Thursday, May 16, 2002 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of 16th Dawson City International Gold Show
Hon. Mr. Kent: I rise today on behalf of the whole House to pay tribute and give recognition to the 16th Dawson City International Gold Show, which runs from May 17 to 18. This long-standing event is a meeting place for the many players in the gold mining industry, from prospectors and miners to the service companies and suppliers to the government contacts. It is a valuable forum to meet and exchange information, products and services.
This yearís theme is on Yukonís gold placer mining. Placer mining is coined "the family farm of the north". Yukonís miners work in isolated settings with their nearest neighbours several kilometres away. The season is very short and, like farmers, placer miners work long, hard days to make their money within a narrow window of time.
In some years, the harvest is better than others, and that harvest, as an internationally traded commodity, is at the mercy of the market forces. For these reasons, farming the Klondike goldfields remains a cornerstone of our history and culture and continues to play a significant role in the territoryís economy. In the year 2000, the economic impact from this important industry was estimated to be as high as $58 million. The Yukon government applauds the efforts, perseverance and hard work of the gold mining industry. We wish to extend a thank you to them for making a difference.
I want to give recognition to the Klondike Placer Miners Association, the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce, the Klondike Visitors Association, and to the City of Dawson for organizing and hosting the gold show. As their motto aptly states, "We all have a stake in the business of mining."
The many sponsors and exhibitors at this yearís gold show also deserve acknowledgment. They, too, are responsible for making a difference through sponsorships, trade booths, exhibits and going out to the gold show to demonstrate their support for the industry. We wish the organizers, sponsors and participants a successful show, which is the launch of this yearís placer mining season. I am travelling to Dawson City for this important show, and I look forward to seeing other members of the Legislature there as well, including the Member for Klondike.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Ms. Buckway: I have a legislative return in response to an oral question from the Member for Klondike, regarding Yukon Housing Corporation maintenance and service contracts, asked on Tuesday, April 23, 2002.
I also have a legislative return in response to an oral question from the Member for McIntyre-Takhini regarding Yukon Housing Corporation sale agreements, asked on Thursday, April 25, 2002.
Speaker: Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Permanent fund, consultation on
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier told the audience at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon that she still doesnít know what to do about the $10-million permanent fund but she is going out to consult people. Thatís hardly news. The Premier made exactly the same promise when she announced the fund over a year ago.
Can the Premier tell us who she plans to consult with, how those consultations will be conducted and when she will make a decision about the fund?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to accurately report to the House what I said in my address to the Chamber of Commerce. Among other things, I said that we are a government that listens and we listen to what the public has to say to us. What I indicated to the Chamber of Commerce yesterday was that we have looked at the Alaska and the Alberta models on the Yukon permanent fund and that I would be seeking their input on that. On the future of the Yukon permanent fund, I also indicated that I would be seeking their advice and input to the capital budget for the fall and also that I would be speaking with them with respect to business incentives and economic strategy.
I indicated that those discussions with the community at large ó and by that, I mean the Yukon ó would begin on June 6 in Dawson City.
Mr. Fairclough: For the last two years, we on this side of the House have been asking the government to go out and consult Yukoners on decisions that affect them, and weíre pleased to hear that the Premier is finally committing to go out and consult on the permanent fund.
Apparently, her consultations with the federal government, Mr. Speaker, arenít having much success. Part of the Premierís message yesterday was that the idea of an economic development agreement between Ottawa and Yukon is basically dead.
So, can the Premier tell us why she let this slip through her fingers? Was it because of disagreements with the Minister of DIAND, or was it simply because her lobbying efforts werenít strong enough?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Well, the member opposite wasnít at the luncheon, and the member opposite, to the best of my knowledge, hasnít obtained a copy of the text of my speech or the question period. The fact is that, among other things, what I said was that the northern economic development strategy was clearly ó the option for us was to pursue the western diversification fund, and that has been recognized by the Premier of Nunavut and by the Premier of the Northwest Territories, and myself. I also indicated that we had received strong support from all our colleagues throughout Canada on the north being able to access some form of an economic development fund.
If the member opposite wishes, he can go back and look through annual premiers conferences communiqués, western premiers conferences communiqués ó there has been tremendous support for this.
The fact is that the federal government has not, as of yet, come through. That doesnít mean our lobbying efforts have not been effective. That does not mean we are not likely to see an economic development fund. What it means is we have not achieved success yet. Weíre still working toward that end.
Mr. Fairclough: This Liberal government in the Yukon is supposed to have a special relationship with Ottawa. We havenít seen that yet and, Mr. Speaker, we have heard about the luncheon meeting and we know about question period and how many questions were asked at that meeting.
Mr. Speaker, on the one hand, we have the Yukon MP lobbying for a northern accord that would involve all three territories. On the other hand, we have the Premier shifting focus from an economic development agreement to participation in the western diversification fund, and Iím sure the Premierís deal-making skills will get a good workout when sheís competing with jurisdictions like Saskatchewan, Alberta and B.C.
So, my question, Mr. Speaker, is instead of throwing in the towel on an economic development agreement, will the Premier give it one more try by taking a united public and private sector voice to Ottawa to help her lobby?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, if the member wants to quote my entire speech, then the member opposite should also focus on the fact that several points I made with the business community and were recognized in the closing remarks were that we, the Yukon government, working with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, Yukon Chamber of Commerce and Yukoners, are on the same side and we want to work together. That fundamental point was made repeatedly by both the introducer and the president of the chamber, who thanked me for the address.
The fact is that I have been talking about Yukon accessing the western diversification fund. Since Question Period started on April 4, I have been speaking about that. I have been speaking about those options. We are working with the federal government. We have been since we started and we have achieved far more success working with the federal government than that member opposite ever dreamed of.
Question re: Alaska Highway pipeline competing with Mackenzie route
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to follow up with the Premier because there is another area where itís obvious that the Yukonís voice isnít penetrating the stone walls of the Parliament Buildings.
By now the Premier may have seen the lead story in the business section of todayís Calgary Herald. There is a clear message from the federal Minister of Natural Resources, Herb Dhaliwal, that the federal government might be ready to take a political position favouring the Mackenzie Valley pipeline instead of remaining neutral. Has the Premier expressed her concerns to Mr. Dhaliwal about this development that could have serious implications for the Alaska Highway route?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Iíd be pleased to answer this question for the leader of the official opposition. The answer to that question is yes. The Premier and I have both presented our concerns to Minister Dhaliwal. The Premier has also spoken to Premier Calvert from Saskatchewan about this issue, former Premier Harris from Ontario, as well as a number of our other counterparts. I, too, have spoken to fellow energy ministers throughout Canada about my concerns with the position that the federal government appears to be taking.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like my questions to be answered by the Premier, as I believe this should be stepped up to the highest level for Yukon.
Itís pretty clear that this local Liberal government is out of step with their head office in Ottawa, in spite of those weekly instructions that weíve heard so much about.
In February the Premier wrote an article in Ottawaís Hill Times newspaper on the competing gas pipeline proposal. Hereís part of what she wrote: "Yukon firmly rejects the proposal for a northern or offshore route." Hereís another quote: "A northern route is politically and environmentally unacceptable." This is from the Premier, so Iíd like to ask her, is that still the position of this Liberal government?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, one of the comments that the leader of the official opposition made in his question is about competing pipeline routes. The competing routes that we see are for the transportation of North Slope gas to market, that being the southern route, or the Alaska Highway route ó which we are fully in support of ó versus an over-the-top, or a pipeline that would go under the Beaufort Sea. And we still are opposed to that pipeline route based on environmental challenges as well as economic challenges and engineering challenges. Certainly that position is shared with the Alaska State Legislature, which legislated that route as not being able to occur. So we do believe and we still state, from a Yukon government position, that the over-the-top route is not an acceptable route.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, Iím hoping that the Premier can answer these questions. Todayís story in the Calgary Herald makes it clear that the federal minister wants to keep the door wide open for industry to decide to build a pipeline under the Beaufort Sea. The intentions, of course, would be to transfer Canadian reserves in the high Arctic through the Mackenzie Valley route.
I guess the Liberal message on the over-the-top route depends on which Liberal is speaking. So has the Premier advised Mr. Dhaliwal in no uncertain terms that the over-the-top route is not acceptable to Yukon for the reasons she stated in February, and if not, when will she be doing so?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has stated that two pipelines are better than one. That is his position in his deliberations with the Premier. We also have noted that industry itself ó Phillips Petroleum as well as BP. One of those companies stated that they would prefer a southern route, and the other company stated that they would not go against what the local government saw as the preferred route. So, certainly the Alaskan government has been very clear in stating that they prefer the southern route, so industry essentially, I believe, has decided, and that the over-the-top route is all but dead.
Question re: Tourism industry, impacts on
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question today for the Premier. It is now obvious to the Yukon visitor industry that we are in a crisis situation. The economic mainstay of the industry is the rubber-tire traffic from the Lower 48, and current projections show that this traffic will be down by a devastating 40 percent. It is my understanding that the previous Department of Tourism had developed a contingency plan to deal with this crisis; however, the Premier fired the chief architect of that plan, so it was never implemented. This dramatic downturn is going to hit all segments of the visitor industry and could force some B&Bs, hotels and attractions throughout the territory to close their doors.
Will the Premier accept responsibility for this disaster and apologize to the industry? Because very little can be done now to salvage this season.
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: I am more than willing to answer the question from the member opposite. Of course he hasnít kept up to date. First of all, he doesnít realize that tourism all over the world is affected by a very unfortunate event that occurred on September 11 in New York. The second fact is that we are responding and we are listening to what Yukoners have to say with respect to the tourism industry right here in the territory. As a matter of fact, this morning I announced an additional $250,000 in the three gateway cities of Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver to encourage visitors to come to the territory.
Mr. Jenkins: A little bit too little and a little bit too late, Mr. Speaker.
In addition to firing the previous deputy minister who was well-respected by the industry, the Premier made the situation even worse by diminishing the Department of Tourism through her government renewal initiative. In a CBC interview, the Premier stated that when she was wrong she would admit it. Will the Premier now admit that she contributed, to a large degree, to the disaster in the Yukonís visitor industry by not having a plan in place to mitigate the effects of 9/11?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: Quite contrary to what the member has said, I believe that the Premier in the renewal process has strengthened the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture. As a matter of fact, she has indicated quite emphatically that the $7.1 million in tourism marketing is to remain, and we are committed to that. We are doubling our efforts on a number of other issues ó $303,000 plus $40,000 from within the department on Welcome Alaska; $250,000 in gateway marketing strategies by the department.
So, unlike the Member for Klondike, we are listening to what Yukoners have to say.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, under this Premier, the mining industry has been decimated; the forest industry has been decimated; now our one last hope ó the visitor industry ó has been decimated by this Premier.
Will the Premier accept full responsibility for these disasters? Will she now listen to the industry, put the money that is needed up front and centre, develop a long-range plan and short-term plan to mitigate the effects of 9/11?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: We are working. Thatís exactly what weíre doing, Mr. Speaker. Again, the member must turn on the radio or read a newspaper from time to time to keep up on events that are happening, if heís not going to take whatís happening in this House at face value.
The fact of the matter is that the memberís new playmate in the Yukon Party sandbox indicated in Hansard on November 24, 1999, that the Yukon Party doesnít have any ideas when it comes to this economy. "Ö this goes to show why the Yukon Party is in the position theyíre in today, and it goes to show why the Yukon public ousted them as a government and it goes to show why we can never follow their course, their lead, when it comes to the economy of this territoryÖ"
Question re: Alcohol and drug program delivery
Mr. Keenan: I have a question today for the Minister of Health. Mr. Speaker, this government has identified alcohol and drug addiction as a priority and has since put money forth and created an alcohol and drug secretariat. It was only last week that the government gave $700,000 from one source or another for a range of services that will include community outreach services.
Will the minister explain what these services are and how they will be delivered?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of outreach programs that are going to come about as a result of the increased funding for the alcohol and drug secretariat. Three positions are being created: one for Dawson City, one for Haines Junction and one for Watson Lake, with specific community workers for alcohol and drug treatment. In addition to that, we are going to be working with First Nations and with other bodies who are interested in delivering different types of treatment programming other than the residential program that is being delivered in Whitehorse.
There will be two gender-specific, adolescent wilderness treatment programs, for example, that will go on through July and August and those are outside the normal residential program.
We have also hired a First Nation court trainee who will be going out and doing some of the training in the rural areas.
In addition to that, we have had or will have a series of mobile treatment programs that will go out to Yukon communities.
Mr. Keenan: I certainly appreciate that we will have outreach workers in Dawson City, Watson Lake and Haines Junction. I also appreciate that there will be a gender-specific youth treatment camp happening this summer ó hopefully this summer, Mr. Speaker. I have yet to see the proof of that.
I would like to ask this minister, Mr. Speaker, just what First Nation or community groups were involved in developing these wilderness treatment programs?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, I donít know if the member opposite was referring to the fact that summer may not come this year ó it doesnít seem that way ó or if he was referring to the fact that the programs may not occur. Clearly, summerís not here yet, but the programs were budgeted for in this budget prior to the additional increase of $700,000. The consultation that took place for the development of the new model for alcohol and drug secretariat took place over every Yukon community. We spoke to almost 250 individuals and groups about the development of this model. We feel that itís a fairly accurate representation of what we heard, and weíve discussed this many times in the Legislature. It is a dramatic increase in the services that have been made available in the past, and itís because itís our biggest health and social problem. We drink more than anyone else in Canada by quite a bit.
Mr. Keenan: Mr. Speaker, I think the communities are still out there looking to see when their priorities and their ways of doing things are going to be reflected in a budget. As a matter of fact, in some of the communities that I know of ó and as a matter of fact, in most of the communities I know of, this is the absolute number one issue. They have developed their own programming and developed their own needs and their own capacity reflecting what their needs and their priorities would be. We know, regardless of the weather for the past two years, including this summer, that there has been no reflection of those community priorities anywhere in the Yukon Territory. Now, Mr. Speaker, Iíd also like to point out that the secretariat apparently is not going to be supporting these community-based programs this summer. They will not be doing that, so I would like to ask why this minister went out and tried to reinvent the wheel rather than supporting the community-based programs that are there and waiting to be implemented?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Once again, I have no idea what the member opposite is talking about. The original question was about the wilderness-based treatment programs for youth, and those programs will take place over the summer. In addition to that, we are speaking to a number of other groups that want to deliver alcohol and drug treatment programs throughout the Yukon, and some of those good programs are the school-based training of professionals so they can work in Yukon communities ó not just Whitehorse ó and to me, the most important of all is the FAS-prevention consultant, who will be working in all Yukon communities.
In addition to that, weíll have a halfway house, there is social detoxification now at detox as well as medical detox, and there will be a school-based training program that will go throughout Yukon communities, talking about prevention and educating people about alcohol. Thatís all the way through the territory, and there are many groups, over many years, who have delivered alcohol programs. We are speaking to those groups, and we will continue to speak to those groups, and they will be delivering those programs for us, at some point or another, over the next few years.
Question re: Forestry devolution
Mr. Fentie: I have a question for the Premier today. My colleague has just dealt with the tourism disaster caused by the Premier. Now I want to deal with the continuing forestry disaster in this territory.
Yesterday in the House, I raised the concern about how the Yukon protected areas strategy and other land alienations have effectively shut down the Yukonís forest industry by limiting access to timber. I specifically mentioned the La Biche forest ecosystem network, the Watson Creek wilderness preserve and the Rancheria caribou study area as lands being withdrawn from forestry in addition to those considered through YPAS.
The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources pleaded ignorance, stating that forestry is a federal responsibility, and the Minister of Environment said nothing.
Will the Premier explain why two of her deputy ministers ó the Deputy Minister of Economic Development and the Deputy Minister of Renewable Resources ó signed an agreement in September 2001 that there would be no logging in the La Biche forest ecosystem network, and will the Premier table that agreement in this House for the public record?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact of the matter is that the forest ecosystem network that the Member for Watson Lake is talking about was reserved under a federal action, called CEAA, until there was a full assessment of the resources in that area, and that is the way it is to this day. That is what happened there.
Mr. Fentie: I must point out for the ministerís benefit that it is this ministerís official and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resourcesí official who allowed this territory to sign on to that specific agreement.
My supplementary to the Premier: the Premier refused to provide any assistance to the South Yukon Forest Corporation in 2000, costing the community of Watson Lake 125 jobs, and putting families out of work. Now we discover, in 2001, that her government wants to alienate even more lands from the forest industry, even though the industry has already shut down because of a lack of stable access to timber.
Why did this Premier let her government officials agree to the La Biche withdrawal?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is, this side works as a team, all the time, and this is an example of how we work.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The member opposite just asked who was leading. That is a good question that he should reflect on ó who is leading within the Yukon Party right now? They have no idea. As the list of applicants continues to grow ó I do believe there was another applicant for the leadership announced today. It is going to very interesting to see what happens.
Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the Yukon Party, when they were faced with forestry under their government, the Yukon Partyís government approach was that there was nothing they could do with it, that it was a federal problem ó absolutely nothing. Under their watch, there was a moratorium, a loss of jobs, a complete closure of industry. Watson Lake, under the Yukon Party, was starving to death. That was a quote from the Member for Klondikeís new sandbox playmate.
Speaker: Order please. Iíd ask the minister not to be personal and offensive.
Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I could add to that debate by saying the Yukon Party is having a very healthy leadership race and thatís something the Liberals opposite should consider.
Can the Premier explain why her government is recommending more areas be withdrawn from logging when her Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has stated that forestry is a federal responsibility? And have her officials agreed to prohibit logging in the Watson Creek wilderness preserve and the Rancheria caribou study area? If so, will she table those agreements? And I would point out to whomever is going to answer this, could we try and fast forward from 1999 to 2002?
Hon. Mr. Eftoda: The fact is that we are far, far in advance of the 1999 year that the Member for Watson Lake has just mentioned. The fact is that we are working with the realities of 2002, unlike ó oh, Iím not supposed to say nasty things. Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker.
The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, there are wildlife concerns in the issue that the member is talking about, but there is no moratorium on forestry that we on this side of the House have imposed. As a matter of fact, we are working diligently with the federal government on establishing parameters. Weíre having a very good and hard, thorough look at the Tough report. Weíre working with the federal minister, getting ready for the transfer, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources has indicated, and we wholeheartedly and will responsibly and accountably look after the resource, respecting that there is an industry there as well.
Question re: Pupil/teacher ratio
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday I asked the minister some specific questions about the process used to decide which teachers are having their jobs cut. Instead of answering the question, Mr. Speaker, the minister proceeded to explain the student/teacher formula. That wasnít what I asked, so Iím asking the minister again: who decides which teachers or positions or programs will have to go?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: In our schools, we have the best student/teacher ratio in the country. We have a formula for staffing, and we are trying to keep the teachers that we have and use them in programs like reading recovery so we can get the maximum benefit for students. What we are trying to do is to deal with any of these issues through attrition and normal retirement processes.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, yesterday when I asked the questions, I got that same answer. Last month at a community meeting, the minister said that it would be status quo for next year. A reduction of 1.5 teachers at Whitehorse Elementary and three at F.H. Collins is not status quo. How does this decision support community needs and the ministerís commitment to parents?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: As the member opposite was not there, I believe the memberís comments are taking my comments out of context. Thereís a staffing formula we use in the Yukon for all our student/teacher ratios. That formula has been there for a number of years. We have a declining enrolment. We need to make the best use of the resources we have to get the best benefits for Yukon students.
Thatís one of the issues facing the Yukon right now. We are trying to do that through ensuring we have teachers available to provide other programs that are necessary. We would like to see the best education for our children here.
Mrs. Peter: We have seen evidence that Yukon students are below the national average in some key areas, and that is our concern. Instead of these proposed cuts, will the minister consider maintaining the current workforce and beefing up those areas of concern?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: What the member opposite fails to add is that, in some areas, weíre doing much better than other parts of Canada. What we are trying to do is get the best outcome for children, and what weíve found in Canada is that throwing more money at the issues isnít giving us the outcome weíre looking for. So weíre looking at ways to improve education for our children. Weíve looked at some of the issues surrounding math and reading recovery, and weíre trying to find out what we need to do to improve our math outcomes. Weíre increasing the number of reading recovery teachers by eight this year, so we are taking measures to improve literacy and numeracy.
The interesting part of this is it requires community involvement as well, so weíre asking the community to participate in the education of our children.
Question re: Extended care facility location
Mr. Jenkins: I have a question for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Now, thereís a long history in Whitehorse of NDP governments building facilities in the wrong place. We look at the Arts Centre, for example; the visitor reception centre built up on the highway resulted in a new one having to be built downtown. When it comes to health care facilities, the NDP legacy is much more serious. The Thomson extended care facility was built to be attached to the new Whitehorse General Hospital and forced the construction of the new hospital at its present site across the river, rather than allowing it to be built in a more accessible site in another location.
Now, under the plan of the previous NDP government, the Thomson Centre is being turned into an intermediate care level residence, and its extended care and dementia patients are being moved to the new Copper Ridge extended care facility. Does the minister ó
Speaker: Conclusion please.
Mr. Jenkins: ó agree with the location and move?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Mr. Speaker, thatís where the multi-million dollar facility is, so of course weíre going to move people there.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, when the minister was in opposition, the Member for Riverdale severely criticized the previous NDP Minister of Health and Social Services for building the new extended care facility in Copper Ridge, so far from the hospital. In view of her previous concerns, does the minister now think it makes sense to turn the Thomson Centre into an immediate care level residence, when it was designed to provide the highest level of care ó and that is why it was attached to the hospital in the first place?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: Letís go back, Mr. Speaker. First of all, Copper Ridge Place was already under construction. It had been designed, the lot was cleared and it was ready to go when we took office. It would have been ludicrous, at that point, to waste the millions of dollars that had already gone into it by building it somewhere else.
My personal opinion at the time when I was in opposition was that it should have been co-located with the hospital, but we didnít have a choice. Itís where it is. As for the Thomson Centre being developed into an intermediate care facility, thatís pretty well whatís going to happen because the residents of Macaulay Lodge are moving over to the Thomson Centre.
Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to point out that the minister and her government did have a choice. The Copper Ridge extended care facility is bound to be a very expensive facility to run. Can the minister advise the House how many clients the new facility will have in it when it opens, what the cost estimate per bed will be, and how many clients will be housed in the downgraded Thomson Centre in view of the fact that 50 beds in Macaulay Lodge will be closed down?
Hon. Mrs. Edelman: We were in Health debate yesterday, and we went through these details already, but Iíll go through them again with the member opposite.
The contract was already awarded for Copper Ridge Place. It will have a 76-bed capacity and, by the time we move the residents from Macaulay Lodge into the Thomson Centre, and the Thomson Centre residents up to Copper Ridge, as well as the other people who will be moving in there from the community, there will be no waiting list, and thatís a wonderful thing. It will be the first time in many years there hasnít been a waiting list for any type of care facility in the Yukon Territory, and that speaks to a commitment this government made in the last election ó a commitment we have kept.
Speaker: Time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, in order that we may deal with the business of the House, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair, and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order. Committee of the Whole will recess until 2:00 p.m.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order.
Bill No. 9 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued
Department of Finance ó continued
Chair: We will continue with general debate on the Department of Finance, as part of Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03. Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Yesterday, during Committee of the Whole general debate, the MLA for Kluane asked for a copy of the Government of Yukonís banking contract between the Government of Yukon, as represented by myself, and the Toronto Dominion Bank, a chartered bank of Canada and, via the page, I have a copy of that contract to send over for the MLA for Kluane. There are also copies attached for the MLA for Klondike and the MLA for Whitehorse Centre, as House leaders on behalf of the other parties.
I also have, Mr. Chair, a letter addressed to the leader of the official opposition. The leader of the official opposition had asked for further detail about the corporate income tax and the decline in the number shown in the 2002-03 main estimates. This information is conveyed via letter to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, the leader of the official opposition, and there is a copy there for the MLA for Klondike and the MLA for Whitehorse Centre.
Essentially what the letter says is that the amount that is shown in the estimate is based upon the projections provided by the federal government, and, of course, the federal government collects the taxes on our behalf. The projection for 2002-03 in corporate taxes shows a significant decline, and this is what the member was asking about.
It doesnít reflect any special knowledge on the part of the federal government. Figures are the figures that were provided to all provinces and territories by the federal Department of Finance. All provinces and territories were reduced in light of the events around September 11, so that is part of the reason.
The other point I tried to make to the member opposite is that it takes several years before the true amount of the taxes ó these are just projections ó is known for certainty. Regular revisions of these tax amounts are provided to the federal government as the returns come in and as adjustments flow through to the following years. The figure printed for any given year is a combination of both the current estimate, which was, of course, reduced this year in light of September 11, and the adjustments for previous years. That is fairly standard.
In the case of the 2002-03 projection, a deduction of $1 million has been made because we have been told by the federal government that assessments for several previous years are lower than their forecast, and this has the effect of showing the significant difference.
The personal income tax figures are also based upon federal projections. They donít show the same decline as the corporate tax. Weíre not privy to all the information and all the methodologies that the federal government uses on these models, but it is reasonable to assume that personal income taxes lag behind the corporate income taxes. This should address the questions that the member has asked, and itís in written form as well as, of course, recorded in Hansard. But I am, of course, prepared to provide the member with more information should he wish it.
The MLA for Klondike asked a question with respect to the banking services contract, also ó he was following up on the Member for Kluaneís question ó and asked about the projected decline in the investment income shown on page 10B-8, I believe it is.
The fact is that the governmentís banking services are contracted to TD Canada Trust. I have provided that information. Payment for these services is accomplished by a compensating balance. What happens is that money is kept on deposit with the bank, which credits the Yukon government with interest on this money, which is prime less two percent, and the bank uses this money to cover the cost of our contract with them.
If we donít have enough money on deposit to earn a significant return that covers the banking costs, then we have to pay the difference. To allow for this, the government budgets the $50,000. So, we budget that amount, and we have budgeted that amount for several years. Of the last two years, one year we used $7,000; one year we used $8,000. Thatís a standard budget amount, and I believe I explained that yesterday to the member opposite but, for the sake of the record, I have explained it again today.
In the past, Finance has been able to avoid having to pay anything near that $50,000, as Iíve just said, because of the relatively high, accumulated surpluses and the availability of cash on hand to cover the compensating balance requirement.
Two factors have increased the possibility of the government having to pay out a larger amount to meet the cost of the banking contract. First, there is the declining accumulated surplus, which means that there are fewer funds available to hold on to the compensatory balance. The 2002-03 annual deficit is projected to be over $41 million, and that draws down the accumulated surplus by that sum. Secondly, the very low interest rates that are currently being experienced mean that the amount required to meet the compensating balance requirements increases significantly. This has increased the likelihood of the government not always having a sufficient balance on hand to pay for the banking services. That is the explanation for the $50,000. We of course endeavour to avoid having to make direct expenditures for banking services, but we have to have the ability to do so if necessary, and therefore we have to have the budgeted line amount. The projected decline in accumulated surplus and the funds available to invest impacts upon the investment income.
There were two questions asked by the Member for Klondike yesterday: why did we have this $50,000 for the banking services, and why was there a decline in the investment income? I have answered the first question with respect to why we budgeted $50,000. I have answered it in quite significant detail.
The second issue, which is the decline in investment income, is, as I said yesterday, based upon the projected decline in the accumulated surplus combined with historically low interest rates. That is the cause of the reduced interest yield shown in the O&M estimates. The decline does not affect our overall total revenues because investment income is failsafed under the formula financing agreement. The Member for Klondike has had significant information from me and the members of the Finance team with respect to the formula financing agreement, and I am certain he is well aware that that investment income is failsafed under the formula financing agreement.
The Department of Finance ó I have today provided the answers to the questions that the members asked in general debate and I trust that is sufficient information. Should they require more, I am more than happy to provide it and to answer any further questions in general debate on the Department of Finance in the operation and maintenance budget.
Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, the only reason the Premier has answered the questions twice is because she is on camera right now and that appears to be the only reason.
Chair: Order please. It is important that we do not impute any unavowed or false motives, so Iíll rule that out of order and ask you, Mr. Jenkins, to retract it.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Jenkins: Iíll retract the statement that the Premier is on camera right now. Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to take the Premier, the Minister of Finance, to a legislative return that she tabled on May 9, 2002, in this House. Iíll send over a copy for her information.
It deals with the Financial Administration Act and how everything was structured with the warrants and with the movement of money to allow the government to operate, given that the Legislature wasnít called into session before the fiscal year expired.
Iíd like to take the minister to section 8, and it deals with the reorganization. The reorganization resulted in the elimination of some votes ó which basically are departments ó to which spending authority was granted in the First Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and the administrative transfer of the authority to new or different departments.
Could the minister explain how the transfer was accomplished to these new or different departments, given that some of them do not even exist? There is no legislative authority and this, in fact, would contravene the Financial Administration Act, Mr. Chair. Iím sure the minister knows where Iím heading on this, because it is a blatant violation of the Financial Administration Act, given that there is money being moved around to departments that do not exist, and where there is no legislative authority as of yet to put money into these departments. In fact, the minister has the cart before the horse, and the whole area outlined in section 8 could certainly be called into question as to the lack of legislative authority and a lack of ability of the government to move those funds to non-existent departments.
So this could actually be considered ultra vires, or probably even downright illegal, Mr. Chair
Chair: Order please. Itís important that we do not accuse members of breaking the law in this Legislature. "Ultra vires" is okay; "illegal" is not, Mr. Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Well, Mr. Chair, Iíd like to hear from the Premier as to how she justified the movement of these appropriations, or votes, from one area to a department that does not have any standing whatsoever.
Some of these departments have no legislative authority. I went through this legislative return in great detail, and a lot of the areas are very much on the edge as to special warrants, and as to when special warrants are supposed to be used is well-defined.
Iíd encourage the minister to look up some of the words for which the purposes are outlined for special warrants, such as "emergencies". There was no emergency here, Mr. Chair. What we have is a lot of anticipation of the sitting date. In fact, the sitting date of the Legislature was well known. In fact, the Premier moved it to after the start of the fiscal year. The responsible initiative of this Minister of Finance would have been to call the Legislature and put together an interim supply bill. Iím sure speedy passage would have been granted.
Because of the renewal, the minister had to find a way to move money to non-existent departments within the confines of the Financial Administration Act. I refer the Minister of Finance specifically to point 8 in her legislative return of May 9. Iíd like to know specifically by what authority money can be moved to new departments that do not exist. Where is that in statute? Where is that contained?
To the best of my knowledge, it does not exist. I would like to know how the minister accomplished this because, as I said earlier, it appears to be quite and could be considered to be ó I am not allowed to use the term ó inappropriate, very inappropriate.
The area of discussion currently with respect to banking and investment, about which the minister responded twice, was quite interesting, and I appreciate her response. If, in the interests of capable budgeting so we donít end up lapsing a tremendous amount of money ó we only have to look back over the space of so many years to see what the banking services have cost the Government of Yukon. To suggest that it continue to be budgeted at $50,000 when historically we have been in the range of $10,000 or less for quite a number of years is not good forecasting or budgeting.
I would like to take exception to one point the Minister of Finance made, and it was that when the reporting and statistics came in from the federal government, personal income tax lags behind corporate tax. That was a statement that the Minister of Finance made. My information is that it is the other way around, given that the information on corporate income tax flows on a continuing basis, because fiscal year-ends for corporations can end at any time during the year. The government knows pretty much what is transpiring on a month-to-month basis, and usually if there is tax due from the corporations, it is usually paid at the time of filing or at the end of their fiscal year. If they wait until the time of filing and taxes are due, then they are penalized. You can file up to six months after your year-end.
But personal income tax, as we all know ó we file on the same day. And we all know the federal government has a very, very good handle on what is being taken in here in the Yukon, Mr. Chair. The only area of contention with respect to personal income tax is the individuals who might work in another jurisdiction and change their point of residency at December 31 of the year for which they are filing.
So there is a lot of information out there, and how it is dovetailing into this forecasting that the minister is hanging her hat on I certainly have questions about, and Iím disappointed with some of the responses. It indicates not a thorough and complete analysis of the situation by the Minister of Finance.
With respect to the investment, itís projected to go down from $2 million to $450,000 currently, Mr. Chair, under these 2002-03 estimates. The amount of money on hand is currently at an all-time high with the Government of Yukon, and over the last two years, the amount of money that has flowed through to the government has been unbelievable.
When you factor in the reduction in interest rates along with the increase in the amount of money on deposit, and when you look at the amount of money that has flowed from the federal government to the Yukon on the basis by which it currently flows, cash-flow management is one thing, but to come up with a number that low would lead one to conclude that there is something amiss ó there is some money being taken out of circulation and put into other instruments that are not identified here. I believe there is a $15-million contingency ó how thatís invested and where that is reflected hasnít been identified. There is the additional $10 million. So weíre talking $25 million that weíre not even identifying with, and Iíd like to know from the Minister of Finance where the investment income from those substantial sums of money is being accrued in the financial statements, or the financial position thatís being advanced by the Government of Yukon, Mr. Chair.
Further to that, there appears to be a number of other areas where the Minister of Finance is painting a picture that is black when it should be white, or red when it should be black, Mr. Chair. I guess this comes through with the overestimating of expenditures in a number of areas. The lapses that we are seeing under this government, Mr. Chair, have never been higher, and that does not bode well for good fiscal management. It indicates that there is ó I guess we can term it as a "lot of excess" that should be dealt with, because this government is on the treadmill of crying poverty and that our accumulated surplus is going to be depleted. Itís projected to be depleted to this sum, and we heard the Minister of Finance, in prior fiscal periods, touting how much itís going to be depleted. In fact, if the Minister of Finance would like to look at the five-year fiscal forecast she tabled a number of years ago regarding what the accumulated surplus would be to what it actually is currently, we have a different picture altogether, Mr. Chair. And that is even with factoring in the tremendous amount of money ó the windfall amounts ó that flowed from the federal government. We have a number of factors in the formula with Canada, the failsafe component and the perversity factor that failsafe works in our favour. Indeed, itís almost a one-to-one on the perversity factor components. So at the end of the day, if we donít do anything, weíd do very well. I guess thatís the position that this government is taking, Mr. Chair. The less we do, the more reliant we are on Ottawa, the more financial security we have here in the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, there are quite a number of questions there. I look forward to some positive responses, primarily dealing with the legislative return as to the justification for that section 8 response. I know there is no legislative authority existing for the movement of these monies to these departments that do not exist.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: In response to the member opposite I would just like to reference the personal income tax comment first, and restate for the member opposite, because apparently he has not heard the response. The personal income tax figures in the estimate are based on the federal projections, and they donít show the same decline as corporate taxes.
Mr. McLarnon: Questions from our side are going to centre around the permanent fund. The Premier has stated publicly that she is going to go around and ask Yukoners to consult based on the Alberta and Alaska models. We on this side maintain that we have nothing in common with them and that this money certainly came around in different circumstances, in different quantities and in different economic environments than we see today in the Yukon Territory.
The question for the Premier is simple. Will the other option happen so that we donít have a situation like we did with electoral boundaries? When we went around and talked about all the options and the single question that never got asked was, "Do you want to see more or fewer politicians?" That was the one question most Yukoners wanted an answer to, but never got it. Here we are presented with two options that we see as both bad, and the analogy that you can say is that when you are considering buying an Edsel it doesnít matter if you are buying it in black or brown; both options are bad if it's an Edsel. Here we are doing a permanent fund based on the choices. Whether it is appropriate to the Yukon Territory is the larger question.
Will the Premier at least listen to Yukoners if they give the option that they donít want to see one at all?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Two things ó the speech I gave yesterday, and what I indicated to the public in speaking about the permanent fund. First of all, they havenít been talked about for some years. The idea of a permanent fund has not been publicly discussed for some time. What I am endeavouring to present to the public is some background information. The background information I have chosen to present, after some lengthy research, is the Alberta and the Alaska options.
Of course I intend to listen to what Yukoners tell us. Yukoners absolutely believe that, as individuals, they should set aside some funds whenever and wherever possible, and they think no less of their government. So, my comments for the speech were that, in the coming weeks, I would invite and encourage anyone with an interest in Yukonís economic future to watch for meetings that will take place over the summer months and into September to discuss two other specific initiatives ó and these were on top of some other things I mentioned earlier. One was the upcoming capital budget, and the other is the future of the Yukon permanent fund.
Beginning in June, starting in Dawson on June 6 at the close of the western premiers, western governors, I will be hosting community meetings. At those community meetings, itís my intention to have a discussion piece because itís easier to start a discussion with something in front of people as opposed to, "So, what do you think?"
The piece I intend to have in front of individuals is background information on the finances of the territory; some information on the models and some questions. Itís easier to ask a question and to listen to the response than it is to just have a ó certainly, I envision a free-flowing discussion, but I would like to start with some questions to start the dialogue. The third piece would be the economic strategy information that we have gathered from suggestions on the floor of the House and suggestions that have been put forward.
Absolutely, we will listen to what Yukoners suggest, and I would say to the member opposite that, in doing the research, the situation in the Yukon is no different from what other provinces did in setting this up.
A fiscal stabilization fund was set up in Manitoba and Saskatchewan when they received a similar equalization payment stabilization. Thatís what they did, and that is information we would also share with Yukoners.
So we absolutely are listening to what Yukoners have to say, and Iím looking forward to it.
Mr. McLarnon: Itís nice information to find out what Saskatchewan and Manitoba did with their funds. Unfortunately, those arenít going to be the options presented to the Yukon public. Weíll be hearing about Alaska and Alberta. Thatís what the Premier clearly stated to the Chamber of Commerce, in the media reports. These other options are coming up right now. Those funds, as far as I understand, are directed toward government use, so the money goes into general revenue; and the permanent fund here, as being discussed in the Alberta or Alaska models, donít necessarily always go into general revenues. In fact, the Alaska model goes far away from general revenues and the Alberta model has at times been used for business investment funds and business projects.
Yes, it certainly has. We can just recall Dome Petroleum and all the money from the Alberta heritage fund that went there. So we donít need a head shaking from the Premier. These things have happened. Now, what we do need is to make sure that Yukoners fully understand that they can also say no, that they can say that the permanent fund is a good idea but not at this time.
Just to put it on the record, government is not supposed to always operate like household management. First of all, if it did, weíd see far more money being spent in health care than we do today, far less on roads, because other households have other needs. We donít bring it down to a household management level. We bring it to a macro level. When we bring it to a macro level, we can see the wisdom in some governments running deficit budgets for a number of years to ensure that economic activity happens and that thereís a firm plank to ensure economies can recover. That is not something a household has available, but it is a tool of the government, so we should start thinking larger. Currently, letís face it, in the Yukon Territory, people are tapping into those savings now. Businesses, especially, are tapping into any accumulated savings they have just to survive, and thatís the larger picture. The $10 million could go into investing in the Yukon Territory, helping people now ó now, before those bankruptcies happen; now, before the last of those private reserves are tapped. And thatís what is incumbent upon government to do.
Weíre not going to belabour the point. We wanted to make sure that our position was stated, that this Yukon permanent fund is completely wrong in its conception. Itís the wrong time; itís the wrong place; itís the wrong business environment. Itís the wrong decision to make. Just to inform the Premier, we know that theyíre going around at the beginning of the summer. The independents will be travelling around at the end of the summer. And weíll also be collecting names on petitions about whether the permanent fund should even be in existence. So weíll be following up, and the question weíll be asking Yukoners is not whether they want to choose the Alberta or Alaska model, not whether they want to choose the black or the brown Edsel, but whether they want to buy an Edsel or a Yukon permanent fund at all.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Deputy Chair: Is there any further debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I am still waiting for a response to my position on the legislative return, clause 8. By what authority has the Minister of Finance moved money to departments that do not exist?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: That question was answered clearly in the legislative return. The government has operated completely within the Financial Administration Act and the laws of general application of the Yukon Territory.
Mr. Jenkins: Could the minister point out in the legislative return where the authority exists for money to be transferred to departments that do not exist in statute?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: The member opposite is attempting to suggest that the Government of Yukon and the capital budget votes and Schedule A have not been conducted within the Financial Administration Act when in fact they have, and I have tabled the legislative return to that effect. The fact is that that capital budget, which the Member for Klondike refused to debate, voted specific amounts of money to specific departments ó they are votes for specific program purposes. Responsibility has been moved to different departments, so departments named in the fall appropriation act no longer exist. There is no need or desire to change the amounts and the purposes. Department names are being changed.
Special warrant was issued entirely within the Financial Administration Act to allow new departments to begin spending money on capital projects for which they received responsibility through renewal.
The Financial Administration Act requires that the warrants are followed up, and they are. The second appropriation act being tabled includes a reallocation of previously voted money to new departments. The Government of Yukon has behaved and acted entirely appropriately. A vote is what the Executive Council and the Legislature wish it to be, and the Financial Administration Act doesnít define a vote. We treat departments as votes in the Yukon.
The Department of Finance has indicated that there is no legal requirement that a department be created by a specific statute. In the section the member opposite refers to, there was an elimination to whom spending authority was granted and the administrative transfer of that authority to new or different departments.
This issue has been outlined and re-outlined for the member opposite. We have acted entirely within the authorities granted the government by both special warrant and the Financial Administration Act, and to suggest that this government has not behaved in an appropriate manner is casting aspersions, which you suggest we not do, Mr. Chair.
If the member opposite has concerns about the actions, he has indicated he would write to the Auditor General. I would invite him to do so. Iíd invite him to speak to the leader of the official opposition and call the Public Accounts Committee, if the member opposite wishes.
We have said we behaved within the Financial Administration Act, and we have. Thereís no other answer forthcoming for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: If I disagree with the Minister of Finance, it probably wouldnít come as a big surprise. With respect to the Public Accounts Committee, I have already spoken to the official opposition and asked that that be considered.
If there is no authority needed to establish a new department and statute, why do we have a bill before this Legislature that hasnít been dealt with, establishing and defining these new departments? Because you have to do that in order to flow the money. Why bring this bill before the House if you donít have to do it? Because you have to do it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Jenkins: Then let's trash that bill. Itís very interesting that, on one hand, we donít need to have the new departments defined and established, but on the other hand, the Premier has tabled a bill dealing with the restructuring and reorganization. I submit that this point 8 in the legislative return that the Minister of Finance tabled ó this reorganization resulted in elimination of some votes to whom spending authority was granted in First Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and the administrative transfer of that authority to new or different departments. What I am asking the Premier is: where is that administrative transfer authorized? Because it is not spelled out anywhere in statute. It does not exist. You can move money to departments that do exist, and you can move money to departments that are presently established by statute, but you cannot move money without a department being established.
Thereís basically the crux of my argument, and itís one of the points that Iím going to ask the Public Accounts Committee to address. But seeing that thereís a potential for this bill on government reorganization passing this Legislature, it probably will be moot, in that the authority is granted after the fact. But from April 1 of this year to when that reorganization bill passes this House, I would say, in my opinion and in the opinion of a number of other individuals I have spoken to, that the government currently does not have any authority to move money and spending authority to a department that does not exist.
Now, could the minister, for the record, point out where that administrative transfer authority comes from?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, it has already been done for the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister just keeps citing this legislative return, and I pointed out that itís not spelled out here now. The minister is just hiding because she obviously cannot answer the question, Mr. Chair. I donít know why she is hiding. Why not bring that other bill up first? Why not pass that to provide some certainty?
I donít know. This seems to be once again a case of the cart being before the horse, because there was no authority for this Minister of Finance to do what she is undertaking to do without the establishment of a department in statute.
What I hear from the minister is that sheís not going to answer. Sheís going to sit down and stand down on this issue because she canít answer it, or maybe there are some other briefing notes there that can assist her.
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I provided the member opposite with a detailed response, and I have provided the member opposite with some suggestions should he choose not to accept my response. I have provided a detailed response in a legislative return. I have offered the member options should he choose not to accept that. The member is simple refusing to accept the answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Could I ask the Minister of Finance if she obtained a legal opinion, an overview of this area?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the member opposite should recognize that, yes, prior to taking any actions, this government was well-advised in this particular instance by both the Department of Justice and the Department of Finance.
Mr. Jenkins: So is the Minister of Finance saying that she has a legal opinion on the very matter that weíre discussing ó specifically this point 8 in the Minister of Financeís legislative return that was tabled on May 9?
Hon. Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíve stated for the member opposite that I have received the advice of both the Department of Justice and the Department of Finance, and I am assured we are entirely in order, and I have said that several times to the member opposite.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the minister, Mr. Chair, is not citing any section or any act or any statute under which this authority is provided to her ministry to undertake what she has done. I would submit it is an incorrect application of funding, and it contravenes the Financial Administration Act, and I will be asking the Public Accounts Committee to deal with it. There is another way to deal with it, but itís quite expensive and quite lengthy, and unfortunately our caucus doesnít have those funds on hand to deal with it. This is a very serious issue ó a very, very serious issue, Mr. Chair.
For a government that touts itself as being open and accountable, the opposite appears to be very much in evidence.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no general debate, weíll go into line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Administration in the amount of $492,000 agreed to
On Financial Operations and Revenue Services
Financial Operations and Revenue Services in the amount of $1,918,000 agreed to
On Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat
Fiscal Relations and Management Board Secretariat in the amount of $1,732,000 agreed to
On Banking Services
Banking Services in the amount of $50,000 agreed to
On Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer
Public Utilities Income Tax Transfer in the amount of $218,000 agreed to
Treasury in the amount of $4,410,000 agreed to
On Workersí Compensation Supplementary Benefits
On Supplementary Pensions
Supplementary Pensions in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
Workersí Compensation Supplementary Benefits in the amount of $382,000 agreed to
On Bad Debts Expense
On Allowance for Bad Debts
Allowance for Bad Debts in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
Bad Debts Expense in the amount of $74,000 agreed to
On Prior Period Adjustments
Prior Period Adjustments in the amount of one dollar agreed to
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $4,866,000 agreed to
Chair: We have capital to go through.
On Capital Expenditures
On Schedule A
Schedule A agreed to
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $250,000 agreed to
Department of Finance Agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization
Chair: Weíre now proceeding to loan amortization. Is there any general debate?
Okay, let me just find that in the book. Weíll go right to the line-by-line.
On Loans to Third Parties
Loans to Third Parties in the amount of $5,000,000 agreed to
Loan Capital and Loan Amortization agreed to
Chair: Now we will proceed to Energy, Mines and Resources.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Chair: Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iím pleased to open debate on the new Department of Energy, Mines and Resources O&M budget.
This department holds the responsibility for managing and developing the Yukonís abundant natural resources.
These responsibilities include oil and gas, agriculture, combined with policy and planning functions associated with mining, forestry, energy, pipeline development and disposition of undeveloped lands.
Over the year, we will be working hard to build and promote the Yukonís natural resource advantages as part of our commitment to rebuild the economy. This includes measures to manage our natural resources in an effective and responsible manner, to develop and provide comprehensive information about our natural resource wealth, to increase the productivity and competitiveness of industry and to create an attractive investment climate for Yukon industries. We are developing an effective and progressive natural resource management regime with First Nations and other partners.
Highlights for the coming year include the completion of an annual sale of oil and gas rights, and the passage of new oil and gas regulations by this fall to support responsible industry development. We will continue to seek opportunities to promote the oil and gas sector and investment in mineral development. There is $1,748,000 budgeted overall for oil and gas management.
We have allocated $669,000 for mineral planning and development and we are working hard to implement the MINE plan. Key activities include maintaining a favourable taxation regime, planning future infrastructure needs and publishing resource assessments and geological maps.
Of course we will continue marketing the advantages of the Alaska Highway pipeline route. We plan to spend $206,000 to continue to develop the territoryís infrastructure through actively promoting and ensuring preparedness for an Alaska Highway pipeline route selection. We are working toward a comprehensive and integrated energy policy and development of a Yukon climate change action plan.
The Energy, Mines and Resourcesí O&M budget is consistent with this governmentís priorities under renewal. I am pleased to report that there will be one-stop shopping for all Yukon government land-tenure transactions, including agricultural lands.
Our efforts will focus on increasing productivity of the Yukonís existing agricultural land base; $758,000 has been allocated for this purpose. The departmentís O&M budget is also consistent with this governmentís priorities in preparation for devolution. The transfer of administration and control of minerals, forests and federal Crown lands from DIAND one year from now will be one of the most important milestones in the territoryís history. EMR is expected to more than double in size with the transfer of the additional resource management responsibilities from the federal government.
This budget takes into account pre-transfer preparations necessary to take on the additional responsibilities that are coming to us. It includes preparing for a smooth transfer of resource management responsibilities and the integration of staff.
We will be undertaking a review of existing policies, programs and procedures with a view to improving client service and the investment climate.
Improved delivery of programs will require considerable groundwork in integrating staff and bridging different corporate cultures.
We have included funds for a departmental director of human resources to support the transfer and integration of federal employees to energy, mines and resources. The new EMR will have a director of minerals planning and development to oversee the Yukon geology program and activities designed to prepare for the mineral resource responsibilities we will be taking on from the federal government.
We will be looking at policy and administrative improvements that will enhance the service and investment climate for the mineral industry.
There is a forestry policy and planning team to prepare, in the coming year, a policy framework to guide management of forest resource with devolution and undertake work on a Yukon forest industry strategy.
Mr. Chair, the one-stop shopping for all government land transactions that I mentioned earlier complements the development of a client portal for program information and regulatory requirements related to all the resource responsibilities the department will have with devolution.
The priorities and activities of other departments and agencies are also key to meeting the goals and priorities of the Yukon government. Strong linkages with other departments such as Business, Tourism and Culture, Environment and Infrastructure are being forged. Through partnerships, both internal and external, a foundation will be established for integrated resource management and responsible development.
Mr. McRobb: For the ministerís information, this is a split area of critic portfolio between me and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. I would like to begin by asking the minister for the information he promised me during the Yukon Development Corporation debate that would be provided prior to this stage.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, is the Member for Kluane referring to the information surrounding the energy commission?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: Okay. My apologies if that information hasnít been provided to him, and I will make best efforts to ensure that it is as soon as possible.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, Iíve got a problem with that, because how can we hold the government accountable if we donít see an update on those initiatives at this time? We expect to be clearing this department this afternoon. So simply what the minister is asking me to accept is to pass this department without holding them accountable on any progress or lack thereof with respect to the energy policy initiatives. That is unacceptable, and itís very inconsistent with the position one would expect from a government that prides itself on being open and accountable. So I want to state my formal objection to that on the record, Mr. Chair.
Can the minister tell us what the total cost of contracted staff are within the pipeline unit?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I donít have that information at my fingertips. I do expect an official within the next five minutes, so if I can beg the indulgence of the House, perhaps we could take a five-minute recess until the official arrives, or we can carry on. I know there are contracted officials in the department, and I will have that information available once the official arrives.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine, Mr. Chair. The minister can also get back to me in writing on this if he wishes, and nod to that effect, which heís doing now. Thatís fine.
Can the minister explain why the department doesnít develop its own internal expertise by hiring full-time staff? The reason for this in the answer to my preceding question is that amounts in the hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last few years have paid out to contract staff. The obvious question is why hasnít the government developed its own internal expertise? Can the minister explain that, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I will provide the breakdown of the contracted staff in the pipeline unit to members opposite.
The difficulty we have when it comes to developing internal expertise is the difficulty that we face in competing with the lucrative jobs that exist in the oil and gas industry. We do have to contract out many of those positions, because we simply cannot compete with some of the major oil companies when it comes to the wages, benefits and those types of opportunities that that particular industry offers. That is why we do contract out many of the oil and gas and pipeline unit services that we do.
Mr. McRobb: On that point, can the minister indicate what measures he is taking to try to find a staff that might be suitable for hiring full-time with respect this area of expertise?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We have had a number of competitions to fill some of these positions, and many of them we were unable to fill at the end of the competition because what we were able to offer didnít match up to what the industry is able to offer for similar expertise.
Mr. McRobb: I am wondering if there isnít an unfortunate parallel between the lack of initiative shown by this department and the Health department with respect to recruiting nurses, which I highlighted the other afternoon. For example, on one of the more popular job search Web sites, called www.workopolis.com, there are about 10 job postings from the Yukon. One of them is a PSC job available for the airport manager in Whitehorse. There is no job posting from the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources with respect to these types of qualified personnel.
An ad in the Globe and Mail simply isnít read by everybody job searching in this field, which extends outside of Canada and is really a global area of expertise and practice. In this era of the Internet, where a lot of job seekers are using the Internet, it begs the question why the minister isnít taking greater advantage of job postings that are relatively easy to do and relatively inexpensive, especially when other departments within the government are doing that. Where is the cohesion between the different departments within this government?
We hear a lot of talk about one-stop shopping and the big group hug and everything else but, when it comes to practice, we see something quite different happening.
Can the minister indicate what heís doing in this respect?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, Mr. Chair, just to emphasize for the member opposite, we have had a number of competitions for these positions. Theyíre very difficult to fill, based on what we can offer to the type of expertise that is required in the field. Thatís why we have contracted out that type of expertise. I can get a list of where the postings were, where we were advertising and where we were looking for the competition for these particular positions, if that is all right with the Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Sure, thatís fine, Mr. Chair.
Now, with respect to the issue that was raised earlier this afternoon where the federal minister, Herb Dhaliwal, is indicating more of a preference toward a Beaufort route and Mackenzie Valley route than an Alaska Highway route, we heard the minister get up and explain how his interests lie with the Yukon route. But, Mr. Chair, it remains to be seen if the federal cousins in Ottawa to these Liberals will indeed listen to this government and the Yukon MP when it comes to explaining and arguing this side of the debate.
If what the federal MP is saying is true, Mr. Chair, where he has raised this a number of times, then it begs the question: is the voice of the Yukon being heard on Capitol Hill and in other areas in this country where these decisions are being made?
So, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask the minister: what special measures is he considering to bring this message to Ottawa, and would he be willing to consider an all-party contingent being sent to Ottawa to deliver the message?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do appreciate the question from the Member for Kluane, because it gives me an opportunity to speak about how important the Alaska Highway pipeline is to the Yukon Territory and some of the misconceptions that are out there among other governments when we talk about the pipeline and some of the measures in the Senate energy bill.
As I did state earlier during Question Period, the Premier and I did speak with Minister Dhaliwal on this important issue. The message that we have to take to Ottawa is that the measures in the Senate energy bill are, in fact, a repayable tax credit, not a direct subsidy such as those that other governments have provided to projects in Canada such as Hibernia or the tar sands. Certainly we didnít hear any issues from the federal government when the U.S. was subsidizing coal-bed methane in Colorado or natural gas in deep-water Gulf of Mexico. So thatís the type of message that is important for us to take to Ottawa. Another important message is that the demand for all northern natural gas will be there, will exist and will be there in the future, so thatís a very important message that we can take to Ottawa, as well.
In the immediate term, in mid-June, I will be attending the Global Petroleum Show in Calgary along with my counterparts on Senator Torgersonís Alaska Highway Pipeline Committee. There will be a number of initiatives and discussions that we intend to bring up there in an all-day forum on the Alaska Highway pipeline. I look forward to being able to continue to carry a message to Ottawa through officials, through our Member of Parliament, through our senator, through Yukon government officials who work in Ottawa, as well as the efforts of the Premier in her discussions at western premiers meetings and when she speaks to her federal counterparts and colleagues and, of course, me, as well, speaking to energy ministers and senators throughout the country.
We certainly know that the message we have is a good message. Itís a solid message, and itís incumbent upon all of us to deliver that message to Ottawa and to the national media and to anyone else out there in industry who is interested.
Mr. McRobb: The minister didnít respond to the question about an all-party contingent being sent.
I would like to switch gears and ask this minister when he expects the development assessment process to be implemented.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, under renewal, the development assessment process is the responsibility of the Minister of Executive Council Office, and she will make comment on that when we are in debate on that particular department.
Mr. McRobb: I was hoping the minister would care to provide a comment on that and answer the previous question at the same time.
Iíd like to switch also to the oil and gas exploration issue and ask the minister why interest has ceased in oil and gas exploration, if his department is so confident that both northern pipelines will be developed?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I do have to disagree with the Member for Kluane on what he asked in that question. Oil and gas exploration continues to be an important player in the Yukon economy. Devon has a work expenditure commitment on three permits in north Yukon, and itís our understanding that they intend to fulfill those work commitments. Hunt Oil Company of Canada has recently bid on the Peel Plateau call that we put out. The total work commitment by Devon in Eagle Plains is approximately $23 million, of which they have spent in the neighbourhood of $6 million to date on exploration in this area.
Further, with the next call for nominations, weíll again be offering a land sale in the north Yukon, coupled with a land sale in the north end of the Whitehorse Trough, and we certainly are looking forward to positive results from that as well. As delivery infrastructure comes on-line, be it an Alaska Highway pipeline and/or a Mackenzie Valley pipeline, or perhaps even a Dempster option, we look forward to increased value for the bids and moving forward in developing a strong oil and gas sector in the Yukon economy.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously this merits follow-up at a future time. Can the minister indicate if his department has access to funds within the Yukon Development Corporation for the purpose of conducting energy-related work and programs?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The one area that Yukon Development Corporation funds are being used for is the Yukon Utilities Board review of the gas distribution franchise in the City of Whitehorse.
Mr. McRobb: On that topic, Mr. Chair, can the minister explain what role his Department of Energy, Mines and Resources would have in the review by the Yukon Utilities Board of applications for the piped propane distribution franchise in Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Under goal 3.4 in the departmentís accountability plan, the second bullet in the key strategies is to coordinate Government of Yukon preparation of submission and response to Yukon Utilities Board public hearings on gas distribution utility franchise. And thatís the role we will undertake in that regard.
Mr. McRobb: That is interesting. The minister might be interested to know that the Public Utilities Act provides for the opportunity for the Yukon Utilities Board to second staff from his department for the purposes of assisting its review efforts. Would the minister confirm this and also indicate if this option is being considered?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I donít have a copy of the Public Utilities Act with me, but that certainly may be the case. We are not going to second any officials to the Yukon Utilities Board for the purpose of this review.
Mr. McRobb: That is also interesting. Can the minister give us an update on his meeting the other morning ó I believe it was with officials from the Association of Yukon Communities. Can he give us an update on that, please?
Hon. Mr. Kent: I did have a meeting on, I believe, Tuesday morning with officials and the mayor and not all council members but a number of council members from the City of Whitehorse, specific to the gas distribution franchise that is being proposed. An important thing that I would like to state for the record is that the City of Whitehorse has an opportunity to be a proponent on the project. The information provided to the city to date has respected the fact that until the city decides whether it will be a proponent, it should not have or be seen to have an unfair advantage with respect to other potential proponents.
The Yukon government certainly recognizes that the City has a clear interest with respect to this franchise and the city of Whitehorse would be a party to the development agreement on a gas distribution franchise.
The city councillors did raise a number of concerns. I received a letter from the mayor that outlined some of those concerns. Some came to the forefront at the meeting that we had the other day and department officials are working to address those. But the fact of the matter is that we need to know what the cityís intent is with respect to the franchise and whether or not they want to be a proponent. Up until that time, we have to treat them as we would anyone else who could be looking to take an active interest in this particular franchise.
Mr. McRobb: Can the minister indicate what the areas of concern are as expressed by the City of Whitehorse and the Association of Yukon Communities? Or, alternatively, can the minister provide us with that related correspondence?
Hon. Mr. Kent: There were a number of concerns raised by the city about the impact, timelines ó quite a variety of concerns that we expect the Yukon Utilities Board to address. We expect that they will address a number of those concerns during the hearing process.
I will check with the Mayor of Whitehorse, as it was he who initiated the correspondence, to see if he minds if I table the letter in the Legislature and provide copies for members of the opposition. Upon doing that, I would be happy to provide that correspondence to the members opposite.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. Can the minister indicate if the government is working toward an agreement within any Yukon groups with respect to this franchise opportunity and, if so, what form that agreement might take?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, the Yukon Utilities Board will be conducting the review. The Yukon Development Corporation will offer resources and assistance to any proponent who wants to come forward. But, to the best of my knowledge, no one has come forward as of yet to ask for that type of assistance.
Mr. McRobb: Iím looking for some information other than what the minister has provided, and Iím just trying to figure out the best way to obtain that.
Would the minister agree, perhaps, to provide a legislative return on this matter that provides the information with respect to the topics weíre discussing and includes information on the cost of the hearing, who bears that cost, and, once again, explains why that cost is being borne by Yukon taxpayers, and also indicates, if there is no franchise, who pays for the hearing costs? I believe 25 percent of the hearing costs are supposed to be paid for by the franchisee. If, in fact, there is none, who would bear those costs? Is there a cap on the hearing costs and, if so, who pays the cost beyond the cap? Also, how would the minister uphold the need for this review to be independent of political influence, and also, again hitting on the issue ó I want to be specific to this ó the form any agreement with Yukon groups might take, and could the minister identify for us what groups those are?
When we discussed the amendments to the Public Utilities Act, there were a number of concerns put on record from the official opposition. The whole area of letting a prime investment opportunity for Yukoners slip through our fingers to an outside company such as some of the ones who are interested now certainly would be a regrettable development to a lot of Yukoners and for the future of the territory. It is beneficial to keep profits of any such operation within the territory. It has a number of laudable objectives and benefits to keep the ownership here. So if the minister would undertake to respond in writing, Mr. Chair, we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I will review Hansard and identify a number of the questions that the Member for Kluane raised in his previous statement. Something that I would like to put on the record, though, this afternoon, is that a portion of the public review expense will be recovered through applicant and cost recovery fees. Applicants will be charged a $5,000 application fee, and the winning applicant will be responsible for paying an amount equal to one-half the costs incurred by the Yukon Utilities Board during the public review, or $350,000, whichever is less. Any other party besides the Yukon Development Corporation would be allowed to participate in the franchise application process. Limiting Yukon Development Corporationís participation in this process is not viewed by government as adversely affecting the competitiveness of any application or limiting the Yukon content of any application.
The government has instructed the Yukon Development Corporation to assist First Nations and other proponents in developing partnerships with the interested private sector companies.
Just quickly, Mr. Chair, in response to the Member for Kluaneís question about political interference, thatís why we are using the Yukon Utilities Board to conduct these hearings. It is, of course, a quasi-judicial board, and we expect them to conduct the hearings in a fair and judicious manner.
Mr. McRobb: I do want to be expeditious, as it is the position, consistent with the official opposition, of passing this budget as quickly as possible.
I donít want to get hung up on this point, but the minister seems to conclude that, just because an independent regulator is reviewing this matter, that somehow itís free from political influence. Thereís an important distinction to be made there, Mr. Chair. That is certainly not the way it could turn out. In fact, these so-called independent processes are sometimes subjected to political influence. For instance, I recall the hearing in the summer of 1993 when Yukoners were dealing with a large rate increase. The hearing was already underway, and everybody had developed positions, including the multitude of lawyers present. Then the government of the day came in with a certain policy that changed the parameters for everyone involved.
Now, whether or not thatís a good or bad thing is irrelevant. The fact is that it equates to political influence. So, I would encourage the minister that, if the government intends to get involved, to do so far enough in advance and in keeping with respecting the parties present and the independence of the process. If there is any agreement, it should be clear and transparent and open to everyone involved.
With that, Mr. Chair, Iíll conclude my questions on this department.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, Mr. Chair, I will certainly commit to being open and transparent during this hearing process.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a few questions here. I would like to move on out of this department. We have been asking every department about travel and their travel budgets. Every department does have a travel budget and since this is basically a new department involving several different areas of other departments, I would like to ask what the travel budget is, and how different it is from the previous departments of which this department has turned into?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Is the leader of the official opposition referring to the travel of officials within the department?
Mr. Fairclough: I am referring to the ministerís travel. I understand it is in ECO. Every department knows what their travel budget is and works within the allotted money that they do get. My understanding is that officials also go to meetings and so on with the minister.
Hon. Mr. Kent: The leader of the official opposition rightfully stated that ministerial travel is budgeted in the Executive Council Office, and I am sure that the Premier will be happy to provide the budget line for that at that time. Officialsí travel within the department I can provide by way of legislative return for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.
Mr. Fairclough: I appreciate that information. I would also like to know what planned trips the minister has in regard to this department. I understand that there are and should be some in regard to oil and gas and so on.
I would also like to know about the FTEs with the change in the department and the movement over to this new department. Have we downsized or had an increase in the number of people we now have in the department?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With the number of officials who came in from various departments ó such as the then Department of Renewable Resources, with the agriculture and the transfer of forestry ó as well as the number who went out, it is very close to being a balance. Again, I can get the exact figures for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, if he wants me to.
Mr. Fairclough: I believe this is important. One of the reasons for the development and restructuring of government was for government efficiency, and I would like to know whether or not this has taken place, or if weíre seeing the straight over transfer of people, whether or not we have a structure that is now set up and is more efficient than it was in the other department.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I think, to respond to the Member for Mayo-Tatchunís questions, post-renewal, the focus of the department has changed, and I believe that certainly makes it a lot more efficient. Weíre more focused on the natural resource sector, including mining, forestry, oil and gas, agriculture. Thatís where the focus is ó and, of course, territorial lands, as well.
We have a good, strong focus. The trade and investment branch, of course, has moved to the new Department of Business, Tourism and Culture, and the IT sector and economic analysis unit has moved out, as well, to various departments.
Project Yukon and fire smart have been transferred to the Department of Community Services. I certainly see a good, strong resource development focus to this department. I conveyed that to oil and gas executives in Calgary when I spoke in January.
Certainly, the focus of the department was very well-received by industry, so I think we will see a strong resource development focus that Yukoners can be proud of and that will work very well with industry.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít want to hold up debate on this, Mr. Chair. If the member sees that additional information can be given to us on this side of the House by legislative return, Iíd appreciate that. One of the reasons for restructuring was to look at efficiencies and, of course, the areas ó if there were two secretaries, for example, transferring over and you already have two, then it doesnít make sense to have four there. Thatís the type of thing I would like to see from the member opposite, if he can provide that information to me.
Also, I understand that, in the Department of Economic Development, not everyone was found a position in the new structure. As a matter of fact, four people are still sitting there waiting for a job to go to. Can the minister elaborate on that?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The renewal initiative, while it did affect a number of departments throughout government, is the primary responsibility of the Premier. The organization chart for the department is clear and if the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has specific renewal questions, I think it would be more appropriate for the Premier, under Executive Council Office, to answer those questions at that time.
Mr. Fairclough: I think all the questions that have been asked about renewal should be fresh in each of the ministersí minds. All have said that this is a good thing; it streamlines the departments; it is more efficient, and we will have better service to the public. If there are four people in Economic Development who could help out in this department, then I think it would be important and of high priority for the minister to look at this and know where they may be able to fit into the department.
I would like information by legislative return if the member can do that, simply because it is tied right into this department.
This is a department that looks at things like economic development.
I missed part of the questioning from the Member for Kluane, and I hope Iím not repeating some of the questions that he has asked, but I do have a couple of questions in regard to oil and gas, forestry and mining, and this type of thing.
Iíd like to go through the accountability plan that is attached to the department. And Iíd really like to ask the minister, in improving the accountability plan, to come back with something a little more simple that everyone can understand and not have it so repetitious. And lines, for example, are basically the same lines on one page as over to another. I realize how theyíre set up, but I donít think that we need to go through the whole thing like that.
One of the things in regard to the responsibility of the department is to manage our natural resources and ensure balanced resources and land use. The First Nations around the territory, along with other people and developers and so on, are certainly looking for certainty. Land use, of course, is a big one. It just says land use here, but how much involvement does this department have in land use planning?
Hon. Mr. Kent: To answer the Member for Mayo-Tatchunís question, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is the corporate lead on land use planning for the Yukon government.
Mr. Fairclough: I also see a fairly large dollar value attached to this ó over $2 million. What has been done over the last year with regard to land use planning?
Hon. Mr. Kent: There are two land use planning exercises that are underway. The Teslin Tlingit traditional territory land use planning is underway. As well, the North Yukon Regional Land Use Planning Commission has run into some problems, but we are working to overcome them. There has, of course, been some interest in land use planning in the Peel Plateau, as well as land use planning in the Northern Tutchone area. Thatís an update for the member on the land use planning initiatives that are underway right now.
Mr. Fairclough: What further direction has the department given to their representative on the land use planning council in regard to additional land use planning areas?
Hon. Mr. Kent: With respect to the Peel River watershed, to date we still have not received a formal recommendation from the Yukon Land Use Planning Council to consider the Peel River watershed as a priority. Recognizing, of course, that there is an interest in proceeding with regional land use planning in this area, we have asked the council to organize a meeting between the affected First Nations, the Yukon government and Canada to discuss the implications of this issue on previously recommended priority regions, such as the Northern Tutchone planning region. We are working toward identifying the area as a priority for it, as it relates to other initiatives that are going on in the region.
Mr. Fairclough: It seems like not much has happened over the last two years in regard to land use planning. How much importance and priority is this department putting in land use planning? Where is this development, for example?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are committed to honouring our commitments for the land use planning initiatives. The Member for Mayo-Tatchun knows that it is a three-party negotiation. We are working to make sure that areas are identified and that we work with our First Nation partners and, of course, the federal government to ensure that the commitments are realized that we have made to land use planning. As I have stated a number of times outside the House to media, we expect that responsible development can occur in conjunction with land use planning. One doesnít have to be at the expense of the other.
Mr. Fairclough: That is interesting. Does the minister view the Yukon protected areas strategy as a form of land use planning?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Yukon protected areas strategy is a form of land use planning but it is not specific to the land use planning exercise under the UFA. It certainly is a way of protecting lands but it is not related or wrapped up in the same process as the Yukon Land Use Planning Council.
Mr. Fairclough: I didnít hear all the answer. Did the minister say that the Yukon protected areas strategy is a form of land use planning under the UFA?
Hon. Mr. Kent: No, I did not say that the protected areas strategy was part of land use planning under the UFA. Certainly it is a form ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: No, I didnít say that.
With respect to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for clarifying that. I just didnít hear it right.
The minister said that responsible development will continue to take place at the same time land use planning takes place. Can the minister tell me how much weight the First Nation final agreement has in their decisions for development?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Maybe I could be specific as to the oil and gas dispositions when I answer this question for the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. Weíre certainly cognizant of the fact that the use of resource development in traditional territories is very important to the affected First Nations. Thatís why there are socio-economic benefit agreements developed. With Devon, then Anderson, dispositions in the north, there were socio-economic benefit agreements signed with the Vuntut Gwitchin, I believe, as well as the Na Cho Nyäk Dun in the memberís riding. The responsible development on traditional territory, as it relates to what we control ó being oil and gas ó weíre very cognizant of the fact it has to be done in conjunction and working with the First Nation to ensure we maximize benefits for all Yukoners.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand what the member is saying. I urge the minister to read chapter 11, the land use planning chapter in the final agreements, and look at that carefully, because I think thatís where First Nations are really coming from when it comes to development. Thatís why I asked what this government has done, and what direction this government has given to their representative on the Land Use Planning Council. Every one of the First Nations are looking forward to having land use planning in their territory. They are expecting things to happen in land use planning, and thereís a big pot of money sitting there ó $7 million that does not get used. It gets put back and shoved back into the federal government, should it not be used. I think itís an opportunity for governments to get it together and look at ways to make things happen.
I say this because it is already taking place. If you look at Teslin, for example, it is sub-region land use planning that takes place, and that could happen in other areas. Get the ball rolling and I think others will fall into line in regard to that.
I would like to ask a couple of questions in regard to agricultural lands. Thereís a fairly large amount of money in regard to agricultural lands ó $758,000. Is this an increase in agricultural lands? I know they have worked to put a policy into place in the past to ensure that we donít have abuse in acquiring agricultural land, but also trying to find ways of putting blocks together so that we can release some land out there for agricultural purposes.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, the overall O&M expenditure for agriculture ó the 2001-02 forecast is $831,000, and the 2002-03 estimate is $758,000, and this represents a nine-percent decrease in expenditures for that particular line item.
Mr. Fairclough: Is it now easier for the public and those who are interested in acquiring agricultural land to get one? I know that there was a freeze on agricultural land in the past, and there is all kinds of interest there right now. It really is good for a family type of business, small business, and I think this is an area that government could concentrate on in helping to boost the economy. Iím wondering whether the process has been streamlined, red tape has been reduced in regard to getting agricultural land, or is it still fairly tough for anyone to go through that process?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Mr. Chair, we are working toward streamlining the process for agricultural applications. Under renewal, of course, agriculture and lands are both in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and we look forward as well, of course, to devolution occurring in a little less than a yearís time, when we would assume responsibility for federal lands, as well. It is a goal of ours, of course, to reduce red tape when acquiring agricultural land or other lands or any business operation. So thatís what weíre working toward doing.
Mr. Fairclough: I will be asking more questions in regard to agricultural land in the fall, so I hope the minister can get up to speed in regard to policy and policy development.
The minister said that the department was preparing for a smooth transition in devolution in regard to Crown land and forestry and so on. I would like to know what policy development and policy area the minister and that department have been working on to ensure there is a smooth transition and, once there is a transition, with the expectancy of the general public being high, how is that going to be dealt with?
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are working toward completing policy systems and legislative reviews for natural resource sectors prior to April 2003 on the forestry side of things. We are working toward a Yukon forest industry strategy. We are analyzing the Tough report very carefully, taking our time to do that very carefully, in anticipation of devolution 2003.
On the mining side of things, we are working toward a comprehensive Yukon mineral policy, and support for the Yukon placer authorization continues right now. As well, we are preparing a framework for management of minerals post-devolution, based on our priorities, as outlined in the recently released mine plan. As far as land-based transactions, including agricultural land, we are working toward designing and establishing a one-window access for Commissionerís land transactions and the agricultural land.
Mr. Fairclough: How much work is the department doing with First Nations with regard to policy development for this transaction, and specifically with the forests and forest sector, fire suppression and so on?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The First Nations, of course, are our partners. We expect to develop strong partnerships with them as we work toward development of our natural resources. The fire suppression initiatives are the responsibility of the Department of Community Services along with fire smart, so that minister would be better able to answer the memberís questions when we get to that department.
As far as industry development goes, weíre working with DIAND and the Kaska to develop an MOU there. Of course, there are MOUs, I believe, in the Teslin area as well as the Haines Junction area with the affected First Nations there.
First Nations are a strong partner for the Yukon government today and we expect them to continue being a strong partner in economic development and the Yukonís future as it pertains to resource development.
Mr. Fairclough: With the moving around of the departments and the responsibilities being split between departments, I think it creates a lot of red tape and I urge the minister to look at that ó where it can be a one-window approach to this like they see in other areas.
Mr. Chair, I have a couple of questions in regard to oil and gas and the pipeline and so on. It appears, from looking at it from the outside in, that the Government of Yukon has been taking steps to promote the Alaska Highway pipeline but seems to be far behind First Nations in developing working relationships with mining companies in trying to get job opportunities created here.
How much working relationship does the minister have with First Nations in regard to oil and gas development here in the territory? Will he commit to working closer, for example with Kwanlin Dun, to ensure that the government is up to speed and not so far behind even the First Nations in regard to this? Itís supposed to be a big priority of this government. I expected them to be far ahead of other people in the territory, including First Nations, but this is clearly not happening.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Specific to oil and gas, as I mentioned earlier in debate, we of course have been working with the Na Cho Nyäk Dun and the Vuntut Gwitchin on efforts in the north Yukon. With regard to the opening up of the Whitehorse Trough, there is work at the officialsí level right now with the affected First Nations in that region of the Yukon. As I have committed to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun previously, I will restate the commitment that I do plan on travelling up and visiting with the chiefs of those affected First Nations in a round table to discuss the implications of oil and gas development in that area and how we can best maximize the job opportunities while, of course, mitigating environmental impacts of that industry.
As far as the pipeline goes ó and Iím very pleased that a number of First Nations have been able to partner with private sector companies, such as Foothills Pipe Lines and SNC Lavalin, on a number of a different initiatives.
We have a First Nation liaison who works in the pipeline unit, and we continue to work with First Nations, such as the Kaska, at the Kaska economic round table to develop oil and gas opportunities in that region of the Yukon. I think itís very important that, when the member refers to the Alaska Highway pipeline project, that all Yukoners are involved, that we work together, that First Nations are a lead player in that project, and that we are best able to maximize benefits for all Yukoners when that project becomes a reality and we can take advantage of all the job opportunities that are associated with it.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím hoping for short answers from the member opposite. I do have a few more questions before I turn it over to someone else.
In regard to mining, obviously mining is pretty important still in the Yukon Territory ó placer mining, hard-rock mining and so on. There are a number of companies that do have their water licences in place and are just waiting basically for the price of metals to increase and so on. Specifically in regard to Minto Resources, which has done a whole pile of work and is ready, basically, to do some mining, have there been any talks with this department or government about supplying power to them through a grid from Carmacks to Minto? You know, one that would, of course, eventually tie the Mayo grid into the big grid that we do have here?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Yes, Iím very familiar with the property that the member speaks of. The Yukon Development Corporation has applied for the right-of-way between Carmacks and Stewart Crossing to connect that grid. I havenít had any specific talks with the proponents about supplying power to the mine site, but certainly weíre open to that as well as being open to any involvement that the Selkirk First Nation would wish to see as meaningful involvement for them with respect to that particular project.
Mr. Fairclough: Itís an overlap area between Carmacks and Pelly, and thereís mutual interest there. And there is more interest, as a matter of fact ó this was talked about, I know, by the mining company before. I donít know how far theyíve gone to put in their generators and so on, but I think this might give them a little boost, if the Yukon government was going to be doing this, in getting more investors involved in this company and getting this one up and going.
Mr. Chair, if the minister thinks about it, that would be great. If there is additional information he can give to me on that, I would appreciate it ó also, whether or not there are additional talks about the one possible small mine that hasnít been very active lately, and that is Western Copper, which is about five kilometres from Minto Resources, so they would greatly benefit from this grid, should it be extended to them, too.
I would like to ask the minister in regard to policy again ó I would like to go back to that for a second. The minister said they would be ready for April 2003. Is this going to be work done over the summer, and are we going to review something that the department has in the fall sitting?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Quickly, with respect to the Minto property, I would be happy to provide an update on what I know about that to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun. I would prefer not to provide it on the floor of the House, but I can provide him with an update on that, as I know his concern as that does lie in his riding. Any policy initiatives that we undertake vis-à-vis the accountability plan throughout the summer, we would certainly be more than willing to discuss in the fall sitting of the Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: One other area in regard to mining that is of interest to many people out there is the condition of roads. I know the rural road program has been used quite extensively to upgrade roads that lead to mines. For example, the Mount Nansen road has had money put into it. I was wondering if the department has talked within Cabinet about trying to get additional dollars to address this issue, because upgrading roads is important. If you look at last year and the amount of rainfall we had, the washouts we had have prevented some people from going to their mining claims. It doesnít have to be a large amount of money but I know this would help get people back out to their claims. I heard a few people saying and having the desire to go and do that if there was some work done on some of these old "four-by-four" mining roads.
Hon. Mr. Kent: I also recognize the importance of roads when weíre developing future mineral properties. With respect to the rural roads program, currently the policy does not allow for improvements to those types of resource roads, but I can assure the member that the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources will speak to the Minister of Infrastructure about it.
Mr. Fairclough: I only have a couple more questions in regard to energy efficiency, but Iíd like to go to the development assessment process. We have talked a lot about giving certainty to developers out there. Land claims, of course, is the big one, devolution, and so on. What stage are we at with the development assessment process and how much more work are we likely to see before we see this development assessment process completed?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just quickly again, Mr. Chair, the development assessment process is the responsibility of Executive Council Office. I believe I mentioned it to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, but perhaps it was a question that the Member for Kluane raised. Again, it is the responsibility of the Executive Council Office, and the Premier would be happy to address any concerns when we get to that departmental debate.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the minister for that, Mr. Chair. Itís one of the objectives of the department to assist in completion of the development assessment process so I would think the department is fully engaged and involved in that whole process.
Another objective of the department is to promote a high standard of energy efficiency and climate change measures. Iím wondering what standards has the department been following? Do we have a made-in-Yukon standard, or what standards are we following?
Hon. Mr. Kent: There are, of course, a wide range of energy efficiency programs that are delivered through the Energy Solutions Centre as part of the Yukon Development Corporation. Weíve recently witnessed the wind generation near Whitehorse here as well as on the Mayo-Dawson transmission line. There are a number of energy efficiency things that we continue to work with and coordinate with other departments and other corporations in government, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked what standards weíre following. If the member could get back to me on that, Iíd appreciate it.
My last question is, Mr. Chair, does the department or government have any plans to put another wind turbine up on Haeckel Hill or at Dawson City or other spots in the territory, or are we just waiting to see the results of the one on Haeckel Hill?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Iím not aware of any plans to place another wind-generating facility up on Haeckel Hill. Certainly there are a number of smaller Yukon communities up in the Kluane riding as well as in the Village of Old Crow where there is wind potential. Provided they can be cost-effective and we explore the opportunities for partnerships with the affected First Nations, I am more than willing to explore other opportunities for that.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíd like to thank the minister for his answers and I look forward to the information being passed over to us.
Mr. McLarnon: The reason Iím rising today is to bring up three issues that we have been talking about, and Iím just going to start exploring them.
First of all, I wonder if, during this part ó so we can save it in the line-by-line ó when we go through the pipeline unitís expenses, can we find out how much money is being spent developing options and regulatory concerns and covering all the things that will be needed to develop a Dempster lateral to ensure that Yukon northern gas gets to market as quickly as it can through either route ó the Mackenzie Valley, which we havenít really heard a lot about, or the Alaska Highway?
Talking to the Mackenzie Valley producers, the amount of gas that we have in the north would actually benefit and make sure that their pipeline was an even more viable and stronger argument, if Yukon gas inventories were included in large amounts. From what Iíve talked to them about, thatís currently not being done, because the plans on the table are to move that gas through the Alaska Highway pipeline, instead of the Mackenzie Valley.
So this leads me to the next question: either people are not communicating to the Northwest Territories line the possibility that this gas could move through there, or there has been no work done on it ó either no communications or no work. So the question I have is, to make sure that we all have this on the table, are we actually spending any money or putting any effort into looking at the possibility of a Dempster lateral up to the Mackenzie Valley, other than just the policy developed politically?
Hon. Mr. Kent: Estimates are there needs to be approximately one trillion cubic feet of gas discovered in the Eagle Plains Basin to make a pipeline viable from there. There have been a couple of different options discussed ó of course, the one that the Member for Whitehorse Centre speaks about is joining the Mackenzie Valley pipeline either through a Dempster lateral-type scenario or one that goes east from the Eagle Plains Basin and also connects the Peel Plateau Basin in northern Yukon to a Mackenzie Valley line or a Dempster Lite that would come south toward the Alaska Highway pipeline.
We are exploring both options. I have some preliminary figures on costs. One was supplied by a company with interests in the Eagle Plains area, and I had one of the engineers from the pipeline unit do a very rough cost estimate of the Eagle Plain-Peel estimate as well. I can make those figures available to the Member for Whitehorse Centre. I should also note that I do plan on travelling to the Inuvik oil and gas show in June and speaking with all the players there who are doing exploration work in the north, not only in the Yukon but also the Beaufort Delta.
Mr. McLarnon: The true reality is that this minister is extremely capable and can do this job, and I have no lack of confidence in this ministerís ability. Itís the policy that follows afterwards. Itís the support from his Cabinet that Iím more worried about. Iím worried about the diversification effects. If we put all our eggs in the one Alaska Highway basket and Mackenzie Valley does get built, weíll be left in the dust again holding the resources with no way to sell them.
Now that we have talked about the local concern and how weíre reacting to local concern ó and I would like those cost numbers. Iíd like the minister to send them over. Iíd also like any other policy development or, at least, planning development, on how the policy is going to be developed to take advantage of a Mackenzie Valley pipeline so weíre not playing catch-up if the announcement comes in a year or tomorrow. So thatís something I need and thatís something Iíll be monitoring.
We now see again in the territory that we are starting to look at it, but we should now look at the macro picture on the Canada-U.S. relations stage. We know the minister has talked positively and extolled the chances of the pipeline now that the U.S. energy bill has come out and, yes, it probably did increase the Alaska Highwayís chances.
But this has also got to be taken in the large context picture in the fact that we are also seeing a trade war start to develop, with the grain price subsidies, softwood lumber dispute, and with steel now starting to loom. What I am worried about here is that the Yukon is going to end up siding against Canada in a trade war that may be initiated with the United States. The gas that we are talking about here is, yes, domestically produced and domestically sold in the United States. You wouldnít think that subsidies would have anything to do with it but it does. Because the subsidies are being offered to spur construction of a line that would reduce Canadian royalties coming out of the ground somewhere else. And so, this subsidy is in fact directly against the principles of NAFTA and will probably be fought like that by affected provinces if the Alaska Highway pipeline appears to be gaining momentum.
The question I have is this: with that larger policy question in there, how does this government plan to propose that this is not a NAFTA issue?
Hon. Mr. Kent: In my conversations with my colleagues throughout the country as well as with members of the national media, I think one of the most important things to realize about the U.S. Senate energy bill and the proposed incentives for Alaska North Slope gas development and the delivery of infrastructure, being the Alaska Highway pipeline, is that it is a tax credit with a floor of $3.25. Should gas fall below that floor, then the tax credit would come into effect. Anything over and above gas prices of $4.85, those tax credits would be repayable. The design in Senator Murkowskiís bill is for it to be revenue neutral.
I certainly recognize ó as all members in this House have, from reading the newspapers and watching the news reports over the past number of days, weeks and even months ó that there has been suggestion to link the Alaska Highway pipeline or the energy sector to softwood lumber, to some of the agricultural subsidies that the member mentioned. Steel, of course, is something that is being mentioned as well. Itís our position and itís my position that itís very dangerous to link different sectors of the economy. Iím sure the member would agree with me. Iíve been very clear on that, as has the Energy minister and the Premier of Alberta ó that linking sectors of the economy is very dangerous, especially given the amount of trade that does go back and forth between Canada and the U.S. I will continue to express that position to my colleagues, to the national media, with every opportunity that I get ó that linking different sectors of the economy is a very dangerous thing to do, and indeed it shouldnít be done.
Mr. McLarnon: The minister is right. I mean, it is dangerous; unfortunately it seems to be happening. Thatís the problem. We may end up pitting ourselves against an entire countryís sentiment if we continue on this. Because I can certainly tell you that if, in Saskatchewan, it came down to an Alaska Highway pipeline or the production of the agricultural products of that province, like wheat, and whether it was going to be a war whether that wheat was going to be sold or that gas was going to move, we certainly know the Premier of Saskatchewan would choose the wheat. We certainly know the Premier of Ontario would choose the steel production in any trade war. So the reality is that we know that even on the political scene in Canada, the Alaska Highway pipeline would be the first bargaining chip put on the table.
Thatís the reality, and thatís why Iím hoping this government comes up with a very solid plan B in this field. It looks like the political guns are starting to aim right at this project, and whether the best work of this government has been done or not, it dies that death. Thatís why, right now, as Iím looking at external factors affecting our economy, and especially political factors, this one is more dangerous than any gas price fall. This one is more dangerous than any regulation problem here, because this one is unstoppable by a small government like the Yukonís.
Iím going to switch off pipelines and policy right now. Like I said, I still want to see any work coming out on the Dempster lateral.
I want to just go into some small projects. Weíll go through right now ó does the minister have what the estimated mineral exploration will be this year in the Yukon Territory?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The Chamber of Mines comes out with those figures. I donít believe theyíve come out with them yet. The actual figures are announced at the Geoscience Forum in November for the preceding season.
With regard to the expenditures on the Yukon mining incentives program, weíre anticipating from the investment in that particular project alone a total exploration expenditure of some $2.5 million. During my trips to both Cordilleran and PDAC over the past couple of months, I have heard of a number of other initiatives, such as the True North Gems, some gold property exploration that will be taking place, but I donít have the estimates from the Chamber of Mines or, of course, the Geoscience Forum, which will be released this fall.
Mr. McLarnon: My understanding, talking to industry officials, is that the numbers are going to be between $4.5 million and $6.5 million in spending. This used to be the sum of one companyís entire spending, not the entire Yukonís spending. Thatís how far we have come.
I just want to point out for the minister ó just to give the minister an idea of the state of the economy, we are now a major subsidizer of our own mining programs in the Yukon Territory. When you consider that if itís as low as $4.8 million and we have $800,000 in the mining incentive program, one in every six dollars to explore our own territory is going to come from the Yukon government. Itís in a deplorable state, especially when you find out that some of the policies we are doing, if they were lifted, would create more mining exploration tomorrow.
Has the minister ever evaluated the cost impacts ó done cost-benefit studies ó on some of the regulations that govern the mining industry? Iíll give you an example. We used to have in the Yukon Territory a roads-to-resources program where weíd actually pay mining companies to put roads in so that they could go in and explore and check out other properties. This has come in a circle so far that now the mining companies have to pay to eliminate the road when theyíre on their way out. So, they pay to punch the road in and then they pay to eliminate the road on the way out. So, to do mining exploration now, with the reclamation costs, we have doubled the cost of just punching a road in, and this is whatís driving people away ó these little regulations.
Does the minister have any plans in Energy, Mines and Resources to sit down and review regulations on a cost-benefit basis, and evaluate whether the regulations are doing what was intended?
The problem of not punching new roads in ó and Iíll just give the explanation of where this fails environmentally ó is that the old roads are still used. Theyíre not grandfathered in. And if you really look at the hunting statistics of where a lot of moose populations are dropping, itís because those old roads are now getting overused by hunters. There are no new roads in to explore.
No new areas, so itís the old ones, the ones that werenít covered by this policy, where the populations are dropping. In an interest to create a regulation to protect our wildlife, what we have done in some areas is virtually destroy it by the fact that we have put an environmentally friendly regulation in that has probably come full circle, done what it was not intended to do and, at the same time, cut off exploration. Will the minister at least do a review of regulations and bring regulations forward? We are starting a statutory instruments committee, and we would be willing to take a look at that kind of thing, if the minister doesnít have that internally. Will the minister start doing an evaluation of these regulations, start cutting them out if they donít make sense, and honestly look at the full impact and see what they were meant to do and if they are doing it?
Hon. Mr. Kent: As part of the mine plan, conducting reviews of regulations, as we lead into devolution, is something that we will certainly be doing. At the Cordilleran Roundup this year, I met with the Yukon Mineral Advisory Board. That is something that they have expressed an interest in taking as an opportunity to reduce the red tape and the regulations and identify any redundancies that have cropped up over the past number of years under the federal governmentís watch over the mineral resource sector. That is something that is very important to me ó red-tape reduction for that very important industry that has been a cornerstone of the Yukon economy for well over a hundred years. It is a strong industry that needs to be supported and developed.
As part of that, there is of course the access corridor study that is being undertaken by Energy, Mines and Resources, in conjunction with the Department of Infrastructure. It is a table-top exercise that will look at the best access options to link a number of projects, so that we can move ahead and restore mining and resource extraction to where it rightfully belongs as a major player in the Yukon economy.
Mr. McLarnon: My last little discussion here is more of a one-sided discussion. Itís just a point to the minister. I just finished reading in the newspaper that the minister is actually taking credit for the jobs created in Inuvik and saying that this is good for the Yukon economy.
Mr. Speaker, this is akin to the Mexican Finance minister claiming that if there is a reduction in the immigration officials at the Mexican border that the economy must be improving in Mexico because there is more foreign exchange coming in. This is akin to the Minister of Finance in Bangladesh saying the economy is better in Bangladesh because the workers from Bangladesh working in Singapore got a raise.
I would hope that the minister understands those people not working here are also spending lots of their money in another territory, in another province. They are also here in many cases because they canít sell their houses here yet. The economy has bottomed out to the point where real estate markets will not allow them to retrieve the investments in their houses. So please, just as advice to the minister, every situation ó a silk purse does not have to be made out of a sowís ear. This is one example of a political spin that will be read very poorly by the Yukon public. I donít think there are very many Yukon people who see Yukoners working in other provinces as a positive thing, as something that the government should be proud of, much less take credit for. The reality is, many of those people donít want to be in Inuvik at 40 below. They donít want to be changing oil at 37 below, 500 miles from their houses in another province, living out of an Atco trailer. Theyíd like to see their families more than once every four months. Those are the realities that people face for working Outside.
Again, advice to the minister: Yukoners hate that. They really hate being told that working in Inuvik, Fort Liard, Fort Nelson ó anywhere else but the Yukon ó is good for the economy or that the government has helped them. That is one of the most tongue-in-cheek answers I have ever heard. I hope it was meant as tongue-in-cheek because it certainly didnít do anything to improve the economy or Yukonersí respect for what this government is doing for them.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Just to respond to what the Member for Whitehorse Centre has said ó the comments he just made. I believe we certainly agree to disagree on this. I think that the opportunities that exist in the Beaufort Delta, in northeastern B.C. and indeed at the Cantung mine just across the Northwest Territories border ó they do employ Yukoners.
I again disagree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre on the fact that working in a remote oil and gas camp or a remote exploration camp in the Beaufort Delta or in British Columbia is any different than doing the same in the Yukon Territory. Many Yukoners work at highway construction camps; I donít see the difference. Making sure that Yukoners can take advantage of the opportunities like the trade mission to Inuvik that I led on behalf of the Premier last year was something thatís very important. Also, the training opportunities that happened in Inuvik last year at Aurora College ó the drill-rig training opportunities that took place there ó were extremely important for Yukoners, as well, in allowing them to have an opportunity to work in their field.
The fact is that at these jobs in remote camps, the workers are in there for four in and two out, or depending on how the shift work goes, and theyíre two out ó they come back and do return to the Yukon and spend their money here.
Many, of course, have families in the Yukon. I speak from experience, Mr. Chair. My brother-in-law is one of those workers who works in the Fort Liard area and returns to the Yukon. His paycheques come back here. My sister, of course, spends that money in the Yukon economy. She buys her groceries here; she buys her furniture here. Those are important opportunities and jobs that real Yukoners have. Of course, speaking from personal experience with my own family in mind, I know the importance of these jobs and opportunities for Yukoners.
Again, I do have to disagree with the Member for Whitehorse Centre when he makes those allegations. Perhaps there are Yukoners out there who donít appreciate that type of lifestyle, but I can assure the Member for Whitehorse Centre that there are Yukoners who take full advantage of that type of lifestyle. There are Yukoners who work in the diamond mines north of Yellowknife and return here with their paycheques, to buy their toys, to buy their snow machines, to buy their campers and trucks, and that money does get circulated in the economy.
I would be very, very happy to have all those jobs contained within our borders, but itís also important to note that, when our own oil and gas resources do start to get developed, we will have trained and qualified Yukoners from their experiences at Aurora College and in the Beaufort Delta and the Fort Liard area of the Northwest Territories ready to take advantage of those opportunities. So again, Mr. Chair, I would just have to say that when it comes to the comments from the Member for Whitehorse Centre, we certainly agree to disagree.
Chair: The time being 4:30, weíll take a recess. Weíll return at 4:45.
Chair: I now call Committee of the Whole to order. We will continue with general debate on Energy, Mines and Resources. Is there any further general debate?
Mr. Jenkins: I just have a few questions for the minister, although this is a very, very interesting department, and I should spend a lot of time on it and find out what the government policies are on a lot of initiatives, but time does not permit me that opportunity.
One of the areas of grave concern to constituents in my area is the issue of mining roads and what the minister is going to be doing in this regard. Some of the roads out to the mining areas are in deplorable condition. In fact, the ministerís other department hasnít even taken the bolt of red cloth out there and stuck it up and down the roads. We have washouts, depressions, roads that havenít seen any attention for years now, not just in the Klondike mining district ó or even in the Mayo mining district. Just what are the ministerís intentions in this regard? Is he going to be devoting any funds to it, or is he just going ahead with having the industry flat on its back and not able to do anything?
Hon. Mr. Kent: The road issues are very important to me. I was in the memberís community this past weekend, and I went and saw the washout on the Bonanza Creek road. I believe this weekend Iíll have an opportunity to travel farther up toward one of the actual placer claims in there, and I look forward to that.
At this time, with respect to public roads, the Department of Infrastructure intends to maintain those and work toward ó as I mentioned to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in debate with him earlier today, I am quite interested in initiatives such as the access corridor study, the tabletop exercises that are talked about for identifying potential future accesses for roads, and Iím always looking for improvements to existing programs where we can make sure that resource roads are kept up to the best possible standard and that mining and resource extraction can occur. So I am committed to looking for improvements, in consultation, of course, with Yukoners and stakeholders, and if we are able to identify improvements to existing policies, Iím certainly more than willing to explore them.
Mr. Jenkins: Iím not asking the minister to explore new policies. Iím just asking the minister to pay attention to some of the existing policies and devote some money to rural roads, specifically in the mining areas, Mr. Chair. And that goes for the Carmacks area ó there are four distinct areas in the Yukon. And if the minister wants ideas as to where to put new roads to resources in, thereís tremendous potential in southeast Yukon into the forestry, but he might want to check with the Minister of Environment, who is making nothing but parks, before he goes and designs a road into these areas. But there is tremendous opportunity, tremendous potential, and Iím sure the minister is aware of these areas, but it must be a policy of his Liberal government not to address them and not to do anything with them ó which brings me to another initiative thatís underway, the Yukon placer authorization.
The amount of funding that the government provided to this initiative for the KPMA has been well-received and appreciated. Itís about time the government came to the party and provided a measure of funding to this organization that recognizes the importance of the Yukon placer authorization and its potential.
Iíd like to explore with the minister whether his government has a policy, and how it views the balance on the committee looking at the Yukon placer authorization, or whether his government has lobbied the minister for a balanced approach with equal representation from all parties.
Hon. Mr. Kent: We are ó as Iíve stated on a number of occasions, both inside this House and to the Member for Klondike in the membersí lounge ó very committed and very appreciative of the placer mining industry and all that it provides to the Yukon economy.
With regard to the makeup of the committee and the functioning of the committee, we support the Yukon Placer Committee and the work theyíre doing to review the Yukon placer authorization, leading toward the viability of the industry and the protection of fish habitat.
In Question Period, I believe, a week or two ago, the Member for Klondike noted that the Yukon Conservation Society has withdrawn from the deliberations of the committee, and I of course confirmed that and also stated that I had sent a letter to them, in which I expressed my disappointment that they chose to do so. We totally and fully support the work of the Yukon Placer Committee, the independent chair ó who, as we all know, is Mr. Kapty ó as well as the other principals on that committee. I have made those representations informally to Minister Thibault in the membersí lounge in the House of Commons, as well as to his officials. I know that my deputy minister, when he was in Ottawa last week, also had occasion to meet with officials, both political representatives from the ministerís office, as well as officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, stating our support for the Yukon Placer Committee as the body that should conduct the review of the Yukon placer authorization.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, the concern out there is that, at the end of the day, the Yukon Conservation Society is going to come back to the meeting and, after all is said and done, have a veto over everything that has been discussed and negotiated. Has the minister developed a position, should that situation occur?
Itís not hypothetical; it looks like thatís the way they are proceeding.
Hon. Mr. Kent: Again, Iíll state for the Member for Klondike that I fully support the work of the Yukon Placer Committee in reviewing this authorization. Again, Iím very disappointed that the Yukon Conservation Society has chosen not to participate in the review of this committee. My understanding is that they did have meetings last week. In speaking with the president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association and officials, theyíve got more work to do and theyíre working toward the June 30 deadline for completing the placer authorization review.
Again, I will state for the member opposite that I am in full support of the Yukon Placer Committee and the work that theyíre doing in review of the authorization.
Should a situation arise such as the one he mentioned, I will address it at that time.
Mr. Jenkins: The Member for Whitehorse Centre questioned the minister on the amount of mining exploration activity that is going to take place this summer in the Yukon, and the Member for Whitehorse Centre did have some numbers. It must be recognized that, of the total pot, Yukon government is going to be putting ó I believe ó about $980,000 toward the mining incentive initiatives.
That in itself should tell you how depressed the industry is. Mining exploration and mining per se used to be the backbone of the Yukon economy. The people I know in the industry are working; yes, they are working ó they are working in Australia, South America, Alaska, the Northwest Territories and everywhere else but in the Yukon.
In fact, Viceroy ó I was wondering if the minister has made any representation to the federal government on their closure plans, because they are in closure conditions and they canít get through their screening, because the federal government is dragging its heels and wanting more and more information. I believe it is important the Yukon government come to assist a mining company in that dilemma.
Because if they stay and if their mine abandonment plans donít go through as filed, what it means is that theyíre going to be faced with several million dollars of additional costs, no risk to the environment, and perhaps an added risk to the environment if their mine abandonment plans are not adhered to. What weíre talking about is covering the heap leach piles with new, fresh material that will support some sort of vegetation perhaps. Itís basically a reclamation program that was agreed to at the outset, but now it looks like the feds are determining that it has to go back through the whole process.
The mining industry today in the Yukon is inundated with all sorts of new approaches. Itís unbelievable as to some of the new twists. The Northern Inland Waters Act has not changed. All we have are new regulations being developed under it, along with the federal Department of Fisheries putting new interpretations and new spins on it, along with the federal water resources people putting on new spins and looking at new areas. The additional burden that itís causing industry ó paper and otherwise ó is unbelievable.
At the end of the day, what we have to ask ourselves is this: how is this going to benefit the environment, how is it going to protect it, and how is it going to serve the cause of Yukon? The answers to those questions are not coming up very positive for additional protection for the environment or helping Yukon.
In fact, it just looks like it will assist in prolonging the existence of a number of federal government agencies. Iíd encourage the minister to have a look at this, because itís running rampant, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kent: With regard to the issue that the Member for Klondike raised around the Viceroy concerns, Iím not aware of any concerns that they do have. I will investigate the file. I will commit to investigating the file.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kent: Indeed, the member just informed me that a letter has gone to the Premier. I will check into that, as well. I, too, recognize the difficulties that the mining industry is facing in the Yukon. I visited a small-business person this morning who relies heavily on resource extraction industries, and I sat with him for an hour and went through an awful lot of his concerns, and theyíre concerns that I have.
What the Yukon needs is a success story, be it a success story in a new find, such as the one that we had in the Finlayson district in the mid-1990s, when we were setting exploration records in the magnitude, I believe, of $35 million ó the number back then. We need a success story in permitting, as we go toward devolution, and reducing red tape and streamlining regulations is something that I believe is very important for the mining industry.
So I, too, recognize the issues facing this very, very important industry and recognize that it has to become the major player that it once was in the Yukon economy.
Mr. Jenkins: Well, actions speak louder than words, and we look forward to hearing of some initiatives on the part of this department and this minister, Mr. Chair. The instructions come from the minister, and Iíd encourage him to look at it.
While heís there, he might want to look in-house at some of his other departments, and start looking at highway contracts. Yes, the Government of Yukon passed the capital budget last fall. Yes, the contracts were awarded for Shakwak, if you want to use that as an example. But you really have to get all the permitting in place that the government is responsible for before you can move ahead, before the contractor can do anything. A new interpretation that just came down the pipe recently is that, for any camp over 50 men, they have to have a water licence, and part of the contractorís requirement, when itís dusty, is to keep water on the road. Government failed to get him a water licence on a timely basis.
Just look at the department of highway enforcement, running around Whitehorse. There is very little going on with transportation. In fact, thereís a road ban on, so the amount of transportation underway up and down the Alcan is reduced significantly, Mr. Chair. We donít have 70 percent of the traffic clearing the scales in Watson Lake heading for Inuvik any more, because that road, the Dempster, is closed. But what we do have is a very concerted effort by the highway enforcement people to take all the garbage trucks, the water trucks, the fuel trucks that deliver downtown and in and around Whitehorse, send them up to the scales, run them through ó this is a first time ever for a lot of these, and what is it accomplishing? Itís going to drive up the cost of doing business with these organizations for the services they provide, whether it be water service, trucked water, sewage eduction ó itís going to drive it all up.
This is the red tape, and this is more red tape that is being created under this governmentís watch, Mr. Chair.
I hear the minister when he says he wants to look at the red tape and do something about it. Currently all we are seeing is an increase in the department that this minister is responsible for. I would encourage him to get with the program and practise what he preaches ó and that he is going to be looking at this red tape and doing something about it. The mining industry is not here and not doing any exploration because of a lack of investor confidence; that is the bottom line. We have one of the best regions for mineral potential of anywhere in North America ó one of the highest ranking regions. That we have one of the lowest levels of mineral exploration is a credit to the stupidity of the government and its policies, both at a federal level and at a territorial level. I encourage the minister to get with the program, because I heard the right words; now all that is needed is a translation of those right words into policies and into direction that is going to restore that investor confidence. It has been two years plus a few days in this governmentís mandate and that hasnít been evident, and that is disgusting.
The Yukon is on its knees economically. We have people running around the former Department of Economic Development without jobs. If you look at the budget that those individuals have, it is spending money for parking meters in downtown Whitehorse. And yet we see the minister responsible for the environment with millions of dollars in the YPAS, hiding all sorts of land grabs. In southeast Yukon, there are land grabs that have been underway that this government has authorized.
Now, thereís a lot of potential, and I encourage the minister to move forward on some of the initiatives he spoke of, Mr. Chair.
Chair: Order please. Just to ensure that weíre all on debate, "land grab" was actually ruled out of order last fall by the Speaker. Since it implies theft, we would hope that we donít use it again here, and weíll leave it from that point.
Is there any further general debate?
Seeing no further general debate, weíll go right to line-by-line.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 53 cleared or carried as required.
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses read and agreed to
Chair: Mr. Fairclough has requested unanimous consent to deem all lines in Vote 53 cleared or carried as required. Is there unanimous consent?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent. All lines in Vote 53 are therefore deemed cleared or carried as required.
Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $6,496,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Mr. Jenkins: I have one question. How can we vote money for a department that doesnít exist in legislation, Mr. Chair? Does the minister have an answer?
Chair: No answer.
Mr. Jenkins: Let the record reflect that the minister does not have an answer as to ó we are voting money here, Mr. Chair, and I want to make it abundantly clear, for a department that does not exist in statute. Now, is that right?
I donít believe it to be correct.
Chair: Until otherwise directed, the House will just go with the vote as weíve been instructed.
Capital Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $5,058,000 agreed to
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Department of Education
Chair: Now weíll proceed to the Department of Education. Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iím pleased to give some brief opening comments regarding the operation and maintenance budget for the Department of Education for the 2002-03 fiscal year.
The overall department operation and maintenance budget of $92,328,000 consists of three expenditure or program areas: education support services, public schools and advanced education. Education support services provide support in the form of financial, human resource, administrative, systems, and policy services to the two program areas that then provide services to the public.
The department has a number of work sites, including 28 schools, the Wood Street Annex, Gadzoosdaa residence and the Teen Parent Centre.
Of the total operation and maintenance budget, an amount of $60,755,000, or approximately 66 percent, is the estimated cost for salaries and benefits. The remainder of the budget of $31,573,000 consists of $13,060,000, or 14 percent, in program delivery costs and $18,513,000, or 20 percent, in transfer payments to individuals and organizations.
There are 856.47 full-time equivalents included in the budget, with the largest percentage, 84.6 percent, or 724.96, located in the public schools branch.
Of the total FTEs in public schools, 92 percent are directly associated with school-based staff. As might be expected with so many of the departmental expenses resulting from personnel costs, the largest single increase in this budget relates to the Yukon Employees Union and the Yukon Teachers Association collective agreement adjustments, which are effective for the budget period.
In total, an additional $4,193,000 in wage and benefit costs for departmental personnel are reflected in this budget. Also included is $288,000 in personnel cost increments, which will flow directly to Yukon College for wage and benefit cost increases.
In this budget also, funds have been directed toward the continuing costs of school utilities for all sites across the territory. Members will recall that this item was discussed during the fall session, as additional funds were requested in the supplementary budget for the fiscal year just completed.
As it is anticipated that the growth in costs will continue, the budget for public schools branch has been increased to reflect these additional facility operation and maintenance costs.
In addition, this budget includes increases to a number of key areas and initiatives that will assist schools to continue to provide a strong learning environment for our students. I will briefly explain these initiatives at this time.
The Premier, in her general debate comments on this bill, has explained the commSitment this government is making to improving reporting activities undertaken by individual departments and to measuring the outcomes of these activities through performance measures. In the Department of Education budget, there are funds set aside specifically for several initiatives that will directly focus on improving outcomes for students.
In the 2002-03 fiscal year, a new cohort of teachers will begin the reading recovery training program in preparation for offering this service to young learners in the next school year. $30,000 has been allocated in this budget to support the training, specifically for these teachers who participate in 20 training sessions over the course of the year.
As members may be aware, the reading recovery program is a key component in the Department of Educationís early intervention strategy. Reading recovery in the Yukon is almost twice as accessible as in any other Canadian jurisdiction, with just under 40 percent of grade 1 students receiving the service. This program is in its fifth year. The program has grown from a base of eight schools since its start in the 1997-98 school year. This year, students in 18 schools are receiving service. Reading recovery is not offered at Del Van Gorder, Beaver Creek and Kluane Lake schools, where the numbers of students are very low. There are 26 half-time reading recovery teachers in the Yukon, plus two teacher-leaders, and one other classroom teacher is also trained.
This cohort of teachers will allow the program to be re-established in Teslin and Ross River, where teachers leaving the territory have interrupted programs.
Also in support of school-based delivery, this budget includes an additional $45,000 for site-based program materials and field trips. This increase is necessitated by a combination of factors. For program materials, the costs have increased on a per-unit basis so additional funds are required to sustain the quality of collections at the school level. Field trip activities will be supported with additional funds as schools work toward including more experiential-type learning in regular curriculum development. This often requires students to move outside the classroom as part of the program of study, thus necessitating additional transportation costs.
As this delivery option enriches the learning environment in the classroom, additional funds have been dedicated to ensure expanded program delivery options.
Members have spoken at some length in this House about the need for departments to be accountable and responsive to the needs of their clients. My department has evaluated available data and taken action to be responsive to student needs identified by that data. In this budget, $60,000 has been allocated to provide a new math consultant position, who will work directly with classroom teachers to improve the delivery of the mathematics curriculum at the elementary school level.
This need has been identified on the basis of student results in recent standardized testing at the transition point between elementary and junior high level. With dedicated support addressing teaching in this area, it is expected that the recent gap in student performance at the transition point can be reduced or eliminated.
Another area where the department has listened and responded to the expressed needs of Yukon students is in the area of correspondence courses, supporting students who complete their studies outside the regular classroom setting. In this budget, an additional $52,000 has been allocated for course purchases. This additional funding will assist those students who attend school but must take some courses by correspondence due to scheduling conflicts and home education students. Grades 8 to 12 correspondence courses will be made available to all registered home-educated students at no cost beginning September 1, 2002. In addition to the additional funding for course purchases for students attending school, the department is proceeding with course delivery via distributed learning methods via the EduNet network up the Klondike Highway.
The infrastructure in the school equipment and network upgrades, completed during the last year, are facilitating the offering of increased course offerings at the senior secondary level to students outside Whitehorse.
Also in the public schools branch budget, new funds in the amount of $100,000 have been allocated for new First Nations curriculum programming as a result of Education Act consultations. I am presently working with a leadership representative to establish a framework for involvement of First Nations in the decision making around the priority setting for projects to be funded from this new allocation of funds. It is expected that several very interesting curriculum units will be developed over the next year to supplement materials already available to our teachers. A focus on Yukon First Nation culture, history and languages is anticipated. This new initiative will support a number of expenditure areas relating to First Nation language programs.
The department contributes over $811,000 annually to support the Yukon Native Language Centre through a $352,000 contribution agreement with the Council of Yukon First Nations and $459,322 budgeted in the public schools branch for wages and benefits for 6.53 full-time equivalents at the centre.
Yukon Native Language Centre provides training for native language instructors and develops curriculum materials for the teaching of Yukon First Nation languages in Yukon schools.
The department also provides over $1.7 million each year for salaries for 27.36 aboriginal language teachers in the Yukonís public schools.
Mr. Chair, these comments highlight a number of new initiatives included in the Department of Education budget for 2002-03, and Iíd like to provide details on a number of continuing programs that support the goal of the department at this time.
In my opening comments about the distribution of funds for the programs in this department, I mentioned that 20 percent of the total funds allocated to the department are provided by way of contributions to organizations outside the government for initiatives to support the goal of lifelong learning for Yukoners.
By far the largest of these contributions is to Yukon College for the delivery of programs across the territory. $12,499,000 is allocated in this budget to support the base funding for the College ó the Yukon native teacher education program, the bachelor of social work program, the English-as-a-second-language program and training opportunities for the board of governors. This budget is identified under the advanced education branch.
Also under this expenditure area, this government will provide an additional $4 million for adult learning activities. $3.6 million is allocated for student financial assistance for post-secondary studies in Yukon or at institutions outside the territory. The student assistance is supplemented by two scholarship funding programs that amount to an additional $62,000. In direct support of the implementation of a Yukon training strategy, $130,000 has been allocated for literacy initiatives under the guidance of the Literacy Action Committee, and an additional $150,000 will be provided to Yukon Learn to support their extensive adult and family literacy programs across the territory.
School programs will be enhanced through the efforts of a number of external organizations. The innovators in the schools program will be supported in this fiscal year with a contribution of $57,000. The artists in the schools program will receive $19,000. Whitehorse Concerts will receive $12,000.
We are continuing the elders in the school projects with $15,000 and in partnership with First Nations in Carcross, Teslin, Watson Lake, and we hope to expand this program to Tantalus School in cooperation with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. We are continuing our local community partnership in Watson Lake to provide additional youth counselling in that community, and we have recently entered into a partnership with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin to provide additional counselling services to students in Dawson City.
Each of these programs are examples of offerings to Yukon students that enrich and expand their learning environment. Iím pleased to continue support for these programs and others that I have not mentioned at this time. Mr. Chair, an additional $313,000 will be provided directly to support the enhancement of French and first language activities in the territory at both the public school and the adult learning levels. $114,000 will be provided to the French school board to support activities focused at early initiation to the francophone school environment, curriculum development and implementation and alternative learning methods. A further $110,000 will be provided to the líAssociation des franco-yukonnais for adult education projects. $15,000 will be available to various francophone organizations for cultural activities, and $10,000 will be provided to support post-secondary students attending French first language programs outside the Yukon.
Mr. Chair, student summer employment programs will continue to be supported by the Department of Education through contributions of $189,000 for the student training and employment program, known as the STEP program, and also the summer career placement program will be supported with $114,000 to offer Yukon employers wage subsidies for providing career-related placements to Yukon students.
Iíve highlighted a few of the contributions that will be provided to organizations that offer services to both young and older learners across the territory. These organizations are a vital part of our infrastructure, supporting those who are improving their lives through education.
With these comments, I would be happy to answer any general questions before proceeding to line-by-line.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mrs. Peter: I appreciate that information from the minister. I just want to bring the ministerís attention to the vision for the Department of Education. I have said before in other general debates on Education how important this department is to the whole of the Yukon and to the children of the Yukon Territory, and how it is one of the highest priorities for us and for our communities.
In the vision it states that we will be open, flexible and innovative in supporting Yukon peopleís participation in lifelong learning. It also states, under values, that building strong partnerships with our stakeholders is a priority and value to the government. Also, one of the values stated is effectively communicating information on programs and services, and also demonstrating accountability and, while demonstrating accountability, demonstrating honesty, integrity and respect for cultural diversity.
Having said that, Mr. Chair, this department has seen many changes in the last couple of months, regarding changes within our school systems in Whitehorse and the decisions that have been made and backtracked on because of the pressures from the public. This is one example of how I feel that this government is not listening to the people out there. If this is of a high priority to the people of the Yukon, and also especially with the schools in Whitehorse, then the decisions that are being made within this department, regarding especially a few of the schools in Whitehorse, have to be taken into consideration and that consultation has to be done with the parents and the teachers involved.
We say that education is so important, yet these decisions were made almost at the end of this school year. We know too well that sometimes change is very challenging; however, as adults, sometimes we can barely address those challenges in our personal or professional lives, yet we expect the children in those schools to adjust to some of those changes that are happening. And it does have an impact on their education, especially, for example, the decisions that were made around Whitehorse Elementary and with the students at the Wood Street Annex.
That kind of interruption during the school year is totally unnecessary. Once their school time is finished in June ó whether it be May or June ó we have that time frame between June and August, when theyíre preparing for their next school year, to address some of those concerns and issues around changes that might be looked at ó whether theyíre changes in the semester or curriculum or other alternatives for different situations.
Bringing those kinds of decisions forward partway through their school year is unnecessary. It causes too much confusion; it interferes with their education, and it causes parents a lot of grief. We donít need to do that. We donít need to bring those kinds of situations to parents when theyíre trying to do the best for their children and also for the teachers.
It definitely causes a disruption in the whole focus of their teachings and the lessons that theyíre trying to bring forward ó and trying to deal with this other situation, whether theyíre going to be staying in one place or theyíre going to be moving to another new school. It causes too much confusion for everyone involved, and if these values in the vision that is stated right here in black and white on this paper hold true, then that really needs to be considered.
I just want to bring a few questions to the minister about some of the goals and objectives that are stated here in your plans for the next couple of years. We have gone through some of these issues during Question Period and have gone through some of these issues in the last two years, and still I havenít received a clear answer, so Iíd like to bring those questions to this minister again. We would like to expedite business as fast as we can. I will be straight and to the point, and I hope the minister will be the same for me.
Iíd like to have the minister explain to me what and how the elders in the pilot project ó how is that working for the schools that are involved right now?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Before I answer the member oppositeís question ó the initial comments that you made ó I agree wholeheartedly with you in terms of the need for more involvement of the parents and communities in the decision making and having a flexible long-range plan that the community is involved in developing. I very strongly support the comments that were made by the member opposite in her opening remarks.
Could I ask the member opposite to clarify for me whether you mean technically how the elders in the school program works in terms of the mechanics, or is it being effective and are the children learning more cultural history? Do they feel it is a success? Are those the types of things? Okay, I am getting a nod, so yes, it is those types of things.
The two schools in Teslin and Carcross where the program is running have reported that they believe it is going very successfully, both from having the elders in the school being an advantage for them, and also that any First Nation issues that come up are being immediately dealt with, so the feedback that the department is getting is, yes, it is working and beneficial, and can we expand it.
Mrs. Peter: I thank the minister for that information. In regard to your general comments before debate, the minister mentioned that there are a few other communities that are going to be involved with the pilot project. I am wondering if that is in the next year, and which other schools will be included in this project? My concern is for the community of Old Crow. I have no doubt that this program is very beneficial in our schools. I support this wholeheartedly and would like to see a program like this in my own community.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The school that the elders will be entering this fall is Tantalus School in Carmacks. I would very much appreciate it if the member opposite would raise that with officials or me when weíre in Old Crow so that we could look at it as a potential school as well.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you. I will surely address that with the minister when they do come to my community, because we do need all the resources that we can get for the school in Old Crow. We are looking and always have had a long-term vision for education in Old Crow. Weíre trying to move ahead instead of waiting for other governments to make up their own minds whether theyíre going to fund us in this program and that program.
I appreciate some of the funding that is going to my community, and theyíve had great success with the students from the school going out on the land this spring. Actually, last night in our celebration with our graduates from Old Crow, there was some traditional food that some of the students who went out on the land brought back from that trip. So we do appreciate the resources that we can access within the government.
One of the goals here is to assist individual First Nations to address attendance and performance issues through provisions such as student achievement and attendance information. Can the minister comment on that for me, please?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Weíre now in a position to be able to provide more specific information to First Nations on a request basis. Some of the First Nations have asked us specifically how their children are doing, either by grade or by specific class, sometimes by gender, those types of things ó where we can give the First Nation community some very specific information about how their children are performing.
In the past, those statistics havenít been available, and my understanding is that some of the First Nations are coming to us now and saying we really would like that statistical information specifically about our students so that we have some idea of whether children are attending school and how well theyíre doing in specific courses. So, with the First Nationsí request through the department, we can start providing that for them.
Mrs. Peter: I would like the minister, for the record, to tell me where exactly we stand today in regard to the Education Act.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Iím very happy to bring the member opposite up to speed. I have had a lot of conflicting information at this time on the Education Act, which is at first reading right now. What I have committed to do was ó I sent a letter to all the First Nations' leadership and sent a letter to all the school councils and said that I would call them at the end of this week and early next week to find out whether they wanted me to proceed at this time with the proposed amendments. So Iíll be coming back to the House next week with an answer for the members opposite.
Some of the partners in education would like to see the act proceed because they would like to benefit from some of the changes proposed, recognizing that there would be ongoing amendments. Some of the partners would like it to be held for further discussion. So, Iíll base my decision on what I hear from the leadership ó the individual First Nations' leaders themselves, the school councils, the home educators and the Yukon Teachers Association over the next week.
Mrs. Peter: I would also like to hear from the minister about the partnership or ongoing dialogue she may be having with the school councils.
Hon. Ms. Tucker: What weíre looking for right now is some constructive way to have an ongoing dialogue. Over the summer, I have tasked the department to come up with a series of ideas. There are also going to be school council elections in the fall, so the composition of the school councils may want to change, and I have been asked to hold off dialoguing with the individual school councils until after the new councils have been elected, so they can reflect the opinions of the incoming councils, which will be there for a couple of years.
Iím meeting with the Association of School Councils ó next Friday, I believe, is the date ó and weíll be looking at what they envision themselves doing to support school councils over the next upcoming year and to work out some sort of process where we can get the benefit of as much input and support as possible.
Mrs. Peter: I would also like to hear from the minister what the conclusion is of the decision of the funding for the school council. Where does that stand right now?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: The funding was provided to the association to support school councils. As long as the association continues to spend the funding on direct support of school councils, they will continue with their mandate to do so.
Mrs. Peter: Another one of the objectives that are listed here and one of the key strategies is to continue to monitor community training funds and evaluate training outcomes ongoing to 2002 and 2003. Can the minister comment on that for me, please?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This would be a process whereby the officials would be going to the communities and speaking with the boards, whoever is administering those funds, to ensure that the training opportunities are relevant and timely to the community, to find out what the numbers are in terms of peopleís uptake on the programs, and to find out what their plans are for the future, so that we can be more responsive to them and ensure that the training both meets their needs and that they are getting the maximum benefit out of them.
Mrs. Peter: Would I be correct in assuming at this point that the minister will be touring the communities in the Yukon this summer for information purposes?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: My intent is to go to some of the communities during the summer to have some more casual conversations with people. Iím going to try to participate in some of the cultural activities as well so I have a better understanding. Yes, there will be some feedback going on through the communities, but there will also still be a more formal dialoguing process to ensure that everybody has an opportunity to speak. I donít have a planned tour of the communities this summer.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you for that information.
Maybe Iím not quite understanding it, but there is an objective to design an immigration service framework that is tailor-made to meet the Yukon needs. Would the minister comment on that for me, please?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Immigration Canada is partnering with the provinces and territories on a program whereby the territory would identify skill shortages and we would profile skills required in the Yukon. If there were immigrants coming to Canada who met that profile in an area where we couldnít fill the needs ourselves, then that skill could be referred to us in the Yukon.
There is also a potential for Yukon to receive business-based immigrants where they can come and contribute to the Yukon financially and open up business services that would be of value to us.
We are also working on some settlement services right now, but we still need to go back and fill in the analysis as to what the Yukon needs in terms of both skills and businesses. It is at a very preliminary stage under an agreement with Canada.
Mrs. Peter: Under the key strategy for this same objective, it states that the government would like to meet with Citizenship and Immigration Canada to establish a mutually accepted level of service by the winter of 2003. What types of services would that be referring to?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: This would be an analysis of areas where the Yukon may be lacking services in languages or job search skills, providing services to new immigrants, services that are lacking in the communities ó these types of areas where we are missing things.
Mrs. Peter: One of the departmentís initiatives hopes to address alcohol and drug addictions within our school system, and that is something that I would really totally support ó seeing those kinds of programs in our schools across the territory ó and I believe in absolute prevention before the issues and the problems become much more evident.
It states here that, in cooperation with the alcohol and drug secretariat, the delivery of alcohol and substance abuse prevention programming will be available for all public schools. I am assuming that is all communities within the territory. Would the minister please give me more information on that statement?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Right now, the alcohol and drug services unit is developing a program that would move throughout the territory so that you could provide services. It is in the creation phase right now. The idea would be to have outreach programs and an ongoing program circulating so that we could be where it was required at the time, but a basic level of education would be provided.
Mrs. Peter: When would the minister see this type of prevention programming starting within the public schools?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: I would anticipate it being developed over the upcoming year and then in the schools in the fall of ó possibly the spring of 2003, but by the fall of 2003.
Mrs. Peter: Also, one of the initiatives that is listed here is maintaining quality health care, and I would be interested to hear from the minister when she would see these types of programming being implemented within our schools?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: There are already a number of health care programs going on. When we look at the active living and we look at active living schools, we look at more education around nutrition, healthy choices, healthy families, all these types of initiatives. Weíre reviewing them and weíre trying to find out whatís most effective, so it would be more of an expansion or a streamlining of existing services to make them more effective and an incorporation of other things as they come up, like the bullying initiative that was undertaken and this new initiative coming in with alcohol and drug programs to try to get a more expanded program. Literacy has a huge impact, and the ability to learn about what choices you have would be an example as well.
Mrs. Peter: I just want to move from the goals and objectives to some questions I have around, again, some of the decisions being made within this department. I have been addressing those issues in the last couple of days, and itís regarding the movement of teachers and maybe eliminating some of the positions from the schools because of the ratio and the formula ó weíve gone through that today.
The minister stated that we have one of the best systems in Canada. We may have some of the best systems in Canada; however, sometimes there is not always success around that. When our students leave the territory or have to go from high school to another educational institution to further their education, they have to take two steps back and take more programs to upgrade, so they will be at the level they need to be at, for the courses they are interested in.
Again, going back to causing any type of confusion partway through the education system for our children, we need to address these issues as soon as possible.
With the interruptions in their education during the school year, whether theyíre in grade 12 or leaving the lower grades and going into high school, itís a real stressful time for the students involved. The types of decisions that are being made today, whether it be because of the student ratio we have and the teachers who are out there, this is a real concern for them ó especially for the teachers. It causes a lot of stress around, "Am I going to have a job by September, and if I do, where am I going to go?" Yes, we can move them around. They are very resourceful people. We can use them in all areas, but some of those areas are specialized, whether it be math or reading or other subjects.
Whoever makes those decisions needs to hear from the people involved.
However they go about that ó I know itís going to take some time. Are there other options that the minister may know about right now that she can let us know about?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Could the member opposite clarify options for what specifically?
Mrs. Peter: Options for the teachers. For example, if the minister or people in the department need to move the teachers, say, from a classroom, and go into split grades, the teacher who has just left that position in that classroom and needs to be placed elsewhere ó how would those kinds of decisions be made? Iím also concerned in that same regard for our communities. There is not always the number of students in one classroom, and yet we do need the number of teachers that we had, say, for last year, for the upcoming year.
For example, in Old Crow, if there are two or three students who are leaving the school in Old Crow to come to Whitehorse to attend the high school down here, we do need the same amount of resources that we had this past year for the upcoming school year.
Would three students leaving this year have an impact on the number of teachers we would have there for September?
Hon. Ms. Tucker: Just to briefly do an overview of the staffing, I will go back and maybe review some of the comments earlier. The average in Canada is one teacher for 16 students. In the Yukon, it is one teacher for 12 students, and that doesnít include other resource personnel such as reading recovery or learning assistants, or things of that nature. The overall number of teachers in the system may be reduced ó there are more teachers retiring ó so in fact we are actually going to have to go and hire teachers.
In terms of the relocation and placements, the teachers are protected and have a union that covers the relocation of the places that they are going to be and what jobs they have in specializations.
If the member can bear with me I will, seeing the time, move that we report progress and give her a further answer when we resume debate.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Tucker that we do now report progress.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: I move the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. McLachlan that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. McLarnon: Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 9, Second Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. McLachlan: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2002.
The House adjourned at 5:58 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled May 16, 2002:
Yukon Housing Corporation Maintenance and Service Contracts: administration and listing of (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3320
Yukon Housing Corporation mobile home purchases: contract of Purchase and Sale and Agreement for Sale of Land (Buckway)
Oral, Hansard, p. 3392