Thursday, November 22, 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 with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In recognition of the Yukon Science Fair and Yukon Energy Fair
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the House to pay tribute to the Yukon Science Fair and Yukon Energy Fair that are being held this weekend.
Mr. Speaker, it's very important for us to pay tribute to the many organizations and volunteers whose efforts and hard work will enable the Yukon Science Fair and Yukon Energy Fair to be held this weekend at Yukon College. These events have been made possible because of the strong cooperation and active engagement of government agencies and departments and various local organizations.
We have always known that the territory's greatest resource is its people, and there's no clearer evidence of this fact than the partnership formed at these fairs. It includes the Yukon Development Corporation, the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Yukon Energy Solutions Centre, which are co-hosting the events as well as the Yukon Science Institute, Yukon Conservation Society, the committee of educators that comprise the Yukon-Stikine Science Fair Committee and the Department of Education.
In particular, I want to acknowledge the substantial contributions of Science World, B.C. and all of the people who will volunteer their time this weekend as science projects are judged. As well, Yukon science fair coordinators and co-chairs Trevor Ratcliff, Joanne Ross, Dan Hurley and Don Flinn, managing director of the Energy Solutions Centre have made outstanding efforts to make this event a reality. The Yukon Science Fair will feature 70 projects from 11 schools, which the public can view early Saturday afternoon in the Yukon College Cafeteria just prior to the awards being presented in the gym. This event will be complemented by the Yukon Energy Fair and will be open to the public on Saturday. Staff of Science World will also hold educational demonstrations throughout the day, while Bob McDonald, host of the popular CBC radio show Quirks & Quarks, will give the keynote presentation and perform on Saturday afternoon. An energy trade show will also be occurring with over 20 energy technological suppliers, departments and agencies from Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta and Nova Scotia.
In closing, I encourage the public and all elected members to attend the Yukon Science Fair. The Yukon Science Fair will take a moment this weekend to thank the many volunteers for their services to our children in communities. Admission is free, and the events will offer an enjoyable time for all. We will be promoting learning in the area of sciences and energy conservation for the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of National Housing Strategy Day
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today is National Housing Strategy Day and I'd like to pay a tribute to it.
It has now been three years since homelessness was declared a national disaster, and since that time the federal government has provided some funds to assist in addressing the issue of homelessness in Canada.
In Whitehorse there has been a volunteer committee, and the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness examined the problems of homelessness and developed some strategies to address this problem. To this group, our most profound thanks.
In Yukon, we have problems with both affordability of housing and with relative and absolute homelessness.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to speak about what relative homelessness is. It means that a person, maybe only two days of the week or two nights of the week, whether it's in the extremes of winter or summer, they only have just those two days to find shelter or access to a home, and absolute homelessness means just that. Seven days a week, with no home to go to. Finding places to sleep in the streets or in the trees or wherever. So, it's a serious problem.
Yukon Housing Corporation's community housing study found that 25 percent of Yukoners had affordability problems with their housing. The Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness found that absolute homelessness was an issue requiring immediate attention.
Given that fully one quarter - 25 percent - of Yukoners have affordability problems with housing and that there are people with no housing, it is imperative to work together, Mr. Speaker. We have got to find positive solutions, because lack of affordable housing is one component of a very broad social problem in addressing poverty issues.
Today I would like to encourage all Yukoners to support the development of projects to address housing needs as a part of a broader anti-poverty campaign.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to speak on National Housing Strategy Day, which has grown to 21 cities. The low-income tenants, homeless people, housing advocates in municipalities from Vancouver to St. John's are joining together for the second annual National Housing Strategy Day. The event has grown to 21 communities and is sponsored by the National Housing and Homelessness network. It marks the second anniversary of the decision of the big city mayors caucus of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to declare homelessness a national disaster.
Mayors in Vancouver, Edmonton, Saskatoon, North Bay, Parry Sound, Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax have proclaimed the day - Ottawa's proclamation is attached. Many events are planned, including community meals, street theatres, rallies and information forums. This day is a wake-up call to federal, provincial and territorial housing ministers, who are meeting in Quebec City on the 29th and 30th of this month, says Michael Shapcott, the co-chair of the National Housing and Homelessness Network.
People from coast to coast expect the ministers to commit a fully funded national housing program during their Quebec City meeting. As of today, we have sent staff members to this meeting. Because I'm sitting in the House, right now at this moment, we're sending staff members to this meeting to talk about the flexibility of funding that will be coming to the Yukon within the next year or two.
So I would just like to, once again, join together with the rest of the House here to recognize this day.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the various regions of the Yukon have distinct physical and human resources and, therefore, have distinct economic challenges and opportunities;
(2) planning decisions for the Yukon's economy are made almost exclusively in the territorial capital, in the Department of Economic Development;
(3) lack of leadership by two successive Liberal ministers, combined with the Liberal government's ill-advised focus on restructuring the public service, has left the department demoralized and without direction;
(4) community-based political and business leaders are well aware of the economic needs and advantages of their own regions and are capable of providing sound and informed advice regarding the kind of support their regions need from the territorial government;
(5) community leaders from different parts of the Yukon have advocated the creation of regional economic development boards as a way of bringing economic planning and decision making closer to their regions; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Economic Development to show leadership by working directly with businesses and community leaders to identify the resources necessary to establish effective regional economic development boards, in order to help Yukon communities overcome the current economic hardships they face and to do the planning required to realize their full economic potential in the future.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) numerous forums, including the 2001 Yukon business summit, have identified lack of access to venture capital as a serious impediment to economic growth in the Yukon;
(2) the tax round table, established by the previous NDP government, identified a labour-sponsored venture capital fund as an effective vehicle for addressing this problem;
(3) the previous NDP government had the vision to create enabling legislation and to provide financial assistance for the establishment of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation known as the fireweed fund;
(4) the Fireweed Fund Act received all-party support in the Yukon Legislative Assembly;
(5) despite publicly supporting the creation of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation prior to the last election, the Yukon Liberal government has failed to provide any assistance in establishing the fireweed fund;
(6) the Yukon Liberal government is hoarding public resources by maintaining a huge budgetary surplus at a time when the Yukon economy is in desperate need of stimulation; and,
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to show economic leadership and to put its declared support for a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation into practical action by using a portion of the $99-million surplus it enjoyed, as of March 31, 2001, to help make the fireweed fund become a reality.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the Yukon Liberal government campaigned on a promise of restoring public trust in government;
(2) an important way of earning public trust is by responding in a full, helpful and timely manner to the requests for information or assistance that citizens bring to the attention of government through their elected representative, regardless of their political affiliation;
(3) opposition MLAs have received an overwhelming number of complaints that Cabinet ministers and other MLAs in the Yukon Liberal government have routinely failed to respond to telephone calls, letters and other communications from members of the public, including residents of their own constituencies, in a full, helpful and timely manner;
(4) on occasion, members of the Yukon Liberal government have permitted breaches of the confidentiality that private citizens have a right to expect when they bring concerns about government to the attention of their elected representatives; and
(5) members of the public, including government employees, have also informed opposition MLAs of their reluctance to bring forward legitimate concerns for fear of retaliation by the Yukon Liberal government;
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to honour its commitment to restore public trust in government by being open and accountable to Yukon people and by acting with professionalism, sensitivity and discretion when dealing with casework matters, regardless of how they are brought to government's attention.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the settlement of outstanding land claims and self-government agreements is essential to bringing social and economic certainty to the Yukon and was identified as a top priority of the Yukon Liberal government;
(2) the federal mandate for concluding land claims negotiations is due to expire on April 1, 2002;
(3) many of the issues that have been identified as unresolved lie within the purview of the Yukon territorial government;
(4) the federal Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has stated that the Yukon government's position on at least one of these outstanding claims is not even in the ballpark;
(5) resolution of these issues without further delay will require a clear mandate from the elected leadership to the Yukon government land claims negotiators;
(6) various Cabinet ministers have recently suggested that the Yukon Liberal government is not fully committed to honouring its responsibilities to Yukon First Nations, stating incorrectly that these responsibilities are part of the Government of Canada's fiduciary responsibility; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to honour its existing commitments to Yukon First Nations in full and to give its negotiators a clear mandate to resolve all outstanding issues that are within the Yukon's purview, including flexible new approaches to land and infrastructure issues where necessary in order to finalize all outstanding land claims and self-government agreements in a fair and timely manner.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that:
(1) the current monopoly Air Canada has in providing air service to Yukon is leading to increased airfare costs to Yukoners; and
(2) the only way to reduce airfare cost is through competition; and
(3) a local carrier, Air North, is contemplating providing Boeing 737 air service to Yukon in competition to the service provided by Air Canada; and
(4) the only way Air North will be able to provide competitive air service to that of Air Canada is if the Government of Yukon guarantees Air North that it will utilize Air North for an agreed-to amount of government air travel; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to amend its current policy of government travel utilizing the air service that provides the most economical service to a sharing of its government travel budget between Air North and Air Canada.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Government renewal process, layoffs
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the Acting Premier on the issue of project downsize. Yesterday, the Acting Premier accused this side of the House of being irresponsible. That is simply not the case. It is the government side being irresponsible by not asking questions and refusing to disclose its real agenda.
Let's look at some facts. As early as June 13, before renewal was even announced, the employees union was told there would be layoffs. Subsequent to that, government officials who speak for this government have alluded to 175 layoffs.
Will the Acting Premier clear the air and end the uncertainty by providing the full details of how many layoffs will take place because of project downsize?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no project by that name. There is no hidden agenda, and there is no target number. The members don't seem to hear that the first time we say it. There is no target number.
Mr. Fentie: Again, the minister won't answer the question. The only members who aren't saying it or hearing it are the Liberal members across the floor. Everybody else does hear it and is repeating it.
There is a lot of confusion and uncertainty over this issue. On April of 2003, this government will be taking over many federal programs. We are committed to providing jobs for federal employees who want to come to the Yukon's side but, in this uncertain environment and in this confused environment, many of those federal employees are seeking employment elsewhere. They simply do not believe that this government can manage the situation.
Let me ask the Acting Premier this: are the federal employees who choose not to come to the Yukon government part of the 175 layoffs, or will they be over and above the 175 layoffs projected under project downsize?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no project by that name. That may have been a plan of the previous NDP government, had they been successful in the last election, but they weren't and there is no plan by that name in this government. Our plan is called "renewal" and the members opposite are spreading a lot of misinformation. The Premier has already told the members opposite that under section 3.4 of the devolution transfer agreement, each indeterminate Northern Affairs program employee will receive a written offer of employment. The members opposite know this but instead choose to spread information that they know is incorrect.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I would argue with the Acting Premier that again that is not the case. We are not spreading information at all. We are merely following up what union members and the public are saying and what government officials, who represent and speak for this government, are saying.
In this uncertain environment, it is not just federal employees who are seeking employment elsewhere; there are also many YTG employees who have had enough of the lack of direction and have little trust in this Liberal government being able to produce anything under renewal other than downsize.
There are 175 layoffs, plus the increased attrition because YTG workers have had it with the Liberal government. This equates to millions of dollars extracted, in terms of spending power, from our economy at the worst possible time. How does the Acting Premier and her government plan to replace that lost spending power, or is she prepared to watch the economy plunge into an even deeper recession?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There is no target. The members opposite are always steering the public perception in the wrong directions.
I have answered the question; I just haven't given the answer that the member wants to hear. There is no target.
Mr. Fentie: I must argue again with the Acting Premier. We are not steering anything. We are merely following up with what the public is discussing and voicing their concerns.
Let's look at it another way. Six months into this so-called renewal project, alias "project downsize" -
Speaker: Order please. The Chair would like to remind the member that using language that is likely to create disorder is not acceptable in the House. And I refer specifically to "project downsize" and the fact that I don't want to go where we were yesterday in here, and have the House get nearly completely out of order.
Could the members please be a little more judicious with their choice of words?
With that, please continue.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to the renewal project, many Yukoners are concerned that it's all about downsizing government. Yukoners don't know what this structure will be. The employees union doesn't know what the structure will be. The federal employees don't know what the structure will be. It's very confusing.
Now, either this government doesn't have a clue of what it's doing here, or it knows exactly what it's doing. The real agenda could be, as the public and the union employees are concerned about, downsize and privatize. What government services does the Acting Premier envision will be privatized during her short-lived mandate as government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite has a vivid but misguided imagination. There is no hidden agenda. There is no target. The members opposite may have had a plan to downsize or privatize, had they become government, but they did not become government; we did and we have no such plans.
There is no target; there is no hidden agenda.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: I would caution the Acting Premier and her colleagues not to get too comfortable in government - it's going to be short lived.
Mr. Speaker, the facts point to something here. Privatization has already started. It begins with a big BST job that was contracted out this summer. Contracted out when? This type of work is normally done by the employees of the Yukon government who have the expertise. The finished product, I think, speaks for itself.
Is this contracting out going to be the normal situation for Community and Transportation Services, or whatever this department will be called, after the restructuring process is complete?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It would seem to me that that question goes in an entirely different direction from the first one. However, there is no hidden agenda; there is no target. Despite the plans the members opposite may have had for privatizing and downsizing, this Liberal government has no such plans.
Mr. Fentie: Well, our questioning has to go in many directions, given the tangled web that the members opposite, this Liberal government, continue to weave. Let's look at another example. We now know that the boiler maintenance work in the Department of Education building here in Whitehorse has been contracted out. That's part of property management, another agency within government. That's a critical part of the community workforce - property management.
Let me ask the Acting Premier this: will she confirm that property management is another area of service delivery that will be contracted out, rather than performed by government employees, under this misguided renewal process?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite keeps repeating that nobody wants renewal. The public is interested in renewal, and so are public servants. The public has had many years of many governments, who have asked them for their ideas but have not implemented them, and we are doing that. The Auditor General has also suggested that renewal is a positive move on the part of this government.
One more time, Mr. Speaker - there is no hidden agenda; there is no target.
Question re: Airline service
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Tourism on competitive airfares. On November 19, the minister gave a ministerial statement on air access, which didn't offer Yukoners much hope that there will be reasonably priced airfares for flying in and out of the Yukon, in view of Air Canada's current monopoly. Recently Air Canada unilaterally and unjustifiably increased the distance between Whitehorse and Vancouver and turned the run into a long-haul route, requiring 25,000 points instead of the previous 15,000. The only way Yukoners are going to get reasonably priced airfares out of Air Canada is if there is competition, and this is where Yukon's local carrier, Air North, enters the picture.
Air North can provide Boeing 737 service from Whitehorse to points outside, provided that the Yukon government gives Air North a guarantee that it will give the airline a reasonable portion of the government's rather substantial air travel budget.
Will the minister give Air North that guarantee?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it's in the interest of all Yukoners to make sure that we have a competitive airline coming into the Yukon Territory year-round. The reason we need that is so that we have lower fares, better connections and better service. To that end, we are speaking to a number of different airlines in an attempt to make sure that competition does happen so that we will get better fares, better connections and better service.
We had a meeting today with Air North. We were speaking to them about a number of different options. One of those options is not guaranteeing government travel to one airline. We have been very clear about that; we have it in writing. But what we are talking to them about are other options - for example, the tendering of government travel. That is an option as well that we are discussing not only with Air North but with other airlines that will hopefully be competitive with Air Canada.
Mr. Jenkins: With all due respect to the minister, the government's current policy of best price, best schedule, best connection and best quality gets the government business - and that just means that Air Canada is going to continue with its monopoly because the federal Liberal government is backing it, and it can force all the competition out of business as it is currently doing.
If the minister really wants to give Yukoners cheaper airfares, the minister has to amend the government's current travel policy. Will the minister do so?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No. This government is responsible with taxpayer dollars. Why would we spend three times more than we have to on government travel?
What we have said is that we will work with a number of different airlines, including Air North - we have already had one meeting with them - and that we will do the best job we can for Yukoners, because, in the end, what we want is the best for Yukoners, and so does the member opposite. We want the best airfares; we want the best schedules; we want the best connections.
Mr. Jenkins: No one is suggesting that the government pay three times more. I don't even know where this figure came from. The Yukon government is the only party that can force Air Canada to be competitive because of the size of the government's air travel budget. Arranging meetings or negotiating with Air Canada isn't going to work. Negotiating with Air Canada is like negotiating with the devil itself, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister muscle the intestinal fortitude to tell Air Canada that it is going to have to share Yukon's air markets with Air North and undertake the necessary steps to ensure that it does indeed happen?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is a little off base when it comes to the size of government travel. Government travel is about 16 percent of the number of segments between Whitehorse and Vancouver. Sixteen percent is not enough to make an airline viable. Eight percent is not enough to make an airline viable.
To be absolutely clear, we want the market to be shared. We want competition. That is why we have gone through the exercise of creating an air access strategy. That is why we have created a business case for the Yukon Territory. There is money to be made on this route. We want to make sure that someone else comes into this market and gives Yukoners better airfares, better connections and better service.
Question re: Boards and committees, appointments to
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. I'm sure he's expecting it, and I'm sure he's expecting it based on a display from yesterday. Mr. Speaker, yesterday this minister was all over the map, making statements that weren't relative to the question, but what really offended me was when the minister started making attacks on private citizens who cannot defend themselves.
Again, on the radio, this minister said, and I quote from the radio excerpt, "I expected that kind of response from opposition because I guess it's not their people that have been nominated to that committee."
Well, that just begs this question: is the minister saying that sources of income or political affiliation are factors that should be considered in making appointments to boards and committees? Is that what the minister's really saying?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: The answer is no, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to just put on the record that this is the very first time that the minister has actually, this session, come forth with a concrete answer, and I appreciate what the minister has said. I just wish that the minister would put it into action.
Now, the minister said that putting someone on the committee who was involved in the field of early childhood would have been a conflict. Now, according to the same report that was the minister's rationale, it says that they would be making decisions that directly affected their programming. Now, following that logic of the minister, does this mean that his own technical advisory committee should not be comprised of doctors or nurses or radiologists? Is that what the minister's saying about his advisory committees?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: First of all, I would like to apologize for saying that the "president of the Yukon Childcare Association works in the NDP caucus office." I'd like to take this time to apologize for saying that the president of the Yukon Childcare Association works in the NDP caucus office. I'm apologizing for that, Mr. Speaker.
I appreciate being able to provide the correct information on the new ministerial advisory committee for the Yukon. First, I'm completely pleased with the representation of the four ministers and their delegates on this committee.
This will ensure that the committee has access to the experts working in the field of early childhood development. This also will ensure that all departments involved will be aware of what each is doing with respect to children's programming.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the general public is represented on this committee because we value input from our community members. We know these nominees will bring forward their own experiences as parents, as commonsense people and as people who work with children. They are experts as well, and to say that experts have to have a degree in early childhood education - I'm not denying that these people have very good qualifications and good ability, and I applaud that. I think I have given the House our reasons for why we didn't go that route.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I'm not here to accept the apology on behalf of the people whom the minister has apologized to, but Yukoners are a forgiving group, and it certainly makes sense that the minister would stand on his feet and apologize when the minister is wrong. But the minister is completely wrong again, so I expect another apology here.
Now that the minister fully understands that these are advisory groups - they are not decision-making groups, and the minister does understand that, I'm sure - why would the minister refuse to seek the most informed advice by shutting out this specific expertise of early childhood people who are right here? Why would the minister do that, and will the minister reconsider his decision and please include expertise on that committee?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, we do have expertise on the committee. We have four ministers, we have government officials who are going to be part of the committee as advisors; we have three people from the community who are experts in the area of children. I believe that we have responded, and obviously the member opposite does not want to hear that those groups that put forward names - some of those groups had very good candidates - could serve on many committees, but there would be a conflict here if they are applying for funds from the early childhood development funds. They can't make decisions based on their presence on the committee. Hopefully the members opposite would understand that. We don't want them to be excused from good deliberation either. That's why we chose people who did not have any clear connection to the deliverance of this program and these monies.
Question re: Homelessness
Mr. Keenan: Well, I will point out that there is a complete lack of understanding of any of the issues that we have been asking about, and it is not on this side of the House but on the opposite side of the House.
I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. Last month the planning group on homelessness released the Whitehorse community plan on homelessness. The planning group, which included five representatives from the Yukon government, is in support of the group's recommendations. The first two recommendations focus on the need for shelter. So, I would like to ask the minister this: why is there no money in the 2002-03 capital budget for these much-needed initiatives? Can the minister answer that question, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I guess the whole objective of federal monies for homelessness coming to the territory is to look at possible solutions, to look at the long term and that is the encouragement. The member opposite was at the presentation when this money was being presented to the Yukon - or at least the idea - and I think the member opposite heard very clearly my comments at that presentation: these monies should not be for the short term. They are for the long term. We are looking at long-term solutions. For the member to expect to already have those long-term solutions when the committee is still trying to formulate them is a bit presumptuous. The idea is to bring forth some ideas for the long-term solutions, because we know that when the federal government gives us money like this they are short term, and then the expectation is going to be out there that we pick it up without any planning. So that is the idea of what we are doing now. We are trying to plan for the future and that group will be coming forward, hopefully, with a long-term plan.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to point out to the Yukon public that the Cabinet has successfully muzzled the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation here. Now, I would like to ask the minister responsible for Yukon Housing Corporation if I may - the minister should know that the federal money alone will not make these shelters a reality. Next week the minister is going to be attending a housing ministers meeting of which affordable housing initiatives are going to be the focus of this meeting.
So the Yukon Housing Corporation confirms that housing affordability is a very serious problem. When the minister is in Quebec - and I am not sure if he is going to take the other minister on his knee with him - will he make a commitment to match the federal dollars with territorial dollars for federal housing?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Again, the members opposite seem to be very deceptive and always like to steer the public's perception that they're in different directions - wrong directions.
I'd like to say that Yukon Housing Corporation looks after the capital infrastructure and provides services to Yukoners with regard to housing. The social infrastructure aspects of housing are being looked after by the Department of Health and Social Services.
First Nations from Yukon, B.C., Alberta, the N.W.T. and Alaska attended - we have held a Yukon First Nation housing conference and, during this, the flexibility of funding that may be coming to the Yukon was talked about a little bit. We have staff who are going to this meeting in Quebec, as I am sitting in the House right now, and I trust that their professionalism and expertise will be talking about the ways in which we will be using these funds in the coming year.
Mr. Keenan: The minister says "a little bit", and he's going to go and ask for a little bit when the Yukon needs a whole bunch. What we really need, Mr. Speaker, is a whole bunch of leadership, and that's completely lacking in this Legislature, except on this side of the House.
Last year, this minister spent $12,000 flying around to these meetings, and while the federal government has put money into homelessness and is expected to put money into affordable housing, this minister has done absolutely nothing except to call me a deceptive person. It's terrible.
So I would like to ask this minister: will the minister make issues of homelessness and affordable housing a priority in the territorial budget, and will the minister match federal dollars, dollar for dollar, in the next budget? Can we get that commitment from this minister?
Hon. Mr. Jim: Once again, the members like to speak in terms of deception.
Speaker: Order please. I remind the minister that I have let the word "deception" or "deceive" go by once and, in my research through Beauchesne, it is found at times that that can be unparliamentary. It is causing some dissension in the House, so if the minister could just try and use another word, I would appreciate it.
Thank you. Please continue.
Hon. Mr. Jim: I apologize, Mr. Speaker. Once again, the members opposite are actually quite good at steering the public perception in the wrong directions.
The members opposite are critical when we travel and they are critical when we don't travel. It's obvious that the members opposite don't really believe in anything other than simply being critical. In our meeting with Minister Gagliano, the federal minister responsible for housing, the minister agreed that the programs need to be flexible enough to address the specific needs here in the Yukon.
I am confident that the very competent officials from the Yukon Housing Corporation will negotiate effectively on behalf of Yukoners.
Question re: Liquor Act review
Mr. Fentie: This Liberal government is in danger now of going through a whole sitting without ever answering a question. So let's see if the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation can rescue her government.
Recently, news reports indicated that a sizeable majority of Yukon people are in favour of neighbourhood pubs. We know, however, Mr. Speaker, that the hotel industry is firmly opposed and wants to keep the requirement for a certain number of rooms in order to have a licence to serve liquor.
Will the minister answer this: once the Liquor Act review team has reported, how does the minister intend to resolve this conflict?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this is the first question I have ever had on the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Thank you to the member opposite.
First of all, on the issue around neighbourhood pubs, the member opposite is quite correct. There are a substantial number of Yukoners who believe that that should be an option, and I understand from the Hotel Association - they have been very clear with me in writing and, on a number of times, verbally - that this is not something they're interested in. However, the Liquor Act Review Committee is presenting their report to me with their final recommendations tomorrow. I can tell the member opposite that we will be working with those recommendations to draft the legislation. Those recommendations reflect the review of the majority of Yukoners and that is the way we're going to be going with legislation, because we believe that it's important to reflect the attitudes and the beliefs of the people who live in the Yukon Territory right now. The legislation that regulates them needs to be up-to-date, current and workable for Yukon people.
Mr. Fentie: I'd like to extend a welcome to the minister for thanking me for that question, and I would inform the rest of her colleagues that, you see, you can answer a question. There is a way to answer a question in this House, even though she refused to allude to how she is going to resolve the conflict.
And there certainly is a conflict here, Mr. Speaker, and there's more than one conflict.
Earlier this year, the minister appointed a very well-known Liberal to the Yukon Liquor Corporation Board. This is the same person the minister, with her Tourism hat on, appointed to implement the on-Yukon-time project.
Will the minister answer this? At the time of that appointment, was the minister aware that this individual was working for the B.C. and Yukon Hotel's Association to lobby her government against the proposed accommodations act?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Yes.
Mr. Fentie: We are progressing here in leaps and bounds. Another question - yes, he was, and she was aware.
Let me follow up with the minister. There are some serious problems with the optics here, something that the Liberals seem to get embroiled in far too often.
The Liquor Act is under review. At the very same time, the minister appoints someone to the Liquor Corporation who has a very strong connection to one side of a major issue that has the potential of polarizing this review.
Has the minister adopted a new policy of having interest groups directly represented on the Liquor Corporation Board and, if so, what is she doing to make sure all points of view are properly represented?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The member opposite obviously is not aware of this but, when we appointed this individual to the Liquor Corporation Board, it was on the request of the B.C. and Yukon Hotels' Association. That request has been outstanding for almost 15 years - that there be a representative on the Liquor Corporation Board who represents licensees, who are the people most affected by the decisions of the Liquor Corporation, obviously, and we believe that the people who are most affected by the decisions of this government should have some say in the decision-making process. Therefore, we put a representative from the B.C. and Yukon Hotels' Association on the Liquor Corporation Board.
That was the right thing to do, Mr. Speaker. That's a recommendation from the Liquor Act Review Committee. That was a recommendation right across the Yukon, and we acted on that recommendation. It's pretty simple.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker: Before proceeding to Orders of the Day, the Chair wishes to report to the House on a few matters that arose during yesterday's proceedings.
The first relates to the requirement for documents that are being quoted from to be tabled. It is well accepted that, when a member chooses to quote from or to cite directly a document, a requirement may arise for the member to table the document. That requirement, as followed in the precedents of this House, normally applies to such things as private letters, which may not be generally available to all members.
Yesterday, the tabling of documents was requested twice through points of order. During Question Period, the Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order, stated: "[W]hen facts introduced in this House are contrary to any publicly documented process, it's normal that those facts are tabled." The Chair has reviewed the comments of the Member for Watson Lake, who was speaking when the point of order was raised, and notes that the member did not, during his question, quote from or directly cite any particular document. It is clear, then, in this instance, that there was simply a dispute between members about the facts of a matter and that there could be no requirement for the tabling of a document.
The second instance of this being raised took place during debate on Motion No. 168 when the Member for Kluane was making his initial remarks. The member was quoting from a review of Bill No. 46 prepared by the Sierra Legal Defence Fund when the government House leader rose on a point of order and stated: "The rules of the debate in the Legislature clearly spell out that, when a member is quoting from a document, he provide sufficient copies for all members in the Legislature from which to review the legal opinion the member is quoting."
The official opposition House leader, in speaking to the point of order, stated: "It is not a standard practice that we table all those documents unless we are referring to the document that's being spoken to in its entirety." The Chair notes that the Member for Kluane, when quoting from the document, said that the Minister of Renewable Resources had been provided this material. The Chair, therefore, concluded that the document being quoted from was not private in nature and that it was not necessary to order its tabling. In reference to the comment of the official opposition House leader, the rule requiring tabling is, of course, not based on it being quoted from in its entirety. In fact, the need for a document to be tabled is often related to the fact that it is not being quoted from in its entirety and it is only fair that the House should be able to reflect on the limited quotations being made in the context of the whole document.
The remainder of the procedural matters the Chair wishes to raise has to do with the rules of debate and parliamentary language.
During Question Period, the Member for Whitehorse Centre objected to the Member for Watson Lake making statements that included the use of the grammatical second person. The exact statements objected to were: "If you cut 175 public service jobs, you're taking millions of dollars out of the Yukon economy in at time when it is needed. You're taking it right out of the cash registers of Yukon businesses. Instead of improving services to the public, you are jeopardizing those services to the public."
It is a standard requirement of our rules of debate that all remarks be addressed through the Chair. This normally leads to speaking in the third person and not using the word "you". In this instance, though, there is some doubt as to the necessity of having the Chair step in because it appeared that the member for Watson Lake was using the word in a more general sense than intending that it apply directly to a particular member or body. The test that can be applied is to ask whether the statements would make sense if the word "one" were substituted for the word "you"; if so, then using the second person is usually acceptable.
A second matter pertaining to parliamentary language took place during debate on Motion No. 168 when the Member for Kluane stated "It's very unfortunate the minister has spent his time firing off media releases, spreading falsehoods and speculation about NDP caucus discussions." Standing Order 19(h) states that "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that member . . . charges another member with uttering a deliberate falsehood." It is obvious, then, that the accusation made by the Member for Kluane that the Minister of Renewable Resources was "spreading falsehoods" was unparliamentary. This was raised as a point of order by the Minister of Renewable Resources at the time and the Member for Kluane, on order of the Chair, withdrew the remark. The official opposition House leader, when speaking to the point of order, stated "It is customary, when giving direction to the Chair, to make reference to the Standing Order that has been contravened." In most cases, it is most helpful to the House if a member cites a rule or a precedent relevant to the point of order being raised. However, often when dealing with unparliamentary language and, in particular, in situations as obvious as this, it is not essential to make reference to specific rules.
The Chair wishes to note that violations of Standing Order 19(h) are much too common and that all parties in the House are guilty. As an example from yesterday's proceedings, the Acting Premier said, "They should be ashamed of themselves for spreading information that they know is wrong." To say that a member is spreading information they know to be wrong is to accuse a member of uttering a deliberate falsehood and is, therefore, using unparliamentary language.
Another issue that came up occurred when the leader of the third party was participating in the debate on Motion No. 168. During his remarks, he stated, "The Member for Kluane, who seems to be very much a representative of the Sierra Legal Defence Fund or CPAWS - very much a spokesperson for these two groups." At this point the leader of the third party was interrupted on a point of order by the Member for Kluane objecting to characterization of himself in that fashion. The Chair ruled that it is not in order to suggest that a member is representing somebody or someone other than his constituents. To make such a suggestion is to impute unavowed motives to another member and is contrary to Standing Order 19(g).
Further points of order were raised when the Member for Whitehorse Centre was participating in the debate on Motion No. 168. The Chair took a couple of those points under advisement and said that the Chair would report back. The Chair has reviewed the points of order raised by the official opposition House leader and the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes and reviewed the comments of the Member for Whitehorse Centre leading up to those points of order. The central thesis of the points of order was that the Member for Whitehorse Centre was disregarding the direction of the Chair that the member should refrain from making his remarks overly personal. In this regard, the Chair would draw members' attention to Standing Order 6(1), which states, in part, "The Speaker shall preserve order and decorum..." It goes on to say, "No debate shall be permitted on any such decision, and no decision shall be subject to an appeal to the Assembly." On review of the remarks of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, and taking into account the tone and temper of yesterday's debate, the Chair can see how an impression was left that the Chair was being challenged. That should not happen and the Chair must ask that all members pay greater heed to the respect required of the Chair's authority and of the decorum required in this Assembly.
I thank all members for their attention.
We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. The Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:15.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We'll continue with general debate on Department of Economic Development, Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 7 - Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02 - continued
Department of Economic Development - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Mr. Kent: When we left general debate on Tuesday evening, it was at the conclusion of a lengthy speech by the Member for Watson Lake, and I'd like to take this opportunity to respond to some of the criticisms levied by the Member for Watson Lake during his speech on Tuesday evening.
One of the first things that the Member for Watson Lake criticized was the budgeting choices of this government, with regard specifically to fire smart as well as Project Yukon. Mr. Chair, as I said on Tuesday, budgeting is about making choices and setting spending priorities. The previous NDP government chose to spend $16 million on the then community development fund.
We as a government have chosen to spend our monies on other things. We have chosen to take highway spending from $3 million under the former government, exclusive of Shakwak, toward $14 million, for a total combined transportation budget of some $40 million for the 2002-03 season.
Mr. Chair, we have chosen to spend more than $7 million for the construction and maintenance of school facilities. The previous government chose to ignore the concerns of the people of Mayo by not building the Mayo school. We have chosen to do that. They chose to ignore the concerns of the people of Riverdale with regard to the Grey Mountain School, and we have made the choice to build the Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Chair, the previous governments chose to spend money on things such as the CDF with regard to the Department of Economic Development. The spending priorities I have set for the department include an increase to the Yukon mining incentives program, something that was soundly criticized by the Member for Watson Lake because, as he stated, there are no operating mines that are a direct result of the Yukon mining incentive program in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I mentioned that to a couple of officials from the Yukon geology department as I walked down Main Street yesterday, and what they said to me rings very true with regard to spending on the Yukon mining incentives program, as well as the increased spending we have given the geology program. These are the programs that plant the seeds for future mines, and I think that is very important that we leave a legacy of jobs and opportunities for future Yukoners.
We are spending money on the fire smart program - some $500,000 is budgeted for it this year, as well as $750,000 budgeted for Project Yukon. We also are cooperating and working very closely with other First Nation governments: $1.2 million to support the construction of a Kwanlin Dun First Nation cultural centre; $600,000 for the business incentive program, as well as a further $270,000 for territorial campgrounds and day areas.
So, as you can see, we are doing a number of things, and we have made different choices from those made by the previous government. Those are important choices, and I think it is important that we leave a legacy of good quality infrastructure for Yukoners, outside of the Shakwak corridor. These are very important things with the choices we have made with regard to the budget.
The Member for Watson Lake went on to say that we have no plan or vision. I disagree. I've outlined many times in this House, what the plan and vision is of this Yukon Liberal government. There are three main areas that we are addressing, - strengthening the resource sector through programs such as YMIP - and the extra money that we're spending in the Yukon geology program, as well as the call for bids that I announced today for the oil and gas sector in the Peel Plateau. We are quite confident that the oil and gas sector will make a recovery in the Yukon. By conducting regular land sales, it's important to show industry that we are committed to developing a strong, diverse economy in the Yukon, particularly surrounding the oil and gas sector.
We are also working to improve infrastructure. As I mentioned before, we have a full $40 million committed in the 2001-02 capital budget to the transportation division in the ministry of Community and Transportation Services.
We do support a gas distribution system. The Member for Watson Lake mentioned that we could just pull gas off the pipeline upstream and replace it downstream. It's not just a simple case of being able to wander over to the pipeline with a bucket, turn on a spigot and grab a pail of natural gas. There needs to be distribution infrastructure, and that takes investment.
And what the companies that approached the Yukon government are willing to provide is that infrastructure and that investment.
Mr. Chair, we're working with the federal government in securing funds for the Dawson Airport. Work continues on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. We're also lobbying the federal government to participate in the proposed railway feasibility study and joint commission, as proposed by Senator Murkowski of Alaska.
As I mentioned earlier, we're putting more than $7 million into the construction and maintenance of school facilities. Those school facilities, as I mentioned before, are Mayo and the Grey Mountain School, and we're going to begin initial work on the replacement of the F.H. Collins Secondary School, there's work on the Eliza Van Bibber School, and there's work on the school in the member's own riding.
But as far as diversifying the economy, Mr. Chair, there are a number of things we're doing, as well. The IT sector strategy comes to mind. There is the work that the Minister of Tourism is doing in promoting the film industry; there is the arts fund; there is the work that the Minister of Renewable Resources did in securing crop insurance funding for the Yukon agricultural industry; there is the $8-million endowment fund that we've set aside to support the Canada Winter Games.
Mr. Chair, as you can see, there are a number of things we're doing toward rebuilding the Yukon economy, and I didn't even talk about the pipeline. There are enormous opportunities and benefits that would come with that pipeline.
Mr. Chair, the Member for Watson Lake also criticized the work that we're doing on land claims. All I can say to that is that, since we took power 18 months ago, we have a land claim that has gone to ratification and has been ratified by the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation.
The Premier continues to work hard in her position as Minister of Executive Council Office to ensure that other land claims are settled in the very near future. And, as I said, Grand Chief Ed Schultz committed at the recent Geoscience Forum that he hopes to have all outstanding land claims settled by the time he speaks to them again next year.
On to the second page of the aspersions cast by the Member for Watson Lake on myself and my department. He criticized us for the road to resources initiative in the southeast Yukon, saying that the Liberal government, and I quote from the Member for Watson Lake, "... the Liberal government and this Minister of Economic Development - hasn't even contacted the leadership of the Kaska First Nation on this issue." Nothing could be further from the truth, Mr. Chair. I since --
Hon. Mr. Kent: Pardon me, I withdraw that Mr. Chair, rookie mistake.
The Yukon government has raised the issue with the Liard First Nation. I personally sent a letter to Chief Daniel Morris on October 17 of this year in that regard. In that letter I informed the Liard First Nation that the proposal for a multiple-use resource access corridor did have merit. We have also indicated that community support is important on this project, and I have urged the First Nation, the Town of Watson Lake, as well as the Chamber of Commerce in Watson Lake, to work together on this proposal.
In addition, this government has indicated that a coordinated approach to access management is necessary, which links with DIAND's plans and responsibilities for forest management, timber permits as well as the THAs in the region.
And, further to another aspersion mentioned by the Member for Watson Lake, that we had cancelled the Kaska economic round table, I can inform the member that the issue of a road to resources was discussed at last week's meeting at the Kaska economic round table. So indeed, it hasn't been cancelled.
There were a number of other issues discussed at that meeting with the Kaska, including the following: training initiatives and skills assessments; the recent joint venture on mine reclamation signed between the Kaska First Nation and the engineering firm, SNC-Lavalin; the other cooperation agreement that was recently signed between the Kaska and Foothills Pipe Lines; a proposed internal joint commission on the railroad feasibility; as I mentioned before, the roads to resources; benefits agreements related to oil and gas; potential new mineral developments in the area, including the recent emerald find in the Finlayson Lake district; Kaska interests related to economic development in such areas as forestry, tourism and energy.
So, Mr. Chair, I can assure the Member for Watson Lake that the Kaska economic round table is still in existence and is fully operational.
Mr. Chair, there are a number of other things I'd like to address in response to questions raised by the Member for Watson Lake, especially with regard to the aspersions that he cast on the MLA for Faro. The MLA for Faro, I can assure the member, is a very hard-working MLA. He works very hard for his constituents and brings forward a number of economic development issues that are important to his riding. He works very hard on securing jobs at the new North American Tungsten property inside the Northwest Territories border, making sure that his constituents are informed.
Above all else, Mr. Chair, I think it's important to note that, unlike the previous Member for Faro, the current Member for Faro at least lives in his riding. He lives in the town. He shops in the town with his constituents. The former Member for Faro, now a resident of Alberta, only showed up for hot dogs and maybe to eat a little cake and cut some ribbons. So, I think it's important to note that the MLA for Faro is doing a fine job in representing his constituents.
There are a number of other things that were brought up by the Member for Watson Lake but, at this point in time - maybe what I will do, actually, is touch on the pipeline issues the member raised, specifically regarding the comments he made on pulling gas off upstream and replacing that gas downstream. We certainly recognize the advantages of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline in developing our own oil and gas basins. That's going to be one of the key, long-term benefits of that pipeline, as is the access to gas and the infrastructure that will deliver that gas within communities.
As I mentioned earlier today, I announced the call for bids in the Peel Plateau area. The next call for bids is very preliminary right now, Mr. Chair, but it also includes a portion of the Whitehorse trough, and that basin will be a key contributor to an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline as it is developed.
The opportunities at the tungsten mine are another perfect example of what this government is doing for economic development in the territory. There are Yukoners working there right now and, when the mine goes into production in January, there will be over 150 jobs available, and many of those jobs will go to Yukoners, Mr. Chair.
So, with regard to the Member for Watson Lake's comments on Tuesday evening, when we were in debate on the Department of Economic Development, I find a number of them were very unfair and, with that, I'll turn the microphone back over to him.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, we are discussing a supplemental budget for the year 2001-02, and I'll give the minister full marks. He did outline a lot of material that might possibly happen in the future. But I think what we're most concerned about here today is what's happening right now and through the course of this winter.
I briefly just want to touch on a number of mistakes that the minister has made, and I think those are important. He did reference the Geoscience Forum, and I think it's important to note that the Yukon mining incentive program was created by the New Democrats, and we have no problem with the support in that program. What I asked the minister was to please provide information on what mines are ready to go into production because of that expenditure. However, the minister should have also related to the House that it was a very important fact that came out of the Geoscience Forum that, next year, exploration expenditures are even going to be down further - further down in this territory.
So I think those are important facts that should not be ignored, and the minister - I think we can just pass that off as a rookie mistake, and I'm sure he'll improve as he gets more oriented in the department.
Secondly, Mr. Chair, the reference to a bucket going to a gas line to take natural gas out of it - well, I know that the minister's a young fellow and hasn't been around the oil or gas industry very much, but let me point out the fact that the Yukon, in the southeast, in the Kotaneelee, isn't packing gas with buckets; it's connected to the grid - important fact. Secondly, infrastructure in this territory farmed out to some outside company equals money, cash flow, flowing out of this territory.
When we control our own resource, we have access to any type of expenditure that we might want to get into because of that resource, and I think we should have provided more of an opportunity for this infrastructure to become localized for a very good reason - so we retain the cash flow from that industry instead of sitting here, looking out the window, watching it flow south to some huge utility in a 25-storey building in Calgary. The issue here is not about how we can benefit a large conglomerate. The issue here is: how do we maximize benefits for all Yukoners. That's what the minister's missing. And again, I'll leave that to a rookie mistake, and I'm sure that, as he gets more oriented in his department, these things will improve.
However, one confusing point around that is that his department itself is under renewal. Right now, the main people in that department who should be directing all those hard-working officials who have such a great capacity to address economic issues in this territory are totally focused on - guess what? - renewal. Everything else is on autopilot. That could spell out why, and could be the reason why, this supplementary budget has a whole bunch of money coming out of it instead of going into it to create winter works for Yukoners this winter - with that massive surplus that the Liberals have wrapped their arms around and are trying to find a way to hoard it long enough to use for the next election, which may be coming sooner than later.
So I don't have a lot left here in general debate because the minister and I could dance around this circle until our faces fall off and never get anywhere. However, the facts will speak for themselves. Time marches on, and the Liberal government and this minister will be judged.
I'm ready to turn this over to the member from the third party, but I would urge the minister to focus more in this supplementary budget on the needs of today, and we will get into tomorrow when we crack open the much-wanted capital budget. And hopefully we do have an Economic Development department in the next little while; however, there are a lot of indications that it is disappearing.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I would just like to respond to the Member for Watson Lake on a couple of issues that he just raised. With regard to the exploration expenditures, it certainly has been a very difficult year for the industry in the Yukon as well as nationally, and for our neighbours in Alaska.
As I said at the Geoscience Forum, I am a big fan of the mining industry. The amount of wealth that it can generate with such small surface damages is astronomical. In some preliminary studies that my department did for the railroad feasibility study, we found that there is an estimated $70-billion worth of base metals in the ground in the southeast Yukon alone, representing huge, huge economic potential.
It is for those reasons that I did extend funding to programs such as the Yukon mining incentive program and the Yukon geology program. As well, I announced the other day that we had extended the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit for another year. The Premier has been working very hard on land claims, on devolution. There are a number of things we are doing to stimulate the mining industry in this territory.
Quickly, with regard to the Member for Watson Lake's comments on the proposed propane distribution or gas utility franchise for the Whitehorse area, private investment, regardless of where it comes from - be it local or be it a company from outside - does provide jobs and opportunities for Yukoners on a local scale. Those jobs and dollars remain in the community and remain in the Yukon to be spent on our goods and services and circulated in the local economy.
We certainly haven't ruled out any local investment in this gas distribution system or franchise. Any private investment is welcome, and that includes local investment.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I did listen with great interest to what the minister had to say. Fortunately, he has picked up on a few major points but he is very, very short on substance that he is delivering to Yukon here.
I'd like to focus in on the policies that the new Liberal government has provided to the Department of Economic Development. When I look at the budget, Mr. Chair, I see a budget inherited from the previous government, and all I see is a tremendous amount of cuts or reductions.
So, could the minister just elaborate on what new policy initiatives or directions or changes, other than save money - cut, cut, cut - he has provided to his officials?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, fortunately for me as the Minister of Economic Development, this entire budget supplementary and the capital budget, which we'll get to sometime in the near future, speak to economic development. There are monies in this budget in the Department of Education to finish the Mayo school. There are monies in this budget for highway construction as well as reversing the trend of the previous government on highway expenditures exclusive of Shakwak.
As I mentioned earlier to the Member for Watson Lake, the highway spending will be some $40 million. We have talked about the $500,000 for fire smart, the money for Project Yukon, the cultural centre for the KDFN.
There are a number of things throughout the supplementary, and especially the capital budgets, Mr. Chair, that speak to Economic Development.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I'd like to ask the minister, Mr. Chair, to concentrate on his own department. We all know the department of highways is going to be dealing with roads and their upgrading, and we all know that the major capital spending in the Yukon has been, for the past number of years and will continue to be, the United States' funding of the Shakwak project. That's a given. And we know that the Government of the Yukon is charged with education and that schools and their construction are part of the education system.
What I'd like the minister to start to do, Mr. Chair, is to focus on his own department, the Department of Economic Development, and advise the House as to what direction he has provided to his department for policy initiatives. What new initiatives is this minister bringing forward? That's what I'd like him to concentrate on. And I don't want him to ramble out all across the other departments which, for the large part, are addressing their respective responsibilities, Mr. Chair. I'm asking the minister to concentrate on the Department of Economic Development, which he is the minister of, and advise the House what the policy direction he has provided is and what areas his Department of Economic Development is concentrating on, because the Department of Economic Development has in the past been a lead agency of government for new initiatives, but we haven't seen any under this government. In fact, given the amount of cuts suffered by the department, it looks like the Department of Economic Development is being stuffed on the back shelf somewhere now, Mr. Chair.
So I'd like to know from the minister what policy directions and what new initiatives he is undertaking or has instructed his department to undertake.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, a lot of the policy of the Department of Economic Development is reflected in the budgetary expenditures of the department. I can inform the Member for Klondike - as I informed the Member for Watson Lake about the support for the mining industry - that the department has extended, and that includes, I'll say again, the increased funding for YMIP, $500,000 for the new mineral development program, and increasing the funding for the Yukon geology program and the important geological mapping work that that program undertakes every year.
Mr. Chair, we have also extended the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit for one year.
Mr. Chair, I can also touch briefly on the support that we're giving for the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis and how important a piece of infrastructure this will be to the Yukon as we evolve and for our economic future. We have committed $750,000 to that operation.
Mr. Chair, we have committed dollars to Project Yukon as well as fire smart, and to good, strong, solid work in the oil and gas sector of the Department of Economic Development, including the issuing of a call for bids in the Peel Plateau area of the Yukon, which I announced this morning.
Further to what I mentioned to the Member for Watson Lake earlier, we have also begun preliminary work for our next call for nominations not only in the north-central Yukon, Eagle Plains, Kandik and Peel Plateau areas, but also on the northern end of the Whitehorse trough. I have initiated some very preliminary discussions with the First Nations that will be affected in that area. We are at a very early step of the call area for the Whitehorse trough, but it's important to know that we're looking at our other oil and gas basins as well, where we have settled land claims, to develop and increase the work there.
We're providing a lot of business-to-business support to identify opportunities for Yukon businesses. Devon Canada was here just last week identifying opportunities for themselves, but more importantly identifying opportunities to work with Yukon businesses as they work toward fulfilling the commitment that they made in the Eagle Plains permits that we issued in the first two calls for nominations under the Yukon Oil and Gas Act.
So, as the Member for Klondike can see, there are a number of initiatives that we're undertaking to promote the Yukon's resource sectors, to create a very attractive investment climate, as was done with the North American Tungsten property - so much so that they declined an option on some of their property in Bolivia in order to focus on the MacTung property on the northern end of the North Canol. We have done a lot of work to diversify the economy with the IT sector strategy that will be due out in March. There is strengthening Yukon infrastructure, partnering with other governments, including the federal government, who carried out the work on the Dawson City Airport.
We've cut taxes as a way of providing immediate economic stimulus. There are a number of things we are doing to grow the economy in both the short-, medium- and long-term.
Chair: Order please. Being consistent with the Speaker's ruling of yesterday, I would ask members to keep their conversations outside the House if they have any.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I kind of have a little sympathy for the Minister of Economic Development, given that he has to be a spokesperson for a government that is really only paying lip service to the area that has been identified. And in virtually all the areas without exception, there has been a tremendous downturn in the contribution they are making to the Yukon economy.
One of the numbers that I picked up from the minister, Mr. Chair, is the fact that the analysis undertaken by his officials in southeast Yukon indicated that there was some $70-billion worth of resources there - $70 billion was the number I heard.
Given that there is a tremendous potential in that area, which I believe we all recognize, Mr. Chair, can the minister advise the House why these numbers are not available in the Yukon protected areas strategy review? Because there's a tremendous initiative in southeast Yukon to create a series of parks in that area to deny access for further mineral exploration, for timber harvest or for oil and gas. Indeed, Anderson's successor, Devon, appears to be avoiding the Yukon like the plague. They're still concentrating tremendously on the Northwest Territories and on those areas that will produce a very short-term benefit. The long-term benefits, where they can't realize a way to get their product to market within certain timelines, are being put on the back burner for exploration purposes.
So I'm most interested in the department's figure for southeast Yukon as some $70-billion worth of resources, and I recognize that there was a significant amount of resources in that area, but how does that dovetail into the Yukon protected areas strategy, what kind of work has the department done with the new leader of the Liberal government as far as the direction they're taking, the Minister of Renewable Resources? It seems to be that the total focus of this government, Mr. Chair, is parks, parks and more parks.
Now, we have the expertise in the Department of Economic Development to recognize the resource potential. Why aren't we doing something about it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I appreciate the opportunity the Member for Klondike is giving me to speak on some of the economic values that are going to balance out the Yukon protected areas strategy as it unfolds. As the Minister of Renewable Resources and I announced this past summer, we are going to be identifying areas of interest for the remaining 13 unrepresented ecoregions by April of 2003.
Some of the key economic portions of what we are doing with the protected areas strategy are as follows: we recognize the hunting, fishing, trapping and outfitting that won't be affected by the creation of goal 1 protected areas. The Yukon government and officials in my department are working very closely with officials in the Department of Renewable Resources. We confirm that we will carry out resource assessments, including an examination of access options to help select protected areas while minimizing the impact on the industry to find and develop resources. We spent some four hours in this House yesterday talking about the work that this Yukon Liberal government is doing to balance the protected areas strategy.
What we have also committed to is respecting third party interests and ensuring that access for existing and future resource deposits is considered when we develop the areas of interest for protected areas.
We're certainly committed to ensuring that continued availability of a significant land mass for exploration and development purposes still exists. So, what we're seeking with the protected areas strategy is a strong balance between the economics and the environmental concerns of the Yukon. We certainly want to see jobs and opportunities for Yukoners for now and for future generations, but we also want to ensure that there are protected places and places of considerable ecological value set aside for those future generations as well.
I know the Member for Klondike doesn't agree with the balance that we're trying to achieve, but it's something that we take very seriously and something that the Department of Economic Development is working very closely with the Department of Renewable Resources on to make sure that we can achieve that balance.
Mr. Jenkins: Let's explore with the minister this issue of environmental balance with economic balance. Just where are the scales as far as the minister is concerned? Are they 50:50, or are they given equal weight? It would appear that the environmental side of the equation has been given probably a 90:10 or 95:5 under this government, seeing that the major problem to the impediment of the growth of our resource sector is the total lack of investor confidence here in the Yukon. That total lack of investor confidence here in the Yukon stems to a large degree from this government's policies, or lack of policies.
So when is this minister going to wake up? The expertise is within the department. If the department can identify $70-billion worth of resources in southeast Yukon. Certainly that identification clearly indicates that the environment and resource extraction, on which we are ultimately going to be basing our livelihoods, probably not in the short term - the only thing short term is our government jobs and some tourism that is dwindling.
But in the long term, the light of day is going to probably shine in Ottawa and the Yukon is going to be on the short end of the stick as far as federal transfers. How is this balance being achieved? What is it? Is it 50:50 or is it like I suggested: 95 percent in favour of the environment and five percent in favour of resource extraction? How is this government going to restore investor confidence?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The amount of land that will be set aside for protected areas is going to be based on scientific evaluation. We have gone around and around in previous sessions with the leader of the third party on the cap issue and the Minister of Renewable Resources clearly indicated to him that the amount of land that will be set aside for the protected areas will be based on scientific evaluation, and I concur with the Minister of Renewable Resources on that.
What I can tell the Member for Klondike with respect to achieving balance is the fact that we are going to carry out resource assessments. And that, as I mentioned earlier, includes an examination of the access options. And what we intend to achieve with that is minimizing the impact on the industry for developing the future resources, including the resources of the southeast Yukon that my department identified when we were discussing the proposed rails-to-resources issue with the Alaskans. So, again I just want to confirm for the Member for Klondike that we are committed to carrying out resource assessments and those resource assessments will help us attain the balance that we are seeking.
Mr. Jenkins: To date, that hasn't proven to be the case, Mr. Chair. It certainly has not. In the comparison of the mining industry to Alaska's, which has suffered a downturn this last year, is quite significant in itself, but the State of Alaska is still enjoying a mining industry of just over a billion dollars U.S. a year, Mr. Chair. The production at some of the mines has actually increased, but the value of the product being produced has gone down.
Here in the Yukon, our total mineral production is pathetic in light of what it could be, Mr. Chair - it's pathetic. One of the minister's statements I found very interesting, and that was "access is considered for mining." When mining claims are staked here in the Yukon, they enjoy some rights, and that is access to those mining claims. Virtually every step of the way, the recent creation of parks here in the Yukon has proven to be an impediment to the access to the claims, or the parks have encompassed mining claims. In opposition, the now Premier was quite emphatic, "Buy them out; buy them out."
Could the minister advise the House what steps are being taken by his government, by specifically the Department of Economic Development, which I'm sure is the lead agency in this matter, to buy out these mining claims presently encompassed in parks?
Hon. Mr. Kent: For the record, let me indicate to the Member for Klondike that, to date, this Yukon Liberal government hasn't created any parks under the YPAS process so I don't really know what he's talking about in that regard.
In response to his indications of the work being done in Alaska, there are a number of things that we're doing to increase land certainty and to stimulate the exploration industry on our side of the border as well. Land claims are one. Devolution is another. And the work of YMIP and the exploration tax credit and the geological mapping that's going on will hopefully lead to some exciting new finds, some exciting new mineral finds in the Yukon. The Member for Klondike raved about the $50-million exploration season we had in 1996. Well, a lot of that was due to the staking rush in the Finlayson district - the Kudz Ze Kayah and Wolverine deposits as well as Regal Ridge and the emerald find there. So that's what I'm hoping to achieve with a lot of the mining initiatives that we're bringing forward.
With regard to the member's comments on access: I have stood on my feet in this House before, Mr. Chair, and said that we would prefer that there not be mines in parks. However, we also recognize that existing claim holders have the legal right to work those claims. The Yukon Quartz Mining Act gives them the right to work those claims, and implicit in that is the right to reasonable access to those claims.
I've stood on my feet in this House and said that the Yukon Liberal government would not stand in the way of an application for road access. There are a number of other regulatory and environmental processes that have to be overcome but, as far as access into existing mining claims, we certainly would not stand in the way of any applications for access to those claims. And when we were talking about identifying areas of interest under the Yukon protected areas strategy, its area's access will be considered when we're identifying those areas. We're looking at access corridors as we identify areas of interest in the ecoregions. And that's another important economic aspect that we're looking at with regard to establishing areas of interest under the protected areas strategy.
With regard, Mr. Chair, to the mineral interests in the Tombstone Park, the three parties involved in that - Tombstone Park, as members in this House know, is a park created under land claims, and there are three parties who are signatories to that: Yukon government, DIAND and the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation. All three parties worked cooperatively to explore options and work with the mineral interest holders to find agreeable solutions to this issue. That's what we did with a number of the claim holders in the Tombstone Park, save for the properties owned by Canadian United Minerals. And the proponents of the Canadian United Minerals claims in the park, as an existing claimholder, will have the legal right, as I mentioned before, to work those claims, including the implicit rights of reasonable access.
The three signatories to the agreement were working very hard to come to solutions to have the existing claims removed from Tombstone Park but, in the case of Canadian United, which did not want that done, there has been no pressure by the Yukon Liberal government, and we certainly recognize all the legal rights that Canadian United has to the claims in the Tombstone Park.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, let's explore that issue with the minister, Mr. Chair. The minister is absolutely correct when he says that the claims have access rights. Now, the minister has paid a lot of lip service to those access rights. Can the minister be specific as to what assistance his officials have provided Canadian United Minerals with respect to access, and what lobbying they've done on behalf of the owners of the claims?
And it's not just Canadian United Minerals. There's a block of claims just on the west of the park that, because the park boundaries were extended beyond the original study area, they bump right up to an R block, so access through the traditional routes is unavailable. Same thing with the mining claims within the Asi Keyi Park; it's going to be very, very difficult to grant access, given the way that the park boundaries have been determined.
Now, I am well aware that these two parks were not created under Yukon protected areas strategy, Mr. Chair, so let's not go there. Let's ask the minister to be specific as to what assistance his department has provided the owners of all of these mining claims with respect to access, and what representation has he made at the hearings, via his department at hearings, on requests of these mining companies for land permits?
I mean, Department of Renewable Resources, they constantly make representation, but it's to oppose. Now, I would see that the balance would be between the two government agencies. Now, what approach has been made by the minister through his department supporting access to these various claims?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I told the Member for Klondike earlier, this Yukon Liberal government has always supported the security of mineral tenure guaranteed by the Yukon Quartz Mining Act and the rights to work claims, and we will continue to do so.
As I also mentioned, our preference was that there not be mining activity within the approved boundaries of the Tombstone Park area, but we have to respect the existing mineral rights specifically grandfathered through the final agreement, and that includes the rights of the claim holders outside the park boundaries on the western portion.
So, what I can tell the member is that we have been putting forward the position relative to the federal legislation and we certainly will recognize the existing claim holders and their legal right to work the claims that they have legally staked.
Mr. Jenkins: I think the minister missed the question, Mr. Chair. I asked the minister to be specific as to what representation his officials have made in a similar manner as the Department of Renewable Resources has made representation on the pros and cons of access to mining claims.
We have one department of the government that is proactive, and it goes toward the environmental concern. Now, the department of the Government of Yukon that goes toward the economic development side, balancing it with the environmental side, is the Department of Economic Development. Has the minister or anyone in his department ever made any representation to any of the boards that grant access rights to the holders of mining claims in these two parks that I am referring to - Tombstone and Asi Keyi?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What the Department of Economic Development has been doing with regard to access has centred around, first, internal discussions, as well as discussions with the Tombstone steering committee on the legal rights that the claim holders have, not only the claim holders who have chosen to retain their claims within the park boundaries, but also the claim holders on the western side of the park boundaries. So, with regard to the Member for Klondike's question, we have had discussions with the Tombstone steering committee and have talked about the rights associated for the claim holders specific to the Yukon Quartz Mining Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Part of the process for accessing mining claims is a land use permit. Have the minister or any of the officials in his department ever made any representation to any of the bodies that grant these permits to support their right of access? Now, before the minister goes any further, can the minister just confirm that his department has never, under his watch, done or undertaken such an initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Since being named minister in June, I have been involved with the draft management plan of the Tombstone Park, and I must emphasize that it still is in draft form. With regard to road access to the claim holders, there is still, of course, a number of the normal regulatory and environmental processes that will have to be undertaken, and I am sure there will be boards and committees convened at that time. But one of the important things to relay to the Member for Klondike, is that none of the claim holders to date have applied for road access in and around the - specifically the Canadian United Minerals property in Tombstone Park.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'm sure that, if Canadian United Minerals does prove up a substantial deposit, which appears to be very much the case, that they will be applying for a road access. Will the Minister of Economic Development instruct his department to represent fairly at the hearings, attend the hearings and give full force and effect to their rights to have access to this mining property? Will the Minister of Economic Development be doing so, or is he going to leave it totally in the hands of the Minister of Renewable Resources, who will be there through his officials, saying "no access." Which way is this government going to lean?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The question raised by the Member for Klondike specific to application for road access to the Canadian United Minerals property is a hypothetical question, and I'm not going to comment specifically on that application until such an application is made to the appropriate boards or committees, or I believe it would be a CEAA screening. But I can tell him that, from a government perspective - and I'll use the example of the Aishihik Lake water relicensing application, the hydro dam out there - what the Yukon government does is form an internal working group, so the departments of Economic Development and Renewable Resources and other affected departments will get together and develop a strong corporate policy with regard to the application that is before the appropriate boards, and we will move forward with a strong singular voice, rather than having departments make separate representations to these boards or committees.
So that's what we will do, and work will continue between me and the Minister of Renewable Resources, as well as our officials, to make sure that a strong Yukon government position is developed, and developed on a case-by-case basis.
Mr. Jenkins: That's quite a comparison, comparing the right of access to mining claims to the Aishihik water re-licensing initiative, which in itself was a $1 million-plus initiative. But I guess the record speaks for itself, in that the Government of the Yukon, through the Department of Economic Development, will not be speaking in favour of any of the access roads into mining properties. That appears to be very much the case. I'm sure that the Minister of Renewable Resources will instruct his people to be in attendance and not support any such initiative.
As the Minister of Economic Development is getting instructed by the Minister of Renewable Resources, we might have a different spin on the subject in the near future.
Let's move into oil and gas. There was a recent undertaking by the Minister of Economic Development, throughout the Yukon, to take Devon officials around to explain their corporate strategy and what initiatives they were going to be undertaking and why they were going to be leaving the Yukon alone, specifically the Eagle Plains area - which the previous owner had agreed to undertake some major exploration work in. And it would appear that the Minister of Economic Development in this case, once again, just squired the officials around from Devon and acted as an apologist for their lack of initiative here in Yukon. The major thrust of Devon currently is to bring onstream some of their production in the Northwest Territories, and to bring it on as soon as possible.
In fact, the statement was made by one of their officials in Watson Lake, that the way that the Mackenzie Valley ipeline was going to occur, and it is being extended into - gas fields are being drawn in from the southwestern part of the Northwest Territories into northern Alberta, and they will soon be on stream, Mr. Chair.
That line and all the thrust of Canada, indeed putting money into infrastructures in the Northwest Territories, is just simply amazing. In fact, the capital undertaking in the Northwest Territories for this next year is $1.4 billion. I can probably send over some of the current papers from the Northwest Territories, where all these initiatives are taking place, but it is a tidy sum of money, and that's from the private sector, primarily the resource extraction centre, and that's a great deal of capital. All deposits are right on the border in the Liard regions. We know we have producing gas wells in southeast Yukon. We know there is potential for more oil and gas or gas development there, and we know there is oil.
But why can't the minister get the principals to bring on stream more production from the Yukon and drill more wells in that region? It is a known deposit. What is the problem?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just in response to an initial comment made by the Member for Klondike. I certainly never said that Economic Development wouldn't be represented in any potential applications for access. We developed a strong corporate policy in this government with the work of a number of departments, and we put forward a common policy in that regard, and we will continue to do so on future applications for all types of projects.
With regard to the oil and gas issues that the Member for Klondike raised - specifically the Devon Canada tour that took place here last week - it's important to note that Devon is looking for a partner to share the risks that are associated with developing oil and gas basins that are, quite frankly, that far away - as far away from delivering infrastructure as the ones in the Eagle Plains area are.
It's interesting to note that one of my officials told me that the Eagle Plains Basin would be a very viable basin, were it located in Alberta. So there is good potential there, and that is why we continue to hold annual calls for nominations and land sales with regard to the oil and gas industry.
As far as the Member for Klondike's comments on the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, we on this side of the House have always been supportive of two pipelines in the north: an Alaska Highway pipeline to deliver natural gas from specifically the North Slope of Alaska down through Fairbanks, down the Alaska Highway and picking up gas from the other potential basins that run along that route, and we have also been very supportive of a stand-alone Mackenzie Valley pipeline that would deliver gas from the Northwest Territories' side of the border, including the Beaufort Delta.
I will remind the Member for Klondike that Devon Canada has also cut back their exploration there by some 50 percent for this upcoming season, based on the commodity prices that exist today as well as the delivery infrastructure. Even in areas where there is infrastructure to deliver the gas to market, such as northeastern B.C., when I spoke with officials from Devon Canada last week, they mentioned to me that there were six wells that were planned to be drilled in northeastern British Columbia but were not going to be done this season.
Also, with regard to the question that the Member for Klondike raised about the oil and gas potential in the southeast Yukon, I spoke at the Fort Nelson oil and gas conference two or three weeks ago. It's evident that companies are clamouring and wanting to get into the southeast Yukon to develop the oil and gas down there, but they also require certainty. The certainty of land claims is certainly required when we're doing land sales for oil and gas.
We're very hopeful and we continue to work hard on settling the outstanding land claims in the areas of the southeast Yukon, but until those claims are settled, we're not prepared to move forward with a land disposition in that area.
Mr. Jenkins: Those were a lot of words, Mr. Chair, but the outcome is that there is no oil and gas exploration. The minister might want to see if he can obtain a copy of how Devon operates. They have specific guidelines given the price of the commodity and how soon they can get the commodity to market and realize a cash flow. It was clearly identified that the Eagle Plains area was back in the barrel as a highly speculative area, given the timelines that it would take to get the product to market. That's part of the problem. For the minister to suggest that Devon was looking for someone to share their risk with with respect to oil and gas exploration, that's pretty interesting in that Devon swallowed Anderson. Anderson had a different philosophy with respect to exploration and did have a more speculative nature to their corporate body.
One of the interesting areas that I picked up on with the minister is that this Liberal government has a common policy. And I'll take the minister back to the Aishihik hearings on their water licence. One of the questions that was posed to the team that was there - the intervention team from YTG - was if they had any direction from the minister or the Cabinet. Their response was quite specific. They said no. Are the officials completely on their own to develop the YTG's united position? How does it work under this government, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just going back to some of the initial comments that the Member for Klondike made in his last remarks, Devon Canada has committed to $23-million worth of work in the Eagle Plains Basin, and we're quite confident that they intend to carry out that work, based on the initial investments that they made last week. As far as exploration and the partnering and the looking for a partner goes, that is what the Devon officials relayed to me when I met with them. So I certainly appreciate the word of the Devon officials in that regard.
With regard to the member's last question on the Aishihik Lake relicensing, the Department of Renewable Resources did have the corporate lead on that, but with input from other departments that were working within the policy framework of the Yukon government.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, that is exactly what I am pointing out. There is an imbalance in any of the representation made on these initiatives, like the Aishihik re-licensing, like land use applications, and the balance is clearly in favour of the Department of Renewable Resources. They are the lead agency. Their position comes through loud and clear. The economic opportunities and the economic potential that can be well-identified by the capable individuals within the Department of Economic Development take second string to the environmental agenda of this government. That is sad, because how I see it working is that there must be equal representation from the environmental side and the economic development side, and that is certainly not the case. Renewable Resources is the lead agency and they are the agency of government that is the spokesperson for this government. All we have is the Department of Economic Development currently that is in there in name only.
Let's look at one of the other initiatives that is going to be coming forward: is the propane distribution system, the propane-air distribution system here in Whitehorse. Has the Department of Economic Development undertaken an analysis of this? Is it a position that is going to be advanced at the public Utilities Board hearing or is it a deep, dark secret? Is there any position originating from the department on this initiative?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, what I can say to the member opposite's comments regarding the policy and the corporate vision of the Yukon government is that the departments are very cooperative with each other as we develop the policy or the vision, regardless of which department has the lead. I can assure him that economic interests and concerns are balanced with the environmental concerns that are raised.
With regard to the gas distribution franchise that is being proposed, the government is generally supportive of development of different energy supply options that this type of infrastructure will bring, and we're certainly confident that when the Yukon Utilities Board conducts their hearings, they'll carry out a thorough review of any applications that are received with regard to a gas distribution franchise.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the Department of Economic Development have a position with respect to the granting of this monopoly-type franchise? Are they going to be at the hearings advancing that position?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Yukon government does support private development and investment in Yukon's energy sector, just as energy infrastructure would support the economic development in the Yukon Territory.
With respect to the last question raised by the Member for Klondike, when a Yukon Utilities Board hearing is convened with regard to the gas distribution utility franchise, we will have representation at those hearings.
Mr. Jenkins: Some of the issues that the government should be addressing - I would like to ask the minister if they will be addressed by the government - include franchising fees and the duration of the granting of the franchise because it is virtually a monopoly. The other area: from the granting of this monopoly, is there going to be a certain period of time before they put this system in place? Or, failing to do so, does the franchise expire? There are a whole series of issues that are in the air that government should, in the best interests of the residents of Whitehorse, be addressing, because it is the Yukon government that has opened the door to the granting of another monopoly.
Now, surely the government has given some forethought to these areas, Mr. Chair. Could the minister please share with the Legislature what forethought has been given to opening up this act that allows the granting of this franchise for this purpose?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The initial infrastructure investment that will be carried out by this piped-propane system will be in the neighbourhood of $5 million to $10 million, depending on the scope and scale of this project, which of course leads to economic development within the Yukon Territory, such that is supplied by that energy infrastructure.
With regard to the issues raised by the Member for Klondike, we're certainly confident that those issues will be addressed by the Yukon Utilities Board when it carries out its hearings.
Mr. Jenkins: All of these areas were pointed out by the opposition when this change in this legislation was advanced and proposed, and the Minister of Economic Development at the time wasn't worried - don't worry, be happy, this is an opportunity. Well, we have seen what has happened in the propane industry. There is now one supplier, so competition is all but eliminated. So we are granting a monopoly to a company to come in and install a propane air distribution system. And there are a lot of difficulties with propane when you distribute it in these cold climates that are not associated with natural gas distribution. Has any forethought been given to this aspect - the safety considerations?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I am quite certain that, in addition to some of the other issues raised by the Member for Klondike such as franchising fees and length of the franchise, the Yukon Utilities Board will also look at the safety aspects associated with a piped propane system in the Whitehorse area.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I am hearing the minister say is that, when all of these concerns were raised at the time this act was opened up to allow this franchising of a propane air distributor here in Whitehorse, all of those concerns were just batted off as being of no substance. Now that it is a de facto fait accompli, the minister is not going to be making representation to the Yukon Utilities Board, not going to be having a unified government position that should be there in the best interest of Whitehorse residents, but he is going to deflect everything to the Yukon Utilities Board.
Hide behind another board, Mr. Chair - hide behind another board.
I'm very disappointed in this minister, Mr. Chair. The forethought that is usually given by the department, which I know is available there, hasn't appeared to be identified or doesn't appear to be being worked on.
Mr. Chair, let's just go back to the mining side. I skipped one question I had on mining. Can the minister outline what assistance his department has provided or will be providing to the new owners of the mine in Elsa?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the gas distribution franchise questions raised by the Member for Klondike, under the Public Utilities Act, a company must be granted a utility franchise by the Yukon government before it can operate a utility in the Yukon, and the Yukon Utilities Board must approve the granting of a franchise after hearing representation from stakeholders. So again, I'm quite confident that the Yukon Utilities Board will address the outstanding concerns raised by the Member for Klondike surrounding safety and the market and those types of things.
With regard to the Yukon government's role in the Elsa mine sale to AMT, we have been very actively trying to broker a good deal for Yukoners throughout the court proceedings. An official from my department went to Calgary to meet with DIAND officials and Mr. Cash when they were discussing some of the outstanding issues surrounding that. We're also taking a lead role on the issue of the water treatment technology, particularly the passive wetlands treatment technology that the new proponent of the Elsa mine is trying to get up and running in order to get himself in compliance with the water licence.
We have been very active in working toward the reopening of the Elsa silver mine and the associated jobs for Yukoners that will come with that when, and, or if that mine does reopen.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I would encourage the minister to explore fully the area surrounding the wetland treatment processes Mr. Cash is going to be providing because, at the end of the day when the federal government takes over or continues with its regulatory responsibility and the Government of Yukon is sitting here with all of the responsibilities for environmental concerns, it's going to be a most interesting exercise for the government.
Mr. Chair, let's look at the issues surrounding Cantung. What kind of costs are the Government of Yukon incurring that will be recovered from the operators of the Cantung mine directly for the opening and the maintenance of the highway? By way of a bit of background, I wrote this summer to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services on this initiative, and the minister said it was not in her domain, that it was the Minister of Economic Development who was responsible for this area, as his department was the lead agency.
As the lead agency, have funds flowed from the Department of Economic Development to the department of highways in the Yukon to open that road, and are any of the monies being recovered from North American Tungsten directly for opening the Yukon part of the road?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Although issues surrounding the maintenance of the Nahanni Range Road are the responsibility of the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, I will be able to answer a couple of things for the Member for Klondike with regard to his question.
YTG fixed a washout on the mine property, on an emergency basis, in time for the scheduled arrival of the power generators that the mine required. That was done on a cost-recovery basis. Unfortunately I don't have the amounts that the Member for Klondike is seeking, but I can certainly endeavour to find out what those amounts were.
With regard to work on the Nahanni Range Road infrastructure, YTG completed approximately $150,000 in capital improvements this spring beyond kilometre 134 in support of the reopening, which included upgrading of the bridge over the Frances River.
Mr. Jenkins: The amount approaches three-quarters of a million dollars annually that YTG will be footing for the ongoing maintenance of that road. That's barring any unforeseen circumstances.
I am amazed that the Government of the Northwest Territories is not putting one red cent into the road maintenance on the Northwest Territories side of the border, and I am further amazed that the Government of the Yukon will go to the extent that they have to see a mine go back into production in the Northwest Territories - in a neighbouring jurisdiction - but they won't do the same for Yukon businesses with respect to road access and upgrading that road access.
That's mind-boggling, Mr. Chair, and very, very disappointing. I cited a number of examples to the Minister of Community and Transportation Services, but there's an opportunity, there will be some benefits accruing to Yukon for the opening of this North American Tungsten mine, but I would only hope that the Government of Yukon would go to the same lengths and same endeavours for an operation here in the Yukon as they have done, or appear to have done, for a mine in a neighbouring jurisdiction.
I can cite examples of Canadian United Minerals. I can cite examples of two other major mineral potentials that could go into production, but the government is putting up more roadblocks and more impediments to their development than they are encouragement, Mr. Chair, and that I find very, very disappointing.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions, Mr. Chair.
The minister has had more than two weeks now to think about a response to my questions regarding the proposed railroad, and I would like to ask him first of all, regarding the recent analysis that was done, is there any information that can be provided in that respect?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I'm sorry, Mr. Chair. Can I get the Member for Kluane just to repeat the last part of that question?
Mr. McRobb: I'm requesting of the minister any information to back up the railway analysis that he was quoted on in the newspapers. Is there any material he can provide to that effect?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, I just wanted to quickly respond to a couple of comments made by the Member for Klondike with regard to the cost of the maintenance on the Nahanni Range Road. He mentioned that it would approach three-quarters of a million. In fact, the figures are approximately $444,000 per year.
Now, with regard to the questions raised by the Member for Kluane and the Canada-Alaska rail link, or the rails to resources as presented by Senator Murkowski, what the Yukon government does support is the U.S.-Canada commission to study the feasibility of a rail link through B.C. and the Yukon to Alaska, and we certainly hope that part of that commission or study will be identifying resources in the area, the value of the resources that are able to be transported, and new discoveries that can be developed with that type of infrastructure in the area. The study itself will certainly provide economic and employment benefits immediately to the Yukon, if we can indeed get it undertaken. And other things that I would foresee the study taking into account are route selection and the best possible routes for a railway through the Yukon to Alaska.
Mr. McRobb: I don't believe the minister responded to my question, which was this: can he provide some material that's related to this recent analysis for us? Not long ago, I heard him talk about the potential for billions of dollars in resource-extraction revenue in a certain area of the Yukon. What I'm looking for is some written analysis to back up those kinds of statements. What can he provide for us in the way of material?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Certainly, Mr. Chair. The written analysis is something that we hope to achieve as the final report out of the railway commission, but in response to the IBI group report that was done on behalf of Transport Canada - and it is also important to note that Transport Canada or the federal government is not taking an official position on that IBI report.
There are four points that officials in my department are conveying to officials in relevant federal departments. One of them is with regard to the $70 billion of base metals - copper, lead, zinc - reserves that are in the southeastern Yukon and are not developed. Something that may make those deposits more attractive would be the infrastructure of heavy rail.
Another point that was advanced by officials in my department was the contention by IBI that there is no benefit to economic development by the rail link. It is our feeling that several advanced projects could benefit immediately by investment. The report certainly ignores the contributions that the Yukon could make by way of this infrastructure to the Canadian economy. It certainly was our feeling that this report didn't acknowledge the benefits and importance of the long-term economic possibilities that this rail link would bring to the Yukon and Alaska and, indeed, North America.
Mr. McRobb: I am still not getting a response to my question about what material the minister can provide about the information he is relating to us here?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I just outlined four points that the IBI analysis omitted. In response to the Member for Kluane's questions regarding that, I said previously in an interview with the Whitehorse Star that the Member for Kluane may be a little bit ahead of himself with regard to this rail commission. I think that, at this time, he is somewhat ahead of himself. The types of issues that he is speaking of will most certainly be identified and addressed in the feasibility study that is proposed and by the joint international committee that we are hoping is struck with regard to this possible rail link.
Mr. McRobb: I asked the minister for a copy of the report that he has been referring to. Quite simply can he provide that material for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The report that I am referring to is a report that was commissioned by Transport Canada and done by the IBI group. A preliminary analysis by officials in my department identified those four points that I mentioned to him. There has been no official report commissioned by the Yukon territorial government in this regard.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister provide for us the analysis conducted by the Department of Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, I can certainly read out the four points that I already read out with regard to the $70 billion of base metals and the long-term economics regarding this, but those four points that I read out will be readily available in Hansard, and that is the extent of the preliminary analysis that the Department of Economic Development has conducted with regard to the Alaska-Canada rail link.
I will say again for the Member for Kluane that YTG has not commissioned an official report, and it's those four points that I raised previously that are the extent of what has been done in an initial regard and reaction to the report commissioned by Transport Canada and done by IBI. Of course I'll state again that the opinions expressed in that report are strictly the opinions of IBI and not an official position taken by the federal government at this point.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I don't see what's wrong with the minister just agreeing to send over some material. Maybe there's something in it that he's not telling us.
Anyway, I'm not going to stand here all afternoon and belabour the point. Either this government is open and accountable or it's not. Increasingly we see in this House that the latter is true.
I want to ask the minister now: what's this government doing to lobby the federal government for the money to join together with the Americans to complete this railway study? I believe that time is running out. It has been more than a year since the Clinton administration authorized the expenditure of this multi-million dollar study, and the federal government is dragging its heels.
Here we have the Liberal cousins in Ottawa saying no, yet this territorial government stands up and preaches the advantages of having a same party government here in the Yukon, yet we have no accountability on this. What is this government doing to get that money from Ottawa in order to get this study on track?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What I can tell the Member for Kluane is that the U.S. federal government has approached the Canadian federal government with an official request to participate in the feasibility study. Our Yukon Member of Parliament is working very hard at the federal level to lobby his colleagues to tell them of the importance of the rail infrastructure in regard to a number of the points I have already mentioned with regard to economic potential in the Yukon.
The previous Minister of Economic Development and the Premier sent letters to appropriate federal ministers with regard to the railroad. I have sent a letter to, I believe, the Minister of Transport, and I will follow up with another letter to the Minister of Transport with regard to the recent study commissioned by Transport Canada.
The Yukon government is also very active in PNWER, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region, where the Member for Mount Lorne has done some very extensive work with Representative James of Alaska with regard to the rail link. The Member for Faro attended a rail conference in Fairbanks on my behalf in October, and we recently hosted Representative Jeannette James at the Geoscience Forum and had an opportunity to have her sit down and speak with representatives of not only the mining industry but the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, to discuss the various views on what benefits the rail link will bring to the Yukon.
And now that the federal government has received a formal request from the U.S. Embassy to begin discussions toward the International Joint Commission, we will certainly work with them and provide as much knowledge and expertise from a YTG level as we can to make sure that the federal government of Canada can take a meaningful role in the feasibility study of a potential Canada-Alaska rail link.
Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank the minister for that information and, for the information of Hansard or our listeners, the minister referred to PNWER and it sounded an awful lot like CNWER and PNWER of course is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region and is based out of Washington State, I believe.
I would like to ask the minister if he can provide us with a copy of that correspondence from the U.S. Embassy to the federal government and give us the date of that correspondence. I am sure it is there in his briefing note. Can he do that for us?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I'll certainly look into that for the Member for Kluane and, if I am able to obtain a copy of it, I can provide it for the member.
Mr. McRobb: All right, and I am sure that we would appreciate copies of correspondence he sends to the federal government in this regard.
He mentioned a little while ago that I may have been ahead of myself in asking some questions about what this government is doing about the routing for the potential railroad. I will agree that the railroad at this point is pie in the sky, and it would take a very significant financial contribution to make this project happen. We realize that. But, under current global conditions, it could happen faster than we might think. For instance, if the U.S. President decides it is a priority for whatever reason, and decides that a cash injection is necessary, this project could go ahead and catch us by surprise.
In recognition of that, I couldn't help but notice the Member for Faro taking some very symbolic action in helping his constituents with the stake-driving ceremony. Also, he participated in the railway conference in Fairbanks in September and so on. I'm merely reacting to what I see the minister's colleague is already doing. I may not be the only one ahead of my time on this, Mr. Chair.
So I'd like to ask the minister this: if this government is neutral on route selection, what is it doing to promote the Alaska Highway route like it is the 1942 route?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What we are doing, Mr. Chair, is lobbying to have the U.S.-Canada commission set up, which will study the feasibility of the rail link, and part of that feasibility study, Mr. Chair, will be an appropriate route selection, be it the 1942 route, or Tintina Trench route, as some have referred to it, or an alternate route of choice. But that route selection, I'm certain, will be done by people who are appointed to the commission who know an awful lot more about railroads than any member of this Legislative Assembly.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I guess the answer is the government's doing nothing to promote any other route besides the back route through the Yukon, of which the minister's colleague is an MLA in.
I'd like to ask the minister if he can provide for us a copy of the speech read by the MLA for Faro at the Fairbanks railway conference? Can he do that? And before I finish the question, Mr. Chair, I might add that it has been a little bit suspicious not seeing this speech show up on the minister's Web site. Every other speech the minister does and the Premier does in respect to a number of economic areas is posted on the Web site. I've been checking this site almost daily for the past two months, and there's no such speech on the site. So I'd like to ask the minister if he would provide us with a written copy of the member's speech.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I can certainly undertake to get a copy of that speech to the member opposite as well as have it posted on the Web site.
Just to answer, Mr. Chair, a previous charge by the Member for Kluane that we're doing nothing to promote alternate routes, what I did say to the Member for Kluane was that the joint commission that conducts the feasibility study will determine the best route based on economics, topography and a number of other things. So that's certainly what we expect the panel of experts appointed to the joint international committee with regard to the feasibility study to undertake.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I do want to move on, but before I do, I would like to express a point for the record. It seems that there is a glaring contradiction here in the Liberal government's position on the railway and on the pipeline. On the pipeline, it's not willing to let the route be decided by economics and the major gas producers. It wants to step in and glorify itself politically by trying to champion the Alaska Highway route and has devoted substantial expenditure to that. Yet, for the other project - the railway - it's willing to take a back seat to economics, whichever route is economically feasible.
Maybe the minister can comment on that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I'd love the opportunity to comment on what the Member for Kluane just said.
Certainly, the Yukon government has taken the position that the private sector or the producers will decide on pipeline routing, but we also are quite confident and we have lobbied very hard on the virtues and the values that the Alaska Highway pipeline offers.
A pipeline that would travel a significant portion through the member's own riding, as a matter of fact, would put a substantial number of his constituents to work. I'm quite surprised that the member, who sneaked a comment in two or three sessions ago when we were still sitting in the evening about this pipeline possibly leaving a black hole in the Yukon, is bringing that up again here today.
We certainly expect the producers to make a decision. That's why the three major producers are carrying out the study that they've been carrying out for the past year. We as a Yukon government are lobbying hard to see the Alaska Highway route done, because we feel that it makes the best economic sense; it makes the best environmental sense. Given that it was the right choice for Alaska natural gas 25 years ago, it should remain the right choice for that gas today.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister didn't explain the contradiction. I am going to try to refrain from engaging with the minister in a battle of rhetoric, but it seems to me that he's beginning to believe his own rhetoric.
I heard him allude before to this previous comment attributed to me about the black hole in relation to the pipeline. I would have thought that the newspaper article that was published locally two or three weeks ago would have put an end to that type of rhetoric coming from this government, because the reporter did his research and clearly identified in what context that quotation was attributed. The background that the reporter wrote revealed that, because the Liberals' single economic agenda focused on the pipeline, after the project is completed, there could be a black hole in our economy as a result of the huge out-migration of our workforce, a huge decline in all kinds of local sales, jobs - all kinds of economic conditions.
It was all related to this single focus, Mr. Chair, yet we heard the minister stand up twice today alone, without any provocation at all from us in the opposition on this point. He came out and voluntarily went there, so I'd appreciate the opportunity to respond to the minister because, if he didn't understand it - let's give him the benefit of the doubt - and if he's not playing political games, then perhaps he didn't understand it. But I hope he does now. It certainly was not a reference to what I thought about the pipeline project or anybody else. It was related to this government's single approach to the economy.
We know about all the aspects of the economy that are suffering. We know about the programs in this minister's department that have been relegated to the back corners. The trade and investment strategy, the ports to guarantee us tidewater access, and all kinds of other programs have been dismissed or relegated, downscaled, and it's because of that that the comment was made.
I want to thank the minister for raising the issue and giving me the opportunity to ensure that he now understands the context of the remark.
I would like to follow up on what the Member for Klondike was asking about his department in regard to energy, and I would like to ask the minister: who in his department is responsible for analyzing utilities and developing the Yukon government's position on matters such as presentations to the Yukon Utilities Board? Who does that work?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In my limited time in this House, Mr. Chair, I have witnessed the Member for Kluane get into battles of rhetoric with other members or ministers on this side of the House, and I certainly don't want to engage him in those battles with regard to his comments on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
However, I would like to thank him for repeating that message here again today with regard to his feelings for the pipeline.
And with regard to his question on who in my department is in charge of energy issues, it is the energy unit.
Mr. McRobb: All right. So who in the energy unit does the analysis on the utilities and develops the government's position?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We have a utilities analyst on staff at the Department of Economic Development who carries out the function that the Member for Kluane was asking about.
Mr. McRobb: All right, I understand that the utility analyst's last day is tomorrow. Has there been a replacement found? Can the minister tell us about that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the official in question - the utilities analyst - for the hard work and dedication that he has given to the Department of Economic Development. Unfortunately, tomorrow is his last day. As of right now, we have not identified a replacement for him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I wanted to thank the utilities analyst for his hard work and dedicated approach to his position over the past few years, and certainly this person was instrumental in the success of the energy commission in performing analysis and providing advice on the good policy work done by the commission. This is probably the person who is most knowledgeable in the territory on energy issues, outside of utility staff. We depend on this position to provide balance and to provide knowledge and expertise to the Yukon government.
Now, we might be in a situation where we have to import a person from outside who is almost completely lacking in local knowledge. I can speak from experience, Mr. Chair; this is a very complicated area that requires a lot of knowledge of history and specifics to the territory and geography and a number of other things. And if we have to start from scratch in this position, the territory as a whole will suffer, because the Yukon government's position will be inferior to what it has been.
So I'd like to ask the minister what he plans to do to fill this position, and will it be someone new from outside or someone local, or does he know?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We on this side of the House, Mr. Chair, as well, recognize the important role and function that the utilities analyst played in the department, and we certainly recognize the importance of the position, as far as staffing the position, that those are matters for the Public Service Commission, as well as the management of the Department of Economic Development.
Mr. Jenkins: Under the government renewal initiative, we're aware that there is going to be considerable change in the whole makeup of the Department of Economic Development, and we know that there's going to be an environmental department and another department - the name that's being considered is Department of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources. Can the minister explain where the economic development initiative is going to be placed, or is it where we believe it is currently - it's not even on the horizon?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As renewal is the responsibility of the Premier, I would invite the Member for Klondike to take up any questions he has surrounding the matters that he just raised with the Premier.
Mr. Jenkins: I want to know where the Department of Economic Development fits into the equation. This is happening five months hence, Mr. Chair, and we are in general debate. Surely, before this background information was provided to us, the minister must know where he is heading.
Under this change, will there still be a Minister of Economic Development, and what will his responsibilities be?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I just mentioned to the Member for Klondike, Mr. Chair, the renewal process is the responsibility of the Premier. Until the decisions surrounding renewal are rolled out, the Department of Economic Development remains intact and I remain the Minister of Economic Development.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister may or may not be aware, but the announcement has been made by the Premier. So, what I'm asking the minister, Mr. Chair, is what is going to be the role of his department? Will there still be the same relationship with respect to a unified position or, as the minister referred to it, a spokesperson for Liberal common policy from the Department of the Environment and the proposed Department of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources? Will there be a common spokesperson?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, with regard to renewal, I'm going to repeat the same answer as I previously gave the Member for Klondike. The Premier is responsible for the renewal initiative. She has the lead on it from a Cabinet position, and she would be happy to answer any questions that the Member for Klondike has regarding renewal. He will get more information as she makes announcements, similar to the announcement that she made from Ottawa today.
Mr. Jenkins: I am asking the Minister of Economic Development what the minister's responsibilities will be. I think that would be a simple request and, like the minister is deflecting behind the Yukon Utilities Board, he is now hiding behind the Premier, saying that this is not in his domain. But surely there must have been some discussion at the Cabinet level. We know that the Minister of Economic Development is at the Cabinet table. I am sure that some of the notes being handed to the minister now at a furious pace must point out his roles and his responsibilities.
How does economic development plug into the new situation? Will there be a Minister of Economic Development? Will there be a common spokesperson for the Liberals on policy, as the Minister of Economic Development indicated previously, or do we look for a whole new format in five months?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I have previously answered the Member for Klondike with regard to this issue, the Premier is responsible for the renewal initiative and any questions regarding renewal should be addressed to her. As well, the Premier is responsible for appointing the Cabinet ministers, so any issues regarding Cabinet appointments are addressed by her, and any questions should be directed to her.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, like the rest of the Yukon, the Minister of Economic Development doesn't know if he is going to have a job or not have a job. I would very much like to know from the minister what he is going to be doing in five months hence. I am sure he is going to be a member of the Liberal caucus, but perhaps he could share with us what his responsibilities are going to be. It is a question I am sure he has asked the Premier prior to this occasion and I am sure it has been discussed. What is the shape of the government under this new format?
For quite some time, we have been aware that there are not only these two departments, but a number of other changes, which are going to be announced in the not-too-distant future, Mr. Chair. For me to be aware of these changes, obviously the Cabinet is aware of them, because they have to be discussed and approved by Cabinet.
The press release has been made. What is the Minister of Economic Development's new job?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, to answer the Member for Klondike's question about what I'll be doing in five months' time, I'll certainly be a member of this caucus, an MLA in this House and the representative of the people of Riverside.
In response to anything the member has brought forward regarding renewal initiatives or Cabinet positions, I would invite him to raise those questions with the Premier.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we are focusing on economic development and what is happening in the Department of Economic Development. The Premier's announcement concludes with renewal in a description: "It's about maintaining and improving the quality of services to our clients. It's also about making it easier to do business with us. These changes will provide clear links and coordination between the two departments and ensure the best possible client service."
That's great, Mr. Chair, but how can that ever occur when the minister can't even explain what his role in Economic Development is going to be? How can that ever occur? The exercise of having a Department of Economic Development is to stimulate, improve and enhance the Yukon economy. The minister only has to look in his preamble as to the goals and objectives of his department to understand his role.
That's his current role. As this change is going to take place in five months, give or take a few days, it's important for Yukon to know what's going to happen to the Department of Economic Development under these changes. The announcement has only been made about two changes. There are more coming, Mr. Chair. I would have been of the opinion that all ministers would be fully versed on the changes and what's going to transpire after the changes take place, or is the minister saying that he's not aware of what changes are going to take place? Is that what the minister's saying? He wasn't a party to these changes; they were done in isolation by the Premier?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I've stated time and time again over the last 10 minutes since the Member for Klondike initiated this line of questioning, the Premier is responsible for questions about renewal. I can assure the Member for Klondike that we do work as a team over here. We're quite cognizant of the roll out of renewal, and all good things come to those who wait. If the Member for Klondike will be patient and address renewal questions to the Premier or her designates, that is the appropriate time and place for questions surrounding renewal. And as far as Cabinet positions go, that's the responsibility of the Premier. I would invite the Member for Klondike to address any questions regarding Cabinet positions or renewal to the Premier or her designate.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to focus the minister's attention on his role as Minister of Economic Development and, as Minister of Economic Development, the minister made the statement that there will be one spokesperson for Liberal common policy. He did say that, with respect to the Aishihik renewal, it was Renewable Resources that was the lead agency, and I am asking what the change in five months will do? Will there still be a common policy emanating from this Liberal government?
Hon. Mr. Kent: What I said to the Member for Klondike is that departments in the Yukon Liberal government work together to develop a common policy and, certainly, there are strong, strong ties between Renewable Resources and Economic Development right now with regard to that. As for the Member for Klondike's questions with regard to what is going to materialize five months from now, and his questions surrounding renewal and Cabinet positions, again, I will say to the Member for Klondike that the renewal responsibilities are the responsibilities of the Premier. As well, the Cabinet assignments and which ministers represent which departments are the responsibility of the Premier, and I would invite the Member for Klondike to address those questions to the Premier or her designate.
Mr. Jenkins: So, all of the debate that we are carrying on here today is virtually redundant, Mr. Chair, given that the whole makeup of the Government of Yukon is going to be significantly altered in the not too distant future - just over five months.
The Department of Economic Development has a tremendous role to play, and in the past it has played a very, very beneficial role for Yukoners. But under this current Liberal government, it has just become a department that is acting as the apologists for the Liberal government of the day, for not being able to stimulate the economy and not being able to focus on its role. Everything has been transferred, and the entire focus of the Yukon Liberal government has been coming into focus under the Minister of Renewable Resources. We are just creating a whole series of parks here in the Yukon, and that really isn't fair, because there is an imbalance between resources and resource extraction and environmental concerns. They are way out of balance.
I would encourage the Minister of Economic Development to stand back and have a look at it, because I'm sure he would conclude very much the same thing - that the pendulum has swung too far in favour of the Minister of Renewable Resources.
Now, being the new member of Cabinet, I can understand that he may not have the same force and effect as the Minister of Renewable Resources at the Cabinet table, but he still has a responsibility to ensure that economic development takes place. That can only take place by putting in place a balance between resource extraction and environmental concerns, and restoring investor confidence here in the Yukon.
Investor confidence has gone, and under the current programs and current policies of this Yukon Liberal government, things are getting worse, not better.
Mr. Chair, perhaps at the break, the Minister of Economic Development could just entertain a little bit of briefing from the Acting Premier with respect to his role so that he could share it with the House after the break?
Chair: The time being 4:30 p.m., we will now take a 15-minute break.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate in Economic Development.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The questions raised by the Member for Klondike before the break were specific to renewal and appointments to Cabinet. As I explained to the member before, and I will answer the same way right now, those responsibilities are the responsibilities of the Premier, and I invite the Member for Klondike to address any questions regarding renewal or Cabinet appointments to the Premier or her designate.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for the suggestion that we contact the Premier for her advice or direction and her wisdom. What we are seeing, Mr. Chair, is the budget for Economic Development basically gutted. We're seeing nothing added in - only subtractions, and that appears to be the direction this government is taking. It is not focusing outward on the Yukon economy; it is focusing inward, on itself.
That's a sad day for Yukon, because some of these changes that we're going to see - like, we don't even know if there's going to be a Minister of Economic Development under this new schedule. It's amazing how fast one can go from a high chair to a rocking chair in a Liberal caucus, Mr. Chair. It's just one of the perks, I guess, associated with belonging to a government that has no economic thoughts and no direction where they want to take the Yukon economy.
So, what do they do? They focus inwards on themselves. I see there are going to be major changes in the government. We know of a considerable lot more that are coming, Mr. Chair. The concern is that the Department of Economic Development will not be the main focus or the main thrust forward with respect to economic development in the Yukon. It will be sidelined, probably allied with the Department of Tourism and a couple of other departments, and given a back seat to the comings and goings here in the Yukon.
There are more goings than there are comings, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, some of these changes with respect to this new department - it's going to be the Department of Energy, Mines and Natural Resources, as it's proposed to be called - are going to be bringing into it the affiliate to the corporations and agencies, including Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. Very interesting, Mr. Chair, in that we'll probably see the demise of quite a number of boards and committees, a whole series of new legislation, and it's just going to take up a tremendous amount of time in this Legislature, dealing with this total inward look that government is doing of itself, rather than concentrating on its role with respect to economic development.
I'm just disappointed why the Department of Economic Development cannot take the lead that it rightfully has had in the past and develop the initiatives and ideas that it has been responsible for in the past.
It's a sad waste of a lot of very, very talented people by this government.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we will continue on with line-by-line.
Fentie: Mr. Chair, given that most of this is not expenditure, it is removing the monies from the department, we would agree to deem it read and carried.
Unanimous consent re Vote No. 7 deemed read and agreed to
Chair: We will need unanimous consent of the House. It has been suggested by Mr. Fentie that the Economic Development budget be deemed read and carried. Do we have unanimous consent of the House?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent of the House.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Operation and Maintenance for the Department of Economic Development in the amount of an underexpenditure of $598,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Capital for the Department of Economic Development in he amount of an underexpenditure of $27,000 agreed to
Department of Economic Development agreed to
Chair: We will now proceed to the actual Bill No. 7.
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. Mr. Kent: I move that Bill No. 7 be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Kent that Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We shall now move on to Bill No. 46, Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act.
We will take a three-minute recess to allow officials to change.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 46 - Parks and Land Certainty Act
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Yesterday in the House, we spent a good part of the afternoon reviewing YPAS, and a good part of that considerable amount of debate was also relative to this act, the Parks and Land Certainty Act. I know that members opposite did speak eloquently to the issues with respect to YPAS and they spoke passionately about some of the aspects of YPAS.
Unanimous consent re progressing to line-by-line debate on Bill No. 46
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Before I go on, what I would like for consideration is that I would like to request unanimous consent that we move directly to line-by-line with respect to the act, seeing as a good portion of yesterday's debate was focused on YPAS and Bill No. 168.
Chair: Is there unanimous consent to move directly into line-by-line, or shall we continue with general debate? Is there unanimous consent?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: There is not unanimous consent.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I then look forward to general debate of the act, Mr. Chair, and I would again just like to summarize what we discussed yesterday in the House on the Yukon parks and protected areas strategy. We as a government are continuing to move forward and continuing to dialogue with interested parties with respect to YPAS. It is a very contentious issue. There are interested parties who are very passionate, very interested in this act. This government's responsibility and accountability to the Yukon public is to find a balance in the information that still continues to come in with respect to environmental interests, economic interests and industrial interests.
So, quite frankly, that process is not going to stop. We will be open and accountable at all times. We will continue to listen to Yukoners as they contribute thoughtful and insightful aspects about YPAS.
What we're doing with respect to the Parks and Land Certainty Act is we're preparing ourselves a tool to manage the different types of parks that will be created in the Yukon, not only goal-1 type parks, wilderness reserves, or all the way down to our recreational parks, namely campgrounds. I have looked over the material that has been supplied - legal interests respecting the content of the Parks Act. Quite frankly, I think our Parks and Land Certainty Act goes far beyond the criticism coming by way of legal opinion from the Sierra Legal Defence Fund. Mind you, Mr. Chair, the Sierra Legal Defence Fund was asked a specific question, and they responded responsibly to that specific question from CPAWS, namely: does this act address specifically the requirements for a goal-1 type protected area?
Well, Mr. Chair, there is a little bit of a problem in that question in that I, as have the drafters, respected the continuing consultations on YPAS, and there was a specific and definitive request that the principles and goals of YPAS be placed within the act. And that has been done.
They also cautiously advised the government that the process of the YPAS not be placed in the act because the process has not been tested. Our commitment to the YPAS process, as we've said time and time again, is that we would follow the process as created by Yukoners. If anywhere in the actual implementation of YPAS there is a problem, we would be able to adjust the process to accommodate all interests and all stakeholders so that we could improve the YPAS process before actually moving it into the body of the act. However, there have been some provisions that have been included, by way of amendment, in the act - that is more clearly defining the definitions - and when we get into line-by-line, I will be pointing out and explaining to the House a rather significant amendment in chapter 11.
But as this government has indicated, we're always willing to listen. I know that the opposition, in second reading, was opposed to this act.
And I'm hoping that, in debate, we can clearly define the intent of the act and the understanding of the act, that this act is to represent Yukon's interests for all the types of special places that will be created through YPAS goal-1 areas, YPAS goal-2 areas and simple campgrounds.
So it's also important to keep in mind that, within the body of the act, it specifically identifies the responsibilities of the minister, which are far fewer than in the current Parks Act. The actions of the minister in the new act are diminished in a number of ways. The minister and Cabinet - Cabinet ultimately has the responsibility with respect to the act, so it isn't one individual who has the power that he currently does under the current act.
So the Parks and Land Certainty Act, with the sequencing and the authorities contained herein, the minister has to seek Cabinet approval on a significant number of items that we'll be discussing in the body of the act, primarily the establishment of parks, that has to go through Cabinet; classification of parks, again, a Cabinet action; third party interests, Cabinet is directly involved. As a matter of fact, Cabinet shall address in the order of established parks a continued exercise by third party rights. So Cabinet is intrinsically involved in the processes identified within the body of the act.
As well, Mr. Chair, there is a significant improvement over the old act with respect to consultation - i.e. the planning of the different types of parks, the degree of planning that is required by people outside government and how that plan is dealt with when it comes back to government. It isn't just the minister deciding on that; it is Cabinet.
So that means that there is a group of public representation in a room - those Cabinet ministers acting on behalf of the public interest, not just one individual, with respect to the creation of parks and the management of parks. Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, the minister's capabilities under this act are primarily confined to site plans. Site plans in the act primarily relate to campgrounds.
After the park has been established - after it has gone through all the processes - the management of the park will then be the minister's responsibility. But this is after a lengthy process in establishing a park. And our obligation as government - because it is within the preamble that identifies and reflects the goals and principles of YPAS. So YPAS is inextricably linked to the act, and we are obligated, as we have stated - and also under the act - to follow the processes that have been created by the public at large - the public advisory group - and other interests.
Anther limited capability with the minister is park permits. Again, park permits are the result of the management plan created for the park. So the minister is further limited to exactly what types of permits he can allocate within a park.
The regulations themselves again go back to Cabinet - that is a Cabinet activity. The drafters have respected the wishes of the public advisory group and have considered the input from the industrial sector. All Yukoners have helped to create this act and, therefore, it does limit the individual and specific actions of a minister and places the responsibility and accountability right where it belongs with Cabinet, while still respecting the YPAS process.
So, I think it is a very skilfully crafted act. It is easy to read. It is not convoluted with legal jargon. I think it is a friendlier document than what we currently have, and I am ready to debate the act in general debate.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you as well for the opportunity to even have general debate this afternoon. I appreciate the minister's efforts to cut it out of the process, but it is nice to have the opportunity to make some general remarks on the act, because we know that, once we are in the clauses, the ability to do that is lost unless the comments pertain to the specific clause that is being debated at the time. And we know there are some general concerns on this act.
I would like to start with the minister's own admission that the act needs improvement, and I note that he has already filed an amendment that he would like to bring into the act.
This causes one to question why other amendments aren't also being considered, Mr. Chair. If the act wasn't perfect when it was brought into this Legislature, why doesn't the minister admit it? Why doesn't he ask the opposition parties for their suggestions on how it can be improved?
This government is quite inconsistent in a number of areas, except for one, and that's its single approach to not allowing any public consultation on this act. It insists on doing all the decision making with regard to this act and not allowing anybody else to comment on it. We know that. What has really concerned a lot of Yukoners out there is the fact that, after a YPAS strategy was developed after years of very good input by the public and stakeholders with a lot of buy-in, all of a sudden the whole process of consultation came to a screeching halt just before this act was developed.
The minister made a good point that we had plenty of discussion yesterday on this point, and I don't intend to belabour it at all, but the point is, Mr. Chair, that the Yukon public did not have an opportunity to provide any input into the drafting of this legislation, and that's a significant point.
So, if the legislation wasn't good enough when the minister brought it in here, what makes him believe it's good enough now, Mr. Chair?
The minister has admitted that the legislation is flawed, which is contrary to the government's own press release just two days prior to the start of this sitting in which the Liberals were fear-mongering - based on rumour - that the opposition parties had somehow conspired to filibuster the capital budget.
It was based on rumour. Well, that's not a very responsible modus operandi for a government to take, to fire out press releases based on rumour, especially when they aren't true. I think the record speaks for itself. We've been in here, I think this the twentieth day, and we're still dealing with all the other business.
We know on the next House day that, unless this legislation comes back, we'll probably finally get to the capital budget. So this Liberal press release that preceded the sitting was so wrong in so many different ways, Mr. Chair.
I believe it was a comment by the government House leader that, if this sitting doesn't end in 25 days, the NDP is simply stalling, because all the legislation is good legislation and so is the budget.
Well, now we have an admission from a Liberal minister himself that the legislation is in need of improvement. So we find out that the Liberals now discover that their previous message to the public was wrong. But does the government open the door for any suggestions on how this legislation could be further improved? Of course not, Mr. Chair - the door is still slammed shut.
The government thinks it has a monopoly on all of the good ideas. We know that not to be true. Yesterday there were plenty of concerns that were identified in regard to this act. I specifically related more than 10 deficiencies in this legislation.
Mr. Chair, we in the opposition also indicated we would be prepared to support this act if the government backed off trying to ram it through in this sitting, took it back to the drawing board for some public consultation, and brought it back in the spring, in the sitting in the spring, but the minister refused to do that.
Now, Mr. Chair, at any time, I would like to invite the minister to give me a signal that he is prepared to do that, and we'll end the debate and move on to the other things we have to deal with in this sitting. I'll even thank him for doing that, because at least, at that point, we'll know he's listening and he values the positions of others and the suggestions of others.
There are a number of concerns with this act, as I mentioned, that were identified yesterday. And the fact there was no public consultation on the drafting of this act has to be at the top of that list, but a close second is one of the ramifications of ramming through an act that was devised in the government backroom, and that is the tremendous uncertainty that will be foisted upon Yukoners in the future in regard to land use issues. Mr. Chair, we know that land use planning is a controversial area. We know there are plenty of interests when land use planning takes place. We know that Yukoners are very concerned about land use planning and they want their input heard.
So, Mr. Chair, when an act as autocratic as this parks and land uncertainty act is approved through this Legislature because the Liberals have a majority vote in here, no matter how good or bad the act is, Yukoners must suffer the consequences. I'm afraid that this act, because of its shortcomings, will lead to a lot of public dissension and uncertainty.
Now, I wanted to speak for a minute on the uncertainty factor, Mr. Chair, because I think it's more relevant now than ever before. We know that the western global economy is suffering greatly due to the general downturn in the economy that has been amplified by recent events. The layoffs are coming in by the thousands every day. We hear south of the border how the Liberal government is laying off more than 11,000 employees. In the Yukon, we hear that the Yukon government wants to lay off 165 employees.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: One hundred and seventy five - pardon me. It's going up by the minute.
This is causing a domino effect with tremendous casualties. Yesterday I spoke about the tourism industry being the hardest hit as a result of recent events. At the TIA Roundup on the weekend, I heard in detail the reasons for that. Now, Mr. Chair, uncertainty scares away investors, just as it scares away people who want to live in the Yukon because of the quality of life offered here.
Who would think of making the Yukon a home because of a special area when they had no guarantee that there wouldn't be some form of industrialization in their backyard at some point. That is what is called uncertainty. What about the mining community? Let's take the other extreme. The mining community, for instance, that wants to develop an area, that spends significant resources on exploration in that area and then discovers that their investment is stranded because the area becomes protected. That is what we call uncertainty. It works both ways and then some.
Yukon needs to provide as much certainty as it can in order to assure all types of people of a certain future and to minimize the potential for uncertainty in regard to development and conservation in special places. Now, this act does not do that. It will bring widespread land use conflict.
We know that YPAS is a good process. I think the minister agreed to that yesterday. We can probably all agree to that. The Liberals promised to enshrine YPAS in legislation, and yesterday I heard the minister speak at length about that. Now, I've reread the act and I don't see YPAS enshrined anywhere.
I'll be asking the minister to indicate where in the act is there language that enshrines YPAS? I'll give him a few more minutes to think of an answer to that, as I still have more general comments.
The YPAS deserves stand-alone legislation. It's better to do it right than to do it fast. There is no reason why this legislation must be rammed through at this time. This legislation can be improved; there can be an opportunity for public input. The minister is aware of various options for public input that are not an administrative burden. As we discussed the other day on the campground improvement issue, Mr. Chair, it's possible to collect public input through a Web site. The minister knows that.
What about the public advisory committee, Mr. Chair, which has so much expertise and experience in the area of YPAS? Why not reconvene the PAC to help the minister improve this act?
The minister, last week, was party to a Liberal caucus media release that really was a joke. I see that he is even chuckling away over there, and I can certainly understand why.
This is probably a good opportunity, Mr. Chair, to ask the minister about some of the allegations in this Liberal caucus media release, because these allegations are really far-fetched. For one thing, they indicate that we, in the official opposition, wanted the government to create 23 new parks. Now, this press release occurred after a day on which some questions were asked of the minister about why he had reduced the number of protected areas, insofar as goal 1 representation, by three, because they simply crossed the Yukon border into other jurisdictions.
We know that a number of new parks and protected areas have already been established. We know that goal 1 representation is not necessarily a park. It can be a protected area or, in some cases, an SMA, under this act. But the minister found it necessary to say in this media release that we were calling for 23 new parks, just because we wanted to question him on why he was reducing the number of protected area representations from 16 to 13.
Obviously, the Liberal spin doctors upstairs went to work on the minister and convinced him it was a good idea to muddy the waters around this for political reasons, and were able to convince the minister to do that. But I'd like to point out, Mr. Chair, it does very little to bolster the minister's credibility in here with members of the opposition for disseminating such inaccurate information to the public.
Why would he say we were calling for the creation of 23 new parks when he knows what we were really asking was why he had reduced the figure from 16 to 13 for goal 1 areas in the remaining ecoregions? Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps when the minister's on his feet he can explain for us why he did that.
Now, the minister also indicated that he felt the NDP was factioned and were fighting. Well, Mr. Chair, this is even wilder speculation and even more inaccurate. Anybody who knows how we in the official opposition operate would understand and appreciate that we come to a consensus on our positions and that they're developed through sound, effective and fair process. But the minister has stooped to the level where he calls that into question but has no evidence to back it up. Again, the spin doctors upstairs were very successful in persuading the minister to go this route.
Now, there's more in the so-called media release, as well, Mr. Chair; but it doesn't even deserve recognition. And I might add that I'm not hurt by these Yukon Liberal caucus media releases. As a matter of fact, I find them quite entertaining. I save copies of them in a file, and there's other stuff in the file, too, like the cartoon of the minister in the RV the other day, and the file's named "Political Humour." So that speaks for how I consider these Liberal media releases. And the file's quite thick, because there has been a flurry of these releases lately.
Now, one other area that I would like to speak about is the Liberal election promises, about how they promised to enshrine YPAS into legislation. I have touched on that already. And we know YPAS is not enshrined in this legislation. And I also know that my speaking time is about to expire. So I would like to ask the minister where in the act can he indicate that YPAS is indeed enshrined?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, it is obvious by the tone of the member opposite that it is going to take a long time to get through this act. It is quite evident and very, very unfortunate - the member opposite is asking me not to be mean, and we just listened to 20 minutes of ramble all over the map, and a total unwillingness to get down to the task at hand to look at this act and to respect the work that has gone into this act. And I wanted to comment a couple times. He is suggesting that I said the act is not ready. He has suggested that the act is flawed. That is incorrect. That is wrong. I did not say that, nor is there a basis in fact for what he is suggesting that I said.
We are to debate the bill, line by line. That means we are looking at the act, line by line. Right now it is a living document. That is the whole idea behind debate.
The member is chuckling over there and eating his pen.
I think it's very unfortunate, and I think it's very disrespectful. This government is not ramming this act through. We have been in debate on the supplementary for some three and a half weeks. We have five days remaining. We have three significant pieces of legislation, plus the capital. So, Mr. Chair, I would ask just who is wasting time. Mr. Chair, it is obvious that the members opposite don't want to review these things because, in fact, they recognize the value of our Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act; they recognize the value of the other pieces of legislation, and they recognize the value of our capital budget, and they don't want the value exposed in this House for the public because they know how good it is.
Mr. Chair, I would encourage the member opposite to stay focused on the task at hand, but I know that when I sit down, I am going to be lectured again.
But I would encourage him, just as he has encouraged me on a couple of points, to really work hard on this act. I think we have made it evident that we are not postponing this act, nor are we postponing the other pieces of legislation that we, on behalf of Yukoners, want to work hard to get done. I would suggest to the member opposite that we move into line-by-line, as we covered all of the issues yesterday, and the YPAS process has been debated for almost five years. This is a tool to make it even better.
Mr. McRobb: What a bunch of rhetoric, Mr. Chair. Maybe if that five years had been five and a half years, we wouldn't be facing the problem we are now, because this Liberal government stopped the consultation process just when it got interesting, Mr. Chair, just as the YPAS strategy was being transformed into legislation. That's what everybody wanted. That's what this Liberal government promised. The stakeholders involved in the consultation were eager to participate in this, but the Liberal government cut them out and created this act itself because it feels it knows all the answers.
Now, the minister denies that he said the act is in need of improvement. However, I'm in receipt of a letter here, dated November 20, that indicates the minister wants to amend this bill. It pertains to clause 101, in section 34 and 30 to 33.
Now, that's what I was referring to. The minister knows darn well that the act is in need of improvement, yet he is stuck on his position to force this legislation through because he knows we have agreed to a 25-day sitting, and today is day 20, and we've yet to debate the capital budget, the Jury Act and the Wildlife Act, and some other things, Mr. Chair.
The minister knows the waiting game is on his side. He can benefit politically by stalling. We know that. The minister is chuckling away over there and chewing on his pen.
Pens must be good this time of year, Mr. Chair.
Anyway, the minister was unable to identify for me where YPAS is enshrined. He got up and spoke for several minutes, yet didn't answer the question.
The minister tries to re-argue his opening remark that we should just pass through general debate and go clause by clause but, Mr. Chair, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck. I know that, unless I find out where YPAS is enshrined, the opportunity could be lost to ask the minister this question. That's why it must be asked in general debate, just so we know when that clause is coming.
I'm going to give the minister a second opportunity to answer the same question.
Can the minister indicate for us where, in the act, there is language that enshrines YPAS?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: At the specific request - because we consult, Mr. Chair - of the public advisory group. They said, in their recommendations to Cabinet - utilization of option 1, as recommended, states the goals and guiding principles of YPAS in legislation, as well as the intent and commitment to follow the process described by the strategy.
The fact of the matter is the strategy is a living document. That is what the PAC asked for. The member opposite refuses to accept the fact that, through public consultation, we are doing exactly what they asked.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the only thing living is - the minister is living in dreamland, because he still didn't answer the question. Where in this act can I find language that enshrines YPAS into the legislation? Can he direct me to that area, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Let's go into line-by-line, Mr. Chair, and I'll show him.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously, Mr. Chair, the minister is unable to answer the question because nowhere in the act is there language that enshrines YPAS. It's another broken Liberal promise.
May I also remind the minister that the Liberal promise to bring the Chamber of Mines back to the table was broken as well?
Of the few promises in the environment section of the Liberal election campaign, most of them have been broken already in the first 19 months. That's a heck of a good record, Mr. Chair. If I were a Liberal environment minister, I'd be very proud of his record so far. Maybe in his remaining 21 or 22 months he will be able to break the other promises, too.
Now, it's rather stunning to discover at this point that the minister is unable to identify where YPAS is enshrined, because we all heard the rhetoric from the minister yesterday -he stood up and said time and time again that the Parks Act is good because it enshrines YPAS.
I see that he has had the assistance of his departmental aide and has had a particular section pointed out for him. Maybe they have found where YPAS is enshrined, so I am giving the minister the opportunity to respond to the question.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, I saw it as a courtesy in this House that we would not be pointing out the folks we bring in here, the very capable folks we bring in here to help us out.
The act enables YPAS. The principles and goals at the request of the public advisory committee are in the preamble, quite clearly. But it seems to be that the member hasn't even got that far in the act. I would suggest that, if the member wants clarification on the questions that he is asking, we go into line-by-line.
Hon. Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister has still failed to point out where in the act YPAS is enshrined. He indicates that it's in the preamble. I have just reviewed the preamble one more time and I don't see it. Can he indicate in which paragraph that language can be found?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would suggest that if the member wants clarification on how this act works in parallel with the YPAS process - Mr. Chair, it was not intended that the government enshrine the implementation of YPAS. PAC recommended that the goals and objectives be placed in the act. We have done that. We have done exactly what they have asked for because the process itself has not been tested. This is a concept obviously foreign to the member's understanding and capability.
We specifically listened to Yukoners. The member has asked what the state of the Chamber of Mines is. Well, maybe I should inform the member opposite that I will be meeting with coalition members this Saturday, just to give him a heads-up.
Mr. Chair, there have been years and years of consultation on how we move forward in protecting areas. We have talked to all First Nations, and they have had direct input. We have talked to professionals, department officials, and all Yukoners at one time or another over the past five years. What Yukoners were asking for, when I was going door-to-door about 18 months ago, was to get the job done.
It did take a little time to repair the damage caused by the previous Minister of Renewable Resources in implementing the process of YPAS. There have been admissions, time and again, by a significant number of the then government, before they were removed from office, on how they broke it. They have acknowledged publicly, as the Member for Kluane has done, that they didn't follow the process. Why did the former Government Leader say that we had to fix it? Why did he start the action during the month of the election? Why, after the election, in newspaper clippings, did the Member for Kluane say, "We have to move slowly and we have to consult"?
We have done that now for 18 months, and we had indicated that we would be putting it into legislation, and we have done that as a result of consultation with the public advisory committee on how we work with the YPAS and how we have a tool to work with the YPAS. This act does that.
Mr. Chair, it allows us to manage campgrounds. It allows us to manage goal 1 area parks. We don't need, as the Sierra Legal Defence Fund had indicated in its criticism of the act, a constant reference to the Parks Canada Act. I don't think we need that kind of heavy club here in the territory. We need a document that Yukoners can understand. We need a document that is an easy, understandable tool to manage parks, and that's what this document is.
The member has suggested several times, Mr. Chair, that the act is flawed. Well, of course, they voted against parks so I'm not surprised at that comment. They voted against this act in second reading. I'm not at all surprised at the conduct of the Member for Kluane so far with respect to getting into line-by-line. We spent a whole day yesterday going through the whole process, the history, and of course our differences of opinion. The fact that I tried to bring forward yesterday to the members opposite is why are we still here, talking the same thing 18 months later?
It's a consequence, Mr. Chair, of the violation of trust by the previous government on taking a beautiful strategy and just shattering it into a million pieces. They don't want to acknowledge that. They don't like to hear it.
In the member opposite's opening remarks, he alluded to a press release. Well, for heaven's sake, Mr. Chair, all parties send out press releases on a regular basis.
Obviously, we hit a contentious note with the member opposite. He was wounded, Mr. Chair, his ego; and he was wounded because the fact is that what was in that press release was true. It's hard to face the truth, I know. But that's what we presented in the press release, and it offended him so much that he brought it in. It's really unfortunate that he didn't read it all, because there is a lot more to it. But I digress.
I really want to focus on the act. We are hearing all the time, Mr. Chair, that we have created a document that, unlike the members opposite, who ignored what stakeholders wanted and, unlike the members opposite who broke their promise - they broke their promise, Mr. Chair - to follow the process. Eighteen months later - 18 months later we're dealing with it. But the members of the opposition sit around the coffee table in their room and try and guess what the public is thinking and saying, waiting for the phone to ring.
Well, Mr. Chair, we're out there, listening to the public. We are out there, listening to stakeholders and reflecting what the stakeholders have asked for. We asked them specifically, Mr. Chair, what they wanted in legislation, what they wanted the YPAS to reflect in legislation.
The member opposite is chattering away - you know, not wanting to listen. That's okay, because I have a feeling that we have 103 clauses to go through in this act. This act alone -
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do believe the member has said "clear".
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Clear? Line by line? Is the member wanting to go line by line?
I'll ask the member that in a minute - to go line by line. I didn't think he would go line by line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: No, you don't.
So the member is over there having a great time, Mr. Chair. But we have listened to stakeholders; we have members back at the table. We continue to listen, Mr. Chair. We will always listen, and that's the whole reason for debating a bill in the House - to look at what's in there.
I guess what the member opposite is suggesting is that we just cast aside all the information that we've heard from stakeholders and that we don't take their advice. The members opposite get quite wounded when we don't listen to the advice that they provide, even though it may be contrary to what the public wishes, Mr. Chair.
They say they are in touch. If they would acknowledge the good work of the public advisory committee, they'd know that outlining the principles and goals of YPAS in the preamble is what they asked for.
Mr. Chair, I would move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Minister Eftoda that we do now report progress.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: There are still eight minutes left in this day, and the minister is only trying to end the day because he knows he has only got a few more minutes, and he wants it to be on camera on Monday afternoon.
Chair: On the point of order, Mr. McRobb. Order please. There is no point of order. There are no rules being broken.
It has been moved by Minister Eftoda that we do now report progress. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Some Hon. Members: Disagreed.
Chair: The ayes have it.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report it out of Committee without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 46, entitled Parks and Land Certainty Act, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move 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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.