Monday, April 15, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Gender Equity Awareness Week
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I rise on behalf of the government today to announce the proclamation of Gender Equity Awareness Week, April 14 to 20. This is the fourth Gender Equity Awareness Week and it is chosen every year in honour of Equality Day, April 17.
Gender Equity Awareness Week came out of the 1996 gender equity in the schools policy. This policy seeks to ensure fairness in education for girls and boys by providing equal opportunity and equal access.
Gender equity, in and out of school, is more than simple equality. It does not necessarily mean treating everyone the same. Weíre not all the same. Gender equity means accommodating each other and our differences in a fair way. I look forward to the day when gender equity will be second nature to us all.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
Point of personal privilege
Speaker: The Chair will now recognize the Minister of Health and Social Services on a point of personal privilege.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on a point of personal privilege.
I apologize for what I wrote. I have resigned my position as the minister responsible for the Status of Women. I also want to make clear that the points of view in that e-mail are my own. They are my personal point of view.
I always have, and always will, strongly support womenís issues. I am a feminist. It is my personal belief that womenís issues, like domestic violence, have become societyís issues, and that is a very good thing.
Mr. Speaker, I believe there needs to be a public debate about the future of the womenís movement, and I also believe that men and women should not be afraid to start that debate, nor should they be afraid to enter that debate.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, as Minister of Finance, I have a number of reports for tabling: a Government of Yukon audit services review of government land inventory; the government audit services fixed assets management review; the review of investment, procedures and trust funds; an evaluation of the trade and investment fund. And, Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling as Minister of Finance the Yukon economic outlook 2002.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTIOn
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) recent events have called into question the commitment of the Yukon Liberal government to womenís issues;
(2) the Womenís Directorate is no longer a stand-alone department dedicated to addressing womenís issues;
(3) comments by the former minister responsible for the Status of Women do not demonstrate respect for or understanding of the issues that affect women in the Yukon; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to re-establish the Womenís Directorate as a stand-alone department with a director who reports directly to the minister responsible with an increased budget for expanded public education on womenís issues.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) recent events have called into question this governmentís commitment to womenís issues;
(2) the Department of Health and Social Services directly funds a variety of programs that deal specifically with issues that are womenís issues, including violence against women;
(3) Kausheeís Place and other womenís transition homes are directly funded through Health and Social Services, and that Kausheeís Place has been operating beyond its capacity for more than a year; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to increase funding to Kausheeís Place and other womenís transition homes, to ensure that womenís issues that are funded through Health and Social Services be adequately addressed.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Education Act review process has been seriously flawed since it was politicized by the Liberal government;
(2) the amended Education Act that has been tabled this sitting does not reflect the views of many stakeholders, particularly parents, First Nations, and the francophone community;
(3) the process has not resulted in a document that the public feels confident in; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to withdraw the Act to Amend the Education Act and establish a fair process for public input and review of the proposed changes in order to ensure that Yukon has the best possible legislation on education.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) implementation of the Yukon protected areas strategy is fundamentally flawed in that it lacks balance between environmental and economic interests;
(2) the Yukon protected areas strategy, in its present form, is one of the major impediments to economic development in the territory;
(3) the Minister of the Environment, despite his promise to consult with stakeholders, is continuing to implement this seriously flawed strategy with the creation of a new goal 1 no-development park for the Eagle Plains area and has stated a commitment to identify 12 more such parks by April 2003; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of the Environment to impose a moratorium on the creation of more no-development parks in the territory until such time as proper resource inventories and public participation can be completed and other deficiencies in the Yukon protected areas strategy can be corrected.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jim: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Yukon government should establish a five-year cycle in the maintenance of all government buildings.
Mr. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon should encourage private/public partnerships in the development of major projects in our communities, including a new bridge on the Yukon River near Dawson City and seniorsí living accommodation in our communities.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon children are valued members of our society and deserve well-trained child care workers; and
(2) Yukon child care workers are typically underpaid for the value of the work they do; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to make the training of Yukon child care workers a priority today by setting aside funds to enable child care workers to access early childhood development courses.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mrs. Peter: I have a question today for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, women in the Yukon and all across Canada were stunned to hear that a minister responsible for the Status of Women could possibly hold the kind of attitudes expressed in the ministerís e-mail to Cabinet and Cabinet staff, dated March 16, 2002.
This kind of attitude has no place in the Yukon public life and brings discredit to all members of the Legislature. Will the minister now do the honourable thing and resign her remaining Cabinet responsibilities and her seat in this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the ministerís choice of words was unfortunate and incorrect. She has apologized to Yukoners, she has apologized to this House, and she has taken the step of offering her resignation from the portfolio responsible for the Status of Women.
It is with regret that I accepted that resignation.
The minister has a long and impressive record in serving the public ó more than 14 years in public office from school council to a minister in this government.
Mr. Speaker, the minister has done the right thing.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, we were elected to hold office and we took an oath to speak on behalf of all people in the Yukon.
The minister has resigned as minister responsible for the Status of Women and has apologized in this House. I recognize that. However, her serious lack of judgement calls into question her ability to function in any Cabinet capacity. Many groups that provide vital services to Yukon women and children rely on funding from the Department of Health and Social Services. There are legitimate concerns about how these groups will be able to deal with this minister in the future, given the attitudes that she has expressed.
For the sake of restoring the confidence of Yukon women in this government, will the minister do the honourable thing and resign as the Minister of Health and Social Services?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This matter has been dealt with appropriately. The member has apologized to Yukoners, to this House ó and, Mr. Speaker, one lapse of judgement should not tarnish a career that has seen the Member for Riverdale South fight for her constituents and for all Yukoners, including women ó a stellar record of public service, Mr. Speaker. It has been a long and impressive record of serving the public.
She has apologized; the matter has been dealt with appropriately.
Mrs. Peter: We have heard, so far, the ministerís regret for using certain words, not for the attitudes behind those words. If she will not do the honourable thing and resign, how does the minister plan to repair the damage that she has done to the relationship between this government and Yukon women?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the minister has apologized many times. She has apologized publicly, in this House, in the media. I have further extended that apology on behalf of the Government of Yukon. Again, one lapse in judgement should not be allowed to tarnish a career that has been one of stellar public service, not only to the constituents in Riverdale, but to all Yukoners.
This matter has been dealt with appropriately.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mrs. Peter: My questions werenít answered. I have a follow-up question for the Premier. The ministerís e-mail was sent to Cabinet and Cabinet staff on March 16. That was two weeks before the ministerís appointment to the Status of Women portfolio that was due to take effect. Why did the Premier not take decisive action and revoke the ministerís appointment as soon as she received this e-mail?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: When I saw the e-mail on Friday, I met with the minister. The minister immediately apologized and immediately did the honourable thing and offered her resignation from the responsibilities as the minister responsible for the Status of Women. The minister has done the honourable thing. And again, I would say to the member opposite that one lapse of judgement should not tarnish a career that has been as stellar as the memberís.
Mrs. Peter: This e-mail was dated March 16. This matter clearly calls into question the Premierís own judgement. She should have shown leadership by taking the appropriate action as soon as this e-mail was sent, instead of waiting until it became public and the minister offered her resignation. I hope the Premier at least informed the minister that the views she expressed in that e-mail were not acceptable for a minister of the Crown.
Yukon people need to be reassured that the attitudes behind this e-mail are not shared by the Premier or other members of her Cabinet. Will the Premier table her reply to the ministerís e-mail and any other replies from her Cabinet colleagues or staff members?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We are not in the habit of tabling correspondence without speaking with the individual authors of the correspondence in this House, and my understanding is that the e-mail was addressed confidentially to Cabinet and caucus.
Again, I saw the e-mail on Friday, and the minister offered me her immediate ó not only apology but her resignation. And again, one lapse of judgement ó one, Mr. Speaker ó should not be allowed to tarnish a long record of public service on behalf of not only the residents in Riverdale but all Yukoners, and that includes all women. The member has had a long and very impressive record working on behalf of all Yukoners, and that should not be forgotten.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this issue has hit newspapers right across Canada. It has brought this Liberal government into disrepute, not just among women or union members but among everyone who is concerned about the rights and needs of women. Will the Premier now take steps to repair this damage by asking the minister to give up her Cabinet portfolios and resign her seat in this Legislature?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have advised the member opposite ó and I will repeat: I saw the e-mail on Friday. The minister immediately offered her apology to me and to the people of the Yukon and offered to me her resignation. It is with real regret that I have accepted that resignation over the weekend. The member has a very long and very impressive record in serving the public ó a very impressive record, both as a member of school council, as a city councillor in this territory, as a member of the opposition and, most importantly, as a member of this government. She has a long and impressive record, and one lapse of judgement should not tarnish that career.
The ministerís choice of words was unfortunate. She has apologized publicly many, many times. I have also apologized on behalf of the Government of Yukon. She has taken the step of offering her resignation as minister responsible for the Status of Women, and again it is with regret that I accepted that. She has done the honourable thing.
Question re: Yukon protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have a question today for the Minister of the Environment.
On April 10 and 11, I received letters from the Yukon Agricultural Association and the Yukon Chamber of Mines ó both members of the business coalition for a balanced Yukon protected areas strategy. These letters concerned the lack of balance between the environment and economic interest in the Yukon protected areas strategy. In spite of a promised review by the Yukon Liberal government, another goal 1 no-development park has been created in the Eagle Plains area. These letters make the charge that protected areas are continuing to be established in unwarranted haste, with minimal public education and minimal consultation of public input.
In view of the fact that the minister plans to create 12 more no-development parks by April 2003, can the minister advise the House how all the necessary resource inventory work and public participation can be possibly completed in such a short period of time?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I thank the member for his question on this issue. We are committed, Mr. Speaker, to following through on implementing as best we can, as quickly as we can, the areas of interest, so we can create land certainty for industry. That is one thing we did here, indirectly from industry, and weíre following up on it.
I have since made best efforts to get out and talk to industry representatives directly. I will continue to do that, Mr. Speaker, and encourage them to come to the table, to sit down, to work out perceived differences of opinion.
I am obligated to do that, Iím responsible for doing that, and I will do that.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it was the Yukon Party that signed on to the Yukon protected areas strategy. We support that strategy, but the strategy has been politicized. There is now no mention of multiple use. All it is, is total protection for all the area.
The letters from the Chamber of Mines point out that, in the Eagle Plains withdrawal area, it incorporates one of the last unexplored geological basins for oil and gas. The only other basin thatís left available to us is probably around Braeburn and down in southeast Yukon.
Can the minister explain why he removed this potentially rich gas reserve area from exploration before it could be properly assessed? Why wasnít proper attention given to the assessment side of the equation before the park was created?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: A few corrections, with all due respect, Mr. Speaker. There has not been a park created; there has been an area of interest identified. Key stakeholders, with respect to the area of interest identified, were notified. Thereís a whole process now that occurs, where complete assessment of all values, both biological, environmental, economic, and mineral, and oil and gas, will be conducted within the area of interest.
The member opposite continually says that the Yukon Party bought into the YPAS process. They did, and he acknowledges that and I appreciate it. A fact he fails to remember is, in goal 1 areas, there was never any intention of multiple use, and he constantly says there was. The fact of the matter is that, in goal 2 areas of YPAS, there are multiple use opportunities, just to correct the record.
Mr. Jenkins: To correct the record further, Mr. Speaker, goal 1 areas are to protect just the specific ecological region, or environmentally sensitive region. It is not to protect the entire area. There are virtually no goal 2 or goal 3 areas. And the minister wonders why there is no oil and gas exploration activity taking place in the Yukon. Itís because of the potential for them being created into parks.
Could the minister explain why he is not doing his homework, following proper procedure before establishing the park? Will the minister put a moratorium on creating more parks until such time as the process is properly adhered to and followed?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: A correction again to the Member for Klondike. The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that Devon Energy has work commitments in the area of $20.4 million that they will be investing in the territory over the next few years.
Mr. Speaker, we had indicated to the Yukon public, the interest groups and stakeholders that we would proceed with the YPAS process. We are committed to doing that but, as I had answered the member in my first answer, we will continue to consult, and I am doing that. I am out there talking to industry, to exploration companies, to individual exploration people, to oil and gas people as well as to key stakeholders with a vested interest in equal representation here in the territory. I am committed to do that, I promised that I would do that, and I do what I say Iíll do.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mrs. Peter: I have another question for the Premier on the same topic, Mr. Speaker. This issue is very similar to the situation a year ago when a senior official made a racist comment in public. The same minister, the same stone-walling response by this Premier ó that official was financially penalized by losing a monthís salary and was required to take other steps to repair the damage his comments had done.
Why is the Premier adopting a lower standard of accountability for this minister instead of holding her to the highest standard of conduct, which her position as a minister and MLA requires?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The highest standard of conduct in an instance like this is to offer your resignation as the minister responsible for that particular portfolio. That is what the member has done. The member has also apologized on more than one occasion to the Yukon public and to others for the unfortunate remarks.
Again, the memberís record in supporting and advocating womenís issues, issues on behalf of the people of the Yukon, is long and impressive. One error in judgement should not be allowed to tarnish that impressive record.
Mrs. Peter: This morning on the radio, a spokesperson for a high profile womenís group in Whitehorse seemed to suggest a concern about ongoing funding if a response to the ministerís e-mail were too critical. Will the Premier give her assurance that no individual or group should feel intimidated by anyone in her government for expressing views with which the Premier or any of her ministers might disagree?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This governmentís record in supporting and funding womenís issues is impressive. Itís impressive due in large part to the efforts of the Member for Riverdale South.
Our government, for this fiscal year in the operation and maintenance budget, is funding Kausheeís Place with $582,000, which is a base increase of $100,000 from the NDP budget.
Both the Dawson womenís shelter and Help and Hope for Families of Watson Lake are being funded with $192,300 ó base increases again, Mr. Speaker, in this instance of $62,000. Those base increases are there in part and largely due to the Member for Riverdale South. She has been a long and very strong advocate on womenís issues and on behalf of the people of the Yukon. She has done the honourable thing.
Mrs. Peter: The ministerís harshest comments were directed at a specific group: female members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. This includes members of the Yukon Employees Union who will be going into contract negotiations with this government later this year. The Premier has already locked horns with the union executive over the number of government jobs lost through renewal.
What steps does the Premier plan to take to repair the damage to employee morale by the ministerís unwarranted attack on female members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The ministerís choice of words was unfortunate and incorrect. She apologized to Yukoners. She has apologized publicly through the media, she has apologized in this House and she has apologized personally. The member and this government have impressive records, not only in working with womenís groups and on womenís issues but on behalf of all of the people of Yukon, and that includes working with hard-working, dedicated public servants. We will continue to do so.
The Member for Riverdale South again has apologized. She has done the honourable thing, and she should be commended for that.
Question re: Children in care
Mr. Roberts: I have a question for the Minister of Health. Last year the James Anglin report came forward to the government. I would like to know from the minister what has happened to the report at this point in time?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the Anglin report was released last fall. Since then, the Department of Health and Social Services has started an analysis of that report. What has not happened is an individual consultation with each Yukon First Nation. That is continuing as we speak. In addition to that, there is also another report that will be coming out in June of this year, which is the technical report from the Child Welfare League of Canada. When the two reports are available, the department will work on an implementation plan for the recommendations of those two reports.
Mr. Roberts: Thank you for the answer. One of the major concerns in the Yukon is the lack of treatment facilities for our most severely emotionally damaged youth. In my previous career as a school principal for over 30 years, many of these youth stayed in schools far longer than they should have. These youth should have been receiving specific treatment rather than being in school.
My question to the minister: has the Department of Health established a Yukon-based treatment facility for severely damaged youth, or are they thinking about it at this point in time?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The children of the Yukon who have severe emotional impairments or have severe intellectual impairments are the responsibility of the Yukon government Health and Social Services department. Treatment programs are developed along with the department and the families of those youth. Mr. Speaker, that work is ongoing. It was and has been for a number of years.
Mr. Roberts: It is a known fact that almost all of our severely emotionally damaged youth are sent Outside for treatment, and these costs can be anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 per month for each youth. It is a known fact that many of these youth returning to Yukon after treatment are not healed and in some case, in my experience, come back worse. Some of the reasons these Outside facilities do not heal our youth are because the family circle is not involved in much of the healing process, and the youth has no connection to their friends, their families, their relatives. It is important to have family and friends involved in the healing process. We know that if we invest our children at the earliest possible time with family, friends and expert support, healing will be most successful.
My question to the minister: when can we expect this government to respond positively and specifically to the recommendations laid out in the Anglin report, and when are we going to build our own treatment centre for troubled youth?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, it hasnít been proven that that is the answer, and I need to go back and correct the member oppositeís suppositions.
Firstly, the majority of children who have severe emotional and intellectual impairments are not sent Outside. They are treated here in the Yukon Territory. That is an important fact to remember.
The other point the member opposite is making is that, somehow or another, building a facility here in the Yukon Territory for the treatment of children who have severe emotional and intellectual problems is the answer, and that is not the answer. The answer is a variety of different things, and the Anglin report did not suggest that that was the only answer; it suggested that there needed to be more treatment for children who needed it.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on the issue that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has been questioning the Premier on today.
Is the Premier trying to tell this House and the Yukon public that, even though these very inappropriate comments via e-mail were sent throughout the Cabinet and staff that the first time the Premier was made aware of these very inappropriate comments, as they related to women and womenís issues in this territory, was on Friday of last week? Is that what the Premier is telling this House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I saw the e-mail for the first time on Friday.
Mr. Speaker, when I last spoke in response to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and said, at the end of my remarks, that the Member for Riverdale South should be commended, I was speaking in reference to her courage in apologizing for comments that she made. It is not every politician who will admit, or will apologize, and I appreciate the fact that the minister has apologized publicly many times, and that was what my reference was to.
I would also like to say again to the Member for Watson Lake that I saw the e-mail for the first time on Friday.
Mr. Fentie: I donít think anybody here is questioning the Member for Porter Creek Southís commitment to apologizing to the women of this territory ó Riverdale South, sorry, Mr. Speaker. What weíre questioning here is the inaction of the Premier.
The e-mail was sent on March 16 ó a month before it broke on the news. What weíre questioning here is, why the inaction by the Premier and other Cabinet and staff members in this Liberal government? It speaks to an attitude ó an attitude toward women and the issues they face in this territory. Is that why the Womenís Directorate has been downgraded under this Liberal government? Can the Premier tell us that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The ministerís choice of words was unfortunate and incorrect, and she has apologized to this House and to the public.
Again, I would say that one lapse in judgement should not tarnish a career ó a career that has achieved, as a city councillor, a number of changes to bylaws that reflect the work of the member; volunteer work with the crisis line and Kausheeís Place, and as a member of this Legislature, having the courage in opposition to ensure ó finally when we did become government ó that amendments to our Standing Orders call the member to order for using sexist or violent language ó something that we advocated in opposition and the minister, as a member of government, is on the record as supporting and advocating womenís issues and supporting and advocating for her constituents.
She has a long and stellar record. One lapse of judgement should not be allowed to colour that.
Mr. Fentie: This side of the House is not questioning what the Member for Riverdale South has done and accomplished. What we are questioning is the Premierís inaction, and we are questioning the attitude of this Liberal government across the floor when it comes to women in this territory and the issues they face. I think that the Premier should provide this House and the public full disclosure on the discussions that took place by this government when this e-mail first surfaced back on March 16. I think the Premier should act on this matter and provide a full and detailed accounting of what took place here. I think this Liberal government should immediately reinstate the Womenís Directorate as a stand-alone department, so that it can deal with the womenís issues, what they face in this territory, and obviously the attitude of the members opposite is called into question.
Will the Premier now act, provide full disclosure, reinstate the Womenís Directorate and provide some action to this matter that it warrants ó because this is a very inappropriate approach to be taken by the government of the day and it needs to be answered. Will the Premier act?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The full disclosure for the member opposite is as follows ó the Member for Riverdale South and I both attended and were supportive of the mock disaster that was being staged by Emergency Measures Ambulance Services and so on, on Friday morning. I came back to the office, I saw the e-mail for the first time. The minister was with me. She immediately apologized and offered her resignation. It is with real regret that I accepted that resignation because, as I have stated many times today, not only has the minister apologized to this House and to others, I do not believe that one lapse of judgement should tarnish a career that has spanned 14 years and many, many levels of public service. The member opposite asked what happened ó that is the full and complete accounting.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Speaker: The Chair will now deliver its ruling on the question of privilege raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre on April 8, 2002.
Standing Order 7(1)(b) states that a member wishing to raise a question of privilege shall provide the Speaker with written notice of the question at least two hours before the opening of the sitting. The Member for Whitehorse Centre notified the Speaker's Office prior to 11:00 a.m. on April 8, 2002 that he wished to raise a question of privilege but was unable to do so in writing at that time as the printer in his office was under repair. He hand delivered the required written notice at 12:16 p.m. The Chair accepts the actions taken by the Member for Whitehorse Centre to provide notice to the Speaker as meeting the spirit and intent of Standing Order 7(1)(b).
Standing Order 7(4) states that the Speaker must rule on (a) whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege, and (b) whether the matter has been raised at the earliest opportunity.
The normal practice of this House has been that, to meet the "earliest opportunity" requirement, a question of privilege must be raised at the time the event occurred or on the next sitting day. With respect to the matter raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre, the Chair understands that its full particulars were not known until April 5. The next sitting day was April 8 and the matter, therefore, was raised in the House at the earliest opportunity.
The Chair must then decide whether there appears, on the face of it, to be a case of breach of privilege. If the Chair were to so decide, the Chair would then give priority to a motion proposing an action to deal with the prima facie breach of privilege. The usual motion put forward in such situations is to refer the matter to the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges for review and recommendation.
The foundation of the question of privilege raised by the Member for Whitehorse Centre was that computer files on computers assigned to him, to the Member for McIntyre-Takhini and to the Member for Porter Creek North had been removed without their knowledge or approval. The Member for Whitehorse Centre said, in his statement to the House on April 8, "The point of privilege focuses on the fact that this government ran roughshod over the established and well-precedented right of elected members in any form of parliament in the Commonwealth. The right to confidentiality with constituents is necessary to ensure fair representation. When that confidentiality is breached, it seriously affects the ability of the elected members to do their duty in a position of trust."
In House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is stated on page 51 that "[T]he rights and immunities accorded to Members individually are generally categorized under the following headings: freedom of speech; freedom from arrest in civil actions; exemption from jury duty; exemption from attendance as a witness."
The privilege of freedom of speech is considered the most important and is obviously the only heading that could have possible application in this matter.
The freedom of speech enjoyed by members may be characterized as deep but narrow. It is deep in that members are allowed to say almost anything they wish while participating in parliamentary proceedings, such as debates in the Assembly and work in committees. Members are bound only by the conventions of parliamentary language and the Standing Orders. That privilege is narrow in that it applies solely to a member's participation in parliamentary proceedings and does not cover communications between members and their constituents.
Further, it is clear that the members in question have been able to fully exercise freedom of speech while participating in the proceedings of this Assembly despite the fact that their files were withheld from them.
The Chair must find, therefore, that there is no prima facie breach of privilege in this case.
In reaching this conclusion the Chair considered a 1980 report of a Special Committee on Privileges of the Yukon Legislative Assembly. That special committee was struck to investigate the wire-tapping of the phone of a member of this Assembly.
In reaching its conclusions the special committee relied on an Ontario Court of Appeal decision in Roman Corp. Ltd. et al v. Hudson's Bay Oil & Gas Co. Ltd. et al. This decision extended proceedings in Parliament to include members' telephone conversations in relation to activities in the Assembly or in committees of the Assembly. It might be concluded that the special committee's finding could now logically be found to apply to computer files and, in particular, e-mail communications. However, the court decision relied upon by the special committee has, in the intervening years, been rejected in court cases of a similar nature. It has also been subjected to cautionary notes in parliamentary authorities such as Parliamentary Privilege in Canada.
The Chair also looked beyond the usual parliamentary authorities and our own possible precedents. In preparing this ruling, jurisdictions across Canada have been surveyed to determine their experience and rules in dealing with the issue of the ownership of electronically stored information. It is an area in which there is little experience.
The only similar case that could be found occurred in the House of Commons last year. Members may be familiar with that matter as it was covered fairly extensively in the media. In that case Deborah Grey, Member of Parliament for Edmonton North, was denied access to her computer files after she left the Canadian Alliance caucus to sit with the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative caucus. In that case Speaker Milliken did not find that Ms. Greyís privileges had been breached.
That being said, members must be aware that, although a given action may not constitute a breach of a defined privilege such as freedom of speech, it may still be considered a contempt of the Assembly.
The 22nd edition of Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice defines contempt, on page 108, in the following way:
"Generally speaking, any act or omission which obstructs or impedes either House of Parliament in the performance of its functions, or which obstructs or impedes any member or officer of such House in the discharge of his duty, or which has a tendency, directly or indirectly, to produce such results may be treated as a contempt even though there is no precedent of the offence."
The report of the 1980 special committee noted that the duties of today's parliamentarians have expanded far beyond just that of being a legislator. It stated that a member "has become a mediator between the citizen and the government, the 'ombudsman' vis-à-vis the public administration, the transmitter of the electorate's grievances."
The special committee expressed the view that "quite possibly the most important duty of an MLA is to serve his constituents and that, in our present technological age, a vital tool for fulfilling this duty is telephone communication." The special committee, further, was of the opinion that the fear of wiretapping had resulted in obstructing members and their constituents in the use of the telephone as a means of communication. As a result, it found that the wiretapping of a member's telephone constituted a contempt of the Assembly.
The special committeeís report contains direction that we must acknowledge in today's circumstances. In 1980, that committee found that interference with a member's telephone was a contempt. A similar committee established today would have to assess the merits of this particular case and draw its own conclusions respecting electronic communications by way of computer between members and their constituents.
It is clear that what occurred, and the manner in which it occurred, was unacceptable. However, the Chair is prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to the persons associated with this event and to find, at this time, that their actions may have been attributable to a lack of proper direction and a lack of appreciation of the independence of private members, even those in the government caucus.
In concluding this ruling, the Chair wishes to emphasize the following central points:
The electronic files, which had been in the possession of the Member for Whitehorse Centre, have either been returned or are in the process of being returned.
Arrangements have been, or are being made to review the electronic files that had been in the possession of the Members for McIntyre-Takhini and Porter Creek North with those two members. The purpose of such review is to determine whether any of those files were Cabinet documents and, therefore, not the property of the members. This review is to be concluded as soon as possible and all files not of a restricted nature will be returned to the Members for McIntyre-Takhini and Porter Creek North.
The Legislative Assembly has not, by motion nor through the Members' Services Board, taken action to establish a directive or guidelines or a protocol respecting the ownership, maintenance and disposition of electronic information and data in the possession of members of this Assembly.
It appears that there is no clear government procedure in place, at the time a minister leaves office, for determining how to deal with the electronic information and data possessed by the minister.
Following from those central points, the Chair has decided to take a similar approach to that of Speaker Milliken of the House of Commons of Canada.
In dealing with the case involving Ms. Grey, Speaker Milliken concluded his ruling by directing the establishment of new protocols to ensure that the problem encountered with the files and data belonging to Ms. Grey did not reoccur.
The Chair, therefore, is directing the Clerk to develop a draft protocol covering the issues that have been brought to light by this event. The Chair further directs that the Clerk is to provide an opportunity for all members to offer their advice on the contents of the protocol and, in due course, to present it to the Members' Services Board for review and adoption.
It must be understood that the Assembly can only put in place rules respecting members of the Assembly and not ministers. The Chair, therefore, recommends that the government undertake to review its own procedures in this regard and to ensure a similar protocol is in place regarding Cabinet ministers.
The Chair appreciates the attention of members to this rather lengthy ruling. It is very much to be hoped that the direction provided in this ruling will lead to the problems encountered by the Members for Whitehorse Centre, McIntyre-Takhini and Porter Creek North being resolved for the good of the Assembly and in the best interests of all members.
Thank you. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Keenan: Iíd appreciate the Houseís indulgence. I realize weíre past the time of introduction, but Iíd like to introduce a constituent of mine from Ross River, Mr. Jack Pauls. Please make him feel welcome here.
Motion No. 217 ó Election of Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the Member for Porter Creek North, Mr. Roberts, be appointed as the Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that Don Roberts, Member for Porter Creek North, be appointed Deputy Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon, everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:15.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will consider Bill No. 10, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Bill No. 10 ó Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02 ó continued
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I believe I left off general debate on Thursday afternoon.
This supplementary budget requests $1,227,000 more in appropriation authority for the year that has just ended. The bulk of these monies are required where we are making a full provision for bad debts for old property taxes, outstanding as a result of the failure of the Anvil Range mine in Faro.
The Member for Klondike has asked for some detailed information with respect to this sort of property tax and mine properties, and we are ensuring that that information is being gathered as quickly as we can.
There is little likelihood that we could collect the amount of money that is considered outstanding from the Anvil Range mine in Faro, given its age. If we were to fail to make this accounting provision now, we would likely draw a comment from the Auditor General in our subsequent report.
The majority of the balance of the sums relate to recoverable expenditures on purchase of the film electrics package to be operated by the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. This is not a new initiative but is one that has been announced previously, and I understand there were some questions to which we are also providing you a written response, Mr. Chair, in your capacity as Member for Whitehorse Centre.
The balance of the sums were with respect to the Department of Renewable Resources, and the Member for Klondike asked a question: was this a new type of accounting procedure with respect to recoverable projects? No, it is not. It is simply that there are a number of different projects where we were in fact able to recover more money from Canada, and what happens is that we must expend more money and then in return we recover it from Canada. But because we are spending more money, we are seeking more vote authority for the expenditure of those funds.
I am pleased to answer any more questions in general debate on this particular supplementary.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, my concern comes in a number of areas.
It would appear that the Government of Yukon itself does not have a tax lien procedure in place. For municipal governments, itís well defined in the Municipal Act as to what tax lien procedure is to be followed and how itís adhered to. Before you go for the transmission of title, thereís a whole period of time that elapses, some four-plus years, Mr. Chair.
In the case of the Government of Yukon, the Minister of Finance indicated previously, Mr. Speaker, that we write off 20 percent of those that are a year old as being uncollectible and, following that, itís depending upon specific circumstances. So what Iím looking for from the Premier is the specific tax lien procedure that the Government of Yukon follows, if it indeed does follow a tax lien procedure, which it apparently does not.
The other concern that I have, although it is of a lesser degree, Mr. Chair, is that it appears that, by writing off this $765,000 of outstanding taxes from Anvil Range, that the Government of Yukon, due to the fail-safe components of our formula finance with Canada, recovers $1 million.
So, it is in the best interest to write off as quickly as possible those amounts that are deemed uncollectible, because we seem to come out ahead of the game unless something is not conveyed correctly by the ministerís previous statement.
I asked the Minister of Finance if anyone had calculated the impact on the formula financing agreement and the Premier, as Minister of Finance, indicated that revenues times the perversity factor is the way to calculate the impact on the formula and the estimate at this point is about $1 million. I would see that as $1 million flowing to Yukon from the feds, to replace the write-off under the fail-safe components of the formula financing agreement.
So, I guess what Iím looking for is further clarification on those points, Mr. Chair, and if the minister would be so kind as to provide them, I would appreciate it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a couple of points. On the first question, with regard to the taxes, I stated, the member is quite correct, 20 percent of the taxes that are a year old ó what happens is that, at the end of the year, there is an examination of all the taxes that are outstanding, and an allowance of 25 percent ó I erred, it was 25 percent, not 20 ó is written off on those overdue accounts.
The member is quite familiar with allowances for the debts in the accounting financial statements.
The written policy is more within the Department of Community Services. I will follow up with the member and provide him with a written answer as to the procedures that are followed in that regard so that he has an answer in writing in case I have been less than clear in my verbal response to him in the Legislature.
With respect to the amounts and the formula financing, what happens is that the Government of Yukon records that property tax as revenue in any given year. So, in recording it as a revenue, it reduces our grant, or our formula for funding from the government. The concern is that, although it has reduced the formula in that given year, weíve never actually collected the funds, so thatís what weíre raising with the federal government. Although on paper we have said that we get X amount of money when weíve raised X amount of revenue, including the amount from property taxes ó and theyíve reduced our formula by that amount ó we didnít actually get that money.
So the formula negotiations are ongoing now, and thatís a point that we have raised. This allowance for bad debts, if you will, is not something that has been factored into the formula previously, and itís something thatís being discussed in formula discussions now.
Mr. Jenkins: Letís back up a little bit to the tax lien procedure. Iím sure the Minister of Finance is aware that under the Municipal Act all municipal governments have a tax lien procedure that has to be followed and adhered to before they can go for transmission of title and before they can write off the debt.
Does the Government of Yukon have a similar set of rules as the municipal governments have for tax lien procedure, or is it just an ad hoc policy? Which is it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The officials have advised me that there is likely a tax lien procedure. Itís within Community Services. Itís not within the Department of Finance. We will endeavour to provide the member opposite with a written response.
Mr. Jenkins: I am very, very uncomfortable with the lack of the Minister of Financeís understanding as to whether there is a tax lien procedure or not. "There is likely a tax lien procedure." I am very uncomfortable with that kind of response, Mr. Chair.
Further to that, there was published in February of this year a whole list of tax lien procedures signed by the Deputy Minister of Community Services for Yukon, as to being in arrears. Could the minister tell the House how this is determined, because there doesnít appear to be a tax lien procedure in place for Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, the administrative procedures and so on, on this area ó for example, when taxes are in arrears, there are separate procedures, if you will, under fee simple owned lands and non-fee simple owned lands. But these are largely responsibilities that are carried out by the Department of Community Services and not so much by the Department of Finance. So, I would again advise the member opposite that I will review the Hansard again and provide the member opposite with a more detailed written response.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, it appears that the write-offs that are published in the paper by Community Services apply only to fee simple lands in Yukon. When it comes to the mining leases and the mining claims where Yukon is the taxing authority, there seems to be some other internal way of treating it, because these numbers never come to the publicís attention in any publication. And I would like to know why. If Yukon is deemed to be the taxing authority and they are the collector of taxes, then how come they do not treat this in the same manner as they treat fee simple land? Is it because they donít go for transmission of title at the end, or do you not register a lien? I am missing something in this whole equation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If it will help the member opposite, I will provide him with the explanation I have been given by the Department of Community Services. On non-fee simple lands, the Assessment and Taxation Act allows for a number of different remedies as it relates to the occupants or agreement holders on non-fee simple held lands.
The process is unlike that of a fee simple lien process, in that we cannot lien Crown land and we are left with remedies against the occupant, owner of the building or chattels. This process does not require public advertisement. As noted, the Assessment and Taxation Act is the guiding document with respect to the assessment and taxation process, and there is not a written policy on this specific matter.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you. Iím finally getting to the crux of the situation, Mr. Chair, and I have some concerns with what the minister has just advised the House ó first and foremost, that no one is made aware of the amount thatís outstanding. Why?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít have any further explanation, other than what Iíve offered the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíd like the ministerís assurance that sheís going to be sitting down with her officials and weíre going to see a policy forthwith on this area. Because I believe that when mining companies ó of which the Government of Yukon is the taxing authority ó are in arrears, that information should be made available to the public, and it should be published in a like manner as taxes that are due and receivable on fee simple property.
Because at the end of the day, whoís winning and whoís losing? And why are we hiding this information? Because Iím aware of three different mining properties: Anvil Range is one, BYG is two, and United Keno Hill Mines in Elsa was three.
Now, Mr. Chair, if we extrapolate what weíve just discussed with respect to write-off of debt, my question to the Minister of Finance is with respect to the amount that was due to the supposedly arm's-length Crown corporation that is no longer, the Energy Corporation ó which provided electrical energy to Anvil Range ó because of a Cabinet decision, the terms for credit extension were extended.
Under the Yukon Party government, the Government of Yukon sent the money ó the amount that they were extended by ó over to the Energy Corporation, and that bad debt was assumed by Government of Yukon and the ratepayers were not impacted. Now, in a like manner, I would have been of the opinion that the similar treatment of that bad debt should have occurred when it subsequently happened again, which it shouldnít have, Mr. Chair. Likewise for United Keno Hill Mines ó that the bad debt be assumed by the Government of Yukon, that the cheque be written by the Government of Yukon to the Energy Corporation, and that all of us are not made to pay for a political decision to extend credit above and beyond the normal terms.
Under the formula financing arrangements, we stand to recoup from Canada because it has got a fail-safe component in it, Mr. Chair. We wonít recoup it all in the same manner as the taxes, but a case could be made to recoup that money instead of all of our power bills having a Faro surcharge on them, because basically thatís what it boils down to.
Now, we have this fail-safe component in the formula financing; why isnít it being utilized right across the board, Mr. Chair?
While the Minister of Finance is at it, could she ascertain the number of dollars that are outstanding in delinquent taxes from all of the mining claims throughout the Yukon? I think sheíll find that it is quite substantial and I think sheíll find that the treatment of it in past years has not been a sound treatment from government standpoints, especially the fact that this information is not made available to the public.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have already committed to the member opposite that I would examine the issues that he has raised. He started out by asking that I undertake immediately to meet with officials and develop a policy in this respect. I have already committed to the member opposite that I will follow up on the issue that he has raised, and I certainly intend to do that as soon as I am able.
With respect to the argument that he has presented with regard to Anvil Range and electrical costs and previous decisions by government, I am going to review his argument in detail when I review the Blues with officials on that as well.
With regard to the property tax questions, again the information on taxation on non-fee simple lands is not made public. I do not have an answer as to why not. Again, I will look into developing policies in consultation with the Minister of Community Services.
With respect to the question the member has asked on outstanding taxes on mine sites, on mine sites, the amount we have been able to determine that is owning at this point is $116,949.44. On placer properties, it is $144,781.19. Itís my understanding that there have been allowances taken on both of those figures.
Mr. Jenkins: I would ask the Minister of Finance to paint the complete picture and add back in the allowances that have been taken in prior years. What has been the total amount that has been taxed, what has been collected, and what has been written off in previous years? Because there have been allowances, and there have been write-offs in previous years. Letís get that information out in the public domain. Itís all hidden.
Now, thereís also the issue surrounding uncollectible taxes, if you want to refer to them as that, or uncollectible grants-in-lieu from the federal government, where the Yukon is a taxing authority. All that information is not in the public domain. Will the minister provide that information?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iíve indicated I will provide the member with a detailed written response.
Mr. Jenkins: My first question, Mr. Chair, was dealing with the issue surrounding the outstanding taxes on mining claims and mining properties, but we have the other issue where the Government of Yukon is a taxing authority. Previously, the grants-in-lieu division of Canada would not pay any grants-in-lieu on vacant Crown land ó they would only pay it on the improvements. Nothing has changed there, Mr. Chair, but now, under the land claims, thereís a formula where the First Nations pay 10 percent more each year of the grant-in-lieu, or the tax components. Weíre into a little bit of troubled waters with respect to how that money is flowing. It has not come before this House; it has not even been discussed.
What Iím asking for from the minister is a complete overview of that area, from a fiscal standpoint relating back to the specific parcels of land in question. Will the minister agree to provide that information?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, we have probably got into a little bit of a mine field here, in that the minister spends a great deal of time on briefings on this area and it is something that, as Minister of Finance, she should have been aware of but has not been aware of. And I would encourage her to get up to speed on it very quickly. The area that I am remiss in having a complete and thorough understanding of, and would very much like to have more knowledge in, and what I am asking the Minister of Finance is: could she kindly ask her officials to provide me with a briefing on the formula financing, this fail-safe component of it, and the whole area surrounding this somewhat complicated area of federal financing? Would the minister agree to provide me with a briefing?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have done that in the past and I will continue to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier again tell us what the accumulated surplus is for as of March 31, 2001, and can she also tell us what the accumulated surplus is as of March 31, 2002?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can assure the member opposite that I am well-acquainted with the figures in the supplementary budget, as he is on S-2. The accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2001 is indicated at $99,122,000. I would also advise the member that he continue his reading and note that the forecast annual deficit for 2001-02 is $49,273,000, which leaves a forecasted accumulated surplus, March 2002, prior to lapses, prior to contingency reserve, of $49,849,000.
We have, as do most governments, estimated net lapses and revenue changes. We also have a formula accumulated surplus. We have also taken, as I have indicated in several budget speeches now, a contingency reserve, leaving an estimated accumulated surplus as of March 31, 2002, at $63,849,000.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the accumulated surplus is $78,849,000. Thatís what it is, and the Premier can take out any types of dollars and put it away and take it out of the real numbers, but the fact is that that is the number ó $78 million. Iím sure that the Premier will give directions to all members of the Cabinet to review that short line so that when we do ask the ministers, they all understand that there is over $78 million in accumulated surplus, and Iím hoping that would take place.
Mr. Chair, one of the initiatives brought forward by this government is renewal. Can the Premier tell us what the total cost of renewal was for the fiscal year of 2001-02?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, in the Supplementary Estimates No. 2, which is currently under debate, we have asked for supplementary funding on a number of items. Renewal is not one of those items. The budgeted amount was $895,000 in that fiscal year. We are not seeking supplementary funding for renewal in this budget.
Chair: Order please. The Premier is quite correct. General debate can be quite general, but if the item is not even discussed in the budget, then we ask members to stay with items to the discussion.
Mr. Fairclough: The capital budget and O&M budget are listed in the supplementary budget. Both are listed. Even though there are zero changes, we still can ask questions in general debate, and Iíd like to clarify that through the Chair.
Chair: As long as we are not going into items that arenít here because, as zero votes, we donít generally ever ó the precedent has been, in the past, that we can generally discuss zero votes, but there is a time and place for that. To keep order in the House, we would ask that members focus on the votes and items in this budget, because there are only three. We will certainly get a chance to discuss Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, at the appropriate time.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand that there are a number of changes in this. There are not many in the departments, but I would like to know what the cost of renewal was and how it may have been affected by increased costs in these departments. Thatís where I am going.
Chair: If you are following that line of questioning, I have no problem with that kind of relevance.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask the question of the Premier again. Can she tell us what the total cost was in the 2001-02 budget year for renewal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It was budgeted in the main estimates at $895,000, and this 2001-02 supplementary does not request ó thank you very much ó additional funds for renewal. In the variance reports, which the member will be familiar with, that will be accounted for at year-end.
Mr. Fairclough: Was there a cost for renewal in the Department of Renewable Resources? Was there a cost there? Was there personnel dedicated to ensuring that renewal worked?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are no additional costs in the supplementary budget that is currently under debate for renewal. Not in the Department of Renewable Resources, not in the Department of Tourism, not in the Department of Finance. There are no supplementary costs in this budget. I have told the member opposite that there was $895,000 budgeted for renewal in the 2001-02 main estimates. We debated them at length. How precisely all of that $895,000 was spent, I can advise him that the accounting work for the fiscal year is still being completed and it is my understanding that not all of that $895,000 was spent or will be spent. These are preliminary figures. We have not closed off the year-end books yet.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier is asking us to approve spending that already took place basically in the last fiscal year, and in some departments it has gone up. Iím interested in the real cost of renewal. Was it absorbed by the departments? Could the electrics package, for example, have been absorbed by the department?
I am wondering because, if there is a cost for renewal and we didnít have to go through this process, I would like to know. Thatís my question to the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: All costs, Mr. Chair, aside from the $895,000 that was outlined in the budget and was voted upon in this House, have been absorbed by departments.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that. We have been trying to get this answer out of the Premier for awhile.
We on this side of the House would like to know what those costs were. If the Premier can send a breakdown of what renewal was with all the departments in the fiscal year of 2001-02, we would appreciate getting that information. Can the Premier do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have indicated that although the year-end has not been closed, as of yet, weíre working on that. I will provide the member opposite with the information.
Mr. Roberts: This is a bit of a maiden voyage for me into finance, and Iím sure a learning one for me. My question to the minister: is it not true that the Auditor General makes a comment every year on every budget of one form or another?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Auditor Generalís information back to this House can take two forms: it can be comments, and there also can be qualifications made to statements, and it is the qualification to the statement that is of concern because thatís where ó the sense is one of a negative reflection when it comes to qualifications.
The member indicated that he was new to the reports. There are two that are often tabled. One is the Report on Other Matters, and the other is the Auditor Generalís report, strictly on the books. Theyíre a bit behind on the Report on Other Matters.
Mr. Roberts: So itís quite normal for the Auditor General to have qualifications or comments from year to year.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Comments, yes; qualifications, no.
Mr. Roberts: When weíre looking at the $765,000 that weíre trying to write off for Faro, was that a comment or was that a qualification? Or has it been at all commented on, at this point, or is it still open for debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is again a difference between comments and qualifications. If we did not take this bad debt, if you will, for old property taxes at this time, there is a sense and an understanding that we would receive a qualification from the Auditor General. So what happens is that the staff go through all of the books, and they keep track of all of the monies and the different amounts, and they take a good, hard look at them. And a qualification is a negative report, if you will. The member is most familiar with and speaks often of his background as a professional educator. It would be akin to receiving a negative report card. Itís a negative qualification, and that is why the sense is to be taken at this time.
Mr. Roberts: And so, Mr. Chair, we get a negative report card. What does that mean? What happens when we get the negative report card? Is it just a qualification? Does it mean that monies are deducted? I wonder if the minister could give me a response to that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I shouldnít have gone down the road of an analogy. When you receive the qualification, what it basically says is that the financial records as you have published them do not truly reflect the state of finances of the territory. Thatís what a qualification would do. So itís very negative, should we then have been in a position where we were to borrow.
Mr. Roberts: That is a bit like quick sand then. It is a moving force and it doesnít really have any effect on the total budget or the total amount of money that we received from the federal government. There are no negatives to a qualification then. Is that correct or not correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no impact on cash, as the member is suggesting. It is very negative and one I take seriously. We are duty bound to speak the truth and to reflect the books as an accurate reflection of our financial picture. To receive a qualification means that you have presented less than accurate information to the public, so I take that very seriously.
Mr. Roberts: I guess the line of thought that I am going down is that it is very obvious that we seem to have some financial problems with surpluses, what they are, whether they are $99 million, $78 million, $63 million, $49 million. I believe that what we would like to do, as independents, is ensure that we look for monies that we can pay down, or pay for programming that we believe should be in the budget or should be in our programming for this coming year.
So I am going to be presenting an amendment that is going to hopefully bring forward some of those extra dollars that we need for such things as drug and alcohol programs, children in care, training trust funds, whatever they may be. Hopefully, because it's a qualification and there is no negative impact, that could mean that we are not going to be seen financially as it being a negative but seen as having a little more money in the pot so we can use these dollars for very much-needed programs.
So Iím going to read ó
Chair: Order please. Just to ensure that this doesnít happen very often, let me get this through to all members. If there are going to be amendments to budgets, the amendments should come when we actually reach the line item. So we would ask members to finish general debate, and then when we get to line items, if there are amendments to come forward, thatís when they are to be presented.
Mr. Roberts: I will just close off by saying that I think it is very important that we should be supportive of and helpful to the government in trying to find ways in how we can bring forward programs that are in some ways in need of some financial support. Thatís the approach that I believe we should be taking as a collective group. So thatís why I am going to be bringing forth this amendment.
Hopefully it will be seen by all of us as being the right direction, because there are a number of items in the budget that we would like to come forward with that will bring about some of these savings to help government bring forward those programs that I think Yukoners expect.
So I think that hopefully thatís where weíre coming from. Obviously the Legislature will make that determination, but I think itís the right direction. I think Yukoners want us to do the right thing and this is one way of trying to do it ó by, instead of attacking, trying to support and trying to find ways of doing it without making sort of a negative process that is going to have longer impacts down the road.
Mr. Jenkins: Before we leave the issue surrounding write-offs, I pose the scenario to the Minister of Finance, of the electrical debt that Anvil Range left when they closed. I want to know from the Minister of Finance if the Department of Finance could make a case for that write-off if it were sanctioned by Management Board to be treated in the same manner as the accounts receivable for property taxes and if we could go back to Canada under the fail-safe component of our financial agreement with Canada and recover, depending on the perversity factor, that amount, if not more.
What is to preclude us from doing that? Iím not aware of anything specifically detailing that area in the fail-safe. I have asked for a briefing so I might be enlightened, Mr. Chair. But could the minister advise the House where we would stand on that very issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite knows that I havenít hesitated to discuss issues with the federal Finance minister when it comes to recouping from old disputes, so I certainly wouldnít hesitate if that were possible in this case.
Revenue from the electrical energy and generation is treated separately under the formula than revenue from property taxes. I think his question will be cleared up in the briefing, but I will attend the briefing as well and ensure that the memberís questions are answered.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iím aware that revenue from electricity is treated differently from revenues from property taxes under the financial administration arrangements that Yukon has with Canada. What I asked the Minister of Finance was if that debt were sanctioned by Cabinet, as it was, and Government of Yukon wrote a cheque to the Energy Corporation, then it appears to come under a different set of rules and it would be an obligation that Cabinet, or Management Board, has sanctioned that has not come to fruition. Because the intentions of Cabinet, or Management Board, when they granted that credit was that it was going to be completely recoverable, in the same manner as, when Yukon was the taxing authority on those mining claims, they anticipated that it was going to be recoverable.
But we have subsequently learned that neither the taxes nor the electrical charges are recoverable, nor will they be paid. Now, in the case of the taxes, it appears that thereís a method to go back to Canada and recover that money from Canada under the fail-safe and, taking into consideration the perversity factor, weíre going to recover some $1 million, according to the Minister of Finance, for an indebtedness of $765,000. So those of us in the business world ó your ears perk up and say, "Hey look, how else can we use this wonderful arrangement the Yukon has with Canada to benefit Yukon?" And that would be another area.
Now, Iím sure the Department of Finance officials havenít thought thoroughly through this whole process as to how we could go on the electrical rates and recover it from Canada, but there appears to be a case that could be made. Is the minister ready to follow up on this initiative? Because right now, each and every one of us who pays an electrical bill has a federal surcharge on it, Mr. Chair. I know in my case it amounts to almost $500 a month for the 20-odd bills that I receive. So weíre all paying, and I donít believe that should be the case, because that decision was made by Management Board to extend that credit. Under the Ostashek government, Yukon wrote a cheque to the Energy Corporation. That same process wasnít followed the next time, Mr. Chair. The Energy Corporation was allowed to hang out to dry and take the write-off. Is the minister going to follow up on this initiative, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, a couple of points. First of all, I indicated with respect to that about $1-million figure that this was a new, if you will, area under the formula that we may ó we are looking at ó we might recover. We have no sense of whether we will or not. It is under discussion and, now, the member is making quite an interesting argument, and it is not one that Finance officials have presented before in discussions around the formula. As the member opposite knows, it is a Cabinet and Management Board decision. It was not made by this government.
I have not hesitated in the past to go before the Finance minister and make Yukonís case. On several occasions on old disputes, as the member opposite will recall, it was all members of this House unanimously supporting a motion ó when I was seated over there ó that enabled the Yukon to recover long-outstanding monies on a dispute with the Government of Canada in the Department of Health and Social Services.
So, it can work. Sometimes these old disputes get resolved. I will look again at the memberís argument. Iíll go through the memberís argument and, if there is a case to be made, I will try to make it.
Mr. Jenkins: Is the Department of Finance making any contingency, or setting aside any reserves, for obligations due to Canada under the arrangement whereby Yukon acquired Northern Canada Power Commission? There is a dispute between the Energy Corporation and Yukon as to when the trigger is pulled to repay for repayment. And, at a certain point, the principal and interest repayment stops and no interest accrues on the outstanding debt.
Now, from my recollection the last time I asked this question, we have surpassed the point with hydro generation, even though the mine in Faro shut down, because it was basically to protect Yukon consumers when the Faro mine was shut down.
But Yukon has gotten into secondary power sales; Yukon has gotten into utilizing more hydro ó and rightly so. Iím not disputing that we shouldnít be using all the hydro we generate. In fact, I would advocate that we increase our dependency on hydro and use more electric heat than anything, and explore these areas to get us off diesel.
But there is a dispute between Yukon and Canada on the formula by which the assets of the Northern Canada Power Commission were transferred to Yukon. What contingency reserve has Yukon set up to meet this potential obligation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon has not made any allowance for this. The member may wish to direct his question to the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the arrangements between Canada and Yukon for Yukon acquiring the assets of the Northern Canada Power Commission were between the respective governments. Yukon has third-partied this requirement to the Energy Corporation ó or the Development Corporation, which owns the Energy Corporation ó or what other spin thatís put on it as to how this corporation is going to be envisioned under renewal.
But the bottom line is that Yukon is still responsible for this obligation, and itís not a very complex formula. Itís a very simple formula. I was aware of it at the time, Mr. Chair, and the obligation is for Yukon to repay Canada.
Now, I want to know from the minister why there have been no set-ups in the accounts of Yukon to meet this obligation. I donít want to be spun over to the minister responsible for the Energy Corporation, because the buck, in this respect, firmly lies in the ministerís court.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member was not the only individual around when this was done back in 1985 and further on. The Government of Yukon has not set up anything for this dispute ó and Iím going to refer to it as "a dispute", because there are two sides to every story. The member has indicated that this was a deal between two governments; that is correct. The Government of Yukon has not made any financial allowance for the matter to which the member refers.
Mr. Jenkins: Is there any indication from the Auditor Generalís office that this potential conflict and the lack of a set up of reserves to meet the obligation might result in a qualified audit?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate, we will proceed directly to line-by-line.
Department of Finance
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Weíll start with vote 12, Finance, $764,000. Is there any debate on vote 12?
Mr. Roberts: I would like to move an amendment
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be amended in Vote 12, Finance, by reducing the line item, bad-debts expense, on page 1-3 in the O&M estimates, by $382,000; and
THAT the clause in the schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Chair: With the Houseís indulgence, we will just put the question on the floor and then return with copies of this amendment for everybody to read. If I hear any objections, weíll take a recess. Do I hear any objections? Seeing no objections,
It has been moved by Mr. Roberts
THAT the estimates pertaining to Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be amended in Vote 12, Finance, by reducing the line item, bad-debts expense, on page 1-3 in the O&M estimates, by $382,000; and
THAT the clause in the schedules of the bill be amended accordingly.
Is there any further debate?
Mr. Roberts: Mr. Chair, I am bringing this amendment forward mainly because, as I have outlined earlier, itís very important for us, from what weíre receiving back from the Finance minister, that we need to find all kinds of efficiencies in order to ensure that we can put forth those programs that are going to be building for the future. We have some very outstanding ones, particularly the drug and alcohol initiatives that are going to be coming forward over the next little while, and we have to start somewhere in finding the funds in order to pay down some of these costs. I believe it is the responsibility of all of us in government, as MLAs, to find how we can do this. Rather than trying to find fault with budgets, we should be able to find solutions.
Hopefully, when weíre finished with the budget, we will come forward with a multi-million dollar kind of surplus there, over and above what already is in the surplus, so that these programs can be put in place.
Iím not, Mr. Chair, willing to wait until next fall before we start programming in drug and alcohol.
Iím not willing to wait until next year to start programming in children in care and children in residence, because we know we have a problem now. The sooner we fix these problems, hopefully the fewer problems weíre going to have over the long term. Some of these programs should have been fixed long ago, Mr. Chair. This is an attempt at trying to be supportive of the government and trying to work with the government in trying to build the financial base that will provide us with that kind of support. Hopefully this will give us ó I think what we tried to say earlier ó the initiative to work together and work collaboratively. I think all sides of the House should be working for the betterment of Yukoners. It shouldnít be just on the basis of what the government of the day or the party of the day thatís in government wants but what all Yukoners want. That is a particular problem that we have in a small jurisdiction like the Yukon.
Iíve shared this earlier on many occasions. We shop; we socialize; our children go to school; our grandchildren go to school together, and yet we have more divisions in a small community like this than need be. So there has to be other ways of trying to build a consensus approach toward the future of Yukonís needs. This is one attempt at doing that.
Iíve been told and Iíve heard from the Minister of Finance that itís not going to affect us in any financial way other than possibly having, instead of a full qualification now, just a half qualification, because I didnít say we would go for the whole amount. Weíre just going for half the amount so we can start in a small way trying to contribute toward programming that I believe the government of the day wants as well. Itís not just what the opposition wants or what this side of the House wants. I think itís what all of us want. We know at times ó we get the message quite often from the Minister of Finance and the Premier that the rainy day is soon to come. It has to do with census and it has to do with all kinds of things ó that weíre not going to have the money. If you look at the projection for 2003-04, weíre supposed to have just a $1-million surplus, which, as far as Iím concerned, is not acceptable, and Iím not sure we can wait until then to find out. I think what we have to do is start working on it now. So this is why I brought forward this amendment ó to help in that way.
Itís not meant to be mischievous. I would hope that is not the intent of the motion. It is meant to be open, accountable, practical and transparent. A comment from the Auditor General or a qualification from the Auditor General that we are concerned about, I say, "So be it." It is not an issue as far as I am concerned. If we need the money now to do the right thing, then letís do that. It is hopefully with those intentions that I came forward with the amendment. I believe it is a good one. I believe it is one that would give a very clear message to Yukoners that we are collectively working together. A unanimous vote of this amendment and also the motion or the supplementary itself would also give a very clear picture to Yukoners that they are getting a very positive message from a Legislature that is willing to work together. Because, I can tell you right now, out in the public sector they are very uptight and very concerned about how a small group can create so many divisions in the population of 30,000 people, where we are barely big enough to have a small city and yet we have divided and conquered, if we want to call it that. We believe we are conquering but we are not; we are really subverting the wishes of a lot of people and I think there are some real positives in trying to move forward. So this is going to be one of many amendments that we are going to be making over the next while, hopefully, with the consensus and support of all of us here to see if we can do government in a different way rather than being adversarial all the time. I think this is an opportunity for us and I believe it would have a very positive acceptance by the public out there.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would like to speak to all members of the House with respect to the amendment that has been presented by the Member for Porter Creek North. First and foremost, I want to say it as clearly as I possibly can that I accept the fact that the member has posed an amendment in a spirit of trying to do what is right for Yukoners.
I accept that and I understand that, and I appreciate that the member is solution-seeking. The difficulty I have with this particular amendment is that I believe the member is under the mistaken idea that it would then free up $382,000 for the Government of Yukon, and thatís not the case.
The fact is that we have to account for this money, and we have to take it off of our books. If we did half now and half later, weíd get two yearsí worth of this difficult decision. Even if we only took off $382,000 now, we would still have to hold that $382,000 outside to make this allowance next year.
The member is under the mistaken idea that this would free up resources, and thatís not the case because, by law, weíre writing off an uncollectible debt. So you have to do that and have to account for it. If it were the case, then I suppose that certainly ó all members of this House feel the need for more programming dollars, especially in a couple of key areas in the health and human resources area. It has been an area, as the member opposite said, that has been long neglected over a series of governments. Weíve had many discussions in this House about this.
I appreciate the member proposing solutions. The problem is that the particular solution, because this is an accounting procedure, is not going to free up $382,000. It simply isnít. We have to account for it next year, too. So we have to hold the money in reserve.
The amendment, as proposed, unfortunately would not achieve what the member is setting out to do. Itís unfortunate, and I emphasize that I am not trying to be difficult or in any way not work with the member. I am trying to work with the member. Unfortunately, this would not free up the dollars the member is seeking. Iím sorry, but it wonít.
Mr. Fairclough: I was wondering if the Premier can give us a breakdown of that expenditure of $792,000. Is it just one? I mean, now that there is a proposed change on the floor, we would like to know how and whether or not this can really work.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: For the intelligence of the House and perhaps to illustrate a little more for the Member for Porter Creek North, I also can help on this issue, having gone through it before at Faro, in another role.
The municipality was able to be paid for three years of back taxes ó 1998, 1999 and 2000 ó only by the indulgence of the Ontario Commercial Court, Honourable Justice Farley, who decreed the municipality debit from funds that the Receiver was in charge of. The Justice refused to honour a request that the government be paid the same way ó it is a significant amount. As I recollect, the amount of taxes accruing to the Government of Yukon for properties that were outside municipalities, a third of them came from the operations of Faro. It was that large. It is not a significant amount. For whatever reasons, Honourable Justice Farley did not approve granting of the money. That was one way, by court order, that would have made this $764,000 available.
The other way that government can get the money is by the sale of the mine, and Iím sure that all members would side with me in believing that that is not a very real possibility that will occur at this time. There is no market for the mine. The price of lead is down. The price of zinc is down. The cost of start-up is too high. Nobody, world-wide, is surfacing to buy the mine, which would have helped provide some of the back taxes.
All avenues in recovering this money have been exhausted at this point. The next thing that comes down is the Premierís argument about doing the fiscally responsible thing, about how we write down assets. But I know from personal association that there is very little chance the money will come.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If I might answer the Member for Mayo-Tatchun directly, we spent $28,000 less than what was anticipated under treasury. This is because of the bank agreement and not spending some on travel and various ways that the department saved money as a whole. The bad-debt expense of $792,000 is composed of $715,000 for Faro ó or the Anvil Range property; pardon me ó and $77,000 is miscellaneous other small, bad debts that the government is deeming completely uncollectible at this point.
Again, I would just restate that we do it now or we do it later. The fact is that it doesnít free up any money and itís about being fiscally responsible and fully stating the finances of the territory as fully and accurately as the Auditor General would wish us to do and as we should as responsible citizens.
Again, I appreciate that the member is making a suggestion and is trying to deal with issues we all are very concerned about. The problem is that it wonít free up additional resources. Itís the uncollectible issue that we have to deal with.
Mr. Fairclough: There was an issue brought forward through the amendments. I was wondering if the Premier could maybe give us an answer on how his concerns can be taken care of, rather than go through this process.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly I can. In the large operation and maintenance budget that will be coming for debate, in each department there are programs that the members would ask where this fits in our accountability plan, and they would suggest we not spend this amount on it, and in other ways.
If the member opposite wishes to meet with me on a leader-to-leader basis ó and we can invite the leader of the third party and a representative, if they wish, to discuss this ó I will be more than happy to accommodate such a meeting.
Mr. Fairclough: I look forward to that debate when it does come forward on the floor, because what did take place here and what has taken place out in the public is that when communities come forward with priorities and so on, thereís basically not enough money in the budget. We have seen a reflection of some $78 million in surplus, and I think what the member is getting at is that, for the short term, if we did not spend this money, we could be allocating it somewhere else.
I look forward to that debate.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I appreciate that. Again though, I would say to the member opposite that this particular line item isnít about spending money. This particular line item is about bad-debt expense, which is different in that respect. The member opposite says that heís looking forward to the debate. So, am I to take it, then, that the member wishes to deal with all amendments as debate, or does the member wish to have any kind of a discussion between the parties? Could the member opposite answer that for me?
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, we did offer to the government side to put together committees to look at addressing things like the economy and so on, and so far, the Liberal government has not taken us up on that offer. So we look forward to the debate, because I know itís going to be brought back to the floor.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the amendment? Are we prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: The nays have it. I declare the amendment negatived.
Amendment to Bill No. 10 negatived
Chair: Back to Vote 12.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $764,000 agreed to
Department of Renewable Resources
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I would like an opportunity to explain briefly by adding a few comments at the outset. This supplementary adds a total of $75,000 to my departmentís O&M budget, which is fully offset by additional recoveries. The O&M variance covers a number of items that are largely housekeeping.
This past spring, we submitted a request for additional funds to initiate a hardship payment for Yukon farmers for forage crop losses experienced in the year 2000. The total cost of the project was estimated to be $127,500. On Supplementary Estimates No. 1, the department received approval for a recovery expenditure of $76,000 and arrangements were made to absorb the YTG portion of $51,000. The direct cost of the project totalled approximately $188,000, which was about $50,500 higher than anticipated. We were also able to include $20,000 in administrative costs as a part of our 40-percent share.
The end result, Mr. Chair, was that the total project cost amounted to about $188,000, of which $113,000 was recoverable from Agriculture Canada; and $55,000 in direct costs were identified from within the department, and the department contributed $20,000 in in-kind costs. The department was involved in an inventory of the Nahanni caribou this fall. This was a joint initiative with the Northwest Territories government. Late in the survey, Parks Canada determined that they could contribute $20,000 to the survey cost. It was agreed to share those resources between us and the Northwest Territories.
We were asked by the Fur Institute of Canada to assist in conducting marketing and contacting trappers to inform them of the changes in the fur industry and the agreement on international humane trapping standards. This is an international initiative by this non-profit organization. The total cost of the project was $14,000, of which $9,000 was identified from within our existing budget. The balance of $5,000 was recovered from the Fur Institute of Canada.
The Selkirk First Nation agreed to share 50 percent of the cost of a moose survey over the fall and winter months in their traditional area, up to a maximum of $10,000. Our conservation education coordinator attended a francophone forum in France; a major portion of the direct costs, $2,500, are recoverable from Environment Canada. The department operates an air monitoring station called National Air Pollution Surveillance, which is part of a national network of such stations. The station was previously located at the Law Centre; however, due to technical air monitoring reasons, we were asked by Environment Canada to find a new location that was better suited for monitoring air pollution.
It was decided to relocate to a small building on First Avenue that is owned by YTG. However, there were some minor renovation costs totalling $7,500. Of those costs, $4,500 is recoverable from Environment Canada. Funds expended on work we are doing in respect to marketing education for the agricultural community amounting to about $5,000 are recoverable from the Canadian Farm Business Management Council.
With those brief summary notes, Mr. Chair, I would take any comments for clarification from the members opposite.
Mr. Keenan: If I could get the minister to explain a little about the farming. The minister is speaking about some bad years in farming. Could the minister please describe the criteria that he used to establish ó and is this for full-time farmers, and how do you say that itís a full-time farmer?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With respect to the compensation that was offered to farmers due to crop ó they had an incredibly wet fall in the year 2000, and there was a request by industry that there be some degree of compensation offered. Well, at that time we were in negotiation with Canada on entering into agreements similar to those occurring within the provinces.
Now, we did reach an arrangement with the agricultural industry that this would be a one-time compensation loss exercise and that they would make application themselves directly to the department. That is how compensation was awarded.
Mr. Keenan: Thank you very much for the explanation on process. I want to know criteria and if itís a one-time ó the minister lost me there. The minister said it was one time but now itís not really one time; itís going to be ó knock on the departmentís door if it happens again. So Iím just wondering. Is there an established criterion for this? If not, will there be?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I didnít mean to confuse the member opposite. I know it is a little bit complex because we were just getting into this area, Mr. Chair, of compensation for crop loss.
The fall of 2000 was an incredibly wet year and there was substantial crop loss. Now, through the cooperation of the agriculture branch and the industry, there was an agreement reached that, for that particular fall, there would be compensation for crop loss. We are now getting into a larger agreement that has the potential to expand that program ó not exactly that one but a different set.
The member asked when it will be finished. I believe the current agreement has gone through several rounds of signature because, in other jurisdictions in Canada, there have been ministerial changes, so there is a slight delay in that. So, I canít definitively say exactly when the final agreement is going to be signed, because of the signatories that are required.
Mr. Keenan: So I was more or less just interested in the Yukon Territoryís initiative and, if it has to get signatures by other provinces, Iím not so sure. What Iíd like specifically is, if and when the criteria are developed, Iíd like to know when and Iíd like it to be tabled in this House. I certainly think that we should be supporting all industries in the territory to diversify it, but it shouldnít be done on a personality-driven basis. It should be driven on a policy basis, and I would like to see the policy. Now, if the minister is saying in the first year, in 2000, the fall was very wet, maybe that was my tears from losing an election that year. I am not so terribly certain. But itís a personality-driven initiative in that year, and I want to make sure that that doesnít happen, that itís based on good policy. When can I expect that?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: There is whatís called a risk-management framework agreement. This is what I should have identified as being signed now. Yes. And it allows each territory and province to participate with the national program, because itís usually a cost-share agreement between the federal government and territorial government on an as-needed basis. The member is also asking if there will be equity in this program ó yes, there will be, and the framework agreement will be again reviewed, I believe, in June of 2003, but I would be more than willing to provide information on the framework agreement with the member.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Renewable Resources in the amount of $75,000 agreed to
Department of Tourism
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: If I may be permitted an additional comment on the last subject question, the agricultural branch will now be housed in Energy, Mines and Resources. So, from April 1 onward ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: My colleague, the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources, will answer any future questions with respect to agriculture. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for your indulgence on that little footnote.
I am pleased to introduce the Supplementary Estimates No. 2 for the Department of Tourism. The department is requesting an increase of $225,000 to its operation and maintenance budget and $278,000 to its capital budget.
The operation and maintenance expenditures in this 2001-02 supplementary budget include phase 1 of the Welcome Alaska Campaign, with $40,000 to be added to the $40,000 already repositioned by the marketing branch. In response to changes in the travel industry following September 11, phase 1 will focus on raising awareness and highlighting the value of shopping right here in the Yukon.
In addition, $175,000 is required for the operation and maintenance budget for the severance package.
The highlight of this budget is the $238,000 in the capital funding to provide film infrastructure support that will enable the department to enter into a contribution agreement with the Northern Film and Video Industry Association. This contribution agreement will support the purchase of a film electrics package. The film electrics package is a necessary part of the infrastructure development for the Yukonís film industry growth. This package is to provide and ensure the safety of lighting and all things electrical on the film set.
It is very expensive to ship an electrics package here to Yukon. Not having this equipment available has limited the film industry here in Yukon.
This budget item will help make the Yukon more competitive in attracting film locations work, as well as assist Yukon film workers here in the territory.
A partnership between the Government of Yukon and the private sector partner will provide that infrastructure growth.
In conclusion, the department will use capital funding in the amount of $40,000, which will be used to complete an air access development plan. This capital budget item is 100-percent recoverable from our funding partners, Mr. Chair; namely, the City of Whitehorse and the Edmonton International Airport authority.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and I will take questions from members opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís good to see the Liberals carrying out some of the initiatives that were put forward by the NDP many years ago, and I do support the electrics package.
I would like to ask the minister, though, in regard to renewal ó it being a project of government. The Finance minister did say that the departments have absorbed the costs of renewal in having people direct their attention to ensuring that this project happens. I was wondering if the minister could give me a breakdown as to what the costs are in the Department of Tourism with regard to renewal.
Iím asking this question because the department has been asked to absorb this cost and these additional costs that have been brought forward by the minister were not given that direction. So can we get a breakdown of renewal, please?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Chair, with respect to questions on renewal, again, there is no specific line item in this budget that addresses any aspect of renewal, so I would ask the Chairís indulgence.
Chair: The Chairís ruling on this is that since the member has been able to draw logical conclusion from his question on renewal to budget choices made by the government, that it is a relevant question. The Chair doesnít make any decision whether the question is going to achieve the answer the member wants, but he has drawn the line of relevance.
So the questionís fair and in order.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Well, again, Mr. Chair, I guess I have to indicate the same answer that the Premier gave, that the year-end reports are not complete yet.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you. I appreciate that, and I understand that we are going to be looking at an audit in the fall and so on, but in regard to getting the extra spending authority for the last fiscal year, are you asking the people in this House to approve an additional spending authority for the department? Renewal was a big issue for this Liberal government, and Iím sure that every department took it upon themselves to tally up the costs of renewal in their departments. Iím sure that has taken place. So I would like the minister to look at this issue a little closer, because youíve been asked to absorb the costs of renewal and to table as a total cost to the department in regard to renewal.
That wasnít an additional spending amount that was brought forward today. What we do have here are, I think, dollars that could have been absorbed by the department and were not.
So, if the minister can do that, Iíd appreciate it.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe that the Premier had indicated that, upon completion of year-end reports, that would be included in there, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: I guess the instruction from the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to the departments was to bury the cost of renewal within the department. Donít bring it out; donít bring it to the forefront. So, across most of the departments, you canít find any trace of this expense, although we all recognize there was a great deal of manpower ó or person power, or whatever you want to refer to it as ó there was a great deal of government effort put into bringing about this renewal initiative, and there was a cost associated with it. Does the minister responsible for Tourism have any idea as to what it cost his department for the renewal initiative?
It seems like it could probably have been buried in-house, but about an additional $175,000 was asked for for the severance package that was given to a deputy minister, it would appear.
So, just what was the cost of renewal? And weíll be going across the various departments with the same request for this information, Mr. Chair. I think itís a fair and valid request, and itís part of being open and accountable ó something this Liberal government campaigned on, which it hasnít been able to demonstrate, as of yet.
Given that there is a cost associated, what is that cost for the Department of Tourism?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe I answered that question specifically to the leader of the official opposition. I would like to correct one statement by the Member for Klondike, in that he has suggested that the Premier had instructed departments to bury the cost of renewal. I donít believe that instruction ever went out to any one of the departments with respect to renewal.
But, as I indicated to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, we are still working on the budget figures for last year, and I believe it will be clearly indicated when those figures come out.
Mr. Jenkins: The minister is coming to this Legislature, asking us for additional money to cover additional costs. Had this renewal process not been undertaken, he would have had sufficient funds in-house to probably address these additional costs.
To tell us that he is going to bring back the cost of renewal, after the fact, just doesnít wash. Itís a very poor minister who doesnít know the cost of what he is doing, Mr. Chair, and I would urge the minister to obtain this information and provide it in this Legislature forthwith, because weíre talking about the last fiscal period. I would also ask him the estimated cost for the next fiscal period when we get into that area of that ministerís budget in the next O&M budget debate. So I want to know.
We can go another way, Mr. Chair. If the minister is not prepared to provide this information, we can stand aside this whole supplementary until this information is provided. Which way would he like to proceed?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact of the matter is that the final figures are still being put together for last year and I think it would be irresponsible of government right now to be speculating on what those final numbers are going to be. So I think itís prudent, and we have no problem with being open and accountable at a later time, Mr. Chair, with respect to the final figures that are coming forward. We have nothing to hide. It will be clear. It will be provided, and we will provide accurate, true figures at that time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, may I just add a point to the debate here? There was $895,000 budgeted in the main estimates for the costs of renewal, and that included a variety of costs such as human resource consultants as well as the accounting systems and designations. A full accounting of how that money has been spent and not spent, as it is underbudget, will be provided. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun has asked for it. Weíre still wrapping up the year-end. I can give a preliminary legislative return on that if the members opposite wish.
The fact is that there have been no other additional costs that are not accounted for in that $895,000. The costs of staff time have been absorbed within departments and are not reflected in the supplementary budget that weíre debating.
So, the $895,000 ó I will give a detailed legislative return ó the books have not been closed yet for the full year. Theyíre still doing some accounting so I will give an accounting of how that money has been spent to date. I will provide that in a legislative return tomorrow and I will also advise the members opposite that, as more information becomes available, we will provide it.
Any costs for staff time and so on were absorbed by departments, so it is simply a matter of staff taking on additional responsibilities. There is no additional vote authority for funds required.
Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, across all governments, the amount of time that has been devoted to this renewal initiative is quite extensive. What it means is that department officials spent time on renewal that they could have been spending on other initiatives ó like restoring the Yukon economy. But weíre not being told what the total cost was.
So, Mr. Chair, weíre just being told what the budget amount of $895,000 is underbudget, but thatís not an accurate reflection of what the cost to government has been for the renewal exercise to the end of this last fiscal period. The only way that a government can be open and accountable is not by a whole bunch of verbiage surrounding an initiative but by putting the actual dollars signs on the table as to what these initiatives cost. Then we have a true reflection. So without that cost, I donít see any further debate on this bill being beneficial at this juncture and I would move that we stand down this bill and move into the next bill until the information on the financial aspects of this is forthcoming. So I have a motion before the House, Mr. Chair: I move
THAT we stand down Bill No. 10 at this time until the financial information is forthcoming with respect to the renewal initiative.
Chair: Order please. While the intent of the motion is certainly understandable at this point, the procedure would be, Mr. Jenkins, that you move to now report progress on this bill and we bring it back another time. So if you would like to move the motion again, it would be that we do now report progress on the motion.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The motion to adjourn or to report progress is non-debatable. So then at what opportunity do we on this side have a chance to advise the member opposite that the matter before the House at this time during debate is not ó the budget item in the supplementary is not supplementary funding for renewal. He is asking us to withdraw or report progress and adjourn debate on a matter that isnít even under discussion, or shouldnít be. The link is not quite there, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Youíre right, Ms. Duncan. This is where logic and procedure in the House donít match. The fact is that the motion on the floor is procedurally correct. And whether or not explanations are allowed to be given, youíre right, itís not debatable at this point. Itís based on voice vote or division.
So, Mr. Jenkins, did you want to formally move the motion ó to procedurally do that ó or did you want to leave it alone?
Mr. Jenkins: Well, after listening to what the Chair had to say, what is the correct procedure? I just want to stand down debate on this bill at this juncture and bring it back after all of the information is provided.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Then what you do ó
Mr. Jenkins: I move that we report progress on Bill No. 10.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress on Bill No. 10. Are we agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Chair: I canít tell the difference. I will call the vote again. It was a tie in my mind. Iíll ask again because the Speaker couldnít tell on a voice vote which side ó it has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we do now report progress. Iíll ask for a voice vote. Are we agreed or disagreed?
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Chair: Division has been called.
Chair: We will now poll the House. The question before the House is that we do now report progress on Bill No. 10, Supplementary Estimates No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Chair: Will all the yeas please rise?
Chair: Will all the nays rise?
Chair: Mr. Clerk, can you give us the results?
There are six yeas and nine nays. The motion to report progress has not been passed. We will continue with debate on Bill No. 10, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02.
Department of Tourism
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just like to bring conclusion to the points with respect to renewal for the satisfaction of all members. There was $895,000 voted in the mains in the capital budget that passed this House. The fact is that of that $895,000, the funds that I am aware of are underspent. Those funds were spent on such things as human resource consultation and switching over account coding. I will provide a detailed list of how that money was spent, I hope, tomorrow. I will commit to ensuring that there is a legislative return for them tomorrow on that $895,000.
The members opposite are very concerned with the staff contribution to the process of renewal. The fact is that staff members participating in renewal were asked. It was not a "thou shalt" ó it was a request to staff members. Their time has been given voluntarily. The member has said it is time that could have been spent on other things. Well, for example in Energy, Mines and Resources, one of the key individuals was one of the key individuals who was also responsible for preparing for devolution, so you could argue that they were, in fact, simply doing their job.
The cost and the hours of work in overtime hours ó it was not an overtime-hour type of billing situation, but it was a contribution that members of the public service willingly and voluntarily made. I do not believe that the cost estimate of that particular has been done. If the member wants to have some kind of accounting of that, I will endeavour to get it for them. I will not provide it tomorrow. I will provide the detailed list of how the $895,000 was spent.
Those additional funds for renewal are not requested in this supplementary budget.
Thank you for your indulgence, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I take it that the commitment from government is not only to bring forward the costs that were budgeted for renewal but all costs associated with renewal in all departments. Thatís what I gather was given, and thatís what we on this side of the House are requesting: the personnel, the hours dedicated to this project, and so on. I know that a lot of overtime hours were spent, for example, during the Easter weekend; they were dedicated to this project. That is a cost to government over and above what was budgeted for here, and there are all kinds of costs associated with renewal. Thatís what we want on this side of the House ó the real cost of renewal.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have indicated time and time and time again on the floor of the House that Iím prepared to provide the members opposite with as much detailed information as we possibly can get. Mr. Chair, I have to ask, with all due respect, if the members opposite will respect that we are endeavouring to get that information to them.
Mr. Fairclough: I realize that. I donít believe the information will come tomorrow. I think you can bring a breakdown of the $892,000 for us tomorrow, but I believe the others would take a bit more time in calculating the number of hours that each person has been spending on this project, and thatís what weíre getting at. I know that can come later. Can the Premier let us know how much later we can expect this information to come forward?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I will seek the information the member opposite is asking for. It is going to be very time-consuming and very difficult for people to go back and divide their half-hours or meeting hours. I will endeavour to get the best answer I can for the member opposite as soon as I possibly can.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to ask the minister: when can we expect the two positions of the Film Commission that are gone ó when can we expect to see those positions filled?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe that we can expect those positions to be filled within a month or so.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us how much business has been lost because of these vacant positions?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I donít believe there has been any business lost due to the vacant positions. We have had support provided by two of the key individuals who have assisted, and I donít believe there will be any loss, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell us what the minister is doing to secure the television series, Call of the Wild in the Yukon?
Chair: Just to ensure ó we have a bemused look on the ministerís face ó this is general debate on Tourism, and this specific line actually has to do with the Film Commission, so thereís nothing out of order here.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: With all due respect, Mr. Chair, could I have the member ask the question again?
Mr. Fairclough: I was asking the minister what he is doing to secure the television series, Call of the Wild, here in Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I have indicated through public statements to date, we are awaiting word back from CineView on their status of securing the funds that they were obligated to follow, and I think it bears repeating again that weíre certainly committed to the project. We have already committed approximately $12 million over five years. So weíre still committed to the project, and weíre just waiting to hear back from the principals.
Mr. Keenan: Iíd like to ask the minister about the electrics package and who is going to hold tenure for the electrics package. Iíd like to ask the minister about the electrics package under the Film Commission. Who is going to hold the tenure on that package? Will it be held within the department? Will it be held by a society? Will it be held by the commission? Will there be a charge for the use of it? Will that charge for the use of it be put back into the main package?
That was the thought a couple of years ago, and Iím wondering if that thought has changed.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: First of all, we are very fortunate to have been able to secure a brand new electrics package for industry here. It is a partnership. The NFVIA will be administering the use of the package. We are still putting together a fee schedule for the use of the package and components of the package. The fact of the matter, as I had indicated in my opening comments as well, is that, due to the fact that we have an electrics package right here in the territory now, fee uses for the electrics package will be reduced in the territory but there will also be a reduced fee for Yukon users of the package, as opposed to folks coming from Outside and using the package.
Mr. Keenan: Would the minister please explain to me if this ó the minister said something about a partnership. Is the partnership only in the tenure, or is there going to be a part of the capital costs turned over to the society?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As I believe, the agreement that has been struck is that, for a period of five years following the date of the agreement, the recipient shall pay any surplus accruing to it from the rental of the electrics package. The surplus amount of income, if any, from the rental of the electrics package that remains after the operation and maintenance costs, such as insurance, storage and communications, the maintenance and inventory repairs will be applied with those extra monies.
Mr. Keenan: Okay, thank you very much. And I can take assurance from there that itís going to pay for itself and itís good for the industry and the government is fronting the total capital costs, correct?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Correct, Mr. Chair.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of 225,000 agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $1,064,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Department of Tourism
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Tourism in the amount of $278,000 agreed to
Capital Expenditures in the amount of $278,000 agreed to
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
On Clause 1
Clause 1 agreed to
On Clause 2
Clause 2 agreed to
On Clause 3
Clause 3 agreed to
Title agreed to
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, out of Committee without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that Bill No. 10, Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be moved out of Committee without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that we now move into Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, upon taking a 15-minute recess.
Chair: The order of business shall be to proceed with Bill No. 9, as requested by the government House leader. We will take a 15-minute break to allow officials to be replaced and for people to get their research done. We will reconvene at 4:30 p.m.
Chair: We will now proceed with general debate on Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This document completes the main estimate budget process for the coming fiscal year. It follows upon the tabling last fall of our capital main estimates for 2002-03, which is a course of action we chose on the advice of the contracting community and one that has met with virtually universal acceptance and appreciation.
Among many things, we are a government that listens and is not afraid to accept good advice when itís offered in a spirit of goodwill for the benefit of Yukon citizens.
The estimates before us today call for spending of over $446,600,000 for operation and maintenance purposes ó one percent more than forecast spending in the year just ended. In addition, we require $371,000 for loan interest and have set aside a contingency reserve of $5.5 million.
Combined with previously approved capital spending, these estimates will produce an annual deficit of over $41 million for the year. This is a level that is clearly not sustainable over time.
We expect the accumulated surplus on March 31, 2003 to be reduced to approximately $25.9 million after taking into account a notional reserve of $15 million as a cushion in the event of an unfavourable census.
Our long-term plan lays out the future of our finances as we see them today. We will maintain an accumulated surplus, albeit far smaller than todayís, and narrow the gap between revenues and expenditures until they are in balance.
These matters are of course somewhat skewed by uncertainties surrounding the census results. The final census results will not be known for more than a year.
I have mentioned that we are keeping $15 million of the accumulated surplus as a reserve in the event of a bad final census count. This may not be enough, or it may be too much. If it is even possible, we could gain on the census, as we have in the past, although a significant windfall is very highly unlikely.
The fact is that, at present, we have no idea where the matter will eventually end up. It all depends upon the undercount calculations for Yukon and for Canada and, as I mentioned earlier, these will not be complete until the fall of 2003.
I have also previously gone into a lengthy explanation that itís not just one year, but that it goes back over a series of years to 1996. So, at the risk of sounding like ó itís a cumulative impact, over a series of years. So, itís quite a substantial bill.
Given the raw data that has been released, and if we assume the same undercount percentages for ourselves and for Canada as we have in previous census counts, the impact may be neutral. In other words, the estimated population we have used to calculate our formula grants over the past five years would more or less reflect the actual results as revealed by the census.
I know all members here are very aware of the sensitivity of the formula to very small changes to its inputs. This means that, if the undercount calculations vary by only a very small amount, it will have a large impact on our finances. This is the case because it would mean that our formula grants for the previous five years were wrong, and they would have to be re-calculated.
This involves a compounding effect that could mean a large retroactive adjustment to our federal transfer payment, just as I tried to explain a moment ago. As an example, a negative adjustment of 1,000 people, which is admittedly a high figure, would mean a one-time retroactive adjustment of $39 million and an ongoing annual loss of $13 million. So if we look at the revenue transfer from Ottawa line item, Iím asking members to imagine that with a bill for $39 million and $13 million less.
I spent a lot of time on this particular subject, both with individual citizens at their doorsteps in my riding and in other ridings, with individual members of the media in explaining this, as they carry a large message, as well as with individual members. And Iím more than prepared to go through again with members, if they would prefer not on the floor of this House ó but the retroactive sample calculations that Iíve gone through with others. Iím more than prepared to sit down with any member who wishes to go through it.
Itís a difficulty that we face. And I say "we," Mr. Chair, because all members here face this difficulty.
This is a challenge that it poses to the budgetary process. In all good conscience, on behalf of all Yukoners, we have to look and be very aware that this is a possibility ó a very real possibility ó even were we certain of a neutral census outcome. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that we were sure that it would just be neutral. We are already spending $41 million more than what we take in, and no one can sustain that kind of deficit budget for very long.
It follows a deficit of about $20 million in the year just ended, and there is clearly a limit to how much the accumulated surplus can and should be drawn down all at once, especially in light of the ongoing nature of programs. Itís very clear that itís not simply a million-dollar cost for XYZ program this year, but itís a million dollars next year and the year after, and the year after.
With operation and maintenance expenditures, very clearly, thatís another difficulty that we face. To draw it down even faster will make future budget decisions that much harder, because we canít continue with this rate of decline on the surplus.
We believe that the course weíve chosen achieves the optimum balance between financial security and ensuring that we maintain the services for citizens.
Weíre proud of the work we have done in working on these estimates and the initiatives they contain for Yukoners. They reflect the long-overdue renewal of government and, Mr. Chair, the accountability planning that we have chosen to introduce with renewal.
Restoring confidence in government is one of our principal goals, and our renewal and accountability initiatives will go far to accomplish these goals. For far too long, governments have not been accountable to taxpayers in anything approaching the way the private sector is to their shareholders and their customers. The Yukon government was no exception to this fact, and Yukoners told us just that many, many times ó not only during the election campaigns, during our door-to-door visits, but during our work as members of this Legislature. The accountability structure and process we are implementing, beginning with this budget, is our response to that concern, and I know it will pay large dividends for all Yukoners in the coming years and for all future legislators.
At the same time, the reorganization aspect of our renewal initiative will smooth the way for devolution and provide much better service to the public. Mr. Chair, I believe all members support the idea that the public deserves the very best from their government.
The creation of a service centre, moving the Whitehorse liquor store, and new phone standards and improvements to on-line services are very important initiatives, of which we are justifiably proud of the work we have done. Mr. Chair, they are just the beginning of an ongoing and continuing process that will make the government more user-friendly for Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, we are also continuing our work on the blending of cultures within the Yukon government, in terms of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Yukon government employees, as we blend departments. In the new Department of Infrastructure, for example, weíre blending the old Government Services department and the transportation branch of the Department of Community and Transportation Services.
These are clearly issues that will require both work with Yukoners and with our public service.
As important as renewal and accountability are, they are one example of the progress that weíre making in meeting the promises we have made to the people of the Yukon.
Recent completion of four land claims, the initialling of memorandums of understanding and the negotiatorsí initials, the successful conclusion of devolution discussions and the investments weíve made to improve the territoryís infrastructure, are among other examples of our progress that come to mind.
In some ways it has been a short two years. We will continue to take the steps necessary to carry out the promises that we made to Yukon citizens ó promises and commitments that we believe will improve the circumstances and the quality of life for all who reside in this territory.
I spoke at some length in my budget address about some of the many initiatives that the estimates contain. There is additional money for First Nations curriculum development, the reading recovery program, teacher professional development and teacher mentoring.
The budget for the Department of Health and Social Services has increased substantially, due in no small part to the operational cost of the new long-term care facility.
Funding for the Child Development Centre has been increased, as has funding for family and childrenís services.
Our physical infrastructure has not been forgotten, with almost $4 million being allotted to BST rehabilitation and patching. Over $2 million more will be spent on gravel resurfacing and the production of aggregates, while roughly $1.5 million has been set aside for line painting, brush and weed control and bridge maintenance.
More than $1.5 million has been reserved for industry development and research in the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, and this is in addition to over $7 million budgeted for marketing.
These are but several of the many examples this operation and maintenance budget contains of our commitment to spend money wisely to the benefit of the residents of the Yukon. Ministers will be speaking to each of these as we make our way through the lines in Committee, and we welcome the questions from the members about the initiatives.
This budget is about keeping commitments and improving the life of Yukoners. Itís about being accountable for every one of the taxpayersí dollars that is being spent. We are proud to be able to present it to the House and look forward to the support of members for the many worthwhile expenditures we are proposing for people for the coming year. I would be pleased to answer any questions of a general nature that members may have.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís interesting to hear again from the Premier that this O&M budget is about keeping the commitments that this Liberal government made to the public, and I would like to refer right back to the time the Liberals were elected. They committed to bring forward an NDP budget, and they proceeded to cut it up and dismantle it. That was a broken promise, and I can tell the Premier that this is not forgotten by the public.
Just over the weekend, in discussion with constituents in my riding, this was raised again. There was a promise made and a promise clearly broken by this Liberal government. And, all the way through in regard to the NDP budget, the smaller things that were in the budget were promised by this Liberal government, and most of those are being dismantled as we speak. It was again another broken promise, and the Premier also said that this budget is about being accountable to the public. I would like to see it clearly spelled out to us on this side of the House how this budget is more accountable ó which holds the elected members running the government more accountable, rather than having the deputy ministers take on the accountability side of government.
I would like the Premier to answer that question in response to my remarks here. Mr. Chair, there is so much that is not in this O&M budget, and I said previously that I was surprised the Premier did not tie in the capital budget to the O&M budget and spell out the picture for Yukoners over the next fiscal year. That didnít happen, and what Yukoners have seen is an O&M budget. Thatís the budget they see for the fiscal year 2002-03. Thatís what weíre dealing with.
Itís supposed to be all about people, but when you really look at it, it doesnít address the economy. What it does do is ó itís government looking inwards, at itself. A restructuring, renewal, and all these questions weíll of course be asking the Premier to answer also.
Over the past two years, Yukoners are still waiting for some of the things that should have been done over the past year. The Mayo school is one of them. Bringing forward a capital budget in the fall also is all about getting people to work earlier in the spring and summer. I would like to ask the Premier if she can answer that question ó whether or not that is working for this year.
Mr. Chair, there have been so many broken promises by the members opposite. They said that they had listened to Yukoners and this is the budget that reflects what theyíve heard from Yukoners, but I think itís far from the case. We see, for example, the College asking this government to do something other than what they have been doing. They donít want to see the training trust fund cut, and neither do communities because it does impact on the community ó getting job-ready in the recession that weíre in.
And this Liberal government says they listen to people. What happened to that? Did they just conveniently not listen to the people at the time? Why werenít the training trust funds included in the budget? The Premier had full opportunity to bring this forward to the floor of this Legislature, but chose not to. So clearly itís not about listening to people; itís about some of the promises that were made on the doorstep. Itís unfortunate that we have all the way to that in this Legislature today.
The Premier and every minister have said that there is no money. Mayo, for example, asked for a fire truck. There is no money in the budget. The government does not have the dollars, yet everybody can read ó they all read the surplus. No clear message was given to the communities about what they would like in the budget and what they would like to improve their communities. Again, thatís unfortunate because it is community people who see fewer dollars spent on their issues.
The Premier has made all kinds of promises that, of course, they are not going to keep. There are some key ones they say they are going to keep, like the Grey Mountain School. They made two promises there; one promise had to be broken. That was good fiscal management. They really looked at it closely. They could provide the facility to the students of high grade, using Selkirk Elementary School, for example, and save some $3 million to put into community projects around the territory, not just in Whitehorse. The minister knows we have people leaving the communities. I think itís the first time I have seen in my own community a fairly large percentage of people leaving. Itís because there are no jobs. They are coming to Whitehorse. Many Whitehorse residents have left the territory, and many of the people from the communities are here in Whitehorse.
Many of them are in school at Yukon College, and again, itís unfortunate that both ministers of Education ó the previous one and this one ó could not bring forward a good argument to have training trust funds reinstated with Yukon College. Being good fiscal managers, you can see how this money could leverage additional dollars from the private sector and other governments.
In the O&M budget, there was no mention of this government looking at diversifying the economy. We have been told to wait for the pipeline. For how long must Yukoners have their head in their hands waiting for a pipeline when we wonít see gas flowing down this pipeline until 2012? So thatís a far-off plan. We have seen things like the trade and investment fund buried by this Liberal government, not brought forward because it was something good that another party and another government had done. That could have gone a long way if there had been some initiative shown by the Liberal government, but they chose not to do that.
We donít have any long-term plans in place to address the whole issue of the economy and jobs in the Yukon Territory. The Premier said that this O&M budget is all about people, but the people who are unemployed certainly canít see very much in this O&M budget. Itís unfortunate, again, that the Premier couldnít tie this to the capital budget, because messages to Yukoners are important. Weíre in a recession right now and, basically, what was given to the public was a very poor message.
There are also, I would say, some hidden monies in the budget. I know the Premier refuses to acknowledge that. We have permanent funds and so on that have all kinds of dollars in there that arenít going to be spent and it doesnít make sense to spend the interest at this point in time when the interest rates are so low.
There are other things also that are attached to a higher cost than weíve even seen. Renewal is one of them. The Premier said they would bring forward some detailed accounting of the costs of renewal for each department, and I look forward to that.
The Premier said that, when in opposition, they were not fans of deficit financing, but weíve seen nothing but deficit financing by this government.
Also, weíve seen a change in the matter of months in the governmentís long-term projections, so I would like to ask the Finance minister, the Premier, why there is such a change in the projections ó only a few months ago with the capital budget to what weíve seen now.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I believe the member opposite is referring to the long-term plans that were tabled in the capital that showed larger capital expenditures than they do now. The differences ó the amounts are the same. Part of it is lapses and part of it is due to expenditures in O&M.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím looking in this section of long-term plans, under government projections. And from year to year, we see a surplus that is quite a bit different than what we have now. Iím just wondering why thereís such a difference between what you had only a few months ago and now. What really changed the numbers? I would think that theyíd be fairly close to one another.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the differences are the lapses in things like the Canada Winter Games and the one-time adjustment funding. So thatís where the difference is and where the member is spotting the difference. We had that adjustment made overall to the financial statements that we debated and it was shown in the capital. Thatís the difference.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, those numbers are a huge difference from year to year down the road, and itís almost double, basically, what the member had brought forward in the fall. Well, I shouldnít say double. Thereís a difference of approximately $3.5 million in lapses. That means thereís actually more money that government has. But in the end, the surplus is quite a bit lower than what you had in the fall down the road. So Iím just wondering: is there a change in spending priority of this government to reduce that surplus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have two points. One is the Canada Winter Games. There was a commitment of money, and weíre waiting to hear from the federal government as to whether or not they are prepared to commit as well on that. So that money has to be revoted. So part of that is revotes. And the other part is ó the reality of the fact that operation and maintenance expenditures of the government have increased. Thereís, as I outlined in my budget speech, the cost of collective agreement, working with our professionals. That denotes also our respect for those professionals. That includes our medical professionals, our teaching professionals, as well as the programming.
There is programming such as the extended care facility, and the operation and maintenance of that has increased the expenditures of government quite substantially. Thatís the difference.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, it throws me off a bit to look at the long-term projections on that because I would think that it was reflected from the previous years or whenever it was introduced. So, I donít think the Canada Winter Games would be a big change in the type of numbers we are seeing before us now versus only a few months ago. Is there anything else the government is doing to increase spending that would see this surplus going down?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would ask the member if there is a specific page of the budget document that he is looking at ó if he could just outline that.
There has been no significant change that I can point to. But I would like to be looking at the same page that the member opposite is looking at. Maybe I could better understand his question.
Mr. Fairclough: I am basically going through the operation and maintenance address that the budget speech is in, and I am looking at the long term. I am looking at both this one and the capital budget that was produced. I see ó like in here, 2004-05 ó that you have and will show to the public that we will only have $1 million in surplus. That means that we are spending an awful lot of money, and really we donít have any more room to move in by the time 2004-05 rolls around.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, again I would say to the member opposite thereís no one significant project that I can say accounts for this change. I would have to go through line by line. I would also point the member opposite to, under "less net expenditures", the net operation and maintenance expenditures, the member opposite can see a significant growth there from the 2001-02 projected actual to the 2004-05, where there is about an $11.5-million increase. So, that process is going up, and the surplus has been drawn down, and the drawing down of the surplus is reflected in lower capital expenditures forecast for the coming years. Also, there have been monies set aside, and there is an ongoing situation of net lapses that is expected. But thatís standard from the government.
So, there is no significant accounting change, there is no significant point that I can say to the member opposite, "This is accounted for by this." The fact is, overall, the costs of government continue to grow.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I would have to say that this particular page, which is given to the unions, to the public and all those who are looking at the budget, actually throws people off. I would say itís very poorly done, and I would like to see a change in how we put these numbers together to better reflect the true numbers, I would say, that Yukoners are looking at. Because what is being said here is that there will be only $1 million in the bank in only a matter of two years from now, and I think itís pretty significant giving that type of picture to the public.
So, Iím wondering if maybe this could be looked at and reflected as an improvement in the next budget that is brought forward to the floor.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is suggesting that we are being less than accurate, and thatís not the case. This is a true picture. The difficulty that we have wrestled with is the same difficulty that every other government across the country has wrestled with in terms of things like health care costs, which show a significant $14-million increase. The member says that operation and maintenance expenditures ó weíre showing an increase between 2001 and 2002, and 2004 and 2005, of $11.5 million.
So, that means that $14 million more in additional health care costs ó a good portion of that is being absorbed. That means there are programs that are now being delivered that, in the future, we couldnít deliver. This is the reality of the cost of government. Theyíre not inflated; theyíre not anything less than accurate.
The member is right; itís an alarming picture. It is alarming. We are very worried. Thatís why I said to the member opposite that we canít continue to spend in the neighbourhood of a $49-million deficit, or a $41-million deficit. We canít continue to do this. We have to take a good look and be accountable for these dollars, and ask, "Is this a program government should be delivering?"
There is no change between the way Iíve presented the numbers, as the Minister of Finance, and the way the membersí colleague, an honourable member of this Legislature for 18 years, presented the numbers in his two terms as Minister of Finance ó or it could be three. Thereís no change in the way theyíve been presented. It is real and, as the member has said, alarming. It is concerning, and Iíve been trying to say that to members opposite for a long time.
Itís not some political spin. This is the cold, hard reality of the numbers, and we all, as legislators, have to grapple with them.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier says they are accurate numbers but actually they are projections. It has gone up from, say, $407,000 in 2004-05 to $411,000 in a matter of three months. So thatís the projection the government is giving to the floor, but weíve seen such an increase in just a matter of months.
I am just looking at the net increase in O&M between the fall capital budget and the one that is presented today. So thatís why I am asking whether or not government can come forward and maybe improve the system that we do have here, because we know that O&M is going up; we know what the cost of government is. The Premier is also, I believe, in the mind of not having deficit financing in the Yukon and basically doing away with that, but we see in the books here that we do have deficit financing for the next five years.
The Premier also said that we need to address the cost of government O&M and so on. I was wondering what the Premier has and will bring forward to see a reduction in cost to, say, O&M over the next year or so.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Itís ó tough is the best way to describe it. In this operation and maintenance expenditure budget, we have held the percentage change to overall one percent, I believe is the figure ó yes, the gross budgetary expenditures is a one-percent increase, and then we achieve some recoveries. Even holding to that is extremely difficult for each department.
We did that overall, while allowing for a five-percent increase in Health and a two-percent increase in Education. So, the difficulty is, how does any government continue to provide the top-notch quality services and programs that Yukoners have come to expect and still live within their means? I appreciate the references back to the deficit budget debate I had with the former Minister of Finance. It was a lesson I learned well on the floor of the House.
We have gone through renewal. We have made some significant changes ó an overhaul that has been long overdue. That will result in some savings, in terms of governance and so on, but that wasnít the object of the exercise. The object of the exercise, and the object of the work, was to prepare for devolution ó which we also have to continue to do over the course of the coming year ó and ensure that the transfer of funds is enough. In terms of better services, we are also working toward that end ó to provide better services for people.
My short answer to the member opposite ó and I probably should have just given that and sat down ó is that itís extremely difficult to look at any O&M reductions. Itís very difficult. The members opposite need only think back a couple of months. To look at any program is very, very difficult.
That being said, the other question the member had was, how does one account for the differences that are printed in the long-term plans under O&M?
We had set targets and had hoped to achieve those. However, very clearly, departments could not meet those and still continue to provide the programs and services. That is where a good portion of the increase for operation and maintenance comes from ó being able to deliver the existing programs that we have now.
Mr. Fairclough: I could see where the operation and maintenance may increase, for example, with the increase in wages to employees and so on. That is never going to be reduced, I donít think, ever again. Probably no party would bring that forward ó to have a reduction in employeesí wages.
Given how we are continually growing in our O&M, does this Liberal government have any plans to address that, other than through restructuring government to reduce the costs of running government in O&M?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, weíve done renewal that looks at the structure of government. I think the member is asking if we have any plans to do a Nielsen-like task force on program review. The answer is no.
We are very interested, and the member knows this very well, because my colleague from Riverdale South has asked about it every session of the Legislature since she was first elected ó in terms of the better ideas program, where employees have been able to submit. We are certainly interested in that and are working toward that end.
And employees have come up with some very, very good ideas already in the process of renewal and organization. But the short answer to "do we intend to do a Nielsen-like task force on program review?" ó no.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier tell us on this side of the House how much we can see renewal having an impact on O&M? Can we see it with a reduction of one percent, or are we looking at something a little higher?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can talk about it in one example that may be of use to the member opposite. In the corporate governance legislation that we tabled, the member will see that, for some areas where previously there was a deputy minister responsible, that now it is a general manager position. So that is one area where there is a reduction in an O&M for an item ó so that is one area.
It may also be that there are more areas that come to light as people work together. More efficiencies, if you will, may be revealed. For example, as transportation and engineering branch work with Government Services and property management agency, there may be more areas where there are more collaborative efforts, and they may be able to recommend savings to the government, and that is certainly something that we look forward to. But, those savings, again, are in things like fuel expenditures, time ó they are not positions per se, thatís not what I am referring to, with the exception of those three under the Corporate Governance Act.
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly the government side has a better understanding of renewal than we do on this side of the House or the public does. I am wondering if the Premier can compile these cost savings and forward that information over to us on this side of the House.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, these are areas where we anticipate. I have already tabled the Corporate Governance Act for the member opposite. These other areas are things that are coming to light as the organization plan is implemented and as renewal is implemented. I could give a "for instance" to the member opposite.
I have been neglectful, Mr. Chair, in that I should have asked the member opposite ó he has asked if the government has suggestions for savings on operation and maintenance expenditures on that line item. Iím wondering if the member opposite has suggestions as well. I should have asked earlier.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier has a lot of resource people to work on this. I would think itís part of renewal and thatís why I asked the question.
I would like to ask the Premier, Mr. Chair: as a result of renewal, are we seeing layoffs in the public service at this point?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think the member is asking that question out of the ó I mentioned the corporate governance and a change in positions. In that particular instance, no. With that corporate governance aspect there were no layoffs. I think the total number, I was advised ó again, there were 202 vacant positions ó 30 positions that were to be filled. And I have been receiving weekly reports from the Public Service Commissioner as to how many positions were left to staff. The last report I had was nine or 10. I believe the total number of individuals who have been laid off for one reason or another is three.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier said that there are no layoffs as a result of renewal and that 30 positions in the 202 vacancies will be filled.
I was back in my community this weekend, and I spoke to one person who worked in Ross River and said they were laid off as a result of renewal. Thatís why I asked the Premier what positions are out there. Are they layoffs, or is it because of a movement of positions between departments or whatnot that weíre seeing people not being able to continue the jobs that theyíre doing. This person said they were laid off and it was a result of renewal. Thatís why I asked the question.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is asking about a personnel issue. We donít get into individual cases on the floor of the House for personnel issues. I am more than happy to meet with the member opposite and go through this instance and provide him an answer for his constituent.
I say again that there were 200-plus positions that were vacant throughout the government. And once the organization charts were complete, there were 30 positions to be filled. The last I have been advised is that there were nine individuals still waiting for staffing.
Again, there is a large difference between positions that are vacant throughout government and term positions. There is a major difference in those. Term positions have existed in the past in the government and will continue to exist. They exist for very good reason. They are not term positions and are also for a term ó for just that, a term. And thatís the reason for them, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím trying to determine whether or not there have been any layoffs as a result of renewal. I would like to ask the Premier about the weigh station operators ó what happened to those positions? They are no longer there. Is that a result of renewal again?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I want to be certain that I have clearly on the record exactly what I have said today. When the organization design was completed, we had 30 people ó I have been using the term positions, but itís 30 people ó who required placement in alternate positions. There were 202 vacant positions in which those people could be placed. All employees were notified of their status. Of the 30 who required being placed, 10 were left to be placed as of late last week, and we are working to find alternate positions for those particular individuals.
Now, at the very initial media conference when I announced renewal, I was asked the direct question, "Will there be layoffs and how many?" I said at the time, and I said throughout, "I donít know. Weíre dealing with organization charts." And it wasnít about anything other than preparing for devolution and providing better services. I have told the member opposite that, as of last count, I asked the Public Service Commission how many people had received a layoff notice, and I was advised three, as of last week.
So, three layoff notices ó now, thatís for one reason or another. Again, I would say to the member that, if he wishes to discuss individual cases ó because we donít get into personnel issues on the floor of the House, other than in the broad terms I have mentioned ó Iíll be more than happy to have the Public Service Commissioner and/or the minister responsible and/or myself meet with the member.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít wish to get into individual cases, but I bring it forward. I asked a question about whether there were any layoffs as a result of renewal. I was told yes, and a few minutes later we see that there are three. We have 172 other vacant positions. Whatís happening with those positions? Are they being filled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is of utmost importance that we deal with the 30 individuals, and there were 10 left to deal with ó that they be dealt with first, and thatís what we are doing. As to when the other positions are staffed, that is a matter between the deputies and the Public Service Commissioner.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Chair, I would think that this type of thing goes on all the time, that there are advertisements for positions in the papers, but what weíve seen is a freeze on hiring of these 202 positions take place. So when can we see advertisements in the paper to have these positions filled? Because there havenít been any for these positions.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there have been plenty of advertisements in the local papers on any given day, not only for Government of Yukon positions but elsewhere in the private sector, as well. The fact is that to do the responsible thing and the right thing by employees when designing an organization chart, we had to be sure that we were able to offer employees an opportunity. The fact is that throughout this entire process, there has never been a freeze. It is a staffing watch, which is a huge difference, Mr. Chair. For example, if the former deputy of the former Department of Community and Transportation Services required a grader operator in Eagle Plains, then of course that position was filled.
It has never been the governmentís desire to hold up any of that sort of position, or a nurse, a community nurse, or any of these other positions. Clearly, where there are vacancies and where thereís an opportunity where another individual under the organization chart might be desirous of that position, a staffing watch was in place. Now, the staffing watch has been alleviated. Itís a matter between the Public Service Commissioner and the deputy, when theyíre going to staff their positions, to make sure that those employees who, in an organization chart, when their positions were changed and they sensed an opportunity and challenge elsewhere, they had an opportunity to seek that. We have worked very hard at that, and I really have to commend the Public Service Commission and all of the government, because people have worked very hard at ensuring that people were first and foremost of importance in this process. Thatís what weíre continuing with ó trying to work together to work on the cultural aspects of the renewal process as well.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, maybe we can ask to get a better definition of what the staffing watch really meant over the last several months. Can the Premier tell us, on this side of the House, how long the 202 vacant positions have been vacant?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of positions that have been held vacant, as of April 1, 2002, so that they were available for employees whose positions were no longer required as part of the renewal reorganization. What Iím trying to say to the member opposite is that they have accumulated over time. This 202 is the total vacant positions that were identified as available, and a number of the positions have been filled. The first priority for those vacancies was given to employees whose positions were no longer required as part of renewal.
For example, when departments were restructured, there were some vacancies and some individuals who thought "You know what? I would really like to go to that new department". And so that opportunity was presented. Departments are currently reviewing all the vacancies to determine which ones need to be filled and which ones need to be changed. And, as the information comes in, as the deputy minister works with it ó they work with the Public Service Commissioner. Is there someone who could fill this job still left on this list? If not, can we get the job description written and can we start to advertise? That process has happened and I think the job advertisements have been put forward all along. I expect that the member opposite will probably start to see more of them.
Mr. Fairclough: I remember having this discussion in the fall, and the 202 positions were there at that time. How long has the Premier known that there was this high a number in vacancies in government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have been getting numbers all the way along through the renewal process. To some degree, really, the staffing watch was dealt with as part of the Public Service Commission.
The final picture of 202 really didnít become clear until the organization charts were complete because there has been a lot of work done on the organization charts.
Just to go back through the process, the departments and the functions that they would fulfill were named in December, and so it wasnít until November/December that a decision was made, that okay, XYZ function is going to be ó for example, economic analysis will be delivered by the Department of Finance. So that decision is made, and once that decision is made, it is incumbent upon the Department of Finance to build the organization chart ó okay, this is where this fits.
Once those organization charts were complete, then it was a look across the government to say, yes, this is how many vacancies there are and, whatís more important ó because letís not forget about the focus of people ó there are this many people who will be looking to fill them. So the two most important numbers of 202 and 30 were made clear to me in ó Iíll get an exact date but Iím thinking late February, early March; the spring has been rather lengthy. So thatís when I knew, and the key focus has been on making sure those 30 people have been placed.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís obvious then that a lot of these positions were not filled, given the direction of the staffing watch to ensure that these 30 positions are filled out of the 200. Basically, there must have been a direction from government in all departments not to backfill any positions in order to take care of these 30 people. Was that the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again I say to the member opposite, the staffing watch was put in place. However, a staffing watch just simply makes sure that ó it ensures that essential functions and essential positions are filled. It also ensured that, when the organization charts were complete, and we learned that there were 30 people who we would certainly like to be able to present an opportunity to and be able to work with in the future, that we had some positions for these people to fill ó an appropriate position for these people to fill.
A number of positions were held vacant so that there were positions available for these employees whose positions were no longer required as a result of the renewal reorganization. So, a number of them have now begun to be filled, and first priority was given to those employees whose positions were no longer required as a part of renewal. Those two numbers are 202 vacancies and 30 people. Again, as of late last week, my understanding was that we were down to 10 positions left. I could probably provide the member with an even smaller figure tomorrow if he wishes, because I believe that number has been reduced further, as of late last week.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I would think that number has increased with the film commissioner leaving the position. I would like to ask the Premier, because renewal was a big thing during our last sitting and we were to see the structures put in place in December, and then we moved to January and then February ó it kept moving back. But itís quite obvious that the outline of the structure ó the main part of it ó the departments knew about. I believe the 30 positions were identified at that time, and we have heard, even as far back as November, the number of 200 came to us at that point.
So, Iíd like to ask the Premier when the staffing watch was put in place.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: June 2001.
Mr. Fairclough: June 2001 was when the staffing watch was put in place. In other words, the direction is that the numbers and the position identified at the time ó any government is not going to just have their employees being laid off. The first thing you have to do is look at positions for them. This was put in place as early as June 2001, so I would have to say there was a hiring freeze at that point in time.
Mr. Chair, in addition to the 202 vacancies that the Premier has identified, we would like to know whether there were more, because what weíve seen are advertisements of positions in the paper that are not counted as part of the 202, and those are being advertised. Is that taking place while these vacancies are ó positions that are being opened up now are being filled because theyíre needed versus the 202 vacancies? Is that still carrying on at this point?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the government embarked upon the renewal process in June of 2001 ó publicly announced it. There was a staffing watch put in place, and it was a watch ó a watch only, so that departments continued to fill positions as they required them. If there was a necessary position, it was filled. At a point in time when the organization charts were done, there were 202 vacant positions, and there were 30 people who needed positions. There are not still at this point in time 202 vacant positions. Certain positions were held under the staffing watch. I mean, clearly, where there is a position within a department that has to be filled and is necessary, that has been done. There was no hold put on that position. The jobs were advertised; positions were filled. Where, letís say it was an accounting position in a department, and under the organization chart, they will require more accounting positions because theyíll be dealing with more financial work, those accounting positions might be part of the 202 vacancies that were listed when the organization charts were done, in which case the department is starting to fill them. Those have been filled.
So, there are not 202 at this point in time. Iím explaining to the member opposite that, at a given point in time, there was that many and that was how many people needed positions. They had lost their positions as a result of renewal and the reorganization of departments, whereby functions they may have been doing were now being done by another department.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, the Premier listed one type of position throughout government that was held vacant. Can the Premier tell us what other types of positions were held vacant for this purpose throughout the whole renewal process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, they were of all types. Clearly, where it was necessary and the position was needed to be filled right away ó an example I used was a grader operator or a nursing or teaching position, or something like that ó clearly where it was necessary and had to be filled, it was, and that has been done.
All types of positions that ó you know, if it could wait or if it could be something that didnít have to be filled immediately, in light of the fact that there was a restructuring going on, it wasnít filled. It was held, if you will, until the organization charts were done. Once the organization charts were done, positions were filled, as soon as we possibly could, and most especially with employees whose positions were no longer required because of renewal ó especially with those employees, because fundamentally this is about people, people who provide good service to the public of the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Could the Premier then tell us when we will see these advertisements for these jobs? I would think that some of them may be the same job. For example, where it is secretarial work, it may be listed. If you want to save money, you wonít be advertising one for every department. Youíd say that approximately 10 secretarial positions are needed. When are we going to see this blitz of advertisements in the newspapers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I donít anticipate it as being a blitz. As departments are working with the Public Service Commission, first and foremost we are doing our absolute best to ensure that 30 people are placed. And, as I have told the members several times already, we are down to 10 or less. As itís clear that XYZ position isnít going to be one that one of those remaining people would like, it is being advertised, and the Public Service Commission endeavours to have and reach efficiencies wherever they can. So, by that I would mean having administrative assistants positions advertised as a group. I am certain that they do achieve those efficiencies wherever they can.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the Premier tell us if all organization charts have been completed?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, to the best of my knowledge, they have. I understood late last week that there were some questions surrounding one department. To the best of my knowledge, they have all been completed.
Mr. Fairclough: I am wondering if the Premier can give us that information because the previous information about the five new departments and restructuring of government in general ó some of those organization charts were not complete. So, if they have been completed, when were they completed ó just recently? We are looking at hiring people. I would think that they have already been completed, every one of them. I am just wondering if we can get that organization chart ó the new and revised one, the latest one ó over to this side of the House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To my knowledge, as I said, theyíre basically done. Iíve seen them and worked with them, of course without any individual names attached ó itís an organization chart, a very high level organization chart, so I will provide the member with a legislative return tomorrow on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I think itís pretty important that we at least do see the charts on this side of the House.
Can the Premier tell us when departments were basically given the direction to go ahead and fill these vacant positions? Was it right after the five new departments were publicly announced or was it as of April 1?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The process was this: the organization charts were completed, there was an assessment and there were a number of positions held vacant so that they would be available for employees whose positions were no longer required as part of renewal. That figure of vacant positions was 202. The figure, when the organization charts were completed, of people who required positions, was 30.
The Public Service Commission has been working very, very hard with departments, with employees, to ensure that those 30 people have a look at and have opportunity at those 202 positions. We now have less than 10 ó 10 or fewer ó individuals who are left to be placed. Departments, as it has become clear that the vacant positions in their organization chart are not required for these people, have started to work with the Public Service Commission in filling those positions.
So they have started to fill those positions, as it has become clear that these 30 people ó weíve worked hard with them first and foremost.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand what the Premier is saying. I just wanted to know when the direction was given to departments to go ahead and fill these positions. Now, are we still waiting to have the other 10 filled first and those positions secured before we go out and do this? The Premier said that it was the middle of February when she first realized what the new structure really looked like and the type of positions involved. I would think it would be soon after that that the departments had the go-ahead to fill these positions. I just want a date. When was the direction given?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I just want to be clear on the record for the member opposite. Iím going to go back and check the date of the approval of the organization charts so that Iím not being misrepresented in any way in the House. So before the member gets fixed on that mid-February date, I want to double-check that date and provide it to him.
First and foremost, we have been concerned about people. So departments have worked individually with the Public Service Commission on staffing positions. I canít give the member a clearer date than that ó that once organization charts were complete and approved, the Public Service Commission has worked with individual departments in staffing positions. There likely will be more, I anticipate, over the coming months as the departments staff up and fill the positions within the new organization charts. I canít say it was XYZ date at 5:00 that we said, "Go fill all these positions." Thatís not the way it worked. It was, "Okay, the organization charts are complete." Thereís a lag time and a lot of individual cases in all of this. Fundamentally, itís about people, and what weíve tried to do is work as humanely and sensitively as a good employer should throughout this process in working with staff.
I am confident that the member opposite will see more positions advertised in the near future as these other vacancies are filled in the government.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand what the Premier is saying. The organization charts were basically announced publicly. It was around that time that the direction was given out. Thatís correct, isnít it?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, I understand that. We donít really need to know the exact date. We know it was around February some time.
Between June and February, we have had a tremendous number of vacancies in government. That should affect, I would think, the lapses we show here in government. I would think it would be close to $1 million in wages ó or $800,000 in wages. Is that reflected in the lapses that are before us today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is thinking that if a position wasnít filled, then it was just vacant and that the budgeted wages were not then paid. The fact is that departments did have some of the work completed, in some way or another. With the reorganization, the tasks of the department have changed, and now the positions must be staffed. So, there may be some lapses due to renewal, but it doesnít account for all of the lapses in any way.
Mr. Fairclough: Small as it may be, is the Premier saying that weíre not seeing the lapses in the figures that we have before us in regard to the vacancies, or is it tied right in there with the lapses that we see before us today? Is it the savings in not filling these positions that is reflected in the lapses in the departments, in the figures we see today, or is that something additional that we may see reflected, say, in the audit or something?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Itís part of the rough estimate of the lapses, and thatís a very rough estimate. At year-end, in the final accounting, we will be able to pinpoint that figure more exactly, but itís part of the rough estimate.
Mr. Fairclough: In Government of Yukon projections ó Iím back to the long-term plan here ó it appears that the Liberal government doesnít have any confidence that devolution would take place. Why arenít those figures reflected in what we have here? Do we not know what the true numbers are at this point?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, we do, Mr. Chair. The devolution transfer agreement ó we do know the numbers. They are not included in this, in part because the devolution transfer agreement had not received royal assent when this budget was being prepared. It was still in the Senate and the House in Committee stage when the budget was being prepared. It has now received royal assent but the member opposite will recall that was in the last week of March so thatís why itís not included in here. The transfer is in the neighbourhood of $30 million.
Mr. Fairclough: So, during this sitting, will we see another piece of paper come forward and be tabled in this House in regard to the projections of Government of Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, the reason being that the devolution transfer is also supposed to be a zero sum to the government. In other words, weíre supposed to receive $30 million and weíre anticipated to expend that much more by delivering those programs. So thatís the other reason why itís not included. First of all, it had not received royal assent. Secondly, it is anticipated that not only will the income go up but the expenditures will go up by the same amount. So, no, there will not be an additional piece of paper tabled.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím sure that the general public would be very interested to see the type of dollars that would be coming into the Yukon. It would be in our projections over the next couple of years, and it should be reflected if we kind of know what the numbers are for the net amount of monies coming in and so on. Iím hoping that the Premier can bring something to the floor of this Legislature in that regard.
In regard to devolution and positions coming over from the federal government, the 30 positions that the member talks about ó are these some of the positions that we see being filled by the federal employees coming over or are they just Yukon positions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I absolutely have to chastise the member opposite ó I donít want to do that. No, no, no, the federal positions have nothing to do with this.
We, the devolution ó the organization charts prepared by departments were prepared pre-devolution and there was a subsequent one prepared and is being prepared post-devolution. Actually, it is in the preparation stages. So, these positions are strictly Government of Yukon. We are only dealing ó when I talk about the 202 and the 30 ó I am only talking about Government of Yukon employees and Government of Yukon programming. It is all pre-devolution and has nothing to do with job offers to the Government of Canadaís employees.
I am sorry to be so sensitive with the member opposite on this particular subject, but it is a misunderstanding that has been perpetuated in the public and itís not correct, and I really have to use this opportunity to say how separate and distinct they are. This is strictly Government of Yukon pre-devolution, and that we are duty bound, as part of the devolution agreement, to offer positions and to be sure we can deliver the programming under the devolution agreement. We have no knowledge, at this point, how many employees may or may not transfer over.
Mr. Fairclough: I would think that the Premier may have a good idea of who is coming over from the federal government to the Yukon. I donít think that is a hard thing to do. The Premier said that the O&M budget and restructuring of government was all about devolution and preparing for devolution. And that was the message given in the last sitting, when asked the questions in regard to vacancies, and so on. Now we have a slightly different story that is being told by the government. I would like to ask the Premier then: the 172 positions remaining ó are they going to be filled for sure, or is there still a watch on some of these positions?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have to disagree with the member opposite. We have been completely clear on this with everyone. Renewal is about preparing for devolution. People who deliver water resources programming, land disposition ó like land use permits ó and fire protection are three really good examples. People who deliver those under the Northern Affairs programming, under their budget and under their authority, have to know, as Yukoners, not only where their desk or firefighting equipment, which department itís going to be, but that thereís a position there and that they are welcome here. Thatís a part of the cultural aspect that is really, really important to us.
We will not repeat the mistakes that Air Canada and Canadian made when they merged companies. We will not do that. These are Yukoners weíre talking about, and weíre talking about delivering services to Yukoners. So thatís the cultural blend Iím talking about. So those employees had to know that, yes, not only was this government prepared to deliver all those programs, they had to know which department they would be in, and thatís about preparing for devolution. We as a government had to prepare for that, too.
For example, land transactions have been scattered over all kinds of branches in this government, and it makes sense to have them in one location and under the authority of one department, as opposed to a half a dozen different places. So thatís what renewal was about. Thatís what weíve done through to the point of the organization charts. When we announced the departments, then there was a sense, okay, forestry will work under and be lodged within Energy, Mines and Resources; water is part of the Environment portfolio. Those sorts of decisions were made based on the input of in excess of 800 employees ó both Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development employees and Government of the Yukon employees. They made suggestions about these.
We sifted through hundreds of interviews and pieces of information to make that decision. We spent a long time doing it and used a lot of paper and papers, I might add. Hats off to the implementation teams that worked on this.
So, those decisions having been made, the next step was the organization charts, and thatís for existing Government of Yukon employees. So, thatís done pre-devolution. And thatís been done, and thatís where the 202 vacancies and 30 positions ó that does not deal with an offer of employment to Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development staff. Those offers donít even go out until the fall, I believe. I will double-check on the exact date for the member opposite ó this fall, in preparation for April 1, 2003.
So those offers havenít even gone out yet. So, no, I donít know. And for the member to say I have been been misrepresenting to this House is not fair. I have been very clear on that. We do not know how many employees will come over. We know the number of employees that deliver that program now, but we donít know how many of them will take up an offer. We have no way of knowing that until the offer has been made, and that will be done in the fall.
So thatís the situation with the programming. And, again, I say, number one, the important decision was deciding what department that programming would be in; number two, the organization charts, pre-devolution, have been done, and; number three, the organization charts for post-devolution, when those programs are actually here, are being worked on in preparation to ensuring that there is an offer of employment made to employees. And, most importantly, on the basis of all of that, is people and making sure that we do a really good job making everyone feel a part of delivering good services to the people of Yukon in this programming.
Mr. Chair, in light of the time, I would move that you report progress on Bill No. 10.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Duncan that we do now report progress on Bill No. 10.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 10, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2001-02, and directed me to report it out of Committee without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 9, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 15, 2002:
Land Inventory, review of (Government Audit Services) (January 2002) (Duncan)
Fixed Assets Management Review (Government Audit Services) (January 2002) (Duncan)
Investment Procedures and Trust Funds, review of (Government Audit Services) (January 2002) (Duncan)
Trade and Investment Fund, evaluation of (Government Audit Services) (January 2002) (Duncan)
Yukon Economic Outlook 2002 (April 2002) (Duncan)