Tuesday, October 30, 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 remembrance of Norman S. Chamberlist
Mr. McLachlan: I rise today on behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to pay tribute to a very colourful figure in Yukon's early political history. Mr. Norman S. Chamberlist, who passed away last week in Prince George, was first elected to the 19th Territorial Council in 1961. The Territorial Council, as it was known in those days, was the forerunner to the present Yukon Legislative Assembly. Mr. Chamberlist served in that capacity for one year as the Member for Whitehorse East. He tried his hand again at public office in 1967 and 1970, again winning the seat each time for the riding of Whitehorse East. His greatest achievement came, however, in the 1970 election when he became one of only two elected members to form part of the five-person Executive Committee that administered Yukon in those days. This was to be the start of our present Cabinet system.
Because of his very early interest in medicare issues, Mr. Chamberlist was given responsibility for the portfolio of health, welfare and rehabilitation. He was very devoted to parliamentary procedures during his time in the Territorial Council. Perhaps less known, but just as equally important, he also served public office on early Whitehorse City councils prior to his time on Territorial Council. He still stands as somewhat of a hero to anybody who has ever had to pay a parking ticket in the City of Whitehorse. It was his successful challenge to a City of Whitehorse parking bylaw that proved that the streets of the city had never successfully been transferred to local authority and all parking metres had to be removed until the legalities could be straightened out.
In 1960, using his own funds from an electrical contracting company that he owned, he submitted a salvage bid to buy the old, old Whitehorse General Hospital when others were asking for money from government to tear it down. He used the material to build one of Whitehorse's original hotels on 2nd Ave. and called it the Normic Hotel after his name, Norm, and his wife, Mickey. It still stands today on the same site and is renamed the Roadhouse.
He took particular pride in telling all who would listen of his early days, sailing for the British Royal Navy in World War II. He was extremely proud that his birthdate of October 21 was the same day as the historic victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
He was predeceased by his wife, Mickey, and one son, Dennis. He is survived by two sons, two daughters-in-law, three grandsons and two granddaughters.
He passed away on October 22, one day after his 83rd birthday.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the report of the Auditor General of Canada on the public accounts of the Government of the Yukon for the year ending March 31, 2001.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have two documents for tabling: the Yukon Northern Affairs Program Devolution Transfer Agreement working copy, dated October 30, 2001, and the Public Accounts 2000-01 of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2001.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have a legislative return in response to a question by Mrs. Peter on Thursday, October 25, 2001.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Northern Affairs program devolution transfer agreement
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I inform the House that the Northern Affairs program devolution transfer agreement has been formally approved with notice to that effect issued by the federal government late Monday.
A copy of the completed document was tabled in Parliament and the Senate for information purposes earlier today.
A moment ago I tabled a working copy of the document with the Yukon Legislative Assembly. Given the complexity of this agreement, arrangements have been made to brief opposition members later today.
Devolution is the transfer of the responsibility for managing the Yukon's land, water, minerals and forests from Canada's Northern Affairs program to the Government of the Yukon. While the Northern Affairs program devolution is but the latest of a series of transfers that span the history of the Yukon, it is one of the most significant for us with respect to our political evolution.
It has long been recognized by both Ottawa and Whitehorse that Yukon control over Yukon lands and resources will be more responsive to Yukon needs and priorities than the present federal system. Yukon control will result in significant social and economic benefits over the long term. Yukon's goal has always been to ensure that the territory has the ability to manage in a fiscally sound manner. In the transfer agreement, we have ensured that the Yukon has the same ability to manage as Indian and Northern Affairs now has with built-in fiscal protections to carefully manage risk.
Mr. Speaker, I will not dwell at length today on the many highlights of the transfer agreement. Suffice it to say, there is much to celebrate and much to contemplate. Our government will be diligent in ensuring that in the days and months to come, Yukoners will have the opportunity to learn about the contents of the transfer agreement.
Mr. Speaker, today is an important day for Yukoners. With the completion of the transfer agreement, a critical step of devolution is done.
Next will come the federal introduction and passage of the Yukon Act. With these building blocks expected to be in place by Christmas, our transition work will begin in earnest. We will be fully prepared for the transfer well in advance of the effective date of April 1, 2003.
In closing, I would like to acknowledge and express our heartfelt thanks to Yukon's team of negotiators who have worked so diligently to meet this goal. My congratulations to each of them as individuals.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I am pleased to respond to this ministerial statement. It has been a long time in waiting for Yukon people. They have been asking for many years to see programs devolved down from the federal government to Yukon and that we take control of our lands, forests and resources. Finally it has come to a conclusion, and I am pleased to see that.
When in government, the NDP worked very hard on devolution, and what we see before us today is very little change from when the previous government left office. There is some cleanup of wording, some monies going to First Nations but very little change. I am glad that the Premier is able to bring a statement like this to the House. But what I think is inappropriate is for government to discuss this with the media without first talking and bringing it forth to the opposition.
I'm sure that some people may have questions in regard to devolution - maybe some serious questions in regard to those who have signed on to the agreement. For example, Council of Yukon First Nations has signed on to the agreement with conditions having First Nation final agreements come forward. This may come up at a later date. I urge the Premier, now that this is out of the way, to get on with negotiations and work hard with the departments to make sure that government is ready for devolution. We need to see that happen very quickly
In conclusion, I hope that the Premier does not get derailed again in regard to negotiations with other processes that are in place like renewal. This side of the House, the official opposition, supports devolution and we are glad to see it come forward.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, while champagne corks may be popping in the Premier's office over this deal, Yukoners should be made aware that the development transfer agreement is one of the worst sell-outs of Yukon interests in our history. This agreement effectively makes Yukoners caretakers in our own land. Under the DTA, Yukoners accept the environmental liability for managing Yukon lands and resources that will still be owned by the federal government, but Yukon governments in their right mind would accept $20 million as the federal government's fair share of the environmental liability on Yukon lands, managed by the federal government since the territory was created. The federal government's estimate of the cost of environmental liability of the Faro mine alone is over $100 million.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you look at the environmental cost that the federal government was imposing on the Keno mine in Elsa. Federal government, through its environmental requirements - which were pointless I might add - effectively bankrupted United Keno Hill Mines Ltd. Now it appears that it is the Yukon government's turn. If the Premier and her colleagues are celebrating this agreement here today, it won't compare to the celebration going on in the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs office in Ottawa for having duped Yukoners.
The DTA represents one of the worst examples of federal offloading in Canadian history. The Yukon government is to receive $2 million for 10 years to cover environmental liability - big deal. The Premier is going to tell Yukoners, "Don't worry, be happy. It's great. The federal government is accepting its environmental responsibility for existing mines, such as Faro and BYG. Not to worry." What she won't tell Yukoners is that the federal government won't be putting any real money down now to meet these costs, other than the $2 million per year. When the day comes, however, when these real costs have to be addressed, the federal government will be long gone. Mark my words. Every Yukon government has had extreme difficulty in getting the federal government to pay for services that it is legally obliged to pay for.
First Nations health care comes readily to mind. The federal government has a fiduciary responsibility to pay for First Nations health services, but it took successive Yukon governments years to make DIAND pay. And there are currently more problems in this area alone, Mr. Speaker.
These costs for health care are going to be peanuts compared to the potential costs for the federal government's environmental liability.
Mr. Speaker, let's look at another environmental cost area where Yukoners are suing for land and resources that we don't own - that being fire suppression. After five years, the Yukon government assumes the full cost of fire suppression in the territory. This is bound to be a major cost. There are other costs that may appear small now but could be substantial later on. One example is the current cost of environmental assessment, which is listed at $1,553,000 under the development assessment process legislation coming into force. Under DAP, there are already proposals to create six regional offices, and guess who is going to have to pay for all this increased government regulation? You're right, Mr. Speaker. Yukoners are. The Yukon taxpayers will be left with nothing in the bank.
Mr. Speaker, time does not permit me going into all the potential pitfalls of the DTA, but another major issue in addition to the land ownership and environmental liability issues must be mentioned, and that is the lack of federal recognition of Yukon's offshore boundary in the Beaufort Sea.
The Liberal government has recognized the offshore boundary between Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, but it will not recognize the Yukon/Northwest Territories offshore boundary. The oil and gas potential in what should be Yukon's portion of the Beaufort Sea could be substantial, but this novice Liberal government isn't prepared to fight for Yukoners' rights and interests.
The Premier and her colleague are more interested in pleasing their Liberal masters in Ottawa and signing away Yukoners' rights and interests. They will go down in history as supporting -
Speaker: Order please. Under the new rules that have been agreed to in the House, the ministers and opposition members are now subject to a four-minute time limit on the statements and their responses. I advise the leader of the third party that his time has expired.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun indicated that the former government had worked very hard on the devolution transfer agreement, and I would concur with that. The former government leader continually offered both the former leader of the Yukon Party and me, the former leader of the official opposition, briefings on the progress of the devolution transfer agreement as time progressed.
I personally attended a number of those briefings and continued that practice, and the members opposite have been advised of the details as progress has been made. The fact is, however, that this government has finally achieved what was not concluded before us. We have achieved a devolution transfer agreement, and I thank some of the members opposite for their support for this important step for all of Yukon. I appreciate that.
The media release was issued in Ottawa late yesterday afternoon. It was signed off and contains quotes from me, the Grand Chief, Mr. Schultz, as well as the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. All of these individuals have expressed their support for devolution and for the devolution transfer agreement. It is a complex agreement and there is a great amount of detail, which will be fully provided and fully discussed with Yukoners over the coming time period.
Unfortunately, I would encourage Yukoners to examine that information prior to giving any credence to the Member for Klondike, as he clearly has not grasped all of the details of this agreement. I thank him for clearly expressing his complete lack of support for this important step for Yukoners.
The real issue for Yukoners is who controls the land, not who has underlying title. Administration and control, not ownership, provides the authority for government disposition of resources. It is a duly elected Yukon government that will be fully accountable to Yukoners for things like forestry permits, mine permitting and signing water licences. And that is incredibly important, and it's a historic day for Yukoners. We are fully accountable to the people we serve and represent, and I'm proud of the work of the public servants and those who have gone before me in achieving a most significant and historic agreement for all of us.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Education Act review
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Education. Earlier today, the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations announced that Council of Yukon First Nations' education department has closed its doors, and he has laid the blame squarely on the feet of the minister for refusing to fund further First Nations participation in the Education Act review. The minister also refused Council of Yukon First Nations' request for more time to provide input into that review process - so much for the good relationship between First Nations and the Yukon government. Why is this minister refusing to provide Council of Yukon First Nations the tools it needs to fulfill its role as one of the partners in education?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It is a pleasure to answer the members opposite's question on this issue.
First and foremost, Mr. Speaker, First Nations are one of our most important partners in education. They have been intimately involved in the review of the Education Act for the past two and a half years.
Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, when his party was in government, provided the Council of Yukon First Nations with $50,000 to fund their participation in the Education Act review. After we took office, we provided CYFN with an additional $50,000. The Education Act Review Steering Committee has largely completed its work, and I expect to be receiving a report from the committee in the very near future.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I'm talking about the First Nation Education Commission. The Yukon Education Act defines the role of the central Indian organization authority. That central authority is the First Nation Education Commission, which this minister is refusing to fund. So, if the government is not crying poverty, is the minister saying that he is prepared to see the Education Act amended so that there is no central Indian education authority representing the interests of First Nation students and their parents?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We did fund, just as the previous government did fund, CYFN in their direct involvement in the Education Act that has been occurring for well over two years. And First Nations, Mr. Speaker, have fully participated in this process and have contributed significantly to this process. The Education Act Review Steering Committee has largely completed its work. It has submitted a draft report. It has received public comment on the draft recommendations, including comment from First Nations directly, and I expect to receive the final report very soon.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is either avoiding the question or not hearing it properly. When I asked him about the funding to the Education Commission itself as an essential education authority, the minister constantly refers back to the Education Act review for which he is not extending time for more input from First Nations, even though it has been asked for. Why is this government going that route? I would have to say that they have another agenda. Council of Yukon First Nations is crying out for help. They have asked the federal government and the territorial government for help, so why isn't this government looking at addressing this issue because it is not one that had been recognized way down the road, months ago? They have come to a point where they are no longer functioning, so this commission needs money. So where is -
Speaker: Question please. Order please. Question.
Mr. Fairclough: So where is this government going to go with funding the First Nation Education Commission?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I have answered the question twice. Our job is not to fund the commission for ongoing work, and we funded specifically for their participation directly in the Education Act review. We do take our responsibility very, very seriously in providing a high quality education for all Yukon children. First Nations are one of our partners in education and they have been involved in the review of the Education Act from the very beginning - over two and a half years ago, Mr. Speaker.
As I have said to the member opposite, when they were in government they provided Council of Yukon First Nations with $50,000. When we came into power, we also provided an additional $50,000. The Education Act Review Steering Committee has nearly completed the task it was charged with and I will be expecting their comments soon.
Question re: Septic tank leakage
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health.
Now that the minister has been properly briefed on the issue that I raised with him yesterday, he knows that the CSA has completed its investigation. It has determined that some of the tanks sold in the Yukon are substandard. So once again, I would like to ask the minister what he is doing to help Yukon families determine if they have faulty tanks or not.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we take this issue very, very seriously. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to correct misinformation. YTG is a regulator of CSA standards. We began this role in 1999. At different stages of septic system installation, there are different responsibilities.
The supplier, the owner, the installer, the CSA and the environmental health officer each have a responsibility. Our Yukon government regulations are in place to ensure that the health of Yukoners is not endangered. CSA is responsible for policing its standards and taking corrective action if there is a problem with the standards, Mr. Speaker. We continue to follow up with CSA to ensure that they are investigating the complaints. Using the information we have at this point, we are not aware of an environmental health concern.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I've just got to throw that country song right back to the minister. The minister is absolutely wrong. For the minister not to take his portfolio seriously and to be sloughing it off and just saying that the CSA is the regulator is absolutely wrong. The minister is the regulator, and we do have a problem that is out there in the Yukon, and it's in the city. It's all over the Yukon Territory.
Now, in all fairness, the department has only been the regulator since 1999. Yesterday, I said that 160 to 200 tanks have been put into the ground annually. Now, I guess the minister can say that only from 1999 to present day is the problem, but the real problem is that there is not even a process in place for accountability to see if the tanks are leaking or not leaking or living up to the standards.
So I would like to ask the minister: will the minister commit to putting such a process of accountability in place for the future so that we'll know exactly what the extent of any problem is?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Now the member opposite is talking about 100 to 200 tanks being replaced annually. I hope that is what he is saying, not that there are 100 to 200 tanks at fault here. I hope that's not what the member opposite is saying, because we know those are not the facts.
I appreciate the opportunity, again, to correct what I think we are doing. We are the regulators, not CSA. CSA has their stamp on a tank. We accept the CSA standards because that is the standard across Canada. Of course, as I said earlier, the supplier, the owner, the installer and the government environmental health officer each have their own responsibilities. We have followed our due diligence around this.
Of course, CSA is responsible for policing their own qualities, not us. We don't police what they do. We make sure that they put the fields in properly. We make sure they follow due process in ensuring that there are safety standards around how those tanks and the fields are being used. So we continue to follow up with CSA. It would appear that the members opposite have far more information about CSA than we have.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are working very hard on this because we know this is a very serious issue.
Mr. Keenan: Well, for once I can agree with the minister opposite. We do have more information than the minister has and that's absolutely appalling. What I will do is I will invite the minister to sit down with me and the proponents - with whom he has refused to meet again, even after he realized that the problem was large. I will invite the minister to sit down in my office with the proponents to properly brief the minister so that we might be able to find a solution to the problem that is plaguing the Yukon. We have examples across the nation of water quality problems and we have had deaths arise from such problems.
What I need here is leadership - not arrogance, but leadership - from this minister to put into place a process of accountability; a process that we will be able to find out exactly where the problem lies, how much it is going to take to fix and fix the problem.
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Keenan: Absolutely, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to know again, will the minister give instructions to his department and resource his department so that we might go out and find out where the problems actually lie? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Just to correct the member opposite, I have met with the so-called proponents, as the member has said. I have met with them at least once, and I know our department has met with them many times. So that information is very accurate as well - that we have been in discussions with the proponents, both those who supply the tanks from outside and those who make tanks here. For the member to assume that we haven't met with them, we have. We have been meeting with them on a regular basis.
But again, as I shared with the members opposite, our suppliers are required to provide CSA-standard septic tanks and septic field materials. We are required to do that, Mr. Speaker.
As well, the environmental health officers can inspect installations of septic tanks prior to them being covered over. They have to do that. This is part of it. They have to have a picture of the whole area. That's part of the file. The installers of the system must also ensure that they notify the environmental health officer for approval to cover. That's a fact.
Our regulations are in place to ensure that the health of Yukoners is not in danger. CSA is responsible for policing its own standards, Mr. Speaker, and taking corrective action if there's a problem with the standards. We continue to follow up with CSA to ensure they are investigating the complaint.
Using the information we have at this point, we are not aware of an environmental health concern. The member keeps saying there is -
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude his answer?
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Renewable Resources.
The chief spokesperson for the group of eight business organization opposing the protected areas strategy in its present form recently stated that the strategy represents the largest land alienation in the history of the Yukon. If the head of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society had his way, this would certainly be true. CPAWS is, after all, wanting 30 percent of the Yukon being turned into parks, much more land than the Yukon First Nations will receive under their land claims settlement.
Does the minister believe that the Yukon can sustain a 30-percent withdrawal of land from development and still retain some semblance of a viable economy?
Further, does the minister accept the findings of the CPAWS poll that 61 percent of Yukoners favour this high level of land alienation to create more parks in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As usual the Member for Klondike managed to scurry in, I think, three questions under the first one, so I will first state to the member opposite that we do not comment on the results of polls. The only poll that really does count, as he is aware of, is the one on election day. However, the poll does raise a number of other questions about the Yukon protected areas strategy. Our government has introduced the Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act which enshrines YPAS in legislation. The public wants to know - in fact the public deserves an answer to another question and I would love the members from the official opposition to stand up and state their position on Yukon protected area strategy.
Mr. Jenkins: The chief spokesman for the group of eight business and industry representatives has noted that the minister's new Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act makes a combination for trapping and outfitting in territorial parks but makes no accommodation for other economic interests. The minister is on record as claiming that he offered to meet with business and industry over their concerns, but the meeting scheduled for August couldn't be arranged. Why didn't the minister offer to meet later in the fall as the group of eight requested? Why did he ignore their request?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Oh, I love it, Mr. Speaker. I just love it. At yesterday's meeting, if the Member for Klondike would have got the facts correct from the individual whom he was meeting, he would have learned that the letter that the member had sent back to me with respect to the meeting was that I would meet at their wish - at their time - and that offer is still open. I have never closed the door on sitting down and meeting and talking with these individuals, and I have asked, person to person, the current president of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce numerous times to come sit down and have a chat. The spokesperson I have chatted with on several occasions and have asked him to come on in and we'll sit down and talk about the Yukon protected areas strategy. Both the Minister of Economic Development and I are more than willing to sit down with these folks at any time and explain the protected areas strategy and its place within the Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act.
As a matter of fact, it was just on Friday that the director of the Chamber of Mines said that he didn't have a problem with the new act, so it would be interesting for the Member for Klondike to also mention that in this House.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, it's interesting to note that there are two sides to every story, one from the group of eight, another one from the minister. They don't jibe.
Now, on page 5 of the Liberal election platform, which deals with creating certainty, it promises to ensure access to land that is available for the development of the forestry, wilderness tourism and mining industries. Why did the minister leave out both mining and forestry from this commitment in his proposed new park legislation and choose instead to cater solely to CPAWS' demand to turn 30 percent of Yukon into parks land?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I love it, because the member is already starting to put incorrect information into the minds of the public. We have never agreed to a cap, Mr. Speaker, and I have said that repeatedly in this House, but he is already starting his messaging about getting 30 percent of Yukon. We're not accommodating CPAWS on that issue, and we're not accommodating the mining industry on indicating a cap, Mr. Speaker. Is that clear enough to the member opposite? No, because we'll hear about it time and time again in here - time and time again. And the fabrications will continue.
The Member for Klondike said that there are two sides to every story, and, in fact, every time the Member for Klondike stands up, there is a new version of the story. So there are many stories, Mr. Speaker, that go on and on and on, and with his wish, they become fact. Well, Mr. Speaker, that isn't going to be the case.
Question re: Alaska Highway reconstruction at Marsh Lake
Mr. McRobb: Well, I would like to follow up on the line of questioning regarding the chipsealing of the Marsh Lake section of the Alaska Highway.
After reviewing the minister's responses to the questions last week, it's obvious that she is confused about what the question on this issue really is. My questions were based on why three-quarters of a million dollars was wasted on BST rather than repairing problems with the road. But her responses were reading a briefing note on why it was chipsealed rather than paved. For some reason the minister insists on scratching the surface of a much deeper problem.
Now, on Tuesday of last week she said that the contract had been completed to her satisfaction, but on Thursday she said that the crews and contractor were out there inspecting the road and trying to overcome difficulties. If indeed the contract has been completed, can the minister tell us exactly what those difficulties are?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: If we had put an asphalt surface on instead of BST while we monitored the stability of the roadbed in that area, it would have cost about $1.35 million. If the roadbed hadn't stabilized yet, BST surface could be repaired at low cost. That is what we have done.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that is really going to extremes now.
Now, the details on this contract from the government Web site are rather skimpy. In fact, it says that the contract value is an upper limit and does not reflect the amount actually paid out. Can the minister give us the actual amount of the contract and indicate whether the holdback on the contract has been paid out?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I believe the cost was approximately $320,000 in total. I can get the precise figure to the penny for the member if he wishes. And, no, the holdback has not been paid out. We have retained a deficiency holdback equivalent to one kilometre of supply and place BST, and that will be released upon satisfactory completion of repairs to the BST, as I have already indicated.
Mr. McRobb: That's interesting, Mr. Speaker, but some information on another part of this contract that I would like is the employment numbers it has produced. Can the minister indicate how many jobs were produced by this contract? And in terms of workers, how many were Yukoners and how many were from outside the territory?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Kluane is aware, it was a Yukon contractor who had the contract. I can undertake to find out exactly how many people were employed and how many were Yukoners if that's what the member wishes.
Question re: School busing contract
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Premier, and I'm very glad the Premier was so passionate during her ministerial statement about being accountable to the Yukon public.
This is an issue that the Premier bears responsibility in, and it's to do with the inappropriate action of members of her government.
We have, first, the Member for Whitehorse West, the Speaker of this Assembly, involving himself in the tendering process. Secondly, we have the Minister of Education providing incorrect answers in this Assembly and to the public concerning this matter. The Premier cannot hide from this issue. She is responsible for the actions of the members of her government.
Let me ask the Premier this question: does the Premier agree with the Minister of Education that the Member for Whitehorse West was simply doing his job?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the answer to the member opposite is yes. I fully support all of my colleagues.
Mr. Fentie: So much for that accountability. First off, we have the Premier now condoning a minister of her government providing incorrect information in this Assembly. We have the Premier condoning political interference in the tendering process. This is a serious, serious matter, Mr. Speaker.
We have that political interference. We have a situation where the contract was discussed with the owner, he attended a union meeting where wage cuts were discussed, and he was giving a government caucus message on cost-cutting for school busing here in Whitehorse. But the opposition is willing to give the member the benefit of the doubt.
My question to the Premier: does the Premier agree that the Member for Whitehorse West simply exercised bad judgement?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong. The Member for Whitehorse West was a bus driver for two and a half years.
Some of the people whom he met and talked with - it was specifically about efficiencies. I have said that time and again. In January and February of last year, the member was speaking purely about efficiencies.
He did meet and he did attend with his colleagues, and he was talking with his colleagues well before the tender was sent out.
The members opposite, yesterday, tried to justify actions of their previous government when a colleague of the member opposite met just days - just days - before a tender was sent out by the previous government and spoke on issues relevant to that tender.
I am sure that Yukoners would like to know the difference between that issue and our member simply doing his job.
Mr. Fentie: Well, if the minister responsible for education doesn't know the difference between those two issues, he shouldn't be a minister. It's as simple as that. We've already dispelled that rumour. The former minister was invited to a meeting to discuss conditions of the tendering. That means if any changes were made to those conditions all would have a level playing field in bidding the contract. This is a different matter. Not every potential bidder received the same courtesy from this government. We're not wrong, Mr. Speaker. What's wrong here is the actions of this minister. I'm asking the Premier because this minister has no credibility on this issue. He has provided incorrect information in this Legislative Assembly. This should not be happening. It's inappropriate conduct for the Speaker of the Assembly to act in this manner. The Speaker is in the highest office of this Assembly, and we must have confidence in his abilities to carry out -
Speaker: Order please. May we get to the question, please.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
- his functions in a non-partisan manner. The defence by the minister doesn't cut it. Will the Premier do the right thing, have this matter independently reviewed and clear the air once and for all?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: And they go on and on and on. The fact of the matter is that the Member for Whitehorse West was doing his job outside, while this House wasn't sitting, so he was not the Speaker at the time. He was an MLA like the rest of us, going out and doing his job, talking to people, Mr. Speaker.
The opposition, I'm sure, does not gather - well, maybe they do gather all their information in their offices, because they don't get out there and they don't talk to people and they don't touch base with reality. Our members on this side do that, Mr. Speaker. We are all out there, talking to Yukoners all the time, having coffee. And, yes, we do talk to the public servants, who are members of a union, just as the Member for Whitehorse West did, as well. So we are doing our jobs, Mr. Speaker. And regardless of what the member opposite says, we on this side have full respect for the House, and we provide information as it becomes known to us in a full and accountable way, despite what the member opposite is alluding to.
Question re: Mayo-Dawson transmission line, timber permit
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the minister responsible for Yukon Energy Corporation and it concerns the clearing work and easement of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. Is the minister familiar with the conditions of the timber permit issued to the Yukon Energy Corporation on June 19 of this year?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am aware that yes, there is a right-of-way that had to be cleared and it was contracted out. So if that is the answer the member wants, that is the answer I am going to give him. Yes, I am aware of it.
Mr. Fairclough: The second condition of the permit states that the Yukon Energy Corporation must ensure that all timber larger than 10 cm in diameter is limbed and decked for DIAND disposal on sites as designated by the forestry officer. Can the minister tell us if Yukon Energy Corporation contractors and subcontractors have been living up to the conditions of that timber permit?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: First of all, we don't look after timber harvest agreements as a government. After devolution, hopefully in a year or so, this may be something that works on timber. We are not responsible for timber harvesting anywhere. That is a federal responsibility, and if the member opposite wants more information that is specific - that is an operational question he is asking - I will definitely get the information for the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is far off the mark on this one. We are not talking about a timber harvest agreement. We are talking about a project that this government has put forward and is responsible for, and we are talking about making sure that things are abided by.
For the minister's benefit, I can tell him that this has not been happening. In fact, there has been wholesale burning of trees along this line corridor. Both Nacho Nyak Dun and Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation are very concerned about what is taking place and, as a matter of fact, they call it a flagrant violation of the terms of the timber permit. They are also very concerned about the consultation process that has been used.
So, will the minister, now that he has been updated on this, look into this situation immediately and report back to the House tomorrow afternoon on what action he will prepare to take on this particular issue?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: That's a very detailed kind of aspect of the corporation. I'm not involved in the operation and maintenance of the corporation, Mr. Speaker. I'm involved in the overall philosophical direction of the corporation, not going out and cutting down each tree and identifying each tree, as the member wants me to do. But I'll definitely do that. I'll come forward with the information. Obviously, there is a concern there. It's a concern that we need to have some answers to, and we'll do that.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private members' business
Mr. McLachlan: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the item standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, October 31, 2001. It is Motion No. 149, standing in the name of the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will take a 15-minute recess.
Chair: I will now call the House to order.
Committee of the Whole will consider Bill No. 54, Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act.
Bill No. 54 - Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act - continued
On Clause 1 - stood over
Chair: I believe we have an amendment and then we can clear this bill.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to move an amendment to Bill No. 54:
THAT Bill No. 54, entitled the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be amended in clause 1 on page 1 by adding the following definition immediately after the definition of "former act": "Interim support order" means a support order made by a court or an administrative body for a time-limited period.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway in an amendment:
THAT Bill No. 54, entitled the Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be amended in clause 1 on page 1 by adding the following definition immediately after the definition of "former act": "Interim support order" means a support order made by a court or an administrative body for a time-limited period.
A copy will be distributed to each of the members and then we will allow a couple minutes recess right now for people to understand the amendment. I'd ask for two minutes to allow the amendment to be read properly.
Chair: Actually, Committee of the Whole will stop recess. What we'll do right now is that I'll have a Chair's statement regarding Bill No. 54.
Chair: Before calling clause 12, the Chair wishes to provide information on procedure. Clause 12 was stood over to allow time to reconsider the heading that appears above this clause. In this regard, the Chair has referred to House of Commons Procedure and Practices, which states on page 657, "Because the marginal notes attached to each of the clauses of a bill are not part of the text, they cannot be amended, nor can the headings of the various parts of a bill be amended." It is further stated in a footnote to that quotation that, "Editorial and technical amendments are not the responsibility of Parliament. That task falls instead to the legislative revisors who verify the accuracy of the marginal notes and headings before the statute is published." Accordingly, the Chair is not able to permit amendments to be proposed to the heading that appears on clause 12. The minister, however, may wish to provide the Committee with an indication of the likely direction to be taken in this regard.
If anybody wishes a copy of this, we will make photocopies available, but this is according to House of Commons Parliamentary Procedures and Practice, which all orders not covered in our Standing Orders defer to, so as far as the heading, we will allow Ms. Buckway to make a statement on that.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We overlooked this and I apologize. We should have made the change before it got into final form. The heading for section 12 will read "Choice of Law re: child and claimant support".
Chair: Now we will recess to allow members two minutes to read the amendment with any comments they may have. Committee of the Whole will recess for two minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Is there any further debate on the amendment?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, this was one of the issues I raised in general debate quite extensively, and the minister failed to take heed or even recognize that there was a lack of a definition in this area. Now, all of a sudden, it's forthcoming. I suggested to the minister that there were certain parts that were drafted in haste and I was assured repeatedly by the minister that that certainly wasn't the case. I'm pleased to see that this amendment is now included. I don't know what took so long for the minister to come to the realization that it was actually missing.
Mrs. Peter: I would just like to thank the minister in her spirit of cooperation that this amendment has come forward.
Clause 1 agreed to as amended
On Clause 12
Clause 12 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, out of Committee with amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 54, entitled Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, be reported out of Committee with amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 49 - An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act - continued
Hon. Mr. Roberts: An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act is good legislation that has been developed in conjunction with the Yukon Medical Association, the Yukon Medical Council, the Whitehorse General Hospital and the departments of Justice and Health and Social Services. This legislation will help with recruitment of general practitioners, specialists and surgeons.
One of this government's seven priorities is to maintain quality health care in the Yukon. This legislation follows through on our commitment to Yukoners with an appropriate and practical solution. Maintaining quality health care can be accomplished by amending the act to remove unnecessary barriers to recruitment of qualified, foreign-trained doctors. These qualified, foreign-trained doctors are well trained and competent but have not yet met all the Canadian requirements for practising in the Yukon.
If supported in this legislation, the proposed amendments will help address the recruitment issues by doing four things. First, the proposed amendments will create a category of licence known as special licence. That will be issued under certain circumstances and with certain conditions to qualify foreign-trained physicians who have not yet met all of the Canadian requirements. The amendment will allow a special licence to be issued annually for up to five years to physicians who are not yet licensees of Medical Council of Canada.
The proposed amendments will permit the Yukon to recruit qualified, trained doctors when we have a demonstrated need for their services. The demonstrated need will be determined by the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Minister of Health and Social Services may consult with the Yukon Medical Association and the Yukon Medical Council before making the determination that a demonstrated need exists.
As mentioned yesterday, the importance of having the word "may" as opposed to the word "shall" is that the Minister of Health and Social Services is ultimately responsible for health care in the Yukon, and the minister needs to have the ability to make a decision in a situation of urgency. If the word "shall" is used, then there could be a delay in the minister's response to an urgent situation whereby the Yukon Medical Council or the Yukon Medical Association cannot be reached.
Second, the proposed amendments would update the licensing criteria for qualified foreign-trained physicians. The amendment would permit the Yukon Medical Council to require a period of additional assessment of training for foreign-trained physicians who are licentiates of the Medical Council of Canada. Such requirements are consistent with licensing provisions in the province. This means that the Yukon Medical Council would be able to assess the skills of qualified foreign-trained physicians to ensure they meet Canadian practice standards. The council can then require that a doctor take additional training where necessary.
Third, proposed amendments would clarify that in order for physicians to be enrolled in the Yukon Medical Register, they must be enrolled in the Canadian Medical Register.
This provision would update the Yukon licensing requirements to ensure that they are consistent with standards in other Canadian jurisdictions.
Mr. Chair, I would clarify that all physicians who meet full licensing requirements for the Yukon are enrolled on the Yukon Medical Register. Those who receive a special licence would be enrolled on a separate special register. The proposed amendments would repeal the provision regarding post-graduate training. Requirements for physicians enrolled in the Canadian Medical Register post-graduate training requirements have changed since the Medical Profession Act was established. The requirements of the Yukon act no longer reflect the present training requirements. This amendment will allow the Commissioner in Executive Council to prescribe post-graduate, clinical training requirements by regulation. This will enable us to keep the Yukon licensing requirements up to date with current education and clinical training standards across the country. These amendments are intended to update the Medical Profession Act by eliminating the requirements in our act that no longer are part of the training of Canadian doctors.
Mr. Chair, these amendments will enhance our capability to deliver the medical services that Yukoners are accustomed to and expect. Yukon will be in a better position to recruit qualified, foreign-trained physicians if we update our legislation to reflect provincial practices and medical training requirements. At the same time, we are taking advantage of the opportunity to update our requirements for enrolment on the Yukon Medical Register so that they are consistent with the standards in other Canadian jurisdictions. The amendments will provide assurances that we continue with highly qualified, competent physicians to meet the health needs of Yukoners. We need to look at appropriate, acceptable, responsible options, and we need to ensure that those options will deliver quality health care in the Yukon. We believe that the proposed An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act helps to achieve those ends.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: So, in short, the minister was going to be coming back from yesterday's conversation and dialogue on this situation. The minister was going to say yea or nay to the difference between "may" or "shall". Would the minister, in simple words, put it on the record now?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: We had reflected on this. We actually had a lot of discussion with the various stakeholders in looking at the bottom line here of being flexible.
I think the problem - I probably didn't realize this yesterday - that if we have "shall" in there and the inability of the minister of the day trying to get hold of the various groups to consult with, that could be a problem. That seems to be the concern about the "may" and the "shall". The "shall" makes it almost imperative that you have to consult.
I would say and suggest that any minister in the Yukon who doesn't consult obviously puts their own political life in jeopardy. I think it's a very obvious factor that it would happen anyway.
If we put the "shall" in the legislation, it could potentially handicap quick decisions that sometimes have to be made. Those might be rare, but I'm told that they do happen from time to time. So that's why our preference is to go along with the word "may". But again, as I underlined before, consultation seems to me, with the people who help draft this legislation and pull it together as we see it, to be very important in ensuring that all the partners were agreeable.
Mr. Keenan: The minister said that he consulted. With whom did the minister consult? And I would like to qualify that, if I may - since yesterday, when this conversation started.
Mr. Keenan: I would like for the minister to stand on his feet on the floor of this House and tell me, since this conversation took place yesterday afternoon, whom the minister has spoken to?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I have spoken to our legal people and our health people. I have not spoken to the Yukon Medical Council, if that is what the member is asking, nor the hospital. But, again, I guess some of those decisions are made by politicians for very obvious reasons. Hopefully it's not a word that we are going to get hung up on, because the bottom line is that the Health minister is ultimately responsible for all health in the Yukon, and it's very important to retain flexibility around that.
Like I said before, incidents of where those decisions may have to be made in a quick reaction have happened in the past, and I believe that we must move in the spirit of ensuring that that security for the Health minister is there. Again, consultation, as I said earlier, is a very important issue, but it would and could delay some quick actions and some quick decisions over things that the future might bring - and those we don't know.
Mr. Keenan: Well, thank you very much. I would like to point out to the public at large and all those who are interested and are listening to the radio that the minister has not consulted. The minister has gone back to his department, had a little scrum. The minister has admitted that he hasn't talked to the YMA, he hasn't talked to the hospital, but he has talked to the departments of - I assume - Justice and Health. I don't consider that consultation.
Now, I can see that the minister already has his mind made up on this. I could actually see the minister having his mind made up on this yesterday when he was standing on the floor of this House and talking about this issue. I would like to point out that there are benchmarks in Canadian law. I believe that there is a case in Regina - and I'm reaching back about 15 years of my corporate memory in these situations and interests - where there is a benchmark where the minister, who is not ultimately the responsible department - as he stands on the floor of this House and says - but the Premier is. The minister is a messenger.
Back to the benchmark.
There is a benchmark in emergency situations that will protect the Premier and the department in a rush situation, an emergency situation, from doing the right thing.
I'd like to also point out that this is not a life and death situation that we're talking about. We're talking about recruitment, for gosh sakes - recruitment. It's administrative in nature. It's not a life and death situation.
I do like to point out that the minister has dug his heels in on this and that the minister is not going to change his mind. That's what I hear from this minister. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I think we have already started to realize where the problem is. It's the definition of "consultation". The member opposite, right there, disagrees with how or what consultation could be. Is a phone call going to be enough, or does it have to be a long, protracted meeting, or whatever? And that's the one issue that we know, when you have a number of individuals involved - each person has a different view of what that type of consultation should be.
I should like to remind the members opposite that, when this legislation was put forward, the Yukon Medical Council, the YMA, the Hospital Corporation, the Health department and the Justice department all agreed that the word should be "may". They all agreed. So, that's what we're going on, Mr. Chair. It was their recommendation that we leave it as it is, as "may". They had the option of going "shall" or "may", but they said, no, leave it as "may".
So, I guess I'm supporting all those professional people out there who believe that, in the final analysis, the minister needs to have that flexibility.
Mr. Keenan: I'm not going to belabour this point too much, because I think the longer I keep this minister standing on his feet on the floor of this House, he is going to change situations. He has already deviated a little bit from what he said yesterday to what he means today. I just point that out, Mr. Chair.
I'd also like to point out that, when you stand and you consult - the minister says it's a problem of consultation. Would the minister be willing to put a definition of "consultation" in this bill?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: For the record, I'm not too sure what the member means by "deviate" from what I said yesterday. When the member gets back up on his feet, he can maybe give me an example of what he means by me deviating from what I said yesterday.
That's for the record, because words like that, unless they're followed with a definition, mean nothing, and people listening to this may say, "What did he say yesterday? What did he say today? Where is the deviation?"
That's one of the problems - consultation. Right away we're getting into a protracted discussion about what consultation should be. You know, if we're going to do that, then that's going to take a long time to define what that could be. And, if that means it's going to hold up quick action and quick reaction because of needs that are there, one has to remember this is on filling positions that are possibly potentially vacant, where you may need a doctor, you may need a surgeon, because of whatever.
These are all related. If our surgeon were to go down with an illness, and so on, and we needed a quick decision about bringing a foreign surgeon in, consultation, you know, could hold up that process. And these are real examples. I mean, all the partners agreed that those decisions can't be made over a long consultative period.
So, to answer the question, I don't believe having a definition of "consultation" in the act would serve any purpose.
Mr. Keenan: It's so nice to get this minister on the record. As for deviation, I'd like to point out that, yesterday evening, the minister said he was going to go away; he was going to think about it; he was going to consult with the stakeholders. The minister deviated from that position, through my questioning, on the floor of this House this afternoon by saying he did not do that. He went away, all right; he probably thought about it. He might have picked up the phone this morning and called the Deputy Minister of Health and Social Services, but the minister deviated from what he said he was going to do by not following through on one of what he says are his principles of consultation. The minister deviated from his own principle of consultation.
I point that out. I have no further questions for the minister.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, as I stated yesterday, this is extremely open-ended legislation - very, very enabling legislation that is before the House here today - and can be readily abused by the minister of the day. I'm not suggesting that this minister is going to abuse it, but it can be easily abused, and this legislation can be used for a purpose it wasn't envisioned to be used for nor intended to be used for. I have concerns with that.
That said, Mr. Chair, I do have reservations with the minister's ability to consult because the Liberals have an extremely poor track record of consulting today with the population. It doesn't matter if it's budget consultation or any of the areas. But, at the end of the day, we are not the majority in this House in opposition. We can only point out these areas that may become the source of abuse by this minister or subsequent ministers of Health and Social Services. I hope that's not the case. Be that as it may, I have no further general debate, Mr. Chair. I have no amendments or proposed amendments in line-by-line, and I would move that the legislation be deemed read and passed.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that Bill No. 49 in clause-by-clause be considered read and passed. We need unanimous consent of the House to do this. Do we have unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
Clauses 1 to 16 deemed to have been read and agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I move that you report An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Roberts that Bill No. 49, entitled An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 6 - Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01
Chair: We will now proceed to the budget bill. Bill No. 6, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01. Is there any further general debate? Mr. Fairclough, you have approximately a minute and a half.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to move off of this bill. I have got a statement. I thank the minister for answering my questions in writing. From the notes that we have taken on this last funding and what has been spent, we have a certain amount of money that was voted in this Legislature, which gave authority to the government to spend. Approximately $23 million of that was lapsed and what we did not give authority to government to do was spend beyond that. This is what we have seen here, and I think this is a move that government should not be making.
I would just like to hand it over to the Member for Klondike for his statements and move on.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to table the letter that I provided to the leader of the official opposition with respect to questions he asked on lapses.
Chair: Is there any further general debate on the Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01?
Seeing no further general debate, we shall proceed with clause-by-clause, or line-by-line - same thing. It's easier to use the notes in there.
Department of Education
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $526,000 agreed to
Department of Finance
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $18,000 agreed to
Department of Government Services
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Mr. Fentie: I would like just a breakdown on that expenditure - the $1.7 million.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can provide that to the member opposite, as the minister's seat is currently occupied.
That is as noted.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It doesn't matter in Committee.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Okay. I'll let the minister go ahead.
Hon. Mr. Jim: The supplementary funding requirements were due to the transfer of the French language services program from the Executive Council Office to the Department of Government Services.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,713,000 agreed to
Department of Health and Social Services
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Mr. Fentie: Just, again, for clarity, could I have a breakdown on that $1,231,000 expenditure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can provide the member opposite with more detailed information if he wishes; however, it's mainly due to the higher anticipated costs for group homes, the chronic disease program, the pharmacare program and the extended health program. As the member opposite is aware, pharmaceuticals are the largest cost driver in Canada's health care system and, while we budget a certain amount for drugs, we aren't always aware of - sometimes there are other drug approvals that come along and sometimes there is a greater than anticipated demand. That's the bulk of the costs, but if the member wishes a specific breakdown, I can provide it to him.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,231,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $23,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $3,561,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Schedule B
Schedule B agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 6, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, Supplementary Estimates No. 3, 2000-01, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 6, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are seeking additional sums of money for the current fiscal year by means of a supplementary. As a result of revotes - which is a normal and recurring event - new initiatives and new cost pressures, we require $54.4 million in new appropriations in 2001-02.
This increase is accompanied by new income in the amount of $28 million, which goes far to reduce the net impact on our annual deficit.
During my second reading remarks, I spoke at some length about the numerous matters with which this supplementary is concerned, so I'm going to be very brief at this point.
Excluding revotes, there's about $40 million in new spending contained in this bill; $11 million of that is being set aside in endowments to provide for the future or the Canada Winter Games infrastructure fund. These are worthy purposes, Mr. Chair, for our spending, and we're very proud, and we hope that they receive the support of all members of this House.
The remaining monies, about $29 million, are for a host of initiatives and purposes ranging from highway infrastructure and health care to the cost of our RCMP contract and workers' compensation. These, too, are worthy initiatives, worthy of support from the members opposite. They are essential purposes that improve the quality of life for our Yukon citizens, citizens to whom everyone in this Chamber is accountable and for whom we all work.
Mr. Chair, I look forward to discussing the lines in the supplementary with the members opposite. If they have any questions of a general nature, I would be pleased to address them now.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have a number of questions. I certainly have a lot of questions in line-by-line in this particular supplementary.
First of all, this is a very large supplementary budget and, when first introduced into this House, the budget of 2001-02, this was already a very large budget, so the Premier's asking us on this side of the House to support the supplementary budget that's before us now. I could not understand where this Liberal government has been going, because it was only a matter of months ago that the Premier stood here in this House and said that the expenditures that it was asking of this House in the 2001-02 budget fulfills the commitment that this government is working toward.
And in only a matter of months do we find ourselves faced with a very large supplementary budget, so I ask the Premier this very simple question then. We're asked to support this large supplementary budget - is this now going to meet the commitments that the Premier said that the budget was going to meet at the beginning of the year - is this supplementary going to meet that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When we tabled the 2001-02 operational and maintenance budget and capital budget in the spring of this year, on February 22, we had not, at that point in time, received any of the additional funding that we were subsequently able to negotiate and which was announced on April 5. On April 5, I announced that we had resolved long-outstanding issues with Finance minister Paul Martin and we are going to receive additional funding as a result of that. This supplementary outlines how that additional money is to be spent and how it is to be set aside for things like the Canada Winter Games fund. That is what it does.
As to this government living up to the commitments outlined in the 2001-02 budget tabled in the spring, we are doing that. What this supplementary does is, it also lives up to things like additional costs in the RCMP contract, additional workers' compensation costs, sets money aside for the future as I have already noted, and it also deals with such items as the enhanced highway construction that took place over the summer.
Mr. Fairclough: That doesn't really answer the question. Can this House expect another supplementary to follow this one for this year, for 2001-02, perhaps in the spring?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there might be one or two recoverable projects that may come in at a different level or we may receive enhanced funding for them, so an additional supplementary would have to deal with them at that point in time.
As far as predicting the future, I don't anticipate much difference from what we have already outlined to the Legislature in terms of R01-02 spending. There may be some slight variations, as I said, on recoverable projects. Those, of course, would be outlined in a final supplementary like the one that we just cleared through Committee.
Mr. Fairclough: That's understandable. Is this Liberal government looking toward perhaps bringing additional spending out of this budget before the Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the member opposite could be a little clearer. Additional spending before the Legislature is this supplementary. Is the member asking if we're going to bring some other new project before the Legislature? There is the capital planning, as already outlined in the 2002-03 capital plan that is also outlined in the main estimates, so I'm at a loss as to what question the member opposite is driving at.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's pretty clear. We just dealt with a supplementary budget that was passed in this House that had additional government spending, and that's what I'm getting at. This Liberal government doesn't seem to know where to draw the line when it comes to spending. The anticipated additional dollars coming down from Ottawa are reflected in this supplementary budget. What are we going to see in the spring before the end of this fiscal year? I expect another supplementary budget to come forward on the 2002-03 capital budget. I expect that to happen, but with regard to this, are we going to be faced with another supplementary budget before finishing off this budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We just concluded debate on budget Supplementary Estimates No. 3 for 2000-01. This is the final accounting for situations like with Renewable Resources, where $50,000 went over the vote to date and it was due to a 100-percent recoverable project. So, as I said to the member opposite, it may very well be that, in the spring next year, there is a supplementary that would be No. 2 of the budget 2001-02 that accounts for situations where there were greater recoveries in a project or perhaps other projects were underspent, just as we just concluded debating. As for anything more significant than that, I don't anticipate anything.
Mr. Fairclough: Why would the Liberals not follow the trend that is already established in this House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Follow what trend? The member doesn't know what he is asking me.
Mr. Fairclough: I do know what I am asking. We have just dealt with a supplementary budget where this government has lapsed funding that was voted on in this House. They have also spent money that was not voted on in that budget. So, is the Finance minister saying that this government is going to clean up its act and not do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is standard for governments to table a budget. And it is entirely in keeping, when governments are able to successfully conclude a discussion like we had with Minister Martin and able to subsequently obtain funding, to come back to this House as soon as the House reconvenes and provide a supplementary, which is what we did. Now, it is entirely likely that another supplementary for the year 2001-02 will be tabled in this House. That is entirely possible and probable and is consistent with past practice.
Now, if the member is asking if I anticipate - I don't know what the member is thinking we might anticipate or not anticipate. We continue to manage the government finances as has been done in the past. There's nothing untoward. There's nothing out of the ordinary except for this government's successful ability to work with other governments.
Mr. Fairclough: Yes, we've seen that demonstrated with the First Nation Education Commission, Mr. Chair, and others.
I'd like to ask the Premier, as has been past practice, how is this supplementary budget put together?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With Management Board and with caucus.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that's exactly what we thought on this side of the House, that this government did not go out and consult with people on what their priorities are. The opportunity was there, and this was for the third, fourth, fifth time it was going to take place in this House. It's not right. Now, the Premier anticipated an increase from Ottawa. She didn't go out and consult on the original budget because it was already written up. We all know that, but people did voice themselves in that month that the Premier was out. Is this a reflection of that, or did Management Board just make the decisions on their own?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is incredibly wrong in his assertions to this Legislature. The fact is that this government, as a caucus, travelled throughout the territory in January consulting on the budget. What we heard overwhelmingly, first and foremost, was an appreciation for the fact that we were consulting on a budget close to the time frame when the budget would actually be delivered. What we heard were specific community priorities, and they were reflected in the budget. The fact that the member opposite cannot and will not admit to that or see that is the member opposite's problem; it's not the problem of Yukoners. The problem for Yukoners is that the member opposite isn't hearing what they've said to us. What they've said to us is, "Restore our infrastructure. Restore that long-overdue, neglected highways budget. Put money back in it. Do things like deal with basic needs of Yukoners: water and sewer services. Do things like build projects on time and on budget and meet the needs of Yukoners." That's what the 2001-02 budget did.
The member opposite is equally wrong when he says that we anticipated additional funding from Ottawa. We worked long and hard with Minister Martin on a very outstanding case. There were four scenarios that we were working on - four specific problems. We achieved what no previous government had been able to achieve - a resolution of that issue. We got that resolution on April 5, and what we did was tabled it for members opposite, indicated that the supplementary would come forward this fall. The fact that the member opposite can't recognize that it's in this document is his problem.
The other point that I'd like to make to the member opposite is that, to suggest that money set aside for the Canada Winter Games is not a direct request of Yukoners - the member is wrong. Go and ask the many Yukoners who lobbied us to do that. We were able to do that because we resolved the financial situation. The endowment funds that are talked about in this budget - those are all Yukoners, Yukoners who want us to be sure to have money set aside for the future needs. That's what we're dealing with.
And we've dealt with the Yukoners who have expressed that we should deal with - again I say to the member opposite - such things as crime prevention and policing. There is additional funding in this supplementary budget for that. And I would encourage the member opposite to listen and recognize that the voices of Yukoners are reflected, not only in the 2001-02 budget, but in this supplementary that we are debating. The voices of Yukoners can be heard loudly and clearly in the numbers in this document. I would encourage the member opposite to consider that.
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly the federal government admits to making a mistake about how they calculate what the Yukon should be getting. As a result, we get additional dollars for that.
We know who the pull is when developing this budget, but I can't understand how off the mark this Liberal government is in developing a budget. There is an increase of more than 50 percent in Community and Transportation Services, and where are the others? The minister said that Yukon's voice is heard in this supplementary budget. Then, how does she explain the fact that there are no expenditures in this budget for, for example, the Mayo anniversary building? How does she explain that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what I would suggest to the member opposite is that what is contained on these pages is the requests from Yukoners, the hard work of our caucus in listening to what people had to say. The work of Yukoners is reflected. There are such items as a revote for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation Heritage Centre. That's contained in this supplementary. Artifact inventory and cataloguing for the completion of virtual museums is included. There is funding for the development of a virtual exhibit, titled "Fort Selkirk", for public exhibition. There is, again, an endowment fund for Canada Winter Games, to set money aside so that, if we are successful in our bid, we will have the ability to contribute to that very worthwhile initiative and project that Yukoners are excited about - the opportunity. There is the Yukon Foundation endowment fund. Is the member opposite criticizing those individuals? Is the member opposite suggesting that finally - finally - rebuilding the corners on the Alaska Highway, which were surveyed in 1984, is not a worthwhile expenditure?
Well, Mr. Chair, the fact is that we were elected to government and part of being in government is determining, with Yukoners, how best to manage the territory's finances. This supplementary budget outlines those expenditures for 2001-02. It's a good supplementary budget that recognizes the needs and desires of Yukoners, and I commend it not only to the member opposite but to the Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: But, Mr. Chair, the Premier didn't answer the question. I asked her one simply relating to Mayo and their community project. Why wasn't that - did the Premier not go and consult with that community at all - the municipality - in reflection of the large additional dollars that have come down from Ottawa, to have that project reflected - perhaps even planning dollars for it? It doesn't have to be the whole capital funding for the entire project, but just, for example, the planning dollars. Why wasn't that in there? Where was Mayo in this whole consultation process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: May I remind the member opposite that we are building a new school in Mayo, that we work closely with the First Nation as well as the town council, and that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services and officials are working with that community and that this is a supplementary for 2001-02, the fiscal year that is about to end in March, and that to the best of my knowledge we have not yet received a proposal from Mayo.
Mr. Fairclough: Wow, that is incredible that from the words of the minister - we are in the current budget and we have time to do things like planning over the winter for a project like this. Now, if the Premier and the Liberals had simply gone to the communities and talked to the municipality they would have clearly voiced their concerns about this. There was not a telephone call or anything - a fax to the municipality - to ask them about a development of this budget or, in that matter, the capital budget. I have talked to the municipality. Why wasn't that respect given to the Village of Mayo?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No previous government has consulted on supplementary budget funding. Previous governments have conducted their budget consultations in different manners. They were elected to government, that is their right to do that, just as we were. No previous government has gone around and consulted on a supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: Did the minister just say that their Liberal government did not consult on the spending authority here?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, what I just said to the member opposite is this government has listened to what Yukoners have said and we have constructed our supplementary budget. What I've said is that no previous government has done a formal budget consultation around a supplementary. So, the member is simply wrong in his suggestion that this government has not listened to Yukoners. We have listened to Yukoners. We have listened to them in our formal budget consultation and in the 200 travel days that this government spent, outside of Whitehorse, within the Yukon, listening to what Yukoners had to say.
Mr. Fairclough: There is a big difference between previous governments and the amount of money that is put forward in the supplementary budget.
There is about a 58-percent increase to Community and Transportation Services - does that not warrant a telephone call to the community? Where did this come from?
The members opposite say that it was reflective of what people said. Maybe she could be a little more clear on this so that I can take this information back to the people of Mayo who have been asking for this for a number of years.
This could have been easily reflected in this budget.
So, is the Premier even prepared to make some changes to reflect the needs of the Village of Mayo?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Might I remind the member opposite that he, as part of the former government, and former governments ignored the community of Mayo and their need for a new school for how many years? Thirty-plus? A Mayo recreation centre is not contained in this supplementary budget. The member opposite is not recognizing the fact that both the minister and officials within Community and Transportation Services are working with the community on what their desires are, just as we are working with all Yukon communities on things such as our commitment to tabling in this session of the Legislature a review of water and sewer needs and costs throughout the territory - basic needs as well as other work that is ongoing in that department.
If the member opposite wants to debate the specific projects contained within Community and Transportation Services and the additional $26 million in capital expenditures as well as the additional $7.9 million in recoveries, then I would invite the member opposite to do that when we get into line-by-line on Community and Transportation Services.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, here's a challenge to the Premier. I challenge her to sit down with me and the Village of Mayo and the First Nation and make that statement that she just made in this House, and you will see that, from the perspective of the village and the First Nation, that was not true.
Chair: Order please. I'd remind members that inferences of truth or untruth are not allowed under the rules of the House. I'd ask Mr. Fairclough to withdraw that statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Fairclough: I'll withdraw that. It was incorrect, Mr. Speaker, and the Premier knows that. If she takes up that challenge, we'll sit in Mayo and go over this - with the number of meetings that took place and so on.
So the minister is wrong.
So when will this minister pick up the phone and call the municipalities? Are the municipalities and First Nations going to be consulted, say, for example, on the O&M budget coming forward in the spring?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the only argument the member opposite has presented against our budgets is that we haven't consulted. And the fact is that we have, and the fact is that we listen to what Yukoners tell us. And what the member was taking umbrage at was my assertion on the floor of this House, which I stand by, that the previous governments did not build the Mayo school. We did. We built the school. And the fundamental point is that every single Yukon student should have a healthy, safe environment in which to learn. And the young students in Grey Mountain Primary will have that under this government, and so will the students in Mayo and the students who attend Eliza Van Bibber and Golden Horn and Takhini and Vanier, and Watson Lake, most especially, because that project has been delayed over and over and over and over again. All of those students and all students wherever they live need a clean, safe, healthy environment in which to learn. And that's where some of the dollars in not only our capital budget but elsewhere go, Mr. Chair. And the decisions are made based on the best, most sound advice from Yukoners working with our caucus, being fiscally responsible.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the minister is all over on this one. Previous governments did projects. They can say they have done the projects. This government delays projects. We have seen that with the Carmacks school, and it's too bad the member opposite is not addressing the health situation that's there, present in the school. What it is, is a delay of a project. She can pipe up and blow the Liberal horn all she likes on this matter, but the fact is that this supplementary budget is big. You don't see that every day and you don't see it every year in previous governments. When there are dollars like this, I think that communities could have a courtesy call from the Premier and talk about their priorities, so why didn't that take place? Did the Liberals, in their caucus meetings, make an informed decision not to do this and just allow Management Board to make these decisions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I have already stated several times in the House, we made and presented to the Legislature, to the floor of this House, a supplementary budget that is based upon advice from Yukoners and the advice and work of our caucus members in our role as a Cabinet and Management Board. The decisions we have reached are for debate before the Legislature.
I will agree with the member opposite that, yes, it is a large supplementary. It is the first time that the long-outstanding issues of the formula have been resolved and, as a result, there is new income in the amount of $28 million, which goes far to reduce the net impact on our annual deficit of the additional supplementary.
I would invite the member to thoroughly consider, in line-by-line, the supplementary. The fact is that it was created with the help of Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: What the Premier said is that the change in formula took place and that Yukon is benefiting from that. But in reality, if you really look at it, Yukoners have been cheated for years by the federal Liberals. That's what took place, especially in the time of need when we were in a recession.
Now we have all kinds of money and this government is crying poverty and not addressing the true issues of the communities. The big one is jobs. So can the Premier tell us how many winter works are going to be created out of this supplementary?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The work that was created out of this supplementary is very evident if one were to spend time outside of their own specific community or travelling throughout the Yukon. You can see Yukoners at work on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. In Mayo we heard over and over again that the majority of the community had employment and that the community was very happy with the way things had proceeded, not only on the school construction but on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. We had public comments from the Mayor of Dawson this summer about the amount of work going on in that community. There were a great number of individuals working on the north highway, and I can provide the precise employment figures to the members opposite if they wish that type of detail.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, the Premier is wrong. That is not what the community had said. As a matter of fact, they did not say that the school project went well. There was a community cry, and it was heard by the public well across the Yukon. It was to the point of demanding that this government go to the community and face the community about the changes that were pushed upon them without any consultation. So that's reality. The Premier failed to show and tell Yukoners that.
Winter works - what does the Premier expect for the number of jobs created this winter out of this budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When the budget is tabled in the spring there is a job creation that is outlined with that spring budget. It is not normally done with the supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe this Liberal government forgot the opportunity to blow their horn again about job creation. Certainly you know the number of jobs that were created out of this budget. How much of this supplementary budget is put away for the future, monies that are not going to be used?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I must take issue with the member opposite's words that the money is not going to be used. Money is going to be used to the benefit of Yukoners. I would advise the member opposite that in this supplementary there is the $8 million set aside for the Canada Winter Games and $3 million in endowments and, as I noted in my second reading speech and in my speaking notes, that total is $11 million.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Mr. Fentie: With all indulgence of the House, I would like to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce a member of the Liard First Nation, Mary Pie, and welcome her here.
Mr. Fairclough: Was this supplementary budget put together with the idea of creating work this winter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This supplementary budget was put together with the idea that the needs of Yukoners would be met, that we would be able to maximize our opportunities and funding spent on infrastructure and that we would be able to complete some projects ahead of what we had previously anticipated - that is the Champagne corner specifically.
There are also opportunities we were able to seize upon, in terms of working with some recoverable projects and some of the other upgrades that are contained in this particular budget. So, it was put together with the idea that we would meet the current needs of Yukoners, as well as working toward the future.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier did not answer the question. I'll ask her this, then: how much of this supplementary budget that the Liberals are asking us to pass in this House - how much of that money is already spent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll provide the member opposite with a return on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I believe this is a very important question. We have a huge expenditure in Community and Transportation Services. We would like to know if the money is already spent or whether we can expect huge lapses at the end of the year. How soon can we get that information here? People are listening out there. I'm sure there's information that can come down fairly quickly.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we will provide the member opposite with a written response tomorrow afternoon.
Mr. Fairclough: Why were there not any funds put into the community development fund? Why wasn't there a top-up there? We have seen some increases from projects long, long back, and that's reflected in this budget, so why was there no direction there to address the priorities of communities?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Project Yukon was not allocated additional funding in this supplementary. If you look on page 4-3 - and I have no wish to get into line-by-line - there is additional funding under the community development fund, which pays for those old projects that the member is referring to.
The member opposite is questioning our spending priorities and questioning what was allocated where. There's plenty of time in line-by-line for that debate. I stand by the comment that this supplementary meets the basic needs of Yukoners and looks to the future, to the long term - rebuilding infrastructure, working on highways, doing projects that have sat on the shelf for years and years and years and years because previous governments could never find the money to deal with those safety issues and those key concerns in those long, long overdue and neglected highways.
Mr. Chair, we worked hard, we found the additional money, and we have created a supplementary budget that addresses a number of needs, not simply that one.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this might be a surprise for the Premier, but there are going to be projects that have been identified in this term and years from now that this Liberal government will never get to. So that kind of argument doesn't wash. It's just the priority of this Liberal government.
She also says that this supplementary budget reflects the needs and desires of the communities. Did the Premier and her Liberal government not hear the community people speak about increases to Project Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the individuals who argue the loudest - I don't suppose they're the only ones because they'll go out and find some others. The fact is that project Yukon was well-funded in the 2001-02 budget. It's there. It has been used by the community. The member opposite is suggesting that we should have allocated more supplementary funding to it in this supplementary budget. We chose not to do that.
We chose, instead, to fund other projects and allocate funding to other priorities expressed by Yukoners. When the member rose to his feet, he said this budget reflects the spending priorities of this government, and this government reflects the desires of Yukoners. The member opposite is right on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there is over $11 million in O&M that's a priority of this government - an increase of $11 million in O&M, and still, this government couldn't find a few thousand dollars to throw into the Project Yukon to address the small projects in the communities. I could not understand why that has been done. I don't know where this government is going. So far, this budget doesn't reflect anywhere that this Liberal government is going. What do they stand for?
I don't think that the Premier could even answer that question at all.
In the 2001-02 budget, and the supplementary, there's no fireweed fund. Does the Premier not support that type of fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just remind the member opposite that, of the $11 million O&M additional funding, a portion of that - $3.3 million - includes the settlement with Yukon teachers. There's also additional funding required for the RCMP contract and workers' compensation premiums. Is the member voting against those?
Perhaps, when he rises to his feet, he might want to comment on that.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, in response to the member's question about the fireweed fund, it's a private investor fund. It's not a government-sponsored fund.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasn't the question. I asked if the Premier supported this fund.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I was leader of the official opposition at the time the Fireweed Act was introduced and yes, I expressed my support.
Mr. Fairclough: It certainly isn't reflected in what the government is doing to have venture capital out there for new businesses to access.
The supplementary budget is obviously a big amount of dollars, and the Premier cannot say exactly what it is for. I would have thought that it would have addressed the needs of some of the projects that the communities have identified - the communities and Whitehorse, NGOs - and continue on with some of the projects that are out there. We have over $54 million, and we will quickly see our unemployment rate in the communities going up. When we start seeing it around the 50-percent mark, that is high and that is not unusual. So why would there not be any monies going toward the communities to reflect those small jobs that could carry them throughout the winter? Is the Premier expecting that some projects may go ahead, and some big ones like Cantung could take care of the shortfall in jobs this winter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There have been a number of projects and tasks in the private sector that have attracted Yukon employees and have put people to work. This past summer - there are others coming on that are putting individuals to work. And the fact is that the unemployment rate is of concern. I could advise the member opposite that it is a concern throughout the country, and it is anticipated in the country that it will go up in October as a result of the economic slowdown in southern Canada.
Here in the Yukon, the fact is that perhaps the member opposite missed the media release from North American Tungsten that indicated they anticipated shipping concentrate by January. I believe the date was January or around Christmas. The fact is that it's going to take people to mine that concentrate and get it ready for market. It has taken people to get the mill ready for operation. It has taken people to rebuild the road. Those people have all got jobs; they are working. People are building the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. People are building the Mayo school. People are building the Christ the King Elementary addition and built the Holy Family addition this summer; people are finishing the extended care facility. Those are all people who are working, and several of those projects are outside of the community of Whitehorse.
There are over 50 Yukoners working at the North American Tungsten Cantung property right now. That is the result of initiatives by this government of expenditures like money on the Nahanni Range Road, like the work of the Minister of Economic Development, like the mining incentive program. These are all budget and supplementary budget initiatives. This government is working with the finances available to put people to work, and we are working to rebuild the infrastucture and we are working to meet the basic needs of Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, when in opposition, the Liberals couldn't understand why the government was putting money into road improvement to Cantung. What changed between being in opposition and government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the difference is that there is a mining company that is reopening the mine. If the member opposite is suggesting that I voted against the budget in opposition, yes, I did. If the member is suggesting that I am opposed to spending money on infrastructure and roads, I would invite the member opposite to look at the budget and see that that's not the case.
Mr. Fairclough: So, when did the Premier know that the actions of this government were a direct result of the Cantung mine opening?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, having conferred with my colleagues on this particular initiative, I would say to the member opposite that we first learned of the reopening of this particular mine in the spring, post the preparation of the budget that was tabled. We have worked hard within the departments, between Economic Development and Community and Transportation Services, to ensure that we facilitated the mine reopening where we could.
Mr. Fairclough: So, the words of the Premier were incorrect when she thanked the Minister of Economic Development for all his hard work in making sure this mine opened up. He wasn't even a minister at that time. It was in the spring when they first learned that this was taking place.
I ask the Premier - she did say that she anticipates the unemployment rate to rise by the end of October or during the winter months. Is there a percentage that is anticipated by this government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I was not incorrect in my comments. I was incorrect in not inserting the word, the "now" Minister of Economic Development. As a hard-working member of our caucus, the Member for Riverside had been representing me at a number of economic conferences, including the mining conference, at which we first learned of the information. So my answer to the member opposite was correct.
Secondly, with regard to unemployment figures, I advised the member opposite what we were told on Sunday by the Governor of the Bank of Canada and by Finance officials is that they anticipate - and also it was noted recently in several financial columns - that the unemployment rate will rise slightly in southern Canada in October when October figures are out, which would be later this week. What I anticipate the Yukon figures to be - I don't anticipate or I'm not going to guesstimate.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Minister of Economic Development said that diversification was a priority of government. Can the Premier tell us what funds in the supplementary are addressing that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the member opposite would like to address that question to the Minister of Economic Development in the line-by-line on Economic Development.
Mr. Fairclough: No, I believe that this is a priority of this Liberal government. Every minister should know that and have it reflected in their departments. And she is the Finance minister and should be able to answer that question.
So, where is it reflected in this supplementary?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the priorities of this government are: devolution - achieved that; settling land claims - working hard on that, one is going for ratification vote. The substance abuse and addictions are well-addressed by the Minister of Health and are in this particular budget. Rebuilding Yukon's economy is reflected throughout the budget in our work on infrastructure in communities as well as initiatives such as developing our oil and gas, working with the IT sector, working with a myriad of Yukon individuals and Yukon communities.
Some of the other key priorities of this government include restoring the confidence of government. The members opposite have not taken advantage, as yet, when I was last advised, of the briefings on renewal. They were not available this summer, and there's much to be discussed in that area. Infrastructure is another one of our key priorities, as well as maintaining quality health care, which I've already mentioned - developing infrastructure, restoring confidence in government, rebuilding the Yukon economy, addressing alcohol and drug addictions.
This budget, the supplementary and the capital budget, addresses all of them, and I'm certain that the ministers would like the opportunity to indicate, in each of the departments, how the budgets reflect those seven priorities.
Mr. Fairclough: The Finance minister didn't answer the question about diversification. It has not been mentioned as a priority of this Liberal government. Is it not a priority? Is it not an issue any more? No direction to diversify the economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just addressed that - rebuilding Yukon's economy is a key priority of this government. Rebuilding Yukon's economy includes diversification, among a number of other initiatives.
Mr. Fairclough: How is that reflected in this 2001-02 budget, along with the supplementary? Diversification - I'm specifically asking about diversification. Maybe some notes could be passed down to the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would suggest to the member opposite that rebuilding Yukon's economy includes examining new opportunities and diversification. It also includes building upon our strengths.
We have some of the finest road builders and contractors anywhere. They have been, and their skills have been sorely under-utilized by previous governments' budgeting.
This government, in infrastructure, and elsewhere, has put people to work - other opportunities, new opportunities, like Connect Yukon. As member opposite is aware, we are fulfilling an expensive obligation and it is up to us to ensure that we maximize the opportunities that presents. The Minister of Economic Development is working with the IT sector. There is also the tourism spending. There is also work on other tourism initiatives and Yukon-wide initiatives including air access. This government has worked hard over the summer, and some of our efforts are reflected in the supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Why does this Liberal government not support trade and export?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We do.
Mr. Fairclough: Then why is it not reflected in the budget and the supplementary?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is reflected in our operation and maintenance and capital budget that was tabled in the spring and it is reflected in work that we do. It is reflected in a whole variety of areas including the much-maligned trade missions the member is so fond of suggesting that I not participate in.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe the Minister of Finance can point those line items out in the budget and the supplementary and clarify this question about trade and export. I know she likes to travel and will soon be off to Russia on a trade mission, I am sure. So, can she point out in the budget and in the supplementary the line items that deal with trade and export?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The budget we are debating right now is the supplementary. The member opposite is aware that the trade and export initiatives are outlined in the Department of Economic Development. For further examination of exactly what the expenditures have been, I would suggest that the member ask in the line-by-line debate in Economic Development. I would draw the member's attention to 4-3, $123,000 additional funding in trade and investment.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, this is not a priority of government. It hasn't been reflected in the budget speech, and it's not moving anywhere. There's no support for businesses out there that want to do anything new. So why would this Liberal government not go toward that? Why is this Liberal government not supporting the small businesses that are trying to do more beyond Yukon borders?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we are. The member opposite's real difficulty is that the member opposite cannot accept the fact that we are in government and that we are doing government as we will do it, as we were elected to do. That's the real difficulty the member opposite is having.
The fact is that trade and investment is reflected in the line item in Economic Development.
Mr. Fairclough: Where are the increases, if that was a priority of rebuilding the economy, in this supplementary budget? The Premier couldn't point that out because it isn't a priority. Along with a number of other funds that are out there, it is suddenly disappearing off the Liberals' radar and planning budgeting sessions. Are we going to see, over the next couple of years - because it's not reflected or spelt out clearly - any diversification efforts and direction are coming out of the Liberal government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Liberal priorities of achieving devolution, settling outstanding land claims, maintaining quality health care, developing infrastructure, restoring confidence in government, rebuilding the Yukon economy and, most importantly, addressing alcohol and drug addictions are reflected not only in last year's budget that was tabled, but they are also reflected in this supplementary as well as in the capital plan.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier is going to repeat those lines over and over again. I'm trying to help her out. I would like clarity, because people out there are asking me this question. So, if they can't get answers out of government, it's only the duty of the opposition to ask those questions in regard to diversification.
There is no effort put forward by this Liberal government to work toward diversifying the economy. It was the pipeline, and that was it - all the eggs in the pipeline basket. And there were blinders on when the Liberals saw the pipeline and didn't address other issues that are out there. Now, I see this Liberal government maybe wanting to change, because the pipeline may not go through. So when are we going to see some clear direction from this Liberal government on diversifying the economy?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITOR
Mrs. Peter: I ask for your indulgence to please help me welcome my nephew, Greg Charlie, who is sitting in the gallery.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Liberal Government of the Yukon's priorities in terms of, and including, rebuilding the Yukon economy, are reflected in the supplementary budget that is up for debate. If the member opposite wishes to discuss specific initiatives within the Department of Economic Development and within other specific departments, I would invite him to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: I have questions with regard to the Finance minister, as the Minister of Economic Development is not part of Management Board that put this budget together.
Listen carefully - is rebuilding the economy reducing the capital budget and O&M? Is that how we do things through that department, or is this a long-term plan of just phasing out Economic Development altogether?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect to the member opposite, I must correct him. The supplementary budget proceeds through Management Board, and our Management Board appointees are not solely three members of Cabinet. All members of Cabinet have been appointed to Management Board.
For the member opposite, it's not only three members, as the member suggested - listen carefully. All members of Cabinet have been appointed to Management Board.
Management Board approves the supplementary prior to it being tabled. Our caucus, listening and working with Yukoners, developed the supplementary budget. Our caucus includes the Member for Riverside, as well as the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and Faro and Whitehorse West, and Porter Creek North and South, and Riverdale North and South, as well as Laberge, as well as Mount Lorne. All those individuals, Yukoners, have offered their advice, as well as countless other Yukoners, on the supplementary and on the finances of the territory.
The fact is that the member is suggesting - if the member wishes to debate the line-by-line in Economic Development, I invite him to do so with the minister.
Mr. Fentie: I would just briefly like to follow up with the minister in regard to some of the comments here this afternoon and how the minister is explaining this budget, in terms of rebuilding the Yukon economy, the fact that it's community priorities, and all these things.
The opposition side is making best efforts to progress and conduct the public's business here, even with the draconian measure of closure held as a gun to our heads. But some of the comments the minister has made certainly bear rebuttal.
First off, the fact that these budgets mirror and reflect the Liberals' commitment to the Yukon public that this is an attempt to rebuild the economy - one only has to point out to the minister that, so far, what has happened, the trends in this territory are going exactly the opposite way.
And that is something that the minister must get a handle on. These budgeting priorities are not rebuilding the Yukon economy. In fact, we have seen - under this Liberal watch - an exodus of the workforce in this territory: skilled labourers, up to 400 or 500 people gone. Unemployment is certainly not at a level based on the commitments we heard from the minister, and I don't think this bears a whole lot of other discussion. The facts speak for themselves. The trends are obvious. These budgeting priorities here are not rebuilding the economy, simple as that.
Furthermore, when it comes to community priorities, Mr. Chair, the members opposite must talk to more people than the few Liberal supporters that are left. There are many people out there in this territory who have priorities. There are communities out there in this territory that have been ignored, budget after budget. Where, for example, is the skating rink for Liard First Nation people? That is a priority. Where, for example, are the street lights while those people walk down a dark highway in between their residences? Where, for example, is the feasibility study money, a mere $150,000, for a road to resources, which, by the way, would have a great impact on rebuilding the economy, because we as Yukoners could access resources in a ready manner that would certainly help turn our economy around?
Now, Mr. Chair, we are looking at a supplementary that takes a $535-million budget and increases it by some $54 million. Now, that is close to $600 million being spent by this Liberal government, and yet far too many community priorities are not reflected here. Far too often we see example after example where the money is heading into a few areas that certainly must bear some semblance of influence from Liberal supporters.
What we're trying to ascertain with the minister is why there was not more effort put into balancing the expenditures with this supplementary to do such things as job creation for the winter. The obvious vehicles are the community development fund, fire smart, and areas like that that could help put people to work here this winter. I ask the minister: why was there not more of a focus on balancing the expenditures here in the communities?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite and I disagree fundamentally.
He mentioned three points: the skating rink in Upper Liard, a street-light issue - and the minister responsible for Community and Transportation Services has taken careful note of those two items and will respond to the member opposite on those two specific issues with detailed information. And the third issue that the member opposite mentioned was a roads-to-resources feasibility study. And, as the member opposite is aware, following my meeting with the community, there was an agreement with the community that, prior to that proceeding, there would be support received from the Liard First Nation and that has not occurred. That is why that budget expenditure is not made.
Mr. Fentie: Now, we have the Premier, the Minister of Finance, providing incorrect information on the floor of this Legislature. And yes, we don't agree fundamentally. However, we are here to hold the government accountable on their expenditure in this supplementary and indeed the mains. The expenditures are not addressing the needs of Yukoners in general. They may be addressing the needs of a few small favoured people but they are not addressing the needs of Yukoners. If the minister were to take some time to sit down and talk to Liard First Nation, she may find that her comment is the incorrect comment. However, that has never taken place.
Now, let's get on with the skating rink. I would appreciate the minister responsible providing some information, given the fact that we have not yet received a response to correspondence. We have already received the response on the street lights. It was a big "no", and here we have $54 million in a supplementary and we can't put up two street lights on the Alaska Highway? Let's get serious.
I'm asking the minister why wasn't there a better attempt, a more focused attempt, to balance expenditures? I would like the minister to explain how this represents a balanced approach to spending Yukon taxpayers' money.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again the member opposite and I fundamentally disagree. I have already indicated that the minister responsible will be providing the member with a written response with regard to the Liard skating rink and the street lights in question. I have already indicated that.
I am advised that he has received a letter on the skating rink and the reasons for why it may or may not be in the supplementary.
The fact is that the member opposite has accused me of stating incorrect information in the House. That is not the case. I stated that, following a meeting with community representatives - in that meeting, it was agreed that the roads-to-resources feasibility study would not proceed without First Nation support. First Nations' support for that has not been received. There has not been a written letter of support from the Liard First Nation for that feasibility study, as was agreed to in the meeting and as has been followed up on.
Mr. Chair, the member opposite and I disagree. I believe this budget is balanced. It does reflect the very real requirements and needs of government to respond to such items as settlement with teachers, increased wage costs in the RCMP contract, increased WCB premiums. It also deals with infrastructure throughout Yukon and it reflects other needs and priorities of Yukoners, including the long-neglected historic resources trust fund.
The member opposite and I fundamentally disagree. That disagreement having been stated on the record, I would invite the member opposite to ask a question about the supplementary budgets.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we certainly don't need a condescending attitude to help constructive debate along. Simply put, the opposition side believes that the condescending attitude from the minister is not going to help that very fact, the thing that we're trying to accomplish here - the commitment that the opposition has made, which the members opposite simply will not honour. It is the members opposite who are doing everything that they can to escape publicly scrutiny.
I did ask a question about the budget. I want the minister to point to more examples than the increased cost of RCMP, as balanced spending.
Out of $54 million, can the minister explain how much money is being targeted to communities - and let's use one as an example: Watson Lake?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We do community distribution on the general, on the budget that's tabled in the spring. It's not normally done on the specific supplementary. We can run that report and provide it for the member opposite. And I would suggest to the member opposite that, in all civility, I was doing my absolute best to answer the questions. If the member found my tone offensive, I do apologize. I shall endeavour to correct it and not shout at the member.
Mr. Fentie: Well, if the minister, on the one hand, makes the claim that this is a balanced budget and that it reflects the Yukon communities' priorities, the minister should have been readily able to stand on her feet and give me the information I asked for. Where does this reflect the priorities of a community like Watson Lake? Where in this budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already advised the member opposite that we do not do a breakdown by community as we normally do - for example, in the capital plan that was tabled - in our larger budgets. We don't normally do that in a supplementary.
I will, however, ask for the report that the member opposite has asked for to be generated, and we will provide it to him.
Mr. Fentie: It would be fruitless to extend this any further. It's obvious that the minister cannot explain to Yukoners how it is that she can make a statement that this is a balanced approach reflecting Yukoners' priorities. What this budget really is is an attempt to dump large amounts of money because of the huge surplus that this government finds itself wallowing in, while claiming poverty through a teachers' strike. There are all kinds of issues here: no winter works, cutting back the community development fund, no priority here on the land claim issues. Where are the expenditures for that? This is supposed to be the Liberal government's highest priority.
This budget is about dumping large amounts of money because of the surplus and, secondly, it's a budget that's helping to salt away money for future considerations, and I think we all know what that may be.
It's called the election war chest.
That's about all I have to say in general debate, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, that the Liberal government has chosen to introduce a supplementary at this juncture is very telling as to what is transpiring. It is purported to be a balanced budget - great word, "balanced." I wonder which way it's balanced, Mr. Chair.
I guess more telling is the report that was tabled today by the Premier, the Minister of Finance. It's called the Auditor General's Report, and it shows the consolidated statements of operation and surplus, what goes on across all of the government. The actuals at the end of 2001 are very, very telling, in that they indicate an accumulated surplus of some $184 million - $184 million.
Now, Mr. Chair, this is originating from a government that is crying poverty. It cried poverty at the negotiating tables with the Yukon teachers. It has cried poverty with respect to most initiatives where they are looking for a bargaining chip.
I guess when one digs into the budget and the substance of the budget that we have before us and you look at what it is going to do for Yukon, I can't see anything here that is going to stimulate work this winter in this O&M budget.
We are probably going into one of the harshest winters economically here in the Yukon that we have ever experienced. Currently we have a government that is elected with a big mandate and has a very, very extensive surplus, so there are no problems with money. And yet the Minister of Finance cannot point to any specific winter works projects that are going to be developed out of this budget. She can point to some initiatives outside of the Yukon that the Yukon government has played a role in - specifically North American Tungsten - but we have yet to see the total picture develop there.
In a letter that I received today from the Minister of Economic Development in response to a letter that I sent to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, it clearly indicated that the Northwest Territories is not spending anything on maintaining the road into North American Tungsten. In fact, there might be some subsequent requirements for North American Tungsten to employ individuals from the NWT and from the First Nation group over there. This has yet to be established. Yet we see all this hype and all this money. I don't see any in the winter works. I don't see any in Project Yukon. In fact it is at its lowest point that, I believe, it has experienced in about the last four years - the Project Yukon initiative and even the fire smart.
There's an opportunity here to create some hope in the Yukon, but this government is very, very careful, it would appear, Mr. Chair, in spending its money. And they do not appear to spend any money unless it provides a political advantage for the current Liberal government of the day here in Yukon. And that is shameful. Rural Yukon, by and large, is pretty well ignored.
So I'd like to ask the minister if she could be specific with this supplementary O&M budget for the next fiscal period as to where employment is going to be created this winter, starting in the next month and going through to next spring, Mr. Chair. Because it does appear that a lot of the funds already identified in this supplementary have been spent.
Where is this government creating employment this winter with the use of this supplementary? Could the minister be specific?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would remind the member opposite that the $184-million figure is the consolidated statements. So, to suggest that it's $184 million in the bank is completely incorrect, as the member opposite well knows.
The specific job creations that are included in part of this supplementary budget - I would invite the member to note the fact that the Mayo school construction continues and that Yukoners are employed at Canada Tungsten mine, that oil and gas exploration work continues at Eagle Plains, that the Whitehorse multiplex work continues, that there are a number of tourism initiatives that include winter tourism, and there is the Dawson City recreation centre, the Christ the King expansion, the Holy Family School expansion and several other projects. Also, there are some details in some of the Community and Transportation Services ones as well as other initiatives within Economic Development and Tourism and specific capital projects in the Department of Education, which I would invite the member opposite to debate in line-by-line.
Mr. Jenkins: I asked the minister to identify initiatives in this O&M budget that were going to create employment this winter. The Mayo school has been a capital project that has been a subject of much debate in this Legislature. It was postponed because the Liberals didn't have any money. That has proven to be a very inaccurate overview of the finances of the Government of Yukon.
With respect to oil and gas in Eagle Plains, I am sure that the minister is aware that there are more Yukoners employed in the oil and gas fields in northern British Columbia, Alberta and the Northwest Territories than there are in the Eagle Plains area, and indeed in southeast Yukon.
The minister even managed to throw in the recreational complex in Dawson City that is at a standstill. It will probably only have a caretaker in all winter. It's not completed. The Minister of Community and Transportation Services is firmly in charge through her appointed supervisor of this initiative. The minister can't have it both ways.
I am asking the minister to be specific with respect to job creation this winter, because all of these projects and initiatives, save and except the school expansions and some employment in the oil and gas field in the Eagle Plains area, are either completed or outside of the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
So, what is the minister doing to create employment this winter here in Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, managing the territory's finances in a way to maximize our capital investment and put people to work.
Mr. Jenkins: That's a very interesting statement. I would ask the minister to be specific and break that down into areas that ordinary Yukoners can understand.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, ordinary Yukoners understand that people are working on school-initiated renovations. Ordinary Yukoners understand that people are working on the Mayo school - yes, now. Ordinary Yukoners understand that this Yukon Liberal government has delivered a budget and a supplementary budget and a capital budget that takes specific projects, such as the rebuilding of the Alaska Highway, not just under Shakwak funding but also under additional funding, and it provides Yukon contractors with, in their words, the busiest we've seen the Yukon in 12 years, thanks to the Yukon Liberal government. That's Yukoners working.
Mr. Jenkins: That is quite the statement, Mr. Chair, quite the statement, indeed. The realities are something else. What the Shakwak project did manage to do is bring in a very capable road builder from British Columbia this year, who scooped one of the major projects and did a very, very good job.
Mr. Chair, if we want to start looking at the litany of broken promises coming out of this Liberal government, they're growing at an alarming rate.
But let's get back to the specific question. The specific question I directed to the Minister of Finance was, could she just outline how many jobs are being created and in what sectors, under this addition to the O&M budget?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The fact is that the specific job numbers that are generated by the tabling of the budget in the spring are not traditionally run for the supplementary estimates. Supplementary estimates include $11 million in O&M. That's money spent on people, and if the member opposite doesn't believe in the hard-working public servants, including teachers, I invite the member opposite to vote against it.
The fact is that there's $11 million in O&M. That includes teachers, RCMP officers and others - hard-working people of the Yukon. There is also funding for specific projects contained in this supplementary budget, including a number of school projects that have a number of people employed in them.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member would like specific line-by-line, we will have that generated for the member opposite. I don't have the figure with me.
Mr. Jenkins: When one looks at an initiative of this magnitude, Madam Chair, one would be of the opinion that the Liberal government would be proud of what they're attempting to accomplish and what they're attempting to do by way of this supplementary budget. But, either in their haste to bury a whole lot of dollars or not direct them constructively, they have chosen to ignore the people side of the equation as to the benefits that would accrue to Yukoners.
The minister points out, and points out correctly, that there's an increase in the funding arrangement between Canada and the Yukon with respect to the services provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the teachers.
These are negotiated settlements over which the Minister of Finance would have little control. If we look at Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and the tremendous increase there, the Government of Yukon has gone from previously being a self-insured entity and having it administered by Yukon, to now being covered by Yukon, and there is still a dispute as to whether the premiums being charged to Yukon government by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board are an accurate reflection. They were in dispute last year, and we haven't heard that any settlement has been reached. All we know is that the government is paying the money to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. I guess the prudent decision would be for Management Board to analyze this area and determine whether it would have more value to be self-insured and just have Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board administer on behalf of Yukon, such as the federal government does and a lot of other governments across Canada do. Has this been undertaken, and where are we at with Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That is an option being considered.
Mr. Jenkins: Just how much is in dispute between Government of Yukon's figures and Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board billing? What is in dispute there? We have booked the entire amount.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The specific line amount is on page 10-3. It is in the Public Service Commission debate, and the minister responsible for Public Service Commission will have the answer for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: This is an initiative that must be on the table for discussion at caucus. It is a very large amount of money that is in dispute and whether Yukon is receiving value for its payment for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is in serious question. What is in further serious question is that it affects the whole financial viability of Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board if Yukon opts out, because we cannot maintain the existing structure at Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board at the current level without Government of the Yukon's coverage. Of the total amount of premiums or assessments that the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board collects in a year, the largest portion is received from Government of the Yukon.
Can the Minister of Finance advise when a decision will be made as to whether Yukon is going to remain covered by Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board or not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a number of factors that have to be considered. I indicated to the member opposite that this was under consideration. There has not been a time frame fixed for reaching a specific decision. I would just remind the member opposite that, should the government go to something such as a self-insured program as we were in the past, there is still a liability that has to be carried.
So, there are a number of issues surrounding this. It's under consideration. I don't have a fixed time frame for a decision.
Mr. Jenkins: Yet, we are expected to accept, verbatim, this amount - one of the largest of the three items mentioned by the Minister of Finance. I can accept the increase for the RCMP. I can accept the increase for the Yukon teachers. These are negotiated settlements and they are agreements.
But with respect to WCB, Mr. Chair, this government is dragging its heels. They don't want to bring to resolution an issue that they should be addressing. "It's on the table for discussion. We don't have any time frames. We don't know where we're going with it. There are a lot of issues to consider." I'm sure the Department of Finance can entertain an actuarial study of the risk and the reserves. What it means is that the reserves stay in the Yukon consolidated revenue fund vis-à-vis invested into WCB.
The exercise of good government is to provide the highest consistent level of government at the lowest possible cost to the end consumer, Mr. Chair. Now, it looks like the Liberal government of the day is missing out on both sides of the equation, and missing out severely.
I'd like to take the minister back to what will probably be the toughest winter economically ever experienced here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. It looks like our visitor industry is going to be dashed and will not enjoy the growth in the winter that had previously been experienced. All this is subsequent to the fallout of September 11 in New York and Washington.
Look at our mining and mining exploration. The minister of parks along with the Minister of Renewable Resources are just determined to create more and more parks in the Yukon and alienate the mining community further.
She doesn't really care if the parks surround existing mining claims - doesn't care. So there's another industry that's just about extinct here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. Small, little areas that are still enjoying some economic activity. A new mine owner for the United Keno Hill Mines has come on the scene, and Mr. Cash is a very determined mine operator, and I'm sure he'll do well, as long as the regulators don't encompass him in red tape until it chokes him.
Mr. Chair, apart from a few glittering flickers of light in the mining community, all the activity in that area is either in the Northwest Territories or over in Alaska by Canadian mining companies. It's not here in the Yukon. A lot of them drive up, and we get to see a lot of their exploration geologists when they spend the night in our community; but apart from that, they are just on their way through.
If you subtracted the amount of money the Government of Yukon invested in mining exploration - because we'll know the total figure that has been spent very, very quickly - if you subtract the Government of the Yukon and the federal government money from that amount, we'll see the true picture of the extent of mining exploration here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair, and it's dismal. And I haven't seen any initiatives forthcoming that are going to restore confidence in the mining community.
Could the minister be specific and point in this budget to what initiatives are contained within this supplementary budget to encourage mining activity to the end of the next fiscal period?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Earlier this afternoon, the Member for Watson Lake indicated that it was incumbent on all of us to be civil in this Legislature. I would encourage all members to consider that comment, and I thank the Member for Klondike for yet another lecture on the finances of the territory.
The member opposite expressed his support for the $11 million in operation and maintenance expenditures in this supplementary, recognizing that a substantial portion of that includes a settlement with Yukon teachers, as well as additional costs such as RCMP. The additional Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board costs that are noted in this budget - had the member asked in line-by-line debate - are $339,000 for claims that were initiated prior to the government paying premiums to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, so that funding is required as a result of the former program, when we were self-insured.
In terms of the specific initiatives in assistance for the mining industry in the Department of Economic Development, I would invite the member opposite to ask the minister responsible in the line-by-line debate on that budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, certainly the government of the day, the Premier, the Minister of Finance, would have an all-encompassing overview of this area, or does she not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, perhaps the Minister of Finance, the Premier, could share it with the House. I've asked a specific question - I would expect an answer to that question, with respect to mining.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The specific answer on specific mining programs contained in the supplementary budget is a question best asked of the Minister of Economic Development. This is the sort of detail that we engage in when we debate the Department of Economic Development. For the member opposite's information, that global overview that I and all members of this caucus share is the support for the mining industry, and that includes support for specific mining programs, including geological surveys and the mining incentive program. It also includes, as the member himself has admitted, the light that we are starting to see in terms of the reopening of some of Yukon's mines and some mining initiatives that are in the Northwest Territories, employing Yukoners as we speak.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it might include all that, but it certainly doesn't include security for known claim owners to be able to conduct their business in a proper manner, as allowed them under the two federal acts that control mining here in the Yukon. It certainly doesn't do that, especially if their mining claims are adjacent to or somehow encompassed in a park. We've seen many, many examples - two specific examples under this government - where the creation of parks under this Liberal government have effectively blocked off access to known mining claims. There is the Asi Keyi situation and there are the Marn claims in the back of Tombstone. The park was expanded - Tombstone Park was extended right up against a block of First Nation land. There is no access in the traditional way.
The minister knows full well. The Minister of Renewable Resources knows full well. The Minister of Finance knows full well. And I am sure that the Minister of Economic Development is just coming up to speed on these areas. That's the kind of support that the mining industry does not need, nor does it expect. It scares it away. It does not instill investor confidence in the mining community, and that is the whole problem.
Let's look at oil and gas. Perhaps the Minister of Finance, the Premier, who is always chasing off to various conferences on oil and gas and pipelines to basically lecture the industry as to why they should put the pipeline down the Alaska Highway and why they should come back to the Yukon and explore for oil and gas - could the Premier advise the House why there is such a difference between oil and gas exploration in the Northwest Territories and the Yukon? Why is there such a difference in the level of activity?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Yukon has eight sedimentary basins. They are largely unexplored. We have a completely different oil and gas common regime than the Northwest Territories does. Those are some of the differences. We have only ever had 71 wells drilled in the territory. We are not yet seeing the play in Yukon that has been witnessed in the Mackenzie Delta. We are looking forward and continue our efforts in promoting Yukon's oil and gas. We will continue to do that.
The minister has worked very hard on the third land disposition and is continuing his efforts with industry, with a balanced perspective on development of this important part of our economy. We are quite pleased with the work done to date and are looking toward more.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the Premier is somewhat accurate, but the major difference between the Northwest Territories and Yukon is the political governing body and its ability to encourage this kind of investment in their area vis-à-vis the Yukon Liberal government's ability to attract oil and gas investment in this region.
It's like night and day. And it's like night and day when you go up to the Mackenzie Delta and see what is transpiring in that region.
The Minister of Finance touts the activity that's taking place around Eagle Plains. Mr. Chair, that's just a small, small fraction of what is happening up in the Mackenzie Delta - a small, small fraction.
It's not that we don't have tremendous oil and gas potential. The minister readily admitted that our sedimentary basins are virtually unexplored.
I submit, Mr. Chair, that the only difference between our respective regions is political, because in northern British Columbia there's a tremendous amount of oil and gas activity, and in the Northwest Territories there's a tremendous amount of oil and gas activities, and we don't even have to bring Alberta into the equation - never mind Alaska.
And we sit smack dab in the middle of all of these jurisdictions, and our economy is going backwards. And we have a government with an accumulated surplus across all of the departments of government of some $184 million, as per the consolidated statements - $184 million, Mr. Chair. That's unbelievable. And this government has not demonstrated any ability to get the economy rolling or turn it around.
Let's look at some of the other initiatives that we were promised in the O&M budget this spring that have gone off the tracks. We were promised in my community that the George Black ferry was going to be re-powered. Well, I asked the minister what it was going to take money-wise, and she indicated that that was the cost and they could do it. Well, they subsequently found out that they couldn't do it for the cost budgeted and it is off the rails. It might be done again over the course of this winter.
Then we look at Klondike camp - one of the highway camps on the Dempster Highway. It is totally electrically powered, heated. It was all re-powered and was supposed to cost a certain amount. The last figure I heard showed that it had almost doubled in cost, and then it was decided to put some additional rooms in the Klondike camp to service the Tombstone Interpretative Centre. Guess what? Nobody thought ahead to check into the generators to see if they would have enough power to service these added rooms. Now they are looking at taking the old Caterpillar generators, rebuilding them and putting them back in because the Kubotas - we don't know where they purchased them from, but they were cheaper but don't have the same output. I don't know who is asleep at the switch.
And the minister will probably get up and say, yeah, she's not involved in the day-to-day operation, she just approves the budget. But you start going around to the various departments in the various areas, and some of the expenditures - one certainly has to shake one's head.
And one of the other initiatives that is very, very costly and disrupting all the government is renewal. I couldn't devise, in any of my best moments, a program that would be more demoralizing, Mr. Chair, to the public sector than this renewal initiative. And I have to give credit to this Liberal government; they'd have to put their minds in gear overtime to come up with a program that could cost that much, take up so much time from all of their senior officials, and accomplish so little and demoralize so many so quickly.
Mr. Chair, the litany of misdirected political initiatives goes on and on and on under this government. The Minister of Finance deflects it, saying to just go into line-by-line and the minister of the day will respond in the various areas. But the shortcomings in the winter works projects are very, very self-evident in both the capital budget and this O&M budget, which we are addressing here today. They are virtually non-existent.
It would appear that the Liberals have run out of ideas. I guess they have exhausted the book that was left there by the NDP government. That must be the case.
Mr. Chair, would the Minister of Finance entertain some redirections of the O&M money in this budget to get some winter works initiatives going in the Yukon? Would the Minister of Finance do that?
Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, we will take a break until 4:45 p.m.
Chair: I now call the House to order.
We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02. I believe Mr. Jenkins had the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left the general debate on this supplementary, I was exploring with the Minister of Finance, the Premier, some of the initiatives that her government was attempting to undertake to create winter works, and we couldn't uncover too many. In fact, it was pitiful as to what initiatives this government is going to be funding.
I explored with the Premier some of the issues surrounding mining and the lack of mining activity here in the Yukon. I will send over a copy of the Fraser Institute's annual survey of mining companies, 2000-01, for the Premier to have a glance at. It clearly indicates the failures of her government.
And in this chart, a rank of 1 is the factor that is the largest deterrent for investment and 11 is the least deterrent for investment. I only pulled off the one sheet, Mr. Chair, but it clearly indicates that protected areas uncertainty is the number one deterrent for mining companies to become involved in exploration investment here in the Yukon. And the second largest deterrent is land claims uncertainty. The third is regulation duplication. Two of these could be addressed by this Yukon Liberal government, Mr. Chair, and yet today they've failed miserably. This Liberal government has to restore investor confidence in the Yukon. I'd urge the Minister of Finance to have one of her officials spend a bit of time on the Internet and look at the other areas of Canada, as to how they rank.
There is the same classification for the United States, but by and large, Mr. Chair, we come up at the bottom of the barrel. The documentation on this same area, with respect to oil and gas exploration, although not as finely defined as has been done in the mining industry by the Fraser Institute, is also available and it clearly indicates the same impediments to oil and gas exploration here in the Yukon as there are to mining. And this Liberal government fails to address that.
Can the minister point to anything in this supplementary budget that's going to address any of these two areas? Mining used to be the mainstay of the Yukon economy. In fact, Yukon was very close to being self-sufficient. We have gone 180 degrees in the opposite direction, to where it's virtually going to be impossible for us to achieve economic independence and be self-sufficient with respect to revenues and serving our own government requirements, without federal transfers of an ever-increasing magnitude.
Given the investment climate today, I'm sure even the tremendous surplus that's invested - our return on that investment will probably be at an all-time low for this forthcoming year.
Can the Minister of Finance, the Premier, point to any major initiative in the supplementary budget to enhance and improve the opportunities for the mining industry or for the oil and gas industry? Can she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, there are a number of points. Yukon's infrastructure is fundamental to support of these industries, and we are working hard to rebuild Yukon's infrastructure. We have also spent, and look forward to greater expenditures, in terms of oil and gas development, including the Alaska Highway pipeline project. For the member opposite, as well as mineral and oil and gas resources, there are additional expenditures in terms of surveys and other work that is ongoing.
I would remind the member opposite that is just a discussion of the natural resource industries, that there are other industries in support of the Yukon economy as well, and we continue initiatives in those areas.
The member opposite asked what we were doing to address the biggest problem of uncertainty surrounding the Yukon protected areas, and that is dealt with in the legislative calendar. The Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act is titled with "certainty" for a reason.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, the Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act is certainly titled that, but the certainty it will create is probably far from what the minister expects. In fact, it will probably be retitled by industry the Uncertainty Act, not the Certainty Act, Mr. Chair.
The minister mentioned two major initiatives. They're going to improve infrastructure. The minister went on at great length as to the improvements on the highways and the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Could the minister tell us, since the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline was a major initiative of her government - an individual from Economic Development has been seconded to Foothills, the minister is constantly travelling around, speaking at conferences, promoting the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline route - could the minister advise the House just how much more money we are going to spend on this initiative, and what's the prognosis currently?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is additional funding in the supplementary budget for $150,000 on the Alaska Highway pipeline. Future expenditures are outlined - some in the capital plan, and any balance would be reflected in a future budget brought forward by this government.
The current update as to the possibility of work on the project - I can advise the member opposite that our work on this particular initiative continues, that we have met as recently as this morning with Foothills on some of the issues. I understand that Foothills also briefed the member opposite this morning so the member opposite is quite up to date, I am certain of that - suffice to say that our government initiatives continue, at the federal, private sector and international levels.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister give some indication to the House as to when we might see the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline initiative finalized and undertaken? When is construction going to begin?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, as this is entirely a private sector project in the Yukon, unlike some of the other pipeline projects, it will be up to the private sector to state the date for the commencement of construction.
As the member opposite knows, we are looking toward a route selection, and there will likely be two routes indicated, as in filing in the United States - there always has to be a second route for any pipeline project put forward.
We are looking to that announcement by producers at the end of the year. I've seen nothing to indicate that they might change on that. As the member opposite knows, there are a number of other factors. There's an energy bill in the United States. There's also a call by myself, as Premier, for Canada to indicate whether or not they intend to honour the treaty, and I have enhanced my call upon Canada to be ready to regulate and to deal with this in a clear and comprehensive manner.
The member opposite might also, in his quest for - and clearly he sounds like he wants to support the project - might want to support us in our efforts in bringing British Columbia onside in support of this. If the member would like an update as to how we also intend to further promote, for example, what conferences I might be addressing in the near future, or the Minister of Economic Development, we'd certainly be happy to provide that to the member opposite, as he seems to be expressing such support for our efforts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, this pipeline may or may not be built. We are going through the same exercise once again as we did in the '70s, and the pipeline hype has been on the agenda books previously, and it's there once again. But given the current price for the product and given the long-range forecasts for the product, it would appear that this project doesn't have the financial viability that is necessary to support the construction of this undertaking.
What's the Government of the Yukon's backup plan? I've asked this question of the Premier once previously. Has the Premier explored any opportunity with the Northwest Territories? Premier Kakfwi has extended an olive branch, encouraging the Premier to get onside with their initiative, and it was soundly rejected. I was just wondering, if this project doesn't go ahead, where does it leave the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if the Alaska Highway pipeline project does not proceed - that is a hypothetical question, just as if it does proceed. The fact is that this government committed to aggressively promote the Alaska Highway pipeline project. We committed to it. That's what we have done. Prior to us taking office, this was not on anybody's radar screen. It was not on the radar screen in Ottawa and it was not seen as realistic or seen as an opportunity by Yukoners.
The fact is that we have worked very hard. We have successfully got the message out that this was the right choice for North Slope gas 20 years ago and it's the right choice today. This government does not support an over-the-top pipeline or an undersea pipeline. We do not support it. We will not support it. I have always, in every single speech I have given, indicated that market demand will support two pipeline projects, that we support the construction of an Alaska Highway project and a stand-alone Mackenzie Valley project. We have said that. From the first speech I have given I have said that.
The reality is that the market demand is going to require that gas. It's going to require Alaskan gas and it's going to require Mackenzie Delta gas. It's going to be needed, and we're going to continue to work to see that the Alaskan gas goes down the southern route, the Alaska Highway route.
Mr. Jenkins: I did ask the Premier what our backup position was in the event that the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline was not built. Where are we going to move our eggs to next, Mr. Chair? Because this Liberal government has put all its eggs in the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline basket. What are we going to do? There's a lot of hype surrounding this initiative. This initiative may or may not occur and, given the Minister of Renewable Resources' ability to create parks, he might encompass it in a whole series of parks that we can't go through, but that's another part of the equation.
What's the backup game plan? Are we going to get involved with the N.W.T., because this gas pipeline looks like it's going to be extended to pick up natural gas in the southwestern N.W.T. and those known deposits, and they're right adjacent to known deposits in southeast Yukon? Are we lobbying for some attention in that direction of taking our own gas to markets in greater volumes and producing the royalties?
On one hand, if the highway pipeline is built, Yukon just acts as a corridor. Yes, we'll derive from benefits from taxation, minor employment but, after it's in place, we'll hardly know of its existence. One has to just look at the revenues we're currently deriving from the wells in the Kotaneelee field in southeast Yukon. Is there any game plan to encourage industry to develop more and get that product to market from that region? If not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The premise of the member opposite's question is wrong. This government has focused on a number of areas. The member opposite simply chooses to criticize our work on promotion of the Alaska Highway gas pipeline and development of oil and gas at every single opportunity.
For example, a quote from the July 21, 2001, Whitehorse Star, "Mr. Jenkins points to the Mackenzie route as the logical choice."
The Member for Klondike's support for the Northwest Territories, as opposed to Yukoners, has been made abundantly clear, time and time again in this House. As I have said to the member opposite, this government is working diligently on not only the promotion of the Alaska Highway gas pipeline, but development of our oil and gas resources - that includes seismic work and other work in southeast Yukon. It includes land dispositions in the Eagle Plains Basin. It includes work by the Minister of Economic Development.
If the member opposite wishes a detailed explanation of the oil and gas expenditures in the supplementary budget in the Department of Economic Development, the minister will be pleased to provide them. In the meantime, I stand behind this government's agenda, because we're doing a good job.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister makes the statement, "We are doing a good job" and yet the economy has never been in worse shape here in the Yukon. And there has never been a bigger budget surplus in the history of the Yukon. In fact, it was not too long ago when the total budget of the Yukon was less than the accumulated surplus that we currently have in place - how times change and how things stay the same. We once had a thriving economy, but if we look at the devastation that has been imposed upon us, it's pretty sad.
I am sure that the minister must recognize that we don't realize any benefit from oil and gas until it's in a production stage and sold. That's when we start to generate royalties.
One only has to look at the royalties that we are currently receiving from the producing wells in southeast Yukon. What encouragement has this government offered to the oil and gas industry to get more wells onstream and to get more production out of the Yukon? What encouragement has the Yukon government undertaken?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have a common regime. We work with industry on that, and that is encouraging to the oil and gas industry. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers have lauded our initiatives and have indicated that we have worked very well with the industry.
The member opposite may not consider that all of those individuals who are working in exploration in oil and gas are working in the economy. He may devalue their input; we don't.
The fact is that it is not just producing wells that generate economic wealth and jobs in this territory. Exploration does as well. And people are working in exploration.
It's a new industry in Yukon. It's growing. We're working with it. It is developing at a slower rate than the Northwest Territories' - granted. The fact is we also have a better regime over here than they do.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister makes the statement that we have a better regime. That's great. So, if we have a better regime, why aren't we producing any results?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have a common regime, which is something that the Northwest Territories does not have. Industry has repeatedly expressed to me that that is a more favourable condition in which to explore and in which to further develop our industry.
We are seeing results in individuals working in exploration this past winter and we look forward to them working this winter.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, if we are doing everything in such a wonderful and favourable manner and it's the best common regime ever, that begs this question: why are results not being produced? What's wrong?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite's premise is wrong. They are being produced.
Mr. Jenkins: Well that certainly doesn't appear to be the case in the oil and gas industry here in Yukon. I'm sure if the minister were to do a survey of those employed in the oil and gas industry, there are more Yukoners employed in the oil and gas industry outside the Yukon, in northern B.C., Alberta and Northwest Territories, than there are here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
And that's very much the case.
Mr. Chair, we haven't really received any kind of firm undertaking as to why the government is not creating a winter works initiative, why they're not pushing any money into the Project Yukon. Could the minister advise the House why the political decision was made by her party to slash and burn the Project Yukon, the community development fund, to just a mere shadow of its original self? This community development fund supported a lot of winter works in rural Yukon and was extremely beneficial. Just check with the Member for Faro. He'll admit that. Just about all the rural members here in this Legislature will tell you the same thing, Mr. Chair. And many of the urban members will tell you the same thing. What is the political advantage that the government is going to gain from slashing the community development fund to just a mere shadow of itself, this wonderfully renamed Project Yukon initiative? Is it to penalize rural Yukon, Mr. Chair? Is that the advantage?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite, in Hansard, referred to the Project Yukon as, "Yes, it is well- received, but is it fiscally responsible spending? It is at the whim and want of the minister responsible for that area. It is just a political slush fund for the ministers in the government of the day. One only has to look...." And I might add that the member opposite was referring to the community development fund at the time.
And he says, in fact "...at all the projects that were undertaken under CDF funding. One raises the question: how many have created lasting jobs? I can't think of any." That is the Member for Klondike in Hansard, and now that same member is standing and asking me why there is a $25,000 reduction in a $1.5-million line item when we have in fact taken Project Yukon, put rules around it so that it is not, as the member termed it, "a political slush fund" - it is a Project Yukon in support of people, structure and places - and the funding is only reduced in this budget by $25,000. The member opposite doesn't, as usual, make any sense and is not consistent in his argument.
Is the member saying, "Yes, this government should have poured millions into Project Yukon" when he termed it, under the community development fund, a "political slush fund" and when he said "How many have created lasting jobs? I can't think of any" - and now he's asking me to do that?
The member opposite really needs to figure out where exactly he stands on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the minister will go on to the further debate and subsequent debates on this same issue she will find out that my position hasn't changed. My position hasn't changed one iota. I went on to say further -
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Chair: The Chair has to be able to hear the member speaking.
Mr. Jenkins: I went on to say that there is accountability required in these expenditures, and there wasn't accountability in place under the NDP government. That is what is needed. That is what is currently in place. What it needed were a set of guidelines and rules that were adhered to. It doesn't need a slashing of the money in that area to the extent that this Liberal government has slashed it.
I stand by my statement previously. Was it done just to penalize rural Yukon - the slashing of these funds?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: At the opening of the member opposite's remarks, he said that what the community development fund required was rules around it and accountability, and that's what we did. Then, Mr. Chair, the member opposite suggests that we have somehow drastically - he uses a more violent term than I would use - reduced the funding. In fact, the supplementary budget shows the funding expended in a 2001-02 revised vote of $1,475,000.
Mr. Jenkins: Just for the record, could the minister advise the House what the community development fund was in the last year under the NDP government? I'm sure it's readily available, and that will give the Minister of Finance an idea of how drastically she has slashed community development fund funding here in the Yukon. Because it's a mere shadow of its original self, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I believe the total over four years of NDP spending, which the member opposite referred to as "how many created lasting jobs" - I can't think of any - was $16 million over the four years. The specific amount that was spent in the month before the election was called was quite astronomical, as I recall, but I'll provide the member with the precise figure tomorrow.
Mr. Jenkins: For the record, in the last fiscal period, from when the Liberals took over from the NDP, it was some $6 million of community development fund money. What we advocated for were rules around that money and some accountability - that's all - not to slash and burn the fund to a mere shadow of its original self. So, we have gone from $6 million in community development fund for Project Yukon funding down to, now today, $1.5 million.
Even the cap on some of the projects is so low, Mr. Chair, that it renders some of the projects - well, they just couldn't be entertained. One of the projects in our community that has lasting benefits was the Dawson City Arts Centre, the DCAS. That's working. That's producing results. It's still dependent on O&M funding from the Government of the Yukon. I'm sure the Minister of Tourism is going to slash and burn that funding, just like the funding to the museums was reviewed and slashed and burned.
But, at the end of the day, this project created a lot of winter works projects, and they were short term, Mr. Chair - short-term jobs over the winter, which are very needed until the long-term economic plans kick in. But this government is void of both - very, very void of both. We haven't seen any initiative on winter works or in long-term projects and initiatives.
I'm extremely disappointed, given the large budget surplus this government has, that they haven't been able to put Yukoners to work. And I'm very, very disappointed that rural Yukon is basically getting - I guess we can call it what we want, but they're getting neglected by this government. It doesn't matter what area we look at, with the exception of parks. We're not being neglected in that area. We're getting more and more parks all the time, Mr. Chair.
They're encasing mines or potential mine sites and mining claims at an alarming rate. It used to be the position of the Premier to buy them out. Well, the current position appears to be, without any fanfare, just starve them out or render their claims so that they can't access them or work them, Mr. Chair, and that's a shame. That's why the Fraser Institute responds the way it has to the protected areas uncertainty.
I'd like to try once again, Mr. Chair, and ask the minister to spell out where we're going to see employment created this winter by her government - short term or long term, other than through more government. This is ultimately going to end up being the largest O&M that the Government of Yukon has ever dealt with, and the economic fortunes of Yukoners are probably at the lowest level they've ever been.
Are there any solutions forthcoming?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The budget, as a supplementary budget, is about choices. We're committed to using the capital budget and the supplementary funds to maximize unemployment and job creation. We do that with increased government funding for highway construction, which had work going on for some months over the summer and only now is winding down in some respects, and that includes the Shakwak. There are also millions for the construction and maintenance of school facilities. There's also funding for a number of specific economic development programs.
The member opposite is not happy with the choices we have made as a government. That's his prerogative. If he can offer some constructive criticisms or constructive questions, I'd be more than happy to answer them.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions, Mr. Chair.
First of all, how much of the $54 million can be attributed to cost overruns of the current budget year? Can the Premier answer that, please?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, if there are any, we would determine that by going through the detailed list of the projects that were contained in the capital and are also shown in the supplementary. Some of them - for example, the reconstruction in the member's own riding - have been advanced by funding in this supplementary. It's not a project cost overrun. It's an advancement of the project. If the member wishes, we will go through and run those reports.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Chair, that information would be helpful. I am aware of how certain projects have been stepped up and increased in funding, but that doesn't fall into the category of cost overruns.
Another question, Mr. Chair: how much of this $54 million are revotes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: About $14 million.
Mr. McRobb: Can the Premier also indicate how much of this $54 million can be attributed to departmental overspending?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite needs to be clearer in what he's referring to as overspending. Right now, there's no department that has overspent. What has happened, though, is that there are some departments that have come in and asked for additional money for some specific programming. That's not an overexpenditure.
What information exactly is the member looking for?
Mr. McRobb: Well, I don't have anything specific to identify, Mr. Chair. I believe this is information that has been provided in the past. If the Premier can undertake to provide something along with the other outstanding information, I'd be all right with that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as I said, no department has overspent at this point in time, so could the member just be clearer in exactly what information he would like? We'll certainly endeavour to provide it. Is the member looking for what amount of the $54 million is a new program initiative? Is the member looking for what specific programs - occasionally, for example, in Health, as has been noted in the supplementary, the department can anticipate that more funding would be required in pharmacare, but they're not overspent. So if the member could just be more clear in exactly what question he would like answered, I'll endeavour to get the information.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it's all part of scrutinizing the variances in this supplementary budget. As we review the departments, there's quite a bit of variance, and we know that a lot of it can be attributed to discretionary overspending. The Premier has said there was none, so if there was none, that's fine. The Premier is on the record and we can move on. But if there is some information to provide, we would appreciate it if it could be provided. Simple as that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I'll review Hansard. If there is some information, I'll provide it to the member opposite. It's more difficult for Finance to provide that information on departments. The ministers are all prepared to answer in the specific departments about specific projects. So I'll review Hansard, and if there's some information that I think might be of assistance to the member opposite, I'll certainly provide it in as timely a manner as I can.
Mr. McRobb: I will also review Hansard tonight before continuing this debate and the line-by-line on the supplementary budget, because I didn't catch all of the preceding general debate on the supplementary.
But I do have a few concerns that I would like to relate about the lack of spending on some initiatives I have identified in the past year. I know that one of them was identified earlier by my colleague from Watson Lake, and that has to do with street lights. I have asked a few questions in this Legislature about the possibility of the government installing more street lights. I remember mentioning Albert Creek, Chootla subdivision, the stretch of road near the Dawson Airport and, in correspondence with the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, the west entrance to the old Alaska Highway in Ibex Valley, which needed only one street light.
Now, not much has been done in this area. Yet, we've got $54 million of backdoor spending that wasn't scrutinized when we reviewed the mains budget in the spring Legislature. I would like to know - this is the government that prides itself on public consultation - don't the MLAs on this side of the House count when we bring forward issues?
Why are our suggestions ignored? Why were these street lights not put in as part of this $54 million?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Member for Watson Lake asked earlier about street lights and the Member for Kluane has followed up on it. Just for the information of those who might be listening or who may review Hansard tomorrow, the Albert Creek street light has been in since July 4.
The members opposite's suggestions are certainly - and representations are, of course, listened to by this side of the House. We listen to all Yukoners. The identification of the need for street lights has been identified and the minister responsible has responded.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, that's ridiculous. You know, one out of four that I just happened to identify off the top of my head is done. I was aware that one of them had been done; I just couldn't recollect which one.
So, the Liberals are all laughing over there. They figure that just because they were able to identify one out of four, that gives them ground to stand up and say that they are listening and that what we say does count. Well, what a bunch of garbage that is, Mr. Chair.
The street light in Ibex - one street light - was all my constituents wanted. It was all I asked for in the letter, and the answer that came back was no. There's not one street light there, but it's a dangerous situation for traffic. Yet, out of $54 million, we couldn't buy one street light.
If the Liberals, who, again, pride themselves on public consultation, ever want to venture out into communities like Haines Junction and actually talk to the people - not just to some people they know in the back rooms or to themselves - they'll pick up on the fact that people in rural Yukon really feel they are being ignored by this Liberal government. There are plenty of requests and ideas and suggestions that come forward that are completely ignored.
Why didn't this Liberal government have a public meeting while in Haines Junction last month? Well, that's a very good question. The only budget meeting that this government has ever had that was public in my riding was too little too late. It occurred in the last half of January of this year. Mr. Chair, you were the political point person representing this government. I took notes and I reviewed those notes the other day. Out of about a dozen recommendations, only one was done by this Liberal government.
Well, that's a pretty poor batting average, Mr. Chair. One out of a dozen. In fact, it was the road upgrade that was the one. It was something that was already being done. So what about all the other issues? Do you feel that you are responsible for advancing this to your colleagues, or does it just fall between the cracks? Where does it go?
I recall what some of them are. There's the seniors care facility. This government campaigned on building seniors care facilities in communities where there was a demonstrated need. And I am aware, from you, Mr. Chair, at that meeting you identified that the First Nation had specifically made a request for a seniors care facility, but where is it?
In the spring, Mr. Chair, we were told the government had to tighten its purse strings because there was no money, but now things are different. The Auditor General has proven that. But when we see a supplementary budget with $54 million in backdoor spending, without any consultation, this is outrageous. The very least we should expect is that some of the ideas that came forward in that too-little-too-late consultation process back in January would at least be included, but where are those other items that the public brought forward at that very meeting?
I know what another one was, Mr. Chair. It was improved funding to the community development fund, when you indicated there would be an announcement coming shortly. Well, about a month later we heard about Project Yukon, but did it increase the funds? No. It chopped them in half. And in this capital budget for next year, they're cut in half again.
Well, what's the reason for that $54 million in backdoor spending? Obviously, the priorities of this government do not include listening to rural Yukoners. Some would question they're not even listening to people in the City of Whitehorse. Some would also claim they're only listening to themselves and their friends. The truth about just whom the government is listening to remains very unclear.
One of the problems, Mr. Chair, is that there's no opportunity for public input into the spending of the government when the public knows - this is the important point - there's money to be spent. Because back in January, the government said that it was broke and had to tighten the purse strings and that there was a deficit and, down the road at the end of the year, there will only be about a $6-million surplus and that wasn't adequate to meet the constraints of the Taxpayer Protection Act, blah, blah, blah. So people had to suppress their budgetary requests.
Well, Mr. Chair, where was the consultation when it became known there was another $54 million available? When did the public have the opportunity to plug into that, knowing that this money is available? Maybe the Premier can answer that. Can the Premier let us know at what point in the entire public consultation processes related to the Liberal budgets has the public had an opportunity to identify its requests when the public has known that there's money available to buy projects? Can the Premier indicate when that opportunity was?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The announcement of the successful conclusion of discussions with the Finance minister, Minister Martin, was made on April 5 and it was announced publicly and in this Legislature. That was announced on April 5. I have forgotten the date that we announced that we had successfully signed the contract with the teachers and reached a settlement. Some of the others are not publicly discussed in this forum. Some of the other funding is a result of initiatives by the Government of Canada, which we are also, then, partnering in. Those announcements were made over the course of the summer.
The fact is that the public has spoken with us, not just in the 18 months since we were elected, but in the time we spent in opposition as well. We continue to listen to Yukoners and their views are reflected throughout the budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that answer pretty well speaks for itself. That answer, quite simply, is that there was no opportunity for the public to provide its input to how the Yukon government should spend its money at a time when the public was aware there was extra money to be spent. That is quite clear. That's all I wanted to establish.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First Nation governments and municipal councils are also elected by people, and we take a number of opportunities to speak with those elected people who represent them.
The member opposite's representations on street lighting and other issues have been heard by the minister as have the views of other elected Yukoners and non-elected Yukoners. We have heard from them; we continue to hear from them. We don't talk to Yukoners; we listen and speak with Yukoners.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we'll proceed with line-by-line.
Yukon Legislative Assembly
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: We will start off with Yukon Legislative Assembly. Is there any general debate on Yukon Legislative Assembly?
Mr. Fairclough: Just to be clear, maybe we can have a brief explanation on these small expenditures that are in the Legislative Assembly office.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Legislative Assembly expenditures are accounted for as follows: MLA travel - the increase is based on the 2000-01 actual; that's $38,000. There was a seventh Cabinet minister appointed, at a subsequent increase in pay, and there is also an increase in MLA pension costs.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $60,000 agreed to
Executive Council Office
Chair: Is there any general debate on Executive Council Office?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can provide the members opposite with a short overview of these expenditures, if they wish.
The reduction of $5,000 in operation and maintenance expenditures is a reduction in the Cabinet and management support offices. That's an underexpenditure of salaries. The reduction in First Nation relations by $80,000 is a transfer to the Cabinet office. The First Nation relations position was transferred over to the Cabinet offices, and the overall is a reduction in total O&M of $5,000.
On the capital expenditures, there is a $895,000 expenditure budgeted for the renewal initiative and $750,000 for Yukon foundation endowment fund, as noted.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier tell us the reasons for moving the First Nation relations position? That amount of money - is it the whole amount of money that has now moved to Cabinet offices? Why is that, when one of the top priorities in the departmental objectives is to deal directly with resolving outstanding land claims?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's just a transfer of one individual. The mandate of the Executive Council Office and departmental objectives have not changed, and there's still significant funding within the department. This is simply the transfer and proper, full accounting of one particular position. It's just one position; it's not the whole office.
Mr. Fairclough: But what is the reasoning for the transfer?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It was simply the management of that particular contract and that particular work. Over the course of working with the establishment of the office and working with First Nation relations, it was determined that it would be better handled by transferring the funding to the Cabinet offices.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm not fully understanding why this is taking place. It is the mandate and objective of the Executive Council Office to carry out this type of duty. So why are we moving it over to Cabinet offices? I'm not sure if there's a change in direction or if there is a very simple explanation to this. That's what I'm asking.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I've already given the member opposite the simple explanation: it's just a transfer from one line to another. It is not a change in direction. The Cabinet offices see our First Nation relations and our work with First Nation governments as incredibly important. It's something that we work at, and this is simply an accounting measure. It's not a change in direction. Rather than record it on one line, it's recorded on another. And I would just add that it's a transfer, Mr. Chair, since the member seems to want to deal with this; it's a transfer of an individual who is also doing some significant work for us in policy areas, so that is why it was shown under the Cabinet offices.
Mr. Fairclough: Does this mean, then, that the one person out of the First Nation relations - is that a reduction? Is there just not a need to carry out these duties as it was originally identified?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is the need, but to show it more clearly, we put it in the Cabinet offices.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this person doing policy work in developing these improved relations with First Nations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What the individual provides us with is advice and work on First Nation relations and, certainly, we seek this individual's advice on questions around policy and how specific policies might be applied or not in our work with First Nation governments.
Mr. Fairclough: I am not clear on this yet, because the Premier did say two things: transfer of this person to work "with" Cabinet on policies, but at first the Premier said "to develop policies". So is this person a policy person who will be working to develop policy and increasing and improving relationships with First Nations, or is this just an advisory body?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will go back and examine the Hansard. The fact is that there is an individual who has been transferred for accounting purposes and to show this more accurately - from First Nation relations to Cabinet offices, where they are able to provide their work in providing advice to Cabinet, Cabinet management support and Cabinet offices. Occasionally that advice includes advice on specific policies.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to be clear on why this money is moving over. I understand that some of the work that is carried out on First Nation relations was contract work. Is this moving away from contract work?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It's a contract better administered from the Cabinet offices. That is the reason for the line item change.
Mr. Fairclough: Is this still a contract? Does it have a mandate to its life? How long does the Premier see this person taking on the duties and developing policy for Cabinet?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let's try this from another way - $80,000 is transferred to Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved into the Cabinet offices. This is valuable advice, and it will continue as long as it's required.
Mr. Fairclough: I've been given several answers from the Premier on this. One is to help work with the policy; one is to develop the policy with Cabinet, and the other one was a simple accounting process. Was this a recommendation given to the Premier to move the monies around, or is this person accountable to, instead of the legislative office, to the Cabinet? That's what I would like to know. I would like to know why it was moved there and how long we expect to see this position in government.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has asked me the same question 15 different ways. In an attempt to help him to understand it, I have offered enhanced explanations. Again, for the member opposite, $80,000 was transferred to the Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved into the Cabinet office. The position will continue as long as it's required.
Mr. Fairclough: So is the Premier saying that there is no permanent position developed out of this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Premier is saying, and the Minister of Finance is saying, that $80,000 was transferred to the Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved into the Cabinet office, and the position will continue as long as the information is required.
Mr. Fairclough: How long does the Premier expect it to take to get the information that's required from this person?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As long as the position is required, if I might correct that, Mr. Chair. $80,000 was transferred to the Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved into the Cabinet office. The position will continue to be funded as long as the position is required.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, there must be more to this and why it was moved out of the Executive Council Office into Cabinet as a line item. I'm not getting any clear answers from the Premier. It's just an accounting process. That's all it is, but I asked whether or not it is forming a permanent position in Cabinet for this particular First Nation relations person, and the Premier didn't answer that. "Just as long as it's needed." So, is this still contract work, and does the Premier see an end to this position, evolving into something else perhaps? What can the Premier tell us about what we can expect as a line item in the future?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would remind the member opposite that Cabinet and management support is a line item in the budget, and it showed a substantial decrease in the year after this government took office from previously. This $80,000 was transferred to the Cabinet offices to fund the First Nation relations liaison position, which was moved into the Cabinet offices. How the Cabinet offices are organized is a matter between the chief of staff and myself. This is the line item accounting. I have said that that position will continue as long as it's required.
Mr. Fairclough: Is that a position for the whole year, or does this have an expiry date to it, this contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the position will continue as long as it's required. This transfer of funding is for the line item for this year. It is a straight transfer of money that has already been approved.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I understand that it's moving. I just want to know about whether it's permanent or not. The Premier's saying one thing and then the other. It's simple accounting processes, but this is an actual contract that must have an expiry date to it. What's the expiry date of the contract?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the position is now a Cabinet office position and will continue as long as it's required.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Finance minister explain the $750,000 in the Yukon Foundation endowment fund, how it works and how people are accessing these funds, and when can people access the funds, and how did it come about?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair. The $750,000 to the Yukon Foundation endowment fund in capital line items is an endowment as noted in the initial supplementary, where I indicated that $3 million was in a number of endowments. This is one of them. The details as to the expenditure of the funds is being worked on with the Yukon Foundation.
The member opposite may or may not be aware that the Yukon Foundation is a result of an act of this Legislature and that it funds a number of different post-secondary and Yukoner-initiated funds. I will be providing the House with greater detail as the session progresses on the specifics of the endowment.
Seeing that the time is close to 6:00, Mr. Chair, are you requesting that we move progress?
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 49, An Act to Amend the Medical Profession Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 6, Fourth Appropriation Act, 2000-01, and directed me to report it without amendment.
The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 54, Interjurisdictional Support Orders Act, and directed me to report it with amendment.
The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You've heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled Oct. 30, 2001:
Auditor General: Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2001 (Speaker Schneider)
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2001 (Duncan)
Devolution Transfer Agreement (dated October 30, 2001): Yukon Northern Affairs Program working copy (Duncan)
The following Legislative Return was tabled Oct. 30, 2001:
Education Act review recommendations: information pertaining to recommendation no. 141 and no. 142 (Eftoda)
Oral, Hansard, p. 2335-2336