Thursday, April 4, 2002 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
INTRODUCTION OF PAGES
Speaker: It gives me great pleasure to announce that the following students will be serving the House as legislative pages for the 2002 spring sitting. They are: Paula Mowat, Daniel Murray, Shirley Ng and David Warkentin from Vanier Catholic Secondary School; and Rhonda Clark, Sarah Macklon, Leena Tran and Elaine Grant-Verrico from F.H. Collins Secondary School.
Today, we have with us Rhonda Clark and Elaine Grant-Verrico from F.H. Collins Secondary School. I would ask the members to welcome them to the House at this time.
Resignation of Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole
Speaker: Before proceeding with the Order Paper, the Chair wishes to note for the records of the House that the Member for Mount Lorne notified the Speaker, the Premier, the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party and all House leaders in writing that due to her appointment to Cabinet on January 14, 2002, she had resigned from her position as Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Withdrawal of motions
Speaker: Also, the Chair wishes to inform the House of changes that have been made to the Order Paper. First, due to the appointment of the Members for Mount Lorne and Faro as ministers, the motions standing in their names under Motions Other Than Government Motions have been removed from the Order Paper. Specifically, those are Motions No. 33, 40, 47, 76, 107, 109, 114, 144, 147, 156, 167 and 172, standing in the name of the Member for Mount Lorne; 138, 160, 171 and 178, standing in the name of the Member for Faro.
Secondly, Motion No. 78, which was a government motion, has been removed from the Order Paper, as the mover of that motion, the Member for Porter Creek North, is no longer a minister.
Thirdly, Motion No. 168, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane, has been removed from the Order Paper, as it had become outdated due to the passage of the Parks and Lands Certainty Act.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Are there any tributes?
In remembrance of the Queen Mother
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise on behalf of all Yukoners to pay tribute to a woman that occupies a most deserved place in history. Born Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon on August 4, 1900, she was known the world over simply as "the Queen Mum".
Her life spanned a little over a century, a century that was filled with chaos and change. In her life she witnessed, among other things, two world wars, numerous international insurrections, the introduction of nuclear warfare, the first flight of the Wright brothers and Neil Armstrong’s first steps on the moon. She saw the British Empire evolve into its present form from the global superpower it once was.
Through her life, the Queen Mum was seen by many as a stalwart, positive and reassuring presence during times of anguish and change. She learned a dogged determination to be happy whatever the circumstance.
This resolve not only carried her through the Luftwaffe blitz in 1940, when east London and Buckingham Palace were bombed, her unfailing spirit helped give Londoners, and the entire Commonwealth, the strength they needed to endure.
In her latter years, she continued to astonish the world as a resilient and positive senior citizen role model. She became the royal family’s trouper and globetrotter. She was the first royal to fly by Comet and, 20 years later, the first to go by Concorde. She was the Mambo Kazi, "Big Mum", to Rhodesian chiefs in 1957, the "Queen of Mothers" to the Canadian government in 1958, a rainmaker to some of the Masai in Kenya in 1959 and, briefly, a hula-hula dancer in Honolulu in 1966.
Throughout her life, she faced adversity with composure and grace.
A final test of her resolve was just this past February 9, when her daughter, Princess Margaret, died after a long illness. The Queen Mother insisted on being at the funeral, which was 50 years, to the day, after that of her own husband.
How does one measure a life such as the Queen Mum’s? She was thrust into a world few of us could barely fathom, and she endured with poise, grace and a reputation that will define how we measure royalty in the future.
God save the Queen.
In remembrance of Princess Margaret
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of the Legislature to pay tribute to the late Princess Margaret. The princess died on February 9 in London, England, with her grown children at her side.
Sister to Queen Elizabeth II, the princess maintained a very busy calendar throughout her life. She took in a full share of the royal family’s many public activities, showing particular interest in the field of welfare work.
Many of the 80-plus organizations of which she was the patron or president are focused on activities for young people, children’s well-being and caring for the sick and infirm.
She always maintained close links with Brownies and Girl Guides and, until her death, served as president and chairman of the Council of the Girl Guides Association.
Among the many positions that she held, she was very proud of her appointment as president of the National Society and the Royal Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
She also became Grand President of the St. John Ambulance Brigade and Colonel-in-Chief of Queen Alexandra’s Royal Army Nursing Corps.
Throughout her life, Princess Margaret demonstrated a strong work ethic that was focused on helping others. Her formal duties representing the royal family and her sister, the Queen, reflected much of the style and dedication she had learned from her mother, the Queen Mum.
As a member of the royal family, a mother, and a motivating force for many organizations dedicated to children’s well-being, she will be missed.
The world will remember Princess Margaret for her warm heart and her achievement in helping people around the world.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to ask all members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming to our gallery today the chairperson of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, Mr. John Burdek, as well as the Chief of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, Mr. Andy Carvill.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to introduce two members today: Mr. Glen Everitt, president of the Association of Yukon Communities, and Mr. Jim Slater, the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities. Would you please join with me in welcoming them to the gallery.
Mr. McLarnon: I would like to introduce people that I have not introduced in the Legislature before. My father has come here for the first time to watch me become a real politician, plus my wife, and visitors from Calgary, Graham Saunders, and my sister, Michelle McLarnon. As members of this Legislature, please welcome my family and friends to the Legislature.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I would like to welcome my constituent and former member of this Legislature, Mr. Doug Phillips.
Mr. Roberts: I would like to welcome my wife to the Legislature and her good friend, Sheryl, and also Donna Lewis. They have come to watch the Legislature procedure.
Mr. Keenan: On this day of introductions, I am very proud to introduce my mother, Daa Ku Claw, of the Tlingit Nation, more likely better known to the Yukon public as Pearl Keenan.
Mrs. Peter: I would like all members to join in welcoming my husband, Ernie Peter, and my constituent, David Charlie.
Mr. Fentie: Welcome to you again, Mr. Speaker.
I’d like to have the House turn its attention to the gallery and let us welcome former Minister of Education and Justice and member of this Assembly, Ms. Lois Moorcroft.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would like all members in this House to welcome a person who has been involved in building healthier communities. He is one of my constituents, Alex Morrison.
Speaker: If there are no further introductions of visitors, I will proceed under tabling returns and documents.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: I have for tabling: (1) the final report of the Electoral District Boundaries Commission, dated January 29, 2002, which is submitted pursuant to section 417 of the Elections Act; (2) a report of the Clerk of the Assembly made pursuant to section 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a copy of Order-in-Council 2002/42 and the final and self-government agreements of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, dated January 13, 2002, pursuant to subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements, and subsections 3(1) and 3(2) of the First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 5 — received
Clerk: Mr. Speaker and hon. members of the Assembly, I have had the honour to review a petition, being Petition No. 5 of the Second Session of the Thirtieth Legislative Assembly, as presented by the Member for Watson Lake on December 3, 2001. This petition meets the requirements as to form of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
Speaker: Petition No. 5 is, accordingly, deemed to have been read and received.
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 10: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 10 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any other bills for introduction?
Bill No. 9: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to sections 2 and 3 of the Ombudsman Act, recommends that the Commissioner in Executive Council reappoint Hendrick K. Moorlag as the Ombudsman for a term of five years, commencing April 8, 2002.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the elected representatives of the Yukon people in the Yukon Legislative Assembly alone have the constitutional right and duty to authorize the expenditure of public funds,
(2) the use of special warrants to finance government operations should be a last resort and in strict accordance with both the letter and the spirit of the Financial Administration Act,
(3) the use of a special warrant to secure spending authority for the months of May and June, 2002, does not meet the requirements of section 2(a) and (b) of the Financial Administration Act,
(4) the continued use of a special warrant for this purpose, now that the Legislative Assembly is in session, constitutes an abuse of the democratic rights of Yukon people and their duly elected representatives, and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to take the necessary steps to have the special warrant revoked as it relates to the spending authority for the months of May and June, 2002, and to bring forward interim supply legislation for that purpose, at the appropriate time, for scrutiny and debate by all members of this House.
Further, Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) publicly supported training programs serve a wide variety of purposes, especially in times of economic uncertainty and change;
(2) Yukon workers, employers and communities have a right to expect their government to take an active role in providing training opportunities that will help prepare Yukoners to participate effectively in the economy;
(3) for a number of years, the Yukon government has successfully used training trust funds as a way to provide such training opportunities;
(4) in addition to the direct investment of territorial government resources, training trust funds have been effective in leveraging additional training support from other sources, including industry, communities and labour organizations;
(5) that the Yukon Liberal government has drastically cut its support for the community training trust fund, to the detriment of Yukon workers, employers, communities and Yukon College; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to work in cooperation with the opposition MLAs and in consultation with the appropriate bodies, including Yukon College, to identify the resources and the best practices needed to address the legitimate training requirements of Yukon people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon people want and deserve government that puts their interests above any other consideration;
(2) Yukon people also want and deserve a measure of certainty and stability, especially at a time when they face major economic and social challenges and changes;
(3) elected representatives of Yukon people on both sides of this chamber have a responsibility to ensure that those public needs are respected and addressed;
(4) while the very nature of minority government can create some uncertainty in the public mind, it can also provide opportunities for both government and opposition members to work cooperatively to serve the public interest responsively and well, and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government, while it is in a minority position in this House, to work cooperatively with the opposition MLAs for the good of all Yukoners by establishing special legislative committees on major issues such as the Yukon’s economy and the future of health care in the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the placer mining industry has traditionally been the backbone of the Yukon economy and can continue to be a major economic contributor providing that the Yukon placer authorization, under which this industry operates, results in practical cost effective regulations that will govern the placer mining industry in the future; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government of Yukon to break its silence and speak out in favour of developing practical cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that will allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the issues affecting women deserve the full attention and support of the Yukon government;
(2) since 1985, the Women’s Directorate has served a valuable role in providing support to women’s groups, in bringing important issues affecting women and their families to the attention of the Yukon people and in providing educational and resource material on women’s issues;
(3) as part of its so-called government renewal process, the Yukon Liberal government arbitrarily downgraded the role and importance of the Women’s Directorate, without any prior consultation with Yukon women or the groups that represent them;
(4) this decision is not in the best interests of Yukon women and their families;
(5) the Yukon Liberal government has the resources to maintain the Women’s Directorate as a separate entity and to enhance the services it provides, both within the government and in the community; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to reverse its decision to downgrade the status of the Women’s Directorate and to conduct meaningful consultation with Yukon women, women’s organizations and the Yukon communities over the next year to identify ways to enhance and improve the services that the Yukon government provides to women.
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) at a time of economic downturn in the territory, the decision by the Yukon Liberal government to impose fee hikes on a wide array of public services was both ill-advised and ill-timed;
(2) these increases will have a negative impact on virtually all Yukon people, and especially those with modest incomes;
(3) these increases will have a negative impact on businesses and particularly on the territory’s tourism industry at a time when it is already experiencing serious difficulty because of events beyond the Yukon’s borders;
(4) these increases will also have a serious negative impact on community and volunteer organizations that host special events or fundraising activities that require them to buy special liquor permits;
(5) the revenue from these proposed fee hikes, which are scheduled to take effect on June 1, is minimal, considering the huge accumulated surplus already available to this government; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to postpone the proposed fee hikes until the Yukon’s economy has improved significantly, and to introduce any proposed fee hike only after adequate consultation with Yukon people, Yukon businesses and community organizations.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Women’s Directorate
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the minister responsible for women’s issues. Women across the territory were shocked and stunned when the Premier announced that the renewal project would mean a dramatic change to the status of the Women’s Directorate. Can the minister explain how downgrading the Women’s Directorate from its stand-alone status meets the renewal objective of improving services to Yukon people?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, to be absolutely clear, what has happened during the renewal process with the Women’s Directorate — and, yes, it stays the Women’s Directorate — is that the budget line in our budget document is moved from the Women’s Directorate into the Executive Council Office. That is the change. There is no change in service. The Women’s Directorate stays in the same location, it has the same library, it has the same staff. We are in the process now of recruiting for the manager’s position.
Mr. Speaker, the efficiency is the administration that previously had been done on its own at the Women’s Directorate will now be done through the larger office of the Executive Council Office and that those services will be better delivered to Yukoners.
Mrs. Peter: Let me be absolutely clear: one of the other claims about the government renewal was that it would help prepare for devolution next year. Can the minister explain how downgrading the status of the Women’s Directorate helped meet that objective?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, renewal is about many things. It is about better service for Yukoners. It is also about preparation for devolution. The only change to the Women’s Directorate is that that budget line for the Women’s Directorate now will go in the budget document under the Executive Council Office. There will still be research. There will still be policy development. There will still be people from the Women’s Directorate sitting on committees throughout this government and throughout this country on women’s issues, and representing the Yukon very well.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this minister has spoken out many times on the importance of women’s issues. I know she is very sincere about that and that she puts a lot of her own personal time into this area. That’s why it is hard to understand why she would go along with the Premier’s renewal game plan.
Can the minister explain how downgrading the status of the Women’s Directorate helps meet the Liberal Party election promise to restore public confidence in this government?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the people of the Yukon need to have confidence in the fact that women’s issues will still be dealt with by the staff at the Women’s Directorate as well as Yukon government staff. The people of the Yukon have to know that women’s issues are important to this government and to the people of the Yukon.
So the policy areas, the research areas, the advocacy areas, and sitting on committees at the national level as well as throughout the Yukon government, will stay the same, exactly the same. It will be the Women’s Directorate; it will be in the same location, with the same library, same people, same strong attention to women’s issues in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Women’s Directorate
Mrs. Peter: I have another question for the same minister. This whole thing took everyone by surprise, including the acting director and the staff of the Women’s Directorate. There was no consultation beforehand. After the fact, the minister and the Premier met with a number of women’s groups. The minister made a commitment at that time to try to keep things as they were for a one-year period.
Was the minister successful in persuading the Premier and her Cabinet colleagues to honour that commitment of February 8?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it’s always better when people actually attend meetings rather than get reports second-hand. It’s absolutely clear: the only change to the Women’s Directorate is that the budget amount is going to be under the Executive Council Office. Let’s be absolutely clear. That’s the only change — the only change, Mr. Speaker. So, yes, it will stay the same for a year. It will stay the same for as long as this Liberal government is in power.
Mrs. Peter: Well, Mr. Speaker, according to the new government telephone book, the structure of the Women’s Directorate is certainly different. As a matter of fact, until about an hour ago, the government’s new Web page site didn’t have any reference to a women’s directorate at all — no commitment to women’s issues.
Can the minister now confirm the commitment she made to Yukon women on February 8, or has that door been closed for good?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, this Question Period’s getting easier and easier all the time, so I’ll just repeat it again. The commitment was that it would stay the same. Mr. Speaker, it’s the same. The only difference is that the budget line that previously was under the Women’s Directorate, which is exactly the same amount, has now been moved to the Executive Council Office.
So, yes, it’s exactly the same. I have kept my commitment, and this Yukon Liberal government has kept their commitment to Yukon women.
We’re all waiting to see what the budget says.
Speaker: Final supplementary.
Mrs. Peter: I’m just trying to be helpful here. I’m trying to be cooperative because I know there is a better way to do things. That’s what women from around the territory are telling me. Many, many women from my community have spoken to me about this very serious issue.
Will the minister now make a commitment to work with this side of the House, and will she agree to consult fully with the Yukon women about how this minority Liberal government can enhance and improve the services it provides to women and their children? Will she do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are many good projects that are going to be happening over the next year in the Women’s Directorate. There will be no changes in the work that the organization has been doing in the past and what it is doing now.
Consultation has been quite extensive, actually, Mr. Speaker. We have spoken to staff, contrary to the opinion of the member opposite, and we certainly spoke to the executive director at great length prior to the move, as well as to the staff — not only of the Women’s Directorate, but of the rest of government.
This is a very clear move. It is a change in a budget line from the Women’s Directorate to the Executive Council Office. And yes, we keep in constant contact with Yukon women through the Women’s Directorate, and that will not change.
Question Re: MLAs, reference to in radio interview
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Earlier today on CBC, in an interview with representatives of all three political parties, the spokesperson for the Yukon Liberal Party referred to the three independent members of this House, who were recently dismissed from the Yukon Liberal caucus, as "terrorists". Does the Premier agree with this characterization of her three former members?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I was wondering when that question would come up. I would like to thank the Member for Klondike for his question.
First of all, what the member opposite should be aware of is that the three members in question resigned and offered their resignation to caucus, and that offer of resignation was unanimously accepted by not only the caucus members but all of our front office staff, as well.
Mr. Jenkins: I’d encourage the Premier to listen and answer the question. It’s about the use of the term "terrorists".
I was shocked when I heard such a prominent member of the Yukon Liberal Party refer to members of this House in such an inappropriate fashion, especially in light of what the word "terrorist" has come to mean after the tragic events of September 11. Now, many things may be said about members of this House, but this "terrorist" reference goes beyond what is acceptable.
Can the Premier advise the House what disciplinary action will be taken against the person who made this derogatory characterization, and will that individual continue to speak out on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, I’m surprised to hear the Member for Klondike defending the Yukon Liberal Party. It’s a bit of a new twist for him. I would remind the member again of the circumstances, and the circumstances are quite simply that three members of our caucus offered their resignation. That resignation was unanimously accepted.
Some Hon. Member: Mr. Speaker, point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Order please.
The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on a point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, since facts are being presented in this House, I’d need to seek proof of that resignation, because I stand here categorically knowing that I did not resign. And if that is going to be a statement, proof has to be provided to this House, or else it isn’t factually correct.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The member is categorically wrong — categorically wrong when he raises the point of order about discharge from the party, discharge from the caucus. The facts were such and were presented in such a way — either/or. Caucus chose to go one way; that’s the decision. Mr. Speaker, the member is wrong when he challenges the point raised by the Premier in answer to the Member for Klondike’s question.
Speaker: The Chair is prepared to rule on this right now, and the Chair finds that this is a dispute between members. It is not a point of order, and I would ask the Premier to complete her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I will complete my answer. The individual was speaking on CBC Radio as a member of the Yukon Liberal Party, and the question is better directed to the Yukon Liberal Party executive. I will direct the member’s question. Thank you.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, we’re missing the whole point of the exercise. The term was used by the Yukon Liberal Party, calling the three individuals who left the caucus by whatever means, depending on whom you listen to — they were called "terrorists". Will the Premier explain how such a derogatory statement will contribute to the functioning of this minority government, whose very survival depends on all members of this House acting in good faith, and will the Premier apologize to the three independent members of this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is missing the point. The fundamental point is that the remarks to which the member opposite refers were made by an individual of the party outside of this Legislature, outside of this House, and outside any issue related to this government. The fact is that this is not a government matter, nor is it a matter for the floor of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. It was a remark made on a radio station this morning, and I have already indicated to the member opposite that I will take his question up with the party executive.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Legislation to be tabled
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier.
There is a whole list of legislation for this sitting and it hasn’t been announced yet. Isn’t the Premier planning to table any amendments to the Financial Administration Act over the next day or two?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It seems to be that we dealt with the issue of anticipation in the Standing Orders, which I don’t have immediately at hand. However, I will answer the member opposite's question. With respect to the Financial Administration Act, amendments are to be tabled this session with respect to indemnification clauses, which are required by the Government of Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask the Premier if she can tell us if she is now fulfilling all her responsibilities under the Financial Administration Act?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Speaker, absolutely.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, on April 16, 1987, the act was amended to include the following definition of a department, and I quote, Mr. Speaker: "department" means any department or agency of the government and includes the Women’s Directorate and any corporation, board, commission or committee established under any act.
This was done by the legislature of the day expressly to prohibit future government from acting on a whim and downgrading the Women’s Directorate from a stand-alone department, and that is just what this Liberal government has done.
As of April 1, the Premier and her government may well be in breach of that act. Will the Premier now reverse her decision to downgrade the Women’s Directorate, or is her minority government prepared to risk bringing forward the necessary amendments to the Financial Administration Act? Which will it be?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite, there are a number of other pieces of legislation and we are not in violation of the Financial Administration Act, although the member is suggesting otherwise.
And again, Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, if the member opposite wishes to go through why it’s viewed that we are not in violation of that particular section and why such pieces of legislation are coming forward — although they are not necessarily required — we are coming forward for additional clarity in the Yukon legislation that comes before this House.
So, Mr. Speaker, no, we are not in violation of the act, and I would be happy to discuss that further with the member.
Question re: Trade and investment fund
Mr. McLarnon: My question is to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. Speaker, our job, when we came over here, is to hold the Liberals accountable for their actions and explain to them what accountability is, so that we can get through the next two years and improve the economy of the Yukon Territory.
An example of the Yukon Liberal Party’s previous accountability is the issue of the trade and investment fund. On May 9 last year, the Premier told this House that a report on the trade and investment fund would be prepared and presented to the House. We know that this report was done. Not only did this report show that there was no political interference from the NDP in this, but it was a positive economic generator in our economy.
We want to know why the minister will not table that report and bring it forward. My question to the minister: will he now table that report and act on it so this government can at least have one tool to assist small business development in our poor economic situation that we have now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will be glad to answer that question, as it has to do with the audit of the trade and investment fund. An audit comes under Executive Council Office functions.
The trade and investment fund report was recently reviewed by the audit committee, and it was approved by Management Board in March of this year. I will be tabling that report during this session of the Yukon Legislative Assembly.
And Mr. Speaker, the trade and investment fund is a capital item and, as you are aware, the capital budget for this year was tabled and passed in the fall.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier for that useless information. The reason why I’m asking this is that this speaks to a larger issue. And since the Department of Economic Development has now been shelved, since it was this department and this program in other governments, now I can understand that the muzzle is on all Cabinet ministers, and I apologize to you. We really realize right now, on this side, we’ve opened a can of worms that will keep all ministers on that side quiet.
So, for this point, I see the government is still reverting to things that I hated when I was on that side, which is spinning and avoiding the question. Does this minister see the problem? This government, which I campaigned for and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources campaigned for, was for the economy, getting the Yukon out of the doldrums we were in. They were all supposed to be open and accountable.
How do these promises of the last election jive with the fact that a very useful economic driver was tossed aside, simply because it was somebody else’s idea?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We committed when we were first elected — so last April, May and in September. We reviewed many audits. We committed to an audit of the funds. An audit of all the funds was done. The trade and investment fund, which was recently reviewed by the audit committee — it was completed and recently reviewed.
That audit and the report will be tabled this session. I have committed to that to the member. It was passed by Management Board in March, and the report will absolutely be tabled.
Those audits — there were a number of funds audited, Mr. Speaker, and this was one of them. We are fully prepared to table that report. And for the member opposite to prejudge is unfortunate at best.
Mr. McLarnon: There is no prejudging. I’m judging actions already done. What I saw when I was sitting on that side of the House was an audit produced very quickly by Liberal members that slammed Project Yukon. That was brought forward as expediently and quickly as possible because it showed that there were problems with that fund. The other one was buried. Why was the other one buried? Because this government has an agenda, and it’s no one else’s. There’s no Yukon economic recovery here. What we do see instead is a Yukon Liberal agenda.
Since we see that this government will now bury ideas for the sake of political expedience –
Speaker: Order please.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Under our Standing Orders, it is incorrect to impute false and unavowed motives against another member in the course and the context of his question.
The member opposite has done specifically that in his questioning on one of the investment funds.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre, on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, since I actually was on that side of the House, I can now honestly say this has to be a dispute between members because I believe this to be true.
Speaker: The Member for Watson Lake, on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this is an obvious situation of a dispute between members. I would urge the members on the government side to leave this acrimonious debate to a party convention and allow this House to get on with dealing with the public’s business.
Speaker: It’s difficult. From what I have heard, I can see it to be nothing other than a dispute between members. Having made that ruling, I would ask the Member for Whitehorse Centre if he has finished his question.
Mr. McLarnon: No, I never got to it before I was rudely disturbed, Mr. Speaker. I’ll get to it now.
Since this government has very successful ideas for the sake of political expedience, we have to ask and follow up with this question to find out what we’re going to be doing in the next few months.
How will this government, in a minority situation, achieve an open dialogue with all sides in a meaningful way to address the dire shape of this economy and lessen our dependence on governments such as this?
Speaker: Is there a question?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, if they don’t understand it because consultation is a foreign subject to them, how will they consult with the members of this House to ensure that the economy of the Yukon Territory improves in the future, now that we have seen what they have done in the past?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The Rules of the House clearly prevent the diversion of the supplementaries to another issue. The member was asking about audits and some sort of trade and investment funds. He has bootlegged another supplementary on to that. This line of questioning is clearly out of order.
Speaker: Order please. The Member for Whitehorse Centre on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I hate to explain the principles of debate to the members opposite, because they have never done it in caucus, so I can understand. What you do in debate is set your argument. What you then do is explain what has happened and what conclusions are coming out of it. That’s what you do with three questions.
Speaker: Order please. Is the member responding to the Chair on the point of order?
Mr. McLarnon: I’m explaining my point on that.
Speaker: It would be advisable for the Chair to review what has been said in Hansard before the Chair makes a decision in haste on this. However, the Chair found it very confusing as to what the question was, and what line of questioning the member was following, including a bootlegged question. If the government chooses not to answer, the government does not have to answer.
With that, I’m going to ask the member — I’m going to say that this is closed for now, and I will ask the official opposition to proceed with question number six before we run out of time.
Question re: Romanow Commission, submissions to
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the opportunity. I have a question either for the Minister of Health or for the special envoy to the Romanow Commission. I’m not sure who is going to answer the question. I would like to ask this: is the government aware that the deadline for Yukoners who want to make a presentation to the Romanow Commission when it comes to Whitehorse — it’s coming next month — is tomorrow, April 5?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I am aware of that deadline. I also have been encouraging a number of groups to bring forward proposals to the Romanow Commission, and we have been helping a number of different groups make sure that they get their information to the right place, so they can do a presentation.
The Romanow Commission, however, does not hear everything that is proposed to them. They pick and choose what they want to hear.
Mr. Keenan: Well, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. That’s just too easy and I’m going to just let that one go.
The minister alludes to or states that the minister is talking to the public, yet I see none of this happening in the public. I see no advertisements. I don’t see anything like as such. So I’d like to ask this: if the minister is going to make a presentation on May 2, will she be telling Yukoners beforehand what this government’s position is? How is this minister going to garner Yukon’s position on the future of health care in Canada?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think the member opposite should remember that the Member for Mount Lorne is also sitting on the Romanow Commission. The responsibility for advertising where and when the hearings are going to be is a responsibility of the commission. For his further information, if Yukoners are interested, they can go to the Web site at www.healthcarecommission.ca or phone toll-free at 1-800-528-8043. That is an opportunity for all Yukoners who wish to be heard.
And, yes, I will be presenting to the Romanow Commission the position of the Yukon government on health care.
I also want to tell the member opposite that there is no secret here and we would be quite prepared to share that information with members opposite closer to the date.
Mr. Keenan: Well, according to the commission’s Web site, Whitehorse General Hospital has made a submission and the Yukon territorial government hasn’t even approached the Web site to look like they’re going to do something.
So, Mr. Speaker, I’ve got an offer for the minister. My leader is going to be hosting, along with myself, a public forum which has been in the paper for quite some time now. It has people phoning us, making presentations to us.
I would like to ask this minister: in the spirit of cooperation, will this minister agree to send a senior official to take part in that event, either as an observer or to answer questions, so that we might be able to put forth a meaningful submission on behalf of Yukoners?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite needs help, we’ll be happy to send someone along.
I think that the member opposite should also be aware of the fact that the arrangements that are done between governments are different that the arrangements that are done by the general public and the Romanow Commission.
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, the Romanow Commission is going to be hearing a number of different points of view, and I need to clarify what I said earlier. It is that the Romanow Commission wants to hear a really good snapshot or a really broad point of view of what Yukoners and what Canadians feel about health care.
What we have to offer to the rest of Canada is a very rural perspective. I would imagine that that is exactly how they will be looking at the submissions to the Romanow Commission.
Also, Mr. Speaker, there are going to be simultaneous telecasts out to communities and there will be a phone-in line available during the commission hearings.
Question re: Women's Directorate
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the minister responsible for the Women’s Directorate. The minister said that nothing has changed when it comes to the Women’s Directorate, but I want to point out for the minister’s benefit that we have now seen the Women’s Directorate go from an autonomous government agency focused on women’s issues in this territory, and has now been folded into what is the political arm and the bureaucracy for this Liberal government.
Will this minister now tell this House and Yukon women how nothing has changed, when the Women’s Directorate has gone from an autonomous agency to merely a small part of the Executive Council Office?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, nothing has changed. I’ll go through it again. The Executive Council Office, for the information of the member opposite, is not the political arm of government. It is an apolitical body within government. It is not political.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, the Women’s Directorate — the only change is that the budget line will move from Women’s Directorate, as a separate entity, into the Executive Council Office. That is the change that will occur.
Mr. Fentie: Well, again for the minister’s benefit, it’s a well-known fact that the Executive Council Office is there for the government of the day to try and make sure their political agenda is being adopted within government.
Now, the minister says that nothing has changed. Women have long struggled to achieve fair and equitable treatment in this country and society. Women want to know that there is not going to be any diminishing of their ability for government to represent their interests and protect their interests.
How is that, Mr. Speaker, the case with folding the Women’s Directorate into the Executive Council Office? Tell women of this territory how that change is not going to affect their ability to have their interests represented.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there’ll be no change, and I’m quite entranced by the member’s recent interest in women’s issues and women’s equality. It is a new thing — totally new.
I want to point out to the member opposite that his credibility on this issue is somewhat at question. The Women’s Directorate — there will be no change. There are a number of different, very good projects that will be happening over the next year. The A Cappella North 2 study, for example, will be released shortly. This is a wonderful study about gender-based issues with young adults — teenagers in particular — and it will be about young men and young women as well. There are a lot of really good projects that will continue to happen through the Women’s Directorate. Nothing has changed. We just changed the budget line from Women’s Directorate into the Executive Council Office. It stays the same. The library is open, the same people, same hours. Everything is the same.
Mr. Fentie: I would caution the minister to challenge my credibility on this issue. I was raised by a single parent, a mother. I understand women’s issues, believe me.
The women of this territory are concerned about the change. Let’s make no mistake about it. This minister has an obligation to explain to this House and the women of this territory — how is this change not going to diminish their representation in government? And furthermore, this minister, after her litany of comments on women’s issues over the years has an obligation to tell women of this territory how this change will improve their position in government.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The services that were provided by the Women’s Directorate will continue to be provided by the Women’s Directorate. Very good projects will be going on this year as well. The gender-based analysis will continue; Gender Equity Awareness Week will continue; the Hall of Fame will continue; Hot Peach Pages, which is a new project coming out of the Women’s Directorate, will be delivered in the next phone book. There are a number of really good projects that will continue through the Women’s Directorate. Nothing will change except for the new and great ideas that the women at the Women’s Directorate and the women in the women’s community come up with to help us further women’s equality in the Yukon government and in the Yukon Territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed with Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Unanimous consent re waiving notice re Motion No. 85
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Pursuant to an agreement between the House leaders, I would request the unanimous consent of the House to waive the notice requirement of Standing Order No. 27(1) in order to call the motion respecting the reappointment of the Ombudsman for debate at this time.
Speaker: Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: Unanimous consent has been granted.
It is moved by the Premier that the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to sections 2 and 3 of the Ombudsman Act, recommends that the Commissioner and Executive Council reappoint Hendrik K. Moorlag as the Ombudsman for a term of five years commencing April 2, 2002.
Before putting the question, the Chair must draw the members’ attention to section 2 of the Ombudsman Act. That section requires that the recommendation of the Legislative Assembly to the Commissioner in Executive Council, respecting the appointment of an Ombudsman, be supported by at least two-thirds of the members of the Assembly. The effect of section 2 is that, for the motion to be carried, at least 11 members must vote for it. In order to ensure that the requirements of section 2 of the Ombudsman Act are met, the Chair will now call for a recorded division.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair would like to clear up any misunderstanding and I would just like to repeat what I think I said here.
It is that it is moved by the Premier that the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to sections 2 and 3 of the Ombudsman Act, recommends that the Commissioner in Executive Council reappoint Hendrik K. Moorlag as the Ombudsman for a term of five years commencing April 8, 2002.
Following that, the effect of section 2 is that for the motion to be carried, at least 12 members must vote for it. That’s a correction. I said 11 before. Thank you.
In order to ensure that the requirements of section 2 of the Ombudsman Act are met, the Chair will now ask Mr. Clerk to please poll the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Agree.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Mr. Keenan: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Mr. Jim: Agree.
Mr. McLarnon: Agree.
Mr. Roberts: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: I declare the motion carried by the required support of two-thirds of the members of the Assembly.
Bill No. 9: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on October 18 of last year, I presented the annual capital budget for the fiscal year 2002-03. Today I am pleased to deliver the operations and maintenance budget for the same time period. Taken together, these two documents demonstrate that as a government we are spending taxpayers’ money wisely.
Our decision to move the capital budget to the fall to allow for earlier awarding of contracts is already paying dividends for Yukon businesses and for Yukon’s economy. In recent weeks, major contracts for highway construction have been awarded. These include contracts for two Yukon companies that total more than $10 million.
In the words of one local contractor, "The awards are early this year, which is what industry requested, which is what was done, which is good."
We are, Mr. Speaker, a government that listens.
This is just one more example of this government fulfilling our commitments to Yukoners and doing what we said we would do.
While capital budgets are about buildings and roads, operations and maintenance budgets are about people. It is money that we invest in our workforce, our non-government organizations, our industries and our municipalities. It is also the money that government spends on providing quality day-to-day services expected by Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the budget that I am tabling today strikes a balance between fiscal prudence and funding needed for our public services. We have done this by keeping the overall increase in operations and maintenance spending to one percent, while allocating a two percent and five-percent increase to the priorities of education and health care, respectively. Across the country, governments have seen health care costs rise steadily over the past several years. The Yukon is not immune to these pressures and we have demonstrated our commitment to a strong health care system with the budget that is before you today.
At the same time, we are taking a hard look at how and where we spend our existing health care dollars. The MLA for Mount Lorne has been an active participant in the Romanow Commission on the future of health care. The commission has been tasked with looking at the long-term prospects of our national health care system. Our government will present a Yukon perspective to the commission when it visits Whitehorse in early May. Our expectations of Mr. Romanow’s findings and recommendations are high.
Another significant pressure on our operations and maintenance budget is the increasing cost of collective agreements negotiated with government employees and Yukon teachers. Together, those agreements have increased our spending by $6 million this year and more than $16 million in the last two years. This is a measure of our respect for the public service and a cost of continuing to provide the quality service expected by Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the total operations and maintenance budget for the fiscal year we have just begun will be $446.6 million. More than half of that amount, $230 million, will be spent on health care and education. Capital spending for the year will be just slightly more than $118 million. This capital portion of the budget has, of course, already been passed by the Legislature.
The Government of Yukon will take in $529.2 million this year and will spend $565.2 million. There is also $5.5 million set aside to meet contingencies. This means we will spend $41 million more than we take in and that our overall savings account or surplus will continue to shrink. At the end of the fiscal year, March 31, 2003, the surplus will sit at $25.9 million. This represents less than one month of spending by the government. The long-term plan tabled today shows that that surplus will continue to decline over the next three years as we continue to spend more than we take in. This pattern clearly cannot be sustained indefinitely.
On the expenditure side, it is interesting to note that the operations and maintenance grants and contributions made by our government will top $95 million this year. Included in that amount is $20.6 million to the Yukon Hospital Corporation. This is an increase of more than $500,000 above last year. There is also $11.1 million for Yukon College, and this is a $239,000 increase over last year.
On the revenue side, I am announcing a single new initiative today – an increase in the tobacco tax of four cents per cigarette or a dollar per pack of 25. This measure will generate approximately $2 million in revenue per year and, more importantly, discourage our young people from taking up smoking. This measure goes beyond any desire on our part to simply generate more revenue. If we can stop young people from smoking today, we can save lives tomorrow.
We are not alone in taking this measure. Provincial governments across the country have announced tobacco tax increases this spring. They range from $2.25 per pack in the Province of Alberta to more than 60 cents per pack in Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have also recently announced modest fee increases to campground permits, licence plates, drivers' licences, and corporate fees. This measure will generate approximately $1 million in revenue and will help offset the increased cost of health and education. Yukon fees and permits remain among the lowest in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, the tobacco tax and the fee and permit increases are effective June 1, 2002. The exception, of course, is campground fees, which remain free for Yukoners during the month of May.
Even before this budget speech is concluded, there will be calls to further reduce the surplus, to spend more money. To do so would be irresponsible, particularly with the recent preliminary census numbers that have been released by the Government of Canada. The census numbers confirmed what Yukoners have known for some time: beginning in 1997, our population has dropped by more than 2,000 people. At about $13,000 per person, the potential impact on our bottom line would be substantial. It will, however, be some time before we get the final numbers from Statistics Canada. In the meantime, we have planned, in a prudent and responsible way, by setting aside $15 million as a census reserve. We committed to manage the public’s money wisely, and we are doing what we said we would do.
When we came to office two years ago, one of the main challenges facing our government was that Yukoners had lost faith in the institution of government itself. Promises to improve the way business was done or improve the way services were delivered were made and broken by successive governments. Requests to make changes were answered with, "that cannot be done," "it has always been this way," or with just plain "no." Promises of "Devolution is happening! Get ready!" were never fulfilled. Our government made a commitment to change that, and we are, through the renewal-of-government initiative launched last June.
The first thing we did was involve people in decisions that affect them. In the ensuing four months, we listened to hundreds of Government of Yukon and Indian Affairs and Northern Development employees. We contacted a significant number of interest groups and organizations, and received direct feedback from hundreds of individuals and groups. We visited each and every Yukon community. In those consultations we heard over and over again a desire for better services from government and a recognition of the need for change.
Over the past six months, we have begun to respond. Departments have been reorganized to better group services together. In the past, an individual or a business would have to go to several departments when working on land development. Now, it will be "one-stop shopping" for all Yukon government land transactions, including agricultural lands, at the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
As part of the renewal project, the Department of Community Services was formed and officially began operations on April 1, 2002. This new department is key to improving services to Yukoners. Two weeks ago, I announced that we are preparing a tender that will be ready to go out in the early part of this month for space to house the service centre. This service centre will be the focal point of all the major services this government provides to the public.
By the summer of next year, you will be able to go to the service centre to get many of the front-line services we all had to go to different buildings around town to get — drivers' licences, building permits, birth certificates, health care cards and homeowner grant applications.
This grouping of services is not a new concept for communities outside of Whitehorse. Territorial agents and representatives have been providing central services there for years.
Given the success and the popularity of this model, we have planned a similar concept for Whitehorse.
Community Services will play a role in the lives of most Yukoners, whether they are registering a vehicle, getting a building permit, applying for funding for community projects, or registering the birth of a baby.
We have heard that people want to get their services at an easily accessible, central location with lots of parking and no hassles. Service Yukon will deliver that.
For customers, the biggest change will be an enhanced level of service from the government. Services and information will be easier to access and obtain, and there will be no wrong door.
An essential part of the success of Service Yukon is to have supportive and knowledgeable staff. We will provide the support and training to our staff to ensure they have all the tools required so they can continue to offer great services to their clients.
In keeping with our commitment to provide better service to the public, we are also moving the Whitehorse liquor store to the existing Liquor Corporation building on Industrial Road. This will put all the services of the Liquor Corporation in the same location. This decision is consistent with a number of recommendations and comments we heard during the recent Liquor Act review.
This move will allow us to consolidate a number of health services in the vacated space, including those currently located at the Whitehorse Health Centre in the Shoppers Plaza on Main Street. Again, this will put the public health services in a convenient and accessible location.
The public told us they want us to maintain and improve the quality of government services. They also told us they want government to make it easier to receive those services. We have listened to those concerns.
In a recent national survey of citizens, more than half of those who contacted governments by telephone expressed that they had one or more problems getting through. During consultations on renewal, we also heard a number of concerns about the quality of the phone service that is provided by government. In response, we have developed a new set of government-wide telephone standards. We know we can improve our service and reduce frustration by implementing an across-government standard for telephone service. As part of these changes, the 1-800 service is also being improved.
We are also making improvements to the services that we provide on-line. At least 100 government forms are now available on our Web site. A map of Whitehorse government office locations will soon be available on-line. Job postings are now on the Internet and applicants can submit their applications on-line. Later this year Yukoners will also have access to the change of address service on-line.
Mr. Speaker, there is more to come. In the next few months, there will be announcements on improvements to the business registration process and a common customer satisfaction survey for all departments. We are also launching a Better Ideas program that will allow our employees and the public to submit suggestions on how to make the government more efficient and more accessible.
Over the next few months we are starting work on improving the corporate culture of government. A renewed corporate culture is a key part of finding new and more efficient ways to deliver government programs and services to the Yukon public. It is also absolutely critical to creating a more inviting and challenging workplace in order to retain and attract highly skilled public servants.
The renewal-of-government initiative is also about preparing for devolution.
Yukoners told us they wanted to move forward on devolution. We have done that. A devolution transfer agreement was signed in the fall of 2001. The new Yukon Act was introduced in the House of Commons last fall and received royal assent just last week. We are now less than one year away from achieving management and control over our natural resources. A look at the organization charts of the new departments of Energy, Mines and Resources and Environment reflect the increase in responsibilities that are coming to us.
The mining facilitator will become the director of Minerals Planning and Development. This position will oversee the Yukon geology program, as well as activities designed to prepare this government to accept mineral resource responsibilities from the federal government. These activities will include identifying efficiencies in the administrative processes associated with mineral resource management. A forestry policy and planning team will continue to develop a policy framework to guide management of forest resources with devolution and undertake work on a Yukon forest industry strategy. Inclusion of the lands and agriculture functions within the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and establishment of a one-window access for all Yukon government land transactions, including agricultural land, is an example of the improvements that devolution will bring.
The Department of Environment will also be working on development of implementation plans for people and programs transferring over in 2003. The department will be monitoring and participating in Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development initiatives in advance of devolution, to ensure a seamless transition occurs.
Yukoners looking at the budget documents for this year will notice two significant changes in the way that information is presented. The first is in the structure of the government itself. The five new departments that were announced in December of last year now have organization charts and budgets to begin fulfilling their new responsibilities. The people and the money are now in place. As of April 1, the new departments are fully functional. I want to acknowledge especially, Mr. Speaker, the dedication of the people who have worked many long hours in the last few months to put these structures in place, and I especially want to thank the public servants who have shown great patience through some uncertain times.
The second change to the budget document goes far beyond what is written in these pages. It’s a whole new way of doing the business of government. In a poll that was done last summer, Yukoners overwhelmingly put better accountability at the top of their priority list of things that would improve government. One thing we’ve heard repeatedly from the business community, from the public service and from the public at large is that the government must become more open and more accountable for its actions and its spending.
Government accountability means different things to different people. To the taxpayer, it can mean managing resources responsibly and getting results. To the citizen, it can mean being able to understand what government is about, having questions answered and getting good service. To the public servant, it can mean having clear, achievable goals. In response to this advice from the public, our government has adopted a new framework for government accountability. This framework contains a series of measures that reflect the best practices of many other Canadian jurisdictions. We looked at what others are doing well, we listened to Yukoners, and we came up with a made-in-Yukon approach that will work for Yukoners.
For the first time in history we have put together accountability plans for each department and a consolidated accountability plan for the entire government. Copies of those plans are available on our Web page. These plans outline what the government spends money on and what specific results can be expected. These plans will ensure government and its individual departments clearly outline their goals and enable Yukoners to hold government accountable for its decisions and actions.
For years Yukoners have been given statistics that tell them how many students ride the bus to school. They have not been told how many of them are completing math or science courses, or how many are moving on to trades or other post-secondary institutions. Results will be measured by product, not by the amount of activity or the number of reports produced.
In the spring sitting of the Legislature we will also introduce the government accountability act. It will require the government to table these plans each year as part of the budgeting process. Members of the Legislature will have the opportunity to vote upon providing the accountability that Yukoners seek.
In the years ahead, accountability plans and accountability reports prepared by government departments and corporations will become the key tool by which government will manage public resources to ensure government programs are contributing, in a measurable way, to key government priorities in an efficient and an effective manner.
Over the next few months, we will be working with stakeholders and the public to improve both the accountability plans and the performance measures.
Mr. Speaker, each year there are constant demands to spend more money. There is no end to projects that deserve to be funded. Being accountable and spending money wisely demands making choices. It also demands funding the items you said you would when you went door to door speaking to Yukoners. Bearing that in mind, I would like to outline some of the specific commitments that are contained in the estimates for each department. This spring we are introducing changes to the Education Act. This act is coming forward after over two years of consultation with Yukoners from all walks of life and from throughout the territory. We heard many voices over that period and have responded to a variety of concerns that have been raised.
As a result of recommendations that came out of the Education Act review, the following program enhancements will be made in 2002-03. There is an additional $100,000 in funding for First Nation curriculum. The identification and development of First Nation education curriculum units will be conducted in partnership with individual First Nations or their delegates.
I am also pleased to announce free correspondence courses will now be available for registered home education students in grades eight to 12. This is the first year of a planned three-year phase for all grades to be free. This is a $40,000 increase over the current budget for home education.
Mr. Speaker, another of the recommendations of the Education Act review was to improve communications among people with an interest in educating our children. We’ve acted on that by creating an Education Advisory Council. This body will function in a similar fashion to the Health and Social Services Council, a group that has provided valuable input over a number of years.
Student learning will be supported through enhanced training opportunities for professional educators. Three specific examples are: (1) the remedial reading recovery program will be expanded to train eight more teachers for teaching assignments, at a total cost of $30,000; (2) there is also a $217,000 increase to the teacher professional development fund that was agreed to through the Yukon Teachers Association collective bargaining process; and (4) these first two initiatives will complement the learning opportunities that will be provided to teachers through the $750,000 teacher mentoring endowment fund that was established last fall with the Yukon Teachers Association.
This budget also includes several public school program expansions that are targeted to improve student learning outcomes. There will be a new math consultant position to focus on the teaching of mathematics in the elementary grades. We are also expanding the distributed learning program to include the schools in the northern communities of Carmacks, Pelly Crossing, Mayo, Dawson City, Faro and Ross River.
When most people think of education, they think of schools. However, there is a great deal of learning that occurs outside of the classroom. As a government, we are proud to support life-long learning, particularly basic literacy. We are showing that support by committing $80,000 to furthering childcare training in the territory, in support of our overall Yukon literacy strategy. Three groups, the Yukon Childcare Association, the Society of Yukon Family Day Homes and the Yukon Child Care Board — have come together to support Yukon caregivers in fostering language development and emerging literacy in young children. We are also contributing $50,000 to a literacy conference that will focus on family literacy and early intervention in October of this year. Our partners in this conference include Yukon Learn, Learning Disabilities Association of Yukon, Yukon First Nations, the Literacy Action Committee and other stakeholders.
Finally, Mr. Speaker, I’d like to highlight a $75,000 contribution our government is making to continue offering the highly successful youth employment training program. This is a project done in conjunction with the Government of Canada and Yukon College. It is essentially a work opportunity program for young people with no previous attachment to the workforce and who are experiencing difficulty with school. Last year, 71 youths from 11 communities entered the program and 58 completed it. Thirty-eight of the youths were working in full-time and part-time jobs after completion of the training.
Mr. Speaker, as I have noted earlier, our government continues to increase funding to the priority area of health care. This year, the operations and maintenance budget will be almost $138 million, up more than $14 million in just the past two years.
Let me explain what’s driving that increase. By far the largest factor is the operation of the new long-term care facility at $4.6 million. Over the last two years, increases for the recruitment and retention of staff nurses have totalled $500,000. Over the same period, operating costs at Whitehorse General Hospital have increased by more than $1.9 million. This includes wage increases for hospital staff.
Salary and operating costs for family and children’s services have increased approximately $1.7 million from 2000-01. This increase mainly covers staffing costs for three teen group homes that have been assumed by the department. Over the same period, insured health increases are expected to be approximately $1.7 million with increases in reciprocal billings, medical travel, extended health, pharmacare, chronic disease and recruitment and retention initiatives for doctors.
These are some of the major cost drivers that we are facing in the Department of Health and Social Services and as a government.
This government continues its commitment to sustained funding for non-government organizations, and it values the dedication of people employed and volunteering in the many NGOs providing services throughout the Yukon. An example of this is a decision to increase funding to the Child Development Centre, in the amount of $90,000, to enhance their ability to provide outreach services.
We will be developing options for a tobacco reduction strategy to assist people to kick the habit and develop healthier lifestyles. Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease and lung cancer — both life-threatening and expensive ailments.
Finally, we will be introducing changes to the Dental Professions Act, which will improve the effectiveness of the children’s dental program by permitting dental therapists to practice the full scope of their profession.
Mr. Speaker, as a government we have kept our commitment to create a stand-alone alcohol and drug secretariat. The secretariat is taking the lead role in providing alcohol and drug treatment services. Programs include gender-specific, live-in treatment for youth and adults throughout the upcoming summer and fall, and intensive training programs for First Nations and other professionals involved with the provision of alcohol and drug programming. The secretariat is taking the lead role in developing a more coordinated approach to service delivery to FAS and FAE clients and their families.
The secretariat is providing an addictions counsellor to the Department of Justice in order to enhance services to this specialized client group. Collaboration is ongoing, and support through the provision of training in addictions issues continues to be provided to Justice staff.
Over the next two years, we will continue to make improvements in the areas of community outreach, aftercare and live-in treatment services.
As a government, we are also continuing to rebuild the Yukon’s economy. The new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will continue to pursue development of a healthy natural resource sector, focusing on effective and responsible management and development of the Yukon’s natural resource wealth.
As set out in the department’s accountability plan, key activities for the coming year include the following: completion of an annual sale of oil and gas rights; passage of new oil and gas regulations by this fall to support responsible industry development; promoting opportunities in the oil and gas sector and investment in mineral development; implementing the MINE plan, including maintaining a favourable taxation regime and planning future infrastructure needs; marketing the advantages of the Alaska Highway pipeline route; working toward a comprehensive and integrated energy policy and development of a Yukon climate change action plan; and preparing a policy framework to guide management of forest resources with devolution and undertake work on a Yukon forest industry strategy.
All of these activities will help to rebuild the economy and, most importantly, create jobs for Yukoners.
The new Department of Infrastructure, which includes highway maintenance, will also contribute to job creation and rebuilding our infrastructure. As most Yukoners have noticed, our government has placed a high priority on restoring funding to our crumbling highways. While most of our funding of highway projects was announced as part of our capital budget that we passed last fall, there are several maintenance programs that we undertake each year, and I’d like to draw drivers’ attention to them.
As part of the normal rehabilitation of BST surfaces in the territory, we will spend $2.7 million. We will also be undertaking $1.1 million worth of work on BST patching and more than half a million dollars in gravel resurfacing.
Another $1.7 million will be spent on the production of crushed aggregates for maintenance activities. This work is tendered for contract and is performed by the private sector.
The next two items are as basic a service as government provides. They are also essential to maintaining safety. I am talking about line painting and brush and weed control. The line-painting program for the upcoming summer is estimated at $575,000. This work is performed on an annual basis to restore the yellow and white lines on highways throughout the Yukon. The brush and weed program will see $500,000 worth of work done to ensure drivers can see where they’re going. Again, the majority of this work is done by the private sector.
A last item on our roads are the bridges. Repair work totalling approximately $400,000 is part of an annual program that involves redecking wooden bridges, replacing substructures, patching concrete decks and other bridge maintenance activities.
Another very basic obligation of government is to ensure a safe supply of drinking water. As part of a continual commitment to meet this obligation, we are providing training to our water delivery contractors to perform chlorine residual testing on the water we supply to unincorporated communities. Concurrently, environmental health services has undertaken a detailed review of 24 community water supplies in the Yukon. Recommendations for upgrades or improvements to existing water supply systems will be incorporated into an infrastructure status report that will be tabled in the Legislature this spring. This report is designed to provide an overview of the present situation and to identify sewage and water supply projects that should be considered in the upcoming capital budget planning process.
The government-wide emergency plan will be revised in 2002-03 to reflect new global realities since September 11. Changes will also incorporate new roles and responsibilities of departments as a result of renewal. There will be more emphasis placed on public awareness and business sector involvement in emergency preparedness. Local governments will receive more assistance in enhancing community emergency preparedness plans.
Mr. Speaker, as a government we are continuing to support our tourism and small business sectors. This year’s budget contains more than $7 million in marketing money in the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture. We have also set aside more than $1.5 million for industry development and research.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention two small projects in the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture that are being undertaken by the heritage branch. The first provides guided interpretative tours of Canyon City made possible by a contract with the Yukon Conservation Society. The tours are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike with about 1,000 people signing up each of the last few years. It is a successful attraction, encouraging visitors to stay another day and explore Whitehorse’s cultural and natural heritage. $15,000 is being made available to ensure this program continues.
A second project is being undertaken at the historic Yukon River site of Hootalinqua. The work is being done in conjunction with the Department of Environment, which will be contributing to the project through the Yukon Youth Conservation Corps program.
The project represents a significant step forward in implementing the Thirty Mile heritage river management plan, which was completed many years ago.
Although Hootalinqua is an important heritage attraction and camping area for more than 2,000 river travellers who make their way down the Teslin and Upper Yukon River systems during the course of the summer, it has received little attention to date.
The two departments will be working with the Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation and the Wilderness Tourism Association to rehabilitate the site and address significant public use issues such as sewage and garbage disposal, site clean-up, provision of proper camping sites, signage, boat landing area and water supply. Preservation work on the historic buildings is planned for future years.
The project represents a significant improvement in public service and is a clear signal that this government is providing tangible support to our developing wilderness tourism sector. It also demonstrates our commitment to our heritage resources.
Mr. Speaker, Yukoners have a great deal to look forward to and a great deal to be proud of as we watch the daylight hours grow longer.
As I look ahead to ratification votes on at least four land claims I am optimistic about the future. The initialling of agreements for Kwanlin Dun, Carcross-Tagish, Kluane and White River First Nations is a significant achievement. First Nation chiefs, their caucuses, and negotiators from all parties have worked tirelessly over the past several weeks as teams and as individuals. On behalf of all Yukoners I want to thank them for their tremendous contribution. The initialling of these agreements enables them to go before each First Nation for full discussion and a ratification vote. I am sure everyone in this House offers their congratulations to everyone involved.
The settlement of land claims is good news for the long-term prospects of our economy. There are also a number of encouraging signs that our economy is recovering in the short term. The Cantung mine is up and running, the price of gold has rebounded since last summer to $300 per ounce, and tourism numbers look better than originally forecast following September 11.
Yukoners began this year with a personal income tax cut and have been putting that savings into the pockets of local retailers. Retail sales were up last year almost six per cent and the forecast is for that trend to continue. Wholesale sales experienced a similar increase and are expected to continue to climb.
The unemployment rate dropped every month last year from June through December and has dropped to under 10 percent for three consecutive months. The number of people working in February was higher than it was at the same time last year. We know we have a long way to go; however, we also know that we are on the right track and that for the first time in years there is optimism about the future.
During the upcoming year, we have also been selected to host a number of high-profile conferences. On May 8, people from across the Yukon and western Canada will gather in Whitehorse as we host the annual Prairie Northern Conference on fetal alcohol syndrome. This partnership is committed to the development, promotion and coordination of a comprehensive approach on the prevention of FAS, as well as the intervention, care and support of individuals that are affected by fetal alcohol syndrome. Through this initiative, the provincial and territorial partners are able to learn from one another, share expertise and resource materials.
Justice ministers from across Canada will visit the Yukon this fall.
From June 4 to 6 of this year, I will host the annual meeting of Canada’s western premiers and the governors of the western United States. This will be an opportunity to showcase our scenery, our talent and our culture. It will also allow the Yukon to take a leadership role on issues of national significance such as health care, border security infrastructure and climate change.
Mr. Speaker, the budget that I have tabled today is a budget that meets the needs of today, and it looks ahead to the future.
It demonstrates that as a government we remain committed to the priority items we were elected on. I look forward to its debate over the coming weeks.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would love to respond to the Premier’s budget speech for the next several hours but, according to past practice, I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 2:50 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 4, 2002:
Electoral District Boundaries Commission (Yukon) Final Report (dated January 2002) (Speaker Schneider)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated April 4, 2002) (Speaker Schneider)
Order-in-Council 2002/42, An Act Approving Yukon Land Claims Final Agreements and First Nations (Yukon) Self-Government Act (Ta’an Kwach’an Council) (dated February 11, 2002) (Duncan)
Ta’an Kwach’an Council Self-Government Agreement and Final Agreement (Duncan)