Monday, April 14, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call the House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Kluane First Nationís final and self-government agreements
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize a hard-working and committed group of individuals. On Friday last week, the Kluane First Nation initialled its final and self-government agreements. The chief negotiators for these agreements have worked hard and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for what has been achieved. Robin Bradasch of Kluane First Nation, Jim Bishop for the Government of Canada, and Ron Sumanik for the Government of Yukon, we extend to you our gratitude for a job well done.
We are entering a new era in the Yukon. As this agreement is ratified, then implemented, we see improved and more inclusive approaches to the way we conduct business and protect our environment. This initialling is evidence of everyoneís good faith. The initialling of these agreements also brings us closer to the realization of a common goal. It is evidence of the commitment and dedication of all parties in reaching our shared objective ó a final and self-government agreement for the Kluane First Nation. Another critical step has been completed on the way to signing these historic agreements. Through the collaboration and cooperation of these dedicated individuals, we have managed to attain what we feel is a fair and balanced package for all parties. For that we extend to them our thanks and appreciation.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: It is, indeed, an honour to rise and pay tribute to the hard work and dedication of the Kluane First Nation citizens toward negotiating their final agreement and self-government agreements. It has taken 30 years of insight from elders, patience and determination to get where we are today.
I would also like to congratulate and acknowledge the efforts of negotiators for the Governments of Yukon and Canada. As mentioned, Jim Bishop represented the federal government and Ron Sumanik the Yukon government.
I would also like to make special mention of Robin Bradasch from the Kluane First Nation for her many years of dedication working toward the signing of these agreements.
With the expected ratification on July 31, this agreement will bring certainty with respect to ownership and use of lands and resources in the Kluane First Nation traditional territory. The Kluane First Nation has been close to finalizing its agreement before, and signed a negotiatorsí memorandum in the past, but those agreements were always subject to the resolution of major issues.
Important to the Kluane First Nation was the resolution of issues relating to three special management areas. A highlight of the agreement is an economic development fund that will help create educational and economic opportunities for the Kluane First Nation people.
This agreement represents a major accomplishment in advancing aboriginal government in the Yukon and in Canada. It ensures the recognition and participation of the Kluane First Nation in the political and economic development and the future of the Yukon Territory.
The self-government agreement provides the First Nation with the ability to manage its own affairs on its own settlement lands and to develop government-to-government relations with both Canada and the Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, it would allow the setting up of a renewable resource council to manage fish and wildlife in the region of the traditional territory.
I would especially like to say a word of appreciation to the elders of the Kluane First Nation who contributed their time, their experience and their wisdom over the years it has taken to reach this point.
And finally, Iíd like to congratulate the present chief, Robert Dickson, and council as well as past chiefs, Joe Johnson and others, for their leadership and dedication.
As this agreement moves toward completion and implementation, it provides certainty, economic opportunity and the promise of positive new relationships in the future development of our territory.
It is encouraging to see progress in completing land claims agreements for the benefits and more certain future that they will provide to First Nations and all people of the territory.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute and to offer thanks to the negotiators who have reached a settlement with the Kluane land claim agreement. Most especially, I would like to tribute Jim Bishop, Robin Bradasch and Ron Sumanik, and especially offer my heartfelt thanks to all of those who supported, encouraged and provided advice in working with the negotiators in reaching a fair and just settlement.
The Member for Kluane has mentioned Chief Robert Dickson and other chiefs, and elders. I would also like to especially thank the Yukon government land claims negotiators ó there are a number of public servants ó as well as the Government of Canada and their negotiators. I would also like to encourage Canada, Yukon and the Kluane First Nation in the next steps, the ratification, and the true challenge before all of us ó the implementation of the successful land claim agreement.
Congratulations and thank you.
In recognition of Cancer Month
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:On behalf of the House, I rise today to acknowledge April as Cancer Month and to recognize the men and women in the Yukon who volunteer their time and effort to support the Canadian Cancer Society. Every April, Cancer Society volunteers sell daffodils and go door to door raising donations that enable the Canadian Cancer Society to continue the marvellous work that it does. This has been a springtime tradition since 1948. In the Yukon there is a real harbouring of spring when the yellow daffodils begin appearing around town.
Now, this month is more than raising funds, however. It is about increasing awareness of cancer issues and the work the society does across the country to both eradicate cancer and enhance the quality of life for people living with cancer.
I am very pleased that last year the B.C./Yukon division of the Canadian Cancer Society moved a permanent employee to the Yukon. Already many positive initiatives have occurred, because there is now a person in the Yukon who can work with various groups to increase awareness and support the various programs.
Cancer is a terrible disease, but organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society, through special events and recognition months like this one, can make a difference. They can work toward reducing the fear of cancer with their education programs.
The Cancer Society defines its values as quality, caring, integrity, respect, responsiveness, accountability and teamwork. They are all things that Yukoners know an awful lot about.
We should be grateful and proud of the role that Yukoners play in fundraising for this national cancer society. We should also be proud of the role they play at the local level.
Now, we donít have to look very far for examples of this. We have a husband who has mobilized a workforce to build a special chemotherapy room at the hospital here in Whitehorse, in memory of his wife.
We have school-children raising funds to support a program in a B.C. hospital where a young friend has spent much time recently, learning to cope with cancer. Children who donít even know this youth are fundraising to support his cause. We have hundreds of people who spend Motherís Day walking routes, both in Whitehorse and in rural communities, to raise money for breast cancer and breast health awareness.
Yukoners take their commitments very seriously. They know that cancer is a very serious disease that takes thousands of lives each year. They also know their contributions and support can, as the Cancer Society theme for this year says, make cancer history.
Mr. Speaker, we thank them all.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Mr. Hassard:I have for tabling a legislative return in response to Written Question No. 1.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have for tabling three legislative returns.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I have for tabling a legislative return dealing with the accounting for accrued sick leave, vacation leave and severance benefits, requested by the third party.
Speaker: Are there any other returns or documents for tabling?
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. Hassard:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that the Government of Canada and the Government of the United States have traditionally had a strong and cooperative working relationship in developing important infrastructure projects such as the construction of the Alaska Highway, the development of a system of airports and, more recently, the Shakwak project, which have been of great benefit to Yukon and Alaska; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Bill Graham, to recommend to the Government of Canada that it continue to build on this relationship by working cooperatively with the Government of the United States to promote the construction of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline and to participate in the establishment of a bilateral commission on the Alaska-Canada railway proposal.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Tombstone Interpretive Centre
Mrs. Peter:Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Environment, in response to my question about Tombstone Interpretive Centre, told this House that he cut the budget in response to recommendations from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders of Dawson. I have a letter from the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders Council that indicates this ministerís interpretation of their advice is completely different from theirs. Mr. Speaker, has the minister received this letter?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, I have received that letter, and I have responded to it.
Mrs. Peter: Let me quote from that letter: "The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders are concerned with the statements you made in the Legislature on March 27, suggesting that we have requested a reduction in spending for a new interpretive centre in Tombstone Park. Please be advised that we have made no such requests." This letter goes on with specific recommendations, including an invitation to the minister to meet and discuss these very important issues.
Will the Minister of Environment meet with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders by May 15 to talk about building the interpretive centre by next summer?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I certainly intend on meeting with the elders council and with the chief and council once again, and with all the interested parties up there.
To do that by May 15 ó as the member opposite knows, hopefully having read the budget, the money is not there now. We are in agreement that the centre should exist. There is, however, not significant agreement on where the centre should exist. To think that such a consultation should be rushed into such a short period of time, I think, is poorly advised.
Mrs. Peter: In this letter, all the outstanding issues are addressed to the minister, including where the building is going to be built. Last week the minister stated in a reply to my question about the interpretive centre that, "It has been delayed at the request of the elders, for whom we have great respect."
The minister very clearly misunderstood the recommendations about the funding, the location of the building and perhaps the delay of the building of the centre.
When the minister meets with the elders of Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in, will he confirm to them that he will put the money back in the budget this fall?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In replying to the letter the member opposite refers to, I would ask the member opposite to table that letter, which was received by me some days after the question was asked here ó a rather interesting delay in the fax line from here to Dawson.
If I may ask the Speakerís indulgence, I would like to table my reply, and I would like to read it for the House.
"When I was in Dawson on January 10, meeting with those involved with the planning committee on Tombstone Park, Percy Henry made a speech about his concerns over the location of the interpretive centre. I spoke with him following the meeting, along with several others, and they expressed concerns. While they were happy with the concept and seeing the plan finally coming to a conclusion, they felt that the location of the current centre was on a major wildlife migration route. Percy agreed that it was probably put there for the best of intentions, because thatís where the animals were and thatís what people wanted to see, but he still had concerns that it might have a negative impact on the animals and that another site might be much better. He mentioned the gravel pit" ó which is mentioned in the letter referred to by the member opposite ó "as a possible site, and I expressed some concern that this might not be the most scenic place to showcase the park and Tríondëk Hwëchíin culture."
"Given that in January the entire area was under snow cover and it isnít possible to really see the area, I was unable to visit and get a better idea of what we were talking about.
"The budget process was well underway by mid-January and we had to make commitments. There seemed to be two ways ó "
Speaker: Order please. Would the member conclude his answer?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I table the letter so that it might be provided to all members of the House and have no difficulty in making that response public, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor appointment
Mr. Cardiff:My question today is for the Acting Minister of Community Services.
Last Thursday, the Minister of Community Services told this House that he had expanded the role of the supervisor appointed by his predecessor to watch over the City of Dawsonís books. That took place in February, but the ministerís announcement apparently caught a lot of people off guard, including the Mayor of Dawson.
Why did the minister feel it was necessary to expand the supervisorís powers, and why did he do so without any discussion or without even informing the Dawson City council?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite alluded to, a letter of modified instructions was indeed issued to the supervisor on February 7 of this year, and that entailed additional requirements in an attempt to obtain a detailed review of the cityís risk assessment and contingent liabilities.
I realize that this is a very important issue, as the members opposite are also very well aware, and I would be happy to relay that information to the minister responsible.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister is quoted in the local newspaper as saying that he was providing supervisors with the full powers of the Municipal Act to "get more involvement with the cityís daily business". That business includes the construction of a new recreation complex. By giving the supervisor these expanded powers under the act, the minister is accepting more responsibility for Dawsonís financial affairs.
So, will the minister now acknowledge that the Government of the Yukon has increased its financial exposure in the lengthy dispute between the City of Dawson and my constituent, who was the contractor on the recreation centre?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: The member is correct. We have taken a more active role in this particular instance. The issue before the Government of Yukon, as well as the City of Dawson, is very serious. We take it as a very serious matter, and we are taking steps to be held accountable and to also hold the city accountable for actions taken.
Again, the supervisorís role had, in the past, been to provide advice and assistance to the city while it was developing its financial plan. The supervisor will not take the place of council, nor will he have the power to overrule or direct councilís decisions. However, through taking these extra precautions, we will be taking more of an active role.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, that hopefully is good news for my constituent.
The minister last week also stated that this issue was before the courts. The fact of the matter is that itís not actively before the courts, that itís supposed to be in arbitration. The City of Dawson isnít cooperating fully with the arbitration, or hasnít in the past. In the meantime, my constituentís financial situation is getting worse and worse.
Now that the minister is effectively running Dawsonís financial affairs and has these extra powers, can we be assured that they will provide the necessary instructions to get this matter into the arbitratorís hands without any further delay?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, we view this situation as being very serious and we are very concerned. We share those concerns with the member opposite, we share the concerns of the contractor ó absolutely ó and we are taking the steps, as many as we can, to provide as much accountability as possible on our end as well as the City of Dawson. We hope to have a speedy and accurate resolution to this matter.
Question re: Obsidian Consulting contract
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Premier, and theyíre about the standards the government applies for conflict of interest. A contractor, Obsidian Consulting, makes $200,000 a year plus expenses. This is more than a deputy minister. Heís providing advice to the government on a top issue. In fact, he functions like a deputy minister. Under the Public Service Act, a deputy minister shall provide written confirmation that his or her financial interests shall not result in the deputy head being in an actual conflict of interest or in an apparent conflict of interest while exercising his official duties. Deputies have to prove that their private interests do not conflict with their job. Does the Premier think that these same rules should apply to someone who is being paid like a deputy and acting like a deputy?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I disagree with the member opposite. The gentleman in question is not a deputy minister. He has been contracted to carry out specific duties. In this particular case, the member is alluding to conflict of interest, which, again, is incorrect. This is a non-issue in terms of conflict of interest as it relates to the contractor carrying out his duties on behalf of the government. Furthermore, conflict of interest would result in the publicís interest and the governmentís interest not being well-represented. Again, in this case, that is not happening. Indeed, the publicís interest and the governmentís interest is very well-represented in this matter.
Ms. Duncan: What the Premier has just said is that the person in question is not a deputy, so the rules for conflict of interest do not apply.
Under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, an employee of the Cabinet ó someone who has an office and a phone and works out of the Cabinet offices ó must not carry on a business through a partnership if it might further his or her own private interest. Does the Premier think that these rules for conflict of interest for Cabinet and caucus employees should apply to the contractor in question? If not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the member is incorrect. The contractor does not work out of an office in Cabinet or caucus facilities. He has the use from time to time, but if the member took the time to look up Obsidian Consulting, the member would find that the phone number is not a government phone number, the fax number is not a government fax number, and the e-mail address is not a government e-mail address. So much for that argument.
What the member is presenting on the floor of the Legislature is nothing more than opinion ó an opinion generated by a story in the newspaper, the same newspaper that wrote the story that the doctor in Watson Lake, after 25 years of dedicated and committed service to the community, was distributing drugs and alcohol to get votes. I rest my case.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, weíre talking about the conflict-of-interest rules. We talked about the conflict-of-interest rules for deputy ministers, and the Premier says they donít apply in this case. We talked about the conflict-of-interest rules under the Cabinet and Caucus Employees Act, and the Premier says they donít apply. This is very convenient. There are two sets of rules for conflicts of interest, and the Premier says neither one of them applies to the highest paid employee of this government.
On Friday, we were made aware that the governmentís new $200,000 negotiator is the business partner of the person heís negotiating against. It raises the question of who is looking after the interests of the Yukon taxpayer. How do we know the negotiations will not benefit the negotiators instead of the public?
Thereís one way to find out that absolutely everything is above-board. Will the Premier refer this matter to the Conflict of Interest Commissioner for a ruling?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the member is putting an opinion on the floor of the Legislature that is based on a story in the news thatís nothing but conjecture. There is no conflict of interest here.
Number one, the gentleman in question and his partner of a company that was formulated some time ago ó long before this government took office ó are not negotiating against each other. The Kaska representative is not a negotiator; heís a principal.
Second, the Yukon government is represented at this negotiation by two deputy ministers, legal advice and land claims secretariat advice. Obviously, considering the structure of the negotiations, the Yukon and the governmentís interest is well-protected.
Furthermore, the reason the contractor has been issued this contract is based on his credentials. He has a history of negotiating not only with the federal government on First Nation final agreements but for First Nations themselves.
Thereís no question what the individual in question brings to this. Our government is taking a different approach. Weíre not going to take 30 years to implement land claims, Mr. Speaker. Weíre going to expedite those processes. Thatís why we have entered into this contract. Itís well worth the resources weíre applying, and the product is starting to come forward. As to conflict of interest, thereís no such thing in this matter. Itís nothing more than conjecture and/or opinion.
Question re: Roads to resources
Mrs. Peter:A study that outlines 32 access routes to natural resources in the Yukon was commissioned by the former government and has been endorsed by the Minister of Highways and Public Works. It has been hailed as positive for everybody and that, with this report, this government is putting its cards on the table.
Is the Minister of Environment familiar with this report and, if so, does he endorse it?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I think the member opposite is correct that it was something that was commissioned by the previous government. Iím aware of the report; Iím aware of the fact that it seeks information; Iíve not read it, so I canít endorse it, but I submit that the more information that one has on a topic, the better off one is ó at least, thatís the way we work on this side, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, this report is very important for the decisions that are made on the other side. As the Minister of Environment, this minister must be sensitive to environmental concerns in the Yukon and the results of implementing the directions of that report. This government has said many times that it believes in a consensus style of governing and that it wants collaboration and consultation.
What consultation and collaboration took place with the environmental groups and First Nations prior to this government endorsing this report?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Consulting is certainly part of the process, but my understanding of the report that weíre discussing is that itís basically a scientific report, looking at options and impacts. It gives us data to take back to these groups. Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker, but the member opposite is asking me to basically deal with something that would require a magic wand, and thatís something I donít think either side has ó at least, we donít.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, there were decisions made by the memberís colleague, and that was a story on Friday. There are land use planning processes and other mechanisms under the First Nations final agreements that are now the law of the land. These include renewable resource councils and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. Devolution commitments are now the law. The Water Board is now under Yukon jurisdiction, and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act will be the new process for approving developments. Will the minister give his assurance that none of these processes, including regional land use planning, will be bypassed in this governmentís rush to pave the future for developers?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, that was a marvellous speech and one that I agree with, that regional land use planning is something that certainly should not be bypassed, and I thank the member opposite for pointing out that her party, the official opposition, is in support of regional and local land use planning. Thatís where weíre going, and I certainly will remember that firm stance in our dealings on those issues.
In the Member for Vuntut Gwitchinís first question, she quoted from a letter. The Minister of the Environment, during his answer, asked that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin table that letter. The precedent of this House requires that if a member quotes from a private letter, the member must table the letter when so requested by another member. The Chair, therefore, must ask that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin table the letter she was quoting from during her first question today, please.
Question re: Roads to resources
Mr. McRobb:The Alaska Highway devolution agreement obligates the Yukon government to spend about half of its highway capital funding on the Alaska Highway to bring this main international corridor up to modern standards.
The previous government, to its credit, was clear with its approach in meeting that priority. On the other hand, the Yukon Party approach is convoluted and unclear to nearly everybody.
Can the Acting Minister of Highways and Public Works provide some clarity on this matter? Exactly what are this governmentís near-term priorities with respect to road construction in the territory? When will it be meeting its commitments for the Alaska Highway?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Well, I suppose I am fielding this question. While I canít exactly provide the exact dollar figures, of course the best interests of Yukoners is to maintain our highways. Per capita, I believe that we have one of the best maintenance programs in the country with respect to the Alaska Highway, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon Party election platform promised to develop a resource road in southeast Yukon to provide access to mining, oil and gas, forestry and other resource industries. The platform also promised increased highway maintenance and reconstruction to protect the safety of road users and to show support for the tourism industry.
Which of the 32 new access routes envisioned in the roads to resources report have already been confirmed for further study, planning or construction in the governmentís long-term capital plan?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I canít provide the member opposite with the information as requested. What I can commit, though, is that whatever decisions we make as a government will be in full consultation with the Town of Watson Lake, the Liard First Nation and the Kaska First Nation. We are very sincere in our commitment to involving all First Nations and all stakeholders to this and will continue to do so.
Mr. McRobb: The southeast Yukon, contrary to what this Yukon Party government believes, is not the nucleus of the Yukon Territory.
The minister said the conceptual report is positive for everybody. Itís a positive move in the Yukon Territoryís growth toward being a self-sufficient society. There will be many who question the wisdom of the roads to resources report recommendations. Criss-crossing the Yukon with more roads is not a welcome idea to many Yukoners. For other people, government action, more spending on highway maintenance and capital upgrading would be welcome from this government.
Would the acting minister confirm that she will meet the Yukonís commitments in the Alaska Highway devolution agreement to complete the improvements in our main artery for the safety of Yukoners and visitors before this government goes off chasing rainbows and developing new roads throughout the Yukon?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As the member opposite is very well aware, this government has contributed over $20 million in highway upgrades in this fiscal year.
With respect to the member oppositeís question, we believe in developing or coming up with a balance between environmental protection and responsible development. We wish to see the territory get going again. We are in a bit of an economic downturn. We want to turn that around right now, and we will be working to that end.
Question re: Roads to resources
Mr. Hardy:I have a follow-up question on roads to resources. In Fridayís newspaper, the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources was positively gushing about the $63,000 report that envisions roads running here, there, up mountains, down valleys, across rivers and all over the Yukon. The minister called it one more brick in the advancement of the Yukon economy. He said that industry can take a look and say that the Yukon government does have some vision.
Can the Premier explain what makes this vision of roads to resources any more responsible or sustainable than it was the last time a Yukon Party government was in power?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, first letís get down to the brass tacks, Mr. Speaker. This is a conceptual issue that the member opposite is dealing with and he is trying to create this concept that we are going to criss-cross the Yukon with paved roads. Well, letís look into that logic.
What rational government would pave a road to a mine site? Thatís an impossibility; it will never happen. Second, when we want to consult with the public, we want to do so by informing the public, and this kind of work is merely providing information to the public so that they can make informed decisions. What the member is saying is that because there are deposits out there that are known, this may become a road to this deposit. Again thatís not the case. There are scales of economy here that the member is conveniently ignoring.
So all of this is nothing more than a conceptual process to provide more information to the public. We have lots of information on protection; we have lots of information on study areas; we are going to start providing more information on the development side of the equation to achieve balance. Thatís what this is about.
Mr. Hardy: Well, once again the Premier stood up and never answered the question. He just gave us a little speech and totally avoided the question that was asked.
I will try two more times.
The last time we had a Yukon Party government, all the Yukonís economic eggs were in one basket. It was all about resource extraction ó coal plants and all. It sounds familiar. No economic diversification, no First Nation partnerships, no progress on protecting the environment. Here we are a decade later, and itís back to the future again. Log it, mine it, drill it, pave it ó just like the Premier is fond of saying.
Itís a vision all right ó in the rear-view mirror.
What steps does the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources plan to take to make sure that other economic activities such as hunting, trapping and wilderness tourism, arenít bulldozed out of existence in the rush to exploit our natural resources?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, first letís look at the government that the member opposite is alluding to ó the former Yukon Party government in the early 1990s. That was a time in the Yukon when the economic generator dollars were structured this way: 52 percent from the private sector, 48 percent from government. Today, after successive NDP and Liberal governments, itís 81 percent dependence now on government and a mere 19 percent from the private sector. This is not about economy in the rear-view mirror; this is about focusing in on areas that will turn that trend around. That is what we are doing.
Furthermore, relationships with First Nations are growing under this government. Itís our main priority.
The members opposite continually try to discredit the contract that has been issued to a First Nation member here in the Yukon, to deliver on those highest priority areas of formalizing our relationship. They canít have it both ways.
We are going to develop a very strong bond and relationship with our First Nation governments and we are going to, collectively with First Nation governments, develop our economy. Thatís what this government has set out to do.
Mr. Hardy: Well, isnít that interesting. I asked the Minister of EMR a question and the Premier pops up. What does he do? He starts to rewrite history all over again. And what does he also do whenever he doesnít have an answer to the questions that are asked? Because he doesnít answer them. He attacks the opposition.
Now, Iím going to try one more time to ask the Minister of EMR a question and see if heíll pop up.
Does the minister insist that this approach is positive for everybody? He even said so in the newspaper. Mr. Speaker, the jury is definitely out on that claim as we have already heard on the streets and in the newspapers as well.
Iíd like to follow up on this one.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: No, I havenít forgotten the question. Donít worry about that. There are just so many of them.
The minister said weíre all concerned about the environment but we canít be seen to be run by one interest group. Now, Iíve heard this comment before ó special interest groups. Iíve heard them try to label all kinds of groups in the Yukon as special interest and theyíre not going to cater to them. Well, when he made that comment, was the minister referring to the mining industry, the oil and gas industry, the forestry industry? Was he referring to them or to the thousands of Yukon people who want a strong and healthy environment Ö
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask his question?
Mr. Hardy: Ö for their children and grandchildren? That is the question.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís for all Yukoners. And to take you back to the article that you read on Friday afternoon, I was quite surprised at what came out of the interview that I gave the paper in question. About 30 percent of what came out was actually printed in that paper.
We here on this side are elected to represent all Yukoners ó a balance between environment and economy. Everything we do and everything the previous government did to try to push together some kind of development in the Yukon, in other words his conceptual plan on access to areas, which is a data base, working toward our land use planning ó and as far as paving roads all through the Yukon, Mr. Speaker, theyíre dead wrong on that. This is a data base. This is information. Itís used for everybody in the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I would like to have the House acknowledge Chief Rick OíBrien and Mayor Ernie Bourassa in the gallery.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Weíll be examining Energy, Mines and Resources.
Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 with Vote 53, Energy, Mines and Resources in general debate.
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am pleased to introduce the 2003-04 main budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. Energy, Mines and Resources is responsible for managing and developing Yukonís land-based natural resources, and our budget for 2003-04 is focused on fulfilling this mandate.
Over the coming year, the priorities for Energy, Mines and Resources will be to, one, implement devolution; two, help create resource certainty; three, develop and manage Yukonís resource sectors, including forestry, agriculture, oil and gas, minerals and energy; four, ensure that the benefits from the resource development, including northern pipeline projects, are available for Yukoners; and five, promote energy self-sufficiency.
This is an interesting time for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, as we have assumed the responsibility for the management and administration of forestry, lands and minerals from DIAND and have added many former Northern Affairs staff to assist us in this. We can now chart our own future in collaboration with Yukoners and First Nation governments.
Iíd like to outline some of the highlights of our departmentís 2003-04 budget. Energy, Mines and Resources will be developing a Yukon climate change action plan with partners to promote a high standard of energy efficiency and identify measures to address climate change.
This government has allocated $850,000 for the continued support of the Yukon mining incentive program. The Yukon mining incentive program is designed to promote and enhance mineral prospecting, exploration and development activities in the Yukon, providing a portion of the risk capital required to locate and explore mineral deposits.
We are implementing commitments in the mine plan, including working on a comprehensive Yukon mineral policy, streamlining the permitting process and other initiatives to support the industry.
The government is also continuing the Yukon mineral exploration tax credit. We have enhanced the Yukon geology program ó now the Yukon geology survey ó to provide baseline geoscience information in support of oil and gas exploration and development to a wide variety of user groups.
We are implementing devolution commitments including making sure legislation, systems and people are in place and ensuring land is available for Yukoners and development projects.
We will develop a forestry policy framework to guide management of forestry and undertake policy work to prepare for the development of new forestry legislation. It is our intent to make timber available as soon as possible to restart Yukonís forest industry.
Additional funding of up to $321,000 will be provided by the federal government for the federal agricultural policy framework agreement and a corresponding increase in recovery. The five-year agricultural policy framework focuses on sector profitability and competitiveness. This agreement will help the agricultural industry develop in the areas of economic viability, health and safety, environmental sustainability, business development and science and innovation.
We will continue to enhance client services by working to streamline access to programs and regulatory information on Yukonís land and natural resources. We have already consolidated our lands and agricultural branches in one location on the third floor of the Elijah Smith Building to serve clients.
We are working to ensure that Yukon natural gas will have access to pipelines via all routes, including the Mackenzie Valley route. We are also working in collaboration with partners, including First Nations and other jurisdictions and regulatory bodies, to develop a clear and effective regulatory process for the Alaska Highway pipeline in Yukon. We are treating regional land use planning as a priority, as having plans in place will help coordinate and balance both economic development and conservation on Yukon land.
Energy, Mines and Resources O&M and capital budgets have decreased for 2003-04 in the areas of oil and gas and mineral resources. The major changes are, one, a decrease in oil and gas royalties of $2 million, reflecting lower gas prices; two, a decrease of funding of $680,000 to the geological survey budget. However, it is important to note that there will not be an impact on the survey as this budget will be reinstated by funding provided by DIAND through the devolution transfer. It will be reflected in a future supplementary budget.
Number three, there is a decrease in the oil and gas development and pipeline budget due to the change in the focus of the oil and gas business development branch from one of marketing the Alaska Highway pipeline to working with northern partners to seek benefits from all northern pipelines and regulatory readiness. Itís primarily a $200,000 reduction related to government relations costs in Ottawa and Washington.
This concludes the main estimates for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís fine and dandy for the minister to stand up and read a prepared statement on the activities that he envisions for the department, along with some of its responsibilities. But itís another thing to escape accountability in this Legislature. I will take a moment to describe what Iím talking about.
First of all, in the budget briefing for this department some time ago, we learned there was no budget briefing materials provided by this department to members of the opposition. This broke with past practice to fully inform the opposition on aspects of government spending, policy work, items that would be cancelled and so on, in the budget.
Obviously this Yukon Party government is closed and it doesnít want to open up to members of the opposition. Now, why is that? Why doesnít this government want to involve us on this side? Is it because it wants to escape accountability in this Legislature? Thatís a good question.
Second, during the supplementary budget debate, we requested specific information from the minister. Have we been provided that information? The answer is no, Mr. Chair. The minister has not provided that information, even though that discussion was some weeks ago.
Third, we are still waiting to receive information on this departmentís budget that was requested about a month ago in the briefing that took place.
Mr. Chair, how can we on this side of the House possibly hold the government accountable if the government does not provide us with the information we request at the appropriate opportunities?
Mr. Chair, the minister is smirking over there. Well, Iíll tell him, this is a serious matter. We cannot do our jobs unless we have the information we request. This is not an open and accountable government.
I remember in the election campaign the Yukon Party made some grandiose promises of working cooperatively with the opposition, of working in collaboration with the opposition, of being more inclusive of all MLAs in the Legislature. It also promised to be open and accountable to Yukoners.
Mr. Chair, those promises are not being lived up to. This is a classic example. Here we are, proceeding with departmental debate on the mains budget for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources and no information requested has been provided by this government. This is an outrage ó an absolute outrage. Itís escaping accountability. Itís being closed in the information it has. Itís not being open and accountable. Itís decreasing the level of accountability we can hold this government to.
Mr. Chair, Yukoners will be very disappointed to know how this government is conducting business in this House.
On top of all that, there was no warning to us that this department would be called today. On Thursday, the government House leader indicated the Executive Council Office would be first up for debate today. He then told me, as opposition House leader, and the third party House leader that departments would be called in alphabetical order thereafter.
Mr. Chair, alphabetical order requires that the departments of Community Services, Education and Environment all precede the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Mr. Chair, that is what we were told. Now we see a different story.
The government has surprised the opposition by prematurely calling this department for debate today. It is not working in consultation with the opposition; itís not being more inclusive of all members in this Legislature. It doesnít want to be held to any kind of a standard of accountability. Mr. Chair, itís evading accountability. Thatís what this government is doing by excluding us from the information process and trying to catch us by surprise with the premature calling of this department today.
Now, Mr. Chair, I had before me a number of file folders for this department. I have not had the time to go through them and glean questions I would have liked to have asked, questions to fulfill my responsibility as critic for the opposition and expected of me to ask this government. Furthermore, I donít have the information I requested to glean through and come up with further questions to ask the minister.
Mr. Chair, whatís the point of even debating this department today? The government has had its way. It has cut us out of the loop. It has decreased the accountability level for which we can hold it accountable. Again, it will be up to Yukon people to hold this government accountable. Let the record show, Mr. Chair, that we on this side are not very pleased by this governmentís actions.
Now, aside from all that, this government department has major responsibilities in the areas of lands, agriculture, oil and gas, the Alaska Highway pipeline, mines, and energy policy, to name some of them.
This department will be a major department and will play a major role in what this government does in its term in office. Today would be the first opportunity to hold this minister accountable and find out exactly what this department has in mind in the near-term future.
I have made a case, and I know that members agree, that we donít have the information to really fully discuss the matters today, so we will just have to make do. We will just have to make best efforts, without the information, to proceed with this department.
Now, there are many issues that I am concerned about in this department. I will be exploring them this afternoon as best as I can. They include some of the agriculture policy, the land development policy ó basically the same information that I requested some weeks ago that I havenít been obliged by the minister with any return or information. So I will have to repeat a lot of the questions and see if I can get some oral responses out of the minister while we wait for the written material to arrive in the mail.
There are also some questions around mining reclamation and mining in general, oil and gas development and land use planning. The minister mentioned earlier this afternoon that the resource study was part of the road to land use planning. I find that a very interesting statement and wish to follow up with him on that particular matter.
There are questions about energy policy with this department, forestry policy ó many, many, many questions to be asked that I am hoping this minister can start to provide some information about to us on this side of the House.
So, Mr. Chair, those are some significant issues we hope to explore this afternoon.
I also note that thereís no money for roads to resources in this budget, and I wonder why. The previous government commissioned a $63,000 study, of which this government has been eager to take ownership. It indicates several new road possibilities in the territory. Weíve heard the Premier and others boast about the roads to resources in southeast Yukon. There are several examples, Mr. Chair; however, itís all talk and no action. There is no money in this budget.
Weíve also heard indications that this government disagrees with the amount of red tape or regulation. Is there any money for red-tape review in this budget? We were told no by departmental officials, Mr. Chair. So, again, itís not living up to what it promises.
Now, the department is also working on the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, a mandate to develop a consent agreement, which weíre interested in following up on. There are three land use planning exercises in the territory ó Vuntut, Teslin and Bonnet Plume. We want to know from this minister where those are at and how he intends to deal with the public consultation component, as well as what his priorities are for other areas in the territory.
What about timber permit revenue? What are this ministerís intentions in that area? Weíve heard talk about the access corridor study. I would like to ask the minister if he would table for us in this House the study that was the subject of Question Period earlier today and be a little more open than what he has been so far.
Now, there are a few budget highlights, and there are lots of budget lowlights, Mr. Chair. Whereís the money for the new program that gives the big tax break to mineral claimholders? Nobody seems to know where that money is coming from. What program or initiative is this minister cancelling to pay for that? Or perhaps other ministers are cancelling something. Alternatively, if thereís a supplementary budget coming, perhaps the minister can identify it. Whereís the budget for the forestry policy framework? Itís the same with the agricultural policy work and, as mentioned, the regulatory policy development. There are lots of questions in this area.
One of the questions Iíd like to explore right off the bat is with regard to the access to tidewater, the development of property at the ports of Skagway, Haines and the Beaufort. Can the minister give us an update on what he has done to make progress to secure those ports?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member opposite and his comments on my department. The Department is Energy, Mines and Resources. Iíd like to remind him of that. We have just taken over a major chunk of responsibility from the federal government. The major part of our concentration at the moment is devolution, how to get through this, how to make some positive moves.
I understand where the member is coming from with his tirades against mining and other resource bases. I understand where his vote base is. I understand what his objectives are. We, on this side, are the government. We have to have a balance. We have to look at both conservation and industry.
We have to concentrate on our departments, and our Department of Energy, Mines and Resources at the moment has just acquired mineral, land, water, forestry, which will be the driving force. Our member is correct when he says that itís going to be a big department at one point. You understand now that in the Yukon, when we talk about industry, we donít have very much industry. We have a small placer operation in the Dawson area. We have some in the Nordenskiold area, and of course Mayo. We have no hard rock mining as such in the Yukon. We have no forestry as such in the Yukon. We have a small agricultural base in the Whitehorse area, some south of Dawson. So we have a lot of work to do, if we are going to bring the Yukon economy into any kind of balance between industry and other groups in the Yukon.
Now, the Yukon is very well-endowed with lots of resources, both in forestry and mineral. We are in a wonderful location. We have Alaska as a neighbour. There seems to be some push to build a pipeline down the Alaska Highway. Saying that, that decision will be made by producers. Our department ó or the governmentís Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, the oil and gas department ó is working with that concept, working with Foothills to see if, in fact, the Foothills project is viable now that itís 25 years old. Thereís a Dr. Skinner who is closing up his report. We will get that soon. There is also a situation, again, where the producers will decide when and where this pipeline is going to go. We certainly are working with the First Nations and the people who are going to be affected on the route.
Weíve decided to consolidate our funds, understanding the economic situation that we found ourselves in, in December. We are not putting a lot of money into Ottawa or Washington in putting political pressure on one pipeline or the other. The Mackenzie Valley pipeline ó our Premier has done a pretty good job of putting us on the front burner there to make sure that the northern part of our territory has access to that gas pipeline down the road. Thatís a positive move. There is a lot more to be done in that way.
How are we going to handle the contracting between the territories? There are all aspects of cooperation that will be done in a business-like fashion. I think that the problem, as far as ó I donít understand what the member opposite has in mind when he talks about Haines and all this access to tidewater. I guess itís a good buzzword and it sounds good on TV, but the fact is that we arenít building a dock in Haines. We are working with White Pass to flesh out an idea to make sure that we have access to the Skagway port. That, again, is being done.
As far as access to corridors, the conceptual plan that came out is not a large document. Itís not a final document ó the document still hasnít gone before some of the stakeholders. Some of the stakeholders who were part of it, of course, let the report out a little early. Weíve only talked to two of the First Nations, we havenít talked to all of them, and that will not be released until such time as we finish the consultation.
Again, that is just maps. So, when we have the study and when we go through the process that we committed to go through, certainly everybody in the Yukon and everybody in this House will have a copy of those maps.
Mr. Chair, I think this department is very important to the Yukon, and I agree with the member opposite. He alludes to how important it is, understanding that we are starting from ground zero, whether itís in the southeast Yukon or the forestry industry or oil and gas ó any of these resource-based companies out there that weíre trying to attract to the Yukon to try to kick-start the economy. The economy is just that, and we have to compete with mining around the world.
I think this year we will see a marked improvement in exploration dollars. I hope the assessment relief money that this government came forward with, which was well-received by the mining community, will go into specific claims and will bear fruit for us. Itís not a guarantee, Mr. Chair. Itís sort of putting our hand out in greeting a new age in the Yukon. Weíve just taken over the mineral management of the Yukon, and it was an idea that was brought forward by the last government, and we actually acted on it. I think it was a positive thing for mining and, hopefully, at the end of the year, itíll bear fruit.
As far as not doing anything, which is an alternative ó thatís an alternative. We could manage doing nothing and live off transfer payments, which weíve been doing for quite awhile. This side of the House says that thatís not an option. Weíre elected here to do a job. Weíre elected here not just to criticize. Everybody in this House was elected to do a job, and when we see members opposite standing up and talking about paving all the roads or inciting speculation on some idea the Yukon News came up with, itís not there.
I think this is a new opportunity for the Yukon. Itís exciting and, I think, well-managed with the people we have in place in Energy, Mines and Resources, whether in our forestry department or mining or oil and gas ó excellent, excellent people. I think itís going to prove in the next three years to be very beneficial to be aggressive with our department, imaginative with our department. Starting this year with the assessment relief, that was imaginative and showed leadership, and I think youíll see a lot more of this from this side of the House.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, I can agree. We were elected to do a job.
I asked the minister what heís doing about ports. Instead, we got a big, rambling speech about everything but.
Can the minister either respond to the question or undertake to return with some written documentation? We know we wonít be getting it until probably about mid-summer, but thatís fine. At least weíll get something.
Will the minister undertake to provide us with the information we request about what progress heís making with respect to obtaining access to ports?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I would like to repeat that we are working with the Skagway situation and hopefully weíll have some positive news coming out of that.
Mr. McRobb: Iím looking for more detail on what this government is doing to secure access to ports. Would the minister undertake to provide us with some written material on that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As soon as we have some written documentation, weíll give it to everybody in the House.
Mr. McRobb: We donít necessarily have to wait for any documentation to make its way through the system. The minister could easily provide us with a note on what it is he has done to date on this matter and what he hopes to accomplish in the near future.
The same goes for many of my other questions, Mr. Chair. I would appreciate it if the minister could respond in that type of a format ó that he either gives us the information today or undertakes to get back to us with the information in writing at some point in the not-too-distant future.
Now, the minister mentioned the assessment relief provided to miners, the announcement from a couple weeks ago. Can he indicate the expected cost of this program per annum?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, Iíd like to go back just a couple of steps on this access to tidewater question. I think probably this is an economic development question. This is not Energy, Mines and Resources at the moment, so until we get an economic development department, I think itís being handled by the Minister of Tourism. So as far as being involved day to day in these discussions, Iím not. So Iíd like to correct the member opposite on whose portfolio ó again, Iím Energy, Mines and Resources, Mr. Chair.
The other question about the assessment ó how much money is the assessment going to cost the Yukon? Itís not going to cost us anything because it didnít come in at the beginning and itís not going to come out at the end. So as far as any money out of any taxpayerís pocket in the Yukon, itís not going to happen.
Mr. McRobb: Well, isnít that interesting, Mr. Chair. The minister says heís not in the loop on the discussion of the ports. Heís only the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Well, what does he think the potential use of the ports is? Itís to possibly export our natural resources that have been extracted from the territory. Those resources are within his department, yet this minister says itís the former Minister of Business, Tourism and Culture who is partaking in those discussions.
Well, Mr. Chair, this isnít exactly what youíd call building the confidence of Yukoners that this governmentís on the road to economic recovery. In addition, he points to the future minister of economic development. Well, we all know that department has a budget of $1 for the coming year, and still nobody has been identified, not even a deputy minister for this department, never mind a minister for that department. So weíre dealing with what youíd call phantom people here, and the minister is refusing to acknowledge that he should be the one who answers such questions.
Now, I want to move on because, like I indicated, we have several matters to raise, to touch on, and we are looking for information. So, once again the minister can either provide the information orally or undertake to return with written information for us.
Does the minister support the recommendations from the Yukon forest strategy developed by the now Premier when he was Cabinet commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To go back to tidewater, we have to remind the member opposite that Energy, Mines and Resources now manages ó itís a manager. Now, as far as us having product to go to tidewater, that is in the future. But I would say to you, Mr. Chair, that Economic Development will handle any dealings we have for access to tidewater.
Now, as far as the southeast forestry plan, which now is being managed by the southeast Kaska forest management council, do I agree with their management program? Certainly I do. They are working on this on a daily basis. They are working to try to get timber out to the many people who would like to start wood processing in southeast Yukon. Certainly, we are working day to day with the southeast Kaska forest council, and hopefully we will have wood on the market sooner than later.
Mr. McRobb: That doesnít answer the question, which was, does this minister support the recommendations from the forest policy as developed by the now Premier when he was Cabinet commissioner?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly weíre working with that as a base to move along so we can get into legislation. Certainly. Southeast Yukon probably has hundreds of pounds of studies that have been put together to manage the forests in southeast Yukon. It would take a small pulpmill to replace the wood that was used. We can cherry-pick one study after another, but weíre looking at the whole thing as a base. Weíre going to start managing the timber. We have put together a council and the council is working as we speak.
Mr. McRobb: Weíll have to examine Hansard for the answer to that one.
Iíd like to ask the minister a similar question. Does he support the recommendations from the Cabinet Commission on Energy with respect to a comprehensive energy policy for the territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, yes, we do support that.
Mr. McRobb: Would the minister undertake to provide us with a checklist of where this government is at, where the Yukon is at, in implementing each of the 56 recommendations? For the ministerís information, this is a standard request I have made of the previous government. Itís standard information provided.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, thank you again, and I appreciate the member oppositeís question. What we have to do is put together an energy strategy, and itís very important that the existing sectors in implementing this are all working together. I can say to the member opposite that we are working diligently to get this energy strategy put together.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Mr. Chair. I detected a bit of waffling on the previous answer. Could the minister again clarify if he will be providing us with an update on progress implementing the recommendations coming out of the Cabinet Commission on Energyís comprehensive energy policy, which he says the government agrees?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, in due time, I will be bringing that forward to everyone in the House. Weíre looking forward to that in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: "In due time" just doesnít cut it, Mr. Chair. Iím asking if the minister will undertake, in the foreseeable future, even if itís mid-summer, to return to us with that information. Would he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have to remind the member opposite that our priority at the moment ó and I do apologize for the slowness of things coming to the members across the way ó is devolution. I donít want to commit to anything we canít do, so what I say to the member opposite is that our priority is devolution. Weíre bringing all these forward in a timely fashion. Iím not going to commit to any dates or time, but we are working toward getting all this information so everybody in the Yukon understands where weíre coming from, and specifically the members opposite.
Mr. McRobb: Itís disappointing that the minister canít give us a firm answer, as previously expressed. This is standard information provided by the previous government. I know the departments, as they continue along, do upgrade such documents, yet the minister says itís not near the top of his priority list and, therefore, he canít commit to providing it for us.
Mr. Chair, I think weíll move on, but perhaps when the minister gets back to his office he could have a bit more of a discussion with his officials and see the light in that this is a document that can be provided to us in the near future.
I want to ask the minister about the gas distribution franchise anticipated for the Whitehorse area. Can he undertake to provide us with information updating this matter?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, Iíve had a couple of meetings on that issue, and I can tell the member opposite that thatís all I have had. So as far as there being much information, there really isnít any out there. Weíve been talking to the stakeholders ó the Kwanlin Dun and the other stakeholders in the proposal. So as far as a lot of information, there isnít a lot of information out there. So I will give what we have, but itís very limited.
Mr. McRobb: Well, obviously anything would be an improvement over what we have received from this minister so far.
As mentioned earlier, we have requested a lot of information pertaining to the various branches in this department. So in retrospect, itís rather fruitless to go into too much detail in questioning at this point, when it would be better served once we do have the material requested in our hands.
With that, I want to return for a moment to the mining industry tax break. The minister said itís not going to cost Yukon taxpayers any money. Now, Mr. Chair, I would submit that if the minister understood elementary economics, he would know that his answer is a little far-fetched. Now, if companies holding mineral claims did assessment work, that work would generate economic activity, which in turn would generate tax revenue to the Yukon government and to the Government of Canada. By telling mineral claim holders they do not have to do any work this year and not pay a penalty, the government is telling the companies not to engage in economic activity.
Now, this loss of economic activity does result in a loss to Yukon taxpayers ó a loss the minister should understand and a loss this government should have contemplated before this knee-jerk reaction, coming up with this new tax break. So Iíd like to ask the minister this: can he indicate for us this governmentís estimates of the total economic loss due to this most recent tax break?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I donít want to debate arithmetic with the member across the way, but I will tell you one thing, he is dead wrong on the assessment ó dead wrong. We have a projected three-time expansion of the work that was done. In other words, we are projecting $18-million worth of exploration work in the Yukon this year, when it was $6.5 million last year ó minimum of $18 million. Now, that is a show of confidence by the mining community.
The assessment is if you donít do your work. Thatís when you pay assessment.
I am saying that 80 percent of that assessment work are small miners who have stuck by the Yukon through many, many long, hard years. This time we had, through devolution, the opportunity to do this one-year thing for that segment of our population ó that small, shrinking segment of our population.
So the member across is dead wrong. If we can get three to four times the amount of exploration in the Yukon, by backing off a bit on assessment, thatís a gamble that I, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, am willing to make. So instead of doing like the member opposite wants government to do ó sit back and just let something happen on its own ó I am telling him that he is dead wrong on assessment. Assessment is if you donít do the work; itís not a tax. It never was a tax and never will be a tax.
Weíve got three times the exploration dollars being spent in the Yukon this year ó $18 million, if you add it up; if the member can add that high.
Iím telling you that he is dead wrong on assessment. This is good news to the mining community. It reflects in the exploration dollars that are going to be spent in the Yukon this coming year, and hopefully, if we were to do that next year, we would be up to $50 million ó where we were about eight years ago.
So here we go. Assessment is not a tax. The small mining guy is getting a break. Thatís too bad. Well, from this side of the House it isnít too bad. The member opposite of the third party is in full support of this move. Why? Because itís a good move. Thatís why sheís in support of it. And why did we work with the idea of doing it when we became a government? Because ó guess what? It was a good idea, and it was a solid idea and it backed the mining community. But of course the members opposite ó one minute they talk about unemployment being unacceptable, costs have gone crazy, and the next minute, "Donít give that little miner a break. Why would you give him a break?" Why would we put our hand out and say thank you when we had the opportunity of doing it for 12 lousy months? And weíre going to give the member opposite a pie-in-the-sky figure of what itís going to cost and that itís going to shut down or hospitals or something.
Through devolution there was an opportunity to help the mining community. We in the Yukon have never had that opportunity, and for 12 months weíre going to put out our hand and say "thank you" for the hundred years that these people have been working and, for the last 20 years, under very, very hard circumstances.
I agree with the third party. It was a great deal for the mining community and, in turn, weíre looking at $18-million worth of exploration in the Yukon this year, instead of $6.5 million. Itís a great day for the Yukon.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, who is benefiting from this million-dollar tax break? This government talks about Team Yukon, but itís more like Team Yukon Party. Who is benefiting from this?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This just gets deeper and deeper. The Yukon is benefiting. If the member opposite would think ó $18-million worth of exploration dollars next year, spent where? In Yukon.
Small miners going out and, instead of having to pay this assessment, maybe theyíll spend the money on exclusive areas of their claims, maybe having more exploration. Itís good news for the Yukon, for every walk of life in the Yukon, not just the mining community. Itís good for Mayo, and itís good for the store in Carmacks. Exploration dollars go right through the community. Itís good news.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, not every beneficiary of this $1-million tax break is a poor, small miner in the Yukon. Some of the beneficiaries are huge companies with their head offices down south, not even in Canada. What we have here with this government and this $1-million tax break is welfare for the poor and tax breaks for the rich. Mr. Chair, itís not fair.
Will the minister undertake to provide us with expectations for the beneficiaries, along with the tax amounts for this particular tax break?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I donít know where the member opposite gets this $1-million figure, this $1-million tax break, but I guess itís an easy figure to pull out of the air. Itís not a tax; itís an assessment. No, Iím not going to do a bunch of arithmetic for him. This is what this House is about: we debate what happens; weíre held accountable; you people can ask us questions. But I would say to you that we cannot agree on what an assessment is and what a tax is, so I think we should move on. We have budgets to talk about here, we have limited time, and I think it would be irresponsible of this House to spend any more time on assessments and taxes and arguing a point that we will obviously never agree on.
Mr. McRobb: Iíve asked the minister a very reasonable question ó to come back with some information on who the beneficiaries of this tax break are and how much it is anticipated to benefit each of them. This is a reasonable request. This is the minister responsible for the department funding this $1-million tax break and we, in the official opposition, are requesting this information.
Will the minister oblige us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess we are going to have to wait for next year, Mr. Chair. Thatís when the assessments and all the work would be compiled, and we would give this information next year if the member would ask for it then ó we certainly would.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the minister hasnít done his homework. Mr. Chair, if this government didnít produce some expectations of who the beneficiaries were and the cost and the benefits of the $1-million tax break, then clearly it wasnít thought out very well. It is simply a knee-jerk reaction by this government.
Meanwhile, lots of other important causes on the social side of our society are being ignored ó things like the Outreach van being cancelled, youth centres closing. I can stand here for half an hour and recite them. Already this Yukon Party governmentís legacy, after five months, is a sorry state of affairs.
This minister refuses to answer the information requested by the official opposition. Add that to the previous list identified earlier, Mr. Chair, where the minister refuses to provide us with information we request during briefing opportunities or debate on the supplementary budget, so I am standing here wondering what good this could possibly do.
We are asking a minister questions when we are not fully equipped, because the government has withheld information, and the minister is being very vague in his responses. He is not to the point; he is not responding with information, and he refuses to bring back any information requested.
So what is the point, Mr. Chair? Iíll concede this round to the Yukon Party minister. He escapes any decent level of accountability for his department. Case closed.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, I appreciate the member opposite. Our government is an open government. It represents Yukon. We were elected to do a job. We were elected to do a job, and we will do the job.
As far as all of this innuendo about figures and whatever, if Iím going to give information to the member opposite, I would like to have it correct, and we will give what information we have in a timely fashion, and it will hopefully be as correct as possible.
As far as all this innuendo about the taxes and the millions and all of this, those figures will be compiled at the end of the year and hopefully our generosity to the mining community will have paid off. Again the member opposite talks about all these other programs and, of course, we have a lot of programs in the Yukon. I think that the third party will agree with me that the mining community hasnít had much good news in the last five years. Iím not blaming that on governments in the Yukon. I blame that on the world market; I blame that on all sorts of situations that we have no control of in the Yukon.
I think that this relief of assessment really spoke volumes to the mining community and said to them that we are open and we would appreciate them coming to the Yukon and taking another look at the Yukon and seeing if we can get some mining communities going again in the Yukon, which we had for many years. The reason most of us came up to the territory was for, one reason or the other, mining, whether it was in Keno Hill, Clinton Creek ó Faro was a big generator of dollars. So as the member says, I am the minister of mines. My responsibility is to work hand in hand with the mining community.
I told the member we have a problem now, because we donít have any hard rock mining in the Yukon. All we have is placer. My job is to make the mining community feel at home here and, hopefully, with the $18 million in prospective exploration dollars being spent in the Yukon, it will spread throughout the Yukon, and thatís just the start of it.
So, Mr. Chair, I hope the member opposite will come to his senses, but not likely.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, it seems weíre ready to go.
In support of what the Member for Kluane has said with respect to the organization of debate, I would just like to say I appreciate itís not the ministerís doing that weíve ended up in Energy, Mines and Resources. I would just like to outline how difficult it is for us when a House leader is less than forthcoming with information and not allowing us due opportunity to organize for debate.
Fortunately, I feel quite prepared to debate with this particular minister and to discuss this particular budget, but if the member has any sort of sense of this debate, he will appreciate that it does make it difficult for this side to engage in constructive debate when weíre given no opportunity or advice that itís coming as quickly as it did.
I would like to be on the record ó perhaps the minister could encourage his House leader in his efforts to be a little more forthcoming and cooperative with this side.
Iíd like to start on the energy side of the portfolio, specifically the pipeline. I understand that, when certain members now on that side were on this side, they were very fond of accusing our government of putting undue emphasis ó I think they referred to baskets and eggs. In any event, that political rhetoric aside, the fact is that the Alaska Highway pipeline is the largest private sector project anywhere in North America.
It represents for Yukon a tremendous opportunity, and I donít get a sense at all from the minister that he is supporting it to the degree that I, as a Yukoner, feel he should. For instance, to suggest day after day that is a decision that is only up to the producers totally misses the input of the pipeline companies, separate and distinct. Has the minister established a relationship with the pipeline companies?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As far as the Alaska Highway pipeline, the Alaska Highway pipeline will probably be the largest project in North America ever, so it is a large project. I personally and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, oil and gas, have been in constant contact with TransCanada and Duke, the Foothills Pipe Lines people we have been talking to. The producers, which are Exxon, Coneco, BP Phillips and, of course, British Petroleum ó theyíre the producers at the other end. Thereís some dancing between Foothills and between greenspace or greenroot. In other words, are they going to go with Foothills and whatever. Our oil and gas department has been very actively working with all aspects of the pipeline.
I understand when you say itís not just the producers, but it is a 90-percent decision of the producers. It was an interesting conversation I had with somebody in the oil and gas business in Calgary and, being as naive as I am about oil and gas ó Iím just a novice in this ó I said, "Well, you know, it will be the President of the United States who will make the decision one day." And he said to me, "While youíre busy looking at the President of the United States, Iíll keep my eyes on the president of Exxon, because Exxon will make that decision."
The more we go down this trail ó and this trail is speeding up. This pipeline is speeding up. There are a lot of issues that are being solved daily in the American Senate, in the House of Representatives, in industry. As the minister of oil and gas, my commitment is to the Yukon people and to the oil and gas so that Yukon will be ready for the pipeline when it comes. In other words, we will do what we can with what we have. We will enter into the battles that we can win. I think that for me as the minister to discuss this at great length on the front pages of the newspapers or on radio stations or whatever is not productive. I think this little lull between the Mackenzie Valley situation and the pipeline gave our oil and gas division a little time to regroup, rethink their battle plans, go to work where it counts. I think it has been a positive move and I think that we are, as are all Yukoners, concerned about the pipeline. We are concerned that we are part of the scenario. In other words, we are considered when they do these things. So in other words, we have to have some profile.
We are concerned about the conservation aspect of it. What is it going to do to the First Nations that are on the route? How will we maximize their participation? Remember that it is a massive economic stimulant to the economy, and we canít disagree with that. But we need to understand that itís going to take longer to plan it than it is to build it. We have to look at long-term benefits for Yukoners. I think thatís important. And I think the oil and gas division that we have put together as a government in the Yukon is a good division, and I think they are doing a fantastic job.
Theyíre keeping me abreast of whatís happening. Theyíre quietly going about their business, and itís very productive. In answering the third party, I think that weíre moving along and, of course, as we speed up and as things become more and more clear as we can see into the horizon, I think that weíll end up with more and more participation on our part. Certainly, the First Nations will be participating. So I think in answering ó what are we doing ó weíre working daily on the Alaska Highway pipeline.
Again, the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is another opportunity for us to benefit. With the relationship we have built up between the two jurisdictions, I think that if we can use both jurisdictions, Yukoners will benefit. Contractors will be working back and forth. I think itís going to be a very positive experience for the Yukon, but weíve got to handle it in a proper fashion. I think our oil and gas department is doing an excellent job in working with all the stakeholders to make sure that when we get an opportunity to participate in, first of all, the discussions, second of all, everything else, we will be prepared to do that. I think that it will be beneficial to us. I think, in answer to your question, weíre on the road. I think itís coming sooner than we think. Hopefully weíre ready at that point to tackle the job ahead, because itís a massive job.
Ms. Duncan: I started the discussion this afternoon with a small piece of advice ó sharing, if you will ó for the member opposite. I suggested that he work with his novice House leader and urge him to cooperate, and that would enable us all to be better prepared for debate. My second piece of advice ó the shorter the answer, the more we get to deal with. What I asked was what relationship there was with the producers. He has gone into a great, lengthy explanation ó pardon me, with the pipeliners. He answered it in the first sentence, saying that he had met with TransCanada and Duke. Exxon, Coneco, BP and the State of Alaska are the producers. He has missed the fourth one. What relationship have we established with the State of Alaska? We had a committee, an interjurisdictional committee, made up of legislators. It includes Mark Hlady, a Member of the Alberta Legislature; Senator Torgerson from Alaska, and the former Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Is Yukon still participating in that committee? Is it still active? Specifically, the committee was interjurisdictional ó B.C., Alberta, Yukon and Alaska ó to promote the Alaska Highway pipeline and keep our jurisdictions up to speed on what each other was doing. Does the committee still exist and is the Yukon participating?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, we are working with the State of Alaska. Weíre not working with that commission. As far as I know as a minister, that commission is not active at the moment. We are working with the State of Alaska on other issues pertaining to the pipeline. We had a delegation down a couple of weeks ago, so we are working with them to keep abreast of the situation from the State of Alaskaís point of view.
On your question about working with that group, I think I would probably take that under consideration and, if there was some room to redevelop that group, I would be very positive in that.
Ms. Duncan: Has the minister or the Premier met with Governor Murkowski on the pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I have not met with the Governor of Alaska on the pipeline.
Ms. Duncan: And I will ask the Premier when we get to Executive Council Office if he has established any intergovernmental relationship with Alaska.
The minister mentioned battles we can win. The battle going on right now in the U.S. between the Senate and the House of Representatives ó there is a discussion about repayable incentives, and thereís a bill thatís up for debate. We had arguably the best representative in Washington on that bill. We have no one under the Yukon Party ó nobody is speaking for the Yukon and championing the Alaska Highway pipeline from the Yukon perspective.
Itís a battle that can be won. The Northwest Territories is paying a significant sum to a lobbyist.
The minister said that we want to engage in battles we can win but itís not productive to be on the front page speaking for the Yukon. Well, in Washington, itís about the lobby effort. Itís about speaking daily. Itís about speaking with legislators. Thatís how the battles are won.
Will the minister reconsider the decision to only accept the crumbs from the Northwest Territories table and ensure that there is a Yukon voice, that there is a lobbyist in Washington and that someone ó be it his role or that of another champion, if the member wishes ó is there to ensure that the Yukon is being represented in this debate and in this battle, which I believe we can win? The battle, I emphasize, is not between two rival pipelines, as they are termed in the States. They are not rival pipelines. Both could and should be built within my lifetime and the lifetimes of the members opposite.
All I am asking is, will the minister reconsider and ensure that the Yukon has a champion speaking for the Alaska Highway pipeline in Washington?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am glad that the third party realizes that this isnít a war between the Northwest Territories and the Yukon and who won and who lost. I think that we got too wound up in that over a period of time in the last three or four years and it was very unproductive for both jurisdictions.
I think itís very important that we have representation but itís very important that we understand that itís not just who spent the most money, itís how wise we spend the money, remembering that we do have some limitations on how much money we have.
We have to think about every dollar we spend and prioritize to make sure that we get maximum bang for our buck. We are working with people. Weíre working with our Ottawa office. Weíre working with the State of Alaska. Weíre working daily with Foothills Pipe Lines, weíre working with British Petroleum, weíre working with Exxon, weíre working with Coneco Phillips, so we are working with a broad segment of either the producers of the pipelines or the shakers that are going to make this thing go ahead.
As to the Senate in Washington, D.C. and the House of Representatives, they certainly have some issues to solve. There are a lot of issues there that are unsolvable by us. We can give some direction. If we see an issue that needs to be addressed, we will certainly address it and we will hire the appropriate people to address it. But as far as having a full-time person sitting in Washington, with their meter running, eating up Yukonersí money, I donít think that is the answer.
I think we were elected to prioritize the pipeline debate. I think weíve done an exceptional job with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline. We have some issues that will have to be addressed, which are being addressed now. Our Premier has worked with the Alaska government to make sure they understand where weíre standing on the Alaska Highway pipeline. Weíre working with the First Nations in the Yukon and also prioritizing the First Nations that will be involved in the route to make sure that they are brought up to snuff on the pipeline, and spending money in those areas to make sure that they and we, as Yukoners, are prepared for the pipeline for such time when a decision is made to build the pipeline.
I do agree with the member of third party that it will be built in our lifetime. Whether you understand that things change ó I have lived long enough to remember when they announced the Alaska Highway pipeline in the 1970s. It was going to be built. It had gone through everything and it was cancelled at the last minute. So there are issues there.
As far as my comment of not wanting to be on the front page of the local papers on issues that we canít win, my argument to the third party is that certainly we have to have a voice for the Yukon people. We were elected to do that, but we have to have a balanced voice. In other words, we have to come up with some products. We canít just sensationalize these issues ó like the Mackenzie Valley pipeline is a bad pipeline and ours is a good pipeline. We have to be constructive and business-like and we have to get the product. The product is putting Yukoners to work on either pipeline. I think that we have to be conscious of the northern Yukon and their resources and the First Nations that will participate in that area of the Yukon. We have to be conscious of southeast Yukon, which is producing the only gas well in the Yukon. It is the most successful gas well in North America and one of the more productive gas wells.
So we do have a producing well and we are gleaning revenues off that. Every First Nation in the Yukon participates, so every First Nation gets a cheque once a year for that one well. The First Nations that have signed their agreements get it.
We do have resources. We do have a vision for the Alaska Highway pipeline. We might differ on our approach. Our approach is more conservative. We want the pipeline to come. We want it to come in a timely fashion. We want our people to be ready to go to work on the pipeline. We want to be part of the decisions that are made on the pipeline when itís in our jurisdiction.
We certainly havenít ignored the producers. We havenít ignored the pipeline group, which is Foothills. We havenít picked sides. The new route idea is out there; Foothills is out there. So thatís a negotiation thatís going on between the producers and the pipeline. I guess itís like any business deal in that they have to come to some sort of agreement on whoís going to build the pipeline, whoís going to use it, what the price is, and all those kinds of things that, really, for us to enter into a debate on would be a waste of time.
So we are working in a positive fashion to get the Yukon ready to receive the pipeline and to benefit from the pipeline. We have a lot of work to do. We have First Nations, we have interest groups, we have the territorial government and the Yukon people who have to be brought up to snuff, and thatís a daily job that, Iím quite pleased to say, the oil and gas division of my department is working at diligently.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is no question that the oil and gas staff we have available are the best, and that has been recognized by the offers they get to work elsewhere.
The minister has bought into the rhetoric espoused continually by the side opposite that there was somehow an unproductive relationship between the former government and the Northwest Territories. The fact is that I would strongly urge the minister to note the fact that every single oil and gas speech I gave and the former minister gave, both in public and in private, stressed the fact that these pipelines are not in competition. This is about the window on northern development.
I just happen to very strongly believe that the Yukon is part of that window and that there should be northern development and that there could and should be an Alaska Highway pipeline built, whether itís a greenfield ó and the term is "greenfield" ó project or whether itís as mandated under the treaty. Itís not about who spent more money ó and I would ask the minister to go take a good, hard look at every dime the Northwest Territories spent in promoting the over-the-top route, which completely shuts out the Yukon, and our 13 tcf of gas, which has been substantially expanded by Energy, Mines and Resources in recent months. The fact is I am only asking the minister to not abandon the Yukon in this development and the Yukon Party government to not accede our representation to either Alaska or to continue to accept crumbs from the Northwest Territories but to speak for the Yukon in this project. Yes, it means a great deal. The minister isnít the only one who was here in the 1970s. My former colleague listened to every single second of the 700 hours of public debate in the Lysyk inquiry. I have constituents, the member opposite has constituents who bought the welding trucks that still sit in their yards in anticipation of the work on the pipeline.
I just believe that a government, no matter what their political stripe, should speak for Yukoners on this project and should be speaking very loudly and very clearly that the Yukon stands to benefit from this project, and Yukoners should get those benefits. The officials in the department have been working for some time in ensuring the training opportunities were available and in working on the regulatory processes. So itís not something new. Whatís new is that the Yukon Party is abandoning the Yukon. Weíre willing to now accept crumbs from the Northwest Territories, and weíre asking the Alaskans to represent us in Washington.
Nobodyís speaking for the Yukon. That is a sad betrayal of the member oppositeís true conservative roots ó and he used the word "conservative."
With respect to oil and gas development, Mr. Chair, there was, by the previous minister, work on the program for individuals ó Iím just getting the exact reference of the program ó the promotion of employment and worker mobility with respect to ensuring that workers were able to work in other oil and gas opportunities, as our own were being developed.
Has that program continued?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Going back to our dealings with crumbs from the Northwest Territories and, again, more innuendo about how our situation arose ó as far as the work in cooperation with the Northwest Territories in the last government, I have to correct the member opposite that the working relationship with Northwest Territories, according to Northwest Territories, was not very positive. All I am going on is what has been said by the Northwest Territories individuals whom Iíve met.
As far as accepting crumbs from the Northwest Territories, that is not true. The Alaska government is not representing us in any fashion anywhere in the United States or Canada. So we are representing the Yukoners. We are here as a government to represent the Yukoners. We are working with all the stakeholders on a daily basis. As far as hiring people to represent us in Washington, we do that on a need basis, so when we have an issue we do have people in place.
As to her point on turning the Yukon over to Alaska or to the Northwest Territories, she is wrong. We are very conscious of Yukonís role in the pipeline. Weíre very proud of the people who work in the Yukon. We are certainly in support of our oil and gas people. As far as doing a good job, I think they are leaders; theyíre not followers. And I think our communication with the Northwest Territories is very positive. Our relationship is growing by the day. Weíre going to solve a lot of the problems that jurisdictions have between the borders, and those will be solved in due time.
As to Alaska, we are in constant contact with Alaska. Alaska does not represent the Yukon nor has a voice for the Yukon. As far as what Alaska does in Washington, D.C., thatís their jurisdiction and certainly we donít interfere with those decisions. As far as the access to employment, we have extended the travel benefits so that Yukoners can go and work in the fields of oil and gas and hopefully form a core of individuals who will be able to be a positive part of the Yukon economy, once we get the oil and gas and the pipeline and all these other aspects up and running.
The question was: is that benefit package extended? Yes, it is extended for a 12-month period.
Ms. Duncan: Are any new training initiatives contemplated with Aurora College in Inuvik for oil and gas? Are there new initiatives, or is there only the continuation of the worker mobility fund? Itís a straightforward yes or no.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, there is nothing working with Aurora at the moment. There have been conversations about potential programs and we are working with the Northwest Territories, but at this moment there is just the mobility program in place.
Ms. Duncan: The Yukon Oil and Gas Act process is a clear five-step process that outlines how a land sale is to take place for oil and gas in settled and non-settled areas. Now, what process is the minister undertaking with respect to a land sale in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That would be in our Disposition No. 5. Thatís not on the boards at the moment, so we are in Disposition No. 4, which takes northern Yukon into consideration, and weíre doing some work with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation for the Whitehorse Trough, but thatís an ongoing thing.
So, sheís right on the five steps of the disposition program. Southeast Yukon is in the next disposition, so weíre not doing anything at this moment.
Ms. Duncan: Can the minister give me the dates for the call for nominations for north Yukon and the call for nominations for the Whitehorse Trough ó anticipated date, a month? Iím not looking for, like, June 12. Iím looking for June or October. In what month will there be a call for nominations in the north Yukon and in the Whitehorse Trough?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the north Yukon, in a perfect world it would be the end of May. The Whitehorse Trough is a questionable disposition, and the decision on whether we will go ahead with that would be made at the same time. So in other words, north Yukon is going to be the end of May; the Whitehorse Trough might be part of the fourth disposition, and it might not be, but that decision will be made at the same time.
Ms. Duncan: Where are we, then, in this decision-making process around the Whitehorse Trough? My understanding is that Little Salmon-Carmacks, Champagne and Aishihik and Ta'an Kwach'an First Nations had reached an agreement with the government in the first step. Where are we in the process in reaching an agreement on the Whitehorse Trough sale?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The oil and gas department is at about step 3 with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation. So we are in the process. We are not as far ahead as we are in the northern Yukon. Thatís where the consideration is on whether they would go ahead with this disposition or not.
Ms. Duncan: Before I move further into a discussion on land, also with respect to energy, there was a proposal by the previous government to spend government money on the resources on ports in Skagway and Haines. That money was to come from the energy side of the ministerís portfolio. That was not considered to be energy spending by our government. Yet the Yukon Party said in a speech given by the now Premier in the election campaign that we will "establish a port."
Now, from the ministerís earlier debate with the Member for Kluane, it sounds like the minister is planning to establish a port in Skagway. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I would like to say that we, as a government, are working with the White Pass and Yukon Corporation in a very active way to get some guarantee of access to existing ports in Skagway. We are not contemplating building a port in Skagway.
Ms. Duncan: Haines already had a facility, but it required substantial upgrading. Is the department pursuing the option of purchasing that? Iím sure itís still on the market. Is he considering the option of purchasing and upgrading that in order to fulfill this Yukon Party commitment of "establishing a port"?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At this point, Energy, Mines and Resources are not in negotiations with the owners of this port in Haines for purchasing. Itís not on the radar screen at all.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, itís not on the radar screen for Energy, Mines and Resources. Weíll leave that for the Yukon Development Corporation, Yukon Energy Corporation and Economic Development debate then and get the same confirmation.
The Yukon Party is rather famous, or infamous, for its support for coal development. On the energy side of the ministerís portfolio, where does the development of coal resources fit?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It would be under mining.
Ms. Duncan: Okay. The minister kindly outlined his plans for coal as part of the energy development for the territory. What are the ministerís plans and intentions in this regard, with respect to the development of coal reserves?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Like all of the other issues in mining, we are actively looking at all our resources in the mining industry. With coal, we are certainly interested in any mining aspect that would benefit Yukoners, and coal is certainly one of them, but it is just one of them.
Ms. Duncan: What are the estimated mineral exploration figures for this summer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The estimates are between $15 million and $18 million, and those are just figures. If we were to add up everything that is on the horizon, itís approximately $18 million but, again, those are issues that have to be decided by companies. Itís certainly twice to three times what it was last year, so thatís good news for the Yukon ó itís a positive thing.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, Iím quite aware that the exploration benefits spread throughout the territory, and a good exploration season is good news for Yukoners and for Yukon businesses. Just for the record, to be clear with respect to the mineral assessment break that has been offered, I commend the Yukon Party for accepting this very good idea from the Yukon Liberal Party and the former Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, Scott Kent, as was publicly noted in the newspapers and should be publicly recorded in this House. This was a very good initiative and Iím glad it was adopted, and I commend the source.
The minister is saying $18 million for exploration, but the Web page for the ministerís department is showing $7.9 million in anticipated exploration. Why the different numbers, and which ones are correct? I mean, weíll see which is correct at the end of the season, but what should we be anticipating, $7 million or $18 million?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I imagine it probably has to be updated and they are probably more conservative than some of the figures that Iím receiving. So I guess the department is doing due diligence and theyíre probably not updating it as promptly as they should.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not going to blame officials for that. I think that the numbers do change and itís a question of the minister making sure heís aware of the latest information.
The Yukon geological survey has been recognized at the Cordilleran Roundup for many years as really working hand-in-glove with the mining industry and being the best source of information. They work very well together. Thereís a very good relationship between the mining community, the exploration community and the Yukon geological survey.
How much money is the minister anticipating will be spent? Thereís some confusion in the budget documents with devolution and how much is transferring over and how much is cost recoverable from Canada. So, a simple, straightforward question is: how much money will be spent in supporting the work of the Yukon geological survey this summer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíll get back to you on that, Mr. Chair. I donít want to be incorrect. It will take a little bit of homework but I will get those figures back in the form of a letter as soon as I can.
Ms. Duncan: I would encourage the minister to adopt the practice of sending both parties any information. I notice that the Health minister didnít do that on debate last, and itís unfortunate. Both parties should receive the information. With respect to mining and the revenues of the territory and, again, the break on assessment, which was a Liberal initiative, the estimated cost that we understood for that was about $300,000 in foregone revenue. I wonder if the minister has that figure, as well.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, those are figures for which there are mixed figures out there, and I donít think itís fair to give this House anything but factual figures. This was a Liberal idea, but, of course, the Yukon Party government was elected to make proper decisions, and we made the assessment decision as a good idea for Yukon miners. As far as the amount of money that this assessment would be is pie in the sky. I think that any number is not a correct number.
Ms. Duncan: The reclamation tax credit, which is another good Liberal idea ó is the minister giving consideration to that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The mining department is looking at all sorts of aspects of mining, and reclaiming is one of the big costs to our mining community, understanding that we have limited resources. So we have to prioritize what we do with our dollars. Certainly, it has been broached and certainly considered. It is something that could be utilized down the road. Again, it would be very positive for the mining community to have that kind of participation, and we certainly would look positively at it. Again, we have economic restraints on the table, and it certainly isnít being looked at in this fiscal year.
Ms. Duncan: Is the government committed to the Yukon MINE plan?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are certainly in agreement with parts of it and we have been trying to implement some of it. We are certainly working diligently to see what parts of it we can work with as an industry.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister provide me with a written progress report on how Energy, Mines and Resources is making progress on the Yukon MINE plan? That way, a written response might outline what parts he disagrees with and what parts he intends to pursue as minister. Would he commit to do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have a huge load to carry at the moment with the mining department. We certainly would debate this in the House but I think at the moment we would take that under consideration. What I am saying is that at the moment I donít want to put the mine department to any more work than is necessary, with devolution on our plate.
I am saying that if I can get it to you in a letter form, I will do it, but itís not going to happen tomorrow.
Ms. Duncan: This is ministerial work. I would like the minister to examine the MINE plan. He is the one who said that they are not sure if they agree with all parts of it yet.
As the minister with responsibility for this area, I would ask that he review the MINE plan and he can write back to me and say that, politically, weíve made progress in this area and that, politically, we disagree with the MINE plan here and there, and I will not be asking officials to pursue it. Itís ministerial work.
I would like the ministerís answer to that. Yukon has a significant Yukon mining incentive program. Can the minister commit that this program will not be cut?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At the moment, yes, we can commit to that.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís a double negative, so what the minister is saying is theyíre committed and there are no cuts coming to YMIP, which is good.
We had a brief discussion about ó not the exploration tax credit, but the reclamation tax credit, as an option. The minister said that officials were examining the reclamation tax credit. Are there other tax credits that are currently being examined by the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre looking at all aspects of the mining community across Canada and how we could be proactive in the mining industry. As far as reclamation tax credits, we have discussed that. As far as any others out there, no, we havenít at the moment. Again, these things are coming in and we are taking a look at them, so we are actively looking at different avenues to encourage the mining community to come back to the Yukon but, at the moment, there are no other tax things on the table.
Ms. Duncan: The throne speech said that rising mineral prices are responsible for renewed interest in mining exploration in the Yukon. Does the minister agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I think, yes, Mr. Chair. Certainly I agree with that statement. It would be hard not to agree with that statement, but we have to be very conscious of the business climate, the security of the investors, the access to claims, and all the things that come into question when you have investors. Itís certainly beneficial to have high prices in the mineral world to benefit opening mines. Itís the most important thing, but there are other issues that have to be dealt with to make sure the investors come here. Remember, gold is $375 an ounce, but an ounce of gold in Colombia is $375 an ounce, so itís not like it varies from location to location, so we have a lot of competition out there.
As a resource base, we have a lot of work to do to get the confidence of the mining community back in place so that we improve our standing in the world market as a place to invest your money.
Ms. Duncan: Weíve talked about what the estimated mineral exploration is for this summer. Thatís the exploration side. What is the outlook for mining?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The outlook for actual mining ó of course, we have the placer community going back to work and we have the Cantung. Of course, we all know thatís in the Northwest Territories, but it does have great impact on the Yukon economy, especially southeast Yukon. Theyíre going through some hard times, not because of the price of the product, but itís the amount of the product thatís out there. So there are many different reasons why mines have problems. Cantungís problem is that there is too much tungsten on the market.
So the mining outlook for the Yukon, of course, starts with exploration. I donít want to second-guess the industry, but hopefully there is more mining on the horizon than there is today. With exploration dollars out there, maybe weíll get a mine.
Ms. Duncan: My question is not unheard of in the House. It has been asked frequently in the same manner in which I asked it. The answer is usually something like, "Minto is permitted, but thereís no progress" or something along those lines.
The minister has addressed Cantung and placer mining. Has he heard from the placer mining community with respect to the current difficulties? I donít want to get into that debate. Weíre all well aware of the difficulties. But has the minister heard from the placer mining community what their intentions are for spending money on their properties this summer because of these difficulties? Also, can he then, in his response, provide any update on Minto? Thatís the other mining property he missed in his discussion.
Hon. Mr. Lang: To start with the Minto project, it has been permitted and the people have worked diligently on it, but I think itís off the drawing board at the moment. Itís owned by a fairly large Mexican conglomerate. Itís one part of a very large conglomerate, and they donít have the interest in the Minto property that it needs to take it over the lip so they can get it into production.
As far as the placer community is concerned, again, understanding the issues that are out there since December, we are working actively with the industry and the First Nations and DFO to get some kind of a resolution to this. Hopefully thatís going to happen in the next couple of weeks.
As far as the investment dollars in the placer industry, certainly that decision didnít help. We are a little bit more confident now that weíre down the trail a little bit further. I hope it will have some effect in answering the third party. Itís a big issue and, until we resolve some of these problems, theyíre not investing the money they should to make that placer mining endeavour productive.
So, in answering the question, Minto is on hold. The placer miners are looking for resolution, and hopefully, we can supply that in the next couple of weeks and give them the confidence to go ahead and invest the money and go back placer mining because, of course, gold is at its highest in three or four years. Again, the resource has the value to it. What we have to do is put the placer miners to work and give them the confidence so that they can invest their money and their buying power and, hopefully, that will happen within the next couple of weeks.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, these questions are often addressed in the annual economic outlook, normally tabled by that minister. Where is it? Itís usually done in February or March. Whereís the economic outlook?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We, as the manager of the resources, donít do that any more. That has been transferred to Economic Development. We donít do that as a department job now, so with devolution that has changed.
Ms. Duncan: Actually, I think it changed before it, but thatís okay.
Iíd like to go into the area of land for a moment. The minister has responsibility for land as of April 1. Cottage lots ó are there plans for development of the cottage lots? When would the minister anticipate that some cottage lots would be made available? Letís start with that question. When does the minister anticipate cottage lots becoming available for Yukoners?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have some in southeast Yukon but we are talking to First Nations on how weíre going to approach this. So it is a work in progress. Hopefully weíll have some cottage lots out there in the near future.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister be a little clearer for the record? When is the near future? When does he anticipate ó would they be available late this summer? Are we talking next summer? When might we see some cottage lots available?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We would hopefully have some out this summer. Itís an ongoing thing, and weíre working diligently at getting some lots out there. We understand the demand is there, so we are working within our window of opportunity, so we hopefully will have some out there this summer and hopefully will be on track for next spring and next summer.
Ms. Duncan: Did I hear the minister correctly saying that the first ones would be made available in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess my geography isnít as good as I thought it was.
The lots that are going to be available are Daughney Lakes and Pine Lake, so I would say that probably they would closer to Teslin than they would be to the southeast Yukon in the Watson Lake area.
Ms. Duncan: I am not familiar with Daughney Lakes, and there is more than one Pine Lake in the Yukon. Is he referring to the Pine Lake near Haines Junction or another Pine Lake? If he could just be a little more specific, please.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís in southeast Yukon, which is down by mile 710. We have to understand that recreational lots are an issue in communities; they are also an issue with First Nations. We have to have a balance, understanding that a lot of these lakes canít sustain a lot expansion. So we are very, very conscious of this. Itís very important that we work with the First Nations in the areas in which these lots are being developed.
It is an issue for all Yukoners, and we are proceeding, but we are proceeding with consultation, making sure that when we do these recreational lot expansions that we have Yukonersí support and also community support.
We are working toward that issue, but we want to make sure that we cover all the bases for all Yukoners. That will be done with consultation and that is proceeding.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I think that most Yukoners understood it easily when the minister said near mile 710. So, mile 710 is the first area for development of cottage lots this summer. I understand thereís a consultation process that has to take place.
Can the minister, perhaps when heís tidying up after the session, send over the consultation process thatís undertaken around that development? Whatís next? After mile 710, what are we looking at? Whatís the next area for cottage lot development?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Correcting the thing on mile 710 ó itís not right at mile 710. Thatís just the closest milepost, per se ó Rancheria ó where these lakes are. Understanding that we are working with the issue, Iíll have to get back to her in a letter on some information about where the next steps are. In other words, we donít want to create any more problems than are already out there, so weíre working with the First Nations, weíre working with local Yukoners, to make sure these cottage lots are properly placed in areas that can sustain them, understanding that some of these lakes are fairly small so we have to be very conscious of the First Nations and their needs, and also very conscious of the lake and the ecological impact these cottage lots will bring.
Iím committed to bringing the information on the next step forward so the third party can see where weíre going.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this was a direct request of the community of Destruction Bay to see more cottage lots developed in that area. Is the minister looking at all at working with the residents of Destruction Bay or with the newly reached Kluane land claim settlement? Itís a request by members of the community for development in this area. Is the member working on it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Energy, Mines and Resources, with devolution and with all of the things, we manage the land; again, we manage the resources. Community Services takes it the next step. What I say to the third party is that we are working with Community Services, and we are the manager of the land, but the actual developer is Community Services. If there are some questions to ask them, Iím sure the minister will be back at the end of the week and we can go over them at that point.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, weíll leave those for the minister.
Land use planning in the Peel Plateau, where is that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is one of the land use groups that weíre working with at the moment. We have met with whatís called the northern Yukon land use planning group ó isnít it? I guess he canít answer that. Anyway, we are working on it and itís proceeding.
Ms. Duncan: Could the minister be a little more definitive than that? Where is the commission in terms of being established and working with the north Yukon? The minister has made much of the relationship with the Northwest Territories. Are we getting that order-in-council on north Yukon revoked?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working with the general terms of reference to proceed with the land use planning, and with the First Nations. We have met with the involved First Nations, which means that we have meetings with the Fort McPherson group, because they will be represented on this board. We have started that process, so weíre at the general terms-of-reference stage of the land use planning group.
Ms. Duncan: Has the commission been appointed?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, it hasnít. The parties have to agree on the commission, so thatís just the next step.
Ms. Duncan: So theyíre working on terms of reference right now and weíre at the discussion stage, but there havenít been any appointments of commission members. Thatís what the minister just said.
With respect to land and land sales, this is also, of course, part of the oil and gas disposition. We spoke earlier this afternoon about the five-step process. That five-step process takes a minimum of 150 days.
Now, the minister said we might be looking at sales toward the end of May in north Yukon and maybe the Whitehorse Trough. Heís not being definitive about a land sale in southeast Yukon. Would the minister be definitive with respect to a land sale in southeast Yukon? When is it anticipated?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The end of May would be the time for a call for nominations, so it wouldnít be a sale per se for Disposition No. 4. At this point, for oil and gas, we are not contemplating dispositions in southeast Yukon until we get the fourth one done, and then weíll start on southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So is north Yukon the third, the Whitehorse Trough the fourth, and southeast Yukon the fifth disposition? Could he just outline those three and, for lack of a better term, land sales?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Disposition No. 4 is northern Yukon and Whitehorse Trough. Disposition No. 5 will be southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Just for the record, is the government skipping the Yukon Oil and Gas Act process in the disposition in southeast Yukon, or what process are they following for the disposition in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, weíre not. We havenít started it yet, so weíre certainly not skipping anything in the process.
Ms. Duncan: If they havenít started the process and itís anticipated this disposition would take place after Disposition No. 4, then how does that fit in with the Premierís commitment for a June land sale in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: It doesnít.
Ms. Duncan: So I guess we add that to the mountain of broken promises. When will the disposition in southeast Yukon take place, and does the minister anticipate it will be under the process with a settled land claim or a non-settled land claim?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím sorry. I should have clarified. Not this June.
Ms. Duncan: So there will be a June ó some year, to be filled in later ó land sale in southeast Yukon? Will the process be under a settled land claim or non-settled land claim, and could the minister tell us which June?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As we debate Junes ó I canít predict what sheís asking. What weíre doing is we are proceeding with our dispositions in an orderly fashion. We have a process, as she says, of 150 days. We have the five steps and we are working with the land sale, Disposition No. 4. We will not proceed to No. 5 until such a time as No. 4 is completed.
Ms. Duncan: So, just to be clear, what the minister has committed to is that the Oil and Gas Act land process for southeast Yukon will be the settled land claim process, which is the five-step process, and, further, that it will only take place after this other disposition. Is that what the minister is confirming?
Hon. Mr. Lang: At the moment, we are doing Disposition No. 4. I am not going to predict whether there is going to be a land claim in southeast Yukon. I canít predict that.
Our policies on dispositions will hopefully be the same in southeast Yukon as they are in other areas of the Yukon. Thatís why we put YOGA together ó so that it is constant throughout the Yukon. We will be consulting with the stakeholders in southeast Yukon. I imagine that once we put this disposition together ó whether itís going to be settled land or non-settled land is a question that will be answered down the road.
So, to answer that question would be wrong on my part. I think that what we have to do is concentrate on finalizing this Disposition No. 4 and getting on with those steps so we can build up our inventory for the oil and gas industry.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the minister has a responsibility in this area. The Oil and Gas Act says this is how you, the government, proceed in a settled land claim. This is how the government is to proceed with a non-settled land claim. There is the option.
It was previous government policy not to proceed with a land sale until such time as a land claims settlement had been reached. That was the previous policy. That was also the previous policy as a result of advice from the Kaska leadership.
What the Premier has committed to is a land sale in June. So my question for the minister: is the minister proceeding on the southeast with or without a land claims settlement? Is a land sale proceeding in southeast Yukon regardless of what happens at the land claims negotiations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, we are proceeding with Disposition No. 4 in the Whitehorse trough in north Yukon. Weíre working with the stakeholders in that area to get the five-step program finalized so we can proceed. There have to be some decisions made at the end of May. As far as the southeast Yukon is concerned, I imagine when we get into the fifth disposition, there will be consultation with the stakeholders, which are the Kaska First Nation and the people in southeast Yukon, and we will certainly follow the five-step program. As far as predicting when that will happen, thereís no date on whether weíll start the fifth disposition this year or next year, so weíre hopefully going to get through our Disposition No. 4, which will be at the end of May ó in a perfect world. As far as the Disposition No. 5, which is southeast Yukon, it hasnít been started at this point. I canít predict when it will be started and, at this point of the game, we would have the five-step system in place, when that comes to reality.
As far as saying weíre going to open up oil and gas in southeast Yukon this June, I think that that would be a step in the wrong direction. We have a process and I think it works, and weíll work toward making sure it works in southeast Yukon as well as it worked in the rest of the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: So, the process worked as well as it did in the rest of the Yukon, in part, because there was a settled land claim. There was a very clear government-to-government relationship and itís spelled out.
Now that the minister has received his instructions from the front row, perhaps he can tell me. He says he canít predict when but southeast Yukon is Disposition No. 5. Will Disposition No. 5 proceed regardless of whether there is a land claims settlement or not? It can, under the legislation. Iím asking the minister responsible ó the Premier was giving the minister advice ó Iíd like to know from the minister, will he proceed with Disposition No. 5 whether thereís a land claims settlement or not?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Disposition No. 5 is just a number. We havenít committed to Disposition No. 5 being southeast Yukon. Thatís just a conceptual thing on our board. As far as the process, we will certainly do the disposition in a timely fashion when it comes, but weíre not going to commit to dates and weíre not going to commit to the process at the moment. Weíre working with Disposition No. 4 and the oil and gas department has their hands full to finalize that in a timely fashion. As far as me standing up in this House saying that Disposition No. 5 is going to proceed and itís going to be southeast Yukon, that can change. Disposition No. 5 could encompass northern Yukon.
So, we havenít made any firm commitments on southeast Yukon at all. Itís on the map and itís on the radar screen because it is part of the Yukon, understanding that there are ongoing First Nation land claims and there are issues that affect all Yukoners down there.
As far as cornering our department on setting dates, thatís not realistic. We will have a disposition in southeast Yukon in a timely fashion when we can.
And we will hopefully work with the process in place because it is a successful process, and we will do it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím asking the minister to commit to a policy of his department. Is it the ministerís view that land disposition ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Well, I can wait and ask the Premier if he wants to answer these questions, but itís the ministerís departmentís responsibility.
Government makes a decision of policy, and itís within this ministerís bailiwick. Is it the ministerís policy to proceed on a land disposition in advance of a land claim settlement? Is it the ministerís policy? Itís a very straightforward question. Iíve heard the speech about the need for development, and I encourage development. Iím asking a very straightforward question. Will the minister proceed on a land sale in advance of a land claim settlement? Yes or no? He has the ability to do it under the law. Will he or wonít he?
Hon. Mr. Lang: On the issue of southeast Yukon, we have no plans on doing a disposition in southeast Yukon today. Itís a resource-rich area. The Kaska First Nation has shown some interest. We at this point have no plans to issue a disposition in southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, Iíll be interested to read the Blues.
The governmentís plans for agriculture, which is also within this ministerís portfolio ó what are the plans for support for the agricultural industry? What are the ministerís plans for support for the agricultural industry, which is also within this ministerís portfolio?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We certainly are in support of the agricultural industry in the Yukon. We have been dealing with the federal government, and we have an agricultural policy framework, of which our share will be over $300,000. Hopefully, that will be in place by this fall. So, weíre actively working with the agricultural sector of the Yukon to make some positive moves in getting a bank of land available, so the land is out there and ready for developers, such as small-time farmers who need access to land.
Weíre working with the farmers in the game farming industry to make that more viable. So, weíre actively working with the industry to get the policies put together for every aspect of agriculture. But the federal government ó the agricultural policy framework was very positive, with the ó I think ó $335,000 we received. So, that was a positive thing that came from the national level.
So, to answer your question, we certainly are working with agriculture to make a very small industry more successful.
Ms. Duncan: The minister mentioned the game farm. Is the purchase of the game farm in his portfolio or the Minister of the Environmentís portfolio, and when are we purchasing it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In actual fact, I was amiss when I talked about the game farm. The game farm is not in my department, in agriculture. Itís in Environment, so if you have any questions about the game farm, please direct them to the minister who has that jurisdiction.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll be happy to do that and to re-read the Member for Klondikeís motion into the record about purchasing, and his public statements about how the government should buy it.
With respect to land, the minister talked about a bank of land. Is land on the table with the Kaska abeyance agreement, and is the minister involved, as he has control over lands, energy, mines and resources, in the abeyance agreement discussions, and is land part of those discussions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No, Iím not involved in that. So, in answering the question, the easiest answer would be no.
Ms. Duncan: We aim to make life easy here.
On the funding for the Kaska economic table, could he just outline in greater detail ó and he may have done this in his opening comments and I didnít catch it. But the funding for the Kaska economic table, precisely whatís it being used for ó if he could just outline that in his opening remarks?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The economic table was set up many years ago. Most of the money that is flowing to it now is directed at training and other aspects of the oil and gas agenda that theyíre working on.
Ms. Duncan: Also with respect to land, before we get into the forestry area, is there any current work being done with respect to the infamous or famous Argus property?
Hon. Mr. Lang: No.
Chair: Order please. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Weíll continue on with the general debate on Energy, Mines and Resources.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll try to wrap it up with just a few more questions in general debate. Iíd just like to have the minister clear the record with respect to a land disposition in southeast Yukon. In the Yukon News, on December 9, the Premier says: "Even in the absence of a land claim in southeast Yukon, there are ways to be able to achieve resource development. There is a willingness to proceed on the matter with both sides. In an area without a land claim, initiatives like this are even more important."
These are some quotes from the Premier on December 9. He says, "Previous governments have stuck to the land claims box. Weíve stepped out of it."
In a speech to industry, in December, in Calgary, in reference to development in southeast Yukon, he says: "Iím urging the oil and gas industry to keep in touch with us because weíre committed to have an agreement with the Kaska Nation in less than six months." Well, "less than six months" would be any day now ó May or June. Definitively, is it the position of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that there will be a land sale in southeast Yukon, with or without a land claim agreement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I guess, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I can say to you that the oil and gas industry will come to southeast Yukon when itís an appropriate time. The appropriate time isnít today. So for me to answer that question, there are no plans as of today to have a land sale in southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Prior to a land claim agreement.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, to the third party, the land sales will come at an appropriate time.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, whatís the appropriate time? Itís a straightforward question. The Premier is on record on this. Iím asking the minister: does the government intend to proceed with the land sale in southeast Yukon prior to the settlement of a land claim? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This government will proceed with a land sale in southeast Yukon at an appropriate time. Southeast Yukon is part of the Yukon. The Yukon has a stake in southeast Yukon and we will, at the appropriate time, have a land sale in southeast Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Now that the minister has had a break and received his instructions, I guess, heís not going to answer the question. Itís a fundamental question of government policy for which he has a responsibility to stand on this floor in this public arena and answer. His Premier has made public commitments about this. He is the minister responsible. Iíll give him one last opportunity. Does the minister intend to proceed with a sale in southeast Yukon prior to a land claim agreement?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I will repeat myself. Energy, Mines and Resources department, of which I am the minister, will make those decisions at an appropriate time. We are not having a land sale in southeast Yukon as of today. For me to answer whatís going to happen in the future ó those decisions will be made at the appropriate time.
Ms. Duncan: By not answering that question, the minister is saying yes, they do intend to proceed. By his non-answers, he has clearly indicated government policy, and thatís a change in government policy.
Iím going to ask the next question with respect to the economic table of this minister, because I donít want his Premier to say, "You should have asked that in Energy, Mines and Resources, which has the responsibility for the economic round table."
It has to do with the economic round table. In the same December 9 article in the Yukon News, the Premier, the Member for Watson Lake, noted that industry regularly enters into economic agreements with First Nations, and it was time government did the same. The Kaska has been instructed to provide the Yukon government with a budget outlining anticipated costs for setting up the economic table.
The economic round table was set up long before the Member for Watson Lake was the Premier.
The Premier said the government would help cover some of the cost but wouldnít say how much. In this article, are the costs the Premier is referring to being covered under the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources or are they being covered somewhere else?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the question is quoting from the Yukon News and it has a lot to do with the Premier. I think that probably, if you were to ask the question of the Premier when you have an opportunity, he could answer those questions because, in fact, theyíre quotes from the Yukon News of what he said at different meetings. So, Mr. Chair, Iím not prepared to answer those questions and I think those questions would be best answered by the Premier of the day.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, given that I have referenced the article, Iíll be happy to send a copy over to the minister so that he has it at his ready reference. When we get to Executive Council Office then, I will direct the question to the Premier and I would trust, in this open and accountable government, that the Premier wonít stand up and say I should have asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó because I have asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources.
My final question is with respect to the forestry and forestry development. Does the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources support the Tough report recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, certainly we have addressed a lot of the commitments at different organizations ó and different reports have directed toward our forest industry. Certainly, there are some very positive things in the Tough report, and we certainly are taking them under advisement and working with them.
So, in answering the question, we are working with some of the Tough report.
Ms. Duncan: The Government of Yukon will, presumably then, have taken a position on what the sustainable timber harvest is for southeast Yukon. The Tough report had 128,000 cubic metres ó that was the Tough report recommendation.
What is the ministerís position on sustainable timber harvest for southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That figure was not a sustainable figure. That was a negotiated figure until we could come down with more concrete figures. That 128,000 figure was just that. It was an interim figure so that we could get the Tough report finalized and work with a more realistic figure.
Ms. Duncan: What is the ministerís position on what is a sustainable timber harvest in southeast Yukon then? He made reference earlier to pounds of studies ó or kilograms ó so presumably he has been briefed on them. What is his position as minister responsible for forestry?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I have to answer that by saying that we have to advance the program and get a forestry plan together so we can come up with a realistic figure.
Again, sometimes these figures that the members opposite pull out of the air donít have much to do with reality, and the fact is that this side of the House has to come up with real figures. So we have an obligation and we put in place a process to come up with a figure. We are working with the council in southeast Yukon to come up with those figures, and hopefully this, in a very short period of time, will have a real figure.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Mr. Chair, let me just walk the minister back through the questions. The first question was: does the minister support the Tough report? He answered yes. Next question: the figure came right out of the Tough report, so the minister said, "Well, no, that wasnít what the Tough report meant. That was just the opening point." So, I asked the minister, "Well, then whatís your figure?" And he comes back with, "Well, we canít pull things out of the air." It was a series of questions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: If the member would let me finish my question and ask it before the Premier leaps up to answer it ó my next question was not to argue with the minister with respect to pulling figures out of a report or, as he has suggested, manufacturing them, which was not the case. It was right out of the Tough report.
My next question, and I would hope the minister would have a direct answer for it, is: when might we expect to see the forestry legislation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre looking, optimistically, at 18 months to two years, so those are the figures.
Iíd like to correct the member opposite in her statement. I certainly said that we agreed with some parts of the Tough report. I didnít say we agreed with all of the Tough report.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of questions in this department, and they are following up questions asked by the leader of the third party with respect to a call for disposition for oil and gas. I would like some clarification as to when this will take place, both in the northern part of Yukon and the Whitehorse Trough.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Understanding the five steps that we go through for these dispositions, we are in the process of doing it. Weíre working with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation for the Whitehorse Trough disposition, and weíre working with them. We have a worker working with the First Nation to facilitate the First Nation on their capacity in this issue.
The decision on the Whitehorse Trough is certainly there and will be made by the end of May. Again, weíre working with the northern First Nations for the northern sections. So we are working diligently with the First Nation on the traditional lands, and we will be coming up with some decisions on those dispositions at the end of May, but certainly in partnership with the First Nations whose traditional land we are looking at. So there is a ways to go, and we are working on it.
Mr. Fairclough: Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation does not need to be facilitated, I donít believe. I believe theyíre quite active. I would ask for the two areas ó theyíre both in May, north Yukon and Whitehorse Trough. Is that correct? Okay, the minister said yes.
I would like to ask the minister whether or not they would proceed whether or not the First Nation is in agreement to have some of their settlement lands included. Would they proceed with or without the First Nation on having settlement lands as part of the disposition?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, we are working actively with the First Nations on this disposition. We are certainly open to any input we can get from the First Nations, and the decisions we make, as far as dispositions are concerned, involve all stakeholders. Regarding a disposition that would encompass part of a First Nation, such as land, it is not part of the disposition, understanding that YOGA is a common regime and has been agreed to by the First Nations and the Yukon government. All the First Nations have agreed to a process, but they have the option of working with their A land independently of that, so those are issues that have to be addressed by each First Nation. At this moment, we in oil and gas are not working with A lands of any First Nations. A and B lands are excluded from any of these dispositions.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister needs to do his homework, then, because that is not the case. I know there are active discussions with Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation to include part of their settlement lands for sales disposition. Iím quite surprised at the answer from the member opposite and totally surprised about the lack of consultation that appears to be taking place, and the move that government is doing without the First Nation. Iíll leave that for another time.
I would like to ask a question with regard to agriculture. The minister said there are banks of land available for those who would like to develop it. Is this a new policy developed under the Yukon Party, and can the minister also lay out what consultation took place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In the last statement on Disposition No. 4, the First Nations have the option to work with these dispositions and with their traditional land ó their A land. At this point, that option hasnít been taken up, as far as I know. As far as what weíre doing, weíre working with the First Nations under YOGA and weíre proceeding through to finalize Disposition No. 4, and the decision to finalize that or to put it out to bid will be made by all the stakeholders.
As far as the second question is concerned, as far as land in a bank, this is an ongoing issue that has been going on. Itís not a Yukon Party issue. Itís a territorial government program that we will hopefully activate. Itís not something where we have a bunch of land out there at the moment. We are looking at accessible and useable agricultural land and hopefully, in that process, in the next couple of years, we will have this resource. In other words, it will be a resource that the Yukon people can utilize on an agricultural basis.
So, as far as banks of land are concerned ó maybe I used the wrong word ó there isnít a bank of land out there. The agriculture branch is working positively with the industry and also with all Yukoners to rectify the problems weíve had in the past with access to agricultural land, which has been limited. We are working with all the stakeholders, and once we put it together, weíll hopefully have access to agricultural land throughout the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: There are a lot of questions that need to be asked in that section. Iíll leave it at that for now. It appears that the Yukon Party is pushing harder than normal to open up lands available to the public. I would like to ask the minister this, and it has to do with game farming. I realize itís in a different department, but there are active discussions to have game farming in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. When is this going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the first question about our party is more ó in other words, weíre pushing this agricultural department harder, I guess, than other governments did. We are working very positively with the industry to get an expansion of the agricultural industry in the Yukon, and that means land availability.
I think most governments would look at it as an economic engine for the whole Yukon, and I think we are looking at it in a positive fashion. As far as game farming is concerned, you have to talk to the Minister of Environment, because that is his portfolio.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít the question I asked. There is active discussion that is taking place now to move it into the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. When is that going to take place? The members opposite have said in the past that it makes sense to move it over. We just want to know. We have questions about it. Will it take place soon? Are we going to get the same old answer about "as soon as possible"? What is the timeline on this?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Iím the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and agriculture is under that. Iím not in a position to take a part of Environmentís department and pull it over to agriculture. I say that that question should be left with the Minister of Environment.
Mr. Fairclough: I could leave that with the Minister of Environment, Mr. Chair, but the minister should know what his own department is doing. He needs to be briefed, and so far we havenít had any indication that the minister has been briefed at all on this.
Iíd like to ask a mining question, then, in regard to BYG and the cleanup. Whatís the ministerís involvement with BYG?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working actively with the BYG situation. As we all understand, itís a Type II site. Itís one of the more delicate sites. We have had meetings with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and other concerned people to start on reclaiming this mine sooner than later. The issue is an ongoing thing in the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources. We are very concerned about the Type II. It is one of the sites that we have very high on our list of reclaiming areas. Thatís why weíre actively working with the First Nation and industry to see what we can do to correct the problems that exist out at BYG. So we are working on it.
Mr. Fairclough: Is the minister taking a lead role on this?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The government is certainly taking a lead role on this, along with the First Nations and other parties to rectify the problems that have been created by the mining industry in the BYG area. So certainly, I hope weíre all taking a lead on this, and we are working to rectify the problem.
Mr. Fairclough: Is BYG in a similar position as Faro and Elsa, and so on? Are they on a separate list, and does the responsibility fall under the federal government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Through devolution, we have Type II ó I think the number is seven, with BYG being one of them. BYG is a little easier to deal with because of its legalities. It is in limbo at the moment; itís not in the courts, so we can be more aggressive on it. The federal government has made a commitment that they will cover all Type II sites. We, as the management ó the territorial government will be the manager of that cleanup, so we are working with the First Nations and the concerned industry out there to rectify it. Of course the federal government will be paying us to rectify the problem.
Mr. Fairclough: The federal government will be paying the Yukon government to reclaim this mine, not the First Nation? The First Nation doesnít play a huge role as a senior government?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, the First Nation will be playing a very big role in reclaiming this mine. The federal government has made a commitment to the territorial government that these Type II sites are a responsibility of their government. They were created under their watch. The money will come from the federal government. First Nations will be a part of the decision making on how we are going to proceed, and they will be a big part of this process. So certainly the First Nation is part of this group that is going to solve this problem.
Chair: Are there any further questions on general debate?
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps I could just ask one before we proceed into the lines.
In the transfers, there is no enhanced funding for the Klondike Placer Miners Association. We were the first government to fund them as an entity, like the Yukon Chamber of Mines, and I have repeatedly asked the minister to examine this. He indicated earlier that there was more money going to the Klondike Placer Miners Association but itís not reflected in the budget. Is this money that would be coming forward in a supplementary or, other than moral support, how is the minister financially assisting the KPMA?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can get back to the member opposite and give her a breakdown of exactly how weíre funding the KPMA.
Ms. Duncan: I see how the funding is in the budget book. Iím looking for funding that has occurred since this was put together, over and above this. So Iím looking for the minister to tell me that there has been additional funding, over and above whatís outlined in the budget book, to the KPMA.
Has that occurred, and if not, why not?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering that question, again I will get back to her, understanding that, after December 16, there was a lot of need for funding and we, as a government, supported that. I will get back to her in letter form, breaking down how the money came, where it came from, and answering those questions in that way.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Weíll then proceed line by line. Page reference is 8-6.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Services
On Deputy Ministerís Office
Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $265,000 agreed to
On Human Resources
Ms. Duncan: There has been a significant increase in this line item. Is this the result of devolution, or does the minister have another explanation?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, Mr. Chair, it is devolution.
Ms. Duncan: So, in other words, once more in this budget document there is a reflection of an increased cost because of devolution, but there has been no reflection of an increased revenue as a result of devolution.
Hon. Mr. Lang: It is the cost of doing business ó devolution and the manpower cost ó and weíll have to glean that from the resources.
Human Resources in the amount of $278,000 agreed to
On Finance and Administration
Finance and Administration in the amount of $599,000 agreed to
Communications in the amount of $132,000 agreed to
Total Corporate Services in the amount of $1,274,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
On Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office
Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $299,000 agreed to
On Energy Policy and Coordination
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there is a significant reduction between this line and the next line. Is that simply a transfer of resources, or could the minister outline a line explanation in his speaking notes?
Hon. Mr. Lang: To be very clear on this, Iíll get back to the member on that momentarily, to see where those transfers went.
Mr. McRobb: What is this governmentís energy policy? Is it something this minister can table for us?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working on an energy strategy to encompass everything, so we are working on that.
Mr. McRobb: The Yukon Party promised to expand a territory-wide electrical grid. Can the minister provide to us timelines for doing so and identify which parts of the project would be first?
Hon. Mr. Lang: That is a conceptual plan, and weíll certainly keep the member updated when those plans come forward.
Chair: Is there any further debate on the energy policy and coordination line?
Ms. Duncan: The line explanation from the minister can just come by letter. Thatís fine.
Energy Policy and Coordination in the amount of $217,000 agreed to
On Integrated Resources
Integrated Resources in the amount of $526,000 agreed to
Total Policy and Planning in the amount of $1,042,000 agreed to
On Sustainable Resources
Lands in the amount of $544,000 agreed to
Agriculture in the amount of $979,000 agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Thatís a significant reduction ó 65 percent in the funding allotted for forestry. With legislation 18 months away and significant work to be undertaken by the department in this area, why is this program showing such a significant reduction?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We have a large transfer coming from the federal government due to devolution.
Ms. Duncan: So this is a case where we are not reflecting the costs in advance. We are waiting until the transfer comes?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In the process, last year we had a bump up because of getting ready for devolution. Now, with being in devolution this year, the budget has gone down.
Ms. Duncan: So really, the decrease, then, is a reflection of last yearís enhanced resources. So really, resources havenít gone down; itís just a reflection of last year when they were bumped up. So itís not waiting for devolution then.
Can the minister, when he has an opportunity, just provide me with a letter updating me and other members of the opposition on the Yukon Partyís position with respect to the softwood lumber dispute? It has really fallen off the pages of the newspaper with the war in Iraq, but itís still an ongoing issue. Perhaps if there has been a position taken by the Yukon Party, they could provide it by letter.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can supply the member opposite a letter that we sent to the minister in Ottawa in support of the softwood dispute from the Canadian point of view.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Forestry in the amount of $95,000 agreed to
Total Sustainable Resources in the amount of $1,618,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources
On Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office
Assistant Deputy Ministerís Office in the amount of $216,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
Chair: The oil and gas development and pipeline clears line.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Chair: Members did not indicate they were making a question.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, Iíd suggest you revisit past practice, and the Chair usually clears line items when the opposition parties clear an item. Itís quite frequent for the government members over there, with very little else to do, to commonly call out "clear." Iíd suggest you not be so hasty in clearing a line item. Thatís our job.
On the oil and gas development and pipeline line, can the minister give us an update on why thereís a 38-percent decrease?
Hon. Mr. Lang: There has been a decrease because weíre using our money more wisely and more conservatively to work on oil and gas. The last government had a lot of money placed in areas where it was used for reasons other than oil and gas. We are concentrating on oil and gas and we budgeted accordingly.
Ms. Duncan: First of all, for the minister to suggest that another government used money for purposes other than those for which it was voted is incorrect and would be casting aspersions. So Iím sure he wants to withdraw that.
Second, the minister said, earlier in general debate, that they donít have a lobbyist in Washington with the meter running but there are resources available when the Yukon government needs them, and I would like to review the Blues ó I donít have them in front of me right now. Exactly what did he mean by that? Have we kept a Washington lobbyist on retainer at all? Do we have anyone on retainer in promotion of the Alaska Highway pipeline and Yukonís oil and gas resources?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, we do not have a retainer in Washington, D.C. In my answer, I never meant to insinuate that. I meant to say that if we need somebody in Washington, we would do the prudent thing and hire him and solve our problems on a problem-by-problem basis. But we do not have anybody in Washington, D.C. at the moment on the payroll of the Yukon government.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I would just like to go on the record and suggest they have someone, as opposed to looking for somebody once the problem arises. It would be prudent and wise to have an individual available as opposed to starting to look for someone after the fact.
The minister can provide me in written form as well, post the session, exactly what the department is doing with respect to pipeline preparedness, as well as the oil and gas regulatory environment, because Iím still waiting for information on the royalty regulations.
Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline in the amount of $236,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Management
Oil and Gas Management in the amount of $1,695,000 agreed to
On Minerals Development
Mr. Fairclough: I was asking questions about BYG, and this is about mineral development. Iím not exactly sure where it would come up again, but the member opposite said they are taking a lead role in this reclamation. Is it an agreement that fell out of the Umbrella Final Agreement or final agreements? It is an agreement between the federal and territorial governments that Yukon take a lead role. Is that the case? And can the minister also tell us how chapter 22 of the final agreement is going to play in these decisions?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Through devolution, chapter 22 was part of that devolution agreement. As far as a lead role, I think that what the territorial government did through devolution is to work with the federal government to make sure that they kept the responsibility for Type II mines. So, as far as being a lead on it, we will certainly be working with the federal government to make sure they cover all the costs.
In turn, we will be working with the First Nations in any traditional land where there is a Type II site. So, through devolution, most of the questions have been answered about our responsibility and also our responsibility in working with the First Nations. We will be working both with the First Nations and in conjunction with First Nations to make sure that the federal government lives up to its obligation on Type II mines.
So, in fact, the First Nations and the territorial government will be the lead on this to make sure that the federal government meets its commitments through the devolution agreement on Type II mines.
Mr. Fairclough: I donít believe that is clear to the First Nations. Chapter 22 is clear and that agreement takes precedence over others.
I would like to ask the minister this: what is going to happen with the assets of BYG? What is on the ground there now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The assets of the mine as it sits today, I think ó and I will check into this ó I am led to believe that they are abandoned.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís not the case at this point in time. If it is, can the minister please provide that information to us on this side of the House.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will get back to the member opposite to clarify that point on the status of the assets. Of course, you are looking at claims and also assets on the ground. So, I will get back, in the form of a letter, to clarify that to make sure that what I said, in fact, will clear the air on that issue.
Minerals Development in the amount of $474,000 agreed to
Total Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources in the amount of $2,621,000 agreed to
On Recoveries and Revenue
Recoveries and Revenue cleared
On Transfer Payments
Ms. Duncan: Just on the transfer payments, there is $191,000 that was transferred in 2002-03 under oil and gas mineral resources and is not being transferred this year, so which organizations arenít being funded?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Could I have the member repeat the question, please?
Ms. Duncan: On page 8-12 of the budget, in the last line, there is $191,000 under prior yearsí contributions that is not being made this year. My expectation is that itís probably a specific group or something that wasnít funded this year in this budget. Iím just asking which ones they are.
Hon. Mr. Lang: The ones under transfer payments that I show in my breakdown are: Yukon First Nations, $81,000; Kwanlin Dun First Nation, $50,000; various First Nations memorandums of understanding related to oil and gas meetings, $10,000. This is obviously work in progress, and these issues are behind us. I think whatís happening is that weíre approaching this question ó so weíre not in fact cutting programs or individuals or organizations. Thereís a lot of work that was done in the past that is finished, and so weíre proceeding.
Transfer payments cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $6,555,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
On Corporate Services
Chair: The page reference is 8-4.
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Ms. Duncan: Are these increased costs as a result of devolution?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Yes, some of those costs were for moving and consolidating lands and agriculture and for fixing up office space that we acquired in the devolution.
Ms. Duncan: So itís a cost of the devolution but we havenít recorded the $36-plus million in revenue for it yet, correct? The $36 million is under the Department of Finance; so what Iím saying is weíre accounting for costs but not revenue yet.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Weíre talking about the in-house moving of agriculture branch to the Elijah Smith Building. Those are where the costs were incurred. So, yes, this is just a cost of devolution, of consolidating the departments.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, where is lands going to be consolidated now? I understand Community Services has responsibility for development, particularly with communities, but the minister has control over management. So, are the lands branch people being consolidated in one area and, if so, where is it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Lands is on the third floor of the Elijah Smith Building, so they are consolidated under one roof.
Ms. Duncan: And the agriculture branch is consolidated in the Elijah Smith Building as well? Where are the other branches of the department?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís part of the cost. Yes, agriculture and lands go hand in hand, so they are together on the third floor of the Elijah Smith Building.
Ms. Duncan: Weíre in the capital costs of the department, so where are the other branches located? The deputy ministerís in the Elijah Smith Building. Agriculture and lands ó whereís forestry, whereís oil and gas? Where are the branches of the department physically located?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Oil and gas is where they have always been, the Mainsteele Building. Forestry is up the hill. Oil and gas is in the Shopperís building. Mining is in the ó whatís that building called? The building across from the Dairy Queen is mining.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
Total Corporate Services in the amount of $90,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
On Integrated Resources
On Resource Infrastructure Development
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, this presumably is part of the report that was discussed in Question Period today as being funded under this line item. Would the minister please provide a written letter with a copy of the report ó the detailed report that he discussed at length with the media ó and if he would send that over and also an outline in his response as to what the future intentions are and what the next steps are with the report?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iím sorry, I didnít ó could you repeat that, please?
Ms. Duncan: What Iím asking about is ó presumably this line item is where the minister paid for the report that was just produced about resource development and access roads and so on. It was presumably paid for in this line item. I see the official shaking his head, so perhaps this isnít where it was paid for.
But in any event, can the minister provide a copy and also a letter outlining his intentions with respect to that report.
Hon. Mr. Lang: That money ó the $63,000 ó came out of the mining envelope.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, so what are they doing with this money then?
Hon. Mr. Lang: We are working with various infrastructure development projects and related costs such as railways, power projects and legislation. It also includes resource development support projects related to mineral, forestry, oil and gas.
Ms. Duncan: So is this capital line item for contract reports or is it for actual contributions by the government to access roads and development? What is the money actually being spent on and how is it being spent?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Understanding again that Energy, Mines and Resources is the manager of the resources, so this money will be spent on studies and projects in that sense, so we are managing the resource. This money will be looking at studies in all the departments.
Ms. Duncan: So these are actual studies. What the minister is saying is ó for example, previous governments made contributions to the road into the North American Tungsten property. The costs of that road were covered underneath Highways and Public Works. What the minister is saying is that this is just the studies.
Could he outline for me, either in his response or in a letter, exactly what the studies are, and are they being contracted out?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In other words, mixing up roads is the Minister of Highwaysí portfolio. So what this money is for is to manage the projects and studies we would do as a management group ó Energy, Mines and Resources ó to firm up and make the mining, forestry and other parts of the department more viable and run in a proper fashion.
Ms. Duncan: So theyíre going to spend $100,000 on studies around access roads and development of resources-type issues. Can the minister tell us a little more specifically: are they going to study access roads in the southeast? Are they going to study how well land dispositions work? Exactly what are they studying? Are the contracts to be publicly tendered or sole-sourced?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This is a management tool for the department. Itís an ongoing tool that we use when issues are brought forward in our departments and we have the flexibility of having some resources to do the studies. As far as predicting what studies they are, thatís not possible at the moment. As far as whether theyíll be contracted out, or whatever other issues, those will be addressed as we go through the year and manage the Energy, Mines and Resources department, hopefully in an efficient manner, so that we get maximum results from our studies for the concerned industries.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, what the minister just said is that weíve reserved $100,000 of capital money for studies we might need to undertake but we donít know what they are yet. Thatís what the minister has just said. Is that correct?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Managing a department is an ongoing thing, and thatís what our budget is. Itís a projection of whatís going to happen in our department. We have $100,000. We put the $100,000 in there because of past costs. Certainly we have some studies ongoing, so in answering the question, itís not just putting $100,000 ó pulling a figure out of the air. We are working with $100,000, which is sort of a rule of thumb of what weíre going to need. If we have any savings, it will go toward the bottom line of the Yukon. Hopefully we manage it prudently so that we can return some of the resources back to the Yukon people.
Chair: Is there any further debate?
Resource Infrastructure Development in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Policy and Planning in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Sustainable Resources
On Legal Surveys
Legal Surveys in the amount of $20,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Years Projects in the amount of nil cleared
On Agricultural Land Development
Mr. McRobb: This is one of the areas that we requested information on a long time ago, which still hasnít been provided. Can the minister indicate for us at what point in time we might expect the arrival of that material?
Hon. Mr. Lang: In answering the member opposite, his request will be answered in due time. We expect it very soon.
Ms. Duncan: Where is the anticipated agricultural land development and when might the agricultural land be available?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, Energy, Mines and Resources manages and this money will be spent in pinpointing areas where we see a future in agriculture. Itís a study. We would work with the lands branch to get the land out to the general public as soon as possible.
Ms. Duncan: Is the study being done in-house? This is a $100,000 study as to where we should develop agricultural land. Thatís what the minister just said. Is the study being done in-house or is it being done in cooperation with the Yukon Agricultural Association or is some other individual doing this study?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, the money we expend on this will depend on how we are going to manage it. The $100,000 is totally recoverable when we sell the lots, so itís an investment for the future.
Mr. McRobb: Iíve got a quick question to the minister. What is this governmentís intention in regard to the land to the west, I believe it is, of the Pilot Mountain subdivision on the Hot Springs Road?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Could the member be more specific than "to the west of Pilot Mountain"?
Mr. McRobb: I donít believe thereís a need to be more specific than that. I identified that itís on the Hot Springs Road. We know where Pilot Mountain is on that road. I believe this area is to the west of that subdivision. Itís currently undeveloped. Iím aware there is a Kwanlin Dun land claim in the area. What is this governmentís intention with respect to that land?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Mr. Chair, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I would have to say to the member opposite that I will update him on this Pilot Mountain land. I know there are some issues surrounding it, so I donít want to commit our government to anything we canít fulfill. I will drop a letter off to the member, clarifying the governmentís position.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís fine. Would the minister mind doing the same with respect to the Mendenhall agricultural reserve that has been discussed for a number of years now? Could the minister indicate where thatís at and what his intentions are for it?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly we can answer those questions for the member opposite.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to go back for a moment here. When I asked the minister about the $100,000, he said it was for studies as to what agricultural land was going to be developed. In the next breath, the minister said that the money is totally recoverable once the lots are developed and sold.
In other words then, one would assume from those comments that this $100,000 is for lot development because thatís what they intend to recover. So if itís for lot development, he said, "No, thatís the Minister of Community Servicesí responsibility." Well, it appears from the budget document to be this ministerís responsibility.
So if this $100,000 is for lot development, as he says it is ó because itís recoverable when the land is sold ó where is the lot development occurring?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thatís exactly why we need the $100,000. Weíre working within that budget to identify areas for development as agricultural parcels and, as the member opposite knows, part of that cost of development is reflected in the price of the agricultural land when itís sold.
Ms. Duncan: So, what the minister is saying is that when the budget passes the House, there will be $100,000 spent on finding somewhere to develop agricultural land and then, when those lots are developed, the $100,000 spent on the study will be tacked on to the development of the lot. The official is nodding, so fair enough.
Will the minister also, by letter, outline the Yukon Partyís position with respect to agricultural land and whether or not agricultural land should be subdivided for residential development? Would he outline that in a letter, please?
This has been an ongoing issue in the Yukon for some years now ó people buying agricultural land and then subdividing it, enabling them to sell a portion of it for someone else to build a house as opposed to farming it. Itís a very difficult issue, as are most issues involving land, so Iím just asking if he would outline the Yukon Party governmentís policy with respect to subdivision of agricultural land, in a letter, please.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Iíd like to correct the member opposite. I will send a letter to her on the Yukon governmentís policy, not the Yukon Party policy. We have a policy in place and we will give that to her in writing.
Ms. Duncan: I said Yukon Party government, as opposed to a Liberal governmentís policy ó the Yukon Party governmentís policy.
Mr. McRobb: Of course, Mr. Chair, any correspondence provided to one party, would the minister agree to provide to the other party? And furthermore, to the leader of the third partyís question with respect to their policy on development of agricultural land, could the minister ensure that includes any policy with respect to recreational type lots on that property as well?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Can I have him repeat that, the last of it anyway? I got sort of sidetracked.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Mr. Chair, it would be easier if the minister just agreed to provide the information. He can check Hansard later on. Thatís a typical practice in this Legislature. It consumes less time than to ask a member to repeat the whole question. There is nothing to hide from in this information weíre requesting. Itís pretty straightforward. Can the minister agree to get back to us with what we request?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly.
Agricultural Land Development in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Sustainable Resources in the amount of $120,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources
On Oil and Gas Development and Pipeline
On Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis
Mr. McRobb: I would like to ask the minister for a complete breakdown. Even though it is having the previous yearís cost on this line item, it still seems like quite a bit, considering this government is prepared to ride on the coattails of the Alaskans with respect to lobbying for the pipeline.
Again, can the minister undertake to come back with a detailed, written breakdown for this item?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, I would like to remind the members opposite that our obligation, our direction and our resources are going to be spent ó the majority of us ó to get ourselves ready for the pipeline internally in the Yukon.
We were elected to make some changes. One of the decisions was to direct our resources where we can best prepare Yukoners for the eventual pipeline that is going to come down the Alaska Highway.
Mr. McRobb: The minister failed to respond to my question, which was: would he provide a detailed breakdown on this line item, please?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I am sorry. On that issue, certainly we can give you a breakdown on the Alaska Highway pipeline analysis. We can do that.
Alaska Highway Pipeline Analysis in the amount of $550,000 agreed to
On Oil and Gas Management
On Oil and Gas Information Systems
Ms. Duncan: Is OGRIMS up and functioning? Is it fully functional now and is it fully resourced? The oil and gas resource information management system was a computer program being put in place. Is it fully resourced? Is it working? Is it functioning as well as the other geological maps are?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Itís an ongoing cost, and we are certainly working on it. It is up and running. Is it finished and up to date? I donít think it ever will be, but itís the kind of thing thatís a constant, and this money has to be spent on a yearly basis to keep it updated in changing times and situations.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate why the money has to be spent. A prospector can walk into the Yukon geological survey ó the white building we referred to earlier ó and get a map that is second to none in the country, in terms of the information it contains. Itís a computer-generated system ó thanks to the work of the people in the field.
Weíre looking to have the same type of resource information available for oil and gas. Thatís what this system is for. And I appreciate that itís ongoing and will always need resources to keep it up to date and so on. Can an individual company walk in now and get the same resources that they can in minerals? Are there enough resources in the department to ensure this information is provided?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The answer is yes. Of course, itís not as advanced, in terms of the mineral department, because the mineral department has been an ongoing thing for many years. We are aggressively upgrading our system so that oil and gas will be parallel with minerals, so that interested parties can get all the information they need to make the proper decision when they deal with our oil and gas branch.
Ms. Duncan: We saw an increase of our estimates of Yukonís tcf of gas, and the northern Yukon resources were substantially upgraded out of Energy, Mines and Resources. Is this information complete now for the Yukon? I think the minister said it was, by and large. What are our estimated gas reserves now?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The northern Yukon situation with more sophisticated studies and processes has doubled our potential for gas in north Yukon. To give exact figures, I would have to get back to her in a letter stating exactly what our potential is in the whole Yukon. There are many figures out there and the good news is that the north Yukon went from approximately $6 million to $13 million to $15 million. There is a massive improvement in north Yukon, which makes it very viable if the Mackenzie Valley pipeline goes ahead.
That was good news, but I will have to get back to the member on the figures for the Whitehorse Trough. I can do the rest of north Yukon and will get back to her.
Oil and Gas Information Systems in the amount of $160,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessments ó Oil and Gas
Resource Assessments ó Oil and Gas in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Minerals Development
On Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP)
Yukon Mining Incentives Program (YMIP) in the amount of $850,000 agreed to
On Geological Surveys
Geological Surveys in the amount of $835,000 agreed to
On Resource Assessments ó Minerals
Resource Assessments ó Minerals in the amount of $500,000 agreed to
On Mining Environment Research Group (MERG)
Mining Environment Research Group (MERG) in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
On Prior Yearsí Projects
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, there was $280,000 last year. What are we not doing this year? And the minister can get back to me in a written letter if he would prefer.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I will do exactly that. I will get back to you on those figures.
Prior Yearsí Projects in the amount of nil cleared
Total Oil and Gas and Mineral Resources in the amount of $3,020,000 agreed to
On Transfer Payments
Transfer Payments cleared
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources in the amount of $3,330,000 agreed to
Department of Energy, Mines and Resources agreed to
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress on Bill 4 ó pardon me. Apparently, my colleagues wish to continue with debate.
Chair: Weíll continue on with Vote 52, Environment.
Department of Environment
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I am pleased today to present the budget for the Department of Environment, both operation and maintenance as well as capital.
In the time that Iíve had the pleasure of serving as minister responsible for the environment, Iíve come to learn that the Department of Environment employees are committed to ensure that the natural environment of the Yukon is managed and protected in a sustainable and balanced manner for the benefit of all Yukoners.
We see our goals as maintaining and enhancing the quality of the Yukonís environment for the present and future generations. They look to manage the natural environment in a manner that achieves a balance with other resource-based sectors and support activities that provide economic benefits to the Yukon while ensuring the sustainable use of that resource.
The overall objective of the Department of Environment is to ensure that the renewable resources and the environment of the Yukon are managed and used in accordance with government policy. This is achieved by maintaining and enhancing the quality of the Yukonís environment for present and future generations, through community-based management, conservation of resources and protection and maintenance of biodiversity; ensuring that all Yukon people have the opportunity to be involved in the development and review of departmental programs, policies, legislation and regulations, through open and effective communication and processes; managing renewable resources in a manner that promotes integration with other sectors such as economic development, so that optimum benefits can be derived for all Yukon people; participating in national and international measures designed to enhance environmental quality and encourage sustainable use of renewable resources; integrating, implementing and managing additional authorities and responsibilities in water resource and environmental management, as they are devolved from the Government of Canada, that are consistent with the Government of Yukonís policy and constitutional objectives; and undertaking resource management activities that meet the Government of Yukonís obligations and respect the rights of aboriginal people and relationships established through land claims and self-government agreements.
The general management program within the department provides overall direction and management to ensure that the natural environment of the Yukon is managed and protected in a sustainable and balanced manner for the benefit of all Yukoners.
The corporate services program assists the department in managing its financial, human and information resources in an efficient, effective and economic manner by providing administrative support services to departmental personnel. It ensures the departmentís assets are acquired and maintained in a manner that adequately fulfills operational requirements. It promotes the effective use and integration of information through the appropriate use of technology to meet departmental and client needs. It coordinates and undertakes the analysis, development and evaluation of legislation, regulations and policy. It coordinates strategic environmental and resource management initiatives.
The departmentís land claim activities are coordinated to fulfill the Government of Yukonís obligations under the terms of the Inuvialuit final agreement. This program also coordinates and represents departmental interests to support the negotiation of First Nation final agreements, implementation plans, transboundary claims, and it oversees and coordinates the departmentís implementation activities to fulfill obligations of First Nation final agreements, self-government agreements and, again, transboundary claims.
The departmentís management of natural resources program provides sustainable fish and wildlife harvesting and viewing opportunities for cultural, recreational and economic purposes. It promotes and enhances participation in land-based activities ó hunting, fishing, trapping ó to sustain a unique Yukon lifestyle. It provides opportunities for economic benefits through the sustainable use of fish and wildlife resources. The program implements agreements and government accords through practical, cooperative approaches to achieve effective application in the field for all parties. It establishes and manages a system of protected areas, including wilderness preserves, territorial parks, ecological reserves, Canadian heritage rivers, campgrounds and recreation sites, and provides information and interpretive services for Yukon residents and visitors. It provides for the regional delivery of departmental services.
Management programs to maintain biological diversity and to ensure the conservation and sustainable use of fish, wildlife and habitat resources are also developed and implemented.
The monitoring and compliance program develops and provides management and protection of Yukonís environment through education, regulation, regulation development, monitoring, inspections, assessment and mitigation of resource developments, and pollution prevention programs. It also develops and enhances public awareness and understanding of and adherence to the laws pertaining to renewable resources and the environment through education, monitoring, inspection and enforcement. It provides service to the public at the community level in the areas of licensing and permitting, human-wildlife conflict and other department programs. Public education respecting Yukonís environment, resources and public safety are also provided.
I will now outline some of the overall changes that are brought forward in this coming yearís budget. The $15.2 million estimate for 2003-04 compares with the $15.6 million forecast for the 2002-03 fiscal year. We will see a decrease of $45,000 due to a one-time budget for the devolution coordinator in 2002-03 and a reduction in reserve classification due to renewal initiatives.
There is a $52,000 decrease due to reduced resources for systems administration and maintenance, a one-time salary and severance for the former director of finance and administration.
Under the management of natural resources, we will see a decrease of $28,000 due mainly to staff turnover.
Under monitoring and compliance, there is a $237,000 decrease mainly due to the transfer of the enforcement officer to the parks branch, and a decrease in one-time legal contracts, as well. We are estimating a $34,000 increase in recoveries because of a one-time recovery arrangement on projects such as the Porcupine caribou herd body conditioning, monitoring and miscellaneous partnerships. We estimate a $10,000 increase in hunting-trophy revenues but will see an offset in revenues due to a reduction in the demand for angling permits.
Under other allotments, we expect a $39,000 decrease due to reduced program support costs and changes in cost-sharing agreements. We will also see a $12,000 drop in transfer payments because of changes in one-time funding agreements.
The remaining $32,000 relates to increased contracts and other support costs that were not included in the original forecast.
Mr. Chair, the time being what it is, I move that we report progress.
Chair: Mr. Kenyon has moved that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Are you agreed?
Motion agreed to
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Jenkins that the Speaker do now resume the Chair.
Motion agreed to
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble: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 the Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 14, 2003:
Community Development Fund and FireSmart community tours: dates, locations, number of attendees and requests (Hassard)
W.Q. No. 1 dated March 4, 2003
Tough Report recommendations: information pertaining to financial and staffing commitments (Lang)
Oral, Hansard, p. 526
Yukon Placer Mining Arbitration: rules and information pertaining to (Lang)
Oral, Hansard, p. 284
Placer Mining Act: administration of water rights (Lang)
Oral, Hansard, p. 281-282
Leave Liability Fund: Actuarial Report (dated January 2002) prepared by Aon Consulting Inc. (Edzerza)
Oral, Hansard, p. 648
The following Documents were filed April 14, 2003:
Tombstone Park Interpretive Centre: letter from Hon. Jim Kenyon, Minister of Environment to Mr. Donald Johnson, Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders Council (dated April 14, 2003) (Kenyon)
Tombstone Park Interpretive Centre: letter from Mr. Donald Johnson on Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in Elders Council to Hon. Jim Kenyon, Minister of Environment (dated April 4, 2003) (Peter)