Tuesday, October 23, 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 Breast Cancer Awareness Month
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I rise today to recognize October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month in the Yukon and throughout North America.
Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer found in women today. Everyone in this House knows someone who has been affected.
In Canada, one in nine women suffer from breast cancer. This year, more than 5,500 will die from the disease. Survivors remember the pain, and families remember the losses.
It is with deep emotion that I, as Health minister, am encouraged to know that people who are personally affected by this disease carry their message to our future generations. They invest their energy into educating their family and community members and in educating those close to them. Their energy and concern is so very much appreciated by the entire wellness of the community.
Please do not stop talking about the disease.
I encourage all Yukon women to take the time this month and every month to visit their local health centre to take steps to ensure early detection of breast cancer.
This message needs to go out to all women in the territory, because breast cancer does not just affect women of a certain age. All adult women of any age are at risk.
Mr. Speaker, today I proudly wear a pink ribbon to recognize and honour our wives, our mothers, our sisters, our daughters and our friends. I honour the victims, the fighters and the survivors. Theirs is a battle we must continue to fight.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of United Nations Peacekeeper Day
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, today I rise to commemorate United Nations Peacekeeper Day. When I was a little lad, I was sitting on my grandfather's knee going through his military medals, and the medal he was most proud of was his peacekeeping medal from Korea. The reason he said he was proud of it is because he said as a man who knows war, he would willingly give up his life to bring us peace.
Today, Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the eight Yukon UN peacekeeping veterans who will be receiving special recognition this Saturday for their contributions to world peace. Mr. Jack Cable will present medals to these veterans as part of the ceremony commemorating United Nations Peacekeeping Day, which is officially today.
The eight Yukoners to be honoured have served all over the world, including Egypt, Bosnia, Cyprus, Israel, Kosovo, Croatia and Iraq.
On behalf of all Yukoners, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to the following people for their contributions to world peace: David Laxton, Red Grossinger, John Nystad, Tom Paterson, Fred Koschzeck, Brendan Galenzoski, Pat Copeland and Ken Mercs. I thank them and I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for giving this chance to honour them.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Geographical Place Names Board annual report 1999-2000.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I have the second report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for presentation.
Speaker: Are there any further reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the second report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, presented to the House on October 23, 2001, be concurred with; and
THAT the amendments recommended by the committee to Standing Orders 2, 11, 19, 42, 52 and 67 be adopted.
Ms. Tucker: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Business Summit 2001 brought together many diverse members of the business community to collectively produce a number of possible actions to help strengthen our economy;
(2) one of the possible actions brought forward was for the government to create an advisory committee with representation from government and various community sectors to develop a strategic economic development plan; and
THAT this House recognizes that the private sector must decrease its dependence on government, and only by unifying, taking ownership and refocusing on future goals with a healthy, positive attitude can the current economic barriers be overcome; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to support the business community recommendation to create an economic advisory committee to help develop both short- and long-term goals to stimulate the Yukon economy.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) one of the top priorities of the Yukon Liberal government is to restore confidence in government;
(2) the Yukon Liberal government will accomplish this through the recently announced renewal of government initiative;
(3) the purpose of this initiative is to prepare for devolution while at the same time creating new and innovative ways to provide more responsive and accountable services to our citizens;
(4) the renewal of government initiative is an opportunity for all Yukoners to evaluate and contribute input into our current structure and services; and
THAT this House applauds the Yukon Liberal government for having the courage to tackle this issue and urges all elected members in this House to temporarily set aside political affiliations and support this initiative by unanimously agreeing that the renewal of government is both necessary and long overdue.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Yukon mining incentive program
Mr. Kent: I rise today to inform members of this Legislature of our ongoing efforts to fulfill our commitment to rebuild the Yukon economy and to demonstrate our continued support for the mining industry in the Yukon.
As members are aware, we have allocated $850,000 for the Yukon mining incentives program, or YMIP, in our 2002-03 capital budget - an increase of almost $100,000 over last year. This amount is almost double what it was in the 1998-99 fiscal year. This increase will help support mineral prospecting, exploration and development in the territory. And this is the second time that our government has increased the money for YMIP since we took office.
The Yukon mining incentive program's function is to provide a portion of the risk capital required to locate and explore mineral deposits in the Yukon - one that I am sure all must agree continues to help encourage interest in Yukon's mineral potential; an investment that encourages the grassroots exploration necessary for maintaining a healthy mining industry. YMIP is well-received by the mining community, who indicate that it makes a difference for some companies when they are deciding on whether to spend exploration dollars in the Yukon.
This year, 77 applications were received by the program's March 1 deadline. Of those, 59 projects were approved. YMIP covered the basic operating expenses of 17 grassroots prospecting projects that searched for new mineral occurrences in the Yukon.
Three grassroots grubstaking projects were approved that provided prospectors with basic operating expenses while they searched for new mineral discoveries in the Yukon.
Thirty-nine target evaluation projects were approved that allowed individuals, partnerships and junior companies to evaluate newly discovered occurrences and prepare them for option or sale.
Although the results from this year's work are not yet in, as the final reports are not due until January 31, 2002, I can summarize the results from the 2000 YMIP funding.
A total of $761,800 was funded; 54 projects were offered funding; 43 programs were carried out and provided a minimum of 1,217 person-days of paid employment. This figure does not include days spent prospecting by applicants in the grassroots module, nor does it include the economic spinoffs to Yukon's contracting or service sectors - positive impacts from things like heavy-equipment rentals and helicopter charters.
It also does not reflect the snowball effect, the one that happens from supporting a successful exploration project that leads to a discovery and future drilling. Real success stories have resulted in 500- to 48,000-percent increases in expenditures over and above the initial YMIP contribution. Overall, it is estimated that in the first year, on average, for every dollar government contributed through this program, the applicant spent another $1.55.
Most importantly, the Yukon mining incentive program in 2000 led to the reporting of 50 new showings or anomalies and the staking of 297 new mineral claims.
This program shows positive proof that it is achieving what it was set out to do - support our Yukon mining industry, thereby opening the door to potential new discoveries in our mineral-rich territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: On behalf of the official opposition, I rise today to respond to this ministerial statement. I want to applaud the minister for his continued support for the program created by the New Democrats in this territory, a program implemented by the New Democrats in this territory. It's important to note, Mr. Speaker, that although the Liberal government is continuing to allocate monies to the program, I think Yukoners really want to know what the uptake was on this program. In other words, how many applicants, how much money was used in the last fiscal year and how many dollars were lapsed from the last fiscal budget.
Secondly, will the minister, when he gets on his feet, please provide the House with any information regarding mines soon to start up in this territory because of this very valued program? It also must be said, Mr. Speaker, that this new Minister of the Department of Economic Development also had another duty, and Yukoners have been waiting with great anticipation to hear from this minister what his plan is to address our economic woes in this territory. What is the minister's plan in dealing with the mess that this department is in thanks to his colleague, the Premier, and her mismanagement of Economic Development in the Yukon Territory? That, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, is what this statement should have been about.
This minister must come forward soon, if not already, and explain to Yukoners how he intends to deal with the economic situation here. I urge the minister to ensure that he receives the required funding for his department, that he ensures that the Department of Economic Development remains in place and remains focused on true economic development for all Yukoners so that we may realize at least a semblance of self-sufficiency in the future.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus, I too am pleased to respond to this ministerial statement on the Yukon mining incentive program.
For the past 15 years, the Yukon mining incentive program has aimed to stimulate and assist the mining industry by providing technical and financial assistance to prospectors. The program has indeed been well-received by the mining community and was an initiative that the previous Yukon Party government supported and committed to, on average, $860,000 for each of the years that it held office. I am therefore pleased to offer our support to this increase in funding and hope that this government maintains that trend.
Having said this, I would appreciate receiving a breakdown of the funds that are being spent on the actual contributions to prospectors for this fiscal period, as well as the amount of money that is being spent on administration. While the minister is on his feet, I would also appreciate knowing how much money was spent on exploration in Yukon over this past season.
As the minister well knows, it is exploration and development that is the true indication of how well our mining industry is doing. Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that when mining does well, Yukon does well. Unfortunately, what we have seen in the last five years is anything but that. While the Yukon should be experiencing economic growth, relative to what we are surrounded by, we are not seeing this.
This Liberal government has literally put the Yukon economy into park. In just their first year and a half in office, this Liberal government has established four parks, with more on the way with the recent tabling of the Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act. The title of this bill is somewhat of a misnomer because it will not create an economy or land certainty in the Yukon Territory. What it certainly will create are more parks.
Clearly, the biggest challenge facing the Yukon Liberal government lies in restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon.
A government cannot restore investor confidence by constantly enclosing mining claims within park boundaries. The NDP government in British Columbia did that and effectively destroyed mining in that province for over a decade. Now we see this Yukon Liberal government hasn't done that not once but four times, Mr. Speaker. Turning the Yukon into a system of interlocking parks is not going to restore that confidence.
Again, I am pleased to offer my support to this particular initiative but would caution the minister when using the phrase "continued support for the mining industry". If support was actually there, perhaps exploration and development in the territory would be at an all-time high, as it was in 1966, when the Yukon Party government held office.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
. . . 1996, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Kent: I am glad the Member for Klondike clarified that remark as I was alive in 1986 and wasn't in 1966.
I welcome the opportunity to respond to the member opposite's remarks with regard to the mining industry. Although mining exploration expenditures in the Yukon are not where we would like them to be, the mining community indicates that YMIP and the introduction of the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit are efforts that are significant factors for some companies when making the decision on whether or not to spend their exploration dollars in the Yukon.
YMIP has been, and is, a mining success story. Some examples of success in 2000 include the following: Kluane Drilling Ltd. drilled two holes on Rob Hamel's hat property, located immediately north of the historic War Eagle pit in the Whitehorse copper belt. Drill holes yielded encouraging deposits of copper, gold and silver. Pamicon Developments Ltd. conducted an extensive soil sampling and mapping program in the Bear Paw area of the Clear Creek property, which is currently under option to Red Star Resources Corporation. This program lead to the core drilling of nine holes, which found gold at many levels.
An extensive drilling program was planned for the 2001 field season on this target. Tanana Exploration identified two main zones of mineralization of their Fox property southwest of Ross River. Detailed prospecting and sampling in the Avalanche Ridge area revealed lead-zinc values in excess of 25 percent.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other examples that I could cite, and as I mentioned in my statement, it is estimated that during the first year of exploration, on average, every dollar contributed through YMIP generates an extra $1.55 in expenditures. I sincerely hope that a YMIP discovery can lead to another staking rush like that witnessed in the Finlayson district in the mid-90s.
In March 2000, the department reviewed projects to determine the return on investment. It found 20 cases in which the initial YMIP contribution resulted in returns on investment of up to 48,000 percent more than they received. Since that time, further expenditures may have also been made.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government renewal process, costs
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. Can the Premier tell the House what she has spent to date trying to sell her so-called renewal process to government employees and to the public and what she expects the final bill to be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am thankful for the opportunity to speak in this House about our restoring confidence in government renewal initiative. As the member opposite knows, renewal is about two key goals: preparing for devolution and improving services to Yukoners. How many days have I spent working on renewal since its announcement in June? I would suggest that a portion of every single day that I have been at work has been spent in one form or another on renewal, in terms of examining options, working with a very hard-working team on this particular subject, and examining various options, including speaking with the public servants.
For precise amounts, the member may wish to know that over 700 public servants have contributed their views. I will have a total for him on the number of public comments and public renewal sheets that have been returned following conclusion of the public discussions this evening.
Mr. Fairclough: I would appreciate having that information.
The government has printed 2,500 copies of the discussion paper and questionnaire. Now, it bought tons of advertising asking people to tell government what it doesn't already know, and it has been holding meetings throughout the territory with, I would say, very little turnout. This is expensive stuff, and renewal has, basically, just started.
The member says that there are a certain number of people who have responded; I think that is a very low number at this point. Certainly there isn't the public demand for renewal that the Premier is leading us to believe that there is.
Will the Premier tell us what specific research tools were used to measure the public desire for rebuilding government before this process was started?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The most vocal of all the research tools was used by the public in indicating a desire for change when they voted on April 17, 2000. We heard over and over and over and over again at the doorstep that Yukoners wanted better delivery of services and that they wanted change. This government has listened to that. We have also listened to over 700 Yukon government and Government of Canada employees who have expressed to us their desire to provide better service delivery to the public. It has been some 20 years since the organization of this government has been examined in any great detail. That is what we have done. In terms of specific research tools, how other governments have done renewal has been examined by our government and I can recommend to the member opposite a number of articles for his review if he wishes to extend, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre has asked for, all-party support for this initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, when the Premier launched this exercise in shuffling deck chairs, she said it was about devolution and improved services to Yukon people. We know that devolution has been delayed again, and the Premier hasn't proven her case that the public was clamouring for improved services. So, we'd like to give the Premier a chance to set the record straight. Will the Premier finally admit that this whole renewal exercise is an attempt to appease a small group of influential friends of the Liberals who wanted to see government downsized and certain government services turned over to the private sector?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I must correct the member opposite. Devolution has not been delayed. The fact is that devolution has been achieved by this government. No other Yukon government did that - no other Yukon government. That is an important fundamental point.
Secondly, renewal is also not only about preparing for devolution; it's about providing better service delivery. It's also about maintaining a skilled workforce and about providing the hard-working public servants in the Government of Yukon - and the Government of Canada, who will be transferred over - a sense of opportunity in the workplace, a sense that their contribution as professional public servants is recognized.
It's also about making government more effective, more accountable for the results - making it easier to do business with government. Time after time, the Yukon public has said that in a variety of ways, some of which form the basis for questions in Question Period from the members opposite and formed the basis for Question Period when I was in opposition.
The fact is that Yukoners who work for the government want the opportunity to provide better service, and Yukoners who use the government, who come to us for one service or another, even a simple issue such as a driver's licence or a moose hunting licence, want it to be easier to do business with us. That's what renewal is about, and I do encourage the member opposite to attend the renewal public meeting tonight in this building and listen to what the public has to say, as I will be doing.
Question re: Education Act review
Mrs. Peter: My question today is for the Minister of Education. Today I don't need the minister to tell me that I am wrong, and I sure don't need a lecture. All I need today from the minister are some answers. Yesterday the minister tabled Bill No. 47, called the Education Staff Relations Act. This appears to be the implementation of recommendation 140 in the draft document of the review committee, which proposes moving sections 170 to 194 of part 9 and part 10 of the Education Act into separate legislation. Bill No. 47 appears to do just that.
Why has the minister implemented one of the recommendations from the Education Act review draft document while refusing another when the process has not yet been completed?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I ask the House's indulgence while I introduce Chief Hager in the gallery.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: To answer the member opposite's question, the fact of the matter is that very early on in the process, it was recommended and suggested by the steering committee that attention be paid to sections 9 and 10 of the Education Act review with respect to addressing the teachers' aspects of the act, feeling that the employment should be removed and placed in a stand-alone piece of legislation. So it was a recommendation and suggestion that came out from the steering committee long before the draft recommendations came out, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, there are six other draft recommendations regarding part 10 of the Education Act. Either the minister has decided not to implement the other recommendations or the legislation will have to be amended following completion of the process. So what is the minister's next step?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, the next step is to wait for the final recommendations to be supplied to caucus and Cabinet from the Education Act Review Steering Committee on November 15.
Mrs. Peter: The Education Act review process has included a series of events that bring the entire process into question. This is yet another event that raises the question of how fair this process is, and whether there is in fact any part of this process that is legitimate. There has been repeated political interference in this process.
Since the minister has decided that the process is irrelevant, will the minister share with the Yukon public the changes to the Education Act that we can expect to see?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I did hear the member opposite in her first question suggest that I am not to lecture or remind her that she is wrong. Unfortunately, I have to advise the member opposite that she is wrong, that we are following through on the process that was established by the previous government. We are respecting the process that was established by the previous government in structuring the committee and allowing the committee, for two and a half years now, to forward its recommendations, following full consultations throughout the whole of the territory in a total group capacity, meaning that at no time was any partner of the group not present when the group was meeting with individuals in the territory.
So the member opposite is quite wrong, Mr. Speaker. I am respecting the process, and the process is that they will supply final recommendations on November 15, and caucus and Cabinet will review them seriously.
Question re: Devolution
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. A successful - I misspoke once again, Mr. Speaker. It's not a successful federal Liberal government; it's that successive Liberal governments in Ottawa have taken the position that the Government of the Yukon is not entitled to own Yukon land and resources until it attains provincehood, which, under Canada's Constitution, is virtually impossible to achieve should Yukoners ever want to go that route.
Now, previous Yukon Party governments argued long and hard that Yukon could and should own and control Yukon land and resources in the territory without having to become a province. The Yukon Party also has argued that the Yukon's offshore boundary in the Beaufort Sea should be recognized in law, just the same as with the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Can the Premier advise the House if the devolution agreement that she announced on September 25 includes the ownership of Yukon lands and recognition of our northern offshore boundary with the Northwest Territories, or does it just stick the Yukon with the environmental liability for managing federal lands?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was quite correct in his reference to successful Liberal governments, and I thank him for recognizing that.
With respect to the devolution transfer agreement, Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite mentioned, it was publicly announced on September 25 that negotiators had initialled an agreement. The process from there is for that initialled agreement to be approved by the principals. As the member opposite knows, the details with respect to the devolution transfer agreement - the members of the opposition have been offered detailed briefings as the negotiations progressed, and they have not availed themselves of a most recent opportunity.
I can advise the member opposite that, once the Yukon Act has been tabled in the House of Commons, I will certainly provide a full ministerial statement to this House and, should the members wish in the interim for a briefing following up on what they have had already, we'd be more than happy to provide it.
Mr. Jenkins: The Premier has stated that April 1, 2003, is the transfer date. It is not a delay; it is merely an effective implementation date we put forward in recognition that the land claims mandate runs out at the end of March, on March 31. Can the Premier explain why she has reversed her stance and adopted the Yukon Party's position that land claims should precede devolution when she was saying the opposite in the 2000 territorial election campaign? Is she now agreeing with the Yukon Party's position? Has she got the cart before the horse or the horse before the cart? Which way is it, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite, no, I don't agree with his party or his party position. The Yukon government, the federal government, Council of Yukon First Nations and individual First Nation negotiators, in negotiating the devolution transfer agreement, agreed on an implementation date of April 1, 2003, and that is part of the negotiated agreement that was initialled and sent to the principals for discussion. Again, I would offer the member opposite a full and complete briefing, as we have offered several times in the past, on the specifics surrounding the devolution transfer agreement when it was under negotiation. We would be pleased to provide that to the members opposite should they wish to avail themselves of it.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Premier stated that the devolution agreement has been finalized. Can she explain why it hasn't been released? Is she ashamed of it? What is she hiding? There has to be something. Or has she sold out the Yukon and she just wants to bury this document until everything is done? This is a very important document. Why can it not be released at this juncture? Why is the Premier ashamed to release it now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the work that this government has done in our first 17 months in office, and I'm very pleased with the work of the negotiators in initialling the devolution transfer agreement.
The member perhaps is not aware, although I have stated it and it has been stated publicly, that the devolution transfer agreement then goes on to the principals to be approved; therefore, it's subject to Government of Canada approval. A Government of Canada Cabinet document is a secret document and it is not mine to table in this Legislature. The Yukon Act contains the devolution transfer agreement. Once the Yukon Act has been tabled in the House of Commons, I will be more than happy to table it in this Legislature as well - file it for information, not table it for debate.
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the open and accountable Health minister.
Mr. Speaker, we know that government has an obligation - both a legal obligation and a moral obligation - to provide a standard of care, facilities and service, before allowing private sector involvement. That's a given. We know that.
Now, in response to a question about user fees yesterday, the minister did state that fundraising can give the community ownership of the CT scanner.
So, today, I would like the minister to set the record straight. I would like to ask the minister to make a commitment not to implement a program of user fees for medical services.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I appreciate being able to have this opportunity to clarify the facts. Our government believes in a one-tier health care system, Mr. Speaker, and we have made this very clear right from the beginning. We follow the laws outlined in the Canada Health Act very clearly.
Let me be very clear: this government will not be introducing user fees, Mr. Speaker. I have said that over and over again. We continue to look at alternative ways within the law to maintain quality health care for Yukoners, and we will continue that because we know the system needs an overhaul.
Mr. Keenan: What we have here is another classic case of the flip-flop, and I expect that these flip-flops are going to continue every day.
Mr. Speaker, let me read a quote from the minister in the Yukon News on September 21: "What I'm being told is maybe it shouldn't be free. Maybe there should be user fees." That's a direct quote from this minister. Another quote from this minister, from just last week, in response to a question from the CBC about what the status of privatization is: "Well, as far as we're concerned, we're moving ahead with what we believe is the way to go at this point. We're probably a bit ahead of our time. I'd say we're not finished investigating, and we're not going to stop there." Well, Mr. Speaker, I could go on, but I think that says enough.
I'd like to ask this minister right now: what instructions has the minister given to our representative on the Romanow commission on this very point?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I'm so pleased that the members opposite believe everything they read in the paper. I'm so pleased. At least they have disciples who follow the truth as they print it - very good. It's rather interesting that when they were in government, they didn't have those same thoughts.
I will take this opportunity to clear up the facts again. As I said earlier, this government believes in a one-tier health care system. We follow the laws, as I have said very clearly. We do not and will not introduce user fees, and we will continue to look at alternate ways.
Now, the member sitting to my left here is working with the Romanow commission. She's looking very closely at where health care is going in the future. She is bringing to that table some of our concerns. We are a very small jurisdiction; we have a lot of unique needs and have a lot of increasing costs. So, hopefully, the information that will come from the Yukon and the north will help the Romanow commission look at the overall picture of how health care is delivered in Canada, because it can't be the same in Yukon as it is in downtown Vancouver. So that's why it's very important to have that kind of input.
I'm very supportive of my colleague here. She's doing a very fine job. She has just returned from a meeting with Mr. Romanow and his crew, and she will probably, by the end of January, have some type of report out - a preliminary draft - as to where it might end up.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have just one more follow-up question, if I may, at this point in time. Again, I'd like to read a quote from the minister here, Mr. Speaker, ferreted out by the fine media of the Yukon Territory. "Switching to a private model that needed to be evaluated behind closed doors. As long as it's in the budget, as long as it's in the public eye, it's difficult to change the direction it was going." Another direct quote on October 19 by this minister.
Well, yesterday, I asked the minister if the minister knew the principles of the Canada Health Act. Now, the minister has had time to review those five principles. I'd like to ask this minister just which one of those principles it is that this minister wishes to contravene first.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Well, the member opposite and the Yukon public, the facts are that we, again, believe in a one-tier health care system, Mr. Speaker. We've always said that.
Interestingly enough, when the member opposite talks about reading quotes from the paper, we must never change our view about how health care is delivered now. That's the way it is from the beginning to the end. The member opposite constantly believes that that's what health care is all about. That's why we're in trouble, Mr. Speaker. We need to look at our health care system. We need to challenge what our health care system is doing, and it's very important, Mr. Speaker, that that be done in an open and public way.
There are some things, obviously - and if the member opposite is referring to the CT scanner, obviously, if the homework had been done way before this was put on the budget, we wouldn't have gotten into that discussion, because the public debate didn't take place before it was put in there. It took place after, because some very serious questions were being asked.
Mr. Speaker, if we had gone ahead with that one-slice, two-slice CT scanner, we would have ended up, in two or three years' time, buying another one. So, by doing our homework, we're at least going to get a state-of-the-art CT scanner.
For the member opposite, I'm going to give him the five principles with the definitions. I think he needs to have these for his -
Speaker: Order please, I must ask the minister to conclude his answer.
Question re: Alaska Highway reconstruction at Marsh Lake
Mr. McRobb: What a Gong Show that was.
Now, many Yukoners and other travellers of the Alaska Highway south, along Marsh Lake, have noticed that the road surfacing is falling apart, causing a legitimate safety concern. The Yukon government just resurfaced this 9.1-kilometre section of road that extends from Army Beach to M'Clintock Place at a cost to the taxpayers of three-quarters of a million dollars. Can the Minister of Community and Transportation Services indicate whether this contract was completed to her satisfaction?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Indeed, the contract has been completed. As the member opposite is well aware, there has been some potholing. People are used to driving on a paved surface and, the last many years, it has been a very rough and broken up paved surface. Now they are driving on a chipseal surface, and that is a difference that many of them have noticed.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, that doesn't satisfy the public concern that this party has picked up on. Obviously the government is not listening.
Is the minister not aware of the public concern about this road section? I am not talking about the difference between chipseal and pavement - it is obvious that there are complaints about the road section falling apart and causing a safety concern. Is she not aware of this public concern, and just what is she prepared to do about it?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Of course I am aware of the concern. My office has received several calls and, since the late 1980s, the department has developed a strategic long-term pavement management system to ensure that our pavements are maintained in reasonable and safe condition. This section in the Marsh Lake area was reshaped and surfaced with BST, which does not provide as smooth a ride as asphalt; however, it is easier to repair with local maintenance forces, and it provides better traction in winter. BST was approximately half the cost of the asphalt.
We are waiting to see if that section holds its shape before we make a decision on paving it. Paving it is the ultimate goal.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the minister says raises all kinds of questions and additional concerns. For instance, if it deserves pavement, why was three-quarters of a million dollars spent on BST that obviously isn't holding up?
To cut to the chase, Mr. Speaker - and I'd like an exact answer from the minister - can she tell us whether she plans to redeploy this model for additional highways work expected in the near future?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I believe the member's asking whether we're going to BST rather than pave other sections. We have concerns about this particular section, as I have said, with settling and we want to see that the reshaped road surface is going to hold its shape before we pave it. Decisions like this are made based on the individual section of road.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to follow up with some questions to the minister responsible for Government Services.
Yesterday, the minister - and I want to thank the minister for his very succinct answer - answered in the affirmative that he supports wholeheartedly his department's program objectives when it comes to tendering government contracts.
I want to ask the minister today if that also applies to all the other ministers in his government. Does he ensure that they adhere to those program objectives? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, this is day three on this subject, and we know where the members opposite are coming from. Again, I will respond to this question as the Minister of Education, because I do believe that it is reflecting on a question that has been posed in the House a couple of times earlier, and the contracting question is with respect to the Department of Education and its administration of it.
I will again repeat the answers that I have given to the members opposite. It's probably most appropriate that this House stick with the facts; that the Member for Whitehorse West did not talk to anyone about any contracts, Mr. Speaker; that the Member for Whitehorse West, as a matter of fact being a former worker, talked to his former colleagues and was just listening to what his colleagues had to say with possible options and increasing efficiencies within this government.
The Member for Whitehorse West was simply doing his job, but the members opposite just can't seem to appreciate that.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this is starting to become quite a concerning issue in this House. Why is the minister responsible for contract services and contract administration not answering these questions? It is that minister, by the law, who is accountable for this department and its programs. I am to assume now that we have the minister of damage control on his feet trying to cover up something here, and it is the members opposite who are leaving the perception that they have something to hide and are proving that they are a government that simply cannot be trusted to do the right thing. Now, let me ask this minister of damage control this: why then did the Member for Whitehorse West, a member of this government, attend a meeting, discussing, in their own words, the need to cut costs, not from inside government but from outside government, which resulted in a request of reducing employees' wages so that a company could lower its bid? Why then did other potential bidders not receive the same courtesy and opportunity from this government to ensure that this government honoured the program objectives of his colleague, the Minister of Government Services?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, first and foremost, the member opposite is wrong. I am not the minister of damage control. I am the Minister of Education, and the busing contract was specific to the Department of Education. That is a fact that the member opposite should be aware of. So I am dealing with the questions that are specific to the contract in question and a member's actions relative - or, as the members opposite have tried to indicate, effected by the member's actions as well. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Whitehorse West was simply doing his job, talking to people in the community, talking to some of his former colleagues before the tender was let and before the tender was even considered. At that time, the member was only looking for efficiencies in assisting this government to be fiscally responsible and in the administration of finance. So that is exactly what the member was doing. He was doing his job.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this minister, obviously a rogue minister who does not follow Government Services' program objectives for tendering government contracts, has a problem here. Mr. Speaker, when questioned yesterday about this very matter, this minister stood on his feet, and I will quote, in answering a question in regard to what took place during this meeting, this minister of damage control said -
Speaker: Order please. I must remind the members that in this House it's customary that members should be referred to by their electoral district, and in the case of ministers, by their portfolios. The Assembly is not an amateur hour, and I would request that the members try to be a little more respectful in their addresses.
I remind the members further, regarding questions in Question Period, that for supplementary questions you're normally allowed one sentence for the supplementary and then ask the question. With that, before we close Question Period, I'd ask the member to please complete his supplementary question and have the minister answer it.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Education, who is now attempting damage control in this matter, answered a question, "He spoke upon the instruction, upon what we were all doing at the time - finding efficiencies, Mr. Speaker" , and that also related to cutting costs outside government.
Will the minister now answer this question: who instructed the Member for Whitehorse West to attend this meeting, and were any other instructions given to attend meetings with other potential bidders of this government contract?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not too surprised at the member's scrutinizing Hansard yesterday. The fact of the matter is that it was a general instruction. All caucus members and ministers within the government were to seek efficiencies within their respective departments, and that the caucus as a whole talk and listen to Yukoners to find ways that we can more efficiently provide services to the public at large.
Just for further clarification - because I know the members opposite will again scrutinize Hansard - or someone in their office will - to pick up misquotes, or however they interpret things on that side of the House - the issue is that the Minister of Government Services administers contracts within government, and this is a contract that is administered by the Department of Education. Just for clarification and the information of the members opposite, this is how this works.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private members' business
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition, to be called on Wednesday, October 24, 2001. They are Motion No. 141, standing in the name of the Member for Watson Lake, and Motion No. 143, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane.
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the third party, to be called on Wednesday, October 24, 2001. It is Motion No. 13.
Unanimous consent re: withdrawal of motions from Order Paper
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, based upon an agreement of all members, in whose names certain motions are standing on the Order Paper, and on agreement between the House leaders, I would request unanimous consent to have the following motions withdrawn from the Order Paper. They are motions other than government motions nos. 4, 6, 8, 15, 16, 34, 41, 45, 53, 62, 69, 70, 73, 74, 77, 81, 86, 94, 105, 110, 116, 119, 120, 125, 126, 129, 130, 134 and 135.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted. I would ask the Clerk to make the changes to the Order Paper, as directed by the House.
Notice to call motion re Committee reports
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice, pursuant to Standing Order 13(3) that the motion for concurrence with the second report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges shall be called as government-designated business.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 8: Second Reading - adjourned debate
Mr. Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 8, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Speaker: I was recently reminded that, from yesterday, according to my watch, there are 32 minutes, 27 seconds left, starting now.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I left off yesterday giving examples of how the Liberals are breaking their campaign promises and are now ashamed to say "We will do what we said we would do" because it should more accurately read that "We will do whatever we want to do, regardless of what we said to get elected."
I mentioned how the Liberals have failed to produce a five-year budget plan. This demonstrates that they can't live up to their own expectations. They chastised the previous government and then declared they would do it at the beginning of their mandate, not at the end. But it's too late now, Mr. Speaker.
For the Liberals, this is a lost opportunity and another broken promise.
Speaking of false expectations, Mr. Speaker, what about the Premier's criticism of the deficit budget tabled before the last election call. If anybody would like to see exactly what she said, you're invited to visit the on-line Hansard from February 22, 2000.
But what has her government done? You guessed it. It has tabled two consecutive deficit budgets and, with the record spending in this capital budget, the next one is sure to be the third deficit budget in a row.
You know, Mr. Speaker, my mother always said, "Don't criticize somebody unless you are prepared to do better yourself." Well, the Premier and her colleagues should heed those words, because they could stand to learn something.
Can Yukoners trust this government? No. This Liberal government will do whatever is politically expedient. They look out for themselves and their backroom friends - certainly not the interests of ordinary Yukoners nor the future of the territory itself.
Can Yukoners depend on them to be consulted on matters of importance? Absolutely not. But they have this "they know best" attitude - the "government knows best" attitude.
Where was the public consultation for this capital budget that has been tabled in this sitting?
Look at their failure to consult about the territory's spending priorities.
Did the Premier ask Yukoners if they wanted another school in Riverdale? No. But people will get one, whether they need it or not, thanks to pork-barrel politics by the Member for Riverdale North and the Member for Riverdale South. Did the Liberals ask Yukoners what they would like to see instead? No. How can this government believe for a moment this budget is the best way to spend the public's money when they didn't give the people a chance to express themselves?
Did the Liberals stimulate public discussion about the community development fund before they slashed it in half one more time? No. This popular program is now only one quarter of its former size. Did the Liberals ask Yukoners if they felt the territory should do more to guard against forest fires? No. Even though I called upon them to take action to protect Yukon lives, property and resources from this threat, the Liberals took no initiative whatsoever.
Shame on them. Can Yukoners rest assured they had fair opportunity to give their input to this budget? No. I want to discuss this a bit, Mr. Speaker, because our citizens were not even told there was an opportunity to give their input into this budget. No public meetings were held.
I see some members shaking their heads, but I challenge them, Mr. Speaker, to table even one public notice of a public meeting for this capital budget. I challenge them. Now, it is a fact the public was not told that there is a budget surplus of $100 million. Instead, the public heard excuses from these Liberals about how the Yukon government couldn't respond to their needs. These circumstances have resulted in an unfair process void of public input.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I have in my hand a pamphlet sent out earlier this year by the Liberal government for this sham of a public consultation process it held before the mains budget was delivered. You'll recall that this consultation process occurred after the budget had already been set. It was simply too little, too late. We all know the budgeting process requires lead time, and the Liberals conveniently orchestrated this consultation to be too late for that process. Anyway, looking at this brochure reminds me of all the excuses the Liberals gave about how the budget surplus was going to be very small. They used that as an excuse to deny Yukoners projects and programs they had suggested. I see one line in the centre of the pamphlet that stands out from the rest. It says, "We cannot continue spending money at the current rate".
Mr. Speaker, what a stunning and ironic statement that is. The budget mains for this current year was increased substantially through supplementary budgets now tabled, to bring the total spending to almost $600 million for this budget year. The government spent tens of millions of dollars on itself, not responding to the public wishes, and I say, "Shame on them." They did not let the public know the true state of the territory's finances before accepting their input. They did not create a new opportunity this fall to accept public input. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in reviewing this whole matter, one can see that the input they did receive, some half a year or more ago, was all under a false budget forecast that the Liberals tried to build the perception around - that the territory was simply broke.
We know now, Mr. Speaker, with a $100-million surplus, the Liberals were way out on their forecast. In fact, our party, the official opposition, was very accurate in predicting what the budget surplus would be for the beginning of this year and, in fact, underestimated it again, just as we had said it would probably be in the last sitting.
So, Mr. Speaker, this budget process the Liberals said they undertook was a sham. They paid the public only lip service and, to make matters worse, the Liberals have the gumption to have us believe their budget was developed through extensive public consultation. How ironic.
Mr. Speaker, I submit that is not doing it better.
I submit the NDP did it right with a thorough public consultation process, advertised in advance and brought to every community, every First Nation, every municipality - not in the backrooms. The Liberals are doing it wrong. That is not doing it better; it's another broken promise by this Liberal government.
I want to briefly turn to the Premier's budget speech and just put on the record how I thought this government demonstrated that it cannot resist stooping to attacking those who, it was thought, had no opportunity to respond, by trying to include in the budget speech very provocative and aggressive lines, such as the opposition parties don't approve of the pipeline. That's rubbish, absolute rubbish. It's political spin of the worst kind from a government that is scared to govern and has no leadership. It has to try to fabricate messages, misstating the positions of the opposition parties. I say shame on them.
But moreover, these Liberals simply don't know how to be responsible with the territory's finances. When in opposition, the Premier didn't know how to even read a budget book.
Look at what she said about deficit budgets, from that February Hansard, about how the Liberal Party believed in a balanced budget, not a deficit budget. Those lines were repeated in the media, they were repeated in a speech to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, so it was no accident, it was no slip of the tongue. This showed a firm belief by the now Premier, only one and a half years ago, that the Yukon government should not run a deficit budget.
And this belief was highlighted and positioned up front in her budget reply speech from that day in February last year, and the now Premier made a big deal about it. Well, what have they done themselves? The exact opposite. What was good enough for them in opposition, Mr. Speaker, is now suddenly not good enough for them in government. They are not doing what they said they would do. This government is snow-blind on the territory's financial position.
Just look at the inaccurate budget forecasting and the inaccurate understanding that they have of the territory's budget. They don't even understand how to consult the public on the budget, even though the previous government set out a very good example for how to do that. Even though members of the former government, now opposition, have described how the budget public consultation worked - I recall doing that in the first sitting after the election and also inviting the government to give me a call when they are having their meetings. I would like to attend. Has there ever been a call? No. Why? Because this government feels it knows best and it doesn't want to hear from anybody else. It wants to hear from its backroom friends - end of story.
One more example of their complete lack of understanding of budget process and fiscal responsibility and financial position of the territory was really driven home earlier this year. If you recall, back in January, this government nixed the proposal from the Call of the Wild series. This is a children's television series based on Jack London's novel.
The set is in the Yukon. The proponents behind this series propose to bring the set to the territory. The financial figures publicized at the time indicated this project would increase the territorial economy between $50 million and $100 million over a five-year period, producing more than 100 jobs.
Mr. Speaker, you will recall how we, on this side of the House, pursued this matter in Question Period and Committee, trying whatever we could to bring the Tourism minister around to understanding the importance of such a venture, the need to support an emerging industry such as the film industry in the territory, yet she and her colleagues said no.
Mr. Speaker, less than two months later, we found out why they said no. In Committee debate on the Tourism budget, the Minister of Tourism said that, back in January, the government thought it was broke. Now, for the rest of the story, the Auditor General says, at the end of last year, this government had $100 million. One hundred million dollars, yet they believed they were broke. Doesn't this government understand how to read a budget? Doesn't it know how to keep track of the territory's finances? Doesn't it understand how to read variance reports from the various months? Why didn't the Liberals call for the January variance from the budget, see how much money was in the bank, check the trend and understand there would be a huge surplus, and then make the right decision?
This program that was set up by the previous government that allows film companies to take advantage is merely standard in other parts of the country.
The producers behind this series were not asking for anything other than that. All the government had to do was increase the funds available for that particular program, just like it has slashed program funds for other things. Mr. Speaker, it's got the ability to take out the pen and readjust the numbers, and we on this side of the House made it clear we were prepared to support that, yet the Liberals said no. So the territory missed a golden opportunity, and that's a shame. It's a shame because the price this territory has paid so far while this novice Liberal government tries to learn is very regrettable to the present position, not to mention the future development of the territory. Very regrettable indeed.
Mr. Speaker, I might be prepared to soften my outlook on that if I saw reason to believe things were improving. However, after being back in this Legislature a couple of days now and watching the members of this government respond in Question Period and on other occasions, I think things are getting worse, not better.
Mr. Speaker, there's a belief out there that this government is deliberately providing inaccurate information in order to build up a war chest for the next election. They have money squirreled away here and there. They won't reveal where. It's very hard to detect, but I believe it's being used for political purposes. What other possible reason is there? And that's a shame. That's not what good government is all about. That's not what serving the public interest is all about.
These Liberals are focused on one thing and one thing only, and that is to try to save their own political skins by winning the next election. Let's make no bones about it.
That's their number one priority.
Now, Mr. Speaker, my concerns aside, I would like to indicate my support for some items in the budget that I believe are good. One of them is continuing some programs and projects created and supported by the previous government, such as road reconstruction, the Correctional Centre in Whitehorse, maintaining programs like fire smart, community development fund, a.k.a. Project Yukon - even in a reduced form, at least it's still there - and, as recently alluded to, the film incentive program.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I believe that moving up the budget to the fall also deserves merit, although the government has been very reticent to speak about the downsides of doing so. Obviously, they are more interested in spinning their positive yarn about this and many other matters, rather than getting down to the facts of any issue.
Mr. Speaker, there are some not-so-good things - some bad things, if you will. Cancelled programs like the trade and investment fund show no sign of being revived by this Liberal government. This is the very fund that helped to develop Yukon industry, helped to increase exports from the territory, and helped to diversify our economy. A few things that I can recall off the top of my head are the plant food business in Faro, the Chilkoot beer business in Whitehorse, and the Peters Drury Trio also benefited from this program, and there were several other examples. Well, the Liberals cancelled this program. Apparently, for some silly belief, there should be a level playing field.
Well, this Liberal government does not understand that a government has a role and a responsibility to kick-start the economy, to encourage businesses to get started and encourage businesses to maintain their existence and expand their outlook into other markets. So I say shame on them for cancelling the trade and investment fund. Now, I know that I am not alone in that - I hear it out there from a lot of people.
The tourism marketing fund is another example. This popular program provided business people, tourism operators, with small but important amounts of money for trade shows, for marketing, for Web sites - whatever - in order to increase the visitation to their operations and facilities in the Yukon. It was a very worthwhile program - another cancellation by this Liberal government. Shame on them again.
I also want to put in here the reduction of the community development fund - the three R treatment, if you will, which was review, reduce and repackage - is shameful. It goes against the desires of Yukoners. I know that, in rural Yukon, this program was very important. I know in some communities, when asked what their budget priorities were, the response was, "continued funding from the community development fund." That was the single priority, yet what does this Liberal government do? They cut it in half, and then this year, they cut it in half again for next year. Shame on them, Mr. Speaker, shame on them.
We will be watching the approved projects very carefully, and we will see how many of the projects go into the Liberal ridings. Maybe really what they did was cut out the riding proposals for the opposition parties. This certainly deserves and warrants some scrutiny.
Now, in that my riding is in the Kluane region, which extends from the border of the City of Whitehorse to the border of Alaska, both on the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road, I want to discuss what this budget does or, more properly said, doesn't do for Kluane.
Well, off the start, I did an analysis of the capital budget, and it's clear that the Liberal versus NDP budget for the Kluane riding is less than 70 percent. That means that funding for the Kluane area has dropped substantially since the NDP's last budget. Now, I have a proviso on that I'll get to in a moment. The capital budget for Haines Junction, Liberal versus NDP budget, is 23.2 percent, or less than one quarter of what the NDP provided for that community. Last year, it was 24.23 percent so, in fact, the amount provided by this government for Haines Junction is declining. This is unbelievable.
Now, to the provisos, Mr. Speaker. This excludes three things: number one, highway spending. The reason for excluding highway spending is for the very reasons given by the Liberals in opposition, and that was highway spending shouldn't be lumped in to communities miles away. The Premier said this when in opposition.
So, Mr. Speaker, my analysis is merely done in a way consistent with that platform.
Secondly, it excludes the business incentive program, or BIP, because, for the first time ever, we see BIP allocations worked somehow into the community budget. This is bogus. That's not the way to do it. It artificially inflates financial allocations to our communities, and it's very misleading to Yukoners to believe that number when the BIP is put in there.
Finally, the recoverables are not deducted from the community budget. Shame on them. In the handout that we were provided and the community breakdowns, there was no deduction for recoverables. This is inconsistent with past practice. Why have the Liberals decided to do this? Obviously, Mr. Speaker, it inflates the amount of money really going into the communities because it doesn't include what the government gets back for land development and other things. It artificially inflates what this government is doing for rural Yukon.
Why would they possibly do that, Mr. Speaker? There's only one answer, and that's because this government wants people in the community to believe that this government is responding to rural Yukoners, but they are not. Those factors lead me to be quite critical of what this government is doing in my riding - less than one-quarter of the expenditures in the NDP's final budget, which was an election budget - shame on them.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I wonder about this year's budget, the one that was only less than a quarter of the NDP's budget. Where did the money possibly go? Now, looking around Haines Junction, I see new pavement in the Government Services building parking lot, and I see some renovations in the James Smith Administration Building. But lo and behold, guess what? The money for renovations was in the NDP's government budget, the campaign budget; however, those monies were never spent.
They were revoted, Mr. Speaker, so the Liberals took credit for them when, in fact, it was in a budget they committed to passing in its entirety. Shame on them. I know that project was in the neighbourhood of $185,000, so my figure of less than 25-percent spending in Haines Junction for the last year of the NDP's budget doesn't even exclude that. If you exclude that, there would be virtually no money spent in Haines Junction by this government, and that's shameful. Yet this government has the audacity to travel up to Haines Junction and hold one of its staff meetings there and try to tell everybody what a good job it's doing. But did it reveal to the community of Haines Junction what I have just revealed? You can bet your life, Mr. Speaker, it didn't, and it didn't because it doesn't want Yukoners to know the truth. It wants people to believe the political spin that continues to yarn away in the backroom office of this government. That's where the directions come from, Mr. Speaker - the backroom office. They don't come from the town hall, produced by perhaps a community budget meeting; they come from the backroom, and that's where the Cabinet and caucus members get their marching orders from as well. That is quite apparent to us here in opposition.
Now, Mr. Speaker, what about some of the priorities I know this government has heard about from my constituents? What about telephones? I was at one of those too-little-too-late budget meetings held last winter at the end of January, led by the backbencher from Whitehorse Centre, and I specifically recall one of the priorities from the public was the need for telephones in some areas that currently weren't served.
Well, is there something in this budget to help these people get connected to this lifeline service? No - absolutely not.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I'm going to jump to some other general comments. Where is mention of the top Liberal priorities in the budget speech? They talk about land claims, DAP, YPAS and the change in attitude. Mr. Speaker, the Liberals said they'd have all land claims settled by last January. What a joke. The federal government even said before the Liberals were elected that they were prepared to move on the two outstanding issues on land claims. Well, what's happening? Is the Yukon government dragging this out? What about DAP? We don't hear much about DAP any more. And look at YPAS. The Liberals have failed to make any on-the-ground progress. The only thing they have achieved is delaying that type of action.
And what about attitude, Mr. Speaker? Well, we have seen a change in attitude, all right. More people are leaving, and the territory's population has plummeted below the 30,000 red line, and that is shameful. What about progress and promises? The Premier said her government would fulfill the 122 campaign commitments, which they costed at only $4.2 million. Why aren't they in the budget? The Liberals have spent about $1.5 billion with this capital budget. Where is their conviction? Mr. Speaker, they are not doing what they said they would do.
What about government renewal? Mr. Speaker, this is just an excuse to politicize the public service and purge the workforce. What about these 700 jobs they promised? How many of these exist now, Mr. Speaker? Does that ring a bell? Do you remember the reason why this Liberal government rejected the NDP supplementary brought in about a year ago? They said it was because they were only short-term jobs.
Speaker: Order please. The member's time is expired.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I rise with pleasure today to express my support for the 2002-03 capital budget. This budget represents another sound step in my government's work to rebuild the Yukon economy and to restore confidence in government.
Before I go any further, I would like to dispel the myth that the opposition has been trying to create over the last few days. This is the myth that we have not consulted with Yukoners on this budget. As my colleague from Faro pointed out yesterday, members of our caucus spent over 200 days travelling to communities across the Yukon during the summer. Before the budget last spring, I was honoured to take part in the budget consultation on the north highway, talking to people in Haines Junction, Destruction Bay, Burwash and Beaver Creek. Since last spring's budget, I have enjoyed talking with Yukoners in Whitehorse, Watson Lake, Teslin, Dawson, Haines Junction, Carmacks and Ross River.
Listening to the people in the Yukon is not just a two-day drive down the highway with a budget consultation flag on the car; it is an ongoing part of the job of government, a part of the job that I personally find most rewarding. The reward is in listening to people's concerns and issues and trying to find a way to solve their problems.
Last month I was able to make the trip to Ross River. I heard concerns about their long-neglected recreation facilities. I am pleased that my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, has provided $180,000 in next year's capital budget to begin to address the concerns in Ross River.
The projections for the following two years include another $1.3 million for the blue building in Ross River. Mr. Speaker, this budget is full of good projects that will create work today while improving the quality of life for Yukoners and providing an improved foundation for economic development.
This budget is an investment in our future - our economic future and our future quality of life. The increased funding provided by my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline and in mining programs and geological surveys, will pay dividends today and into the future.
The $40 million that my colleague, the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, is investing in transportation infrastructure will stimulate the economy while making driving safer for Yukoners and increasing the economical potential of the territory.
A large portion of the highway funding - about $7 million - will go toward improving the roads between Champagne and Haines Junction. When the caucus visited Haines Junction earlier this fall, I heard how jobs were plentiful this year. Thanks to this investment, the people of Haines Junction can look forward to another busy year.
Earlier on during this sitting, I also heard how the Member for Kluane states that the conditions of the chipseal on the roads is causing a safety concern. Causing a safety concern? Let's talk about safety concerns. Where was the previous government when mishaps after mishaps occurred on the Haines Junction corner? Where was the Member for Kluane with the Member for Kluane's list of safety concerns? Where was the capital funding from the previous government for the Champagne corner? Again: where was the Member for Kluane with the list full of safety concerns?
The fact, Mr. Speaker, is the list of safety concerns was in the bottom of the bag. Now, this government went out and met with the communities and listened to the Yukoners on their concerns. Be it safety, be it necessity or be innovative, this government listened.
Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane should be thanking this government for the very things the member could not achieve. Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane should be thanking this government for making roads a safer place for motorists and for people of the Yukon, such as the family from Champagne, who were probably tired of the numerous vehicles that they have pulled out of their buildings because of these motorists on the Champagne corner. The Member for Kluane should be thanking this government.
In addition to the jobs across the territory that this budget will create, there are more specific benefits. I want to focus for a few minutes on some of the initiatives in this budget that most directly impact the constituents in my riding of McIntyre-Takhini.
The students that attend Takhini Elementary School, and their parents, will be pleased to see that the Minister of Education has included money in his budget to replace the heating system in the Takhini Elementary School. Last spring, I heard first-hand the passion that people have for the Takhini Elementary School, and I know that they will be pleased that we will be making their school a more comfortable environment for children to learn.
The Members of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation are a big part of the McIntyre-Takhini riding. As part of negotiating a comprehensive land claims agreement with Kwanlin Dun, my colleague, the Minister of Tourism, will be providing $1.2 million to a cultural centre, which will increase cultural tourism and economic development opportunities.
Of this money, $200,000 will be available for planning as soon as all parties agree on an appropriate site, with the remainder available at a later date.
The Whitehorse multiplex is a facility that will benefit everybody in Whitehorse. Indeed, I expect many of the people from the communities across the Yukon will have an opportunity to enjoy the facilities that are just beginning to be built. While many people will have the use of the multiplex, the people of McIntyre-Takhini are most conveniently situated to take advantage of the opportunities it will present. This budget contributes $1 million this year, with similar amounts in the coming years.
Mr. Speaker, while the expenditures that are part of this budget will be welcome, providing good government is about more than just spending money. I am proud to be part of a government that is tackling some tough issues - for instance, devolution. Bringing control of our natural resources back to Yukoners has been a target of successive governments for years. Time and time again, the difficult negotiations have forced previous governments to push back the target dates and set new goals.
This government has completed negotiations on behalf of Yukoners. The deal has been initialled by representatives on behalf of the federal, territorial and First Nations governments. The implementation date of April 1, 2003, is no longer just a target or a goal. It's fast and vastly becoming a reality.
The Yukon Act will be tabled in the House of Commons in Ottawa this fall. On April 1, 2003, the Yukon government and Yukoners will have full control of our lands, forests and mineral resources. This will bring with it new challenges, but we welcome the challenges. This government has never been afraid of being accountable.
In preparation for devolution and to provide better services to the citizens of the Yukon, this government has undertaken a process called renewal. This look at the way the government delivers services and programs is long overdue. I am confident that the results of renewal will be improved accountability and services to Yukon people, more efficient use of government and taxpayer resources, and a more attractive working environment for our professional public servants.
Another difficult challenge that this government is taking on is the Yukon protected areas strategy. While some people would have development with no consideration for the environment, there are others who would protect lands without regard for the economy. This government does not believe that economic development and the protection of our natural resources are mutually exclusive.
Yesterday, the Minister of Renewable Resources tabled the Parks and Land Certainty Act. This act sets out principles by which this government will protect a representative area in each of the ecoregions that have a substantial amount of land in the Yukon. This also is an investment in the future. This is one way that we can ensure that future generations of Yukoners enjoy the wilderness that we take for granted each day.
The main principle that this government will follow in protecting land for the future is the principle of balance. Resource assessments will be completed just as diligently as environmental assessments. Access to resources will also be an important consideration. Existing third party legal rights will be respected. At the end of the day, as areas of interest are identified, these assessments will be available to the public.
At the risk of repeating myself, let me say again that this government is not afraid of being accountable.
The departments I have been given responsibility for - Government Services and Yukon Housing Corporation - have a number of things in the budget that I would like to take this opportunity to highlight.
Yukon Housing provides social and staff housing for communities across the Yukon. While the benefits of safe, affordable housing go far beyond simple numbers, I would like to point out the contributions that Yukon Housing is making to communities.
Yukon Housing will be investing over $1 million into social and staff housing in the communities in the next fiscal year. This money will improve living conditions for people in virtually every community, while providing work for contractors across the territory. Renovations to staff housing will take place in Carcross, Dawson City, Faro, Old Crow, Watson Lake and elsewhere. Renovations to social housing will occur in Carmacks, Dawson City, Mayo, Ross River and Watson Lake.
As I mentioned earlier, Mr. Speaker, I was happy to be able to visit Ross River in September, and I have been working hard to address some of the concerns. The Yukon Housing Corporation will invest a total of $278,000 in Ross River social and staff housing units in the next fiscal year - $278,000.
As its name suggests, Government Services' primary role is to provide services to government. There are a number of things in this budget, however, that will provide economic benefits to people across the territory. Government Services will continue to make a $200,000 contribution to the Technology Innovation Centre. I attended the IT Conference and exposition last week and was impressed by the vibrant Yukon IT scene.
Partnerships, like those provided by the Technology Innovation Centre, can enhance the economic potential of this industry.
I know that my colleague, the Minister of Economic Development, is working on an IT sector strategy, and this will be another tool for Yukon's IT industry. The business incentive program provides incentives that encourage the use of Yukon workers on Yukon government construction projects, as well as the use of Yukon-manufactured products in the Yukon government buildings. I am particularly impressed with the quality of furniture that is being produced by woodworkers in the territory. I am pleased that Government Services has played a role in encouraging this industry.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to commend my Cabinet colleagues for producing a capital budget that will create jobs across the territory. The jobs created in the 2002-03 capital budget will not die with the end of the fiscal year. However, this is a budget that is full of investments in the people and in the future of the Yukon Territory, and these investments will pay dividends far, far into the future.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I take pleasure in joining my colleagues in responding to the Premier's capital budget speech. This is just the first of a few more capital budgets this government will be putting forward. We are well on the way to restoring confidence in a government that is taking the lead, continuing to build confidence in our public service, confidence in this administration and is willing to listen to all Yukoners. This capital budget is showing those same Yukoners that we have listened to what they have had to say.
As a member of the Liberal caucus, I am proud of the work we are doing for Yukon and its people - all of its people, Mr. Speaker. All caucus members have been travelling all over the territory the past 10 months, listening to what Yukoners have had to say and what they would like to see done by this government on their behalf in an efficient, responsible and accountable manner.
There have been extensive consultations on an ever-growing number of initiatives by this government - activities and actions that have languished for years or that were totally ignored by previous governments.
I will let my caucus colleagues speak directly to others, Mr. Speaker, while I focus on just a couple of those that I am most familiar with, like completely updating a 20-year-old piece of legislation called the Wildlife Act or replacing a very successful primary school, Grey Mountain Primary. Students and teachers are working in a building that is comprised of 38-year-old modulars, Mr. Speaker, a building scheduled and promised by previous governments to be replaced.
In June of last year, in 2000, the leader of the official opposition made a motion in this House asking the government to follow through on its commitment to parents to build a new Grey Mountain school. I quote: "THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to live up to its commitment by putting the appropriate resources to begin the necessary planning and design work for this school replacement project." Well, this capital budget reflects our commitment to replace it. Imagine that, Mr. Speaker, a politician actually doing what he said he would do.
On Monday, the same member chastised this government for not being good fiscal managers by allocating money to the Grey Mountain School building project.
That the school was going to be built no matter what - that was wrong, Mr. Speaker.
We are following through on our commitments. We do listen to Yukoners - all Yukoners - and I did listen to the leader of the official opposition when he forwarded his motion in this House.
We have set for ourselves a very ambitious agenda for the next couple of years, dealing with many pieces of legislation - some quite old and outdated and which our professionals and Yukoners have been asking for. The government renewal exercise will allow us opportunities to more efficiently provide services to the public. By all accounts, devolution is going ahead. There will be many more services for which this government will be directly responsible and accountable. The whole of our public service is committed to this project and are to be commended for their dedicated involvement.
Our public servants, Mr. Speaker, are also Yukoners and are an invaluable resource for providing government with needed comment on just how we can best achieve our goals and objectives on renewal - simple and powerful suggestions, like simply answering the telephone with, "Hello, how can I help you?"
As the Minister of Education, I am looking forward to receiving the final recommendations of the Education Act Review Steering Committee. This committee was formed almost two-and-a-half years ago and has worked long and hard toward providing government with its final recommendations based directly on what the committee heard from all Yukoners.
Committee members formed a true partnership, comprised of representatives from First Nations, school councils, teachers and the Department of Education. Their consultations, Mr. Speaker, have been exhaustive, meeting with interest groups in every Yukon community, with individuals, with individual First Nations and with individual First Nation elders. I commit to the steering committee that caucus and Cabinet will exercise the serious review the recommendations require. The steering committee also received a large number of non-Education-Act-related comments that the Department of Education is now reviewing and organizing, some of which will be implemented over the next year.
There are a number of significant capital expenditures identified that will create a more healthy learning environment for our children. I mentioned earlier the long overdue replacement of Grey Mountain School. There is also the new industrial wing on the Watson Lake high school, a new addition and heating system for the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly, a new roof on Golden Horn Elementary, a new heating system in Takhini Elementary, and a much-needed cafeteria in Vanier Catholic Secondary School, something that has been missing from that school for a long, long time.
Incidentally, Mr. Speaker, the leader of the official opposition said that the rural school construction schedule was a decision of school councils. Well, quite frankly, he was wrong. I know the members opposite don't like to hear that word, but it is factually correct - they were wrong. That list was a compilation of the Rural Facilities Study Committee. School councils made submissions to that committee, and then decisions were made on the whims of the previous government.
As Minister of Renewable Resources, I am committed to creating a balanced approach with the Minister of Economic Development, on both economic and environmental issues. This is very evident in the new Parks and Land Certainty Act that we will be debating in this House later in this session. Yukoners asked for certainty, and we committed to enshrining the principles of the protected areas strategy directly in legislation. This is the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so, Mr. Speaker.
The new Parks and Land Certainty Act will also provide us with tools to effectively manage parks and protected areas. Through devolution, we will gain direct control of our land base and this will require management of our parks, no longer relying on the federal government to set the parameters.
As indicated in the capital budget, work is continuing on the planning of our new Tombstone Interpretive Centre for the new Tombstone Park, with actual construction to occur in 2003. The MLA for Klondike referenced that we had established four new parks, and I would like to challenge the Member to name them. Perhaps the Member for Klondike would find it useful if he actually read the Parks and Land Certainty Act. The member uses the word "park" with as much distaste and disdain as when he is referring to certain members on this side of the House.
It was a commitment by this government to enshrine in legislation the principles of protected areas. We are doing what we said we would do.
In November 2000, the Member for Klondike put a motion forward before this House stating that the Parks Act should be utilized to create territorial parks, rather than the protected areas strategy. Well, that is what the Parks and Land Certainty Act will do.
Give us the tools to establish and manage parks in the Yukon Territory. The member also put forward a motion that certain principles should be included in protected areas legislation. Well, surprise, Mr. Speaker. We have done it.
The Wildlife Act, by judicial accounts, is an old and outdated piece of legislation. The members of both opposition parties have acknowledged in previous sessions their support for this much-needed revision to this act. I am pleased that this government has chosen to tackle this legislation in a three-phased approach.
Phase 1, which will be debated in this House later this session, is for administrative and enforcement issues. Phase 2 will directly relate to species at risk and will be debated in the fall of 2002. And in phase 3, land claims issues will be debated in the fall of 2003.
I would like to acknowledge here, Mr. Speaker, something all Yukoners and all members of this House can take considerable pride in - Yukon's campgrounds. I had the privilege of visiting all of our campgrounds, with the exception of two, during the month of July. This also afforded me an opportunity to chat with visitors to the Yukon, as well as to visit with Yukoners and department staff in almost every Yukon community. It is with pleasure that I commit to maintaining and improving our recreational places, as indicated by a capital expenditure of $270,000.
Just to correct the record, the Member for Klondike stated that I was gone for most of the summer. Well, Mr. Speaker, again I have to say he is wrong. I did not leave Yukon until late August.
Another significant piece of legislation, Mr. Speaker, to be debated this session is the Education Staff Relations Act. This act removes the labour portions of the current Education Act from the administration of the education system. It is a commitment made to building trust and respect for Yukon teachers and involving the Yukon Teachers Association directly in the drafting of this new act. It will clearly define the relationship between the territorial government and our teachers. Among other things, and most notably, it will confirm the rights of paraprofessionals and temporary teachers. We have also established a very open and a very positive line of communication between the YTA and the Public Service Commission.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to express my personal and heartfelt appreciation to the Public Service Commission in their commitment to this government's renewal project. All staff within the Public Service Commission are very cognizant of the support that all our public servants require during this time of change, and I thank them for their caring and their dedication.
I would also like to personally thank all the individuals and staff who worked long and hard on preparing and completing all the legislation that we have tabled for debate in this session, as well as the preparation of the capital budget for the fall session. Their tireless dedication to the meetings and drafting is very, very much appreciation.
Mr. Speaker, I would also like to reaffirm my commitment to the people of Riverdale North, whom I represent directly in this House. I have been doing my constituency walkabouts and will continue to make my way around the neighbourhood. I do appreciate all the comments and feedback that I have received to date and look forward to listening to more of what my constituents have to say.
I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me the opportunity to express my appreciation to my colleagues, my caucus and my government leader.
Speaker: Order please. I do have a speaking order here, and I don't see anybody on this side standing up, and I'll ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes: are you prepared?
Mr. Keenan: Yes, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity. I was just confused for a moment.
I would like to also take this time to thank the hard-working YTG employees and the others who have helped to pull together this budget. Certainly, this budget is an economic empowerment for the Yukon Territory. It is the only economic empowerment in the Yukon Territory at this time. But I do want to thank the people for taking the time and putting it together - good work.
I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the folks in my riding. As I have gone about this summer - I heard the previous speaker say that about his walkabouts. I surely wish I had the luxury of doing a walkabout around my riding, only my riding is a very huge riding and everything I do in my riding has to be done by car, motor vehicle and whatnot, so it's a little bit more challenging but that is not an excuse; it is a pleasure to be able to serve the people of Ross River and Southern Lakes.
I am going to take the opportunity to not so much rebut what I have heard - there will be a few rebuttals to what I have heard so far - but to speak about the riding and to try to massage, if I could, or to empower the government of the day through listening to me, and give some advice. That is truly how I would like to work.
But in the meantime, I would like to state that I have listened to some of the backbenchers who stood up and ranted - absolutely ranted - about what this government is doing for rural Yukon.
I found it not only astonishing but also funny. As I took the time to think about last night, I thought that maybe it's not that funny - maybe it's not. Maybe this government is only giving the opportunity once a year to give their profile to the backbenchers. I've read in the Finance minister's speech about what everybody was doing. Well, Mr. Speaker, I think even you will have to admit that it was just tokenism, a quick community flit, I guess, if you could say it like that. But it does give them the opportunity to blow their own horn and defend their government leaders, and I guess that's the only opportunity they'll get. What a shame, what a waste. The government has people back there whom they can utilize, whom they could bring forth, and they can give them opportunity to integrate all of the Yukon's view into the budget process and into other processes that are happening here in the Yukon Territory.
And we are into constitutional change in the Yukon Territory. We have First Nation governments; we have municipal governments that have been empowered by the previous government; we have the territorial government. We have constant change, so it's going to take a lot of energy and a lot of people putting their heads together to come up with what is right for the Yukon and not to make it partisan. I certainly agree with that.
I'm not agreeing with the motion that was read out today, but I'm telling you that the energy should be a collective energy. It should be there, and it can and will be there if the government will listen. That's key, very key.
One of the things that I found out as I went around the riding this summer - and of course in my riding there's a lot of broken road, there are no telephones, so you have to travel through the hinterland to get to these folks.
Well, let me tell you, the honeymoon is over - absolutely over. In my riding, people who, simply last Christmastime, or the last time I had spoken to them before, said, "Let's give them a chance, Dave," so I agreed with them. Doggone rights. They're on a honeymoon.
Well, what a great disappointment these folks have turned out to be, these leaders for the Yukon people, especially in my riding.
Folks have come up to me and said, "Dave, I want you to know I voted Liberal, and I'm sorry for it." I said, "Hey, you ain't the first one to tell me that. Thank you very much, though." It shows you that everybody can make mistakes.
They admitted it, Mr. Speaker. They admitted they made mistakes, and they said they would never make that mistake again. Why? Because the things that have been suggested by them, whether it's through a formal meeting, whether it's through a letter, through an attempt to get a minister on a phone, or anything like as such, have been refuted. They said, "No, that's not the way it is, but a good idea, Mr. Smith." Maybe his name was Mr. Smith - a good idea, but, "This is the way we're going to do it."
Well, that's not consultation, Mr. Speaker. Gee whiz, that's not consultation. We know that. That's dictation, it's giving direction, very autocratic.
Consultation is so very critically important to the jurisdiction of the Yukon Territory. People are used to being involved. Folks here want to be involved with what's in government. They'll do it themselves, or they'll do it through their MLAs, but they want to have their opinion listened to. And if the government of the day cannot afford Joe Yukon - the average Yukoner, Joe and Jane Yukoner - the opportunity to talk, in some cases to vent, then we're not doing a good job.
Now, I see folks busily writing things down so they can rebut what I am saying here. Don't rebut me. I am giving this to you as a lesson to learn from what I've been hearing out there.
Consultation - last spring in this Legislature, the Minister of Government Services said he was going to go on his community tours and he was pretty happy about that; he was going to do it. Well, by golly, Mr. Speaker, I happened to be in Ross River, working, talking, yacking, listening - a great group of people up there. We were going to have a little bit of dinner and we were going to do different things together, but, you know, it was 7:00 at night and we were going to have a little bit of dinner before our round-table meeting and we were waiting. We were waiting for the Minister of Government Services. So we all sat down, we broke a bit of bread together and we ate because everybody likes to eat hot grub, especially me. So we ate our dinner, and the minister blew in at 10 minutes past seven. He was supposed to be there for dinner. The meeting was supposed to start at 7:00. That was the formal agenda. The minister gave a quick blurb. We had to massage a little bit of energy into him so he would actually listen instead of defend. It was done in a nice way at that meeting.
I was invited to go for a beer. I didn't go for the beer with the group at the time, but everybody was in the pub by approximately 9:00 that night - and then out the next morning at 9:00. Holy moly, is that consultation or is that just a little boogie around the Yukon Territory? Well, I do believe that the last time I polled the expenses of this particular minister, this particular minister blew his whole travel budget in one trip - that's the whole travel budget for the year, too, by the way, Mr. Speaker. So is that consultation? No, that's called covering your back. That's what that is called.
Well, we broke into the meeting, Mr. Speaker. I am sorry I have to talk directly to you because I enjoy that. But we broke directly into the meeting, and as we were doing that, I noticed one of the YTG bureaucrats. People were saying to him, "What about this?" and "What about that?" and, "Hey, man, we sent you a letter three months ago. We sent you a letter." And when this fellow stood up - and I guess it was in defence of government at this point in time, not an explanation but an excuse - the letter had just been faxed by the minister's office previous to that. Now, we are talking after 7:00 at night.
Is that good government? Is that good consultation? Is that the way the ministers answer their letters - by fax machine after the fact? Holy moly, Mr. Speaker, I'm pointing something out here. I hope that the little group huddled in the corner there and looking for a quarter back there, or whatever, is listening because I'm trying to point this out in a nice way, Mr. Speaker, as I normally do.
So, Mr. Speaker, consultation and letter answering are things that the ministers should get a little more deeply involved in. If we are going to do a community tour, let's do a real community tour. Let's not just do a pub crawl. Let's do a real community tour. That's what I want to see, and that's what people in the communities want to see because they do have something to say.
Mr. Speaker, it's going to be here for a bit, but $99 million is in the budget, and I have some ways to suggest how we spend it. Of course, these are coming from the constituents that I represent. What we need out there is more flexible programming. We need programming that will allow a community to - time out, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Keenan: I hear some thumping in the background here, and I'm not sure if you -
Speaker: I'll stop the clock.
Mr. Keenan: Do you just want to wait for a second?
Speaker: I'll see. I just stopped the clock. Maybe somebody is hanging a picture. Okay, I'll start the clock again.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. For the record, that's just some folks working on the roof there that have been making noise up there. It's definitely not going to interrupt me.
So, Mr. Speaker, we have $99 million, and we do need more flexible programming. What the government is doing by moving the capital budget to the fall is very commendable.
I don't think the government should be taking too much credit for it. They implemented it - definitely - but let's start putting some projections forth in the capital budgets. I see it's stuck in there again, but let's go a little further. Let's try to do a little bit better, because what we're talking about - and it was kind of funny because the Minister of Government Services said that this budget was creating jobs today. We know that's not right. And then the Minister of Education said, "Some of this is going to be implemented." Some of it's going to be implemented.
So, Mr. Speaker, in their very own words, that shows that more flexible programming has to be done. The community of Tagish, right now, has $100,000. Much appreciated. It is a vibrant little community. I know a lot of Liberals have been around there, trying to lure them away from me, but they're doing good work. In the absence of flexible programming, what do they have? What are their tools? Their next budget is going to be a year and a half away. That's not fair to a community. That's absolutely not fair to a community and I think we should be looking at programs that are a bit more flexible, and those programs would be tailored by the community for the community's needs.
The CDF, the community development fund. I know we have Project Yukon in place at this point in time. I know we have that but, Mr. Speaker, is it good enough? Well, I think not.
Another thing that I think this government could or should do is stop pitting communities against one another. Maybe this government is doing it inadvertently, but it is happening. It's happening in my territory and it's happening in the Member for Faro's territory.
We have two distinct communities at odds with one another. I've heard it said that folks from Ross don't want to live in Faro's shadow. I've heard folks in Faro say, "We don't want anything to do with Ross; we have our own ways of doing things around here."
Mr. Speaker, that's bred by government. When I was the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, there was a distinct line of hiring between the two jurisdictions, because they both have grader stations and separate employees. I have attempted, through communication with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, to find why that line's not there any more, because approximately eight or nine people who live in Faro work in Ross River, and that is totally demeaning to the community of Ross River.
Are they upset about it? You bet they're upset about it. Are they antagonistic about it? No. They're asking me to point these things out, and they have pointed these things out. Do some of the folks who work in Ross used to live in Ross? Absolutely. They've taken advantage of housing needs and other areas, but not all of them do. There are jobs where, through training and building capacity within the community, we can empower that community so we don't have two communities at odds with one another, in getting this or getting that.
Mr. Speaker, I can't underestimate the urgency of government needing to do something in this situation. Is it volatile? Well, this Liberal government has certainly driven the economy just a bit further into the ground. It's right into the ruts right now, so those small jobs are becoming very valuable jobs. They mean personal esteem; they mean family esteem; they mean community growth.
So, I would encourage you, Mr. Speaker, and the government to take this very seriously.
I asked the Premier of the Yukon Territory, in debate last year, and she came running down those stairs to answer the questions about two issues.
I asked the Premier if she was going to take to the Association of Yukon Communities these two issues: block funding and the need, maybe, for a look at revamping the block funding. We have a community in Ross River that has no block funding. They're driven by the whims of government. Well, I'm certainly glad that government is still proceeding, sparingly, with the round table.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, even one of the government departments did not know that there was a round table in Ross River. So how deep do we have, in our government here, the need to recognize each other? Do we have turf wars going on here, or do we have all communities or all departments of government recognizing that there is a government structure in Ross River? No, we don't have that, but I'm hoping that we do at this point in time.
It's getting serious, Mr. Speaker. We have to do something about it so that it doesn't - it's called creating a level playing field, I guess, so that people can work together. I know that there's a very strong desire in that area to work together. Little hiccups happen every now and then, and dinosaur tracks go missing and are never replaced - that sort of thing. But with a little bit of ferreting out there and whatnot, we managed to get those dino tracks back where they belong. But what a terrible process that you have to go through to do that.
So, Mr. Speaker, I'd very much encourage this government to create a level playing field so that we can have communities growing together and not working against one another.
Mr. Speaker, there should not be a political grab or a political movement for equal footing, I guess, if I can say it that way, in terms of government services or capital infrastructure. Of course, there are always the emerging needs, but there shouldn't be a footrace. There shouldn't be a footrace for these types of issues - the things in the communities - and there is now, and it's fostered by this Liberal government.
Now, the Premier said that the Premier is going to bring these issues to the Association of Yukon Communities. I asked the Premier if she would also, because a constituent of the Premier's phoned me and said, "We're not getting satisfaction out of our MLA," so would I be able to help them? So, I went to work for those folks. It was on contract regulations and there are no contract regulations, I guess, per se through the Association of Yukon Communities because some of the communities can do what they want and do what they need. They don't have to go to a bidding process or anything like as such with public monies.
I asked the Premier if the Premier would be looking into those issues. She gave me a commitment and said that, "Well, my sources say that those issues have never come up" - never come up. So again, I say that this Liberal government is fostering a division of communities. If we cannot live up to what we are going to say - a promise made is a debt unpaid - where did we all hear that?
I think that winter jobs are so very, very important, especially in this economic climate that we have now - eggs in one basket and that basket is going to - well we have put all our eggs in one basket, by golly, and those are definitely going to be hardboiled eggs by the time we get around to eating them and they might not even be good eggs any more. They might not be good eggs, so we should take a little bit of that $99 million that we have out there and look at progressively moving forward, in increments of course, and I can help to allocate or prioritize the needs for those dollars.
Highways - well, the government is putting much into highways. This summer I was generous to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. You didn't see a letter a week from me, an open letter saying this and that. I thought, "No, there is a judgement call to yourself, Dave. Are you going to put open letters to the minister to get action? Nah, you are going to see what goes on because they said they were going to do this." I regret, at this point in time, not putting forth those letters to the editors.
I've been on roads in the Yukon Territory - and, mind you, the NDP is going to get blamed for this because, oh, we stripped the budget and whatnot. Well, what a bunch of hooey that is too because there are willows growing and there are a whole bunch of things happening along the roadsides that are not being taken care of. And in one particular section of the road - and it's a safety issue, so the Minister of Health must be very concerned about this also, and being a vibrant member of the Management Board, I am sure that he is going to come to the defence of this - which at 50 kilometres an hour - I did 30 kilometres an hour and I couldn't have good visibility, and this on a beautiful summer day.
Now, what can we do about this? Well, we should do something about it. I am bringing it to the attention of the government of the day now that we should be working toward cleaning up these situations - in a nice way, I must point out. So I would like the government to look to identify - and I will work with government - the South Canol and the North Canol. I even heard that there is an entrepreneur out there who is writing out a bumper sticker that says, "Yes, I've done the North and South Canol, both ways, dammit." Well, I'll tell you, that's going to go on a lot of cars because the roads are atrocious, absolutely atrocious.
Another complaint that I have coming to me from constituents is that folks, when they finally have the graders up there just before freeze-up- nobody knew the grader operator. The grader operator was from who knew where. Now, I know that we have unions and issues to work with, but this goes back to that local hire again. Can this government not put in provisions of local hire so that we can stop pitting communities against each other?
So, yes, by golly, there are about 250 miles of road out there that could have a little attention. Is it feasible to do it now in the winter? Well, that's a question for the professionals to see if the resources are there. But the resources are there so maybe we should be looking at that.
There are turn signs on the South Canol Road, which is a very touristy road, where you can't tell if the road is going to the right or to the left. There's a need for guardrails. I want you folks to take a trip on that road next spring to see the terrible state that road is actually in. I will bring forth the suggestion that it is not the crews who are doing this; it's the lack of resources, because when the crews are allowed the innovation to do something, by golly, there are some very good spots on that road where they have taken it and gone out. Mr. Speaker, you have driven the South Canol; I assume you know the windiness of it. They've taken out some corners, and done this and done that, and by goshes, they're doing a good job.
What I think the grader station at Quiet Lake needs, if we're going to make this a tourism venture - which of course the Campbell Regional Association for Tourism wants, and whatnot, and what we all want from Faro and Teslin, and from Johnsons Crossing and from everywhere - is Tourism dollars to come in here. It's a beautiful road, but it's a dangerous road at this time.
So, why don't we put the camp back in. Let's not be cutting highway camps around the territory. Let's be making our roads safer for tourists and the local people. I think that would be a very wise expenditure, if we did that, for safety reasons and for economic reasons.
I was talking with a constituent who lives around the Judas Creek area, who does have a few pieces of equipment here and there, as many do. It's on our equipment replacement list of who we have out there in the communities who can do this work. Let's take some of that $99 million and put some of these folks to work. It's not a make-work project; it's an incremental step to a safe highway, which this government says they want.
So, let's just do it. Let's get at it.
I'm sure that you wouldn't have any trouble bringing another supplementary into this House so we could do it.
Mr. Speaker, in Teslin - I'm going to talk about my home town. We have, in Teslin, a tad more in the budget this year than we had in the budget last year. A lot. Because last year in Teslin, Renewable Resources got a computer, and I have to say that the folks who use that computer are very pleased with it. But this year, the government has listened somewhat to the community of Teslin, the mayor and council - somewhat.
Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have?
Deputy Speaker: The member has approximately 15 minutes.
Mr. Keenan: Could I get 20?
In Teslin, Mr. Speaker, folks have been listened to a bit. I see the bridge rehabilitation project in here for $300,000, so I assume that that is going to be a part of our great Trans Canada Trail, our whole tourism strategy and pedestrian safety and making things better.
But where, where, is the sewage extension? The community has lobbied aggressively. It has been alluded to that it was going to happen. Well, when I talked to the mayor last Thursday, he wasn't very pleased with it, Mr. Speaker, because the resources are there. He knows that. The plans are there, yet there's a stalemate, or something, within the political realm of government that says no, we can't go that way.
Telephones are also missing from this budget for the Teslin area. Within the cottage lots - we could use some chip sealing in the cottage lots, we could use some telephones in the cottage lots, we could use some hard services in the cottage lots. There's no garbage pick-up, there's no water delivery, there's no water access. None, except for the people who took advantage of that fine new democratic program for wealth.
Now, that's years ago, mind you. Those are the only ones, and they remember.
In my riding, I have many seniors who live there and who want to live there. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to admit to the world that just a month ago I became 50, and holy man, already I can feel those aches and pains in my body a little bit. So I know that I'm going to be needing some services too in the future. I'm going to keep running and jogging and whatnot, so that I can stay in shape and prevent - like the Minister of Health wants me to. I'm going to adhere to his philosophy.
But there are people within the Yukon Territory who don't have the luxury of good health, yet they have homes they wish to stay in and they have animals. In some cases, the animals take over and give the pleasure of company that the children used to. Now, we all know that in this room, because I miss my dog, Gypsy, terribly too. So are we just going to say, "You have a problem. You have to come into Whitehorse now because that's where the hard and central services are," and slap them down. Let's have some human compassion, for goodness' sake. That's all it takes. Let's look at finding a way that we might be able to keep these folks in their homes and in their communities. If it means the government has to look at expanding or finding a way to provide these services - because they are within YTG's jurisdiction and not in the jurisdiction of the Village of Teslin - then we should be attempting to find that way.
And they need their roads plowed. They are chipsealed and plowed on a continuing basis. They need telephones. They need these things. And, Mr. Speaker, telephones have been around for over 100 years, yet a lot of folks in my riding don't have the luxury of a telephone.
I have heard three ministers over there speak about safety. Well, I'm pointing out that within that area, that's exactly what we need.
Mr. Speaker, I've also seen a young fellow - it will break your heart, absolutely break your heart, because here's a nine-year-old skateboarding on the Alaska Highway, and his little brother, Trent, who was about seven, says, "Get off that road, you're going to get hurt." Yet a kid has to be a kid and play. Who is addressing the recreational needs of those youth who live within Teslin and out of Teslin? I would suggest that it's going to take more than just a simple proposal from Project Yukon to hire an administrator to do those types of things. It's going to take more. It's going to take commitment, but let's get the kids off the skateboards on the Alaska Highway. There are youth there who also have a need.
There's also a tourism pullout, because certainly the community of Teslin is always looking to diversify the economy. Well, that hasn't even been addressed and there haven't been any letters back to anybody.
So what I'm saying is that, if you're going to make some tough decisions, try and communicate those decisions. Get people to buy into it so that people have a deeper understanding of where we're at and where they're going.
In Ross River, we have $180,000 to fix the blue building. Now, the daycare and the recreational association are out of the building, but I've been told that it's not enough to fix the building. I've also been told that it has been forwarded to government, but government says that this is what they're going to get.
Now, if it's not enough, why even put it there? I'm not saying take it back, for goodness' sake; I'm saying we can use it, but should we not be communicating to that community that this is the next step? That's only the first increment; this is the second increment. Yes, by golly, I think we should be doing those types of things. That's exactly what it's all about.
Was the community of Ross River involved in identifying a spot relocation on the Campbell Highway? Obviously not. Well, under my watch, they were always - if it was going to be effective within that territory, then they had a say, and I went and talked to them about it - the personal touch. I guess that's what's missing here, too.
So now I understand that we're going to spend $650,000 on the highway between Ross River and Faro, and I point out - is that just to make the road safer for the people from Faro, as they drive to Ross River in the mornings and evenings, after taking the jobs? I certainly hope not, and I would think that, unless we start to communicate these issues, that these are the types of concerns that will arise.
The North and South Canol, again, which affect Ross River, are in terrible shape, and we should try to find a program or way that the community, as they did under my watch, can participate in the rehabilitation of that area. We should be doing that.
The community, the youth in Ross River, should not be held hostage. We're doing something unique in Ross River, through the round table on social and economic affairs. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services warmed my heart when she stood in this House and said it's a special place, and we want to do something there to continue with it. It showed me that there was a real Yukon type of recognition that we have to do the right thing.
So, why are we playing these duelling proposals with the recreation people? Let's continue this experiment so that they can cast away their inhibitions and start to lead, if that's the case, where we have to go as a municipal citizen. Start on our youth, because we have the energy in Ross River to be able to do that. We have the energy; we just need the help and the resources.
So, it's good that they're getting social housing and staff housing, and we're doing the island park erosion. That's commendable, and I appreciate that, Mr. Speaker, I truly do, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't say what was there or what wasn't there.
Mr. Speaker, I tabled a petition in this House - you probably remember, because the Minister of Community and Transportation Services got very upset with me and said that I should know better. I should know better than to do that. Accuse me, poor old innocent me, of orchestrating this? That was the voice of the people. It was a community coming together identifying a need and saying we would like to go forth. Well, Mr. Speaker, lip service - $60,000 - that's lip service, when we have $99 million - the great one - $60,000 to a community that has not - has not. Well, let me tell you, by golly, it's a little upsetting.
I wrote a letter because, again, I took a little heart warming there from the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, saying, "Yes, I understand about children and streetlights and safety concerns and all those issues, and that's why I am going to be looking at this here streetlight policy." Well, that is absolutely not true, because I just got a letter back that said, "What are you talking about? There are streetlights in those subdivisions." Obviously the minister didn't read the letter, because he was in the wrong neighbourhood, absolute wrong neighbourhood. So, for goodness' sake, let's find ways to do things instead of beating up the people who bring the message to us. Let's find ways for children and safety issues for those children.
We live in rural Yukon. We don't have the luxury of a walkabout in downtown Whitehorse, and I appreciate the ones who do. There are wolves in this country, Mr. Speaker - they live in rural Yukon, too. Would you feel comfortable putting your six- or seven-year-old grandson on to a bus or saying, "Walk down there and just wait there"? Because in some cases that happens. No, absolutely not, so don't give me why we can't do things. Tell me how we can and when it's going to happen, because it's for safety issues of the children.
That's what it's about. I have been told by folks in Tagish and in other areas that if they want to see a nurse, they have to go to see a nurse. I asked last year of the Minister of Health, "What is the process of identifying if we need health services and more health services or a survey of sorts? After he got finished slapping me up and enjoying himself immensely, about two weeks later he came and said, in Committee of the Whole, "Well, there is a process." Well, I would encourage the Minister of Health to contact the chair or some of the seniors in the area or maybe the nursing station to find out what the problem is and how we can rectify the problem - how we can fix that problem - because it is a problem. Tagish has the largest amount of seniors per capita - in Tagish. Some of those seniors live on roads that are terrible. They are not chipsealed. There are deep ruts. They are plowed sparingly. Is that because there are not enough resources? I think so.
Mr. Speaker, when you pull out of some of the homes on the Tagish Road, you have to be one-third of the way on to the road before you can look to the right or the left. Is that safety? Hah, absolutely not safety. Should we be moving the road? You bet, if we need to move that road a little bit and reconfigure it, then we should be doing it for safety issues because there are children on that road, also.
I would like to thank the Minister of Community and Transportation Services for coming forth with -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
- the Tagish Road. I think it is well done. I think that it has to continue to be done. I think that I would like to see the resources put there so that over the next three years it can be done, because the people of Tagish definitely need to be able to participate within the overall economic landscape that we have.
In Teslin, the Minister of Tourism spoke about the heritage centre and doing a new tourism strategy based on heritage. And the museum strategy - I have yet to see or hear or any of my people in Teslin have yet to hear or see how we're going to do it. We have been told how we might not be able to do it and how we might have to wait here, but I'm asking this government - and I will wind up now, Mr. Speaker - to take a refreshing look or a new way of looking at things and to treat the opposition with respect because the opposition is the voice of the people, and the only way we're going to have good government is if you have good and effective opposition and if government listens to us as I bring forth.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, the budget that we tabled is a good budget. We listened to Yukoners while we prepared the capital budget, and the results are a clear indication that their voices were heard.
Personally, over the past summer since I was named the Minister of Economic Development, I have travelled to Dawson City, Mayo, Teslin, Carcross, Tagish, Haines Junction, Watson Lake twice, as well as visiting numerous Whitehorse businesses and attending a number of meetings of business leaders.
It is my pleasure to respond today to the 2002-03 capital budget. Let me first congratulate my colleagues and the Premier for tabling this budget this fall. It is an act that has been widely applauded by contractors and other members of the business community.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is about jobs, this budget is about opportunities, and this budget is about Yukoners. There is approximately $118 million in spending. Of this amount, some $79 million is budgeted for territory-wide initiatives and programs, $23 million is directly budgeted for the communities, and $16 million is budgeted for Whitehorse.
Mr. Speaker, we don't divide Yukoners; we don't put them into different categories. We know this money will benefit all Yukoners, regardless of who they are or where they live.
This budget builds on our seven priorities: devolution, land claims, health, infrastructure, rebuilding the economy, alcohol and drug addictions, and restoring confidence in government.
Let me speak now about rebuilding the Yukon economy. As the Minister of Economic Development, my department and I are taking seriously the role of creating jobs and rebuilding our economy. We recognize that mining is one of the most important industries that we have. We know the value of mining. We know the direct benefits come from the industry as well as the spinoffs that are generated. We look forward to mining reclaiming its place atop Yukon's industries.
Mr. Speaker, the opening of the Cantung mine in the near future and news that the United Keno Hill property could be back in production next year shows the progress that we are making. By Christmas of this year, we are expecting a fully operational mine at Cantung, employing over 170 people. These are real jobs for Yukoners. There are Yukoners working there right now.
We have more than doubled the Yukon mining incentives program over the past four years to a now healthy total of $850,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. This important program supports mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities. This demonstrates our support for the mining industry.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon geology program has $1.7 million budgeted for it. As well, the regional mineral development program or explore Yukon initiative has some $500,000 budgeted.
Mr. Speaker, we're looking at other resource sectors, as well, in improving our economy. We continue to develop our own oil and gas resources. We told industry that we would hold annual land sales, and we are doing what we said we would do, with our third annual disposition nearing completion.
We continue to aggressively pursue the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The members opposite seem intent on only thinking in the short term with this project, but we, on this side of the House, see both short- and long-term benefits of this project.
We are demonstrating our support for the Alaska Highway pipeline with $750,000 in funding in next year's capital estimates. Mr. Speaker, we're optimistic that this investment now will reap huge returns in the future.
As I have said before, I see the Alaska Highway pipeline as becoming an integral piece of infrastructure in the Yukon, as important as the Alaska Highway was 60 years ago, as well as the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad was 40 years before that.
It is essential that we continue to lobby hard with the producers to ensure that North Slope gas travels the Alaska Highway to market. To further this goal, I am pleased to be a member of the international committee of elected officials concerned with northern pipelines. Alaska Senator John Torgerson initiated this committee, and I look forward to working with him and other members of the committee.
The IT sector presents many opportunities for Yukoners. It's my feeling that we are at a juncture now with this industry, where we were with the mining industry 100 years ago. It's a new industry, but it's one that will grow and provide jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, we're also putting more money into Yukoners' pockets, so that they may directly pave the way for the revitalization of our economy. To that end, we have cut the territory's personal income tax rate from 50 percent to 46 percent of the federal rate. The result is that Yukoners are paying $3 million less in taxes this year. That is translated into more spending by Yukoners, as evidenced in a two-percent increase in retail sales over last year during the first six months of this year.
Mr. Speaker, I want to speak now about devolution - another example of doing what we said we would do. An agreement has been reached by Yukon, federal and First Nations governments. We are making great strides in our oil and gas industry, as Yukoners are able to manage them, and we look forward to being able to manage our forests, minerals and lands in a similar fashion.
Mr. Speaker, this past summer, a Yukoner told me that having Ottawa control our resources was like somebody driving a wagon with reins that are 3,000 miles long. On April 1, 2003, those reins will be removed, and Yukoners can look forward to a strong, vibrant resource sector that meets our economic, as well as our environmental, concerns and needs.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to land claims, we continue to work very hard on settling outstanding land claims. The Ta'an Kwach'an are close to voting on ratification, and we look forward to more settlements being reached over the next year, which will be another important step for Yukoners, as we move forward in this new century and realize the vast potential that we have.
Mr. Speaker, health care is very important to our government, as well as to Yukoners and, as well, to constituents of my Riverside riding. This budget will see the completion of the new continuing care facility, which will be ready for occupancy in June of next year. I know many of my constituents in Macaulay Lodge and the Thomson Centre are anxiously awaiting their new digs.
Speaking of the Thomson Centre, Mr. Speaker, there will also be new equipment purchases of $100,000 identified in this budget, plus an additional $60,000 in renovations.
I want to now speak about infrastructure. Infrastructure is very important to me as it creates jobs and, as Minister of Economic Development, I'm very excited about the work being done on our infrastructure. Not only does it create jobs immediately, it also leaves us with expanded opportunities in the future. We are doing just that with investments in our schools, roads, bridges, communications, water and sewer projects, and recreation facilities.
Mr. Speaker, at a number of the conferences that I have travelled to over the last summer, it's very evident in speaking with our northern neighbours that our road infrastructure is the envy of the north. Years of neglect by previous governments left that infrastructure in dire need of repair. In 18 short months, we have reversed that trend, to the tune of more than $40 million budgeted toward the transportation division in capital spending, which represents a 22.6-percent increase over the last fiscal year.
I have to congratulate the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on a job very well done.
Mr. Speaker, last year in the Legislature, I mentioned a local contractor who said that, under the previous government's mandate, their work schedule started later and ended earlier than ever before. This past weekend, I spoke to that same contractor and was told that things are returning to normal and to where they should be. This contractor and employees are still out there working today.
And with an increase in the capital spending, next year's construction promises to be even more successful.
Mr. Speaker, Riverside residents and all Yukoners will benefit greatly from these jobs and opportunities. This fiscally responsible capital plan covers not only the next fiscal year but covers well into the future. It speaks to all seven of our priorities, particularly rebuilding the Yukon economy and developing infrastructure. This budget speaks to all Yukoners. I look forward to departmental debate as we move forward in the coming weeks.
Mr. Speaker, we are committed to the people we serve. This budget is one important part of fulfilling our commitment to Yukoners as well as constituents in the Riverside riding. This budget is about jobs this winter, next spring, next summer and into the following years. This budget is about the jobs Yukoners need and the opportunities they deserve.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would like to say one thing: that this budget is about Yukoners.
Mr. McLarnon: I'm rising in response to the budget today not on the specifics of the budget but on the philosophy of the budget and what we need to do in this territory to rebuild the economy, to restore confidence in government and to ensure that, down the road, we give our children - our sons and daughters - the chance to get through an entire four-year cycle without an up or down, an economic recession or an economic boom - stability. Stability and good government is what we are going to give this Yukon Territory from the time we were elected into the future, based on the basis of what we're doing here and the philosophy of what we're doing here.
When I talk about this, we have to talk about it in terms of themes. So the first theme we are looking at here is management. Management is proper use of your resources; not expending more resources, but using them properly to do what you need them to do. In this case, we have resources - we have a large accumulated amount of money that, for one reason or another, became the property of the Yukon government at the beginning of the fiscal year. There were plans and programs to spend that and then, unfortunately, as we all remember, as we were all shocked, September 11 changed a lot of plans. September 11 made people refocus on what was going to be in their future. September 11 will not only affect the national psyche and the feeling of security in our country, it will have a very real effect on Yukon government tax dollars down the road, on federal government tax dollars down the road, on the largesse of government, the ability of government to do its job - very real effects on the Yukon tourism industry. It will have very real effects on the types of minerals that are being mined here.
What it will really focus us on is the need for long-term planning in our new world, in our post-World Trade Centre world. What we have done in our government is to start to act responsibly, start managing, as any household would manage, their budget, knowing their income may drop, starting to make sure that that money is there for days in the future. While we have chosen this path and are ready to defend it, we have an opposition yelling and screaming for it to be spent immediately. We have an opposition that doesn't recognize that there is a rainy day coming and doesn't recognize the inevitability of what we are going to be facing.
This government has and this government will defend that position - and logically so - because common sense is what we are about. The taxpayers of the Yukon Territory understand that any person with a household has to prepare for contingencies due to emergencies, due to a change in plans. I am amazed that I have to stand up here and explain this once again to the opposition. I am amazed that once again I am going to have to do Economics 101. Economics 101 starts off with the fact that economies are based on creation of wealth, not redistribution of wealth. Economies are based on the fact that money creates more money. Money is just not meant to be thrown out for all of us.
I will use an example that has been discussed well today when we looked at the money that we put into the Ross River blue building. There could have been more money put into that but this is not a question of money for this building. This building has been a vacuum cleaner for money since it was built. We are addressing problems to make this useful, but in management money is not the only aspect. What we have to do in management is get people to start taking ownership, take control of the resources around us - starting to build capacity. What we see from throwing money at problems is no capacity building. People build capacity based on the money that they have been thrown the last time. They build their skills based on artificial needs creating an economy - to create winter work possibly.
I am asking people to realize the philosophy that management is more important to the long-term recovery in our economy than the short-term gratification received by putting money into programs that have no lasting, long-term benefits.
Management - another word I would like to discuss here because when we did the budgets and when I did do the consultation on the road within this year - I find it rather hilarious that the time frames change all the time. Within a fiscal year, I have now gone out on the road many times in consultative forums.
The words we have to discuss are "prudence", "patience" and the big word, "no". It's a word not said enough in this government. Any government can say it. It's hard for politicians to say it, but priorities have to be set and stuck to, or else "no" never gets said. "No" doesn't necessarily get you a vote, but "no" may improve your economy.
I know that the NDP has said no a number of times in the past. They must have, because our economy is in the toilet. They must have said no to the wrong people, but they said no. We're saying no to the hands out that are asking for it for very focused reasons. We're looking at a broad picture here and a very balanced picture. That's the philosophy behind this budget. This budget is choosing where we can improve, and it's choosing the ideas that we can do. Some people have had to hear "no" this year. That doesn't mean forever. They were certainly asked.
I know, because I have certainly asked them and certainly have heard 90 percent of all budget requests. When I went around to every community in this territory - and I can say that, with the exception of Old Crow - if I'd been there on a budget consultation, I made the effort to go and ask the councils, "Has anything changed?" That includes last night in Carmacks. I was sitting in the House yesterday, as the Member for Tatchun criticized us for not knowing that Carmacks may have a problem with the sewer development because they may have a problem with the water lines. Yes, this is an issue. It wouldn't have come up in a consultation since this was raised last week. How fast do these consultations need to be? Last week was when the mayor heard about this. Last week was when he had seen the difference. It has been no longer than that. The mayor heard it last week.
So, how vast do these consultations need to be? The priority hasn't changed, and when I explained to the Mayor of Carmacks what was said in the House, the only thing he asked me was - he was hoping that his own member hadn't put this project in jeopardy. I said, "Of course not. You explained this to us. We understood." Sometimes, for political reasons, people will bring up points - salient points so they think - with no relevance and certainly no realism in them. I would say that what we heard yesterday in reference to consulting was definitely one of those points.
One of the things I'm proudest of in this budget is that we did talk to the people, and the consultations have gone on, and gone on throughout the summer. They have been in unofficial forums; they have often been to make sure that what we heard in January and February last fall was still valid, and I would wonder how in the world anybody on the opposite side could possibly, with any credibility, say there were no consultations. Like I said, I have just finished a community tour of the Yukon Territory on a very real subject, and saw one member from the other side. So, how would they know I was even there? The one member from that side made an effort to go as far away as he could into Beaver Creek, and we were really pleased to see the Member for Kluane attend one of our consultations.
We also were in three other towns in his riding where we didn't see him. We were in three other towns where we didn't see him. Numbers of our ministers and members have been throughout the Yukon Territory, talking to councils, talking to the same interest groups that we talked to in January and February, reconfirming the budget priorities and budget needs. It's called living consultation.
I know, when we have to talk about consultation with the opposition, we will probably have to explain new concepts to them. They don't always have to be formal. The information is given. They can be expanded upon. They can be focused on. They do not need to happen in a formal setting.
What we have been doing over the last few months is indeed consulting. I'm very proud to say it; I consider it a badge of honour for getting out and doing it. Maybe after a few years, maybe a couple terms in government, this will sink in to the opposition and they will probably start emulating us and stop criticizing us for doing the very thing that we're asked to do.
One of the nice things I enjoyed about that consultation was the fine system of roads I got to go on. I was proud of our Yukon roads. The brushing was proceeding well, and one of the roads that I had the enjoyable pleasure of going on for a few hours was the Nahanni Range Road. The Nahanni Range Road is an excellent, excellent example of where improving infrastructure - infrastructure that had been sadly, sadly neglected - does bring economic prosperity to Yukoners. On the Nahanni Range Road, as we were on it and stopped right at the Hyland River, we saw trucks drive by, bringing constituents of mine to work in that mine. This is infrastructure that wouldn't have existed. If the commitment from our government wasn't there to maintain and bring infrastructure up to the needs of industry, my constituents wouldn't be going to that mine. My constituents would still be wondering where their next paycheque is. I'm very, very proud of the fact that, by direct actions of this government, my constituents are starting to go back to work. I can honestly say that I really doubt - and they agree with me - that this would have happened under an NDP government.
One of the things that I would be very proud also to say down the road - and this is my personal perspective on the budget - is that the government will work better in the future, and this is restoring confidence in government. I'd like to take a little time to talk about renewal while I'm here.
Let's talk about a few things that were discussed today in Question Period - the very last supplementary question by the leader of the opposition where it was implied that this was a downsizing exercise - not implied; it was stated publicly and boldly. We know where their agenda sits on this, that this might be a privatization exercise. Without any end of mirth and a little bit of incredulity, I listened to this. We have been able to answer this question since the beginning and convincingly so - people understand that the philosophy of this is to improve government and incorporate new members into our government from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. We have had no problem discussing this on the road with the over 700 employees that we have talked to. That fear is not there.
I will give you an example I use - a very simple example. I was sitting in a grader station up in Beaver Creek, reading a fax sent out by the Member for Watson Lake to the Beaver Creek grader station, talking about some very, I would say, questionable and fantastic - and by "fantastic" I mean the very fantasy of it - numbers where he was claiming a 15 to 20 percent downsizing - no basis I could see, in fact; no words of ours; no reality in any way could I see in that fax. He was claiming and causing fear in the very people that he purports to protect, by saying that their jobs will be privatized. There is no need for this.
I will explain to the members opposite how easy it is to defeat this argument, and I really truly wish our member from the Yukon Party was here so we could explain this to him. The agenda is clear. We are going to do what we said we were going to do. The reason why is because the last party that unilaterally went against the wishes of the Yukon government employees was the Yukon Party, in a two-percent rollback, without concurrence, without a buy-in by the Yukon government employees. Let's face it, how many members does the Yukon Party have in this House now? How many members will they ever have?
The problem is that trust laid has to be respected, and the fact is that the Yukon Party may never recover from that. So we are saying and doing what we're saying we're doing. There's no hidden agenda. So, as simply as the argument was laid out by a very, I would say, controversial and questionable method of questioning renewal - and it continued again today in Question Period. In the way that was laid out, we can answer it very simply. There's no hidden agenda. What you see is what you get in the renewal process.
With that basis of trust we are going to forge ahead and make this government more citizen-centred, make this government a better place for Yukon government workers to work, make this government more service-oriented, and make this government more effective in its roles.
We are going to do that through the renewal process. We are going to do that, at the same time we devolve large and extremely important responsibilities from the federal government. The transition will be smooth; the Yukon environmental work culture will be better, and we will be better off as the Yukon Territory.
These are the long-term plans. This is called management. It isn't called politics; it's called management, and that's what you're seeing from the Yukon territorial government, the Liberal government you have in front of you.
We now have, also, the discussion of devolution. When we talk about devolution, I like to talk about the economic benefits of devolution. It's the jump-start the forestry industry needs. It's the jump-start the mining industry can use right here in this territory. The local devolution of powers will create accountability within their government so that they can stand squarely in front of the minister's office and get an answer.
So that will stand clearly there and provide links and also the accountability needed. This accountability from devolution will improve not only our economy but our citizens' happiness with the services we provide. It has become clear, through consultations in the communities and in the consultation with the employees, that this is going to have a positive and excellent impact and be a Yukon Liberal government success. So, I know that the opposition is not going to like to hear that, but they are going to hear it a lot: a Yukon Liberal government success. Get used to it. You are going to hear a lot of it.
Now, when we talk about a few other things as we are going through our budget - one of the other things that I really quite enjoyed was keeping our promise. We were asked to keep promises according to our platform - again, increase the heritage budgets. With my background in heritage, I take great pride in being able to stand up in front of the people in the heritage community, in front of my colleagues there, and say, "Look, we are responding." It is the commitment that we will continue to do. At the same time we are going to be saving those resources that are slowly going away. If anybody wants to be reminded of the kind of resources that we have already lost, this summer, when I went down the Yukon River, it broke my heart to see that there is no Stewart Island any more. It has disappeared, eroded - lack of resources, lack of management - an entire history gone. I don't know how, and I don't know why. I know that the resources were not put into the project. You will not see that happen in the territory. At Rampart House, you will not see that when you see expansions and other heritage areas we have in this territory. It is a serious concern and something I am proud of.
Now, the other side that I like to talk about very dearly - and this concerns some of the residents of my riding. Also, since my riding has the majority of the lounges and beverage establishments in the Yukon, in the downtown core, I'm pleased to see the solidification and the start of the alcohol and drug secretariat. With Corliss Burke there, we may be able to even stop over-eaters in this territory down the road. What we can do right now is focus on the debilitating and unnecessary problems we have in this territory due to substance abuse. We see a lot of it downtown, and it's one of the saddest things we have seen. This has been in front of Yukon politicians - ever since I was born, it has been a problem.
One of the biggest and bravest things - and we will take a lot of punishment for it because it's going to take time to do, but we will get it done. That's called "management", instead of "politics". What we will get done is to bring the Yukon drug and alcohol secretariat not only into force, but as an active and growing force every year of our government. I'm proud of it. The money that you're seeing going into it now is the start-up. As the government's plans get stronger and the drug and alcohol secretariat starts to link partnerships up with other groups, you will see the strength because, in the Yukon, this is not just a government priority, but this is a community priority and a First Nation priority. This breaks down to a one-in-every-two-families-in-the-Yukon priority.
So, this is not something to joke about. I'm sorry the opposition found even the discussion of the drug and alcohol problem funny, and they can't help that. But it isn't funny, and if we see any humour in this in the future, I will remind the opposition that they had an awful lot of time to take care of it, as well.
And if they walk the same streets I walk, they know the problem is not solved and has not even started to be solved. So we also have a look at, when we talk about management, we also have to talk about - and I'll put my business hat on - trying to find new opportunities. This is where I was pleased to see the immediate strength and the immediate ability of our new Minister of Economic Development, Scott Kent. He just sat at the table and strongly supports and backs more assessments in our territory for mineral resources, more assessments in our territory to ensure that those minerals that we have in the ground can commercially reach markets - more development of our mining industry. I enjoyed going up last week to Mayo. I enjoyed talking to the DIAND officials, going up to look at the mine in Mayo, and I enjoyed finding out that they, through assessments done by the Department of Economic Development, may have reserves that would keep them going for another 10 years once the existing reserves stop.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I'd like the indulgence of the House by introducing to the House Dawson Mayor Glen Everitt and the new CAO of Dawson City, Scott Coulsen. Welcome to the House.
Mr. McLarnon: So we get back to management. As I said, we are looking at not the political side of it. "No" has to be said when you're a manager. "No" is rarely said when you're a politician, but when you're a manager, sometimes "no" has to be said. What we need here are some solutions to better use the resources we have.
One of the ways that we're going to do that is solving the land claims processes. Ta'an Kwach'an will sign, I'm confident, will sign in the beginning of November. We know we're very close to forming partnerships with other First Nations, once their ratification is finished, and we do expect that to be in the year, as well.
Those partnerships are important in a number of ways. We have heard the leader of the opposition eloquently explain the positive benefits and partnerships. We have seen them only too real ourselves. Requests have come in from First Nations that are seriously being considered with respect to alcohol and drug rehabilitation and with respect to facility management, if you take a look at what has happened in Teslin.
We have already reacted, and we will continue to react as responsible, prudent managers looking forward not only to what we have today, not only to the fact that there is a $51-million surplus there - that has to remain because of the uncertainty of the future and because of the need to ensure that the standard of service that we are providing today exists no matter what down the road.
Does this look like a budget that would be a budget of a government that is going to downsize? No. Does this look like the budget of anything that is going to privatize? No. There are usually telltale signs. They are not there. Drop the argument. I ask the opposition to focus more on the constructive parts of renewal, to focus more on the constructive ideas being brought forward by employees. Maybe the opposition would find in those documents, publicly available - lots of people are reading them - some ideas and suggestions that would help to improve the government down the road so that, in 12 to 15 years when the NDP may have a chance of getting back in power, they will be dealing with a government structure vastly improved from the one they left.
So these kinds of suggestions now - get them in now or wait 15 years for your first chance to change them because I can honestly say that this support that we are building through it is solid, it is positive and it's not going to change through fear-mongering. It's going to give us a lot of opportunities to expose the holes in the opposition in the sense that fear-mongering and character assassination have become two of their largest points of attack. Good policy, effective criticism of policy is the only discussion that should be in this House.
Anything creating fear that has no basis in fact, essentially, is street politics, and it should be left in the street.
Mr. Speaker, in replying to this budget, I have focused on very few specifics, and the reason why is that the focus of my speech is on the philosophy of it, which is proper management, and the philosophy that throwing money at a problem often just creates more problem. Effective management is the way to look at it, and what you'll see in the Yukon territorial Liberal Party is effective management of resources, not just for today, but for the years to come.
And I'm joining my Minister of Health and Social Services in saying this is the start of a 10-year plan that we fully intend to see through.
Mr. Fentie: It is indeed with great reservation that I try to stand and respond to this budget, especially the budget speech, Mr. Speaker, given the fact that a great deal of the content of the speech is a figment of the Premier's imagination, and it doesn't really make sense. Let me expand on that.
Firstly, the members opposite, being very defensive about their lack of consultation with Yukoners in the construction of this budget, keep trying to make the point that they have talked to many, many Yukoners. Well, there's much more to this territory than the few Liberals the members opposite have talked to. There are thousands of Yukoners out there who aren't Liberals.
They are waiting for their government of the day to come, sit down with them, discuss the priorities of communities and groups and NGOs and others when it comes to budgeting in this territory. This did not take place, Mr. Speaker; it is a fact. The members can rail on all they want about how hard they worked in consulting Yukoners. It is very simple. They simply listen to a few Liberals whispering in the Premier's ear - that is how this budget got constructed. They say that they would especially like to thank the contracting community, and I would point out to the Premier and her colleagues that there is much more to the Yukon contracting community than the couple of Liberals who are here daily discussing these budget items with the government.
Now, another misleading attempt at labelling their budget as a Yukon-made budget is simply not the case. I would label this budget differently. First, I would label this budget as the squirrel-midden budget because the Liberal benches opposite, the Liberal government, is hiding money all over the place and we all know what a squirrel midden is - all spring, summer and fall squirrels actively rush around the forest stashing food. They do that because they can't remember where they put it, so they stash enough of it out there that in all likelihood they are going to find some when it is needed, and that is what these Liberals are doing. They are stashing enough money out there so when they lose track of where it all went, there is enough of it stashed that in all likelihood they are going to find some.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, there's another label for this budget. It's the "wing it" budget. If the members opposite, this government, believes that this budget is truly going to address the economic woes of this territory, they have launched the budget on a wing and a prayer. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, we have already seen the results of the Liberals' management of the budgets in this territory with the trends that have taken place since the Liberals implemented their first budget.
Now, under the former government, it was clear, and the facts and statistics will bear this out - the trends in this territory were improving. They were turning around. Any of the positives that the Liberals have been lucky enough to garner from budgeting were the result of the budget they passed that was constructed by the New Democratic government. And that is the budget that Yukoners cried out for this Liberal government to implement, and that is what brought positives to this territory.
Upon the Liberal government's first-ever budget, what happened? Trends turned around. The trends went the other way - people began leaving this territory again, our work force depleted, our unemployment rate rose. This is all with the very same budgetary items and the very same way of spending as this newly tabled budget for the next fiscal year.
So, Mr. Speaker, there is definitely some conjecture here in the Premier's speech.
Now, the Premier makes much about how the Liberal government, through their budgeting prowess, is going to solve the economic woes in this territory. We're a little confused, having listened to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, who just stated that the economy is not about the distribution of wealth; it's about the creation of wealth. On the other hand, the Liberals argue that the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in this territory is helping to rebuild and create an economy. This does not make sense.
It seems that the Liberals simply do not have a grasp of what it is they should do in addressing these very, very serious problems that this territory faces today, and it's evident. We have waited three budgets, three speeches, 18 long months, for the members opposite to provide this House - and indeed all Yukoners - with the plan of where they are taking this territory. We have not seen that. We are still waiting for that. What we see is patronage. They are very quick and have shown a propensity to ensure that they take care of their Liberal operatives. And Yukoners are tired, Mr. Speaker, of watching the Liberals roasting pork loin while the rest of us boil pork hocks.
It's high time that the members opposite got serious about this territory and what it's made of. The Yukon Territory does not end at Jakes Corner. Now, I say that, Mr. Speaker, because when you look at the budget there is a great disparity here.
The Minister of Economic Development, who we hope is going to bring forward, at some point here in the very near future, his plan for addressing our economic woes yet we're still waiting. He made the point that $16 million in this budget is going to Whitehorse. Well, there's a problem with that because, first off, not only is there $16 million going to Whitehorse, but if you factor in Marsh Lake and Laberge - two areas that are completely linked with Whitehorse - there's close to $20 million being spend in Whitehorse.
Let's look at a community like Watson Lake. Five hundred and some thousand dollars sent to a community that is reeling from the mismanagement of forestry, the mismanagement of oil and gas, the mismanagement of every sector of the economy that that community and that region depend on.
Now, I ask the Premier: what does she think the community and the riding of Watson Lake is? Some low-rent constituency? Some of the projects in east L.A.? That community deserves a lot more attention than this government has provided it. The mayor said it best in a letter that the Premier must have read already, scolding the Liberals for how they have constructed this budget, for not sitting down with the community and at least discussing community priorities. They have ignored that community, and I can only conclude, Mr. Speaker, that they are punishing that community because they did not vote Liberal. That's a sign of a very arrogant government, and that has no place in government today.
This government makes much about how they are open and how they are accountable. Let's look at some of the examples. In the first instance, I would like to expand on how the Minister of Education, who has now suddenly become the designate to try and manage and implement damage control for this Liberal government, has attempted to do that. Backroom deals with the teachers - that's not open and accountable. That resulted in the first-ever strike in this territory by our teachers. It was under that minister's watch. It was under the lack of leadership from the Premier, who should have immediately realized that what they were doing simply has no place in government and that they were not honouring a true, open, accountable collective-bargaining process. Then that same minister goes on to politicize the Education Act review by appointing a well-known Liberal operative to the review against the wishes of every school council in this territory, which wanted rotating chairs for the Education Act review.
What's the result? The minister is now in a position where he has turned his back on all of the partners in education - all of them - by not extending the review as they have asked. The government of the day has ignored the main content of the recommendations brought forward, not by the government, but by the people, an example of why politicizing such a very important process is wrong. This government can no longer claim it is open and accountable.
There is so much here that just simply doesn't make sense that I think it is probably in the best interest of all the people in this territory that we get into the nuts and the bolts of their budgeting.
Let me just, for a moment, step outside this capital main and make note of something. The previous budget for the fiscal year 2001-02, some $535 million, was the highest budget ever in the history of this territory. Suddenly, a supplementary comes forward that we have to debate in this House, this sitting, ballooning that to close to $600 million. There is some $54 million in the supplementary being brought forward by this government. Where is the winter works? How does that affect Yukoners in a positive way? It appears that much of the expenditure is on the Liberals themselves.
They talk about restoring confidence in government, but how can that be when, time after time, example after example, they give rise to the fact that people cannot trust this Liberal government to do the right thing?
The examples are many, far too many, to expand on here.
Mr. Speaker, they make comments like it was they - and this really relates to arrogance - because of the Liberals, they are the reason - it's the Liberals who are the reason that the Canada Tungsten Mine, now called North American Tungsten, has gone back into operation. I can tell you that this Liberal government could have been on the moon for the last three years and that mine still would have gone into operation. But, let me point out some of the flip-flop here. The budget that the NDP constructed, which this Liberal government was forced to pass by the Yukon public, had in it an expenditure on the Nahanni Range Road. That expenditure was in there because North American Tungsten asked for that expenditure, and it was to put a bridge in at a washout at Eighty-six Mile on the Nahanni Range Road. The Premier herself said, in not supporting the NDP budget - no, never; however the public forced her into supporting it - "One can only wonder why that expenditure is in this budget."
Now, today they have the audacity to stand on their feet in this House and say to all that they are the reason that the Cantung mine has gone into operation. I have never heard such drivel. It is drivel - nothing more. They have done little to address the economy, little to deal with health care. We have got a minister who got himself caught, his hand in the cookie jar here, taking a very good expenditure. That expenditure was called for by Yukoners and by the medical community. We need a standard diagnostic tool for the delivery of health care in this territory - it is the standard tool. The NDP budgeted $1.4 million for that standard tool. Well, the Liberals passed that expenditure but they did not spend it - they delayed it. And now we find out why. There were some Liberal operatives who had a bright idea that a private CT scan clinic would be the way to go for this territory.
094a Now, here's another label for our friends across the floor, the Liberal government. In confidence, this is so bad: a minister of the Department of Health and Social Services for the Yukon government didn't realize that privatizing a CT scan clinic would be against the Canada Health Act. So what has that done? That has cost Yukoners, Yukoners who needed that diagnostic tool and that standard of health care. That has cost them time; that has cost them stress of not knowing what's wrong, why they're sick; that has cost the Yukon taxpayer a vast amount of money to have these people shipped out to travel to where they can receive that standard.
The minister, through his complete neglect and mismanagement of what it is he's supposed to do as a Minister of Health and with his whole focus on throwing out another pork chop to Liberal operatives, has done that on the backs of sick Yukon people. I find that to be a total lack of anything that is right, and it's certainly a great degree of incompetence on the minister's part.
Mr. Speaker, they're railing on about devolution. We're the only government that achieved the agreement. I have to say this: there was a devolution accord agreement quite some time ago. And I want to quote from the speech: "Recent announcements regarding devolution show how far we have come in the last year and a half." How can this statement even be put into the speech when what we have done is gone backward?
There was an agreement to implement devolution last year. All that the Liberals have managed to do, by fumbling and stumbling around, is delay it until the year 2003, further restricting this territory's ability to try and resurrect itself from its economic woes.
Mr. Speaker, they go on to talk about how this devolution agreement will immediately fix everything, and I just sit in total amazement at how those members opposite, as a government, are missing one very important item: expectation by the Yukon public. Do the members opposite not realize that taking on these powers from the federal government is going to be a huge, huge task? It's evident that the members opposite, the government of the day, this Liberal government, does not have the capacity to take on that very, very comprehensive and difficult task. I can say, I think, beyond any doubt, that this Liberal government may very well miss that date of 2003 at the rate they're going.
Much of what budgeting is about people's priorities, to ensure that there's a fair distribution of government expenditure, to ensure that expenditures are targeted so that we can accrue the most benefit from what government spends in this territory today. And it's even more important and more vital, Mr. Speaker, when there is nothing else for an economy but government.
And what have these people across the floor done, Mr. Speaker? The government of the day has taken one of the most valued, most positive, most constructive programs in this territory's history, the community development fund, and because of partisan political views, and because they just simply cannot stand any constructive suggestion from anyone but themselves and that very small centre of influence whispering in the Premier's ear, they have completely decimated the community development fund.
In doing that, they have lost the ability to target government expenditures, to realize the maximum benefit from the money government spends. They're just throwing money around willy-nilly, and then trying to tell the Yukon public that this is going to work and that it is helping everybody, when so many are receiving nothing and so many Yukoners' lives have changed so dramatically for the negative under this government's watch.
Mr. Speaker, we see a page in this speech outlining the budget highlights, and I have already touched on achieving devolution. Settling outstanding land claims - well, so far, they have managed to have the Han First Nation re-sign a land claim that has already been signed, but hasn't been ratified. So, there has been no progress made on land claims, but furthermore, Mr. Speaker, they have not been able to address the most important land claim in the territory - the Kaskas.
In the southeast Yukon, the Yukon's economy is certainly resting and waiting for something to happen with this Liberal government to address that very important land claim. The southeast Yukon is rich in resources. The investment community, in the oil and gas sector, is crying to get in there. The forestry, and the potential in that area, is so great that millions and millions of investment dollars are sitting ready to come into the territory and yet - nothing. The mineral deposits, tourism - the list goes on and on and on. But they have failed, in any way, shape or form, to address the land claim of the Kaska people.
I find it very difficult to believe that they're going to be able to do that. Mr. Speaker, I base it on a number of arguments, but I would like to just touch on one today.
We have now witnessed a situation that results from the Yukon Electoral Boundary Commission's interim report. It was the one that the official opposition brought forward, argued hard for - that the thing we should be doing when it comes to the boundaries and any changes would wait for an updated census, allow us to at least work with real numbers in population. No, that didn't happen. And once the interim report has been released, the Premier gets on the public media, on the airwaves for all to listen to, and says that the Liberal government in this territory is generally pleased with the proposed changes.
Well, I can tell you that the Kaska First Nation wasn't very pleased with those proposed changes. The Kaska First Nation is very displeased with the view that this Liberal government has of the Kaska First Nation. The Kaska First Nation is very displeased with how little this Premier, who has made land claims her priority, understands the makeup of the Kaska people - who they are, how they see themselves, how they relate to their land. This government has absolutely no idea of what that's all about. The Premier's comment that the Liberal government is generally pleased also poses another real problem. The Premier has totally ignored, as the commission has, a long history of a community whose contribution to this territory goes unquestioned, who has contributed for decades to the Yukon's economy and to its evolution and deserves to be at least recognized - no, not under this Premier's view. She's generally pleased with the interim report and all that that brings in terms of problems.
The members opposite go on and on and on about how this budget relates to long-term planning. That's a real gem, because the long-term plan in this budget is a mirror, a carbon copy, of the former government, the NDP government's, long-term plan. It's almost the same, number for number. That's their long-term plan; they don't have one. They just simply throw this one out that the NDP put on in the budget two years ago. That's not a long-term plan. There has to be a plan. How can a government function? How can a government deliver anything to its constituents, to this territory, without a plan? That's why I label this budget "the wing-it budget" because it is definitely a budget - if it's going to address the needs of Yukoners, the Liberals have launched this on a wing and a prayer.
There is so much wrong here, so much to deal with that the members opposite are simply unaware of the problems they face. The economy is not improving. In fact, nothing could be further from the facts. The economy is suffering more and more and more. It has never been as bad as it is now under this Liberal government. It's atrocious how they have managed this.
One of the bright lights in the Yukon's economy over the last couple of years was forestry. Things were moving ahead - investment was coming in, distribution networks were being set up, markets were being established, and yet, all of a sudden under the Liberal government, it all stops. It stopped completed. I want to point something out. In this speech, the Premier has made note that the Liberal government is very happy that we now have THAs.
Well, let's look at that for a moment. What the federal government is proposing are a couple of 30,000-metre THAs in the southeast Yukon. We have been there since the 1960s. That is the type of timber access that we have had. What has it done? Furthermore, the existing 30,000-metre THA has gone through an arduous two-year level 2 screening of CEAA. It's so onerous that the federal government had to put forward another $160,000 so that the company - a First Nation company, Kaska Forest Resources - could continue on presenting their proposal, their forest management plan, their pre-harvest prescriptions and their post-harvest prescriptions, and yet they still do not have the right to access one cubic metre of timber. How can this Premier, who has made such a mess of the Yukon economy and has simply shown to Yukoners a complete lack of capacity to lead, say in this budget speech that this is a great thing?
You have to talk to more people than the two Liberal operatives that are in Watson Lake. I offered a couple of times to help the members opposite with forestry, to go to work on this issue so that we all can benefit. There was no uptake. I even went so far as to invite the new Minister of Economic Development to my community to show him around and, in a short time, try to make him understand what forestry is really all about. And yet the Premier, the Cabinet of one, the corner office, makes sure that one of those Liberal operatives gets a little mention in her speech, but it does nothing for our economy.
We all hope that small operators can make a go of it, but developing a forest sector as an economic engine for this territory takes a lot more work than this Liberal government has contributed toward it.
And that's the problem. I think the members opposite, who are so void of any plan, who are empty of any vision, are also scared to do anything because it might be wrong, and that is really, really having a negative impact on this territory.
We see also in this budget a very problematic trend by the Premier, who continually brings forward conjecture in this House, and that's not allowed, Mr. Speaker. At least, it has no place in this Assembly.
Then the Member for Faro, completely lacking any understanding of the issue, chastises the Member for Klondike for his stand on the Premier's comments regarding his lack of support for a pipeline. Well, that's a bunch of rubbish, Mr. Speaker. And the Member for Faro made fun of the Member for Klondike, that he was sensitive. No, that's not the case. The Member for Klondike was calling this Premier on it, and so he should.
I'll tell you what the issue is here. It's well-known in this territory that every political party supports the pipeline project. What's at issue is the Liberal government's mismanagement of that project by doing nothing to make this territory and its people pipeline-ready. All the Premier has managed to do is decimate the Department of Economic Development, pour all the money into what she calls a pipeline unit, but with no results. None. It's evident by the facts that the Alaska Highway pipeline may be the secondary choice, and that's why we in the opposition urge the members opposite to get serious about this economy and focus on all the sectors that are necessary to turn this economy around.
The Premier stands in this Legislature and trumpets that we in the opposition benches, including the Yukon Party, are anti-business. Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, by a cursory look at the budget, that it's the members opposite who are anti-business. They don't understand business and, like the squirrels, they're just stashing money all over the place in case they lose some money and need to find something right away to help another Liberal operative. Furthermore, it's a well-known fact that if you throw enough money around, sooner or later, you should be able to hit a worthy project. That does nothing, though, to turn the economy around. It does very little - other than for those who are lucky enough to receive that expenditure - to improve the lives of Yukoners.
One of the most important vehicles in this territory to help to diversify the economy was trade and investment. Now, let's look at trade and investment briefly. The whole concept is, "Let's get outside of our borders. Let's not continue to look within and look at government. Let's look outside. Let's develop. Let's market. Let's use the talents, the expertise, the capacity, the desire of Yukon people to market ourselves outside this territory." Well, this Premier, because that initiative was created by another government, a different political party, has made every effort to decimate that very worthy program, which resulted in a very small, local company - the brewery here in the Yukon - marketing its product as far away as Ontario. That's what creates benefit. That's what creates jobs - not this constant disarray and confusion that the Liberals govern by.
Mr. Speaker, the members opposite should be ashamed of themselves. After 18 months in office and all that time expired, this is the best they could do. Now, I will admit openly, without any hesitation, that there are a number of expenditures in here that are good expenditures, but they're certainly not coming from any sense of direction from the members opposite. It's because there were certain groups and certain people and certain communities lucky enough to get through this maze across the floor, who run around in a confused manner like those squirrels out there in the woods, trying to find where they stashed their food, were lucky enough for somebody to actually listen - not just hear them, but listen - and implement their idea. There are too few of those examples, Mr. Speaker, far too few.
It's time that the members opposite come clean with the Yukon public. Where are we going? What is the plan? What is the vision? How is this government going to deal with the very difficult issues this territory faces today? Are we going to continue to have a Minister of Health trying to create a system of health care in this territory that has a public system being implemented, privatizes sections of health care? We can't have that, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Health has a duty under his purview to ensure universality of health care for all Yukoners. This minister should spend a lot more time trying to grind out of those greedy little Liberals in Ottawa the $20-some million they still owe us for health care.
Instead, he runs around here with his main priority of ensuring, or trying to ensure, that Liberal operatives get the biggest chunk of the pie. And that's a sad statement. Unfortunately that's what's happening.
Developing infrastructure - well, we are definitely developing infrastructure with the multi-millions of dollars going into our existing roads. But I want to say something. In the long term, other than we have a nice road to drive on - and it may, at some point down the road, give rise to somebody giving a serious thought of coming here to this territory - when they are all finished, then what? Real infrastructure is not just existing, it's beyond. Where is the commitment to a very important initiative in the southeast, a road to resources? All the community asked for was $150,000 to do a feasibility study on that concept so that government, the public and anybody else who so wishes, could understand what it really meant. But the issue behind it is, if we could get to our resources with a road or some sort of access, that is the first most logical step to attracting investment to this territory.
Another very important project was Connect Yukon, which the members opposite bounced around from one department to another and it finally landed on the Minister of Community and Transportation Services' desk, but they sold us out to a multinational company. What happened to the concept beyond improving the main pipe in this territory so that we can acquire high-speed access to the Internet? What happened to phones for people? The minister has been asked a number of times from a number of different quarters, "Why can't we have a phone?"
It's because the minister sold the farm to a corporation, instead of making sure that that corporation followed through with the spirit and intent of Connect Yukon and that very valuable project. It didn't take the minister long to spend the money, but it did not result in the desired effects.
I can read all the contracts I want. The point is, it was under this minister's watch that the farm was sold out. Mr. Speaker, I value expenditures in schools, but there's one real problem with this budget. In the face of declining enrolment in schools in this city, and possibly in this territory, while the members opposite have yet to provide us with any data in that regard, they -
Speaker: Order please. The member has two more minutes to conclude.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Unfortunately, that's all I have.
They blindly forge ahead with the political promise to rebuild the Grey Mountain School. Now, that in itself is, I guess to some degree, a show of staunch, partisan Liberal approach to things, but what does it really do? Is that really the way government should spend money, based on political promises? I don't think so, because every Yukoner has the right for its government to ensure that their daily lives are improving when all we have are government expenditures.
I'm looking forward to debating the budget, not only the mains, but the supplementary, and I think we will expose the deficiencies that this government brings to this territory. I urge the members opposite to come forward, finally, with a plan and a vision, so we can all understand where they're trying to take us, instead of being in this confused vacuum that the members opposite seem to continue to operate in.
They have a duty to do that. That's why they were elected, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I want to clear the record here on a couple of things that the members opposite have made statements about.
The surplus, for the members opposite, is $51 million. The surplus is $51 million, not $100 million.
The member opposite also made a comment about being slapped up. The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes said he had been slapped up by the Minister of Health. I have never physically touched anyone, Mr. Speaker, so I take exception to him making those kinds of comments in the House. Those are terms that I think are unparliamentary. I don't think they should be used here.
Also, on the whole objective about privatizing the CT scanner, we have never said we were going to privatize the CT scanner. Never, ever have we said we were going to privatize it. We said we were exploring, Mr. Speaker, whether that was even possible, and when you're exploring, it means looking at as many different options as you can find. I guess the idea from the opposition's point of view is that if you say it often enough it becomes truth, and I guess that's why they keep saying it over and over again. So every time they say it, we on this side are going to correct them because that's not what we said.
Visitations - I keep hearing that we didn't do any visitations on the budget. Well, Mr. Speaker, I was around here pretty well the whole summer, as my colleagues were, and we were in and out of the territory, all over the place, doing the very thing that we as politicians have to do: visiting the communities, talking to people, and looking at what their goals and their objectives were. Because they didn't see a sign that said, "Budget Meeting", does that mean there were no meetings? There were all kinds of meetings.
So again, Mr. Speaker, I guess the objective of the members opposite is that if you say it often enough people might even start to believe that we weren't even in the communities. So, again I am here to correct the record. Our members were out in the communities talking to Yukoners, and this is how we came forward with this budget. It is very important that the community be involved, otherwise we would do like past governments have done - just be arrogant dictators. We are not that way. We consult with Yukoners.
I am honoured to reply to the budget speech put forward by Premier Pat Duncan. The speech outlines in very clear terms how this government is following through on our commitments to Yukoners. I think it is very important for all of us to understand that, when we go through the whole issue of budget making, it takes many people. It takes many government people; it takes many public people; it takes many citizens to come forward with what we have come forward here with, and we have done a marvellous job.
We outlined seven priorities when we first took government. These were devolution, settling outstanding land claims, maintaining quality health care, developing infrastructure, restoring confidence in government, rebuilding the Yukon economy and addressing the alcohol and drug addictions. Those have been our seven main themes, and they still are posted in our Cabinet office and we look at them every day, because we realize that we have a mission before us. We realize that all Yukoners must work together in order to accomplish solutions.
It fills me with great pride to know that this budget is one of the best budgets I have seen come down in the history of Yukon government.
I have been here for quite a spell, so I have seen lots of budgets. I really believe that this is a forward-looking budget. I'm also very pleased and proud to be part of a government that doesn't become frightened at the word "change". Oh my gosh, Mr. Speaker, how the opposition really gets into a tizzy and frenzy when you talk about change. "We wouldn't want to change. My gosh, what we have been doing for the last 50 years has been working." Well, I think it hasn't.
That's why change, dialogue, debate and discussion is all very healthy. I am told - and this is from fairly good, reliable sources - that about 10 percent of the people are activators. They want change and are on the cutting edge all the time - 10 percent of people who really want to move ahead with the times. Then you have about 10 percent at the other end who don't want to change at all - never do you want to change. And then you have the rest - 35 to 40 percent of people saying, "Yes, I'm going to sit back here, and I'll consider some change, you know, but it will have to be proven to me." And then you have another 35 to 40 percent who say, "Well, I'm a little more disposed to change because I see that we need to make some changes for the betterment of the Yukon."
I hate to say where the opposition is. They are in that 10 percent who don't want change at all. They don't want to have to change. Why would they want to change? I guess maybe that's the reason why they're sitting over on the other side.
Devolution is a reality, Mr. Speaker. It's a reality because its time has come.
We look forward to that change. We look forward to taking down those objectives and goals and programs that have operated 3,000 miles away or 5,000 kilometres away and that are now going to be located here in the Yukon. I think long-term Yukoners and lifelong Yukoners - particularly some of the lifelong Yukoners who are on the other side - would be overjoyed about making decisions here rather than somebody in Ottawa making decisions. That means also that governments would be more accountable. It would be more important to have land and mineral resource decisions made here for Yukoners.
I've heard some talk about land claims, the fact that we've made no progress on land claims. We have made progress, Mr. Speaker. And I guess I get tired sometimes comparing what the last governments did, but we have made progress and we are continuing to make progress. People who have been in government before know that that's not an easy way of trying to solve problems - in the fact that you can just say, "Poof, it's going to be done." I think the last government tried that, and obviously no settlements were forthcoming. At least, Mr. Speaker, we have one just about ready to be concluded. Hopefully, we have three, four or five more ready to go by March 31.
As well, Mr. Speaker, one of the seven priorities is of particular importance to me, and I'm going to speak a little bit about health care in the Yukon. You know, I hear a lot about health care in the sense that people are very concerned about their health. I also make it very clear that we individually are responsible for our own health. If we have to change the mindset of Canadians and Yukoners that health is something that's personal and that we have to do something about it because our system today is overburdened with the weight of people hoping that the health care system will bail them out, then I think it's a good discussion.
It's a good discussion. The minister responsible for recreation has brought forward an active living model that was started by the former government, and the esteemed Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was at the beginning stages of that, and I applaud him for that. I think that is one of the keys to get people back into the health mode. These are issues that I think are not light; they are very heavy topics. The important part is that we, as Yukoners and as Canadians, have to enter into that debate and that discussion.
The members opposite challenged me as if to say, "Well, do you know the five principles?" Well, I tried to give the member opposite the five principles but he refused to take them. I had the definitions as well. That's part of the problem. We have to look at the five principles. We have to discuss the five principles as Canadians and see if they relate to whether we can afford what we are currently doing in Canada. That's the whole discussion around the Romanow commission and the Kirby commission.
This is why people are discussing issues related to health care. It's not just for politicians. I really appreciate the fact that the members opposite keep talking about health care and bringing it up as being high profile because that will hopefully get more people interested in the fact that health care is very expensive and that if we want to have these services and these resources, then we have to be willing to put our money there.
I also think that we need to empower and educate ourselves. I have learned a great deal over the last year and a half as Health minister. One thinks that, just because you have had a certain length of life, you know lots of things, until you move on to something else and you find, "My gosh, I am just starting to learn." I really have appreciated the fact that I have been able to have this privilege of being the Health minister.
Yes, at times it's not a very thankful job. I know that. But I can go back in the history of all the Health ministers and they have all had the same problem, so it's not something that's geared to one particular personality. It has to be geared to the role that you play because you touch everybody's lives. You have to have, I guess, a balance of levity as well as a balance of being serious about where you're going. These are the issues in life.
It's very important, Mr. Speaker, that we really try to look at the real issues out there in health care and try to really look at what we can do here, as Yukoners. That involves the doctors, the nurses, the health care professionals, the government, the politicians - well, let's enter into good, lively debate. Let's not try to pick on people because they're trying to do something different or exploring something that might be different and trying to make it fact before it is even a reality. That's what I find very difficult - no matter how you bring a topic or an issue up, the opposition or the media make it fact before it's even discussed, so you never get to discuss anything.
I believe what we have to do is make sure that Yukoners - particularly Yukoners - and Canadians - have a good, long debate about health care, and that's now coming. I think in my community visits - as I said earlier, I have had many community visits and I have talked very long and loud in these communities about the pressing needs in our budget, in our health care delivery. I went to Dawson and spent a good couple of hours talking to Dawsonites about what their needs were.
Part of the problem I have, though, is what people sometimes take away from those meetings, particularly if you're a politician. I get from the member from Dawson that what he took away from that meeting was something quite different from what I offered. I offered the people of Dawson that I would take names forward to our Health department and set up a health review committee for the City of Dawson.
I promised nothing else and yet, by the time the day is over, it looks like I've promised about five or six different things, but that is according to the member from Dawson, not according to what I actually deliver. Because I think communities want to be involved in their health care. We have to find a way to involve them in their health care, and the way we do that is that we sit down and we discuss what our needs are in the community, we look at what we have, we look at what we would want, and then we look at what we can afford and, hopefully, through that interchange of ideas and dialogue, we'll come up with what's best for a community.
I hear the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes talking about seniors living in their communities - yes I would agree with the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes that that is really happening. There are far more seniors staying in their communities. So that has been an issue that has been raised with me in almost all of the communities. How can we better prepare the Health department or the government to help support people staying in their own communities and in their own homes? So, we have some work to do there.
We have a bit of lead time right now - not much - but we do have a lead time, and I do agree with the member opposite that we have to move down that path, because we know that sitting in extended cares or seniors homes here in town or in Whitehorse is not the answer for people who come from Teslin or come from Watson Lake. We know we have to do far more work in that area.
So we want to engage the Yukon population in the discussion of health care. We really want them to be part of the solution - not wave a magic wand and say, "Well, just come in and spend more money" - that is what I hear from the other side all the time. "Just come in and give us lots of money and we'll do what we have to do." Well, that doesn't solve the problems.
We are currently working very closely, you know, with the health care people in the Yukon, trying to come up with a better way of delivering our health care. It is not without problems, obviously. We have been able to sit down with the nurses and come up with what we thought was a good strategy - a good recruitment retention strategy.
We're just in the process of setting up a nursing advisory council to the government. Again, that's recognizing the worth of nurses and their value in our communities, as nurse practitioners, as primary health care deliverers.
In Whitehorse, we're basically trying to work with our doctors and health care people to again come forward with a retention and recruitment package. So, in the next little while, we're going to be entering into negotiations with our doctors. We have been trying to enter into negotiations with them all summer, but the choice by the doctors was not to enter into discussions, so we waited until they finally notified us and said, "Now, we're ready." So, we're ready to go.
The interesting thing, when you look at the recruitment and retention of nurses, particularly in our rural communities, is that we have no outstanding vacancies right now in our rural communities, which tells you that what we're doing is working, I guess.
Just recently, I think three more doctors have relocated from wherever they were to Whitehorse, just in the last couple of months. So, even without a retention and recruitment package, doctors are coming to Whitehorse, because the Yukon is a very attractive place to come to.
We're not alone in facing these problems. These concerns are all over Canada. We are probably in a very enviable position of living in the Yukon, which is a very attractive place. So, when health care people get a taste of the Yukon, they don't want to leave. But we do have some problems on the horizon. We know we have an ageing health care professional group, both in nurses and doctors. So, we can't just sit idly by and expect that we are going to solve these problems by waving the magic wand. So, that's why we have to work very aggressively to ensure that our future is looked after.
One has to remember that the health care budget right now here in the Yukon spends approximately 25 to 30 percent of the budget, and it's growing very rapidly. Ontario today spends 50 percent of their budget on health care. I can tell you, being the Health minister in Ontario is like being Dracula. I don't think you would want to be that person, because all the colleagues of this particular Health minister have their sights set on that particular person, because health becomes like a sponge.
In British Columbia, 40 percent of the budget is spent on health care, and that's where you're seeing some really drastic cuts taking place today. We don't want to arrive at that, Mr. Speaker, and that's why we have to debate and discuss and dialogue about health care. If the members opposite don't like it because it doesn't fit what they historically have seen with health care, then that's too bad. That's reality today in Canada.
I find it rather interesting. I was just reading a quote in a paper - I think it was the Toronto Star or the National Post - and it was a quote from a famous premier of the Province of B.C. His name is Glen Clark and he made the comment that it's very difficult for people of his party to change; they don't want to change. It's a direct quote from him. He says, "We're the new Conservatives of Canada." I think we have a few of them here.
We have to look at health care costs, Mr. Speaker. It's not something we tuck under the carpet and say it'll go away, because it's not going away. When the premiers and the Prime Minister meet, they talk about health care, and a good part of their discussions are about health care.
That should be a point right there, Mr. Speaker, that tells us that this is a very important issue across Canada, because it's absorbing a good part of the budget.
As the Premier has mentioned on many of her visits, what has happened is that they are tasking the Health ministers around the country to come forward with some ideas about how or what we can do to be more efficient and more effective in health care. So if I come back to the Yukon and I am sharing this with the media, sharing it with the public, having public meetings, and trying to display the concerns I have, it's not because I feel this personally. I do now, because of what I've learned, but it's because it's a reality across the nation. We don't want to lose our health care system, Mr. Speaker. We are not interested in going into the path of user fees. We don't want user fees as a government.
So we have to look at other ways. How are we going to avoid where we're going with a number of things and pressing needs? We have a growing number of seniors, because there are a number of seniors in the next five to 10 years that is just going to grow exponentially, which is going to mean huge demands on our health care system. I guess the question we ask is, can we afford it? I think right now we're suggesting we'd better look at ways of how we can better deliver it.
What the premiers came up with when they talked about health care in Victoria this past summer, or this fall, was pharmaceutical management. We know those costs are rising dramatically.
Another point was discussing the determination of the scope and practice among health care professionals; in other words, seeing if we can move down a different path on how we deliver health care.
But this is nothing new for the Yukon, in some ways. In our communities, Mr. Speaker, we have health care professionals, our nurse practitioners, who deliver the only health care there is, and they do a wonderful job. They don't have doctors on scene day after day. They deliver. And most of them don't have to go and see a doctor, because the nurse practitioners have that scope of practice.
But we do have a problem here in Whitehorse. We need to work with our doctor partners and see whether we can offer a different way of delivering health care in Whitehorse, and that's going to be the challenge. It's a challenge right across the country. Can we work in partnership instead of what I call the hierarchical approach toward health care delivery? Can nurses and doctors and health care professionals be partners in the delivery, instead of the doctor being at the top and whomever else at the bottom? Can it be a team process? Can you have social workers, can you have mental health people, can you have drug and alcohol, can you have the nurses, the nurse practitioners, working together in concert, as a team in a clinic of sorts? This is what's happening in many parts of Canada right now.
It's not happening here. I should say it happens in the rural communities where we have doctors in Mayo and a doctor in Faro. They work as a partner with the nurse practitioners. It's wonderful. The nurses are on first call. The doctors then don't have to be available all the time. It's a great model, and the doctors like it because it spreads the workload around. It spreads the demands around. It's a very, very positive way of trying to build together.
Continuing care is another issue that I think the members opposite have mentioned. As you know, we're probably going to be - not probably, but will be opening our continuing care facility here in the New Year, and it's probably going to be one of the best in Canada.
But, you know, we have to pay for it, we have to operate it, we have to ensure that good services are delivered. We will be proud to do that for our seniors and those people who need extended care - it's not only seniors who will be staying in extended care. We have a number of young adults who need that kind of support and help and, the way that the extended care facility has been designed will accommodate those various age groupings. So I think continuing care is one of the big issues.
I think that how we manage our human resources - how we work together and build together - is another very important issue, Mr. Speaker. It's very important for us to be able to talk about how we can team. I know that's difficult sometimes for the members opposite to think about working as a team. This side does - we're a powerful team. Just watch what we are doing in the territory right now. Everybody is just in awe of what we are doing, because we do talk to each other.
We have many ways of trying to address problems. We have to look at the coverage of new drugs, we have to look at the benefit of new drugs. I mean, let's remember that not all drugs are necessarily the best kind that we need for, sometimes, the things we are being prescribed. So that is a very important part of government to ensure that we have the best types of drugs.
We have to look at more effective and efficient ways of enhancing the long-term care services. And we really have to look at the training and recruitment of professionals. I think that is a very big issue. I think we, as a government, have moved way ahead on the recruitment and retention. The fact that we have no nursing vacancies right now in our communities, and the fact that three more doctors came on board just in the last couple of months, I think, tells us something very clearly, that whatever we were doing there was working.
Another initiative that we northern ministers have undertaken is to meet periodically as a team, and when we were in St. Johns, Newfoundland in September, we met and had a good discussion around a number of common issues.
At the end of this month, we are having a special meeting of the three ministers in Yellowknife, on the weekend, once again, to coordinate our efforts, because we in the north have some very unique needs.
As you know when CHST is computed, it is on a per capita basis, and that doesn't really fit into the Yukon, or the Northwest Territories or Nunavut. So we have to look at other ways of trying to lever more dollars out of the federal government in order to help our situation. We have to raise our profile at these meetings, and I have to say that, of the two other ministers I have met on a number of occasions at these meetings, they are very strong about their resolve. They want to move on just as I want to move on, and so this meeting will coincide with the social workers meeting of Canada, who are having their annual general meeting there that weekend and, also, the northern social workers meeting that will also take place at the same time.
So we thought it was a good opportunity for us to spend a couple days discussing northern issues. We have some very unique challenges. We have to look at ways to maintain our health infrastructure. We have to look at ways of trying to cope with the isolation and the small population numbers and yet deliver good health care.
We learned through our CT scan discussion, you know, in doing our homework, that there are a lot of things that probably should have been looked at long before that was even put in the budget, and we had to do it after it was put in the budget, because expectations were way up here.
If we would have gone the route of purchasing that CT scanner when it was first in the budget within that first six months, we would have probably had a one-slice CT scanner. I think it was a one-slice CT scanning machine. This would have cost us probably a little over $1 million, and then we would have ended up like Yellowknife. That's what Yellowknife did two years ago. They went ahead and bought a CT scanner without any technical review analysis - looking at the cost, the O&M and all of the other issues. It was found, very clearly, that if they were to do what we did, they would never have bought a one-slice CT scanner. They would hopefully have bought a four-slice CT scanner, like we are going to buy. So, the time we took in order to assess this and evaluate this was well worth it because we're going to get the state-of-the-art CT scanner.
There are still a lot of questions out there about population and how often it would be used. We know for a fact that the technical review committee said that even if you max out your CT scanner for the Yukon population, based on the percentage, you would probably do a maximum of 1,500 scans a year. In Yellowknife, they're doing about 1,100 a year right now, and they have had it for a couple of years. So, even if we say 1,500 - and they have a bigger population than we have. A scan is about a minute. It takes very clearly only - not three hours to do a scan, as some people were saying. That may take the whole process, if you send it out to radiologists and so on.
But the point is, Mr. Speaker, that we did our due diligence around the CT scanner, just like we did our due diligence around the hemodialysis, which we didn't purchase. That would have cost us $1 million. So, thank God for a Liberal government in place. If we hadn't done that, we would have blown a couple of million dollars, just like that, and would have been down the pike two years later saying we needed some new equipment.
So I think, Mr. Speaker, we have done what we expected we should do, and we're very happy about what we have done.
I think that this budget shows that we as government have the best interests of Yukoners at heart. We have put money in a variety of areas. Our minister of highways has put a huge amount of emphasis on highway building, which, again, had been neglected under past governments. So I think it's very important for us to really accept the fact that our highways are going to be maintained over the next while.
Of course, the Member for Klondike wanted to put money into Project Yukon. We're putting three-quarters of a million dollars there - fire smart, half a million dollars. So our objectives are for the longer term. We're looking at long-term solutions, not short-term solutions. That's why we're spending money on transportation, communication and energy infrastructure. We're improving our economy; we're building on what we as a government said we would do. We're putting $12 million in the rate stabilization fund, Mr. Speaker, and we're delivering. We're doing what we said we would do.
I guess you could call it having Christmas presents before Christmas arrives. The Liberal government has delivered.
We're spending $43 million on capital spending on winter works projects that have just been tabled in the supplementary budget. I expect the opposition will vote for that. We are replacing Grey Mountain Primary School, which has been promised for the past 15 years. It's something that governments of yesterday said they would do and never did. We are doing what we said we would do.
We are keeping our promises. We are honest as a government. That the opposition doesn't like our promises - that's a problem they have, not us. I completely support this budget and encourage all members of this House to recognize the value of this government's tax dollar management.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Tucker: I'd like to thank all of the Yukoners who participated in the development of this budget. I'd like to thank the Premier and the Cabinet ministers for having the courage to go ahead and finally move our capital budget to the fall where many Yukoners have asked us to put it. I would also like to thank all the public servants who worked very, very hard and had their entire year disrupted by moving this budget ahead. They have done a tremendous job for us and I can't say enough to commend how hard they work for the government of the day, whomever they should be.
In moving the capital budget to the fall, there is a large public benefit in our cost savings overall. The public service benefits, because they have preparation time to get those specs and plans ready, and the contractors benefit because they know what's coming up. We, the public, benefit because we have timely construction and we get better value for dollar because we are not trying to build something at 40 below in January. The end result is better service to Yukoners and Yukoners being better served with the prudent use of our resources.
I would like to talk briefly about the concept of surplus. I know that I've been asked by a number of people on the street, "How come the opposition always has a higher number for the surplus and you always have a lower number?" I tried to describe it to the people that I met as, "Well, you can either sit down and do your bank balance at the beginning of the month, knowing how much you owe in bills and you can sit down and give that number, having paid all your bills, or you can sit down and look at your bank account at the beginning of the month and go, 'Well, this is how much money I have' and completely discount all the money that you owe." That's essentially what happens between the opposition and government. The opposition is saying right now that we have a $99-million surplus and if we don't pay our bills, well, that's what we'll have. But unfortunately - or fortunately, depending on how you look at it - we have to pay rent, we have to pay employees, we have programs to run and we have a public to serve because that's what government does.
So when we pay all our bills, at the end of the year we anticipate having $51 million at the end of this fiscal year. Now if we look forward over the next couple of years to our projects, the year after that we have $24 million, the year after that $12 million, and the year after that we go down to $7 million. So we are anticipating that, over time, this surplus will be used up in the service of Yukoners. Not only that, we are expecting with our decline in population that we are going to get less money from the federal government and we have to put money aside for that because it is prudent management and it is illegal for us to go into debt. So what we are doing with Yukoners' money is trying to manage it wisely and put it where we can all benefit from it in the foreseeable future.
I'd like to talk briefly about renewal. I am a public servant. I ran for this office in order to provide my constituents and the people in the Yukon quality public service. I was also a government employee for many years, and one of the things that we talked about a lot was how we could improve our service, how we could do a better job, how we wanted to be empowered to carry out the principles and the concept of the policies without being weighed down by increasing red tape.
Renewal is, in part, about some of those goals. It's about empowering employees. It's about giving the public of the Yukon what they want in terms of service.
The statistics tell us that 40 percent of management in the government is eligible for retirement in the next five years; 30 percent of our overall government employee population is eligible for retirement in the next five years. What this means to government employees, to all of our public service, is that this is a time of opportunity, it's a time of challenge, and it's a time and an opportunity for personal development if employees choose to take it. There are going to be many, many challenges that face us. We have opportunities for training, for promotion, for career changes. Those are all things to look forward to. Forget the stagnation, forget the dead-end jobs, forget all of those things that make us unhappy. Let's move forward, let's grasp this as an opportunity and let's move into the future, looking on this as our chance to have a better quality of life and a better quality of service.
The success of renewal will not depend on the shape of it, but it will depend on the commitment of all Yukoners to support the change through personal action by trying to do things smarter, more efficiently, with kindness, consideration, respect and recognition.
So it's up to us and only up to us to make it work. If we want it to, it will. From what I hear, most people, private sector and government, want it to work. They have hope.
I'd like to talk a little bit about the health commission and some of the values of Canadians. I'd like to quote briefly from "Determinants of Health Specific to Northern Rural Communities" by Bob Couchman. "Understanding the seeming contradiction between health care costs and health care outcomes is absolutely critical if we are to achieve the goal of improving the health and well-being of Canadians residing in rural and northern communities. Of course, if the goal is simply to improve health services but not address health outcomes and the well-being of individuals and families, then the answer is clear. To improve formal health services which, by the way, is a very important secondary objective, you have only to spend more money on doctors, nurses, health care facilities and technology. Currently, of course, the national priority has been focused on improving health services. As evidence of this priority, one only has to look at per capita health care costs. Almost all health care spending is dedicated to improving health services. This priority is no doubt driven by a political agenda set by the baby boom age cohort. Citizens in this, the largest age cohort in Canadian society, are now in their mid-40s and 50s." - that's me - "As they age, of course, they are all consuming more and more health services. They are also deeply concerned about their later years when they become frail and incapacitated. Thus the political pressure on provincial and national health ministries is being exerted by the most powerful of all age cohorts in Canadian society."
What is lacking in this approach to setting expenditures for health care dollars are two critical factors. The first is the issue of the prevention of illness and disease. Healthy people who have lived an active and healthy lifestyle generally consume fewer health care services until they are well into their 70s and 80s. Naturally there are exceptions to this. However, fit people live longer and suffer fewer illnesses.
You will see the public expenditures on other government services have as much to do with maintaining the health and well-being of people as do formal health expenditures. Education, recreation, social services, culture and justice have as much to do with developing and maintaining the general health of the population as do costs for maintaining doctors, clinics and hospitals. In addition, community well-being also has a very direct impact upon the health of any given population. Healthy communities and healthy families are probably the two most important variables in preserving health of people of all ages.
Of course healthy communities and healthy families have as much to do with the capacity of people to care for themselves and one another as they do on government expenditures in health, education, recreation, culture, social values and justice. Thus, we must ensure that government-funded services are in synch with the strengths and weaknesses of the communities in which those services operate.
The fundamental principles of health care in Canada are basically public administration. This criteria applies to health insurance plans and provinces and territories. Comprehensiveness - health insurance plans, provinces or territories and throughout Canada must ensure that all health-insured services are provided. Universality - 100 percent of the insured residents get services. Portability - people in Newfoundland get the same type and quality of services if they are in the Yukon as if they are at home. Accessibility - people must have access to health care.
In the Romanow Commission on the Future of Health Care in Canada, there are two phases. The first phase will be the gathering of information from all across Canada, to be synthesized into an interim report. The interim report will be released early in the year 2002. The interim report will form the basis of dialogue for Canadians. There are four major themes to guide us in the work: understanding the value base underpinning Canadians' conception of their health care system, considering the sustainability of the system, producing a culture of continuous improvement, creating constructive collaborations, and, to sum up, values, sustainability, managing change and cooperative mechanisms.
The Canadian Policy Research Network issued a report called Exploring Canadian Values. This report concluded that there are deeply rooted Canadian values, and they include compassion, sharing, equality of opportunity, equity, fairness and collective responsibility. I have referred to these items in the past as core Canadian and Yukon values. On the whole, our values have allowed us to successfully, albeit with some change, balance the many competing and complex interests in our territory - balance, such as an appropriate balance between the individual and the community, between regional interests and national interests, between diversity and solidarity. In fact, our strength is derived from our ability to balance and accommodate diversity that has been a legacy of our forefathers - both the British and French settlers, indigenous peoples and immigrants from every corner of our world.
The ability to draw strength from our diversity has made Canada a model for the world, and we have a rich tapestry of cultures, backgrounds, ethnicities and languages to help us, and they have been a blessing to us. In the end, we have created a Canadian identity and a Yukon identity.
All of these things serve to join us together in an identity as Canadians and Yukoners. I think we define ourselves most by our common core values: compassion, sharing, equality, opportunity, equity, fairness and collective responsibility. The government is meant to serve people and to advance the interests of people. For that reason, the various roles and responsibilities of various levels of government should be guided by what governments are attempting to achieve. This is the goal-oriented principle. By any name, the central thesis is that our duty as MLAs in government is to the people that we serve.
I'll turn a little bit to our history. Canadians have consistently blended an individualistic ethos with the needs and aspirations of the larger community. The balance was essential for the very survival of our earliest people. Aboriginal populations and the early settlers knew the value of cooperation. With a small population spread thinly across our great expanses, you have to rely not only on yourself but also on your neighbour, and your neighbour has to be able to rely on you.
In the early part of the 20th century, prosperity, changes in technology, growing personal wealth and the rise of big business shifted the balance between the individual, and the community toward the individual with devastating consequences. The Great Depression is an example of that. We responded to the personal devastation and hardship by returning to our core values of community and cooperation. Acting collectively from the Depression to and after the Second World War, the balance was reset by building up a social safety net as protection against major and often unavoidable risks of life.
We had the development of income assistance in the form of old age pensions, unemployment, disability insurance. We had hospitalization, and then we had the introduction of policies to promote social union and our fabric. These led beyond the basic provision of security for each other. We've developed a principle of cooperation and sharing. We've developed a network of programs, policies and institutions that benefit all Canadians and play an important role in defining who we are as people, both as a territory and as a nation.
Today, some would have us believe that the last 20 years have fundamentally undermined our post-World War social contract, that we are no longer committed to providing each other with some security from the vagaries of life and that we no longer believe in the value of sharing.
My own experience tells me otherwise. Yukon values and Canadian values still remain strong. The principles of sharing and equality remain deeply seated and have been largely unchanged. We have learned to appreciate the freedom to determine our individual futures and to enjoy the rewards of individual efforts and that should be encouraged. But we have also learned to appreciate and to support institutions, policies and structures that provide equality of opportunity, equality of access and, to some extent, equality of circumstances, and the results should make us proud.
As Canadians, we have combined political freedom, social equality, economic prosperity and cultural diversity with one of the world's strongest economies.
In the spring of next year, Yukoners will have the opportunity to discuss the underlying values that we share. We, as a territory, need to articulate not only what we believe in but how we are going to support it. It's all very well to say that we all support health care, we all support helping, we all support sharing, but what does this really mean in terms of our individual daily lives? Does it mean taxes, does it mean volunteers, does it mean helping our neighbour? What is it that each one of us is committed to doing to support our community?
And I think that we have to get back to some of those basic values and saying what they mean to us in our daily lives. We have worked very hard as a government since we were elected a year and a half ago. I would like to see us all work together for a more positive, professional and decorous Legislature. I think that that can be achieved by recognizing and commending everyone's efforts.
The Liberal government didn't just become the Government of the Yukon. We are based on a history of previous governments, and those governments were supported by the population of the Yukon. They had the population support in the past, and we have the population support today. It behooves all of us to behave professionally, and to look at each other and support each other's endeavours and say, "Well done. Good job."
This budget will do a lot for Yukoners. We are not alone in the world. The outcome of September 11 has not even been considered. We won't know the true impacts of what has been happening. What I know is that, going door to door and talking to my constituents, there has been a very big change. People have said to me, "You know, somehow my problems today aren't nearly as significant as they were a month ago."
People have chosen to live in the Yukon because it's a wonderful place. They're glad they're exercising that choice.
I don't know what September 11 is going to mean to our future, either. We are a part of this world. We're not an isolated post. Our economy is directly linked to the world's economy. It's all very well to sit down and say the government is responsible for the economy, but we're connected to the rest of the world. Mining prices are connected to what demands there are; tourism is linked to people's comfort level, the amount of money they have and whether they want to come here.
What I have heard is that many people suddenly see life in the Yukon not only as being one of the best choices they can make, but also see us now as a real integral, fundamental part of the world. It doesn't matter how much we say we want to control the economy. You're right. We are linked to elsewhere. We are going to do the best job that we can for Yukoners. We are going to try and provide the balance that they elected us to provide, and we are going to try and provide honesty, integrity, transparency and forthrightness, and we are going to try and do the job that we were elected to do, and we will do it in a professional, polite, respectful and civil manner.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have listened with interest to members' comments on the capital budget. The difficulty I have with some of the members' comments, particularly from the members opposite, is that they have chosen, unfortunately, to, rather than criticize or offer constructive criticism of the policies exemplified in this budget, such as rebuilding infrastructure - they have chosen instead to focus on the personal attack. That is unfortunate, because as the Member for Mount Lorne has just said so eloquently, we work very hard to focus on a manner and work and do our part to control the House and to be part of a House that is civil and treats one another with respect. We will continue to strive for that high ground. We will continue to work hard at offering policies worthy of constructive criticism. As we have said before and as I have said before publicly, we can control our own behaviour.
And that's what we struggle and work hard to do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, in presenting this budget, we have done what many, many, many Yukoners have asked us to do. We have a frequent saying in our House and in our offices that the people of the Yukon elected us on this side of the House with common sense for a reason. It makes common sense to have the capital budget in the fall. It's straightforward common sense, and that's what we did. And we did it with the help of a great number of public servants, especially those in Finance, and I would like to pay particular credit to them and offer them my heartfelt thanks on behalf of everyone on this side of the House for their hard work.
Mr. Speaker, I have a number of other comments. However, the time being 6:00 -
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 8 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled October 23, 2001:
Yukon Geographical Place Names Board 1999/2000 Annual Report (Edelman)
Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges: Second Report (dated October 23, 2001) (Kent)