Wednesday, April 25, 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 Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week and to recognize that almost 3,900 Yukon residents in the past year have signed donor cards under the Yukon donor program.
Members in this House are wearing green ribbons to signify their support for organ donation. This week also provides me with an opportunity to remind people across the Yukon to talk to their families about organ donation, to let them know what their wishes are and to encourage them to consider giving the gift of life.
On Monday of this week, at Government House in Ottawa, Governor General Adrienne Clarkson launched Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week by honouring provincial and territorial representatives of transplant recipients and members of donor families.
Liz McKee, the grandmother of the territory's most recent donor and the little girl who started it all, represented the Yukon. The demand for organ transplants is increasing while the number of donors remains unchanged. There are some Yukoners among the more than 3,500 Canadians who are waiting for a transplant. Every year more than 150 of these people wait, and die as they wait.
Canada's organ donation rate is one of the lowest in the industrialized world. The territory can be very proud of the fact that approximately 13 percent of Yukoners have taken the time to fill in their donor cards and return them to the Yukon donor program since it began slightly more than a year ago. This percentage is extremely high compared to the rest of the country and public participation is crucial to the success of the donor programs because transplantation cannot be successful without a supply of donors.
It is a known fact that one person's decision to donate could benefit as many as 10 individuals. The Yukon has continued to be active in the area of donor awareness, not only locally but at the national level. It has had representation on two national groups - one that pulled together on all donor organizations to create a national Web site aimed at increasing public education and awareness surrounding organ tissue, blood and bone marrow donations.
The second national group that the Yukon has been involved with has developed television advertisements, promoting donations and raising the national profile for events such as the one earlier today at Government House.
Mr. Speaker, thousands of people are waiting for transplants, waiting for the donation that will vastly improve their quality of life and give them another chance. As individuals, we can make that happen. I salute those Yukoners who have signed their cards and encourage those still thinking about it to do so today.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: I would ask all members of the House to join me in welcoming our former MP Audrey McLaughlin to this House.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a legislative return. On Tuesday, April 3, 2001, the MLA for Watson Lake asked a series of four oral questions, in Hansard on pages 1530 and 1531, regarding a piped propane distribution system. I have the response.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling two documents demonstrating the position the Premier took in opposition, when a previous deputy minister was facing public criticism.
Mr. Keenan: I have for tabling 118 recommendations from the executive summary of the report of the Gove inquiry into child protection in British Columbia.
I also have for tabling the role of the children's commission, containing the mandate for the B.C. Children's Commission, which is the result of the Gove inquiry recommendations.
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
Mr. McLachlan: I move the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the 2001-02 territorial budget presented by the Liberal Government is an important step in the process of rebuilding our economy; and
(2) this budget
(a) will create hundreds of jobs - in both urban and rural Yukon; and
(b) was created by all Yukoners through the Liberal Government's pre-budget consultation tour;
THAT this House recognizes that the Opposition refuses to engage in constructive debate about the budget, instead choosing to:
(1) waste time debating bills which they previously agreed were housekeeping documents; and
(2) waste time by spending several days debating only a few departments in general budget debate; and
THAT this House urges both the Official Opposition and the Yukon Party to get on with the business of this House and pass the budget, so the Liberal Government can put Yukoners to work this summer.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services and I'd like to start, Mr. Speaker, by congratulating the minister for showing some awareness of the department and of the children who are in care within his department. I appreciate that.
Again, congratulations are necessary for yesterday when the member used the word "independent" of the very first time. So, Mr. Speaker, we are truly getting to where we should be.
I'd also like to suggest, Mr. Speaker, that it's important for this to be a truly independent examination for the needs of the children and the youth who are in government care.
So, I'd like to ask the minister this: will the minister now commission a truly independent public inquiry into the issue of children in care under the Public Inquiries Act?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we are undertaking a review of our residential services, and we will not hold a public inquiry.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'd like to thank the minister for finally coming clean. This has been around for many, many months here, and I think now that it's absolutely appalling.
Mr. Speaker, there is a cast over the Department of Health and Social Services here in the Yukon Territory. I feel that what we have brought forth through Question Period and through Committee of the Whole during this very short session should have brought to the forefront - in the minister's mind anyway, and in the government caucus' mind - that there is a very serious problem.
Mr. Speaker, again I ask: does the minister truly believe that a simple review done by the people who, in some cases, might be a part of the problem - would the minister please look at an independent inquiry that would open it up, make a judicial system out of it so that we can truly get to the needs of the children and youth in care? Will the minister do the right thing?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The only cast that has been presented over this whole issue has been done by the member opposite, Mr. Speaker, not the government.
As I told the member opposite, we are going to do a review. I did mention independent review, so obviously that fulfills what the member has been asking for. We expect that it will take about a month to get the independent review group and terms of reference together. I expect the review to be underway by midsummer. Without knowing about the availability and the length of the report, I am hoping that a public document will be available by the next session.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I will go right back to my original point. It cannot be done, I believe, through a simple review. It just doesn't cut it.
Earlier today, I tabled the mandate for the B.C. Children's Commission. It was created following 118 recommendations of the Gove inquiry. That was also tabled. There are six items in this mandate. The first two items deal with the death or serious injury of a child in care.
Now, I hope that these items will never become relevant or become the trigger of a truly independent judicial review. We hope that the minister will use the remaining items listed to create a model for an independent inquiry. I will put the tools on the table. Will the minister agree to include these four items in the terms of reference for an independent inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I just told the member opposite that we are going to do a review, and we will. The public's concern for the proper care of children is being heard loud and clear by this government. It is our concern, as well. It is now time to take this out of the public forum.
Professionals are telling us that discussing this issue in a public forum is adversely affecting youth and staff. The youth in care read about it in the papers. They hear it on the radio. I welcome the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and the members on the side opposite to meet with me if they require more information. I don't know how much clearer I have to make it. We are going to be doing a review.
Question re: Children and youth in care
Mr. Keenan: It's absolutely appalling that I have to stand in this House day after day, as the Member for Klondike has also, to attempt to put some common sense into the mind of the minister opposite. The minister can take this out of the public forum in one second by commissioning a truly independent public review based on the mandate that the people from the Yukon Territory gave him. So that is in the hands of the minister opposite.
Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I had a young woman come into my office and tell me a story. I guess I will have to clarify that it is not a story; it's a factual case history. She told us what happened in her time of government care and what happened because she told her story to the media. She is experiencing right now, probably as I speak, intimidation and harassment in a government facility.
So will the minister provide his assurance that she will not be intimidated or threatened with punishment for speaking to me or speaking with the media? Will the minister provide that assurance?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, Mr. Speaker, we are undertaking a review of our residential services. We have said that over and over again.
I believe that the member opposite, when harassment - I am not sure what this is based on. I mean, why would one want to harass anyone? The objective here is to help people, not harass people. So that is hopefully the whole process of trying to be supporters of people who need help. I would be concerned, again, if that were the case.
Mr. Keenan: The minister has the theory down pat but he just doesn't want to take the next step. I will ask the minister: if the minister does not believe me and if the minister does not believe the young lady and the young people who have come forward, then who is he going to believe?
If the minister would like to walk just that short mile in the moccasins that the staff and the victims of government expense in this case wear, I would be more than willing to share that with him.
People are living in fear. Children in care are living in fear. The staff are afraid they will lose their jobs. The NGOs are afraid they will lose their funding. When that happens, that's a shutdown of democracy. That is exactly what is happening here in the Yukon Territory. So, again, will the minister provide his assurance that he will not allow intimidation of individuals when they do come forward? Will the minister give us that assurance, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: It would appear that the information is just coming forward to the member opposite. It never comes forward to anybody else. Mr. Speaker, I'm always open to information. That's what my role is - to help, protect and safeguard the rights of all Yukoners. So hopefully that is the process we follow. To have it brought up in the public forum day after day - I'm not sure if that isn't some form of intimidation. I'm not too sure that addresses the need. I am not in the kind of mind frame that that's what I would do in trying to respond to people's needs. I'm there to help and support people out there.
We said we are going to do a review and we are going to do a review. I don't know how much more the member opposite wants.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I just asked the question, and I guess I'll be able to answer that question.
The first point is that if people are coming to me as an official opposition critic, a shadow minister, if people are coming to the printed media, if people are coming to the radio media, then I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that maybe the minister is not as open and accountable as he had hoped to be because they're coming to everybody but the minister, which is where they should come.
So, Mr. Speaker, I can see where the minister could certainly be offended.
There are so many issues coming out of this department, Mr. Speaker, due to a lack of leadership. For a long time the foster parents and educators have recognized that there are problems. The minister is hiding behind the excuse that he doesn't micromanage and that government is a last resort. That's pathetic. Yet there's increasing public awareness and public pressure that there be an independent public inquiry.
So will the minister put the needs of the Yukon public, and especially Yukon's children, our future leaders, first, and commission an independent public inquiry?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Again, a contradiction. The very fact that the member opposite says that I'm not open and yet they go to the member opposite for whatever they want is a contradiction, Mr. Speaker. I very well know that. Why would I try to muzzle anyone when I know that all those other media processes are available to everyone?
So, Mr. Speaker, that's a contradiction.
The public's concern, Mr. Speaker, is about having a review. This is something that has been long in place since this whole process of residential homes has been under the auspices of the government.
The important part here, Mr. Speaker, is that this is something that has to happen. It is going to happen. We have said we will do a review and it will be an independent review, obviously. Why would we want to do an internal one?
It's now time again, as I mentioned to the member opposite, to take this out of the public forum and let the review take place. The longer it stays in the public eye, the children, the young people who are involved in this process of trying to heal, cannot be healed, Mr. Speaker.
These are children who needs lots of support; they need all our support, Mr. Speaker, and it can't be done by always pointing the finger at them, and that's exactly what the opposition does day after day. They point fingers at these young people who need help and support. That's not the way we help people.
Question re: Mount Lorne school
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Education. Yesterday the minister stated that he was proceeding with the construction of a new Grey Mountain Primary School despite rapidly declining school enrolments, which are expected to fall to 50 percent by the end of this decade. The minister has justified the decision by saying that the Liberals promised the school and the Liberals do what they say they are going to do.
Now, the previous Liberal leader also promised that the Liberal government would build a new school in Mount Lorne. My question to the minister: does the minister plan to honour that Liberal commitment, or are the Liberal commitments to build new schools limited to schools that are within or near the minister's own riding?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I'm unfamiliar with the commitment or alleged commitment that was made by a previous Liberal leader. I did indicate to the member opposite, yesterday in the House, that we would do what we said we'd do, and in our platform we had indicated that we'd replace Grey Mountain School, and yesterday in the House I'd indicated the same thing. So I'm sorry if I can't oblige the member opposite with a confirmation on a previous leader's promises.
Mr. Jenkins: In typical Liberal fashion, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals are bailing out on all the election promises of all their candidates who didn't win the election. They're gone.
Mr. Speaker, I estimate that the new Grey Mountain School will cost in the neighbourhood of $5 million to $6 million. Because of declining school enrolments, it will force the closure of other schools in the Whitehorse riding. Will the minister confirm that the cost of building the new Grey Mountain School is in that neighbourhood, $5 million to $6 million, or ballpark, and could he advise the House what schools will be closed in the Whitehorse area? I've heard the Whitehorse Elementary and Takhini are two up for consideration. Could the minister confirm what schools will eventually be closed and what the cost of this new school is going to be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: At this particular time, Mr. Speaker, respecting the processes of consultation information being gathered by the department, going to school councils and approaching the 10 schools that are under review for enrolment and capacity - that is exactly what's being done. I don't want to prejudge the outcome or the recommendations that will be coming forward.
With respect to the cost of replacing the Grey Mountain School, again, we have not gotten into design. That is something that we will sit down and discuss with the school council and administrators. So I unfortunately can't provide that answer, either.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, once again, what we have is that a decision has already been made, and now we're doing the follow-up work. And no matter what that follow-up work concludes, the fact still remains that the position taken by the minister is going to proceed. Grey Mountain Primary School is going to be going ahead. The minister has confirmed that. We don't know what it will cost. What we have is cheque-book democracy. Yukoners are being asked to fill in the blanks of the government projects that they want constructed in their ridings, and the Liberals are buying votes by promising to build what is asked for. How does the minister, in good conscience, justify the construction of a new multi-million dollar school in the face of rapidly declining enrolments?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, as I had indicated in the House yesterday, quite frankly, when the Yukon Party was in power, they continually jerked the residents and students of Grey Mountain School. The official opposition did the same thing when they were in power; they promised that they would replace the school.
Listening to the parents and taking into consideration the students' needs, we committed to replacing the Grey Mountain School, and we're going to do that. The enrolment and capacity has taken into consideration a great number of things about the remaining schools in Whitehorse: age, costs of upkeep and maintenance. There are a myriad of things that are being considered. And I trust that the department officials who are conducting the enrolment study will listen during their consultations to what parents, administrators and all people have to say with respect to providing the best quality education that we can for our children in Yukon.
Question re: Deputy Minister of Tourism, racist remarks
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to return to the matter of racist comments made by the Deputy Minister of Tourism last week. This has been a highly charged issue, and I can assure the Premier that this issue will not be going away. In fact, the Premier and the Minister of Tourism must take personal responsibility for what is happening. Because the Premier failed to do the right thing immediately, this has escalated to the point that there are growing public demands for the deputy minister to be fired.
Now, will the Premier please swallow her pride and show some true leadership by publicly apologizing, right now, to the Yukon Sikh community for this very hurtful incident? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the deputy minister has apologized to all Yukoners, as the apology should be directed - to all Yukoners. Not solely to the Sikh community. All Yukoners were offended. The deputy minister has apologized to all Yukoners in a very public statement.
On behalf of the government and our government members, I also offer an apology and apologize for the statements that were made. By your actions, ye shall know them. When this matter was brought to our attention, we dealt with it. We took immediate steps to deal with this issue. It has been dealt with appropriately.
I have been clear and I will continue to be very clear with members opposite and all Yukoners that neither I nor this government condone this type of behaviour. We do not tolerate ageism, sexism, racism or any other form of discrimination.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that apology, but the Premier cannot and must not continue to avoid her responsibilities. We agree with the Premier. Her statements yesterday and answers to questions in this House were that this is a very serious matter. One reason that this particular situation has taken on the dimension it has is that the Minister of Tourism failed to act swiftly and decisively at the time it happened. She made things worse by trivializing the incident in her media interviews, and she has also not taken and accepted the responsibility. So I ask the Premier: what disciplinary action will the Premier be taking with the Minister of Tourism for her role in this very serious matter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have - our government has - taken this matter very, very seriously. Once the matter was brought to our attention, we took immediate steps to deal with it, and it has been dealt with appropriately. We have acted. We have acted with full knowledge of the facts and with the full knowledge and understanding that our side of the House is fully supportive of the Human Rights Act in the territory. We do not, as legislators, condone, especially racist or sexist remarks, or remarks about age or disabilities - any form of discrimination. We do not use them in this House, and in this particular instance, the deputy minister has publicly apologized to all Yukoners, as I have apologized on behalf of the government. This matter has been dealt with. It has been dealt with promptly and it has been dealt with appropriately. I would encourage all members to examine our actions and our comments in this House.
Mr. Fairclough: If this is a very serious matter and the Premier takes it very seriously, why didn't she answer the question about taking disciplinary action with the Minister of Tourism?
Mr. Speaker, there has been so much hurt caused by this situation, by the way the elected leaders of the public government have handled it. The hurt is not just to the Sikh community because of public ridicule of their religious customs and their culture; the hurt extends to every racial and religious group in the territory - in fact, to every single citizen of this territory.
Yesterday I asked the Premier to take a few specific steps to demonstrate publicly her commitment to stamping out racism. That has to start with taking ownership and showing both courage and leadership. I will ask once again: will she direct her deputy minister to sit down face to face with the members of the Sikh community to begin the healing process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, when we are elected to this House, even as private citizens, we are challenged to live up to the high ideals, and we are challenged to ensure that we do what we say we will do and that we will act appropriately. This government has acted appropriately: we have acted promptly, we have acted decisively.
I cannot comment in great detail on any other aspect of this issue, as it is a personnel matter, and the member opposite knows it. What I can say is that the deputy minister has publicly apologized to all Yukoners, because all Yukoners have been offended by this. He has publicly apologized - a courageous and right thing to do. I have apologized on behalf of the government, and we have acted decisively. We have done the appropriate thing, and we have demonstrated leadership, and we have done as our constituents have asked us to do, to be models of behaviour. And we try every single day, and sometimes it's more difficult than other times, but we try every day to make sure our language is not racist or sexist or offensive to any individual.
Question re: Economic situation in Yukon
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Economic Development.
There can be no doubt, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon faces a crisis in its economy.
Before the Premier, the minister, gets up and berates this side of the House about passing the budget, let me point out that we on this side have cleared 40 percent of a $535-million budget, despite the limited amount of time to debate that budget that the side opposite has provided us.
However, it's incumbent upon all of us to work diligently on this issue and address the crisis in our economy, and we should at all times focus on areas that we can agree on in this House and go to work on those areas and try to achieve results on behalf of the Yukon people.
So, my question for the minister is this: does the minister agree that small business plays a very integral role in the Yukon's economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to be standing on my feet and responding to the Member for Watson Lake on a question regarding the economy. It was the topic of a key discussion a year ago during the last election campaign, and it's something that Yukoners are talking about when we meet them on the street.
Mr. Speaker, we have been working very hard and we're starting to see the results. Value of building permits in Canada - according to Statistics Canada, Yukon has experienced the greatest percentage increase in all of Canada. Retail sales in the Yukon have increased by 8.6 percent between February of last year and February of this year, and those retail sales are a direct reflection of Yukoners' confidence in the economy and confidence in the work that this government is doing. Mr. Speaker, they are also a direct reflection of the fact that the tax cuts that this government brought in have freed up money that Yukoners are spending at home, and they're spending that money on goods and services purchased in the Yukon. Retail sales are up 8.6 percent over last year. Wholesale sales have increased in the Yukon by 34.2 percent since last year. It's progress, and we're making it.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister did not answer the question as to whether she agrees or not with the integral part that small business plays in the economy.
Also, the logic in her argument is ludicrous, because all those numbers the minister just quoted are the direct result of the work of the former NDP government. It's the former NDP budget that is creating all those wonderful things the minister speaks of.
Now, let's look at something here in small business, Mr. Speaker. One of the most important requirements in small business is the activity of government in assisting them to develop. One of the mechanisms that the former government had in place was the trade and investment fund.
The Member for Faro recently stood up in this House and tributed a small business entrepreneur in Faro, whose success can be directly attributed to not only his persistence, but to the trade and investment fund that the former NDP government created.
What is the minister going to do now that they have canned the trade and investment fund, to replace it with some other mechanism to assist small business in this territory and create and develop a strong, diverse economy for Yukon people?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, what a stretch. I am reminiscent of all of the overtime periods of hockey that have been on the television lately, with people stretching and trying to get that goal and win the series. The member opposite is really, really stretching.
If he's trying to take credit for the last year of work on the economy, I hate to break the news to the member opposite, but it has been this side of the House that has been working since May 6 of last year, when we were sworn in. I hate to break it to the member opposite, but guess what? There are results and they are directly attributable to our work. Those results are small business. Retail sales are small business in this territory. They are the mom-and-pop operations - the partner operations - throughout the territory.
Those retail sales have seen an 8.6-percent increase between February of last year, when the NDP were in, and when we took office. That's an increase of $1.8 million, spent locally. And it's not just retail sales, but wholesale sales, as well - 34.2-percent increase. It's the highest increase in the country.
Yes, it's thanks to the work of this government. It's thanks to tax cuts, good management of money and to the fact that Yukoners are expressing confidence in what we're doing. I'm just sorry that the member can't see that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is lost in a quagmire of self-congratulation. The facts are these: the budget that is circulating in this territory today is the budget that the side opposite passed, the NDP budget. They committed to the Yukon public to do that. The tax cuts are from the work of the tax round table of the former government. And the list goes on.
I started this question by saying that we should focus on areas we agree on. I think we can take from the minister's comments that we do agree that small business plays an important role. Today we have a very good opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to address helping small business, and that's the trust legislation.
I'm going to ask the minister to think ahead. Will the minister stand down the legislation until we can do the work necessary, so that the trust legislation will help small business in this territory by becoming a pool for capital? That's their biggest problem. They have a problem accessing capital. We have a chance to address that by making the trust legislation a good piece of legislation. Will the minister stand down the legislation until that work can be done?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member once again for yet another reflection of the NDP anti-business attitude, which they portray so very well. The member opposite is asking us to stand down a piece of legislation, when I have in my hand letters of support I received this morning - copied to his own leader - from the legal community, one letter of which says, in short, "You create the platform with this trust legislation, and we sell the product." They have asked us to do our jobs as legislators and pass the trust act.
The fact that the member can have a piece of legislation sitting on the Order Paper for six months and ignore it is his problem.
The question started out talking about the Yukon economy. Again, I would like to share with the member opposite the economic indicators that we are starting to see: real estate transactions increased by 15.1 percent when comparing the fourth quarter, when they were in power, to now. The increase in wholesale sales, the increase in retail sales, the value of building permits - all of those are very real indications, not only of consumer confidence and business confidence, but they are results that put money into the pockets of Yukoners and jobs. And they are real reasons for hope in our economy and optimism, and for faith in this government, and we thank the voters for it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 44, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 44
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that Canada's three northern territories should be treated equally by the Government of Canada in relation to the recognition of their respective offshore boundaries; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to ensure that the Yukon's northern boundary description in the draft Yukon Act (1999) should be made more consistent with those of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut by amending Schedule 1 of that draft legislation as follows:
(1) Change "on the north, by that part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea" to "on the north by the northern limit of Canada in that part of the Arctic Ocean called Beaufort Sea."
(2) Replace paragraph 2 of the definition of "Yukon" in section 2 of the draft Yukon Act (1999) with the following paragraph:
2. "Yukon" include the designated area of the Yukon Territory, comprising all land and water in Yukon to the south of the northern limit described in Schedule 2.
(3) Elsewhere in the draft Yukon Act (1999) including the heading to Schedule 2, change, "adjoining area" (or "Adjoining Area") to "designated area" or ("Designated Area") and include a consequential amendment to the effect that any references to "adjoining" (or "Adjoining") in the Oil and Gas Accord should be interpreted in light of the change.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this is probably one of the most important motions that this House will ever debate.
The Yukon was created following the discovery of gold in the Klondike and the world's greatest gold rush that saw almost 100,000 people move toward the area, created the largest city - Dawson City - north of San Francisco and west of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Yukon was created as a consequence of that gold rush, but the Yukon was created in 1898 without giving any recognition of its offshore northern boundaries in the Beaufort Sea. The reality was that no one was looking farther north than the gold fields, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Territory's land mass was carved out of the old Northwest Territories, leaving the Yukon's offshore waters technically within the boundaries of the existing Northwest Territories. Effectively, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon's offshore boundary in the Beaufort Sea ends as soon as you get your feet wet at the ordinary low-water mark.
The amendments that I have presented here today will correct this serious historical oversight and will put Yukon on the same constitutional footings as the Northwest Territories and the newly created Territory of Nunavut.
Before I proceed further, I want to say something about the drafter of these amendments. The Premier is becoming infamous for accusing opposition members of not doing their homework, and she pretends to have more knowledge of Yukon's constitution than even the constitutional experts, Mr. Speaker. The drafter of these amendments that I have presented here today is Professor David Elliott of Carleton University. Dr. Elliott is a former Yukoner who grew up right here in Whitehorse. He graduated from F.H. Collins High School in 1964 and went to the University of British Columbia where he received the Rhodes Scholarship in 1969 to study constitutional law at Oxford University.
Dr. Elliott was the first land claims administrator for the Yukon government when Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow was presented back in 1973. He was also one of the original drafters of the now famous Jake Epp letter in 1979, which allowed elected members of this House to be responsible for running the affairs of the Yukon government.
Now, as a footnote to history, the Yukon's current Liberal senator, who was the Commissioner at that time, resigned in protest over the Yukon being granted responsible government, Mr. Speaker.
Dr. Elliott is also the author of many authoritative constitutional studies on the Yukon Act, devolution and land claims. In my opinion, he is the leading authority on the Yukon's constitutional development today.
I would invite the Premier to identify the constitutional expert she is relying upon to obtain her constitutional advice and his or her ties to the Yukon, because this is one of the highest stakes constitutional poker games that this Yukon government will ever play. At the end of the day, the implications and repercussions for all Yukoners are very, very serious.
Mr. Speaker, I ask this because of a letter dated March 14, 2001, in which the Premier states, "The federal government does not recognize any jurisdictional offshore by either the Northwest Territories or Nunavut. Canada's assessment is that the Northwest Territories boundary, and thus its jurisdiction, stops at the ordinary low-water mark. Nunavut's offshore boundary is somewhat more complicated due to a number of islands forming part of Nunavut, but Canada's position on the Nunavut boundary is that it also stops at the ordinary low-water mark."
I would ask the Premier to carefully examine what is currently going on in relation to the dispute between the Province of Nova Scotia and the Province of Newfoundland. The two provinces are fighting over a 60,000-square-kilometer area of seabed called the Laurentian sub-basin. The sub-basin is thought to hold the potential for a huge oil patch. The federal government has appointed a three-member panel to hear the arguments being advanced by the two provinces about who has jurisdiction over what area in their respective offshore areas.
A binding decision on this issue is expected in June of this year.
Now, contrast what is going between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland over their offshore boundary dispute with the statement the Premier made in her letter. She stated that Canada's view is that all provinces and territories do not have ownership of the seabed in their respective offshore areas - so much for Canada not changing its views.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to make it clear that I am not arguing for Yukon's ownership of its offshore at this time. All my proposed amendments will do at this time is draw a line in the water, so to speak, that would allow Yukon's jurisdiction, such as our Wildlife Act and workers' compensation to apply to the Yukon's offshore, and not the Northwest Territories' legislation, as would be currently applied to that area.
This is the first step that this Liberal government must make, and it must take that step now. Yukon Act amendments are slated to go to the Parliament of Canada this June. The schedule for the Yukon Act describes the territory's current landlocked boundaries, and this will be one of the only chances to have the Yukon's offshore boundary recognized for a long, long time after this becomes law.
I ask the Premier to look at a map showing northern Alaska, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. The Premier will notice that to the west of us, in Alaska, is ANWR and to the east of us is the Mackenzie Delta of the Northwest Territories. Both areas have abundant reserves and, in many cases, proven reserves of oil and gas. Chances are that Yukon's offshore waters could potentially hold similar reserves of oil and gas. Before the Yukon can make a reasonable case for these resources, like Nova Scotia and Newfoundland are doing in their offshore waters, the Yukon must ensure that its offshore waters are recognized in the schedule to the Yukon Act.
While the Premier does not recognize it, her Liberal friends in Ottawa have, in fact, recognized Nunavut's offshore boundary with the Northwest Territories but are not prepared to do the same thing for Yukon. It is time for the Premier to demonstrate that she is prepared to fight for the rights of Yukoners, rather than uphold the discriminatory position of the federal Liberal Government of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, one only has to look back in history. The Yukon government, under the leadership of Mr. Chris Pearson, fought for some eight years against the transboundary land claims presented by the Committee for Original People's Entitlement, known as COPE, to ensure that Yukon would have tidewater access to the Beaufort Sea.
COPE was claiming the entire northern Yukon, totalling some 15,000 square miles, and included the ownership in fee simple of all of the potential harbour sites along the northern coast of Yukon. It also even included Old Crow in the boundaries of their claim. The Yukon Party fought very hard and for so long because it knew what was at stake here. And, Mr. Speaker, it succeeded.
The next step the Pearson government took was to ask the Government of Canada to recognize Yukon's offshore boundary with the Northwest Territories. These very amendments that we are debating here today were first presented in 1984 to the federal Progressive Conservative government, which, unlike the previous Liberal government, was prepared to act on them. Unfortunately, an NDP government was elected here in the Yukon in 1985, and the Penikett government chose not to pursue the offshore boundary issue with the federal government.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have another federal Liberal government in power that is hostile to protecting or recognizing Yukon's legitimate interests.
Mr. Speaker, it is time for this Yukon Liberal government to show its true colours. Is this government going to stand up for the rights of Yukoners, or is it going to kowtow to its Liberal masters in Ottawa? I suspect the latter.
The colonial masters in Ottawa have dictated to the Premier of the Yukon what direction they wish to take and she is proceeding in that direction, irrespective of the wishes of Yukoners or the interests of Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.
The question members opposite must now answer is whether or not this government is going to stand up for the interests of Yukon and Yukoners or just deal with the issue as it's proposed by the federal Liberal masters in Ottawa.
Mr. Speaker, on March 23, 2001, Senate Bill No. 164 was introduced in the Legislature of the State of Alaska and has subsequently been passed. The act is entitled An Act Prohibiting Leases under the Right-of-Way Leasing Act on State Land in or adjacent to the Beaufort Sea, and provided for an effective date. Wouldn't the Premier and her colleagues love to have that legislative authority to pass a similar bill in this Legislature? Our problem with the proposed undersea pipeline traversing Yukon's offshore waters is that it can be done. The Northwest Territories would hold jurisdiction.
We are lobbying for an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the U.S. Senate is also in the same position. I don't think very many people want to see the pipeline go across the northern route, except the Northwest Territories and probably the oil and gas industry, because it is probably, ultimately, less expensive than following the Alaska Highway route.
But if we had the authority, we could pass a bill similar to what the State of Alaska has done. I would like to table a copy of that bill, Senate Bill No. 164, to show the way as to what the State of Alaska has done so as to not compromise their decision and their ability to control where the Alaska Highway pipeline could ultimately go.
They control, by political means, the direction for the exporting of natural gas and oil. The Yukon does not have that ability with respect to the manner in which the Alaskans have addressed this issue because we don't have offshore jurisdiction. Neither the federal government nor the Government of the Northwest Territories is going to argue that the Yukon is entitled to have jurisdiction in its offshore waters. It's simply not in their interest. The only party that is going to take up that challenge and do something with this issue is Yukon, represented by the Government of Yukon. Yukoners have to do this for themselves, and the arm that does that is this government. But they are failing Yukoners and failing the Yukon in this regard by not taking up this issue, not addressing it head-on and not doing something with it. It's a shame.
I ask the Premier and her Liberal colleagues to put the interests of Yukoners first and foremost above partisan politics and to think of Yukon's future, as they refer to in their election platform. With climate changes, Mr. Speaker, the Northwest Passage may become an ever-increasingly important shipping route. The possibility exists. In the not-too-distant future, the Yukon could gain direct tidewater access, something the territory was robbed of over 100 years ago when the territory was first formed. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon was robbed of having any jurisdiction over tidewater access to the Pacific Ocean. We cannot permit this betrayal to happen again in the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Speaker, I said at the beginning that this is one of the most important motions this House will ever debate. I'm going to call for a recorded vote on this motion in order to clearly establish which members of this House are true Yukoners. For those members voting in the negative, from this day forward, they will not be true Yukoners and they will know in their hearts that they have betrayed the future generation of Yukoners.
I'm not going to speak at great length to this issue. It's an issue that's well-known, Mr. Speaker. I commend this motion to the House and look forward to its unanimous support.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposition closed his remarks in an interesting way, suggesting that he would decide who was a Yukoner and who wasn't. I find that kind of statement offensive. I think my voters and my constituents will decide whether or not I've done a good job, and that's the ultimate test - election day.
I am not only a Yukoner and a very proud Yukoner, anxious and looking forward to showing off our territory to the world this weekend, when we have a very special visitor in attendance. I know that all of my members on this side of the House are very proud Yukoners, and we are very honoured to be here with the confidence of our constituents, and we look forward to answering to them when we do our door-to-door visits this spring, summer and fall, and when we next go to the polls.
I would like to acknowledge in the member's comments the work of Professor Elliott, as I knew him, as an individual, and know him today. Professor Elliott is indeed a distinguished Yukoner, and his teaching in administrative law at Carleton University was a course I particularly enjoyed. Although it has been some years since he has been in the Yukon, I believe he considers himself a Yukoner still, as well, as do many - I suppose ex-patriots is the wrong word - Yukoners who are living outside, so to speak.
To speak to the issue at hand, the member is under some impression that the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have some jurisdiction over their offshore that Yukon does not have. Mr. Speaker, in his comments in that regard, the member quoted from my letter of March 14, 2001, to him, so I won't restate that.
What powers does the member opposite see those two territories exercising that we are not?
The 1997 Oceans Act states that all offshore areas of Canada belong to Canada. Canada's view is that the boundaries stop at the ordinary low-water mark. That's the legislation, Mr. Speaker.
The actual fact is that the Yukon has greater jurisdiction in the Beaufort than does the Northwest Territories by virtue of our "adjoining area." For those not familiar, Mr. Speaker, the adjoining area is referenced in our - I'm just finding the correct reference - Canada/Yukon Oil and Gas Accord.
The member knows that the Canada/Yukon Oil and Gas Accord, 1993, provides for shared offshore management responsibilities and revenue sharing between the Yukon and federal governments. The Department of Economic Development, which I am also responsible for, is also in discussions with the federal government on this issue. We are anticipating negotiations to begin this fall.
We have asked that an interim, joint federal/territorial offshore committee, provided for under the accord, be established in the interim while the offshore regime is being developed.
So, for the member to suggest that this government, or any previous government, has somehow abandoned Yukon or our responsibilities in the north, is not correct. We have demonstrated, by our actions, that we take very seriously not only the responsibilities, but the potential. We are working on that.
The arguments for changing the boundary are somehow intended to lend support for the offshore development and offshore development of an over-the-top pipeline proposal.
The Member for Klondike is somehow suggesting that changing the boundary lends his support for an offshore development, such as an over-the-top pipeline proposal. Well, the over-the-top pipeline proposal is not in Yukon's best interests - not environmentally, not economically, not socially. It's not in our best interests, and Yukoners have been very clear on that. The Alaska Highway pipeline route provides a sound, economic alternative without significant exposure to environmental risk.
Now, in this boundary discussion that the member has brought forward, it is also suggested that, when the Yukon Act amendments are tabled, we must also deal with this issue. Mr. Speaker, the reason for Yukon Act amendments to be tabled is to give effect to the devolution agreement and to modernize the legislation - to give effect in the legislation to the 1979 Epp letter. We do not believe, nor did previous governments believe, that changes are required to alter our boundary in order to further our economic or political development, either offshore or onshore.
So let me restate that, Mr. Speaker. The purpose behind bringing forward Yukon Act amendments - it is federal legislation - later on into the summer is to further Yukon responsibility, this Legislature's responsibility and the government's responsibility in terms of a devolution agreement, to give effect to the Epp letter and to modernize the legislation. It really is very old legislation, and there are many sections of it that really require updating.
We are very close to concluding devolution and amendments to the Yukon Act, and we're working very hard with First Nation governments to settle land claims and to work on these proposals. We are working very hard with the federal government and with First Nation governments to advance our shared interests to support a strong Yukon future for everyone.
Working on those fundamental objectives, changing Yukon's northern boundary is not critical to achieving those. It is not. Changing the northern boundary as tabled by the member is not critical to devolution; it's not helping to settle land claims and other key objectives of this government, and it's not furthering our economic or political development, either offshore or onshore.
What I would like the Member for Klondike to understand is that there are other avenues for dealing with offshore issues and, as I have mentioned, we are pursuing them. We have pursued, under the Canada/Yukon Oil and Gas Accord, shared offshore management responsibilities and revenue sharing. Departments of this government are in discussions with the federal government. We are anticipating negotiations in the very near future. We have asked that the interim federal/territorial offshore committee provided for under the accord be established while the offshore regime is being developed.
So, we are not disputing the member's point that the offshore is important. We are saying that there are other avenues to pursue that objective, and the fact that we choose other avenues, as the previous government chose other avenues, makes us no less Yukoners.
There are conflicting opinions about offshore jurisdiction and boundary disputes, not just in Canada - the member mentioned one ongoing case - but internationally. Mr. Speaker, there is no agreement between Canada and the United States about the offshore boundary between Alaska and the Yukon. There is no agreement on that, nor are there any discussions planned about it, either.
The Yukon is not the only one - the Yukon government and Yukoners - with an interest in the offshore of our coast. There are land claims agreements in northern Yukon that the federal government would also have to discuss, were they to contemplate any boundary change.
We recognize the work of Professor Elliott. We recognize that the member has a concern and has presented options, and we recognize the member opposite's interest in this particular area. In return, Mr. Speaker, I would ask that the member recognize that the fact is that Yukon has greater jurisdiction in the Beaufort than does the Northwest Territories. The fact is that the government is working with Canada through the Canada/Yukon Oil and Gas Accord and through the establishment of the interim joint federal/territorial offshore committee.
And we are working very hard with Canada and with First Nation governments on devolution, settling land claims and working on the Yukon Act to give effect to devolution and to modernize the legislation. We do not believe, nor did the previous government believe, that changes are required to alter our boundary in order to further the economic or political development, either offshore or onshore. And I ask that the member acknowledge that conflicting opinions exist about offshore jurisdiction and boundary disputes, not just within our own country and within our own Legislature, but internationally.
And our support and our commitment to the path that we have chosen in working on the Yukon Act, and on devolution, while the member may not agree or support us in that, the fact that we have chosen this particular path, to work with Yukoners, does not make us any less of a legislator or any less of a Yukoner.
Mr. Fairclough: I'll be brief in my comments to this motion, Motion No. 44, as presented by the Member for Klondike.
There are a couple of things I want to say. Right now, with this motion the way it's written, the official opposition supports it for a couple of reasons. When the Yukon Act was being put together - and I know some work in the finalization of it is still to be done - and when negotiations of devolution were taking place, there was a tight time limit there to get things completed and well-written and passed through the House of Commons.
In 1998, there was a lot of hard work put into that to try and reach the deadlines that were there. The final one that would have brought devolution into effect was April 1, 2000. Here we are a year later and here we are, possibly another year later, and well, another year later and possibly even longer.
So this amendment basically is to try to bring recognition that we do have boundary lines beyond the shorelines of the Yukon Territory. I think that we support this motion if it can be tried but not for it to stand in the way of devolution and the implementation of devolution. I am hoping that the government side, should they respond to this motion, would look at it in that light and maybe try it. If it is put in and tried and it does fail, then it could be brought back to us. If it fails in light of it holding up the Yukon Act and ultimately the devolution of the remaining programs from the federal government down to the Yukon Territory, that's where I think we on this side of the House will agree that we can pull it off at that time. But I think we can make efforts now and I think there is time for both this government and the federal government to look at this a bit more seriously.
I understand the complications to this too. Not only do you have to do the amendments to this act, I know you are going to have to do amendments to the Northwest Territories Act. I recognize the First Nation agreements on the North Slope - the Inuvialuit agreements - and I also realize that it could go beyond just those act amendments but possibly amendments to the Canadian Constitution.
As a matter of fact, it could go beyond that, because when you start drawing those lines on a map - and I know those lines are really battle lines - Alaska is going to start taking issue with Canada.
I know what Alaska wants to do. We want the very tip of the Yukon to go straight up from where our lines are and to have the other line run parallel. Right now, Alaska wants it to angle off to the east. The Northwest Territories wants it to angle off the other way. What ends up happening is that the Yukon gets a smaller portion of that land.
I must say that we do have land offshore in the Yukon. Herschel Island is part of Yukon's land mass and it is a territorial park. I believe that, once we show more interest in it, it gives Yukon another tool to use in the many issues that would arise from any type of potential development that takes place offshore, including the over-the-top route, which the government does not support and we do not support. We have all kinds of concerns with regard to the environmental impacts, what it does, and so on.
I realize that both Nunavut and the Northwest Territories do not have those offshore rights or say in development and that that ultimately ends up with Canada. I know that is what would take place in the Yukon, too. I don't think that this particular amendment speaks to that. I think that can happen at another time when we as Yukoners could try to push for that to be in place at another time. But it does have some effect on things like royalties and so on and it does have some effect in the sense that Yukon does take claim and jurisdiction for the offshore that the rest of the countries are faced with, too.
That's the position we take, as long as it does not affect that whole process.
So, when the Premier or someone else on the government side stands up to speak to this, I would like to know whether it could be tried. Our option is to bump it off immediately if it hinders the devolution process, and we can understand that. I know the Premier says we do have other avenues to have a bigger say offshore. That's the type of information Yukoners would like as a common information package when we deal with this, and the Yukon Act passes through the House of Commons and we have devolution. There's going to be a big question mark about what happened with the offshore, and I think at that point in time we could have a lot of information provided to Yukoners on that.
But one of our biggest interests here is that we try and push that and never know how much the federal government will do, and the relationship they have now with the Yukon government and how far this could actually take place.
For us on this side of the House, we're very much concerned with the environmental impacts. Of course, any type of tragedy that happens, even with the over-the-top route, should such a thing happen, could have effects on fish going upstream into the waters of the Yukon, on the Porcupine caribou herd and on all wildlife on the coast for that matter, including the migratory birds.
So, those are the concerns we have.
I think that would give us a lot more say in bringing the information straight back to Yukoners. This is what we could do, and maybe use that more as a tool and leverage to try to make our position even a little more clear, or even to block the position of an over-the-top pipeline route. At this point, if there is going to be a pipeline, it's going to follow an existing route that has been put in place - the Alaska Highway route.
We all know the impacts of even that road going in, so should something else like this take place, I think the downward effects could be devastating, right into the food chain of Yukoners. I also know that this could create a lot of friction with Alaska because it's not just a national issue between two territories. It is something that is international. It involves another country. I know there are going to be hard battles on that because I believe that whole section coming down from Alaska toward Yukon - a lot of it hasn't been explored, but a lot of it has very much proven oil reserves. Obviously, people are eyeing that up. Where is Yukon's position on this?
So, I do thank the Member for Klondike for bringing this motion forward. I think that the Yukon government can give it a try, or maybe give us good reasons why we cannot go beyond this point because I see right now that we have many months in front of us to put these together, along with the federal Liberals, to try to get some answers back to Yukoners. We on this side of the House would support that. One thing we don't support is this blocking the process of devolution.
So, in short, those are our remarks to this motion, Motion No. 44.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fentie: If the House will indulge me, I would like to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce Mary Pye, a constituent of mine from Watson Lake and a member of the Kaska Nation. Please join me in welcoming her.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question? If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard? Leader of the third party.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this offshore boundary motion is, indeed, a very important one. If we just look back in recent history to see the reasons why the respective governments haven't proceeded with addressing these problems, one can look at the NDP government. They had every reason not to address this, in that they wanted to see this accomplished in their mandate. They wanted to see devolution proceeded with during the terms of their mandate.
Mr. Speaker, we are one year into the Liberal government's mandate, and it appears that they're not interested in addressing the interests of Yukoners. They're just interested in cutting ribbons and eating cake and taking credit for what there is to take credit for, not serving the best interests of Yukoners.
There are some areas where the Premier in her remarks strayed from the facts of the situation. When I tabled the copy of Alaska Senate Bill No. 164, it was pointed out that, if we had offshore jurisdiction, Yukon would have passed a similar bill, which would preclude the construction of a pipeline across our northern boundary.
Mr. Speaker, that option isn't open to us. If one were to take the time to read the Alaska Senate bill, all it does is make it abundantly clear that, if there's going to be a pipeline connecting Alaska with the southern 48, it is initially going to follow the Alaska Highway route. The last clause, clause (c), actually provides a caveat to that, in that the building of a pipeline across the northern part of the top of the world, you might as well say, Mr. Speaker - across the northern part of Yukon and connecting into the Mackenzie Valley - would be allowed after the date on which a natural gas pipeline, following a southern route that parallels the trans-Alaska pipeline system and the Alaska Highway, is built.
So they've left the door open for themselves in Alaska. But what they're saying with this piece of legislation is that the first pipeline is going to follow the Alaska Highway route, and after that's constructed and operating, if the oil industry wants another pipeline across the northern part, so be it.
I think Yukon's position is abundantly clear. We only want the pipeline down the Alaska Highway. It's a position I support, but how do we accomplish that, Mr. Speaker? The tools that the Alaska State Legislature and Senate have at their disposal are not available to us, in that we don't have care and control of that area. After one analyzes the economic benefits, one has to balance those economic benefits with the environmental reality. And in a lot of cases we can't proceed with an economic benefit because of the environmental damage that it may create.
So that said, there is a window of opportunity for the Yukon Liberal government to approach Ottawa and to make some changes in the schedule. That they chose not to do so is at their own peril and the peril of Yukoners in the future. I believe that we can proceed with this area and these changes to the schedule to the Yukon Act and they will probably serve the best interest of the Yukon in the long run. It is going to take a concerted effort on the part of this government to lobby, and to probably lobby the federal Liberal government on a position that they really don't want to pay much heed to, because they wish to remain the owner of all of the land here. They just wish the Yukon government to be a caretaker of their interests and their rights. We see that in a number of areas. I can point out a parallel situation, how this Legislature views the Commissioner and the oath of office that the Commissioner of the Yukon takes. We look upon the Commissioner of the Yukon as a representative - similar to a Lieutenant Governor - the oath of office that the Commissioner of Yukon takes is as a representative of the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs.
So, in many respects, this situation parallels that. Reality is one thing; the law is one thing; how we view the situation is another. And while it may be an established practice, Mr. Speaker, the law is the law is the law, and when a ruling is necessary, that's what it comes down to. You can only go so far with established practice.
I believe this motion moves us a lot closer to addressing the issue of our northern offshore boundary and, Mr. Speaker, I would urge the unanimous support of this Legislature on this motion.
Thank you very much.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. McLachlan: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 44 negatived
Clerk: Motion No. 121, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 121
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has needlessly delayed the conduct of public business during the current legislative sitting by refusing to be open and forthcoming in response to legitimate questions from the Opposition, -
Speaker: Order please. Will the members please take their seats.
(2) the introduction of several substantive amendments to legislation, contrary to the spirit and the letter of the all-party agreement on legislative sittings, has further hampered the Opposition in its legitimate role of holding the Government accountable for its spending priorities in the biggest budget ever tabled in Yukon history,
(3) by its actions, the Liberal Government has indicated that it considers the all-party agreement to be null and void, and
(4) it is not in the best interests of the Yukon public to allow the Government's budget to pass without a thorough examination of its implications; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly should be extended beyond the 35-day limit called for in the all-party Memorandum of Understanding, and should continue sitting until such time as all the business before the House has been given thorough scrutiny and can come to a vote of the Members.
Mr. Fentie: It's truly unfortunate that we must debate this motion here today on the floor of the Legislature. We've heard all too often from the members opposite about this open and accountable government that we are desperately seeking. If they were open and accountable, Mr. Speaker, debating this motion today would not be a necessity.
There are some serious issues with how the side opposite, the Liberal government, has conducted the public business in this budget sitting. First of all, they have tabled the biggest budget ever in the history of the Yukon Territory - some $535 million of expenditures. There is a necessity, given those expenditures and how they balance out throughout this territory, to thoroughly scrutinize and debate the budget. True to form, in their closed, secretive approach to governing this territory, the Liberals have tried to hide behind overloading this sitting with a legislative agenda, and try to disguise that by making the claim that it's housekeeping.
We on this side of the House have proven, beyond any doubt, that the legislation that we are debating on the floor of this Legislature is not housekeeping, but is of a substantive nature. The fact that, the other day, the minister responsible for Justice chose to stand down An Act to Amend the Jury Act because she wanted to review it further is testimony to what we on this side of the House are saying and to the claims we make.
Of course there needs to be more work done on such acts as the Jury Act, which will endanger the Yukon public from a further intrusion, which is not needed, to simply compile a list of Yukoners available for active jury duty.
So there are many, many reasons why this Liberal government's excuse in overloading this sitting and this Legislative agenda with acts that are simply not housekeeping leads us to where we're at this afternoon in debating this motion. We in the official opposition are very adamant about the necessity of debating the budget thoroughly. That is the issue that's most important to the Yukon public, and there are many reasons why that thorough debate must take place. We have to look at how a $535-million expenditure is distributed throughout this territory. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, when we take that exorbitant amount of money and look at what's happening in other communities outside of Whitehorse, it quickly becomes evident that there is not a balance. There is not a balance in this Liberal government's approach to helping Yukoners, especially rural Yukoners, who are facing some of the most difficult times that they have ever experienced under this Liberal government's watch.
Even the smallest initiatives that have been requested by rural communities have been ignored. And for larger initiatives like the Mayo school, the side opposite delayed and stalled the go-ahead on the construction of that school, furthering the problems that people in rural Yukon face by their inability to go to work. It's unfortunate that the side opposite, with all they were left with in terms of resources and money in the bank, have chosen to govern in this manner. They could not even see their way clear to provide a very nominal expenditure to the Village of Upper Liard for street lights so that people walking on the Alaska Highway in the dark of the night could walk in safe conditions. Yet $535 million is being expended this fiscal year by the side opposite and they couldn't even put in two street lights in a quarter-mile stretch of the Alaska Highway for the safety of people.
That is a shameful, shameful approach to an open and accountable government, or so they claim. This motion is about the necessity to extend the sitting beyond what was originally agreed to, through the heavy lobbying by the members opposite that the opposition sign and re-sign the MOU. This motion is about the need to extend this sitting beyond the 35-day limit. It's a necessity because the side opposite, this Liberal government, has refused to allow the opposition to do its job, to debate the budget, and to hold the government accountable on behalf of the Yukon public when we are dealing with such an exorbitant expenditure.
There was no reason for us to come to this juncture. There was ample opportunity, given the fact that the opposition passed expeditiously every piece of legislation tabled that was truly housekeeping legislation. The opposition offered many opportunities for the side opposite to stand down the substantive legislation, and they chose not to.
Yukoners and the opposition side can only come to one conclusion: the Liberals are hiding from debating their budget, because they know that there are extreme problems with how they have gone about budgeting for this territory. They know that they haven't addressed the needs of Yukoners in a balanced, fair and equitable way. They know that their budget and the expenditures are targeted for their friends, ensuring that their constituencies are taken care of and ignoring the rest of this territory.
It's a disgrace that they choose to do so, given the situation we find ourselves in. There's not a lot of requirement here, Mr. Speaker, to debate this motion at great length. It's very clear, explicit and is saying to this House and to the Yukon public in general that, to do our job properly, we must extend this sitting to thoroughly debate the budget.
Now, the members opposite have made many claims about this side delaying the debate on the budget. That simply is complete nonsense. In the limited amount of time that we have had on this side of the House to debate $535 million of expenditure, we have cleared 40 percent of that expenditure. To accuse this side of the House of delaying tactics, as I pointed out, is complete nonsense.
We are prepared to expedite the business of this House - to expedite the public's business here in this sitting. We are saying that it's going to require some more time because of how the side opposite has managed the agenda in this sitting. I think the side opposite would be well-advised to support an extension of the sitting, so that they can stand and say that this Liberal government is an open and accountable government. To date, that's something that they cannot corroborate. They can't back that statement up and their actions continually show that. This is an opportunity for them to make amends and reverse what is already becoming well-entrenched in public opinion.
Mr. Speaker, it's important that we give the appropriate scrutiny to this Liberal government's first-ever budget - as I said, the biggest budget in the history of the territory - because if we don't, we on the opposition side, and the members opposite, are remiss in their duty to the Yukon public. That's why we are here.
I suggest to the members opposite, and urge them, to simply pass this motion so we can get on with conducting the public's business. Then they can make the claim that they're making an effort to become open and accountable, instead of this closed, secretive, heavy-handed government that is certainly doing a disservice to the Yukon public at this point in time in their short mandate.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this side of the House would be happy to support the motion to extend hours, if we were convinced that the side opposite were doing its job.
Now, part of doing your job for the side opposite - and I'm familiar with that, because I sat there for four years - is to be ready to do the job that we are paid to do, that we've been elected to do. For example, a piece of legislation has sat on the Order Paper for six months, ready to be debated. The side opposite did not bother themselves with doing any research to get ready to debate that piece of legislation, even though, as soon as a piece of legislation hits the Order Paper, there is going to be a very good chance that it will come up for debate.
The side opposite, however, didn't bother to do their job and, knowing that that piece of legislation had been on the Order Paper for six months, they didn't even think about it.
The members opposite are talking now about private members' bills, and I certainly tabled a number of private members' bills that were never even looked at by the side opposite when they were in government.
Now, the side opposite goes on and on and on about what wonderful legislators they are and how they value legislation and the debate of legislation in an open way. Well, the side opposite has spent 24 days discussing two departments. And they say they don't get responses to questions but they asked the same questions up to 35 times - up to 35 times. And they are responded to but they still ask the same question again and again and again. So that's not debate.
And what is good debate, Mr. Speaker? I have had numerous discussions about that with people in this Legislature and with people in the House as well as people on the street. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said someday we should sit down and have a 10-hour discussion about democracy, and I would love to have that around a campfire with the member opposite someday.
What is so frustrating about this is that good debate is two people with two points of view who are adding to each other's knowledge about a specific issue. So it's one side getting up and saying, "This is the way we see things. This is the research that we've done to support our arguments. This is where we think the process should go, where this issue should go and we think that because of these very good reasons." And the argument is set up so that the side opposite has to become engaged with that argument in debate and say, "Well, those are good arguments. Those are good arguments, and they are good arguments for this reason and that reason. However, have you thought of a, b and c? And what does that do to your argument? How does that set up your argument or how does that support or take away from the arguments that the members opposite are making?" It's a back and forth that is hopefully a productive process, which we rarely ever have in this Legislature. What we do have is 30-minute tirades - the members opposite going on and on and on, often about unrelated issues to the matter at hand. That's constant. These 30-minute tirades do little to bring up the level of debate within this Legislature.
The members opposite say that we should extend the sitting because they haven't given thorough debate to some of the matters at hand. That's their opinion. Mr. Speaker, I would say that the members opposite have been given the opportunity to give a more than thorough examination of the matters at hand. They have wasted time day after day after day, asking the same endless repetitive questions, getting answers, not listening but asking the same question over and over and over again. They say that we should extend the hours because we should reward that type of behaviour, but that type of behaviour should not be rewarded. What should be rewarded is good research and good arguments to make sure that the legislation that we pass in this House is good for Yukoners and good for good reasons. Rarely is standing up and giving 30 minutes of rhetoric a good supportive argument.
The members opposite say that they should set the agenda as to how long we should sit because they are the opposition and they are the ones who decide when good scrutiny has been done to legislation. Well, they said that when they were in government. Now that they are in opposition, they still say they should set the agenda. It's a little hard to understand where the members opposite are coming from.
I like good debate. I like being a legislator. I enjoy coming in here and talking about the issues that are important to Yukoners. I take it as a very large responsibility on my part to make sure that not only am I representing the people of Riverdale South, but that I am representing Yukoners in the legislation that passes through here. If there's legislation that's going through here that I disagree with, then I mention that to people who bring the legislation forward before it comes here. When it comes here, I know that my concerns have been registered, they have been answered, and there has been full debate of it. When it comes here to the floor of the Legislature, it is then the opportunity for the members opposite to again put forward their concerns about that legislation. And we answer those concerns.
If there are legitimate arguments - and there hasn't been one yet - then we tend to examine those issues. We'll go back to the departments and ask, "Is this really important, because these people who are on the side opposite, who were in government, have these concerns. We think that that's important, because they were in government and they must have a legitimate reason for being concerned about it." And we have tried very hard to accommodate the arguments of the side opposite. We tried really hard to listen to the side opposite, which is more, Mr. Speaker, than I can say for the side opposite when we were in opposition.
I'll never forget getting my ministerial statements - if we got them - minutes before we walked into the Legislature. It was always such a delight. It's important to us to do the best job we can as legislators. It's important to all Yukoners that we come out here and be prepared for debate. It's important to Yukoners that we pass the best legislation possible, and it's important to Yukoners that we think about the future when we have these, what would sometimes seem to be somewhat trivial debates here on the floor of the Legislature, but that we give back and forth in the process called "debate." That hasn't happened.
Now the side opposite - I'll go through it bit by bit here. The first clause is, "that the Yukon government has needlessly" - and this is humorous - "delayed the conduct of public business during the current legislative sitting by refusing to be open and forthcoming in response to legitimate questions from the Opposition." Let's go through some of these legitimate questions. "What colour is the bus in Old Crow going to be?" That was one of the questions. And then a comment from one of the members opposite - and this is recorded in Hansard - honestly asked how much more time they had to kill. These are the legitimate responses and legitimate comments from the members opposite. This is the sort of good debate that we've been subjected to here in the Legislature. Yet, the side opposite says that this side is not being forthcoming. Well, the colour of the bus in Old Crow, you know, how much more time one has to kill during private members' day. The requests are ludicrous.
The next clause says "the introduction of several substantive amendments to legislation, contrary to the spirit and letter of the all-party agreement on legislative sittings, has further hampered the Opposition in its legitimate role of holding the Government accountable for its spending priorities in the biggest budget ever tabled in Yukon history".
Mr. Speaker, I agree that it is the job of the side opposite to hold this government accountable for its spending priorities in a budget. That is their job, and therefore they should do it in a responsible manner. There is a disagreement going on as to what are substantive amendments to legislation. There is a disagreement going on between that side of the House and this side of the House as to what is housekeeping. That is part of the process, because that side of the House has one opinion and, generally, this side of the House has a different opinion.
However, the side opposite agreed that a number of the bills that we brought forward in this legislative sitting were housekeeping matters. They agreed to that in writing and then suddenly decided that they were not. The side opposite came to this House ill-prepared to deal with a piece of legislation that had been on the Order Paper for six months. So it's a little hard for us to take the second clause seriously.
It says that "by its actions, the Liberal Government has indicated that it considers the all-party agreement to be null and void". Mr. Speaker, it is our contention that there was never any attempt by members on the side opposite to keep to that agreement. There was never an interest in legitimate debate because they took 24 days - 24 days - to argue two departments.
I'll never forget the larvicide debate of 1998. There was nothing like it, Mr. Speaker - nothing like it at all. I now know more about larvicide than I have ever wanted to know in my life - or even the next three or four lifetimes.
Mr. Speaker, at that time, the side opposite said that the great larvicide debate of 1998 was a complete waste of time, and that the repetitive questions were a complete waste of the taxpayers' money having those things recorded in Hansard, and it was not good use of the time of this Legislature. I have to agree that the great larvicide debate of 1998 was not a valuable debate in this Legislature. However, I use it as an example, in my mind, of what good debate can and cannot be.
The side opposite continues on, saying that, somehow or other, this side of the House has not contributed to fulfilling the obligations under the MOU, which was for a 35-day sitting. It's our contention that the side opposite has not fulfilled their obligations.
The next clause says it is not in the best interest of the Yukon public to allow the government's budget to pass without a thorough examination of its implications. Mr. Speaker, that clause we agree with.
The final conclusion is that it is the opinion of this House that the current sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly should be extended beyond the 35-day limit called for in the all-party memorandum of understanding, and should continue sitting until such time as all business before the House has been given thorough scrutiny and come to a vote of the members.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if the side opposite had, for example, done their research and been prepared to debate a bill that had sat on the Order Paper for six months, I would agree with that. And, if the side opposite hadn't spent 24 days on two departments, at a level of debate that was not much better than the great larvicide debate of 1998, then I would agree with them, but they did. They wasted 24 days on two departments, and it was very, very similar to the great larvicide debate of 1998.
There was a piece of legislation that sat on the Order Paper for six months. They didn't even do their job and do the research.
Mr. Speaker, we can't agree with this. The members opposite haven't done their jobs. They've made no legitimate attempts to live up to their side of the agreement - none.
Mr. Speaker, this government is passing a budget that will create over 100 jobs in the Yukon Territory. This budget will create certainty for people who are working within a number of NGOs. Mr. Speaker, this budget is going to start to restore the cuts to highway funding. This budget is going to start to restore the cuts to heritage. This budget is going to provide social services and health care for Yukoners. It's going to put money into mining, oil and gas infrastructure.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite says, "But not the arts." This budget also brought new money - half a million dollars - in an arts fund. All new money.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is making some comments about how their opinion differs from ours. And, you know, that's legitimate. Their opinion, about 99-percent of the time, does differ from this side of the House. Nevertheless, this new budget, which the members opposite are holding up, not doing their job and not debating seriously, will also bring in $42 million into the territory, brought in from the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is going to go very far in helping to rebuild the economy of the Yukon Territory. I have to say that that's quite a job, because the side opposite devastated the economy when they were in government. It's going to take a long time, but we are going to fix the economy of the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite bring forward a motion for debate that is one-sided. That's fine, because it's an opinion piece. The members opposite bring forward a motion that offers little in the way of substantive issues for us to debate on private members' day.
Mr. Speaker, it has been reasonably good weather. We're getting into what's called the Yukon quick summer, and people don't really care that we're here in this Legislature. More often than not, I walk down the street and people say to me, "Are you guys still sitting?" The reason that most people don't care is because they're sick and tired of the hijinks that have gone on in this Legislature. They're sick and tired of us going through the dramatics instead of just doing our jobs. I'll tell you one thing, Mr. Speaker, when I sat on city council people said, "How are things going on city council?" And I'd say, "Pretty good. We did this and that, and the boards have been working on this subject and that subject." And they said that was good; they were pleased about that because we were off doing our jobs, representing the people of Whitehorse and just doing our jobs. That's what we have been elected to do. They are not interested in big political games. They don't care how long we sit in the Legislature. That only matters to us.
This is a fishbowl, and a very small one at that, but our responsibilities are huge. I'd like to get down to the job of representing Yukoners well, passing good legislation and having good debate on the floor of this Legislature. Mr. Speaker, I have yet to see that. Mr. Speaker, we cannot support the motion.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: And the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and I are some day going to have that campfire discussion about democracy and make sure that all Yukoners are well-represented and that all people within the Legislature do their jobs and fulfill their end of the bargain.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this motion. It's a motion that probably, if the Liberal government of the day were doing their job, wouldn't be necessary at all.
There would be no need to address these issues and deal with any debate on these issues. Mr. Speaker, the minister went on at great length about working on a municipal council and working in the Yukon Legislature, and they are two distinctly different political arenas, two distinctly different political roles. Municipal councils usually work by consensus. In this Legislature, we have party politics. Now, the position of the Liberal government in this Legislature appears to be, "You have to do your job. They've virtually said it; the only way you could do your job is by rubber-stamping what the Liberals decide and what the Liberals want.
In opposition, our responsibility is to hold the government and keep the government accountable, and that's increasingly difficult given that the Liberal ministers appear to have very little understanding of their respective portfolios. The longer we sit, the more that becomes apparent, Mr. Speaker. What we have before us is the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon. Now, if we just look back to the previous budget, which at that time was also the largest budget, the Liberals presented the NDP budget - they didn't claim any ownership. They said it had to be done because, "We promised the electorate, and that's the only way we can proceed with governing the Yukon to provide some certainty." Well, I had an opportunity to point out the other avenues and options to the Liberals when this Legislature first met.
There were other options, and there was an opportunity when the Liberals took office to provide their rubber stamp on the direction that they wished the Yukon to take. But no, we're on an NDP - I don't know whether we should call it a Liberal-NDP budget or an NDP-Liberal budget. It must have been very, very good for the Liberals to take ownership of it. Either that, or they didn't have an understanding of what they were doing, and that was the only avenue open to them. I would speculate that the second was probably more close to reality than the first.
So, for the past while, we have been attempting to deal with the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon. And, Mr. Speaker, that's where we want to be. We want to be in budget debate because that's our role in the spring session. Further to that, the government of the day is allowed to bring in minor housekeeping amendments on various bills.
I have gone back in Hansard, and I cannot find a session where there were 11 bills on the Order Paper for the spring session. I can't find a previous session, and I went back a number of years. Perhaps the Liberal government could point to the occasion when there were that many bills on the Order Paper in a spring session, which was designed for budget debate.
The opposition addressed the housekeeping bills. Yes, we were given prior warning of the bills and were advised they were housekeeping, but they didn't table them. In fact, they held off tabling a number of the bills until we were into this session for a considerable length of time, Mr. Speaker.
So that was the first opportunity we had to see a number of these bills. Five of the 11 were housekeeping. They have been dealt with. They were dealt with very, very expediently by the opposition, and we were told that the government of the day, the Liberals, control the business of the House, and they made it abundantly clear that they wanted to debate all of these other bills, which are of a non-housekeeping nature - very heavy-handed.
The memorandum of understanding that was agreed to, that we would all re-sign, had been re-signed, and the Liberals won't even acknowledge that that has been done. The only thing that counts is their interpretation of reality and their interpretation of what a housekeeping bill is.
Mr. Speaker, we have a bill before us currently for which we have housekeeping amendments to the housekeeping amendment. It just goes on and on. We can accept that the three housekeeping amendments that are being proposed to the one bill are exactly that - housekeeping - but the main bill is certainly not a housekeeping bill.
The motion speaks well to the fact that the Yukon Liberal government has needlessly delayed the conduct of public business during the current legislative sitting by refusing to be open and forthcoming in response to legitimate questions from the opposition.
How many times, Mr. Speaker, has the question in Committee of the Whole been posed to a minister, and the minister might as well have been absent from the House because they refused to stand up and answer - refused, time and time again, Mr. Speaker, and refused to even give consideration to answering the same question?
The opposition has but one opportunity to question the minister with respect to the budget. That is in this forum here. That's what we are doing. We are doing are job in opposition.
The tools are before us. We are utilizing these tools. Mr. Speaker, it is the Liberal government that is refusing to answer and, by doing so, they are prolonging this sitting to agonizing lengths. The Liberal government set the agenda. They have stacked the agenda with non-housekeeping legislation, and then the ministers responsible for the various departments refuse to answer the questions, time and time and time again, Mr. Speaker.
The previous speaker from the Liberals went on at great length about non-applicable legislation and non-applicable questions, and she cited the colour of the bus in Old Crow. Mr. Speaker, that is a very important and critical question.
And we still have the members in the Liberal caucus shaking their heads. First of all, the Liberals said that they were going to uphold the entire NDP budget. Then we hear trickling out that they're not going to honour the one commitment to provide a bus for Old Crow, and that was the subject of very extensive debate in this Legislature. We saw the usual Liberal flip-flop back and forth, back and forth. I'm told today that there is a bus on order and that they will be getting a bus, but the colour is important, in that, if it's a school bus, it has to be a specific colour. If it's not a school bus and if it's a community bus, it can be any other colour that they so choose. I would just hope they would consult with the residents of Old Crow so that the colour is acceptable to that community, because it's a community bus.
But just the amount of debate that we went on, we went on at great lengths just trying to get the information from this government. And why? All they had to say was, "Yes, we're going to provide a bus," or, "No, we're not going to honour that commitment and we're not going to provide a bus." That simple decision couldn't even be made by this Liberal caucus. They wanted to make it one way; political pressure was to the other direction. So much for Liberal promises, Mr. Speaker; so much for doing what they say they're going to do. On the other side of the equation, if it's for a Whitehorse riding represented by any one of these Liberals, the project goes ahead, whether it be the twinning of Hamilton Boulevard at some half-a-million dollars over projected cost, they can find the money right there, right now, boom. Whether it be the Grey Mountain Primary School, we can find $4 million, $5 million or $6 million to build a new school; it doesn't matter, we can do that, because we promised we were going to do that. But you look in the same Liberal documents, and there was a school promised for Mount Lorne. Mind you, the caveat for Mount Lorne was "after we consult and if the school population justifies it." And I'll send over a copy of the Liberal election campaign platform for the members in the Liberal caucus that are shaking their heads. It's right in black and white, Mr. Speaker. But that's the way it is with this government.
Mr. Speaker, what we have is a wonderful opportunity for the Member for Faro to take back what is being said by the Liberals, give it to one of his residents, and bag it.
That will grow anything in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker. That will grow anything. Due to the trade and investment fund, which was initiated under the previous government, Mr. Croteau had an opportunity to get out there. He has a wonderful product that could be further augmented and enhanced if he were to contain some of the information that the Liberals provide and bag it in a similar manner. It's a wonderful opportunity for Mr. Croteau.
The focus of this Liberal government today appears to be their own little in-house agenda. Where they are obtaining their political advice from is what everyone is beginning to wonder. They have fumbled the ball. In fact, they have dropped it with respect to the economy. The economy has gone from being in dire straits to being in a depression state.
And the Premier points out that retail sales are up. The question that needs to be answered is that, if retail sales are up, how much is being exported from the Yukon? A large part of the increase in retail sales can be directly attributed to sales going into other jurisdictions for one reason or another.
The same thing bodes for wholesale trade. When you talk to a lot of the suppliers, it's very interesting to learn where their products are going these days. If it weren't for that export market, we would be in very, very desperate shape.
One of the e-mails I received today was from a Yukon lawyer, encouraging me to give speedy passage to An Act to Amend the Trustee Act. In his presentation he says, "Currently, 40 percent of my work is offshore and we are hoping to increase it. We are losing ground because of the very adverse economic times that the Yukon is facing with a lack of mining activity. Give us a couple more tools." This lawyer put his finger right on the pulse of the problem. The resource extraction industry, due to the tenacity of the Minister of Renewable Resources in following through on his Yukon protected areas strategy initiative and turning the Yukon into one massive series of parks, is destroying investor confidence in the Yukon - virtually destroying it. It doesn't matter if you look at the mining exploration; that investment has gone everywhere else but the Yukon. Oil and gas - we could be doubling, tripling, quadrupling our production of natural gas from the Kotaneelee fields. We know it's a very rich basin but there isn't any incentive to do so - not in the Yukon anyway. Just adjacent to the Kotaneelee, that area will be producing in short order, piped into the Alliance pipeline and headed off to markets somewhere else.
You would only have to look at the areas that this government is responsible for. One has to shake one's head. All that the Liberals have accomplished is creating more and more and more government. It doesn't matter where you look.
Areas that were addressed by NGOs previously - those contracts have been cancelled and the projects taken in-house at 50 percent or more cost initially. At the end of a few years, we don't know how much those costs are going to be increased and we don't know what the level of accountability is going to be. Some of these areas that have been taken over, such as the group homes, are the subjects of considerable concern, because in spite of spending half again as much money on their operations, there is no way to monitor them. The horror stories we're hearing of late from some of the occupants of these group homes are not just alarming, Mr. Speaker, they are very, very serious and must be addressed.
So much for Liberal initiatives - cancelling contracts and taking them in-house. The Liberals stand up and say that they're rebuilding the economy. They don't rebuild the economy by doubling the size of government.
The fourth section of this motion that we have before us sums it up very well. It states, "(4) it is not in the best interests of the Yukon public to allow the government's budget to pass without a thorough examination of its implications;" Mr. Speaker, that's what we're here for: to keep the government accountable.
The spring session is for budget debate.
Speaker: Order please. The member has one minute to conclude.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
We want to get back into budget debate. We want to see and scrutinize this Liberal budget - their first, although it is really their second. We want to debate it and examine it. That's our responsibility.
The Liberals have cluttered up the agenda with all sorts of other initiatives that have no right to be at this sitting of the session. And if they want them here, I guess we have to scrap the memorandum of understanding that is existing, like they have done - thrown it out the window - and extend this session.
I am in support of this motion and will be voting for it, and I hope that the Liberals, after hearing the debate on this motion, will recognize their failures and address their responsibility to Yukoners.
Mr. McLachlan: I'm going to commend the Member for Watson Lake for bringing out four - that's all, four - very exact words: "biggest budget ever tabled". That's all.
Yes, it's a very big budget, and it's a big budget for a reason. There's a lot of work to be done out there, picking up the neglect from where the previous government left of. The mine closed in Faro in February of 1998, and the real truth came down in April 2000 - 26 months straight downhill.
It's true that it's a big budget, but there's a reason for it and it's a very good reason: neglect, and lots of it.
Now, the Member for Watson Lake and the Member for Klondike have referred to only money in the ridings that are held by Liberals.
If that were the case, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun wouldn't be quite so happy courtesy of the Member for Riverdale North in his capacity as the Minister of Education. Every time the Minister of Education gets on his feet and talks about the capital budget, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun can't resist himself. He breaks into that well-known schoolboyish grin and says, "I'm winning." If the Liberals were only putting money into Liberal ridings, there wouldn't be a school in Mayo; we're doing it. We're fixing the problem that the previous government had the opportunity to do but didn't do. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun knows that the plans are underway to work on school replacement in Carmacks and, if the Liberals were only putting money into Liberal-held ridings, he would not be so happy with the work that's going into the Eliza Van Bibber School modifications in Pelly Crossing.
Mr. Speaker, we're out there doing it. At least, we're trying to do it. We're only being hindered by the efforts of the official opposition members.
There are countless examples in this Legislature where ministers have got on their feet to answer questions. The most recent was the work by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, who would answer the question and sit down. The official opposition members changed three words and asked the question again. The Minister of Justice got up and answered it. The Member for Klondike changed six words, and the Minister of Justice answered the question. This is what has happened. This is why we have been running since February 22 in this Legislature.
The members are keeping us here for non-questions, not questions. That's what's happening.
The member says that the motion further hampered the work of the official opposition. The only hampering that's going on is the hampering that the members lay out themselves. They're making the track; they're making the problems. That legislation is good legislation; that is a good budget. Look at the example from the Member for Klondike, when the An Act to Amend the Trustee Act came forward, he jumped to his feet and said, "My friends in Toronto and Vancouver don't like it." Yet today in this Legislature he admits that he received an e-mail from a lawyer saying, "Please get on with speedy passage; it has got some good points," after trying his very best to destroy the work of the Premier over the past two days in moving forward on An Act to Amend the Trustee Act.
We on this side of the House have no problem whatsoever with those two words, "constructive criticism." That's what democracy is all about; that's what debate is all about. The problem is coming from the fact that it is far from constructive criticism. It's more likely labelled "destructive opposition." We're doing the job. Why impede it unnecessarily?
The Member for Klondike has said, "We want to get into the budget debate." We do too. It has been two months from when the Premier got up and read the budget speech on February 22, and we've done two departments. Yes, it's 40 percent, but there are a whole lot of other departments out there that have a lot of interest in the remaining 60 percent.
When this government did get additional help from Ottawa, $46 million, we took the first $4 million, and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services put it into the Klondike riding, put it into Dawson City. We think the Member for Klondike appreciates it. We're not so sure, because 48 hours later, he's back in this Legislature with a motion saying, "I didn't get enough; I want more."
That's not good enough; 10 percent of the entire capital budget for the federal airport improvement program goes into one airport, one riding, one very substantive improvement. What does the member come back and do? Not good enough. Hardly.
Mr. Speaker, we're doing the right thing. All you have to do is read Hansard to see where the wrong thing is being done.
In closing, I have two things. The members for Watson Lake and Klondike, in their capacity as critics for Economic Development, are missing a golden opportunity. We can take the words opposite there, bag it and sell it for corn. That should bring a lot of dollars into the territory. But also, I'm going to nominate the Member for Watson Lake for the prestigious Booker Award, for the best novel submitted in a fiction category for the year 2001.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, just by the response from the Liberal side opposite to this motion, I rest my case. I rest my case. They try desperately and in vain to point the finger at this hard-working group of individuals who are doing their best to represent the Yukon public in this House and hold the government accountable. Unfortunately, the Liberal side opposite has no desire to be accountable to the Yukon public.
The Member for Riverdale South even had the audacity to say that nobody cares.
That just shows what little regard the members opposite have, not only for this Assembly but for the Yukon public in general. It is a disgraceful display -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader on a point of order.
Ms. Tucker: I believe the member is misspeaking himself. The Member for Riverdale South was indicating that nobody cares about the antics going on in this Legislature.
Mr. Fentie: On the point of order, it's customary to recite what area of the Standing Orders has been contravened. I believe there is no point of order. This is merely a dispute between members.
Speaker: Well, unfortunately I am not sure that I heard exactly what was said for the point of order. I am not going to go out on a limb right now and rule one way or another, basically because I was busy here and if there was something that was said that was offensive, I certainly didn't pick it up. So I would like to review the Blues and I will rule on it another day. Okay? Is that fine?
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I was setting the record straight for the member opposite.
Speaker: I have ruled previously that simply setting the record straight is not a point of order and if that is the case, then I will make that ruling now. There is no point of order. I will ask the Member for Watson Lake to continue.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I was saying, it is a disgraceful display and it is truly unfortunate because we all should be focused on what needs to be done on behalf of Yukoners and not have to deal daily in this Legislature with the side opposite trying to deflect and overcome their deficiencies by making this constant accusation in other areas. It's somebody else's fault, it's some other government's fault, it's some other reason - by continually ignoring the fact that it is their duty to be accountable for what they do, what they say, and for the budget they have tabled. It was their duty to also follow the agreement.
By the structure of that agreement, they have shown, on a number of occasions, that they have overloaded this budget sitting with legislation and that this legislation was not of a housekeeping nature, but it is of a substantive nature.
I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, that this motion is actually, in the final analysis, a motion that could really help the side opposite in performing their duties. It does not mean that we're going to be here for weeks and weeks and weeks, beyond where we are today; it means that we all will conduct the public's business in this Legislature as it is intended to be conducted.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I'm hopeful that the side opposite will support this motion to try to bring themselves back to at least some level of credibility in the eyes of the Yukon public.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Disagree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Disagree.
Ms. Tucker: Disagree.
Mr. McLarnon: Disagree.
Mr. Kent: Disagree.
Mr. McLachlan: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Ms. Netro: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 121 negatived
Speaker: Order please. Before we proceed with the next motion, the Chair would like to address a matter of order and decorum in the Legislature.
Earlier today, while the Chair was reading into record the Member for Watson Lake's motion, the Member for Klondike simply stood up and walked out of the Legislature. Other members were moving around and out of their seats.
The Chair must insist that, when the Speaker speaks, at any time, members shall sit down and the Speaker must be heard without interruption.
We'll continue now, please.
Clerk: Motion No. 86, standing in the name of Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 86
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Economic Outlook 2001 clearly shows that the Yukon Liberal Government's efforts to rebuild Yukon's shattered economy are not working; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to revitalize the Yukon economy by implementing the following actions:
(1) amending the 2001-2002 Budget by reducing operation and maintenance expenditures and increasing capital spending to help create more private sector jobs,
(2) recommending proposals to the Government of Canada that will enable Yukon First Nations that have yet to settle their land claims to keep a more equitable portion of their settlement money rather than having to pay between 55% to 65% of this money to cover land claim negotiation costs,
(3) ensuring that there are no more massive withdrawals of land from all development under the Yukon Protected Areas Strategy or Special Management Areas established under land claims,
(4) planning the construction of a resource road into southeast Yukon in conjunction with the First Nation governments and the community of Watson Lake in order to provide access to timber, minerals and oil and gas resources in the area,
(5) increase personal income tax exemption, and
(6) eliminating the federal and territorial taxes on gasoline and diesel as well as the GST on home heating fuels and electricity.
Mr. Jenkins: What we have before us is an excellent motion this afternoon. It could provide a blueprint for the current novice Liberal government as to the way of the future, but given the importance of budget debate, I'd like to stand down my motion so we could proceed with the business of budget debate at this time.
Unanimous consent re Motion No. 86
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Klondike has requested unanimous consent of the House to proceed no further with Motion No. 86 at this time. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: There is unanimous consent, so the House will not proceed any further with Motion No. 86 at this time.
The Chair directs the Clerk to identify the Member for Klondike as having adjourned debate on Motion No. 86 on future Order Papers.
May I have your further pleasure?
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: My request was quite specific in that I requested consent to stand down the motion and to move into budget debate. That was my request - to stand down my motion and move into budget debate, Mr. Speaker.
Unanimous consent re: Motion No. 86 and Bill No. 4
Speaker: Order please.
The Chair misunderstood the full measure of the request for unanimous consent from the Member for Klondike. As the Chair now understands it, the request for unanimous consent would be for the following:
(1) that the House proceed no further today with Motion No. 86; and
(2) that the House be automatically resolved into Committee of the Whole and that it be restricted to dealing with Bill No. 4 in Committee of the Whole.
Is that correct? Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. The House will not proceed with Motion No. 86 at this time. The Chair directs the Clerk to identify the Member for Klondike as having adjourned debate on Motion No. 86 on future Order Papers.
As we are now in Committee of the Whole, the Speaker will now leave the Chair.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will now continue with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Government Services - continued
Chair: We will start with general debate. Mr. Jim, I believe you have the floor.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I believe that we said our spiel, and we are waiting for a question from the sitting last week, I think it was, regarding local hire. I responded by saying that this government of course supports local hire for Yukon residents and residents in the community in a number of ways. Under the contracting directive, evaluation points are awarded on value-driven contracts for Yukon content, giving local companies a competitive advantage.
Another way is that, on construction jobs within communities, contractors commit in their tender documents to make best efforts to use subcontractors and workers from the local community.
The government makes best efforts to support community-based businesses when contracting for goods and services, by developing communication channels with local business organizations and by putting community-related contracting decisions in the hands of community-based employees.
Also, when Yukon government positions are staffed in the communities, preference is always given to the residents of that community and the surrounding area.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for allowing me the few extra seconds there to be able to finish writing down what the minister said.
That's not quite where we were when we finished off. As I recall, I painted a scenario using the community of Ross River and the community of Faro as examples. I had asked the minister, through forums such as the Deputy Ministers Review Committee - I also believe there's a Ross River committee, or certainly it's a topic of the Ross River round table and an ongoing topic of discussion at the DMRC. And I had asked the minister if the minister could go away and talk with other officials, talk with other Cabinet ministers such as the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and talk with caucus in general to find out if their caucus feels it is warranted that we should start to focus just a little bit more.
The minister knows that I've sat on that side of the House. The minister knows that I was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Community and Transportation Services has those same types of issues. I know that's not the topic of discussion here, but it certainly correlates. It's related to what we're talking about.
I was just in Ross River this weekend. I spent time in Ross River talking to people. Two themes come out. Again, I've reiterated these themes with the minister. We're tired of living in Faro's shadow. It has even been said that Faro doesn't have a shadow now. I said, "Come on; it's a community." It's a community. We're not like the Yukon Party's leader, who actually got into Carmacks and said, "In 10 years there won't be a community of Carmacks because...."
Now, granted, it is not the Member for Klondike, it was the Member for Porter Creek North at the time, but that is a bunker-driven mentality on behalf of the Yukon Party. So I ask the minister to talk to his colleagues and to talk to the different ministers to find out if there is a way or a process for doing that, and I just have to ask the minister to do that.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I see this as no problem as we already do speak to each other on different issues that pertain to local hire - one is local hire, the other is where are in the community and what is happening in the community, a heads-up, so to speak.
Mr. Keenan: So, I asked the minister what instruction he gave to the deputy minister or what instruction has he given to the deputy minister through the Minister of Community and Transportation Services to their deputy minister.
Hon. Mr. Jim: We are looking at doing community visits this coming summer. We will be looking at a number of different issues that come within the different communities. I am looking at meeting with the round table during this summer. Hopefully at that time we will be able to sit down with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and talk about how it is that we can best impact the community and provide good services to that community.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I take it from the minister's answer that no instruction has been instructed, and it just hasn't been last week. I think the last time we left off on this debate was approximately 10 days ago, or a good two weeks ago. And even in government terms, that's ample time to instruct a deputy minister. At least I would assume, based on my role as a Cabinet minister at the time, that the minister meets with his deputy minister on a daily basis and that they have these types of instructional dialogues and critiques and work together, finding out where it's going and if the department is meeting its objectives and that type of thing. What I hear from the minister is that the minister has not given any instruction to the deputy minister, that the minister has left it up to the political machine, which will be making community visits this year and, at that point in time, we will be meeting and working with the round table. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: At this point, I feel that it's necessary that we see what the issues are out in the community, and I felt that it was really not necessary to give a directive to the deputy minister until we know the general situation in the community, and we will be working toward a resolution.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, I find that simply disgusting.
Mr. Chair, I think it's becoming a reoccuring theme in this House - this democratic House, with 17 duly elected members of the Legislative Assembly, some on the government side and some on the opposition side - and it's disgusting that we cannot use this House as it is supposed to be used.
The theme is to be one of treating the opposition as being totally insignificant. I brought issues forth in Committee of the Whole. I brought issues forth in Question Period and I have been talked down to, browbeaten and not been given answers. As this gets bigger, we just create political footballs, and that's not what I want to create on any issue.
I do wish for the government to give me the respect that I deserve. If they do not respect me, as an MLA, then they should certainly respect the communities and people I represent. I am the duly elected representative of Ross River-Southern Lakes.
I took the time to explain to the minister, when I was on my feet previously, about the round-table concept. The round-table concept came from me. I spoke to my caucus about it. I gave the examples of a community in distress. The whole caucus and Cabinet of the Liberal government was in Ross River last year. I was there. I witnessed, first-hand, some of the issues that went on.
At the ribbon-cutting, there was back-slapping, self-congratulation, and that's what I've seen and witnessed. Now, if that's a community visit - issues don't come out of that type of issue. So, when the minister does meet with the community, I would ask him to have the community prepared at that point in time. Just don't blow in and do a round-table meeting - the minister's here, good to see you, here's your box of Tim Hortons doughnuts and out - because I'm bringing a real issue to you, through due process, the democratic process, what I'm elected to do and supposed to bring to the minister. And the minister says he hasn't done anything - absolutely nothing on it - except suggest to me, when I asked the question, that the minister was going to go to Ross River on a community visit and, "By gosh and by golly, if we're lucky, we might even have the Minister of Community and Transportation Services there with me." Well, Mr. Speaker, that isn't going to cut it.
The second thing that I'd heard when I was in Ross River this weekend was about jobs. There are seven jobs that are within - not contract-type work, not in highway road building and not, at this point in time, in community-based business, but the last bullet that the minister gave me was about YTG positions preference to communities and surrounding areas. I guess that's the bullet that we're going to focus on here at this point in time, because I understand all the issues on the other side and I understand how it works. I also understand the training components, how they can work, how you can bring in the satellites, such as Yukon College and these other issues, and focus on a piece of work to train people. I understand that. That is not the issue at this point in time.
The issue is this: what is the minister going to do to ensure that Ross River, as a recognizable community, that has been around and that people have occupied for many, many years, have worked at a traditional economy in that area for many, many years and it has now evolved into more of a global and modern economy, a contemporary economy - however you want to say it. With that contemporary economy comes full-time equivalent positions within government, FTEs or person years - whatever you want to call them. The bureaucracy has its own language that keeps evolving.
What is the minister going to do specifically to ensure that those types of jobs - and those jobs are secretarial jobs, those jobs are janitorial jobs. They are not jobs that require university degrees, I believe, if I can say it in that manner. They don't require that. They might require a little bit of brushing off, some training initiatives. But if government in its wisdom is desirous of maintaining quality communities, then that would be a vehicle that we would use to do that, and that's what I asked the minister to look at and to examine.
So I am disappointed that the minister hadn't even proceeded to give some instruction to a deputy minister to take to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee, because we have a great wealth of talent at that level and elsewhere in the bureaucracy. It's a matter of the politicians coming forth through policy to focus on it, and the government does have the authority to do that.
So now I'm asking the minister at this point in time: does the minister see that as being a beneficial move for the town of Ross River?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'm a bit distraught - I guess that would be the word - with the view that the member opposite has with regard to hiring procedures. The member reiterated earlier on that the member was the Minister for Community and Transportation Services, and he himself should know that the general hiring policy is the responsibility of the Public Service Commission. I can only create policy in local hire and I can provide services in contracts. But in terms of going out and hiring people in the communities, that's beyond my departmental duty.
At this time, he asks what government is doing, what this government is doing in terms of working with Ross River.
We have, from time to time - and we realize there are a number of situations aside from hiring. There are other issues from other departments. Again, I would like to say that I cannot really comment on what we can do right now at this point, because the meeting still has not happened with the round table or the community of Ross River and the people within Ross River. So, until that meeting does happen during the summer, we will maintain the status quo. We have been doing good services within the community of Ross River and we support all communities and all Yukoners in hiring, in working and in employment.
Mr. Keenan: I'll say that the Liberal machine supports all Yukoners. We have a pork-barrel company here that is just about as large as you want, so if you're a member of the Yukon Liberal Party or affiliated in any way, you can certainly get your way. But if you're just Joe Yukoner out there in the communities, not really a political animal, a New Democrat or a Yukon Party or anything, if you're just average Joe Yukoner who expects good government and expects his MLAs to work for him, then you're not even on the map with this Liberal government.
That's what I'm hearing from this minister.
The minister suggesting that I'm suggesting that the minister do the hiring and then saying that the minister does not do the hiring, that's through the Public Service Commission, and that there isn't a role for the minister, well, that's ludicrous. It's absolutely ludicrous. They're the leaders. The minister is a leader. The minister is part of a Cabinet that sets policy.
Now, I know that the minister is smiling at my comment about being a leader to the person next to him and finds that it's funny. I guess I'll have to take it back. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is not a leader, or else we would not be in this position that we are in at this point in time.
I'm not asking the minister to hire. I'm asking the minister to develop what the minister said - just what the minister said a little while ago - preference to a community and surrounding area. I do not necessarily see where all these people from Ross River are working in Faro because in Faro and surrounding area - talk about Ross River and the community of Ross River at this point in time and the seven jobs that are not there for them and that are underneath the tutelage of this government and different government departments. I asked the minister to go away and to find a way that we can focus to bring it back to that very important aspect of local hire. I'm not talking about doctors, lawyers or others in those professional fields. I am talking about janitor-type services and secretarial services, and if this government truly wanted to empower a community, that this government could through training trust programs, et cetera - and I have gone through this with the minister before. So when the minister finishes reading the note from the Member for Faro, would the minister stand up and report on that note?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, once again, we do have this flip-flop view that this minister from Government Services is a leader and then is not a leader.
We don't know exactly where the members opposite are coming from, from time to time. But what we do know is that we are rebuilding the Yukon economy. We are improving the relations with the federal government. We are investing in the youth and we are strengthening the communities. By strengthening the communities, the member opposite should know that we are building a school in Mayo and we are saving taxpayers over - and I've got to say over - a million dollars.
I am afraid I owe the member opposite an apology. Earlier I stated that the government saved almost a million dollars by redesigning and retendering the Mayo school.
I have before me the numbers from the various departments and, as I said, my earlier figures were slightly inaccurate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jim: We didn't save almost a million dollars. The people of Mayo are getting a school they can be proud of. In fact, we saved over a million dollars.
The costs associated with the retendering included design and engineering, and printing and advertising of tender packages, legal costs, start-up costs, re-surveying, and snow removal.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. We will be coming to the issue of the Mayo school at some point in time, but that's not the question I had asked, and I would very much prefer - I know it's general debate - the general debate to be focused on the issue at hand, and the issue at hand was local hire for Ross River.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. General debate is free-ranging on both sides of the House.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, as I was stating earlier on, I was only reiterating the fact that the member opposite seems to think there are only the Liberals, the people who back the Liberal Party, who are getting the pork barrel, as the member opposite seems to so easily bring forth.
It isn't. We looked at the Mayo school and that area as people from the Yukon benefiting from this government, and we are creating confidence in this government, and we are rebuilding the Yukon's economy.
We are starting things out there that the previous government seems to have totally ignored over the past few years. In addition, we were quite happy to be able to provide winter work, apprenticeship and that, with training to residents of Mayo, on top of the retendering of the Mayo school contract.
This provides apprenticeship training for residents in Mayo, while providing more housing for the people of Nacho Nyak Dun First Nations. The people of Mayo are getting a school that they can be proud of and the total savings to the taxpayers of the Yukon is over $1 million.
I would like to say also, Mr. Speaker, that we are looking at Ross River. We are quite concerned. We have outstanding issues there and this government is working toward that. We are taking it at a pace so that we are not going to be doing damage control. We are going to be working at this with a little bit more cohesiveness, working together to see how we can impact the services in order to provide a good quality of life for the community of Ross River.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much for the Liberal theme song, the commercial break, the Liberalism and the red machine. Now we are back to Ross River.
I would very much appreciate it if I could ask the minister when this is going to start. How are we going to do this, working together? What are the minister's plans?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the plan is to sit down and listen, first of all, to what needs to be said in the community and making arrangements to have this meeting. We need to go around to the different communities, not only Ross River, but other communities, as well - as many as we can - and look at the issues with Government Services and how it reflects on their community and what it is that we can do to improve the level and quality of service.
Aside from having the consultation, we are looking at better one-on-one consultation with the different communities. When you look at Ross River, in a large part, it's a First Nation community. We will be speaking to First Nation communities and talking to the people in the community as a whole.
Mr. Keenan: So when the minister gets out of here - and they all have the group hug at the press conference and the Liberal buggy at the end of the session, do the self-congratulations - the minister is going to take a look. That's what I hear the minister saying. The minister's going to go out there and take a look. We're going to do it because we want to do the right thing. We're going to find a way to do the right thing. So the minister's going to go out there and have a look at things.
Let me suggest to the minister that, while the minister's having his look, the clock is ticking. This Liberal government has a four-year mandate; 25 percent of that mandate is behind this government at this point in time. In the fourth year, the government is not going to be going out there and doing anything other than looking toward getting re-elected. So that might be a lucrative year for the communities, because there are no Liberal seats in the communities, bar one. That's not much time. And any community goodness that will come - if there is community goodness that comes from the minister taking a look out there, even if he has the whole Cabinet with him - will not be beneficial to that community until the following year as you work through the process. If it's a legislative change, it has to come here. Now, we have no memorandum of understanding. We have a capital budget process that is happening in the fall. There might be legislation there. We have it here. The Liberals have done much to confuse the process here, thanks to all 11 of them. But out of that confusion, there must be some idea that we have to start to do some work and we've got to move forward.
And what I'm saying to the minister is that seven positions that are not held by Ross River people - and I understand the demographics, the knowledge that it's predominantly First Nation, but it's not all First Nation people. The usefulness of the round table is to bring the community together and maybe to look at something new and unique under the Municipal Act, because the Municipal Act is certainly enabling legislation and it allows people to come together to do what they want for their benefit.
So, they can pick and choose. They can be a city, a town, a corporation, whatever. It's all outlined within the Municipal Act and it's good summer reading for the minister. I know it's not his department but it certainly fits in with what I think the minister is trying to accomplish in community growth, because I do believe that the minister is trying to do the right thing. I honestly believe that. Deep down in my little soul, in my heart, I think the minister is trying to do the right thing, but the minister -
Well, there was a quote from a young lady I spoke to in Health and Social Services yesterday. She was speaking about another minister, but I think it's applicable here. She said, "The minister can see what's right in front of him but he can't see what's around him." And, boy, I listened to that, because as I talked with this young person about what she perceives, I wasn't politically bashing or anything. I was trying to get a deeper understanding so that I could work with this government and do my job.
But what I hear now is they do not want us to do our job because even the leader of the official opposition has not warranted us bringing it forth. Based on his experience as a chief, as a Cabinet minister, as an MLA, as a leader of the official opposition, it is not warranted because we haven't heard it from the communities. We haven't. Yet there are only 350 people in rural Yukon who are represented by this government. So, if you look at the other couple of hundred thousand square miles that are represented by the official opposition and the third party, then we do have a voice.
Chair: Order please. All members here represent all members of the public of the Yukon Territory. Just because you are elected in Ross River does not mean that you are not representing people from Teslin or from Beaver Creek. All government members represent Yukoners, as all opposition members represent all Yukoners. It's important that we make sure we understand that we are representing Yukoners here.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'm not sure if I'm supposed to argue about that point, but I take exception to that point because I don't think it's categorically right.
Chair: I'll take a two-minute consultation.
Order please. It is actually absolutely imperative that you take no exception with this, Mr. Keenan. It is impossible to challenge a Chair's ruling unless you present a formal censure or formal proceedings in the House. The member may continue.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, as I move through my riding and through the people who elected me, as being a representative in this Legislature as the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, I'm duly elected by those people. I represent those folks. I listen to other people in the territory because I'm a listening kind of guy. I do that.
I am not government, and I do not represent all. I am a member of the official opposition, and I represent people in Ross River-Southern Lakes, and I bring issues to this floor, and I will continue to do that.
Back to Ross River. I guess just to sum it up, the minister is not going to do anything in the interim about local hire provisions - not of a contractual nature and not in the C&TS highway job that is going to be happening on the Campbell Highway. That is not within the bailiwick of the minister opposite. But nothing is going to happen in defining what the surrounding area of a community is. Nothing is going to happen in that manner until the minister speaks to the community round table. Have I summed that up correctly?
Hon. Mr. Jim: First of all, what I said was that we will find out what the issues are in the community. At no time did I say that I was to find out what a community is. I know what a community is. I was raised in a First Nation community. I know what a community is.
I also say that the member opposite, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, seems to put things in a different light, and he's very good at it. I have to say that - and I commend him for that. However, I do say that we will be going to the community, we will be consulting with the community, and I also am looking forward to that, because we are looking at keeping the doors open to the community, seeing how we can be able to provide better service to the community of Ross River and to the communities of all of Yukon.
Mr. Keenan: Does the member have any idea of what he's going to be talking about to the community, and what would that issue be?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Basically it's how we can provide service to the communities, and how we can best improve the services that are being provided in the communities with respect to Government Services or, in other words, to other departments. I will, again, convey that message to the ministers who are responsible for reflecting upon that issue.
Mr. Keenan: And the minister is behind this local hire of services.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Local hire will be one of the issues - local hire with respect to contracts and how we provide in the contract agreements of different projects in the Yukon that they have been providing. How does the local hire concept reflect upon them in the community, and is it a good concept within the agreement? Or, if not, is there something that we can do to improve that? Definitely we are looking at solutions.
Mr. Keenan: I heard contracts. I heard community-based business. What I am asking the minister is if the minister is going to - and please, listen. I just want an answer and I am going to move on, but not until I get an answer. And I am not terribly good at spinning things. I am just terribly good at trying to get to the bottom, as a deaf guy should. I guess I have to hear it so I can convey it.
Will the minister be speaking directly to the community of Ross River, through whatever vehicle - whether it's the round table, whether it's just visits with the local business community, whether it's talking with the chief and council, whether it's going to talk to the elders in the elders council - about employment from the territorial government Department of Government Services - I'm sure the Minister of C&TS will be there - Community and Transportation Services - and find a way how we can best take the jobs that are allocated by, I guess, the Public Service Commission and how we can make it better and more focused on the community of Ross River? That's what I want to know.
So that we do have people at the grader station. I do not see any reason why somebody who has been working in the Ross River grader station - in some cases, I think, for 20 years - is not qualified to be the foreman there. I do not see that. I do not see why the foreman has to come from Faro. I do not see why janitors have to come from Faro. I do not see why secretaries have to come from Faro.
I see that this government has to mobilize to find a way that we can put the jobs into the hands of the people who live there and spend the money within the community, whether it's going out for a drink, whether it's going out for something to eat, whether it's going out to buy a football at the local general store or something like that. When people from other communities work within that community, they do not spend that type of money within the community, and surely to God even the Member for Faro would agree with that. Is that what the minister is speaking about, and will the minister be speaking to the community about that concept of local hire?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, once again, I cannot give a view from the Public Service Commission's perspective. However, there are a number of special circumstances that have been forgotten to be talked about here. This position that he's talking about - the highway foreman - is an acting highway foreman position, which is only at Ross River temporarily. It's temporary only. And it has not yet been advertised as a full-time position. When that happens, I imagine that people from Ross River can apply for that position.
Some of the positions at Ross River are due to the fact that they held positions when they lived in Ross River. They then moved to Faro and then bought a house at an attractive price. But under no circumstances were they required to give up their Ross River job because they purchased a house in Faro. That's why he's a little off base here.
Mr. Chair, I also say that we will be hearing their issues and their ideas, and we keep the options for improvement open. Certainly the member opposite stated that he wants to hear me, to get the Minister of C&TS and the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission together. I see that as not a problem. I see that as a good thing, and that we will be working toward how our departments can provide better service in Ross River.
Mr. Keenan: I would call it a good thing too, if you could get three Cabinet ministers into a community, and that they would listen. I find that to be a really good thing. I congratulate the minister for thinking that way, but let's try to do it a little more expeditiously. Let's not wait until the fact, because the clock is a-ticking, as I've said. It's a-ticking away. Things that are recognized now won't be put into place.
I want to go right back to what the minister said about the foreman position, because obviously I know what the contents of the note from Faro are, because I had this conversation with the Member for Faro just yesterday.
Is the minister telling me that the minister feels that there is nobody in Ross River who could fill the position of foreman on a temporary basis?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have no background on the history of the highway foreman at Ross River; however, I know that it is an acting position, that it's only temporary.
Chair: Order please. While we are allowing free-range debate in general debate, I would ask people to at least stay with the department that we're debating.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Chair, and I think that I am within the department because what we're talking about is a community that looks at the government as a government. They look at the Premier as a Premier. They look at the Cabinet as a Cabinet that represents all. So, when I stand on my feet and talk and ask questions about my community of Ross River, the community that I represent - not Haines Junction, not Faro, but Ross River - then I do feel I have the right to do that.
Stay within the department? What I did hear the minister say is that the minister felt that there was nobody in there or that government at large felt that there was nobody in the town of Ross River that could temporarily fill a foreman's position. Well, I say, to quote the Member for Ross River, that's hooey, absolutely full of it. But I thank the minister for clarifying that position, and I thank the Chair for the guidance.
Ross River, Mr. Chair, is a very special community. It's a community that has been moving and growing and doing some really wonderful things in coming together. I would think that, with the resources we have put into that community in the last three or four years - whether it's secondments, training initiatives, capital projects on a million-dollar scale or on a much smaller scale - I think it's a good thing, because we're enabling and facilitating.
We must have put through the round table - well, I don't know how much we have put through the round table but that's certainly a question I guess I'll have to ask in Question Period some other time.
How many resources, both human and fiscal, have we put through the round table to get to the ultimate objective of a healthy community that the community can stand on and so it can grow and prosper and share the local wealth.
That's ultimately where we want to go. That's what the whole concept of the round table was about. It was a round table on social and economic affairs, I guess you could say. It was far-reaching. It was a round table, Mr. Chair, that stretched into every tentacle of government. It stretched into every tentacle of government, even to the Women's Directorate.
That's why I say that when I speak from a community perspective, I have to speak holistically to a community perspective. I have to. It means a great deal to me. I'm not standing in this House to debate meaninglessly for the fun of living in Whitehorse. I am a community person, and I understand the community dynamics. But I represent the community of Ross River, and I represent where they come from.
This is why I now bring to this minister my voice, my helpfulness, if I can, and I have always tried to offer an olive branch to the novice, rookie government opposite me, because I accept that this government is in for another three years. I accept that if I do not try to work with this government, on behalf of my communities - Ross River, Teslin, Tagish, Carcross and every point between the Northwest Territories and British Columbia borders. That is my challenge. I will do that to the best of my ability, and I will continue to do that.
When I look and hear the voice from government speaking on behalf of government on local hire issues - "Maybe it's the jobs the member wants, but we don't really want to listen to him because he might get elected again or something. We're going to go and do our own took-a-look out there, and we're going to have a good see, and we're going to put it in, and we're going to get our next potential candidate. This is what we're going to do, and we're going to make it a political machine." I say right now, "Let's drop the politics here."
You are government for another three years. There are issues that this government could diffuse in a minute. In a New York minute, we could diffuse the health and social issues that are out there. They could be diffused that quickly.
It could diffuse the local hire issues in the community of Ross River, and it could be done that quickly, with just a nod from this government, saying that they take it seriously. I don't want it in the political realm. I want to look, and I want to reach out to the people who are affected. I offer my help and my energy to do that. I am a very important part of this Legislature. I am a critic, and I try to do it in a nice way. Maybe I don't do it in such a nice way at times. It's not perceived to be done in a nice way, but I will continue to bring the voice of Ross River and the communities I represent to this Legislature, and I would like some answers and to be a part of it. I do not want to have to go back to that community, which I very well might do this weekend before I meet the Prince and say to those folks, "I tried. I tried, gang. I did my best for you, Mr. Chair, and co-chairs of the round table. I've done my absolute best, but this is the result I have.
"I'm not sure which ministers are going to be coming forth to talk to you this year, and, yes, I know you have given me ideas for the capital budget and the capital budget process is coming forth now. They might not be coming here until after that fact, and I'm sorry, community, I do not know how and what, in which way I'm going to be able to deliver your voice, because they won't listen to me."
I don't want to take that message back to that community. I want to take the message back to the community that, "Yes, two weeks ago, I raised in the Committee of the Whole debate with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - who claims to be a community person - that local hire issues are near and dear to your heart, the community, and they're near and dear to my heart. We both feel that there is not a reason why there should be a janitor from Faro or whatever from Faro. We've got to find a way. And that minister's willing, and that Premier and her government are willing and able to work with you in that light, and I'm a part of that. I brought that to them." They would say, "Good, Dave. Good work. And Dave, that's not a bad government we have out there, because they're trying to do something."
Now, I'm going to go back and say the minister did rip-all. He did not talk to any of the folks whom he said he had talked to. The talent that we have at the Deputy Ministers Review Committee level is not being utilized in this very important aspect.
The minister said he was going to dust it off and he's going to be coming up to see you. When is he coming? I don't know when he's coming. That's the message I have to take, and that's not the message I want to take. The message that Ross River is going to give is not going to be a pretty message, because I do keep in contact with the community, and the community expresses their frustrations. The community has expressed their frustration on the budget this year, because everything that the community had sort of put forth to government has not materialized. What the departments have put forth on behalf of Ross River has materialized. Is there benefit to the community from the departmental initiatives? Absolutely. Is that community empowerment, or departmental empowerment? There's a deep thought for the minister to think about tonight.
I'm not saying that in a facetious way. I'm saying to think of that, because the minister is a politician. The minister is a leader, and the minister has the skills, and I've said that before and I say it again. The minister has the skills to do the right thing.
I guess I'll go back to that young lady and say that I learned from that young lady. I absolutely learned from that young lady. I learned that, before I put my foot in my mouth, I had better have a look around, and I try to practice that.
So I ask the minister to look at it in that light because, obviously, the local hire is not an issue that this minister wishes to move on.
Can the minister tell me what local hire initiatives are now listed on the government Web site?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We on this side of the House here say that we are doing good work out there and it takes a bit at a time. It's a big ship, and it takes a bit at a time and a little bit at a time, but we are not having this knee-jerk reaction in government. We are doing what the Yukon people want. What do they want there in their communities? That's exactly what we are working at. We are trying to make sure that what we do is good government, and it takes time. With respect to the question about the Yukon government Web site - what are we doing in the Web site to provide local hire - we are providing different contracts and job opportunities that are available with government. There are a number of things that we are doing to entice and to encourage local hire in the communities.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the lecture, Mr. Chair, on behalf of the party that is the government at this point in time. Again, the lovely Liberal theme song - sound bites that keep shooting out there like that and are not picked up. I want the minister to know those sound bites are not being picked up.
The minister has just said there is dick, nothing on the Web site, and that would answer the question.
And the minister speaks about a knee-jerk reaction. I think the people of the Yukon would like to see any reaction. We have a comatose government at this point in time - self-congratulatory, slap yourself on the back. And I really, really - in light of just the last three or four days in the Yukon - take exception to the minister talking about consultation.
Is this consultation before the fact or after the fact, I wonder, because certainly the recent examples of consultation by this government have been after the fact, and by golly, Mr. Chair, I don't call that consultation. I call that covering my butt. That's what that is. It's making excuses after the fact. Oops, should have done that but I didn't, so I now have to go and make apologetic excuses.
The minister is fitting right in with that and I appreciate that, but I think I have enough on local hire to find out what the minister's position on local hire is. We'll have a look at that when we come to it, but in the meantime I do commend the minister for the issues that have happened in the road jobs, for bringing them forth and ensuring that local hire content is in there and building it into the contracts where applicable within the department. I commend the minister for that and I ask him to keep it up - I'm not sure if I can say a personal thing like that. But I ask the minister to keep that type of work up, because the minister professes to be from a community and the minister knows, being just one little guy in an age group as I was, looking for a job and hustling for a job - well, the job I had to find was 1,000 miles away from my hometown. And I guess, at that point in time, that that was the reality of it. What would really rub salt into an open, festering wound within the community now, I think, on local hire issues is to have other people come in and fill those jobs that somebody could do. That's not right. That's absolutely not right, and I know the minister knows that because the minister has been in that same situation.
So I will take a message back that, yes, I have brought this up. I will encourage those folks to look at the government Web sites, and I have looked at every one of those Web sites, and then they will formulate their own opinion.
The minister will have done me a great favour politically, and I will appreciate that, but it will not be doing the people a favour. So, I guess to get out of the politics and into what I would like to think I represent - the real issues and the real people in the communities I represent - Ross River, Teslin, Johnson's Crossing, Squanga Lake, Judas Creek, Tagish, Ten Mile, down the Atlin Road. I will be riding, but I will convey that message. Folks are coming out and they will look and find ways to get local jobs for local people.
So, keep it up. Please keep it up. I appreciate that. I would even appreciate it moreso, and the community would appreciate it moreso, if there are jobs that people could be trained for. Now, I know that this might go only a couple of inches at this time, and you need the whole scale - the foot - to get the degree; at least if there is a vehicle by which we could deliver a few training components, let's do it. Let's see if we can talk to the Minister of Education to look at if there are any dollars available for training - that type of issue - that we could factor that into the contract that is let, so that people will start on that road to self-sufficiency in life. Will the minister look at doing that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I will take that under advisement and look at the number of ways we can deliver training to different communities and how we might be able to create apprenticeship training jobs within communities.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, a constituent of the Premier's has been talking with me for quite some time. I know I have the Premier's attention, and I thank the Premier for that. By golly, I get phone calls while I'm sound asleep, while I'm in the shower. I don't know what it is, Mr. Chair, but people want to talk to me.
People do talk to me, and you, Mr. Chair, I think might be the only one there - pardon me, the Chair might be the only one in government who actually believes me, but folks do talk to me. Folks don't always talk to me on a positive note, either. I'll be very truthful with that. I've had one person out of a hundred now talk to me in the last month, a couple of months, over the winter, who said, "Dave, you shouldn't use that language."
I said, "What language?"
"You shouldn't be using the language of 'dick'."
I said, "Okay, certainly," and I just used it again, and I noticed I used it earlier, and I've been trying to stay away from it, because I do listen to the people. I do listen, and I try to say, "Okay, if that offends you, and you're a constituent of mine, I listen to you and understand, but the other 99 have been saying, 'Keep it up, Davey. Get at 'er." And why? Not because they love me politically, but they see me hitting the issues and the buttons that are real to them.
I've asked questions and represented people who have much more money in the bank than I do. They have much more lucrative holdings - from that level to people on social assistance, and I give each and every one of those folks in those stations in life, and anywhere in-between, the same level of respect that I give you, Mr. Chair. In my mind, that's a great level of respect, and I think that's what Yukoners have to be able to do.
Now, this constituent of the Premier's, who finally got a call back from the Premier after two weeks, phoned me again, because when they first called me, I did not say, "I'm taking this to Question Period."
We don't get answers in Question Period, so why should I bring a question to a hollow, empty vehicle? I wouldn't do that. That was the real reason. The other reason is that I wanted to get some movement and I thought that there was an opportunity and a time to get some movement on it.
Now, the Chair might call me out of order, because I'm not really sure where this goes, and I've been doing some research on this issue. It could lie with the Community and Transportation Services, or it could lie within Government Services, or it could lie nowhere. So I would appreciate just a little bit of flexibility on this one if I could have it, Mr. Chair. It involves the Town of Faro, for goodness sakes. I guess this is not a bash on people, this is not a bash on communities, and this is not a bash on the Premier. This is just to try to get some answers.
Now, there was a sole-source contract that was let by the municipality of Faro. I know it's a municipal contract, but I'm just going to paint the whole backdrop, Mr. Chair. It was let with - well, it wasn't even the special bidding process, you know, where you're given a bid to bid on this job and it's a very select few who do it, but they are people who could do the job and past experience. It wasn't even done in that manner. The town said, "We're going to sandblast this doggone place and get this arena done, and this is who's doing it." And it was quite a lucrative contract. It was a very lucrative sole-source contract. There was nobody in the Town of Faro who could do that job. Now, there are probably people who could do the job, but people in the Town of Faro did not have the capacity to do the job in its entirety.
I see the Premier coming to talk to the member. I will give the Premier the floor.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Keenan: So, Mr. Chair, as I have gone through this process, describing what has happened and how it has happened, the proponents there have let the contract. The gentleman in question had phoned me one morning and asked me what he should do. The words out of my mouth were, "Where do you live?" He said, "I live in this riding." I said, "Talk to your MLA." The MLA in this case happens to be the Premier. So, he did. He took my advice. I said, "You will probably get a lot more results talking to the Premier and MLA than you will from me." So, he said, "I will, Dave."
So, I got a phone call from this gentleman the day before yesterday and twice yesterday, and we finally made contact with one another. I asked him, "Well, what happened? What were the results?" He was upset. I said, "Well, no, I think the Premier did give you the right advice." He was upset that it took 10 days, but I said, "No, the Premier is busy." I say these words, whether people believe me or not, but I say that, "The Premier is busy with lots of things, but I know that she would like to help you with these issues." I know that.
So, what did the Premier say? The Premier did say some pretty good things. The Premier said that she was going to talk to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and her Minister of Government Services. Through that conversation - or talk - I guess, among the three Cabinet ministers, they would find a way to correct this problem, if there is a problem at this point in time, or they would try to find something to make it right. I think that what happened there is that they maybe agreed with the proponent that that wasn't the right thing and that they had no power to do anything because they were municipal-type services.
I know that. I'm the minister who brought in the Municipal Act. It's this thick. And I can't profess to know every detail of what's within that act, but I do know that, if the monies do come from the territorial government and they factor down through a formula - and I'm into the Community and Transportation Services department, Mr. Chair, but it affects the Premier and it affects everybody here. If they do do that through the municipal avenues, is there a way we might be able to find a local hire initiative or get something to say that it has been mirrored by or it's coming from government so that yes, you have to sort of follow the rules that we follow?
I know that is municipalities and that municipalities can do what they want in these cases, but I think, Mr. Chair, that this case is a good example of where we should be trying to do something to correct the current situation.
So the Premier's constituent asked me, "What can I do next, Dave?" And I said to the Premier's constituent, "Well, I think you let government do its thing and let government continue with its work." And if government would continue on the realm of - now, is this local hire, or is this local bidding or local capacity building or those types of issues - the Premier and her two Cabinet ministers will go away and do the right thing.
I believe, Mr. Chair, that we have to have provisions within governments as a whole and that we should not be telling them to do these types of situations to this standard. Or no, we should be saying that they have to be doing things to this standard, but we don't necessarily have to tell them that this is how you do it.
How they do it is their own bailiwick, as First Nations have a different way of doing things. But the standards in some cases, in First Nation levels, is higher than our standards. I am sure that it's like this, but there are standards and those standards would say that if we can save $20,000, why the heck don't we do it?
This community gets the most of any communities, except for Whitehorse with their funding formula, but that shouldn't just be the ticket to ride. That should absolutely be tender. It should be out there, so that if folks in the community cannot do it - and I do believe that folks who are within the community should be doing it if they have the capacity. If they do not, it should not just be sent out to anybody who does have the capacity outside of that municipality. It should not be done in that manner. It should be done in a manner by which we can save some bucks.
I would be hopeful that the minister would be agreeable to that. I know that the minister is poised to answer and describe what's going on, but I would like to ask the minister if the minister agrees that it could be a problem or that it is a problem and that we should look at ways of correcting the problem. If the minister agrees that we should be looking at ways of correcting the problem, we should not just grab solutions out of the air, run down with the solution and slap it on the table, because that's not consultation. That's after-the-fact covering your butt. That's what that is, and that's what this government is pretty much good at doing.
So I guess I have a couple of questions. Does the minister agree that we could do that? Would the minister look to speak to the municipalities or sit down with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services within the next few days? Is it the Association of Yukon Communities this weekend in Watson Lake?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: No, it's the following weekend. Thank you, Madam Premier. I appreciate that.
So it gives us a few extra days there to say that. But does the minister think that that would be warranted so we could put it down? And it has been brought forth, of course, by the Premier's constituent. I think the Premier's constituent has got a good case. He has told me that the Premier is willing to work with him to involve the two ministers so that we might be able to direct the people who spend public money - and it is public money. It comes from a formula from this government, so I'm talking in a pie - not a pie in the sky, but big-picture stuff. I see that I've done what I have to do now and I would like to ask the minister to answer that if I may.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If I might be permitted to respond. I am certain the Minister of Government Services would also like to respond. The situation that the member has described is - I would just like to correct it. I don't have all of my meeting notes from the conversations with the constituent in front of me; however, it is my understanding that it certainly did not take two weeks to respond. I appreciate the member's offer that I am busy but it was not two weeks to respond. I had a most enjoyable conversation with this individual - this is not a new situation. The previous government faced this situation with the City of Whitehorse and their tendering on - I've forgotten which project it is now. It was a major capital project - I think it was the swimming pool. The point is that the question the contractors are bringing is, "Why don't the municipalities, given that they receive grants and operating grants from the Yukon government, follow the same rules?" Well, first of all, this government doesn't dictate to or direct municipalities, as the former Minister of Community and Transportation Services is very well aware.
Secondly, one of the advantages, if the minister will forgive me, of being the Minister of Government Services is, there's always a contracting wrinkle on the desk, usually once a day. It's one of those advantages, I suppose, of being the Minister of Government Services. There is no question about it; this is a difficult issue, and it's one in which we need to work in a cooperative manner with the municipalities.
My commitment to the constituent is that I would raise it with my colleagues, the Minister of Government Services and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services has not been available, as she is working actively on the Canada Winter Games file at this point in time. However, it is something that I have undertaken to do and we will be discussing at length.
The other point that I made to the individual was that I would be raising this with the Association of Yukon Communities director and with the president, knowing that I was attending the Association of Yukon Communities. We've committed to doing that.
The difficulty is that there are a number of ways to approach this. Our preferred approach is to work with the municipalities and to work with the contracting community in ensuring this is dealt with in an expeditious manner.
I appreciate the Minister of Government Services allowing me an opportunity to respond to the member who, quite clearly, was discussing a constituent's concern, and it's a concern that I was very well aware of and had spoken with the constituent as well.
So thank you for the opportunity.
The member opposite is asking what time frame we anticipate. Clearly, the specific contract in question is already underway, and there the issue is with the municipality. We can't right past mistakes, in this case. We can't do that, but we need to deal with it in the future. I have committed that I will be discussing this at Association of Yukon Communities and with the ministers, and I'm looking forward to that. I'm looking forward to a resolution, bearing in mind that the resolution is going to be a collaborative one, and collaboration and consensus building takes some time.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, what can I do but thank the Premier for the words that the minister used and the minister's word of "collaboration". I wish somebody would look up in the dictionary just what "collaboration" means. Does "collaboration" mean including the duly elected members of the third party? I would hope so, because that is actually what I'm trying to do. The Premier speaks about collaboration and that that would be inclusive and that there are many partners.
I brought something forth to the House, and I do appreciate that the Premier would be in the House at this point in time, because I know the Premier's very busy, but the Premier would be proactive on this. I understand and I do realize that the Association of Yukon Communities can cut their own deals, but in this situation, I really, truly do believe that there could have been a better way and that the excuse given by the other fellow who wished to have the work was, "Well, the ice was melting and we had to get it done before the ice melted." I still don't know what that means, but that was the reason.
I would like to give the minister an example of how things can be done in that manner without telling people or directing people, but working with people. When the New Democrat government - and we all know about the goodness that the New Democrat government did for the community of Yukon. Not only did we bring in good legislation, but we empowered and worked with communities. We did not feel the same way as the former leader of the Yukon Party - that some communities were not going to be here forever, that some are going to evolve and dissipate and become ghost towns. We didn't feel that way.
We looked at building arenas and - well, listening to communities and working with them on how they wanted capital dollars directed toward them. I think it was $1 million that we put toward the community of Pelly Crossing within the capital budget approximately three years ago. It was contained within the Community and Transportation Services budget, of which I was the minister.
I remember us having conversations at the caucus, Cabinet and Management Board tables about how we were going to ensure that it's done. We all came to the conclusion - what do we have to ensure? They have $1 million, they want to do this issue, and if they feel that they would like to use a specific contractor - that has been a proven contractor - to get these issues done, they are living up to a standard. They are absolutely getting the best bang for the buck, so we let them do it. It was in that type of manner, so it can be done. We exerted, not our - muscle is a terrible word to use, even influence. We suggested, I guess, that this is what we have to spend, to spend it in the best way we can. Do you want to use this contractor? You don't want to go out and get a bid from these different contractors, because you feel you have the best bang for the buck then, God bless you, and go and do it. That very much turned into a winning situation.
I do believe I remember listening to the radio, and I flipped it on, and it was just when I flipped it on, my God, I thought I was back in the Legislature or had fallen asleep, because the Member for Faro was speaking about the goodness of what the territorial government has done for the community of Pelly Crossing.
I won't say here whether I agreed with the member or not, but certainly, Mr. Chair, this government - the Liberal government - was there. So they have witnessed something that can work.
Mr. Chair, I wrote a letter to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services - holy, moly, I think this was last August when the issue came up to me. At that point in time, it was - I should say what it is, I'm sorry. It's on fuel pricing for the government fleet and for the fleet vehicles to have to go to certain service stations to get their services. That's what this is about. That used to be contained within the Department of Community and Transportation Services. It was moved to Government Services. I wrote a letter then, last summer. I received a letter from the hon. Pam Buckway on December 20, 2000. It was copied to the department, and it was on the fuel purchase policy. It said, "On your letter regarding the fuel, we have forwarded it to the office of Wayne Jim, the minister. He took over the responsibility of fuel purchases in June 2000." Holy, moly, that's almost a year. And it goes on to say, "I trust Mr. Jim's office will provide answers to the questions you have raised."
Now, the question that I raised - is the minister familiar with the issue? I'm sorry, should I explain more?
What it was, then, Mr. Chair - and I'll quote from the letter: "I write with concerns that have been passed on to me" - and this is by an independent fuel retailer - "and he's in my constituency and they say that they are no longer eligible to bid on contracts to supply Yukon government vehicles." And that's a major deviation. Now, the retailers have informed me that, since this past summer, there appears to have been a change in policy direction and it has been done without official notification to them.
Operators of government vehicles have verbally expressed to these retailers that they are no longer able to purchase fuel through their outlets and the operators have also informed retailers that government operators may utilize only Shell retailers. Well, I won't mention the retailers.
One of the retailers - and this is small business, independent folks and I think maybe the minister even knows these folks - has just finished investing. Each year, they put money back into their business, and they just finished investing $12,300 for the purchase of new fuel pumps. Even though the fuel prices are listed as lower, they still pass by. He says that without access to the government market, his business is definitely suffering.
So, this is an issue that came up quite often when I was in Community and Transportation Services. I think it was every six months. Then they went out and put out bids and asked, "Do you folks want this contract?" It was done for all folks, then they brought it in and whoever had the best price got it. It was done on a very good basis. That's not happening at this point in time. Could the minister please provide the rationale for this change, whether it will result in a cost savings to the Yukon government and how the department will now ensure that the small operators - and I think this is the most critical point - have equitable access to this market? In some cases, it's a lucrative market. Especially in the wintertime, it's the only market, other than the local market.
So could the minister just stand on his feet and explain what's happening?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we do, as C&TS was doing, rather than going out and jumping for the good price, it was suggested - and we make recommendations to the departments that they go to the suggested retailer that sells gas at a preferred rate, and that we put that offer out to all businesses that provide fuel.
We put that offer out to all businesses that provide fuel. There is no specific company that we are looking at. The offer is out to all different businesses.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, well we will just go one step at a time on this. I heard from the minister that it is not restricted to just certain retailers, that anybody within that area and - I guess I speak better from a position of Community and Transportation Services because I am familiar with it. So the fleet vehicle graders that are in the Carcross grader station, within that realm that goes from Jakes Corner down to the Atlin Road - and I am sure the minister knows where I am talking about in those areas. Can any jurisdiction, any fuel retailer within that area - pardon me, not jurisdiction, within that area - bid on the government contract - whether it's an independent, a Chevron, a Shell, an Esso, a B and A or whatever? I don't even know all those, but can it happen?
Hon. Mr. Jim: We suggest that the idea is that we look at the lowest price available from retailers, whether it's Shell or whether it's any other company - it is open. That offer is wide open.
Mr. Keenan: So I just ask the minister just to say it. Much like myself, I guess, it's wide open - not wide open; you have to have a business licence; you have to have a service, of course. But anybody in the retail business of selling fuel can bid on the government contracts. The minister can stand and say yes to that, if the minister likes, and then the minister stands and says yes, because I think that's what the minister is saying. Would the minister then be able to go on and tell me what the process is for bidding those contracts?
Hon. Mr. Jim: To the first question, I say yes, that is open to the different companies. The second question that the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is asking at this point in time, we don't have the information to process the bidding process, but we will get that to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes at a later time.
At this point in time, I'm not clear, and I don't have the information in front of me, on the process as to which retailers can bid on these contracts for fuel, but I'm certain it's not a problem, actually, to get that information at a later time.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd very much appreciate that information. I'd very much appreciate that information quickly, if I may. Could the member forward it over to me? Because we're certainly going into that season now. It used to be every six months, so I don't know if it's quarterly, annually, every six months, biannually. I would hate to be remiss in my duties to folks who live in my territory and for them to miss out on this type of contract.
So I would like the minister to send forthwith, I guess, quickly, first the contract and the tendering process so that I may share that with all - and that could probably happen by 6:00.
The other issues I would like to know - and the issues that were in the letter, and I'm not sure if the member has this letter that was sent to the member. I will send it again or table it if the member would like, and I would like those questions asked in there. Will it result in a cost-saving to the Yukon government? Why was it moved from Community and Transportation Services, in this instance, to Government Services, and those type of issues? Would the minister ensure that that happens?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the primary reason for that process being transferred over to us is that we have an electronic billing system in place.
Mr. Keenan: I take it that the member - this is done, not a gosh-and-by-golly, I don't think. We just flip the coin. Well, shucks, it might have. It might have a deck of cards. I forget I'm talking about the Liberal government here.
I would like to know: will that result in a cost-saving to the Yukon government? There must have been an analysis done, and if there has been an analysis done - because we're talking almost a year now. So, I'd like the critique on this, if I could. I'm sure that the minister was going to look at that to see if there was a net savings. Will that happen?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the basic reason for this transfer is to put it over to an electronic billing system, whereby there would be a savings in administrative costs.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to ask if the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would table for me the cost-savings that have occurred.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, we see that as no problem.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's much too late in the day to now go into the Mayo school issue. Certainly, though, I notice that I was preached to a little bit there earlier about the Mayo school, and I very much look forward to talking about the Mayo school with the minister. So I'll let the minister think about that for the evening. It's all-inclusive, it's all open, and I want to know. I want the facts on the table, and I'm sure the minister has those facts, based on the latest question in Question Period, which was quite some time ago.
That's going to come, but in the meantime, Mr. Chair, not to waste the House time, we still have time for another whack here. I'd like to ask a question on e-mail logs and monitoring now. I had a personal visit from the deputy minister of the department at that time. I understand the deputy minister is now acting as the Deputy Minister of Tourism, and it was much appreciated that we could do business in that manner. The deputy minister sat down and said absolutely not. There are no issues of monitoring the opposition or looking at sneaky ways, I guess, being I-spy or whatever, that type of thing; it's not happening.
I would like to just ask one more time - is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, the government does not monitor Internet use by individual employees.
The Department of Government Services provides a secure network infrastructure for government use and a variety of logs are used to ensure the security and integrity of the network. Logs of e-mail traffic have not been requested by Cabinet ministers or their political staff, and there are no circumstances under which the request for log information would be granted.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the member for that. I have just one more question on that, and then we could report progress.
I would like to ask - I think this started in Saskatchewan or someplace like as such. At this point in time, is there any policy in place for, say, government-wide - maybe "policy" wouldn't be the right word, but certainly a directive, but that might not be the right word either - that would caution employees from using the e-mail and the Internet and all those types of things at government expense? I don't think it should be happening and I don't think probably it is happening. But is there something out there that says that we should not be using government tools for these personal types of issues? Is there anything in that aspect?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, being that the time is close to 6:00 p.m., I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jim that we report progress.
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: The ayes have it.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare that report carried.
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 25, 2001:
Tourism Department personnel matter: newspaper articles related to
Gove Inquiry into Child Protection in British Columbia: recommendations (Keenan)
Children's Commission (B.C.): role (Keenan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled on April 25, 2001:
Piped propane distribution system (proposed): information pertaining to (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1530 & 1531
The following document was filed on April 25, 2001:
Alaska Senate Bill #164: re lands adjacent to the Beaufort Sea (Jenkins)