Whitehorse, Yukon

Thursday, April 3, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.

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

Prayers

DAILY ROUTINE

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

Are there any tributes?

Introduction of visitors.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Mr. Hardy:   Iíd like the Legislature to help me welcome a dear friend and a former MLA of Whitehorse Centre, the riding I now represent. Sheís also a former Cabinet minister here, as well as a publisher and writer. I believe she has written two books ó I could be wrong, but I know of two for sure: Women of Power, and a book that just recently came out a few months ago on Victoria Faulkner. As well, she was the publisher of Father Mouchetís memoirs, which has recently showed up on the bookstands ó Joyce Hayden.

Applause

Speaker:   Are there any returns or documents for tabling?

TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS

Mr. Cardiff:  I have for tabling documents related to appointments to the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.

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

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Finance to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Finance;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Finance as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policies and directives given by the Minister of Education to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of the full capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Education;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Education as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003;

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mrs. Peter:   I give notice of the following motion:

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Justice to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operation and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Justice;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Justice as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Community Services to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operation and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Community Services;

(3) a detailed organization chart for the Department of Community Services as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Highways and Public Works to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Highways and Public Works;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Highways and Public Works as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Premier to the Executive Council Office since November 5, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Executive Council Office;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Executive Council Office as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the Executive Council Office budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Health and Social Services to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Health and Social Services;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Health and Social Services as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

Mrs. Peter:   I give notice of the following motion:

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Environment to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Environment;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Environment as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister of Tourism and Culture to the department since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operation and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Department of Tourism and Culture;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Department of Tourism and Culture as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) any other information requested at the departmentís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the Minister responsible for the Public Service Commission to the commission since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operation and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the Public Service Commission;

(3) detailed organization charts for the Public Service Commission as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003;

(4) any other information requested at the Public Service Commissionís budget briefing for the opposition that has not already been provided; and

(5) the remainder of the information on employee numbers requested by letter to the minister on January 17, 2003.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

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

THAT this House do issue an order for the return of

(1) a record of all new policy directives given by the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation since November 30, 2002;

(2) a breakdown of all capital and operations and maintenance allocations, to the program level, in the 2003-04 main estimates for the corporation;

(3) a detailed organization chart for the corporation as of November 30, 2002, and as of April 1, 2003; and

(4) lists of all contracts issued and all reports and papers for the past year, for the Yukon Energy Corporation.

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 the Government of Yukon should introduce the capital budget in the fall sitting, as requested by Yukon contractors and the public.

Speaker:   Are there any further notices of motion?

Is there a ministerial statement?

This then brings us to Question Period.

QUESTION PERIOD

Question re: Workersí Compensation Health and Safety Board, chair appointment

Mr. Cardiff:   My question today is for the minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.

The minister has taken the position that the appointment of the new Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board chair had the support of stakeholders. On March 5, the minister received a letter from the workers task force supporting the promotion of the alternate chair. The letter also raised concerns about the ministerís current choice, saying, "Heís too closely connected with the current administration. In addition, he is also associated with past turmoil at the board. We believe his appointment would be a step backward."

Why did the minister choose to ignore the clear advice from these stakeholders?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Mr. Speaker, what we have here is the official opposition chastising a member of the public who canít be here to defend himself. This individual, who was selected for the board, was the most qualified, the most experienced and the most able, and weíre very fortunate to have him. The guidelines for the chair of the board are very specific, and that individual, as well as all the other members of the board, have to sign a confidentiality agreement and they have to be very independent. And they are.

So, as this individual is not here to defend himself today, Mr. Speaker, Iíd ask the official opposition to stand down on chastising a member of the public who is the most qualified to take on the responsibilities of the chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.

Mr. Cardiff:   Itís not about who has been appointed. Itís about the consultation process and whether or not the minister is ignoring advice heís receiving on that consultation process.

On March 7, the minister received a letter from the Yukon Federation of Labour supporting the position of the workers task force and the promotion of the alternate chair. Why did the minister choose to ignore the clear advice of these stakeholders?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Mr. Speaker, I receive a lot of advice in my capacity as minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board ó a lot of advice ó and Iím receiving advice here today. But what has happened after due process was followed was that the most qualified, experienced and able individual was selected to chair the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board. Weíre very, very fortunate that a man with this type of credentials is there to lead this board.

Mr. Cardiff:   It would be nice if the minister would listen to some of the advice that he is receiving.

I am of the understanding that the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce and the Injured Workers Alliance also supported promoting the alternate chair. Can the minister tell me why he ignored the advice of all of those stakeholders?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   What we are having here is the official opposition harping constantly ó

Speaker:   Order please.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I withdraw the term "harping".

Speaker:   Thank you.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   ó constantly going on berating me and only bringing forth part of the information. What is not being recognized is that there were a lot of letters of support for the chair who was selected. Those are being completely overlooked and ignored by the member opposite. What we did as a government was select the most qualified, the most experienced, the most able individual to chair the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and Yukon should be very, very happy and proud that this individual has taken on this responsibility.

Question re:  Contractor policies

Mr. Hardy:   I have a policy question for the Premier. As a former business person, I am sure that the Premier is aware that self-employed contractors are normally responsible for certain costs such as office space, telephone, computers, fax machines, photocopiers and so on. Yet, there is a well-compensated contractor who maintains an office within the Cabinet and caucus area of this government, who appears to be exempt from this requirement.

Can the Premier provide the Management Board directive or government policy that covers this situation and can he tell the House when such a directive or policy came into effect.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Obviously there is no such policy. The gentleman in question does not have an office here ó none whatsoever. However, from time to time, in a vacant office, the contractor may hang up his coat and place some of his paperwork or whatever on a desk, but this is not a case of the contractor having an office in government ó none whatsoever. The facts are that the contractor has an office of his own, but there are occasions when heís here and there is a vacant office in the building, and thereís absolutely no reason why the contractor couldnít hang up his coat or set down a briefcase in a space that is secure, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Hardy:   Weíre talking about an individual who is the beneficiary of a sole-source contract with an annual price tag well in excess of a deputy ministerís salary. Itís hard to believe that this self-employed contractor isnít in a position to provide the normal amenities that other people who do contract work for this government are expected to provide.

This government has already shown considerable generosity to one sector of the economy that is feeling the pinch. In the same spirit, perhaps the Premier would be willing to provide similar benefits to everyone else who does contract work for the Yukon government, such as the office space that is being supplied.

Will the Premier give us a tally of all the office-related costs that Yukon taxpayers are incurring on behalf of this individual, over and above the face value of the contract, which is $200,000 a year? In other words, will the Premier tell us the complete price tag for this sole-source contract?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   There is no way to provide the member opposite the cost of an office for a contractor because there is no office for the contractor.

Secondly, it has been stated in this House previously, on a number of occasions, that the contract is capped at $200,000 for the duties as described in the contract. Also, the members have a copy of it. They also know that the contract is explicit, that of course, in the cost of doing business, there will be expenses.

When it comes to this so-called office that has been given to the contractor, itís not the case. So the member opposite is simply trying to imply that something is happening in an office in the government building that has existed there since the building was built, and it will continue to exist there.

This is not the contractorís office, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Hardy:   I would suggest that weíre not hearing the whole story, which is becoming quite a situation in this House during Question Period.

This contractor happens to have a government phone number here. Where does that sit? Is it in the hallway as well, since there is no office? We have to ask those kinds of questions.

We have no doubt that this individual is providing a valuable service to the Premier. At that price ó $200,000 plus ó Iím sure the list of responsibilities is very impressive. With an office conveniently located right in the political hot zone, Iím sure the contractor in question is also privy to some very sensitive information.

Now, other political appointees are required to take certain oaths. They are also bound by certain constraints, particularly those spelled out in the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act. Since the contractor in question enjoys many of the perks of being a Cabinet employee, is he also obligated to meet the requirements of other political appointees in the Cabinet and caucus office?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Now we have the official opposition implying in this House that we have a contractor who is now a Cabinet minister. Thatís ridiculous, Mr. Speaker. Thatís not the case at all.

Furthermore, the contractor has taken on explicit duties of the highest priority for this government. This contractor is a contractor on his own, as the contract states. He has specific duties that come with negotiating specific areas for government. Negotiators have been hired under contract by governments in the past, and Iím sure governments in the future will do the same, so letís recap: the individual in question is doing a very high priority job for government and is not a Cabinet minister. The contractor is a contractor on his own, hired or solicited by this government to do a specific duty. He has his own office. He does not have an office in government.

The third item, Mr. Speaker, is that occasionally he will put his things in a vacant office here in government that is on these premises, has been on these premises and will be on the premises long after this contract is up. I would suggest the members opposite are trying to diminish what is one of the highest priorities for Yukoners and Yukon First Nations, and thatís our partnership we have commenced to develop and formalize.

Question re:  Liquor Act review

Ms. Duncan:   I have some questions for the minister responsible for the Yukon Liquor Corporation. The questions are about this governmentís policies and special relationships. In a few short months, the government has established itself as one that looks after its own. There has been a great deal of work done on bringing forward a new liquor act ó a group of very well-respected Yukoners to do the full public consultation on this act. The act was ready to go and it included opening neighbourhood pubs in the Yukon.

Would the minister confirm that part of the act has been dropped because of opposition from members, including the MLA for Klondike, the Yukon Party campaign manager and the MLA for Porter Creek Centre? Would the minister confirm that that part of the section of the act has been dropped?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   For the member opposite, we are reviewing the information that has been provided in the review that she talks about. There were several contentious issues in it that we are dealing with, and we are on the review right now.

Ms. Duncan:   Mr. Speaker, the government is against licensing neighbourhood pubs because it might cut into the bottom line of bars that are owned by some of their own. Thatís what their campaign literature said, and the member would be well advised to revisit that campaign literature.

Now the Yukon Party is in government, and itís time to put the publicís interests first. Almost 70 percent of the public supported neighbourhood pubs. Well-respected Yukoners recommended it after full and thorough public consultation. Why are the minister and the government putting the interests of a few of their own ahead of the clear majority of Yukoners?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The member opposite is incorrect. We are not putting our members in front of the publicís interest. We are reviewing the information that is before us, and we are taking that information in consultation with the board itself. We are on the review.

Ms. Duncan:   Mr. Speaker, their own party campaign platform says that the Yukon Party does not support the introduction of a new type of licence ó the unfairness to existing liquor licensees, some of their members. But there is broad public support for neighbourhood pubs. The public has asked for this. Almost 70 percent in the public consultation said yes. A review committee including well-respected Yukoners said yes. The government is putting the interests of friends and some members ahead of the public. The wishes of the public are being ignored and a few are getting their way.

Will the minister do the right thing and bring the act forward with the neighbourhood pubs and let the Legislature decide?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   I will reiterate that we are in the review process. We will be bringing forth the changes to the proposed Liquor Act when we are finished, and we will debate them here at the Legislature.

Question re:  Workersí Compensation Act review

Mr. Cardiff:   The minister responsible for the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board is earning himself quite a reputation for promising people in this House that he will provide information and then not providing it. Being open and accountable are important elements missing from this minister and this government. This minister has failed to provide an answer to my letter of December 12, 2002, on the Workers' Compensation Act review process.

Now, I realize that he went to Hawaii and he has been busy doing all the other things that he has had to do, but we want to talk about due course, the fullness of time, and all of that. My question is: when will the minister reply to my December 12 letter and provide the information on the WCB review process, which I have repeatedly asked for and requested in this House?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Well, the member opposite only has to go back in Hansard and he can read and re-read, because it has been the same answer to the same question on a number of different occasions. With respect to the review, I once again confirm that, as per the act, itís underway, the three individuals designated and tasked with the responsibility are proceeding and, before the end of last year, everything was in place. They are required under the act to examine specific areas of the act. That is in the terms of reference, as is the entire act, or any other area that they deem appropriate.

So, as to this task and this initiative, it is underway, as it is required by the act, as I am required to implement.

Mr. Cardiff:   The minister has promised ó and he should read Hansard and see what he has promised ó to table documents relating to the terms of reference. He has promised to table documents, some of which I had to table today for him.

In addition to writing the minister on December 12, I have asked the minister for information on the review process in this House on March 3, March 17 and March 27, and he has promised to table that information, but both the minister and his staff have quite flippantly told me they would get this information I requested "in due course".

Mr. Speaker, when will the minister give this his serious attention, and when will I get the answers to my questions on the Workersí Compensation Act review?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   The question has been asked; the question has been answered.

Mr. Cardiff:   The question has not been answered. The minister promised to table the documents in this House, and he has failed to do that. The issue of the Workersí Compensation Act review is a serious one; even the minister will admit that.

The act provides protection for both employees and employers in the Yukon and, while the minister doesnít seem to take it ó he says he takes it seriously, but I find it hard to believe that he does. I take it seriously, and a whole bunch of other people take it seriously.

With his own words, the minister has led this House to believe that specific things about the review, for which he is responsible, exist. Yet, without the information the minister has said exists, and which he has promised to provide, we donít know the whole story.

Will he give his word and tell me what date he will make the requested information available?

Could we have a date? Is it going to be this year or ó ?

Speaker:   Order please. Order.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   The member opposite is absolutely correct, Mr. Speaker. He does not know the entire story, and I can agree with him on that point.

As to the review, I can confirm that itís underway, that progress is being made, that the three individuals appointed to this committee are meeting and a report has been provided to me. There is ongoing communication. When it reaches a point where I can table actual documents relating to the output of this committee, I will be doing so, Mr. Speaker, but the whole initiative is that this three-party panel will go out and consult with all the stakeholder groups. That is underway. I am required to do that under the terms of the act. It has been done. It has been adhered to and it has been followed.

Everything is on course and on target in our government, Mr. Speaker. Where the problem lies is understanding it in the official opposition.

Question re:  Special management areas

Mrs. Peter:   Mr. Speaker, we know now that this Yukon Party government has eliminated the Yukon protected areas strategy. There are many areas in First Nation traditional territory that are of special interest to the local people. By now, the minister has had an opportunity to learn the difference between the protected area under YPAS and the special management areas under the First Nation final agreements.

How many special management areas are currently under discussion in the Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   I would like to correct the member opposite once again. The Yukon protected areas strategy is on hold; it has not been eliminated. To continually refer to it as having been eliminated is not only incorrect, it is misleading the public directly.

Some Hon. Member:   (Inaudible)

Point of order

Speaker:   The Member for Kluane, on a point of order.

Mr. McRobb:   On the point of order, Mr. Chair, I believe the minister is in contravention of section 19(g) of the Standing Orders, which says, "A member shall be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member."

Speaker:   Government House leader, on the point of order.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   On the point of order, Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order. There is just an interpretation being put on this situation by the official opposition that is incorrect.

Speakerís ruling

Speaker:   There is a point of order. I would ask the minister to withdraw that statement, please.

Withdrawal of remark

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, I withdraw it.

There is a flawed strategy with the Yukon protected areas strategy. It is flawed. It does not accomplish what needs to be accomplished in this important area. There are many better ways to do it, and it is that consultation with Yukoners that is necessary to do. The strategy is flawed, and it has been put on hold until we know where we are going with this. The initiative to accomplish the goals of that have certainly not been discontinued.

Mrs. Peter:  Iíve asked the minister about the special management areas. We have 14 First Nation communities in the Yukon. Some have their land claims finalized; others are still working to get there, and hopefully that will be very soon.

Mr. Speaker, can the minister tell us approximately the total land volume being discussed for special management areas and where these special management areas are located?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   One statistic that I can certainly give is that currently under protection in the Yukon is ó 12.517 percent is the last figure I saw, well above the Canadian average, and well above any other jurisdiction in Canada.

I continue to have some confusion as to why the member opposite feels that the best in the country is inadequate.

In terms of the special management areas, as the member opposite quite well knows and refers to, many of these are under negotiation with First Nations. We hope they do conclude quickly. We give that every bit of support and honour our commitment to the First Nations involved that these are confidential negotiations, Mr. Speaker, and it would be extremely inappropriate to discuss them on this floor.

Mrs. Peter:   Commitments of consultation have been trumpeted by this government over and over again. One of their highest priorities is working in partnership with First Nation people in the territory. Theyíre extending an olive branch.

Can the minister identify the First Nations he has met with regarding proposed special management areas in their traditional territory, and tell us how many meetings he has actually attended?

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   The member opposite is certainly correct that we do give the highest priority to the negotiations with First Nations, and we honour our commitments to all of them, including those of confidentiality within the negotiations.

I donít have an exact number ó thatís a loaded question, I would think. Our officials are meeting on a day-to-day basis with all First Nations. It is not the initiative of one individual; it is the initiative of this government.

Question re:  Drug and alcohol addictions counselling

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

For several years now, a steering committee has been working on developing a training course for addictions counsellors in the Yukon. A credible, transferable course leading to a one-year certificate or a two-year diploma or to a degree was developed in conjunction with Medicine Hat College and the University of Lethbridge.

Can the minister confirm that monies have already been allocated and spent in developing this course?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I can confirm that the department is examining this course in conjunction with other agencies. Iím not completely familiar with the details of it but I would be happy to provide the member opposite with additional information.

Mr. Fairclough:   I am just wondering when I would be able to get that information from this minister?

A contribution agreement was already made with Yukon College to put on this course. A lot of staff time and money has been spent in developing this course ó basically fitting it into the objectives of the alcohol and drug services and establishing a liaison with the Medicine Hat College.

Now, this is an important step in addressing the problems of addictions in the Yukon. Can the minister explain why this desperately needed training course is on hold?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I am not aware if it is on hold or if there has been no uptake on the program. Those details I am not familiar with. I know that itís an initiative, and I have agreed to provide the member opposite with information surrounding this availability and the course curriculum. Perhaps he would like to sign up and take it.

Mr. Fairclough:   Obviously the minister is sidetracked on this. They said it was a priority, that alcohol and drugs were a priority. What happened with the minister doing some research at least in his department? Mr. Speaker, they even presented a five-point plan, of which we have not yet seen any details. The need for training of service workers dealing with addictions in the communities is acute. There is no credible training presently available in the Yukon, so Iíd like to ask the minister this.

Will the minister give his assurance that this course will be offered in Yukon College beginning this fall?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Mr. Speaker, the College is not under my purview. Itís under that of the Minister of Education. That said, our government has committed another $1 million to the Yukon College training trust fund that can be levered four times that amount. In addition to that, our government is paying a lot of attention to the issue surrounding FASD. To that end, additional funding has been directed toward the Child Development Centre, toward the Yukon Medical Association and toward FASSY. These are NGOs that are providing excellent services and excellent initiatives in the community, and they are addressing, in part, some of the areas surrounding FASD.

Question re:  Drug and alcohol addictions counselling

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

Mr. Speaker, live-in treatment for addicted persons is now available through alcohol and drug services. This much-needed service has been well-attended; however, there is no follow-up treatment or after-care in the communities. We feel itís a waste of money to have people sent to Whitehorse for treatment and then have them relapse in their communities.

In some cases, it is up to about a 90-percent relapse, Mr. Speaker. Thatís very high. Will the minister make after-care a high priority and direct his officials to ensure there is adequate counselling and follow-up in all Yukon communities?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   One of the main thrusts of our government was to direct our attention to this serious affliction here in the Yukon ó drugs and alcohol. It was one of the main focus points of our government to curtail the activities of the alcohol and drug secretariat, which was another stovepipe of administration, and direct the funding to programming.

Yes, there is a serious problem with after-care. That is being recognized; that is being dealt with. But we do have some very good programs in place. We are directing our attention to our dollars and our focus to these programs, and we will be moving forward and addressing these areas in very short order.

Mr. Fairclough:   Well, the minister said it was a top priority. You would think that this government would have taken action by now.

The way I understand it, the secretariat has been moved into the alcohol and drug services and there is really no change to the structure at all. The amount of money in the budget is the same, Mr. Speaker.

I am asking the minister to pay some attention to this because we feel that it is imperative to have trained addictions counsellors providing services throughout the territory, throughout Yukon. Having staff travel to communities from Whitehorse is not the solution. The minister, Iím sure, knows that. It is superficial.

Communities need consistency. I am sure the minister can agree to that. They need workers to have the understanding and commitment to the community. So, is the minister going to follow through with his departmentís plan to respond to community needs for addictions counselling? That is a very simple question.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I agree with the member opposite that we have a very serious problem here in the Yukon with addictions. Our governmentís priority is to address those problems. We have done so by putting more programming money ó concentrating our efforts into the programming area rather than building up another stovepipe of administration. Thatís where our focus is ó in program delivery. The area the member refers to is an area that deserves more attention and it will be focused on, but, Mr. Speaker, our thrust and our direction is to deal with the total drug and alcohol problem here in the Yukon. Thereís the preventive side, thereís dealing with the addictions side, and thereís dealing with the after-care. The full program delivery must be addressed, not just the area that the member opposite is concentrating on.

Mr. Fairclough:   If the minister followed my question, he would see that the overall plan is consistent with alcohol and drug services.

The minister did answer my questions indirectly. He said no, he is not going to be following the departmentís plan. Itís kind of interesting because weíd like to know what plans he has.

Now, the secretariat and the College had plans and monies in place for three outreach addiction workers, one in Haines Junction, one in Dawson City and one in Watson Lake. The positions were advertised and shortlisted. They were then withdrawn by this government. These three positions were part of the comprehensive overall plan to deal with alcohol and drug addictions.

Why is the minister changing his departmentís established strategy, and does he have a new plan? Can he tell us what it is?

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   What the member opposite is referring to is the drug and alcohol secretariatís strategy. Our governmentís strategy is somewhat different that creating more administration. What we are concentrating on, Mr. Speaker, is program delivery. That is where the thrust and direction has to be ó and will be ó under our government.

Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.

INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce, in the crowd, Mayor Mark Ramsey of the City of Campbellton, who was a member of the host society for the Canada Winter Games in New Brunswick.

Applause

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I would like to take a moment of the Houseís time to introduce in the gallery a former Commissioner of the Yukon, Doug Bell.

Applause

Speaker:   We will proceed to government bills.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BILLS

Bill No. 27: Second Reading

Clerk:   Second reading, Bill No. 27, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.

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

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

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   This act repeals the Government Accountability Act passed last year by the former government. The Government Accountability Act was called a "flawed" bill when it was debated in the House last April, and it was not supported by the opposition and was barely passed in a confidence vote.

Soon after gaining office, our government determined that the accountability planning exercises were time-consuming and onerous. I do wish to acknowledge, however, the efforts of the many public servants who were involved in preparing these mandatory plans prior to that time. We believe we can accomplish many of the objectives of the plans without over-burdening the process with red tape. We would be working with those employees and all Yukoners to come up with a better way to use what we learned.

By repealing the Government Accountability Act, we would be returning to the conventional budget format that is familiar to Yukoners and which was in place prior to the act. This format includes statistical information on program activities and results. The Yukon, Mr. Speaker, is a small jurisdiction, and government programs and activities are well-known to the public. We know we will hear when program outcomes are not what they should be and we will respond accordingly.

Mr. Speaker, this government has in place a wide array of mechanisms to demonstrate its results and its accountability. The Financial Administration Act provides for responsible and efficient fiscal management and the authority of the internal auditor. Under existing policy, the government audit service is responsible for addressing significant issues relating to effectiveness, the economy and accountability, as well as compliance with statutes and directions and many other matters. Each year there are numerous reports tabled detailing the expenditures and activities of many corporations and departments in compliance with various statutes.

My ministers will be accountable for their departments and the actions carried out under their watch. Each deputy minister has prepared for his or her minister a letter of undertaking outlining the commitments they will be working to meet each year.

This will also serve as a gauge for assessing performance. We will also be accountable to the public through this Legislature and we will, of course, be standing up in this House to answer any questions the members opposite have about the budget.

This government will be a results-oriented government and it will be judged on those results, not on the number and length of plans or reports that we publish. Right now the governmentís main priority is the economy. We will continue working with all stakeholders and in partnership with First Nations and other government businesses and industry groups and all Yukoners to do that.

My governmentís priorities for practising good government were set out in the throne speech, and it is on these priorities that we will be judged. This includes working with Yukoners and the Yukon public service to ensure government programs and services, as well as the structure of government, are designed to meet the needs of Yukoners. This will be an ongoing task.

Thank you.

Mr. Hardy:   Itís very satisfying to know that the members opposite, the government, have recognized the importance of dealing with this matter ó Bill No. 27, the Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I have to say today that it took a lot of work and a very difficult day yesterday to bring it to their attention that they were actually in contravention of the act itself.

In looking back at the debate that ensued over that, itís a shame that they werenít able to recognize it, and itís a shame today that they didnít acknowledge the fact that this act should have been dealt with immediately upon the Legislature being formed and the bill being brought in.

We should have gone through with it.

Now, I will congratulate the government for recognizing what happened yesterday and moving forward on it today, so we can at least deal with this, as I had requested yesterday, so thereís no question of legitimacy, no allegations of being above the law in the Legislature. By moving forward on this, with whatever the vote outcome is on this Government Accountability Act, we will at least be able to go forward.

However, on some points, Mr. Speaker, I have to differ with, Bill No. 59, Government Accountability Act. In reading some of the language in it ó and Iím going to read a few pieces of it right now ó I canít find fault with what is written. If anything, it points to perhaps what more governments should be, which is more accountable to the people of the Yukon, and not less accountable.

Now, any government coming in has the right to make changes as they see fit, and so the Yukon Party government has decided this accountability act is something they do not wish to proceed with, and their justification and reasoning may have some legitimacy, but it does not have the legitimacy of saying that less information is better for the public. If anything, the government should be more open, the government should be more transparent in everything they do. If there are ways that a government could ensure that the business it conducts is transparent to the public, then I believe that is serving democracy and is also keeping a public that votes for or against them informed of what direction this government is going in.

That is essential in this day and age if we want to have informed debate and if we want to have a public that is engaged in our parliamentary system.

Every step we take that removes information or access to information or the ability to phone your MLA or the ability to talk to the elected people ó every step we take that removes us from the people is a step away from democracy.

I am looking at some of the language of Bill No. 59. A consolidated accountability plan must include the vision, mission, values and priorities of the government; the key strategies for achieving the priorities of the government; the target set by the government for each of the priorities and a comparison of the actual performance results to date with targets set in previous consolidated accountability plans, if any.

When I was campaigning in October and November, on the doorstep I ran across a few constituents who very specifically wanted performance results, some way to measure if the government is achieving what it has laid out ó for instance, the platform during the election. So the government lays out the platform.

My constituents whom I talked to were very clear in that: how are they going to be able to measure it? That was the question they asked me. If you say you are going to do this ó thatís what they were saying to me ó "Todd, if you say you are going to do this if you get elected and you form government, how can we be sure that you do it? How can we measure it? What are the performance criteria that we can measure you by?"

I took that to heart, like any person who was campaigning and any person in here and the many others who werenít successful. I took it to heart that the constituent was sincere and that they wanted some way to be able to measure that.

Well, in this accountability act, there is a comparison of the actual performance reports, with targets. Maybe that is the direction the government should be going in, some way for the measurement to happen so the constituents themselves can sit back and make a judgement on the government with a lot more information and some kind of comparison, and be able to take the word of the elected person and apply it to the actions of the elected person or elected government and then be able to come up with an informed decision to help them in their own deliberations on whether they will support that person or that government in an upcoming election.

What has happened today is that we brought in a multitude of motions, and they are for the production of papers, Mr. Speaker. This wasnít done just for show. This was done because we on this side ó and I think my colleague from the third party would agree with me ó are having a very difficult time getting information from this government. So what we have come up with is that maybe we have to ask, in a motion, for the production of papers. That seems to be the only way we will be able to get some of our answers, through that method, and we hope that is successful. Then we hope weíll move on from that.

Within the Question Period, Mr. Speaker, we are finding time and time and time again that we are not getting answers. We ask a question very clearly but we donít get an answer. We get either an attack back to us, a challenge back to us, or it goes off on a different tangent.

Now this is Question Period. This is our role: we ask the questions. On the other side, the government side, the government supplies the answers, but itís becoming very, very rare that we find the answers.

Iím not so sure if what the Premier is proposing ó going back to the old way ó is necessarily a better way. Iím not sure of it, because since the supplementary and the main budget have been given to us, we havenít necessarily felt that weíve been given a lot of detailed information that we can work with. You feel like you have a can and a can opener and youíre trying to pry that lid off and youíre struggling to do it. Whatís inside? We donít know. If they would give us the information, we could look at it and form our questions based upon information we are given, just as I talked earlier about what the constituents want. Then maybe our questions would be more direct. Maybe the members opposite would be able to answer them, because we would have the information to work with. Instead we are struggling. We are struggling to find out what is behind very general statements.

There is not much accountability in what the Premier called "the old way", which is making it very difficult for us. If itís difficult for us in here, who have the opportunity to ask these questions and go through the budgets, I can imagine how difficult it is for the constituents ó the people of the Yukon ó to try to figure out what this government is doing.

What even adds more difficulty is trying to figure out the platform that they ran on, the budget that theyíve tabled, the supplementary that we have and the lack of information that we are now working with.

If the Government Accountability Act was a way to ensure more information was given to the public; if the Government Accountability Act was pointing toward a direction the government is going in, one, two or three years down the road, then I would say that we should have it ó we should have the Government Accountability Act with the statistics, as the Premier has mentioned.

I donít believe that denying some information and going back to another way of delivering it that may be more complicated is a way of serving the general public or serving the Legislature.

I am going to be very interested to listen to the comments from the Premier when he wraps on this. I am also very interested to hear the comments from the leader of the third party, since it was her party, when they were previously in government, that did bring this in. I would like to know the justifications as to why she felt it actually served the public better ó not necessarily the Legislature, but the public.

My colleagues and I will be making our decision based on that.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Ms. Duncan:   I am pleased to rise today to respond in particular to what the leader of the official opposition has said. I applaud their efforts to bring this forward. I appreciate that there are many days when each of us as individuals, no matter what our profession, wonder if we have made a difference. Because, as legislators in particular, that is what we set out to do ó to make a difference in the daily lives of Yukoners.

In bringing their motion forward yesterday, the opposition did make a difference. They caused the government to recognize that they were in violation of the Government Accountability Act and are now bringing this forward.

That being said, it is with a truly heavy heart that I debate this motion and this piece of legislation, because what we are doing is watching the Government of Yukon go many, many, many miles ó kilometres ó backward. Backwards in time.

Accountability is a fundamental element of our society today. Itís what Yukoners have asked of their government, and they have asked in the last several elections, and the leader of the official opposition mentioned that.

I go back and would like to restate a comment I made yesterday and have made previously in this House. It was the former Auditor General of Canada who made note of this accountability in particular and the lack of progress in improving accountability within the federal government. Denis Desautels said, "Providing performance information that is balanced and candid is seen to carry too many risks. This can be true for both ministers and public servants. In short, we have a government culture where mediocre reporting is safe. To break out of this, Parliament may need to legislate the provision of performance information by departments. We have to move toward a culture where there is virtue in reporting the way things are."

We moved that way last year. The Government Accountability Act is about government performance. It requires government to stick its neck out, to commit to the public what it expects to achieve, how it will measure the results. It requires government to show the public, through accountability plans, what the goals are, the degree to which it has achieved those goals. Yukoners want a government that is accountable. We have heard that over and over and over and over again.

There are survey results that show that Yukonersí highest priority was having the government be accountable to them. Yes, itís a small jurisdiction. Yes, weíre accountable when we go door to door. And yes, we believe that that accountability should be in the budget documents put forward. They should be in the form of performance measures and accountability plans.

What the Premier is suggesting is, "Well, itís good enough." The old budget format is good enough.

Itís not good enough. Itís not accountable enough. They are not accountability plans and there arenít performance measures.

I will give specific examples. Previously we had budget documents and now we have, again, budget documents that tell us how many students are enrolled in schools, how many children were in kindergarten, how many students chose to take part in French immersion and how many rural versus urban students. Nowhere in the budget documents that the Premier wants to go back to do we find out how well the reading recovery program is working. Are we achieving results for the dollars we spend in this area? Nowhere in the budget documents are we able to see if there are problems with the math curriculum. We donít know how many students are enrolled in math, why there are decreasing numbers ó not the way the Premier wants to see it presented, because thatís not an accountability plan, and theyíre not performance measures. It is statistics and itís a step backwards.

In health, a key recommendation in the Romanow report ó well-regarded throughout the country ó was that governments need to be more accountable for how the billions of dollars of health care money are spent. In discussing this, the Health minister said that accountability is a very important principle. Minister Mar from Alberta said that we need to be accountable to Canadians; we need to be accountable to our specific residents and those whom we serve in relation to the delivery of health care.

We have heard Canadians say, "We are taxpayers; we are patients; we are voters; we want to know how youíre spending the dollars and what kind of care we get." This is how the accountability plan dealt with that, and how the accountability legislation required the government to outline what the values of the department were, what the mission was, what the vision was; and it was required to show expenditures by responsibility. Under the accountability planning, we knew the government spent almost $30 million on keeping children safe, almost $15 million in assisting Yukoners to live as independently as possible, and $88,691,000 on providing quality health care services to Yukoners; and just over $2 million in health promotion programs. Thatís outlined in an accountability plan.

Accountability planning also had performance indicators. For example, in an accountability plan, we knew how many employable social assistance recipients, as a percentage of the total employable, came off social assistance because their case was closed. Thatís the kind of information and performance measures ó are we meeting the needs of special-needs clients? Whatís the caseload like? Weíve discussed this before in this House. Those are the kinds of performance measures the public is asking for and that accountability legislation required of them.

Iím not suggesting the accountability plans were perfect ó far from it. It was absolutely a work in progress, and everyone recognized it. We said, on the floor of the House, that this was a good start.

We know we need more performance indicators. We know theyíre a tad wordy. At least we stuck our neck out and started on the road of being accountable to Yukoners, which is what they had asked us to do, and to end that accountability isnít just a short step backwards; itís kilometres backwards. Itís not what Yukoners are seeking. Itís not what Yukoners asked for.

This Yukon Party campaigned in the last election on a spend, spend, spend budget, promising the sun, the moon and the stars. They didnít deliver on that. And to end the accountability act, to repeal it, ends the very accountability Yukoners are asking for and the performance indicators that Yukoners are asking for.

Yukoners want to know, for their taxpayer dollars ó the half a billion that Ottawa transfers to the Yukon ó how many kilometres of road did you manage to pave, how much BST did you manage to do? We travel the world marketing our ability in BST. How many contractors were you able to employ? How many kilometres of roads have you brushed? That sort of information is not buried in the statistics. Itís not highlighted in the statistics page. The additional $20 million or more that the government stands up and says they achieved, that theyíre getting it from Ottawa for health care ó Yukoners want to know how itís being spent. They are going to want to know, when itís finally put forward in this House, and they will be asking such detailed information as, "You say you commit to primary health care services, or is it social services? Are we reducing the caseloads?" Have we, for the additional millions, managed to implement the recommendations of the Child Welfare League and reduced the caseloads?

A fundamental principle ó and you donít show that in statistics pages alone. That is a performance indicator and itís about performance. Itís about performance that should be judged when the budget documents are tabled and that a government can be proud of.

What is so unbelievably short-sighted about repealing the accountability act is the lack of recognition of how much help this is to a minister on that side. How many times did ministers, in answering questions from the opposition say, "Look, go back to the accountability plan." I challenge the ministers opposite to ask the former ministers. Ask them how valuable the accountability plans were. They will say they were incredibly valuable, because that is what they said to me when they learned of this.

Things like the Department of Justice recognizing that money would be spent on schematic designs for the new Whitehorse Correctional Centre and what the outcome indicators would be ó improved safety, living, working conditions for offenders and staff, reduced concerns about Whitehorse Correctional Centre operations by a fire marshal and others. There were output indicators and outcome indicators. There were details upon details.

I fully recognize that the previous accountability plans were a first crack. On the first try they are not perfect. I can think of no other expression, so youíll forgive me for this one, but what the government is doing is throwing the baby out with the bath water by repealing this legislation.

They are ending and repealing legislation that provided accountability that Yukoners seek ó a step backward in time. This isnít what they campaigned on. Itís not what they promised Yukoners, but itís what theyíre delivering. I canít accept that, Mr. Speaker, as good government; I canít accept it as being responsible.

Some of the members opposite have stood and said that accountability is what their constituents asked for, and I have to ask how they can stand in support of repealing the Government Accountability Act when, in another breath, they stand on the floor of this House and say, "My constituents asked me to be accountable and, if I were on the government side, to be accountable to them on how taxpayersí dollars are spent."

Iíve heard members opposite laud other governments, particularly Alberta. I heard the Health minister say that weíre borrowing from Alberta their caseload management and information systems in Health. In developing the accountability plans, we also went not only to Alberta, but to Nova Scotia, to the N.W.T. They make much of their relationship with the Northwest Territories. We went to all those jurisdictions. We did our homework. The Alberta plans are referred to as bold plans. Introducing an accountability act was a bold move. It was sticking our neck out, and it passed the House and itís the law.

Now the government is repealing it. There were five bills associated with government renewal. Theyíve pushed the undo button on all the other initiatives ó four other pieces of legislation.

This is the underlying fundamental point. The Yukon Party makes much of their efforts with respect to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The Member for Southern Lakes introduced an amendment to my motion in discussing social workers that related to this. A measurable result in the accountability plans was FASD babies born this year, three years from now. Itís a measurable result in its accountability, and this government, in repealing the accountability act, is denying Yukoners that kind of accountability.

The Premier said he wants private involvement in the economy increased. Put the percentage in your accountability plan. Put the percentage of increase. What percentage of the economy? What are the goals? What are the goals of the government? Put them out in the public, put the signature to them, and then put the results to show youíve delivered on them. What government seeking re-election wouldnít want to put that information out before the public? Apparently not this government.

How is the Yukon taxpayer to measure if they got value for money? The government is repealing the legislation with that accountability. If we donít disclose the purpose and the reason for taxpayersí expenditures, the results and the financial impact of the choices the government makes, how can anybody make informed decisions? If you donít have the whole story ó we heard the Member for Klondike refer to that today ó accountability is the whole story.

That is how people ó legislators and the public ó make informed decisions. All that was committed to in the accountability act is telling Yukon taxpayers the whole, complete story.

I donít disagree with the Premier that it needed a lot of work. It is changing the culture. It is changing the way of thinking. An individual doesnít change the culture by going back to the way weíve always done things. Give it a chance to work.

Itís really, truly unfortunate and frustrating, as the Member for Kluane says, that the government wonít give it a chance. The Yukon Party wonít give accountability to taxpayers a chance. They could have met the requirements of the law with an amended version of the accountability plan, with a statement ó a full and complete statement. They had that option but instead theyíve chosen to repeal it.

Itís unfortunate. Itís distressing as a taxpayer and as a legislator that the government will not give this accountability a chance, as recommended by the former Auditor General of Canada, who is also Auditor General for the territory. Itís unfortunate. I do not support the repeal of this legislation, and I find it a sad day for Yukoners that the Yukon Party is taking a step backwards.

Thank you.

Mr. McRobb:   Iíd like to add a few comments to the discussion on the repeal of this act.

This act will have a history of about a year in this Legislature. It was during the spring sitting of 2002 when it was introduced as a government confidence bill, Mr. Speaker, and, if I remember correctly, the leader of the Yukon Party at the time, who is still the Member for Klondike, publicly announced to the media that he would be supporting the act.

What happened next was that the former Member for Porter Creek North, who was sitting as an independent Liberal at the time, decided he would be voting for this legislation, which allowed the Member for Klondike to change his position and vote against it. I believe thatís the way it was. Anyway, the Yukon Party flip-flopped in its position on this at the time, and I recall the arguments against the accountability act at the time, which were quite simply the former yellow pages, which used to be part of the budget, could easily replace the accountability act and nothing more was required. It simply was too much of a burden on the bureaucracy and, I suppose, at the political level to deal with this accountability act.

Iíve heard the Yukon Party government make the same argument since it has been elected into government, Mr. Speaker.

Iím somewhat skeptical of that argument. Iíve had a chance to review the former yellow pages in budgets, and itís quite clear that those yellow pages contain mostly statistics and some details about various things. They did not explain how the department heads were accountable for their departments. They did not provide the same information as required in the accountability act. So I think thereís quite a bit of difference between the two.

I might be persuaded to support this Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, had this government stepped up with a suitable substitute in the way of being accountable, but it hasnít, Mr. Speaker.

Thereís very little to show from this government in the way of accountability. As a matter of fact, one of its election promises ó to bring in whistleblower legislation for government employees who might have something to say in the public interest ó has not been introduced and, if I recall correctly, we heard the minister responsible a couple of weeks ago express some doubt as to whether this government would actually be bringing it in. So, the waffling continues. We see a net reduction in the accountability of the Yukon Party government.

I think itís time to be objective, and I think one way to do that is to have an independent review by someone like the Auditor General, who can compare what we have now with what weíll have after this act is repealed.

Then we will know. All the politics aside, weíll know what the Auditor General has to say. We can expect her determination to be objective and fair. I would have expected that would have been the least the government would have done to protect itself while reducing its accountability level, but it hasnít.

Obviously accountability is not a top priority for the government. To the contrary, it seems that a high priority for the government is repealing accountability. We are seeing that today as it is bringing in this act.

That raises the issue about the timing of it all. I think the government is running scared on this. We brought forward a motion yesterday to deal with this act and the government side argued against it. Lo and behold, the act suddenly appears on the Order Paper today. Some of the fallout from this issue of the government not bringing it in sooner has been expressed by others in this debate, but it involved breaking the law by every Cabinet minister.

Unparliamentary language

Speaker:   Order please. The term "breaking the law" in that context is not in order.

Withdrawal of remark

Mr. McRobb:   Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I think youíre right, and let me withdraw it and replace it by saying the actions of Cabinet ministers may not meet the legal requirements of the accountability act.

Whatís replacing the accountability act? Letís deal with that. Weíve seen very little in the way of compensation for doing away with this act and, judging from what weíve seen from this government so far, Mr. Speaker, there is accountability void. We see it in Question Period; we see it in Committee of the Whole debate; there are numerous examples. One that comes to mind is that on Tuesday, I asked the Minister of Highways and Public Works, during the supplementary budget debate, when he would be providing the information I had requested in the departmental briefing. He told me, on the record, it would be the following day. Mr. Speaker, that was yesterday, and I still have not received that information. Thatís one example.

Another example is, every day now for the last three weeks, Iíve been asking the government House leader if he would oblige our request to provide to us one week in advance, preferably, the prepared opening statements by representatives of the two corporations, who will be coming into the Legislature this sitting. Whatís wrong with that? Seriously, what is wrong with that?

We know these officials have prepared opening statements. Theyíre prepared in advance for them. Theyíre probably vetted by the minister responsible, yet they wonít provide those same opening statements to us, on this side. Those opening statements, Mr. Speaker, would allow us to become more knowledgeable on what the corporations are doing, and we would respond with a higher calibre of questions during the remainder of the time within the two hours we have to hold them accountable and learn what the corporations are doing.

Itís a very simple request but the request has been denied to date. That is not a very high standard of accountability, Mr. Speaker.

On a very similar issue, I have asked the government House leader numerous times if he would oblige a request to work out the scheduling of when the corporation would come into the Legislature, on a mutual basis so that it can meet everybodyís schedule. That request was denied point-blank. As a matter of fact, the tone was rather flippant.

Mr. Speaker, this is not a government that is sincere about being good government and sincere about standing up to the test of accountability. This is a government that is hiding from accountability, that doesnít oblige our requests that are reasonable and fair, that would improve our ability to hold it accountable.

Well, Mr. Speaker, weíll let the Yukon public connect the dots as to why, but until such time as this government continues to fail to pony up with a suitable substitute, we on this side will not be supporting this Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act.

Speaker:   If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Mr. Speaker, Iíd first like to begin by establishing a very clear distinction between accountability and flawed legislation that is intended to represent accountability.

And it begins by first pointing out the fact that reams and reams of paper with vast amounts of motherhood statements do not make accountability. In fact, what they really do is create a system of bureaucratic navel-gazing that produces very little in the way of accountability to the public.

The opposition has been saying a number of things ó both the official opposition and the third party. I think it is best that we try, in the short time that we have available, to clear it up, because there is much more to this issue than what the opposition has put on the record here today. Both opposition parties have implied that the government side has broken the law. Mr. Speaker, nothing could be further from the facts. I want to point out why that is so. The very act that the members opposite are alluding to ó and this is coming to a question of accountability, because the members who conveniently cited a section of the act, who conveniently ó and this is where the question of accountability really comes in ó ignored the pertinent section of the act in relation to the issue of whether this act should be repealed now or not, or be repealed during the due course of this sitting.

Let me point out that if ó and this is the important section when it comes to breaking the law ó the Minister of Finance does not make a consolidated accountability plan or department accountability plan at the time required under this act, the Minister of Finance must make written public statement that gives the reasons for the non-compliance.

Letís proceed based on that clause, because that is part of the act that, conveniently and in a manner that does represent accountability by the opposition, is ignored.

First off, a clear public statement was made on the floor of this Legislature when this House opened and it was in the Speech from the Throne. It goes as follows: "During this sitting, honourable members will be asked to consider the 2003-04 capital and operation and maintenance budget, an Act to Amend the Pioneer Utility Grant Act, amendments to the Fuel Oil Tax Act, an Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, an Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act" ó and, in terms of complying with the legislation ó "and an Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act." This was a clear and public statement made on this floor of this House.

I will go on, Mr. Speaker. Within the time required under the Standing Orders, we tabled the Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act ó another clear and public statement at first reading tabling of that act.

I will go on, Mr. Speaker. In the budget speech, let me quote: "The government accountability plans have been removed and the traditional departmental statistical information has been reinstated. In our view, the traditional format for the budget documents provides better accountability and transparency than the format used for the 2002-03 budget."

This was another clear and public statement that complies with the act that is up for debate and repeal here in this Legislature during this sitting.

So much, Mr. Speaker, for the accountability on the opposition side of providing this House with the full and correct information, and yet they imply that the government side has broken the law. We have shown here clearly, in a very open and accountable manner, that the government side has not broken the law. In fact, the government side has made every effort to comply with the law when it comes to this issue.

I think we have put this particular issue, which has been raised by the opposition, to bed. Clearly, we have not broken the law.

The official opposition goes on to say here in debate, and the leader of the official opposition states it clearly, "I like this act. This is a good act when it comes to government accountability." Well, again, Mr. Speaker, on the question of accountability, how then and why then did the leader of the official opposition not point out that every member of the New Democratic Party in this House did not vote for the act when it was passed here in this Legislature a few short months ago? In fact, the voting record shows clearly that if they are being open and accountable, thatís what should have been included in the statements of the members of the official opposition. They did not do that. I question then, as the public will in this case, what really is "accountability"?

Now, Mr. Speaker, let us go on, because accountability is much more, as I stated, than a vast list of motherhood statements.

I want to point out what the former Premier, the now leader of the third party, was trying to make reference to. The Premier is saying ó bear with me, Mr. Speaker. The former Premier is saying that by adding to the budget, the budget document itself, a list ó pages and pages ó of these motherhood statements, saying that we will do this and we will do that. The member somehow correlates that to being accountable to the public. At the same time, the former Premier removed a number of very important elements and pages that came with the budget, called "the statistics".

Now, let me go further, Mr. Speaker. You have in the budget, itemized, the amount of money each department is spending. Under the former Premierís approach to accountability, you can show the public clearly then, and be open and accountable, by making motherhood statements. Under our governmentís approach, we went back to the statistics.

So, what you have now is a budget that lists an expenditure, the amount of expenditures for the department ó letís take Education, for example. This is important because within the Education budget are total amounts of money being expended. Letís look at how it breaks down in the statistics versus motherhood statements.

Letís take the motherhood statement when it comes to Canada-Yukon summer program and summer career placement ó this is in the Department of Education. The member opposite would have us believe that by saying to the public that we are going to spend money on Canadaís summer program and so on and so forth, somehow housed in the total amount of expenditure in the Department of Education, that is being accountable to the public.

Our approach is clearly stated in the statistics. While the amount of money for the Department of Education is listed in the budget, we are saying in this one particular area that the expenditure is $70,000; for a computer camp, $4,000; student training employment program, called STEP, $90,000. Letís go on. Apprenticeship program, designated trades, the number of those trades, 45; registered apprentices, a number of them, 280. Where, Mr. Speaker, were those figures ó especially from the member of the third party ó in that very accountable statement to the public in such explicit detail? Where were those explicit details in a long list of motherhood statements? Nowhere. How, then, can we conclude that the former governmentís approach to accountability was really being accountable to the public? That is why we have repealed a very flawed piece of legislation and have gone back to a system that worked.

Now, add to this the fact that each and every department has a clear, indisputable statement of objectives, mandate, and so on. That, in conjunction with the expenditures listed in the budget itself, coupled with the statistics, provides a fairly clear accountability to the public and a means by which each department can and should be measured.

I would like to just choose one here, Mr. Speaker, so bear with me for a moment ó so I can just reflect a little with the House on exactly what that really looks like. Letís take a department like the Department of Health and Social Services. I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that itís important that we understand clearly why accountability cannot be measured by motherhood statements, but has to have, in addition to statements, a number of elements that show the public that this is where we intend to spend money, and this is how it breaks down.

Health and Social Servicesí departmental objective is: "Health and Social Services is committed to working with the community to ensure quality health care and social services for Yukoners. This will be achieved by helping individuals acquire the skills to live responsible, active, healthy and independent lives and by providing a range of accessible, sustainable services that assist individuals, families and communities to reach their full potential."

That is the statement, the objective and the mandate of a department, followed by the budget and the expenditures. In this case, the estimate for total O&M for this department, based on that statement, is $140,999,000. Next to that is a pie graph that breaks down where the money is being spent: 51 percent on health services; 24 percent on social services; 19 percent on family and childrenís services; policy and planning and administration, three percent; regional services, three percent. Itís very clear.

What the member opposite, the former Premier, is saying is that additional pages ó reams and reams of motherhood statements, of which this department has encapsulated those motherhood statements in one, then has provided the information, added to it the statistics ó show a very clear and accountable department and its expenditures and where theyíre going.

Now, thereís much more to accountability than that. When government is elected through the course of an election, each party vying for the votersí support will present to those voters, to the public, a very clear platform on what it is they would do, and essentially those commitments are about making Yukonersí lives better. Those platforms are what we, if elected government, are accountable to.

Now obviously, on November 4, even though the former Premier, the now leader of the third party, trumpets loudly and is very disturbed and proclaims to all who will listen that we, the government side, have now somehow diminished or completely removed accountability to the public ó is not reflecting on the very important fact that the voting public turned down that memberís position and this so-called accountability act. The public is a lot more versed in whatís going on with government than that member wants to admit or give them credit for, Mr. Speaker.

Letís go on with this debate and this argument. We are accountable to the public for what we committed to do and, in saying that, it now comes down, based on all the statistics, the objectives of each and every department, the expenditures, to tangible product delivered to the Yukon public, not motherhood statements. The voting public, quite frankly, is sick and tired of motherhood statements and thatís why, Mr. Speaker, to a great degree they have cast out governments.

Mr. Speaker, itís about product. Accountability, in its full equation, incorporates objectives and mandate and spending and the amounts and where itís going and how many people are involved, how many agencies are involved ó the statistics, in other words, and the delivery of product.

The members opposite have not made the case when it comes to openness and accountability that we on this side of the House ó the government ó have broken the law. They did not make the case. In fact, far removed from making the case, it was nothing more than political points they were trying to score through the media, out in the public, by making a statement that was simply incorrect. That is not accountability.

The third party, which was also complicit in that very position, did not make the case either, Mr. Speaker. The member, although she called it in violation, does not state that, in the same instance as the official opposition, there was much more in the act that would have provided full disclosure to the public, so they themselves could have measured accountability in this particular case and whether the government side had indeed broken the law, or had not.

Well, weíve made the case, Mr. Speaker, loud and clear ó no discrepancy. Thereís absolutely no question that we had not contravened any part of the act. In fact, we were in full compliance.

Mr. Speaker, another very important facet of accountability in this Legislature is how the opposition conducts itself. They play a very important role in holding government accountable so the public has, again, another avenue and another vehicle that measures accountability.

As I said, it would take a lot more than the short time we have to deal with this issue. And Iím sure weíll have further moments in this sitting to do so, because I have quite a bit to say about it.

But at the end of the day, no matter what the opposition says, the same argument the opposition benches presented here today has been presented by that very same opposition and the very same MLAs, other than the couple of new ones, and the third party, in this respect. The opposition always makes the claim that the government side is not providing answers ó always.

And the issue about accountability here, Mr. Speaker, is not about the government not providing answers; itís because the government side is not providing the answers the opposition side wants. And that is a measure of accountability. So, for the opposition to keep making that claim, they are not being accountable to the public because they are not being effective in holding the government side accountable to that public. The argument is moot.

What the opposition should be doing, if they feel that the government side is doing something wrong, is to make the case, provide the rationale and be accountable to the public. Mr. Speaker, we will be repealing this act because the act is flawed. But I can assure you, and the Yukon public, and everyone listening, that accountability on the government side for all in this territory is alive and well.

Speaker:   Are you prepared for the question?

Some Hon. Members:   Division.

Division

Speaker:   Division has been called.

Bells

Speaker:   Mr. Clerk, will you poll the House.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Agree.

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   Agree.

Hon. Ms. Taylor:   Agree.

Hon. Mr. Kenyon:   Agree.

Hon. Mr. Lang:   Agree.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Agree.

Mr. Arntzen:   Agree.

Mr. Rouble:   Agree.

Mr. Hassard:   Agree.

Mr. Hardy:   Disagree.

Mr. McRobb:   Disagree.

Mr. Fairclough:   Agree.

Mr. Cardiff:   Disagree.

Mrs. Peter:   Disagree.

Ms. Duncan:   Disagree.

Clerk:   Mr. Speaker, the results are nine yea, six nay.

Some Hon. Member:   Point of order.

Point of order

Speaker:   Member for Kluane, on a point of order.

Mr. McRobb:   Mr. Speaker, I believe the count is incorrect. I believe the Member for Mayo-Tatchun said, "Agree."

Speaker:   Member for Mayo-Tatchun, was that the case?

Mr. Fairclough:   Thatís correct.

Speaker:   Thank you.

Clerk:   Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, five nay.

Speaker:   The ayes still have it, and the motion is still carried

Motion for second reading of Bill No. 27 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 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:   Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 27, the Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act.

Do members wish a 15-minute recess?

Some Hon. Members:   Agreed.

Chair:   Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.

Recess

Chair:   Order please. The Committee of the Whole will come to order.

Bill No. 27 ó Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act

Chair:   We will begin debate on Bill No. 27, the Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act. Is there any general debate?

Ms. Duncan:   I was waiting for the Premier to make a statement. If he is not going to do that, we can begin the questions.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, Mr. Chair, I think the statements made in second reading were very clear, open, accountable and they certainly made the case from our side. I think, to expedite the business of the House on behalf of the public, that we should probably move forward with moving this bill through Committee. There is not a whole lot more left to debate.

Ms. Duncan:   With all due respect, I beg to differ. I think everyone made a very substantial case this afternoon, and itís most unfortunate that this type of initiative has been undertaken by the Premier, and he doesnít feel it worthy of public debate. I do believe itís worthy of public debate.

The Premier went on at great length, and chose to start with the Department of Education with respect to the Government Accountability Act. The Premier said, "Well, itís all in the current budget ó all the information one would need to know."

Performance measures are outlined in the accountability planning, such as the improvement rates of students on individualized educational plans. IEPs were a very important part of the Yukon Party platform. They pledged more resources to them, and the Premier has said they will be accountable for their platform. In the way the budget is presented ó the way the Premier wants it ó where does it have such information? I would challenge him to point that out, in his desire for accountability.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Firstly, I must disagree with the member and point out that nobody has said all the information is in any document. Thatís an impossibility. In most cases, as much information is provided as is humanly possible, but there will always be questions and ó always ó there will be ways to gather and present even more information. So just to correct the record, we merely made the case that we had not broken the law and had complied with the act itself. We are repealing it. We are repealing a flawed piece of legislation that had really nothing to do with being accountable to the public and a lot to do with committing vast amounts of resources and time of public servants in writing out reams and reams of paper covered with motherhood statements.

To get on with the next point the member was trying to make, in all schools there are tests. Tests are a great measure for students, and thatís why schools implement tests, to see what their students have learned.

There are measurements that all jurisdictions use to see where schools, for example, are at by taking those results of those tests and applying them to the much broader picture. So, again, I think the member is mistakenly trying to make a case here without providing any burden of proof or any information that would remotely support the member oppositeís position that the accountability act was, indeed, all about being accountable to the public.

The member should, I think, come to the realization that there was much more involved here than simply passing a very flawed piece of legislation, which, by the way, barely passed this House. I would point out that even colleagues of the third party ó the leader of the third party, when in government ó left that party and it was clear on the voting record, when they voted, that this is one of the reasons why they chose to opt out of the Liberal government, turning a majority into a minority in less than two years of a mandate.

And they, on the record, as far as the Member for McIntyre-Takhini is concerned, did not agree with this whatsoever.

So there has been a lot of discussion about this. There was a great deal of debate when this bill was brought forward and barely passed this House. And I think, when you look at that and see how the voting record portrays what really took place here, a large percentage of the members in this House, representing a large percentage of the Yukon public, disagreed with this.

Ms. Duncan:   Mr. Chair, the member opposite is, unfortunately, factually incorrect. The vast majority of the public did not disagree with the accountability act.

And the member opposite is searching madly for the election results to once again wave them about and say, "Well, you see? Thereís the answer right there." I would suggest that the member look a little deeper, look a whole lot deeper, and look deeper into his conscience and actually reflect on whether or not the repeal of the accountability act is really the right thing to do for Yukon voters. I have maintained for the past several hours and continue to maintain that it is not. It is not the right thing to do. It is not flawed legislation.

Now, the member opposite can politically grandstand and make all kinds of political suggestions that he wants. The fact remains that the Government Accountability Act is about ensuring that taxpayers see the measurable results for their taxpayersí dollars. It is not contained in the information the member tries to suggest it is. It is not.

Respected First Nation educators and chiefs have said on the radio, in public interviews, that they want greater accountability from the education system. Greater accountability in performance measurable results is what the Government Accountability Act demanded government ó no matter what their political stripe ó put before the people. It is not flawed legislation.

The member is fundamentally denying Yukoners ó denying Yukoners ó a full accounting in measurable results of his governmentís performance by repealing this act. He is taking the Yukon back hundreds of kilometres. I ask him how he can, in all good conscience, look himself in the eye and say itís the right thing to do. Itís not the right thing to do and the member knows it. The member can make his argument about, "Oh, members didnít support the Corporate Governance Act and four other pieces of legislation" but heís not doing it. He can make the same political arguments because that was about politics and about ego; it wasnít about the right thing to do for Yukoners.

This legislation, like the four other pieces, was good legislation. The minister responsible isnít rushing to repeal those. Voters have to ask themselves why someone would rush out to deny Yukoners results for their money ó deny Yukoners that information. Why would someone do that? They donít like the way itís reported; thereís too much writing and not enough numbers? Then fix that, but donít deny Yukoners information, and thatís what repealing the accountability legislation does.

Itís not flawed legislation. How could it possibly be a flaw to tell Yukoners what the cost is of delivering the primary responsibility for the Department of Health and Social Services? How can the minister suggest that itís wrong to do that? Itís not done that way in the budget documents. The minister is trying to say it tells Yukoners that information. Can he stand on his feet and tell me how denying Yukoners the cost of delivering each primary responsibility of a department is providing either good government or accountable government?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, thatís a simple answer, and there are many ways to do that, but one of them is not large amounts of paperwork listing motherhood statements. What weíve done is remove a bunch of motherhood statements. We are repealing a flawed act that creates a scenario of less accountability, and added back the very statistics and information that the member opposite is relaying to this House as being required. Thatís what the statistics do.

They provide that information in great detail, and thatís why theyíre back in the budget ó because that is being accountable for the expenditures the member was pointing to. Itís not a motherhood statement that thatís what we might, or may, spend the money on. In fact, the statistics show where the money was spent and, in some cases, how many people were involved. There are all kinds of statistics here that certainly lead to the accountability of departments when it comes to spending money.

But thereís a lot more to accountability than that. The member opposite said that the First Nations want more accountability from the education system. Well, the First Nations donít want more motherhood statements. They want to see a government address their issues as has been committed to them under their final agreements. And accountability statements by this government certainly do not hold the fiduciary and responsible government to account. In this area ó the education of First Nations ó the federal government has a huge responsibility in that regard. The member well knows that, and if the member wanted to be accountable to the public, the member would stand on the floor of this House and relay that to the public ó that a motherhood statement is not going to solve the accountability problem in education for First Nation people. There is much more than that.

Ms. Duncan:   The member opposite is denying Yukoners accountability on such things as increased graduation rates, increased percentage of previous grade 12 graduates accessing the student financial assistance program, the number of grade 12 graduates accessing post-secondary studies, the increased reading recovery completion rate, the increased Yukon excellence awards, increased test results, improvement in test results, and improvement rates of students on individualized educational plans. Those statistics are not contained in the budget document.

The minister is not being accountable and, whatís worse, the minister is denying that accountability to Yukoners by repealing this act.

Heís denying that information. As a member of the Legislature, I cannot condone that kind of behaviour. I canít. How can the member say that providing Yukoners with information like a comparison of actual performance results to date, with the targets that have been set, isnít providing accountability?

The member is saying no. The member is saying no to providing Yukoners with that kind of information. Heís saying thereís no requirement for government to do that. We have opposition members putting motions on the floor of the House, begging for information, and what we receive in response is flippant answers like, "Well, in due course."

Public information should be provided in a timely manner. The public has a right to know what target government has set and whether or not the performance has met that target. In repealing the accountability act, the minister is denying Yukoners that information.

How does the minister suggest for one moment that his government is accountable when they are repealing the publicís right to that information and the requirement of government to table it? Whatís next? Whatís next? Will the government use their major majority to change a fundamental piece of legislation like the Taxpayer Protection Act? What will they repeal next?

I challenge the members opposite, I challenge each and every one of them to vote with their conscience on this. Would they really deny Yukoners that information, deny Yukoners that they will, as ministers of the Crown, stand on the floor of the House and say to Yukoners, "This is the department I am responsible for; yes, that is my signature; this is what the government will do; hereís the target weíve set and this is what weíve met to date. This is how your taxpayer dollars have been spent."

Ministers, in supporting the repeal of this act, are denying Yukoners that information. It is not provided, the way the Minister of Finance, the Premier is saying it is. That information is not provided. The Minister of Education, with the repeal of this act, isnít required to tell Yukoners if there has been any improvement in the individual education plans.

Unlike the Yukon Party promised there would be, there is no way for Yukoners to judge.

I recognize that there is valuable House time ó very valuable. I also recognize that the government is going to use its majority to do whatever it wants regardless of the points that are made by the opposition, regardless of the wishes of Yukoners for more accountability from their government, regardless of the wishes of Yukoners and recommendations of such individuals as the Auditor General of Canada. This government says, "Donít worry, we are in charge. Donít worry, we donít need accountability." Thatís what the government is saying. That is not what Yukoners voted for. Yukoners did not vote for the Government Accountability Act to be repealed.

Where is it in the Yukon Party platform?

In fact, the open, accountable, collaborative approach ó the collaborative approach promised by the Premier would have seen the Finance minister come to the opposition, recognize the requirements of the accountability act and say, "You know what, I thought it was too wordy. Weíd like to do it a different way. We are going to approach it this way." I would have been more than happy to work with the Premier on that ó more than happy. Not that he has listened to any of my suggestions yet, but I would have been happy to work with him on it.

Instead, no, have to get rid of that. I believe the Premier is wrong in this, and I believe itís wrong to repeal the accountability act, and I ask the Premier how he intends to account to Yukoners, how he intends to set performance targets, and how he intends to show Yukoners he has met them.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Mr. Chair, I donít know verbatim, but Iím going to try to relay this back to the House ó the member has just stood on her feet and said that on this side of the House ó the government side ó it wouldnít matter what the opposition said, weíre going to do what we want. I then say to the member opposite, how is it then that this Assembly, through its efforts, unanimously passed five motions ó together, accepting amendments, debating, working on these things together.

I challenge the member to go back through the historical data of this Legislative Assembly and find how many times a government and opposition, in the few short weeks of a sitting, have managed to pass five substantive motions ó important motions to Yukoners ó unanimously. Youíd be hard-pressed to do that, Mr. Chair, so that argument is out the window.

We are working with the opposition benches, and thatís proof positive. When the opposition makes a positive, constructive suggestion, we donít ignore it because we have a majority; weíve incorporated it. Thatís good governance.

Mr. Chair, the member opposite said that, by repealing this act, we are denying accountability to the Yukon public. Nothing could be further from the truth. Repealing a piece of legislation that commits government to expend vast amounts of money, resources and time to create motherhood statements does not equate to providing accountability to the public.

It doesnít. It never will. The departments, each and every one of them, are accountable for their budgets. The departments have a clear set of objectives and a mandate laid out for the public. Itís a matter of public record. The departments list, in their budget, their expenditures, O&M and capital, and list their recoveries. The departments also show the estimates for the fiscal year that weíre dealing with and the actuals for the previous fiscal year ó a comparison. The departments provide a great deal of statistical information to be accountable to the public and bear that out.

The member asked how weíre going to do that. Well, we have stated it publicly on the floor of this House by returning to an old format that was working very well, but thereís more to it. Itís called the delivery of product. Measurement is measured by the product the government delivers ó and that product as it relates to the commitments the government side made to the public during election.

Now, Mr. Chair, the member cannot, in any way, shape or form that would remotely represent accountability and openness, keep making the claim on the floor of this House that, by repealing a flawed piece of legislation, we are denying the public accountability, because that is not the case.

So, I challenge the member to somehow ó I donít know how this may happen, but somehow the member has to take the format weíre using, take the flawed legislation that the former government barely passed in this House because of the amount of opposition to it, and go out to the public and show them the two items. Show them all the motherhood statements or show the public statistics that show detailed information in accounting for the expenditures, and then have the public make that judgement.

Weíre doing it right here on the floor of the Legislature by standing up and saying that we are going to repeal this legislation and go back to a format that was working, because by doing what the former government has done, we have removed from the budget some of the most important information that holds government and departments accountable for their expenditures.

So, Mr. Chair, the member opposite can continue on with this debate, the answers will never change and, at the end of the day, every government is held accountable at election time.

Ms. Duncan:   I would ask the Finance minister and others who are listening to listen very closely. He has asked me to make the case to the public. Let me try. In the Health and Social Services budget the accountability plan that was tabled by the previous government ó the accountability plan, in line with the legislation we had ó the government said that they will spend $2.1 million of taxpayersí dollars, of Yukonersí dollars, to "assist Yukoners to live healthy lives".

The accountability plan goes on further to say exactly what that means. It means that for $2.1 million of Yukonersí money, they should expect the following: they will see a percentage decrease, and exactly how much, in Yukoners who smoke. Because this amount of money is being spent, there will be a five- percent, 10-percent decrease in Yukoners who smoke. They will see a percentage decrease in the incidence of diabetes because of this expenditure.

They will see a percentage decrease in communicable diseases because of this expenditure. They will see a percentage decrease in the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases because of this expenditure. They would also expect to see a percentage increase in the satisfaction of participants in, for example, the nutrition program.

There is no information like that in the statistics presented by the Premier ó no information like that. It tells us how many people may have a communicable disease, or communicable diseases, but it doesnít tell us if the government, in spending $2 million, has reduced that. No, weíve just merrily gone out and spent the money.

Where in these fabulous statistics the Premier is so proud of does it tell Yukoners what results theyíre getting for their money? Itís a trust to spend that money. Itís Yukonersí money. There are no clear outcome measures in the statistics ó none of them.

We spent hours in debate on this $180,000 ó I believe the figure was ó weíre getting for this smoking program thatís being transferred from Ottawa. Sure, the governmentís budget document tells us weíre getting the money and how much we got last year. It doesnít say if weíve achieved any results ó nowhere in these statistics. There is no measurement of product in the information the Premier has presented ó nowhere.

Now, the Premier says, "Of course, we listen to the opposition. Of course, weíre open to amendments." Well, then, let me ask the Premier: is he prepared to amend this legislation? Will he give it a stay of execution and take it off the table?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   This comes down to another fundamental issue. The government has to be fiscally responsible to the taxpayer. Expending large amounts of money on something that will not accomplish what the third party is trying to portray is not being fiscally responsible. The member wants to know statistics. There are statistics kept all the time, whether theyíre smokers, how many there are, if there are fewer, how much alcohol is consumed in the Yukon, how many people have communicable diseases this year ó the statistics will show next year if there are more or less. We donít need to tell the public that this is what weíre going to do when the information can already be provided to the public.

Mr. Chair, the member opposite is focused on something here, and I think I understand why. The former Liberal government was so void of any plan or vision for where they were taking this territory, they began to look inward and, once they started looking inward, they spent all their time moving government around and restructuring it, creating motherhood statements and creating renewal, unsettling the government, and then they go on to say this is all about accountability. Well, the public felt that that accountability was a little less than what they desired, and we all know what happened.

The point is that weíre going to repeal this act because it is flawed legislation. Thereís no need to commit all these resources and all this cost to making motherhood statements for the public. The motherhood statements were made, to a great degree, during the election.

From that, we must proceed in governing the territory ó not just the government side, but the opposition side also. This House is where government is held accountable, but so too are the opposition. They are accountable for their actions in this House. The member can make all kinds of suggestions, but they relate to opinion. At the end of the day, the act is being repealed; we are moving to a format of accountability in the budget that has worked very well. It provides a great deal of information instead of motherhood statements, and always, governments will strive to improve in those areas. We as a government obviously want to ensure that we are open and accountable to the public, and that is why we are going to make the measurement by the product delivered to the Yukon public.

Ms. Duncan:   What I have just listened to from the Premier is a very common trend that I have noticed. Whenever the minister canít answer a very difficult question, such as, for example, how the statistics show measurable results for their money, there is a resort to personal attack. He resorts to, "Well, while you were in government, you didÖ.da dat de da," and there is an opinion offered. I do believe there is a need to tell Yukoners how their tax dollars are spent. I believe there is a need to be fully open and fully accountable with them.

The minister believes there is no need. These were his words: "There is no need to tell Yukoners. We were elected. There is no need to tell Yukoners." The current government is proceeding in governing. Unfortunately it is on a heap of broken promises.

The member opposite said, in a previous breath, he was interested in amendments. By all means, bring forward an amendment. I suggested one. Give this bill a stay of execution. We will let the accountability act work.

All he has to do is withdraw it from the Order Paper, or leave it in Committee of the Whole, let the debate die, make a statement that weíre going to improve on the accountability, leave the act the way it is, fulfill his obligations by giving us a statement saying yes, there are too many motherhood statements but weíre still going to provide these results to the taxpayer. Thatís all it would take. Give it a chance to work. But no, suggesting that that amendment is an opinion, and the Premier has indicated he is prepared to listen to everybodyís opinion except this opinion.

I find it truly unfortunate that the Premier is not focused on the task at hand and not focused on providing results, real measurable results, to taxpayers for how their tax dollars are spent. I find that truly unfortunate. I have said that many times this afternoon.

The Premier is not going to change his mind on this legislation. Heís going to repeal the legislation because, in his opinion, he knows best.

Itís a sad fact that accountability plans are acceptable. They are expected by law in many other jurisdictions. The Premier sees them as a waste of time, too onerous. I donít think reporting to taxpayers is too onerous a task.

The previous Liberal government didnít invent these. They were the work, very hard work, of not only elected officials but others as well, and theyíre far more than simply motherhood statements. Theyíre measurable results for taxpayersí dollars, and itís sad when a government doesnít want to account to the taxpayers who elect them.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   What is really sad is to have a member stand on the floor of this Legislature and make the claim that motherhood statements are producing and providing results for Yukoners. Let me point this out: under the memberís approach to accountability, we would be telling Yukoners these things. This is the Department of Finance ó if I may, Mr. Chair, Iím not getting into line-by-line or clause-by-clause; this is a very general approach to this. I use this as an example. Under the member oppositeís idea of accountability and this flawed legislation we would have the Department of Finance say to the public: "Vision: a territory with sufficient funds to permit the Yukon government to provide citizens with programs and services that meet or exceed national standards while maintaining a positive financial position."

Unfortunately there are no results here that bear that out.

"Mission: to serve Yukon citizens and the Government of Yukon by securing adequate financial resources, ensuring that they are managed in a manner that meets the priorities of government and complies with its laws, overseeing the governmentís fiscal, financial and economic policies and providing sound information and advice to decision makers."

Again, no results; a motherhood statement.

Going on: "Recognizing that we are dealing with public money, valuing integrity, trustworthiness, responsiveness, productivity" ó thatís a good one, productivity, because thatís what this ultimately is all about: productivity to the public ó "reliability, adhering to professional standards, respecting our clients, partners and staff and aiming for straightforward solutions."

Now, thereís a measurement for you. Anyway, Mr. Chair, there are no results. We, on the other hand, going back to the old format, have basically encapsulated all these things in the objectives of the department, and then provided results called statistics. What more needs to be said? We made our case. The act is flawed, and itís time to move on with being accountable to the Yukon public, as this government is doing.

Ms. Duncan:   I only wish the whole of the Department of Finance information had been relayed, because the key strategies for achieving that included representing Yukon government interests in negotiations in the new formula financing agreement; the ministerís report to the 2003 western premiers conference and, under the goal of prudent management of financial assets and liabilities, the results, outcomes and strategies. "Utilize appropriate solutions to maximize the collection of accounts receivable and loans; ensure timely ongoing servicing of federal loans; ensure the governmentís banking needs are met" ó those are results.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Well, Mr. Chair, those are statements with no results ó motherhood statements. Now, letís look at the collection of loans. Under the former government, with this so-called accountability legislation ó and thatís going to provide accountability to the public ó never collected the delinquent loans, never even directed anyone to collect those delinquent loans. They were too busy getting all these motherhood statements organized and put on paper. We, on the other hand, going back to the old format of objectives, mandate, statements and statistics, have provided detailed information to the public in terms of being accountable and also have directed the Department of Finance to bring forward options on collecting delinquent loans.

I ask you, Mr. Chair, which is the preferred route ó motherhood statements with no results, or accountability information statistics to the public and direction to departments to collect delinquent loans? I rest my case.

Ms. Duncan:   The member hasnít made his case. Itís printed in the accountability plan. It is nowhere in the governmentís document ó itís nowhere. Itís not mentioned ó not mentioned in the Department of Finance. The member has not made his case and, whatís more, he has made statements on the floor of the House and has yet to back them up by providing the information, and he knows it.

The strategies were contained in the accountability plans. There was a requirement in the accountability legislation for government to report on them.

The member is very proud of himself. Well, the accountability and the day of reckoning comes for everybody, and I only wish the Premier and his government would have lived up not just to the letter of the accountability act but to the spirit and intent.

The spirit and intent of that act, just as the spirit and intent of many other pieces of legislation that come before this House, ask ministers ó every single one of them ó to be accountable. Weíve heard ministers say, "Well, weíre going to reduce the recidivism rate." Itís not in the budget. Itís not in the information the way the Premier tries to present it. And the members opposite, in repealing this act, are denying Yukoners the accountability theyíve asked of their government. I rest my case.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Mr. Chair, this argument, or debate if you would call it that ó though we, on this side of the House, feel itís actually debatable whether it is a debate ó thereís no way that the member can say that by repealing this act we have precluded the publicís ability to hold their government accountable. There are many ways that that happens. It happens daily, and it certainly doesnít happen by motherhood statements being made and having departments expend vast amounts of resources, time and money on developing those motherhood statements. Results bear out accountability, and thatís what the government is focused on.

So instead of having our officials in departments spending all that time creating motherhood statements, we have focused the departments on delivering results. It begins with the first budget this government has brought forward. There was no way that the spending that was happening in this territory could be sustained. Something had to be done. So we, in working with all departments, have addressed that problem in ensuring that the territory did not go into an accumulated deficit and break the law, as the members are so fondly proud of pointing out time and time again in this Legislature that we, on this side of the House, have done.

So, thereís a result and weíve done it by creating the third highest budget in the history of the Yukon Territory, which means weíve done it by maintaining spending and the delivery of results to the Yukon public.

The member canít argue that point. How could a long list of motherhood statements deliver any accountability in this regard? Itís impossible.

So the member opposite can continue on, should she choose, but itís very important to note that being accountable is ensuring that we are fiscally responsible, ensuring that departments and their officials and staff are working diligently to deliver results to the public, not motherhood statements, and ensuring that, when there is flawed legislation, we repeal that flawed legislation.

Let me be clear: we have repealed flawed legislation. We have not repealed accountability to the public.

Mr. Hardy:   Thereís no point of order, just a dispute among members ó itís a joke, Mr. Chair. Donít look so shocked.

It has been interesting listening to the debate that weíve had over the last half hour, but I have just a couple of questions. I wonít take up a lot of time, unless the Premier wants to go on and on like he did during this one.

He mentioned a couple of things that Iíd just like to talk about for a second here. There really are some things in the accountability act that have some merit, if you read through it. And you donít pick the ones you donít like. You donít pick the sections you think are worthless, but you actually sit down and look at it to see if thereís something of value here, and you will find stuff. There is some merit in the accountability act. Thereís even merit in the idea and philosophy of it.

So, for those reasons, I would have thought that the Yukon Party, knowing that they disliked the Government Accountability Act with a passion, might have done what I consider, in my personal opinion, reasonable, and taken the good parts of the act, dumped the bad parts of it, take the obvious old method that has been mentioned ó I guess that is the best way to put it since that is the word that has been used, itís the "old" method of accountability ó and tied that in with some of the good parts of the Government Accountability Act and formed a Yukon Party accountability act that would have met the requirements of the party itself, or the government, and the public and the other legislative people.

However, my problem with this whole thing has been the knee-jerk reaction of the governing party in just killing the act outright without doing a really good analysis of what value there is to it.

I always have a problem with supporting knee-jerk reactions. Any time you take an act or something and you remove it from its environment, you create a vacuum. Nature hates a vacuum. It will be filled, so you have to put something in place of it. Well, ideally what you do is try to put in something that is better. In order to do that, you have to do a little work. You just donít fall back on an old method that may not be meeting the requirements today, nor do you just throw out a new method that was brought forward by a different party that you just canít tolerate. What you may do is create something of value to fill that vacuum.

I would have hoped that this government would have gone in that direction. However, my suggestion would be that itís never too late. Thereís next year. Maybe the suggestion from this side is that this government can look at how they are doing their reporting, because statistics just donít cut it in this day and age. We all know about statistics. Ask economists about statistics; they can read statistics in a multitude of ways. They donít necessarily give you the true picture, depending on your perspective and who is writing it, of the situation you may be facing, such as the budgets. You need more.

So maybe, because there has been some work already done on the accountability act, maybe because some of the old methods still contain a lot of value and should be used, this new government can look at bringing forward another accountability act that is what they believe in, what they feel would go beyond what the old methods are, which some people find shallow and other people find lacking. And they could fulfill that vacuum that seems to exist. My belief is that the government opposite had a chance to do this but they didnít do it.

I do have a question and itís based on what the Premier has said over and over and over regarding this accountability act, and that is that it takes up a huge amount of time and resources. Since he uses it all the time, could he tell me how much that is? Because he must have a figure for how much it actually is costing the government to put together the accountability act.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Before I get to the question, I want to point something out to the member opposite.

You know, I appreciate the leader of the official opposition and his approach because he mentioned something that is very constructive ó bringing forward, at a future date, another accountability act may be a course that this, or another, government may take. Putting that on the record is a very constructive suggestion.

I want to point out, though, that at this point in time, we are certainly not committing to proceed with a new accountability act. We are going to proceed with the mandate provided to us by the electorate, and the agenda we want to implement ó our vision, our plan for the Yukon and its future.

But I want to go to the question of knee-jerk reaction and point out to the member opposite the voting record, which is very important for consistency, and it certainly removes any possibility of a knee-jerk reaction when there is consistency. This act was debated on the floor of this Legislature not that long ago. The members of this party, when on that side of the House, disagreed with this act.

Now, letís look at some "knee-jerk" here ó the NDP caucus also disagreed with the act at that time. Frankly, if we went back through Hansard and critiqued all the comments made, we would probably find they disagreed with it for the very same reasons that weíve put on the floor today. And Iím not saying to the member opposite and his caucus that this is wrong. Theyíve made a choice. Theyíve reacted to this and decided to go the other way, except one who has remained consistent and made no knee-jerk reaction or anything else. He has stuck to the belief he had all along. Thatís the Member for Mayo-Tatchun.

I want to give full marks to the official opposition. A free vote is something that many legislatures lack, especially the Parliament of Canada. I think weíre all aware of what our MP has gone through in fighting for us over something like Bill C-68. I want to commend our MP for sticking to his guns and making best efforts on our behalf.

However, the official opposition today has changed its position on the accountability act, and so be it. Now, as far as the cost, frankly, for the cost involved here, it would take longer to figure out than the amount of time expended in creating all these motherhood statements, because it involved so many people in each and every department, who had already been working on many other things, and the completed plans have never been produced. Government has never produced the completed plans.

The first plans that were tried never contained any results, and the full cost of all this is simply unknown, unless there was some way to go back and track each and every hour spent on this, but it was, to the best of what we can determine on this side of the House, an exercise in futility, and thatís unfortunate. We didnít need to put government in that position.

I think accountability is all about ensuring that the governmentís efforts are focused in areas that are important to the Yukon public.

At the same time, it is being accountable to that Yukon public but not in this manner, because it is not even remotely representing accountability or results.

So, if I could provide that information to the leader of the official opposition, I would do so. But to the best of my knowledge, it would be virtually impossible to get. Thatís how misdirected and misguided this piece of legislation was.

Mr. Hardy:   I really appreciate the member opposite attempting to answer the question because it is always good that he is attempting to try to find a figure ó and he should be familiar with this ó out of the moon and the stars that are floating around out there.

Some Hon. Member:   (Inaudible)

Mr. Hardy:   You remember that one, do you, Mr. Premier?

However, Mr. Chair, it is misleading to talk about figures ó

Unparliamentary language

Chair:   Order please. The term "misleading" is not acceptable.

Mr. Hardy:   It is inaccurate or incorrect or it doesnít serve the debate very well to use figures or use language like "huge amounts of resources and time" when you actually donít have the figures to present to the Legislature so other members can look at it and say, "Yes, maybe this does take up too much time. Maybe this accountability act, the way that it is being presented or the way it is being done, does drain far too many resources when the department should be working on something else."

My recommendation is not to base the decision to get rid of it on something that canít be proven but on some of the other points that the member opposite has mentioned, which are legitimate from his perspective.

He talked a little bit about knee-jerk ó heís praising the idea that you should be rigid, you should take a position and never, ever move from it. In this day and age, with the changing times and with the pressures of this territory, as we all know ó the economic pressures, the challenges facing the new government ó if they were very, very rigid in their thinking, if they adopt a position immediately and, two years down the road, recognize that they need to change or shift into another direction in order to accommodate some evolving economic opportunities, the wise thing would be to change, to be flexible, to be fluid, and to have the insight to see those changes and to move on them.

Iím not saying that has anything to do with the vote that happened over here. Iím just saying that, to praise rigidity where itís not necessarily a plus is not good in this case. On this side, we looked at the debate and talked about it among the members of the NDP. We respect the opinions of each member and I, myself, wanted to hear the positions taken by the members in the previous Legislature, this previous sitting, especially around the accountability act.

We talked about it and shared our views. My colleague from Kluane had looked at it, had done a lot of thinking about it and had taken a position and voted, based on issues that he felt were important and helped to make up his mind. My colleague from Mayo-Tatchun, as well, carefully weighed his position from before and the need to rescind this legislation in order for it to comply, as we felt it should, with the rules of the Legislature. He took a look at the act and voted accordingly. So did my colleagues from Old Crow and Mount Lorne, and I also did. We voted as we felt at this time, not locked into a view that we may have had two years ago, or a year ago, or whatever, but recognizing that times change and needs change, and trying to be fluid.

We also recognize the value of a free vote. The member across the way recognized that, and I thank him for his compliments in that area, because there are very few parties, frankly, in this day and age that allow any type of free vote. Some people, in order to avoid the conflict you may have with your leader or colleagues, disappear to avoid it. Others will go into the Legislature or Parliament and still vote according to the direction they feel they have been given by their constituents and their conscience. Others will just cave in and vote as theyíve been directed. Thatís a challenge for an elected person. Thatís a challenge you have to overcome to deal with it.

Ultimately there is a consequence to everything you do. It is not that just because you do this, there is not going to be any consequence on either side. Just like removing the Government Accountability Act, there is not going to be a consequence. Just like removing the alcohol and drug secretariat, there is not going to be a consequence. That happened immediately, but there is nothing to replace it. Iím going back to the idea of something of value.

I guess my recommendation to the side opposite ó and they can do what they want with it, as Iím sure they will ó is that when they decide to make major, wholesale changes, that they have done enough work that they can put forward something of value to replace it so there is not a vacuum where people are left without knowing what is happening, which, of course, creates the tremendous amount of debate that usually results in here.

With that, I pretty well donít have anything more to say about this.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   I certainly take the memberís comments under advisement, but I would make one point. We did put something in to replace it ó something that had been working all along, something that provided more detail, more information than motherhood statements. We will be looking at this issue. Accountability is always something that can be improved upon. It is something the public demands, and the public will let you know when they want something done. Iím sure that all in this House are aware of that fact.

In this particular instance, there was not a lot of clamouring to create an act that resulted in having government spend a lot of time developing motherhood statements. I thank the member opposite for his constructive input in this debate and, as I said, I commend the official opposition on how they have handled themselves in voting on this particular issue. With that, Mr. Chair, we are prepared to move on also.

Mr. Fairclough:   I have a few comments also in regard to repealing the Government Accountability Act.

My position on the act itself has not changed and my understanding of the act has not changed. I would like to again say some of the things that Iíve said in regard to the act or my understanding of it, anyway.

I have said in the past that this act was badly flawed. I believe it was written fairly quickly. The bill itself was designed to require government to explain to the public in plain language what it is going to do with the taxpayersí dollars, what its goals are and the degree to which it has achieved those goals.

The first major weakness of the bill is that it transfers the responsibility to conduct the publicís business in an open and accountable manner, away from the elected representatives of the people and on to the shoulders of the public service. That was how I felt about the bill before and it is still how I feel about it today.

It is the elected representatives of the government on the government side who must explain and defend their spending priorities, their policies and, of course, the programs that they offer. It is the elected representatives on the opposition side who must be responsible for questioning and challenging the governmentís actions and priorities and suggesting positive alternatives.

For both sides of the House, it is the elected members who are pointed to and held responsible. So, all of us in this House are responsible for how government acts and for the spending. I feel that the accountability bill simply creates a layer of insulation around the elected government members and makes it harder, not easier, for the public to evaluate the governmentís performance.

The second weakness of the bill was the way in which it was written. Even though the language of the bill is plain, it is by no means specific. For example, there are no requirements for the Finance ministerís budget documents to include the level of line-by-line detail and statistical information necessary for the opposition to do its job of holding government accountable to the people.

Also, the requirements of the consolidated and departmental accountability plans are too vague ó vision statements, mission statements, value statements and priority statements. All of these things can mean almost anything, and could also mean almost nothing. It certainly depends on how theyíre interpreted and how theyíre applied.

The accountability plans ó the targets and measurements of performance against those targets ó also come into question. The problem with the way things are laid out in the bill is that there is nothing whatsoever to prevent any department or minister from setting the bar as high or as low as they want.

All it takes is the ministerís signature, saying he or she agrees with the targets of the departmentís performance in meeting them. The trouble is that there is no incentive to exceed the minimum effort and there are no consequences for falling short of those performance targets.

Another weakness that can be seen in the bill is in clause 7, which basically provides a notwithstanding clause if the Minister of Finance canít come up with a consolidated accountability plan that lives up to the act. All the minister has to do is say so in writing, and if the department or the agency canít come up with a plan, the Finance minister just has to say so.

So, there are a lot of problems with this bill in itself and the way I understand it, and thereís certainly nothing there to make these plans compulsory, so why are we even adopting it when it never seemed to have worked in the past?

The final weakness of the accountability bill is that it allows Cabinet to have unilateral powers to change the relationship of corporations, commissions, agencies to government, basically at Cabinetís whim.

Those are my reasons for how I understood the bill. Those are the reasons why I did not like the bill. We have seen, in this House, ministers not taking the responsibility for which they are charged. The minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation and Yukon Development Corporation wants to push it off to armís length. This becomes a problem. I know where my colleagues are coming from. It is my understanding of the bill and what government should do. Should governments be more accountable? Absolutely. And we would like to see more. We would like to see the Premier bump it up a bit with his ministers to ensure that they are more accountable in the public for what they are responsible for.

If, down the road, the Finance minister ó the Premier ó can find a way to do it, it may not necessarily be bringing forward an accountability act. We would like to know how the government is going to be more open and accountable. I know time will tell, of course ó in the next election ó but right now itís our job in opposition to question the actions of government. For example, we have been asking for information on the departments in departmental briefings. Weíre getting very little. It appears that not much information is given out to us through the departments, and weíre not sure why. We want government to be accountable for the actions and we need more detail. Weíve been asking for it. Todayís Question Period was a prime example of that, with us asking for that in writing for every department.

Thatís my position on this. I will certainly be voting to repeal the accountability act.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   I would like to say to the member opposite ó the Member for Mayo-Tatchun ó that he has contributed in a very constructive way to this and has brought up some very valid points that even strengthen the argument that this is a flawed piece of legislation, and I thank the member for that and agree with a lot of what he said. In fact, we on this side of the House agree with the points he was making.

As far as the comment about the minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation, and as it relates to the armís-length statements by the minister, I want to inform the member opposite in a very diplomatic way that he and I both know that former ministers have made those very same statements because of the situation between the corporations and government. In fact, the member and I were both involved in a government where the minister of the day ó if we look back in Hansard ó made those statements on numerous occasions.

Yes, we will make every effort to provide information to the opposition. That is what we are supposed to do, and we continue to strive to do that in a very open, accountable manner, as we have been doing to date. With that, we are prepared to move on, Mr. Chair.

Chair:   Is there any further general debate?

Some Hon. Members: Clear.

Chair:   We will then proceed with line-by-line.

On Clause 1

Clause 1 agreed to

On Title

Title agreed to

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Mr. Chair, I move that Bill No. 27, entitled Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.

Chair:   It has been moved by Mr. Fentie, that Bill No. 27, entitled Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, be reported out of Committee without amendment.

Are you agreed?

Motion agreed to

Chair:   Do members wish a 15-minute recess?

Some Hon. Members:   Agreed.

Chair:   Committee will recess for 15 minutes.

Recess

Chair:   Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, Yukon Housing Corporation. The page reference is 15-3.

 

Bill No. 2 ó Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03 ó continued

Yukon Housing Corporation

Chair:   Is there any general debate?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The Yukon Housing Corporation has tabled its supplementary budget showing a reduction of $1 million in operation and maintenance expenditures and $1,730,000 in capital expenditures. The supplementary also reflects a decrease of $1,530,000 in capital recoveries relating to the decrease in capital expenditures.

Mr. Chair, the corporationís supplementary budget decrease in operation and maintenance expenditures of $1 million is essentially due to $650,000 in savings and interest expense and additional funding due to resulting savings from expenditures of approximately $350,000 due to various temporary position vacancies during the year.

Mr. Chair, the reduction of $1,730,000 in capital expenditure requirement relates to a decrease in demand from program loans in this fiscal year, in particular reduced demand for the home repair program loan.

I would now be pleased to provide further details if the members opposite have specific questions on the supplementary budget.

Mr. Cardiff:   In general, I would like to say that Iím familiar with the Yukon Housing Corporation from my former occupation, and I think that the mission and goals of the Yukon Housing Corporation as presented are something to be applauded. I think the Yukon Housing Corporation does a great job of providing staff with housing in communities. I think it is a good vehicle for providing people with housing opportunities throughout the Yukon and for giving people opportunities to improve the housing they live in.

I donít have any questions in general debate and am ready to proceed with line-by-line.

Ms. Duncan:   I just have a couple of comments that Iíd add in general debate, perhaps a question for the minister. I understand that the minister said there was a decrease in uptake in the home repair loans and thatís why the amount has decreased. The upside of these programs, such as the home repair loans, was not only the fact that our housing stock, if you will, was improved, but it was also the fact that this generated a great deal of work for the small contractors. I believe thatís the reference my colleague was making when he said he was familiar with these programs. These loans generated a great deal of work for the small contractors.

So, the minister has said this is a reduction because there wasnít a great deal of uptake. Does this mean the program is going to be reduced in the future, or what is the ministerís perspective on not only the home repair loans but some of these other programs?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   We have not made any reduction in this program for this coming year. The main reason is that we had a large spike in this particular program last year so the demand has been reduced.

Ms. Duncan:   We had a large spike because the previous government marketed it in response to a request from the contracting community, which said that this generated a lot of work for them. We would like to see this program; there was a demand for it.

The reduction in this amount ó the minister would have us believe that there is no longer a demand out there. Is that what the minister is saying? Are we going to discontinue this program?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   We are not discontinuing the program.

Ms. Duncan:   So, we can look forward to a revote then? Is that what the minister is saying?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The funds have been lapsed into this yearís funding.

Ms. Duncan:   The funds have lapsed. So that means we would be looking at a reduced program then in the next year. The minister is saying that there was also a $650,000 savings on interest and savings as a result of temporary vacancies in the Yukon Housing Corporation. Is the corporation fully staffed now?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Some of the vacancies are still there, but we will be staffing throughout the year.

Ms. Duncan:   Are there term positions that have ended within the Yukon Housing Corporation?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   There are no term positions in that vacancy. They are all permanent.

Chair:   Is there any further general debate?

We will then proceed with line-by-line.

On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures

On Gross Expenditures

Gross Expenditures in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,000,000 cleared

Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,000,000 agreed to

On Operation and Maintenance Recoveries

Chair:   Is there any discussion on operation and maintenance recoveries?

Ms. Duncan:   Could the minister please advise ó there apparently was a $300,000 reduction in rent but other recoveries increased by a like amount. Is this a straight bookkeeping adjustment, or where did the difference occur?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Recovery comes from the high loan program uptake earlier this year due to a higher yield in interest income. The earlier files come to repayment of more interest in the current year also. The client numbers for 2001-02 were higher than forecasted at the time of the budget development, again increasing the number of loans and increasing the earnings.

Ms. Duncan:   Could the minister just provide by letter some general information on the numbers with respect to uptake on this loan program, and so on? Just broad numbers ó how many the Housing Corporation put through. My understanding is that Yukon Housing Corporation has a very good record of proving mortgages, so to speak, in proving lenders. So the Yukon Housing Corporation will undertake a loan program with an individual or a family, then they will go on and use a bank. I would just like to have a sense of the numbers of mortgages we are talking about. So, do we, for example, qualify, if you will, for the banks, 300 families a year; 200 families? What are we looking at? If the corporation and the minister could just send me that information by letter, I would certainly be prepared to share it.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Can I ask the member opposite which loan program sheís referring to, please?

Ms. Duncan:   Iím talking about the ability to work with loans. When he was talking about these recoveries, the minister talked about a greater recovery on interest, and he mentioned loans. So thatís what brought it to mind. My understanding is that one of Yukon Housing Corporationís programs is that they enable individuals who wouldnít qualify for a mortgage with the bank to have a loan with Yukon Housing Corporation. They pay that off, demonstrate themselves, and the loan is then transferred to the banks ó one of the five major banking institutions.

So Iím just looking for numbers, in broad general terms, of the success of that program ó the measurable outcome, if you will, of the success of the program ó in the interests of accountability in the House.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   For what specific period?

Ms. Duncan:   Iíll take that information for the fiscal year weíve just concluded, as soon as itís available. I appreciate that it probably wonít be until this summer.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   That will be provided.

Total Operation and Maintenance Recoveries in the amount of nil cleared

On Capital Expenditures

On Repair and Upgrade

On Home Repair Loans/Programs

Mr. Cardiff:   I think the minister already provided an explanation for this, but Iíd just like to pick up where the leader of the third party was on this one.

Mr. Chair, as the leader of the third party stated, this does provide a lot of employment for people. What I would like to have is some assurance from the minister on this that these programs will continue to be advertised in an effective way, so that people can take advantage of them, and that there will also be an emphasis on upgrading energy-consuming products in homes in programs like this, both with the goal of reducing costs to homeowners and meeting the goals of Kyoto.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   We will be providing approximately $2.5 million in the 2003-04 budget in that particular program. Secondly, Mr. Chair, for the member opposite on a previous question, from April 1, 2002 to January 31, 2003, the number of clients approved was 40.

Ms. Duncan:   The number of clients approved was 40. How many clients subsequently left the Housing Corporationís loan program and moved over to the banks? So thatís the information that would be coming over ó I see nods across the floor.

Home Repair Loans/Programs in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,330,000 cleared

On Industry and Community Partnering

On Housing Industry and Community Development Loans/Programs

Housing Industry and Community Development Loans/Programs in the amount of an underexpenditure of $200,000 cleared

On Mobile Home Park Enhancement Loans

Ms. Duncan:   Is that indicating there was no uptake on the Mountainview Place albatross, for lack of a better word? Try as we might to sell this project, I think successive governments have not been able to do so.

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Actually, there was no uptake on the program.

Ms. Duncan:   Does the minister want to provide us with any enlightenment as to how this might be approached under his watch? There is no uptake on the program, so presumably we would not be going forward with it, so how do we intend to sell Mountainview Place?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The program is presently under review. Once we have got the results of that, we will carry forward.

Ms. Duncan:   Would the minister advise, while he is on his feet, how many other programs are under review at the Housing Corporation?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   At the moment, we have the loans programs that are under review also.

Ms. Duncan:   If I have understood the minister correctly, he is saying that where we have had a reduced uptake, or no uptake at all, that the minister is reviewing the programs. Is that being done by the minister at the political level, or where is the review taking place?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The review is taking place at Yukon Housing to address the lack of demand, or address why there has been a lack of demand in those programs.

Ms. Duncan:   Is that review being done by the public servants of the corporation, or by the board?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   The board has directed the public service to take the action.

Ms. Duncan:   Mr. Chair, could I request the results of that review be provided to the public or members of both parties in the opposition?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   I understand it will take approximately 18 months to two years to complete that process. However, when it is done, we will provide it.

Ms. Duncan:   Did I hear the member correctly, saying that there is going to be a two-year review or an 18-month review of the loan programs where there has been a reduced uptake over the last year? Did I hear the member correctly?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   We anticipate that it will take a long time to do the review for the programming, and the board has indicated they want to do an in-depth process but it will take some time.

Ms. Duncan:   Am I to understand and is the public to understand that the programs will continue in the meantime?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   As outlined, yes.

Mobile Home Park Enhancement Loans in the amount of an underexpenditure of $200,000 cleared

On Social Housing

On Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock

Renovation and Rehabilitation Existing Stock in the amount of an underexpenditure of $62,000 cleared

On Staff Housing

On Construction/Acquisition

Ms. Duncan:   Could the minister provide a line explanation please?

Hon. Mr. Hart:   Costs of construction were higher than expected on a single family dwelling in Ross River, a house being constructed with high energy efficient standards demonstrating current northern housing technologies, funds transferred from social housing, renovation and rehabilitation of the existing stock.

Construction/Acquisition in the amount of $42,000 agreed to

On Central Services

On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space

Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $20,000 agreed to

On Total of Other Capital Expenditures

Total of Other Capital Expenditures in the amount of nil cleared

Capital Expenditures for Yukon Housing Corporation in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,730,000 agreed to

On Capital Recoveries

Capital Recoveries in the amount of an underexpenditure of $1,530,000 cleared

Yukon Housing Corporation agreed to

Hon. Mr. Jenkins:   I move that we report progress on Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.

Chair:   It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that we report progress on Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03.

Motion agreed to

Chair:   We will continue with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Is there any general debate?

Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Mr. Chair, I am pleased to be able to provide the Committee with some introductory remarks about the 2003-04 operation and maintenance and capital budget that you have before you. I do not plan to speak very long because my governmentís budget speech highlighted many of the important areas that are presented in this budget.

This document is the product of a great deal of work over a very compressed time by a lot of people. I would like to extend my thanks to my caucus and Cabinet colleagues, Department of Finance officials and departmental officials who put a great deal of effort into the content and production of this document as well as the supplementary funding budgets for the 2002-03 current fiscal year, which is no longer current by the way, Mr. Chair. We are now in the new fiscal year of 2003-04.

When we took office in December, we were faced with a financial situation that we immediately recognized could not be sustained over the longer term. We recognized, Mr. Chair, that we did not have the opportunity to table a large-deficit budget. Deficits in the past have ranged from $20 million to a high, under the last governmentís watch, of $56 million.

The governmentís accumulated surplus is dwindling so quickly ó or as one reporter stated last week, "It is in a tailspin" ó that we were to the point that, if the situation was not brought under control, we would be faced with tabling a budget that put us into an accumulated deficit.

As the members know, the Taxpayer Protection Act does not permit the tabling of an accumulated deficit budget. That is not a realistic option. Raising taxes is a possibility, but not without a referendum. Raising taxes is not a direction that we want to take. Thatís an important fact, Mr. Speaker, because we committed to not raise taxes.

Repealing the Taxpayer Protection Act, of course, is an option, but my government does not feel that it would be prudent fiscal management to begin a process that would send us down the path that would require that we borrow to finance the governmentís deficit.

Mr. Chair, I want to point something out. The Yukon Territory, at this point in time, is in a better fiscal situation than virtually every other jurisdiction in this country ó they all have large accumulated deficits and debt. Thatís something the Yukon does not have, and thatís something that we do not want to enter into. That is why the trajectory of spending had to be dealt with, and that is why it is important to recognize that the spending was simply not sustainable to ensure that we maintained that very important fiscal position for this territory. Eventually, as we all know, taxpayers have to pay for a deficit, and thatís why we would like to stay, if at all possible, debt-free and in a surplus position.

While the trajectory of Yukon government spending is not sustainable, as I said, my government also recognizes that spending by all levels of government in the Yukon is one of our major economic engines during this period of economic downturn. So it was important that we tabled a budget that found the right balance between needing to get our expenditures under control while, at the same time, not destabilizing the economy and employment.

We also wanted to ensure that, to the best of our ability, core social and health programs remain unaffected. As this Committee of the Whole is aware, health and social expenditures have grown at a very rapid pace over the past seven years. From $106.8 million in 1997-98 to $141.9 million in this budget ó a very substantial increase, Mr. Chair, and that is why we had to address this at this yearís first ministers conference with the Prime Minister, to try to at least address the deficit spending in health care that weíve experienced over the years.

The good news is that our rate of growth in these social areas is not out of line with other provinces and territories. The bad news is that these increases, which, on our year over year basis, range from $4 million to $8 million, are limiting the flexibility of this government to invest in other areas, including the economic portfolio and Yukon infrastructure.

I believe we have crafted a budget that has found the balance we need while, at the same time, remaining within our fiscal means. Spending in this budget will be $550.3 million. Operation and maintenance expenditures amount to $451.3 million and capital is $98.6 million. Some of the highlights include, Mr. Chair, the reinstatement of the Department of Educationís community training fund to $1.5 million, a $1.1-million allocation for aboriginal language services agreements, a $1-million capital contribution to the City of Whitehorse for phase 2 of the Whitehorse multiplex, the continuation of the mineral exploration tax credit ó a tax expenditure cost of up to approximately $2 million.

There is $20 million for Shakwak highway projects; $2.2 million for the rehabilitation work on the Teslin bridge; $1 million for the Dawson City airside improvement project; an increase in the pioneer utility grant of 25 percent and providing for future indexing.

As well, through this budget, we have reinstated the Womenís Directorate, created a Department of Economic Development and returned the Department of Business, Tourism and Culture to a stand-alone Tourism department. These were all commitments that my government made during the election that we have lived up to in this budget.

These are just a few highlights outlined in the budget. Many more highlights are referenced in the budget speech. There have been many demands made upon my government since we took office, by individuals, community groups and businesses. They are all reasonable and rational requests. I wish I were in a position to finance them all. Unfortunately, we canít.

Our ability to fulfill each and every demand is limited by the finite funds available to us. Meeting and managing competing expenditure priorities is an art, not a science. I would certainly acknowledge that we have not been able to meet all the demand placed upon us. However, I sincerely believe that we have done a credible job ensuring we maintain necessary government service levels while, at the same time, beginning to meet the priorities outlined in our throne speech. This is my governmentís first budget, and it lays down a foundation and the groundwork to meet our commitments and our longer term vision.

Mr. Chair, I will be pleased to answer any questions of a general nature that members may have at this time.

I thank you.

Mr. Hardy:   I would like to thank the Premier and the Yukon Party government for bringing forward a budget in the springtime ó one that we will be able to debate. As Iíve said before and probably wonít have to say it for much longer now, it would have been the preference of this side of the House ó definitely the NDP ó if we had approached this in a slightly different way and if we had had a special sitting before Christmas in order to deal with special warrants, because the use of special warrants has always been a concern for the members on this side of the House ó the NDP ó I wonít speak on behalf of the third party.

However, that didnít come to be and we have seen many decisions being made by this government in the four months that they have been in power. During those four months they have managed to craft this budget ó obviously a budget that they should be proud of, as it is their budget. They should be able to stand up here and defend it quite vigorously. It is definitely one that they should feel they can take out to all the communities throughout the Yukon and show it as a budget that they feel is representative of the whole Yukon.

It also challenges the members opposite to justify some of the actions theyíve taken with this budget. And as we pointed out earlier on, we feel that this budget has some strengths, but many, many weaknesses ó especially when we look at communities. Iíll get back to communities in a bit, other than to say we felt there seemed to be quite a degree of emphasis placed in the budget speech around southeast Yukon. Although we recognize that southeast Yukon, like many other regions of the Yukon, is suffering economically, MLAs in this House represent each of the ridings spread throughout the Yukon and have concerns that those ridings were often neglected, not mentioned or didnít receive the same attention.

Thatís to be expected. Itís the first budget of the Yukon Party government, and the Premier is from southeast Yukon. There is no question about it ó he would have a big influence on the drafting, shaping and emphasis of the budget. His right-hand man is also from another riding, the Klondike, and there seems to be a fair amount of emphasis on that area. But interestingly enough, it seems to really fall off after that.

I donít know what the other MLAs opposite think, but it seems like many of their ridings were definitely not in the first class of consideration in the drafting of this budget.

The drafting of a budget involves making tough decisions and choices. Thereís no question about that. Every budget that comes before the people of the Yukon that is done up by a government is a budget that is often a decision between money being spent here, money being spent there, money being withdrawn from this program or this region and the same thing being withdrawn from other areas as well.

The people crafting it have to make these tough decisions and it is my firm belief that a good budget is one that involves the people of the Yukon, one that engages people from all parts of the Yukon ó from Old Crow down to Watson Lake, up into Beaver Creek and all places in-between. It reaches out and it has a consultative process in the crafting of it. It has a reflection of the values of each of the areas and the needs. It considers the direction some of the areas of the territory are going in, whether itís a historical development area, a tourism area, an oil and gas area, or a forestry or logging type of area. It considers the social wants and needs of a town or community ó Whitehorse as a centre with many of those but also all the other communities. It considers the problems that are being faced in these communities. Thatís partly what the elected MLAs are here for ó to bring forward those concerns from their ridings.

Some of the concerns you can find from the communities that are creating pressure on the development of a budget, of course, are of crime, alcohol and drug problems, FASD, homelessness, poverty and hunger. These all have a big impact on the social element of a budget. Some people think these are deficits to a budget. If you only think of a budget as economics, you would consider those as deficits, because thereís no return. If you think of it only as economic, you would only think of these as no return by the investment that you put into it in trying to deal with the problems.

However, in crafting a budget, itís primarily based on money being spent. So the Yukon Party government has obviously looked around the territory and identified where they feel, if they invest money, they will get a return on it. I have heard the Premier, on numerous occasions over the last while, talk about the tremendous potential in southeast Yukon. Heís probably correct; he would definitely know this area very well. I have been down there on numerous occasions and have heard some presentations brought forward, and they sound very positive. Thereís a lot of opportunity and hope. There are emerald discoveries down there; thereís the potential for oil and gas development; thereís the opportunity for a vibrant forestry industry.

And I also believe there is very good potential for tourism and ecotourism and all the aspects of that. This would all lend itself economically to a very positive experience if some of these take off. But then, you have to look beyond that, and as Premier, his job is to look at the whole Yukon, not just one area.

And Iím not standing here and accusing the Premier of doing that. Iím only going from a lot of the talk I heard initially that seemed to centre around that area. From my perspective, as the person representing the Whitehorse Centre riding, I would have liked to have seen a broader context when we talk about opportunities throughout the Yukon. I did not hear that reflected very well by the Yukon Party government.

But there are tremendous opportunities for all the communities in the Yukon. When you travel throughout the Yukon and go into the communities and meet with the people, you will hear the positive aspects. You will hear the dreams they bring forward. And itís right on the ground. Theyíre living there. They have these dreams and beliefs that their community can be healthier, more economically diverse and stronger.

But you have to travel into these communities to hear it. You canít isolate yourself from the people and then assume you know what is needed. You have to go up to Old Crow, stay up there a few days and meet with the people and be open to the dialogue that would happen. And you have to hear what their concerns are, what their dreams are, what they believe is possible, and what they need.

You go from Old Crow to another community. You can go up to Burwash Landing, or you can go into Carmacks. You can hear the same concerns. You can hear different concerns. You can hear dreams and beliefs of what can happen. You gather all of this together and you come back. You take that, along with the philosophy of your party, your beliefs as a Yukon Party government ó ours are different, as the NDP; the Liberals, of course, are different; and you have a Yukon Party government ó and you mix that in with what you think is necessary to craft a budget that is reflective both of the people of the Yukon, of your party, your beliefs, and hopefully itís a budget that has enough balance, enough recognition and enough help and a budget that has a caring side to it, that it would be one that does stimulate the Yukon, does help people move forward, does give people a hand up, does recognize the needs within the environment, does recognize the needs within the social network, does ensure that all communities have a voice, does ensure that there is an economic growth ó as much as the government can lend itself to in doing that ó and you bring forward your budget.

Now, the Premier has talked in his opening statements. We have heard a fair amount. I, on this side, have coined the budget, or at least the talk around the budget, as the "doom-and-gloom" budget.

Because I feel that what has happened, or what is happening ó itís an old political ploy, where you lower expectations. I know the member opposite is familiar with this term because we both heard it from the same source way back when we were seatmates. Itís about lowering expectations within the territory. How you do that is you talk about the difficult times. You talk about the struggles ahead and you talk about the sacrifices that have to be made.

Thereís a different way of doing this. I have always found that the federal Liberals ó the federal Conservatives had a slightly different way ó are masters, absolute masters of a technique in bringing in a budget. What they do is that they prep the people of Canada, prep the provinces, the territories, the organizations, the industries with the idea that the budget theyíre bringing in is going to be a really hard budget. Itís going to have a lot of cuts. Itís a survival budget for everybody, and they lower the expectations dramatically. They send out all these signals before they bring the budget in.

Anybody who has ever followed federal politics will recognize this trick, because it is a trick. They paint a very difficult picture. They never want to say that thereís going to be a big surplus. Of course, in the last few years there has been surplus after surplus, and it would be impossible for them not to say it. But what they do is talk about major deficits, and they lower these expectations among the people of Canada ó really low, really, really low ó so people are very, very worried.

Then, when the budget comes out, itís not half as bad. Theyíve cut; theyíve chopped ó in 1995, this was a classic ó they target areas where they want. We can talk about EI as one of the areas. We can talk about the most treasured institute we have in this country: health care. They targeted that viciously.

What they do is create the impression that itís going to be really bad, very difficult with lots of cuts, then they only bring in half the signals they sent out everywhere. What do people do? They sit back and go, "Whew, thatís not so bad; it could have been worse." It could have been worse, because they were told it could have been worse, and they think they have actually managed to escape something ó though theyíve been cut and challenged and attacked, whatever you want, by the federal Liberals. This is a classic technique theyíve used for years, so people donít think itís as bad, and they feel like they got off lucky, because it could have been a lot worse.

Itís all based on falsehoods; itís not based on truths.

Now, Iím not saying that the Yukon Party has done this, because I donít believe they have, but I think they have done part of it.

What I feel has happened is that they kind of put out signals that there was difficulty with the trajectory and, maybe with the Liberals, there might have been, but they put out that signal. They kind of indicated it would be a bit tougher budget, but they didnít go all the way the federal Liberals do, and they didnít create that degree of fear that often has happened on the federal level.

But what they did, once they brought the budget in, was to talk about how bad everything is. We have heard it time and time again ó this big, bad trajectory. Itís interesting that when you hear about trajectories ó and Iíve said this before ó there is more than one trajectory. Everything is not economics. Everything doesnít come down to the dollar. That may be the difference between the people over there and the people on this side. Iím not sure.

Chair:   The member has two minutes.

Mr. Hardy:   Well, if I only have a minute before I get another chance, after the Premier speaks, I would ask just a very simple question to allow him a chance to elaborate a little bit.

How does the Premier, if this has been painted as a very difficult budget ó the spending trajectory and pulling back on some of the spending trajectory, as has been predicted ó and knowing how important government spending is in this territory, how does he envision the economy taking off when he has pulled back some of the spending when itís most necessary at this present time, and what about the signal that sends out to the people who may need some of that spending to get through or to get a hand up to get this economy going again?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   First let me address the memberís question before I go into a bit of a debate on his points.

Let me begin by saying that government simply does not spend its way out of economic downturns.

Government can certainly provide an environment for economic growth and so on and so forth, but not without the private sector investing monies into the economy. So, thereís no way that government can spend its way out of it.

Second to that, the government, in considering the problem with sustaining the level of spending that has been happening over the years, was faced with a decision. And I want to relay this in a manner that ó we did it in a very gentle way. And letís just look to our neighbours in Alaska and British Columbia, for example.

There are two jurisdictions that did not take any measures or steps when the warning signs were there over the last number of years to lower the trajectory of government spending. So, when they finally got to the point where they were simply unable to continue spending that kind of money, massive cuts took place, costing thousands of jobs. That really hit the economy hard.

But Mr. Chair, what weíve done here has been a very gentle downward pressure on government spending but, at the same time, focusing in on areas like partnerships with First Nations and enticing the private sector, through means that will provide them with some confidence to invest in the Yukon, to come here and start to offset government spending in building an economy.

One of the reasons why thatís important is that, no matter what, the driving force behind an economy is spending power ó cash flow. In todayís Yukon, 81 percent of that spending power is contributed by government, and 19 percent of that spending power is contributed by the private sector. And the government is in trouble in sustaining that level of spending.

Letís go back to the early 1990s, almost a decade ago. We would find that the level of spending power ó economic-generator dollars in the Yukon ó was 52 percent private sector injected into the Yukonís economy and 48 percent government. If we follow that pattern, you will see, Mr. Chair, that government was much more able to spend at levels it could sustain when they had the private sector injecting in the cash flow or economic-generator dollar situation in the Yukon ó over half. In todayís Yukon, itís dramatically different.

The member must realize that, in doing what we have done here, it reflects the need to address that inability to sustain the spending, and it has done very little in terms of any damage to the economy. Considering where weíre at today, there has been severe damage to the economy over the last decade, and thatís what we have to turn around if weíre to be successful in experiencing growth and a return of population to the Yukon. The mass exodus of population has hurt our economy more than this very limited lowering of spending that we have implemented in this budget.

By the way, Mr. Chair, this is the third highest budget in the history of this territory, and thatís saying something. Itís some $550 million.

Now, letís look at trajectory. The members opposite seem to have this concept that this is a slash-and-burn, doom-and-gloom budget, which is not the case. I would submit to the members opposite that what has taken place in Alaska and British Columbia, with hundreds of millions of dollars being cut and thousands of jobs lost, is a slashing form of cutting the budget, and the pain is felt very deeply.

So letís look at trajectory. Letís go to 1997-98. The total expenditure by government ó Iím going to round these numbers off instead of giving you the change or the cents ó $450 million total expenditure in 1997-98, with a falling economy, and we all know that, and an exodus of population at that time that continues on. In 1998-99, $473 million, an increase of government spending, a continued drop in the economy, a continued drop in population; in 1999-2000, there was $499 million government expenditure, and whatís happening? A continued drop in the economy, a continued drop in population, and that economic-generator dollar factor is going down and down from 52 percent private sector. The governmentís contribution to the economic-generator factor is increasing; itís going up and up.

Some Hon. Member:   (Inaudible)

Ms. Duncan:   I have a point of clarification. Could the minister indicate if he is using forecast or actual figures?

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   These are all actuals that Iím reciting right now and, when I get to forecasts, I will provide that information to the House.

Moving on, from 1999-2000, $499 million, we then go to 2000-01, the total budget is $518 million, and whatís happening in that period of time in the Yukon? Thereís a further drop in population; a further downturn in the economy; a further increase in expenditure by the government; a further decrease of the economic-generator factor in the private sector, and a further increase of that economic-generator factor by government.

In the year 2001-02, we go from $518 million to $551 million. This is trajectory, Mr. Chair, and the members opposite know that. This spending pattern has been increasing every year since 1997-98. And every year, the Yukonís economy has diminished, the Yukonís population has diminished and the Government of Yukonís contribution to the cash flow in the Yukon has increased, the private sectorís contribution to the cash flow spending power in the Yukon ó or economic generator dollars, if you wish ó has decreased.

Now, we move from actuals to forecasts, because obviously we have not got the actual figures for the fiscal year that has just transpired of 2002-03 ó a $40-million increase in forecast. We have yet to find what the total number will be, and we will have those soon, Iím sure, but we go from a $551-million expenditure by government to a $590-million expenditure by government. Again, what is happening in the Yukon at this time? A further decrease in population, an economy falling further, economic-generator dollars increasing from government, the contribution of economic-generator dollars from the private sector decreasing dramatically.

Now letís go to this fiscal year. We have simply lowered, from 2002-03 to this fiscal year, the increase that was implemented by the former Liberal government from 2001-02 to 2002-03 ó some $40 million. In some of those areas, such as the permanent fund, we have put money back into general revenue to help the situation, and it also impacts the numbers.

At the end of the day, the trajectory is there, the trajectory is real. There had to be a lowering of that spending. Otherwise the government, simply put, would have been in an accumulated deficit position.

Some Hon. Member:   (Inaudible)

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   Now, Mr. Chair, the Member for Kluane obviously has very little interest in the budget or the spending of the Yukon, because the member focuses pretty much on his riding and makes a great deal of demand on pouring money into that riding and has been, over the years, quite successful at that and has contributed to the trajectory ó

Some Hon. Member:   Point of order.

Point of order

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

Mr. McRobb:   Point of order, Mr. Chair. I can only take so much.

Now, if the previous budget had been reasonable and had just given me a few leftovers of whatís going into Watson Lake, he wouldnít be hearing these arguments from me all the time.

Chairís ruling

Chair:   The Chair finds that there is no point of order. There is a dispute among members. However, I would caution members to refrain from chastising members for representing their constituentsí views.

Hon. Mr. Fentie:   I thank you, Mr. Chair, and I also want to thank the official opposition for continually pointing out in this House that I work very hard in representing my constituentsí views. Thatís a good thing.

But for the Member for Kluane, just so we deal with the issue at hand, I would point out in this yearís budget the Village of Haines Junction is receiving approximately $1 million more in capital expenditure than the community of Watson Lake. Thatís indicative of the hard work the Member for Kluane provides to his constituency.

Back to my original point, Mr. Chair, and the trajectory of spending. This is not something that, as the leader of the official opposition was pointing out, we painted or invented or just made happen or materialize. This is a real fact and the numbers bear that out. The numbers show clearly, from 1997 to this year of 2003, that the spending each and every year has increased. When we get to the Liberal governmentís budgets, it took a dramatic jump and increase, which is what has really brought us to the situation weíre in today.

So we had to do something about that to ensure that we did not get into an accumulated deficit position. How do we do that, Mr. Chair? Instead of making deep cuts, we just lowered the trajectory with some gentle downward pressure on government spending. What it has accomplished is important, because the first step that must be taken, if weíre going to change the trajectory or the ever-increasing expenditure by government and ever-decreasing pot of money we have to spend, is to deal with the fiscal year we are about to commence. To do that, you must address the annual deficit, because what has contributed to the situation weíre in fiscally are the continuing annual deficits that past governments have continued to implement in their budgeting and spending habits.

So what has happened, Mr. Chair? Well, the annual deficit of the last fiscal year, 2002-03, is $56 million. The forecast ó and I must point out that is a forecast. I want to go back now to the 2001-02 year ó and this is an actual. The annual deficit that year ó and this is showing the trajectory again ó was $20 million.

Letís fast-forward to 2002-03 ó $56 million. Now, letís deal with the annual deficit that this budget is going to result in. We still have an annual deficit, Mr. Chair, and the deficit is $13 million. So, in effect, what weíve done is lower the annual deficit to a point where weíre still in a deficit position this year, but weíve lowered the trajectory of spending to now set the stage for us to move toward balanced budgeting, and thatís important because, if we want to maintain the position of no accumulated deficit in this territory, then weíre going to have to address that fact and get the expenditure of the Yukon government back to a balanced budget situation.

Beginning with this fiscal year, thatís exactly what weíre setting out to do. The leader of the official opposition made mention of this forward thinking and, of course, weíve done that. In using the best information available, the best possible information that officials have and that we have, and that we could compile and put together, we show that, moving from 2002 and 2003 through to the period of 2005 and 2006, we will actually be in an annual surplus position.

So if we go from where we are at in this yearís budget of a $13-million annual deficit and continue on, our spending pattern will continue to lower that annual deficit position, to further strengthen our accumulated surplus position to ensure that the Yukon Territory does not contravene the law, as the members opposite, on many occasions, point out.

Now, Mr. Chair, there is further information that must be addressed in the leader of the official oppositionís comments, and it has to do with the focus on the southeast Yukon. I take it to mean that the member was saying that all we did here is deal with the southeast Yukon in our budgeting. I think we have to put some more facts on the record just to show that there was a very balanced approach to this particular area.

Letís look at Beaver Creek ó these are operation and maintenance spending dollars that I am going to deal with, Mr. Chair. We will see that there is an increase in spending in Beaver Creek with this yearís budget.

We will see in Carcross that thereís an increase in spending. We will see in Watson Lake that thereís a nominal increase in spending, and we will see in Whitehorse that there is a bit of a decrease in spending ó a much more balanced approach ó and in other areas spending has been sustained ó

Chair:   Order please. The time being 6:00, the Chair will now rise and report to the House.

Speaker resumes the Chair

Speaker:   I will now call the House to order.

May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?

Chairís report

Mr. Rouble:   Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 27, Act to Repeal the Government Accountability Act, and has directed me to report it without amendment.

Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 2, Third Appropriation Act, 2002-03, and has directed me to report progress.

Also, Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.

Speaker:   You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?

Some Hon. Members:   Agreed.

Speaker:   I declare the report carried.

Order please. The time being past 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. Monday.

The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.

 

The following Document was filed April 3, 2003:

03-1-7

Yukon Workersí Compensation Health & Safety Board: documents relating to the nomination of the Chair (Cardiff)