Thursday, March 13, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will now proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of the 30th anniversary of the presentation of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow
Hon. Mr. Fentie:It is my privilege to acknowledge in this House today that the year 2003 is marked as a year of honouring Yukon First Nations. February 14, 2003 marked the 30th anniversary of the historic visit to Ottawa by a delegation of Yukon aboriginal people to present Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow. This historic document contained a vision of self-determination based on rights to land and governance. Thirty years later, the landscape of Yukon is different due to the efforts of First Nations and non-First Nations men and women working together to realize this vision.
Significant landmark events have occurred. In 1982, the Constitution Act of Canada was amended to recognize and affirm existing aboriginal and treaty rights. Yukonís aboriginal peoples played a significant role in bringing about this change to the supreme law of this country.
In 1993, the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed, providing a framework for the completion of land claims and self-government negotiations. Today, eight First Nations have finalized agreements, and four more are currently working to complete. As a result of the Umbrella Final Agreement, processes have been established in Yukon that will ensure equal representation to First Nations and non-First Nations in the management of resources and lands in Yukon.
First Nations people have been represented in the Yukon Legislative Assembly since 1978, as Cabinet ministers and as Speaker of the House, and that continues today.
In the broadcast media, the Northern Native Broadcasting Network was created, providing a voice for Yukon First Nations in the north. Much has changed in the last 30 years. The original Yukon Native Brotherhood is now the Council of Yukon First Nations, and yesterday we congratulated the self-governing First Nations on the launch of the self-government secretariat office.
I take this opportunity on behalf of my government and Yukoners in general to congratulate Yukon First Nations for their commitment and hard work toward a very promising future.
Members of this House are aware of the difficult negotiations that occurred recently to achieve a better deal for our health care needs in the north. Getting this deal meant spending time in Ottawa working toward a common goal.
During this time I was provided the opportunity to spend time with our colleague and neighbour to the east, Premier Stephen Kakfwi. Our discussions highlighted the common issues and challenges shared by our territories. We have similar goals and a desire to bring prosperity to all northern people. We are determined to work together to enhance the quality of life for northerners on a number of fronts.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:It is my great pleasure today to introduce to the members of the House our newest partner in improving quality of life for northerners, our good friend visiting from the Northwest Territories, Premier Stephen Kakfwi.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: With Premier Kakfwi is the MLA for the Mackenzie Delta region, the hon. David Krutko ó welcome.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: And also, Mr. Speaker, a very important person in any premierís life, principal secretary, Melody Morrison, and also intergovernmental affairs policy advisor, Andy Bevan. Welcome to them both.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I would like to also advise all members of this House that there will be a reception hosted by CYFN and the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce at 5 p.m. this evening at the Yukon Inn honouring this very special visit from Premier Kakfwi and his delegation.
Mr. Speaker, also on this very important occasion, with us in the gallery today are some of the Yukon First Nations leaders. As government leaders, they have much to do, and I know some are out of the territory on business and unfortunately cannot be with us today. I would like to acknowledge these chiefs as well.
Those present in the gallery today: the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ed Schultz.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Chief Steven Buyck of the First Nation of Na Cho Nyäk Dun.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Chief Robert Dickson of the Kluane First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Representing the Kwanlin Dun First Nation on behalf of Chief Rick OíBrien is Councillor Leslie Smith.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Deputy Chief Shirley Bellmore of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Chief Lucy McGinty of the Selkirk First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Elder Roddy Blackjack; Acting Chair of the Ta'an Kwach'an Council, Alice McGuire.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Representing Chief Hammond Dick of the Kaska Tribal Council is Emma Donnessey. Welcome, Emma.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Also with us from the Kaska Nation are Vic Mitander, Peter Stone, Jean Gleason and George Smith. Welcome to you all.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Chief Eric Morris, Teslin Tlingit Council.
Chief Darren Taylor, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation.
Chief Joe Linklater, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
Chief Angela Demit, White River First Nation.
Mary Jane Jim, Assembly First Nation Vice-Chief for Yukon Region.
Deputy Chief Dan Cresswell, Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
Deputy Chief Gerald Brown, Champagne-Aishihik First Nation.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: While they wish to be here today some chiefs are in other parts of the country on business. They are:
Chief Richard Sidney, Dakh Ka Council.
Chief Andy Carvill, Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
Chief James Allen, Champagne-Aishihik First Nation.
Chief Rick OíBrien, Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
Chief Daniel Morris, Liard First Nation.
Chief Jack Caesar, Ross River Dena Council.
Mr. Speaker, these people have a job no less important that ours here in this Legislature. They are leaders of their governments. They represent their people and help them to aspire to their goals and to their dreams. Let us heartily welcome all of them here today.
Speaker: Are there other tributes?
In recognition of First Nation Leadership
Mrs. Peter:Shiluk Kut.; Juuk Drriin Gii legislative gallery Gwishit Yukon Kii Kit Thuk Gwat Sut Dii Jiit Thuk Dii Goo Dii; Yukon Din Jii Shuu Enjit Jit Nilii, Ed Schultz Chun, N.W.T. Enjit Jit Nilii, Stephen Kakfwi Chun, Dii Enjit government Thuk Ha Dii Enjit Kwii Tló Kwit Trit Tígwa iin Enjit Mahsi Choo Goo Vaa Din Nuu. Shuut DiiíA Thid Dii, Jiit inlii Member for Mayo-Tatchun Chun Nii Juk land claims Enjit Gwit Trit Daí Gwaí Uuk ó
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour today to acknowledge the chiefs from the communities throughout the Yukon, as well as Grand Chief Ed Schultz and the Premier of Northwest Territories, Stephen Kakfwi. I would also like to pay tribute to the outstanding leadership over the past 30 years that has brought us to the point we have reached so far with respect to land claims and self-government. I remember well that our late Chief Charlie Abel accompanied Chief Elijah Smith and the other delegates who went to Ottawa to declare a new vision for our people and our place in Canada. Over the years, excellent leadership has come from many chiefs, a number of whom have since passed on, as well as from our respected elders and other community leaders.
These include, of course, my colleague from Mayo-Tatchun, who is the former Chief of Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation.
I would also like to pay tribute to the many First Nation people who have served and continue to serve in this Chamber. I hope all members will join me in expressing our heartfelt thanks to all our leaders of the past and of today for working on our behalf with other governments to bring land claims to a conclusion and self-government to a reality. Self-government is our voice. Our First Nation leaders today are blazing the trail for our children tomorrow and for many generations to come.
Ms. Duncan: I, too, would like to join with my colleagues in welcoming Premier Kakfwi to our Legislature and I would also like to welcome, as my colleagues have done, the Grand Chief, Mary Jane Jim ó representing the Assembly of First Nations ó and the other chiefs who have joined us today. I know that those who are travelling, we wish you a safe journey and Godspeed. I know youíll be listening and reviewing the tributes we offer you today.
First Nations and the leadership have reached a significant achievement and made a significant contribution ó not only to Yukon and Yukonís way of life, but to all Canadians.
As I join with my colleagues here in the Yukon in paying tribute to and acknowledging this contribution, Iím sure that we would also be joining with other Canadians in thanking the leadership and those who have gone before you for this significant contribution to all of Canada and most especially to the Yukon.
I would also like to particularly acknowledge and tribute the support of your families, your councils, the elders and your leadership. You have shaped Yukon not only for today, but for tomorrow.
Thank you for your contribution. I join with my colleagues in acknowledging that in tribute today.
In recognition of the 2003 Canada Winter Games Team Yukon and the 2003 Brier Yukon menís curling team
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise to pay tribute to the 2003 Canada Winter Games Team Yukon and the 2003 Yukon menís curling team, which attended the 2003 brier in Halifax. We sent our largest contingent ever to these games with 139 team members participating in 15 sports and the national artist program over the two weeks. This is an incredible achievement and is a direct result of the dedication and commitment and enthusiasm of our youth, their parents, coaches and sport administrations in the Yukon.
We are proud of the many successes that our athletes and artists achieved at the games. Many athletes achieved personal bests, competing with athletes from across the country.
Yukon athletes, you make us all very proud. We all know the odds you face every time you compete at an elite level, especially being from a small jurisdiction like the Yukon where the distances limit opportunities for consistent competition.
Sometimes you bring home medals and top place finishes. What makes Yukon most proud is that you always display great sportsmanship and attitude, and are true ambassadors for this territory. There were many special moments at these Canada Games, and Iíd like to give you a few examples: 12-year old Jane Bell, who competed in squash, received the coveted Fair Play Award from the squash officials at the closing ceremonies. This award is given only to one male or female athlete participating in squash out of approximately 90 competitors. Good job, Jane.
Our menís cross-country ski team finished fourth in the four-by-five relay. Our womenís team finished an outstanding seventh in their four-by-five relay. Also, congratulations to Graham Nishikawa, Nathan Doering, Brian Horton, Glen Iceton, Brittany Greer, Katherine Sheck, Bryn Knight and Emily Nishikawa, who proudly flew the Yukon flag as she crossed the finish line. Land Pearson tied with two others for top shooter, hitting seven out of 10 targets, during an extremely windy sprint competition in the menís biathlon. In menís hockey, our two goalies, Derek Hemsley of Ross River and Jeff Debler, stunned Newfoundland and Saskatchewan with their goal-tending abilities, stopping 50 of 58 shots and 65 of 70 shots, respectively, in those two games.
To our womenís hockey team, I read the letter that was printed in our local newspaper. This letter was hand-delivered by a volunteer to Team Yukon in New Brunswick.
After watching our womenís hockey team play, congratulations on helping to define the true spirit of sportsmanship of these games.
Iíd also like to recognize one other member of this House, the hon. Todd Hardy, for coaching our menís hockey team and for his continued contribution to our young people as he also coached menís hockey in Cornerbrook for the 1999 Canada Winter Games. Itís great to see such a commitment to Yukon sport.
These are only a few of the memories brought home by Team Yukon.
Also with us today, Mr. Speaker, are some of the members of the Yukon menís curling team who represented us at the recent Brier championship in Halifax. I would like to pay tribute to this talented team as well. The Chad Cowan rink includes Doug Bryant, James Buyck, Ross Milward and Bernie Adilman. They posted a highly regarded 3-8 record in this highly competitive field.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd ask all members to rise and show their appreciation and support for these fine Yukon athletes and all the people who supported them along the way.
Thank you and congratulations.
Ms. Duncan: I, too, would like to rise and pay tribute to Yukonís Canada Winter Games team as well as our Brier team who have joined us in the House today.
Being a member of the Yukon team and part of the contingent of the Canada Winter Games is a very special and wonderful experience. Recently, a member of the 1979 Canada Winter Games team and I were reminiscing about our participation in the Canada Winter Games and we were, coincidentally, watching our children compete in a sporting event, recognizing what a wonderful opportunity we had to participate and what a wonderful opportunity we give our children by continuing to support such events as Yukon hosting the Canada Winter Games in 2007, and recognizing your achievements at this, the 2003 Games.
In 1979, the Yukon won the Centennial Cup for being the most sportsmanlike team and I think thatís something weíve never given back, because we are still, as the minister has pointed out in Jane Bellís achievements, bringing home the sportsmanlike awards. That is what Yukon seems to do best at the Canada Winter Games ó display our sportsmanship.
And we embody the spirit of the games. I salute all of you who have participated. The minister has named some. Thank you for being the best ambassadors that you can be. You have done us all very, very proud.
I would also like to salute the menís Brier curling team of Chad Cowan, Doug Bryant, James Buyck, Ross Milward, Bernie Adilman and coach Suzanne Bertrand. Your record was an excellent one and you curled very, very well. We were all proud and, in fact, tempted to adjourn the House to watch some of the Brier games. Thank you again. Yukon, our contribution was significant.
Mr. Hardy: Itís a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to represent the Yukon. Itís not necessarily at what level you represent them, but itís an opportunity to go out and present your best that you can possibly do: representing Yukon, representing yourself, representing your family and the things that you believe in, and we have two cases here today that we are acknowledging. One is definitely the curling team in Halifax, and congratulations for once again going out and representing Yukon and doing us proud.
Secondly is what I was involved in just a few weeks ago, as with the athletes, the mission staff, the coaches, the managers ó going to New Brunswick. It was a very different games in many ways. I was at the one in Cornerbrook, and it was very contained. The people of New Brunswick had a huge challenge, and Iíd like to pay tribute to the host society there, the tremendous feeling we had of welcome and the challenges they had to put this thing together, because we have to recognize that they included small communities to make this happen, which is what we believe in when we talk about the Arctic Winter Games. They brought in Campbellton, they had Dalhousie where we stayed, and they had Bathurst, and then they had a few other communities across the border in Quebec that all came together to give us the opportunity to compete and be together. And I pay tribute to the people of New Brunswick in making that possible and welcoming us as athletes and coaches and mission staff.
I want to pay tribute, of course, to the athletes because they did do us proud. I had the great fortune once again to be a coach of a hockey team. And we know what weíre facing when we go there ó tremendous odds. But what we want to do is present the best that we can be in a manner of fair play and never resort to any kind of shenanigans that would disgrace the people of the Yukon, and I believe both hockey teams do it. I believe all athletes at these games did it as well. So congratulations on that.
Actually, I see one of my players up there. Heís the only one I see up there. Andrew Nagano is here. So hi, Andrew.
You didnít think you would have to see me so soon after this, did you?
I want to pay tribute, of course, to the coaches and managers who often are not recognized. They put in hours and hours ó not just at the games ó but they put in a tremendous amount of time and effort ó hours ó to develop the players, to give them every opportunity to do their best. To them, I give my congratulations and I hope we see more of you.
The other thing I notice is that I see Ontario jackets, Manitoba jackets ó I have a Manitoba jacket ó and I do see some Yukon outfits as well, but thatís part of the games, too ó that trading and leaving something behind and bringing something from another team. So, congratulations to the managers and coaches.
I really want to pay tribute, especially at this time, to our mission staff. They did a phenomenal job. I can only speak for two games as a coach but I felt that these games were especially hard for the mission staff to keep everything together and to serve the needs of the coaches, the managers, and meet all the requirements necessary to make us be successful. From my perspective ó and I believe from many other peopleís perspectives ó they did a tremendous job and my hat is off to you for the work that you did.
I also want to thank, last but definitely not least, the families who are behind who cheer on the athletes and give to the coaches, managers and mission staff the support to be able to travel this distance and feel they have that support. The families and the rest of the Yukon deserve applause for the support that they offer our athletes. That canít be underestimated.
I see Jane is in the audience there. I knew you were going to get this award, Jane, when we were having lunch that day ó or it was supper, I think ó and Maria was going to take you there. We all knew around there that you were going to get it, although you didnít. You thought you were just going there for a little ceremony. Thatís wonderful and congratulations for that Fair Play Award.
So to everybody, congratulations, and I canít wait for the next Canada Winter Games because itís going to be here and itís going to be the best.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I have for tabling a legislative return with regard to a question asked by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to 16(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Edith Fraser and John McCormick and reappoint Eleanor OíDonovan to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. McRobb: I have for tabling the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the volatile state of fuel prices caused by current world events imposes considerable hardship on all Yukon people;
(2) in such periods of unstable prices, Yukon people have a right to be protected from the unreasonable increases that affect the cost of living and the cost of doing business;
(3) the effects of both geography and market size make Yukon consumers more vulnerable to price fluctuations than many other Canadians; and
(4) the Government of Yukon has few means at its disposal to influence the wholesale or retail price of motor fuels, including diesel and propane, or of heating oil and electric power; and
THAT this House supports the principles contained in private memberís Bill C-353, tabled in the House of Commons on February 12, 2003, entitled An Act to Establish the Energy Price Commission.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Mr. Arntzen: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that education and trades training are essential components for the development of qualified workers within Yukon; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to work in conjunction with Yukon College and community campuses to provide education training programs with specific emphasis on areas of particular relevance to the north, such as tourism, construction techniques, health care, child care and teaching.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Employment Standards Act section 96 wage rate for public works was passed to ensure that workers engaged by the private sector in large government contracts be paid a fair wage;
(2) the fair wages established by the Employment Standards Board in the fair wage schedule of the act relate only to public works such as construction of road works, water and sewer installation, and landscaping;
(3) the Government of Yukon contract for the safe transportation of students, school busing, is a multi-million dollar contract that is performed for the public; and
(4) the wages paid to professional drivers to ensure the safe transportation of students should be fair and recognize the qualifications, standards and dedication of these professional drivers; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to amend the Employment Standards Act and the fair wage schedule to ensure school bus drivers are included and that these changes be made well prior to the tendering of the next school busing contract.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Family and childrenís services, budget cuts
Mr. Fairclough:Before I put my question to the Minister of Health and Social Services, I have a letter to read and to table. Itís dated March 11, 2003, and itís from the regional service manager to the regional social worker in Mayo. Mr. Speaker, this is a short letter, and it reads,
"Further to my e-mail and your telephone request yesterday, Iím writing to confirm that all auxiliary on-call family support workersí hours of service are cut from regional services branch allocation for 2003-04 fiscal year. All branches have been cut, and this is the result for our branch. The reduction in auxiliary on-call allocation will affect Mayo regional office for auxiliary on-call clerical support to cover vacations, but the serious effect will be for our family support worker, Darlene Hutton, and her clients, effective April 1. We cannot call her in to work. Please get in touch with me if you need any more clarification. I regret the services and personnel losses that result from this and all the budget cuts."
Mr. Speaker, my question is simple: does the minister still maintain that this government is not cutting jobs?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I definitely stand by my responses to the member opposite of yesterday. There have been no cuts in the program that are specifically targeted, and that is with respect to family support workers.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, this letter is dated March 11, 2003, and the member is wrong. This is already taking place. People are packing up their offices. Yesterday, the minister was adamant that there werenít any job cuts, and he says that today. He said to me that it was very inaccurate for me to even suggest otherwise. Mr. Speaker, I think if there is any inaccuracy, itís on that side of the House.
The fact is that people are losing their jobs, and itís in this ministerís department. People are just beginning to find out the real impact of this governmentís war on the big, bad trajectory, Mr. Speaker. There are service cuts and there are personnel cuts because of the budget, and I just read a letter that confirmed that. It doesnít matter what the minister says.
Iíd like to ask him this: how many other family support workers in rural Yukon will be losing their job as of April 1?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There will be no reduction in the number of family support workers in rural Yukon. I stated that categorically for the record yesterday. The same holds true today. The member opposite is incorrect.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, then why is his own departmental official sending letters like this? It states right in there, 2003-04 fiscal year, that people will be losing their jobs. Mr. Speaker, heís not in touch with his own department. The auxiliary on-call family support workers play a pretty important role in communities. Right now theyíre packing up their offices. They are packing up their offices because their jobs are disappearing. It started with the Liberals. Now itís through this government theyíre finishing them off, and the communities are losing a very valuable service. Respected members of those communities are losing their livelihood.
I have to ask the government this: is that how this government is going to restore the economy? The minister said people are not losing their jobs. Will he show some compassion and direct his officials to find a better way of balancing the books that doesnít cut the jobs that community people have in this field? Will he do that? Will he assure them? Will he put it in writing?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, I stand by my previous responses. What we have here is a constituency issue that the member is taking this government to task for. The reality of the situation is the family support worker in the community of Mayo is not underfunded. What has happened is that family support worker has, in the past, expanded her role beyond that of a family support worker. She was assisting the regional social worker, who was a male, and he uses the family support worker to assist in escorting female clients. There are a whole number of other areas beyond the scope of the family support worker role that this individual was previously engaged in, but the issue of the family support worker is being fully continued by our government in Mayo and in all of the other regions of the Yukon, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Job cuts
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of the Public Service Commission, and I have to thank the Minister of Health for that. I know the people in Mayo and other rural communities would appreciate that, and I can send them their assurance that their jobs will not be gone.
Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission stated in this House that there will be no job cuts by his government. He also stated quite passionately that he does not believe in taking food off the table in peopleís homes, and here is what he had to say ó and this is in Hansard: "I will never make any sporadic decision that is going to hurt or make it difficult for a family to put food on its table." He also says, "At this point in time, this government has no intention whatsoever of laying anybody off or diminishing any kind of workforce within the government."
Mr. Speaker, can the minister confirm that all the native language interpreter jobs will be cut, beginning April 1 of 2003?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to the native language instructors, it is my belief that they will not be cut.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, whatís happening with the ministers of the government? Are they not paying attention to their departments? At this time, these workers are packing up their offices. Their offices are closing down, and that is a fact, as we speak, and this government wants to take away their jobs, their income. Once again, this government wants to inflict hardship on the Yukon people. When will it end?
Why is this government taking such a hard line on people in rural Yukon who have had jobs with the Yukon government for over a decade?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to say today to the member opposite that there is approximately $2 million that has been put toward native language this year and that this government has not reduced funding to the native language program.
Mr. Fairclough: These are native language interpreters, not instructors, Mr. Speaker.
This government made a promise that there would be no job losses, but the family support workers were going to lose their jobs until the minister saved them today, and I thank him for that.
The last three native language interpreters in the Yukon ó their jobs are on the chopping block. I would like to get the same commitment out of this minister because today the minister has an opportunity to right a wrong.
So, will the minister do the right thing and save these jobs from being cut? Yes or no? And if itís yes, can we call these people and say they still have a job beginning April 1?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The reason Iím going to answer this question is that I know exactly where this issue is coming from. The member has got his facts completely wrong. The issue is the aboriginal language services monies for such things as interpreters, which is based on an agreement with the federal government. Based on that agreement, there are certain requirements that must be met. Our aboriginal language services people have to review that on a regular basis to do the final accounting. When it is discovered that individuals who are being funded or paid to do work within the confines of that agreement are in fact doing work for a UBC professor doing a thesis and in total accounting, only 11 days of the year were contributed toward interpreting aboriginal languages as it is intended, then the aboriginal language services had to act.
The monies have not been cut. Every dollar of those monies is in the hands of the First Nation. The First Nation has the right to make the choice of hiring who they see fit to do their interpretation work. But we cannot fund somebody from the University of British Columbia to work on a thesis at the expense of our First Nation people. No way, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: N.W.T. restrictive trade policy
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Premier, and itís regarding the new intergovernmental accord signed today with the Northwest Territories. For a number of years, the Northwest Territories has had a very restrictive trade policy that has made it nearly impossible for Yukon contractors to get work in the Northwest Territories. Itís a northern bid preference that effectively treats Yukon contractors differently, and it shuts them out. Would the Premier confirm today that the accord that has been signed does not, in fact, resolve this issue?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíd like to point out for the leader of the third party that this very issue was still here under that memberís watch in government and, unfortunately, the former Liberal government did nothing ó wouldnít even talk to the Northwest Territories or work in any way, shape or form with the Northwest Territories government. We, in fact, have taken a different approach. Upon election, the very next morning, I phoned Premier Kakfwi for the express purpose of offering to him our vision of a collective working north of 60.
Our accord today sets out a number of priorities that we as governments would be working on, and within those priorities is a plethora of issues that we as governments will solve in terms of maximizing the benefits and the return to our citizens north of 60, and that covers the spectrum of issues, whether they be development, whether they be bidding, whether they be roadwork, whether they be wildlife, whether they be environment, education, health ó all those things. This is a huge, significant step in the right direction. Unfortunately, the member opposite didnít have the same vision and would not work with our neighbours to the east.
Ms. Duncan: The facts do not support what the member opposite is suggesting. The facts are that, under the Liberal governmentís watch, we were able to achieve the settlement of an outstanding dispute with the Minister of Finance, which resulted in $42 million for this territory, $60 million for the Northwest Territories, and significant additional money for Nunavut. We also had a tourism accord that was on the table that the Northwest Territories had not yet signed. I met with Premier Kakfwi prior to calling the election to provide him with our arts policy in recognition of the significant arts community the Yukon has that the Northwest Territories has not yet achieved.
The fact is that the member is also incorrect with regard to the northern bid policy. The northern bid preference by the Northwest Territories has been a difficult issue between two territories for several premiers, both on this side and in the Northwest Territories. That northern bid preference specifically states things like local content ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question please.
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, Iíll be delighted to ask the question again of the Premier, and perhaps this time Iíll get an answer.
Would the Premier confirm that the accord today does not resolve the northern bid preference issue between the Northwest Territories and the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím duty bound to point something out for the public. When this member stands on the floor of this Legislature and lays claim to the $42 million received by Yukon because of a glitch in the formula, I find that a little bit misleading, Mr. Speaker. What happened here is that officials from all jurisdictions, in working on the formula, discovered this, not the former government. It was hard work by officials, and the former government happened to be the recipient of the finalization of that problem with the formula.
Getting back to this bid policy, the member opposite didnít solve the problem. We ó the Northwest Territories and the Yukon government ó have made a commitment to work on a number of priority areas. Those priority areas, as I pointed out, include a plethora of issues, this being one of them. Weíre going to go to work on this and many others, and thatís what the accord we signed today commits both governments to do.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, you cautioned the member opposite yesterday about use of the term "misleading" and, Mr. Speaker, again I would state the facts are that previous premiers had not met with Finance Minister Paul Martin and for the member opposite to suggest that it was only officials is completely inaccurate, Mr. Speaker ó completely and thoroughly inaccurate and the member opposite knows it.
I would like to state again for the record that our government did a review of the bid policy. The copies of the numerous requests I made to Premier Kakfwi to deal with the northern bid policy are a matter of public record. We tried. Now the member opposite has made much of signing an accord, made much of suggesting there is a new era of cooperation. Well, Yukoners can ask ó legitimately, as I am trying to do in the House ó when are we going to see the results? Will the minister stand on us his feet and say, "Yes, the northern bid preference issue will be dealt with," and precisely when? When can contractors expect that they could achieve work in the N.W.T.? The member opposite is promising. When is it going to be delivered?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, it might be appropriate to allow the ink to dry on the accord that we just signed; however, I know the member opposite is very sensitive about their performance in government and is grasping at anything to try and relay to the Yukon public that they actually delivered something. Unfortunately that is not the case. This accord is significant in the fact that it commits governments to work collectively for the benefit of our citizens on many issues. The one the member has pointed out is one of them, and there are many more. We as governments are going to go to work on those, starting today. Thanks to the efforts of our government and the efforts of the N.W.T. government, we are now committed. And I should point out that that very relationship has proven positive and has delivered results when it comes to health care. The $20 million Yukon receives in extra funding from Ottawa when it comes to health care is not in spite of our relationship with the N.W.T., it is because of our relationship with the N.W.T. and indeed the Territory of Nunavut. So I would say this to the member opposite: exercise a little patience.
Question re: Whitehorse Correctional Centre rebuild
Mrs. Peter:Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Minister of Justice. The Minister of Justice told this House that she was involved in the development of a memorandum of understanding with the Premier and Kwanlin Dun First Nation. The minister said that all Yukon First Nations, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and other stakeholders will be involved in the program options for the Correctional Centre. Who are the other stakeholders, and exactly how will the minister ensure their involvement?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As I stated the other day, our government initiated a memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and this government in the redevelopment of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility.
As the member opposite points out, the issue of programming options, the delivery of programming within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility, as well as the delivery of corrections in this territory, are matters of priority for this government, and we certainly have committed to do so with First Nations and other stakeholders, those being the staff of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility and other stakeholders. I canít pre-empt the negotiations because they have not started as of yet.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the minister is aware of a very important group of people who have been part of the planning process for First Nation justice. The regional Eldersí Council has a representative from each community in the Yukon. One of their roles is to guide major decisions. Our elders are the most respected source of guidance for our people.
Why was the regional Eldersí Council not invited to be part of this decision to give one First Nation the lead on what the government calls a program-driven justice process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I certainly do not oppose the very fact that the Council for Yukon First Nations Eldersí Council took a very important role in discussions to date, particularly on the development of the Whitehorse correctional facility with respect to programming and design development. As Iíve said repeatedly on a number of occasions over the last couple of months, that work will not go by the wayside. Itís a great base to start from and to work with. What the MOU does commit our government to do, though, is to involve Kwanlin Dun First Nation and all Yukon First Nations, as well as other stakeholders, in the discussions, to look at an area that has been of particular concern to this government, and that is within the area of corrections within the facility. So I believe we have made great strides in doing so, and we will continue to make additional steps in this way.
Mrs. Peter: Iíve heard the concerns from the communities. Iíve heard the concerns from leadership meetings about who gets consulted and who doesnít get consulted. Good government isnít about making fast deals. Good government is about dealing respectfully with people. Will the minister guarantee that everybody who is affected by any major change in how justice programs are delivered will be involved in the decision-making process?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Absolutely. As we see, corrections in the territory simply are not working. We have one of the highest recidivism rates in the country. It just happens to be that anywhere from 80 to 85 percent of the clients within the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility are of First Nation ancestry, hence our commitment to involve and engage Yukon First Nations within corrections administration of justice in this territory. We think we can benefit, and we are very open, accountable, and, yes, we are very committed to involving all stakeholders in this process.
I should also mention that letters have gone out from the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. They recognize there is expertise among the other Yukon First Nations that they may not necessarily have, and they have opened up the discussions, and I look forward to engaging in further debate on that.
Question re: Seniors housing funding
Mr. McRobb:Yesterday the Health minister told the House that old studies were good enough for him and the Premier to decide on Watson Lake and Dawson City as priority locations for seniors facilities in the communities. He admitted that the study for Watson Lake was 15 or 16 years old and the one for Dawson could be even older. It will be very interesting in the times ahead to see what happens in cases where other studies of similar age donít provide this government with the desired results.
Turning a blind eye to the many changes relevant to this matter over the past two decades is not a prudent and respectful way to treat our elders and seniors or to manage the territoryís finances. There have been technological changes, demographic changes, population changes, changes in need and changes in the way support is provided.
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask his question.
Mr. McRobb: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Why does the minister insist on relying on studies that are so outdated?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Iíd like to thank the member opposite for the question. Our government doesnít rely solely on studies that are 10 or 15 years old. If the member just goes back to the recently held election and consults with whomever ran for the party down there, he will find that the number one priority of Watson Lake was seniors facilities ó thatís the number one priority in that community. They want to rebuild the economy, but on the social calendar, the number one priority was seniors facilities. The Signpost Seniors have consistently updated their information and provided it to the previous government, who did nothing, and now our current government, who is going to do something with that information.
One only has to look at the population across the Yukon and the demographics, and one can see the age and one can recognize where the demands are going to be.
As I said yesterday, the number one place for demand from seniors for housing is in Whitehorse and then the second largest communities.
Mr. McRobb: Same old, same old, Mr. Speaker. It was very interesting to hear what else the minister had to say yesterday. Another example was his logic that determining the priority order for constructing new seniors facilities would be based on total community population.
Mr. Speaker, such an approach ignores the makeup of our individual and community populations. I know that in the Kluane region, for example, there is a high percentage of seniors and elders representing a significant part of the population. Furthermore, itís important to consider the future number of seniors and elders expected in each community. There are many good reasons supporting the need for fresh information so that the best decisions can be made on the most recent information available.
So, I ask the minister: will he re-examine all factors relevant to this issue before proceeding with his decision to first build in Watson Lake and Dawson City?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member oppositeís preamble was, "Same old, same old." That is simply not the case. Our government is examining the options, and thatís why weíre spending $50,000 this forthcoming year in Dawson City and in Watson Lake for a multi-level health care facility, and the seniors component of that is very much in the forefront.
Now, Mr. Speaker, the issue is statistics, and the statistics as to demographics, the population, do not change appreciably. They change from year to year as we age, but one can easily see, from the population ageing, where the demands are. Iíll be happy to provide the member opposite with the statistical review of the population. He might glean some information from that. But the populationís age is not only increasing in his riding; itís increasing all across the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: That answer just doesnít cut the mustard. What the minister didnít say yesterday was also very interesting. There was no mention of this government pursuing partnership options in the ownership and operation of central facilities in our communities. For instance, I am aware that all three First Nations in the Kluane region are interested in forming a partnership agreement in order to advance such a project for the entire north highway region.
I would like to ask the minister if he could advise this House exactly what efforts he is making in that area?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: It is interesting to note that the NDP now promotes privatization of facilities. Very interesting indeed, Mr. Speaker. This is a new switch for the NDP. But the issue before us is a very simple issue. The Department of Health and Social Services has to address the needs where they exist, and that we will be doing. This was a campaign commitment by our government to do so, and we are going to be honouring our campaign commitments and our party platform. That is becoming more evident as we go along, and we will not back down from it.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 4: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 4, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Where we left off the other day in concluding the replies to the address to the budget speech I think was an important point that all Yukoners must recognize, and that has to do with the fiscal situation the Yukon government is in. The realities are quite simple. The Yukon government can no longer sustain the trajectory of spending that has been going on for the last half-dozen years or more.
Let me point something out that is quite alarming when you consider what the end or net results have been. If we were to go back to 1997-98, we had a total budget in this territory of $453,530,000 ó total expenditure in the territory. Each year after 1997-98 we see significant increases. In the fiscal year 1998-99, $473 million. In 1999-2000, $499 million in total expenditure. In the year, 2000-01, which was then a New Democrat budget ó the biggest budget ever in this history of this territory ó $518 million. Then we go to the Liberal budgeting. In 2001-02, the largest jump that weíve experienced over the last number of years in this territory took place under the Liberal government watch. We went from $518 million total expenditure to a huge, enormous sum of $551 million. In the next fiscal year under the Liberal government, the total expenditure mushroomed another $40 million to $590 million. The trajectory was constantly going up. The revenues for this territory were consistently going down. There is absolutely no possible way that the Yukon government could continue that spending pattern.
So let us look at the budget we have tabled.
We have lowered the trajectory of spending this fiscal year by some $40 million.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, the member opposite is not providing the House with all of the information and is attempting to make misrepresentations. In fact, the trajectory the member opposite refers to ó the level of spending by the previous government ó shows a lesser amount than what the member opposite is showing. Secondly, the member opposite is suggesting that the revenues are going down. The member has not included the devolution monies.
Speaker: Member for Klondike, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, this is just a rude interruption today by the leader of the third party. What we have here today is no Standing Order cited by the leader of the third party. What sheís looking at grabbing is the attention of the cameras so she can blab it all over the Yukon, which is ó
Speaker: Order please. Order please.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: ó very unbecoming of this House.
Speaker:Order. Order. Order. Iíd advise the member not to use that type of language.
There is no point of order. Itís simply a dispute between two members. Iíd ask the hon. Premier to carry on.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Now, I know, Mr. Speaker, and understand why the member opposite is so sensitive. And let me point out why. After the largest budget in the history of the Yukon, what have we accomplished? We have accomplished further exodus of our population, a further diminishment of our private sectorís contribution to our economy, a further decrease in revenue from the private sector in terms of revenue accrued to the Yukon government. The spending that was taking place under the former government and, indeed, under the New Democratic government from 1996 to 2000 was not being directed in the right areas. The facts bear that out.
We have a trajectory in the last six years of ever-increasing expenditures, and what have we got in return for that massive amount of government spending? We have lost population, somewhere close to 4,000 people. We have no economy, basically, other than what is fuelled by government spending. That is called total dependency. Thatís not what Yukoners want. And that is, in essence, why we ó this party, this government, made in the election the issue of what that election was all about on November 4. It was about the economy and about leadership.
What we have done in this budget, in this sitting, Mr. Speaker, is two things. We have taken the leadership to get control of the trajectory of government spending in this territory. Secondly, we have tabled a budget that begins the process of redirecting how government will spend its money in a manner so that we will get a return.
And I say that because we are focused on certain things. We are no longer spending money on a flawed protected areas strategy that was driving investment away from this territory. Weíve stopped that spending. We will redirect that spending toward attracting investment to this territory where it will do the most good ó the development of our resources.
Secondly, we have put our money where our mouth is when it comes to our commitment to First Nations. Thatís a major step toward turning this economy around: engaging our First Nations and creating a full economic partnership with the First Nation governments here in the Yukon. They have a tremendous amount to contribute in terms of benefit to the Yukon Territory. We can maximize those benefits by making a collective here in dealing with the many issues that we face.
So, the budget we have tabled, Mr. Speaker, is all about changing the direction, not only of the governmentís spending patterns and its trajectory, but the direction of the territory.
The way to change the direction that this territory has been going is by changing the spending habits of government, and we have accomplished that.
The members make much about job losses and loss of programs and services to Yukoners, but the members are flippantly using facts and figures in a budget document without providing the full and detailed accounting of why that figure is there. There are no job cuts or losses in programs. Our direction to the departments was to come forward with a budget that met targets and to work within those budget envelopes to ensure that there were no job losses, and there were no cuts to programs and services to Yukoners. We have accomplished that with this budget and I think that is a good thing. There is much more that we can go over when it comes to our budget, the first budget for a government that came into office and basically inherited a mess ó a mess of such resounding proportions that we had to compress budgeting time lines into a few weeks that normally should take months. There was no budget prepared. We had a government in power who realized beyond any doubt that the territory was in trouble fiscally. When one considers why the former Liberal government called the election, I think one can only conclude that they called the election because they did not know what to do. They were hoping for another mandate from the Yukon public and chances are the Liberals were going to try and somehow circumvent the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act to be able to continue the spending habits and patterns that they had shown in their two short-lived years of power in the territory.
We did not circumvent or contravene the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act. We brought this territory, in terms of its fiscal situation, close to the line. Yes, we did, but we know where weíre going. Itís all about vision and plan. If you look in the long-term projections of where we are going, we are heading to balanced budgets. Thatís important, because I think thatís a responsibility of government on behalf of its taxpayers and its citizens to ensure that how we spend their money ensures that they get the best net benefit in return and that there must be ó there must be ó a balanced spending approach by government.
Not only does that ensure that the taxpayer is not going to be left on the hook, but it is also another element that will attract the investment community. The investment community is much more comfortable in working with governments that show that they know how to spend money to attract that investment. This budget begins that very process.
When we look closely at how weíve managed to do this, I think that itís very clear that the way to get control of the fiscal problems that the Yukon is facing, thanks to the massive spending spree of the former Liberal government, is to ensure that you lower the annual deficit. Thatís what weíve done. Millions of dollars have been decreased in the annual deficit. What that first step will do is lay out in subsequent years how we will achieve not only a balanced budget with no annual deficit, but annual surpluses, and furthermore, at the end of it all, increase again our accumulated surplus as it once was before the spending spree by the Liberals took place over the last two years.
The former Liberal government spent $1.4 billion, Mr. Speaker ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Ms. Duncan: On parliamentary procedure in Beauchesneís, it is not considered parliamentary to cast aspersions upon other members of the House, and to suggest spending sprees or to attribute misleading statements, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest is out of order and would ask that you ask the Premier, with all due respect, to temper his comments.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there has been no Standing Order cited. There has been no abuse of parliamentary procedure by the Premier, and I would submit that this is just a dispute between members.
Speaker:Iím ready to make a ruling on the point of order. The Premier in his speech was making reference to a former government, not a former member. Therefore there were no aspersions cast on an individual and I would ask the Premier to carry on, as there is no point of order.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, how else can we express what took place over the last two years, from 2000 to today? When we look at the actual figures, it shows clearly that each year there was a $40-million-plus increase in spending. What was the net benefit or return to Yukoners? All that we accomplished, Mr. Speaker, is depleting completely the accumulated surplus, thereby placing this territory in fiscal problems beyond anything theyíve experienced in the past. Itís unheard of, and itís because the spending was not attached to any sort of plan or direction on where the territory was going.
Our government, on the other hand, has done that. Weíve laid out the eight priorities that we intend to work on. Those eight priorities are what we have begun to spend upon with this budget. That work begins with this budget.
This was a difficult budget to conclude, make no mistake about it. This was not an easy process, considering the situation that we were in.
Now, this is not, as the official opposition points out, a bleak budget. This is a sensible, responsible budget to get a firm grip on the fiscal situation of this territory. Thatís what this budget has done.
The member of the third party is quite correct that there are other things ahead of us, and we realize that. When it comes to devolution and the transfer of monies that will go with devolution, we did not want to put incorrect figures in a budget. The reason is, until the federal government does its final accounting for March 31 of this fiscal year, thereís no way to know exactly what is being transferred to the Yukon government. Therefore, we did not put into this budget incorrect figures that we would have to again change, but we know that money is coming.
Itís also important to point out that that transfer of monies will be expended because itís the money for the employees. Thatís the biggest bulk of it. So, the money is already earmarked.
Secondly, the health money ó that health money will be booked by the federal government in the fiscal year 2003-04. We are negotiating, as agreed upon with the Prime Minister, the terms and conditions of that fund. That may mean that we have to extend it over, for instance, a three-year period. We have to finalize those negotiations before we, in our responsibility, can book numbers in a budget that arenít correct.
So once we know what the final analysis is, we will of course, as a standard practice of every government, bring forward a supplementary. So we feel very confident that the right steps have been taken. We are heading in the right direction.
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I want to close by saying again to the members opposite that we will accept criticism, that we will accept their points of view based on the actual facts. But I would urge the members opposite that when they criticize, the most fundamental and important element in constructive debate is to provide rationale, to provide constructive options, to provide what it is they would do. What would the official opposition do when it comes to the point where all the spending they want to make would put this territory into an accumulated deficit? What would the third party do when that type of spending would put this government into an accumulated deficit? Under the law, it can happen. We have taken the appropriate steps, we are very proud of this budget. I commend this budget to this House and to Yukoners. We are now embarking in a direction that will, over time, starting now and into the future, pay dividends for all Yukoners. It is about budgeting in a manner in which we can deliver programs and services and engage our private sector to help rebuild our economy. That is a good thing, Mr. Speaker, and we are proud of it.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 4 agreed to
Bill No 22: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 22, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 22, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 22, entitled Placer Mining Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am pleased to present the following bills. I will list them all off because basically the second reading speech is the same for all of them. So with the Houseís indulgence I will do them all and it will help expedite debate. If thatís appropriate and the members opposite nod their heads then I will continue in that fashion. Well obviously itís not ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:The hon. leader of the third party, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: If I could respond to the member opposite, Iíd be happy to do that but the House leader did not inform us of that, so we donít have the order of the debate of subsequent bills.
If the Premier would provide that information to us in his comment, Iíd be happy to oblige the Premier in his request, but we donít have the information necessary to proceed from the novice House leader.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I apologize, then, to the members opposite and I will proceed with Bill No. 22 and we can do second reading debate, if thatís fine.
This legislation, the Placer Mining Act, Mr. Speaker, is a critical step in the devolution process. In fact, it must be passed in this House prior to April 1 of this year to allow devolution to take effect as scheduled as it relates to placer mining in the Yukon Territory.
Mirror legislation is crucial to strengthening Yukon control over Yukon resources. It establishes the legislative framework needed for the territorial administration and for control over lands and natural resources while ensuring as smooth a transfer as possible of responsibilities from Canada to the Yukon. By enacting new territorial legislation, which essentially copies existing federal legislation, the Government of Yukon ensures that the laws and regulations in place after the transfer date will be the ones already familiar to Yukon people prior to devolution.
Anyone affected by this act will be treated the same way before and after devolution ó same rights, same duties and same obligations. Even the government forms will be virtually the same, with the name and word mark of the government changed.
Mr. Speaker, there are a number of these acts that are considered mirror legislation, but for this particular debate we are dealing with what is a very important one, the Placer Mining Act.
Prior to April 1, Mr. Speaker, we must give assent to this act so that it comes into force and effect post-April 1 when the transfer is finalized. After that transfer, of course, a day has arrived that I think all Yukoners have waited for with great anticipation for a long, long time. We will be, to a great degree, masters in our own house. We will be making our own decisions. We will be charting the course ourselves in this territory for the future. I think itís a significant step. I know how hard many governments and officials, federally and territorially, have worked over the years ó 10 plus years. We have finally come to this juncture. Itís a great day for Yukon, and I fully support this particular piece of mirror legislation, the Yukon Placer Mining Act.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I look forward to his comments to be made about the other acts. If they are all going to be identical, then by the time he finishes Iím sure weíll have it down pat. However, the Premier has given us the assurances that theyíre all the same. I honestly donít have a lot to say regarding them at this present time. However, they are very important. We do recognize that it is a major step forward in the Yukonís constitutional development, which, of course, is going to be taking place April 1, and gaining control of a designation toward our lands and resources is an important part of the fulfillment of what many people in the Yukon want to see.
Iím looking forward to looking at more of the details in it, and those are the questions that my colleagues and I will be asking about. There are a few items that we want some more detail on, but at this present time we wonít be asking about Bill No. 22, Placer Mining Act.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise in support of Bill No. 22, the mirror legislation of Placer Mining Act. The mirror acts were first tabled in the House in November 1999 and October 2000 for informational purposes, and they were subsequently tabled in the House in the 2002 spring session where they received first reading. They were not passed by the Yukon Legislative Assembly prior to the election in November of 2002, which is why they are being reintroduced today and why they have been reintroduced into this session of Legislature. And, as we are aware, they have to be enacted before April 1, 2003.
These subsequent different introductions of these bills, the mirror legislation ó there have been improvements made to drafting and definitions and correlations and typographical errors. But the substance of the bills ó the fact that they are mirror legislation ó has stayed the same. I am pleased to be in the Legislature when we are addressing these, as I was honoured to have been the Premier when the devolution transfer agreement was signed between Canada and Yukon with the support of the Council of Yukon First Nations and the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
The Placer Mining Act ó Bill No. 22, the mirror legislation ó I am looking forward to the debate. And perhaps in his preparation for Committee of the Whole line-by-line review of the act, the Premier will be prepared to outline ó he has indicated previously in this House that, as a government, they plan to make improvements to the devolution transfer agreement. Perhaps the Premier will outline what improvements they plan for the Placer Mining Act as part of the devolution transfer agreement and how they intend to ensure that such improvements the Premier has spoken about occur.
I would also ask the Premier to prepare, in his questions for Committee of the Whole, the answers for how the government intends to work with the placer mining industry and the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. In the past I have worked with the placer mining industry on rulings from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency to have things like stripping considered an exploration expense ó stripping is considered and defined under the Placer Mining Act. So how are those relationships going to continue, and will the Premier outline how the Yukon administering the Placer Mining Act is going to work with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency for mineral exploration purposes?
Thereís also a note in the Placer Mining Act that the Placer Mining Act mines and minerals are not transferred to Yukon ó those mines and minerals on Crown lands and in national parks. I recall that in one of my several visits to the placer mines in the Dawson area, National Parks and Historic Sites still own one claim in the Dawson area. Perhaps the Premier can advise how we didnít get that one transferred, and how he intends to pursue that now that we have the Placer Mining Act, once it passes the House.
So, with those questions, Iíll certainly look forward to the line-by-line debate and the Premier addressing all these issues, and how his government intends to proceed, once the mirror legislation ó and, in particular, Bill No. 22, the Placer Mining Act ó has passed the House.
I do support it, as I am very supportive of the Yukon achieving the constitutional status we have achieved under the devolution transfer agreement, and achieving, most importantly, care, control and management of our lands and resources. It was a significant achievement of our government. Iím proud to support the devolution agreement, and Iím proud to support the mirror legislation that gives substance to that devolution transfer agreement.
Again, for the Premier, a heads-up in the line-by-line debate ó he said he intends to improve it, and Iím looking forward to finding out how he intends to improve it in this particular legislation.
Speaker: If the member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would thank, also, the members opposite for their support on this. It is a very significant time in Yukonís history. As I pointed out, many, many governments and officials have worked on this. I commend the former government, the leader of the third party ó it is their government that concluded devolution. We have reached a great milestone in this territory ó no question about it.
Actually, right now, our friends to the east are looking very closely at how this is evolving, because they have now begun their negotiations for devolution. Unfortunately, Nunavut has not yet been given that same assurance that they can begin negotiations on devolution; however, the Northwest Territories is now well underway and is very interested in how our negotiations evolved, what the final outcome was and what we achieved. I think that we can say here categorically that the Northwest Territories is extremely excited about the prospects of their taking over management and control of their own affairs, as we are doing here come April 1.
The member of the third party is speaking to our commitment to improve the devolution transfer agreement. At this stage of the game, we see no areas in this particular mirror legislation that need to be dealt with. As it states by its very definition, mirror legislation is legislation that gives us the enabling mechanisms in the territory to take down these federal powers and deliver upon them. But there are areas in the devolution transfer agreement that certainly can be looked at. Obviously, the area around Type II mine sites and the hundreds of millions of dollars of liability that rests with Ottawa ó where is that money? Weíd like to find out from Ottawa how exactly they are going to set that fund up.
Faro is one of the biggest burning issues, and now that the courts have finally concluded what will take place with the bankruptcy and the receivership, we are now in a position to press ahead with Ottawa and find out exactly what it is they intend to do. The Beaufort Sea is obviously a big issue ó whatís happening in the delta. Itís clear, Mr. Speaker, that today in the delta, virtually every possible land disposition that could be given out has been given out. It has accrued many, many dollars for the Northwest Territories, and now with the exploration phases and development phases up and running, it will mean hundreds of millions more, and at this point in time, a town like Inuvik actually uses natural gas to heat buildings. I think that speaks volumes for what we can do in the territory in the future, especially given the fact that we make our own decisions now.
As far as the other issues, Iím sure officials were listening and will be providing the information, and when we get to line-by-line, Iím sure that the leader of the third party and I will engage in some very constructive debate. Thereís no question that her knowledge in this area is very extensive, and the member did well in this particular area when in government and, Iím sure, will do well in opposition when it comes to this.
This is something that we all can work collectively on because of its importance, what it means to all of us. I donít think thereís any disagreement here. I think there is a willingness to see if we can improve on this, and thatís what we should do as members of this House in representing Yukonersí best interests.
So with that, I commend the Placer Mining Act to this House and look forward to April 1.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 22 agreed to
Bill No. 23: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 23, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 23, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 23, entitled Quartz Mining Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Quartz Mining Act, again mirror legislation, sets out rules for locating, prospecting for and mining gold and other precious minerals using quartz methods.
Mr. Speaker, again the basic second reading speech for this is all about the fact that we need to do this to be able to, on April 1, to take down these federal powers. The federal Parliament has passed its particular legislation; we must now do ours. Thatís why itís mirror legislation. The Quartz Mining Act has been around a long time. We are merely taking on what it was and now creating our own legislation, and this legislation will come into force and effect on April 1.
We, on this side of the House, fully support the bill and Iím sure the members opposite do also, but I would like to hear their comments and suggestions. I look forward to what we can accomplish with this particular piece of legislation post-April 1.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise in support of Bill No. 23, the Quartz Mining Act.
The Premier has outlined that this is, in fact, mirror legislation and the Government of Canada, the House of Commons and the Senate have passed their legislation. Indeed, they have passed the Yukon Act, which includes the devolution transfer agreement.
The Premier has acknowledged not only my work, but the work of the previous government in reaching the devolution transfer agreement and the changes to the Yukon Act.
The difficulty I am having is the Premierís steadfast insistence that there will be improvements to the devolution transfer agreement, but he doesnít outline what improvements would be made to such legislation as the mirror legislation. In fact, I believe the Premier has indicated there wonít be changes to the mirror legislation, including the Quartz Mining Act. How one is suggesting there be improvements to already legally binding agreements that have already passed the House of Commons and the Senate, and indeed legislation that passes this House, is what I am not clear on. I would like the Premier to outline either in line-by-line debate of this legislation or in a very clear manner how improvements will be made.
Let me put this more clearly, Mr. Speaker. The Umbrella Final Agreement is legislation that passed the House of Commons, passed this House. Nowhere in the debates, that I can recall, when that legislation was put forward did anyone subsequently suggest they were going to improve it. I think that would be considered reprehensible by the parties involved, so I donít understand how the Premier intends to improve legislation that has passed both the House of Commons and the Senate and, hopefully with this mirror legislation, will pass this House. So I am asking for the Premier to be clear in that respect.
The Quartz Mining Act is a piece of legislation that is held near and dear and in very high regard by the Yukonís mining industry. It is the basis of the industry. It is fundamental, and the Yukon Chamber of Mines and others were asked and were provided with funding to ensure that they participated in this legislation, and they were aware of its drafting and had thorough knowledge of it.
There have been no suggested changes, but one of the concerns that I have heard the mining community ask in the past is what changes the Yukon Legislature intends to make to this legislation, once passed.
So, my question then to the government is: do they intend, in this session, the life of this government or in the near future, to make any changes once itís passed? For example, to be more direct, will the government see, in the fall legislative calendar, either this fall of 2003 or fall of 2004, changes to this Quartz Mining Act? Does the government intend to make changes during the life of this session of the Legislature? Thatís my question with respect to the Quartz Mining Act, and I ask it on behalf of the mining community. I look forward to the Premierís response.
Once again, I would emphasize that I am supportive of the bill before us ó Bill No. 23, the Quartz Mining Act. Itís an important piece of the devolution transfer agreement, and I commend it to the House and, subsequently of course, I look forward to Committee debate and then third reading and the Commissionerís signature.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once again, I think this is pretty clear on what it is weíre doing here. As far as the leader of the third partyís comment on changes, we do not anticipate changes at this time. The whole purpose of this mirror legislation is to lend a contribution toward a smooth transition on devolution. Itís required; it gives us enabling legislation; it gives us the mechanisms we require as government to make the decisions, to manage, to take down these powers from DIAND.
But getting back, again, to this improvement issue that the leader of the third party seems to be hung up on ó why wouldnít we improve the devolution transfer agreement if we can get the federal government to commit to how much money theyíre putting into environment cleanup on Type II sites? We know how much theyíre putting into the other sites ó some $20 million. How much are they putting into these major contaminated sites that, frankly, are going to require in the hundreds of millions ó just going by the Auditor Generalís figures ó and, more importantly, what can it do to contribute to Yukoners going to work ó Yukon people, Yukon contractors, and so forth ó not to mention what it does in terms of cleaning up our environment? I think thatís paramount, considering what happened under the federal governmentís watch in these areas.
So what weíre saying in that particular instance is, how much money is the federal government putting in? We have to develop a work plan. We have to do a number of things. Every one of those areas can lend to improving on the devolution transfer agreement.
Secondly, a Crown in right ó weíre going to look at seeing if there is a legal ruling that would give Yukon a Crown in right based on the devolution transfer agreement. Should that be the case, weíve just improved it. We want assurances from Ottawa when it comes to offshore rights and benefits accruing to Yukoners, when it comes to that particular area out in the Beaufort. We think that could be an improvement if we could get assurances from Ottawa that those benefits will come to Yukon. Those are the types of things weíre talking about.
Itís fairly straightforward. I commend this bill to the House and, again, look forward to April 1 when we will be implementing and putting into force and effect the Quartz Mining Act.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 23 agreed to
Bill No. 24: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 24, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 24, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 24, entitled Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act sets out rules for managing lands, including leases, land use permits and forestry, and I donít think we have to go into great detail here about what weíve experienced over the many years when it comes to land use permits, forestry and other things that the federal government was in control of. Weíve had a lot of problems in those areas and feel very strongly that we must ensure that the implementation of this legislation and all that goes with it does not get us back to where we were prior to April 1.
We must be able to implement devolution and this type of legislation so that it improves our abilities here in the Yukon to issue land use permits and leases and manage our lands and, in particular, forestry. Many opportunities have been missed when it comes to forestry, and thatís really unfortunate because thatís one of the things that really helped drive people out of the Yukon.
Iíll speak just briefly about my own community. We saw a loss of probably 200 to 300 people because of the failure of governments to be able to put something together in forestry. A lot of them are now working 300 miles down the Alaska Highway in Fort Nelson and really would like to come back to their home. So these are things that we must, above all else, ensure that we can do ó a better job than has been done in the past.
Of course, itís still mirror legislation. Itís part of the legal mechanisms that we must have so that we can, on April 1, actually proceed with devolution, and this act will come into force and effect upon assent from this House on that very date.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise in support of this bill, Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, Bill No. 24. The bill before us is, again, part of the mirror legislation as outlined by the Premier and there have not been significant changes to this mirror legislation since it was first tabled for information purposes under an NDP government and tabled and passed first reading in the 2002 spring session. It is part of the devolution transfer agreement achieved by the Yukon Liberal government.
The Premier has mentioned in the House improvements to the devolution transfer agreement and has suggested Ė I believe his words were that the leader of the third party "seems to be hung up on". The Premier has mentioned them both in a throne speech and in a budget speech and what I am trying to ascertain from the Premier in the public forum and in this legislation is precisely what the Premier views as improvements to a legally binding and legally negotiated and passed agreement, and what the Premier seems to imply in his response is a negotiation of dollars associated with the devolution transfer agreement.
I would suggest that is work on the implementation, giving life and meaning to the agreement. It is not an improvement to the agreement. It is work associated with the agreement and any government, any Yukoner would, of course, negotiate the very best they could for the Yukon. So it is not an actual improvement to a legal agreement. What it is, is the government intends to act responsibly on behalf of Yukoners and work hard to ensure that the Yukon gets the best part of the bargain in terms of implementing the devolution transfer agreement. Yukoners expect no less.
The Premier also mentioned in his throne speech ó and Iím not certain it was in the budget speech ó the constitutional challenge and the court reference with respect to the Crown in right. We deal with that in the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, and Iím looking forward to the Premierís explanation of what he sees as the constitutional question being forwarded, particularly what the cost is to Yukoners of that forwarding of the constitutional question ó what the cost will be to Yukoners. Because what the application of the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act does is that it allows Cabinet, the government of the day, to transfer the administration of lands from one act to another.
How I have previously wrestled with this question of Crown in right is to ask if there is any change if I, as a Yukoner, owned land, had a mortgage on it, go to the bank, the bank says, "Yes, you can own this land" ó does it change anything if thereís a Crown in right of Yukon? No, it doesnít.
What changes with devolution is that the Yukon government is able to do this. So I would suggest that ó and even in the understanding of the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act, it notes that the Yukon equivalent to the Crown is the Commissioner, or the Government of Yukon. We had a note on our desk the other day about the explanation of the mace, which refers to the Crown as well.
So, my question, Mr. Speaker ó and Iím sure the Premier will be prepared to address it in Committee of the Whole ó is this Crown in right of Yukon question. The Premier is going to spend some money on this constitutional challenge. How much money? And I am very much looking forward to the Premierís explanation of what the question is thatís being posed, understanding the fact that this Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act is the one that references the Crown.
Iím looking forward to the Premierís explanation in the line-by-line debate of that, and the explanation of why and at what cost the Premier is proceeding on that particular constitutional question.
The other question I have ó the Premier mentioned the offshore boundary. The Premier has made much in the House today and in the public of an agreement ó a memorandum of understanding ó signed with the Northwest Territories. There is no reference to boundary discussions; however, there is a sovereignty question. I am wondering if perhaps the Premier will outline when the Northern Offshore Boundary Committee last met, who the Premier has assigned to pursue that particular question and also when he plans to undertake discussions with Alaska and Canada, and putting that question forward, as it appears to be such an issue for the Premier.
I look forward to the line-by-line debate of the Territorial Lands (Yukon) Act in Committee of the Whole, and I look forward to the Premierís answers to these questions.
Speaker: If the member now speaks he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, again, I would point out ó when the member says, in one of the areas that we think may provide some improvement on the devolution transfer agreement, the Crown-in-right issue ó the member alludes to the fact that she, herself, is wrestling with this issue. Well, maybe instead of wrestling with it, we should get a legal opinion on exactly what it means to Yukon before we proceed with any constitutional challenge. So thatís just one option.
We have put this out because it is a significant issue. I think that if you went and talked to the mining community in the Yukon that you would find out quickly that it is a big issue with the mining community ó and for obvious reasons.
And, it puts us much closer to province-like powers. The other issue I want to point out though is something that is very troublesome in the Yukon Act and the devolution transfer agreement whereby we have merely been given, under those two particular mechanisms, a little bit of a leash by the Minister of DIAND who can take back these so-called powers at basically his whim. We have a little bit of trouble with that but we feel as a government we can implement devolution and indeed work as hard as we can to ensure a smooth transition and then start to work on these issues on behalf of Yukoners as we should. So I do look forward to the debate with the leader of the third party. I guess the official opposition is pretty well convinced that this is the way to go, so I commend this bill to the House and its expeditious passage so it comes into force and effect April 1, 2003.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 24 agreed to
Bill No. 25: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 25, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 25, entitled Waters Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 25, entitled Waters Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the Waters Act sets out rules for water use, including licences. Pretty straightforward ó again, itís enabling legislation, mirror legislation that is required for us. It must have assent in this House before April 1 so that it comes into force and effect upon April 1 as that is the date of the transfer of powers to the Yukon. There is no question that we support the bill. I look forward to comments from the members opposite, and again, April 1, is a very significant date in the very near future.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of Bill No. 25, the Waters Act and would like to invite the Premier to address a couple of areas with respect to the Waters Act, and itís the administration of this particular legislation once it has passed Cabinet and been transferred over post-April 1. Post-April 1, the Waters Act will be administered by the Government of Yukon, and the Waters Act provides for the establishment of the Yukon Water Board.
Under the previous government, we undertook a substantial review of government to ensure where, in the post-devolution world, particular bodies and organizations would fit. It was very important to examine those organizations ó and especially the quasi-judicial boards like the Water Board ó and where they would be housed in order that neither the environmental community nor the development community felt there was a particular weight given one way or another.
So in that respect, the Yukon Water Board and the quasi-judicial boards were to be housed in the Executive Council Office. Now, there have been a number of changes made to that renewed Government of Yukon structure, and I would invite the Premier to outline, when he returns to his feet either for conclusion of his second reading speech or in the line-by-line debate, where the Premier intends that the Yukon Water Board quasi-judicial board will operate from in a post-devolution world in the Yukon.
The other point I would just make is that I have no sense of where the Yukon Party stands on the issue ó as long as weíre discussing water ó of bulk water exports. Itís a matter that has been discussed on several occasions at premiers conferences, and I believe ó if youíll permit me ó Premier Klein has said that the next disputes will not be over whiskey, but over water. It is a precious, precious commodity and I have no sense of where the current government stands on that particular issue. So I would invite the Premier to address that in line-by-line as well, or perhaps his Environment minister would care to respond in writing to me on that particular question.
The Waters Act and particularly the function of the Water Board is an important question with this legislation, so I invite those answers. Just prior to concluding my comments on this speech, the Premier mentioned in my reference to the Yukon Act, in the previous legislation, the leash that is contained in the Yukon Act. In fact, itís a non-derogation clause. That non-derogation clause was the expressed negotiation of the Council of Yukon First Nations and other parties, including the Kaska and the Kwanlin Dun, who were present at the negotiations of the devolution transfer agreement. That was a condition ó they asked that that be negotiated in the Yukon Act. It was expressly done so, and it was the position of the Government of the Yukon that it would have a 10-year sunset clause. That is the reason it is there. It was an expressed request of our partners at the table, and I would encourage the Premier, prior to any further public indication that he intends to challenge that particular clause, that he undertake discussions with the Grand Chief, because that was a specific request and a negotiated item.
There is a reason why itís there, and that is the reason. I look forward to the Premierís responses with respect to the Waters Act and the line-by-line debate of this legislation, and I commend it to the House, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Well, I agree with the leader of the third party that where the Water Board goes is of utmost importance. Itís my understanding under the memberís watch that the Water Board wound up, probably through renewal, in the Department of Environment. Thatís an issue.
However, again, this is mirror legislation, an enabling mechanism. I commend the bill to the House for expeditious passage and assent so it comes into force and effect April 1. Thank you.
Point of privilege
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege, the record must state correctly that what I said was not "the Environment" but "the Department of Executive Council Office". Iím sorry. I believe the Premier has erred in his statement on the record, and on a point of privilege, it should be recorded correctly, Mr. Speaker.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 25 agreed to
Bill No. 26: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 26, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 26, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 26, entitled Environmental Assessment Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This fifth bill, the Environmental Assessment Act, or EAA, will operate in conjunction ó and I think this is important ó with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act rather than replace it. I think there should be some debate or discussion in this House about that and I would urge that we do that.
The Environmental Assessment Act will provide a temporary environmental assessment regime until the development assessment process, or the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act legislation, is brought in within the next couple of years. Again, it is mirror legislation, an enabling mechanism, that must come into force and effect by April 1, and I commend this bill to the House. We, on this side, fully support it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the Environmental Assessment Act, Bill No. 26, is the final and important piece of legislation with respect to the mirror bills on devolution.
Just to ensure that the Hansard is accurate, where attributed to me I would like to ensure, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite understand correctly that, in reference to the Waters Act, I was referring to the Water Board with the Executive Council Office and the responsibility for water.
I asked for an answer with respect to bulk water exports from either the Minister of Environment or the Premier. Responsibility for water was within the Department of Environment in a renewed Government of Yukon. The Water Board, which is referenced under the Yukon Waters Act, is with the Executive Council Office. I asked the Premier to confirm that, which he did not.
I understand that, as the Premier has indicated, the Environmental Assessment Act is in conjunction with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and that environmental assessments that have started but not yet been completed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act will be continued under this act after devolution. The Premier also mentioned the formerly known as DAP, or YESAA, legislation and the Premier used the term "years". I would ask the Premier to be prepared to outline for the Yukon public, in his second reading speech or in line-by-line debate, the precise status of that legislation and where the public servants who are entrusted to administer that legislation will be housed, and given that this Environmental Assessment Act requires the establishment of the Yukon environmental assessment branch, where will they be housed under the Yukon Party government? Where will those individuals be working out of?
I look forward to line-by-line debate on this and Committee of the Whole debate, and I commend this particular bill, the final bill in the mirror legislation in the devolution transfer agreement, as signed by the Liberal government, to this House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: I have no intention of being a talking head during this. I think we all agree that this is mirror legislation and has been in the works for a long, long time and is going forward. I would like to thank the government House leader for discussing this mirror legislation with us previously. For the last two months we have been very aware of the timelines in regard to that, and we gave the government our assurances that we would not be putting up roadblocks regarding the mirror legislation.
I have just saved a couple comments for the end, and what I would like to state is that we will have our questions in the line-by-line debate and not at this moment. But we are curious about the regulations that may come out of these acts, how the government plans to seek the views of the people, timelines and all that stuff.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I thank the leader of the official opposition for pointing out that itís going to be critical that we involve Yukoners in the regulations development and so forth. Obviously that is the instrument that follows the legislation that is felt most by Yukoners, in terms of impact in any one of these particular areas, so itís critical that their input is meaningful.
Just to help the leader of the third party, again, to correct the record, the Water Board, under renewal, was slated to go into the Department of Environment. Our government had some issue with that. Again, as far as whatís happening with DAP, well, itís still in process, and we expect thereíll be some definitive responses in regard to this legislation in due course, and weíll take it from there.
I commend this bill to the House, and look forward to its expeditious passage and assent.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 26 agreed to
Bill No. 5: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 5, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It is my pleasure to introduce Bill No. 5, the Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04. This act requests spending authority which in total is not to exceed $221,957,000 for defraying the several charges and expenses of the public service of the Yukon, payable April 1, 2003, to May 31, 2003. The amounts for operation and maintenance are $173,431,000, and for capital, $48,526,000. This is obviously a necessary item, considering the timelines that weíre dealing with in this sitting, to provide government with spending authority post-March 31, when we enter into the new fiscal year. I would expect that the opposition members will give this expeditious passage.
Ms. Duncan: This is routine legislation. I would like to express, for the record, my appreciation to the Government of Yukon for ensuring that it was tabled as required under Standing Orders by the fifth sitting day. I would also like to commend them for ensuring that it is passed well prior to the March 31 deadline. It is routine legislation ó the amounts vary. But several of us have been in this House when this routine legislation did not pass the House by March 31, so I commend the government for getting it here on time. I assure the government that I would certainly save any lengthy debate for the budget, and this routine legislation should be passed expeditiously to ensure that the operations of the government can continue while we debate the budget.
Mr. Hardy: Just for the record, we also recognize that this is a necessary item, and we thank the government opposite for bringing it forward at this time. It has failed before ó I remember that very well, as the Premier, himself, would also remember that period. We look forward to debating the budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to point out again that we on this side of the House are not going to be playing games like the Yukon Party has in the past about delaying government and the spending authority for government. We would like to see things function and go well from day to day in departments, and weíre certainly not going to be playing games as the members of the Yukon Party have done in the past in this House.
Itís simply a statement, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: In response to the Member for Mayo-Tatchun, thatís precisely why this bill is before us, because things can happen and we wanted to ensure, on behalf of the Yukon public, that those things will not happen. I think itís in the best interests of this House that we do this according to how it should be done. Thereís no need for any political gamesmanship when it comes to interim supply. Iím sure the members opposite will have every opportunity as we debate the budget, department by department, line by line. And Iím also confident that, given what has happened over the last number of days in the early part of this sitting, the members opposite are going to be very constructive and productive in their debate on behalf of Yukoners. I think thatís something in terms of an example that we all should set.
With that, we donít need to further discuss this particular bill. Itís a very simple procedure and we will ensure that the government and the people of the Yukon have spending authority post-March 31.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 5 agreed to
Bill No. 21: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 21, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that Bill No. 21, entitled Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 21, entitled Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am indeed very pleased to introduce this amendment to the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, and this amendment will adjust the age restriction for the eligibility of a surviving spouse to receive the grant. Under the change to this act, the age restriction will now be reduced from 60 years of age to 55 years of age.
Under the existing and current legislation, Mr. Speaker, a surviving spouse is eligible to receive the pioneer utility grant each year if they are, or will be, 60 years old on December 31 and are the surviving spouse of a person who would originally have qualified for that pioneer utility grant. Under this amendment, the age requirement will be lowered to 55. What that means is a surviving spouse will be eligible to continue to receive the pioneer utility grant if their partner would have been 65 years of age or older and eligible for the grant.
By lowering this age requirement, financial assistance will continue to be provided to surviving spouses. This will assist surviving spouses to remain in their homes and to have some additional financial support for their utility bills.
Mr. Speaker, the Pioneer Utility Grant Act has been in existence for over 20 years and was established to assist Yukon seniors with their heating costs. This is a universal program and does not require an income test, and will not require an income test.
If the applicant meets the requirements, they are eligible to receive the grant. This includes all seniors and First Nation elders in the Yukon. The last permanent increase to the pioneer utility grant was back in 1985, and this one-time-only increase of $100 was provided by the previous administration in 2001 to address the high heating costs of that season.
In addition to lowering the age requirement for eligibility for a surviving spouse, the Yukon Party is very pleased that we have been able to meet our platform commitment by increasing the base grant by 25 percent. We are also indexing it against inflation, and regulations to approve these changes will allow for this 25-percent increase to the base amount of the pioneer utility grant. It will come into effect October 1, 2003, and will increase the base amount of the grant from $600 to $750 per eligible household. That increase will help assist seniors with rising utility costs. We only have to look at today with the price of a barrel of oil fetching up to just under $40 U.S. per barrel to know what our heating costs are. There are a lot of us who rely on fossil fuel for heating and the cost driver is the price of a barrel of oil. The indexing against inflation will come into effect for October 1, 2004. This will ensure that the grant keeps pace with the cost of inflation in the Yukon in future years, and one only has to look at the major driver of the inflationary costs in Canada and, by and large, they all track back to the cost of fuel in one form or another.
With this amendment to the Pioneer Utility Grant Act and the increase to the base amount of the grant, this government shows its commitment to assisting seniors to remain in their homes, and Iím sure the opposition will be supporting me in this amendment to the pioneer utility grant.
Currently, the eligibility requirements for the pioneer utility grant are as follows: you are, or will be, 65 years of age on December 31 of the year of the grant, and you or your spouse living with you has owned or rented the principal residence for the year of the grant, and have occupied your principal residence for a period of not less than 183 days ó 90 of those days occurring in the winter months of January, February, March, October, November or December ó or you are, or will be, 55 years of age on December 31 and are the surviving spouse of a person who would have qualified to receive the grant.
Mr. Deputy Speaker, I commend this bill to the House and I look forward to it receiving unanimous support of all members of the House. Itís a good bill, it recognizes the important role that seniors play in our society, and it will do what we as a government should be doing ó assisting our seniors and encouraging them to remain in their own homes for as long as they possibly can.
Mr. Fairclough: This is not a major amendment to this bill. Itís an important one. It basically amends how old a person must be to qualify for the pioneer utility grant.
Itís pretty straightforward. Certainly we on this side of the table are in favour of this bill. It is something that we have been asking for. We have all kinds of questions that we will be asking once we hit Committee of the Whole on this bill. It is interesting that the Yukon Party has campaigned on increasing the pioneer utility grant. We on this side of the House have been asking for a sitting so that we can address these small issues over this past winter. This amendment certainly will not be beneficial, in a large way, to people this year. Once we do pass this bill, which could be a month from now, then it will kick into play and most of the cold weather will be over, but this is something that will address next yearís cold weather for our seniors.
We all recognize and feel right now the high prices of fuel. It is all coming out of our pockets and we shouldnít be putting any more hardship on the seniors we have in the territory. Their money gets spent in many of the stores and services around the territory, and they donít have much income. We recognize that and we are glad to see a bill like this come forward. We are going to be asking all kinds of questions in Committee of the Whole on this bill in regard to things like indexing and so on. Not to hold up the bill any more, those are our short comments in regard to this amendment.
Ms. Duncan: I support the bill that the minister has brought forward. Clearly this amendment deals with an issue that individuals in the territory have faced: the issue of the surviving spouse and reducing the age to 55. I support the amendment to the bill.
I will, however, be asking the minister in line-by-line debate and Committee of the Whole to assess for the House the financial impact. Clearly this is ratifying an outstanding issue. What is the financial impact on the pioneer utility grant? What is the estimated increase and the policy implications of such a change? This is a change of an age for surviving spouses from 60 to 55. Is it the governmentís intention to also reduce the age requirement or surviving spouse requirement in other programs that are offered to our seniors? For example, we offer free campground permits to those who are of a particular age ó I believe itís 60. Does the policy implication of this legislation mean that we intend to reduce it to 55 in other areas?
I am not making myself clear, judging by the look on the Speakerís face. Let me try with members of the backbench. The fact is that there is a policy implication when you make a change to a piece of legislation like this. We are going from 60 to 55 for the surviving spouse on the pioneer utility grant. Whatís the implication? Are we going to do the same in other areas where we administer benefits? Itís a simple question that I would like addressed. Is it something we are going to do in other areas?
I was pleased to hear the member state in Hansard ó and I am pleased to restate for the record ó that the universality of the pioneer utility grant will continue, and I would anticipate then that the Minister of Health wants to ensure that that universality continues to all our health programs and not promote the multi-level health care funding that was suggested by the Yukon Party.
I note with interest that last fall the minister insisted ó absolutely insisted ó in the public forum that, in order to cut the larger cheques to deliver on the Yukon Party promise about the pioneer utility grant, he had to introduce legislative changes. Well, in fact, he didnít have to introduce legislative changes, and he has admitted that in the House.
I do support the legislative changes that have been brought forward. They werenít necessary to cut the larger cheques.
These legislative changes are about age; they arenít about the larger pioneer utility grant.
Unfortunately, as the Member for Mayo-Tatchun has pointed out, seniors have lost a year, a year of high fuel prices, a year when they might have enjoyed the benefit. It could have been done by regulation. It wasnít.
The minister has stated that the base grant will be increased and that there will be indexation and regulations. The Health minister indicated that these will be passed by October 1, 2003. The question that I will be asking in line-by-line debate is when, precisely, will the seniors receive their cheques? And I look forward to the ministerís response.
I do commend this bill to the House. It corrects a deficiency in legislation that has clearly been a hardship for individuals. I am pleased to see it brought forward and am pleased to rise in support of it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, Iím very pleased with the support from the opposition on this bill. Itís a good bill, and itís a bill that addresses the needs of our seniors.
Iíd just like to take exception to the remarks of the member of the third party that we could have done this before. The member oppositeís administration had two or three full cycles in which they could have made an adjustment to the regulations in this bill. They chose instead to give a one-time increase in one year of $100. That was it. Our partyís commitment was clear; it was well spelled out and laid out for all, Mr. Speaker, that we had committed, but it required not only a change in regulations but a change in the legislation. Once again, the Yukon Party is right on track, right in line to meeting the commitments that we have made to the Yukon public. And, yes, there will be a further increase of approximately $160,000 to $180,000 in payouts under these new and enhanced programs.
We as a party believe this will further allow our seniors to remain in their own homes for a longer period, and it will give them a little bit greater spending in other areas. But then you have to factor in the constant increase in the price of a barrel of oil, which translates into an increased cost in heating oils and/or propane. It doesnít impact to the same extent on wood but it still impacts there, Mr. Speaker, in that the individuals who cut the wood and haul the wood have increased costs for their fuel for their vehicles and their equipment.
So at the end of the day, this is a good bill. This a good change in the regulations that will result as a consequence of our partyís commitment, and I thank the members opposite for their support and look forward -- in the one line that we are changing in this act, I look forward to debate in the change to that one line.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 21 agreed to
Bill No. 29: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 29, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Taylor.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move that Bill No. 29, entitled Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 29, entitled Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to speak to the amendment to the Territorial Court Act that will extend the retirement age for deputy judges serving on the Territorial Court bench from the age of 65 to the age of 75 years. During the 2001 Judicial Compensation Commission hearing, this matter was raised by the Territorial Court judiciary and formed one of the recommendations put forward by the Judicial Compensation Commission in their April 2002 report.
This government is acting upon this very recommendation. Deputy judges play a vital role in filling in for full time judges during periods of leave, illness, conflict situations or where there are unexpected demands on the court. This amendment is necessary so that the Yukon Territorial Court can maintain a pool of deputy judges in order to provide relief to our Yukon bench.
As is currently the case, it is increasingly difficult to have deputy judges come to the Yukon while they are still actively serving on their home benches. Judges are more likely to be available for deputy judge service in other jurisdictions after they have retired from the bench.
The proposed increase in the allowable retirement age limit for deputy judges from 65 to 75 years of age will greatly increase the pool of available judges to serve temporarily on the Yukon bench. At this time, there are five other jurisdictions in Canada that have set the retirement age for deputy judges at the age of 75, and two that have an age of 70.
Also at this time, the Northwest Territories is considering this kind of legislative change. Iím asking this House to consider this amendment as a housekeeping amendment to allow our judiciary to continue to function as efficiently as possible.
Mrs. Peter: This bill is requiring very minor changes. It addresses the age of retirement for deputy judges, and we donít anticipate any lengthy debate from the opposition here, but we are interested in hearing what is behind this bill and will have more questions in Committee.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding, as the minister has put forward to the House, is that this bill is housekeeping legislation and a recommendation of the Judicial Compensation Commission. I am pleased to offer the minister my support for this particular piece of legislation.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I appreciate the comments coming forward from the side opposite. For the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, just for her information, this was one of the recommendations that came out of the Judicial Compensation Commission, which was struck in 2001. As the member may recall, in 1997, the Supreme Court of Canada made a ruling in which it is now a requirement for all provinces and territories to hold judicial compensation commissions to oversee matters with respect to remuneration benefit packages for our judiciary.
So in keeping with that, this was one of the recommendations that flowed out of that, and it was delivered within the commissionís report in April 2002.
These are binding upon the Government of Yukon, as is set out in the Territorial Court Act, and to do otherwise would be a little bit foolhardy, so I thank you.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 29 agreed to
Bill No. 30: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 30, standing in the name of the hon. Ms. Taylor.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move that Bill No. 30, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Minister of Justice that Bill No. 30, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be now read a second time.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I rise today to speak to the amendment to the Supreme Court Act allowing for an annual general meeting of the Supreme Court of the Yukon Territory.
The judiciary requested this change to enable deputy judges of the Supreme Court as well as the two sitting judges to meet on an annual basis to discuss court-related issues. The judges of the Supreme Court will benefit from such meetings by being able to discuss common issues concerning the Supreme Court. These issues include current case law, problems facing northern judges and sentencing patterns.
The entire cost for the annual meetings will be paid by the office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs, which is funded by the Government of Canada. As well, most jurisdictions in Canada have already amended their legislation to provide for these meetings. This government values the contribution that the Supreme Court makes to the administration of justice in the Yukon, and we felt that this is an amendment that could easily be accommodated.
I encourage my fellow legislators to give due consideration to this bill to recognize the importance of the Supreme Court and to give this amendment a timely passage through this House.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to advise the minister opposite that I have no detailed questions in Committee of the Whole, and Iím prepared to give the speedy passage that she has requested in her second reading speech to this particular piece of legislation. It appears on the surface to be very straightforward, and I would anticipate its passage through Committee of the Whole in such a manner.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I appreciate the comments coming from the leader of the third party. I appreciate her full support.
Just to reiterate, I certainly think that this annual meeting will reap many benefits in many regards to the Yukon. Thereís no cost to the Yukon. It will help maintain the good relationship between our governmentís Supreme Court judiciary as well as all of the benefits accrued through generating money into our Yukon economy by hosting another annual general meeting.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 30 agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: I call Committee of the Whole to order.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Chair.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. McRobb, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I wish to object to the procedure demonstrated by the government House leader in that neither we, as official opposition, nor the third party, were advised that we would be going into Committee on any bills this afternoon. One of the purposes of House leadersí meetings in the morning is to establish the items to be dealt with in the afternoon in this Assembly. The only items identified by the government House leader were the mirror legislative bills, the interim supply bill, the pioneer utility grant and these two court acts ó dealing in second reading but not Committee.
There was a change from yesterday in that regard. We were informed that we would not be going into Committee today.
While Iím on my feet talking on this subject, I would also wish to state my objection that the government House leader failed to provide us with a document of the bills to be dealt with this afternoon, as agreed in this morningís House leadersí meeting.
Chair: Ms. Duncan, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: Pardon me, Mr. Chair of Committee of the Whole, I didnít say point of order. The point that has been raised by the House leader for the official opposition is correct in that both opposition parties were told at this morningís House leadersí meeting, which is for the purpose of arranging the expeditious business of the House, that we were expressly advised that we would not be resolving into Committee of the Whole today. We prepare for legislative debate and prepare our questions for Committee of the Whole, and to proceed in this matter without advising either House leader is not conducive to either order and decorum in the House or to a collaborative working relationship.
We would like to discuss these bills thoroughly, be fully prepared for Committee of the Whole and, in order to do that, we need to be advised, in House leadersí, that we are resolving into Committee of the Whole. That advice was not given, and I appreciate the opportunity to substantiate what the opposition House leader has stated this afternoon.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On the point of order, what transpired at House leadersí this morning was a request from me, as official government House leader, to adjourn this day of the sitting at 5:00 p.m. instead of going to 6:00 p.m., and I clearly indicated the bills that we would be going into it. They are the complete mirror legislation, interim supply, pioneer utility grant and the two bills from Justice.
The official opposition House leader and the leader of the third party wanted a listing in writing of the bills we were going to be going through.
Mr. Chair, they are in the Standing Orders. Theyíre repeated time and time again, and I was requested to fax this information down to their respective offices.
You know, weíre here to conduct the business of the House. I also asked how long they felt that they would be in debate on these various bills at second reading. I received no indication. So, given no indication and given the past background, it would appear to be reasonable, Mr. Chair, that it was dealt with very expeditiously ó the business this afternoon ó and we had no place to go. We have a number of options. We can adjourn the House at this time. I think that would be very, very foolish of us. We already have other commitments on the government side, and weíve encouraged the official opposition, elected officials, and the leader of the third party to accompany us and to join with us at an occasion, and that invitation was extended this morning at House leadersí, Mr. Chair, and I donít see the need, at $1,000 an hour for Hansard, to use the time by eliminating further time from our House today. I would ask that, during our break, we as House leaders sit down and discuss it, because I suggest that weíre going into Committee of the Whole debate, Mr. Speaker, on the interim supply bill first, and then subsequently into the mirror legislation.
Chair: Mr. McRobb, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Iíll be very brief, Mr. Chair. Why donít we resolve this impasse by agreeing to a special two-hour evening sitting in one weekís time, in which we can call out one of the corporations. That would make up for the two hours of business lost today because the government didnít get their ducks lined up and notify the opposition in an orderly and forthright manner.
Chair:Order please. The interaction among the House leaders is among them. It is not an area in which the Chair has a responsibility to rule or to determine. The manner in which this House resolved into Committee of the Whole conforms to the Standing Orders. Therefore, there is no point of order.
As is the practice, I will now declare a brief recess. We will recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: I will now call Committee of the Whole to order.
We will now introduce Bill No. 5, the Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Bill No. 5 ó Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04
Chair:Is there any general debate?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As we discussed with the Speaker in the Chair, this is a formality to provide, considering the timelines of this sitting, the government spending authority post-March 31, 2003, when we begin the new fiscal year. The amounts are laid out clearly in terms of total capital and total O&M and, as the opposition benchers have stated, they agree that this is something that is a formality and is required and we should be able to expedite this, Mr. Chair, quite quickly.
Mr. Hardy: Well, from our perspective, this interim supply appropriation act could have been quite easily avoided if the Yukon Party government had taken the advice and worked closely and collaboratively with the opposition members and held a fall sitting ó and taken care of a lot of business. We would have seen that an interim supply bill would not have been necessary, because the business would have been done before the deadline.
However, the government had decided that our suggestion of a fall sitting wasnít appropriate ó or a sitting before Christmas ó and felt it wasnít necessary and took actions that I know they on their side have been very concerned about, when the Liberal government was in power, and thatís special warrants.
They themselves quickly adopted that position of the previous Liberal government and started using special warrants for their own special needs. We still take the position that the special warrants have been abused and they have a purpose, but they have been exceeded, both in the previous government and in this government as well. We have a concern about that as well.
One of my first questions here is in Economic Development. Could the member opposite explain why there is only $1 in Economic Development?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, it is appropriate that I address some of the comments going back to the official oppositionís position of a fall sitting. Firstly let us point out that this interim supply bill is for the coming fiscal year 2003-04. All we would have accomplished in a fall sitting is the passage of a supplemental budget. If the official opposition thinks that, upon taking office and being sworn in December 2, 2002, we were going to somehow construct a budget between then and Christmas, I can only say on behalf of Yukoners that it is a good thing we chose to go the route we did. I canít imagine what kind of a budget we would have had in here.
I would impress upon the member that itís just simply not that easy. There was no budget constructed. There were a bunch of expenditures slated for a supplementary and/or a warrant that the third party seemed to be very comfortable with using, given their adversity to coming into this House.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, weíre kind of starting off on the wrong track when it comes to this particular interim supply bill. This is a formality. Itís to provide spending power next fiscal year. Because of our sitting timelines, we are going to overlap from this fiscal year into the next fiscal year so, frankly, this should be a very simple process. But weíll engage with the opposition and do our best to answer their questions, and I would hope they would reciprocate in their debate by adding constructive debate to this particular item.
As far as the Economic Development department goes, given the fact that our transfers from the federal government take place on April 1, there has been a tremendous amount of upheaval in the public service for the Yukon government because of the very ill-fated and misguided renewal process. We had no desire whatsoever to further that upheaval, and we wanted to ensure that job classifications and those types of things would not be, before employees even commenced working under that job classification, were changed again, contributing to what I think is a bit of a morale problem and confusion and chaos within the public service.
We want to do this in an orderly manner and we also want to ensure that the actual structure of this department is done with the public servants within government, unlike renewal was done, which was basically a one-level approach by the government, with very little input from the public service ó Iím sure the official opposition is well aware of that.
So we wanted to structure this properly and felt very, very concerned about the public service and what has happened to it ó and then the federal employees coming over. Number one is working with the employees ó their input is very, very important. Working with the First Nation governments ó their input is very, very important. Working with all stakeholders ó this is the highest priority of the Yukon public based on the election of November 4 ó working with all the stakeholders, ensuring their input.
We have the Taking Action Committee. We have the Yukon Council on the Economy and the Environment, chambers of commerce, communities ó there is all kinds of work that needs to be done. So what weíve set out is giving the department a validity in this fiscal year coming, 2003-04 ó itís now a department. We have now embarked on a process of advertising for a deputy minister. We are going to put a deputy minister in place and begin the work of structuring the department, and that is the simple answer to the memberís question.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Chair, Iím very thankful for the benevolence of the leader, that he will indulge the opposition. It is so important on this side of the House that the benevolence of the leader does grant us that.
However, Economic Development ó I see $1 in there. The Premier mentioned how important it is to consult, and Iíll get back to that in a second. But he made some references earlier on that there was no budget whatsoever, that basically the people who work within the departments, the deputy ministers and the people who work with them, have done absolutely no work whatsoever in preparing for a budget that they knew was going to be coming, by timelines that are well-established in the territory ó there are budgets in the fall and there are budgets in the spring.
Now, he has given the impression that these people were doing nothing but twiddling their fingers or thumbs and looking into space because, of course, theyíre not inspired to do anything because there was an election. I contend, Mr. Chair, that thatís very fanciful imagination. I truly believe that the people within these departments who do this work were working on a budget and had some ideas and some directions. I do not believe that the new government started everything basically right from scratch.
Before I go to the other questions I have around Economic Development, could the member opposite inform me how they actually constructed a budget ó so that weíre dealing now with an interim supply appropriation act?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me point out to the member opposite that there wasnít a budget. Of course the departments have always got ongoing projections; that does not make a budget.
There was no direction from the former government. They werenít constructing a budget. They went campaigning, and I think the recent history bears that out. All summer long, what was supposed to be a budget tour was actually a campaign tour as they rolled out their candidates, and away we went. And, of course, on October 4 the writ was dropped and to the hustings we went, Mr. Chair.
I am not sure where the leader of the official opposition is coming from. There is a great deal of work that needs to be applied to construct a budget. Some of the members on the opposite bench have been involved in the process. They know what it is like. It takes normally six to seven months of work. We compressed those timelines into mere weeks, and in fact, frankly, we have applauded the officials in this government, especially in Finance and of course the officials in every department, who had to burn a lot of midnight oil and work a lot of weekends to get a budget put together.
Secondly, given the fact that there was absolutely no point in trying to call a fall sitting and construct any type of budget other than the spending that had already taken place under the former Liberal government, we felt then that we had to construct both O&M and capital, which we have done.
Having gone through all that, I am not quite sure what the member is driving at here. This is a pretty simple appropriation act. It is providing spending authority for April and May for the Yukon government so that the government can deliver programs and services to the Yukon public as it has a responsibility to do, and frankly we on this side of the House see very little merit in getting into a lengthy discussion about if, and, or, whether or but, or anything else. We have lots of time to do that when we debate the budget. There is also a supplementary budget if the member wants to lock up in debate on that.
I think what we should do here is give this approval in Committee so we can get it to the next stage of third reading and prepare it for assent. Itís a pretty simple item.
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Hardy: Well, it would have been very nice to move forward like that, but unfortunately we on this side were not aware that we were going into Committee of the Whole with this Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04 today and, based upon the direction that we were given from that side, this is something that we would go back, take a look at and view more at our leisure. As it is, what we would have been able to do back in our own offices is go through it, make sure weíre comfortable with it, make sure that the questions that we may or may not have in regard to this are dealt with in that atmosphere. Now it has to be done here on the floor. It has to be done right here, because we still have to go through this process to look at what is written down.
Mr. Chair, it would be negligent on our part if we didnít do that. Unfortunately, because of the actions across the floor, weíve been forced to do it right in here right now.
Maybe the Premier doesnít agree with me; obviously, he doesnít, but if he were over on this side, he would see the wisdom behind this argument. We were either going to do it over there and still be able to conduct business in here while we had the luxury of a little bit of time to do it or else weíre going to be forced into the Committee of the Whole, as we have been done today, and have to ask these questions, have to review it on the floor here.
So, unfortunately ó and I do apologize to the government across the floor here ó what youíre seeing and what youíre hearing and what youíre going to have to debate are our questions that we would have normally been able to possibly find the answers to, have discussion with people, even discussions with members opposite, now has to happen here, Mr. Chair.
But as we just discussed, there are so many other questions that pop up because of the very statements of the member opposite. We go back again to this position thatís being taken ó that there was absolutely no budget whatsoever. I have to question that, because itís tied in with this, of course. If there was absolutely no budget and no work whatsoever, then I would like to know how they were able to achieve this in such a short time as they say they did, when it normally takes seven months.
If thatís the case, maybe the Premier opposite is saying that we donít really need the seven months, that we have far too many people working on the budget because we can do it in two months. Therefore, maybe what he is proposing down the road is a reduction in the workforce because, obviously, if you can do it in two months, why do you need to go seven months? There are lots of arguments here, Mr. Chair.
So I would like to know, if heís willing to share that knowledge, how he managed to get the bureaucracy to create a budget, which he is, of course, very proud of, in such a short time frame when it normally takes seven months. Iíd also like to know, Mr. Chair ó because he mentioned workers working many hours, late at night ó how much overtime there was in this.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think weíre getting way off the rails here in what this is. The member opposite, the leader of the official opposition, says they have a great number of questions with this. Well, then I would assume, following that logic, that when we actually deal with the budget, wherever one of these expenditures are housed in each department, line by line, they wonít have a lot of questions.
This is a pretty simple formality. We can debate this for two weeks, or we can get into the budget where every one of these expenditures is housed. This is to ensure that employees are paid, NGOs are funded, contractors go to work ó itís a pretty simple thing.
Now, as far as how we entice the public service to construct a budget, I think itís pretty simple ó itís their job.
They knew what had to come because of the situation that the public service, the departments ó especially the Department of Finance ó found themselves in, subsequent to the former governmentís demise. Whether the former government had a budget ready to go or not, I have no idea.
Also, how does the leader of the official opposition equate overtime when it comes to management salaries ó itís beyond me. There is no overtime for management, and they did a masterful job.
Now, there are many ways that we can debate why it took six to seven weeks versus six to seven months. Well, there was a necessity, so we had to compress the timelines. We would have much liked to have the six to seven months. Why? We could have gone into depth in the departments to see where we could find deficiencies and we would have had a much clearer understanding of where the lapsed funding was going and all the rest of it. We could have been out there with the public in a lot more comprehensive manner on constructing a budget. Unfortunately, due to no act of our government, given the election call and its timing, this is what we got into, and this is what we had to deal with.
When we look at the election of April 2000 ó and I think this is why the leader of the official opposition is somewhat hung up on this ó there was a budget. The budget was tabled. The election was called. It was such a good budget, I guess, that the Liberal Party, upon taking office, didnít even bother taking the former ministersí names off the budget and rushed it into the House. So it was simple for the former Liberal government to bring a budget forward.
Itís also important to note that the election timing in 2000 was at the end of a fiscal year. This election was in the midst of a fiscal year.
There are a lot of differing factors and dynamics here but, again, we can do this two ways. We can debate this thing, the interim supply, or we can do what normally is done with it and get on with debating the budget in the detail that I think the official opposition and the members of the opposite side want to get into. Weíre certainly not going to do that here with the interim supply bill. Thereís absolutely no reason to.
Mr. Hardy: I believe the member opposite actually didnít give us the third way, which is that we can do both. Thereís nothing saying that we canít debate the interim supply. Thereís nothing that says we cannot debate the line items of the departments, unless the philosophy on that side is changing on what should or should not happen in this House.
As I said previously ó and maybe I have to say it again because it doesnít seem to be understood over there ó we still need an opportunity to look at the interim supply. We still need that opportunity, the framework and the time for us, as my caucus ó I would be remiss if I said letís move forward if I didnít have a chance to talk with them about it, to go through it so that there can be speedy passage.
Weíre not opposed to the philosophy behind the interim supply. We understand the need of it, but there are questions we want to ask. And because we feel we have been pushed into this situation ó forced into this situation, actually ó we have a duty to stand here and ask these questions, however long that takes. I canít say how long itís going to take, but we do have some questions.
The Premier keeps going back to the situation they found themselves in after the election. He mentioned that only management works on this. If thatís the case, could he tell me how many hours he feels management put in, which may have to be compensated for in one way or another so that they donít feel like theyíve been abused?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I guess the officials were so ecstatic about the election of the new government that they just immediately threw themselves into this work. But, frankly, they get some sort of nine-day trade-off at some point in time for their overtime. So, frankly, they get it anyway, whether they work overtime or they donít work overtime. But letís point something out here, Mr. Chair. What the official oppositionís really doing is going to duplicate the debate. We all know it. So at $1,000 an hour to the taxpayer of this territory, based on a formality ó and if you want to go back through history on interim supply, itís usually two to three lines in this House and itís done. What weíre going to do here is expend $1,000 an hour of taxpayer money so we can hear today what the official opposition wants to get on their soapbox and trumpet to the public through Hansard, and weíll hear it again when we debate the budget in detail. So I would submit to this House and to the Yukon public that the official opposition clearly has no compunction about wasting taxpayersí money, and thatís exactly what weíre doing.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I really appreciate those remarks, Mr. Chair. Thatís a shame that the new shift now is to attack us over here and point the finger at us for the complete amateur show that we witnessed just an hour ago, and definitely a break of agreement in House leadersí that this government has created. This government has created this debate right now. This government is the one that called the Committee of the Whole when there was supposed to be no Committee of the Whole today. This government is the one that is running the clock on the taxpayers.
Another point that he made is that we will be debating all this over again. Well, maybe we will and maybe we wonít. It all depends on how many answers he is willing to give us and, right at this moment, I havenít had an answer from him, so can I ask the member opposite: will he start to give us answers so that we can get through this? Are we going to keep getting this song and dance of how bad the Liberals were? Well, we all agree, because they got thrown out.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: But he wants to keep ó oh, well, Mr. Chair, I did hear from my colleague from the Liberal party that not everybody said that, but enough said it that she is over here now and the Yukon Party is there, but we will move on from that because, as far as I can see, it seems like the Yukon Party is doing the same stuff, refusing to answer any of the questions, doing the spin, creating the scenario that there is absolutely no money. The trajectories were going everywhere, they were going this way, they were going that way, but they were going up and we have to stop them now. We have to stop it right now, so weíll cut the child social services, weíll cut the youth, and weíll hack and slash.
They can do it; that is the Yukon Party; and in a couple of years, they may have $60 million that materializes because of the brilliance on the other side. Well, unfortunately, weíve seen it for 20 years; weíve seen it. Weíve seen the same lines and heard the same stories and weíve seen the same surpluses materialize again. So my question is this, and I will go back to it: is the member opposite willing to give us some answers so that we can move on?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would be more than happy to give answers if we ever got a question versus the political rhetoric coming from the other side. So, at $1,000 an hour to the taxpayer, what is the memberís question?
Mr. Hardy: At $1,000 an hour to the taxpayers that the opposite side has created by not working with us, my question is, why is there only $1 in Economic Development?
Chair: Order please. From the comment made by the leader of the official opposition about a specific vote, it appears that heís ready to go to line-by-line consideration. Before doing this, though, the Chair would like to first offer an opportunity to other members to participate in general debate on Bill No. 5. Is there any other member who wishes to join in general debate, or is it the wish of this Committee to proceed with line-by-line consideration of this appropriation bill?
Mr. Hardy: I had not indicated I was going into line by line. I did ask a question. As a matter of fact, Mr. Chair, if you would review it, I asked a question in that department right at the beginning. Why has it changed all of a sudden?
Chair: I thank you for that. The Chair did not rule the first time, but it was clearly a specific question about a specific line item, and we will enter into that debate when we get to line-by-line discussion.
Weíll continue on with general discussion on this bill.
Mr. Hardy: I was just generally speaking. I went there. He wanted a question; I gave him a question. I hadnít indicated I was going into line-by-line.
Chair: Mr. Hardy, if youíd like to continue on with a general question?
Mr. Hardy: Yes, I would, Mr. Chair.
So, going back to a question in regard to the interim supply, could the member opposite tell us why it was brought forward at this present time?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, generally speaking, itís because thatís what the Standing Orders and the addendum, I believe, that was agreed to by all parties, commit us to do ó by the fifth day all bills must be tabled in the House. I think weíve advanced quite a ways beyond that. Weíre here to ó what normally takes two lines in Hansard, maybe three at most ó move along the interim supply act and get on with other debates such as mirror legislation ó weíre now locked up into debate at $1,000 an hour so the official opposition can fill the pages of Hansard with all kinds of eloquent quotes. Well, so be it ó at $1,000 an hour, weíre listening.
Mr. Hardy: Following up on the fact that the government is listening, he referred earlier on to consultation and he talked about stakeholders, First Nations, employees, and he was talking around one of the areas, which was economic development ó I think it applies to any of these here. Could he tell me, what does he mean by "stakeholders"?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, if the member opposite is implying that weíre dealing with economic development, I would suggest that is every Yukoner. So, how many are left ó 30 thousand? Twenty-nine thousand?
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite give us, on this side here, an idea of the timelines and what kind of consultation is going to happen in regard to that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, I have actually outlined exactly whatís going to take place here. The first step has now commenced. Advertisements are out for a deputy minister. Once the deputy minister is in place, we will begin structuring the department. The department is in the budget with a dollar item attached, so it has validity, and we intend to have the Department of Economic Development up and running this coming fiscal year through the good works of our government, stakeholders, First Nations, the public service employees, the whole gambit. We look forward to the day when our Department of Economic Development is back and operating in this territory, as it should have been all along. Unfortunately, the misguided ó very, very misdirected process called renewal cancelled economic development in the Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to repeat my question. He said all people of the Yukon, but nowhere did he give any timelines on how he is going to go out and consult the people in this area and how thatís going to fit in with the timelines of creating this department thatís in the interim supply bill.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, once the deputy minister is in place, we will commence work on the Department of Economic Development structure in the immediate future.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cathers:Iíd like at this point to ask the House to join me in welcoming my friend, Elaine Kennedy, to the visitors gallery.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite tell me what kind of consultation process he is going to use in creating this new department?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think the first thing weíll do, Mr. Chair, is sit down with the official opposition and the third party and ask them what they think we should do.
Mr. Hardy: That would be a first. Weíd be very surprised if it actually does happen.
I would like to ask the question again. What kind of consultation process is he going to use to engage the people of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite conveniently ignores the fact that our government, all along, upon taking office, has made continual offers to work with the opposition. We offered to work with them on constructing the budget. We offered to work with them on the very, very successful winter works expenditures. We offered to work with them on a number of items. Unfortunately, the only thing so far that has been brought to fruition is the very successful debate on the Yukon placer authorization.
The member asks what type of consultation. I think there are two types: small "c" and big "C". So, this is going to be a capital "C" ó Consultation.
Mr. Hardy: I would just like it on record that I disagree with his recap of the consultation process with the opposition. Iíd also like to put on record that we were not part of the construction of the budget, nor were we invited to do so.
However, we had given feedback to some of the other items that he has mentioned. In some cases, we didnít necessarily agree with the direction that weíre going in and it is our right and privilege to just withdraw and allow them to do their own thing.
Just to make it very clear, on the budget as it is presented, we were not at any table nor were we invited to attend any table.
Anyway, to me, one of the most important things that the NDP did when they were in power ó and this goes back quite a long way ó was create an expectation that people would be involved in the construction of budgets and would be involved in the direction taken by government. This was done by the previous NDP, as I said, going further back, going back into the early 1980s, through consultation ó of going out to the communities, of meeting with people, of meeting with organizations, NGOs, what some people call "stakeholder groups", meeting with businesses ó quite a big consultation process.
What we have seen over the years, since the early 1980s when we raised that expectation within the Yukon that people will be consulted, what we have seen is, every time the NDP has been removed from government, there has been a shrinking down of the consultation. When we get reelected back in, we expand that consultation and engage people again.
It would be wonderful for me and, I am sure, my colleagues to understand what kind of consultation the Yukon Party is envisioning, and we can talk about that very easily around this new department that has $1 allocated toward it. Correct me if I am wrong ó it is a new department that isnít new because it was there before, but it was removed and is to be recreated again. What model are you going to follow: a smaller consultative process, which is fine if you want; or a larger one that engages people from Old Crow down to Watson Lake and over to Haines Junction up to Beaver Creek and everything in between? Could the member opposite please inform me on that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I hope the officials in the NDP offices and the official opposition offices are tearing up and shredding those notes they took when we met and discussed joint budgeting processes. In fact, we even tabled the projections, as we had them upon taking office, with the official opposition and the third party. So let the record show that the official opposition is merely ragging the puck. They donít want to even openly admit that they met with us and talked about an all-party process on budgeting. Now that did take place and they took a lot of notes. I watched it. I was there.
As far as consultation process? The appropriate one.
Mr. Hardy: I believe the member opposite is having lots of meetings, and he might be confusing us with somebody else. I do remember attending one meeting where we did talk very clearly about the community development fund and FireSmart, and it was a good meeting. It was one in which we reached agreement on the amount of money to be spent. We thought we had an agreement on the amount of money to be spent, but unfortunately it didnít happen. In the end the money wasnít spent, and now there is a reduction in the budget. Thatís, of course, an issue that we will be discussing further.
I donít want to go on about that. For some reason we seem to be always drifting back to what happened in the past. The member opposite likes to constantly talk about the Liberals and how they were left with very little. The management had done absolutely zero work whatsoever on a budget even though they knew they were going to have to prepare one at some time. But the new government came in and saved the day.
I have to go back to my question because it wasnít answered. That is: will the member opposite tell me what kind of consultation he envisions for engagement of the creation of this Economic Development department?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Very interesting ó very interesting, indeed. Actually, there is no point in continuing this line of debate because itís going nowhere and it is counterproductive. Iíve answered this question in a number of ways. So, therefore, Mr. Chair, this is needless repetition and I would say to the member: same question, same answer.
Mr. Hardy: Could I indulge the member to give me that answer again, on what kind of consultation he is going to engage in with the people of the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The appropriate consultation, Mr. Chair, is the type of consultation we will use.
Mr. Hardy: Could the member opposite tell me if there has been any consultation yet?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, there has. It happened on November 4, and it happened from October 4 to November 4. Itís called an election campaign. There was a lot of consultation that took place, and the results are such that the public, obviously, has provided us the mandate to carry on with what we said we were going to do. The restructuring or the reinstatement of the Department of Economic Development is one of those commitments. Weíre carrying through with that commitment, and we will use the appropriate consultation.
Mr. Hardy: Can the member opposite tell me if within the last four months he has had any consultation with anyone in regard to this new department?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. Iíve talked to countless Yukoners, First Nations leadership on dozens of occasions. The list goes on and on. I can certainly endeavour to pull off the computer my complete schedule. These discussions have been ongoing, beginning on November 5 ó the morning of November 5, the discussions were ongoing. And that in itself is a major component of consultation. Our government has been talking to Yukoners across the spectrum on this very important issue to Yukoners ó economic development. All Yukoners, obviously, are very concerned about this, and the voting public has pointed out clearly that they want the reinstatement of the Department of Economic Development, and weíre carrying through with that commitment and that desire.
Mr. Hardy: Since the Premier indicated he has been in extensive consultations already in this area, could he give me a list of organizations, if he has done any, whether stakeholders ó his own word, "stakeholders" ó or municipalities? Has he been in consultation with the municipalities? He has mentioned First Nations. Could he give me some idea if that included all First Nation governments? Thatís my question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That is the business of government, to talk to people. We make every effort to ensure that people can come to their government, sit down and talk about their issues. So, that is ongoing, and that is a component of consultation.
In regard to the structuring of the Department of Economic Development, once again, by virtue of the election of November 4, after intensive consultation with the Yukon public for 30 days, we are now proceeding with what the Yukon voting public is desirous of ó the recreation, re-establishment, re-instatement of a department of economic development. We are now going forward with advertisements for a deputy minister. Thatís important, because you do need a deputy minister.
Once the deputy minister is in place, we will then commence with a very comprehensive process with Yukoners, with stakeholders, with the public service, the employees, with First Nation governments, on the structure of the new, improved and focused, useful Department of Economic Development on behalf of the people of this territory.
Ms. Duncan: I am pleased to rise and participate in the general debate on the interim supply bill in Committee of the Whole.
I would just like a brief word, if I might, in addressing the interim supply act, as to how we got to this situation. The Premier and Finance minister has stood on his feet and said that the interim supply is normally just two or three lines in Hansard. I think the colloquial expression would be "a nod and a wink and itís done" basically. Itís pro forma ó itís a housekeeping thing. We are engaged, however, in a very good, constructive debate in general debate on the interim supply bill. The reason weíre here is because there is a novice House leader who indicated to members of the opposition ó all members ó that we were not moving into Committee of the Whole this afternoon and, in fact, announced that we were adjourning early without so much as a consultation or a by your leave.
It must seem to new members of this House like, holy ó the testosterone level goes way up and everybody starts thumping their chest and here we are: a thousand bucks an hour and what is getting accomplished?
I can see at least one of the members opposite agreeing with me and suggesting that there are better ways to do things. Absolutely, there are better ways to do things. The government promised order and decorum in this Legislature and promised a collaborative way of working. It starts, as one of my favourite expression goes, "Let it begin with me." Let it begin with the cooperation, then. Let it being with: this is the business we are going to conduct today, and this is how we are going to get it done.
I am speaking for myself and listening to other members on this side of the House ó weíve stood several times this afternoon and said that weíre prepared to give speedy passage to a number of items. We came in fully prepared to do second reading and we did second reading. We were not anticipating going into Committee of the Whole because we were told we werenít.
If we want to conduct the peopleís business on their behalf, letís do it cooperatively, and I would strongly recommend to the ó itís interesting. I hear my colleague from very far on my right. It should be left, but very far on the right, suggesting that "remember the old days". That is precisely the point. There were a number of occasions I can recall, both when in opposition and in government, asking for adjournments for specific reasons and them not being granted. I can recall 12 days of debate in Committee of the Whole on what larvicide to use and endless debates about a number of other issues, and that gets back to the point of what that accomplishes on behalf of the taxpayer. It doesnít accomplish anything. The way to accomplish things on behalf of the taxpayer and as legislators is to be prepared and to work cooperatively and collaboratively, and that means everybody has to cooperate.
So, with all due respect to the Premier, perhaps he could locate among his members a House leader who is prepared to cooperate and work with all members of the House.
Debate on the interim supply bills has provided an opportunity for the now Finance minister to berate substantially the previous Finance minister and to express his own ó another feature of the House, fellow members, is that we often hear revisionist history on the floor of this Legislature, which is highly entertaining except for those who have to listen to it and who participated in that history.
The fact is that, with respect to the special warrants and interim supply bills that have been mentioned earlier, on March 17, 2000, the NDP tabled a budget in the Legislature, called an election March 17, and the Premier in one of his responses in general debate criticized the previous Liberal government for passing that budget.
Iíd just like to share that the actual facts of the matter are that the budget was tabled and the election was called on March 17, 2000; the election was held April 17, 2000 ó 17 days into a fiscal year. The previous government had passed a special warrant that passed over half of that budget, similar to the interim supply bill we have now ó much the same figures.
So, a new government is left with a choice. Do you walk in and throw out or somehow reverse a special warrant that has passed half a budget? Most of those programs are well underway, particularly the capital projects. Do you simply say, "No, it is May 17, start of the construction season, but we are not going to pass this previous budget that Yukoners had seen and were prepared to live with"? In fact it was a question in the election campaign: would any one of the people elected as the Premier pass the budget? I said yes to that question and we did what we said we would do. We lived up to the promises made in an election campaign and in public commitments. So we passed a budget.
We also passed other budgets that were of our caucus construction, because another first that was undertaken by the Liberal government was that, rather than simply have the Finance minister and two or three bodies working on the budget, we had our entire caucus, including those non-Cabinet ministers, as well as every deputy minister in the room for our first budget. We constructed a budget that dealt with such issues as the cost of government O&M expenditures rising and ensured that additional money was placed in capital. Because another point about history that must be undertaken in this discussion of general debate of an interim supply bill is that it has also been history that when a capital budget has been tabled with as little capital work for Yukon contractors, such as what we have seen and such as warranted in this interim supply bill, the Finance minister has gone back to the drawing board and come back with an additional capital budget.
We can only hope, in the general debate of the budget, that we can convince the Premier and the Finance minister of the wisdom of that action that has been undertaken by others in the past, how much the capital budget and capital spending of this territory means to the contractors, the people who pound the nails and swing the hammers, and drive the heavy equipment that reconstructs our roads, because those people right now are without hope. They are absolutely without any hope of work this summer, either through the interim supply bill or through the budget, as tabled by the current Finance minister.
The other perpetually repeated point with respect to the interim supply bill is that there was somehow nothing done in the six months of the fiscal year that the Liberal government was in office. Well, unfortunately, what the Finance minister has done in his responses is politicize the public service, which is not something that legislators agree on as a whole. The public service should not be politicized. The public service is made up of hard-working, non-partisan professionals. They serve the people who are elected, and they serve them with the absolute best of their ability, and they are a professional, very able workforce in the Department of Finance and throughout the Government of Yukon.
The fact is that one of the other ó in the revisionist history we heard this afternoon in discussing the interim supply bill, one of the points that wasnít mentioned was that the Liberal government moved the capital budget back to the fall. Weíve heard no commitment from the government in that respect. That enables Shakwak contracts to be let early. It enables heavy equipment to be moved to the Yukon so that road construction can begin, it enables tenders to be dealt with. It enables tenders to be written and bid upon. The work can begin as soon as the ground thaws, as soon as everybody is able.
Unfortunately, thereís no sense from this government. Thereís no money for capital in the budget, and thereís no money for work for Yukoners, either in the interim supply bill that weíre being asked to approve, or in the budget, which we will get into lengthy debate on. Thereís no capital work there. Thereís no indication whatís going to happen with the capital budget, and the capital projections ó thereís a great deal made of the trajectory of spending and how the government has a handle on it. I would challenge the members to take a good, hard look at the financial information that has been tabled by the Premier, the now Finance minister, and the financial information tabled a short time ago. Take a good look at the projections.
Thereís an interesting comment with respect to the interim supply bill giving the projections of spending and the projections of what money will be received by the territorial government under the formula, and the interim supply bill purports to spend a great deal of it. Thereís an interesting comment that was made, if members will permit me a short illustration.
My father was trained as a jet pilot in the RAF, and as members will recall, there was a disaster years ago over Lockerbie, Scotland. When they were training to fly, they flew over Lockerbie, Scotland, during the Second World War. My father said to me at the time, "If I only had a nickel for every time Iíve flown over Lockerbie."
Well, if I only had a nickel for every time I was told, as the Minister of Finance, "Well, Ms. Duncan, we have some new numbers," I would be a wealthy individual, because thatís the beauty, if you will, and the downside, if you will, of the formula ó because the Deputy Minister of Finance gets to come into the Finance ministerís office, at a minimum, on several occasions, and say, "Well, Mr. or Madam Finance minister, we have some new numbers."
The projections are the very best guess they have at the time. Itís also subject to change on a more-than-frequent basis.
As the now Finance minister has said, itís subject to what they spend in the provinces and there are the tax rates, and knowing that several provinces are about to call election campaigns and may or may not reduce taxes ó and, I understand, table their budgets in very innovative ways in Ontario as well. That could all impact on our formula, which would all change every one of these projections. They can go up and they can go down.
The fact is that there is also additional money that is to be finalized by March 31, I understand. There is additional money to be financed for health and ó itís not shown in our projections because itís not finalized yet ó that will also have an impact. There are also substantial financial implications and revenues to be shown here that will change these projections again.
So what we should have heard from the Finance minister when he stood to address is a clear indication to Yukoners that, in this lengthy, lengthy discussion of the trajectory of spending, there was going to be new numbers, because there is going to be. Itís incumbent upon everyone to provide that information.
I have the sense that the Finance minister is finding this discussion and this general debate a tad tiresome. However, I might add that being a Finance minister isnít an easy task, particularly when the Health minister comes in with every single variance report with millions and millions and millions of dollars in expenditures that have to be paid and should be paid.
Iím sure the Finance minister is paying attention to what I have to say. Unfortunately, he didnít pay any attention to either the consultation with Yukoners that went on this summer as to what should be in the budget or when we moved the capital budget to the fall.
There is some proof in the pudding, I suppose, if one examines the fact that in the capital budget the previous Government of Yukon was working on, and working on very diligently with officials and with Yukoners ó there was a request in the capital budget tour this summer for the new fire truck for Beaver Creek. This is not only a legislative requirement for insurance policies and the work of community services, itís a request of the community. Fortunately, it has survived the Finance ministerís sense that there was no budget constructed, because it was there before and, surprise, itís still there ó thank goodness.
Unfortunately, the key item we had worked very, very hard on in working with Finance and working with the finances of the territory was a significant capital budget that was ready to be tabled. Unfortunately, the current Finance minister fails to recognize its existence or admit its existence. The real individuals who are suffering under this are the people who go to work on the north highway, particularly ó the people who go to work on our highways.
There is no money in the interim supply bill for them. There is no money in the capital budget. There is no money in the budget. There is no money for the contractors. The novice House leader seems to find that humorous. The road construction folks arenít.
The novice House leader is saying, "Oh well, that doesnít matter." Well it does matter to people. It matters to every one of those individuals who was employed for the past two summers on road construction in this territory because we worked hard at the finances of the territory and ensured the money was there. It matters a great deal to those people who own those contracting companies, the businesses of this territory, and it matters to the other contractors as well. It matters to the contractors who build our schools, who will build our correctional institute, who build our homes and who build the private sector buildings, because there is no Government of Yukon construction in this capital budget. And there is nothing in the interim supply bill that will flow money that will enable the Minister of Community Services or the Minister of Infrastructureís budget to start flowing for these contracts, to start making sure these tenders are issued. That is the other point of an interim supply bill. It means the contracts can get out. It means the contracts can be done. It means there is certainty for Yukon College because the money is transferred in a lump sum April 1. It means there is certainty for non-government organizations because the money is transferred April 1, 2003. Unfortunately in the budget, what is there for the construction community? The non-government agencies have been told very crudely by the Minister of Health ó who has the most non-government organizations that are funded through that department, 150-some-odd of them ó that they are not getting any more money.
Not from this government ó we might have promised you one thing in the election campaign, but youíre not getting it on this budget and not from this government.
Chair: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
The fact of the matter is in this general debate in the Committee of the Whole on the interim supply bill, Iíd like to leave the members opposite with two points. First and foremost, this lengthy debate need not have occurred had the novice House leader shown one ounce of cooperation, courtesy, collaboration, kindness or sharing of information to the members opposite. A simple heads-up would have been appreciated, but that common courtesy wasnít extended.
My second point: beware of the revisionist history, because whatís said on the floor of this House will come back, and Iím sure there will be many, many questions as a result of some of the previous comments and some of the comments made today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I move that we report progress.
Chair: Youíve heard the motion to report progress. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agree.
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: I think the ayes have it.
Some Hon. Member: Division.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I understand we can call for a count in the Committee of the Whole. I request such a count, please.
Chair: Two people standing at the same time. Okay, that request ó
Order please. The Government House Leader has moved that we report progress.
Chair:Division has been called.
Chair: All those in favour of this motion please rise.
Chair: You may be seated. All those opposed please rise.
Chair: The motion is carried.
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Chair, I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have the report from the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, the Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 5, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: The House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 5:18 p.m.
The following Legislative Return was tabled March 13, 2003:
Womenís Directorate status and composition effective April 1, 2003 (Edzerza)
Oral, Hansard, p.200-201