Thursday, November 29, 2001 - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of World AIDS Day
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like to humbly take this opportunity to recognize in this House World AIDS Day, which takes place Saturday, December 1.
This year's theme is, "I care. Do you?"
Mr. Speaker, I believe that people do care. Around the world, people are making a difference in this very serious fight, but we are not anywhere near ready to stop the offensive charge.
Today, I wear a red ribbon. This ribbon is the international symbol of AIDS awareness. Some wear these ribbons all year round, but most often we see them at this time of year to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS and to continue to remind people that, despite the advances in medical technology and pharmacological wonders that are out there, HIV and AIDS still threaten to take lives.
It amazes me how one little red ribbon has come to mean so much. This started as a grassroots efforts that is now recognized the world over. Whether you wear a piece of folded red cloth, a shiny red ribbon, or a piece of ruby-coloured jewellery shaped like a ribbon, the entire world recognizes that we wear it to show our support and commitment for those with HIV and AIDS.
It is more important now than ever to show that we care. Indications are that we are not winning the war against these deadly diseases. Not only that, but younger generations, although they have been raised to be extremely cautious, are taken by the medical technology that is now extending lives of those with the disease. Perhaps they believe that in their lifetime there will be a cure. They are taking a chance. We need to continue to show that we care by providing strong reminders that AIDS has not gone away and it will not go away. HIV and AIDS may not be something that touches each of us personally, but I am sure it is closer in our communities than we think.
We must be a friend to those who have HIV and AIDS, a supporter to the family that has been touched by these diseases, and an educator in awareness and prevention.
I would like all of us to take a moment to remember those who have not succeeded in their fight against HIV and AIDS. I hope their sacrifices will make us all remember how devastating these diseases are.
Whatever we do for World AIDS Day, someone's life will be different because of it. We can help stop the spread of these diseases. We can fight discrimination against those who suffer. We can show we care by wearing a little red ribbon.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the official opposition today to pay tribute to World AIDS Day. December 1 is the day that is designated to recognize the impact of AIDS worldwide, and this is the second year of a two-year campaign: "I care. Do you?" This campaign has been focused on the role of men in the AIDS epidemic. AIDS has had a profound impact on the world. It has changed individuals. It has changed families, communities and countries.
AIDS has brought some people together while dividing others. AIDS has challenged our humanitarianism and called into question the power of drug companies.
Over the years since AIDS was identified, we have come to treat those with AIDS with more respect and more dignity. However, as a society we must still deal with the prejudice that those with HIV and AIDS face on a daily basis. Fear of HIV and AIDS can still result in the loss of friends, the loss of family, jobs and homes. There are several visible campaigns to express support and caring for those with AIDS. One is the quilt project, which allows us to recognize and honour those we have lost to AIDS, through the production and display of quilt panels. The Canadian AIDS memorial quilt is made up of more than 500 panels, and it's a testament to the importance of those we have lost to AIDS.
The red ribbon was the first ribbon and was worn to show that we support those with AIDS and that we do not fear those with AIDS. Wearing a red ribbon is recognized worldwide as a visible show of support for the individuals, their families and communities that face this disease. As we approach December 1, I would urge all members of the House to wear a red ribbon and reflect on how AIDS has changed their perceptions. I will also encourage everyone to attend the candlelight vigil that is being held at the Whitehorse United Church on Saturday, December 1 at 6:30 p.m.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I rise to also pay tribute to World AIDS Day. Each year on December 1, World AIDS Day is recognized on a global scale as an opportunity to demonstrate care and concern about HIV and AIDS, and to remind others of the need for their support and commitment.
The number of people living with HIV and AIDS has reached 40 million. Some 22 million have already passed on. There are currently 13 million orphans and 15,000 new cases each and every day of the year. The figures are alarming. To demonstrate just how serious the situation has become, the United Nations called its first-ever special session to deal with the problem of AIDS, in June of this year. At that time, the Secretary General of the United Nations likened it to a nightmare, in which he went on to say, "Never have we felt such a need to combine leadership, partnership and solidarity. All of us must recognize AIDS as our problem, and that all of us must take steps to make it our priority. Let no one imagine that we can protect ourselves by building barriers between us and them for, in this ruthless world of AIDS, there is no 'us' and 'them'."
The World AIDS Day not only serves to remind us of those afflicted with the disease, but raises the importance of keeping up the fight against HIV and AIDS through initiatives such as promoting safer sex, changing attitudes about drug use, raising awareness and the continual search for a vaccine, for a cure.
The red ribbons that members are wearing today represent HIV and AIDS awareness. Through a small gesture, the ribbon is a symbol of support for those 40 million people across the world who are living with the disease for which there is no cure. Likewise, the ribbon also serves as a reminder to others of the need for their support.
Again, I am pleased to pay tribute to World AIDS Day, and I am pleased to offer my support for initiatives such as these, which prevent the spread of HIV, and to call for urgent action to end this world problem.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would proudly like to introduce to the House my family: my mother Audrey Clare, Noreen Schneider - no relation to the Speaker, Mr. Speaker - my sister Mari and my partner Robert Brown.
Speaker: Is there any further introduction of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, the Chair has for tabling a report of the conflicts commissioner, prepared pursuant to paragraph 17(1)(d) of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board stakeholder review, November 2001.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that clause 4.(3) of Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, which requires the Commissioner to act on the instructions of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development rather than on the advice of the Executive Council of the Government of Yukon for the next 10 years and perhaps beyond, is a major retrograde step for the constitutional development of the Yukon and threatens the integrity of the Epp letter;
THAT this House denies the claim by the Premier that First Nations have an "emotional attachment" to clause 4.(3) for the comfort it affords that government obligations to them will be upheld, but rather Yukon First Nations have taken the position that the settlement of land claims should precede devolution; and
THAT this House urges the Premier to request the Government of Canada to introduce an amendment to clause 4.(3) of Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, by enshrining in law the concept contained in the letter of instruction given in 1979 to the Commissioner by the former Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the hon. Jake Epp, that the Commissioner act on the advice of the members of the Executive Council.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board stakeholder survey results
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I tabled earlier today the results from the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board stakeholder survey. We were fortunate to have Arthur Mitchell, the alternate chair, and Tony Armstrong, president and CEO of the board, appear in the Legislature yesterday, and so we were given a preview of the survey's contents.
This morning I attended the power point presentation of 40 minutes by the Yukon Bureau of Statistics, and again was given a very good overview of the particular program.
This is a document of great importance to the board and to Yukon workers and employers. It provides detailed information on the level of service offered by the board and the perceived value of those services to its clients. It gives concrete data on where the board can make targeted improvements in its communications, its processes or in its services - and it outlines some of the challenges faced by the board in accomplishing its legislated authorities.
It is one of the most comprehensive surveys that has ever been done of a government organization. I commend the board for so thoroughly researching their clients' needs and for recognizing the critical role that staff play in achieving organizational goals.
I would also like to recognize the work of the Bureau of Statistics in designing, conducting and compiling these survey results. I am especially pleased that the bureau protected the privacy of each of the participants in the survey, since this adds greatly to the validity of the results.
And finally and most importantly, I would like to recognize all of the injured workers, employers and staff who participated in the survey. This is a very detailed survey, and I understand that over 2,000 people spent between one and two hours of their time being interviewed by the Bureau of Statistics. Without these people's willingness to participate, this survey could not offer such accurate data.
The board now faces the challenge of implementing the changes their stakeholders have asked for in this survey. I wish them success in speedily accomplishing this since this is where the true value of this survey will be realized.
Mr. Keenan: I also would like to thank the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board alternate chair and president for their presentations. It was certainly refreshing to have a dialogue with people who care about the job they do and who can accept suggestions on how to do things better.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to welcome the results of the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board stakeholder survey. I did not find the results that surprising; however, it is beneficial to have what we expected confirmed in writing.
One of the most important findings can be found on page 20 of the report, wherein it states: "Medical attention I would rate number one - if you have a cut-and-dry accident, they are helping. If you have a long-term accident, you are in trouble."
I am sure the workers' advocate will attest to the accuracy of this statement in view of his very heavy workload and backlog of cases. The current WCB system works very well for those with short-term injuries but bogs down when it comes to dealing with those suffering from longer term afflictions. It is also true that the longer it takes to settle these longer term claims, the greater amount of stress the injured worker is under, which can further impair their recovery. Some other key findings reveal also what we suspected; namely, that the main cause of workplace accidents are weather and physical work environments. Also noteworthy is the fact that significant proportions of injured workers reported that there was no employer-provided training. While there is not much we can do about weather other than to prepare as best we can, there are things we can do to ensure proper training and a safer work environment.
"Policy CL-35 is a long-standing problem that still requires correction and, in my view, it is a problem that should have already been solved. I must admit that I am somewhat disappointed in the response rate from employers to this survey, which was rated at only 50 percent, as compared to 69 percent for injured workers and 98-percent response from the board employees."
Mr. Speaker, I can understand some of the reasons why the employers' response rate was so low. The first reason is the poor economy. Many employers are just too busy trying to figure out how to stay in business to respond to surveys. A second reason is the number of forms and surveys that employers currently have to fill out. It's mind-boggling, Mr. Speaker. And a third reason is the team concept Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board has adopted. Many small businesses feel intimidated when descended upon by such a team and want to have as little as possible to do with Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. A fourth reason is many Yukon businesses are having to downsize and may, in fact, no longer have any employees.
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of those who participated in this survey, as well as thanking the Bureau of Statistics for carrying it out. The report can and should serve as a very useful tool.
Thank you very much.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the comments from the opposition. Since this government has been in office we have undertaken several initiatives that contribute to some of the most recent improvements with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. We've increased the board to six members from the previous four board members. This has helped with the decision-making process on the board. We requested a special examination by the Auditor General to be undertaken, and it will be complete in the new year. We have directed the board chair to resolve the many long-outstanding unsettled claims, some that date back 20 years - and some of these have been done. And just as I presented today, we have a survey that has been submitted, looking at the various stakeholders as part of the future.
In order to complete all these issues, it takes a lot of effort and a lot of energy, and I believe that all the partners have been working very well together, and I encourage us to maintain this. I definitely believe that the safety board and the appeal tribunal, the workers' advocate and this Liberal government, have worked very hard for those who are most in need, our injured workers.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Total Point Inc., contract with
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Minister of Justice. Last November 7, the Premier gave instructions that this minister was to act for her on any issues involving the Department of Economic Development and Total Point Inc. On that very same day, the acting deputy minister prepared a briefing note for the minister regarding an unfulfilled contract between Total Point and the department.
Now we learn that there was not just one briefing note, but two. Did the minister receive both these briefing notes and, if so, when did she receive them?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Off the top of my head, I don't recall, Mr. Speaker. I'll have to check in my old briefing note file.
Mr. Fentie: This was the minister appointed by the then Minister of Economic Development to act in all matters when it comes to this issue. This is a matter of some substance. The two briefing notes are almost identical, except for one critical difference. One of them includes a paragraph, claiming that Industry Canada had backed out of a $150,000 commitment to Total Point Inc., regarding the project in question.
That's the version, Mr. Speaker, that members of the Premier's political staff gave the media. The other briefing note does not contain that same paragraph.
My question to the minister: when was this paragraph inserted in the briefing note from the acting deputy minister, and who gave the instructions to do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have no idea if what the member is saying is correct or not, as I will have to check in my old briefing note file to see the status of what he's asking about.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister was responsible - the minister should know.
Mr. Speaker, all this was happening on the very same day the Premier handed this minister the responsibility for dealing with anything having to do with Total Point Inc. The minister should know. That one little paragraph was meant to create an impression that Total Point had not fulfilled its obligations to the territorial government because of a broken promise by Industry Canada.
My question to the minister: can the minister explain how and why that paragraph, which is not consistent with what Industry Canada's regional director general had said, got into the briefing note that was given to the media by the Premier's political staff? How is that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, this happened over a year ago. I told the member I will have to review my briefing note file.
Question re: Total Point Inc., contract with
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Minister of Education, who also has a matter to clear up when it comes to this very same issue.
On April 10 of this year, the minister stood on his feet and told this House that Industry Canada had rescinded its promise of marketing money for the Total Point project. There is now irrefutable evidence, Mr. Speaker, in an e-mail sent the very next day to the Deputy Minister of Economic Development, that that simply was not the case.
Why did the minister not correct the record in this House at the very first opportunity given to do so?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I will look into what the member is asking and get back to him.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's the problem we have here in this Legislative Assembly. The ministers in this Liberal government opposite refuse to answer questions, and that's why they're in trouble.
The problem the minister had, obviously, is that this was the spin that the political people upstairs were insisting on, from the Premier's office. It was consistent with what the Premier's brother was saying. It wasn't consistent with Economic Development's trade and investment director and what he was saying. It wasn't consistent with the former deputy minister and what he was saying, and it certainly wasn't consistent with the former Minister of Economic Development and what he was saying.
It wasn't consistent, most importantly, with Industry Canada. Why did the minister stand up again - and this is the Minister of Education - on April 18, and repeat the same story to this House?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I urge the member opposite to wait to take the time to read the report of the conflicts commissioner, which you have just tabled.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's simply unacceptable. What I'm asking today is what these ministers across the floor put on record here in this Assembly. They have a duty to answer correctly in this House.
My question again to the minister responsible for Education: the minister got up and waved around a letter that he claimed proved the story the Premier's political staff was peddling. He claimed that the letter had come from the deputy minister, the man the Premier fired on September 25, 2000. It's too bad he didn't table that letter, Mr. Speaker. If he had, it would have been obvious to everyone that the former deputy minister had not even signed that letter. It was signed by someone else.
My question to the Minister of Education: will the minister now table that letter that he waved in this House, and will he do the right and honourable thing by correcting the record once and for all? Will he do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Once again, I urge the member opposite to take the time to review the report of the conflicts commissioner, which has just been tabled.
Question re: Municipal grant funding, equalization
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services. One of the most serious consequences of this Liberal government's disastrous economic policies has been the steady population decline. Virtually every Yukon community has experienced a loss, as Yukoners flee the territory to find work elsewhere, where there are more proactive and responsible governments that have created an economy.
As a result of having no economy other than government, some communities, such as Faro, have seen their population decline to only 366 individuals, having just a few more residents than Ross River. When communities receive their municipal block funding from the Government of Yukon, however, this government appears to be going back in time.
Can the minister explain why the current system of calculating comprehensive municipal grants has been allowed to get so far out of whack? What is the reason for this?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It's correct that municipal block funding has been consistent for some time. The Association of Yukon Communities is considering proposals on municipal block funding. An AYC-Yukon government committee has been established to consider and discuss any proposals that AYC puts forward. That committee met last week for the first time.
Mr. Jenkins: I don't want to appear to be picking on Faro. What I wish to see is this government applying its current municipal funding formulas in a very fair and equitable manner. That is not the case.
Can the minister advise the House when she will be introducing an amendment to the Municipal Finance and Community Grants Act in order to adjust the base grant? Because Faro is currently included with Dawson City and Watson Lake, when in fact it should be included with Haines Junction and Mayo. When will she make this change?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is in fact picking on Faro.
As I said, there is an Association of Yukon Communities and Yukon government committee established to look into and discuss proposals put forward by AYC. That committee has met, and the Yukon government did, in 2001-02, continue to provide three percent above the legislated base funding level. The allocation to Faro, as to any other municipality, is based on the formula.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the formula allows Whitehorse to get half of the municipal block funding. The next largest amount goes to Faro, then Watson Lake, then Dawson City. When the previous Yukon Party government was in power, there was no disparity between Faro and other communities because it created an economy and helped reopen the Faro mine, which caused Faro's population to grow. Under this government it has gone the other way. This Liberal government has proven itself to be anti-mining, so instead it will have to make changes to the manner in which comprehensive municipal grants are currently calculated.
Will this be done for the current fiscal year by this government, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is asking me to ignore the Association of Yukon Communities and the very important role it has in putting forth proposals about municipal block funding. I will not do that.
And this government, for the record, is not anti-mining.
The formula recognizes a community's capacity, and when that capacity is reduced through economic downturn or other factors, the formula recognizes the change and enhances the grant. The formula recognizes that Faro has less capacity to raise money from taxes, and this is offset by an increase in the grant. The formula is working and, once again, a committee of members from AYC and the Yukon government is currently looking into proposals put forward by AYC on municipal block funding.
Question re: Health care
Mr. Keenan: I have a question today for the Minister of Health.
Yesterday the papers continued to highlight how this minister is antagonizing community groups, and the members opposite really appear to be having a race to see how many of the groups that they work with they can pick fights with. In my humble opinion, the Minister of Health is certainly a couple of lengths ahead of the next runner-up.
In a news release yesterday, the minister showed again that he does not recognize the role of child care in early child development. And we all know, except the minister, that child care is the cornerstone upon which other services rely. So the question is: when the real budget comes in in the spring, how does the minister intend to address the escalating crisis in child care?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Once again, the member uses very inflammatory words - "antagonizing". The only people who antagonize the public out there are the members opposite, because they don't have all the facts.
I think, Mr. Speaker, the issue around children is very important. It's very important to us as a government. We are very concerned about doing the best job possible. The recent announcement of yesterday, where we've actually looked at what we as a government are going to be doing with our respective committee - we are basically putting more money into the promotion of healthy pregnancy, birth, and infancy. That tells me that this government is supportive of where our children are and where we want to go for the future.
Mr. Keenan: Yukoners are not looking for a scolding; Yukoners are looking for leadership.
Now, another group that is not too happy with the minister is the doctors. The minister decided to bring in a hired gun to force negotiations with doctors into a confrontation. This will cost taxpayers money and that money should be spent right here on health care services for Yukoners.
So, I would like to ask the minister: how does the minister intend to convince Yukoners that he is really concerned about health care when he keeps focusing on his role as a guardian of the public purse against doctors who he thinks are too greedy? Can the minister answer that question, please?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I want the record to show that the member opposite said that the doctors are too greedy. I did not say that. That is very interesting for the member opposite to make those kinds of comments because the doctors are not greedy. They are very respected professionals. They work very hard. They do the job that they have been asked to do, and like governments in the past, we always bring forward good negotiations. Issues around health are very complicated; therefore, it is very important that we ensure that we have the best type of organizing of our labour so that basically all of us are agreeable. That is why negotiators are brought into the picture. All governments have done it. We are continuing to do that.
Mr. Keenan: Well, we all understand that it is a complicated issue and that is why we need leadership, not a spin doctor. And it is no secret that there is a Cabinet shuffle just around the corner, and we know now why the Member for Mount Lorne was appointed to the Romanow commission.
In baseball terms, the Member for Mount Lorne is already warming up in the bullpen. So the question to the minister is: in this upcoming Cabinet shuffle, what role does the Member for Porter Creek North think that he is qualified for?
Question re: CT scanner
Mr. Keenan: It goes to prove that the member does not feel he is qualified for any role in the Cabinet.
I have another question for the Minister of Health. The minister has shown his unique approach to reality. It is quite clear and transparent to the Yukon. Now, this is obvious in the way that his take on recent events was at direct odds with that of the chair of the Health and Social Services Council and this is obvious when the minister claimed that the hospital was just itching to fundraise for the CT scanner. And this was obvious when the minister denied knowing who was promoting a private CT scanner. Yet again, will the minister guarantee that Yukoners have access to a publicly funded CT scanner at the Whitehorse Hospital as soon as possible, whether or not a private clinic opens?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Typically, the member opposite is all over the map in his accusations. The point is that the public health care is for the public; there is no privatizing of health care in the Yukon. If that's what they're going to do and where they're going to go in the future, then I guess the member's warning us at this point, but we are not privatizing health care, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: I would also like to point out again that we have a complete lack of leadership. These are not accusations; these are questions that are beyond the minister's capabilities.
Now, yesterday, with his Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board hat on, the minister introduced two witnesses from the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and they told us that any decision about CT scans, who get them and where they are, is made by the board members. So, what we get there is that the decisions are made by the board. One member of that board is a Liberal campaign worker who is a partner in the private CT scan clinic, and this is the same Liberal campaign worker whom the minister handpicked to be on the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, so what direction has this minister given to ensure that this apparent conflict of interest does not impact the decisions regarding workers?
Hon. Mr. Roberts: I am aghast, again, at the member opposite. The very member who accused me of bringing somebody's name or somebody's position forward in this House, who could not defend themselves - the member has done the same thing. I expect that that member will issue an apology immediately. This is uncalled for. This is not the way we operate in this House. If we make a mistake, we at least make amends. I am just aghast.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I am just aghast also, because for this minister to try to compare what I just said in this House to what he has said is completely different. What I am speaking of is public knowledge - absolute public knowledge. It has been printed in the media, but of course this minister picks fights with the media also, so he doesn't read the newspapers. So, I would like to point out for the record that this minister has not answered the question. I would also like to say that this minister continues to pretend that he is caring and that he is competent. Well, let me say that that is not the opinion or the view of anyone who has to work with him. It's not the view of the public -
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, this is clearly language that's going to cause disorder. He's now speaking of opinions of people who work with him. How would he know this? It's clearly meant to cause a fight.
Speaker: Order please. There's no doubt that some of the remarks tend to create disorder and maybe are disrespectful to members opposite, but this has been continuing on in this House since we started this sitting, by members on both sides, by all members - in fact, everybody.
Yesterday, we heard things in this House like, "The member doesn't care; the members are lazy; the member is irresponsible." If the Speaker were to get into the middle of these things every time there is a word passed in here that some member may find offensive, there would be no debate.
Now, the other thing here is that members have to decide where we are going. Far be it for the Speaker to interrupt every time somebody doesn't like a word that is being said.
The Speaker is not going to rule on this, because it's up to the members to decide where they're going to go in this House and what they're going to do.
All of a sudden, because somebody raises a point of order and the Speaker rules that there is a point of order and that they are getting personal, which is not parliamentary, where do we stop and where do we go on this?
So, what I'm going to ask right now is that all members kindly be cautious in their choice of words. I'm not going to rule this as a point of order. I have shut the clock off. We have lost no time on this, but I'd ask all members to kindly be judicious in their choice of words.
I must ask the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, have you concluded your question? I will start the clock, and would you continue, please.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to support what you say. I'd also like to say that what the Yukon requires is leadership - leadership, and that's what this side of the House has been calling for. I do believe that leadership is available, but I just don't know where it's hidden right now, and I do support what you're saying. But I also consider it to be a very rude interruption of a very meaningful question from the Member for Whitehorse Centre.
So now that we've proven that the minister has been fighting with all the NGOs that he has been working with and has lost the respect of many of them - and that's not meant to be inflammatory; those are facts - in spite of his admission in yesterday's Yukon News, will the minister now do the honourable thing, resign his portfolio immediately, so that someone else can get to work to repair the damage that this minister has inflicted upon Yukon health care?
Question re: Winter highway maintenance
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, today I have a question for the Minister of Community and Transportation Services.
During the election, there was a lot of hoopla about improving our roads and our highway system, so I'd like to point out to the minister that the Campbell Highway is an absolute mess, and the minister knows that. Many reports have come to the minister about that. People complain to me on a regular basis that it's regularly covered with up to a foot of snow on a daily basis. So I'd like to ask the minister: why is the Campbell Highway between the community of Ross River and Watson Lake not being maintained like it should be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes was the minister in this portfolio previously, he understands the difficulties of maintaining all roads to the same standard under winter conditions. The highway crews who work on the Campbell Highway, as with the highway crews who work on all of our Yukon highways, do their very best to keep the road in a safe travelling condition for the public.
Mr. Keenan: I would like to point out to the public at large that the minister has attempted to deflect that question over to the staff. This is not about the grader operators; the grader operators are doing a wonderful job with the resources.
I would like to also point out that this was not a problem under the NDP government. It is a problem under the Liberal regime. Now, there is a policy in place where this minister's department is to clear secondary roads in rural areas. In the communities, these roads provide access to cabins, to traplines and to hunting areas. These roads help to sustain the traditional economy. The Liberals campaigned on a promise to improve our roads, so I would like to know what happened here. The Liberals also campaigned on the economy, and it looks like what they have done to the Yukon economy is now what the government is trying to do to the traditional economy as well - ruin it.
Will this minister immediately provide her department with the resources and a direction to clear those roads that are so badly needed by rural Yukoners - and, in this case, the Campbell Highway between Ross River and Faro? Will the minister do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is suggesting that because the Campbell Highway is not in a Liberal riding, it is not receiving appropriate attention. That is not the case, Mr. Speaker. The crews do their very best, given the weather conditions and the resources available. As the members opposite know, more resources go to roads with more traffic.
Question re: Watson Lake, regional economic development board
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Acting Minister of Economic Development.
Given the difficulties that Yukoners are faced with economically, there is a very keen initiative developing in the community of Watson Lake and in the southeast Yukon. This initiative has a great deal of merit when it comes to economic development in regions, given the uniqueness that we all experience in the regions of this territory.
Will this minister now endeavour to commit to the community of Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon to assist in every way possible toward the development of a regional economic development board for Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: It is my understanding that the Minister of Economic Development has been down to the community of Watson Lake on a number of occasions to speak to the Chamber of Commerce in that area about that very issue. That is something he is working on, and I am sure that he will have the buy-in of the local Chamber of Commerce and the local business community on the endeavour.
Mr. Fentie: Just for the acting minister's reference, it was I, the Member for Watson Lake, who invited the minister down to speak to the chamber on this very issue. Nothing has happened. Not only that, the mayor has written to the minister and received some vague answer about the Association of Yukon Communities.
The important point is that all communities and regions in this territory have the same resources - they are unique. Will this minister commit to involving herself and the Department of Economic Development in the structuring and assisting with the structuring of a regional economic development board for Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Member for Watson Lake is a saint - truly a saint. All these wonderful things that he does for his riding. As a matter of fact, the Minister of Economic Development also does wonderful things for his riding. One of those things is working with all communities, including the community of Watson Lake on all the unique economic opportunities in that area. The Minister of Economic Development, who is also a good man, will be doing that.
Mr. Fentie: It has to be said then that, after my invitation to the minister to come down to the community to get a first-hand view and indication of what really is going on economically, the Liberals spin doctors in the Premier's office leaked to the media that I had somehow come to them and asked that I join the Liberal Party. Not even I would be that stupid. The issue here is that the minister hasn't done a thing; the community has asked. He was invited down to meet with representatives of the community and the chamber.
Since that meeting, which was some two months ago, nothing has happened. I am asking the minister, who is acting on the minister's behalf in this portfolio, to immediately instruct the department to apply the necessary resources and assistance, so that we can create a regional economic development board in Watson Lake and the southeast Yukon, because this Liberal government has created zero in terms of economic development in that area and indeed the Yukon as a whole.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Well, Mr. Speaker, as far as the member opposite joining the Liberals, I thought that we retracted that invitation. But if the member opposite wants to join the Liberals, it's a good place to be.
Mr. Speaker, as for travelling to Watson Lake on a personal basis, I'm going there as the Minister of Tourism during the first two weeks of January. I'll be touring all Yukon communities, talking to tourism operators about the events of September 11 and how best we can overcome some of the obstacles that have emerged since then. I will also be speaking on a personal level to the Chamber of Commerce about those very issues, about the economic opportunities of tourism in the Watson Lake area. And I can tell the member opposite that I will certainly pass on his concerns about economic development in Watson Lake to the Minister of Economic Development, upon his return.
Question re: An Act to Replace the Yukon Act
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Acting Premier.
Now, in her presentation to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources on Bill C-39, An Act to Replace the Yukon Act, the Premier admitted to making a significant compromise in relationship to clause 4.3 of the proposed new act.
Clause 4.3 enables the Minister of DIAND to issue instructions to the Commissioner. Yukon's current system of democratically elected Cabinet government was created in 1979 by a former Minister of DIAND, the hon. Jake Epp, through a letter of instruction to the Commissioner. The 1979 letter of instruction can be changed at any time by a subsequent Minister of DIAND, wiping out our current system of government, whereas the Cabinet gives instructions to the Commissioner.
Can the Acting Premier explain why the Premier told Yukoners that Bill C-39 was enshrining our current system of government, when she admitted to the standing committee that clearly it is not and, in fact, places our current system in jeopardy for the next 10 years and probably beyond?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike has made it very obvious that he does not support devolution. He does not support the Yukon Act. But I recall that the Yukon Party attempted, over the course of its mandate, to negotiate devolution, unsuccessfully.
This deal is supported by CYFN, the federal government and the Government of Yukon. It fulfills this government's campaign commitment to Yukoners and it is a good deal, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: Good deal. A good deal for the federal Liberals - that's about it, Mr. Speaker.
Now, in the Premier's presentation, the Premier claimed that Yukon First Nations have an emotional attachment to the provision that allows the Minister of DIAND to intimidate the Yukon government by threatening to remove its Cabinet form of government if it doesn't do what Ottawa wants over the course of the next 10 years.
Does the Acting Premier really believe Yukon First Nations have an emotional attachment to this provision?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I repeat, this is a good deal, and even the members in federal Parliament on the far right spoke glowingly about it, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: For those who were not really proactive this morning at about 5:00 a.m., the Premier was on C-SPAN, and about the only thing I gleaned from it is that they were anxious to clear the bill and go for a beer. That's what came across, Mr. Speaker.
The position that I have heard Yukon First Nations advocate is that land claims settlements should precede devolution, a position also advocated by the Yukon Party.
Why is the Liberal government now claiming that Yukon First Nations want a minister of DIAND to continue to have the power to utilize clause 4.3 as a lever to threaten the Yukon system of democratic government in order to protect their aboriginal rights?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Council of Yukon First Nations is a signatory to this deal. The only Yukoner who doesn't seem to support it is the Member for Klondike.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 50: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 50, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 50, entitled an Act to Amend the Funeral Directors Act, now be read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 50, entitled An Act to Amend the Funeral Directors Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 50 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 50 has passed this House.
Bill No. 46: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 46, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Eftoda.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that Bill No. 46, entitled Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 46, entitled Parks and Land Certainty Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 46, the Parks and Land Certainty Act, is a wonderful piece of legislation. Our government has done its utmost to ensure that there is a balance between industry and environment, as reflected throughout the legislation.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff members within the Department of Renewable Resources, the drafters - both inside and outside of government - and all others who contributed to this legislation. Their time, effort, patience and diligence is greatly appreciated.
I would also like to thank members of the public who have contributed to the Yukon protected areas strategy and had the foresight to realize that the Yukon wilderness holds a special place in all our hearts. My personal thanks go to Karen Hougen-Bell, who, although nervous, persevered and assisted me with debate in this Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister has it almost right. This could have been a remarkable and good piece of legislation, but it isn't, and the reason why we on this side will not be voting for this piece of legislation is because it was drafted in the Liberal backroom, completely void of any public consultation, Mr. Speaker. Furthermore, it breaks a Liberal campaign promise to enshrine YPAS into legislation.
What this does is to ascribe powers to the minister and his Cabinet colleagues to unilaterally create parks and goal 1 areas in the territory completely without public consultation, and that is disgraceful.
Furthermore, this act will create conflict between various users, especially in the area of land use, and that is pitting Yukoners against Yukoners - something else this government indicated it would not do. So you have another broken promise, Mr. Speaker.
Furthermore, the minister himself brought in amendments to this bill, both during debate and previous to the debate, which indicated that the act was flawed.
We on this side supported several amendments to the legislation. However, let the record show that the minister and his Liberal colleagues had no patience to listen to suggestions from us in the official opposition about how to further improve this act.
There are many other flaws in this act, as we see it, yet the Liberals use their majority to pass it through this House. Obviously this government believes it has all the answers. That is quite a difference from their attitude in here a year and a half ago when they invited us to contribute and to help by forwarding our suggestions to their government to make things better. We have done that and they have told us, "No, we are not interested in hearing from you" - so, once again, another broken promise by this Liberal government.
There are many other problems with this act. I refer people to Hansard. They are all spelled out. It is too bad because essentially this is a lost opportunity. The minister and his colleagues had a great opportunity to create good legislation that would be a legacy for the territory - something to be proud of. But instead it's something to be ashamed of - created in the back rooms of government without input from the public advisory committee or anybody else.
Mr. Jenkins: The Parks and Land Certainty Act, which we have spent time in debate on, certainly could have been a very good act if the minister would have taken the time to balance the input into the act from all sources, rather than just rely totally on his officials and his own direction.
To that end, Mr. Speaker, this act, as it is before us, cannot be supported. It's a wonderful, wonderful time to, once again, point out that this minister has once again missed an opportunity - missed a wonderful opportunity, Mr. Speaker, because something could have been accomplished, something should have been accomplished.
But this government seems determined to play havoc with anything that is working. Whether it be rural libraries, whether it be the museums, whether it be training trust funds, it doesn't matter. Any of these areas that are working, they're going to tear down and destroy. Any of the areas that are already destroyed, they're ignoring, and this is an area where we could have accomplished something with this Parks and Land Certainty Act. I'm disappointed to see that it is not going to be a very valuable piece of legislation, other than a tool for the minister to continue with his platform of creating one big, massive series of parks here in the Yukon and employment for none other than government employees and park wardens.
I'm just surprised that the minister hasn't announced a training trust fund to go along with his Parks and Land Certainty Act to train park wardens, because that's going to be one of the major employment opportunities here in the Yukon under the direction that it is currently being given by this government, Mr. Speaker. To that end, I will not and cannot support this act, as it has been presented.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do respect the opinions of all members opposite on this, although I don't agree with them, and I know the majority of Yukoners do not agree with their opinions. It is very interesting to hear the members of the official opposition oppose parks, Mr. Speaker.
They are against parks in any way, shape or form. I am not surprised at the Member for Klondike opposing this because there is no way on the Great One's green earth that we would ever have his support in creating special places, although he belongs to an industry that depends on the beauty of our wild spaces here, although his industry depends on encouraging people up here all year long to see these special places. That is why people come to the Yukon.
So we have respected the wishes of the public advisory committee, despite the Member for Kluane suggesting that we haven't; despite the Member for Kluane suggesting that we are not respecting the public consultative process on working more with the Yukon protected areas strategy, including and consulting with First Nations, with communities, with NGOs, special interest groups, the public. That is what consultation is all about - working with the public. The member chooses to ignore the fact that it has taken almost five years to get us to the point where we are now.
The fact of the matter is we wouldn't have to be doing this had the members opposite handled the Yukon protected area strategy package properly and respected all the input that the public had made into that wonderful strategy. We are going to strengthen that. We are going to strengthen it with special interest groups, with environmentalists, with coalition members, with industry - we are going to strengthen the YPAS and then we will create a series of wonderful, special places here in the territory and manage them competently and responsibly, with the help of the Yukon Parks and Land Certainty Act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jim: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Mr. Keenan: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Mr. Jenkins: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are eight yea, six nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried and that Bill No. 46 has passed this House.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 46 agreed to
Bill No. 48: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 48, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Eftoda.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that Bill No. 48, entitled Wildlife Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Renewable Resources that Bill No. 48, entitled Wildlife Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Bill No. 48, the Wildlife Act, is the first phase of a three-phase revision to this act. The act has a new look so it is easier to follow and, as well, it addresses many issues surrounding enforcement and administration.
I am looking forward to bringing this Legislature two further amendments to this act over the next two years. I would like to thank the staff of the Department of Renewable Resources, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, the public and the many organizations that contributed to this act. I would also like to thank Jim Bishop for his expertise in drafting of this legislation, as well as for his assistance during debate in the House. I would also like to extend a very special thank you to Mr. Dan Lindsey. Mr. Lindsey put in a considerable amount of work into this act over the last number of years and is currently on medical leave. Again, thank you, Dan - take care and get well.
Mr. McRobb: It is a pleasure to rise in a positive way on this piece of legislation, largely because of the major difference in how it was created.
This legislation is a product of extensive consultation with the public, and for that we in the official opposition would like to express our gratitude to the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and its members and all those in the public who participated in the public meetings that led to the drafting of this legislation.
We also wish to acknowledge the hard and dedicated work of the individuals in the Department of Renewable Resources and the Department of Justice who drafted this legislation, and to commend our Liberal counterparts across the way for doing it right and opening the doors to public consultation despite the attraction of doing it themselves in the backroom upstairs as was done on the parks and land uncertainty act.
Mr. Speaker, we have an occasion this afternoon where we have two similar acts in the same department that were developed using very different techniques. We have voiced our opinion on the Parks and Land Uncertainty Act, and we have voiced our opinion on this act, and we'll leave it up to the government as to which method of drafting legislation it follows in the future. We on this side certainly suggest that it use the route of public consultation to gather input on the drafting of any future legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I'll be supporting this bill. This bill went through extensive consultation. Although there were sections that required amendment on the floor of this Legislature as a consequence of input from the outfitters, it was subsequently amended. Although I believe there's still room for considerable improvement in that area, it was a compromise that was reached and I will be supporting this bill.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 48 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 48 has passed this House.
Bill No. 47: Third Reading
Clerk: Third reading, Bill No. 47, standing in the name of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. minister responsible for the Public Service Commission that Bill No. 47, entitled Education Staff Relations Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Bill No. 47, the Education Staff Relations Act, is the outcome of removing the staffing component from the Education Act. This act is putting into legislation certain aspects of the most recent negotiations with the Yukon Teachers Association.
I would like to thank the staff of the Public Service Commission and the Department of Education, who have put considerable time and effort into this legislation. I would also like to extend my thanks to the drafters, who put in long hours and went through many drafts to get this legislation to the House.
I would especially like to thank Mr. Siedo Tzogoeff for his assistance with debate in this Legislature.
Mr. Fentie: The official opposition supports this act in its entirety. However, as we pointed out in debate in Committee, and would reiterate today, we urge the minister to try to deal with the issue of substitute teachers. It's a very important one and critical to educating the young people of this territory.
With that, Mr. Speaker, we will be voting in favour of this legislation.
Mr. Jenkins: As stated in Committee debate, I am in support of this bill. I'm disappointed to see that it does not cover substitute teachers and will look forward to an amendment at a future date to cover those individuals who are a necessary part of our education system. We will be supporting this bill.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 47 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 47 has passed this House.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fentie: With the House's indulgence, I would like to turn our attention to the gallery and introduce a member of the Liard First Nation and a constituent of Watson Lake, Mary Pye.
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: Good afternoon. I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:35 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act.
Bill No. 39 - An Act to Amend the Jury Act - continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am concerned that yesterday the Member for Klondike raised questions over and over again about the trustworthiness of the sheriff. The sheriff has sworn an oath and he is an officer of the court. He is performing a judicial function. The member is making very serious allegations and he is wrong.
The Member for Klondike asked yesterday: by what authority does the sheriff access the health care registration database? The authority is the job that the law requires the sheriff to do.
Some of the main statutory provisions to show this are section 7 and paragraph 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Section 7 of the Charter reads, "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice." Paragraph 11(f) of the Charter reads, "Any person charged with an offence has the right...(f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment".
Subsection 626(1) of the Criminal Code reads: "A person who is qualified as a juror according to, and summoned as a juror in accordance with, the laws of a province is qualified to serve as a juror in criminal proceedings in that province."
Section 8 of the Jury Act reads: "(1) The sheriff shall, prior to November 1 in each year or as nearly as possible thereafter, compile a list in the prescribed form of persons who are qualified to serve as jurors and who are not, to his knowledge, exempt from service, for each place fixed for the sittings of the Supreme Court in the following year."
And what the sheriff is looking for in this case is not less than 48 names, Mr. Chair.
The Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, paragraphs 30(1)(b) and (c) and 36(c) and (d), paragraphs 30(1)(b) and (c) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act reads - 30(1) first - "A public body must collect personal information directly from the individual the information is about unless...
"(b) the information may be disclosed to the public body under sections 36 to 39; or (c) the information is collected for the purpose of...
"(ii) a proceeding before a court or a judicial or adjudicative body".
Paragraphs 36(c) and (d) of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act read: "A public body may disclose personal information only... (c) for the purpose for which it was obtained or compiled or for a use consistent with that purpose; or (d) for the purpose of complying with an enactment...of Canada of the Yukon".
The sheriff's purpose is a consistent purpose, as defined in section 37 of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The information that the sheriff asks for is information that he needs in order to comply with an enactment, both section 626 of the Criminal Code and section 8 of the Jury Act. In order to compile the list, the sheriff needs to have identifying information - such as name, address, age, occupation - about prospective jurors so he can put on the list and be able to summon the people who appear to be eligible, and he cannot put on the list and not summon the people who do not appear to be eligible for jury service. Individuals who are eligible and are summoned and not excused are required by law to serve. It is their duty. That duty implies the ancillary duty to identify themselves to the sheriff.
The premise of the member's question is misleading. It suggests that there is a single health care database with health care information about individuals that the sheriff can go into and take what he needs.
That is not the case. The sheriff is not taking information from a health care database. There are two separate databases. One is a registration information database identifying information about who is registered in the health care insurance plan. The other is the information about physicians' billings on behalf of the patient - i.e. the health care information itself. The sheriff has limited access to the registration information database only - name, address, date of birth. The sheriff has no access to the health care information.
The member was also asking, although it was not relevant to the debate, about driver's licence information in the Department of Community and Transportation Services. Elections Canada and Community and Transportation Services entered into an information-sharing agreement in 1998. Under the agreement, Elections Canada has access to driver information, which is used to create, verify and update the official voters list. The information gathered by Elections Canada is held in strictest confidence and used exclusively by the office of the chief electoral officer of Canada, within the limits prescribed under the Canada Elections Act and regulations.
The Yukon government values the protection of privacy and information of Yukon people. We also appreciate a person's right to a representative jury.
Mr. Jenkins: I'd like to thank the minister for that information, but what I hear the minister saying is that there already is an established practice whereby the sheriff obtains the information from the health care database, and does so under various other statutes. It begs the question: why is an amendment to the Jury Act needed? Is it to legitimize an established practice, or is it to provide more certainty, or is it to basically justify what should have been justified by statute or regulation previously? Which is it, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: This is to make it very clear that the sheriff has the authority.
Mr. Jenkins: So the minister has confirmed that, currently, the sheriff has access to the information in the database, and the authority by which he is currently accessing that database primarily comes under federal statute. Would the minister confirm that to be the truth or the facts of the situation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have said several times previously, the sheriff is currently able to search government sources, like the health care insurance recipient list, to check names, addresses and dates of birth to locate people and serve them court documents. He can take old jury lists and check to see if addresses and dates of birth are up to date, but he cannot add any new names to the existing jury lists from these sources. This amendment would change that, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, given that the sheriff currently has the ability under federal statute to search these databases, I really don't see the need to amend the Jury Act here in the Yukon to provide more certainty than already currently exists.
The other area I want to make abundantly clear to the minister is that no one was ever suggesting that the sheriff was not trustworthy. That is not on the floor for debate, Mr. Chair. That is not an issue that was even suggested or broached.
What I was advising the minister of is the issue surrounding access to databases in the Government of Yukon and security provisions. From my understanding of the security provisions of the Yukon government databases, they require a more thorough method of security. They require a recording of all those with pass codes, and that information, when an individual with a pass code enters the database, is duly recorded and logged, and that information is kept elsewhere in a different database.
I was encouraging the minister to look at how the RCMP control access to CPIC and its protected database.
Because, sooner or later, there is going to be an information leak, and I'm not suggesting whatsoever that it comes from the sheriff's office, Mr. Chair. There is no suggestion whatsoever - no inference, suggestion or anything of that sort. The minister is managing to put words out there that do not accurately reflect the position that I enunciated in this Legislature. I was actually encouraging the minister to check as to the security of existing databases and improve it - but I know it is a touchy subject with the minister.
Mr. Chair, given that there currently are so many federal statutes that the minister can quote and which provide the sheriff with access into the health care records, what is the need, above and beyond the federal statutes, which take precedence over our statutes, for providing access to health care, specifically in the Jury Act? Why is there a need at this juncture to do that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Klondike was making the preposterous suggestion that he wasn't trusting the trustworthiness of the sheriff. Read Hansard from yesterday; it's quite clear.
As I said previously, the sheriff can search government sources, like the health care list, to check names, addresses and dates of birth to locate people and to serve them court documents. He cannot add any new names to the existing jury lists from sources like that, and that is the purpose of this amendment. This will clarify and provide absolute certainty, Mr. Chair, and that is the reason this housekeeping amendment is before us.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, I'd just like to go back on what the minister termed a "preposterous suggestion" by myself that I was not calling into question the trustworthiness of the sheriff. For the record, the minister is wrong. The minister is very, very wrong. I did not call into question the trustworthiness of the sheriff whatsoever - never have, never will.
Mr. Chair, the issue that we have before us is an amendment of the Jury Act, the justification for it, and primarily how it leads to the potential invasion of personal privacy. This government makes a statement that it values the protection of privacy, meaning individual privacy. Well, they could demonstrate that by not proceeding with this amendment to the Jury Act because currently under the existing federal legislation that the minister is quoting from, there is room for a challenge under the privacy act unless certainty is provided in the Jury Act, which seems to be the direction that the minister is taking.
Could the minister confirm that this Jury Act amendment was only brought forward after it was pointed out to the minister that there could be a challenge under the privacy act, and that this amendment to the Jury Act was to provide certainty?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No, Mr. Chair, that's not the case. This was brought forward because the sheriff wanted certainty.
This amendment to the Jury Act will, in fact, provide a better and fairer system for ensuring that Yukoners who find themselves in conflict with the law are tried by a jury of their peers. This amendment will help to ensure that, in the Yukon, we are upholding our obligations under the Canadian Constitution for a jury to be representative of the population. This obligation should not be taken lightly, Mr. Chair. It is not fair to only pick a jury from the group of Yukoners who have telephones or who own motor vehicles or who own land. The Canadian Constitution demands that we look at the entire population, not just those of a certain status.
This very decision from the Supreme Court said the most important thing we must look at when selecting a jury is that it be representative of the entire community. The Supreme Court of Canada made a decision on this very issue.
Health care records are probably the most effective and reliable source of information from which to draw potential jurors. Health care records do not discriminate on the basis of income, employment or social status. You do not have to have a certain level of income or money to have a health care record, such as you would in order to own a vehicle or a phone or a piece of property.
Other jurisdictions use health care records to compile jury lists. This is a good amendment, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister advise the House if she has had her officials analyze what has transpired in other jurisdictions, whether these other jurisdictions that allow access to the health care records and rely solely on federal statutes for access to that information or rather, in each case, if the respective province or territory has passed an amendment to their jury act to allow access to that database?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, I've already told the member that four provinces have legislation permitting the sheriff access to health care records. I expect that they used the very same federal statutes on which to base their legislation. I'm not going to put the department to work double-checking the work already done by other jurisdictions. That would be preposterous.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, what I'm looking at is that Yukon be consistent with other jurisdictions. I am not suggesting that the minister do anything more preposterous than what she is doing currently.
The issue before us is that we want to be consistent; we want to abide by the law. Yes, the Charter of Rights does provide a measure of comfort for citizens of Canada to have access to a reasonable representative cross-section of individuals to form a jury. But that has to be balanced with the issue of access to privacy. There is a tremendous amount of information that is currently being warehoused in databases all around the world on each and every one of us here, Mr. Chair.
I would encourage the minister to have a look and see if we are consistent with legislation that has been passed in other jurisdictions. In all cases, has legislation been passed to allow access to the database for health care records, or are they relying on federal legislation or federal statutes to allow them access? Because currently it appears that the Yukon is out of step with the balance of the other jurisdictions that have provided access to the database for health care for purposes of assembling a jury. We are relying totally on federal statutes currently, and all we appear to be doing now is legitimizing a practice that may or may not be correct.
Can the minister confirm that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Yukon is attempting to be in step with the other jurisdictions and, once we pass this amendment to the Jury Act, we will be. The precedent in federal statute is one that we recognize and we wish to clarify and provide more certainty by passing this amendment to the Jury Act. I think the member opposite may be a bit confused about the federal statutes.
Mr. Jenkins: No, to the contrary, I think it is the minister who is confused and confusing the issue here. This is an important issue, and I am disappointed to see that the minister wants to push this through. I believe it to be ultimately an invasion of the privacy of Yukoners. I believe there are many other ways that the Government of Yukon's sheriff's office can assemble a list of individuals to serve on juries - many, many other ways. I believe this is not a reasonable database that the sheriff should be allowed access to.
I can't for the life of me fathom why, on one hand, the database for the list of electors is precluded from the sheriff having access to it, and yet the health care records are going to be open to the sheriff. It just is quite a stretch of one's imagination, because the health care records are much, much more encompassing than the enumerated names of individuals in the Yukon's database of electors.
Mr. Chair, I'm not going to belabour the point any further. I'm on the record as to my position. I believe the minister is wrong in her assertions that this is a fair and reasonable request. I believe it to be an invasion of everyone's personal privacy to a level that is unwarranted and unnecessary. I'm not supporting this amendment and will not be supporting this bill, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: For the record, the sheriff does not and will not have access to the entire health care database. I have made that very clear, and the member persists in not hearing that. The sheriff will have access to name, address and date of birth; that is all, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: This is not the first time we have dealt with this bill. The member says that it's important that we pass it through this House - the amendments.
What would happen if we didn't pass this Jury Act through the House? We'd have status quo. We would still have juries selected throughout the Yukon. We'd still have that.
What it is, and what the fear is, is the fear of invasion of privacy, and the member, I'm sure, realizes that, and I don't think we need to go to this extent to have this amendment go through.
Given that that is the case, Mr. Chair, I'm wondering why the minister stood down this legislation in the past year?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I refer the Member for Mayo-Tatchun to Hansard from the spring sitting when they fussed at great length and said it was not a housekeeping amendment, when it is clearly a housekeeping amendment. They refused to register a vote on it at second reading, and they otherwise delayed the session considerably, Mr. Chair.
The reason for doing this is quite clear, Mr. Chair. Without it, the sheriff must refer to things like the phone book, which does not give him a representative selection of the Yukon population.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didn't answer the question. I was wondering why the minister stood down this legislation.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's important. This is the second time it has been brought forward here. I would like to know why the minister stood down this legislation the first time. I need to ask questions on it to continue with debate on the Act to Amend the Jury Act.
Why did she stand down this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Perhaps the member didn't hear me the first time. I explained that they complained bitterly that it was not housekeeping legislation, when it most assuredly is housekeeping legislation, and they refused to register a vote. We are dealing with it now because it is an important amendment to ensure representative juries in the Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: So, the minister is saying that because the opposition didn't register a vote, that is the reason why the minister stood down the legislation. We would like to know. I have a question as to the rationale and reason why there was a delay. Were there changes to the amendment of the Jury Act, wording changes and so on? We need to know on this side of the House.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: No new document was tabled this session. I am assuming the member has the amendment which was given to him last session and which is identical. Since he received no new document, the one he has in front of him is the one we are dealing with.
Mr. Fairclough: It doesn't make sense, Mr. Speaker, why the minister stood this down and is now bringing it back. I believe the minister did feel that there was an impact on the general public with this amendment to the Jury Act, and that impact was invasion of privacy.
So I would like to ask the minister, given the time between the last time we addressed this Jury Act and now, was there any public consultation, consultation out there with the stakeholders or those who are affected by amendments to this legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, this bill was never taken off the Order Paper. Let me make that very clear.
We did not conclude debate on it last session. We are doing that this session. It is a good amendment; it is housekeeping legislation, and we are dealing with it now to ensure representative juries for the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the minister feel that it is only right to go to the public to ask for their input into how to improve this process?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the parameters we are dealing with here are dictated by the Supreme Court of Canada. I'm not going to consult on whether the public likes or dislikes a Supreme Court of Canada decision; that would be ridiculous.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I don't believe that a court decision would order people to go out there and invade people's privacy. That should not happen.
So, Mr. Chair, we need some really simple, straight answers from the minister. She did not want this to proceed; she obviously felt that there was some impact on people's lives with this change. So why would the minister not go and ask the public how they can help out in the selection of a jury? Is the minister willing to do that?
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, it's unfortunate that this minister, who is introducing many bills into this Legislature, is not willing to go and ask for the input of the public, which could be very simple and may be a surprise to the member opposite with what they have to offer. Is the minister not willing to go out and ask people about that? The minister says it's very simple and it is housekeeping, so why not go through that process of asking those who are being affected how we can improve the selection of a jury, how we can aid the sheriff in the selection of a jury? Is the minister willing to do that? It's only a simple question. Or is she just going to sit there and hope that nobody asks any questions and ram it through?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we can hardly be said to be ramming it through when this is the third day we've been in debate on this bill.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister is saying she's not willing to go through a public process - we understand that this is not the first time it has happened in this House. The Minister of Renewable Resources has done the same thing - not even gone to ask the public how they feel about an act. Considering the fact that the Parks and Land Certainty Act is one that enshrines YPAS, which involved an extensive public consultation, Mr. Chair, it is unfortunate that we have gone to this length and the Minister of Justice still has no understanding of public process on something that affects them. This will come back to them down the road.
We have no further questions.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed clause by clause.
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I move that Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Buckway that Bill No. 39, An Act to Amend the Jury Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: We will now take a five-minute break to allow officials to get into the room. When we return we will return to Bill No. 8, the capital budget.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 8 - First Appropriation Act, 2002-03
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I just have a couple of remarks. These estimates will see over $118 million injected into the Yukon economy next year - monies that will improve our infrastructure, create employment and provide for the future of our citizens. This sum is over $11 million higher than the capital budget for the 2001-02 fiscal year, a 10-percent increase.
By tabling the budget in the fall, we are making it easier for government departments and the contracting community to deliver on the projects planned for next year. This change in timing was suggested by contractors and we are pleased to have been able to implement that suggestion, to the benefit of all Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, this budget addresses the priorities of our government and those of Yukoners from whom we have heard over the course of the past 17 or 18 months. It continues our program of improving and upgrading our highways with, among other things, $23.5 million set aside for the Shakwak project and $7 million devoted to the Champagne to Haines Junction portion of the Alaska Highway. And this is not to mention $800,000 for the other roads program, over $2.6 million for pavement rehabilitation, and almost $1.1 million for work on our bridges.
This budget will see our educational facilities improve, to the benefit of our most important resource, our children, and those who serve so well as their teachers: $2.5 million has been allocated to the Eliza Van Bibber School addition and upgrade; $500,000 to begin the replacement of Grey Mountain School; $650,000 for Vanier Catholic Secondary; and $400,000 for the Takhini Elementary School heating system replacement.
Our justice system will finally see ground broken on a new correctional facility with $3 million provided in this budget toward a project that will ultimately cost some $17 million.
This facility has been nothing short of a disgrace for a number of years, and I am pleased and relieved to be able to address this long-standing issue that has put the health and safety of inmates and staff at risk for years.
The health and care of our citizens is reflected in numerous projects in the Department of Health and Social Services, most especially with $530,000 being voted to complete the new continuing care facility and the $650,000 set aside for the Yukon telehealth network. In order to continue the operations of the rate stabilization fund, this budget contains $3 million as a contribution to the Yukon Development Corporation, as part of a $12-million plan that will see the fund extended to March 31, 2005.
This fund provides some measure of protection against unanticipated swings in the cost of electricity and serves to provide consumers with a degree of certainty as regard their cost of living. The needs of our citizens for adequate and affordable shelter are being addressed by the Yukon Housing Corporation, which will be spending almost $16 million in capital monies in the coming year. This includes the continuation of the loan programs for mortgage financing and owner-build in excess of $8 million. $10 million is set aside in the Executive Council Office for the establishment of a Yukon permanent fund - the first step in the creation of a vehicle that we hope will continue to grow over the years and which will contribute a lasting benefit to the Yukon and its citizens. Almost $6.5 million in the Department of Economic Development will see the Yukon mining incentive program increase to $850,000 and resource assessments raised to over $825,000.
Analysis of the Alaska Highway pipeline continues, with $750,000 devoted to this crucial program.
Mr. Chair, I could continue for a great deal of time, speaking to the innumerable other projects and programs in this budget, such as the $200,000 initial contribution in Tourism to the Kwanlin Dun heritage cultural centre, and the money set aside in Renewable Resources for resource assessments and improvements to campground facilities. However, these are perhaps best spoken to by the respective ministers themselves in departmental debate.
Therefore, Mr. Chair, I will conclude by simply saying that this is a budget of which our government is very proud. It is a budget that, within our means, addresses the needs of Yukoners as expressed by them to us in the past year and one-half. Finally, it is a budget that addresses our long-neglected infrastructure and continues our policy of investing in that infrastructure for the good of all in the future, and who live in the Yukon and call it home.
I will be pleased to answer questions of a general nature prior to Committee going into the departments in detail.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to respond to the acting Finance minister on this bill.
The budget that's put before us, the minister calls it the priorities of the Liberal government over the last year and one-half, that they have consulted with the general public, and that's reflected in this budget before us.
Mr. Chair, if the minister went out and consulted with the public, then they would have reflected in the spring budget sitting the concerns and priorities of communities, as they would have been raised with them if only they had gone out and talked to people.
If only they would have gone out and talked to people - if only they had gone out and talked to people in Old Crow, they would have seen and addressed the issues in the spring sitting, the budget sitting in the spring. If only they had done that, they could have addressed the issues in regard to social workers or the issues in regard to the airport terminal. If they had gone out to all the different communities, that would have been reflected in the spring sitting.
Now, I suppose that with the minister, it's a matter of opinion that they went out and consulted, but I know that didn't take place. I know the Finance minister did not go around to the communities. And if the member opposite said that other ministers went out to communities, this was not a focused effort to bring communities to address their priorities. And that's the bottom line, Mr. Chair - that that did not take place. Otherwise, we would have seen the priorities of communities reflected in the spring budget. What we've seen is a reflection of much of the hard work that has taken place with the past government. And that's good, because it shows the strength of what public consultation can do and how far it can go.
The minister also said that it is reflective of the Liberals' commitments to Yukoners. That has been said many times by many different members opposite - the ministers opposite. It's reflective of being open and accountable, it's reflective of many of the promises made, and it will do things like restore confidence in government. But, Mr. Chair, I don't believe that to be the case. As a matter of fact, some of the priorities that this Liberal government is bringing forward on the floor of this Legislature have never been talked about in the general public.
It has been kept away from key people because maybe their input might change the way in which this government is going. For example, renewal - renewal was never a campaign promise by this government. They said they would restore confidence in government and how government works, but renewal was never a big issue with this Liberal government. All of a sudden it came forward. Why? Because this Liberal government had put all their eggs in one basket, and which basket was that? It was the pipeline basket. This was going to solve all of Yukon's economic problems - all of them. It will put so many people to work that in the ministers' minds it would double the population of the Yukon Territory, which would result in businesses opening and profits would be higher for businesses and so on. There would be an increase in housing. The economy would be going very well should the pipeline come through.
I don't believe this government really knew the types of things that they were saying. They should not have hyped the pipeline. That was wrong. I think they learned that over the last year. That was something they should not have done, because Yukoners are waiting. Where is it? Can any of the ministers answer that? No. Because so many different factors come into play.
I can remember when land claims negotiations first started. The whole process was to be finished in six months. This was in the early 1970s and we are still negotiating today. I can remember the time the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline was to come through the Yukon, and the amount of controversy that stirred up at the time.
I can remember how that whole issue was linked to the creation and building of the Alaska Highway pipeline, but this Liberal government thought that we were beyond the impacts and that none of that would take place in the Yukon Territory. As a matter of fact, the minister at the time - the Minister of Economic Development, who is also the Minister of Finance and the Premier - did not even bother to address the serious issues of the impact of something like the pipeline on the Yukon Territory, and that is the environmental impact, never mind the social impact; that wasn't even on the radar at the time, which is so different from what our neighbours are doing in Alaska. They put all kinds of money into looking at this whole project in a different light, to address the issues of the general public. Even though we were more up on the project than they were, it didn't happen here in the territory, simply because it was not on the mind and in the interest of this Liberal government; otherwise it would have happened.
So, Mr. Chair, we have all the priorities of the Liberal government that have been voiced here quite strongly by a number of them on that side of the House. They have repeated, over and over, the promises made through the election campaign, and we on this side of the House have been asking questions on their commitment to Yukoners, their promises.
What did we get from that? What have we seen in the public in regard to the promises that this government said they would fulfill? One of them, the biggest one, is that they would consult with the Yukon people.
Did that happen? They said they would pass the NDP budget in its entirety and what did we see soon after they got into government? They started cutting it out. That is a broken promise. For this minister to come and say that they are fulfilling their promises by bringing forward a capital budget is wrong, in our view.
They said they would do things like fix the YPAS process. That was the Minister of Renewable Resources. But what did they do? Nothing. What we have seen is the same old YPAS process that still exists, and then they would enshrine it in legislation. That didn't happen either. Why? Because they didn't take it to the public again. They didn't consult with the public.
In this Liberal government's minds, the Liberals know best, so it's no use to even ask questions. When we bring constructive suggestions to the floor of this Legislature, they are ignored. Recommendations to improve the Parks and Land Certainty Act were ignored by the minister.
So what do we do on this side of the House when any of the Liberal ministers come forward and say that this is living up to the promises of the Liberal government? Well, Mr. Chair, we cannot believe them. Neither can the public. They said they have gone to the communities and have consulted with the public and this is the result: the building of a capital budget. When communities come forward and knock on the minister's door to ask why this wasn't reflected in the budget, there's no reason given.
There was no opportunity for many people who wanted to see something reflected in this budget. There were no opportunities like there were in the past for public meetings to take place and for people to come forward and bring forward what they feel are the top priorities of their community, or the top priority of their organization - whether it be an NGO - or whether or not it's a top priority of a First Nation or a municipality. That didn't take place.
I know that because people have told us, and the Finance minister admitted in the House that they did not go on a trip around the Yukon Territory to consult people. So that is, of course, wrong, when the minister comes forward to say they have consulted.
Well, let's look back to what the minister said. A year and a half of talking to Yukoners and they've come up with, supposedly, a budget that's going to cure the economy and fix the economy but, in reality, this is not taking place. When first elected, of course, they started chopping up the NDP budget - cutting holes in it, cutting out what they didn't like, even though the promises were made. The CT scanner is one of them. They waited so long that they have to go to a new model. As a matter of fact, if they wait any longer, they're going to have to go to another new model if you want to get the most recent design in a CT scanner. It's like any vehicle that's being built; they're always updated - like computerized equipment and improvement to our equipment in the hospitals. Then they come forward with a budget in the spring that they said they consulted on.
Then the Finance minister, out of guilt, decided maybe they'd better talk to some people in the Yukon, just to try and justify the budget.
Chair: Order please. "Finance minister, out of guilt" is an unavowed motive. What I would ask the member to do is just try to keep to the facts as he knows them.
Mr. Fairclough: In my view, Mr. Chair.
She talked to a few people in the Yukon Territory and said, "Yes, your priorities will be reflected in the budget." And what happened? It didn't happen. That's what happened. The budget was already written. A month before the budget was presented, that's when a few people were talked to, and it was reflective of the kind of budget that was brought down on the floor of this Legislature.
So in that one month that the Finance minister said that she went out and consulted with the people, that was a year and a half of consultation. That's what this acting Finance minister is saying, that this is yet another budget brought forward that reflects community needs.
Well, Mr. Chair, of course, if the members opposite went to the communities, we would see something different brought forward in this spring session. This is a document that we feel is not even a budget. That's not where the Liberal government priority is. It's all in renewal right now. They want to restructure government without proper consultation. That's how it goes. They wanted to improve services to the citizens of Yukon without proper consultation. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, as you would recall in June, a structure was already set up regarding what would be changed and how the Liberals thought that government would be changed come April 1 of the following year.
That's how it was. That's how the change was, and then there was an attempt to start asking people what they thought of the change of restructuring government. Talking to employees - of course they will be the ones affected. I didn't hear any discussions with First Nations, but that is not important to this Liberal government, in my view. As a matter of fact, when we ask a question on the floor of this Legislature about First Nations, the Premier jumped up on a point of order and said that we were scraping the bottom of the barrel for questions. That was with First Nation questions - that is what they think of aboriginal people in the Yukon Territory. Liberals' minds - that is the way they think of them.
It is all about restructuring now. That's all the focus has been by this Liberal government - on restructuring, not the budget. If there is even one that we have seen, it's all about restructuring and the impacts it has, or the lack of impact, on the Liberals with the people of the Yukon.
In a time when the Yukon Territory should be focusing on the economy, this Liberal government decided to start taking it out on the general public and their own employees. In our view, they wouldn't even admit to the numbers that were brought forward by their own officials. Yet we will find, and it will prove out, that there are going to be many people who will not be finding jobs who are presently working in this government, who will not be finding jobs and will not be working for the territorial government. And I don't know why the Liberal government is not being straightforward in how they present their case to the Yukon public.
Mr. Chair, the Liberal government sets the priorities for debate on the floor of this Legislature.
I would like to ask the minister whether or not she felt that the process and the departments and legislation as presented to the House, the order in which it was presented - the capital budget was the last on the list - was appropriate - to be debating the capital budget at this time rather than at the beginning of the session.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, we certainly didn't expect the members opposite to spend so much time debating a relatively small supplementary budget and include in it a lot of things that should have been debated under the capital budget, because the truth is there's a great deal of good news in this capital budget, and the members opposite, with their doom-and-gloom messaging, don't want to hear that.
Mr. Chair, for the record, budgets aren't finalized until the day before they're tabled. The previous Government Leader used to consult well into January with interest groups and with the public, yet the budget was tabled in February. Budgets are finished the day before the members opposite see them in the House, but in reality that didn't happen because the budget was already written.
Mr. Chair, we consulted. As the Premier said on October 18, the day the session started, we spoke with countless thousands of Yukoners through all kinds of meetings, all through the summer. In fact, this caucus travels to speak with Yukoners all through the year.
We chose to consult with Yukoners, we chose to listen to what Yukoners have told us and, as the Premier said on the first day of this session in January, when all of us were at publicly advertised meetings, we heard many, many pieces of advice about not only the O&M budget but also the forthcoming capital budget.
Now, Mr. Chair, the members have been talking about renewal and attempting to convince government workers and the public that it's going to be a horrible thing. It is not, Mr. Chair. Change and improvement is part of the cost of doing business for any business or government. The internal machinery of this government has been neglected for a number of years, and now it needs a major overhaul to respond to today's reality.
Under renewal, we explicitly invited public servants to make contributions to change and improvement, and they heard us and they responded. This was an inclusive process. We wanted everyone to make a contribution, and to characterize this as a waste of time and money is to devalue the contributions that public servants and the public can make to improving government. We value the work that our public servants do, and we value the input of the public.
The members opposite have gone on at great length, trying to sow seeds of doubt among government employees and the public, and it's not working, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, what a charade. This Acting Minister of Finance has just got on her feet and said that we on this side of the House spent too much time debating the supplementary budget. Well, Mr. Chair, this side of the House debated the supplementary budget because, and with good reason, it meant something to Yukoners. It was the supplementary budget that could have done something for Yukoners now.
As far as what the Minister of Finance is trying to portray as a capital budget, that's complete nonsense. Because of renewal, there is no budget here this fall. We have to revote, reconstruct and redo a budget when it was supposed to be brought in - in the spring. This minister would have us believe that we can actually sit here in this Legislature and go through the business for the public in regard to trying to give spending authority to departments that won't even exist because of the Premier's pet project, renewal. We also are going to be faced with a situation in a few short months where we are going to have to try to give spending authority to departments that they are trying to create.
The real issue here is that we have to do a budget this spring. Now, let's not get carried away. I would urge the acting minister to remain focused on what it is their government has done.
Now, the minister tries to say that we in this House are trying to instill doubt and we are fear-mongering - rubbish. This government commenced with the renewal project by inviting the public service to bring forward comments. Well, Mr. Chair, the most frequently mentioned comment was: how many layoffs and when are they coming? Furthermore, without the protection of the appropriate legislation, there is absolutely no way that public servants are going to come forward and provide any meaningful input.
This is ridiculous. What has happened here is that the Premier and her Liberal government have thrown the Yukon government into complete chaos - complete chaos, Mr. Chair - and it is damaging the delivery of programs and services to all Yukoners. This is ridiculous. It is ridiculous for this minister, this acting minister, to stand on her feet and point her finger at this side of the House when it is the Liberal government that has created this chaotic mess in this territory.
Now, we spent a great deal of time debating the supplementary budget because, as we have pointed out and exposed through that debate, there is nothing in there that will assist Yukoners whatsoever this winter. There are a whole lot of expenditures on the Liberal government itself but nothing that will address the needs and the concerns and the priorities of Yukoners in these long winter months when they are in desperate straits. This government has totally turned the economy of this territory upside-down and has left it with one thing, one contributor to the economic engine, one contributor to the cash flow that keeps things going in this territory - that's government spending power. And now, through government renewal, through this ridiculous, misguided - with absolutely no direction - process, they are now attacking that last bastion of spending power for this territory. What's going to happen here, Mr. Chair, is that the till tapes in businesses throughout this territory are going to get shorter and shorter. The reason they're going to get shorter is because there are a good number of government employees, both territorial and federal, who are looking for jobs elsewhere because they now see that the environment that they would have to work in is chaotic, a complete mess and has no political leadership or direction.
And that, Mr. Chair, when it comes to the public service, is something they do not like to work in or under. This government and its Premier had better wake up and get with the program. The program is to supply political leadership. The program is to supply good governance, and nothing could be further from what is happening in that regard under the leadership of this Liberal government.
The renewal project is the problem. The renewal project has completely shattered any confidence in this territory, not only of its citizens but now of its government employees. And that's having a very negative impact on how we can govern this territory. It's having a negative impact on the delivery of programs and services to Yukoners at a time when they are most needed. And this minister, acting on behalf of the Finance minister - who has absolutely no desire to debate anything in this Legislature because that minister does not want to be held accountable, that minister does not like the light of scrutiny when it comes to public accountability, and has left it in the hands of this minister to fumble with and try to get this so-called budget sitting wrapped up. This sitting is all about the mess that this government across the floor has created for this territory.
Now, Mr. Chair, we have a situation here that is going to get even worse if this government doesn't get it straight. That is: how are we going to have a budget for the spring when this renewal project has thrown such chaos and confusion into the government sector? We have to have a budget constructed by a certain time.
There is a Financial Administration Act at play here, and look at what's missing. Under renewal, there are supposed to be five departments created. There's no structure. There are some names that the Premier is already changing back and forth, not sure what to call them. There is absolutely no structure. No work has been done on classifications. There are no job descriptions written. There is absolutely no way to construct a budget for any departments that don't exist.
Furthermore, renewal is going to delete existing departments in this government, and there is no way to construct a budget for giving spending authority to departments that don't exist. The government has a lot of work to do here and it has very little time to get it done. They are now in danger of not even being able to put a budget together for the spring. You can bet, Mr. Chair, that when that day comes, the problems in this territory are going to compound dramatically, and it's because of this Liberal government's incompetent approach to governing the territory.
Now, we debated long and hard on the supplementary budget because that is the budget that is most critical. That's the budget that counts. There is no other budget. All there is is renewal and the mess that the Liberal government has created when it comes to the governing of this territory.
Once a finely tuned, well-operating machine, it has now become a situation where many departments are simply on autopilot because their management is totally focused on the renewal project and nothing else. It's a mess, Mr. Chair - a complete mess. Instead of trying to create this ridiculous perception that we're here to debate a budget, I would urge this minister to get on her feet and explain to this House and the Yukon public how it is they are going to pull off this renewal project. What's happening? The minister should begin by telling us what's happening with the classifications of jobs within the Yukon government. What kind of work is being done on the classifications? Where are the job descriptions? What's happening with the job descriptions? Who is writing those job descriptions? How many are there? How many layoffs are there going to be because of renewal?
Now, we know that government officials who speak for the government have been quoted as saying that it will be 175 jobs.
That translates into millions of dollars of spending power in this territory. To further compound that, because of this chaotic mess, there are federal employees looking elsewhere, along with Yukon government employees looking elsewhere, which is creating even further uncertainty and will result in millions more dollars of spending power ripped out of the economy of this territory at a time when all there is is government expenditure to drive our economy. That is a sad state of affairs.
Now, let's get serious. What is going on with renewal, and how is the government going to complete that project so that we can, come spring, debate a budget for this territory? Can the minister explain that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Oh, Mr. Chair, where to start, where to start.
The members opposite can believe whatever they choose about whether they are debating a budget or not. We on this side are debating the capital budget. It is not the departments that are important; it is the projects. And by tabling and passing the 2002-03 capital budget now, we are providing the certainty that the contracting community has asked for. We are not going to be redoing it in the spring because it is the projects that count, and the opposition doesn't understand how the finances of government work.
Come the spring sitting the capital budget will already have been passed. There will be no point in debating a budget in the spring that has already been passed. We are debating the capital budget now.
The Member for Watson Lake, once again, is attempting to create fear among Yukon government employees with his talk about renewal. Mr. Chair, the public is interested in renewal and so are public servants. The public had many years of many governments who asked them for their ideas but who have not implemented them. The public has become a little sceptical - rightly so - of the desire of governments and politicians to really make changes. The public has been talking to us about making these changes, and they are cautiously optimistic that, finally, a government is listening and is taking action.
Public servants are also very interested in renewal. They've provided us with extremely valuable feedback, and they have a real desire for change and to see government work better and more efficiently. The member opposite is also forgetting about devolution. Things have to change for devolution, Mr. Chair. We want to build on that and make sure things change for the better.
We are up for the challenge, the public is up for the challenge, and public servants are up for the challenge. The members opposite may not be, but it appears as though everybody else in the territory is.
Renewal is not having a negative impact on the economy. Retail sales are up. Wholesale sales are up. Building permits are up. The unemployment rate is the lowest it has been since 1996. The members opposite are wrong. Renewal is going to help us get ready for devolution and is going to improve service to Yukoners. The renewal of government provides an opportunity to look at how to deliver better front-line services to the residents of the territory, to refocus departments and corporations to be more responsive and to be more accountable.
The Premier will be making an announcement in mid-December about some of the specifics of renewal but, once again, this is the capital budget, no matter what the members opposite think.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, obviously the minister had better take a long, hard look at those briefing notes and consider tossing them on to the scrap heap of useless information. If devolution is the issue - which, by the way, this government has, from time to time, contradicted itself on, and said, "No, it's not devolution. That's not the reason why we have to renew; we want to improve services to Yukoners." Well, this minister just said, because of devolution, we must get ready.
Well, we all know that for at least five years we will be adopting existing policies, programs, so on and so forth, right from the federal government. The smart thing to do would be to get the Yukon government's feet firmly planted on the ground in terms of delivering the federal policies and programs, and then you start looking at how you can improve them.
What the Yukon government is now faced with, thanks to the Premier and her Liberal colleagues - there's no structure. There's nothing. There are five empty boxes, which supposedly will be new departments that the federal system will be absorbed into.
Now, come on, Mr. Chair, let's face it - if those five so-called departments are just empty boxes with no structure, how is this going to work? How can this minister actually stand on her feet - and I think the minister should be clearly ashamed of herself for trying to promote such nonsense.
Government structure is a very complex, complicated thing. It doesn't happen overnight. There's much more to this than the minister is alluding to, and that's a disservice to the Yukon public and to this Assembly but, most importantly, it's a disservice to the government employees.
Mr. Chair, the minister said it's the projects, not the departments, that are important. Well, this is about spending authority and, if departments don't exist, what happens to the projects? Who is administering them? How are they going to be managed? The minister's position is ridiculous. The minister and her colleagues, led by the Premier, are a classic example of the cart before the horse. The government renewal project has created a lot of upheaval within government. The minister cannot say with any certainty that what she's hearing from the government employees is really going to assist the Premier and her government in carrying through with renewal.
Quite frankly, I think this minister and her colleagues had better get out of the bunker and start talking to some of those employees and to the Yukon public. There's a lot of uncertainty and concern around renewal, and it's not coming from the members here on this side of the House. It's coming from the public. It's coming from the government employees. It's coming from their union.
Now, we all know, and the examples are many, how quickly these Liberal ministers fight with public groups and agencies and people in this territory. They openly and antagonistically fight with people.
This Liberal government does not govern from the people. It dictates: "We, the Liberals, know; we're right, you're wrong." How many times have we heard on the floor of this Legislature, "The member is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong."
Well, it doesn't work that way. This government has a major-league problem. It has a mess on its hands. It has created something that has gone out of control. They don't know what to do with it. The Premier forgot, when she made the commitment to bring forward a capital budget in the fall, that renewal was going to completely upset the apple cart and create a situation where the budget in the spring had to be dealt with - the capital budget in the spring has to be dealt with, regardless of what this minister is trying to say or read from a briefing note.
Yukoners aren't that gullible. That's the long and the short of it. Yukoners are fully aware of what is happening here. This Liberal government said to Yukoners, "We are going to restore confidence in government." Well, that is not what is happening at all. The Yukon public has no confidence in this government. It is being discussed at every street corner, at every coffee shop, at every dinner table, in every barroom, in every public gathering. There is nothing happening. People are saying that this is the worst that they have ever seen in the territory. This is the worst possible government they have ever experienced in the history of government in this territory. That is the discussion going on, and that is why this minister and her colleagues had better get out of the bunker and start dealing with the concerns and the priorities of the Yukon Territory - and not this ridiculous approach to governing that is something that is dreamt up by the Premier with a very small centre of interest and influence whispering in her ear.
Downsizing and privatizing at a time when our economy is completely in the toilet is a mistake. It is going to do more damage to this territory and its economic fortunes because that is all we have - government expenditure. How can this minister stand on her feet and read that briefing note in the face of all this evidence? I ask the minister: how is this government going to get this renewal project completed so that we will have a budget in the spring to debate? How is that going to happen?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member asks how we are going to do it. Well, people are hard at work as we speak and renewal will be delivered on time and we will have an O&M budget in the spring. Renewal isn't happening overnight like the members seem to think. People have been working on it for months.
Once again to reinforce: this is the capital budget we are debating now. The members opposite can choose not to believe that if they wish, but this is the capital budget.
New spending authority will be given to the new departments in the spring, but the projects are important to the contracting community. This is giving them certainty. They asked for the capital budget in the fall and here it is, and we are debating it now, Mr. Chair, whether or not the members opposite believe that.
Mr. Fentie: I've got to say one thing. There are people working on renewal and that's why nothing else is happening in this territory - nothing. Zero. Zip. Diddly. Nothing. There is nothing happening in this territory. Go out to the communities, go walk down the streets, go into the stores - everybody is saying the same thing. This government is doing nothing.
Now, the minister had the audacity to stand on her feet and say that building permits are up. Well, they're up because of the former government, the NDP government's expenditures. Those projects are over. Remember the Argus project? That's a project that this group of people across the floor opposed.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre called it "corporate welfare." Who cut the ribbon? I would suggest the Premier cut the ribbon, and now they're lauding that - what a great deal; what a great project. Well, that's one of the building permits. What about the extended care facility? This Liberal government voted against the budget that created that facility, that created that building permit, that created all that contract work. This Liberal government, when in opposition, voted against that expenditure.
So who's zooming who here, Mr. Chair? The facts are that this Liberal government has done nothing but throw the government into complete chaos, and nothing else is happening out there in this territory. And this is going to be a desperate situation because of this irresponsible approach to governing that the members opposite have decided to implement.
Mr. Chair, this minister had the audacity to stand on her feet and say that we have the lowest unemployment rate since 1996. Well, we've all now realized how the Liberals intend to deal with the unemployment in this territory - and that's by getting rid of the workforce. Now they're attacking the public service. So the first thing they did to drop the unemployment rate was get rid of people who might be in the workforce who might apply for unemployment. Now they're getting rid of the government employees. There are no other jobs to go to. Where do you think those government employees who get laid off or who decide not to come to the Yukon side from the federal government are going to go? They're not going to sit around the streets of Whitehorse; they're leaving this territory.
So the government has also created another problem for the Yukon Territory, and that's a decrease in transfer payments. The renewal project has totally thrown the Government of the Yukon into complete disarray. It's having a negative impact across the board. There are no job descriptions; there are no classifications; there is no classification work being done; there is no structure in new departments; there is no structure in departments that are going to be dismantled. There's nothing. There's a lot of rhetoric coming out of the Liberals, but where's the work? How is this minister and her government going to get all that work done and still bring in a budget this spring, a capital and an O&M budget that reflect the priorities of the Yukon Territory and its people? How is that going to be?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The work will be done and the budgets will be delivered.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I didn't ask if it will be done. I asked how are the minister and her colleagues going to do it. What are the steps?
Let's make it easy for the minister. When will classification work be done on the Yukon side so that we can actually effectively bring across federal employees? Who is working on the classification system in the Yukon government and when is that work going to be complete?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the devolution is April 1, 2003, and the Public Service Commission is hard at work on classifications and job descriptions. People are hard at work on the various aspects of renewal and the Premier will be making an announcement about that in mid-December. I'm not going to pre-empt what she is going to say.
Mr. Chair, the members, in their doom and gloom, forget that retail sales increased by 2.3 percent this September, when compared to last September, and Canadian overall retail sales dropped 2.3 percent in the same period. The inflation rate for the Yukon, September 2001 to October 2001, decreased 0.8 percent - more than the national average of 0.5 percent. The unemployment rate dropped from 11.7 percent in September to 10.8 percent in October, and that's down from October a year ago, when the rate was 12.1 percent. The number of employment insurance beneficiaries in the Yukon decreased 11 percent in August compared to August of last year. The total value of building permits increased 6.8 percent from the period January to September 2000 to the same period in 2001, and the value of residential permits in the Yukon increased 36.2 percent.
The gross domestic product of the Yukon rose 0.7 percent in 2000, up slightly from 1999 and up significantly from 1998. So for the members opposite to suggest that nothing is happening here is quite incorrect, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Hello, is anybody home?
The minister just announced that it was in 2000 that all these wonderful things happened. Well, guess what? That's when this Liberal government implemented the former New Democrat government's budget.
Hello, is anybody there?
Now, let's get serious. Under this Liberal government they've done absolutely nothing, and that's why Yukoners are concerned. In 18 months, all they've managed to do is try to disrupt a budget the Yukon public demanded they implement. They tried to cherry-pick it. They spent all their time doing that last year, and now this year, they're spending all their time on renewal, further disrupting this territory.
Why people are concerned is that, in 18 months, this Liberal government has managed to do nothing but create chaos. It has shown over and over that they have no vision, shown over and over that they're not prepared to govern or lead, and now the minister is trying to say it will be done.
Mr. Chair, this is a serious, serious matter. This is critical for the people of this territory. Not only are we ill-prepared to construct a capital and O&M budget for the spring and fiscal year of 2002-03, we have nothing else happening. Not only are we ill-prepared to deliver programs and services to Yukoners, we have nothing developing. The good things that this minister has just recited are finished. Wal-Mart is built; the extended care facility is nearing completion. These are things that were driving those numbers.
Furthermore, why does the minister conveniently forget to mention that, when we use the unemployment stats, we should start looking at the trends and how many people are in the workforce in this territory?
There are hundreds fewer than there were a year and a half ago, and that is because this Liberal government managed to shut down a developing forest industry. They never even got their phones hooked up and they had that shut down upon taking office. What is this? A joke? There is nothing going on but renewal. That is all this government is focused on and because of that they have directed their officials to focus on renewal. Department people - good people, people with talent, capacity, ability, knowledge, who know what to do and how to make it work better - are on autopilot because everybody above them is focused on renewal. The only direction coming out of the Premier is, "Go forth and renew," but she doesn't know what to renew and in her ear is being whispered by that small centre of influence, "You must privatize; you must downsize, because we will make lots of money."
I mean, look what the Minister of Health has pulled off - appointing people to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and then trying to privatize the CT scan.
This is ridiculous. This government should stand on its feet and do the honourable thing and adjourn this sitting - adjourn it because there is nothing here to do.
We don't know what renewal looks like. Government employees don't know what renewal looks like. Yukoners are completely concerned that their lives are taking a dramatic turn for the worse, thanks to this government and its ill-advised, misguided project. They are very worried, come spring, we won't have a budget. There will be no capital nor O&M budget. There will be a void - a vacuum - and the biggest expenditure will be U-Hauls as people load what is left of their belongings and get out of this place.
Now I ask the minister: on classifications, it has been 15 years since classifications were looked at or addressed in the Yukon government - at least 15. It's a long, arduous process. It involves union, employees, government, DMs, ADMs, janitors, drivers, security - the list goes on and on. At what stage is the revamp or restructuring of classifications in the Yukon government today, at this moment?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Member for Watson Lake says that it has been 15 years since classifications were looked at. He has just admitted that the NDP did nothing about it.
We have people working very hard at that and, as I said, the Premier will be making an announcement about renewal in mid-December and I am not going to pre-empt what she is going to say.
The leader of the official opposition said, an hour or so ago, that we didn't implement the NDP budget. The Member for Watson Lake said we did. We can't have it both ways, Mr. Chair.
If he thinks things are so bad, why would he hold up implementing this budget? There will be an O&M budget in the spring, Mr. Chair, and we are debating the capital budget right now.
Mr. Fentie: Well, we're very concerned, as Yukoners are, that there won't be a capital budget nor an O&M budget come spring - very concerned.
I want to point out for the minister's benefit that this side of the House knew full well that this Liberal government had no choice but to implement the NDP budget for 2000. What we did say, though, is that upon implementation, the government side - the Liberals - spent all their energies on trying to cherry-pick it and dismantle. That's what happened, and it got them in a lot of trouble.
It showed clearly that their focus had nothing to do with rural Yukon and communities outside of their power base, their support base here in Whitehorse. That's reflected in many, many examples, and we don't have to go down that road again.
We on this side of the House this fall debated a supplementary budget because that had to be debated, and we exposed clearly that there was nothing in a $54-million supplementary budget that would address the needs, the priorities, and the concerns of the Yukon public - nothing. And this winter, as people struggle to make ends meet, as people ponder how they are going to put Christmas presents under the Christmas tree for their children, as government employees start to back off expenditures because of their uncertain future, those so-called retail sales stats are going to take a dramatic turn for the worse, unless this government gets its act together and starts coming clean with the Yukon public.
The minister says now that the Premier is going to make an announcement. The Premier has shown clearly her propensity to run and hide from public scrutiny. Any announcement the Premier makes is taken with a grain of salt by the Yukon public, given past practices in the short history of this Liberal government. And it's coming to a rapid end, with the way these Liberals are operating this territory and governing this territory.
Now, she said that the NDP didn't do anything about classification. No, because we weren't renewing. The NDP wasn't going to throw the government into disarray before we accepted federal management and control; we knew better. We didn't fight with the public service like these members do. We didn't fight with public groups and NGOs and the College and doctors like these members do.
I mean, with what's going on here today, we might not even have doctors to deliver health care, come spring. The classification work is a long and arduous process. What are the steps that this minister and her government have taken to deal with the classification issue as it relates to devolution and bringing the federal employees across to the Yukon side? Can the minister name, or at least recite, the steps of work? What is the work that is being done on the classification issue?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the member opposite expects me to know all the steps that the people are going through as they develop the new classifications and job descriptions. I'm not looking over their shoulder as they do that work, but there are a number of good people working on renewal and working on that job, and it will be done in plenty of time.
The member opposite is wrong when he says nobody supports renewal. It's long overdue. Taxpayers and employees have told us they support renewal and, Mr. Chair, the Auditor General has advised previous governments to implement accountability measures. They didn't. We are.
There are three important components to renewal: providing better service to Yukoners, accountability, and improving the corporate culture of government.
Renewal will enhance the Yukon government as a place to work. It will provide challenging opportunities for our workforce, and it recognizes that our public servants have said they want to provide the best service possible to the public. We are enabling them to do that.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister just said that she doesn't know how this classification work is being done. Well, I would hope the minister or somebody on the Liberal side knows how. They're the ones who have the template for renewal. Who has the template for renewal? Who is the architect? What does the picture look like? Who has that? Can the minister tell us, before we get back to the classification issue, who has the template for renewal - the structure?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Premier, the deputy she has assigned to the task, and the hard-working group of Yukon public servants who are working on renewal have the template.
Chair: Order please. The time being close to 4:30, we shall recess until 4:45 p.m.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate of Bill No. 8, First Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Is there any further debate?
Mr. Fentie: Before the break we were trying to determine from the Acting Minister of Finance how are we going to get to where we can construct an O&M and capital budget for this spring - the fiscal year 2002-03 - and we had begun with the work on classifications.
We left off with the fact that somebody has to have a template before classification work can be finalized or even a lot of work done to it. There has to be some picture. Somebody has to be an architect of what it is you are trying to classify. I have kind of ascertained from the minister's answers that the Premier has the template.
When the Premier met with the union representatives for the Yukon Government Employees Union, the template had five empty boxes - five empty boxes. No structure - nothing in them, just names at the top of the box, at the top of the chart - names - no structure.
Now, the minister said that many, many officials are working on classification. Well, what classification? What are we building for? What is it going to look like? How many people? What is the plan?
We need to be sure that when all is said and done, come spring we will be able to debate a budget in this Legislature. There is a certain Financial Administration Act that lays out when it must be done. Now, the minister said they would have it complete, but I'm asking how it is that they're going to complete the work.
We're beginning with classifications. How many people, in which departments, are now working on classifications, as far as the jobs in the Yukon government? How many departments, and how many people, from which departments?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite is very good at putting words in my mouth that I didn't say. I said there were a number of people working on the template, and the template is constantly evolving. In mid-December, the Premier will be making an announcement on the progress of renewal and, at that point, everyone will know what's going where, who's going where and job descriptions will be done. Many of the jobs aren't changing.
Once again, to the members opposite, this is the capital budget that we are now debating. There will be an O&M budget in the spring, but the capital budget is here and it's now.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I hope this doesn't become an earth-shattering event for the minister, but we are debating renewal right now, and there is good reason why we are debating renewal - because Yukoners are concerned; government employees are concerned; the official opposition is concerned that, come spring we won't have an O&M and capital budget constructed because of renewal.
Now the minister just said it's December 15 when the big announcement is coming, so is the minister saying then that all classifications, all job descriptions, all structure, all related legislation that is required to dismantle existing departments and create new ones - on December 15, is that when all this work is going to be done? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, are the members opposite planning to come back in mid-December to debate more legislation? That wasn't my understanding. I'm not going to pre-empt what the Premier's going to say in mid-December when she makes her renewal announcement. The member opposite will have to have a little patience.
Mr. Chair, taxpayers, Yukon government employees, have said they want renewal and they support renewal. The people who don't support renewal and are doing everything they can to stand in its way are the members opposite.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I'm crushed, devastated, that this minister would accuse this side of the House of that. Let me point out the folly in her assumption.
In the first place, it's the Premier and a small centre of influence who want renewal. Everybody in the territory wants to see improvement in government - improvement in government, improvement in the delivery of services and programs for Yukoners. I didn't hear the word "renewal" mentioned in that. The only people who want renewal, aka downsize/privatize, are the Premier and a small centre of influence. And it is the Premier who has directed the government and its officials to go forth and renew, but there is no structure for them. They're being fed piecemeal, and they are concerned, because they don't know what it is that the Premier actually wants.
Now, the minister just said that on December 15 there will be this great announcement by the Premier.
What we want to know is how, by December 15, the classification work is going to be done, how the structure of new departments and of existing departments that are being dismantled is going to be complete, and how job descriptions are going to be complete. How is all of this going to take place by December 15?
I started by asking how many departments and how many people within those departments are working on classification right now to have them completed by this big announcement date? How many people and from which departments - which includes how many departments - are now working on job classification?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the classifications and the job descriptions don't have to be done by the time the Premier makes her announcement. The legislation doesn't need to be ready. The structure is what needs to be ready by mid-December when the Premier makes her announcement, and that's what will be ready.
The debate we're supposed to be engaging in right now is on the capital budget, Mr. Chair, because there will be no capital budget in the spring. There will be an O&M budget in the spring. The capital budget is here and it's now.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I was born at night but it wasn't last night.
What this minister is saying is that we are going to provide spending authority for some fantasy, for things that don't even exist. It's ridiculous, Mr. Chair.
Furthermore, if the minister thinks that classification, job description, legislation and department structure are not all housed in one thing - the structure of government - then we really have a problem. All these components result in structure.
Now, Mr. Chair, how many people are working on classifications and what departments are they from? That's a pretty simple question that should be able to be answered.
How many people, and from what departments, are working on classification? And that may lead us into how that is going to work with bringing over federal employees. Can the minister at least maybe take a break, and go find out how many people and from which departments are now actively pursuing the work on classifications?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member is looking for a specific number, and I am not going to give him a specific number. He knows very well where the classification work is done. The member is saying that nothing in this capital budget before us exists.
I would respectfully submit that work on the Shakwak project on the Alaska Highway exists. Work on the Alaska Highway between Mendenhall and Haines Junction in the Member for Kluane's riding certainly exists. Work on the Campbell, the Dempster, the Tagish Road, the Top of the World Highway, the Silver Trail certainly exists. Pavement rehabilitation certainly exists. Bridges, other roads, rural roads project, airports, water and sewer mains, sewage treatment and disposal, flood and erosion control - all of those things exist. Planning for F.H. Collins High School replacement, work on the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly for the heating system exists. Planning for the Grey Mountain Primary School replacement exists. The Watson Lake High School technology wing upgrade - the member opposite is going to suggest that that is a figment of somebody's imagination. No, it isn't - it is here in this capital budget before us.
The members opposite need to realize that there will be no capital budget in the spring. The capital budget is before us now. There will be an O&M budget in the spring. Once again, it isn't the departments that are important; it is the projects.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the minister is right about one thing - there is an Alaska Highway, there are bridges, there is a Robert Campbell Highway, there is a school in Watson Lake. There are a lot of things. What there isn't, though, is any idea on that side of the House about what departments are going to exist and who is going to implement projects. Renewal has thrown the government into chaos.
What we're seeing, Mr. Chair, is that come spring, for the fiscal year 2002-03, we are going to have to deal with an O&M and capital budget. That issue doesn't go away. What we're trying to ascertain regarding that issue is what the structure is.
Let me try it a different way. Apparently the Premier, in some recess of her mind, has a template for government renewal that consists of five departments - five departments. Now, Mr. Chair, does that mean that, with the existing departments we have today, we are adding those five departments, or not?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The members opposite know full well the general outline the Premier gave when she announced renewal in the summer. In mid-December, she will give further information as to the structure of the government. The projects in this capital budget will still exist, no matter which department they end up in. The department does not matter, Mr. Chair. It is the projects that matter.
And, as the member knows, it is the Public Service Commission that is working on classification. How many people? Enough to get the job done, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, that's interesting. We don't know what the departments will look like. We don't know what projects will be in what department, and so on and so forth.
What this minister is actually saying is that we're supposed to give spending authority to something that doesn't exist. It can't happen. It's impossible.
Furthermore, let me take the minister back to the supplementary budget debate. There is no money in the Public Service Commission to deal with these issues. In fact, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission said that the money for job descriptions is sitting in the Executive Council Office. So, how is this going to work? How is the Public Service Commission right now working on job descriptions if it has nothing budgeted for job descriptions and the money sits in Executive Council Office? Can the minister explain how we are making this creative bookkeeping manoeuvre?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The member opposite seems to be hung up on classification. The work is being done by Public Service Commission employees, and it will be charged against the renewal budget in the Executive Council Office. Mr. Chair, renewal has not thrown the government into chaos. The people concerned about it are the members opposite, and the member doesn't seem willing to wait for the Premier's announcement in mid-December. He probably looks in all his Christmas presents before Christmas morning, too.
Mr. Fentie: How did the minister know that? I am stunned that she would know that. Nobody knew I used to peek in my Christmas presents. I am astonished that the minister has that much knowledge about poor little old me.
I can recall last Christmas I got a lump of coal from the members opposite, so I'm not too sure they even care about Christmas, given what they've done in their supplementary budget this fall.
What about Yukoners and their Christmas? Are they not entitled to at least a couple of days of happiness? A job or two being created by a supplementary budget for Yukoners would have been a very, very nice touch for Christmas by these Liberals opposite; instead they spend it all on themselves.
Now, let's get back to renewal. You can't just move things around willy-nilly and expect it all to fall into place. And I wish the minister would stop with this rhetoric about government employees not being concerned, because that, Mr. Chair, is not the case. Government employees across the government are very concerned, and there is a lot of uncertainty within the government today, not only in the Yukon government but on the federal side. There's so much uncertainty, in fact, that government employees are actively looking elsewhere. Resumés, as we speak, are being e-mailed, mailed, faxed, sent all over in the attempt to find other options for employment outside this territory.
If the members opposite would take the time to crack open that three-foot concrete door in their bunker and go out into the light of day and start talking to Yukoners, especially the Yukon government employees, they would probably be struck by how concerned and uncertain those employees and the Yukon public are. Because of renewal, nothing else is happening. We're lucky the lights are still on in this building. For two days, we were struggling to get heat. I mean, the heat wasn't even on, Mr. Chair, because I would assume, then, that the person in charge of heat for the government building was busy trying to chisel out job classifications.
We have to find out what's going on here. We have to get to the bottom of this chaotic mess that the Premier has led us into. And the Premier, with good cause, has decided to duck and hide this issue, because the Premier doesn't have any answers. It's chaos and a mess, and blew her great, big, wonderful idea into oblivion. Because now we are in danger of not even being able to table a capital or O&M budget for the fiscal year 2002-03, because there will be nowhere to book the money. We can't just book the money to the Premier and have her dole it out. Those days are long gone. They ended with the Magna Carta.
There are certain things that must take place. Giving spending authority is the priority. How are we going to give spending authority if there's no government structure, come fiscal year 2002-03?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, there will be a government structure. The Premier will be announcing it in mid-December. There will be an O&M budget in the spring, and there is a capital budget before us right now, which the members seem determined to avoid discussing.
Mr. Fentie: I asked "how" we are going to get there. We have heard "will". We have heard a lot of things. We heard the Liberals say they were going to restore confidence in government. Not. That didn't happen. We heard that they were going to bring forward whistle-blower legislation so that public employees would have the comfort, when something was wrong with their government, to step forward and say so. No, that didn't happen. We heard the Liberal government say they were going to improve the decorum in this Legislature. Well, anybody who has been around this Legislature the last four sittings is shocked at the behaviour of the members opposite.
Flinging out frivolous accusations, casting aspersions on the members opposite - come on, Mr. Chair, how can this be? There is a concern here because the Liberals have not lived up to anything they've said they were going to do and, I must point this out for the Minister of Education, they have not built the Grey Mountain School yet. And, they are not going to find that little chore that easy. There are big problems with that.
So, nothing, nothing that they committed to Yukoners has materialized. They feel hopeless. Yukoners feel hopeless, they feel jilted, they feel cheated, they just feel downright terrible because of what this Liberal government is doing and in the face of this economic demise, in the face of all the problems - the Minister of Health running around trying to privatize things, fighting with the doctors, forgetting that we need doctors to deliver health care - and now, with the renewal project, people are giving up hope.
Now, we are trying to instill some hope in people by extracting from the government side what it is they are trying to do. And we are attempting, in a logical way, to expose what it is government renewal really is all about and, if the minister would be forthcoming in answering the questions, we could move right along here and go home for Christmas because, beyond renewal, there is not a lot else for us to do here.
The issue is - well, now we have the Minister of Tourism chirping away about a capital budget. There are a bunch of numbers on a piece of paper and, come spring, we will see that come back. There is a fantasy on the opposite side in believing that we can actually give spending authority to things that don't exist. I am boggled - I can't believe it. How can this government across the way even have that thought? It is impossible. This isn't magic. This isn't the Mafia. This isn't where we can do things just because we have a whim to do them. We are answerable to the Yukon public. This is the forum where we are held answerable to the Yukon public
. Now, we have established five empty boxes. That's renewal - five empty boxes. Somewhere, the Premier has hidden the template. Maybe in December she'll explain it all to Yukoners, if we're lucky. The Acting Minister of Finance has a duty here and now to shed some light on how we are going to get to the spring 2002-03 fiscal budget for the next year. We have just dealt with the supplementary budget and a number of flawed pieces of legislation. What about renewal?
Renewal is causing a great deal of problems in this territory, and there is a high degree of certainty that the Liberals won't be able to get this thing done in time for another budget to be tabled.
Now, the supplementary budget is finishing off the fiscal year - or at least the next quarter of the fiscal year 2001-02. Will the minister please explain to this Legislative Assembly and Yukoners, when one component of restructuring/renewal/downsize/privatize is being worked on, how it is going to be done?
A number of departments must be involved in classifications. Is it all of the departments, or how many?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Public Service Commission is working on classification, and they are working with the departments that are affected by renewal.
Mr. Chair, there will be an O&M budget in the spring, but there will not be a capital budget, because we're dealing with it now - except the members aren't willing to get to it.
Mr. Fentie: All right, the Public Service Commission is working on classifications dealing with departments that will be affected by renewal. How many departments are going to be affected by renewal, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member opposite well knows, there are five departments that are being affected by renewal in a major way.
Mr. Fentie: Five departments are going to be affected by renewal in a major way. Well, we have to ascertain what the really means.
But in the first place, if five departments are being affected in a major way with the renewal process, is this minister certain that come budget time - and I believe this House should reconvene sometime in February - those five departments that are being affected in a major way will be able to have their budgets constructed - capital and O&M - for the fiscal year 2002-03? If the minister is so certain, will the minister explain to this House what time frame, at what approximate date, will this House be reconvening to debate the capital budget and the O&M budget for the fiscal year 2002-03?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, I am confident that the budgets for all the departments affected will be in place and the O&M budget will be tabled in the spring.
Mr. Fentie: Well, it is difficult to try to figure out where it is that this Liberal government is taking this territory. I think why it's difficult is because the Liberals themselves - other than the Premier, who apparently has the template - don't know. They don't know where we're going and it shows.
Let's look at another issue here. Along with this so-called government renewal process, there is this government accountability issue. Now, is that part of the renewal structure? If so, it appears that that will affect every department. How does that relate to the restructuring of government and the five so-called departments that will be affected in a major way?
The accountability process here is something maybe that the Liberals should sit down in-house and design for themselves so that they become accountable to this Legislative Assembly and the Yukon public. Now, is the accountability process going to be something that affects every department in government?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Yes, it will, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I don't know why the members opposite are so afraid of accountability and of renewal. Even their parent group, the federal NDP, is undergoing renewal.
This government will adopt a new framework for government accountability, beginning with the budget to be tabled in the spring session. At that time, we'll also table accountability legislation that will obligate this and future governments to take responsibility for results. Yukoners have identified accountability as their first priority for improving government, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Okay, Mr. Chair. Let the record show that, when it comes to federal employees coming to the Yukon side, there's absolutely no way that they will be able to determine, at least in the very near future, what this government will look like. It's a secret.
So, with that in mind, I want to get back to my original point about the fact that there are federal employees actively pursuing employment elsewhere. There are Yukon government employees, because of this chaotic mess, doing the same thing, and it's damaging this territory's very survival, because that's all we have left is government.
So let's look at something else here, because we're getting nowhere on job classifications, and obviously the only one who knows what that's going to look like is the Premier, and the Premier simply does not want to come out into the light of day and be held accountable.
So let's look at the so-called five departments that are going to be impacted in a major way by renewal.
How much legislation is involved here that affects these five departments? How many pieces of legislation does this government now have to amend because of those five departments being affected in a major way?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There will be some legislative amendments required and we will be tabling renewal legislation along with accountability legislation in the spring.
Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Chair, the more we get into this, the more of a concern it becomes. Who is doing all this work? We know there has been a dramatic increase in people taking time to go see someone who can deal with the undue and added stress that this Liberal government is placing on government employees because of renewal. There are a lot of people who aren't working right now in government. There are some managers at the management level totally focused on renewal, but the rest of the people in departments appear to be on autopilot. This is very disturbing, because now we have the minister admitting that there is going to be legislation that require amendments because of renewal, and yet we're going to have all this done in time for the spring sitting.
So, now, let's look at what the minister is saying. The scope of this work, Mr. Chair, is unbelievable. The minister is now saying that classification work, something that is a long, arduous process, which hasn't been looked at for 15 years, is going to be complete in time for the O&M and capital budget for 2002-03. The minister is saying that the Public Service Commission is going to do all this work for job descriptions and have that ready for the capital and O&M budget for the spring of 2002-03.
The minister is saying that all of the amendments for legislation of the five departments that are going to be affected in a very major way are going to be done. And I want to point something out. Look at how many amendments were brought to the floor of this Legislature with the legislation that we have to debate this fall. I mean, we are seeing all kinds of problems and holes in the minister's argument.
However, let's give the minister the benefit of the doubt. And the job classifications, the job descriptions, the legislation affecting the five departments are all going to be complete so that we can come to this Legislature at the appropriate time and debate not only all that but a budget that reflects the O&M and capital expenditures of this Liberal government for the next fiscal year.
Further to that, what about the structure of these five new departments? So let's back up here and start from square one. Because we should be in this House sometime in February, in the next couple of months, job classifications, job descriptions, legislation affecting five departments, which, because of renewal will be affected in a major way - those amendments will be complete. The structure for five new departments will be complete, and an O&M and capital budget for the next fiscal year will be constructed.
And the members even go further into the realm of the ridiculous by saying that they are going to consult with people out there. No, Mr. Chair, this is a huge concern.
I wish the minister could explain for us and clear this matter up - how all this work is going to be done when the public service simply is now totally in chaos with no political leadership or direction. And yet the minister is trying to say that this work is going to be complete - so all those things that have been listed.
Is the minister saying that, come February - sometime in February - when we are to be here in this House debating the capital and O&M budget for the next fiscal year, all of this work is going to be done, complete, ready to go? Let me recap - classifications, job descriptions, amendments to legislation that affect five departments that will be dramatically affected by renewal, structure for five new departments, budget constructed with full public participation so that Yukoners' priorities, especially in the communities, are reflected in the budget, and I'm going to add one more - the legislation required to create these new departments. Is the minister saying that all of this work is going to be done?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: All of that work is going to be done, and more besides, by the time the Legislature sits in the spring. One problem with what the member has said is that the capital budget is what we're debating now. There will be an O&M budget in the spring.
Renewal has not thrown the government into chaos, Mr. Chair. This work is being done by our hard-working and highly valued public service, and I am confident that they will have the work done, with plenty of time to spare, before the Legislature sits again and the O&M budget is tabled.
Mr. Fentie: Well, this fall we have debated a supplementary budget - one that doesn't in any way, shape or form address the needs of Yukoners this winter. It's almost like the Liberals have become the Grinch who stole Christmas because Yukoners, especially out in the communities, are devastated.
Now, the minister says, and I agree, that we have a great number of hard-working, capable and very talented public servants.
They don't know what it is they're supposed to do. The minister seems to not realize - and I think maybe it's because she's only the acting Finance minister and the Premier hasn't yet informed this minister what the template is and how all of this is going to get done. The minister is merely being overconfident by stating on the floor of this Legislature that all this work can be completed in time for this House reconvening to debate the next fiscal year's O&M and capital budgets. I would caution the minister that putting those things on record could be something that is very, very devastating for this minister and this government when the time comes.
There is a massive amount of work, in terms of scope of work, that this minister has now stated categorically on the floor of this House will be complete.
Mr. Chair, it is comments like that that have Yukoners totally concerned and uncertain about their future. More importantly, it is comments like this that have sent the public service into a state of uncertainty and chaos. "Autopilot" is the term. Everybody is working on renewal at the management level, but nothing else is being worked on.
So now let's look at all the other things here. The minister is saying that classifications, job descriptions, legislation, amendments, structure, are all going to be complete, but now we have to deal with all the things that we're supposed to be delivering to the Yukon public. In the first instance, let's talk about economic development. Well, apparently, under this government renewal, Economic Development won't even exist. Now we have a group of very hard-working, capable individuals within that department who don't even know where it is they're going and what's going to happen to them, and there is no economic development work being done whatsoever.
None, because there is no economic development in this territory. There is only government expenditure and, if we're lucky enough - for 90 days of the year - we happen to get some tourists. And the Minister of Tourism is now in danger of even destroying that one bright light, because she forgets it's going to take a required focus and some money in next year's capital budget - coming this spring, with all this work before the members opposite and the public service - to get this marketing initiative going.
They forgot to put it in the supplementary budget this fall. There's nothing in there. They forgot about it; they forgot about the tourism industry and the need to market in different areas. And the minister knows full well that the tourism industry is crying out - this fall, not next spring, when these members apparently are bringing forward another capital and O&M budget.
But how are we going to deliver all the other programs, Mr. Chair? With all this work that's being done, how are we delivering home care, how are we delivering health care, how are we going to deliver things of what might be left of this minister's other department or other portfolio? How is all that going to happen when the public service is totally focused on renewal? Who's doing that work? What are the federal employees, 240 of them, going to do? Where are they going? If all this is going to happen by February, why can't this minister clearly relay the structure of that right here and now on the floor of this Legislature? Why is that?
If the minister is so confident that it's going to actually take place, the minister should be able to outline clearly how it's going to happen - not "will" but "how."
Now, the minister and I just started discussing amendments to legislation, and I am not the genius when it comes to legislation, but I would suggest that there are a lot of amendments that have to be brought forward when it comes to renewal. And also, if we are creating new departments, there is some legislative work that is going to take some time, and that includes the French version.
The minister's other portfolio is notorious at being hard-pressed, because of the overload of work that is happening in renewal right now, to get some of this stuff done. And amendments coming to the floor of this Legislature are evidence that the ministers in charge simply haven't been giving the department people the appropriate direction. Can the minister tell us how many pieces of legislation will need to be amended because of renewal?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There are a number of pieces of legislation that require amendment, and some of them will be by way of consequential amendment, which is a relatively minor thing.
The member opposite may have no faith in the public service, but I do. The public service is not on autopilot. The government is not in chaos. Roads are being cleared, students are being taught, home care is happening, the daily business of government is going on.
And just to clarify for the members opposite, for the employees coming over from the federal government on devolution, their classifications and their job descriptions are not needed by spring. So that work is being done by the time it is required.
The members opposite are doing their best to cause doubt among the public and to sow the seeds of discontent among the public service. But it is not working and it is not going to work. They know that renewal is a good thing, and they are looking forward to delivering services to the public in a more efficient manner.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I have to point out to the minister again that it's not us who are presenting this problem and this issue. It's coming to us from the public service. The union representing the public service has voiced its concerns clearly and publicly. In fact, when this government had a golden opportunity to set aside those fears of the government employees by sitting down at a panel and participating in an open and frank discussion about renewal in front of the union membership, they chose to not even show up. That, in itself, speaks volumes for what this government's true intention is.
Now, as far back as June 13, Mr. Chair, the Premier herself informed representatives of the public service that there will be layoffs. Government officials have openly stated in public meetings that there could be up to 175 layoffs. We know from "Staff Watch", another pet project that these Liberals have implemented, already 111 jobs are disappearing within the Yukon government, and this minister is saying that we are creating fear?
I think the facts speak for themselves. There is a great deal of concern when it comes to what this government is attempting to do and what the future holds for government employees in this territory. And that is exacerbated when the government also is trying to maintain that they know what they're doing when it comes to budgeting and delivering programs and services to Yukoners, because the public service knows full well that most things are coming to a full stop. Nobody knows what to do.
Now, I just heard the Minister of Tourism say that we're wasting time. I'll tell you what's wasting time: bringing some fantasy forward to this Legislature that is nothing more than that - fantasy. And it's an ill-advised and ill-disguised attempt to come up with what the members opposite have tried to call a fall capital budget. The only thing they have managed to bring forward here is flawed legislation and a supplementary budget that doesn't address any needs or concerns of the Yukon public whatsoever, and that's the most important facet of this sitting - that they have totally ignored Yukoners this winter. It seems they could care less.
The real waste of time is us being in this Legislature while the leadership across the floor in this Liberal government shows a complete disrespect for this institution and the Yukon public because they simply will not allow themselves to be held accountable. They cannot stand public scrutiny.
And the Minister of Tourism has the gall to say, under her breath, that we're wasting time. This Liberal government has wasted 18 long months in this territory and delivered zip. Diddly. Nothing. And Yukoners are suffering because of that. In every community, Yukoners are wondering what it is this Liberal government is really trying to do. Nobody knows, but everybody feels the pain. Everybody is experiencing the problems because of this rudderless ship. And the Minister of Tourism says we're wasting time.
The members opposite are wasting the lives of Yukoners. They have wasted our economy; it's a wasteland. They have affected programs and delivery of programs and services to Yukoners.
We've got a Minister of Health running around trying to privatize; a Minister of Health that is fighting everybody - doctors, nurses, child care workers, the public. We've got a Minister of Tourism who thinks that because she goes to an RV show, work is done, when we are faced with a possibility of a devastating year in tourism next year. We are now faced with the uncertainty of whether there will even be a budget next spring. There is no capital or O&M budget. We don't even know if the government will still exist, and if it does, what is the structure and who is doing what?
The Minister of Tourism says we're wasting time. The Minister of Tourism is wasting time and the Liberal government is a waste of time.
Now, Mr. Chair, renewal is a project that has thrown the government of the day into a tailspin and it's detracting from any good works that the public servants can and should be doing. The minister has yet to explain to this House and to the Yukon public how they're going to deliver all this work and be back in here this February for the spring sitting so that we can debate the capital and O&M budgets for the next fiscal year, including all the legislation necessary for renewal and whatever other legislation the government brings forward. Who knows? They might even find time - it's highly unlikely - to honour their commitment to whistle-blower legislation. Too little, too late. They've already sent many government employees packing, through layoffs, through attrition, and for some others they've caused enough uncertainty that they've gone elsewhere to find employment.
Now, this minister obviously hasn't got the straight goods from the Premier, who is more concerned about being with the Prime Minister than doing her duty to the Yukon Legislative Assembly and to the Yukon public. This project renewal is all about downsizing and privatizing. We know what the minister or the Premier's position is on some of these items. We know that the small centre of influence that has come up with this so-called renewal project - we know it's there, and we know why it's there and why they want this to happen.
Now, the minister even contradicts her own arguments. She started out this debate by saying that it's because of devolution and then, later on, says, well, devolution isn't going to happen until 2003, so why are we even doing this renewal work? On the one hand, it's devolution, that's why it has to be done; then on the other hand, well, we're not going to bring over the federal employees until 2003. Ridiculous arguments, Mr. Chair. The facts are the members opposite aren't coming clean with the Yukon public on many issues, and now the members opposite aren't coming clean with the government employees, and it's creating havoc and we're trying to ascertain how all this work is going to get done in that chaotic atmosphere with no political leadership or direction.
Can the minister explain - and I asked this question without an answer. There must be somebody on that side of the House who has an idea of how many pieces of legislation are going to need amending and are going to be brought forward in the spring, along with a capital and O&M budget for the fiscal year 2002-03. How many pieces of legislation?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have said that there are a number of pieces of legislation that will need amending. Some of that work can be done by way of one set of consequential amendments. There will be accountability legislation in the spring. There will be renewal legislation in the spring. There will be, perhaps, some other legislation in the spring. There will be an O&M budget in the spring when the Legislature sits again. There will not be a capital budget, because that is what is in front of us now and the members opposite are refusing to deal with it. The members opposite say there is no need to do anything to get ready for devolution. That is like waiting until your car runs out of gas before looking for a gas station. We are being proactive. We are going to be ready.
The member talks about the huge numbers of layoffs that he thinks there are going to be. The Premier did not, at any time, say there will be layoffs. She has been very clear about this. She has said she cannot guarantee that there won't be layoffs. As a result of renewal, there will be changes to some jobs. There may be some duplication of jobs and, if that is the case, we will do our best to reassign and retrain employees. We have consistently said we can't guarantee there won't be layoffs. We are doing our best to minimize any such effects. The members opposite haven't been listening. Renewal is about providing better service to Yukoners.
The Public Service Alliance of Canada is the union that represents many government workers. Information has been provided regularly to the union and we have also been meeting with them regularly. Union representatives attended most of the consultation meetings that we held with staff.
The media had said that we cancelled attendance at the Yukon Federation of Labour convention. YTG officials did not cancel. The Member for Whitehorse Centre and the Premier were invited to attend the convention. Unfortunately, due to their schedules, neither one was able to attend. They did communicate that to the Federation of Labour, both by phone and in writing.
Mr. Chair, I talked about accountability and the need to do that. We talked about the Auditor General saying that government needed to be more accountable, which is something that the previous administration certainly knew and did nothing about.
Once again, Mr. Chair, the member may have no faith in the public service, but I do, and I know that the necessary work will be done by the time the Legislature sits in the spring, when we table the spring O&M budget.
Mr. Chair, the capital budget is what is before us now, which we should be debating, but the members opposite aren't interested.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I can't believe what I just heard. The minister is talking about accountability, but being accountable also means that when public employees ask you to sit in front of them and explain what it is you're doing, you will show up. Conflicting schedules are just a fact of life in this business, but priorities are what we are judged by. This Liberal government isn't accountable to its employees even. By refusing to attend that very public meeting and explain themselves to the government employees, it shows their distinct distaste for being accountable.
Furthermore, the Premier herself, back on June 13, informed union representatives that layoffs were going to be a result of renewal. It was the Premier - government officials who speak for the ministers in this government informed the public of the same thing.
It's worse than that. The government presented government employees with empty boxes and called that renewal.
And it goes on, Mr. Chair. The Premier herself admitted that she'd have to restructure the budget - admitted that publicly.
Now, let's get off this ridiculous nonsense and get on with the facts. Renewal is a big problem for this government, and it has created chaos, and it's jeopardizing our ability to even be able to implement programs and services in this territory, because it's jeopardizing their ability to construct an O&M and capital budget and have it ready, as it should be, for debate in this Legislature for passage by the end of March 2002. That's what is at stake here. That is what the problem is. We are trying to find out from this minister and this government how it is they intend to rectify that problem.
Now, the minister obviously doesn't have the answers, and the minister should immediately stand on her feet and adjourn this House until we can ask somebody who has the answers to how all of this is going to happen. Now, Mr. Chair, I know I'm not allowed to make reference to certain things in this House, but I think the members opposite can grasp what I'm talking about.
Well, well, well, the Minister of Health has arrived, and he can't grasp what I'm talking about. Somehow I don't find that surprising because, after 18 months, he hasn't grasped what it is a Health minister is supposed to do. It's all about delivering health. It's all about universality of health care for the people of this territory, not dismantling health care for the people of this territory.
Now, Mr. Chair, we want to know how it is this government is going to accomplish all of this work. They will not explain how many people are working on classification and how many departments it affects. They will not explain how many pieces of legislation. They just say, "There will be legislation coming forward." They're not interested in enlightening the people in this House, this Assembly, and they're not interested in being accountable to the Yukon public, because if they were, they would stand right now on their feet and explain what it is they're doing when it comes to renewal.
The Member for Kluane is correct - they would apologize for this fabrication and this tangled web that they've woven. Where are the Liberals' priorities, or do they even have any beyond themselves? When a government of the day is so blinded by its own reflection, people get very concerned. That is a mantle this government is wearing. We know that there is a level of incompetence. That is evident, and that is why we are asking these questions about renewal. We know from how they've handled themselves in this House that they can't be trusted to do the right thing. They inevitably do the wrong thing. That's why we're worried. That's why Yukoners are uncertain and concerned. Yukoners want to know what's going to happen to them. Should they stay here or should they look elsewhere?
Now, government employees certainly want to know what their future is and what their future holds for them. The government is not coming clean, not only with the public but their own employees. They say that they are going to be accountable. There is no accountability in that.
Now, there are five empty boxes, Mr. Chair, when it comes to renewal. That says to me that apparently there are going to be five new departments. The Premier has launched a press release outlining that there will be these two departments: one, the environment; one, natural resources, lands and energy, mines and whatever else. And they've also managed to capture the corporations and stick that in there. What's the structure? Nobody knows. We don't know who are the deputy minister is. We don't know who the ADMs are. We don't know if there are policy people. We don't know if there are directors. And another favourite of the Liberals that has come to light is the position of associate deputy minister - partisan appointments.
All these things are questions that remain unanswered. So let's try and get back to the five empty boxes. Which departments that exist today will no longer exist under renewal by April 1, 2002? Under renewal, there are five empty boxes. Which departments will not exist come spring?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the label you put on something doesn't matter; it's the job you do, and it's the work that gets accomplished. The work that is being done by our public servants in the various departments will continue to be done.
The members opposite are doing their best to scare the dickens out of the public service and out of the public. It's not working.
The member opposite is quite wrong when he talks about a certain number of layoffs. There are no targets and there never have been. I have said that over and over and over again, and the members opposite aren't listening. They are the ones who are spreading that.
Mr. Chair, the members are concerned that the work won't be done when it's needed to be done in the spring. Well, Mr. Chair, we're dealing with the capital budget right now, so that's one thing that will be out of the way. We'll have an O&M budget in the spring. The Premier will be announcing a lot of things about renewal in mid-December, in just a couple of weeks.
We are doing renewal, as we've said, to get ready for devolution and to improve service for Yukoners. Yukoners, both the public and our public servants, have said they want better service to Yukoners, and the public servants know that we can deliver better public service.
The Premier will be making an announcement in just a couple of weeks.
There are so many things in this capital budget that we should be talking about. The members are concerned that none of these things will exist, and I have said that they are not figments of our imagination. These things do exist. We will be building a new jail. There is a lot of work going on in the arts and cultural industries.
The members opposite seem so afraid of change that they were reluctant to do any changes when they were in power. We aren't afraid. We know what happened to the dinosaurs - bound for extinction, unable to change.
The members are concerned that the business of government will grind to a halt. It won't. Renewal has not thrown the government into chaos. The public servants are doing their work as they always do, and those public servants who are working on renewal are working very hard on very exciting projects that will open up opportunities for all sorts of people in the public service.
Mr. Chair, in this capital budget, just in the Education department, there is school painting that will be going on, some air quality and energy management projects, all sorts of renovations. The Golden Horn Elementary School has a roof upgrade. We have talked about some of the rest of those.
In Community and Transportation Services, I talked about all the highway projects. One of our platform commitments was to restore funding for highways, and we have done that. We are working on all sorts of projects all over the territory in all sorts of rural ridings, as well as in Whitehorse. We have talked at length over the past year and a half and before that, during election campaigns, about our goal of settling outstanding land claims. We have settled a land claim, and we're on the way to settling more.
Achieving devolution - we have done that. Developing infrastructure - I talked about that. All sorts of money toward highway construction, most of it in the Member for Kluane's riding, it seems. He doesn't seem to believe that, but those aren't figments of his imagination that he's driving on, Mr. Chair.
We have talked about restoring confidence in government with this renewal project. We are doing that - keeping our commitment, moving our capital budget to the fall in order to better meet the needs of Yukon contractors.
That's why we have the capital budget before us right now - so that contractors will have some certainty about next year's projects so they can get to work planning for those.
Reviewing the Liquor Act - that work is done. Reviewing the Education Act, reviewing the Wildlife Act, increasing heritage spending by almost half a million dollars, a $300,000 increase to legal aid, establishing a youth directorate, proceeding with the Yukon electoral boundary review - Mr. Chair, there are so many things that this government has done, and so many more good things are in this capital budget that the members opposite are reluctant to talk about. That's why they spent so much time on the supplementary budget - because they couldn't stand to hear the good news contained in this capital budget.
Mr. Chair, so many projects - work on campground facilities, work on our park system plan, work in many areas of fish and wildlife management planning, lots of work on heritage rivers, on wildlife viewing, on agricultural land development, on any number of things, Mr. Chair - lots of good things in this budget that the members opposite don't want Yukoners to know about, so they are refusing to discuss the capital budget.
Mr. Chair, Fortymile, Selkirk, Rampart House - all sorts of heritage initiatives that this government has undertaken - an archives development project, work on community library development projects and, in Community and Transportation Services, so many projects I would be here all night discussing them.
Work in emergency measures, public health, roads and streets, recreation, land development, residential land - a great deal of money there - recreational land, industrial land, the rural electrification and telephone, and again, all that highways work.
Mr. Chair, it is a real disappointment to me that the members opposite are refusing to debate the capital budget. Instead, they keep attempting to cast a cloud over renewal, which is a good initiative, Mr. Chair. It's one that the public and the public servants will benefit from a great deal, and the members opposite need only have a little patience until the Premier makes an announcement in mid-December about renewal.
Mr. Chair, considering the time, I move we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Mr. McLachlan: 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: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 39, entitled An Act to Amend the Jury Act, and directed me to report it without amendment.
And, Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 8, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled November 29, 2001:
Conflict of Interest Commission: Report of the Conflicts Commissioner - Decision pursuant to Section 17 of the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act (dated November 29, 2001) (Speaker Schneider)
Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board Stakeholder Review (dated November 2001) (Roberts)