Tuesday, May 8, 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 North American Occupational Safety and Health Week
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Liberal Party and the government to recognize North American Occupational Safety and Health Week, which started on Sunday and runs until May 12.
North American Occupational Safety and Health Week is only week long, but every week of the year an average of 23 Yukoners are injured on the job. This number is much too high. The consequence of workplace injuries are tragic, expensive and time-consuming. The vast majority are 100-percent preventable. I urge every Yukon business to put a plan in place for preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. As the minister responsible for the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, I'd like to remind Yukon workers and employers that the board offers excellent safety training and consultation services.
These are here to help the everyday workplace and develop a safety net that prevents injuries and illnesses.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage all Yukoners to renew their commitment to safety during the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week and to make every week of the year a week to prevent injuries.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I am pleased to be able to rise today on behalf of the official opposition to pay tribute to North American Occupational Safety and Health Week. Here in the Yukon, as all across Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, this is a time to focus the attention of employees, employers and the general public on the importance of preventing injuries, illness and death in the workplace. I want to salute those men and women who are working to reduce the number of workplace accidents, either through their health and safety committees or by taking the time to inform themselves and the people around them about how to do a job safely.
With occupational health and safety, as with other aspects of health, prevention is more effective than the cure. The more we can raise awareness, the more we can do to prevent accidents on the job. It's important that everyone who works for a living knows their rights, especially if they don't have a health and safety committee where they work.
Workers have the right to know about hazardous materials, dangerous machinery and unsafe working practices. All workers have the right to ask for proper health and safety training and everyone has the right to participate in workplace health and safety, ask questions and get involved.
Finally - and this is very important - Mr. Speaker, everybody who works for a living has the legal right to refuse unsafe work. Don't go back to work until you have been advised that the problem has been fixed, and those are your rights.
So, I urge people in the Yukon to learn more about these issues, to get involved and get informed so that we can prevent injuries, illness, and even death on a job.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also rise to join with members in paying tribute to North American Occupational Safety and Health Week as an opportunity to reinforce and strengthen commitments to occupational safety and health in the workplace and to increase public safety awareness.
Mr. Speaker, all injuries at work are preventable. Unfortunately, Canadians continue to have too many injuries. Last year alone, two Yukon workers lost their lives, 36 suffered permanent impairment and over 1,000 experienced work-related injury or illness.
In the last decade, there have been over 20 fatalities on the work site and over 12,000 workplace injuries in the Yukon. Extensive costs each year result from lost hours of production due to shutdowns caused by injuries, related damaged materials, machinery and the pain and suffering of the workers and their families.
To this end, I am pleased to recognize efforts such as the North American Occupational Safety and Health Week as an opportunity to join together with our neighbours to the south to focus attention on the importance of preventing injury and illness in the workplace and to raise awareness of the role and contribution of our health and safety professionals.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of National Young Women's Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It is with pleasure that I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Legislature to pay tribute to National Young Women's Day, which is May 11.
The date was chosen to fit into Youth Week, which is May 7 to May 14. It was chosen by young women for young women to focus discussion, both locally and nationally, on issues important to young women.
Across the country young women are raising awareness on such topics as freedom from violence, poverty, sexual orientation, race and gender.
Here at home, young women are invited to participate in the events surrounding Youth Week, which was organized by BYTE, or Bringing Youth Toward Equality. One Youth Week event of special interest to young women is an open house at the Entrepreneurship Centre on young women and information technology. The aim of the open house is to help young women learn about IT. Later this week, the new youth centre is hosting "Get Cybersafe," a discussion by the RCMP on how to safely navigate the Web.
The young women in this territory are strong, active members of our society. They advocate politically and socially for equality for all. They volunteer to help wherever help is needed, and they strive to make their voices heard. I honour their work.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Keenan: Today I'd like to introduce to the House if I can a very special friend of mine, a great influence in my life, my mother, Daku Claw, better known as Pearl Keenan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to ask members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming the chair of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, Mr. Rick Buchan, to the gallery, as well as His Worship Mayor Ernie Bourassa, who is the representative for the Association of Yukon Communities on the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling of returns and documents, I have for tabling the Annual Report of the Auditor General of Canada on Other Matters for the years ending March 31, 1998, and March 31, 1999.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have for tabling two documents from the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, and they are the reason that our special guests have joined us today.
The first is the review of the 1999 Yukon state of the environment report by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, dated April 1, 2001; the second is the term report of the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, April 1999 to December 2000.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I have for tabling a legislative return from the Department of Government Services. It is in response to questions in the House from the MLA for Klondike relating to the reporting of government contracts and to Connect Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal government has broken faith with the Yukon people by failing to provide appropriate levels of funding for capital projects in Yukon communities;
(2) in its current budget, the Yukon Liberal Government has reduced funding for popular and effective programs, such as the Community Development Fund, Fire Smart and Rural Roads Upgrading;
(3) the failure of the Yukon Liberal Government to accept its responsibilities has inflicted unnecessary hardships on Yukon people, causing many of them to leave the territory due to the shortage of employment opportunities last winter;
(4) the Yukon Liberal Government has finally acknowledged that it has an accumulated surplus much larger than it had led Yukon people to believe; and
(5) the Premier recently indicated to municipal leaders that her government would be willing to embark on economic development plans with Yukon communities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to table a supplementary budget before the end of this sitting to allocate a significant portion of its $80-million accumulated surplus toward badly needed job-creating projects in Yukon communities, such as Teslin, Carcross, Old Crow and Watson Lake, whose needs are not adequately addressed in the Main Estimates for 2001-02.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) during the last election campaign, the Yukon Liberal Party made a commitment to ensure that each Yukon community is staffed with adequate numbers of doctors and nurse practitioners;
(2) in spite of that promise, the Yukon now faces a serious and growing shortage of health care professionals that threatens to undermine our ability to meet the health care needs of people throughout the territory;
(3) recruiting the required number of doctors, nurses and other qualified health care personnel is a challenge for all jurisdictions in Canada, and is particularly challenging for remote areas such as the Yukon;
(4) in order to attract qualified medical personnel to the Yukon and to retain those who are already working here, the Yukon Government must be innovative, flexible and aggressive in providing incentives that will make it possible for the Yukon to compete successfully with other jurisdictions; and
(5) the Minister of Health and Social Services has consistently failed to exercise his responsibilities to ensure that his department is equipped to undertake successful recruitment and retention initiatives in a timely manner;
(6) the financial resources of the Yukon Liberal Government are more than sufficient to provide the necessary incentives to attract and retain the qualified health care professionals needed to meet the needs of Yukon people in both urban and rural communities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to use a significant portion of the $80-million surplus with which it began the current fiscal year to address the recruitment and retention of health care professionals as a matter of urgent and pressing necessity.
Ms. Netro: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government did a great disservice to the people of Mayo by delaying the construction of a replacement for the J.V. Clark School, for no valid economic reason;
(2) this politically inspired decision not only required students and school staff in Mayo to continue working in unacceptable conditions, it also deprived workers and business people in Mayo of badly needed economic opportunities during the past winter;
(3) the delay in beginning major construction on the Mayo school also resulted in unnecessary delays in school construction projects in Carmacks and Pelly Crossing, which were already scheduled by the previous NDP government; and
(4) the Yukon Liberal Government has more than enough financial resources to fast-track the Carmacks and Pelly Crossing school projects, so that residents of those communities will be able to derive economic benefits this year; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to use part of its current $80-million accumulated surplus to advance the start of construction on the Carmacks and Pelly Crossing projects, so that economic benefits will begin flowing to those communities as soon as possible and so that schoolchildren and staff of those schools do not have to wait longer than necessary for the needed improvements to their school facilities.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the cultural industries that contribute to the Yukon's economy are worthy of public support, as are the not-for-profit artistic endeavours of Yukon people that contribute equally to the social fabric and quality of life in the territory;
(2) by its politically inspired moves to reduce public funding for individual, group and community artistic activities, the Yukon Liberal Government has created serious uncertainty in the arts community, as well as among organizers of community-based cultural events;
(3) the Yukon Liberal Government has added to this uncertainty by its hasty and ill-considered move to change the status of the Arts Branch, without seeking input from the arts community about the effects of such a move; and
(4) the Yukon Liberal Government has no valid financial reason for reducing its support of the arts; and
(5) THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to delay its plans to reorganize the Department of Tourism until the arts and cultural industries practitioners have been fully and openly consulted, and to use part of its $80 million accumulated surplus to increase financial support for the arts, including arts-related education at all levels of the Yukon's public school system.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that Yukon placer miners are having a difficult time continuing their operations because of low gold prices, high fuel prices and an excessive regulatory burden;
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are attempting to add to the regulatory burden by imposing an arbitrary policy change that would restrict or prohibit the use of a stream as a conduit which, if implemented, has the potential to shut down 37 percent of existing placer mining operations; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Economic Development to make a presentation on May 17, 2001 in Dawson City to the Yukon Territory Water Board, arguing against the imposition of this arbitrary policy that would restrict or prohibit the use of in-stream settling and the use of a stream as a conduit.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Dawson City Airport air tanker base
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise to speak about his government's policy to improve Yukon infrastructure.
An important part of this policy is working with other levels of government, and, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform the House that this policy has resulted in further improvements to be made to the Dawson City Airport.
Last month, along with many other Yukoners, I welcomed Yukon Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell at the Dawson City Airport, where he announced, on behalf of the federal Minister of Transport, Mr. David Collenette, a $3.96-million grant for upgrades to the Dawson Airport.
Today, I'm pleased to announce that we have successfully lobbied the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to relocate its air tanker base at the Dawson City Airport to the south side of the runway.
The relocation of the tanker base will resolve a long-outstanding aircraft parking issue, allow for additional aircraft parking on the main apron area, increase the safety of aircraft and emplaning and deplaning passengers and increase the operating efficiency of air tanker operations at the airport.
The relocation work will be carried out this summer, in conjunction with the Dawson City Airport reconstruction project.
This relocation project cost is estimated at $1.2 million. DIAND will realize significant cost-savings by taking advantage of the presence of heavy equipment contractors who will be at the airport to work on the larger reconstruction project.
Community and Transportation Services will manage site development work for the new tanker base on behalf of the new federal government. The Yukon government's property management agency will manage the construction of a small office facility and cold-storage building.
This is an example of the efficiencies we are achieving through our government's hard work and through our policy of cooperating with other levels of government.
Mr. McRobb: I am pleased to rise in response to this so-called ministerial statement.
There really are three policy announcements rolled into this ministerial statement, none of which were identified by the minister in her speech.
The first one that I would like to point out is the continuing disrespect for the Legislature shown by this Liberal government, and that is quite evident in the continual breaking of the rules for ministerial statements, which are supposed to be short, factual statements on new government policy. Now, Mr. Speaker, there is only one way this can meet that test, and that is if it's the government's new policy to improve Yukon infrastructure. Now, some could argue that that could be the case because, in the first year under this Liberal government, it is quite evident that they did not have a policy to improve Yukon's infrastructure.
Secondly on that same point, this ministerial statement disrespects the House leaders' agreement to identify ministerial statements at the morning meeting of House leaders. That was not the case, and we received very short notice of this ministerial statement today.
Now the second hidden policy is one that we are becoming familiar with on this side of the House, and that is that this is simply a reannouncement of a press release. We have seen several examples recently, about the extended season of the campgrounds, about the fishing agreement. First off the Liberal government puts out a press release, and then they come in here and waste the time of the Legislature with a ministerial statement that consumes about 10 to 15 minutes of our time.
We know that we have less than two days remaining in this Legislature and several departments yet to debate, yet the Liberals find it necessary to come in here with a ministerial statement that is not necessary, to waste the time of the Legislature.
The third hidden policy in this ministerial statement was the policy that the Liberals are practising to focus attention away from the more serious funding issues that the Yukon Territory has with the federal government.
Mr. Speaker, it likes to ballyhoo its so-called policy of cooperating with other levels of government and to pat on the back the new rookie Member of Parliament, one of its Liberal cohorts, but really where are the Liberals when it comes to responding to the more serious issues in the territory? I'll take a minute to list some of them.
Mr. Speaker, there is the cleanup of abandoned military sites, the cleanup of mines. What we have seen out of the federal Liberal government is trading away the hundreds of millions of dollars required for the cleanup of those sites for a fleet of rusty old tanks. Where are the Liberal stars when it comes to dealing with this issue? What about the contaminated site cleanup? There are hundreds of them in the territory. Our environment is continuing to be threatened and jobs are lost in the meantime. What about the restitution of health cuts? Cuts of more than $20 million were suffered and endured by previous Yukon governments because the federal government cut our health transfer payment. Shame on them. What about the cuts to NavCan or the local weather office?
Where are the Liberals when it comes to reinstituting those services to the Yukon public? What about a better deal on the federal infrastructure program? What we discovered after the Premier ballyhooed this in her budget speech was that the actual amount of dollars obtained in the agreement with the federal government was less than the previous agreement negotiated by the Yukon Party government and the previous NDP government. Where are the Liberal stars when it comes to giving a better deal to Yukoners in regard to -
Speaker: Order please. The member has 30 seconds to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: What about debt forgiveness to the Yukon Energy Corporation, Mr. Speaker, to reduce power rates? What about restitution of employment insurance or social programs like child care or early childhood development, cuts to education?
Mr. Speaker, where are these Liberals when it comes to replenishing cuts made by the federal government from which Yukoners are still suffering?
Mr. Jenkins: Now, this statement on the relocation of the DIAND tanker base at the Dawson City Airport is not a statement about a new government policy. If the minister insists on calling it a policy, let's call it a catch-up policy, because that's all it is. The $1.2 million from DIAND to relocate the tanker base, that should have been done, should have been spent prior to the airport ownership being transferred to the Yukon government. It was only after the transfer that the federal government applied its regulations, claiming the Dawson City Airport was out of compliance and threatening to cancel the airport's operating certificate.
All the work that had been done to date, including this $1.2-million announcement, is the minimum amount of work required to bring the Dawson City Airport into compliance with federal transport regulations. That's all that's being accomplished here, Mr. Speaker. The airport operated for years with the tanker base in its current location. It was all right then because the ownership was with the federal government and they were the regulators. After transfer to the Yukon government, the federal regulatory regime descended upon YTG, requiring these expenditures in order to comply with the federal safety regulations.
Now, having the Yukon's Liberal Member of Parliament and the Minister of Community and Transportation Services claiming to be the white knights coming to Dawson to save the Dawson City Airport, that's simply ludicrous, Mr. Speaker. The federal Liberals created the problem, and they should foot the bill for correcting those deficiencies and then some. The sad thing, Mr. Speaker, is that at the end of the day, all the Yukon government will have after spending this $5.16 million in total for correcting these deficiencies is an unpaved, day, visual-flight-rule airport.
If the minister were to be announcing the estimated $8-million expenditure to pave the airport runway, its aprons and taxiways and provide for an IFR airport, that would be a ministerial statement that would gain widespread support. The airport could then be used as a tool for economic development, not just for Dawson but for the entire Yukon. This Liberal government is crying poverty, yet it is sitting on a nest egg of some $80 million that should, in part, be used for economic development infrastructure.
So much for this Liberal government's commitment to improve Yukon infrastructure.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Well, the manufactured indignation from the members opposite is certainly very interesting. The diatribe by the Member for Kluane took four times as long as the ministerial statement, so I don't think he should be talking to me about wasting time.
The Member for Kluane obviously hasn't noticed the infrastructure work going on in his riding - the work on the Alaska Highway in the Champagne area and the continuing work on the Shakwak project. That's more than $30 million in the Kluane riding, which he somehow neglected to mention.
The Member for Klondike is secretly pleased that this work is being done on the Dawson City Airport, but he can't say so. His government didn't succeed at making it happen when they were in power and this government did. Our policy of working cooperatively with other governments is obviously bearing fruit.
As I said, the tanker base problem has a long history that no previous government was able to address. When this Liberal government was elected, we said we would do things differently. We have done so.
Transport Canada has stated that the current location of the tankers on the apron of the runway is a safety concern. In her letter to Minister Nault, the Premier stated this government's concern that while the runway was being upgraded, the tanker base safety issue wasn't being addressed. Further lobbying by this government resulted in this important change in policy by the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
The plan had been to leave the base up to the devices of the territorial government after devolution. The Premier and I wanted the Government of Canada to correct this problem before devolution. We continued to work cooperatively with the federal government and all other governments for the betterment of Yukoners.
I apologize that the government House leader hadn't notified the members opposite that this ministerial statement was coming. That is my fault, and I do apologize.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers? This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Budget surplus
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier, in her capacity as Minister of Finance, openly admitted what the opposition has known all along - that the Liberal government across the floor is awash in cash. And the minister even went on to state that the surplus effective March 31, 2001 would be in the neighbourhood of $80 million. My question to the Premier is this: why would the Premier and her government plead poverty with the Yukon public knowing full well that they had this cash available to them?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the member will recall that on February 22 I tabled a budget that projected a $45-million surplus for March 31, 2001. Since that time I have successfully negotiated a $36-million settlement, an increase in funding from Ottawa.
It's elementary, even for the dear Member for Watson Lake, that 45 plus 36 is 81, and I am really pleased that the members opposite have finally noticed that the work we've been doing has paid off. Yes, we have successfully negotiated this $36 million and we are spending that money wisely - very wisely in fact. And I would like to elaborate for the member opposite just exactly how wisely that money is being spent. I would also like to remind the member opposite that March 31, 2001 has passed and that, were he to engage in further discussion with the Minister of Finance, the question is, what is the projected surplus for March 31, 2002? And that figure is $23 million.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, it wasn't this side of the House that misled the Yukon public on what the surplus was going to be March 31, 2001 -
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. I note that the Member for Watson Lake is accusing other hon. members of this House of misleading the House.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Mr. Fentie, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I merely said that this side of the House has not misled the Yukon public.
Speaker: That's just a fancy way of trying to get around an accusation that other hon. members were misleading the Yukon public, and I'm going to rule right now that that is not acceptable in this House, however we manage to twist it around. I'd ask the member to be cautious in his words and to continue, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'll retract "mislead" and replace it with "It wasn't this side of the House that provided incorrect information to the Yukon public regarding the surplus for the fiscal year-end, March 2001."
The minister just stood on her feet and said that next year's surplus - "Everything's okay with us providing the public that erroneous information because next year the surplus is only going to be $23 million." Nobody believes that any more. This government has a credibility problem when it comes to fiscal management.
With an $80-million surplus, why - when the minister had the opportunity last fall to bring forward a winter works project to put Yukoners, especially in rural Yukon, to work to help alleviate the economic crisis that they found themselves in - did the minister refuse to do so and make the claim that there isn't any money? Why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the only credibility problem in this Legislature and with the Yukon public is the member opposite's ability to do simple math.
On February 22, I stood in this House and delivered a budget that projected a $45-million surplus for March 31, 2001. Since that time I have successfully negotiated a $36-million increase in funding from Ottawa, and 45 plus 36 is 81. It's that simple in the math.
The members opposite have finally noticed that the work that we've been doing has paid off. Yes, we have achieved more money and we were notified of that additional $36 million from Ottawa on April 2. On April 5, it was published in the Whitehorse Star. That's being open and accountable. We found out on April 2 that we had been successful in our work and that we had negotiated an additional $36 million and I informed the public, and I have informed this House.
The fact is this government - yes, we have obtained more money and yes, we are spending it wisely. Some of the ways we are spending it very wisely on behalf of Yukoners include more than $30 million on infrastructure just as the motion indicated earlier today - more that $30 million on our highways; $19.5 million -
Speaker: Order please. I have asked the Premier to conclude her answer, please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: And the list goes on, and I am looking forward to discussing all those initiatives with the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier is really scrambling now. What she wants this side of the House, and indeed the Yukon public, to believe is that when the minister brought forward a budget in February she knew all along that some $42 million was coming from the government. Yet, she did not provide that to the public. In fact, they pleaded poverty to the teachers during negotiations. We all know better than that. We didn't just fall off the turnip truck.
The budget was booked. The lapsed funds and the revotes and the healthy surplus that the former government left this government equate to $80 million. The $42 million that the feds have thankfully sent to this territory in the last week has nothing to do with the surplus for March 2001.
The Premier knows that. Now, why did the Premier plead poverty and force Yukoners through such hardship when they had all this money? Why?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Why is the member opposite making accusations about me and about this government when he knows very well that the indication of the settlement from the Minister of Finance is dated and was received in the government offices on April 2? The Whitehorse Star says April 5. The fact is that we were notified of this money.
Maybe the member opposite, in his private and public life, believes that you should spend money you don't have, but this government doesn't do that. This government was notified on April 2 of a successful conclusion to negotiations - negotiations and work that I had been doing for over a year. I was notified on April 2 of the amount and notified the Yukon public. The proof is in the pudding, in the fact that this government is spending the money wisely.
Let's talk, which the members have refused to do for in excess of 35 days, about more than $7 million on Yukon hospital insurance services. Let's talk about, for the first time in 11 years, a 22-percent increase in foster parents funding. This government listens to the public and we spend their money wisely.
Question re: Budget surplus
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Premier should be embarrassed to make the claim that she is the Minister of Finance. She just stood on her feet and said that they were notified April 2 of a $42-million windfall from the federal government. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are talking about fiscal year-end, March 31, prior to any $42 million coming from the federal government.
The Premier knows better - or at least she should - given her position as Minister of Finance. I can only suggest one thing, Mr. Speaker. The members opposite are either entirely incompetent when it comes to fiscal management or they have ulterior motives on why they've been hiding money. Now, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier this: why did she force Yukoners through such hardship when they were awash in this kind of money? I'll give the Premier one more chance: why is that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, one more time for the member opposite: on February 22, I tabled a budget that projected a $45-million surplus as of March 31, 2001. On April 2, I was notified by Paul Martin that there had been a successful conclusion, that I had successfully negotiated a $36-million increase in funding. Yesterday the question was asked, "Well, where does that funding go?" It gets booked. That's where the member is utterly confused, Mr. Speaker. The fact is, on February 22, I tabled the budget with a $45-million surplus. On April 2, we received notification of the successful conclusion that we have done. I'm glad the members opposite finally noticed it. And 45 plus 36 is 81. The fact that the members have finally clued into this - what's today, May 8, a month later, they finally managed to do the math - is not my problem. It's elementary for the member from Watson. I wish he'd figure it out.
Mr. Fentie: Yes, it is elementary, my dear Watson. The Premier's talking about next fiscal year. We're talking about the fiscal year-end March 31, 2001. Now, the Premier knows full well that the money that the federal government sent in April wasn't booked in last year's budget. She knows that full well, and let's stop being silly about this. The facts are that the government across the floor - this Liberal government - had an $80-million surplus, and I can tell you why they're hoarding money, Mr. Speaker: they have a debt to pay when it comes to the election campaign.
They went on a vote-buying spree, and there's no way they can put money out in the communities. They have to pay that debt for the votes they bought.
Will the Premier now come clean and tell this House and the Yukon public what their plans are for the $80 million they have sitting in the bank?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm so glad the member asked that question. Let me explain to the member opposite how this government is spending Yukon taxpayers' money wisely.
In excess of $30 million is going to be spent on restoring funding for highways, funding the member opposite's previous government cut. There is $9 million for completion of the continuing care facility, and $2 million of the $4 million that's going to be required to operate it is booked in this.
And not all the expenditures are large, Mr. Speaker. Let's talk about the fact that there is an additional $62,000 in funding for Help and Hope for Families in Watson Lake and for the Dawson City women's shelter - money that is going to an increase in staff and is helping people in helping their programs. In fact, we received a thank-you letter from the people in Watson Lake just the other day.
There's a 16-percent per diem increase in rates for foster parents - something that the two previous governments, represented by the members opposite, ignored - and a 22-percent increase in the clothing allowance for those foster parents, Mr. Speaker. As you and all of us well know, it costs a lot to clothe children.
And let's talk about $2.36 million for alcohol and drug secretariat - a plague, as the Minister of Health so eloquently puts it, that affects all of the Yukon and that we, as a community, need to deal with. We put the money to deal with it in the budget.
Let's talk about $19.5 million for the Yukon hospital and let's talk about $7.1 million -
Speaker: Order please. Would the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The fact is that this government is spending Yukon taxpayers' money wisely.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier doesn't get it. She just stood on her feet and recited to this House what will be reflected in this accumulated surplus for the year ending March 2002. What we're asking is why, when we asked last fall for a winter works project, the Premier knew full well that the accumulated surplus they laid claim to was in fact far, far off what the real surplus was. The Premier admitted it yesterday - probably it was a mistake, but the Premier did admit it in Finance debate that the surplus is $80 million.
Now I want to ask the Premier a serious question: will the Premier now act? There is a need out there in the Yukon, especially in rural Yukon. Bring forward a portion of that $80 million; we will immediately pass it and allocate it toward capital projects for rural Yukon so we can put rural Yukoners to work and help alleviate the terrible situation that they are in. Will the Premier do the right thing and act now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I take my responsibilities very, very seriously. The answers I have given the member opposite are very serious. The member is kibitzing across the floor about elementary bookkeeping. Well, let me explain to the member opposite once again that the budget figures tabled on February 22 indicated a $45-million surplus. That is the best information and all the information we had at the time. The fact that we were able to successfully conclude negotiations with the Minister of Finance - we were notified of that on April 2. To have indicated that money on an earlier date would have been not only despicable, it would have been exactly what the member opposite has accused me of doing. We have been open, accountable and upfront with the public all the way along.
The fact is that our budget documents take Yukon taxpayers' money and spend it wisely on the needs of Yukoners, on very real needs like restoring funding to highways, like ensuring the hospital has the money they need to operate, and funding of $7.1 million in the Yukon hospital insurance services and many others, including economic development initiatives as well, like the stay-another-day program, like the Yukon mining incentive program, like the tax credits.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Placer mining policies
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. On May 17 of this year, the Yukon Territory Water Board will convene a hearing into an arbitrary placer mining policy being imposed by DFO or DIAND that would restrict or stop the use of in-stream settling and the use of a stream as a conduit. This arbitrary change in policy has the potential to shut down 37 percent of the existing placer operators, as that is the percentage of operators issued with licences for in-stream settling and the use of a stream as a conduit in both 1999 and 2000.
Mr. Speaker, placer mining has traditionally been the backbone of the Yukon economy, and the prospect of having 37-percent fewer placer mines operating this season is something that the minister should be working to avoid. We need more miners, not fewer.
Is the minister aware of this serious problem, and what does she plan to do about it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, I am somewhat aware of the specific problem that the member opposite has raised. I would also like to advise the member opposite that I have already had one very frank discussion with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Herb Dhaliwal, regarding the Yukon placer committee and the review of the Yukon placer authorization. That was successfully concluded.
There has not been a decision made as to whether or not the Yukon government should intervene in the specific Water Board hearing. I take the member's representations under advisement and will respond to him accordingly before the end of the week.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, low gold prices and high fuel costs are making it very tough for placer miners to continue their operations. The last thing they need is for the federal Department of Fisheries or DIAND to impose even more restrictive policies on an already over-regulated industry.
Will the minister intervene with her Liberal friends in Ottawa and tell them to rein in their regulatory bulldogs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, once again for the member opposite, I would remind him that, as I indicated in my previous answer, I have already had one very frank discussion with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. Herb Dhaliwal, with respect to the Yukon placer committee and the Yukon placer authorization. The chair of the Yukon placer committee is well aware of that, and I have taken the member's representations today under advisement, and I have indicated I will respond to him by the end of the week as to the government's course of action.
I'd also like to remind the member opposite that, for the first time ever in the budget documents that the Member for Watson Lake just criticized me so soundly for, the Klondike Placer Miners Association has been recognized for the contribution they make, and for the first time ever have been funded as a non-government organization - by this government. We do appreciate the contribution and recognize the contribution that the placer mining industry makes to the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the federal regulatory bulldogs are still there, and they're nipping at the heels, they've got the heels, and they're coming up the full torso of the mining industry, Mr. Speaker. It is serious. I would urge the minister to make representation to the Yukon Territory Water Board on May 17 in Dawson City. Make a representation and a positive representation to defer the imposition of this new arbitrary policy. Further, I'd ask the minister to make representation to the federal Minister of DIAND on the issue of his refusal to issue water licences, even after the Yukon Territory Water Board has recommended that water licences be issued. Was the minister going to do something about this issue, or is she going to sit on her hands with it and defer it and get back to us after the Legislature rises?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have already indicated to the member opposite that, first and foremost, our government recognizes the contribution of the Yukon placer industry. The member opposite knows very well that, of all the members in the Legislature, I have worked with the placer mining community since long before I was even a member in their various issues with Ottawa.
This government and I, as Minister of Economic Development, have ensured for the first time ever that the Klondike Placer Miners Association is funded and recognized as a non-government organization. I have already indicated to the member opposite that, on behalf of the Yukon placer committee, I have made representations successfully. I know that's tough for the member opposite to admit, but I have already made successful representations to Herb Dhaliwal, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. I have indicated on this specific issue that I will advise the member whether we intend to make representation to the Yukon Territory Water Board. I will advise the member before the end of this week on that.
Mr. Speaker, I know it's difficult for members opposite to recognize our good work, but the facts speak for themselves.
Question re: Health care professionals, recruitment of
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't want the Minister of Health and Social Services to feel that I'm picking on him, but people do require answers for the questions I pose. So, I have a question for the Premier, if I may.
Yesterday, I registered my concern over the complete turnover of clinical staff in the mental health unit. I asked why the minister's department has waited two full months before even starting to look for a new doctor for Ross River, Faro and Carmacks.
So I'd like to ask: what instructions has the Premier given to the minister to make sure that there is no delay in recruiting health care professionals?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, there has been no delay at all. We work as quickly as possible. We ensure we work with our partners. We ensure we are partnering with people who are working directly on the front line. There's no delay whatsoever.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, there was an ad in yesterday's paper informing the public that Whitehorse Medical Services Ltd. has been unable to replace two doctors who left the territory a year ago. Again, this suggests that patients have to start looking elsewhere for these services.
More and more professionals are leaving. The minister is neglecting his duties to ensure that the necessary incentives to keep them or replace them are available.
So again, I'd like to ask the Premier this: what is the Premier doing to get her minister to do the job that he is paid to do?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite has to realize that the doctors in Whitehorse, Watson Lake and Dawson are fee-for-service. They are private employers. They employ their own doctors. We as a government do not employ doctors except for two positions that we have in the rural areas that are on contract.
So to expect the Health department to go out and hire doctors at this point - we don't have that kind of agreement with the doctors; they do their own hiring.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to point out that the minister must realize that he is the Health minister and must provide leadership. That is inherent in the position that goes with the fancy gold cards that the minister has.
Now, I heard this morning one of Yukon's most experienced doctors who said that the shortage of medical personnel is nearing a crisis and that the $80,000 that the government has allocated for recruitment "is a joke". That's a direct quote. It's a joke. There's a shortage of doctors, the psychiatrist is leaving, and today I learned that the doctor who works out of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre has resigned.
So the Premier is sitting on a surplus of $80 million. Since her minister will not or cannot do his job, will the Premier allocate the necessary funds so that the department - at least the real people in the department, the people who are making things move in Health and Social Services - can get on with the real and effective recruitment campaign? So when is that going to happen?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, I have informed the House on many occasions that we are working with our partners. As of today, we met with the doctors as a caucus. We met with them last week and the week before - and with the nurses. We are working very hard with our partners.
We will be coming forward with our partners with some results. I know the members opposite are impatient, but again, when one plays politics, one does not want to wait. Obviously we are doing the right thing: we are working with our partners, not against them.
Question re: Chronic disease program, breach of confidentiality
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Premier, and it's in relation to the Minister of Health and Social Services' inability to act on a very serious matter. That matter is twofold: the right of a constituent of mine and a Yukon resident to receive full medical coverage; and the possibility of a breach of medical confidentiality in this regard.
I have asked the minister through correspondence and questioning to take action on this very serious matter, and he refuses to do so. So I am asking the Premier, in her capacity as the leader of this government, to take action and do something now.
Will she direct the Minister of Health and Social Services to conduct the proper investigation that this matter requires, or will he resign?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, there has been no breach of confidentiality. How many times do we have to say that? I am not sure. It wouldn't be enough, I am sure, for the members opposite.
We do not discuss clients' cases in the House. We do not even discuss them on the street, but the member opposite persists in trying to discuss it here in the House. We do not do that.
The member opposite received a letter from me, explaining the procedure. We are asking the member opposite to follow that procedure. Everyone else has to.
Mr. Fentie: I am asking the minister to follow a procedure. That procedure reflects a social conscience. There's no issue here about us bringing this to the floor of the Legislature and that it is being counterproductive. We are trying to get this minister to act and he refuses to do so. He openly admits that the phone calls by residents to department officials must cease and desist. That tells me that there is a problem.
Will the Premier - and I'm asking the Premier to act on this very serious matter - direct her minister to conduct a proper investigation of this matter and direct her department to act on compassionate grounds, in order to ensure that my constituent receives all the benefits to which they are entitled and to address the possible breach of medical confidentiality? Will the Premier act now?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The member opposite would like the public to believe that there has been a breach of confidentiality. There has not. The member opposite knows that there has not been a breach of confidentiality but wants to plant that seed, Mr. Speaker. I find this just something I cannot accept, that this is the type of politics that we're in.
The member opposite has received a letter from me explaining the procedure. The member opposite knows what has to be done or what should be done if the member is not satisfied. The member has not followed any of those recommendations in that letter.
We are concerned about constituents, Mr. Speaker. We're concerned about the very serious nature of the health of our constituents and of our people in the Yukon, but there's a procedure for all of us to follow. There are rules for everyone. We know the members opposite quite often, quite obviously, when they did the community development fund stuff, never followed the rules. The audit report tells it very clearly. Once again, they want us to break the rules. Mr. Speaker, we will not break the rules. The rules are for everybody.
Mr. Fentie: Well, how dare this minister accuse me of playing politics with this issue. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, I know what these people are going through. It is a life-and-death situation, and they've been harassed. Now, the minister can't stand on his feet in this House and make the claim that there was no breach of medical confidentiality because he hasn't done the proper investigation to determine that fact. That's why I'm asking these questions. Will the minister now do the right thing, show some social conscience, conduct the proper investigation so that full disclosure can take place, not only on the clients' behalf, but on the department's officials' behalf? The minister has a responsibility to act. The minister has the ability to make discretionary decisions. The time is now. Will the minister act and act decisively?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, once again, the member opposite makes an accusation of a breach of confidentiality. There has not been a breach of confidentiality. An investigation was done. Very clearly, there was no breach of confidentiality, despite what the member constantly brings up day after day.
It's unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, that the member opposite says we do not want to discuss people's personal lives, and yet the member opposite continues to do it, day after day.
Mr. Speaker, we have a process, we follow it, and we do the best we can to ensure that the rules are for everybody.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We will take a 15-minute recess.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee is considering Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Tourism - continued
Deputy Chair: We are in general debate on the Department of Tourism. Mrs. Edelman, I believe you have the floor.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: When we left off last night, we were talking about the accommodations act and the timelines that were going to be associated with that. I think that one of the things I didn't mention last night is that the accommodations act is going to be developed with the private sector, with municipalities, with the hotel association, the bed and breakfast association, RV campground owners, as well as public campgrounds.
Now, the accommodations act timeline is the following. In April and May of this year, we are going to be getting together and developing a discussion paper in conjunction with the Tourism Industry Association. In May, later on this month, we will be designing a paper that will hopefully be released to stakeholders by the end of this month. At the same time we are going to appoint a coordinator within the department to work on this issue of the accommodations act.
Then we will be in initial consultations with industry stakeholders, as indicated previously. We will be launching the Web site in May and June. We will be meeting with other government departments in June and July. We will be doing consultations with other governments - First Nations and municipalities - in June to August, ending in September 2001. All of these are, of course, proposed timelines. Things don't always go the way you hope they will go.
Public consultations, which will be set up in all the communities, will start in late August and go to early November. We will be preparing a draft of the legislation by December 2001, and that process will continue to February 2002. Consultation with key stakeholders on the draft legislation will occur from March to May 2002. We will revise the final legislation to reflect those consultations in June 2002. Approvals at Cabinet will occur in August 2002. We are hoping to table the bill in the fall of 2002.
So that is what I said to the member opposite that I would provide to him early today.
The other thing that came up yesterday that wasn't completely dealt with was the issue around the changes to the Department of Tourism and the moving of one position from the arts branch over to the new cultural industries secretariat. Once again, there will be no change to funding programs, services or program delivery within the arts branch, including the craft strategy.
Mr. Chair, there has been a lot of misinformation in the public about what's going to be happening with the craft strategy, as if somehow with the reorganization the craft strategy will no longer take place. Well, I have to tell you, Mr. Chair, that the craft strategy is taking place and it will be implemented this summer. In the summer, we will be starting with an inventory of what's available in the Yukon, and people will be travelling to every community. Then we will be doing training sessions in the fall.
There have been previous craft strategies, and I suppose that is why people are having a problem with this issue. There was a craft strategy in 1994 under the Yukon Party and one in 1997 under the NDP, and neither one of those were followed through on. We are following through with our craft strategy, and the changes in the Department of Tourism will not affect that, as they don't affect funding programs or services.
The member opposite and I had an extended conversation about icon development, and I'm still not clear about what the member opposite is trying to say about what icon development is to him. However, I've gone through and looked at my briefing books and had some discussions with people in the department, and it's quite clear that an icon is a large development of some sort. The large development that we're doing is, of course, the air access study. That will address the issue of cheaper fares, more flights and better connections. That will be released in June, as I mentioned last night.
The other icon that we're working on is, of course, the stay-another-day program and that's through the development of festivals. That's a long-term process. Mark Smith, who has been hired by the department, will be going throughout the Yukon Territory, talking to various groups about what they have available in the way of arts and cultural activities, as part of the stay-another-day program. He'll be leaving probably in the next week to do just that.
The member opposite had some questions about policy beyond that, but I looked through the Blues and couldn't quite get to what the member was trying to say. I wonder if the member could be a little bit clearer about what he was saying about infrastructure. I think that last night, when we talked about infrastructure, I said that we would be working with the heritage community through the museums strategy and that we would be working through the arts community or arts sector, through ongoing discussion about funding issues with the Yukon Arts Advisory Council, which is mandated under the Arts Act to deal with issues around funding. As well, we will have continuing discussions with the arts community.
I meet fairly often with members of the Art Centre and I'm meeting again with the ARTSnet group this week. I imagine I will continue to meet with them over the next few years.
So, if the member opposite can be a little clearer about what he meant by infrastructure - I did look through the Blues and I'm still not clear what the member meant.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, we have a limited amount of time here today to discuss the Department of Tourism. We in the opposition would like to clear this department some time in the next hour and a half. The minister indicated to me she would like to be present at a funeral and she would have to leave about an hour and 15 minutes from now, so we must make progress.
I undertook to her to be as succinct as possible in my questioning and I ask her to do the same in her answers. I would like to proceed through some topic areas that I have noted to be of interest to us.
Mr. Chair, I would like the minister to give us an update on the film incentive program. What's happening with the Call of the Wild project? And, just to refresh her memory, that was the one the Acting Tourism minister shooed away. It would have meant 130 year-round jobs, would have brought film crews to two rural regions - the Klondike region and the Kluane region in particular. It could have injected $45 million to $50 million into the Yukon economy over five years. Can the minister give us an update on what's happening with respect to that proposal, and also can she provide figures for uptake of the program in the past year?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'll go through an update with the member opposite.
The member opposite has to know that we are going to be in discussions with other television productions. We have met with the Call of the Wild. We last met with them during the week of April 16, and actually we've met with them since. I know that there were meetings with Mark Hill and some of the people from the Call of the Wild just at the very beginning of May.
The Call of the Wild production was eligible for a $1.4-million labour rebate under the film incentive program. However, they require an additional $1.1 million in an unspecified subsidy to relocate the production here. This request for funding support is over and above the standard film incentive program. Earlier discussions between YTG and producers of Call of the Wild did not result in time to meet with the federal funding deadline for 2001. The producer subsequently revised the proposal to reflect a five-year commitment to film in the Yukon. The subsidy in excess of eligibility under the film incentive program was still required in the proposal, so they still needed over a million dollars in excess of what we had to offer them. The Yukon Film Commission is continuing discussions with the producers to see if the deal will be possible for either 2001 or 2001. As I mentioned to the member opposite previously, we are also speaking with other television productions.
Mr. McRobb: I did ask the minister to provide figures for uptake in the past year. If she would just give me a nod to that effect, we could move on.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The way the film incentive program works is that the people who do the filming here have to submit invoices or receipts to prove what they spent hiring local Yukoners and buying local goods and services. That process takes quite a long time, so I have to warn the member opposite that there are actually productions that never do submit the amount of money they have spent, and when they do submit it, it is usually months and months and months after the deadline. So I will commit to the member opposite that I will provide that information, but I do have to warn him that it will probably not be complete, it will not be an accurate picture of all the spending that went on in the Yukon under film, and it will also not be available for some time.
Mr. McRobb: All right. A best efforts response would be satisfactory.
The minister indicated previously a few of her priorities for the department. I would like to review them to see what has been happening and also to discover if there is anything new.
At one point she said that one of her top priorities was data collection - the collection of figures and making them available to the public. She did undertake to do so by the sixth of each month. I would like to know what is happening about that and where people might access that data.
Also, she indicated that air access is the greatest priority. Now, I know there is a study being done. Can she give us an update on that?
Also, the fare structures for conventions were lost by the Air Canada merger. We would like to know what the minister is doing about that. Another casualty was the potential casualty of the loss of the student standby fares. Can the minister give us an update on those areas, please?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I need to go back to the member opposite first of all. Yes, data collection and research on our numbers is extremely important to this government. You can't make good business decisions if you don't know what the numbers are, neither as a business in the private sector nor as a government. Therefore, we have taken on the responsibility for developing an accommodations act, which will give us a much better figure of who is actually spending the night in the Yukon on any given day.
In addition to that, we have created a research position in the industry services branch and that will help us find ways to come up with better data collection, so that we can provide those good figures to not only the private sector, but also to government, so that we can make good policy decisions about where we want to spend our dollars.
The commitment I made to the member opposite is still the same. We will try to have information available by the sixth day of each month.
As for the air access update, this will be the third time that I've updated the member opposite. I did it first at the beginning of this day's discussions, as well as last night. But I will do it again.
There are three reasons for doing an air access study: the first one is for better fares; the second one is for better connections; the third is so that we can have more flights that come in and out of the Yukon Territory.
Now, as for the convention fares and student standby fares, they are of course an issue. It is one of the many reasons why we're doing the air access study. That has been taken into consideration. The release of the air access study has been put off until June, because we are examining the Air North proposal at some length and in some great detail. The air access study information, combined with the examination of the Air North proposal, will be available in the early part of June.
Mr. McRobb: The minister indicated that developing departmental policy was another one of her priorities. She also indicated that her caucus would be discussing, in a planning exercise, their policy with respect to the expansion of gambling. Can she give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It was my understanding - and this was the information that came from the Justice minister, and that is where the issue of gambling rests. My understanding from the Justice minister is that this government has taken a position that we will not deal with the issue of expansion of gambling. That issue is an ongoing discussion at the caucus level. However, if the member opposite wants more information on our position on gambling, I think he needs to put that request to the right minister, and that would be the Minister of Justice.
Mr. McRobb: Well, at times, this minister likes to be minister of everything, and quite often we know she feels ignored by not fielding questions on a regular basis. I would have thought that she would have been more than pleased to respond fully to that question.
The minister said that she would have an industry-driven Tourism department. Can she indicate how that is happening?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, the Yukon tourism marketing partnership actually started under the NDP. It was one of the programs that the NDP did right. I know that the YTMP came about mainly as an initiative of the then director of marketing, who is now the Deputy Minister of Tourism. The Yukon tourism marketing partnership is a public/private sector partnership where we talk about issues around marketing the Yukon. The YTMP has representation from municipalities, it has representation from the hotel association, the B&B association, the First Nations Tourism Association, the Tourism Industry Association, the Wilderness Tourism Association, as well as a variety of other groups. It is a true public/private sector partnership. So that is how I see it being an industry-driven department. That's the way it is.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, the stay-another day-program information provided by the minister in the way of a letter dated April 24 indicates that the actual funds available to the public are only 25 percent of the total program costs of $785,000. Now, why is this program so top heavy? Is this just another indication of the government spending money on itself? Where is the commitment to the public?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, this is a service to the public, Mr. Chair. The whole reason that we're doing the stay-another-day program is so that we can keep people in the Yukon for another day, thereby providing a possible additional $5 million to the Yukon economy.
I'll go through the processes. First of all, there is branding, and that was developing a theme song through a contest. This has nothing to do with growing government. Then we did advertisements in the local media, as well as with our neighbours to the south, to the east, and to the north. That is not growing government. We've been working with the cultural and heritage industries to enhance the integration of their products to increase the benefits for tourism revenue. So we're working with the arts and we're working with the heritage people quite extensively to make sure that their message is getting out in the stay-another-day program so that people know about the festivals that they're putting on and about the heritage events, as well as built heritage that they have to offer to our visitors in order to keep them here for another day. That is not growing government; that's working with already existing services.
Quite frankly, Mr. Chair, sometimes what we have to offer to tourists in the way of festivals or events are some of the best-kept secrets in the Yukon. At the Association of Yukon Communities, I was absolutely amazed at some of the programs that were available in the communities that are not advertised and are not being well-used.
In addition to that, we have a Web site, which will be retooled to showcase the new initiative through the development of an electronic banner program. I have to say, Mr. Chair, that an awful lot of tourism these days is done through the Internet. We have a tremendous number of hits on the Tourism North Web site. It's an effective way to market. It works extremely well. Some organizations, some tour groups, some air tours, some hotels and B&Bs do 90 percent of their bookings right now on the Internet.
Most of those are hot-linked off the Tourism Web site, so developing the Web site again is not growing government. Finally, media relations, which will focus on obtaining the winter-event familiarization tours, and that is working with multi-national media people to develop story banks and local photographers on a regional photo essay, is also not growing government.
It costs money to put on these programs. We are not growing government. We are putting on a good program that I have heard from a number of communities will be well-used and much appreciated by the people of the Yukon. This also includes Yukon ads, and the member opposite may want to see them, on TSN as well as CTV affiliates right across this country. Now, television ads cost a lot of money, but I have to tell you that those ads are absolutely wonderful. If I weren't already in the Yukon, I would want to come here.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I want to appeal to the minister again to try to be as succinct as possible in her responses. I don't expect to have her push the button to engage in all the virtues of a particular program. I expect her to focus on the meat of the question, which was why is it so top heavy, and try to stick to that topic area so we can make progress today.
We have several departments to clear in the remaining day and a half in this Legislature, and these types of delays by the minister will reduce the opportunities we have in the opposition to scrutinize this government's budget. Based on what we have seen so far, Mr. Chair, we deserve all the opportunities we can get to do exactly that.
The minister indicated previously that she wants to re-juggle the budgeting for the department to shift from capital to O&M and vice versa, to be more appropriate.
Can she indicate if she has been successful in doing so in this budget?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Not completely, Mr. Chair. There is a really fine balancing act that you do when you're developing your budget. On the one hand, I gave very clear direction to the department that that's the way I wanted to go. On the other hand, we're already hearing criticisms about growing O&M from the side opposite.
Now, the capital budget will be released in the fall, and that will be a much better indication of where we sit on capital. But you can't win with the members opposite. If you do move the stuff from capital to O&M, then you get accused of growing government. If you move the stuff from O&M to capital, you get accused of cooking the books to make it look like you're doing a lot more than you actually are in capital. It's a lose-lose situation, no matter what we do, and I think that's what the members opposite found out when they were in government last. However, I have tried in some ways to move items over to where I thought they belonged, which was into O&M. And I can give the member opposite some detail on that at some point in the future.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. The minister indicated previously that they would be developing a discussion paper regarding the tourism marketing fund. Can she indicate if this was done and if it was presented to the public for feedback or not?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There was an in-house study of the tourism marketing fund. There will be an audit done of the trade and investment fund. No, it will not be made available to the public. The program doesn't exist any more. At least it won't be made available through me. It may be made available through the Minister of Finance. That's not my decision to make. Also, it hasn't gone to Cabinet.
However, I will say that we made the political decision that we would not continue with the tourism marketing fund. The reason why we wouldn't do that was because we were finding that previous governments were favouring one business over another. There would be two businesses with equally good product: one would get it because they were really good at making applications to the government, and another one wouldn't, with the same good product.
So what we decided to do as a government was instead to fund sectors. So, for example, for the Recording Arts Industry Yukon Association, or RAIYA, which deals with commercial music and recording artists, what we do is give the money to RAIYA and then, through peer review, the decisions are made as to what gets funded and what does not.
It's a much better way of doing business and it's a lot fairer to individuals who look to this government for funding.
Mr. McRobb: We're getting a rehash of previous responses here, Mr. Chair. I asked her to try to be more succinct.
Also, I'm picking up evidence that these Liberal ministers aren't as pure as they were when they were first elected, when they had good intentions to create a public process to be open and accountable. Now, Mr. Chair, we're seeing a circumvention of those public processes in the back rooms and decisions being made in the back rooms and not in the public, such as the decision to reverse her earlier promise to develop a public discussion paper on the tourism marketing fund.
Mr. Chair, I want to ask her about the vacation guide. I have picked up public concerns about the deteriorating quality of the guide. Can she indicate what is being done to improve the quality of the pictures, to reduce the mistakes, and to try to include new pictures in the guide? From what I understand, many of these pictures are more than 10 years old. What's being done to renew this guide and make a better product?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go back. First of all, the member makes a number of insulting comments. He said that the minister is not "as pure". I venture to say that the member opposite didn't know me when I was pure. It truly is an insulting comment, Mr. Chair.
The other thing is that the member opposite says that decisions are made in the back rooms, and that's plainly not factually correct.
The member opposite takes great glee in repeating the same misinformation over and over and over again, thinking that somehow or other that's going to make it true. Much like his other comments earlier in the debate, just repeating the same factually incorrect information over and over and over and over again does not make it real.
I take both of those comments as quite insulting to me, personally, and the member opposite needs to know that.
The member opposite also said that I made a reversal in my decision about the tourism marketing fund. There was no reversal about the tourism marketing fund. The tourism marketing fund was an NDP program. I have never reversed my decision on that issue. We have said right from the very beginning that as a government we believe in a level playing field. We have said, through the Arts Act and through everything that we've done within the Department of Tourism, that we believe in peer review. Therefore, funding decisions go to the people who know best how to make those decisions.
So, for example, the tourism marketing fund has been replaced by the market expansion program. The market expansion program will be done through the Tourism Industry Association. Applications will be accepted by June and those applications will be vetted through the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. Once again, that is peer review. We believe in a level playing field. Over and over and over again we demonstrate that. Now, the members opposite do not believe in that but this government does.
The member opposite says that the visitor guide has gone downhill, that there are so many mistakes and the quality of the photos are dreadful. I don't know who the member opposite talks to. Every single member of the private sector - who incidentally were full partners in developing this visitor guide - say that it is the best they have ever seen - the best they've ever seen. Certainly, some of the private ads that are put into the visitor guide have old photos and those are provided by the people who take out the ads. The member opposite says that we need to do a photo shoot. Well, a photo shoot was done last year; there will be another one done this year. The member opposite needs to get his facts right for a change. Perhaps he needs to talk to people in the business, because they would be terribly insulted by what the member has said. And believe me, I am going to make sure that they hear what the member said because I am going to make sure that they get the member opposite's comments. They will be terribly insulted because they worked for months developing this visitor guide. It is a totally different format than in the past. In the past, we have had things organized by municipality or by sector. For example, all the B&Bs, all the hotels, et cetera. Now what we've done is divide the Yukon into regions - including Kluane - and we have organized all the services available in those communities under "Region".
That's a better way of doing it. It's a new way of doing it. The photos are new, they're glossy, they're good, and they're certainly better than the Alaskan bears that the members opposite used to put into their visitor guide.
Now, I'm going to say it again: this visitor guide was done in complete partnership with the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. They were the ones who designed the guide. If the member has a problem with them, he should take it up with them, but personally, I find it very insulting that he would say this about the partners we have in the industry.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if the minister wants to insult herself, I'm reticent to come to her rescue. I would also indicate for her information that among the people who expressed their concerns to me about the visitor guide were employees in her own department. So she can distribute this information to whomever she pleases, but maybe it will come full circle some day, Mr. Chair, and she'll understand what these people are talking about.
Now, I would like to turn to the Beringia Centre. What plans does this minister have for the contract for the concession stand at the Beringia Centre?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Let's go back. The member opposite needs to know that I don't need anyone to come to my rescue. I don't need that; I can do that myself. I don't need to be rescued because there's nothing to be rescued from, and I would certainly not depend on the Member for Kluane for that.
The member opposite needs to know that the visitor guide is not perfect, and it's an ongoing process. I also need the member to know that the people in the industry were extremely proud of that product, and they are going to know what the member opposite thinks of their good work very shortly.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite wants to know about Beringia. At Beringia right now, the staff are dealing with the admissions, and the Friends of Beringia will be dealing with the gift shop at some point in the near future. It's an ongoing process. Friends of Beringia didn't meet until earlier this year. They're developing constitutions, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
That was a process that was started under the previous NDP government and we are continuing with it.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister indicate what model was adopted to manage the Beringia Centre? The previous government was examining the Friends of Beringia model. Can she indicate what her decision has been?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it would really help to bring debate closer to reality if the member opposite listened to the responses I made. I just told the member opposite that Beringia will be operated by the Friends of Beringia. I told the member opposite that it was the same as the NDP had proposed - the Friends of Beringia.
If the member opposite would listen to the answers to the questions, we could move this debate along in a much better fashion than it's going right now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister would keep her tone to a reasonable level and try to be as clear as possible and not muddle the answers to these questions, maybe she would be easier to understand.
We have grown accustomed to the Liberal government taking credit for all kinds of decisions for which the work was really done by the previous government. It wasn't long ago this minister tried to claim credit, Mr. Chair, for developing the film incentive program. Now, it's clear that that program was developed by the previous government and it has been a huge success. So the minister should tone down the rhetoric and try to stick to the substance of the questions, and then we can make more progress this afternoon.
I still have more questions for her. The next one would be the highway sign policy. The minister indicated they were developing a Yukon-wide plan. Can she indicate where that is?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, you're right. I should not be emotionally involved in this debate and I'm not. The member opposite elicits no interest from me whatsoever.
The member opposite says that I have taken credit for the film incentive program on a number of occasions. Publicly and on the camera, I have said that one of the good programs that the NDP developed was the film incentive program. What I have said is that this government is funding it properly. We are.
The member opposite is now asking about the sign policy. There are two areas that need to be looked at. I think the member opposite needs to know before we start this discussion that in every community that we have visited, the number one concern they have is signage. They have a lot of good stuff to tell people on the highway as they go by, but there is inadequate or poor signage or the quality is not consistent with other signs. So you are talking about commercial signage but you are also talking about directional signage.
Now, the directional signage in the Yukon is an ongoing process. We are working toward a good commercial highway sign policy with the Department of Community and Transportation Services as well as the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. We are also working with them to look at directional signs. There's nothing more frustrating to someone who has a really good product when they have it out there and nobody knows where it is. So it's an ongoing process and an extremely expensive one, as well.
Now, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services gave the House an update on the commercial highway sign policy. That should be available to the public, hopefully, by later this year. We have budgeted $47,000 in non-salary dollars in the 2001-02 budget toward highway signage, interpretive signs, such as along the Klondike Highway, and heritage signs.
Now, I forgot to mention, as I look over my notes, that Renewable Resources is also part of the signage committee.
Mr. McRobb: I visited the department's many Web sites recently and was saddened to discover how out of date some of them are. Given that the government has recently hosted a government on-line convention and would like to indicate how much they are with it, regarding information technology, it's quite a disparity to actually visit some of the Web sites - like one in particular, the arts branch Web site - to see how outdated the information is. There is not even any indication about the restructuring announced by the government, for instance.
Can the minister indicate when she is going to update these Web sites and if she can commit to keep them updated on an ongoing basis?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Tourism Yukon Web site is updated virtually on a daily basis, especially during the season, so I am not too sure what the member is talking about. If he is saying that there should be some indication on the Web that there has been a reorganization within the arts branch, I have told the member repeatedly the following information: over the course of the next year, we will be going through policy issues and job descriptions to do with the moving of one position from the arts branch to the cultural industries secretariat, and that position is a facilitator for the cultural industries. The member needs to know, once again, that there will be no change to funding, services or programs within the arts branch.
Now, to put up a new organization chart within the arts branch before that was a reality wouldn't make any sense whatsoever.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what is happening with regard to the ice patch work? The previous government started the Thandlat study, and certainly this is of great interest to several First Nations in the territory, especially the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. I was able to attend part of the weekend meetings regarding the Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi, and, judging by the expression of public interest, it certainly is an issue that is alive in the territory. Can the minister give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, Renewable Resources has identified $50,000 for the next five years to assist in the research, and I believe the member is also the critic for Renewable Resources, so I think he already had that information. In the 2001-02 budget - this year's budget - the heritage branch has identified $10,000 for additional ice patch research costs, such as radiocarbon dating and scientific analysis. The First Nation co-managers are applying for additional funding from various federal, territorial and private agencies, and the director of heritage has written a letter of support to accompany one of those requests. In addition, Mr. Chair, I would suspect that this will be one of the issues that I may bring up with Ms. Sheila Copps, who is the federal minister responsible for culture and heritage.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister provide us with a breakdown of ministerial travel for the past year, as well as an indication of what she expects in the coming year? This is travel that was paid for by department for her own travel.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we already dealt with this issue a number of times. That travel is now accounted for in the Executive Council Office. The member opposite has that information.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister refuses to provide it. I don't have that information, Mr. Chair. Can the minister indicate if she or her government will be looking at the Wilderness Tourism Licensing Act to make any changes to it in the foreseeable future?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, we have ongoing discussions with the Wilderness Tourism Association about a number of issues around regulation, and those discussions happen with the Department of Renewable Resources, which is the department responsible for that act.
Actually, I've heard from the Wilderness Tourism Association on a number of occasions that they are quite pleased with the new relationship between Renewable Resources and Tourism. That is a new thing. The member opposite needs to ask his leader, by the way, for information about ministerial travel, because that information was provided to him.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I have a question regarding departmental funding of admission fees for the minister. This became an issue after I was informed by TIA that I would have to pay about $200 to attend the recent meetings in Haines Junction. I don't have a budget for that, but the minister apparently does. Can the minister confirm that her fees were paid for by the department, and if they were, is she prepared to offer to pay similar fees to members of the opposition if they want to attend such functions?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I was the keynote speaker at that event and there was no charge for my participation.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I just have a couple of constituency questions and that pretty well wraps up my general debate.
One of them is about concerns I'm fielding from businesses in the Kluane region and others who are interested in tourism about the neglect the region is getting in products produced by this government. I believe it's the Guide to the Goldfields that recently had a map of the Yukon that didn't even include the Kluane region, Mr. Chair. Now, I understand there is money from the Yukon government that goes toward this production. Will the minister just simply satisfy this concern by undertaking to resolve this type of concern in the future?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, the Guide to the Goldfields is a private sector initiative. If the member opposite is interested, as the MLA for that area, perhaps he needs to contact the people who put out the Guide to the Goldfields on his own.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I indicated that it was my belief that this production received government money. The minister says, "So what?" Well, that is the connection. If this government is sponsoring advertising by a private company, it is incumbent upon the government to ensure that some objectives of fairness are fulfilled.
Now, I asked the minister for an undertaking on that. She will have to roll her second attempt at an answer into her answer to my last question, which has to do with the VRC in Beaver Creek. We have discussed previously how this is a very nice building. It's a new building. I asked her about the inclusion in the budget of smart displays. Now, I know that the minister knows the virtues of interactive computer displays. Can she indicate if there is anything for the Beaver Creek VRC in this budget? If not, when might they see displays up there?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Okay, let's go back to this. This is not Big Brother. We don't tell the private sector how to do their business. So, if the member opposite has a concern of his constituents, it's his job, as MLA for that region, to contact that private sector business about those concerns.
The member opposite says, "Well, the government gives some funding to this private sector initiative; therefore the government should make all the business decisions on the Guide to the Gold Fields." Wrong - this is not Big Brother.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite is concerned about the smart display at the Beaver Creek VRC. I don't believe that I have the detailed information on that with me right now, but this is an item for discussion at the lines, and I would be happy to provide that to the member opposite at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: I have a few questions for the minister of fun. The stay-another-day program, Mr. Chair, appears to be working very well in my community at the start of the year. Could the minister advise the House as to how it appears to be working throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, it's quite interesting. We had quite a discussion at the Association of Yukon Communities about the stay-another-day program. The amount of buy-in from people at the local level and at the grassroots level is just astounding. We're having businesses and levels of government that have never been so thrilled to be finally included as communities within a large tourism marketing program that the government has put on.
One of the communities that comes to mind is Mayo, for example. They were thrilled to see, for example, that we have a craft map that will be part of the stay-another-day program and that some of the items that are sold within their community are on the craft map. I have also talked to people from Haines Junction, as a matter of fact, Watson Lake, Pelly Crossing and Dawson City, of course, about some of the initiatives that they have to offer. They were, number one, quite excited by the fact that somebody came out to their communities on not just one occasion but twice so far this year to do an inventory of what they had available for services to tourists and that there would be ongoing work through a RAIYA representative on festivals and events and that the stay-another-day program will be continuing to build over a number of years. They've said over and over and over again that this is the first time that they can remember that communities were included within a large marketing effort by this government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for her response. In part the program is working well in my community of Dawson at the beginning of the season because of the inability of the Department of Tourism to coordinate their efforts between the Department of Tourism and the Department of Community and Transportation Services. I refer specifically to quite a number of individuals who arrived in Dawson City in the last few weeks only to find that there isn't a bridge, there isn't a ferry in service, that the Top of the World Highway is closed. When they ask, they say, "Well, we turned off onto the North Klondike Highway, and the biggest sign we see is the sign that says 'Customs Hours of Operations'." There's a sign that is normally placed there that the Top of the World Highway is closed and when it reopens. It hasn't been erected this year under the Liberal watch. Mr. Chair, why is that? I know this is a tourism-related effort, and it's a 700-mile detour currently for a lot of individuals who end up significantly annoyed with this government, and rightly so. But the little business we get is appreciated as a result of the stay-another-day program. I was just wondering if that was part of the stay-another-day program.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's not actually the stay-a-week program, although that would be great as well.
As I mentioned earlier in the debate, signs are a huge issue in every community in the Yukon. There is a real concern about commercial highway signs as well as directional signs. I hear the member opposite's concern about that particular sign. I will pass that on to the Department of Community and Transportation Services, and if there is anything I can do to get that sign up, it will be done.
Mr. Jenkins: While we are on the issue of signage, it would appear that what is lacking is enforcement of existing regulations. That appears to be the main culprit. When a business is closed or when a sign deteriorates to a certain level, it is up to the department of highways, or whichever agency oversees them, to take them down, remove them and bill them back to the respective owner. That is not occurring.
Then there is a whole series of federal signs that have different information with respect to mileage on them than the territorial government signs, and that causes concern. So, until we get a handle on the day-to-day operation and enforce what currently exists, we are not going to go anywhere. One of these areas is with respect to a sign that is clearly in the domain of the Government of the Yukon. It has historically been installed year after year after year but, under the Liberal watch, that has not occurred, with respect to "the Top of the World Highway is closed." There have on occasion been signs posted there that the Dempster Highway is closed or open also, but this is not occurring.
Mr. Chair, I would just like to go on to another area where there seems to be a lack of coordination between government departments. One of the main attractions in the Yukon is fishing. The fishing regulation summary for this current fiscal period is not available. I have it for the last fiscal period. I will send a copy over to the minister, Mr. Chair. It clearly points out that special permits are required for two areas: Wellesley Lake and Tatlmain Lake. None of the others.
Currently we have a whole series of pothole lakes, primarily in the southern part of the Yukon, which are stocked. Access is denied to anyone to go fishing in that area. It's another area that is causing concern. It shows the lack of coordination between the various departments in this novice Liberal Yukon government. It's causing concern.
What is happening is that the decision has been made to put these lakes in private hands with respect to fishing and stocking. That is done. These pothole lakes are stocked privately and paid for by private individuals. It appears to be their exclusive domain. But there isn't anything to that effect indicated anywhere in the regulations that are published for the general use of the public. Also, there is no information at the visitor information centres with respect to access to these pothole lakes. If you contact the visitor information centre, you are referred to the conservation office. You are bounced back and forth and, at the end of the day, you just shake your head and move on. That's what's happening.
So there is a definite lack of coordination in this area between Renewable Resources - but then the Minister of Renewable Resources is constantly making decisions before the total program is analyzed and policies are in place. It doesn't matter if it's in his portfolio of Renewable Resources or Education. The decision is made and then the consultation takes place and then the policy is established.
I do have concerns with that area, and I'd ask the minister to address it and, at least, insist from her colleagues that accurate information flow to the visitor reception centres so that it can be provided to the travelling public.
The other area I have tremendous concerns with is the film industry. We have made a very good start, Mr. Chair, but there should have been no reason whatsoever why we couldn't have made the money available to proceed with the recent incentive that was required to move a major film into the Yukon. With just a cursory examination of the cost benefits, one would have to conclude that the benefits far outweighed the investment. The excuse that the government put up was that it would exhaust their entire film budget in this one area. Well, that might have been the case, but it doesn't preclude the minister responsible for that area going back to her Cabinet colleagues and finding some additional funds, especially in light of the current budget surplus of some $80-million odd.
So the excuse can't be money. There has to be a political will to stimulate the economy and motivate it with money sometimes, but in this case the benefits of this film certainly far outweighed the cost to the government, Mr. Chair, so I'm somewhat dismayed and appalled that the minister didn't go back to her Cabinet colleagues and find the necessary funds. This is just one example of a situation that probably could occur again.
I am not asking the minister to comment on that; I am just getting on the record the areas with which I have concerns.
The other area is with respect to air access, and I look forward to receiving a copy of the government's position with respect to Air North. I believe that it is a very worthwhile and beneficial initiative for Yukon. I am aware that the first review of the Air North proposal by officials in government was not all that positive. I am urging the minister to work with this company. And if the proposal doesn't meet the government's expectations, point the way to how it could be made to meet our expectations. Because our government needs, for economic development purposes, competition in servicing the Yukon route from the Lower Mainland. And one only has to look at the cost per seat mile north-south in Canada vis-à-vis east-west to realize that we are being severely penalized. It is going to be contingent on the government of the day to get involved in this situation and work with the proponent to come up with a position that is acceptable to all, financially viable and that will provide competition on this route. Because if you look at the current competition in Canada, when it comes up against Air Canada, their reaction is to buy them out - just buy them out. It doesn't matter if it's Roots or Atlantic Air. But the only way we are going to keep airfares down is by competition.
One only has to look at the current airfares on Canada 3000 and what Air Canada does on the days that Canada 3000 flies. Yes, there may be three flights on that same day, but the only flight that is reasonably priced with Air Canada is the flight that almost arrives at the same time as the Canada 3000 flight.
Competition is a wonderful thing, but we have to provide the incentive in certain manners and in certain ways so that we can realize the benefits of competition. Currently it's a monopoly, and it's not even a well-regulated monopoly, Mr. Chair, and we're paying the price.
Mr. Chair, the other area where we can do a lot more in the visitor industry, and I would urge the minister to address them is access into our parks. Currently it is really only by foot if you want to look at Kluane, or by air if you want to look at our national parks in the northern part of the Yukon, which virtually few, if any, visitors visit. There are a small number of visitors who visit the territorial park on Herschel, but it is a small number each year. Access is going to be the way to promote these areas. Kluane - we have a wonderful opportunity. We only have to look at the controlled access that is being provided at Denali Park in Alaska, Mr. Chair, to see what we can do here with controlled access into Kluane National Park. It's going to take a committed effort on the part of this Liberal government to realize the benefits that could accrue to Yukon as a consequence.
Now, Mr. Chair, we're told that we have this wonderful relationship currently; we've got the sun, the moon, and the stars all lined up, and all with Liberals in place. So we expect to see something happening, and we expect to see some results produced in this area.
If our visitor industry is going to grow, Mr. Chair, we need more attractions. I guess we missed the boat with respect to the White Pass rail, which would probably have been a very significant asset to be acquired by a Yukon-based company. It's spinning off about $10 million a year in net profits currently, Mr. Chair, and that is in real dollars - U.S. dollars, not Canadian dollars, Mr. Chair.
So it has been a very worthwhile and beneficial undertaking, and I guess we have missed the train on that one.
The other area that we could probably be exploring is Nolan's game farm, which is up for sale. It's not advertised locally, but it's being advertised on the national and international scene, and that, in itself, could be an asset for the Yukon. We have to concentrate more on attractions, more on access to the parks. We are making some headway with respect to the visitor guide. There has been considerable improvement as of late. So some of these areas are being addressed, improvements are being made, but I think the state of our visitor industry today, Mr. Chair, speaks well to the fact that we're not doing the job well enough. And that means all of us, because we're going backward in the visitor industry with respect to the number of individuals we are attracting into the Yukon, and that's in spite of tremendous expenditures on the part of government and on the part of the private sector industry.
The one light on the horizon that appears to be growing is ecotourism, but it is not replacing the significant number of people we are losing who have been the bread and butter of the industry for years and years and years.
So there is going to have to be more of a concerted effort between the Minister of Renewable Resources and the Department of Tourism to put in place programs that complement each other, and between the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the Minister of Tourism to implement changes or just enforce the existing regulations with respect to highway signage. I think that's a fair request from the industry and from the opposition, Mr. Chair, to do something in that area. We can certainly put a lot more effort into enhancing our tourist pullouts, the signage at the tourist pullouts. There's a wonderful position that could be placed at Five Finger Rapids. When is something going to happen in that regard?
So I've left the minister with a lot of suggestions, Mr. Chair, in general debate. I don't believe that I want to belabour the point, and I am prepared to move on.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, let's go back. I did commit to the member opposite that I would be following through on the issue of signage at the Top of the World Highway.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: At the Klondike turnoff, then. I will follow through with that. Rest assured that that will happen.
The member opposite says that we need to have more enforcement of the highway signage. Mr. Chair, I need to relate to the member opposite a story from when I was at the TIA AGM in Haines Junction almost three weeks ago.
There was some discussion at the actual AGM about highway signage. We said to the people at the meeting, "What are we going to do about that? Where do you see us going with this?" There was a very clear message that what we don't need to do is go through a third public consultation on this issue. There are problems with the signs. It's really obvious to anyone who drives the highway. I know that the members opposite who spend a lot of time on the road can see it. It's obvious. There are real problems. There are signs for businesses that haven't existed for years, signs that are not kept up, signs that are not in the right place, directional signs that lead you off into nowhere, and then no signs to the places that do exist. It's an issue that goes on and on and on.
As far as enforcement of the existing policy goes, it has been very difficult. In many ways it is not enforceable. So what we're doing is working on a new policy. That's being done through Community and Transportation Services. It should be available in the fall.
The member opposite should also know that, during the discussions at TIA, I made the members opposite - the members, I mean. I keep saying that because I am so used to talking to the members opposite through the Chair, as if somehow they aren't just a couple of feet away from me.
The members of TIA also said that probably one of the biggest issues that we are going to have to deal with on First Nation land is that the new highway signage policy doesn't apply. We have to get together with First Nations to make sure that we have some really good signage available throughout the Yukon Territory. That is going to be a true test of our negotiating skills because there are 14 First Nations and that is something that we are going to have to work on.
The member opposite and I agree; there needs to be something done about highway commercial signs. There also needs to be something done about directional signs, and we are working very well with our industry partners on that issue.
The next thing that the member opposite talked about was the fishing regulations not being available, and I have in my hands - hot off the press, apparently, although it has been out for awhile - the regulation summary for the year 2001-02 for fishing in the Yukon. This is put out by Renewable Resources Fisheries and Oceans, which is federal.
The member opposite brought up the concern that apparently fishing information is not available at VRCs and that people are sent on to Renewable Resources and back and forth and back and forth and back forth. I hear that concern and that will be something that we will be dealing with this year, if not immediately. We are going through a training session right now with our VRC staff here in Whitehorse and that will be one of the issues that we talk to them about.
In addition to that I think the member opposite needs to know that fishing information is part of the stay-another-day program. That is what people like to do when they come to the Yukon - they like to go fishing. So that information is being updated in our VRCs and in the visitor guide for next year. As well, there will be separate handouts on fishing spots.
Also, the member needs to be aware that there were a number of communities that we went to that said, "There are some places that we want to keep to ourselves." Special fishing spots, the preferred spots that they wanted to keep to themselves, that they didn't want anyone else to come anywhere near their special spots. We are very aware of that and those spots are not going to be in the fishing guide.
I have to tell the member opposite that I don't think these spots are quite as good as some of the people have purported them to be, having fished in some of those areas and not having caught a thing.
The next point that the member opposite tries to make is about the film industry. Now, I have to tell the member opposite that I did make a Management Board submission on this issue and was turned down. At the time, there was no money available for this or anything else. Actually, there were members on this side of the House who were quite concerned at the time, and that was much earlier in the calendar year, in January and December of last year. There really wasn't the money available. The Call of the Wild production wanted considerably more money than we had available at the time and have available now.
We are, however, still speaking to the Call of the Wild production, and we are also in the process of talking to other television productions, but we have limited money available in the film incentive program. I agree with the member opposite that it's a tremendous return on investment. For every dollar that we spend as a government, we get $8 to $10 back in our economy. It's a great investment.
But we also have to be careful that what we do here we do well. I was talking to a representative of the Northern Film and Video Industry Association, and he said to me quite clearly that there was a time in the last three months when there were two to three productions happening all at the same time, and people from Hollywood, I guess, were concerned that there weren't enough people, resources and infrastructure available to service all three productions at the same time. So if we're going to be doing this, we have to do it right, because nothing spreads faster than bad news. We have to be really, really careful that we don't overextend the resources that we have available. We have many good resources in the people who are trained here to work on film as well as infrastructure, but we can't overextend them and we can't deliver a less-than-stellar product or we will pay for that in the long run with a bad reputation.
The next issue that the member opposite brought up was air access. I have spoken to the Member for Kluane about this at some length. The reason that we're doing a study is so that we will have cheaper fares, more flights and better connections.
The Air North proposal has been dealt with during the air access study. As a matter of fact, we had to delay the release of the air access study so that we could work with Air North. We have been working with them at the department level, the official level, for some time and at some length, bearing in mind that we don't interfere with the private sector and that we want to make sure that Yukoners have the best fares available to them. Our ultimate goal here is to make sure that those are the best fares available to Yukoners. We know there are other airlines that can deliver the same services with better connections for far less than Air Canada does right now. What we're doing is seeing if those airlines can also deliver the same services, connections and airfares cheaper than or equal to the Air North proposal. That's why we're carefully looking at that proposal in the air access study.
I have to also say that the one thing that will come out of the air access study, and I have had sort of preliminary results given to me, is the fact that we need a connection out of Edmonton and out of Calgary. We have missed that for years and that's something that we're going to be going after.
I also have to tell the member opposite, and he knows this, that the private sector is working with us on this project. It's a committee of the Yukon tourism marketing partnership. The private sector is working with us quite closely on this issue, and we're working the best we can for Yukoners.
I agree with the member opposite that Air Canada does not give us good fares, good connections or good service in some ways, and that's why we're doing the study.
The other issue that the member opposite talked about was access into the parks. I have to tell the member opposite that the Premier has spoken to Sheila Copps about this very issue. We had problems with the film commission getting access into Kluane and that has been resolved on a temporary basis. We're looking at a long-term solution, and I will be speaking to Minister Copps when I go down there next week about this very issue.
The other issue and the last issue the member talked about was the development of more attractions. We are working with industry and with heritage and arts on developing more attractions. Absolutely. We need to work on that. The top two reasons people come is to enjoy the pristine wilderness and the next is to enjoy the attractions and events. It's important to us. I wish, like the member opposite, that the White Pass had been able to come all the way into Carcross this year. They couldn't make the business case and we can't do anything about that. We don't interfere with the private sector.
I also need to remind the member opposite that we have recently made an investment, through the Heritage Resources Board, into a museums strategy that will look at what attractions we have in heritage. We have also made an investment into the heritage resources trust fund. The money from that - the interest earned on the $1 million that rests in the fund, will help us look at some of those issues and perhaps provide O&M dollars, which seems to be the real concern for, perhaps, cultural centres or heritage facilities. That, to me, has clearly been identified as a problem.
Now, the Heritage Resources Board will come up with the funding criteria, but I would suggest to the member opposite that that is a concern that I've heard loud and clear. The dollars may go toward that.
The member opposite says that apparently we have gone backwards in the visitor industry. There are a lot of people in the tourism marketing partnership that would have a great deal of trouble with that comment. I'm speaking to the member opposite about, for example, the visitor guide. There are many people within the industry who are quite proud of that. It has been reorganized. It's completely different. The member opposite, I know, doesn't have a problem with it. It's only the other critic that seems to have a problem with it.
People are trying very hard, but the reality is that gas prices are very high and it's going to be difficult this year. I'm not expecting stellar numbers. If I'm pleasantly surprised, I will be thrilled.
There are areas where we are gaining some success. First of all, winter tourism and wilderness operators - the member opposite brought up that point. I also have to talk about the Japanese visitors. We went, in one year, from 100 Japanese visitors to look at the northern lights, to 1,000 visitors. We are expecting next year up to 3,000 visitors. That is a huge increase in one small sector.
The member opposite knows what it is like in the middle of winter when you are operating, for example, a retail business, and if only three people come in whom you wouldn't normally have, then that's the difference between breaking even that day and losing money. It has a tremendous impact on our economy. We are so small that those small numbers make a tremendous difference to us, and therefore we spend money on some of our emerging markets. That is why we did the sales mission to Europe. We went to Italy, England and Holland because we found that there was the greatest growth in those areas, and we wanted to encourage that. That makes sense - to look at the new markets and the new possibilities so that we can grow the industry.
The industry has changed. We don't have bus tours like we used to. And to think that we ever would again, I think, is not realistic. People don't want to get on a bus and travel for hours any more. They don't mind getting into an RV and travelling for hours and stopping where they want to and doing what they want to. And that's a change. And they enjoy wilderness experiences and wilderness lodges. That is something that they do like to do, and the member opposite has pointed that out.
As for the work on the Five Finger pullout, I believe that work was done in the capital project last year, and I would imagine that continuing work will be done on the Five Finger pullout.
Mr. Jenkins: There are a number of things that the visitor industry can do and can do right away. I would urge the Minister of Tourism to sit down with her colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, and come to an understanding that all of the commercial highway signs in the highway right-of-way that are obviously from businesses that have closed down, and have been closed for a number of years, are removed.
That's the first step, and the second step is any of the signs that have deteriorated to a point that they're not acceptable that a letter be written to the owner and they be given a certain amount of time to upgrade that sign and keep it in good standing. There is a renewal period, Mr. Chair, for these highway signs, and part of the terms and conditions when you erect a sign, if you're with the private sector, is that you maintain it in good standing. So I don't believe what we need is a complete review of this area again. All we need is for the government and the various agencies of this government to enforce the existing regulations. It's a simple exercise, because currently they're not being enforced. That's creating a problem. With respect to the signage on First Nation lands, that's another area altogether and I urge the minister just to leave that on its own, because the First Nations are autonomous bodies. All we are concerned with is the highway signage in the highway right-of-way. That's it.
Mr. Chair, I draw attention to the fact that the minister indicated she had gone forward with a Cabinet submission with respect to the film industry. I applaud that. I chastise her Cabinet colleagues for not recognizing the economic opportunity and potential in not going along with the submission. But I'll leave that to another day.
Mr. Chair, I'm concerned with the window of opportunity that most of our visitors arrive here during, and that's May to September. We're losing ground and shrinking in that area. We have a problem that must be addressed.
Infrastructure is part of that problem, and the minister is absolutely correct when she says that there's a downturn in the number of individuals who want to travel on a motorcoach. That's absolutely correct. They want to come in, spend a few days, and get out.
That means we have to have airports that are to an acceptable standard. If you look at the airport in my community, we're going to spend $5 million of federal money on it to just bring it into compliance with federal regulations. Hallelujah. It still won't be paved, it will still be a day-VFR airport, and it still can't be used as a tool of economic development to attract other carriers whose insurance, by and large, requires that they land on a paved strip. There's a significant problem there. There's a heck of a good market there, but until we have the adequate infrastructure in place, we're going to remain static and we're going to lose ground, and we're losing ground currently, Mr. Chair. There's an opportunity there to address the shortcomings in our transportation system.
Mr. Chair, I guess we can take the stand that this Liberal government has taken previously with respect to highway signage, if I could digress somewhat. If we just don't cut the bush down on the side of the highway and the highway right-of-way, we'll hide all those signs. That was the policy that we had in place last year by this Liberal government, and I guess if we continue with that, we won't need to do anything with highway signage. We can't see them through the trees.
Mr. Chair, there are opportunities, but it's going to take a long-range plan and a short-range plan by this government, and I'd urge them to proceed with as much haste as possible because the visitor industry is losing ground in our prime season, May to September.
We're all hurting. We're hurting significantly. When you have major carriers, like Princess, that used to supply the Yukon with some 3,000-odd room nights and are now down to 500 or 600 because they have had a change in strategy - they no longer have four ships in the Inside Passage; they have one. Next year, they will have none. All of their ships will be going across the gulf, going into Seward. Their passengers will be disembarking at that point and they will be filling their own hotel chain. Their hotel chain starts in the Kenai, goes into Talkeetna, then into Denali and then into Fairbanks. They have acquired a major property over in the Copper Centre area, which will give them access to the Wrangell-St. Elias. They are going to short-circuit the whole Yukon out of the loop. They won't go away entirely, but that has been the change.
The trend today is for shorter, fast, shore excursions off the cruise ships. These 30-day motorcoach travel tours are, well, not happening to the extent they used to. There is still significant RV travel, but most of that RV travel is destined for Alaska. Currently, if you're a Canadian, you can pick up Canada 3000 in Toronto, fly to Vancouver, get on Canada 3000 and fly into Anchorage, pick up a little rental RV for significantly less money than you can do in Whitehorse.
There are a number of factors. If you come into Whitehorse, you have to pay GST on the whole trip - that dreaded federal initiative, Mr. Chair.
Well, the Liberals promised to scrap the GST. I remember that distinctly. I can remember the guy there from Shawinigan. He says there that we are going to scrap the GST - it's in the red book.
But anyway, that was a pledge, that was a promise, and it went by the way. But the bottom line is that, for a Canadian, it is less expensive to fly into Anchorage and rent a motorhome than it is to fly into Whitehorse.
That doesn't bode well because a lot of them want to come and visit the Yukon, but they are not allowed to bring that motorhome or that rental vehicle rented in the States, back into Canada. So there is another little problem that the Department of Tourism can probably find some way around. A lot of them just want to do the loop road - come over the Top of the World Highway into Dawson, down into Whitehorse, and back along the Alaska Highway - but they are not permitted to bring that motorhome they rented in Alaska into Canada. This is another federal regulation and it all has to do with the federal taxes on that vehicle - primarily the GST.
So there has to be a way that we can encourage travel in these directions for Canadians, because it is less expensive and it could benefit us to a larger degree.
A lot of these are federal regulations but I was hoping that this wonderful new love-in that currently exists between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals would benefit Yukon.
The issue surrounding the airport in Dawson - all of these areas must be addressed and it is going to take a collaborative effort by the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, by the Minister of Tourism and all of the Cabinet colleagues, to reach a decision, but something has to be done in this area.
That's necessary infrastructure to stimulate the economy. It's not happening. We're just paying lip service to it; we're just studying it. It's time to stop the bus, and let's move ahead and get onto an airplane, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I think the member opposite is referring to the new fly-drive way of seeing destinations. He's absolutely right that that's where the growth is.
Going back to some of the issues that the member opposite brought up. He talks about removing the highway signs and to send letters to the owners, where possible. I have to tell the member opposite that we have been doing that, with little result. The new policy will be far more enforceable than the last policy. That's why we're developing a new policy. We want to do the best we can for Yukoners.
The member opposite says that the new policy must have a very short renewal time for the licence to put up the signs. That is part of the new policy. We have heard that message quite clearly. The member opposite is absolutely right; we don't need to do another huge consultation to hear the same information over and over and over again.
Now, the next issue the member brought up was summer visitation and how that is his greater interest right now. And obviously it would be, because that's where our greatest numbers come from. We need to promote that through better infrastructure spending. We have increased highway spending considerably just in the last year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite says that's Shakwak, and the member opposite says that that's from the U.S. government, and he's right, but there are also considerably more dollars being spent by this government on highway O&M and construction than previous governments. The amount of highway spending was down to a small shadow of itself under the previous Yukon Party government, for example.
The member opposite says that the way we can best improve summer visitation in Dawson is by paving the Dawson City Airport, and that message has been heard by this side of the House. However, in consultation with the local community, we were told that the first priority needs to be moving the tanker base to the south side of the airport and improving the apron and other areas of the airport. That would cost approximately $3.96 million, which we have allocated through the federal government toward improving the Dawson City Airport. So the next project is obviously going to be paving the Dawson Airport. But the Dawson Airport is in the middle of the mountains. There's not much you can do about it. What we can do is make the improvements that are possible now.
There are other airports in the Yukon that are not getting the attention that the Dawson Airport is. There is almost $5 million going into the Dawson Airport this year. That's a considerable amount of attention. The member opposite says that's still not enough and his concern about paving has been heard.
The next point the member opposite says is that the number of travellers from cruise ships is going down, and that whole area is changing. Princess Cruise Lines, as the member opposite knows, is not committing the same numbers to the Yukon that they have in the past. However, I have it on good information that next year Princess will go directly to Dawson, and that's a good thing for the member opposite - a very good thing. Holland America continues their commitment to the Yukon, in sponsorships as well as in bringing visitors here. The member opposite and I are quite familiar with the individuals who work with us on the Holland America tours.
We are doing what we can, and that's part of the stay-another-day program. The average visitor comes to the Yukon, drives to the Yukon; he has 26 days to get to Alaska and get home.
Somewhere in there, he has two days of discretionary time. We would like to keep those two days in the Yukon. If we can do that, then we will inject millions of extra dollars into the Yukon economy. The stay-another-day program is neither new nor particularly innovative. It has been tried in other jurisdictions, but the amount of local buy-in that we have from Yukon communities is absolutely astounding. The amount of support from Yukon communities is quite encouraging.
The member opposite brings up the issue around rental vehicles and insurance. I have sent a letter to the Tourism Industry Association of Canada about that issue. In addition, we brought it up - and the member opposite was with us when we were at the Alaska Tourism Industry Association - when we were in Alaska last, and we are continuing to follow up on that at the officials level.
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few points. As for the old highway signage policy - and I'm not asking the minister to stand on her feet in response - I would like to know if she could just table in writing what is wrong with the old policy? Really, if the old policy were enforced, which is currently not the case, we wouldn't have anywhere near the problems that we currently have. All I'm suggesting, Mr. Chair, is that you take the existing policy, get a read on it, and enforce what currently exists. I think we would be much further ahead. That is not occurring.
Mr. Chair, with respect to the Dawson Airport and the issue surrounding the moving of the tanker base, you can ask 99 people in the Dawson City area about what's needed at the Dawson Airport, and they will all tell you that it needs to be paved and upgraded. Not one of them will tell you anything about the tanker base. The location of the tanker base is a safety issue. When the airport was transferred from the federal government to the Government of the Yukon, all the safety issues should have been addressed. They weren't addressed. The airport is really in non-compliance with many areas of the Transport Canada regulations, and this money that has been sent over from the federal government basically just addresses those areas.
As I went to the meeting, I was pointed out some of the issues that they feel are discrepancies, and I'd like to portray them for the minister now if I could and see if the minister has any answers, and if the minister doesn't, then certainly the minister can get back to me just to speed up the debate.
One issue is on the issue of capacity, and they were looking to see if there was some type of a training program that they might be able to put to an apprenticeship, or do you call folks "curators", maybe? You know what we mean, anyway, that type of issue, if there was a possibility that we could be looking at something for a person who might live in the community, because the people who are doing this right now come from other areas, I think, and the museum has terrific problems with supplying accommodation and a decent wage, et cetera, et cetera. So that's a problem I'd like to see if the minister could address at some point in time.
Another issue that has been brought forth from the George Johnston Museum is that some of the local businesses in town - and I'm speaking of Teslin, as the minister knows, and it's a very small business base in the community, very much government oriented and tourism oriented. One of the local hotel operators, the operator of the Yukon Motel, has spent many dollars and built a terrific wildlife museum, and I do believe that the minister has been through the museum and is aware of the merits of it.
I understand now that one of the museum advisors has been to the community of Teslin, talking to the George Johnston Museum Board, insisting that the museum have a gift shop of sorts or something where they could souvenirs, mementoes, that type of thing on a bigger scale. They're reluctant to do that because that is putting them into competition with the private sector and at the same time they want to be able to do that because they feel that the funding formulas that are delivered in a generic basis to the eight museums in the territory are not working. So they would like to know if the minister could look at a geographical, specific funding formula that would take into consideration that type of loss of revenue that would come from the line item that the gentleman has at the Yukon Motel.
They feel that they're being prejudiced against. It's in competition with business. If they don't do it - okay, the minister is nodding her head in agreement and understands the scenario.
The other issue that came up, and it was interesting that the minister was speaking earlier on it, was signage. They have a very tiny sign that announces the George Johnston Indian Tlingit Museum but it does not meet the standards of C&TS. So they're in a kind of scramble situation. They do want to do the right thing. They want to work with the department, but that is their main request. There are other issues that are coming from that museum but I can certainly wait until another date to bring them to the minister's attention, if they're not already in the minister's attention.
Another issue that I'd like to point out to the minister, and this is just quickly, if I could, in this manner - and the minister can get back to me, written or oral - is banners. I have been in the community of Ross River and the banners are really outdated there. I have noticed a lot of those outdated banners scattered throughout the territory and I was just wondering if the minister could make a concerted effort to get those banners up and that each community would have access to those banners.
On Tagish, I would like for the minister to, at some point in time, maybe join me on a boat trip or whatever. We could go down the Six Mile River and look at the North-West Mounted Police station. I know that the folks there, when I was the Minister of Tourism, had started an issue there and I would appreciate it if we could go there and find a way that we might be able to accommodate them.
In the community of Carcross - as the minister said earlier, they can't interfere with private business, but White Pass is not coming into the community of Carcross. Businesses have been talking about that in the community of Carcross. I understand that the stay-another-day program had just finished a community weekend talking about what it means to the community. The minister can correct me if the minister likes but this is my take on it.
They were there to say that the communities should be saying what is here in our community that would attract people to stay another day. It's community empowerment and I certainly appreciate that that would be there.
I'm wondering, though, if we could have a special look at the community of Carcross since we don't have a White Pass train coming in. We do have some good ideas coming from the community. I'm not sure what branch it would be - industry services or marketing or something else - but it would be community empowerment. If the minister would assure the community that someone would be there to at least show them how to access the program this year, so that we might be able to have visitors come to Carcross and stay that extra day.
Those are all the questions I have. If the minister would prefer to get back to me in another form, written or whatever, that would be fine.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I don't need to get back to the member opposite in a written format. I can give him all the information now quickly. The member opposite was talking about the museum in Teslin and O&M funding. The O&M funding issue is a concern of all museums. That's one of the reasons we are going through the museums strategy. Part of that is looking at ways of making museums self-sustaining. The way it has been suggested in the past is, of course, through gift shops. We don't want to compete with the private sector with tax dollars. So, that's a fine balancing act that we go through.
Now, there are ways to have items for sale that don't compete with what's already available in the community. That's the way, when I talked to the museums advisor, that he felt that we were going with the George Johnston Museum. I know that he was just down there and in contact with them on Friday. We can continue on with that process and I will keep the member opposite apprised of that.
As for the sign, it is my understanding that the new sign will be up as of June 1. Ask and it's done.
The funding formula for all four museums will be part of the museums strategy. We have to look at the whole Yukon and self-sustainability. That will be available in the fall.
We are hoping that the preliminary discussions from the museum strategy - the discussion paper should be available this fall, and we're hoping to have some implementation in the following year's budget. Also involved in that, of course, is the new heritage resources trust fund, and money will be available through that for, I believe, O&M funding, depending on what the Heritage Resources Board decides should be the criteria.
The member opposite brought up the issue of banners. As a part of the stay-another-day program, a brand new banner is going into every community, and they're actually quite nice. I don't know if the member opposite saw the display up in the foyer here in our building. They're quite colourful and quite pleasant, and they are going to be in each community of the Yukon that is part of the program.
The next issue was about the North-West Mounted Police station in Tagish. I've heard about that when I was in opposition, and I'd be happy to go on a boat trip down the Six Mile with the member opposite. That sounds like fun. And it is also going to be one of the issues that we look at during the museums strategy: identifying areas that we need to support, not only in funding but also in resources beyond funding.
Now, the member opposite talks about how White Pass is not coming in to Carcross this year, and that's a lamentable position to be in. However, they couldn't make a business case for this year. There's every indication that they will come in next year.
The community of Carcross has been visited twice by people from the stay-another-day program, and there will be another visitor in the next two to three weeks, talking about cultural events and arts programs through the stay-another-day program. That will continue to come on, and I will get information to the member opposite on when exactly that person is coming and who he will be contacting. Perhaps the member opposite can come up with some other people for the person to contact.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I don't have general debate, but what I would like to request of the minister is a succinct breakdown of any significant cost for each line item, and hopefully we can move through them rather quickly.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have the notes from the Department of Tourism O&M and capital budget briefings that were given to the opposition and there were details given for each line. So I am not too sure what the member opposite wants me to do. Does he want me to restate that? This is the information that I was given and there isn't an awful lot more detail on these lines available.
Deputy Chair: Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed to consider each line item.
Operations in the amount of $1,483,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Corporate Services in the amount of $1,483,000 agreed to
Operations in the amount of $347,000 agreed to
Museums in the amount of $512,000 agreed to
On Historic Sites
Historic Sites in the amount of $165,000 agreed to
On Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Bearing in mind that this is not significantly different from the detailed discussion that was given to the opposition, I will go through this. I gather the member wants to know about Beringia specifically?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is saying that he wants a breakdown of the $346,000. It represents a decrease of $37,000 from the 2001 forecast, and the decrease is mainly due to the one-time purchase of the Beringia Centre gift shop stock. The $68,000 is offset by increases in personnel costs of $41,000. So it's $174,000 for personnel, which is an increase of $41,000 from the 2001 forecast due to personnel cost increases in the conversion of a half-time auxiliary supervisor to a full-time indeterminate position.
There is $172,000 in other expenditures. This is a decrease of $78,000 from the 2000-01 forecast figures, and it is mainly reflected in the one-time purchase of gift shop stock and a reallocation to offset salary increases. There is $60,000 for advertising and $100,000 for facility management and $12,000 in travel supplies, materials and communications.
Yukon Beringia Interpretive Centre in the amount of $346,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments? Seeing none, are there any questions on the statistics?
Heritage in the amount of $1,370,000 agreed to
On Industry Services
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Operations in the amount of $631,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister provide a breakdown for the 17-percent decrease in the other allotments?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It's a decrease of $72,000 from the 2000-01 forecast. The decrease is mainly due to the reallocations of advertising dollars to the mass communications activity. So it was $16,800 to communications, which is miscellaneous - and that's in-territory travel, as well as contracting - and $174,000 agency account fees.
Mr. Chair, I made a mistake. I gave you the other for industry services branch - or, when I thought I was giving you the one for industry services, I actually gave you the other for marketing. So what I'll do now is go back and give you the information for industry services that I should have given you in the first place.
I know that sometimes one gets confused with these lovely books that are provided to the minister. In other expenditures, $172,000 is a decrease of $37,000 - and this is under industry services, not under marketing, as I gave to the member opposite previously.
It's a decrease of $37,000 from the 2000-01 forecast. This decrease is attributable as a reallocation of dollars to the personnel allotment for the tourism assistant position. It was $22,000 for in-territory and out-of-territory travel; $9,000 for communications and $121,000 for contracted industry development support; $12,000 for print materials and library acquisitions and $8,000 for advertising, freight, supplies and rentals.
Industry Services in the amount of $631,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Seeing none, we will now consider the activities line by line.
Operations in the amount of $1,268,000 agreed to
On Information Services
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite is indicating that he wants some further detail on the line. The 2001-02 O&M budget of $1,253,000 represents an increase of $52,000 or four percent from the 2000-01 forecast, due to increases of $8,000 in personnel costs, $24,000 for facility management, communications and training costs and $20,000 for increased representation and promotion at North American RV shows.
Personnel costs - those are the salaries for the 31 seasonal auxiliaries and a summer student. Other expenditures - $44,000 - and I already mentioned that to the member opposite for the facility management costs, and $416,000 for freight and postage for brochures and marketing materials. The member opposite knows that this is a constant problem. The price for postage goes up every year. There is $30,000 for travel and $169,000 for seasonal operation of six visitor reception centres.
Information Services in the amount of $1,253,000 agreed to
On Projects and Partnerships
Mr. Keenan: I was just wondering, where would I get the chance to speak about the Campbell Regional Association for Tourism with the minister? Would this be in information services, or where would this be? I'd asked the minister previously about that, and if the minister would like to just forward me some information on it and a breakdown of how it was broken down and what it has done for the community, I'd appreciate it.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I feel that we've actually gone past that point, but I will give detailed information to the member opposite. I'll send that to him in writing.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, can the minister provide us with information describing which projects and partnerships the department is currently engaged in? If you can undertake to get that back to us, that would be fine.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No problem. It's quite a long list, so that's a better way of doing it.
Projects and Partnerships in the amount of $507,000 agreed to
On Travel Trade
Travel Trade in the amount of $1,379,000 agreed to
On Mass Communications
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The 2001-02 O&M budget of $1,753,000 represents an overall increase of $355,000, or 25 percent, from the 2000-01 forecast. This increase is mainly due to new dollars allocated to the stay-another-day program. There is no personnel allotment in this activity. So $1,753,100 in other expenditures represents an overall increase of $355,000 from the 2000-01 forecast. $91,000 of that is media familiarization tours, including vehicle rentals, accommodation, meals, entry fees, et cetera. The member opposite knows how important these fam tours are to all of us. $383,000 is for the production of the vacation guide, and that includes contracts and travel. The member opposite needs to know and probably does know that those costs go up every year as well. $985,000 is for advertising the Yukon image in Canada and the U.S. - particularly the winter program and the stay-another-day program. I have shown the members opposite the inserts in the Up Here magazine, I have spoken about the television commercials, et cetera. $14,600 is for media marketplace, which includes travel and registrations. The member opposite knows we are in many marketplaces across the planet. $71,200 is for media materials, which includes the photo shoots - the new photo shoot this year as part of the stay-another-day program. The $34,500 is for electronic media, which includes the Web site work, which will be quite extensive this year. $38,000 is for contracts being undertaken in relation to the stay-another-day program. That would include, for example, the person who is going around in the communities right now doing inventory of cultural events and festivals. $135,000 is for activity support for rental supplies and materials.
Mass Communications in the amount of $1,753,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Seeing none, are there any questions on the statistics?
Marketing in the amount of $6,160,000 agreed to
On Arts and Cultural Industries
Deputy Chair: We will now proceeds to arts and cultural industries. Is there any general debate?
Seeing none, we will consider each line item.
Operations in the amount of $1,908,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Seeing none, are there any questions on the statistics?
Arts and Cultural Industries in the amount of $1,908,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Seeing none, are there any questions on the revenue?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $11,552,000 agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now proceed to Tourism capital programs.
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Deputy Chair: On corporate services, is there any general debate?
Seeing none, we will proceed to the line items.
On General Corporate Support
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $68,000 agreed to
Corporate Services in the amount of $68,000 agreed to
Mr. Jenkins: We can probably clear the whole capital in one line.
Unanimous consent re clearing Tourism capital budget
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been requested for all capital program totals in the Department of Tourism to be deemed carried. Is unanimous consent granted?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted. All capital program totals in the Department of Tourism, Vote 13, are carried.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $3,675,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now proceed to the Department of Education.
Department of Education
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am pleased to give opening comments for the budget for the Department of Education for the 2001-02 fiscal year.
As members opposite or their staff were in attendance at the technical briefing provided by the department, I will keep my comments brief in order that we may proceed to line-by-line debate on the details of the budget.
The overall department O&M budget of $90,475,000 consists of four expenditures of program areas: education support services, public schools, advanced education, and libraries and archives.
Education support services provides support in the form of financial, human resources, administrative systems and legislative services to the three program areas that provide services to the public. The only change in presentation of the O&M budget this year over previous is the identification of funds for youth initiatives as a separate activity in the advanced education budget. This change reflects the importance of our support to youth as they participate in the affairs of the territory, whether social, economic or cultural.
Mr. Chair, as members are aware, the department has a number of work sites, including 28 schools, Wood Street Centre, Yukon Archives, 14 community libraries, two volunteer libraries, the central Whitehorse Public Library, Gadzoosdaa residence and the Teen Parent Centre. This range of facilities reflects the extent of the impact of the department's operations have on the Yukon public every single day.
Of the total operation and maintenance budget, an amount of $59,450,000, or approximately 66 percent, is the estimated cost of salaries and benefits. The remainder of the budget - $31,025,000 - consists of $12,502,000, or 14 percent, in program delivery costs and $18,523,000, or 20 percent, in transfer payments to individuals and organizations. There are 895.74 full-time equivalents included in this budget, with the largest percentage - 82 percent or 733.45 FTEs - located in the public schools branch.
This budget contains important features and changes relating to my government's commitment to the people of Yukon. Innovators in the Schools is an organization that initiates partnerships between volunteer mentors, usually in the scientific or the applied professional areas, and schools. Innovators support enriches school curricula by providing hundreds of contact hours, either sharing information, resources and skills directly with students or enabling school students to access the skills within the field. As part of our platform, we committed to providing a stable funding stream for this program. Through this budget, this has now been accomplished at $57,000 as laid out by the administrators of the program in their three-year funding request. This will facilitate a full-time administrator for the program. This requires extensive coordination of the professional resources and the requests from the school.
In support of language development, the department has committed new funds in the amount of $40,000 to provide for half the cost of the linguist to provide services to both the aboriginal language services office and the Yukon Native Language Centre, which the department funds through the Council of Yukon First Nations.
This partnering with Executive Council Office is an example of how shared funds can service the needs of both departments and their constituents in a more cost-effective way. This position, when recruited, will be heavily involved in literacy and several language groups as a complement to positions already working in this field.
Services to communities will be administered through the aboriginal language services office, and services to community language instructors will be administered through the Yukon Native Language Centre. This will help expand kindergarten to grade 12 curriculum work to preschool and adult services. We look forward to this new service in the up and coming months.
Also in this budget is another partnering project. Funds in the amount of $25,000 had been set aside to assist the Department of Community and Transportation Services with the active living coordinator as part of the recently announced strategy.
It is our hope that increased activities at the school level, which promote healthy lifestyle choices by our students, will help position them for a better adult lifestyle. This position will be responsible for working with schools to establish a school-based activity, living awareness and education program.
In addition to these new initiatives, this budget continues the support we pledged to Yukon students in their pursuit of a post-secondary education by adding the increase directly to the base, ensuring that a 20-percent increase in rates paid to students will be available on an ongoing basis.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to, at this time, also provide some brief comments about the Department of Education capital budget. As the members opposite are aware, the amount of the budget for the Department of Education is largely driven by the number of large school replacement building projects that are proceeding in a given fiscal year. This budget is no exception, with 32 percent of the total funds requested being allocated to two major school construction projects.
The single largest request in the capital budget is the $2,200,000 required to continue with the J.V. Clark School construction in Mayo. This amount will be combined with funds voted in 2000-01 to provide the necessary cash flow in the current year. This project is underway and Dowland Contracting is the selected general contractor. We are looking forward to completion of the school this year.
The Catholic school expansion project, for which $1,600,000 is requested, is a continuation of the grade reorganization project that was done for the public schools throughout the territory. This project will bring the Catholic system to the same kindergarten to grade 7 class levels as exist in the rest of the schools.
Construction completed at the Holy Family Elementary and Christ the King Elementary during the next year will permit grade realignment commencing in September 2002.
An additional 22 percent of the total budget is requested in advanced education for contributions to other programs related to adult training and education; specifically, this includes the capital grant to Yukon College and funds allocated to implement the Yukon training strategy through the community training funds. An amount of $750,000 has been requested to support Yukon College through the capital grant funding. The college has full discretion for the expenditures of these funds.
The amount of $1,800,000 has been requested for the continuation of the community training fund, previously called the training trust fund. This fund is designed to support the people in the communities in their efforts to complete training that will increase employment opportunities.
Included in the community training trust fund request is a 100-percent recoverable funding in the amount of $300,000 for the older workers project. Human Resource Development Canada will provide these funds to supplement the contributions from the Department of Education and Health and Social Services for the second year of this two-year pilot project. As mentioned when the program was introduced in the supplementary budget for 2000-01, this project will implement one of the goals within the Yukon training strategy. A total of up to $790,000 is expected for investment in project design, delivery and evaluation for this project in the Yukon.
The older workers' resource centre, established by the contractor Up North Training Services, provides assessment, work-related and personal counselling, job-finding skills and participation in the development of a return-to-work plan for persons in the designated age group 55 to 64 years of age. Another 40 percent of the budget is requested specifically to support the 28 school facilities throughout the territory - everything from replacement of old playground equipment to replacement of heating systems to upgrading of wiring and computer hardware for school computer labs to grounds work. All of these activities directly support the learning environment of our students.
Other project funds that support all or a number of public schools throughout the territory will be described in detailed line-by-line presentation.
Mr. Chair, with these brief comments, I would be happy to answer any general questions that the members may have before preceding to line-by-line review of the Department of Education's budget.
Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being close to 4:30, do members wish to take a brief recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: We'll take a 15-minute recess.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee is considering Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02. We will continue with general debate on the Department of Education.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I don't think the minister and I have to spend a great deal of time talking about the importance of this department and education overall for this territory. And obviously there are some very big ticket items that are taking place right now in our education system that are going to have a huge impact in the future, and hopefully a very positive impact.
So we have a few questions in general debate and would like to move this department along. I'd like to begin with going back to the Liberal campaign document. I just want a little bit of clarification, Mr. Chair. The Liberals seem to think that there has been a great deal of damage done to the relationships with the partners in education. I'm wondering if the minister could enlighten us on what that damage really was.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do appreciate the member's opening comments with respect to the Department of Education. And yes, we do have some up-and-coming massive chores with respect to the department's Education Act review. I don't think I have ever alluded to the fact that we have massive problems with our partners in education. I have indicated - as I did on Saturday with the teachers - that there is some dialogue that has to occur to create a more positive relationship between the teachers and me. I believe we have already started on that route.
I am building a strong working relationship with the school councils. I did attend some parts of their recent annual meeting here in Whitehorse and had some very frank and open discussions with them. I am talking to administrators. I am also in communication with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations in working out and addressing the needs, concerns and issues with respect to our First Nation students.
So I think we're on a very positive track, working with our partners in education.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I only bring that up because it seems like the Liberals approach this whole as if there had to be repairs done to the relationship, and I was not aware that we had a serious problem in the relationship with the partners in education. I think the Education Act review, some 10 years after its inception and implementation, that this is a good time for that to take place. There has probably been a great deal of change in our system throughout the country and in the Yukon in educating our young. There are all kinds of other vehicles out there now. The technology advancing as it has, distance education becomes an issue. We have to look at home schooling. We have to look at mainstreaming. We have to look at so many things.
This "repair the damage" might have been a little bit of an erroneous statement. Maybe it should have been "further the relationship with our partners in education", as this has been an ongoing process for a long, long time.
We are spending some $90 million-plus in education in this territory. We've embarked on what might be one of the most important initiatives to come along in many years - the Education Act review.
I'm only assuming - and the minister can correct me if I'm wrong - that the Education Act review is opening up all the doors, which means that a lot of the issues we are dealing with are going to at least be looked at through this review. We don't know yet what the final analysis is going to be. We don't know what the final amendments are going to be to the Education Ac, and so on and so forth. But I'm assuming that the discussions are very broad-ranging and that the intent is to cover as much of our system and our act and all that goes with it as possible.
Can the minister just give us a brief update on what he thinks is happening within the review? How is it going? Are we facing any substantial delays? Are we getting good feedback and input? How is this progressing at this time?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I didn't mean to imply that we're having problems throughout with our partners in education by any stretch. The debate that we have had in the past has been relative to the negotiations that we had with the teachers. There have been some questions from the members opposite on that process. I guess what I'm trying to allude to - and I'm sure the Member for Watson Lake will agree - is that there is always room for improvement. There are always improvements to be realized, and the goal is to ensure that we listen and work to address the needs of all the students in the territory.
With respect to the Education Act review, I have stayed deliberately at arm's length from the committee as they have been conducting the review. I have had briefings on the progress that the committee has made over the past year, and I guess one of the most profound messages that we're getting as a result of the community travels is that we have relatively - and I mean relative to the outside - small school population but we have many schools. We have 28 schools. A lot of our program delivery is changing, especially in the communities. As I indicated, speaking with the First Nations Grand Chief, we're working very hard to accommodate First Nation aspects into our curricula.
So how that is going to fall out remains to be seen, as the member has indicated.
There has been an incredible amount of data provided to the committee - over 7,000 pieces of data. A lot of that is related directly to changes that will affect the act itself. A lot of it is how we can better perform in the schools, how we can better perform delivery of programs and how we can accommodate it, because our vision as a government is to provide the best education we can to our students. That is ultimately the goal of this government.
We've had lots of feedback and that feedback will be coming forward later this year in two packages: one as the changes affect the Education Act, and those that are recommendations that we can even now start implementing - they're not associated with the Education Act, but how we can better perform in the schools. That involves tremendous input from educators themselves. The expectations and the load on teachers have changed dramatically since we went to school, and we're looking to address the needs and concerns of our students - all the way from FAS/FAE on through to those students who have no trouble in school, the bright individuals. We have to address and consider those students as well.
So we have a broad scope of student types and we are looking at the best way we can accommodate providing education to all our students.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I find that quite positive. I'm sure that's what we all want to see happen. The Education Act review - can the minister allude to any timeline here? When can we expect draft legislation? He mentioned that there are some recommendations coming out of the discussions that are probably triggered by the Education Act review. Are some of these recommendations involving curricula? If so, what are they and when can we expect to see some changes vis-à-vis the recommendations that have been coming forward?
Two things: timeline on draft legislation for the Education Act, and these recommendations that have been coming out of the discussions.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The short answer is that with the volume of information, the committee has requested that there be a delay in forwarding legislation. So legislation won't be tabled until the spring of 2002 - I believe that I have already announced that in the House. With respect to the recommendations outside, the committee, as we stand here now, are meeting on sorting out those recommendations, and they still have to go out for further public review which will be happening later this summer.
The recommendations will be coming forward after that review period, probably in November. So we have the recommendations coming forward after additional public review in November and legislation in the spring of 2002.
Mr. Fentie: In order to expedite the debate, then, could the minister provide a written return on the recommendations - what they are, how the minister intends to implement them and the timelines? That will be fine. We don't have to go into a long debate on those.
I do have to discuss something with the minister now and his comment about bringing forward the Education Act amendments in the spring of 2002. Now, we just went through a painful process here around that whole issue, and the minister has now sparked my interest. Obviously we are going to be doing a lot more this fall than debating a capital budget and legislation. It appears to me that we're going to be debating some changes to the Standing Orders of this Legislature. Unless the changes are passed, how does the minister intend to get around the fact that a spring sitting is a budget sitting and not for substantive legislation? I'm sure the minister is not going to stand up and argue that the Education Act review is housekeeping. I would be floored if that took place. How does the minister get around this issue of bringing through substantive legislation in the spring budget session?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, that's why I'm giving the members opposite a heads-up now. Their concern was, as we heard during the debate on bills this spring, that they possibly didn't get the information quickly enough.
This actually is the direct result of a request from the committee. I'm respecting that request. It's in writing, and if the member wishes, I could forward the letter to him, along with my response acknowledging that, in light of the information they received, yes, we would defer that. I will be speaking to our House leader about when I can provide draft legislation to the members opposite to get them ready.
And the member opposite is right - it's going to be a little more than housekeeping legislation. I would hope that in order to accommodate the changes to the Education Act, so that implementation could occur in the fall of 2002, they would accommodate looking at the legislation in the spring of 2002.
We would be more than willing - more than willing. Also, I invite the leader of the third party to sit in on detailed briefings on this legislation. We will make best efforts - and I will commit to this right now - to provide full briefings and information on the legislation before it comes forward in the spring of 2002.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we heard it here today. We are going to get a full briefing and draft legislation in an appropriate amount of time before it's tabled in this House. We shall see how all this evolves.
Mr. Chair, I have a few more questions to go through here. I would like to begin with an issue around education support services. We seem to, unfortunately, experience vandalism and school property being defaced - those types of things. In education support services, are we looking at any initiatives to try to address these problems that unfortunately we face with our schools? It's certainly a sad state of affairs when we have to deal with this type of thing. We all pay for that. Worse than that, the people who are most impacted are the students - the children - who are in the schools trying to learn. They have to deal with these other issues. Some of the issues, on the vandalism side, may very well compromise and restrict their ability to learn through certain periods.
Is the department, out of the $90 million of expenditures, taking a serious run at trying to address this issue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, that certainly is a concern, and it is always a concern with all our schools in the territory - how well they are maintained. The Department of Education works very closely with the Department of Government Services when it's working toward maintaining, ensuring that there is security in our system. As a matter of fact, Government Services is responsible and invoices the Department of Education for it, and we're looking in the order of $80,000 to address those concerns, and there are a number of initiatives.
There is a capital line addressing the facility maintenance agreement of $80,000 in the budget that looks specifically after this. And there are questions about safety in the schools and putting alarms in the schools, and what is the process, who decides, how does it function and how is it best determined. So those are the things that we address already.
Mr. Fentie: Moving on, then, to the recruitment and retention of teachers, educators, and an issue around the turnover at the principal level - it seems to be quite extensive. Obviously, if our principals are moving on quickly and not establishing consistency in the schools from the leadership level, then that has an effect of moving down the chain of command right into the student population. Principals play a vital role in our schools because they are the ones in control of the situation and making the hard decisions, ensuring that we're getting the most that we can possibly get out of the expenditures that we allocate toward education.
This turnover issue - does the minister have plans to try and alleviate that situation with our principals?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I very much welcome the question from the member opposite with respect to the principals in our schools. At the end of this year, two are retiring and we have already recruited for those two, so therefore there is no change. Also, there were three resignations in our schools and those have also been addressed, so we have already accommodated and filled those positions.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's good that we have refilled, backfilled or however you want to put it. I'm more concerned about consistency and having principals stay once they have taken on the job at a specific school. Have them stay and implement their procedures as most principals will do, establish that working relationship with the rest of the teachers and, of course, with the student population so they get a very clear and consistent message that the principal is there to provide guidance, leadership and discipline and all the things that somebody in a leadership position provides.
The consistency factor - that's what I'm asking the minister about. Have they addressed trying to keep some consistency in our principals staying in one school?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, we have, Mr. Chair, in that two of the principals who left this year are of retirement age and chose to retire. Now, you can't force them to stay. There was one reassignment, at choice, and there is no indication in our other schools that the duration of stay in those schools is decreasing. The rest are committed to, as the member suggested, maintaining continuity within the schools.
Of the five who left, two, as I had indicated, had retired, and two had resigned, and one was reassigned, so we are maintaining that. And it is my hope that within the review of the Education Act, we'll be better able to provide service to our chief administrators in our schools.
Mr. Fentie: Recruitment and retention of teachers was obviously an issue some weeks and months ago. We have a new contract now with teachers. I'm just curious to know if there are any tools that the minister is applying in the way of recruiting and retaining our teachers.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The department has a number of initiatives going on, one of which is working with administrators on how we can better retain our teachers by training and providing additional support for their requirements. That's on the retention side.
During the conference this past weekend, and since that conference, I have invited both the current president of the YTA as well as the incoming president to meet with me to discuss these issues further. These were things that I heard during the negotiations with the teachers, so we are getting ready to address those concerns specifically.
Mr. Fentie: In that vein, Mr. Chair, we have some communities that obviously are special cases. When you look at Old Crow, Ross River and other smaller communities in rural Yukon, there are special needs there, and recruiting and retaining teachers in these communities is one thing, but it also goes back to the principal and trying to find a principal who has experience working in rural communities. There are a lot of unique issues and different issues that are dealt with because of isolation in a very small community and a possible combination of grades and classes, and there are all kinds of different things that have to be dealt with in rural Yukon.
With respect to places like Old Crow, does the minister have any plans on how to address special needs in communities like that and ensure that we have experienced people, especially at the level of principal, who have a good knowledge and experience in working in rural communities? Can the minister just give us a little bit of a briefing on that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is no doubt, as the member opposite is alluding to, that it is a challenge. There is no doubt that it is a challenge recruiting competent, dedicated chief administrators in our schools in the territory. I know that there have been problems in the past. The member has cited the Old Crow incident.
At the meeting on Saturday, I did spend some time talking to administrators and teachers and saying, "Look, we have to sit down and address these. We can't be bringing up raw recruits, new recruits, and new, young teachers, fresh from huge urban settings, and then sending them out to fend for themselves in the woollies." Some of the schools have one or two teachers in a couple of instances and a handful in other instances, which we're very, very aware of.
We are looking at new and innovative ways. I know that there was a teacher who talked to me from Teslin who was very skilled and competent and was, as she said, "stuck there" because of her competency. And once a community gets teachers like that, they don't want to let them go. But she admitted that she was burnt out.
So we have to look at better ways to either rotate - how we could at least give young teachers a year or two right here in Whitehorse - or ask for volunteer teachers with experience to go out into the communities. The options are endless. The commitment is certainly on our side to help and assist. This is why I am looking forward to meeting the current president and the new president - to see how we can address these issues specifically, how the department could support them by way of special needs training. The myriad of things - I mean, like I said earlier, our school system has changed radically even just over the past 10 years.
Mr. Fentie: All right, can I ask the minister then, when it comes to specialists - teaching a little bit outside of the box - what happened in Ross River with the individual who was teaching archaeology? I'm not sure what the courses were, but there was a specialist in the community. Ross River, as a community, can certainly garner a lot of benefit from having activities like that taking place in the community. It seems that, all of a sudden, this ended, for whatever reason. Can the minister enlighten us about what happened with this individual and that particular course that was being provided, but which is suddenly over? I believe it is all through Yukon College that this is happening.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, that's a good little twist to throw in there at the end. I'm not sure if the member is referring to a Yukon College employee or - I guess we have to be careful here when we start talking specifics because, of course, we don't want to be discussing personnel issues on the floor of the House.
The member is right on the mark. There are some communities that have special interests, and this is where it is the responsibility of me and the department to find balance - how we can still best provide opportunities in the communities with specialists, but recognizing that there are a limited number of individuals inside these schools. So, yes, they have to be outside-the-box thinkers and still have a specific task they have to do in the school to provide core education to our students. So it is a matter of finding that balance and that's - again - why I want to meet with the association directly. I have not really had that opportunity to date. I am really looking forward to sitting down and seeing what kind of ideas they can provide the government with.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would ask the minister then to provide, if possible, what took place in Ross River with the Yukon College course that was ongoing and suddenly stopped. It was my understanding that the community wanted the course to continue, but Yukon College said no. We are just trying to ferret out some of the information around this and what took place there.
Specialists, like psychologists and those types of specialists - it is my understanding that we have a backlog in a lot of the communities in trying to deal with some of these issues, because we don't have the required number of specialists, like psychologists or speech and language pathologists. What is the department doing in terms of trying to address that situation? Because obviously, if there are some problems in the learning capacity or speech - that type of thing - it has a huge negative impact on a student being able to progress. With special assistance and professional assistance, a lot of times we can overcome those impediments and a student can get full value for his time in school and, of course, graduate, which is the intended goal, with the appropriate skills and tools to further themselves as they continue on life's journey. What is the department doing in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: What we did in the last supplementary for 2000-01 was to add an additional $25,000 in order to address the specific concern that the member mentioned about speech and language therapists. Unfortunately, that individual is not here, but will be returning to the school system next year.
We do have a full complement of psychologists within the department right now, a staffing of four. And I will indicate to the member opposite that a very successful initiative established by previous governments called the reading recovery program is now in all our schools, and it is this type of program that we're looking at in order to mitigate future problems. So if we can nip things in the bud at an earlier age, then the problem doesn't persist with individuals through the school system. So those are some of the things that we're doing. We're carrying on a very successful reading recovery program, and we are addressing the concerns and needs. We also have a very close working relationship with the Child Development Centre for the hand-off of students as they come to the school system. So there is a lot of inter-agency cooperation occurring as well.
Mr. Fentie: Let's go to the flip side of this issue, then: gifted children. In our school system, what are we doing at the department level and, of course, throughout the system, so that we can allow gifted children to realize and maximize their potential and not be held back because of existing curriculum or whatever-the-case-may-be programming? I think our goal should be to allow those gifted children to enhance and expand on what they've been given in terms of their abilities and not have the system hold them back. Is the department trying to address this situation, and if so, how?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I very much appreciate the questions from the member opposite because he certainly is bringing to light the difficulties we have in meeting the needs of all our students in the territory.
There is a recognition that we do have exceptionally skilled individuals in our school system, and there is no current program that specifically accommodates those students in our system right now. It's something of which I'm certainly aware. There is an opportunity, through the Wood Street Centre, to accommodate those individuals through experiential learning and other opportunities that are contained within the Wood Street Centre, so that is one venue, but I would like to address that more specifically with the department and with the Teachers Association.
Mr. Fentie: If I may be so bold, Mr. Chair, allow me to offer the minister a suggestion. The government side is sitting on a nest egg of some $80 million. Now, we don't need to argue about all that has taken place around surplus monies and fiscal year-ends. However, my suggestion would be that the minister stand firm at the Cabinet table and try to extract some of that money toward education. In all fairness, and I believe, if we looked across the country, the demands of government by the people to focus more expenditure on education are quite loud. There are many of them. I think it's consistent throughout Canada and hopefully here in the Yukon - which I believe it is - that we focus as much as possible on education and provide the appropriate resources toward education so that we can, of course, address all the needs of our students, and indeed our teachers and our partners in education.
This is called competing at the table for money, and I don't think education should take a backseat to any of the other departments, Mr. Chair. There is money available, and I think we should be looking at ways that we can enhance our resources in education.
While having said that, we've covered special needs somewhat, but on the native language and culture side, we in the Yukon obviously have a huge connection to that. There is absolutely no doubt that the needs and issues of our First Nation students in regard to the most important thing in culture that roots you to who you are is, of course, language, and then the history and the cultural teachings that can be provided. It's much more than what is provided in the home; it's a system in its entirety.
Can the minister give us an update on the minister's priorities in this area and his government's priorities as they relate to native language and culture in our schools, ranging right from kindergarten to post-secondary?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: For the post-secondary aspect, of course, the needs would be directed within Yukon College, if we're still talking Yukon. We currently have 34.59 native language instructors. I don't know how we get a .59 of an instructor, but it's probably time-wise on an FTE basis.
We are certainly very aware, and during the meetings that I've had with CYFN's Grand Chief, as well as representatives within CYFN who are concentrating specifically on education, we are getting quite positive suggestions, as well as doing the Education Act review when we're out in the communities.
I again want to thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, who helped us prepare for our presentation in Old Crow - specifically to accommodate those suggestions or at least create an atmosphere where there would be the free flow of information. That was very, very helpful. So we have been doing that in all of the communities.
You know, in the whole of western Canada there is a protocol that is specific to First Nation curriculum and development, and we have staff actively involved in that. So I think it's a wonderful opportunity to integrate those cultures in the school, where non-First Nation students can appreciate the First Nation cultural aspects and still provide academic learning and teaching for First Nation students.
So, again, we have received a lot of information that will be brought forward as recommendations and will also be accommodated within the changes to the Education Act itself. So we are very aware of that.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for that.
Mr. Chair, YNTEP - is this program meeting its enrolment for next year or its targets at least? When it comes to the graduates, can the minister give us a breakdown of how many graduates are working in communities and how many graduates are working in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The answer to the current enrolment - there is currently enrolment occurring for next year for YNTEP. The latest information about placements of the 54 graduates, as of October of last year, are as follows: 23 are employed in elementary grades in Yukon; three are employed in secondary grades in Yukon; 11 have left the territory; 11 are employed in an educational setting in Yukon; one is currently seeking employment; one is working in a non-educational setting within the territory; two are completing their practica, and two are seeking employment in general.
The total number of graduates since the program began in 1989 is 54, and I will provide the member opposite with a figure of enrolment when we get closer to the school year, beginning later this summer.
Mr. Fentie: Let's move on now to advanced education or at least some areas involving advanced education and Yukon College itself.
First off, training trust funds. They've been around for quite some time. Can the minister, unless this is going to get overly complicated - maybe he wants to return it in writing - what I'm seeking is, have any training trust funds lapsed or been cancelled? Are there new training trust funds, what are they for and what are this government's priorities in establishing training trust funds at this stage of the game? If the minister could provide that answer? If it's too detailed, then I'll accept it in writing at a later date.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The priority is for employment training, either by sector or within the communities. That is a priority that we've retained. It's a very successful program within advanced education. As the member had indicated, the list could be quite extensive, and I'm more than willing to provide a chart on stats of the whole of the training trust fund for the member and also for the leader of the third party. I would be more than willing to do that.
Mr. Fentie: Yukon College, I believe, is the area that this falls in. Distance education with the technology advancements that are coming to the Yukon as we speak around Internet and all the rest of it, obviously opens up a great opportunity for this territory, given its small student population for the specialized teaching of certain special courses.
What we are doing in that area - I can visualize how, in distance education, we could have one teacher centralized, for instance, in Whitehorse teaching a special course to two students in Ross River, three students in Watson Lake and so on. Are we advancing in this area so that we can take full advantage of what we are going to have for services as far as Internet and video conferencing and all that stuff? How are we advancing distance education in this regard, and when can we expect to see some real product hitting the Yukon in distance education?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yukon College is incredibly advanced in that area, considering the small jurisdiction. I would be more than willing, again, to request the college to provide a detailed summary of all the initiatives that are occurring and to provide that to both parties of the opposition.
Mr. Fentie: That will be fine. If it would include programs that are offered, which communities can access the programs and which communities are going to be coming on-line in the very near future, that type of thing would be sufficient.
Another thing that the minister could provide - if he could do it in writing - concerns schools councils. Do they have a list of priorities that they have identified? This may even be outside of the Education Act review. I am sure that every school council in every community has different priorities. Does the minister have a list of priorities that school councils have presented to the department? If so, would he provide them to the opposition?
The other issue concerns temporary teachers. To the best of my knowledge, we do seem to use a lot of temporary teachers in this territory. The question that is coming forward now is: are these teachers qualified? If so, how many are qualified and how many aren't? How are we handling this situation given where we are at in this territory and the difficulties we face in recruiting and retaining teachers? Obviously temporary teachers are a very important vehicle for us. So how are we dealing with that issue?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Temporary teachers are hired during the school year. They usually fill a vacant position, due to maternity leave or other reasons, to the end of that school year. They are all qualified teachers. That was certainly an issue that came up, not specifically to temporary teachers, but to recruitment at the meeting of the Yukon Teachers Association over the weekend. It was a suggestion that was put forward that we ensure that teachers in general who are hired from outside are fully qualified to teach in the territory. I believe that already occurs with respect to temporary teachers.
Mr. Fentie: I have nothing further at this time in general debate. I can only close by saying that we are obviously at a crossroads in educating our young in this territory, whether it be technological advances, the Education Act review, a changing population - all the things that come into play here - we have an opportunity to really advance education in this territory. We can improve it, advance it, enhance it and hopefully we don't politicize it.
I know that the minister was berated at great length over politicizing the Education Act review; however, we on this side of the House, in the best interests of our young, will let bygones be bygones and urge the minister to tread carefully with his eyes wide open with regard to the Education Act review. Let's try to do something really great in this territory on behalf of our children.
Mr. Jenkins: I'll just fill in some of the areas that the Member for Watson Lake didn't quite cover to the extent that I thought was necessary.
The Yukon excellence awards - it would appear that the current Liberal policy is to adopt the NDP policy once again in another area. Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The excellence awards, Mr. Chair, is an excellent program. It recognizes those students who have excelled, and it was a good program that was initiated by the previous government. We acknowledge that and we are adopting it as well and using it to recognize the skills of those special students. It's a good thing.
I just want to add one final comment to the Member for Watson Lake's final comment. I do appreciate what I think was probably as close to a compliment in the House as I can get. I do appreciate the support that was extended from the members opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: If the minister believes that the Yukon excellence awards is an excellent program, perhaps he could restore it back to its original level when it was put in place under the Yukon Party, Mr. Chair, and not cut and dice and slice it up like the NDP did when they got into office. Would the minister be willing to restore it to its original levels?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, we are committed to providing the Yukon excellence awards structure, as per the following: it's based on 80 percent or higher grade on grade 9 Yukon achievement tests, which is math or English, or a grade 12 provincial exam, which includes 14 subjects offered in the Yukon. That is what we're currently using as our model for the excellence awards.
Mr. Jenkins: It's the exceptional student who jumps from grade 9 to grade 12, and there are two other grades in between. Why can't we implement the excellence awards for those two grades?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We're currently tied into the standard testing that presently occurs, but the member opposite has made a suggestion and I'll certainly make use of that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for that. It is a very, very good incentive. It has positive results and it allows students to build up quite a nest egg to go toward their post-secondary education and that's the whole exercise of these excellence awards. It's not something they put right into their pockets, Mr. Chair, and go off spending on whatever they wish; it's to go toward post-secondary education.
Given the cost of post-secondary education today, it's becoming very, very expensive. It is duly recognized that there has been an increase in the allotment for those students attending post-secondary education provided by this government, but other than the indexing for travel, this is still a very official way of providing for the costs of post-secondary education for our Yukon students.
Mr. Chair, I have some concerns surrounding the new association that's being set up for school councils. Can the minister advise what the aims are in setting up this new association and what its costs will be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The government, in exploring supportive options, was presented with a constitution and bylaws and general goals and objectives for an association to act on behalf of, and be an advocate for, school councils. That is really the global rationale for the association. A formal request was made to government. We saw merit in the proposal and provided about $102,000 - somewhere in there - in support of the initiative. We will see how that works out.
I could certainly provide for the member opposite the goals and objectives and the constitution so that he could have a better and broader-based understanding of the association.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, how are we going to monitor this association to see if it produces the results that we are anticipating? Is there a monitoring program in place? Does it have an initial start - two or three years? What are the timelines associated with this association? How is the government going to monitor its benefits?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do appreciate the concern the member opposite is mentioning here and we do have those concerns, too.
We have committed to support this new organization for a year. As a matter of fact, we're trying to schedule a meeting here shortly. I do believe that monitoring will be occurring on the responsiveness to participation by school councils in their associations. We will be asking questions on that and they will also be reporting their accomplishments over periods of time. So we do have the same concerns that the member opposite has and we want to see it function fully as per its intent. So we will be looking at them over time.
Mr. Jenkins: Not very comforting, Mr. Chair. Not very comforting.
Mr. Chair, most schools are represented by a school council. We have one that I'm aware of - and there might be more - that is represented by a school board. Now there is the potential for a lot of these school councils to become school boards. How is the existing school board going to plug into the school council group or association?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It's actually called the Association of School Councils - and Boards and Committees - so the association really is responsible for the recruitment of school boards and councils.
I would also suggest to the member opposite that, as a result of the Education Act review, I don't want to determine what is coming down the pike, but there have been suggestions that there may be some changes coming through the recommendation phase. So things are admittedly up in the air and it's one new initiative; it's a new way of doing businesses; it's a new way of looking at, coordinating and building up these partnerships with school councils. So it needs time and we have allocated a year's time to see how this association functions. So I think it's only fair to give them that time.
Mr. Jenkins: I must remind the minister that the object of the Department of Education is to provide our students with the best possible education, not to create more and more government bureaucracy on top of the department.
I have some questions surrounding the teacher turnover and how it relates to the administration side of it. I have been made aware that our community, Dawson is probably going to lose one and one-half to two teachers because of the reduction in the student population.
Now, there seems to be an ever-increasing staffing level in the Department of Education in total. How are we going to maintain some balance between the number of teachers and the size of the administration in the Department of Education? Currently we are going to see a significant reduction in the number of teachers, given this reduction in the size of the school population. That is a given; that translates immediately.
It's on a one-year cycle, on a school cycle, that that reduction occurs, but there seems to be an ever-growing administration on the top. How are we going to maintain some balance?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, we haven't added any staff to the Department of Education.
Mr. Jenkins: Okay, that's a given. But we're going to be losing how many teachers system-wide?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, that's going to depend on the enrolment that occurs in our schools for next year. That's how we evaluate the number of teachers included in next year's program.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the size of the administration grew a number of years ago with the increase in the student population and the increase in the number of teachers, but we subsequently had a territory-wide reduction in the size of the school population, and we're going to experience a significant reduction in the size of the teaching force - the number of teachers. You can see the reduction in Faro from just three or four years ago to today. It's the same with my community. We have been heading steadily downwards from a high, just a few short years ago, of - I can't recall where it peaked. It was 325 or 329, and we're down to 220 today, which translates into a reduction in teachers.
But the one thing that doesn't appear to change, now that it has been built up, is the size of the administration on the top. Why is that, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Chair, I indicated to the member opposite that we aren't growing government within the Department of Education. The best information I can provide to the member opposite, at this time, is that they're targets that we're using for next year. The fact is that on the administration side, there is no growth in program. Again, I must remind the member opposite that these are targets.
Education assistants are up slightly by three and one-half positions, remedial tutors are down by half a position, native language instructors are up by approximately two and one-half and substitute teachers are the same. So, we can, at this particular juncture, only provide targets to the member opposite, but I do want to assure him that we're not growing government within the department.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, government has expanded to meet the demand that was in place several years ago. Since that time, Mr. Chair, we have seen a significant reduction in the school population and a further reduction in the number of teachers, and we're probably going to witness a significant reduction in the number of students system-wide this year and a system-wide reduction in the total number of teachers.
Now, certainly that would translate into the minister providing an explanation as to why we maintain the size of the administration that we have.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, we do need curriculum consultants. We want to provide the best education in our system. We do need principals in every one of our schools, so those have to be maintained, as I just indicated to the Member for Watson Lake. So, there are some responsibilities that have to be maintained by the department. I have indicated to the member opposite that we are not growing the size of government within the department.
We want to be sure that we provide the best education that we can for our students. One comment with respect to the association that I failed to bring up at the time is that the association is made up of volunteers, as well. So, we do depend on volunteers within our school councils and within the association. Again, this is to create more input at the grassroots level, directly from parents. We are committed, and they are committed to this whole exercise.
So, that's what we're endeavouring to do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's go back to the administration. Why is the size of the administration being maintained at its current level when the number of students and the number of teachers is being reduced? If the minister goes back six years or seven years and looks at the size of the administration at that time, the number of students and the number of teachers, there was a buildup in the administration on a couple of points, Mr. Chair. Now we're seeing a reduction in the number of students in our school system, we're seeing a further reduction in the number of teachers in our school system, but the administration is remaining the same. Normally, one would be of the opinion that there should be a reduction in the size of the administration. We're not seeing that, Mr. Chair; we're not seeing that anywhere in government when something goes down. We see it build up when things increase, but we never see a corresponding reduction either by attrition or by various other methods. We don't see that reduction. The total FTEs just seems to grow and grow and grow.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, Mr. Chair, I'm going to have to disagree with the member's descriptive phrases, which are somewhat inflammatory because he says "radical" and other descriptive phrases that imply tremendous change. We still, in fact - and I want to clarify with the member opposite. When he speaks of administration, is he talking department officials or school principals?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Okay, he says "the upper".
Well, we have 28 schools. There is an acknowledgement that there is a decline in enrolment. We still have to provide quality education to these schools. We have a complement of dedicated individuals within the department who are charged with that responsibility, and because there is a decline that spreads throughout the territory - maybe more in some areas than others - we still have to provide experiential programming into the schools. We are still supplying curriculum. We still have to hire teachers. There is training and modifications for local Yukon needs and ways of learning.
We still have to service, as a department, these schools in a full and complementary way. Because the declining enrolment factually shows a decrease, some schools don't change. So we still need to provide programs to these schools, and these people are there to do exactly that.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the way that industry phrases it - and I am not meaning it in a derogatory sense - is too many suits, not enough coveralls. The number of coveralls would translate into the teachers, and the suits would translate into the upper-echelon bureaucracy in this case. But there has been a buildup over the years as a consequence of ever-increasing enrolments in our student population, and there has been a requirement for more and more teachers. But if you look at the educational system, the area that one is brought immediately to recognize is that there is usually a shortage of qualified teachers. We never seem to look at the full FTE complement. There is always enough people sitting in offices to do what is supposed to be done at that level. But the exercise is to provide an educational system.
I have some other concerns for the minister because we are not going to get anywhere there; he has his scripted lines down pat.
Surrounding the issue of temporary teachers, one applies for a temporary teacher position, or a substitute teacher, and at the end of that term or that time, why is it that these teachers - whatever they have done in the school system up to that point is cancelled. Basically their record is scrapped, and they have to totally reapply again, as if they are a brand new substitute teacher the following year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, the variables with respect to substitute teachers - and I can't let the comment go unchallenged that I'm responding through scripted notes. That really ticks me off when he says that, Mr. Chair, and unfortunately, I do take exception to that. I know I shouldn't ramble on about it, but I do want the record to stand corrected on that note because I have a very competent department, and I do keep myself apprised of what's going on, to the best of my ability. So not everything is scripted, as the member opposite would like to allude to.
That being said, to answer his question, the fact is that substitute teachers are still in the territory. We do keep an up-to-date list of substitute teachers and constantly check to see if they still want to provide a service in a substituting capacity. I mean, that is their choice. For short-term aspects, we do require substitute teachers. The list is constantly being updated, and we keep aware of those teachers who want to continue to substitute, and they're very comfortable doing that function. Of course, there is a need for substitute teachers within the system.
Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00, the Committee will recess for one hour and reconvene at 7:00 p.m.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We are considering Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and we're in general debate on the Department of Education. I believe Mr. Jenkins had the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we couldn't get anywhere with the last issue that we brought to the minister's attention because he didn't want to recognize the issue or deal with it. It surrounds the issue of temporary or substitute teachers, and why, after they have worked for a period of time, they have to totally reapply and none of their previous record is brought forward into the current year. Why is that? I'd like an answer.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I take exception to the comments made already. I can see he's invigorated after supper.
I would like a point of clarification about whether the member is asking with respect to temporary or substitute teachers, because there is a difference.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's deal with subs first.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I did answer that specific question earlier, in light of the fact that the department reconfirms if the person is still interested and still available - and it locates them to see if they're still in the territory. So that's the rationale between substitute teachers and ensuring that they are available to act as a substitute teacher.
Mr. Jenkins: Why is there a different story for temps?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With respect to temporary teachers, if they come on, in a temporary capacity, at the end of the year and then, in the following year, they come on as a permanent, then that year as a sub is considered.
Mr. Jenkins: No wonder we need so much administration, dreaming up new stories for every classification that we have, Mr. Chair. I guess the simplistic way is not the way of the Department of Education.
Mr. Chair, there is going to be quite a staff turnover in the school in Pelly Crossing. I'm given to understand that there is probably only one teacher remaining. This is not in the best interest of the students there. It appears to be very much the situation in a lot of our smaller communities.
I won't get into it here, but I'd like the minister to give some consideration to providing the better amenities package for those teachers teaching in rural Yukon. He needs to get together with his colleague, the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation, and do a better job with respect to staff housing that is provided in those communities, because that is a large part of the problem. The Department of Education has been remiss in addressing the issue of adequate staff housing, and it's leading to all sorts of problems.
The housing stock has to be upgraded for individuals employed by the Department of Education and be of sound construction and relatively inexpensive to heat, because these individuals who are hired usually for these outlying communities are brought in from other centres and they are told the approximate cost of electricity and heat. Sometimes the equation is right out of the water, such as it was with the one teacher in Pelly Crossing a short time ago. So that area has to be firmed up. The Department of Education has to have something in place that much enhances that area.
The minister has led by example with respect to the replacement of the Grey Mountain Primary School. The determination has been made that he is going to replace it. Now, irrespective of what the capacity enrolment study says, the school is going to be replaced. Here is another area where the minister can take the initiative, and it would probably be much more appreciated by all - the issue surrounding adequate staff housing in rural Yukon. It goes for virtually all communities, not just Pelly; in all communities there is an issue.
Mr. Chair, I don't want to prolong the debate. It's obvious that the minister is going to waffle on the questions and waltz all around them, so I'd like to go line by line.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The situation the member mentioned about Pelly is an unusual situation and it does centre in Pelly. Again, I take exception to his comments. We are trying to upgrade the quality of debate in this House. The Minister of Tourism tried to do that in her presentation, as have all ministers on this side, yet the Member for Klondike continually throws disparaging comments at this side of the House.
I don't believe I was "waffling" in my answers. I tried as best I could to give the member answers. I'm sure I didn't provide the exact quote and words that he wanted, but I did provide the best answers that I could. I did try to clarify questions that he was providing and I did answer the questions when there was clarity provided from the member opposite, and, Mr. Chair, we're going to continue to conduct ourselves that way.
So, if they are ready to move on, line by line, I'm ready.
Mr. Keenan: I just have a couple of questions that relate to a constituency concern that I'd like to bring to the minister's attention, if I may.
One of the issues that I brought to the minister's attention is one I brought off the floor of the House, where we seem to get a lot more done than on the floor of the House, and I appreciate that but I would like to reiterate for the record.
It concerns the school in Teslin and the mushrooms that have been cropping up in Teslin. I've just found out, after getting hold of the young lady I said I was going to get a hold of, that the story is a tad different than what's being portrayed, and I'd just like to share that with the minister.
For one thing, the mushrooms were discovered in October, and that seems to me to be excessively long ago. I can see certain people within the department doing what they have to do and working to do what they have to do because I am the MLA. And I would certainly raise this in Question Period. I certainly would for the minister's attention.
Unfortunately, quite a bit of the community, especially the parents, were not apprised of the situation of mushrooms growing underneath it. Where the mobiles are there, it's the classroom for the kindergarten and it's also the classroom for the grade 7 and 9 students. One of the young students has been suffering from allergies and whatnot, and the nurses and doctors couldn't find out what it was and treated him for something. Now they find out, oh boy, it might have been an allergy to the mushrooms.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: Not quite. But then they went to the doctor, and the doctor said, "Well, you know, they're not a mushroom that would travel through the air. But I guess there is a certain type of mushroom that will - and please, I'm not a mushroom person. I just know Money's mushrooms, and I basically open up a can of them. But some mushrooms will develop an egg or spore, get into the air, and there will be a problem. I'm not saying there is or is not a problem; I'm just saying that the community should have been aware - or, the parents especially should have been aware - as soon as the problem came up.
I know that it had been channeled through the school committee, yet the school committee did not share that information; whether it was intentional or not, I don't know. I would suggest to the minister, when those types of issues come to the department's attention, that he please assure - I know it's through the school council, et cetera - me and my constituents and all parents who have children in the situation that these kinds of issues will be brought forth to them immediately. Would the minister do that, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I will, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Now, I just have a couple more questions here. I understand now that we are going to be doing a cleaning or a scrubbing - we have to do something like as such, and it has to be done before the school year ends. The question that was asked of me: "Where are they going to be moving our kids? Are they going to be moving our kids somewhere while they do this?" With the air exchange system that was in the building, there was a great concern - again, this is information that I do not know. I'm not a mechanical engineer, for sure. But during the cleaning, if we don't move the kids, this could get into the air even moreso and contaminate more and make more of the children sick.
So, I guess, I'd like an answer from the minister, if I may. I know the minister will be looking after the interests of the children. That will be the minister's first priority. I know that. But could the minister please explain to me the cleaning schedule or how they plan to look after the problem I have just elaborated on?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I would be pleased to advise the member of what is transpiring. There was a tender put out - an invitational tender - right in Teslin. It was advertised on May 4 and closes on May 11. Work is to commence on May 12 and is to be completed no later than the end of the month - May 31.
The findings were a two- to three-metre square patch of dead mushrooms. There was no leaking water found anywhere under the crawl space. It appears that condensation from a mix of cold ground air and circulating warm air in the crawl space was the result of some condensation that perpetuated the growth of the mushrooms. So that's the result.
The solution - what will transpire for the cleanup - is that silt material will be removed down to footing level under the portables. Installation of clean, granular fill to a minimum of three inches thick will be laid throughout the crawl space. There will be an installation of a new six-millimetre poly groundsheet, installed with overlapping joints and a ground cover sheet, with a minimum of a three-inch clear granular ballast. There will be the installation of two hydronic unit heaters with fans to control temperature and humidity in the crawl space.
Corporate health and safety will do a follow-up on air quality testing, once this work is done. Tests have shown that there is adequate ventilation in the classrooms currently. Of course, during the summer, windows could be open, which would let in even more fresh air as the ambient temperature outside increases.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate what the minister has shared with me. I have all sorts of questions, but for the sake of expediting the debate here, I will not go into them. I would like the minister's assurance that the material that is contaminated will be out, whether it's at the top of the footings or the bottom. That's a question that we will leave to the people who have to get it done.
That still comes back to the problem. I believe that the minister said it would start on May 12 and finish by the end of the month. There is concern from one of the parents I know as to what will happen to the children in the interim. One of the children - I know the child, and he is a gifted child - doesn't need to be taken out of school for two weeks, but he shouldn't be in school for two weeks.
So I ask the department to travel to Teslin. I know folks have, but for the sake of moving this forward - I don't want to have an argument or duke-out with the minister when my base knowledge is not as good as it should be, yet I am not saying that there isn't a problem. I am saying that there is a problem. Would the minister please travel or get some department officials to travel to Teslin to assure the parents and to make certain that children with some types of conditions will not be adversely affected and that we might be able to find a way around this problem to expedite the solution to the problem the quickest. Would the minister be able to do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, I am sorry for that detail that I didn't provide. Just a clarification too: all silt material will be removed down to footings from under the crawlspace - all over; the whole area is going to be cleared out and new, non-contaminated granular put in and then plastic put on. During that period - and I do believe it will be a little bit of an inconvenience to the school, but the occupants of the trailer units will be moved out.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for that, and I will convey that to my constituent. I do believe that will suffice from what I understand here.
Another issue has come from the Teslin area. The minister received a letter about a year and a half ago - the same letter I received; it was carbon copied to me or carbon copied to the minister - and it spoke about some uniqueness of children in difficult situations. I believe even the Village of Teslin came together, the Teslin Tlingit Council came together - all the components of the community did come together to try to identify a solution. I know that the minister took time to read them - it's just beyond his memory at this point in time - because I asked the minister about it. There were some really scary depictions within the letters that were brought to my attention.
There was a need and a request from the school council for a resource room. There was a teacher brought in - I understand that maybe the teacher was brought in from the First Nation teacher education program here in the Yukon. That was up until Christmastime. I think the superintendent went in and said, "Well, things have got to change here. This isn't quite what was supposed to be happening," and did take that person out of that situation, put in another person with skills. I know the person and I am very pleased that that person is there. She is a wonderful lady and a good worker with the community at heart.
But I understand that the department has said that that's all coming to an end at the end of this calendar school year. So what we are doing now is going right back to square one. We have the same children. I do believe that, with the partners involved, it has evolved a bit more with community empowerment, community pressures, the principles of tough love - and the minister knows what I'm talking about.
What is the minister going to do about this situation? What it needs, I believe, is more resources so that we can have a person who would be in charge of this resource room for these very special children. Now, I know my colleague from Watson Lake was speaking about special-needs children who need extra tutorial advice and children who are really gifted in learning and need that extra tutorial advice. So I was wondering where these children fall into the gap. Will the minister please answer that question?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I was unaware that, at the end of this school year, there will be a change of operation there, but I will certainly look into it. I will discuss it with the department and officials, and I will definitely get back to the member on it.
Mr. Keenan: Would that include the school council?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, I don't see that being a problem.
Mr. Keenan: I thank the minister for his efforts, and I appreciate that.
Just to move on here, within the rural area, many folks live outside of the communities. I'll use myself as an example. I live 25 miles away from the town of Teslin, and the town of Teslin has only 350 to 400 people, yet it's still too big for me so I move on out. Now, I understand that I have to pack my own water, cut my own wood, haul my own garbage, look after all my bear problems and animal problems and anything else that would be looked after by a government of sorts if I were in a different location, in a settlement community. But some folks by choice - and this is by choice - choose not to educate their children through the public school system. They choose to do it through home-schooling. In this situation that I know of, the mother, who is offering the tutelage to the child through courses that are in the format of the territorial government, has not seen a home-schooling tutor in over three years - not one. Not one person has come from the Department of Education and checked on these different people, and there are many. I'm just speaking of one example. I know of about a half a dozen in that area right there, I believe. And the minister can call me on that one, but it's fairly close to that.
They're receiving no help. I was asked to ask this question of the minister in Question Period, but I chose to do it in Committee of the Whole because we can have this back-and-forth discussion. What is the ratio of student per home-school caregivers, or whatever you call them, or teachers, to those people? Somebody is hired as a teacher to help with home-schooling. Is there a ratio, and is that ratio equal in formula to the ratio that is existing as an average in the schools in the Yukon Territory? That's a question.
Has the minister got any plans or is he apprised of the fact that there is a problem, and is the minister willing to seek a solution to this problem?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I hope I can provide a full answer to the question. I guess I do have to be a little careful because, if I were to insinuate that there's an ever-growing number of people within the department, I'll be accused by the Member for Klondike of increasing government.
The home-schooling program within the territory is the responsibility of the parent. The parent certainly has, if registered with the department, the capability and full utilization of resources that are available through the nearest school. There are also resources offered to the individual through the Learning Resource Centre. So there is a modicum of responsibility for the parent, if registered, to keep in touch with the school to ensure that the home-schooling is on track with what's happening in the schools.
There are no specific teachers within schools that are assigned the responsibility to monitor home-schooling but, like I say, if they are registered through the department, we are aware of them and they are informed that they have resources available to them in the schools.
Mr. Keenan: So I can advise my constituents who are involved in this process that if they were to go to the school - and I believe they are registered, but if they're not, then they should get registered - there is a program of sorts through the home-schooling program that would enable the local school, whether it's an elementary or a high school or whatever, to in part help critique the home-schooling pupils' education and steer those children? Is that what I'm hearing?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I guess it's also important to mention that home-schoolers do design or have the capability to design their own curriculum. That's the whole reason for home-schooling. If there are difficulties on any given subject, they can utilize the resources of the school and the school could probably provide guidance or whatever. But the whole reason behind home-schooling is that they can proceed at their own pace. It gives students the comfort of being at home, and most home-schoolers set up their own specific curriculum for their students.
I know that I have been approached by the home-schooling association here. They are looking to work more in hand with the department, and they've suggested a model like B.C., which, I have to admit, I'm not familiar with. But I have been approached by them, we have had meetings, and I know that they have made presentation to the Education Act Review Committee, so I can anticipate getting some feedback from the committee on that subject.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, I'd just like the minister to elaborate on what he means by "Learning Resource Centre". Is it something contained within the department here in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There are a number of ways to keep in touch with the department on curriculum availability. The superintendent of program curriculum does provide some consulting, so there is a way to get a hold. If they are on the Web, they can keep in touch with the Department of Education.
No, I think I have lost myself in my answer.
Mr. Keenan: That's fine because it's a complex situation, and I just want to get all the information I possibly can for this child. And this child's a wonderful little guy, so he deserves every chance he can get.
I asked the minister about the Learning Resource Centre. The Learning Resource Centre is here in Whitehorse. I know it could be accessed by Internet, et cetera, but in this situation - the family lives about a mile away from me. We have no telephones. We have mobile phones. That's what we have. If the minister, at that level, would be willing to go to bat for those of us with no phones and share with the Cabinet that it is also an educational tool, it would be much appreciated. People want to see phones used as tools, not just for, "Hey, did you hear what Dennis was up to today?" You don't do that type of thing. So, I will share that.
This minister has twigged my excitement now, with this home-schooling association presentation of a model. When does the minister think that he would be able to present this model to the Legislature or wherever it has to be presented? Does the minister feel that it could be done before the Education Act? We're doing a review. It's going to be under legislative review in the spring of 2002, as I recall. That's a good year and a half to two years away. I was wondering if there was anything that the department could do in the interim to offer something based on the model that the association wants. Is there an interim step that the minister could take?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I didn't mean to mislead the member in suggesting that we would be adopting the model from B.C. All I had indicated is that at the presentation, the home-schoolers association for Yukon had mentioned the model. I do believe that I recommended to the association that they make presentation through the Education Act.
What I could offer to do for the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is provide a whole information package about what services are offered through a home-schooling program through the Department of Education. I can just put a whole package together and give that to the member.
Mr. Keenan: That would be perfect, and I thank the minister for his concern.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise what the department's going to be doing with the portables in Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There has been a letter from the department to the City of Dawson requesting an extension to leave the portables where they currently are.
Unanimous consent re clearing Education budget
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, in order to expedite the business of the House, I am requesting unanimous consent for the Department of Education - the O&M budget and the capital budget - to be deemed read and carried.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been requested for all program totals in this vote to be deemed carried. Is unanimous consent granted?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted. All program totals in this vote are carried.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $90,475,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Education in the amount of $11,820,000 agreed to
Department of Education agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will proceed at this time with the Department of Economic Development.
Unanimous consent re clearing Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman, the Elections Office and Women's Directorate budgets
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, before we proceed to the Department of Economic Development, could I request unanimous consent to deal with the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman, the Elections Office and Women's Directorate - that they be deemed read and carried?
Deputy Chair: Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: No.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
Department of Economic Development
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There have been a number of people waiting for this debate, I am sure, particularly in the Department of Economic Development.
In the clinical sense, the biggest change in the operation and maintenance budget is the projected increase of $6 million in revenues from oil and gas royalties over the 2000-01 main estimates and $2 million over the 2000-01 forecast. This is due to pricing and volume increases in oil and gas production. This has a corresponding increase in departmental expenditures for the First Nations' share of the revenues, Mr. Chair. The other major change is the increase in personnel costs of the $523,000 due to increases in the collective agreement and benefits.
In the capital mains, the major changes include that the Project Yukon program has funding of $1.5 million. As well, a separate program has been created for fire smart with funding of $500,000, Mr. Chair. The Project Yukon program, which focuses on people, structure and places, has been very well-received by Yukoners, and we are anticipating the first approvals under that program to be announced in the very near future. As well, it is important to note that this government has taken the program of fire smart and put it as a specific line item and not lumped it in with other program funding so that it is specifically identified and has its own line program.
The Alaska Highway pipeline analysis program was significantly increased in the 2000-01 forecast and continues to be funded at a high level - $750,000. And, Mr. Chair, those monies support our efforts to secure the Alaska Highway pipeline route for the Yukon.
The continued increased funding to support grassroots prospectors under the Yukon mineral incentives program - it is $763,000, Mr. Chair.
There is new funding of $551,000 for the regional mineral development program to conduct comprehensive regional mining information packages for four key metal belts in the Yukon. That is new funding and supports significantly the mining and exploration industry in the territory. The key is information and this helps to support the data that we have. There is also increased funding for mineral resource assessments, for a total of $550,000. There is also the continuation of the microloan program, which was introduced in the supplementary budget No. 2, 2000-01, as a new program.
Overall, I would like to emphasize to the members that the Department of Economic Development supports the key Yukon Liberal Party initiative of rebuilding the Yukon economy with their efforts in facilitating business in the territory, supporting our efforts in the aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline route as well as our relatively new industry to the territory, oil and gas, and the exploration and development sector. Mr. Chair, might I add one Executive-Council-Office-type comment with respect to oil and gas? I would emphasize that this is an example of where devolution works in the territory. We have seen the effects of having powers devolve to the Yukon territorial government for oil and gas. It works, and it works well. First Nation governments and the Yukon government, as well as Canada, with their somewhat limited role, enjoy strong government-to-government relations.
As well, there are the ongoing efforts of economic development in terms of supporting the work in recognition of forestry as an economic engine in the territory, as part of the resource work. I mentioned already our efforts in the mineral resource development sector. Overall, the department is supported with the able assistance of the corporate policy and those business officers working in the trade and investment branch of the department. I would be pleased to answer any questions in general debate.
Mr. Fentie: I'm sure, Mr. Chair - and I'm sure the Premier or the minister will agree - that going into a long-drawn-out debate about the Yukon economy is fruitless. I think what we should try and establish here is do we, in this House, even understand what makes up the Yukon economy?
So, my first question to the minister: can the minister provide us, in very brief terms, what the minister believes the components of the Yukon's economy are?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Chair, I'd be happy to do that. First of all, the Yukon economy has traditionally been based on resources and the resource extraction sector, and we still see that to some degree today in that, although they are beleaguered, the Yukon placer industry is still a major contributor to the Yukon economy, most especially in the summer economies in not only Dawson City but Mayo, as well.
Viceroy has been an operating mine in the territory and has been a significant economic contributor, as has the balance of the mining industry overall. United Keno Hill Mines operated in this territory for a number of years and all Yukoners are watching with interest the current developments with respect to that particular mineral property.
Those are gold and silver, and, of course, we're well aware of the impact that the operation of the lead-zinc at Faro, Yukon, has had over a significant number of years to the territorial economy, as well as Cantung and North American Tungsten. The people in the member opposite's own riding are very interested in seeing that reopen.
That's just the mining sector, but the mining sector has, in terms of mineral development, been a major contributor over 100 years plus in the territory.
The exploration industry also is a significant contributing factor to the territory's economy, and the work with respect to the mineral resource sector is supported by the very able work of the geologists, the mineral mapping unit and the mineral resource branch. The member has seen their work and I would invite all members opposite, and indeed all members of the House, to stop by the Yukon geology program and just take an example of the work that's being done in terms of the mapping.
I have had the opportunity to enjoy a very good conversation with the geologists at work at the Expatriate Resources property, who made a point of supporting and seeking my support for the continued efforts of the Yukon geology program and the geologists in the field. Their support, my reaction to it and our government's support are very evident in this year's budget with respect to the additional funding for the regional mineral development program.
All of those activities - mining, exploration and, at the government level, the mapping program and resource assessment, as well as the mineral exploration tax credit and the Yukon mineral incentives program at the government level - support that one sector of our economy, and that's the mineral sector.
The other parts of the Yukon's economy include an oil and gas sector, which is growing. We're seeing strong developments in that field. WesternGeco is hiring a number of Yukoners - in excess of 25 Yukoners. There is the work of Anderson Exploration in the north Yukon this year, and the application for two exploration licences in the member opposite's own riding this summer alone, and the strong response we have had to the land sales. And, of course, the potential for an Alaska Highway pipeline would be a strong economic plus to the territory, not solely as a capital project, but also as guaranteeing and providing access to natural gas. And, of course, the Kotaneelee fields have long been a resource contributor to the territory in oil and gas royalties.
In addition, the member opposite and I agree significantly that forestry, the forest industry, should be recognized as an economic engine in this territory and should be treated as such. We are continuing our efforts with regard to devolution.
That's only the resource sector, and I'm sure I have probably missed - that's most of them. In the forestry discussion, the member may wish to also get into a discussion around softwood lumber and that technical dispute.
In addition to the resource and the resource extraction sector, the territory's economy is also significantly fuelled by the tourism industry - which was significantly debated in the Tourism debate - and the visitor industry. We are also a strong service sector. Whitehorse in particular and the member's own community of Watson Lake has traditionally been a strong service sector, not just for the resource extraction industries but for other areas as well.
A growing part of our economy and a growing potential for the Yukon is the IT field in e-commerce. We have supported these initiatives. We're also seeing individuals who, thanks to the quality of life available in the Yukon, are relocating here because we have the schools available, the medical facilities available, the tremendous outdoors we all enjoy - most especially now with our ability to camp for a month for free in our Yukon campgrounds - and early at that. That kind of a quality of life, as well as the winter activities, is attracting individuals to relocate here and they too are contributing to the Yukon economy. While they may be patent lawyers for a Washington, D.C. firm, their home is in Whitehorse, their groceries are bought here and, as a contributing part of the family, they spend their weekends travelling the Yukon and camping here. There are a significant number of these individuals, and that number is growing.
It's interesting that the member should ask about my understanding because, in an effort to increase my understanding and ensure that I was well aware of the views of the various sectors of the Yukon economy, I have spent one or two breakfasts a month with specific sectors. I have invited their views on how our government could work with them to improve opportunities and seize opportunities for future development.
Some of the advice I've had in that respect is that, while we do an exceptional job marketing the Yukon to visitors, one of the things we don't do enough - and we should do more of - is market the Yukon as a hub for businesses, a place to do business and a place to relocate their business.
I note that in my most recent discussions there has been comment by a family in particular who have relocated here and who have had several requests from British Columbia and others who want to relocate their businesses here and service their clients from elsewhere. In that respect, what we have done and, in particular, what the trade and investment branch has been able to do is to provide small business assistance services in helping, and our support for the Yukon Business Service Centre helps that, as well.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Now, the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is talking about fishing, Mr. Chair, and it's interesting that the member should raise that, because that was one of the businesses I happened to be discussing - how is business and how are things going this year. And the retail sales, as you've heard me say several times, in the Yukon have shown a tremendous increase - the second highest in the country - as well as wholesale sales and building development permits. The retail sales in that particular industry were certainly very good and have been.
So the member asked what I believe fuels the economy and what the Yukon economy is all about. That's a snapshot. There are other areas that I'm certain I could discuss at great length with the member opposite, and I certainly look forward to doing so.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I asked that question for a specific reason - to see if the minister and I could get on some common ground.
Let me first start out by saying how I would have answered that question: the components of the Yukon's economy are, at least in my estimation, resource-based, government, tourism, manufacture export, small business. Those are components. Let's compare those components to links in a chain, and our economy is a chain with all those links interconnected, because that's what happens in the economy. Whatever economic engine is running throughout the territory, they are linked. The economy can only be as good as its weakest link. Therein lies one of our major problems. We have a number of weak links, and the chain is broken.
So we in this territory obviously have to do something. I think that the buzzword around that something is "diversification", diversifying our economy.
Historically, the Premier is correct. We have been dependent on resource extraction. Unfortunately, we really are hewers of wood and drawers of water. We experience boom-bust cycles because, in our resource sector, outside of mine sites that are producing a concentrate or a very primary type of product that has been extracted, we ship it out as our product, as our economic initiative in that particular resource sector.
Diversification, one would then think, is to extract more value here in the territory. So, when I'm discussing this with the minister to see if we can develop some common ground, I think the minister can agree with me that, if we compare our economy to a chain and each component is a link of that chain, we can then move on to how we can approach fixing our problem. The problem we face in this territory is one that results from the fact that we are dependent in one area and we have never moved beyond that dependency. Unfortunately, we are in a situation in this territory where trying to fix that problem is going to take some concerted efforts from a lot of areas.
Getting back to resource extraction, would it not be reasonable then to think that extracting more value from resources is paramount?
Having said that then, one of the most important elements to create that scenario is energy. We need energy, we need sources of energy that will provide incentive and a competitive basis from which we can start developing our resource sector.
I understand what the minister is doing in trying to support mining and exploration, and that's all good, but what about beyond? What about diversifying? What about solidifying that link in our economic chain - the resource sector? Will the minister agree that in that sector access to cheap energy is the most important issue that we face in this territory and, if we can solve that problem, we may be able to move our resource sector, as far as our economy is concerned, dramatically forward. Does the minister agree?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite, no, I don't agree that that is going to solve all the - cheap energy is certainly a benefit and would be a tremendous benefit to a number of mining properties throughout the territory; however, cheap energy isn't going to resolve some of the issues that we have with the federal government and permitting process. It's not going to resolve some of the other difficulties that we have with other federal issues. What is going to resolve those issues is devolution. I think that the member opposite could agree with me on that.
Cheap energy is also not going to - with respect to the member in the discussion about diversification, diversification is certainly key. No one wants to put all our eggs in one basket, as the member sometimes accuses me of doing. Perhaps the best example that I could give the member is just a comment that was brought to my attention. In the Thursday, May 3, 2001 Vancouver Sun there is a headline and a column that talks about how B.C. must transform itself into a culture of innovation.
The column, interestingly enough, references Whitehorse in the Yukon. It talks about, "Closer to home, Elliot Lake avoided being a ghost town and became a diversified and thriving retirement and leisure community. That's a lot like what Faro has been working towards, not just a retirement community but also a thriving community. They're examining other options."
The columnist says, "Whitehorse successfully created new markets in tourism, software and even coffee roasting. Clearly, what's needed is a cultural predisposition to innovate and learn." That's the type of environment that we try to foster in the Department of Economic Development, working with our partners in the chambers of commerce and the business community, and cheap energy isn't the answer there. It's a climate of innovation, a climate of learning and a climate of, "Not only are you welcome here, but your business is welcome here and how can we help you? In a level playing field, fair environment, how can we help you and your business to grow?"
That's the sort of attitude we have, and I think the member opposite can agree with me that government attitude and working with all sectors on the economy is what's going to help rebuild the Yukon economy, not focusing solely on one area, but focusing on all sectors that are available to us, ensuring that where we are able to be of assistance to business and encourage the business environment we are able to do so, and that we are doing so.
In the resource sector, in the mining sector, where we are able to encourage mining is to work on the permitting issues, to work on devolution, to create certainty by settling land claims, and also through the Yukon mining incentive program, the regional mineral development program, and the mineral incentives program.
So we are doing good work with the sectors of the Yukon economy. Cheap energy is certainly helpful to many of these sectors, but it's not the only thing that's going to help the mining industry to thrive or other industries to thrive.
Mr. Fentie: I didn't assume for a moment that roasted coffee beans are going to help our mining industry. I was referring to energy as it relates to the resource sector - as one component of our economy.
Mr. Chair, let's look at it this way. Our biggest problem, of course, is federal government permitting and many of the hurdles that must be overcome, and so on and so forth. However, it has been my experience over the years that all those things can be dealt with if there's a profit in what's going to take place.
Any mine in this territory has overcome regulatory and permitting hurdles - you name it - if there's a profit. If there's no profit, it's not going to happen because investment is driven by profit. Now, today, in the Yukon, when you look at our mining sector, given the base metal price, right now, it's obvious why, notwithstanding all the other issues, we have mines sitting that are permitted and ready to go, with mills in place, portals collared, ore bodies exposed, roads built, and equipment sitting and rusting. The reason they're not operating is because they can't make money.
We in this territory are facing that issue because the profit margins are so skinny that people are going into other areas to mine because what it costs them to do the same job in these other areas produces a much fatter profit margin. We in the Yukon Territory - and this is my point - need to somehow come up with incentives to go beyond exploration and those types of things to establish long-term, profitable sectors in the resource sector of our economy. That would include mining, oil and gas and forestry. If we can establish something that will make us competitive through the peaks and the valleys, then we are going to really fix the resource sector.
We do have an opportunity. It's in the gas sector. If the Alaska Highway pipeline happens, our ability to control the price of that gas through this territory may be the vehicle that immensely helps us give incentives for investment to come to this territory to establish long-term operations, because the profit margins will be sufficient to entice that investment to the territory. That was my point, Mr. Chair.
Moving on - obviously, government has a big role to play in our economy because no matter what happens, without cash flow, there is no fuel to run any economic engine. Whether we like it or not, in the Yukon Territory today, government expenditure is generating a very large portion of cash flow in this territory, and it is helping to keep many businesses going throughout this territory.
So the government's participation in the Yukon economy is vital, and where the minister and I get into loggerheads is how the government is going to spend its money in the territory to help generate that cash flow, which keeps many of these little economic engines running. I understand the beautiful catchphrases about level playing fields, fiscal responsibility and all these other things. It goes on and on and on. The point is that the government's expenditure in this territory is vital to the Yukon's economy.
Now, Mr. Chair, we have a fledgling manufacturing export-type sector where government has a role to play. It begins with trade and investment. I don't know what the minister's plans are. She may be able to shed some light on that, but the government has to assist in that area because of where we are in relation to markets. Our people have great ideas. Our people have the capacity and the ability to put things together and to make something, but it's only as good as how many of these widgets or plant food or you-name-it we can sell, how big of a market we can develop. The government has to do that. Our tiny, fledgling manufacturing and export sector doesn't have the horsepower behind it to be able to do that, and that's where the government of the day - any government here in this territory - has such a vital role to play. If it's done properly, we will see that link in our economic chain strengthened, help diversify the economy in this territory.
So I urge the minister to move ahead with trade and investment or whatever the minister's plans are in that area. But the Yukon government must assist that sector to develop markets and a customer base, and allow it to grow and begin to realize its full potential, and it will do great things for our economic base in this territory.
It will attract investment; it will attract people to come here and live here, work here, spend their money here, in turn helping to generate that much-needed cash flow that we all require. Every community in this territory requires to at least achieve some standard of living that we desire. So the government has a role to play and I would urge the minister to move along with that.
Now, Mr. Chair, there are probably hours and hours and hours of discussion that can take place here; however, we're dealing with a budget. There is a substantial expenditure in the budget, and I'm not going to dispute with the minister their expenditure on research on the oil and gas side. And I'm certainly not going to dispute the minister's expenditure in helping miners through the mining incentive program and all these types of things.
What I'm searching to find out is if there are any bold steps that this Liberal government is going to undertake to make things happen in this territory. So far, Mr. Chair - and I'm going to be very frank - I've seen little to lead me to believe that the minister has a real handle on the Yukon economy and a plan to deal with it.
So can the minister tell the House how she plans to deal with the resource sector and the big impediment of it trying to be competitive when world markets dip to where they are? We're usually the first to be shut down and that's evident. All you have to do is go back through history. Every time there has been a major valley hit in the resource sector, what happens? Things close. That's just what we've been dealing with for years.
Has the minister got any ideas around that issue and how to make us competitive? Is the minister going to move ahead in helping that manufacturing sector and the export capabilities of that sector to establish a market base, which would be sustainable, consistent and long term? Those are my two questions for now, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite and I, I must share with him, disagree in one particular viewpoint. The member opposite has suggested that the reason why several mining properties are not operating is because Yukon is somehow not competitive and that the government should be taking steps to make sure that the Yukon is competitive. I can advise the member opposite that, in all my meetings and in all my discussions with the Yukon Mining Advisory Board, with proponents and creditors from United Keno Hill Mines, North American Tungsten, Minto Explorations, Expatriate and others - in all my discussions with them and my discussions with the B.C. & Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Yukon Chamber of Mines and the individual prospectors or individual mine developers - their one overwhelming consistent message to me has been that government should do what government does, which is build the roads, make sure there is a strong community social fabric for our mine workers and their families, and beyond that, stay out of it. They want us to build the roads. They want to be sure there's power there and that it's reasonable, but beyond that, no, they don't want us to give them some kind of an incentive.
And, Mr. Chair, in my experience in the highs and lows of various mining operations in this territory, government involvement in the private sector has to be very considerate. Now, the caveat on that is that the mining industry, and there are some mixed views on this, by and large supports government involvement in focused flow-through shares, in the Yukon mining incentive program and in our tax credit.
There are some on, shall we say, the further right of the mining perspective and mining spectrum that don't believe in even the focused flow-through shares, but by and large, that has been industry's overwhelming message to me. When I say, "All right, you're interested in XYZ property, what do you feel the government should do?" Their message has been build the roads, make sure the power's there, make sure there's community there for people who work there - that's what they're interested in.
They know that Yukoners are good miners. We're good road builders, and we're good at what we do, and they're interested in that. They are also keenly interested in ensuring that we support continued exploration because there are those who are looking ahead to the next property. In that regard, they have been very supportive of the incentive program, as well as the Yukon's geology program.
Now, the member spoke about the price of natural gas. Perhaps the best suggestion I could give the member opposite is that, if he has not yet had an opportunity to revisit the U.S./Canada treaty on the transportation of natural gas, I'd be pleased to provide him with a copy because it's very specific and spells out a lot of information.
Now, the member spoke about the support for the manufacturing sector and the trade and investment fund. In the business summit of 1999, the business community overwhelmingly recommended to the government not to meddle in the marketplace, but to have a fair and level playing field. Now, the business summit of 2001, just recently, was sending a mixed signal. There were some members of the focus group who felt that government should revisit the idea. My response to the business community was, "When you are prepared to make your recommendation, be clear in what your recommendation is." I'm anxiously awaiting them. They have not yet finalized their report from the business summit.
I can tell the member, though, that in my experience in working with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce when there was an NDP government and there was a discussion about business incentives, the message from the business community then - many of whom are still here - was very loud and very clear: "If you're going to do something, it has to be fair, and it has to be available to everybody." There is no agreement on what that is.
Following up on that were the economic development agreements. Even with those, there was mixed reaction in the business community, in that there is a lot of concern that it has to be fair - and those who have worked for years and years on a particular business and then the government funds a start-up in exactly the same business. That's private sector, which the government has to be cautious about.
Those comments notwithstanding, I'm anxiously awaiting the comments from the business community - the recommendations from the 2001 business summit. I'm expecting them within the month, but there have been some changes in the executive directorship so that may take a bit longer.
With regard to the manufacturing sector and those burgeoning industries and new industries in the territory, their message to me has not been one seeking support and not seeking a government funding program. What they're seeking is help, intellectual assistance in the form of contacts and how to access different markets. We have had very successful workshops with the business consulates from other areas - Seattle, and the United Kingdom consulate was just here visiting. Yukon is interested in following up on those opportunities.
Contrary to what the member believes, the answer isn't always a funding program, and the business community reaction to funding programs is quite mixed. It has been in the past. And the business community has not made a recommendation to us from the 2001 summit. The information that I am giving the member opposite is that, of course - and he can take this for granted - when those recommendations come, they will be fully and fairly considered.
The member opposite also makes a point about government expenditures and how they impact on the economy. I can advise the member opposite that, while it's not a line item in my particular budget, the $30-million plus that we are spending in infrastructure and road maintenance, development and reconstruction in the territory is a major economic boon to the territory and is something that has been welcomed by the infrastucture folks in the territory. That, combined with work that is being done - environmental assessment work and geology and hydrology work that is being done in the oil and gas sector - is really helping an industry and the infrastructure group who, clearly we know, are very good at what they do. So government expenditures are a benefit to the economy and we are seeing that this summer.
Mr. Fentie: Oh, boy, Mr. Chair. First, let me say the minister doesn't have to be defensive, and the minister doesn't have to try to convince me that this Liberal government's budget and their expenditures are going to do great things for the economy. I've already made my assessment and have come to my conclusion. But let me go back to what the minister's saying, because I think we have a failure to communicate here.
Number one is, when I talk about incentives for the resource sector, I wasn't talking about the minister running around with a cash box, flinging $1,000 bills out at the mining and the forestry and resource sector. My point is, Sa Dena Hes, as a mine, is not operating, not because the minister isn't building roads or anything else. It's not operating because of the 43-cent zinc price, and it needs at least a 55-and-upwards-cent zinc price so it can be profitable. The point here is when the marketplace is at a level that operating a mine site way out here in the Yukon is not going to be profitable at a level that investors require to put their money into it, it's not going to happen. The issue around energy is one area - and it's a mere suggestion - that will help change that scenario. If mine sites can operate with a little less expense, obviously the price of zinc, then, has less of a bearing on their profit margin.
But let's move on. We've heard that the minister and this government are going to rebuild the Yukon economy, and that's the way it is. However, the facts speak for themselves. Unemployment is rising; the workforce is depleted. So far, in 12 months, the rebuilding has been dismantling.
We don't need to argue about that. We know that the workforce is depleted and we know that the unemployment rate is going up.
Let's go on to the road builders in the territory. Is the minister trying to tell me that they didn't work last year? I'm sure that every piece of yellow iron, when it comes to the road builders in the territory who were up in the Shakwak - I didn't see a lot parked around in their yards. It was all working. These people have been working, as they do every summer. This minister has put a few more hundred thousand dollars toward road building, but has done it by depleting rural roads in other areas.
Is the minister saying that we're going to rebuild the economy and create jobs by killing them in other areas? Is that what the minister is saying? Because that's what they've done in their budgeting.
We can trumpet all we want about the $30 million in highways, but when you really look at the facts and take all expenditures into consideration, it's an increase of a mere $500,000 and change from where we were the year before.
Now, the $25 million in the Shakwak didn't come out of this minister's idea box. It was sitting there. Road projects that were already on the shelf in the Department of Community and Transportation Services were already planned to move ahead. What I'm trying to find out here is if this minister has a handle on the economy and a plan to deal with it, other than just spouting rhetoric, which, quite frankly, a lot of people have tuned out because they have left the territory to go and find work. It's not here.
The minister made a point about me taking a look at the agreement. Well, I want to tell the minister something. That agreement has been well-critiqued, but the fact is this: the Yukon has an opportunity here to be able to control its natural gas price, because the agreement is very clear. The producers have agreed to allow natural gas to be extracted out of the pipeline and they will replace it downstream. So we happen to have gas downstream. We have one of the best gas fields on the continent, if we ever get to develop it.
We can replace the gas downstream; therefore, it's reasonable to believe - and the producers, including Foothills, have agreed with me - that the Yukon could trade gas, could trade the commodity gas and not have to pay producers for what we take, but replace it downstream. So, therefore, we could reasonably conclude that we can control the price of natural gas in this territory as we see fit and we're not dependent on what the market price will be and what the producers want to charge for that gas.
In short, if we take out one billion cubic feet a day out of that pipeline and we can replace one billion cubic feet a day downstream, we can sell that gas in this territory for the price we so desire. That's the incentive I'm talking about.
Now furthermore, Mr. Chair, every country and jurisdiction - let's look at them all across this planet - when it comes to manufacturing and export of a product, every government has stepped in to do what? They assist in marketing and establishing customer base and markets. That's a well-known fact in economic development in the world. Why do you think we have trade missions to China and Japan: to establish the government-to-government links, so that governments can step in and help establish markets.
So, come on, Mr. Chair, let's get serious here. We've got a crisis in this territory economically and the minister's feeding me a bunch of rhetoric about what they're doing. That's fine, all well and good. Pat yourself on the back. I'm not going to dispute that. I'm more interested in what it is the minister's going to do to pull us out of this crisis, and that's what I was trying to get at.
Now, Mr. Chair, the economic development picture in this territory is bleak, to say the least. Even our bright spot, tourism - the preliminary projections that are coming out and for whatever reasons, probably the price of gas and other reasons, people aren't going to travel. This is going to worsen the situation.
The projections aren't going that well. So the minister hopefully will stop, cease and desist this back-patting and self-congratulation. Let's really hunker down here and get to work on this crisis, because it's a huge one. It's going to take all of us here - department people, agencies and businesses and the federal government and everybody we can rally behind solving the problems in our economy - to fix it. The minister, by herself, isn't going to do it just because she's a Liberal and just because she got elected by 40-some percent of the vote last April - that's not going to change it. It's going to take hard work; it's going to take ideas; it's going to take persistence; it's going to take the ability to handle controversies; it's going to take bold moves and bold decisions; it's going to take a concerted effort to fix this problem.
I think for all of us concerned, the first move that this minister should be making is doing what we asked for some time ago, and that is to formulate an all-party committee to deal with our economic situation in this territory - put our heads together, put our constituencies together. That's a formidable force. That is a positive step toward addressing the crisis we are in.
I began this by asking the minister those simple questions because I wanted to try to establish some common ground from which the minister and I could work and debate this budget. I understand that the minister takes pride in what they've done. I can understand that and I won't dispute that either. You've put a lot of effort into creating a budget; it's your own budget. Of course you should defend it and be proud of it. What I'm pointing out, though, is that there has got to be more.
It's going to take more than just that. And faced with all the evidence, surely the minister is coming to realize that the crisis we're in is going to be a difficult road to travel. Yes, if devolution happens, oh boy, that would be great; but I'm sure the minister understands that the second devolution happens, expectations of the government of the day in this territory are going to go through the roof. So the difficulties are going to compound for the Yukon government, especially if we don't have a plan and a blueprint on what the heck it is we're going to do, Mr. Chair. So it takes more than political rhetoric and the to and fro in this Chamber.
Mr. Chair, can the minister at least admit to the House, to the Assembly, that things are not going well economically and that something has to be done? Does the minister agree with me that we've got to really hunker down and get to work on this economic issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's interesting to note that, at the beginning of his remarks, the Member for Watson Lake emphasized that low metal prices are the main reason that mines are not operating. They're permitted, simply waiting to be able to make a profit, he said. I'm glad he has put that on the record, Mr. Chair.
And I hear the member opposite stand up and say that I stand up and pat myself on the back and that I have every right to be proud of the budget. I am proud of the budget. We worked very hard on a budget that's responsive and reflects the needs and addresses the needs and concerns of Yukoners.
The member opposite also asked if I would just admit that I need his help on the economy. Well, Mr. Chair, no, I won't, because the member opposite was in government for four years. The economy did not do well under the NDP government.
I know how serious it is out there. I know how serious it was last March and April, when I was campaigning door to door and community to community. I know how serious it is. I know how tough it is for people who have never laid off staff in years and years and years of operating in the Yukon, and this winter they had to. I know how tough it is for people to try to meet payroll and juggle the accounts payable and recognize that their fellow business people are trying to pay their accounts receivable and make that payment on the fifteenth of the month to the Receiver General. I know how tough it is on local businesses where everybody in the shop has taken reduced hours.
I have never said that our government has all the answers. I do know how hard we are working with the Yukon business economy, to rebuild the economy. I know how hard we're working, and I know we're starting to see results. We're not done. We're working every single day at this, and until I see that unemployment rate substantially reduced - the 17-percent unemployment rate under the NDP was far too high. The figures we have experienced, while substantially less than that, are still too high.
I and the officials in the Department of Economic Development and in every single department in the government are very aware that rebuilding the Yukon economy is a key commitment of our government. We are working on it, and we are starting to see results. That's where the member and I differ. The fact is that we are starting to see some results. Building permits are up, wholesale sales are up, retail sales are up, and even real estate sales have shown slight improvement. The unemployment figures aren't out until the eleventh of this month.
In terms of employment, you talk to the businesses and listen. Most importantly, it's listening to the business people, not just in Whitehorse but in every single community in the Yukon. There are some who are saying, "You know what, it's starting to improve. It's not great but we're holding our own." There are some that are really, really struggling through these economic times.
Our role as a government is to foster an environment that's going to improve that business climate and to work with them, and this is where the member and I differ. When you ask those business people what they need and how the government can help, they talk about government doing what government should do, which is foster an economic climate, talk about hope, talk about investment in the territory. The 11 people on this side of the House in the Liberal benches are the shills, if you will, for the territory. We are out there. The Minister of Tourism has brought more visitors to the territory and there are more airline charter seats coming here than ever before.
The stay-another-day program - you know, Mr. Chair, it doesn't matter what I stand and say. The members opposite are going to disagree. The role of opposition is constructive. I have given the member opposite the facts. The fact is there are more charter seats coming to the territory this summer than there were last. The fact is we're putting more money into the stay-another-day program that wasn't even a twinkle in anybody's eye previously. The fact is there's winter tourism and that's just one sector. The fact is North American Tungsten is talking about employing in excess of 100 people. The fact is, yes, we are putting more money into roads, and that is employing the infrastructure alliance. The fact is that AMEC Environmental are talking about hiring 80 Yukoners this summer. The fact is Anderson Exploration have put Yukoners to work. The fact is WesternGeco have hired in excess of 25 Yukoners.
It's 25 here, 30 there, 80 here. It's small, but it's coming and we're working at it and we're working every single day. And we are demanding ever-better results. Staff are working hard at this. Yukoners on this side of the House are working very hard.
I think the member opposite, in all fairness, could agree with that. What I'm trying to encourage the member to recognize is that we are starting to see the results. Yes, we want more. We want more jobs in this territory, we want less unemployment in the territory, but we are starting to see results. I'd encourage the member to look wide and recognize that. Can the member not agree?
Retail sales are up, wholesale sales are up, real estate sales and building permits are showing an improvement. That's all work in the territory, and those are small but significant signs of improvement. I'm sure the member opposite could reach that agreement with me.
Mr. Fentie: Well, you bet I can. Those numbers are a direct reflection of the NDP budget that the members across the floor have passed and it's that money that's circulating in this territory this year.
Let me remind the member that we're still trying to pass this much-vaunted budget for rebuilding the economy.
Now, the minister gets on her feet and says that the unemployment under the NDP was much higher. Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is trying to rationalize that by saying that it's much lower under the Liberals. Well, that's ridiculous. The point is that there are 600 fewer people in the workforce under this Liberal government. That's the reason why the unemployment rate is lower: they left the territory. They're not even here with their unemployment cheques spending the money; they're gone.
Things are worse under the Liberal government than under the former NDP government. The minister says that things are starting to show a change and that things are starting to improve. Well, that's exactly what was happening under the former government. The trend was showing improvement.
There were more people in the workforce than under this government. There was more money in circulation than under this government. Rural Yukon was doing significantly better than they are today under this government. The minister makes much about the seat sales coming to the Yukon with the projections, but the Premier's own Minister of Tourism's department shows that we're on a downward trend for tourism in this territory. And the minister is trying to explain herself and spin this issue for whatever reason unbeknownst to me, other than for the fact that there is just no hope over there, so they are just trying to deflect everything in a manner that lays blame at the feet of other people.
The facts are that, upon taking office, this minister and this government had options and choices that would have had a significant impact on our economic fortunes. They chose the wrong way. That's a fact. They've helped contribute to the exodus of the workforce in this territory - an exodus that far too often is of people of the ages of 25 to 40 years old, which means that they've taken their families with them.
The minister, in arguing her points, is actually arguing against herself because they are doing nothing to rebuild this economy or improve it. The minister says they are working very hard. Well, you could work very hard too by standing on a board and getting a hernia trying to lift it. They may be working but nothing's happening.
Now, the Minister of Tourism makes a big sigh. It's all well and good living in here in the big city in Whitehorse with 3,300 government employees spending their money. Try it out there in rural Yukon. Try living out there. Try going through what those people go through. The minister here talks about trying to meet payroll. Most of the payrolls in rural Yukon have ceased to exist.
These people across the floor seem to have this two-track vision: one for Whitehorse and all their friends and a different one for rural Yukon. Well, Mr. Chair, that's a sad, sad state of affairs.
They talked about being a centrist, citizen-centred party, and nothing could be further from the facts. A balanced, centrist party would have distributed the money in this budget much more evenly throughout this territory. When you look at communities like Teslin, with a capital outlay of $7,000; communities like Watson Lake, $180,000; communities like Whitehorse - multimillions of dollars being poured into this community. And they talk about being balanced.
Mr. Chair, I think it's a disgrace what the members opposite have done under the leadership of this minister and this Premier. They've done a lot of damage to the Yukon, specifically rural Yukon, and they've got a lot of work to make up for that damage that they've created.
Now, the minister went on at great length about how they're helping the resource sector and how the resource sector is telling them to do what government should do. Well, let's look at what they did in forestry. As soon as this government took office, the delays came in stable access to timber. The federal government wanted to move ahead. Community consensus in communities like Watson Lake was to move ahead. This government put the brakes on and severely restricted the ability of the forest industry to continue.
That's what governments do: shut industries down, play political football with communities, ignore the needs of communities, and turn their backs on people who have invested in this territory. Now the government has severely hampered their ability to take that investment and do something with it.
It's a well-known fact that the members opposite basically demanded that the federal government cease and desist in any further movement on stable access to timber so that when industry goes to the government and says, "All right, if that's the way you want it, take your time doing it, but somebody should come forward then and help us out." No, that's not what this government did. This government, in playing politics, has worsened this economy a great deal. It has forced the exodus of people out of this territory and it's our main workforce that's leaving here.
It's great to pour millions of dollars into a seasonal workforce, but I would think that the whole idea of rebuilding the economy would be developing a year-round workforce that goes to work every day, 365 days of the year. The minister tries to argue and say that North American Tungsten is going to employ 100 and some people. Well, they are not all going to come out of the community of Watson Lake. That's number one. Number two is that the mine is in the Northwest Territories. It's not in the Yukon. It's in the Northwest Territories. Number three is that the government is going to have to put a lot of money into the road. When I asked this minister to step up, help a community severely in need and ensure that the work for that road can go to the people in that community, I got a flat no. The minister fails to realize that one of the most important areas of work at a mine site is mine support. And for people to go to work on that road with their equipment and wind up at the mine site, well, obviously, they are going to get the first crack at mine support work. Everybody knows the game.
The minister's refusal to assist the community of Watson Lake, which has many people with the capacity to do that work and have themselves work on that road, year in and year out - she refuses to act. She ignores it, yet stands on the floor and tries to make the claim that they are helping to create a situation at North American Tungsten that will create 100 and some jobs for Yukon people.
Nothing could be further from the facts, Mr. Chair. It's nothing this government has done, and that's a fact.
The Premier talks about Anderson Exploration. Let's look at the southeast Yukon. Where do you think the hiring is happening right now in seismic in the southeast Yukon? It's a place called Fort Liard in the Northwest Territories. That's where the hiring is happening. That's not in the Yukon. Beaver Enterprises out of Fort Liard isn't in the Yukon.
Go to Watson Lake and ask them how many people have been working in seismic in the southeast Yukon this year, and you'll find out. Now, let's get serious about this. There is a lot more to this economy and what we need to do here to help people out than what the minister is prepared to do. Standing on her feet and reciting all these wonderful things that they have done, which they haven't, is not helping the situation.
The minister is in complete denial. She refuses to accept the facts, and refuses to recognize that her lack of a plan and vision for the economy of this territory is severely hampering her government's ability to progress in this area. How much longer are we going to have to go through this? What's it going to take for this minister to admit that she hasn't got the plan and that she's going to require assistance?
Just recently, the community of Watson Lake put forward a tiny little request - $140,000 for a feasibility study on a resource corridor. No - the minister says no. I want to really get into this one with the minister, Mr. Chair, because on the one hand, the minister is saying, "We support the development of a forest industry as an economic engine for the Yukon Territory." Yet the minister is willing to allow access to that resource in the southeast Yukon to take place in such a manner that it will be an outflow and have very little direct benefit to a community like Watson Lake.
Why? Mr. Chair, if you don't control the access into the resource, you don't have control of what happens with that resource. Now, if they access forest resources in southeast Yukon, 60 miles out of Watson Lake on the Alaska Highway, they might as well put the access at Fort Nelson. The whole purpose of the economic plan by the community to develop that resource corridor was to ensure that the flow in and out of the resource area in the southeast Yukon was centred in the community.
If the minister calls herself the Minister of Economic Development and can't even see that picture, we have a problem. The minister uses the excuse that Liard First Nation isn't on side. Well, this was a feasibility study. The information that would come out of that study would help the Liard First Nation make an informed decision. Further to that, Mr. Chair, what is this minister doing in regard to sitting down with Liard First Nation and dealing with these issues? Nothing.
Under the former government, not only were we working on land claims, we had an economic table going, we had an MOU being developed on forestry. This government has shut all doors.
What has happened to the economic table in southeast Yukon with the Liard First Nation, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, that was quite a speech from the member opposite. On the one hand, there is the economy showing signs of improvement, but that's all thanks to the NDP government that was in office a long time ago - a year. On the other hand, the fact that those signs of improvement aren't enough is all my fault.
The member opposite wants to take the credit for the signs of improvement but doesn't want to accept the fact that, under their government, under the NDP was when the unemployment rates were far higher than what they are now, and the outflow of people that the member goes on and on and on and on about - the largest reduction in the size of the estimated Yukon population - occurred under the previous government.
That's when members who ran for office, ran for office because they were tired of going to going-away parties. They were looking forward to the welcome-back parties when the Yukon Liberal Party rebuilt the Yukon economy, which is what we're doing, albeit in incremental steps. It's not as quickly as we might like, on occasion, but we are rebuilding the economy.
I have to take issue with the member opposite who suggests that Government of the Yukon's capital spending is occurring solely in the City of Whitehorse. Mr. Chair, the member would be well-advised to explain that to the people in Carmacks. $1.221 million was spent there by this government. Or explain that to the people in Dawson City - $3.6 million; the people in Haines Junction - $3.466 million; the people in Mayo - $2.449 million; the people in Ross River and territory-wide - $66.2 million.
That's territory-wide in capital spending alone. That's no small sum and it is Yukoners who are going to be doing the work. Those are people rebuilding the infrastructure in the territory that was so badly neglected by the previous government. Those are Yukoners who will be ensuring that our highways are safer and in better shape, who are engaged in a number of projects and most importantly, they're working, and their work will have long-term benefits.
This figure is before the injection and successful negotiation by this government for funding for rebuilding the Dawson City Airport and moving the tanker base.
This government did something previous governments were unable to do. And it is just one example of hard work by this government. We are able to do it; we are working successfully with other governments.
Now, the member opposite is fond of saying, "Well, this government is really not doing anything and you are not getting the message out." Well, the Fraser Institute thinks we are. The quote from the president of the junior mining company, "In the Yukon, the Premier recognizes the need to encourage investment in mining and is aggressively promoting this issue." Those aren't my words; they are from a president of a junior mining company published in a major report.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite says, "Oh, it's the same review." Well, I beg to differ with the member opposite. With all due respect to the member's version of historical events, the fact is that that is current and that is now, and that is what folks are saying.
This government has been working with the private sector on rebuilding the Yukon economy. The member opposite has a very colourful view of how this government works with communities. This Economic Development minister has not said no to the community of Watson Lake, the community of Haines Junction or any other community that has approached us to work with them on economic initiatives.
The fact is that the member opposite has one view and one view only, and that is his view. I would encourage him to listen to what other opinions are. The fact is that a resource road - as I welcomed, spoke with and listened to the presentation from the community of Watson Lake, there was agreement at the table that the Liard First Nation would be encouraged to be supportive of this particular idea, prior to proceeding.
And the fact is that that's what my communication with the mayor and with others has been. We work with the Liard First Nation on a government-to-government basis. The fact is that all these initiatives that the member claims were under discussion and negotiation when they were in office - the Kaska abeyance agreement has only been in place for a short period of time, and negotiators have laid out an ambitious schedule for discussion. We are working on certainty issues in settling land claims. We are working on devolution, and we are rebuilding the Yukon economy.
What the member is having such difficulty with is the fact that we're starting to see results; that's the problem the member has. He just doesn't want to admit that maybe those Liberals and that government are doing something right after all. He's got a real problem with that. I'd like to help him with that, so let me once again share with the member some of the facts.
And the member opposite will accuse me of patting myself on the back. The facts, Mr. Chair, speak for themselves. The facts are that there are two exploration licences that have been applied for in southeast Yukon. Now, the member says, "Oh, well, those aren't jobs for people in Watson Lake." Well, the fact is that all the discussions I have had with one of those exploration companies, in particular in Calgary and other locations, has been very, very supportive of the people in Watson Lake.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, pursuant to Standing Order 19(c), a member can be called to order if they persist in needless repetition. Now, this minister has stood on her feet - and I'll take a minute to make this point. This minister has stood on her feet in this debate this evening and repeated the same things over and over and over again, prefaced by "the facts" or "the fact is".
The fact is that the minister is needlessly repeating the same old story, and we're trying to get to the debate of the budget here with regard to economic development in this territory. Needlessly repeating this mantra of works that were developed under the former government is not helping to expedite the debate of this budget.
Mr. Chair, I urge you to give serious consideration to this Standing Order and to what you have heard from the member opposite, the Minister of Economic Development, in regard to this debate this evening. I'm sure, if you went through Hansard, you would then agree with my summation that the minister has been repeating the same things over and over and over again.
Now, Mr. Chair, given the time, I move that we report progress.
Deputy Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would first of all suggest that there has been a valiant attempt by the member opposite to make a point of order. However, the point of order is a needless repetition of the member's desire to expedite debate and does not, in fact, lend to the debate.
Deputy Chair's ruling
Deputy Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. It is merely a dispute between members, and I'd ask Ms. Duncan to continue.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
Taking the lead from the Member for Watson Lake, I see that there are, in fact, two minutes left on the clock.
Mr. Chair, I stand corrected. It's 8:59 p.m. Given that the House is scheduled to adjourn at 9:00 p.m., may I suggest that we pause in our debate, and I move that you report progress on Bill No. 4.
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 Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, 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 Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 9:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 9:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled May 8, 2001:
Auditor General: Report on Other Matters for 1998 and 1999 (Speaker Schneider)
Yukon State of the Environment Report (1999): review by the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment (April 2001) (Duncan)
Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment term report (April 1999 - December 2000) (Duncan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 8, 2001:
Government Services: response to questions asked during 2001-02 budget debate re Electronic Contract Registry; and Connect Yukon (Jim)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1982