Wednesday, April 17, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Law Day
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: On behalf of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, I would like the House to make note of the fact that today is Law Day across Canada.
Observing Law Day gives us an opportunity to renew our commitment to justice and helps to educate the public about the law, the legal profession and some of the legal institutions that form the cornerstones of our Canadian democracy.
As most members are aware, the Canadian Bar Association has sponsored this national event since 1983 to commemorate the anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
And, in fact, as many members may remember, those photographs of Prime Minister Trudeau, Queen Elizabeth, on a blustery afternoon in Ottawa 20 years ago today, celebrate that anniversary that we celebrate today. In fact, an amendment to the workersí spousal compensation legislation introduced yesterday does exactly that kind of correction that the Charter imposed on this country.
This year marks the 20th anniversary. For two decades, the Charter has been a beacon and an expression of our collective values. It embodies fundamental freedoms and rights that define our identity and aspirations as Canadians. We were honoured this month to have the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada come to Whitehorse to talk about the Charter.
This year, the theme of Law Day in the Yukon is "Freedom versus security, whatís the big deal?". This theme relates to the ongoing role that legislators and the courts have in balancing individual liberty and collective interests under the Charter. It reminds us all of the need to make sure that measures to protect our safety and security do not sacrifice our rights and liberties. These issues have become paramount in the aftermath of the September 11 attack in the U.S.A.
This year, the Yukon branch of the CBA has planned a mock trial. In this trial, Soapy Smith and "Yukon Trek" stand trial for the abduction of Diamond Tooth Gertie.
The events will be re-enacted by members of the Canadian Bar Association, in courtroom 5 of the Law Courts building tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m.
Also planned on April 19 is the 12th annual Law Day Charity Fun Run and Walk, a five-kilometre event that raises money each year for a variety of local charities. Iím pleased to announce that all proceeds from this yearís Fun Run will go to the kids recreation fund. The fund raises and distributes money to assist children and youth up to 19 years of age who are unable to participate in healthy recreational activities due to financial hardship. So far, $7,600 has already been raised for this charity.
Activities undertaken this week include publishing a newspaper supplement on Law Day and a radio interview with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.
Iíd also like to pay tribute to the Law Day organizing committee of the Yukon branch of the Canadian Bar Association for their contribution of time and energy that will ensure that Law Day 2002 is a resounding success.
I encourage members of the Legislature and all Yukoners to celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by taking part in this yearís Law Day events.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Girl Guide Cookie Week
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Although Volunteer Appreciation Week starts in a few days, on behalf of the Legislature it is timely to recognize the Yukon volunteers of the Girl Guides of Canada organization as you will see lots of them around Yukon communities this month selling Girl Guide cookies.
As members may know, Girl Guides of Canada is an organization for girls aged 5 to 17, lead by women who are young at heart. The girls and their leaders have fun while building friendships and participating in a wide variety of activities. The organization not only offers an exciting program for girls, it offers friendship and skill development opportunities for women.
Girl Guides of Canada is a part of a worldwide movement of 10 million members in 140 countries, the largest organization for girls and women in the world. In Canada, over 143,700 girl members are part of the organization. In Yukon, the game of guiding was introduced to the Daughters of Dawson in 1914 and has been offered in almost every Yukon community at one time or another since then. In Yukon this year, 298 girls are enjoying the program under the leadership of 69 adults. The guiding program is active this year in Dawson City, Pelly Crossing, Faro, Watson Lake, Haines Junction and Whitehorse, and it is the most widespread offering of guiding programs in many years.
At this particular time of year, the debate continues: which is your favourite, chocolate or vanilla? In a tribute to Girl Guide Cookie Week, each member this afternoon will be delivered a box of Girl Guide cookies. It will be delivered to their office, as weíre not allowed to eat in the Legislature. This is not to preclude any of them from purchasing from a member at the door. The media gallery will also be provided with samples.
Iíd like to encourage everyone to greet these young women and their parent volunteers and to support this particular organization, as cookie campaigns are the principal fundraising event for Girl Guide organizations in every province and territory in Canada. Many parents join their daughters to offer cookies for sale throughout the Yukon, and the campaigns would not be successful without them.
Parent volunteers, like guiders, offer their time and talents throughout the year as helpers at camp, as coaches and all kinds of activities.
At this time, on behalf of all members of the Legislature, Iíd like to offer a tribute to the women who make up the Girl Guide movement, an active organization supporting Yukon youth, providing leadership both to girls and to the administration of the organization. On behalf of all of us, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce a young man in our gallery today, Alex Ordoñez-Simmons. Heís eight years old. He has watched the proceedings of this House every day. He has paid attention to what has taken place in the Middle East. He very much has politics in his interest and could very well be the next Premier of the territory.
I would like all people here to welcome him to this House.
Speaker: Is there any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kent: I have for tabling the Canada-Yukon Territory framework agreement on agricultural risk management. This is in response to an oral question raised by the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes on April 15, 2002.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Petition No. 5 ó response
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I rise in response to Petition No. 5. I would like to thank the people of Yukon who supported the petition last fall, respecting the designation of the Friday closest to the summer solstice as a holiday.
Although, in principle, this may sound like a good idea, particularly from an employeeís perspective, as there are no designated days in June, this designation will, however, have a significant financial impact on business throughout the territory.
For the territorial government alone, it would cost approximately $260,000 in overtime, plus an additional $400,000 in lost productivity and wages.
The costs to the Yukon business community are immeasurable. A holiday requires the payment of wages for hours not worked or the payment of a wage premium, such as time and a half or double time. In order to remain competitive, businesses need to remain open as many hours as possible during the summer months and need to be able to control their expenses. Also, there are approximately five work weeks between the holiday in May and the July 1 holiday. There are approximately seven work weeks between January 1 and the holiday in February.
I do encourage Yukoners to celebrate the summer solstice in other ways. I understand that Yukon Educational Theatre is planning a community event on the clay cliffs. A day-long celebration of Aboriginal Day on June 21 is planned for the Elijah Smith Building. The Yukonís francophone community is also planning a Jean Baptiste Day celebration for June 24. I encourage all Yukoners to celebrate the solstice in each of their communities in their own way.
Therefore, Mr. Speaker, after consultation with both the Whitehorse and Yukon Chambers of Commerce, which represent the majority of business in the Yukon, this government is unable to support this petition.
Speaker: Are there any petitions to be presented?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Fentie: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) access to capital, particularly venture capital, continues to be one of the major impediments to the development of a strong and diversified Yukon economy;
(2) the Yukon Legislature has passed the appropriate legislation to permit the creation of a labour-sponsored venture capital corporation known as the fireweed fund as a means of attracting investment capital to the Yukon;
(3) the creation of the fireweed fund had the endorsement of the business, labour and other groups that participated in the tax round table under the previous NDP government;
(4) the creation of the fireweed fund also had the endorsement of the Yukon Liberal Party opposition of that day;
(5) the Yukon Liberal government has failed to provide the necessary seed money to make the fireweed fund the effective tool of economic development that it can be; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to provide the appropriate level of support to the fireweed fund without delay so that the fund can be used to attract badly needed investment capital to the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the treatment by Canadian immigration officials, on March 24, 2002, of two young German exchange students travelling to Yukon to participate in a language exchange program with Yukon secondary students was an affront to Yukon hospitality and an embarrassment to Canada; and
THAT this House urges the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to
(1) apologize on behalf of Canada to the two German exchange students, their families, as well as to the host families and the organizers of the student exchange program; and
(2) invite the two German exchange students back to Canada, reimburse them for their airfare costs, and ensure that they receive the red carpet treatment.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Investment climate in Yukon
Mr. Fentie: I have a question today for the Premier in regard to our economy. One of the prime concerns for Yukoners is the issue of access to venture capital in this territory as it relates to economic development. Financial institutions right now are telling potential borrowers that the Yukon is not a place to invest and will not loan money. The new owner of the United Keno Hill Mines recently said that the political instability in this territory, led by this Liberal government, is an impediment to investment. And thereís much more, Mr. Speaker.
In the face of all this evidence, will the Premier act now and take some bold steps to improve the access of Yukon businesses to venture capital?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A couple of points with respect to the member opposite. This government has taken a number of bold steps, including completing devolution and initialling four land claim agreements as well as completing one. The memberís specific question with respect to the venture capital fund ó that was an idea that was proposed and was supported by the Liberal Party in opposition; the member is quite correct. There was a report done on it during the transition two years ago, and at that point the proponents of the project were looking for federal assistance and for a significant amount of funding as start-up capital, and that funding was not available. It is not an idea that has been forgotten about. It is something that we consider as well as the public/private partnership model, which is something that we are actively looking at and considering in our caucus.
Mr. Fentie: That answer is small comfort to Yukoners who are trying to access venture capital. There are other problems. Interest rates are rising. The attitude of the investment community is the Yukon is not a place to invest. This Liberal government has done little to change that attitude. An independent audit recently showed that a very important vehicle toward changing that attitude, the trade and investment fund, was actually working. Yet this Premier and her government have killed that fund and the good works it was doing in this territory. We on this side of the House want to work with the Liberal government to address this very important issue to Yukon people. Will the Premier now go back to the drawing board and put the necessary support vehicles in place to help Yukon businesses attract investors, including reinstating the trade and investment fund? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, likewise I have to ask the member opposite: will he recognize the good work of this government in terms of improved incentives such as the enhanced mineral exploration tax credit, the infrastructure support, working with North American Tungsten to reopen Cantung mine and our maintenance of the road, 175 jobs, making land available for resource development, proceeding on our on-land sales, the third and fourth, promotion and encouragement of the pipeline project, as well as significant mining projects in the territory, and improved certainty?
Is the member prepared to acknowledge the good work this government has done?
We have reviewed the trade and investment fund, as we committed to do. We tabled the report in the Legislature. Itís a capital vote item, and certainly it will be considered in the capital budget in the fall.
Mr. Fentie: Itís not me who this Premier should be trying to convince. Itís Yukoners.
Letís look at recent developments. This side of the House is showing leadership when it comes to the economy by talking to Yukoners, not talking to ourselves. Over 400 Yukoners so far have responded to a questionnaire sent out by the official opposition, and there are more responses coming in every day.
An example of some of the questions asked: should the Yukon government provide more support for small business through programs such as micro loans, loan guarantees or investment tax credits? Of the respondents, 69 percent said "yes"; 54 percent of the respondents said the Yukon government could do more to help Yukon small businesses expand into new markets ó in short, the trade and investment fund that this Premier and her government continue to sit on.
My question: the Premier said her door is open and that she is willing to consider good ideas. Will she agree to take part in an all-party committee to identify immediate steps that can be taken to improve the business and investment climate of the Yukon? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thatís part of the problem with the NDPís questions ó theyíre always "yes and no", including that survey. If the member opposite really has a wealth of good ideas, letís bring them out; letís have the specifics and letís have a public debate on them. Letís have a public debate on specific ideas.
One idea that they have come forward with is the trade and investment fund. We committed to review the fund; we did. We tabled the fund; itís a capital vote item. I tabled the audit report.
The fact is, Mr. Speaker, that that report was tabled in this House, but the trade and investment fund is a capital vote item. The O&M budget is currently under debate, and I have said that weíll give every consideration to bringing forward that, or a similar fund, in the fall. Funds permitting, weíll look at it for the capital budget ó itís a capital item.
I asked the member opposite to recognize some of the work that weíve done.
Question re: Investment climate in Yukon
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, itís important to note that this governmentís mantra is not something that Yukoners are buying, and thatís what the questionnaire bears out. Weíre saying to the government ó the opposite side ó that they should be listening to Yukoners.
Another industry thatís very concerned about the situation our economy is in is the tourism industry. Operators need government support for marketing, product development and the infrastructure. Will this Premier help the tourism industry address those needs in marketing, produce development and infrastructure, and will she announce this at the up and coming TIA conference in Dawson City this weekend?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Door to door in my riding, what I am hearing from constituents is that they are not buying into the endless doom and gloom and negativity, mantra and personal attacks by the members opposite. My constituents are not buying into that, and I donít think Yukoners are either.
The fact is that the previous Minister of Tourism, as well as the current Minister of Tourism, have been very supportive of Yukonís tourism industry. We have the stay-another-day program, on-Yukon-time program, fuel tax exemption for commercial tourism off-road vehicles ó a long, long outstanding program that no government would deal with until this Liberal government came to office. We dealt with that issue. More marketing support for winter tourism ó done by this government. Additional funding for the Convention Bureau ó read the success that they have issued in their media release. Why doesnít the member opposite talk about that? Why doesnít he stand up and say that the Convention Bureau not only appreciates the support of this government, they have done some very good work and there have been millions and millions of dollars spent in this territory because of their work with this government.
Mr. Fentie: Well, I am not sure that answer had a point at all, or even if the Premier was trying to relay one to this House. The Premier accused this side of the House of personal attacks. What about this Liberal governmentís attack on women? What about this Liberal governmentís attack on the small business community by cancelling the trade and investment fund? What about this Liberal governmentís attack on investment in this territory by ignoring the hard policy areas like forestry, like oil and gas, like land claims, like the mining sector? Everybody is waiting for this government to act.
Once again, we have positive solutions to present, and we hope that the Premier, instead of playing politics here, will be receptive. Under the previous government, the tax round table endorsed the idea of a labour-sponsoredÖ
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fentie: Öventure capital corporation to help investment: the fireweed fund. Will the Premier make a commitment to provide the necessary start-up funding to the fireweed fund so it can be used as a real tool to attract investment capital to the territory? And I would point out that, in opposition, the Liberals supported this legislation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Yukoners remember well the economic record of the NDP government. They remember all too well the 17 percent unemployment rate and the 2,000 people who left this territory.
If the member opposite has specific ideas, I invite him to put them forward, and I invite him to have a public debate.
The member opposite has referenced the questionnaires. Is the member prepared to table those questionnaires so that we can debate them? We can debate these good ideas. Table the responses, provide that information to the House. The member has referenced it.
The fact is that this government has done a lot to support business in this territory and done it in ways working with the business community, Mr. Speaker. In tourism alone I mentioned several ó the fuel tax exemption for off-road vehicles in tourism. We didnít just talk about reducing red tape like the members opposite; we actually did it ó just like the income tax cuts, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to point out to the Premier that the business community has stated that this budget the Liberals have tabled is status quo and does little to assist the business community and address the economic issues of this territory.
Mr. Speaker, a lot of people expected this Liberal government to be business friendly, to not spend their time pointing fingers at other people for the problems that they themselves have created. Such attractions as the Yukon game farm may be in jeopardy because this minority government is caught up with looking out for its own needs and looking after the problems it is creating for itself. The economic opportunities in film and video that were starting to blossom are being neglected by this government. Things that were starting to work because they had another governmentís fingerprints on them were eradicated by this Liberal government in the first two years of office. The territoryís economy needs ó
Speaker: Order please. We must get to the question, please.
Mr. Fentie: It needs leadership, it needs vision, and it needs imagination. Once again, will the Premier agree to take part in an all-party committee on the economy to come up with practical solutions for tourism and other economic sectors, or is she content to let the leadership come from this side of the House?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The only thing that is being neglected is the recognition of the good work that this government has done. Thatís what has been neglected in the member oppositeís questions. It was the business community that asked us to bring forward the capital budget in the fall so they could put Yukoners to work earlier. Weíre seeing the results of that, Mr. Speaker.
The $9.3 million in construction projects on Alaska Highway No. 1 are already awarded ó already awarded ó people going to work, equipment moved to the territory, Yukoners being hired and knowing where they are going to be working this summer. It has also been significantly neglected by the opposition to recognize what we have done in terms of other infrastructure support throughout the territory, including closest to the memberís own riding, including items I mentioned yesterday ó the funds by the former Minister of Economic Development, currently the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, for the rig training.
In tourism, we have accomplished a lot, in terms of winter tourism, as well as summer tourism, as well as the Alaska retail campaign, which was a direct idea that came from the business community to this government that we followed up on.
Question re: German exchange students
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. Back on March 24, two teenaged German exchange students arrived at the Calgary International Airport on a flight from Germany. These two students were en route to Whitehorse to complete a language exchange with Yukon secondary school students. Well, they never made it here. Instead, they were verbally abused by Canadian immigration officials, threatened with being put in jail, and subsequently had to sign a form saying they left Canada voluntarily. Some time later, they arrived back in Germany on the same plane they left on.
On March 26, I wrote to the federal Minister of Citizenship and Immigration protesting this insult to Yukon hospitality and embarrassment to Canada. I would ask the Premier to table her letter to the federal minister protesting this outrageous treatment. Will she do that? If not, why not?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The responsibilities for immigration fall under the portfolio of Education. The incident was unfortunate and we all acknowledge that. We have been in contact with immigration officials to find out what went wrong. There is a different requirement for documentation, depending on the country. The groups that arranged the travel were unaware of some of the requirements, and we have done our best to ensure that that will not happen again.
Mr. Jenkins: This is the first time I knew that the Education department was responsible for immigration here. This is an issue where I was hoping the wonderful federal relationship between the Yukon Liberals would take hold and serve Yukon well.
But, Mr. Speaker, my question is to whoever can answer it over there. The Yukon is currently actively marketing in the German market in Europe. This hit the headlines. It may have had a negative impact on potential visitation to Yukon.
Can the Premier, or whoever else, advise the House what damage control measures, if any, this government has implemented to counteract the negative publicity this black eye has had on marketing initiatives in Germany?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there is a telephone log record of calls that I have made, that my staff have made, that the minister responsible and her staff have made in working with the federal government on this particular, very ó "unfortunate" isnít a strong enough word in the way it was handled by federal immigration. We absolutely concur that it was not handled well, and it was more than unfortunate.
I took the call on Sunday afternoon when it happened. I and my staff have followed up, as has the Minister of Education and her staff, as has our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell. He has been very active in this as well.
In terms of dealing with this specific immigration case, which is what the memberís question started out as, and what we are doing with respect to specific headlines that occurred in Germany as a result of that with regard to tourism, Iím certain that the Minister of Tourism will be in touch with our agent in Germany ó if our officials have not already done so ó to determine if follow up is required.
Mr. Jenkins: I would have thought by now, when something like this occurs, the Premier would become active, not reactive. Iíd like to ask the Premier to advise the House what actions her government has taken to ensure that the two German students, their families, the host families and the student exchange organizers receive the appropriate apology as well as financial compensation and an invitation back, perhaps at the expense of the Government of Canada? What initiatives have been undertaken by this government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have been in lengthy conversations ó as has my staff on my behalf while I have been in the House and working on other issues ó with the parent who dealt directly with the immigration officials. We have worked on this issue. We will continue to work on this issue, and the Government of Canada should also respond ó absolutely. And we will be working, as we have done already, with our Member of Parliament on this particular issue. We are doing what we should do. It was not our officials who were at fault. It was the Government of Canada. We are taking the Government of Canada to task over this, as is our Member of Parliament.
Question re: Womenís Directorate
Mrs. Peter: This question is to the minister responsible for the Status of Women. Yesterday, the minister stated that there was no change in funding for the Womenís Directorate. The budget for the Executive Council Office shows an overall decrease of seven percent for the Womenís Directorate. Will the minister now correct the record and acknowledge this reduction?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There were 4.46 individuals working for the Womenís Directorate prior to April 1. There are still 4.46 individuals working for the Womenís Directorate. The budget is going over to Executive Council Office with the Womenís Directorate.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like to take this a little bit further for the minister. The public education is cut by 63 percent; violence prevention is cut in half. These two areas are critical to womenís issues, yet they donít seem to be a priority for this government. Will the minister lobby to have the funding in these essential program activities restored in a supplementary budget this sitting?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I have recently taken over the responsibilities for the Status of Women in the territory. Being a woman myself, I feel that I have some understanding of the issues. I am going to be doing my best, as the minister responsible for the Status of Women, to ensure that that portfolio gets as much attention as it should. Once I have more information and have all the background, Iíll make very clear the areas that we will be moving forward in.
Mrs. Peter: We certainly have been getting enough attention these days.
When the Womenís Directorate was a separate entity, it had the ability to set priorities to address the needs identified by women. The new structure, with a reporting mechanism through a male assistant deputy minister and a male deputy minister to a minister who is not responsible for the Status of Women, clearly limits that ability.
Will the minister undertake to have the Premier restore both the funding and the independent status of the Womenís Directorate so it can address the desperate need for public education on womenís issues?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Womenís Directorate has been moved into the Executive Council Office, where it will benefit and share in a lot of the resources there. It is critical that human beings as a whole move forward on issues, particularly those pertaining to women and children. This government will do its utmost to ensure that womenís issues get attention.
Question re: Children in care
Mr. Jim: My question is to the Minister of Health. Can the minister tell this House how many First Nation children are sent Outside for treatment on the recommendation of Social Services?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: There are a number of First Nation children and Yukon children who are sent outside for assessment and for treatment. If the member opposite wants current figures, I can give that to him. It changes by the day. I am not too sure if the member opposite wants more detailed figures. Perhaps he could tell me at his next opportunity.
Mr. Jim: I think an overall picture of the number of treatment needs to be done.
During the past two years, discussions have taken place to set up better communications with First Nation governments and the Health department regarding children in care and those children who are about to come into care.
One of the key issues in health and healing of family circles is the need for professional support for not only the child in crisis, but the family. It is a known fact that children who are sent Outside for help and return to their families need ongoing family support.
My question to the minister: has the Department of Health put in place a holistic program that not only helps the child, but provides support and professional help to the family?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: All treatment decisions ó all decisions about the child in care are done in partnership with the family. Sometimes that doesnít work well, but every attempt is made to involve the family in those decisions.
Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in working with families and professionals to do the best we can for the children we have in our care. I cannot tell you how committed this government is to working on those issues in a positive way.
Mr. Jim: There must be a few reasons why the minister cannot tell us. The Minister of Health made the statement in the House that she would be writing the chief and council by the end of this week and that she would meet with the chief and council in July to discuss broader issues regarding children in care. Shouldnít the minister be more proactive in solving some of these serious issues with First Nation governments and activate a protocol to ensure that what has recently happened with a First Nation family does not happen again?
I would suggest that the minister meet with the chief and council at the earliest possible time to rebuild the trust. July is not early enough. My question to the minister is, before First Nation children are ripped away from their families and torn out of their communities without the consent of family or the First Nation government, will the minister meet as soon as possible with First Nation governments to discuss the issue of children in care, and particularly custody and adoption? Will this government do this?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, I didnít realize that the member opposite is suddenly representing the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. Mr. Speaker, we deal with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on a government-to-government basis. It is a respectful relationship we have with them.
The member opposite is wondering today if I have made every opportunity to try to speak with the leadership. On two occasions, I have asked and also written to the Grand Chief to speak to the elders, and I understand I am going to be given that opportunity at the nearest meeting.
Mr. Speaker, we are trying very hard to work respectfully with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and every other First Nation within the Yukon. They are our partners. They are the people who live here.
I also want to point out to the member opposite that the reason we went for the July meeting was that the technical report from the Child Welfare League of Canada was not available until June; therefore, we wanted to speak together with all of the facts in front of us.
Question re: Mayo recreation centre
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Community Services. In January of this year, the joint council of Nacho Nyak Dun and the Village of Mayo wrote to the minister for the umpteenth time seeking her support for a new recreation centre in Mayo. Now, Mr. Speaker, despite several letters and meetings over the last year and even a Liberal caucus tour of this 48-year old facility, the community hall and the skating rink, there is still no money allocated over the next three years for a new recreation centre.
So how many more times does the community of Mayo have to state this priority to the Liberal government before itís acted upon and reflected in a budget?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I recognize the community of Mayoís desire for a new recreation centre. I recognize the age of the current recreation centre. We will consider funding for the project after we complete our assessment of infrastructure in all communities. For the moment, we are unable to commit financial assistance for the recreation centre.
We must consider the overall needs for municipal-type infrastructure throughout the Yukon as well as the resources available.
I remind the member that there is another capital budget in the fall.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís the same old line that this Liberal government has been giving to Yukoners. Government is broke. Even though it has a $99-million surplus, these types of things could not be committed to by the government for the community.
It has been over two years now that this government has been dealing with the community of Mayo. They wanted a community and a building in place to celebrate their 100th anniversary. So, again, I ask the minister: will she bring forward a supplementary budget so that planning can take place and ensure a building is in place for the community of Mayo for next summer ó built and in place?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The Village of Mayo has taken a very responsible and thoughtful approach to identifying and addressing the communityís needs for a future recreation facility and village office. The village presented us with an efficient and practical design for a recreation centre. My department is continuing to work with the Mayo village council to refine the project plans and to help identify options for achieving the communityís objectives. As I said, we are unable to commit financial assistance for the recreation centre. We couldnít do that in last fallís capital budget. There is another capital budget this fall, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I know the community of Mayo knows that. The message is loud and clear that there is going to be a capital budget in the fall. Thatís for work for next summer. Nothing happens again this summer, and this is what weíre trying to get through to the members opposite, and this is what the community of Mayo is trying to get through to the members opposite, but still we cannot make a financial commitment at this time. When will it happen?
They want a building for their 100th anniversary, and still this government does not listen to communities. It said it listens, but it still doesnít reflect anything in the budget. So when will we see one sooner than this fall for next yearís building? The community of Mayo wants it reflected in a supplementary budget this sitting, as soon as possible, so that building could be in place for next summer. So can the Premier and the minister and the government on that side commit to that?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun was certainly aware when they were in government of the communityís desire for a new recreation centre, yet he did nothing. We are moving as quickly as we can. I wish there were a money-printing plant in the basement, Mr. Speaker, in which case I could print some money to fund the project. We are unable to do that at this time. There is another capital budget in the fall.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 62: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 62, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Buckway.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 62, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am very pleased to rise today, Mr. Speaker, to introduce amendments to the Employment Standards Act that will ensure universal minimum wage protection for all Yukon employees. The current wording of the act states that the Yukon minimum wage applies only to workers who are 17 years of age and older. This government does not believe this to be a fair or equitable provision. We believe all employees should be entitled to the same minimum wage rate, and we are prepared to amend the current Employment Standards Act so that it will apply to all Yukoners, regardless of age.
Mr. Speaker, every year there are a number of young people who form a large part of our local workforce. These youth work in virtually every industry and play a valuable role in our economy. Yet these hard-working employees do not have the same guarantee of receiving minimum wage, simply because of their age.
We know that many Yukon employers already pay their employees who are under the age of 17 an amount that is equivalent to or more than the minimum wage. Therefore, the proposed amendments will not result in higher staffing costs for these employers. On the other hand, we also appreciate that there are some employers who do not currently pay minimum wage to these young employees because they are not required to do so by law. The proposed amendments will mean slightly higher labour costs for such businesses.
Accordingly, the proposed amendments will not take effect immediately. Rather, it is proposed that the amendments take effect on November 1, 2002, to provide affected Yukon businesses with the time to plan for the changes.
Mr. Speaker, the proposed amendments to the Yukonís Employment Standards Act will bring the Yukon in line with the majority of other Canadian jurisdictions that also have a universal minimum wage rate. This government is showing that we support all Yukon employees, regardless of age, and are willing to introduce amendments that will ensure a minimum wage benefit for all, including our youth under the age of 17.
Mr. McLarnon: I am particularly proud and thankful for the government bringing this bill forward. This is a bill that was brought forward straight from the streets, right from constituentsí concerns that human rights were being broken in the territory, constituents who understood that ageism is wrong in our society, and discrimination based on age is wrong in our society.
The credit for this bill belongs to the hard work and vision and sense of justice of two of my constituents from downtown Whitehorse.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLarnon: Iíd like to introduce these constituents right now to the members, so we can all thank them for bringing forward a very responsible and very short piece of legislation that will have an impact on all Yukoners, positive in the fact that it has been bought into by the business community, and it shows that all people in the Yukon Territory can bring us ideas that will improve the lives of Yukoners here ó not just now, but down the road.
Iíd like to introduce, and ask the House to thank and welcome, the two constituents I speak of: Ashley Fraser and Stephanie Moorlag, who brought this and started it on their own.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I would also like to commend this bill. Itís a very short piece of work. I have always said that you shouldnít talk for much longer than the bill is, so I wonít. I would just like to say again that this is an example of when government wishes to listen and when they understand the ideas wonít affect policy or dogma, but are just done in the sense of the right thing for Yukon, they can listen. This is a very positive result of what can happen down the road, as two ordinary Yukoners, not partisan ó I donít even know if they voted for me ó but they brought ideas that we could use.
Mr. Fentie: The official opposition wholeheartedly supports this legislation and would like to commend the young Yukoner who brought this to the governmentís attention. It is through her efforts that we got this piece of legislationís construction and its passage. I think today is a good day for Yukoners when a piece of legislation can come to the floor of this House and be voted on unanimously as we are today in the Assembly.
Mr. Jenkins: Our caucus is in full support of this bill, and we would like to pay tribute and recognize the two individuals who brought this forward.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I, too, rise in support of this bill. It shows the commitment this government has to youth. In a long line of that commitment there are the establishment of the Youth Directorate and the youth initiatives that weíve shown. I was privileged to take part in a panel discussion, along with the Minister of Health and Social Services, our Member of Parliament, as well as the Grand Chief at this yearís Youth Voices conference at Yukon College. This issue was front and centre and we were very proud that we were able to deal with it positively in such an expeditious time frame.
Speaker: If the minister now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I thank all members in the House for their support and look forward to the speedy passage of the bill through the rest of the stages required.
Motion for second reading of Bill No 62 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:15 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Mr. Jenkins, I believe you had the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate on this budget, we were dealing with a number of issues and the Premier, as Minister of Finance, was having a great deal of difficulty coming to the defence of some of the changes that have taken place under her government.
I guess what we should recognize today is that this is April 17, the second anniversary of the Liberals coming into power. I was going to propose two minutes of silence but, as we are in budget debate, I think that would be inappropriate at this juncture.
I do have to recognize and pay tribute to the Premier and her Liberal colleagues, her caucus, for the wonderful job that theyíve done. When they took over government we were in a recession. The Premier has managed to turn that around 360 degrees. My congratulations.
Weíre still on that downhill slide, and millions and millions of dollars ó the highest budgets ever in the history of the Yukon ó have been tabled and passed by this government, and weíre still in economic decline; weíre still depopulating; we still have not restored investor confidence.
I couldnít get an answer yesterday with respect to the differences between the Northwest Territories and the Yukon and the treatment of contractors. I was urging the Premier to level the playing field, either by approaching the Government of the Northwest Territories and advising them that the same restrictions were going to apply to their contractors working here in the Yukon as the N.W.T. had in place for our contractors working in the Northwest Territories. I cited the problems encountered between Ontario and Quebec and the political steps the Government of Ontario had to take to level the playing field between those two political jurisdictions. What is transpiring in the Northwest Territories certainly does not favour an equal opportunity for northern contractors.
And thatís just the point.
The Premier has written a letter, but nothing further has transpired. I would encourage the Premier to move forward on this initiative.
The other area we explored with the Premier, Mr. Chair, was the issue surrounding the Northwest Territories payroll tax. And thatís on all of the employees working in the Northwest Territories, Mr. Chair. As a consequence of poor economic conditions here in the Yukon, many, many, many Yukoners find that they have to still live here in the Yukon but work in the Northwest Territories, and theyíre taxed on what they earn over there. What Iím asking the Premier to do is to seek an exemption for Yukoners working in the Northwest Territories from this payroll tax. She offered more excuses as to why it couldnít be done than Iím sure the Government of the Northwest Territories would come up with.
Then thereís the other issue of Yukon contractors dealing with this government who have an incentive for employing Yukoners. But what is transpiring, Mr. Chair, is that a lot of those Yukoners are having to work outside of the Yukon for a few months of the year because thereís no work here.
As a consequence, if they work in British Columbia, they end up obtaining B.C. health care coverage. Then they come back to the Yukon and, because they do not have that all-important Yukon health care card ó they live here, their wives and families are here, many, many of them are born and raised here, but they donít have that all-important health care card ó when it comes to going back to work for a Yukon contractor, and they cannot derive the benefits under the incentives that are provided to Yukon contractors for employing Yukoners. That health care card has become a status symbol, and itís getting to be more or less the determining factor as to whether youíre a Yukoner or not, Mr. Chair.
Then we go on from there as to the real problems the Yukon is facing, Mr. Chair, and that real problem is the lack of investor confidence in the Yukon. That stems most notably from the Minister of Environment, who insists that the entire Yukon virtually, save and except those areas that are going to be part of the land claims process, or are land claims, or federal parks, also become parks.
I have numerous letters from the Yukon Agricultural Association, the Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners Association. When is this government going to wake up and find out and identify the problems that have been identified in this correspondence and deal with them?
The issue is the Yukon protected areas strategy, as itís being moved forward by this government, is not conducive to restoring investor confidence. It virtually scared away the mining community; it scared away oil and gas. But we did make one gain yesterday in the forestry. Weíve identified a tree as a Yukon tree. Thatís the only step forward that has been of a positive nature that I can think of by this government.
Mr. Chair, Yukon prided itself on having one of the best health care systems. Itís not because of the lack of money thatís being spent. More and more money is being spent all the time. Itís because of poor, inefficient policies that this government has adopted.
Why is it that the government only considers hiring auxiliary on-call nurse practitioners for rural Yukon? Why canít they make them permanent? I canít get an answer anywhere for that. We have some serious problems in the outlying communities with the way this government is not delivering health care. It is a band-aid on band-aid approach, and yet we are being asked to approve more and more money all the time for health care. We all recognize that health care costs are increasing, but the government can deal with an efficient delivery system of health care and not increase the cost beyond what is reasonable. It is the policies that are hurting and costing more all the time.
Now, I know the Premier, when she stands on her feet as Minister of Finance, is going to tell me to deal with the respective ministers in the respective portfolios, but really I want to ask the Premier: what is she doing to turn on the light at the end of the tunnel that she extinguished over the last two years? What is her government doing? Because all weíre seeing is copious quantities of money being spent to rearrange the chairs on the Liberal Titanic ship, Mr. Chair.
So Iíd like to hear from the Premier, as Minister of Finance, as to what initiatives her government is undertaking to restore investor confidence, to deal with the Yukon protected areas strategy, to address the shortcomings that have only been amplified over the last two years.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has asked me to outline for him the accomplishments over the last two years of this government, and I would like to outline a number of them.
With respect to investor confidence, the biggest issue for investors is certainty. The issues that have to be dealt with, with regard to certainty first and foremost, is settlement of outstanding land claims. We have been an active participant at that tripartite process ó a very active participant. We have worked with First Nation governments, chiefs ó negotiating teams have worked together ó as well as with the federal government. Itís a three-party process, and we have been an active part of that process.
We all, as legislators, responsibly need to give credit to the negotiating teams for reaching a memorandum of understanding on March 31. We cannot forget the achievement of the settlement and implementation on April 1 of the Taían Kwachían Council agreement as well. Thatís a significant achievement. Thatís five where we have made significant progress ó very significant.
Devolution ó lots of governments have promised, and we delivered. If anybody on that side of the House wants to underestimate the work by this government on that, I challenge them.
There are numerous pieces of legislation that assisted small business and reduced red tape. Mineral exploration tax credit ó not only did we increase it, weíve extended it. The fuel tax exemption for tourism and off-road vehicles ó a major issue for the Wilderness Tourism Association. Neither party on the other side dealt with it; we did. The business idea that came forward ó the Alaska retail campaign ó we acted on it. We worked with our partners.
The member opposite talked about YPAS also. I would refer the member back to the comment about certainty. The exploration community wants to know: where can we go and where canít we? And thatís what weíve endeavoured to do with the Parks and Land Certainty Act ó following through on commitments, Mr. Chair.
The member opposite has asked a very large, broad-ranging question about all of this governmentís accomplishments, and I could spend hours on my feet talking about what we have done as a government, in spite of the cheap shots coming from the side opposite and the off-the-record comments made by the member opposite.
I know that I can look my voters and constituents in the Yukon in the eye and say, "You know what? Not only did we give it our very best shot and do our absolute best, we have done a good job, and weíre proud of it."
Mr. Roberts: Iím just going to have a few comments to make and a couple of questions. I guess, from my perspective, Iíd like to support the government in many of the initiatives they put forward because, obviously, I was part of that process for the last year and a half or two years. I think moving the capital budget to the fall was an initiative I had heard about for years, as a former school administrator, when we would have work crews come into the school in the middle of August, starting to prepare the school for the fall. Of course, that never did happen. It wasnít prepared. So, I really believe that that was a very major initiative by the government.
I think the important part of that is to ensure that ó and I have heard some criticisms from some of the private sector as well that there seems to be a long delay in some of these contracts getting out. Iím just going to ask the minister if the minister has heard that as well. It seemed to take a long time for some of those contracts to be put out, and therefore some of the contractors are waiting in February, possibly March, and still had not heard on some of the issues. This is just a rumour I had heard, so maybe the minister could give me some kind of a comment on that ó whether that was a fact or just a little hitch in the process. We know itís the first time itís being done.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I had heard similar comments and I followed up with the Minister of Infrastructure as well as all the officials and, subsequent to that meeting, we were provided with a listing all of the contracts that had been let to that date.
What I can say to the member opposite is that, first of all, what happened by moving the capital budget to the fall is that a lot of the engineering work ó thereís a catch-up time period for engineering work and things to be caught up to that cycle of letting the contracts out. They were let as early as possible and what has happened is that that enabled a lot of the companies to move their equipment north before the road bans went on, which was a critical issue. It will be faster as we get more used to doing the capital budgets in the fall.
The other things I can say is that, all the way along, we have involved the contracting community. The Minister of Infrastructure and staff, as soon as everyone was available, met days after the capital budget was tabled, and the list of what the contracting community could expect for work was then highlighted for them, and they were provided with information as to when they could expect it. They were somewhat slower, given that it was a new thing of putting the capital budget in the fall. There was some engineering work that had to be done. There was a bit of a lag. It will be faster next year. Still, all in all, overall, it was well-received by the contracting community.
Mr. Roberts: Thank you for that answer, Mr. Chair. I just felt it was a good question to ask, because Iíd heard it from a few of the small contractors. Theyíre very appreciative of the fact that it has come the way it has and, as the minister has already mentioned in this House a few times, the important part is that they can get going as soon as the weather breaks and, as soon as the ground is thawed, theyíre gone and theyíre not waiting till June to do the contract.
I know from the perspective of some of the particular schools, as we know, the middle of June is when most schools are empty. Theyíre going to be able to start immediately, as soon as the schools are empty, so this could be a very good window for completing those projects before school begins in the fall.
A couple of other questions around the hospital ó the concern I see here is that the budget of $20.6 million ó I know weíre going to get into line-by-line, but does the minister feel, with the way that health costs are going, that the hospital is going to be able to hold the line at that amount? We know that unexpected costs are sometimes there. Maybe thatís a projection more than anything else. Does the minister believe thereís going to be adequate funding for the hospital for the coming year?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The budget that has been allocated for the hospital ó Iíve been assured that they can live within that budget. The Minister of Health and Social Services could also elaborate on that, and specific conversations and instructions, if the member wishes to ask in that line-by-line debate. Thatís as much information as I can provide the member opposite at this point.
Mr. Roberts: Once again, Iím going to go on record in appreciation of the rise in the tobacco tax. Iím surrounded by people who are utilizing that vice, and Iím going to say to them ó and I just talked to a former student who works for the government in the cafeteria, and who used to be one of the back-door people whom you no longer see there. She was telling me that she quit smoking, not because of the price, but because she believes there are far more serious problems with it.
So Iím going to encourage the government to even be more ruthless in the tax in the forthcoming years. I really believe thatís one of the areas where we should have no conscience about when it comes to bringing back what I believe, in the long run, is going to protect a lot of young people. I think we know that that really does affect young people.
It doesnít affect a lot of the older ones because theyíll pay it anyway, no matter, they are addicted. But I think for young people, it is a deterring factor, so I really applaud the government for moving ahead on that. I donít think itís enough, as the members opposite know, but I believe it is a good beginning.
The census ó I am always concerned about what we are hearing on census, and I know that we have been putting ó Iíve been looking at the reserves and all the money that has been put away, as far as anticipating the census and the differences in what itís going to cost us over the next number of years, and the clawbacks that the federal government is going to impose on us because of our dwindling population.
I would like to encourage ó and again, Iím going to be very blunt about this ó I am going to encourage this Liberal government to use that relationship ó and Iím sure they will ó with the federal Finance minister and the Prime Minister that, at this time, to come down on Yukoners who are going through such tough times with the strict adherence to the formula financing would be, from my point of view, catastrophic. I do not see how this is going to benefit this little corner of the west and the north if they adhere to the finance formula if our population demonstrates that they are going to be clawing back major dollars.
We all know that there are some serious problems in the north. We are surrounded by a lot of economic activity but, unfortunately, it hasnít hit us and I think some of the issues around that are the whole area of what I call the YPAS initiative, and we are going to get into that in the next little while as well. But I think there are some concerns about certainty, and I believe a lot of people are not going to invest in the Yukon until there is more certainty.
So I would hope that, as a suggestion, I guess you would call it a nice suggestion, government should really try to use that relationship to make sure that the federal government understands that, at this point in time in our history, we donít need a clawback of $15 million or $25 million because of population leaving the Yukon.
So that is really all I wanted to say on the census. I quite often donít hear from the minister that the minister is going to use that kind of relationship.
I think a lot of Yukoners believe ó and, I think, believed in the past ó that because we have a Liberal government here and a Liberal government in Ottawa, they would be more understanding of our needs. I can tell you the Yukoners wonít be very understanding if they come back and say weíre going to be down to the bare bones. So I really believe we have to use that relationship in the strongest words possible in order to make sure ó I know it has been used, and weíve seen some concessions, but I think we need far more than that, than just with the anticipation.
I guess my concern about census is, are we being too overly confident, too overly conservative, in the amounts of dollars that weíre putting aside. Iíve been told by some financial people to have a $40-million or $45-million surplus on a monthly basis is not necessary. So I guess Iím just throwing the question out. Are we being really too fiscally conservative when you look at how money comes and goes in the Yukon coffer?
So there may not be a straight answer to that. It may just be the view of the minister and the government of the day, but I sometimes challenge whether we need to have those huge surpluses, even though I know itís a monthís operation. But I donít think the governmentís going to go broke overnight, and there are so many other little pots of money around. Obviously theyíre not going to be quickly sapped up. I mean, not all the employees of the Yukon are going to quit tomorrow. I know thereís a huge fund there for in case they do, but these are all kind of part of the whole pot.
So my question to the minister is just to ask whether we are being too overly conservative in our surplus versus what potentially would give us still the same room to be a little more flexible in how we spend our money.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the immediate answer is no. And Iíd really like, if I might, to just walk through with the member opposite in this public forum some of the reasoning and what the differences are and what we had done on this. I would like, given that he has raised the subject, to offer to the public a lengthier explanation about this, with some points that I havenít made before in the Legislature, as well as some that I have.
First of all, there is a key difference between the three northern territories and the provinces versus how money is transferred from Ottawa. With the provinces, itís equalization, which is an act. With the three territories, itís a legally binding contract in the formula financing agreement. So itís a contract that is signed by both parties. Itís not an act that leaves some discretion to the Minister of Finance. So there is one key difference right there that has to be remembered, because the member opposite, I know, on occasion, reads the national newspapers and will have heard the debates about provinces that were overpaid $400 billion or $600 billion, which significantly delayed the NDP budget in Manitoba and they issued a number of warrants. This was significant ó and they tabled their budget on April 22.
We have to be mindful of whatís going on nationally, and I have watched that debate and written about it and spoken with my colleagues, Finance ministers from across the country, about that.
The member used the term "clawback". There is a difference. The provinces are putting forward the argument that, "No, we shouldnít have to pay this money back." When we try to make the argument for Yukon, bear in mind that we are under a different set of rules.
Thatís point number one. Point number two, with respect to the amount of money needed per month, I donít want to show any disrespect whatsoever to the person advising the member opposite. I will share, though, with the member opposite, that an individual whom we both have a great deal of respect for ó a former Commissioner of the territory, with whom we speak on a regular basis, Iím sure ó his advice has always been, "Make absolutely sure you have at least a month" ó at least ó and thatís $40 million.
With respect to these other pools of money that the member refers to, they are also legally binding contracts. There are laws stating that we have to have that money set aside. It has to be done.
So, with regard to the census specifically now, the formula is based on a lot of things. One of the key factors, though, is the census. The census was done in 1996 and 2001; itís every five years. A small fluctuation up or down can have a really dramatic impact on the formula. Even though itís just one factor, it can have a really dramatic impact on the formula. So, the initial figure that came out said something like that the Yukonís population was 28,674. So thatís a drop of 2,092 people since 1996.
We donít have to take that figure as gospel, though, because itís a very, very preliminary number. The final numbers are not going to be available until the fall of next year. We always know there are people missed during the census. Everyone in here can say there are people missed. Even though we undertook an aggressive marketing campaign to say, "Make sure everybody gets registered," we know people were missed, and that difference is the undercount. That undercount is not going to be available.
Now, for the last two censuses, the undercount has been about four percent. Even at that, if the same holds true, that means the final population estimate is still down 1,147 people.
Again, we donít know and we wonít know until 2003, until the fall.
So, what happens with that figure is that the federal government goes back to the formula in 1996. Letís say, for the sake of argument, we lost 1,000 people in the five-year period. What the federal government does under the formula, the way this is calculated, is they go back to year 1 and say, okay, thatís 200 people in year 1 so you should have received $2.6 million less in 1996. Then they go to year 2 and say that was another 200 people lost, so they reduce the formula for that year by $2.6 million from the year before and $2.6 million. Itís like compound math that my daughterís going to be learning in school. It just goes on and on and on, for five years.
So the total of the formula in the next year when they send the cheque is reduced by the amount compounded for the previous five years ó thatís the amount owing ó and the formula that year is also reduced. So, using the figure I have used of 1,000 people as an example, the total bill to the Yukon government would be $39 million.
The member opposite says we have to do something about that; itís just like Manitoba, and you canít pay that back. Knowing that we have a different relationship in that we have a contract, not an equalization payment, I have still made that argument to Mr. Martin.
I have still said to him there is no way the territory could face a bill like that. I have still made that point. However, even if we didnít have to pay back that amount, our formula in the next year is still reduced over and above that bill owing. That is the problem, because then we are looking at the formula for that year. Suppose you didnít have to pay it back; you are looking at the formula in that year being reduced by that amount. And, all of a sudden, you have to start going through and saying, all right, what program doesnít this government do; what donít we do, because you donít have the money, and that is why we are very conservative in estimating the amount of money we are being transferred. And that is why I say to the member opposite only setting aside $15 million, because this figure of 1,000, given what I have just said to the member, is a pretty scary number. And whatís even worse is looking at programs and saying, what doesnít this government do.
We have committed to infrastructure, water and sewer, we have communities that need to see recreation centres in their communities, that want to see them. We have communities that need water and sewer systems put in, especially the one we are working on now in Carmacks. I mean, this has been a problem for a long time, and we need to deal with it. And the very programming that we deliver, as the member knows well from his experience, do we condone provinces or territories starting to charge children for meningitis vaccines? Absolutely not. Do we know as a government that the price of that vaccine has quadrupled in some cases, and even more ó yes, we do.
So, this is what we are wrestling with, and this is why we have put aside the contingency reserve and it is $15 million, and it is very conservative ó itís only $15 million.
Now, the members opposite can say, well, we know itís going to happen. We donít know that for certain. As responsible members of this Legislature, we have to be aware of the fact that this could happen and be at least somewhat prepared. I would say to the member opposite that $15 million is only somewhat prepared. Itís what we felt we could do, being responsible at this point in time.
I hope the member opposite appreciates that Iím trying to explain this as best I can and that Iím not trying to be anything less than forthcoming with the member opposite. I am not trying to belittle the concerns that have been raised or to misunderstand them. Iím trying reasonably and responsibly to present an explanation to the member. And Iím sorry if it has been too detailed. I think itís important information for all Yukoners to be aware of.
Mr. Roberts: I appreciate the explanation. I guess repeating it over and over again will hopefully finally impact on all Yukoners.
But I guess I still have questions about how government makes decisions. When weíre putting money into endowments and putting money into very worthwhile projects like foundations and so on ó I mean, I have always believed that these are good things, but my question in my own mind is why are we doing that if we know that weíre going to have some tough times over the next year or two? It seems to me that governments only do that when they have real surpluses and they can afford to put money into foundations and into endowments and so on.
Iím not trying to belittle endowments or foundations. I think theyíre very worthwhile, theyíre very good, and they should be done. But as I shared earlier ó and Iíve shared this when I was on that side, big time, as the members opposite know, and I guess I lost that argument, obviously. So I come back to it again. I understand why and what the concerns are. But on the other hand, weíve taken monies that we really probably donít have, if everything comes forward the way we predict it might, and put it into something that we canít touch. And that may be very good because itís a one-time thing, but unfortunately we still have to pay the bills. So when I hear the minister opposite ask the question, "Well, what else do we cut," well, I think I would have been a little more perceptive, if I can use that word ó Iím not called to order on that one, am I? ó in saying, well, I guess we really shouldnít be going down that path right now because we donít have that flexibility.
So I guess, from my perspective, I just wanted to sort of present that as a real concern, as a long-time Yukoner, as a person whose children all live here, their grandchildren all live here, and Iím wondering what future they will have if we have to look at cutting programs and, you know, maybe the magic might turn around and we might see a big windfall again; I donít know. But I am just really concerned that we sometimes donít make these decisions in haste without having the background there or the backing to ensure that we build on that.
Just a couple more comments. Accountability ó in the whole area of devolution accountability, I understand why devolution takes place, and why it took place, and that many successive governments have worked on it. The ministerís government has been able to conclude the deal, and I applaud them for that. Itís not an easy achievement, because there are so many factors to it, but it is something that I think is going to be very practical for the future of the Yukon in developing its own future.
The accountability part ó I guess itís an area that I have some questions around. I agree that accountability is very important and, I guess, from just what Iím hearing and what Iím seeing out in the streets, listening to people and so on ó does the minister believe that we all understand what this means in the long term? Is this something that, at this time, we should have undertaken, or is this something that we always should have had? I donít know. Iíve always thought that governments were accountable, or should have been accountable, and itís almost like itís a new initiative that never was there before. I suppose accountability comes maybe every four years for the politicians but, maybe for the people working for government, I would expect that accountability is there every day that they work.
So, maybe my question to the minister is, does the minister believe, at this point, that we have really turned the accountability movement around, or is it a continuation of what has always been?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are two things I would like to address ó one on the endowment funds and the other on the accountability plans.
With respect to the endowment funds, five endowments were made. When we successfully negotiated the old issues with the Government of Canada, the member opposite may recall that one of those issues had to do with the way ó again, it was formula issues. There were a total of five issues we dealt with. We won on some, lost on the others, and the fact is that we ended up with $42 million more coming into the territory.
Now, of the $42 million, $15 million was set aside in the contingency reserve for the census, and we have just been through a lengthy discussion on that. $10 million was voted for the permanent fund. Given that these were old issues, the resolution of this money technically belongs to Yukoners and how it should be spent. $8 million was set aside to build on the infrastructure that we were already building on with the City of Whitehorse for the Canada Winter Games. That was clearly a recommendation and a suggestion.
The balance of the funds were endowments in the following way: (1) in partnership with the Yukon Teachersí Association, the teacher mentoring endowment. What that enables us to do is to follow up on an idea that I believe the member opposite is fully supportive of, which is to partner retired teachers with new teachers, especially in the communities, so that they receive support.
So that was done.
The Yukon historic resources board was started by Mr. Penikett. It was designed that, when the fund reached $1 million, that fund could then be spent on restoring historic projects. But, as I said, that was started under Mr. Penikett; no other government put money into it. So it was only sitting at some $400,000 odd. So it was topped up to the $1 million so that they could start getting interest and spending the money on historic resources projects.
An important aspect of our culture is our history, knowing where we have been and what we have achieved as a society.
The community recreation leadership program: clearly, fitness and community recreation are important to our society, and the member is a long advocate of fitness, more so I would suggest than almost any other member in this Legislature, other than the Member for Riverdale South. They are very important, especially in communities.
Another endowment fund was for youth and youth leadership projects.
The other foundation the member talked about was the Yukon Foundation.
The balance of the money went into ongoing O&M and work of the government, things like health care costs and programming. So, what has happened, then, is that had we simply said there is money from a past issue and introduced a whole bunch of new programs, how would we have paid for them?
If you start $42-million worth of projects in one year, a $42-million cost is added on to the next year, and the next year and the next year, and where do you get those additional funds? That is the problem. So, what the government did ó and it was a caucus decision, knowing that this was to resolve past issues ó was focus on Yukoners, on youth, on teachers, on recreation and overall on the hopes and dreams and aspirations of Yukoners through the Yukon Foundation. They are best able to distribute that funding in support of Yukoners. The Youth Foundation is in support of a yearly youth conference, so that is something that will live on and go on with this funding, that has been set aside for those purposes. So it covers health in recreation ó that is about our fitness. And we all know the benefits, especially for young people being involved in sporting activities, especially young women and their self-esteem issues. And we see it when the Mayo soccer team consistently comes in and wins the indoor soccer tournaments every year. The participation by all ages in the Klondike Road Relay ó others that promote and support fitness among all ages and all levels. So, those are the reasons, again ó and I appreciate the opportunity to articulate them publicly ó why this was done the way it was done and these choices was made ó tough choices. However, this also reflects Yukoners; this is about all Yukoners. The Yukon Foundation Board has representation from every single community in the Yukon. They also distribute all kinds of funds. Itís not just scholarships and bursaries for young students, although there is that included. It is also women returning to learning, itís community beautification, the Jan Montgomery fund; there are all kinds of them.
This will enable them to distribute more. The board will make the choices on that ó sound, reasonable Yukoners.
The second part of the discussion related to the accountability. Accountability plans are a new innovation to the Yukon government. They are, I believe, a very good innovation. Weíve seen them successfully used in Alberta and Northwest Territories. Northwest Territories each year table their accountability and results plan, so theyíre ahead of us in that respect, on their accountability plans, and behind us in some others. Nova Scotia uses them as well.
Iíll explain why I truly believe that they are better than what has been put before Yukoners in the past. Iíll do that, if I might, with the member with three examples.
In the accountabilities forum ó the accountability plan is like a business plan for the government in many respects. Examples of how information is better shared ó at the door-to-door that I was doing on Saturday, one of my constituents who works for the Government of Yukon said, "You know, Iím really in support of this. First of all, it was long overdue, and secondly, what has happened now is that the goals are clearly out there for programs and for what the government wants to see achieved."
So this is really important for the public servants delivering the programs ó oh, thatís the program the government is asking us to deliver. These are the results that they expect us to achieve.
Because thatís what members will see next year ó the performance measures.
Weíve introduced the accountability planning process. Next year weíll see the performance measures. That is going to be critical.
For example, in the Department of Infrastructure, it used to be that the public was provided, in the budget documents, with X kilometres of road in the Yukon. They would be provided with the departmental objectives, a bunch of figures and then in a couple of pages it would say this is the number of roads that are in the Yukon, the number of gravel, number of BST, number of pavement.
That statistic didnít change between years. So the government then ó there was debate in the Legislature. It really didnít focus on ó has the government committed to delivering this safety standard, has it committed to ensuring that this number of roads will have BST in this condition, or is this deteriorating? There was no direct measurement of the programs that the government was doing. Accountability plans introduces that, says this is the program, this is what itís going to achieve; and the accountability measures, the performance indicators, will be in there. There was a massive shift to change to accountability plans. This will add the performance measures.
The member, I know, is passionate about education, and this is one of the key areas that I believe accountability plans are going to make a huge difference. For example, the Department of Education used to say, "Here are the objectives: education for Yukoners." They would tell us how many students were enrolled and that they were spending however many millions of dollars.
Now, looking at the accountability plan ó and reading recovery is an excellent example of that ó the accountability plans, we see performance indicators. This is the money thatís being put into reading recovery, this is the number of students enrolled, and these are the performance measures. Theyíre in there. We know the reading recovery program already does that, because thereís a constituent of mine who we both know and who is also passionate about this program, which I supported as a member of the opposition. And I continue to support it, and we see additional resources. Now the government ó we know they keep the statistics. Now weíre going to be able to share them. Weíre not only going to be able to ó weíre duty bound to do that.
It clearly says to the public, in accountability plans: these were the choices we made. We made choices to put more money in reading recovery. We made choices to put more money into math, when we have heard from constituents what is happening with the math programs in the high schools. We put more money into educational assistants. The performance measures will show the results, and ministers will be accountable for them and, most importantly, it should also raise the level of debate in this House.
Why did you make that choice? We made this choice because of these performance indicators, and when the performance indicators arenít there, ministers have to answer for it. And that is really important.
In the Department of Health and Social Services, the old way of doing things was to just say: this number of people were deemed to be employable, and this number are collecting social assistance.
Now accountability plans tell us the percentage increase in the number of employed social assistance clients who have been off social assistance for 12 months after their file has been closed. So we see the success rate. We donít just see that the number of clients has been reduced; we see that, yes, a year later, theyíre still employed and this is the reason for it. It measures successes of programs, and it requires governments to be accountable for them. We have heard this from the public. Itís not an issue of political words. Itís an issue of real results for real taxpayersí dollars spent, and it moves the Yukon a long way ahead.
In support of the Finance ministers I have spoken with across the country ó many of whom have used this, they are very supportive of them. I can also tell the member opposite that the Mineral Advisory Board has also been very supportive of this in its advice to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. Roberts: Iím just going to sort of wrap up a few more questions here, with just a few comments. I appreciate the explanation of accountability, but I hope itís not just going to be words on paper. I worked in the public sector for 30-some years and what makes words work is leadership, and itís leadership that has to make sure that, hopefully, these expressions of good intention are being followed and are being developed. Itís going to really depend on the House here to ensure that we are making progress in that area.
The important part for me is that I hope it wasnít an exercise of just putting words down. I hope itís a real, living document that is going to be part of all Yukonersí future. Iím appreciative of the fact that itís something that is new. Of course, any time we introduce anything new, itís always going to be a challenge to ask people to sort of go along with the process. Hopefully we have involved people in that development. I have heard some issues around the whole issue of involvement and not taking some of the recommendations from their perspective into the final phases, but I guess weíll find out in the future how this will all unfold.
A couple of questions around Health and Social Services, as we know that this is an area with costs growing by the day, by the hour, by the minute, by the second, but we still have some major needs. Drug and alcohol ó I keep hearing there are some initiatives coming forward. I was just reviewing what the Health minister and the ECO were bringing to the front, as far as building the program for the future. We know itís going to take more dollars for that. I donít see any dollars in this budget for that, yet I hope it isnít just smoke and mirrors. I hope it is reality that weíre going to move ahead on how we pay for these new services.
Regarding the question of the report on the children in care and the children in residential care, we know there are some cost drivers there as well ó major cost drivers. From my perspective, Iím going to ask the minister: is the minister confident that weíre going to be able to move ahead today with some of those drug and alcohol initiatives ó not just the ones that are within the budget we already have planned for, but over and above the $2-point-some million that we normally pay for drug and alcohol treatment? Is the minister confident weíre going to be able to find money to ensure we can build one of the major initiatives that Yukoners want to see?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Three things. The accountability plans are exactly that ó they are a living document. I, too, hope that there will be leadership demonstrated on the floor of this House, and that they will be fully debated as to why did you made this choice. Perhaps we could raise the level of debate from how many lug nuts there are in a grader in Old Crow to how much our BST has deteriorated and what we are doing to improve it. Thatís just one example. Raise it from how many bags of larvicide to what you are doing about the water and sewer infrastructure? It says here youíve committed to doing this; are those dollars spent, and have they achieved the assurance of clean water and appropriate sewage facilities in communities? Thatís what we should, as responsible legislators, be debating. Thatís what I have endeavoured to work with, and all our ministers and the public service have worked to present to the House on accountability plans.
Yes, departmental staff has been involved in developing the accountability plans, so itís not simply a Cabinet, caucus or deputy-driven document. This is driven by the public servants who deliver the programs, and I thank them for their work in doing that.
In Health and Social Services there are two key areas that are of tremendous concern to the member opposite and ourselves: alcohol and drugs, as well as the children in care. This is an issue that not many Yukoners know enough about or recognize the problems that need to be addressed, and they absolutely have to be addressed. "Let it be on our conscience if we do not", as a constituent has said. We have to look to this and we have to deal with it. Itís a partnership between everybody in achieving the results.
Yes, Iím confident that we will be working to address those particular issues in Health and Social Services and to ensure that we are fully accountable and responsible for the accountability plan.
Mr. Roberts: Iím just going to close by saying that we, the independents, are going to attempt very hard with the government to look at cost savings. Weíre going to be coming forward with some recommendations as to how we can save money within the budget that we already have.
I hope the government will take those advisements with a positive interest and move forward with them, because we know, from what Iím hearing, that money is going to be tight, and we want to make sure that we are delivering what we said we would do for Yukoners.
I would just like to leave my discussion at this point with that positive note. We want to build together; we want to work together, but we are going to have to give and take from all quarters. So, hopefully we can do that, because we know that there are some priorities out there. I think weíve addressed a few of them already.
Iím going to leave it at that and turn it over to, I think, the Member for Kluane, who would like to make a few comments.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In closing, I would like to thank the Member for Porter Creek North for his comments and support for the budget document. I also appreciate the fact the member has committed to specific suggestions and specific areas where costs might be reduced. If the member opposite wishes to forward those specific comments, we certainly are prepared to look at them at any time.
Mr. McRobb: I have a few questions for the Premier. Iíd like to start by asking the governmentís position on the Kyoto Protocol. Does the Yukon government support it, and can the Premier table any letters in that regard for us?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, as the Premier, I have had several discussions about the Kyoto Protocol at the Premiers Table. We have worked with our ministers of the Environment in this regard.
I say again, as I stated to the member oppositeís leader, that I did not sign the infamous Moscow letter that British Columbia sent and that was presented to the Prime Minister in Moscow. So I wonít be tabling that as part of the correspondence.
The member opposite is asking for other letters and other work. They may have gone under the signature of the Minister of the Environment and/or me. I have certainly responded to a number of out-of-territory e-mails indicating the support of this government for the Kyoto Protocol, and I have also forwarded those to the Prime Minister, and I will provide the member opposite with a copy of that correspondence. I wonít bother tabling it in the House. Iíll just send it over to the member.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to ask about an issue raised last week. Itís regarding the Marine Liability Act. The Minister of the Environment indicated he was asking his department to look after it.
Mr. Chair, I really think thereís a problem there. This matter deserves a higher priority and deserves the involvement of the politicians on the other side. The Yukon government should be pursuing this matter with the utmost urgency. The minister did indicate that there may be some letters. I ask the Premier if she can also undertake to table those letters for us.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have perfectly capable ministers on this side of the House, and I appreciate the member opposite suggesting their involvement. As minister responsible on this particular issue, I personally have not written on the Marine Liability Act. I am certain that the appropriate minister will be happy to address that in either the Environment debate or elsewhere during the line-by-line. I personally have not addressed that issue as the Minister of Finance or as the Premier. I am quite confident that there has been or will be political involvement by this side. I believe the Minister of the Environment already addressed that issue with the member opposite and I will ask again that correspondence be forwarded to the member opposite as well.
Mr. McRobb: All right, in finishing her response, the Premier did commit to providing me with that correspondence, and thatís fine.
I have a similar question regarding the rail study. Where this left off in the fall session, I understand the Government of Canada had not received any official request from the United States government regarding participating in this study. However, shortly after the conclusion of the fall sitting, I understand there was a formal request made. We still have not seen any commitment of funds toward a rail study, despite the involvement of the Member for Faro and the MP of the Yukon in a conference in Fairbanks, I believe held in September, and subsequent media interviews where they seem to indicate things were happening. However, weíve yet to see any substance of any commitment toward the study from the Government of Canada or the Government of Yukon.
I would ask the Premier if she can table any correspondence regarding financial commitments for a study of a rail link through the Yukon to Alaska.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is the lead on this particular file. What I can advise the member opposite is that the Yukon government supports the U.S.-Canada commission. I, myself, have spoken some ó more than months ago, actually. Some time ago, I spoke to Minister Collenette; the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Mines and Resources has followed up with Minister Collenette. Whether or not Canada will come to the table and when they might be developing their response to the U.S. government is not known to me at this point in time. Iím sure the Minister of Infrastructure will provide the member with a detailed answer during the debate on that department.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to add to what the Premier said, recently in the State Legislature in Alaska, Representative James introduced a bill in support of extending the rail line from Fairbanks to Whitehorse, Yukon actually. I believe that is the gist of that bill. I will find out more and answer the memberís questions when we get to departmental debate for Energy, Mines and Resources. I can provide any information I have to the Member for Kluane in the House, and Iíll also provide that information to the leader of the third party, as well as the independent members on the other side of the House.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to turn now to public/private partnerships, or P3s as theyíre commonly referred to. Can the Premier indicate if any P3s are currently in the works, and does the Yukon government have a policy in this regard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The public/private partnership model ó there are a number of models and itís a very interesting discussion. Itís an innovation that is growing in Canada in its usage in a variety of forms. In the Yukon, we have a couple of public/private partnership models. The most immediate that comes to mind in the member oppositeís critic area is the public/private partnership we have with the Northern Film and Video Association on the purchase of infrastructure for their particular industry. As Minister of Finance, I asked an official to attend the public/private partnership conference and discussion in Vancouver that was held last week. I have not yet had an opportunity, as we have been involved in debate, to go through the results of that conference and some of the new modelling thatís out in Canada and in discussion.
Mr. McRobb: Iím well aware there are several different models for P3s and that was the reason why I asked the Premier if her government had developed a clear definition of a P3 policy. Iím not sure if she gave a reply to that aspect of the question so Iíd like to ask it again: has this government developed its own P3 policy, and if not, why not and when does it plan to do so?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, three or four papers have come forward and we have asked officials to develop a couple of different options for the government with respect to P3s. The difficulty for us on these is that this government does not by law, and does not by tradition, debt-finance, and thatís the fundamental cornerstone of a lot of the public/private partnership models.
Thatís why I reference several different models that are out there and why I shared that with the member, that weíre looking at a couple of them. Thank you.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Weíll follow up on that at a later date, Iím sure. Iíd like to ask the Premier now about rural communities. We know there has been a significant drop in population statistics in our rural communities, as there has been generally across the country. I would like to know if the Yukon government has a particular strategy to address this problem, to rebuild our communities and re-attract people back to them.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have worked on and considered the Yukon as a whole in terms of our initiatives and, overall, the impact on all communities ó for example, key initiatives such as devolution, such as settlement of land claims, such as rebuilding the territoryís infrastructure. They impact upon the territory as a whole. In the economic outlook, the member opposite might also want to reference page 5, which indicates that Tagish, Pelly Crossing and Haines Junction ó in the memberís own riding ó had the largest increase in population among communities during the year. So perhaps we should challenge the member oppositeís very premise of his argument.
Weíre working on initiatives that are of benefit to the whole of the Yukon, and we are seeing some successes in that regard, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the Premier challenged me on my understanding, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to take a moment to re-address that.
I donít know what year of statistics the population for the communities she identified were based on, but itís my recollection that the population of the general Haines Junction area has decreased from about 850, five or six years ago, to about 750 now. Perhaps her statistics are based on a point in time when the sawmill in Haines Junction was still operating, and before many people had to leave the community in search of employment. If thatís the case, Mr. Chair, the Premier is operating from outdated statistics.
Iíve spoken to people in the community, and itís quite apparent that there has been a population drop. I also recall some media stories from a couple months ago, when this became a story, about rural communitiesí populations shrinking, and there was only one community in my riding that reported an increase, and that was Destruction Bay. Part of the reason for that is itís based on a very small population and a couple of families could result in a large increase.
If that increase is applied to the Haines Junction example, where they may have lost 100 people in the last five or six years, you can see that itís only a small part of the larger picture.
So we have the Premierís reply on record. I donít think itís very adequate to address this problem, which is far more serious than she seems to acknowledge. If she would like to expand on that in reply to my next question, I am open to hear what she has to say.
My next question: has there been any change in the Yukon governmentís energy policy?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Just to be clear with the member opposite, I am speaking of the Yukon Economic Outlook 2002, the section on population. That was what I had quoted from, and the way those statistics are gathered, and the methodology, is no different and is not in any way different from when the member was on this side of the House.
So one can argue that my statistics are different from your statistics, and whatever. I donít know that thatís necessarily constructive to public debate. That fact is, what weíre trying to do is, overall, is to work on key priorities of the Yukon government that Yukon people mandated us to do two years ago. They believed that this government would come to office and work on settling land claims, achieving devolution, rebuilding the Yukonís infrastructure, restoring confidence in government, dealing with substance abuse and addictions, and other priorities, and thatís what we have done.
With respect to the specific energy policy and the work done by this government, I will defer that question to the departmental debate and the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping for some information today, Mr. Chair, because this does span a number of departments. As we know, energy policy affects not only the Crown-owned utility, Yukon Energy Corporation, but it also affects the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. It affects other corporations like the Yukon Housing Corporation, and there are others as well.
I believe the appropriate opportunity for this question is in general debate, and I would like to bring your mind back to the fall session, Mr. Deputy Chair, when we dealt with the issue of timing of these questions. I pointed out in general debate that it's an appropriate opportunity to ask those questions, because once we get shuffled into the specific departments there are constraints on questions we can ask. In fact, I refer you to Hansard. It was very common for the ministers of relevant departments to object to any lines of questioning that went beyond the envelopes of their departments, so I have learned from experience, and that is why Iíve made several notes for questions at this opportunity. I would ask the Premier to reflect upon what Iíve just said and perhaps ask the minister, or she can answer in response to my question.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is the corporate lead in the area of energy, and the minister responsible will be fully prepared to answer the member oppositeís questions in the debate on that particular department. The member opposite is certainly to be commended for giving advance notice of those questions, and I appreciate what the member has done. I am sure that the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources will be fully prepared to answer the question as the corporate lead on energy for the Yukon government as to changes in Yukon governmentís energy policy. The minister will fully answer during the debate on that department.
Mr. McRobb: So much for an open and accountable government. It was quite an easy question to answer. The government could certainly have responded to it at this opportunity, but chose not to. I think that reflects poorly on this governmentís record of being open and accountable, as it insists it is.
I want to ask a question that relates to project renewal. From what I understand in todayís briefing, the presidents of the corporations are de facto the deputy ministers of the head departments. Iím wondering if the same is true in the case of the Yukon Energy Corporation president. Can the Premier indicate if that is the case?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Corporate Governance Act ó the specifics of the legislation is what the member opposite is asking me about. I will take a moment before I get back to the member opposite on that particular question.
I would like, however, to draw the member oppositeís attention to page 8A-6 of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the budget 2002-03 operation and maintenance estimates, goal 3, section 3.4 objective: "provide energy policy leadership and energy program coordination, including support of alternate energy programs." Strategies for achieving that objective have been laid out and, as I indicated earlier in my discussions with the Member for Porter Creek North, Mr. Deputy Chair, the performance measures will be included in these accountability plans next year, when a similar document is presented.
So the focus and frame of the member oppositeís debate and question is found in the department, and that is why I am referring the specific question to the minister responsible, who also signed the accountability plan and is fully prepared to debate that in the debate on this particular department. It is not any desire to be anything less than forthcoming with the member opposite.
With respect to the Corporate Governance Act, I would be happy to go through that with the member opposite. I donít immediately have it in front of me, and I wish to be quoted correctly, so I will defer that question.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís sad, Mr. Deputy Chair. It would have just taken a matter of about two seconds for the Premier to answer yea or nay to the question of whether the president of Yukon Energy Corporation was in fact the deputy minister of the department, but again weíre being shuffled to another time and place, and thatís not an indication this government is very open or very accountable.
The page number she referenced for me in the budget book, page 8A-6 ó Iím very familiar with it. It has been open before me for the last hour or so, and thatís what prompted me to ask the very questions I did. So considering that the energy policy does span several other areas of government, itís very legitimate to ask this question in general debate.
But you canít get blood out of a stone, and Iíll give this government another chance when we do get to the departments. And if Iím shut down there, the Premier can expect me to provide a copy of todayís Hansard to her.
I want to ask now about the compensation process used by the government for Aishihik residents. Can the Premier give us an overview of this process?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, a couple of points. First of all, I have endeavoured to be open with the member opposite. The member opposite started out the debate by asking me if there had been any specific change to energy policy of the government. I answered that three-fold. I said that, first of all, the corporate lead for energy is the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and that the minister responsible is the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
I further pointed to the section of the accountability plans where we talk about energy policy leadership. The second item the member was asking me about is the president of YEC, the Yukon Energy Corporation. That is not in the corporate governance legislation. It is not a Crown corporation. Yukon Development Corporation is, and the Yukon Development Corporation is dealt with in the corporate governance legislation that will come before this House. The government goals, objectives and priorities for the Yukon Development Corporation are reflected in the 2002 accountability plan.
So the member is asking a number of detailed questions about the accountability plan of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and, as I said, the minister is fully prepared to answer those in the debate on that accountability plan.
With respect to specifics around the actions of Yukon Energy Corporation, I would also defer that to the minister responsible. It is not an area for which I have responsibility.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Deputy Chair, here we go again. This government claims it is open and accountable, but yet canít provide a straightforward answer to a straightforward question.
If the Premier had exerted about 10 percent of her energy as she did in her answer to answering yea or nay regarding the president of YEC, then I would have been satisfied, but instead weíre being shuffled to another place and another time, which may not even come about.
So, Mr. Deputy Chair, that leaves me with some larger questions about how this government operates, especially in this Legislature.
The question I asked regarding compensation, I believe, is legitimate for general debate because the Premier herself has stood on her feet in this Legislature and said that this government operates as a unit, that decisions made by ministers are the result of decisions made as a Cabinet or caucus. Weíve heard the routine about the group hug and so on. Yet the Premier cannot answer this question for me today. This issue, Mr. Deputy Chair, I would fully expect to go well beyond the ministerís bailiwick. This certainly would be the subject of a Cabinet document and Cabinet discussion. So why isnít the Premier answering the question?
This is sometimes referred to as the "house of accountability". Well, in reality it can be something quite different.
I would like to give the Premier another opportunity to answer the question. Can she provide us with a brief overview on what this compensation process is about, especially with regard to liability of the Yukon government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To be clear, is the member asking me about the compensation policy on Aishihik Lake?
Mr. McRobb: My question pertained to the compensation process used to settle the claims of the Aishihik residents.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The jurisdiction for compensation is with the Yukon Territory Water Board under the Yukon Waters Act; however, Iím advised that Yukon Energy Corporation is working in cooperation with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation with respect to resolving this issue.
Should the parties not achieve success, it will be resolved by the Yukon Territory Water Board because it has jurisdiction in this matter. However, I would just advise the member opposite that I am answering questions based upon advice that is being supplied to me by the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources, who has responsibility for this. I am not involved in day-to-day discussions with the Yukon Development Corporation, and I am very uncomfortable answering questions that are another ministerís responsibilities and which I have specifically absolved myself from any interest in.
Mr. McRobb: The Premier did not provide any information that was useful. The information provided was about the same as the public was aware of about four years ago when an announcement was made that Yukon Energy Corporation would be involved in this compensation process. The question I asked her was if she can explain for us the process, and I was hoping to get an update on it. I am very well aware that the Yukon Territory Water Board is looking at this; however, the board does not have exclusive control over this matter and has urged the corporation and the federal government to resolve these outstanding claims prior to the recommencement of the Water Board hearing on the 29th day of this month.
I want to ask this question because it is one that is important to my constituents and other Yukoners. From what I understand, following the Water Boardís recent decision on the Aishihik Lake licence renewal, the offers from the Yukon Energy Corporation to settle the outstanding claims with Aishihik residents were reduced substantially. This resulted in several people being upset and I had occasion to speak with more than a few of them, and I am still trying to figure out the rationale of why these compensation offers were reduced.
From what I gather, the offers were reduced proportionate to the reduction in the storage range of the lake. But that hardly makes sense. A far more important feature of the facility is its capacity in generating electricity ó which the board approved an increase to as high as 37 megawatts from 30 megawatts.
So, based on that far more important feature, Mr. Deputy Chair, one would expect compensation offers would in fact be increased by some 20 percent. From what I understand, the compensation offers were decreased substantially in the order of some 50 percent.
So, I would like to ask the Premier: what direction did the Crown corporation receive from the political level of this government to decrease the offers of compensation to Aishihik residents?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I have withdrawn from any responsibility for the Yukon Development Corporation and the Crown corporation. I do not discuss those matters, and this has not been brought to my attention. So the member asked what direction had come from the Premier.
Mr. McLarnon: Iím going to start off on a positive note by congratulating the government on introducing accountability plans. Not only did I have the opportunity to work on and develop them, but I will espouse them to the Yukon communities and interest groups throughout the territory over this summer because, not only are they an excellent tool if used properly, to bring the policies and promises of a political party to a planning stage, itís also a way to get feedback as well.
Again, I thank the government for sticking to its guns, understanding the vision of these accountability plans, but thereís more to an accountability plan when we talk about other provinces and what they bring and how they use those.
And itís actually the positive aspects of renewal that Iím going to get into. Weíve just seen a hard time for Yukon government employees. Weíve just seen a transition that was difficult, but all transitions are, and this one probably no more so or less so than normal. Iíll never actually stand up and criticize this government on that, because it was difficult, it was a change that needed to be made, and lots of courage and bravery was shown on that side to do it.
What I do have a question about, though, is the next stage of accountability. When we were talking about accountability and we were talking about renewal, it was a phased approach. The next phase of the approach was to introduce performance measures and also to allow the civil service to be judged on those performance measures and rewarded ó rewards and recognition.
After this change that everybody has gone through, which was difficult on people, which did lower for a brief period of time the amount of spending in the retail sector, did lower confidence in peopleís ability to make large purchases and, if we have a look at retail building, if we take a look at non-commercial building, weíll see statistics borne out for those three months. Because weíve definitely talked to real estate agents who have talked about that being the slowest time theyíve had in a number of years. So the statistics will back this up. Large purchases, as well, will back this up.
The next step, though, was to make people feel positive about their jobs, not just where they worked or the stations they have or who they were working with, but also to allow performance to be measured and allow people to be recognized for their excellent duties. Yet thatís not reflected in this budget. My question to the minister immediately is this: when will that be reflected in this budget, when are we going to start seeing the development of this so that workers in this Yukon territorial government can understand that there was just more than change involved, that the cultural change, the positive aspects, can be recognized and people can really get their teeth into renewal, understand that it does have positive aspects, that it just wasnít the shuffling of the deck chairs, as the other members of the opposition would say, but it was to create a positive experience? So weíd like to know when the performance evaluations come and reward and recognition programs will be put in. We donít see it in the budget here, and maybe what weíd like to ask ó even at my Executive Council Office briefing when I asked, I was told there were no extra resources for this.
Is renewal really on hold right now? Have we gone to the next stage? Why are there no resources into this program so we can start giving a positive spin in our public service about the value of renewal?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: To start with, the positive impact of renewal, I think, starts with each one of us in recognizing the accountability plans and recognizing it for good work, not as the Member for Klondike declined to put on the record but shouted across the floor, "Oh, itís just so much bafflegab.", when the Member for Whitehorse Centre and I both know that thereís hard work of civil servants, dedicated work ó and of government and government members, who worked very hard to make these choices, to build these accountability plans and to work on this change. It is a positive change, and the positive news about it starts with each one of us standing up and responsibly recognizing that what weíve done and what weíve worked at with public servants has been a good thing ó a very difficult thing ó we all recognize that ó but itís been a very good thing as well.
The other points I would like to make about it are ó there is a misunderstanding by some that, "Oh, it was just about changing the names; now itís done." Thatís not the case. The next biggest step is the renewal of the culture. So, working with that, there is quite a significant amount of work that is being done. First of all, the follow-up, the transforming organizations ó challenges, opportunities and strategies, a Yukon government workshop, was delivered in March, where the employees were able to provide their feedback, and Iíve referenced the individuals involved ó Linda Duxbury and Graham Lowe. These individuals came up and spoke ó that was a cost; that has been accounted for.
What the member is looking for is a line item of XYZ that says these are performance measures and this is the opportunity for performance rewards.
Itís already there in the budgets of the departments, in terms of dealing with employees. What has to happen is for the performance management to be put into place. That is also part of the cultural renewal. The people who are working on the cultural renewal are there, and there is no budget line item. Itís being done with existing resources. So we are not discontinuing the work; in fact, we have enhanced the level of work. We are able to do this because of committed employees who want to see this happen, and who want to ensure that we donít repeat the mistakes that have been made in corporate Canada.
Mr. McLarnon: I guess thatís one of the things I have a concern about, because it was separated out in the costs of renewal before. Itís a lot harder to track when itís not in line items and within a budget item we can see. Thatís fine. That was the decision of the government to put it that way. It does give usin opposition a harder time tracking it and understanding if itís working. If we are all going to be able to give the good news on what renewal can do, if we are all going to be able to espouse the positives of the accountability plans, what Iíd ask the minister to do ó and Iíll attend them, even if Iím the only person from the opposition ó Iíd appreciate updates on the progress of this, more than just what we read in the papers or can get off the Web site. If this is going to be sold properly and sold across the territory, not just by people in government, that will be useful.
Iím going to go into a few things on accountability, though, and ask the Premier if accountability is going to be extended into policy and not just planning. Iíll use an example. If weíre going to be talking about the Yukon Liquor Corporation in the future ó and the Yukon Liquor Corporation makes a lot of armís-length policies ó Iím going to ask the minister, once governance legislation is passed, will we see accountability extending to armís-length groups? For example, we just saw an off-sales regulation come down through the Yukon Liquor Corporation, dictating that off-sales end at 11 oíclock in the evening, or 12 oíclock in the evening. The question I have on this is that itís very good to say and do these things, but if you donít measure them theyíre useless.
Is the Liquor Corporation, when theyíre putting this down, going to measure if crimes actually have fallen? Are they going to actually measure to see if drinking and driving go up?
There are impacts to doing this. Thatís accountability. That means that a process or a regulation that affects peopleís lives, that affects peopleís earning power, also affects business and the ability to do business. It also affects convenience for Yukoners. All of these things are being changed by this regulation. What Yukoners want to know is, has it had any effect in the desired area that they were trying to affect?
It will be the same thing with cigarette taxes.
We need to know more than just that the policy was put there. Iím asking the government: will accountability extend to all armís-length policies and will that be the driver? It is in Alberta. In Alberta, accountability is behind almost every decision made, how they were going to measure it and what they were going to do. Does the Premier see this form of accountability extending through in the cultural change?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes and no. I want to answer a couple of points on ó sorry, I apologize to the member; I was distracted with something else.
With respect to accountability and renewal, there are five pieces of legislation that account for this that spell out the accountability measures as well as the Corporate Governance Act, and this act deals with the specifics of the corporations ó or the armís-length ó as the member opposite knows. Now, am I hearing a question from the member, or am I hearing the memberís support for those pieces of legislation because they are also important? So that is a question I have to ask the member opposite.
Secondly, it is important to distinguish when we were looking at corporate governance that there are some areas where the minister, by law, should not be involved ó licensing for example. In the Housing Corporation rental, there are some things that should not be at the political level. There are some things that should be dealt with by a board. The best example of how that was spelled out was in the Liquor Act. So, for these specifics on a case-by-case basis, I would like to have the legislation in front of me when I go to answer that.
In terms of performance measures, the member used impaired driving and tobacco taxes as an example. Those are very, very good ones. In the infrastructure department where we have transportation statistics ó for years weíve received the information from the RCMP that the number of those stopped at checkstops who are not impaired has been going up and impaired driving has been going down.
So, yes, the statistics the member is thinking of as performance measures will be shown. In the case of the tobacco tax, Iíve stood on the floor of this House and said that that is a major contributing factor to young people not taking up smoking. The legitimate question from any member in the House and the public would be, "So prove it." And thatís what the performance measures should do.
I made that statement based on other information. Our performance measures should be able to account for that. So the answer to that is yes, and we are working to that end.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier for the answer. I guess the Premier did ask me a direct question ó whether Iím going to support the legislation as proposed for the renewal, and the sort of stack of cards that renewal needs to go through in the form of governance, in the form of the Accountability Act. And I understood the very basic needs of those when I was on that side of the House. And if they were unchanged from the last time I saw them, I canít see any reason not to support them.
And there are a lot of reasons. First of all, we were in a situation where we had massive numbers of civil servants working on this and lots of people who put time and effort in outside their work hours. And Iíll clarify that for the leader of the official opposition, as well. The work was being done by many people on two or three fronts, and the dedication of our civil service toward this project is commendable and it unfortunately will never be fully recognized because the work is gone and the faces are essentially faceless in a project this size. So thatís the reason youíll see the support ó because of the amount of work and energy put into it. And if the legislation is basically unchanged from the last time I saw it, thereís no reason not to.
I do have questions about it, though. And actually, just to clarify for the House, many of the motives have been attributed to the reorganization of some of these departments. I can plainly say weíre not there. Many of the motives that interest groups out in the public claim that the government has had in structuring the corporations ó I understood and I was in the decisionĖmaking process ó are unfounded. There are very innocent reasons for making a lot of these moves, and I will support the government publicly if they ask me for backup on that, because I certainly was involved in it and I certainly know that a lot of the decisions were made for very honest, straightforward reasons with no hidden agendas.
When the Premier needs that backup, please ask. If she knows that I know the answer to a specific question, Iíll provide it and verify for her that those reasons were true. There is no reason to be hung politically for a lot of the renewal actions. Unfortunately, this government has been hung politically for a lot of the renewal actions. To be fair to all sides of this House, thatís what non-partisanship is. Iíll certainly support the government if that comes forward ó just to let the Premier know.
There are a few things I do have questions about on the process, and Iíll bring those up in the accountability plans. Just to tell people on the other side, some of the accountability plans are written very lightly. Essentially, all a department has to do is show up and most of the accountability plan is there. Others are far-reaching, and the questions will be: can they really make those reaches within the time span allowed? But weíll get to those on a line-by-line basis.
I do want to switch gears now. I just wanted to talk about accountability and renewal because I was involved in it, and I wanted to just get my questions answered on that, and Iím fine.
Now, I want to go back to the deficit position weíre in, the census counts, and the reasons for uncertainty. Am I to understand that the Premier really has no idea ó just an idea of a range ó of what the census undercount may deliver, or a range of monies that we may or may not get over a couple of years? Iíd just like clarification on the range of monies that could be involved. I understand itís from zero. It could be as low as a zero change in our formula to as high as $39.6 million. Could we have that clarified for us on the floor, please?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, the example I gave with the $39 million was on 1,000 people. We have heard a preliminary number; numbers get bandied about. I used that number ó and itís based on 1,000 people ó because it was a very real example and the math could be followed by everybody. We do not have ó we really donít know. We will not know definitively until the fall of 2003. We wonít know.
So, why then prepare? Because it is the responsible thing to do, and the sense is, I mean, weíve heard it daily in this House, the very real understanding, and weíve seen it in the economic outlook ó the population has dropped.
We would be terribly remiss if we did not plan in some way for it. Do I have a definitive number? No, I do not.
Hon. Mr. McLarnon: The reason why I am asking the Premier is because, from what I understand, the model of the undercount ó and Iíve done a little research ó the model of the undercount hasnít changed significantly since the last census. So, as a result, using the undercount formula that was presented last time, wouldnít we get a clear ó just even using that formula to figure out what they did last time in an undercount situation with the census, only five years ago ó wouldnít that give us a much clearer picture of what we can and cannot spend?
Why I am asking this is because, to the untrained eye, if that undercount was to come in significantly lower than the number we are hearing now, it might look to a political cynic out in the Yukon public that weíve hidden the money away ó that weíve saved it for an election year and that we have a convenient excuse now to spend it because we were saving it.
Itís not a trick, but itís a tactic that has been used before, even in the last census, to tell you the truth. And then election monies came down just in time. I found it rather convenient that the census and the elections are often timed very close together.
So, the question I have is, to avoid cynicism in the public, wouldnít it at least be advisable to put numbers out on what it could be or what it should be if it was on the last functions? Wouldnít it be advisable maybe to hire a couple of mathematicians? We certainly hire lawyers for legal opinions so, for mathematical calculations, wouldnít it be advisable to ask for some advice on what the numbers should be, rather than go through the next couple of years scratching our heads, wondering if weíre going to be rich or poor?
That seems to be a sensible, logical approach. Thatís certainly what people do in their own households. They certainly try to find out and calculate and even go to tax experts, if theyíre going to owe money or if they donít know if theyíre going to owe money or if theyíre going to have to pay money to the tax man ó they get help. This government has consultants in all areas for all aspects. I find that, since we are talking about possibly $20 million that could go into health care, could go to implementation of land claims, go to ensuring that our children are better protected, go to ensuring that we improve our economy, I find it astounding that weíre going to leave the question unanswered for two years.
So, Iím going to ask the Premier: what steps are there to at least give Yukoners some certainty and also to give the cynics some quiet, because the cynicism in the territory is only increasing these days, and weíd certainly like to be able to stop it by giving at least some form of definitive answer?
Iíll leave the question for that train of thought with the Premier and wait for her response.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iím just begging the Houseís indulgence. I provided some information to the Member for Kluane earlier on in Committee debate here today about the status of the bill from Representative Jeannette James in the Alaskan State Legislature. It has just come to my attention that that bill has been withdrawn by Jeannette James, so I just wanted to correct the record at this point for the House.
Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Kent.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There are a couple of points I want to make to the member opposite. First of all, the census is every five years. We donít pick or choose the timing, so we have nothing to do with the fact that it happens to have been done in 2001 ó it wasnít our choice.
The problem is itís Statistics Canada ó no disrespect, and I suppose somebody will send them this part of the Hansard ó but theyíre like the Auditor General in that they are unto themselves. They donít take direction from anybody, let alone some provincial or territorial premier.
So asking them to hurry up on something is a non-starter ó because itís important to us.
Thatís one thing. So we are, in part, at their mercy. Now, Stats Canada is doing this. They have done the preliminary. The undercounts are the issue. We have all the mathematical ability you can imagine, and statistical ability ó particularly if I could recognize Finance officials and Dr. Glenn Grant in Ottawa is very well-known for his statistical ability, as are the other departmental officials.
So we can go ahead and say that the undercount for the last two censuses were about four percent.
So logic would then dictate, oh well, weíll just estimate that, except that the other factor in all this is that it matters what has happened in the country, so that also impacts on us. So if the whole country has been down, then there is another wrinkle that is put into it, and the undercounts for Canada have been anywhere from one to eight percent.
So we really just have no way of being able to do this. Itís not like going out and getting another legal opinion. All of the statistical types and the mathematicians are working on this, and there is a wide range because we simply donít know ó not only what the undercounts will be in the Yukon but what the undercounts in Canada are going to be. That is the problem we are in, and thatís why it is an issue. And the fact that it happens to be the fall of 2003 before we will definitively know the answer to this, is unfortunately the way it has worked out.
Unfortunately I have tried, Iíve asked the member oppositeís very question: well, couldnít we just give an estimate? You canít. The best we can do is what we have set aside and what we have done. Weíve tried to be as responsible as we possibly can with all the information and, unfortunately, there is just some information we are going to have to wait for.
Mr. McLarnon: Okay, well then I guess the next question begs, since weíve had this problem for a decade, probably longer than that: has direction been given to the Department of Finance so that, when we calculate our formula, we can spread hits like this on census and also spread gains when we make the census, evenly, so that we donít get stuck with the bill all at once and then be in a deficit financing position? Have we built instructions into that for our Department of Finance to negotiate in Ottawa a position where it isnít going to put us into a bust as a government?
Because what we have right now is a cycle of fiscal conservatism in our territory that gives a boom-and-bust spending cycle within our own government spending. It always seems like we have to make sure we keep that reserve in check; we have to hold money back until the last year when all of a sudden it seems to be there. Cynically or not, right now it seems like ó and I donít think we have to be gurus to read the budgets coming into election year ó theyíre higher, and they are what Yukoners have finally asked for, even though years before they were meagre and mean, and there were always complications with monies. So in our economy, which is boom and bust, we are also held up right now by the fact that our budgets are boom and bust, that every three or four years weíre going to see a flush of government money come in. Unfortunately right now things are adding up that even if we were on the straightest level, even if every cynic was wrong in this territory and this is the way it happened, weíre still going to see lots of money being spent in an election year. So essentially what you should do at that time, I guess, if youíre a business person, is open your store up every four years, because youíre going to get a rush of government money in that election time. If youíre a consultant, you want to print out election paper, thereís a whole bunch of spending that happens every four years that is minimized in between.
Unfortunately, I have a feeling, because of the way the census count is being used here, that that money will show up right around election time again. What I want to do is try to make sure that Yukoners can see this as what it is rather than what they want to see it as, as just another example of a big election budget coming up like theyíve seen over the last few years. So this can be corrected down the road by building a position in the formula where if there are going to be any monies pulled back instantly or any monies given instantly that it be given in instalments, given in payment plans ó if you will, if we owe ó and given in a way that we can balance a budget over four years. Because it certainly was embarrassing for the government last year to claim poverty and then have on their doorstep show up, within two weeks of their budget, a $41-million windfall. It is hard to explain a $41-million windfall.
Still, itís hard to explain. Itís hard to explain that you have a teachersí strike based on the governmentís fiscal situation, and then, all of a sudden, show up with $41 million at budget time. I mean, what I guess Iím asking ó Iím not blaming the government on the other side. I was in the room when that came in. I certainly knew the consternation of being too rich. And itís an odd position for politicians to be in, because they certainly made decisions based on another fiscal reality, which changed overnight based on windfall.
So, what we want to do, if we want to restore the confidence of the Yukon people in government and possibly maybe break that cycle of boom and bust in our economy, where we get great big budgets at election time and spread it out, so that these impacts can be received and buffered when we get them, and the good times can be spread equally, with policy decisions behind them, when we get good times. So, is that being built in the formula?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A couple of things ó first of all, in 1985, when the formula financing agreement was achieved in Ottawa, it was little recognized, but was a real accomplishment of the then deputy prime minister. I have to give full credit to Mr. Nielsen for that. It was only because of where he was at the Cabinet table that three territories were able to achieve that, and he should be fully recognized for that.
I remember the work that went on at the officialsí level, because I was there when it was happening, and it was a difficult sell. The fact is, that fundamentally changed the Yukon government ó fundamentally changed. Instead of going every year with cap in hand to brother or sister Ottawa, "Please will you approve this budget?", it provided certainty.
So it was absolutely supposed to do what the member has suggested ó level it all out, enable the territory to do long-term planning. Thatís what the formula was designed to do.
Now, in terms of having to deal with the windfall, these were five- or six-year-old disputes. Some of them dated back to the Ostashek government, some were the McDonald government. It took a year of solid arguing and presentations ó I had no less than two occasions, but probably more than that, where I sat down with Minister Martin and specifically went and tried to make the legal case for these as best I could, not being a lawyer. It took a lot of selling at the official level as well and continual badgering. The results benefited all three territories. Yukon was the lead on that because we, of the three territories, have the best Finance officials. Our work benefited the other two territories, and there are days Iím tempted to send them a bill for it, but we donít.
Anyway the fact is that that work did benefit the other territories. What was done with that monies was we did exactly what the member has suggested: spread it out, put aside the money. In terms of looking at the long-term plan, 2003-04 is the election year according to the mandate. In looking at the long-term plan, there is not an embarrassment of riches or a huge amount of spending going on in that year.
The work, in terms of the spending, in terms of work ó we have spent responsibly trying to generate the biggest bang for the buck. Things like ó the member opposite was there when the suggestion was made to straighten out the Champagne-Aishihik corners, the corners on the Alaska Highway in that regard.
That has generated work in the territory, as has moving the capital budget. We have tried to put as much money as we can in the capital budget because it does generate work. It is money that government spends, and we have a lasting benefit to show for it in terms of infrastructure and other things.
The other factor that has been noted that I need to point out is that there are smoothing, for lack of a better word, elements in the formula that try to account for these hills and valleys and the boom-and-bust things, like the failsafe and other provisions. Other governments, in their successes on arguing the formula, have managed to reduce the perversity factor to just a little over a dollar now, compared with what Mr. Ostashek had to deal with. So we have a long history, regardless of who has stood in the Finance chair, of fiscal conservatism in this territory and it has benefited the Yukon. That is a credit to not only the previous Finance ministers, but to our Finance officials, who had the foresight and worked with the government on this. We are in a solid financial position compared with my colleagues, the balance of the Finance ministers across the country. Even the Northwest Territories ó we hear them lauded on the floor of this House, "Isnít that a great system they have?" Well, they are millions of dollars in debt and I would argue that this has worked very well.
Another point that is being made is that, you know, although there has been fiscal conservatism practised in this territory by successive ministers and deputy ministers and officials of Finance, overall there has been a reasonable surplus maintained. And overall, weíve had relatively balanced ó I mean we have a large deficit this year and weíve spent down significantly the surplus. But relatively balanced ó and that is a goal of Finance ministers, and the formula, quite frankly, is the envy of a lot of my colleagues. While it has its warts and its issues and things that ó the bumps that we have to live with ó it's still better than what a lot of the other provinces have, and we are certainly working to keep it that way.
Mr. McLarnon: I do appreciate a lot of the extra information, but I guess the thing I am still asking about is that, since we are such a small population ó since one or two people, you know, every person counted. That was the marketing message we gave during census counts. Since we are such a small population, where a swing of 400 or 500 people can make a significant impact on us ó specifically what I was asking is: will the government try to put a smoothing factor on the census count so that when we do our formula and negotiations, we donít get hit in one shot, we donít have to come up every time a census comes out and wonder if we have to reserve $15 million or $39.6 million or $5?
We donít know. We have to make the accommodation. So isnít it much better to try to negotiate a deal where, if you are going to be on the hook for extra money, that you donít take it in a lump-sum payment? It seems like a reasonable request. It certainly would be something that, in private enterprise, we arrange all the time with our finance companies, we arrange all the time with our credit card companies, we even arrange all the time with our banks, in case we are sick and canít pay our mortgage for a couple months. These are things that we do privately in our own lives. So you would think our own lives could be a further reflection of what the government could do in trying to make sure that, when we have a rainy day, that we have a much easier way to deal with it. Iíll give you an example: if we have a rainy day, so that we have an umbrella instead of having to build a house, which is unfortunately what weíre doing now, having to put all the money out at once, rather than just moving it over the term of the mandate for a few more years.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, the quid pro quo of that would have been that, when we finally were able to resolve these decades-old disputes, the government not send us the $42 million but that they would spread it out over a series of years. That would have been the quid pro quo. Now, who would you rather have in charge of the Yukon government money ó Yukon government? Yes. I think thatís what the formula was designed to do. So we have done that. We have smoothed it out by setting aside the contingency reserve.
Now, the second that we have a sense of whether or not thatís going to be required ó absolutely. We will have to deal with it. You have to account in private business. The member opposite knows. You have to account for liability you know is coming. You have to. Itís just the same ó if we were accounting for a receivable, weíd have been spending that money. It really balances out and I think, if the member goes back and reviews Hansard, and goes back through all of this, what we have done within the formula by setting aside money ó and we donít know the answer and wonít know for some time ó in the event of a census result that may not be in our favour, is responsible. And thatís what we should be to taxpayers.
I appreciate that itís difficult out there. Thereís another spin put on things. The fact is that only time is going to bear us out. Just for the record, I have already pitched Mr. Martin and said, "You know what? If we get a bill, we donít want to pay it."
We donít want some huge bill coming our way. He had, to his credit, already heard that from a number of other provinces with their issues. But again weíre in a contract in our formula. Weíre not under an act like an equalization act, so there is a difference there. Weíre honour bound to fulfill our end of the formula and to work with the federal government on that, as previous Finance ministers have done.
I donít believe that any other Finance minister would have done this any differently than what I have done. I believe we are aware, in our negotiations in the formula, of these issues and weíre trying to work with them. We have resolved old issues and, as we work with the formula, as we have worked with the formula for the past number of years, I think weíve worked toward improvements and the smoothing the member suggests.
Deputy Chair: Order please. The time being 4:30, the Committee of the Whole will recess for 15 minutes.
Deputy Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Mr. McLarnon: We were talking last time about the formula. Now, I understand that the formula is on a three-year rolling average. I just want to get that corrected and properly done, that our formula is calculated on a rolling average, and that itís not based on an actual number of years but on an average number of years. I just want to get the Premier on the record to make sure my understanding is correct.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, the memberís understanding is correct.
Mr. McLarnon: I guess the reason Iím asking that is because we have had an excellent and actually well-commented on system of collecting our population stats. In fact, they are considered some of the most trustworthy stats in the country, as far as our population and the range of error itís within. So, the question I have for the Premier is: have we not been presenting what we consider to be accurate stats of our population over the last three years?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A couple of things. First of all, the formula is based on Statistics Canada figures. They are their figures, and they base those on income tax returns as well. Our population figures do differ, although in recent years they have been coming closer. I donít know what the difference is, off the top of my head right now, but I could find out if the member is really interested. But it is the Statistics Canada figures that are used. What is critical here is not "my number versus your number", but the rate of change. Thatís the critical point that we have to watch.
Mr. McLarnon: It was my understanding, too, that they have actually been coming surprisingly close together, and itís a credit to the people in the Bureau of Statistics for coming up again with a good model to measure whatís actually happening in the territory.
The reason why Iím asking this is because these numbers are coming very close to Statistics Canadaís numbers and they were matching up. Should we not already have a fairly clear picture of what money we have to spend and what money we donít have to spend?
The reason why I am asking is because there hasnít been complaints about the disparity between our numbers and their numbers for awhile. So that doesnít seem to be an argument on the table any more, and so if our numbers have been accurate for the last little while and if Statistics Canada hasnít had very many problems with them ó in fact, I know there have been kudos passed on to our government and our statistics branch for their accuracy ó why are we creating a pervasive cloud of uncertainty in our economic future when we have statistics already that have proven to be close to accurate or very accurate? Shouldnít that give us a much closer range of the money we actually have to spend? Since we have put the money into gathering statistics and since weíve put the personnel into making sure those statistics are accurate, why are we afraid now when the numbers have been so close in the past?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, much as we might achieve laudatory comments from Statistics Canada and those numbers may be close, Statistics Canada doesnít care. Our numbers are completely irrelevant to them.
They use their own. They adjust their numbers to the census. So in between counts, census, they use income tax returns, and then they adjust to the census. Once again, itís the undercount. And itís not just the undercount here; itís the overall in Canada, as well. So those are the key determining factors here, and those are the key points. I mean, a percent or two overall in the country can make a huge difference here. So itís not just our undercounts we have to be mindful of.
Hon. Mr. McLarnon: I guess my suggestion to the Premier would be that the Yukon public doesnít understand this. The Yukon public has a hard time understanding this and, as a result, messages that the Yukon public needs to know will always be clouded by the fact that they donít understand this. So what Iíd ask the Premier to do is put more emphasis on this. If this is truly what we have to make the decisions on ó and if it has been said in this House, it is true and I wonít refer to that again, and Iím sorry, because I donít want to bring questions of truths up. But it needs to be communicated further, because we as MLAs are all being asked questions about this, and I want to be able to have constituents fully understand this so we can get past everybodyís spin on what this is and bring people to the reality. So thatís just a constructive suggestion, and I hope it doesnít fall on deaf ears.
The next thing I want to talk about is whatís not in the budget ó not programs I would like to see, but just a couple things that I feel are going to be inevitably in a supplementary or that should have already been described here.
I understand the timing of the signing of the devolution transfer agreement didnít allow for the budget projections to have all the financing and all the resources that weíll receive as part of devolution, but these are only estimates and projections of our long term anyway. So, since we pretty well knew the inevitability of the passage of the devolution agreements and the Yukon Act, I am wondering, since I understand the numbers to be approximately $40 million in resources coming, is the number reflected anywhere past 2003? Can we get updated revenue ó now that we have had the Yukon Act passed in the House, can we get an updated revenue projection and an updated expense projection, so that we can actually and formally look to see if we are going to be facing a deficit?
Now, Iíve already heard the response that weíre just program delivering, so itís money in and money out, but I also know that there are approximately between 225 and 250 positions identified in the DIAND transfer, and not all of them are staffed now, and not all of them necessarily have to be staffed when those programs come over. So, that should free money up that we will have that certainly arenít projected in our long-term statistics and certainly arenít projected in what Yukoners can expect in two years. So what we have here is half a story.
We have the story being told, even though it was conceived in full knowledge of the Yukon Act passing and the devolution transfer agreements coming into effect. Their numbers arenít being projected here, and how can Yukoners make a fair assessment of their long-term financial picture if all factors arenít considered?
So I will ask the Premier when we are going to see updated projections, and can we see them before the end of the budget debate so we can fully evaluate if we are going to be in a deficit position, as is being portrayed today?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to offer a response to the member opposite on a couple of points. First of all, the member opposite made a constructive suggestion that Yukoners, by and large, donít understand all the intricacies of the formula or the census issue, and we, the government, should be making every effort to explain it.
I have sat down with members of the media and walked them through all of this, point by point by point, and Iíve tried every way I can to explain it to members in the House, this very public forum. Quite frankly, until it hits a lot of people and until we see the results, a lot of the publicís eyes tend to glaze over.
I will continue to keep trying, but what Iím trying to say is I have tried, as all members of this House have tried, and the more members understand the formula and the finances of the territory, the better off weíll all be.
Itís just like the accountability plans. Itís a good innovation; we have to keep working with it and keep trying to get the message out.
So, I have certainly tried, and I will continue to try, and I hope all members will continue to try to enhance their understanding of it.
With respect to the devolution transfer agreement, it is a net wash. Itís money in/money out. Itís a transfer. What would be of most benefit here to the member opposite would be for the devolution transfer agreement negotiators to specifically walk the member, and any other interested members, through the agreement, including the financial arrangements and things like the offers to employees, the transfer of sick leave and all of those sorts of credits and the financial information. A detailed briefing would be more in order than what the member is thinking in this House.
Now, I have offered that in the past to the leaders of the opposition parties, with limited success. I certainly will make the negotiators available at the memberís time schedule, if he so wishes to have that.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier and Iíll take her up on that offer. I still need to come to the point, though, that when we were doing renewal briefings and when we were talking to federal government employees, their impression was that the money for the positions would be handed over but not all the positions would necessarily need to be staffed. As a result, that does create some operating monies. Just as long as the responsibilities are taken care of and the responsibilities under ó if Iím wrong, Iíd like to be corrected on the floor, but I understood that our goal in the DTA was to carry out the responsibilities as well as or better than the federal government, but the staffing was up to the Yukon territorial government, as far as making sure those responsibilities are carried out.
So, as a result, again Iíll get back to the numbers: between 225 to 250 positions are identified in the DTA, in the transfer, but currently in filled positions weíre looking at approximately 150 to 160 people in them now. But weíre getting all the money for the positions, because thatís the responsibility and the money the federal government spends now.
We donít necessarily need to spend that money. We have efficiencies when they come in, and they wanted to know if thatís going to be reflected. Also, we have heard there are one-time payments involved in this. Are they not going to be reflected in the budget? I can get a lot of this in a briefing, but it seems like there is a significant amount of money we should reflect in revenues, because thatís the job of a budget ó to accurately reflect the revenues coming into the government and the expenditures going out. Currently, they are all missing from future projections, so we have no way, other than a briefing, for the Yukon public, which doesnít have access to a briefing, to fully and fairly evaluate where weíre going, and thatís the crux of the matter. We just want the numbers recorded. This will get to my next question, as well. But I just want to know when we can see a statement or an estimate that will reflect the reality of the DTA coming our way.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: First of all, the devolution transfer agreement was a negotiation. Thatís a fundamental point that has to be remembered too. I mean, we donít negotiate anybodyís contracts on the floor of the House. So, we donít want to be doing that.
The fact is, the devolution transfer agreement was negotiated for X amount of money to deliver the services ó these programs and, of course, it should have been more. However, the agreement has been negotiated, and the devolution transfer agreement is the accurate reflection of the financial in and the financial out. The tabling of the DTA, if you will, in this House is a question I should be addressing, and I will address that and respond at another point in time to the member opposite.
Mr. McLarnon: I guess I can wait until that time. I would expect that, in future budgets, it will be stated there that it is coming into place anyway. Itís just something for us to be able to give our constituents and the voters of the Yukon ó a fair projection. Since we donít have that number, it is harder to give a picture to the Yukon public about the reality of what we are looking at in 2003-04. And the point has been made and I donít intend to belabour it here any further.
Other things that arenít in there, though, are directly related to legislation being passed this session. It has directly related to the impacts of the maximum wage rate coming through in the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board bill and the impacts on the territorial government with that bill since we were self-insured during that time and we will have to probably pay the same compensation. Weíre going to have to go through this. The Premier is shaking her head, so I just want to ensure ó if sheíll stand up right now and tell me there is no impact on the Yukon territorial government, I can drop this line of questioning immediately.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The minister responsible for the Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board is in discussion with the board and others on that, and how it might, or may not, impact upon the territoryís finances. The bill has not been called for debate. There is time for that assessment to be done. There are other financial factors with the boardís finances and so on that are all involved in all of this.
There are a number of ongoing discussions happening right now. I donít want to prejudice any of those discussions. I would just suggest that the member opposite leave that debate until we actually come to the debate in the bill because that work is ongoing. If the member opposite wants to have a discussion about what those negotiations are, I am happy to do that but not in this public forum.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier, and I get a daily update on what those negotiations are, so I donít need to get any further into it. I just wanted to know the costs, and if they are going to be presented at the time of the bill, I certainly will wait until that point.
I know, again, that legislation needs to be accounted for especially when itís coming up. But since it will probably be in the next fiscal year anyway, weíll wait for the supplementary. I just wanted to hear if there was going to be a financial impact or not today. Since we still donít know, Iíll leave it for another time.
I guess the next question I have is on some of the endowments. We heard today that the youth endowment was set aside to ensure that the youth conference happens every year ó a very noble cause. I guess the question I have for the Premier is that I understand the youth conference can run anywhere from $40,000 to $80,000 in its planning and expenses. A calculation, even at a generous rate of interest for this fund, doesnít go anywhere near covering those expenses. Does this mean that what weíve done by establishing a youth endowment is ensure that theyíll never be able to come up with a conference of as good a quality with the amount of resources behind it, because now theyíre limited to whatever they can pull out of interest on the youth endowment fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In setting up the endowments in some discussions, some of the endowments are able to spend the principal. I am just trying to recall the exact legal document around the youth fund. Iíll have to get that for the member opposite. Yes, it was an endowment with the full intention that a youth leadership conference is able to happen.
I can get the exact legal documents around all the parameters of these funds if the member opposite wishes. For example, the teacher mentoring fund has contributions to it by the YTA as well, and how that money will be spent. They are legal documents of the government. I can likely as not provide the member opposite with copies.
Hon. Mr. McLarnon: I donít need the documents. We have enough legal expertise that I know theyíre fully legal. Itís the implication that Iím more interested in. Does this limit funding to the youth leadership conference? Does this limit it only to the interest or the money that can be taken out of this fund, or do we have a commitment right now from this Premier to make sure that these conferences are recognized as important and, if thereís any shortfall in the funding because of the interest, that we ensure that these conferences still happen? Because at a low-interest rate like weíve seen in the last little while, weíd have a hard time even paying for the costs of the children and the youth to come into Whitehorse from the communities to participate, much less the activities, the prizes and all the fun and the expertise that the youth receive. So can we get a commitment from the Premier that this is not going to be the limit or sole funding for these conferences?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Itís not now. The Minister of Justice has advised that that department contributes and so on. Again, my reason for talking about the legal documents is that a number of these funds that were set aside ó and each one of them has a different legal document and parameters around it ó and what I was trying to convey to the member is that not in every case did we say, "Youíre only allowed to spend the interest." I just canít recall the specifics on the youth. Itís on the tip of my tongue, and I donít have it in front of me as to whether or not they were allowed more than that. So I will get back to the member opposite. No, to the best of my knowledge, there was no such restriction put on it.
Mr. McLarnon: I can take that in the form of a legislative return. Itís something that we can go through later, so I donít need an immediate response. We just want to get the commitment on paper, or some form of commitment, that, in a backhanded way of generosity ó itís called backhanded generosity when money is given that actually makes somebody poorer through the way itís set up. And we want to make sure that the youth donít suffer as a result of receiving money that looks like largesse and then turn out to be an anchor around their neck. Thatís all weíre trying to make sure that doesnít happen here.
Now, weíre going to switch a little bit to the economy, because what weíre seeing right now ó unfortunately, it was an eye-opening experience and probably one that I needed to have happen a little earlier because it gave me an idea of what weíre up against with the pipeline. The leader of the official opposition, myself and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources sat in the office of probably one of the most well-versed men in North America on the Alaska pipeline issue. His name is Senator John Torgerson, and he gave us a clear indication that, even optimistically, we wouldnít see anything happening here until the year 2011.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. McLarnon: Iím sorry. The leader of the third party was there as well. The leader of the third party even asked the question, so I give credit where credit is due.
But we had a clear indication that, optimistically ó optimistically, and he even said that that was in his wildest dreams ó weíd see a pipeline come through in 2011. He figured that it will happen but the most likely date weíre going to settle on is 2015.
The way I look at it is that, while the pipeline is still worth pursuing and while we still need to ensure that weíre ready for it and that the regulatory authority can get it through, I also realize that, right now, we are chasing ó and itís coming very close to the expression "a pipe dream" in the sense that we are now spending our money on something that most experts and even politicians in the know in the United States, knowing what theyíre dealing with in multinationals, knowing what theyíre dealing with in federal legislation on large environmental concerns, have given us a fair evaluation that this is probably not something we should be looking at if weíre looking for immediate economic help or expansion.
What Iím asking is, if we can possibly change the direction of our pipeline unit and start facing the fact that we do have oil and gas here in the Yukon, has the Premier given any thought to possibly changing the direction of that oil and gas unit and changing the direction of our governmentís attitude toward pipelining oil and gas and thinking about maybe local consumption? Iíll bring up a Branigan idea ó setting up gas fields right north of Whitehorse, to get Whitehorse on the gas system, to get us so we can be a large energy surplus area, and then start generating industry out of it, something like a smelter or something like they were looking at when they found the gas in Cook Inlet in Alaska, at possibly bringing in an aluminum smelter. They just didnít have enough gas. Our understanding is that they could have enough gas in that basin to give us long-term prosperity.
So, the question I have for the Premier is, are we considering changing our policy and our long-term outlook with our pipeline unit, or are we still going to spend $750,000, throwing it down the tube on something we have now been told by almost every expert on earth, including ones that want to see this happen, that weíre looking at something over a decade away ó easily.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite started out his comments saying, "Give credit where credit is due." If thatís the case ó if the member truly believes that ó then I would like to give credit to the minister responsible for the Youth Directorate in the youth endowment fund ó that that money is to be spent on youth and is no way some "back-handed" arrangement, as the member has suggested.
Now, following up on the "credit where credit is due", when we came to office, next to nothing was spent ó granted, it was a lot of money to the average Yukoner, but not a lot in terms of the overall budget of in excess of half a billion dollars. The previous government was spending less than $100,000 on even examining, let alone preparing or doing any work on the pipeline analysis.
Now, the member opposite ó how quickly the member has said itís just a pipe dream, and has bought into the rhetoric and spin that this is somehow the only initiative weíre pursuing, which is blatantly not the case. One has to only look at the budget or look at the work of the government and recognize that that is not the only initiative weíre pursuing. But, that being said, the largest construction project in the history of the territory requires the government to be prepared and to pursue that project, which is what we have done.
I would caution the member opposite that the pipeline, and pipeline possibilities, is a very fast-moving, ever-changing environment. Senator Torgersonís comments were also made in advance of the current energy bill thatís before the American House.
World events, as well ó we have succeeded in a number of areas for the expenditures. We have clarified the regulatory and environmental processes needed to review and approve this construction project. Weíve made sure that that kind of work has been done. We have also worked with the Council of Yukon First Nations on ensuring support for their application to the Government of Canada for funding, made sure that we supported that, which is also pipeline analysis. We have committed a similar level of support to the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
There is a great deal of work to be done. We have seen some economic benefits already from this work, in Yukoners being employed on some of the feasibility work that has been done.
Weíre seeing partnerships between Yukon First Nations and companies within Yukon ó long-recognized Yukon companies such as Foothills Pipe Lines, one of the key members and the first in the door with their membership dues, as well as SNC-Lavalin Engineers & Constructors Inc., which have entered into a number of joint ventures. So to suggest it is the only initiative we have pursued is incorrect. To suggest that we are wrong to pursue this and to prepare, I would also argue, is incorrect. It is incumbent upon us to be prepared and, not only that, itís incumbent upon us to be champions of a project that could be of tremendous benefit to the territory. The other point the member has suggested is that we somehow change the direction of the oil and gas unit. The fact is the oil and gas unit is promoting the land sales and land dispositions in the territory. The fourth land disposition plan for this fall is in the Whitehorse Trough. We brought forward the gas distribution franchise, how that might proceed before the Yukon Utilities Board and the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy, Mines and Resources has issued a media release with respect to that today. We have been doing our homework on these issues ó not only on the pipeline, but on other oil and gas development and on mining and on forestry and on other initiatives. We have not forgotten the smaller industries in the Yukon that are also direct contributors to our GDP, and including the placer mining community when I speak of mining. So we have been working on these initiatives and the ones that the member opposite suggests that we do are well underway.
Mr. McLarnon: Weíve had a good tone of debate here, so I would ask the Premier not to get defensive. When I said "backhanded generosity" I did say "unintended". I did not state in any way the setting up of this endowment was in any way to hurt the youth or limit their funding. I just wanted to ensure that this was not their only source of funding. There is no need to be defensive on that, because I didnít need to be.
As far as saying it was the only initiative that this government has tried to put forward in economic development, nor again did I say that; those were words placed in my mouth. What I do want the Premier to understand, though, is that preparing for the pipeline right now is probably akin to the province of Irian Jaya in Indonesia preparing for the Bre-X mine. We have something that may not happen for a long time. So, what we are asking for is plan B. We have gas here. We have developed expertise in pipeline. We have the ability to do something else ó another option. Letís face it, it has already been discussed and pooh-poohed, but it is a real one. We have developing gas fields and finds in Eagle Plains.
If it looks like the Canadian government is going to back the Mackenzie Valley route, why are we not already talking to the Inuvialuit Corporation? Why are we not already talking to the pipeline people over there? Why are we not talking about running a spur line from Eagle Plains along an identified corridor on the Dempster Highway to get that gas to market? Do we have to wait 11 to 15 years to get our gas down an Alaska Highway pipeline when the Yukon could be getting industry going now in a positive way, backing the train that is already leaving the station, getting on it and understanding that if we can get these resources to market now, we can get these royalties into our economy, we can get these jobs produced here? It doesnít always have to be down the Alaska Highway.
I guess I havenít seen any work on this. I havenít heard any discussion about this in the public. I am only offering options here.
Iím not asking the government to do this; Iím asking the government to examine it or please explain why theyíre not doing it. There are many people asking me and bringing ideas forward about other economic activities, other ways we can use our resources to get us out now. We are looking at the Mackenzie Valley pipeline being upgraded in the sense that it will probably be built fast ó faster than our Alaska Highway pipeline.
There are options to explore here. One of the options is to take the resources we have now and get them to market, take a resource thatís in demand and growing in demand.
The Premier said that I did not take into account the energy bill, that I did not take into account the world situation. What I did take into account is the natural gas flowing from Mexico in increasing quantities every day at a cheaper rate than we can supply. This is what Senator Torgerson told us. Itís not just based on the U.S. economics or the price of that gas. There are cheaper supplies closer to the United States that they want to exploit now, and theyíre doing it because the Mexican government is building pipeline faster than you can say "pipeline" in Spanish. So the reality here is that we are finding world sources getting to the markets that we need; we are seeing a federal government understandably looking at an all-Canadian route with some chauvinism and also some understanding of the benefits of this; and all weíre asking this government to do is to please show us plan B, because we right now are worried that plan A is failing ó the plan A, because of world situations, not because of the efforts of this government. This government should be applauded for the initiative that they took. But the reality is dawning. It is time now to understand that the effort has probably been too early. At least we have a resolution, at least we have some sort of time frame, at least the progress has happened. But whatís plan B? Thatís all I want to know. Is the Premier considering plan B? She has told me that all these things are happening. All I want to know is when, and can I have the information if they are?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, first of all itís not a question of plan A, B or C. There is an entire work of the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources on the Yukon economy. Although they are a fundamental role, there is a whole host of initiatives that this government is working on. In oil and gas, itís the same thing. There wasnít just plan A and plan B; there was a whole host of initiatives.
I disagree with the member, with all due respect, that plan A is failing. Iím not ready to say that the Alaska Highway pipeline will not be built, like the member opposite seems to be saying. I am not prepared to say that.
Mr. Chair, the fact is that the dates with respect to the construction are dependent on a whole host of things including, if you listen to corporate United States ó some of the corporate companies, Exxon, Phillips, BP and the State of Alaska ó itís all about fiscal monetary policy, which any legislator is going to read as "fiscal incentives". If you listen to some of the pipeliners ó not the producers but the pipeliners ó itís also about regulatory issues. How long is it going to take? Whereís the NEB? Whereís the NPA? And, if you listen to some governments, "File your application; file your application." So, thereís a whole host of factors involved in that.
Those factors are all going to contribute to the timing. So to fix on a date at this point ó I am not prepared to be out there publicly picking one date over another. We naturally would like to see this built as responsibly and as soon as possible. We would like to see the benefits. We would like to see a lot of things happen.
The other point that I make to the member opposite is that the pipeline ó yes, while itís a large public focus and there is a lot of public discussion and it is the first question when I deal with media from outside the territory ó is part of an overall approach of "letís develop the territoryís oil and gas potential". That means proceeding in an orderly manner on land sales. I committed in the first year of office ó my very first speech: weíll have an annual land sale. The one this September is scheduled for the Whitehorse Trough, which is the development of our resources. And, in concert with that, when I first came to office, there was also interest by a number of different companies in a gas distribution franchise in the territory, which further builds on that. We changed the legislation. We have to put the regulatory process in place. It all takes far longer than anybody would like, but that seems to be the nature of government, and there are reasons for that as well. So all of that has been put in place, and it is not a plan A over a plan B. Itís all working to work toward construction of an Alaska Highway pipeline, development of Yukonís oil and gas resources, local accessibility of those resources, and Yukoners being able to be employed and our own GDP increasing.
Thereís all kinds of information available to the member also, including todayís daily oil bulletin, indicating that the most promising areas for oil and gas development in Canadaís north are the Liard Plateau and the Eagle Plains Basin in the Yukon. We are working on developing those.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Chair, maybe the governmentís not used to the type of opposition that I am offering here. I am not attacking. What I want to know is just what has been done so I can explain it to my constituents, because the question theyíre asking me is, we know we have gas in Eagle Plains, but how do you sell gas without a pipeline? Why do people go there and explore if they canít sell it? And I explained to them, well, itís based on the futures, and one day there may be the need for it. And they say, well, why arenít we investigating getting that gas out? Why arenít we already looking at a pipeline thatís pretty well on the way and saying, thatís our highway out?
I mean, the only question I asked is whatís being done about it? Has the Premier investigated the opportunity of taking the Eagle Plains gas out, putting it into the Mackenzie Valley pipeline and putting jobs and money into our economy? Itís a simple question.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite is suggesting that I react differently to his questions. I have fully answered his question. To further elaborate with respect to Eagle Plains, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which he refers to as well on its way, is not as far advanced as the member opposite or some of the media hype would have one believe. The fact is there are a lot of hurdles. Please do not misunderstand or misrepresent the comments. Iím supportive of the Mackenzie Valley line being built, but the fact is thereís a lot of infrastructure missing. Thereís a lot of regulatory work that has not been done, and there are some issues with support for that project.
Also, the very diameter of the pipe is in question in Yukon as well, but itís more in terms of Mackenzie Valley. Have we ruled out Eagle Plains gas going either south to join the Alaska Highway or northeast to the Mackenzie Valley? No, and in fact what we have done as a government is take steps to ensure that the corridors required for a pipeline are legislatively maintained along that Dempster corridor. So we have done that. The fact is that this exploration is critical to further development and it starts there. Itís the same as exploration in the mining industry, if I can compare the two. The exploration work has to be done and then itís some time before thereís necessarily mineral production. We certainly have taken steps to ensure that we are prepared for that, and that no opportunities are lost.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier for that answer. That has answered my question, and I will go further into this with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources when we get on to his department in line-by-line.
The final thing Iím going to say is that we obviously looked at this budget, and there are deficiencies in it that we would like to see corrected and we hope that a supplementary budget will be brought forward before the end of session to correct those.
One of the things that weíre going to ensure is that there are money available, since we have heard that weíre in a deficit position and the Premier holds fast and true to that situation. Weíll have to see how that plays out with the census count. The only option we have right now, then, is to take a hard look at the programs and cut them. So, we will be bringing our scissors to the floor of this Legislature in line-by-line. Weíll be looking first of all at travel expenses in ECO. Just as a warning to the Minister of Environment, we certainly will want all the costs associated with environmental assessment and planning for parks.
We donít know if theyíre going to be safe from cuts until we see a YPAS process that works here. We figured that if the minister wonít bring forward a moratorium, a moratorium can be imposed by this House by making sure there is no money to spend on the assessments. So this is one area that weíll be looking at as well.
Essentially, what weíll be doing is finding the money to ensure that this government has no excuse at all for not giving us alcohol and drug programming, and for not fulfilling the campaign promises that they made in their own platform. So weíll be bringing our own scissors and making sharp cuts until that money is found. I just wanted to put the ministers on the other side on notice about that.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I look forward to discussing this with the Member for Whitehorse Centre when we get into departmental debate, but I can give him some preliminary information before we do that.
The department has a copy of a proposal put forward by a company that has leases in the Eagle Plains area for a Dempster light project, which would deliver gas from that basin through the Yukon and connect with an Alaska Highway pipeline at some point. I have also had officials in my department do up some preliminary numbers ó I should stress that they are very preliminary and not advanced ó to tell us the cost of connecting Eagle Plains gas and Peel Plateau gas to a Mackenzie Valley pipeline. I can get those numbers for the member opposite as well.
Something I know is very important to Senator Torgerson in Alaska, as well as us, is that there be excess capacity ó in Senator Torgersonís case, in the Alaska Highway pipeline project so that new sources of gas can come on line at a later date. As a Yukon government, we will certainly make those representations to proponents of a Mackenzie Valley line, in the case that we want to put some north Yukon gas into a Mackenzie Valley pipeline project.
With those representations, I look forward to more detailed discussion and debate with the Member for Whitehorse Centre when we get into the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the minister for that. And I would look at it more as a discussion than a debate in this case. And the reason why is because everybody in this House wants to see the Yukon economy improve, and so I donít think we need to be adversarial about it. We are here to find solutions. So it is more of a discussion than a debate, and I thank the minister for his statement.
Mr. Jenkins: When I left this debate with the Minister of Finance, we were exploring a number of areas. The Member for Whitehorse Centre has dealt with a number of them.
I would like to get into one of the areas and that is the amount of money that is being set aside in the various foundations and reserves. And, given that the federal Minister of Finance just had his ó probably more than his wrist slapped. I forget how it was worded. They couldnít slap his wrist because it was too deeply into the cookie jar, putting away these funds.
Is there some kind of a maximum amount of money that the minister is considering placing in foundations here in the Yukon? Is there some formula? Or is it just to put away funds so that the surplus doesnít look as high as it really is, or to reduce the accumulated surplus?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The funds that were set aside as endowment funds were tabled and voted on in last yearís supplementary. The member opposite is referring to the news story yesterday that the Auditor General Sheila Fraser chastised the Government of Canada with respect to $7.1 billion in funds. Her reference was to scrutiny of the House. And in fact, I remind the member opposite that these funds were voted on in this House.
They were for Yukoners and subject to debate in this Legislature. The exact accounting of those funds was as follows: Yukon Foundation was $750,000. There was the Yukon Historic Resources Board, which was originally set up by Mr. Penikett, with $400,000-some-odd was subsequently brought up to $1,000,000 so they could start to expend it. The teacher-mentoring program was $750,000, and the youth fund was $250,000. Again, I have indicated I would provide to members opposite the details around expenditures and how those funds will be spent by those very worthwhile organizations. Did I say community recreation? Those are the endowment funds, and that is what has been done. It came before the Legislature and was voted upon by this Legislature.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím not raising concern with the amount that has been transferred into endowment funds to date or for the intended purpose, because on the surface they all look like theyíre very worthwhile and extremely beneficial for Yukoners, depending on how they can be spent or disbursed. Thatís a given. Iím asking the Minister of Finance, is there a formula that the government uses or a cap on the amount of money that will be directed into foundations? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no formula or cap. The only other time that I can recall this being done from the research that Iím aware of was by Mr. Penikett and it may have been Finance Minister McDonald. There were two funds: the Yukon historic resources fund, and the other is a northern research endowment that is out of Yukon College. Those are the only two other endowments. There is no cap or formula, in answer to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: So itís safe to say, Mr. Chair, that this Liberal government just follows the federal Liberal government lead and just puts the money in as it sees fit. There are a lot of other areas in Yukon that would probably derive extreme benefits from a grant of this nature. Are any other areas being examined by this government for a foundation ó to be set up as a foundation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No. The permanent fund has been set aside and is under examination. But no. There was a collective discussion of what ideas are out there and what would be of most benefit, and these were the suggestions that were put forward and examined and subsequently selected by Cabinet. Letís face it. The member opposite has said he has no quarrel with the foundations. The Yukon Foundation is as broad as the Yukon itself, and it enables Yukoners to, as they put in their brochures, realize their dreams, be they higher education, a better community, landscaping or a higher education or specific cultural pursuits.
The community recreation leadership program is another area. We heard loudly and clearly that we need a way to support communities on this. Teacher mentoring as well was another one, and of course the youth. So it covers all aspects of society. While there are any number of worthwhile endeavours out there, these were the ones that were selected.
Mr. Jenkins: Which leads to the question: they were selected from how many different areas and how many different opportunities were presented to caucus, or was the final position as to what the government was going to fund presented to caucus? There are a lot of areas that would benefit extremely well from an arrangement such as a number of these worthwhile and beneficial causes have, but there are enough out there that havenít got this kind of funding. How many were in the selection process, how many different groups or organizations were in the selection process, and how did it get narrowed down to these areas and these areas only, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, government is about making tough choices. There were any number of ideas put forward. There were ideas solicited from the public service as well as caucus. There were several lengthy discussions. Ultimately, the decision, as all Management Board decisions are made, was made by Cabinet and Management Board, and itís about making choices. And the fact is that weíve covered, with the endowments. Yukon Foundation covers the Yukon, and Yukoners are represented ó youth, community recreation, the teaching community as well as the Historic Resources Board. In other areas ó for example, in the medical professional field ó there are other areas where resources have been put. So government is about making choices, and the member opposite is correct. There were choices made in this instance. I believe they were the right ones, as does the Cabinet and caucus.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, if the Cabinet and caucus made a decision to select these areas, that is one thing, but it has been suggested that what was presented to Cabinet and caucus was the conclusion as to what was going to be funded. What I am saying to the Minister of Finance is there are a lot of other organizations and groups out there that would give their back teeth to have access to this kind of foundation amount.
This leads me to the next area of the Yukon permanent fund of $10 million. $10 million has been set aside, and the minister has indicated on the floor, just a few minutes ago, that this $10 million is under review. Well, that would suggest to me that, if this amount is under review, that it may be put back into general revenues or it might lapse. Because really, the Yukon permanent fund has been in place now for how long? We havenít heard anything about it with respect to guidelines or how to access this $10 million. It is under review. Furthermore, there have been some worthwhile undertakings that have come to the Premierís attention, such as the acquisition of the game farm here in the Yukon. It would be a very worthwhile attraction to retain here in the Yukon, an attraction on which we can build our visitor industry. But what we have is a Premier, a Minister of Finance, who wonít even commit $1 of government money to this initiative.
In fact, Iím sure the Minister of Environment is busy developing regulations that will preclude the owners of the game farm from even selling off their stock. And then on top of this $10-million Yukon permanent fund, we have a $15-million reserve. Well, we all know the purpose of setting up this reserve and the $10-million permanent fund. The surplus the government had was basically obscene, and unless they identified some money and put it away somehow, you start getting over a $100-million in surplus, which, when you take the accumulated surplus and add back in these numbers you would have, itís about 25 percent of the annual operation and maintenance budget of the Yukon, Mr. Chair. That is a significant amount of money. And I guess what really galls me and a lot of other Yukoners, when we look at this permanent fund and we look at this reserve, there is not five cents of money in that $25 million that is being used to stimulate the economy here in the Yukon ó nothing at all, Mr. Chair, nothing at all.
When we start looking at what is transpiring in many of the areas, this government is determined to create nothing but parks here in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, I look back on some of the comments and debate between yourself, Mr. Chair, as the Member for Whitehorse West, and the Minister of Finance, on gas and gas distribution, the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, and I just think back to a few short months ago when I asked the Premier what the backup plan was in case this Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline didnít come to fruition. I was severely chastised by the Premier for not supporting the initiative, severely chastised for not being on board; and I said, "Well, I am, but the reality of it is that this may or may not happen. We canít do what youíre doing, Premier; we canít put all our eggs in one basket." And thatís what this Liberal government has done. They have put all their economic eggs into the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
And it will probably eventually happen, Mr. Chair. The same hype was around the Yukon back in the 1970s, and it kind of gets resurrected about every 15 to 20 years. So we might not have to wait that long again before it comes to life, but chances are we will.
There is currently a bill before the Senate in Washington, D.C., which doesnít seem to have the support of the majority, Mr. Chair, to bring or subsidize the transmission of this gas and open up ANWR, along with a few other things.
And itís probably not going to pass. But at the end of the day, when you stand back and talk to people in the oil and gas industry, what do we have? We have BP, the major player on the North Slope, with its head offices in London, England, the major owner of the Alyeska pipeline, and we have Phillips and Exxon. BP is more interested in oil than anything. They want the solids. Phillipsí expertise is in the gas. But they own the product, and the exercise their companies are engaged in is to sell it for the best possible price.
The transportation of it is something else, and the transportation companies are the pipeline companies. They are in it to make a profit also. You only have to look at the Alliance and the TransCanada Pipelines Ltd., the principals in there, and the rate of return they are allowed by the NEB in Canada.
What do we have at the end of the day? We have to do more than just hang our hats on an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. We could be self-sufficient here in the Yukon for energy. We have an abundance of hydroelectric energy. In fact, I would submit we should be using hydroelectric energy for heating purposes, both residential and commercial. Some inroads have been made in that area as of late, with secondary power sales going to some of the schools here in the Whitehorse area. And indeed in Mayo there is an electrically fired boiler in the school. I just hope the foundation is able to support it.
These are some of the areas that the minister should be looking at and engaging in instead of hiding $25 million aside ó $15 million for reserve in case, as the minister calls it, we have a bad census. A bad census, in the opinion of the Premier, is that the population is down. The Premier and her Cabinet have tremendous control over what the population of the Yukon is and could be. I would encourage the Minister of Finance, in her capacity as Minister of Finance and Premier of the Yukon, to restore investor confidence, to attract investment capital here to the Yukon, to right the wrongs in the mining industry and the oil and gas industry and the forest industry.
Take the Minister of Environment aside, Mr. Chair, Iíd encourage the minister to do so. Put a moratorium on this ó you like the way I pronounce that word donít you ó put a moratorium on this YPAS and deal with it.
Use YPAS for the purpose it was originally set up and intended for. No one is disputing the benefits of YPAS to the Yukon. Iíd encourage the minister to talk to her Cabinet colleagues, in fact, in her usual manner, issue instructions to the minister to cease and desist his ongoing battle in this area and stop YPAS, restore it to its original purpose and move forward.
Mr. Chair, seeing the time, I move that we report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Chair, I move the Speaker do now resume the 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: The Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
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 5:57 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 17, 2002:
Agricultural Risk Management: Canada-Yukon Territory Framework Agreement (dated June 28, 2001) (Kent)
Oral, Hansard, p 3156-3157