Thursday, March 6, 2003 — 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the House to order, and we will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker: We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of International Women’s Day
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize March 8 as International Women’s Day.
To celebrate this day around the world, a special week of activities, March 2 to 8, offers an occasion to reflect on the progress made to advance women’s equality and opportunity to assess the challenges facing women in contemporary society in the Yukon, in Canada and around the world.
Here in the Yukon we are celebrating on March 7 and 8. The Canadian theme for this year’s celebration is "World-Wide (www): Women Surfing the Digital Revolution!". The introduction of new information and communication technologies, such as the Internet, have revolutionalized the way people communicate, access information, create networks and develop business opportunities. While bringing important economic and social benefits, this revolution also poses challenges and risks.
This theme encourages Canadians to take a closer look at the impact of these technologies and, in particular, Internet applications on women and on their use as a tool to empower women and to promote women’s equality.
Last November, the Women's Directorate partnered with Skills Canada, Human Resources Development Canada, Yukon Education and Women in Trades and Technology, to hold a conference, titled "Young Women Exploring Trades and Technology". Young women from across the territory attended, and many took part in a computer/Internet workshop, aptly called "Get Wired."
On a more global theme, women and young girls are using the Internet to share ideas on peace and understanding in these turbulent times. Events are planned to recognize and encourage women and young girls in technology. And on Friday, from 12:15 to 12:55 p.m., in the pit at Yukon College, the Department of Education coordinator of technology and assisted learning, JoAnn Davidson, will be speaking on this year’s theme "World-Wide Women (www): Surfing the Digital Revolution!".
On Saturday, March 8, from 6:30 until 10:00, the Victoria Faulkner Women’s Centre with the support of the Women’s Directorate is hosting a potluck and evening of entertainment at CYO Hall. I invite you to take this opportunity to celebrate, but it is also to reflect on the challenges that remain to women’s full equality in the Yukon, in Canada and globally. Each of us has a role to play in reaching this goal, and we will all benefit from these efforts and successes.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I, too, rise in the House today on behalf of the official opposition to mark the International Women’s Day, which will be celebrated this year on March 8. That day is meant to recognize the important role that women play and to pay tribute to our contributions in society. I want to pay tribute to all Yukon women: the mothers at home; those in the workforce, who are often also taking care of children; the young women who are meeting today’s challenges in colleges and schools; and the grandmothers of the Yukon.
Today I especially want to pay tribute to the First Nation elder women, the women who have been hunters and trappers while keeping their families fed and clothed, like my own mother did. They have helped retain our language and culture when it may have been overwhelmed. They have blazed many trails for us. Many of them have responded to the needs for leadership in these challenging times for First Nations. They have made historical inroads in fighting for our environment, in health concerns and in child care, to name just a few. I want to say mahsi'cho to those women. Without them I would not be here.
I was raised traditionally, not only by my family but by a concerned community. These women raised a younger generation of women who are meeting today’s struggles, in and out of our communities, with heart and energy. They have raised our role models of today.
I also want to draw attention to the women who are dealing with community needs every day, who show leadership in a quiet way, working in First Nation programs, solving the daily problems we all have in the Yukon.
The future will bring many challenges and changes but it is with great confidence that I know our young women will find their place to carry on the example of our elders. We will continue to show the dignity, respect and faith in the future that our elders have taught us. While women in the Yukon have made great strides in gaining rights and equality, it is important to remember that women still do not have the same privileges as men and that violence against women is still a very serious problem in the Yukon, as shown by statistics.
Much more needs to be done in education, which plays a key role in prevention of these issues.
There are a number of events being sponsored by women’s groups this weekend in celebration of International Women’s Day, and I urge you to take part in these. We must all continue to work toward improving the lives of women in the Yukon and globally.
As legislators, we must always be aware that we can play a large role in furthering the cause of women’s rights and true equal status.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute to International Women’s Day. For over 20 years, women have taken the time to join with one another to recognize how far we have come and how difficult the struggle before us is.
Internationally, our hearts go out to the women of Afghanistan and elsewhere. Their struggle is a difficult one. It’s difficult for our young Yukon women to understand what kind of a world would not allow young women to go to school, to be broadcasters, to be lawyers, to be doctors, to be all that they can be.
Our prayers are with these women on International Women’s Day and always.
Our thanks are also for those women who, daily, quietly and often without thanks, ensure that our volunteer organizations continue to run, that young people in need are offered a helping hand or a comforting shoulder and, perhaps most importantly, the caregivers in our society — those who are caring for the sick and the elderly.
I often ask, "Who nurtures the nurturers?" — on International Women’s Day and every day — a note, a kind word of thanks.
Especially today I would like to offer these women a tribute.
We also choose to celebrate on International Women’s Day our successes as women — how far we have come in the workplace, in the sporting world, in politics, in our societies. We also know that the journey before us worldwide is a challenging one, and to all women as we begin this journey and continue this journey together, may the strength that we have demonstrated in our societies in the past continue to guide us in the challenging journeys ahead. I encourage all members of the Legislature and the public to attend the events celebrating International Women’s Day both in Whitehorse and throughout Yukon communities.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to ask the House to help me welcome the acting president of the Yukon College, Ms. Janet Moodie. Welcome.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would like to also introduce in the gallery today Barb Powick from Kaushee’s Place and the former MLA from Old Crow for Vuntut Gwitchin, Norma Kassi, as well as Whitehorse City Councillor Duke Connelly. I’m sure they’re all here to hear the budget from the Premier of the Yukon. Please help us welcome them here today.
Mr. Cardiff: I would also like to welcome Norma. Norma is also a constituent of mine, but I’d also like the House to join me in welcoming representatives of the Public Service Alliance of Canada: John Francois Des Lauriers, president of the northern section, Jim Brohman, and Nancy Debreceni, who is with the regional women’s committee.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 2: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 2, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 2, entitled Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 2 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 3: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 3, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 3, entitled Fourth Appropriation Act, 2001-02, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 3 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 4: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 5: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 5 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 34: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 34, entitled Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Infrastructure that Bill No. 34, entitled Act to Amend the Municipal Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 34 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Bill No. 33: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Lang: I move that Bill No. 33, entitled Act to Amend the Forest Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that Bill No. 33, entitled Act to Amend the Forest Protection Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 33 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Yukon Liberal government was the first government to provide annual funding to the Klondike Placer Miners Association; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to increase that contribution to the Klondike Placer Miners Association to ensure that the association has adequate financial resources to lobby for the reinstatement of the Yukon placer authorization.
Mr. Cathers: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that the Department of Economic Development should be reinstated; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to consult with First Nation governments, business and industry, Yukon government employees and other stakeholders on how the Department of Economic Development should be structured and what its responsibilities should be.
Mr. Hassard: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
there would be significant economic benefits for Yukon should a railroad be built connecting Alaska through Yukon to the southern United States; and
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) The Alaska House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill setting aside land for a railroad right away up to the Yukon border; and
(2) Senator John Cowdery, of the Alaska State Legislature has tabled a bill entitled An Act relating to a railroad utility corridor for extension of the Alaska Railroad to Canada and for the extension of the Alaska Railroad to connect with the North American Railroad system; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada, the Government of the Yukon and Yukon First Nations, whose lands the railroads would cross, to express their willingness to consider the Alaska railroad proposal, including the setting aside of lands for a railroad through Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada with the full participation of the Government of the Yukon and Yukon First Nation governments affected, to commence discussions with the Government of the United States and the State of Alaska about establishing a mechanism such as an international joint commission to expedite the development of the Alaska Railroad proposal.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Speaker: However, please allow me, before Question Period starts, to say that the Chair has noticed the tendency for the opposition and the government side to bootleg comments in front of questions and in front of answers. I would ask that the members keep that in mind while proceeding with the orders.
Question re: Devolution, potential staff layoffs
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, I’m not exactly sure what you meant by the bootleg, but I’ll continue with the question.
I hope that the minister responsible — this is a question for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. I hope he doesn’t feel I’m picking on him, because it seems my questions for the last few days have been toward him, but there are a few matters that require some clarification.
We know from the throne speech that we’ll soon have a Department of Tourism, a new Department of Economic Development and, possibly, maybe, a real Women’s Directorate. Apart from the departments I’ve just mentioned, will the minister tell us how many other departments are being rebuilt, restored, renovated, redesigned or renewed in the coming months?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I thank the leader of the official opposition for that question. I was kind of thinking you were picking on me. That’s all right, because I need —
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister address the Chair?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: All right.
I find that all right because it gives me experience.
In answer to your question, to the best of my knowledge, I don’t know of any other departments that are being restructured, and that’s the end of it. At this point in time, I don’t know of any, other than those mentioned.
Mr. Hardy: I understand there are also changes planned for Community Services. Of course, we can expect further changes in the wake of the devolution transfer, and that would probably be expected with that move.
Now, the Liberal government’s so-called renewal process came with a huge price tag, both in dollars and in staff morale, Mr. Speaker. We may never know the real cost, because a lot of them were hidden within the departments.
Can the minister give us a cost estimate for the Yukon Party government renewal process?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I’m not aware of any renewal process that the Yukon Party has.
Mr. Hardy: Yesterday, Mr. Speaker, the minister gave a very reassuring answer to my questions about the government workforce. His exact words were, "At this point in time, this government has no intention whatsoever of laying anybody off or diminishing any kind of workforce within the government."
Will the minister give his assurance today that this commitment also applies with respect to this new round of government reorganization?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Speaker, at this point in time, to the best of my knowledge, there will be the same commitments made here as were made to the devolution transfer agreement. We are obliged to keep the employees that we have.
Question re: Women’s Directorate
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I was so pleased to hear in the throne speech that this government has reinstated the Women’s Directorate to a stand-alone department.
What long-term vision does the minister have for the Women’s Directorate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The long-term vision, quite simply, Mr. Speaker, is to use the Women’s Directorate in a very constructive and positive manner to ensure that gender equity is, indeed, alive and well within government but also to work diligently — externally — outside government in dealing with the many issues that women face in the territory today.
The Women’s Directorate will take a very proactive approach in that regard, and we look forward to great things coming from the Women’s Directorate in the future.
Mrs. Peter: In April 2002, the Liberal government made this department a simple line item within the Executive Council Office budget, with public education and violence prevention dollars cut by 50 percent. Will the minister commit to a Women’s Directorate fully reinstated to its former strength, including a deputy minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I do really like this line of questioning because of the importance of this issue. It’s obvious the former Liberal government didn’t have the same view as the leader of the official opposition and we on the government side of the House do when it comes to women’s issues and the role that the Women’s Directorate can play but, again, in a few minutes to a half hour, things will become much clearer in regard to the reinstatement of the Women’s Directorate, and it would be inappropriate for me to preclude what is about to take place in delivering the budget speech and tabling the budget for the fiscal year 2003-04.
Question re: Fuel tax exemptions
Ms. Duncan: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. The government introduced a fuel tax bill yesterday that reduces fuel taxes for certain special groups in society — sawmill owners and golf course owners.
The minister owns 80 shares in a local golf course, a golf course that will pay less tax because of legislation the government introduced yesterday. Has the minister sold his shares in the company?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: When it comes to this issue, I will speak to it, because it’s very important that our government conducts itself in the appropriate manner. In this particular case, the minister in question, the member in question, did act in an appropriate manner, has conducted himself as a minister should under the conflicts act, and the minister abstained and did not participate in any discussion or decision when it came to the amendments to the Fuel Oil Tax Act.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the Premier for that answer. The Yukon Party talked about consensus and collaboration in working with the opposition. They’ve talked about it; however, they haven’t demonstrated it. The Premier just stood on his feet and said that the minister to whom I just directed the question acted according to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. Can the minister confirm that that was the Conflict Commissioner’s advice and that the Conflicts Commissioner’s advice was sought prior to the Premier determining that that was the appropriate action? Was that the advice from the Conflicts Commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, of course, when we say that we want to conduct ourselves in the appropriate manner, we would make every effort to ensure that what we do in the decision-making process of government, when it comes to the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, is abided by.
In this particular case, the minister abstained from all discussions, all participation, all decisions on this matter. The minister will also abstain from any debate in this Legislature. When it comes to the Fuel Oil Tax Act, he will not participate in any way, shape or form. Yes indeed, advice from the Conflicts Commissioner points directly to what the minister has done as being the appropriate course of action.
Ms. Duncan: The Premier very carefully did not directly answer the question, so I’ll ask it again. Did the Premier and/or the minister in question actually seek the advice of the Conflicts Commissioner and then follow it to the letter? If that is the case — I’m asking the Premier to confirm that, to confirm that specific point — was it the Conflicts Commissioner’s advice that the minister abstain or was it the Premier who decided that that would be the action in line with the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act?
I might remind the Premier that this Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act applies to not only members of the caucus, which includes all of Cabinet, but it applies to employees immediately employed by the government as well.
Has the Premier in fact ensured that, number one, it was the actual advice of the Conflicts Commissioner for this specific instance and that it has been sought and followed for all others to whom it applies?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, it’s a well-known fact that seeking advice from the Conflicts Commissioner commences upon election, and we all sat down and presented to the Conflicts Commissioner our positions in this very small territory. For those who choose to enter public office, there are many linkages with their private lives. It’s a very small jurisdiction. We’ve taken every step to ensure that when we make decisions such as the Fuel Oil Tax Act amendment, that the appropriate steps have been taken. In this regard, that did take place. We have ensured that the minister in question and, indeed, others — although it’s highly unlikely the government is going to know everybody who is a shareholder in every company or corporation in the territory — made every effort to ensure that the appropriate steps were taken. The minister in this case certainly has acted in the manner that is laid out under the act.
Question re: Communication infrastructure
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Infrastructure. Previous Yukon governments have recognized a need to partner with others to offset the capital costs of developing communications infrastructure in our territory. Previous administrations, including the NDP administration, demonstrated the leadership and innovation necessary to accomplish just that. For example, initiatives such as the Connect Yukon project provided high-speed Internet and data services to unserved and underserved Yukon communities. What is the minister’s outlook for the Yukon Party in fulfilling its platform promise to work in conjunction with the private sector to ensure the Yukon has access to up-to-date information and telecommunications systems?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We will be working with the private enterprise, Northwestel, on our Internet facilities in our rural communities on aspects of high-speed Internet capabilities. We’re working together with them on that particular venue, following up on Connect Yukon, finishing up in areas where it hasn’t taken place, i.e. Faro and Ross River, which will be taking place sometime later on this year.
Mr. McRobb: Northwestel’s service improvement plan is scheduled to meet the land-based communications needs of most Yukoners by the end of next year. But cellular telephone service in the territory is still at a very inadequate level. Out of the whole territory, this service is only available in the Whitehorse area. Unfortunately, under the tenure of this Yukon Party government, the coverage area has shrunk, not expanded.
Following the recent election, Northwestel’s subsidiary, NMI Mobility, moved its cellular equipment from the Lake Laberge area to somewhere in the Northwest Territories. That, in fact, reduced the level of cellular telephone service available in the territory.
Does the minister acknowledge the importance of the concern regarding the deficient cellular telephone infrastructure and service available within the territory, and how does he intend to deal with that problem?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The NMI Mobility tower at the Lake Laberge site was removed, as the member opposite indicated. We have been working in close consultation with the NMI people regarding this removal. And in conjunction with the MLA in that area, we worked closely on trying to ascertain just why the facility was taken down. We are working very closely with them, as you probably heard in Mr. Cathers’ responses in the newspaper.
Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, please.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Member for Lake Laberge. I guess we’re allowed some of those excuses.
We are working on ways and means of trying to assist the people in the Lake Laberge area to get phone service of some kind.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to address the situation Yukon wide. We didn’t hear anything about his vision to resolve this Yukon-wide problem.
Expanded cellular telephone service would help to improve the territory’s economy and quality of life. As a starting point, it would be practical to develop cellular service at strategic areas within the territory. Industry has expressed interest in forming a partnership with the Yukon government toward meeting that objective. A partnership is also quite possible with other governments, including the governments of Canada, Alaska, the United States and Yukon First Nations, all of whom have an interest in the development of such infrastructure in our territory.
Will this minister agree to at least try to strike a partnership agreement with industry and others to fund expanded cellular telephone services in the territory?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Yes, we will be looking into other aspects of cellular phones in the Yukon and looking at other partners with the possibility of providing those services in the Yukon.
Question re: Whitehorse Copper residential development
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services.
On January 8, more than 200 people who live in my area of Whitehorse attended a community meeting to discuss their concerns about the government’s Whitehorse Copper residential development proposal. Here we are, two months later, and the Department of Community Services has not responded in a way that meets community needs, expectations and values, and I’d like to offer the minister a chance to make up for some mistakes of the past, under his government and under the previous government.
Will the minister give his assurance now that residents of Wolf Creek, Pineridge, Mary Lake and MacRae areas will be consulted in the manner in which they have asked to be consulted?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are working closely with the City of Whitehorse on developing possible lots for country-residential use, and we’re in the midst right now, as the member opposite indicated — we did have a meeting on January 8. We have provided all those who attended that meeting with the results of a package that was supplied to all of them, and we are looking at further plans.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, you’re right — last week, the residents did receive a big bundle of documents, telling them what the department has in store for them now. Then this week, they heard that the government was going to place ads in the papers for another open house.
My constituents and the people who live in the riding adjacent have asked to meet with government officials to discuss their concerns, not to have an open house. The residents want time to review the material, and then they want to sit down with government officials to discuss their concerns. They don’t want another open house that’s going to be nothing more than a government sales pitch about the country-residential lifestyle.
So, will the minister do the right thing, direct his officials to postpone the open house and engage in respectful consultations that address the needs of my constituents and the constituents in the neighbouring ridings?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We were asked for further consultation. We were asked to provide responses to those at the meeting derived from January 8. We provided some information to these constituents, and we’re prepared to provide some information at this next meeting. We were asked for further consultations; this is the process we’re looking at.
Mr. Cardiff: I know I’m a little bit emotional about this but this is about the people who are phoning me on a regular basis and telling me their concerns. What the residents want is to have their concerns addressed before there is a public sales pitch on the property. Now, there are some other concerns here, too. One of the other things that is bothering residents is the roadblocks they hit when they try to talk to the minister. I’ve received several complaints from people who have called the minister’s office and have been told that it is not appropriate for them to do that about this matter. That is certainly not a sign of open or accountable government.
This may now be a policy of the Cabinet suite, but I hope that this minister will at least buck the system and not be afraid to talk to the people that we are all here —
Speaker: Would the member please ask the question.
Mr. Cardiff: Yes, I am. What I’m asking is to not be afraid to talk to the people whom we are all elected to serve, and will he do that and will he take calls from my constituents and the constituents of other MLAs in this House on this matter?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I have, on several occasions, taken calls from members of this constituency of Mount Lorne. If indeed there has been a case or two that somebody has tried to touch base with me and I haven’t been there, I haven’t been there. However, I have, as I mentioned earlier, talked and spoken to many people in this area with regard to this issue.
Question re: Macaulay Lodge, closure of
Mr. Fairclough: My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The Yukon Party promised to be open and accountable. They also promised to consult. Yesterday the minister did admit that he did consult for about a week before he decided to kick residents out of Macaulay Lodge and made plans for bulldozing the building. By the time the residents were told anything, a decision was already made. In fact, the minister told the media on Tuesday, February 4, that his plans would show up in the budget. I would like to ask the minister this: would the minister now admit that a plan to bulldoze Macaulay Lodge was already in place before February 5?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The short answer, Mr. Speaker, is no.
Mr. Fairclough: There seems to be an awful lot of secrecy around this. The minister did say that there were plans to build a seniors facility on the Macaulay Lodge site. The minister did say that, and, Mr. Speaker, the minister did say that you may see this show up in the budget. He did say it. It was a quote out of the papers.
So I’d like to ask the minister this: on what basis did the minister decide to reject the Yukon Housing plan to renovate Macaulay Lodge in favour of bulldozing a building with at least 10 good years left in it?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, for the record, an element of consultation is to explore all options and put them out in the public domain. Now, I hear once again where the members opposite are relying, verbatim, on what is reported in the newsprint, and I’d encourage them to really carefully examine what they read, because it can be interpreted a number of ways.
With respect to the one option that was looked at by a previous government, it was through Yukon Housing Corporation; it was a study conducted on Macaulay Lodge to retrofit the building to what was termed "bed-sit rooms", and I’ve agreed to provide the member opposite with a copy of that study and its estimate of costs.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasn’t in the Yukon Party plans, and the minister knows that. One of these days, we’ll get the secret master plan out of the minister.
Mr. Speaker, these are quotes in the papers. They came out of the minister’s mouth, and he doesn’t even believe his own words. As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, I have a press release, and this comes straight out of the minister’s office, and this is the way they consult: the staff and residents were informed at Macaulay Lodge of the upcoming move earlier today. That’s their consultation process, Mr. Speaker.
Now I’d like to ask the minister this: we know that there are plans in place, so will the minister table all plans for all seniors housing, including agreements with non-profit organizations, complete with schedules for start of construction to completion? Will he at least do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The only document I can table in this area is the program that was reviewed by Yukon Housing Corporation on Macaulay Lodge. I agreed previously to provide the member opposite with a copy of that review. Mr. Speaker, I can’t table other documents that do not exist. These are somewhere in the fictitious world of the member opposite. I cannot table what does not exist.
Question re: Electoral reform
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier regarding a commitment in his party’s election platform. On page 15 of that document, his party promised that it would, upon formation of government, strike an independent commission of citizens to hold public consultation on electoral reform in the Yukon. It’s now over three months since the formation of this government. When does the Premier intend to strike this independent commission?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It’s evident over the last few days in this House and from the line of questioning from the official opposition that there appears to be a perception by the official opposition that because commitments were laid out before the public during an election campaign, they should all be delivered by now.
We were sworn in December 2; we are here now at March 6. We have gone through a great deal of work already. We have constructed a budget — both O&M and capital — in six weeks. It normally takes six to seven months.
Yes, the commitment for an electoral reform commission is there and, in due course, we will strike the commission and proceed.
Mr. Hardy: All I asked for was when they were going to live up to the promise made in the election platform, which stated that they would do it immediately upon forming government. Three months later, I guess, doesn’t fill that bill.
However, the operative words in this are "an independent commission of citizens". I would assume that means a commission like the one set up by the previous NDP government to get public input on the Yukon Act. Is that the kind of model the Premier plans?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will admit that the NDP has brought forward many good initiatives to this territory — no question about it — and we have adopted two of them: the community development fund program and the fire smart program. Both are very good initiatives and we commend and applaud them for that.
In this particular case, we have not decided if the model we will proceed with will reflect the model that the former NDP government used. We are going to take some time to think this through and proceed in a thoughtful and practical manner. I can say to the member opposite that, sometime during this mandate, it will become clear how we intend to proceed with a private citizen-led electoral reform commission.
Mr. Hardy: I guess it must be a definition of mandate, because I’m not actually sure what timelines this Premier talks about when he’s talking about now, our mandates, or sometime in the future.
Anyway, the final question I have for the Premier in this regard concerns the fact that the Premier made speculations around political involvement in this process. Obviously, when making those speculations, he probably didn’t have any problems with that, or any difficulties with that. I would like to know how the Premier plans to explain how he intends to reconcile the independence of a commission of citizens with some form of political involvement with it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I’ll admit openly that I’m not quite sure what the member opposite is alluding to, but let me take a stab at it. When it comes to political involvement in initiatives in government here in the territory, under this government’s watch, we are very keen on engaging and including the members on the opposition benches. They too were elected by constituencies; they too have the responsibility and duty to represent those constituencies. We are going to look for ways in which we can engage them and involve them and include them in a more meaningful and productive and constructive manner. That’s why we offered, right at the outset of our mandate, to involve them in going out with the community development fund and proceeding with soliciting applications so that we could get some expenditure and stimulus in the economy. We’re talking with the opposition about an all-party committee for appointments to boards and committees.
On countless occasions, we’ve sent information to provide the members opposite with an indication that we were appointing somebody because we had to, under the statutes of this territory.
We’re making every effort, so if that’s what the member means by "political involvement", yes, we want to involve the opposition in as many places as we can in governing this territory. We believe that will improve the governance in this territory.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No 4: Second Reading
Clerk: Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 4, entitled First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, hon. members, it is my privilege to table today the Government of Yukon’s capital and operation and maintenance budget for the 2003-04 fiscal year. The total capital and operation and maintenance budget for 2003-04 is $550 million. The operation and maintenance budget totals $451.3 million of which $43.5 million is recoverable. The capital budget totals $98.7 million of which $43 million is recoverable. There are no tax increases.
This budget represents a concerted effort toward lowering the Government of Yukon’s trajectory of spending. Maintaining the expenditure levels of previous budgets would have put the Government of Yukon in violation of the Taxpayer Protection Act, causing another territorial election.
It is a simple fact that the growth in government spending cannot be sustained and, with our government only having been elected on November 4, 2002, the prudent course of action is to exercise fiscal restraint. Expenditures have been growing at a faster rate than revenues and formula grants by approximately $20 million annually. These increases are largely due to rising health care and social program costs, which take up about 32 percent of the government’s total O&M expenditure.
It should be noted that our government has achieved expenditure reductions in this budget without resorting to layoffs in the public service or the elimination of programs.
I wish to commend members of the public service as well as my Cabinet and caucus colleagues for all the work they have done in the three months since taking office to accomplish this task. It was not an easy one, nor is it over.
Curbing a government’s trajectory of spending is akin to turning around a supertanker. It will take both time and effort.
It has been estimated that the Yukon’s population has declined by 3,000 people in recent years and this decline in population impacts the growth in transfer payments from the Government of Canada. Our government has set aside a contingency reserve of $15 million to deal with this eventuality. However, it is too early to determine whether this reserve will be sufficient to meet this potential reduction.
At the same time that the territory is facing this potential reduction, our health care costs have been increasing at an annual rate of $7 million to $10 million over the last few years.
Further, in 1995 the Government of Canada cut funding from our financing agreement, which translates into a loss of $150 million that otherwise could have been directed to Yukon health care.
Under the current Canada health and social transfer that the Prime Minister and the provincial premiers have agreed to, the Yukon would not fully recoup annual increases in expenditures.
Mr. Speaker, the CHST is based on a per capita formula that just does not meet the needs of providing health care in the three northern territories where the transportation costs are high, the distances are vast and the populations are small. For these reasons, Premier Kakfwi, Premier Okalik and I did not sign the health care accord in Ottawa on February 5, 2003. Two weeks later, the three northern premiers met with the Prime Minister, who then agreed to establish a $60-million fund to be shared equally by the territories. This is in addition to our CHST funding. Overall, the Yukon will be receiving approximately $10 million to $12 million annually in increased health care funding. This funding will only cover our annual increase in health care costs unless we are able to control the increases in our health care expenditures. Additionally, the $60-million fund is time-limited, so a more permanent funding solution must be found.
Mr. Speaker, reducing the current level of government spending in the territory affords our government the opportunity to be innovative in our thinking and to explore better ways of meeting our goals. We must become wiser in how we spend our money and strive toward improving the effectiveness and efficiencies of our programs.
Moreover, Mr. Speaker, the solution to the Yukon’s current dependence on government spending is obvious. We must develop a healthy, robust private sector economy that will provide employment and generate additional revenues for the territory. That is the challenge our government is committed to undertaking and achieving.
Mr. Speaker, we live in a land of boundless opportunity. The Beringia era, First Nation occupation from time immemorial, the coming of Robert Campbell and the early traders, the advent of the gold rush stampeders, and the construction of the Alaska Highway by American soldiers in 1942, have all contributed exciting chapters to the Yukon storybook of legends. The Yukon is a land rich in human history. It is a land steeped in magic and mystery. It is little wonder people from afar want to come to see the Yukon for themselves to experience our history, our distinct cultures and our pristine and beautiful landscape.
The Yukon is also a land rich in resources that have helped sustain our people for the last 100 years. The Yukon geological map is crossed by two parallel fault lines running northwest to southeast for hundreds of kilometres — the Shakwak Valley and the Tintina Trench. The Tintina Trench is a Yukon treasure house of mineralization.
The gold fields of the Klondike, the lead, zinc, silver and copper deposits found near Faro, Ross River and Watson Lake are located within the Tintina Trench, and now emeralds are being found. Future major potential mines such as Kudz Kayah and Wolverine are located there.
The Yukon is also blessed with substantial oil and gas reserves located in the Eagle Plains Basin, the Peel Plateau, the Whitehorse trough and the Liard Basin.
Until recently, Yukon’s natural gas resources were estimated to total about nine trillion cubic feet, an amount of gas equal to proven discoveries in the Mackenzie Delta and near shore waters of the Beaufort Sea. This estimate had to be increased dramatically because of four new resource assessments by the Geological Survey of Canada. The estimated natural gas potential of the Eagle Plains Basin alone has been revised from two trillion cubic feet upward to six trillion cubic feet — a threefold increase.
While forest activities have been developed over several decades, forestry is still a fledgling industry in the territory that has considerable undeveloped potential. The highest volumes of merchantable timber are found in the southeast Yukon primarily in the Watson Lake area and in the extreme eastern portion of the Yukon along the Beaver and Labiche watersheds. Other productive forest can be found around the communities of Mayo, Dawson City, Teslin and Haines Junction.
High-quality woods and value-added products are part of Yukon forest product appeal. Primary species harvested are lodgepole pine and white spruce.
Yukon’s northern boreal forests produce a high-quality wood fibre that is well-suited for a variety of wood products, such as furniture and window jams.
The Yukon has much to offer forest investors: resource quality is world-class and marketing opportunities to specialty product markets, both overseas and in Alaska, are abundant; stumpage and reforestation fees are highly competitive; the territory has an excellent transportation network, including access to tidewater port facilities at Skagway; Yukon First Nations manage large tracts of productive forest, and economic partnerships with First Nations are well worth exploring.
At the same time as we are developing these natural resources, we should be looking to diversify the Yukon economy in other sectors. Once again there are exciting opportunities for diversification.
Even within the tourism industry there are new niche markets that are prime targets for product development such as First Nation arts and culture, and wilderness tourism and learning. These opportunities are recognized in the newly released tourism marketing and product development strategies.
Like tourism, the film industry attracts new dollars to the territory. It is also a non-resource depleting, highly labour-intensive industry and it has a high multiplier effect on our local economies. The Yukon has what it takes to be competitive in pursuing the growth of the film industry in the territory.
The music industry and the arts and cultural industries already have a proven track record of success and offer tremendous potential for expansion and growth.
Agriculture, aquaculture, game farming, outfitting and trapping are established Yukon industries whose potential has only been partially realized.
Much more can be done to allow these industries to realize their true potential.
The agriculture branch, for example, just released a state of the industry report that showed the value of Yukon agricultural sales has increased from $3.2 million to $4.2 million, and total farm capital has risen from $45 million to $50.2 million in just five years.
Information technology is another growth sector that has tremendous potential and provides infrastructure needed to help diversify our economy. A final draft of the information technology strategy was released in mid-January.
Whether Yukon’s various diverse industries are old or new, they all have an important role to play in rebuilding the Yukon economy.
In view of our great potential, it is critical for our government to investigate why our economy is currently in decline and to take corrective action. Rebuilding the private sector economy is job one for our government.
Tourism has become the territory’s economic mainstay supplanting our resource-based industries. Our government believes that mining, oil and gas, and forestry development together with tourism will offer the greatest potential to advance the general economic well-being of Yukon and its residents over the long term.
While low commodity prices are one of the reasons why our traditional resource-based economy is not functioning properly today, the primary reason is because of government policies, regulations and legislation. Unsettled land claims, a cumbersome, time-consuming, Ottawa-based permitting regime and the implementation of policies such as the protected areas strategy at the territorial level, and forestry and placer mining policies at the federal level, have all served to impede our mining, forestry and oil and gas industries in the territory.
We know what industries need. They need access to resources, security of tenure, a common, timely permitting regime, regulatory clarity, the provision of reasonably priced energy, communication and transportation infrastructure, a skilled workforce and, above all, cooperative governments.
Over the last few years, mining claims have been included within the boundaries of a park on four separate occasions. These actions have seriously eroded investor confidence in the territory. The industry has concerns about security of tenure and access to resources being restricted.
Similarly, the forest industry has been denied long-term access to timber, and there have been insufficient volumes of timber allocated to make the industry viable. The oil and gas sector has been adversely affected by unsettled land claims. Also the debate over the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline versus the Mackenzie Valley line has led to industry concern in northern Yukon about stranding the Yukon’s oil and gas reserves in that region.
All of our industries, including wilderness tourism, have been adversely affected by regulatory regimes that, in some instances, can threaten the very viability of the industry itself. We know the problems that are impeding the growth of the private sector economy. The challenge facing our government is to find and implement the solutions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to take a few moments to explain how our government is going to restore investor confidence in the territory and find solutions to meet resource industry needs.
Access to resources and security of tenure will be addressed by completing the unfinished business of settling land claims and by implementing the agreements of those First Nations that have settled. We will focus on the development of common permitting regimes for settlement and non-settlement land, the finalization of special management areas and land use planning exercises with First Nation governments.
The development of common permitting regimes will be achieved after April 1, 2003 through devolution and through the formalization of a government-to-government relationship with First Nations. Our government will examine the regulatory regimes of jurisdictions such as Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario that have been successful in attracting private sector investment.
Industry’s need for regulatory clarity will be achieved by our commitment to conduct a red-tape review of our government policies, regulations and legislation.
The provision of reasonably priced infrastructure in relation to energy, communication and transportation will be challenges to be met by Yukon Energy Corporation, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, and Department of Highways and Public Works.
The development of a skilled workforce will be achieved by working in partnership with Yukon First Nations, Yukon College, industry and other stakeholders. It should be recognized that the bulk of the Yukoners who have left the territory over the course of the last seven years are in the 25 to 34 age group, which is the prime labour force. Mr. Speaker, the challenge facing our government is to produce a thriving, private sector economy so that these Yukoners with their young families can return to the territory and find gainful employment.
Mr. Speaker, a few days ago I stood in the Elijah Smith Building to pay tribute marking the 30th anniversary of the presentation of the Yukon First Nations land claim, Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow, to the Government of Canada. Today we still have some unfinished business to complete.
The Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Kluane First Nation and the White River First Nation are still engaged in the ratification process for their final agreements. Their agreements were to be ratified by March 31, 2003; however, during my recent meeting with the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, the hon. Robert Nault, he indicated that an extension to that deadline has been granted.
The Liard First Nation and the Kaska Dena Council of Ross River have not concluded their final agreements; however, once again Minister Nault has indicated that the Government of Canada is prepared to re-engage the Kaska Nation in land claim negotiations provided that the Kaska Nation’s legal challenge of the devolution transfer agreement is put in abeyance.
Our government has hired a negotiator, one of whose several tasks is to conclude an abeyance agreement with the Kaska Nation by May 13, 2003. We are currently addressing these Yukon issues impeding these settlements and will act as a facilitator between the Kaska and the Government of Canada to re-engage in land claim negotiations.
With respect to the four First Nations that have signed MOUs, our government has indicated that we are prepared to assist them with the ratification process in any way we can, should they request us to so do.
It is important to recognize that land claim settlements will not only enable First Nations to run their own affairs but these agreements will give First Nation governments the necessary capital to invest in the economic development of the Yukon. Land claim settlements mean millions of dollars will be spent here in the territory.
The challenge facing our government and the First Nations with land claim agreements is to make these settlements living, working agreements whose implementation will improve the well-being of Yukon First Nation citizens and other Yukoners alike.
Since taking office on November 30, 2002, our government has met several times with the eight First Nations that have land claim agreements — namely, the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation, the Na Cho Nyak Dun, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Selkirk First Nation, the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an First Nation.
By partnering with First Nations we can together achieve the vision espoused by Elijah Smith and First Nation leaders to work together today for all of our children tomorrow. My government is committed to making this vision a reality for all Yukoners, not only by living up to the spirit and intent of the land claim agreements, but also by establishing a full economic partnership and government-to-government relations with First Nations.
Mr. Speaker, our government is prepared to think outside of the land claims box by making First Nations full partners in the economic development of the territory whether or not they have achieved land claim agreements.
We call this approach building "team Yukon". For the first time our First Nations are being invited to share both the burdens of the decision making process as well as share in the economic benefits resulting from these decisions, regarding responsible developments within their traditional territories.
Our government’s objective is to develop a common "united front" investment climate that will make the Yukon a good place to invest in.
In order to implement this commitment, our government will be working collaboratively with individual First Nations in order to determine together which kind of economic structures best meet our mutual interests.
Our government and the Kaska governments have agreed to utilize an economic table, which was previously established to develop an economic partnership.
On January 31, 2003, our government signed a renewed intergovernmental relations accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to determine how our respective governments will work together to define shared priorities for north Yukon. The construction of a winter road and a rock quarry proposal to help stabilize the riverbank near Old Crow are two such priorities.
Our government is also committed to ensuring that Air North, which is partially owned by the Vuntut Gwitchin, will receive its fair share of Yukon government travel to help sustain its operations. Both Air Canada and Air North must be treated fairly with respect to Yukon government travel.
On February 17, 2003, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government and our government, in keeping with the spirit of their land claim agreement, signed a political accord in the form of a memorandum of understanding for the corrections system, including the future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, with a process that is program-driven rather than facility-driven. We must offer corrections programming that provides opportunities for meaningful rehabilitation. This agreement follows the earlier understanding between Yukon, Kwanlin Dun and Canada that guarantees the First Nation benefits from any Yukon government project with a capital cost in excess of $3 million. This landmark accord will involve all First Nations in the development of corrections and justice programs that will have a bearing on the type and design of the correctional facility to be constructed and, of course, will provide specific economic benefits to the Kwanlin Dun.
The Carcross-Tagish First Nation has also approached our government to engage in a planning exercise that will provide them with economic opportunities within their traditional territory.
We want to engage First Nations in a dialogue and partnership to encourage and promote economic development activities within their traditional territories and to share in the benefits resulting from these activities. This team Yukon approach to the economy will help provide the much-needed certainty that resource investors are seeking and give the Yukon an edge over other jurisdictions where there is no such collaboration.
Mr. Speaker, on April 1, 2003, during this sitting, our government will be taking over the control and management of Crown land in the territory.
As well, this House will be asked to give passage to the mirror legislation that will enable our government to exercise its new legislative jurisdiction.
The Quartz Mining Act, the Placer Mining Act, the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, the Waters Act and the Environmental Assessment Act will enable our government to control and manage the territory’s mineral, land, forest and water resources for the benefit of all Yukoners. We are asking hon. members to give expeditious passage to the mirror legislation.
The major advantage in implementing devolution is that the decisions will be made here in Yukon rather than in Ottawa and consequently will be much more timely. The investment community will see this as a positive development and devolution will help us restore investor confidence in the territory.
Devolution will allow our government to model our future permitting regimes on the best practices used in other jurisdictions that currently attract investment. Devolution involves both the Devolution Transfer Agreement (DTA) and the new Yukon Act.
There are deficiencies in both the agreement and the legislation that need to be improved. Our government is committed to addressing issues relating to the transfer of federal employees to the Government of Yukon. The federal employees will be important members of team Yukon, and we want them to feel welcome in their new positions to help make devolution work.
While we recognize that the DTA itself cannot be changed, our government will continue to urge the Government of Canada to fulfill its obligations under the agreement, especially in relation to the issue of environmental liability and the reclamation of type II mine sites.
The liability for reclaiming the Faro mine site alone is estimated to be a minimum of $200 million.
Currently, it is costing multi-millions of dollars annually just to maintain the Faro mine site without any reclamation work being done.
The office of the Auditor General of Canada recently issued a report calling upon the Government of Canada to meet its obligations to reclaim mining sites across the north, including those in the Yukon.
The multi-million dollar reclamation of the seven type II mine sites in Yukon would be a tremendous economic benefit to the territory and create jobs for Yukoners for years to come. Our government will be urging Canada to meet its environmental obligations and to provide maximum economic benefits to Yukoners while doing so.
During the course of our mandate, we will also be dealing with the deficiencies in the new Yukon Act.
These deficiencies include the ability of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to continue to give instructions to the Commissioner for the next 10 years, which could eliminate or make ineffective the Yukon’s Cabinet form of government; the failure to recognize the Crown in right of Yukon that would grant the ownership of land and resources to the territory and the failure to recognize the Yukon’s offshore boundaries in the Beaufort Sea.
Should our government be successful in obtaining a successful ruling from the Yukon Court of Appeal under the Constitutional Questions Act on the Crown issue, a case could be made to press the Government of Canada to amend the Yukon Act to grant the Yukon ownership of its land and resources and address other issues.
The Yukon’s northern offshore boundaries could be addressed at the same time through amendments to the schedules to the Yukon Act.
The resolution of these long-outstanding devolution issues is of fundamental importance to the future of our territory, especially if oil and gas reserves are discovered in what should be recognized as the Yukon portion of the Beaufort Sea.
Mr. Speaker, achieving a proper balance between the economy and environment is of fundamental importance to restoring investor confidence in the territory and rebuilding our economy.
On January 28, 2003, our government announced that it was discontinuing the Yukon protected areaa strategy, because it simply was not working.
Our platform commitment was to involve all Yukon partners and stakeholders in a process for the creation of protected areas. The major failing of the previous YPAS process was that there was no agreement amongst stakeholders about how to proceed.
Part of the difficulty in establishing parks or protected areas is due to the fact that there were too many processes operating simultaneously to create parks in the territory. The Wolf Lake area near Teslin, for example, was being proposed both as a national park under the federal Parks Act and as a territorial park under the Yukon protected areas strategy. At the same time, parks were being created under land claims through special management areas. All of these parks were being created during a period of economic decline in the territory, and there were serious conflicts with mining companies because their mining claims were being included within park boundaries.
Our government believes that the establishment of special management areas under land claims should proceed first before another protected areas process is put in place.
While the establishment of special management areas are proceeding, land use planning initiatives could be utilized to protect environmentally sensitive core areas outside of SMAs in regions where economic activities are pending or are being proposed. Upon conclusion of the SMA process and any subsequent planning initiatives, an assessment will need to be made to determine whether other special, environmentally sensitive areas should be protected and the process that should be used.
It should be noted that the Yukon has already exceeded the 12 percent level of protection that it had agreed to set aside in signing on to the strategy in 1992.
Once the special management area process has been completed, the percentage of Yukon lands protected will be close to 20 percent — far exceeding any other jurisdiction in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, the lack of balance between the economy and environment has had a serious impact on our placer mining industry with the decision by the federal minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to cancel the Yukon placer authorization.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has estimated that the new water quality standards being imposed by DFO would force the closure of 56 percent of existing placer mining operations in the territory. Our government will not allow this to happen.
The 1993 Yukon placer authorization has taken 10 years to develop and has operated successfully for another decade. Telling Yukon placer miners that they can no longer mine for gold is akin to telling prairie farmers that they can no longer grow wheat or the Prince Edward Islander that they can no longer plant potatoes.
I met with the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, the hon. Robert Thibault, in Ottawa on February 7, 2003. I explained to him and his officials the importance of placer mining to the territory, both in relation to our history and to our present and future economy.
I also explained to him that on April 1, 2003, our government, rather than DIAND, would be the manager of the land, water and resources in the territory. Being at loggerheads with DFO is no way to start a cooperative relationship and the DFO minister agreed. Our government is committed to resolving the current impasse and will do whatever it takes to do so. The placer mining industry is of fundamental importance to the Yukon Territory.
On January 27, 2003, I met with the B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines, the hon. Richard Neufeld, who pledged the support of the province in our struggle with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
The placer mining industry itself has done a tremendous job in educating the public about the issues that are at stake here. I want to commend and thank all those Yukoners and others who have been writing to DFO expressing their support for the industry.
I also wish to commend Yukon First Nation governments for protesting the way the decision was made in clear breach of the federal government commitments in the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Yukon’s Member of Parliament Larry Bagnell and Yukon’s Senator Ione Christensen have been working hard to assist the industry, and our government and I thank them for their efforts. I also want to thank the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party for their support.
Should there be no change in the DFO position, there may be need for a Yukon delegation to travel to Ottawa to state our case to members of Parliament first-hand. Should this course of action be necessary, I will be inviting the leader of the official opposition and the leader of the third party to be part of the Yukon delegation. Mr. Speaker, a united front is much stronger than a house divided, and I am confident that on an issue of such importance, all members of the Legislature are prepared to speak with one voice.
Mr. Speaker, our government has made a commitment to formalize a government-to-government relationship with First Nations based on mutual trust and respect. This is one of the highest priorities of our government.
I take this opportunity to recognize the accomplishments of eight First Nations and the Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada in achieving final and self-government agreements, and I look forward to the day all lands claims in the territory will be settled.
Once all the claims are settled, Yukon First Nations will own 16,000 square miles of Yukon. On category A lands, they will collectively own 10,000 square miles of both the surface and subsurface lands.
On category B lands, they will own 6,000 square miles of surface lands while the Government of Yukon will be responsible for the control and management of the subsurface.
The results of these agreements are that we will, in the near future, have 15 governments with mirror jurisdictions operating throughout Yukon. Each of these governments will have legislative and regulatory authority in respect to many of the same matters. It is incumbent upon this government to work collaboratively with First Nations on a government-to-government basis to create clarity and certainty for all Yukoners wherever possible.
First Nation law-making authority extends to education, health, justice and social services. There may be many opportunities for a collaborative effort between our government and First Nations to provide services of a high standard to all Yukoners while respecting First Nation concerns and values. This discussion with First Nations may provide opportunities to reduce barriers and provide more cost-effective services to all citizens.
Cooperation and collaboration will be required to collectively manage settlement lands and public lands and develop complementary regimes that will attract economic investment to the territory. By working together, we will do better.
Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to working collaboratively with our neighbouring jurisdictions as well. Yukon and Alaska have had a long-standing and enduring friendship.
Many of the Klondike gold seekers ended up in Alaska and it was American soldiers who constructed the Alaska Highway in 1942. The United States government is still funding the upgrading of the north Alaska Highway through the Shakwak Project.
The majority of this construction work has been won by Yukon road builders who are recognized as being among the best in the world. There is one year left in the Shakwak project and our government will be soliciting the support of the State of Alaska to urge the Government of the United States for the continuation of this project.
The port of Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railroad provide the territory with access to tidewater, and we will be working with Skagway and White Pass to protect and preserve this access.
The State of Alaska is promoting the establishment of an international joint commission to conduct a feasibility study of constructing a railroad from Alaska through Yukon to connect with railroads in the south. Our government is in full support of this initiative.
The Porcupine caribou herd does not recognize the international boundary, and our government will work with the State of Alaska to protect the integrity of the herd and its habitat in keeping with the position of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
The construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is also of special interest both to Alaska and to Yukon where once again we can work in collaboration. Alaskans and Yukoners have a long history of working together and this common bond will continue into the future.
Mr. Speaker, Yukon has had a similar relationship with our neighbour to the south, the Province of British Columbia.
In the Speech from the Throne on February 11, 2003, the Province of British Columbia announced that it would be seeking reconciliation with First Nations in negotiating workable, affordable treaties that will provide certainty, finality and equality.
The province also announced the creation of an economic measures fund to help First Nations pursue new economic opportunities.
This fund and the new approach of the Government of British Columbia to First Nation relations will be of special importance to the Kaska Nation, and this will assist our government in promoting economic opportunities in southeast Yukon.
Our government will work toward a joint strategy with the Government of British Columbia to promote responsible economic development in this resource rich area.
Mr. Speaker, our platform also commits our government to work collaboratively with the Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Nunavut.
As all Canadians are well aware, the three northern territories are adopting a common position with respect to federal funding for health care and, by speaking with one voice, we were finally heard in Ottawa.
In December 2002, the three territories sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling upon the Government of Canada to create a pan-northern economic development agreement, another commitment outlined in our platform.
On January 8, 2003, Premier Kakfwi and I jointly called for Ottawa to reconsider the federal gun registry and conduct an audit of its effectiveness. The north has never supported the C-68 gun control registration. With implementation costs reaching a billion dollars, many Canadians in southern Canada are also now questioning the gun registration system.
Relations with the Government of the Northwest Territories in recent years have been somewhat strained, primarily over the issue of competing pipeline routes to transport Alaskan gas to southern markets — the Alaska Highway route versus the over-the-top Mackenzie Valley route.
When I met with Premier Kakfwi last December, we agreed that industry would decide which route would be selected and that our respective governments should work out reciprocal arrangements to train our residents for pipeline employment opportunities, whichever route is ultimately selected.
At the present time, the most likely scenario is that a Mackenzie Valley pipeline to transport Canadian natural gas will be built within the next five years, whereas the construction of the Alaska Highway route to transport Alaskan natural gas is likely a decade away.
The concern of our government is that if the smaller Mackenzie Valley line is built first, oil and gas discoveries in the Eagle Plains and the Peel Plateau area could be stranded. The construction of the Mackenzie line would eliminate the need to construct the Dempster lateral connecting with the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline. It might then be more economical to construct a Dempster pipeline eastward to connect with the Mackenzie Valley line. These various pipeline scenarios show why it is so important for our government and the Government of the Northwest Territories to be allies rather than antagonists.
Mr. Speaker, it is important for our government to work closely with community governments and the Association of Yukon Communities, because they are the closest level of government to the people we all serve. We must ensure community and municipal governments receive equitable funding to meet community needs.
Our government has provided special financial assistance to the City of Whitehorse to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and we will be doing everything in our power to help make these games a resounding success.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Legislative Assembly is the focal point of democracy in the Yukon. All Members of this Legislative Assembly have an important role to play in representing their constituents, in debating issues and in determining the future of the territory. Our government is committed to promoting a consensus-building approach in the Legislature where possible.
We recognize that there will always be policy differences and different positions on issues of importance to Yukoners. Debate is healthy. At the same time, Mr. Speaker, there are matters where there is common purpose and common resolve. These are the areas where our government would like to work with members of the opposition parties.
The establishment of an all-party standing committee on appointments to major government boards and committees is one such example. The creation of an all-party committee to make recommendations for fire smart and community development fund applications could be another. We will also be seeking an all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum for members of this House.
We look forward to working with all members of the House because we are all committed to serving the Yukon for the betterment of the territory and the constituents we represent.
Mr. Speaker, government departments have been working hard to implement our commitments, and I would like to highlight some of them to show the progress that is being made.
Under the Executive Council Office, intergovernmental relations branch has prepared a bilateral accord between Yukon and the Northwest Territories, and we plan to have a signing ceremony with Premier Kakfwi very soon. Bilateral accords between Alaska-Yukon and B.C.-Yukon are also currently being prepared. These accords are in keeping with our commitment to work collaboratively with our neighbours.
The development assessment process unit is preparing our government to meet its new environmental assessment responsibilities, both under devolution and our land claim obligations, in keeping with our commitments to implement the devolution transfer agreement and the land claim settlements.
Our government promised to support the preservation and enhancement of Yukon’s aboriginal languages. In accordance with this commitment, the aboriginal language services agreement valued at $2.2 million has been extended for two years, allocated between fiscal years 2003-04 and 2004-05.
Yukon youth are our future and the Youth Directorate is focusing on providing equitable support for non-government organizations that work with our youth. This support includes determining core services and seeking assistance from all levels of government to share financial and in-kind support to provide stability for these organizations.
Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise the House that the Women’s Directorate is no longer a branch included within the Executive Council Office. We have honoured our commitment to Yukon women to reinstate the Women’s Directorate to its former status prior to renewal. The Women’s Directorate now reports to me directly as Premier, and this is intended to signal the importance our government places on listening to the voices of Yukon women.
Mr. Speaker, we have met our commitment to reinstate the community development fund and fire smart to their original levels by providing a supplementary budget of $3.5 million for CDF and $1.5 million for fire smart.
This funding was provided to put Yukoners to work this winter, and the Department of Community Services has been working diligently with First Nation governments and community governments to fund projects that will create employment.
Under fire smart, $1.2 million has already been allocated for 14 applications by First Nations and 13 applications by communities. By the February 7, 2003 deadline, over $7 million in applications had been received for the $3.5 million community development fund, showing the high degree of interest in this program.
In keeping with our commitment and in consultation with stakeholders, Community Services is redesigning Project Yukon into the new community development fund. This redesign should be completed by this spring.
We are also meeting our commitments to upgrade and construct community infrastructure.
Beaver Creek will be receiving a new fire truck valued at $225,000, while $1.2 million is proposed for Carcross sewage disposal. Further, $500,000 has been allocated toward the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation’s riverbank stabilization project in Old Crow. Community Services is also proceeding with our commitment to promote and implement practical, cost-effective e-government initiatives.
As a consequence of devolution, Community Services is working towards integrating the fire marshal’s office and emergency measures organization with the fire management program.
The sharing of support staff, training and certain job functions offers excellent opportunities to create efficiencies and improve services, particularly in Yukon communities.
We are also fulfilling our commitment to support the bid to host the 2007 Canada Winter Games by the City of Whitehorse. The host society for the games has been provided with $400,000, and there has been a $1-million capital contribution to the City of Whitehorse for phase 2 of the Whitehorse multiplex.
We are also examining the increased need for seniors and elders housing in the territory as the proportion of our population represented by older Yukoners continues to increase. We want to develop housing that meets the special needs of seniors and elders and allows them to remain in their home communities as long as possible.
Mr. Speaker, we are following through on our commitment to create a stand-alone Department of Economic Development. As hon. members will see from the budget, the department is still in the formative stages and I have assumed the responsibility for this portfolio, at least for the short term.
We have amended the previous departmental structure and responsibilities because of overlapping areas of responsibilities with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, particularly in the resource sector.
We intend to consult with the Taking Action Committee, chambers of commerce, former employees of Economic Development now in other departments, as well as other stakeholders in defining what the new Department of Economic Development will look like and what its role will be.
This government recognizes that a strong education system is needed to rebuild the economy. We will work to ensure our system is as effective and efficient as possible to support economic growth.
We also believe community-based training is a priority, and I am pleased to advise the House that the community training fund totalling $1.5 million has been restored in fulfillment of our platform commitment. Communities can now do more training, which should increase the flow of funds to Yukon College. This increase in funding is in addition to the $12-million basic transfer payment. The community training fund can now be utilized to support emerging labour market initiatives such as literacy, oil and gas, pipelines, promoting women in trades, arts and cultural industries, technology, as well as for targeting employment-related training.
The Department of Education continues with its new mathematics program to improve student achievement in grades 4, 5 and 6. This program is in keeping with our platform to improve Yukon students’ basic skills, particularly in mathematics.
As well, the department is planning to expand the First Nation elders project presently at the Carcross school, Teslin school and Johnson Elementary School in Watson Lake to include the Robert Service School in Dawson City and the Tantalus Carmacks School.
Our government has allocated $2.9 million for the completion of the addition and heating system for the Eliza Van Bibber School in Pelly Crossing. The addition involves increased classroom space, a new, larger joint school-community library and a larger administration area. A further $2 million is being allocated for school facility maintenance, air quality, renovations and paving for various schools. Small construction projects in Watson Lake, Teslin, Golden Horn, Jack Hulland and Vanier schools will create local employment opportunities. There will be a $605,000 investment in school information technology, distance education and video conferencing.
Education is key to Yukon’s future prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, together with the Department of Environment, are going to be the major beneficiaries of devolution with the passage of the mirror legislation. Energy, Mines and Resources will be responsible for managing and developing the Yukon’s land-based natural resources.
Devolution will result in local decision making and locally designed processes in collaboration with First Nation governments.
The department will be responsible for developing an efficient, integrated resource-management approach for the territory, including implementing the commitments in the MINE plan and working on a comprehensive Yukon mineral policy. It will also be responsible for improving services for resource sector clients and securing local benefits from Yukon resource projects.
In order to promote mining in the territory, we are continuing the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit. This refundable and personal income tax credit applies to expenditures incurred conducting off-mine site exploration in the territory. Under the program, individuals and corporations can apply for a tax credit of up to 25 percent on eligible expenditures.
On April 1, 2003, the very successful 10-year old Yukon geology program is being transformed into the Yukon geological survey with the mandate to conduct research and disseminate information about Yukon’s geology, geochemistry and mineral resources.
In addition, Mr. Speaker, we are continuing the very popular Yukon mining incentive program to promote mining exploration in the territory.
Energy, Mines and Resources is also hard at work developing a forest policy framework to guide management of forestry and undertake policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation. In keeping with our commitments, the department is planning to make timber available as soon as possible to restart Yukon’s forest industry.
Currently, the department is implementing the five-year agricultural policy framework and transitional agreement with the federal government, which focuses on sector profitability and competitiveness.
Energy, Mines and Resources has an important role to play in ensuring Yukon natural gas will have access to pipelines via all routes, including the Mackenzie Valley route. The department is also charged with the responsibility for developing a clear and effective regulatory process for pipelines in Yukon.
In conjunction with the Department of Environment, Energy, Mines and Resources will be responsible for achieving a proper balance between economic development and the conservation of Yukon land.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Environment has a major role to play in devolution and is working cooperatively with the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources to ensure a smooth transition in the permitting process after devolution. It will also play the key role in mitigating any environmental impacts resulting from responsible economic development. Post April 1, the Department of Environment will be responsible for water resource management in the territory. The Department of Environment already shares the responsibility with the Department of Health and Social Services in meeting our commitment to ensure safe drinking water in the territory.
The Department of Environment is currently implementing a number of our platform commitments: including protection for the Porcupine caribou herd; support for the Whitehorse Fishway and Hatchery in conjunction with the Yukon Energy Corporation; working with the Yukon Fish and Game Association on fish re-stocking programs, as well as expanding wildlife viewing opportunities for Yukoners and visitors alike.
Mr. Speaker, waste oil comprises the bulk of hazardous waste produced in the Yukon and we committed our government to promote the safe use and handling of this oil. In keeping with this commitment, the Department of Environment is implementing a pilot project to collect waste oil in five communities.
Mr. Speaker, the first thing hon. members will recognize about this budget is that we have reverted to the traditional budget format.
The government accountability plans have been removed and the traditional departmental statistical information has been reinstated. In our view, the traditional format for the budget documents provides better accountability and transparency than the format used for the 2002-03 budget.
Government accountability is ensured by the hon. members opposite rather than by having departments expend considerable time, effort and expense stating how accountable they are.
Upon our government taking office, the first task the Department of Finance was charged with was to work with departments to establish a $5-million fund out of potential lapses for our winter works program allocated between CDF and fire smart, and we wish to thank all the departments for making these funds available.
The Department of Finance has played a key role in curbing the trajectory of government spending without our government having to raise taxes or increase fees.
We made a commitment to exempt fuel consumed in equipment for the purpose of operating a sawmill and operating a golf course. In order to meet that commitment we will be tabling the necessary revisions to the Fuel Oil Tax Act for passage during this sitting.
Mr. Speaker, I already have outlined the details of the health accord that the three territories have reached with the Prime Minister. There are other funding arrangements the Department of Health and Social Services are pursuing. One such fund is the primary health care transition fund. This $4.5-million fund is to be spent over the next three years to promote public health, improve both primary and community-based health care as well as strengthen structures, functions and technology.
We are implementing our platform commitment to increase the pioneer utility grant from $600 to $750 per year per eligible household, and we are indexing this increase against inflation in subsequent years by the cost of living. In addition, the eligibility for a widowed spouse of a spouse who was receiving the grant has been lowered from 60 years to 55 years of age.
Mr. Speaker, 33.4 percent of Yukoners over the age of 12 smoke, and that is not healthy. The Canadian average for this same age group is 21 percent. Health Canada is providing Yukon with $686,500 over three years to conduct a media campaign urging Yukoners to quit smoking.
Another major Yukon health care problem is alcohol and drug abuse, and our government has reinstated alcohol and drug services under the social services branch to improve our ability to deal with these problems.
We are committed in our platform to deal with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder as a matter of top priority and the Department of Health and Social Services is meeting that challenge by working closely with the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society of Yukon and the Child Development Centre.
Continuing care for our elders and seniors is a priority for our government. Unfortunately, there are major problems with continuing care facilities in Whitehorse and in many rural Yukon communities where no facilities exist. The nine-year-old Thomson Centre has a leaking roof and other damage that must be repaired, and the new Copper Ridge facility, in the view of many, was constructed too far from the hospital and downtown Whitehorse. There is also a need for new seniors housing that must be addressed.
Our government did not create these problems but we must deal with them in a careful, considerate way in order to cause the least disruption to the lives of our seniors and elders and their families. For these reasons, the seniors and elders in Macaulay Lodge will be remaining where they are while we endeavour to make the best use of the existing facilities.
We are also committed to ultimately providing health care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City.
Mr. Speaker, the former Department of Infrastructure has been renamed as the Department of Highways and Public Works in recognition of the importance of highways to the Yukon and to provide the department with a more traditional title. Our government believes that the provisions of transportation, communication and energy infrastructure are a government’s responsibility and serve to support the foundation of the private sector economy.
Highways remain key to the development of our economy and in the new fiscal year $20 million will be spent on the Shakwak project. There will be an additional $2 million spent on Alaska Highway reconstruction between Mendenhall and Haines Junction with a further $1 million allocated for pavement rehabilitation. Upgrading improvements will be made to the Campbell, Klondike, Tagish and Top of the World highways. The Teslin River Bridge will undergo rehabilitation at an estimated expenditure of $2.2 million. Another $1 million will be spent on the Dawson City Airport airside improvement project.
Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice is going to play a key role over the course of our mandate. The government-to-government agreement that was reached with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation government involving the Yukon’s corrections system and ultimate replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre will have a profound impact on how the Government of Yukon and the 14 First Nation governments are going to collaborate to manage the justice system in the territory.
It is time for our government to stop warehousing our criminal justice problems and begin to deal with the issues that cause them.
The ultimate design of the facility will be influenced by the rehabilitative programs that the justice system provides.
I want to emphasize that this process we have embarked upon with Kwanlin Dun will involve all First Nation governments as well as other Yukoners.
I would also like to reassure the employees of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre that the Government of Yukon will continue to operate the new facility when it is constructed and the staff will be Yukon government employees.
The Department of Justice will play an important role in all of these deliberations.
During the 2003-04 fiscal year, the Department of Justice will lead or share in the development of new, innovative approaches to managing community justice projects and increasing public awareness about the government’s efforts to address family violence and sexual assault issues in accordance with our commitments.
Mr. Speaker, the Public Service Commission is currently consulting with the Yukon Council on Disabilities to design initiatives to encourage the employment of people with disabilities throughout government to fulfill our platform commitment.
It is also undertaking a review of the workplace harassment program to ensure effective, fair responses to complaints and support for a respectful workplace for employees.
We promised federal DIAND employees fair treatment in the devolution transfer as they become Yukon government employees, and the Public Service Commission will be charged with meeting this responsibility.
The commission is developing a joint training program with the Public Service Alliance of Canada for shop stewards and supervisor/managers, as part of a newly agreed upon grievance procedure.
Mr. Speaker, I have saved the best for last.
Tourism is now the Yukon’s leading industry. We have met our commitment in this budget to reinstate a stand-alone department. We are committed to increasing tourism revenues in the next three years by implementing the newly released marketing and product development strategies.
These strategies embrace new niche markets where travelers seek more independence, authenticity and cultural experience from their holiday. The objectives for product development are to ensure that the quality of Yukon tourism products exceeds the highest standards, increase year-round destination tourism in each region, and develop products to meet emerging and existing niche market demand.
To this end, this government and several local cultural and educational groups have partnered with the Canadian Tourism Commission to create the Northern Learning Tourism Product Club.
The key word in marketing tourism in the Yukon is "partnership". Strategic tourism marketing is ensuring our advertising dollars are being used to reach the right target markets. Under partnerships with companies such as General Motors and Fulda, government funds have been leveraged many times over, resulting in more awareness of the Yukon as a travel destination.
We are also continuing with the gateway cities program. Yukon and Alaska have traditionally worked together in partnership to attract more visitors from the south, and this strong relationship is continuing.
This government continues to support and value the Yukon Convention Bureau, industry and Yukon communities to market Yukon as a year-round convention destination.
We are working with the air industry to promote affordable and accessible international and domestic air access to the Yukon.
On February 13, 2003, we were pleased to learn that Thomas Cook, in conjunction with Condor, will return to Yukon again this summer with a direct charter service from Frankfurt, Germany.
We are working with industry, First Nations, Yukon College and the Yukon Tourism Education Council to develop standards for the hospitality industry and a skilled workforce.
We are working with First Nations to promote and market First Nation tourism and cultural products.
We are working with Yukon museums to assist them in managing their operations and training and retaining experienced staff.
The Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have already sent a letter to the federal government calling for a pan-northern economic agreement that would include a tourism component.
We will work with the City of Whitehorse and other stakeholders to preserve the downtown core, develop the waterfront, move the roundhouse and extend the trolley line from the Argus properties to Schwatka Lake.
If we want our visitors to "stay another day", we must provide more things for them to see and do.
We have met our commitment to the Dawson City Arts Society by increasing its funding to $250,000 to support the society’s worthy initiatives.
The Department of Tourism and Culture, over the course of the next fiscal year, will be examining and focusing its attention on three major initiatives: a Yukon brand/corporate partner destination marketing strategy, product development and a review of alternate tourism marketing models.
In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, the Speech from the Throne outlined the priorities of our government both now and in the future.
This 2003-04 budget is our first budget and will help lay the foundation for achieving our objectives as we work together for the common good.
We recognize that there are still many commitments that we must meet, but those initiatives must await future budgets.
The 2003-04 budget sets out our game plan for rebuilding the Yukon economy, which the people of Yukon mandated us to do on November 4, 2002, and I commend it to all members of the House for their consideration.
Mr. Speaker, our government is confident that by working together we can build a better future for all Yukoners.
Mr. Hardy: I move that debate be now adjourned.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the official opposition that debate be now adjourned.
Motion to adjourn debate on second reading of Bill No. 4 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. Monday.
The House adjourned at 3:05 p.m.