Monday, March 3, 2003 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this House to order, and we will proceed at this time with prayers.
reTIREMENT of Sergeant-at-Arms
Speaker: Before proceeding with the Order Paper, the Chair wishes to formally inform the House of the retirement of our Sergeant-at-Arms, Emery Shilleto. Emery is with us today in the Speakers gallery.
Emery came to the Yukon in 1944. He was the territorial agent in Mayo from 1965 to 1991. It was there that he and his wife, Eileen, raised their children, Blair and Blaise. Following his retirement, Emery and Eileen moved to Whitehorse. He was appointed as our Sergeant-at-Arms in November of 1991 and has served in the position for over 11 years. His appointment took place during the 27th Legislative Assembly and lasted through the 28th, 29th and 30th legislatures.
He has been a dedicated and dignified officer of this House, and I know that all members will join me in expressing appreciation to him for his service and in wishing him and his family the very best in his retirement years.
Introduction of new Sergeant-At-Arms
Speaker: In a directly related announcement, the Chair wishes to inform the House that Rudy Couture, the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms, will now be our new Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Couture arrived in the Yukon with his wife, Janet, in March 1954 when he came to Watson Lake to work with his uncle and aunt at the Watson Lake Trading Post. He later opened his own store, Yukon Self-Serve, and served as coroner and justice of the peace in Watson Lake. Rudy and Janet moved to Whitehorse in 1967 where Rudy worked a brief time in the employ of Whitehorse Copper. He then worked for the Government of Yukon from 1968 to 1972 as a labour relations officer and liquor inspector. In 1972 they moved to Faro where Rudy served as the town manager from 1972 to 1985. They moved back to Whitehorse in 1986 and Rudy became the executive director of the Association of Yukon Communities a position he served in until his retirement in 1994.
At present Rudy sits on the board of the Yukon Housing Corporation and is a Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus. Rudy and Janet have now been married 52 years and they have three lovely daughters and five even better looking grandchildren.
The Chair would like to ask that all members join in providing Mr. Couture with a cordial welcome to the service of this House.
Speaker: It would probably be appropriate to have a round of applause for our departing Sergeant-at-Arms as well.
Speaker: We will continue at this time with the Order Paper.
Speaker: Are there any tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
Tabling of documents?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have for tabling the public accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 2002.
Speaker: Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the report of the Auditor General of Canada on the public accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 2002.
I also have for tabling a report of the Chief Electoral Officer on the 2002 general election financial returns.
I also have for tabling a report of the Clerk of the Assembly, made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I have for tabling a document entitled Together We Will Do Better, the Yukon Party platform and commitments for the 2002 election.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Petition No. 1
Mr. Hassard: I have for tabling a petition from constituents in my riding. This petition contains 49 signatures asking for increased funding to support the operations of Yukon College throughout Yukon.
Speaker: Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 22: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 22, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 22, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 23: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 23, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 23, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 23 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 24: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 24, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 24, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 25 : Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 25, entitled Waters Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 25, entitled Waters Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 25 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 26: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 26, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 26, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 26 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 101: Introduction and First Reading
Ms. Duncan: I move that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party that Bill No. 101, entitled An Act to Amend the Taxpayer Protection Act, be introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 101 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
THAT this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to direct the Minister of Health and Social Services and the minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation to give top priority to providing low-cost options for second- and third-stage housing for seniors and elders in all Yukon rural communities where the need exists.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the placer mining industry in the Yukon is of special significance to the territory, having helped create the territory as a separate jurisdiction in Canada in 1898, and remains an economic mainstay to this day, over 100 years later;
(2) the Yukon Placer Authorization signed in 1993 has served to enable the placer mining industry to continue operations while protecting and preserving fish habitat for decades;
(3) the recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon Placer Authorization and to replace it with a 25 milligram-per-litre sediment standard will effectively destroy the placer mining industry; and
(4) this standard was proposed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans without consultation with the industry and in contravention of the consultation requirements with First Nation governments as required by their land claims agreements; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the Hon. Robert Thibault, to consult with the placer industry, the Yukon Placer Committee, Government of Yukon, First Nation governments and other stakeholders to reinstate the Yukon Placer Authorization or replace it with a similar authorization.
Speaker: Any there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) neither the United States administration nor the United Nations Security Council has provided any compelling evidence to justify a declaration of war on the people of Iraq;
(2) the integrity of Canada as a sovereign nation would be in jeopardy if this country allowed itself to be drawn into an unjustified military venture at the behest of the United States or any other military power; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to adopt an independent foreign policy that includes restricting the use of Canadian military personnel and resources to the roles of peacekeeping, research, assistance in civil emergencies and defence against direct threats to the Canadian nation or its people.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Government of Canada agreed to provide $20 million to assist the City of Whitehorse host the 2007 Canada Winter Games and that, to date, the Government of Canada has not honoured its commitment; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to sign a contribution funding agreement with the City of Whitehorse to honour the $20-million federal funding commitment toward the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Village of Mayo will be celebrating its 100th Anniversary this summer; and
THAT this House urges the Government of the Yukon to help celebrate this important anniversary by holding a special sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly in Mayo during the 2003 centennial year.
Mr. Fairclough: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) Yukon people were given assurances during the recent election campaign that a Yukon Party government would maintain government spending on education, justice and health and
(2) any freeze in funding to non-governmental organizations that provide services on behalf of the Yukon government has the effect of reducing that organizations ability to maintain services to Yukon people; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to immediately negotiate stable, long-term funding agreements with all non-governmental organizations that provide social services on its behalf, and that these community organizations will continue to have the resources they need to maintain the services they now provide.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the previous Liberal government was unable to conclude the mandatory review of the Yukons Education Act, due to an unwise decision by the minister of the day to politicize the review process;
(2) in its election platform, the Yukon Party promised to seek a consensus from all stakeholders about the Education Act review; and
(3) in the three months since being sworn into office, the current minister has failed to follow through on this commitment; and
THAT this House calls upon the Yukon Party government to honour its campaign commitment by engaging all partners in education in meaningful consultation prior to introducing any proposed amendments to the Yukon Education Act for consideration of this House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Arntzen: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that rising fuel and home heating costs are creating economic hardship for Canadians, especially those living north of the 60th parallel; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to eliminate the goods and services tax on diesel, gasoline, propane, furnace oil, electricity and wood used for heating.
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the government has
(1) committed to a "Team Yukon" approach in making First Nations full partners in the economic development of the territory,
(2) made a priority of establishing government-to-government relationships with First Nations based on mutual respect, consultation and a collaboration with the objectives of reducing barriers and providing more cost-effective services for all Yukon citizens; and
THAT this House urges the government to ensure this approach extends to all areas of governance, including the economy, education, health, justice, social and community services.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the Yukon Party government has received millions of dollars in new health care funding, and
(2) alcohol and drug abuse are endemic Yukon social problems that the novice government has identified as priorities, and
(3) the youth outreach van service provided by the Yukon Family Services Association is a valuable resource in combatting these alcohol and drug programs, and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to use a portion of the new health care funding to ensure that this service is continued.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cathers: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) the Auditor General of Canada has reported that over $1 billion has been wasted on the gun registry by the Department of Justice and that she is unable to trace the funds allocated on the gun registry by other departments; and
(2) the head of the Canadian Police Association has stated that the police are not able to function effectively unless 95 percent of the public trust the police and are forthcoming in dealing with law enforcement officials, and in his opinion Bill C-68 and the gun registry have destroyed that trust; and
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the federal governments gun registry does nothing to increase the safety of Canadians; and
(2) the enforcement of laws against violent crime are hampered by a lack of police officers; and
(3) money wasted on gun registry would be better allocated to increasing the number of police on the streets; and
THAT this House urges the federal government to immediately introduce legislation which would repeal and dismantle the gun registry.
Mrs. Peter: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the threat of the war in the Middle East is creating a great deal of uncertainty about the worlds supply of oil and gas;
(2) this uncertainty, combined with positions taken by Republican administrations in both the United States Congress and the State of Alaska, is adding to pressure on many fronts to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration;
(3) development of this region would seriously jeopardize the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd, which is essential to the survival of the Gwitchin people and their way of life; and
THAT this House reaffirms its opposition to any move to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Yukon Party election platform
Mr. Hardy: A few minutes ago, I tabled the Yukon Partys 2002 election platform document. I have a very simple question for the Premier. Does the Premier stand by the commitments made in that document?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The short answer, Mr. Speaker of course we stand by the commitments made in that document. Thats what governing is all about. We intend to proceed throughout this mandate in delivering on those commitments, but weve also stated very clearly that there are going to be longer term initiatives that have to be addressed.
However, the Yukon public elected this government based on those commitments, and we intend to deliver on those commitments.
Mr. Hardy: On November 25, before the new government was even sworn into office, the Premier told his friends at the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce that his government would not be keeping all of its campaign promises during this mandate.
Last weeks Speech from the Throne was incredibly vague on actions, so Id like to ask the Premier another simple question: will the Premier tell this House right now which campaign promises his government intends to keep and which ones he intends to break?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We intend to break no commitments, period, and we will continue to work on the commitments that weve laid out for the Yukon public throughout our mandate, and we will be delivering on those commitments.
Question re: Alcohol and drug secretariat
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party made many promises on the doorsteps during the election campaign, and we in the opposition are going to hold the government to their promises.
The first page of the Yukon Partys platform makes a clear commitment to a new inclusive style of government based on and I quote "consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral action".
So will the minister tell us exactly who he consulted before taking the unilateral action of disbanding the alcohol and drug secretariat and firing the executive director?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It was on the public record during the election as to the course of action that our government would be taking. We are not committed to building additional stovepipes of administration; we are committed to serving the needs of Yukoners. There is an affliction with drugs and alcohol here in the Yukon, and that is what has to be served, and that is what has to be addressed.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, the ministers are already breaking their promises to the general public to consult with them. Actions are already being taken.
Mr. Speaker, this was just the first of many unilateral actions of this minister since being sworn in. Perhaps he should pick up the Yukon Party platform and read it again.
On February 3, the minister issued a news release saying that he was kicking the residents of Macaulay Lodge out of their home because of major structural problems with the building. Will the minister tell us whom he consulted and what studies he read about the building before he took that unilateral action?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was no action taken. There was a consultation program instituted.
And with respect to the issue that the member opposite raised previously, our government is committed to putting more resources into programming and to addressing the needs of seniors at the same time. So programming is where were heading, not building or administration. And serving the needs of seniors is where were heading, as exemplified by the increase in the pioneer utility grant and like-minded initiatives.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, where this minister is going is breaking his word to the public. No unilateral action, yet this is what weve seen in the public. I think the minister needs to address this with his colleagues.
Today we learned that the minister had frozen funding to the Yukon Family Services. This means that the youth van, which serves many young people, may have to be parked for good. Now Id like to ask the minister this: what other non-governmental organizations are going to have their funding frozen because of this unilateral action of this minister?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The issue before us today, Mr. Speaker, is that the Department of Health and Social Services has had a $10-million budget increase historically for the past seven cycles $7 million to $10 million. We have been faced with a spending trajectory that is unsustainable unsustainable, in light of the amount of money that has previously been earmarked as coming to the Yukon via the federal government. In fact, well probably see a downturn in the total amount of dollars coming to the Yukon with the per capita grants, and what we have before us is an obligation.
With respect to the issue the member raised about the bus around town, Family Services has a budget of $819,000 thats going to be funded in this coming fiscal year. What was requested was a further increase of another $107,000, which we did not have the ability to fund. We are faced with the fiscal constraints of the federal government only transferring a certain amount of money. We have to live within that budget envelope.
Question re: Land claims contract
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Premier and the minister responsible for land claims.
The sole-source contract provided to Obsidian Consulting, Mr. Allen Edzerza, is for $200,000 for almost a one-year period. Part of the contract revolves around the Kaska legal case challenging devolution.
Now, Mr. Speaker, anybody at any time can file a lawsuit, and often a lawyer will review the facts of the case and decide whether or not a particular case will proceed, what the chances are of success.
Prior to expending $200,000 of taxpayers money, I am certain, given his responsibility as Minister of Finance, that the minister would ensure that the money was required.
Can the Premier confirm that he has received and reviewed a legal opinion that would justify spending $200,000, that there is a basis for this contract?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would like to respectfully inform the member opposite that she has this issue wrong. The contract is not unprecedented. The gentleman in question is a chief negotiator. His contract includes duties of formalizing government-to-government relationships with all First Nations. It includes framing and developing the framework of a full economic partnership with all First Nations. It includes bilateral negotiations with the Kaska First Nation because of the unfinished land claim business in southeast Yukon. Because the court case is a direct challenge against devolution, which the Yukon government takes over April 1st, his duties also include the possibility of our getting an abeyance on litigation. Without an abeyance on litigation, obviously we cannot conclude the land claims business in the southeast, and we may be faced with some difficult times implementing devolution while the challenge is in court.
Ms. Duncan: I listened very carefully to the Premier, and what he said was that he did not have a legal opinion with respect to the legal case being argued before the courts. He did not have it or he didnt review it.
What basis, and what is the necessity then, of spending the $200,000? What he is saying is that, regardless of the merits of the case which he hasnt looked at, or not, depending on what that answer really said he is going to pay $200,000 to have a contractor see this court case stopped or seek an abeyance. What are the terms of the stoppage, the abeyance? Is it for six months? Is it for a year? Or is it until there is another contract issued?
What are the terms of the abeyance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, I would inform the member opposite that she has it wrong. The abeyance issue is one small portion of a much larger contract that includes, as I mentioned previously, government-to-government relations with all First Nations, full economic partnership, bilateral negotiations to ensure that we can conclude the unfinished business in the southeast Yukon with the Kaska Nation.
Its very important to the Yukon Territory that these things be done.
As far as a legal opinion, the court challenge is against Ottawa; its not against the Yukon. This government is trying to be proactive in coming up with a solution and resolution to issues that will impact, even though we are not a party to the legal challenge.
Ms. Duncan: What weve learned from the answers of the Premier is that he still loves to tell me that, no matter what I say, Im wrong in this Legislature. Secondly, what he said is that theres a legal opinion, that it exists Im assuming he has read it and hes saying that the Yukon is paying $200,000 in a sole-source contract the highest ever sole-source contract to one individual in the history of the Yukon. Yukoners are paying that for this abeyance, or stoppage, of a court case to which were not even a party?
And the minister is also not confirming what the terms of the abeyance are. How does the Premier intend to judge whether or not the contract has been successfully concluded if he doesnt know what the terms of the abeyance are?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again the member has it wrong. The total contract is capped at $200,000. It may end much cheaper, depending on what progress we get.
As far as how I, or this government, will determine whats in the abeyance agreement, thats quite simple. Litigation will be put into abeyance and well be back at the land claim table with the federal government and the Kaska Nation.
It is not, again I remind the member opposite, simply just an abeyance negotiation. Theres much broader work at play here with First Nations when it comes to formalizing our relationship, full economic partnership, and ensuring that we can conclude the unfinished business in the southeast Yukon. It is the one First Nation that has no agreement, and its obvious that the southeast Yukon has a major role to play in the economic fortunes of this territory.
So, we as a government are being proactive. We as a government are doing everything we can to advance those issues that the former government failed to conclude while in office.
Question re: Workers Compensation Act review
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party election platform promised an inclusive approach to governing that avoids unilateral action. When it comes to the Workers Compensation Act review, the minister responsible is clearly not up to speed on his partys promises. He seems to be ignoring the promise to consult with stakeholders about legislative changes that are going to affect them.
Will the minister provide this House with specific details on the structure, process and timelines he intends to use to review the act?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The act requires that a review commence on certain sections of the act, effective January 1 of this year. That was underway. There was a three-party panel that was put to task with this responsibility. They are currently underway. That process is phase 1.
And I have an initial report, but the terms of reference that the member opposite asked for Id be happy to share those with the member opposite.
Mr. Cardiff: I appreciate that.
On December 12, I asked the minister in writing for details on the act review process, and almost three months later Im still waiting for his reply.
Mr. Speaker, in last Thursdays Yukon News, the minister is quoted as saying that the review process is almost complete, and yet the newspaper cannot find anyone that the minister has consulted.
Will the minister tell us exactly whom he has consulted and who has been involved in the first phase of the review process?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There was a three-party panel tasked with the responsibilities. The request released to that effect came out of the NDP offices, Mr. Speaker, so its well-known as to who these individuals were. I have agreed to provide the member opposite with their terms of references for the phase 1 review. I have received an initial report from those three individuals who were tasked with that responsibility, and the issues that have to be examined are clearly outlined in statute in the Workers Compensation Act.
Mr. Cardiff: From what I read in the newspaper last week, they didnt know the review had even started. Mr. Speaker, last week, the minister unveiled several changes he was considering to the Workers' Compensation Act in that article as well. These changes would fundamentally change how workers compensation works in the Yukon.
The minister said he was considering pulling YTG workers from the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and having YTG self-insure its workforce. The minister also claimed that these changes would have little impact on the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
Can the minister tell this House whom he consulted on these novel ideas, or if were witnessing another example of unilateral action by the minister?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It looks like were taking verbatim, as the platform of the government, what is reported in the newspaper, and Id encourage the members opposite to not do so.
With respect to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board and it being the insurer for the Yukon government, that is under the purview of the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I do not have a responsibility in that area.
As far as the impact on Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, that information comes from within that organization itself.
So I would encourage the member opposite to perhaps consult with the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board as to its position with respect to the impact on the government being in its fold or outside of its fold, and what that financial impact would be.
Question re: Highway project scheduling
Mr. McRobb: My question is for the Minister of Infrastructure. The Yukon Party platform was flush with broad statements about investing in our territorys infrastructure, but was very light on detail. Then, after the election, the Yukon Party backed far away from its own platform document.
Yukoners were left guessing as to what this new government was going to do. I would very much like to bring some certainty to an issue important to all Yukoners, and my constituents in particular. The Yukon government had scheduled a lot of work on the important Alaska Highway route through the Kluane region; however this work, and the jobs that go with it, are threatened by this government.
Will the minister undertake to provide us with a work schedule of highway projects scheduled over the next two fiscal years, including those for the Kluane region?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Department of Infrastructure will be continuing to work on the Shakwak project over the next two years between $20 million this year and between $15 million and $20 million next year, as far as construction goes. And thats providing we get the funding through Washington, D.C. next years funding for that process.
We will also be working on a portion of the Alaska Highway just outside of Haines Junction to finish up a piece of the road that was commenced last year in that area I believe in the area of $2 million to work on that area. Were looking at finishing off that small piece near Mendenhall in next years budget.
Mr. McRobb: Well, thats very disappointing, Mr. Speaker.
As the minister may know, most of the old sections of the Alaska Highway in need of reconstruction are already on track for completion. The cost-shared project west of Champagne, for instance, which was half-done last summer, will be completed next fall, thanks in part to the federal SHIP program. Thats the project the minister just alluded to, Mr. Speaker.
The Champagne bypass was the most expensive section, and it was completed last fall. Previous to that, the Pine Lake corner reconstruction was completed. So most of the work will already have been done by the time this government gets around to creating its own projects.
The previous government did provide me with a workplan schedule that completed all of the remaining reconstruction this side of Haines Junction by the year 2006. Yukoners want to know: where does the Yukon Party government stand? Will it honour that same schedule?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would ask the hon. member to await the budget on Thursday.
Mr. McRobb: That answer is simply a cop-out. The minister could have provided a response to my question. Instead, we get a deferral. That is not in keeping with the good spirit and nature that this Yukon Party campaigned on, Mr. Speaker being forthcoming with information and trying to collaborate with members of the opposition.
Now, the Alaska Highway is the Yukons only land route to southern Canada. Improvement of our most important highway is essential to the survival and health of the Yukons economy, including tourism. This type of work creates employment for Yukoners and is generally done by Yukon contractors. Upgrading this to modern standard is also fundamental to public safety. Just what cuts is this minister planning to make to the highway projects planned at the time this government took office?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I reiterate that we will be bringing it up in our budget process.
Question re: Porcupine caribou herd
Mrs. Peter: My question is for the Minister of Environment. The Yukon Party platform promises to support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to ensure the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd. Is this a commitment that the minister intends to keep?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I had the good opportunity within the last 10 days to spend some time in Old Crow and in Inuvik with the Gwitchin on that side, and I gave them the same assurance that I give the member opposite now yes.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the Gwitchin way of life solely depends on the Porcupine caribou herd for survival, including protection of the birthing grounds. Once again we are in a very critical state. We are in a very critical state because of the political state of the world.
Can the minister tell the people of Old Crow what measures he plans to take to support us in this effort?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: A number of different initiatives have been taken over for some time and I give them the same assurance as I gave the member opposite a couple of weeks ago. The survival and the stability and the continuance of the Porcupine caribou herd are of great interest and of great necessity to the Gwitchin people. We are very, very well aware of that and we will work with them in the excellent work that they have already started, and try to give them every bit of support we can in that.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, education of people in the United States and Canada plays a key role in our efforts and this requires a lot of travel. We have heard from the government before that paid us lip service. We need the government to honour this commitment.
Will this minister promise to allocate funds so that we can continue our work at this very critical time for our people?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Once again, as these initiatives develop from the Gwitchin and from our government and from third parties, we will give every bit of support that we can to the projects and the initiatives as they arise. At this point in time, without any details on that, its difficult to respond and again there will be information in the budget on that.
Question re: Public service, campaign commitments to
Mr. Hardy: The Yukon Party platform document contains a number of clear commitments under the title of "open, accountable, fiscally responsible government".
Will the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission tell the House if he intends to keep these promises that relate to his portfolio, or are these among the commitments that wont be happening during this term?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer is yes.
Mr. Hardy: A lot of quick answers. Theres a lot of detail thats just pouring out of this other side. I guess were going to have to work a lot on this side.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Thats good theyre easy questions. Were starting you off soft.
Mr. Speaker, one of these commitments is the promise to implement effective whistle-blower legislation protecting public employees who report abuse within the government. What models is the minister planning to use for that legislation, and when does he plan to table it in this House?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, I would like to just say that, upon looking at the whistle-blower legislation, there appear to be several factors that would not work in that favour, and there are other options being looked at, at this time.
Mr. Hardy: Im looking forward to seeing what those other options are. However, the platform also promises enhanced opportunities for public employees to provide input on Yukon government decisions, individually and collectively. Will the minister give his assurance that the governments mandate to the Public Service Commission in the upcoming contract negotiations with the government employees will include these enhanced opportunities for input?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, I would just like to say that the collective bargaining process is happening, and I do not comment on whats going on with that process.
Question re: Land claims contract
Ms. Duncan: We began Question Period with me asking the Premier about the sole-source contract to Obsidian Consulting. In his answer, the Premier indicated that the contract to Mr. Allen Edzerza is for a total of $200,000 for almost a year. In fact, Mr. Speaker, the contract also provides for all travel and incidental expenses to be paid over and above this $200,000, which is, of course, the highest sole-source contract in Yukon history to any one individual.
Would the Premier please advise the House as to how much in additional monies has been paid to the contractor for travel within the Yukon, in particular to Watson Lake or Upper Liard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the member should be providing full disclosure to this House that the contract is capped at $200,000. It could end next week. As far as travel expenses, of course we didnt expect this individual to walk around the Yukon or hitchhike. There are expenses that go with travel throughout the Yukon Territory, something we face with health care and medevacs. Of course, I can provide the information to the member opposite once weve compiled it, and Ill bring it forward to the House. I dont necessarily keep track, on a daily basis, of travel costs.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the contract for $800 a day plus travel and plus incidental expenses is for $200,000 from January 6, 2003 to December 31, 2003. The likelihood of it being less is slim to none.
Mr. Speaker, terms and conditions in the contract also indicate that the contractor will formalize a government-to-government relationship with Yukon First Nations for the better operations of all governments in the territory. Mr. Speaker, would the Premier please advise which other governments he consulted with? For example, did he consult with any other self-governing First Nations prior to awarding the sole-source contract?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, again I must point out for the members benefit that the $200,000 that the member seems to be hooked on is a ceiling. The member is getting a little ahead of herself in determining what the costs of this contract will be.
As far as consulting with other governments, we consulted through 30 days of a campaign that this is what we were going to do. We stated clearly that if we were elected to government, we would bring First Nation people into government so that they play a meaningful role. No one can dispute the fact that, in this particular case, we have a First Nation person who is taking on a priority initiative for the Government of Yukon that includes working with First Nation governments in this territory to formalize our relationship as governments, to put into effect a full economic partnership for the benefit of all Yukoners, to negotiate a bilateral arrangement with a First Nation that has no land claim, and that that bilateral arrangement will allow us to conclude unfinished business if were successful, and to hopefully so we can conclude that unfinished business negotiate an abeyance agreement that would allow not only devolution to proceed unimpeded but would bring the federal government back to the negotiating table for land claims. All these things are of the highest priority, of vital importance to the Yukon, and we intend to proceed.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, so far in Question Period today we have confirmed that the Premier has issued a sole-source contract for $800 a day plus travel and incidental expenses, for a total of $200,000 for a one-year period. Thats the value of the contract. We have confirmed that this individual, in the terms and conditions of their contract, are to formalize a government-to-government relationship with Yukon First Nations for the betterment of all governments, but there was no consultation with other First Nation governments prior to issuing the sole-source contract.
We have also confirmed, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier has asked this individual, and only this individual, to seek an abeyance, or a stoppage, of a court case to which the Yukon is not even a party, and we have no idea on what basis the Premier sole-sourced this contract.
Would the Premier tell us: prior to expending $200,000 of taxpayers money, $800 a day, for an abeyance agreement, what did he receive in terms of supporting documentation or an opinion that would justify spending $200,000 this year?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What we have learned today is that the member opposite simply refuses to be receptive to the fact that this $200,000 amount is a ceiling. We could wrap this contract up in coming weeks. In fact, the court date of May 13 has been set for devolution, or the challenge on devolution. Thats not a very far-off period in time.
Mr. Speaker, I think what the member opposite clearly does not understand is the relevance to a court challenge as it relates to devolution, what it means to the investment community that we so desperately need to bring back to this territory.
If a court challenge proceeds, you can rest assured that the investment community will deem the Yukon as a very bad place to invest.
Secondly, we have now the federal government agreeing to extensions on the MOU process that the member opposite so ceremoniously trumpeted as a great accomplishment and we have found out that devolution, as far as a challenge in court, may impact those First Nations that have yet to conclude through the MOU ratification process.
So this is a huge issue for the Yukon. We are being proactive. Were taking steps to try to avert litigation, as we broadcasted for 30 days across this territory that we would do if elected. Weve chosen to bring a First Nation into this very high priority area as we committed to do. We are putting our money where our mouth is, and I would urge the member to allow some time to elapse to see what product we get in this initiative, and then the member can challenge and criticize when there is some basis in fact. Today the member has not provided any basis in fact or the rationale for her position.
We will proceed accordingly, and we are very hopeful
Speaker: Order please. Would the member conclude his answer.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: ...that we will conclude.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Motion No. 16 Election of Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Patrick Rouble, Member for Southern Lakes, be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that Patrick Rouble, Member for Southern Lakes, be appointed Deputy Speaker and Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Motion No. 17 Election of Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Dean Hassard, Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, be appointed Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that Dean Hassard, Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, be appointed Deputy Chair of Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
CONSIDERATION OF SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I wish to inform the House, pursuant to Standing Orders 26(2), that consideration of a motion for an Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne shall take place Tuesday, March 4, 2003.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker: Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
Mr. Cathers: I move
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER: We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech that you have addressed to the House.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Lake Laberge
THAT the following address be presented to the Commissioner of the Yukon:
MAY IT PLEASE THE COMMISSIONER: We, the Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly, beg leave to offer our humble thanks for the gracious Speech that you have addressed to the House.
Mr. Cathers: First of all, let me say how honoured I am to rise here today to represent the riding of Lake Laberge. Id like to begin by thanking my constituents for electing me to represent them in this 31st Yukon Legislative Assembly. I will continue to work hard to be worthy of the trust they have placed in me, and I welcome them to contact me not only when they have a problem but also to let me know what is on their minds.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind my colleagues on both sides of this Legislature that the trust placed in us by our constituents is not by any means a trivial matter. By entrusting us with the power to change the laws and the power to direct the actions and operations of the Yukon government, our constituents are granting us the power to affect their ability to do anything from driving on the highway to buying a piece of land to call their own, buying a home, being cared for when theyre sick and even having an economic climate where they and their children can work possibly the most important of all, the ability to sustain a living. They are quite literally entrusting us with their lives.
Speaking to people in my constituency of Lake Laberge, I have heard the effects that mistakes and misdirection of government policies, regulations and laws have had on their lives. Previous Yukon government decisions and the repercussions of those decisions, or in some cases the failure to make a decision, have quite literally had a devastating effect on the lives of some of my constituents.
Mr. Speaker, ladies and gentlemen, this is a very serious business were in. Previous legislatures have degenerated into name-calling, snippy remarks and cheap political shots. How do you think the people of the Yukon feel when the only way they can tell the difference between their elected representatives sitting in this Legislature and a classroom of scrapping kindergarten kids is two feet of height and the lack of actual hair-pulling in this Chamber?
Mr. Speaker, I could tell you how my constituents feel, but Im not sure youd consider "need a good spanking" parliamentary language when directed toward members or previous members of this Legislature.
Im pleased to see this throne speech commit to seeking an all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum for this Legislature. Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues across the floor to work with this government on this matter. I ask that on this, and indeed on all matters this Legislature faces, they do not oppose this government merely for the sake of opposing it. I have no doubt that their constituents will thank them for putting partisan politics aside and working together with those of us on this side of the House for the betterment of all Yukoners. And let me assure them that, if they approach me with a good idea, I will not hesitate to listen, to advocate that idea and, at the end of the day, to give credit where credit is due. Mr. Speaker, I am confident that my colleagues on this side of the floor will do likewise.
This throne speech made it clear that one of the key priorities of the Yukon government is practising good government. Thats what were supposed to be here for. The throne speech clearly outlines this governments commitment to a new inclusive form of governance based upon consensus, consultation, collaboration and, where need be, compromise. I believe that together we have the potential of ushering in a new era where "politician" is no longer a word Yukoners want to spit after saying. Elected service should be an honourable profession, but to receive that respect, we must act like honourable professionals.
Regarding words and terminology, Mr. Speaker, I would like to pass some words of wisdom on to the members of this Legislature. I cannot, unfortunately, recall the name of the author, but I believe this phrase is one of the most apt descriptions or perhaps I should say mission statements for the job that we in this Legislature share, what were tasked with doing and what we should do.
The phrase is, "A politician thinks about the next election. A statesman thinks about the next generation." Mr. Speaker, I believe a question hangs in the air over the heads of each one of us in this Legislature today. This is not a question that any one of us can answer, but the question is, "Are you a statesman or a politician?" This is the question by which our constituents will regard us. This is how the people we meet on the street will think of us with regard to this question how we fit into it. This is a question by which history will judge us. Are we statesmen or merely politicians? All any of us can do is choose what direction we wish to take to try and get there.
As the saying goes, if you dont know where youre headed, chances are you wont end up there. Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you may end up in the stars.
Mr. Speaker, these are lofty statements and broad goals here, but we have to keep them in mind, I believe. We have to keep in mind our principles, our directions, what we hope to accomplish, and the context of everything else we do in this Legislature fits in there.
This brings to my mind another quote, "In the end, it will not matter whether we fought with sticks or flails. It will matter greatly on which side we fought." What side are you fighting on? What are you fighting for?
The subject of the moon reminds me of the tragic explosion of the space shuttle Columbia just a few weeks ago. I, like many Yukoners, felt shock and dismay to hear the news that morning. I was in a hotel in Carmacks at that point. I flipped on the TV and suddenly I see this. Its unbelievable. You never expect it. It just comes out of the blue and it seems like something from a bad movie. I cant imagine how the families of the astronauts must feel. Not only have they lost someone that they loved but they have to listen and watch each day as the TV stations, the newspapers, the radio, all the media, remind them of their loss again and again. They have to listen to their friends and colleagues, associates, people on the street, talking about this.
Their grief is public. They are unable to escape the constant reminder of their loss. My heart goes out to them, and I would like to salute the bravery of the astronauts who were on the Columbia and, in fact, all the astronauts who have ever blasted off into space. Their risks and the endangerment of their lives are what push the boundaries of science and of our collective knowledge. It is that spirit the desire to see how far you can possibly go, the urge to go where no one has gone before that has pushed the frontiers and boundaries of human existence forward.
My thoughts wandered back to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in another February. It seems so long ago and yet so recent. I cant recall whether it was 1985 or 1986, but I do remember seeing it. It was a simpler time then. When the Challenger exploded, no one thought about the possibility of terrorism. We all saw a horrible accident. This time, Im sure the thought of terrorism was the first one that crossed the minds of most Yukoners. It certainly was what crossed my mind first. Immediately, within the first few minutes, questions were swirling. Was it a missile? Was it sabotage? Whats going on?
It seemed far too coincidental that the space shuttle would blow up with the first Israeli astronaut ever in space on board the shuttle as the result of a mechanical failure. The Israeli gentleman who was on board was a decorated colonel in the Israeli air force. He was one of their countrys heroes. He participated in Israels F16 raid, which destroyed the Iraqi nuclear facility a number of years ago, so there was quite a bit of animosity felt toward him by some of our less friendly citizens of the world.
So we looked at this, and immediately we think of terrorism. Its not a nice situation that this is the first thought that crosses our minds.
Mr. Speaker, the troubles of todays world are something most of us could never have predicted on that bright and hopeful day in the autumn of 1989, when we watched the Berlin Wall, the very symbol of the Cold War, ripped down on TV. We watched the blocks torn down, piece by piece.
And on that day, too, I was filled with a sense of disbelief. I was a child of the Cold War era. I grew up knowing that the destruction of the world, the destruction of everything that I know, by a field of mushroom clouds was only 15 minutes away. Thats the length of time it would take for an intercontinental ballistic missile to cross and to land and wreak its devastation on us. I grew up knowing that my life depended on the decisions of governments that I had no control over not even just my life, but the very existence of humanity.
Growing up during the Cold War gave me my first appreciation of the power that government has over our lives. Since that day, I have seen many examples of that power from many different levels of government. And I have seen far too many other examples of government decisions that make little more sense than mutually assured destruction did that of course being the term that referred to the balance of power between the United States and NATO allies and the Soviet Union. The acronym they used was MAD, and I dont think there is another acronym in the world that is more fitting or that more aptly portrays its effect or its meaning.
But on that glorious fall day in 1989, it seemed that the threat that had hung over our heads for all those years had ended. It was a dawning of a new world order a kinder, gentler world. Politicians spoke about it, how wonderful the world would be now that this had ended and that we no longer had this horrible threat hanging over our heads a kinder, gentler world. Except that it was not.
As mad and dangerous to us as mutually assured destruction was and it was dangerous in fact, during one point during the Cold War, NATO ran a training operation that was named Operation Able Archer. It was an exercise dealing with NATOs preparedness. Unfortunately, Operation Able Archer was misinterpreted by the Soviets as the start of an apparent NATO invasion, a conventional invasion with primarily ground forces but also the powering up of air forces.
We understand now, which we only found out about after the fall of the Soviet Union and their increasing freeness with letting us know some of their internal decisions that took place, that they were on the verge of launching intercontinental ballistic missiles as a pre-emptive strike because they thought NATO was invading them with conventional weaponry. Yes, mutually assured destruction was mad, but to a large degree, it was also stable. The communists were different, and they were dangerous, but they were not madmen. They did not want to bring about the end of the world and the existence of humanity either. They were different, but, again, they were people who were not put into place by some fanatical cult or group of individuals.
Today we face a far different world. We face far different nation states and tribal groups, which you might describe groups such as al-Qaeda as, and there is far less control. On that day back in 1989, members opposite of us had no idea of the Pandoras box of horrors that would be released when the Soviet empire crumbled. We didnt consider the fact a lot werent aware of the fact that trained killers, assassins and terrorists, which the Soviets and to a lesser extent NATO had used in their desperate struggle against each other, but theyd controlled them and that now the control was being taken away and these individuals were being released unfettered on the world, penniless but armed to the teeth and with their radical agendas very much in place. They no longer have a threat of cancelled Soviet funding to control them. There is no Soviet funding. The Russians are broke, and theyre no longer interested in their former proxy warriors that they used for so many years.
There is no longer the threatening spectre of the Red Army marching in to invade, burning their towns and homes to the ground and killing their families in a crash of AK-47 fire. This is something that regimes such as Saddam Husseins have used to great effect against people who have no fear of dying themselves. But as Mr. Hussein is prone to do, if anyone poses a threat to him, if he feels theyre disloyal, if he doesnt like the way they cross the street and suspects they might be plotting against him, he doesnt just kill them, he kills their entire families. He wipes out entire villages, because a lot of people who are willing to sacrifice their own lives are not willing to sacrifice the lives of everyone they know.
So this control that was used by the KGB and by the Red Army under the Soviets, of course, is no longer in existence. With no threat or incentive hanging over their heads or being used to threaten their bank accounts, these radical groups have been completely released from their cages, and we have seen the effect. The image of the Twin Towers, the World Trade Centre, burning and crumbling, and the image of the planes crashing into it these will remain emblazoned in the minds of most of us for the rest of our lives. Its this generations counterpart to the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Its a defining moment that well talk about for decades to come. Decades from now, well probably still be sitting around the table talking about: where were you when the World Trade Centre towers fell? Did you see the planes crashing in? What did you hear about it? What did you think?
And we in the Yukon were not insulated from this. It was not some foreign conflict, not even a crisis faced by our neighbour and our closest ally to the south, not some tragedy we watched on TV but felt removed from, as if it never really happened.
I was listening to the radio, as probably most of you were, when you heard that the 747s were arriving in Whitehorse, Mr. Speaker. Then we heard that one was hijacked, or was reportedly hijacked, just minutes before its arrival. At that moment, the blinders were removed from our eyes. We were no longer in a secure world. This was no longer some remote thing that was happening down in New York, a place where many Yukoners have never been, which to some extent you could argue in the minds of a lot of people exists in the eye of TV movies and sitcoms. You know its there, yes, its somewhere, but you dont really believe it. This was the Yukon. How could this happen to us?
I went on top of the hill outside our house when we heard the 747s were coming in, looking to see if I could see these aircraft, and I did. I saw the 747 that they were reporting was hijacked. I saw it come in over Lake Laberge. It actually turned right in front of our house; it went over Lake Laberge in a wide bank, two F18s right on its tail. I watched it come in as it headed toward Whitehorse, a 747 on a direct flight path, two F18s on its tail, one of them constantly in missile-firing position, maintaining a certain length. Of course, the F18s are much faster than the 747, so it would be catching up, it would be holding as it came in on its tail, just perfectly steady, not moving an inch that you could see. The second F18 would be circling behind, then all of a sudden, the first one would peel off in a sharp, abrupt manoeuvre, and the second one would be right behind, following it in.
I watched it as far as I could toward Whitehorse. I couldnt see the F18s as it got closer they were far too small but I watched the 747 and, all the way in, I was wondering, "Am I going to see a missile go out from one of these fighters? Are they going to shoot them down?" wondering what would happen, where would the aircraft land? Would it crash in the lake? What would happen to the people on board? Would there be terrorists on board? Would they be washing up, or rafting in the inflatable rafts on board this 747 on to the beach outside my home?
As I believe you know, Mr. Speaker, I live right on Lake Laberge. Where would they be coming from? Would I be dealing with someone who was armed and might threaten me and my family? I watched it go in and, of course, it went in without incident. We watched the dust cloud from the top of the hill. The dust of the 747s landing in Whitehorse was visible from 35 miles away.
After the protracted standoff on the tarmac of the Whitehorse Airport, it turned out everything was fine. But was it fine? Was anything ever fine?
So we face here this issue that probably many of us never thought we would have to face the issue of terrorism, one that we dont really think will affect us. In fact, there are a lot of people here in the Yukon and perhaps even in this House who believe that it wont; its somebody elses problem; its the United States problem. We share a common society, a common border that is so large that it cant be defended or limited to any effectual extent with the United States. Anyone who enters our borders can enter their borders and vice versa.
Yes, the direction of the terrorists has been mostly directed at the United States. Al-Qaeda has targeted them. But let me remind you, Mr. Speaker, and members of this House, that the most recent tapes that have been discovered that they believe are from Osama bin Laden make specific mention of Canada as one of their targets. Even if we were not a target, which this is casting very grave doubts on, how many Canadians would be in the States if there was an attack? And to suggest that the United States, in protecting its security and economic interests, is only protecting the United States, is a foolish and fallacious argument. We share a common society. The saying goes that when the United States sneezes, Canada catches a cold. What affects them, affects us to a greater extent.
Yes, theyre threatened and were threatened too. But why dont we think were threatened? Well, its nice to exist under the umbrella of the United States protection. We have had years of declining military spending and weve backed away from this field of endeavour. Canada would have to increase its military spending by $13.6 billion per year to be up to the NATO standard.
Yesterday we had the air show in Whitehorse. We had four F18 fighter jets or, technically, CF18 fighter jets, the Canadian variant sitting on the runway. Well, there wasnt an air show. Why? They were all broken. It can happen, but it happens a lot with the Canadian fighters because theyre outdated.
The federal government has not put the money into maintaining the military that should be put in there. Canada only has, according to the Department of National Defences Web site, 60 operational F18 fighters. So we had 6.7 percent of Canadas fighter group sitting on the tarmac of the Whitehorse Airport, broken.
And then we talk about the Sea Kings. Well, you know how that has affected people. It has put the lives of Canadian soldiers, Canadian men and women, at risk because of a lack of funding. Mr. Speaker, this is something that is not within our power here in this Legislature to alter, but as a Canadian and on behalf of my constituents, Id like to express to the federal government that this is a concern, this affects us as well. The people who have their children going off into war to defend Canada do not appreciate this. They dont appreciate the risk to which these people are put.
Mr. Speaker, Id like to return once again to the point about direction in government, to our goal, what should be our goal practising good government. We as a territory, those of us who are charged with governing this territory, with voting on the bills that are put forward we have to do our best to make sure that our decisions are not done merely for popularity or for imaging. An election promise such as cancelling a helicopter contract, that put the lives of our citizens at risk good government, practising good government. Im pleased to see that principle recognized in the throne speech as a key priority of this government. Mr. Speaker, it will be our task to back up those words with our actions. I believe that my colleagues here are equal to that task.
My duty as a member of this Legislature is to work for the betterment of the Yukon as a whole and to represent the needs of my constituents in this House.
My riding is the riding of Lake Laberge. During the election last fall, one thing I heard over and over on the doorsteps of my constituents was that they did not feel they had had an MLA who actually represented them for a long, long time. Thats not acceptable. They felt they had been abandoned by their MLA, and they felt they had been ignored by a Whitehorse-centric territorial government that ignored the issues of rural Yukon, and this had been going on for a long time.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, the government caucus is composed of members from rural areas, as well as from urban areas. Its a very diverse caucus that stretches right across this territory. I think this will be helpful and that it will tend to create a government that wont be as disconnected from rural Yukon, a government that doesnt have its base of power and all its MLAs in the Whitehorse area, but this isnt enough.
One of my key commitments to the people of Lake Laberge is to hold a minimum of three public constituency meetings per year. I said this on the radio, I said this in the paper, and I said it on the doorsteps. Every doorstep I went to, I made a commitment that I would hold a minimum of three public constituency meetings per year. Its not the end solution. That alone isnt enough, but I believe it is a very important first step.
It gives people the ability to hold their MLA accountable in front of the community. If their needs havent been addressed, if their MLA has not been accountable, hasnt responded to their needs and made every effort to satisfy them as best as can be done, you have the opportunity to let that MLA know that youre not happy and why youre not happy.
And there are people who maybe dont understand at some point the issues that are faced on the other side, so it gives the MLA the opportunity to explain, as well, to those people if there is something that they misunderstood. But its the opportunity for dialogue; its the opportunity for criticism, for accountability and for discussion.
Mr. Speaker, I held the first of these public constituency meetings that I committed to on February 11, and I was absolutely floored. Five percent of my constituents showed up at that meeting. I went into that meeting, and I didnt know what to do. I thought Id maybe have, you know, 12 people, maybe 20. I had the meeting at 7:00. I thought Id go in 10 minutes early and nobody is going to be there. This is the Yukon. I figured Id get maybe three people walking in at 7:00, five at 7:05, and maybe a half dozen walking in at 7:10 and 7:15, and then two people coming in at 7:30. I walked in the room and there were already 20 people in there. I couldnt believe it.
Im very flattered. Im honoured that they feel they have the chance of getting somewhere with me. Clearly theyve shown that they think that my ears are open, and certainly they are. And Id like to thank them for taking time from their busy lives to let me know whats on their minds.
Mr. Speaker, Im pleased to announce that I will be holding a second public constituency meeting on March 20. This, along with my open-door office policy, is, I believe, the first step to addressing lack of representation by their MLA, that the people of Lake Laberge still need to see the Yukon government pay attention to them and respond to their concerns. As I mentioned, its not enough that the governing caucus is spread across the Yukon. Its valuable, its important, and its a good grounding in whats happening in the Yukon, but we have to go further than that. That alone is not enough.
The people of Lake Laberge need to see the Yukon government pay attention to them and respond to their concerns. With that in mind, Mr. Speaker, Id like to give you and members of this Legislature a quick overview of my riding. You will be hearing much, much more about my riding from me in the future but today Im going to stick with the overview.
The riding of Lake Laberge first came into being in 1992 but, during the electoral boundary review, the boundaries were changed, so I have the honour of being the first MLA to represent the riding in its current configuration. Driving north out of Whitehorse, the riding of Lake Laberge begins just before you reach the junction where the Mayo Road meets the Alaska Highway, just this side of the Forestview area, which, as you may know, is off to the right, and the Cousins Airstrip road its just on this side of that, just to the south.
If you keep driving north on the Alaska Highway, youll be in the riding until you cross the bridge over the Takhini River. To the west of that, the riding includes the Echo Valley Road and the Jackson Road area. There are quite a few homes and a fair bit of property in that area. Of course, it also extends over to the east, which is the main area that my riding covers.
On the Mayo Road, the Lake Laberge riding begins at the junction with the Alaska Highway and it continues along up that way until a bit past Braeburn Lodge. Speaking of Braeburn Lodge, I would like to congratulate Ms. Braeburn Lodge, Leigh Knox, for being crowned the Second Princess and Miss Congeniality in the 2003 Sourdough Rendezvous Queen contest and to issue my congratulations to all the participants and to the First Princess and the Queen as well.
But I was personally very glad to see Leigh get that title. I believe shes very deserving of both titles and a wonderful person.
Getting back to a description of my riding, or the brief description of my riding, the Lake Laberge riding also includes Deep Creek, Grizzly Valley, Jackfish Bay, the Takhini Hot Springs Road area, Hidden Valley, MacPherson subdivision, and numerous roads and driveways off the Mayo Road and Alaska Highway, such as Burma Road, the Ten Mile Road, Shallow Bay Road, Vista Road, and quite a number of other ones and, as I say, individual driveways. It also includes the area of Fox Lake and Braeburn and around there.
To the east, it extends to an area that includes no one except me and my family on the east side of Lake Laberge, and the boundary goes a little bit to the east of that. And to the north, its border is just past Frank Lake. In case you dont know, Mr. Speaker, thats a lake thats on the Yukon Quest trail and is used as a reference point on the boundary map.
I was actually at Frank Lake just a few weeks ago, snowmobiling in there. The Quest trail wasnt all the way through, and I put a section through from Frank Lake to the end of Ken Lake there. It was rather a rough trail in there due to a lack of snow, but it wasnt too bad in there. It was about the only chance Ive actually had to go out snowmobiling this winter, which is something Ive usually been fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time doing in the context of the business that the family and I operate, to break trail for the dog teams coming behind me. Unfortunately, Ive been deprived of that pleasure, to a very large extent, this winter, due to my new duties here.
Lake Laberge is a rural riding. Even the portion that is technically inside the boundaries of the City of Whitehorse is most definitely not an urban area. Its very much rural residential.
My constituents come from all walks of life and professions, and they include a large number of entrepreneurs.
I dont have the statistics on this, Mr. Speaker, but from talking to people at the doorsteps and my personal knowledge of that, I strongly suspect that my riding may actually have the highest percentage of small business owners of any riding in the Yukon. And I mention this because it is the private sector that is the engine of economic growth. Too often we forget how much of our territorys ability to prosper prosper for all people, right from the business owners to the public servants to the waitress in the restaurant and the janitor in the hotel lobby depends on the entrepreneurs, on these men and women who throw their heart, their soul, and everything they own frequently all their financial resources into pursuing a dream. And I commend them for their courage and their dedication.
I dont mean to lessen or to overlook the contribution of people who dedicate their lives to making this world a better place as teachers, as doctors, firefighters, construction workers, civil servants or whatever profession they may choose. Its all very valuable. Anyone who works to make this world a little better than they found it has my admiration, whatever profession theyve chosen. But Id like to focus on the entrepreneurs today, because it is the placer miner with one bulldozer and one backhoe, the restaurant owner who serves the food and cleans the tables and mops up afterwards, the farmer who does the books, cleans the barn, saddles the horses or whatever type of operation he or she has, and all the other entrepreneurs who start the whole process. They get the whole ball of wax rolling. Without the entrepreneur working toward a dream, no one else works either. In the economic discussion about which came first, the chicken or the egg, they came first. Its the entrepreneur. Its someone with a dream, with a vision, and with the courage to put everything on the line that starts the process. And all the rest of us depend on them. Everything else flows down from that initial starting point.
As you know, the Yukon has had two main industries, those being mining and tourism. Mining has been on the rocks the past few years. I apologize for the pun, Mr. Speaker, but I couldnt resist it. Im going to speak more about mining shortly.
Tourism, right now, despite the aftermath of September 11th, is currently the Yukons biggest industry and it still has much untapped potential, in terms of markets, product development and enhancement. When you compare the Yukon to an area I believe Paris is the city that has the record for the most visitors per year, and I believe the number is 59 million. There is a lot of potential out there. Obviously were not in the same league as Paris or Las Vegas, but we dont need to be to go a long way toward funding the Yukons economy.
Tourism isnt the be-all and end-all. The engine of the Yukon economy, when it is successful, has always been the mining industry. Tourism has a lot of potential, but mining is, right now, what has sustained us and what fuels the economy for a very large number of Yukoners.
Id like to speak about another industry where the surface has barely been scratched in terms of its potential, and that industry, Mr. Speaker, is agriculture. I know that probably a few peoples eyebrows went up with that remark. Many Yukoners have fallen into a box in terms of their mindset and their approach toward Yukon agriculture.
When it comes to growing fruit trees, were never going to compete with the Okanagan. When it comes to wheat, were never going to compete with Saskatchewan. We cant be Saskatchewan. I believe there are two very good reasons why that view of "we wont be as good as they are, so we wont try" is far too limited in its perspective.
The first point is, if the Yukon can supply its own needs in certain areas of agricultural food production, the money you spend will go into your neighbours back pocket. It wont go down south; it wont go to someone you dont know. Itll go into the Yukon economy. The chambers of commerce tell us that, for every dollar spent locally, it generates four dollars of economic value, so its going here. That dollar will go into the Yukon economy, not down into the southern economy.
Also, Mr. Speaker, in these uncertain times with the possibility of bioterrorism or other forms of terrorism hanging over our heads like a sword of Damocles, the concept of localizing production of our food supply is very good sense. We dont depend as much on something that comes from the south, and if there is an attack on the food supply, its likely to be on a main market food supply, not on something small from the Yukon, so we would be insulated from that, or could be insulated from that. That doesnt solve the problem for the rest of the country but we can only do our part and try to do what we can. The more that the country diversifies, the more it benefits all of the country if we are faced with such a terrifying prospect, if that prospect becomes actuality.
Moving on to my second point, there are some fields and endeavours of agricultural production where Yukoners can do as well or better than southern agricultural producers. One of these is elk farming. Yukon-grown elk are actually bigger than those in southern Canada. The climate seems to be ideal, the fodder seems to be good. Actually, the biggest elk ever grown was raised by constituents of mine right in the riding of Lake Laberge. I dont believe the elk industry has even glimpsed its full potential yet. Public interest in buying elk products has been severely impacted, as you may know, Mr. Speaker, by the chronic wasting disease problems in Saskatchewan and the fears that CWD chronic wasting disease may be transmitted to humans. I think its important to note that there is no evidence that CWD is transmissible to humans; there is only suspicion. In fact, approximately 15 percent of the deer in the wild in the State of Colorado have CWD. Theyre widely hunted; a lot of people eat them. This has happened for years. They have a real problem there with their deer population. And this is in the States. It hasnt extended, fortunately, into Canada to a large extent but its a very big problem in the State of Colorado, yet not one person has been infected with CWD, chronic wasting disease.
The Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, which, as you probably know, is the premier centre of this type in the world, has been back-tracing cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which is the human version of CWD, or also similar to the bovine form bovine spongiform encephalitis I believe is the name for it. They have been checking back on these cases of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease for years. Theyre trying to find a link between the two, to see if people can get chronic wasting disease or can get Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from eating CWD-infected deer.
Theyve been looking for a long time but they havent been able to link the two in studies or in laboratory tests. On the other hand, what theyre left with is that they cant conclusively determine that it cant. And its similar in form, so theyre being over cautious and thats very prudent when youre dealing with the food supply.
Its worth mentioning here that, when youre talking about the safety of elk as a meat, the whole cause of public fears and worries about the possibility of chronic wasting disease spreading to humans is the United Kingdoms problem with BSE, or mad cow disease, and how it infected their cattle stocks. Yet, here, most of us eat beef without any fear. I eat it very regularly. I eat beef almost every day. I wouldnt want to be without it. But why dont we feel any fear? Well, we know that precautions have been taken by the Canadian government and by the American government and by the British government to keep mad cow disease out of here.
Mr. Speaker, only one case of chronic wasting disease has been discovered in elk in Canada, west of Saskatchewan, and actually the last case of chronic wasting disease being found in Canadian elk occurred almost a year ago, in May of last year.
And theyve been looking. Every elk that is slaughtered they dont do live tests at this point, but they can tell after theyre dead. But they havent found anything since May of last year. With the diminishment of concerns about CWD, chronic wasting disease, and coupled with the successful testing that theyve been performing this successful testing regime on all elk there havent been any diseased elk in the food supply. As a matter of fact, the elk industry has a checking and tracing procedure in place that is far superior to that used for beef. Every elk part that is sold in Canada or that is dealt with in Canada to be sent to another jurisdiction every single one has a number attached to it. Its traced. If theres a problem, they can check back and find out not only what animal that came from but what farm that came from, because you have to have permits to move elk from farm to farm. That doesnt apply to beef. So they know exactly where it has been transmitted. It has some of the highest standards in control of any industry.
And I would like to point out that our local elk farmers, the Yukons elk farmers, were the first in Canada to implement CWD testing. They did this voluntarily. They put it in place as a voluntary standard that all conform to. This was before CWD testing became mandatory in the country. They were the leaders in pushing for it. They have been leaders on the national stage in establishing other industry health standards, and they are to be commended for the health and the care standards that they have imposed upon themselves.
Mr. Speaker, the elk and the deer industry in New Zealand has surpassed the value of the sheep industry there. And we think of sheep when we think of New Zealand, but it has surpassed it in value. The market is there.
We had someone who visited my family and I on one of our trips, and thats his business. He was one of the first people to establish a farm in New Zealand. He has elk and he has red deer and does quite well. Its a very successful industry; its very sustainable. They face the same fears in the public as we have faced to some extent here, and the same initial lack of acceptance, but once education has taken place, that concern disappears. This is a very safe industry. Nothing is 100 percent, but this is very, very safe.
Ive been focusing on the elk industry, Mr. Speaker, but the demand, the market and the potential also applies to reindeer and bison farms. As with any other product, the public must become aware of the product, and this is the challenge that is faced. At this point, most North Americans have never even met anyone who has eaten elk meat or reindeer meat or bison meat, but theres a vast, untapped market, based on our growing desire and recognition in this country well, this continent of the need for a healthy lifestyle, of foods with less fat in them and, of course, more exercise.
This demand, this philosophy, is giving rise to this potential here. Once education takes place, this industry will grow. I firmly believe that there will soon be a massive demand in the North American market for meat such as elk, bison and reindeer, and thats not even talking about the tourist market we have here.
Look at all the tourists we have coming through the Yukon. I was mentioning and pointing out the fact that tourism is now the Yukons main industry.
What percentage of the tourists who come to the Yukon do you think would be interested in eating elk, bison or reindeer in our local restaurants? I would suggest that the question is probably more accurately, how many wouldnt be interested in eating it? How many locals would eat it? A lot of people would if it were available, if we had the proper food inspection set up here so it could be marketed in the stores. That would take place, and people would eat it.
Mr. Speaker, Id like to point out the fact here that I have the honour of representing all of the Yukons elk, reindeer and bison farmers. Thats why I have raised this issue today. This affects a large number of my constituents. A small number have operations but the effects that ripple through the community are very large. I may have bored you with these statistics but the other significant problem that is faced by these farmers my constituents is largely a result of ignorance. So Im attempting to begin correcting the problem here in this House.
Aside from market issues, the major problem faced by the Yukons elk, bison and reindeer farmers has been the Yukon government. You are aware of how the previous Government of the Yukon almost put the Yukon wildlife preserve out of business last fall, so I wont go into further details about that at this time.
Mr. Speaker, I stand here today and I give my constituents who farm elk, bison and reindeer, as well as the Yukon wildlife preserve, which has domesticated wildlife species, the assurance that they have my full and unequivocal support as long as they continue to treat their animals humanely, follow health and food safety regulations, and do not endanger humans or Yukon wildlife, and I will do my very best to defend them against all who seek to infringe on their rights and their livelihood.
Mr. Speaker, we have inherited the British democratic system and follow the traditions. One of the fundamental principles of that system that we have inherited is that the will of the majority must prevail but the rights of the minority must be safeguarded. I believe that we, as MLAs, are the principal guardians of the rights of Yukoners at the territorial level. I am here to defend my constituents against undue government interference with their lives, their livelihoods and their property.
I am here to make this territory work better for them and for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I am humbled and Im honoured just to be standing here representing my constituency. I feel even more humble when I consider the trust that has been placed in me by my constituents. I still cant quite believe there are mornings that you wake up and want to pinch yourself that a majority of them chose me to represent them, and I thank them for their trust. This isnt an easy job but it is a great opportunity.
I would like to express my great appreciation to my campaign team for working so hard to get me where I am today. I thank my friends and my family for their support and the part they have played in not only getting me to where I am today but in forming part of who I am. In particular I would like to thank my sister, my parents and my friends, Charity, Ron, Laura and Larry. Id like to say to everyone that I will try very hard to make them proud of me and I hope that I am equal to that task. I cannot promise you that I will not make mistakes but I do promise you that I will try to correct my mistakes and to learn from them.
Our government, a new government, has provided Yukoners with desperately needed hope. That was the biggest thing I ran into on the doorsteps when I went around during the election hope. They needed hope and that was delivered to them. The Yukon has been moving backward and sliding downhill and it is now time to move forward. I am excited to be a part of this new Team Yukon. I believe that this governments inclusive, consensus-style approach is a first very important step toward a Yukon that works for all Yukoners and a Yukon where all Yukoners can work.
Like many of my constituents, this is something I heard on a lot of doorsteps, Mr. Speaker, "Im tired of seeing my friends move to Alberta in search of a job." The Yukon economy urgently needs to be rebuilt, and I am pleased to see rebuilding the economy stated as the very first commitment in this Speech from the Throne. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I met one of my constituents last night whom I had unfortunately missed during the campaign, and we had a nice conversation. I found out that her husband has a good job now Outside. Couldnt find one here. This is something that this government has been working toward changing, but it needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly. I believe that it will be done, but as you know, government does not create a strong economy. Government creates a climate for economic prosperity, but it is the private sector that creates economic growth.
Mr. Speaker, this government has made amazing progress in restoring private sector confidence and interest in the Yukon since taking office just three months ago on December 2. As youre aware, we were elected on the 4th of November, but it wasnt until the 2nd that we actually took office.
At the Cordilleran Roundup, which took place in Vancouver at the end of January its a yearly event that you, Mr. Speaker, Im sure, are familiar with the interest shown by industry in investing in the Yukon was unprecedented. Our Premier, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and the Minister of Environment travelled to the Cordilleran Roundup to represent the Yukon and to make it clear to potential investors that the Yukon is once again open for business. Their presence and their message were well-received. In particular, I understand that the presence of the Yukons Minister of the Environment was a tremendous shock to the industry. Supposedly, this is the first time a minister of the environment from any jurisdiction has attended the Cordilleran Roundup. And I understand that he had the experience of walking into a meeting and having everyone just stop dead. They couldnt believe that he was there, and they were very pleased to see him there, to show that we are working together both sides of the equation here.
The signal that was sent to industry was very clear. In this new Yukon government, no longer are economic growth and environmental protection two warring interests. This Yukon government is a government that believes in and practises balance.
Were fortunate to live in a beautiful territory with vast, untapped resources. No one among us considers destroying the land we live in acceptable. Lets stop pretending that. But it is time to stop pretending that development and environmental devastation are synonymous terms. Todays resource development techniques are not the techniques of the 1950s. Yes, there were problems with mining techniques but, to a very large degree, these have been addressed because of concerns of environmental protection.
Mr. Speaker, Im sure that most of the people here in this room today have seen the ads in the newspaper, those paid for by the Klondike Placer Miners Association. As you are aware, these ads are protesting the decision by the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans to cancel the Yukon placer authorization. This was a document and a process that was put in place and committed to by the federal government and, at the last minute, they rejected it.
Minister Thibaults decision that the Yukon placer authorization was insufficient protection of fish stocks has no factual basis. He appears to have been led astray by his bureaucrats. Our government is strong in its support of the Yukons placer miners during this struggle, and I commend my colleagues, especially the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Premier and the Member for Klondike, for their continuing efforts to convince Minister Thibault that his decision was erroneous.
As well, the Klondike Placer Miners Association, and particularly their president, Tara Christie, are to be commended for their dedicated efforts on behalf of their fellow placer miners. Youve seen the one ad in the paper, Im sure, showing the little girl there. This isnt some child who was picked up off the streets to create a nice message here. This is the daughter of one of the placer miners. It is affecting them.
But, Mr. Speaker, placer mining has less impact on the environment than almost any other industry. You probably saw the letter in the paper from a placer miner awhile ago mentioning the level of sediment that is allowed in potato-processing plants, that theyre allowed to discharge in Mr. Thibaults home province. Its far in excess of what the Yukon placer authorization even allowed, but they are allowed to put all this gorp out into the harbour. But thats supposed to be okay, but here its not fine. But a decision was made in error, and efforts have been made by our Premier, by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, to help convince Minister Thibault that an error was made, and we hope that he will be listening with open ears.
Placer mining does not release chemicals into streams. The water released back into streams by the average Yukon placer mining operation is of better quality than the water that flows out of the taps of thousands of Canadians. Im not talking about Walkerton. Im talking about a lot of the other areas across the country. The water coming out of placer mining operations is of better quality than a lot of Canadian tap water. So, any person or group suggesting that sediment from Yukon placer mining operations adversely affects fish has proven their own ignorance of science and of the area by those comments.
To understand that placer mining is not responsible for the silt in the Yukon River, one need only do two things. First, pick up a map showing the location of all the placer mining operations in the Yukon, and secondly, travel down the Yukon River. Go to the confluence of the White River and the Yukon River. There arent any placer mining operations on the White River yet its water is almost thick enough to walk on. As youre going down the river, the Yukon River has picked up a lot of silt by that point, from the Teslin River, from the Pelly River and from numerous other rivers that flow in. When you get to the White River, the already silty water of the Yukon River mixes with the water of the White River and you see this line going down for quite a ways in the river. You can see exactly where the current of the White River is. Its disgusting. Its natural but its disgusting.
That is what is colouring the water at Dawson, not placer mining operations. It is the water from the White River. The White River goes through a very silty area its glacial silt. Well, maybe the glaciers were a bad thing and they probably shouldnt have been authorized by the federal government because of their environmental impact, but that was a long time ago.
Mr. Speaker, we live here in a democratic society. Sir Winston Churchill, a former prime minister of Great Britain, who of course was prime minister during a very key point for them during World War II a very key point for all of us. They may be responsible for the fact that we live in a democracy today. He spoke of how the ultimate power in our society comes down to a little man walking into a polling booth and marking his little X with a little pencil. I have paraphrased Mr. Churchill I cant recall his exact words and I dont have the book that it came from in front of me. He phrased it a lot more eloquently than I did but I think you get the point. But I submit to you that the next greatest power in a democratic society is the right to freedom of speech. It is through freedom of speech, through that right the freedom of speech and the freedom of political association that we influence the opinions and the votes of our fellow citizens freedom of speech. I believe that when any person exercises power over the lives of others, they have a deep, moral obligation to ascertain the facts first. I would argue that rushing off half-cocked to change the lives of others without ever checking the other side of the story is morally a crime against humanity. It is an abuse of power that rips out the very foundation of our democracy. Youre threatening the lives of your fellow citizens and youre not even bothering to check the facts that youre going off on a tangent based on.
Mr. Speaker, I care about the environment and the health of the Yukons ecosystems as much as anyone does. In fact, my first interest in politics began because I was concerned about the environment; I was worried about that. Like a lot of people at a young age, you hear about the concerns that are out there, you hear about problems that exist. Back in the early 1970s, there was a book that came out, Silent Spring, referring to how all of the fish stocks were going to be devastated; there wasnt going to be anything left. There was also talk in other books about how all the icepacks were all going to be melted by this point and we in the coastal areas were all going to be drowned by now.
Well, its important to bring up these concerns, and it could be argued that bringing up these concerns prevents them from taking place. But I recall people I know who were around back in the early 1970s, as I was not, who thought that basically life as we know it would be devastated by this point. Its not. Its very easy when you hear one side of the story, and its something you care about, to immediately act on it, to go off on a tangent based on that and on that alone, but youve got to get the other side of the story. You have to realize that the world has faced crises for years. Every time we face some massive, horrible crisis thats going to end the world well, maybe it will, but maybe it wont, either. Its very important to read history, because those who are not students of history are doomed to repeat its mistakes.
Mr. Speaker, as I said, I care about the environment and the health of the Yukon ecosystems as much as anyone, and I state to you today with as much confidence as I declare that the sun rises in the eastern sky that placer mining is not a threat to fish stocks or any part of the Yukons ecosystem. And I stand here in unequivocal support of this governments request to Minister Thibault that he reinstate the Yukon placer authorization without further delay.
And, Mr. Speaker, to the groups who have supported Minister Thibaults decision to eliminate the placer authorization, I have a message. I say shame on you. You would rip away from others their fundamental freedom to earn a living without undue interference because you were too lazy to check the facts and correct your ignorance. And if my words seem overly forceful, allow me to point out that the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development predicts that 56 percent of the Yukons placer miners will be forced out of business. This is just based on the areas that theyre in, that the creek valleys are too narrow to put in place the sediment settling ponds that they would be required to put in under this 56 percent.
This isnt my figure. This is the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs figure, and they say that 90 percent of placer miners will likely be affected, at the minimum. How many Yukoners will go bankrupt? How many children will not have a warm coat next winter, or maybe even something to eat?
One of the key priorities laid out in this throne speech is achieving a proper balance between economy and the environment. I wholeheartedly support that principle, for we must not sacrifice either economic growth or environmental protection, but we dont have to either.
Mr. Speaker, as you know, we will soon be debating the so-called mirror legislation those bills that were tabled today. These are laws that are called mirror legislation because they are supposed to be virtually mirrors of the federal laws in effect at this point. These laws must be passed so the devolution of federal powers to the Yukon on April 1 of this year will take place.
This is a very important step for the Yukon. We have been after devolution for years. This is transferring control into our hands from the hands of Ottawa experts, whose most intimate experience with the Yukon is running their fingers over a topographical map on their office wall, or maybe flying over it at 35,000 feet and looking out the window.
So, Mr. Speaker, this throne speech is a very historic one. It lays out the direction the Yukon government will take after devolution the very first Yukon government after devolution. I believe that the direction, as laid out this past Thursday in the throne speech on the floor of this House, will serve as an excellent road map to guide us into the future.
This past decade in the Yukon has been one of tremendous change. The signing of the Umbrella Final Agreement and the subsequent land claim agreements with Yukon First Nations has changed the way we will live and the way we will do business in this territory.
No longer are the Yukons affairs run just by the federal and territorial governments. First Nations now have a myriad of legal powers that affect not only their own citizens, but also any person or corporation that seeks to do business on First Nation lands and within their traditional territories. The Yukon government can no longer try to dictate decisions to First Nation governments. The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nation governments must work together if we are to succeed. We are all in this together. Either we work together, or none of us will be working at all.
Mr. Speaker, its very important that the Yukon government reach agreement with First Nations on formalized government-to-government relationships. It has been made a very key priority of this government. There has been a lot of focus on this because it is of crucial importance.
The issue of the Kaska lawsuit against the federal government to put devolution on hold has come up in this House today. The direction this government has taken is very important, in working to negotiate with the Kaska to come up with a mutually agreeable economic partnership and a government-to-government relationship a formalized one that may allow this lawsuit to be put into abeyance. Otherwise, devolution may be put on hold. It is very important that this be proceeded with.
I commend the government and the Premier, who is the minister responsible for this, for putting the importance on this issue that has been placed on it.
Mr. Speaker, we have to work with these First Nations. We have to formalize government-to-government relationships, and we must move together as partners in building a strong future for the Yukon and for all Yukoners as partners.
And I call upon the Yukon First Nation governments to join with the Yukon government to create a streamlined resource development decision-making process that protects the environment, that recognizes the needs of all Yukoners and that doesnt create an unnecessary burden on industry but one that protects the interests of all Yukoners. We must remove the roadblocks to economic growth. We must repair the potholes in the road to Yukon economic success.
I look forward to working with them; I look forward to working with all of you to make the Yukon a better place to live. As stressed in the Speech from the Throne, all of this comes down to the quality of life, the issue of the quality of Yukoners lives, because if the actions of government do not work to improve Yukoners quality of life, what do they achieve?
I commend the Premier for his success in standing up to the federal government, for walking away from the health care table in negotiations, for not accepting an agreement that does not recognize the needs of the Yukon and for working together in a pan-northern agreement with the other two territories, forming a new partnership and successfully going to the Prime Minister and achieving the recognition of the federal government that the northern territories need something in addition to per capita health funding, that there needs to be a base fund in place. And they have been successful in negotiating that, and I commend them for that. Federal funding for health has to take into account our increased distances, our increased costs, because this is a very important part of sustaining and improving Yukoners quality of life. Health care is very important to all of us. There are increasing pressures on health care across the country. Its a very difficult, difficult time for health care, but it is very important that we come up with solutions that protect the access of every Yukoner, of every Canadian, to health care, that protects their access and continues to make it so that no person is denied health care because they cant afford to pay for it.
But its also very important that the issues be addressed that affect the waiting lines in the health care system. The status quo is not acceptable. Were facing increased pressure and, as the Minister for Health and Social Services has pointed out, the spending trajectory in Health and Social Services has been increasing tremendously over the past number of years. We cant sustain that, particularly with the demographic changes coming as baby boomers retire. This cant be sustained, so we have a very, very difficult challenge ahead of us. But it is very important that we come up with a solution that works. We have to make health care accessible to all Yukoners thats our task and the country needs to make it accessible to all Canadians. It has to be accessible in a timely manner. Its not acceptable that we have people dying in line waiting for heart bypasses. I think the waiting list is something like seven months now. There are a lot of procedures here that I as a Yukoner, I as a person here, have no access to if I were to be stricken with some disease or some problem for which I needed treatment urgently. I wouldnt be able to get it for months. Yet here we have it that if the same thing happens to your dog, you can get it the next day. So, we have to come up with a solution here because its not acceptable that we have better health care available for our pets than we do for our family.
I dont have the solution to give you here today. No one does. If it were an easy solution, one of the jurisdictions in this country would have come up with it, but it is something that we must work on as a territory collectively with all the other jurisdictions in the country to come up with a solution, not to drive it into the same box where it has been for years where, whenever anyone even suggests minor changes to health or suggests that we need to look into it, theyre immediately demonized and falsely criticized as wanting to tear apart medicare and to tear apart equal access of all Canadians. Weve got to come up with a solution, one that works.
There has to be access to health care for all citizens, and it has to be something they can afford. Its not acceptable that someone cant pay for their health care, but its also not acceptable that its paid for you, but youll be dead by the time you receive it.
So its quality of life. That is very important. Federal funding is not enough, nor is fixing the health care issue. If the country comes up with a solution, it doesnt fix all our problems because, without a successful private sector, the Yukons economy, and Yukon as a whole, will continue to slide downhill, as it has over the past few years, along with Yukoners quality of life. If you dont have any money to spend, your quality of life isnt very high if youre sitting there, eating old cans of soup and stale crackers.
Mr. Speaker, during the election campaign last fall, the people of the Yukon made it clear that their single biggest concern was the economy. Its not a surprise to any of us. Weve all seen too many people we know move out because there just arent any jobs here. Weve seen the massive drop in population. Weve seen the wonderful unemployment figures touted toward the end of the previous administrations lost mandate, but they werent giving us the population figures. They were trying to give us a snow job into believing that things were going wonderfully now, but its just that people have given up and moved elsewhere.
The economy in my riding of Lake Laberge was clearly the most important issue to my constituents. I would say, in fact, that that issue was more of a concern than all the other issues expressed to me during the campaign put together all of them. The need to turn the Yukons economy around was the main reason that I chose to run for office here, because Ive seen too many of my friends leave the Yukon in search of work. I know too many people who are struggling just to keep their heads above water, making it from paycheque to paycheque, juggling credit card balances thats not acceptable. We live in a territory that is rich in resources, yet I have constituents who are on the verge of selling their homes for a fraction of their value, selling their homes for less than what the mortgages on them are, in some cases, picking up everything, leaving their friends behind, and moving out to Alberta in search of work.
Thats not acceptable, and thats why Im here. We have to change this. I have nothing against Alberta. Its a lovely province, but it is time, in my opinion, to change the definition of a Yukoner from a person who owns a home in Whitehorse but lives and works in Alberta. Thats what it seems to be these last few years.
This government must set in place the climate for economic growth so our people can return home. Mr. Speaker, Im proud to be a member of the team that I believe will do this. But Id like to comment further on that point.
I was puzzled to hear the Member for Porter Creek South criticize our government for not having fixed all the Yukons economic woes by our second month in office. Id like to express my appreciation for her confidence in the ability of the members of this government, but Id also like to point out that turning around the economy is not something that happens literally overnight. It takes time. We are going there, and we are going there at a very good pace, but it doesnt happen as quickly as we would like or anyone would like. But at least were headed in the right direction.
This Yukon government has already taken major strides toward bringing about the Yukons economic recovery. Private sector hope is back again, and private sector confidence is growing as industry sees our government fulfilling its commitments, removing roadblocks to sustainable economic prosperity and getting rid of red tape. Industry is very pleased. All the people Ive spoken to are very pleased to have a government in power whose members understand how the private sector functions. Because theory is all very well and good, but as Im sure you know, Mr. Speaker, theories often dont work in real life. They just dont pan out. Any businessman or business woman knows that some of the most wonderful and some of the most expensive, often, theories that theyve put a lot of money into coming up with themselves or having someone else develop a prospectus for them these theories just dont work. You cant always even figure out why the theory doesnt work. And the way you figure out what works and what doesnt is experience. Experience is very important.
This is a government whose members have a lot of experience in the private sector and that is very key at this point. I can tell you that the business people Ive spoken to are very happy to see a government that understands reality and practises reality than one that practises theory. Theyre pleased to see that our government has a workable, realistic vision for the Yukons future. Theyve seen the early evidence of it and this is not something that will happen overnight. The devolution transfer will give us considerably more ability to control our resources. The agreements that have to be forged with First Nations that I believe will be forged because theyve shown a great deal of interest in it as well its to the mutual benefit of the Yukon government, the First Nation governments, First Nation citizens, Yukon citizens its to everyones benefit to get the economy rolling again. We all want a job. All our friends want jobs. People dont want to be on welfare. They dont want to be on unemployment insurance. They want good jobs. They want jobs they can be proud of so that when they get home, tired, at the end of the day after a long days work, when they put their feet up they think, boy, I really did something today; I sure earned my dollar today. We all may complain at times at the end of a long day probably most people do. But when you really think of it, when it really comes down to it, youre glad that you had that to do. You feel proud of yourself for accomplishing something. People who dont have a job arent proud. They kind of hunch their shoulders a little bit as they walk by. Theyre embarrassed. They dont really want to tell you because it hurts them. It hurts their self-esteem, their pride, their confidence, that they dont have a job. It bothers them that they know that as they take their welfare cheque, that thats paid for by their neighbours. They dont want it to be that way but without a good economy, some of them are left with no choice.
Mr. Speaker, its very important that we recognize that we must have strong social programs in place. Were all agreed on that I assume were all agreed on that. Certainly it seems to be very hard to run into anyone who doesnt agree that we should have a strong social safety net, health care, unemployment insurance, welfare in case people are unable to find jobs.
We dont want people to be starving. We dont want anyone to be without clothes on their back and food on their table, but its also very important to recognize that the best social safety net, the best program to protect people socially, is a strong economy.
In a strong economy, if you lose your job, theres probably another one right there. If youve been a good worker, chances are youll get it. Maybe its not your field, so maybe you wont, but theres usually something out there. If it didnt work at that door, you go on to the next one and, by golly, theres something there. That is the best program, not focusing all your efforts on saying, gee, things just arent working here. Of course we have to have the programs in place, but we have to have a positive attitude. If we dont have a positive attitude here, if we dont have optimism about what can be done, why are we sitting here? We have been elected to move the Yukon forward, not to move it backward, not to sit around and discuss it for four years, and say, gee, I sure wish somebody would do something. Were here to move it forward, and this applies to all members in this House, Mr. Speaker, whatever side of the floor were on.
Its very tempting to descend into partisan politics, to descend into arguments and fighting. Most legislatures in the last while have done that, particularly when there are difficult decisions, but it is very important that all of us try to work with the members, whatever side of the floor theyre on, and that we employ mutual respect. Of course were going to disagree at times. Yes, we will have disagreements. Well probably even have arguments, but lets keep it civil. Lets keep the mutual respect there. Lets keep decorum in place.
We were elected to act professionally. As I pointed out before, people dont want kindergarten kids here. If they did, they would elect five year olds, and its probably unfair of me to pick on them because Ive heard some of my constituents say that people in this Legislature in previous times have, at times, acted worse than nursery school children. Thats not right, and when it comes right down to it, I dont think anyone here wants that.
So I would suggest that, first and foremost, when we address people here well, as you know, Mr. Speaker, there is the protocol in place that in this House we do not refer to members by name; we refer to them by their titles so its less personal, and thats good. But its also used by some to shield themselves from the fact that thats a real person theyre dealing with a person who, presumably, better be here because theyre trying to make things better. They should be here representing their constituents. I certainly hope they are. And if theyre not, thats between their constituents and themselves.
But we should treat them with the respect that their office accords the seat that they have. If we dont respect what theyre saying personally, well, take a deep breath and remember that they represent a riding that deserves respect. We cant affect the actions of others here, we cant change what other members will say, but just because we have someone direct a comment at us that isnt appropriate or called for, or is hurtful, nasty or vindictive and it may happen it doesnt mean we have to respond in kind. Its very important that we remember this and that we raise the level of decorum here, that we raise the respect.
Mr. Speaker, my riding, as I have mentioned, is one where people have felt left out of the equation for a long time. Well, theyre not alone in this. They have felt separated from government. That is the other part of our jobs. Its not enough for us to stand here and be respectful to each other in this House. If we just go home at the end of the day, and we lock ourselves away and dont talk to our constituents, if we dont listen to what theyre saying were elected to represent them.
This Yukon Legislature here has one of the lowest ratios of constituents per member than anywhere in the country. On the federal scene, I believe the average Member of Parliament has about 150,000 constituents. And this is a very spread-out area. We need to have a large number of MLAs here, in my opinion, because we need to be able to contact the people.
The distances affect us, even if there are fewer people in place. It still takes the time to get there. I experienced this during the election. I wasnt able to get to every doorstep in my riding, no matter how hard I tried. I was up early in the morning, and I was going late at night. I couldnt get there. Part of it was that people didnt want platitudes this time. They didnt want the two-penny explanation. You go to the doorstep and they say, "Well, what are you going to do?" I say, "Well, were going to get the economy going." They say, "Well, everyone says that. How are you going to do it?" You bring up a plan and say, "Well, were going to do this; were going to make it clear that were welcoming business and all these things," and they say, "Okay, well, what about this and what about that?" They didnt want some platitude or politicking or some well-spun phrase, and Im not going to give them that. So I gave them the straight goods to the best of my ability. And it took time.
But regardless of that, you can say, well, okay, that was an unusual election. Maybe to the people at the doorsteps you can usually just say, "Good to see you, heres what were doing, and were out of here." Maybe you can. Well, should you be? You have to talk to your constituents. Youre supposed to represent them. Its a very hard job; its a very long job. But we do, in my opinion, have to have a ratio comparable to what we have right now in place to give an MLA any hope of properly representing their constituents. And then, of course, we get into the side of the government to run and all the issues there and the point that we may be small in numbers, but it gets the whole issue of economies of scale where we have to have a lot of the same departments, a lot of the same discussions, processes and things that a much larger jurisdiction would have and face it with a far smaller number of individuals. So, in my personal opinion, I think were at an appropriate level here.
But its very important that we keep connected to our ridings. Its very important that we listen to our people, that we respond to their concerns. When I talk to the large number of people in my riding who have had a serious problem with the government and it hasnt been addressed, it bothers me. It concerns me that, with such a low ratio of representation, they still felt that their concerns werent listened to.
So that is my key priority here in government, thats the biggest thing I want to accomplish improving that representation. There are a lot of conflicting needs. Particularly on issues such as land, I have constituents who have views that are simply at opposite ends of the spectrum. Youre not going to make everyone happy. The best thing you can do is put in place a fair process, give everyone a fair hearing and do the very best you can to achieve a compromise, to have everyone at the end of the day realize that the best has been done. I believe that people are fair people, that the average person, certainly in my riding I dont know about anyone elses, but in my riding I believe that my constituents are reasonable people by and large. Theyll listen to a reasonable argument. If you cant quite accommodate their needs because the other side has the opposite needs and theyre living as neighbours, well, as long as you come to a reasonable compromise, I think youll be respected for it. I think they are aware that you cant pick favourites. You have to try to make it work for everyone to the best of your ability. But that attempt has to be made. You cant lock yourself away in your office. There have been politicians sitting in this Legislature in previous times who seem to be afraid of their constituents. They seem to be afraid to walk on the streets or to go and face some heat out in the public. Youre afraid of your constituents? What are you doing there? If youre not talking to your constituents now you do realize that four years down the road you have to face them again, dont you? You think that if you wont talk to them now, theyll listen to you then? Sure, when youre sitting in this office, its wonderful. Youre their key to power. But four years from now, theyre your key to power. If you want to achieve anything, you have to listen to them. That, in my belief, is what an MLA is supposed to do anyway. An elected representative, in my belief, is supposed to represent the people, not themselves. Theyre not some elected guru; theyre representative. If we dont want a representative government, why do we have so many of us here? I think our constituents want a representative government. I can tell you for certain that most of my constituents do.
As you know, Mr. Speaker, Lake Laberge is not only a large riding in terms of area but of population. Its a riding that previously has been sliced up in various incarnations. It used to include part of Crestview and now includes the Ibex Valley area as a replacement there. Its called Lake Laberge. Its centred on the lake, and Lake Laberge, as you know, is where my home is.
I think Lake Laberge is something the entire riding sort of gravitates toward to a certain extent. Its our central feature. Its a rather large feature. Its certainly of great importance to me. Its where Ive grown up. Ive spent a lot of time on it. Theres something very peaceful and settling about the lake when you are faced with all the problems of politics and the difficulties of the world. The waves keep crashing in there and the mountains still stand there and the trees keep waving in the breeze.
Lake Laberge has been very important in the Yukons history as well. The Yukon is known for Robert Service and his poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee. Its read out to all the tourists as they come in here. Its known around the world. It used to be taught in school for people not only in this country but also in the United States and some European countries. They learn it in school and were famous for it, and theres a reason for it. Its in Yukons history. It was a barrier faced by the prospectors coming in. Theyre done with the Whitehorse Rapids, theyre down the Yukon River and suddenly theres Lake Laberge. And it might be flat calm or there might be 10-foot waves. Its a very rough lake. A lot of paddlewheelers went down in the lake there, or were damaged, and it was the lake that, at the beginning of every season when the paddlewheelers were in operation, was the barrier.
At that time talking about differing environmental standards they used to lay used oil down on the lake. Its certainly not something I think any of us here would support at any point in any endeavour dumping waste oil right into the water. This government here has made a priority of putting in place improved processing of waste oil. We consider it a major concern. But at that time they didnt really know about those things.
Anyway, as I say, it was the main barrier to river traffic, at that point. They would have to break through it there and then, once they got through there, the paddlewheelers were faced with possibly large waves. They, of course, drew three feet of water and were very top heavy, possibly pushing a barge, and the corkscrewing action of the paddlewheel, coupled with that, caused the wreckage and loss of a number of them.
Thats something that has been important to the Yukon. Its a very historic part of the Yukon, and I believe its of great spiritual importance to a lot of people within my riding. This is something Ive had to deal with. As you may know, Mr. Speaker, I live in about the most inaccessible portion of my riding. I probably have the most difficulty in transportation, getting from my home to town, of any other person or group. Of course, my family members are faced with the same difficulty, but we chose to live across the lake. We chose to live in a remote spot. I have to cross five and a half miles, regardless of the weather. I have no road access, as I mentioned. Ive been across that lake in flat calm and in 10-foot waves. Ive seen waves where you cant believe youre out there, and youre not sure why youre out there, but you make it through anyway. This is something that used to be faced by a lot of people. Its a forgotten part of our heritage and history.
We talk about museums and cultural things, but its also important to remember the stories that are told by the people who opened up this country, who came here, the first people who did a lot of things here and put the infrastructure in place, who came into the country for the first time, whether it be the prospectors coming in or, before them, the First Nations people. The stories they tell are very important so we understand who we are and what the Yukon is, because it is part of our culture and our heritage, of who we are and what makes up our territory and the people here.
So, as I say, the fall is often a very interesting time travelling from home into Whitehorse. There are very short daylight hours and there are difficulties getting into town something that is faced by a lot of my constituents who live within driving distance of town but they have to face a major commute. Ive had to deal with it in a more difficult fashion than most, but it makes you appreciate things. It makes you appreciate where you live, it makes you appreciate your freedom, your remoteness, and the land you live in. The land is something that is very important to all of us I believe.
Lake Laberge, of course, has had quite a colourful history. The island in the centre of it Richthofen Island was actually used during the time when the American army came up here. It was used by the army air force rather than the air force itself this is the American one during the building of the Alaska Highway for bombing practice.
And speaking of which, it sounds like weve got one overhead. Boy, if Ive got that much power with my voice, Id like to see a billion dollars come down from the sky. It doesnt seem to be working.
Anyway, as the planes flying overhead pointed out here, the north end of the island used to be used by the aircraft for bombing practice. In fact, if you go there, some people say they have found craters there. Ive never actually found any craters on the north end of the island but its an interesting thing. There used to be stories from people who were around at that time that they would go driving around out on the lake in their army jeeps and be whipping around over pressure ridges, and one year, I understand, they actually had pressure ridges like no one had ever seen before. They were heaped up, I think, something like 20 feet high and hollow inside, and theyd drive through these pressure ridges in places.
Ive seen something like that but not approaching the same size. A number of years ago we had a pressure ridge in front of our home that was about 10 feet high, right up on the shore there. You could crawl through it and walk through it in some places. But I wasnt even tempted to begin trying to get through it by any other means of transportation.
But they used to do this, and of course there used to be a thriving community at Lower Laberge and Upper Laberge as well. Right now, all thats there are ghost towns some cabins that are still useable, but nothing beyond that. And then we travel down the Yukon River to Hootalinqua, which is a case that always strikes me as rather sad. We look at the SS Klondike, we look at the SS Keno very important parts of our heritage. But down there, we see the SS Evelyn, which at one point was the SS Norcom and, unfortunately, Parks Canada never chose to make it a priority, and it has mostly fallen apart. I recognize why that decision would have been made its a very remote place, but unfortunately, in the last 10 years, a major portion of it has crumbled down. The top decks have totally collapsed. Back about eight years ago, I was up in the wheelhouse there, and when I was there this summer, there isnt even a wheelhouse to be found. Its a little bit sad to see that part of our heritage go, particularly considering how we have lost the SS Whitehorse, the SS Casca and the SS Tutshi all to fires.
By the way, for anyone who doesnt know, Mr. Speaker, the SS. Casca that burned in Whitehorse was the second one. The SS Casca I, the lower hull of it, remains at Lower Laberge today, although its mostly decayed. And the upper decks of the SS Casca II were the decks from the original Casca. That seems to be a practice that occurred at least a few times back then, because the SS Klondike II, which we have sitting here today fortunately in good shape and being repaired to preserve it as we speak of course, hit a rock on the Yukon River many years ago. Im not sure what year that was, but the SS Klondike I hit a rock and sank after a few bends, and the lower deck remains there to this day. The upper decks were brought and put on the SS Klondike II. You can still see it as you go down there today.
Actually, as you go down the entire Yukon River, you see a lot of evidence theres Cyrs Dredge, and there are a number of wood yards and places that were once very important. The Yukon River used to be the highway of the Yukon.
That was the link. It was what flowed through the Yukon, and flowed, to some extent, through the hearts of all Yukoners, and maybe still does. That may be a little melodramatic, but I think it does, really. Its of great importance to a lot of us, whether you have the opportunity to spend as much time on it as youd like to or not. It was a simpler time. Transportation was not nearly as simple, though, at that time. Other things were, but it took a lot more time, and made us realize what was important. You had to do things at a slower pace because you simply had no other option.
When youre getting somewhere and you have a problem or the river does what it does. Nature does what it does, and you face it. Maybe you face a storm, maybe you have smooth sailing, but you never know, and you face it once you get there.
Today, those who arent perhaps too rigorously abiding by the speed limits, I understand, can make it up to Dawson in about four and a half hours. Well, you sure wouldnt get anywhere close to that then. In four and a half hours, you wouldnt even be down the river to Hootalinqua, even today, with powered vehicles. It takes more time.
My point with this is not only the importance of our heritage and the importance of remembering what happened and recognizing those who went before us and how they formed the territory that we have today. You know, just next door to us, we have the old Executive Council table from the first Territorial Council in the Yukon and the chairs that were there. They are still in use today, if not in as regular use. These parts of our heritage are very important. Its important to recognize where we came from because, as I mentioned earlier, if we dont know where we came from, how do we know where were going? If you dont learn from the mistakes of history, youre doomed to repeat them. You have no way of knowing that.
My other point, Mr. Speaker, with regard to this is how the slower pace and the surprises that nature throws up to us are things that everyone faces. We face it in life, too. We who are here today as the government, over the next four years, will face challenges that we cant even comprehend. We dont know what well face but, if you have determination, youll make it through.
You take your gear, you prepare yourself, you do your best to be ready for whatevers there, and then you just decide youre going to make it through. Thats something thats as important in government as it is in travelling on the river in former times there. Because in former times a lot of things, of course the equipment we have today didnt even exist. They didnt dream of it. The clothing they had was warm but it was bulky and heavy, and the big problem when youre out in the wintertime at minus 40 degrees, a lot of people who havent had to face it dont realize that the major problem you face is not actually keeping warm but in getting too hot under that gear. Well, if you dont wear enough gear, youve got the same problem. Youre freezing to death, but you can wear enough gear and you start sweating and then you dont get rid of that sweat. Well, today we have polypropylene and thermax and all sorts of wonderful materials like Gore-tex and things that allow us to wick some of that moisture, but then they didnt. Theyd have their fur coats, and also the weight of them was pretty exhausting. You try wearing heavy gear. Think of putting a pack on and trudging through deep snow ahead of your dog team, snowshoeing perhaps, maybe having to cut out trees, and youre wearing something thats possibly like wearing as much as a 50-pound pack, just in wearing a coat and your snow pants, because theyre made of fur or perhaps they were made of wool in the case of pants and they get wet pretty easily. Thats something our forebearers had to face but its largely forgotten today.
Of course, that was the time of dog teams and we still see today the Yukon Quest and other races commemorating what went before, and its still very difficult but back then there wasnt anybody waiting at a checkpoint who knew when you were going to come in, and there wasnt somebody who, if you were six hours late, was going to send out a search party. If you didnt show up for a few weeks, then somebody might realize you were missing but by that point youre probably just a hole in the ground or a body lying on the ground there, like poor old Sam McGee, and there wasnt much hope for you there.
Today, of course, the Rendezvous festival was put in place, to a large extent, to celebrate that and to celebrate the more challenging times that were once faced. But as I said, in some ways, more challenging; in some ways, simpler. It was certainly physically more challenging, but the rapid pace of todays events certainly creates its own challenges. In its own way, its a lot more threatening and more baffling, but we should always remember what came before and the people who had depended they didnt go out for a moose in the fall as a lot of people now do for pleasure or partly to pay their familys food bill here. A lot of people, of course, do it because its a way of saving money for their family and making it through the winter economically. Then it was quite literally life and death. And there are still people who live that way today, but the numbers are diminishing, and its a sign of our times. Its a sign of progress, but progress isnt always good. There are always pluses and minuses to that, and, of course, there are some people, particularly First Nation people and also some non-aboriginal people like trappers, who live a more simple lifestyle like this and still depend on subsistence hunting and fishing. And, of course, in Old Crow, the Gwitchin people depend to a very large extent on the Porcupine caribou herd. But times have changed, and we move on, but its not necessarily progress. Progress isnt always good, but I think its important that we recognize those whove gone before us. Where are we going?
And, Mr. Speaker, I think we also have to be aware of like our ancestors who fought in the two world wars the threat that can exist to our basic freedoms. We have to remember that out there today, individuals like Saddam Hussein and other countries that are out there there are a lot of very undemocratic countries that exist, countries like China, that dont respect basic human rights, and intense international lobbying has achieved nothing in this.
These are countries here that we have to be aware that if we do not keep up protection, if we do not maintain a military, they would be quite happy to move in. We have lots of resources, we have got lots of land, and they would be quite happy to get it. So we have to keep in place the ability to defend ourselves. We have to walk softy but carry a big stick. We have to be ready at all times to defend ourselves, as I believe it was, I think it was also that quote, of course, that I mentioned was from President Roosevelt. I believe it was also him who said that one of the most effectual ways of preserving peace is to always be ready for war. None of us want that, but we must recognize that in these challenging times, with the new dangers we face, we face the possibility of nuclear weapons its something that, quite frankly, I wish from the bottom of my heart we could un-invent but we cant. And there are rogue nations now, there are dictatorships, there are radical groups that are coming into possession of these nuclear weapons, or may come into possession of them, and we must always be able to maintain the ability to protect ourselves from this. We have to be proactive. We have to prevent these countries from developing the plants and the resources to create these nuclear weapons because, once they are in existence, we cant get rid of them. A nuclear weapon is not that hard to hide. You can hide one in an area the size of one of these desks in here. You could slip it into a country in a container ship, maybe a foreign automobile. Its not that hard to do. Once its in existence, we have a real problem. We have to prevent them from developing it. The same thing applies to chemical and biological weapons. The only way to stop it is to prevent its creation.
Its not an easy thing. There are difficult decisions to be made. Although, all of us, to some extent whenever a decision like this is faced, like the situation with Iraq, probably wish we could have more control over it. But to an extent, I think if were honest with ourselves, were glad we dont.
Its a very difficult decision to make, and its very easy for us to criticize our allies, like the United States, to criticize their actions and decisions, but theyre in possession of intelligence information that they cant release to the world. It would compromise their sources, and you cant send people out on future intelligence operations if you say, "Hey, if it becomes politically expedient, were going to sacrifice all you guys like cattle." You have to protect them. They have to know that you, as a nation, and your agencies, as intelligence agencies, are in the business of protecting those who help them.
So, we dont know all the situations that are surrounding the issue with Iraq. We dont know the intelligence information and, as I said, Im very glad I dont have to make that decision. Will the United States and allies invade? Perhaps. Is it the right thing to do? How do we know? Whether it proceeds or doesnt proceed, afterward they say hindsight is 20/20, but it isnt. Its very easy to criticize what somebody has done or to see there was a better way, but you dont know what the opposite decision would have resulted in.
We have to be very careful in this, and to demonize our closest ally and our greatest friend for making a decision this way, or for leaning toward a decision of taking action to bring about regime change, is not appropriate. If we disagree with them, then fine, lets disagree with them there is nothing inappropriate about that but lets not treat the United States like its some evil military power, like some of the rhetoric that comes out.
The United States is our closest friend, our closest ally, and they have been the greatest defender of democracy in the world. We may not agree with everything they do, and Im not saying they do things necessarily in a way we should emulate, but we do have to remember who our friends are in this issue here, and lets deal with this on a civil basis, and lets deal with it carefully.
Mr. Speaker, Id like to bring up another quote here, that its very easy to take liberty for granted when youve never had liberty taken from you. We live in very trying times, with very difficult decisions. Its like dancing on a high wire here. You make the wrong decision, youre coming down there, and your whole nation is coming down with you and all the people there.
So, fortunately, we at this level are not tasked with the same thing, but we always have to remember the great picture. We have to remember how it affects our citizens, and we have to remember, in our small way, to protect the liberty of our people, to protect their freedom, their democratic rights, and to always consider the big picture, to never react in a knee-jerk fashion, never listen to one side of a story and decide that, because its a compelling argument, its automatically the right one. We have to listen to every side of the issue because if we dont, we may cause serious problems. And even if it only affects one person, if you destroy the life of someone, how do you feel about that if you wreck their income, their livelihood?
Mr. Speaker, I think here we have to keep our eye on the ball, on the direction were going in and focus on the stars were headed for here set your course and navigate here. We have to aim for good government. Mistakes will be made; you must correct them as best you can when they are. And its always important to keep connected to the people we represent.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that my colleagues have given me the opportunity to be the first person to respond to the Speech from the Throne. I appreciate the opportunity to stand here and represent my constituency of Lake Laberge. And once again, I sincerely appreciate the trust that has been placed in me. It has been an honour to speak to you today, and I thank you and my colleagues for allowing me to do so.
Mr. Arntzen: Mr. Speaker, Im honoured to be here today as the elected representative for the new and unique riding of Copperbelt. This is my first opportunity to speak in the Legislature, and I would like to take this time to sincerely thank all of my constituents for their support and for the trust they have shown in me.
I think that Copperbelt is a unique riding, given the fact that it is a very large area representing the communities of Pineridge, MacRae, Lobird, Hillcrest, Granger, and part of Copper Ridge. As well, this riding covers the Alaska Highway between these neighbourhoods right up to Fish Lake and Jackson Lake. As you can appreciate, their issues and concerns are wide and varied, and I look forward to working with all of these residents. Over the next four years, I will make every effort to ensure that their voices are heard in this House.
Mr. Speaker, I believe that the direction and vision expressed in the throne speech last week will reassure them that this government is heading in the right direction. Each of the neighbourhoods in my riding has different concerns, but there was a common theme, and that was the downturn in the economy. They, as Yukoners, want to continue to work here and enjoy the high quality of life that the Yukon can offer. They want to be able to raise their families here and not have to have their children leave the territory to find work.
The throne speech outlines plans for returning a vibrant, economic future to the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, one of the key points made last week, which I personally view as being very important, is to develop a sustainable economy that is based on the private sector rather than the one of transferring payments from the Government of Canada.
I believe it is critical to engage the business community in our affairs. Government cannot turn the economy around by itself. I know that, coming from the private sector, it is very important for business to have the support of government in terms of having supportive regulations in place that encourage investment and development.
I have been part of several management teams in Yukon businesses, including White Pass, Yukon Freight Lines, Territorial Ventures, Anvil Range Mining Corporation and Great Northern Oil, and I have had the benefit of working in different sectors in the Yukons economy. I must stress that, as a private business, you dont expect handouts from the government, but you certainly appreciate assistance with export, trade, development initiatives and assistance with promoting our businesses, as in the neighbouring Alaska on various trade missions and events.
The collaborative approach to develop a pan-northern corporate relationship with the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, the State of Alaska and the Province of British Columbia will benefit all Yukoners, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne.
We also expect the government to maintain a supportive tax regime. By re-establishing the Department of Economic Development, this government has reaffirmed its commitment to supporting business in the territory.
Mr. Speaker, I know that the business community is relying on the government to work to resolve and settle land claims, simplify and streamline a complex permitting regime controlled by the federal government, not to mention creating some certainty around the protected area issues.
Mr. Speaker, having said that, many of my constituents who are involved in the tourism sector are pleased to hear that the Department of Tourism and Culture will once again be a separate and distinct entity. The department will be focused on the Yukon gaining recognition as a unique destination and will be working with the local industry to build on past successes and develop new opportunities in niche markets. Industries such as film, culture and the information highway are key components of this initiative to diversify the economy.
The commitment that they heard in the throne speech that this government will invest in energy and transportation infrastructure to serve both tourism and resource industries was well-received.
As I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to represent a very unique riding where the residents represent the self-employed, the unemployed, small business, large business, commercial, retail, and both the territorial and federal governments in one of the most severe downturns that we are experiencing.
Mr. Speaker, even though we must turn this economy around, it cannot be at the expense of the environment. There is nothing more important to most Yukoners than the quality of life that we have here. Im pleased to be part of a government that supports a balance between environmental protection and responsible development. I have a special interest in the quality of life issue, particularly as it relates to keeping our environment pristine as Ive been actively involved in sports and outside recreation for most of my life. If we are to continue to live and work in the Yukon in the long term, we must achieve a balance between encouraging investment in the territory and respecting the environment.
I also heard very strongly during the election that safety in the communities is a very big issue. As many of us know, there has been a rash of vandalism, several break-ins in Copperbelt over the last several years. Some of our residents are simply afraid to be alone in their homes at night. Is this right? No much less to go for a walk along the trails or a stroll in the evening after dark. Thats not the Yukon we want.
There is a real need for strong, safe communities. Some of the practical suggestions Ive heard are better lighting, establishing Neighbourhood Watch programs, et cetera, but not to go into details here. But the point is that it is critical to listen and consult with these communities as we move forward so we can ensure their help.
Education is another area where I see a real need to focus on our efforts. Our youth require the necessary skills to prepare them for the job market. Support for them to obtain those skills, either in the Yukon or Outside, must be available. They will not be in a position to work in the territory and raise their families after they graduate.
As outlined in the throne speech, those efforts cannot be focused only on young students, but on training and career development for Yukoners who lack the necessary skills or who require retraining in order to take advantage of new local economic opportunities in the information technology or oil and gas sectors, for example.
Mr. Speaker, before I close, I must go back to one of the concerns raised time and time again in Copperbelt, and that is about conduct in this House. We must be able to work cooperatively together. In a territory the size of the Yukon, where most of us know each other, its a waste of time, energy and effort to be at odds with each other. Now is the time to have meaningful and productive discussions that result in concrete actions and action plans that will help turn the economy around, and have a safe environment to live in.
If we avoid unproductive conduct and confrontation over the next four years and concentrate on consultation and cooperation, we will achieve our vision, goals and objectives.
Mr. Speaker, that being said, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues on both sides of the House. While I congratulate each one of them on their success at being elected to their respective ridings, let us not forget that we have a common goal, and that is to live and work in a vibrant, economically strong Yukon. I think we can all agree on that. We all have our own ideas on the way in which we achieve these goals, and it is healthy to have discussions and different opinions. And this is when consultation and collaboration become tools by which we will agree on the right steps to take this territory forward.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and Id like to thank the members opposite for their eloquent words in regard to the throne speech at least I think it was in regard to the throne speech, but they were eloquent, and it was interesting to listen to their discourse. I would also like to thank the citizens of Whitehorse, especially Whitehorse Centre, for the support they have shown the NDP as well as me in Whitehorse Centre for once again placing their faith in me in their vote and having me back in this Legislature.
Its a different sitting; its a different setting. I was on the other side listening to responses to the throne speech and now Im on this side. It gives me an interesting perspective.
However, I would like to thank those people and will do the best I can to represent their interests, as well as all people of the Yukon.
The throne speech is an interesting one. I have been perusing it, and I find how do you say it? There is not much substance, but a lot more pages than probably are necessary. I look back at, oh, a couple of years ago to June 5, 2000. The Liberals had come out with a Speech from the Throne, and it was actually three pages long. There was as much in there as there is in this one, in many areas, although there are some points in the throne speech that I will talk about that I feel are good indications for the people of the Yukon. The biggest concern, I guess, is the lack of direction, the lack of vision, for the people of the Yukon to get a handle on what this government is going to do.
Ever since the election, many promises were made. The platform and commitments that the Yukon Party had come forward with indicated there was going to be a lot of activity and direction in many areas. Since the election, which was four months ago now and three months since this government has been in power, I think people expected a lot more. What we have we see it with this throne speech is far less than what people wanted.
In many ways, its a warm and fuzzy statement about many of the directions this new government may be going in, but there is not enough concrete direction to make people feel they have a handle on the philosophy of this new government. Thats a big concern for people. The citizens of the Yukon really do want to see leadership, and part of leadership is being very clear about what you stand for and what direction youre going in. And that is in almost everything you do.
Now, over the course of the last four months, some actions have been taken by the government that have been very clear and have maybe caused some problems. In hindsight, maybe they should have done a little more consultation and research. But the throne speech doesnt seem to offer that kind of clarity that was so desperately needed, especially as we are starting to leave the winter and move into the spring and summer seasons.
I am going to go through the throne speech a little bit and talk about the speech itself and the wording in it. I may dip in and out on some other issues.
But I would also like to make a comparison as I do it with some of the election platform commitments that were made and that, it has already been indicated to us, are not going to be fulfilled. Thats something that has to be clarified too.
If the throne speech is what this government stands for and the platform commitments are another thing that the government stood for four months ago, then we have to ask ourselves what this government will stand for in one more year. Will it have changed again depending on circumstances that are beyond our control? Will it change again depending on the whims of the people across the way or the people behind the scenes who are trying to direct the newly elected members? Will it change because the bureaucracy may acquire a greater control over the newly elected members and direct the government in the direction that they want?
These are big concerns. These are big concerns for people of the Yukon because these are concerns that have been raised many, many times.
Going to the bureaucracy one, we have heard over the years I think everybody has heard it the concern that often the elected members do not have the authority once they are elected the moral authority to change direction of government. They also do not have the intellect or the ability to guide the bureaucracy, the hired people who advise them, in a direction they want to do. There are many stories around that if that is true are not. But that is the perception that exists in the public and its a perception that every elected member has to face.
For instance, when I was going around door to door during the election campaign, I heard on numerous occasions that it doesnt really matter who we elect because ultimately we are not the ones who actually set the direction for the future of the territory, were not the ones who will have the ability to chart a new course. The infrastructure the government structure as it exists today does that, and we do not have the whether we have the fortitude or the vision or the abilities to chart a new course because we rely so much on very good administrators, very good deputy ministers and the people who work throughout the system. We rely so much on them to give us advice that ultimately that reliance becomes our conscience or our guidance.
When you knock on the door and people express this concern, you go away thinking, maybe theres some justification in that. Do I honestly believe I will be able to enact change if Im elected? When we form government, if my party forms government, if the Yukon Party forms the government, as they have this last time, will they be able to bring forward the positions they outlined in their platform, and the commitments and promises they made to the people?
Thats a big concern for my constituents. Im sure just about every MLA out there has heard that concern. That brings me to the platform and commitments.
So, we have this platform and commitments made by the Yukon Party during the election, and it wasnt that long after the election and after the government was sworn in that the Premier stood in the Chamber of Commerce and indicated they would not be fulfilling, in this mandate, many of the promises made.
So, what was the change? What caused the change? My constituents, the people Ive talked to, are asking that question. Why is there a change now? Why, four months ago, were the things that were said legitimate but, two months after that, theyre no longer legitimate?
If it is that, once theyre in, they meet with the deputy ministers, who outline the situations that exist, and then, of course, the Premier goes back to his colleagues, and they sit down and say, "Well, we dont have the money." Weve already heard that one. Or, "We cant do this because of legislation; we cant do this because its not in our jurisdiction; we cant do that because it just doesnt work for us any more."
I have to ask the question then, how intelligent was this platform? How much thought was actually put into this platform, which was presented to the people as what would be enacted, knowing full well and I would hope the people are intelligent enough they probably couldnt fulfill it?
I would mention that if thats the case, how much honesty actually exists in that?
So, the Premier had just mentioned paying the Liberals bills as the excuse why the platform cant be fulfilled. Is that the whole reason? I guess well find out on Thursday how much money there actually is and what direction this government wants to take. If thats the case, what is going to be cut to fulfill some of these promises?
If you stand by your word, if you stand by this platform and you say theres not enough money and youre going to stand by this, then youre going to have to cut some stuff, right? Thats the basic assumption. If thats the case, make sure its very clear to the people of the Yukon what youre cutting and why youre doing it. Its no good blaming the previous government for this and the previous government for that. Come forward, stand up, make that statement this is why were doing it. If theres not enough money, show the books and go forward with it and be up front about it.
The problem with it all, though, ultimately comes down to and as the Member for Laberge indicated the faith in the elected person. Unfortunately, when you run on a platform and then, within two months after being elected, youre already indicating that you will not fulfill that platform, you have eroded that faith. Once again, we spiral down a little bit further. We go down notch by notch by notch in the public eye that the election of our officers today does not amount to a hill of beans when it comes to changing the agenda or the direction of this territory, and we cannot believe the people who are elected because the moment they are elected, theyre changing. This is a huge concern in the public.
So, how do we address that? This throne speech does not address that. This throne speech does not mirror the platforms and commitments. Ive gone through the throne speech and Ive gone through the platform commitments, and in some cases there is that connection and I applaud the government where it does exist, but in most cases it does not mirror it. There is not that indication that this throne speech is based on the platform commitments.
Since I have been back from the Canada Winter Games, Ive heard that its very thin soup thats what they call the Speech from the Throne. As I have indicated already, the Liberal one the one three pages long and this one, which happens to be 19 pages long, is fairly thin soup, too. There is a lot of similarity to them. Theres not much in there.
What I would have liked to have seen, and I think what the people of the Yukon would have liked to have seen in the throne speech, is more of a reflection of a platform, at least please describe the areas that youre going to fulfill. Put it in there, because if this is the only thing that youre going to fulfill, then for the next four years weve got serious problems because there wont be much work done on the government side because there is not enough here.
Ill give you an example, Culture and Arts. The government, in their platform, made a commitment to the arts and culture. The statement in the throne speech says, "The territory has artistic, educational, health, social and recreational services and facilities that are second to none in Canada.
"This government believes in our cultural and heritage resources and recognizes the value they bring to all Yukoners and the tourism industry."
What do you think of that? Thats it? Wheres the vision? Thats an acknowledgement of what we have. Thank you; we know that. What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you telling the people of the Yukon? This is the concern I have in reading this. There are a lot of motherhood statements, a lot of statements that dont really say anything, dont give any direction.
So how much value should we place in that? How much value should we place in the throne speech? Maybe the throne speech serves no purpose any more in government, in the Legislature. Maybe we should just go straight into budgets and debate budgets, because there is not much meat in this soup; its very thin.
Now, a lot of concerns have been expressed over the last four months since the election about what we have now. We went from two and a half years of a Liberal government, and that wasnt acceptable to the Yukon people. Previous to that, we had three and a half years of NDP government. That wasnt acceptable enough to vote them back in, and now we have switched again. I have heard that concern among people that people of the Yukon are very unforgiving, and that we will switch governments if there isnt some kind of performance, if there isnt some kind of substance, direction and vision.
So, here we are your first crack at it. This throne speech was anticipated and looked forward to, to give some vision. Frankly, it didnt do it. It failed in that area. What it has done is to raise a lot of questions questions we raised in Question Period today, and that is: what promises? Can you tell us what promises you are going to live up to? Or, can you tell us what promises youre not going to live up to?
When you talked about the environment and in your platform you talk about YPAS. Whats the first thing you did? Youre going to address issues around YPAS, so you kill it. Is that creating certainty within the industry? Is that going to create jobs?
When you talk about development, what do you talk about? You talk about southeast Yukon. Well, the Yukon is a lot bigger than just southeast Yukon. Are you going to broaden your discussions? Are you going to go beyond the Premiers neck of the woods? Are you going to talk about Dawson City? I dont see it mentioned in here.
But southeast Yukon was talked about on many occasions. How are you going to talk about Faro? What about Faro the town that, at one point, contributed a lot to the Yukon Territory and has gone through hard times? Was Faro mentioned in here? Was it recognized? What about Ross River? Teslin? I see no mention of Mayo in here. Yet there is a fair amount of mining activity up there. Yet, this is a government that talks mining, oil and gas but I see no mention of Mayo, Keno City, Elsa, Dawson City. They werent mentioned. If youre going to talk about oil and gas and mining, it seems the only thing that is being talked about is southeast Yukon. What about Old Crow? Now there is some mention in here about Old Crow and there is a mention of the Fishing Branch, which was finally signed off which I congratulate the government for. It has been a long time coming; its been worked on for a long time and its really nice to see that move ahead and I congratulate them because it wasnt getting done with the Liberals. Its good to see that the Yukon Party took the initiative to finish it up, so congratulations.
But what about the economic activities up there? There is a mention of north Yukon but were not sure what that means. How does that tie in with ANWR? There is huge lobbying while its intensifying. There is going to be intensification in opening up that whole region because once it starts it will start to spread, and there are benefits in that but theyve got to be managed. Theyve got to be managed for the future. The present is important but we always have to look toward the future. If the territory is going to have a future, we have to keep that in mind, we have to keep that in sight.
What about Beaver Creek, down the highway, Destruction Bay, Burwash Landing, Haines Junction? There is no mention in here about the negotiated deals that are presently in place and the ones that have to be negotiated concerning the highway construction. Yet those employ a multitude of people with very, very well-paying jobs very important for the communities along those highways, as money is spent in those.
But theres no mention of them. Again, everything thats talked about and mentioned is southeast Yukon.
Now, I work my way back. Theres Carmacks, getting closer to Whitehorse; theres Carcross, and then theres Whitehorse itself. Whats actually mentioned in here about that? Is there no future for economic development in any region of the Yukon other than one area? Is the whole attention of this Premier and the caucus all moving down into one area, and theyre neglecting the other areas? Thats the question I have been asked already.
I said it in a more light-hearted manner when I said, "The premier of the southeast Yukon, thats what we elected." When I read the throne speech, thats what I see, and Im very concerned that this is a government that, on its first day in the Legislature, brings out a throne speech that really confirms that most of their attention and most of their focus is going to be in one area of the Yukon at the cost, expense and neglect of the rest of the Yukon. That doesnt rest well with the population outside that area.
We should never go down that road. What we may end up doing what this government may end up doing, is pitting one part of the Yukon against another. When you begin to favour one area over another, you are creating animosity; you are creating a division. What we want to do, what we believe we all want to do in here I believe everybody is part of that is bring people together, resolve the issues that are facing us today, not have one area receive the most attention and wealth and the other areas suffer.
Canada came together with the belief that one coast to the other coast to the other coast supports each other. Thats how we ended up with national programs. Thats why we ensured there were transfer payments to the poorer regions. Thats how our Premier is able to go down to Parliament, meet with the Prime Minister, with the other two premiers of the northern territories, and request a better deal around health care.
Because the foundation of Canada is built upon ensuring that the wealth is spread out from the "have" to the "have-not" provinces and territories. And thats how they were able to get a better deal. And again, I will applaud them. That was excellent. I applaud the Premier for that work, and I applaud the two premiers in the other two territories.
But its based upon a principle. Its based upon a principle that Ontario, Toronto. Everybody knows that Toronto is kind of this black hole, but Ontario, Alberta, Quebec and the others, as have provinces, are willing to share some of that wealth with the rest of the people of Canada for the have-not provinces and territories. Thats the principle. Thats what holds this Confederation together.
Within the Yukon, that is also our principle or, at least it should be our principle. But its also our vision of what we should have when we make decisions. It is not that one area gets the wealth and the other areas get neglected. If there is wealth in one area, if there is greater opportunity in one area, that wealth, that opportunity, should be shared with the rest of the Yukon, and it should be recognized. I dont see it in this throne speech. I see the tension, I see the focus, all in one area. This is going to create anger, and its going to create a feeling that one area gets more than another.
Now, I grew up here, and I was able to work in most areas of the Yukon. I often used to hear, going from one area to another, a lot of I wouldnt say bitterness, but a small amount of resentment about Faro in its heyday, when the mine was fully functioning, there were big-paying jobs and a lot of activity. I never bought into that. I never believed that because there was a very successful mine in that area, and it was employing a lot of people a lot of Yukon people went there to work that that money did not go out and spread out to the other communities.
I know for a fact that the activities in Faro benefited the roads that ran up there through Carmacks, up to Faro, and back down again to Whitehorse, and then down through Carcross. There was benefit that way, whether it was road construction to upgrade the roads, or whether it was the stops people would stop in when driving up and down. Money was being spread around.
And there were huge benefits for the City of Whitehorse. Many of the businesses were built based on that very, very successful and huge mine that had such a big impact on the territory. So there was a small amount of resentment that I heard in other areas.
My fear is that if the government itself articulates that kind of statement, that kind of feeling, then what we will do is build that dialogue again, a negative dialogue, and it will be reinforced by the governments own actions and the governments own words. And that is not something that this territory can afford. I heard from the previous speakers already about coming together, about working together. Well, thats very important, but that has to be part of your language, that has to be part of the throne speech, that has to be part of your platform and commitments, that has to be part of your actions, and each member has to be able to go back out to their communities and articulate that.
And that is also concerned with the First Nations. There are very honourable words in here about the government-to-government relationships, and that is something that all parties have spoken of and worked on, and we have a Yukon Party using the same words, which is honourable and which is fine because this is something we should all strive for the governments to governments and the sharing of the resources and the sharing of the economic benefits and the sharing of the responsibilities, whether its education, whether its health and social services. These are very important. But when you go through this, it talks about one area again. It talks about one First Nation government and it doesnt talk about the other 13. And again, what does that do? That creates division.
In the paper today, already in the paper I read the article about the Premier having just met with the Taan Kwachan I believe its in your riding, more in that area.
For Lake Laberge, it says concerns over the Ta'an Kwach'an First Nation, which is not happy with the jail agreement Premier Dennis Fentie has signed with the Kwanlin Dun. I dont know if thats true or not. Thats the statement the media has reported. It goes on to say that Mr. Fentie has now met with the Ta'an Kwach'an. But, shouldnt they have been part of the negotiations in the first place? Isnt that the question that should be asked? Should they not have been at the table when the discussions around the jail were being discussed, so that its not after the fact that theyre remembered? Of course they should have been there. This is part of their traditional area. Of course they should have been there.
That could apply to just about anything. You have to include people, not selectively pick one government, one group, one person, one individual, over another. You do not want to give a contract to one person and ignore all the other people who are bidding. Theres a tender process, for instance. Everybody has a chance. Theres a process to go through that. Theres a process in governments to governments, and theres a process to ensure that its inclusive, that you are inclusive in your relationship, youre inclusive in your negotiations. In this case, there wasnt, so now the Premier had to meet with the Ta'an Kwach'an and try to patch it up, try to get them involved. I hope it works, but it shouldnt have gone to that stage. My only worry is that theres so much of a hurry to sign a deal, to put out something, that they neglect other people who have a legitimate claim or stake.
There are lots of other concerns. Theres another level of government, and thats municipalities. Ive gone through the throne speech and I have not been able to find and Ill stand corrected if theres something of substance in here a single reference to the municipalities throughout the territory.
Theres not a single reference of substance. So, where do they fit into all this? Have they fallen off the Yukon Party map? Do they have no role left to play in the territory? Should we roll into the communities, into the municipal governments as in the Dawson City situation, and start to monitor everything they do, start to interfere in their affairs? Maybe in Dawson City theres justification. I dont know. But should we start taking over municipal governments? Because we dont give them any recognition here. We dont pay any attention to the needs they face. They do receive funding from this territorial government, there is an agreement in place, but theres no reference to this. Theres no reference to the future of it.
And that raises a big question. When youre talking about governments to governments you also have to recognize that there are other levels of governments as well, and that includes municipalities. But much of that is rural. Maybe that doesnt count. Im not sure. Maybe the new government doesnt believe that they have a role to play here.
Actually, I have to correct myself. There is one reference: its to the Town of Watson Lake, but again thats southeast Yukon. Theyre the only ones that got a reference. I dont think theres a reference in here to the City of Dawson or Haines Junction or Carmacks. Theres no reference there. Theres not a reference to Faro or Teslin.
I have to wonder where the backbenchers are, where the rural representatives are, because in the throne speech their communities are not recognized. So what is the input that they have in this? Frankly, it looks like it was written by one person for one area, and the municipalities have been shut out on this one.
Now, since were speaking of municipalities, I wouldnt mind speaking about my riding. Its something that is quite unique. We all say our ridings are unique, and they are, and every person in our riding is unique, and they are.
So whats unique about my riding? I would say my riding is the only riding in the Yukon that can be seriously classified as an urban riding. And when you classify it as an urban riding, it is right downtown, it is where were sitting today. It has the high mixture of residential and business. It has the mixture of many of the services being delivered throughout the Yukon centred right in this riding. It has many of the NGOs located right here. My riding has the largest population of seniors. It has the largest gathering of youth, whether its on weekends or evenings. As my colleague from Kluane has mentioned, it has the largest gathering of shopping, and many people come, whether its from Alaska or from many of the rural areas, to shop here. They come into the downtown core, which happens to be my riding.
With all those characteristics, it also has many of the problems that an urban downtown riding has. It has drug problems, needle exchanges. It has abuse. It has the largest gathering of bars and alcohol problems that exist. It has transportation problems that are a serious concern. It has safety problems that affect many of the seniors who live in this riding and many of the other people who also live in it.
Today I heard on the news, and Im going to quote from the transcripts of the CBC at 12:00: "Outreach workers say theyll do all they can to keep the services going for people at risk on the streets of Whitehorse."
The Yukon government has told the Yukon Family Services Association that it will not be getting funding for youth outreach workers in the city. There are two workers who offer counselling for youth in crisis. So this is the first indication, I guess we can say I shouldnt say its the first indication. We had the cancellation of the alcohol and drug secretariat. Now, in my opinion, from my perspective, this is one of the best things the Liberals did the alcohol and drug secretariat. I felt, given the opportunities to work out the initial problems, this was a good direction to go in, and in the long term it would have been a benefit. I also believe that the cancellation of the alcohol and drug secretariat by the new government was a mistake, and I dont see anything in place to replace what I felt was a good initiative by the previous Liberal government.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: So, now the Premier across the way says it was more bureaucracy that might be true but we have a serious crisis in that area and we need to get a coordinated approach to it. We need to do the work that will have some impact in that area. You do not cancel something if you do not have something to replace the vacuum that you are going to create. What I saw was a cancellation as a knee-jerk reaction to something that the government opposite did not like, without thinking it through, without thinking what we will replace it with. From my own perspective, if thats the direction that the government wants to go in, thats fine, but they should have done their homework, they should have consulted with the people. As they say in their platform and commitments, they should have had consensus building. They should have had consultation. They should have had something ready to put in place so there wasnt a vacuum for people left out there without any direction or anywhere to go.
Now, Ive talked to some of the people in the departments and the indication that I got was that the secretariat was starting to work, they liked it and it was assisting them in areas that they were working in, whether it was drug abuse or alcohol abuse. There were some good ideas in there. It was starting to work. So what has this government replaced it with?
Well, we have a throne speech. I went through it, and am leafing through it right now but dont see anything. Theres no reference. Theres nothing in the throne speech, so thats dedication to a serious situation.
In reading the news today, what do I read? The Yukon government has told the Yukon Family Services Association that they will not be getting funding for youth outreach workers in the city.
Now, that affects every single riding in the territory. Whether you like it or not, whether you want to admit it or not, people throughout the territory come into Whitehorse. Many of the people on the streets have come from outlying regions, from the regions you represent, and theyre on the streets now. Many of the youth you see are from the rural areas. When you make a change that you think is Whitehorse-based, its not. Youre having an impact upon people who have come from the rural communities and are now living in Whitehorse, or trying to live in Whitehorse, who have some problems. Youre withdrawing help not just from the youth of Whitehorse, but the youth of every single community.
Speaker: Id like to remind the leader of the official opposition that the term "you" should be replaced with "one". I understand your use of it, but now youre starting to get to the point where youre saying "you" rather than "the Speaker", so Id prefer that you refer to me.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
When you talk too long, you start to do that, dont you? You want to talk more directly. Okay.
So, Mr. Speaker, the government has removed an essential service that I feel has an impact on all people throughout the territory, and they havent replaced it with anything.
Of course, were all waiting to see what the budget is and what the direction will be for the new government. The throne speech just hasnt been able to give that to us.
But there are many other issues. Going back to my riding the seniors. A few weeks ago, a decision was made that affected many of the seniors in my riding quite strongly. That was the decision made to close Macaulay Lodge and move the people in Macaulay Lodge up to Copper Ridge. There was a kind of idea that the Thomson Centre would be turned into a detox centre. What was missing underlying all of that was the fact that this government did not engage in any consultation. They did not approach the people who would be most affected, which were the people at Macaulay Lodge. But going beyond that, they did not approach many of the people who live in my riding, such as those in Closeleigh Manor, Greenwood or those who still maintain their homes, but who see it as a logical step when theyre no longer able to do that to move into Macaulay Lodge. Then from there, depending on the care they need, going up to the Copper Ridge facility and also what was negotiated by the Liberals and brought about the Thomson Centre as an option, if they were going to do something different with Macaulay Lodge.
None of them were consulted. The Golden Age Society wasnt consulted, as far as I understand. The Yukon Council on Ageing was not consulted. This was a unilateral decision. This is what the Yukon Party promised would not happen when they were running in the election, and yet it did happen. And what was the outcome of it?
I attended the two meetings. The first one was very, very disturbing. The seniors were very upset, the families of the seniors were extremely upset and were very vocal, and the minister came unprepared to answer the questions.
Because of that, there was a tremendous amount of stress for these people who really dont need this type of stress at this stage of their life. Theyve paid their dues in our society. Theyve given us much to make our lives a lot better. They do not need this to be brought about upon them in this manner.
They had already been consulted and discussed with, shown pictures and taken through the process of the possibility of going over to the Thomson Centre, and they had accepted that. Then, all of a sudden, that was yanked out from underneath them.
Now, I talked to many of them after that, and visited many of the seniors in my riding, and they were very upset. You really have to ask yourself, when you put that kind of stress on our seniors and put them through that, what kind of effect that has on their quality of life or their ability to plan ahead. Its rough to say but, as two people at the first meeting said, "You have shortened the life of my mother with this stress youve put her under." Thats a very serious statement for a person to make at a public meeting to a minister. That was done without consultation; that was a break in what was promised. Maybe thats one of the promises that are not going to be fulfilled in this mandate as the Premier indicated to the Chamber of Commerce that the idea of consultation was just not going to happen.
There is some indication around that. The cancellation of the alcohol and drug secretariat there was no consultation there, as I already said earlier. How do I say this? Not "cancelling", because that would be a strong word, that would be a really directive word that this government was doing but the putting on hold of YPAS.
There was no consultation as far as I can see around that, unless there was consultation in the backrooms among three or four people. But if that is the case, well, say it; stand up. If the new Yukon government feels thats the best type of consultation a small group of people quietly consulted then go ahead and do it, but be honest with the rest of the people out in the territory and tell them thats the way the consultation is going to happen. Then let the chips fall where they may. But at least people will say, "Well, at least they told us what they were going to do; the new government is not trying to create a smokescreen; theyre not trying to pretend to be one thing and then another." That created a lot of stress for the seniors.
Another concern in my riding that has been articulated many times is the safe streets. This goes back to the treatment centres, the youth centres, the alcohol and drug treatment all that stuff is tied in with this. Many of the seniors Ive talked to are very concerned about safe streets in the downtown core. I would be remiss if I did not bring that up here. I live in the downtown core; I live right downtown and there are numerous occasions when I, myself, have been on edge, and I am not a small person. Im a healthy 45-year-old male. Im not exactly what you would call a target for any person who may be contemplating a violent attack or abuse. Im way down the scale of anything anybody wants to touch. For the seniors, thats not the case, if theyre out. They do not feel that they can go out in the evenings any more. This used to be a town where people used to be able to go out in the evenings, walk along the waterfront, go down to a coffee shop, go over and see a friend and just walk and feel safe. But that has left the downtown core. As I said, this is the urban riding of the Yukon. With that comes the problems. And one of the problems, Mr. Speaker, is safe streets.
Now, I know, Mr. Speaker, that you have been involved with many people the youth definitely. You have worked with them in your activities. And I as well. We know the problems that many of the kids who come in and work with us in the arts that were involved in. We know many of the problems. We see many of the problems, whether theyre from broken homes or from homes with serious substance abuse, lack of direction. Sometimes its very simply a single parent and theyre lacking a father figure in some cases or a mother figure in the other, to help guide them through some of the more difficult periods of their life, which often are the teenage years. You know that. The most difficult periods are often from the ages of about 14 to 19. Its a very, very critical area in the development for a child. Yet this is an area where we need I believe the government should put a lot more support in this area. Whether its helping the organizations, whether its helping them through sports or the arts, the culture, whether its helping them through the treatment centres or youth centres, thats where a lot of that investment should lie to help them. Because sometimes its one person who has the ability to approach a child and get them off the street or get them a focus in life and get them going in an area that will turn things around.
But if there are cuts coming already in these areas, such as the Yukon Family Services Association and their youth outreach workers if those are the directions that this government, Mr. Speaker, is going in, then I believe that we will see an increase in the problems on the streets of Whitehorse and in the problems on the streets of all the rural areas of the Yukon. We will have what I consider lost opportunities for the young people, and we must invest in that area. They are our future. Many of them dont need our help but we should be there for the ones who do need our help. We should be offering to help and we should be innovative about it. We should not get ourselves locked into a status quo of saying that this works and nothing else works. We should approach the people who are out on the streets, whether its the youth themselves, whatever age they are but the people who are actually working with the problems on the street and find out if there are other alternatives, other ways to deal with this. Are there ways to bring the programs together? Are there ways or divergent areas we can go in that will reach out and save this one child or save another child? Because, if we do that, the cost will be far less than if we dont.
And that has been proven by all the studies that have ever been done. It is an investment now, which will save a multitude of money far exceeding what you invest now in you would have to spend later. So we cant ignore that. And, Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that this government has already indicated that the direction that theyre going in seems to be one of withdrawing services where theyre most needed. And the connection Im making, as I said, the seniors and some of the youth centres, thats a connection that we have to bring together, because one thing that happens at this level, say its at the youth centre, say its an investment, say its at the family services centre or one of the youth centres, whether its the Blue Feather or the Whitehorse Youth Centre or if its with the seniors. Theyre all connected. You cant separate the society and say that if we dont do this here, we can do that there, that it wont have an impact all the way through, especially in the alcohol and drug treatment or programming. It flows throughout our whole society, and we see the effects, sometimes a few years down the road, sometimes 10 years down the road and we look back and say, "What did we do?" We made a mistake. But its already too late. We just lost a whole group of people that we could have helped.
There are people, I believe, in Whitehorse Centre, who think crime is a big problem, and theyre right. It is an area where many people come in and they stay, and crime has increased, and we have to do something about that. But in the throne speech, I dont see anything that addresses the crime that faces the Whitehorse area. Thats a shame, and I am hoping that there will be something in the budget speech that addresses that, and if that comes forward, Ill be very pleased and definitely stand here and recognize the government for going in that direction.
The other concerns we have in Whitehorse Centre are the schools. The previous government, the Liberals, at one point, were trying to make some changes to the last two schools of the downtown area, Whitehorse Elementary and the Wood Street facility. There was quite a public outcry and, fortunately for the schools and the government I dont know if it was fortunate for them, because they didnt win the next election they did pull back from that. Im hoping to see respect paid to the last two schools in the downtown core, that there will be an elementary school left there for the people who live down there and that everybody wont be bused out of the downtown core to other areas to fill schools.
Everybody remembers very clearly the debate around the Grey Mountain School in the last election. One of the solutions to justify the Grey Mountain School was to close down the elementary stream in the downtown core Whitehorse Elementary and have them move over there to justify numbers you close one school to fill another for a promise made that may not have been a wise decision. The previous government could have saved itself a lot of anguish by not going forward with that idea if it had not kept pushing it. It wouldnt have had that issue. I hope that it is an example, or something that this government will recognize that sometimes you make a mistake, and you can pull back and say, "Okay, well, we cant do it. It was a mistake."
Now, going back to Macaulay Lodge for just a second, the minister came to the next meeting at Macaulay Lodge and indicated that they were pulling back from what they had proposed to the seniors. He recognized the mistake, and the seniors at Macaulay Lodge gave him recognition for being willing to do that. I hold that as an example that, in this House, when we make a mistake, we can stand here and say, "Okay, not a good idea. Lets pull back. Lets revisit this. Lets go out and consult with people. Maybe we forgot to do that."
I do know for a fact that the Liberal government probably would have appreciated that a lot more. I shouldnt say they would have appreciated it. I think the people would have appreciated it if they had pulled back from that decision, because it was affecting so many other schools and ridings, all for one promise that was made oh, my gosh, it would have been made eight years ago.
I am going to conclude my statements. Im not going to go on for two, three, four hours. I think its important that everybody has a chance to speak and has the ability to articulate what they believe is part of the vision. Maybe this throne speech is not part of it. I do know that the Member for Lake Laberge didnt talk about the throne speech too much at all. Maybe theres a reason, because there is not enough there to talk about.
But I do want to close with theres a word in here, its called "balance". And balance is extremely important. But try to remember that your balance may be different than somebody elses, and you have to have compassion for other peoples ideas and views to achieve that balance. And it cant be just your balance that has to be inflicted upon everybody else. When you talk about the environment and the economy, I think we all are trying to achieve a balance. Lets ensure that that balance is reflective of the people of the Yukon and the future.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in response to the throne speech. I would first like to thank the constituents in my riding for electing me once again to represent them here in this Legislature. I would also like to thank my riding association and all the campaign workers who ensured my success in this recently held election.
A special thank you goes to my wife and family, who have stood by me so that I can undertake the tasks ahead.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party was given a mandate to govern on November 4. We were sworn in on December 4. It will be three months tomorrow that we have held office. The Yukon Party committed in its throne speech to set a new course and a new direction for the Yukon, and that new course and direction is to work with the First Nations in a manner that will benefit all of us here in the Yukon. There has to be a greater level of cooperation between First Nations, the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada for Yukon to move ahead.
We are currently in an economic backwash in Canada. We are going through serious economic difficulties. Our population is decreasing and has been decreasing considerably over the past few years. Mr. Speaker, opportunities no longer abound here in the Yukon. This was once the land of opportunity. It no longer is.
It does have one thing remaining, and that is potential. It has great potential. We have a wealth of natural resources. We have a vast territory sparsely populated by very capable and determined Yukoners.
What its going to take is a new vision, a new outlook and a balance between the economic issues facing us and the environmental issues facing us. The pendulum has been allowed to swing too far in one direction. What we need is a balance between economic development in an environmentally sensitive and friendly manner, and we can do that. But its going to take a determined government in cooperation with First Nation governments and the people of the Yukon to achieve this end. My colleagues and I are determined to steer that course and see what we can accomplish together.
Mr. Speaker, we have many issues facing us. We only have to look at the current status of the Yukon placer authorization and how that is being viewed by the federal Department of Fisheries. The economy of the Yukon is more often than not being determined by our far-off political masters in Ottawa. These political masters have sought every way possible, for what reason, I dont know. No one really knows. You want to zero in on the Yukon placer authorization and the federal Department of Fisheries. Their initiatives in many areas defy common sense and logic and serve no purpose. They certainly dont enhance the fish population. They certainly dont bring wealth and economy to us all here in the Yukon. Its interesting to note that just a few short years ago we had an abundance of salmon returning to the watersheds and the spawning grounds in the Yukon.
What have we done here that would not allow these salmon to return? Some of the tributaries of the Yukon have the highest concentrations of silt that you could find anywhere. You only have to try to get up the White River if you can its a pretty difficult river to navigate. You can go from one little stream to the other, but the amount of silt in that river alone defies everything Ive read issued by the federal Department of Fisheries that would suggest that fish could live there. Its not supposed to be a habitat that they would even entertain the White River and yet it and the Yukon River have seen a migration of salmon for as far back as our elders can recount to us.
The population of the Yukon peaked back just after the turn of the century, and we have yet to recover to that level. Yet some of the periods of time during the 1920s and the 1930s saw the greatest migration of salmon back to the creeks here in the Yukon. That is not happening any longer. I dont believe any amount of restricting the settlement and discharge above and beyond what is currently in place is going to allow for the return of the salmon. It sounds like theyre coming to take us away, Mr. Speaker.
The issue of the salmon fisheries here in the Yukon is clearly a domain of the federal government and the federal Department of Fisheries.
Yet they have done little other than to impede and delay progress, and place all sorts of restrictions on any industry here in the Yukon. That is a federal government agency that I hope will wake up and address their responsibilities in a responsible manner, Mr. Speaker.
We also look at our other great engine driver of the economy here in the Yukon, our visitor industry. Recently it has gone through quite a downturn, and I guess a lot of it can be attributed to 9/11 and the resulting fallout. Hopefully our Yukon government can address the marketing initiatives and target areas that will enhance our visitor industry and bring people to the Yukon.
Then we look at the areas where there has been a concentrated effort to regulate industry here in the Yukon, and we only have to look at the wilderness regulations and that legislation. To a great degree, they provided some certainty to the wilderness tourism operators, but were finding now that the stumbling block is the requirement for liability insurance. There isnt anything really the industry here in the Yukon has done, or anyone has done. What has changed is the insurance industry, and this type of insurance coverage is just about impossible to achieve or obtain.
The cost is now prohibitive, so I guess, as a government, we have to ask ourselves, was it a wise move to require that wilderness tourism operators need liability insurance to the extent that they have?
Theres also another piece of federal legislation that impacts on our visitor industry, and thats the federal governments insistence that watercraft have a high measure of liability coverage, which, if you can obtain it, is very expensive. Its more likely the case that you cant obtain it at all, at any cost.
So, these decisions Im not sure they are benefiting us at all.
But then you just have to contrast that into probably the most visible area the Yukon is responsible for here, and thats the sale of liquor. Theres only one source. The sale of liquor is managed and controlled by the Government of Yukon, yet theres no requirement on the retail outlets to carry any form of liability insurance. Its interesting, Mr. Speaker. Thats very interesting.
So, at the end of the day, what have we accomplished? In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, we have to set the guidelines as wide as possible and have trust in our fellow Yukoners to not abuse the privilege accorded them in any of these fields. What Ive seen over the years is very much a narrowing of the focus of government, and its acting as an impediment.
If we look at the other area that the Yukon was developed on and survived on without very much in the way of federal government assistance the mining industry. Yet restriction after restriction has been placed in front of the mining industry. Not only the placer mining but the hard rock industry. Its interesting to note a comparison. We can look at the Yukon and we can look at our neighbouring jurisdictions in the Northwest Territories and we can look to the west to Alaska. The mining industry in Alaska was over $1 billion gross last year, Mr. Speaker, and those were real dollars. Those were U.S. dollars.
And 84 percent of the mining industry in Alaska is owned and operated by Canadian mining companies, and yet Canadian mining companies have abandoned the Yukon because of the uncertainty surrounding our process because of the uncertainty that, at the end of the day, they may or may not get a permit. And what we have to do as a government is restore investor confidence here in the Yukon. Its going to be an uphill battle. Its going to be a hard task, and its not going to be easily accomplished, because it has taken a decade or so to destroy that well, not really a decade. We only have to look back to the previous Yukon Party government to see exploration $40, $50, $60 million a year, Mr. Speaker taking place here in the Yukon. And current levels? Well, we might get to $6 million or $9 million. Thats the order of magnitude of change, and it all flows from the lack of investor confidence.
And yes, the Yukon Party was well-received at the Cordilleran Roundup last year, and yes, were hopeful there will be more mining and mining exploration taking place this coming season, but its not going to be an easy task to continue to demonstrate to the mining industry that the rules are going to remain constant and the regulations are going to remain constant and that the companies have hope that, if they invest here, they will see a return on their investment.
Money knows no political boundaries. It moves to where it can achieve the best rate of return. Canada and Canadians are renowned for their ability at mining. Unfortunately, its taking place in most other areas of the world Australia, Africa, Alaska, the Lower 48 and its interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that many of these areas and countries have environmental regulations that are stricter than what we have here in Canada.
One has to ask whats the difference, and the difference is really only the fact that there is a process in place that works. At the end of the day, you get a yes or no.
Mr. Speaker, the environmental side of the equation is where the previous two governments have taken most of the thrust and direction of the government, and I would be of the opinion that if you asked any Yukoner what their thoughts were on parks that we would all support these initiatives, but lets not be so na´ve as to support parks exclusively at the expense of every other opportunity. We now will be having areas that are closed to recreational activity. In fact, you wont be able to even walk on some of these areas if the full force and effect of the management plans come into place. You probably wont be able to take your snowmachine in there. In some areas, theyre looking at putting a little gravel path down, and thats the only place you can walk or go. As a Yukoner, I really dont think that thats where we intended this process to end up. So were going to have to have a renewed opportunity to look at these areas, Mr. Speaker, and come to a different conclusion than what we have so far.
The equation is going to have to be balanced, and the leader of the official opposition mentioned in his closing remarks "balance." And I have to agree with him. It is all about balance; its all about that pendulum swinging, but it has to be in the centre. If we can achieve this balance, Mr. Speaker, were going to have a renewed economy. It will take awhile. Its not going to happen overnight. There will be opportunities for all of us and our families and a renewed interest in the Yukon.
A renewed interest that will probably allow my family members to return to the Yukon to find work. I dont think theres a month that goes by when I dont run into a friend, colleague or family member who is having to move somewhere else to find work. Thats not a great way to start but this Yukon Party is going to tackle the hard issues and we have done so. We will be continuing to do so in a manner that is going to restore that investor confidence, going to achieve a balance between the environment and the economy, and going to allow the resource-extraction industries to become more actively involved here in the Yukon.
Some of the other remarks that I was very uncomfortable with that came from the official opposition had to deal with questions arising out of newspaper articles this was read in the newspaper, that was read in the newspaper. Ive learned a couple of things in my 20-odd years in political life I guess its approaching 30, Mr. Speaker. Number one, you never argue with anyone who has a barrel of ink, and number two, dont accept as being 100-percent gospel anything that is written in a newspaper. I think if we all adopt those kinds of understandings of those areas, we might all be better off as elected officials.
But I can understand the official opposition using those sections that kind of taint the picture one way or the other.
At the end of the day, the policies, platforms and budgets that will be presented by the Yukon Party government will succinctly lay out where were heading, what were up to and how we propose to rebuild the Yukon economy, provide opportunities, once again, for all of us and for our families.
Mr. Speaker, we have gone through many cycles, up and down, in the economy of the Yukon over the years, and Im hopeful that we have bottomed out. If we get much lower, there wont be a justification to keep as many of us here in this Legislature that we currently have. There has to be some justification for even having a government for 30,000 people. Given that 30,000 individuals could fit into a small suburb of any major Canadian city, we can only be thankful for the federal government transfers to the Yukon so we can carry out the programs and policies for which we are mandated.
Mr. Speaker, with the Speech from the Throne the initial document that our government put forward more insight will be provided to the official opposition and the third party upon dovetailing it with the budget, which our Premier will provide to this Legislature this Thursday, and when you put these two documents together, you will probably come to a greater understanding of how were going to achieve what we have spelled out in our platform.
Now, with respect to our platform, there is an expectation that we have been in power for 90 days tomorrow and that everything should change bing, bing, bing. Its going to take us a little while to get around to a number of issues, but one thing is for sure, that the spending trajectory that the Government of Yukon was on is not sustainable. I know in my department alone, Health and Social Services, the spending trajectory was $7 million to $10 million a year for the past seven budget cycles that, in light of a declining population; that, in light of no one receiving basically a 50-percent raise in the last seven years at least Im not aware of anyone who has. But thats what it amounts to. Were spending half again today on health and social services than what was spent when I was first elected to this Legislature.
The Yukon Party government will be doing its utmost to support NGOs in the same manner as they were supported financially last year by the Department of Health and Social Services. From there, were awaiting word on how the breakdown of the new money for health and social services is going to flow to Yukon. We hear there is over $60 million for north of 60; $20 million for the Yukon. The question that has yet to be answered is, over how many years?
If its over one year, thatll be fantastic. If its over two, well, not bad. Over three, okay; five years, were just keeping up with the escalating cost of providing health care.
Its a daunting task to address the fiscal responsibilities of the day, and every new government, when they come into power, cries poverty. I dont believe its the way we should proceed, to cry poverty. Well carefully and accurately lay out the finances of the Government of the Yukon and clearly demonstrate and show where the money has been going the last number of years. One can only conclude that the spending trajectory cannot be sustained.
We have quite a number of other areas were going to be concentrating on, as a government. Some of them were touched on briefly in the throne speech but, as I said earlier, once the throne speech is dovetailed into the Yukon Partys O&M and capital budgets, youll clearly see where we are headed and what our government is doing.
The lights are back on in the Yukon, and were open for business, once again. Were hopeful that we can sustain that initiative. The downside of being so reliant on federal government funding is that we can expect a census adjustment in due course, the extent of which we do not know.
If it comes in at the low end of what it is targeted as, we will be okay. Anything more than that, Mr. Speaker, and weve got some tough decisions to face as a government.
Mr. Speaker, Im very hopeful that this new 31st Legislative Assembly will see a new spirit of co-operation among all members. Lets put our best foot forward and see what we can accomplish together. Now, I recognize the role of the opposition is to hold the government accountable, and I encourage the opposition to be cognizant of that responsibility, because it is a very big responsibility. And listening to your constituents is probably the area where youll have the most input. We only have to look, Mr. Speaker, at the size of the government bureaucracy here in the Yukon and its power. Its a very, very powerful bureaucracy, because if you look at the last three or four elections, theyve basically fired their bosses. Thats where were at. So if anyone knows whats going on and how things are happening, there are quite a number of individuals within the bureaucracy who certainly have a handle on it. And it is a very capable group of individuals, Mr. Speaker, that I and my colleagues certainly look forward to working with for quite some time to come.
Mr. Speaker, the other initiatives that our government is embarking on deal with not just the First Nations in the southeast Yukon but all across the Yukon. I mentioned earlier where were heading and what were up to, but that area cannot be underemphasized as an initiative that can stand us all in very good stead in short order. We only have to look at what has transpired in the Northwest Territories. The N.W.T. was, for a number of years, quite controversial in its approach to development, and the development was taken over in a number of areas by very capably administered First Nation companies. They have been very, very successful.
Now, Im not suggesting First Nation initiatives preclude any of the existing firms and organizations here in the Yukon, but theres an opportunity on not just traditional lands but all Yukon lands for joint ventures and partnerships that can do nothing but enhance the economic opportunities for all Yukoners.
We went through the issue of parks. Opportunities abound there, Mr. Speaker mining and resource extraction. Another part of the resource extraction equation we havent touched on is the forestry. We have quite a sustainable amount of timber that could be harvested but, given the federal government initiatives to just let the bugs kill it or the fires burn it, were going to have to have an opportunity to revisit this area, and it can only enhance economic opportunities for all Yukoners.
Some of the best stands of timber are in southeast Yukon yes. But until theyre harvested on a sustainable basis, benefits will not accrue to the same extent as leaving that stand of trees there.
Mr. Speaker, there are also the tremendous reserves of oil and gas. We have two producing wells in southeast Yukon, but the potential is great for further development of additional wells. But there are a number of issues that have to be resolved with our First Nation partners in that area in order for any more gas to come into the market.
We only have to look over the border in the southwestern part of the N.W.T. to see a reserve of gas that has been uncovered there. And gas reserves do not stop at a political boundary; they extend under it. We have known reserves just off the Dempster Highway, in the Eagle Plains area not just of oil, but gas. The trick is to get that product to market. We cant leave it in isolation.
We probably have an opportunity here to see the development of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, which seems to be the industrys choice of late as to which route theyre going to be taking. We might have an opportunity to move our oil and gas from Eagle Plains up to Inuvik and down the Mackenzie Valley. Its an opportunity. We could have been proposing that the Dempster lateral go in in concert with the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, and that would have brought Canadian gas to market. Instead, a few years ago, we were accused, in opposition, of not supporting the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, which we certainly were.
But you dont put all your eggs in one basket, especially when its a very fragile basket. You kind of have to sit and analyze which has the greatest chance of coming to fruition, because either way, Yukon can gain. There are probably more gains to be made, ultimately, with the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline than the Mackenzie Valley pipeline, but we are a supply route through the Yukon up the Dempster.
Just a year or so ago, I think the number was around 70 percent of the loads entering the Yukon and going across the weigh scales in Watson Lake were headed up the Dempster Highway to the Northwest Territories 70 percent of the loads. That in itself should give you an indication of the order of magnitude and potential we have to service that industry. Im hoping that we can see those benefits flow to the Yukon in very short order, Mr. Speaker.
Roads to resources are in themselves very, very instrumental in our development, and the Dempster Highway was such a highway. It was a road to resources, envisioned back in the 1950s, opened in the 1970s. Other roads to resources could be a road in southeast Yukon. Im hopeful that well see that road in due course, Mr. Speaker, but it will only be undertaken with the cooperation of all who are involved.
Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day, these roads to resources can be very beneficial and very much engine drivers in our economy.
Mr. Speaker, what I am hoping for is that this balance can be achieved between the environmental responsibilities and resource extraction. And yes, as the member from the opposition ranks pointed out, there is quite an imbalance now. It is our partys position that we are going to bring the scales properly into balance by undertaking resource extraction in an environmentally friendly manner for the enhancement and betterment of all Yukoners.
Speaker: One minute left.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. How time flies.
Mr. Speaker, in conclusion, Id like to thank all of my colleagues in the Yukon Party for their support, and I look forward to this term of office because we are in a position where, with a cooperative effort, we can make effective, efficient changes in a positive manner, and we will do so to the best of our ability.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Before I go into my reply to the throne speech, I would like to say mahsi cho to the people of Old Crow, to my family and friends who supported me in the election, and for their support and confidence in me that I may be able to represent them in this House today, and I am most honoured to do so.
I represent the community of Old Crow, which has a population of approximately 280. Its a small community that is situated along the Porcupine River.
The people in Old Crow still live a traditional way of life. Some of the jobs that the people have in the community are through our administration office in the community. Our First Nation is a self-governing First Nation.
In this throne speech, Vuntut Gwitchin is mentioned more than once. When I hear that term "Vuntut Gwitchin", to me it means strong leadership at a small community level. And at that community-level leadership, we have a long-term vision for our people. It has always been like that ever since I can remember as a young child growing up in our community. The leaders of the day have always had at least a 10-year vision of where we want to be 10 years from now.
I have learned in the past few years that our name sounds really good. "Vuntut Gwitchin" is a strong word for me, but some other people pay lip service to the word for whatever it means to them. They use our strong leadership for photo ops.
We have a vision for our people. We want to move forward and we want to make progress. We have to be creative in order to do that. There are very few jobs and job opportunities for the young people in our community, and weve taken those initiatives into our own hands. We talk about that document that was presented to Prime Minister Trudeau 30 years ago. Our leaders took that document and in the end they signed an agreement that was well-thought-out by our elders.
We have a traditional territory that is vast and pristine, and we care about our traditional territory. It means a lot to our people. We take our leadership very seriously, and especially in this day and age when we need to make progress, we need to meet our goals that weve set out.
A year ago there was a plan presented to the government of the day for our community. We called it our community development plan. Old Crow, believe it or not, is growing, and we have the community situated in a very limited space so we need to look at other areas.
In order to do that, there are other issues that we need to address. You talk about partnership, and we need partnership with the government of the day. We brought that plan forward, and I believe that plan is in todays governments hands. The chief of my community has met with the Premier, and they know what the vision is, and they know where we want to go in the next 10 years. Its not only for the community but also for the children of our community.
Mr. Speaker, the time being 5:55, I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on Motion No. 18 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 5:56 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 3, 2003:
Public Accounts of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2002 (Fentie)
Auditor General: Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2002 (Speaker Staffen)
Election financing returns for the November 4, 2002 general election: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer (Speaker Staffen)
Deductions from the indemnities of Members of the Legislative Assembly made pursuant to subsection 39(6) of the Legislative Assembly Act: Report of the Clerk of the Yukon Legislative Assembly (dated February 27, 2003) (Speaker Staffen)
Together We Will Do Better: Election 2002 Yukon Party Platform and Commitments (Hardy)