Whitehorse, Yukon

Wednesday, March 5, 2003 — 1:00 p.m.

Speaker: I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.

Prayers

DAILY ROUTINE

Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.

Tributes.

TRIBUTES

In recognition of Frank Turner and Yukon Quest

Hon. Ms. Taylor: At this time, I would just like to ask all members in this House to provide a very warm welcome to a long-time Yukoner and pioneer, dog musher — call it what you will — Mr. Frank Turner, as well as the president of the Yukon Quest Board of Directors, Claire Festel and Stephen Reynolds, the events and marketing manager for the Quest. Please join with me in providing a warm welcome.

Applause

Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my government colleagues, I rise to pay tribute to the Yukon Quest and to a very long-time Yukoner, pioneer Mr. Frank Turner. 2003 marked the 20th year of running the world’s toughest international sled dog race, the Yukon Quest. Twenty years is quite an accomplishment for any organization. It’s even more of an accomplishment for an organization that is composed of volunteers operating in a wilderness setting in two separate nations.

Simply put, it takes leadership, management, teamwork and a group of dedicated individuals to hold an international event such as the Yukon Quest. Considering the amount of planning, fundraising, promotion and logistical work that needs to be completed each year, it becomes an even greater testament to the passion of the Quest crews on both sides of the border.

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank everyone who has ever devoted his or her time, efforts and talents to this race. All have contributed to the past 20 years of success and, of course, to all the sponsors and to the board of directors who, each year, help to make this very race possible.

The Yukon Quest represents a reflection of how we see ourselves as northerners — strong, resilient, practical and enduring. Through the mushers and their dog teams, we see the qualities that make northerners unique and one-of-a-kind. Specifically, Frank Turner is one of those unique and resilient Yukoners.

At this time, it gives me great honour and privilege to recognize Frank Turner for his contributions to the Yukon Quest for the past 20 years, and to his personal promotion of dog mushing and dog care in the territory. Frank has participated by mushing in all the past 20 Quests. In those races, he has achieved many accomplishments. In 1995, he was successful in winning the Yukon Quest in a race course record of 10 days, 16 hours and 20 minutes, which still holds today.

Frank has also set the standards for dog care on the trail and has been acknowledged by receiving the Vets’ Choice Award. Frank is a true supporter of the Yukon Quest and will be for many years to come. His commitment to dog mushing in the Yukon is being formally acknowledged in this Legislature today.

We wish Frank all the very best as he begins his retirement from the race and marks a new trail to follow.

The Yukon Quest Board would like to acknowledge Mr. Frank Turner by not accepting his retirement but by thanking him for his many years of dedicated dog mushing.

Frank has set a high standard for mushers to follow and indeed will be missed along the trail.

Again, Mr. Speaker, congratulations to Frank Turner and to the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race for 20 outstanding years.

Thank you.

Applause

Mr. McRobb: As Tourism critic for the official opposition, I am very pleased to add our voice to the tribute today to the Yukon Quest Board of Directors and to Frank Turner.

One of our premier winter events is the Yukon Quest. All Yukoners know that it has really paved the way for other winter events, like the Silver Sled that will be happening this weekend in Haines Junction, and so on, to really make the Yukon a year-round attraction. The board of directors has faced many challenges over the years, especially in recent times, and all Yukoners owe them a debt of gratitude for the hard work and perseverance they have shown so that this event can continue today and in years ahead.

The Quest is a prime symbol of the tenacious spirit of Yukoners and honorary Yukoners like Hans Gatt from Atlin. No one epitomizes that spirit better than the only musher who has competed in every single Yukon Quest — my friend, our friend, Frank Turner, who is, as mentioned, in the gallery today.

I’ve always been impressed with Frank’s ability to know the names of all his dogs. I visit him at his place and he knows their history and it’s really interesting to listen to Frank talk about his dogs as if they’re part of his family. I think that’s what they are — part of his family. Frank has also brought an aspect to not only the Yukon Quest but the whole sport of dogsled racing, and that is care of your animal. Frank really stands above the rest in that regard.

Good luck to you, Frank. And to all mushers, handlers, vets, race officials, Canadian Rangers and many, many volunteers, thanks, congratulations and happy trails next year and in the years ahead.

Thank you.

Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, it’s an honour to rise to pay tribute to the Yukon Quest Board of Directors, president and to Frank Turner.

The Quest is a challenge to all who partake in it. It’s a badge of honour for the media who have had the privilege of following and being part of the race. Adam Killick deserves congratulations for his recent book about the Yukon Quest. Organizationally, it’s a challenge. It’s not only an international event, but it’s a volunteer event and, as has been noted already, it’s a tremendous accomplishment for all of those who are involved.

It’s interesting to recognize the Quest as a volunteer event, because that’s how I met Frank Turner. It was in my capacity as a volunteer Girl Guide leader that Frank persuaded me — with not too much persuasion — and others to have my group of Girl Guides make dog booties for one of Frank’s trips on the Yukon Quest.

Since that time, Frank and I have been friends, and I have noted and, as all Yukoners have, shared in his passion for the Yukon Quest. You can’t spend a moment with Frank without having him compare whatever you are currently facing in your life to his journey on the Yukon Quest.

And it has been a journey for him — a journey of life. Traditionally, at the end of a journey in the guiding and scouting movement, as people will know, there’s a symbol that we leave — "Gone home". I’d like to say, because I think the Quest will always be part of Frank Turner, and Frank will always be part of the Quest, not "gone home", but "welcome home", and congratulations, Frank.

Applause

Speaker: Introduction of visitors.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Cardiff: I’d like the House to join me in welcoming the students from Yukon College who are sponsored by Youth Services Canada, and their instructors, Ria Tromp and Tracy-Lynn Langille.

Applause

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I also would like to welcome the students. It’s a pleasure to have you here and I hope to see you here many more times in the future.

Thank you.

Applause

Hon. Mr. Hart: I’d like to introduce a long-time Yukoner, Mrs. Betty Taylor, who is in the gallery.

Applause

Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?

TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS

Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have for tabling the Yukon Heritage Resources Board Annual Report for 2001-02.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have for tabling the Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 32nd Annual Report, 2001-02 and the Yukon Teachers’ Staff Relations Board 28th Annual Report, 2001-02.

Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?

Are there any petitions?

Are there any bills to be introduced?

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 27: Introduction and First Reading

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 27, entitled Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 27, entitled Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 27 agreed to

Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?

Bill No. 28: Introduction and First Reading

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 28, entitled Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 28, entitled Act to Amend the Fuel Oil Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 28 agreed to

Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?

Bill No. 31: Introduction and First Reading

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 31, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 31, entitled Act to Amend the Income Tax Act, be now introduced and read a first time.

Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 31 agreed to

Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?

Are there any notices of motion?

NOTICES OF MOTION

Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) in recent months, public debate in the Yukon on a number of important issues, particularly those involving resource development and the environment, has often been accompanied by inflammatory and insulting personal attacks on individuals and organizations;

(2) in a society as small as the Yukon, government has an obligation to set a standard for debate that does not encourage discord and disrespect among its citizens; and

(3) government also has a role to play in bringing people together to improve life in the Yukon through rational, positive discussion of important public issues, regardless of how contentious these may be; and

THAT this House urges the Yukon government to demonstrate leadership by providing opportunities for Yukon people who hold disparate views on economic and environmental issues to discuss and debate those issues in a mutually respectful, positive and solution-oriented manner.

Speaker: Are there any further motions?

Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that

(1) immunization clinics are a fundamental element of our Yukon health care;

(2) vaccinations of children and young adults against such diseases as meningitis, tetanus and polio and the flu vaccines for the elderly are currently offered free of charge;

(3) the cost of these vaccines has escalated dramatically in recent years, as the cost of health care has risen; and

(4) the Yukon Party promised Yukoners multi-level health care during the recent election campaign; and

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to ensure that vaccinations remain free to Yukoners.

Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:

THAT this House recognizes that

(1) every Canadian citizen deserves to receive adequate health care, regardless of where they live;

(2) the cost of maintaining the current level of health care in the Yukon has been increasing at an annual rate of $7 million to $10 million, while transfer payments from the Government of Canada have been decreasing;

(3) the Canada health and social transfer, which is based on per capita funding, does not address the specialized needs of the three northern territories that have small populations separated by vast distances and high transportation costs; and

(4) the recently negotiated health care fund, while a step in the right direction, will only cover the annual increases in health care costs; and

THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to work together with the three northern territories to develop a permanent pan-northern solution to address health care needs in the north.

Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?

Mr. Arntzen: I give notice of the following motion:

THAT it is the opinion of this House that there is a need to develop a government-to-government dialogue on justice matters between the Government of Yukon and the 14 Yukon First Nation governments; and

THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work collaboratively with all 14 Yukon First Nation governments on the administration of justice in the territory, in order to reduce the incarceration rate, develop rehabilitation programs and provide opportunities for communities to participate in the justice and corrections systems.

Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?

Are there any statements by ministers?

This then brings us to the Question Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re: Community development fund

Mr. McRobb: I’m sure we’ll get it all straight here before long.

As we heard yesterday, in the last few days of the election campaign, the now Premier and the MLA for Klondike made some very specific commitments of funding from the Yukon community development fund. These commitments were in writing, and they were signed by both MLAs.

I would like to remind the Premier and the minister of the famous immortal words of Robert Service, "a promise made is a debt unpaid". When this IOU comes due, is the Premier prepared to mark it "paid in full" whether or not the technical review committee recommends doing so?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I’d like to thank the member opposite for the eloquent quote. It’s always good to have that type of debate in this House, and I agree with him.

However, in this particular instance, all community development fund applications that conform to winter works guidelines have been assessed, dealt with, and the ones that conform have had the funding allocated to them. That is a commitment that we made in terms of the community development fund, and we will continue to carry out those types of commitments by using a process that is fair and equitable, beginning with soliciting those applications, having the technical review committee review those applications and award, where applicable, the necessary funding.

Mr. McRobb: I’m sorry, Mr. Speaker, but that did not answer the question. The Premier’s commitment was made to the board of directors of the Dawson City Arts Society and the Dawson campus committee of Yukon College. I’d like to make it clear that our party completely supports those two organizations, which are doing an excellent job of serving the people of Dawson City and the territory.

In fact, it was a previous NDP government that provided community development funding to renovate the Oddfellows Hall in Dawson City where the arts society offers much of its programming, which is very exciting and entertaining.

The principle in question is promising that community development fund money will go to certain projects before the approval process, and even the fund itself, is established. I’d like to know: how many other promissory notes did the Premier and his candidates write against the community development fund, and what is the dollar value of those commitments?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, first we must assume then that the member opposite has a CDF application on behalf of this group or society. That being the case, he should table that application. We’ve had our technical review committee solicit applications for the community development fund in the first phase from community governments and from First Nation governments. That process has been completed and, to date, we have gone through all those applications. Some 22 applications have been funded, well in excess of $1 million, creating 160 plus jobs for Yukoners, translating into thousands upon thousands of hours of person-work here in the territory. And we are not only enhancing community well-being through this fund but we’re also stimulating spending power where it’s so desperately needed.

Mr. McRobb: Well, I’d like to thank the Premier for another speech on last week’s news release, but I did not hear the answer to the question. How many projects are there outstanding and what are the dollar amounts of those projects for other applications? Perhaps the Premier can attempt to answer that one as well as my final supplementary.

The Premier has admitted to receiving $7-million worth of requests for the $3.5-million interim community development fund, yet the government chose to spend just over half the money available. A more suspicious person might conclude that the real reason could have something to do with political IOUs written to boost the vote count for political party candidates. Can the Premier tell us how much of the $1.5 million remaining in the interim community development fund will be showing up under a different line item in tomorrow’s budget to pay off promissory notes given during the election campaign?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Though I am very excited about announcing what’s in the budget, I will not do so until it’s tabled. That is standard procedure. Furthermore, we have had some $7-million worth of applications forwarded to the government. The technical review committee has gone through those applications. All that conform to the winter works phase of the community development fund have been dealt with accordingly. Those that were eligible have received their funding. That funding amount is quite significant, and it will greatly help Yukoners this year in their ability to find work and to have some much-needed monies to spend here in the territory.

This is a good thing, Mr. Speaker, and I would urge the member opposite that he should provide full disclosure for the Yukon public and make mention of the fact that we on this side of the House made offer to the members of the opposition to work with us, to collaborate with us on the community development fund winter works project and indeed the fire smart funding. They chose not to. The obvious reason why they chose not to is to sit on the sidelines and snipe away, but they could have been involved in a very meaningful way, Mr. Speaker, in joining with us, going out to solicit applications from Yukoners and help Yukoners through some difficult times. They chose not to.

We, on the other hand, proceeded, and the funding is now flowing.

Question re: Community development fund

Mr. Cardiff: That was quite the speech as well. I’d like to follow up with the Premier on the commitments he and the Member for Klondike made on March 29 as well. Part of that commitment to the Dawson City Arts Society and the Dawson campus of Yukon College was to restore funding for the College to the previous level. I’d like to know if the Premier signed any similar agreements with any other Yukon College campus committees, or is this exclusive to the Dawson campus?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, we are a government that is inclusive. I would urge the member to stay tuned. Tomorrow a lot of these things will be much clearer for the member, because we will be tabling the budget. Frankly, I think the members opposite are off on a red-herring chase here. We have conducted ourselves as we said we would. We have put the money toward winter works programming through the community development fund and fire smart since January. Since January of this year this government has allocated over $3 million toward winter works, fire smart and community development fund. It creates hundreds of jobs for Yukoners. That’s $3 million now flowing into the Yukon economy that wasn’t there pre-January of this year. I think that’s a good thing. And tomorrow we will table the budget and see more good things coming.

Mr. Cardiff: Well, that was just like the other answers we’ve heard today. I’m sure that the Premier of all the Yukon wouldn’t want to be accused of favouring one community over the other. We all recognize that Yukon College does an excellent job no matter where it is in the territory. Will the Premier now agree to provide the same assurance to other campus committees that he made to the Dawson committee that their funding will also be restored to the previous level?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, we have made a commitment to the Yukon public when it comes to college campuses and the training fund. That commitment is clear; it’s on the public record. We stand by that commitment. Tomorrow the budget will be tabled.

Mr. Cardiff: I thank the Premier for that answer.

The commitment made by the Premier and his colleague from Klondike clearly recognizes that education is a key for the future of the Yukon, of our youth and of society, and in that spirit I have one final question for the Premier about putting money where the noble words are.

When he tables the budget tomorrow, will it reflect the fact that education is the key for the future by fully restoring the community training trust fund to its previous level and increasing the Yukon College’s annual grant by at least $1 million?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for this line of questioning because it is truly evident that the New Democrats on that side of the House and we, as government on this side of the House, consider education to be of the highest priority. During the election, we made commitments to the Yukon public in this area. We stand by those commitments. Tomorrow the budget will be tabled. I would only ask the member opposite to exercise a little bit of patience — only a few more hours.

Question re: Fuel tax, elimination of

Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, my questions are for the Minister of Finance, and they relate to the bill that was introduced today regarding fuel taxes.

On June 6, 2000, in this Legislature and again on March 6, 2001, the Member for Klondike demanded that the Yukon government eliminate territorial taxes on gasoline and diesel fuel. He said, "Fuel prices are too high, and government should be part of the solution rather than continue to be part of the problem." The government today introduced legislation — and we understand from House leaders that the legislation is on its way to us — doesn’t mention eliminating the fuel tax for Yukoners.

When is the Yukon Party government going to, as the Premier said minutes ago, conduct themselves the way they said they would and eliminate the territorial fuel tax?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, nowhere in our commitment to the Yukon public during the election of November 2002 did we say we were going to eliminate the fuel tax. That is simply not a commitment that we made. The member opposite is obviously very, very well-versed at digging through reams and reams of Hansard and coming up with yesterday’s quotes. Unfortunately, that adds little in terms of constructiveness to the debate in this House. I think we have to look more forward, Mr. Speaker.

As far as the cost of fuel, it is of the gravest concern to this government, but there has to be an understanding here that the federal government has to take the lead role in this regard. The federal government — and it is my understanding, or at least I have been led to believe — is going to formulate a committee to look into fuel pricing in this country. And they have to look at the most important element of fuel pricing — refinery gate or rack pricing. That is what impacts most of our fuel costs. And we in the north obviously experience a very difficult time in dealing with those fuel costs.

And that’s another reason why the pioneer utility grant is a commitment we made, and we’re raising it to 25 percent, as we committed to do. That will become evident in due course.

Ms. Duncan: It’s fascinating to me that the Premier and Minister of Finance has just stood on the floor of this House and said that commitments made by the Member for Klondike aren’t worth the Hansard they’re printed on. That’s what the Premier just stood on the floor of this House and said. It’s becoming clear that the commitments made by the Yukon Party are not intended to be kept by the Yukon Party.

The Member for Klondike is one of the worst offenders in this regard. He promised to consult with seniors before moving them. He didn’t. He promised to consult on appointments to Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. He didn’t. He promised seniors would get a pioneer utility grant. The Premier just promised it moments ago. Seniors are still waiting for their cheques. We understand that the order-in-council was finally passed yesterday. How convenient, Mr. Speaker.

They pledged to spend $5 million in winter works. They delivered $3 million. The Member for Klondike promised in this House — and who knows how many members promised door to door — to eliminate the territorial tax on fuel. Instead, the Minister of Finance now says, "No, we’re not going to keep that commitment" and is opening —

Speaker: Ask the question.

Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker. Will the Premier live up to the commitments made by his party and his colleague and eliminate the territorial fuel tax, or not? Yes or no?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: If we had committed to the Yukon public during the election that we would eliminate the fuel tax, we would live up to it — we didn’t.

Somehow, the member opposite extrapolates a member in opposition asking the government of the day to do something on behalf of Yukoners as a commitment we made in the election. That’s not the case, Mr. Speaker. The commitments we made in the election are clear. They are on the public record; they’re in the platform, and nowhere have we committed to eliminating the fuel tax; therefore, I must disagree with the leader of the third party.

Ms. Duncan: The public record is Hansard, and the Member for Klondike is on the public record as committing to reducing — eliminating — the territorial tax on fuel. I’ve asked the Premier when, as Minister of Finance, he’s going to live up to that.

The fuel tax bill that was introduced today by the Premier does reduce fuel taxes for certain private sector groups in society — we’re told — sawmill owners and golf course owners. Can the Premier confirm that all members of his caucus and Cabinet who own shares in these types of businesses sold them before this decision was made by Cabinet?

Hon. Mr. Fentie: First off, the bill that was tabled today is in regard to specific entities in the Yukon that do not use the fuel they are buying on Yukon roads or highways, so they are eligible for a fuel tax exemption. That’s a given.

Secondly, I want to point out to the member opposite that, to add to the debate here in a constructive way, it would be advisable to fast-forward to today. What a member in opposition was asking a government of the day to do does not a commitment make by this government. Our commitments are clear; they’re on the public record.

Although the Member for Klondike may have asked the government sometime in the past in Hansard to eliminate the fuel tax, that does not mean that we, as a government — when we embarked on the election campaign in presenting to Yukoners what we would do if elected — made that commitment at all. It’s a request the member in opposition made of the government of the day.

So, I again stand by the statements. Our government has not committed to eliminating the fuel tax. Nowhere in the public record did we state that in the election. Nowhere in our platform is it written. We’re simply not going to do it at this time.

We realize, though, Mr. Speaker, that there is a problem with the cost of fuel. We want to see the federal government take the lead, address the issue, most importantly, at the refinery gate and rack pricing. That has the biggest impact on fuel cost across this country.

Question re: Protected areas strategy

Mrs. Peter: Yesterday the Minister of Environment left the impression in this House that special management areas would adequately protect the ecoregions of the Yukon. Does the minister have some understanding of chapter 10 of the Umbrella Final Agreement?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly the special management areas will be a very big part of the solution. Whether it will be a total solution, of course not. But until these areas are identified and we look at this entire picture and all stakeholders, it’s difficult to give any final answers. But certainly they’re part of it.

Mrs. Peter: I would just like to keep these messages clear. The Umbrella Final Agreement sets up special management areas as negotiated with each First Nation. The Yukon protected areas strategy is a result of extensive consultation throughout the Yukon. It is derived from the international and national agreements signed long ago by the Yukon and all provinces in Canada, with the objective of observing biodiversity worldwide.

Special management areas were not designed to completely respond to the need to protect biodiversity in the Yukon. Why is the minister attempting to substitute the protected areas strategy with a land claims special management area?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The easy answer to that, of course, is that we’re not. This is an integral part of the process; it is not the entire process.

Until such time as we know exactly what the process is, what all the stakeholders wish and where we want to go, the potential for these various things — including national parks, which I believe the member opposite forgot to add to her list — all of these have the potential of conflicting. We would rather do it right once than to do it many times piecemeal.

Mrs. Peter: Special management areas cannot be substituted for protected areas as defined in the Yukon protected areas strategy. Why is the minister trying to piggyback on special management areas and avoid honouring his government’s commitment to establish a Yukon protected areas strategy?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Special management areas are certainly a part of the conclusion of land claims negotiations for a number of different groups. Again, I would say that they are not totally replacing anything. They are simply a part of it, and sometimes a conflicting part of it. We wish to do it right the first time, to do it properly. I would remind the member opposite, too, that many of the special management area negotiations are just that — under negotiation — and probably best not discussed at this time.

Question re: Devolution, potential staff layoffs

Mr. Hardy: Interesting non-answers coming from the other side. I thought we had moved on and we were going to have a different type of debate in here but it seems so many non-answers are indicating that we’ve all slipped back into a behaviour that people of the Yukon had expressed a desire not to see again.

But I do have a question for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission — and he can relax, it’s not going to be about the whistle-blower legislation, or the vanishing one, or whatever you want to call it.

On January 17, I wrote to the minister asking for a breakdown of all positions in the Yukon territorial government workforce according to a variety of categories, and he responded with a very detailed list. I appreciate that; it was very good.

However, the reply didn’t answer the other half of my request. My question is: will the minister tell me when I can expect a letter outlining the number of vacant positions in the YTG workforce as of December 31?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, I could probably have that information to you in the very near future.

Mr. Hardy: I’m sure you appreciate the importance of this information in terms of measuring this government’s commitments to the public — very public commitments during the election — and to all the people who are in the workforce who work for the government. It will be interesting to see how the numbers match up the next time we ask for information. After tomorrow’s budget I may ask again to see what the comparison is, or after devolution on April 1.

Now, the Premier has promised there will be no layoffs as a result of devolution, yet the words of several members opposite, especially the ones coming out of the Minister of the Environment with regard to the environment, make it clear that certain government programs maybe or are on the chopping block.

Will the minister provide his assurances that this government’s abandonment of the Yukon protected areas strategy won’t reduce the number of positions earmarked for current federal employees who are expected to join the YTG Environment department?

Speaker: I presume that question was addressed to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission?

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: But I’d like at this point to make something very clear here. I am a spiritual believer. I take pride in honouring the traditional law, which incorporates caring, sharing, respect and patience. I can assure this House today that, being that person, I will never make any sporadic decision that is going to hurt or make it difficult for a family to put food on its table.

Thank you.

Mr. Hardy: I didn’t really get an answer to that, though I do appreciate and recognize the sincere statements of being a spiritual person. I am too. Many people are spiritual persons and yet there are spiritual wars as well, and that’s something we have to be aware of — that our past, even when we’re spiritual, has not been so fine.

The other department that is supposed to be absorbing a number of federal employees is Economic Development. We have already seen this government reduce its efforts regarding a potential Alaska Highway route for a northern gas pipeline, Mr. Speaker. In fact, the Premier has more or less admitted that we should be content with the crumbs that fall from the other pipeline — N.W.T.’s table — Mackenzie Valley.

Will the minister provide assurance that this government’s reduced focus on the Alaska Highway pipeline won’t result in fewer jobs being available for federal employees who are expected to join the Economic Development department?

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It appears to me that this line of questioning may be more or less focused on the devolution process that’s happening, and at this point in time this government has no intention whatsoever of laying anybody off or diminishing any kind of workforce within the government.

Question re: Macaulay Lodge, closure of

Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.

When the minister first announced that he was putting Macaulay Lodge residents out of their home on very short notice, it was because of the building’s structural problems. Then the story changed. It was because the Thomson Centre wasn’t ready for them to move in to, and he had to act quickly so that Macaulay Lodge could be bulldozed and the site used for a new seniors complex. And for some reason, this all had to happen in this coming building season.

What discussions had the minister or his departmental officials held with any groups outside the government about using the Macaulay Lodge site for this purpose, and when did those discussions begin?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Discussions took place with a number of stakeholder groups representing the seniors during late January and February.

Mr. Fairclough: Obviously the minister made decisions. He found out that some of them were not the right ones. We’ve seen the minister backtrack now on different issues, and there seems to be some sort of secrecy surrounding this whole matter. The minister has admitted that Macaulay Lodge still has a good 10 years’ worth of life left and was prepared to tear it down so that someone else could have that site.

Will the minister table any written agreements that exist between Government of Yukon, the Yukon Housing Corporation and any other group outside of government with respect to using the Macaulay Lodge site for a new structure? Would he do that?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It’s a very moot point that the member opposite raises. There’s no move of Macaulay Lodge residents in level 1 or level 2 care. There is a report that was prepared by Yukon Housing Corporation on retrofitting Macaulay Lodge, and I will provide the member opposite with a copy of that report.

Mr. Fairclough: But the minister did have a plan, and he announced a plan that was written up in the paper, and we on this side of the House would like to know who has been talked to by his department, by the minister. This doesn’t seem to be the way governments should be operating and conducting business.

What about proposals, for example? What about a tender for work design? Have we seen that? What about all the other steps that are a normal part of a building project within government? If these processes aren’t followed, then certainly that brings uncertainty to developers out there.

I’d like to ask the minister to clarify this a little. Who are the players involved in this rush to bulldoze Macaulay Lodge? I know he has a report to table here for us, but we’d like to know who was involved to bulldoze Macaulay Lodge, and what the government’s terms were for allowing this publicly owned site to be used for a completely different purpose.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, here we go again, Mr. Speaker. It’s written in the newspaper, so it’s got to be the truth — the 100-percent accurate rendition of what is going on in the Yukon and what government is doing. It’s a sad day for Yukoners when we take what’s printed and convey that as government policy. The written record of what transpires in this Legislature is recorded in Hansard, and that’s where it’s at.

With respect to the Yukon Housing Corporation review of Macaulay Lodge that I have agreed to provide to the member opposite, it clearly spells out where the Yukon Housing Corporation was heading. They were going to recreate in that building bed-sit rooms. The cost of creating them was more or less open-ended, in that the cost projections were close to $1,000 per square metre to retrofit a 30-year-old building when you can pretty well buy a new building for the same price. So, that was the dilemma government was faced with. But I’d encourage the member opposite, after he receives the report, to analyze it in detail, and he might have some more questions about the logic, as to where we were heading.

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will now proceed to Orders of the Day.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONEadjourned debate

Clerk: Motion for an Address and Reply to the Speech from the Throne moved by Mr. Cathers; adjourned debate, Ms. Duncan.

Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to continue in my response to the Speech from the Throne. As I indicated in my opening remarks yesterday, it’s a privilege to rise in this House on behalf of the residents of Porter Creek South, and I am humbled and honoured by the trust they have placed in me.

I’d like to extend my thanks to my family and my extended family, the residents of Porter Creek South, who offer me their faith and their support. And my heartfelt thanks to the volunteers who worked on my campaign and on behalf of the Yukon Liberal Party.

I noted yesterday that the Speech from the Throne is a road map, that it should contain the clear signposts that outline in which direction a government is proceeding. It’s a look to the future. I also noted yesterday afternoon the inordinate length of time it took for this throne speech to arrive in the Legislature. Given this time period, I expected more.

The devolution bashing in the throne speech is a good example. In one place in the throne speech, the government makes reference to ensuring the Umbrella Final Agreement and each land claim agreement in the Yukon become living, working documents. That is as it should be and as every government, every Yukoner, aspires it to be. The Yukon Act — duly negotiated, signed and passed by the House of Commons and the Senate — including the Yukon devolution transfer agreement, should be considered in the same way.

Just as we aspire to ensure that the land claim agreements and the Umbrella Final Agreement are living, working documents, so should all candidates have aspired prior to and on November 4. The challenge before whoever was elected on November 4 was to make sure the devolution transfer agreement and the Yukon Act were implemented — that they became living, working documents.

Devolution negotiations began in earnest under a Yukon Party regime. During the NDP government the talks continued. Then government leader Piers McDonald, recognizing the importance of devolution to Yukoners, was very statesmanlike. He ensured briefings were offered to every opposition leader in this Legislature, as each milestone on the agreement was reached. He asked each leader to travel with him to Ottawa to further the discussions prior to leaving office.

As Premier, I continued that practice. The offer of briefings and information to both other leaders in the House continued. Unfortunately, they were consistently refused. The outstanding issues under the McDonald government were fire suppression, the transfer of employees and environmental remediation. First Nations were involved in the devolution transfer negotiations and party to the negotiations by virtue of an accord signed in 1998. During our term in office, negotiation continued in these areas. The transfer of employees had to be negotiated within guidelines agreed to by the federal government employees union and the Treasury Board. Negotiators met and exceeded these standards in every instance, and offers were made. The transfers and offers were not without their difficulties. Change is always difficult; however, it’s important to note that these guidelines agreed to by a union and the federal Treasury Board were exceeded. All employees should always be treated with dignity and with respect.

Individual meetings were encouraged between managers and potential employees. The issue was not with the DTA. Forest fire suppression, instead of being a one-time transfer and now, "It’s your problem," was negotiated and a better deal was arranged. It’s a five-year arrangement in the devolution transfer agreement. Now we aren’t left with the what-if-we-have-one-bad-fire-year scenario. We’re not in that situation. We have a five-year agreement.

Regarding the environment and environmental remediation: the principle Yukon held to and the principle in the devolution transfer agreement is if it occurred in Ottawa’s watch it’s Ottawa’s bill. Again, leaders were offered briefings. The Cabinet of the day and the caucus reviewed the devolution transfer agreement. First Nations expressed concern, and there are non-derogation clauses that have been discussed and are included. The Council of Yukon First Nations indicated by resolution that they supported the devolution transfer agreement.

Kwanlin Dun have indicated they do not oppose it. It’s mentioned in the throne speech that there are plans to challenge devolution in court. The government indicates that they have sole-sourced a contractor for $800 a day plus expenses, totalling $200,000, to put these plans on the shelf. There’s no indication in the throne speech that the Premier has reviewed any opinions, legal or otherwise, from anyone on these plans. There’s no indication how long — maybe — the case might be put into abeyance, or on the shelf, and there are no answers forthcoming from the Premier, and there’s no information in the throne speech or in the Legislature.

Again, Mr. Speaker, it’s hard for me to fathom, as a lifelong Yukoner who knows many members of other parties as individuals, and as fellow lifelong Yukoners, it’s hard for me to imagine that members of the Yukon Party agree with this course of action. It amazes me, with all the information that caucus could have and should have learned upon taking office on the devolution transfer agreement and the Yukon Act, that members of the Yukon Party who used to take credit for beginning devolution would agree or support this throne speech and the Premier’s sole-source contracts.

That $200,000 sole-source contract could have been spent on such issues as health care or education, which are also very near and dear to my heart, and they receive short shrift in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, I also noted yesterday that governing is never easy. It’s a task that should be undertaken honourably, and it’s a task that’s a challenge and should be carefully thought out. During the election campaign, members of the Yukon Party expected better from the members elected, and so did most Yukoners, I guess, expecting that together they would do better — it’s just another unfortunate promise.

Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to say that today I am very honoured to be here. Somewhat like one of the opposition members mentioned yesterday, it was sort of like a dream to maybe be in territorial politics someday, and I feel very, very honoured, I’d say again, to be here.

I would like to start out by saying that I am a very traditional person. I believe in the Creator’s law. I am going to give my response more or less from a traditional fashion as opposed to a conventional one. I would like today to recognize Lorraine Peter, the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, as traditionally she is a sister. And it is very rewarding for me to see a woman in the Legislature.

I would also like to acknowledge the hon. leader of the third party and the hon. Member for Whitehorse West, as I believe traditionally we like to have things in balance. It would have been much nicer to have seen more women in this Legislature; however, the voters determine who comes into this Legislature.

I would like to start now by saying that I have a lot of people to thank and I’m going to take the opportunity to do that now.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the Creator for the safe journey through the night. It is a good day to be alive, and I say that again because it is a good day to be here in this Legislature.

My Tahltan name is Kennèth and my English name is John. I am a member of the Wolf Clan. I am very grateful and honoured to be here responding to the throne speech and also representing the citizens from the riding of McIntyre-Takhini, and all Yukoners.

I have many people to thank and I will take this opportunity to start by thanking my parents, Grace and George Edzerza, who are no longer on this earth with us but will forever remain in my heart. If it were not for them, I would not be here today. I understand they are not here today in person but I believe they are here in spirit. In respect for my father, I will say today that his family, the Edzerzas, were the hereditary chieftains of the Tahltan Nation and he was the next-in-line for chief, but he chose to not accept that position, thus creating a democratic system within the Tahltan Nation, where they now have elections.

The next person I would like to thank is my wife, Jennifer. It was very important to have her support because we do make decisions together, and I respect her opinion. We both understand the commitments required by both of us, and we decided to take on the challenge. I greatly appreciate her understanding and support.

It is with great appreciation and heartfelt warmth that I extend a great thank you to all my family members and friends who helped me throughout my campaign. It was amazing to me how many new friends I made and how they took it upon themselves to help me. I felt very honoured. It did not matter whether it was to put up signs, pass out flyers or knock on doors with me; they were there, and I thank them for that and their dedication.

It is appropriate at this time to also personally thank the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I also appreciate all the help and support I received from members of the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. I was overwhelmed by their loyalty and desire to voluntarily put my campaign signs up on their houses and to participate in campaigning for me. Their help was greatly appreciated.

I would like to end by thanking all the voters in the riding of McIntyre-Takhini who voted for me on November 4, 2002, and I also thank those who did not vote for me, as my respect for the people does not hinge on their support for me. I respect everyone.

I will make a commitment to represent you to the best of my potential. I also thank Premier Dennis Fentie for appointing me as Minister of Education and responsible for the Public Service Commission.

Mr. Speaker, I will make my comments to the throne speech, using the conventional and traditional methods. To explain what I mean by this, I have written some of my presentation, and some of it I will speak from the heart and tell it in a story like our ancestors used to do.

To speak from the heart is a traditional way of ensuring your word is good and is the truth. When one speaks from the mind, the decision may change, but when one speaks from the heart, the decision is forever. That is the traditional law.

A good friend of mine, Danny Joe, a well-respected elder, once said, "When you speak from the heart, you do not have to remember what you said." I have spent much time thinking about his words and the powerful message he gives. He is a very wise man who understands the traditional laws.

Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased to see included in the throne speech the promotion of unity between the First Nations and the non-First Nations of the Yukon Territory. I feel our government is on a positive track by promoting inclusion and not exclusion of First Nation people. This demonstrates our government does have the political will to work together for the best interests of all Yukoners.

It also lays the foundation needed to implement the land claims agreements that are finalized, and to make an honest effort to bring closure to the ones that are not.

In my opinion, this is crucial in order to advance with the much needed economic development in the Yukon Territory. Now I will speak from the heart in a more traditional way.

The document that was mentioned in the throne speech, Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, is a document that I have much respect for. I will now talk about a vision that I had with regard to that document. It is connection to FASD and FAE. For those who don’t know what those stand for, it’s fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and fetal alcohol effects on children. This story will, I hope, bring a more traditional twist to issues.

One of the traditional ways is to seek understanding. We must seek understanding before we can really move forward with any kind of decision. If you do not understand the issue, it’s very hard to move forward and find a positive solution. Today, when I talk about these two issues — we’ve all heard the medical diagnosis of these two very serious issues — today I want to sort of give a different diagnosis of these, and that is going to be from the social perspective of FASD and FAE.

In the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, it talks about the three comings of the non-native people to the Yukon Territory.

The first coming of the non-native person was with the fur traders. We’ll just say that happened somewhere in the 1800s. Now, when the fur traders came, there was a humungous impact on the First Nation people in the Yukon Territory. That impact was not all positive. There was a lot of negative with it. For one thing, different posts were established, like the Hudson’s Bay, and along with that came ingredients to be, able for example, able to make your own alcohol.

Along with the fur traders, there was also alcohol brought to the territory. When we think about that, we need to think about what effect that would have on people like First Nation people, who may not have had ready access to alcohol. So having said that, one can understand how the lives would start to change. That’s way back in the 1800s.

So then we move on to the gold rush days. Again, the document stated that there were thousands of people who came to their country. They came not only from the United States but from all over the world seeking their fame and fortune.

One can well appreciate how the Yukon was portrayed as a place of adventure, a place where there was daylight all night and you can party hearty night and day. Well, that was probably a real attraction for some people, and I believe that it was also a real attraction to First Nation people. Again, we must try to visualize what kind of impact this would create on people like, for example, our First Nation women and the non-First Nation women when the ratio of men to women is maybe 1,000 to 25. One can understand how vulnerable women would become in that scenario.

After talking to a lot of the elders, I believe it would not be an understatement to say that, yes, there was a lot of abuse of women in that era. At this point, I would like to say that I believe in equality for both men and women. Women have just as much right to party hearty as men do.

In the document, they talk about the third coming of the non-native person, and that was the building of the Alaska Highway. Now, when we think about that, and we need to think about all of these three different comings, the third one was very devastating to the people in this territory, especially the First Nation people.

In the document, there was one line I never forgot, and I have spent many hours thinking about it, where it said that one of the elders said that, overnight, 10,000 men came into our territory with no women of their own, and the last words they said were "no women of their own". Those words are vitally important for people to try to analyze and visualize exactly what that means.

Well, I have thought about it a lot, and I came to the conclusion that the elders were saying that their women were going to have a hard time because of all those men. I have to say today that, upon having numerous interviews with elders who were here at the time, they have confirmed that that’s exactly what happened — severe abuse of the women.

Now, Mr. Speaker, normally when you would hear a story like this, it would be up to the individual to decipher that material and try to find the teaching that came with that. I believe that what I got out of this story was a very clear understanding of the vulnerable position women were put into in the Yukon Territory. I have the greatest respect for the women and their ability to be able to still walk with their heads up, and I would like to suggest to everyone that we really look at these two issues of FASD and FAE and not look at it in a negative fashion toward our women.

Our women have the right as equals and it is just unfortunate that they are the ones who carry the fetus. Today I honestly believe that these three comings of the non-native person have to do with, or maybe have a lot to do with, why FASD and FAE have been mentioned so much in the public education system. These are innocent victims of what I believe to be a man-made disability.

So, we do have an awful lot of work ahead of us. I think we’ve had a couple of hundred years of enjoying the freeness of drinking and drugging, and now we have a great responsibility as a community and as a people to start really addressing the root causes, and we need to do it as a collective group and as a community.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as the minister responsible for Education and the Public Service Commission, I will make some comments with regard to these portfolios, but before I do that, I would like to thank the DMs and the staff in both departments for all the hard work they were put through to do all the briefings and to put a budget together in a very short time, compared to what it usually takes.

I thank them for their dedication.

First, let me say that education is about providing people with the knowledge, skills and abilities they need to participate effectively in their work and their communities and to be lifelong learners. We must understand and respect the fact that education is not the exclusive domain of the Department of Education but is an inclusive process. It is crucial that we all be involved and committed to supporting our schools, and we need to ensure that our communities do all they can to ensure that learning is maximized for Yukoners. However, we also need to ensure that our schools are sensitive to and representative of the communities they serve. They need to be flexible and adaptable while, at the same time, ensuring that the necessary competencies and skills are being acquired by their students. In my opinion, when we are meeting the needs of all Yukoners, this means we are respectful of those who want to pursue a professional career path in life or the ones who choose to take an alternate path in education.

Education is not all on the professional side. We have a large number of individuals who would be just as happy to be operating a grader, doing some plumbing or carpenter work.

Mr. Speaker, I would now like to talk a bit about aboriginal education. First, I will share with you what my thoughts are about aboriginal education and what it means to me. Aboriginal education systems were based on respect, sharing, caring, cooperation, patience and healing, to name a few things. These are all so important in order for one to progress in life and to obtain the traditional knowledge and education one needs to live a good life. In the traditional way, it was the duty of those with knowledge to pass it on, and it was the responsibility of the young to learn.

For example, I will tell you a story about the vest I am wearing today. When I talk about this vest I have on today, it’s just a demonstration again that education is knowledge, and education is not all about reading, writing and arithmetic. This vest I have on today was made by a lady from the Selkirk First Nation, and her name is Alice Joe. She’s a very good friend of ours, and when you look at the work that was put into this vest, I think it’s fair to say that not just anyone can walk off the street and produce this vest to this calibre. When you look at the artwork and the thought behind it and what’s on the back of it, everything resembles and respects something. She has a very artistic knowledge and the patience it must take to do a lot of this kind of beadwork, and to have it all turn out so beautiful at the end is in itself a real gift.

When we talk about the master’s degree in psychology or whatever, that’s important too. It’s important for one to be able to go through the educational system and come out being secure that they have learned and that they now possess something so valuable as a master’s degree, and we cannot take away from that master’s degree, just like we cannot take away from the traditional knowledge.

The traditional knowledge can go on, I think, well into many different areas of education. For example, a lot of our elders know how to find the medicine necessary right off the land. They never had the opportunity to walk to the drugstore and pick up something for blood poisoning. They found out that chewing the pitch from the trees, whether it’s spruce or jack pine, and applying that to an area that has been infected with blood poisoning, will clear that poison out. I know how valuable that kind of knowledge would be in the bush, and I think everyone else who knows anything about blood poisoning knows that you would die. If you were in the bush and did not have this knowledge, and you ended up with blood poisoning and couldn’t get to a pharmacist or a doctor, it would kill you.

However, their knowledge, just for that one thing, can save many lives. There are many things that incorporate into traditional education. But that’s the only example I’ll give for now.

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to say that it is my opinion that the barriers to education are behind us as well as in front of us. But I think the most difficult barriers are the ones behind us, and I will refer back again to something that was in the document Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. The mission schools were mentioned in there. Now, I have heard many times from First Nation people that we survived the mission schools. However, I believe we only survived them physically. I don’t believe we survived them mentally. Those mental deficiencies are what are causing us so many problems in trying to move forward today in education as First Nation people.

The mission schools did so much damage that I think it’s going to take many, many generations to ever overcome them. The ripple effects that they have had down through the generations are still as harmful to us today in the classroom as they would have been when they were actually in the mission schools.

I think that those barriers I talk about have to do with all the hard abuse that our people went through in the mission schools and, right to this day, many have never overcome it. One important thing to acknowledge here is the fact that there was never, ever any intervention into the lives of the people who were affected by all the abuse. And I have to say today that, when one goes through life without any intervention from abuses suffered as a child, one will grow up into society always wanting to be in control and not understanding anything about boundaries. I believe wholeheartedly that this has a lot to do with why such a high percentage of incarcerated people today are First Nation people.

I know today that the 10 year olds in the classroom are third generation of ripple effects from mission schools. So we are going to have a very difficult time trying to overcome these obstacles in society. Again, I will say that we have to somehow have the parents and the grandparents overcome their historical pasts before we are going to have much chance of moving ahead positively in the classrooms.

I recently went on a ministers’ trip to Quebec. When I was at that conference I brought it to the attention of the other ministers that — in my presentation I was able to ask the ministers across Canada to seriously look at approaching the federal government for new monies in education. The basis for requesting that new money was that the federal government recognized the damage that the mission schools did to the First Nation people. They recognized that damage by putting $350 million toward the Aboriginal Healing Foundation. They recognized the damage that happened by putting $170 million toward restoring First Nation languages that were lost at the residential schools.

Now I’m saying to the federal government, as a minister of education, that they need to look at the other end of the spectrum now. I think it’s true that the adults were affected, but it’s even more noticeable now in the classrooms that the children of the victims of residential schools were also affected. They are not getting the financial support to be able to rectify that — I would even go so far as to say that the disability that they’re experiencing today in the classroom is from the alcohol abuse.

I would also like to say today that, as a minister, I have started consultation with the Department of Education, the deputy minister and the appropriate staff to direct them in developing a strategic plan for advanced education. I’ve also instructed them to start developing a strategic plan for First Nation education. I believe that this kind of planning will produce some kind of product at the end of the day, and that’s what I’m looking for, as a minister.

I sincerely want to see progress made in education, and that’s not to say there never was any. It’s just to say that, in my term in this office, I hope to be able to record progress being made.

Now I will talk a bit about the Public Service Commission. The first thing I would like to say is that I am a traditional, spiritual person and I do respect, care, share, and I also have patience. I believe that every living species on this earth deserves respect. When it comes to the people, we are all equal. Being one who believes wholeheartedly in the traditional law, I say today that my best interest is to ensure that everyone who is employed at YTG will be able to come to work with no fear.

I’d like to say today that it’s in my heart to be able to be happy that the people who come to work at YTG are respected for their emotional feelings, their ability to do their job, and that they will be honoured and respected as individuals.

I would also like to say that, as minister, I will be promoting harmony, so that no one is going to feel threatened at their work.

Speaker: The member has two minutes.

Hon. Mr. Edzerza: And it is also important for my colleagues in this House to demonstrate their respect for all employees. I heard things about the devolution in the throne speech, and I will say today that with regard to the devolution, I cannot make comments about anything that’s in the negotiating process. However, I will say that not everything was as smooth as it could have been — and that’s not to discredit anybody that has been negotiating the devolution transfer agreement — and that the financial end is one place I had some concern, and that was because with all the employees coming over, the federal government was well aware that negotiations were coming to an end, and in the financial agreement there were no monies allotted for increments.

So having said that, when we negotiate the new contracts, YTG is going to have to bite the bullet for the additional expenses.

I want to thank you very much for listening to me.

Thank you.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Cardiff: I’d like the House to join me in welcoming Mr. Peter Stoffer, MP for Sackville-Musquodoboit Valley-Eastern Shore, on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia.

Peter is also the critic for fisheries and oceans, regional rural development, national parks, natural resources and tourism.

Applause

Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Speaker, I would personally like to offer my welcome to Peter, who was a great friend of my family and also a great supporter of Watson Lake.

Welcome, Peter.

Applause

Hon. Mr. Hart: You will have to forgive my voice. I’ll give it a try.

I’m honoured to rise here today to accept this opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne. This being my first address to the Legislature, I would like to start by thanking the constituents of Riverdale South, who have elected me to represent them in the Legislature, for the trust they have placed in me to serve as their MLA.

The riding is a very diverse riding. Unlike the rural areas, at least it’s diverse in its people and its makeup in an urban concept. We go from single, detached dwellings to apartment residence. We are a densely populated area in a small space, and we have a wide variety of professionals, family content, as well as our demographics run the full range. During the campaign, I think I managed to get around the entire riding. Although I didn’t meet everybody, I did my best to touch base with all who are in the riding.

I view being elected as an opportunity to help change government for the better and to make government work for the people of the Yukon. I am reminded daily of what an honour and privilege it is to be entrusted with the responsibility and to be part of team Yukon.

I would also at this time like to thank and congratulate all the candidates who were successful in their candidacy for the House. And at this time I would also like to commend those who were unsuccessful and did run in their ridings. I think it’s important that they do, to offer the public an opportunity for an alternative and also to show what a great commitment it is to run for public office.

I would like to thank the many dedicated people who assisted the Yukon Party and me during the pre-election period, and I would especially like to thank those who assisted me during my own personal campaign. Their belief in the vision of the Yukon Party and what can be accomplished by this government is appreciated.

Mr. Speaker, I decided to run in this election when a number of good friends of mine were forced to leave the Yukon because they couldn’t find any employment here in the territory. They attempted to obtain various jobs outside their chosen profession or trade until they could no longer afford to stay. These individuals had families and, of course, they have since contributed to the exodus of people who have left the Yukon over the past year or two. This, coupled with other factors such as the non-existence of public sector development, mining initiatives, the major drop in tourist traffic and the uncertainty over devolution, all contributed to my decision.

To improve the Yukon’s economy will require the development of a long-term strategy that will involve all stakeholders and all levels of government to achieve the desired result of improved overall benefits for all Yukoners. For this reason, Mr. Speaker, I chose the Yukon Party as my venue.

Back in 1978, I first came to the Yukon and assisted with setting up the Royal Bank. I returned subsequently, a year later, to work in Elsa for a period of approximately one year at a time when the Yukon was hopping — hopping economically, mining and everything was going, and it was very easy to get a job, as many members indicated earlier.

There I met my spouse, who was born and raised in the Yukon and comes from a long lineage of Yukon pioneers.

Her mother was born in Dawson City, her father in Whitehorse; my spouse’s father ran Taylor and Drury’s store on First and Main until the mid 1970s. Charlie has since passed away, but Betty is still here to keep me in line and to keep me informed as to what the actual folklore of the Yukon is.

I moved back to B.C. for a few years and returned in 1986, and I have been here ever since.

During my election campaign, I listened to the residents of Riverdale. It became clear that the issues and needs are the same as many of the other Yukoners — improvements to education, enhanced child care services, employment and the economy were the main items at the doorway.

In recognizing that educational infrastructure is important, it is our commitment to maintain a level that will improve the atmosphere of the learning for our children. This government will explore the need for education and training of more educational assistants. With increased resources and classroom programming, the goal to improve learning opportunities for all children can be achieved. Enhancing child care options is a commitment of this government. By working with child care centres, day homes and educational facilities, we can increase the training available to child care workers and enhance the standard of care that our children receive. Our goal is to work toward a child care tax credit to low-income families and to parents who choose to remain at home to raise their children. This will assist a return to the family-centred approach to child care and lead toward improved lifestyle for all Yukoners, Mr. Speaker — yet another Yukon Party platform commitment.

At this time I would like to commend the Riverdale Community Association for work they are doing to keep the residents of Riverdale informed on issues or local projects that will have an impact or affect them directly.

I’m very pleased to see the residents are taking advantage of the fire smart program in conjunction with the City of Whitehorse to reduce the risk of wildfire and beautify their greenbelts. The association continues to champion efforts on behalf of the residents and to improve transit service, along with other important issues in the area.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the economy will prosper with short-term employment projects, like the winter works and fire smart programs. Our government has made available a little over $3 million to date, through both programs. It is from small steps like this that we will see long-term economic growth to the Yukon.

I believe the economy can be revived through various initiatives that will include partnerships with First Nations, contractors, and with industry representatives, on ways to encourage and maintain economic growth. Establishing committees such as those identified by my colleague, the Minister of Justice, our first such steps in industry and government partnerships that should result in positive effects for both parties.

Another recent example of working collaboratively with industry representatives and governments was the work completed recently with our highways department and the industry in working out amenable solutions to both sides. On the First Nation front, it’s important that we establish government-to-government relationships with all First Nations. This would include the need to establish MOUs, bilateral agreements and economic agreements with all First Nations, which would enable us to promote the Yukon in all aspects of the economy.

The development of the aforementioned initiatives will enable the Yukon to provide certainty and to support a sustainable economy for all Yukoners.

The spinoffs will result in stabilization of the populace, greater community spirit and increased economic opportunities.

Let’s not forget that our communities are capable of so much more in this age of technology. Home-based businesses have sprung up all over the territory. In this day, you can run an extremely successful business or corporation over the Internet and, as you know, if you live in a cabin in Teslin or Dawson City, this can be achieved through the high-speed internet process. This technology allows people to be self-employed and still enjoy the wilderness lifestyle that so many people move here to embrace.

We must think outside the box and encourage the young families to move here, encourage production facilities to look into relocating their facilities and factories here, if possible. I believe there are opportunities out there that should be explored in the technology field, and even if advancement is slow, at least it’s a step in the right direction for the long term of this marketplace.

We are not just a resource-rich territory. Yes, we are blessed to have land rich in minerals, oil and gas and wood products, but we have so much more to offer. We must think outside the box and look at ways to diversify our economy so that we can avoid the bust and boom of the past. This may be one of the ways we will be able to retain our younger population in the Yukon who are moving out of here because there is no opportunity for them to work.

It is a great opportunity to open up our beautiful territory to those looking to get away from the rat race of the larger cities. Over the past few months, the issues that have arisen and crossed my desk have been varied and, as a Cabinet minister, I have come to appreciate the work involved in managing my portfolio. Issues ranging from a broken windshield, volunteer fire departments, water and sewer, sport and recreation, volunteers and their organizations, office space, needs, wants, infrastructure concerns, occupancy, location, building and maintenance, daily road conditions, computer technology, ATIPP requests, airports, consumer services, corporate affairs, housing technologies, inventories, French language services and your library have all contributed to anything but a dull day; rather, it is the norm.

I am very proud of the Department of Community Services through its sport and recreation division, having been able to assist the City of Whitehorse in attaining its bid for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. The attendance of the top athletes from across Canada will result in an economic boon for the Yukon Territory during its shoulder season and prior to our main tourist season. The games will also leave a legacy of infrastructure, experienced officials and community experience that will enhance the Yukon’s ability to host future national events.

The goal of this government is to respect all Yukon communities, to ensure that they are vibrant and thriving, to ensure that they have safe drinking water and adequate sewage infrastructure. A solid economy and support for recreational facilities are important to all communities.

The Department of Highways and Public Works — a name that better represents the function of the department — will be working toward creating safe roads, improving airport infrastructure throughout the territory. Our government will be looking toward creating new roads to access a wide variety of natural resources where and when required while respecting the First Nation traditional territories and the surrounding environment.

I am also very pleased to be minister responsible for the Yukon Housing Corporation. The corporation is working toward affordable housing options for all Yukoners, including seniors. As minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation, we will be assessing the recent review of the Liquor Act that was completed last year, and we will be bringing forth some amendments in the future.

On April 1, fire suppression will also become part of our department and the responsibility will be with our staff. I believe this is a significant challenge to get this done properly. We are working with federal officials and we are hoping that we can get as smooth a transition as possible between now and April 1. We seem to have a good working relationship with that department and I feel that we can achieve this.

This is a significant challenge. It’s not being overlooked, given our lack of snow this winter — the limited funds that were provided on the devolution agreement.

I’m just going to move a little bit far from my normal field here.

Je veux aussi dire quel plaisir et quel honneur c’est pour moi d’être ministre chargé des affaires francophones.

As one of my first duties in the capacity I recently signed on behalf of the government, the Principles of Government Leadership with Respect to the Canadian Francophone, a document was signed by all provinces and territories.

La communauté francophone est une composante essentielle de la mosäique culturelle qui forme la société yukonnaise et je suis ravi d’avoir l’occasion de pouvoir travailler de façon plus étroite avec ses représentants.

I would like, at this time, to thank all committed and dedicated people who work in the department I’m responsible for. They have worked extremely hard over the past few months in preparing budgets, addressing major concerns and providing various briefings, especially those provided on short notice. I feel comfortable in saying it’s a pleasure to be their minister.

I’m extremely excited by the work this Yukon Party government has begun to undertake. There will be changes, and these changes will include improved communication and respect for all people who live in this territory.

By practising fiscal restraint and lowering the spending trajectory that we inherited, our government is demonstrating leadership, financial responsibility and laying the groundwork for creating a prosperous Yukon. It is challenging and exciting at this time to be a Yukoner, given that some of the early indicators are positive and will have a good insight into our economy, and I’m looking forward to the challenge. I’m very proud to live in such a wonderful place and I look forward to representing all the people of the Yukon as we move ahead, for it is certain that together we will do better.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my family who have supported me throughout the last few months of the campaign, the election and the ensuing long hours now and to follow. I thank them wholeheartedly.

Merci beaucoup. Thank you.

Mr. McRobb: I would like to thank all previous speakers for their contributions and their replies to the throne speech. It’s very interesting hearing what they have to say, especially the new members. I noticed how intently you listened, Mr. Speaker. I only wish I had skills as great as yours. I did my best to listen to what they had to say and found most of it quite interesting indeed, especially from the new members of the Legislature. I know they all look back on their first day, which was just last Thursday, as something they’ll never forget for the rest of their lives. It is indeed a very special honour to be elected to serve the constituents of your riding, and I know each and every one of us respects that honour.

I would like to express my appreciation to my constituents in the Kluane riding for giving me so much support in the last election. This is my third term now and, at this point, it’s about six-and-a-half years in the Legislature, and I would like to thank the other candidates who ran in the riding in the past election — Paul Birckel for the Liberal Party and Mike Crawshay for the Yukon Party — and express my appreciation for the effort they gave. We all know it takes a lot of courage to put one’s name forward. I believe every candidate is very well-intentioned when they do so, in that they want to serve their constituents to the best of their ability and try to effect change for a more positive part of the world in which we live.

I would also like to express my appreciation for all other candidates who ran. I believe there were 60 in the past election, so given that we now have 18 members, that means there were 42 in total who were not elected. I would certainly encourage all of them to not be discouraged by the results but to try again. I can think of at least one member in here who did exactly that — the new Minister of Tourism — and I guess the old adage, "If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again," can pay off, Mr. Speaker.

I would also like to appreciate former colleague and friend Dave Keenan, the former Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes, who chose not to run in the past election. We all know that Dave brought a wealth of experience to his role in this Legislature, and he showed distinct leadership qualities and a lot of knowledge in his areas. A special thanks to Dave Keenan.

I would also like to wish the new government all the best in this term in office. They were elected with the resounding majority, 12 of 18 seats, with about 40 some percent of the popular vote, which is a pretty good result, Mr. Speaker, given that we have essentially a three-party system in the Yukon as well as a few independents who ran in the past election — six, I believe.

I would also like to show my appreciation for the third party. They have a responsibility, as we do, to hold the government accountable and to get our positions on the record on the various issues and direction we would like to see the territory proceed in, as well.

As official opposition, our main task is to hold the government accountable and make sure that Yukon does enjoy a good government. In looking back over what happened in the last election, Mr. Speaker, with the ruling majority of 11, minus the three independent Liberals, and how it then was reduced to one, I think indicates that the opposition of the day was quite successful in holding the government accountable, and the Yukon public saw that. We hope to continue in that regard this time around.

In this third term, I have a number of responsibilities. As well as being MLA for the Kluane riding, my critic areas include the Department of Tourism, Department of Infrastructure, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the Yukon Energy Corporation, the Yukon Development Corporation, and the to-be-announced Department of Economic Development. So, there are quite a number of responsibilities in my critic areas.

In addition, I’m serving as opposition House leader, which carries its own set of responsibilities, and I have the pleasure each morning of meeting with the government House leader who, at this time, is the Member for Klondike, as well as the leader of the third party and former Premier, who is the MLA for Porter Creek South. On those occasions, we determine the House business of the day, and so on. So, that’s quite an interesting experience for me.

In addition, I am representing the official opposition on the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, also known as SCREP. I’ll be serving on the Parliamentary Broadcast Society and the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association as well. So, that’s quite a load, and I will, once again, commit to doing the best I can to meet those responsibilities.

But uppermost to me, Mr. Speaker, is representing my constituents. That goes above everything else. I’m very proud of the Kluane riding and the people in it. I would like to take a few moments to let the other members — especially the new members — learn a bit about the Kluane riding.

This past election was the first election under the new Electoral District Boundaries Act, in which the riding was reduced slightly. The parts excluded included the Hamlet of Ibex Valley east of the Takhini River bridge on the Alaska Highway. It also included the Fish Lake Road beyond the Whitehorse city limits.

As I look across at the Member for McIntyre-Takhini, I can recall visiting him when he lived on the Fish Lake Road — he may still live there, I’m not sure. I’ll always remember with some fondness how that visit was the only time that I’ve been bitten by a dog while campaigning. It’s something that I’ll always remember as I look across the way, wondering where that dog is today, I guess.

So, under the revised boundaries, this was the first election. Fortunately things went well for all of us in here, and it produced an 18th MLA — not all Yukoners did support the addition of another MLA, which contrasted to our shrinking population. But it does provide Yukoners with greater access to their MLA and a higher level of representation here in this Legislature. So, I would expect all MLAs to be cognizant of that and do their part in avoiding criticism that the people of the Yukon are not fairly or adequately represented in this House.

The Kluane riding is very interesting in its demographics. First of all, we have three First Nations. The Champagne-Aishihik First Nation is the largest, by member, in the territory, and its members mainly reside in the Kluane riding. There are several in Whitehorse, as well, and probably other communities in the territory. The Kluane First Nation mainly resides in Burwash Landing, and the White River First Nation mainly resides in Beaver Creek, although the Upper Tanana branch of that First Nation lives across the Alaskan border, in Alaska.

There is one municipal government, and that is in Haines Junction. It has an elected mayor and four councillors. There are several unincorporated communities in the riding, including Beaver Creek, which has the distinction of being Canada’s most westerly community. It is also hosting a bonspiel this weekend, and I hope to make it up there to encourage the curlers.

Burwash Landing is the next community south of Beaver Creek. As mentioned, it is largely comprised of Kluane First Nation members, but there are others living in the community — a few business owners and so on. Burwash Landing also has the Museum of Natural History, which has Yukon’s greatest collection of wildlife exhibits and so on in that building. It’s very interesting, and I would encourage everybody to stop in, if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Destruction Bay is down the road a little ways, and I believe it still holds the distinction as the Yukon’s most rapidly growing community. That’s probably because of its small population base and how just a couple of families could influence the numbers statistically. However, it is a beautiful place on Kluane Lake, and I think that as world technology increases and the world becomes more of a global community, Mr. Speaker, Destruction Bay will continue to experience population growth for reasons of quality of life, if nothing else.

Haines Junction has several satellite communities nearby that include the Mackintosh subdivision just north of town. That’s in the vicinity of the Bear Creek Lodge; the Pine Lake lots, which are on the east side of town, on the other side of Pine Lake; and right in town, adjacent to the municipality, is the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation village. So there are a number of communities in that vicinity.

On this side of Haines Junction, we have Canyon Creek, which is about 30 kilometres east of town, and it is mainly a Champagne-Aishihik residential area. Proceeding this way, we have the village of Champagne, which has a lot of history and, as members should know, was recently bypassed when the new section of the Alaska Highway opened last fall.

There is also the Mendenhall subdivision, which is comprised of several privately owned lots, and it has also grown significantly in the last few years. I believe there were about 14 new lots opened a few years ago, and power has been distributed to the lots, as well as telephone service and road improvements. So there have been some major infrastructure upgrades to Mendenhall in recent years.

I hope the fire hall that the previous government pre-announced for Mendenhall is still in the capital budget that will be announced tomorrow.

Finally, there’s the Takhini River subdivision on the eastern boundary of the riding. It is owned and resided in by the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation. There are approximately 40 to 45 houses in that subdivision, all of recent construction, and it also had telephone service recently installed.

Overall, I believe the residential count in the riding is about 1,600. I know the registered voters were slightly over 900, so there’s quite a diversity in the riding. About half the population lives in Haines Junction, which is approximately the centre of the riding, along the Alaska Highway. There are also several other roads. One major road is the Haines Road, which leads directly south from Haines Junction toward the Alaska border, en route to Haines.

There’s a customs station on that road, as well as just north of Beaver Creek on the Alaska Highway. There are several side roads, including the Kusawa Lake Road, which is government maintained, the Aishihik Road, which is government maintained in the summer, up to the campground on the south end of the lake. There’s the Cultus Bay Road, and several other less used roads in the riding.

The economy in the riding is quite interesting. A lot of it is government driven. I think, in Haines Junction, the majority of the jobs, I can safely say, are government related. Parks Canada has several employees and, based on last week’s announcement, we know there will be about half a dozen new Parks Canada employees in meeting the new agreement it struck with Holland America.

I would wish both parties all the best of luck and recognize the hard work they put in to striking an agreement. The local economy is hit pretty hard and really does need all it can get in the way of assistance at this time.

One of the major projects in the riding has been the Shakwak reconstruction project, which reconstructs the entire length of road between Alaska borders, both near Haines and past Beaver Creek. Most of it is done. There’s only an area along Kluane Lake basically that still is in need of reconstruction. As the minister indicated during Monday’s Question Period, we hope the government is successful in lobbying the U.S. for more funds in order to complete that reconstruction and some bridge work.

During the past election campaign, one of the major concerns to the people was what would happen job-wise with the expiration of the Shakwak project, which currently employs dozens of people in the region and provides an economic boost to several businesses.

Mr. Speaker, it’s part of my role as MLA for the riding to impress upon the government the importance of recognizing this concern in the Kluane region, to avoid a huge drop in job numbers once the Shakwak project comes to an end.

In order to ensure that, we need to start to develop an alternative economy as soon as possible. One of the ways government can assist that is to perhaps look at the decentralization of government employees. We all know how important it is for a few government jobs to be created in these smaller communities. That means a lot. You have more money circulating in the local economy, more people buying groceries at the store, more people hired as a result and so on. So, I would urge the government to look hard at any possible decentralization options that are open. I will be following up on this in the days and years ahead in this Legislature.

Another prime option, of course, are capital projects, to help improve basic infrastructure, as well as immediate employment and possibly long-term employment. My first question in this Legislature related to the highway reconstruction this side of Haines Junction, which the previous government did commit to complete by the year 2006. Essentially, all the construction would be done. I know that the Yukon Party, while in opposition, asked a lot of questions about highway construction and so on. I’m going to be listening very closely in tomorrow’s budget speech to see just where it stands on the completion of those highway sections.

As pointed out in my question, such infrastructure improvement is important, not only to our economy but public safety and so on. It’s also part of the highways devolution, which occurred more than a dozen years ago, that gave the Yukon government control of maintenance and capital upgrades of our highway system.

I’m aware that the agreement provides an annual payment of something like $23 million, and the original agreement stipulated that about half of that should be routed toward upgrading the Alaska Highway until such time as the old sections are reconstructed.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as indicated on Monday in my question, there are still about two and a half sections that remain to be reconstructed to bring them up to modern standards. One half section is a joint federal program, which, as the minister indicated, would be completed this coming fall. So that only leaves two sections, and I’ll be looking hard at this government to see that finished within the next few years.

Tourism is also very important for the riding. We have several small tourism operators. One of the issues that arises there is federal legislation like the Marine Liability Act, which some of the other MLAs may be familiar with. Huge increases in the cost of insurance for carrying passengers, really, would spell the end to a lot of businesses unless that legislation is changed.

I’m aware that the federal government, after hearing our concerns and the concerns of others, has decided to revisit the matter, and hopefully it will result in a favourable conclusion.

When it comes to marketing tourism, the government should be well aware of what the Kluane region has to offer. I know it will be well aware of what the Klondike region has to offer, because its MLA is well-represented in government. Over the years, I’ve had time to think about what the MLA for Klondike has lobbied hard on, and that’s the upgrade of the Taylor Highway, the section leading from Dawson to near Tok, Alaska, as well as his lobby efforts for the bridge across the Yukon River in Dawson City. I’ve had the opportunity to speak to people in Kluane about it.

At this point I would say that the majority opinion is that it’s a good thing, because if Dawson can attract more people from Alaska and, again, more people from Whitehorse making the Klondike-Kluane loop, then of course it will be a boost to the Kluane economy as well. So I think most people see it as a combined, positive impact rather than losing traffic to the Klondike route, which would bypass the Kluane region.

We also see an increase in the numbers for fly-drive traffic from Europe, and we know that currently a lot of people might be discouraged from going to the Klondike region because, at this point, due to the road conditions beyond Dawson City and the ferry issue, they might be dissuaded from continuing along the loop. So their only real option is to double back. If anybody is familiar with being a tourist — and I’m sure everybody is — you tend to want to see new scenery instead of spending half of your trip looking at something you’ve already seen. So I’ll be looking forward to any new developments on that front, especially when it comes to marketing the Kluane area.

There are several needs in the riding in addition to the highways work I mentioned. The motion I tabled the other day dealt with the seniors facilities in rural Yukon. I know that this is something that probably every MLA in here has heard about. I heard about it to the degree that I was convinced that it was the number one priority of the Kluane riding. The more I talked about it with people, the more that determination seemed obvious.

That’s what led me to the premier-elect’s office within just three days of the election, to transmit that priority to him to ensure there was no misunderstanding, because I took to heart his words during the campaign that they would be creating a new, inclusive style of governing, and I wanted to make sure this project didn’t slip between the cracks. So I know he’s aware of it, and we’ll be listening hard tomorrow to see if it is in the budget.

There are several other concerns and issues and desires for the riding as well. I know the government has struck a First Nations government-to-government agreement with the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, and I’m generally aware of the priorities that were communicated to the Premier along with that agreement. I would hope that the government gives equal attention to the other two First Nations in the riding, as well as the other First Nations in the Yukon, because everybody has their priorities, needs and desires.

I was a bit disappointed in the throne speech by not seeing any mention of municipal governments. It is unfortunate, Mr. Speaker, when we do not recognize an important level of government in the territory. I think it is incumbent upon all of us to show our respect for other levels of government. These are people who are elected, as well. Historically, many of them do end up in the Yukon Legislature after serving at the municipal level.

So, there are a number of items I’ll be watching for in the time ahead.

I did want to show my appreciation for some of the positive things the government has done to date, and I’ll start with the lobby for the health care dollars. I think that was genuine, good representation by the Premier. It also reminded me of when I used to sit on the back bench with him, across the way, about five years ago when we were debating a health motion. I couldn’t help but be reminded of some of the things said during the health motion debate of the day as I watched the Premier being interviewed on CPAC and CBC. A lot of those same lines were coming out, like how the federal government cut the CHST back in about 1985. I think it was some $20 million. I believe the result of the motion that day was unanimous consent to send a message to Ottawa to reinstate that funding.

What has happened since, Mr. Speaker, is probably a matter for future Yukon political historians to analyze, but in the administration that followed that one, we saw a very cozy relationship with Ottawa. As a matter of fact, they campaigned on how the Yukon would benefit from having a close connection with the same party in Ottawa as in the Yukon. During the two and a half years in opposition, I watched, listened and learned, and I watched particularly closely to see if any type of favourable treatment resulted. Unfortunately, not much showed up on the radar screen at all.

I couldn’t help but wonder, if there hadn’t been a change in government, if the Yukon would have taken this same bold stand. I guess we’ll never know, Mr. Speaker, but something told me that it might be a problem. At the same time, I asked if the NDP administration were still in government, would it have taken the same stand. Again, I went back to that motion day in about 1997, and I couldn’t help but conclude, of course, that we would have taken the same stand. That was our position then; why wouldn’t it be our position now?

I think the Yukon Party is showing signs that it’s benefiting from the previous NDP experience their Premier has had.

Reinstating the community development fund and increasing fire smart to previous levels are things I certainly endorse. I know, from past history in opposition, the NDP has raised those matters, so certainly we appreciate those.

The winter works project is a very noble cause, and really, our only main concern with it at this point is that it wasn’t instituted in time. We have no problem with the winter works; it just wasn’t instituted in time. When the Premier says that there’s no problem, the money will get doled out, that’s not really the issue I was raising. It’s all about timing. It was called "winter works" and, obviously, winter will be over before the money is even allocated, never mind being spent.

But, overall, the winter works idea was a good one. Creating a stand-alone Department of Tourism is also consistent with our party’s previous position. I think it will be a good thing to, once again, have Tourism recognized on its own, being distinct and not just shuffled in with some other departments that are also deserving of their own attention.

I think that recognizing the importance of First Nations is a laudable goal of this government. But in looking back on recent history, Mr. Speaker, I couldn’t help but ask myself, well, what’s different from the position of previous governments? And I couldn’t really find much different.

I think it was the Piers McDonald government that created the government-to-government relationships, the agreements. That was continued by the previous Pat Duncan Liberal government and is now being continued by the Yukon Party government. So not much is different in that regard.

I guess the devil could be in the details, Mr. Speaker. We’ll have to wait and see just how much of these good intentions really pan out. I know that matters like the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation have raised the ire of at least one other First Nation, and I’m aware of at least one other one in addition with similar concerns. It’s up to the government to not divide the Yukon, not pit Yukoners against each other but to govern fairly and well on behalf of everyone. In examples like that, the grading report wouldn’t be too high. Let’s leave it that way.

But there is lots of time to get it right and I’m hoping that our party in official opposition will be presenting the government with constructive options and I hope the government pays our input due respect, and we’ll be watching for results in the times ahead.

As well, the third party is an important contributor to this Legislature, and we look forward to the views from its member, as well. Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt lots more to talk about, but I think I’ll wrap up, because tomorrow is the budget speech and, following that is the budget reply, so we have another opportunity in the near future to talk about similar things.

Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, first I must begin in my response to the throne speech in extending my deepest appreciation to the people of Watson Lake and southeast Yukon. Their support has certainly been a very solid support for me. It’s very rewarding to have that kind of support from your community. I also want to extend to all Yukoners, on behalf of our government, our deepest appreciation for their faith and support in electing a Yukon Party to government. I can tell you that it has been quite an experience, and the euphoria was certainly tempered with the knowledge of the challenges that we as a government, we in this Legislature, and indeed all Yukoners, face in today’s Yukon.

I guess it could be said that there is a same old way things are done in this Legislature. When it comes to debate, the opposition likes to try to

criticize and discredit and attack, and the government side tries to rebut and reciprocate, but I don’t think that’s a constructive approach. It’s not constructive at all.

It has been proven in the past that it simply doesn’t work, and that is why one of the things we will undertake is to lift the level of debate in this Legislature.

Now, it would be quite simple to sit here, or to stand here, and rebut all that we’ve heard from the members opposite, but in this case that’s not about to happen. However, it’s important that a couple of very crucial items are pointed out, and I must begin by saying to the member of the third party that there were many options for that member in terms of responding to this throne speech, which would have added to the debate in a very constructive manner. The member of the third party has a great deal to offer not only this House and her constituents but also the people of this territory, and, Mr. Speaker, I would urge the member of the third party to focus on that and add to the debate in a constructive manner, assist Yukoners in their time of difficulty. I don’t think there’s any argument in this House from any member in this Legislature that the Yukon faces difficult times.

As far as the leader of the official opposition, I want to thank the leader of the official opposition for pointing out on the floor of this Legislature that I work very hard for my constituents, as we as a government work for all Yukoners. But there is some fault in the member’s position and arguments. I would just point this out simply by saying that, when we focus on southeast Yukon in areas like economic development, there is good reason. There is absolutely no debate about the fact that the southeast Yukon, as a region, will contribute a great deal to the economic fortunes of this territory.

Let me use one small example, Mr. Speaker. Today, southeast Yukon is producing natural gas, albeit in a very small way. That small production of natural gas accrues millions to the coffers of this territory in revenues.

If we were to double that production in today’s Yukon, we would add millions more to the coffers of this territory, to the revenues that all Yukoners will benefit from. So, it’s not just the people of Watson Lake. It’s the southeast Yukon’s potential to contribute to this territory’s economic fortunes, to contribute to the benefits that all Yukoners will share. That is our focus. We said publicly that we view the southeast Yukon and its vast potential and resource development as a very important element in rebuilding our economy.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to move on and respond to the Speech from the Throne in a constructive manner. I can say, from listening to the Member for Kluane, he is to be commended for his approach. It was a very constructive response that he portrayed here in the House today, and I thank him for that. It’s a clear example of how we can do things.

But our Speech from the Throne, like any Speech from the Throne, is about laying out the government’s blueprint or road map and the direction in which this territory will be taken under our government’s guidance.

The member opposite from the third party is correct in laying out the fact, and she said it quite eloquently, that the Speech from the Throne with its priorities are the mileposts in laying out that road map. And that’s exactly what the priorities are. We have portrayed to Yukoners there are eight specific priority areas that we will be undertaking to work on. We feel that these priority areas are the most important elements in the big picture for the Yukon Territory that must be addressed.

Rebuilding the Yukon economy is a number one priority.

We cannot allow the trend and the situation today in the Yukon as far as our economy is concerned to continue. The exodus of people must be stopped. We must translate that approach into growth. We must have people returning to this territory. But it is a very complex issue, Mr. Speaker. There are many, many complexities in the economy of the Yukon today that require our attention, our efforts, and indeed a great deal of work. This is not something that can just happen overnight. This is a long-term initiative. Rebuilding the Yukon economy must be projected into the long term to ensure responsible, sustainable economic development.

So when the opposition makes claim that we’re breaking commitments, it’s simply not the case. We are pointing out that things like rebuilding the Yukon economy are going to be long-term initiatives. Far beyond the days when we sit in this Legislature, the work must continue. It is our job at this time to begin that work, to begin laying the foundation, the building blocks for rebuilding our economy. No one can dispute the fact that one of the most important building blocks or cornerstones of the Yukon economy is our assets, our resources and the potential that they have and the ability for us to accrue benefit from the resource sector. We’re talking of hundreds of millions of dollars. We cannot continue to approach things when it comes to attracting investment in the resource sector as we’ve been doing in the past. It has not been working. It’s obvious. We need to change the course that we take to deal with that particular sector.

That’s what we intend to do. Under this priority, we want to attract investment to this territory. One of the areas where that investment will certainly flow is in our resource sector. To do that, we need to achieve a balanced approach by government. We must create an investment climate that attracts investors. If we are no longer, as governments, going to focus on the public interest, and allow special interest and single agendas to rule the day, we will never, ever create a comfortable, attractive investment climate in this territory.

That is why, Mr. Speaker, that discontinuing what is a very flawed process — the Yukon protected areas strategy — has been done; it’s discontinued. It is a problem. The arguments being made that it was providing certainty are incorrect. I dispute those arguments because it has not provided certainty. If the protected areas strategy had been a strategy that had protected not only the environment but our future economic potential, yes, we could say that it was providing certainty. But it did not do that. It resulted in special interest and single agendas being put ahead of the public interest and the future of the territory. The spirit and intent of protected areas was not in that manner. It was to be conducted in a way that did not compromise the public interest in areas like economic development. It was intended to be developed by an agreement of all stakeholders — a process whereby our environment, our special places and our economic future was protected.

That’s where we’re going to take the protected areas initiative back to. We have only discontinued a flawed process. We certainly, Mr. Speaker, have not discontinued the initiative and we will never, under our reign, discontinue the initiative. We will proceed, but we will do so in that balanced, thoughtful approach that ensures that not only are we protecting those special places in our environment, but we’re also protecting our economic future because we need an economic future.

Mr. Speaker, one of the major and fundamental problems that we face in our economy today is that it is completely dependent on government. Our private sector’s contribution to our economy is below 20 percent of economic generator dollars. That is simply a situation that spells no economy.

Government cannot spend its way out of this. We must get our private sector engaged. The private sector must start to grow in this territory. Its contribution to the economic generator dollars of the territory, which is spending power, must increase and it must increase dramatically and significantly if we are to be successful. We intend to focus on that, and one of the areas is obviously going to be the development of our vast resources. But we will do that in a responsible manner, ensuring that we do not compromise our environment and our future when it comes to our land and environment. It can be done, Mr. Speaker. The problem is that it has never been tried.

In successive governments from 1996 to today, it wasn’t tried. It was ignored, and we forged ahead with other initiatives that have brought us to this juncture.

Mr. Speaker, our economy is built of many other areas and sectors — tourism is a key element of rebuilding the economy of this territory.

It is a bright light, but we can do much more with it. That is why we are going to take tourism back to its original stand-alone department, so it can focus on enhancing and building and growing our tourism sector, to help contribute to rebuilding the Yukon economy. It was unfortunate that the former Liberal government chose to make the decisions they did under renewal, because it did impact negatively on our tourism sector. And we need to right that, which is why we have made the decision to move it back to a stand-alone department.

Tourism will play a major role. It will create growth in this territory. We are going to do everything we can as a government to ensure that happens. But ultimately, we again need to engage the private sector so that their contribution increases, and that is what truly will help us rebuild the Yukon economy.

Whether it be cultural, historical, the arts, the film industry — all of these sectors must be worked on. I think we can start to see that the scope of work here is enormous, and that is why rebuilding the economy is a long-term initiative. And that is why it is our duty and responsibility as a government to begin that work today — begin laying that groundwork, as I pointed out earlier.

Mr. Speaker, we also have small business, which is the backbone, if you will, of the Yukon economy. Those small businesses that run in every community of this territory are an integral part of our economy and why we need to engage the private sector, and create growth in the private sector, is because that is the most beneficial way for small businesses to survive. It’s all about cash flow. The government simply cannot spend our way out. We need to increase the cash flow in this territory, and that increase must come from the private sector.

Some of the problems we face are of our own doing and our own making in this territory. Duplicity in regulation, onerous regulatory regimes — these things cannot continue, and that is why we are committing to a regulatory task force to streamline, to remove duplicity, redundancy and onerous regulation and move it toward a mitigating-type regulatory regime that contributes constructively to not only the protection of our environment, our lands, our water, our future, but also contributes constructively to responsible economic development. That’s an important element in the overall approach to rebuilding the economy, because we as government have a duty to undertake, and that is to ensure that government’s regulatory regimes do not unnecessarily impede our ability to experience responsible growth and, more importantly, Mr. Speaker, a much better ability for our private sector to participate. One of the biggest impediments in this territory has been for many years now that problematic regulatory regime, and we intend to clean that up.

Mr. Speaker, I will close out on this economic sector by saying that if we in this House contribute to the debate in a positive and constructive manner, there are 18 MLAs in this Legislature — that’s 18 brains, people who know their ridings, their constituencies intimately. They have a great deal to offer. It’s their ideas and their contributions that are important. All I’m saying to the members of the opposition is, let’s try it. Bring those ideas forward. We’ve made the offer to work with the opposition in budgeting. That offer is still open. We will work with the opposition; we will collaborate with the opposition.

One of the areas that can greatly help governing is collaboration, is consensus building, is compromise. That’s the course that we intend to set. That is why we make offers such as this to the opposition.

Now, completing and implementing land claims have linkages across the issues of today’s Yukon — of course, a major linkage to rebuilding the Yukon economy. Concluding the unfinished business with First Nations is vital for us to be able to be successful in our future when it comes to our economy. Implementing those final agreements, breathing life into those final agreements expeditiously, is also vital to our future. We cannot turn implementation into another three-decade marathon of negotiations. We, as government, must live up to our responsibilities under those final agreements. We, as government, must ensure that we implement those agreements in a timely manner that results in achieving the spirit and intent of those final agreements laid out for First Nation people. But, having said that, there is still unfinished business, and it is up to this Legislature to work cooperatively and constructively when it comes to that unfinished business.

There are no political boundaries when it comes to the First Nation governments of this territory — there never will be. So it is not a very constructive approach if we, in this House, do not conduct ourselves in that manner. There is no reason to try to create political gain in this area.

So, again, out of all the members in this House, there is much that they can bring to this debate to help to not only conclude that unfinished business but to expedite the implementation of those land claims.

It is, Mr. Speaker, one of the highest priorities that our government intends to undertake. And yes, it is true. Every government in the last 30 years has said the same thing. However, it is fair to say we are at a juncture today in the Yukon where, if we do conduct ourselves in the appropriate manner, this will be concluded in the very near future.

Formalizing a government-to-government relationship with First Nations is all about breathing life into those final agreements. We must act and operate and conduct ourselves in this territory as governments. The First Nations have achieved self-governing powers. The Yukon government must be able to react to that fact. Again, we can no longer allow things such as this to extend over years and years and years of discussion and negotiation on how that is going to take place. That is why we have undertaken a process whereby we are going to finalize and formalize that relationship as governments.

We have entered into a contract with a First Nation person in this territory whose credentials speak for themselves — of vast experience in the federal government system, a great deal of intimate knowledge of First Nation issues in this territory, a firm and full understanding of the final agreements and the Umbrella Final Agreement and what they intend to accomplish, and a clear understanding and commitment to what this government has tried to accomplish in formalizing that government-to-government relationship.

That relationship, Mr. Speaker, will greatly help this territory from today forward if we are successful, because it will remove the barriers between ourselves as a government and First Nation governments and it will provide for all Yukoners a more cost-effective style of governance in this territory.

In short, as government-to-government, we must collaborate. In short, Mr. Speaker, we must share in the burdens of making the decisions in this territory, and in short we must also share in the benefits that accrue from those decisions. That’s what formalizing our relationship is all about.

When we talk about full economic partnership with First Nations, again, we have undertaken an initiative in this area immediately upon taking office. For far too long, First Nations have experienced the impacts of resource development and other economic initiatives in this territory by receiving little to no benefit. That is going to change. Under our government, First Nations will share in the benefits of economic development, as they should.

First Nations have achieved a great deal — that is their certainty for their people and their future — but there’s more. They will share, under this government’s watch, the benefits that accrue from economic development across this territory, and we are proceeding with developing a full economic partnership with the First Nations of the Yukon.

That also links to our economy and many other sectors, but it’s important to note that, when we talk about First Nations, not only are we talking our economic future, but we’re talking education, we’re talking justice, we’re talking social issues, we’re talking land use, we’re talking, across the board, the elements that comprise the issues that government must deal with.

Mr. Speaker, it shouldn’t be surprising that, when it comes to justice and the issue of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, we have entered into an arrangement, first with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, because of the element in their final agreement — we intend to expedite breathing life into those agreements, and that’s proof positive we have acted in that area — but, more importantly, that agreement commits us, the Yukon government and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, to work with all other First Nations in this territory and other Yukoners in justice itself.

We can no longer allow the system of revolving-door warehousing of prisoners. The First Nation precentage of incarcerated individuals in the justice system is probably the highest in the country. There are problems with what we do here, and we are going to take the steps to address those problems.

Much more than the correctional centre is involved here. It is justice itself, and the First Nations should and will participate in justice with this government. That means that we want to address programming; we want to address the recidivism rate; we want to look at alternative sentencing; we want to ensure that in building a correctional facility that it is not jail-led or facility-led, but program-led. What happens in that facility is the key, so we want to put the right pieces in place and proceed from there. This is a hugely important issue to First Nations, as it is to our government. Our commitment is there, and I think the MOU with Kwanlin Dun and how we’re proceeding basically speaks for itself.

Mr. Speaker, I heard a little bit from the third party about devolution bashing. Well, I must take exception to that. We are certainly not devolution bashing. We intend to implement and improve devolution. The devolution deal is done — signed, sealed, delivered — fait accompli. It is our job now to implement devolution so that it achieves for us in Yukon the desired results. But there are also areas in the agreement that we can improve upon. One of the first and overriding issues is the federal employees who are coming across to the Yukon government.

Under the agreement, the federal employees are not happy with the results. We have committed to treat those employees fairly, and that’s what we intend to do. It’s unfortunate that, through the negotiations of the agreement we have today, more effort wasn’t put into that area. However, as I said, the agreement is done. We must proceed, and we’ll make best efforts to solve that problem with the employees.

Another very important area of improvement is with the federal government’s responsibility on environmental cleanup and the liability the federal government holds. An improvement in the agreement would be the commitment of a fund of the hundreds of millions of dollars that it’s going to take to clean up just the type 2 sites. We will endeavour to get that from the federal government.

The Auditor General has been clear already in stating that the federal government’s responsibility in this area is in the hundreds of millions of dollars. So the way to improve on the devolution agreement is to ensure that that federal commitment for those monies is there. That’s what we will work on.

There are other areas, Mr. Speaker. When it comes to fire fighting and the risk of wildfire in this territory, we have fallen far short of what it may take to ensure that we do not experience loss of life and property when it comes to wildfire. Our risk rises every year. Why? Because our forests get older every year. Pine forests, which we predominantly have across the landscape in the Yukon Territory, are born by fire and they die by fire. It’s a natural course of events. Mr. Speaker, $7.5 million for fire suppression is simply not going to cut it. So we have to try to improve in that area.

Mr. Speaker, one fire alone could break the bank. That’s not unheard of. So we must be clear with the federal government on what exactly the Yukon government’s liability will be over time. Now, we know the federal government’s involved for the next five years, but there is nothing that can guarantee that, after that five-year period, we do not experience what we are concerned about, and that is a season of wildfire that simply will break the bank here in the territory.

That’s another area of improvement.

To ignore the offshore issue, considering what’s going on in the Mackenzie Delta today, is irresponsible. We should be, with the federal government, ensuring that what happens in the offshore area of Yukon will guarantee that benefits will accrue to Yukoners. Without question, there is going to be massive activity in the Mackenzie Delta. Without question, we know that on the Alaska side they are going to increase exploration, development and production. The Yukon sits between — and there is every reason to believe that, within our offshore boundaries, there is a vast potential of wealth. We must make sure that that vast potential of wealth accrues as much as possible to the people of this territory — another area of improvement. So we are not bashing the agreement; we are trying to improve on the agreement, which I think is the responsible course for any government to take.

Another area is making sure that the Crown-in-right question has been solved. We will be looking into that because it’s important. If we can achieve that element of devolution for Yukon it will even further the powers that we locally can administer over our future, and that is a good thing.

I’ve touched on a number of things in terms of the priorities. Achieving a balance between the economy and the environment, as we’ve talked about, is very important. That’s why it’s a priority. But I want to speak a bit about social conscience and our approach to health care and the social issues that we face today in the Yukon.

It’s all about achieving a better quality of life for all our citizens. Unlike some of the members opposite, I don’t believe that a social conscience is derived from political ideology — not in the least. The New Democrats do not have a lock on a social conscience. The former Liberal government, by example, showed that their social conscience may not have been as sharp as it should be, but I can assure this House and all Yukoners that this government has a very keen, sharp and focused social conscience — not by political ideology, but by belief that that’s the way things should be. That’s why we said we would take a progressive approach to the social agenda of this territory, and we will be doing that.

When it comes to our seniors, they are vital to us. It is their contribution that has brought us here today, and we must ensure that their future is, in most cases, dealt with in a manner where we recognize their contribution. That is why things like the pioneer utility grant are very important to this government — that’s just a small example. There are many other areas we can work on.

The problem for us in this territory again comes back to the government’s ability to spend their way out of problems. When we look at the Yukon’s trajectory of costs as they’ve been escalating over the last number of years, the biggest increase is in health and social services. The Member for Kluane is correct that there was a motion on this floor urging the federal government to recognize the problems we face in health care north of 60. Unfortunately, there was a bit of a time — a two-year blip — where nothing was done on it, but we’ve progressed somewhat; but there’s a long way to go — I can tell you, a long way to go.

Unfortunately, the member from the third party has to throw a couple of jibes across the floor — that $20 million is nothing. I want to point out that when the member was in the same position, she traded in any money for a ride in the Challenger jet with the Prime Minister. That member would not even work with the other premiers north of 60 — refused to. We took a different approach. We were successful. It may not be much to the member from the third party, but it’s much to Yukoners because it will help us sustain just a standard minimum access to the health care system that all Canadians experience. And that’s where our problems are. What is an ambulance ride in other centres is a plane ride north of 60 — here in the Yukon, Northwest Territories and/or Nunavut. That is why our costs are escalating.

We cannot pre-plan how many surgeries will be required in hospitals, like Vancouver or Edmonton. We must be prepared for those. When those costs come, we pay. And to date, the escalation in cost is as high as $10 million a year. So what we have achieved in working with Ottawa and the other two territories is to manage now to sustain our spending of health care to a level that we experience today. We still have the future to worry about and deal with, and that is why the federal government nationally is embarking on health renewal and reform, and this territory must be prepared for that. It is coming, and it’s up to us to ensure that, as it gets implemented, we do not lose our ability to deliver acceptable health care to the citizens of this territory.

No matter what, our primary job as government and as members of this Legislature is to provide a better quality of life for all Yukoners. I think we can do it. I think in this Legislature there is a tremendous amount of talent. Look at what is here: on this side of the House, the government side; the experience on the official opposition side and the representation that its members bring; the member from the third party, who is not only experienced in opposition but also in government. All of us have a great deal to contribute to improving the quality of life for Yukoners. I urge the members opposite to make every effort, along with us, to do that.

Whether it’s stimulating the economy, whether it’s dealing with our First Nations, whether it’s protecting our environment, whether it’s ensuring we sustain and maintain our health and social programming for the betterment of our people, whether it’s creating other opportunities, meeting the challenges, no matter what they may be, our responsibility and duty is to take and meet those challenges in a manner to provide the best possible results we can for the people of this territory.

Mr. Speaker, with great challenges come great opportunities. Our pledge to Yukoners as a government is that we are prepared to meet these challenges. We want to do so with the members opposite. We want to do that as governments with First Nations. We want to do that with stakeholders. We want to do that with our employees here in government. We want to meet those challenges and provide those opportunities by working with all Yukoners. We call it "team Yukon", Mr. Speaker. It is through that team approach that we can be successful. There is no doubt that a collective is much more able to meet the challenges, provide success and resolution and solution and create opportunity, than a singular approach to dealing with the issues of the day. The collective can start here in this Legislature. That collective can then branch out from this House throughout the Yukon. Let’s do it, Mr. Speaker. The future is at stake.

Thank you.

Mr. Cathers: In closing this response, I’d like to thank all the members on both sides of the House for their contribution. I certainly appreciated hearing it. We’re all agreed that the Yukon is in economic difficulty, and we’re all agreed that rebuilding the economy has to be a priority.

It’s always the darkest before the dawn, as the saying goes, Mr. Speaker, and the economic opportunities that face the Yukon are many and they’re varied. We have long-established industries like the big game outfitting industry, which is rarely recognized for the fact that it is one of the largest contributors to the Yukon economy within the tourism industry. We have the placer mining industry, which we have discussed at great length here, and the need to support it at this time. And we have new areas, like the information technology sector, which I believe stands the potential of providing the Yukon with great economic benefits in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I’d also like to thank the people of the Yukon because they are the strength of the Yukon, they are the strength of its economy, and they are the legs on which we stand. The job of this government is leading with optimistic vision, backed up with positive action.

Thank you.

Motion No. 18 agreed to

Motion to engross Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.

Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be engrossed and presented to the Commissioner in his capacity as Lieutenant-Governor.

Motion agreed to

Speaker: Government motions.

government motions

Clerk: Motion No. 5, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Kenyon.

Motion No. 5

Speaker: It is moved by the Minister of Environment

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 a decade;

(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 Nations 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 Nations governments and other stakeholders to reinstate the Yukon placer authorization or replace it with a similar authorization.

Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Point of order

Speaker: Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.

Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I would respectfully request some clarification about the appropriateness of the government calling this motion without identifying it in advance in this House, which, I believe, seriously limits the ability of opposition MLAs to prepare for meaningful and constructive debate on an issue that is important and complex to everyone in the Yukon about something so serious. I would appreciate very much if you could provide some clarification to us on that.

Thank you.

Speaker: On the point of order, government House leader.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, one only has to look at the Order Paper. Government motions are on the Order Paper continuously. The government is responsible for setting the priorities of the Legislature and the business of this House, and government motions can be called at any time by the government. I respectfully submit that that has been the past practice and I am sure that your deliberations will uncover that that is, in fact, the way the House has operated in the past and will continue to operate in the future.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.

Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to also address the point of order. The fact is that, while not necessarily outlined in the rules per se, the practice has been twofold. Firstly, to provide, in House leaders’ meetings, advance notice and also to provide, as we did yesterday in our motion, advance notice of such discussions. Secondly, it has also been the practice in past Houses for the point of order being breached in our Standing Orders to be referenced. What the Member for Kluane has asked for is clarification in this respect, given that there is not a reference in the Standing Orders, as they exist now, to the past practice of doing members the courtesy of providing them with advance notice of either government motions or opposition motions.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: On the point of order, the government House leader.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, a point of clarification on the point of order: advance notice was given at House leaders this morning on this issue, and I respectfully submit that this is before us today. As to the business we were going to call, both the opposition parties were made aware of what we were going to be debating and what motion was going to be called and, furthermore, where we were headed after the motion was called for debate today.

Speaker: As this is my first point of order, I would ask that you allow me to consult with the Table Officers. I think I’ve heard enough discussion on the point of order.

Speaker’s ruling

Speaker: I am prepared to give you my decision. The Standing Orders require that, before a motion can be called for debate, it must appear on the Notice Paper for a day. In the case of government motions, they are then moved to the Order Paper and may be called at any time under government-designated business. The House leaders may have certain understandings about how the business is to be called, but those are between the House leaders and do not enter into the Speaker’s domain. In conclusion, Motion No. 5 meets the requirements of the rules in reference to notice and the manner in which it has been called for debate.

The motion is before the House, and the Minister of Environment has the floor.

Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am pleased to rise today to speak to this motion finally. It is important to note that we on this side of the House consider this motion to be of paramount importance to Yukon at this time, and I hope that the members opposite concur.

The existing Yukon placer authorization took 10 years to develop. It started in the 1980s and was signed by a previous Yukon Party government in 1993. It worked effectively over the course of the next 10 years to allow responsible mining and protection of fish habitat. The standard that the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now attempting to impose on the industry is something that not even Mother Nature can meet.

The Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. Robert Thibault, imposed these standards unilaterally, without consulting industry, First Nations, the Yukon Placer Committee and all Yukoners. Twenty years of work were cast aside with the stroke of a pen.

So much for traditional knowledge. Placer mining has been the backbone of the Yukon economy for many, many years. Studies show how important it is to our history, our tourism and to our economy. Communities such as Dawson and Mayo are dependent upon placer mining activity, the support of the industry and the spinoffs it develops. I would ask for unanimous support and speedy passage of this motion so that we can expeditiously send a copy of this to the federal government in Ottawa and, particularly, to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans minister, Robert Thibault.

If we can achieve all-party support for this motion today, it would show Minister Thibault the significance his unilateral actions had on the Yukon Territory, and he would be compelled to take into consideration our stand on this motion and its important issue.

Mr. Hardy: Well, it is sad, in many ways. It’s sad, Mr. Speaker, to get up after listening to the comments made by the Premier in regard to the throne speech and his request, within this House, to work together, to collaborate, to work collectively together, to now shift to a motion for which we have been given almost no notice whatsoever. We have had no input whatsoever into what is being imposed upon us to debate and allowing approximately four minutes per person in this House on something of such significant importance for the Yukon.

That, frankly, is a shame, because this is an issue that deserves a lot of debate — a lot of constructive debate. It’s also an issue, in and around the motion, that I believe the three parties could have sat down and drafted together, especially if this government wanted to work collectively, as the Premier said, and send a united motion to the federal minister to show our position.

Instead, that didn’t happen, Mr. Speaker. Instead, we feel on this side that it is being imposed upon us and that we have to accept this motion as it is written, even if we may have some misgivings about it — even if we may have some additional points that we may like to put in that we feel would strengthen the motion and that we feel would better reflect some of the positions that all members in this House can share. But that hasn’t happened. What has happened is, in a very short period of time, we were told that this motion is going forward without us not even thinking that it was going to come forward today, and then being asked that we should approve this and send it off. Well, I can assure you that, if they were in our position on this side, they would feel like they were being used.

It’s a shame because I do want to work together and I believe that everybody in this House wants to work together, but you cannot act this way, Mr. Speaker. You cannot shove something down somebody’s throat and expect them to be grateful. That’s what has happened here.

So we have approximately 90 minutes to talk about this motion and talk about the concerns from our ridings and the people whom we represent, to talk about the environment, to talk about the placer miners, to talk about the future of the Yukon in regard to actions by the federal government, to talk about, when they do something like this unilaterally, how that will affect the relations — the scope of what we’re talking about here is a lot bigger than just a motion going down to the federal minister. Frankly, he probably wouldn’t even read it, or he’d get it and say, "I expect that." Because, remember, there is only one Liberal in here, and he’s a Liberal, so is he going to pay much attention to a Yukon Party-sponsored motion? Is he going to pay much attention to a New Democratic-supported motion and just one Liberal left over? Did you ask yourself — excuse me, I won’t talk directly to him. In their discussions, did they think about that? These are things that we can contribute.

But it hasn’t happened. So to start out, that’s a big concern with me, and I believe it’s a concern with everybody over here — that we do feel like we’re being trampled on. Part of that is because we feel that democracy is being challenged here.

When you bring forward a motion, you should bring forward a motion with the idea that, no matter what the motion is, it has the opportunity to have debate. It’s not a motion you bring forward just to get instant passage, move forward and move on to something else. I believe motions are best when they are debated, and what comes out of those motions, whether there are amendments to them or the discussion and dialogue that happens within this Legislature, Mr. Speaker, strengthens our democracy and strengthens the ideals and probably the foundation of what that motion started with.

We can take the dialogue that happens in here among 18 people and, from that, go back and think about it and come forward possibly with a better motion. Or, as I suggested earlier, we could have discussed this. House leaders could have discussed this.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Mr. Hardy: The Premier has piped up, Mr. Speaker, and said they did. They did not discuss the content of this motion, and I want that on record. They did not discuss the content, and there wasn’t an invite to have input and discussion around this motion. The Premier is wrong on this.

Now, the Premier continues to talk while I have the floor, saying that they tabled the motion two days ago, therefore we should be totally comfortable with everything, and we should accept their rule.

Well, I’ll continue with my points. Obviously, they’re not overly respected on that side by the Premier, but I’m going to continue with my points because I think they have validity on this side, and I hope they do listen. I hope this is not going to become the way motions are done, that we’re going to be blindsided — all of a sudden that they’re coming forward.

We had no prior knowledge that, today, this was going to be the motion, other than at just before 10:00 today, which does not allow much time when we’re also dealing with a lot of other issues, just as the government on the other side is doing.

I believe this motion could be a lot better. I believe this motion could have had input from the Liberals on this side, the Liberal Party, and the NDP on this side, if the government would have called us and asked us for input on putting forward a motion to send to the federal minister, one that is from all members of this House, but that didn’t happen. They write it up; they expect us to agree to it.

That is not the way democracy works, or it should not work.

Now, there are a lot of problems about what has happened ever since December, when the federal minister decided to unilaterally overrule a lot of input by some organizations — because not all organizations had input — and it has created a tremendous amount of discord in this territory. It has created a tremendous amount of disharmony among people who live together, people who live side-by-side, house-by-house, Mr. Speaker; people who have differing views about what is needed in an industry or what is needed in the environment. What it has done — and maybe that discourse was there earlier — I’ll back up a tiny bit. Maybe that discourse had been bubbling and maybe the Liberal government, the previous Liberal government, did not address the discourse that was building. But what the federal minister has done is accelerate or heighten the discourse, heighten the animosity that exists between people of the Yukon.

I want to make that very clear.

The Yukon placer miners are people of the Yukon. The people who have spoken about the environment and the fish habitat are people of the Yukon. We, as elected people, should not be picking one over the other. We, as elected people, should be bringing them together. The government has a role to try to bring all parties together, to try to get consultation on this, to try to find the common values that they could all support and move forward on. That is one of the roles of our government. That is one of the roles of the elected members.

I have already heard today on numerous occasions from the Premier and some of the other MLAs about special interest groups. Well, when people say special interest groups, can they define that? Can they point and say who is a special interest group and who isn’t? Can they tell me, in this case, who is the special interest group and who isn’t? Which family is now a special interest group because they belong to an organization or they have a passionate view about something, whether they’re part of that organization or not — or which one isn’t? Who will or will not get the ear of elected members and the government that is supposed to represent all the Yukon? I get very uncomfortable when I hear a government of three months already talking about special interest groups and the ones they’re not going to listen to — or not listen to any of them. I’ve heard the Environment minister already express that. Can he tell me right now who those special interest groups are and who will be denied access to his ear, his door and this government?

Those people who are members of this society, those people who pay their taxes here, those people who make their living here, those people who have a stake in the future of the Yukon, too — they will be denied?

Can you tell me who they are? I would love, after I finish, to have the people who have talked about special interest groups on the other side to stand up and tell me and name them. Tell me who they are. Are they the placer miners? Maybe that’s who they mean. Are they CPAWS? Are they the Yukon Conservation Society? Are they the Yukon Teachers Association? Are they the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board? Are they a special interest group too? Are they First Nations? Where does it stop, where does it start, when you start to label people, when you start to categorize them?

Now, the federal government, in my view, has handled this terribly. I believe they have acted in a manner, as they have done in the past, that in some ways where our Parliament rules have come from — the Westminster rules. The United Kingdom did with colonies. They decide what is right in an area, and that becomes the law. They do not allow the people who live in that area — all people — a voice. They decide on that.

And I believe that what that has done is to create a tremendous amount of division within our very small community. That’s something we can’t have. You can see that by the letters that are written in the paper. You can see that by the rhetoric that is of very strong passion but is often comprised of very personal attacks as well. That is something I cannot be proud of in the Yukon, growing up here. I never liked to see it when I was young — somebody being targeted or picked on. I don’t like to see it now, today, in the newspapers. But we’re seeing that, and the federal minister has the responsibility for that kind of creation of dialogue that’s in this Yukon today.

But that does not excuse, that does not relieve, the existing government right now for not trying to find a resolution to this, for not recognizing the problems that exist, the divisions that are getting wider and wider and, in some cases, based upon some of the letters I’ve written, the closeness to violence that we can be facing in this territory.

Mr. Speaker, this is not the direction we want to go. We do not want to live in a society of intolerance because you have a different opinion. That is not the society we want, and yet by the very actions of the federal minister, by the inaction of the territorial government, we are seeing this discourse growing, and I believe the territorial government does have a role to play here, not just sending a motion down to the federal minister. I don’t think that amounts to very much, frankly. I believe there can be so much else that could be done by this government, and one of the duties I truly believe in is to try to be a broker between different opinions, different people, individuals, groups, parties, beliefs and try to find that common value that allows people to earn a living but ensures there will be future spawning grounds, future habitats for the wildlife, for the fish.

I believe that can be achieved. It’s all about balance. This is a government that has talked about balance. Mr. Speaker, this is a government that now has to work at it. I believe they’re looking for leadership. I believe the placer miners are looking for leadership from their government, and it goes far beyond a motion. I believe the people who are involved with the environmental movement are looking for leadership in this matter. That’s why we’re elected — to lead. We’re not elected to pick sides and attack this and attack that and isolate this person and condemn that person and say that group is special interest but this group isn’t. I don’t think we were elected for that.

I think we are elected to be a little bit above that stuff — to be the ones who reach out and try to get people together, try to find out what are the most important issues facing people, what is driving them, but what is also the common ground. What are we trying to achieve here? We are trying to achieve a livelihood for placer miners. We are also trying to achieve an environment that will be there for our future generations. I believe that everybody in here believes that is achievable. Why aren’t we working at it? Why isn’t this government working at that? That’s my question. A motion won’t do it, sorry — a motion that is flawed because there was not consultation, there was not work from this side. There was not a reaching out, collectively, to ensure that that motion reflects some of our views and our values. So then of course we have to stand up here and debate this in this situation, when possibly we could have sat down and done this together and then brought something forward and had good debate about why we’re doing it instead of what’s wrong with it.

There are a lot of problems with the debate that has been going on. Part of it has trickled into this resolution. Number three of the motion says, "the recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon placer authorization and to replace it with a 25 mg/L sediment standard will effectively destroy the placer mining industry".

One of the biggest problems in my following this — and I’m not a scientist. I don’t have the background to understand what they are really saying when they say 25 per litre or 15 or 10, and what kind of impact and how hard that is to achieve. I don’t have that background; I don’t have that knowledge. I’m not a scientist. But one thing I’ve heard in following this debate is the fact that on one side the scientific studies or the evidence being brought forward is being challenged.

It’s being challenged by environmentalists on one side and then, on the other side, the information that’s being brought forward — the scientific studies being brought forward by DFO, or whatever — are being challenged. So, as a layperson trying to understand this, all I see is supposedly some scientific studies — supposedly these studies are rooted in good analysis and proper procedures — being challenged, being questioned, and there is no one who can stand up and say categorically, yes, this is it, or, yes, this is it here. It’s being challenged all over the place.

Because of that, I start to question the processes and the studies that were used, who did it, just like everybody else out there. When I talk to people in my riding, one of the questions I hear is exactly that, "Well, I don’t know what to believe. You know, one side says the whole industry is going to be wiped out because it can’t be achieved. Another side says, no, no, it can be achieved, it’s not this bad. One side says the fish cannot live when the sediment is at this level; the other side says, yes, it can and has been able to for a multitude of years and that proof is there just based upon traditional knowledge." And you have this huge mixture of messages and studies and opinions, and I can’t sort it out; I can’t categorically stand here and say, "This one’s right; that one’s wrong. Therefore, with that knowledge, with that background, I am able to make a decision on what we should do or where we should go." I can’t do that, and I think I am like many, many people in our society right now in the Yukon. That stuff, that scientific study, causes a problem and it’s quite confusing.

So when I see in a motion that it’s actually being used, although it has already been questioned by members on the opposite side and it’s questioned by many other people and groups, I have a problem with that, because how can you support a motion when it might not be a correct statement?

So, just that alone causes a problem. What I would like to see the Yukon government do, frankly, is to take the initiative and do some of its own studies. Never mind one group or another group, DFO. We live here, you’re elected, we could do those studies. We can find out what is actually happening out there. If you don’t believe any of them, let’s get evidence ourselves, let’s do it ourselves, and then we may have something that we can all use to help us move forward on these issues.

That’s one suggestion I would like to see the Yukon government do: to start taking a more proactive approach in this instead of a lot of this stuff floating around.

Now, there’s no question about it. The placer mining industry has gone through a lot of hardships. I have very good friends who own mines. I have been up at those mines. I worked as a young person, like many people, in mines in this territory, and the hardships are a lot worse now than I remember when I was working because I could go from a mine to a jobsite to another mine quite easily. Sometimes it was placer, sometimes it was underground, whether it was Whitehorse Copper or up at Elsa, it doesn’t matter. But a multitude of factors have contributed to that.

I don’t want to go off — I’ve heard it every time I’ve been in this House. We talk about the mineral prices. Well, that’s something that’s out of our control. I think we all agree to that. And that has a huge impact. We talk about regulations. The Premier has alluded to them in his own response to his own throne speech — that sometimes we create our own problems, and that’s true. Sometimes the red tape and the regulations get so onerous. And sometimes one department is creating something over here, another department’s creating something over here, and another one’s doing something here, and they’re not tied together. And when a person tries to go forward, whether it’s a building permit or maybe staking a claim or opening a mine, they may find the burden of trying to deal with a variety of branches that aren’t communicating is too much. It just becomes too much. That could be true as well.

From that, we have seen a drop, and there are creeks that aren’t being worked. There are a lot of creeks that aren’t being worked. They could be worked. They could be contributing to the economy. Families could be working on those creeks, because often it is families.

On the other side, we have environmental concerns, and I’m sure that no one in here wants to see some of the horrendous situations we have seen in the past, where a mine is open, often owned by outside interests, and a lot of work is done for one or two years, and then it’s shut down and leaves behind an absolute catastrophe that has to be dealt with by, generally, a level of government.

Now, the federal government has been the one we can point to as being responsible in the past for that, but is that going to change in the future, as devolution comes in April 1 and as more responsibilities are transferred down? Are we going to be facing major environmental situations that we will not have the financial ability to deal with? Unethical operations do happen. We have a record of a variety of them in the Yukon, where they really haven’t generated a lot of work. We don’t want to be in that situation, either. And we also want to ensure that there are other ways of making a living, as well; therefore, we do protect the environment. I think we all agree with that.

So, what we have to put in place is something for our future. We want to ensure there is a fish habitat, so there can be a living from fish, whether it’s subsistence living or a small commercial living. People do make their living at that as well.

We want to ensure there is clean water for drinking. That’s becoming a huge issue in the world today. We’re fortunate up here, but that isn’t to say that it’s always going to be that good. The pressures on our world are mounting, and the pressures, as they mount down south, start to creep up north.

So we have a responsibility of being stewards for the future, and we have to take that into consideration. Now, I have a belief that government – now, I could say the federal government. I don’t believe right now that the territorial government may have the financial means of making this happen – but do you remember in Haines Junction that there was an experimental farm, and they’ve done that to test crops, to test new varieties to see what can grow in the north to try to assist the agricultural community. That was done, you know, 40, 50 years ago, and it’s continuing to this day.

But I believe that’s a good thing for the government to do, to create a model, test new technology, test new ways to – well, in this case, I said agriculture — to treat the soils, to grow new crops, to see how you can create an industry. Why doesn’t the federal government use that same model? Why isn’t the federal government working with the miners and the environmental people to create an experimental placer mine?

This is just an idea, but I was thinking today about some of the other models, and why don’t they use that to test new technology, why don’t they use that to find out ways to lower the costs, if there are going to be changes made, so the costs will not burden the placer miners, the family miners — why don’t they do that? Why don’t they have a model where they can bring people to teach them on this and test that new equipment so that it is as affordable as possible to achieve some of these goals that they’re trying to achieve, and keep it running, keep it updated?

I believe, for something like that, that could become an industry up here. We could lead the way on a type of mining that would be recognized throughout the world that would create employment. People would maybe come here. There’s possibilities in that, but one thing it would do is it would assist the placer miners with knowledge, the skills, the technology, and it wouldn’t be imposed on them, and they wouldn’t be saddled with this burden that they’re getting, and it would put to rest some of the concerns from the environmental community, because the government would be seen to be ensuring that placer miners can survive and the environmental habitat can survive, as well, Mr. Speaker.

There are lots of ideas out there, but imposing something like this is not the way to go.

I know that other people want to talk on this and I’m not going to try to talk the clock out, if that’s what’s being thought in here. That’s not my intention. I believe there should be constructive debate around here. I believe that people should bring forward ideas. I believe that the opposition has ideas for the government to be more proactive. Instead of just a motion, they should be leading the charge on many fronts. They should be coming up with solutions. They should be coming up maybe with timelines. They should be coming up with an idea to bring people together to find solutions to the problems that exist in our creeks. They should be trying to bring people together in this territory so we don’t have the nasty debate that exists today.

I have a sheet here that states four objectives of the Yukon Placer Association: (1) Yukon fisheries will not be diminished by the effects of placer mining; (2) rules will be affordable; (3) industry members will have certainty if they abide by the rules; (4) providing a better management regime for the government. Those are objectives. I think those objectives are all attainable. But I also believe that all those objectives are tied in with the government. The government has to be involved. The government can lead in this case.

Now, there is another letter here that was sent on February 3 to Robert G. Thibault from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Everybody in here knows that they gave a kind of qualified approval of what Thibault did. That caused a lot of consternation among people. If you actually get beyond what they said there and read what they also have said — what they have said I feel merits being repeated here. I’ll just quote from this letter.

I’m just going to take parts of it: "We would like to suggest that your department take a proactive role in assisting the industry to make the transfer to a new regime." So, in their position, they’re saying already that regime is going to be accepted. I don’t believe that is a position that the government has taken at this moment, but this is their position.

"Placer miners are usually small, family-run operations that do not have the financial depth or resilience to meet the new standards alone." We all agree with that. We have heard that many times. They will need assistance.

"Working with the industry to aid in the development of new technology could be one means of assisting placer miners in meeting these new standards.

"Developing a compliance monitoring program during the transition that works to assist the miner in meeting the new standards, rather than a rigid system that requires prosecution if the new standards are not initially met." That’s a very positive statement. Additional positive incentives for meeting the standards would be useful.

"In addition, your department must provide more information to placer miners and the general public in order for everyone to fully understand these changes and the reasons behind them. Your department could address this by developing a comprehensive information package." And it goes on and on with that.

And it says, "During the transition process, placer miners need to be informed, fully consulted and involved in determining what may or may not be workable in achieving the new standards. Their informed involvement may also assist in building trust between the industry and your department." I don’t know if that’s possible any more, frankly. There is so much distrust and anger out there — understandably.

But I believe those are very good suggestions, and I think they tie in with the idea that the government, if they want to see a change in an industry, must ensure that they are part of that change. They must make that change as seamless as possible, as painless as possible, and not put anybody out of work.

They must be willing, from my perspective, to offer financial assistance. They must have the proper scientific facts to back up what they are saying, and it must be proven. It must be done in a proper, scientific manner that everyone can understand and accept.

The education level must be there. They have a responsibility to train people and they must ensure that the goals they are trying to achieve are goals that all people can agree with.

When I read YPA’s position, the positions of the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the Conservation Society, and from what I have heard, I believe the goals are all the same. No one wants to shut down an industry. No one wants to wipe out a fishery or a fish habitat, so how do we achieve that without unilateral action forcing people out of work, without destroying an industry that has been around since the late 1800s? It is by working together, by allowing a proper time frame, by bringing in the technology that will ensure that the miners can meet it without a cost burden on them.

I was talking to a miner about a month and a half ago. He is a miner and a trapper. He said, "You know, there are a lot of discussions around this, but when I hear what is happening and I see what is happening, it reminds me of when they removed the leg-hold traps and there was a huge problem with that. There was a difficult transition." This is what he said. I am not a trapper, but he said that the government supplied the traps, from my understanding, at a very low cost or at no cost at all. They put on the courses; they did a lot of testing; they worked with the trappers; they found out what worked; they supplied the traps and, over a period of time, they eased out the leg-hold traps.

He said — this is his opinion — he doesn’t know a single trapper who would go back to the leg-hold trap now, but there was a lot of concern, and there was also a lot of participation in the end to make that transition work, and there wasn’t a big cost burden. That’s from his perspective. So maybe they had financial aid to make that happen. He’s a miner, and he made that relationship to what’s happening now. He would like to see the same thing happen. If there are going to be some changes made, maybe these changes are too draconian — I don’t know — but if there are going to be changes made to comply with laws, then the government has to be involved, if it’s through educational, financial and long-term involvement in the industry to ensure that people can make that transfer over a period of time so it doesn’t create a hardship.

Finally, I think we all want the same thing here but, ultimately, in our own society, we do want peace. We don’t want people fighting each other over this. We don’t want finger pointing. We want to work together to ensure that everybody has prosperity, everybody has a clean environment, and we can all move forward.

Just going back to the last thing — bringing a motion forward like this is just not going to do it for us. We have problems with that.

Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, in listening to the leader of the official opposition, one can only wonder what the NDP really does support in this matter, and I will endeavour here to point out why that’s the conclusion that we on this side of the House and most Yukoners are going to come to.

When the member says that all the government’s doing is this motion, that’s simply not the case. The government has been working very diligently on this matter with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, with the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, with the First Nations, with groups like the Yukon Conservation Society — with whom I have met with twice now personally and am having discussions on these issues with other stakeholders.

The whole point here is that the leader of the official opposition stands up and says, "We don’t want fighting. We want people to get along. We want to ensure we protect fish habitat but not shut down an industry." That’s exactly what the Yukon placer authorization was doing, and it was doing it effectively for over a decade.

Mr. Speaker, I want to point something out. No one in this country can put any trust or validity into the Department of Fisheries and Oceans decision making. I say that by virtue of the fact of the cod fishery in the Atlantic. Ask the cod fishermen what the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ credibility is on that coast. On the Pacific Coast, ask the salmon fishery what the credibility of this department’s decision-making process really is all about.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the examples and the history and the evidence of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans as it relates to the placer mining industry in the Yukon, there has been a long-standing desire to do exactly what they’ve done here today. It is not us, the government of the day, the opposition, the industry, the stakeholders or anybody else who makes the claim that this industry will be devastated. It’s another federal government department, which knows full well what this type of draconian measure will do to the placer industry in the Yukon. It is the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs, who permit and license the placer mining industry, that state publicly that this will shut down over 54 percent of Yukon placer mining operations, immediately. That’s a huge problem.

We brought this motion forward in the spirit and intent of cooperation. We brought it forward to the House leaders and expressed to House leaders we’d be calling this motion. It was on the Order Paper, easy to read. If the members opposite had any desire to be constructive in this debate, they would have stood up and amended the motion.

Instead, we heard a big lecture. There’s no doubt that members opposite have no interest in voting on this motion or they would do it immediately.

Now, the leader of the official opposition says he doesn’t know something in this motion that troubles him, and it’s to do with the 25 milligrams, which is the measurement of turbidity in the water. This is what 25 milligrams of turbidity in the water looks like — drinking water.

Mr. Speaker, the White River here in this territory sustains a salmon fishery, has probably for thousands of years. In natural occurrence, the turbidity in the White River is 6,000 milligrams. Are we starting to get the picture, Mr. Speaker? This draconian measure is targeting one segment of the Yukon, and it’s our placer mining industry. There’s no way that industry should bear the brunt of this decision.

Furthermore, this was done in isolation, with no recognition of First Nation government self-governing powers. The federal government cannot make this type of decision without honouring the final agreements of the self-governing First Nations, and they’ve taken the federal government to task on that.

Beyond that, we as a government, about to take down federal powers, are now wondering what our relationship with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is, because it is we who will have to administer the biggest portion of these measures.

So, when the leader of the official opposition says we’re doing nothing but this motion — wrong. We are demanding to know now from DFO what our relationship will be post-April 1. I myself met with Minister Thibault in Ottawa and talked to him in a manner, not antagonistically, but in a manner to attempt to point out to the minister — who is obviously very ill-informed and misguided by officials on this issue — that this is not just an industry. This is history; this is culture; this is a fabric of the Yukon Territory.

There is no way that this department should be given the opportunity, the authority or the right to implement something like this. The intent of this motion in this Legislature is to send a clear message to the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that we will not accept draconian, unilateral measures from Ottawa that do not reflect the realities of this territory.

Now, the leader of the official opposition also pointed out an issue about special interest. Well, I can tell you something. What transpired when it came to the Yukon placer authorization is not the result of people here in the Yukon. It’s from well-funded, well-organized, single-minded people outside of our territory and, indeed, this country.

The federal government receives threats of legal action because of the Yukon placer authorization. We have people who contribute nothing to this territory, now dictating what our future will be. That is special interest, for the member’s benefit.

Mr. Speaker, this opposition could have easily brought forward constructive input to this motion. We tabled it accordingly. If they had any desire to support what is one of the most important elements of the economic future in the territory — the placer mining industry — if they had any desire to get this back on track without playing politics — they simply would have amended this motion; we would have voted on it, unanimously passed it and sent a clear signal to Ottawa that our Legislative Assembly — the governing body — along with First Nations who are working closely with the Yukon government on this, will not accept this draconian, unilateral decision by a minister in Ottawa who, frankly, has never even been here.

Mr. Speaker, whatever it takes. Now, the opposition is trying to make the point that we have done something that is very, very contradictory to democratic principles and all the rest of it — whatever. All we’re saying as a government is that we have brought forward a motion as a government motion. This is a vital issue to the territory and its people.

The Yukon placer authorization had a multi-stakeholder process that was working. That process provided this very minister a set of recommendations that were intended to achieve what everybody wanted, including the minister in Ottawa. The minister tossed those in the garbage can and in December came forward with what the problem is here today — the decision to proceed in a manner that will have a very serious, negative impact on the placer mining industry of the territory, on the mining future of this territory, and on our ability to rebuild our economy.

When the investment community looks at rubbish like this, they’re not coming here. Now, can the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans completely guarantee that nowhere else in this country are there any exceptions to what he’s trying to implement here today? I ask you: what about the Fraser River? That’s a fishery. It has been there thousands of years. Look what’s going into that river. Where is DFO shutting down all those industries? What about the agricultural industry in Ontario?

If we researched this, we’d find that exceptions to this department’s very measures are across this country. The reason they’re doing this in the Yukon is that we’re far away, we have little impact or effect on what may happen to this minister in Ottawa, and this is an easy route. And the minister’s officials were very, very good at convincing this minister that he had to do this. Well, he’s finding out from the public debate in this territory that he has made a mistake. It is not this government, the opposition or anybody else who has created the acrimonious debate going on today; it is Minister Robert Thibault and his officials in Ottawa who have little responsiveness to the issues of the Yukon.

All I can say, Mr. Speaker, to the leader of the official opposition is that he could have done much better. He could have taken the bull by the horns. He could have improved this motion if desired. We could have moved on to pass this motion, send that signal to Ottawa and we would have done a very good service to Yukoners. We cannot afford to have 50 plus percent of our placer industry shut down this year. If that were to happen, we would further slide to the point of no return when it comes to the economy in this territory. The people of this territory don’t want to be wards of the state; we don’t want to be dependants. We don’t want to be totally dependent on the southern taxpayer. We want to contribute; we want to pay our way. The placer industry is one of the main vehicles for us to pay our way, and as I pointed out, it’s more than industry. It’s our history. It is the fabric of this territory, or part of it.

We should try this again. We have time. It’s now 5:16. If the official opposition wants to strengthen this motion, we will reciprocate in kind. If the third party wants to strengthen this motion, we will reciprocate in kind. What we’re saying, Mr. Speaker, is let’s do this unanimously. Let’s send this message to the minister in Ottawa. Let us continue to do the good works we’re all doing on behalf of the people of this territory, this industry, for our fish habitat, for our First Nation governments and all stakeholders. Let’s do it. We have a chance. We have three-quarters of an hour to conclude it, vote on it and pass it.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to be heard on this important debate today. The point that was trying to be made on the floor of this House prior to beginning the debate on this motion is exactly that — how important this is. How important this is. How important, number one, that every person in this House has an opportunity to get on the public record and be heard in this motion — not just in division when a vote is recorded, but to be able to share your personal experiences about placer mining, how important it is to contribute to the public debate and to thoroughly discuss it.

If the government was truly, truly serious and feels as threatened as the Premier just indicated — and make no mistake. This ruling and this decision by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans does threaten the fabric of Yukon life; there is no doubt about that in my mind. If the government was serious about that, why wasn’t the House called back to deal with a motion of urgent and pressing necessity? It has been done before. Call for a one-day sitting. Have one special afternoon where we can all be heard as members and we can speak about this industry and we can send that message to Ottawa. If we’re going to do it, let’s do it properly. That’s the point that members tried to make earlier today in the discussions around the points of order. That was what people were trying to say. Let’s do it properly and let everybody be heard. Let’s prepare for it and then let’s send the message. You don’t do it on the fly. When legislation is made on the fly in the House, when amendments are made on the fly in the House, it’s not as considered and well-thought-out. That’s the experience that members bring from all sides. That’s the point. Let’s debate it thoroughly, let’s do it properly and let’s spend the time and do it right.

That being said, I have no desire to talk out the clock but I have an absolute desire as a member of this House to be on the record, particularly about this industry.

Because you see today, in Question Period, we heard that the previous Hansard doesn’t count for anything. In fact, in previous Hansard — the Member for Klondike had brought forward a motion about placer mining. The government not only commended — and I personally in Hansard commended — the Member for Klondike for bringing it forward, but we as a government also put forward a motion that said that this House urged all Yukoners to speak out in favour of developing practical, cost-effective regulations in the Yukon placer authorization process that would allow the placer mining industry to continue to operate and grow.

So, this House is on the record in Hansard, and it does mean something to me as a member.

As a member, I’d like to say what I said then, and what I say now about placer mining. First and foremost, I am prepared to debate, laud, speak about the placer mining industry any time, anywhere with anyone, and to defend it in this House, in the public or anywhere else. The record is that I have done that. I’m more than prepared to do that.

I’d like to see this House do it properly, with all members prepared and with a solid, well-worded motion that would unanimously send a message. To do that, we need to extend this cooperation and to live up to the high ideals we all talked about in the throne speech, and it starts with each one of us, Mr. Speaker.

I personally have a long history and a long association with the placer mining industry. I worked in Dawson for two seasons, when gold was at an all-time high and fuel was at an all-time low. Some members opposite, I see, find that humorous. I remember too well Fisheries officers then and the fractiousness between people, and the fractiousness that led to violence. It was a horrible time.

In some respects, it was a case where government was contributing to fractiousness between an industry and the environment. It wasn’t a constructive debate.

I worked significantly with Klondike Placer Miners Association, and I recognized at the time in the House Mr. Ross, Mr. Tatlow, and the BDO Dunwoody Company, Mr. Hirtle, with respect to the Canadian exploration expense — the work that I did with the mining industry at that time and Klondike Placer Miners Association in particular.

I also have spoken, as a private citizen, in support of the industry and as a member of this Legislature both in opposition and in government in support of the placer mining industry. Mr. Speaker, it’s important to remember the placer mining industry isn’t just Dawson City. It includes Mayo-Tatchun, includes Kluane, includes Atlin, which we frequently adopt as our own. It’s fundamental; it’s vital to the fabric of this territory. Measures such as extension of the Canadian exploration expense, extensions such as other tax credits, are fundamentally important to that industry. Most important, fundamentally, is the regulation of that industry. In that respect, it goes back — way back — to even the Placer Committee that Ione Christensen and Ken Weagle were on. There was an error in law, an error by legislators like ourselves that caused a conflict in legislation to exist. There was a conflict between Environment and DFO. So what happened? We got the placer authorization.

At that time, legislators, in their wisdom, put in, "Ah, there should be a review of how this works." That review — be cautious, fellow legislators. When we put that in, we’d better say how it should be conducted, because one of the many battles we fought when on that side of the House was how that review was conducted.

Success number one with respect to the particular review was ensuring that the review was conducted inclusive of DFO. At that time, there was a suggestion that the review would just be done by DFO, thanks very much, and don’t bother with the industry. We as a government said no — along with Klondike Placer Miners Association and others. Give credit where credit is due; we achieved one success on that.

We also successfully saw the reappointment of Mr. Al Kapty with the Yukon Placer Committee, and we should take a moment, fellow legislators, to acknowledge the work he has done and continues to do for that industry. We would be hard-pressed to find a Yukoner who knows it better in many, many respects and who could have done a better job with respect to the placer authorization review and the Yukon Placer Committee.

Now, the problem has arisen because the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has — as the Premier has pointed out — been captured by his officials and been captured by his legal advice. In fairness, Fisheries ministers — we go back to Old Man River and a number of other cases — have had major problems. That being said, we aren’t the only Canadians with issues with the Fisheries minister. And it’s not just the east coast or just the west coast. As I mentioned in my reply to the Speech from the Throne, it’s the people of Lake Winnipeg. There are major problems, and the minister’s ruling in this particular instance is absolutely, fundamentally wrong.

I question how any duly elected and appointed minister could possibly destroy an industry, in all good conscience, as has been suggested, and that is what this minister is doing with his intransigence in not recognizing that the placer authorization, as it was written and used, works. It works, and it works well, and it should continue.

That’s what the review told him — this works. We resolved the conflicts in legislation. This works; continue with it. I realize that’s a short, trite summary of all of the work done, and I don’t mean to belittle it in any way. The fact is that it does work. And placer mining has a long tradition and history in the Yukon. It must continue for our economic livelihood.

On the social impact, a great deal has been said. This announcement by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans came out in December. Since that time, Tara Christie, president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association, has worked tirelessly on this particular issue — she and members of the industry. I’d like to publicly thank her.

I’d also like to publicly acknowledge and recognize the work of our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and the senator, Ione Christensen, who knows this industry backward, forward and any other direction — north and south.

Both the senator and the Member of Parliament, along with the president of the Klondike Placer Miners Association and others, have worked tirelessly to try to change the minister’s mind. I believe the Government of Yukon has an absolute responsibility to help with that, not just morally encouraging, not just meeting with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, but financially as well.

Financially, the minister responsible for Energy, Mines and Resources should be assisting with this public lobby campaign by the KPMA. As a government, we were the first government to provide the KPMA with $15,000 per year as a line item in our budget, in addition to funding the Yukon Chamber of Mines and other non-government organizations. I strongly recommend to the minister to provide them with additional resources. This has been incredibly costly and, while we are entirely aware of the debate in the Yukon newspapers and in this Yukon Legislature, in Ottawa they are not. They don’t read the Whitehorse Star and the Yukon News every day. That public lobby campaign needs to be undertaken in Ottawa, as well.

Our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, has done everything he can and continues to do so, so has the senator, but the ad in the Hill Times is not affordable for the Klondike Placer Miners Association, and the Government of Yukon could assist. I’m asking them, in short, Mr. Speaker, if you’ll forgive the colloquial, to put their money where their mouth is.

That’s what needs to happen — as well as moral support, they need the financial support right now. It’s the right thing to do, because the placer miners and the placer authorization is the right legislation — they are right on this issue.

I believe strongly in sending strong messages to Ottawa. I believe strongly in doing legislation that’s right and that works. I think there are a lot of lessons for us in this. There are lessons about incorporating reviews when you pass legislation. There are lessons about working together. I believe we are all motivated to do the right thing for the Yukon. In that case, let’s send the right message. If that is indeed our unanimous support for the Klondike Placer Miners Association and for placer mining in general, then let’s do that and let’s word a motion that we can all be proud of.

I don’t have tremendous difficulty with the motion as put forward by the Minister of Environment. I would have appreciated the common courtesy of more than two hours to prepare for such an important debate. I believe that the motion could be improved. I’m not going to tie up House time by bringing forward an amendment; I’m prepared to listen to what colleagues have to say. I simply wanted to be sure to restate in this House my support, my association with the Klondike Placer Miners Association and placer mining, my support for the industry and a recommendation to the government to fund them, as well as to morally support their argument.

If I might provide one other suggestion, let’s do this properly and have a special extraordinary debate called or set aside time in our House calendar — do it so all members are on the record — because I can say from past experience, as well, that when we unanimously supported a motion in this House that the Government of Canada finally pay their bills on health care, it happened.

It can happen here again. Let’s take the time and do it right.

Mr. McRobb: It gives me pleasure to speak to this motion today, although the time is very short if we intend to reach any type of conclusion.

Overall, this motion today is not about the Yukon placer authorization. It’s about this Yukon Party’s style of government. That’s what this motion is about, Mr. Speaker.

If this government truly wanted to do something for the placer mining industry, it would have taken a much different approach. It would have involved members on this side of the House in the drafting of the motion. It would have involved members on this side of the House in the scheduling of the motion. It would have lived up to its own campaign promises, and I quote, "… to deliver a new, inclusive style of governing based on consensus building, consultation, collaboration and compromise, not on confrontation and unilateral action."

Mr. Speaker, I’m afraid that’s exactly what we have here — unilateral action. Nobody other than this government decided what the wording in this motion should be. And I say shame on them. I am insulted, especially after the debate this afternoon, which was far above where we’re going now. I recall the Premier saying what a wonderful world we’ll have if we put all 18 of our brains together and do what’s best for the territory.

Mr. Speaker, this is an example of how the Yukon Party really behaves. It thinks its 12 brains are the end-all, and it doesn’t care what anybody else thinks. I really hope this example is an anomaly of what we can expect in the next few years.

Mr. Speaker, I’m insulted by this type of tactic. The Premier stands up, and I really feel threatened by the tone and some of the words used in the debate. The Premier tried to label the opposition parties as anti-industry. He basically said to sign it or else, agree to this or else. "You’re against the placer mining industry" is what he said. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I support the Yukon placer mining industry. I am very concerned about the future of the placer mining industry in the territory. It’s one of the only non-government contributors to the economy we have, providing some $50 million plus each year. With the price of gold holding at over $350 U.S. an ounce currently, it’s one of the few bright lights we have in this coming year in the Yukon to look forward to — possibly some expansion in that economic sector.

As our leader indicated earlier, we are not happy with hon. Robert Thibault’s decision. We believe the federal government should have included input from Yukoners and not made a unilateral decision, similar to what this Yukon Party government did in the wording of this motion. We also have environmental values.

Mr. Speaker, there is no time today to get into the issues and talk about numbers — 25 milligrams-per-litre, or whatever they might be. There is only time today to briefly touch on the process and deal with the larger political issues that surround this motion.

Now, the government House leader argued that he gave proper notice. Earlier I requested some guidance from you, Mr. Speaker, on that matter, and I respect your ruling. The rules do provide for the method used by the government. However, there is no rule to preclude the government from giving at least a day’s notice or so to the opposition members that it intended to call this motion for debate. There is no requirement that it has to keep it secret.

Again, this is a government that campaigned on building a new, inclusive style of governing. I feel ambushed. I know the third party leader feels ambushed as well. We heard about it this morning, and we have many functions to do during the day. We haven’t had so much as 10 minutes to set aside to deal with this matter. In the short time that we have left, one can’t even begin to look at some of the material produced on the Yukon placer authorization issue.

I’ve got a binder full of stuff at home that I would have had here today if I had known that we would be discussing this.

Now, the leader of the third party challenged the government to have an emergency sitting. I recall the last time there was one — the summer of 1991 — it was to deal exclusively with Ottawa’s unilateral action to conclude a transboundary land claim that gave Tetlit Gwich’in land on the Yukon side of the border.

Now, I believe that it was more than a month ago at the Klondike Placer Miners Association public meeting when I suggested to the Yukon Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to have a special sitting of the Legislature so we may deal with this matter. Well, what did he do? What was his reaction? He scoffed at it, made a joke out of it. End of story, until the ambush of this motion today without any notice.

That’s not working cooperatively with the opposition.

Now, the Premier went on to say that our leader could have taken the bull by the horns. Well, we are taking the bull by the horns. We are going to do what the Premier challenged us to do. We are going to amend the motion. We feel our amendment is a friendly amendment, it’s an agreement that what the federal government did was wrong, and let’s see if we can’t all unite behind this motion now, after we’ve had our input, after going through the embarrassment of having to challenge the government on this matter and force out our input on very short notice. Let’s see if now they’ll accept it, Mr. Speaker.

Amendment proposed

Mr. McRobb: I move

THAT Motion No. 5 be amended by replacing the wording after the end of clause (2) with the following:

(3) the recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon placer authorization was made without due consideration of the fact that the Yukon government will inherit primary responsibility for environmental liabilities in the territory as of April 1, 2003;

(4) this decision was made without proper consultation with industry and other stakeholders, and in contravention of the consultation requirements with Yukon First Nations governments as required by their land claims agreements; and

(5) the decision was made and communicated without proper study or due consideration of its economic and social impact on Yukon people and their families, or on the Yukon’s economy as a whole; and

THAT this House urges the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in conjunction with the Government of Yukon, to commission a comprehensive and independent study of the true impacts of placer mining on fish habitat prior to conducting an open consultation process that meets the highest standards of inclusiveness and fairness, with the aim of developing a Yukon-driven process of placer authorization that achieves the objectives of protecting fish habitat without imperilling the ability of responsible placer miners to conduct a legitimate and important economic activity.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Kluane

THAT Motion No. 5 be amended by replacing the wording after the end of clause (2) with the following:

(3) the recent decision by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to phase out the Yukon placer authorization was made without due consideration of the fact that the Yukon government will inherit primary responsibility for environmental liabilities in the territory as of April 1, 2003;

(4) this decision was made without proper consultation with industry and other stakeholders, and in contravention of the consultation requirements with Yukon First Nations governments as required by their land claims agreements; and

(5) the decision was made and communicated without proper study or due consideration of its economic and social impact on Yukon people and their families, or on the Yukon’s economy as a whole; and

THAT this House urges the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, in conjunction with the Government of Yukon, to commission a comprehensive and independent study of the true impacts of placer mining on fish habitat prior to conducting an open consultation process that meets the highest standards of inclusiveness and fairness, with the aim of developing a Yukon-driven process of placer authorization that achieves the objectives of protecting fish habitat without imperilling the ability of responsible placer miners to conduct a legitimate and important economic activity.

Mr. McRobb: Well, as everybody can now see, this motion is in keeping with the intention of the original motion. It alters slightly the resolution. It calls for a Yukon-driven process.

Mr. Speaker, after giving this issue some thought over the past few months, since it first really became an issue on or about December 17 of last year, it’s quite apparent that the Yukon government has an important role to play. We all know that devolution of the federal resources, including land and water, are only a few weeks away. The Yukon government has future environmental liability for any mining operations that are licensed subsequent to that date. The Yukon government feels the full impacts, yet the placer mining industry suffers under the greater regulatory requirements from the federal government.

The federal government has a responsibility to care for the environment and encourage economic growth. The Yukon government has a responsibility to encourage public debate, to have intelligent and calm public debate, not infuriate different sides of an issue that leads to something quite different.

Mr. Speaker, we feel this motion achieves those objectives. Further, the motion was predicated in part 3 on some information we feel is rather unproven — that is, the supposed impact on the industry. Again, the Yukon government has a responsibility to determine and convey the impact to Yukoners.

The information source was disputed by the minister — the federal minister. The information source came from a federal government department. It was disputed by a federal government minister. That raises doubt about the credibility. Why isn’t this Yukon government taking the bull by the horns and going out and commissioning some fact-finding missions to determine the impact on the industry? Why isn’t it bringing Yukoners together to help resolve this problem? Why isn’t it trying to cool down the public debate on this matter and trying to bring a resolution in constructive terms? Why isn’t it trying to include members on this side of the House in developing a united position?

I’m afraid the government has shown its true stripes in how it has dealt with this issue. It’s contrary to my hopes. It’s contrary to some of the discussion that we heard earlier today. Hopefully we’ll find out that the government is capable of doing better, that it is capable of listening, and we’ll find out when it comes to a vote on this amendment whether this Chamber can send a united position to Ottawa on this matter.

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I’m going to ignore the rhetoric and just focus on the amendment. It is a good approach. I can say that. I put value on what the official opposition is trying to do here, but I have to say that, first off, in their third item, we do not inherit primary responsibility for environmental liability. At least, I hope we don’t, under the devolution transfer agreement, or we’re in big trouble.

So, there’s a problem with that.

Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)

Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, I want to point out what the member of the third party just relayed across the floor, that we do not inherit primary responsibility for salmon, and so on.

So, this is incorrect. Obviously, the amendment, in this portion, must be changed.

In the next item, the decision was made without proper consultation — yes, that’s exactly what happened, and there’s a reason why it happened that way. In fact, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has, since the YPA was implemented and put into place — and it was done so, by the way, to remove the very situation we’re back in today in the Yukon, with the acrimonious debate and the conflict going on. The YPA was structured and implemented to stop that, and it was working.

The fifth item, the decision was made and communicated without proper study or due consideration of its economic or social impact on Yukon people and their families or on the Yukon’s economy as a whole — yes, that’s exactly what’s happening here.

However, the thrust of the motion itself — the very intent of the motion after years and years of study and debate and on and on we go. In fact, the YPA was doing a lot of this itself. The industry itself was pouring money into helping this process. Commissioning more studies, inventing more regulations, tying things in knots even tighter is not the way. In the best interest of cooperation, collaboration, consensus-building, compromise, I am trying to figure a way through this. But we simply cannot commit to further studies to find out what we already know. What we have to do, as the very intent of the motion lays out, is get back to the Yukon placer authorization, which was a mechanism, a vehicle, a process that allowed a multi-stakeholder level of input to ensure two very important things: the protection of fish habitat — and that was being proven for over a decade — and the continuation of responsible placer mining. That has been happening. Year by year the placer mining industry was improving. We’ve gone from hydraulicking to cold-circuit systems. All these things are being done.

What I’m trying to point out to the official opposition is that what we need to do here is get back to at least a level where we were and then we can work on things further to that.

Frankly, Mr. Speaker, that’s exactly what the recommendations of the Yukon placer authorization were doing. The recommendations that went to Ottawa were exactly that. They even showed timelines of where we could phase in more stringent regulatory processes. The minister tossed it all away, and this amendment though, overall, in its context, does help to improve — until we get to this bottom section — the last bullet — where we have really gone off from where we’re trying to get to, and that includes all the people involved here, except, in all likelihood, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials. I can tell you, the minister would love to get back into a position where he doesn’t have to deal with this on a daily basis, and I think the minister will openly admit, as any good politician would, that the decision he made in December boxed him in and now he has to find a way out of this mess.

Now, the members opposite have berated the government for doing nothing and again I point out that that’s not the case. We have been very conciliatory. We’ve been mediating. We have declined to enter the acrimonious debate, though at great urging. We have not done that. Our MP has worked on this. Our senator has worked on this. The B.C. government and the Yukon government have agreed to join forces to work on this.

We have worked with First Nations — they are agreeing on process, and on how we are going to take this further, now and into the immediate future. So, much has been done. Is there no way that we can get to what is really intended here — back to the Yukon placer authorization and/or an equivalent process that allows a multi-stakeholder mechanism to keep on going here, and which gives us, the Government of Yukon, the opportunity post-April 1 to define and establish the relationship that we will work under as it relates to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans?

We have to ensure, by the way, that the timelines that have been laid out, not only at the Yukon placer authorization, but by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans itself, which extend seven years from now — that we get all the work done that is required under the recommendations, entering into further comprehensive — and I don’t want the members opposite to take this the wrong way — which may be redundant studies because of all the work that has been done for decades and decades and decades. Let’s do this so we get what we want to achieve.

And we want to achieve two things: protection of fish habitat and the continued operation of our placer mining industry, and the decision being made by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is compromising that.

What DFO is doing is that it’s doing nothing in terms of guaranteeing the protection of fish habitat.

Speaker: Would the member speak to the amendment, please.

Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will get back to the process of more studies. What really should be studied is what’s going on at the mouth of the Yukon River because, no matter how much fish habitat we protect, if the spawning fish aren’t getting up to that habitat, we are not going to solve the problem. DFO has a responsibility in this area, too.

Let us try this again. Unfortunately, we have a few seconds to try and re-amend the amendment and get this back to what we’re trying to achieve, but what we can do is — this is a government motion. We feel it is vital that this House unite on this issue. Tomorrow, we’ll bring this back again. We will try and amend the amendment, but we will work collectively with the members across the floor — sorry, next week, Mr. Speaker.

Seeing the time, I move that debate be now adjourned.

Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that the debate be now adjourned.

Motion to adjourn debate on amendment to Motion No. 5 agreed to

Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.

Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the House do now adjourn.

Motion agreed to

Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.

The House adjourned at 5:59 p.m.

The following Sessional Papers were tabled March 5, 2003:

03-1-10

Yukon Heritage Resources Board 2001-02 Annual Report (Taylor)

03-1-11

Yukon Public Service Staff Relations Board 2001-02 Annual Report (Edzerza)

03-1-12

Yukon Teachers Staff Relations Board 2001-02 Annual Report (Edzerza)