Wednesday, May 9, 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 Thane Phillips
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today with pride to pay tribute to one of my constituents, Thane Phillips, for an act of bravery that resulted in three lives being saved.
At this time, Mr. Speaker, I would ask the members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming Thane's parents, Mike and Barbara Phillips, to the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Unfortunately, Thane couldn't join us today, as he is currently at Queen's University studying physiotherapy.
On June 22, 2001, Thane will be presented with the Silver Medal of Bravery by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. The Medal for Bravery is awarded for acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances. Recipients of the Medal of Bravery may use the letters "MB" after their names.
The Queen created the decoration for bravery in 1972. In the 25 years since then, more than 2,000 people have received decorations for bravery, so Thane is truly in elite company.
Bravery decorations recognize people who have risked their lives to save or protect others, and Thane's heroics stir up the question that resides deep in each of us: would we be willing to risk our own lives to save others? Well, Mr. Speaker, Thane answered that question, to himself and everyone in the Yukon on a June evening last year. I ask for the indulgence of the Speaker and all members of the Legislature as I offer a brief capsule of Thane's selfless actions.
Last spring, Thane arrived at the boat launch near the confluence of the Takhini and Yukon rivers to pick up three individuals who were returning a rental canoe. No sooner had he arrived than he heard shouting from the river and noticed three people in dire trouble in the water - a man and a woman clinging to a canoe and another man, downstream from the canoe, all without lifejackets.
Thane immediately jumped into the water and swam for the canoe. After reaching the canoe, Thane grabbed the lifejacket and went after the man downstream of the canoe. The man clinging to the canoe helped out by bringing an additional lifejacket to the struggling man and Thane. The three of them then somehow made their way back to the canoe. But just as they rescued the man, he lapsed into unconscious, and Thane struggled just to keep his head above water.
By this time, a fisherman on the scene had paddled his canoe to join the overturned canoe to help out. He tried to paddle the four of them and the canoe ashore, but the current was far too strong. Time was rapidly becoming a factor, as hypothermia was setting in and the current was taking them further and further away from the shore.
Thane instructed the woman to make her way down to the overturned canoe and to grab onto the fisherman's canoe. As they hung onto the unconscious victim, Thane and the other man let go of the overturned canoe and hung onto the fisherman's canoe's stern line while the fisherman laboured to paddle all of them to shore. Once onshore, Thane worked to warm up the woman and the man, who was turning blue and lapsing in and out of consciousness. A short time later, police arrived in a powerboat and took everyone across the river to a waiting ambulance. All were taken to hospital and all made a full recovery.
If not for Thane, the Yukon drowning statistics would have increased by three that day, Mr. Speaker.
One of the most amazing facts about this rescue that I have just learned is that Thane's father says that his son is actually a poor swimmer but he has powerful arms from years of rowing at university, and thankfully, for three people, he also has river-rescue training under his belt.
In addition to the Governor General's award, Thane has also been honoured for this rescue by the former Yukon Commissioner, Judy Gingell, and the British Columbia and Yukon Life Saving Society.
Thane's actions on that June evening deserve all the praise he received and more. But his actions don't surprise me. Thane has been a prominent member of the community for many years and is well known in Yukon sporting circles. He is best known for his running and cross-country exploits. On numerous occasions he has represented the Yukon at outside competitions and events, including the Canada Summer Games in running and mountain biking, the Canada Winter Games in biathlon, and the Arctic Winter Games in biathlon and cross-country skiing. Twice he went to France as part of the TEST cross-country ski program. Thane was a member of the talent squad on the Canadian cross-country ski team.
In addition to his current studies, Thane holds a degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary. The 27 year old was born in Whitehorse and graduated from F.H. Collins. He has been a river guide, a canoe and kayak instructor for more than five years. He has always exhibited passion and perseverance in whatever he has undertaken, and it's obvious by this award that he cares about his fellow citizens.
I am very proud to both know Thane and to represent him in this Legislature. I wish him well in his future endeavours.
And again, thank you, Thane.
In recognition of Emergency Preparedness Week
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I rise today to pay tribute to Emergency Preparedness Week. Emergency Preparedness Week has been an annual program across Canada since 1995. It is designed to build public awareness of the real need to be prepared for emergency situations.
Over the course of our lives, many Yukoners will face many risks, including severe weather, fire, flood or other unforeseen events that can affect their quality of life and leave a lasting memory. Although many of these risks are related to natural hazards beyond our control, there are ways to reduce the potential consequences. With this in mind, the theme for this year's Emergency Preparedness Week, May 7 to May 13, is "Reducing the risk, toward safer communities in the 21st century".
The theme focuses on the concept of mitigation, which rests with understanding the risks where we live and work and undertaking actions to reduce those risks. In this way, we can limit the extent to which an emergency affects us and potentially prevent it from escalating into a full-blown disaster. In disaster films, the emergency measures people always seem to be there, rescuing people immediately, but movies aren't reality. My department's emergency measures staff tell me that in a real disaster, everyone needs to be prepared to survive on their own for two or three days, as it may take that long to get outside help. This means that every Yukoner, every family and every household should pack a survival kit and know what to do in an emergency at home, school and work and rehearse an evacuation plan that includes everyone in the household, even the pets.
Emergency Preparedness Week is designed to urge Yukoners and all Canadians to start or update their emergency planning. Responsibility for reducing the risk toward safer communities in the 21st century rests with governments at all levels, as well as with individuals.
Most Yukon communities have local emergency measures coordinators who work with my department's emergency measures branch and with other volunteers in the communities. These local emergency preparedness teams work to assess the risks, to examine community preparedness, and to improve disaster planning so that emergency response and recovery time can be minimized and the assistance provided to people during and following disasters can be maximized.
On May 16, emergency measures personnel from all levels of government will be attending their annual Yukon disaster committee meeting to discuss the need to improve and refine community and local involvement in emergency planning and preparedness. A main goal of this meeting is to develop stronger partnerships between all levels of government throughout the Yukon, including First Nations. We hope communities will take more direct local leadership, identify the unique hazards that may exist in specific communities, and work together to mitigate the damage and impact of emergency situations.
Volunteers play a crucial role in being prepared for emergencies, reducing the risks and building safer communities for all Yukoners. I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Legislature, during the International Year of the Volunteer, to sincerely thank all the Yukon volunteers in firefighting, emergency health and social services, search and rescue, auxiliary police and emergency planning, who are dedicated to emergency preparedness in their communities.
During Emergency Preparedness Week, I urge all members of the Legislature and all Yukoners to take the time to do your part to protect yourself, your family and your community. By working together, we can reduce the risk and build safer communities in the 21st century.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker,
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Netro: I'd like to ask all members of the Legislature to help me make welcome two constituents from Vuntut Gwitchin: Harvey Kassi, who is the councillor for Vuntut Gwitchin, and Loretta Itsi.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have four legislative returns for tabling.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has broken faith with some of the most deserving people in the territory by refusing to implement the increase in Social Assistance rates that was included in the budget for 2000-01;
(2) through his refusal to implement this increase, the first in several years, the Minister of Health contradicted the position taken by the Premier when in opposition, that this increase was a positive move by the previous NDP government;
(3) the minister has also failed to honour a commitment in the same budget to hold a Yukon-wide Social Justice Forum that would allow Yukon people to identify future priorities for social programming in the territory;
(4) problems of homelessness, particularly among young people in our society, are mounting at an alarming rate;
(5) the continuing deterioration of the Yukon economy is putting additional pressure on individuals, families and volunteer community services, such as food banks; and
(6) the accumulated surplus of $80 million removes any doubt about the financial ability of the Yukon Liberal Government to address the serious social problems; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to do the right thing for Yukon people, and particularly for those on the lowest rungs of the economic ladder, by immediately implementing the promised increase in Social Assistance rates, and by making a commitment to a Yukon-wide forum on Social Justice no later than this fall.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal Government has failed to take decisive action on a number of outstanding issues concerning the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, specifically the backlog of outstanding appeals, the disparity in maximum wage rates and the authority of the Worker Advocate to represent injured workers in court;
(2) the Yukon Liberal Government neglected to address the backlog of outstanding appeals by refusing to debate Motion No. 64, tabled by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, which had the support of all three parties in the Legislative Assembly;
(3) correcting the disparity in maximum wage rates between the workers injured before 1993 and those injured after that year will require only a simple amendment to the Workers' Compensation Act; and
(4) enshrining the authority of the Worker Advocate to represent injured workers in court will likewise require only a simple amendment of the act; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal Government to direct the President and the Chair of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board to take appropriate action on each of these issues prior to the fall sitting of the Legislature, including drafting the necessary legislative amendments and further directing the President and the Chair to report progress on these and other issues to this House in the first week of the fall sitting of the Legislature.
Mr. McLachlan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that:
(1) this Liberal Government has successfully negotiated an agreement with the Federal Government on outstanding formula financing issues;
(2) due to this successful negotiation, this Liberal Government has received a one-time retroactive payment of approximately $36 million and an annual increase of approximately $6 million in transfer payments;
(3) in accordance with appropriate accounting procedures, the retroactive payment of $36 million must be added to the 2000-01 budget; and
(4) this will increase the previously forecast $45-million surplus at March 31, 2001, to approximately $81 million; and
THAT this House applauds the Liberal Government for its wise use of these new funds by allocating them in the following manner:
(1) $15 million to address the depletion of the accumulated surplus;
(2) $10 million to a Yukon Permanent Fund;
(3) $8 million to a Canada Winter Games infrastructure fund; and
(4) $3 million to several new endowment funds; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Government to continue its practice of spending Yukoners' money in a fiscally responsible manner.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion? I will proceed then.
Are there any statements by ministers?
Yukon hire policy, amendment to
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise today to announce a change in the government's Yukon hire policy. While maintaining our commitment to local hire, we are eliminating the three-month waiting period on Yukon government jobs. Prior to and since the three-month residency rule was introduced in 1997, the Yukon hire rate was, and remains, 98 percent, but this waiting period created barriers for students, former Yukoners and new Yukoners.
The three-month residency requirement for Yukon government jobs is now eliminated for people who physically move to the Yukon, for Yukon students for a period of five years after graduation and for partners of outside candidates who accept a position with the Yukon government.
This change to the Yukon hire policy enhances opportunities for young Yukoners. We have made a commitment to post-secondary education of Yukon students through Yukon grants. We want to see our young people succeed and we also want to see them return to the Yukon. Many students want to obtain experience outside the territory after graduation before returning home with their new knowledge and expertise.
This change to the Yukon hire policy means that, for five years after graduation, Yukon students will not be subject to a waiting period before applying for government jobs.
Yukoners who return to the territory and new Yukoners who physically moved to the territory also benefit from this change. By choosing to live here, Mr. Speaker, they are telling us that they want to contribute to our community. We are showing them, Mr. Speaker, through this positive change, that people who want to live here and contribute to our community are welcome here.
We are acknowledging their commitment to physically relocating to the Yukon by doing away with the three-month waiting period before applying for government jobs. In addition, we are all aware that the government needs skilled and qualified people to deliver essential services to Yukon citizens. Realistically, we need to continue to go outside Yukon to fill those positions that are hard to recruit, such as nurses and teachers.
In the past, the three-month waiting period for partners of outside candidates has been a factor in the successful candidate's decision to not accept employment in the territory. Partners and dependent members of candidates from outside, who accept a Yukon government position, are no longer required to wait three months before applying for government jobs.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon government remains committed to the principles of Yukon hire policy. We know that Yukon people are skilled, well trained and qualified for a vast number of Yukon public service positions. We will continue to give preference to Yukon residents who are committed to this territory when we hire for government jobs.
While this is an important change, it is limited to a discreet part of Yukon hire policy. The only part of the Yukon hire policy that is affected is the three-month waiting period to apply for government job positions. Government jobs will continue to be advertised in the Yukon first. All qualified Yukoners will be considered before any outside applicants.
Mr. Speaker, one of our top seven priorities is to restore confidence in government. That means developing rules and policies that make sense and that work. We are also concerned about making improvements to policy whenever we can. What we are doing, through this relatively simple yet important change, is creating more opportunities. We are creating opportunities for Yukon students; we are ensuring equal opportunity to people who move to the territory, and we are removing the current penalty to spouses of candidates from outside who have accepted positions with the Yukon government.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, it is truly refreshing to see a ministerial statement come to the floor of this Legislature that conforms to our Standing Orders, and I applaud the minister for that. This, indeed, is a short, factual statement on new government policy.
I also must say, Mr. Speaker, that the official opposition is very supportive of removing any impediments to our recruitment of professionals such as nurses and teachers, and impediments to finding and providing employment for our young people so that they will come back to the Yukon and establish themselves here. However, I want to point out something to the minister in a constructive manner. The residency clause in the Yukon hire policy is the direct result of extensive consultation with the Yukon public, and it is the Yukon public who desire to see clear, concise criteria of what the hiring policy would be in terms of Yukon residency. So I would just caution the minister at this juncture that, although the change on face value is certainly a positive one, let's not throw the baby out with the bathwater, because the Yukon residency clause was intended to ensure that Yukoners are provided first access to jobs when it comes from Yukon government expenditure.
Further to that, it seems to me that a good change in government policy from this point forward would be to provide much more focus on training and providing the necessary skills so that Yukoners can become teachers, nurses, and professionals of that sort.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in response to this amendment to the three-month waiting period for Yukon government jobs. The three-month residency requirement came about as a result of the NDP Cabinet commission report on Yukon hire, as one of the 40 recommendations.
Now, unlike the Liberal Party, the Yukon Party did not support the creation of the four NDP Cabinet commissions, nor did we support all of the recommendations of the Yukon hire commission. Now, one of the recommendations contained in the Yukon hire commission report also required the creation of a Yukon hiring agency for major government projects.
The Liberal leader, then as the leader of the official opposition, called upon the government for the speedy implementation of all 40 of the NDP recommendations. Today, I am pleased to see that the minister knows better and hasn't followed the instruction of his leader.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that all political parties in the Yukon want to provide Yukoners with the first opportunity for employment within the Yukon government. After all, it is one of the few employers that has positions open due to the dismal track record in economic development of this Liberal government. The difficulty, however, has been in making such a preference work.
I appreciate the minister announcing the problems facing Yukon students who go outside for post-secondary education and then, upon graduation, are not eligible for positions with the Yukon public service. We invest thousands and thousands of dollars in educating our students and then set up roadblocks for their return to Yukon.
I know personally of Yukon teachers, born and raised in the Yukon, who went outside to earn their teaching degrees and had to teach elsewhere before being allowed to teach in the Yukon. That's ridiculous, Mr. Speaker. The most valuable Yukon hire policy should be based on common sense, while giving Yukoners the first opportunity for employment within the Yukon public service. At the same time, we encourage people to come to the Yukon who have the skills we so desperately require - doctors, nurses, teachers, psychiatrists, psychologists, skilled trades people. The list is growing longer with each passing day as the disastrous economic policies of this Liberal government forces more and more Yukoners to leave the territory. The Yukon is suffering from a population haemorrhage, including our skilled work force.
I can tell the minister that it's going to require more than a band-aid solution in order to turn this situation around. It's going to take a government that has both a vision and an economic game plan to put the Yukon back on track. Unfortunately, this Liberal government has none of those abilities.
The problem that the minister has today is not restricted to people coming to the Yukon, but it is also in trying to retain the people we already have. With no economy, that amounts to an impossible task.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I very much appreciate and would like to thank the members opposite for their thoughtful and insightful comments.
One amendment to the comments supplied by the Member for Klondike was that the Liberal Party did not support all 40 recommendations in the Yukon hire policy, as determined through the commission.
The members opposite, as recently as yesterday, noted that there was a shortage of health care professionals, as the Member for Klondike just did. Are the members opposite now saying that they do not want us to hire doctors, nurses or teachers from the outside? There have been a number of incidents where professionals have inquired about positions. Once the three-month residency requirement was identified and explained, it was "Thanks, but no thanks."
The opposition talks about incentives. What better incentive is there than to let a professional know that their partner can look for work with the government right away? Our Yukon students, whom we encourage to go outside to college and university in order to get higher education, can now return up to five years later and still be considered a full Yukoner. Some of our students, because of practicums or other coursework, cannot come back to the territory every summer to look for work. This will allow them to gain experience and expertise in their chosen field, and then bring their skills back to Yukon and apply them to help to build the Yukon economy.
I hope that this change to the Yukon hire policy will encourage our Yukon students to come back and to share their expertise with us.
The opposition is constantly reminding this government that we have driven our labour force out of the territory. In the past, once you left the territory you were no longer considered a Yukoner. Well, we are fixing that too. Yukoners who have previously lived, worked and contributed to the Yukon way of life, can return. We want our skilled Yukoners back in the territory.
I recognize the lure of the Yukon. Once it is in your blood you just can't ignore it. You always come back home.
We don't need to spend the taxpayers' money to recruit professionals; we needed to change the policy and that is exactly what we did.
Speaker: If there are no further statements by ministers, this then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Nurses, recruitment of
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Health today - what a surprise.
Since this is National Nursing Week, I was very interested to read a major supplement in the Globe and Mail celebrating this event. Now, this is an 18-page supplement that was seen in the Globe and Mail, as I said, in a national paper.
Now, besides the interesting articles that were there, it was just chock full of advertisements for nursing positions from Newfoundland to British Columbia, and there was even one ad in there from California, attempting to lure our nurses down to the beaches of California.
So can the minister tell us why there was not one single inch of advertising from the Yukon in this national paper?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I cannot tell the member why we didn't have an ad in there. I know we have a team that goes out to a lot of fairs and a lot of nursing fairs across the nation, so there is a lot of work being done, Mr. Speaker, but I could not tell the member why we did not have an ad in that paper.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, we just spoke about local hire, and if we're going to entice people home and entice professionals here, we have made the necessary changes to do that, but we have to advertise for them. We have to let them know that we're out here. I just don't know what it's going to take to get this minister to realize that we do have a very serious shortage of nurses and health care professionals in the Yukon.
On the radio this morning, the minister did finally admit that there is a real problem with attracting and retaining doctors. But, Mr. Speaker, the problem doesn't stop just there with that particular problem. Several of the ads in this 18-page recruitment were from professional recruitment firms. So, has the minister authorized his department to hire the services of full-time professional recruiters, rather than relying on in-house resources to recruit nurses for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, that's an operational question. I don't micromanage my department. I let the department do the job that they have been hired to do. They do a very fine job. They work very hard.
Obviously, we on this side believe in what we have been doing over the last year. At least we don't practice and play out the doom and gloom of the members opposite. We at least give Yukoners hope in the fact that there is a future for them here, not doom and gloom.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, the minister should get his head out of the clouds and the minister will see that there is a very, very serious problem. I'm not asking the minister to micromanage, for goodness' sake.
Mr. Speaker, this search for nurses and health care professionals means that the Yukon has to play in the big leagues. We have to step up here. We're against some very impressive competition from around the world, and we need a quarterback. That's exactly what we need. We're up against some of North America's top medical centres and we just can't play big league ball with bush league resources, and that's what the minister is offering here.
This government, as stated by the Premier, has a surplus of $81 million, so there is absolutely no excuse for not doing the job right.
So, will the minister please agree to allocate sufficient financial and human resources to the task of developing a recruitment and retention strategy that will guarantee the continuity of health care services to all Yukoners? Will the minister at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We do advertise in the Medical Post and the nursing journals right across the country, Mr. Speaker. We work very hard at trying to attract nurses here. We as a government have been sitting down with the nurses over the past few months with what we call stage 2 of our nurses recruitment package. An announcement will be made this week on the conclusions of those discussions. We've already put the first stage in place, and we've been working very hard with our partners, and that's the way we want to go in the future. We're a government of hope, a government of optimism - not doom and gloom.
Question re: Hepatitis C, Positive Lives funding
Mr. Keenan: I guess, Mr. Speaker, that maybe the minister will get his head out of the clouds and share that hope that's desperately needed in the Yukon here.
I do have another question for the minister, if I may, though. It has been over a month now since the AIDS Yukon Alliance and the Positive Lives Support Society have submitted their funding applications to the department. Now, the issue at heart here is which group will get the entire $139,000 that is allocated for prevention and education services for blood-borne conditions in the Yukon. We're already a month into the new fiscal year, and this matter should be settled at this point in time.
There has been speculation in the media that the minister is holding off an announcement until the sitting closes. Will the minister make an announcement about the awarding of this funding before the closing of the Legislature today, because I know the minister has made the decision?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: An announcement will be made very soon.
Mr. Keenan: The elusive, the evasive Mr. Minister. Well, Mr. Speaker, I understand that at least one of these groups has been told by the minister's office that the announcement won't be made until next week. What a coincidence. There won't be a Question Period, a Legislative Assembly next week.
It appears to me, Mr. Speaker, and I think to the public at large, that the minister's trying to hide from public scrutiny of what well could be a very controversial announcement. This delay is creating very much a problem within the Positive Lives Support Society, and I also understand that Health Canada is holding back on a proposal submitted for $45,000 in federal funding for hepatitis-C programs until the minister makes his announcement.
So will the minister now make an announcement and end the uncertainty for people who are affected by AIDS and hepatitis C? Will the minister at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Services haven't ceased because the announcement hasn't been made, Mr. Speaker. Services and support are still there. As I shared with the member opposite, an announcement will be made very soon.
Question re: Excellence awards
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Education. Back on January 26, 1995, the previous Yukon Party government introduced a very novel, progressive initiative called the Yukon excellence awards. This program encouraged scholastic achievement, as well as helped Yukon students defray the high costs of post-secondary education. The program applied to students in grades 8 through 12 and allowed them to earn up to $9,200, in addition to the student grant.
Now, the previous NDP government opposed the excellence award, and effectively chopped it in half by limiting them to grade 9 and grade 12. Now, yesterday, the minister called the excellence awards an "excellent program" and that he was prepared to consider restoring it to its original grandeur. I commend the minister for making that commitment.
Will the minister give an undertaking that the excellence awards will be fully restored in time for the next school year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, the Member for Klondike is factually incorrect. In questions on the Education budget yesterday, he had suggested and recommended to this side of the House that we again review that option. I did indicate that the current program is very positive and very helpful to students. I said that I would take his comments under advisement. I did not say that I would commit on the spot to his suggestion. I did confirm that we are following up with the program initiated by the previous government and that it was positive and good.
Something we also did as a government was increase the Yukon grants for students, which is direct support for initiatives that he is suggesting.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister is incorrect. If he would care to read Hansard, he'll find I'm very accurate in what I'm recounting here today. Previously, in opposition, the Liberal leader adopted the NDP position of opposing the excellence awards. Both the Liberals and the NDP supported financial awards for achieving excellence in sports - up to $4,500 for winning a gold medal. Now, that's applaudable, but there wasn't anything for achieving academic excellence. So, this is certainly a most welcome and historic change in the minister's position. He is at least considering it.
Will the minister please advise us as to the timelines for his consideration of this initiative? Will it be imposed in the next calendar year?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike just loves to shrink the box until he gets the answer that he wants in exactly the wording he wants it. Well, I did acknowledge yesterday that I would consider his suggestions and recommendations, so that we can follow up and build and continue to help our high school students as they move on to higher education.
Again, we had extended the Yukon grant 20 percent over what it was. So, we're looking at all options. The Education Act is under review, and there could be potential in there - the recommendations that come from communities, the public at large, educators, school councils - on how we can better help and support our students here in the territory and extend opportunities for them on the outside. So, the options are limitless, and we are going to be looking at all of that.
Mr. Jenkins: We are going to be looking at that, but this is an immediate solution to a problem. We have students graduating in the Yukon and going on to post-secondary education who graduate with a debt load of $40,000, $50,000, $6,000 - up to $100,000 that I am aware of.
Now, this is an opportunity for the government to address these shortcomings. Would the minister kindly consider it in the time frame so that it could be implemented for the next school year starting this September? Will he at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is a short answer to that and it is, quite frankly, no. I would like to stand on the record as correcting what the member has alluded to that I had made a definitive commitment through Hansard. I will quote myself in Hansard - gee, not many members get a chance to do that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Oh, no, this is good stuff.
This is the 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 Yukon. That is what we are currently using as our model for excellence awards."
So that stands true, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Capital budget, community plans
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the Premier in her capacity as Minister of Finance.
During Finance debate in Committee, the Premier made mention of the fact that her pre-budget tour or consultations have been completed already, so my question for the Premier is this: given the fact that the Liberal government is sitting on an $80-million-plus surplus, and we are going to be debating a capital budget this fall in the Legislature, what plans does the minister have to go out into the communities to assist communities in developing capital plans so that they can benefit from the upcoming capital budget this fall?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Watson Lake asked me that question in general debate on Finance, and there are a number of points I would like to reiterate to the member opposite.
First of all, there were extensive pre-budget consultations conducted by this government in a very timely manner, in that people's minds were on the budget, and there were very focused discussions in January and early February of this year.
As a result of those discussions, Mr. Speaker, we are spending in capital alone some $66.2 million territory-wide on a variety of projects. In communities other than Whitehorse we are, for example, spending in Haines Junction in excess of $3.4 million and in Dawson City in excess of $3.6 million, and those figures were tabulated before my Minister of Community and Transportation Services and I successfully negotiated additional funding for the Dawson City Airport.
So, in direct response to the capital budget, our government, as a government, will be travelling throughout the territory this summer and gathering information as we do on a regular basis, and listening to Yukoners because that's what we're about - listening to Yukoners and managing their money wisely.
Mr. Fentie: I understand that the Premier is very full of herself and all the wonderful things that the Liberal government members think they have been doing. However, given the makeup of the existing budget that we're debating today, it's obvious that the discussions that took place prior to this budget, to a great degree, were with themselves, because that's where a lot of the money is being spent - on making government bigger and more comfortable for themselves.
I ask the Premier what she is going to do to go out to the communities and assist those communities in developing capital and economic plans, so that they can participate and benefit from this fall's budget? Can the Premier just answer that question? We don't need to hear any more repetition of all the wonderful things that the Liberal government members think they're doing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite wants the Chair or the Speaker to rule on repetition, I would caution that my advice, respectfully submitted, would be that no member in that regard is without fault, Mr. Speaker.
In response to the question the member opposite has suggested that this government has not taken the advice or listened to Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, this government has heard from Yukoners. How else does the member think that we received advice to ensure we put $220,000 in increased funding for women's shelters throughout the territory's transition homes? The suggestion came for a $100,000 increase in foster parent per diem and clothing rates. These ideas came from Yukoners, and these ideas are contained in this budget. What's more, this budget provides Yukoners with hope. It recognizes opportunity, and overwhelmingly it expresses a belief in Yukoners, and that's what we're about.
Mr. Fentie: I think the Premier should be ashamed, making that announcement that a few hundred thousand dollars has been sprinkled out to Yukoners out of a $535-million budget. That's completely ridiculous. I'm talking about communities and areas that have got virtually nothing out of this budget. There's an up-and-coming capital budget this fall. That's a huge change in how the government business is conducted in this territory. I'm asking the minister to be a little conscious of other Yukoners' needs and requirements and go out to those communities, sit down with those communities, help them develop capital plans, help them develop economic plans, so that they can benefit from the budget that the Liberal government will be tabling this fall. That's a pretty simple question that requires a pretty simple answer. Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the tone of the member opposite's question is somewhat disturbing. The fact is that the side opposite has had in excess of 35 days to debate this budget. In my previous response, I chose to talk about only two - two or three of the very good initiatives contained in this budget.
Mr. Speaker, if I were to go on and on and on about them, I would take another 35 days. The members have already done that, and they have refused to ask the question. They don't want to talk about the fact that there is hope for Yukoners in this budget - that there's a seven-percent increase in capital spending; that 700 direct jobs are going to be created by this budget; that there is $1.5 million for community infrastructure development; and there is $500,000 as a line item for fire smart - the member opposite's favourite project. We put it as a line item. We recognized it. We did a lot of wonderful things in this budget. I only wish the opposition would focus their time and attention and thoroughly debate it. Then more Yukoners would know about it.
Question re: Festivals funding
Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Tourism.
It's the year of the festivals in the territory, but our celebrations are being dampened by the uncertainty created by this Liberal government. Unfortunately, many festivals don't know where they stand because of the Liberals three-R treatment of the community development fund. As we now know, those three Rs are review, reduce and repackage.
Time is running out. One of the most popular festivals, the Alsek Music Festival, is only one month away, yet is still in funding limbo. What is the minister doing to ensure that funding for such events is provided in time?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is the fourth time that the member opposite has asked this question. I need to tell him that a great deal of money has been allocated under the budget, which has been held up by the side opposite, to go toward festival funding. There is $80,000 in the stay-another-day program. There is also funding available through the arts fund. Now, those application dates have passed, although the funding under the stay-another-day program is not complete. I would respectfully suggest to the member opposite that perhaps he should talk to the people at the Alsek Music Festival and get updated as to where their application forms are.
Mr. McRobb: The minister is uninformed. This is not the fourth time I have asked this question. It's the first time, Mr. Speaker, and I have talked to the representatives of the Alsek Music Festival and they tell me this popular event is in danger of being cancelled because of the uncertainty created by this Liberal government, and that's shameful.
We know that Project Yukon is not meeting the public need. There are more groups chasing less money. The minister has admitted that herself. It's ironic that the minister is trumpeting the stay-another-day program while denying community groups the tools needed to put on the very events we hope tourists will stay another day to see. Further, there is uncertainty about what groups can apply for it and whether the Liberal rules allow them to apply for more than just one project.
Is the minister willing to consider changing the criteria of Project Yukon and adding new application windows to facilitate access to the program for events such as the Alsek Music Festival?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: So, let's go through it again. The previous community development fund was open to a great deal of political interference. We thought there was a problem with that. We have met the need of the arts community in funding through the ongoing programs that we have at the branch level, as well as $80,000 additional dollars under the stay-another-day program for festivals funding.
In addition to that, we have a half a million dollars - new dollars, Mr. Speaker - that have been put toward the arts. Out of that, a good third goes toward festivals funding. The member and I have spoken about this at great length. We just spent a day and a half - we just finished the Tourism budget. He had many opportunities under those auspices to talk about this, but he didn't. And he didn't because this side of the House recognizes the importance of festivals. We have put a great deal of money and resources toward building festivals in the Yukon Territory - $80,000 under the stay-another-day program and $500,000 under the new arts fund.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, it's obvious that the Liberals don't want to be questioned, they don't want to be held accountable. Mr. Speaker, what we did determine in Committee debate is that the stay-another-day program really lives up to its acronym, because it's sad to discover how only 25 percent of the $785,000 is for the public. The other 75 percent is for the minister and the government, and that's a disgraceful percentage in the delivery of funds.
Now, this government is awash in cash. It finally fessed up about the $80-million surplus. What it really is bankrupt in is long-term vision and political will.
During the Liberals' so-called budget consultations and at the Haines Junction public meeting in particular, the Liberals promised to expedite funding to festivals such as the Alsek Music Festival through their own budget line items each year. Will the minister agree to sit down with representatives of the Yukon's established festivals to discuss how the Liberals might fulfill their public commitments to provide long-term funding for such events?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, what we have agreed to with the arts community and the Yukon public is to use funding mechanisms that are allocated through peer review, so that people who are conversant and familiar with the field make the funding decisions. We have taken those funding decisions out of the hands of politicians and put them into the hands of people who know what they're talking about and can treat people fairly in funding decisions.
Now, the member opposite has said that the stay-another-day program is a way of growing government. Let me tell the member again - I went through this at some length yesterday, and we are indeed wasting time again - that where we are spending $785,000 is on the stay-another-day program which, I might point out, has been much appreciated by Yukon communities. I have heard that message again and again and again.
First of all, the money goes toward branding, and that's developing a theme song. It talks about the banners that are going to be throughout the Yukon. It's advertisements in local media, as well as in new publications. It's working with cultural and heritage industries and developing a Web site and media relations. None of those things are growing government; all of those things are about developing a really strong program that will put up to $13 million into the Yukon economy while supporting Yukon festivals and events.
Question re: Old Crow Airport terminal building
Ms. Netro: My question today is for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. The main estimates for 2001-02 did not include any money for a new airport terminal building in Old Crow. This is a project that my community has been counting on for some time.
The Liberal government recently received a $42-million windfall from the federal government, and it has an accumulated surplus of $80 million. With the additional capital money available this year, will the minister direct her department to put the Old Crow Airport terminal at the top of its list for capital projects?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin well knows, the capital budget will be tabled in the fall. The capital planning process is not yet complete and all projects that we are aware of will be considered.
The members opposite should know that we are working for Yukoners. They tell us every day that we're doing a good job, and I'm speaking of people from all over the territory, in the rural ridings as well as in the Whitehorse area
The opposition's three Rs are refuse to listen, repeat incorrect information, and recycle their questions.
Ms. Netro: Asking the people of Old Crow to wait and see if something will be in the fall budget is a real disappointment. Our community was shortchanged in this budget. We need infrastructure and we need the jobs that come with building that infrastructure.
Will the minister make a commitment to go to Old Crow as soon as possible and sit down with the leadership and the people to discuss options for meeting the community's infrastructure needs?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I'll be happy to meet with any group of Yukoners who want to speak with me, any time.
Question re: Ross River Yukon College archaeology training
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the Minister of Education today, if I may.
The Yukon's rich heritage and culture are vitally important, both to the people who live here and to those who come to visit.
In the community of Ross River, we have a very talented person who helped to train our young people in archaeology through Yukon College. I understand that the college is no longer offering this training because there aren't enough applicants from the local area. It's important to realize that this type of training helps diversify the economy and helps to build local expertise in our communities.
So, I'd like to ask the minister: will the minister sit down with folks at the Yukon College and find a way to continue this important training for the people in Ross River? We can do it either through regional development or we could do it through partnerships with other communities. Will the minister please do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I do thank the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and I did receive this question during debate on Education yesterday. I had indicated at that time that I was unaware that there had been a change in Yukon College staffing in Ross River, and I said that I would look into it. I would agree with the member that we have to encourage and certainly provide the best skills that are needed in all our communities here, whether it be through regular schooling or through Yukon College provisions in the communities. Because we do have to give people hope and I think that is what this government is doing.
We have hope and we are encouraging the members opposite to have hope, because I think that they are realizing now, after this session, that we are on a strong road to recovery and that we are getting positive feedback from Yukoners that they too are having hope.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for that political commercial interlude there, if I may, Mr. Speaker.
I surely hope that we will be able to get to doing the right thing and I hope that will happen a little sooner than later. I am very hopeful that that will happen.
At a certain point we have to decide that this type of training is important enough that we have to provide for it. No matter what, we have to be able to do that. So I encourage the minister to give the Yukon College the tools that it needs.
Now, in many communities, First Nations are working very hard to develop a heritage program and it's a cornerstone of the Tourism minister's development of diversification of the economy.
We have facilities like the Jonathan Heritage Centre in Pelly Crossing. In Dawson City, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in have a cultural centre there. Carmacks has a heritage site. As the minister knows - the minister has toured the Teslin cultural centre.
So we need this type of capacity building. I am asking the minister to take another look at it. If they don't have enough folks in the community to train to manage these resources, will the minister look at setting up a First Nation training trust fund? I say again, "a First Nation training trust fund", to help build the level of capacity and opportunity for the people in the communities.
It is very similar to the issue that I raised with the minister yesterday in Committee of the Whole debate concerning the Teslin situation around the museum. People need help -
Speaker: Order please. Can I ask the member to conclude his question.
Mr. Keenan: Will the minister please sit down with folks and look at it in that light?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, the member opposite is suggesting that I start doing that, Mr. Speaker, and, quite frankly, we are already doing it. We're doing it through the Education Act review, so that we can get First Nations and cultural aspects of First Nations directly in our schools. We are having and increasing those capabilities through Yukon College, as well.
So, Mr. Speaker, even though there was an incident up in Ross River that I am getting clarification on, we are committed to this. We are committed in many, many ways. The Minister of Tourism and I are utilizing and maximizing our resources through dialogue between our respective departments, and Renewable Resources is also looking with the Minister of Economic Development at how we can better realize the resources and not grow government, to maximize the efficiencies within government.
So we are already working on these things. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, we are providing hope. We are giving hope and we are very hopeful ourselves, as are Yukoners.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure that Yukoners who are listening to that little tirade deserve it.
Now, I understand that the minister has been here for a few months. When the minister's here, he's doing his job. When the minister liaises with the Minister of Tourism and with the Minister of Economic Development, the minister is doing his job. What I'm doing in this Legislature, standing on my feet, Mr. Speaker, is also doing my job. I have sat on that side of the House, Mr. Speaker. I understand that ministers have to have thick skin. I even suggested that the minister shouldn't take it so lightly. They have to have skin to the bone, because we're going to continue to ask these questions on behalf of the people that we represent.
So I am asking if the minister will look at it in that light. You're helping to diversify the economy and you're playing the role you should be playing of developing training trust funds. I'm pointing out that there is a shortage of people. Some of these centres are opening up on a seasonal basis. Some of them are having their grand opening in another month. Will the minister sit down and look at that, so we can have something for the immediate and not the review of the future? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It really is unfortunate that on the last day of Question Period, the members opposite can't get out of that groove of doom and gloom. A pall is cast over the other half of the House, in that they can't recognize that the recommendations and suggestions that the member just made are already well underway.
And yes, I hope I never do lose the sensitivities that I do have when comments that are hurtful come over to any member on this side of the House, because it's wrong. It's wrong to do that, so we're not going to be doing that any more, Mr. Speaker. We promised Yukoners that we would elevate the conduct in this House, and I think we have gone a long way in doing that this session. Mind you, there is a long way to go, and we can continue to do better. And we will do better, so that we can provide the best direction and the best leadership and give the people of Yukon what they truly need and want. That is already manifesting itself in hope.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Special adjournment motion
Ms. Tucker: Mr. Speaker, I move
THAT the House, at its rising, do stand adjourned until it appears to the satisfaction of the Speaker, after consultation with the Premier, that the public interest requires that the House shall meet;
THAT the Speaker give notice that he is so satisfied, and thereupon the House shall meet at the time stated in such notice and shall transact its business as if it had been duly adjourned to that time; and
THAT, if the Speaker is unable to act owing to illness or other causes, the Deputy Speaker shall act in his stead for the purpose of this Order.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader
Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. Jenkins: On the motion before us, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had promised us fixed sitting dates. We see no mention of fixed sitting dates coming forward. They did try it this spring session and, unfortunately, the Premier was travelling in China on one of her many, many, many trips, and the opening of the House had to be postponed for a week.
We had anticipated that the Liberals would live up to their election commitment to have fixed sitting dates, and we have yet to see this promise that was made committed to, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I'm compelled to respond to the member opposite's remarks. This government committed to fixed sitting dates and has lived up to that commitment. Ask any member who serves this House outside the Legislature in a support capacity and one will recognize that.
I would like to point out that fixed sitting dates include the length of time that the Legislature sits. It's unfortunate that the members opposite have not found it in their capability of serving Yukoners to attend the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, where we might agree on those dates.
Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite's remarks were a suggestion that we also indicate a closure date of the Legislature, we're more than happy to do that. The unfortunate fact is the members opposite don't live up to that.
Motion agreed to
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
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will recess for 10 minutes.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree. Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this is the last sitting day. We have a little bit of the public's business to conclude. I see no reason why we should take a break at this juncture, as at 4:30 all debate will cease and desist and we will proceed into concluding the business of this House. Therefore, I move that we continue debate until we conclude the business and the House shall rise.
Chair: Thank you, Mr. Fentie. The only reason that I've done the traditional recess is to allow officials to get here. Since it has been moved formally I will put it forward.
It has been moved by Mr. Fentie that we do not now recess.
Motion agreed to
Chair: There will be no recess.
Since we are not now recessed, we will continue. We were in Economic Development.
Bill No. 4 - First Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have the floor with respect to the Economic Development budget. The member opposite from Watson Lake and I engaged in a debate on a number of philosophy questions and a number of far-ranging questions. In the interest of expediting debate for the members opposite, perhaps I could focus the members on this particular Economic Development budget.
In the operation and maintenance, the change is a projected increase of $6 million in revenues. That is from the oil and gas royalties over the 2000-01 main estimates, and it is $2 million over the 2000-01, and this is due to price and volume increases in the oil and gas production. And it has a corresponding increase in departmental expenditures of First Nations' share of the revenues.
The other major change in personnel costs - the members opposite love to stand and say that we are growing government. The only increase in personnel costs is a result of the collective agreement reached with Yukon's professional workforce. That amount is $523,000. The changes in the Economic Development budget are in the capital mains, and they are the new Project Yukon funding in the amount of $1.5 million, which we have discussed at length, and the fire smart dedicated line of $500,000. The Alaska Highway pipeline analysis program was significantly increased when we first took office and it has continued to be funded at a high level to secure the route. We have increased funding to support grassroots prospectors under the Yukon mineral incentives program, and there is new funding in this budget of $551,000 for the regional mineral development program, and this is to conduct comprehensive regional mining information packages for four key metal belts in the Yukon. There is also increased funding for mineral resource assessments, and that's a total of $550,000. And the continuation of the microloan program, which was introduced in the Supplementary No. 2 as a new program.
I am pleased to continue with general debate if the members wish, in a far-reaching, broad manner, or if they prefer to focus their comments on specific lines, I am prepared for that as well.
Mr. Fentie: The official opposition has very little further general debate on this department. It was evident from last night's debate that the minister responsible for the Department of Economic Development simply does not have a grasp of what even makes up the Yukon's economy. It's evident that the minister and, under her leadership, the Liberal government, has no vision or plan for the Yukon economy.
It is also clear that the Liberals have merely attached themselves to the former NDP government's policies and have proceeded with those and, in doing so, have also made every effort to dismantle every program and every initiative that was working to help turn the economic trends in this territory around into an upward trajectory in a positive manner.
Mr. Chair, it's very difficult to have a constructive debate with those who are blinded by their own reflection and simply have no desire to accept other's ideas. It is not a fruitful discussion and serves no purpose at this juncture. We will let the Yukon public make the final decision on what they feel this particular budget and this particular department is doing on their behalf. In the long haul, we have much time to travel yet and the difficulties ahead of us are great and many. Unfortunately, the feeling out there in the public is that this Liberal government, under the Premier's leadership, is simply not grasping the gravity of the situation and is basically flying by the seat of their pants.
We in the official opposition, on the economic side, have called a number of times for the legislators here in this Assembly to come together and constructively work on addressing our economic situation. Each time, that has been turned down flat. That is unfortunate also, Mr. Chair, because it is in that type of constructive debate and discussion that solutions arise.
Mr. Chair, that's all I have to say in this department. We are intending to expedite the debate and conclude the public's business today.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm compelled to respond to the member opposite's personal attack, which was not a criticism or question of economic policy. Rather, it was a direct and personal criticism of myself as minister and as the Premier of the territory.
The fact is that almost all the suggestions coming from the NDP have been putting more money into Project Yukon or fire smart, and they're based on the premise of the NDP as a socialist party - that government should create jobs with taxpayers' dollars. That is the premise on which the member has spoken throughout the debate. The member opposite has not offered constructive suggestions on economic policy. Had the member done that, I would have indicated, as other members and ministers have done, that we would certainly act on them, take them under advisement, investigate and proceed. The member opposite has not done that.
The member opposite has suggested that - all their suggestions have been based on the premise that the NDP believe that government should create jobs with taxpayers' dollars. They think we should take taxpayers' money and go out and create jobs with it. That creates a false economy. It might sound logical, Mr. Chair, but the problem is, what happens when those taxpayers' dollars are needed for health care or education?
What we believe, as a Liberal government, and how we are governing as a centrist party, is that government can have a role in the economy, in encouraging development of local business and encouraging businesses from outside of the Yukon to bring their money here. We're doing that, Mr. Chair, and, dare I suggest, that we are doing it and are starting to see results of our efforts - positive results.
There is seismic work, oil and gas exploration, work related to the pipeline, mining, films, commercials, tourists and visitors. This work is being financed from outside of the territory.
These projects are putting new money into the Yukon economy. They are supporting Yukon businesses, and we are also supporting Yukon businesses in our efforts as a government through the reduction in personal income taxes and other tax incentives that are available. We are improving infrastructure and we're expanding upon tourism and other initiatives.
Mr. Chair, that's the difference between the NDP socialists and the Liberal Party, between the members opposite and this government. We believe in helping business stimulate the economy and in bringing new money into our economy. That's what we have been working on over the last year, and we're starting to see results.
Mr. Jenkins: I happen to disagree with that last overview provided by the Minister of Economic Development. I am probably allied with the majority of Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
What we have today with this government is the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon, Mr. Chair. Up until a few days ago, we had a government that was crying poverty, that in a few years' time it would be down to $6 million. The projections they threw out initially for a forecasted period were alarming - very alarming.
We have since discovered that this government is in possession of one of the largest surpluses ever, some $80-million plus, and it will probably exceed the $81 million projected by the Minister of Finance.
So, what do we have in Economic Development, Mr. Chair? The Liberals have not advanced one new, single initiative that has come to fruition. What is happening is they're carrying out the previously announced programs from the NDP, only gutting them, and I refer specifically to the CDF.
They gutted it from a high of $6 million to $1.5 million currently, Mr. Chair. They did that after conducting an audit on it - an audit on the community development fund for purely political reasons - to support the conclusions that they wanted, Mr. Chair, and then they reannounced it, repackaged it. That's all.
The trade and investment fund had a lot of benefits. Fire smart is there in a line item at a half a million dollars. So when I conclude, Mr. Chair, that this government has no new ideas and no new initiatives, I don't believe that they can point any out that have come to fruition.
The only thing that this Liberal government has really done is that it has reduced or eliminated any economic development program that worked. So where are we at today with respect to economic development? What makes up the Yukon economy? The hope that this Liberal government is advancing, Mr. Chair, is that all our Yukon eggs are in one basket, and that basket is the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, which may or may not occur. There's still a big question mark surrounding that initiative - a big question mark, indeed. And even if it does occur, it will go through the Yukon so fast and so quickly that it will be outside crews, by and large, that will construct it and build it. Yes, there will be a few jobs left in maintaining it, Mr. Chair, but other than clearing the right-of-way, that will probably be it. And that's only if it occurs. And it won't even occur, Mr. Chair, under this government's term of office. It's down the road quite some time. We only have to look to the jurisdiction to the east of us in the Northwest Territories and see how the pipelines are progressing in that area.
What we see, though, is the Liberals paying off election promises with patronage appointments for their political friends. All of the traditional areas that the Yukon has relied upon - the resource industries - are virtually extinct. They're receiving lip service and a few dollars from this government. The government of the day is not going to bat for them, Mr. Chair.
Mining and mining exploration is at an all-time low. The forestry industry is in desperate times. And in the forestry industry, especially in southeast Yukon, this government had an opportunity, but they missed it. As a consequence, all 125 forestry workers lost their jobs in that area.
And the oil and gas - the Minister of Economic Development goes on at great length touting the wonderful opportunities created in the oil and gas industry, and all this industry in the Yukon is but a shadow of what it is in the adjacent jurisdictions on each side of us - just a shadow. The oil and gas industry in the Northwest Territories and Alaska is booming. What's wrong with this picture? We're in the middle of it.
Even our visitor industries this year will experience a downturn from the previous year, and last year was a downturn from the year before.
I don't know what other areas this government can attack and destroy, but they're doing a good job at everything - at creating an environment that is not conducive to attracting and retaining any of these resource-based industries. What we'll eventually see is one massive park, under the minister of parks, Juri Peepre, and his very capable deputy minister, the Minister of Renewable Resources for the Yukon.
Yukoners will be relegated to being the keepers of the gates.
Look at our rural Yukon communities - they are all hurting. Look at the division of municipal block funding under the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. Whitehorse gets the bulk of it but after that it's Faro, then Watson Lake, then Dawson City. It's interesting how this formula works. Both Watson Lake and Dawson City are in dire need of financial assistance from this government. The Government of the Yukon can't even pay their bill to the City of Dawson for the operation of the garbage dump. Their accounts receivable look like the national debt in all of these communities, because of the economic times. Tax liens and water and sewer bills remain unpaid. Rural Yukon is in very desperate and tough economic times.
Now, what the Yukon Party proposed when it came to power was to put together a public/private group of individuals to oversee some of the government's expenditures and make suggestions and direct the spending of the government to have the most positive impact on Yukon's economy.
I urge the Minister of Finance, the Premier, to undertake that kind of a review and look at ways that we could spend the money that we have so that it does something for Yukon, other than create more and more government.
What we have today is a Minister of Economic Development and her government who appear to be engrossed only in their own self-importance. They are not addressing the needs of Yukon and Yukoners. That is a sad day - a very sad day.
This Liberal government is proving to be a dismal failure at economic development. Mr. Chair, I have no further general debate in Economic Development. We can't even get the minister to accept and acknowledge the problems and do something with the vast, almost obscene amount of money that they have in reserve. There should be no excuses. They have the money and the majority. All that's lacking is the ability.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing none, we will proceed to the O&M Economic Development budget.
Unanimous consent re clearing Economic Development budget
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I would request unanimous consent to accept the Economic Development capital and O&M budgets.
Deputy Chair: Is there unanimous consent for all program totals in the Department of Economic Development to be deemed carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Deputy Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $7,770,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of $7,197,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Deputy Chair: We will now proceed to the Women's Directorate.
Deputy Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I am pleased to introduce today the 2001-02 main estimates.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Deputy Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: The opposition side, in order to expedite the public's business, are very willing to take the departments of Women's Directorate, Office of the Ombudsman, Yukon Legislative Assembly and the Elections Office and deem them read and carried, so that we can move on into departments that require debate.
We are fully supportive of these departments and their expenditures in the budget and feel that taking up time debating these departments would not be a constructive approach in dealing with the public's business, so we move that we deem those departments read and carried.
Chair: Ms. Tucker, on the point of order.
Ms. Tucker: On the point of order, the public has the right also to hear about the initiatives of the government. Whether or not the opposition chooses to debate them is their option. The members of this side of the House feel that those departments are an integral part of the government's budget and would like to express their opinions and the issues in these budgets for them on record.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have a motion on the floor. It is obvious that the Liberals want to waste the time of this Legislature with general debate. We are fully supportive of all of the departments mentioned - the Women's Directorate, the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman, Legislative Assembly Office. We have no debate. It's just going to prolong the time here, as is the government House leader, and it's just an opportunity to make political speeches, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order, please.
I'll put it in a formal motion. It requires unanimous consent. Mr. Fentie, the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Office of the Ombudsman, Elections Office, and the Women's Directorate are the ones that you've moved? Any further?
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fentie - and this will require unanimous consent - that all program totals for Women's Directorate, Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman and Elections Office be deemed read and carried.
Is unanimous consent granted?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Unanimous consent has not been granted.
Chair: Please continue, Mrs. Edelman.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Thank you very much for allowing me to update the Yukon public on what the plans are for the Women's Directorate this year and this year's budget. The public is entitled to know how we are spending taxpayers' dollars over the next budget year.
It is important to recognize that women have an interest in many issues throughout government and throughout the Yukon, not just those categorized as women's issues. Adults need a good economic base. We know that economic independence is one of the factors that can make women less vulnerable to violence, abuse, harassment and other injustices. Women are concerned about the environment, about settling land claims and about substance abuse. The priorities of this government are also the priorities of many women.
The Government of the Yukon Women's Directorate is continuing to work with other government departments and non-government organizations to achieve the social, economic and legal equality of women. Achieving this goal will ensure that the benefits of government programs and initiatives are shared by all members of Yukon society. In 2000-01, the Women's Directorate undertook a number of exciting initiatives in partnership with other departments and organizations. For example, the directorate was a key player in supporting the Yukon Women in Music tour throughout Yukon communities. Accompanied by an archival exhibit of Yukon women and children, the Yukon Women in Music tour brought women's music to a variety of communities throughout Yukon. Girls and women were encouraged to try songwriting and singing. Nelnah's Journey provided a unique opportunity for Yukon women musicians to share their voices with Yukon communities.
The Women's Directorate also established the new Yukon women's hall of fame. It is a virtual hall of fame featuring Yukon women from all walks of life honoured by their friends, families and organizations.
I encourage you to keep proposing women for inclusion in this site, to ensure that the greatest possible representation of our dynamic Yukon women are included for all to enjoy.
The directorate also worked with the sport and recreation branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services and other partners, such as Sport Yukon, to organize the Northern Women in Motion Conference, held March 30 and 31. This event highlighted the benefits of physical activity for girls and women - an active living connection profiled, once again, in the poster series that was launched at the conference, providing key statistics on those benefits.
As a partner in implementing the new Family Violence Prevention Act, the Women's Directorate revised their publication, Options, Choices, Changes, to include the new alternatives provided under this act. The Options, Choices, Changes booklet is designed to provide Yukon-specific supportive and practical information to women who are living in an abusive relationship. One thousand copies of this booklet were printed in July 2000. By December 2000, community organizations were requesting additional copies.
With the assistance of the Department of Justice and Yukon College, the Women's Directorate printed the booklet again, to ensure that this useful booklet is available for women who need it. The Women's Directorate has also continued its public education campaign with the rebroadcast of its Getting Free radio drama series on family violence.
The radio dramas on dating violence, A Little Respect, were produced and broadcast last year. This work will continue in 2001-02 with the conversion of A Little Respect into a stage play, in cooperation with the Department of Education's music, art and drama program, with funding assistance from the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The playwright is working with the MAD grades 11 and 12 group now, writing the stage play. Production and tour to a number of smaller Yukon communities is planned for the second semester of the 2001-02 school year.
In 2001-02, the Women's Directorate is looking forward to continuing its work in public education and violence prevention with its partners.
For example, the Women's Directorate will be undertaking the research project A Cappella North II in cooperation with the Department of Education. This project will combine a survey with focus group discussions for both young women and young men to provide information regarding attitudes and programs in a variety of areas.
Again, with its partners, the Women's Directorate will be leading the regular update of the family violence directory of services and resources. This publication provides easy-to-access information regarding services available to Yukon.
The Women's Directorate is also exploring ways to assist the Department of Tourism in implementing its visual arts and craft strategy currently being finalized. The Women's Directorate is particularly interested in ensuring that women entrepreneurs, including those in communities outside Whitehorse, are able to participate in opportunities under this strategy. This strategy can be an ideal vehicle to provide recognition and support to our amazing Yukon craftswomen - both First Nations and non-First Nations.
Finally, we look forward to continuing our productive and substantial partnership with both the Yukon Status of Women Council and the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre. Both of these organizations provide valuable services to all Yukon women, and meaningful input to government on our programs and priorities.
We intend to continue the important and successful program funding for the women's advocate through the centre, ensuring that individual women are assisted to access the services that they need.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we will continue on with the line by line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
Policy and Program Development in the amount of $584,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Women's Directorate in the amount of $584,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to Women's Directorate capital.
On Capital Expenditures
On Policy and Program Development
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for Women's Directorate in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Women's Directorate agreed to
Chair: Now we'll proceed on to Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman, Elections Office.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
Office of the Ombudsman
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps to expedite debate, if I could, with your permission, Mr. Chair, make some general remarks about all three. I see the Chair nodding.
The operation and maintenance budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 2001-02 totals $3,229,000, which is an increase of $10,000, or .3 percent, over the 2000-01 forecast.
The capital budget proposed for the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 2001-02 totals $20,000, which is no change from the 2000-01 forecast. There are five programs in the Legislative Assembly vote.
There's legislative services, and the activity under this is the Legislative Assembly, and the activities show an increase of $32,000. Of this, $22,000 is due to a 2.4-percent increase in MLA indemnities and expense allowances, and this is as required by the Legislative Assembly Act. A further $10,000 has been added to increase funding for MLA travel from $177,000 in the previous year to $187,000 in this fiscal year.
Mr. Chair, it now appears that the travel funding, which primarily covers attendance at sessions of the Legislature and travel to and from Whitehorse outside of sessions, may have to be supplemented. The Clerk's report on MLA travel in 2000-01 indicates that over $240,000 was required for these purposes. Also, as of April 1, 2001, there were significant increases in the per diems and mileage rates, which will have an impact on this budget.
The second activity is caucus support services, and the caucus support services activity totals $515,000. This is only an increase of $1,000 over the forecast for 2000-01. It must be noted that the forecast includes a supplementary estimate of $16,000. The supplementary estimate was provided during the course of the past fiscal year, when caucus budgets were adjusted to reflect the normal practice of tracking percentage increases in the pay of public servants.
The breakdown between caucuses for this fiscal year is as follows: official opposition, $207,000; government private members, $175,000; and the third party, $67,000. There is a further $66,000 allocated to cover fringe benefits and the Yukon bonus for caucus employees.
The third activity is legislative committees. The legislative committees activity has been increased by $10,000 to a total of $24,000. This increase was provided to cover contract services expected to be required by the Standing Committee on Appointments.
The fourth activity is the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, and the budget amount remains the same at $34,000. This reflects the continued reduction of $8,000 in CPA travel funds to assist in covering the costs incurred in televising a portion of the Assembly proceedings.
The second program is the Legislative Assembly Office. There is an increase of $16,000 over the previous forecast, and this increase in funding is due to increased personnel costs resulting from the collective bargaining increased employer cost for superannuation and fringe benefits, as we have seen in previous departments.
The third program is the retirement allowances and death benefits. The estimates for retirement allowances and death benefits program are being increased by $31,000 for a total of $477,000, and this reflects an increase in employer contributions to the MLA pension fund resulting from the April 1, 2001 increase in MLA pay and the fact that the number of members contributing to the MLA portion of the plan increased from 16 to 17 during the past fiscal year. Prior to the election, a member had enough years of service and had reached the maximum for making contributions to the plan.
The fourth program is Hansard, and the estimates for the Hansard program are $394,000, which is a decrease of $70,000 from the previous forecast. This is due to the budget being based on the estimated 64 sitting days in 2001-02, compared to the forecast of 73 sitting days and 11 overtime hours for 2000-01. The costs for transcription and broadcasting are expected to be lower during the current year than was experienced last year.
The fifth program is the conflicts commission. The conflicts commission program, upon recommendation from the conflicts commissioner, has been reduced by $10,000 to a total of $13,000. This returns the program to the level it was at in 1999-2000. That was a recommendation from the conflicts commissioner.
The capital budget for the Legislative Assembly remains unchanged from last year at $20,000. These funds are provided to cover scheduled replacement of computer equipment and office furniture. That is scheduled replacement, Mr. Chair, and not additional equipment.
With respect to the Office of the Ombudsman, the funding for the Office of the Ombudsman, under Vote 23, is $312,000 for operation and maintenance and $5,000 for capital. These amounts were approved by the Members' Services Board pursuant to provisions of section 9 of the Ombudsman Act, so members are very familiar with them.
In the Elections Office, this is the second budget in which the funding for elections has appeared as a separate vote. Previously, elections funding has been covered under a program within the Legislative Assembly vote. Subsection 16(2) of the Elections Act, which was passed during the 1999 fall sitting, requires that there be a separate vote "to defray the expenses of the office of the chief electoral officer". So, what we are doing in effect, Mr. Chair, is taking legislation that we have put in place and putting it into effect. This provision was included on the recommendation of the chief electoral officer. The purpose of a separate vote is to ensure that the independence of the elections administration is recognized and the distinction between elections and Legislative Assembly matters is made very clear and is respected by this separate vote.
The O&M, or operations and maintenance budget proposed for the Elections Office for 2001-02 totals $232,000. This is a decrease of $311,000 from the 2000-01 forecast. The capital budget proposed for the Elections Office for 2001-02 totals $3,000, which is no change from the capital budget provided in this vote for 2000-01.
There is one more activity being added to this vote, that being to cover the costs of the Electoral District Boundaries Commission, which is currently underway.
The explanation for the amounts found in the four activities in this vote are as follows: the total for the chief electoral office activity is $102,000. This is a decrease of $38,000 from the previous year, due to a decrease in activities such as training election officers, and it's naturally reduced in a year following a general election.
The second activity is the elections administration, and this activity is reduced to a $1.00 item in this budget.
Expenditures on the April 17, 2000 general election were $357,000 in the 2000-2001 fiscal year. The total cost of the election was $436,000, with a further $79,000 being spent during the 1999-2000 year. If funding should be required for a by-election, it will be authorized either through special warrant or a supplementary appropriation.
The third activity under elections - as many members know, the Elections Office also deals with elections under the Education Act. The total for elections, Education Act activity, is $15,000, which is being provided to cover the costs of administering the Yukon francophone school board general election in October of this year. This is a decrease of $31,000 from the previous year, when a general election of school councils took place in the fall of 2000.
The fourth activity is the Electoral District Boundaries Commission. This activity is new to this program. It has been created to cover the costs of the Electoral District Boundaries Commission. As the commission had not been appointed or made any operational decisions at the time of the preparation of the budget, the amount provided in the activity is $115,000. This was the best estimate available at the time of the budget preparation.
The 2001-02 capital budget for the Elections Office is $3,000. It remains the same as the previous year, and it is to provide for miscellaneous purchases for the Elections Office.
Mr. Chair, if there should be any general debate or questions in response to those remarks with regard to the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman or the Elections Office, I am prepared to take them now.
Unanimous consent re clearing Yukon Legislative Assembly Office, Office of the Ombudsman and Elections Office budget
Mr. Fentie: I move, Mr. Chair, a request for unanimous consent for all effective capital and O&M expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly, Office of the Ombudsman and Elections Office be deemed read and carried.
Chair: Do I have unanimous consent for the Yukon Legislative Assembly Office, Office of the Ombudsman and Elections Office to be deemed read and carried?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Unanimous consent has been granted.
We will go through the formalities.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $3,229,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Legislative Assembly in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
Yukon Legislative Assembly agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
Chair: We will now proceed to Office of the Ombudsman.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $312,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $5,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: We will proceed right now to the Elections Office.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Elections Office in the amount of $232,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital Expenditures for the Elections Office in the amount of $3,000 agreed to
Elections Office agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, liquor sales at the Yukon Liquor Corporation for the budget year are expected to be similar to those of recent years. This is true both in terms of dollar value and litres sold. Not unlike other businesses, the Yukon Liquor Corporation is also faced with the challenge of increased operating costs associated with various factors, such as utility expenses for its facilities and collective agreement commitments. The corporation will continue, as it has in the past, to work toward efficiencies and economies that will help to offset these growing expenses in order to keep its overall operating expenditures in check.
Added to next year's corporate objectives is the undertaking of a comprehensive review of the Liquor Act and regulations. This key initiative is a continuation of the commitment made last spring and the work started in the fall. The public consultation phase, in terms of hearing individual and stakeholder ideas, concerns and recommendations has just recently been completed.
I do not wish to pre-empt the report on the findings of the committee, but I understand that some of the recommendations put forward by the public so far include increasing liquor-related fines and penalties, increasing education of youth on alcohol use and abuse, continuing to support and promote the responsible consumption and sale of alcohol and curtailing the hours of liquor off-sales.
The Liquor Act Review Committee, with the support and assistance of Yukon Liquor Corporation will, by the end of this spring, or the end of May, be finalizing their report on findings, a summarization of what they have heard throughout this process so far, combined with information gathered from the corporation, various government departments and other liquor jurisdictions. This will form the basis for a second report, Recommendations for Change, to be completed in midsummer, hopefully by August.
Following a review of these recommendations by me, as minister, the public will be provided with a summary of the committee-endorsed changes. Subject to further refinement, these will form the basis for the new Liquor Act legislation to be tabled in the fall of 2002, for full implementation, effective April 1, 2003.
In the meantime, perhaps in early July of this year, I hope to be able to share with the public a summarized version of the committee's report on findings. This sharing will be consistent with the expectations of the many participants and will reflect the valuable input received through over 2,000 completed questionnaires, some 50 meetings with stakeholder groups, plus various other written submissions.
It is recognized that flowing from this consultation will also be recommendations for change that are administrative in nature rather than legislative. To the extent that these ideas could contribute to the effectiveness of the corporation in terms of improving customer service, some of these may be implemented well in advance of the enactment of the new Liquor Act. The corporation will continue with its social responsibility and education activities to support the responsible sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. This will be accomplished through media campaigns; for example, radio rolling ads and posters, the bars or be-a-responsible-server program, and in partnership with others, including government departments and community groups.
I will continue to keep the House apprised of any significant developments on the Liquor Act and regulations review or on other administrative matters as they occur.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I was going to ask the minister a bit about the Liquor Act review. She did mention that we're targeting 2002 for amendments to the Liquor Act. Is that correct? So other than that, I have no further debate in general debate, and I'm prepared to clear this department.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it brings up the image of a group of trained seals and Liberal Cabinet ministers of this government. They both do as they're instructed when they're instructed.
This, like the other departments, we support. We have no general debate, and we'd like to clear it in its entirety.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Chair, I'd like to bring the Chair's attention to section 19(j) of the Standing Orders, which says that "using abusive or insulting language of a nature likely to create disorder" is a reason to call a member to order during debate. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, calling the ministers of this government "trained seals" is certainly insulting language.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, it's just a dispute between members.
Chair: On the point of order, I have maintained in this House that this is a place for opinions and opinions are allowed to be stated. I consider it abusive if said enough times. There is no point of order.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Gross Advances
Gross Advances in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Liquor Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Liquor Corporation agreed to
Executive Council Office
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I'm happy to introduce the Executive Council Office budget for 2001-02. This budget flows directly from the throne speech of October last year and from my own budget speech in February. We said we were going to treat settlement of outstanding claims as our highest priority to develop and promote government-to-government relationships with First Nations, to achieve devolution and to restore confidence in government, Mr. Chair. We will follow through with what we promised, and that's what you have in the budget for Executive Council Office before you today.
This budget forecasts an overall spending of $14,334,000. It's a net $317,000 increase for Executive Council Office over the 2000-01 forecast. The financial summary on page 2-4 of the estimates speaks clearly to our efforts to follow through on land claims, building government-to-government relationships with First Nations, devolution and restoring confidence in government.
Our top priority, land claims, has a full $6,227,000 of funding included in this budget, or about 44 percent of the total ECO O&M budget.
Creation of the office of strategic management, along with enhancements to the audit function of the government, will work with program departments to review and redesign programs to improve performance and accountability.
Mr. Chair, in that regard, I gave an address to the House with respect to government and our commitment to restoring confidence in government. We're well aware of the political interference that occurred with respect to the operation of certain funding programs, and that was outlined by an independent audit.
The previous government had a legislative role contained clearly within the Financial Administration Act to provide for an audit function in the government, and I would encourage members to cast their eyes across the line to the actual expenditure in the 1999-00 fiscal year and the audit activity undertaken by the previous government. That number is $4,000. Our commitment is clearly demonstrated in our financial commitment, and it is one step in the long process of restoring confidence in government. The proposed budget recognizes that the government must continue to use our limited financial resources wisely and ensure priority initiatives are fully supported.
With respect to land claims, concluding outstanding land claim and self-government agreements with Yukon First Nations remains a priority of this government. This year's budget estimates reflect our clear commitment to achieving this certainty for the Yukon. The land claims implementation secretariat budget has been maintained to dedicate the resources necessary to negotiate final agreements and meet the government's obligations for implementation.
The budget for the land claims implementation secretariat provides for the level of staffing and operating costs necessary to support negotiating groups working to complete final land claim and self-government agreement agreements. To further reflect our commitment to the land claims process and reach additional final agreements, we have reallocated some existing staff positions and filled several vacant positions at the secretariat in order to ensure that negotiations and implementation working groups are fully resourced to do this important work.
The budget continues to provide resources to support umbrella final agreement boards and councils and implementation projects, as committed to in the First Nation final agreements.
This year's total budget estimates for land claims implementation secretariat therefore includes support for negotiation and implementation of the development assessment process. This year's budget in the land claims implementation secretariat continues to focus necessary resources on land claims negotiations and implementation. It reflects our commitment to reaching final agreements and support for effective implementation and dedication to continuing to build and maintain strong, respectful government-to-government relations with Yukon First Nations.
With regard to First Nation relations, Mr. Chair, in the budget speech I was proud to make note of the funding of the new First Nations secretariat to coordinate, provide support and strengthen relationships between First Nation governments and the Government of Yukon. This is part of the ongoing development of positive intergovernmental relationships.
The pan-Yukon intergovernmental protocol was signed off on January 31of this year. Members are well aware of it.
The next step in the process is to establish a diplomatic secretariat and further define the relationships between the summit activity and the operation of individual intergovernmental boards that we have developed with individual First Nations. This budget contemplates that $303,000 will be spent in this activity.
The Executive Council Office budget has been reorganized into a clearly identified First Nation relations program, which consists of two activities - one is the aboriginal languages program and the other is the First Nation relations. The budget for the aboriginal languages program is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government and amounts to $1.1 million.
Discussions continue with Yukon First Nations over the transfer of the aboriginal languages into one house of language, and I'm pleased to report that aboriginal language services, the Department of Education and the Yukon Native Language Centre are all working together to address this particular issue. The Council of Yukon First Nations' Grand Chief has been briefed and is supportive of this cooperative working relationship.
I would like to briefly touch upon devolution. Members are well aware of devolution and the process of devolution. Members opposite have been fully briefed and recognize that, by gaining the jurisdiction and full management control over lands, forests, waters and minerals, we can make decisions together with respect to the values and priorities of Yukon people.
Negotiations with the Government of Canada and Yukon First Nations continue, and efforts have been made and are continuing to be made to raise this issue with politicians in Ottawa. They will pay off in the long term. We have made significant progress. Leading these discussions to a successful conclusion is the principal task of the associate deputy minister in the Executive Council Office, working in concert with Yukon government departments and Cabinet.
I would like to briefly touch on the government audit services. In 2001-02, the government audit services branch will work with departments to provide an independent assessment of the design and operation of the management practices, control systems and information produced for decision-making purposes. The specific projects that will be set out under the audit services branch workplan will be reviewed by the audit committee and approved by Management Board. That process is well underway, Mr. Chair. Since we began the debate on the budget, work has continued and that work is well underway.
The key initiatives in 2000-01 included the audit of the community development fund and the audit of the Yukon government's performance under the Environment Act. The branch is currently working on the audit of the property management agency and has developed an audit workplan for the trade and investment fund. I anticipate the audit report by midsummer.
The office of strategic management is an office that assists program managers to review and update their programs and develop evaluation criteria. This office is in a unique position to coordinate program changes throughout government to help reduce gaps and overlaps to make government more efficient.
In capital, the funds for the Land Claims Secretariat are contributions to capital funded projects throughout the government and are fully recoverable from the Government of Canada.
The estimates advance our government's key priorities. We outlined what those priorities were in the election and we outlined them again in the throne speech in October. They are reflected in the expenditures in the budget speech.
Clearly, we do what we said we were going to do. I look forward to a detailed discussion of the estimates before the House.
Mr. Fentie: Well, let me begin by saying that the Executive Council Office, once the nerve centre of government, given all the shifts and changes that the Premier is chaotically implementing in this department, has now become a place of musical chairs. I am just wondering if the department is receiving the appropriate direction from the minister, as it is an extremely vital department within government.
I listened with great interest around the audit portion of the minister's speech. I categorically state that this audit of the community development fund is a sickening display of partisanship - politicizing a government department and audit service - to skew a program within government in a manner that would allow the members opposite to save face and try to repackage that very same program because Yukoners demanded it. They demanded it of this government, which luckily found itself as government in April. It was just a way to save face and re-implement the program in a repackaged manner, watered down to the point where the uptake on Project Yukon far exceeds what the government has put into it with regard to resources.
We have very little general debate in Executive Council Office, but I note with interest the areas that include the main commitments, the priority commitments of this Liberal government, to the Yukon public are up here for debate at a time when we are restricted to a very short period.
I can see why the member opposite, the minister, and indeed all her colleagues, want to hide from public scrutiny when these high priority, very important initiatives and commitments by the members opposite are brought to the floor of this Legislature. I can see why they don't want to spend a lot of time debating them, because they are abject failures in those areas to date.
Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions for the minister. First and foremost, could the minister provide for the official opposition a detailed travel list for ministers, MLAs and political staff to the end of the fiscal year 2000-01? I can accept that in writing at a later date.
Moving on, Mr. Chair, can the minister give us an explanation of what the special management unit is and what it does?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it's interesting that the member starts out his comments asking about whether or not the appropriate direction has been given to the Executive Council Office by this government. Well, we have resolved one land claim in one year and, Mr. Chair, Yukoners will decide. This government is making progress on the settlement of land claims and I am very proud of that progress. I will be even more pleased when we have achieved additional settlements.
The internal audit function - I would remind the member opposite that an auditor is a professional designation and for the member to publicly reproach a public servant is not, Mr. Chair, with all due respect, appropriate on the floor of this House. The internal audit function is a function I took very seriously and believed should be restored. Perhaps the member opposite should take time to read the Auditor General's Report on Other Matters, which indicates that the recommendation was that the Bureau of Internal Audit, page 6 of the Office of the Auditor General and the Commissioner of the Environmental Sustainable Development Report of May 7, 2001, provided to this Legislature, which covers the years 1998 and 1999, says, "3.7.1 Internal Audit - another function that has fallen into disuse in recent years is internal audit."
I was aware of that from previous reports of the Auditor General and, as Minister of Finance, upon being sworn into office a year ago this week, took that question very seriously, not only in my first meetings with the Auditor General but with the Deputy Minister of Finance, as well. It was determined that the office of the internal audit could and should be located in Executive Council Office. The audit office was established, and it has issued its first report. The fact that the members opposite don't like the first report of the internal audit is no reason to criticize the individuals involved. The facts are the facts, and, Mr. Chair, they are not political; they're an audit report. That is not political. The office of the Auditor General's report is not political. The internal audit office is not political.
Now, the member opposite has asked about the office of strategic management. The office of strategic management functions with the internal audit to work with this government, if the member will cast his mind back to - and I know it has been a long session for the members opposite - my statement with respect to restoring confidence in government. The member will recall that I outlined at that point in time the office of strategic management. This particular section includes the deputy minister and the associate deputy minister, as well as the three-member secretariat providing support to Cabinet and Management Board and their committees, to the Deputy Ministers Review Committee, and the finance administration unit includes personnel.
I apologize, Mr. Chair; I digressed.
It is a two-person office, which provides support to departments to review and redesign programs to improve performance and accountability. What these two individuals do is work with the government, under the direction of the Executive Council Office, the deputy minister and the associate deputy minister, to review the programming of government to ensure that it is functioning in line with the objectives as well as the direction of the government. They work with us in meeting our key priorities of restoring confidence in government.
I trust that answers the member's question. Before I leave that particular section, the detailed travel list that the member asked for has already been provided to the leader of the official opposition, who wrote to me days before this session began. That was provided up to that point in time. Since the session began on February 22, I can advise the member opposite that there was very limited travel in the month of March, because we were focused on doing the public's business here in this Legislature. I will, however, provide the member opposite with that information.
What the member opposite is seeking is the travel list for the month of March.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the minister for her kindness in providing us with the travel list, even though she claims that it has been provided before. I would suggest that she just simply go ahead and provide us the list to the fiscal year-end. It shouldn't be difficult. There are a lot of good, hard-working individuals in the department who could compile that in mere seconds.
Mr. Chair, before I move on, I must point something out. We on this side of the House aren't attacking public servants at all. We certainly are attacking what the Premier and her government have done with the community development fund, under the disguise of having it audited. Quite frankly, political interference, when it comes to that, is very evident from the members opposite throughout government. That is exactly what is happening.
When we look at this so-called initiative of restoring confidence in government, we must remember that we can only be as good as our weakest link. When it comes to restoring confidence in government, the weak link here is the elected leadership; therefore, the confidence in government is waning rapidly and will continue to do so until the members opposite wake up and realize the importance of the position they're in and the gravity of the situation the Yukon finds itself in.
As far as this special management unit, the minister did provide some detail. All I can add to that is, what discussions have taken place with the Yukon Employees Union to date? I would also submit that it appears that everything in government is on the table, and it leads one to conclude that this is code for downsizing and privatizing government, and that is why we ask what discussion has taken place with YEU.
I have no further general debate. This budget is due to pass here shortly. The Yukon public will pass judgement on this budget as it hits the ground in this territory, and we certainly shall see.
I will now turn this over to my colleague from the Klondike.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I must address what the member opposite has stated on the floor of the House with regard to the office of strategic management, and the member did ask a question with respect to working with the Yukon Government Employees Union. Under the capable leadership of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, as well as the Public Service Commissioner, this government is working very well with the Yukon Government Employees Union. And the information contained in the ministerial statement on restoring confidence in government - so the member can look it up, it's from May 2, 2001. I would advise the member opposite that, had he asked the question when the statement was delivered, I could have indicated to him at that time that YGEU was well aware of the particular statement. Some of the better ideas that were being implemented already included the tobacco tax, which all members of the Legislature voted for.
Now, the member opposite also chose once again not to debate the policies of Executive Council Office or the initiatives of this government but rather to engage upon a personal attack, and I would suggest to the member that the policies should be the focus of his efforts.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, could the minister confirm that all sole-source contracts above the sole-source limits up to March 31 of this year were signed off by the minister?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I am confident that the Executive Council Office has fully complied with all contract regulations. I will re-examine the list of contracts. The member is clearly asking about a specific contract. Would he care to focus his question?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have a specific question for the minister that requires a simple yes-or-no answer. I asked the minister if all sole-source contracts above the sole-source contract limit up to March 31 of this year were signed off by the minister - yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'm confident that, yes, that is the case.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, with respect to sole-source contracts, when we go above the sole-source limit or even under the sole-source limit, is there some policy internally with respect to the total number that can be issued to one firm or one individual? There appear to be a number of firms or individuals who have received a great number of benefits from this Yukon Liberal government, and when you add them all together, they are very, very significant. Is this a payoff for the Liberal campaign?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is clearly asking about a specific contract and contractor hired by the Government of Yukon for specific purposes. If the member wants to engage on a personal attack and discuss a personal contract for services rendered, then I invite the member opposite to ask a specific question about what services were provided under a specific contract?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I'm speaking in general terms. There are a number of firms or individuals that are the recipient of more than one sole-source contract. Some are below the sole-source contract limit; some are above.
Now, the purpose was not really well explained in the contract registry, and I just want to know from the minister if these were, in fact, related to a debt incurred during the election campaign - a promise that is being honoured from the election campaign by this government, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I resent the implications from the member opposite. This government has been open, fully accountable and has operated in a completely forthright manner. If the member has a question about a specific contract and whether or not services have been provided under that contract, I will answer that. I will not answer the member's spurious allegations.
Mr. Jenkins: They are not spurious allegations, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Suggesting that this government was issuing a contract for anything other than services rendered is an allegation, and I ask the member to either withdraw it or ask the question.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. The debate, as I understand it right now, has not proceeded to the point where I can identify any rules being broken.
Mr. Jenkins: There are many, many reasons why the Government of Yukon issues a contract. Not all of them are to provide services. Some of them are to provide goods, and some of them are to undertake projects. The minister is way out of line, suggesting what she is suggesting.
Mr. Chair, what I am looking at is the number of sole-source contracts issued as an aggregate to one firm or one individual. Is there a limit? What seems to be occurring, through ECO, is that there are a number of sole-source contracts that, in a short period of less than a year in this last fiscal period - the aggregate of those sole-sourced contracts is significant.
Now, is there not any internal policy with respect to this area, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: I would speculate that there's a reason why these were undertaken and, in all probability, it was to honour a commitment that was made by this government. Whether that was prior to or during the recent election, we'll find out in due course, I'm sure, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, the ECO travel - I'd appreciate also receiving a copy of that from the minister as it's going to be forwarded to the official opposition. Could the minister confirm that I'll be receiving a copy of ECO travel, please?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I thank the member for his attack on Yukon business people who are contracted by this government. Yukon business people, Yukon firms, Yukon individuals - the member opposite knows very well that, should he decide to do his homework and look the contract up on the registry, the specific reasons for each contract are outlined there in complete detail. To suggest that there is any reason other than for the services explained, then the member opposite has explaining to do outside this House.
The fact is, this government requires services on many different occasions, under many different avenues, and there are specific guidelines for sole-source contracts. This government specifically complies with them and fully complies with them. That was the question I was asked.
And, Mr. Chair, this government is not only open and accountable. We have done a very good job, as government, in providing members of the opposition with information in a timely and forthright manner, and that will continue - yes, with respect to the member of the third party as well.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister continues to mutter under her breath. The words are not pleasant, but I'm just seeking information. The minister, when I asked her the initial question about sole-source contracts, and whether she had signed off all the sole-source contracts above the sole-source limits, was very hesitant in her response. She is very cautious. I would think that this would be the first area that the minister would examine, because it gives rise for concern as to the tremendous number of sole-source contracts issued out of Executive Council Office. It is very, very significant.
Mr. Chair, the internal audit committee - I note with respect to the report of the Auditor General to the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 1998-99, that there are a significant number of areas that have been qualified. I'm sure that the Minister of Finance - the minister responsible for Executive Council Office under which this internal audit committee has been set up - has spent some time examining these areas where the audit has been qualified.
Some of the areas are in Crown corporations. How is the internal audit committee going to function with respect to the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation, which had their year-end audit opinions qualified for the 1998-99 fiscal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this is the report of the Auditor General to the Yukon Legislative Assembly for 1998-99. That's not our government; it's the previous government. The Auditor General's Report on Other Matters has been somewhat delayed. It has been tabled. The member opposite was already advised, during discussions, by the Minister of Finance that the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation audits are done by the Auditor General. I am certain that when we get to that part of the debate, the minister responsible will be happy to explore the area further with him.
Mr. Jenkins: So, this internal audit is not in Executive Council Office, it's in the Department of Finance?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I wish the member opposite would listen to the answers I have given him. When I took office and was sworn into office as Minister of Finance, I met with the Deputy Minister of Finance, I met with the Auditor General's office. I was very well aware, as a member of opposition, of the recommendations about the Bureau of Internal Audit and how it had fallen into disuse. The previous government called it the Bureau of Management Improvement. It is an internal audit function. It should be done.
I sought the advice of the Auditor General as to where the office of the internal audit should be located. The recommendation to me was in Executive Council Office. That's where it is located. While the internal audit group is internal to government, and the Office of the Auditor General kindly loans us expertise and advice to the internal audit group, they are internal to government. The Office of the Auditor General, which perhaps the member isn't aware, is a Government of Canada office and reports to the government upon the affairs of the government.
The internal audit is a totally separate function from the Auditor General. The Auditor General does the overall government audit, and they kindly loan us advice. The Yukon Development Corporation and the Yukon Energy Corporation are audited by the Auditor General, and the member can ask the minister responsible in that line item debate about the progress of that particular audit.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the reality of the situation is something else. I'm well aware that the Auditor General conducts the audit of the Government of the Yukon and its respective Crown corporations, and renders an opinion. The report of the Auditor General is to the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chair, that includes all of us.
One of the areas being addressed by this government is more than a suggestion by the Auditor General - to set up an internal audit. And that is housed within Executive Council Office. I am asking the minister questions about how this internal audit is going to function in Executive Council Office - and that is the department we have on the floor here for debate - with respect to the Crown corporations. How is it going to function with respect to the Crown corporations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the member opposite missed it, Mr. Chair, but I outlined the plan for the internal audit function for this year under this budget. I outlined the fact that the internal audit unit has conducted the community development fund audit. They are completing the Environment Act audit, which is required, and they are working with the departments involved. I have also outlined that the internal audit and specific projects in the audit services branch workplan are reviewed by the audit committee and then subsequently approved by Management Board. I have indicated that since this budget was tabled, that audit plan and the audit committee are working toward that. For example, on the audit plan is the property management agency and the trade and investment fund. The member may not be aware that the audit committee has approved those particular projects.
The audit committee directs the work plan and the audit plan. In any given year, it can look at whatever the audit committee recommends and is subsequently approved by Management Board. Some of those audit plans can include requests from specific departments. Some of them can include situations where the Government of Canada transfers funds to the Yukon government and then asks for a specific method or audit of that particular funding program.
The audit workplan is developed with departments, ministers and deputy ministers, and is then subsequently approved by Management Board.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for that information, but it appears that the internal audit is being used purely for political purposes - auditing the CDF, the trade and investment fund. Mr. Chair, the areas that I'm concerned with are the areas that the Auditor General mentioned in his audit report as being not in compliance with the respective acts.
There are three Crown corporations: Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Housing Corporation. They all have qualifications. In my opinion, if I see something qualified by the Auditor General, that's where I would start looking to find out what the problem is and to address it, and that would be a function of the internal audit committee. But what we're seeing is the internal audit function being used purely for political purposes - to support the conclusions these Liberals want to reach - nothing else.
Now, Mr. Chair, when you go through the Auditor General's report to the Yukon Legislature, you see the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation singled out, you see the Yukon Housing Corporation singled out, you see the Department of Community and Transportation Services singled out. And here's an excellent statement that I would urge the minister to take to heart: to be of maximum use, internal audit should be used as independently as possible within the government structure and free of bias or influence.
Just the fact that the two projects that were initially singled out for the internal audit examination were the CDF and the trade and investment fund would lead one to conclude otherwise. There is a whole series of these areas in the Auditor General's report. Furthermore, some of the areas covered off in the other departments with respect to HRIS and the qualification it receives in here - 143 problems with the system remain unresolved as of February 2001. Now, that should be a function of the internal audit committee. This project cannot be considered a success. It goes on and on about areas that should be examined by the internal audit committee, but where are the priorities of this Liberal government? They are where they are politically expedient to place them - nothing else, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, the whole issue surrounding ECO is that it is being used as a political tool to expedite the Liberal image in the Yukon - nothing else, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I really have to respond to the member opposite's argument, because the bucket the member just used doesn't hold a drop of water. If the member would go back and examine the previous reports on other matters, the member would see that there are recommendations in there to audit the CDF - to examine these funds.
The fact is that this is the report for 1998-99, and the fact is that the work of the previous government has left us with no shortage of things to do.
The fact is that this government is auditing as they should.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Fentie, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Needless repetition on the statement, "The fact is..."
Chair: There is no point of order. Continue please, Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Mr. Chair, the members opposite just don't get it. The Auditor General has recommended, in previous reports - I don't know what the member opposite was doing in opposition last term. I was focused on doing my homework and reviewing these reports, and should we have been fortunate enough - which we were - to enjoy the support of the Yukon public, we would be entrusted to do these things. The first thing we did was re-establish the Bureau of Internal Audit, which has been recommended for some time.
Previous governments spent $4,000 on it. Look at the budget before the member opposite. The member opposite should look at the other reports. We are getting the work done.
The member opposite says that the internal audit is political. The Environment Act calls for an audit by legislation. That is not political. That's doing our job. I don't know why the member finds that so hard to accept. The fact is that this government was asked to do a job by the Yukon people. We were sworn into office on May 6 last year. In that year, we have, among other departments, re-established the internal audit. We have completed audits recommended by the Auditor General. The fact is that there was a report tabled on May 7 in this Legislature, addressed to all members. I encourage all members to read it, because it outlines just how much work we have to do.
The member opposite goes on and on about qualified financial statements. Community and Transportation Services has been mentioned in many previous reports, as has the Yukon Housing Corporation, which is up for debate later this afternoon.
Mr. Chair, we have done our work. The deputy ministers are career public servants, as are other deputies and public servants. They are professionals. They have done their jobs. They are doing their jobs. What's more, in this budget, we've given them the resources to do their jobs well. We stand behind not only their work, but ours as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, it must clearly be pointed out that the report of the Auditor General that was just recently tabled by the Speaker does not qualify the community development fund, and it does not qualify the trade and investment fund in this report. Now, that's the reality of the situation. It does qualify a number of Crown corporations and quite a number of other areas. There's a requirement for audits on specific initiatives and undertakings, and those are being done. But when one examines the areas that require an audit, Mr. Chair, as confirmed by the Auditor General - and I have a copy over here that's all highlighted with the area. I'd be happy to send it over to the Premier so she can examine it in detail and give kind of an overview of the areas that need internal audits and need review. But nowhere does it mention the community development fund or the trade and investment fund.
What we are experiencing from this novice Liberal government is purely an approach to these initiatives on a political level. The community development fund audit and the trade and investment fund audit were politically motivated; they weren't driven by the report, this current report from the Auditor General. That's a reality. The areas outlined in here have yet to be examined by the internal audit committee, according to the information just provided by the Minister of Finance - the Minister of Economic Development, the minister responsible for Executive Council Office, the Premier of the Yukon. That's the job - to examine the areas that are qualified by the Auditor General and then go on to other things. But the emphasis and the thrust is politically motivated to examine those areas that they want to point out, that this new, novice Liberal government wants to point out as not being correct. It's purely politically motivated, Mr. Chair - nothing else.
I don't have any further debate in this area. We are not getting anywhere. The minister is remiss in her responsibilities in this area.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Cabinet and Management Support
Administration/Secretariat in the amount of $1,061,000 agreed to
On Office of Strategic Management
Office of Strategic Management in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
Cabinet and Management Support in the amount of $1,319,000 agreed to
Chair: Before we proceed to the next department, are there any questions on the allotments?
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $5,969,000 agreed to
On Development Assessment Process
Development Assessment Process in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $6,227,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to intergovernmental relations. Is there any general debate on intergovernmental relations?
On Intergovernmental Relations
Mr. Fentie: I would like to have just a brief explanation on the 13-percent decrease. Is it possible that this is because of that special relationship with the feds in Ottawa?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, although we certainly have seen the success of our ability to work government to government throughout the Yukon, not simply with First Nation governments but also with the Government of Canada. We have seen the effects of that. The intergovernmental relations decrease is due to a change in personnel.
On Intergovernmental Relations
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $1,849,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Intergovernmental Relations in the amount of $1,849,000 agreed to
On Policy and Communications
Chair: We will proceed to policy and communications. Is there any general debate on policy and communications?
Seeing no general debate, we will go right to activities.
Policy in the amount of $632,000 agreed to
Communications in the amount of $258,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Are there any questions on the supplemental information?
Policy and Communications in the amount of $890,000 agreed to
On First Nations Relations
Chair: We will now proceed to First Nations relations. Is there any general debate on First Nations relations?
Seeing no general debate on First Nations relations, we will go right into activities.
On First Nations Relations
First Nations Relations in the amount of $303,000 agreed to
On Aboriginal Language Services
Aboriginal Language Services in the amount of $1,126,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
First Nations Relations in the amount of $1,429,000 agreed to
On Government Audit Services
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I have seven contracts that I will send over to the minister. I would like further explanation on each one of them by return mail.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Would the minister confirm that I will be receiving a further explanation on these seven contracts?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have never not answered the member's questions. Of course they will be answered.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
On Internal Audit
Internal Audit in the amount of $344,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Government Audit Services in the amount of $344,000 agreed to
On Bureau of Statistics
On Management and Information Services
Management and Information Services in the amount of $425,000 agreed to
On Operations and Research Services
Operations and Research Services in the amount of $306,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Bureau of Statistics in the amount of $731,000 agreed to
On Office of the Commissioner
Chair: Is there any general debate on Office of the Commissioner?
On Office of the Commissioner
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $141,000 agreed to
Chair: Is there any questions on the allotments?
Office of the Commissioner in the amount of $141,000 agreed to
On Cabinet Offices
Ministers in the amount of $165,000 agreed to
On OIC Personnel
OIC Personnel in the amount of $1,239,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the allotments?
Cabinet Offices in the amount of $1,404,000 agreed to
On Public Inquiries and Plebiscites
On Public Inquiries
Public Inquiries in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Any question on the allotments?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, seeing the need for a public inquiry under Health and Social Services into the children in care, I was wondering why the minister doesn't increase this budget somewhat to reflect those costs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the dollar is a vote authority amount. It is traditional to vote a dollar for this, regardless of what the members opposite may consider to be coming up. It is the government that also sets the agenda and deals with plebiscites with respect to those required by law, and the dollar vote amount simply provides the vote authority, which is what is required.
Public Inquiries and Plebiscites in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions before we clear the whole O&M budget on the recoveries? Seeing no questions on the recoveries, are there any questions on the transfer payments?
Operations and Maintenance Expenditures for Executive Council in the amount of $14,334,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to capital.
On Capital Expenditures
Chair: We have one department under discussion for capital and that is land claims and implementation secretariat.
On Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat
Mr. Jenkins: What are we looking at spending this money on this time?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This funding is provided under the federal agreement for implementation of land claims and is 100-percent recoverable through the federal transfer payments. There is a more detailed workplan for specific implementation across departments. I will provide that to the member opposite in a letter as opposed to outlining specific projects at this point in time. They vary across departments.
Mr. Jenkins: Is this where we would be keeping the money to buy out the claims in the Tombstone Park, the Fishing Branch and the Asi Keyi Park? Where is that money located?
Chair: Is there any further debate on implementation?
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question on the floor. The money to buy out mining claims in Tombstone, Fishing Branch and Asi Keyi - where is that money located in this budget? Is it contained in this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That question is hypothetical and doesn't warrant an answer.
Mr. Jenkins: There isn't anything hypothetical whatsoever about that question. It's a very direct question. It was a position of the Liberals to buy out the mining claims in Tombstone Park. I would appreciate knowing where it is contained within this budget.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is putting forward a hypothesis that the Government of Yukon would purchase mineral claims. He is putting forward that hypothesis. It is a hypothetical question. That activity that the member is suggesting happened has nothing whatsoever to do with this line item. The member is suggesting something on the floor of this House - it's a hypothetical question. This money that is currently under debate is a capital budget for the land claims implementation secretariat. It's funding under a federal agreement for implementation of land claims. It is 100-percent recoverable from the federal government. It is a federal government program working with First Nations. There is a workplan for 2001-02 across departments and I have indicated that I will provide the member with a detailed outline of that. Any other question or hypothesis put forward by the member is a hypothetical question and does not warrant an answer in this debate.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the Liberals' position was that they were going to buy out the mining claims in Tombstone Park, and the federal Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs said, "Go right ahead, it's your park, it's your initiative; if you want to do that, go ahead." And his statement was that he didn't believe that mining and parks could coexist. So this is a Yukon government initiative, establishing the park.
In opposition, the Liberals constantly went on. In fact, the Premier herself stated, "Buy out the claims." That was her position, and I'm just asking for the minister's assistance in where the money to buy out these mining claims is located in this budget. That's all.
Chair: Is there any further debate on implementation?
Mr. Jenkins: So, the minister is saying that she's not buying out the mining claims in this park. Is that what the minister is saying? Or in any other Yukon park?
I'll take that as a yes, Mr. Chair, thank you.
Chair: Is there any further debate on implementation?
Implementation in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Land Claims and Implementation Secretariat in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Chair: Are there any questions on the recoveries?
Capital Expenditures for Executive Council Office in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office in the amount of $390,000 agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to the Yukon Housing Corporation.
Yukon Housing Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate on the Yukon Housing Corporation?
Hon. Mr. Jim: I'm very pleased to stand today and provide opening remarks for the budget of the Yukon Housing Corporation. Before I begin, I would like to extend my sincere appreciation to the corporation's board of directors for their hard work during this past year and their ongoing dedication and commitment to addressing the housing needs of Yukoners.
I am pleased that this budget for the Yukon Housing Corporation contains strategic direction provided by this government. This is a budget that helps more Yukoners obtain financing for home ownership. It helps families access low-interest loans to improve the energy efficiency of their homes. It helps generate employment and business opportunities throughout the Yukon. It shows our commitment to seniors with a further contribution to the seniors housing trust. It does much more.
This budget provides important staff housing to employees of this government who work in rural Yukon. It provides social housing to individuals, families and seniors who are in need. It provides training courses to members of the industry and the public. I am very pleased to stand here today and advise all members of this House that the Yukon Housing Corporation is undergoing a process to become more efficient and effective.
The corporation has focused expenditures and recoveries to reduce the overall cost of operations to government, while, at the same time, maintaining a high level of service to Yukoners. In this budget, the net O&M costs to government have been reduced by $603,000. This represents a 15-percent decrease from the 2000-01 forecast shown in the supplementary budget.
I would like to provide members of this Assembly with a number of examples of effective and efficient programs and services for the upcoming year.
I'm particularly pleased with the uptake on the energy efficiency initiatives, which I announced with the chair of the board of directors only three months ago. A year ago, for example, the corporation received 17 applications for the home repair program from January 1 until March 31. This past winter, the corporation received 102 applications. This is a tremendous increase, Mr. Chair.
We also have seen a significant increase in applications for the rental rehabilitation program. There is uptake for both furnace testing and energy audits. These repairs and upgrades are underway by now, Mr. Chair.
Yukon Housing Corporation has successfully developed programs and services that consumers want and that help the industry during a time of year when there is minimal new home construction. Mr. Chair, these initiatives also help our environment with the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions and help Yukon homeowners save on energy costs.
As you are aware, Mr. Chair, the ageing of our population will have tremendous impacts on the government's resources for many years to come. This government recognizes that we must act today so that we can be prepared for tomorrow, and I am very pleased that this budget contains an additional amount of $100,000 for the seniors housing trust. To date, Mr. Chair, our government has invested $350,000 into the seniors housing trust. I am also very pleased to announce that this year the Yukon Housing Corporation will roll out the new seniors home and yard maintenance program. This program is designed by seniors and will be administered by seniors.
We meant what we said about treating our seniors with respect, and we are delivering on our promises. That is effective government, Mr. Chair. This is what we were talking about. This is an example of how we want to provide citizen-focused government.
Mr. Chair, this government believes strongly in our families and their important role in the Yukon. We want these young families to have access to mortgage financing, so that they can purchase an affordable home, whether it is in Riverdale or Watson Lake, Copper Ridge or Carmacks. I am pleased that this government has increased the corporation's home ownership program by almost $2 million. This means that approximately 20 additional clients can receive mortgage financing from Yukon Housing Corporation. This shows our strong commitment to Yukoners who want to purchase a home and to call Yukon their home.
This budget is also about creating jobs, Mr. Chair. As clients access the corporation's loan programs, it creates economic spinoffs. Contractors, tradespeople and architects are all examples of jobs - jobs - that are being generated as a result of our lending programs. Purchases are made at local businesses and building material suppliers. This helps local economies throughout the Yukon. The popularity of Yukon Housing Corporation's mortgage financing and repair loans means that Yukoners are working.
Before I can conclude my remarks, I would like to acknowledge the staff of Yukon Housing Corporation. I am impressed by their ongoing efforts to provide the highest quality of services to the Yukon and to Yukoners. They work directly with Yukoners on our behalf, and they help to ensure that we provide a client-focused government that is efficient and effective.
Mr. Chair, I would like to review the changes to Yukon Housing Corporation's objectives. With respect to the corporate objectives, the last objective has been changed. The phrase "to participate in trade and export opportunities" has been deleted and replaced with "to participate in community and industry opportunities." This change gives the corporation great flexibility.
With respect to program objectives, there are a number of changes. Under the program objectives for home ownership, the phrase "to respond to the housing needs of our marketplace" has been deleted and replaced with "to respond to the housing needs of Yukoners." This is now a more client-focused objective.
There are a number of changes to the program objectives for industry and community partnering. The program objective has been expanded and now reads "assist the private market in communities"; "housing industry development" has been replaced by "housing industry and community development." These changes give the corporation greater flexibility.
The mobile home park enhancement program objective has been expanded to include the phrase "assist mobile home park owners." This is to better clarify the intent of the program objective.
I am also pleased that the industry and community partnering program objectives now include a new section on seniors housing. With respect to the program objectives for staff housing, they have been expanded to include "to administer the Government Employee Housing Plan Act." This has been included to clarify the corporation's role in staff housing.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: In the spirit of cooperation, I don't feel there is much spirit of cooperation happening around here at this point in time, and I am actually disappointed.
I have a few questions for the minister. I would prefer if the minister could give me written - in some cases, I am going to submit written questions and I would expect written answers. In this case here, I expect that the minister can at this point in time bring forth some issues.
I am certainly glad that the minister's executive assistant has come into the room now, because just in the past week, this executive assistant has given me all the political direction and all of the reasons for non-political direction and beat up the opposition quite effectively. Again, I don't really think that's warranted at all. I think everybody should respect their jobs and do their jobs and keep it in that manner.
Now, first of all, the commercial energy management program is a very successful program and I would like to know if the corporation is going to be continuing this program after it expires in March of 2002. I would prefer a written answer, please.
Again, not long ago, the corporation had some very ambition export plans and I would like the minister to tell us what is going on with the corporation's plans to launch an export market for its products. Again, if I may, a written answer would suffice.
I would also like to commend the minister, the corporation, the board of directors and of course all the staff for the pilot projects surrounding housing for people with FAS and FAE, where the rents would be scaled down to an appropriate level for these folks. I appreciate that the minister would do something like that. It shows compassion and I think it is very much needed in improving these people's lives.
So, I would like it if the minister could provide me with any information about this program. Will the program be continued or expanded or is it just a pilot project? How does the minister expect to move that out? Again, a written answer would suffice for the sake of the time here, because I do wish to give time to my colleague from Dawson City.
I would also like to know what the Yukon Housing Corporation is doing to help owners of heritage housing preserve and maintain their housing. Has the corporation examined this issue?
The minister has just spoken about the policy initiatives that are coming forward with regard to seniors housing. Again, I appreciate what the minister has done to that end.
I did ask the minister previously, and the minister knows my main thrust of questioning, which has been brought to his attention at Question Period and in the hallway, where the minister and I had a few opportunities to chat about this. I wonder if the minister could give me an update on that situation now.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I have probably about 10 pages here just on an update on the situation with respect to First Nation housing. Is that correct? In that instance, I can say that we have been very busy with the different communities.
The member opposite has asked me - in some instances, it seems he is asking me to change the policy regarding the availability of Yukon Housing Corporation program funding on First Nation settlement land. Although the member opposite may feel that it is a minor change, it is in fact a significant request that the member opposite makes.
In 1998, the previous government provided the Yukon Housing Corporation with a mandate to negotiate a transfer of CMHC's responsibility for social housing to the Yukon Housing Corporation. One of the guiding principles that framed the negotiations was that the Yukon Housing Corporation would not negotiate the transfer of any program with a significant First Nation interest. This approach reflected the position of the Yukon First Nations and the government of the day.
Canada provides funding to First Nations to support housing programs. It has also been understood that First Nations do want the Government of Canada to download First Nation programs to the Government of Yukon.
As the Yukon government does not receive any funding from Canada to provide housing programs under federal responsibility, and without a mandate from First Nations - especially without a mandate from First Nations - the Yukon government is not presently in a position to provide housing programs to Yukon First Nations. So far, nothing has changed since the previous government provided the negotiating mandate for the social housing transfer.
The policy on which the Yukon Housing Corporation home ownership and home repair programs are based is to improve the quality of housing, which, in turn, reduces demand for further involvement of the government in the provision of housing. As the member opposite is aware, this policy does not specifically exclude First Nation members from accessing Yukon Housing Corporation programs, as long as the clients meet all the program requirements. For example, the home repair program requires that the client own the home and it is their principal residence.
This policy of improving the quality -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Chair: Mr. Keenan, on a point of order.
Mr. Keenan: These theatrics, Mr. Speaker - cooperation and moving along. I know that we got a lot of grins and chuckles from the folks in Porter Creek on this situation, but this is a very serious situation. If the minister wants to kill the clock, I ask that the minister speak right until 4:30 p.m. because he is doing a very good job giving the longest political speech that he has ever made in his career.
Chair: On the point of order, there is no point of order. It's in the Standing Orders. You are allowed 30 minutes in Committee of the Whole for speeches.
Hon. Mr. Jim: As I was saying, this policy of improving the quality of homes and reducing future demands on government by way of these programs was developed in recognition of the responsibility of the Government of Canada to provide housing to First Nations.
Through DIAND and CMHC, the federal government provides direct financial assistance to First Nations, which, in turn, decide, as a government should, who will access housing funding within a First Nation.
The home ownership and the home repair programs offered by Yukon Housing Corporation in combination with programs offered by DIAND and CMHC provide blanket access to all Yukoners to housing programs.
We have a particular case, an example of a constituent of the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes approaching the member, asking that he lobby for a repair loan from the Yukon Housing Corporation because the individual's First Nation did not allocate the individual's funding. Mr. Chair, I'd like to say that a number of issues come to mind. If Yukon Housing Corporation approves this application, would this alter the relationship and responsibility of the Government of Canada in regard to the provision of housing to First Nations? Would this be an opportunity for the Government of Canada to reduce its funding through DIAND and CMHC because of Yukon Housing Corporation's actions? I was always under the impression that the members opposite fought tooth and nail with the federal government. Any time the issue of downloading or offloading came up - why now? They're changing their position.
I can appreciate the opposition member's keen and personal interest in housing for First Nations, and, Mr. Chair, not only do I share that concern, I have acted on my concerns. For example, Yukon Housing now has four staff members directly involved in working with Yukon First Nations. We are working with Yukon First Nations in the areas of policy development, community and industry development and mentoring to help First Nations increase their own capacity.
At the request of the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Housing Corporation has provided a complete set of corporate documentation to help them in the design of purchase agreements, mortgage documents and loan documents.
The Ross River Dena Council has a number of needs, including the setting up of a maintenance regime and maintenance tracking process, assistance in accessing federal funding and technical assistance in dealing with permafrost deterioration of housing. The Yukon Housing Corporation is pleased to be able to provide help with these issues.
I was also very pleased to have recently received a letter from the Ross River Dena Council offering thanks for the aid that Yukon Housing has offered to their First Nation.
In Dawson, a First Nation housing official is working in the Yukon Housing office in order to gain more experience in property management of rental housing stock.
I am especially proud of the First Nation housing conference to be held in October. The Yukon Housing Corporation, CMHC, DIAND and the Yukon First Nations have worked together to develop a three-day conference that will focus on Yukon First Nation housing needs.
I look forward to the results of these important collaborations.
Where was the previous government on this issue? Once again, nowhere to be found. I guess actions speak louder than words, Mr. Chair. All these initiatives are new initiatives. They have been completed in my first year as the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation. I do not believe that the member opposite could compile a similar list of accomplishments over the four-year tenure of their government.
I will be working with individual First Nations this summer and I look forward to discussing housing issues with them. I want to seek their input as to the problems they face, as well as solutions they may have. I especially look forward to the housing conference this fall when we can all meet within one room with the intent of assisting First Nation housing.
By bringing First Nations, DIAND,CMHC and the Yukon Housing Corporation to the table, we can help, at the same time, to define the issues and possible solutions.
I would like to restate that through Yukon Housing Corporation's housing programs and programs offered by CMHC and DIAND, there is access for all Yukoners to housing programs.
Mr. Keenan: Well, the minister should be commended. He finally made a political speech. It was written and delivered very eloquently. I certainly appreciate that.
I would like to get into the tooth and nail of what we have, and we don't have very much time. I will attempt to leave a few minutes for my colleague here. But I have not been asking for a transfer of program. I have been asking for the minister to do what the minister is doing for people with FAS/FAE, what the minister has gone out and looked for and done in Faro - which is of course a Liberal riding - with the Faro home ownership. I have asked the minister to examine benchmarks based on that.
This is because, Mr. Chair, this particular government has no qualms about taking the tax dollars of First Nation people - they take their fair share of the tax dollars of the First Nation people - yet, when a First Nation entrepreneur or a person wishes to just achieve a loan through the corporation, they are denied that loan. I find that absolutely appalling, and I am not asking for a transfer. I am asking for the minister to do something. But, of course, I recognize the speech writing contained within the member's speech. I know exactly where it came from, and I truly wish that the minister would supply some leadership to the department because the minister knows exactly what I've been talking about and he has spent 25 minutes giving nothing but bafflegab.
I would like to ask the minister: is the minister aware of First Nation social assistance rates being increased through the federal government and that the Yukon Housing Corporation is gobbling up those dollars? Is the minister aware of that?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Yes, I am, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Chair, if the minister's aware of this - now, this is something I have to bring out to make the public at large know. What's happening is that we have increases from social assistance from the federal government that have been transferred down through the regular systems. Of course, those increases have been put forth so that people might improve their quality of life, might be able to improve their children's quality of life, and might be able to give an incentive to get off the social assistance, and they could. Now, what's happening is we have First Nation social assistance recipients living in Yukon Housing Corporation housing, and they are paying rent over and above the equivalent of a non-First Nation working family. They're paying more rent than a working family.
Now, Mr. Chair, I don't see that as being a very fair situation. Does the minister consider that fair? Would the minister look at taking that money that comes from the First Nation social assistance recipients, put it into the coffers - or however the minister would - and enable First Nations that need the opportunity and are looking for an opportunity to borrow money based on a standard that any other citizen of the Yukon Territory has, which these particular First Nation peoples do not have. Is the minister willing to accept that?
There are a couple of questions in there. I see the minister nodding his head, so the minister has actually got the grip of the question. I'm not sure the minister is really understanding what I'm talking about, but I would say that what we have here, Mr. Chair, is a double standard, and is the minister supportive of this double standard?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I certainly understand and am aware of where the member opposite is coming from. What I don't understand is the rhetoric that keeps carrying on.
In any case, I would like to say that the Yukon Housing Corporation has implemented a new rent scale for social assistance clients and that the Yukon Housing Corporation is working closely with affected funding agencies, such as DIAND, to ensure that the new rent scale is implemented without causing unnecessary delay for clients.
DIAND has clients in Ross River, who are required to pay a rent based on the new scale. Yukon Housing Corporation is working with DIAND to ensure payment so that the client may move into Yukon Housing Corporation social housing as soon as possible. The clients do have temporary housing, which is helpful, and Yukon Housing Corporation continues to implement its new rent scale. I presume that this is what the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes is talking about.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Chair, it's nice to see that the member can achieve a certain level of leadership and move forward.
Now, the minister speaks only of this one situation in Ross River. Maybe the minister is going to expand it throughout the territory at some point in time. I appreciate what the minister is saying.
What I don't appreciate is the minister speaking in a very confrontational way - something that this government, of course, has said that it would work to reform in this Legislature, which, of course, even the Speaker tries to do. I think we have to let things flow here, Mr. Chair, because the dialogue is certainly not coming forth. It's all reactionary leadership, and when we do bring something forth to the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation, it's always a case of why we can't do something versus "Well, hey, let's sit down and see about how we can move forward and do something."
Mr. Chair, I'd really expect this person, who claims to have intimate knowledge of the land and learning and what it's like, to exercise that intimate knowledge, understanding, compassion and caring for people who are in other situations. Again, the minister knows what I'm talking about. He absolutely knows what I'm talking about.
So I'd like to ask the minister: is it possible for the minister to show that compassion and to reach out and say, "I'm here to provide leadership and this is the way I'm going to be providing leadership, with this can-do attitude instead of this bafflegab confrontational attitude." Is the minister willing to examine a change of attitude?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Chair, I have always looked at myself as being a person who likes to work with people, and my attitude is open. I like to respond as openly as I can to the members opposite. I'm trying to give them the best answers that I can. Unfortunately -
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, under the instructions of the House, if Bill No. 4 should still be under consideration in Committee of the Whole at 4:30 on Wednesday, May 9, 2001, the Chair shall interrupt proceedings and immediately put all questions necessary to conclude consideration of Bill No. 4 and then report to the Assembly.
That's what we're doing now, so we will proceed with all outstanding questions.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $12,605,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of $15,934,000 agreed to
Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for Yukon Development Corporation in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Yukon Development Corporation agreed to
Chair: Now we'll proceed to the actual Bill No. 4.
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Schedule C
Schedule C agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act 2001-02, be reported out of Committee of the Whole without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Ms. Tucker: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker 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 the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report it without amendment.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Bill No. 4: Third Reading
Mr. Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let me begin on behalf of our government by expressing our thanks to Yukoners from every community who participated in our pre-budget consultation meetings.
Since taking office a year ago this month, and particularly through the months of January and February during our pre-consultation meetings, we listened as people shared their insights and ideas with us. The commitment that they have shown to making the Yukon a better place now falls to us to respect and to balance the sound perspectives that they have shared.
The experience of the last few months has confirmed, beyond all doubt, that an open budget process is a better budget process. This budget delivers on the seven priorities that were set out in the Speech from the Throne in October of last year: rebuilding the Yukon economy, maintaining community health care, addressing alcohol and drug addictions, settling outstanding land claims, achieving devolution, developing infrastructure and, most of all, restoring confidence in government.
These priorities are not new. They form the basis of this government's contract with the people of the Yukon. Yukoners endorse these seven commitments, because they are responsible and they are balanced. This budget works toward making these commitments a reality. Above all else, it's a budget that focuses on rebuilding the Yukon's economy.
This budget contains several initiatives to meet that end, including a substantial, seven-percent increase in capital spending over last year's main estimates and direct spending on job creation. The budget also implements previously announced tax cuts, which are now having an impact on people's paycheques and on our revenues and on retail and wholesale sales.
Capital projects have been chosen that maximize job creation, particularly during this current downturn in our economy. Capital spending set out in this budget that has been tabled and has been passed out of Committee today will sustain almost 700 full-time private sector jobs. Part of that increase in capital is for programs that support and enhance our mining sector - increases to the Yukon mining incentives program upon taking office - and our support continues. This program, which is designed to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities is budgeted at more than $760,000.
In capital dollars, we're spending over $3.4 million on projects and programs that create jobs for Yukoners now in this budget and, Mr. Speaker, bode for a brighter future for all of us.
There is funding to increase Yukon's mineral exploration tax credit. There's work in other sectors of the resource economy, in oil and gas royalties, monies for the aggressive promotion of the Alaska Highway as the route for a pipeline from the North Slope, and the Department of Economic Development is not alone in working to rebuild the Yukon economy.
The MLA for Riverdale South, Sue Edelman, in her capacity as Minister of Tourism, has been the lead on the Government of Yukon's participation in an air access study and in initiatives in her Department of Tourism, such as the stay-another-day program and others, which in turn contribute to our work in rebuilding the Yukon's economy.
In October, when we delivered our throne speech, we said that, as Yukoners, we envision a territory where opportunity is built upon the strength of our land, the diversity of our people, and the openness of our government. By participating in the budget process, Yukoners have added to the strength and openness that we hope to achieve during our mandate.
We want to thank all Yukoners who actively participated in the creation of this budget, thank all members for their thoughtful debate, and look forward to its passage today.
Mr. Fairclough: I'll be brief in my comments. Mr. Speaker, this is the biggest budget that Yukon has ever seen. We on this side of the House wanted to have ample time to be able to debate and get some answers back from this Liberal government. What we have seen is the Liberals making promises to Yukoners about a number of things. One of them was to improve decorum in this House. And they said that they would be open and accountable. They have made many promises to many of the ridings across the Yukon, and when their candidates did not get elected, those promises were just not Liberal promises all of a sudden.
Mr. Speaker, we asked questions in this House to get answers from the Liberals about the promises they made in the campaign and in the following year. What we have seen, time and time again, are broken promises. They said they would be open and accountable, and what they tried to do in this Legislature was to not debate the budget at all, by introducing a large number of bills that needed a lot of attention and that have a huge impact on many Yukoners.
That was an attempt not to debate the budget, and we have seen this today in having a couple of departments that we could not debate, because of agreed-upon timelines.
Time and time again, they said that they would do what they said they would do but, Mr. Speaker, they have not used that line in this sitting at all, because they have gone away from that. They have already broken that simple promise to the general public. They said they would consult with the public, work with First Nations, municipalities, NGOs and so on.
I remember the Minister of Tourism getting up and saying that they have a brand new initiative, one that other governments haven't done before. And, in a previous sentence, she said that they do consult and they are a government about consulting. The next day, questions in this House were all about the lack of consultation taking place with this particular minister.
I think, Mr. Speaker, we have seen each and every one of the ministers get into trouble in this sitting, whether it's the recruitment of doctors and nurses, the negotiations with the teachers and demonstrations outside this building - the strike, the very first strike in the Yukon. We have seen the minister responsible for Yukon Housing not being able to answer questions in this House by not doing his homework. We have seen the Community and Transportation Services minister get into some trouble in this sitting, and even the Premier, on many issues that are still unresolved out there and which we on this side of the House have to deal with.
I would think since this is the biggest budget that this Liberal government has ever seen, that this Yukon Liberal Party would have talked about it and made sure that Yukoners knew about it, but in reality that agenda was taken away from them and we didn't even talk so much about the budget. What the Liberal government had to do was react to a lot of the problems that have arisen out of this, I would say, inexperienced government.
We have seen the Member for Whitehorse Centre even give himself a penalty for a wrongdoing - a month's suspension. We have seen the Premier muzzle the backbenchers so that they are not able to speak on motions or even speak to the budget. It is really surprising that the backbenchers could not speak to their own budget - the biggest budget ever. They were muzzled. There was for a reason that they were muzzled. The Premier did not want to have her backbenchers getting into trouble. We saw that from the Member for Whitehorse Centre, over and over.
So, Mr. Speaker, what about the budget? What does it do for Yukoners? There were many things excluded from it, and we on this side of the House will be voting against this bill because of what is not in it.
I don't believe that the members opposite have been able to sit down and read through their own budget properly in order to know what is a surplus for next year. Time and time again, we have said what we thought the surplus would be and, lo and behold, the Auditor General proves us right. Again, the government is wrong. Again, in this House, we said it would be a certain amount. I believe, Mr. Speaker, that when the Auditor General's report comes in next fall, it will be even bigger than what this Liberal government has said it would be.
At the same time, they cry poverty to Yukoners. We saw this demonstration with the cancellation of the Mayo school - postponed for another year. This school still has to be built. It still has to go through the final inspection. The people of Mayo are hoping that it will be a building that lasts a lot longer than the last one and will stand up, despite the problems they're having at this point.
We've seen this Liberal government go out and travel. They said they were fiscally responsible but they have a budget and couldn't live within the budget. Now, what does that mean? The minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation used his entire year's budget on one trip. What did Yukon get in return for that? Well, we got nothing, that's what it was. Maybe the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation got a little bit of education on it but really we got nothing.
The Minister of Tourism likes to travel and that was the very first thing she said after being sworn in - the next day was travelling. So they like to travel and we know that, and we don't think this is going to stop. But if they are putting together a budget for travel, do you think that this government would do what they said they would do and live within the budget that they have given themselves for travelling? In five months, they blew their travel budget. In nine months, they were some $60,000 over.
The Premier and one of her staff have travelled more than some of these ministers have. What did we get in return? We know that this government likes to spend money on itself. We have seen the increases in some of the departments within Cabinet offices, within Executive Council Office and so on.
We have seen this government spend money on itself when small projects out there in the territory that could have put people to work this past winter were not there. When the general public reflects upon that, it is not a good sight to see when they are on the unemployment line and they could have been working if this government had shown a little bit of vision and a little bit of leadership and taken some control and not have the departments control this so much.
We have seen huge spending on computers and office equipment at year-end.
Even though the departments have budgeted for this throughout the year, we've seen that huge spending at year-end. Yet, when there are programs in place that have worked and have put people to work, this government cancelled them. It was only under public pressure that they were brought back to the floor - programs such as the CDF and fire smart, which only make sense.
We've seen this Liberal government go to communities and cut ribbons. They love the projects that were being built or finished off or initiated by the previous government, yet they criticize the previous government.
Here's the biggest commitment that they made to the general public out there - and that was during the general election: they would pass the NDP budget in its entirety. Well, as soon as they were sworn in, that was a broken promise. And each and every one of the members opposite knows that once you start cutting the budget apart, you have broken that promise.
The Minister for Health could not even increase the assay rates by some two percent. Even though it was a small amount, he could not find it in his heart to do that. Mr. Speaker, I find that very embarrassing from a government that said that they are open and accountable and that they would do what they said they would do.
This is the biggest budget ever, and throughout this budget and the previous budget, all that this Liberal government has done to Yukoners is cry poverty. That was a shame, because what they didn't do, Mr. Speaker, is look at the books and see what the surpluses were. Maybe at that point they could have made some very informed decisions and put Yukoners to work this past winter when you could have addressed these things during the fall supplementary budgets, but this government failed to do that. Instead, what we've heard was a cry of poverty. All through the teachers' negotiations, there was a cry of poverty.
There wasn't enough money in the budget, and, lo and behold, there were millions of dollars, as the opposition has said that there would be. Again, Mr. Speaker, in getting additional dollars down from Ottawa - and I know how the members opposite would like to brag about how they brought it down when discussions have been taking place as far back as 1996, Mr. Speaker. What's so sad here is that this federal government knew all along that there were monies owed to Yukoners. That was the respect they showed to Yukoners, and Yukoners are voicing that very clearly. That money should have gone to Yukoners when the Yukon needed it. And I don't see the members opposite doing very much even with that money. It's all tied up - gone. I would suspect that there will be $100 million in surplus when the Auditor General comes back. When Yukoners come forward with projects, I believe this government is going to say no, that they can't do it; they won't do it. They don't have the programs in place; they hadn't thought about it.
The minister responsible for Yukon Housing said he has done all these lovely things. Well, I haven't seen them other than follow up from the previous government. One of the things that was very successful was the home show. In the last two years, there was a home show, and obviously not enough effort was put forward by this minister, and so we're not having one this year, Mr. Speaker. It's a crying shame, because it was a benefit to all the industry, to the companies out there that are home builders, and it works in partnership with the Home Builders Association of the Yukon, and they couldn't even do that, Mr. Speaker.
What we find is the Yukon in a slump, and very much in need to build the economy, and we find that we have a minister here who's not fully committed to that.
The direction from this Minister of Economic Development to Yukoners is to put your head in your hands and wait for a pipeline, because that's going to solve everything - "Wait for it. It's coming and it's coming soon. Don't worry about the environmental work." In their minds, the environmental work is already taken care of. But I believe that Yukoners haven't spoken out about that yet. That, to me, is the impact on the Yukon.
I was just in Alberta and, lo and behold, there was a pipeline break into a lake. These are the types of things Yukoners are going to want answers to. What we have is a hurry-up-and-wait-for-a-pipeline approach. It will bring a lot of work for a good two years. Boom - the population has grown, and everybody is leaving again. It will be a boom-and-bust situation in the Yukon.
Mining is still down, and there is a lot of potential for that, Mr. Speaker. Locals are getting more involved with First Nations and so on. We have seen this government not even paying attention to the forest industry. Just have a look at people in Watson Lake and southeast Yukon, where people have left the Yukon. Coming up the highway, just today, I continually saw the U-hauls heading down the highway. I believe that you will see more people leaving after the school year.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Liberal cards don't mean anything to them when there is no work.
So this Liberal government has paid attention to oil and gas, and that's it. When it comes to the environment, where is the fight for that? Where is this government's direction when it comes to the Porcupine caribou herd? Every speech that the Premier has made and that the Member for Riverside has made on their behalf was all about pushing, pushing, pushing for a pipeline, but not once has anything been said about what the Porcupine caribou herd really means to Yukoners. That's a crying shame, and I hope that the Member for McIntyre-Takhini would have a little chat with his colleagues about that, because this is very much a big issue with aboriginal people across the Yukon Territory.
Yet, this government does not voice themselves. They sure did during the campaign. They were going to fix everything that they thought was wrong, including YPAS, but right now all they have done is throw it on the shelf. "Goodbye industry. We got your vote. Thank you very much. See you later." That's what happened, and the Minister of Renewable Resources I'm sure is in agreement with that because that was the direction he has given - "Go ahead, let's do it without them." It's a shame, Mr. Speaker, because we could have had protected areas in a number of ecoregions by now.
Where is this government's initiative when it comes to job creation? Seven hundred jobs they said, but it is all in a regular budgeting process that jobs are created. Those are not new jobs. Those are jobs that come every year, in highways, in the tourism industry, in the building and housing industry, and so on, yet there's nothing new coming out of this Liberal government. What they have done is draw a line between themselves and the public service of the Government of the Yukon, from anything from tourism and changing the direction there, trying to give people jobs and move them into a position where they're not even qualified to do that. And, Mr. Speaker, that is yet to come and I'm sure there's going to be noise made about that - the moves that this Minister of Tourism is making without Cabinet approval.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, it's obvious that this is a Cabinet of one. There's one person who is basically controlling the whole thing, the procedures on the government side. It's a crying shame because I think there are a lot of people on that side of the House who could really be having their views brought forward and maybe things could be happening. Other people could take charge, for example in Economic Development.
But they are muzzled, and so are the public servants. They can't speak out any more because of fear of their jobs and so on. This is what transpired over a very short year, Mr. Speaker, and it's a crying shame.
Mr. Speaker, we will not be voting for this budget because there is lots that could have been done by this Liberal government if they had taken the time to listen to the opposition and give them some direction. Some of them were very good in creation of jobs and winter works and so on. If they had done that, I think the members on this side of the House would have been able to go forward and support this budget, but they are not listening to the people. They're not listening to people on this side of the House, even though they promised that they would be open and accountable. Mr. Speaker, they are not. They are a government that is, in our view and in the public's view, fighting with one another and constantly having to react to controversy and problems within their own ranks and mistakes that they've made throughout the past year.
Mr. Speaker, I hope to see improvement by this Liberal government over the years to come.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, this 39-day sitting of this Legislature can only be summarized as a dismal failure by this Liberal government to help create a Yukon economy - dismal failure, indeed. This government has a majority. It has an $81-million surplus, and it tabled and it is spending the largest budget ever in the Yukon Territory, at some $535 million.
All of the indicators are there, and all of the tools are there. What we are seeing, though, is that this Liberal government has failed to instill any confidence in the Yukon economy. The Premier has put all of Yukon's hope for an economic recovery on the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. That's it. We're all to sit back and anxiously await the arrival of this pipeline and the economic benefits and spinoffs that may or may not accrue to the Yukon. That is if indeed this pipeline is ever built through the Yukon. We went through the pipeline hype back in the 1970s. The Premier's on the same hype bandwagon once again.
It's interesting enough that, if this pipeline does indeed come, this novice Liberal government will be out of office. That's it. They'll be gone.
One can only conclude, after visiting all of the areas of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon economy is not just dying; it is dead. It is dead.
The actions that the Liberals are taking and the money they are spending are doing nothing to turn the economy around. We haven't witnessed one clear initiative that has been thought through and come out of this Liberal government and that has produced any results whatsoever. All we see is a government that is spending an inordinate amount of money on itself and its friends. Their ability to cut cake and ribbons is what they excel at. I'm sure that, at the end of the day, some of the ministers are going to have blisters on their hands from cutting as many ribbons as they undertake to cut.
It won't be from hard work addressing their responsibilities as Cabinet ministers and certainly not as back-bench MLAs, Mr. Speaker. What we have before us is a government where all of the backbenchers have virtually been muzzled. Not one back-bench Liberal motion was debated this session. Not one. And there was one motion that was of high importance that had the full support of both the official opposition and the third party. That that didn't come forward for debate is a credit to the Premier's dictatorial powers.
Now, the lack of economy here in the Yukon is having a far-reaching effect on all aspects of Yukon life. When there is no economy, family breakdowns are more likely to occur. There is more violence against women and children, and we witness that, Mr. Speaker, in that there are more children and youth in our group homes and in care of the government than ever before.
We are also seeing fewer children in our schools because their families have had to leave to find work somewhere else, and that somewhere else certainly isn't within the boundaries of the Yukon. It's our neighbouring territory or usually one of the western provinces. It means, Mr. Speaker, that we're going to have schools closing. It means it's going to be harder to retain our health care professionals and to attract new doctors, psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, nurse practitioners and all of the health care professionals that are needed.
Many of the social, health care and educational problems can be directly attributed to the lack of this Liberal government's ability to create an economy here.
I have tried, through my questions and motions, to provide instructive, alternate ways to help revitalize the Yukon economy. I proposed solutions to resolving the land claims impasse, as well as detailing proposals that would have corrected the problems with the protected areas strategy, which has almost single-handedly killed the mining industry and mining exploration in the territory. It's somewhere else. It's certainly not here, and we only have to look at this Liberal government's policies on the Yukon protected areas strategy. We only have to look at the new minister of parks for the Yukon, Juri Peepre, and his capable assistant, the Minister of Renewable Resources, who is putting in place all these programs and policies. The Premier has obviously bought in, because that's the way the whole Yukon is heading - one big park.
Unless the Yukon protected areas strategy is dealt with and unless we clearly identify the total amount of land in Yukon that we are going to set aside - let's not leave it open-ended. The government must, in order to create some certainty, set an upper limit as to the maximum amount of land in Yukon that will be turned into parks in one form or another.
Other initiatives that I proposed include a resource road into southeast Yukon that would enable Yukoners to have access to this area rich in resources. It doesn't matter if it's oil and gas, mineral resources or forestry. They are all there.
There is also the potential when we have roads for the visitor industry. But what do we see? We see the Minister of Economic Development, in concert with the Minister of Renewable Resources, giving away privately stocked pothole lakes that are inaccessible to the general public for fishing, and not even indicating them on the maps.
One of the other areas I went on to offer great suggestions to the minister on was to get the Liberal government to lay claim to the resources and Yukon's offshore waters in the Beaufort Sea. One only has to go and look on the Internet today to see where the wells are and what has come in. There are tremendous reserves. They are getting closer. They are right off the northern coast of Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, all these suggestions and proposals came to no purpose whatsoever. They were totally trashed and discarded by this Yukon Liberal government. It would appear that the Premier - they must be trained Liberal robots because they all buy into the same plan, and they are all very, very mute on initiatives. Yet we know that, on a one-to-one basis, there is some tremendous talent and ability in the backbenches of this Liberal government. But I guess they're not considered to be real Liberals, and are not allowed into debate in this Legislature and are not allowed to put their views forward - shame.
This is a time that Yukoners desperately need economic leadership. Unfortunately, we have elected a novice Liberal government that is incapable of providing that leadership.
We only have to look at this last winter, Mr. Speaker, when there were tremendous opportunities to put Yukoners to work. Community development fund - that was destroyed. Oh, no, it was reviewed with an audit - a political audit - and then repackaged into another form, and the funding available was slashed to a mere pittance of its former self. The Mayo school - that project could have gone ahead and created employment this last winter, but the government cried poverty. They cried poverty, and yet they end up with an $80-million-odd surplus. The Minister of Education cried poverty to the teachers union when they were negotiating the contract with the teachers - "No money, this is the best we can do." Yet, at the end of the fiscal period, an $80-million-odd surplus suddenly appears. Shame on them, Mr. Speaker.
These are areas where Yukoners could have been treated more fairly or reasonably by this novice Yukon government. There is no skill being demonstrated by this Liberal government in addressing the needs of Yukon and Yukoners.
I cannot support this budget. It doesn't create any hope or optimism, other than that we are going to have more secretariats, more government employees, and more expense with the Premier and her Cabinet colleagues flying all over the place, cutting ribbons and eating cake.
It's kind of interesting to see the total number of expenditures in the Executive Council Office and the amount of money they are spending on themselves. It's an obscene amount compared to previous governments. Furthermore, it doesn't appear to be producing any results in our economy and it's certainly not restoring any confidence in Yukoners today.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on for a considerable amount of time, pointing out the areas where this budget is deficient. I could suggest many, many areas where this government could enact positive changes and beneficial changes that could put Yukoners to work and stimulate the economy, but this Liberal government is only listening to itself.
I don't know where this Liberal government is getting its political advice from, but it certainly isn't doing anything other than putting cake on their plates. It's not doing anything for the majority of Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot support this budget. I'll be voting against it.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As I said earlier, and as I said on February 22, this budget delivers on seven priorities that have been set out by this government. It fulfils and starts to make strong progress on fulfilling our contract with Yukoners. It works toward rebuilding the Yukon economy, maintaining health care, addressing alcohol and drug addictions, settling outstanding land claims, achieving devolution, developing infrastructure and restoring confidence in government.
Mr. Speaker, I can't help but recognize, as I sat here and listened to the two members opposite speak, that the lack of concrete constructive debate put forward by members opposite can only signal one thing. The fact that they have reduced this session to personal attacks and mudslinging is because they can't find anything to criticize about this budget.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: If the House will indulge me for one moment, this is no laughing matter, Mr. Speaker. This is a very serious situation in this territory, and, with the greatest concern that I have for this territory and utmost compassion, I would ask all the members opposite to resign. Let's just hire a manager to implement this budget. We may be better served for that.
Speaker: The Minister of Education, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has challenged that we were laughing. Well, we were laughing at a chide from the Minister of Education in suggesting that the members opposite resign.
Speaker: Order please. I find there is no point of order. However, we have burned up some of the Premier's time so I would ask the Premier just to continue, please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate the fact that you have recognized that the members opposite have chosen that fashion to take away from the constructive debate and positions offered by this government to merely continue with their childlike behaviour, as the members opposite are now demonstrating.
This budget focuses on rebuilding the Yukon's economy and, Mr. Speaker, we're starting to see results.
We know that the results, such as the Yukon experiencing the greatest percentage increase in the value of building permits in all of Canada - an increase of 55 percent from the same period last year, when the NDP were in power. Retail sales in the Yukon increased by 8.6 percent between February of last year and February of this year. Only two Canadian jurisdictions have experienced increases from January to February of this year. The Yukon was one of them. In that short time period, we experienced an almost 14-percent increase.
Wholesale sales in the Yukon increased by 34.2 percent since last year. It's the highest increase in Canada. The value of real estate transactions increased over 15 percent, when compared to the time when the NDP were in power. We know that this is just a start. It's just the beginning of the reflection of economic indicators that will continue to show improvement and will demonstrate that this Liberal government is, indeed, rebuilding the economy.
We are working closely on a number of projects and, given that some of my time has been burned up, I won't get into great detail about the number of Yukoners working - the 30 jobs recently announced in the film industry, the 40 employees at the extended care facility, the 140 anticipated to be working at North American Tungsten and the 17 jobs with the money for the Dawson City Airport.
Mr. Speaker, those facts are about people. Most importantly, this budget is about people. A healthy economy ensures that we are able to fund, among other things, health care priorities of the Yukon. In fact, for the first time ever, over $125 million has been dedicated by this Liberal government in this Liberal budget to the Department of Health and Social Services for operations and maintenance. And, Mr. Speaker, at meetings with the Victoria Faulkner Women's Centre, the Yukon Aboriginal Women's Association, the Yukon Status of Women Council, the Help and Hope Society of Watson Lake and the Dawson Shelter, we heard a clear message: women's shelters do not have adequate resources to properly provide services.
Mr. Speaker, we know the important work that these individuals do. We have responded by increasing the operating grant to Kaushee's Place - so severely cut and rejected by the Yukon Party government. We increased it by $100,000 and provided additional funding - $62,000 to the Help and Hope for Families Society in Watson Lake and a $62,000 increase to the Dawson City shelter.
We have heard from women's groups, organized labour and communities that government should put more resources into victim services and programming for abusive spouses. We heard Yukoners, and to that end we put additional money toward these services. And the members opposite will vote against it, because they will vote against the Yukon people. They don't believe in Yukon people - we do.
Another priority of this government and of Yukoners is the continued expansion and upgrading of Yukon's infrastructure, because Yukon's infrastructure supports people. In many instances, spending decisions have been directed by communities themselves, as they identified the infrastructure projects they wanted to be undertaken on a priority basis. They have stressed how important these projects are for creating work in their communities and how important these projects are in generating hope and optimism in the Yukon economy.
That's what this government is about. This government is about listening to people. And this budget is about hope, it's about optimism, and it's about work in our communities. It's a good budget, and everyone on this side is very proud of it, because everyone on this side of the House worked with Yukoners and listened to Yukoners, and together, we built this budget. It's a good budget.
Mr. Speaker, this session has also been about key pieces of legislation. We have improved our trust legislation. We made amendments to the Public Utilities Act that paved the way for private sector investment in our territory and, like the budget, members opposite voted against these, because they voted against people.
In October, when we delivered our throne speech - and as we have said consistently - as Yukoners, we envision a future. A future of the territory where opportunity is built upon the strength of our land, the diversity of our people, and the openness of our government.
By participating in the budget process, Yukoners added to the strength and openness that we hope to achieve during our mandate. This is just the beginning.
We want to thank all Yukoners who actively participated in the creation of this budget.
I want to thank my caucus colleagues and all the public servants who worked with us in recognizing the needs of Yukoners and helped us, through the fiscal spending of this territory, to address the needs of Yukoners.
We will continue to listen to you. We will continue to work with you. And we take pride in voting in favour of a budget that is before you today, because it was created by all of us and it expresses the belief and hope in all of us.
I commend this budget to the House, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Order please. Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Ms. Netro: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Mr. Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 4 has passed this House.
Speaker: Order please. We are now prepared to receive the Commissioner, in his capacity as Lieutenant Governor, to give assent to the bills which have passed this House.
Commissioner enters the Chamber, announced by the Sergeant-at-Arms
ASSENT to bills
Commissioner: Please be seated.
Speaker: Sir, the Assembly has, at its present session, passed certain bills to which, in the name and on behalf of the Assembly, I respectfully request your assent.
Mr. Clerk: An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, Territorial Court Judiciary Pension Plan Act, An Act to Amend the Maintenance Enforcement Act, An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, An Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act, An Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, An Act to Amend the Public Utilities Act, Perpetuities and Accumulations Repeal Act, An Act to Amend the Trustee Act, First Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Commissioner: I hereby assent to the bills as enumerated by the Clerk.
Commissioner leaves the Chamber
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
Ms. Tucker: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned.
The House adjourned at 5:30 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled May 9, 2001:
Crime Statistics - current trends: background; Crime in the Yukon -Third Quarter 2000 - Highlights; Yukon Crime Statistics, 1995-1999 - Highlights (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1763
Legal Aid trends: applications for fiscal years (1997 - 2001); initiatives increasing legal services provided by Legal Aid (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1763
Territorial Court Act changes: three cases taken into account (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 1794
Cabinet Commission on Energy recommendations undertaken: residential; commercial; community energy management; in-government operations; transportation; energy supply planning; climate change; electricity pricing and regulatory issues (Buckway)
Discussion, Hansard, p. 1235