Monday, April 8, 2002 ó 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 Health Day
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to ask my colleagues in this House to join me in recognizing and celebrating World Health Day.
It is fitting that I bring this message to this House because the theme for this year is "Physical activity for health".
World Health Day is celebrated annually on April 7 by close to 200 member countries of the World Health Organization. In the Yukon, we are celebrating health today and tomorrow, April 8 and April 9. At noon today, there was a community walkabout, which I and the Member for Porter Creek North attended. That allowed folks to get active during their lunch hour.
Tomorrow Yukon schools are either hosting their own walkabout or taking part in a world record hokey-pokey challenge with other Canadian schools for an opportunity to have their school registered in the Guiness Book of World Records. This yearís theme recognizes the real threat of the lack of physical activity to an individualís health. Statistics tell us that Canadian young people are less active than ever with more than half of the 12- to 21-year olds not participating in any regular vigorous physical activity.
Canada is facing a major public health challenge with two-thirds of Canadians putting their health at risk by participating in no physical activity. This lack of activity is directly related to the millions of cases of non-communicable diseases that occur in Canada each year.
Regardless of physical or mental health, gender or age, physical activity can greatly enhance the quality of life and health. Physical activity needs to be a priority for everyone at all ages, throughout their lifespan.
I am proud that Health and Social Services is partnering with Sports and Recreation, the Recreation and Parks Association, the City of Whitehorse and the Elder Active Recreation Association to get the word out about being active.
Please note, Mr. Speaker, that I say "physical activity", and not necessarily "exercise". You could walk, ride a bike or shovel the driveway, depending on the weather these days, of course. And physical activity is a preventive measure that can help reduce demands on the health care system. Itís easy to be active, and itís easy to take the simple step for the good of your health.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the official opposition, I rise today to pay tribute to World Health Day and, of course, we know that World Health Day was yesterday.
This year, the focus is on recognizing the important role played by prevention and maintaining lifelong health, and specifically the role played by physical activity. Lack of physical activity is a direct contributor to many conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and obesity.
In Canada, the focus on health care has been directed to the Romanow Commission, which is currently examining the issues of importance to Canadians, and we all know that health care is very important to Canadians. The commission is hearing: what issues should be included in health delivery in Canada?
I must say, Mr. Speaker, that prevention is very important to many Canadians, and it will reduce not only our treatment costs in the long run, but it helps to maintain very healthy and happy families and individuals, whether toddlers or grandparents ó as we all hope to be.
The Romanow Commission will be in Whitehorse on May 2, 2002, and we will present the views of the Yukon people, as they are expressed to us in many ways, including the public forum that is to be held on April 16.
We encourage the Yukon people to be active, whether you are walking, biking, getting firewood, stick gambling or just participating in any type of physical activity. I just want to encourage everybody to do it very safely and remember that the land is changing at this time of the year, so think safety first so that we might be able to prevent family tragedies, because the ice is getting thinner and the world is changing.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party caucus I too rise to pay tribute to World Health Day, as an opportunity to recognize the importance of good health as a means to a good life. Established by the World Health Organization in 1948, World Health Day is observed annually on this day by 190 countries to reflect upon health conditions worldwide. This yearís theme "Physical activity for health" marks the critical importance of physical activity and the role it plays in improving health and preventing disease.
Recent estimates show that some 60 percent of the worldís population is not physically active enough. While this is cause for concern, it is little wonder with todayís busy schedule that each one of our lives holds. Between raising a family, working, volunteering, keeping up with the times, so to speak, more and more individuals are having a difficult time finding the time to maintain healthy lifestyles.
Canada in particular is facing a major public health challenge, as the lives of two-thirds of Canadians are at risk because of inactive lifestyles. While the statistic may appear alarming, the consequences speak louder. A major cause of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and obesity, physical inactivity can also contribute to increased rates of violence, feelings of isolation and substance abuse. By comparison, those Canadians who were reported to be physically active from 1981 to 1995 resulted in a savings of some $9 billion because of reduced costs in health care, insurance and lost dollars in taxes. By leading active lives, people of all ages are ensured greater health and well-being in the years to come for themselves and for their communities. With regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, prevention and early detection, people of all ages are able to lead very good lives.
Today serves as a reminder to all Canadians of the worth of physical exercise, what it holds in our lives and why we should all take the time to become more active physically. I am pleased to join World Health Day and support it and urge all members to join in taking a more active role to promote physical well-being in our lives.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
In recognition of National Wildlife Week
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As all members are well aware, the Yukon governmentís Department of Renewable Resources has been an active participant in National Wildlife Week for many years. It is now up to the new Department of Environment to carry on that tradition. The department, past and present, takes its responsibilities to deliver education and information regarding the natural environment very seriously.
The theme of this yearís National Wildlife Week ó "Climate is changing; help wildlife weather the storm" ó is a familiar one to us in more ways than one. Over the past two years Iíve spoken about the dramatic changes that are occurring in Yukon now because of climate change. The department has been an active participant in climate change initiatives, and we will be continuing our partnership with the Northern Climate Exchange at Yukon College.
The Northern Climate Exchange is an important program for gathering climate change information about the Yukon and the rest of the north, and informing the public about the impacts so that we can plan for the future.
Our work on the Yukon government climate change action plan continues in process and we, as a government, will continue our efforts to improve energy efficiency and work toward the reduction of greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.
We have concerns about the climate change impact on migratory routes for caribou, on the potential for increased transmission of disease over a wider area, and its impact on all wildlife habitat.
The importance of climate and habitat became abundantly clear this year with the anticipated return of the migratory birds at Swan Haven at Marsh Lake. The abnormal cooling trend for the past two months meant that the open water the birds depend on at MíClintock Bay was just not there. I am pleased to advise that they are there now and the birds are starting to arrive, albeit a month late.
With the arrival of swans and other birds, the Department of Environment plans and manages the annual Celebration of Swans event being held in several communities. As a matter of fact, this past weekend, Mr. Speaker, there was a fun family fishing day at Fox Lake. That was sponsored by the Yukon Fish and Game Association, and they will also be holding such an event at the end of this week in Faro. This year is no exception and an event will be held for the first time in Beaver Creek. Events are also planned for Tagish, Whitehorse, Haines Junction and Burwash Landing. A flyer outlining the many community events that are part of the celebration will be arriving in virtually all Yukon mailboxes this week.
We have also seen a marked increase in interest for schools to visit Swan Haven. For the first time ever, Mr. Speaker, students from Watson Lake and Pelly Crossing will be going to Swan Haven.
Over the weeks to come, students from Teslin, Carcross, Skagway, Whitehorse, Carmacks and Haines Junction will be there to witness this annual migration and miracle of nature.
I encourage everyone to take a moment to see if there is an event that you can enjoy for yourselves, for your families and friends. Itís an excellent agenda.
National Wildlife Week was declared by an act of Parliament in 1947 to honour Mr. Jack Miner, one of the founders of Canadaís conservation movement.
Mr. Speaker, many organizations, such as the Yukon Fish and Game Association, play an incredibly important role in promoting public awareness of the value of our wildlife resources. National Wildlife Week is honoured each year and serves to help promote an awareness of the value of our wildlife populations.
Let us not forget that every week is National Wildlife Week in the Department of Environment.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: On behalf of the Yukon Party, I also rise to join with members in paying tribute to National Wildlife Week. From all corners of the territory, Yukoners have a deep and abiding feeling for the Yukonís environment and its wildlife. For Yukon First Nations, the health of our wildlife is an intrinsic part of their culture and lifestyle. For visitors, the abundant wildlife that calls the Yukon home is one of the major reasons for making Yukon a destination.
For other lifelong Yukoners and those who have recently moved here to become Yukoners, the environment is one of the major reasons for their choosing to make Yukon their home.
While we are blessed with an abundance of wildlife, many other parts of the worldís plants and animals are going extinct at an alarming rate. Many more species are at risk, including some that live right here in the Yukon. And you will note, Mr. Speaker, I made no reference to Yukon Liberals.
The goal of National Wildlife Week is to educate and inform Canadians about wildlife and the importance of conservation efforts in their communities. Indeed, we have much to celebrate. The challenge for Yukoners is to find a way to preserve and protect our wildlife habitat for our children and for future generations while, at the same time, giving careful consideration to our territoryís economic future. In so doing, we can ensure a balanced outcome that will provide a level of security to all interests who and which derive benefits from our land.
Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLarnon: I would like to introduce a constituent of mine. Heís a guerrilla publisher and is well known in the Yukon territorial arts scene ó Patrick Singh. I would ask the House to join me in welcoming Patrick to the House.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I would like to introduce the president of the Association of Yukon Communities, Glen Everitt, who is in the gallery with us, along with Scott Coulson, the chief administrative officer for the City of Dawson.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 63: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I move that Bill No. 63, entitled Act to Amend the Education Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Education that Bill No. 63, entitled Act to Amend the Education Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 63 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 51: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I move that Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of the Environment that Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 51 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction? The hon. Premier.
Bill No. 66: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 66, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 66, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 66 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction? The hon. Premier.
Bill No. 67: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 67, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 67, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now introduced and read for a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 67 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction? The hon. Premier.
Bill No. 68: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 68, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 68, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 68 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 69: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 69, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 69, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 69 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 70: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 70, entitled Waters Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 70, entitled Waters Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 70 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Jim: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT, in reference to the review of the Education Act, it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon Liberal government had an agenda during the consultation process that was kept quiet until very late in the process;
(2) the Liberal agenda did not allow stakeholders, including First Nations, to respond to government until it was too late and after most resources were expended reviewing the actual consultation results;
(3) as a result of this proposed legislation, Yukon First Nations are now considering drawing down on their constitutional right to direct their own educational needs in the territory;
(4) the Liberal government recognize their errors in consultation and political interference and now should withdraw this bill and save their efforts in order to redesign an education act that truly reflects the desires and needs of all Yukoners; and
THAT the House urges the government not to proceed with the consideration of a new education act during the 2002 spring sitting.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Jim: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Government of Yukon should put in place, immediately, a First Nations manager, who will work with Council of Yukon First Nations, Kwanlin Dun, the Kaska and the Yukon social services department, so that appropriate care and placement of First Nations children is done with the partnership and agreement of programming; and
(2) the Yukon Liberal government make good on promises made with the establishment of a Yukon First Nations secretariat, and
(3) since the agreement was announced with much fanfare, the Government of the Yukon has been negligent in its allocation of any funds toward its operation.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the alcohol and drug secretariat should receive additional multi-year funding, over the present budget item, to ensure that government is responding to the crisis that exists in our communities with substance abuse.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Department of Education should ensure that, within the next school year, Porter Creek Secondary School receives additional funding to build shops to high school standards and to expand the cafeteria to accommodate 800 students.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) minority governments can work effectively to deliver good balanced government to the people of the Yukon Territory; and
(2) if the governing party were to work in cooperation with all persons in this House, there would be no need for uncertainty or early elections; and that the House urges the following steps be taken:
(1) allow all boards and committees to be appointed through an all-party legislative committee to ensure that political partisanship does not affect the good governance of the territory beyond any political mandate;
(2) committees be established to discuss the budget directly with all members of the Legislature to ensure that, when the budget bills are presented to the House, they reflect the needs of all Yukoners; and
(3) all parties put aside political posturing for the next election and work on providing the Yukon with a good government through this rare minority government opportunity.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) electoral reform is needed to ensure that the Yukon has fair, representative government; and
(2) action should be taken to achieve the following goals:
(1) ask Yukoners what their needs are and what they want in government;
(2) prepare options and education on various models that Yukoners would have to choose from in their representative government;
(3) narrow the options through consultation to a reasonable amount;
(4) place the question through referendum on the next general election ballot with the voice of the voter being binding the following election.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Before proceeding with Question Period, the Chair will return to some matters of order arising from Question Period on Thursday, April 4, 2002.
One such matter is a point of order raised by the government House leader. In doing so, he expressed his belief that the Member for Whitehorse Centre had violated the rules of this Assembly in that the memberís second supplementary question addressed a different issue than his main question.
Neither our rules of debate nor our guidelines for oral Question Period address the issue of how close the thematic connection must be between a main question and supplementary questions. Nonetheless, the fact that supplementary questions are identified as supplementary suggests strongly that there should be some connection.
The manner in which members can best demonstrate the connection between the main question and the supplementaries is to proceed from the general to the specific. The Member for Whitehorse Centre encountered difficulty on Thursday because he went from the specific to the general. His main question was whether the government would table an audit report on a trade and investment fund. He then, in his final supplementary, went on to ask how the government would "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?". The Chair is certain that the Member for Whitehorse Centre fully understood the connection he was making between the main and supplementary questions. However, the Chair would ask that he put himself in the position of the listener and he will see that the connection, during the heat of Question Period, is not as readily obvious.
If the Member for Whitehorse Centre had moved from the general question about the economy to the more specific question about tabling an audit report on a trade and investment fund, the relationship between the subjects would have been clearer and the Chair doubts any question of order would have been raised.
So, to repeat, the Chair would urge that members asking questions ensure that the main questions address the broad, central issues and then use supplementary questions to narrow the subject matter down to more specific items.
The Chair also wishes to further address two points of order raised last Thursday which raised the issue of disputes between members as to facts. Though the Chair did rule on these points of order, it is the Chairís opinion that it would be useful to reflect upon some of the procedural issues raised.
At one point the Member for Whitehorse Centre raised a point of order regarding comments made by the Premier in response to a question posed by the leader of the third party. The Premier stated that those members now sitting as independents had resigned from the caucus of the Yukon Liberal Party.
In raising the point of order, the Member for Whitehorse Centre asserted his view that he and the other independent members had not voluntarily resigned from the Liberal caucus. He also said, "Since facts are being presented in this House ... proof has to be provided to this House." In fact, the most important privilege belonging to members of this Assembly ó freedom of speech ó results in members being entitled to make statements in this House without having to provide proof. As a consequence, there may well be two or more entirely different versions of events presented to the House. When that happens, the House and the Chair must accept the varying versions of events as being membersí differing conceptions as to what actually happened. It is never the duty of the Chair to determine what is factually correct and, therefore, a dispute about facts is not a basis for a point of order.
Later on the government House leader raised a point of order saying the Member for Whitehorse Centre had "imputed false and unavowed motives against another member ... in his questioning on one of the investment funds." In reviewing the Blues, the Chair notes that the Member for Whitehorse Centre, while expressing criticism of the government as a whole, did not refer to any specific member. As ruled at the time, this was also a dispute between members about facts, not a point of order.
Finally, the Chair would like to draw the Assemblyís attention to a comment made by the minister responsible for the status of women. In response to a question from the Member for Watson Lake regarding the Womenís Directorate, the minister said, "I want to point out to the member opposite that his credibility on this issue is somewhat at question." Reflections upon the credibility of members are not conducive to order in the Assembly. The Chair asks that all members make best efforts not to inject personal comments into the proceedings.
We will now proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline feasibility
Mr. Fentie: My question today is for the minister responsible for economic development. For the past two years, the Yukon public has been told over and over that the panacea to our economic woes is the Alaska Highway pipeline. Recent developments on the federal stage show otherwise, and that this may not be the wisest of strategies by this government. The federal government is actively pouring resources ó money ó into a Mackenzie Valley line, which clearly states their priorities. It is not the Alaska Highway line; it is the Mackenzie Valley line.
In that regard, what contributions has the minister garnered from the Minister of Northern Development in Ottawa, so that we in this territory can better deal with and address our economic woes here and now?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iíd like to thank the Member for Watson Lake for the question.
With regard to what we have been doing in lines of work with the federal government in support of an Alaska Highway pipeline project, the most important thing is encouraging route neutrality for the delivery of Alaska North Slope gas, and weíve been working very had for the past two years on that.
Further to that, we have secured funding from the federal government for a First Nations oil and gas unit, as well as contributions from ourselves. So we have been working very hard with the federal government to make sure that they maintain their route neutrality, as well as funding opportunities for First Nations.
Mr. Fentie: Well, to reciprocate to the minister in kind, I thank the minister for his answer, but I would like to point out something very important: the Yukon public is not buying those answers ó not any more. In a recent poll conducted, the biggest single issue of the Yukon people is the economy, and itís also coupled with the fact that the most mentioned items are now the unemployment factor in this territory and the issue that there is no business development or industry development and investment in this territory.
Given that those are Yukoners who have stated clearly that this government is simply not addressing the economic woes of this territory in the appropriate fashion, what can this minister tell this House and the Yukon public here today about how he intends to broaden his approach to the economic problems we face, beyond the pipeline, and get down to serious business in addressing our economic situation?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the question that the Member for Watson Lake just asked, I think weíre proceeding on a number of fronts in addressing the economic woes of the territory. The Department of Infrastructure, which is the other portfolio that Iím in charge of, has expended $40 million in capital monies, so on highway and transportation projects this year. With regard to the mining sector, weíve done a lot of work with that as well. The Yukon mining incentives program has been beefed up to $850,000 for this year. The devolution transfer agreement that we were successful in negotiating and the land claims that have been initialled off will also be very important contributors to the economic recovery of the Yukon.
The Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture as well is undertaking a number of initiatives to improve the Yukon economy. The retail sector is improving. There are a number of sectors that are improving, Mr. Speaker, and weíll continue to work hard to make sure that all sectors of the economy improve.
Mr. Fentie: A positive suggestion for the minister is that I would look seriously at changing the briefing note. Yukoners are not buying that message any more. Itís evident by the poll. Not only that, members of the ministerís own caucus arenít buying it. Theyíre over here on this side of the House now, not on that side of the House. Something must be done. Yukoners are crying out for leadership on this issue, Mr. Speaker.
I have a constructive suggestion for the minister and the Liberal government opposite. Let us immediately convene an all-party process that is inclusive of the First Nations, inclusive of the business community, inclusive of representation from all communities. Let us address some initiatives in this territory that we can proceed with immediately, and go to Mr. Nault who is pouring millions into the Northwest Territories, and have the federal government put some money into this territory to address our economic problems.
Will the minister agree to that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, just this morning I announced, with the Yukonís Member of Parliament, an initiative that we are cooperating with the federal government on ó the strategic highway infrastructure program. We announced a project that will employ some 40 Yukoners in reconstructing seven kilometres of the Alaska Highway near the community of Champagne.
With regard to the memberís question, I meet with Yukon businesses and Yukon First Nations. I have even been in the memberís own community and had the opportunity to meet with him and local representatives from the business community there, so thatís something that I intend to continue doing in my role as Minister of Infrastructure and as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Question re: Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees
Mrs. Peter: First of all, I would like to congratulate the Member for Mount Lorne on her appointment as Minister of Education. Then Iíd like to invite her to answer her first question in her new capacity. Itís very straightforward. On March 14, the minister wrote to the Association of Yukon School Councils, insisting on a face-to-face meeting with the associationís full executive. Can the minister explain why she asked for that meeting?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees has requested a meeting with the minister to discuss issues of mandate. Iíve requested that all of the executive be present because the executive encompasses both Whitehorse and rural members, and I would like all those points of view to be present at the table during discussions. Thank you.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that answer, but I have a follow-up question. Can the minister explain why government lawyers sent a letter to the associationís lawyer the very next day, saying that the association and its individual members may be on the hook for a considerable amount of money?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The government funded the Association of School Councils to provide direct support to school councils, and I would like to mention that the previous government refused to fund any such association. This government supports the concept of a school association of councils and, when we did that, we wanted to ensure that the public interest continued to be a primary issue. We want to ensure that the government funds put into that association directly support the school councils.
The matter of the association mandate and funding for that mandate is under review. The association chose to go out and retain legal counsel. Having done that, we are in a position of having to respond through legal counsel to the issues at hand.
Mrs. Peter: It is pretty easy to see why this Liberal government is shrinking before our very eyes. It is a sad situation when it canít even sit down and work out its differences with volunteers who are trying to make sure that parents have a say in the education of their children.
Today, this minority government tabled its amendments to the Education Act. Those amendments are based on a review process that collapsed completely, because this government couldnít work cooperatively with its partners.
I hope the minister isnít expecting this side of the House to rubber-stamp that bill. I have a suggestion for the minister responsible for education. For the sake of the Yukon communities ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mrs. Peter: Will the minister agree to set aside this dispute with a school council association and also take the Education Act back out for three more months for public consultation with its partners in education.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I am looking forward to a great deal of debate in this Legislature on the amendments that have been put forward. I am looking forward to meeting with the Association of School Councils at the end of the month. I donít believe that it is appropriate for this government to become involved in the internal disputes of associations.
This government was the first government to fund an association of school councils, and we have done that to support school councils directly, and we are going to ensure that those funds are put to the use of supporting school councils.
Question re: Placer mining industry
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources today. Now, the placer mining industry has been the backbone of the Yukon economy for more than 100 years, and now its very existence is being threatened by what could be some very new, stringent environmental regulations that not even Mother Nature herself could meet.
When the Yukon placer authorization was proposed back in 1993, the previous Yukon Party government went to bat for the industry in order to develop practical, commonsense regulations that would allow the industry to continue to contribute to the Yukonís economy in an environmentally sound manner. Can the minister explain why this Yukon Liberal government, in its current authorization process, has sat back on the sidelines and said nothing to support this once very viable industry? What is the reason for the lack of support for the placer mining industry by this government?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have to disagree with the member opposite about the lack of support we have shown the placer mining industry. The Yukon placer authorization has been a very important tool in striking a balance between the benefits of placer mining and the protection of fish habitat. Last year, for the first time, we contributed funding in the amount of $15,000 to the Klondike Placer Miners Association so that they could use that money to advertise the benefits of their industry. Also, in support of the Yukon placer authorization this past year, we have hired the accounting firm of BDO Dunwoody to do an economic impact of the placer authorization, something I expect to be complete very soon and, at that time, I will share it with members of the House.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, the Yukon Conservation Society is currently a member of the Yukon Placer Committee and is proposing regulations that would shut down the placer mining industry in Yukon. And they have been given a veto over any regulations that the YPC proposes.
The Yukon Party has taken the position that the Yukon Conservation Society should be consulted, but should have no right to veto the regulations for placer mining in the territory.
What is the position of this Yukon Liberal government on this veto?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iíll state again for the House how important I think placer mining is to the Yukon Territory in its existence of well over 100 years.
With regard to the Yukon Placer Committee, they work on a consensus basis. There are a number of different people who hold seats at the table, including the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Yukon Conservation Society, officials from my department, as well as federal officials. And I think itís important that they work together to build a consensus around the placer authorization so that the industry can survive and that fish habitat is protected. Itís very important that we strike that balance, and I have confidence that the consensus building of the Yukon Placer Committee will lead to us striking that balance.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, thatís just the problem. The Yukon Placer Committee operates by consensus and itís my understanding that a professional mediator has to be brought in now because the YPC has been unable to reach a consensus on the regulations that will govern that industry.
Will the minister confirm this unfortunate situation, and what does he plan to do about it? Because all individuals are not equal at the table. Thereís a veto given to the Yukon Conservation Society. The minister has said nothing about that.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, Iím unaware of any veto given to the Yukon Conservation Society at the table. The committee works on a consensus basis. There are polarized views of the Yukon Placer Committee. We would certainly like to see the committee function in a more productive way. Itís a very important committee, and itís very important to ensure the survival of the industry in Yukon and thatís what we want to see. The ultimate goal that we on this side of the House want to see is the survival of the Yukon placer mining industry in the Yukon Territory.
Question re: Womenís Directorate
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate. Until a few days ago, the Womenís Directorate had its own page in the government telephone book. It had a director who controlled the directorateís budget and answered directly to the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate. Now the Womenís Directorate doesnít have its own page; itís part of the policy and planning branch of the Executive Council Office. The senior position is a manager, not a director. That manager does not control the directorateís budget. She answers to an assistant deputy minister and a deputy minister, who are both men. The deputy controls the budget and reports directly to the Premier, who is not even the minister responsible for womenís issues.
Will the minister agree that these are changes?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I think we need to go through this again. Policy directs budget. The manager of the Womenís Directorate reports directly to me as the minister responsible for the status of women. The policy thatís set through the Womenís Directorate directs the budget, and that budget amount goes through the Executive Council Office. Yes, the budget line is in the Executive Council Office, but everything else remains the same. There were 4.46 individuals who worked for the Womenís Directorate prior to renewal, and there are 4.46 individuals who still work for the Womenís Directorate doing the good work that theyíve always done.
Mrs. Peter: Letís try again, Mr. Speaker. Last year, the Womenís Directorate had an office manager, a policy and communications person, a policy analyst and a communications coordinator. They all reported to the director. Under the new Executive Council Office organization charts, there are two policy analysts and a communications analyst who all report to the communications unit, not even to the manager of the Womenís Directorate. There is no office manager. Will the minister agree that these are changes?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I think we need to go through the details. The member opposite hasnít been completely briefed.
First of all, there is a director or a manager, and thatís one full-time position. Thereís one full-time position for an office manager, one full-time position for a policy analyst, 0.6 of a position for a policy analyst again, 0.86 of a communications officer, for a total of 4.46 individuals. Those individuals work in the Womenís Directorate.
The only change is that the budget line is now under the Executive Council Office, but the good work thatís being done by the Womenís Directorate will continue.
Mrs. Peter: Last Thursday, we heard the minister repeat the mantra that was written for her: the only change to the Womenís Directorate is that the budget amount is going to be under the Executive Council Office. Clearly, that is not the case, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to address my final question, not as an NDP member to a Liberal member, but just as one woman to another. Will the minister tell us frankly, does she personally approve of these changes?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: No one has ever accused me of not being frank.
The change is this: the budget amount is no longer under the Womenís Directorate. It has now been moved to the Executive Council Office. That is the change. There were 4.46 individuals working for the Womenís Directorate prior to April 1; there are still 4.46 individuals working for the Womenís Directorate.
The change is the budget amount changing over into the Executive Council Office. That is the change.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School rebuild
Mr. Roberts: My question is directed to the Minister of Education. Before I ask my question, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Education and the Minister of Justice on their recent appointments.
My question is: would the Minister of Education please inform the House what the present student population and the maximum capacity of Grey Mountain Primary and Selkirk schools are, please?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iíll have to get back to the member opposite on that because I donít have the information at my fingertips.
Mr. Roberts: For the information of the House, the school population of Grey Mountain Primary School as of last week is 83 students. The maximum capacity of Grey Mountain Primary School is 125 students. The school population of Selkirk Elementary School as of last week is 245 students, with the maximum capacity being anywhere from 350 to 400 students.
My second question: could the minister please inform the House what the present student enrolment and capacity of Golden Horn Elementary School, which is located in the ministerís riding, is?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: If the Member for Porter Creek North would like to have all of the individual details on the schools and the exact enrolments, Iíll be happy to forward that to him in a briefing note later on this afternoon.
Mr. Roberts: Since the minister does not have those figures for Golden Horn Elementary School, I happen to have them. The school population of Golden Horn Elementary School is 253, with the maximum capacity of 300 students.
What the Minister of Education should be doing is evaluating her own riding for additional school space, particularly in the Marsh Lake area where many of her constituents have asked her to support that proposal.
When Grey Mountain Primary School was first built, I was the first principal of that school, and it was to be in place for five to six years as the need existed. Now we know where it is at.
My question to the minister: how can the minister explain to her constituents and other Yukon communities that have legitimate building needs the choice of the Liberal government building a $4-million Grey Mountain Primary School in a community that already has an elementary school that is half-full and is only a few blocks away from Grey Mountain Primary School and could easily handle the 83 students from Grey Mountain Primary School? Is it because the Liberals are trying to buy two safe ridings in the next election?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Liberal government made a promise and I know that the member opposite has difficulty with promises. However, this government made a promise to build a Grey Mountain School because the Grey Mountain School is doing a tremendously good job and that school is falling down around their ears. There are going to be a number of other decisions coming forward that will benefit the education of children in the Yukon. The priority of this government and my priority as the minister is to ensure that we have the best learning environment possible. Building Grey Mountain School will help reach that goal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Fee increases
Mr. McRobb: Thatís a tough act to follow. Itís no secret that these are tough economic times for many of our citizens and small business operators. And everybody knows that the too-little-too-late Liberal government strategies to deal with the economy are not working. To rub salt in the wound, the Liberal government recently announced a 50-percent hike in the cost of daily campground permits, slamming the only non-government sector of the economy left ó tourism.
This government cash grab also hikes the cost of annual permits for Yukon residents. Perhaps in answering his first question in this House as Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, the Member for Riverdale North could justify the timing of this decision and explain how it signals support for our tourism operators.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As the general premise of the question is about the overall fee increases, I will take this opportunity to remind members of the House that, in the lengthy listing of the fee increases, very few of those fees will impact upon the day-to-day lives of Yukoners, and they are minimal increases. For example, the fees that are increased that will be paid by the average family include driversí licences, which is still, for five years at $50, quite a bargain ó $10 a year ó and less than Albertaís. And in light of the $40 million being spent on highways, Mr. Speaker, again, it is a small recovery. Another is for the licence plates on vehicles. There has been a slight increase for the first time in years. And the campground fee is not a huge increase as portrayed by the Member for Kluane; rather, it is a $10-a-year increase and, again, the campground permits are free for the month of May for all Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, weíre getting two different stories: one from Yukoners and one from this Liberal government. I know which story I believe and I know which story Yukoners believe.
Now, the Tourism Industry Association has spoken against these increases, indicating the timing couldnít be worse for an already-stressed industry. Small operators are unfairly targeted by this increase because of the suddenness of this Liberal cash grab. This is picking the pockets and livelihoods of Yukoners at a very bad time.
Mr. Speaker, Iím aware of tourism operators in my riding who tell me theyíre living below the poverty line, as it is.
Will the new minister ask the Premier to follow the advice of the Tourism Industry Association and postpone these hikes until there is an upturn in the economy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, just to continue with this supplementary, I have spoken at length with the president of the Tourism Industry Association, who has not asked ó as the member has indicated ó that these small fee increases be postponed. We had a lengthy conversation about it, and the president of the Tourism Industry Association has not asked for that.
Secondly, Mr. Speaker, I would advise that this is not new. It is, in fact, a recommendation in the Report on Other Matters by the Auditor General that dates back to 1996. The fact is that no one has had a look at these fees in a very long time, and they are modest ó modest ó increases on top of an extensive income tax cut implemented by this government.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, we know this government suffers from the affliction of old-act syndrome. Now we know it suffers from another affliction: old-fee syndrome. There is no compassion for Yukoners in the poor state of the economy and the hardships that small tourism operators have to endure in this Liberal government going for this cash grab. I say, "Shame on these Liberals for that."
Again and again, this government is showing that itís unwilling to listen and act upon the helpful and constructive suggestions of Yukoners. TIA does say that it has been trying to work with the government for some time in an effort to improve the situation for tourism in the Yukon. However, there is very little to show for its efforts from this government.
Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary will ask the same question many Yukoners are asking: why is this government being so intransigent instead of listening and acting upon the concerns of an industry that is facing such tough economic times?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, I would remind the member opposite that I had spoken personally at great length with the president of the Tourism Industry Association and members of the association on many occasions, as have all the ministers in this government, most especially the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, who has already attended a board meeting with the Tourism Industry Association.
With respect to the very modest fee increases, Mr. Speaker, again, I must remind the member opposite of the income tax cuts implemented by this government to ensure more money was in the pockets of Yukoners; and that is paying dividends with retail sales in the Yukon increasing between January 2001 and 2002 by more than 30.5 percent.
And Mr. Speaker, I remind the member opposite in the budget briefing there has been a $14-million increase in the health care budget. And health care, of course, as members opposite have stated, is the number one concern of Canadians.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Point of privilege.
Question of privilege
Speaker: The hon. Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: I rise on a point of parliamentary privilege, and Iím going to take my time, Mr. Speaker, because itís a grave and serious matter that this addresses.
Mr. Speaker, today I rise on behalf of the members of Porter Creek North, McIntyre-Takhini, as well as myself. Over the past week, we have had the very core of our parliamentary rights violated by the misguided actions of the governing party.
The rights of privacy and confidentiality were breached when the Liberal government accessed our computer files without our permission. The Liberal chief of staff has sent me a letter saying that my files have been returned to me. Mr. Speaker, the computer files have been returned but, as of now, are still in an unusable format. This is akin to returning documents after they have been shredded. There is no excuse. The two other members are still awaiting the return of their documents.
The point of privilege focuses on the fact that this government ran roughshod over the established and well-precedented right of elected members in any form of parliament in the Commonwealth. The right to confidentiality with constituents is necessary to ensure fair representation. When that confidentiality is breached, it seriously affects the ability of the elected members to do their duty in a position of trust.
The fact that there may be criminal charges arising out of this, Mr. Speaker, should impress upon you the very serious nature of this matter.
If we look at the situation of the three members, it is easy to see that these files were taken without their permission, held in an environment where they could have been copied, accessed, read, and all the information disseminated and used for any nefarious purpose they wished, and then finally returned to us at their convenience, without any notice and also in any format they wished to give it, which is currently unusable ó if they have returned them at all, which we are currently in a position of.
When these documents and files were taken, we had announced quite clearly that we were members of the opposition, that we were kicked out or leaving the ranks of the Liberal Party. The Liberals at this time should have taken steps to avoid this situation, to carefully delineate what is private and what is government, what is the property and right of an elected official and what is not. In my case, Mr. Speaker, under no oath of confidentiality, under no possible confusion, my records were taken without my permission.
What we have asked is to put this in the light of any other member of the opposition. What kind of fuss would be happening right now if they were taken from the computer files of the leader of the official opposition, of the leader of the third party? All members are equal in this House as private members. We want our records returned to us immediately.
Since we are now questioning the ethics of the present government, we are asking that they be held accountable for their extremely questionable actions. To do this, we are asking for an immediate apology from the Premier on behalf of the government and an all-party disciplinary committee to find ways that this never occurs again and to bring to account the perpetrators of this very serious and grave crime.
Mr. Speaker, the rights of all future legislatures in this House and in other parliaments of the Commonwealth depend on your ruling. Our right to privacy and confidentiality with our constituents must be protected or future governments will refer to your ruling, as Speaker, any time they wish to trample the privacy rights and individual rights of any private member in this House.
It is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, there was an issue of dirty tricks and stealing files in 1975 that brought down the most unpopular government in United States history. Democracy and rights of privacy to files are universal in parliaments and legislatures across the world.
We feel, Mr. Speaker, that it is time for you to reinforce the rights of privacy in the Yukon today.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Thank you very much, Member for Whitehorse Centre. Itís true what you say, that the rights of all future legislatures depend on this ruling, and itís certainly not going to be taken in haste.
Therefore, I have to take what you say under advisement, and I will provide a ruling at a later date. I wonít promise it will be tomorrow. It will be a later date, because this is a serious issue.
With that, weíll now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 9: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan; adjourned debate, Mr. Fairclough.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond to the budget speech made by the Premier.
First of all, I have to say that we, on this side of the House, are in basically the same position and conclusion that Yukoners came to when they first heard the budget speech read, and that is itís certainly not invigorating, it certainly doesnít spell out and tell Yukoners that the economy is going to turn around or that there is any hope for it to turn around.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, when we look at the long-term plans for government, we see the supplementary budget being brought down to a low of $1 million in the bank for emergencies, and I think that needs to be addressed.
Mr. Speaker, the Premier says that this Liberal government is moving ahead. Weíre wondering which way theyíre moving. Itís certainly not the same way as the economy, because the economy is moving the other way.
This budget speech was basically to give a message to Yukoners that the Liberals are out there, fighting on their behalf, and to give Yukoners hope that things are going to improve in the territory. This is an O&M budget, and I was quite disappointed with the fact that the Premier did not include, with her budget speech, the full budget, which is the capital budget. I would think if youíre going to pass a message on to Yukoners, you have to include the whole budget, and that includes the capital budget that was passed last year.
I would like to go through several things. First of all, this Liberal government passed a capital budget in the fall. This was to ensure that contracts are bid on and people are put to work as early as we possibly can in the summer and throughout the summer. That was a government-of-the-day move, and the whole idea was to bump up the spring session a couple of weeks earlier ó three weeks earlier ó to attach the O&M budget to the capital budget.
Well, Mr. Speaker, we didnít see that happen. As a matter of fact, the operation and maintenance budget was to be tabled in the middle of February, so Yukoners have been waiting and waiting for this Liberal government to get the session underway and to present the budget, so we can have a brighter outlook in the future, and it didnít happen.
Weíve waited so long that the Premier had to go to the Commissioner to get spending authority to keep our operation and maintenance going. And, this budget is all about putting confidence back in the public service and in the people of the Yukon.
I think that it did not do that, and one of the reasons is that we have seen broken promises all the way through in the last two years. One of them was renewal, that we would see it before Christmas; right after Christmas, we would have everything in place; by the middle of January, then the end of January. And then comes the middle of February, and still we didnít see anything. I think, at that point in time, this Liberal government opened their eyes to the type of process that has to be gone through and realized that they would not have anything in place until a much later date, and the fact that there are all kinds of controversy around the whole idea.
So now we have a session late in the spring, into summer, special warrants giving spending authority to government, taking away, really, the rights of elected representatives to debate a budget that is, I think, important for Yukoners.
So as we go through the budget, and I will go through the budget speech ó so if anybody wants to follow along, I will go through it in some detail.
One of the things, first of all, that the Premier said in her very first paragraph was that they were going to spend taxpayersí money wisely, and the question today about Grey Mountain Primary School was all about a promise, not about looking at good fiscal management. I think itís shameful and a bit embarrassing that government is caught in that situation right now. What we truly have is an ability to move some students around in Riverdale, basically very close to home ó there are a couple of schools that can accommodate them, but the government chose instead to spend $4 million on that venture.
The whole reason for bringing the capital budget to the fall was to speed up, basically, summer projects ó not going into the winter to do building projects, which could cost more.
Itís unfortunate that one of my communities in my riding is still waiting for a project that was started two years ago. And this Liberal government did not want to go through a whole winter of labour, basically ó and costing more to build a project. Now, two winters later, we still donít see a project in place for our students, even though promises have been made over and over again, dates made with the then Minister of Education, and we donít see that today. Thatís unfortunate. That was one small project that government was unable to handle.
Now, Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government said that they are fulfilling their commitment and their promises to Yukoners. Well, letís go right back to the beginning, when they said they were going to introduce, right to the end, the NDP budget. Did that happen? It didnít happen. They started cutting it up and cutting it out. And we see those programs being cut today. And this is the goal of the Liberal government, and Yukoners can see it, even though this Liberal government may think that Yukoners are blind to whatís happening here. Itís unfortunate, but, again, thatís happening. So it was another broken promise.
I believe everyone can recall the Premier making a speech again in this House. We can recall that, right at the beginning of her speech, it was drowned out by the noise outside the House. And that again was another commitment on the doorstep. And you can read through the speech, where they said they would fulfill the commitments that they made on the doorstep, which I find to be another break ó that the Minister of Education found it very difficult to concentrate on the Premierís speech because of the sound of music outside. Itís unfortunate that we had to go through a first-ever strike of the teachers in the Yukon Territory.
Iíll go through many, many more broken promises made by this government. I know that the Member for Faro wants to hear it, because he wants to take that same message back home ó and that includes some commitments to Faro, too.
The Finance minister said that they had a vision, that they were carrying out their vision. One thing they forgot to do in their bold movement was to inform Yukoners what that was. They said they listened to Yukon people. It says right in her budget speech here that they listened to Yukon people. I couldnít believe that line. For one, these are budgets ó capital budgets ó that were put together by the Premier in the corner suite upstairs and a couple of other unelected members. It was put together by them and some on this side of the House who are now not members of the Liberal Party. And there was no consultation with the public.
Now I know that the government is going to say that weíve been to every community in the Yukon. I know that people in Carmacks have seen them. Itís a big van with a big sign on the side of the van, "We have consulted you". Zoom, right through town. Well, theyíve been to Carmacks.
If they werenít looking for their keys, locked out of their vehicles, they were talking to maybe one individual in that community and no one else. So, what happened with the consultation process? Did it just break down and the Liberal government found a new way of talking to people? Well, Mr. Speaker, if this Liberal government was really committed to talking to Yukoners and really listened to Yukoners, we would have seen a different capital budget as of last year, we would have seen a different capital budget as of the fall, and we would have seen a different O&M budget attached to this capital budget, and maybe a different budget and message given to Yukoners.
So, what have we seen here?
The Premier didnít fire up Yukoners at all with this budget speech. As a matter of fact, did anybody hear it? If the answer is no to that, itís because there is not much in it. Itís an operation and maintenance budget. Certainly there was some message about the capital budget being brought forward in the fall. Again and again, we have tried to get some real numbers out to Yukoners, and we were using government audits about the surplus. And even though this government introduces budgets and tables them in the House, they refuse to believe their own numbers. I find that pretty ironic because they are there for the public. Everybody else can see it.
Every one of the ministers who got up to answer all pulled the Premierís line on this. If they couldnít read this one page, Finance, then there is something wrong here. There is something wrong with the leadership if everybody follows that type of avenue that has been brought forward. Itís unfortunate that we have to go through that again, because we shouldnít have to tell the public that over and over again and ask the question of what the surplus is over and over again ó or what the auditor had said it was ó without having another number presented by government. Iím hoping that if we ask the question again in this session that we get some accurate answers from the members opposite. Iíll ask the Minister of Justice a question on this and hope that we get an accurate answer on that because this cannot be how government works.
This Liberal government said they would improve decorum in this House. The first day ó the first sitting day of this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, I would say that half of the people in Yukon were calling for an election. They wanted an election, just because of what took place here.
Seeing three people cross the floor for reasons ó I would say for several reasons, and ones that are no different from what we have been saying on this side of the House: we want government to be open and accountable. Well, that was the reason for one of the members to leave, and itís unfortunate that that took place, but at least the public is seeing the real picture.
As we go through the budget, it does say in here that they want a government that listens. And when we talk about accountability ó I will go through that in a bit of detail, too ó itís all about how, a year ago in the polls, the public said they wanted a government that is accountable for their actions. Well, thatís pretty normal. But why did it take place? Simply because of the actions, I would say, of this Liberal government from the day they took office.
Now, as their members leave that side of the House to be independents, the government is basically in a minority position right now, hoping for support from someone on this side of the House on bills and budgets. We just might see another member cross the floor. We know itís there. Who is it? Who is hiding? Who will come out of the woodwork, I guess, is what Yukoners want to know, and who is going to hold the party line?
The biggest issue that Yukoners have is the economy. The Premier knew that after the election. She took on the job of economic development, found it was too tough and handed it off ó too much to chew.
She didnít really do anything, or have any vision in that aspect but, instead, decided to take some of the good programs that the NDP had put together and start to bury them, getting rid of them and so on.
No vision of what a good economy should look like. The only thing was long-term hope for Yukoners ó and I havenít heard the Premier say this ó by 2012, there will be natural gas flowing down the pipeline ó 2012. Well, how could Yukoners put their head in their hands and wait for that length of time? There is nothing done on forestry, they have killed trade and investment.
Whatís new ó mining initiatives? Well, the Minister of Economic Development, at that time, said it was a miracle, that he had produced a miracle, that the Cantung mine opened up in 10 months of negotiating ó opened up and worked hard for the Northwest Territories to help get their economy going.
Well, nothing happened here. It is unfortunate that we have businesses today that are not paid by that organization. And itís funny that the Liberal government, being in opposition, would criticize any money going into roads and helping out any of the mining initiatives that were put forward by the NDP. Things have switched, and the tide has switched. But what else is happening? The Town of Faro isnít growing any. And the miracle was produced but, since then, I guess they stopped producing any miracles. Nothing else happened in the Yukon, and we have seen it slide backward tremendously. And, even though this is a number one issue, it is not the priority of this Liberal government.
What weíve seen this government focus on is itself. It canít look anywhere else. Itís void of any new initiatives to put forward. It focuses on itself ó renewal. They thought maybe renewal was going to make government more efficient; they want to save money. Well, we will see how efficient that is. Yukoners right now want to know how many millions of dollars have been spent on renewal, and I believe itís in the millions.
This government also said that if elected they would have a good relationship with the federal government, and you will see federal money just flooding the Yukon, the economy will turn around. Well, I donít know what happened to the pipeline and to the offices of the federal government, but there seems to be nothing flowing at all. As a matter of fact, to raise revenue now, this Liberal government is not getting any money from the federal government. Itís starting to pull it out of Yukonersí pockets. Theyíre all about tax increases ó fees and tax increases. And the Premier just calls them "modest increases". Well, you know, during my very first visit to Mayo, the very first person who came up to me said that these fee increases hits their pockets. It was a senior. Every year, it hit their pockets. So, really, what the Premier and the Liberal government would like to do is pull monies out of Yukonersí pockets to build up a bank account that appears to be depleted, because every time we bring up the fact that there is a surplus, this government pleads poverty.
They couldnít get any projects in the communities because this government was broke ó basically broke. There was $100 million in the bank and this government said it didnít have enough money to buy a fire truck for Mayo, for example ó a safety issue that was pointed out by the community. Instead they have stretched out capital projects as long as they can. What weíve seen again is a $99-million surplus of last year, pleading poverty for another full year and what we have in the books in front of us is about $80 million. Well, we went down $20 million and still there is a plea of poverty out there in the public. And I would say that this Liberal government doesnít have anything in them to change it and turn it around and to say they will spend some of those dollars. And I know why. Yukoners know why, too.
Itís unfortunate that communities have to get this Liberal government to the communities to basically do damage control where things are going bad. If that didnít happen this Liberal government would never make it to the communities.
Weíve seen the fee increases. We wonder what they are for. Whatís the whole reasoning behind the campground fee increases? Well, we know why itís late this year. We knew why it was late last year. We knew that the campgrounds were free because of the fact that the department basically didnít have the paperwork in place, the tickets and permits to give out to the public and now it has been made free ó for a month anyway.
Weíve gone, I would say, totally backwards. Surely this Liberal government knows that weíre in a recession.
Weíre looking for initiatives, new ideas to build the economy. Iím sure that if any one of the members on that side of the House went into the communities, the people were not saying to increase taxes, which is exactly what this Liberal government did. They wanted to reduce the cost of health care by increasing taxes on cigarettes.
Well, they said that last year, and they said it was all about the future, by the way, in this speech, but that was the exact move this Liberal government made last year ó increase the taxes on tobacco and that will deter young people from smoking. That was the whole reasoning behind the increase to cigarette taxes.
Well, this year, thereís no evidence of that working at all. Nothing brought to the floor of this Legislature. Nothing given to the public that, yes, we do have fewer younger people smoking because of the increase. Really nothing at all. So, whatís the reasoning for the increase this time to cigarettes? Well, thereís only one thing: itís to increase revenue. If we canít get it from Ottawa, get it out of the pockets of Yukoners, which is an unfortunate thing to take place.
The members donít seem to mind, but we will remind the public again and again that this is what is in store for Yukoners in the future, because it was all about the future, and we are going to see continued growth in taxes on all levels. Iím not sure if itís to offset what is taking place right now. We have seen revenue in this budget decrease by 50 percent in corporate income tax, and obviously thereís a move downward in that aspect. It means that less is happening in the Yukon.
The government is complaining a little ó or the Premier has complained a little bit in her budget speech about the increase in spending by $6 million, and $16 million over the last two years for the increase in employeesí wages, basically saying that this was a measure of their respect to the public service.
I would think itís just a government job. But we certainly didnít see a respect for the public service on the first day, when the teachers went on strike. When the teachers went on strike, one of the big reasons the government wasnít moving was the fact that they were crying poverty again ó there was no money in the kitty.
This government made no movement on the economy. It was all about itself ó renewal. Well, letís start something new here and maybe build back the confidence of our public employees and the public. Well, how does renewal do that right now? Basically, the public service was blindsided with this. It wasnít a position that this Liberal government took in their campaign. It wasnít a commitment this government took on the doorstep. So, what happened there? They had to do something, and maybe this was one they thought was going to save government a whole lot of money down the road.
Well, we have spent millions of dollars on renewal right now. I know the members opposite would disagree with that. The concentration of the public service on this initiative is incredible. It has disrupted services to Yukoners, and lots and lots of time has been spent putting this together ó and much more to come.
Talk about new departments ó well, theyíre not "new" new departments. They are getting rid of the Womenís Directorate, and they moved chairs around. They changed names a little bit, split it up and called it a new initiative. They are bringing in a new centre for all government services. I think youíll find it to be a nightmare when that happens.
Well, on the bottom of page 2, the Premier said, "On the revenue side, I am announcing a single new initiative today Ė an increase in the tobacco tax of four cents per cigarette or a dollar per pack of 25." That was a new initiative. I donít believe those words to be accurate, because itís not a new initiative. It was one the government did the year before. What it is, is an announcement to the public that this is a trend this Liberal government is following ó increase taxes, no commitment to the economy, and down we go.
This Liberal government hasnít said very much to the public about the fact that they do have money in the bank ó $80 million plus. It could go up as far as $100 million plus by the time we get the audit back. There was a $25-million difference between government numbers last year. I believe they said $63 million. It was up near $100 million.
So I donít know and havenít heard anything new that this government is doing to stimulate the economy. Increasing things like licence plates and permit fees and all that, I donít believe will do it. Another thing in regard to financing ó this being, again, an O&M budget ó is that, when the Liberals ran this side of the House, they complained dramatically about deficit financing, that this wasnít going to take place. But now it has. Weíre in the same position as the government has been in the past but, again, itís not something that the Liberals have followed through with.
So I would think that we are going backwards in the kinds of things that we are doing in regard to ensuring the public that we are open and accountable, and that is in regard to dollars itself.
And I would like this Liberal government to come forward in a very simple forum to tell the public exactly what the finances of government are and what their intentions are, because we havenít heard that. Other than, "We will promote the Alaska Highway pipeline". Well, where did it get us? Well sure, the right-of-way for the pipeline has been there for a long time, and that we lost is what it was.
The federal government is now spending dollars on a project that is within Canada, so Yukoners are basically forced to wait for a pipeline. And I think that maybe this Liberal government knew that it wasnít going to happen, because when you are in a recession, you put money toward things like training, training trust funds, and helping out the community campuses and the Yukon College and so on. That didnít happen. As a matter of fact, this Liberal government decided to cut training trust funds. These dollars were great for Yukon College because it was a leverage. With every $1 million, they could raise $3 million coming into the Yukon. So the Yukon government cuts $1 million, and it means $4 million gone and jobs gone, and people not being trained and job-ready.
So, all the while this is taking place ó trying to improve the economy ó the government announces the fact that the unemployment rate is going down month by month. But they are not mentioning the fact that people are leaving month by month, or the fact that people are working outside of the Yukon to boost those numbers up ó not in the Yukon, outside the Yukon, in the Northwest Territories, Inuvik, Cantung and other places.
Now, the good projects that have been in place, like the community development fund, were not very popular with this Liberal government. They decided to cut the community development fund, and what we have seen are activities disappearing out of the communities, and for the first time in a long time we have seen a dramatic number of people leaving the small communities in the Yukon and coming basically to Whitehorse. Thatís why you donít see the Whitehorse numbers dropping so dramatically. Even my own community ó 10 percent of people leaving that community has never been experienced, I believe, for a long time. We have seen some increases, like in Pelly Crossing for example.
There is nothing to really address that, so maybe this is a Liberal government goal ó to basically see the communities continue to fall ó and itís unfortunate because the communities do prop up the economy in Whitehorse. The Member for Faro knows this too. When we saw the Faro mine shut down, we saw the services in Whitehorse disappear and people and workers go. Finning, for example, was a fairly big operation and is now quite a smaller one, but itís still here to support the placer mining industry and others.
The unfortunate part about the people leaving the Yukon is that they are our workforce ó aged between 25 and 40. Now, I would think a goal of government would be to try to find ways to attract them back to the Yukon, and that is talking with industry and the private sector, seeing how they can help out in boosting the economy.
Now, I donít believe that focusing on increased taxes to Yukoners and tax rates to people outside the Yukon are going to give confidence and comfort to every citizen in the communities.
I wonder if the Liberals can also tell us if they got good feedback from the public about this invigorating budget speech that was given in the House, because I havenít heard anything, not even in the media ó very little. The kind of thing that was a message there was increases in taxes. So maybe the government can give us some assurance that the public out there likes what it sees.
Now, this whole budget speech really doesnít have much about the economy in it at all ó very little. I know I have support from some of the members opposite on that. Just read through it. First of all, what does it do for the economy?
Moving things around, moving the liquor store back down to the warehouse area, turning that into a medical centre of some type ó I donít think thatís a bad move. I donít know if thatís the most appropriate building, but I donít think thatís a bad move. I know that the Liquor Corporation wanted to make a move out of that building when their contract expired, for the simple fact that it was costing so much for rent of that building. It was $250,000, if I recall, per year. So now, it falls under ó maybe thatís another increase in our Health department in getting rent. Iím sure that a few people are going to feel the pinch, that we will have to move out of some buildings and some office space will be vacant now.
The Liberals have talked about the telephone standards and getting better service to the public. Iím hoping that if this is an initiative that the Liberals really believe in, a lot of this should be a priority in their own offices upstairs because people cannot get through. "Leave a message" is basically the response they get when theyíre on the telephone. So, I would think that the Liberal government has a lot to learn about putting an initiative out there in regard to telephone standards.
The government is going to produce a map, though, for moving all of these services to one building. Word is that itís in the mall, where Extra Foods is located. There is plenty of parking there, and all of the government services are going to be moved there. Iím sure itís going to create all kinds of havoc with the departments, and I donít believe they like it. But in the meantime, government is going to make a map showing the location of all of the government offices around the City of Whitehorse. That map will be available on the Internet.
Itís interesting that that is taking place. Thereís an initiative for people to be focused on going to one centre. Iím not convinced that the lineup is going to be any shorter going to one building than to several buildings, or that it was a tremendous problem getting your licence or licence plate renewed. I believe the lineup was fairly short ó a matter of minutes.
Now, weíve gone from a public opinion that economy is the most important thing to deal with. This government decided to focus inward on itself and look at making the government more efficient and accessible, and all the efforts of this government are focused on that. Some highways, youíve got some work in capital projects ó basically nothing different from what takes place. There are commitments on the doorstep that we havenít seen, including a bridge in Dawson City, and thatís coming, I believe. That hasnít been reflected, but Iím sure that we would see something in the near future ó if that were the case, if this Liberal Party is true to its word that they would keep all the commitments that were made on the doorstep.
As we go through this budget, you will notice, time and time again, that thereís something missing, and itís initiatives on the economy. Thereís no focus on the economy. A budget speech is given to Yukoners to show where government is going. Now, whatís the idea now of splitting them apart ó a capital budget here, O&M here ó and this is basically the spring and people want to go to work. There are usually summer jobs created out of the budget, and yet thereís no message there that things would improve. The message was given months ago, but itís not even the same message that we have today if you compare budget speeches, I guess, from the capital budget to what we have now.
The Premier did not list the new priorities of government. Did you read it in the budget speech, which I would say was written months ago, just waiting for this sitting to take place so we can introduce it, just the way it is written?
I know that members opposite know that it was put together with the help of the three who crossed the floor. No, it was only a matter of months ago that praise was given to the Minister of Health. I read it in this budget speech, the capital budget speech, about community tours and so on, but you really have to wonder where their priorities are at.
What is with the fee hikes? That is a common question that Yukoners have. Is it needed? Is it just because it is old and outdated that we see, I guess, government bringing this forward? Is it for revenue generation? There is $1 million attached to that. Some of the fee increases are cigarette taxes and so on, and it says that it is going to go directly to Health and Social Services to offset the cost ó but maybe it is to other things.
Yukoners didnít forget what took place last summer, when the Minister of Renewable Resources, for example, decided to tour the community campgrounds around the territory in an RV. Taxpayersí dollars paid for that ó this is called good fiscal management of this Liberal government.
The immediate feedback from the public is that, I work all my life, this is a dream only some Yukoners have, to take a trip like this ó and we have this made just simply on their own to spend taxpayersí dollars that way.
What did we get out of it? I would say nothing new. No report has been tabled in the House about how we can improve the campgrounds or whether or not we will be building new campgrounds. Thatís something Yukoners will not forget because there is nothing, other than the O&M budget here, and no link back to the capital budget. This Liberal government is saying that, really, the future just looks bad.
Now, Iím just going to quickly flip to the long-term plans for the members opposite. Iím sure that they know the long-term projections for finances. In the year 2004-05, the accumulated surplus will be at $1 million, so if we ever had an emergency, whether itís fires or floods and so on, weíd go into debt to finance that. It would stop how departments work. Thatís the forecast.
And again and again in this budget, we see that government is reannouncing things that took place already. They call it their hard work in some initiatives, like devolution, for example. The Liberal government called it their hard work; theyíve come to a conclusion. The Yukon Act has been out there in the public and was put out in the public by the NDP. At the change of government, this Liberal government decided to make changes to the Yukon Act and they didnít take it out to the public again. Isnít that a shame? Thatís what people are a little ticked off about. There is really no difference in devolution at all from what was negotiated in the past. I would like to see how many hours of negotiation took place on devolution itself from the time the NDP left office to today, and where the Liberals are at. It would be very interesting.
For one, Iím glad that devolution is taking place. Itís something that we, on this side of the bench, wanted to see and would like to see government and Yukoners have control of their resources. But again, I donít think that the Liberal government is fully prepared for devolution, or is fully preparing for devolution. What policies has the government developed? Can any minister even answer that right now? What policies in the last two years has this Liberal government developed to make devolution happen in a smooth way? Nothing. There are two out there, though, that the NDP worked on. One is the Oil and Gas Act and the other is the forest strategy. I see the Liberals want to go out and move words around in the forest strategy and try to put another one together, but it will be very interesting to see how that takes place.
Should there be an election right now, it puts any government that is going to take over in a difficult spot, because I donít believe the work has been concentrated on to make sure that all departments and government are ready for devolution, and to having all our departments work well together. Government has not said that they are. This Liberal government did not say that they are ready or that they are working on a number of things to get ready, to ensure that weíre ready for devolution. Because itís a big thing. Itís not something small. And the general public has an expectation too that, once we do have devolution, things are going to be different from the way they are.
Thatís the other thing I donít hear the Liberal government saying ó "Weíre going to adopt the policies of the federal government."
Now, the other thing that the Premier said in her budget speech was that the new departments ó they are calling them new departments ó that were announced last year have organizational charts and budgets to begin fulfilling their new responsibilities.
First of all, I havenít seen all of the charts. From what was presented to us, some of those charts were incomplete, and they donít spell out the whole picture of whatís new ó what positions are new and what positions are not. It also says in here that the people and money are now in place, and that, as of April 1, the new departments will be fully functional. I donít believe that to be the case either, and I donít know why itís written the way it is, other than an attempt to give some hope that this thing is going to flow smoothly.
Well, if all of the people are in place, then just flip open the phone directory. Flip that open. You will see a lot of people in the upper management areas ó the positions are vacant, vacant, vacant. That latest phone directory was updated on April 2 of this year.
Thereís an acknowledgement in here by the Premier of the dedication of the people involved ó of the many hours they put in to make sure these structures are in place.
Well, I would have to give them a lot of credit for working hard on this, too, simply because they were blindsided by the initiative. I would say that it must have driven some of them crazy, just to ensure that this initiative was complete. There are a whole pile of unknowns here and, even today, we donít get a clear picture from the government side, and I donít believe all the ministers do have a clear picture of what it would look like.
Well, this is the second change to the budget document. It goes far beyond what is written in these pages ó something we probably agree to. It is. Thereís a lot to be said thatís not in the pages. And it refers back to a poll ó Iím surprised thatís in there ó referring back to a poll that was done last year. What the Liberal government is really saying is that, in one year in government, the poll has said that they basically want a government thatís accountable. When you make promises and you donít fulfill them, people get angry. When youíre spending a lot of money and none in your community, people get angry. When they lose their jobs, they get angry. And one of the big initiatives this government said that it would be, is it would be more open and accountable, more open and accountable for its actions and its spending. I believe that has to be demonstrated by that party on that side of the House, and I believe it has to be demonstrated by leadership.
But what weíve seen and what the public has seen is that not to be the case at all. If this Liberal government is really dedicated to being more open and accountable then it has to show it. We cannot have a bunker-down mentality that is there. Telephones need to be answered. If there are meetings set up, they need to be gone through and not cancelled. And the ministers themselves have to be more accessible. They need to answer to the public, to the media. I think this Liberal government found itself in a tough position when it decided not to talk to the media. Hiring someone, getting out there and getting a hired hand to keep them away from the media ó itís the wrong thing to do. You must have messages that you would like to give to the public. Every minister must have that. And why not give it to the public? Instead weíve seen basically government do things behind closed doors. That was, again, reaffirmed by the three who walked across the floor, that, yes, there was business done behind closed doors. This I would say might not have so much credit if a backbencher across the floor said it, but two people in Cabinet have said that and it really makes the public think how things are done. Iím sure the new ministers that have been appointed their portfolios probably feel the same thing. You know what Iím talking about.
The focus that government has on itself is incredible. Basically putting together accountability plans ó I hope that the political side really looks at being accountable for their action, or actions.
Again it is all about government, and itís not about the economy. There is something wrong here when the Liberal government is focused on themselves and not the economy, and there is nothing that we can find that gives hope that we will be looking at something new.
It was very interesting to note, from the three who walked across the floor, about audits done on programs that are buried, and not out there in the public ó ones that were working well, and that could be working well ó the trade and investment stuff. And I could see why this Liberal government would bury that. Because when they are in opposition, they were opposed to trade missions. They did not want to see this type of thing happen.
I could recall questions coming from the Liberal side, when in opposition, about trips to Russia, for example, and what took place. The Premier decided to follow the Prime Minister on a trade mission to Russia. That is how far things have turned around. The focus was going to be close to the Yukon ó Alaska, B.C., Alberta ó in getting business going with one another.
What we saw from the very first swearing in was the Minister of Tourism at the time, going out on a trip. At that point in time, she said that she loved to travel, and, that is no big secret any more. We know how much this Liberal government likes to travel. For some of them, it is nice to see them stick around the communities and try to talk with people and get some ideas on how they can improve the economy.
The other thing in regard to being open and accountable ó there are many things. I would like to talk about the Education Act review, for example. Who did they put in charge of ensuring that this takes place? Someone at large? A former Liberal Party leader? I think it came to the forefront and certainly the general public let government know how they felt. And when they did that, this Liberal government got defensive, to the point of shutting down debate on the Education Act review, not addressing the issues that were raised in the communities.
Now, this Liberal government said they listened to the people. What happened to that? What happened to listening to the people on this really important subject? They call it two years of public consultation, but the members opposite know it wasnít two years. The government hasnít even been in power for two years.
The Education Act review, I would say, is one Yukoners are really interested in right now. They are interested in talking about what should be in the Education Act review. Thatís the interest, in getting it back to the community and having government address the issues the community people raise, and some of them are beyond what is in the Education Act. Some of them are attention to standards of living and homes, and you canít ignore that.
It came to the point where First Nations, I believe, were focused on how their message didnít get through and wasnít reflected. I see that government has already taken some of the recommendations from the Education Act review in this budget, even though it may not be passed in this House.
I would say that some of the members on that side of the House, on the government side, would probably shoot it down and not vote for it ó the Education minister, for example.
We have not seen very good communications with the public on whatís in there, how we can improve the service.
Iím on page 9. I flip back and forth to different pages. In "keeping our commitments", it says here that this Liberal government is basically going to follow through with what they said at the door during their campaign. Iím surprised that this Liberal government was so brave as to put that statement in their budget speech.
If you talk to anyone on the street who has talked to a Liberal candidate who had promised things on the doorstep, and it hasnít been done and hasnít even been looked at, nor is it even in the minds of the Liberals at this point, then that statement just has to be wrong. It just has to be wrong. I could probably go through a number of different things in my own community and the communities in my riding. I could start with Keno and go right to Pelly Farm on this, and I will at some point.
So what do we tell the public about this governmentís commitments? That they are going to be reflected in future budgets? Maybe thatís the case. I believe that this Liberal Party has a huge list of promises that were made on the doorsteps. I know other people are going to want to go through this, because there are a lot out there, probably even in the files that were deleted by the government side. There are probably all kinds of issues out there, and those will come out. Maybe the government still has that list but would like to bring that forward and maybe fund some of that during a campaign budget or a budget just before a campaign to try to get some of those votes back. It will be very interesting to see that happen. I have no doubt that the government is pushing for that, and thatís why we see the surplus dollars building. We see a little pot of money here; revenue increases from cigarettes. We see endowment funds being produced. We all know that theyíre at the wrong time, if you want to use the interest off endowment funds to do what you need to do. To throw a lot of government monies into an endowment fund when the interest rate is low just doesnít make sense. I believe you can do a lot more with the principal part of the money to address issues and projects in the Yukon right now. Maybe thatís one little pot of money that this government is hiding. It will not be used for any initiatives at this point in time.
So it would be interesting to hear how this Liberal government is going to spin that.
Well, one thing that was unfortunate ó and itís too bad that nobody has the initiative to change the decision that took place in regard to training trust funds. I really hoped that the Minister of Education would have some influence on this, being a new member and with basically no baggage in Cabinet, to try and change this initiative. These monies were used as leverage, as the Premier knows, to raise monies from the private sector and even the federal government to have more dollars injected into the Yukon. Basically this meant programs put in place in communities and here in Whitehorse. Getting rid of this means that you are getting rid of some people and, of course, a big chunk of the money that does come into the Yukon.
So why did it happen? Maybe itís just the focus of government and how they see education in the Yukon. It just doesnít make sense when government says it would like to be fiscally responsible and to look at good ways and more efficient ways of spending money, yet if there was a promise made on the doorstep, they would do that more than they would look at really being focused on how to do things properly.
Grey Mountain School is a good example of that. I know that the Member for Faro knows that because his own constituents are talking about that, big time ó $4 million gone to that. The schools that were on the priority list are just not as much of a priority for this government even though they agreed to it on the doorstep during the campaign.
So what happened? What happened with that? Now, we do see some money from the last yearís capital budget going into Pelly Crossing for their school, and that needs to be done, of course, to finish it off, and look at addressing the heating system there. Nothing has been really put in place for the school in Carmacks, which is old. Just maybe some additional roofing paper and so on to patch up the roof. Look at it; itís got about 50 different colours for each year that they patched the roof.
Maybe the next time the government goes to the community, as itís zipping by on the highway, stop right there on the highway, and look at the school. Take a tour of it and have a good look at it, because even the new section on there was built, I believe, when Howard Tracey was a minister, some 15 or 16 years ago. Now the Clerk could probably recall that, but even that is getting old on its own.
Well, we know that health care is rising. We know the cost of health care is rising. We have seen this governmentís initiatives for things like cigarettes ó basically tax increases to kick the habit. Itís all about increasing taxes.
There is little to address the alcohol and drug services here in the Yukon. I believe there is an announcement for some initiative in that area. The timing of the whole thing was interesting simply because of maybe some commitments made by government. They didnít want to do it, and saw a member cross the floor and maybe this is the time to do it and try to diffuse the whole thing.
There is a statement in this budget address that mentions the Yukon economy. It does mention it. It says, "As a government, we are also continuing to rebuild the Yukonís economy."
Well, I donít know where they have started, first of all, and I donít know how theyíre continuing to do this. Something needs to be said by government about that statement. Where have they started? Was it in the forest sector? With all the influence we have had, we have seen sawmills in operation go from that to people laid off and leaving the territory. We have seen people, through initiatives through trade and investment, building houses in Chile. Well, whatís happening with that? This is putting Yukoners to work and that whole thing has been ignored, as well as the really tough and good initiatives that were put forward in the trade and investment strategy.
There are a number of things that really need to be addressed, and Iím surprised the Premier didnít address them in her remarks in the budget speech ó things to bring certainty to Yukoners. Devolution was one of them, of course. Thereís nothing new on that. The Premier couldnít really define anything major, new in that agreement that was negotiated. Land claims is another one, and Iím glad for the First Nations that they were able to come to some type of conclusion, but Iím not sure what it is and Iím not sure if the government side knows what that conclusion was either. They call it a memorandum of understanding. What is that? Normally when you come to a conclusion in negotiations, itís called a negotiatorsí agreement. They sign them off, and the negotiators on the First Nationís side and the two government sides take it back to their respective parties for approval. Thatís what it is, and have we heard that to be the case or are there, in fact, going to be more negotiations taking place?
Maybe government can answer that when they have an opportunity to reply.
And we still have First Nations negotiating outstanding claims. Iím hoping they can come to a conclusion. It would be a sad thing to see negotiations continuing to drag on and on and on, with no movement from any of the three sides. On this whole issue, Robert Nault is the one to be thanked for it ó and the First Nations, of course, have been working hard to bring out the issues and educate people about what the issues are. It was too bad that the Yukon government just fell in right behind the federal government on this whole initiative ó yes, I agree to this deadline. It doesnít matter if you have been negotiating 30 years ó if youíre 99 percent complete, and you didnít negotiate an agreement, thatís it. Thatís the position of the Yukon government ó the Liberals.
Itís good to see an extension of six days for Liard and Ross River to continue to negotiate and try to come to a final agreement. We need that done, so we can start the hard work. The easy work is negotiating. You can negotiate anything, but try to implement it. Thatís the hard work. I donít believe government is even focused on that yet.
Have we heard anything from this Liberal government about how they would work hard to implement the final agreements? No, we havenít heard that, but it was interesting to hear from Robert Nault about how the final agreements should be implemented. It could have a huge impact on Yukon government block funding. That hasnít been addressed at all by this Liberal government. Why? What we have heard is by government being so tough on their finances and how low the surplus is and the fact that we have low numbers, that maybe next year or in the next couple of years down the road, we will see a decrease in the amount of funding we get from Ottawa.
That message has gone out there. I mean, we keep hearing it over and over again, but what about the whole issue of implementation of final agreements? Is that out there? What does it mean to Yukoners? Could the Member for Faro explain that to his constituents? Would he be able to explain that to the people in Carmacks, for example, or the people in Dawson? This is hard to explain.
Letís take education, for example. The Yukon government gets money from Ottawa to run the Education department and services in the Yukon Territory. Now, if the First Nations wanted to draw down those powers, and theyíre able to do that, they can. Whereís the money coming from? Well, Robert Nault says itís coming from the Yukon budget because there are monies there for that. Itís coming from the Yukon budget.
So we never hear from the Finance minister how that could impact the budget of the Yukon. Maybe somebody on that side of the House could let the Finance minister know, and bring a really clear picture, once again, back to Yukoners.
Again, negotiating the final agreements is just one step if you want to bring certainty to Yukoners, to the development community. Just by negotiating doesnít bring that certainty, does it? Does it bring more interest or commitment from the development community for starting projects in the Yukon?
Well, have a look at final agreements that have been in place for a number of years now. Obviously, the government knows that there are impacts from elsewhere ó in the mining industry, for example. The Liberal government refused to acknowledge the fact that Bre-X has an impact in the Yukon. I know that the members opposite refuse to acknowledge that, because when they were on this side of the House, the full blame was on government at the time. So what happened in that whole scenario?
There are other projects that really deter people from investing in the Yukon. BYG, for example ó the types of things that took place in management were not favourable to a lot of people, including the general public and the community thatís closest to it.
The other thing that this Liberal government refused to tell the public is that those people who are investing in junior mining companies, who have invested in junior mining companies, are not doing that, or are looking at ways of making money. Thatís how they used to make money, but the way they see making money now is investing in high-tech. That did happen, and itís obvious. Also the fact that an impact on our mining sector is the price of metals and the fact that thereís so much other mining activity taking place in other countries that costs less, and they donít have to go through the environmental assessments and regulations that we do here.
Well, I see in the budget address by the Premier that this government is going to continue to promote the Alaska Highway pipeline, they would continue to develop opportunities in the oil and gas sector, but Iím hoping that maybe a different message could be given out to Yukoners about oil and gas ó the real message.
Even if there was a pipeline to be built in the Yukon, even if there was, we probably would not see any work out there until 2008, and we wonít see any gas flowing down the pipeline until 2012.
Is that real? I mean, if people are talking about that and the Americans are talking about that, is that a real date? Is that reality? If it is, let Yukoners know, because people still feel and still hope that something is going to happen in that sector.
Iím hoping that when we do open up some lands for disposition for oil and gas, it does follow some proper processes and that First Nation final agreements are not breached by the process that government takes and that we do things in accordance to the processes that are laid out there. I think itís really important because, again, we could see things foul up so very quickly, like weíve seen in the past.
Government did not bring certainty to that development community by bringing forth a protected areas strategy. As a matter of fact, the public hasnít even seen anything new coming back from the minister. We have an old strategy that people still use ó thereís nothing new in changes that were added to it. If there were, itís a secret. Itís held tight to government, and itís unfortunate because there is a lot of interest in that sector too to get the ball rolling. The whole idea was not to have any of these protected areas in places that donít have land claim agreements.
And the whole process has changed dramatically too, where now the mining community is uncertain what the process is that this new government has in place. Neither does the environmental community.
The way it is right now is that it doesnít matter anyway because government is going to dictate where core areas are going to be ó there is only going to be one ó and then we work from there ó no groundwork beforehand on that.
And, again, I didnít hear, in the budget address, anything to that matter.
Implementing the mine plan, including and maintaining a favourable taxation regime ó well, that certainly is the route that this government is following in regard to taxation. I am really hoping that the Liberal government can really come out with the real plan, the real government plan, when it comes to taxes and tax increases.
It is unfortunate that not a lot of thought, I guess, was put into the fee hikes because just a year before, and the year before that, the Liberal government decided to follow the NDPís plans to reduce income taxes, but this year they decided to take that savings that the Yukoners have ó they decided to take the savings, pull it out of their pockets and put it back into general revenue. It is unfortunate that took place, but I donít think a lot of thought went into fee hikes at all, and I am surprised that the minister responsible for campgrounds would even allow such a thing to happen ó a 50-percent increase in fee hikes there, 50 percent. Not a lot, says the Premier.
In one of the bullets here it does say that, of course, government is going to be working on a policy framework. I hope they are not working on it right now without the input of the public ó on a policy framework for a forest strategy.
Even though thereís one in place, itís not good enough for this government. They call it a Yukon forest industry strategy. Itís interesting the way thatís worded, rather than a forest strategy that involves the industry and other affected people. Maybe itís time that this government did read the forest strategy that was put in place.
In the message that the Premier has given in her budget speech, right at the very end it says that the budget meets the needs of today and looks ahead to the future. It would have been nice to spell out the direction that the government has taken with the capital budget, because, first of all, some of the messages are wrong. Well, I shouldnít say "wrong". Theyíre different from one speech to the other. It changes a little bit, especially when itís addressing the basic stuff, the basic principles and so on that the Liberals decided they wanted to follow.
Devolution ó of course, thatís an easy one for the Liberal government to say they will work toward achieving. It has already been put in place. Its wheels are rolling. I really donít have to do very much for that to happen. Just watch it happen. It has taken place. It has already been negotiated. I just watched it happen. The hard work wasnít done by the Liberals.
Even in regard to land claims, four have come to a conclusion. I would say the First Nations have done a heck of a lot of work in educating some of the new people who have been involved about their land claims agreements. I know, just a matter of a month ago, that some First Nations were further behind than they were two years ago. Itís hard to even think that that took place, but that is the result.
Maintaining quality health care was another initiative that the Liberals decided was basically something they wanted to do, and they have said it from one speech to another, even a matter of months ago in the capital budget. It wasnít mentioned ó theyíve got a health section in here, but that wording is just not there, but it takes a big fight from the public to ensure that. Now, with a big surplus of $99 million and a Health minister who, at the time, couldnít squeeze another $150,000 out of government, something is wrong there. As soon as heís gone, boom, itís in place. That was only the right thing to do, but the public didnít have to get up in arms to make sure that this took place.
I know people are interested in how things are being done in the Yukon ó projects and process. One of them is the transmission line. Iíll take the transmission line, for example, and the amount of dollars that are being spent to run a line from Mayo to Dawson.
I donít even know how the final plans came about because you would think that if youíre going to cross First Nation land selection, which was negotiated years ago ó everybody knew where it is ó that you would talk to the First Nation about it. That was a foul-up by this government. They should know where the line is going and whether or not it is going to cross First Nation lands. Itís in a stalled position right now on the Mayo side, and nothing is moving because of that. It changes a whole lot.
Not only that, but there is the way it was done. They got it surveyed ó boom ó it goes down. The whole thing was to be cleared for the little centre line, but what happened was that the whole thing got cleared. Cats were out there piling this timber up in huge piles. I donít know if any of you happened to take a ride up there. The Member for Faro said he has. It was like going down south. I mean, there was the smell of smoke for months and months on the highway from these piles of trees burning. That was a waste ó a huge waste. If anything, the wood could have gone for firewood ó cut it up for firewood, take it to the communities and let them use it as one of the benefits or spinoffs from this whole thing, with that little extra cost.
This whole thing was about cost saving. Iím surprised that the Minister of Renewable Resources would not have made his voice heard when it came to this because it was major. Now, small wood ó go to firewood. Have it piled on the side. Even if they had it piled on the side, people would go out and pick it up. That has been done for years when clearing of road rights-of-way have taken place. Thatís how it used to be ó not to waste the wood.
The sad thing about the whole thing, too, is that there was a lot of timber-size material in this right-of-way and that, again, was a waste. Community members took pictures of these huge trees sticking out of the pile ó I mean big ones that could be used for cabin logs or even a local person ó and thereís always a local person in a small community who can cut it up and use it for lumber. That could have taken place, but it didnít ó a big project and opportunity gone by.
That is unfortunate. I am just surprised to see a change in the Speaker's Chair, Mr. Speaker. Thatís no problem for us. Maybe you would keep awake when I have to say the few more things that I do have to say on this.
Itís unfortunate that that huge project ó and it was a huge project and is still in process ó those opportunities disappeared. I would say that itís not gone forever. Thereís an opportunity to correct some of that. I know now that, because the First Nation raised some heck about this, there has been an effort to bring some of the logs out to the road. Thatís a good thing. I know that thereís a lot of good timber up around Mayo, and theyíve had people logging up there for many, many, many years ó for the mines and so on.
So in a time that we see the Yukon in a recession, we are possibly facing increases in our electrical rates, we see the price of gas going up, and everything is going up, up, up and this government just follows suit with the fee hikes and it doesnít rest well with the public.
There needs to be some change, and with this Liberal government being in a minority position right now, if they were to do something, they would need to get rid of the fee hikes. I mean what benefit does it have other than a million dollars to this government. Is there something we donít know about? That is what the public would like to know.
Now, because I have gone through the capital budget in the past, I wonít go through it today, but there are interesting things in there that I have raised and that I think the Liberal government needs to address. And if they are going to do the whole thing about finances being tight and spending has to be tightened up by government, then it has to be looked at as a serious matter, not just one out there that the public has to finance some of the projects the Liberal government is doing. And the Grey Mountain School is one of them. Maybe it could be addressed in the future ó about having a school there ó but the timing is not right. The timing isnít right.
Iím wondering if the government has a very clear plan that they can give to the public about governmentís initiative to raise revenue. I think itís pretty important that we have actually seen some benefits from some of these go right to the community. It started when the NDP was in government, with oil and gas, for example. There were huge revenues generated from our two wells and they did go to communities. And do you know what the communities used them for? Economic development. It was put right to work, and it was their initiatives and their priorities. Iím hoping we donít see a decrease in revenues out of these two wells or that one is not going to be working. People really want to see continued development in the oil and gas sector. I know there is interest in land disposition for oil and gas for Carmacks north. I am very interested to see what could be found there if there was some exploration work done, because locals and people who have been around the Yukon and travel that highway and maybe got out of their vehicles and walked a little bit would be very interested to see what has been found there because of what they found walking through the bushes.
Obviously thereís lots of interest there. The First Nations and communities are not sitting back and not doing anything about this. There are community campuses, despite the cuts the Liberals gave to the Yukon College and how they feel it. They are still continuing to build upon this initiative. They still continue to send people out for training on a future project in regard to the pipeline. I have met some of these young people and the training they take is out in Alberta and they really like it.
There are a number of really important areas that government paid very little attention to in their budget address, and Iím surprised at that, because the Minister of Economic Development said theyíre doing everything they possibly can to address the economy in the Yukon. I would like to read something thatís in the paper ó and the Minister of Economic Development just happened to be in the paper there ó and itís information that all members can get, and it comes from the Chamber of Commerce and the chamber has budget concerns: "The Yukon government has produced little more than a status quo budget that continues to rely on a rapidly diminishing surplus." Iím not sure if thatís true, because we do have about $80 million thatís in there, but if you look at the future, up to 2004-05, I could see what they mean.
And this is the other thing that the chamber said ó and itís no different than what weíve been saying on this side of the House and itís no different from what the public is saying. The Chamber urges the government to make the economy its number one priority and work with the local and national and world business communities to attract and obtain new investment into the territory.
So one of the things, in just reading that ó and I thank the member for bringing the information forward because itís no different from what weíve been saying. So, if the members opposite can get a shovel and dig up that trade and investment audit and read it and maybe follow some initiatives there, we might be making some progress in some areas.
Itís almost as if this government does not know anything about the forest industry. There is nothing in there at all ó no commitments to communities for doing forest inventory or getting ready to take over the industry. Thatís departmental stuff, but community initiatives are incredible, too.
In regard to devolution, there are all kinds of problems with that sector, especially when it comes to things like fire suppression and how one department is over here and one is over here in this department; they canít work together with field operations and so on. This hasnít been addressed or brought forward. This is one of the changes that you are going to see that the fire crews around the territory want to have made. The RMOs are probably all going to be together on this issue and ensure that when devolution comes it doesnít get worse than what it is right now, because I can tell you that itís really bad.
This whole exercise is about how to make things better. Just with the fire suppression, we need to make it better than it is and the way it was. So why hasnít this government said publicly that they will work to ensure that that does not happen or that there will be changes? Or that this government will ensure that what is in there now will be changed to ensure efficiency and so on?
So when you speak of efficiency, again, there is nothing mentioned about the forest sector.
Does the Liberal government have a vision of the economy ó of getting us out of the recession weíre in? We havenít seen one. The only thing has been the pipeline, and I think that needs to be addressed. I believe that, in comments made by the Chamber of Commerce, they are saying good things ó the same things as the public. If the government took its time to consult with industry and the public, they would have had the same opinion. I would think that, if they had the same opinion as the public, we would have seen something like that reflected in the budget. But we did not see that.
In the past, the New Democrats have suggested things to work with the Liberal government ó all-party committees, addressing the economy ó and it was shot down by the majority government at that time. Maybe something will change. Maybe because of the fact that the Liberals are in a minority position, they might invite some new thinking about the economy, because it needs it, and we all know it needs it. I think itís best that everybody has the same thoughts and initiatives when it comes to that.
I know the Premier wants us and the public to believe that this budget that was presented is about rebuilding the economy. So far, it hasnít convinced us, and so far, I believe it hasnít convinced the general public ó the Yukon people.
Of course, there are reasons for that, I believe. One of the things is that itís embarrassing. What has the government done? Other than to get rid of the people who wanted accountability in government on their own side ó but you wouldnít tell the public and you wouldnít convince the public if that were taking place.
Everybody knows that if you want to rebuild the economy, it takes some leadership and some new initiatives. We havenít seen that from the minister, we havenít seen this leadership from the Premier. We need some new thinking and some new direction and some bold, new moves and, most of all, it needs to be done in conjunction with the general public. I think they have a lot to offer, and I think they want to be consulted. Itís only what used to be done, and their input was of some use in the past, and theyíve seen that and they would like it to continue.
Thereís no movement forward on the economy. I donít believe that there was one step taken to move on the economy. There are a few words of hope that we do move forward, and we know that, basically, a lot of the problems that have taken place come from the corner office that is upstairs, or the corner suite that is upstairs in the government offices.
We believe, again, that, even though the minister thinks, or tries to convince the public, that the economy is moving in the right way by saying that the unemployment rate is going down, it is not moving in the right way. It is moving in the wrong way, and it continues to do that.
Well, we know the pipeline doesnít exist. The other big thing ó that the Americans are talking about anyway ó is a railroad, and that is something that the minister has mentioned. I know that it is of great interest to the Member for Faro, but it is not reality at this point. No one has talked about it. No one is convinced it is going to happen. Some people would like to invest in it, but you all know what and how quickly things can change on this ó take, for example, the Casino Trail, when being pushed ahead and actually all kinds of government money went into that for clearing the right-of-way, that right-of-way is wider than that of the Klondike Highway, and it goes for miles, straight right across the edges of lakes and so on. A lot of people went to work on that project, but it didnít go through proper process of consultation and it came to a head and the project was dropped. It was also a huge project that was over $100 million.
First Nations had all kinds of concerns on where it was going and the route that was picked and so on. But they werenít consulted and the project was going ahead, and it was basically shut down by the First Nations, both Selkirk First Nation and Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation at the time. It was certainly way before the time I was involved with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation.
Iím hoping that when government basically speaks next, that we could hear some rebuttal to that: the whole issue of the pipeline and the railroad and where itís at and what to expect in the future and where government is going with it, because we canít say weíre going to promote, promote, promote. We canít promote an idea. We can promote the route and its clearing. There is no project in place. Thatís the other thing ó the pipeline; thereís no project there. We donít even know what it is, what size of pipe, how many pipes are going down this line, what else itís being used for, whether weíre talking about two smaller-sized gas pipelines and whether itís a utility corridor or what. People want to know.
In regard to increased taxes on tobacco, Iím hoping that, if this is the real, true feeling of government, that that is not the only area they address. There are other addictions that are really costing our health care system. If you really want to address that, it should be reflected in budgets. Taxes arenít going to take care of it. I would think that good education and a good message may do more work than anything else. Weíve got addictions ó well, you name it, including bingo, by the way. Thatís a hard one on a social life. So is caffeine. Like nicotine, itís addictive. Itís put in drinks for that whole reason ó to be addicted to pop, for example.
So in that regard Iím hoping that maybe government can find some dollars of equal amounts to address those issues.
When the next speaker gets up to reply to what I had to say in regard to the priorities of government, land claims being one of them, Iím hoping that government can say how they are ó well, first of all, what the MOUs really stand for, what they really stand for and what the difference is between that and the negotiatorsí agreement, and show us how itís going to be implemented, what plans government has for implementation and what they have been doing in the last two years to implement final agreements. I would be interested to know. Iím sure some of the backbenchers ó not the backbenchers any more, but the ministers would like to know that. Because from what I gather from the information of the three walking across the room, nobody was updated on what took place in regard to negotiations, which I find very, very interesting.
I have asked the question about land claims in the past and the Premier was not briefed on it. This was about a year into the mandate and still the Premier was not briefed, so we havenít gone all that long and if the Premier wasnít briefed Iím sure that the members opposite ó the ministers ó were not briefed.
Now, what are the plans for implementation of land claims? They have agreed to all the sections in it. Whatís the plan?
Do you know the plan? When it comes to education, do you know the plan? The Minister of Education is shaking her head. She knows the plan of implementing land claims final agreements when it comes to education. Be prepared for a question one of these times on that. Weíll see how prepared government is and maybe break the silence when it comes to land claims.
Iíve asked all kinds of questions in this House and was told that we will not negotiate on the floor of this Legislature. Well, thatís gone now. Now you can answer questions, I believe, in this House when it comes to land claims. So donít be afraid of it, because there is good news, as far as I can see. Itís also important that we follow up with what we committed to, and a thorough understanding of the agreements are important to all of us on this side of the House and on that side of the House.
What is chapter 9 about in the final agreements? Does anybody know over there? Well, itís an important process that needs to be followed. Even, for example, if there is a protected area that is being proposed or the disposition of lands for oil and gas exploration, itís a good chapter to know ó what processes that need to be followed and not breached. Thatís why I stress that so much.
There are some initiatives that government has committed to spending a lot of money on in regard to infrastructure and water and sewer. Iím hoping this wonít go on from one year to another to another, with not much taking place. I just think of the importance of it more and more, because of what took place in my community, for example, and whatís happening in Teslin regarding sewer and sewer infrastructure. People want to get beyond the talk about it and on with the implementation and creation of a better system thatís there.
So, from whoever is replying, I wouldnít mind hearing about the kind of things government is doing in that regard. A lot of money has been spent and dragged out of Yukonersí pockets, particularly in Carmacks, for example, when youíre forced to boil your water for everything from cooking to washing the dishes even. That was the suggestion made by the Health department and the housing department. The interesting thing about the community of Carmacks is that the Health department said that the tests came back saying the water is safe to drink and that the boil water advisory is gone. But the department of housing didnít withdraw that. They continue to have that, and Iím not sure why. Iím not sure if itís just a simple design of the sewage system in Carmacks and how many Yukon Housing units are attached and how close they are to the main sewage line. I donít know, but wells are contaminated. They have shown contamination year after year after year.
When you think itís going away, problems have been found. I know the Village of Carmacks wants to correct this, and I was quite surprised and glad to hear, in a sense, that the Minister of Community and Transportation Services at the time was committed to putting some dollars into a system in Carmacks that serves that whole community. But what does it really mean? I mean, is the system big enough that it can handle the whole community, or is the community actually going to have access to the system? Thatís one thing. I donít believe itís the latter. I think that thereís a system there, and if the community wants to tap into it, go ahead and do it, and if the Village of Carmacks is going to put all kinds of money up to put a better system in ó and that they should; I think thatís a long time waiting. As a matter of fact, theyíve waited and done studies for so long that the chipseal that they put on their roads has eroded to a point where itís almost a full-time job to just patch the road. The reason theyíre doing that is they donít want to dig up the road to put this new system in if they had already chipsealed it the year before.
So, a lot of thought has to be given to that and also whether or not it services the whole community. I think that if government monies are going into it ó I know that thereís a certain dollar value already tagged on to this ó if itís going to go into the community, then the whole community should have access to this. The way it is right now, youíre putting all kinds of government money into this system with only 40 percent of the community having access to it. It just doesnít seem right.
If the system had been in place 20 years ago, we wouldnít have seen some massive movements in the communities, including Whitehorse here, of certain sections to newer, higher ground. The community of Carmacks was no different from Whitehorse here where the First Nations had to make a massive movement up to something that is more of a healthier place. And, Carmacks had to do that and many houses got destroyed, taken down. Of course it was a good move at the time, but you really move away from a real beautiful section of the town to one that I would say, in many places, doesnít have the type of view and the type of lots that they once did have.
The community of Teslin has asked for a similar type of monies to flow into that community. It is all about building healthier communities. I canít see why this has not taken place, and more dollars havenít gone into this. There have been commitments from previous budgets that havenít been followed through with. It has been pretty interesting to see some of that not taking place.
Also because of the breaks in the lines of the community of Carmacks, the interest is heightened to have a sewage system in place, but also what is of interest is that there is water and good water. Every well ó I shouldnít say "every well" ó but the majority of wells that have been drilled in the community have hard water, and the water is not good.
Theyíre not contaminated. Theyíre drinkable, but theyíre not good, and I know that the piping of central water to homes is of as much interest as it is here in Whitehorse.
We are all living downstream and we all feel the effects of the Yukon River, the effects on our water table and so on.
Iím hoping that, despite the fact that this is an O&M budget, there is a capital budget, and Iím hoping that maybe government can bring something forward to address the priorities of the communities, and not the priorities of the communities a year ago ó that was already taken care of, and they donít do it any more ó but the priorities of the communities right now, and not to put a system in place that is hard to get at, that is restrictive and so on, and to use a proper procedure to approve projects.
Project Yukon, which is basically a branch of the CDF, was made more restrictive to communities. They canít access it. Their projects get rejected, even though ministers on that side of the House say, "Go through this process, thatís the way to go." Job creation ó I donít know if thatís even a priority for Project Yukon any more.
It gets rejected and it doesnít go anywhere beyond that. I know some ministers have made commitments to get money elsewhere, and I am interested to see how that works, beyond Project Yukon, and to see work on priorities of communities.
It would be nice to see ó I know itís not in the budget speech ó a comparison of departments. We have the Energy, Mines and Resources department. The difference between that and the Economic Development department ó some things have just been lost. Some initiatives have been lost, and I donít know whether itís a different name now. I am hoping that government on that side of the House can tell us some of the different names, if there are any in the departments, because there are monies attached to these in Economic Development that are not reflected in the new Energy, Mines and Resources or any other department.
Iíll give you an example of one such dollar value. Historic sites had $165,000 in it last year. Is it included in the new heritage resources line? Is that the case or is it somewhere else? Weíre not sure on this side of the House, and because there is a change in the departments, it would be nice to have government point that out.
Now, if that doesnít happen, thatís just the way in which the government wants to operate, not being as clear as government should be on this. I think messages have to be very clear when you make such big changes as weíve seen with government. Itís all about accessibility to information. Letís have that right here on the floor.
Weíve seen decreases in some budgets. For example, the well-talked-about Beringia Centre. Weíve seen decreases in funds there of about 34 percent. And thatís really interesting, considering the Liberal government has criticized that for a long time and raised the fact that there is a lack of resources given by the previous government.
As we discuss this budget, and as the public goes over it with great interest or lack of interest, I can see how just talking about it would just put people to sleep. Iím sure that when the Premier gave her budget speech, it was the same thing. So I ask members on that side of the House, government side, to stay awake, because I know this is real boring. There is not much excitement in it, and the general public knows that, too.
Iím continuing, Mr. Speaker. Iím just watching the members on that side of the House agree with me for a change ó or, it appears that they are agreeing with me.
For this year, there is $229,000 less than the O&M allocation for 2001-02. It is basically less than the past practices, and thatís why I really need to know where dollars are going from previous allocations of O&M. They were as high as over $300,000.
We know that funding for museums is down again this year. Certainly I am wondering why and how this sits with the Liberal governmentís commitment to review the museum strategy and how this will implement any recommendations that come forward from that process. Maybe the government can answer and give some numbers in that regard.
Now, last yearís total for arts and cultural industry funding was pegged at $1.9 million, and this yearís O&M line is simply labelled "arts" and has an allocation of $1.4 million.
And they both include the same funding items. And that basically reflects a pretty high percentage in the decrease in the funding department.
So, are we excited yet about this budget? About the budget speech? That should be a number one question, at this point, the government asks the public: are we excited about it? Are they really spending money wisely, like they say they are in their budget?
And when you ask that question, Mr. Speaker ó the ministers and government can ask the question of spending money wisely, whether or not Grey Mountain School ó with the fact that other schools can take on these students ó is spending money wisely. That question could be asked too, and whether or not this is the right time. That whole issue hasnít gone away ó itís a big one in the public right now. If the government thinks that we can just say it on this side of the House, they will be sadly wrong, because the public out there is listening to what government is saying, and they donít like what is being said.
It has been said, in regard to Grey Mountain School, that itís not the right timing and itís not the right move, and Iím hoping that, because government is doing nothing that we can see to stimulate the economy, to talk to the public about the economy. Who is going to do it? Are the members on that side of the House, the government side, knocking on doors and saying, "What should we do? Can you give us your thoughts on how we can move ahead on stimulating the economy?" Is that being done? I donít believe it is. We havenít seen anything on governmentís side, any initiative that they are going to carry out to do this. And since theyíre not doing that, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest maybe some, if not all, of the government side come out to the forums that we, on this side of the House, will be holding with the public. One is going to be on the economy, and this is open to the public. See, we on this side of the House are open to the public. Our convention was open. We allowed the media in. There was an invitation to anybody who wanted to talk to the panel. Compare that to the Liberal convention. Youíre shut out. Thatís what it is. Any of the public forums we hold are open to the public, and we are going to be holding one very soon, on health, and will be getting some public feedback so that we can make a suggestion to the Romanow Commission on Health, and whoever is interested there can come to these meetings.
Since government is not able to hold one ó I guess the ministers must be way too busy to hold one ó we will do it, on this side of the House. We will speak to the Yukoners and give some of that direction back to government, and hopefully ministers can take it seriously and draw some conclusions from what is being said.
Now, weíve had interesting debates and a public forum on the Kyoto agreement protocol ó what should we do? What is government doing to reduce greenhouse gases? Is the government doing anything to reduce greenhouse gases right now? Does the Minister of the Environment have any pull any more to ensure that we are taking the steps to reduce greenhouse gases? I donít think so.
If there is anything being done itís a secret, because nobody out there knows ó I know the Minister of Justice doesnít know.
We also will be holding a public forum on the economy. No doubt we will invite the government side to listen in to the public and what they have to say ó Iím sure it will be interesting ó and trying to give some new direction to government. Weíre doing that because nothing else is being done on the government side again.
So, listen to the ads, pay attention to the dates as theyíre being set and watch how, even though we on this side of the House donít have the resources that, of course, the government has, and could use, we certainly have the numbers to change things ó bills and so on that are being passed in the House. We also have the initiative to go out to the public and ask them what their thoughts are. Something new to government side but, what the heck? Give it a try and youíll see. You might be amazed at how and the type of direction you do get from the public.
I would not say that holding a public forum is a public consultation. It is an avenue for maybe some, given the date, that they canít come and voice themselves. So there we have a couple that we are going to be doing on this side of the House, and more. Surveys, weíre going to do surveys. Even though you canít rely on them to give you any direction, they certainly spell out what has been happening and what the interests are of the public ó or a small portion of them, because we donít expect everybody to reply to surveys.
Iíll also be interested to hear government and what they have to say in the rebuttal on how they think they can work with the opposition to get things going. Government is in a different position than it was two weeks ago ó basically in a minority position. If you want things to go through the House, youíve got to work somewhat with the opposition. If you donít, we know exactly where government wants to go. The things we have to say should not be left alone on this side of the House, when it comes to, for example, the Education Act, and what has been said in regard to the Education Act ó we have to be listened to.
So how is government going to play a role in ensuring the opposition has input into changes and so on? In responding to the budget speech, I would expect someone to take on that initiative or bring something forward.
If that doesnít happen, it obviously hasnít been thought about. Maybe this is too new a position that government is in. If thatís the case ó Iím sure government knew there were defectors from their side or people wanting to leave. Maybe government should be acting on the side of caution at this point because maybe the migration of people from across the floor isnít over yet. We may ask for renovations to the Legislature here, to accommodate more seats on the opposition side.
Better service to Yukoners has been said over and over again. Itís too bad the government could not compare the two budgets ó or itís one budget, but compare them together now and look at the differences between when this was presented and now, like building permits and so on, and with the amount of activity that has taken place. It would sure be nice to be able to have government come and say to us what is being spent in all of the communities, and how they have a plan in place for the communities to stimulate the economy and get people off employment insurance or even welfare.
One of the big initiatives for this Liberal government was to restore confidence in government. Now, how did they do that, and how is it being done. This was an initiative, right from the beginning ó two years ago ó and the public is still waiting to see how this is going to be done. We are still waiting for that. Was it by improving relationships with the government employees? Was that how government decided to restore confidence in government ó maybe even working on itself first? I mean, if you ever look at healing, or community healing, it always starts with the person and then it goes out to your families, and then to your communities. So is that where the start was, if you want to restore confidence in government? And how is that done when people are not listened to?
If this is still a priority of government, I would think that the government would have a really good plan put in place ó clear, real simple, that the public could understand. Other than the centre ó moving everything into one centre. I donít know if the government feels that, like the pipeline, this is the big move, that it is going to be all nice and easy, because I could tell you right now I donít ó maybe I have more information than the government on this. I probably do, maybe even coming right from the offices of certain ministers.
One of these times, Iíll maybe give the briefing notes over to the members opposite. But how is government doing this within themselves? Is it by putting good programs in place, or did this Liberal government decide that cutting good programs that were created by another government is the way to go?
I donít think that should be the case. If it is the case, the way the Liberal government is working, well, the general public is going to spell that out really loud and clear when the big day happens ó election day.
Is it by breaking promises, one after another? Is it by improving decorum in this House? Is that how it took place? Is it by shutting out the media and not being open and accountable? Is that restoring confidence in government?
We need to address these things. If that was a commitment, then why does the opposite take place and what plan is there to ensure that they donít take place in the future? How do you improve things when you put political people in charge of reviews, like the Education Act, for example? How do you restore confidence in government when our public sector, our government employees, are up in arms?
Look at the YTA, the Yukon Teachers Association, and the strike that took place. This happened right after government got elected, and it only happened because a lot of wrong moves were made. We said we were going to do this, and I just remember the person the Liberals brought forward to run their government, or give them advice. Maybe these bad things are happening because of influence and direction given by Ottawa. I can just think of one person who comes to mind right now, Warren Kinsella ó the guy who is going to come and help out the Liberal government in the election. I believe it was the same person, Mr. Speaker, who asked Jean Chrétien at the time just to say something, like we would axe the tax or whatnot. Just say it. The public would believe it. You donít have to do it. Itís all about manipulating public opinion and that, on the Liberal side, is the direction I believe theyíre wanting to go. Itís unfortunate, but it is.
With the type of things that are happening, how is that restoring confidence in government? And when you now have a minority government, when three people have left the government side to go into opposition and things have changed ó and things have changed. I donít know if government realizes that things have changed ó how is government going to give that message out to the public again, restoring confidence in government? It canít be the same old lines that have been used over the past two years. I donít believe it can be the same old line.
There are some initiatives that government is bringing forward. Maybe it is because of their own actions. Iím thinking about things like accountability initiatives for departments. This is one of the things the Premier said the public had asked for ó to ensure accountability. No doubt, I would think the public is asking for that, because there is money being spent and the public doesnít know where itís going. They canít understand why there are tax increases, and they canít understand why governments are not talking with them.
Is restoring confidence in government ó is the governmentís view of that not doing community tours and talking about the budget? Is that how Liberals are restoring confidence in government, by only taking forward maybe the views of a few? I would say one big thing the Liberal government has done was to take the budget of the NDP and use some of that, because itís the only thing that carried them through the two years that theyíre in now. What weíve seen for a year now is cutting programs. The community development fund gone; they changed the name; they changed how you can access the dollars. Where is trade and investment? Thatís something weíre going to ask government to push hard on again. You canít rely on the pipeline. Weíre not going to rely on the railroad, and mining is going to be down as long as metals are down and people are not investing. So what else do you do?
Even Alberta went and diversified their economy. They are oil-rich, so people think, but they can see things beyond an economy of oil and gas. They have diversified their economy. Tourism is big in Alberta and so are other things that theyíre doing. Itís certainly not tied to one thing. Itís too bad that the government just focused on oil and gas and diverted peopleís attention from doing other things. Continuing to pay attention to the mining sector, for example ó when itís forever needing an injection of dollars, resource people or initiatives by government. It didnít happen. And thatís still big on peopleís minds ó bigger than that of oil and gas because it still feeds people. Oil and gas donít feed anybody yet.
Placer mining does feed people and, maybe to the surprise of the members opposite, they are working with communities. They are working with First Nations, for example, to show them how their operations work. Placer miners do meet with community people. There is a lot of interest in there. First Nations have settlement lands, and a lot of their settlement lands were directly related to economic development. Iím sure the Premier and members opposite know this. Not all First Nation lands are selected for traditional use. It is for other use ó even timber or anything related to developing economic opportunities available out there.
And I would think that some of these are going to come around pretty quick. Surveying of their lands just took place. They are starting to get mapping put in place. They are senior governments ó they have systems better than what the Yukon government has. Their computer system, their mapping system are just incredible. Theyíre not compatible with government, but some of them may be. They could be able ó once their lands offices are up and going ó they could be able to make maps available to the public. I think itís pretty important to think about that, because government has to work with First Nations to ensure that certainty and to ensure that data and information that is put on maps is fully accurate on both sides.
If that had taken place, we may not have seen the mess weíre in now with the transmission line from Mayo to Dawson. Thatís in the courts now. I donít know if the member knows it, but itís in the court system. Everybody is hiring lawyers on each side, and itís in the court system.
Itís my hope that ó I know that the federal government wants to work with First Nations in trying to do new initiatives. Why canít we? There are other sectors that believe they could play a small role, an important role, like the trapping industry, for example. Now that everything is basically cleared up, Yukon has a stamp and theyíve agreed to humane trapping methods and so on. That industry is still so small and itís continuing to dwindle away. The people who have been long-time trappers are just getting old, and the younger people are not there taking over and ensuring that lines are kept open and so on. Itís becoming more and more difficult, and I think that government can play a role in boosting that little economy.
There are other things that could be looked at, like agriculture in the Yukon. I havenít heard, even in the capital budget speech or in the budget, that there are many dollars or initiatives or energy on the government side spent to ensure that agriculture, for example, is being addressed in the Yukon.
A lot of work has been done in the past. Are we going to get beyond that, and are we going to be able to ensure that different sectors in the Yukon are able to access land and develop agricultural land? Maybe government can address that when they reply, in their budget address.
And I am sure interested in what government has to say about the forest industry. Nothing concrete has come forward. It is just, "Letís wait. Letís wait for devolution." And the waiting process might be a lot longer than the government thinks it is. Especially in getting control and making the decisions you want to make. So, asking people to wait is, I think, wrong, and I think that policies need to be dealt with and that government needs to work on that industry.
Just go back three years ago and look at how quickly the industry could be put in place and employ people, and that is what we are talking a lot about here ó employment. We want to employ people, and tell us how government is going to do that, other than with devolution.
Tell us what the government is going to do to stimulate that economy ó anything at all? We have a number of small areas that could be dealt with. Letís take community projects. Every community has a priority list that they feel ó whether itís a capital project or a program they like to put in place ó that they would feel would build their community or build a healthy community. Other than Project Yukon, which is a branch office or a downgrade, I would say, from the community development fund, what other thoughts does the government have in place beside those that were from the previous government?
Are they going to be enhanced, or are they going to be made better, or is there more money going in? Does the government have any thoughts about putting more money into the fire smart program, something that could really put people to work right now ó that money could put people to work right now, this winter. Even though it could be labour intensive, people are looking for whatever they can out there in the public. Maybe the Premier can let us know how this is going to take place.
We know about the fall budget, and we know about the fact that capital projects are being bid on earlier. Sometimes I donít see how that would work. It depends when the fall budget is passed or introduced, because a lot of the work that needs to be done, other than maybe if a companyís here for a long time and they know their grounds ó road building, for example, or even buildings ó a lot of the work has to be done, the groundwork has to be done, just the digging, for example, or tests and so on. They have to be done in the summertime.
A lot of that work would be bypassed, depending on when the budget is being introduced, giving everybody a fair opportunity to bid on this properly. Iím hoping that we wonít have companies coming into the Yukon, putting in a really low bid, and it costing government in the end.
The Mayo school is supposed to save $500,000. Has it saved that? We have O&M on two schools right now, two buildings being heated. I wonder what the cost is for the two of them. There have been two winters in a row now and still no completions. The design of the building has changed to cut costs but maybe not energy costs in the end. There are flaws with the design, safety standards that had to be addressed at the last minute ó for example, sprinklers and so on. I think maybe government had a learning experience with that one and, by defending their actions, weíre going to save $500,000 on the Mayo school and there is a delay of two years. And you know, it was just a snap of the fingers to approve $500,000 to the Hamilton Boulevard. Thatís how easy it was. But the communities got left behind.
Did it, in the end, create or have the contractor do cuts in the way things are done? It will be interesting to know how it was done, because I got all kinds of feedback from people who worked on the school. And people know. The community knows. They were fully aware that the project could have been delayed to this length. We may not even see students graduate out of this school this spring.
That would be sad. Even though there was a commitment in that community, it will open up and be available, and all kinds of work will be done before Christmas. Do you remember the date the government put forward? It was ironclad. This was with the Premier and the minister at the time ó didnít happen, couldnít happen. Well, it would be the middle of January that it would open up. No, didnít happen, couldnít happen. Well, sometime in late February ó it didnít happen and unforeseen things in the world have certainly delayed things. It goes to show how government, being pressured into a corner for the kind of decisions they made, had to make this one ó if anything, tell the people. To this day, the public feels it.
This Liberal government said they were going to save $500,000 when they made the decision to delay. The floor is laid out and built ó a wooden floor ó and they covered it with poly to keep the snow off. It didnít work. It was heated ó $150,000 to heat that for a year. They decided not to heat it, and then it may have cost government in the end not to heat it because the foundation is now moving ó three inches in some places. The floor is sinking, and the real movement in the permafrost hasnít come yet.
Iím going to say this again ó and I know the members opposite heard it, but Iím going to say it because the community members wanted me to say it again. The project cost more than $500,000 to the community. The community planned and worked hard doing training through the community campus. Their whole plan was setting up this project and having it approved. They knew the start dates. The First Nation had a project to take these carpenters and fold them right into another big project. And then they can go from that one into another one that the village and the Government of Yukon could have been working on. Thatís the recreation facility or community hall that they wanted for their 100th anniversary, which will be in 2003.
Government committed to that ó Liberals committed to that. Remember that, on the doorstep? Letís see if that could be followed through. We can point out hundreds of these things that were promised on the doorsteps.
So thatís not going to happen, I donít think, unless government moves really fast here and does some construction to have a building to address the 100th anniversary of that community. I donít think they should be ignored. They are a community that had a tremendous impact on Yukon in the mining sector. That is where mining started in the Yukon ó Mayo ó and it migrated north to Dawson. It wasnít Faro.
If thereís anything that government has not announced in their budget speech about how they can put people to work and address the economy, please say it. You donít need to hide it, or the government doesnít need to hide it. It could be said on the floor. It could be said to the public. If there is an initiative that government has, it should be said. Why not? I mean, if itís going to put people to work, why not say it?
The reason why I am raising it is that itís not in this budget speech by the Premier; itís not in there. You may see things in the capital budget speech. Why werenít they together? This is all about messages to the Yukon public, so I would think that government is going to bring forward something better, easier to understand, real simple, on how we can put people to work. And if the government is void of ideas and needs some help, then we can suggest things. Iíve suggested things just now that could work if government had the initiative to bring those things forward.
When the fee hikes went up, did the government think about small business? Did they think about potential impacts on the tourism industry at the time? I donít even know what process the government went through to think about the fee hikes. Okay, here is a bunch of old things that havenít had hikes for awhile ó bang them up 50 percent, 100 percent, 25 percent ó I donít know what the process was. I donít think we will ever hear what that process was to increase fee hikes. Was it simply a departmental initiative? Did government seek the advice of the departments to see how they could raise revenues? I would like to know that. The public would like to know that.
And when it comes to the tourism industry, how did the government take into account 9/11, a slower tourism season with the type of increase in campground fees and other fees that there are? Was there a balance there, or was it, "Theyíre just modest increases"? Was that the case, or what were the checks and balances that were used for increases and fee hikes?
And why werenít the seniors taken more into account with driversí licences, for example? I mean, some seniors donít make much money. Some of them are on pensions, and if there are fee hikes in driversí licences ó up to $50 ó thatís $50 a year, not five years or three years, like the members think ó it is every year. In a sense, government is impacting them harder than other people. According to the Premier, it is just modest.
We donít have a stimulating economy here in the Yukon, and government has nothing new to really offer Yukoners to stimulate the economy. So why would we go through this? I wouldnít mind hearing from government the rationale behind fee hikes. It canít be just because itís old. We havenít seen hikes in the past, so we do it? I mean, that certainly wasnít applied to the tobacco tax, for example. The government did have a rationale with the tobacco tax a year ago. I donít know if they remember what it was. It wasnít for revenue generation at the time, even though it became something like that. It was basically to deter the young people from smoking; our future health care costs are going to be reduced. Is there a report that we can see on this side of the House to show that that didnít work or that did work or it worked somewhat? I guess there are national studies out there that we could see. I know everybodyís going to say that, yes, you can increase it up 1,000 percent, and that will have people shaking the habit, but I think it will create other pockets of problems. If government canít see it, then weíre in trouble.
So what was the rationale behind that? Itís $2 million. It was pointed out by government quite clearly that the four cents per cigarette means $2 million. In other words, for every cent you pay for a cigarette, itís $500,000. The whole thing was a money thing. It wasnít, "Okay, itís actually going to get the young people to kick the habit."
Government said it was going to rebuild our infrastructure. I remember the minister for highways saying that our highways were unsafe in the Yukon. Those were the words and, if the member wants, if he doesnít believe me, he can look back into Hansard to see that. Our highways were unsafe. I was quite surprised to see that. If they were unsafe, then nobody should be driving on them. A lot of the focus wasnít on getting rid of the corners on some of the highways; it was on brushing, which needed to be done, and needs to be done every now and then. Northwestel, I think, helped out tremendously on some parts of the highway where they did do some brushing and there is a clearing, and at least you can see a bit of distance down the road.
Whatís happening with the alcohol and drug secretariat? What is happening with the protected areas strategy in place? It seems like things are dead, arenít moving. We knew that was going to happen. They didnít even take a year to do a really extensive public consultation. In two years, it was dead on the Liberals' initiatives and nothing that we can see ó other than weíre going to see an announcement ó and itís not going to involve people, itís going to be dictated to them how things are going to happen.
Is the government interested in working with the opposition on addressing some important things like the economy?
Maybe the next person who gets up to respond could address that. Is government interested in working with the opposition? When government had a majority, they were not interested. It was just not there. Every word that was spoken was basically worked against by government, what the opposition had to offer. We offered to form an all-party committee on the economy and it was refused at that time. Maybe this government has been thinking about that a little bit and thinking maybe they can and will listen to the opposition and what they have to say. Or maybe there is something else that theyíre doing that we donít know about.
Is the government willing to listen and work with the opposition? And Iím not just talking about the official opposition. I mean the third party and the other three individual Liberals. And theyíre still Liberals on that side of the House, and they hold membership cards. They did create the budget with the members opposite. If theyíre willing to maybe make some changes in how they do things and talk with people on this side of the House on how better to do things ó if there is no willingness to do that, I would think that the government is not willing to govern as a minority government.
I guess itís as simple as that.
Is the government willing to take part in public forums on the economy? An all-party committee could address some of these things, but the official opposition was already doing that. We have scheduled public forums to deal with the economy, to get feedback from the public. Maybe the Member for Faro would be interested in coming and listening to what Yukoners have to say, even though it might be a new thing for the government side.
Is the government willing to work with First Nations to address the economy? Maybe the next person who gets up to speak to the budget speech could answer that, because there are all kinds of things that theyíre doing that might surprise government, and it might surprise government how involved they are with, say, the oil and gas industry. It might be a big surprise. Maybe government can take some direction from them.
Is the government willing to work with the municipalities on the economy, on job creation? Is the government willing to review government funds with the public and get more public input into how the budget is created?
I donít know. Weíre going to suggest some on this side of the House. Whether or not government takes up our offer is another thing. Weíll see, when the time comes. We do have some suggestions. I know the government doesnít want to deal with its budget and doesnít want to think about the increase in its budget. If there are any changes, itís always a decrease in the budget. That doesnít mean we can increase government spending on the surplus.
The Member for Faro is asking, "What do you want?" Well, stay tuned for that, because there are things that the public wants. Try this one ó drastic changes in capital expenditures and initiatives that government ó some drastic changes. Is the Liberal government able to swallow that pill? Maybe; maybe not.
Putting confidence back in government and listening to the people ó is the government able to do things like change their mind on what they did with the Womenís Directorate? Maybe they are. A suggestion might be given to the government to improve the relations it has with the public employees. Itís a pretty important initiative. And we have asked questions in the House today. Why werenít there answers to the varied questions? Do you agree that this is a change? I mean, it is a change ó just look at it. It is a change. Do you agree or not?
And there was no yes or no to that question. It was washed away ó typically, how this Liberal government has done things for the past several years, on everything from government spending to the type of actions that government has approved, like travel for example.
Is government going to reduce travel now that they are a minority government, or are we going to see more of the ministers while this sitting is taking place? I think so. Maybe some of these things could be pointed out on where we could save monies.
One suggestion that might be made by this side of the House is to maybe take some direction from Yukoners and not those guys over in Ottawa.
And the members who walked across the floor said that weekly directions have been given to this Liberal government, so tell us what they were ó being open and accountable. Tell us what those directions were. Are we going to see increased funding, for example, in different sectors? It could be economic development, health or whatnot. Are we going to see increased funding in a year from now from the federal government?
Has this pipeline to the federal government dried up? Was it even working? On the doorstep, the Liberals said that more money was going to flow from Ottawa. You know, vote for a Liberal here in the Yukon. The Liberals in Ottawa are going to flow the dollars down ó the increase in funding. Well, that didnít take place. What is the direction now from government? Is it to take money out of Yukoners' pockets now to increase the revenue side? It is a shame if that is how far we have come with this.
We would like to know, too, what the clear thoughts are in how we could see an increase in mining in the territory and what government is going to do to it on the regulatory side, how government can influence things in helping people out. I think governments can help out with simple things like improvements to roads and so on. Iím not saying the highways. Iím talking about smaller roads that go out to these camps. We would like to know that, too. Weíre going to be offering our suggestions, of course, on this side of the House, on how we think government monies can help stimulate the economy. Itís not going to bring it back, of course, and we all know that. The public sector has a lot to do with it, and what weíve relied on in the Yukon has a lot to do with it, too, and thatís the mining sector. Thereís potential all over the place. I mean, we do have, I believe, five mines that are fully licensed and ready to go, just sitting there ready to go. I know that. Anybody who says that they canít get a water licence or that itís tough to get one to operate, well, if they all look back at these five different potentials out there, theyíre all waiting for investors and the price of metals to go up and so on and so on. Maybe the government can elaborate a little bit on that, simply because it was our main resource and our main sector, our main economy in the Yukon that people were relying on. So Iím sure the government has all kinds of things to say about that and how we can help out with the mining industry.
If not, then maybe they can ask members on this side of the House and try to have some forward movement of some type on the economy. We canít be staying still any more. Weíre in bad enough shape as it is. All kinds of things ó people are going to use all kinds of excuses to say that the industry is not working because of YPAS, because of the development assessment process. You name it, itís going to be out there; people use that.
Has this government come to a conclusion on the development assessment process? Is there light at the end of the tunnel in that sector? Because I know that that has been tough to deal with, with the First Nations. Government has decided to leave it alone until we get more clarity and more land claims finalized. I believe that is taking place and things are moving ahead in that sector, so are we going to see, and will we be seeing, a development assessment process come forward?
Tell us a little more about the pipeline. Is it going to go through development assessment process or is it going to go through existing environmental processes right now? If you donít know, ask. If the government doesnít know, they can ask. And if there have been more dealings with the U.S. government and other private industry on the railroad, we would like to know too, and we may have some suggestions on that. I know that the member, when in Alaska ó that was the big thing that was said, more than the pipeline itself. But now the communities are getting interested. I know that Faro is interested. Other people may be interested too, now that theyíve gone through some process of land selection. First Nations, for example, may have a renewed interest in that project ó may or may not. Maybe somebody can tell us whatís happening with that.
Is it a reality? Is it 10 years down the road, five years, too far to even see? Tell us about that.
We would like to see a really good economic plan for the Yukon. I donít think the Liberals have worked on one. As a matter of fact, we have slid backwards. The trade and investment, for example, had potential to do a lot of work, a lot of good things, and itís dead, or just about dead. Some of those people who have had an interest have come away with additional business overseas, but how far do we go with it now that itís out in the open that it has been buried? Dig it up and have a good look at it, and maybe make it work again, because it was a good program. The CDF was a good program too. And maybe, if government took away the restrictiveness of Project Yukon, more projects can get done in the Yukon.
The other thing I havenít heard government say is who else is investing in the Yukon. Are we getting outside investment like there was with Connect Yukon, for example, with the immigrant investor fund? Is there more of that or has government worked on doing something similar to that? Who else have we been working with? If nothing has taken place, we need to know why, or the public needs to know why, and how we can move forward on those.
There are all kinds of issues on health care. I know some guys on our side are going to raise those issues.
All sectors and all departments are going to be talked about. Education, of course, is huge on the list and on peopleís minds right now with government and its cutbacks. Iím wondering when government is going to get rid of the saying, "There is no money. Government is broke; there is no money to be found for this and that." Why is this Liberal government saying that to the public? Why canít it just be said, "Here are our plans, and here is what the Liberal government is going to do for the next three years, and this money will be used. The surplus will be spent down to this amount in three years." It would kind of give the general public a plan.
In the budget book that has been put out, if you look at the long-term plans, all it is is Government of Yukon projections. Flip the page ó thereís nothing there. The NDP had something in there, right up to long-term investing ó up to seven years ó in the Canada Winter Games, for example. Additional money was going to the community of Dawson. Not one community was left out when the New Democrats were in power. Everyone had something going on in their communities and in every sector of the community here in Whitehorse, too. A lot of money has been spent here.
So, what is the long-term plan? An election? I donít know. It must be. Is it the plan of the Liberals to end the pain and have an election?
Iím sure that message wonít be given out to the public, but the people want to know the other ones. There are a lot of hidden messages in this budget. There are a lot of things that havenít been said, and I am sure they are of choice words, the way it has been written up. There is a lot in the capital budget that could be linked with this operation and maintenance budget that the Premier chose not to do ó confusing government itself even more. There are a lot of details to go through, and we will be going through every department and asking lots of questions on this.
We think there is a lot of work to do in this sitting, all kinds of bills coming forward. I would be very interested to hear the debate on the Education Act review from government side, what they have to say on that ó anything? Or will they just say a few things, boom, thatís it and let the opposition speak to this. That canít happen any more because government doesnít have the numbers. They have to talk.
Land claims have come to a point called the MOU now. The Premier has got to answer questions about land claims. She canít say that we canít negotiate land claims on the floor of the Legislature. That was so far out in left field, it is incredible. The amount of feedback that we got from the public and First Nations about that was incredible. The reason why we couldnít talk about land claims is because nobody knew anything on that side of the House. Members opposite werenít even updated, according to the three that are on this side of the House ó werenít even called upon for advice from the First Nations until the final week. Maybe this thing could have been cleared up as soon as the members opposite got in, and not walked backwards from the point that they were in negotiations until they were a month ago.
Itís all about leadership. What has taken place on the Liberal side and with three people walking across the floor, is all about leadership.
Thank goodness the Minister of Justice is just the Minister of Justice and doesnít have to worry about that, although there are things that ó he might pop up and answer a question to that, and it may not even be in the Department of Justice. Stranger things have happened with this Liberal government.
Mr. Speaker, there is much to debate. Our side of the House will debate the budget and every department and be asking the questions, and I ask that government is prepared this time to answer questions ó not like it was last time, where it was definitely obvious that government was not prepared. They didnít do their homework, and a lot of the questions were not answered. They need to be answered, and we canít have this getting back to us and long delays in getting back to us. At times, I believe that will happen. I have no doubt about it. A lot of research may need to be done, or just a lot of work by the departments may need to be done just to get things rolling.
So hopefully everyone, every minister, on that side of the House, in replying to the budget speech, can spell out something very clearly to us about how their government is going to work, not just the, "Weíve got a message box here. Weíre going to talk about five things here." Iím sure that the Premier said this was a budget about the future, and there are lots of good things in it. So I would think that every member on that side of the House would have all kinds of things to say about this boring budget speech.
And it was boring. It put everybody to sleep, didnít it? The Minister of Health was sleeping for awhile just listening to the speech.
I would like to turn it over to the government side, or whoever is going to be responding to the budget speech, to hear the good things that they might have additional to what has been said in the budget speech to Yukoners. I would like to see that happen.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, what did that man just say?
The leader of the official oppositionís diatribe for the last three hours and 20 minutes is exactly why Shakespeare wrote the play Much Ado About Nothing. Thatís exactly what weíve heard for the last three and a half hours.
Iím extremely disappointed in what the leader of the official opposition has just said. We have listened while he has tried in vain to take apart every Liberal initiative over the last two years, and failed miserably in doing so.
Iím left with this question: where has the leader of the official opposition been for the last three months? He must have been locked up in a closet somewhere ó see nothing, hear nothing, do nothing. He opens the speech by saying, "We really thought we should be back here in the middle of February." He didnít expect to be here starting April 4. Where was he? The announcement was made in late December that the Legislature would resume April 4. If he sat around expecting a date in mid-February, he missed the train. And in fact what he has said ó we think theyíve missed not only the train, but the plane, the bus and the boat over on that side.
He has made reference to the economy, and only this afternoon the Premier has answered a question about retail sales ó a 37.5-percent increase in retail sales between January of 2001 and January of 2002. What this member has failed to understand, this Finance critic, this would-be Minister of Finance ó he has missed the lesson in economics 101. He said he doesnít understand the increase in retail sales. In order for an increase in retail sales to happen, people have had to have money in their pocket. That didnít come by accident. That has come from an increase in payroll. The money didnít drop in from lottery winnings. It wasnít found in the street. That increase is coming from members working. And this Member for Mayo-Tatchun doesnít understand economic policy. If he did, weíre not sure, in replying to the budget speech, that he could transcribe it into anything that would make sense because he and his cohorts on that side simply donít understand.
Remember that it was consecutive initiatives by this government in the reduction of income tax that has made a difference to Yukoners who put that spending money in their pockets and allowed that increase in sales. He conveniently forgot about that.
Thatís the problem. Thatís the problem with all of them over there. The largest increase in sales anywhere in Canada, and the leader of the official opposition missed it ó conveniently, it would seem ó conveniently on his part.
A lot has happened since we gathered in this Legislature the last time to make a reply to a budget speech. A number of people have somehow decided that they can serve their constituents better by sitting across from government than with them. Those members will eventually speak, but members opposite should know that members on this side are going to stand with this Premier here and now in the job she is doing leading this party, and this government, and this territory. The sooner members over there can absorb that, the better off theyíre going to be. Itís kind of hard believing it. Thatís the way it is.
The member, the leader of the official opposition, has made a number of statements and a number of questions that are going to be far better addressed during the line-by-line in the budget in the departments. Thatís where a lot of the detail he has asked be responded to will be responded to by ministers on this side.
The fall budgeting process was done by this government at the request of contractors, and we have proof now that itís working ó statements by contractors who have said, "I was able to move the equipment on to the highway jobs before the weight bans came on."
I was hindered for one and a half months, like I was before, under the previous administrations. All the members have to do is follow that argument logically and they can see the reason for the success there. We are working with the Yukon contractors; we are making their life easier and we are injecting millions of dollars into the highways, to improve the infrastructure and stimulate the economy.
Apparently, the leader of the official opposition seems to think that is a nothing argument. I heard him talk about cuts. What would he cut? Which highway jobs would he cut? Who would he keep not working? It doesnít seem like he could respond to that. It is a little bit too hard, having mothed economics 101, to get through that.
In the spring session, remember this government ó this forward-looking government ó was making major initiatives in realignment of departments through the renewal process ó a process that members over on that side could not get their visions around, process that this government has worked through, and thought through carefully for the last nine months. Those initiatives took time in February and March and they didnít come lightly, but they did come to the benefit of government ó as hard as that may be.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun tried to make a big issue out of the issue of warrants. I want to remind him that his previous government and his previous leader, previous Conservative and previous Yukon Party governments have used warrants in the past when the time schedules didnít work out. It was his government ó this member was part of the Cabinet four years ago ó whose former leader rose in the House and had a hissy fit when the warrant motion got talked out on April 30, and said, "I donít have money to pay for the ambulances. Iím not going to send the ambulances out. I donít have money to pay the teachers on May 1."
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the opposition, this government was thinking far in advance when we put forward warrants for 90 days to cover all those eventualities. This government doesnít get caught with its pants down to do the warrants. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun fails to follow through that argument.
The member has referred to a $79-million surplus, but maybe he should look on the lines a little further down. The government is burning through money at a pace of $40 million plus. That surplus is not going to be there in short-period years. Thatís why weíre taking steps forward on initiatives like fee increases. Thatís why weíre minding the store very fiscally, despite what members opposite would lead the public to believe.
All of the capital projects that are going forward now and are out for tender in April and May and sooner ó March ó were thought through last fall in order to stimulate the economy and in order to be efficiently ahead for this government and for all private sector businesses. That fact is apparently lost on members of the opposition. They probably donít like to admit it because it hurts too much to think that somebody on this side did it right. Golden Hill Ventures ó $7.4 million contract for highway construction as part of the Shakwak project north of the Junction. They will be at work shortly. Pelly Construction ó $3 million for highway construction work on the Alaska Highway in the area of Champagne and Mendenhall.
Norcope Enterprises of Whitehorse ó $1 million, underground utility work in the Copper Ridge subdivision; Skookum Asphalt ó $300,000, underground utilities and roadwork in Copper Ridge. Summit Aggregates of Whitehorse ó a contract worth $150,000 for gravel crushing on the Alaska Highway at the Takhini River bridge.
And the Member for Mayo-Tatchun would cut some of this? Thatís the argument he is making. Weíre going to have a look at the budget. It wasnít worthwhile to do the capital. The capital budget ó I may remind the members opposite ó they walked out on. They said, "Weíre not going to vote on it," and, en masse, six of them packed up and headed for the showers in another fit.
Skookum Asphalt ó $500,000 for phase 1 of the sewage treatment facility in the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakeís riding at Carcross; West Engineering of Whitehorse ó a contract for $300,000 for doing inspection and survey work on the Alaska Highway; Summit Aggregates of Whitehorse ó $350,000 for gravel crushing on the Alaska Highway in the Member for Watson Lakeís riding, right outside town.
This is bad? This is the argument that the Member for Mayo-Tatchun puts forward: "Weíre going to have to have a look at the budget. Weíre going to have to make some adjustments," he says.
Bigfoot Construction of Whitehorse ó $270,000 for gravel crushing on the Alaska Highway at Marshall Creek, in the Member for Kluaneís riding; L.N.R. Excavating ó $5.8 million for work on the Shakwak project on the Alaska Highway north of the Junction. They are going to be doing a lot of their hiring and purchasing fuel, goods and services here in the territory.
This is bad? This list I have read, Mr. Speaker, is wrong? Thatís the argument the official leader of the opposition would have us believe. Thatís what he has to adjust? That is what put Yukoners to work. That provides jobs and it provides suppliers of product to those contracting jobs with money.
Mr. Speaker, the budget is about building a secure future for Yukoners. Thatís very much true. When we were elected to power, unemployment was climbing quickly, confidence in government was low, and our future was clouded by uncertainty in land claims. Today we see unemployment falling, economy turning around, and a significant progress made on land claims. We have one settled land claim in the first two years and four others on which memorandums of understanding have been initialled, and weíre working extremely hard, these two weeks right now, on other unfinished land claims.
Iím sure all members of this House are relieved that we have been able to settle a number of the issues on land claims with First Nations of this territory who have waited for 27 years to see this month and last month. The signing ceremony was attended by a number of members of this House on March 31, when those were initialled, and we didnít hear any grumbling then. We heard a lot of happiness and a lot of relief.
We are now less than a year away from the implementation of yet another Liberal success story: the finalization of devolution. The only government in the history of this territory that has been able to bring home a devolution agreement successfully from Ottawa.
Others have tried; none have succeeded. I canít remember ó the previous government got nowhere, and the previous government before that got nowhere. This is the government that has brought home the bacon. A year from now, we will have received from Ottawa control over the forests, mining and, most importantly, Crown land.
The act that achieved devolution for this territory has passed the federal House and brings to a close part of the colonial period. It begins a new and self-reliant period of time for Yukon people, a period of time that members opposite should revel in and be happy for. Havenít previous governments asked for more control over our resources? Isnít that the message we have heard from members opposite? Thatís what this government has brought home. Thatís what this government continues to work toward. Thatís what this government will always continue to work toward ó a better life for Yukoners and a better life for all of us.
When we combine this with the success just recently established on land claims, we have come a very long way in just the 23 months that we have been in office. Shortly after the Christmas period, I was given the job of Justice minister by the Premier, and Iím grateful for the confidence that she expressed in my ability to live up to a high quality of leadership that was shown by the previous member, the Member for Lake Laberge.
Part of my initial role that month was to be offered a tour of all the facilities, including the Whitehorse correctional facility. The current facility was built in the 1960s and, in fact, is probably older than some members of this Legislature.
I was shocked at the conditions in which we house the inmates. The conditions in the facility werenít designed around a corrective theme but more like a human-warehouse theme. The facilities were in disrepair ó abject disrepair. The surveillance systems were cobbled together, and the dorms where the prisoners are housed are not nearly adequate. It doesnít even come close to meeting the federal guidelines about the care and the incarceration of prisoners.
This, I would like to remind the members opposite, is what the previous government said they were going to do something about when they took office in 1996. What happened? Did something fall off the planning schedule? Nothing has happened that was of significance there except a lot of talk. Parts of the facility fell in. Parts of the facility deteriorated worse. What did the former governmentís Justice minister say? "Iím working on it," she said, "Iíll have some answers shortly." We waited and we waited, and Yukoners waited, and nothing happened ó nothing but ill-fated and hollow promises.
Unfortunately, the facility has little in the way of program areas. Itís inadequate to provide even the safest working environment for the prison staff. Itís with a great relief that all of these issues will be addressed in the new Whitehorse correctional facility, which is currently in its design phase. This government is moving ahead. This government is working out and will have the foundation plan very shortly to begin construction later this year. This is something the previous government said theyíd do, said theyíd promise, and they said, "Weíre working the numbers out." And they continued to work the numbers out and did nothing except jumble from the left-hand side of the page to the right-hand side of the page and made nothing out of it.
What does this have to do with an operations budget, you might ask? It has lots to do. For the first time ever, a Yukon government ó this Yukon Liberal government ó has tabled an accountability plan with goals, objectives and strategies on how weíre going to make it happen.
Accountability plans goal no. 2 in Justice deals with where we are going with corrections and many of the issues about how people are going to end up in the corrections system. On page 13 A-6 of your budgets, if you look, you will see the section that I am referring to. One of the things that is inherent in that accountability plan is people will be able to see for themselves that the government is achieving results ó performance measurements to indicate the success of your moves, and how you measure them. The performance measures that I remember, from many years ago, being part of a Public Accounts Committee that talked about this very same argument, on how you measured the ability of government to do its spending properly.
It seemed to me the last time I looked the leader of the official opposition was the one who was supposed to be doing something about public accountability committees. I havenít seen anything, and who has brought it forward to this Legislature? It is this government; it is this government that has brought forward the ability for Yukoners to be able to measure how we spend the dollars and the results that we get. It is the first time it has ever happened. You will be able to see, for sure, how that is done. We have demystified it and will continue to explain, for Yukoners, how it will be done in the future.
Some members of the House have been looking for how the government was going to approach multi-departmental strategy that is going to deal with alcohol and drugs. We know that it is a very large issue in this territory, and yes, it does affect inmates very much at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Some members of the House have stated that this government hasnít been doing enough to fight this curse and its consequences.
The first stage of looking at the problem is to define the problem and then to create an action plan to deal with that problem, and the third stage is to execute that plan. Mr. Speaker, this doesnít happen in a few short weeks. This doesnít happen perhaps in a few short months. Itís a major undertaking, and those members on that side of the floor who would point fingers across here and say that we are shrinking from that problem have got it wrong and havenít given any credit where credit is due. The answers are coming. The solutions are coming.
Iím pleased to say that we have finished defining the problem. We have undertaken to create the action plan that will deal with the problem, and we are beginning to implement the plan. It will take some time. There is a need for capacity building in its initial stages and, if members opposite over there have any interest in the alcohol and drug strategy, they will be willing to vote for the kind of successes that weíre going to bring forward on that matter in this House.
I canít find difficulty in that type of approach. When certain members were on this side, they approved this approach. What has happened? They even helped in developing the action plan that weíre beginning to implement.
Iím going to leave that discussion in greater detail for another time.
The key item in the Justice departmentís accountability plans is in terms of FAS and FAE and is the cooperation that will go across a number of departments. The situation as it sits now is an ad hoc process of interdepartmental coordination that has left many gaps for people at least within the corrections system. Often the left hand doesnít know what the right hand is doing.
Iím pleased to tell the House that this situation is changing. Departments will be able to work collaboratively to close those gaps and give inmates the best possible chance at rehabilitation. Itís not going to stop there.
Through its Justice department, we take a holistic approach to justice matters. Weíre going to improve access to justice by the victims and deliver better community-based justice services. With respect to the victims, we are developing a plan to more effectively deal with the terrible issue with historic sexual abuse issues. This begins with a survey that is scheduled to be completed by the end of September 2002.
The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes chuckles, but he knows that the Teslin Tlingit are far ahead of all of the other First Nations in this territory on an issue that is having to deal with implementation of justice issues in Teslin. My department, in cooperation with the federal Department of Justice, is working now and in the future to help Teslin implement that plan in all of the best features it can. It takes a commitment by the federal people to put it forward. We have recently completed talks, just at the end of last week, that will make a huge difference.
The survey that will be done on the historic sexual abuse problems will involve research by government and staff expertise and will provide necessary information to allow the department to go forward on a coordinated response with the victims.
I want to talk to this House about our economy and what the government is doing about it. Many of you know that my background is related more to engineering than the law. And mining, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was right earlier on. It was very much dependent on commodity prices. Price is the largest single factor in mining, and if the prices for commodities are high enough, we can mine and make a profit on anything. When theyíre not that high, governments will do their very best to have an active mining community, and in order to do that, we often must look at removing whatever barriers are there that inhibit it. The number one obstacle outlined at a recent mining conference was the settlement of the First Nation land claims, and the settlement of those claims gives certainty to mining companies about the tenure of land and resources. As I stated earlier, this government has recognized this and devised a strategy around that.
Mining is one part of the economic life of the territory, and there are others. My colleague, the Member for Riverside, will bring forward a bill that introduces yet another round of initiatives that will improve the mineral tax credit regime.
Mr. Speaker, seeing the time, I move that the debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:57 p.m.