for mothers and children and one is for men. These contracts are for one year.
Mr. Keenan: I think the minister just proved that, when the minister wants to, he can move a little closer to an answer and I certainly appreciate the answer - the first one, I think, this session.
The transition shelter provided more than just a bed. It also provided support services, including behavioural guidelines and a degree of supervision. Now, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that a downtown hotel is not in a position to offer this kind of support, so let me spell out my concerns.
Without guidelines, without supervision, abuses can occur and do, and I understand that some of the clients are using these rooms as party palaces. One person gets a room, others throw in some money, booze is added to it, and you've got an instant boogie right there. That's what's happening at this point in time.
So, I would like to ask what guidelines are in place to ensure that transition shelter clients are not abusing the system now that it has been moved out of the government facility?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It's a much deeper problem that just having a shelter. We're talking about adults, Mr. Speaker, and if adults want to behave other than they should, then obviously, if they're doing it in a public place or in a building owned by someone else, it won't be acceptable. They won't be staying there. Why should that behaviour change? We're talking about adults, so to think that we have to supervise adults in order for them to behave so they can stay in a certain residence isn't solving the problem. This is a major problem.
Homelessness is a major problem. Having a stop-gap shelter wasn't solving the problem, and when you're paying close to $600 per individual for every night they stay in the shelter, it's obvious that that wasn't cost-effective at all. The costs have gone from $250,000, Mr. Speaker, to over $450,000, and the usership has gone down. It's very obvious that it's not just having a facility; there's more to it than meets the eye here. We as a society have to deal with the real problem that's causing it.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I asked about guidelines. I asked what guidelines were put in place, and the minister has got to be able to dodge that, too. He gives me a lecture.
Well, I spent six days with the minister in this House, I believe it was, talking about it. The minister says that it's deeper than you think. Well, probe it. The member is the Health minister.
Now, in some situations, it has got so far out of hand that some of the hotel operators are seriously rethinking their agreements. I take it that the minister doesn't know that. They are concerned about the impact of some of the actions of these clients whom they have as their guests, especially with the tourism season coming.
I would like to ask the minister again: what guidelines are in place and what is the minister doing to ensure that people who need temporary shelter have a place to stay, but that the hotel owners do not face a loss of business because of their arrangements with government?
Now, there is a whole bunch of questions in there. One answer would be adequate, I guess.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, that's right. They ask one question, but there are a whole bunch of questions. That's typical from the members opposite. They never have one question. There are always about five of them in the one question.
The important part of this is that, I guess, if we're serving as babysitters - if that's what the member opposite is saying - then we should continue doing that, even though it's costing us $600 per individual. I guess money means nothing to the members opposite. But when we have a health care crisis on our hands here, with fewer doctors and fewer nurses, those are important issues, as well.
I think the important part of it is that the member opposite seems to know more about this than I do. Obviously, whether it's true or not, I'm not sure. At this point, I have not heard that. If hotel owners are reconsidering, I haven't heard that, either. I would hope that if things don't work out, then we have to look at other ways of doing it. So far, that hasn't come to my desk. Obviously it has gone to the member opposite's desk and they are raising the alarm. I don't see any alarm. Is that fear-mongering again? Or is that making a problem where there is no problem?
Question re: Drug and alcohol programs
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, the minister has just stood on his feet, on a televised program, and insulted people out there. Mr. Speaker, I am asking where the leadership is.
Yesterday the minister said that government is an absolute last resort. Today he says that we are babysitting. That is absolutely appalling - appalling, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the department is in the midst of creating a new alcohol and drug secretariat. They have moved the transient shelter. Can the minister tell us what the current uptake is in the detox program and how that compares with the previous years? Please, just a simple answer.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think that it is appalling that the member opposite is the one who is talking about having more supervision. We are talking about no supervision. These are adults. Adults can stand on their own two feet and do their own thing. So the member is blaming me for saying that we talk about babysitting. That is exactly what we got out of. That is not the role of government. We are an agency of last resort.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Now, the Member for Kluane says, "Who is your babysitter?" I guess that the Member for Kluane always has an answer for everything but, unfortunately, it's an answer that never leads anywhere.
The important part is that we are trying to do what is right. We are working with our partners in trying to do what is right. We are definitely going to promote what helps people to become equal with all of us, and putting them into situations where we are obviously controlling their environment isn't giving them that equality. So obviously that's hopefully what we are moving toward.
Now, if it's a much deeper problem - which I said homelessness is - then we have to look at that issue. It is not government that is going to solve the problem; it is going to have to be the community.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I am pointing out issues. I am doing my job, and obviously I am doing a better job as a shadow Cabinet minister than the minister is doing as minister - and he's making the extra $26,000 a year for that position.
Well, Mr. Speaker, as I continue to do my job there are a couple of issues here. I'm asking for guidelines for the businesses, so that they might be able to accommodate people. I'm not blaming anybody, or asking for blame; I'm asking for leadership.
Now, when we were in government the Liberals were extremely critical about the way we were addressing alcohol and drug problems. Now, I have heard that trained counsellors have been laid off and offered jobs such as janitors and landscape people in place of counselling positions. We have also heard that there are other staffing concerns. Will the minister confirm that there have been layoffs in the detox program?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, I guess there are a couple of things here that I have to comment on. Number one, is the extra $26,000 the real issue? I'm sorry but, you know, I happen to be on this side. I guess that's maybe why I'm getting that extra $26,000.
At least I'm working full time, trying to build for the future. If hotel owners are having difficulty, we have a contract with each of them. There are conditions in the contract that can be looked at any time, and obviously that will be done through the department. I would hope that that would be what the role would be. If they are experiencing problems at this point, when we're shortly into this new program, then obviously they want to react to it very quickly. So that would be my advice - go back to the department and look at what the real issues are here and what can be done about it. Hopefully we can solve and resolve issues, rather than grandstaging. I think it's very important that we resolve issues.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the minister speaks about working full time, he speaks about the pride he has in what he has accomplished in less than a year. I'm asking for some of the results on the floor of this Legislature. And shame on the minister, because the minister can't bring forth results. The minister must hang his pants on the telephone wire at the end of the day.
Now, the executive director position was re-posted and that suggests that there were no qualified applicants willing to take on this position. This results in a delay, and that happened before there was even a captain to steer this rudderless ship.
So I'd like to ask the minister again: what is the game plan to find a qualified executive director and provide programming for those with alcohol and drug problems both here in Whitehorse in a residential setting and within the communities? Does the minister have an answer or a contingency plan as a backup?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I really appreciate a good question for once.
The first time around, we did have qualified applicants. So for the member opposite to say that we didn't, I'm not sure how that member arrived at that kind of decision. Obviously, the information wasn't correct. We had very qualified people. We just believed that it should be a little wider and a little broader, so we extended the time and hopefully had a broader cast of people out there, because we know that this is a very important job. And I appreciate the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes also stressing the importance of this role.
The layoffs - as the member mentioned in the last question, I didn't quite answer, so I'll answer it here. Yes, there have been some layoffs but they were all casual, auxiliary. They weren't permanent. Some of them are working in the alcohol and detox part of it. Others are being looked at for other positions, like we always do. We're trying to accommodate as best we can. We're hoping, within the next couple of weeks, to shortlist our applicants for the role of executive director and, probably in about four weeks, hopefully we'll be able to make an announcement.
I'm very pleased to hear that the members opposite are anxious to find out as well and really want to get on with this. So do we. This has been a long time in coming.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Before calling opposition private members' business, the Chair wishes to clarify which motions are to be called. Yesterday, the leader of the third party, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3) identified Motion No. 96 and Motion No. 44 to be called for debate today.
Motion No. 96, pertaining to posting government contracts of government corporations on the government Web site, appeared on the Order Paper first distributed this morning. Following the distribution of the Order Paper, the Clerk's office was informed by the third party office that the text of Motion No. 96, appearing on the Order Paper, was incorrect. The notice paper for April 2, 2001, had been referenced by the leader of the third party when identifying the motion to be called. A mistake had been made in the numbering of motions on that Notice Paper, as there were two motions numbered as 96.
The Clerk's office was informed that, when the leader of the third party identified Motion No. 96 for debate today, he did not realize that there had been a mistake in numbering and that the motion he meant to have called was, in fact, Motion No. 97, which is on the subject of the Yukon protected areas strategy.
The Clerk's office then produced and distributed a revised Order Paper with Motion No. 97 listed for debate, as the first item under motions other than government motions.
The Chair has reviewed the circumstances surrounding this situation and recognizes the end result as being unfortunate. The difficulty that arises is whether to insist that the leader of the third party proceed with a motion that he did not intend to call or to have a motion called that, because of the short notice, some members may not be prepared to debate.
In this case, the Chair feels that, in light of the rule that provides the leader of the third party to call a motion of his choice and that the misunderstanding about which motion was identified was clearly not the fault of the leader of the third party, it is appropriate to substitute Motion No. 97 for Motion No. 96 and to permit it to be called today.
The Chair hopes the members will not have been too greatly inconvenienced with these events and thanks them for their understanding.
Opposition private members' business.
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Motion No. 97
Clerk: Motion No. 97, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party -
Order please. I'd ask the members to please take their seats while the Chair has the floor.
It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the five-point plan put forward by the resource users coalition group to correct the deficiencies in the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy should be adopted by the Yukon Liberal Government and include the following provisions:
(1) give the secretariat supporting the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy independent status so that it is not tied to either the Department of Renewable Resources or the Department of Economic Development,
(2) conduct full scale assessments of the economic impacts of protecting a particular area in addition to the full scale environmental assessments that are currently being done,
(3) establish a cap on the total amount of area that can be protected under the strategy,
(4) guarantee access to land that may be blocked through the creation of a protected area, and
(5) create no more protected areas until the completion of the seven outstanding Yukon Indian Land Claims Agreements.
Mr. Jenkins: This motion, together with the motion on Yukon's offshore boundaries, are two of the most important motions this House will probably debate during the current government's term in office. Unfortunately, the Yukon protected areas strategy has become one of the major obstacles preventing the development of the Yukon economy.
It is largely responsible for the economic depression that the Yukon now finds itself in. We only have to look on either side of our borders to see what is transpiring.
In Alaska, we see a booming mining industry, dominated by Canadian mining companies with capital raised on the Vancouver and Toronto stock exchanges. The names Cominco and Teck, are but two. And last year the mining industry in Alaska, at some $1.3 billion - and those are real dollars, U.S. dollars - contributed greatly to their economic well-being. Also, oil and gas activity in Alaska is going on at a feverish pace. And the First Nations there are involved in the process at all levels, as suppliers of equipment, skills and trades of numerous types. But that industry is contributing greatly to the wealth of that state.
In the Northwest Territories, we have a similar type of situation. We have a booming mining industry in the Northwest Territories; we have a booming oil and gas industry. In fact, one only has to travel between here and Dawson City to see the number of trucks that are travelling the Dempster Highway, transporting the equipment necessary for the oil and gas exploration companies, to recognize the value and the potential that they are currently enjoying.
There is a shortage of skilled labour in all categories, both in Alaska and the Northwest Territories. In fact, the Northwest Territories is currently lobbying for skilled workers to come to their region. There are jobs, jobs, jobs, as the Minister of Tourism so capably puts it. But those jobs are elsewhere. They are in the Northwest Territories, Alberta and northern British Columbia. And as I look around this House, we all know that many, many Yukoners have departed the Yukon, either permanently or temporarily, seeking employment in these other jurisdictions.
That comes about largely because this government doesn't have any firm, concrete policies as to how much land is ultimately going to be withdrawn and where it is.
The other concern is the process. If we want to look specifically at the protected areas strategy, which is the subject of this motion, we find that the government has interpreted it considerably differently than what was originally intended.
If we look back to when the Yukon Party government signed on to the protected areas strategy shortly after it took office, it was based on the concept of multiple use, and it was no threat whatsoever to the Yukon economy. How times have changed, Mr. Speaker - and how governments change the whole philosophy and concept of a program.
Under the NDP, it was altered and changed. Now, the Liberals are having their kick at the cat. Until such time as they conclude the protected areas strategy and where and when land is going to be withdrawn, we are in uncertain times.
We only have to look at the makeup. Whether there be 28 or 29 members who sit on this committee, Mr. Speaker, there is not equal representation from the resource extraction sector, the business sector and the environmental sector. The makeup of the committee is weighted very, very heavily in favour of the environmental sector. Mr. Speaker, that is the crux of the problem. Until we have equal representation at the table to deal with the matter before us, it's not going to gain wide acceptance.
We look forward, and look at what has happened, Mr. Speaker. The concept of multiple use has been lost and the protected areas strategy has now become a mechanism for creating a vast number of no-development parks of at least 5,000 square kilometres each.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to circulate what was referred to earlier as a prop. It certainly isn't a prop. It is a map of the Yukon, and if the minister wants to refer to it as a prop, he certainly may. But it spells out the land mass that has been withdrawn in one form or another. There's a copy of that map for each and every member.
It lays out the lands withdrawn from mineral exploration and forestry, the private lands that are withdrawn from forestry, the proposed national parks, the protected areas, the special management areas, as well as the original national and territorial parks or wilderness preserves, the special management areas, the interim protected lands and the Yukon First Nation settlement lands, as well as the settlement lands from Yukon First Nations and Tetlit Gwich'in the category B or fee simple lands.
Now, based on the total land mass of the Yukon, with these two categories alone - the national and territorial parks or wilderness preserves, special management areas, interim protected lands, settlement lands for Yukon First Nations and Tetlit Gwich'in and category B or fee simple lands - we are protecting 22 percent of the land base here in the Yukon.
Then we look at the proposed Wolf Lake national park, which is just a study area. We know full well that the study area will, in all probability, ultimately end up being the park area. We are looking at the future protected areas, some 13 of them that will come into existence at 5,000 square kilometres each. And there are the possible future special management areas, an additional five, at 3,000 square kilometres each. We start looking at highways, secondary roads and tote roads, and they are just a small, small portion of the land mass of the Yukon.
This is a significant amount of the total land here in the Yukon that will be withdrawn.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon will only be able to sustain a fraction of today's rapidly depleting population, because there will only be one industry left in Yukon to sustain the Yukon economy, which will be our visitor industry. You will probably not be able to enter in, fly over or step on or boat through a lot of these areas. They will be completely inaccessible.
For a lot of these lands, we will become the keeper of the gates for the federal government, as we are with Kluane - the keeper of the gates.
One only has to look at the federal parks that have been created in the Northwest Territories and the rating that the various environmental groups provide to them. It's interesting to note that the parks that have the least amount of visitation are rated the highest from the environmentalists. Now, what is that saying to us? What is that saying to us, Mr. Speaker? All we are doing is creating a preserve for the Gore-Tex-clad people from the south who might be the last few who have the dollars in their $100-a-pair jeans to be able to travel up this way and visit these areas. That appears to be very much the case.
We have to be able to use the land base of the Yukon in its traditional manner and for resource extraction. We have to be able to undertake resource extraction in an environmentally safe and friendly manner. And the resource extraction industry today has demonstrated that that can be done, will be done and must be done. The way we are headed, as I outlined earlier, the only industry that we will end up with is our visitor industry. Mining, forestry, oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and even outfitting and trapping will be the way of the past.
Our grandchildren will only be able to read about it. And, if we look at all of these industries - the mining industry - the mining industry is the reason why the Yukon was established as a distinct territory of Canada. The mining industry has contributed significantly to the economic well-being of the Yukon for almost 100 years.
Today it could still be a contributor to the economic well-being of the Yukon, but it won't be, because this government and the previous government have scared away all the miners, all the mining exploration, virtually, and the mining companies. It is not because, Mr. Speaker, we do not have known, proven reserves. Indeed, we have mines that have gone through the permitting process. They can go into production, but they won't go into production because there is no incentive for the owners of these mines to put them back into production, given all the hoops they'll end up jumping through, and the uncertainty surrounding the permitting process and the production process that still prevails.
You never know, Mr. Speaker, when there's going to be an injunction slapped on the mine owner by one of the environmental groups for any one of a number of reasons.
The environmental groups will always be insisting that not enough has been done, the process hasn't been followed and the mine shouldn't be allowed to go into production. That's just one sector of our economy.
If we look at the forestry, one only has to go back in history to when the miners first arrived. Wood from Yukon forests was the main construction material for all the buildings, and a great deal of the watercraft were cut from Yukon forests. The main method of heating - in fact, in many, many cases, the sole method of heating - was wood.
There are pictures taken along the Yukon River because the sternwheelers burned tremendous amounts of wood on their passage between Whitehorse and Dawson, and Dawson and Whitehorse, and between Dawson and St. Michael's, out on the Bering Sea. And the amount of wood that they burned was tremendous - year after year after year. Pictures were taken along the Yukon River of tremendous swaths of land where the timber was removed for construction, for firewood, or to make steam on the sternwheelers.
Yet, today, just a few decades later, anyone travelling the Yukon River would deem it to be pristine wilderness. And yes, you can still find traces of habitation in various areas - some well-preserved by the First Nations, the Government of Yukon and the federal government - but, by and large, in the past we have used a tremendous amount of Yukon timber. It has maintained our lifestyle, powered our transportation systems, and yet we travel the rivers today and hardly notice that that has taken place.
Mother Nature has picked up and we do have sun and rain that allow things to grow. There must have been some Liberals running around the forests, Mr. Speaker, because the other necessary item is the fertilizer. I'm sure some of the suggestions coming from the Liberal government have aided the growth of the forests here in the Yukon.
If we look at the oil and gas industry, we have producing gas wells in southeast Yukon. Just over the border in the Northwest Territories, there is one of the largest recent finds of gas by Chevron Canada. That natural gas surely doesn't stop at the Yukon-N.W.T. border, Mr. Speaker. That gas field is known to extend into southeast Yukon and that's probably the easiest gas to tap and bring into production that exists in the Yukon and it begs the question: why isn't that being undertaken and why hasn't that been done? Well, it's because of uncertainty. The industry is uncertain to a great degree as to what's going to transpire with respect to land tenure and, until those areas are addressed, not only the oil and gas industry is staying away - yes, they'll come in, do a little seismic, cut a bit of line, recognize that there is potential, there is oil and gas. We know that, Mr. Speaker.
In the 1960s, Eagle Plains was drilled. Wells adjacent to Old Crow have been capped and purchased from their owners in order to settle the claims with the First Nation in Old Crow.
That gas, or that oil, could have been piped as readily into the community and become a source of revenue for the First Nation residing there, as well as provide heat for their buildings and structures for a large part of the year.
The opportunities were made known to other First Nations across the north. One only has to look at Inuvik today, where the Inuvialuit have taken over the gas and have put in a major gas distribution system in that community, and they're deriving economic benefits from supplying gas to Inuvik.
We only have to visit Barrow, Alaska, Mr. Speaker. And it's interesting to note - the first time I was in Barrow, I didn't understand a lot of the system around town. The runway is just a few feet above sea level, and I would look out at these houses, and I'd look at what the U.S. call 55-gallon barrels spread out and a pipe laying across. You go down the street and you come to an intersection, and the pipe goes up in the air, across the street and down the other side. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out what all this piping was for.
It was a natural gas distribution system. It has since been buried. The North Slope's Barrow, which is controlled by the First Nations who reside there, own and operate the system, and they are deriving tremendous economic opportunities from their involvement in this initiative.
Also, when Prudhoe Bay went into production, there was a shuttle service initiated, not only between Anchorage and Prudhoe, but between Barrow and Prudhoe, so that the North Slope Barrow residents could gain meaningful employment in the oil extraction, production and pumping companies involved in delivering oil through the Alyeska pipeline and to the south. So, there are opportunities for everyone.
Furthermore, the State of Alaska has seen fit to take the royalties that they have derived from their oil and gas industry and put them into a permanent fund. Now, that permanent fund has allowed that state to be in a position today where no one in the state pays state income tax. They pay federal U.S. tax, but they do not pay state income tax. In fact, annually, every permanent resident of the State of Alaska receives a dividend cheque. Last year, that dividend cheque amounted to some $2,000 for every man, woman and child who is considered to be a full-time resident of that state.
Now, what's wrong with this picture? The Yukon could be in virtually the same position. We could be in a position where we do not pay territorial income tax. In fact, if we take the royalties that we currently have from oil and gas and develop them further, those royalties could go into a permanent fund here. If you keep the political hands off it, set it up properly and don't let the politicians meddle with it, it will probably accrue benefits for all Yukoners. What is wrong with the government sending out a cheque to each and every Yukoner once a year? There is nothing wrong with that at all.
I don't think there is anyone here who would disagree with that concept. We have had it clearly demonstrated to us that it can work. But here, we are just seeing a minuscule decrease in our total tax payable as a consequence of a reduction at the federal level and the Yukon level. But more could have been done, but we have to have the economy here to contribute to the government to offset the amounts coming from Ottawa.
Let's look at agriculture, Mr. Speaker. If you look back a few years - around Haines Junction, Sunnydale, and the Watson Lake area, there exists tremendous agriculture potential. But it is much easier today to import virtually all our goods from outside than it is to grow them here. But there are opportunities for niche markets. And I am sure that many of the members in the House have visited that wonderful little tropical island in the Pacific, Maui. There are two products there that come from their agriculture: Maui potato chips, derived from the potatoes that are grown there, and Maui onions. Everyone thinks of pineapples and sugar. Yes, they are the mainstay, but the niche markets, where they realize a great deal more in income and put more individuals to work there, are these little niche markets derived from the agricultural area. Has anyone here in the Yukon thought of taking our potatoes, which grow in abundance, and making a potato chip, making a Yukon Gold potato chip? We have Yukon Gold beer. But there is an opportunity there that can be looked at.
But this government is still wandering through the trees, trying to come up with an agricultural policy. And try to get land for agricultural purposes here in the Yukon today, Mr. Speaker. In spite of our tremendous land base, it's nigh on to impossible.
Let's look at construction. Historically, construction has employed a great number of Yukoners, a lot of it seasonally. And this government could have done a lot more had they gone to tender earlier on the Shakwak project, if you want to use that as an example. The Mayo school could have kept a lot of Yukoners employed over the winter had the government had the foresight to award the contract when it should have been awarded - last year. A lot of the changes in the Mayo school are cosmetic. The basic floor plan has not been altered significantly. But we could have put Yukoners to work, had this government had the forethought to do so.
Look at outfitting. The value of outfitting to the Yukon today is very, very significant. Ask any of the outfitters around the Yukon what their major concern is, and today it is access to their traditional hunting areas. The game regulations - they live with them and abide by them, but access to the areas they have traditionally held is up-in-the-air questionable.
The next thing we'll be hearing from this Liberal government is, "Buy them out," but what does that accomplish, Mr. Speaker? It just destroys another industry.
They've been very successful in destroying industries - the mining, the forestry, oil and gas, agriculture, construction. There's a little bit of a bright light with trapping currently, Mr. Speaker, in that the price of fur has started to rebound and there's a demand for it currently.
But the fur cycle is probably on its way down, and the prices are probably on their way up. It would be nice if those two coincided with each other, so that the trappers could realize the benefits. If you speak with any of the trappers, they have concern over the encroachment on their traplines by various undertakings, and the uncertainty surrounding their lines for a number of reasons.
It's not my intention today to be pointing an accusing finger at other members, or laying blame. They're going to do that on their own. Everyone here knows how we ended up in the situation we are currently in today, but what I want to deal with are solutions. I would urge all members of this House to adopt a similar approach.
Mr. Speaker, we owe a debt of gratitude to the coalition of business and resource users for presenting us with a five-point plan on how to correct the current problems with the Yukon protected areas strategy. I'd like to remind the Liberal government that one of its major election commitments was to fix the protected areas strategy, not destroy it and use it for a purpose for which it wasn't intended.
The business and resource users coalition has presented a blueprint on how that can be done. Let me start this by dealing with the first point, of having an independent protected areas strategy not tied to either the Department of Renewable Resources or the Department of Economic Development. The key consideration, Mr. Speaker, is balance. How can there be an independent secretariat to implement the strategy if the Department of Renewable Resources is playing the lead role? Environmental groups would have a similar complaint to that of this coalition group of seven if the Department of Economic Development were to be given the lead role in implementing the strategy. Now, this recommendation should be a rather easy one for the government to fulfill, and it should go a long way to help restore the balance between the resource users, the business interests and the environmental groups.
While we're on the topic of achieving a proper balance between competing interests, I would also urge the government to apply the same principle to the YPAS Public Advisory Committee. By my count, the business and resource users groups are outnumbered by about three to one on that committee and had to walk away from the committee to draw attention to the fact that their voices were not being heard.
The second recommendation from the business resource coalition is to conduct full-scale assessments of the economic impacts of protecting a particular area in addition to the full-scale environmental assessments that are currently being done. Mr. Speaker, what is wrong with a full-scale environmental assessment and a full-scale economic impact assessment for these regions?
They are of equal importance in the opinion of just about everyone except for the environmental movement. They just want to concentrate on the environmental aspects. And it is up to us to put forward a position that achieves a balance between the economic interests and the environmental interests. We have to be aware of both before a rational decision could ever be made - not just one aspect, but both aspects, Mr. Speaker. Once again, the key word is "balance". If comprehensive environmental assessments are done, what is wrong with comprehensive economic assessments? I can't stress them enough. That is what is being missed in this whole equation. And if you look at that recommendation, it is in keeping with the commitment of page 14 of the Liberal election platform, which reads as follows: "Reconvene the protected areas strategy committee to set standards for mineral and economic assessment that must be completed before land is set aside." That word is "must." It doesn't say "may"; it says "must." Why isn't that being done and why isn't that being followed?
I would add that this commitment is also more reason to ensure that the YPAS Public Advisory Committee has a proper balance between representatives of economic and environmental interests if this committee is going to set the standards for mineral and economic assessment.
You have to have a balance on the committee of the economic side of the equation and of the environmental side of the equation. This protected areas strategy would also be seriously flawed if there were only seven environmentalists sitting on the group and if there were three times that number from the resource and business community. Are we going to go through the whole equation again, Mr. Speaker, to change the balance? I don't think so.
Mr. Speaker, it must be recognized, however, that no matter how comprehensive economic assessments are, they will not completely indicate the true wealth of a region. There are limits on what knowledge and technology can actually accomplish. One only has to look at the number of prospectors who go over an area, time and time again. Then, all of a sudden, click, an ore body is uncovered, and those same grounds might have been travelled by numerous prospectors attempting to uncover an ore body of the same type. So the science isn't exact. There has to be some latitude.
Now, if we look back to the third recommendation, it concerns establishing a cap on the total amount of area that can be protected under the strategy. Mr. Speaker, time and time again in general debate and in Question Period, I have asked the Premier and the Minister of Renewable Resources just how much land is going to be set aside here in the Yukon.
I tabled today a land status map of the future of the Yukon. One only has to refer to that map to see what's left over. The government House leader said it was a prop. I'm not going to argue the point. It's a map that contains all of the land that has been withdrawn, for one reason or another, and the coloured map says it best. Unfortunately, at $4 or $5 a copy, I was only able to produce so many, with the meagre wages and salary package that I receive from the Legislature. My expense account was such that I wasn't able to allow for the printing in colour as I would have liked to.
Mr. Speaker, this is perhaps the most crucial recommendation of all - that a cap be placed on the total land. If we start looking at what is transpiring in other jurisdictions, and when the Yukon Party signed on to the protected areas strategy, it called for the protection of 12 percent of a jurisdiction's land area. That's what was called for back then. And Ontario was praised immensely for setting aside 12 percent of their land mass.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon has far exceeded that percentage already, with protected areas ranging from a low of 15 percent to 21 percent, depending on which criterion is being used.
Now, the protected areas strategy documents developed under the Liberal government call for the establishment of 16 more protected areas with a minimum area of 5,000 square kilometres each. That amounts, Mr. Speaker, to an additional 80,000 square kilometres over and above the land area already withdrawn. What it concludes is, today, well over 50 percent of -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. The Minister of Renewable Resources, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I do rise on a point of order. I do believe that the member opposite misspoke himself, and I wish to set the record straight, that the remaining 16 areas of interest -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Would the minister please continue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I want to correct that he misspoke himself when he suggested that the remaining 16 areas of interest are all going to be 5,000 square kilometres. That is wrong, Mr. Speaker. That is incorrect.
Speaker: Leader of the third party.
Mr. Jenkins: There's no point of order. There's just a dispute between members, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Yes, I have to agree that, under the rules in the Legislature, there is no point of order, and it is a dispute of facts between members.
I ask the leader of the third party to continue, please.
Mr. Jenkins: Once again, for the record, I will repeat that the protected areas strategy documents developed under the Liberal government call for the establishment of 16 more protected areas with a minimum area of 5,000 square kilometres each.
When you add it to what is currently parks and otherwise withdrawn in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, what we have is well over 50 percent of the land mass of Yukon being withdrawn, and perhaps as much as 70 percent in total, when you factor in all the other areas.
There is no way that the Yukon can sustain an economy with this amount of land being removed from development activity. What's left of the Yukon economy will shrivel up as it's currently doing and most Yukoners will be forced to move somewhere else or at least derive their income from business activities from somewhere else, because there won't be much in the way of opportunities here.
During Question Period today when I asked the question of the Premier, I didn't receive an answer. The Premier went all over the map. But a cap on the amount of land to be protected under the strategy and all other processes, such as land claims or land use planning, is very much essential to create certainty in the resource investment community. On three separate occasions now, Mr. Speaker, mining companies have had their mining claims included in ever-expanding park boundaries. We only have to look at when Tombstone Park was created.
The Liberals were then in opposition. If we are going to create a territorial park, the federal Minister of Northern Affairs said that he didn't believe that mining claims should be allowed in parks, but it's a territorial park and if we wanted to do something about it, we could buy them out. He didn't agree with it, but he wasn't going to come to the table with any money. Because it was created as a territorial park, the Liberals, who were then in opposition, hammered on the NDP. They said, "Buy them out; buy them out; buy them out." Then the Liberals came into government. How times change.
In spite of inheriting a $60-odd million surplus coming into power, and in spite of inheriting an additional $42 million recently, it puts the resources or the reserves of Yukon at over $100 million - virtually 20 percent of their total budget.
Where is the initiative to buy out the claims in Tombstone Park? I haven't heard boo about it recently. And Asi Keyi Park - when that was first broached in the House, the Premier didn't know anything about it. She hadn't been briefed by her officials. We all know the reality surrounding that situation. But again, a great number of claims are contained within the boundaries of Asi Keyi Park. Where is the Liberal government's position of buying out the claims?
There have been three instances of this, Mr. Speaker, and as in that wonderful sport of baseball - three strikes and you're out. I guess the same could be said about resource investment here in the Yukon.
British Columbia and Yukon are now known as the two jurisdictions in Canada that do not support or welcome mining and resource investment. For a Yukoner, that spells disaster. And this Liberal government and the Premier, in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development, must do everything to turn this dire situation around. The Premier can start today by establishing a cap on the amount of land that is to be withdrawn under the Yukon protected areas strategy.
Now, the fourth recommendation from the coalition group of business and resource sector individuals recommends guaranteeing access to land that may be blocked through the creation of a protected area.
That's just common sense, and what is wrong with it? If we look at the current mining claims in either Asi Keyi Park or Tombstone Park, and we look at the position taken by the environmentalists, what incentive would one have to even come to the Yukon and stake claims in the first place? There isn't any, Mr. Speaker. That is why this fourth recommendation from this group is an extremely important and critical one.
If you look at the Yukon's topography, it's essentially a series of mountain ranges and river valleys. A small block of protected land could effectively block off a whole river valley or a mountain range. That is what appears to be happening. If you look at the other process that is currently underway - Yukon Indian land claims - and you look at the tremendous and considerable care and attention that was paid to ensuring that settlement land does not block off access to public land, you have to give credit to the First Nation negotiators and to the federal and territorial negotiators for coming and addressing some very hard, hard issues, and doing it in a reasonable and practical manner. That same care and attention should be paid when establishing a park or a protected area, and it is not. It hasn't been demonstrated by this government or the previous government.
I mentioned earlier the fiasco surrounding the creation of the Tombstone Park, Fishing Branch park and the new Asi Keyi Park. Parks are being created under land claims, and it makes little or no sense to be creating more parks under the protected areas strategy until the land claims process has been concluded.
Let's finish the land claims job first. I hear on the news today that we might even be close. I suspect the two that are remaining will be a long time in concluding; one probably in the southern part of Yukon, and the other one right here in Whitehorse. But the other seven land claims have really been hung up on federal issues, and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development can address that and do something about it, and hopefully we'll be hearing about the conclusions of some of these land claims here in the Yukon in the not too distant future.
But let's finish that land claims job. That's the highest priority. Then we know what we're dealing with in the rest of the Yukon. Currently, we do not know. There's a lot of speculation out there, but the actual maps for the remaining seven First Nation land claims are not really public documents. Some of the areas that have been withdrawn are known, but most are not. And until those have been firmly planted on a map so we can all see, we really are speculating about moving forward and creating more parks under the protected areas strategy, and that's what the minister is doing.
Let's go back to this five-point plan that was developed, not by me, but by a coalition of Yukon business individuals and resource-extraction individuals. I just have the privilege of presenting it. Someone else developed it, someone probably a lot more capable than I'll ever be. And that group has the ability, because it sat there for hours and hours and met among themselves, dealing with this very important issue, as to how to best address it.
The minister virtually insulted this group, saying, "They left the table; we're going to push on without them." Yes, we move on redundant.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners deserve a straight answer from this minister. They deserve to know the government's position with respect to how much land and when there's going to be a balance struck on this committee created to overview and provide input into the Yukon protected areas strategy.
I want to make it abundantly clear where the Yukon Party stands on this five-point plan. We support all five points, and actually would have added a few more, but it's a plan; it's a game plan. I'm sure to some degree it was a compromise among their own members, so let's not compromise this plan further, Mr. Speaker.
Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the two other parties - the Liberals and the NDP - to go on record as to where they stand. A motion put forward on the floor of the House is exactly that - a motion. It sets out a position and this motion certainly does that. I would ask the Liberals and the NDP to either vote for or against this motion, rather than water it down by amending it. We'll certainly see where we stand, where all parties stand, with respect to this initiative by voting on this motion as it is.
I look forward, Mr. Speaker, to support for this motion. I know it's going to be a tough position to take for some members in this House on this important initiative, as they feel the current structure of it has more chance of success politically than it does any other way.
But let's look after the well-being and the interests of all Yukon, Mr. Speaker. Let's put partisan politics aside. Let's move forward together.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I'd love nothing more than to put partisan politics aside, and I think, by example on this side on several occasions, we're certainly and have certainly and are certainly prepared to do that. I do take exception to some of the comments made by the Member for Klondike, and I will respectfully try and respond to the member opposite on his motion.
Needless to say, Mr. Speaker, I do not support the motion.
With all due respect to the House, I would like to give a little backgrounder on where I'm coming from with respect to the protected areas strategy.
Most of my professional life has been devoted to environmental issues and working on wildlife, first with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans way back when, and then I did spend four years in northern Alberta on the tar sands project when Syncrude was starting up, as an environmental monitor on the project, but I did learn a lot. I learned a lot about resource extraction. When I was with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, I learned how to get along with fishermen. And, in my professional career, I've tried to find balance, tried to indicate balance.
After my time with Syncrude, I was very fortunate and was very privileged to work with an international conservation organization called Ducks Unlimited.
Mr. Speaker, within Ducks Unlimited there is an incredible dichotomy of professions, namely one of biology and one of engineering. Usually those two professions are like water and oil, cat and dog, fire and water. The engineering profession is very fortunate that it can clearly determine how to get from point A to point B in a straight line. It's quite a precise profession. Biologists, on the other hand, sometimes can only dream of having those finite parameters to work under. Biologists work with ephemeral ideas, with concepts - "Well, if we do this, hopefully we'll get what we want."
But Ducks Unlimited, very successfully for well over 60 years now, has been working in a very cooperative fashion, and these two professions have managed to find common ground because they have a singularity of purpose, and that is the conservation, restoration and preservation of wetlands in North America.
I was with the organization for 20 years; 15 of those years were here in the Yukon Territory. Another part of the responsibility I had with Ducks Unlimited here in the territory was fundraising. Now, that was certainly an alien task and a very difficult task for me to do because it's asking for money and donations. It really was a struggle for me to do that.
But Mr. Speaker, for years and years and years, the organization depended solely on donations from corporations, landowners and, for the longest time, outside of governments.
Since then, they have partnered with governments on projects. They have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars on the restoration of wetlands, on buying lands, primarily in agricultural areas on the prairies. The point is, first of all, there are two alien jurisdictions - professions - that manage to get together and work cooperatively toward a common goal. So it can be done.
There are also the aspects of fundraising for conservation purposes. Again, Ducks Unlimited has been incredibly successful in that undertaking. Up here in the territory, for 15 years, we conducted fundraising programs and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars. That was primarily from resource extraction, from businesses, from the public and from Yukoners. And I am very proud to say that the generosity of Yukoners shone time and time again on a national standard of fundraising for Ducks Unlimited because Yukoners, on a per capita basis, were incredibly, incredibly generous.
So, Mr. Speaker, the arguments presented by the member opposite do not bode well for the cooperative spirit that we have here in the territory, for the interests toward conservation preservation and respect for our wild places. During all those 15 years, I had to deal with individuals in a broad cross section of business - not only biologists or areas where I felt more comfortable, but I also dealt with business people, with oil and gas people, with resource extraction industries, with mining companies, with prospectors.
It was over that time, Mr. Speaker, that I established credibility here in the territory. When I ran for election I made it very clear to my constituents that I would be moving forward with the protected areas strategy, that we would try to fix and amend the strategy so that I could respect all those interests that I had been involved with in my other career, and I got elected because of the credibility that I had established.
The member opposite has deliberately, I believe, attempted to inflame, mislead -
Speaker: Order please. I would ask the member to withdraw the word "mislead", please.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I apologize, Mr. Speaker. I will withdraw the word.
I think a lot of Yukoners, though, Mr. Speaker, believe in the protected areas strategy, and this government's responsibility is to re-establish a confidence that the government will do what it says it will do, and we are making best efforts to do that.
Unfortunately, sometimes walking out of this - I was walking out of here with a member, who has left the Chamber here, and he said to me, "Dale, don't take things seriously in there. It's just a fairy tale." He said, "Dale, what happens in there is not real." Well, Mr. Speaker, I take this job very seriously. I take responsibilities and accountability very seriously, and I try to be as upfront and honest as I possibly can, because the credibility I established with the former profession has to remain with me in this job.
Another comment that was made to me by another member as we were leaving the House was that, "Well, you're only a politician." Well, Mr. Speaker, something that we had said during the campaign was that we would try to change the public attitude toward politicians. It's a tough go, but we will keep true to that promise and keep true to the commitments that we made to our electorate.
So, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of facts that I would like to present at this time, before I go into direct response to the member opposite. The proposed Wolf Lake national park, which he suggested is going to be, is not going to be. With all due respect for the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Teslin Renewable Resources Council, there has been a deference to the recommendations on the Parks Canada feasibility - the feasibility study on Wolf Lake national park.
So that, Mr. Speaker, with the support now of the government, we will not be moving toward making that a park. There are certainly areas of special interest in there, I won't deny it, and we will be respecting those special interest areas in consultation with the Teslin Tlingit Council, and also with the renewable resource council in the area, along with the locals.
So I just wanted to correct the record on that fact.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No. Okay, just a further clarification for the member opposite, who just asked if the federal government killed it. No, it was at the request of the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Teslin Renewable Resource Council, and also with the support of conservation organizations in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of protecting areas globally came to focus under the Brundtland Commission. There was a collective will, and the result of the Brundtland Commission was that, as a guideline, on a national basis, 12 percent of lands would be set aside for protection by whatever means. Here, in Canada, we take that to mean national parks, provincial parks and other protected areas that allow limited impact within the park boundaries.
In other jurisdictions in Canada, provinces see protected areas as an opportunity - as a clear opportunity. In other jurisdictions within Canada and the provinces, in Alaska and in the Northwest Territories, protected areas are created successfully, while respecting their populations, with resource users, business groups, et cetera. They are successfully created, each seeing the benefits, jointly and cooperatively, creating certainty. That's what these places now enjoy - the certainty. And in some provinces within Canada, the collaboration of the resource sector, other businesses and conservation organizations - the partnership - is working very successfully.
I do understand, very clearly, the apprehensions of those members of the group of seven who chose to walk away from the first set of the recent public advisory committee meetings, as well as the most recent set of meetings. I understand their apprehensions.
Their perception of the Yukon protected areas strategy is that it is an encumbrance on what they see as their land base use, their needs, their wants, their certainties. We will continue to listen to all Yukoners. That was a commitment that we made at the get-go, and that is a commitment that we will follow through on.
The Member for Klondike has suggested that I don't respect those members because they walked away. To the contrary, Mr. Speaker, there couldn't be anything further from the truth. The fact is that there was a process set up and there was a regrouping of the original group that put the protected areas strategy together. So there was a degree of respect when these members all came back together - and I do understand that there was a concern that the voices of the members of the group of seven would not be heard within the confines of the public advisory committee.
The truth is that if the members had stayed, it would have been the best opportunity for balance than would have happened when the original strategy was being designed. Their voices would have been heard because the mandate provided to the facilitator was that everyone would have an equal voice there, Mr. Speaker, and that all the concerns and wishes of the groups would be presented to Cabinet. That was the commitment that we made. So, it did get into a difficult manner, where we did have to provide to the public advisory committee, charging them with the responsibility to forward notions, ideas and suggestions directly to Cabinet, and respecting those people who are participating there.
I do get a little angry when the Member for Klondike suggests that there weren't other resource sector representations within the group. If I were any of those members within the public advisory committee hearing that from the Member for Klondike, I'd be quite upset and insulted myself, Mr. Speaker.
This government is challenged with moving forward on the protected areas strategy. The Premier and I and caucus will be moving forward with the strategy. We recently received the recommendations from the advisory group, and Cabinet will be reviewing and looking intently at those recommendations. We just received the recommendations, Mr. Speaker, and we have also offered that anybody who wants a copy of those recommendations is certainly welcome to them. We can provide them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike is chiding across the way, "What about us?" Certainly, Mr. Speaker, they are entitled to copies as well.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Watson Lake asks when. As soon as I can get a copy down here, Mr. Speaker, I'd be more than willing to give one to him.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member behind me just asked why. That's a good question.
Mr. Speaker, I am very aware of the sensitivities on this issue. It is a difficult issue, and I believe in my heart, though, that the protected areas strategy has grown out of all proportion. It is being interpreted as this huge dragon that is not going to allow for economic development here in the territory. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Before we had the public advisory committee meeting come together, some of the issues that came up included ways of looking for and creating certainty. Some of the ideas that I heard - because I met with all those groups in my office, not just once but sometimes a couple of times or several times with some individuals. How can we create certainty? One of the areas and one of the ways, one of the suggestions that I continually heard was, "Just let us know where we can't go." So, Mr. Speaker, that was how the notion came up, that of the remaining 16 ecoregions that have not been represented yet.
Okay, we will indicate these just as areas of interest, meaning that there will be a circle on the map. We feel that that would be the smallest area that could represent that ecoregion. Industry would know where it was because it is an area of interest. If there were any apprehension by industry and if there were the biggest motherlode of gold under that area of interest, we would move it, because, Mr. Speaker, we are trying to find balance, as the Member for Klondike has suggested. We are trying to find balance.
We will afford and we will look for constructive and positive ways to listen to all Yukoners on this issue. We recognize that we have to be clear in our intent and our messaging about exactly what we are attempting to do, with full disclosure of where we're going and with full participation on the assessments and processes.
So, Mr. Speaker, I can't go along with the motion as posed, not even with amendments, unfortunately. It is virtually identical to a letter that I, the Premier and the department received from the group of seven. It is virtually the same.
What I would like to do now, Mr. Speaker, is, as the Member for Klondike did, go through each point in the letter.
Between the first set of public advisory group meetings and the second set, we actually listened. I was there for two days, and I listened to what the members of the representative groups and individuals who did stay had to say, and I listened intently, because I realized the seriousness and concerns that people have with respect to YPAS.
What I'd like to provide here is a response to the option number one contained in the member's motion. Given that the protected areas secretariat independent status is what the member is suggesting, it is to this end that we have now established a task group that will report directly to me and the Premier. That task group will be comprised of three deputy ministers: one from Economic Development, Renewable Resources and Community and Transportation Services.
The function of this group will be to oversee the future implementation of YPAS - they will be directly charged with that task - including the successful conclusion of all current YPAS review, which includes the identification of the areas of interest for the 16 remaining ecoregions, a process for identification of areas most suited to resource development. This group will also work with critical stakeholders charged to work directly with critical stakeholders - and those are all stakeholders who are impacted by the protected areas strategy - to ensure that their concerns and interests are met and to help ensure that the next time we create a protected area it is done right, Mr. Speaker.
At a working level, we have set up a management team comprised of two assistant deputy ministers - one from Renewable Resources and one from Economic Development - who will report to the task group directly. Their responsibilities are defined as follows: maintain ongoing relations with key stakeholder groups; participate in or lead all future public advisory committee meetings; provide overall advice and direction for the two-year identification project of areas of interest; coordinate the YPAS process with all other departments of government and with First Nations; seek advice, help and assistance as required; and oversee the preparation of maps clearly identifying all known land use interests, including areas of interest to conservationists and areas of interest to industry - and that is all industry. This group will also coordinate the protected areas strategy with other planning activities, such as land claims, forest management planning, planning for oil and gas exploration, planning for agricultural land use and other land use oriented businesses. The group will also coordinate the development of a process to review the YPAS after a five-year period.
I want to emphasize that the review will happen, because in actuality, the YPAS process has not been tested. I don't want to cast aspersions on the former government, but the true test of YPAS has not occurred.
We will be reviewing the process after five years. These are the fundamental aspects of the protected areas strategy, and this group will assist in the development of YPAS legislation.
Mr. Speaker, we will also combine the YPAS secretariat with the parks and outdoor recreation branch to form a new parks and protected areas branch, which will remain within the Department of Renewable Resources. This move will provide better continuity between the actual planning of protected areas and the development of management plans once a protected area has been established.
A resource development analysis will also be physically located within this branch as soon as possible, to make sure the issues important to industry are considered during the implementation of YPAS. I believe that this goes, in some length, to accommodating the wishes of the group of seven. What we have done has restructured with a task group - in summary, it creates a task group of three deputy ministers. It creates a working group at the ADM level that will be directly charged with keeping key stakeholders, other government agencies and other private sector agencies in the loop at all times. They will be responsible for gathering information and bringing it back.
I know there was a direct request to have the secretariat removed and created outside of government.
Mr. Speaker, to create efficiencies, I believe that it is best to have the task group, the working group and the secretariat moved into the parks and recreation branch, because they will be doing the final work on the protected area.
As we know, from when an area of interest is determined to when it becomes a protected area - if it becomes a protected area, I would like to remind the Member for Klondike - it's an 18-month to two-year process to go from area of interest to protected area. There are 11 steps that have to be followed during that process. There are three opportunities for direct input by the public, by interest groups, by resource users and by the mining industry during that process.
During that time, Mr. Speaker, there will also be full assessments done. I will elaborate on that a bit later.
The second thing that the Member for Klondike is asking for in his motion is for us to conduct a full-scale assessment of protecting a particular area, in addition to a full-scale environmental assessment. The protected areas strategy, if the Member for Klondike would just look it over, if he would just read the initial document, if he would read the technical papers - but unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike knows a little bit about a lot of things, just enough to scare the heebie-jeebies out of everyone.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much.
The Member for Klondike just chirped, "It's better than knowing nothing about nothing." Well, Mr. Speaker, I could also put him in that category because that's exactly where he is most of the time.
So, Mr. Speaker, as I had indicated, the Yukon protected areas strategy already outlines the types of assessments that will be conducted, and a sampling of these assessments is as follows: the potential for increased tourism and recreation revenues; the potential impact of restricting mining, timber harvesting or hydro development; the potential impacts of other commercial activities; the impact on First Nation traditional lifestyles, including the economic and social values of subsistence activities; the potential for jobs and contract opportunities associated with establishing and maintaining a protected area; the cost to the public sector and the revenues that will be generated; the economic values of ecosystem processes, including maintaining healthy wildlife populations and fish habitat.
The economic impact will be considered, Mr. Speaker. I'm glad I'm having an opportunity to read this because I'm sure this is the first time the Member for Klondike has ever heard of this. I do welcome the opportunity to go on at length to make sure that he does get the message and, with your indulgence, Mr. Speaker, I'll keep going. The economic impacts that will be considered include existing land and resource uses, existing third-party rights and interests such as outfitters and trappers; the need for industry to have access to resources, and that is something that has become clearer and clearer in the requests from those parties; the impact on local, regional and territorial economy; the distribution of economic benefits and costs; the short- and long-term impacts; the impacts on the economic stability and diversification of the region where the protected area is proposed; and the level or risk of uncertainty associated with identified impacts.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are taking into consideration a lot of what we have heard and are more clearly defining - and, as I said earlier, it is my job, it is the job of the Minister of Economic Development, to establish that confidence and to ensure that we follow through with the things that we say we are doing.
There are other considerations, such as social and cultural implications, that will be considered. They include impacts on public use, enjoyment and appreciation, impacts on First Nations and on First Nation traditional activities, opportunities for public education and interpretation, and something that always gets slipped and forgotten - the potential benefits to spiritual, cultural and mental health values.
It's equally important that the resource assessments that will be conducted are to include an examination of mineral, oil and gas values, marketable timber values, agricultural land values, tourism values, fish and wildlife values, subsistence values and hydroelectric power development values.
Resource assessments will be done at three separate times during the 11-step YPAS process.
In May 1996, the Member for Klondike's former colleague, the then minister Fisher, stated, "We want to make sure we get it right. That is why we are doing full mineral, oil, gas, cultural, heritage and wildlife assessments of areas before we withdraw lands and designate them as new parks. We want to be sure that when a new park is established in the Yukon, it will remain a park forever because we all have done our homework properly." Well, that is exactly what the principle is within the protected areas strategy. That is exactly what the recommendation was when the public advisory group put forward its technical papers on the protected areas strategy. That is exactly what is there, Mr. Speaker. So we have already followed through on a theme that was perpetrated by the Member for Klondike's former colleague. Quite frankly, I believe the Member for Klondike is doing and taking up a habit of the members of the official opposition; that is, namely, doing flip-flops.
Earlier today I heard the Member for Klondike speak quite eloquently with respect to National Wildlife Week. I know in his heart, somewhere in that heart of his - somewhere in the darkest, deepest recesses of his heart, Mr. Speaker - he does have a tinge of respect for habitat and wildlife. That is why he lives here. That is why he has lived here for so long. It has got to be for some reason.
So, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is doing a flip-flop because earlier today - and I will admit, as my colleague, the Minister of Health and Social Services, does when the Member for Klondike gets something right the odd time - he did speak quite eloquently with respect to National Wildlife Week. As the Minister of Renewable Resources, I do appreciate that. But that eloquence, that understanding, is only let out at very few opportunities. He doesn't dare let it out too often.
But back to the assessments aspect, the assessments were good enough when they were in government, but they are not good enough now that we are in government. That's the flip-flop aspect, Mr. Speaker.
The third issue the member brought up is a sensitive issue. I'm not going to deny that. It's an issue that has been debated, right from the Brundtland Commission, through the protected areas strategies within the various provinces - and that is the issue relative to the cap. That is the total amount of land that can be protected under the strategy. He would like a finite number.
The idea of placing a cap on the amount of land that can be protected as a goal 1 protected area was carefully looked at during the development of the protected areas strategy. It was carefully examined through the public consultation process, and the protected areas strategy, in draft, did go through extensive public consultations. It was strongly rejected on the principle that the whole rationale for creating goal 1 protected areas is to have proper representation of each of our ecological areas.
And if we are to do this, Mr. Speaker, tying us to an artificial land cap that has no scientific basis was seen to be an unreasonable measure. No jurisdiction in Canada has placed a cap on the amount of land that can be protected. No one has put a cap on the land. British Columbia attempted to put a cap of 12 percent on it, but, over a year, they found that they had to get rid of it. They now use the 12 percent as a minimum, rather than a maximum amount of land that will be protected.
It is a difficult and contentious issue. I do not deny that. We know that in Alaska they have identified 30 percent of their land base.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I'm sorry, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has just indicated to me that it's 40 percent. Great - 40 percent. They are still prospering over there. They are still working.
But I will tell you what happened over there. The land that was protected over there was done in concert and in cooperation with governments, private sector, conservation organizations, federal government agencies, the resource-based industries, mining. All of them, including the First Nations over there, got together and agreed that it was a good thing. It is a good thing, Mr. Speaker. It is unfortunate that the Member for Klondike wants to portray the protected areas strategy as an ogre, creating unnecessary apprehension, because I don't feel that that's very appropriate at all.
With all due respect to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I would also say that part of the land that's protected over in Alaska also includes the ANWR, specifically the 10-02 lands, which are the calving grounds for the Porcupine caribou herd. So these values are recognized, Mr. Speaker.
They also create protected areas in the Northwest Territories. There is a large area that is protected over there, solely to protect a caribou herd unto itself.
But, Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Klondike continually rambles on about, these other jurisdictions are having success because there is a willingness to all meet at the table, to all respectfully listen to each other, but he refuses to listen - absolutely refuses to listen - because you know why? With that little bit of knowledge that he has about a lot of things - and a lot of things that he has no knowledge about, as he qualified earlier on - he just might learn something. He just might learn a little something, and heaven forbid we should have that.
So, Mr. Speaker, that is the rationale behind the cap. I would take extreme umbrage at his flashing in front of the camera, because he's good at that. He's pretty good at the dramatics, flashing at the camera. He managed to flash at the camera. I must say that he didn't have the dramatic spiel of my colleague, and I do admire her. I admire her exuberance, her enthusiasm. I am inspired just thinking about her speaking. I just get so excited. I really do. I really do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike says she's the only one who is inspiring. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are a team over here and we inspire. I know the member opposite is lonely, being a party of one. I know he's lonely, but he's got neighbours there who are willing to take him in and who are very close by.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: "Oh," he says. My gosh. Well, that's not what he said, Mr. Speaker, but I can't repeat what he said, because I'm sure you'll say it's unparliamentary.
So, I know he's lonely, I know he has lots of time to dream. I know he wishes he could be in a flock of greater than one. Just like that song says, Mr. Speaker, "One is the loneliest number". Isn't that good? That was right off the top of my head too. I'm getting good at this, and that has to be frightening.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, he suggested I was an old fish cop. Well, I'll take that as a compliment, really.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: And he continues to ramble on, Mr. Speaker, throwing accusations and insults across the floor, but he's pretty good at that.
I will continue to move on.
On the cap issue, this government and other governments want to keep their options open. Where I was leading with the cap issue, Mr. Speaker, and the props that the member so blatantly displayed, knowing that it was against the rules of the House, but then, he doesn't respect the rules of the House very often.
Mr. Speaker, he is suggesting that the 13 - well, actually, what he did was provide a map of all 23 ecoregions in the territory, represented by 5,000 square kilometre areas. On a point of order, I stood up and tried to correct the member but, then again, he chooses not to listen. He deliberately chooses not to listen. He would rather inflame; he would rather drive wedges. Our population is only 30,000 strong, Mr. Speaker. Surely to God we can get along better than what the Member for Klondike would project is the case.
But, he is wrong - categorically, undeniably wrong - in suggesting that the remaining 16 areas are all going to be 5,000 kilometres squared.
That is wrong, Mr. Speaker, wrong, wrong, wrong. But then he will get up right after and say what he says anyway. So I just want to get on the record that we will be responsibly looking at the remaining 16 ecoregions in full consultation with hunters, trappers, resource extractors, oil and gas, mining, outfitters. We will be looking at these areas where they are. We will continue to consult because that is what we said we would do, and we do what we said we would do.
So, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong in suggesting that we are going 5,000 square kilometres on the remaining areas.
So having said that, it is certainly a principle within the government to try to define the smallest area possible that meets the needs, to set aside, in order to protect a representative sample of an ecological region.
It is also important to know that the ecoregions within the territory are quite diverse. That is why they are ecoregions. An ecoregion could represent a geological feature, such as Coal River Springs, and that is 20 square kilometres, Mr. Speaker - 20 square kilometres for a protected area. But then, of course, the Member for Klondike would probably not like to see that there. It is an incredibly unique geophysical feature here in the territory. He would just like to see it go. I have no doubt about that by the way he talks, the way he inflames and the way he incites lack of respect and all those other ditties that are a part of his character.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to try to identify those areas of interest to create certainty. I have full confidence that when those areas are put on a map and we consult about those areas of interest with others, they will say, "It's not that bad. Now we know where we can't go."
Those areas will be determined, taking into consideration what we've heard from the mining industry and oil and gas about excess and about the prospectors. We will be taking all that into consideration when we determine areas of interest. Keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, that I said that we would be creating 16 over the next two years. Once an area has been declared an area of interest, it takes another two years to become a protected area. If the member opposite chooses to inflame the public and mis... - I just about said an unparliamentary thing and I don't want to do that.
So, we will be identifying those small core areas where no development will be allowed. We admit that, Mr. Speaker. They are goal 1 areas. These areas will be surrounded by a larger buffer area where development can occur. That's another thing that the Member for Klondike continually neglects to provide by way of information.
We are open and accountable. We will provide all the information that we have available on how we conduct business. That's what we're doing with the protected areas strategy, Mr. Speaker. That's why I wish the group of seven would re-involve themselves: we need their input; we need their information and we need to hear their concerns. We need to incorporate their concerns. For all the reasons that they walked away, we want them there.
I do wish they would have been at the last session because I'm sure they would have heard, within that session, that a lot of the concerns that they put in the letter to me and the Premier are being addressed and were addressed by the members of the public advisory committee.
Mr. Speaker, the former minister within the Yukon Party's government, Mickey Fisher, said, "The Yukon government is working to meet its commitment to protect 12 percent of its areas by the year 2000." Well, if they were still in government, I doubt very much that we would have seen that, and I think that the debate would be similar with respect to the 12 percent.
Recently, the Member for Klondike said, "We have protected over 15 percent of the Yukon in parks and protected areas." So what's the problem, Mr. Speaker? What is the real problem? We have exceeded the Yukon Party's goal of only 12 percent. Does the member opposite want us to quit now, before we follow through on a commitment that his party bought into? They made a protected areas strategy, protecting 23 representative areas. The former leader of the Yukon Party, during the last election, fully committed to the unchanged principles of the protected areas strategy.
The Member for Klondike continually says that, at one time, there was going to be an allowance for activities within a protected area. Well, Mr. Speaker, when the protected areas strategy came out and the former leader of the third signed on - those principles haven't changed, Mr. Speaker. Only in the mind of the Member for Klondike have they changed.
Because that's what he does, Mr. Speaker. He distorts the facts.
In April 1995, the Member for Klondike's colleague, Mickey Fisher, the Minister of Renewable Resources and Economic Development, stated in Hansard, "What we want to do is identify 23 different ecoregions in the territory, and we want to identify a potential park in each one of those ecoregions." I would ask the member opposite if that is still the policy of the Yukon Party? I'd like him to respond to that at some time, Mr. Speaker, but then he'll use the privilege of the House and say, "I'm not here to answer questions. I'm here to hold you accountable." That's the response I'm going to get, quite frankly, and that's going to be disappointing because he will not repeat the policy of the Yukon Party on the floor of this House.
So, Mr. Speaker, is everything supposed to come to a halt? Is everything supposed to come to a halt until the Yukon Party of one catches up with the other members of his party? I doubt that very much. We are going to proceed. We are going to do it responsibly, consultatively, openly and we will be accountable for our actions.
The fourth point in the member's motion is to ask for a moratorium - in his motion it says, "guarantee access to land that may be blocked through the creation of a protected area."
Well, Mr. Speaker, as I previously stated, the need for different industries, such as mining, oil, gas and timber, to have suitable access to their resources will be addressed. They will be addressed as part of the economic impact assessments. They will be addressed.
The final point the member opposite is making is for us to agree - I love this one, Mr. Speaker - to create no more protected areas until land claims are completed. Well, that is a difficult one, and I don't even think the members in the official opposition would agree to that one. I don't see how they could. As I've stood in this House and acknowledged that the members in the official opposition now did create a protected area with the strong input and help from the public at large, through tremendous participation from the public at large - not only the public advisory committee, but the community travels, the community input, First Nation input, elders input, and a lot of input.
So, I quite frankly cannot see how the members of the official opposition can, in any way, shape or form, support this motion themselves. So it's going to be very interesting to hear what they have to say.
What we have agreed to, though, until there is greater surety in the process, until there is an understanding, is that we would not move forward with a goal 1 protected area until this matter is clear. That was our commitment; that was what we said we would do.
We also committed in the platform, as the Member for Klondike had suggested, that we would fix it, and we are making all attempts to do that. We're trying to create certainty by entrenching the process into legislation.
We will be moving forward with that as well, Mr. Speaker, so I cannot go along with this motion because of this one point alone.
So, Mr. Speaker, since we have no protected areas using the YPAS process, the member opposite is asking this government to sit on its hands and wait - the usual flip-flop that comes from the member opposite. It's the usual flip-flop, in that first we are not doing enough and then we are doing too much, we are going too fast, we are not listening, we are listening too much. That is the rhetoric that we get from the member opposite. On one hand he harps that this government isn't doing enough. Now he wants us to stop. He wants us to bury our heads in the sand and to ignore our responsibilities.
As I am the minister responsible for Renewable Resources, I take that charge very seriously. Part of my responsibility is to directly look after the environment on behalf of Yukoners, and I am going to continue to do that despite what the member opposite may think. Bemused, bewildered and befuddled - that is a good example of the Yukon member's position on YPAS because of his total unwillingness to read the documentation. He just reads the executive summary and then knows it all. Like I said earlier, he knows a little about a few things. And the more that I stand here, the more I believe that he knows a lot about nothing. I agree with him.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Absolutely, absolutely - I support that comment from the Member for Kluane. I support that comment. It is wonderful, wonderful.
Land claim negotiations have been going on for many, many years, as we are all aware of in the territory.
We are hopeful that land claims will be concluded within our mandate. The Premier is working full tilt toward that end, despite what the member opposite said about moving on land claims.
I think that, earlier in Question Period, we had even heard a suggestion that he doesn't want land claims to happen. I think he indicated that right within Question Period. And the Premier took him up on it. Of course, we don't ask the questions; we just answer them. We never are able to clarify what their positions are.
I thought that, in debate, that was what it was all about. You get to give and take. You get to ask and hopefully get a responsible answer. But of course, we are always responsible for providing answers. With all due respect, I think we do a commendable job of it. We are open and accountable and we provide, to the best of our knowledge, answers at any given time. We will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker.
In 1996, a presentation was made by the Yukon Party to Youth Environment, an environmental program. To paraphrase, "That fragile, rare and endangered habitat and species are protected in the territorial park system." So, somewhere in the deep recesses of that party and its policy - and I'm sure he is going to have to blow the dust off his documentation to get the answer - there is support for protected areas. There was a commitment by the former leader of the party to the principles of the protected areas strategy. So, we are following through, as did all members of the House, in buying into the project, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I know that the members of the official opposition must be - they have to be - in favour of the protected areas strategy. They were behind it 100 percent, until they made a little mistake in circumventing the strategy process. That has been admitted by the former leader of the former government and has been acknowledged in this House by the Member for Kluane - not only in this House, but in the press, in print, in living colour and black and white. The member admitted that errors were made in implementing the process. The member also stated in the paper that it is going to take time and patience - time and patience.
But that's another thing that the official opposition likes to do. They like to take credit for the good things, but when they are reminded of the bad things they have done, they don't like to hear it, and we get chastised, accused of finger pointing and accused of laughing.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is outrageous, Mr. Speaker. It is absolutely outrageous what the Member for Kluane continually mutters across this House.
I'm kind of enjoying this today. You know, I sometimes get intimidated in this House, but not today, because -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: You know, the members opposite are all saying, "Don't let us intimidate you." Well, Mr. Speaker, they are flattering themselves because I am not intimidated by some of the members saying that.
So, I think there have been glimmers of cooperation in this House. We have agreed to work on projects - especially members of the official opposition - toward an end, because we do see the common value and the common good. As a matter of fact, this side of the House, in a very responsible, open and accountable way, supported a motion from the Member for Watson Lake, because it was a good motion and we saw the merits of working cooperatively on a forest strategy within the territory.
It's a good thing and, believe it or not, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike also voted in favour of that motion. I think it was the first time in a long time there was ever unanimity in this House, and that was a good thing, because there is potential. But quite frankly, of all the opportunities that we have offered the members of the official opposition on little projects, with requests for help and assistance in a special way, not once has any member on this side of the House been approached by the Member for Klondike to deal with something in a cooperative way. That's just not his way.
So, Mr. Speaker, I can see I'm getting close to the end, but I do want to acknowledge and appreciate the many who were involved in the putting together of this strategy. As a matter of fact, this strategy - and I will provide kudos to the former government in the drafting of this - was thought to be one of the best in the country. I believe that it is still one of the best in the country because, if it is worked properly, if it is respected, if consultation happens, if there is consultation with all stakeholders, we can have protected areas and they can be comfortably nestled where we would like to see them, because everybody will be aware that they're there.
Many of the public advisory committee stakeholders were dismayed when the group of seven walked away. Again, I have to refer to the Member for Klondike when he totally disregarded the membership and the intelligence and the growing lack of respect by the members of the public advisory committee, because we do have openness there, frankness and respect. And, as a result of that, Mr. Speaker, there was balance. There was balance within the public advisory committee because everybody had an opportunity to speak and everybody listened.
And that's critical to the formula for success, Mr. Speaker - to be respectful and to listen. That happened, regardless of what the Member for Klondike would like to say. But then, of course, he would never acknowledge - he has stood in this House and said he would acknowledge a good thing and pass kudos on when it happened. Well, I thought that when the government provided the $3 million-plus for the airport in Whitehorse, putting 17 Dawsonites to work up there, he might have thought it was a good thing, but he didn't. He criticized this government. He criticized the Liberal government in Ottawa. It wasn't a good thing. It's not a good thing, putting 17 Yukoners to work is it, Mr. Speaker? No. And I'm sure he heard about it. As a matter of fact, I know he heard about it from his own constituents.
So, we know that he doesn't want improvements, not even in his own community. He doesn't want anything that's good for the Yukon. Like I said, he encourages dissension, he propagates the idea that people can't get along, because he has fixated on it, Mr. Speaker. That's his primary focus. It's not cooperation in any way, shape or form.
Much of the Yukon is still incredibly pristine. As I said in my opening remarks, when I worked for Ducks Unlimited - and the fact that, in southern Canada, we spent hundreds of millions of dollars on habitat restoration and protection. To restore something that's lost is never quite the same. We all live in this territory because it has values we all hold true to our heart. It has what we call pristine wilderness, things that the Minister of Tourism is trying to encourage, in her travels, for people to come and enjoy, because it is, as the member opposite already admitted, one of the last places on earth where you can find it.
It's worth protecting, Mr. Speaker - small sections representing the uniqueness of this place that we all call home. He has acknowledged it from time to time. He doesn't acknowledge that it takes cooperation, commitment, honesty, openness. He doesn't want to see that happen. So what are we going to do? We are going to lose it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Leader of the third party on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is implying that I am dishonest in his last statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I withdraw that comment and I do apologize.
Speaker: The comment is withdrawn and an apology is accepted.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As I was saying, we do live in a wonderfully unique place. We have the Tombstone Park, we have the North Slope. I could go on about the features of the territory because I have been all over the place in the territory, and it is an incredible, incredible environment that we live in here. What the protected areas strategy was created to do was to create those small representative areas. There are 23 areas in the territory. We have already done seven; we have 16 more to go.
As I have indicated in direct meetings with the group of seven, as well as with others who are open and willing to listen, over the next few years as land claims are settled and the special management areas are determined, if those special management areas qualify in picking up ecosystems, the 16 will be reduced in number - of course they will.
Again, the member opposite isn't going to listen. He will stand up and charge, full bore ahead, in Don Quixote fashion working toward his windmills, that we are creating 16 more areas of 5,000 kilometres. That is wrong, wrong, wrong.
This government wants to ensure that some of the wilderness remains for the pleasure of our children and our children's children and on through the generations. Wilderness is precious to us all. The Yukon is one of the last bastions of wilderness in Canada. It is one of the primary reasons that people choose to live here.
Because of global warming and other environmental impacts that we can't control, it is important for us to protect and save these places now, Mr. Speaker. If we don't do it soon, there may not be anything left to protect. As I had indicated, we can protect these areas now, rather than try to restore them later with millions and millions of dollars of investment.
We don't want big, commercialized parks. We don't need the Jaspers or the Banffs. But, Mr. Speaker, we want to enjoy what we do have. We want to responsibly inform those who are apprehensive about the process. I'm willing, at any time, to go anyplace to do that, because I feel that this is such a positive thing. It is a full commitment of this government.
We want areas that are just Yukon. We are a special people in the north. We treasure our privacy, our land, our forests and our wildlife. Mr. Speaker, it is imperative that we save something and provide a legacy for all Yukoners in the future.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I will close now. My gosh, I didn't think I could ramble that long, but I did. Thank you.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Pardon me?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Okay.
But it is a tough go. The protected areas strategy is going through rough times right now, but I think that with understanding, with respect, with listening, with assuring people that the protected areas strategy is not something to be frightened of - it's something that we can work cooperatively on - and if all partners buy into the process, with a full understanding of what the process is, then we can move forward on this without apprehension and with full understanding and full commitment that the protected areas strategy is a good thing. It is something that we all want. And despite the rhetoric from the Member for Klondike, I think, as I mentioned earlier, that deep down in the recesses of that heart of his, wherever it is, he does want a bit of that here in the territory as well, or he wouldn't be here after all the years he has spent in the territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, in closing, I want to thank my colleagues, the Speaker and the members opposite for their patience. I do feel impassioned about this, and I do feel committed. I do feel it's a good thing, and anything I can do to help comfort people with the process, I would make myself available.
Thank you very much.
Mr. McRobb: Unfortunately, I only have 20 minutes to put my comments on the record today, unlike the previous two speakers who had 55 minutes and 95 minutes, respectively, Mr. Speaker. Now, we all know there is lots of ground to cover on this matter, so I'll have to be brief in the several areas I hope to touch on this afternoon in the limited time I have available.
Mr. Speaker, it's comforting to know that the minister gave us about as much time as he and the Premier gave the group of seven when they met with them a couple of weeks ago. I certainly hope the group of seven got more information than we did this afternoon, because the minister spent most of his time attacking us on this side of the House and particularly the mover of the motion.
This motion is very interesting, Mr. Speaker, and I believe it is because it helps to delineate the position of the Liberal government. We know from the previous term, when I introduced two motions in this Legislature on the Yukon protected areas strategy, that it was discussed at length. In those discussions it was common to delve into the strategy and talk about the various aspects of it, providing all kinds of information with statistics and so on. Anybody hoping for that same sort of discussion this afternoon will be very disappointed because today's motion focuses more on how this Liberal government will handle the process, rather than dealing with the policy itself.
Now, there are several aspects to this. There are several areas I would like to address but, first of all, I would like to point out that the Liberals are the government now, and it's their responsibility to govern in the best interests of Yukoners and the future of the territory. All too often, we have this Liberal government pointing the finger, refusing to accept the responsibility and blaming anybody it can, to avoid taking the responsibility.
If there's a single message I can give upfront, it's time for this government to take responsibility for its actions and do what it said it would do.
Now, the Liberals started a new process from afresh, following the election that occurred almost one year ago. We can all recount the several promises that were made by this Liberal government. We recall how the Liberals raised public expectation that there would be a new process. There are several promises on the record. There are several promises not on the record, and one such instance took place in a secret backroom meeting shortly before the election, between the now Premier and some of her colleagues and members from industry.
We knew the meeting was happening, and we wondered what was being discussed, Mr. Speaker, and maybe we'll find out someday; maybe we won't. But, hopefully, that information will come to light, along with other aspects of this matter that people are very curious about, because it builds a case for malcontent around the Liberals' handling of this very important strategy, how they raised expectations and didn't deliver.
Mr. Speaker, as you know from presiding over this Legislature day after day, there are several examples of how this Liberal government has not delivered and how it doesn't do what it said it would do. So it comes as no surprise that its bungling of the YPAS process and fumbling of the ball has happened, because it is only consistent with the way they do or don't do things. This YPAS process is their baby now, and it's time for them to take responsibility instead of pointing their finger at previous governments.
People wonder why the Liberal government has done nothing to promote the Yukon protected areas strategy. People wonder why this Liberal government hasn't placed ads in the paper, promoting the strategy like it has the oil and gas industry, for example - full-page ads running week after week. Where is the information program on YPAS? Where is the balance? They talked about balance in the election campaign and they have talked about balance since. But where is the balance? There isn't any. This Liberal ship is teetering from one side to the other. Maybe that is their definition of balance.
Now, it's incumbent upon a government that really stands behind a policy as significant as YPAS to increase public education and public understanding. What has this Liberal government done?
Have they launched school education campaigns? Well, I'm not aware of any. I try to keep a close handle on what is happening regarding YPAS. Unfortunately, I'm not aware of any public education campaigns at all. We know that one of the first places to start is in the schools.
Now, Mr. Speaker, instead the Liberal government has contributed to making YPAS a lightning rod for attack. They have divided Yukoners. They have not brought Yukon stakeholders together; they have divided Yukoners. That could have been prevented, had this government shown a bit more responsibility and stood behind what it said it stands behind. We're not seeing that, Mr. Speaker.
Here's one question for you: where do the Liberals really stand on YPAS? Now, we hear lots of rhetoric from them now that they do support it, but we're picking up all kinds of signals that the Liberals really intend to ditch the strategy. So where do they really stand?
We hear that the legislation might come through in the fall, but the financial support behind it and the motivation behind it to create protected areas will not be there. This whole concept of YPAS and what this government stands for is a big question mark for Yukoners. It's creating uncertainty.
We don't have to recall back very far to hear how this Chamber rang members of the Liberal opposition party about the need for certainty in the YPAS process.
Well, where is the certainty today, one year later? There is none. It seems that everything is still in the air. We have a weak commitment from the Liberal government to bring legislation in this fall, and we have no commitment to actually produce protected areas beyond that. People are wondering. They talk about balance.
There is more money in the budget we are currently debating for mineral resource assessments than what there is for environmental assessments. That's not balanced appropriation of funds from this government. That's one of the signals I mentioned earlier that we're picking up from this government. They're not doing what they said they would do.
You know, one year ago, the now Premier, in her reply to the previous government's budget speech, focused on that very aspect - about the need to provide balance with respect to the Yukon protected areas strategy when dealing with resource industries and when dealing with the environment.
Mr. Speaker, it's all in Hansard. It's all a matter of record. Where is the balance today? There is an inequity in what this Liberal government is spending, and it provides the signal that it really doesn't stand behind the lip service we hear, on a repeated basis, that it supports the strategy.
We hear people downtown, talking about how there won't be protected areas and how there is a secret agenda. Now, that's inconsistent with what we just heard from the Minister of Renewable Resources. I'll credit the minister - he did speak sincerely, and he did speak in a way that could create belief in his convictions.
But I wonder, Mr. Speaker, if that member will still be the Minister of Renewable Resources when it comes time, in the fall, for the legislation. The word is there's a Cabinet shuffle in June, a couple of months from now. Maybe you won't even be the Speaker, Mr. Speaker.
Anyway, the minister could be gone. Perhaps we should be addressing our remarks to the Member for Faro, who is widely rumoured to soon be getting a ministerial post. Maybe he'll be the Minister of Renewable Resources. Who knows? It's part of the uncertainty.
We know that the Premier wants to dump this process. If you look at some of her speeches to mining groups and to other -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Official House leader, on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I rise on a point of order. I believe the member has misspoken himself, and I'd like to set the record straight. The Premier is not dumping this process.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, that is not a point of order. It's an abuse of the rules of the Legislature - another broken promise from this Liberal government. They promised to increase decorum and uphold the rules of the Legislature, and they're not doing that.
Speaker: I find that there is not a point of order. There may be a dispute of the facts between members, but certainly not a point of order. I would ask the Member for Kluane to continue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for that ruling, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I want to get back to the Liberals' real position on YPAS. I wonder how Yukoners would judge this Liberal government's position on YPAS.
Perhaps we should commission a survey, Mr. Speaker, to ask Yukoners what their understanding is of the Yukon Liberal government's position on the Yukon protected areas strategy. Wouldn't that be interesting, Mr. Speaker? Wouldn't that be interesting? Think about it. Because, based on the majority of rhetoric coming from this government in regard to YPAS, one would easily conclude they were opposed to the strategy. They talk about how it was broken. They blame everybody they can. There is nary a good word said about the strategy. Where are the ads in the paper? It is obviously missing from the government's agenda.
Now, compare that with the controversy around this lightning-rod issue. Where are the Liberals when it comes to defending the strategy? Mr. Speaker, they run and hide. That's where they go.
I would expect, Mr. Speaker, that if a poll were commissioned to survey Yukoners, the result of people thinking this Liberal government is opposed to this strategy would be in the high 90 percent.
Now, Mr. Speaker, given what we, in this House, the few people who actually listen - and it's their job to follow what the minister's position is - we know differently. The minister stands up and says he supports the strategy. I should point out he's the minister today, maybe not tomorrow, but nevertheless he says he supports it. Is that message getting out? The answer is no.
Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are ashamed of the Yukon protected areas strategy and that's clearly demonstrated by the actions of this government.
We are picking up indications of this secret agenda that I spoke of. I guess time will tell just how accurate those views are.
The Liberals promised not to pit Yukoners against each other, but that is exactly that they are doing. They made all kinds of promises.
They promised to bring the Yukon Chamber of Mines back to the table. They failed to do that.
They promised a community-driven process. I think they failed to do that. Based on what we heard from the minister today, this process is clearly driven by the departments of the government. It's not driven by the community. That was a promise given by the now Premier - another broken promise, I guess, Mr. Speaker.
The Liberals also promised to recognize that Yukoners can work together to prepare a clear environmental and economic agenda. Well, that is not happening.
They promised to recognize that Yukoners can work together to prepare a clear environmental agenda, and they promised to ensure there is a balance between resource development and environmental protection. There is no balance in this government, and I have spoken to that point already.
Finally, they promised to honour their commitment to this House to introduce YPAS legislation in the fall of 2001. Well, we are waiting for that. That will be very interesting. I am sure that it will lead to interesting debate from all parties in this Legislature, when and if that actually does happen.
Now, there is still more to substantiate the understanding that this government is ashamed of the YPAS process. Just today, I visited the Web site of the Department of Renewable Resources. I unfortunately discovered that much of the information related to the YPAS is outdated. There is not even a mention of the Asi Keyi Natural Environment Park, created through the land claims process, Mr. Speaker. That happened months ago.
It's clear that what the Liberals say one day is not what they're doing the next.
Several times in this House, I talked about accountability and how that's an important function of our jobs in this House. It's one of the many things we do as MLAs -
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I hope you have deducted the time for the point of order by the government House leader from my 20 minutes.
Mr. Speaker, the YPAS has been described as one of the best protected areas strategy in the country. It's something to be proud of, not ashamed of. Yet listening to the Liberals, one would think the whole policy needs to be rewritten.
I'm aware of lots of information from the department that compares this process with those in other jurisdictions. It would be very valuable to include such information in a public education campaign, which they are not doing.
What about the World Wildlife Fund's grades for setting aside protected areas? The only reason why this Liberal government hasn't got an F is because that campaign ended last year. They won't be grading governments this year. Otherwise this government would get an F for no progress at all.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: A for absent, as my colleague, the Member for Watson Lake suggests, is very appropriate, Mr. Speaker.
Now, a lot has been said in the brief time I've had, and I look forward to an opportunity in this Legislature in the near future to re-address this matter and speak a little more to the strategy itself - hopefully to some areas where the government has indeed made progress.
Mr. Speaker, they have time to turn this around. There is still about six months before the legislation is brought in. They have time to correct some of the failings they brought about and caused in the process. They have time to fulfill their many campaign commitments and promises regarding this strategy, to make it something that all Yukoners can be proud of.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: According to the 1999 visitor exit survey, the number one reason that people come to the Yukon Territory is to be part of the pristine wilderness. They come to visit what we have so little of on this planet. I can certainly speak to the awe that our visitors from New York City, Toronto or Europe have for this wonderful place and how they admire the vastness of the wilderness, the beauty of the wilderness and the silence.
And we need to protect that wilderness, but we also need access to it. We need access for outfitters, wilderness tourism operators, trappers, hunters and Yukoners. We need access to the wilderness. The protected areas strategy will enable that. The protected areas strategy will allow us to extract resources from that wilderness. The protected areas strategy will allow us to protect very special areas, with a very delicate ecosystem, within the Yukon Territory.
Now, the members opposite continually confuse special management areas, territorial parks, federal parks and protected areas.
The members opposite say that, by protecting these areas, we will somehow be shutting down all access and all development in the Yukon wilderness. The members opposite are wrong.
The protected areas strategy does not mean making the Yukon into a big park where no one can mine, no one can operate outfitting concessions or lead wilderness tours. The members opposite are wrong.
Most other Canadian jurisdictions have had quite a tremendous success with protected areas. This has allowed commerce to take place in and because of protected areas. In Manitoba and Ontario, and eastern Canada, and in western Canada and even in northern Canada, business has thrived because of protected areas.
People know where they're allowed to mine and where they can't. People know where they can protect special ecosystems and where responsible development can take place, and it is responsible development. We have moved far beyond the days of strip mining and clear-cut forestry. Of course, we're all Yukoners who value the land and want to protect it for future development, to protect the various creatures and the flora that make the land so unique, and to protect the land so that we, and our visitors, continue to grow our most sustainable industry, which is tourism.
So, yes, this side of the House supports the protected areas strategy, just as the Yukon Party did in December of 1998, and I'll quote from the former leader of the Yukon Party, who said, "...we on this side of the House support a protected areas strategy...."
Of course the Yukon Party supports a protected areas strategy, because the protected areas strategy is all about the future. It's about development. It's about protection.
There is no doubt in my mind that select areas chosen through a protected areas process, developed through consultation with all Yukon stakeholders, would be a benefit to our economy and our ecology.
The Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon has endorsed a protected areas strategy. They realize that protecting areas of great significance offers them the certainty that they need to sell their product, and, Mr. Speaker, their product is the Yukon.
The Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon has been attending the recent Yukon protected areas strategy meetings and, although the Tourism Industry Association has not stated whether they are in support or not in support, they have been attending the meetings. They are ensuring that their concerns are being heard, and I'm glad they're doing that.
Mr. Speaker, it seems clear to me that a carefully thought-out protected areas strategy can and will be beneficial to all Yukoners. It's important to rebuild trust in the Yukon community, and to develop an understanding of what it is that this government intends to achieve with the protected areas strategy, because it is all about the future.
Ms. Netro: It is my pleasure today to respond to this motion.
One of the issues that I have regarding this motion and this issue is that we have an area within Vuntut Gwitchin traditional lands that is constantly mentioned in this House when YPAS is mentioned, and that is the traditional territory we call Fishing Branch.
Fishing Branch is the headwaters of the Porcupine River, and that area is of real value to my people.
I'm sure many people in this room know and heard the history of the Fishing Branch. It's one of the key areas where the salmon go to spawn every year, and we know what state that has been in in the past few years and how that needs to be protected. That area is prime land for the grizzly bear, and the grizzly bear needs wide open spaces.
The geological area itself holds much of the history of Vuntut Gwitchin people. My ancestors have walked in that area. That place is rich in history. My great-grandmother and my great-grandfather, when they lived a nomadic life, walked in that area. I take issue when I hear the Fishing Branch mentioned in this House with a tone of it being a big mistake, because that is an insult to my people.
Our elders in Old Crow ask the leadership to protect the Fishing Branch at any cost and, to me, when I hear our elders ask us to do that, we don't ask any questions and we try to do it in a good way.
The areas that are constantly mentioned within the Fishing Branch area were paid for and bought out by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation with help from other groups across the country.
There was a big celebration for that success in the fall of last year. A couple of the members opposite attended that celebration in Old Crow. Of course, they were treated to a very special Vuntut Gwitchin welcome. Everyone was in attendance at that celebration - the elders, the children and people who worked very hard and spent many hours to have that place protected - because it was asked for by our elders. It was an emotional time for our leaders and for our elders, because it took a lot of hard work on their part to get people to listen to them until they were heard.
All during that time, the elders' support never wavered. There were times when they were unsure. That relates to much of what we're going through today with the issue around the Porcupine caribou herd. The Member for Klondike mentioned what's going on in Alaska. We stand very strong against development in those areas.
I have heard in this House that we are supported by this government and by the federal government and it's too bad that it can't be that way across the border. But we still have hope and we are never going to give up.
I hear that term "pristine wilderness." To me, when I hear wilderness, it means home - a place where I grew up, a place of freedom. That's one thing that is so important to our people in the north. There are always companies out there and there are people from different walks of life who see these beautiful places and all they want to do is go in there and destroy.
We have beautiful areas throughout the Yukon Territory, and there are many outstanding land claims. I heard some pretty challenging remarks around that issue this afternoon and I would be very careful making those kind of comments. I wouldn't want to see the area, our traditional territory of the Vuntut Gwitchin, be anywhere near the places like Barrow, up by the North Slope.
Our ancestors have taken care of these lands for us for many thousands and thousands of years, and they entrusted us to do the same. I heard those stories over and over again. When we were in the land claims process, the one thing that is important to people out there is the land, animals and waters. Once we destroy that, we have nothing.
Today, I have very little trust in this issue of protection. We're constantly fighting to protect our lands. If there is one message that I would like to leave here today, on behalf of my community, it is that, out of respect, I would ask that comments referring to Fishing Branch are no longer made. We need to see that left behind and to move on.
Mr. McLachlan: I'm not sure, after listening to the Member for Kluane speak, what particular side he's on. I find that really surprising, considering that the former Member for Faro was a very large part of getting this strategy implemented, for which the Member for Kluane would have had some input. However, with the KK twins - Klondike and Kluane - over on that side, it's sometimes hard to tell which direction they're coming from.
I guess it's dump-on-the-government day today. That's what it's all about.
Mr. Speaker, I want to make it unequivocally clear that I support the Yukon protected areas strategy. That comes from a member who comes from a mining background and who represents a mining industry situation. There is far too much misinformation out there about YPAS. The Member for Klondike had a brilliant opportunity to clear up some of the information. But instead, the name of the game is to throw some more muck in and stir it around and muddy the waters a little bit more and try to divide Yukoners on the issue.
The reason we're in it is that implementation of the strategy is designed to create certainty - much more certainty for Yukoners, more than they have had before - and to follow what they have been asking for. Industry wants to know what's open for development, what is restricted, what is not touchable and what can carry on in its pristine state. This strategy, Mr. Speaker, is designed to do just that.
Without that kind of certainty, there are fears it could all become a park, and we know that won't work, or it could all become one big industrial development, and we know that won't work. That's the myth that has been propagated by a number of people out there, that YPAS has enshrined 50 percent of the Yukon into legislation, and the Yukon can say goodbye to development - a myth that is being perpetrated by the Member for Klondike, and it's simply wrong, Mr. Speaker. It's not factual.
Yukoners are demanding a balance between development and the protected areas. YPAS is going to provide this balance. It may not look that way at this time and, as the minister has earlier stated, it has some rough waters to go through. We agree. But it was introduced in the first place to provide that certainty.
This government supports sustainable, responsible development. Make no mistake about that. And protective areas strategies aren't new to the territory. They exist in other parts of Canada, they exist in Alaska, and governments and private sector in Manitoba have worked very carefully together to create the protected areas. Last year, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers came onside with their support, and a representative of the association attended the first YPAS meetings in the Yukon earlier in the year, the same one that some other industry reps said no to. Why? Because they know that it very clearly will define what areas are going to be open for oil and gas development.
What seems to be forgotten here is that YPAS is part of a Canadian biodiversity strategy. It wasn't invented in someone's back room at night at a table under a single lamp bulb. It's not a mystery; it's not a backroom deal. We're working with other provinces and territories to create a network of protected areas. We're doing this under a strategic process that will involve the public and other stakeholders. Commitment has been made to all the factors that go into the assembly of the land - social, economic, cultural and ecological - in the establishment of all of the area.
Implementation of the Yukon protected areas strategy also will help the government meet its commitment under the Whitehorse mining initiative. That was undertaken also by a former Member for Faro and a former Cabinet minister when that party on the other side was in government. That initiative, supported by industry, going back to 1990-91, committed government to create these areas free from industrial development.
We agree that Yukoners need the jobs, and it's clear to us on this side of the House that the Yukoners want those jobs through responsible development - planned development - so they can know what the future of the territory is going to look like in 15, 25, 40 years. If we don't proceed in that direction, we're going to be breaking a commitment to future generations of Yukoners.
We've committed to identifying the areas of interest within the next two years, and that will help create certainty. All Yukoners have a role to play in the implementation of YPAS.
However, the best way to make one's voice heard is to make sure all your concerns are taken into consideration. You have to be there to present your issues, and a former Prime Minister of Canada urged a group of dissenters yesterday to return to the table, saying simply, "If you're not there, you can't be heard and, afterward, it's too late to be heard."
Members on this side aren't playing politics with things that are as important as rebuilding the territory's economy, or protection of land for future generations, Mr. Speaker. They are far too important, and all of us in this Assembly are long-established Yukoners who have a lot of value in the territory we live in. We don't want to be placed in a push-pull tug of war.
Despite what members opposite may think, we are providing leadership on the protected areas strategy. We were mandated by the people of the Yukon to clean up a mess that the previous government made out of a good, responsible process, and we're doing that.
The Member for Klondike takes great delight in bashing YPAS, in perpetuating the myth that it doesn't work. Why is the Yukon Party now taking a different position than they did in the last House? Was it voted out by a policy convention of one? That's a massive flip-flop on the part of the Yukon Party.
The former leader of the party, the former Member for Porter Creek North, stated that there was nothing wrong with the protected areas strategy, it's just the way the other guys implemented it. The same member also said that we can have the protected areas, we can have the parks, we can have an economic base as well, and it doesn't mean the territory's going to be all covered with mines.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, with a couple of exceptions of two large open pits, most of the mineral properties in Yukon have no disturbance of property within a mile of their surface workings.
We on this side of the House are quite surprised that the day would come when we would be defending remarks by the former leader of the Yukon Party. It almost seems that he was a commonsense Liberal when he said, in December 1998, "We on this side of the House support a protected areas strategy." What happened to the directions of the current Member for Klondike? He said that they supported it, and I want to make it clear that we on this side of the House do too.
In bringing forward the motion, the Member for Klondike is trying to stifle public participation and input. It seems that he wants to shelve the protected areas strategy. In doing so, he clearly doesn't want certainty for future generations of Yukoners.
The Member for Klondike isn't willing to take that leadership role that he so often espouses he wants to take in this territory. This, coming from an individual who said last week in this House that he thought a Yukon Party government would be in power in three years, when the winter games came up in 2007. Not so, from the role we have seen taken by that leader, that man, that party, on the protected areas strategy. He is not moving forward; he is going back. Members on this side of the House are not going to be that irresponsible. It was exactly this week last year that we said we would fix the problem, and we are going to. We are going to see the process through. We are not going to shelve the protected areas strategy because the future of the Yukon is in place.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to make this plea: give it a chance. Give it a chance to work. The Minister of Renewable Resources didn't get hit by lightning overnight and suddenly get foolish. He recognized the problem prior to elected life and what was going wrong and what needed to be done to correct it. Now he has been directly working on that since April 18, 2000. We are all familiar with the U.S. motto, "In God we trust." On this side we have modified it to say, "In the minister we trust."
Mr. Fentie: Well, it's going to be awfully difficult to follow that impassioned foray into political speeches; however, I must do my best, as it is my duty to stand and speak to this motion today.
I find it ironic, Mr. Speaker, that we're even debating this motion, given all the commitments that the Liberal government made during the election, before the election and after the election around the Yukon protected areas strategy. I find it ironic for this simple reason: we are in this situation today not because of the strategy or because of any particular group, but because of the Yukon Liberal government's complete inability to manage another situation and another issue.
Now, while I think about that, it comes to mind that we in this territory, since that fateful date of April 17, 2000, when for some unknown reason, a number of people in Whitehorse - not that many - decided to shift over to the Liberals - and they wish now that something had struck them on the way to the voting booth to change their minds. It comes to mind that everything that has happened since that date has been one crisis, one controversy and one problem after another because of the mismanagement of this Liberal government. In fact, the Liberal government is spinning so badly out of control that they've created a massive vortex, and we are being sucked into that vortex.
We are heading toward oblivion on all fronts. Whether it be the protected areas strategy, whether it be the economy, whether it be internal caucus strife, whether it be schools and education in this territory or whether it be any issue that comes before the government, it turns into a crisis, a controversy and a complete disaster.
Now, I can give people the benefit of the doubt and say, "It's going to take a little while to learn. The learning curve is steep." But when I notice that the members opposite refuse to admit their mistakes - refuse to ante up and say, "No, we were wrong. That was not correct. We did misspeak ourselves." When they refuse to recognize solutions to the problem - solutions that are right before them but, out of political stubbornness, will not exercise good judgement and move forward with this territory - then we can only do one thing on this side of the House, and that is hold the government accountable to the best of our ability. Unfortunately, to the members opposite it seems like criticism. We are merely presenting, for the Yukon public, the real issues, the real facts and what's going on in this territory. It's for the benefit of all Yukoners that we do so.
Now, the Liberal government is maintaining, after a great deal of criticism of the former government, that the Yukon protected areas strategy is something that should be held aloft - it is one of the greatest strategies in the country. Yet, today we find ourselves in a situation where it is disintegrating rapidly and large numbers of participants are walking away. The inability of this government to manage the issue is driving people apart. Quite frankly, it may very well doom protected areas in this territory, along with the economy, along with our health care, along with education, along with the public service, along with trust in government, along with accountability in government, along with doing things better. It is all washed away because of the mismanagement of the members opposite, and that's only in 11 months.
We have the better part of three to three and a half years left to go. What will be left of this territory if we continue to follow this course? So I, in a very constructive manner, on behalf of all Yukoners, am going to request today that each and every member on that side opposite resign, go back to what they were doing before, and allow this territory to be operated by some other form of management government until we can call another election. It will only do us good for that to happen. We can't do any worse.
In fact, there are many reasons here for the ministers to immediately remove themselves from their duties and allow some other form of decision making to take place. We are in deep, deep trouble on all fronts - very deep trouble - and now another example has come forward and it's the Yukon protected areas strategy.
The members opposite are openly fighting with the citizenry on this issue, arguing in public with the citizens of this territory. This is the same government, the same group of people who maintained loudly, "We will consult. We want to know what Yukoners want." Well, here's a large group of Yukoners who do not seem to be able to get through to this government. They are driving people away, and that is no way to get participation in anything. And the evidence is everywhere.
I also, while I'm on my feet, must mention that I find it ironic that the Yukon Party has suddenly baled into this fray with both feet, given the fact that it is the party that signed this territory on to the Yukon protected areas strategy many years ago.
They were committed to this process from the get-go. It was that government, under the leadership of the Member for Porter Creek North, that committed the Yukon Territory to the protection of representative areas throughout.
So having said that, Mr. Speaker, it then becomes clear and there is little wonder why the Member for Klondike has chosen this tack. It is a Yukon Party commitment and position, and they, too, see clearly that the members opposite are destroying our ability to achieve that. It's a sad state of affairs, Mr. Speaker, when we get to these junctures, where each and every day there is controversy. And instead of managing and conducting the affairs of this territory on behalf of its people in a positive, productive and constructive manner, the members opposite are spending all their time and expending all their energies and capacity on dealing with one crisis after another. That is one of the main reasons why the Yukon Territory is in such dire straits.
It's very unfortunate that we've come to this in such a short time, and it leaves us all wondering how we can go on from this juncture. There are simply too many problems, and the evidence is so clear that the members opposite are simply not able to manage these situations.
In trying to defend themselves, for whatever reason, the members opposite tend to lash out and accuse us on this side of the House of all kinds of horrendous things that we would never, ever do.
But they lash out. They are being very defensive. I think that they are succumbing to the problems that are slowly weighing down each and every member of the Liberal government. And they may very well quit. In the middle of their term, they may decide that they just can't do it and they are going to have to quit. So I ask that they do it now so that we can make the necessary adjustments and ensure that we can keep this territory on its feet and improve our lot for every Yukoner across the board, whether it be environmentally, economically or socially. We need to do something in this territory, and it has to be done quickly.
Mr. Speaker, in going over the motion tabled by the Yukon Party, it is quite specific. It certainly - and I find this also quite ironic - points toward the Liberals to get them to stand on the floor of this Legislature and say what their position is. I haven't heard one speaker from the members opposite who has enlightened us in any way, shape or form on what their position is or what they intend to do. They have skirted all around the issue, waffling here and waffling there, with no clear statement or indication of what their position is. I find that very ironic, because the Member for Klondike's motion is a motion that, I think, in the view of him and his party, is standing up for the business community in this territory. Yet the members opposite, who openly accuse this side of the House of being anti-business, are waffling on a motion that is intended to be the very opposite and be pro-business.
Where was their position on this motion? In fact, if they were very, very clear and keen on supporting the business community in this territory, at the very least they would have amended this motion and taken control of this motion, and recaptured the agenda on the Yukon protected areas strategy. Instead, we got fluff; we got no position; we got a mixed bag of speeches that indicate to no one - whether you be a business person, whether you be an environmentalist, whether you be a First Nation, whether you be just a citizen of this territory - what the Liberal position is.
Now, I just overheard, and I cannot let this comment go. The Minister of Renewable Resources, who is also thinking of resigning today after my impassioned speech, is making the comment that they supported my forestry motion. Well, of course. How could they not support a motion that was intended to help Yukoners? They had to support that motion.
I'm speaking to this motion and, for the member's benefit, I will be amending this motion, as the members opposite should have. This is what debate is all about. Debate is about laying out our positions, about strategy, about speaking to the Yukon public. I also heard a comment from the Member for Mount Lorne, "We're still waiting." Well, let me point out that the former government created two protected areas in this territory - two protected areas - in conjunction with the business community, with the First Nations, with the local planning teams, with the environmentalists, with the other members of the Legislature. We created two.
The challenge here is what are the members opposite going to do?
We could go on at great length - 20 minutes is just simply not enough time to go over all the problems that this territory faces and all the mismanagement of the members opposite. It would take a long, long time, and none of us have that kind of stamina to be on our feet for that length of time. So I want to propose an amendment to the motion that I believe puts the context of the motion back where it belongs, right in the hands of the government, because it was the government that made commitments. It was the government that said to the groups like the coalition, "Here is what we will do," and then they did not follow through. As in many, many other cases, the Liberal government opposite did not do what they said they would do, and they are now having a serious problem with integrity and credibility in the minds and eyes of the Yukon public.
Mr. Fentie: So I propose an amendment to the motion, and that amendment is as follows:
THAT Motion No. 97 be amended by deleting all the words from "THAT it is the opinion of this House" to the word "provisions" inclusive and substituting for them the following:
"THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Government should initiate meetings with the seven coalition members who have refused to participate in the Public Advisory Committee on the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy with a goal of establishing meaningful dialogue between all the partners in the YPAS process and to honour the commitment of the Yukon Liberal Government to give consideration to the following provisions:".
It has been moved by the hon. Member for Watson Lake
THAT Motion No. 97 be amended by deleting all the words from "THAT it is the opinion of this House" to the word "provisions" inclusive and substituting for them the following:
"THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal Government should initiate meetings with the seven coalition members who have refused to participate in the Public Advisory Committee on the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy with a goal of establishing meaningful dialogue between all the partners in the YPAS process and to honour the commitment of the Yukon Liberal Government to give consideration to the following provisions:"
Mr. Fentie: On the amendment, as I stated earlier, I find it totally ironic that the Liberal government, who has made commitments to the public on the Yukon protected areas strategy, who had made commitments to the coalition through their Premier, their leader, did not take the opportunity, when speaking to the motion, to make an amendment to do exactly what they committed to do. So we have taken it upon ourselves on this side of the House to do exactly that in a very constructive manner in our desire to help the situation, because the Yukon protected areas strategy must be inclusive; it cannot be exclusive. All parties must be at the table and it's from that that we truly will strengthen our ability to move forward with the Yukon protected areas strategy. That's the reason why we, the official opposition, have brought forward this amendment.
We believe that it puts the onus where the onus should be, not here in the opposition benches, not with the coalition, not with the Yukon citizenry, not with First Nations, not with anybody else. There's no one to blame here. The members opposite cannot point their fingers. They try and try and try to say that it was we, the former government, who destroyed the process, did not follow the process; we wrecked it.
Well, I can tell you that that is not the case, and the evidence is clear, given the way this process is coming apart in the hands of the members opposite. We believe that the onus, through this amendment, is placed where it belongs. The responsibility and accountability role is with the members opposite, the Liberal government. They must address the situation. They must show leadership and must bring resolution to this situation so that we can continue to move along in this territory, not only environmentally and economically, but socially. Those members opposite must step up and be counted. It is the Liberal government that is ultimately responsible for the failures to date, and it's high time that they start taking initiatives and operating in a manner that is consistent with an open and accountable government, as they make claim to.
Mr. Speaker, I'm urging the members opposite to do the right thing: come clean on the protected areas strategy and what their real intent is, because there is certainly a confused message going to the Yukon public, and that simply will not produce results.
Mr. Jenkins: This amendment, while attempting to clearly move the ball back into the minister's court and government of the day's court - it appears to have been attempted and tried before. There was an extensive meeting between these individuals and the Premier and Minister of Renewable Resources, and whether or not an agreement was reached, we are led to believe there was an understanding there.
At the end of the day, it appears that the Liberal government didn't follow through and the wheels came off the cart, Mr. Speaker.
Now, whether the wheels came off the cart because the minister responsible for this area and the Premier didn't understand what the individuals who left this public advisory committee were concerned about, I do not know. It would probably be very difficult to get to the bottom of it. But, at the end of the day, I believe that what a meeting between these individuals and the government would dwell on were the areas that I brought forward as the main body of the motion that we are debating here today. Those points are clearly the points that this group has stalled on for re-entering the public advisory committee on the Yukon protected areas strategy.
It is an attempt to water down the intent of the motion that I tabled and kind of take another step backward. I would be much more comfortable with this motion if the motion contained the points raised in the body of my main motion as being the subject matter of this meeting between the Yukon Liberal government and the coalition members who have refused to participate in the public advisory committee.
Mr. Speaker, I'm somewhat concerned, going back and reflecting upon what the minister responsible for this area enunciated. I'm concerned that, number one, he has basically spelled out that he is an environmentalist and he has prejudged this whole series of meetings and he has predetermined what is going to transpire. I don't believe that this is effective government, and I don't believe that that is the way that anyone on the advisory committee envisioned the procedures.
Mr. Speaker, I have also some concerns about what the minister said. He went on at great length and said the goal 1 areas will be formed, and if something is found there, well, they would just simply move it. That's very, very difficult to do, in that no one can access that land other than as a hiking area or a viewing area, because you virtually won't be able to fly over the area, go through the area in any motorized manner. The next set of rules and regulations we'll be seeing will be the banning of four-wheel vehicles and snow machines in a lot of these areas that this government is choosing to protect.
The other area I have some serious reservations with is what appears to be a whole other branch of government being established, being set up. I know the Liberals like more government, Mr. Speaker, and I know that's the only area where they've been able to concentrate on building a Yukon economy. It entails more government. But in all the areas one looks at where they could be doing something - in the mining, oil and gas, or forestry - they've totally neglected these areas.
It's obvious from the amendment to the motion that has been brought forward by the NDP that they wish to water down the original intent and direction that the motion took, but they appear to have some support for the motion. But on the other side of the House - the current government of the day, the Liberals - their first speaker came right out and said that they are opposed to this motion and won't be voting for it, period. So much for open and accountable government. So much for a better way of doing things.
What we have before us is one of the principal impediments deterring the resource extraction industry from returning to the Yukon. There are small little pockets of exploration being undertaken, but in comparison to what is transpiring in our adjacent jurisdictions, Mr. Speaker, we're just getting the drips; that's it.
Very, very little is transpiring here, thanks to initiatives that are being brought forward by this Liberal government that do not address the protected areas strategy in its rightful manner.
Contrary to what the minister has said, the Yukon Party has bought into the Yukon protected areas strategy. The Yukon Party supports it. I support it - I would like to make that abundantly clear to the minister - but I support it for its original intent and purpose. It has become quite convoluted as to how it is going to proceed, and the process has been usurped by the first protected area that was created. Yes, it was done by a previous government, but I would have been of the opinion that the Liberals would have the ability to learn from the mistakes of previous governments.
But in virtually every respect, Mr. Speaker, they are copying previous governments - copying, Mr. Speaker. That is quite evident. It doesn't matter where you want to start, whether it's the budget or the processes or anything of that nature, we just tend to go on and on and on. And what exists? There is no political direction being provided. If there appears to be a glimmer of political direction, it is usually not well-thought-out, not properly reviewed and understood, and it's totally impractical. It usually defies common sense.
We're seeing that more and more, Mr. Speaker, and it's a shame. The expectations of the Yukon public were quite extensive when the Liberals were first elected to power. I think the whole Yukon expected more. They certainly deserve a lot more. That hasn't happened. It hasn't happened at all and it's quite a shame.
Why is that? If you go through the list of reasons why it hasn't happened in the past, is it because of not holding a majority in the Legislature? That's certainly not the case. Is it because there has not been enough money in the coffers? That certainly isn't the case, Mr. Speaker. In fact, the budget surplus that the Auditor General identified when the Liberals took office was $60 million-odd. That has been further augmented with another $40 million-odd.
So, we have a kitty there of over $100 million. There's a shrinking population with fewer and fewer Yukoners from every walk of life to look after, specifically in the working-age group and their young families, and that's manifesting itself with fewer and fewer students in our education system. It looks like schools are going to be shutting down. So much for the Liberal position of rebuilding Grey Mountain Primary School. In all probability, there won't be enough students in the next little while to even fill a classroom, Mr. Speaker, given this Liberal government's inability to address the issues surrounding our economy and to do something about them.
The Liberals have the money; they have the majority. Now, what can be wrong with this equation? They either do not have the political will or they lack the ability, and Yukoners are drawing their own conclusions there, Mr. Speaker, because it appears that when something comes off the rails or something goes wrong, it's always someone else's fault. It's always someone else who hasn't done their homework. It's always because someone is criticizing them who really doesn't know what the issue or understand what they speaking about.
Well, the Liberals can get away with that on occasion, but more and more, Mr. Speaker, we're finding out that the reality is something else, that the individuals providing suggestions and constructive criticism to this government do know of what they are speaking, do understand the issues, and do have some grave and serious concerns with the direction this government is taking.
That has manifested itself, Mr. Speaker, with the public advisory committee of the Yukon protected areas strategy to have seven of its members basically bail out of the process because the process is seriously flawed. The minister can correct that by providing a balance, providing a balance between the environmental and the business resource movements, with equal representation from both parties.
But he chooses not to, Mr. Speaker. Now, why? We don't know. If there's something wrong with the process, change it and fix it. Don't sit there and try to muddle through and continually make errors, because those errors are just going to start compounding themselves and compounding themselves. We are witnessing that today with this minister's position on this motion - this very sensible, commonsense motion that I tabled - which has basically been rendered as a second position when it was amended by the Member for Watson Lake. This amendment basically just takes it one step more remote.
And it may or may not be a good motion, if the minister takes it up and does something with it. But if he just takes this motion and uses it as another excuse to ignore the coalition members who abandoned this Protected Areas Strategy Public Advisory Committee meeting, I guess so be it. We'll live another day.
But after the areas are selected, one of the recommendations is that an interim protection order - withdrawing that land from any other purpose - be put in place within 30 days. So the impact of this initiative is immediate. Perhaps the fact that this government has to go to the federal government - and common sense may or may not prevail at that level; we do not know. But it's an immediate action.
Then what happens? After an area gets interim protection, very, very rarely does that land become available for any purpose other than what the interim protection spelled out. A number of interim protections have been set aside, but they're rare, few and far between.
This amendment to my motion, Mr. Speaker, is not a definite position. It allows the minister a lot of latitude and a lot of flexibility. Perhaps that's what he needs in order to look at this at arm's length, but when you have known and self-purported environmentalists looking after the process, what conclusions can you draw other than this Liberal government is going to steer the course, they're not going to back off one iota. It's just full steam ahead. And I would liken this to the SS Titanic, and the minister is the captain of it. He's failing to recognize that what he has to look out for are the icebergs. Once those icebergs have been hit, that poor ship that the minister is the captain of has got some serious problems. But I guess he can go into the bar on that ship and -
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister expects to go into the bar on the ship and strike up the band and, as every good captain does when the ship is sinking, the minister can go down with the ship. That appears to be where we're headed.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike is right on one thing: it's a continuing learning process here in the House, especially when you get into debate on, as we lovingly call this, wasted Wednesdays. I can see why that's the way it is, or why it's called that.
Mr. Speaker, this side of the House continually reaches across. It reaches across in cooperation, in the spirit of wanting to get things done, and the things that we want to progress to, places that we as Yukoners all want to go, and I think we're all Yukoners in this House.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we're going to continue to do that because, yes, I think that all the parties in this House manage to throw little mud pies back and forth across the floor here. It's hard, sometimes, not to take things a little personally and, as I tried to express earlier, we are very serious on this side. The Minister of Health and Social Services, during the debate of his department in the budget, often expressed the seriousness that he speaks with, and there were times when the minister and the critic for Health and Social Services from the other side found common ground.
There was a willingness to cooperate. There was a willingness to get the job done. There were intelligent questions asked, and there were intelligent responses provided in those moments, but we are going to stay the course.
We are going to stay the course on this side. We are going to be responsible and responsive to the questions by the members opposite. It is frustrating at times, when we feel that we have provided a full and complete answer to a question. But unless we can word it exactly like the members would like to hear it, or if we can provide - sometimes we are at a total loss on exactly what answer - and we try and be innovative at times, which, yes, it does get us in trouble. But we try to give the members opposite the best answer that we are capable of.
I know that they have opportunities to get into minute details with respect to the actions and activities within departments. I mean, they have the time. We are trying to govern to the best of our abilities on this side of the House; that is our responsibility. We are being open and accountable. We are proceeding on activities, actions and initiatives that we feel are truly Liberal initiatives, Mr. Speaker.
We have also, in this House, stood up on many occasions and accepted the good works that were provided by previous governments. You just can't sever all ties at election time with activities and actions that are going on in the day, and then pick up new initiatives or be creative or try to reinvent the wheel, as we have been accused of on this side, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that governing goes on. The sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night, and people's lives continue.
So, I was a little surprised with the responses from the members opposite on the motion earlier today.
Yes, we managed to accuse each other of poking each other in the eye and we heaped all kinds of other physical abuse on each other. We do catch ourselves on this side and we do try to modify our behaviour, because we said we would do that, but it is difficult at times. The Member for Klondike is particularly adept at sending aspersions this way, Mr. Speaker. As you listen day after day, it's sometimes a little bit difficult to continually remain composed.
Now, I'm not really quite sure what the position of the Member for Klondike is now with respect to the motion. He feels that it's too watered down and that it is getting away from the themes of his original motion. Unfortunately, he didn't recognize when the Member for Watson Lake indicated to him that the statement on the paper here was to also include the five key points that the member had included in his original motion.
I think he believes that the amendment as proposed by the Member for Watson Lake is what's written on the paper, and that's it. But we understand, on this side of the House, what the Member for Watson Lake is trying to propose in the amendment, Mr. Speaker, and we do have glimmers of intelligence on this side where we can certainly recognize that the "following conditions" within the motion also apply to the amendment. I see the member nodding his head, so I take it that that's what is implied in his amendment.
Well, Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier today, I don't think there is anybody in the House who doesn't feel - we heard the Member for Klondike admit that he does agree with the protected areas strategy. I had indicated to him, and he had probably listened, that the original intent - the original integrity - of that document is intact. That hasn't been changed. It hasn't been changed.
We have criticized, that's true. We have criticized the process as it was implemented on the first go-around to a protected area.
There was a lack of consultation, and certain members of the community in Yukon felt that they weren't listened to. We are in an all-out mode to listen to those individuals, and we'll continue to listen to them. That's what this government said they would do, and that's what the Premier continually espouses - that we listen to what people have to say.
The fact of the matter is that people are angry, and they are certainly distrustful. They are feeling that governments don't listen. That's a hard fact to change in people's minds. All that means, on this side of the House, is that we have to work harder, and we will work harder. We said that we were committed to correct the wrongs that were done on the implementation of the strategy, and we'll continue to do that. As I have indicated, I would make myself available at any time, any place, to talk to people, to indicate to them that the protected areas strategy is a good thing and that it is not in conflict with economic development in the territory.
The Premier and I have continually espoused that together, when we do meet with groups. When we met with the group of seven in the Cabinet room, Mr. Speaker, we made it very clear that we were of like mind in how we were going to proceed with YPAS.
YPAS is a good thing. These areas of interest that we would like to establish over the next couple of years are not a bad thing. The areas will be varying in size; that's not a bad thing. People will know where they are. People will have input to where they are, and the assessments and consultations that go on will continue. There will be a lot of input before - and if - it becomes a protected area from the area-of-interest stage. That's a good thing.
I'm rather surprised - the tone that was presented by the members of the official opposition on the amendment leads me to arrive only at the conclusion that they are abandoning the YPAS process. That's a bad thing, Mr. Speaker, because the YPAS is a good thing.
It's a good thing for the rural ridings, a good thing for Whitehorse. It's a good thing for all the people who are in this House right now. It's a good thing for all Yukoners, that we want to preserve and conserve and protect those areas that are unique. That's a good thing, and we are going to proceed with it, and we are going to continue to consult, Mr. Speaker. We will do the right thing, and we'll do what we said we would do.
So, yes, the members of the opposite side are against the YPAS process. I think they've made that clear, and it's rather unfortunate, because we could use -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike is suggesting we do a mail-out. Well, we don't take things quite that lightly on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker. We prefer direct dialogue, and we'll continue with that.
We have indicated to the members opposite and to the Yukon public at large that we are open, accountable and accessible, Mr. Speaker. The Premier has never turned down an offer to sit down and talk with somebody, nor has any member on this side of the House at any time. We communicate with each other. We are of like mind with respect to YPAS on this side of the House, because that's what we are - a team.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: So, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite are chiding now, "In the ad in the paper." We are accepting the responsibility, and part of that responsibility is communication.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The Member for Klondike is singing on the other side now and he is saying, "Do it my way." Well, we will do through consultation. We said we would do that. We are open and accountable.
The criticisms that we heard today can only help because then we will take the constructive aspects out of those. The theme song for the Member for Klondike is still, "One is the loneliest number". It looks like he is going to be that way for quite awhile, Mr. Speaker.
But we are a team. We are family on this side. At times, in caucus, we agree to disagree. We will continue to do that, and we will project that to the public at large because we will do what we will say we will do. We are open and accountable. We are frank. We are true to word as we can possibly be, and we will continue to do that, despite what the members opposite continually say.
YPAS, Mr. Speaker, is a good thing, and the members opposite know that. We even heard hints of it from the Member for Klondike during the day that, yes, YPAS is a good thing, and we have heard that from the members of the official opposition, and we'll continue to say that. We'll continue to work, we'll continue to make it better, we'll continue to dialogue, we'll continue to consult, because that's the right thing to do.
So it's unfortunate that the members opposite are choosing to say that YPAS isn't a good thing, but that's not the belief on this side of the House, and we're going to continue to open dialogue with people, we're going to continue to consult, we're going to continue to promote the YPAS, we're going to show people exactly what the YPAS impact is on the land, we're going to show that it is a good thing, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on amendment to Motion No. 97 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 11, 2001:
Yukon Government Fund Limited: clarification on funds distribution from immigrant investors (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1258
Tombstone Park: status of mining claims; letter (dated Feb. 16, 2001) from Dave Jennings, Chief, Mining Land Use, Mineral Resources, NAP, to Chuck Hubert, EA Analyst, EP&A Branch (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1375-1376
Oil and Gas/Pipeline Database: Business Directory; connecting Yukon business to North Slope producers; training (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1146
Kotaneelee (Yukon) gas: potential natural gas costs to consumers (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1145
Softwood lumber exports: Canada/U.S. Softwood Agreement (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1501-1502
Alaska Highway Pipeline right-of-way (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1268
The following document was filed April 11, 2001:
Map showing possible Yukon land withdrawals through the Protected Areas Strategy and Special Management Areas (dated Feb. 8, 2001) (Jenkins)