Thursday, April 18, 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 remembrance of Princess Patriciaís Light Infantry battle group soldiers
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of all members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, on behalf of all Yukoners.
Canadians awoke this morning to learn the terrible news of the deaths of Canadian soldiers. Four Canadian soldiers serving with the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patriciaís Light Infantry battle group were killed in a training accident near Kandahar, Afghanistan.
In addition, eight soldiers have been wounded: two with life-threatening injuries, one with very serious injuries, and five with serious injuries.
Military officials said the site of the accident was a former Al-Qaeda training camp, now used daily by coalition forces for live-fire exercises. Officials are reporting that an American F-16 fighter mistakenly dropped at least one laser-guided bomb on Canadian soldiers participating in a nighttime live-fire training. We will learn more details about this tragic accident as investigations continue in the days ahead.
Last July, during a Canadian regional conference of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association tour, the Speaker, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Minister of Justice, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre visited the home base of these soldiers in Edmonton.
On behalf of all Yukoners, I would like to offer our sincere condolences to the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy and to the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patriciaís Canadian Light Infantry battle group, for their lost comrades.
Our flags, Mr. Speaker, will fly at half-mast until further notice for these brave Canadians killed on foreign soil. Our prayers are with all Yukoners and all Canadians serving.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge supporters
Mrs. Peter: I rise today to pay tribute and to say thank you to all members of this Legislature, to the many people throughout the Gwichíin Nation and to all who have helped us in our struggle to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Chief and Council of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation have given much of their time and effort to this cause.
We learned today that the amendment that would have permitted exploration in the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou was defeated on the floor of the United States Senate. I would like to offer my sincere appreciation to the members of the United States Senate who have supported us with their votes.
This is not the end of our efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The huge oil companies with their big dollars would risk the very survival of our people. They will not cease in their efforts to exploit the sacred grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. We will continue to fight to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for the benefit of generations to come.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we have in our gallery today Chief Robert Hager from Nacho Nyak Dun and his wife Christine. Iíd ask all members of this House to join me in welcoming them here today.
Speaker: Is there any further introduction of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, the Chair has for tabling a report on the activities of the Yukon Human Rights Commission for the 1999-00 and the 2000-01 fiscal years. This report is being tabled in accordance with section 17 of the Human Rights Act.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a return for the Member for McIntyre-Takhini on a budget amount for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukon tourist industry, which is an essential component of our economy, faces many serious challenges;
(2) the Yukon Liberal government has contributed to these challenges by raising the fees it charges for a number of services that affect tourism operators and their clients;
(3) the Government of Yukon should be taking positive and proactive steps to support what has become the territoryís number one private sector industry;
(4) the services that Parks Canada employees provide are an essential element of what the Yukon has to offer to visitors from around the world;
(5) these services may not be available during the coming tourist season because of a contract dispute between the Parks Canada agency and the Public Service Alliance of Canada; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to advise the Yukonís Member of Parliament, the Yukon Senator, the federal Minister of Heritage, as well as senior officials of both the Parks Canada agency and the Public Service Alliance of Canada how important the uninterrupted provision of Parks Canadaís services are to the Yukonís economy.
I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Yukonís tourist industry is facing many serious challenges;
(2) for many wilderness tourism operators and outfitters, activities requiring the use of watercraft are an essential part of their business;
(3) the definition of "watercraft" in the new federal Marine Liability Act poses a direct economic threat to the survival of many tourist-related businesses in the Yukon by imposing a heavy financial burden on them; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to persuade the Yukonís Member of Parliament and the Yukonís Senator to take every possible step to ensure that the Marine Liability Act is amended to remove this serious threat to the financial viability of Yukon businesses and the Yukonís tourism economy.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Fentie: I have a very simple question for the Premier today, Mr. Speaker, and the Premier need not go into a long-winded, partisan, rhetorical answer to try to evade the point.
The simple question is: is it the policy of this Liberal government that the Yukon government should do more to help small business expand in the new markets outside the territory ó yes, no, or not sure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it is the policy of this government to work to rebuild Yukonís economy following the devastation of the government of which the member was a member.
Mr. Fentie: Thatís quite an antagonistic answer. Weíre talking here about something that Yukoners are relaying to this Assembly and, in particular, to this government.
For the Premierís information on that particular question, 55 percent of Yukoners who responded said that the government should be doing more.
I have another simple question, Mr. Speaker, for the Premier. Is it the policy of this Liberal government that the Yukon government should provide more support for small business through programs such as micro loans, loan guarantees or investment tax credits ó yes, no, or not sure?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I will be dealing with Bill No. 55 this afternoon, which is the mineral exploration tax credit, which is indeed a tax credit policy of this government. We will be debating that at second reading this afternoon.
Mr. Fentie: Well, the Premier is not getting this point. Yukoners are saying that the government must do more. Further to the Premierís answer, it was the former NDP government that was the architect of the tax credits. Mr. Speaker, obviously the conclusion here is that this Liberal government is not sure of what it should do. On this very question, Mr. Speaker, 69 percent of Yukoners who responded said, "Yes, the government should do more."
I have one more simple question for the Premier. Is it the policy of this Liberal minority that the Yukon government must invest more in community-driven projects that create jobs for Yukoners and enhance community life? I would point out before the Premier answers that 77 percent of Yukoners who responded said, "Yes, the government must." Is the Premierís answer, "yes", "no", or "not sure"?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, we, of course, did the House the courtesy of tabling the Yukon economic outlook, which is the economic analysis that speaks to the statistics in terms of outlook for population, outlook for Yukon economy, and also the sectoral outlook. I would ask if the member opposite would also do the House the courtesy of tabling the results of the survey undertaken by the official opposition. With respect to tax credit policies, I neglected to mention in my previous answer the small business investment tax credit, which has also been used significantly by Yukon business.
I also would like to suggest to the member opposite that one of the programs touted as "job creation" by the members opposite, but not proven, was the community development fund. We have put parameters around Project Yukon so that what it does is provide for people and spaces and is specifically targeted toward working with the volunteer community in the Yukon to make the Yukon a better place to be. So we are not only working with citizens and communities; weíre working with business as well.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to follow up where my colleague left off with the Premier. The Premier has constantly challenged us on this side of the House to bring forward positive suggestions, and I would like to bring one forward here. The government has a permanent fund with $10 million in it, and they donít know what to do with it. So Iíd like to ask the Premier, will the Premier now allocate a portion of the $10 million in the permanent fund toward small business in the territory? This is a yes-or-no question. And Iíd also like to remind the Premier that in a recent questionnaire, 55 percent of those who responded to the questionnaire said that government should be doing more for small business.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, I would ask the leader of the official opposition if he would then do the Legislature the courtesy of tabling a copy of the results.
Secondly, with regard to the permanent fund, it was a capital vote item in the capital budget passed in the fall, and it was voted as a permanent fund similar to Alaskaís ó where they give a dividend cheque ó and the Alberta heritage fund.
It was modelled and designed so that the money would be set aside and Yukoners would be asked. Is the member opposite suggesting that that vote be changed ó that it come back? Is the member opposite suggesting a specific grant program for business which, from my recollection as manager of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, has rather mixed reviews amongst the business community.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the Premier is not sure what to do with this permanent fund. We on this side of the House are making suggestions. The Premier has asked for them, and weíre making suggestions. If the members opposite want to see the survey, send a staffer down who can leaf through them. Weíre getting more and more every day.
Hereís another suggestion for the Premier: will the Premier allocate a portion of the $10 million in the permanent fund toward helping Yukon small business access capital? Again, this is a yes-or-no question, and again, 69 percent of those who responded to the questionnaire said that government should. Will the Premier do it? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, the member opposite has suggested that we are at a loss for something to do. The fact is that the $10 million permanent fund was a vote in this Legislature, and that vote indicated, at the time when I announced it, that we would look at both the Alaska model and the Alberta model, discuss it with Yukoners, and select the best from both. That discussion has not yet taken place.
The member opposite is suggesting that we bring that back and that there be some kind of an access to capital. Does the member opposite have a specific ó is the member saying we should do some kind of a grant program to business? The difficulty with that is ó and there are some difficulties ó which businesses, and are you putting forward a position then of the private sector competing with government? That is not what the private sector has asked us to do.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like the Premier is not sure again. A suggestion would be that it could go right into the fireweed fund.
Her own people have been saying that maybe the permanent fund should go back into general revenue. So Iíd like to ask the Premier to think about our suggestions over the weekend, and maybe the weekend will change the governmentís mind.
But, once again, hereís another suggestion: will the Premier now commit to a portion of the $10 million thatís in the permanent fund by investing it into community-driven projects that will enhance community life? This is, again, a yes-or-no question and, again, 77 percent of those who responded to the questionnaire said that government should.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I know the member opposite isnít familiar with the business summits that have been conducted. The previous government ignored the recommendations of those summits.
The fact is that the Yukon permanent fund received vote authority and was voted upon in this Legislature. In order for it to come back, there has to be a significant discussion of that. In any event, Yukoners need to have a discussion about the permanent fund. The fact is that this government has set aside and has budgeted money for community projects. One has only to look at Project Yukon, and youíll see a complete variety of community projects and not some pork-barrelling initiative. The fact is that that is an independent, administered by government with good solid technical advice from the community, and the Project Yukon includes volunteer activity, as well as contributions by others. Those projects are supported by communities throughout the Yukon. We have put money into that, and the member opposite may wish to recognize that.
Question re: Nurse practitioners
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. It is on the current medical situation in my community of Dawson. As the minister is aware, her department has not been able to negotiate an on-call fee with the doctors in Dawson. That hasnít happened, so we have to rely on the six nurses ó five nurse practitioners and one community health nurse. And, at any given time, we are usually down to four or three nurses in total. The Dawson nurse practitioners are experiencing burnout as a consequence of the constant demands being placed on them.
Can the minister explain why her department has adopted the policy of only hiring auxiliary on-call positions rather than permanent positions for these nurse practitioner positions?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I have to check the memberís facts on this issue, but I will get back to the member opposite with details on that issue. I can tell you that in the last set of doctorsí negotiations, we did resolve the on-call issue with other physicians. I will get back to the member opposite with details on that as well.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the question is: why is the department only hiring auxiliary on-call physicians?
The second problem we have is that weíre relying more and more on the nurses because the doctors arenít there. Weíre getting into what is called "package and ship" anyone who has a medical problem.
This summer the airport is going to be closed for 12 hours a day for reconstruction. Whatís the backup game plan for medevacs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I can tell the member opposite that there is a plan in place for medevacs out of Dawson City during that process. I can also tell the member opposite that we have a number of different arrangements with Yukon physicians. Some are contract; some are fee for service. I will get back to the member opposite on the details of the Dawson situation.
Mr. Jenkins: Weíre not ó really the minister has stood on her feet and said, "I donít know. I will have to get back to you." But there is the issue of on-call. There is the issue of not hiring permanent nurse practitioners. There is the issue of the airport, and what is the backup position? Share it with us, because no one really knows. Iíve asked. Because the airport runway is going to be closed. Why is it in the best interest for the government to hire auxiliary on-call positions rather than permanent? Why are they doing that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: First of all, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of different ways that we work with Yukon physicians ó some are contract, some are fee for service, and others are a mixture of the two.
I will get back to the member opposite. I cannot take the position that we only have one way of dealing with Dawson physicians. I will get back to him on the details of that.
I also need to tell the member opposite that if he would like a briefing on the backup plan ó because it is obviously very important to the people in Dawson City ó I will offer that to him and I will make that available to the City of Dawson as well.
Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, briefings by
Mr. Keenan: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Yesterday during budget debate, the Member for Whitehorse Centre was discussing the financial implications of proposed WCB legislation before this House, and during that discussion he said, "I get daily updates on what those negotiations are."
So, Iíd like to ask the minister: is the minister aware of the nature of the information that is being provided to the member?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, itís not my understanding that the Member for Whitehorse Centre is being given briefings on a daily basis by any member of the Workersí Compensation Board staff or the board. Thatís a very serious allegation. I will be investigating it.
Mr. Keenan: I appreciate the direction the minister has given in saying that she will be investigating that, because the rules governing the conflict of interest and confidentiality for Yukon Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board members state, "A member of the board shall not disclose information on any matter that comes to the member by way of their appointment to the board unless the board has authorized, in writing, the release of such information."
I will close the quote and leave the question there, and I thank the minister for looking further into the situation. And I would ask the minister if, when she does her investigation, she would table the results of that investigation in the House. Will the minister do that?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I will be very happy to do that. I am regularly updated by the chair or the acting chair of the board in my capacity as the minister, and I would be happy to table the results of any investigation that goes forward from here.
Question re: Education Act
Mr. McLarnon: My question is for the Minister of Education. Mr. Speaker, this government ran on a platform of accountability, and also in that same platform promised to change the Education Act and review the Education Act. Of the 7,000 comments that were reviewed, plus the guest speakers who showed up in this town on Monday to talk about the Education Act and the framework of education in our society, it was pointed out that accountability was an important point between the Department of Education and the school councils.
Iíve gone through the Education Act, Mr. Speaker, and I canít find much to do with accountability, so I will try to bring this out in a sense of the budget. Would the minister please inform the House how much money will be spent on the accountability framework between the Department of Education and the school council so we can make sure that the money is being spent properly and we can make sure that the resources are replaced where theyíre needed the most, which is for the children of this territory?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The education of children is very important to this government. Weíve devised accountability plans that will hold the Legislature accountable. Weíve tried to put into place measures to show the performance of our children and to find out where and where not they could benefit from changes.
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, that didnít answer the question. Itís accountability within the act that weíre searching for. We canít find budget allocations for it. There certainly isnít any improved allocation in the act, but this might come back to another set of problems that we have with the Education Act, and thatís the other part of the platform in there, which dealt with education, which was to improve relations between partners in education.
Over the last couple of years, the Association of Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees was established to serve as an educational link to the minister and the Department of Education. This minister stood in the House and took credit that the Liberal government was the first to give this association any money. The minister forgot, then, to add that theyíre also the first government to ask for that money back the first time that the association raised any problems with the Education Act review.
My question to the minister: are volunteer parents who serve on the present Association of Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees, really being threatened with being personally sued as a result of this?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The Yukon Liberal government supports the concept of an association of school councils. We support the money that was given to that association being used directly for the support of school councils. The accountability plans that are appearing in the budget documents show the performance of students. Itís a shift from previous governments, who counted the number of students going to school as opposed to how they were performing.
Mr. McLarnon: I take that non-answer on the issue of parents being sued as actually an affirmative answer that this government is actually going out and suing volunteers, which is a shame. This is actually no way to build partnerships in this society, which will make other potential partners of this government shy away from getting involved, if theyíre going to be sued the first time that they speak out against the government.
Mr. Speaker, there is one last point of clarification on the Education Act that I need to fulfill here. Would the Department of Education ensure that the department and the schools are regularly reviewed and assessed on their performance, and that a third party review also be done to build trust and accountability and confidence in partnerships in our education system that this Liberal government is currently dashing with a vicious lawsuit against school council volunteers?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Just to correct the record, any group that is given money by the Government of Yukon is accountable for that money. Itís very clearly stated in groupsí mandates what they are to be using the money for. The Government of Yukon has asked that money that was put to school councils be used for school councils. If there are any lawsuits initiated, it will be because money is being used for other purposes than what it was authorized for, and that is part of our responsibility and accountability to the public.
We have changed the accountability. We have increased accountability.
We value our volunteers. We value all the people who are participating in the education system. I think itís reprehensible that the member opposite is making comments that are ill-informed.
Question re: Womenís Directorate
Mrs. Peter: My question today again is to the Minister responsible for womenís issues. Public education in the Womenís Directorate has been slashed by 63 percent. Yesterday it was clear that the minister didnít realize that, but maybe now she has taken some time to confirm it by looking at pages 4B-12 of the O&M budget. What will this minister do to ensure that public education services on womenís issues arenít diminished by this government?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The role of the Womenís Directorate is to coordinate and facilitate government activities and initiatives on equity issues. Itís also to consult and work with organizations to deliver effective programming in Yukon communities. The Womenís Directorate itself is not in the business of delivering programming. Public education is coming from other departmental groups ó Education, Justice ó so that the Womenís Directorate can spend its time doing valuable work on providing us information as to the direction we should go on equity issues and womenís issues.
Mrs. Peter: We definitely need, in this territory, effective programs and services. The budget was also cut in the violence prevention activity by 50 percent. What steps will this minister take to ensure that the violence prevention activities undertaken by the Womenís Directorate are not diminished?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I will say again: the role of the Womenís Directorate is to provide us advice and information on womenís issues. Victim services and the family violence prevention unit is within the Department of Justice, and the budget there has been increased by 12 percent.
Mrs. Peter: I repeat the following information for the minister. Violence prevention and public education are both central to making progress on issues that are important to women. These cuts seem to reflect an attitude that womenís issues in this territory are not a priority of this government. Downgrading the Womenís Directorate suggests that womenís issues are not a priority.
Will this minister dispel the fears of the womenís community by urging the Premier to restore the Womenís Directorate as a stand-alone entity and restoring and enhancing its budget?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: It is our belief that the women of this territory will be served better than before by placing them within the Executive Council Office. When we look at last yearís budget, with the supplementary, it was $593,000, and $553,000 this year. A Cappella North II survey was a one-time project, which is completed, and which reduced the budget by $24,000. There were also extra salary dollars, as we did an overfill for a position, which was $22,000.
The Womenís Directorate is very important to us. We value the information and the assistance that is provided to us, and we feel that the people of this territory can better benefit by the association in the Executive Council Office.
Question re: Job creation
Mr. Fentie: I would like to follow up with the Premier again this afternoon. Over the last eight days of this sitting the opposition benches, led by the official opposition, have continually made positive suggestions on the floor of this House on ways we can address some of the difficult issues we face today in the Yukon, collectively in this Assembly. Those suggestions have been met with an antagonistic attitude and a litany of criticism.
My question for the Premier is this: how is it then that this Liberal minority government expects this side of the House to work cooperatively? Is it that we are to lay supine at the feet of the Premier, or is there some other way that the Premier envisions that we can, in a very cooperative, collective manner, work on the difficult issues that Yukoners face today to produce results?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I would just like to review the suggestions that have come forward from the members opposite with respect to the finances of the territory and support in the economy.
The member opposite has suggested several times in Question Period that the opposition benches support the Government of Yukon in lobbying the Government of Canada for access to either a northern economic development strategy or the western diversification fund ó I have accepted that support.
The members opposite have suggested that we allocate an additional $1.5 million to the fire smart program and have not suggested whether that money should draw down the surplus further, on top of the already $41-million-plus deficit budget or whether there should be a programming cut.
There was a point made today that we revote the permanent fund on a variety of suggestions. I have looked for further details on those suggestions. There was an amendment that came forward with respect to the supplementary budget. Unfortunately it didnít result in more funding being available, and the amendment was defeated.
That is how this government has responded to the suggestions that have been put forward. That clear answer is anything but antagonistic, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, none of these suggestions have been acted upon. We have gone nowhere. There has been no collective discussion on any of the issues. The Premier is erroneous in her answer, and I urge the Premier to seriously consider the position her minority government is in and the position this territory faces today. It is incumbent upon this House that we do work cooperatively to address those issues in an expeditious manner.
Now, the Premier is sitting on a $10-million slush fund. Itís called the permanent fund, mirroring and mimicking how the federal Liberals hide money in their budgets. Why? For the big election budget. We are suggesting to the Premier here today, letís sit down immediately with Yukoners and discuss ways of injecting that $10-million permanent fund into this territory to help stimulate the economy and assist Yukoners in some of the difficulties they face.
Will the Premier commit to sitting down with Yukoners immediately and discussing ways to inject that $10 million into the Yukonís economy. Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, this is the public House. This is a public forum. The members opposite have come forward with public suggestions. I have indicated we welcome their support in lobbying for access to the western diversification fund. I have asked where the additional $1.5 million funds for fire smart, as suggested by the member opposite, should come from.
Governing in the territory and dealing with finances is about making choices. Do we choose to cut a program or do we choose to expend even more, on top of the $41-million deficit budget, of the territoryís resources on the fire smart program?
The Government of Yukon, this Liberal government, brought forward the permanent fund in last yearís supplementary, and it was a capital item, and members opposite refused to even debate last yearís capital budget.
So, the members opposite, before they accuse this side of the House of not being willing to debate or not being willing to listen to suggestions, should take a good, hard look at their own behaviour, particularly with respect to last yearís capital budget.
Mr. Fentie: Now the Premier has been reduced to pointing fingers at others when itís the Premier and her government who are in charge. Itís Yukoners who are saying clearly that the government is not doing enough and must get with the program. Now, we have made positive suggestions in many areas. None of them have been taken up. Weíve just made another one on the $10-million permanent fund. Will the Premier immediately sit down and talk to Yukoners about how to inject that $10 million into the Yukon economy to help stimulate the economy and stop the exodus of people? All we get in return, Mr. Speaker, are accusations and finger pointing. This Premier must start to act and act decisively. I ask again: the Premier has a substantial amount of resources and money available. Will the Premier commit to sitting down with representatives of the Assembly and Yukoners regarding how to immediately inject money from that $10-million Liberal slush fund back into the Yukon economy where it belongs?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, at the end of every day, whether itís in this Legislature or outside of it, everybody has to go home, look themselves and their loved ones in the eye and say, "Did I do my absolute best for the people of the Yukon?" I know in bringing forward this budget and in listening to and enduring the comments that have been made by members opposite that I can do that. I have, and so has everybody on this side of the House, done our absolute best in the budget, this operation and maintenance budget, as well as in the capital budget last fall, as well as in the supplementary last fall. We have done our level best. When we brought forward this money and voted on it in this House for the permanent fund for discussion, why didnít the member debate it then? Why didnít the member say, then and there, all the comments he is prepared to make now? Why wouldnít the member make the comments then? To suggest that we have not listened to Yukoners or not listened to constructive suggestions is quite simply wrong, Mr. Speaker, and the facts bear that out.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Some Hon. Member: Question of privilege, Mr. Speaker.
Question of privilege
Mr. Jim: Mr. Speaker, I am bringing forward a question of privilege. It does not easily fall under the steadfast rules of parliamentary privilege; however, it must be addressed as a contempt of the Legislature because it affects all members of this House.
Mr. Speaker, freedom of speech and the right to freely represent constituents is paramount to the rights of members. The protection from interference of these rights is essential and must be defined separately by the Speaker each time an individual situation comes up.
I must ask the Speaker to take into account the fact that when we discuss First Nations relations in the Legislature, we must be aware of the fact that First Nations are more than political organizations. They also have shared culture, family and traditions. The political arm is just one aspect. The reference to representation of First Nations must take all these aspects into account.
On April 17, I asked the minister questions about the First Nation children-in-care policy in broad generalities, mentioning no specific First Nation. The minister responded with the following quote: "First of all, I didnít realize 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."
Mr. Speaker, not only is this disrespectful of my role as the representative for the constituency of McIntyre-Takhini, where the First Nation is located, it could be interpreted as a racist statement that brings directly into question my racial background and loyalty to my own people and culture.
This statement itself could be seen as a breach of privilege as an unfair reflection on a member. The basis of my complaint arises from an action that took place after the Question Period. The minister sent a letter to the Kwanlin Dun leadership. It asked if I had an official capacity within the First Nation to ask these questions. Mr. Speaker, the minister has directly attacked my right to ask questions in the House by asking if I had permission from my First Nation government to bring forward questions on behalf of constituents who also happen to be Kwanlin Dun. The member is also implying through this letter that I am solely representing the view of the Kwanlin Dun government on these issues, instead of my sworn duties to all Yukoners and to this Legislature. The member has also failed to understand the constitutional divisions between elected members of this Assembly and elected leaders of First Nation governments. This letter, from this minister, was seen as a veiled message from a very powerful minister with lots of authority over funds that First Nation governments have and need to access. It is raising a direct question of my rights to represent constituents in my riding, who are individuals that are affected by this governmentís policies, regardless of ancestry.
This divide-and-conquer strategy that this minister has attempted is an affront to this House. It is an impediment to my ability to do my job as a member of this House. This member is using her influence in an attempt to intimidate members of my constituency and silence me.
The respect for the right of an MLA to freely represent his constituents is paramount to the proper functioning of the Legislature. This respect has been broken.
The relationship between an MLA of First Nation origin representing the riding that is the home of his or her people is irrelevant to the discussions in this House. The members should be free to express opinions without the spectre of race or loyalty to oneís origins being raised.
A member should also be free of intimidation within his constituency without ministerial questions as to his motives or relationship with his or her respective First Nation.
To put this in a satirical perspective, I ask you: if any member accused this minister of not previously representing non-First Nation people and then wrote the City of Whitehorse asking what capacity or right does this minister have to ask questions on city residentsí behalf, what would be the result?
I ask that this House take action by asking the Minister of Health and Social Services to take a cultural sensitivity course and offer an apology to the House for her poor and inappropriate choice of tactics.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Chair is accepting the question of privilege and will be taking it under advisement. The Chair will need some time and will be getting back to the members of the House in the future ó I hope the near future; I canít promise Monday, but as soon as possible.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, I beg the indulgence of the House and ask the House to welcome my mother back to the Yukon Territory. She is visiting us today and is now another Yukoner returning home.
Speaker: We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 55: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 55, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Duncan.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 55, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 55, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to introduce this act to the House. Itís an act whose principal purpose is to extend the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit for another year. As members will know, the credit was to expire on March 31, 2002. It will now continue until March 31 of next year.
This is the second time our government has taken action to extend the credit, and Iím happy that we were able to do so. We are all aware of the difficulties that the mining industry is experiencing, and it behoves us to aid this important economic sector in such times. This credit has proven very popular with the industry, and we are assured it has contributed significantly to exploration activity over the past several years.
The initiative weíre taking by introducing this bill will ensure that that activity continues for the upcoming year.
We expect the take-up, or the use of the credit, to amount to approximately $2.1 million for the year, and I believe it will be money well foregone, if not spent, to the benefit of our territory.
Mr. Speaker, this bill also serves one other purpose, and itís a minor one. It corrects several personal income tax section references that were found to be incorrect on an income tax bill that previously passed this House, so it essentially corrects some typographical drafting errors.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, we on this side of the House support this bill. Mr. Speaker, it is a continuation of an initiative that the NDP government had put forward. Although the Premier pipes up and tries to take credit for this, Yukoners know that this was brought forward by the New Democrats and it just followed through because itís a strong initiative, one that the Liberal government could not ignore. Mr. Speaker, it was also suggested by Yukoners at the tax round table. So itís not the Liberal government doing something new for the Yukon Territory. This is not something new; itís a continuation of the NDP initiatives. So when the Premier rises to her feet in response, in her final remarks ó and she always says that she wants to give credit where credit is due ó she could be mentioning that. Itís an NDP initiative.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to speak to Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act.
The Yukon mineral exploration tax credit was introduced as a short-term measure to help the mining industry and generate jobs and spending during a downturn in exploration spending and metal prices. As the leader of the official opposition mentioned, the NDP did introduce this program. We increased it from 22 percent to 25 percent and have extended it for two years, as we recognize that it is a very important program for mineral exploration in the Yukon Territory. We also know from industry that the tax credit is a significant factor in helping mining companies raise capital and lever funds for Yukon-based programs.
Prospectors, placer miners and companies are able to take advantage of the credit for the 2002 season, thanks to the extension of the tax credit. This will help them stretch their exploration dollars. This can also be coupled with our increase to the Yukon mining incentive program that we did this past year in the capital budget.
Mr. Speaker, this government appreciates that mining companies, placer miners and prospectors who file for the tax credit purchase Yukon-based goods and services to carry out their exploration work. As such, Yukon businesses that provide these supplies and services also benefit from this tax credit. We are very pleased on this side of the House to support this initiative.
Thank you very much.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this bill that we have before us. I was only hoping that its uptake and subscription would be much more than what it currently is, Mr. Speaker. Itís a good program, but that is not the program that is impeding the mining potential here in the Yukon. Itís the Minister of Environmentís position on creating more and more parks. That is what is creating the uncertainty. This is an excellent tool to attract mining companies back to the Yukon, but until such time as there is some certainty, and we have positions that restore the investorsí confidence, no amount of giveaway money is going to encourage the mining community to return to the Yukon.
The mining community is in turmoil today with respect to operations.
We only have to look at that mining operation that this government hung their hat on just a short time ago ó the North American Tungsten operation, just over our border. Itís having severe financial problems as I speak. Yukon workers and Yukon contractors have just recently pulled out of that operation because they havenít been paid.
So thereís a lot of uncertainty out there, and the uncertainty that this Minister of Environment is creating and this Liberal government is creating here in the Yukon, parallels that which is occurring in other regions under various scenarios.
So, I would encourage the Liberals to sit down and come to some understanding of what is going to attract the mining community back to the Yukon, because it certainly isnít these tax incentives alone. Theyíre an excellent tool; I support them; my party supports them; but until something is done in these other areas to restore investor confidence ó and I speak mainly of the Yukon protected areas strategy ó we are going to be sitting here, and the Liberals are going to be patting themselves on the back for this wonderful giveaway program that will not realize its potential with the other policies this Liberal government has adopted.
Speaker: If the Premier now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to close debate and to respond to the leader of the official oppositionís challenge that I give credit where credit is due. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has indicated that this particular program was initiated by the NDP government. The first taxation year I have figures for is 1999. However, credit being given where credit is due, we also substantially increased the mineral exploration tax credit, and have extended it.
The Government of Yukon, on this particular program for the 1999 taxation year, revenue forgone ó or expenditures, if you will ó was $1.3 million, which was applied against Yukon tax revenues.
For the 2000 taxation year, it was $1.9 million. For the 2001 taxation year, final figures arenít yet available, but our estimates from the Department of Finance are about $2.1 million. So that is a significant amount that is in fact spent in the Yukon economy. Companies are then able to spend that kind of money furthering their exploration activities. The reason for this is that the mining sector has very strong linkages within the Yukon economy.
There is a high potential for these positive economic benefits. Mining companies, placer miners, and prospectors who file for the tax credit purchase Yukon-based goods and services to carry out this exploration work. They buy their groceries locally. They rent their vehicles locally. They charter the local helicopter companies. They spend money throughout the territory in hiring these services that enable them to do their work. This exploration tax credit further allows that to happen.
There are some companies from outside of the territory that may apply. However, they too are using Yukon-based goods and services when they are carrying out their exploration work. An example of this is that, on the Yukon mining incentive program, 81 percent of companiesí budgets are spent on local goods and services. That is a very high number. The recently released BDO Dunwoody report on placer mining also indicated that most placer miners live year-round in the Yukon.
There have been suggestions that we focus instead on some of the supposed disincentives that face the industry in the Yukon. And I would like to remind all members of the House that we have made substantial progress, where other governments have not, in achieving devolution and on the settlement of the Taían Kwachían land claim as well as reaching negotiatorsí memorandums of understanding with four other Yukon First Nations.
We recognize that some companies are still facing difficult times in raising money. We are pleased to be able to assist them in stretching their exploration dollars and encouraging the purchase of Yukon goods and supplies. A related question to the mineral exploration tax credit is about the flow-through share incentive program. And that is a federal program on which I have spoken at length, as the former minister, with Minister of Finance Paul Martin, and encouraged his application of that program on behalf of both the Canadian Chamber of Mines and the B.C. & Yukon Chamber of Mines.
And the federal government already offers a 100-percent deduction of exploration expenses for taxpayers, and companies can flow through these expenses to investors. The Government of Canada announced in 2000, as part of a lobbying effort that I worked hard on, on behalf of the industry, for the introduction of an additional 15-percent credit. Some provinces are already able to offer supplementary flow-through tax credits for investors who live in that province ó B.C. and Ontario, for example ó but our small population precludes us from offering this particular incentive. But we do offer very competitive incentives directly to companies or individuals who are carrying out grassroots exploration work.
In addition, we have excellent geological potential, of course, and our highly regarded geological database, provided by the Yukon geology program. When I have spoken with Canadian mining companies, the Yukon geology program and the geologists working within the now Department of Energy, Mines and Resources are recognized to be among the best in the country.
This also gives us an opportunity to pay kudos to them, and I have appreciated the opportunity to work with them, to visit them at their exploration sites in the field, so to speak, Mr. Speaker, as has the current minister. We appreciate that opportunity and appreciate the good work theyíve done.
I commend Bill No. 55, Act to Amend the Income Tax Act (No. 5), to the House and look forward to its full debate in Committee.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 55 agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move the Speaker do now leave the Chair and 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
Appointment of Acting Chair of Committee of the Whole
Speaker: Order please. Standing Order 5(3) states that if the Chair and Deputy Chair are absent, the Speaker shall, before leaving the Chair upon the Assembly resolving into Committee of the Whole, appoint a member to be Acting Chair.
By the power vested in me as Speaker, I appoint the Member for Kluane to be the Chair.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Good afternoon everyone. I now call Committee of the Whole to order. Would members like to have a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Twenty minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Chair: Weíll continue with general debate. Mr. Jenkins has the floor.
Mr. Jenkins: When we left general debate yesterday, we were dealing with the amount of money that the Government of Yukon had put into foundations, a very worthwhile undertaking.
Iíd like to focus today on the Yukon permanent fund, some $10 million. We have $10 million in the Yukon permanent fund, there have been no guidelines, nor has anything been determined about how this fund is going to be disbursed. I would see this as an excellent opportunity for the minister responsible for Tourism, among other things, at the TIA convention, to announce a new government initiative. Let me spell out for the Premier where money is needed in my community, and indeed all the Yukon museums.
Why museum funding was cut, Mr. Chair, is beyond reason. Here is a group of organizations around the Yukon that are major attractions that are serving the public interest and doing an excellent job with primarily a group of volunteers, and theyíre struggling for funds.
Iíd like the minister to initially stand up and tell the House why funding for museums has been cut. Also, thereís the Dawson City Arts Society, Mr. Chair. DCAS is serving a very beneficial cause in the Yukon, and itís providing a platform for the arts community to train, share its understanding and move forward the interests of arts in so many sectors that it is unfathomable why this government is refusing further funding for this organization.
And then we only have to look at the Dawson Humane Society and the exchange of correspondence between the government and this society. I can take the minister back just over two short years ago when the Liberals promised all sorts of funding. Instead of additional funding, what weíre seeing are cuts.
One of the most worthwhile programs in the Yukon was the community development fund now renamed "Project Yukon". Thatís a mere shadow of its original self as far as the amount of funding that government is putting into it.
You cannot go to any Yukon community where they do not identify this fund as being a major contributor to its economic well-being and doing a lot for the residents of that community.
Then thereís the training trust fund. The whole future of the Yukon is dependent upon our youth.
Now, it might come as a surprise to the Premier that she is not going to be Premier like the Queen is Queen until she passes on or steps down. There are going to be some changes, and the best we can give our youth is adequate education and access to that education. When we look at what has transpired recently with the reduction of some $1 million in training trust funds, that could be levered to two or three times that amount and contribute significantly to the opportunities for Yukoners to advance themselves in the education area. One has to wonder what this government is doing, when it sees fit to squirrel away $10 million in the Yukon permanent fund and a future $15 million in a reserve, and yet not fund all these worthwhile initiatives and cut those initiatives that have proven to be very beneficial.
It seems to be, the way this government is acting, Mr. Chair, that if it works, cut its funding and destroy it, and if it will contribute to the economic well-being of the Yukon, best not pay it any attention or, if it contributes to the education system, cut its funding. And it just goes on and on and on. One has to question the thought process between this government and its priorities.
So, when the minister next stands up, Iíd like a full and thorough understanding of when we are going to see disbursements from this Yukon permanent fund and why we are holding so much in this rainy-day fund, or squirreling away so much money. Is it an election war chest just to hide away money, squirrel away money, because they donít know what to do with such an obscene amount of surplus?
Mr. Chair, this government had everything going for it. It had a very strong majority, and it had one awesome surplus. What it appears to lack are the skills necessary to turn the economy around, and deploy that majority and that money to the betterment of all Yukoners.
But, I guess, what can we expect from a Premier who canít manage her own caucus? I guess that one can only conclude that she canít manage the affairs of government if she canít manage her own caucus.
So Iíd like to start with the Premier and have a thorough understanding of this Yukon permanent fund. Iíd like to ask the minister: will there be an announcement at the TIA convention by the Minister of Tourism as to how a lot of this money is going to be spent, or are we just going to sit back and is the minister responsible for Tourism just going to muddle through? And why canít some of these initiatives like museums, like Dawson City Arts Society, like the humane societies, be funded to their original levels or funded to the levels needed to ensure that they grow and are sustainable? Why is the minister refusing funding to all these organizations ó indeed, cutting it? Training trust funds ó it just doesnít make any sense politically and, more so, it make less sense economically. And further, it makes less sense for the well-being of Yukoners, Mr. Chair. So why is the Premier, as Minister of Finance, so determined to not restore the Yukonís economy and destroy it further and to not fund all these groups and organizations?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you for the opportunity to rise on my feet today. I have some information that I would like to provide to the leader of the official opposition, who had asked me a few days ago, in general debate on the budget, about the phone directory and the cost of the production of the phone directory. The phone directory was produced in April as normal, and the normal cost would have been in the $17,000 - $18,000 range but, in this case, there was some overtime used and the total cost was $19,113.52 ó that was the cost of the production of the phone book. It was entirely within the normal production cycle of the telephone book, so I appreciate that opportunity to provide that information to the leader of the official opposition.
With respect to the Yukon permanent fund, the capital estimates budget 2002-03 was tabled on October 18 last year. The line item of $10 million toward a Yukon permanent fund is total capital Vote No. 2, and it was a vote, which the opposition parties chose not to debate at that time. The House and the government now have vote authority to establish a Yukon permanent fund and, as I outlined at the time, the permanent fund ó there has been examination of the work of the Alaska fund, as well as the Alberta fund, and they are two different models of funds. There has been preliminary work done on those, and I have indicated in the past that there would be a discussion held with Yukoners as to which route or an alternate route that they preferred for the use of those funds.
I anticipate that discussion taking place ó it hasnít yet. That is the vote authority that has been given and has passed the House. That is the direction given by this House to the government, and that is the direction we intend to follow.
As for specifics of the Business, Tourism and Culture, which includes heritage resources and museums, the specifics of that line item of that departmentís budget I will defer to the minister to answer in general debate in that budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister confirm that a decision has been made at the level of the Minister of Finance to not fund all these initiatives? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The funding allocated for various museums, training trust funds, Yukon College are all vote line items in those departmentsí budgets, and ministers are able to speak on their budgets and their accountability plans, and they are fully prepared to do so. Iím not going to get into an arguing match with the member opposite as to whether or not funding has, in fact, been decreased or increased. Specific funding for specific programs is best left to that departmental debate.
Mr. Jenkins: If I disagreed with the Minister of Finance, it wouldnít be unusual, Mr. Chair, given that we have heard from the Minister of Education on the funding for the Womenís Directorate. Iíd encourage the Minister of Finance to provide a briefing to the Minister of Education so that she can understand the lines and the Womenís Directorate and compare it to previous years with respect to a reduction in funding.
We have heard what the Minister of Education had to say. And we only have to look in last yearís budget where the Womenís Directorate was a stand-alone with its own directorate, but now itís buried internally in ECO and thereís a whole bunch of verbiage surrounding it, called an accountability plan. When you add up the numbers, the numbers that are there do not support the conclusion and the position taken by the current minister responsible for the Womenís Directorate. There has been a decrease. And when you look at all these other areas and the answers from the respective ministers, Mr. Chair, we canít get a yes or no. Itís always a maybe or itís always qualified or a nil answer or theyíll provide a briefing or theyíll provide that information by way of legislative return.
Well, Mr. Chair, this government is two years old and itís about time that the ministers responsible for their respective portfolios understood them and could stand on their feet and answer questions about them, but that is not the case.
So when that situation occurs, Mr. Chair, all these questions fall on the shoulders of the Minister of Finance.
Once again, to the Minister of Finance: has there been a position taken by the Minister of Finance to cut the funding in all of these areas? Now, Iím not looking for a maybe answer; Iím looking for a yes-or-no answer. Those areas Iím specifically referring to are ó letís start at the top: thereís the Womenís Directorate; there are museums; there are training trust funds. Letís start with those three.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: With all due respect, I see no purpose in the memberís comments that belittle anyone in this House, let alone members of the government. With respect to any direction, overall all departments held the line, and there has been overall a one-percent increase in the O&M budget of the government.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, we are all aware that this is the largest O&M budget ever in the history of Yukon. Weíre all aware that we are depopulating at a very substantial rate. We are all aware that weíve gone from a recession to a depression. Weíre all aware that there is no mining activity to speak of; mining exploration is at an all-time low. Oil and gas exploration just doesnít exist. And the forest industry ó well, this government has made one stride forward. We now have a tree, an official Yukon tree. So we have made some strides there. But, by and large, everyone in the forestry industry who has been operating a sawmill has virtually closed their doors.
A large component of this is the lack of access to adequate timber ó something that we were hoping this wonderful Yukon Liberal governmentís relationship with the federal Liberal government would overcome. But it appears that all Yukoners were led down the garden path. That hasnít happened.
So letís go back to the budget, Mr. Chair, letís go back to this one-percent overall increase in government operation and maintenance, and letís look at the reductions in the areas where weíre working, like the reductions in funding to the now-renamed Womenís Directorate, training trust funds and museums. Letís focus on those three for the next little while, and Iíll be looking for an answer from the Minister of Finance as to whether her government has made a political decision to destroy these three areas. Is that what has occurred, Mr. Chair? Yes or no.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, overall, there has been a one-percent increase overall in the operation and maintenance expenditures of the Government of Yukon. The short answer to the member oppositeís question is no.
Mr. Jenkins: So the Liberal government of the day has not made a political decision to destroy these three areas of government but, by its funding, itís sending a different message, Mr. Chair, by reducing the profile of the Womenís Directorate and burying it in Executive Council Office and reducing its level of funding. Thatís the message thatís going out to the public. By taking the museums and cutting their funding from what it used to be to what it currently is, thatís the message going out to the public from this Liberal government, Mr. Chair.
By taking the training trust funds and cutting $1 million out of it, which could be levered to approximately $3 million, that is cutting. That is destroying a lot of opportunities, a lot of them for our youth here today. But overall cost of government has gone up by one percent ó thatís great.
And we are squirreling away ó well, itís $27.9 million. Of the total capital budget, 10 percent is being squirreled away; $15 million in reserves in case we have a "bad census", to quote the Minister of Finance. And the "bad census" is being made worse by this ministerís inaction on the economy. $10 million in the Yukon permanent fund ó and the balance out to very worthwhile foundations. So the government canít cry poverty and yet they are. Itís a sad day.
Letís look at some of the other areas. The mining industry is going through very, very difficult times. We have Anvil Range, the mine site in Faro, which currently costs the Government of Yukon some $200,000 a year in O&M, as well as the tremendous amount of money that flows into Faro by way of municipal block funding and other areas.
Mr. Chair, we have United Keno Hill Mines, which the regulators from the federal government virtually forced into bankruptcy. The same with BYG.
Iím going to table a letter from Viceroy, who are now in their reclamation process and closing-down process, which clearly spells out their problems with the regional manager of water resources and the CEAA screening. It appears that the federal government, when it comes to its treatment of mining companies in the Yukon, doesnít attach any timelines to any initiatives that they have underway. The letter goes on re: CEAA screening report for the 2002 reclamation season: Viceroy Mineral Corporation has recently been notified by DIAND that a further technical review meeting has been scheduled for May 17, 2002. DIAND has requested this meeting to address outstanding issues relating to the Brewery Creek mine decommissioning and reclamation plans submitted in September 2001. Viceroy is very concerned with the timelines this screening is taking.
We heard yesterday, on another federal initiative ó that of the two youths who were flying in from Germany to the Yukon ó that, other than making a couple of phone calls, our Premier here in the Yukon has done nothing. We know the minister has been approached by the mining community and a number of workers in Elsa with respect to the United Keno Hill Mines, and she has done nothing. And we know, with respect to BYG, this Liberal government has done nothing, and we know, with respect to the Faro minesite, this government just pays.
And now we have Viceroy, Mr. Chair. And if the CEAA screening is not completed in the timelines initially indicated, what it means is that itís going to cost Viceroy an additional $2 million, and nobody really gives a fat ratís you-know-what, Mr. Chair. Itís appalling the way this government is behaving. There is no one really responsible, and thereís no one here in the Government of Yukon who wants to stand up to the federal government in these areas and do something about it.
Now, I guess this dovetails with the plans the Minister of Environment has to shut everything down and create a whole series of interlocking parks. Thatís what it appears is going to transpire. And I have learned today that the mine site in the N.W.T., North American Tungsten ó which the Yukon budgeted last year to spend some $1 million on the O&M of the Nahanni Range Road into there, as well as to undertake the opening of the road from the Yukon-Northwest Territories border, right to the mine site, and recover that cost from the mine operators. I havenít learned if they have recovered that cost yet, but we know the mine is in serious financial problems. It hasnít paid their suppliers and some of their general contractors, and one of their Yukon contractors has recently pulled out.
Now, the whole mining industry is sitting in a very precarious position. To be able to mine in the Yukon today, you have to have very, very deep pockets financially when youíre dealing with the federal regulators, because they wonít put timelines on anything. They just keep coming back, coming back, coming back.
We debated a motion here the other day with respect to the placer mining industry and the placer mining authorization. The basis of the motion was to encourage the government of the day to become proactive and go to the Minister of DIAND and get some consensus to move this process ahead for the betterment of Yukon and Yukoners. And what does this Liberal government do? They want to dilute the intent of the motion to reflect that "all Yukoners" ó well, Mr. Chair, all Yukoners do not support mining. There are a lot of Yukoners who do, and the government canít just sit on the fence. It has to make a decision as to what areas it is going to support and why. And all we are seeing is that this government wonít support the Womenís Directorate, wonít support training trust funds, wonít support museums. It wonít listen to solid positions and solid suggestions as to how to turn the economy around.
Mr. Speaker, this Liberal government is going to go down in history as the most successful failure as a government in the history of Yukon. Now, why isnít the Premier taking a proactive stance in dealing with mining?
Iíll table this letter from Viceroy, Mr. Chair, because what it means is weíre going to have another mine site that is basically going to bankrupt another company, and they will never come back.
It sends a very, very poor message out to the mining community as to how you are going to be treated in the Yukon. Come on up and explore. Weíll give you a tax credit and weíll write you a cheque for a percentage of what you spend, but we donít really want you mining up here because a lot of areas are going to be parks. Can the minister explain why she is not taking a proactive stance in supporting the mining industry?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon as a whole and I personally, both as Minister of Finance and as a member of this House, have a long record of supporting and working with the mining industry, as does this government. Specific initiatives ó we debated one today in my capacity as Minister of Finance ó the mineral exploration tax credit.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the Yukon Liberals here that are governing the territory ó the minister is absolutely correct. They are in a hole and the exercise is to stop digging because you are not going to get out of that hole by digging down. The exercise is to fill the hole, raise the position of the government and do something for our economy, do something for our education system, do something for the Womenís Directorate, do something for the museums. And that translates into focusing on their financial needs, not to be squirreling away some $27.9 million. I am going to be paying very fond attention to the minister responsible for Tourism. I would encourage the Minister of Finance, the Premier, to add some worthwhile components to the speech this minister gives at the TIA convention in Dawson this week ó probably putting some money where it is rightly needed here in the Yukon.
And if the Minister of Finance needs a hand in developing these areas, just ask the opposition. We would be happy to provide a number of suggestions that will do nothing but improve the image that this Liberal government currently has.
One of the other areas that has just come up to show how far this government goes is that the Premier is hosting the western premiers conference, and it will be held in part in Dawson City. I get a call from one of my constituents saying that, locally, we were asked to put together a package of gold gifts and to bid on it for this event so that the Premier could give out to the western premiers. This one family who mines and the wife who makes jewellery ó like a lot of families have in our community ó went ahead and prepared a whole package, and she subsequently received a phone call that said, "Oh, it has been taken out of our hands; our committee is no longer responsible. The Premier has gone directly to the past Liberal candidate in the Klondike and purchased everything directly from him."
Those kinds of areas really, really hurt. It should be an initiative that is done at perhaps armís length. Or if youíre going to do it that way, just donít go out and ask for quotes to start. Itís basically a slap in the face for those who spent a lot of time putting together a program, and it kind of smacks of political patronage.
It kind of smacks of political patronage.
So what we have before us is the largest budget ever. Itís up one percent, but itís not going to put Yukoners back to work, Mr. Chair. It does nothing to address the woes of our economy, and the sad part of it is that it could, but itís not. Yes, I guess the Premier said it best when she said, "Let them eat cake." I recall from my history lessons another lady of very esteemed stature said the same thing in France quite a number of years ago.
Mr. Chair, is the Premier, as Minister of Finance, void of the ability to put together a budget thatís going to enhance the economy of the Yukon? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not going to respond to that particular remark from the member opposite. I just would like to rise and make sure that it is not left on the record the disparaging remarks about the choice of gift being given to the western premiers. In fact, when the western premiers come to visit, what is going to be given to them is an idea that was followed up from Dawson Cityís inaugural ball in that we have spent considerable time selecting a particular historic Dawson photograph and a quote. As well, thereís to be a small piece of gold attached to it. I have no idea where they are buying the gold. It is just from someone in Dawson ó a Dawson miner. That is the main gift and that is the gift to be given at the community event that is to be held.
In addition, other gifts are being given, as is tradition at these particular conferences. There have been contributions by the Yukon Development Corporation or Yukon Energy Corporation, similar to what Sask. Energy did at the western premiers meeting in Moose Jaw and what Winnipeg Mondetta, which is a Winnipeg, Manitoba company, did. Mondetta donated the gifts.
And in this case, those are some of the gifts being provided to western premiers, and it was a particular request of Premier Klein and Premier Okalik that we return to Dawson, and that is why Dawson was selected. Overall, at the officials level, I have worked very hard with many notable members of the Dawson community, and although in spite of the disparaging and unfortunate remarks from the member opposite, my understanding is that the community of Dawson is looking forward to welcoming these visitors.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíll stand by what I said in this Legislature and the bafflegab, which Iíve heard surrounding this issue with respect to gifts is exactly that, and weíll see what the outcome is. The process that was followed was certainly not a process that was followed through on, and it left a lot of individuals very concerned about the way this government operates.
Mr. Chair, with respect to the federal government, is the Premier prepared to call on her wonderful relationship that we were told she has with Ottawa to deal with a lot of these mining issues? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, my last conversation with Minister Nault was in April. Iíll get the precise date for the member opposite, and it was on the specific mining issue with respect to the development of development assessment process legislation. If there is a particular mining regulatory issue upon which it is necessary for me to speak with the minister, I am more than prepared to do so. I have done so in the past on several occasions. I have spoken with Jane Stewart when she was Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development on a number of mining issues, including the Viceroy issue that was mentioned earlier today.
And I have spoken with Minister Nault, as well, on a number of mining issues. In fact, I accompanied Minister Nault on his visit to two of the placer mining operations in Dawson City. I am certainly more than prepared to do so, and I also believe that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has ó the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources also has an excellent relationship in discussing mining matters with Minister Nault, as do the officials at the deputy level, both in Energy, Mines and Resources and in the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. There is a very good working relationship, and on specific issues, we are more than prepared ó always have been and always will ó to go to bat for Yukoners.
Mr. Jenkins: I will take the minister up on her offer. Iíll ask her to intercede on two issues at this juncture. The placer mining authorization ó it is stalled. I would ask the Premier to contact the federal minister, get this back onstream and probably adjust the players at the table. Thatís going to take a direct request from the Premier.
The second request involves the CEAA screening for Viceroy and that it be completed in the timelines originally indicated ó not extended to add another year to the decommissioning of the mine site. Would the minister undertake to carry the message to the federal ministers responsible for these two areas? Yes or no?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The minister and I have worked with all three federal ministersí sign off on the Yukon placer authorization. And, as recently as last week ó indeed asking Minister Anderson to follow up on this as a matter of personal responsibility, given his familiarity with the Yukon placer industry, and to ensure that the authorization was signed and that he meet personally with Minister Nault and the new Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to discuss that. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has worked with and is working with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to ensure that he, also the new minister, visits the Yukon this summer. So we are working on the Yukon placer authorization and we will continue to work on it. And that work includes interceding with Ottawa, so the answer to that is yes.
On the CEAA screening issue, I last dealt with this when I met with Clynton Nauman of Viceroy in Vancouver on it, and I offered, and I was advised that our help was not required at that point in time. Clearly, the situation has changed. I am more than prepared to look at the correspondence the member has tabled and to determine what has already been done by the Government of Yukon and how further we might be of assistance. As Iíve said before, we have gone to bat for Yukoners and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Jenkins: Usually the batting that this minister demonstrates is to bat Yukoners out of the Yukon to seek work in other jurisdictions. And that position is supported by statistics.
I would like to thank the minister for getting involved in these two areas, and furthermore, I would like her to table the correspondence that is forthcoming on these initiatives. The other area where the minister is going to have to go back to the federal ministers and go to bat for Yukon and Yukoners is with respect to sewage treatment here in the Yukon.
And there are quite a number of communities that have problems meeting the standards that are currently in place. In fact, information I have, Mr. Chair, is that virtually all communities in the Yukon at one time or another ó save and except, I believe, two ó donít meet the standards at certain times.
There is a lot of new technology out there. Our community is facing a massive increase in costs as a result of the need for secondary sewage treatment, which may or may not be required. The last time I was in David Andersonís office in Victoria, he was Minister of Fisheries, and I took Mr. Anderson the position of my community of Dawson and asked him to compare it to what Victoria was doing for sewage treatment. His offices are right down in James Bay, and Dawson does more for sewage treatment than Victoria does, and Anderson represents that riding. Yet the full wrath of the federal agencies is descending upon our community but itís not descending on the Lower Mainland communities that are not meeting the necessary criteria.
If you start looking at one of the major industries that we have in the north ó itís the visitor industry. If you start looking at where a lot of the visitors come from, itís off the cruise ships. The standards that the cruise ships must meet for dumping effluent back into the oceans is virtually the same if not higher than what is being required here in the Yukon.
The technology exists to put, on a cruise ship, a cold water secondary sewage treatment that meets those standards, yet that technology isnít even being considered or applied here in the Yukon. Weíre talking cold water, which is a problem, and weíre talking basically a mechanical system, vis-à-vis a lagoon. So thereís a whole series of areas that the Premier should be involved in and would probably save Yukoners the costs that weíre going to incur to operate these systems, as well as meeting the environmental standards that are imposed upon us. Why the Premier is not even considering this area, I do not know. I guess theyíre more interested in going to premiers conferences and buying gifts and eating cake and cutting ribbons, than anything else, Mr. Chair.
Thereís an area out there that hasnít even been addressed and, if you start looking at the whole reason for the Mayo-Dawson interconnect ó which was started and approved by this government; the end cost we do not know, but the clock is ticking up at just shy of $30 million currently, Mr. Chair, to save some $2 million worth of diesel fuel a year, $1.8 million worth of diesel fuel a year. And then, when you look at the community thatís no longer going to be able to heat its potable water supply from the diesel generators, but has to install more boiler capacity to heat the water, at a subsequent cost which I am advised is approaching $300,000 a year ó some savings.
Then, when you start looking and analyzing the secondary sewage treatment, which is most effective when the effluent is going through the system at seven degrees Celsius, which will require heating the effluent from around zero to seven degrees Celsius, what we have are more boilers and more costs that havenít been identified.
Isnít there anybody overlooking all these initiatives, Mr. Chair, with a grasp of the totality of the situation and doing a cost-benefit analysis of these initiatives? There doesnít appear to be so. Itís just, "Letís go; letís go do it. We were advised this is the best way."
I could be saying anything up here, because the Minister of Finance, the Premier, is totally in her own world and reading some other literature in concert with the Minister of Tourism. Maybe itís instructions to the Minister of Tourism as to what heís to give away at the TIA convention this weekend. I sincerely hope so.
Mr. Chair, will the Premier take the opposition up on its position of developing a group to look at economic opportunities and how we can turn the economy here in the Yukon around? Will she do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member commented that I was discussing some comments with the Minister of Environment. I was. In fact, I was reviewing debate that took place in this Legislature from the former leader of the Yukon Party and a former Government Leader of the territory about the value of some of these economic studies. It was quite an interesting debate between Mr. Ostashek and Mr. Harding at the time. I think members would be well-advised to reread it, because some of the same comments seemed to be uttered in this Legislature today. Quite interesting.
One of the things that was pointed out from Mr. Harding is: well, weíre doing some of this work, and thereís risk, and Iím sure the member opposite is going to stand up and criticize us.
Sure enough, both members opposite do that on a regular basis. Itís funny, weíre doing work over here on economic initiatives that we believe strongly in, that we are supported in when we speak with members of the business community and our constituents and those Yukoners who are not our constituents.
The ideas from the business community have been to change the capital budget to the fall, which we did. Previous governments didnít do that. They, in fact, did the direct opposite. Some of the other ideas the business community have come to us with, in terms of the economy, we have acted upon. This government is open to good ideas. What everyone, including the public servants and members of the public who listen to this, has difficulty with is the belittling comments that are not constructive or specific suggestions; they are merely personal tirades. If thatís how members choose to use their 20-plus days of debate now, thatís their choice.
Mr. Jenkins: Itís obvious ó the Minister of Finance went on to read some of Trevor Hardingís positions. You can slice it, you can dice it, you can julienne it, and however else he went on to describe it, but you have only so many days. I encourage the Premier to go back and reread what eventually happened with that undertaking and the number of days.
There is a whole series of areas but, in case the Premier hasnít come to the realization of it, the economy here is in the toilet. The investment community is staying away from the Yukon. Investor confidence in the Yukon is at an all-time low. The opportunities are all around us, and weíd like to sit down ó those of us in opposition ó with the Premier, because we know she goes back to her caucus and tells them what to do, how to do it and when to do it, so we might as well just deal with the Premier and offer some very positive, concrete suggestions as to how this economy can be turned around.
The Premier has indicated sheíll take us up on this or that, but not the whole package. Thatís very disconcerting.
Before I leave general debate, I have one question for the Minister of Finance ó and I donít expect sheíll have the answer here, but I would like to receive it ó and that is whether there is anything outstanding from North American Tungsten with respect to the involvement of the Government of Yukon in opening the road into that property ó what is outstanding, what is the age summary of the accounts receivable on that initiative? She can just send it over by way of legislative return.
Weíre going to be in general debate on the various departments very quickly, Mr. Chair, and the record must reflect that, in spite of an exchange of correspondence between the Premier and myself, I have yet to receive the statistics for all the departments. Could I ask the Premier if sheís going to honour her commitment and provide those statistics? Iíd very much like to have them in my hand today.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A couple of points for the member opposite. This side of the House is more than prepared to look at any specific constructive suggestions that come to the floor of the House with respect to suggestions made to the budget or matters of concern to the territory. I have said this and our actions have indicated that. We fully examined and debated an amendment that was proposed to the budget. And I have indicated to members opposite to bring forward specific suggestions and letís deal with them on the floor of the House.
Maybe the member opposites are suggesting some kind of a backroom conversation ó no. Letís do this in the public. They want to make a suggestion ó make it; letís debate it. Letís have all sides of the issue heard, and letís discuss it. Make the suggestions. Make a specific concrete proposal, and letís debate it. The Member for Porter Creek North brought forward a suggestion, brought forward an amendment, and we dealt with it. Letís do that. That is what this Legislative Assembly is supposed to be for. That is how it should work, and it should also work in a constructive, reasonable and respectful manner, but Iím not going to go there today ó arguing with the member opposite.
The point with respect to the North American Tungsten ó officials have noted that question and will have the answer prepared for the member opposite. If itís available before we next meet on Monday, I will have it sent to the member opposite.
With respect to the exchange of correspondence, I have explained in several letters, and it has been explained to the member opposite, although he chooses not to accept that explanation, that the accountability plans and performance measures that are being developed replace the statistics pages.
Departments did not discard the statistics they keep, but they did not prepare the statistics pages. I indicated in a letter to the member opposite that those statistics pages would take some considerable work, but they would be prepared and they would be forwarded to him. There are still some departments that are engaged in that work. My understanding is that he will receive those statistics pages on Monday. It may be as late as Tuesday. The officials have had to prepare these and, taking considerable work, they are being done and they are being done as quickly as possible for the member opposite. As soon as they are available, they will be provided.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for her response and Iíll look forward to receiving that information. But, given that the information isnít available for a number of the departments that have extensive statistics attached to them, I would see it necessary to stand down those departments from debate in the House until such time as the statistics are provided, Mr. Chair. Would the Minister of Finance agree to that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, absolutely not. The member opposite is failing to respect and appreciate that he has been given a specific answer on this, he has been given a commitment that information would be provided. In advance of that ó the situation is this: accountability plans, which Mr. Chair spoke about, were prepared and departments worked significantly in preparing those accountability plans. I advised this House some time ago, several times I stood on my feet and indicated the budget will look different, the budget will be different, the accountability plans will be different.
Departments did not throw out the statistics or fail to keep statistics. They are using them in preparation for dealing with the performance measures. They were not statistics. Pages were not prepared in the same way as has been done in the past. To prepare them for one member who is not accepting the change is taking some time by departments. As soon as they are complete, they will be prepared. In the interim, I did offer the member, if there were any specific questions he asked or specific statistics he required that they would be provided to him. Now, we have arranged briefings on several occasions. We have come to this Legislature fully prepared to debate the operation and maintenance. I see no reason to stand down debate on any department because the member opposite is not accepting that information has been provided in a different way and that it takes some time to prepare it in the way that he has asked. That is being done as fast as officials are able to do that. The member opposite is being accommodated. However, we have also made absolutely every effort to explain and work with the member on this. I do not agree that any department should be stood down. The Yukon Liquor Corporation, it is my understanding, is our next area for debate. The minister is fully prepared, as our officials are fully prepared to debate that. If one examines the previous statistics pages for that department ó are there even any, one canít help but ask?
Having debated it in the past, it is just as I suspected. There is a revenue amount and an organization chart. I see absolutely no reason why we canít proceed to that debate or the debate for the Yukon Housing Corporation, both of which are scheduled for today and both of which we have plenty of time to debate.
Mr. Jenkins: I encourage the minister to listen and listen fully. What I said is that I would be looking at standing down any department for which statistics have been provided in the past and are not forthcoming this time. Now, I had the assurances, by way of correspondence from the Premier, that those statistics would be provided. All Iím told is, "They will be provided."
In case the minister has failed to recognize what is going on, weíre in budget. That deals with numbers, and whatís the minister asking? The Minister of Finance is asking us to replace those numbers with a bunch of text that does not include numbers. The numbers are the most important thing. Yukoners have the ability to extrapolate from those numbers what is going on in government.
Rather than being more accountable, by way of some of these accountability plans that are coming forward, they are going to become more confusing. Given some of the other acts we have before this House for debate, the government is asking us to approve arrangements whereby the departments can move all the money around internally, without even coming back to this Legislature. That is not open and accountable government, and open and accountable government is something this government campaigned on.
Iíd encourage the Premier, when she goes back to her office and sits down, to provide those statistics, and provide them forthwith. If a department comes up for debate for which I do not have the statistics where statistics have been provided in the past, I will be moving a motion to stand down that department. It would appear that I could probably get the concurrence of the opposition because, in many of those departments, the statistics are a very important element of the analysis that one undertakes to understand how the department operates and where the funds are flowing.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Mr. McRobb: I would like to follow up on a topic we discussed yesterday, and that is the public/private partnerships, or P3s. I reviewed the Blues and what the Premier said in regard to P3s yesterday and would like some further information. Yesterday she referred to debt-financing models. There are many types of models of P3s. It is my understanding that the debt-financing model was popular about 10 to 15 years ago. That was at a time when governments were cash strapped, and liked off-balance sheet financing. But this is not true today. Today, debt-financing models spell trouble, and governments are shunning their use.
I would like to ask the Premier: what other model types has she looked at?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have looked at ó and I have spoken at length with a number of companies that are interested in this type of partnership. Itís my understanding that Nunavut and Iqaluit are embarking upon a unique type of partnership with the municipality and to finance ó it may be water and sewer. I could stand corrected on that. Manitoba is looking at another model where thereís financing to deal with an essential piece of infrastructure ó the Manitoba flood way.
So there are other models out there where another level of government is involved. If the member would like, I can send him some information ó the report and information that I get from a conference that was recently attended. This is an area of innovation in Canada, in that this is something that is being pursued at a variety of levels by a number of different governments, and I can share the latest information I have with the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, I would like that information, Mr. Chair. Iíd like to ask the Premier: what values and objectives is she seeking in a P3 model?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I suspect the member opposite is looking at some of the accountability plans and is going at this from ó okay, if there is a public/private partnership, what values does it have and what objectives should drive that?
Weíre looking at it from a different perspective. Letís get a specific project that would fit a P3 model that is acceptable within the formula financing and within the funding by the territory and within what we have done to date. There are P3 models within the territory, and they would be similar values to those we have brought to everything that we do. In terms of values, you see in the operation and maintenance budget before you excellence and professionalism in providing services and infrastructure that is second to none in the north. Those are the sorts of values that would fit a P3 model. The end result may be, depending upon the project, a piece of infrastructure. It may be an ongoing type of investment. It has to be within the financial means; it has to be something that clearly is within the mandate of the government and affordable, and able to be done within the model and the financing available.
Mr. McRobb: Yesterday the Premier indicated she has asked officials to develop a couple of different options for the government with respect to P3s. I would like to ask her what particular direction she conveyed to these officials regarding their assignment of developing a couple of P3 models?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The directions were very general. They were asked to come up with a couple of models that would fit within the Financial Administration Act and wouldnít drive the territory into an accumulated deficit or debt position.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, I have communicated with some people who regard themselves as experts in this area. I understand there is a clear need to have a very clear understanding of what it is you want to accomplish when developing a P3 model. Then itís equally important to find the model that can deliver the objectives you want met. Iím not sure if itís the horse pulling the cart or the cart pulling the horse in this particular example, but I think itís incumbent upon the Premier to have a very transparent process and ensure that policies are first in place before selecting a P3 model that can really set the government and the future of the territoryís economic partnerships on a firm path.
So, I would like to ask the Premier: what does she anticipate for public involvement in the selection of a P3 model?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My discussions to date, in keeping with that transparency idea and believing in any private sector individuals I have spoken to, that it must be so ó it has to be a clear and transparent process. The public involvement would be the public tender phase of that.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Iím not really sure if thatís adequate or not. We heard the Premier, just a few minutes ago in response to questions from the leader of the third party, indicate that the Legislature is the place for these types of discussions. But when it comes to a good example of where the discussions should be applied, we see a great shortcoming in the opportunity here for all members to discuss very important policies that can set the direction for the territory.
There is something else that weíve picked up. The word on the street is that the atmosphere for government decision making is very bad and leaves a lot to be desired. People are scared to speak up about an idea or give their professional opinions for fear of retaliation from the hierarchy of this government. The modus operandi is "Keep your head low", and weíre hearing that time and time again. That is certainly not a good atmosphere for decision making or open discussion that should lead up to such decisions.
One of the important consequences of a P3 model was protection of the public trust. This is an area Iím familiar with from my previous role as a consumer advocate in the area of energy investment in the territory. A previous government announced it was looking into the construction of a coal-fired plant, for instance and, at the time, our consumers group made the public aware of the financial consequences of such an investment.
Iíd like to point out that, had this significant investment proceeded at the time, Yukonersí power bills would probably be about double what they are now, simply because we have a vast amount of excess energy on the grid now. So a coal plant would be mothballed, yet the capital costs would need to be covered on a continuous basis for a period of about 25 years.
Mr. Chair, if a major decision like the coal plant had proceeded, Yukoners in future would be punished for several years. I think thatís a good example of how a major decision could have long-standing consequences.
Had that previous government had at its disposal a financing tool like a P3 model, one would presume that the likelihood of a major project would have been increased. So itís very important to protect the public trust before embarking and adopting a P3 model for the territory. So I would like to ask the Premier about this area of risk of investment and public trust and ask her if she can assure us that Yukoners are going to benefit from a P3 agreement, not just assume the financial risk.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, Yukoners have seen how this government enters into P3s with the Northern Film and Video Association and the purchase of the electrics package. That is a P3. We have done that working with Yukoners and financing a much-needed piece of infrastructure for the film and video industry. The Connect Yukon is an example of how the previous government entered into a P3, or a form of a P3. And all those things are subject to debate in the Legislature. When the amount of money is voted, itís all subject to debate. So the restrictions upon any government entering into the purchase or public/private partnership financing model are the Financial Administration Act and this Legislature and the vote authority. So I donít know what more I can answer to the member opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I didnít realize the P3 model used with the Northern Film and Video Association reflected the policy of this government and, in fact, was its P3 model. If that is the case, why did the Premier ask her government officials to develop a couple of P3 models for her consideration? I think the answer is clear ó the P3 model used in that previous case was quite a bit different from what the Premier was looking for, for other uses in the future.
That brings up this concern that it is very important that we have a model that protects the public trust. I would go further and suggest that the public trust will not be protected unless there is adequate debate in this Legislature over a P3 model. The Premier herself said this is the place for such discussion, so I would like to ask her if she would commit to an open discussion in this Legislature before adopting a P3 model for the Yukon.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is suggesting that a P3 model is a one size fits all, that there is only one model, and that would be the policy extending to all projects. That is not the case. I have said the Northern Film and Video Association ó the purchase of the electrics package ó is a type. It is one model; it is a type of public/private partnership that we as a government have entered into. Other governments have done other types.
I have brought forward a motion in this Legislature and asked for this very reasonable debate on a public/private partnership. I have supported it. I have looked into it on behalf of all Yukoners ó all of us are interested in it.
I would suggest to the member that such a debate would be far more constructive if we were actually discussing the specifics of a project, and we do that when we come back to the House and seek vote authority. There is none of that on the table right now. If the member is concerned that I or the government was looking at some ó he seems interested in some kind of electrical generation project, mentioning coal as a potential by previous governments. Weíre looking at and are interested in models and ideas of specific projects. I have given general direction to find one or two that would meet the Financial Administration Act and that would also ensure that we did not increase or end up with an accumulated deficit. That is a very real difficulty, and we have to examine it. We have not, at this point, got a project that we can come back to the House with and debate and that is this type of a model.
In any event, expenditures of public funds are subject to debate in this Legislature.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I think the overriding issue is protection of the public trust. And if the Premier is now indicating she wants to have more than one P3 model, thatís a little different from what was indicated before, which was that she was looking for the best particular model to suit her needs. If, in fact, the Premier wants more than one P3 model for the territory, then certainly that complicates matters and itís all the more reason to have an open discussion in this Legislature.
With regard to her claim that such discussion should follow any specific agreement that is tentatively reached, I would disagree, because I think itís very important to have the values and objectives integrated into a model before any specific agreements are reached.
Think of it this way, Mr. Chair: if thereís a P3 agreement reached and it comes into this Legislature, what kind of political discussion would you anticipate for that occasion?
Obviously, it would be very convenient for the government of the day to tar the opposition as naysayers, anti-project and so on, when in fact there might be very good principles at stake regarding the values and objectives of the particular model and whatís best for the Yukon in the long run.
So such discussion at that time may be compromised and impaired because of politics that would surround the support or opposition to any particular agreement. Therefore, I stick to my position that discussion in this Legislature should precede the adoption of any P3 models. Whatís wrong with talking about it, Mr. Chair? I know you, yourself, support open discussion. I believe open discussion on such matters would be best for the territory, and whatís there to hide?
The Premier referred to backroom deals a little while ago. Well, Mr. Chair, how can we be assured there are no backroom deals unless there is open and transparent discussion? This is the place for such discussion. The government has that opportunity every second Wednesday and can certainly bring forward a motion for discussion.
I would like to shift gears slightly, to a similar, but different, area ó privatization of government services. First of all, I will ask the Premier if she has any plans or intentions to privatize any government services.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: No, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McRobb: Would the Premier undertake to have a full and open discussion in this Legislature before undertaking any privatization of public services?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíve already said there are no plans, so I donít know why we would need a discussion. Iíve already said that. And before the member opposite criticizes a lack of public discussion, having served as the leader of the official opposition in this Legislature, there was little or no discussion on the Connect Yukon public/private partnership. So I would remind the member of that, and I would say that there are no plans for the privatization the member suggests.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, with all respect, the Premier is evading the answer to this question. I was simply asking for a commitment to have a full and open debate in this Legislature prior to proceeding with any privatization of government services. If what she say is correct ó that she has no plans or intentions to privatize government services ó then why didnít the Premier agree to the commitment that I asked for? Is there a double standard here, Mr. Chair?
Now, Iíll give the Premier another opportunity to answer that question, and I would also like to know if there were any discussions regarding the privatization of highways, the privatization of maintenance of Yukon highways?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: There is no double standard, Mr. Chair. I have indicated time and time again that I am interested in public debate on issues. And, with respect, the times that privatization of highways specifically have come up in conversation with me have been in my riding during the 1996 election campaign when that rumour was rumoured, and it was asked if that was part of the Liberal platform, which I indicated, no, it wasnít, and I spent significant time with that particular constituent. The other times it has come up is ó there are different companies that have from time to time looked at other jurisdictions and said, well, that was an interesting experience.
There are no plans for privatization.
Mr. McRobb: Well, that is reassuring to a small degree, but neither question was answered. The first question was: would the Premier commit to a full and open discussion in this Legislature prior to venturing into any privatization of government services?
The second question was: has there been any discussion about privatizing highway services or maintenance by this government? I would like an answer to both questions please.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If the member opposite wishes to have a public debate of privatization of public services, I invite the member to bring a motion forward. We are not initiating it. Itís not a government initiative to have the Yukonís own military forces, so I am not bringing forward a public debate on that either. I mean, I am not afraid of public debate. I quite look forward to it. It is what this Legislature is for. It is what I was elected to do: engage in public debate. I am not afraid of it. Is this government going to bring forward a motion on any of the issues the member has mentioned? No, because we are not planning to do them.
Mr. McRobb: Well, like I said yesterday, you canít get blood out of a stone, so I am going to disengage from this line of questioning.
I would take issue with what the Premier says in regard to her penchant for open and honest discussion in this Legislature because, Mr. Chair, in the last five and a half years that we have both been in here, I have seen, time and time again on motion day, how the government side has a distinct lack of representation when it comes to speaking on motions. In other words, it may put up one or two speakers to a motion and thatís it. The rest are either gagged or have nothing to say.
Letís go back to the previous term. I recall raising an economic motion in this House, asking for the cooperation of all parties in identifying economic initiatives that could be undertaken by the Government of the Yukon. What did the Premier say, Mr. Chair? Nothing, at the time. The Liberals really offered nothing during that debate.
There was some mention of a gambling casino, Mr. Chair, but really very little else. The Liberals had no ideas, yet that was the opportunity for such discussion. What have we seen about this governmentís position on the only economic initiative it identified at the time, gambling casinos? Now that itís in government, itís against it. Even the only idea it said it supported at the time, turns out it was a flip-flop after the Liberals came into government. So I guess that idea has to be scratched, leaving the Liberals with no ideas.
Other motions are very similar, Mr. Chair, and itís obvious that, when it comes to full, open debate on many issues ranging from the economy to the environment to citizensí rights to social issues, this government has very little to say.
So I have very little faith in any offer extended by the Premier to have a discussion on any of these major policy areas affecting the future of the territory ó such as public/private partnerships ó especially when she is very reluctant to give a firm commitment today in this Legislature.
Anyway, Mr. Chair, Iíll take her answer back to the people Iím discussing this matter with and see how they feel about it, and come back at a later time and report back to this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: I just have a couple of questions. I was asked a number of questions around the future Canada transfer agreements to the Yukon. One thing the Premier has said several times is that this could be neutral. We could see the effects of $39 million and, the following year, have approximately $13 million less. I understand about the numbers and how that could neutralize, or not change much at all about the transfer agreements.
Iím wondering if there is more to it than that, and if the Premier can explain a bit more about it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Perhaps I could ask the leader of the official opposition: is the leader of the official opposition referring to the devolution transfer agreement, or is the leader of the official opposition talking about the census discussions that weíve had ó the contingency reserve? I just want to be sure Iím giving an appropriate answer.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím just referring right back to ó in the future, we talk about a lesser amount of dollars coming from Canada, nothing to do with devolution at all. Itís just the census. She did say we are looking at a possible $39 million hit on this, and less afterward.
Just the neutral part, where there could be no change ó and itís an important message that we should be giving to the public. What is it? Is it just numbers, or are we looking at more than that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The answer to the member opposite is that the $39 million that I gave in this Legislature was just an example. Itís an easy example for me to use in the Legislature and speaking with the media and the Yukon public because itís based on 1,000 people. Thatís why that number.
We absolutely do not know and wonít definitively know, as I explained at great length to the Member for Whitehorse Centre, until such time as the undercounts not only for Yukon, but also for all of Canada, are calculated ó so the fall 2003 is when weíll know.
The numbers the member is looking at are the long-term plan numbers, I believe, and the territorial revenue ó so the projections for 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, 2004-05 and 2005-06. So, because we donít know, it could go one of three ways. As an example, we could have the $39-million hit; as an example, it could be neutral, or ó a very slim chance ó one could also say that it might go up. In the meantime, what are in there, and territorial revenue projections and transfer from Canada projections we believe are accurate, and they reflect what we know today as "no change". So, there is nothing supposed in any of those numbers.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the Premier for that answer, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I just have another question in regard to endowment funds and permanent funds and money that has been identified with this windfall that we did have. Have there been terms of reference put together for these different types of funds, guidelines and so on, that have been used by government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: What has happened is, although it is termed "a windfall" and I have used that term, I donít think anybody in this House underestimates the work, either by the government or by government officials in achieving that. So, again, thank you to them for that.
The $42 million, yes, some was set aside. Itís clearly labelled "census contingency reserve," so that was. The member is asking about the specific endowments. So with respect to the youth, community recreation, the Yukon Heritage Resources Board, that endowment was set up under Government Leader Penikett. Weíve just added to it so that it can reach the $1 million and start to be spent. The Yukon Foundation and the teacher mentoring, there are specific guidelines for how the money in each of those is spent with each of those funds, and I can give the member opposite the details on that. Iíll do a lengthy legislative return that outlines it, if thatís acceptable. On the $10-million permanent fund that was voted in the capital budget last fall, what has happened on that is there has been a paper developed that compares the features of both the Alaska and Alberta permanent fund models and how they might be used. That preliminary work has been done, and what has not been developed is a discussion guide for Yukoners as to how we could go about discussing this. That is work that is on the desk but not being dealt with at this particular moment because weíre working on the budget documents.
Thatís what has been done to date and that is the intention.
Mr. Fairclough: I have one other question in regard to the $15-million contingency. Is this basically to offset what we could see as a cutback from Canada? It has nothing to do with emergency money that needs to be spent.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: It is strictly set aside as a contingency in the event of the census indicating that we would have a reduction in our transfer from Canada. So what it would do is give us an opportunity then to adjust to lower transfers from Canada and be able to, as the Member for Whitehorse Centre suggested yesterday, spread out the difficulty of that.
Mr. McLarnon: Yes, I just have a couple questions that I had forgotten to ask yesterday that I needed to get updates on from the Premier.
My question to the Premier: can we get an update on the status of the Faro mine reclamation? We know it is a big project. We know the federal government has environmental liability and we are wondering what is stalling it or what is the problem of getting people to work at this project? Can we get an update and background on this project and where we are with it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: A number of days ago ó perhaps it was this week; it just feels like days ago ó I offered the Member for Whitehorse Centre a complete briefing on the devolution transfer agreement to go through that. The reclamation of the Faro mine is covered in the devolution transfer agreement. Those are federal funds; that is a federal cleanup. Itís not like the Yukon government can say, "Letís use that money and start on the reclamation." It doesnít work that way.
The details of the reclamation, of how the federal money is to be spent and how the private sector money is to be spent, is all outlined in the DTA ó devolution transfer agreement ó and the memberís questions would be answered fully in that briefing.
Mr. McLarnon: The reason I am asking is because I have a friend in Nova Scotia who related a story to me on the Sydney Tar Pits and the fact that the federal government has been on the hook to clean it up since the 1970s and hasnít bothered to put the money into it, so the area around there has not only suffered serious, serious environmental damage ó probably irreparable, probably to the point where people wonít be able to live near there any more ó but the federal government also hasnít bucked up on its responsibility to this point.
Why Iím bringing this forward is to ensure that this government doesnít wait until the federal government acts, but becomes aggressive with this, ensuring that it does. So, since I havenít received my DTA briefing in time from yesterday to today, I would just like to get some points on the floor to make sure that I donít have to ask this question until I receive my briefing.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, I have committed to the member opposite a full and thorough briefing, and certainly that will happen. I appreciate his concern and his knowledge of elsewhere in Canada. However, I would suggest that this is a vastly different situation and that it would be clarified in an extensive briefing, and Iíll look forward to making sure that that happens as soon as possible.
Mr. McLarnon: Well, while the extensive briefing will certainly broaden my scope and knowledge of this, it certainly wonít do anything to broaden Yukonersí scope and knowledge of it. Theyíre listening and following this issue through the transcripts of this House or on the radio, or also for the benefit of all members here.
So, I guess the way I look at it is, my briefing will help me understand the issue, but we would like a few pointers placed on the floor now so we all understand the issue. I guess thatís why Iíd like to be able to put a few things on record and get some ideas of what we can talk about so that other Yukoners and other members of this House can understand a little bit of the intricacies and one of the problems with the time frames weíre looking at to see a very important project go. This is important. I talked to another friend I have who works on Bay Street and I told him about an economic initiative that may happen there. He was laughing because Toronto Liberals would wonder why the federal government would possibly want to spend $450 million up here to fill in a hole.
So these are the things now that we have to be at least positive and aggressive about on the Yukon side, and maybe get the points out so that Yukoners can understand the possible benefits of finally cleaning up a mine that supported us. Maybe this mine can support us for a few years in the reclamation and start a whole industry based on the technology of reclamation.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Several Yukon businesses and Yukon governments, including First Nation governments, are very interested in the business, if you will, of mine reclamation. One of the key factors that has to be agreed on at the outset is cost of that reclamation. The cost of the reclamation for Anvil Range-Curragh Faro mine site, ó Iíve heard some wild figures ó swings from anywhere from $10 million to the $450 million the member said.
The common figure that I have heard used is just slightly over $100 million. There are many individuals interested in mine reclamation as a business, as a training opportunity and as environmental work. The Government of Yukon is interested in seeing this happen. Thatís why there were such extensive discussions around ensuring that, once devolved, those sites and environmental cleanups that were required that occurred under Canadaís watch were Canadaís responsibility. And itís very clearly outlined how those have to be paid, because we donít want to have another discussion in the Legislature in which it takes a unanimous vote to move them on paying. That was all very clearly laid out as to how that happens, and I will certainly provide a specific, detailed response to the Legislature either by legislative return or, since the member wishes it so, I will bring forward either a ministerial statement on this ó certainly, that would require the support of House leaders to allow such a ministerial statement to occur. I would be happy to make one on the mine reclamation in the territory if it is the memberís wish.
Mr. McLarnon: I thank the Premier for that. And the reason for this is not only just to get it on the record but to give Yukoners hope that there are a number of different economic activities that we still have to pursue. So again, itís to give a ray of sunshine to a person who may not have any hope right now.
Iíd like to go from large economic activity generators to smaller economic activity generators. The Association of Yukon Communities has a motion that they have discussed and brought forward asking for the transfer of airport lands in the communities to the communities so that they can bring in economic development. This has been brought forward by Watson Lake and Teslin, and a number of communities also identified the possibility for them to use this as a small economic generation tool.
Is this something that is currently being considered by the government?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yes, that particular proposal is under discussion with the ministers of Community Services and Energy, Mines and Resources. They are working on that.
Mr. McLarnon: I do think itís important. I mean, municipalities have a good idea of their own economic generation capacities and certainly have some ideas, on a micro-level, about how development can happen in their communities, which may escape the Yukon territorial governmentís range of ideas. So I hope that comes forward.
I guess the last thing Iím looking at is down the road, next year, we are probably going to see a slight increase in tourism because this year will be so bad. What I want to know is if we are looking at being able to resource tourism marketing through this Canadian Tourism Commission in the construction of this new marketing model, so that we can bring new money into the Yukon for our marketing. Thatís what Iím asking. Essentially, what Iím asking is how are we doing on the time frame of creating the marketing corporation, and how is it fitting into the CTC needs, so that we can match funds, as originally asked? Are we going to get an update any time soon?
I originally realized the first update was going to be in August from the people working on the marketing corporation, or whatever it is going to be called. The problem with an August announcement about what theyíre doing is that, already the next yearís planning cycle is going on, already the next yearís sales cycle is going on, already the next yearís marketing cycle has begun, and it will have begun in earnest. So, weíre setting up for an announcement and unveiling in August, but we really are already missing the next tourism season in the effect of being able to be effective marketers.
So, I guess the question is if there is any way we can move the time frame up, so that we can access outside money, get our new marketing corporation working more effectively, faster, and working for the next year, so we donít see a two- or three-year lag in the recovery of our Yukon tourism industry?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture is working as quickly as he can and the individuals tasked with this are working and fully recognizing the tourism industryís needs. They are very familiar with them and understand the cycles, and when the sales cycles occur. And if there is any possible way they are able to do it earlier, I am certain that they will.
Mr. Jenkins: I would like to ask the Premier if she would be so kind when she sends over a legislative return or some other documentation, that she ensure that it is sent over to all opposition parties. Could I have that assurance from the Premier?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: If it were information that I am writing or a legislative return, most certainly it would be provided to all members. Could I also, while I am on my feet ask again if the official opposition will table all the questionnaires theyíve received, as the rule in the House is, if you are going to quote from something, that you table it?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, thatís a rather moot point, and Iíll let the Premier take that up with the official opposition. But what Iím asking, and I got a very devious answer from the Premier, for all information that has been requested by anyone on the opposition side of this Legislature, that copies be made available and provided to the three independents and myself. Iím seeking the ministerís assurances on that issue, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the rule is certainly that this side of the House would extend that courtesy to all members. Of course we would. If there has been some error that has occurred, the member has only to telephone or indicate that in a note to anyone in the House. We would be more than prepared to respond.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I thank the minister for her position and yes, there has been other correspondence by way of letters in response to questions raised in the House. Letters have been provided to opposition members and not provided to the third party or to the independent Liberals, and this has happened during this session, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, while the Premier is being briefed, I can sit back, or perhaps we can call a break so that the Premier can be more fully briefed?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Iím not finished.
Mr. Chair, I had a series of questions, but the Premier obviously isnít paying attention and is not concerned at all. Iím taking some information from the paper, Mr. Chair.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, on a point of order, I have been in the House, fully prepared to answer any questions from the member opposite. To comment on another personís actions in the House or to comment on their absence from the House ó commenting on their absence is clearly out of order. I do not comment on the member opposite reading the paper or being absent from the House when Iím engaged in debate with others. If I happen to have a conversation with my colleagues, I think the member opposite should respect that fact.
Chair: Mr. Jenkins, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: Thereís no point of order. I made no mention of anyone being absent from this Chamber, nor have I in the past. I was just commenting on the Premierís lack of attention to the question, and that was it. Perhaps let cooler heads prevail. The Premier can recoup and be fully briefed by her Cabinet colleagues, and itís probably time to call a break, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Point of order. There is no point of order. The only rule that would have been broken is absences being commented on, which I didnít hear. But it is a good time for a break. This is fully agreed to by the Chair. The Chair will call a recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate, Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to have a look around the issue of the Faro mine reclamation as to why this government isnít taking an interest in it and why thereís no flow of funds to the Yukon government for the mine site reclamation. The feds are sitting on a big chunk of dough. There doesnít appear to be anything underway other than a little federal money flowing, and monitoring up at the mine site, keeping a number of people employed in Faro. Iíd like to know why the full cost of reclamation hasnít been brought forward and the reclamation work being dealt with knowing that the mine has been pretty well abandoned, is being sold off, taxes written off. Just where are we with that, and what position is the Government of Yukon taking?
Thereís a wonderful opportunity here, Mr. Chair, to put Yukoners to work. Why arenít we taking it?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: My discussions with the Member for Whitehorse Centre were focused on the details around the devolution transfer agreement and the reclamation process and the information thatís contained in there. There is no work undertaken at this point in time. And although there is a great deal of interest in the reclamation work, the Faro mine site is still in the hands of the interim receiver, court order and so on. That is not a lack of interest. There is a tremendous amount of interest. It is not at the point where tenders are being issued for a reclamation project.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím not at the point of asking why the tenders havenít been issued. Some maintenance work is currently being undertaken at the mine site, which is employing a number of Faro residents. It has been ongoing. There is also the security component of it thatís underway. Iím sure the Member for Faro is well-versed about how many people are working on the security and the various testing programs.
Thereís a great deal of money in the federal reserves, and there is a question as to whether it is going to be adequate to address the mine closure and decommissioning and, I guess, specifically the acid rock problems. But to date I havenít heard boo from this government as to a game plan of how they are going to deal with it. Because it will soon be in their hands. What is going to happen? Are we going to just wake up and say, oh my gosh? Is there any analysis being undertaken currently as to whether adequate funds are going to flow to the Government of Yukon to address the responsibility for this mine site?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, I guess thatís the point ó the Member for Kluane just made. It really wonít be this Liberal governmentís problem after the next territorial election. It will be the next governmentís problem. So I want to know what work has been done to date by this government, what analysis has been undertaken, and where we are on the Faro mine site and its reclamation?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíll just be a few moments in answering that question. Iím having some additional information brought down.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, perhaps it would be prudent at this time to ask the Premier to get the Member for Faro to tell us what currently is underway, how many people are employed and where they are today, because thatís pretty well common knowledge in and around Faro, and Iím sure the Member for Faro knows. But from there forward, whatís the game plan the Government of the Yukon has?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Okay. Weíll listen to the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there are a number of points Iíd like to put on the record. Right now, the Government of Canada pays the cost for interim care and maintenance of both Faro and BYG Mount Nansen sites. The Faro site is under the control of a court-appointed receiver. On the effective date of the devolution transfer agreement, which is April 1, 2003, these sites are transferred, along with the rest of the public land, to the control and administration of the Yukon government.
I have offered previously in this House on several occasions to the leader of the third party detailed briefings on the devolution transfer agreement, as I have offered them to the Member for Whitehorse Centre today.
One of the key provisions of the DTA is where Canada has been financially supporting the interim care and maintenance activities at the site before the effective date, Canada shall continue to contribute to the cost, post the effective date. Any reduction of support by Canada shall not result in an unfunded liability to the Yukon government.
The devolution transfer of environmental cleanup sites was a very carefully negotiated chapter, and there were some negotiations that had been done prior to this government taking office, and the negotiations were concluded under this government.
Weíre working with Canada and with First Nation governments that are interested in mine reclamation and in reclamation. There are also discussions around at what point the mine and, in particular, the Faro mine site, would be considered abandoned? There are also issues around the control of the court-ordered receiver.
Once the site has been determined to be abandoned ó and that has not happened yet ó the DTA has laid out a process for the development of a remediation plan for the site and for costing of the plan.
The costs are apportioned according to the principle that Canada is responsible for the costs of the remediation requirements resulting from activities that occurred under Canadaís administration. So, it repeats what I have been saying over and over in this Legislature that, where it occurred under Canadaís watch, itís Canadaís responsibility. They are responsible for costs resulting from activities that occurred under their administration and control.
I would commend to members opposite the devolution transfer agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon, and I recognize that it is some time since members have gone through this devolution transfer agreement and had a detailed briefing, so perhaps what I could do is extend the offer I made to the Member for Whitehorse Centre and restate once again the offer to the member of the third party.
Mr. Jenkins: Does the Premier have any idea as to when the receiver is going to consider the mine site to be abandoned, or is it just predicated on when the receiver has no more funds left in the bank? Is that when theyíre going to abandon the mine site? Because obviously, if the mine site hasnít been abandoned, what is the justification that the Minister of Finance is using to write off the taxes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, we have had many discussions in this House about the difficult court proceedings and quite lengthy explanations I have had with the member opposite with respect to the courts and the Anvil Range property, and I would suggest to the member opposite that I will find out what the process is for the court to order abandonment and at what point that is likely to occur. I will find that out and get back to the member.
Mr. Jenkins: I encourage the minister to do so because it looks like itís a pretty easy exercise ó you find out how much the receivers are charging each month to address their responsibilities, and you find out how much money is left in the bank, and when you divide one into the other, youíll find out how many more months they will be on-site. After that, it will fall to the government. If it has not been abandoned, what is the justification for having brought before this House a supplementary that writes off all the taxes?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The abandonment is a legally recognized status and term thatís used ó itís like orphaned and abandoned mine sites ó in the country.
With respect, the practicalities of the taxes collectible ó it was recognized that this was a long outstanding collectible, and its chances of collection were such that the determination was made to write it off and include it in the supplementary, which has been done, and the supplementary has passed this Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Jenkins: I recognize that it passed this House, but the justification for it, given that the mine hasnít been abandoned, that there is still money sitting there, and that the receiver is still charging a pretty hefty bill every month, from what I understand ó at the end of the day, weíre seeing a few Yukoners employed at the mine site for security and testing purposes, but we know that there is a great deal of money in the bank. We have an opportunity here, once again, to put Yukoners to work on the reclamation at the mine site. I donít think it would take much more than an approach by the Premier of the Yukon to the federal Minister of DIAND, saying, "Look, you have X number of dollars in the bank. Youíre responsible for this. We need to get on with the job because the longer we leave this and just treat it, the longer itís going to take to go through the reclamation process. And itís going to be quite extensive and very costly."
And Iíve heard numbers that would stagger the imagination as far as what the ultimate cost is going to be for decommissioning this mine site and for its reclamation, especially on the water side. Is the Premier not prepared to take up the challenge and see if she can find an opportunity for Yukoners here, or is she just going to hang her hat on, "We donít have any responsibility until the devolution transfer agreement comes into force on April 1, 2003"? Why not be proactive instead of reactive? That is my question to the Premier.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon has been proactive on this matter, and we will continue to be so.
Mr. Jenkins: Yes, proactive to the tune of about $200,000 a year which it is costing the Government of Yukon, never mind the cost of maintaining the road from the town site to the mine site. What is it costing Government of Yukon for BYG and maintaining that road into BYG year-round?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I just indicated a few short minutes ago that the Government of Canada is currently covering the cost for the interim care and maintenance of both Faro and the BYG Mount Nansen site. The Government of Canada covers those costs.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, why do we budget and approve $200,000 for the Faro mine site?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite has been advised that a portion of the $200,000 that the member opposite is speaking of has gone toward legal fees and some has been used in other initiatives.
But the Faro memorandum of understanding of $200,000 per year was not concluded, and therefore the Government of the Yukon is not spending $200,000 per year, as the member opposite is suggesting.
Mr. Jenkins: So what are we spending, Mr. Chair?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The legal fees and the legal discussions that we have had on that, the legal fees being dealt with through the Department of Finance. The member has had extensive discussions in the House on that. Again, I say the Government of Canada is covering the cost for interim care and maintenance of both Faro and BYG Mt. Nansen sites. They are Government of Canada costs, not ours.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I guess from a business standpoint, if the Government of Canada is covering the costs, why are we incurring $200,000 worth of cost just for the legal amount? Could the minister table that information, please, Mr. Chair, as to the breakdown? Could the minister please table the breakdown of the $200,000, as to where itís spent?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That expenditure of the Government of the Yukon will be broken down and provided to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Now, in a similar matter, there has been a lot of correspondence that the Premier has received from individuals residing in the Elsa area, Mr. Chair, dealing with the necessity for water treatment to the extent determined by officials in DIAND ó and correspondence has been sent directly to the Premier. A lot of it has been in the newspapers and letters to the editors.
Can the Premier advise the House if she has spent any time reviewing this correspondence, and if she or her officials have determined if there is some validity as to what these individuals are saying? Because theyíre involved directly in the treatment process of the water. And, having visited that area on a number of occasions, what Iím hearing from these individuals appears to be supported by what has transpired in the Elsa area, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite has referenced a number of letters. Clearly heís referencing public articles and letters that he has a copy of. I would like to take that question under advisement and, if the member would be specific as to ó if heís referring to articles that have been in the paper about water treatment at that mine site at Elsa, yes, Iím familiar with those. Yes, I have met with the proponents. Yes, there have been discussions. I will determine the current status of what has happened and get back to the member. I would like the courtesy of precisely which correspondence the member is referring to.
Mr. Jenkins: I donít really want to get into the name of the lady from Elsa, but Iím sure the Premier is well aware as to whom I speak of; she signed all her letters and she sent copies of her correspondence to all of the federal ministers, just saying, "Hey, have a look at this. Iíve been involved in the water-testing program here for X number of years, and whether theyíre putting the lime in or not putting the lime in, it really doesnít make any difference in our test results. So, when DIAND said they ran out of money and they couldnít provide any more lime for water treatment, we stopped, but we did continue the testings. And there has been no change in the testing results." The suggestion was put forward that officials in DIAND had basically insisted that United Keno Hill Mines involve themselves in this treatment and pay the costs and it virtually bankrupted that company.
It looks like weíre seeing the same scenario repeat itself with respect to Viceroy.
Viceroy, in their decommissioning and mine closure plan, want to cover their waste rock dump. They want to do it this summer because there is a small potential for acid rock. They canít get permission from DIAND to undertake that because the CEAA screening is delayed, and theyíre looking for a further delay. DIAND officials are looking for more information and are postponing the CEAA screening. Now, the window of opportunity to move dirt in the Yukon, as we all know, is a very narrow one. Itís going to be starting fairly quickly and terminating at the end of September or the beginning of October. The mine owners want to get in there and do the job in a proper manner. They donít want to be delayed another year.
So Iím encouraging the Premier to talk to her federal ministers and fall back on that very good understanding that we have been led to believe exists between the Yukon Liberals and the federal Liberals and get something done. There is a wonderful opportunity in the reclamation business here in the Yukon. Itís a wonderful opportunity to put Yukoners to work. But what Iím seeing is that it looks like itís too difficult for the government to handle, so we have the Minister of Environment running around creating more and more parks, so we wonít have to deal with the potential of a mine actually coming into existence in the future.
The minister is well aware of the correspondence Iím referring to. I would like to know what her officials have done and what instructions she has issued to her officials, as to whether there is some validity to what this individual from Elsa is saying and what the Premier is going to be doing about it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will provide the member opposite with a detailed response on Monday.
Mr. Jenkins: I thank the minister for her response. There is a lot of area in this mine reclamation and environmental area that deserves a very careful scrutiny in this Legislature. Iíll be dealing with it. I want to review what the Premier sends over by way of information and I will probably get back into this material at a later date. So I would like to thank the Minister of Finance for her responses here today. I am disappointed that she wasnít more versed with it, but letís deal with the problem and not the person. The problem is that the government direction is just not there. So I thank the Premier, the Minister of Finance.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Seeing no further general debate we will proceed with line-by-line. We will give five minutes to allow officials from the Yukon Liquor Corporation to come into the House.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Okay, general debate on Liquor Corporation. Sorry, we still need five minutes for the officials to come into the House.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will now begin debate on the Yukon Liquor Corporation.
Yukon Liquor Corporation
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am pleased to introduced the Yukon Liquor Corporationís operation and maintenance estimates for 2002-03 and look forward to the questions from the opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to welcome the new minister to this corporation and inform the House that I am the new critic for this area on behalf of the official opposition.
My first question to the minister would be: what differences are there between her position and the position of the previous minister? And Iím talking about not only positions but also directions, policies, undertakings and so on, Mr. Chair, in order that we can understand the level of consistency between the ministers and holding them and this government accountable.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: To the best of my knowledge, thereís no difference in direction to the Yukon Liquor Corporation. Whatís new is the addition of the Yukon Lottery Commission under the direction of the Yukon Liquor Corporation, but as far as Iím aware thatís the only change.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair, thatís fine. That helps us, on this side, understand that any commitments and so on made by the previous minister still stand, and that helps us in the jobs we have to do in this Legislature.
The next area I want to discuss is the major announcement to relocate the Whitehorse liquor store. And, Mr. Chair, I have heard some good and bad comments in relation to that announcement.
I would like to ask the minister what analysis was done by this government before making this announcement? What Iím talking about is an analysis such as a traffic study or pedestrian study, perhaps a socio-economic impact study, and those types of things.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: The move of the Whitehorse liquor store is in the planning stages. Traffic flow requirements are obviously part of the planning and design process that we are now in, and work is underway on that. As the member opposite is aware, the move of the Whitehorse liquor store from its downtown location to the existing Liquor Corporation building on Industrial Road will allow for all services of the Liquor Corporation in Whitehorse to be housed in the same location, which will improve service delivery to the public. We are planning to renovate the liquor warehouse facilities to provide a space for the new store.
Mr. McRobb: That sounds like the same information that we received in the briefing for this corporation. The question I asked the minister is what analysis was done before the government made the decision to move the liquor store.
Hon. Ms. Buckway: There was much discussion of the move, because we desired to centralize liquor-related service and to consolidate many health services in the old location, which are currently scattered around the city. This approach is consistent with the One-Stop Business Shop approach to service delivery, which is a major goal of the renewal initiative. As I have said to the member, the traffic flow requirements are a part of the planning, and we are working on the traffic flow requirements now.
There were a number of recommendations and comments supporting this move that were heard during the recent Liquor Act review, and I apologize ó earlier, I referred to Industrial Road; itís on Quartz Road.
Mr. McRobb: But we do understand the government is looking at some of these issues now. Again, my question was what analysis was done before the decision was made?
Let me be specific. Did the government do any kind of a traffic study or pedestrian study in relation to this major move before the decision was announced?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: We were aware of some potential difficulties; thatís why traffic-flow requirement studies are being done now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, if these are potential difficulties, Mr. Chair, what if it so happens if itís a show stopper that really casts considerable doubt on the logic of this major move? What then? The announcement has already been made. Wouldnít it make more sense to do the analysis first, perhaps water down the firm decision that the store was going to move, and maybe weíre looking at the store moving, pending the results of this study? Why didnít the minister use that approach?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I prefer to believe that potential difficulties can be overcome, rather than refusing to change anything because there might be some difficulties. We are working on the traffic flow requirements right now.
Mr. McRobb: One of the concerns I have heard in relation to the traffic in the area of the new location is the potential for the installation of the long-dreaded traffic lights at the foot of Two Mile Hill, at the intersection with Industrial Road. Is there potential for this decision to speed up the installation of those lights?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I am not a traffic engineer. People who are are working on the traffic flow requirements right now.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thatís exactly the point. While the minister is not a traffic engineer, she has traffic engineers on staff, in her other responsibility as minister of highways ó at least, she did, until April 1. I would presume the government has the public service as its resource when it comes to calling for information that is pertinent to any of these major decisions.
It seems regrettable that such a firm decision was announced before knowing for sure some of the ramifications of the decision.
Can the minister tell us if the business community or the residents, particularly in the City of Whitehorse, were consulted about their feelings surrounding this decision to relocate the liquor store?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: Mr. Chair, the residents of the entire Yukon, which includes Whitehorse, were consulted extensively about all sorts of things to do with the Liquor Act, the liquor stores, et cetera, in the Liquor Act and regulations review. There was support in the recommendations and comments that we heard during that review for moving the liquor store.
Mr. McRobb: What I hear from the minister is that there was no specific consultation regarding this relocation to that particular area, but only comments in general to the effect the liquor store should be looked at insofar as its location goes. There is quite a wide difference there, Mr. Chair, because if this relocation leads to the installation of traffic lights at Two Mile Hill and Industrial Road, for instance, it would be reasonable to expect that people need to consider this when giving their opinion on the decision to relocate the liquor store, because a lot of people would be against traffic lights at the foot of Two Mile Hill, for instance ó at least people I have talked to ó and it would be a safety concern.
Another area that was raised was how tourists are going to find their way to this location, which is relatively obscure. Does the minister plan to post signage around town directing our tourists to the store? How does she plan to mitigate this concern?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I doubt that the first action of a visitor upon arriving in Whitehorse will be to inquire, "Whereís the liquor store?" But information will be readily available on its location. There are a number of other things that visitors are more interested in when they arrive here than the location of the liquor store. It will be advertised. Signs can be posted. There are a number of ways, as the member is quite aware.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, sometimes this is the first question tourists ask: "Whereís your liquor store?" Letís not deny it. This happens, and there are plenty of business people around town who can confirm that, Mr. Chair.
If I may be allowed to make a comment, Mr. Chair, I think itís worthwhile, and thatís the lack of consultation by this government on these major moves, particularly when business is affected. Thereís also an issue, of course, when residents are affected ó but particularly business because a lot of the concerns Iíve heard in relation to this announcement are from business people. Weíve heard about the problems of going to one far side of town when picking up their wholesale supplies. Weíve heard concerns about traffic congestion in this particular area, concerns about the need to upgrade some of the traffic signals, questions about how tourists would find these facilities, questions around bootlegging and so on, Mr. Chair, all brought about by recent changes from this government.
Thereís one common denominator in all of this, and itís lack of consultation, lack of connecting with Yukoners, particularly Yukoners in business, before first launching these decisions. One thing that occurs to me is that when the Liberals were in opposition, they certainly didnít mind bringing some fire to our feet over matters regarding red tape or government regulation, even though the previous government did a very good job in reducing those things, in making a better business climate in the territory.
So the Liberals really created a perception that they were the friends of business. And we heard in the campaign, over and over, how they were business friendly. But their record indicates something completely contrary to what they liked people to believe a couple of years ago. And one of their major failings in this area is the disregard for local businesses when it comes to making decisions that affect them.
And I am using that particular language for a reason, Mr. Chair, because in 1996, the Piers McDonald government included in its platform an undertaking to consult with businesses on decisions and policies that affect them. It was part of the trademark of that government to do exactly that. Businesses felt comfortable and confident in knowing that they werenít going to get ambushed by government red tape or decisions that affected them because they always knew the government would consult with them first. What we are seeing in this case is another example of how this government has disregard for the business community and doesnít live up to the expectations it created and the promises it made, and has fallen far short of the standards set by the previous government in consulting businesses.
Certainly making a move like this does affect business, and business should be consulted. It is similar to the fee hikes. A lot of businesses, particularly tourist-related businesses, which are hit hard now as it is, are suffering further because of these unilaterally raised fee hikes that came without any warning ó no warning at all. And itís no wonder that businesses are starting to see the light when it comes to giving this government its performance standing on how itís doing after only two years, and itís not a good grade.
One would expect, after the record of this government in opposition, seen as standing up for the respective businesses when it comes to consulting and matters of government regulation and so on, that it would really be trying hard to make that connection when in government, but we donít see that happening. It behoves me why itís not happening.
The Premier is the former president, I believe, of the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce. She likes to address business on matters but, when it comes to practice, when it comes to the impact of government decisions, why arenít businesses being consulted? Thatís a very good question, and I thought I would mention it this afternoon because it has been on my mind for awhile now ó about the contradiction in being "business friendly", especially given the recent political record of this government and the Liberals, when in opposition, in the previous government.
I want to ask the minister about the cost of the move. I understand itís estimated to cost about $2 million. We have asked for a breakdown on that figure, but have been provided with nothing yet. Can she give us a breakdown on the $2 million, please?
Hon. Ms. Buckway: As the member was advised in the budget briefing, that $2-million figure, he was told, was a very rough preliminary estimate, and there is no breakdown available at this time. The cost will include renovations of the warehouse. We arenít able to give him a cost at this point.
In regard to the fees, which the member brought up, there has been no increase in liquor permit fees for eight years. Itís special occasion permits and reception permits that are in question. Yukon fees are very low and, even after the increases, will be among the lowest in Canada. Reception permit fees will be set at $30; this is still lower than the $50 charged in the Northwest Territories, and fees for special occasion permits have a range from $50 to $150, depending on the size of the event. To put that into perspective, an event that would require a permit worth $50 in the Yukon would cost $150 in Alberta.
Mr. McRobb: I will coin a phrase from the leader of the third party ó we recall from a year or so back when he concluded this government had old-act syndrome, or OAS. This conclusion resulted after observing how this government operated in terms of bringing to this Legislature updated legislation that was relatively obscure and doing just fine the way it was, Mr. Chair, but this government felt it important to brush off the dust on some of these housekeeping bills and go over them and bring them into this Legislature and put another mark on its record of productivity. We saw the press releases following, which added up all the housekeeping bills and made it look like the government was doing a fine job and working hard.
Mr. Chair, I have come to a similar conclusion. Not only does the government have old-act syndrome, but it also has old-fee syndrome.
The government has decided to update all these fees just because they havenít been updated in awhile, and the minister defends that approach as the other ministers generally have. Theyíve all followed in line with the Premier in what she had to say to justify the fee increases.
But, Mr. Chair, the government had a choice. It didnít have to raise the fees. It could have handled it in another way. And given the current economic climate, Mr. Chair, there are several other ways this could have been handled. The government could have absorbed the cost internally, instead of imposing them on Yukoners. That would have been a compassionate approach and one that showed how the government understood that times were tough, especially for our businesses that were looking forward to a tourist season that does not look all that bright. And these are people who are facing increased costs, and in a lot of cases, these fee hikes have severely added to the burden they are facing.
I know you can agree to this, Mr. Chair. Because of your background in this industry, you know what itís like, and Iím sure you know lots of people who have related similar perspectives to the one Iíve outlined.
Iím continuing to receive e-mail from small business operators out there who are really facing hardships because of all the added costs. The fee hikes, as I believe TIA president Steve Leonard said, are the straw that breaks the camelís back for a lot of small tourism operators.
These are people who are barely making it as it is.
I related last week about a constituent who is in this line of work and who is presently living below the poverty line and trying desperately to do what she can so her business can survive, and trying to raise a family at the same time, Mr. Chair.
So all members would be well-advised not to underestimate the strain this is putting on Yukoners. If these operators are able to just pass on these additional government costs, that would be a different matter, but they were ambushed by this tax increase by the Liberal government, with no warning at all. The business community was simply not consulted on government decisions that affect them. That seems to be the Liberal policy.
In a lot of cases, operators will have to absorb these fee increases, because itís simply too late to adjust their rates after bookings have been made, after their promotional products have been printed, after theyíve committed their prices in their information on Web sites and so on. Itís just simply too late for this summer season to change their rates.
A better approach would have been to give about a yearís notice to these operators before increasing the rates, but I would say that would be secondary to the government taking the responsibility to come up with efficiencies within itself to offset the revenue projected from these fee hikes. And that shouldnít be hard if, in fact, what the government says about renewal, that there are cost savings expected from renewal.
Well, then why wouldnít there be savings the government can point to while, at the same time saying, "Hey, we are going to be compassionate enough not to pass on these additional costs to Yukoners, because weíve come up with savings." And it would be a good opportunity for the government to identify any savings from project downsize or renewal or whatever itís called, but the government chose a very hard-line approach. It chose to impose these fee hikes on businesses and Yukoners without warning, without compassion and without any realistic assumption of responsibility within itself to help absorb the revenue shortfall.
Mr. Chair, thereís not much more we on this side of the House can do about it, unless weíre unanimous and are able to all vote in such a way that we can offset the impact of these fee hikes. I would really encourage the members opposite to consider what I have said this afternoon. They know Iím sincere about relating the concerns I have heard in regard to these fee hikes. They claim theyíre good listeners, so letís see. Letís see what they do with it.
Based on a lot of other factors, Mr. Chair, business people in the Yukon are really facing a hardship at this time, and the fee hikes are only part of that concern. Today in the Legislature I read a motion into the record on the Marine Liability Act. This is something new that resulted from the passage of federal legislation, apparently last August, that I have heard will essentially ruin every wilderness tourism business in the Yukon unless something is done.
Itís very hard to believe that it caught Yukoners completely by surprise, just like these fee hikes. The Tourism minister says, "Wrong." He had his opportunity to defend the Marine Liability Act when I asked him a question on it. If he would like to defend the act, I think he should speak up. Letís hear what he has to say, because from what Iím hearing from Yukoners, the act needs a lot of defending because almost everybody is totally opposed to it, and for good reason.
It will exponentially increase their operating costs for insurance ó and thatís if you can find an insurer. From what I understand, a lot of them are pulling out. Thereís another problem, and thatís the banning of insurance liability waivers, which means operators will get sued, presumably, by family members of accident victims and so on. And the legislation encourages people to enter into litigation to sue the operators, so a lot of the tourism operators are very scared. I understand this is an issue that will be discussed this weekend at the TIA conference in Dawson City.
And hopefully we can all come together, as I certainly have suggested by way of a motion tabled earlier today, to effect the proper amendments to this act, to relieve this monstrous burden on our tourism operators.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. McRobb: So, Mr. Chair, I am hearing calls for progress on the other side. The Health minister wants to have a bit of an early end to this miserable week, so I move you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McRobb that we do now 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 the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report of the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move 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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled April 18, 2002:
Yukon Human Rights Commission: Report on Activities (1999/2000 and 2000/01) (Speaker Schneider)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 18, 2002:
Kwanlin Dun First Nation child welfare liaison staff: funding included in 2002/03 budget (Edelman)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3176