Tuesday, April 16, 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.
If there are no tributes, I will continue to introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have a legislative return. On April 15, 2002, in the Committee of the Whole, I committed to provide more information, and I provided that to the member opposite.
Mr. Speaker, I also have for tabling correspondence I received from Mr. Hughes, the Conflicts Commissioner, with respect to amendments to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling three letters: one from the Yukon Agricultural Association, one from the Yukon Chamber of Mines and one from the Klondike Placer Miners Association.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Withdrawal of motion
Speaker: Before calling notices of motion, the Chair wishes to inform the House that Motion No. 207, standing in the name of the leader of the third party, has been withdrawn from the Order Paper, as it is outdated.
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) the national womenís conference, sponsored by the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, scheduled for this September 26 to 28, 2002, in Whitehorse is an opportunity for Yukon women to address and discuss issues of importance to them;
(2) the presence of the provincial and territorial ministers responsible for Status of Women and womenís issues in conjunction with that meeting provides another opportunity for Yukon women to express their views to national decision makers;
(3) given this Liberal governmentís need for good news on womenís issues has been recognized by at least one Cabinet minister; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Liberal government to commit adequate resources to the planning and hosting of this conference to ensure that Yukon women can participate in this national forum on womenís issues.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the current social assistance system is not set up to serve people with profound long-term disabilities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to establish a guaranteed annual income for people with profound long-term disabilities.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Government of Yukon, in consultation with senior groups in the Yukon, should construct independent living accommodations.
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: Yesterday, the Premier advised this House that she first saw the March 16 e-mail from the former minister responsible for the Status of Women last Friday. I would like to follow up with a more precise question to the Premier. When did the Premier first become aware of the existence of the former ministerís e-mail?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I said yesterday on the floor of the House that I first saw the e-mail on Friday and I stand by that.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, that is not what I asked.
The government phone book lists almost 30 people in the Liberal Cabinet and caucus area. The Premier is asking us to believe that not one of her political colleagues or political staff saw fit to bring this offensive e-mail to the Premierís attention until it became public. This raises serious questions about either the attitudes or the lines of communication in the Cabinet offices.
Is the Premier suggesting that no one said a word about the potential political fallout from a piece of ministerial correspondence attacking Yukon women for speaking their mind?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I said yesterday on many occasions ó and Iíve already said once in this House today ó that I saw the e-mail on Friday in the presence of the minister who promptly and immediately apologized and offered me her resignation.
Mrs. Peter: The date on the e-mail, again, was March 16. If no one upstairs even reads e-mail from Cabinet ministers, I wonder just who does have the Premierís ear? I would hate to think that anyone who received the e-mail decided not to warn the Premier because they agreed with the attitudes expressed in it. Is the Premier aware of any other political bombshells in the Cabinet or caucus e-mail inboxes, and could this possibly be connected to the decision to strip information from MLA computers?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, with all due respect to the member opposite, I would suggest to her that that question, inferring motives, is not in order. I will, however, Mr. Speaker, state again on my feet in the House the sequence of events. I saw the e-mail on Friday. I was in the presence of the minister. I read it in its entirety, and the minister promptly, immediately apologized to me and offered me her resignation, which, with regret, I have accepted.
Question re: Education, public forum on
Mrs. Peter: Last night there was a public forum on education hosted by the Association of Yukon School Councils. The turnout shows that Yukon people want the opportunity to talk about education. My question is for the Minister of Education. There were six MLAs from this side of the House who were there to hear what was said, but not one Liberal MLA was visible. How does the minister intend to respond to the views that were expressed last night?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This government welcomes speakers with different opinions coming to the territory because they promote productive dialogue. The gentleman in question presented one view. The public that was there presented a variety of perspectives.
I would also like to commend publicly all of the people currently working in our education system. They are working very hard and doing a very good job. Weíve asked for some background on some of the statistics or the numbers that were presented last night, because, of course, our statistics show something very different and that is that in many cases our children are doing as well or better than other children Outside.
Mrs. Peter: This Liberal government likes to repeat its mantra about being open and accountable, but actions always speak louder than words. The previous minister politicized the review of the Education Act, which led to its collapse. Does this minister believe that Yukon people have had the input they deserve for the next 10 years, until the act is reviewed again?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Firstly, one of the recommendations contained in the new Education Act amendments is that the act be under ongoing review through the Education Advisory Council. So it will be a living process.
Secondly, one of the members opposite asked about some statistics. In some cases, our children are doing better than their counterparts in Alberta and B.C., and we have the statistics to support that, and Iíll send them across to the member opposite.
Secondly, the document, the Education Act amendments, will be sitting on the floor of this Legislature before debate for, I hope, at least a month, unless you rush things through, and we have an annotated version coming up on the web for everybody to look at and review.
Before the members opposite get carried away on the support for outside consultants coming in and supporting things, we have some people here who support the consultantsí opinion on our education system. However, Mr. Nikiforuk, in his interview on Friday, March 1, 2002, also said, "Well, for starters, letís get rid of collective bargaining altogether."
Speaker: Order please. Will the minister please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: The public opinion that was expressed at the meeting last night is very crucial. This government simply does not listen. It is not open to Yukon people and it doesnít want to be held accountable. The amendments to the act do not have the support of many of the partners in education and they do not have the support of MLAs on this side of the House. Will the minister now withdraw the act to amend the Education Act and take it back for consultation?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The amendments to the act ó or the process has been ongoing for two years. If we continue to cycle everything over and over and over again, we wonít have any changes. There needs to be some changes in the education system. The amendments to the Education Act will be on the floor of this Legislature for extensive public debate. The people of the Yukon deserve that debate in this open forum. When I go around the communities and go door to door, people do want to see change. They want a permissive, flexible, open education system, and that is what is contained in these Education Act amendments, so that we give authorities and powers to local education councils and we also provide an ongoing review of the act. We want public involvement, we want community involvement, and that is why it is out there with the annotated version on the Web for people to actually know what is in those Education Act amendments.
Question re: Protected areas strategy
Mr. Jenkins: I have now received three letters calling for a moratorium to be placed on the Yukon protected areas strategy, because it currently lacks balance between economic and environmental issues. I did table these three letters earlier in the Legislature from the Yukon Agricultural Association, Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association. Klondike Placer Miners Association stated in its letter that the YTG stand on the protected area strategy is unacceptable and is in direct conflict with the 1992 statement of commitments.
Mr. Speaker, thatís a serious charge. In view of the fact that these three associations represent a significant portion of the major economic interests in the territory, my question to the Minister of the Environment is, how is the minister going to respond to their concerns? Is he saying that he is right and they are wrong? Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I do thank the Member for Klondike for his query. I am absolutely not saying that. I very much enjoy listening to constituents, to stakeholders, who have a direct stake in the Yukon protected areas strategy and the impact it will have on them. So at any time I am willing to go to them. My door is always open for them to come to me ó whenever they see fit, however they see fit, that they want to open a dialogue on how we can continue to improve the Yukon protected areas strategy process, Mr. Speaker.
I do have to correct the member opposite on one fact. He had suggested that the statement of commitment is in conflict with what weíre doing here in the territory. I would disagree with that, Mr. Speaker. The fact of the matter is that the statement of commitment is a one-page document. There has been a follow-up document that the member is referring to that is only an interpretation and a summary of whatís going on in the nation with respect to protected areas.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, this minister is starting to sound more like the judge who says, "Give him a fair trial and then hang him." The outcome has been predetermined. Can the minister explain how this Liberal government is going to be able to promote mining, forestry, agriculture, oil and gas development in the territory when any such development is likely going to end up being included in one of the parks that has yet to be created or has been created? They all have to be identified by April of 2003. How are we going to promote all of these industries when weíre going to make them turn the land into parks?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that this government is working toward certainty, Mr. Speaker, and we will do that by listening to Yukoners, listening to stakeholders. My colleague, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and I are working in complete partnership on this project, and at any time we are willing to go and listen directly to individuals, to stakeholder groups, or they can come and talk to us. Our door is always open. Weíre amenable to working out differences in promoting, as we had in a full debate ó and itís interesting to mention here that the Member for Klondike voted down that all Yukoners should support placer mining. He voted that down right here in the House. On this side of the House, we said that we were encouraging all Yukoners to speak with respect to placer mining in the territory.
So, Mr. Speaker, we are open and accountable, we are supportive and we are taking leadership on this issue.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the position that I took opposing that motion, the amendment to that motion, was as a consequence that the motion directed the government to act, not all Yukoners. The minister has missed the point.
Letís go to the Premier, Mr. Speaker. Effectively, the Minister of the Environment, through YPAS, has put a moratorium on all resource development in the territory for the next two years. Will the Premier see to it that the moratorium is placed on YPAS, as requested by these three major associations, or is she also going to ignore them?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that weíre not putting a moratorium on the YPAS process and we were working ó we said that we would work toward balance, Mr. Speaker, and we are doing that. Again, the member opposite stands in the House and says that it is the governmentís responsibility to promote placer mining.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite continually espouse that we arenít taking a leadership role. We are taking a leadership role, and we are standing in front of all Yukoners and speaking for Yukoners and wanting Yukoners as a voice, collectively, to be speaking toward the placer industry in this territory. We spent a whole day debating this issue. We are for placer mining, we are for mining, we are for oil and gas exploration, we are for the pipeline, and we said that time and time again on this side of the House, whereas the members on the other side have faded away.
Question re: Ministerial communiqué regarding feminist movement
Mrs. Peter: I have a question for the new minister responsible for the Status of Women. Does the minister agree with the attitudes expressed by the former minister about women members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: Government House leader on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: The guidelines for Question Period in this Legislature clearly prohibit seeking an opinion from a minister. If the question is of government policy, itís in order. The member cannot seek an opinion from our ministers.
Speaker: Order please. Without hesitation, the Chair can rule that the question as stated by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is out of order. The way that the Chair heard it, the member was asking an opinion of the minister. Thatís out of order. You can ask the minister questions regarding her area of responsibility or portfolio, but not an opinion.
May I ask the member to continue on with her first supplementary?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: If the member chooses to go to a different question, fine.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Okay, rephrase it. Thatís fine. Iíll just start the clock as soon as you start speaking.
Mrs. Peter: My question again is for the minister responsible for the Status of Women. Will the minister work in a good way with the women members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: We would like to work productively with all groups and particularly, as the minister responsible for the Status of Women, with women.
Mrs. Peter: Working in a good way with a group of people in our public whom we represent is our main purpose in holding office. The wider issue that my question brings is that this deserves the attention of the House. Under the government renewal project, the status of the Womenís Directorate was downgraded. This is clearly the case, even though the former minister tried to insist there was no change.
In the interest of restoring womenís issues to the prominence they deserve, will this minister endorse the efforts of Yukon women to have the Womenís Directorate restored to its former status?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The status of the Womenís Directorate remains the same. It has been put into Executive Council Office. Itís the same funding, the same personnel. It will benefit, in Executive Council Office, from a sharing of Executive Council Officeís resources and a collaboration with the Youth Directorate and issues facing us as a territory.
Mrs. Peter: The e-mail we have been asking about for the last two days did have one positive intent. The former minister was trying to get support from her Cabinet and caucus colleagues for a womenís conference this fall. A major national conference on womenís issues is scheduled for this September in Whitehorse. The O&M budget does not appear to have any money set aside for Yukon women to take part in this or hold a conference on their own.
Given the ongoing importance of womenís issues, will the minister agree to lobby the Premier, who holds the purse strings for the Womenís Directorate, to bring forward a supplementary budget for this purpose during this sitting?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The information I have at this time is that the conference is proceeding and that this government supports it wholeheartedly. It is in the budget.
Question re: First Nation child sent Outside
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Premier. Last Tuesday, a phone call took place between you and the Chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation in regard to ó
Speaker: Order please. I must remind the member to address the comments to the Chair, not personally across the floor. Please continue.
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, last Tuesday a phone call took place between the Premier and the Chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation in regard to a KDFN child. The Premier assured the chief that the child would not leave the Yukon until this matter was dealt with. We had your promise on this. In fact, we had your promise on this issue three times. Soon following your promises, to everyoneís surprise, the child was flown out to Saskatchewan minutes after speaking to you on the phone.
Speaker: Order please. I must remind the member again to address the comments to the Chair and not directly across to the Premier. Do not say, "you."
Mr. Jim: Sorry, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Health and Social Services, Sue Edelman, then contacted KDFN. Her comments were that the information given by the Premier was wrong. Can the Premier stand up and tell this House and the rest of the Yukon, especially the childís family, why KDFN was told that the child would stay close to home until the matter was cleared up and then only minutes later put on a plane to be sent far away to Saskatchewan? Mr. Speaker, this does nothing to restore confidence in government.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: The Premier took that call on my behalf. I was in a meeting. She did take the call with my assistant.
The details of this case should not and will not be discussed by myself on the floor of this Legislature in any way in the public. That is not appropriate. Mr. Speaker, the information provided to this chief was the most current information available at the time. The events transpired quite quickly, and there was a delay in passing the information to the Premier.
As Minister of Health and Social Services, I take full responsibility for that. I have looked into the matter and will be sending a response to the chief by the end of this week. Our objectives are to maintain the health and safety of children, and to help families become reunited whenever possible. We are meeting with the Chief and Council of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation in July to discuss broader children-in-care issues.
Mr. Jim: We always fall on this tendency of what is not appropriate and what is appropriate in this House when it comes to issues that are dealing with the safety and protection of children. This case raises many questions and in particular the treatment of this First Nation family.
A newspaper article stated that the YTG social workers said that there were too many people living in the motherís home ó 12 people, all who are family. I find it appalling that this government can determine how many family members a family should have living under one roof. My parents had 11 children. I know many families, both First Nation and non-First Nation who came from large families, 10 or more ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jim: Today I spoke to the leadership of Kwanlin Dun First Nation regarding the protocol agreement that has been signed between the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Yukon territorial government in respect to the child welfare issue. The question that the chief has is this: does the 2002-03 budget take into account the cost of what has been committed to KDFN, the core funding needed to hire a consultant plus an operation and maintenance budgetÖ
Speaker: Order please. Will the member please get to the question.
Mr. Jim: Ö to deal with the numerous custody issues in the KDFN community?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I cannot, and I will not, discuss the particulars of any child in care, and their case, in this Legislature. That is not appropriate here; it is not appropriate in the public, in any way.
The member opposite is asking about a question of resources for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I will be happy to provide the details of that arrangement to him.
Mr. Jim: At no point was I talking about the case. I was talking about the budget that is being provided for KDFN.
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the story from my parents and other elders in regard to the traumatic way that First Nation children were uprooted from their homes and sent away, breaking down our family unit, our culture, our language, the caring and love our parents had for us ó everything stolen from them, based on the government policy of the day.
This story is all too familiar, not only to the First Nation people in the Yukon, but also to the rest of North American First Nation peoples. The focus here today is on this First Nation child. The focus here is to get this First Nation child back to his family right away, and not sever the family circle.
Will YTG commit to bringing this child back to this mother and family immediately, and deal with the matter as she promised on the phone to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation? Will the Premier do this?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is perhaps not accurate in his assessment or understanding of the conversation that took place, and I will repeat my answer to the member opposite. I will never discuss the details of any child in care in public or on the floor of this Legislature. It will not happen.
Question re: Public Lotteries Act
Mr. McRobb: Today I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. This House has been asked to believe that there has been no change in the Womenís Directorate. Weíve also been asked to believe that there has been no change in the Yukon Lottery Commission. Is the minister familiar with sections 12 and 13 of the Public Lotteries Act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I donít have the Public Lotteries Act memorized, no.
Mr. McRobb: In anticipation of that response, I will read to the minister section 12 of the act: "The commission is responsible for the conduct and management of public lotteries and, subject to the regulations, the allocation of the profits of public lotteries."
That spells out pretty clearly that the commission is not just a sub-branch of a sub-branch of a Yukon government department or Crown corporation. My question for the minister:, does she not recognize the potential for section 12 of the act to be ignored or abused now that the administration of the commission has become part of the Yukon Liquor Corporationís structure and reporting lines?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: It is the staff of the Yukon Lottery Commission who are part of the Yukon Liquor Corporation reporting structure. They have to have some place in government to report. There is no change to the function of the Yukon Lottery Commission board. There is no change in the way the money is handled or the way the money is allocated.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to draw the ministerís attention to section 13(1) of the Public Lotteries Act, which states: "The Executive Council member may, with the approval of the commission, enter into agreements providing for the provision of services to the commission respecting the conduct and management of public lotteries."
Now, why did the minister make a significant change in the commissionís administrative arrangements without the approval of the commission as required under this act?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As I have explained several times to the commission, to the media, to the members opposite, the Department of Community and Transportation Services, to whom the Lottery Commission reported, ceased to exist April 1. The staff of the commission require some place to exist within government and some place to report. That place was determined to be through the Yukon Liquor Corporation. There is no change in the functioning of the board. There is no change in the allocation of the money to Yukon recipients.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 64: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 64, standing in the name of the hon. Mrs. Edelman.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I move that Bill No. 64, entitled Spousal Compensation Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board that Bill No. 64, entitled Spousal Compensation Act, be now read a second time.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The official opposition House leader on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Pursuant to an agreement between the official opposition, the third party and the independent members on the opposition benches, we are willing to deem this bill and also the second bill up for government business today, the Official Tree Act, as read and carried, and would support these two bills unanimously so that they will pass this House and we can expedite the publicís business here in debate.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: The hon. minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Itís important in this House not to stifle debate.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, Hansard leaves a record for all Yukoners as to the reasoning behind bringing forward legislation at that time.
All Iím doing is giving a rationale for bringing forward this legislation at this time. The members opposite should not be afraid of that.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, we have given unanimous support to this bill in the opposition ranks ó we support it. Those individuals who are affected by the changes in this act are well aware of it and knowledgeable. Now, if the minister is looking for a platform to blow her horn for a ó
Speaker: Order please. The point of order is not the place to make political statements. The Chair is prepared to rule on this right now. The request made by the official opposition House leader requires unanimous consent. Obviously, the minister wasnít prepared to agree with that; therefore, the Chair has no other choice but to allow debate to continue. With that, I would ask the minister responsible for Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board to start her debate.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It is very important to leave behind in the pages of Hansard the reason and the rationale that governments use to bring forward legislation at the time. It is my pleasure to rise today to speak about a historical inequity.
For a short period of time after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect, workersí compensation legislation required that benefits for spouses of deceased workers be terminated when that spouse remarried. This included common-law spouses who entered into another common-law relationship or who remarried. This bill would reinstate those benefits cut off after the Charter came into full force and effect. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was approved April 17, 1982. Governments across Canada were given three years to make their legislation compliant with the Charter, i.e., by April 17, 1985.
The termination of benefits upon remarriage for spouses of deceased workers was a common feature in workersí compensation legislation at the time. This meant that spouses of deceased workers received a lump sum when they remarried, but lost their ongoing benefits. Dependants continued to receive benefits, however.
In the Yukon, the Workersí Compensation Act was amended to remove this provision on April 16, 1987. This was consistent with the Yukonís new Human Rights Act at that time. In 1999, and continuing into the present, a number of jurisdictions began amending their legislation to reinstate spousal benefits that were terminated upon remarriage, after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms came into effect.
A similar proposal is here before you in this act, to reinstate benefits to spouses of deceased workers, where those benefits were terminated upon remarriage after the Charter came into effect, April 17, 1985, and before the termination provision was removed on April 16, 1987.
This act will also ensure that common-law spouses receive compensation benefits where those benefits were terminated because of remarriage or because the individual entered into another common-law relationship. Spouses entitled to reinstatement after the passage of this bill may receive between $140,000 and $200,000 retroactively, depending on the individual circumstances of the case. Their benefits will be reinstated retroactively to the date of termination.
The Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board has reviewed all relevant files. Some records, however, are no longer accessible due to the age of the file, so the board will be advertising nationally and alerting workersí compensation boards in other jurisdictions to take steps to notify those who may be eligible.
I would like to take this moment to thank the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board of Directors for their work in bringing this issue forward. As essentially volunteers, members of the board donate hours of their time in fulfilling their duties under all compensation and health and safety legislation.
They have done a tremendous job in meeting their obligations, and their efforts are greatly appreciated. In closing, I want to note that it is indeed time to remedy this inequity and ensure that our legislation is fully compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms while maintaining the long-term viability of the compensation fund administered by the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Does any other member wish to be heard? Are you prepared for the question?
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 64 agreed to
Bill No. 51: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 51, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Eftoda.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Environment that Bill No. 51, entitled Official Tree Act, be now read a second time. The hon. Minister of the Environment.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I rise today on this typical spring day here in the Yukon to speak to Bill No. 51, the Official Tree Act. Thirty-four percent of Yukoners selected the sub-alpine fir as the representative tree. True firs do not have the resin ducts that typify pines or spruce, although these trees all resemble one another in their softness of wood.
Many of us have used the sub-alpine fir as a Christmas tree because it has a bold shape and holds needles and has a very pleasant fragrance. The selection by the Yukon public of the tree emblem in June of 2001 is just one more step in the long road to equality with the provinces. Once this act is passed, Nunavut will be the only jurisdiction in Canada without a tree emblem.
But that could be for obvious reasons, Mr. Speaker. The tundra is not a very hospitable place for trees. Already a request has come in asking permission that our territorial tree emblem be included at a national site, along with other provincial trees and territorial flowers.
The search for a territorial tree was started by a forester who felt the Yukon should have its own tree, a true Yukon tree. Although we have many varieties of trees in Yukon, there are a number that have been adopted by other jurisdictions. There were four remaining, so rather than make an arbitrary decision, we chose to let the Yukon public decide. I hope that the forester realizes his contribution to Yukonís legislation and history with his suggestion. Trees and forests bring beauty and calmness to our lives. How many of us have planted and nurtured a young tree and, over the years, been amazed at the level of growth achieved in just a few short months? The resilience of our trees ó fire and drought and pests all take a toll on our trees but they still survive and they still grow, Mr. Speaker.
Isaac Newton summed it up: the seed of a tree has the nature of a branch or a twig or a bud. It is a part of a tree but, if separated and set in the earth to be better nourished, the embryo, or young tree contained in that seed, will take root and grow into a new tree ó a truly renewable resource, Mr. Speaker.
Our First Nation people are very familiar with the benefits that trees provide: shelter, warmth, traditional medicines. A lemony-tasting tea can be made from the needles of the alpine fir as a cold remedy rich in vitamin C. The sap contained in the blisters of the bark have been used as medicine for lung ailments. This is traditional knowledge, Mr. Speaker, that has been gained over many, many years of experience.
Native people throughout the world and over many centuries have worshiped plants and trees as totems or because of their usefulness, their beauty or a fear-inspiring aspect. They are considered either holy or as a dwelling place for spirits.
The Yukon government has for many years played a role as an observer regarding forestry issues. With devolution on the horizon, we will take control of this resource, so it is only fitting that we now have our own emblem here in the territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: I rise today to speak to this Official Tree Act, that the Liberal government has brought forward. I must say that this is an earth-shattering event today for the Liberal government opposite.
Finally, after two long years, we in the Yukon have realized some product out of this Liberal government when it comes to forestry; albeit all we have managed to do is name one tree, but it is movement in the right direction by the Liberal government, and we will support this act.
I would point out also to the minister and his colleagues that this particular act is the result of something thatís rooted in an inclusive process. In short, Yukoners chose the tree and Yukoners created the act. Thatís something the minister and his colleagues should take with him from the passage of this particular piece of legislation because itís something they lack and itís something they must sharpen up on if they intend to stay in government, Mr. Speaker.
We in the official opposition will be supporting this act without any hesitation and look forward now to conducting the publicís business in an expeditious manner on the floor of this Assembly.
Mr. Jenkins: I canít help but rise today in support of this act which stems from a Yukon Party motion of a number of years ago.
We are in full support, and I must recognize that due process was followed and consultation took place with Yukoners on this issue. Now, what I donít want to see stemming from this is another trip by the Minister of Environment to perhaps Nunavut to plant a whole bunch of these Yukon trees to help Nunavut discover that the Yukon has a tree as its emblem and they are the remaining jurisdiction in the north, or indeed in Canada, that doesnít have a tree as part of their emblem. But itís very, very good to see that the Liberals have finally produced one small iota of productiveness out of the Yukon forests, because virtually everything they have done to date is to stop any development.
Here in the Yukon, we could have a sustainable forest industry. That is not the case. Instead, this Liberal government has chosen to name a tree, protect all Yukon and create it with a series of interlocking parks. That is where we are heading under this government and, when it comes right down to it, the opposition supported this motion. There was no need for extensive debate and for the minister to amplify how desperate the Liberal government of the day is for attention and recognition.
This is a positive move that was supported unanimously. The point that I wish to make is, letís concentrate on what we should be concentrating on in this Legislature, which is restoring investor confidence, turning the economy around, developing the forestry industry ó which is a sustainable industry ó and enhancing the lives of Yukoners.
And the process that was followed to select this tree is a process that I would encourage the Liberal government of the day to follow when they undertake any review of any legislation. What weíre seeing is legislation that gives Cabinet direct control over all government agencies and all of the various bodies that government has. A direct set of instructions can flow right from the Cabinet table to every Crown corporation, every agency of government, under some of this proposed legislation. That is the legislation that we should be spending time debating on the floor of this Legislature, not legislation that is supported unanimously that has due process. But I can understand that the Liberals really donít have much to hang their hats on lately ó except a tree. And thatís the last item of good news thatís coming out of this government for quite some time, Mr. Speaker. So weíll allow them to hang their hats on this wonderful new tree that the Yukon has as an emblem. And hopefully letís move forward, get on with the legislation that we should be debating, that I would encourage this Liberal government to debate on the floor of this House and thatís going to be productive and beneficial for all Yukoners.
Now, I encourage the minister not to have a big ribbon-cutting ceremony and cut up a big cake on this issue. Itís one that neednít go any further. Itís done; itís agreed to. Letís move forward. Letís develop the forestry industry. Letís develop all of these other industries. Letís restore investor confidence. And I encourage the minister to get off the bandwagon of having nothing but a focus on the protected areas strategy.
That is the only area that this minister seems to focus on, wants to concentrate on. Every area that this government is involved in is very, very self-serving, Mr. Speaker, ó extremely self-serving.
Letís get into the Education Act. Letís get into some of these other acts that havenít had due process. Letís look at some of these other areas for debate, Mr. Speaker.
We now have a tree. That is great. I commend the government of the day for bringing forward this tree act and spending as much time on it before this Legislature as they have done. Iíll look forward to watching the minister at the official cake-cutting ceremony and ribbon-cutting ceremony that these Liberals have become so extremely capable of attending and following through on, Mr. Speaker. I guess when you havenít got anything else to focus on, you focus on these areas. But who at the end of the day is going to benefit? I guess perhaps the ribbon-makers and the cake-makers, but apart from them, no one else.
Mr. Speaker, there was a very positive suggestion from the official opposition House leader that this bill and another bill be deemed read and carried, because they had unanimous support.
Instead, the first bill ó at the insistence of that minister ó and now this bill ó at the insistence of that minister ó are taking up extensive time in this Legislature because, after the ministers get up and blow their horn on these areas, itís only right that we rebut what they are saying and put both legs forward instead of watching this crippled Liberal government move forward, hobbled on one leg, which is the case today. Probably youíll need that tree for the other leg very quickly, Mr. Speaker.
So, Iíll look forward to other bills before this Legislature that the opposition is in full support of. They really are of little consequence other than to a few individuals in Yukon. They are positive bills; we agree wholeheartedly with them. Letís move them through this Legislature, and letís get on with the important areas that we have for debate.
Mr. McLarnon: Iíll be very brief. Unfortunately, the first action of the Official Tree Act is to be bad for the environment. We have probably killed about two or three B.C. trees right now talking this up.
I would ask the House leader and people on the other side to please take us seriously when we are talking about expediting the business of the House. This didnít need to happen. We have now just filled pages of Hansard for nothing.
Speaker: If the minister now speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I believe that I do owe it to Yukoners to present the facts as they have presented them through an extensive public consultation ó the involvement of parents, the involvement of foresters, the involvement of the public at large, the involvement of school children who actually took time to learn the differences among the four trees, who came forward and actually put their X on one that they thought merited being the Yukon tree.
I find it rather quite upsetting, quite frankly, that there are few opportunities in this House to express goodwill by all members, and I thought there was an opportunity in this little act. Itís not a big act ó I agree, but it is a recognition of efforts that Yukoners have put forward and we do and are responsible for putting forward their efforts through appropriate and respectful discussion in this House. So I am very proud that we have moved this act forward on behalf of Yukoners for Yukoners.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Question.
Speaker: Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I think the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 51 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move 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: I will call Committee of the Whole to order.
Committee of the Whole will now recess until 2:20 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on the operation and maintenance estimates, Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to resume debate and provide the member opposite, particularly the leader of the official opposition, with some information. In the legislative return I tabled today, there was substantial discussion about the renewal work that has been undertaken by the government. I today advised publicly by legislative return that $895,000 was voted for renewal last year, and the project is still within that budget. I will verify that that was voted in the capital budget last fall.
In broad terms, the breakdown of the costs are: communication, and that includes consultations, $142,000; reorganizing the financial systems to restate budgets, $92,000; human resource management, and this is training, classification and staff support programs, $287,000; and there is approximately $374,000 that has been set aside for moving of office space, so thatís the actual physical moves of individuals.
I have also asked the Public Service Commission to provide me with an update on the staffing. The member and I had a lengthy discussion with respect to 202 vacancies and the 30 individuals who were identified as employees whose positions were no longer required because of renewal and how and when those individuals would be placed in a new position.
As of Friday last week, the total number of individuals who, for one reason or another, had received a lay-off notice, is four. Of the 30 employees who have been dealt with with respect to receiving positions in the renewed Government of Yukon: 21 have been placed and nine employees are remaining to be placed in suitable alternative positions. Of the 202 vacancies, as of todayís date, 57 are currently vacant.
The member opposite asked when ó I committed to provide a precise date when renewal organization charts were approved by Management Board. They were approved February 27, 2002 and March 4, 2002.
The organization charts were provided in the legislative return I provided to the member today as I had committed to do.
The other point with respect ó I clearly separated out the work of the renewal and the placing of these positions with subsequent devolution of programs. The letters of offer to Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development employees ó the date we have to provide the employees with letters by is October 1, 2002. So there is a commitment in the devolution transfer agreement to provide that offer, and that is when the letters of offer must be sent.
Again, I want to make it clear that we have worked very strongly with employees and we have worked very hard in terms of transforming the Government of Yukon organization to meet todayís needs, to provide better services and to prepare for devolution, being one of todayís needs.
This is a very difficult time of change ó or has been a difficult time of change for individuals ó and we have paid particular attention to ensuring that we work with employees and listen to what employees have to say. Itís very important to all of us ó and, Iím sure, important to the member opposite ó that we also accurately portray that what we are going to be working on in the next phase of work is the renewal of the culture of the Government of Yukon.
Itís very important that we blend the cultures of various departments that have now become one, and that we blend the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development staff with the Government of Yukon staff.
I can say that, at the most recent organization workshop that weíve had, we asked both Linda Duxbury of Carleton University, and Graham Lowe of the University of Alberta, who have worked on this with a number of organizations ó they have conducted workshops for employees, managers and supervisors on renewal and on organizational change. The conclusions that they have forwarded are that employees have seen the need for change, have appreciated that change is good ó they were embracing it. They were concerned that we not lose sight of working on the culture of the organization and appreciated what the government had tried to do in working on this particular initiative.
Again, I commend the renewal initiative to the member opposite. If the member has a specific personnel question, I am more than prepared to meet with him outside this public discussion to deal with a specific personnel issue, as the floor of the House is not the appropriate place for specific personnel concerns and constituency concerns. I am more than happy to try to work with the member to resolve those. I did want to ensure that I provided the member with information as he had requested, and certainly those are the numbers and the most current information that I have available.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for providing the information that was asked for yesterday. Mr. Chair, I only brought the issue to the attention of the minister of one person coming forward to me over the weekend who does not live in any of the communities in my riding, that this has already taken place. If renewal was not laying people off and our government employees are saying this publicly, then there is something wrong here. Either there is another initiative within the departments that people are being laid off or it is a result of renewal.
What I have heard so far is the result of renewal.
Mr. Chair, the Premier provided some information to the House and I would like to go over that a bit while itís fresh in peopleís minds. We have spent some of this money already, and there is some money set aside for moving the departments. The money was in the capital budget for this year and, basically, itís giving spending authority as of April 1 of this year.
So Iíd like to ask the Premier then ó she did say that it was in the capital budget. Is it a supplementary budget that was brought forward and, if so, how did we manage to end up spending such large amounts of money ó $521,000 ó or are these targets? Maybe the Premier can clear the air and bring a bit more detail to this so that we all can know what the true numbers are in regard to renewal and the spending of the $895,000.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I didnít bring the Supplementary Estimates No. 1 for 2002-03 with me. I will have them sent down to the floor of the House, and I can point to the line items. So in fact, this was last March, we voted on the 2001-02 main budget ó we voted on O&M and capital together last March/April. And probably we were here in May last year, too.
So that was the O&M estimates, capital and mains. It was not listed in there. We embarked upon this in June, and it would have come forward as the supplementary to 2001-02, so it is money that was voted last fall to be spent over the course of the winter, and thatís what weíve done. So the member has voted on it. It has full vote authority, and it was the full amount, the $895,000.
What Iím advising the member opposite is that it has not all been spent. This is where it has been spent to date, but the total figures Iíve given, I donít believe they totally add up to $895,000. I think there is possibly an underexpenditure. And I would also advise the member opposite that itís an estimate for office moves.
So itís entirely within order in terms of vote authority, what has been spent. And it has been, again, a worthwhile project. Iím sorry the memberís constituent feels that renewal is to blame for his or her current situation and, again, Iíd be happy to discuss that with the member, but we donít get into specific personnel issues on the floor.
So if the member wants to meet either myself or the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, weíll be happy to try to resolve those concerns.
Mr. Fairclough: This person could have been one of the four that the Premier has mentioned.
Now, this $521,000 that has been spent ó whatís basically coming back to the floor of this Legislature, and I assume it is part of the budget before us, would be a revote to continue the spending on renewal. Because we havenít spent $374,000. That hasnít been spent yet because a move hasnít been made to move the departments around. I donít see it as a revote now, but is it something we are going to see down the road?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, I just want to give the member opposite the correct reference on the vote for the renewal. Itís in Supplementary Estimates No. 1, Budget 2001-02. There was $1,645 in capital expenditures in the Department of Executive Council Office. On page 2-2 and 2-3, $895,000 was the renewal initiative. So thatís when it was voted on; it was during that debate and it was discussed.
Now, the member opposite is largely correct in that revotes would come forward for money that is being lapsed to complete projects. Thatís standard procedure.
In this particular case, because the office moves are going to ó some are taking place, some are planned. Revotes ó this particular one for office moves did come before Management Board so that there is permission and ability to go ahead as moves of computers and desks are required ó that they have the funding available to do that.
That particular revote has come forward to Management Board. It will subsequently come back also as an omnibus package to the House as a revote. So the member opposite is correct in that.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like, maybe, further explanation on that. We donít see it reflected in both capital and O&M that is before the House today.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís correct, and what we are waiting for from government is for that information to come forward. How is it to come forward that we need to deal and debate this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: All revotes are debated in the fall in the supplementary.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier provided information and some breakdown on the cost of renewal. What we havenít seen here, and I believe the Premier committed to yesterday, is the breakdown by departments on the cost of renewal, with the $895,000. Now weíve seen itís $521,000 for the past fiscal year. Are we able to get the information on the breakdown of the departments? Some departments are not affected, I would think ó those that are not having the change. Maybe they are, and it would be of some interest for us on this side of the House to see those numbers. Are we able to get that information?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, we wonít be able to provide that information. It is next to impossible to break down, and the member opposite was in the House when I was on that side of the House and we were seeking similar information about DAP, and the information we were provided at the time is similar to what Iíve provided the member opposite, and the answer we got from the government at the time was that it is difficult at best to try and break down ó oh, did XYZ person spend 1.2 hours on this or 8 on that ó and itís the same situation.
To the member opposite, I would say there have been a number of people involved. This has been an initiative that has been very widely and broadly supported by the public service. It has not been without its challenges for everyone, because it is a difficult time. However, from the workshops weíve done and the information we have gathered, it has been broadly supported. People have welcomed change and we have also, in the expenditures, as the member can see, underexpended.
We have worked very hard to ensure that we did this working with the public service and at the least possible cost, and thatís the most accurate accounting I can provide to the member opposite.
Mr. Fairclough: Did the Premier not see fit to track the costs of renewal, other than the dollars provided and voted on in the House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís exactly the same as when the member opposite was here and we were discussing DAP and other Cabinet commissioners as well. What weíre able to provide the member opposite with is the direct costs. Indirect costs are extremely difficult to track, and personnel time and so on and so forth. The answer I have given is no different from the answer that I was given when I asked a very similar question on the other side of the House.
The member opposite is not being treated any differently with the renewal exercise and renewal work in terms of tracking the costs. Itís entirely consistent with past government practice and I hope the member can accept that what we have done is entirely within past government practice.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, this is far different from the development assessment process that has been worked on. The government continues to work on that particular process and the Premier did commit yesterday to having those numbers come forward, and the real cost of renewal in the departments. I know it does take time to compile this, and I know that a large percentage of time of some department personnel was dedicated to this project and those could be added up fairly quickly. I would think that, because this was directed toward preparing for devolution also, maybe some departments were hit a little harder; for example, the Department of Renewable Resources.
So that commitment, I hope, has not changed, and maybe the Premier can elaborate a little on that.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have fulfilled my commitment to the member opposite. The member opposite asked me about the costs, and I provided that. I have asked and gone back and looked and seen what sort of tracking has been provided in the past, and Iím sharing that with the member opposite. Just as the member opposite stands up and shares with me my comments made as an opposition member about deficit budgeting, Iím sharing that this is the same answer I got. When I asked about the development assessment process and tracking that ó itís very pervasive, all government departments. I mean, it is a similar situation. And itís like asking, in a very real example: how much of this pencil do I use on Executive Council Office responsibilities, how much do I use on Finance, how much do I use in my capacity as MLA for Porter Creek South, and how much in my capacity when wearing any of the other hats I wear? Itís extremely difficult to try to go back and sort that information out. And quite frankly, Iím sure the member opposite would rather that Government of Yukon employees spend their time and energy making sure we were in fact prepared for devolution and working on this very real issue of blending cultures than going back and saying, "Okay, track your calendar, and over the last six months, if you spent half an hour in a renewal meeting, we need you to account for that." Public servants are employed all day long, and many of them spend countless hours of their own time in dedication and service to the public.
I have provided a full and thorough accounting of the publicís money on this to the member opposite. I committed to seek that information and I went back and looked at past practice in this Legislature and I am fulfilling what has been provided in the past. I would hope that in the spirit with which the question was asked of determining an accounting for the publicís money, that the member would see fit to accept the answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís exactly why Iím asking the question, because this is public money. I donít believe that the total bill for renewal was $895,000. I believe that it is triple ó four times that amount. If itís that high, Iím sure the government can track that money and the amount of time that is directed to ensure the project is working. So thatís where Iím coming from. I know ó Iíve talked to people ó public servants and so on, and I know that a lot of time is dedicated to this project. I would like to know the real cost and thatís why Iím asking the question. Itís a lot more than what is put on paper.
You canít compare it to a pencil. I donít even want to get into that, but I probably could see how we could break that down a bit more.
Iím asking the Premier again to bring forward that information. If it takes two weeks to do ó and Iím sure the departments are tracking that, too, because other service, I believe, is being affected by this whole movement.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I do not know what I can say to the member opposite. He stands on his feet and says, "I donít believe the answer youíre giving."
I donít know what more I can say. I have provided him with an answer about public money. I have provided him with the best answer I have, and I apologize that the member doesnít believe me. I tried to relate it as an example. I donít know what else I can do.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít think the Premier thinks that the $521,000 that was spent for a team to work on renewal was all that was spent on the renewal project. I know that is not possible. It is impossible for only that to take place. Other money has to go into this. Departments have to look at how their employees are affected by this move, and they have to spend time ensuring things are done right. So a lot of attention has to be put into the renewal project. I know the Premier knows this and it is a matter of committing some time to put the data together, the amount of money and the amount of personnel time that is spent on this. Does the Premier not agree with that, and then Iíll go on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair, I am sorry. I donít agree with what the member is saying. For example, in a renewed department working on this or even in government as a whole, there are individuals who have worked incredibly hard, particularly at the deputy level. So a deputy would spend X hours working on departmental initiatives, work that is ongoing, attendance at first ministers meetings or attendance at ministers meetings and would also devote considerable hours of their own time to this project.
They, as a community, firmly believed in this project and absolutely believed ó in fact, itís a recommendation and itís work that we have done as a public service from all levels, as well as the government. If they spent a lunch hour in a meeting, and the lunch was paid for by renewal, itís accounted for in here. This is the public money that was spent, and I have tried to explain to the member opposite that this is the public money, this is the accounting of the public money. The member opposite believes it should have cost more. Well, this is the accounting and what else the member is looking for is ó itís unfortunate that, because itís incumbent upon everyone here to be as full and open and accountable as they can be, and I believe I have done that ó itís unfortunate that the member is choosing not to believe me, for some other reason.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, there are lots of reasons, Mr. Chair. For one, I know that a lot of people are dedicating their time to this. Easter weekend ó how many people were paid triple time who were dedicated directly to renewal? Thatís a cost to renewal. Thatís not reflected in the numbers that were brought forward by the minister. Thatís part of it.
Does the minister believe that a large portion of the departmentís time was dedicated to renewal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would like to deal, first of all, with the memberís charge about Easter weekend. People I know who were working hard on Easter weekend were land claims negotiators ó very hard. I was in several meetings with many of them. That involved legal staff and legal draftspeople, as well as negotiators, as well as people who are now in other departments and will have gone back to other positions. Those are people I know of who were working Easter weekend. The other people ó I have just checked with one of the deputies in the government ó the other people who worked on Easter weekend were people preparing for the budget. They would have been working anyway, and that includes Queenís Printer doing some of the other printing, as well. Also, on that particular weekend, there was an HRIS conversion, which is a computer upgrade. So that included two things: people working on an upgrade to the system, and a portion of their time was also moving people who had moved to a new department and putting a new name on something, but they were already working on a conversion anyway. So thatís why itís impossible to separate out that kind of information the member opposite is seeking. I am not trying to be difficult. I am not trying to be anything less than fully open and accountable with the member opposite. I have accounted for the costs ó the direct costs of renewal. I just fail to understand why the member cannot accept that answer. Can the member explain why he canít accept this answer?
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly, Mr. Chair. For one, I believe the cost of renewal is much higher than the minister has said it is.
Is the minister saying that no government employees were working on renewal on Easter weekend?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I gave two examples of employees I knew were working on Easter weekend and what they were doing, and I explained to the member opposite that, for example, in the Department of Finance and the Public Service Commission, people were working on the conversion of the computer system. That included some aspects of renewal.
If the member opposite wishes ó and, Mr. Chair, I have to ask if the member opposite really thinks itís a valuable use of anybodyís time to go back and ask: how much of your time since June 2001 have you spent on renewal, separate from devolution, separate from anything else? The problem is that itís all interrelated, and itís all interrelated in providing good public service.
The other thing I have to say is that people worked willingly on renewal ó absolutely willingly. It was volunteers, it was a request, and people were interested. They were excited about this.
The member opposite wants to spend countless hours badgering me for some figure so he can go out and issue a press release and say, "See, we told you, it cost this." And heís not going to be satisfied until I pick a number.
Chair: Order please. Imputing motives is wrong on both sides of the House, and we would ask members not to impute motives.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with all due respect, I will cease and desist with that line of questioning. I would also ask, then, that the member opposite discontinue standing up and suggesting he simply does not believe me or that I am telling anything less than the full accounting.
Mr. Fairclough: My questions are short. I believe the cost of renewal is much higher than the Premier is saying. If the Premier is open and accountable, then I would believe the Premier would carry out the duties to bring back those numbers. It canít be all that hard.
I know that departments and personnel know how much time is spent on policy work or just strictly writing materials or helping out other employees. They know that type of thing. Iíve talked with them before.
So I would like to ask the Premier again to bring forward that information.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have provided the member opposite with a full accounting. I have outlined all of the expenditures ó I came to the House, sought vote authority for $895,000 for the last fiscal year. I have provided the member opposite with a full accounting.
The work done by employees of the government has been done by employees who already had jobs related to preparing for devolution or improving services.
I have provided the member opposite with that information. Employees were involved in other jobs at the same time and it is extremely difficult to try and separate it out.
The member is absolutely unwilling to accept that response.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís right, Mr. Chair. I am unwilling to accept that, because I think the Premier could be doing more in being open and accountable on this matter.
Renewal was a big project, and it took a lot of effort in departments to make the project happen. I believe the Premier can agree with me on that. And Iím sure that employees dedicated a good percentage of their time on this project ó 20 percent, or was it 25 percent?
I would like to ask the Premier if any of the programs in her own departments have been affected by renewal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, how the Executive Council Office has been affected by renewal is that there are two areas where there is enhanced accountability. They include the Youth Directorate and the Womenís Directorate. As to additional areas, there has been a change in French language ó the Bureau of French Language Services remains with the Department of Infrastructure. That is translation only. We are enhancing the programming and work we do intergovernmentally on behalf of Yukonís francophone community.
The audit services remain within the Executive Council Office. There is some work being done also on the role of the Executive Council Office, the Public Service Commission and the Department of Finance with respect to strong central agencies. That work is part of the renewal work and will further enhance the service that these central agencies provide within government.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that wasnít exactly my question that the Premier answered. I would like to ask the Premier then: in any department, how has renewal affected the existing programming and service being delivered to the public?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: One of the principles of renewal was to provide better service to the public, so in some instances, while renewal is being implemented, that is precisely what the member will see ó improved services. So I can give the member opposite a complete detailed listing of improved services. As we implement them, we are improving the services. It was one of the principles.
Mr. Fairclough: I am talking about as renewal was being put together. This is in the past fiscal year.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The work of renewal got done by a number of employees who were committed to this project, who, in addition to fulfilling their daily duties, took it upon themselves to participate in this and give it a lot of thought and energy.
Mr. Fairclough: In improving services to the public, there was some public consultation in dealing government to government. How much of the First Nation directions are reflected in renewal, in restructuring of government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What we did to ensure there was public input on this as well as, most importantly, the public servants ó from June to November, there was an extensive public consultation period and there were over 800 public servants from Government of Yukon and Government of Canada who participated in workshops with the renewal group. There was also an extensive public community tour by the Member for Whitehorse Centre as well as members who were working on the renewal project.
Deputies have also worked closely with their employees no matter where they are ó be it Tuchitua, Old Crow or wherever the employees might be ó they have worked with them.
Specifically with respect to First Nation governments, I wrote to each First Nation government and non-self-governing First Nations at the time as well and invited their input. There was no response received. So at the administrative level, we followed up with First Nations relations individuals who work for the Government of Yukon. They contacted First Nation governments at the administrative level and sought their input on changes.
How much of the opinions of First Nation governments, First Nation government employees and Government of Yukon and Government of Canada and the public at large are reflected in renewal? I would say that renewal is a reflection of those opinions. Not every idea was the one that was ultimately selected. For example, in the case of the Department of Environment and Forestry, there was a great deal of discussion as to where the responsibility for forestry should be housed. Ultimately, in some cases, there was a selection of a good idea. But overall the views of Yukoners, including First Nation governments, are definitely reflected in the renewed Government of Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like there was very little on a government-to-government basis or little effort put forward by government to ensure that their input is reflected in the improved services to government.
Now, on the information sheet that the Premier handed out, under No. 2, it says that reorganizing and restating financial information for the budgets ó is this both for capital and for O&M budgets for the new departments? The money is spent, so this all took place in the last fiscal year. Is that correct?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes.
Mr. Fairclough: I will have many more questions in regard to renewal. I do have a couple more that I would like to ask, though.
The numbers that the Premier had said yesterday ó the 202 vacancies ó has gone down to 57, and there is an effort to fill those positions. And are those positions guaranteed to be filled, or are we still looking at accommodating the nine people out of the 30 for these positions? Is there a hold on some of the positions, or are they all going to be filled and are they guaranteed to be filled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are no guarantees. We are working as hard as we can with the nine people to fill those positions. We are working to that end, and we are working to fill the 57 positions and to make sure thereís a match for the nine and to make sure that those are filled. But I wonít guarantee theyíre all going to be staffed. It may be that a position is one that we canít find anybody for and the department would just as soon leave it vacant for a time or something along those lines. There are all kinds of circumstances that might prevent them from being filled. But, yes, weíre making every effort to fill them.
Mr. Fairclough: Has the government assured the union that these positions will be filled?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Public Service Commissioner and other individuals from her department have met on a regular basis throughout renewal and throughout the work on this process. We have made absolutely every effort to keep the union fully advised of every step of the renewal process, including working with them. They are advised, for example, when positions are staffed, when it changes and so on. There is a close working relationship.
Mr. Fairclough: The remaining $374,000 that has been set aside to cover expenses related to moving staff and completing work on the financial administrative information system ó can the Premier break that down a little bit more as to what those dollars are going toward?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I can provide some preliminary information ó and these are estimates only ó to the member opposite, so I caution him with that.
First of all, some staff have to be moved so that new departments can make room and have programs and service improvements in their area. The member opposite has heard before that itís more advantageous where itís possible for government departments to be in one specific area. So thatís the sort of physical office move that is being planned.
When the moves are finished, thereís not going to be an increase in the total amount of space occupied by the government. Itís going to be arranged differently, though.
The one-time cost associated ó the preliminary ó thereís $374,000 outlined in the sheet I gave the member opposite. Itís anticipated that the moves would be $350,000 of that and the balance would be the financial management information systems.
For the Member for Klondike, I committed on the floor of the House the other day, Mr. Chair, that I would provide information on the tender, while weíre on the subject of office space, with respect to the community service centre in Whitehorse. My understanding is that the tender for the service centre will be released publicly on April 19, and I will be certain to provide members opposite with a copy of that tender.
Mr. Fairclough: So the physical movement of offices, desks and so on has taken the majority of the $350,000 cost. The Premier said that the other $24,000 is financial administration costs. What does the Premier mean by that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I indicated that they were estimates only and I was looking at a different note. The balance that I indicated today ó the $374,000 ó is directly office moves and the financial is written in the $92,000. So, the $374,000 is related to the physical movement of office space.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, and the $92,000 is already dollars being spent. Are there dollars allocated for renewal in these capital and O&M budgets for this year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Not that I am aware of, not that I can think of off the top of my head. The costs of renewal were to be covered by the vote authority given in the last supplementary, and they have been allocated as shown. There is no line item that I can think of now, Mr. Chair. There is no renewal line item in the Executive Council Office ó the financial summary that is directly attributable to renewal. The member may choose to look at the accountability and planning, but that accountability work is for a direct, better government. It is not related to renewal; it is a product of our work.
Mr. Fairclough: What we can expect is a revote of $374,000 to come forward. Would there not be additional costs for renewal such as a phone directory that is going to come out. I know there is a big price tag on that. New signage has to take place, business cards or letterheads ó I would think that these are a cost to government and it is a cost as a result of renewal and itís not a small cost to government at all. And that is why I was getting at what the hidden costs are, or indirect in the departments versus what we can see in this fiscal year that we are in right now.
We see none of that, so I expect that to come forward. Thatís going to be a cost of renewal. So can the Premier tell us what the estimate of that could be? I would think that a new phone directory would run in the neighbourhood of $20,000.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With respect to signage, that was included as part of the office moves. With respect to stationery and business cards and so on, the government prints those in any event, and I expressly requested that no one ó you know, we donít destroy old stationery simply because itís old, but we use things up and get rid of them. And then, when we go to print new stationery, we print it with the new title. That is what has been the intention.
There were some suggestions of a whole new look, and there was a lot of discussion. And it was, no, we should deal with these as they are required. So, signage is part of the office moves, stationery is part of the ongoing cost of government, and the other item that the member mentioned was the phone directory. There was a temporary one for use internally only, so that was made available. What the cost was to print that specific phone directory internally, I will try to determine for the member opposite.
In terms of the larger phone directory that the public comes in and purchases, that is something that we are printing, in any event. Weíre printing a new one, which is part of the ongoing work of government, so it is not an extraordinary cost. The temporary phone book, I suppose, to assist people would be considered part of the work of government. And Iíll find out the precise cost of the phone directory.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I ask these questions. Obviously, the departments have had all kinds of discussions in regard to the changes taking place, and Iím sure it has resulted in less service to the public ó the amount of time dedicated to renewal. Thatís what I was getting at, and I will be asking more questions in regard to how renewal has affected programs and services to Yukoners.
Iíd like to ask a couple questions in regard to devolution. Devolution is a big thing. Yukoners are going to benefit from taking some responsibilities and making decisions that we havenít been able to for a long time. Is government fully prepared to take on the programs from the federal government at this point, and will they be fully prepared, and what are they doing to be fully prepared for devolution as of April 1 in regard to, say, policy development?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, that work is ongoing within departments. First of all, with renewal, in preparation for devolution, there was an organization chart prepared, and I indicated to the member that the subsequent organization charts in a post-renewal world are under development and are being concluded so that we can, in turn, prepare job descriptions and make the offers to employees. So, that people work is ongoing, and itís being done by government employees, in cooperation with the DIAND employees.
With respect to specific policy development ó say, for example, in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources ó I would invite the member opposite to ask about a specific policy, and the relevant minister will answer in the accountability planning discussion or in that specific department ó in Executive Council Office or in the Department of Finance. In the Department of Finance, we have to deal with discussions around assets, but that is something that we have had debates about on the floor of this Legislature and in other discussions.
In Executive Council Office, the key in devolution there is preparing for DAP as well as the ongoing ó the quasi-judicial bodies, such as, I want to say, the Water Board. They are expected to be housed in the Executive Council Office. So, the work there is making sure human resource work is done; policies are there. In terms of Executive Council Office, as well we have to prepare for the mirror legislation. The five pieces of legislation that I tabled in the Legislature are also shepherded, if you will, or put through Cabinet and Management Board under the guidance of Executive Council Office.
So, thatís the policy work that we, in Executive Council Office and Finance, are preparing for. And individual policy work ó Iíd invite that question of the ministers.
Mr. Fairclough: Obviously, devolution is part of the Premierís responsibility; it is a very big one, and Iím sure that everybody wants a smooth transaction to take place. So, government must be working on other major policy work. I know of one, for example, that was done but is being redone right now, and thatís on forestry. I would like to know what the other major ones are. Weíll be asking every department this question, so they all can be prepared for it when their departments come up. But what are the major ones that government is working on?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I agree with the member opposite that everyone is working toward a smooth transition and that work in a smooth transition makes sure that cultures work together, that employees know which department they will be working for; for example, that lands and land transactions are with Energy, Mines and Resources. So in terms of the major policy areas that are under development and under work by departments, I am certain that the questions are most welcomed and will be thorough in detail from the members opposite.
Specifically, policy work ó one has only to look at the five pieces of legislation and one can determine from there that the major policy work of the government is ongoing.
Mr. Fairclough: I think that is a problem a lot of Yukoners have; we are not doing anything any differently from what the federal policies are. I would like to ask the Premier about the development assessment process. When is the completion date on that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The DAP process is a tripartite process and my understanding is that officials are now working toward a final draft that could then meet the expectations of all three parties in the discussions on this. I am hopeful we are very close to conclusion on that. There are some outstanding concerns that I have lobbied for and I have spoken recently with Minister Nault. The Yukon Chamber of Mines has spoken recently with Minister Nault as well. So there are four key points that we would like to see resolved and we are working to that end. It is a tripartite process and I think we are getting close to the end of it.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe the Premier can give an approximate date. Has there been a date talked about for completion of the development assessment process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The development assessment process may ó if it meets with all three partiesí approval ó may be tabled in the House of Commons before it prorogues, if it prorogues in June this year. Itís a federal bill. Quite frankly, I donít know if they intend to prorogue their House or not. I certainly have heard the same rumours the member opposite has heard, and so, where it would be in scheduling with their House leader ó as I said, it still has to receive the approval of all three parties ó the federal Cabinet, the Yukon Cabinet, and the Council of Yukon First Nations. And that approval process, to my knowledge, has not yet taken place.
Mr. Fairclough: Thank you for that information, Mr. Chair.
There has been a lot of talk about climate change and the effects in the north. Is there a direction that has come down from the Premierís level or Cabinet level to departments to find ways to reduce greenhouse gases?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have had several discussions with respect to the Kyoto Protocol between the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and myself. The Minister of Environment has represented the north at The Hague, as the member opposite, when he was on this side of the House, represented the Yukon at climate change and greenhouse gases discussions. This is a very controversial item in Canada. Itís a very controversial discussion. The Government of the Yukon has, over the past two years ó our Cabinetís position has been one of recognition that the north is most affected by greenhouse gases.
As for support for the Kyoto Protocol ó support with the understanding that we believe that provinces and territories should have a say, or a view, represented on it. I did not sign the letter ó the Moscow letter, as Premier Klein waved in front of the Prime Minister. We have worked very hard on this particular subject and tried to work toward building consensus in Canada on it. Thereís no direction government-wide from the Premierís office with respect to that. With respect to climate change, there is a consensus position that the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and myself work hard to achieve, and we are continuing efforts on this particular subject.
Mr. Fairclough: There are no monies in this budget, Mr. Chair, to address greenhouse gases in the Yukon or to work toward, in goodwill, the Kyoto Protocol.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iím going to defer that question to the Minister of the Environment, in his line-by-line budget. There is work that is being undertaken. A specific amount of resources ó and, as part of the ongoing work, we have supported the climate exchange program and a number of other initiatives, but I would prefer that the Minister of Environment, who has the responsibility in this area, answer that question.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to ask the Premier about government travel and Cabinet travel, and so on. Weíve seen a large number of dollars go toward travel. Has there been a change in directive by the Premier to increase travel for departments, for ministers, both inside and outside of the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we changed the accounting for ministerial travel when we came to office. Previously, it had been buried in departments. It was just covered under departmental travel so there was not as accurate a recording of ministerial travel. It is now all recorded through the Executive Council Office, and that has been done. Certainly, the figures have been discussed and I am prepared to account to the member opposite for that travel with a complete listing of the results of our work.
Mr. Fairclough: Maybe the Premier can explain how government travel was recorded a year ago and how it is recorded now. There is a new direction put out for recording all travel. How was it different and how was it hidden, for ministerial travel, in the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what we have done since coming to office is we have ó all ministerial travel and travel supported by staff is recorded and paid for through the Executive Council Office.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, is there an increase in ministerial travel over, say, last year or the year before?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, yes, there has been an increase in the in-territory travel as well as the out-of-territory travel. The total figure for the Outside travel for 2001-02 is $173,466. Inside travel is $38,346. This travel has fulfilled, for example, our commitment to lead trade missions closer to home. Scott Kent led a trade mission to Inuvik last spring that involved 30 Yukon businesses, including the Member for Watson Lake.
Devolution ó there are several ministerial trips specifically related to devolution. Specifically, there is my appearance before the House of Commons standing committee in Ottawa that related to that. I have also attended the western governors conference in Coeur díAlene, Idaho and, as a result the Government of Yukon will be hosting the Western Governors Association in Dawson City this year, as well as the western premiers. Yukon is hosting the Prairie North FAS conference. Justice ministers from across Canada are travelling to the Yukon in the fall. Women from across Canada are gathering in Whitehorse for the ministers responsible for the Status of Women conference and we have also undertaken extensive travel throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Are all costs of ministerial travels recorded? Those that are paid by the Yukon government and those that are paid by the federal government? Will the public be able to see all the travel and all the costs of travel, and not just Yukon governments but other governments?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The costs that are paid for the Government of Yukon are fully accounted for. For example, if the member opposite is thinking of the participation by me or other individuals who have occupied this position on Team Canada, the Team Canada costs specifically for the Premier or government leader to travel are not shown on this list, no.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe that cost was something like $40,000. It is a trip that the Premier, I would have thought, would never have taken, because when on this side of the House, she criticized government for even looking at doing any trade with Russia. It wasnít too long afterward that we saw the Premier go down that road.
I would like to ask the Premier, does the Premier approve all ministerial travel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, with respect to the Team Canada mission to Russia, the member opposite is quite correct. I stated publicly when I agreed to go that the Russian portion of the trip was not business, that that was a direct invitation for me to speak at the Women in Business conference in Russia, which the Canada Development Corporation supports and has a Government of Yukon individual who is very actively involved in supporting Canada nationally. In our international work in that particular project, I was asked to speak and did so at the request of Carleton University and the Government of Canada. With respect to the German portion of the Team Canada mission, that was a very important aspect of the business for us, as is clearly demonstrated by the return of Condor and also ó if they are able to obtain an aircraft ó Balair, Mr. Chair.
With regard to the approval for travel, all travel is examined by the chief of staff; and I am more or less advised of it, but not always ó not each specific trip. I do have to sign off on ministers travelling, as I am the signing authority on that particular item for insurance purposes. So for example, when the former Minister of Health would travel to Teslin or Haines Junction, thereís a travel form that is completed, and I sign that off as the immediate supervisor.
Mr. Fairclough: Does the Premier use some guidelines, before approval of travel, for ministerial travel?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: This Cabinet is very, very conscious of the fact that this is taxpayersí money and we want to see a value for it. That is why trips are discussed at length, and ministers quite often do not go on specific trips for one reason or another, and quite often they do attend and it is discussed. For example, the discussion of whether or not Yukon should participate in Team Canada, as represented by myself ó although it is Government of Canada money that paid for the travel from Toronto to Russia and to Germany, that was discussed as a whole. And the advice I received from my colleagues was that certainly the German portion is very important to business and, in terms of Russia, itís important support for the work we do as a government with Canadaís support on the international level.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I asked the question because the general public is quite aware of some of the travel this government has done, and some of it just doesnít make sense ó for example, for the Premier to approve the travel for the Minister of Renewable Resources and renting an RV. I asked for guidelines. What guidelines did the Premier use when approving this type of travel? I think Yukoners want to know. Iím wondering if there is anything at all other than the argument put forward by the minister.
I have no further questions at this point.
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on these trade missions closer to home and just ask a few brief questions.
Iím particularly interested in the trade mission to Inuvik. Firstly, it was very evident ó as the minister correctly pointed out, I was present at the trade mission ó that the delegation from Yukon spent a lot of time with itself in Inuvik because the season for the oil and gas industry, Iím assuming, was concluded, and there werenít any players in the oil and gas industry around.
Secondly, thereís something that became very apparent in the Northwest Territories and Inuvik on this trade mission, and itís an important item here because it has to do with government expenditure and unfettered access for Yukon companies to bid in the Northwest Territories. If we take a look today in the Yukon, Northwest Territories companies can successfully bid on government business, such as the Mayo school, and we donít seem to have that same unfettered access to the Northwest Territories.
So consequently, shortly after the trip and after many discussions, not only during the trade mission but here in the Yukon, it became evident that the government, in a very positive follow-up to the Inuvik trade mission, would formulate a meeting with the Northwest Territories government to see if thereís a way to negotiate a reciprocity agreement when it comes to bidding in an east-west manner north of 60, and see if we canít get more Yukon companies involved in the massive expenditures going on in the Northwest Territories ó for example, a hospital in Inuvik, and I think thereís a seniors centre going up in Inuvik. There are a number of expenditures there that Yukon companies could certainly benefit from; however, they cannot access those jobs.
Nothing came of the request to negotiate the reciprocity agreement with the Northwest Territories. I would like the Premier now to provide the House with a little follow-up on where weíre going with that particular initiative, because itís probably the only way that Yukon companies will be able to benefit in N.W.T. and so that they can bid on government projects as Northwest Territories companies can here in the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are two issues with respect to this that I would like to follow up on. One is the discussion by the minister of a reciprocity agreement, on which Minister Kent undertook to deal with the N.W.T. There is also a related issue, which is the Northwest Territories business incentive policy.
The N.W.T. BIP has proven very onerous for Yukon companies to work with and I raised that with Premier Kakfwi in May of 2000. I also subsequently followed up in writing to him after that meeting. I have followed up again with him on a specific constituent case where we have an example of a Yukon business company that has been very severely penalized by the BIP and the fact that it doesnít always work well with business, although theyíre hiring northerners. I have followed up on that on several occasions with Premier Kakfwi and, if itís acceptable with the constituent, I will share that correspondence with the member opposite. The minister responsible who led the trade mission will also follow up with a detailed response to the member opposite.
Mr. Fentie: I thank the Premier for that, but Iím somewhat concerned that we havenít achieved any movement in this area yet. The evidence is certainly there where Alberta companies and other companies are flocking into the Northwest Territories quite extensively and going to work. We also have the evidence of what the federal government is doing in expenditures in the Northwest Territories and the flow of benefits are not coming in an east-west manner but flowing in a north-south manner.
The Yukon is not a participant here, and weíve gone through a long period of time where we seem to have not achieved any results. Possibly the Premier might take up the official oppositionís continuing suggestions that we use the power of the collective voice of this Legislative Assembly to address some of these issues.
I would again query if the Premier has any interest in such an initiative for us to try to address some immediate action by the federal government and also help us with the Northwest Territories government to see if we canít create some economic stimulus in the territory immediately. Would the Premier be interested in that collective voice behind the Premierís government to try to get some results out of the federal government and indeed the Northwest Territories?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís interesting that the member oppositeís leader has stood on his feet and roundly criticized this government for travelling out of the territory, and yet the Member for Watson Lake just stood up and said, "Well, send me to Ottawa and weíll achieve success." I have said on the floor of the House many times that we welcome the member oppositeís support in the avenue we believe is open to us, which is early access to the western diversification fund in light of devolution. I had raised this with the former Minister Brian Tobin and the deputy, and we are very interested in pursuing this. And if the member wishes to support us in that, we would welcome that support. Iíve said that many times.
Mr. Fentie: I think itís important to point out to the Premier that the leader of the official opposition has roundly criticized this Liberal government for its travels because there have been no results. We have produced no results, unlike the former government, which produced actually many results. A quick example is the trade mission to Alaska, log homes being built in the Yukon now, on a consistent basis, and being shipped into Alaska. Thatís just one example.
I donít for a minute suggest here that the Premier should send me to Ottawa to get results. I stated clearly ó the collective voice of this Legislative Assembly. The Premier could travel to Ottawa on her own. What weíre saying is that thereís a collective voice behind the Premier to try to address some of these critical issues here.
Itís the results that are the problem, Mr. Chair. Under this Liberal government there arenít any. We can talk about western economic diversification until weíre blue in the face. At the end of the day, itís obvious that that is not producing anything for this territory in helping us stimulate our economy.
It matters not what the Premier may think of us on this side of the House. Thereís one thing for certain: if we, in this Assembly, along with Yukoners, form a collective voice in Ottawa, we are a formidable force and will be listened to ó somewhat similar to the Northwest Territories with their collective voice.
I urge the Premier to stand down on the partisan divisions and start looking more at the Yukon in a manner where we all have a duty to inject ideas and help the situation. All we need, on this side of the House, from the Premier is for the Premier to open the door to the bunker, to come out and start talking to Yukoners instead of to herself or other colleagues in the bunker who have come to the realization that thereís much more to this than the capacity that this Liberal government has today in dealing with these issues.
I think this is a very solid, constructive suggestion. Iím very confident that a collective voice will produce some results. Again, I point out that it does not have to be any one of us; the Premier can take full credit. Weíre willing to step up to the pump but not with just a hand with some skin on it. We need initiatives, vehicles with which this can work. I for one, along with the official opposition, firmly believe in Mr. Martinís approach, who has the purse strings and who has the money, that there must be an economic development agreement with the Yukon Territory and that agreement should have been developed yesterday. It was not, and weíre suggesting to the Premier that we attempt to do something in that regard. Letís stop bantering back and forth with non-productive debate and look at something we can agree on.
Does the Premier agree that an economic development agreement may be a very positive vehicle with which we can start to address some of our economic problems?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite stood on his feet and used two expressions: drop the partisanship of the debate, and quit the bantering back and forth. If thatís the case and the member opposite truly believes that, will the member opposite also recognize that this government has achieved the Yukon Act and devolution and passage through the House of Commons committee that was, according to the record of the Hansard, passed in record time by a House of Commons committee because there was a presentation by the Premier? Itís only the second time, nationally, that that has happened. Will the member also recognize that it was successive lobbying of Paul Martin that enabled us to achieve the resolution of a $42-million dispute? That was a direct result of travel.
If the member truly, truly wants to work in a collective manner on behalf all of the people of the Yukon, then that means recognizing the successes all the way around.
There have been some, and I have said before that I welcome the member oppositeís support. I welcome initiatives that, yes, if there is success in achieving a northern economic development strategy ó the previous government tried for four years and got nowhere. Weíve spent two on it and are getting the loud and clear signals, in light of September 11 and in light of collective efforts by Premier Kakfwi, Premier Okalik and myself, that our best chance of success on that is early access to western diversification. Instead of spending all the money setting up administration on a northern economic development strategy out of Ottawa, their argument is: letís access the western diversification fund early. Thatís the argument Iím being presented.
The member opposite would like to suggest we drop the non-partisanship. I invite him to be the first to do so.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I believe this side of the House has made every attempt to drop the partisan division in the debate in this House when it comes to issues where we must collaborate.
Now, the Premier states that for that to happen, we must admit that it is through the efforts of this Liberal government that certain things happened, such as solving the glitch in the formula, which provided a $41-million injection of federal money to this territory.
I would argue with the Premier that a very good way for that to have been addressed rests with the Premier, and itís part of what shines through when it comes to leadership, and thatís understanding that statements like "we achieved results" versus "I achieved results" goes a long, long way to addressing the very point the Premier tried to make.
Furthermore, thereís a lot of fear here that, because of the Premierís opposition to trying to do something at the federal level in addressing our economic situation, that the Premier may very well have traded us in with that $41 million ó sold the Yukon out for $41 million while millions and millions and millions of federal dollars are being poured into the territory east of us. Those are things that are on peopleís minds here in the territory.
The $41 million, by the way, has done little to stimulate the economy, and thereís a problem with that also. So, the Premier is ultimately responsible. Yes, under this Liberal governmentís watch, a $41-million injection of federal funds came to this territory and, under this Liberal governmentís watch, through the Department of Finance and this Minister of Finance, who also is the Premier, that $41 million was distributed. It didnít stimulate the economy.
Now, hereís a fundamental problem with the Premierís argument, and I just want to be clear with the Premier on what her position is. Is the Premierís position that, because we have lost population, because we face a decrease in transfer payments from Ottawa to this territory down the road in the future, that we must salt money away to deal with that and address that fact ó that we are going to be receiving less in transfer payments in the very near future; therefore, all this money must be squirreled away to offset that drop in transfer payments. Is that what the Premier is saying?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the figure is $42 million. The member opposite is incorrect. I have never said Iím in opposition to their support. The member is also incorrect in his assumption that there is a resolution of this dispute ó somehow did not ó that somehow the Northwest Territories allegedly is receiving money from Ottawa, and itís alleged ó it is not the case ó it has somehow been that our resolution of this outstanding formula issue was somehow that the Northwest Territories benefited in some other way. Thatís not the case.
The fact is that resolution of this years-old dispute led by Yukon ó and I have repeatedly expressed support and thanks to all of those involved ó also led to a similar resolution for both Nunavut and Northwest Territories. Those are the facts, and the member opposite surely would agree that what we should be dealing with are the facts on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Fentie: I didnít receive an answer to my question. Is it the Premierís position that because we will be receiving less in transfer payments due to the decrease in population because of the woeful economy we have, that it is the duty of the Liberal government to salt money away to address that inevitable decrease in transfer payments? Is that the Premier and her governmentís position?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Fentie: Well, thatís why I asked the question, Mr. Chair. The Premier stated on the floor of this Legislature this week ó I believe yesterday, but I stand corrected; it could have been last week ó that because we are going to lose money in transfer payments we must put money away for a rainy day. It has obviously been a discussion at the Liberal caucus table, because there are some Liberal colleagues of the Premier who did not agree that putting money away for a rainy day at this time is the best course. The Premier used a statement in the House that led us to believe that we are saving money or salting it away into little areas here for a rainy day ó that rainy day being the time when we will be receiving less money from Ottawa. Is the Premier not agreeing with what Iím saying here? Is that not what the Premier pointed out to this side of the House in debate just either yesterday or a few days ago?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member is saying that it is absolutely inevitable that the formula will be reduced, and that is what I am taking issue with. What I have said is that it may occur and that it is prudent and fiscally responsible that we set aside a contingency reserve of $15 million. That is what we have done. I have fully accounted for the balance of the $42 million, in that there were a number of endowment funds, there was also money set aside for the Canada Winter Games bid for 2007, and there was also the permanent fund and a contingency reserve for a census adjustment that may occur. The memberís question is suggesting that it is inevitable. We do not know that.
I went through a lengthy explanation yesterday, and I will go through it again for the member opposite if he wishes. We have preliminary figures for the census adjustment, the undercounts will not be available until the fall of 2003, and the key factor is not just the future potential of the formula being reduced ó it is the possibility that it is a compound factor from 1996 to 2000. So it could be a substantial amount of money that not only must be paid back, and then there is a substantial amount that the formula would be reduced by, and that may occur. It is something that we donít know, and it is fiscally responsible to all citizens that we prepare for that.
Mr. Fentie: Again, I am not going to fault the Premier for taking that position ó that we must prepare for that day ó but it seems to me that there is another option for this Liberal government and for any Yukon government of the day to use to help this territory, and that is to spend money in an appropriate manner, to inject money into this territory and to stimulate economic growth.
That, in itself, I would argue, would probably far exceed what we may lose in transfer payments, should that situation arise. It seems to me that the Yukon government is missing a very important obligation here, and that is to create an environment in this territory where we begin down the road of self-sufficiency, not dependency. Iím hearing too much from the Liberal government, led by the Premier, that we are going to remain dependent. What weíre suggesting is, over and above the $15 million contingency dollars that the Premier has set aside ó which, by the way, was the very same amount that the previous government had set aside in contingency ó why did the Premier not inject more dollars into this territoryís economy to provide stimulus, to help create growth, to create investment, to increase revenues for the Yukon government that are not dependent upon a transfer payment from a southern taxpayer, but are geared to create revenue right here in our territory?
I suggest to the Premier that thereís a fundamental error in her approach and her governmentís approach to the expenditure of dollars in this territory. Iím going to offer another constructive suggestion, that we in this House, through the leadership of the Premier, formulate a group of individuals representative of the full constituency of the Yukon, to sit down to discuss a number of options on how government expenditure would better stimulate our economic situation than weíre getting today.
I think what we have to recognize here, Mr. Chair, is that approach puts ideas and heads together. We all know that many hands make light work.
This side of the House is not void of good ideas as Iím sure the opposite side of the House is not void of good ideas. What we have to do is try to put some of those good ideas together so that it becomes a package of economic stimulus for this territory.
Can the Premier now address the one question? Is the Premier interested in formulating that group of people ó individuals ó to sit down and talk about options when it comes to Yukon government expenditure to help stimulate the Yukon economy immediately ó now?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have three points I would like to make to the member opposite. First of all, I will go back to the budgets tabled by the former Government Leader and Minister of Finance, Mr. McDonald, and examine them. To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a $15-million census contingency reserve put away, such as has been done.
It is normally the wish of most Finance ministers to have at least a monthís spending available should it be required. That figure is more like $40 million.
I would say to the member opposite that a $41,470,000 deficit is substantial spending in the Yukon economy to ensure that programs and services are delivered to Yukoners. I would also suggest that a national comparison with that is about a $42-billion deficit, which is huge. In short, itís a great deal of money. It is a large deficit and Yukoners recognize that. With the stimulus of the capital budget expenditures outlined to the House in the fall ó not chosen for debate by the opposition ó we are seeing the very real benefits of that capital expenditure now and earlier.
For example, in January, this winter, there was work being undertaken ó Yukoners at work on several capital projects that were able to go ahead because of the timing of bringing the capital budget forward. And the list of contracts that have been issued to date already to Yukon companies, stimulating the Yukon economy, is quite substantial, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Fentie: Well, in the first place, now that the Premier wants to split hairs on whether itís a contingency savings account or just a flat, old savings account, the point is that the former government had a savings account. The former Government Leader, Finance minister, had already deemed that there would be a problem down the road because of the population and had put money away for that exact same thing.
Secondly, the Premier says that two Yukon companies are going to work because of their capital expenditures. Yes, itís true. But those two Yukon companies have been building roads year-in and year-out for a long time now. The issue is that this is not helping to turn the economy around. And I think the Premier has to get out of the bunker, stop talking to herself and her very close-knit, tight circle, and start talking to Yukoners, because frankly itís evident everywhere that this economy is not turning around in the right direction; itís spinning around in a death spiral. Nothing is happening. Yes, the government of the day is spending money. However, we are missing out on a number of very important areas that would really help stimulate the Yukon economy, and we are offering a suggestion of sitting down collectively and discussing those options and those ideas.
Thatís what we are putting forward here. How can we take a substantial surplus and, taking some of it, stimulate the economy immediately? How can we put a collective voice behind this Premier to go to Ottawa and demand that Ottawa react positively to our economic situation, not drag their feet and wait? Let me give you an example, Mr. Chair. The forestry situation in this territory is a clear-cut example of where Ottawa just simply neglects and ignores the Yukonís desire and need to build an economy. The federal government has gone full circle in the last two years in forestry and hasnít advanced the issue one bit ó in fact, it has regressed.
Now, if the federal government had any interest in helping us develop a situation here where we are heading down the road to self-sufficiency and are slowly removing ourselves from our dependency on the southern taxpayer, there would be something happening in forestry.
Now, I am going to quote some numbers here that are not dreamt up, that are factual numbers produced by professionals. The southeast Yukon consists of six million square hectares of land base. On one million hectares of that land base, the potential annual harvest is 600,000 cubic metres. These numbers also reflect a potential protected area in the southeast Yukon. They exclude all the existing burnt areas. They exclude all the land claim selections. They exclude the caribou study area west of Watson Lake. They exclude other small site specifics, and we still have the capacity to cut and harvest sustainably, every year, 600,000 cubic metres.
Now, there could be arguments all over the place to whether those numbers are correct or incorrect. The bottom line is they are not produced by somebody in their garage or their shop or in the bedroom or in the kitchen. They are produced by professionals who know how to cruise timber, and they have come up with those numbers.
Now, letís look further into the equation. Investment. How do you get economic growth until you create a situation where the private sector, the entrepreneurs, the people with money who look for places to invest, come and invest. On a 300,000 metre cut in southeast Yukon, there is the potential to not only establish a value-added forest industry but a cogeneration system that would have us stop burning diesel fuel in Watson Lake and southeast Yukon, produce electricity out of the residual of 300,000 cubic metres. That cogeneration plant in 1999 dollars was an $18-million investment. The people who invent cogeneration, Siemens Company, willing to partner ó all that had to be put on the table is a resource made available to the private sector so that they could feel comfortable they could invest. This Liberal government hasnít done a thing in that area, and we lost that very, very positive opportunity for this territory to help develop its economy.
And thatís a shame because it did not have to go that way. It did not have to happen the way it did. In fact, we may very well be well on our way to firmly establishing the forest sector in this territory, in helping us diversify our economy and move this territory down the road of self-sufficiency.
The Premier also made another fundamental error in not realizing that, with that industry itself, the port options in Skagway and Haines were vital. The Yukon has the fibre that will allow us to enter one of the highest required markets there is ó the Japanese market. We have substantial fibre that is deemed Japanese grade, J-sort.
The Premier cancelled those port options, restricting us from our ability to develop that market through access.
Now, I want to go back to trade missions. The Premier also has neglected the fact that our neighbouring State of Alaska has an annual consumption of 100 million board feet of lumber. The whole state produces a mere 10 million board feet. Iím talking in 1998 numbers here ó 80 to 90 million board feet are shipped right by this territory into the State of Alaska. With a finished product in this territory, the Yukon can be very competitive in the State of Alaska, with products developed in the forest sector and also in Japan.
Why arenít we there? The money, the investment, was there; the wood is there; the idea was there. What was missing? No will at the government level, no will to go after Ottawa for its mismanagement of the forest resource and how opportunity after opportunity has slipped by the wayside in this territory.
It is a shameful situation to be in, considering the potential that was there and the potential that is still there today.
Where was the Yukon government in this whole process over the last two years? All they did was create a piece of legislation to name a tree as a territorial tree, and the Premier has the audacity to stand here in this Legislature and point fingers at others and not come to terms with the responsibility that the Premier and her government are responsible for.
To talk about a $40-million-plus deficit in the budget is entirely the Premierís problem.
This Premier and her government are responsible for that deficit. The question is: out of that deficit, what are we getting in the Yukon in returns? Are we maximizing our expenditures to ensure that we maximize the returns and create growth? No, thatís not happening; weíre going the other direction.
So, again, Mr. Chair, will the Premier not accept what it is we are offering here on this side of the House in moving this issue ahead? Will the Premier commit here and now to put together a group, a representative group from this Legislative Assembly, to put forward ideas and have a good discussion on what options we can take forward to the federal government in immediately stimulating our economy? Will the Premier commit to that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will commit to examining any specific constructive suggestions the member has to put forward with respect to expenditures of the government. That is what the budget debate is about.
Mr. Fentie: Now, thereís a real cooperative response to a constructive suggestion. Yes, thatís what the budget debate is about, and we are suggesting in budget debate that the Premier come to the realization that she needs help, that she needs help in a very, very critical way, and weíre offering it. So I suggested to the Premier that we sit down with a group of people representative of this Legislature ó which would mean all the Yukon ó and use that collective voice to (a) discuss ideas, and (b) put the pressure on the federal government to act and act now. What are we waiting for? Why are we not taking up this challenge, as we were elected to do? Why does the Premier continually stonewall a very good idea here in an attempt to address something?
What weíre doing is not working, obviously. So why will the Premier not commit to that idea?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have indicated that if the member opposite has a concrete, specific suggestion to put forward, Iím more than willing to examine it and debate it on the floor of the House. Iím asking the member opposite why he is stonewalling and not providing concrete, specific suggestions, as has been requested. The member seems to be believing that he has them. What weíre looking for and asking for in a budget debate is a specific, concrete suggestion. Is the member, for example, suggesting that as part of our $565,183,000 in expenditures on behalf of the Yukon, we not spend $4.5 million on medical travel or that we not spend money on the provision of home care or that we not provide safety inspections or that we not provide a learning environment, including teachers and an increase of four and a half learning assistants over the past year, as covered under this budget and planned for in this budget? Iím asking the member opposite for specific suggestions, and I donít understand why heís stonewalling and refusing to provide them if he is that keenly interested in debate.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I will just let that answer sit there and point out that we all understand the Premier is under a great deal of stress. The governmentís slowly falling, crumbling to its inevitable end, which is obviously going to be the Premierís need to call an election. But we have made constructive suggestions. Weíve said, "Letís have a representative from the third party, from our party, from the independents, from the government, sit down, discuss ideas," and letís go to the federal government with our collective voice behind the Premier.
Weíve made that suggestion. We have gone further on this side of the House, Mr. Chair. Not only has the government got a substantial surplus, we know that the federal government is very keen on fire risk, fire safety and the risk of wildfire in this territory. Weíve made a suggestion on the floor of this House ó a very good suggestion ó and the members opposite will admit, Iím sure, that the fire smart program is a very successful program, not only in lowering the risk of wildfire to Yukon communities but in helping to stimulate the economy through spending power. Now, by the way, as my colleague from Kluane points out, they did cut it. Two years ago, it was at $750,000; today it is at $500,000 and dropping.
The members opposite have the figures. We know and can determine immediately how many person hours of work resulted from the small expenditures in the fire smart program. But, there is a great need out there around Yukon communities that would be able to absorb much higher expenditures.
So let's just use some hypothetical numbers here. If $500,000 produced 5,000 person hours of work, how much work are we going to get out of, for instance, a $2-million fire smart program? It seems reasonable that we should be at 20,000 person hours of work. Does not the Premier see that that is a good, constructive suggestion, well within the means of government to implement immediately? The uptake would be 100 percent; the spending power in this territory would increase. People, especially out-of-work Yukoners and small business operators, would then go out and earn a living, and the spending power, as I said, would greatly help to stimulate our economy. And through it all, we are doing a very important and vital thing: lowering the risk of wildfire for Yukon communities because we canĎt get anything else going in forestry, and the forests are getting older year by year, increasing the danger year by year.
Will the Premier at least find common ground with me, this humble MLA from a southeast Yukon community ó which is almost to the point where weíre going to apply for foreign aid to help my community ó and admit that that suggestion is a constructive one?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have asked the member opposite for specific suggestions as to changes to the budget, and the member has come back with two concrete suggestions. One, that all members of the Legislature lobby Ottawa for access to more economic development funding, and I have several times in Question Period and today said I welcomed that support. The memberís second concrete suggestion is that we increase the funding to the fire smart program. The fire smart program was in the capital estimates that were tabled on the floor of this House in the fall. There is half a million dollars allocated for fire smart. Because the capital budget was tabled early we were able to expend that money. The member opposite is suggesting that we add to that funding. Can I just ask the member opposite specifically, then, is he suggesting that there be a drawdown of surplus or is he suggesting that some other program be cut? Bear in mind we have in excess of a $41-million deficit, so from where does the member opposite suggest the additional fire smart money should come? The current expenditures, I would remind the member opposite, are already tabled and have already passed this House ó that the fire smart line is not, per se, in this debate.
Mr. Fentie: Unbelievable. Well, the Premier asks this side of the House what we suggest would be cut or whatever. The bottom line is there are millions sitting in surplus; everybody knows it. Furthermore, the suggestion about where we would cut ó well, given the results from this Liberal government over the last two years, letís cut the expense of the government side and inject that into the economy.
If thatís the level ó the subterranean level ó of debate that the Premier wants to go to, then weíll go there. We made a constructive suggestion, and the Premier shouldnít play games here. The Premier knows there are going to be millions in lapsed funds. There is an opportunity here to do something. Hello, is anybody home over there?
We have an opportunity well within our means to stimulate the economy today, to put Yukoners, especially in communities that donít have a road job, that donít have a job ó every community in this territory can benefit, including Whitehorse. They can benefit from one small move, one small decision. All the Premier has to do is make that decision.
Nothing has to be cut, nothing whatsoever. The Premier simply can bring in a supplementary budget, and it will consist of a line item of $1.5 million, taking the fire smart program from $500,000 to $2 million. Whatís so complicated, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what Iíve heard the member opposite suggest is that the Executive Council Office funding line-item debate, which we are not in yet, be reduced by $2 million. Is the member opposite then suggesting that the $553,000 expenditure for the Womenís Directorate not be made?
Mr. Fentie: This is getting silly. The Premier knows full well thatís not what weíre suggesting. Weíre saying there are millions in a surplus here. Bring in a supplementary of $1.5 million, direct it to the fire smart program, pick up the phone and phone Mr. Nault and say, "Look, Bob, weíre going to inject another $1.5 million into the fire smart program. We know youíre very interested in addressing the fire risk in the Yukon around Yukon communities. Why donít you contribute in kind?" Well, now, thereís a real positive suggestion, Mr. Chair.
Not only do we add to the fund; we entice, through our expenditure, the federal government to add to the fund. So now weíre up to $4 million if the feds contribute in kind.
Letís do something, Mr. Chair, is what weíre saying on this side of the House. Arguing about whether it comes out of the Womenís Directorate or ECO is not a constructive debate because nobody is suggesting that for a minute. Nobody has suggested that at all. Weíre saying to take some of that money that the Liberal government across the floor has salted away, and letís use it to stimulate our economy.
So, Mr. Chair, let me just put my question on the floor again: will the Premier take the $500,000 fire smart program, an existing vehicle that is contributing positively to the Yukon on two fronts ó lowering risk of wildfire for Yukon communities and stimulating the economy, especially in areas most needed ó go to the surplus, bring in a supplementary of another $1.5 million ó topping that up to $2 million ó and, at the same time, go to the federal government and entice the federal government to contribute in kind? Letís put some Yukoners to work. That kind of expenditure on the fire smart program, I would submit, will put Yukoners to work year-round for the next two or two and a half years.
Whatís wrong with that?
Chair: Seeing that itís 4:30, the House will take a 15-minute break and return at 4:45.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I believe that I was about to answer; however, if the Member for Watson Lake wishes to continue.
Okay, then I will carry on with my answer. The member opposite has suggested that we draw down the surplus to add an additional $1.5 million into the fire smart program, and I would advise the member opposite that to draw down the surplus further would not be responsible and would not be prudent. Given that there is already a $41-million-plus deficit for the year, drawing down the surplus to $25,879,000 would not be responsible. If the member truly wishes to see $1.5 million added to the fire smart program, he could suggest other ways as to where that funding might be coming from.
Mr. Fentie: I am not going to waste the Houseís time arguing with the Premier on how much surplus there is, what the deficit is going to be and all the rest of it, because the numbers she is quoting are projected figures and we are trying to deal with concrete figures here.
So let me just wrap up by following the advice of the Premier and providing a constructive suggestion. We all know what weíve talked about here, Mr. Chair, through debate over the last six days on formulating a collective voice to put behind the Premier in her discussions with Ottawa. We stand by that.
But letís go into some quick specific detail on what we on this side of the House view as a very constructive approach to our economic woes that we face today.
Firstly, we stand by the fact that the federal government and the Yukon Territory, as Minister Martin stated, must have an economic development agreement. We agree with Mr. Martin that that is something that must take place here.
We suggest to the Premier then, with the collective voice of this Legislative Assembly and Yukoners behind her, that she go to the federal government to demand an economic development agreement for this territory, whereby the federal government would inject money into infrastructure to help enhance long-term economic development for the Yukon.
Examples of this expenditure would be roads to resources ó such as the one in the southeast Yukon ó opening up access to resources, thereby attracting investment into the territory because they can get access to the resource; infrastructure in communities, such as water and sewer projects, to help establish foundations for long-term economic development.
These are two suggestions linked to what an economic development agreement should provide this territory. Then, for immediate stimulus, weíre suggesting to the Premier that the Premier stop stonewalling this side of the House and stop holding Yukoners at ransom over projected figures and admit openly that thereís going to be a huge surplus come March 31, 2003, that this government will be sitting on.
Weíre suggesting that the Premier, also working with Ottawa, inject an increase of dollars into the fire smart program, inject an increase of dollars into the rural roads program, inject an increase of dollars into Project Yukon. These three vehicles would immediately stimulate spending power and economic activity in the territory through direct targeted government expenditures.
The Premier has endowment funds stashed all over the place, doing very little, given the interest rate, to benefit Yukoners. We feel that immediate expenditures in these areas would lend greatly to uplifting Yukon people and providing them gainful employment and, at the same time, increasing the spending power in this territory, which is the fuel needed to drive any economy, lowering the risk of wildfire, increasing our rural road infrastructure ó enhancing and improving it ó and allowing all communities in the territory to come forward with projects that will help advance their communities and, indeed, contribute to an economic stimulus. Some of it will be infrastructure, which will also link to the long-term, overall economic health of our territory.
I believe strongly, along with this side of the House, that these are constructive suggestions, that these can work, that there is no need to argue back and forth with this side of the House on where the money should come from, because the Premier knows full well that the money is available.
In my closing statement, I ask the Premier: will she take this side of the House up on these suggestions and move forward with them ó no more unconstructive debate about this?
Letís do something. Will the Premier now act, in terms of helping Yukoners now and long into the future, by taking decisive action and doing the right thing here and now?
Mr. Jenkins: Itís obvious the Premier, the Minister of Finance, is not going to take the Member for Watson Lake up on a very bona fide offer.
Mr. Chair, I have a number of areas I would like to explore with the minister. Probably the easiest place to get back into debate is where the Member for Watson Lake left off and explore with the Premier the issues surrounding the disparity between the Northwest Territories and Yukon and the differences between the ability of the Northwest Territories to attract business and the inability of Yukon to attract business.
The contractors in the Northwest Territories are well-protected by their respective government with respect to their BIP program. The same does not hold true here in the Yukon. There are some incentives on the labour side of it if the contractor hires Yukoners but the wheels are even coming off that cart, Mr. Chair.
I want to know from the Premier what initiatives her government has undertaken that Yukon contractors can have access to the Northwest Territories on the same basis as Northwest Territories contractors can have access here in the Yukon to government bids and other bids.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite was incorrect in his opening statement. He said something about me not accepting the offer from support from the Member for Watson Lake. The fact is I have repeatedly, on the floor of the House, accepted the offer of support of the Member for Watson Lake in lobbying for access to federal funding ó the western economic diversification fund. I think itís becoming clear that a northern economic development strategy is perhaps not within Canadaís means, given the events of September 11. The western diversification fund, in light of devolution, is the best offer as well, given that setting up a separate northern economic development strategy would require another set of infrastructure and another set of administration.
It makes more sense to add to and access the western economic diversification fund. So Iíve accepted their offer of support to lobby for that. I have not accepted the suggestion that we draw down the surplus. In light of a $41-million-plus deficit budget ó to draw down the surplus by $1.5 million to put into fire smart, I would suggest that that is a drawdown of a surplus that Yukoners cannot afford.
The member asked about putting people to work and roads and infrastructure, and I would remind the members opposite that there was $118,177,000 capital budget put before this House ó which put a lot of Yukoners to work ó which they refused to debate.
With respect to the business incentive policy, the Government of Yukon pays rebates. We have a business incentive policy. We have one for construction. We have one for goods and services. In the 2000-01 fiscal year, $414,000 was paid out in rebates. In the 2001-02 fiscal year, so far there has been in excess of half a million dollars paid out.
Yukon contractors are taking advantage of this program. Yukoners are being hired on a vast majority of eligible contracts. With respect to the business incentive policy in the Northwest Territories, I have lobbied on this since May 2000 with Premier Kakfwi and I have spoken with him about it at length and I have conveyed those concerns in writing. We have also had officials at the officialsí level working on dealing with the business incentive policy in the Northwest Territories, which has caused our Yukon contractors substantial financial hardship. I have lobbied on their behalf and spoken with the Premier about it. As recently as January, I not only spoke with him, but I followed up in writing, and I have yet to receive a response, although I anticipate receiving one very shortly as I have followed up and asked him where it is.
Mr. Jenkins: So all we hear of these wonderful undertakings by the Premier with respect to the business incentive program in the Northwest Territories that she has lobbied unsuccessfully, very unsuccessfully ó has the minister given any consideration to putting the same restrictions around the Yukon with respect to contractors from the Northwest Territories? Has any consideration been made in that regard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: As the former Minister of Economic Development ó we spoke around the business incentive policy, and there has been some work. So before the member writes it off as completely unsuccessful, I would like to have the results of the work to date and a review of the file before he completely labels it as unsuccessful. Letís have a fair evaluation of just how much success we have or have not achieved before the member writes off our efforts.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, one can only conclude that the minister, the Premier of the Yukon, has been totally unsuccessful in her dealings with the Northwest Territories. We havenít seen any results, and the question to the Premier is: has consideration been given by her government to imposing the same set of restrictions here in Yukon on Northwest Territories contracts as Northwest Territories contractors have on Yukon contractors?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, before the member opposite says that we have been completely unsuccessful, there have been a number of initiatives. I have lobbied Premier Kakfwi both verbally and in writing and the Minister responsible for infrastructure has worked with David Krutko, an MLA in the Northwest Territories on this as well.
I will discuss with the Minister of Infrastructure what the net results of their discussions are, and I will determine what the net results are of my work with Premier Kakfwi. I donít have the most recent correspondence from Premier Kakfwi at my fingertips, so I will determine that.
Now, whether or not we have given consideration to imposing similar penalties, the business incentive policy in the Northwest Territories is written differently from the Yukon, and one of the business incentive policies is that the Premier has the ability to interfere and deal with a policy and override, and that is not something that this government has given consideration to.
Mr. Jenkins: So what we have is a Premier who is doing nothing and who has accomplished even less, Mr. Chair. Thatís the bottom line.
Mr. Chair, currently we have quite a number of Yukoners working in the Northwest Territories. The Northwest Territories has a payroll tax ó a payroll tax for Yukoners forced to go to work in the Northwest Territories because of the inability of this novice Liberal government to stimulate the economy with the same natural resources, same mineral potential, same oil and gas potential, same forestry potential here in the Yukon, but that the Yukon has failed to develop. It failed miserably to develop it. And one starts to wonder why, Mr. Chair, given the tremendous amount of surplus money that this government has ó $99 million at the end of the last fiscal period. Itís projected to be $78 million at the end of the next fiscal period ó projected to be. We still donít know exactly.
My question is to the Premier: has any approach been made to the Northwest Territories government to exempt Yukoners, who are forced by this ministerís government to go and seek work in that jurisdiction, from this payroll tax?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon is not considering the introduction of a payroll tax.
Mr. Jenkins: I urge the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to listen carefully. I asked the Minister of Finance if any approach has been made by her government to the Government of Northwest Territories to exempt Yukoners working in the Northwest Territories from their payroll tax. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No.
Mr. Jenkins: So, here we have a Premier who is not even concerned about Yukon workers, Mr. Chair ó not even concerned.
Yukon has an incentive program for contractors who work here and, like a lot of areas here in the Yukon, itís predicated on having a Yukon health care card, which can be obtained after 90 days' residency in Yukon. What has come to my attention, from a number of different contractors who accessed this government program for a rebate on the wages, is that a number of their workers, because of the poor economic conditions here, have to seek work outside of the Yukon for certain months of the year.
A number of them ended up working in northern British Columbia, and a requirement is that they be covered by B.C. health care. Of course, after four, five or six months of working in B.C., they have a B.C. health care card. They come back to the Yukon; the contractor hires them, knowing full well that theyíre Yukoners because their wives and families still live in the same place here in the Yukon where they have lived for years and years; and when they go and submit their claim, claiming these individuals are Yukoners, the diligence of the department is, of course, such that theyíre not Yukoners. They donít have a Yukon health care card, so the contractor is precluded from having the wage benefit that is normally associated with that contract sent to him.
Is the minister aware of this, and what is she planning to do about it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I have a couple of points. First of all, with respect to payroll taxes, for us, the Yukon government, to ask the Northwest Territories or Nunavut to exempt Yukoners from the payroll tax would be difficult to administer and problematic for the other jurisdiction. Not only that, but what would the quid pro quo be? I would suggest that itís not somewhere the member opposite wants to go. Perhaps he wants to ó I trust heís not suggesting that we levy a payroll tax, as that would be a new tax in the Yukon.
With respect to purchasing and contracting with regard to the Yukon, I just have to provide for the member opposite, just for the memberís information and background information, the percentage of the overall dollar value of contracts issued to Yukon businesses. In 1995-96, it was 59 percent, in 2000-01 it was 89 percent and in 2001-02, 81 percent. If the member opposite has a specific problem with the application of the BIP and how contractors consider Yukon residents eligible, then Iím certain that the minister responsible for the business incentive program will be pleased to answer those questions in detail.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iím just terribly disappointed that this Premier and Minister of Finance cannot stand up for Yukoners and address her responsibilities as the Premier of the Yukon. There are a number of problems. One surrounds the use of the Yukon health care card as the paramount documentation that certifies that you are a Yukon resident. But thatís not the case in all cases. Iím sure that decision was made at the Cabinet table, or was it just forced upon the Cabinet by the Premier? I donít know that.
But Yukoners are being penalized a number of ways by this government. One, if they are forced due to the lack of economic activity here in the Yukon to work outside the Yukon, and if itís in the Northwest Territories, they have a payroll tax. Iím not suggesting to the Minister of Finance that Yukon impose a payroll tax. What Iím asking the minister to do and undertake is to approach the Government of the Northwest Territories and seek an exemption for Yukoners, for all Yukoners working in the Northwest Territories, from that payroll tax.
And the Premier has waffled all around it. So I would submit, Mr. Chair, that the Premier is not standing up for the rights of Yukoners. She really doesnít care or concern herself with how much Yukoners are taxed when they have to work elsewhere. She doesnít concern herself or care about Yukon contractors gaining access to the Northwest Territories on the same basis as Northwest Territories contractors can gain access to the Yukon, nor is the Premier prepared to impose the same regulations here in the Yukon on Northwest Territories contractors working here.
Mr. Chair, the playing field has to be levelled, and more often than not here in the Yukon, that playing field is getting terribly distorted by the Premier, the Minister of Finance. So weíve had two "no"s. The Premier is not prepared to go to the Government of the Northwest Territories and seek an exemption for Yukoners working in that jurisdiction, because she believes it would be too much of a paper burden for them.
Well, I submit, Mr. Chair, thatís a very poor excuse for an answer.
Mr. Chair, on the issue of Yukon contractors accessing the BIP program here in the Yukon and seeking their normal wage benefit incentive for Yukoners working here in Yukon on Yukon contracts for Yukon contractors, that seems to be out the window, too, if those individuals have had to seek employment in another jurisdiction and have a health care card from another jurisdiction.
And itís getting to be a bigger issue all the time. Now, the minister, the Premier, just brushes it off and says, "Talk to the minister responsible." So, I can see weíre not going to get anywhere on those issues with the Premier.
When we look across the range of definitions as to what constitutes a Yukoner, the issuance of a Yukon health care card is of paramount importance. Would the minister consider something other than a Yukon health care card for Yukon contractors for the BIP process here in Yukon? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite insists upon restating his opinion and his interpretation of my responses on the record. So, for that reason, I would just like to outline a couple of facts to the member opposite. First of all, there are six jurisdictions in Canada that have what is commonly referred to as a "payroll tax". They include Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Now, in Northwest Territories and Nunavut, a payroll tax is levied on employees. The member opposite is suggesting that I lobby for an exemption for Yukoners on this. That is akin to me lobbying Premier Campbell to say that Yukoners shouldnít pay sales tax when in British Columbia.
The fact is that Albertans travelling to British Columbia and purchasing goods and services pay sales tax. For that reason, lots of British Columbians buy in Alberta because they donít have a sales tax. It is not ó the member and I disagree on that ó a lack of caring on the part of this Premier, itís not a lack of understanding and it is not a lack of political will on the part of this Premier, or this Finance minister, or, whatís more important, on the part of this MLA for Porter Creek South. It is not.
With respect to payroll taxes, I would remind the member opposite of the Taxpayer Protection Act, chapter 14, section 8 ó changes in tax law ó which says that any suggestion of a payroll tax in this territory is something that would have to be put to the electors of the Yukon in a referendum. It is not something we are considering, and something that Finance ministers across the country ó and I might add, half of the Finance ministers across the territory as of today are of the same gender as I am. Their advice to me, quite specifically ó all of the Finance ministers, by and large ó has been avoidance of such boutique taxes as payroll taxes as a way of dealing with oneís revenues and expenditures.
Personally, given our record of reducing the personal income tax cut, I am quite surprised that the member opposite is suggesting that we go along that road of a payroll tax. Itís not something we are considering or are interested in.
No, I am not going to lobby the Northwest Territories to exempt Yukoners from their payroll tax. It is not a lack of caring or initiative on our part; itís a lack of understanding on the member oppositeís part of the finances of the provinces and territories.
With respect to the Yukon business incentive policy, Yukon hire, and the purchasing and contracting through the Department of Infrastructure, the fact is that the Yukon health care card, as a method of determining Yukon residency, is something that was very much debated at length in the discussions around the Yukon hire commission discussions that I attended. And I cannot recollect seeing the Member for Klondike there. In those discussions, that was a specific recommendation of the business community and that was a policy that was put in place. It has not been changed by our government. And if the member opposite is suggesting that we go back and change it and is suggesting that this is coming from the business community, then I would certainly seek the advice of the Minister of Infrastructure to determine if that is in fact what the business community has suggested. And I am certain that any suggestion by the business community such as that would be duly considered by the Minister of Infrastructure.
Mr. Jenkins: Thatís a pretty interesting spin that the Premier is managing to put on things. It is amplified through her response in Question Period and amplified once again in general debate in the Legislature.
But the issue that I am asking and encouraging the Minister of Finance to address is not one of imposing another tax here in the Yukon. Nothing could be further from reality. The issue is that the tax that is in place on the wages of wage earners who may or may not be full-time residence in the Northwest Territories. I am encouraging the Minister of Finance, in her capacity as such and as Premier, to spend some time representing Yukoners who are forced, through no fault of their own, to seek employment in these other jurisdictions. The fault for them having to do so rests, virtually in all cases, on the shoulders of the Premier and her government.
I am asking her to approach the Government of the Northwest Territories and seek an exemption for Yukoners working in that area from their payroll tax. Thatís what Iím seeking.
And Iím encouraging the minister to look at the issue of Yukoners with wives and families, who are working in northern B.C. for short periods of time and, because of requirements in British Columbia, they must obtain a health care card and be a member of the health plan in British Columbia when they go to work there. So they end up giving up their Yukon health care card. They havenít given up their residency here in the Yukon. Their wives and their families are still here. Theyíre still purchasing their groceries here. Theyíre still having their children go through the educational system here, and their families are still covered by the Yukon health care plan. But because of this business incentive program, Mr. Chair, the individuals, when they come back to the Yukon and go to work here, are disqualified from being bona fide residents.
Why doesnít the Premier look at having dual health care cards? It used to be that you could have dual drivers' licences. Why do we have to surrender our health care cards when we work outside of the Yukon for a short period of time?
Mr. Chair, we can have dual citizenship between Canada and the United States. Itís easier for qualified Yukoners to go to work in the U.S. than it is in other jurisdictions in Canada, and their level of taxation is usually lower, but this Premier here in the Yukon, the Minister of Finance, is doing nothing to help Yukoners.
Why is the minister sitting back and doing nothing on this very important issue?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the Member for Porter Creek South is not sitting back and doing nothing. I have worked very hard on behalf of all the people of the Yukon, and the results speak for themselves. If the member opposite cares to fully examine the facts, including the modest economic gains predicted in the economic outlook, the member will see that, considering what weíve had to work with, weíve worked very hard and weíre starting to see some results. Itís not to suggest thereís not a long way to go. Now, the member opposite is suggesting that, because I have not asked for an exemption from taxes from one jurisdiction for Yukoners ó there are enforcement agreements across the country. To the best of my knowledge and to the best of othersí knowledge, there is no reciprocal exemption agreement such as the type that he is asking me to approach other provinces and territories on. Itís not the way the tax system has traditionally worked. To suggest that we be the first in the country to deal with this ó there are other methods where we are working with Yukoners toward ensuring there are jobs, there are training opportunities and that they can continue to maintain the Yukon as their home base of residence if they should choose, through their training, to work elsewhere or to gain experience elsewhere. I am thinking specifically in terms of the rig training program that has been put in place. There was, in assistance to that, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resource put in place a job-site transportation fund to assist Yukoners, to help put trained Yukon rig hands to work in the oil and gas industry. So weíre working with Yukon workers.
Now, it may not be the way the member is suggesting. That does not mean weíre not working. We are, and weíre seeing the results of that work. I would suggest that the member opposite give consideration to that fact.
Mr. Jenkins: All I can say to the Premier is that the Premier is wrong. I would encourage the Premier to have a look at the difficulties that Ontario experienced with their contractors working in Quebec and the steps that the Province of Ontario took to resolve this difficult situation. But it took a resolve on the part of the Government of Ontario to address the issue. And Iím telling the minister here today that she does not have the same resolve to address the issue of the disparity between what contractors can do in the N.W.T. vis-à-vis what N.W.T. contractors can do in the Yukon.
Now, the precedent has been set by the Province of Ontario in their dealings with the Province of Quebec, which virtually had a closed shop. That is no longer the case. But there has to be (1) the political will to do something; (2) a desire to do something and, I guess, (3) the ability to do something. Now, I donít know whatís lacking here in the Yukon. Perhaps itís all three of those. But when is this government going to stand up for Yukon contractors and do something?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have indicated to the member opposite that we as a government have done a number of things. The member opposite chooses not to hear, not to accept, not to recognize. I canít surmount those difficulties for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister is failing to stand up for the rights of Yukon contractors or for Yukoners working in other jurisdictions, or for Yukoners resident here who must, due to economic times here in the Yukon ó to a large part developed and maintained by this government ó work elsewhere and lose their Yukon health care card, resulting in contractors here in the Yukon who subsequently hire them, right after they come back to the Yukon ó because they have a job here once again, which is where they want to work ó thereís no incentive because they have a health care card from another jurisdiction.
The minister wonít even have a look at this to see what can be done. Shame, Mr. Chair.
Then, on the other hand, if itís a trip to Russia and the Prime Minister of Canada calls up the Premier and says, "Come on over with us", thereís no problem finding $40,000. Iím sure the Premier had as much benefit visiting Russia as she had on some of her other trips, and drummed up a lot of business for Yukon. We havenít seen anything.
The minister stands up and says, "Look at what Iíve done; Iíve brought home $42 million in additional formula financing money." I would submit, Mr. Chair, that probably 98 percent of the effort was due to the capable individuals in the Department of Finance following up on this problem over a long period of time, which wasnít even identified by the Premier; it was identified by prior governments.
And, yes, we brought home the Yukon Act that sells out a large portion of the Yukon that were probably not even aware of the problems weíre going to encounter.
The Minister of Justice sits over there with his mouth open wondering if he has got a crown or not.
Benefits of the Russian trip, weíre told, were a speaking engagement in Moscow, representing women in business, and also Condor ó they are going to come into the Yukon with two flights a week. Well, ainít that grand. Last year we had four; this year we have two ó progress. In case the minister hasnít recognized whatís going on in the visitor industry, the last little strength that we have here in the Yukon, itís not healthy and itís not looking great for us this year. About the only area that has had an increase in bookings is the cruise ships; thatís up around five percent. When you look at four additional ships being deployed on the Alaska market, the capacity has quite significantly increased. What isnít selling are the shore excursions.
You can get on a cruise ship now and go to Alaska for $399 U.S. Thatís about $10,000 Canadian, Mr. Chair. But the bottom line is that our visitor industry is on its knees. Weíve basically got about a 100-day window and some jumps in the off-season.
But, by and large, our visitor industry has not changed significantly over the last several decades. The window has gone from 90 days to 100 days but, beyond that, there has not been a significant increase. In fact, there has been a shrinkage. We canít even get confirmation that the ferry is going to be in the water and running on May 15 of this year in Dawson City from this government. They donít know if the repairs are going to be completed on time and if the ice is going to be out of the river. So much for the visitor industry. I guess thatís the Liberal way.
It is interesting that Liberals have cut personal income tax, and itís the old shell game that the Minister of Finance has got quite adept at ó cut personal income tax and raise the fees, raise all the fees ó that is where we are heading.
Could the minister explain the justification for her trip to Russia? Now, I have heard it was to speak to a womenís conference, a women-in-business conference in Moscow. Can the minister spell out what additional benefits that Yukon has accrued as a consequence of this tremendous expense that we have incurred for the Premier to hobnob with the business elite in Canada and the Prime Minister?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the cost to Yukon taxpayers for me and Cabinet and caucus staff to travel on Team Canada to Russia and Germany was $3,764.37. The balance of the funding that the member is suggesting is monies that were paid directly to Yukon businesses and First Nation representatives to assist in their participation on the Team Canada trade mission. For their participation on the Team Canada trade mission, businesses sought government support and then subsequently participated.
The member is suggesting the figure is $40,000. As I have said, the figure for myself and a staff member was $3,764.37. Any additional funds were those that were given to Yukon businesses, which is something that ó it seems to me I have been listening all afternoon to members suggesting we work with Yukoners on the economy and in business, and it was businesses and First Nation government representatives that we supported financially to participate.
On the Team Canada trade mission to Russia and Germany, I would suggest that we, as individual premiers and representatives, do not determine the location of the trade mission. That is done by the Prime Minister and by Foreign Affairs staff and by the international trade organizations. The CIDA, the Canadian International Development Agency, has contributed significantly in Russia to a number of projects. A number of those projects involve the support of various governments by their contribution in terms of staff time. The staff salary isnít paid for by the Government of Canada but the travel costs and so on are.
There have been many examples throughout time in the Yukon, but one example of this is that an individual in the Department of Education has worked with an international project funded by Canada on women and labour market reform in Russia. They were holding a conference; the Yukon has supported that. We have two specific projects that we have been involved in this particular area, and their conference was at the same time during the Team Canada trade mission. It was a request of the individuals involved in the women and labour market reform initiative from Carleton University and of Minister Pettigrew and Senator Joyce Fairbairn that I address this group while travelling with the Team Canada mission, which I did in Germany. There were also a number of meetings held in Russia. The First Nation governments were doing some work with various organizations over there, regarding their attempt to understand the land claim framework that we have in the Yukon. That work is ongoing. It has also been supported by Canada and in part by the Yukon. So in terms of business out of the Russian end of it, what Yukon successfully gained is we gave back to Canada, and we shared expertise as part of the international effort. We provided an example and continue to provide an example for other Canadians and Yukoners, examples of Yukonís expertise. In Germany, I had a full slate of meetings with industry representatives, including the top tour wholesalers, who vehemently disagree with the member oppositeís assertion.
Yukon continues to be one of their major selling destinations, a key market for them. Pardon me; that was with the tour wholesalers. There was a combination tour wholesaler, an individual I met with, who is working toward the return of Balair to the Yukon, although Swiss Air has since gone bankrupt and with it the demise of Balair. This company has reconstituted Balair and are looking to travel to the Yukon next year. They were advising and updating on their work in that regard. I met with them as well and, of course, I also met and signed an agreement with Fulda for their continued participation in the Yukon ó something that I note with interest the Member for Klondike was completely in support of on the radio a number of months ago ó and that we have a pledge for them to continue. Their economic benefits to Yukon are significant, particularly as their initiative is largely during winter and marketing the winter. I can also advise the member opposite that other jurisdictions are envious, to say the least, of Yukonís success in the German market. Clearly, there is tremendous opportunity.
One of the other advantages I was able to achieve by being on the Team Canada mission was that Ontario and Alberta have opened a subsequent trade office to the Canadian trade office in ó I have forgotten the name of the city we were in. It was such a long time ago. Iím sure there will be a note that advises me. In any event, what we have achieved with that is that Premier Harris and Premier Klein both have graciously agreed that the Yukon could have space and opportunity in that office. Arrangements have to be determined, but it would be at minimal cost to Yukon.
This is something that no one else has been able to achieve and as a direct result of taking the time and seeking the support and working with both Premiers Klein and Harris on that particular initiative. And that is substantial. The results of the trade missions, both, in January of 2001 to China ó we saw a number of individual mining companies make significant trips to Yukon last summer, seeking and assessing for themselves the business opportunities.
With respect to Team Canada West, we had a tremendous opportunity at that point to follow up not only in Dallas on oil and gas initiatives directly with major companies, and including Devon & Hunt Oil Co. Also in Los Angeles, we followed up on film initiatives. Throughout, there was an opportunity in meeting with hundreds of Canadian business people to further opportunities such as the sale by True North Gems and the desire by True North Gems to get the emeralds to market. The Prime Minister himself urged Canadian business people in December to not only considering buying a diamond for their partner at Christmas time, but to also consider purchasing a Yukon emerald, and that would be the best use of their Christmas monies as an opportunity for a gift for their spouse or partner.
In Russia and Germany, as Iíve said, Russia was about giving back but it also enabled us to market our expertise and our innovations in such things and such work as First Nations relations and self government.
In Germany we built upon a tourism market, and we are the envy of the rest of the country with respect to our initiatives in that regard.
If the member opposite wishes the details of the Team Canada missions in terms of whom I met with ó Canadian and in Russia and Germany ó as a great deal of the work on these particular initiatives on the Team Canada missions is on the contacts that are made between Canadian businesses. If the member opposite wishes a complete listing, I will be glad to do that.
I could share with the member opposite some of the positive letters I have received in support of the work I have done on behalf of the Yukon, if the member should wish, from other Canadian businesses. However, itís a rather glowing description and it stands out as a piece of fan mail in support of my efforts, so I doubt the member opposite wishes to read it.
Mr. Jenkins: I am sure that after the end of the day, Mr. Chair, the Premier is going to have a very sore arm from patting herself on the back, because I havenít seen anyone else in the Yukon ó or very few outside of a few known Liberals ó giving her the accolades she is presenting to us.
But the bottom line is that whether to go or not go on these trade missions is determined by the Premier, and therein lies the crux of the problem. If there were a trade mission to Germany itself to drum up business, I donít think I would really have a problem with it. But right after the Premier returned, the Department of Tourism sent two individuals to Germany and another one to London to the conferences in these respective areas.
ITB is the biggest trade show in the world for the visitor industry, Mr. Chair, and itís awesome to be in Berlin and see that show. It takes Rendezvous Canada and makes it look like some little event on a street corner. That is a very busy city, and appointments are just rapid-fire.
I look forward to seeing what is transpiring in our German marketplace here in the Yukon at the end of the year because, yes, we are an excellent destination for the German-speaking market, but Iíll see if that translates very quickly into dollars in the pockets of Yukoners.
The cost to the Government of Yukon for the total trade mission, directly and indirectly, was $40,000. Yet we see initiatives here in the Yukon, like the museums having their funding cut ó reduced. We see initiatives like our education system having training trust fund monies cut. We see DCAS, the Dawson City Art Society, representing a whole group from the arts community and doing an excellent job in delivering programs in my community, not being able to realize their full potential because of the failure of this government to address the financial woes of that organization.
And itís critical that those financial requirements be met, or it will ultimately lead to their demise. Itís almost like the political philosophy of this Liberal government, Mr. Chair: if it works, keep cutting the funding until it has failed.
Just going back a few short years ago, I would have liked to have been a fly on the window of the motorcoach where the Premier accompanied the Prime Minister of Canada from the airport down to the Gold Rush Inn. She probably asked the Prime Ministerís advice, and the response probably went something like: "Well-a, Patricia, you know, it donít make no never-mind. You just gotta de-populate the Yukon and make one big park here so we can all play in the future. But donít do anything till I come back."
It appears, Mr. Chair, that the Premier has taken the Prime Minister of Canada up on his word completely, because sheís not doing anything to stimulate the economy or to provide opportunities for Yukoners in the Yukon. This government has no trouble providing opportunities for Yukoners in the Northwest Territories, if you want to look at the North American Tungsten mine and its reopening, but any suggestion of an economic activity in the Yukon gets a thumbs-down from this Liberal government.
We only have to look at what drives our visitor industry. What drives our visitor industry, Mr. Chair, are attractions. We have the Yukon game farm that the Premier of the Yukon wonít even put one dollar of government money into to signify that they are supportive of the game farm remaining here.
Instead we have the minister responsible for the environment and renewable resources putting in place regulations that will probably preclude the current owners of the game farms from selling any of their animals because theyíll probably tell them theyíre not theirs; they belong to the Government of the Yukon.
I can see that coming down the road very quickly. If you read through the regulations that this Minister of Environment hasnít really consulted with anyone on ó and shame to this government.
The issue here that we are faced with ó that this Minister of Finance could do something about and is not doing anything about ó is restoring investor confidence in the Yukon, creating economic activity, stimulating that economy with the expenditure of government money, and putting Yukoners to work in Yukon. I donít think you would get any argument from anyone.
Yes, at the same time maintain our roads, maintain our schools and maintain our health care system. But if you look at all these initiatives and combine them, itís not because of lack of money that they arenít occurring. If we were sitting here debating a budget with a $60-million deficit that was done a number of years ago, we would have a whole different approach.
I would encourage the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to do what the Yukon Party did back then: gather together a group of business people and an all-party committee to come up with ideas as to how best to spend government funds to stimulate the economy and determine what government policies need to be changed in order that that may be accomplished, Mr. Chair.
The bottom line is that thatís what has to happen. If it doesnít happen, this Liberal government is going to have gone from one of the biggest majorities ever, from one of the largest surpluses in the history of the Yukon ever, to political oblivion. Itís not going to take much ó perhaps a few more internal e-mails to surface, a few more non-starters by some of the respective ministers.
Itís interesting to note that just a few short months ago this government was unable to find money to continue with the construction of the Mayo school ó because they didnít have any money. Today, we know that the Department of Health is going to be rightly spending some several million dollars on drug and alcohol treatment. Itís not in the budget. Itís going to have to come back in a supplementary. At the same time ó for the fourth time since I have been in the Yukon ó we are going to move the liquor store.
Thereís no money anywhere for planning. Thereís no money for that exercise, so thatís going to have to come back in a supplementary. The only area that weíve identified quite extensively is for the dog-and-pony show that the Minister of the Environment is going to be undertaking with respect to creating more parks here in the Yukon. I just wonder when that minister is going to be renting or purchasing a nice new motorhome at the governmentís expense for a month to go and tour the Yukon again. Never mind the time off last year; the cost was not what was stated. It ended up over $6,000, Mr. Chair.
So, at the end of the day, who benefits? The minister had a nice trip around the Yukon. The motorhome rental company received some rent for an RV. No more Yukoners were put back to work ó well, maybe scrubbing the ministerís windshield and pumping some gas into his RV, but thatís about the same.
The whole concentration has been on the renewal of government, rearranging the deck chairs on the SS Liberal Titanic. That is all we are hearing about, and the Minister of Finance expects us to believe that renewal is only costing $895,000 and that all the officials within government are volunteering their time, by and large, for this initiative or doing it in concert with other work. Mr. Chair, we know that is not the case. The leader of the official opposition brought in questions about the letterhead for all these new departments. We know what that costs. There is a significant cost associated with purchasing that weight of paper, with that logo in gold-embossed leaf. There is a significant cost.
Other than government, there are not too many in the business world who could even afford that quality of stationery. I donít know what weíre going to do with the old stationery from the old departments, but we have the assurances from the Minister of Finance that itís going to be used up. Maybe on the next trip to one of these Third World countries, Mr. Chair, the Minister of Finance, the Premier, can take that paper with her and sell it, or encourage them to use it for another purpose.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move the Speaker do now resume the Speakerís Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan 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. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
House leader's report
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Pursuant to Standing Order 75(2), I wish to inform the House that House leaders' meetings have been held for the purpose of reaching agreement on the number of sitting days for the current sitting. Further, Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 75(4), I wish to inform the House that the House leaders' meetings held pursuant to Standing Order 75(2) have not produced an agreement.
Speaker: The House has received the report of the government House leader. Based on this report, the Chair rules that, pursuant to Standing Order 75(3), the current sitting shall be 30 days, the final sitting day to be Tuesday, May 28, 2002.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 16, 2002:
Conflict of Interest (Members & Ministers) Act: letter from the Yukon Conflicts Commissioner regarding possible amendments (dated March 25, 2002) (Duncan)
Protected Areas Strategy: letters from Yukon Chamber of Mines to Peter Jenkins (dated April 11, 2002), The Klondike of Placer Minerís Association to Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated April 10, 2002), and the Yukon Agricultural Association to Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated April 10, 2002) (Jenkins)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 16, 2002:
Renewal costs and organization charts (Duncan)
Oral, Hansard p. 3169