Tuesday, April 9, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
I would ask all present, including our visitors in the gallery, to remain standing at the conclusion of prayers.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: I would ask members and all others present to join in observing a moment of silence for her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
Moment of silence observed
Please be seated.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of International Holocaust Day
Mr. McLarnon: Today, I rise to commemorate, and ask the House to recognize and join together with us for International Holocaust Day.
In this moment of silence that we have just experienced, we may reflect that silence for the millions that died in the Nazi concentration camps as a result of persecution in Europe during the war: the six million Jews who died, the three million Romanians, gypsies, homosexuals, disabled, mentally disabled, communists, people who did not agree with the ideas at the time of the Nazi regime ó and ask that we remember today the suffering that these people bore and the strength that they had to have to continue afterwards as survivors. They are remembered today, and that the very harm and that very evil has spawned problems today in the Middle East as a result and has spawned questions that we still as a society have not had answered when we look at Bosnia, when we look at Rwanda.
What I ask today, Mr. Speaker, is this House take the time to reflect on what the victims of the Holocaust suffered and also the hope they gave us, the legacy they left, and how we can deal with that in our world today.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Tucker: It gives me great pleasure today to introduce the grade 5 social studies class from Golden Horn with their teachers, Trudy Veres and Judy Mones. Would you join me in welcoming them?
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I have for tabling the annual report of the Yukon Law Foundation for the year ending October 31, 2001.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 55: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 55, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Bill No. 56: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 56, entitled Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2), be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 56, entitled Act to Amend the Tobacco Tax Act (No. 2), be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 56 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the students from Grey Mountain School should be moved to Selkirk Elementary School, commencing September 2002, and that the proposed building of a new Grey Mountain School should be cancelled.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognize that the Yukon Childrenís Act was passed over 17 years ago, and there have been many changes in Canadian legislation that affect children since that time; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Childrenís Act should be reviewed and Yukoners consulted about possible changes to that act.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should double the amount of money now allocated to developing and building First Nation curriculum with First Nation partners.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal government should
(1) use its remaining political capital to pressure the federal Liberal government to ensure that the environmental liability of the Faro mine is recognized and resourced; and
(2) recognize that the reclamation is the equivalent of 20 years of Shakwak funding; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to:
(1) demand that the liability be dealt with immediately to ensure further environmental damage does not occur and immediately get Yukoners to work;
(2) work with Yukon College and the mining industry to develop training and leadership in the field of mine reclamation; and
(3) investigate other markets to use the local expertise developed in mine reclamation, thus creating the possibility of long-term growth in this industry.
Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon Liberal governmentís 2002-03 budget book with its accountability plans provides less departmental information and accountability than the yellow page statistics provided in the budget books of previous Yukon Party and New Democratic Party governments; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Finance to table the departmental statistical information for the 2002-03 budget book and continue to include this statistical information in all future budgets.
Thank you Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
Before proceeding with Question Period, the Chair would like to make a statement about a point of procedure arising from yesterdayís proceeding.
Speaker: During Question Period the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin addressed a question to the minister responsible for the status of women regarding the Womenís Directorate. The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin asked: "Will the minister tell us frankly, does she personally approve of these changes?"
In 1986, Speaker Bosley of the House of Commons addressed the issue of proper procedure in Question Period. In doing so he made the point that the primary purpose of Question Period must be to seek information from the government and to call the government to account for its actions.
The Chair would also draw membersí attention to our guidelines for oral Question Period, which is an addendum to our Standing Orders. The general statement says, "A question seeking information about a matter which falls within the administrative responsibility of the Government of the Yukon is in order." Following from this rule no. 3 says, in part, "A question asking for a specific statement of government policy is in order. A question which seeks an opinion about government policy is out of order."
The Chair would ask that members adhere to these guidelines in the future when posing questions.
We will now proceed to Question Period.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker: The hon. Premier, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I would like to, if I might, ask the Houseís indulgence. We have passed the time for introduction of visitors, but weíve been joined by a former Member of the Legislative Assembly, former Member for Whitehorse Centre, Todd Hardy.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Weíll proceed with Question Period.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline feasibility
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, today Iíd like to follow up with the minister responsible for economic development in regard to yesterdayís questioning.
When I asked the minister about the merits of continuing in lockstep with this Premier with the oil and gas pipeline down the Alaska Highway route as our only economic plank, the minister said that they were working closely with the federal government to maintain a route neutrality. In other words, on the Alaska Highway line and the Mackenzie line, the federal governmentís position would be neutral. Today and yesterday in the Calgary Herald, news headlines came out stating: the Mackenzie Valley pipeline in Canadaís best interest. And Minister Nault backs the Mackenzie line, Mr. Speaker: Minister Nault hints funding possible for the First Nationís pipeline group for the Mackenzie line.
I ask the minister: does this sound like federal neutrality? It is evident that is not the case and we must move off that economic plank and develop true, solid initiatives to address our economic woes. Will the minister take the opposition up on its offer to conduct an all-party, inclusive process to come up with initiatives to help stimulate our economy? Will he do so?
Hon. Mr. Kent: There were a number of questions in the Member for Watson Lakeís opening question on that subject. I think that to clarify some of the confusion that seems to be evident with the member opposite, route neutrality addresses the issue of transporting Alaska North Slope gas to market. The federal government, as well as the Yukon government, has always been supportive of a stand-alone Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which the headlines that he read out suggest, but as far as transportation of Alaska North Slope gas, and the possibility of Yukon gas being placed in that pipeline, the neutrality is there from the federal government, and that was confirmed to me on my recent trip to Ottawa, where I visited a number of federal ministers, including Minister Pettigrew.
Mr. Fentie: I want to point out to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that the important issue is that the federal government is pouring millions of dollars into the Mackenzie line because itís Canadian gas and the federal government wants that gas to market. Theyíre not that worried about the Alaska gas.
The news gets worse, Mr. Speaker. Over the last year, the value of building permits in this territory has dropped by 58.1 percent. That means spending power diminished in this territory. Our economy is in a death spiral, but the minister remains in locked step with this Premierís pipe dream. We, the official opposition, offered a constructive suggestion in an all-party process inclusive of First Nations and community representation, to come up with initiatives. I want to enhance that offer. Let us conduct that process ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has 10 seconds to conclude his question.
Mr. Fentie: Let us conduct that process immediately and go to the federal government, demanding now an economic development agreement. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We continue on this side of the House to lobby the federal government for a northern economic development strategy, one that hasnít existed in the Yukon for some six years. I, personally, continue to work with all industry ó the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, which sent letters of support to me and the Premier for the hard work weíre doing in support of the placer mining industry. I continue to work with the infrastructure alliance. I work with a number of organizations, as well as members opposite, in addressing economic concerns in the territory, and I will continue to do so.
Mr. Fentie: No one is disputing the fact that this minister is working, but working in the wrong direction is not going to provide results for this territory and the situation weíre in. The minister must be reminded. A couple of years ago, I had a momentary lapse of sanity and paid $100 to go and listen to Paul Martin speak in this territory. Paul Martin, the minister responsible for Finance for this country said something very important. Now, I know the members were overcome with adulation, so let me remind them what the minister said. When the question of an economic development agreement arose, the minister said, "It is not that we should have an economic development agreement; we must have an economic development agreement."
Will this minister now act immediately and follow through with this constructive suggestion from the official opposition? And letís get on with dealing with our economic woes now.
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned in the previous answer, we are continuing to lobby the federal government for a northern economic development strategy. When I was in Ottawa last month, I had a meeting scheduled ó unfortunately, it has to be rescheduled ó with the hon. Steven Owen, the Secretary of State for DIAND, who is also in charge of the western economic diversification fund.
I plan to follow up with those meetings. I have sent a letter to Mr. Owen, asking him to come to the Yukon and meet with me and the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture to discuss alternative funding arrangements. We continue to lobby for a northern economic development strategy, and we will continue to do so.
Question re: Alcohol and drug program delivery
Mr. Fairclough: The Finance minister has already shown that she is prepared to get spending authority from the Commissioner instead of this House. Now we have another minister taking over the Finance portfolio and spending money that isnít even in the budget that we are debating. Can the Finance minister tell us how she plans to get this money for alcohol and drug treatment into the Health budget right away so that these programs can get started on time?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: This government has agreed that alcohol and drug services are a very important part of the service that is offered by the government. This government has agreed that there has to be a greater continuum of care for alcohol and drug services, medical detox, residential treatment, outpatient treatment, halfway houses, people who work in Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Dawson City, people who work with fetal alcohol syndrome individuals and coordinate those services. This government has agreed that they will look at this model. This is where we want to go. This is where we want to be. We want to offer a full range of services for alcohol and drug services.
We are in the process now at looking at funding so that we can end up here offering a full continuum of care for individuals who require alcohol and drug treatment services.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to thank the new Finance minister for that answer. Obviously the members opposite donít want to listen to the questions that we are asking on this side of the House.
The point is that the Minister of Health has announced that these programs will start this summer and fall, but the money isnít in the budget, and she needs spending authority.
Well, that is a strange way of doing things. We have a $565-million budget that is outdated before it is even debated. I think the Auditor General should get a chuckle out of that. Is the Health minister going to try amending her budget as she goes along, or is the Finance minister going to table a supplementary?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, first of all the programs that are starting in this summer and in this fall are in the budget. Thatís for youth treatment and for wilderness treatment. Those are in the budget, as well as residential programs that will be starting in the fall.
Secondly, ultimately there will have to be supplemental budgets if it is not at a time when the O&M budget takes precedence, and that will happen in the future.
These programs are dependent upon training individuals to offer the services and on making sure that all the infrastructure is in place before the program comes into play. Weíre talking about a coordinator of FAS and FAE services; weíre talking about school-based training of professionals; weíre talking about transitional support; weíre talking about after-care services; weíre talking about a halfway house; weíre talking about treatment in three rural areas. Weíre also talking about after-care services in every Yukon community. It takes time to set up a program like that, and it also takes time to get all the financing in place, and this government is working very hard to do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about the way in which this government puts together a budget. We asked the Liberal government to go out and consult with Yukoners. That didnít happen in the past two years, and now we see a minister who can strong-arm the Finance minister to get funding. Iím hoping the Minister of Education can do the same thing and get some money for the training trust funds into the College.
Is this the way we are to expect this government to produce budgets from now on?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, no one has ever accused me of strong-arming anyone. They have certainly accused me of being frank, however.
Mr. Speaker, the consultation on the alcohol and drug secretariat consisted of 255 individuals as well as 80 groups. There was considerable consultation on the development of this model. The model was developed and then taken to this government for a decision, and that happened under my watch. It did not get to the decision-making body in time for it to be included in this budget. Even if it had, it will take quite a long time to have all of these good services in place.
Mr. Speaker, medical detox is happening. We have already got a contract with a nurse practitioner to offer those services in the detoxification centre here in Whitehorse. Dual diagnosis between mental health and addictions services ó all of those things take time to set up. It takes time to train people. It took us a year and a national search to find some of the people we have now working in the alcohol and drug secretariat. There is a problem finding professionals and it takes time to bring something forward that is very good, and thatís what we want for Yukoners ó the very best.
Question re: Conservation Society participation on Yukon Placer Committee
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question, once again today, for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Now, on February 11, I wrote an open letter to the Minister of DIAND, specifically asking him to remove the Yukon Conservation Society from the Yukon Placer Committee, because it no longer can be considered to be an objective member. The Conservation Society has been spreading misinformation about the Yukon placer authorization, claiming that the YPA has a lower standard for protecting fish, fish habitat and water quality than anywhere else in Canada, Alaska, Montana, Washington, Oregon and New Zealand, which simply isnít correct.
Has the minister sent a similar letter to the Minister of DIAND, protesting the Yukon Conservation Societyís misinformation campaign, and asking for their removal from the YPC and, if not, why not? What is the reason for this Liberal governmentís silence on this very important issue that has such a dramatic impact on the Yukon economy?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As I mentioned yesterday in answer to a question from this same member, we feel very strongly about the Yukon placer authorization and the Yukon placer mining industry. In a letter yesterday from Tara Christie, president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, Iíll read an excerpt. I received this letter, and the Premier received a similar letter, that "Weíd like to thank you for ensuring that the issues and concerns of the placer industry are heard in Ottawa."
So the industry group, the KPMA, recognizes the hard work that weíre doing with the Yukon placer mining industry and the Yukon placer authorization. I only wish that the Member for Klondike would recognize the same thing.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iíd ask the minister to table the letter so the full contents can be identified, thanking the minister for opening the roads into the placer mining area, which is what government should be doing, as well as providing some of the funding, which the minister didnít even know the correct amount of yesterday.
Letís look at the public hearings concerning federal regulations restricting the use of a stream as a conduit, which has the potential to put 37 percent of Yukon placer miners out of business. Why did the Government of Yukon remain silent and state no position in support of the industry at that time?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are very supportive of the placer mining industry in the Yukon. We continue to be an active participant on the Yukon Placer Committee, and certainly I would be more than willing to table for the member opposite the letters that I received and that the Premier received from the Klondike Placer Miners Association yesterday.
We continue to work to ensure that the balance is struck, that the Yukon Placer Committee has done and continues to do ó and the ultimate goal of this government is ó the survival of the Yukon placer mining industry and that it thrives and continues to be an important economic contributor to the Yukon.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, we certainly havenít seen that demonstrated by this government or this minister, Mr. Speaker. The two main objectives of the Yukon Placer Committee are to protect the environment, specifically fish, and to allow the placer mining industry to continue. These are the objectives. Unfortunately, the committee is having a difficult time operating on a consensus basis.
In view of the fact that the Yukon Conservation Society can no longer be considered an objective member of the YPC because of its inability to act in a responsible manner, will the minister come out of his shadow and ask for the societyís removal from the committee? And, failing to do that, will the minister undertake to ask the federal government to establish a set of guidelines that will govern the responsible conduct of members of that committee?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As Iíve said before, the Yukon Placer Committee does work on a consensus basis. There are several participants at the table, including the Yukon government, the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Klondike Placer Miners Association has a seat on that committee. We will continue to work in support of the independent chair of that committee, so that they can build consensus and that Yukon placer mining can continue to be a very important part of the Yukon economy.
Question re: Womenís Directorate
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I may have an apology to make. It seems that I have been directing my questions about the Womenís Directorate to the wrong minister. Will the Premier confirm that the Member for Riverdale South is not the minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: As of April 1, I am the minister responsible for the status of women.
Speaker: The Chair apologizes ó it is the status of women.
Mrs. Peter: On January 14 of this year, the Commissioner signed Order-in-Council 2002/08, which revoked the ministerís appointment, effective April 1. The reality is that there is no Womenís Directorate, as we have known it since 1985. That Womenís Directorate is gone. It has been changed. The Management Board Directive No. 6/84 gives the Womenís Directorate spending authority as a department. Has this Management Board directive been amended?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking about a Management Board directive and is asking with respect to the Financial Administration Act. We have reviewed the comments made by the members opposite, discussed them, and have been advised that we are fully in compliance with the financial administration and operations of the government, including the Management Board directive. I would be happy to provide the member opposite with a detailed note to that effect.
Mrs. Peter: No minister, no deputy, no spending authority ó changes upon changes, denial upon denial.
Mr. Speaker, the general administration manual outlines administrative policies for all government departments. Policy 1.1 lists a scope of departments. Under 1.2.2, the Womenís Directorate is identified as a department. Has the general administration manual been amended to eliminate the Womenís Directorate as a department?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have two points that I would like to advise the members opposite about. First of all, there is no Financial Administration Act requirement that departments be a separate vote, report directly to a minister or stand alone in estimates. Nor is there any FAA requirement for legislation to do away with a department if a department was not established by legislation. And by FAA, Mr. Speaker, I am referring to the financial administration manual.
So, this government has done what we are supposed to do in terms of procedures for administration of the government financially and otherwise, in terms of dealing with issues such as the Womenís Directorate and those raised by the member opposite. The fact is that we have fully complied. And the really important point is that womenís voices and womenís issues continue to be ably represented, not only within the government in review of policies, but on this side of the House as well.
Question re: Grey Mountain Primary School rebuild
Mr. Jim: My question is directed toward the Minister of Education. Yesterday, in response to a question asked by my colleague from Porter Creek North on the future of the Grey Mountain School, the minister replied, "The Liberal government made a promise and I know the member opposite has difficulty with promises".
While I contend that our only problem is that with Liberal promises made at constituency doors two years ago, in a blatant attempt to garner votes at the expense of other projects desperately needed throughout the Yukon, my question to the minister is: in light of her comments yesterday, are all Yukon Liberal government promises equal and subject to the same attention apparently being focused on the future construction of a new Grey Mountain School?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: We promised to build a Grey Mountain School. We are going to build a Grey Mountain School.
Mr. Jim: Wow, that took a whole session there.
Mr. Speaker, the reply begs another question to the minister in relation to promises made by this government that have yet to materialize.
The minister stated without hesitation yesterday that there are going to be a number of decisions coming forward that will benefit the education of children in the Yukon. It sounded very similar to promises heard by this Liberal government over and over again that have yet to materialize.
A promise to support Yukon College to increase the number of post secondary courses available to Yukoners, a promise to encourage the federal government to develop circle sentencing guidelines, a promise to establish and resource an alcohol and drug secretariat ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has 10 seconds to complete his question.
Mr. Jim: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Is the minister still convinced that the promise to build a new Grey Mountain School is just another political promise readily made without the reality of information showing declining enrolment included in the decision, which doesnít support the building of that school at this time?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Now, we went through Yukon College and the Department of Justice and weíre back to Grey Mountain School. We said we were going to build the Grey Mountain School. We are going to build the Grey Mountain School.
I would like to remind the members opposite that one of the members sitting over there was a participant in a decision to support the rebuilding of Grey Mountain Primary School in 1995.
We said we would do it and weíre going to do it.
Mr. Jim: Itís a sad day in the Yukon once again, Mr. Speaker.
This Liberal government stated that it made election promises regarding the future of Grey Mountain Primary School. Well, theyíve also made dozens and dozens of promises in the same literature information, itís all about the Future. The Liberals promised to encourage cooperation ó not confrontation ó among all stakeholders in improving the Yukonís investment climate. They promised to consult with and listen to Yukoners on land use planning issues. They promised to repeal the Yukon hire commission requirements to use a government hiring agency for construction projects. They promised to restore heritage branch funding. They promised to ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has 10 seconds to complete his question.
Mr. Jim: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
They promised to promote the development of joint ventures between First Nations and other investors.
This government is obviously hiding behind promises made and then forgotten. Will the minister now admit that the future construction of Grey Mountain Primary School is tied more directly to garnering votes than to the realistic need for investment dollars in other much needed projects in the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: You know, we also promised devolution done. We also promised that we would try and participate in the settlement of land claims ó one signed, four MOUs. We are working toward a better Yukon, and we promised that we would build the Grey Mountain School to provide quality environments for education for children, because the most important people here are the children. And you and other members here seem to forget that from time to time.
Speaker: Order please. Order please. Iíd remind the minister to address her comments through the Chair and not personalize comments such as "you". Thank you. Proceed with the next question.
Question re: Consultation on governance
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, many people throughout the territory are asking if the current ways of choosing governments and operating governments are best for Yukon people.
Does the Premier agree that this kind of discussion can be more helpful if itís out in the open rather than bubbling up and surfacing in times of political uncertainty such as these?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I think that the member opposite, the House leader, was standing up to suggest that that was an opinion question, contrary to your ruling.
Nonetheless, Mr. Speaker, I understand government can choose to answer so I will say two things to the member opposite.
First of all, there have been interesting debates in this House from time to time, most noticeably between the former Member for Riverside and the former Member for Whitehorse Centre, who has joined us today. There were several interesting discussions about things like representation by population, plurality systems, first past the post, and just last night in a letter to the editor, a former member of this Legislature talked about how there used to be the old ex-com or executive committee member responsible for the system that was then subsequently debated. That was before there were even party politics.
So, the Yukon has had an interesting political and non-political history in terms of how weíre governed. Weíre entering the most exciting phase, having achieved devolution, and weíre all looking forward to April 1, 2003 and the official transfer and management of Yukonís lands and resources over to the Yukon government.
So, truly, ministers on this side will be signing water licences, which is a really important point and long awaited by the mining industry.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for answering that question. I have a friendly offer for the Premier, which I hope she wonít refuse.
A few days ago, I attended a certain function where the whole question of governance was discussed very openly and thoroughly. In fact, the MLAs in our caucus were directly asked to take a lead role in conducting public consultations on this issue. Weíre ready to do that, but we also think this is something that doesnít need to be a partisan kind of exercise. So, is the Premier willing to take part in an all-party committee of the Legislature to look at ways of conducting a meaningful dialogue with Yukon people on this issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Two things ó first of all, I have long demonstrated to this House and the Yukon public my willingness to work on all-party committees. I lobbied very, very hard when the member opposite was in government for an all-party committee on appointments. In government, we tried to do the same thing, and were steadfastly refused by the members opposite. So we are, and have in the past shown our willingness to work on all-party committees.
If the member is talking about joining in a discussion of governance, we have five pieces of legislation that deal with governance that we are bringing forward before the House, and Iím more than interested in the member oppositeís take on those in Committee of the Whole, and any amendments they are interested in proposing, weíre certainly willing to look at them.
Question re: Fee increases
Mr. Keenan: Today I have a question for the Premier. Itís all about the recently announced fee hikes. Now, if people drive a car, which many in the Yukon do, this government is going to charge them more for a licence. If people want to go camping, which many of us enjoy doing, this government is going to charge more for a permit. And if people need to file legal papers, this government is going to charge more ó and all for the sake of a million bucks, as we get closer to an election time.
So Iíd like to ask the Premier: will the Premier please postpone these hikes until our economy picks up and people can afford these increases? Will the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is proposing an amendment to the budget and indicating that, based upon that amendment, the member opposite is then willing to support it, weíre interested in looking at amendments. Does he want me to examine each fee and go through that? Then certainly weíre willing to do that.
I just might remind the member opposite, though, that one point about the fees that the member hasnít indicated is that the legal fees the member refers to are land transactions, which are not nearly as onerous as the member suggests. And the other point about the fees is that with one of those fees, the majority of it is paid for by businesses from outside of the territory, and itís still less than half of the fee charged in Nunavut or in Northwest Territories or in British Columbia. So the member might want to leave some flexibility in the discussion of the fees. Itís just a friendly suggestion from this side. I would just like to remind the member that these fees follow a significant number of tax reductions put in place by this government ó personal income tax reductions.
Mr. Keenan: Well, I appreciate the Premierís refreshing and friendly attitude. I certainly can appreciate that, but I did not ask for an amendment. I asked for a postponement. I mean, look at the economy. Itís in the toilet at this point in time. Can people afford it? No, no. This is absolutely the wrong time for this government to dig into peopleís pockets. Now, Mr. Speaker, we might not all agree, but if people want to have a glass of beer, the price has just gone up. If people want to have a cigarette, the prices have just gone up again. If seniors ó if grandfathers and grandparents wish to travel Outside or travel within the Yukon on an airplane, the fees are going up. So canít the Premier see how these increases are hurting people, especially people on limited income? Is that not transparent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I thank the member for recognizing a friendly attitude and recognizing that there may also be, from time to time, disagreement between members in the House.
First of all, I disagree with the member with respect to the economic indicators, and I would point out that there are a number of key indicators that weíre seeing signs of improvement under. We recognize we have lots of work still to do; there are signs of improvement.
Secondly, I have to dispute the member, with all due respect. We have not, in the list of fee increases, raised the price of beer. We have not unduly "picked upon" ó I canít think of another word at any point in time ó any one individual, or any one particular group. One of the key deterrents to young people starting smoking is the price of cigarettes and the price of tobacco, and our prices are still significantly lower than the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Alberta has raised their cigarettes by $2.25 a pack, compared to our price increase, which is $1.00.
Mr. Speaker, itís a modest increase ó four cents a cigarette. It is going to deter young people from smoking, and that is really important to everyone.
Mr. Keenan: Well, the Premier speaks about all the good things that have been shown for the economic climate of the Yukon, but thereís an opposite side to that. I mean, look at the social indicators right now. Maryhouse is crying out for food and support. That flies in the face of what the Premier is saying at this point in time.
Iíd like to also point out, Mr. Speaker, that fee hikes are about taking money out of Yukonersí pockets. Thatís exactly what itís about. Just today in the noon news, we heard that fuel prices are going up ó way up. People need to drive in from the communities ó that will cost more. Seniors will have a tough time paying for their heating cost because they are on a fixed income. That income is not going up, yet their cost of living is going up.
So, will the Premier agree to use at least some of the million dollars, and more, that she has taken out of peopleís pockets here in this territory, through fee hikes and tax increases, by putting some of it into the pioneer utility grant so our seniors and elders can at least afford to live in a warm, comfortable environment this coming winter?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I think the member opposite will agree with me that we are all hopeful that winter is just about over and we are going to see spring. I hear the memberís point about next winter. The fact is we have not increased gasoline tax. In fact, that would have been easy to do, and it has been recommended by some members opposite, on occasion, from time to time in this House ó the fact is we have the lowest taxes in the country. We have also cut taxes. Personal income tax has been decreased successively by this government.
The fees that have been increased, the ones that impact directly on people, have been minimal and they are modest increases. Itís still less for a driverís licence at $10 a year, substantially less, than it is in either jurisdiction, and the fact is that it is also substantially less for our licence plates. It is substantially less to register your security business from outside of the territory.
We are, at the same time, faced with the same increasing health care costs ó up $14 million this year ó that the member opposite recognizes, because they themselves have indicated their interest in participating in the debate on the Romanow Commission, a debate on health care in the country. The fee increases are very modest, very modest, and the impact upon people is more than offset by the fact that this government has decreased the personal income taxes that people pay.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of opposition private membersí business
Mr. Jenkins: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the third party, to be called on Wednesday, April 10, 2002. They are Motion No. 189 and Motion No. 90.
Speaker: Pardon me. For clarification, is that 189 and 190 ó or 90?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, they are Motion Nos. 189 and 90.
Mr. Fentie: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(3), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the official opposition to be called on Wednesday, April 10, 2002. They are Motion No. 191, standing in the name of the Member for Kluane, and Motion No. 187, standing in the name of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Speaker: We will 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, the hon. Mr. McLachlan.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: In my address yesterday, I outlined many of the impressive achievements that this government has made in the 23 months that we have been in power. Many members opposite are familiar with the progress on land claims, which has been reassuring to all Yukoners.
Getting the devolution deal completed for April 1, 2003 was indeed also a landmark in the development of this territory.
Unemployment is down, retail sales are up, and our own health statistics show that the population is showing an increase, although modest, in the last half of 2001.
The vacancy rate in Whitehorse is dropping, from a high of 17 percent when this government took over to a much lower figure of 10 percent.
Projects such as the Mayo-Dawson transmission line have created badly needed jobs in the territory. Ninety people were employed on this project alone last winter. What did the leader of the official opposition say yesterday about that project? "Itís too smoky." What about the 90 jobs that were created? Many of them were in his riding, and many of them were among First Nation people and First Nation contractors.
Did he operate? Did he think to ask them what they thought of the jobs they had? His sole complaint was thereís too much brush thatís being burned. What about the significant effect of removing the requirement for diesel fuel at Dawson City when the line is completed in six or eight months?
Mr. Speaker, weíve reduced the taxpayersí burden in this territory. Personal income taxes were reduced by two percent shortly after we took office, another two percent in January 2001 and a further two percent in January 2002.
When we took office 23 months ago, the personal income tax rate was at 50 percent. Now itís at 44 percent. Last year, Yukoners paid $8 million less in personal income tax than the previous year. That money has gone back into the pockets of Yukoners and has had a significant effect in this territory. Why canít members opposite on that side grasp those facts?
Weíve also undertaken a realignment of priorities for this government from the previous NDP government. We took power. The Yukon government was spending $3.9 million on the Yukonís portion of highway reconstruction spending. The portion now, as we all know, is three times that level. As a rural MLA, as many on that side are, I want to remind them again ó highway spending is very important to your constituents and mine. Good highways are the lifeblood of this territory, and our commitment, through the hard work of the Minister of Infrastructure, for maintaining highways and rebuilding them attracts industry. We only have to look at the Cantung mine to see yet another success story for 2001 ó 130 people are employed directly by North American Tungsten. Sixty Yukoners are working there as employees and contractors.
The Town of Watson Lake has benefited from 20 to 30 full-time jobs. I want to remind the Member for Watson Lake that the contracts for the busing and the trucking went to a company based in his home community. And the mine rehabilitation contract was awarded in late 2001 to Ketza Construction of Whitehorse.
Weíre working at diversifying our economy. The budget outlines spending commitments of $1.5 million in industry development and research for business, tourism, culture, technology and telecommunications. Weíre supporting Air North in that companyís efforts to improve air access to the Yukon through development of a government air travel policy. Air North is now in the process of hiring 10 new flight attendants and 10 service positions for its new air service. We are spending more than $7.1 million for business tourism marketing. Seven point one million dollars ó let me repeat that for the members opposite who are having a hard time over there understanding, Mr. Speaker.
Our stay-another-day campaign has been a success. Early indications of the hard work of our governmentís ministers of Tourism ó early indications estimate the campaign resulted in visitors to the territory spending an additional $3.1 million in the territory.
We have extended the mineral exploration tax credit. Weíre going to debate a bill shortly to do that again, through the hard work of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and weíre actively promoting many opportunities in the oil and gas sector. As all members of the House are aware, we continue to aggressively market the advantages of the Alaska Highway pipeline. On that front, we have also been helped by the U.S. Senate, which will pass a bill very shortly in the coming weeks to expedite the construction of the pipeline.
Members opposite often take shots at this government for trips and travel to promote the pipeline. Let me remind members opposite that the results are starting to come home, and they would be well-advised to take note of that.
We are implementing the mine program. We are working on a Yukon forest strategy in anticipation of the devolution in 10 months. Mr. Speaker, weíre continuing our annual sales of oil and gas rights. The settlement of outstanding land claims should help this process and give First Nations the surety they need to be active participants in the oil and gas development.
We are committed to a publicly funded health care system. The $14-million increase in O&M spending on health that the Premier mentioned in her budget speech is indeed proof of that commitment.
We also listen to Yukoners when they tell us how they want that money to be allocated. Yukoners expressed concerns that the government could be doing more to combat the use of tobacco. We heard that message and, as a result, the Minister of Health is developing options now for a tobacco reduction strategy. We are raising tax on tobacco as a disincentive, especially for the young people of this territory.
An additional $1 million has been allocated to the Whitehorse General Hospital in O&M dollars over the last two years and $4.3 million has been allocated for the long-term care facility. We have also allocated another $500,000 for the retention and recruitment of nurses, as asked for by the nursing profession and the health care profession in this territory.
Health care is one of the top priorities in this government but so is infrastructure. We saw in the budget last fall that our commitment to improving our infrastructure is strong. I am proud to stand before this House and outline further infrastructure improvements, which are indeed of particular importance to me as a rural member of this House. Everyone in the riding of Faro, for example, counts on a well-maintained highway linking them to Whitehorse and southern Yukon. Thatís why I am pleased to note the budget has outlined $2.7 million on highway rehabilitation, $1.1 million on BST patching and more than half a million dollars for gravel resurfacing. In addition to the highway work, we will also be spending $400,000 on bridge repair work, $600,000 on line painting and brush and weed control ó something that the Member for Klondike will be very pleased to see. I know that we will get his support in passing the budget based upon those figures that he has been asking for for a very long time.
Much of the work for the brush and weed control will be tendered much earlier, rather than later in the season.
A detailed review of community water supplies is coming forward as well, through the ministers responsible for Community Services and Health. This should give us a more accurate picture of the state of water supply for human consumption in this territory.
Education of the children is a top priority of government. We have endeavoured to make education more accessible than ever before for our children. And, as a rural MLA, I am especially pleased to see that free correspondence for registered grade 8 to 12 home education students is now available. And we have further introduced expansion of distributed learning programs in Carmacks, Pelly, Mayo, Dawson, Ross River and my home riding of Faro. Indeed another first for this government.
We put in the budget an additional $100,000 in funding for First Nation curriculum in our schools, $75,000 for the youth employment and training program, and $90,000 more for the Child Development Centre. Combine these initiatives with $217,000 more for a teacher professional development fund, and $80,000 for literacy training, and the public will be clear about our commitment to the education of our children.
One note that rings very clear to my heart, because of my background in engineering, is a new math consultant position to focus on the elementary grades. And I believe in giving our children a strong grounding in math and science so that they can have as many options as possible later in life.
I have outlined our commitment to Yukoners to spend their money wisely and be accountable for what we do. As the Minister of Justice, my door will always be open to members of the public, my caucus colleagues and even to members on the opposite side of the House. I am prepared to listen to other points of view from members opposite and take them into account when making decisions. We may not always agree ó that is a fundamental precept of democracy ó but I will listen.
Iíve outlined our commitment to Yukoners to spend their money wisely, and we will be accountable for what we do.
Mr. Speaker, yesterday the leader of the official opposition said itís all about leadership. We agree; itís all about leadership. And just for the record, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to make it clear that I stand behind the excellent work of our Premier, the leader of the party, the leader of the government, and the leader of the Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, we all stand behind the Premier of this territory ó just for the record, just to make it very, very clear where government members stand.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I didnít realize that the Member for Faro had so much respect for the de facto premier Jason Cunning as he does and has demonstrated here just a few seconds ago.
Mr. Speaker, weíre in this Legislature to critique the budget that we have been presented with today, and I want to start by looking at the Yukon Liberal government that never had the ability to govern, that has now lost its mandate to govern. Now, if itís to continue to survive, even for this sitting, it must demonstrate its willingness to compromise and reach consensus on issues with the opposition.
Now, Iím urging the members of this government, in their budget response, to indicate that theyíre prepared to cooperate and work together with the opposition so that we could perhaps see this budget pass this House. You donít have a majority any longer. You canít run ramshod over the whole situation, and you canít lead with your chin any longer. Youíre going to have to pay attention to what transpires in the House.
Now, Iíve heard many comments about Yukoners not wanting a territorial election at this time. Some have expressed concern that if the budget is defeated, there would be little construction activity this summer, which would seriously impact on some companies and perhaps even force them into bankruptcy.
I have heard others argue that none of the political parties are ready for an election, therefore there shouldnít be one. And some political pundits have argued that, because the Liberal government received a mandate to govern slightly less than two years ago, it should be allowed to continue to govern.
Mr. Speaker, while there may be different merits to the arguments being advanced for keeping this minority Liberal government in office, itís my view there is one reason that I believe is of paramount importance that has been overlooked, and that is electoral boundary reform. We havenít even seen that bill tabled in this Legislature yet.
Mr. Speaker, any election called now would take place under the existing electoral boundaries, and they would probably be found by the courts to be unconstitutional. Itís simply not democratic whereby the value of one vote in Whitehorse West is worth only about one-tenth of a vote in Faro. That is simply not acceptable. It defies the fundamentals of democracy. Any election that takes place under the existing electoral boundaries could and would likely be challenged as being unconstitutional and denying Yukoners their fundamental right to vote.
Mr. Speaker, these boundaries should have been amended before the last territorial election, but the previous NDP government attempted to gain a political advantage by not changing them then, and that might very well be the case under this Liberal government now. Yukonersí basic right to vote has been used as a political football, and this game-playing with such an important and fundamental right must stop or Yukoners and the courts will tell us to stop.
The point Iím making is that, if an election is fought under the existing electoral boundaries, it could very well be overturned, and Yukoners could be going back to the polls yet again.
Consequently, Mr. Speaker, I am urging the government side to bring forward the electoral boundary legislation immediately. Iím hoping to see it on the agenda tomorrow, and Iím urging all members in the House, in the name of democracy, to give it speedy passage if itís presented in the same format as the final report was presented to this House.
All of us should at least be able to agree that Yukonersí fundamental right to vote should be paramount.
While there is still no guarantee that the Liberal government will last long enough to see these boundaries implemented, all members of this House owe it to Yukoners to at least try to have democratic electoral boundaries put in place prior to the next election.
While Iím making this plea, I realize the Yukon Liberal government is no longer the master of its own fate. Its very existence will be dependent on how it responds to members on this side of the House. The Liberal governmentís attitude will determine its fate, Mr. Speaker. The overriding responsibility facing the Yukon Liberal government when it first took office slightly less than two years ago was to restore the Yukonís economy that was devastated under the previous NDP government.
Now, the only way to restore the Yukonís economy is by restoring investor confidence in the territory. Unfortunately, the Yukon Liberal government adopted the policies and the budgets of the previous NDP government. Make no mistake about it, Mr. Speaker. The current economic recession that Yukoners find themselves in was a made-in-Yukon recession. Our neighbours both to the east and to the west of us, in the Northwest Territories and in Alaska, are doing extremely well. The question Yukoners should be asking is why is the Yukon doing so poorly?
The only difference, Mr. Speaker, between the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Alaska is a political party in place that doesnít have any faith in itself, canít govern, doesnít know how to put a tremendous surplus to work to benefit all Yukoners, and I find that appalling.
The Yukonís economy is doing poorly because the Liberal government first focused all its efforts on the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and the creation of a territory-wide system of parks.
I can remember extensive debate with the Premier, asking her what are the backup plans if this Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline does not come to fruition, and I was chastised severely by the Premier that I didnít support the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Nothing could be further from reality than that statement. I support it, but what is our fallback position? What are we going to do if that doesnít occur? Because we went through the same scenario in the 1970s. Now we are going through it again.
At the last meeting that I was at with a major proponent of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline ó along with a number of my colleagues from this House, including the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and Economic Development ó in Alaska, I posed a question to the senator who has a great involvement in the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, as to when he saw it coming into focus and being constructed. And his statement was, "Well, at least 11 years away, and my officials are telling me 15". That is the reality of the day, and you donít hear those figures bandied about anywhere else by this government.
We are going to see a natural gas pipeline go down the Mackenzie Valley pretty soon, and itís interesting to note the major commerce coming into the Yukon these days. In fact, the last time I checked, 70 percent of the truck traffic scaled in Watson Lake, entering the Yukon, was destined for Inuvik. Now that should tell us something about where the economic activity is. It certainly isnít here in the Yukon. We are just a little weigh station.
The policy decisions the Yukon Liberal government has made have devastated the Yukon economy and, to be fair, the Liberals did inherit a bad economy from the NDP. But instead of making it better, they have made it worse ó much worse. The last time the Yukon had an economy was when the previous Yukon Party government was in power, Mr. Speaker.
We start looking at some of these statistics this government is touting and praising, that show the resurgence in our economy. One of the major ones is the amount of employment and the number of Yukoners working. Mr. Speaker, it has increased, but the sad reality of the situation is that a lot of those individuals are not working here in the Yukon. They are working in the Northwest Territories, Alberta, British Columbia, Alaska and elsewhere. In fact, the numbers being bandied about are that 1,300 of these individuals are working outside of the Yukon that are counted as being employed right here in Yukon. However, their meaningful employment and pay cheques come from another jurisdiction. Thatís whatís turning the economy around.
The Member for Faro, the Minister of Justice, stood on his feet and praised the effects and impact of employment from the Cantung mine. The reality of it is that the Cantung mine is located in the Northwest Territories, but it does create employment here in the Yukon and for Yukoners. But itís a sad day when you hear the Liberal spin.
Now, under the NDP and Liberals, the Yukon had become a welfare state. Here we have a billion-dollar GDP, Mr. Speaker ó a billion dollars, over 80 percent of which flows from the federal government. Now, at some point in time, does it not occur to anyone here that the taxpayers in the rest of Canada are going to say, "Hey, hold the phone. Why should we be taxed to the extent we are being taxed, and all that money sent to the Yukon, when they have the ability and the potential" ó and a tremendous potential it is, Mr. Speaker ó "to raise revenue from their own sources?"
Itís going to take probably a revolt in southern Canada by the taxpayers, as soon as they recognize the level of subsidy theyíre providing to the Yukon. You could and can make a case for Nunavut but, Mr. Speaker, the Yukon is not in the same situation. Our economic potential is tremendous. The inability of this novice Liberal government to get it going is clearly demonstrated, and itís costing taxpayers in the rest of Canada millions and millions and millions of dollars a year, Mr. Speaker.
With fewer than 30,000 people and our vast abundance of resources, the Yukon should not be in this situation. With the right government in power, having the right policies, the Yukon should become a net contributor to Canada. And that could happen within the foreseeable future, Mr. Speaker. Under a Yukon Party government, that objective would be achievable, and I would like to explain how we would start down the road to self-sufficiency.
Now, the first step that has to be taken is to restore investor confidence in Yukonís resource-based economy ó that has been destroyed by the Liberals and NDP policies and legislation. Itís not just the financial aspect of it; itís the policies. One of the most damaging policies that has now been turned into legislation is the Yukon protected areas strategy.
The protected areas strategy was first adopted as government policy by the previous Yukon Party government, Mr. Speaker. But that strategy, at that time, was based upon the concept of multiple use, and it was designed to protect a representative portion of Yukonís 23 ecoregions. Now, under the multiple-use concept, small areas would enjoy full protection surrounded by radiating zones of decreasing protection. Itís a realistic approach to the problem instead of alienating just about half of the Yukon with parks in one form or other, Mr. Speaker.
Now, both the previous NDP government and the current Liberal government purposely subverted the Yukon protected areas strategy by abandoning the concept of multiple use. Instead, the Liberals and the NDP determined that the 23 ecoregions would be protected by including them within the boundaries of a series of parks where all development would be prohibited. Since taking office, the Liberal government has participated in creating four no-development parks in addition to the three national parks that already exist, and it plans to create 12 more no-development parks by April 2003.
A Yukon Party government would give consideration to putting the protected areas strategy on hold until such times as the Yukon economy has made a recovery. Legislation enshrining the strategy may have to be amended to once again enshrine the concept of multiple use and also a cap could be put on the amount of land that could be withdrawn from all development. These changes alone would go a long way in helping to restore investor confidence in the Yukon.
The development assessment process is another example of a process being enshrined in legislation that will establish regulations governing all development in the territory. A Yukon Party government would ensure that these regulations being proposed under the DAP legislation are practical, fair and also cost-effective.
Another process that is having a detrimental impact on the Yukon economy is the Yukon placer mining authorizations. Regulations are being proposed that, if adopted in their present form, would effectively shut down placer mining in the territory, and that industry has been the backbone of the Yukon economy for over 100 years.
A Yukon Party government would go to bat for the industry as it did back in 1993 and would ensure that the regulations, like the regulations under DAP, are practical, fair and cost-effective.
Mr. Speaker, no one wants to see development at the expense of destroying the environment but resource-extraction industries are cognizant of their responsibility to recognize and address the environmental change that may occur as part of their operations. They are cognizant of reclamation work and dealing with their environmental responsibility in a fiscally sound and responsible manner.
If we look at changes, the other area, Mr. Speaker, is the forestry industry. Itís also currently under heavy siege. Various processes have been proposed over the years, but none of them have resulted in what the Yukon forestry industry needs most ó long-term access to timber. When you look at the amount of sustainable timber that can be cut here in the Yukon and what weíre currently doing, itís like every other resource extraction industry. Itís either shutdown or being shut down by this Yukon Liberal government.
Access to timber on a long-term basis is something that a Yukon Party government would ensure. As a matter of priority that the industry gain this long-term access to timber, it would have to be done in an environmentally responsible way, Mr. Speaker.
If you look at these four policies or legislative areas, they would help put the Yukon economy on the road to economic recovery and could be implemented immediately by a Yukon Party government to help create certainty in the private sector.
Now, at the same time, a Yukon Party government would like to bring certainty to the public sector. We would do this by determining whether or not the government renewal process should be put on hold, with the possible exception of the creation of one new department, that being the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. This simply isnít the time for a government to be focusing internally on its structure. Rather, it should be focusing on the economy.
Mr. Speaker, you may note that I have been advising the House about what a Yukon Party government would do, rather than merely relaying what the current Liberal government is doing wrong. Too often opposition parties criticize the governing party without even saying a word about what they would do. The Liberals in opposition were past masters at this.
They didnít know what to do or how to do it, so they didnít say anything about what they would be doing. They just criticized and criticized, saying they were going to do it more openly, more accountably. Well, weíre seeing what that means today, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, never did the Liberals in opposition reveal what they would do when elected to form a government. Today, Yukon people are much, much sadder and wiser about the capabilities of this Liberal government. The simple fact is, if a party canít manage its internal caucus affairs, it certainly isnít capable of managing the affairs of government. Thatís the bottom line.
While the economy should be the central focus of the government, there are many other important issues that the government should be addressing, as well. Some of these issues might be considered to be too small, but they can have a dramatic effect on the Yukon public. For example, the Liberal government was constantly advising Yukoners that there was no money. The community training trust fund was cut by $1 million, causing Yukon College to lose $3 million in money leveraged from the federal government and other sources. Community libraries were being told to cut their hours, and community museums have had their funding reduced. All these cuts were being proposed despite the fact that the Liberal government had a surplus of nearly ó what did they indicate today? ó some $79 million, down from $99 million. It seems like the way the Liberals like to function here in the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, is, if it works, destroy it and turn it out of work; if itís not working, well, we didnít need it anyway. Itís a sad, sad time when we see these kinds of policies emanating from a government that was elected with such a sweeping majority.
But yet, we see the Yukon Liberal government willing to spend some $2.3 million building a new Grey Mountain Primary School that canít be justified. What drives the construction of a new school or an improved school is the school population, and the numbers are simply not there to justify the construction of a new Grey Mountain Primary School at this time.
There are other areas. In the Minister of Educationís own riding, it has been adequately pointed out that there is a need for another school, or an enlarged school in that riding. There is a need for a lot of repairs and upgrades to some of the existing schools. And what happened to the rural school review that called for the next replacement school to be in Carmacks. That is not even on the radar screen of this government.
What is wrong with this picture? If you look at what the Department of Education is spending, from last fiscal year the increase in cost per student has gone from $9,700 to some $11,000 per student. At that rate, we should have one of the best education systems, perhaps not just in Canada, but in the world. And that doesnít include the capital expenditures. That is a tremendous amount of money, and yet when you see what filters down to the teachers and to the actual students, what goes in the top and what comes filtering through to the students is entirely something else. What do we have in that gap in between, we all know, Mr. Speaker.
Itís true, though, that some costs are rising. For example, the other area in the budget where we see a tremendous increase is in health care. Health and Social Services ó the cost of keeping one Yukoner in extended care appears to have risen dramatically, from around $28,000 per person to some $38,000 per person. Now, overall, there has been a $4.4-million increase in this area.
I suspect this dramatic increase can be attributed to the construction of the new extended care facility in Granger. Now, the location of this facility, so far away from the hospital, was actually planned by the previous government. Once again, the Liberal government followed through on an NDP initiative, despite having criticized the location of this facility while in opposition. Well, weíre going to see what it costs very, very soon. And weíre going to see what it takes to attract a proper level of health care professionals to this facility and what weíre going to end up having to pay, because those costs have yet to be identified.
Virtually nothing has been done to address Yukonersí chronic drug and alcohol problems. We see an area now being explored by the Minister of Health, in probably a last-ditch, band-aid initiative to address this issue. There isnít any money budgeted for it, and we donít know if itís going to come back as an additional supplementary at this sitting. The announcements have been made by this government that theyíre going to be spending vast sums of taxpayersí dollars. The purpose for spending appears to be readily justified, but itís done outside the purview of this House, and that should not be the way these changes are made.
All weíve seen this Liberal government do so far ó and budget for ó is create a new expensive secretariat. There is still no facility in Whitehorse, for example, to replace the Crossroads Treatment Centre, cancelled by the previous NDP government after 26 years of service. In opposition, the Liberals tabled a petition in support of Crossroads but have done nothing to replace the treatment centre after being in government for two years. Yukoners have a right to know why.
Also, virtually nothing has been done to address the Yukonís serious problem with FAS/FAE. The Yukon Party proposed a five-step plan of how to deal with FAS/FAE two years ago, but the Liberals chose to ignore it and have presented no plan of their own, once again. Yukoners also have a right to know why.
So I would urge the minister responsible for this area of the portfolio, the minister who just recently took over Health and Social Services, who turned around the CAT scan issue, who turned around, or appears to be turning around on addressing the issue of alcohol and drug abuse and rehabilitation, to address the issue of FAS/FAE and its diagnosis and take a look at the five-step plan that the Yukon Party proposed a number of years ago.
Now, the costs for attending post secondary educational institutions are increasing. The Yukon government, like its NDP predecessor, continues to reduce the amount of money Yukon students can earn under the Yukon excellence award Program, established under the previous Yukon Party government.
I know ó I have daughters who benefited from this program, but now it has been cancelled and, once again, the public is owed an explanation.
The Yukon Party proposed a 25-percent increase in the pioneer utility grant, planned to index the grant against inflation. The Yukon Liberal government brought in a one-time grant, changed all the forms and eliminated a whole bunch of seniors from obtaining this grant. Why? I donít know. It just doesnít make any sense. If something is working, they appear to be prepared to destroy something thatís working and benefiting Yukoners, Mr. Speaker.
Many issues currently confronting Yukoners that the Liberal government has not even addressed ó thatís in addition to its failure to address the economy.
Mr. Speaker, this budget doesnít provide the territory with the proper spending to help turn the Yukon economy around. Some of the expenditures are good overall. The expenditures are not strategic enough to help turn the economy around, despite the fact this is the largest budget ever in the history of the Yukon. We have a declining population. Iím sure that by the time the final census is counted ó weíre down to well under 30,000 Yukoners, of whom over 1,000, approaching 1,300, are working outside the Yukon and calling the Yukon home, because of the failure of this novice Yukon Liberal government to stimulate the economy and get anything going. All we have here, Mr. Speaker, is the Wal-Mart economy.
The Minister of Finance didnít even bother to mention rebuilding the Yukon economy. Itís listed in the first highlights. It didnít even exist. Thatís some indication of how little strategic thinking has gone into the preparation of this budget so far.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the Member for Faro went on at great length to cite the areas that this government has spent a lot of time dealing with. He cites the tremendous number of benefits that will all accrue by the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line.
What the minister is failing to recognize is, yes, theyíre going to be able to turn the diesel power plants off in Dawson. They wonít be able to do away with them, because theyíll be needed because of the unreliability of the transmission line and the frequency of power outages. The amount of savings from not burning diesel will have to be supplemented, Mr. Speaker, with boilers that the City of Dawson will now have to install to heat the potable water supply that was previously heated with jacketed water to cool the diesel generators. Itís no longer a hand-in-glove situation. Itís interesting, currently, Mr. Speaker, that the new owner of the mine in Elsa is looking at installing his own diesel plant rather than purchasing secondary power from the Energy Corporation, because he can recover the heat to use in the dryers, which is a great, great cost savings.
You start looking at all of these ó and then the other fact thatís not even being recognized yet is Dawson has to go to secondary sewage treatment. Because of the location of the municipality, it doesnít have access to areas where lagoons could be located, so it has to be a mechanical treatment plant. And for the mechanical treatment plant to work properly, Mr. Speaker, the effluent is probably going to have to be heated for the reaction to take place.
So on one had, we curtail the burning of a great amount of diesel fuel for power generation in Dawson. On the other hand, the city is going to have to install boilers to heat the potable water supply and probably boilers to heat the effluent. Oh, yes, we have a well-thought-out situation here justified on emissions reductions.
That simply is not the case. But, the bottom line, is who will pay?
Currently, if you look at your power bill, youíve got a surcharge for the Faro mine. You probably, in due course, will see a surcharge for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line if they are going to achieve normal utility practices and be given a standard rate of return on the investment. Because, if you save $1.5 million dollarsí worth of diesel fuel a year, and you have a capital investment approaching $30 million, your rate of return on it, according to the Utilities Board, is just under 10 percent ó it doesnít add up. It is just about twice the cost for rate of return than it is for the diesel fuel. So much for standard utility practices.
Letís look at this issue of fossil fuel consumption, and its resulting pollution. The CATO Institute recently reported that since the first Earth Day in 1970, energy consumption has risen 41 percent in the world and most of it from fossil fuels. But during that same period, sulphur dioxide emissions have dropped by some 39 percent, volatile organic compounds by some 42 percent, carbon monoxide emissions have dropped by 28 percent and large-particle-matter emissions by some 75 percent. There is not much of an environmental crisis in any of this data.
Letís have a hard look at some of these facts, and what we are going to accomplish, or is this novice Yukon Liberal government just taking instructions right from Ottawa? I donít know who is running the show over there these days, but it certainly doesnít appear to be any of the elected officials over there.
If you listen to the environmental alarmists right now, we are also running out of food, minerals and oil, and leading environmental groups preach that the globeís natural resources are being so depleted that the human raceís very existence may soon become impossible, both economically and environmentally.
This report says that the truth is just the opposite. Since 1960, world grain production has increased to 680 pounds per capita from 560, and grain prices have actually fallen. Per capita daily calorie intake in the developing world has grown to nearly 2,700 from 1,900, and we worked fewer hours to buy the food we eat. Poverty is declining probably everywhere else in Canada except the Yukon, and life expectancy is increasing. Proven global oil reserves have increased by a factor of 20. If you want to look at one of the base metals, production of copper has increased to over 12 million tons in 2000 from just over 2,000 tons in 1950.
Now, Iím not saying, "Donít worry, be happy." We have to be cognizant of what is transpiring in the world around us as well as looking after our own natural resources here in the Yukon. But the leadership has to be demonstrated by the government in power, and thatís just the problem. The leadership is not there. If you canít govern your own caucus, how are you expected to govern the Yukon, Mr. Speaker?
Iím looking forward to hearing the second reading remarks of the government members, to see if they are prepared to be cooperative and willing to work with the opposition members in the House. Thatís a sincere position that I am advancing to the government of the day. I would like to see what their positions are. Previously, all we saw were the backbenchers, none of which are left in this caucus. The backbenchers would speak long and eloquently about the budget, but virtually all of the ministers of the day were muzzled.
Now we have a government made up totally of ministers. They sit at Management Board and they sit at the caucus table. They should be well-briefed in their respective areas to understand the issues that Yukon is facing and where we are heading. There is still an opportunity to govern, and minority governments can be very good governments for Yukon. But itís going to take a concerted effort on the part of this Liberal government to work with the opposition to reach consensus on a lot of these areas so that we can look forward to seeing Yukon move forward and all Yukoners enjoy the benefits of residing here, in this great territory we all share.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre.
Mr. McLarnon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am rising today to reply to the budget. I actually enjoyed the speech from the Member for Klondike, and the reason why is because he presented many statistics, facts and figures to help us clearly understand the larger picture.
What I want to do, Mr. Speaker, is take it from the larger picture and bring it right down to the personal picture to explain reasons for what I see as important in the budget, what isnít there, what should be there and ó more importantly for the members across the way, if theyíre listening ó what it will take to get me to vote for this budget.
Now, itís important to understand, Mr. Speaker, when Iím speaking in a personal nature, that when we talk about this, I speak of what many Yukoners suffer from and go through. Mr. Speaker, Iíll start off right now by this statement to let Yukoners understand why alcohol and drug services are so important to me to have funded in the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Speaker, my name is Mike, and Iím a recovering alcoholic. Mr. Speaker, I recognize that Iíve had a problem for the last five months. Colleagues ó and I will give credit where credit is due ó colleagues in my previous government recognized that I was going down a path that many Yukoners follow. Itís the path in the trap of alcoholism.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I know personally the absolute difficulty, the absolute life-changing need, that people have when they want to quit alcohol.
I also understand the strength of the addiction. I also understand the psychological impact of admitting that you have a problem, and I also understand that alcohol is beguiling; alcohol is full of trickery and it is often easy to forget that you have that problem. In Whitehorse we are very fortunate. In Whitehorse we have a number of support groups. In Whitehorse, if you want to quit drinking, there are methods if you have the ability to go, and the support network to do that. I was fortunate. My support network was there. My family history had experienced this in the past, we knew how to deal with it, and today I can honestly say Iím going on to six months of recovery and I intend to keep that up.
Why, Mr. Speaker, Iím stating this today is to make the Yukon public aware so that when slanders and rumours come out that I have been drinking again, Iím asking the Yukon public to just check and find out that Iím not, because I am stopping it right here. When the rumours come from the back rooms on the other side that I have been hitting the bottle again, Iím stopping it here in the House. Iím asking Yukoners to hold me accountable because thatís what Iím about these days ó accountability and speaking up for your own actions and making sure that what you do is the only thing that is important and making sure that you do what you say you will do. That is why Iím standing here, Mr. Speaker, and putting it flat on the line.
One of the reasons why I left the Yukon Liberal caucus was the fact that, for two years, we have been led down the path that the alcohol and drug secretariat would be a reality, would be funded. We took the time when we were in government to get a resource person who could drive and give Yukoners a way to leave the addiction and to become productive people in our society.
We recognized the fact two years ago, when we made that platform, that this was important to the Yukon Territory. Where has that recognition gone two years later? How do I tell my constituents that we are no longer holding that as a priority?
Today the Minister of Health and Social Services told us of all the programs theyíre talking about. Mr. Speaker, the time for talking has stopped. We are on this side to stop the talk and start the action. It has been too long without these services; too many people are suffering in the Yukon Territory. We have a reputation here of being a hard-drinking place, of working hard and drinking hard. The gold rush reputation has not disappeared; the frontier reputation has not disappeared. The problem is that there arenít the jobs any more to back it up, but the bottle hasnít left. The bottle hasnít left; the bottle is becoming more and more a reality in all Yukonersí lives.
I see this issue as not only a social issue, Mr. Speaker. This issue is a justice issue; this issue is an economic issue, as productivity is directly tied to a sober society. This is an issue that probably touches one in two Yukoners directly, and every Yukoner indirectly, yet we see a two-percent rise in funding due to wage increases, yet we hear more lip service, yet we put it away until the election, when there will be this magical alcohol and drug service funding unrolled as a promise for the next election. And I am saying it is time to stop playing games with peopleís lives. People have a very small window of opportunity when they decide to quit and when they decide to reach for help. We donít have any way, outside of Whitehorse, to get that help. We have some counselling in the communities with the NNADAP workers, but as far as support networks, as far as a person in Ross River saying, "Today I stop drinking, today I will not go down that path", finding a support network in the community is hard, next to impossible.
So, the person who wants to quit will quickly and easily follow down the path that he or she has been on before, and it is a vicious circle ó a horrible, vicious circle ó that this government had the guts to address, and then forgot. And what we are calling for on this side is for the government to keep its own promise to resource it, to put the money where they said theyíd put the money.
Why this is important also, Mr. Speaker, and one of the reasons I have come over to this side is because, as I saw that commitment drop, due to what I call questionable budget considerations, I was not consulted. I went to my constituents for two years and told them this was going to happen. When I found out that this was not going to happen, and that it would be another year, I had to look at it and say, "Do I continue to go back to my constituents and give them facts I donít know are going to happen? Am I going to give them probabilities? Or, am I going to give them action and tell them what Iím doing?" By standing on this side, and tying my vote to this budget, I can prove to my constituents that alcohol and drug services are important to me and I will fight for them. That is not something I was able to do in the caucus across the way, because Cabinet made the decision without consultation, without caucus approval, and certainly never checked caucus reaction.
So, this is why I stand here, Mr. Speaker, and this is why I tell the government across the way that, if theyíre serious about correcting this very grave problem in the Yukon Territory, if theyíre serious about having many more people able to proudly say that they are a recovering alcoholic, then they should put the money where their promise is.
Why I stand here is because I was sick of talking about something. I came here to do something, not talk about it. Talk is over ó we won an election on talk, now we deliver.
Now, it is the same when I talk about heritage funding. My business background, my employment training, my soul as far as what I like to do, was to show the Yukon off to our visitors, show the Yukon off to ourselves, understand the place we are, why we are and who we are.
At Hellaby Hall, just before the election, the Premier stood in front of the entire heritage community and committed to bringing back heritage funding to 1995 levels ó approximately $4 million under what they are now. Again, that was a promise that I took to be a promise that we would keep.
I went to the community, I went to the heritage community, convinced them we were telling the truth, convinced them that this would be happening, even found reasons, even found things that we had to put the money to, and again, it is not there.
At a meeting with YHMA and a response to YHMA, when they put the question to the minister asking for the commitment to be lived up to, they were told it would be in the next budget. And, I look at it and say that is talk, that is nothing more than lip service.
The excuse used by the Liberals, by the way, is that that commitment was over four years, and this is where the argument falls apart, on the Liberal side. And I am going to present to the House why that promise shouldnít be believed until we see it in the budget right in front of us. The reason why ó and we are going to get back and step back a bit.
The reason why that promise cannot be trusted is because of what the Premier is telling us today on the very floor of this Legislature ó that weíre in an economic crisis, that weíre in deficit spending, that we donít have any money.
Well, Mr. Speaker, if we canít find money for programs now and if we donít have as much money next year, how are we going to find new money for new programs? It is a large, logical question. If they claim they donít have the money now this year, what are they going to cut next year to bring the programs in? And I surmise: nothing. The programs wonít happen. So I am asking the government to put its money where its mouth is, to back up their very own promises and then you will see the vote needed to stay in government. Then you will see the compromises needed.
And the simple fact of the matter is that I am not asking them to carry the NDPís agenda or to carry the Yukon Partyís agenda. I am only asking them to fulfill their own. Itís what I promised. Itís what Iím being held accountable for. So I am now taking this opportunity to publicly hold the government accountable. Please fulfill your own promises. Please resource at least what, as a government, was promised to the Yukon Territory and donít do it as election promises. Donít do it in the last year. Because what weíve seen there is the same promise being used twice per platform. They used it once for promising in the last platform and then they will present a budget with it in there again, saying "Look, weíve done it." Itís political trickery and nothing more.
Itís important to understand that when you promise something, you must give it or you are considered a promise breaker. I donít want to be considered a promise breaker, and Iím asking the government to save what shred of reputation that they have and at least not be called promise breakers.
And this is why we raised the fact of the Grey Mountain School. It wasnít for the fact of the Grey Mountain School alone. We recognize that that was made for political expediency, and we understand that. Every party does it. I consider it a sin of politics. I consider it priorities that go far beyond the general good and rather focus on the political good of one person or another. But what I do understand is that itís a promise, and I commend the Liberals ó at least they hold to the promise. The problem is it doesnít make sense, but theyíre holding to it.
On a number of other issues, though, theyíre strangely quiet. So I canít understand, Mr. Speaker, how they can trumpet the fact that theyíre keeping a promise in one place and then hide the rest and not talk about the rest, not commit to the rest. I can certainly tell you, Mr. Speaker, that there were 11 other seats voted for other than the two ridings affected by Grey Mountain School. So obviously, out of those nine ridings, Grey Mountain School was not an issue. Other issues like alcohol and drug services were. Other issues like heritage funding were, and theyíre not being addressed.
Rather than being scolded for bringing up this information, rather than being told that we donít understand promises, we would like the Liberal government to understand that people see two versions of the Liberal government out there. They see one that will play political games and keep promises for political benefit, and then they see another where promises are not kept only for the reason that maybe they werenít fitting with the dogma or the political stripe of the leader. So what Iíd ask, Mr. Speaker, is that that be recognized.
Now, Iíd like to address the fact that we have a huge, huge play going on, a huge political charade thatís happening in front of us.
This is the supposed financial crisis that we are in. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that we are in no such financial crisis. I put it to you, Mr. Speaker, that the census data that we have received will be upgraded and also certainly will not be stated in the way the Premier stated it, in how much money we are going to owe. The Premier stated in the press conference that she has the money for the complete reduction of our population from 1997 to the present day at the same level, for a maximum loss of $39.6 million. Now, I have checked the population figures for those three years and they were all different from the last number, in fact significantly higher. So what do we see here? $39.6 million paid back to the federal government? But by my calculations, itís approximately $18 million paid back to the federal government.
So, what we have here is a difference of $20 million that could come out. Nice for pork-barrelling in an election year, but certainly not good for Yukoners when they need it now, when we stop the exodus, when we can put people to work and give them hope, when the most important issue in the Yukon Territory is not whether three independents have left the Liberal Party but whether our jobs are there or whether we can get a better raise or where the next project is. Why are we the central focus? Why these two independents who sit with me are the central focus in the media for the last two weeks is because, really, thereís nothing else to report on. There is no good news about our economy; there are no projects coming in; there is no place to vest our hope.
So, for some small reason ó and we have seen it on the streets of Whitehorse ó Yukoners are desperate for hope. They are shaking our hands and hoping we can change it. Now, we will take steps to do that, but it requires the cooperation of the people sitting on the government side of this floor who promised change in the first place, and the vision needed to understand what we see today is not economic recovery.
Itís stabilization and equilibrium in an economic term. We have bottomed out. We have hit it. Right now, we have the resources in our economy, with 81 percent of our economy coming from federal transfer payments to sustain this level.
But if youíre in business, and if youíre not dealing with government, then you have a problem. The reason why you have a problem is because the 19 percent left is private industry and it is not enough to sustain a business that doesnít deal with government. If you donít believe me, letís have a look and find out where Finning went, B.C. Bearing went, and we are watching retail stores being put up for sale in this community.
Mr. Speaker, Iím not one to use statistics, and the reason why is because statistics only tell the side of the story youíre presenting. So what I would like to do is point out to the government, before they use the retail statistics to death, is that Wal-Mart was built in that time. Wal-Mart did $1 million of business in their first morning, and that is the sum total of 10 to 12 small businessesí yearly take.
So, what I want to present, Mr. Speaker, is that we have not seen a rise in overall retail sales in this territory. What we have seen is people buying at Wal-Mart, because they now no longer buy Outside. So did the NDPís original goal of stopping leakage work? Sort of. We have staff working at $10 an hour here in town, instead of staff working for $10 an hour at the closest Wal-Mart Outside. The money still goes Outside to Wal-Martís main corporation, so I donít know if it did really stop leakage. It did create some jobs, so kudos for the Argus development and kudos for the jobs created. But as far as retail sales go, thatís whatís skewing the numbers.
I donít think we have to look any further than that to understand ó as businesses close down, as people file for bankruptcy, as people leave their houses and just abandon them to the bank ó that the economy is not improving.
Earlier, Mr. Speaker, when I was in the House, one of the first speeches that I made was to compare the Yukon ó after I looked at the statistics about our juvenile incarceration, about our alcohol use, our substance abuse, our smoking here, our education levels ó I referred to the Yukon as the Mississippi of Canada. The reason why is because we were near the bottom in almost every social statistic you could find.
Now, two years later, it hasnít changed. We still incarcerate youth. We still have the highest drinking levels in the country. We still smoke almost as much as anybody else in the country. We still have poverty levels as high as anywhere else in the country. And why? What has happened over the last two years? The problem is, nothing ó nothing. Small amounts ó fiddling here, a change here, but nothing to really impact where we are going and what weíre doing. Thatís what I left for, because I felt that if we are in a situation where we cannot at least express our points of view on that, we will be here and we will express them freely.
Now we have presented some ideas that we would like the government to consider. We will express them like everybody else on this side of the House does, but weíve already explained to them what they can do to get votes and what they can do to stay in government. They are not unreasonable requests. In fact, they are quite reasonable ó they are their own. What we want them to do is be accountable and do what they said they would do and stop talking about it.
Now, Mr. Speaker, one of the questions I have about this budget ó and it brings us to a larger question ó is the consultation on this budget. Now, previously, I had gone out on budget consultations on behalf of the governing caucus. I had gone on a lot and put a lot of miles on the road, met almost every member of this House in their own riding ó I enjoyed it.
I felt that what we were doing was useful. Mr. Speaker, there really was none on this budget. There was no road show. There was no data collection of needs of Yukoners.
We spent our time on renewal. We consulted on renewal, but what we did not do is find out if anything changed out there, if any needs had increased or decreased. What we did is sit in the backroom and do this. And, unfortunately, if this was just about the budget I wouldnít say anything. But I find that our consultation methods have been the same all the way through in the last two years, and we take a look at the Yukon protected areas strategy or you take a look at how the Education Act was consulted on. We realize that possibly we havenít had our ears open, and that is what I am asking this government to do ó is not only respect the promises that they have made, but respect one promise they have made which is to be an open and accountable government, and to listen to Yukoners, because I know Yukoners didnít ask for this budget. They didnít ask for it in any way.
What this budget is about is raising money so that they can have an election budget on the next one. This budget is not about addressing any crisis. This is a money grab. This is a money grab because our financial situation is not, and will not prove to be, as dire as it is being made out to be. I would also like to show the history of this government over the last two years. This government has cried poverty since they got in. There was never money. This is hard to imagine for Yukoners who see $80 million in the bank. This is hard to imagine for people who are wondering if Wal-Mart got a special so that they can afford their food bill. This is not satisfying to the Yukon public, and we are asking the Liberal government to understand that the consultation time that they missed outside is over. Now they are going to have to consult with members elected by those people they never talked to, and that is what we are asking them to do.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the other thing Iíd like to talk about, though, is a compliment to the government. Iíd like to compliment the government on the fact that they have brought forward accountability plans. Accountability plans, used in Alberta, have changed the way government works. Accountability plans, when theyíre used properly, give a clear direction from the guy on the street right to the minister, all the way through the government on what expectations are, how measurements will happen, and what people can expect from their elected officials.
What I would ask Yukoners to understand is that these accountability plans are tools that they can use. These are tools they can set measurements of any government by. These are tools that we use to judge our own performance. I commend the Yukon Liberal government for the accountability plans. I will be getting to them in line-by-line, because I have already found a few weaknesses, and I will be putting the ministers on notice before that, to bring their accountability people there. But itís a brave move, itís a good move, and it actually speaks to one of the governmentís own platform commitments to be more accountable. Itís only accountability, though, when the statistics presented are valid, when the goals they have are achievable, and when the Yukon public has had an ability to impact and give input into them. Over the next few months, I will be visiting every industry association, I will be visiting every group affected by those accountability plans and telling them what they can expect to have in them, what they should be asking for in them, and making sure that those groups understand how they can hold the ministers responsible for their funding or their special areas of interest more accountable and how they can reflect themselves in the plans of the government.
I personally will be doing that, and I hope the ministers across the way will be as well, because I know these accountability plans, Mr. Speaker. I am thankful for the opportunity to have experienced the construction of them, as I have, and I certainly will be showing Yukoners how to use them.
Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that we will support the government if they keep their own promises. They will be government in June and they will be government in September as long as they keep their own word. I will not have this government turn me into somebody who did not tell the truth on the floor ó on the steps and doors of my own constituency. My political future rides on my ability to tell the truth and show the truth was always met, and I plan on doing that at the doors, in this Legislature and around the Yukon Territory.
My favourite platform over the next two years is going to be the Liberal platform, because the promises in that Liberal platform are what I carried around the constituency and what I told them that, over the next four years, they would have to deliver. Iím not changing my point of view. Iím still going to carry that platform around and Iím going to ask that they deliver on the promises said. There are a number of promises. Iím not speaking for my colleagues, but I know that they have fixed on others. What we are going to do is make this government what it could be, and that is an open and accountable government that will deliver change to the territory.
There are very many good people on that side of the House, Mr. Speaker. There are people there who should be in politics for a long time, and I will certainly make it known in the future who they are.
I wonít today, because itís not budget-related but I certainly wouldnít ó I think the Yukon would be worse off if there werenít people in this House today ó I mean in two or three years ó who arenít here today. There are excellent ministers on that side. There are excellent people on that side. Our issue with the ministers is not personalities. Our issue is on the fact that, when we canít hold our government accountable privately, we will do it publicly, and thatís what weíre doing today.
Mr. Speaker, I would also now like to digress. Since weíve already had economics lessons from the Minister of Justice, weíll give a couple of economics lessons to the Minister of Justice to give him some idea of basics of economics.
First of all, there are two types of economics: something called Friedman economics or Keynesian. Either one has points of view. The problem is that we adopted from the start a very hands-off Friedman point of view in which the economy could run itself. The problem was that, if we had taken a step back, we would have realized that there is very little economy left to run itself. If it wasnít centred around government, we didnít have an economy, or very little of one.
So at that point when you realize that you cannot have an economy to grow, if you step back and take a Keynesian point of view ó the Keynesian point of view is to inject money into the economy, to inject and start the economy going off. You can focus it; you can put it where you want, but that is what needs to be done now. I am asking this government to understand that projects need to be resourced, business confidence needs to happen, investment confidence needs to happen. If that means spending money to allow somebody with an idea to come in so he can spend his own and create jobs here, we should do that.
I will be calling on the Minister of Economic Development until the department is changed, and then the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and also, the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, to start looking at programs like that. I will be bringing in examples of programs that can be adopted. Iím here to construct; Iím here to build. Weíre not going anywhere for two years. Letís work at it. Minority governments are re-elected as majority governments if they do well, so letís get on with it. Letís do well. Yukoners are expecting it.
Mr. Speaker, Iím going to close by using a reference. I have already said how we have turned into the Mississippi of Canada in our social, economic and poverty stats. Unfortunately, we now have a relationship with another partner in our NAFTA agreement, and thatís Mexico. If we take a look at the number of workers we have who are now sending income from other places back to the Yukon to support our economy, to support the children here, to keep things going, weíd be shocked. If we fixed it as a percentage of our population, we would be approximately the same as Mexico for the amount of people working outside this territory and sending cheques back. I donít think anyone would call the Mexican economy a stellar performer.
Now, Mr. Speaker, all weíre asking for is accountability. All weíre asking for is the government to keep its own promises. All weíre asking for is for the government to have compassion when they make promises that involve peopleís lives. One of the things ó again, as I close ó that involves almost every Yukoner, at one level or another, directly or indirectly, is dealing with alcohol in this territory. Put your money where your mouth is and fund this program, and the government will exist for another day.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I did listen to the Member for Whitehorse Centre with great interest and intent, and I do believe that the member opposite was speaking from his heart a lot of the time. I just wanted to express to the member that I was so looking forward to working in a very collaborative and partnership way, because he spoke passionately about heritage and culture and tourism, because I know that is where his interests lie. It was certainly my intent to work very closely with the member, because I had invited him in on several occasions to talk on issues that ó and Iíd indicated to him quite openly that this is one area that was totally new to me and would require a very steep learning curve in a very short period of time. Considering the restructuring of the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, I was looking very, very forward to working with the member.
Iíll talk a little bit more on that aspect a little later, Mr. Speaker, but it really is with a lot of pride that I add my voice to the initiatives contained in the operation and maintenance budget as presented by the Premier last week.
The operation and maintenance budget is about the money that we as a government invest in our workforce, non-government organizations, industries, and directly to municipalities. We are doing what we said we would do, including spending taxpayersí money wisely.
I take my duties and responsibilities extremely seriously, as both the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture and also the Minister of Environment. Although these departments seem vastly different, I believe they are very complementary to each other.
My colleagues, in their capital budget speeches in the fall, identified a number of initiatives such as: $200,000 toward planning and development of a Kwanlin Dun heritage centre; $35,000 for waterfront planning; $175,000 for the film incentive program; $35,000 toward a craft display and visitor reception centres; feasibility studies regarding space for local artists and a wholesale buyers show; $73,000 for regional tourism development; and up to $235,000 to Dana Naye Ventures for microloan program over a three-year period, with $72,000 for the 2002-03 fiscal year, being the last year of the pilot program.
This money is being spent on projects that are not only important to business, tourism and culture but will also stimulate work in other communities. The branches of trade and investment from the former Department of Economic Development and archives from the Department of Education fit well into the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture. Trade and investment dealt with small business, marketing and promotional assistance. Similar assistance was also being provided within Tourism. It is only logical, therefore, that similar functions be amalgamated to form a greater pool of resources to draw from.
It also made sense to move archives within the department. Archives and archival material are an integral link with our past, our history. We draw on these materials to explain why things are the way they are and why they are today. Without this record, we cannot maintain the contact with our past, our roots, our heritage. Museums also provide some of these linkages to our past, as do heritage sites throughout the whole of the territory. They all contribute to our unique history and heritage. Without them, our lives would definitely not have depth.
The Yukon also has a strong and vibrant art community, such as silversmiths, goldsmiths, potters, furniture makers, inventors, artists, performers, and the list goes on and on, Mr. Speaker. All these people each provide interesting additions to our culture. The Yukon is probably one of the few special places in Canada where there is such a strong sense of community. No matter what your profession or occupation, you can truly be yourself. No airs, no pretensions, just a Yukoner.
Our diverse culture and environment only enhances our tourism industry. Culture is what makes each of us what we are. Performing and visual artists, artisans, storytellers, we all have some creative ability, each in our own individual and unique way. In todayís diverse society, artists have learned to be business people. Not many people have the luxury of doing something that they truly love and also make a living at.
In the past, many departments within the Yukon government spent a lot of money marketing themselves individually. Business, Tourism and Culture houses the bulk of the marketing expertise within government. It only makes sense that the department with the most expertise should be marketing the Yukon Territory and the Yukon government.
Tourism Yukon has been marketing the territory for years and years. Letís use those contacts and that expertise to market business and culture also. Marketing of tourism shouldnít be done in isolation of business. It can be done inclusive of business and benefit other sectors, such as museums, archives, historic sites, and film, just to name a few.
Business, Tourism and Culture has also been tasked with corporate marketing initiatives throughout the government, including attracting investors and the recruitment of skilled professionals. With the addition of information and telecommunications technology expertise to the department, these initiatives can truly be enhanced.
Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe that our natural environment contributes to our world-class tourism industry. Our clean air, our beautiful landscapes and abundant wildlife are a major reason why people come to the Yukon. I think Yukon is Canadaís best kept secret, but we are getting the message out. The Yukon is a great place to live, itís a great place to work, and itís certainly a great place to play. And we want to share that not only with Canada and North America, but with the world.
The Department of Environment will continue to manage the environment in a responsible manner. The department has undergone some changes due to renewal. For example, the agricultural branch has been relocated to Energy, Mines and Resources. There have also been some name changes to the branches to more accurately reflect their function. Field services is now known as conservation, protection and public education. The Department of Renewable Resources, now Environment, has long been targeted by some members opposite as being heavy-handed or obstructionist, a department with a hidden agenda. I think this has more to do with people not really understanding what the department truly does.
The department has a very onerous mandate: to manage and protect Yukonís natural environment in a sustainable, comprehensive and integrated manner. In order to do this, the department must continually find the middle ground between resource development and aboriginal or treaty rights, and consumptive and non-consumptive use of fish and wildlife.
Mr. Speaker, I and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources are working very collaboratively on trying to show that the Yukon is an incredible place to invest, to come to the territory for oil and gas exploration, to work on mining industry, and that, despite the contrary comments of the Member for Klondike that we are turning the Yukon into a park, nothing could be further from the truth. We are committed by national standards to protect our unique ecosystems indigenous to the territory, and we are doing that in a very collaborative way, indicating to industry ó as the Minister of Environment, Mr. Speaker, I want to assure industry, I want to assure the mining sector, the placer mining sector, that we are very cooperative, respecting their industry, respecting their rights of reasonable access, respecting third party rights in any area that is being looked at toward being an area of interest.
We want to engage these people. We want to do that and are committed to doing that ó both the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and myself. And we will continue to do that very publicly, very openly and very accountably. That is our commitment to Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. We said that we would do that two years ago. We said we would do it and we do what we say we will do.
Although our resident population is not large and impacts of climate change have had a very significant impact on our environment ó impacts that we as Yukoners have had no part in, but our environment is suffering as a result of other provincesí and other countriesí carelessness. If we donít monitor and manage our natural resources effectively, they will decline and eventually disappear. I believe, as do most Yukoners, that protection of the environment and responsible development can most definitely go hand in hand.
Cooperation is the key. Openness is the key ó inviting industry to sit down at the table so that we can share ideas and find common solutions. During the past two years, staff from several departments have worked cooperatively together on a number of projects, including oil and gas nominations and protected areas. In each case, research and selection of an area was based on science and traditional knowledge.
Selections are not made in order to benefit one sector over the other. They are selected on the best area for the purpose intended, with the smallest possible impact on competing sectors. If an area contains high mineralization or oil and gas potential, there are other areas that are also considered.
If an area has a unique habitat or wetland and has low resource potential, then it is looked at more closely. Balance is key, information is key, and cooperation is key for all selections.
I am so looking forward to devolution. There are so many ways that development is blocked by one federal agency working against another department or government. Much of Yukonís existence and history was created through resource extraction. Mining is still incredibly important. We want balanced development and a diversified economy ó not the boom and bust of the past.
How many times has the Yukon relied upon a big mining company to drive its economy, only to have the mining company close its doors after two, five or possibly 10 years of operation? The shock waves that ripple through the territory are tangible and have affected each and every one of us as Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, things always seem greener on the other side of the fence. Alaskans get dividend money once a year, but that is now starting to run out. The Northwest Territories government is $100 million in debt, and the people who work at the diamond mines are flown in from Alberta because there is a shortage of a skilled workforce. The Alberta government still has a hiring freeze and has had for a number of years. As a matter of fact, the B.C. government is in the process of laying off 13,000 employees.
The Yukon can no longer be a one-horse or one-industry territory. Weíre talking of diversification, Mr. Speaker. All ministers on this side of the House are looking at how we can responsibly ó while respecting our population, respecting our values, respecting our heritage, our culture, respecting our environment ó diversify our economy so that we donít have the boom and bust as has occurred in the past.
This government, members on this side of the House and the public service, work every day making this a reality. We all can listen and we, on this side of the House, Mr. Speaker, listen very well. We even listen to all Yukoners, inside this House, inside this building, on the sidewalks, on the streets of Whitehorse. We listen to all the communities of Yukon, all of us heading out and listening to what Yukoners have to say ó even those members in Watson Lake.
As long as we can all listen, we can make a difference. We can all work toward a common goal for the betterment of life, for the quality of life in Yukon for all Yukoners.
This budget, Mr. Speaker, does exactly that through its complementary budget that we passed in the fall. This is a great budget. We are all in partnership on this side of the House. We are a very strong, committed team on this side of the House. We support the decisions; we support our leader; we are very proud of the work that she has done and we are very proud of the work we all, on this side of the House, have done in just two short years.
Mr. McRobb: What a moving speech by the previous member. I think Iíll rip up my party card and go subscribe to the Liberal Party after what Iíve just heard ó but unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I know better than to accept the verbatim as fact.
Mr. Speaker, itís clear on this side of the House that the Liberal government, if it does listen ó letís give it the benefit of the doubt. If this government does listen, as it likes people to believe, then why doesnít it act on what it hears? We know this to be the case, Mr. Speaker. Obviously, if this government listens, then either it has a very bad memory or it has very little regard for what it hears.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to talk about how we need a budget that puts Yukoners first. I thought that was an important theme to address today because weíve heard a lot of other views about this budget ó its failings and its successes, although the latter is lesser in substance than the former.
Mr. Speaker, I believe this budget fails to achieve the objective of putting Yukoners first, because the Liberal members opposite have simply politicized the public purse. I will speak to this a little later, but I want to first say that I have lots to cover here this afternoon, and it will be a challenge to squeeze it all into my allotted time.
Now, although itís my job to hold the government accountable, especially in my critic areas and in defence of my riding of the Kluane area, not all I have to say is negative.
I do believe it is important to give people hope, not just despair. Now, I think if I were speaking solely on the grounds of holding the government accountable, all I could say could very well be classified as despair, because a lot of it is not good news. And I believe the governmentís performance over the last two years simply is not good news either.
Unfortunately, this budget projects spending for the next fiscal year so it has even more far-reaching consequences than what we have experienced in the past two years.
On the positive side, I want to reiterate the offer from us in the official opposition to try to work with this minority government in the best interests of Yukoners. I believe that is very important to re-establish that offer, because many Yukoners are currently living in fear ó that is, fear of their personal circumstances, and fear of where the territory might be going. We know we have lost thousands of very good people.
If I might just allude for a moment to an e-mail I received from a constituent last evening. I read about how this constituent is heartbroken by the number of going-away parties that person had to attend to recently ó very good people leaving the territory ó people who have helped to build the territory to what it is today. People with lots of business experience and community experience are now gone, and they are not being replaced. So this person really set it out clearly for me about this concern, and I wanted to make sure that I included that today.
We offer to work with the government. Weíve already signalled this in a number of ways ó through motions tabled in this Legislature, by offering to set up all-party committees to address important issues such as the economy, health care and governance models for the territory. I believe such action is constructive and itís what people in the territory are looking for, especially right now in these times of political uncertainty. The political uncertainty is certainly exacerbating the economic uncertainty and the reduction of our communities in the territory as well.
So I am really hoping to instill a measure of hope in what Yukoners are hearing in this budget speech and trying to encourage people to hold off on possible plans to leave the territory, because there is hope. The hope is that the Liberal minority government will rethink its position of not taking up the opposition on its offers of cooperative committees and working together, but will instead accept our offer and we all work together for whatís best for the territory.
Alternatively ó and I mention this because we have no way of forcing the government to cooperate for whatís best ó an election might be coming soon, so in another way there can be hope for Yukoners there.
Some of the issues I want to cover this afternoon range from the budget, to the Liberal record, to some of the legislation coming forward and other issues such as the economy and my riding, and so on.
Iíll start with the budget, Mr. Speaker, because a very significant figure is provided to us. Itís the $79-million surplus available in this budget. Now, this figure is consistent with previous surpluses in the last few years, and it equates to a huge amount of extra money that this Liberal government continues to sit on. We recall previous surpluses ó I believe some of the figures were $99 million, $64 million and $80 million. This is a tremendous amount of money. It seems each year the actual surpluses, as reported by the Auditor General, usually in October, exceed the amount pegged by us in the official opposition.
So, let there be no mistake. This government has a lot of extra money and is choosing to hold on to it. A lot of Yukoners have asked why this Liberal government chooses to hold on to that surplus money and not help them when they need the help ó because there are all kinds of ways to help, Mr. Speaker. There are programming dollars, capital projects and so on that can really help Yukoners put food on their tables and maybe give them some of that hope I was speaking about earlier ó and persuade them not to leave the territory.
I think, from what some of the Liberal MLAs who are now sitting on this side of the House have said recently, itís quite clear why this government hasnít spent down the surplus to more reasonable levels. We have heard talk about secret agendas, and we have heard talk about how this Liberal government is secretly hoarding a lot of money for the next election.
Now, this is an old game. Itís nothing new, Mr. Speaker. We know of other governments that have done it. I recall the Mulroney government in the 1987 election was certainly accused of playing Santa Claus in the election year. I know the Member for Riverdale South is well aware of this. As a matter of fact, she labelled the previous NDP government budgets all as being election budgets, and that is really ironic in retrospect because, when a government has every budget called from the official opposition at the time "an election budget" right from the first one to the last one, that indicates the government is not hoarding money for the final year but is spending equally throughout and caring for Yukonersí needs from the beginning of its mandate to the end. So, as a strange irony, we can take comfort in the criticism from the now Minister of Health back then, which really attests to the fact the previous government did spend the public purse wisely and not for political purposes, as it was criticized for at the time.
Now that we have established that, Mr. Speaker, letís compare it to whatís happening now. I take you back to the last few years of huge surplus budgets under this Liberal government and how this government continues to refuse Yukoners the opportunity to provide for them now, with the same old excuses of how the government is broke.
Now, the government has gotten quite good at justifying how itís broke with these long-term financial plans that are in every budget, usually in a back section of the budget speech book.
Weíve grown wise to the use of the numbers, and weíve noticed a huge shift in those numbers, even from the capital budget tabled in the fall, and thereís a good reason why the numbers are shifting in such large amounts. Thatís because this government is hiding the money for the final year. This government will become a big, second-half spender. Thereís no doubt about it.
We saw just in the past week additional money announced for alcohol and drug assistance. I think thatís an indication that an election may not be too far away now and the government has finally woken up and noticed that it doesnít have a majority any more and that an election could be coming soon. So what did it do? It reached into the election war chest and pulled out enough for this goodie it was saving for next year. Well, Mr. Speaker, I donít think Yukoners support that type of an approach. Yukoners spoke about it in previous election campaigns and: between elections. They want a government that is going to best represent their interests and put politics on the backburner and do whatís right for the territory. What weíre seeing leaves a lot to be desired in that respect. Iím sure weíll hear more about the secret agenda from the new members on this side in the weeks ahead.
I want to speak about the budget consultation for a moment, as I have in other budget speech replies, because this is an area that is important to me. Members will recall in my previous testimony how I attended each and every budget meeting in my riding, in all three budget circumstances, I believe. On previous occasions I described the logistics of the consultation, going from community to community in the Kluane riding and meeting with other governments, including First Nation governments, municipal governments and especially the public. I have really spelled out in detail, to avoid any misunderstandings from the members opposite, how a government should apply a budget consultation process if it really wants a good process for Yukoners.
But what have we seen so far? Well, there was one hastily called budget process well over a year ago. Well, that simply was too little too late and it was not inclusive. It cut out several of the other governments and public meetings. Some of the meetings were hosted by a backbencher, not the Finance minister, not accompanied by the Deputy Minister of Finance, but a backbencher. I recall one meeting in Haines Junction in mid January of last year, and the backbencher acknowledged the wishes of the community and made some statements to reassure members of the community that certain things would be supported by the government.
In retrospect, those assurances did not pan out. I recall what some of the assurances were. Training trust funds were good and would be supported by the government. "We believe in training Yukoners," the Liberal MLA told the crowd in attendance that night in Haines Junction. Did that happen? No, Mr. Speaker, instead this Liberal government slashed the training trust fund dollars from the budget, purged that money from the budget. There is a word to describe that type of an approach, but I know itís unparliamentary.
This government has not provided the opportunity for ordinary Yukoners to give their input and suggestions to the government on how the public purse should be managed, yet we see the Premier stand up and claim the opposite. We see the other Liberal members stand up and claim the opposite but, in effect, that is not happening.
These budget meetings donít exist any more. They have been cut out of the government process. There has been no opportunity for the citizens of Haines Junction, for example, to provide their community wishes to this government, because there has been no community meeting provided for them.
What this Liberal government has provided for is, perhaps, opportunities for their friends to submit their wish list, but not for the public.
Iím also hearing some negative feedback in this regard from other governments, such as First Nations and municipalities. So, I know this type of discrimination is not limited to the Yukon people themselves, Mr. Speaker. It seems to be a trademark of this Liberal government. They seem to know best and donít need to hear from Yukoners.
The only budget consultation that did occur, I mentioned was "too little, too late". Iíll give you an example. There was notice of the budget meeting for Beaver Creek published in the Yukon News in mid-January last year, which arrived in the community on a Monday afternoon. The budget meeting was held earlier that day, during the noon hour. Well, what kind of notice is that? You know, there is such a thing as principles of natural justice. One of the main principles of natural justice is fair notice. Yukoners deserve to be treated with justice and respect and, when theyíre provided notice of such an important meeting by government after the meeting has occurred, there is certainly a problem there.
I have spoken to this problem before, Mr. Speaker, and I was hoping for improvement. Unfortunately, the only change we have seen is that the budget consultation process was axed altogether. Maybe thatís the only solution the Liberals came up with ó they didnít want people to know these meetings were happening, and they decided, "Well, if we canít inform them when itís too late and get away with it, maybe we should just cancel all the meetings altogether." It seems thatís what has happened.
But, Mr. Speaker, there is an important principle at stake and itís called "democracy". The Yukon is too small a jurisdiction to rule with such autocracy because the word gets around, and what goes around comes around, and the people with the last say, regardless of what the Premier thinks, are the voters.
Again, to introduce a measure of hope in what Iím saying this afternoon, unless this government chooses to cooperate more with all members in the House ó and each member does represent hundreds of Yukoners in their ridings ó then perhaps the only solution is to have an election where we will see a new government elected by the people.
Mr. Speaker, one other note on the budget ó and this is to bring a bit of flame to the toes of the Premier ó is that ó in recollection of her budget reply speech two years ago, when she stood up in her chair directly in front of me and read for about an hour a glorified budget speech prepared by probably some Liberal member, and how the now Premier just reeled on and on and criticized the previous government ó the first page of that speech was dominated by a single issue. That issue was how she did not believe and support how the NDP could be bringing in a deficit budget.
Well, Mr. Speaker, whatís wrong with a deficit budget? A deficit budget can balance out at the year-end ó with lapses, anyway. The only way youíre going to spend out a surplus is to have a deficit budget. Now, a debt position is entirely different, and we are protected by the constraints of the Taxpayer Protection Act to avoid any debt in the territory, and that is a good thing.
But for the now Premier to rail on at such length and with such focused criticism as to attack the previous government on something she has now done for a third straight time is something else. Thereís a word to describe that, Mr. Speaker, but again Iíll restrain myself because that word would be unparliamentary.
The now Premier did not limit her chosen words to the forum of the Legislature, because I have in my possession a transcript of a speech she gave to the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce just shortly before her budget reply speech in which the same criticism was levied against the former government, but this time to a good representation of the Whitehorse business community. I ask what has changed? If someone is so convinced and strong in their convictions and criticizes a previous government and is elected on that criticism yet does something completely different once elected, I ask what has changed? Has the person become informed and changed in their views, or what? Well, for the answer to that, Mr. Speaker, I guess weíll have to stay tuned in the times ahead in this Legislature, which may provide further clues about the inner workings of this government, thanks, to a good part, to the Liberal MLAs who now sit on this side of the House, who are clearly doing what they feel is best for the territory, and I applaud them for that, Mr. Speaker.
I want to turn now to the Liberal record and question some of the actions and indicate that it really questions the leadership and direction of this government.
I want to speak first about accountability. The current makeup of this Legislature speaks volumes to accountability, and one of the most ironic things I have experienced in my life is how three Liberal members believed they had to defect from this government in order to uphold their promise to the people of making government more accountable. This is absolutely ironic. They realized on the inside there were roadblocks set up by somebody that prevented improving government accountability. They realized that this was a very open and broad and important promise they made to people. No doubt, they heard from some of their constituents, who questioned their principles about accountability and their sad progress to date. And it elevated that particular promise to the top of their radar screens and, after adequate reflection, it is ironic they felt they had to become members of the opposition in order to increase government accountability. Isnít that ironic?
It is a first for Yukon political history, Mr. Speaker, and it is really something that I donít think will be forgotten for a long time.
How does this Liberal government treat people who hold it accountable? Well, we heard the "t" word on the radio last week, by the past president of the Liberal Party, calling them terrorists. We know that person was in this building the day before. She no doubt talked to the spin-doctors upstairs, and was no doubt advised that that would be a good label to stick on the ex-members.
So probably that person felt it was a good thing to say, getting the messages out. But really, Mr. Speaker, what does that say about this government? Who is running this government? We know now, for sure, that the directions come from the corner suite. In the corner suite, we have the Premier and a few select staff people. Is that democracy? Is that inclusiveness? Is that respecting Yukoners and their needs ó they are filtered through their MLAs to the caucus and to the government members who make the decisions? Well, Iíll leave that up to your own imagination, Mr. Speaker.
It really questions the democracy of a government when it shows it will attack people who dare to hold it accountable.
Another example came to light this afternoon when the leader of the third party revealed how the yellow pages went missing out of the budget binder. What are the yellow pages? Well, the yellow pages contain very important information about spending and statistics for line items and for each one of the departments in the budget book. So, why were they removed? Again, whatís this government trying to hide? Why isnít it being open and accountable?
There are many other examples ó some Iíve raised in the past, Mr. Speaker ó and it really adds credence to this concern. It just does not wash with the Yukon public when this government stands up and talks about how accountable it is.
Maybe there is some credibility with that statement, if you take into consideration the three Liberal MLAs sitting on this side, in their present duties of holding the government accountable. I suppose there could be some credence to that statement.
Another statement about leadership and accountability is this approach we hear from the Liberals about the big group hug. We have heard it countless times in here. When a minister might do something unpopular, or fails to do something popular, quite often the excuse is, "Well, itís a collective decision. Itís a group hug. We all get along great, and we all participate in the decision-making process. Itís not just a minister of whatever ó itís all of us." We have heard that time and time again.
Well, we discover now that the truth is that "group hug" is libspeak for what is a dictatorship in the Liberal ranks. Once again, the three members sitting on this side make that quite obvious.
Someone, a few speakers before, spoke about the Electoral District Boundaries Act. I too believe that this act is very important to pass prior to any election, for the primary reason that an election could easily be contested. That was a primary concern for advancing the whole process to begin with. But just think ó if the Premier decides to drop the writ and an election is called, any resident of the Yukon ó perhaps not even a resident ó can approach the courts with a challenge that could throw the whole election results out.
That can throw the whole election result out, and now that the final report has been tabled, that person or persons can be holding up the commissionís report in one hand while arguing their case.
So, Mr. Speaker, itís quite clear that any election called could be and probably would be contested and overturned. Whatís the end result of that? Well, think about it, Mr. Speaker. A wastage of thousands and thousands of dollars of the public purse and wastage of the publicís time and patience. And, I would suggest, donít underestimate that last quality because, from what Iím hearing out there, a lot of people are losing their patience with how this territory is being governed, and that has spawned a cry for a review of other ways to govern this territory.
On that note, Mr. Speaker, Iíd just remind all members that our party, the NDP, on the weekend, approved the direction for us to pursue governance models for the territory, whatís best for the territory, building on our discussion at the convention this weekend. Earlier today in Question Period, our leader asked if the Premier would join us in that effort; unfortunately, that request was not obliged.
So, Mr. Speaker, there is a great desire out there for a better government for the territory and some people believe that could require a changed system of governance. Now, that very well might be the case.
Another area that I want to ensure I get in here ó and I know I have five minutes left, Mr. Speaker ó is this whole area of Liberal cleansing of previous NDP programs, which have been gutted for political purposes. Now, first on that list was the former community development fund. The community development fund was a very important funding program used by many Yukoners and many community organizations, and so on, who really benefited from that type of funding. The community development fund created all kinds of jobs, especially in rural communities, which really had little of anything else in the way of economic stimulation.
The Liberal government came in, put it under review, eliminated it for a full year, and then reduced it when unveiled in the new program Project Yukon. However, Project Yukon adds a considerable amount of red tape and imposes a greater number of constraints on Yukoners. So itís not even close to being the same program, and the total money allocated to it is a lot less.
The fire smart program, eliminated for a year, as well, and then reduced, despite the calls from Liberal members for greater fire protection. One of the ways it was reduced is that the administration cost is now subtracted from the programming dollars, something thatís introduced in this capital budget. So, effectively, the program has been reduced by about 10 percent for administration purposes. But which community are they going to tell they canít have their fire smart application? Which communities will they deny because of this decision to reduce the program funds to pay for administration? Good question.
Another funding mechanism was the trade and investment fund, which was cancelled despite many success stories. And there could have been many more success stories. We are aware of many entrepreneurs and existing businesses that have tried to obtain support from this government but were denied support by this government.
I think it comes down to ideology. We hear about a level playing field approach and so on and how government shouldnít get involved. Well, why didnít this government make that clear at the time of the last election? Instead, all we heard was criticism of the previous government and how it would do things better. Well, this isnít doing it better. The Yukon people and entrepreneurs deserve encouragement. They deserve support, and again this government has done very little.
The tourism marketing fund was eliminated entirely, and, as I mentioned before, the training trust funds eliminated, another very highly regarded program. Now, on previous occasions, Iíve referred to these programs cumulatively as a community suite of programs, and I am really sad to discover that many of them have been chopped and reduced. I think this is part of the reason why the community population is shrinking. People in our communities without work and in need of support have had to migrate elsewhere. What we should be doing is providing more support to people in our communities.
I know that some of the Liberal members have lived in rural communities before, and they know how important it is to provide some sort of financial stimulus to people living there.
In the area of federal dollars ó I know my time is coming to an end ó itís nice to see some highway funding from the federal government similar to what the Northwest Territories has recently received, although the Northwest Territories has received funding for bridges, too. Where is our money for bridges, Mr. Speaker?
What about pipeline support like the Northwest Territories has received recently? What about money for this rail study? Now, the government hired a former MLA to head this up, but where is the federal commitment for a rail study? It doesnít exist.
What about airport security? Whitehorse was involved in the action on September 11, yet we received nothing in the way of airport security.
What about community infrastructure dollars? Itís now less than before.
In wrapping up, Mr. Speaker ó performance standards are so important to this government. Well, I think itís time that people gave this government a performance standard, and it would not be a passing grade.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I rise in reply to the budget and I would like to say that this budget continues to support our commitment to the people of the Yukon. This is an operation and maintenance budget, and it goes to support the ongoing programs that we have as a government to assist the public and provide good public service.
We made a commitment to restoring confidence in government. In order to restore confidence in government, one of the things that weíve done as a Liberal government is to hold ourselves accountable as a caucus.
I sat on the back bench for a year and a half and I felt, and still believe, that I have had every opportunity to express my opinions and share in debate on an ongoing basis.
I feel that my opinion and perspectives were considered along with everyone elseís, and when we walked out of that room, we walked out as a team and we held each other to that. Part of our decision as a team was that, if we have members who arenít performing or refuse to perform or donít show up, then we would hold them accountable, and we have done that.
We also said that we would do things differently and that we would be held accountable for that. We said we were going to make decisions as a team. That meant that if we couldnít reach unanimity and consensus and we agreed to take a vote internally, we would support that vote as a group and as a team; that, unlike previous governments, we would not buy our members, we would not be coerced. We would maintain our integrity. I believe we are the first party ever in government to stand up to that standard and to hold ourselves accountable to each other and to the public of the Yukon by saying that we are going to hold ourselves to the standard that we expect the public service to hold themselves to. We have made a decision; we made that with all of our staff; we made that with the party, and we made that with each other, and we feel that the members on this side have a hard-working, accountable team. Thatís what we think the Yukon wants and weíll be held accountable for that during the next election.
And speaking of the next election, I find all of this altruism on the part of the opposition to be somewhat suspect, considering that theyíre not ready for an election, they donít have the candidates at this point in time, they havenít got any money, theyíre not prepared, not to mention that the majority of them are less than six months away from becoming vested in a pension plan.
So, are they really going to vote down the government, or are they posturing? Itís going to be a very interesting session, because one of the other things we have said is that we are an open and accountable government. We have the budget on the floor, we have legislation on the floor, and we are more than happy, at any time, to discuss, on the floor of this Legislature in front of the Yukon public and the departments, any amendments that the opposition would care to bring forward.
We would like to see these debates here. We would like to ensure that the public of the Yukon as a whole is represented on this floor and that the special interests are addressed, but that theyíre not addressed at the cost of the Yukon Territory as a whole. There is a vast majority of people out there who want us to carry out good government, and thatís what weíre trying to do. And we will continue to do that.
I have heard over and over and over again, going door to door in my riding, that they are happy with the concept of a service centre and theyíre pleased that the liquor store is being moved.
When I go door to door in my riding, I hear the people of the Yukon tell me that weíre doing a good job. We committed at the beginning of renewal. It was about service and it was about devolution. Itís about doing more with less, because everything is going up in cost and weíre not getting more resources.
Unfortunately, there were a number of other people, like the opposition, who said at great length, "Oh, this is about layoffs, you know, this is about downsizing, this is about making everybodyís life miserable." Well, you know what? The end product is exactly what we said it was going to be. Itís about doing it better. Itís about providing better service to Yukoners. Itís about getting out there and figuring out ways that we can provide more effective and collaborative solutions to have a Yukon that is positioned well to take advantage of economic upturns.
In order to get economic development back into the Yukon Territory, we need a framework to do that. We need to go through renewal. We need to finish YPAS. We need to get the legislation and the framework in place. We need devolution. We need land claims. We need land tenure. We need all of those things so that people in the rest of the world will come and invest in the Yukon. We need all of those things to encourage people to be here, to live here, to work here, and to invest here. That is the framework that we are putting in place. You have to start somewhere.
We talked about being accountable. We have moved from having the yellow pages ó the statistics that have always appeared in the budget ó to having accountability plans. If you look at the previous Department of Education statistics, it was about the number of people taking the bus, the number of people in school, okay? We have created a different form of accountability. We want to measure the performance of the programs. We want to find out whether we are doing the right things and whether there is a measurable benefit to Yukoners, and the statistics that were in the old budgets didnít do that. We have measurable examples of how we are going to do better. That is why we have changed what is going on. Accountability in how we spend our money and our time is really important to Yukoners, and we are giving them that. We were asked for it and we are doing it.
In Health and Social Services, we made a commitment that alcohol and drug services treatment is very important. It is a major problem in the Yukon, it is a major problem everywhere, but it is very, very evident in the Yukon. We have spent the last year and a half getting together all of the information on drug and alcohol services and developing a plan on how to attack the problem and how to promote solutions. That plan will be implemented over the next two years. We have put sufficient funding in the budget at this time to get that plan started and underway. That is step one. We will continue dealing with Health and Social Services issues, and dealing with alcohol and drug services specifically over the rest of our mandate, and we will be accountable for that as well.
In Education we have heard, going around the territory ó I, myself, going to the communities and listening to the councils ó Iíve heard that there are problems with the math program.
Because of the lack of testing over the years in some areas, we have to now go back and find out exactly where that problem is originating. Weíve put money in the budget to do that, and then weíll address the problem when we find out exactly where itís starting and what remedies are necessary.
We heard that reading and literacy was a basic problem so we focused our resources on literacy and reading recovery, and we are addressing that. That program is making a difference. We talk about infrastructure and how previous governments have taken all the money away from infrastructure and put it into pet projects, so the roads are falling down around our ears, our buildings are disintegrating. You know, and everybody keeps saying, "Oh, just throw the money into another Project Yukon." Well, unfortunately, we have an awful lot of infrastructure that needs assistance, and we are putting money into infrastructure so that we can continue and have a Yukon that we can be proud of, put people to work and to carry on in facilities that we currently own and manage. We are a government of responsibility. We are not part of that throw-away society. You know, "Oh, just let it fall down around your ears and build a new one at 10 times the cost."
We need to maintain our infrastructure because, if we maintain that infrastructure, we can put more money into programming to help people ó to help them be educated, to help them get trades, to help them go out there and find jobs. So every bit of money that we save today is money we can put to work tomorrow. But the members opposite donít seem to grasp that principle.
Weíve talked about a number of other fundamental principles that we had set forth as our government, and we have gone around the territory and listened to people.
We just sort of look at the opposition and ask, well, are we supposed to be doing it every three months as a group, as a caucus? Are we supposed to be doing it every six months? Every minister here has gone around the territory. I myself, since I have been in this position, have been to Dawson, Iíve been to Mayo, Iíve been to Ross River, Iíve been to Watson Lake, Iíve been to Carcross, Iíve been to Old Crow. Okay? So not only do I go there, but I actually listen to people, have dinner at the local restaurant, meet with the leaders of the community if theyíre available, stay overnight.
I hear stuff out there, and I bring it back. We donít have to send the entire caucus on the road to listen to Yukoners. We do it on an ongoing basis, every time one of us is out there. We also do something really unique. We pick up the phone, call, and ask questions. I know thatís surprising the members opposite, but, yes, we can do it on the phone occasionally.
Weíve talked about land claims here briefly. Land claims involve three parties: First Nations, the federal government, and the territorial government. We have done our utmost to try and facilitate a resolution to land claims, and we will continue to work extremely hard so that all of us can walk into the future together as friends and neighbours and relatives and people committed to the Yukon.
I would like to see this government continue to work at a successful resolution to all of the problems in the territory. So I would like to ask the members opposite to sit down ó I know we can use the Education Act amendments as a good example. There is a process where people went around the territory for almost two years listening to people. Thereís an act amendment thatís sitting out there. I have a legislative drafts person standing by; I have all of the material associated with consultation out there. Iím contacting all the partners and interest groups that were involved, and Iím saying, "You know, you have had the briefings on this. I have sent you copies of the draft amendments and draft legislation. Please get hold of me because this is one step in moving forward and making it work. This will be an ongoing process. We are trying to fix things."
You know, I have to smile. In Question Period, I was asked by the opposition about the Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees. Yet in all the years the school councils have asked for this association, no previous government wanted one or funded one. So regardless of how this process is unfolding ó and everyone goes through developing problems ó we made the commitment to support school councils, and thatís what weíre going to do. We made a commitment to support the public of the Yukon, and thatís what weíre going to do. We are going to do what we said we were going to do, and we are going to create an environment where the Yukon Territory can move forward in health, productivity and integrity.
We want to do a good job, and thatís what weíre going to do.
There are a number of other things that could be said, both about the opposition, the independents and this government, but one thing I remember as I stand up here is that the opposition is called that for a reason, and thatís because they oppose everything government does.
So, while we go through this legislative session, I would encourage the members opposite to participate in constructive debate, bring the issues to the floor of this House where we have an audience of the public of the Yukon, stop trying to insist on backroom committees so that they can negotiate deals at the expense of other Yukoners ó bring it out here, put it on the floor and weíre happy to debate it, to make sure that we do the best job possible for all Yukoners and not just for individual opposition membersí ridings.
I would like to see us be collaborative. I have suggested that if you want to go through the legislation and bring forward amendments, we would be happy to look at them, and I am looking forward to comments from the members opposite.
I am ó if we can get past all the finger pointing that is going on ó I am looking forward to continuing to work with our team, because theyíre a great bunch, they do a good job, they work really hard in what is frequently a very, very difficult and unrewarding job.
I would encourage people in the Yukon who support what we are doing to say so.
Mr. Roberts: Itís rather, a different thing for me to be on this side and addressing the House on the budget, but there are times in oneís life you have to make those decisions, and they donít come easily. I guess for myself, I have not always been a person who has been what I call the quiet person. Regardless of where I have been, whether it is in my church or in my school or in my former employment or in politics, I have always expressed my views very openly and very honestly. And to respond to the budget is to look at it, first of all, with the eyes of having had part of the creation within our development. As we know, we had some say in some aspects of the budget. And I think as the Premier said, the O&M is all about people. Yes, I would agree it is all about people, it is all about Yukoners.
I think it is important that we donít forget what our most important role is as MLAs. It is people. It is every one of us. I sometimes feel that, over time, we have forgotten what our real goals are as MLAs. Having the opportunity of being in government and being government ó and I find that people ask me the question: what did you think? I say that it was a learning experience that probably Iíll never ever have again, and yet I enjoyed it, I appreciated it and I really felt that it was worthy right from the front lines. So, to say that I am bitter and unhappy and so on, I am not. It is a learning experience. That is what life is. Life is a learning experience.
I believe that capital budgets and O&M budgets are there for the future. Itís not only building buildings, but itís also building people. I recall the member opposite, the now Health minister, making a comment. I saw a note go over to the Minister of Education about my support for Grey Mountain School in 1995. I knew where it came from, because I ó yes, I did support Grey Mountain in 1995, because there was a need for it. Maybe when we look at the reality ó I mean, promises are made all the time, but promises have to be looked at in the reality. Unfortunately, my understanding of what we try to do here as MLAs and decision makers is that we make them for the best interest of all people concerned.
I would never undermine the fact that Grey Mountain has been an excellent school. I was part of that when it first set up ó excellent staff and, over the years, it has done an excellent job. What is going to change when theyíre going down to Selkirk ó which is another excellent school that is half full at this point ó a few blocks down the road? At one time, Selkirk was the only elementary school in Riverdale. Now we have three.
So I think we have to be realistic. Common sense means making the right decision for the times. We have Porter Creek Secondary, which is close to full, and which needs major building. They have a cafeteria that houses ó I said 400, but itís about 300, and they have 800 students in that school. They have shops that were built for a junior high school.
So, Mr. Speaker, itís those kinds of issues out there that I think we really have to look at.
When I was part of the government in days gone by, I was optimistic, I was hopeful, that all of us would make the right decisions for the right reasons.
We have some very hardworking people on the other side, people whom I admire, people whom I have respect for. I think thatís what government is all about, doing your best and trying to bring about the best decisions for Yukoners.
The problem I see ó and unfortunately, you know, when we were working up to being government, and I was part of a run-up in 1996 where I lost by 19 votes. It was another learning experience. People asked, "How did you feel?" I said, "Well, it was a learning experience. You learn something, and you go on and do other things." I came back in 2000 because I believed in the team. I think the interesting thing about "team" is that it takes time to build a team. I would believe itís rather unfortunate it took the three of us to walk across the floor to make it truly a team now, where consultation is open and where input is open. If thatís what it took to make them a team, I think itís great, because I can tell you that team is going to be needed over the next couple years.
Mr. Speaker, weíre not into re-election. Thatís not the goal; thatís not the role. Iíve heard that from my constituents. For the information of the House, for the past two or three months, I havenít been sitting at home twiddling my thumbs either. Basically, I have been in contact with many of my constituents. Iíve been on the phone to many of my constituents. I have connected with at least 100 of my constituents over the last couple months. Itís interesting, Mr. Speaker, they had concerns and have concerns about the Liberal government. We were trying to bring that to the floor, Mr. Speaker. We have to be honest with each other.
I believe, like many people believe in the Yukon, we can do it in a way that is meaningful to all Yukoners.
Unfortunately, I think what we have seen over the past number of years is division among our small numbers here in the Yukon and, to me, that is very unfortunate. Maybe thatís why we have to look at how we govern. I never thought Iíd ever say that. I was here when we had the Commissioner as the main decision maker. I can tell you, right now, I had many connections and responses with Commissioner Smith at that time, who I thought was one of the most outstanding leaders I have ever seen in the territory.
Then we had the independent kind of consensus government that went for the first while. Then it moved into party politics, and then, of course, we are where weíre at now. And we have seen nothing but problems since that day.
Our communities are so small that it divides communities ó the kind of politics that we have now. It divides us, in a very small community, right here in Whitehorse. We are but one little street in Vancouver, the total number in the Yukon. And yet we have difficulty trying to work out how we should govern ourselves and how we should get along.
I donít want the opposition, particularly the NDP, to get the idea that we have thrown our hat into their ring. I mean, we are going to work toward better government. I know they have been sort of pontificating about how great it is that weíre over here, but itís not for the purpose of joining the NDP. No, I think itís because we want to make the right decisions for Yukoners. Thatís all of us ó I mean the government side, I mean our side.
Somebody asked me, "How come we have sides? Why donít we all be just one big, happy family trying to work out solutions?" But, you know, in small communities, these can be very hurtful. You go to Old Crow ó I have spent quite a bit of time in Old Crow ó and find out how party politics has divided families in Old Crow.
So, we really do have some issues around that, Mr. Speaker.
I agreed with the Premier when the Premier got up and talked about health issues. As you know, having that portfolio and being burned at the cross many times because of the issues that are on the plate, on the table and out in the public ó it is a very important issue to all of us. We definitely have to search out more effective and more efficient ways of delivering our services. We have a lot of stakeholders, Mr. Speaker, who are resistant to change.
The whole discussion around the CT scan ó itís obvious. I have said this at other times: if Iíd had my druthers at the time and would have known better ó as you can well imagine, Iím very naive about politics ó I would have pulled that CT scan right out of the budget, let the NDP howl for the next two years, and at least done our homework and then come back with the model that we needed. Because once you get it out in the public, you never get all the facts out, and the public can be very ruthless. Unfortunately, that can lead to issues that can make things very hard to recover afterwards.
I really believe that all of us want to be committed to Yukoners ó all of us. I think every one of us goes into politics because we want to help people. What happens after a bit of time? I donít know if itís the glasses we look through or whether we donít get out into the public to really find out what the public wants, or are we really trying to give the public what we believe, as politicians and leaders, we should think about. I think those are some of the issues we have to spend more time talking with our constituents about.
I can tell you that in the last two years, I have learned far more about budgets than Iíll ever learn in a lifetime, and I still would not pretend I understand all the machinations and interworkings of budgets.
All I know is that, in the last year or two, we have had the highest surpluses that any government has ever had. Yet we are still managing like we have no money. We are still cutting programs. I can try to understand that ó I try very hard, but I still find it difficult. From the publicís point of view, they have great difficulty understanding how we can have huge surpluses but we still donít have money to offer better and greater programs.
One of the issues that I really had difficulty with, as a politician and as an MLA, is the whole idea of putting money away for a rainy day ó for example, endowments. This good discussion was had but, unfortunately, you live off the interest of the endowments. And when youíre generating an interest rate of two or three percent, how can any group live off that? It is not the time to put away money for endowments.
So thatís one of the reasons why I felt that we werenít using common sense in trying to build for the future. Is it to recognize the worth of certain political individuals, because weíve put this aside? Iíve had calls from some of our seniors asking me why we are putting so much money in the Yukon Foundation. Thatís never been politicized in the past. And thatís the way they said it. I just said, "You know, itís for the future. Itís for Yukoners." Their response was, "Yes, but now youíve got politics mixed up in legacies that people in the Yukon want to give." Thatís kind of a legacy that all Yukoners would like to try to submit to.
The interest of tobacco tax ó I know this is an issue I really believe we should be taxing even more. Iím really supporting the government on this initiative. I believe thatís one of the major issues with our health care, and itís a proven fact that it does deter young people from smoking ó when it comes out of their pocket and theyíre paying $10 a pack, then obviously itís going to hurt.
When I was in Iqaluit on behalf of the government a couple weeks ago, I went into one of the shops, and there was a young, teenage girl sitting there, and she had just got off the phone. It was a very small shop. She phoned over to the smoke shop to have somebody deliver her smokes. So I said to her after, "How come you donít just get them?"
"I canít leave," she says.
"Well, instead of costing $10 a pack, I pay $13 for the delivery." I said, "You can afford that?" "Oh, yeah. When youíre addicted," she says, "you can afford anything." And if you think weíre bad in smoke abuse, Iqaluitís even worse. They smoke everywhere there, in the restaurants. Itís really a sad situation. So I think that is a good initiative on this governmentís part.
There are some good initiatives in the budget, and Iím going to pat the government on the back for those initiatives. The ones I put in there, well, Iím not sure I put many in there. I had a part with some of the discussion of some of them, and Iím glad to see them there.
I guess one of the issues around restoring confidence in government ó and thatís an issue that I think is a very difficult one at this point in time. My move over here wasnít to try to take away confidence in the government, but it was to try to give a message about how government should operate. It should be more inclusive, it should be more democratic, and it should be based on what MLAs who are equal in the caucus room have to say.
I think one of the issues Iíve found on the renewal part of it ó and this is just again, another initiative which I think is a very good initiative in some ways. It has some difficulties. It is my understanding that the idea of renewal came from a variety of people, and in discussing some of the issues with these people, what it is now is not what they envisioned. In other words, some of it is off the rails according to what they say. That is what I hear on the front lines, too. We asked all the front-line people to give us recommendations and suggestions and I gather from some of the front-line people they feel rather shot down in that some of those thoughts and ideas werenít used in the implementation process.
So, I guess their criticism is that they were asked but nothing was reflected. I would not like to think I am an expert in that area; I am not. I believe renewal should happen constantly. We should be renewing ourselves every day of the year when it comes to government. We shouldnít have to have one big movement where you have everybody change, and reflect and change department heads and so on, and all those things. It should be automatic. Government should be renewing itself all the time because times do change. Just like health care, that is a difficult thing to get across to people when you are used to a certain situation. I would like to think that in my history, in my career, that I have been a change agent, and I believe I was. I let people do what they do best. I supported what people did best. I believe that good government means that all Yukoners are treated equally.
I will just reflect a bit on why I am over here. You know, changes are made in government all the time. I have no problem with changes being made in government even if it affects me, but there is a process in how you do that. There is an openness. There is an honesty ó whether you are doing it right, doing it wrong or whether you can do something different, or, "Are we looking for another role for you to play, Don?" No problem. Well, I shouldnít say "no problem", there probably would be some questions about it, but at least there is some kind of a lead up to whatever happens.
I think thatís why all MLAs, if you want to look at the process here, have sort of digested this in our own caucuses. I know that, for the longest time in our caucus, we talked about some of these issues openly. We tried to come to some conclusions on how we could deal in a better way in the future.
One of them was: who is responsible for political decisions in a caucus? All elected MLAs are equal when it comes to making decisions. Thatís why we got elected. Weíre not going to be marginalized or not heard from. Decisions are not going to be made in somebodyís office and then brought to the caucus to rubber-stamp them. Thatís not why I got into politics.
Also, leadership must be demonstrated to ensure that we are going down the right path and that there is constant feedback ó good, bad or indifferent. Thatís good leadership. I was a leader for 32 years as a school principal in schools here. I worked with staffs of 50, and I believe that open and honest communication brought about success.
I think itís important to know the people who work with you. I think itís a right of the elected MLAs to know the political staff who are working with you and should have a final approval on that. I didnít say this was all written in stone. These are just ideas.
I think itís important too that, if weíre equal when it comes to the responsibilities of MLAs, we discuss what roles we play and what roles some government people can play. We donít make the decisions. We donít have to make the decisions. Thatís the right of a leader. Fine, the leader makes those decisions, but at least have some good discussion because weíre equal when it comes to how we are seen in the public eye. Itís not a hierarchical system. Itís a flat system, which means that all of us contribute. And yes, decisions are made by those people who are given that responsibility. I agree with that. I have had to do that many times. But obviously, if you have had a good debate and discussion on all of the issues, the decisions are fairly obvious.
Project Yukon ó that has come up a bit here, and that was one of the issues that I laid out in a written form to the caucus about five weeks ago. Weíve really played around with this community development fund, Project Yukon. I guess what Iím seeing now and what I saw then, at that time, was that now we have ó and we have some very good bureaucrats, very good people who can analyze, set up, give us the pros and cons of whatever has to be done, whether itís Project Yukon or whether itís fire smart, whatever. But they shouldnít be making the decision.
Yes, we have a layperson representing the public. Thatís one person. Where are the politicians in making the decisions here? Itís the politicians who have to pay the price when it comes to accountability, when it comes down to people in the communities saying, "Well, how come you didnít support that one?" Well, we didnít even talk about it. The decision was made by this committee, or the bureaucrats. I mean, Iím not trying to play down bureaucrats. Bureaucrats do a wonderful job. They are very hardworking and they really try to do whatís best. But the final decisions should be made by the politicians. We are answerable to our public, not the bureaucrats.
The last one that I had on that issue was a CA. I mean, I was being accused that we left some things off the list. A constituency assistant for Wayne Jim ó he waited nine months to have a constituency assistant ó the Member for McIntyre- Takhini. And myself, I didnít have a constituency assistant for three months, so I left it off, not because I was trying to play games, but just because obviously it was due process.
I am not a person who hides behind my political mantra. If I get myself into some trouble, I obviously get it, because I got myself in there, and I expect to be responded to accordingly. I am willing to take the heat as well as the accolades.
I think all of us are willing to do that, but we have to show how we, as a team, work. And thatís what we are doing on this side. Weíre showing, as three independents, that we can work together and that we can be open and frank.
Accountability is good. Itís good for everyone. Itís good for Liberals, itís good for the NDP, itís good for the Yukon Party, itís good for the independents. I applaud the government for putting accountability terminology in their budget. I think that is going to be a very positive thing for the future.
There are times we have to be accountable to each other as well, and I quite often feel that sometimes we try to spin it rather than be honest about it.
Some specific issues: if you look at education, I see $100,000 for funding for First Nations. How come? I mean, I applaud the government for putting $100,000 in where previous governments put nothing. So, I mean, I think it should be right now. If we had done this 10 years ago, putting $100,000 in, we should be up to $1 million right now, so Iím suggesting we double it, because First Nations are our partners. They want to work with us, and if they canít work with us, theyíre going to work without us and take down education, and that would be a sad day for the Yukon. My whole career was built around working with First Nation parents, communities and leaders. I would not want to see the day when First Nation leadership takes down education, because I think we have far more to gain by working together.
I think we should be putting more money into pupil-to-teacher ratios, lowering our primary loads in our classrooms. Maybe, rather than building Grey Mountain School, we should use those dollars and put more dollars into the classroom.
Whereís the after-degree program, the B.Ed. program? Whereís that? That was promised. At least there was some suggestion two years ago that we would have this within our first year. It has disappeared. Itís somewhere in the works. There are a lot of people out there asking where this program is. Weíre going to need teachers in the next few years. And donít kid yourself. I know theyíre out recruiting all over. I used to do this when I first came up here. We used to go Outside and recruit teachers in Vancouver, B.C., Edmonton, Saskatchewan, Winnipeg. Thatís how a lot of us got here, but where are we being proactive in developing our own? My understanding is that we have about 50 to 75 people who would like to take this advanced after-degree program. Theyíd like to take it here. It wonít be ready, but it might be ready for the election year. It might be ready then.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Roberts: No, no. There will be no election this year.
We need to partner with all our partners. One of the problems that we have in the whole area of school councils ó I mean, Iíve worked with school councils. Iíve worked with school committees. Iíve worked with communities. I believe that thatís where the power of education is. Itís not over in the Department of Education; itís in the communities. So we work with our partners. I understand some of the frustration of the former Minister of Education working with all these partners. You know, we took on, I think, a flawed process from the former government about how this whole Education Act was being reviewed, so we had to try to make the best of it. That was a tough one, but I think we should have gone back and looked at what we were doing. I think itís important that we go back with our partners. I was at a meeting this morning with Kwanlin Dun to discuss how they want to work with the Department of Education, with the minister. They want it to be open and up front. Iím optimistic that the current minister will be able to do that. Iím hopeful that weíre going to be able to get into true consultation.
I really appreciated the words from the minister about coming forward with some ideas and some suggestions because I think we really tried hard to do that in caucus, and obviously some of it worked and some of it didnít work. Some of it didnít even get to caucus.
In the areas of health, I think we have got some good initiatives there. I am just wondering what they are. I heard from the Minister of Health that there is going to be money put into the alcohol and drug. Well, how much and when? All we got was a spin that this program is going on and this program is going on, and these are all programs that are currently being reviewed and actually being implemented with the current money. We have a major problem with our substance abuse in the territory. We all know it. All of us, when we were on that side, sang that song daily. I sang it daily. I went to the communities. I went to NGO groups. We all basically said that we were going to do more in drug and alcohol. I havenít seen the dollar laid out yet, and I havenít seen when the dollar is going to be laid out. We can say that we are doing all this and we are talking about it, but the talk, as my colleague here said, is over with. Letís get on with the action. We know what the answer is.
We brought some very good people from Outside to help us lay this whole issue out in front of us. Letís trust their judgement. Letís use our common sense and letís take our resources to follow through on the promises we made to the Yukon public. It is one of the seven goals of that Liberal government, seven goals up on the wall in the Cabinet office. Every time I walked in there I looked at it, and I said to our colleagues: substance abuse, substance abuse, substance abuse. FAS/FAE is a big problem in the Yukon. At that time I was told by the Finance minister that, well, weíll have $10 million. Maybe weíll put it toward that and possibly we could use the spinoff from that as some kind of endowment. Well, it didnít take long before that money was gone.
Itís in reserve somewhere. I understand that censuses are going to come forward, but I think weíre really calling it a doomsday census. We may have about $50 million put aside for the census, and maybe itís being cautious ó again, Iím going back to my understanding and knowledge of money. Maybe Iím not all that up to date and up to speed on what this means. Weíre probably going to have an impact, but I donít think itís going to be that bad.
I mean, are our Liberal cousins going to let down one of the Liberal governments in the country and hammer them with fewer dollars? Wow, thatís like having cousins who donít even know youíre related any more. Itís like some of the things Iíve talked about publicly. Quite often, when it comes to getting support from the big cousins in Ottawa, we donít always get it. Yes, Iím appreciative of whatís happening. Our current MP is working on behalf of Yukoners, and Iím very pleased that heís bringing more resources here. Hopefully, theyíre sustainable over the long run, not just one-shot deals.
The Jim Anglin report is out. There are some major recommendations there ó four of them: involvement of First Nations; a system of care ó and he talks about what we have to do there. Quality assurance ó making sure we are doing what we said we would do. Advocacy. I didnít hear anything in the budget about how we were going to respond to those issues. I know, from my previous understanding of what we were doing, that we werenít doing some of these things, yet I see no initiatives in the budget. I said once, when I was on that side, that we donít do reports and put them on the shelf; we actually do something with them. The Liberal government does something with reports. They actually implement change.
Then I hear ó and of course I havenít been around for the last little while ó that the Welfare League of Canada has a report on the children-in-care report and we are not sure where that one is. The latest I have heard is itís not even going to be released publicly. I hope not. Any time taxpayers pay for reports, the public gets them, and if they donít like whatís in them, thatís too bad. Thatís why we do reports. We want to make sure that we are delivering services to our people, to our youth and to our families.
Iím very pleased that this government, in the past, has done a very good job with NGO groups. They have come forward and provided them with good support. They have given them, I think, moral support, financial support, technical support, and Iím very proud of the fact that the Liberal government has done that, but that doesnít mean it ends there. There are still lots of needs out there. Iím very pleased to see that the CDC was granted an additional $90,000 over the next few years to ensure that their programs are running strong.
I think, Mr. Speaker, that there are a lot of good things done and there will still be a lot of good things done by this government on the other side. The government of the day set up a drug and alcohol secretariat. We closed down the transition centre. I know some people say thatís not good, but it was good because we were spending money on things that we could do in other ways. We did a review of the group homes and also of the children in care. The government of the day did a retention package on nurses. There were legislative changes needed for doctors, and physiotherapy legislation was introduced and passed. The Liberal government put together more support for stay-at-home mums. They did a review of the social assistance delivery and customer satisfaction. They increased the funding to a number of NGO groups, which hadnít been done for a number of years. They helped the foster parents set up a technical review committee for the hospital, and they did a working group on the FAS on the diagnostic team.
Now, I donít know where thatís at, at this point. Hopefully, what the Minister of Health is saying is that thereís something more to be forthcoming from that. So I can see that the government can do a lot of good things. They have done a lot of good things. My role and the role of my colleagues here is to keep the government accountable. The debate we will have here in the House, in the Legislature, I believe will be a good debate. I hope it will be a positive debate. I hope it will work on the issues as outlined in what we presented to the public when we were knocking on doors, because thatís what people want to hear. They want to hear that we are responding to what we promised them.
I know we go back to this a promise is a promise is a promise, and when are promises equal, then? And when you do make promises, you have to make sure that you reflect on the times, on the conditions, on the processes. We heard quite a few words in the last few days on the Grey Mountain School, why we are building it. I live in that area. I hear from parents living around me who send kids there, saying, "Look, thereís a full school with two gyms, all the programming just a few blocks down the road. Why are we spending $3 million to $4 million on a building thatís not needed?"
It has nothing to do with the quality of education that theyíre getting at Grey Mountain. They have always got first quality. Theyíre also getting good quality education at Selkirk School.
And you know, we have schools up in Porter Creek, in the riding that five MLAs serve. There are five MLAs who serve the Porter Creek Secondary School. We go to that school; we find out they need a new cafeteria or at least an additional cafeteria. They have a cafeteria for 300 to 400 people. Now they have 800 people in there.
They need new shops because the shops were built for junior high schools. Thatís where we should be placing our emphasis ó on a school that is already almost at capacity ó and weíre not going to immediately respond to that. In other words, what I think somebody pointed out to me is that renewal, as far as the schools, is not over. Because that school was supposed to be up to full high school standards by the time that renewal was complete. So renewal has not been completed with that high school, yet we are going to go and build a school that is going to be half full a few blocks down from the school that is already half full. Put it together, team. Letís get on with it. I am hearing from the Finance minister that we donít have a lot of excess dollars because we have census coming ó you know, we are down to a million dollars in 2003-04 as a surplus. Then, you know, there are three or four right there in the school that we could possibly utilize as part of that surplus. I donít know. Every year that the surplus has come down, we always find out we either have anywhere from zero dollars to $80 million. So Iím not sure ó and a lot of people are very sceptical ó
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes to conclude.
Mr. Roberts: The public is very sceptical about the surpluses. And I believe that we are in a bit of a financial situation here because of the census. But on the other hand, I hope we are not saving these dollars for an election. I didnít get into politics to run for the next election. I got into politics to do the job today. If anything, Mr. Speaker, I challenge all of us to work together in a cooperative way. I challenge us to be accountable to each other and I challenge us to be honest.
We are going to make mistakes but I know we can do it right because we have the best interests of the Yukon public. They want us to succeed. Theyíre tired of this bickering and fighting, and I think thatís another reason why we have to look at how we govern.
I was a bit disappointed in the Premierís response about the fact that they have some governance things coming forward but wonít look at the big picture of how we should govern for the territory.
A lot of Yukoners are saying, "Letís talk about it." It doesnít mean we are going to change tomorrow, but at least letís look at it to see if there is another way of governing.
There are no perfect systems; we know that. We are too small to divide family against family, friend against friend, and that is what has happened. It has happened here in Whitehorse. It happens in the small communities.
I encourage all of us to work together as a team because I know there is will to do that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Itís my pleasure to rise today in support of the 2002-03 operation and maintenance budget.
Before I continue on with that speech and reply to the budget, I would like to mention something to the House that I have been thinking of for the last number of weeks. Over the past number of weeks, as a politician, I have been thinking about what some of the characteristics are that make a good politician in what is often a very thankless and very difficult job. I think a couple of the most important characteristics are a sense of loyalty and a sense of pride. I am very proud to represent the constituents of Riverside. I feel a great loyalty to them in making sure that their issues and concerns are brought to, not only the floor of this House, but to the caucus table, and to the Cabinet table and are given the opportunity to be addressed in those forums.
I am also very loyal and proud to be a member of the Yukon Liberal Party. The ideals of the party and the people and resources that backed us during our election campaign and over the last two years, as weíve served in government, deserve that loyalty and pride. I am also very proud to serve with the members of the Liberal caucus. We have worked very hard. We have had some very difficult discussions, but we have come out of those discussions as a team. There are an awful lot of difficult decisions that have to be made in the caucus room, and we may not always agree at first, but we work toward a point where we can cooperate and leave that room as a team. And I do have to extend to all my colleagues in the Liberal benches that I have been very proud to serve with you for the past two years, and I look forward to serving with you for many years to come.
Mr. Speaker, finally, I have a great deal of loyalty and pride in the Premier and the leader of the Yukon Liberal Party. She has done an excellent job in the past two years of not only representing the Yukon in the territory, but out of the territory. She has managed tough decisions such as negotiating land claims with the chiefs and the federal government, successfully delivering devolution to the Yukon Territory, successfully delivering on a five-year-old dispute with the federal Department of Finance, which delivered an additional $42 million to Yukon coffers.
So with that, I would certainly like to extend to the Premier my heartfelt pride and loyalty to her as leader of this party and as Premier of the Yukon Territory. I think sheís doing a very fine job in both capacities.
Mr. Speaker, the 2002-03 O&M budget, together with the capital budget, demonstrates that this government is spending taxpayersí money wisely and is making sound, informed fiscal decisions, which help stimulate the economy while maintaining and enhancing the quality of life of Yukoners. As I previously mentioned ó Iíd like to mention it again ó Iíd like to congratulate the Premier, the First Nation chiefs and the Minister of DIAND on the initialling of land claims and self-government agreements for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the Kluane First Nation and the White River First Nation. I hope that we have the same success in negotiating the two remaining land claims in the Yukon ó those of the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation.
This will help establish certainty over land and resources in many areas of the Yukon.
Our relationship with these new governments will be based on cooperation and respect as we move to the development of comprehensive implementation plans.
Mr. Speaker, government is continuing to work with First Nations and other governments to secure benefits for Yukoners from resource development projects. In the new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, we pledge to work with industry, First Nations, communities and other stakeholders to identify barriers and opportunities for local employment and local business development opportunities in the resource sectors, as well as to negotiate benefits agreements with industry and First Nations for oil and gas exploration activity, as is required by Yukonís Oil and Gas Act.
Mr. Speaker, Energy, Mines and Resources is providing technical advice to land claim working groups associated with natural resources and is strengthening working relationships with land claims related agencies and councils. The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, Mr. Speaker, is open for business. We are working hard to build and promote the Yukonís natural resource advantages by developing comprehensive information about our natural resource wealth. We are striving to increase the productivity and competitiveness of the mineral industry and to create an attractive investment climate.
Weíre continuing to support the growth of Yukonís mineral industry knowledge base through the Yukon geology program. The Yukon geology program was recently mentioned at two events. One event was attended by me, and the second event was attended by the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
When I was in Toronto at the World Mines Ministries Forum, the Yukon geology program was singled out for its exemplary mapping and the quality of work that they do. This was by an industry representative.
At the recent northern mine ministers meeting in Yellowknife, attended by the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the federal Minister of DIAND asked the governments of both the Northwest Territories and Nunavut to model their geoscience programs after the Yukon geology program. Iím very proud, and Yukoners should be very proud, of the work that the Yukon geology program does in geoscience mapping and the hard work that all the officials, both federal and territorial, in that program do.
Mr. Speaker, the department is also working with partners to support improved environmental performance of mining projects through research identified by the mining environmental research group. We have extended the mineral exploration tax credit for another year, after it was enhanced by the previous Minister of Economic Development, the Premier, from 22 percent to 25 percent. This is a refundable corporate and personal income tax credit, which effectively encourages exploration in the Yukon.
As cited in my departmentís accountability plan, this budget will help us implement commitments in the mining plan, including work on a comprehensive Yukon mineral policy, support for a review of the Yukon placer authorization, implementation of the mineral compensation policy, and a streamlined permitting process.
I would like to thank in advance the Yukon Mineral Advisory Committee for their support and work as we move toward the devolution date of April 1, 2003, ensuring that we can streamline regulations and the permitting process with regard to the Yukon mining industry.
Mr. Speaker, we are promoting opportunities in the oil and gas sector by working to pass new oil and gas regulations that will support responsible industry development and will complete an annual sale of oil and gas rights this year. As I have mentioned at a number of conferences I have spoken at on the oil and gas rights that will be issued this year, we will again focus on north Yukon and have a land sale up there; and, for the first time, we will look at the Whitehorse Trough to conduct an oil and gas land sale.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun mentioned that yesterday, and certainly I have already initiated discussions with the First Nations in the area on the northern end of the Whitehorse Trough. I intend to travel to either Carmacks or Pelly Crossing to meet with all the affected First Nations chiefs, and I intend to do so within the next couple of months, prior to the issuing of the call for nominations.
This government will also continue to seek opportunities to promote the oil and gas sector locally and internationally. We are promoting and ensuring preparedness for an Alaska Highway pipeline route selection. When we took office two years ago, the pipeline unit was funded in the amount of, I believe, $100,000 by the previous government. We increased that funding to $750,000 per year, and some of the accomplishments of the pipeline unit and this government over the past two years are as follows. We have worked very hard at securing the Alaska Highway route for the benefit of all Yukoners. We have worked to clarify the regulatory and the environmental processes needed to properly review and approve this large construction project. We have been preparing Yukoners to take advantage of the job and business opportunities that will arise from pipeline construction and operation. We have been educating Yukoners about the technical, economic and environmental aspects of a large-diameter, high-pressure pipeline through their territory; informing gas producers, pipeline and energy companies and other governments of the Yukonís needs, our requirements and advantages related to any pipeline project that will pass through the territory; and, of course developing early opportunities for Yukon people and businesses in the oil and gas industry. Those types of opportunities have been done through the drill-rig training program at Aurora College in Inuvik last year, and also the opportunities that Yukon businesses had to take part of the producers feasibility study that concluded in December of this year.
Iíve spoken to a number of Yukon business people who were able to take advantage of business opportunities related to that pipeline study.
This budget will help the department meet its goal in its accountability plan to lead strategic initiatives for Government of Yukon associated with forestry regime developments and management of Yukonís forest resources. This will be done by developing a forest policy framework to guide management of forest post-devolution, developing a Yukon forest industry strategy, by striking a taskforce to assess and make recommendations on an improved tenure system appropriate for the Yukon. Policy work will be undertaken to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation, collaborating on the completion of a new timber supply analysis for the southeast Yukon and by working with industry and DIAND to ensure new timber tenures are negotiated and awarded.
Forestry can and will play a very important part in the Yukon economy. Through these actions and the actions of the Premier in successfully negotiating the devolution transfer agreement, we can start to reap some of those economic benefits in the very near future.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is also focusing on increasing the productivity of Yukonís existing agricultural land base and improving agricultural extension services.
I recently sent a letter to the president of the Yukon Agricultural Association in which I conveyed our plans to fund the association in the amount of $15,000 per annum in order for them to participate and lobby governments and other industries to make sure that Yukon agriculture can become a very full and productive participant in the Yukon economy.
The resource sector is not the only area where this government is focusing on economic development. As this budget demonstrates, we have also allocated millions of dollars for marketing and industry development in the sectors of tourism, culture and business. The Yukon has a wealth of talented people who produce goods and services that are in demand around the world. This government is helping people and businesses to connect with their individual marketplaces and to promote their products and services internationally.
Mr. Speaker, this will result in a stronger, more stable economy. It is part of a diversified strategy to create Yukon jobs across many sectors of the local economy. Highways, airports, communications and other basic infrastructure systems promote tourism and form the foundation of Yukon communities.
Infrastructure improves the quality of life for all Yukoners. While new capital projects are essential, as mentioned by the Minister of Education earlier, it is equally important to keep our existing infrastructure systems in good working order. In the Department of Infrastructure, we are maintaining and improving our highway system and our airports for the safety and convenience of our citizens as well as our visitors.
In our accountability plan, we have pledged to improve transportation safety. We will do this by improving transportation behaviour through the education and promotion campaigns and through support and cooperation with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We will do this by providing an effective regulatory environment and by building confidence in the operational safety of the transportation system.
We have also pledged to manage and maintain the Yukon transportation system by coordinating with other jurisdictions, developing and implementing effective policies and programs, and integrating good environmental practices.
Through the Department of Infrastructure, we will deliver high-quality transportation maintenance services in accordance with applicable standards and recommended practices and take advantage of cost-effective innovations in the maintenance field. Mr. Speaker, approximately $6 million of this budget has been allocated for highway rehabilitation, resurfacing, restoration and bridge repair. This is on top of the $40 million of capital spending that has been allocated to the transportation services branch of the new Department of Infrastructure. This important work will keep Yukoners employed.
Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, I announced $8.8 million in highway construction to be carried out over the next four years in conjunction with the federal government through the strategic highway infrastructure program. This work will be done on the Alaska Highway in the Champagne area and will put approximately 40 Yukoners to work. I expect tenders for this project to be awarded in early May.
North American Tungsten has reopened the former Cantung mine. A total of 130 people have been hired directly by North American Tungsten to work on the mine, many of whom are Yukoners, working as both employees and contractors. The Department of Infrastructure is supporting the reopening through improvements to and year-round operation of the Nahanni Range Road.
Under our accountability plan, the Department of Infrastructure will also support and enhance program delivery and performance through information management and technology. We will deliver French language services. We will meet corporate and departmental needs for logistical support and material management, and we will develop, procure and manage our existing facilities.
Mr. Speaker, a new continuing care facility will open this year, providing more options for quality living for our seniors and elders. Construction of this continuing care facility is approximately 80 percent complete, ahead of schedule, and slated for completion in April 2002 ó this month, two months ahead of the specified completion date.
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has had his department very busy in planning for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The design is scheduled to be complete at the end of April or early May. Site preparation work is planned for the summer and fall of this year. Again, Mr. Speaker, this means jobs for Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, the new Mayo school will also open this year. The Mayo school is a functional, attractive, energy-efficient building, which I had the privilege of visiting approximately a month ago when I was up doing a tour of the Elsa mine property with the proponent of that.
Mr. Speaker, this school will provide a focal point within the community for both student education as well as a number of other community functions.
Communities and citizens alike can have confidence in this government. Yukoners have asked for increased accountability, and this government has listened.
Through renewal, all departments have developed accountability plans. These accountability plans will bring transparency to government. Citizens will be able to better understand the governmentís priorities and provide meaningful input to departments and their elected representatives.
Under the new Department of Community Services, the service centre will provide a focal point for service delivery. Government will tender for space for the service centre early this month. It will be in a central location with plenty of parking and will provide an enhanced level of service for Yukoners dealing with a variety of government agencies.
Both the Department of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí and the Department of Infrastructureís O&M budgets are consistent with priorities under renewal. Transportation infrastructure, building infrastructure and information technology infrastructure are now under one umbrella. Iím excited about overseeing the new Department of Infrastructure, which is positioned to have such a positive effect on the day-to-day lives of many Yukoners.
As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I am very pleased that there will be one-stop-shopping under renewal for all Yukon government land tenure transactions. This includes agricultural lands, as well as federal lands post-devolution.
Access to program and regulatory information for Yukonís land and natural resources will be streamlined.
Renewal also sets the stage for a smooth transition of powers from the federal government under devolution.
As I mentioned before, the Yukon Act has received royal assent. In less than one year, Yukoners will achieve management and control of our natural resources.
This is one of the most important milestones in the territoryís history. The Department of Infrastructure will take on added responsibilities, and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources will be responsible for additional programs. Mines and minerals, forest management and Crown land ó these are but a few examples of program areas that will be coming under the control of the Yukon government after devolution.
This is a very exciting time for Yukon. It is a time of change and a time for exploring new opportunities. Strong linkages are being developed between newly formed departments. In the area of economic development, Energy, Mines and Resources staff are working alongside staff from Business, Tourism and Culture, the Department of Environment, the Yukon Development Corporation, Infrastructure and Finance to develop strategies that will revitalize the Yukon economy on a number of fronts.
The departments of Infrastructure, Energy, Mines and Resources and the Yukon Development Corporation have a shared interest in infrastructure and energy systems that support and enhance the quality of life for Yukoners.
Construction started on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line, a project worth over $20 million. Approximately 90 people were employed on this project over the winter. Right across government, departments continue to work toward improving the quality of life for Yukon people.
This government reduced personal income tax for Yukoners. When we took office a year and a half ago, the Yukon personal income tax rate was 50 percent of the federal rate. We have reduced that to 44 percent of the federal rate.
The Premier has also appointed me the minister responsible for youth. This is something that I consider very important because, of course, the youth are all about the future.
We have established a youth directorate. Responsibility for the youth directorate has been permanently transferred to the Executive Council Office. The youth directorate is located in a storefront operation on Fourth Avenue, housed next to the Whitehorse Youth Centre and housed in the same office as the Bring Youth Toward Equality, or BYTE, program. Weíre going to negotiate a contribution agreement with BYTE to support the operation of the youth office. Services that will be offered through the youth office include a computer lab, peer support, resource information and support for youth and youth service providers.
The youth directorate continues to support several contribution agreements that promote youth initiatives. Some examples, Mr. Speaker, are community youth activities, in the amount of $30,000; the youth leadership training week, to which we have allocated $40,000; as well, the winter activities program, which has been allotted $195,000 under this budget.
Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the Minister of Education, is keeping this governmentís commitments to Yukon children, to Yukon First Nations, to home-educated students. The Minister of Health and Social Services is addressing the needs of senior citizens, youth and adults who require support to help them participate more fully in the community. Resources are being allocated for a recruitment and retention strategy for nurses, and new funding has been identified over the past two years to support the hospital.
Mr. Speaker, as the Member for Riverside, I have a large number of seniors in my riding. Iím sure that my constituents are pleased to see the budget includes a 10-percent increase to the pioneer utility grant.
The Premier has initialled four new land claims and self-government agreements.
Devolution will take place in a year, finally giving Yukoners control over their land and resources.
Mr. Speaker, this operations and maintenance budget is about Yukon people; it is about youth; it is about seniors. It offers support for First Nations and francophone Yukoners. Itís about the hard-working public servants who develop and deliver government programs and services. But most of all, Mr. Speaker, it is about each and every Yukon citizen ó Yukon citizens who deserve to benefit, and do benefit, from the hard work of government and the public service.
Mr. Speaker, this budget is about loyalty and pride. Iím very proud to support this budget, and Iím very loyal to the public servants and my colleagues who assisted in the development of this budget. I offer my congratulations to the Premier and my Cabinet colleagues, as well as my caucus colleagues, on delivering a budget this territory can be very proud of.
Mrs. Peter: Iím grateful to be able to respond to this budget thatís before us today. We in the Yukon Territory are facing challenging and changing times. What the territory needed was to be consulted before this budget was put before us so that we might have a say about the content of this budget, and it would have been very different from whatís in it right now.
There is talk about rebuilding the Yukon economy while workers in our communities have to leave the Yukon Territory in order to feed their families. The reason that these workers are leaving the territory is because we have no economy to speak of in the territory today.
We have a government in place that had very little vision for the territory itself. When the workers have to leave their families behind, there are children who feel insecure in their family homes because they donít have both parents there for a secure life.
We walk down the street in Whitehorse and see many signs on small businesses that are selling out because they have to close their doors. Weíre in very sad times in this territory, not only for our families and for small businesses, but for all people. There are bigger lineups at our social assistance offices, and the client ratio is higher.
We talk about the infrastructure that we need, and that only has been talked about over the last two years. We have growing communities. My community has been growing for the last five years. One of the greatest needs that we have is housing. We have a crisis in housing shortages in the communities. We have families living with families, and that doesnít provide ample space for everyone for a healthy environment.
Our young people have to either be living with their parents until theyíre 20 or 25 years old, or with their grandparents, and that doesnít teach them independent living.
With our growing communities, we need to spread out more and look to other areas to build new subdivisions where we can provide these types of homes for the young adults in our communities. We have that vision in Old Crow. We would like to provide alternatives. We just heard the last minister who spoke say that youth is important. Young adults today are very important. Theyíre our future leaders, and in order to have healthy future leaders, they need to learn independent living and be able to have and follow through with the vision that we have for our communities.
We need the resources and we need to be supported in following through with our vision, whether it means to build more homes ó and in order to build new homes, we need sufficient water and sewer plans. And what about electricity and telephone services to these areas? That is what I donít see in this budget.
The biggest problem in that area is the cost. We talk about being partners with governments today. Thatís between the First Nation, territorial and federal governments.
We need you to help move us toward that vision of the future for our children. The infrastructure that weíve talked about also for many years in my community is the airport terminal, and Iím going to keep bringing the need for that infrastructure forward to this government, because it is needed right now. It was in the plans to be built last year, and now itís in the plans for the 2004-05 budget, and itís a long-range forecast. That gives me very little confidence that itís going to be built.
Iíve said before, the space thatís in the terminal that we have in Old Crow now is not sufficient, and the few of you who travel to Old Crow notice that, especially when you have to pick your luggage up at the same time.
With infrastructure, there are other needs that come with that, and thatís the gravel that we use for the foundation to build the homes on, for the roads that we have in Old Crow, even though it might not be that many. We need to keep those upgraded. We use gravel to help with the eroding of the bank up there.
And I know that this summer there are plans to work on the erosion of that bank, which is great because it is a real safety issue with the many young children we have running freely around our community. I know that the leadership of chief and council in Old Crow has spoken to various departments in the government to address our gravel issue. And I am hoping that we walk away from those discussions with some kind of agreement and with some resources in place to address that concern.
This government has signed some MOUs with four First Nation governments in the territory, and that is a step in the right direction and I support that. Our hope and my hope is that they will receive the support and resources to ratify those agreements very soon. There are several First Nations in the territory that have signed agreements and those have been in place for many years now, and I know that there are many outstanding issues in those First Nations governments to implement those agreements. They need their resources again. I believe it was Minister Nault who made a statement not too long ago, saying that we need to focus on implementation.
It has been too long in the waiting. We know how long it took for them to get to the table to sign those agreements. When you talk about partnership, those are the partnerships that you need to build on so that we can move forward and be independent as a people.
Restoring confidence in government ó how can we do that when people are more confused than they were before?
There is a lot of confusion out there about where to turn and what to do, and that causes lots of uncertainty.
What can we do to rebuild this confidence for Yukon people? When I say "we", I mean we are willing to work together. Youíve heard my colleagues reach out their hands and say "We are willing to work together to come up with viable options and choices so that we can provide some kind of certainty for the Yukon people." When they have no confidence in the economy, very little confidence in addressing environmental issues and little confidence with the oil and gas process, how can we help the Yukon people build confidence in these areas?
People need to have a say and be part of the decision-making process. They need to see the people responsible for each of these areas in our communities so that they can let you know what their concerns are.
I have a few examples of where consultation got us in the last while, but I wonít get into that right now.
The community of Old Crow is also looking forward to a project that would help the economy in our community. This project has been on the table for quite some time, and itís called the community visitor and cultural centre. There are three or four partners involved in this wonderful project. This project is an opportunity for us, as a unique people, to educate people who will come to visit our communities, who are already coming to our communities and enjoying the hospitality of the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
We have much to offer. We do some of the most beautiful beadwork in the territory. We talk about being proud of whom we represent here in the House. I too am proud. Iím proud to stand here as the Vuntut Gwitchin person because I do the beadwork myself.
I can speak my language and Iím able to make a difference in my community. I can ask questions here in this Legislature on behalf of my constituents. I can listen, be open minded in our vision of where we want to be. Maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even within the next year, but we need to have a place such as the visitor cultural centre in place in the next 10 or 20 years so that the children who are growing up today will have the opportunity to say, "Yes, this is our history. Weíre more than willing and happy to share it with you, to share that history and that culture with the rest of the world."
But today, right now, we need the territorial government to be our partner, to move forward with this initiative so that we can put some of our people to work, so that our young people today can be proud and walk into that centre and say, "Mahsi'cho" and speak to people, our visitors, in our language.
There was another one of those polls done nationally, or globally, in the last little while, which said that there are only three languages that will survive in this century, and one of them is not ours. We want to make sure that our children, my grandchildren, are able to have that opportunity to come to a place like the centre and have those artifacts there from people who travel in Old Crow Flats. They can have an opportunity to show the caribou fences that have been there for thousands of years to people who might come from other parts of the world, especially the rest of Canada, to say that we are a part of this country and, yes, we are proud to show this to you. For that, we do need you to be our partner and to listen because, yes, we do have a vision and we want to go there. The opportunity is there right now. It would be cost effective to make sure you take advantage of this opportunity.
And if thatís not the case, then it will not be in a communityís best interest, and they will move forward with it.
Weíre not on one of the main highways in this territory. We are the most isolated community in the Yukon and, yes, that puts us in a unique position. But weíre not that isolated that weíre totally out of the picture. Sometimes we think that we are, because we are not getting the recognition for what weíre trying to provide for our people. Yet, our voices will be heard loud and clear until somebody chooses to listen and take that opportunity.
Iíve heard enough talk, and itís time to see some action and to see the results of what partnership means.
Iíve heard references made to the alcohol and drug issues we have throughout our territory, and Iíve expressed my own personal opinions and views about this issue before and how important it is. I had my own personal problems in this area and, on a daily basis, I have support from my family, my friends and my community.
And the Member for Whitehorse Centre put it very clearly this afternoon ó how difficult it can be. I believe that we all live with that issue, whether it is in our families, whether it has touched our friendsí lives or our community as a whole. Many of my people in this city are affected, and it is painful to see them like that. And from that alone, it can lead us to many different areas where we can try to be of some help to people who are in that situation. Whether it be social services ó
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 9 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 9, 2002:
Yukon Law Foundation: audited Financial Statement for the fiscal year ending October 31, 2001 (McLachlan)
Placer mining industry: letters from The Klondike Placer Minersí Association to Premier Duncan and the Hon. Mr. Kent, Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources (dated April 8, 2002) (Kent)