Wednesday, April 24, 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.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. McRobb: Iíd like to invite all members and people in the gallery to join me in welcoming today six members in the gallery who are here for the tribute to Annie Charlie. They are former MLA and Yukon Commissioner Ken McKinnon and his wife Judy, their son Craig McKinnon and his wife Amy, and Chief Bob Charlie of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and his wife Bonnie.
In recognition of moratorium on identification of protected areas
Mr. Jenkins: I rise to pay tribute today to the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources for their recent announcement that the Yukon Liberal government is going to defer the identification of any more areas of interest under the protected areas strategy until the four recently initialled land claims memorandums of understanding have been ratified.
Mr. Speaker, I said it once and Iíll say it again: minority governments can work because they have to listen and respect all sides of the equation. Weíll look forward to more cooperation of this nature in the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In remembrance of Annie Charlie
Mr. McRobb: I rise today on behalf of all members of this Legislature to pay tribute to the respected elder, Annie Charlie, formerly of Haines Junction, who passed away in December. She is remembered by many for her sense of humour, skillful sewing, great cooking, dancing and singing and knowledge of traditional healing.
Annie was born on May 10, 1912, to Jessie Isaac and Charlie David of Aishihik village.
After the death of her parents, Annie was adopted and raised by her motherís sister Bessie and her husband Jack Allen. Annie married Jim Stevens and together they had children Sophie, Douglas and Judy. After Jimís passing in the early 1950s, Annie moved to the experimental farm near Haines Junction to live with Bessie and Jack. In 1959 she married Solomon Charlie. They spent time near Carmacks, Whitehorse and Haines Junction, and eventually made their home at Cracker Creek.
Many visitors recall stopping at Cracker Creek during trips between Whitehorse and Haines Junction. They were always welcomed by Annie and her wonderful cooking. Together Solomon and Annie enjoyed running their trapline, hunting, fishing and living a traditional lifestyle. They passed on their traditions to their people, to their children and grandchildren, to authors and to organizations like the Yukon Historical and Museums Association. Annie moved to Haines Junction in 1987 after Solomonís death. She remained there until 1998, when she moved to the Thomson Centre for full-time care.
Annie is survived by her sister, Daisy Jackson, daughter Judy McKinnon, son-in-law Ken McKinnon, grandchildren Craig and Alexia McKinnon, stepchildren Joan, Meta and Bob Charlie, and many step-grandchildren.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Weíll proceed to the introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iím pleased to introduce two visitors to our gallery today: Mr. Jeff Morris, from the Washington State Legislature, and Mr. Barry Penner, a member of the British Columbia Legislature, the president and vice president of PNWER, which is the Pacific Northwest Economic Region group, of which the Yukon is a member.
Theyíre visiting the Yukon this week to discuss how PNWER can work cooperatively with the Yukon on interjurisdictional issues. An informal session is planned for tomorrow in the membersí lounge, and we hope the members will attend.
I would ask the members to join me in welcoming them here today.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, itís a real pleasure for me to ask members of the Legislature to join me in welcoming to the Legislature today the Grade 11 social studies class from Porter Creek Secondary School, accompanied by their teachers Mr. Toews, Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Thompson. Please join me in welcoming them to the gallery.
Speaker: Are there any further introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling the results of a questionnaire that the official opposition gave to every household. The results are of April 24, 2002.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: The Minister of Justice.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, when the Standing Orders of this Legislature were created and the slot for tabling returns and documents was put in, it was with the understanding that, when members were tabling documents, they tabled the entire results of the documents, not half a story, not part of a story that only they wanted heard. Members on this side have been very careful to table the full results and the full set of correspondence in any matter that related to the Legislature.
Mr. Speaker, to be officially accepted, we want the whole story of the document ó not just part of it, not just the part that they favour, their side of the story, not just the picture they want to paint, but the entire document, or itís not acceptable to this side of the House.
Speaker: The official opposition House leader on the point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would caution the Member for Faro, before rising on frivolous points of order, that the members opposite critique and review the documents just tabled. If they had done so they would have found out immediately that it is complete; therefore, Mr. Speaker, I suggest this is not a point of order and that you continue on with the business of the House please.
Speaker: The Member for Whitehorse Centre on the point of order.
Mr. McLarnon: Just to make sure that we donít see frivolous points like this again, I will just remind the members opposite that it took a year and a half for them to table the trade and investment fund report and so this House has a standing ó
Speaker: Order please. The Chair doesnít see a relation between what the Member for Whitehorse Centre says and the point of order raised.
The Chair has not had an opportunity to see the document that was tabled and, for today, the Chair will simply take it under advisement and weíll proceed with the business at hand.
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. McLarnon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT is the opinion of this House that
(1) ministerial travel costs should be calculated in both monetary and productivity terms to assess the real cost of ministerial travel to the Yukon taxpayer; and
(2) the tally sheet should reflect the delays, the valuable time used waiting for direction from a minister, the time taken to meet the ministersí pressing needs away from the Yukon and all other inconveniences that civil servants and public endure during ministerial trips; and
THAT this House orders, through the budget, the ministers of this government not to utilize any funding allocated to the ministerial travel budget in the 2002-03 ministerial travel budget until such time as:
(1) the government has submitted to the House a ministerial travel plan for the period from now until the fall sitting, including the description of the trip and the rationale of the trip; and
(2) this House has, by motion, given approval to this ministerial travel plan.
Mr. Roberts: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT due to the small population in many of our rural communities, community social workers should serve as a combination of family school counsellors and social worker support persons.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier has challenged the NDP over the last week or so to bring forward some constructive ideas in this House that they can look at and work with. They said they would work with the MLAs on this side of the House. We have brought forward a five-point economic action plan, and before we even had a debate on this ó the Premier knew it was going to happen this afternoon in debating motions ó the Premier disregarded the action plan.
Mr. Speaker, I have to ask the Premier: why did she act in that manner?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, first and foremost, the motion is up for debate this afternoon, and we are fully prepared to debate it. The member is correct; I have asked for constructive suggestions on the floor of this House ó constructive suggestions with respect to the operation and maintenance budget and other initiatives. What I have said, and will gladly repeat for the member opposite, is that on the five points proposed by the members opposite, we have responded on a number of these points. We have already done them, and I indicated to the media to whom I responded yesterday that, in the spirit of constructive debate, it would also be constructive to recognize what has been done.
Mr. Fairclough: As early as this morning, the Premier said in the media that this was not going to happen ó that what was proposed by the New Democrats was not going to happen. This was in the CBC news this morning. She said that all the NDP wants to do is spend, spend, spend. But we donít see it as that. We see it as an investment in Yukon and Yukoners.
So, time and time again, the Premier has asked us to bring forward a motion, and they will look at it and support it. So far, we havenít seen that. So, does the Premier not believe in constructive debate in this House? When are we going to get it from the members opposite ó from the government side? We proposed something; we would like to debate it and not have it excused at the earliest moment, before even having a discussion about it.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: We have responded. We have indicated our desire for constructive debate. The members opposite had a media conference yesterday and outlined the five points that they wish to bring forward for constructive debate this afternoon. I was asked by the media, and I responded to those five points. One of my responses was that, in the spirit of constructive debate, members opposite also have to recognize that a number of the suggestions they have put forward have been accomplished.
The other point I made, with respect to spending, is ó I noted that one of their suggestions had been defeated as a resolution at the Yukon Chamber of Commerce meeting last November, and I also noted that we cannot spend down the surplus to the point where the territory becomes indebted and that there have to be some cuts made in order to make the kinds of expenditures proposed by the members opposite.
My question, in the spirit of constructive debate, is: where are those cuts coming from ó health care, education or peopleís jobs?
Mr. Fairclough: If the Premier only listened to Yukoners and people on this side of the House, maybe she would take note and see where the money is coming from. The permanent fund, where the Premier has $10 million and doesnít know what to do with it ó and thereís a $80-million surplus out there. All weíre asking for is $8 million to address the short term, and the Premier cannot find it to make that move.
In the five-point plan, we ask for public and private sector involvement. We ask for First Nations, municipalities and business involvement to go together to Ottawa and try to bring something home from the federal government. So why, with this good-news item ó something that the Premier and the government side canít think of ó is the Premier not wanting to do this with people on this side of the House? Why is she going at it alone?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Again, the member opposite has indicated that he and the party opposite wish to bring forward constructive debate. In the spirit of constructive debate, we have to recognize that some of the items they have proposed have already been accomplished or are well underway.
Lobbying the Government of Canada for economic development money is one of those. We are continuing to do that, and I have said repeatedly in Question Period we welcome the support. We are listening to Yukoners. Itís Yukoners who stood up at the November annual general meeting of the Yukon Chamber of Commerce and said no, donít put more money in Project Yukon, that is not going to be the way to stimulate the economy. We are listening to Yukoners.
Another point the member says is the member refers to the permanent fund. The permanent fund was put forward in this House, voted on in this House and members opposite chose not to debate it. Members opposite have only to answer to themselves and their constituents as to why they chose not to debate that issue then.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fentie: Letís try this another way. This Premier this morning dismissed the five-point economic plan that the NDP brought forward as constructive suggestions to this Assembly by saying this is nothing more than another NDP spend, spend, spend program. I find that ironic, coming from a Premier and a government who have tabled two of the highest budgets ever in the history of this territory consecutively. And yet, Yukoners are saying clearly to this government and her elected people that government is not doing the right thing and it must do something now to address our issues. The Premier said these initiatives are already well on their way and being worked on.
Let me ask the Premier: how many dollars has this government received from the federal government to address our infrastructure needs in all communities when it comes to water and sewer? How many dollars?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Let me try this another way. I was asked by the media to respond to the media comments yesterday by the leader of the official opposition and the Member for Watson Lake.
I made four points with the media. One of the oppositionís points was to set up an all-party committee. I have lobbied steadily since elected in 1996 for members to form an all-party committee and the NDP have steadfastly refused. We asked for their input on important appointments ó Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon College, Yukon Hospital Corporation ó important points that spend taxpayersí money, that work, that are part of the economy, part of the social fabric of the Yukon. They steadfastly refused. I made that point. I made the point that we are already working with the business community. Following the business summit, public and private have been getting together. That committee is chaired by the Deputy Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. With respect to the economic development funding, I have indicated several times the lobbying efforts weíve done and indicated several times that Iím prepared to work with the opposition in continuing that lobby.
With respect to the proposed expenditures, I asked the questions of where the money was coming from and is this what Yukoners want when what Iíve heard from Yukoners is, "No" ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
With regard to specific infrastructure funding, the Minister of Infrastructure will respond to that question.
Mr. Fentie: The Premier is merely bringing forward excuses to the floor of this Legislature instead of adding to a constructive debate. We are saying, "Here are five suggestions." Weíve brought them forward for debate. The Premier shut the door before the debate even took place.
Now the Premier stands up and says, "We are listening to the business community." Well, if the Premier had been listening to the business community, she would have heard that the budget we are debating is a status quo budget and will do nothing to fix our problems in our economy.
I ask the Premier again: will the Premier now come to her senses, realize that what we are attempting to do here today is on behalf of the Yukon public and itís addressed and focused on our issues that are of the highest priority for the Yukon public? Will she now retract what she said this morning and make a constructive suggestion to add to this debate on how we can address our economic issues?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of the public, particularly the young public, not seeing two adults shouting at one another, may I suggest to the member opposite that when I spoke publicly, I said that the NDP had offered constructive suggestions. I also said, in the spirit of constructive debate, which members seem focused upon, I would ask that the members also acknowledge that there have been a number of key initiatives that have received support from the business community and are well respected, that are to do with the economy. For example, the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture and the Minister of Infrastructure meet on a regular basis with small business owners throughout the territory, as well as meeting with the Yukon Chamber of Commerce. In addition, we have, and I quite rightly pointed out, accepted a recommendation from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, which was not to put additional funding into Project Yukon.
In the spirit of constructive debate on behalf of all the public of the Yukon, we have to hear all those views and acknowledge where there has been progress made and where there are still places to go.
Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, Iíll ignore the personal attack in the debate on the floor of the Legislature. Sometimes voices are raised. Thatís a standard practice. And let me point something out to the Premier: if the Premier is so concerned about our acknowledging something, weíre more than willing to carry a neon sign, which is blinking out there that this Premier and her Liberal government had had discussions with Ottawa. What weíre pointing out is that we need results.
We are bringing forward five suggestions that we would hope that the members opposite would add to. They are five building blocks; letís add some more building blocks. Letís go to Ottawa with a 10-point plan. Thatís what weíre suggesting, Mr. Speaker.
Will the Premier now commit to at least do that?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I indicated that this government has lobbied, with the support of our Member of Parliament and the Senator ó Senator Christensen and Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell. We have lobbied the Government of Canada consistently for a specific northern economic development strategy.
From the events of September 11 and the Finance ministers meeting, it has become abundantly clear that there will not be a separate northern economic development strategy. What we have in turn asked for is access to the western diversification fund. We have spent two years lobbying on that. We will continue to lobby, and we welcome the support from the members opposite for lobbying for that. It took a year and a half to get devolution, lobbying and working with Ottawa on our part, and years before that. It has taken many, many years of work to have initialled land claims, four memoranda of understanding initialled and one settled under this government, Mr. Speaker. It takes time. It takes a lot of work. Weíre more than willing to accept and work with members opposite on this specific issue with Ottawa. We welcome that. Iíve said that many times.
Question re: Rendezvous Canada
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question to the Premier today on the issue of Rendezvous Canada and pairing. In view of the problems currently confronting Yukonís visitor industry, I believe it is the responsibility of every member in this House to do what we can to promote tourism in the Yukon. Canada will soon be hosting a very essential ingredient in this program. Itís called Rendezvous Canada, and itís taking place in Halifax, and I believe itís extremely important for the Yukonís Tourism minister to attend that meeting to help showcase what the Yukon has to offer. Iíve already offered to pair with the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture in order to allow him to attend this important event. Pairing, for the publicís information, means that I will not participate in any votes taken in the Legislature during the ministerís absence. Will the Premier accept my offer?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. We certainly do acknowledge the generous offer by the member opposite, but I do believe that, in leadersí discussions on this fact, that we were looking for the acknowledgement by the other members on the other side to accept the very important fact that we do need representation at Rendezvous next month to make representation and support the tourism industry in Yukon. Mr. Speaker, I do believe, at a discussion between the three leaders, that there was an insistence by the Premier that there be two members opposite to pair, and we have not heard a response from that, Mr. Speaker. So I would suggest, if there is an offer extended by another member on the other side, I would be more than willing to represent Yukon at Rendezvous.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, I have offered to pair with the Minister of Tourism ó one member absent from that side, one member that canít vote on this side. The status quo is being maintained. What the Premier in the meeting should not be attempting to use her office to gain is something she no longer has, and thatís a majority in this Legislature. The only person who can be blamed for the loss of the majority is the Premier herself.
The offer still stands. Will the Premier allow the Minister of Tourism to attend this conference with me pairing with the minister? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, I gratefully acknowledge the Member for Klondikeís offer to pair with me for my attendance at Rendezvous. And again, as he has just pointed out, we are in a minority situation; therefore, the Premier has asked that another member from the opposite side pair as well.
So, I am acknowledging and accepting the offer from the Member for Klondike, and we are asking for another member opposite to pair.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the last time I looked up the definition of pairing, "pairing" was two. Now what is being asked for by these Liberals is a pairing of three. It just doesnít wash.
Letís look at the TIA convention in Dawson City just last weekend. The Minister of Tourism promised to listen to the industry and act upon its concerns. Can the minister advise the House how the minister is going to be able to do the job promised at the TIA convention if the minister canít even attend an important event like Rendezvous Canada?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Again, we publicly accept the offer extended by the Member for Klondike, and itís very worthwhile to note that even though TIA did meet up in Dawson, the memberís own hometown, he was not there.
The fact of the matter is that we do recognize that we are in a minority situation. This is true. There is an acknowledgement by the Member for Klondike that we should be represented at Rendezvous. This is true ó and especially this year. So recognizing that weíre minority ó as a matter of fact, the Premier is going to be missing out on a Finance ministers meeting back east because we are accepting our responsibilities in the House.
So, if the members opposite feel that it is so important that we attend Rendezvous ó and I do most sincerely believe we should be attending Rendezvous and representing Yukon ó then I would ask another member to stand up this moment and acknowledge that, Mr. Speaker, and pair as well.
Question re: Economic action plan
Mr. Fairclough: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier has asked the official opposition, the members on this side of the House, to come forward with ideas to help out the government side on the whole issue of the economy. We have done that. We have brought together a five-point plan, and this five-point plan addresses short, medium and long-term economic issues in the Yukon Territory. It also is able to leverage funds from the federal government ó for example, the fireweed fund. Dollars went into that. If this territorial government put in $3 million, it could leverage up to $12 million from the federal government. That is $15 million that small businesses can access in the Yukon Territory.
So, why would the government not act on this?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: For the record, with respect to the fireweed fund, we did act upon it and the funding was not available, as the member has suggested.
Secondly, I would just like to add that, again in the spirit of constructive debate and an acknowledgement, there should also be a recognition of the work that this government has done with respect to the economy ó in terms of cutting personal income taxes. The NDP talked about it. We did it. We are rebuilding our infrastructure ó our highways, the construction of the transmission line, diversification of the economy. Yes, continued support from mining industry, including the placer mining industry, and also, development of Yukonís oil and gas resources ó using programs like the mineral exploration tax credit, which are fair, are applicable to those who apply, and are widely available. It is not the best grant writer; it is providing an environment where business can thrive and it treats everyone fairly and equally.
Mr. Fairclough: For the Premierís information, just look at the budgets that the NDP put forward, and youíll see the tax cuts there.
If the government is doing anything about the economy, they are keeping it a secret from Yukoners and not telling anybody about their action plan. The one thing that theyíre telling Yukoners is to put their head in their hands and wait for a pipeline to come in 2012. I donít think thatís right.
The five-point plan that we brought forward would certainly address the long-term issues and, if we act now, it would send a message to the private sector to invest, so why would the Premier not act in that manner?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The officials from the Bank of Canada were speaking at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce luncheon yesterday, and I also had an opportunity to meet with them. That is a message ó in response to reaching the investment community, that is one very clear message I received from the Bank of Canada and one very clear message that they are also delivering to the investment community outside of this territory that, number one, the Yukon is a good place to invest. Whatís required is certainty, and we are dealing with that, particularly working with Yukon First Nations in reaching initial memoranda of understanding and working toward ratification of those land claims.
That provides certainty ó a far, far, far greater certainty than exists in British Columbia right now, I might add, Mr. Speaker.
We are telling people about what we have done for the economy, and the results have been tabled in this Legislature. The economic outlook shows a 1.2-percent growth in GDP, which is consistent with the rest of the country ó not the negative growth measures experienced under the NDP government.
Mr. Fairclough: The Premier, I believe, does not understand land claims at all.
Mr. Speaker, if people are asked and are saying that Yukon is a good place to invest, then why are banks refusing people loans in the communities and so on? Because the climate is not there for investment, and the member opposite knows that. Whereís the big secret here, and why is the government keeping this a big secret ó about what theyíre doing, if theyíre doing anything at all? The public is saying that we need to invest more in communities. I just tabled a survey that shows a result of 78 percent of those surveyed want to see more money going into community-driven projects. The member said that they didnít, so we obviously are at odds on that one.
But weíre listening to the public, and they are saying to invest more and get more money for small businesses to access money. The five-point plan does that, and the minister and the member opposite are not even looking at it.
Speaker: Order please. Question please.
Mr. Fairclough: So why would the Premier not take that action?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, again, we have taken a number of actions in terms of the investment, and member oppositeís view of the banking community is not what I have heard from the local banking community, including the Business Development Bank, which is indicating that they are not turning down applicants.
If the member opposite would like to engage in a forum with the banking community, he and I as leaders in this Legislature ó Iím more than happy to do that. We have worked with other witnesses in this Legislature, so maybe thatís an option, Mr. Speaker. We certainly are listening to constructive suggestions.
We also are expecting fair and reasonable criticism of what this government has done ó and also recognition. It is a major, major economic certainty and there are economic results with the settlement and initialling of four memoranda of understanding leading to ó we are working toward ó a settlement of four additional land claims, on top of one we have already signed with the Taían Kwachían. Those are major ó they provide certainty as well as economic opportunities, working with First Nation governments. We have worked hard on that and the member needs to recognize that.
The member also has to recognize ó
Speaker: Order please. Will the Premier please conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I will, Mr. Speaker, by asking the member opposite to recognize the investment this government has made in infrastructure in this territory. Itís very significant.
Question re: Eagle Plains gas, marketing of
Mr. Roberts: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. During the past two years, this government has put personnel and financial resources into promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline. Could the minister tell the House if this government has put equal personnel and financial resources in any other potential pipeline that could carry Yukon gas?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The member opposite is quite right. We have invested approximately $750,000 per year in promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline, and the reason that we have done that as well as promoting the stand-alone Mackenzie Valley pipeline, Mr. Speaker, is we need the initial transmission routes to get Yukon gas to market. Itís those two transmission routes that weíre focused on promoting at this time.
Mr. Roberts: The Yukon has one producing gas field in the southeast corner of the territory. Presently, Mr. Speaker, the Eagle Plains area is one of the lowest oil and gas land sales areas in the country. The reason for the lowest land sales cost is rather obvious: itís the access ó or no access. The Eagle Plains area has a huge potential gas reserve that will need to be shipped south sooner than later.
My question to the minister: is the Yukon government doing any planning at this time to look at how the Eagle Plains natural gas will be moved south?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are planning, as I mentioned in my previous answer. We are actively promoting the Alaska Highway pipeline to take gas from the Whitehorse Trough in the southeast Yukon to market. Weíre promoting the Mackenzie Valley pipeline to possibly take northern gas, the Eagle Plains and Peel Plateau basin gas, to market. And weíve also had studies from a company that has an oil and gas lease in the Eagle Plains area for a Dempster Lite, and Iíve had officials in my department do preliminary estimates of what it would cost to get Eagle Plains and Peel Plateau gas to the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. So we are working. Weíve protected a corridor in the Tombstone as well as the Eagle Plains area of interest for pipeline transmission, and we are making contingencies to ensure that that gas gets to market.
Mr. Roberts: It is a known fact that it will be at least eight to 12 years before Yukoners will see gas flowing down the Alaska Highway pipeline. We know the Yukon has potential reserves throughout. We also know that gas in the ground is a very valuable trading resource when pipelines are being proposed. And we know that the proposed Mackenzie Valley pipeline has the support of the federal government and many producers, and that this line is being fast-tracked and could be in operation in the next four to six years.
My question to the minister: how many real dollars are we putting into our evaluation of the Eagle Plains area? Are we really looking at how we can move the gas north into the Mackenzie Valley ó down their line ó before we even have an Alaska Highway pipeline? We could be selling gas probably six years earlier if all things turn out the way they are predicted. So, I guess my question is, are we spending equal amounts of money on the Eagle Plains assessment to move gas into the Mackenzie line?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As to which pipeline will go first, that hasnít been determined. There are rumblings about the Mackenzie Valley line going first, but we also see, in Washington, D.C. over the last number of days, the Senate passing amendments to the energy bill, which will fast-track an Alaska Highway pipeline. We have seen recent actions in Juneau, in the Alaska State Legislature, that give benefits to an Alaska Highway pipeline.
As I mentioned to the Member for Porter Creek North in my previous answer, we have begun preliminary studies on either a Dempster Lite or shipping the Eagle Plains/Peel Plateau gas into the Mackenzie Valley. So, we are looking at a number of different contingencies. We want to ensure that there is excess capacity in either line, so that Yukon gas can be placed in there as well.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk: Motion No. 228, standing in the name of Mr. Fentie.
Motion No. 228
Speaker: It is moved by the Member for Watson Lake:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that it is in the best interests of Yukon people that their elected representatives apply themselves to the task of strengthening the economy in a constructive and creative manner, in cooperation with other governments and the private sector; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to work with all members of this House toward the immediate adoption and implementation of a five-point economic action plan consisting of the following components:
(1) an all-party legislative committee to develop a template of activities and timelines for the Yukon government to undertake to improve the economy in the short and medium terms;
(2) a cross-sectoral task force of public and private sector decision makers to identify immediate steps that can be undertaken to create jobs and economic opportunities for this year;
(3) a senior-level Yukon delegation to Ottawa, with all-party representation from the Legislative Assembly, as well as First Nations, municipal, business and labour representation, to lobby the federal government to enter into a comprehensive economic development agreement with the Yukon without delay;
(4) immediate appropriation of $3.5 million from the accumulated surplus to create jobs, improve safety and meet community priorities through existing vehicles such as the fire smart program, the rural roads upgrading program and Project Yukon; and
(5) immediate allocation of $5 million from the Yukon permanent fund to invest in practical initiatives to support small business and tourism, and to encourage development of a pool of venture capital by providing seed financing to the fireweed fund.
Mr. Fentie: Let me begin by saying that the official opposition has brought this motion forward today with the utmost of sincerity, with the utmost of constructive intention to demonstrate that we in this Assembly have a duty to address Yukoners' highest priority issue ó our economy. We bring the motion forward, not to argue back and forth with the members opposite but to entice suggestions, to entice constructive debate, to build on what we have presented here today.
Now, the Premier has asked this side of the House to recognize things. And I am going to reciprocate in this manner by asking the Premier and her colleagues, the Liberal government of the day, to recognize that Yukoners are saying that no matter what the Premier says the government has done today, it is simply not producing the results that the Yukon public desire. The facts are everywhere.
Letís look at some issues over the last year while this government has been in power and while this government has attempted to address our economic issues. Headlines such as, "Economic task force needed; territory has lost more than 2,000 residents; where have all the workers gone; economic picture getting gloomier; population is still slumping; economic woes will go on reports Warren" ó a report the Premier today stood on the floor and implied was showing that our economic future is much brighter. We are not here to criticize the government. No, we are here to assist the government, and we hope that the government will receive our suggestions in the manner in which we have presented them.
Our motion is not something that we, on this side of the House, are stuck to on the verbiage. Thatís not the case at all. Our motion breaks down simply this way: we believe that we must address our economy in three specific areas ó the immediate. The immediate must be done. We must take expenditures by government, inject it into our economy to stimulate spending power and cash flow. That is an area that is so diminished that more and more Yukoners are losing hope and planning to leave this territory.
Mr. Speaker, we are not preaching doom and gloom here. We are trying to say there are ways that we can address these issues; there are ways that we can turn this around. So we have made suggestions on immediate initiatives to help increase the spending power in this territory. Letís not forget that every dollar that gets spent here has a multiplier of six, so it circulates around the territory into other businesses, into other peopleís pockets. Itís important that the government realize that squirreling money away in times like these is not the correct approach. Investing in the territory to stimulate spending power and cash flow is the appropriate solution.
Our second point is the need to address medium and long-term economic issues in this territory. That is why we are making the suggestions around things like access to capital and utilizing tools we already have in place today, like the fireweed fund. One of the biggest impediments for all Yukon small businesses ó and let me point out, Mr. Speaker, that the Yukon is made up of small businesses, when you look at our economic situation ó we are saying, and businesses are saying, that the biggest impediment is access to venture capital.
Good ideas that Yukoners have cannot be implemented because they cannot access capital, and things are going by the wayside here, Mr. Speaker, that would help improve our economic situation, because of that factor. So we are saying that, in the medium and long term, we need to address access to capital, we need to address the infrastructure.
Let me point out something that the Premierís own officials have provided for the members opposite. When it comes to private investment in Yukon resource development projects, this particular area is limited by the amount of available publicly funded infrastructure. Our suggestion is not something again, I say, that we are stuck on as far as the words and the verbiage, but we are saying, based on those facts, that we must involve the federal government in contributing now to infrastructure. Why? Because that step will result in attracting investment to this territory, something we so desperately need.
We are looking at other areas that the federal government could involve themselves in. In an economic development agreement or western diversification agreement ó put whatever label you would like on to this ó the federal government must participate. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has abrogated one of the most important responsibilities and mandates they have for this territory: northern development. The Premier herself has said it has taken years for her and her government to address issues with Ottawa.
We are saying, take the collective voice of this Assembly, which is backed up by the collective voice of Yukon, and letís go to Ottawa and make the demands that we feel are important to help us address the economic woes we face today. Not only will these steps prove to be positive, should we choose to work together on our economic front but, in so doing, weíll address some of the social ills that we face in this territory because people cannot find gainful employment.
Mr. Speaker, we intend not to speak at great length over this motion. I think the motion and its content speaks for itself. What we are saying is we accept the challenges and the requests that the Premier and her government have asked this side to produce. We have done so, and we now look to the other side for leadership. We are trying to show leadership on behalf of our constituencies, and now we are challenging the Premier and her government to show the same kind of leadership.
Letís take a five-point economic plan that the official opposition has put forward, and letís make it a 10-point economic plan today. Letís agree that we must do something now. Letís agree that we must act collectively, and do so now. Letís agree, and I think we must all understand that the economic issues we face in this territory are bigger than what the Premier and her government alone can manage and deal with. Itís bigger than what we, in this Assembly, can manage and deal with. It must include all, Mr. Speaker, all Yukoners. Every good idea must not be shunned and turned aside. We must accept them for what they are worth and their intent. We have to go to work. We are not going to miracle ourselves out of the situation weíre in. This is going to require rolling up our sleeves and going to work on a very difficult issue.
Today, Mr. Speaker, we have brought forward suggestions that we would hope the other side would accept as they were intended. Today we are looking for unanimous support to move ahead in dealing with our economic problems. We are suggesting, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that we are willing, able and desirous of doing this collectively. The challenge now is for the government side to build on that, to not play politics but to bring forward constructive debate. Letís bring this motion to a vote. Letís send the message to Ottawa that we are unanimously joined in this Assembly and in this territory to make the demands of Ottawa that they must act also in unison with us.
We are suggesting that this would include not only the Assembly but representatives of municipalities, representatives of First Nations, representatives of the Yukon business community, representatives of any Yukoner who desires to participate. We are saying that itís high time that we moved off playing politics with this territory and its people and doing something that is our duty to do, doing something that we are elected to do. The rest is up to the members opposite.
I look forward to a unanimous decision in this regard.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Itís my pleasure this afternoon to speak to the House in response to this motion, but what I really want to direct to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, to the Member for Watson Lake, to the Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and to the Member for Kluane ó letís make it abundantly clear right now: it isnít this government that has dismissed the NDP economic action plan, that happened two years and seven days ago on April 17, 2000, when the voters of this territory spoke ó and spoke loudly ó and said, "No, we want the Member for Porter Creek South leading the team now. Somebody else gets that chance. Weíre sending the rest of them to the showers." Thatís what they did. Thatís the basis and the issue of where weíre at today.
They had their chance for four years, and they had lots of chances.
Now the Member for Watson Lake has stood up and said, "Letís not play politics; letís not make it a political game." What does point 1 have in his document? An all-party legislative committee to develop a template of activity.
This government was elected two years ago. Putting aside the partisan politics, we said, "Letís create an all-party committee to look at appointments for boards and committees." What did the members opposite say? "No, we donít want to play. We donít want to do that. You go ahead and do your own." How can we, in all conscience, now believe that any requests for an all-party committee coming forward from this side are genuine? How can we believe that, when that chance was offered and they said no? The members opposite are playing a very dangerous game, when "offers" like that come up.
I look at a motion like this, and it looks like a very bad dream of NDP mismanagement that weíre all trying to forget. The NDP motion trots out all of their favourite mantras of how they fixed the economy. When the Premier came forward and said, "Provide us with a list," that was a genuine offer, and we expected a genuine list in return that would have those there. But what we didnít expect is the recreation of everything they tried in the previous four years that didnít work. Thatís where weíre at, Mr. Speaker. Itís the same horse, saddled up in a different way.
Iím going to talk about the NDP record on the economy shortly, but I want to say a few things about what weíre doing on this side of the House. If we listen to what the official opposition is saying, youíd think absolutely nothing was happening here on this side ó nothing. To say that is quite a stretch. Weíre not there. We have done lots. Weíre following through on our campaign promise to restore confidence in government. I know that a lot of members opposite think thatís a tough one, but stay tuned, because there is lots happening.
I want to remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that he has to follow through on a daily basis or heís not going to get it.
But in order to do this, we have sought a balance between job creation and program spending. We have balanced a budget. It doesnít all swing one way; it doesnít all swing the other way. The only people who are having a hard problem getting it are the members opposite.
Tax cuts ó increases in capital spending that will gradually create a much better environment in which the Yukon people can generate more jobs and personal wealth. Read the economic figures, read the statistics. Economic spending is going up in the territory. Consumer spending is going up. There is only one place that consumer spending comes from. It comes from the pockets of the individuals. It is coming by way of the tax cuts, coming by way of the tax cuts that this government has implemented in three successive steps. Itís working and the only people that are failing to understand it are the members of the official opposition. Weíve delivered on our pledge to reduce the taxes. We said we would do it. We are doing it and we are doing it continuously.
Mining incentives that have been outlined in the budget are designed to give our industry the boost it needs to start a vigorous mining sector in the Yukon. The Member for Riverside, in his capacity as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, is very attuned to all the calls and all the exploration spending money that is coming forth in the territory.
We have clearly demonstrated as a government that we are committed to restoring confidence in the mining industry and our budgets and our actions have reflected that. We only want the members on the opposite side to wake up and realize that. It is slow and hard coming ó keep trying. Keep trying. We can see the beginnings of a vibrant oil and gas sector that was created by the certainty that a common oil and gas regime brought to the Yukon. Yes, we admit the producing field is in the Kotaneelee. It has been there for a number of years, but it was the first one. There are more that are going to come in this territory. Eventually the Whitehorse Trough will show tremendous resource sectors. It is coming in the north of the Yukon. Members opposite canít realize that; They canít see it.
Our goal is to continue supporting the oil and gas. We were hoping the opposition members would be with us on that. We all stand to benefit from a vibrant oil and gas industry in this territory. The Premier stated in one of her earlier budget addresses, "our way is the highway", and there is strong evidence that weíve worked diligently to make the case for the selection of the Alaska Highway route. Thatís the natural preference for us. The members opposite have stated in the House, "Weíve given up on the Alaska Highway pipeline route. We donít think itís going to happen." Mr. Speaker, what kind of confidence can the Yukon public place in the official opposition when they hear their elected members stating publicly theyíve given up on the Alaska Highway route? Their statements to this House show simply how little understanding they have of whatís going on in the world around them. Even as we speak today, the U.S. Senate is considering a bill that will allocate significant incentives for an Alaska Highway pipeline. Weíre asking if the members opposite are even staying attuned to the industry newspapers.
Even the Premier of the Northwest Territories is beginning to see the writing on the wall. In a desperate attempt to keep oil and gas exploration going in his territory, heís demanding federal dollars to subsidize a transportation corridor for the Mackenzie Valley line.
We know that, through the diligent and hard work of our Premier and our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, weíre getting the upper hand, and weíre going to continue to work on that.
In the Northwest Territories, they know the Americans are pulling out all the stops to get their gas to market. He knows that if the Americans are successful, itís going to cause a problem with a delay in the Northwest Territories project.
The Northwest Territories also know that exploration in the Yukon oil and gas basin, particularly along the route, will get a much-needed push for exploration when a decision is made to build the Alaska Highway pipeline.
When the Member for Klondike stands on his feet and speaks on this motion ó and we hope he will; we hope he wonít turn into a shrinking violet on this one, which he has been known to do but not very frequently ó we hope that he comes up with some ideas. We havenít heard them out of the Klondike yet. We donít know where they are. Perhaps theyíre buried on a claim somewhere on a creek because, when you listen to the Member for Klondike espouse in this Legislature, you have to believe that he is second only to the knowledge that the governor of the Bank of Canada possesses in restarting the economy. We hope the Member for Klondike takes the time to lay the plans out, because often it is surrounded by so much puffery. In fact, I think maybe some day he should be the governor of the Bank of Canada. Maybe he should.
Mr. Speaker, this government realizes whatís at stake. Weíre not sure that the members opposite do. Thatís why we have been supportive of an Alaska Highway project. We didnít heap scorn on it, saying itís only a pipe dream and a fantasy. We know what will happen, and we know that it has momentum behind it.
The Member for Kluane enraged people in the territory a year ago by making reference to the black-hole syndrome. What a thing for the Member for Kluane to say, who stands to benefit by a line that parallels almost every mile in his riding.
The Northwest Territories members have seen the writing on the wall, but the members opposite must be caught up in the rhetoric of the Northwest Territories. The only thing that I want to say to the members opposite is to be careful not to injure each other as you fall over yourselves jumping on the bandwagon of the pipeline when it happens because, Mr. Speaker, itís going to happen, and it looks like itís going to happen because of the efforts of this side, not in spite of the efforts of the side opposite.
A cheap, clean source of gas is also going to help the mining industry become more competitive with other producing areas.
Let me talk about devolution for a moment, Mr. Speaker. Let me talk about devolution ó devolution that members opposite for four years between 1996 and 2000 had a chance to bring home, and the Member for Klondikeís party had a chance between 1992 and 1996 to bring home. They both blew it. Eight years over there and nothing happened. Who brought the results home? Members on this side.
When the Member for Klondike and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun begin to admit it, then weíll begin to get somewhere. This government worked hard at getting a devolution package that was fair for Yukoners and gave us control of the resources. That was not done by working seven and a half or eight-hour days.
We intend to work hard at getting a forest industry that works for Yukoners and, at the same time, conserves the resource for future generations. The Member for Watson Lake spent years as a forestry commissioner, produced some pretty pictures, and forgot to include the First Nations in the Watson Lake area on the project report he wrote. Then he has the gall to stand up in this Legislature and tell us how good the report was and how wonderful it should be at acceptance. It wasnít.
Devolution has gone a long way in moving the forestry file along ó a long way. We can look forward now, for the first time, to the exact date when weíre going to have control over the forest resources. A figure and a time was just a nebulous idea and a great big question mark when the members opposite were on this side in government. Previous attempts to create stronger, local employment in Yukon communities had many Yukoners wondering if the benefits from some of the projects were funded by the previous government.
I remember the Hyland Forest Products at Watson Lake ó 125 people. It closed in 1989 because management didnít know the direction they should go in. It was funded by a previous NDP government. An audit of the funding arrangements of previous community development art programs revealed significant problems. This government took action in response to that report.
When this party was in opposition, we had many objections to the handling of these funds, and weíre pleased to announce that in our first full budget as government, positive, corrective measures to afford greater accountability to taxpayers were brought forward.
Mr. Speaker, let me remind the House of a number of things today, things this Liberal government is specifically doing to improve the economy of the Yukon.
For the Member for Watson Lake ó on the Nahanni Range Road, $500,000 has been allocated for the reconstruction of the Frances River bridge and maintenance of the Nahanni Range Road. It has been instrumental in allowing the Cantung mine to reopen, and weíre expecting it to provide up to 175 jobs for qualified northerners. What does the Member for Watson Lake say? "Nothing is happening." Businesses and residents of his riding have gone back to work at that mine. Of all Yukon communities, the greatest concentration of Yukon workers are in his community working at that mine. Nobody else has a higher number. What does the member do? Heís prepared to write off our efforts. Thatís really cooperative sharing of a good-news story. Thatís what we get from the Member for Watson Lake.
Letís look at the City of Whitehorseís aquatic centre: $2 million committed this year of $9 million in total for the City of Whitehorseís new aquatic centre. Inside work is going to continue throughout the winter. Weíre heading for an official opening later in the year. Yukon Energy Corporation, continuing with clearing work for the right-of-way for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line ó after the clearing is wrapped up later this month or next month, hand-clearing crews will start after the frost is out of the ground.
What do we get from the Member for Klondike? "This isnít good for my community. Weíll have to heat the water that we use in the community, and the diesel would have lasted forever." But what he forgot to calculate, Mr. Speaker, was the price of diesel fuel in the year 2040. Mr. Speaker, the Member for Klondike is living in a world of yesterday. He canít accept the reality that surplus hydroelectric power was available in Mayo, and weíre not going to waste it like that government did four years ago, or like the other government did four years ago. Weíre going to make use of it, and weíre going to make good use of it.
We have put $500,000 into the fire smart program, despite what the Member for Watson Lake says, and thatís triple the amount spent on the program in 2000-01. Where were the pundits then, when those figures were calculated? The program has been shown to be effective in creating jobs during the winter season while helping to protect communities from the threat of fire. Two situations in my riding have been corrected this year on that project alone, which stood to engulf in fire some buildings that were close to the outskirts of town. The program created the equivalent of 450 weeks of full-time work over the year.
Through the hard work of the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture, Tourism Yukon is continuing with a number of winter tourism initiatives, including promotion of dog sledding and aurora viewing to Asian markets, promotion of snowmobile touring and investment in winter familiarization tours to promote Yukon winter tourism and support for Quest and Rendezvous.
Yukon Housing Corporationís low-interest rate home repair loans have helped to keep local contractors busy on residential construction repair this year, which may end up being a record-breaking year for these programs. And much of this work will continue through the winter, and on into the first part of the summer. The program was an all-or-nothing program that this government changed to be much more flexible for homeowners. And, as a result of the change, the program is now fully subscribed and has a very promising future.
I want to point out to the members for Ross River-Southern Lakes and Klondike that, when they are doing their detailed budget analysis of the Yukon Housing Corporation budgets now under debate, they should take account of those facts and figures, take account of the repair programs, take account of the programs that provide for seniors living. Think about it and think about the multiplier effects.
On the Quest, our objective in funding the Quest this year reached $185,000, and itís to create certainty for this kind of important high-profile event. The Quest this year was a strong success, with international television coverage and a strong showing, as all members know, by Yukon competitors.
We completed the third oil and gas land sale. Hunt Oil will spend $1.16 million on exploring the Peel Plateau. We are going to continue holding oil and gas land sale in north Yukon. For the first time, we will begin to look at the Whitehorse Trough.
Another area very important to me as a rural MLA ó and I would hope to a large majority of the members opposite ó is the state of our highways. Under the previous administration, the spending on our highways gradually declined to a low of under $4 million when we took office. This government has moved to increase funding for non-Shakwak projects to three times the NDP amount. And we did it when we reduced taxes. What did the members opposite say" "You are not doing enough."
Mr. Speaker, weíre wondering what train theyíre on some days because thatís the one that they must have missed.
Letís look at the NDP record on the economy. Letís look at it and compare it to what we have done. The members opposite are trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Yukoners. They havenít any faith in the NDPís ability to manage the economy. That started about six months after the September 30, 1996 election. Voters passed judgement on their record on April 17, 2000. I remind this House of their record on unemployment. The unemployment rate of over 17 percent in the Yukon under the NDP is not a factor one can brag about ó one in every five Yukoners out of work by the socialist policies of the members opposite when they were in government. They were forced to move to Alberta, B.C. or Ontario to find work. Mr. Speaker, three-quarters of my community have gone to those three provinces to find work. The largest private sector employer in the territory, the mine at Faro, closed while this government was in office; 2,000 Yukoners packed their bags and left the territory.
The government has turned the trend around and, in the last half of 2001, people are restoring confidence and returning to this territory. Families and friends ó let me remind the members opposite again, let me say it again. Itís having a hard time sinking in. Families and friends watched as long-time Yukoners sold their belongings at fire-sale prices, packed what little they had left in their vehicle and headed south. Mr. Speaker, they did such a fine job at decimating the economy that even the former Minister of Economic Development under the NDP packed his bags and had to move to Alberta to find a job in Calgary.
Now the NDP are asking Yukoners to trust them with the economy again. Can we really believe that? Mr. Speaker, thatís just like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. They had their chance. They blew it.
The members opposite underestimate what Yukoners remember about their stint in government. The people of the territory have a long memory ó and I want to remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that itís a very, very long memory.
They arenít about to say yes when the NDP says, "Trust us, weíre great, trust us; look how good we were before." They said no. They said no on April 17 and they said it loud and clear. Yukoners passed judgement on the NDP plans for the economy that day. The Member for Klondike dubbed it a "spend and splurge policy". This is one of the rare times when sometimes he does say it properly. But it wasnít about us; it was about the other guys.
The NDP spend and splurge was thrown into high gear just before the last election when they spent $4 million out of the big slush fund known as the community development fund to try to curry favour among the voters. It didnít work, Mr. Speaker. Yukoners didnít buy it. Yukoners werenít willing to forget three and a half years of economic ruin simply because the NDP threw them a few pennies at election time. It was pork-barrel politics at its finest.
The Member for Mayo-Tatchun now says, "Youíve spent too much on ministerial travel." The Member for Watson Lake says, "You guys spend too much flying around the country. The Premier goes to the U.S.; the Premier goes to Ottawa." What does he next say? "Could I have a trip to Ottawa with you?" Thatís what we get from the member. Wouldnít it be nice to go to Ottawa in the spring and weíll talk to the man with the dollars ó after criticizing us for doing exactly that and bringing home $40 million.
The members opposite want to cosy to the trough again, as they said it, and take that springtime junket to Ottawa. The Member for Watson Lake wants to go fishing on the Ottawa River in May. Thatís what this is about.
Let me talk about the Teslin jail ó $10 million of taxpayersí money spent on an empty jail. Both the NDP who announced it and the Yukon Party who built it had no idea what they were doing when it came to administering the jails. Thatís why it took so long, Mr. Speaker, for governments to deal with the growing problems at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, where the money should have gone in the first place and where weíre putting it now. They put it out there, not knowing what they were going to do, and each party is just as guilty.
Talk about messed-up spending priorities ó $17 million into a sawmill at Watson Lake ó $17 million. And how many people went to work, and how many are working now? Mr. Speaker, they created a Yukon Development Corporation to funnel taxpayersí money ó energy money ó into the sawmills. Isnít that amazing?
What kind of return did they get? Letís talk about the return they got under the NDPís funny-money math. What did they get? More demands for money ó "Give us some more. Help us out." This government said, "Stop it. Itís enough." The Premier went to Watson Lake; the Premier had an analysis of the situation, and we saw when the bleeding couldnít be stopped. You donít ó as the NDP did ó throw more and more into it, with no results but more bleeding.
Mr. Speaker, the next proposal that the NDP will bring forward on the economy will probably say, "Letís get some fast ferries into Dawson." That will really help the Member for Klondike. "Weíll buy them quickly, out of British Columbia, which has a fire-sale price on them." Thatís the kind of math in the economy weíre dealing with, with those members opposite.
Get the fast ferries. Help fund it. But letís talk about this Liberal governmentís record on the economy. Letís talk about it. The Yukonís gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced in the territory, rose by 1.2 percent in 2001. The Yukon is one of only three jurisdictions in this country to experience an increase in gross domestic product last year compared to the previous year ó an increase over 2000, when the Yukonís GDP was only 0.7 percent. It could really go up, couldnít it, if we spent the money on the fast ferries to help Klondike.
In 1999, when the members opposite were in charge of the reins, it rose 0.2 percent ó six times more in 2001. And the members say to the taxpayers, "Let us have the reins again." Theyíre not going to believe that.
The increase in Canadaís gross domestic product throughout the country was only 1.2 percent. At least weíre on an even keel with them. The population of the Yukon is increasing again. Almost 200 people between March and December of 2001 returned. They are beginning to return to the territory following the NDPís devastation of the economy. Mr. Speaker, we didnít invent these statistics. These are real numbers done by the Bureau of Statistics. Those arenít manufactured. Those arenít manufactured statistics, like the document the NDP tabled today is, which has only their select idea on the answers they wanted to achieve.
The population of the Yukon plummeted by almost 3,000 people during the NDPís term in office, October 1996 to April 2000. The Bureau of Statisticsí records show a decrease of 3,000 in the population. The poor Member for Riverdale South had the apartment blocks in her riding devastated: 17 to 24 percent vacancy rates, and the NDP say, "Turn the reins back to us"? The Member for Riverdale South was devastated by the loss of population in her riding. There were tears coming down her face.
Great, big tears of how distressed she was, and the members opposite say, "Let us drive the coach again." No.
Retail trade in the Yukon in February 2002 was up 10.4 percent over February 2001, an increase in spending of $2,370,000. The overall Canadian increase at the same time was 6.7 percent. Weíre 150 percent of what the rest of the country is doing, and what does the NDP say? Let us drive the boat again. No. Yukoners are saying no, you had your chance, boys; sit on the sidelines.
Prices decreased in the Yukon by 0.6 percent from March 2001 to March 2002. Nationally, what did prices do in Canada? They increased 1.8 percent over the same period. Those figures are not symptomatic of an economy or government thatís in trouble. I want to make sure that the members opposite realize that again and again.
They decreased in the Yukon by 0.6 percent; they went up in Canada by 1.8 percent ó three times, four times the difference. Wholesale trade in the Yukon increased 2.8 percent from January to February 2002.
Letís look at the unemployment rate. In March, it was 9.9 percent ó the fourth straight month in a row that it dropped under 10 percent. There are 100 more jobs in the Yukon than there were this time last year. This compares to an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent in April 1998, during the NDPís ruination of the economy. From January 1997 to October 1997, under the NDP, the jobless rate never got below 13 percent. From December 1998 to June 1999, under that same government, the unemployment rate never dropped below 13.2 percent.
What do they say? Whatís their request to Yukon voters? Give us the reins again. No ó voters are saying, no, they had their chance.
Mr. Speaker, the government has not pursued a policy of punishing the public service with a wage rollback to finance the largesse of government while, at the same time, raising taxes of Yukoners.
Remember Taga Ku? I bet the government employees who had to pay for that one out of their wage rollback donít forget it. They never will. Taga Ku will remain one of the greatest flops the Yukon Party government ever engineered between 1992 and 1996.
Mr. Speaker, the government has increased capital spending on highways. In a balanced way, it will not hurt one sector of Yukon workers in order to benefit another. The Shakwak project has continued to derive great benefits to Yukon taxpayers, and I know that the Member for Kluane is cheering us on in that respect. Many days, he goes home and says, "Great, weíve got all this work in the riding. Iím so happy. We couldnít do it when I sat there, but the Liberal government is doing it now for our economy and my riding." Let me give him some figures. This yearís expected expenditures of $23.5 million is $1.5 million less than last year but, nevertheless, it does represent the lionís share of current-year spending on highways in the Yukon.
Weíre working with the Alaska government and weíre working with the Government of the United States to continue and extend the Shakwak program in the coming years. Spending by this government on sections of the Alaska Highway near Champagne is long overdue, and weíre proud to report that construction has begun and will continue.
Mr. Speaker, let me remind members opposite that the issue of the difficult part of the road around Champagne has dogged governments here for the past six or eight years. When the members in opposition sat on this side, they couldnít resolve the problem. This government has and, through the capable work of the past Minister of Community and Transportation Services and the current Minister of Infrastructure, we are fixing the problem. As hard as members on that side find it to swallow, we are fixing the problem.
Spending by this government on sections of the Alaska Highway near Champagne is long overdue, and weíre proud to report that itís going to continue that way for a long time, until we have that problem sorted out, which the previous members couldnít sort out. For too long, residents of this territory have driven past the partially cleared right-of-way near Champagne, wondering why the government was clearing land and then leaving it long enough for the trees to all grow back again, so we could clear it again. Thatís probably the Watson Lake idea of fire smart.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the waiting is over. Weíre beginning what I hope will be a new era in road construction and maintenance. Years of neglect and last yearís wet weather combined to create dense foliage along much of Yukonís highways. As a government, it is our job to ensure the highway safety, and we take that job very seriously.
Weíve continued to allocate sufficient funding to maintain highways, and Iím pleased to see that, through our continued efforts, the brushing contracts are now appearing in the paper for tender. When the Member for Klondike stands up to respond to this motion, Iím sure he will applaud us to no end for this move. Thatís all we heard about last October in this session: when is the Minister of Community and Transportation Services going to cut the brush? Maybe sheíll do it on her motorbike, he said. Maybe sheíll ask for a part-time job on the weekends. Mr. Speaker, we donít need part-time jobs on the weekends. We know how to get it done, and weíre getting it done. And the Member for Klondike can now drive clearly to Whitehorse and not have to worry about seeing the corners at a very high rate of speed.
Mr. Speaker, there are many other issues that we as government have begun dealing with. Legal aid ó it was underfunded by territorial governments and by the federal government for years. This government ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: Order please. Leader of the third party on a point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Faro is casting aspersions on my character.
Speaker: May the Chair get some guidance ó in what way?
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the Speaker to review Hansard and bring back a ruling. Thereís more being said by the Member for Faro that accomplishes just what I laid out, which is contrary to the rules, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services on the point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: I believe the member opposite is trying to make reference to section 19(g), which refers to "imputes false or unavowed motives to another member" ó just to help out the member opposite on his point of order.
Speaker: The Chair will review Hansard and take it under advisement. The debate is rather broad and, from time to time, some members do get a little sensitive. But if the Chair were to step in every time, the Chair would be stepping in all the time and limiting debate. I donít feel thatís the problem of the Chair.
Anyway, the Chair calls the House to order, and Iíll ask the Minister of Justice to continue.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I was so crudely and crassly interrupted by that non point of order by the Member for Klondike. He has managed to disrupt a very carefully crafted, prepared response to this motion this afternoon. Mr. Speaker, because the Member for Klondike displayed such a terrible method of raising points of order, he has managed to mess me up good and I have now no choice but to start again on highway construction.
The Nahanni Range Road ó the Member for Watson Lake should understand that a half a million dollars has been allocated this year for reconstruction of the Frances River bridge and maintenance of the Nahanni Range Road. This work has been instrumental in allowing the Cantung mine to reopen and that is expected to provide 175 jobs for qualified northerners. Let me remind the Member for Watson Lake, who has driven that road many, many times for many, many years on many, many trips, how important it is for the big rigs to have a solid bridge on the Nahanni River Road. We are going to fix it. Members opposite couldnít and we want to remind Watson Lake residents that they will now be able to drive safely over the bridge over the Frances River and not have to worry about falling into the river.
The City of Whitehorse aquatic centre ó Mr. Speaker, I hear cat calls from the opposite side. They are refusing to take account of all the good things this government is doing and all the money we are spending. The aquatic centre ó $2 million has been committed to it and it will be opening later this year. Work has continued throughout the winter and we are clearing it again.
Itís going to be open later in the year. The Yukon Energy Corporation is continuing with clearing work on the right-of-way for the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. Clearing will be wrapped up later this month; hand-clearing crews will start work after freeze-up. There is $500,000 committed to the fire smart program, which the Member for Watson Lake continues to harp on. Thereís over triple the amount spent on the program than in 2000-01. The program has shown to be effective in creating jobs during the winter season and helps to protect our communities from the threat of fire. We agree with the Member for Watson Lake there, but the important point is that we increased the funding three times over what they did. I acknowledge that it has been a big benefit ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker: The official opposition House leader, on a point of order.
Mr. Fentie: I would urge the member opposite who is speaking, the Member for Faro, to correct the facts. The fire smart fund has not been increased three times. It has been decreased from what it was under the former government. Surely we can raise the level of debate above the subterranean level that the Member for Faro is at right now.
Speaker: The Minister of Health and Social Services, on the point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: On the point of order, I believe that the member opposite is having a dispute about the facts between our side and his side, and Iíd like to respectfully suggest to the Speaker that perhaps this is just a dispute among members again.
Speaker: The leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Mr. Jenkins: We are constantly cautioned by you, Mr. Speaker, to put forth factual information and be honest in our presentation. From what Iím hearing, from what I recall, what the Member for Faro is suggesting is that the Liberal government has increased the amount of funding in fire smart from what it was under the previous NDP government. The records will speak for themselves. Unless you compare the early advent of the program to what it is currently, the minister would be blatantly misleading the House in putting this information forward, and that is not allowed. Itís not permissible under the rules.
Speaker: The Chair will rule on this.
As to the original point of order, itís clear that itís a dispute between members as to the facts. However, Iíd like to address the leader of the third partyís comments on the point of order, where it sounded to the Chair like some of the comments are likely to create disorder in that heís imputing that the member is misleading the House. We have had kind of a jovial time here for the last few minutes in the House, but it can lead to disorder, and Iíd ask all the members if we could get back to earnest business in the House.
And, as I say, the first point was not a point of order. It was a dispute between members, and the Chair is going to have to request members to be cautious in their comments.
Iíd ask the minister to now please continue.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have a number of excellent points to make this afternoon, and I keep getting interrupted, because the members over there have a hard time believing the reality of the situation. If they donít like the ones Iím referring to for the fire smart program, Iíll turn again to Tourism Yukon.
Weíre continuing with winter tourism initiatives, including promotion of dog sledding and aurora viewing to Asian markets, and the promotion of snowmobile touring and events, investment in winter familiarization tours to promote tourism, and support for the Quest and Rendezvous.
The Housing Corporationís low-interest rate home-repair loans have helped to keep local contractors busy on residential construction and repair this year, and it will probably end up being a record-breaking year for these programs. Much of the work is going to continue throughout the winter. The program was an all-or-nothing program that this government changed to be much more flexible for home owners.
As a result of the change, the program is fully subscribed. It has a very promising future.
The Yukon Quest ó our objective in funding the Quest this year reached $185,000, and thatís to create certainty for this kind of important high-profile event. The Quest this year was a huge success, with international television coverage and a strong showing by Yukon competitors.
Let me turn to oil and gas. Weíve completed the third oil and gas land sale, and Hunt Oil will spend $1.16 million on the Peel Plateau. We will continue holding an oil and gas land sale in northern Yukon and, for the first time, weíll look at the Whitehorse Trough.
Iíd like to remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that itís the small investments in the exploration picture in this territory that turn into the big investments in later years. This from a member who supposedly has exploration and mining interest in his riding. Itís obvious why theyíre not in government ó they canít recognize the base of initial exploration funding.
Another area very important to me as a rural MLA is the state of our highways. Under the previous administration, the spending of highways gradually declined to less than $4 million. The government moved to increase funding for the non-Shakwak projects at three times the level the NDP ever put into the program.
Letís look at some basic economic factors. Members opposite are pulling the wool over the eyes of the Yukoners. They have no faith in the NDPís ability to manage the economy, and that showed on April 17, 2000, when they were sent to the showers, never to return again.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I may stand corrected ó perhaps sometime after the next ice age.
I remind this House of their record on unemployment ó 17 percent in the Yukon under the NDP can hardly be bragged about. One in every five Yukoners thrown out of work by the socialist policies of the NDP. They went to Alberta, they went to B.C., they went to Ontario to find work. Under the NDPís watch, 2000 Yukoners packed their bags and left the territory, never to return again.
This government has turned the trend around. In the last half of 2001, people are gradually beginning to return to the territory. Families and friends watched as long-time Yukoners sold their belongings at fire-sale prices, packed what little they had left in their vehicles to take with them, and headed out on another job. Now the NDP are asking Yukoners to trust them with the economy again? Uh-uh, not a chance. Itís like putting a fox in charge of the hens. The members opposite underestimate Yukoners, who have very long memories. Theyíre not about to say yes to the NDP saying, "Trust us. Weíll fix the problem." They passed judgement on the NDPís plans for the economy. The Member for Klondike said it was "spend and splurge". To some extent, he was right. The spend and splurge was thrown into high gear just before the last election, when they dumped $4 million out of the slush fund, known as community development fund, currying votes among Yukoners. It didnít work, Mr. Speaker. Yukoners didnít buy it, and the results on April 17, 2000, told us so. They wanted us to forget three and a half years of ruination because the NDP threw them a few pennies at election time. Pork-barrel politics, Mr. Speaker ó those people opposite know how to do it. Now they want to cozy up to the trough, take a little trip to Ottawa at tulip time in May.
Letís look at the other economic disasters the NDP were so proud of. They put $10 million into Teslin for the jail. One government didnít know what they were doing; the other one didnít know what they were doing when they built it; and finally in late 1999, they had to admit they had no choice but to close the Teslin Community Correctional Centre ó $10 million later, which should have gone into the rebuilding of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Thatís why itís in such devastated shape now; thatís why the project is running three to four years behind. But, Mr. Speaker, you know what? Weíre going to do it on this side, despite the ruinous, devastated efforts of the members opposite when they had the chance to do it.
There was $17 million put into the sawmill at Watson Lake. They created the Yukon Development Corporation to funnel ratepayersí money into the sawmill ó amazing. They did that. The Member for Kluane has a hard time accepting reality. Thatís why theyíre not in government ó because they canít accept the reality of what they did.
What kind of return did Yukoners get on their money? The NDP said, "Weíll put some more into it." And they did. The Member for Watson Lake was upset when this government said, "Enough is enough. We must stop the bleeding." The next proposal the NDP would bring forward would be to revive the economy and help the poor Member for Klondike out with his ferry problem at Dawson City. Weíre not going to buy that one, Mr. Speaker.
Letís talk about our record on the economy. The gross domestic product, which is the value of all goods and services produced in the Yukon, rose 1.2 percent in 2001, one of three jurisdictions in the country to experience an increase in the gross domestic product last year, compared to the previous year. Thatís an increase over 2000, when the GDP rose by 0.7 percent. In 1999, under the NDP, what did it do? It rose by 0.2 percent. The increase in Canadaís gross domestic product last year was 1.2 percent.
The population of the territory is increasing again, by almost 200 people between March and December 2001. People are starting to return, following the NDPís devastation of the economy. Between October 1996 and April 2000, 3,000 people left.
Retail trade in the Yukon in February 2002 was up by 10.4 percent, and the increase for all of Canada was 6.7 percent ó 50 percent better here in this territory than it was in the entire country. And it is due ó Mr. Speaker, letís make no mistake about it ó to the tax cuts put in place by this government, and it put more money into the pockets of Yukoners to spend in this territory ó a basic fact of Economics 101 that the members opposite have a hard time accepting.
In February 2002, EI beneficiaries receiving benefits in the Yukon decreased 6.3 percent from the year previous. Prices ó let's talk about prices. In the territory, they went down by 0.6 percent from March 2001 to March 2002. What happened in the rest of the country? They went up 1.8 percent in the same period of time. Wholesale trade in the Yukon increased 2.8 percent from January to February 2002. The March unemployment rate of 9.9 percent represents the fourth straight month that the rate was under 10 percent. There are 100 more jobs in the territory than there was this time last year. This compares to an unemployment rate of 15.1 percent in April 1998 during the NDPís ruination of the economy. January 1997 to October of that year, under the NDP, the jobless rate didnít get under 13 percent. From December 1998 to June 1999, the rate never dropped below 13.2 percent. That is hardly progress.
We didnít pursue a policy of punishing the public service with a wage rollback to finance the largesse of government at the same time as raising the tax of Yukoners. Remember the aborted Taga Ku project on the waterfront? Government employees who paid for that one out of their wage rollback will never forget that.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if this is in the House rules, but out of respect for First Nations who have asked all legislators to not mention the word Taga Ku out of respect. There was even a ceremony held by the Champaign-Aishihik First Nation a few years ago to ensure everybody was aware of that. Yet, the government House leader continues to refer to that phrase, and that is very disrespectful to our First Nations, and he should be stopped.
Speaker: The Chair has no knowledge of the information just related to the Chair by the Member for Kluane. However, the Chair believes it is the Chairís duties only to deal with the procedures in the House and not with the requests from residents outside the House. So, the Chair is only going to deal with the rules and whatever else is laid down in the Standing Orders, and the Chair is limited as to where he can go. So, I would ask the minister to continue, please.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I am advised that there was an objection to the use of that term, and Iíll withdraw the remarks made and simply refer to it as the 1993 waterfront project.
But Iíll move on and talk about highway spending. This government has gradually increased capital spending on highways in a balanced way that wonít hurt one sector of Yukon workers to benefit another. Shakwak has continued to give great benefits to the taxpayers of the Yukon. This yearís expenditures of $23.5 million is $1.5 million less than last year; however, it does represent the lionís share of current year spending on highways in the territory. We are working with Alaska and will continue to work with them and the U.S. government out of Washington, to continue and expand the Shakwak project in the coming years. Spending by this government on sections of the highway near Champagne is long overdue, and weíre proud to report that construction has begun and will continue.
For too long, residents of the territory have driven past the partially-cleared right-of-way near Champagne, wondering why government would clear land and leave it long enough so that the forestry industry could get started again in that area. Well, the waiting is over, Mr. Speaker. Weíre beginning what I hope will be a new era in road construction and maintenance. Years of neglect and wet weather two summers ago combined to create the dense foliage along much of the Yukonís highways.
Our governmentís job is to ensure highway safety and we take that job seriously. We have continued to allocate funding to maintain the highways and, Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to see that, through continued efforts, brushing contracts are now appearing in the paper for tender. Iím sure weíll have support from the Member for Klondike on this issue, and he may even applaud us again, just as he paid tribute to members of this side earlier in the day.
In my capacity as Minister of Justice, Iím pleased to have taken over from a very capable colleague. Weíve informed the House that this government has begun the planning for the new jail, and weíve committed to completing the facility. Previous governments have refused to deal with the problems at the jail and Iím pleased to report to the House, once again, our commitment to this facility.
There are many other justice issues that we as a government have begun to deal with. Legal aid was underfunded by the territorial government and the federal government for many years. This government has begun the process of repairing damage that underfunding has caused to our legal aid problem.
Weíve faced budgetary pressures.
Weíve recently released the Judicial Compensation Commission report on judgesí salaries and benefits. The report outlines a potential $2.5 million in funds that we as government must take into account when we work on our budgets. The Premier, in her capacity as Minister of Finance, has said time and time and time again in this Legislature that we face tremendous funding pressures on this side when we decide how and which way weíll prioritize spending projects. The Judicial Compensation Commission report is just another example of one of those pressures that we are obligated to pay under.
Health care ó one of the priorities of this government that the Member for Riverdale South stands up and defends vehemently in this House. Weíve lobbied the federal government hard to restore funding for the health and social transfer that was removed during the belt-tightening period of the 1990s. Very early in the mandate, our Liberal Premier was effective in her meetings with the federal government and we now have a stronger health care system in Yukon to show for it. We are dealing with the current budget on the floor of this House, and funding pressures ó letís make no mistake about it ó will continue in this area.
I want to draw your attention to some of the highlights and planned priorities over the coming years.
Of the $6.7-million increase in Health and Social Services, 65 percent of the new money will go toward staffing and operating the Copper Ridge long-term care facility. This 72-bed facility is scheduled now to open at the end of June. Itís a state-of-the-art facility that combines the best practices in residential care design and programming with a comfortable, home-like living environment. The facility was built to be part of the community and to provide its residents with high-quality care and lives. It will be a safe and enjoyable working environment for the staff and an excellent living environment for the residents and for those who visit.
Supporting the staff, who deliver programs to the public, is important to this government. Whether it is staff in departments or staff in non-government organizations and organizations in our communities, nearly $1 million of this yearís increase is a direct result of a collective agreement with government employees. Other collective agreement increases to the hospital and the Child Development Centre account for an additional $650,000. The increases show our support for the valuable work of these employees.
Our communities are built on the dedication and commitment of those who work in grassroots agencies and organizations. The work of our non-government organizations is especially important to government. We cannot and should not be the only ones who provide services in our communities. Itís important to make sure that government and non-government organizations work well together to serve their clients in the best ways possible. When we have a good relationship, it means that everyone benefits ó the staff, the clients, the taxpayers and others who support the efforts of these organizations. The department, the government and the community need the contributions that the organizations make.
This government, despite the non-believers opposite, is committed to continuing our support to them. In this budget, funding levels for non-government organizations has been maintained. In addition to the substantial increase for the Child Development Centre, we have also included increases that were brought in partway last year for the Learning Disabilities Association, Yukon Association for Community Living, Yukon Council on Ageing, Line of Life Association of Yukon and TeegathaíOh Zheh.
Health professionals, as our Minister of Health and Social Services has said time and time again, are very important to the delivery of quality health and social services in our communities. We have worked hard with the nurses to bring in a recruitment and retention package that recognizes the value of their profession to this territory and our health care system.
We have reached an agreement with physicians, after a very long, hard period of back-and-forth negotiations. We have reached agreement on a variety of outstanding issues that are going to ensure we remain competitive and keep the high quality of physician services, of which we are very proud.
We supported the physiotherapists by responding to their needs, and we passed legislation that governs their profession, the first time ever done in this territory.
We have asked the Department of Health and Social Services to work over the next year with other unregulated health professionals, such as midwives, and speech and language pathologists and audiologists so that we will be able to bring forward new legislation and regulations to govern their professions.
The work that our health professionals do, in both the public and private sectors, has to be recognized, respected and appreciated, and this governmentís approach is to support them wherever possible.
In the health area, we are anticipating increases of nearly $1.8 million again. This will include increases in insured health programs, as well as our community nursing, emergency services and community health programs.
Mr. Speaker, I donít know how many times I have to repeat it ó the funding pressures that continue on this side of the House, on this government, are tremendous. Everyone has their hands out there for more. The increases are largely price- and volume-driven and affect primarily the medical travel program. Some of these increases are being offset by recoveries from non-insured health benefits for medical travel and reciprocal billings for health services.
We are expecting important work to emerge from the federal health care review being headed by Commissioner Roy Romanow. We will be sharing with this Legislature the governmentís submission to that commission.
One of our governmentís platform commitments was to address the alcohol and drug programs in the Yukon through an independent structure. We are doing this, Mr. Speaker; we are doing this. Members on that side have little appreciation that sometimes the answers are not always coming so rapidly as they would appreciate.
I am pleased that the alcohol and drug secretariat is now operating with its own executive director reporting directly to the Minister of Health and Social Services. Some are going to question why there are not new funds in the budget for the work of the secretariat. The reason is simply that the secretariat is still in its developmental stages. Itís going to continue to evolve and mature as this year proceeds.
Negotiations are proceeding with the federal government toward an alcohol and drug treatment rehabilitation agreement and funding is also being secured through other federal revenues. This information, as well as the full funding picture, will be brought forward through a supplementary budget once itís firmed up. In the meantime, the work of the secretariat must continue and does continue.
Since September last year, the new executive director has conducted 65 consultations involving more than 240 participants to determine our communitiesí needs. The alcohol and drug secretariat has developed and delivered two gender-specific, live-in treatment programs. Adolescent, gender-specific, wilderness treatment programs are being developed for delivery this summer. We are providing training courses for community professionals in screening, assessments and treatment planning.
One addictions counsellor has been approved for the Department of Justice on a full-time basis to enhance the addictions experience of Justice staff, and the secretariat has hired a First Nation training corps trainee.
A full range of Yukon-based detoxification, treatment, prevention and training services is the goal of a phased-in approach to services by the secretariat. This range of services will include: medical support to detoxification; treatment services for FAS/FAE clients and their families; services to clients with both mental health and addiction issues; outreach workers based in Haines Junction, Watson Lake and Dawson; intensive gender-specific live-in treatment programs; a halfway house program for those who require transition support to independent living; and enhanced prevention services with an increased focus on FAS/FAE and training of professionals. That is where the money is going.
I know that members opposite have a hard time fathoming that, have a hard time believing in that, but that is where itís going through the capable work of the Minister of Health and Social Services.
The FAS/FAE continue to be a priority of this government, and the secretariat is increasing its efforts aimed at coordinating services and taking a more proactive approach. It has already implemented school-based prevention programming in the area, and public service announcements continue to educate the public on the dangers of FAS/FAE.
The FAS working group, chaired by alcohol and drug services, completed a report on FAS/FAE diagnosis and assessment. Before summer, the Minister of Health and Social Services will hear from the interdepartmental committee regarding costing of an assessment and diagnostic team approach from the Yukon.
I want to take this opportunity to remind members that we here in the territory are hosting the Prairie Northern Pacific Fetal Alcohol Syndrome conference May 8 to 10. This international event will see up to 500 participants attending this year.
There are other priorities planned for the year. They are addressed in the budget, and include expansion of our successful healthy families program, and increased funding to stabilize our group home staffing. Considerable work will be done to assess and respond to the recommendations of the group home review, and I know members opposite there are very encouraged to see results on that front.
We expect to be receiving the report of the child in care review over the next few months. The Department of Health and Social Services is planning for the implementation of the new federal Youth Criminal Justice Act and has negotiated federal funding to assist in this effort. Mr. Speaker, weíre due to implement that program on April 1, 2003.
In social services, we have enhanced funding in our adult services unit by increasing capacity in the supported independent living and vocational rehabilitative services.
Over the next year, we have asked the department to restart work on the anti-poverty strategy so that we can begin to look at some of the major issues facing the poorer members of our society. This government has asked, and begun work with, all the key stakeholders in developing supported and substitute decision-making legislation, which we intend to bring forward to this Legislature next year.
Let me turn, Mr. Speaker, to the issue of doctors. We have negotiated a new contract for doctors that will provide for certainty of health care in this territory. In my riding of Faro, having based one of the two for-salary doctors in this territory, I know that this recently negotiated doctor contract has provided a level of support for both of the territoryís salaried physicians, for which they are very pleased. We have committed $140,000 to recruit and retain our doctors and nurses. Itís just the start of a program to get quality health care providers to the people who need it, and we intend to complement this good start with further measures to be announced in the future.
There are many other areas that weíre working on as government. To that end, weíve gone out into the Yukon communities and practised something that would seem revolutionary to the members opposite: We listened. We heard from Yukoners, who told us over and over again that more funding is required for victim services and for programming for abusive spouses. To this end, we put an additional $155,000 toward the program, and Iím proud to stand on my feet today and tell this government that this House listens to Yukoners, which is in direct contrast to those members opposite, when they sat here on this side.
Mr. Speaker, let me tell you about the improvements weíve made to the Dawson Airport. This is an example of how governments work together to achieve significant results. Weíve worked hard with our federal counterparts to expedite this project, and Iím pleased to say that this effort is bearing fruit in the form of 10 percent of the total federal budget last year for the federal airports capital assistance program. We give credit to all parties who participated in getting this project off the ground, and we are pleased that this Liberal government played an important role.
On the issue of the water tanker base at the Dawson Airport, the Yukon government has lobbied the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to relocate its air tanker base at the Dawson City Airport to the south side of the runway, and construction for this project injected $1.2 million into the Yukon economy. The relocation of the tanker base is going to resolve a long-outstanding aircraft parking issue, which the Member for Klondike always brings up in this Legislature. It will allow for additional aircraft parking on the main apron area, increase the safety of aircraft and enplaning or deplaning passengers, and increase the operating efficiency of air tanker operations at the airport.
The project has been carried out in conjunction with the Dawson City Airport, for which YTG successfully lobbied Transport Canada for $3.96 million. DIAND will realize significant cost savings by taking advantage of the heavy equipment contractors who will already be at the airport to work on the larger reconstruction project. That, for the benefit of the Member for Kluane, is effective planning.
The former Department of C&TS managed site development work for the new tanker base on behalf of the federal government. The Yukon governmentís property management agency will manage the construction of a small office facility and cold-storage building.
Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the Canada Games, this government has actively supported and pushed for the 2007 Canada Winter Games here in the City of Whitehorse. A recent study says that the Winter Games will generate $30 million in sales for local business. It will generate 500 person-years of employment; $8 million will go toward the construction of phase 2 of the new Whitehorse multiplex; $2 million will be allocated in future budgets by this government for other capital costs; $2 million will be allocated in future budgets for the operation and maintenance of the games, and millions will go to construction projects for the games. We are anticipating, and are very hopeful, of an announcement shortly.
Letís talk about another project in one of our communities ó the Carcross sewage treatment system. A detailed 10-year design for phase 1, including anaerobic and storage lagoons and related work, has been completed and tendered, and the construction contract has been awarded to Skookum Asphalt.
Tender documents included the Yukon governmentís best efforts clauses for First Nation employment and local hire. Construction of stage A, mainly an aerobic lagoon, is planned for this summer. Stage B, a storage lagoon, will be completed during the summer of 2003 and the facility should begin operating in the fall of 2003. Those are constructive capital infrastructure projects that this government has undertaken and moved forward on ó projects that that government, when those members sat on this side, had the opportunity to do and didnít do.
Weíre working with First Nation governments to improve the infrastructure. Carcross-Tagish First Nation has been our partner for the project. Clearing, grubbing, stripping and preliminary road construction was completed by the Carcross-Tagish Development Corporation during 2001. The corporation used First Nation and local forces.
Skookum Asphalt has hired one local First Nation contractor and will be meeting with First Nation human resources representatives to establish a resource availability list.
Our representatives have met with the executive council of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation to discuss the project status and scheduling for 2002.
There are many other infrastructure developments this government is working on. Weíve committed ó for the benefit of the Member for Mayo-Tatchun again ó $750,000 to the new Carmacks sewage disposal plan. It is the first year of a $2.7 million multi-year commitment to this project.
The members opposite say weíre not doing anything. The list of projects I have speaks otherwise. The people of Carmacks waited a long time for this project and this government has told them, "Your wait is over."
The Dawson sewage treatment plan is a project this government has supported. The government has dedicated another $2.1 million to the reserve fund, which will pay for the sewage treatment project and the Dawson City rec centre.
Burwash Landing will benefit from having a Liberal government. Their badly needed sewage lagoon is continuing to receive support, with $200,000 this year and the residual amount the year after. Even the Member for Kluane canít deny those facts.
We are also reviewing all the community water and sewer infrastructure at this time, and Iím told the report will be available very soon for the House to examine.
Mr. Speaker, it isnít all that glamorous, sometimes, to build those sewage treatment facilities or to rebuild our highways, but it creates jobs and makes our communities better places in which to live. This is what Yukoners told us on their doorsteps and this is what this government is delivering on.
Letís talk about the schools. The Member for McIntyre-Takhini read in a motion yesterday talking about class sizes in this territory and the ratio between pupils and teachers. This side of the House is committed to our schools. We have shown this through our budgets, including a Mayo school ó again, Iíd remind the Member for Mayo-Tatchun of that commitment ó $650,000 for upgrades to the Vanier Catholic Secondary School; $3.1 million in various improvements at Watson Lake, Eliza Van Bibber in Pelly Crossing and the Golden Horn Elementary School. We have committed to the restructuring of the Grey Mountain Primary School. Why did we do this? We agreed with the Member for McIntyre-Takhini that low pupil to teacher ratios make for a better education system, and this government will facilitate that wherever possible.
If we were to amalgamate Selkirk Street Elementary School with Grey Mountain Primary School, pupil to teacher ratio is going to rise significantly. There is no question about that fact.
While we are on the topic of education, the operating budget of the College for 2002-03 will increase slightly over 2001-02, due to the collective agreement increases. The College is in the second year of a three-year funding agreement that concludes with the 2003-04 budget year. We continue to fund the College operations at approximately $11 million per year plus additional allocations for specific academic programs.
The Liberal government increased funding for student financial assistance by 20 percent since we took over office, starting in the 2000-01 academic year. I want to remind members opposite that this is the very first time in many years there has been a substantial increase to the funding.
Since we took office in April 2000, the Yukon Liberal government has carefully produced a balanced legislative agenda. Weíve introduced and passed and addressed community social, environmental and economic agendas. Weíve provided Yukoners with a number of bills that specifically address economic concerns and desires of Yukoners. Legislation has been thought out and, unlike previous governments, has had a real impact on the economy.
I want to walk some of the members opposite chronologically through some of the good legislation that we have tabled in the Legislature that deals with improving the local economy in the territory. The first one was An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act on June 19, 2000. We honoured our commitment to change the Yukonís tax regime. The amendments reduced the general Yukon personal rate from 50 percent to 49 percent.
Secondly, the amendments established the rate of the tax credit for investments in the Yukonís labour-sponsored venture capital corporation, the fireweed fund, at only 25 percent. That was legislation passed by this government. Thirdly, it established a Yukon research and development tax credit. The rate for the credit was set at 15 percent, with an additional five percent to be available if the research should be done in conjunction with Yukon College.
In a competitive market for investment dollars ó and this is what the Member for Watson Lake talked about when he introduced the motion and all of the stories about the fireweed fund ó itís apparent that competitive tax rates are an essential ingredient for success. This does not mean, of course, that one must match the lowest available tax rate of other jurisdictions. There are many, many factors that contribute to economic competitiveness, and tax rates is only one of those factors ó albeit, Mr. Speaker, it's a very important one.
The trend in this country and globally is toward less onerous tax rates. Over time, Yukonís rates have moved up in relation to the rest of the country when others had lowered theirs. An example of this can be seen in our formula financing arrangement. The perversity factor has declined over the years. The perversity factor is a reflection of the relative tax rates in the Yukon vis-à-vis the rest of this country, and a portion of its decline is attributable to the Canadian national average tax rates being lowered over the last number of years. This government recognized that in the development of its tax legislation and began a program of tax reduction initiatives in the year 2000. Weíve continued this program since taking office. The legislation that the Premier tabled was only a first step in this process.
Most of the proposals that weíve embodied in this taxation bill did come out of a tax round table, and Iíd like to thank the members of that group and members of the public for their participation in the round table and the suggestions that they brought forward.
Reforms contained in the bill address several aspects of our structure. Firstly, it contained a reduction in the general Yukon personal rate. Prior to these reductions, our tax rate, which is stated as a percentage of the basic federal income tax payable by a taxpayer, was 50 percent of the basic federal income tax. In other words, on completing the first portion of their calculation of tax forms, if the Yukon taxpayer owed $1,000 in federal income tax, their tax would be 50 percent of that figure, or a $500 bill.
The passage of this bill saw that rate drop to 49, effective January 1, 2000. This reduction in taxes amounted to a two-percent increase in the Yukon personal income tax that was levied by our government beginning in the 2000 tax year. Due to this legislation, Yukon taxpayers started keeping for their own purposes a much larger portion of their income, which they have worked so hard to earn.
This government was pleased to be able to propose this measure. It demonstrated a commitment to making the tax system fairer and less burdensome to our citizens.
As Yukoners are aware, we continue to study the financial picture of the government over the course of the month after this tax reduction and announced additional income tax initiatives in subsequent budgets. We believe this to be the prudent course of action to follow ó one that ensures that any further tax relief would be affordable for this territory.
Another measure contained in this legislation was that which established the rate of the tax credit for investments in Yukonís labour-sponsored venture capital corporation.
The fireweed fund ó the proposal is that this credit be at 25 percent. This is high in comparison with other jurisdictions in the country, and as such should help to ensure the success of this important investment vehicle, a vehicle that the Liberals, as members of the opposition, promoted and endorsed. Letís not lose sight of that.
The final substantive measure dealt with in this bill was the establishment of a Yukon research and development tax credit, and weíre all cognizant of the importance of research and development to the maintenance of a healthy and vibrant economy in a global marketplace. Research and development spending, properly targeted, can ensure that business in the Yukon achieve and retain technological currency with the rest of the global economy, an economy with which we must compete.
In addition, there are numerous spinoff impacts as a result of research and development that is currently being carried out, and these will be of obvious benefit to the territory. To this end, we introduce this tax credit. The rate of credit is set at 15 percent. An additional five percent was made available. The research was done, as I have mentioned, in conjunction with the college. To make the credit even more attractive, we made it refundable. This credit will, over time, encourage the expansion of resource and development activities in Yukon and make Yukon and Yukon College an attractive location to carry out such work. The initiative is helping to enable Yukon business to compete with the best in the world in their area of expertise.
Itís the goal of this government to ensure that Yukoners enjoy fair and competitive rates that permit them to benefit from the fruit of their labours and develop diverse and financially sound business enterprises. This legislation was a start in achieving that goal, and Iím pleased to be part of a Yukon government that presented it in this House and to Yukoners.
One of the commitments the Yukon Liberals made during the election was to pass the NDP budget. We did this for an important reason: Yukoners needed certainty. We were hearing on the doorsteps that businesses, NGOs, students and others were worried about what would happen after the election. They were worried because they were trying to plan for their summer, which was going to be the busiest construction and tourism season in our territory. We made a commitment to Yukoners that we would pass the budget that had been tabled by the previous government. We were not going to be a government that would come in and start tearing up contracts with Yukoners. That wasnít our game plan. We werenít going to be a government that put business and companies at risk by cancelling projects that they were counting on.
We kept that commitment to the Yukoners, Mr. Speaker; we did what we said weíd do.
This applies to the tax legislation that we tabled before the House because part of that commitment was to provide Yukoners with a tax cut. Itís not often that a government can stand in the Legislature and tell the Yukon people that theyíll be seeing a real cut to their taxes. Other governments promised to cut them; the Yukon Liberal government has done it not once, but three times. This first tax cut was a benefit to all Yukoners. It wasnít targeted at a specific range or a specific income level. It was not a phantom tax cut promised in the past but never delivered, such as the previous government had been known for. This tax cut was real, and it meant a two-percent reduction in the personal income tax that Yukoners paid in 2000. The others had talked about it, and this government did it.
This is a government, Mr. Speaker, that does what it says it will do, and keeps its word. When we introduced the legislation, the members opposite criticized it. Well, the members opposite need to remember that they had just talked about a tax cut. They introduced the concept of a tax cut ó guess when, Mr. Speaker? Just before they called an election.
Sound familiar? It was sort of like the carrot hanging out for the voters. The Yukon Party and the NDP have had opportunities to cut taxes, and they didnít follow through with it. We did. This government has been cutting taxes, and this government is cutting taxes for all Yukoners. We made this commitment to Yukoners, and weíve kept it. We didnít try to buy Yukoners with a tax cut during the election, as the members opposite did. What we did is to follow through on a commitment we made. Itís the only government, I remind the members opposite, that produced a real tax cut for Yukoners. We did what we said weíd do, and we did it in a fiscally prudent and responsible manner.
Whatís important is that we are following through on another one of our commitments to Yukoners. We are a government that was proud to be able to tell the citizens of this territory that we cut their taxes. We didnít do it as part of an election budget. We did it during our first year, and we did it in the first three months of our mandate.
Let me tell you about the Electronic Commerce Act. It received second reading on November 2. This legislation provided the Yukon, for the first time, with a legal framework for e-commerce and e-business in the territory ó a bill that could have been brought in by the NDP at the time, but one which they failed to recognize as needed. And this legislation positioned the Yukon to take advantage of the new e-commerce world. Explosive growth of the Internet, and computer networks over the last decade made it possible to communicate electronically without using paper and pen. Entrepreneurs, banks, bookstores, small business, home-based business owners and financial service providers have all seized this new tool and made it possible to transfer money, or goods and services, and pay our bills without putting pen to paper.
Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, is altering our economic world so that the rules that govern the old ways of doing business have to be changed as well.
Prior to the passing of this legislation, the Yukon had limited ways of regulating this new way of business.
What is electronic commerce? E-commerce is any transaction made using digital technology over the Internet or over closed networks, such as the banks, that use debit cards. The purpose of the legislation ó electronic commerce relates to a legal relationship that may require documentation made electronically, such as a bill of sale or an invoice for shipping purposes.
The Electronic Commerce Act provided the legal framework for e-commerce in the territory. Like Ontario and Manitoba ó two provinces that have just passed similar legislation ó the Yukon is well-positioned to take advantage of the new e-commerce world. The Yukon legislation, like that of Manitoba and Ontario, was based on a model bill developed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. The Electronic Commerce Act provided the legal regime necessary for the development of e-commerce and e-government in this territory. E-government refers to services by government provided on-line to the public ó business directory of the previous Department of Economic Development. The act gave legal effect to the use of electronic communications by the private sector and by government.
The act recognizes the legality of electronic information, contracts and transactions. It validates transactions and signatures, signatures that can simply be made by the click of a mouse. It provided an answer to the question, "Can I do it electronically?" Just follow the standards set by the legislation and the transaction is legalized.
The bill stated there is no requirement to provide information in writing and that information can be in electronic form. The bill created special rules for governments because governments have to receive a great variety of information in a variety of electronic formats. This legislation is helping to meet the publicís demands and those of the private sector. This government introduced and passed the legislation to facilitate the growth of e-commerce by providing it with the legal framework that it needed to be competitive ó something, Mr. Speaker, that government didnít have the intestinal fortitude to bring forward when they were in power between 1996 and 2000 ó another example of a piece of legislation that we brought forward that made business a lot more palatable in this territory.
The Electronic Evidence Act went hand in hand in positioning the Yukon to take advantage of the e-commerce society in which Canadians and Yukoners now find themselves. It provided the legal framework for development and use of electronic evidence in legal proceedings in this territory. The companion bill to the e-commerce legislation, this act provided the legal structure for the development and use of electronic evidence in legal proceedings in the Yukon. The bill provided rules for electronic records that are produced and stored in a computer or readable at the time of their use only with the help of a computer. This can include, for example, medical, court or criminal records that exist in computer-readable form. Electronic records are data that is recorded or stored on any medium in or by a computer system or similar device. The electronic records include printouts, a display or any output of that data. The bill applies to data on smart cards or magnetic strips or cards as well ó for instance the data on bankcards that many of us currently use.
It defines the integrity of the electronic records that will be used as evidence, and the bill looks at the procedures by which electronic records are created and stored. It looks at the system that creates and stores these records, in order to ensure that the electronic evidence to be used in a legal proceeding has veracity.
The legislation provides rules for storing and retaining electronic records to be used in legal proceedings. The Electronic Evidence Act is another model that was developed by the Uniform Law Conference of Canada. This government is proposing to keep pace with the new technological developments.
Many records are produced on a computer with word processing software and then printed on paper. For example, in the case of business correspondence, that record lives its life as paper, and paper, of course, can be presented as evidence. This bill allows the electronic record from which the paper was printed to be used as evidence.
The Electronic Evidence Act represents another step that this Liberal government took to enhance the development of e-commerce and to provide a secure, legal framework for the future of e-commerce in this territory.
Letís look at another piece of legislation. An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act received second reading on December 4, a day that was my first day in this Legislature, and one bill that I will remember from that day.
These were our second set of amendments to the Income Tax Act. This bill implemented two important tax initiatives. It saw the Yukonís personal tax rate drop from 49 to a basic federal tax of 46 percent of basic tax, effective January 1, 2001. Secondly, it extended Yukon mineral exploration tax credit for another year to March 31, 2002, and increased the value of credit from 22 percent of eligible expenditures to 25 percent.
It is crucial, Mr. Speaker, that our tax regime in this territory be competitive and attractive to individuals and businesses. During the election campaign, and after assuming office, we promised to examine the public finances with a view to ensuring the affordability of tax reductions.
A quick review enabled us to announce the reduction from 50 to 49 for that current year. After that, given the improvements in the formula financing calculations that were announced at the time, we felt confident that the measures contained in this bill would be implemented and could be implemented. The reduction in personal income tax rates significantly reduced the tax burden on our citizens, while at the same time serving to further stimulate the economy by increasing personal disposable income.
Yukoners were already saving money because of the tax cuts we brought forward in 2000, and the second set of changes we brought into law meant more substantial savings to Yukon families. Under that legislation that we passed in the year 2001, a single person earning $30,000 is going to pay $71 less in taxes and $213 less over the next three years. A family of four with an income of $45,000 would pay $124 less in tax and $372 less over the next three years. A family of four with an income of $60,000 would pay $168 less in tax and $500 less over the next three years. And a family of four with an income of $100,000 would see the personal tax rate drop by $414 in 2001 and a reduction of $1,240 in the next three years.
Mr. Speaker, those factors are the type of economics that allow Yukoners to have more money in their pockets and increase the spending power. And the multiplier effect is at a level of $2 or $3 to $1 in that regime. Instead of taking it in on the tax rate, we gave it back and allow them to spend.
Let me compare those numbers to the personal tax cuts brought in by the NDP during its first four years in office: 1996, nothing; 1997, nothing; 1998, nothing; 1999, nothing. Sound familiar? Itís quite a comparison, Mr. Speaker. Real tax rates from a Liberal government; no tax cuts from the NDP.
The Yukon Partyís record on taxes ó letís have a look at that. There were tax increases from 1992 to 1996.
We also knew that lower rates of personal taxation would serve to encourage the expansion of existing businesses and the establishment of new ones. We have seen results ó lower unemployment, higher retail sales, higher personal spending. Real results from real tax cuts. Mr. Speaker, we havenít been negligent. We havenít been sitting back doing nothing. We have made real, progressive steps, and the taxation cuts are simply an example of one of those real things brought to pass in this territory that has produced real results for Yukoners.
Each point of personal income tax reduction is worth approximately $700,000 on average, and although it will fluctuate quite significantly from year to year, this measure alone put $2.1 million in the hands of Yukoners in 2001 and subsequent years ó money that was spent on local products, local retailers and local businesses.
The mineral exploration tax credit ó ordered back through by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, has also proven to be very popular, and we believe it is effectively contributing to exploration activity in this territory. As of that date, in respect to the 1999-2000 fiscal year, the credit has been utilized to the extent of roughly $1.4 million ó no small amount of change, Mr. Speaker.
Members will remember that this tax measure was originally implemented for only two years and was to expire on March 31, 2001. The Liberal government felt this credit had much merit and, at that time, decided it should continue for at least another year. As a result of this legislation, the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit was renewed for one more year and enhanced, so that 25 percent of eligible expenditures would be subject to the credit.
This has provided a valuable incentive to the industry for another season and, I might add, was very well-received by the mining sector. When we passed the legislation when we did, Mr. Speaker, we provided more certainty to the mining industry as they planned their next yearís exploration program. Our citizens didnít have to wait for mid-year modifications to the tax table to notice the reduction in their taxes on their paycheques. We were pleased and proud to be able to present the legislation to the House. It will reduce the burden of government on Yukoners and help to stimulate and diversify economic activity in the territory.
These are goals that we, as a Liberal government, are committed to and are prepared to stand on and are prepared to go to the electorate on.
Let me tell you about another act, the one that amended the Public Utilities Act and one that the Member for Klondike tried to obfuscate with all kinds of complications. The legislation more clearly defined the definition of "gas". While this may have seemed small, it was important in order to create the proper regulatory regime to allow private business to do what it does best. Due to these changes, we are now in a position where a number of interested energy supply companies are considering the building and operating of a piped propane distribution system in Whitehorse. This is about business and about private sector investment in the territory. As I stated, the act verified the definition of "gas" and conforms the Yukon Utilities Board regulatory authority over a piped propane distribution system.
A number of energy supply companies have made unsolicited bids to the Yukon government regarding the possibility of building and operating a piped propane distribution system in Whitehorse. Thatís about business and itís about private sector investment in the territory. The Government of Yukon is responsible for granting a utility franchise for such a system.
In order to do that, we have to go through the Public Utilities Act, Mr. Speaker, and add a definition of "gas" ó one more word to define propane.
We on this side, who are supportive of the private sector and of business in the territory, believe that a piped propane distribution system offers many advantages. It brings private sector investment into the territory. We know that private sector investment and private sector individuals left in droves under the NDP government. We are welcoming them back. Theyíre coming slowly but they are coming ó slowly and surely. We are welcoming private sector investment in the territory by amending, ever so slightly, an act.
Energy infrastructure supports economic development in the territory. Propane is safe, in abundant supply, and is an environmentally positive energy option. A distribution system would position Whitehorse for the future availability of natural gas.
The energy supply companies have expressed their interest to date of participating in converting a propane system to a natural gas system down the road.
This government amended the Public Utilities Act to pave the way for regulating new utilities. This Liberal government, once again, with legislation, is working with the private sector to create an environment where business can do what it does best.
We know the NDP are very, very well known for an anti-business attitude. Theyíve demonstrated that over the years and did so again by standing up and opposing this piece of legislation.
This will bring millions of dollars of private sector investment into the Yukon.
The Member for Watson Lake spent the better part of two Question Periods, during the session in which that piece of legislation was passed, outlining his opposition to the bill.
It was also very telling, again, that the NDP have proven that they are anti-business by their non-participation in second reading on this bill ó a fine state of affairs, Mr. Speaker. Their vote and their non-participation signal, once again, how that party simply doesnít understand business. We expected more from the Member for Klondike but, once again, as is the usual case, he managed to disappoint us.
In order for the Utilities Board to deal with the issue of a piped propane system, they needed a definition of "propane", and they needed to have the ability to hear it. Thatís what we were trying to do with this minor housekeeping amendment. The members for Watson Lake and Klondike stood up and opposed that important change.
Once again we have proven, with the presence of the Member for Riverside in a northern development conference, speaking eloquently about our interest in the private sector and our support for northern development, that we, on this side, understand the private sector and, whatís even more important, Mr. Speaker, we want to work with them. Thatís what this bill was about ó continuing to support private sector development and about investment in our energy infrastructure.
Iíll tell you about another energy bill ó a bill to amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act. The Liberal government was pleased to table and pass An Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, a bill of minor housekeeping nature and yet of a very large benefit to this territory ó a simple amendment that accomplished two important purposes. First, it added the tourism industry to the list of commercial activities able to avail themselves of the off-road fuel tax exemption. We recognize the importance to the tourism industry, a factor that the members opposite, when they were in government, voted once again.
It was an important innovation. It was requested by the tourism industry, and it was a request that I know had been heard many times by our colleague, the Member for Riverdale South in her capacity as the Minister of Tourism. I know those who support the tourism industry or who may be interested in it were anxious to support this amendment.
Members know that prior to the passage of the legislation only the following were able to access this exemption: fishing, logging, hunting, outfitting, trapping, mining, mining exploration and development and farming. Tourism was left out. Over the years, there had been a number of representations by various parties and organizations to include tourism operations among those who could take advantage of this off-road exemption. This Liberal government recognized the importance of this industry to the economic well-being of our territory and believed it was incumbent on us to provide it with as much help as possible. Hence, Mr. Chair, we tabled a simple but important housekeeping amendment that would allow that to happen. We expected that the lost tax revenue as a result of the change would be only in the neighbourhood of $19,000. While relatively small, the savings were a significant benefit to tourism operators.
The second purpose of the bill was to place the capacity criteria used for inter-provincial or through-carriers under regulation rather than providing for the same under the act. The intent was to exclude by regulation the small buses and vans that are used by tourism operators in the territory with passenger loads of 23, or 15 and below in the case of a van. Again, Mr. Chair, this is an example of a situation where the industry has come to use this Liberal government, and they asked us to recognize and deal with this matter, and we did.
The response to that matter, again, may seem like a very minor housekeeping amendment to a piece of legislation. We did it, and had the previous government at all fulfilled their desire to reduce the red tape for businesses and reduce the financial burden for the tourism industry, they would have acted on it. The point is that they didnít and we did.
Prior to the passing of this bill, small vehicles, the buses and vans, were subject to reporting requirements for fuel consumption that were mandated under the act. This change eliminated for operators an overworked piece of paperwork that was necessary to comply with the Fuel Oil Tax Act. Representations were received in this matter, and we were very pleased to be able to address the concerns of the industry in this regard. The later change ó this change in the act to enable it to deal with it in regulations ó was expected to be revenue neutral, being more in the nature of administrative or a red-tape reduction initiative. Mr. Speaker, actions speak louder than words. These changes in taxation policy are further evidence of our commitment to Yukon businesses and citizens, and aided the private sector in promoting economic development in this territory.
What did the NDP do? They again showed their anti-business attitude by refusing to debate the legislation and by declaring that they wouldnít record a vote at second reading ó shame on them. That is the difference between that side and this side. We brought the constructive legislation forward and that side said they werenít going to vote on it and walked.
An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act in April 2001 ó a third set of amendments to Yukonís personal tax rate. These amendments reduced the rate to 46 percent for the 2001 taxation year. These savings have gone directly into the pockets of Yukoners, then directly into the cash registers of Yukon businesses.
The results of these reductions have been clearly seen in the increased retail sales the territory has experienced over the past year.
We also changed the R&D tax credit, which was previously available only to corporate entities, to now be available to individuals and partnerships. Our government had, in less than a year, reduced the personal income tax rate twice ó first, a reduction of that rate from 50 to 49 percent; second, a reduction to 46 from 49 percent for the 2001 year. By means of this legislation, and as earlier promised by us, effective January 2002, the personal income tax rate dropped a further two points, to only 44 percent of basic federal tax. This meant that, within less than a year from being elected, we had introduced legislation bringing Yukonís personal income tax rate down six basis points, from 50 to 44 of the basic federal tax. Mr. Speaker, no matter how the opposition wants to cut it, that is showing results now.
This has been a 12-percent reduction in our rate of personal taxation and is significant by anyoneís standards. Examples of the additional savings to taxpayers over the next three years are as follows. A single person at $40,000 will save $147; a family of four at $45,000 will save $255; and a family of four at $60,000 will save $345. This money is welcomed by our citizens. This Liberal government was pleased to be able to grant this relief. And Mr. Chair, I also believe these savings, as many business organizations have often urged, are being spent locally.
Lower personal taxes serve several purposes. First and foremost, they put more money into the hands of our citizens, citizens who work hard to earn their wages and deserve to keep as much as possible of these earnings.
Lower taxes stimulate growth and the initiative, both of which Iím certain all members wish to encourage and which we have been seeing the results of.
This measure, Mr. Speaker, wasnít without cost. Beginning in 2002, our revenues were some $1.3 million less per year as a result of the reduction, but we can see this has been a good investment in our economy and we have seen real results, so the cost has been well worthwhile.
The other tax change incorporated into this bill extended the Yukon R&D tax credits, previously only available to corporate entities, to individuals and to partnerships. We enacted this 15 percent refundable credit the previous year. An additional five percent was made available, as I have earlier mentioned, if the research was done in conjunction with Yukon College, as an incentive to carrying out the R&D activities within the territory. As with many jurisdictions, it was made applicable to corporations, because it was felt they were likely to be the only organizations that would be conducting such activities in the territory.
We have learned of at least one case of eligible research and development activity in this territory that was being done by unincorporated individuals. They approached us and asked why the credit could not be extended beyond corporations, especially since the federal credit is available to corporate and non-corporate taxpayers. We listened to that argument, Mr. Speaker, and we responded to Yukoners. There was no reason why it could not and should not be so extended. Research and development is good for the territory, good for the Yukon, regardless of the organizational structure under which it is conducted. We were pleased to be able to extend that credit as it was embodied in the bill. This extension was made effective beginning with the 2001 taxation year.
Our original estimate of the cost of credit for corporations was $50,000. We still felt this estimate was accurate in total, despite the extension of the credit.
These changes and improvements to the Yukonís tax regime were a further reflection of this Liberal governmentís commitment to economic development, the betterment of our lives, and our promise to listen to the people of the Yukon and act upon what they told us.
We amended the Trustee Act last April, just a year ago today ó an additional piece of business-related legislation that this government tabled to help grow our economy. This legislation was suggested by the financial and legal community and it created a modern regime for trust businesses to set up and operate in the Yukon.
Iíd like to provide some information to the members opposite with respect to an act to amend the Trustee Act. This legislation was originally suggested by the local legal community. The government welcomed their initiative and the general notion that we look at reforms to business-related legislation as one means of helping to grow the economy.
In January 2001, we received subsequent recommendations from the business community on ways to go through our legislation where they can suggest similar tidying up and housekeeping of other acts. Itís something that weíve asked the departments to examine.
The point I want to make is this. To the members, it was an idea that came from the local legal and financial community. Itís one that has been followed through on by this Liberal government. Give credit where credit is due. Itís been some time in coming forward.
There are a number of issues that have to be examined. We received representation, as previous governments had, from two distinguished members of the local legal community on this issue. It was they who encouraged us to go forward. These amendments created a modern legislative and regulatory regime for trust business in the Yukon.
The existing Trustee Act was renamed through one of these amendments that reflected the broader focus of legislation. This legislation we put before the House dealt with the investment authority of trustees, maintained the requirement to ask as a prudent investor but enhance this in several respects. It required a trustee to consider specified criteria when planning investments and authorized a trustee to obtain and rely upon investment advice.
It specifically authorized investments in mutual funds, recognizing that such funds are readily available tools for investors. The legislation enhanced the powers and protection for trustees by limiting their liability and allowing them to employ agents, bringing Yukon law in line with current practices. The bill provided simple procedures to establish trust, in keeping with our efforts to make the Yukon a more attractive place to do business. The Member for Klondike at that time noted that setting up a trust was complex. This legislation made it as forthright and simple as it can be, and it made the Yukon a more attractive place in which to invest.
This legislation was a matter of enhancing the Yukon business community and enhancing the Yukonís ability. It simplified the administration of trusts. It allowed the passing of accounts every two years rather than annually. It meant a beneficiaries entitlement to an accounting of the trust without placing an unreasonable burden on trustees. So we took the beneficiariesí needs as well as trusteesí ó
Some Hon. Members: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Minister of Health and Social Services, on a point of order.
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to draw the attention of the Speaker to the fact that there is not quorum in the House.
Speaker: Order please. According to Standing Order 3(2), if, at any time during the sitting of the Assembly, the Speakerís attention is drawn to the fact that there does not appear to be a quorum, the Speaker shall cause the bells to ring and do a count. The bells have been turned on.
Speaker: Order please. The Chair has shut off the bells and will do a count. There are 16 members present. Quorum is present and we will continue debate. The Minister of Justice has the floor.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I was referring to the Trustee Act and I also want to point out to members opposite that there was also another innovative feature in the bill that is unique to Canada. We provided it, members shunned it and didnít vote, but it allowed for non-charitable purpose trusts, trusts that were intended to further specific purposes rather than specific individuals. It is available for personal, commercial and not-for-profit purposes that meet the requirements of the legislation that is before the House. That legislation provided for the operation of trust companies in the territory. It allowed trust companies qualified to carry on business under federal or the appropriate provincial legislation to operate in the Yukon, once they are registered here and meet other regulatory requirements.
Members had asked what was happening in other jurisdictions. At that time, we wanted to remind members that the trust legislation we were passing was indeed competitive with other jurisdictions. What had happened was that practices in Canadian jurisdictions with regard to trusts were reviewed in 1999 to identify areas where the potential areas for improvement could be made.
It was first examined in other areas again, and it was the suggestion of the local business and legal communities, to which we reacted and looked at other potential areas. Since it was tabled at that time, officials have gone back and examined pieces of legislation in Ontario, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba, and they hadnít significantly changed. So, from that time on, we looked at other jurisdictions until the time that we had completed our legislation, and other jurisdictions had not moved. Consultations were again held with the local legal and financial communities, all the way along, on this bill.
The local community was aware of the draft that was tabled before members and, in fact, one of the minor amendments came from one of the communities. It was just to make the Yukon more attractive. Instead of calling it the trustees act, we renamed it the Yukon Trustee Act. It was an innovative and well-received idea from the business community. There were other suggestions, such as naming it the Yukon trustees act, which would be a recognition of the non-charitable purpose trusts.
They asked that we allow for a delegation to an investment advisor. They asked for simplifying the establishment of the rules. These were their suggestions. We have taken them, ensured they were current and in line with other jurisdictions. Itís a very commendable piece of legislation that has benefited this territory. All we have to do is get members opposite to realize that.
Let me give you an example of another situation that could spur investment on in the territory.
In October last year, we amended the Funeral Directors Act, and a petition had been tabled in the Legislative Assembly that called for a regime that would allow for the cremation of human remains in the territory. Itís important for families who lose a loved one and currently have to go through the expense, stress and time of dealing with crematoria outside the territory. It was recognized as a niche that could be sold locally by private industry. There were a number of individuals at the time who expressed an interest in this business potential.
In the Yukon, approximately half of all the families who lose a loved one choose cremation. There isnít a crematorium in the territory. These services had to be arranged outside the territory. The previous legislative framework in the territory did not allow a crematorium to operate. Amendments to the Funeral Directors Act changed this and made it legally possible for the private sector to own and operate a crematorium. If itís built, a local crematorium will also allow family and friends to be present, and thatís an important cultural tradition for some Yukoners.
These amendments provided for a definition of "crematorium" to ensure that cremation only takes place in a licensed facility, ensuring that no person may cremate remains unless they are licensed under the act, and to allow for the establishment of regulations respecting the location, construction, maintenance and operation of crematoria and the sale of crematorium services.
As there are significant health, environmental and zoning issues associated with operating a crematorium, this government believed that it was important to seek public input on the development of those regulations. This ensures that public health concerns of Yukoners will be addressed before a crematorium can be constructed.
I am confident that these amendments will provide the framework along with the potential business opportunity for anyone who is interested in establishing a crematorium in the territory.
On April 18, 2002, An Act to Amend the Income Tax Act ó again this government moved forward on income tax bills that will be a great improvement to the territory.
The governmentís exploration tax credit has been so popular that we introduced legislation this session that would again extend the credit for another year. We believe this credit has contributed significantly to exploration activity over the past several years, and we expect the use of the credit to increase again this year. Itís an act of which the principal purpose is to extend the Yukon tax credit, which members knew was due to expire on March 31, 2002. We have now extended it to March 31, 2003.
This is the second time that this Liberal government has taken action to extend the credit, and Iím happy that we are 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. The credit has proven popular with the industry, and we are assured it has contributed significantly to exploration activity over the past several years.
The initiative that we are taking by introducing this bill will ensure that activity continues for the forthcoming year. We expect the take-up or use of the credit to amount to about $2.1 million for the year. I believe it will be money well foregone, not spent, to the benefit of our territory.
This 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 did mention, the NDP introduced the program but stopped it, or left it stagnant. We increased it from 22 percent to 25 percent and have extended it for two years, as we recognize again that itís a very important program for mineral exploration in the 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 credit. It will help them stretch their exploration dollars, and it can be coupled with our increase to the Yukon mining incentive program that we did the past year at the budget. This government appreciates that the mining companies, placer miners and prospectors, who file for their 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 the credit.
We on this side of the House are pleased to support that initiative. Thereís a high potential for these positive economic benefits. Mining companies, placer miners and prospectors often purchase their goods and services locally. They buy their groceries. They rent their vehicles. They charter the helicopter companies. They spend the 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 the territory that may apply. However, they too are using Yukon-based goods and services when theyíre carrying out this work. An example of this is that on the Yukon mining incentive program, 81 percent of the companiesí budgets are spent on local goods and services. Thatís a high number. The recently released BDO Dunwoody report on placer mining indicated that most placer miners live year-round in the territory.
There have been suggestions we focus instead on some of the supposed disincentives that face the industry in the territory. I want to remind all members of the House that we have made substantial progress where other governments have not in achieving devolution and the settlement of the Taían Kwachían land claim, as well as reaching negotiatorsí memoranda 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 being able to stretch those exploration dollars and encouraging the purchase of Yukon goods and supplies.
A related question to mineral exploration tax credit relates to the flow-through share incentive program. Thatís a federal program on which the Minister of Finance has spoken at length with the federal Minister of Finance, Mr. 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. The federal government offers a 100 percent deduction of exploration expenses for taxpayers and companies that can flow through these expenses to investors.
The Government of Canada announced in 2000, his part of a lobbying effort that the Minister of Finance worked hard on, on behalf of the industry for the introduction of an official additional 15 percent credit. Some provinces are already able to offer supplementary flow-through taxes for investors who live in that province. B.C. and Ontario are two such examples. Our small population precludes us from offering this incentive at this time, but we do offer very competitive incentives directly to companies or individuals that are carrying out the 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 some of the best in the country. This also gives us an opportunity to pay kudos to them. I have appreciated the opportunity to work with them, to visit them at their exploration sites in the field, so to speak, as has the current minister. We appreciate that opportunity and we appreciate the good work they have done. That is yet another example of good legislation that addresses the economic agenda in this territory.
Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about some specific projects. The Whitehorse Hamilton Boulevard twinning project was yet another example. The project to twin the boulevard has been completed and accepted by the City of Whitehorse. The city plans to delay the operation of the traffic signals at the intersection for the multiplex on Sumanik Drive until traffic volumes warrant the need.
The government has been negotiating with the city with respect to the intersection costs, and these funds we have requested from the city relate directly to the cost of constructing the intersection, and they will benefit the multiplex project directly. The development agreement between the city and the Yukon government requires the twinning of the boulevard once 350 completed building permits have been issued.
In response to public demand identified in the 2000 market demand study report, we continue to provide single-family residential, country residential, commercial and industrial within the City of Whitehorse. In addition, with the City of Whitehorse, we are offering the lots on a phased-in basis.
Mr. Speaker, I want to say something about urban residential. The land development committee recommended that the Yukon government and the City of Whitehorse maintain a two-year supply of full-service, single-family residential lots available for purchase. We support that recommendation. Iíll give you some specific examples.
In Copper Ridge, the current inventory is 66 singles and 60 mobile home residential alternative lots. We move an average of 57 lots per year. We sold 50 in 2001 and sold another 25 lots to March 30 of this year. Stage 9, which has 120 lots, begins in two months. We expect to complete it by the fall of 2003. The Olivine Place project will see construction of another 19 lots. That construction begins in June, with completion anticipated for late fall 2002.
Let me give you some examples of our improvements in country residential. Weíll start with Mount Sima and Whitehorse Copper area. The subdivision plan for this area will go to Whitehorse city council for approval this year. The detailed design and construction will be phased over the next five to 10 years, as demand warrants.
Under the heading of "country residential", Iíd like to talk about the Mile Two development. Residents of the Mile Two area on the Klondike Highway have requested lot enlargements to increase the size of their properties to a minimum of one acre.
Updated information has been provided to property owners on the zoning designation and the cost of the lot enlargements. To facilitate the lot enlargements and keep the costs to the property owners to a minimum, we will make zoning application to Whitehorse to create four new country residential lots, and the sale of them will help cover the cost of the required infrastructure improvements.
Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of things going on to create jobs and opportunities for Yukoners. Further industrial lots ó the City of Whitehorse has completed and approved an area development scheme for Mount Sima and the Whitehorse Copper development area. The initial phase now underway involves realignment of the Mount Sima Road, which is complete, and the construction of 28 industrial lots. The new industrial lots will go to public tender in August 2002. This project is another example of how this government has worked cooperatively with a First Nation government to get a project done that can benefit that First Nation. The Mount Sima Road realignment and industrial subdivision has provided strong economic opportunities for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, and I applaud their work on that project.
We have been working in our communities on land development. We have been working with the Village of Haines Junction on subdivision concepts for future development of country residential, bona fide agricultural, and multi-residential lots. We also continue to work with other municipalities to make their goals a reality.
I want to talk a little bit about Faro and Ross River, which have been ignored by previous governments in their last-minute Connect Yukon program. I am proud to say that this government doesnít ignore parts of the Yukon over another. We have included Faro and Ross River in a program that really should have included them in the first place. The infrastructure capable of providing high-speed data and Internet service to the Faro and Ross River area will be upgraded in 2004 as part of Northwestelís service improvement plan. But a partnership between government, community and the private sector has delivered an interim solution to improve the bandwidth until the major rebuild can be completed.
Infrastructure, Business, Tourism and Culture, and Education have contributed to the equipment upgrade and operating costs. YKNet and the Town of Faro will contribute to the ongoing costs that will deliver improved Internet services to the government, school, college and community residents. This is what can happen when we all put on our thinking caps, roll up our sleeves, and get moving.
There are more projects. The government is dedicated to providing safe, well-built highways for Yukoners. This year, four kilometres of the Tagish Road will be constructed from kilometre 2, just west of the Atlin Road intersection to kilometre 6.
In 2000 and 2001, upgrading was completed between kilometre zero and kilometre 2 at Jakes Corner and between kilometre 16.5 and 17.8 on the Tagish Road.
The Department of Infrastructure hopes to complete reconstruction with a BST service between Jakes Corner and Tagish by 2004-05. Itís long overdue, Mr. Speaker, long overdue.
Near the Faro riding, another project has been underway. Over the past three years, improvements have been made between Faro and Ross River. Improvements have been completed at Grew Creek, Margaret Thomson Hill and Buttle Creek. Additional alignment improvements are scheduled in the Buttle Creek area this summer. This year, work will be done to repair a small slide that is affecting the highway near Carmacks.
Recent improvements have been focused on the highway between Ross River and Faro, as this section has more traffic than the highway south of Ross River. This is smart and prudent spending of the taxpayersí money. When we improve highways, we improve the economy by providing jobs and improving safety, some other good work this government is doing.
I am pleased to report once again to the House that our commitment to Yukon travellers, especially our air travellers, the Yukon governmentís new air travel purchase policy seeks to correct some of the deficiencies in the current air travel options between Yukon and southern Canada by encouraging and supporting the existence of airline competition.
The Yukon government believes that competition is the best way to achieve lower air travel prices, improved services and a greater choice of flight destinations. The Yukon government is looking forward to the economic development benefits that will result when Air North commences its new southern service this summer. The policy that we have worked on will ensure that Yukon government travel money does not support anti-competitive practices of an airline that attempts to eliminate fair competition in the Yukon marketplace. The policy will ensure that Yukon government air service spending is divided on a fair and equitable basis between airlines serving Yukon, offering scheduled, year-round service to southern Canada. Our government supports the federal governmentís proposed amendments to the Competition Act respecting anti-competitive airline behaviour.
The Yukon government particularly supports providing power to the commissioner of competition to issue temporary cease and desist orders in the case of anti-competitive behaviour.
The events of September 11 have shown us that we are more vulnerable than we thought. On that fateful day, even the Yukon Territory saw a potential threat land at our airport. It could have ended much worse than it did. Itís because of this vulnerability that the Yukon government supports federal initiatives respecting enhanced air security, including the establishment of a new federal air security authority, modifications to aircraft and enhanced measures for facilities. Weíre confident that the new measures will increase air safety and help re-establish passenger confidence in air travel.
The Whitehorse International Airport is in full compliance with the current, enhanced safety measures. The enhanced measures now in place have increased Whitehorse airport security costs by $80,000 per annum. The increased costs are 100 percent recoverable from Transport Canada. Transport Canada will be providing explosive detection systems that will be installed in the passenger screening area of the air terminal building before summer.
On April 1 of this year, the federal government imposed a new air travellers security charge of $24 per round trip for all screened flights. Our government is lobbying against the proposed fee. We believe that any imposed fee should be proportional to the fare paid, and a dedicated one-percent ticket surcharge for all screened flights would be more fitting. It would also be more aligned with the $5 U.S. charged to passengers of the U.S.
We also listen when representatives of communities want to explore economic initiatives. The Town of Watson Lake has expressed interest in developing an air park at their airport as an economic development initiative. The Yukon government recognizes the economic and lifestyle potential of residential air parks, where pilots can build residences with aircraft hangars adjacent to the airport and have unrestricted access to the runways and taxiways.
During the upcoming Watson Lake Airport land use planning exercise, surplus airport lands may be identified that could be transferred to the lands branch for subsequent disposition. Consultation with the community, the aviation industry and other interested parties will commence in May of this year. The land use plan will be completed before the spring of 2003 and will guide the future land use at the Watson Lake Airport.
Mr. Speaker, as you can see, despite protestations from the side opposite, we have not been idle. We have done our very best to provide economic initiatives in this territory, and we have done so by providing legislation that supports those initiatives. I commend the initiatives that this government has done and provided for the benefit of the residents of this territory and urge all members to support the efforts of this government in doing so.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Jenkins: I rise in general support of the motion we have before us today. But before I explore with the House the motion, I have a couple of comments.
And I would appreciate it if the Member for Faro would take the time in his very, very busy schedule and consult with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. And I am encouraging the Member for Faro to undertake this initiative because I am sure the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has been briefed quite extensively in the pipeline situation and the stripping that it takes. Because before you can distribute natural gas, all the liquids down to about a two-percent factor have to be removed, and before you can distribute it and sell it, it canít have a high component of solids. So what I am encouraging the Member for Faro to do is to, before he tries to deliver and distribute more of this Liberal gas, remove the solids from it.
What the Member for Faro failed to attest to when he spouted off the whole litany of areas that bills and acts that have been brought forward and passed is what has transpired down the road and what effect theyíve had and what business they have generated.
Other than the direct confusion from the Premier in the Wal-Mart initiative and creating our Wal-Mart economy here, really, all the major resource extraction industries are at an all-time low.
If we look at mining exploration, it has never been lower in Yukon than under this governmentís watch, Mr. Speaker.
If we look at forestry ó well, we know that industry doesnít exist.
Before this Liberal government was elected, we were promised there was going to be a wonderful relationship between the Liberals here in the Yukon and in Ottawa, that the Yukon Liberals would get along famously and theyíd call on this wonderful relationship for the benefit. But the only benefit that has been derived is the benefit to the Yukon Liberal Party, Mr. Speaker, in that the Premier can hob-nob with the Prime Minister of Canada and really what is transpiring here in the Yukon has been very, very little.
The economic situation has gone from a recession to a depression. The forest industry was looking for some help from this Liberal government here in the Yukon to ensure that there would be timber available. There didnít appear to be much lobbying of Ottawa on the part of the Yukon Liberal government to see that that occurred.
In the oil and gas industry, well, Yukoners were told to hang their hat on an Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline.
I did ask the Premier repeatedly what the backup plan was in case this doesnít happen. I indicated very clearly that I support the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. I said clearly that we have to have a backup plan; we canít put all our eggs in one basket. And I was severely scolded by the Premier that I didnít believe in the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. Thatís the area of the focus.
Then we have oil and gas exploration. Yes, there have been some leases let. There have been some commitments made, but when Devon purchased Anderson, virtually all exploration was shut down here in the Yukon. All that is taking place currently is the Liberal government is hanging their hat on the leases that have been sold, because there is not much occurring other than what already pre-existed in southeast Yukon, which is producing dividends that are being distributed, and rightly so.
But in all of the resource extraction areas here in the Yukon, there has been virtually no help provided by this Liberal government ó no help whatsoever.
Now this Liberal government is going to great pains and tremendous efforts to destroy the last industry that we have, other than government, and that is the visitor industry. Now things are very, very bumpy out there in that industry today. One of the premiere attractions in Canada is called Rendezvous Canada.
And Iíve probably been there a half a dozen times in its various locations across Canada. The Yukon has always demonstrated a very positive image and they have hosted a luncheon, theyíve staged a skit, and previous Ministers of Tourism across all parties have been present and said a few excellent words of encouragement. We need all the help we can get to promote our visitor industry, and itís most important that the Minister of Tourism be in attendance at Rendezvous Canada. An offer was extended from me to pair with the Minister of Tourism ó ainít going to happen because the Premier wants to have two opposition members absent, or not being able to vote. She wants a majority government again. She wants a majority government again, Mr. Speaker. Pairing is two. The minister is rewriting the dictionary to have pairing being three.
The Premier is constantly on her feet saying, "Give us some ideas." Today there is a motion on the floor with a number of good initiatives and a number of good ideas. Instead all we hear is the Member for Faro, with a lot of solids in the Liberal gas, go on and on.
I did send a note over to the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and urged him to create a new industry here in the Yukon to capture the Liberal gas coming off this Legislature and sell it, if he could show that it would burn first. Because it would appear that the whole Liberal Party is going down in flames, Mr. Speaker, with their lack of economic initiatives here in Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, the other area that this motion before us today does not deal with, that I would urge the Liberals to attend to and to attend to immediately, is policy. Now, today we heard of a very good announcement ó mind you, it takes two Liberal ministers to stand up and take credit for one announcement ó and that is the issue surrounding the YPAS.
The headline in the newspapers is, "YPAS is deferred by Grits." Now, there could be a couple of reasons for the Liberal government doing this. It could be that common sense might be starting to prevail in their ranks and they might recognize that all of the groups that have written saying there is something wrong with this process ó that there is some merit in what theyíre saying in their correspondence. Or it could be that the Premier senses that there is going to be an election very soon and, before she drops the writ or before she has to drop the writ, they want this very contentious area off their plate.
I would suspect the latter is more correct than the earlier scenario. But I believe Yukoners will see through the Liberal haze.
Mr. Speaker, what is wrong with taking something from the opposition ranks and moulding it into something positive? Well, I know the Liberals here have had a very, very rough time trying to do that with previous NDP initiatives, like their budget, which they adopted. Because they either didnít have the ability to bring forward their own budget or couldnít because they were ill-prepared to govern when they were elected to office. Mr. Speaker, I would encourage the Liberals to take the motion on the floor today ó and many components of this motion are very worthwhile and could be extremely beneficial for Yukon ó and take those components and run with them. Because this Liberal government hasnít displayed any initiative of their own, they might as well cherry-pick the best from the NDP and the best from the Yukon Party and run with that, because the Yukon Liberals are supposed to be sitting in the middle. And here you have the opposition parties, one on each side. I would see it as being very, very advantageous for the Liberals to take the best of both, which is their usual stance, and move forward.
If the Premier and her colleagues havenít noticed, things are pretty tough here in the Yukon unless you have a government job. There are a few highlights in our economy but, by and large, the situation is bleak. The one area the government can do something immediately about is our visitor industry, and there is a whole body out there that I would encourage the minister to consult with ó itís called the Tourism Industry Association of Yukon ó and listen to what they have to say. And yes, they are requesting that more money be placed into marketing.
Mr. Speaker, Iíll suggest to the minister where she can find that money. All she has to do is look at ECO. Ministerial travel under the Yukon Party was something like $42,000. In the next period of time, the NDP were severely chastised for their ministerial travel that came in at around $90,000. Now, we have the Yukon Liberal Party, and their ministerial travel came in at over $200,000 ó renting RVs, taking a month off in the summer, touring all the parks. In fact, the travel plans of the Premier look like a very, very extensive vacation many, many times when sheís in Victoria, down in Idaho ó a complete vacation.
Now, I donít have any quarrel with combining business and pleasure, but itís combining business and pleasure. The exercise isnít to combine the pleasure with the business. The priority is business, the secondary issue is pleasure. The focus is wrong.
Itís interesting as to how much money can be ó well, they have words for it in the industry when you can spend an inordinate amount of money that quickly and not show any results. And these Liberals have clearly identified with that program. Itís probably going to come down in the history books with a new meaning for them.
But the motion we have before us today is one to deal with a number of NDP initiatives, some of which are very positive. I would recommend them to the House. I will be supporting this motion and I look forward to the usual Liberal position on positive motions not coming to a vote in this House, but the Liberals talking out the clock once again. Because any motion of any benefit is usually talked out during this session by the Liberals.
Now, Iíve said it on a number of occasions, minority governments can be good government for the population at large. I would encourage the Premier to behave not like Joe Clark but like someone in a conciliatory position who has to have the support of the opposition in one form or other to see Yukoners served by a government that should represent them properly.
But then, I guess, maybe Iím asking too much, in that if we have a Premier who canít manage the affairs of a caucus of 11, how can she manage the affairs of a population of 30,000?
I am in support of this motion and I encourage all members to support it and for the government of the day to move forward on some of the initiatives contained therein.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I rise today to speak to this motion, but before I do I would like to make a couple of comments on what I just heard from the Member for Klondike.
I find it interesting that he supports a motion that asks for more money into programs such as Project Yukon when he and his party are clearly on record as opposing that particular project when the previous governments were in power ó the NDP government and the old community development fund. So I find that particularly amusing coming from the Member for Klondike. Hansard shows numerous occasions when either himself or members of the Yukon Party showed quite a bit of disdain for that particular program when it was called the community development fund.
I also found it interesting, his remarks about the Devon oil company. Iím meeting with officials from Devon this evening, Mr. Speaker, after the House rises for the evening, and Iíll certainly pass on his comments to those officials as I get an update on what their future plans are for their leases in the Eagle Plains Basin.
Mr. Speaker, I want to touch on a number of things that this government is doing that are having positive effects on the economy. First, Iíd like to speak about devolution. Now that the Yukon Act has received royal assent, this will enable the federal government to transfer administration and control of minerals, forests, water and federal Crown lands to the Yukon government. That will take place one year from now, April 1, 2003. Mr. Speaker, weíre working very closely with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to ensure that a smooth transition occurs when we inherit these programs. The ratification of the Yukon Act and devolution will help to improve the business climate and, as a result, will move the territory into a new era of investment potential.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd also like to touch briefly on government renewal. In preparation for devolution, we have begun implementing government renewal. A fundamental objective of this exercise is to improve the delivery of services to the public and all our stakeholders, including industry. For instance, access to program and regulatory information for Yukonís land and natural resources will be streamlined. Coming out of renewal, there were a number of new departments created, and one is the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, of which I am the minister.
The new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, or EMR, has the mandate to responsibly manage and develop Yukonís land-based natural resources. This presently includes oil, gas and agriculture, combined with policy and planning functions associated with mining, forestry, energy, pipeline development and disposition of undeveloped Commissionerís lands.
After devolution, the management and development of federal lands, forestry and mining will be part of EMRís mandate.
EMR will be working with industry, Mr. Speaker. It will be working with First Nations, communities and other stakeholders to identify barriers and opportunities for local employment and local business development opportunities in the resource sectors.
We are promoting opportunities in the oil and gas sector by working to pass new oil and gas regulations that will support responsible industry development. We will be holding a land sale in north Yukon again this year and, for the first time, Mr. Speaker, we will look at the Whitehorse Trough. We are in the very early stages of the process for issuing the land sale in the Whitehorse Trough, and I will be travelling to meet with the chiefs of the Selkirk First Nation as well as the Little Salmon-Carmacks and other First Nations affected by that land sale.
Mr. Speaker, we are continuing to seek opportunities to promote the oil and gas sector, both locally and internationally. We have worked very hard at securing the Alaska Highway route for the benefit of all Yukoners. Preliminary results from a recent study by Informetrica reports the following economic benefits for Canada, Yukon and the north, just from an Alaska Highway pipeline project.
Mr. Speaker, some of these results are 108,000 person-years of employment, including 32,000 for the north. If government recycles project benefits in the economy, these figures rise to 377,000 nationally and 50,000 for the north.
Mr. Speaker, an Alaska Highway pipeline project will bring $26 billion in gross domestic product, or GDP, for Canada, including $17 billion for British Columbia and Yukon. Where benefits are recycled, national GDP rises to $31.4 billion and $12 billion for the Yukon.
Real business investment totalling $10.3 billion, including $7.2 billion in British Columbia and the Yukon, and in the second instance, these figures rise to $11.8 billion nationally and $8 billion for B.C. and Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, we will continue to promote and ensure preparedness for an Alaska Highway pipeline route. Our preparedness includes work to clarify the regulatory and environmental processes that will be needed to properly review and approve this large construction project. The department is informing Yukoners about the technical, economic and environmental aspects of a large-diameter, high-pressure pipeline through their territory.
Mr. Speaker, we are letting gas producers, pipeline and energy companies, as well as other governments, know what the Yukonís needs are. Just this afternoon, I spoke with Alberta Energy minister, Murray Smith, about Yukonís concerns when it comes to oil and gas and northern pipeline development. And I know that the Premier recently spoke with former Ontario Premier Mike Harris about similar issues.
We are also preparing Yukoners to take advantage of the job and business opportunities that will arise from pipeline construction and operation, and of course developing early opportunities for Yukon people and businesses in the oil and gas industry. Examples of development and employment opportunities have been done through the drill rig training program at Aurora College in Inuvik last year. We also helped connect Yukon businesses with opportunities to participate in the producers' feasibility study that concluded in December.
In late May or early June, I led a trade mission on behalf of the Premier to Inuvik ó a highly successful one that identified opportunities for Yukon businesses. I note the MLA for Watson Lake attended that on behalf of his community as well. I found that to be a very rewarding experience, and I know that a number of Yukon businesses were able to attract contracts and work from that trade mission.
Land claim and self-government agreements that have been completed protect the pipeline route and address related issues such as access, infrastructure, gravel resources and taxation. Hopefully with successful ratification of future agreements, these are expected to include similar provisions. The Yukon government continues to support the development of partnerships between First Nations and industry to share in opportunities that will result from the proposed Alaska Highway pipeline project. In January of this year the government joined with the federal government and the Council of Yukon First Nations to fund preparation of a First Nation oil and gas preparedness plan. The federal government contribution to this plan was over $300,000 and the Yukon government's contribution was in the neighbourhood of $35,000.
The plan will help ensure that Yukon First Nations benefit from Yukonís emerging oil and gas industry, including exploration and development and pipeline planning.
Let me turn now to some of the initiatives being undertaken by Energy, Mines and Resources on the mining front. As cited in our accountability plan, we are committed to implementing the recently released mine plan. The mine plan is designed to guide our actions to restore a healthy mining industry and to create a strong mineral investment climate in the territory. Reflected in this plan are strategies and actions to improve management, infrastructure, information incentives, networking and education.
Iíd like to highlight a number of new initiatives of the mine plan. The explore Yukon regional mineral development program has been initiated. It is designed to attract new interest in the territory by compiling and promoting our best known mineral potential.
We have developed a Yukon mineral compensation policy. Under it, mineral interest holders impacted by land use decisions will be dealt with in a fair and timely approach. At this time, I would like to commend the officials in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources who developed this policy. We have received numerous requests from other jurisdictions to take a look at the policy and possibly have it adopted in other jurisdictions.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, in cooperation with the Department of Infrastructure, is initiating an access corridor study to encourage resource investment by anticipating future infrastructure requirements through very careful planning.
A couple of other things that weíve done is to increase support for the Yukon mining incentives program, as well as making administrative improvements to the program to make it more user-friendly. This was done upon recommendation of a prospector who happened by my office, then went over and spoke to the official at the Yukon geology program who is in charge of the mining incentives program, and was able to have those improvements made.
So we are a government that listens; we are a government that takes positive suggestions from industry for people to improve our programs and the delivery of our programs.
As mentioned by the Member for Faro, we have also extended the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit to April 1, 2003, and enhanced it from 22 percent to 25 percent. Our support continues for the important work of the Yukon geology program.
Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago in this House, we debated a motion from the Member for Klondike dealing with the Yukon placer authorization. As members here know, the Yukon placer authorization is currently under review. Part of this review includes a requirement to examine the economic implications of the authorization. Our government commissioned a study to do just this, and it confirms the importance of this industry to the Yukonís economy.
A few key findings of the report are as follows. The majority of placer miners and their employees are Yukon residents and spend winters here in the Yukon. Forty-seven percent of capital expenditures for equipment and 92 percent of operating expenses occur within the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, the annual economic impact of placer mining in the year 2000, when, incidentally, the price of gold was very, very low, was as high as $58 million. The report also concludes that the future outlook for gold prices is promising, given a rebounding global economy, reduced sales of gold by central banks and current investment trends to safe markets.
Mr. Speaker, our support for the placer industry does not stop at this report. This government is actively working on the Yukon Placer Committee to ensure there are practical standards for placer mining under a renewed authorization.
It is our intention to ensure that we continue to have an active placer mining industry, as well as a fishery. We believe this is possible under a renewed authorization. I look forward to visiting Dawson City for the long weekend in May, for the gold show, and speaking with a number of industry representatives there. Of course, I also look forward to the fact that Dawson City will be hosting the northern mine ministers conference next year, where industry and Yukon miners will have an opportunity to speak to not only the Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, but also the federal minister responsible for Indian Affairs and Northern Development, as well as my counterparts in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
Another goal in EMRís accountability plan is to lead strategic initiatives associated with forestry regime developments and management of our forest resources. We are developing a policy framework to guide management of forestry in preparation for devolution. We are developing a Yukon forest industry strategy and striking a task force to assess and make recommendations on an improved tenure system appropriate for the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, policy work will be undertaken to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation, collaborating on the completion of a new timber supply analysis for southeast Yukon, and by working with industry and DIAND to ensure new timber tenures are negotiated and awarded.
Mr. Speaker, forestry will play a very important role in the Yukon economy. Through these actions, and the actions of the Premier in successfully negotiating the devolution transfer agreement, we can start to reap some of the economic benefits in the very near future.
Mr. Speaker, another new branch in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is the agricultural branch. EMR is also working to increase the productivity of the territoryís agricultural land base and to improve agricultural extension services, like enhanced seminars and conferences and, of course, by visiting more farms and identifying barriers and opportunities that farmers have. I feel itís very important to go out and visit farmers at their business, at their place of work, on their farms. I recently visited a farm in the Minister of Community Servicesí riding of Lake Laberge. I enjoyed that, and I certainly plan on paying more visits to farms in the very near future and throughout the summer months.
Mr. Speaker, we will also be making an annual $15,000 contribution to the Yukon Agricultural Association, so they can focus attention on being a full and productive participant in our economy. We are also working to achieve a one-stop shop for all Yukon government land tenure transactions. This includes agricultural lands, as well as federal lands, post-devolution.
Let me turn now to some of the developments in my other Department of Infrastructure, such as building development. The Department of Infrastructure undertakes the planning and construction of capital building projects on behalf of other government departments. These capital projects play a very important role in the Yukon construction industry, providing jobs for local architectural and engineering firms, heavy equipment operators Ö
Speaker: Order please. The minister has two minutes to conclude.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Ö general contractors and the many sub trades, such as plumbers and electricians.
There are a number of projects that are nearing completion, such as the Mayo school and the Whitehorse continuing care facility. Next up we have projects such as the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the Grey Mountain School, as well as the continued work on the Whitehorse multiplex.
Mr. Speaker, in the time that I have remaining I would like to briefly touch on the transportation infrastructure and the developments in that. We are spending some $40 million in the transportation branch of Infrastructure this year, $23.5 million on the Skakwak projects, as well as $9.3 million on the Alaska Highway, $450,000 on the Klondike Highway, close to $1 million on the Campbell Highway, as well as numerous other projects. So, Mr. Speaker, we are doing a lot, as you can see, for the economy and that is why some of the programs and initiatives in the Member for Watson Lakeís motion are simply programs that we are funding right now ó Project Yukon, fire smart, rural roads ó but there are other things that we can do to stimulate economic activity in the Yukon.
Mr. McLarnon: Letís start off the speech with a brief parable and a story of government spending and a story that describes that spending money does not always equal good economy. I will talk of a story that was related to me from a Romanian ambassador talking about the removal of people out of depressed areas of Romania where the coal mines had failed.
The plan was that those people would move out and the line could be reclaimed. Since it had been previously polluted, they were going to be talking about it becoming an industrial zone where they could move new industries in. The problem is they had communities ó thousands and thousands of coal miners who didnít want to leave their houses. But there was nowhere to go; they would prefer to sit and accept their unemployment insurance and they were prepared to sit there and accept their welfare cheques and the assistance.
So the government came up with a brilliant idea. "What weíre going to do," they said, "is send lump sum payments off to these people so that they can move their houses, move their possessions and move to another part of the country." It was a great plan until they put it into practice. What happened is those people then took that money, painted their houses, bought television sets and werenít going anywhere. What the government eventually had to do was send the armed forces in, cause riots that killed 600 people and eventually burn these villages down. So spending money on a problem doesnít fix the problem. Youíve got to have a plan; youíve got to do something.
What we see here is a government that can talk ó boy, do they talk. They talk a blue streak. If you believe them, weíd all be rich. If you believe the amount of stuff that theyíre doing is working, there would be nobody going bankrupt in the Yukon Territory; there would be nobody wondering where their next paycheque is coming from; there would be no hungry children; there would be no people below the poverty line if we were to believe that this government has put into effect all the things theyíve told us.
What we have to believe is that they can talk and thatís one thing we have in common ó they can talk.
They have told us all the good things that theyíre doing for well on four hours. And Iím not going to contribute to the debate in arguing with them, because the facts speak for themselves. Yukoners are still packing up and leaving. We are looking at the worst tourism year we will have in 20 years, in percentage of draw. We are looking at the fact that we donít even have the ability for people when they cannot get jobs here to start their own businesses with any assistance from this government, any direction, nothing. There is nothing except talk, and weíve heard about their other talking and talking. We saw it demonstrated how they can talk and talk. Well, they can talk and talk right to the electorate, and the way theyíre going, theyíre going to be talking right to the electorate faster than they think.
Mr. Speaker, letís stop the talk. Today was about action. This is an embarrassment to the House, what happened today, and Iím going to sit down before this House has to endure any more talk. Letís get to a vote and get to action.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, there has been a great deal of conversation this afternoon, and there has been an amount of attention paid to the constructive points offered and a review of the record. This Legislature is about discussion. Itís about discussion of ideas. Itís about fair exchange of views. And itís also about the opportunity for people to put their views on the record, to take the suggestions that have been put forward and to discuss them, to talk about them, to offer their amendments, to offer their ideas, as well.
There has been a great deal of discussion about the Yukon permanent fund and the discussion of it in this House, and itís included in the motion, and I would just like to review briefly some of the discussion around that.
There was discussion some years ago ó and the Member for Porter Creek North was a part of it ó with respect to pipelines and windfalls, if you will, in the territory. There was a very clear recommendation that there be a savings fund set up. We negotiated with Ottawa a significant windfall, if you will, to Yukoners, and I spoke about it in that way in the House. This money belongs to Yukoners. Itís money that should be spent for their benefit. As a result, the endowment funds are put forward to have Yukoners making decisions about how these funds are spent. And I have signed off today legislative returns that I will be tabling tomorrow, Mr. Speaker, that have a legal agreement with the Yukon Foundation, that outline the parameters of the teacher mentoring fund. There will be additional legislative returns coming forward on youth as well as the endowment fund for community recreation leadership.
It just amazes me, Mr. Speaker ó these are funds within parameters where spending decisions will be made by Yukoners, representatives of all communities, on these key, important areas that all members of this Legislature have stood up in the past and said they support. The Member for Porter Creek North goes on and on and on about support for community active living and recreation, and we set aside part of this windfall money to deal with that very issue.
Yet, he turns around and criticizes it. That amazes me. The Yukon Foundation ó a board above reproach. Yukoners, representative of every single community, sit on that board. They will make decisions about helping Yukoners realize their dreams. Isnít that what a government should do? Having negotiated additional funds for the territory, shouldnít it let Yukoners make decisions on how itís spent? Does that not make sense to everyone in this House?
Likewise, with respect to setting up a permanent fund, it was done by coming to this Legislature, with a vote ó by coming to the Legislature with a ministerial statement clearly outlining the amount of money received, how it would be spent, and putting it in the budget. I just want to speak for a few minutes about setting up that Yukon savings fund, or permanent fund.
We have done some background work on this by looking at the Alberta heritage savings trust fund and the Alaska permanent fund. In looking at those two funds, there are some key questions that Yukoners need to answer and must answer. Our intention is to discuss these with Yukoners ó these points around the parameters of the fund.
The members opposite recommended we immediately draw down the fund and put $5 million into a labour-sponsored venture capital fund. Interestingly enough, the NDP refused to do that. One of the difficulties with the labour-sponsored venture capital fund is that those funds are ó the legislation was introduced when I was leader of the official opposition, or in opposition, at the time, to provide tax credits for investments.
This was done in 1999. Most of the labour-sponsored venture capital corporation funds that have been established across Canada have not required seed funding, although some have received it. There was a study done for the Yukon Federation of Labour in 1999 that estimated that the annual administrative cost of running the labour-sponsored venture capital fund would amount to $400,000 per year. That is a very high administrative cost for running one fund, and we supported the establishment of the fireweed fund and we supported the tax credits. The previous government was unable to provide and decided not to provide seed financing for this fund, perhaps for good reasons, and the Yukon Federation of Labour subsequently approached Ottawa, with my support both in opposition and in government. They were unable to attain this seed money, and that is why there has not been the establishment of the fund. And, while I respect and give full credit to the Member for Watson Lake for raising this again and suggesting this ó and we believe the fund to be a good idea ó the additional details of these high administrative costs and the $5-million seed money the member suggests is not what the fund was originally looking for.
The other difficulty I have is that the member's comments with respect to the fireweed fund ó Mr. Speaker, I am questioning that that would be all Yukonersí preference when the discussion of the savings fund is discussed, and Iíd like to go back to that for a moment.
Certainly it is our intention to have a full discussion with Yukoners on the permanent fund, or Yukon savings fund, at such time as the House adjourns in early June.
Another provincial example ó and I mentioned that we have looked at the Alberta and the Alaska models for this fund, and we want to prepare something for Yukoners to work with. Weíve done the initial work on this and are preparing it for public debate.
The other thing that happened, and a similar example of a province receiving a windfall, was in Manitoba and what they did. Saskatchewan and Manitoba both established what they call fiscal stabilization funds. In Saskatchewan, in its 2000-01 budget, it established this fiscal stabilization fund, and it was intended to protect programs like health, like the childrenís dental program, like education, like learning assistance, the reading recovery program. Itís designed to protect programs from revenue volatility, the ups and downs.
So the Member for Whitehorse Centre stood on his feet and asked what we are doing to protect Yukoners from these ups and downs of the formula. We have set aside a $15-million contingency for a census. It may not be enough, and we recognize that. We also, with the endowment, set aside the Yukon permanent fund, and we are looking at examples like, again, Alberta, Alaska and Saskatchewan with their fiscal stabilization fund, as well as Manitoba, setting in place parameters on how that fund is spent.
We are going to get the advice of Yukoners in the month of June on this, Mr. Speaker. And thatís an important point, because itís the advice of Yukoners that is needed on this.
And that is what the Member for Watson Lake is suggesting be put forth, as well. The Manitoba example ó they established their fiscal stabilization fund in 1988-89, and the way and why they established it is when Manitoba received an unbudgeted $200-million lump-sum payment for equalization. So we, having achieved the results from, yes, several trips to Ottawa, the benefit of a $42-million lump-sum payment from the Government of Canada in discussions around our formula ó when we received that, we examined, being aware of the examples in other provinces, setting aside a permanent fund. Iíve outlined a couple of examples, Mr. Speaker, and it is our intention that we listen to what Yukoners have to say. As Iíve said, we intend to consult on this, with a clear set of questions to Yukoners, during the month of June.
This $10 million was unbudgeted, it was retroactive, and it was an adjustment to formula financing payments after outstanding issues with the federal government were resolved. It makes sense that Yukoners direct the discussion of how those funds should be spent, and Yukoners can best direct that discussion when there is a consultation that asks a clear set of questions. Not every Yukoner, not every Yukon businessperson, believes that the way to go is additional funding to Project Yukon. Weíve had that discussion, Mr. Speaker.
I especially wanted to address that particular point around the Yukon permanent fund, because I would like to share with members the difference between the Alaska and the Alberta experience. Itís quite significant. In Alberta, the heritage savings trust fund was enacted through the legislative process, and the Alaska fund was created through a statewide referendum. Albertaís fund is seen as belonging to government, and the Alaska fund as belonging to the people. There is also an interesting point about dividends ó thatís where the dividend cheques come from, Mr. Speaker. The former Governor of Alaska ó governor twice ó Wally Hickel, has just ó yesterday, ironically, I received a copy of his book, in which he has referenced ó ironically, chapter 10 deals specifically with the setting up of the Alaska permanent fund, and there are some great quotes in that book about Alaskans checking their mailbox for a cheque as opposed to scanning the horizon for the next opportunity.
That, Mr. Speaker, is what working with Yukoners to improve our economy is all about. Itís looking toward the future, itís looking at opportunities, itís a fair and level playing field encouraging development, encouraging investment, in a balanced and responsible manner. And thatís what we have been doing. The economy is one of those features of daily life. By speaking with people, the public hears us as legislators saying, "Well, itís her statistics versus his statistics." But what it means to the person on the street is, "Do I have a job? Am I able to feed my family? Can I pay the light bill? And, if I donít have those things, what is the government going to do about it?"
Well, let me tell you what the government has done about it. If that person is an unemployed miner, we have worked hard to work with companies to reopen North American Tungsten and other mining properties. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources works daily with the investment community and the mining community trying to encourage those mines to open that we finally got permitted. That of course raises the question of devolution, because Yukoners need to be in control of their land resources. As Jane Stewart said, it needs to be Yukoners who are signing off those development decisions, not some minister in Ottawa. Successive governments have worked on devolution; we delivered. We will continue to deliver and work hard at it.
Back to the economy ó Iíd like to point out for members that Statistics Canada has released the 2001 GDP figures for the provinces and the territories. The rate of growth has picked up in the Yukon. Our GDP rose 1.2 percent in 2001, up from 0.7 percent in 2000.
So, the individual who is looking for work ó he is an unemployed miner. We are working hard in that respect. And what supports mining in this territory is mineral exploration, and the best way to encourage mineral exploration is with the mineral exploration tax credit and with certainty. Weíve worked hard on certainty through land claims, and let there be no doubt that this government was one of three parties at the table and was an active participant at the land claims negotiation table. We worked hard on doing our part to help reach those negotiated memoranda of understanding. And we will continue to work hard, just as we did with the Taían Kwachían and as we will continue to do with the remaining First Nations with outstanding land claims, as well as those working to implement their agreements.
Mr. Speaker, another point I mentioned earlier is the light bill and the electrical bill that we all work hard to pay. One of the economic generators in this territory has been the construction of the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. Jobs have resulted from that particular project ó industry interested in Yukon. We have also continued the rate relief program under the previous minister, and thatís money in the budget that was spent to benefit Yukoners. We are working hard with Yukoners.
I mentioned this environment of stability and certainty. The progress on land claims creates greater stability and certainty. Improving regulations and administrative rules does as well.
Mr. Speaker, I sense that my time is growing short, so Iíd like to bring forward an amendment at this time to Motion No. 228.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: I move
THAT Motion No. 228 be amended by deleting the second paragraph and substituting for it the following:
"THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to continue:
(1) its two-year long effort to convince the opposition parties that the formation of an all-party committee for the selection of persons to sit on boards and committees is in the best interests of Yukoners;
(2) to identify steps that can be undertaken to create jobs and economic opportunities in the territory
(3) to lobby the federal government for the Yukonís inclusion in the western diversification fund; and
(4) its practices of listening to Yukoners, spending Yukon taxpayersí money wisely and doing what it said it would do."
Speaker: Order please. The Chair has reviewed the amendment moved by the Premier and finds that clause (1) as proposed by the Premier falls outside the subject matter of the original motion.
It is the Chairís prerogative to alter proposed amendments when such changes are easily made and will bring the resulting amendment into order.
The Chair, therefore, is removing clause (1) from the amendment and it now reads as follows:
"THAT Motion No. 228 be amended by deleting the second paragraph and substituting for it the following:
"THAT this House urges the Yukon Liberal government to continue:
(1) to identify steps that can be undertaken to create jobs and economic opportunities in the territory;
(2) to lobby the federal government for the Yukonís inclusion in the western diversification fund; and
(3) its practices of listening to Yukoners, spending Yukon taxpayersí money wisely, and doing what it said it would do."
The hon. Premier has one and a half minutes to speak on the amendment.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I appreciate your work on the amendment. Itís not uncommon to this House. Weíve seen several examples of it before. I encourage all members to speak to the amendment, to examine it, and to take it in the spirit of constructive debate with which it is offered.
Thank you very much for the opportunity, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: It truly has been an interesting day in the House, as Wednesdays usually are. The fact that we had started this debate on the original motion, Mr. Speaker, outside this House I think was a little bit of an unfortunate start because, during Question Period, it had been identified that debate on motions should occur on the floor of the House.
The fact of the matter, Mr. Speaker, is that the motion was presented to the press and did show up in the press and was also commented on through a couple of radio stations in town. Then, in Question Period earlier today, there was a banter back and forth that debates of motions should occur in the House, and I agree that the issues that were brought up in Question Period clearly identified that motions should be debated in the House.
So, I looked at the newspaper, Mr. Speaker and, lo and behold, the entirety of the original motion shows up in the paper.
The members opposite have continually espoused, during the debate on this motion, that they are rather shocked and appalled at the conduct of the Liberal government in its handling of this motion.
Mr. Speaker, I do believe there are members in this House who have continually attempted, at every opportunity, to express a willingness to work in this House with members opposite. We have been challenged by all members on the other side of the House for inappropriate behaviour. We get the little chit-chat that comes off-mike that continually disrespects the efforts that weíre trying to put across to members opposite.
But that doesnít seem to work either. I am encouraged, from time to time, because I do discuss things with my colleagues and I do discuss things with professionals on really how you adapt to the conduct and behaviour in this House. And Iíve also been advised that the parliamentary process is an open, free speech exercise, where members are offered an opportunity that they can pretty much say what they want on any given subject.
But, back to the amendment, Mr. Speaker. The amendment clearly indicates how this government has attempted to operate, and I think, over a short two-year period, the accomplishments as espoused by the Minister of Justice today clearly identified the successes, the programs that we have implemented and sponsored through budgets for two years. And the list truly is awesome. As a first timer in the House, I am astounded at the accomplishments that this government has achieved in just two short years.
We have accomplished one land claim. We have accomplished ó the member opposite is waving the newspaper at me, with respect to YPAS. The member has failed to realize that the results and decisions and the fact that we had listened intently to all Yukoners ó all Yukoners ó First Nations, renewable resource councils, environmentalists, industry and, believe it or not, we also listened to the members opposite, because that is our job. They are Yukoners, and we do listen to them as well.
Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that, through listening, reading and respecting the wishes of Yukoners, we have slowed down the YPAS process, in respect that four MOUs have recently been signed ó four MOUs, of four First Nations who will now be moving toward ratification of a self-government agreement. They are to be applauded for that effort. We recognize the difficulties and the limitations that it takes to move in that exercise, and we do not want to detract or defer the energies that are going to be required in moving toward ratification, so we are slowing down the process of YPAS.
And the members opposite continue to wave the paper over there that the YPAS is on ice. Well, that is the problem with the members opposite ó they donít listen to Yukoners, and they desperately and terribly created a missed ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I do believe itís contrary to the House rules for members to be using language that provokes anger and controversy. I believe the member is doing that. Clearly they are not respecting First Nations by this move to delay YPAS; they are using the First Nations to do it.
Speaker: Order please. Could the member assist the Chair as to where the point of order is?
Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Until you spoke, that is precisely the problem that I wanted to point out. The member is inventing points of order simply for the process of interrupting the Member for Riverdale Northís carefully prepared speech. There is no point of order. He did it again. He is as bad as the Member for Watson Lake when he invents points of order.
Speaker: The Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I do apologize for not citing the clause. I have found it now. Itís in chapter 3, rules of debate, part 19(i), and Iíll quote, "A member will be called to order by the Speaker if that memberÖ uses abusive or insulting language, including sexist or violent language, in a context likely to create disorder."
My point was that the language used was abusive and it certainly was in a context likely to create disorder.
Speaker: Order please. On the point of order, the Chair has to apologize to the House for not catching the abusive or insulting remarks that went across. The Chair has been used to language of a similar nature here as becoming commonplace in the House. So if some members are insulted by that type of language, I would ask that all members in the future then keep this in mind and be more judicious in their choice of words. From there, the Chair will ask the minister to continue, as he had the floor.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: As this government is really committed to elevating the level of debate in this House, I will extend an apology if I did misspeak or create unruly feelings within the members opposite.
Therefore, I will complete a final comment on the Yukon protected areas strategy. I donít believe that the members opposite yet fully understand the incredible mistrust that was created when there was a breach of process.
That was exercised by the previous government in implementing YPAS, and I will also indicate to the public at large, Mr. Speaker, especially to that sector that felt that the trust factor had been violated, that I will make best efforts to listen to what they have to say for they, too, are Yukoners and both the Minister of EMR and myself will sit down with these folks, as we will with all Yukoners, First Nations, RRCs and the public at large, to move forward on creating a positive process that will be achieved through consensus.
Mr. Speaker, my time is rather limited, but I do want to express a few opinions, or a few comments, with respect to what I experienced up in Dawson this past weekend as the Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture. It truly was a learning experience for me to be at my first TIA conference, where there is an incredible representation and cross-section of business, of environmental groups, of wilderness tourism operators ó an incredible myriad of business groups that belong to TIA. I had very positive exchanges with members of the executive, with the executive director, on gleaning a better understanding of what the apprehensions are within the industry.
I donít think there is any doubt in anybodyís mind of what a powerful impact 9/11 had on the globe. Because we are more remotely located with respect to the event in New York on September 11, that doesnít mean that we arenít experiencing the effects, Mr. Speaker.
I understand, Mr. Speaker, that the members within TIA are feeling apprehensions, are feeling anxiety, and I truly gleaned an appreciation of that anxiety while I was in Dawson attending their convention.
Yes, I did listen to what folks had to say, and there is fear and apprehension in the accommodation industry within Yukon. And we are making every effort to mitigate the impacts and the feelings of the travelling public as we would encourage them most wholeheartedly to come to a safe place in North America ó one of the safest places to travel in North America ó and that is right here in the Yukon. We have incredible industry. We have incredible support. We have incredible scenery. We have incredible industry people here who are more than willing to accommodate. And I would encourage Yukoners as well to travel the Yukon this year and take advantage of opportunities that are being presented by industry in our communities ó in Dawson, Watson Lake and Beaver Creek ó to patronize our own industry here, and I would encourage all Yukoners to take advantage of that.
Mr. Speaker, there was one aspect that is the responsibility of my department, and that is the marketing branch that has been structured within the new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. We did hear from a sector of the Yukon population, namely the Tourism Industry Association. It is quite a significant number that are represented by TIA, but there are other businesses that are outside the purview or affected by tourism.
An individual was charged with the responsibility of putting together recommendations to government under the instruction of the Premier on how to best structure our marketing branch. So we have heard from one sector of industry, and it is a loud voice ó I will not deny that ó expressing its opinion with respect to marketing. But there are others, and I encourage the individual who is holding the contract on this particular task to continue to reach out to all sectors of Yukon ó to the First Nation Tourism Industry Association, to industry itself, to mining, oil and exploration ó to all sectors of industry within Yukon on how we can best market product out of Yukon to the rest of the world, as well as marketing Yukon as a place to come visit, play and live.
So, Mr. Speaker, he has been charged with quite a diverse responsibility in putting these marketing ideas together.
We are respecting how our current number one industry in Yukon is providing for Yukon right now, and we need and want to support this industry wholeheartedly when we are in the House here, as well as promoting our oil and gas and exploration. The result that we ó myself and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó announced today ó there has already been a positive reaction from industry on slowing down the process so that we can get back to the table and work out some concerns and issues that the extraction industry will have with respect to YPAS, because we are still, as a government, committed to the YPAS process. But we also respect the fact that, besides tourism having an economic base in the territory, we also have to have mining, oil and gas. We also have to have exploration.
So, Mr. Speaker, I would encourage ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. The minister has the floor, and itís contrary to Standing Order 6(6), that no member shall interrupt except to raise a point of order. Please allow the minister to continue.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. And I do acknowledge the memberís concern with respect to his community. As we have said many, many times in this House, Mr. Speaker, we are not targeting anyone, nor are we ignoring anyone. We will continue to represent all Yukoners, we will continue to represent all communities, we will represent all interests in this House, Mr. Speaker. So we will not stop at all our efforts on this side of the House, despite the continuing and non-constructive opposition that we sometimes get.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 228 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following document was filed April 24, 2002:
Official Opposition Spring 2002 Legislative Questionnaire Results (to April 24, 2002) (Fairclough)