Tuesday, April 15, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I would ask all members to welcome to the House a former member of this Legislature, a long-time former member, now on one of those very capable pension plans, Doug Phillips.
Speaker: Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I have for tabling today the Yukon Economic Outlook 2003.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I have for tabling the statement of revenue expenditures for the health care insurance program for health services branch.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I also have for tabling a legislative return with respect to a question that the leader of the third party had raised with the Premier regarding Judicial Compensation Commission costs.
Speaker: Are there any further 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?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Economic Development department
Mr. Hardy:Now that the Premier has tabled the economic outlook for 2003, there are going to be a lot of questions that are going to be asked around it. If current world events are making economic forecasting more challenging, which has been mentioned before, and the lack of answers in this House is making it equally challenging to figure out where this government is taking us, we have to ask more pointed questions.
However, one of the big issues that we are going to be talking about over the next while is the Economic Development department and the Finance department.
Iíd like to start with a small question about government structure. Does the Premier plan to have the Finance department maintain responsibility for the annual economic outlook, or will that be moving back to Economic Development, as it was before the Liberal renewal project?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I thank the member opposite for that question. It certainly adds constructively to the debate. What we previously said on the floor of the Legislature and publicly is that our first step in the development of the new Department of Economic Development will be to put a deputy minister in place. We also realize there are a number of structures within government internally today that may be moved into this new Department of Economic Development, but weíre going to do this by way of consulting with our employees and other departments to diminish any disruption, and also with the stakeholders and First Nations, who have a great deal of input to provide in this matter.
The first step, Mr. Speaker, is to get the deputy minister in place. We are now in the final stages of that, and I believe we will be able to make a decision in the very near future on who that person will be.
Mr. Hardy: Perhaps the Premier could keep his Economic Development hat on a little longer because weíre trying to get a handle on what the department will have.
On March 17, the minister talked about ensuring that input from stakeholders, employees, chambers of commerce and others is part of the overall process defining the department. He also said, "It is important that a DM be there to start quarter-backing the structure of the department and advancing the ability to implement this department." Now, already today in the first response the Premier has indicated that as well ó that the first and foremost thing has to be to get the deputy minister in place.
What has the Premier done so far to get the stakeholder input he promised, and when will he make an announcement about how this $1 department will be structured?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Some of these steps have already been taken. The process for choosing a deputy minister for the Department of Economic Development includes stakeholder input. There is a committee, if you will, that is involved in going over the applicants who have provided their resumés and credentials in regard to this advertisement for the deputy minister position for the Department of Economic Development. So the input starts there, in even choosing who the deputy minister will be. I would just submit to the member opposite that, in this area of such high importance for the Yukon and its future, we should all exercise a little patience and really go over in great detail how to structure this department so that the returns are not only immediate but long term for the Yukon and its citizens.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, even without a deputy minister, it seems that somebody has already been doing quite a bit of quarterbacking in this department, contrary to what weíre hearing. It has its own Web site, updated as of April 1. That Web site includes a detailed list of services that the department provides. It outlines a number of programs that department will be administering. It even has a message from the minister already. All of this is obviously costing more than the $1 that the Finance minister put in the budget for the department.
In his role of Finance minister, will the Premier undertake to provide a more accurate estimate of the departmentís expenditures before the current budget debate concludes?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, we always want to provide as much detail and information as we can. Thatís being open and accountable. However, we donít want to provide guesses; we donít want to provide speculative information. We want to provide the realistic information.
Some of the work thatís being done is nothing unusual. The Department of Economic Development was in the government structure a very short time ago. Unfortunately, the former Liberal government chose to abolish it at a time when the Yukonís economy really needed a Department of Economic Development.
Weíre trying to turn that around. Thatís why weíre going to establish the Department of Economic Development and, I would submit to the leader of the official opposition, thatís why we have supplementary budgeting, and we can bring that forward in the fall. If we are able to expedite this process before the wrap-up of this session, Iím sure the members will find that we will provide that information to them, but time is short in this sitting and, realistically, we want to do the job correctly so that we structure a department that will deliver, as I said, the goods for Yukon and its citizens.
Question re: Economic Development department
Mr. Hardy:Well, going off on the last words the minister just stated, he said, "Öso that we structure a department that will deliverÖ". Thatís very interesting because, when you look on the Web page, it looks like the department has already been structured. Iíll give you an example. Services currently available ó and this is from the Web page ó from the Department of Economic Development include providing trade and investment services and promoting business opportunities, informing investment and export proponents about potential joint-venture partners, consultants, source of capital, industrial lands, just to name a couple of them. There are 10 bullets here already that seem to have a structure in place. It has a message from the minister, who is also the Premier here.
When somebody looks at the Web page and when they dial a number to get this kind of help, where does the phone ring? Does it ring in an empty office up in the caucus area? Does it ring on somebodyís cell phone, whoís driving around the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I find it interesting that the leader of the official opposition is employing some humour here, but the situation the Yukon is in economically is not humorous at all.
A number of these structures exist within the government right now, and weíve stated on the floor of the Legislature that, at least for the interim, I will be the minister responsible for Economic Development. But itís important that we have a deputy minister in place who will review all these things that exist today inside government in various departments to decide how we structure the new Department of Economic Development, where that will be, but anybody who wants to phone the Yukon government in regard to economic development in this territory knows that you start with the minister responsible, and that would be me.
Mr. Hardy: Again, weíre having confusing messages, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Economic Development, of this $1 department ó some people are calling it the "loonie" department, but I wonít go that far. But the minister has said that the first step is the hiring of the deputy minister. Yet, go on the Web page. The whole structure is laid out there. It identifies exactly whatís happening, what areas itís going to work in.
So, if somebody calls, what answer do they get when they ask for assistance in this area, and who is doing the work? Can this minister tell me, since theyíre already advertising whatís happening, what this department is responsible for? They have already gone past the deputy minister they havenít hired yet. Can the minister tell me who is doing the work, then?
Speaker:Before the hon. Premier answers, the leader of the official oppositionís making reference to the "loonie department" is not in order, and I would ask that you not do it.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, what the member opposite is pointing out is what exists today. The Department of Economic Development was dispersed throughout government. That means that many of these agencies and duties and initiatives are spread around the government, and thatís why we want to recreate the Department of Economic Development, for the reason that the member opposite has just stated on the floor of the Legislature.
Who do people go to? What are they supposed to do? Thereís a problem here, and it was all generated from renewal. Thatís unfortunate, because this is a time in the Yukon when we need a focused, structured, well-run Department of Economic Development. Thatís what weíre setting out to do. We know those structures are there, dispersed among government, but weíre going to put the deputy minister in place and then sit down with our employees, our departments, our agencies, our stakeholders and First Nation governments and structure and mandate the Department of Economic Development, as I said, to deliver the goods, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I wonít refer to the department in that manner again.
Itís very interesting, Mr. Speaker, that this minister across the way is talking about putting a deputy minister in place, then consulting with the stakeholders, and yet we already have before us the departments in place, already identified what theyíre going to do, and no stakeholders have been consulted as far as I know, no deputy minister has been hired as far as I know, unless thereís something happening behind the scenes that weíre not aware of yet. Maybe weíll find out.
However, my last question for the minister of this $1 department is: whereís the money coming from to pay for all these services? And Iíd also like to add on to that: if he doesnít mind, elaborate a little bit on whom he has actually consulted when they devised this department.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, I would point out to the member opposite that all these things exist within government right now. The resources are there. These agencies and initiatives have been distributed among other government departments. I also want to repeat myself, at the risk of being repetitive. We have a process in place that includes stakeholder input on choosing who the person will be in terms of the deputy minister for the new Department of Economic Development. So all is not as sinister as the member would have us believe. In fact, things are progressing very positively, and we will shortly have that deputy minister in place and begin the structuring of the new Economic Development department and, of course, giving it the required mandate so it can carry out its duties.
Speaker:I would ask the Premier to withdraw the term "sinister" ó it has an unparliamentary implication.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker, and say that ó
Speaker: Your time for your answer is over. Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Kaska First Nation land agreement
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Premier today on the deal that is being negotiated with the Kaska.
The Government of Yukon has hired a consultant for $200,000 to negotiate this agreement. In his speech in Calgary on December 3, 2002, the Premier said, "I am urging the oil and gas industry to stay in touch with us because we are committed to having an agreement with the Kaska Nation in less than six months." That was a quote from the speech. He also said in his very favourite newspaper that the agreement would be, quote, "outside the land claims box."
Now, under the Umbrella Final Agreement the amount of land set aside for Liard and Ross River is set. For the transboundary claims, like the Kaska, there is not land set aside. We are, as the Premier said, negotiating outside the land claims box.
Historically, the Yukon Party has been against giving the Kaska land. When the Member for Klondike was leader, the Yukon Party was absolutely against giving the Kaska land.
Is additional land for the Kaska First Nation on the table as part of the agreement that is currently being negotiated? I know that the Premier likes yes-or-no questions, so thatís one ó yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No. This negotiation is not a land claim negotiation. The member well knows that to conduct land claim negotiations the federal government must be at the table. When thereís litigation, there are no negotiations with the federal government. We committed to do everything we could to avert litigation. Thatís what weíre working on. Itís a work in progress, progressing positively, and weíre very pleased not only with the input of our negotiation team and the valued input of our contractor but also with the willingness expressed by the Kaska Nation to deal with these issues outside the land claims box. We are hopeful that we will have a situation where we can get back to the land claim table to deal with the issues the member has just brought to the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the record will clearly reflect that the Premier did not answer the question. I didnít ask about land claim agreements being negotiated. I asked if land was on the table in this agreement. Iím very surprised that the Premier is unwilling to directly answer such a simple question.
The Yukon taxpayer is paying $200,000 to negotiate this deal, and the Premier wonít say what the money is being spent on. If Yukon land is on the table, then the Premier should say so.
The Premier has said he is negotiating outside the land claims box. We may also be negotiating outside the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. The act states the Yukon government has the final say on oil and gas sales in the traditional territories of First Nations. First Nations are obviously involved; however, the Yukon government retains the final say in the law. This issue is part of the current negotiations with the Kaska.
Is the Government of Yukon preparing to give the Kaska a veto over oil and gas sales in southeast Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: What part of "no" does the leader of the third party not understand? The record will clearly reflect that my first response was no. Weíre not dealing with land claims issues.
Secondly, when it comes to oil and gas and the implications the member brings forward of a veto, thereís a veto now. Thereís nothing happening because of the uncertainty that is evolving with no land claim concluded in the southeast Yukon. Thatís why we committed ourselves to try to avert litigation and conclude unfinished business to remove those barriers and begin development in our resource sector, which, by the way, is of great importance for all of Yukon, given the benefits that will accrue to not only First Nations, but to every Yukon citizen.
Ms. Duncan: Yukon taxpayers are paying a consultant $800 a day to negotiate a deal. We know that land is apparently on the table; we know the Kaska want a veto over what land gets developed for oil and gas. The open and accountable Premier wonít be up front with Yukoners about whatís on the table and what heís giving away.
Another item that may be on the table is resource royalties ó in other words, who gets the money when timber, oil or gas is sold. Under the Umbrella Final Agreement, the transboundary and issues around resource royalty revenue sharing are very clear. Thatís under the land claim agreement, but the Premier has said weíre negotiating outside of the land claim agreement.
Has the Premier offered resource revenue sharing to the Kaska Dena Council as part of the agreement heís negotiating ó yes or no ó and on what terms?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, the member keeps alluding to the fact that weíre paying a contractor to take on the highest priority of this government: formalizing our relationship with First Nations and developing a full economic partnership for the benefit of all Yukon citizens ó contrary to that memberís approach to things in paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars for Liberal candidates; double standard, Mr. Speaker.
Second, a bilateral negotiation is outside the land claims box. Weíre not negotiating a land claim; weíre putting together a structuring agreement to avert litigation in the best interests of the Yukon public. Thatís what weíre doing; itís a work in progress. Itís proceeding positively. The Kaska Nation has made a decision in representing its citizens, as they should, and we applaud them for that, and weíre going to continue to work with all First Nations in developing this territory for the benefit of every Yukon citizen.
Question re: Yukon Film Commission
Mr. Hardy:Iíd like to return to the Minister of Economic Development. The Web site for this department that doesnít exist yet has a very interesting addition on the very first page. Iím referring to the Yukon Film Commission, which seems to have disappeared from the Tourism and Culture department Web site altogether. Why did the Premier transfer the Film Commission to another department when the Minister of Tourism and Culture was telling this House the commissionís role is under review by her department?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, Mr. Speaker, all these structures are spread throughout government. A number of these structures are obvious ó the Department of Economic Development agencies or policy areas or areas to be worked on by the Department of Economic Development. These moves will all take place accordingly. We are still going to conclude the process of putting a deputy minister in place so that deputy minister can begin the restructuring of many of these agencies and the structuring of the new Economic Development department.
So the member opposite is pointing out the reasons why weíre doing what weíre doing, and that is that these agencies and initiatives are spread throughout government with no cohesive and focused approach. Thatís what weíre changing by creating a Department of Economic Development. The first thing weíre going to do is put a deputy minister in place.
Mr. Hardy: It sounds like mini-renewal without consultation.
Now we have a body that should be one of the key economic drivers in the territory being shifted to a department that has no budget and no deputy minister. Itís no wonder that Yukoners are complaining that this government doesnít know what itís doing.
What input did the Premier get from the film industry and other stakeholders before moving the Yukon Film Commission to a different department, and how does this sudden switch affect the review of the commissionís future role?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I would disagree with the member opposite that the Yukon public thinks this government doesnít know what it is doing. I mean, thatís a stretch.
The facts are that this government is very focused on what it is doing, knows where itís going and weíve come into this position as a government with a plan and a vision. One of the visions is the development of the Department of Economic Development.
When it comes to the Film Commission, we know that there is a great deal of interest out there. We have had a number of discussions with stakeholders around this particular initiative. Itís obvious that it should be part of Economic Development. The film industry is an economic engine. I applaud the member for bringing up the fact that the Film Commission and the film industry are important to economic development. Thatís why we are doing what we are doing.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, no answer to the very pointed question that we asked.
The Film Industry Association was pretty outspoken about the problems they perceived with having the Film Commission as part of the Tourism department, but none of the reports we have seen suggested moving it to another department.
Two of the main things that the industry people wanted were to have a qualified film commissioner hired as soon as possible and to establish the Film Commission as a stand-alone agency at armís length from the bureaucratic rules of a government department.
Is the Premier giving serious consideration to these requests from the industry itself, or has he already predetermined that the commission will remain one of the services of the Economic Development department, as the Web site indicates?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We value the input of stakeholders; thatís very important. There are Yukoners out there who have a great deal to contribute to the economic development of the territory and turning the fortunes of this territory around. Thatís why weíre conducting the reviews we are; thatís why weíre going through the process we are. The deputy minister will take a lead role, along with me, the minister, as we begin structuring this department, and it will be structured based on the input of our employees, our departments, stakeholders and First Nations, and we see this as a very positive step toward dealing with the difficult situation the Yukon finds itself in, in terms of economics and the future. Thatís why we will develop the Department of Economic Development and proceed accordingly. We welcome the input of members opposite. I think they have a lot to offer too, and I wish they would put it on the floor of the Legislature.
Question re: Seniors housing funding
Mr. McRobb:I want to follow up with the Health minister on this governmentís neglect toward the need for seniors facilities in the Kluane region.
The need for this project was identified as our regionís top priority, but neither he nor the Premier even mentioned it at budget time. In contrast, they were quick to announce the construction of such facilities in both of their ridings, based on 20-year-old studies. I can assure the minister that this issue wonít disappear, no matter how much this government continues to ignore it.
In fact, today we received copies of letters from the Southern Tutchone Tribal Council inviting this minister and the Premier to a public meeting. The council represents the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, the Kluane First Nation and the Ta'an Kwach'an Council. Can the minister tell us if he will be accepting this invitation?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The member opposite knows full well where the department is heading and the initiatives that are underway. The first priority is an apartment complex within the Whitehorse city limits for seniors, and this would not constitute a number of bed-sits. It would be apartments of approximately 600 square feet per unit. From there, this budget clearly reflects that we are examining the issue of senior housing in both Watson Lake and Dawson City. And yes, Kluane, the Haines Junction area ó a facility there is on the radar screen but it is not in this budget cycle.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister failed to answer the question of whether he would be attending the public meeting to which the council has invited him. Furthermore, the minister is backtracking on the stated priorities of his department. Now we hear the Whitehorse apartment complex proposal has been advanced to the front of the list, ahead of seniors facilities in Watson and Dawson. This is completely new.
The Southern Tutchone Tribal Council believes that a partnership is possible between regional governments and the Yukon government. Such a united force could advance this project by years. I certainly hoped the minister had had a change of heart when I asked him about the support for such a partnership when, at the time, he scoffed at the suggestion and mocked us for wanting to privatize. This is the same minister who called the private proposal for the apartment complex a joint venture.
Itís time for this government to get serious and respond in earnest to requests for help from Yukoners and be fair about it.
Can the minister tell us why he refuses to consider forming a partnership with the First Nation governments to help facilitate this project?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Mr. Speaker, our government clearly recognizes that First Nations have concurrent or mirror jurisdiction in many of the areas in which health care is delivered, as well as many other areas ó justice, education. So thatís a given, Mr. Speaker, and we are always cognizant of our working with our First Nation members in the communities. If this is an initiative for which the member opposite is suggesting a private/public partnership ó which the NDP have been opposed to previously across the board ó you know, we will carefully examine it, and we will carefully examine a partnership with First Nations.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the minister is wrong. What does he call Connect Yukon? It was a P3 with Northwestel and industry toward wiring the Yukon for data communications.
We detect a switch-up by this minister today. Heís trying to advance the Whitehorse project to deflect attention away from this governmentís true priorities of putting its resources in Dawson City and Watson Lake, and weíll be following up on that one.
Now, the Ta'an Kwach'an also represents the three First Nations. Thereís also White River First Nation. This is the regionís top priority, ignored by this government. Thereís a need to develop information to support the facility. Thereís a need for process to develop the partnership and working model. Thereís a need for public consultation. Thereís a need to design the facility, permits, et cetera. What is this minister prepared to offer toward this effort, and will he be attending that public meeting?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I noticed in the preamble that the member opposite alluded to the relationship and the P3 with Northwestel and the Government of Yukon. What he failed to mention is that has a balloon payment of $7 million just down the road next year.
When we examine these areas, we have to go into those areas of public-private partnerships with our eyes wide open. Iíve clearly laid out the priorities that we are going to be examining and proceeding with very quickly. They are a seniors apartment complex in Whitehorse, then there is $100,000 set out in this budget cycle to examine the issues in Watson Lake and Dawson City, then the Kluane region is on the radar screen. But we canít do anything in the first budget cycle. We will be addressing this area in a very expeditious manner.
The member knows full well that this issue is on the radar screen. Iíve provided him that information previously.
Question re: Tombstone Interpretive Centre
Mrs. Peter:Yesterday, the Minister of Environment and I both tabled correspondence in this House regarding concerns of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in elders and the decision of this minister to put the building of the Tombstone Interpretive Centre on hold.
What other correspondence has this minister received?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To date, I only received the letter from the council on Friday ó which appears to be several days after the member opposite received it.
Mrs. Peter: In his reply to the Tríondëk Hwëchíin Elders Council, the minister did not make a specific commitment to meet with the elders. They have stated very clearly that this is what they want and this is also a recommendation from the chief and council of Tríondëk Hwëchíin, so they can clear these issues once and for all.
Will the minister now make a commitment to meet with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin Elders Council and the chief and council by May 15?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: My letter the member refers to ó if I can read from it, "Once the House rises in May, it is my intention to go to all communities and to visit the sites weíre discussing so that I can better appreciate the discussion. We will also be doing a full consultation with all parties to come to the best decision on the location of the centre. The logs for the final facility are already on hand and we certainly have no plans to use them for any other purpose."
Mr. Speaker, I will certainly be getting up there. Whether itís by May 15 or not, I canít predict, given the business of the House and the business of the government. But that consultation will go on and it will go on as the management plan develops, and that management plan is developing as we speak.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, weíre seeking a commitment from this minister for a timeline and all the plans have been in place for these issues for a number of years. The minister created an offence with his comments, and I hope he has learned his lesson about treating First Nation elders with more respect.
Iíd like to focus on the main issue, which is the ministerís decision to again put on hold another building. The money was in the budget since the NDP was in government and now itís not there. Will this minister stand on his feet and make a commitment today and confirm for the Tríondëk Hwëchíin people that the money will be in this fallís budget so that the building of the interpretive centre will begin next summer?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As the member opposite quite well knows, we are in the process of debating the capital budget, possibly even today. Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the member opposite, however, that the building was put on hold, and it was put on hold by the previous Liberal government. Given the way that the management plan is now developing, my concern is not the building of the facility; my concern is where that facility goes. It was that concern that was brought to me by Mr. Percy Henry and others at the management plan meeting in Dawson when I visited there. Given the fact that that was the middle of January, observing the site was not particularly the best time, and we will be going up there to look at the site. A large part of the development of that management plan will be where to put it. I can move a trailer; I cannot move a half-a-million-dollar building.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), Iíd like to identify the items standing in the names of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, April 16, 2003. They are Motion No. 86, standing in the name of the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, and Motion No. 51, standing in the name of the Member for Copper Belt.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. The Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matters before the Committee today are Bill No. 29, Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and Bill No. 30, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act. Do members wish a 15-minute recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll stand in recess for 15 minutes.
Chair: Order please. The Committee of the Whole will come to order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I ask all members of the Legislature to join with me in welcoming three representatives from the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, who are with us today as guests in the gallery. They are Mr. Ted Quinn, chairman of the board, Ms. Pamela Labowl, president of the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce, and Jim Mendenhall, a director.
Please join with me in welcoming them.
Chair: We will continue on with Bill No. 29, an Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act.
Bill No. 29 ó Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act
Chair:Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Yes, just as I stated during second reading of an Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, this bill will extend the retirement age of our deputy judges from 65 years of age to 75. By doing so, the Territorial Courtís roster of deputy judges will be expanded, thereby assisting in the smooth operation of the court. Again, this was one of the recommendations presented in the report of the Judicial Compensation Commission, established in 2001. I would be very happy to entertain any questions from members opposite at this time.
Ms. Duncan: I donít have any major questions with respect to either Bill No. 29 or Bill No. 30. I would just like the minister to address ó there was a choice made on whether to go with a piece of legislation like this or a miscellaneous statute amendments act, which would have encompassed all these changes. Was there any reasoning behind that decision, or was that simply the choice that was made?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: This particular amendment refers to the Territorial Court Act. The only other recommendation that remains outstanding as a result of the Judicial Compensation Commissionís report of 2002 was to do with the judiciaryís pensions. As the member opposite may be aware, there is an actuarial report being performed, at which time we will then probably come forward with another amendment to the judiciary pension plan act this fall.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít think I was clear in my question. What weíve seen in the Legislature is a series of very small amendments to acts. Thatís one way to do them, and itís, quite frankly, the methodology that we employed as a government. I support it because then it deals with each piece of legislation at a time. The other option would be to have brought forward one large bill called a miscellaneous statute amendments act. So, rather than having Bill Nos. 29 and 30 and 27, we would have had one bill to deal with. As I said, it was a conscious choice by our government to do each piece of legislation and then itís highlighted and given thorough debate. Iím just asking the Justice minister ó judging by what weíve seen so far, Iím assuming that it is her intention to continue with that practice, rather than do an omnibus bill to do each amendment as a bill. Iím just asking if what Iím seeing is going to continue to be the practice.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: In this particular case, I think we are coming forward with a very simple housekeeping amendment. We are meeting the recommendations that arrived out of the Judicial Compensation Commission report. There remains one outstanding matter, and we will be taking care of that this fall as well.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not criticizing the minister. Iím just asking if itís her intention to continue to do bills for each amendment to different acts rather than one large omnibus bill. Iím just asking if thatís her intention. Thatís all.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I guess that would be decided on a case-by-case basis. We will arrive at that decision when we come to it. If we can perhaps address matters on a much larger basis, all within one encompassing bill, that would of course be more expeditious, a more efficient practice, and we would do so.
Mrs. Peter: I have no questions on Bill No. 29 or Bill No. 30. They are merely housekeeping, as the minister said, and she will have my support on these.
Chair: Is there any further general debate? Hearing none, we will proceed with line-by-line.
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title of Bill No. 29 read and agreed to
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Chair, given that there are no questions and there is support for this bill, I would request unanimous consent to deem the bill read and carried.
Chair: Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 29 read and carried.
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
Clauses 1 and 2 and Title deemed to have been read and agreed to
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move that Bill No. 29, entitled Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: Ms. Taylor has moved that Bill No. 29, entitled Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Chair: Weíll continue on with Bill No. 30.
Bill No. 30 ó Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act
Chair:Is there any general debate?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: As per my comments during second reading of this particular bill, this amendment will provide for an annual meeting of the Yukon Supreme Court judiciary to discuss matters such as current case law, issues unique to Yukon and to the north, and so on and so on. This amendment will not result in any cost to the Yukon as all costs for this particular meeting will be paid for by the Government of Canada. What it will bring, however, is a number of economic spinoffs to local businesses through the judgesí use of hotels, restaurants, entertainment, meeting facilities, et cetera.
I should also mention that, of the western jurisdictions in Canada, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories all have legislation that provides for an annual meeting for members of the Supreme Court judiciary.
Iíd be very pleased to entertain any questions from the members opposite at this time.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I donít have any questions on this bill and would be prepared to make a similar request to the one I made with Bill No. 29, that it be deemed read and carried, if thatís agreeable to the official opposition.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming clauses and title to Bill No. 30 read and agreed to
Chair:Ms. Duncan has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all clauses and the title of Bill No. 30 read and carried. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
Clauses 1 and 2 and Title deemed to have been read and agreed to
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I move that Bill No. 30, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Chair: It has been moved by Ms. Taylor that Bill No. 30, entitled Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, be reported without amendment.
Motion agreed to
Bill No. 4 ó First Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Department of Environment ó continued
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:Continuing on with the Department of Environment and notes relating to the budget and some of the projections, the Department of Environment is very pleased to present its budget and to review some of the things that we will be looking at over the coming year.
Mr. Chair, our government gives the Department of Environment and the environment of the Yukon and this great land that we call the Yukon the highest priority possible. We certainly wish to get the economy going. We wish to get people working again and get money flowing, but we will not, under any circumstances, do this at the expense of the environment.
One of the things that has become very obvious since joining this department, Mr. Chair, is the fact that there is a great deal of work to do to protect it. There is a great deal of work to do to inventory resources, to look at what wildlife resources are there, to look at what weíre doing with the development of parks and planning and everything else involving this. Mr. Chair, it takes a great deal of money to do this. This is a vast land. It is huge. It requires a great deal of work to get out there. Itís not something that, for the very largest percentage of the territory, you can drive to. It requires aircraft; it requires fixed-wing aircraft; it requires helicopters. And one thing that has become very obvious, Mr. Chair, to me, is that without the resources, without the economy to inventory, to plan and to utilize and to protect these resources, protection becomes difficult if not impossible.
This is why it is absolutely necessary to develop an economy, to get people working, to develop that tax base, and to make reasonable and rational decisions.
The largest increases in the capital budget are interestingly being driven by circumstances outside of the direct control of the department. Things like changes in hardware and software standards hit the whole government, as well as the need to obtain new technology that will improve our program management. Service delivery initiatives require us to upgrade and improve the departmentís information management and technology infrastructure. We are required to deal with a lot of very specialized areas in terms of geographical information systems, mapping, planning and with some of this yearís initiatives, to start bringing into that database, through NatureServe, inventories of plants, animals, and all of the rest of our resources.
We have had some difficulties with that. One of the things is that we are a relatively capital-intensive department. We are an intense resource department. We have to have the vehicles; we have to have the ATVs; we have to have the snow machines; we have to have all of the means necessary to get out there and do the work.
Unfortunately, through what I feel is somewhat poor planning by the previous Liberal government, many of the areas that we look at that would require replacing this equipment has been sorely neglected. This leaves us with a larger budget in some cases for the equipment to work with ó which is not, as the wording of the budget would sometimes sound, in terms of furniture or anything else ó but it is replacing this equipment. For some things that have a lifespan of seven years, in some cases we are using this equipment much longer because there has been no clear plan and direction to replace this equipment.
The major capital initiative that we will deal with is upgrading computer hardware and the software in replacing obsolete computer equipment. This is a government-wide problem, Mr. Chair. In many cases, many of our older computers cannot operate todayís programs. The major upgrade will be in response to a government-wide upgrade to the corporate operating environment, or the COE program.
Other increases in the capital budget are related to the development of new legislation. It has been committed for some time to implement land claims and meet federal initiatives on species at risk. We will also begin implementations of the Fishing Branch wilderness preserve management plan and the Tombstone Territorial Park management plan.
This has been a topic of debate in previous days, Mr. Chair. Tombstone is in the management plan stage. We have received the management plan. It is in progress now as we speak. The need for an interpretive centre at that location is very clear; thereís no debate on that. The debate is, really, where to put it, and it was brought home to me during a visit to Dawson a couple of months ago that there wasnít consensus, that all stakeholders had not been consulted.
Therefore, we were faced with the problem of placing a centre, at great expense, where it might not really best be. So we made the decision at that point in time to delay that construction for one year ó not to cancel it, which some have implied, but to simply delay it.
The problem with that, however, leaves us with an inadequate facility up there for this year. Staff were staying in a camper of a pickup truck; at one point, they were staying in a wall tent; and this simply isnít acceptable for any of the stakeholders up there.
So, through our department and within existing budget, with not a single penny out of the capital budget for the eventual facility, we have renovated a trailer ó a 45-foot trailer, I believe, with three bedrooms, living area, kitchen. Weíve equipped it with a stove and a heater.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We have to tow it. The Member for Kluane mentions that it might be a motor home. No, this has nothing to do with the motor home that was rented last year, at a cost of over $5,000, for the then minister to tour the campgrounds.
I can assure the member opposite we will not be doing that. Weíll be putting the money where itís better spent, Mr. Chair. We will be putting it into this facility, but the problem is we donít know where to put it. The use of this trailer, which, as I say, has been done within existing funds and will be going up on site very soon, will give the staff up there an adequate place in which to work and to live. It will allow us to enlarge it ó the interpretive centre possibly, or what weíve got up there, at least for this one year. It will be sided with fake log siding. It will look good to blend in with the centre, but itís their discretion of where to put that facility, of course. And when the final centre goes in, we can do something else with this or simply move it. I can move a trailer. I canít move a log interpretive centre. So itís important that we know where that centre is to go. It is very, very poorly advised to dump it somewhere on short notice.
One of the things we want this interpretive centre to do is to showcase the park, to showcase the environment up there and to showcase the culture of our First Nations. It is part of their traditional territory. One of the suggestions is a gravel pit. Now, I donít know ó since the election, everything has been under snow up there so itís a little difficult for me to tell at this point. Maybe that is an adequate place to put it, and maybe thatís where the people in the area want to put it. Unfortunately, my first reaction is, not having consensus, not having a clear direction as to where to put it, perhaps we can do better than a gravel pit to showcase one of our most spectacular parks. Iíd like to wait and think about that.
Weíll be looking to construct a new compact office storage workshop in Old Crow. There has been a long story, and some of it a bit humorous, of our facilities up there. It will create 24 person-weeks of private sector employment up there, and it will give our conservation officer and other staff up there a permanent place from which to work.
This is essential. Two new initiatives this year related to the Yukon species at risk assessment and recovery planning and to learn more about rare animals, plants and ecological communities found in the Yukon. As I mentioned, we will start work on a new program to develop Yukon-wide management plans for identified species at risk. The new national legislation stipulates that management planning must occur for listed species. These plans are urgently required to guide the long-term conservation and wise use of key resources and species. We will continue our work to develop a conservation data centre, now known as NatureServe Yukon, to monitor and provide status information on species at risk due to human activities.
Chair: The member has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thank you.
The NatureServe program has been developed in partnership with the Government of Canada to be the gateway and data library for information about species and ecological communities and conservation significance, including all of those that are at risk.
Mr. Chair, we have a wide range of other activities that we will be looking at during the year, both within operation and maintenance as well as within capital budgets, and we will be developing our resources and establishing our resources to the benefit of Yukoners ó and very firmly, Mr. Chair, these will be in full consultation with local groups, with local consultation, and they will be locally driven.
With those comments, Mr. Chair, I will entertain questions on the Department of Environment.
Mrs. Peter: I will have a few questions for the Minister of Environment a little later. However, I would like to make some comments.
The minister is correct when he says that this is one of the most important departments of today, especially in the Yukon Territory, where we have so much beautiful land in our pristine wilderness out there.
There have been many changes that have been happening in this day and age and also in this department. Many decisions have been made by this department that cause concern for the Yukon public. I would like to say today that some of those decisions are very alarming, especially to the First Nation people in the Yukon Territory.
I would like to remind the minister of chapter 10 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. We base many of our decisions in and around that chapter. There have been decisions made recently that I have heard about from some of the communities, which cause the Yukon public concern about consultation and how it is not taking place before decisions are made in areas such as the Tombstone issue that has been before us over the last few days.
There has been a report out. There is information available about the location of the centre, about the money that was put toward the interpretive centre before. There are mixed messages going to the public from this minister, which is a concern.
In the community I represent ó the community of Old Crow ó we have again always been concerned about the Porcupine caribou issue and, again, we are under pressure in that area. There has been a piece of legislation passed in Washington, and that legislation includes a rider that is in support of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We have serious concerns about the salmon run that goes by our community every summer, and the very critical condition that is in right now.
We have many environmental concerns around climate change thatís affecting and impacting the land and animals in our area. I believe that not only impacts the community of Old Crow, but the territory as a whole.
This department is one of the highest priorities for First Nations people in the Yukon Territory, because Iíve always said that our land and animals, our water and air are some of the core values we hold. The elders have said, time and time again, if we donít have those four elements in our life, we have nothing.
The decisions that are made today in this House will affect and impact generations.
When I hear about the ministerís colleagues coming forth with decisions called roads to resources ó and in that same paper, which was yesterdayís paper, thereís an article written about Fishing Branch and the access road that has been an issue for awhile. It raises alarm bells for me.
One of the terms I keep hearing from this government is resource development. It has been sustainable resources or sustainable development in the last couple of years, and now the buzz word has changed but it means the same thing. When we talk about protecting our environment, itís also about protecting people.
I also realize that we do need an economic base, but at whose expense and at what expense? If decisions are made before talking to people, then why do we have legislation and laws in place? Theyíre supposed to guide us in that direction.
I am very concerned about comments that have been made about the roads, wherever they are going to lead to make our lands too accessible. I heard that banks of land will be made available by other departments. Yet when we ask the questions, we get very little back in answers. The questions that we bring forward are on behalf of the Yukon people.
I would like to ask the minister about the road access into Fishing Branch. Where does that stand right now?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, thatís quite a large plateful that has been thrown out here.
To deal with some of the issues that the member opposite brings up, Iíd like to dismiss climate change fairly quickly because somehow I donít feel we are being blamed, within five months, for changing the climate of the Yukon ó although I have to admit that some days it does seem to be changing quickly. But that is something that is slightly outside of our area.
I share with the member opposite many of the concerns that she has expressed. I really do. There have been many changes and many things done within the Department of Environment that are of concern.
When we took office in December, and when we started looking at some of the budgetary items and some of the shifts in budget and shifts in priority of the previous Liberal government, I had to admit I had some grave concerns with that too. It reflects in some of our capital budget. It reflects in the fact that we have no economy and that we have very limited resources to deal with the protection of our wildlife and our resources, and thatís of grave concern and something we have to obviously turn around a little bit.
In terms of the consultation items the member brings up, Iím confused about why she is not aware of the fact that the steering committee is actively working on the management plan of Tombstone and that those meetings are going on now. Theyíre going on as we speak.
If the member opposite isnít aware of that, Iím very happy to be here to say, yes, these consultations are going on now. Iím not sure how you could do better than that, but weíre waiting for that management plan. We have good people up there doing the work. I highly commend the steering committee. For the member oppositeís information, members of that committee have asked that the report ó which is confidential ó be released. I have replied that that would be inappropriate to do while that consultation is going on. We have to let these people work but, once thatís completed and we have the management plan, I have no problem at all in releasing the excellent work they have done up there.
She brings up the Porcupine caribou herd. Mr. Chair, weíre on record from day one that we are totally supportive of this initiative. We support the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Gwitchin Tribal Council and others who have taken the lead. Their government has the lead in this, and weíre very happy to support them, at any level that we can reasonably, to promote the preservation of this group and to continue the survival and the flourishing of this group, every bit as much as we are happy to support the preservation of the Chisana herd ó about which there have also been articles in the paper showcasing the work that weíre doing with First Nations, with the State of Alaska, with various national and international organizations there. Again, Mr. Chair, that is ongoing. That is going on as we speak. We have staff out there in the middle of the bush, watching the caribou. Thatís as it should be.
Salmon ó absolutely. The salmon are certainly of great concern to us. The problem there, of course, is that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans is not a part of the Yukon territorial government. That has been extremely clear in the last five months. So weíve been working with the various groups on that, and we have been in almost daily contact with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on that whole situation, which we hope will be resolved.
The member opposite refers to a land bank made available. Now, at the risk of being told that Iím not giving out full information, the best I can say is that I donít know of any such land bank. Thatís news to me, but I know Iíll probably be criticized as not being forthright with information that doesnít exist.
Fishing Branch is one of the best examples I can think of, of how a program, with all of the best intentions, has gone completely sideways.
You donít create a park and drop it on top of an existing operation. That is bad faith and itís a scenario for disaster. Itís the way that youíre going to get yourself in trouble very, very quickly. And itís one of the major reasons, Mr. Chair, why our economic drive has so completely dried up in the last few years. People are not willing to invest money into something over which they donít know if they have control. How can anyone, if they donít have that kind of control, have any kind of hope when they go to a financial institution or an individual and actually think that somethingís going to happen? We were very fortunate to be able to put the principals in the same room to discuss it, work out problems, work out concerns and come to a mutual agreement. That is an agreement between the contractor and the Vuntut Gwitchin. It is not something that we have been involved in, except to broker.
The member opposite expresses and agrees ó and Iím very happy with that ó that we need the economic base to be able to survive. We canít survive without that economic base. We have to have the money to pay for the helicopters. We have to have the equipment out there. We have to have the dedicated geographic information system and the computer systems to be able to know what we have and how we can utilize those resources.
We need that economic base, but she points out, at whose expense? I have to ask that question in reverse. If we donít have an economic base, at whose expense? At the wildlifeís expense, at the environmentís expense ó and that simply isnít reasonable.
Like most of these things, reality is somewhere in the middle. We may have to give up some opportunities to protect certain areas. We may have to back off a little bit on some initiatives in order to promote the ability to get the economic base to protect the greater good. These are the challenges that face any government. They are certainly challenges that our government is going to deal with head-on.
I am a bit confused about the question of the member opposite regarding the roads to resources report. The reason for this report ó which was commissioned, I believe, during the Liberal government regime, with the best intentions and, frankly, it was a good thing ó it wasnít a plan to pave the Yukon. Whoever came up with this idea in the paper of paving roads and developing this huge network of roads ó I enjoy reading the paper that published that article. I enjoy the authorís writing ó he is one of my favourite fiction authors ó but heís not even close, Mr. Chair.
It was a report that was developed to look at options, to look at resources, to look at corridors that could be developed, to look at corridors that should not be developed. It was to look at options. I am suspicious that all of the members opposite would be the very first on their feet to be critical of any government that didnít do their homework. That report was homework. It is of great value to all groups. It is of great value to conservationists. It is of great value to anyone who is looking at possible uses of that land.
Therefore, I have no problem with this report, Mr. Chair. As I say, I think any government would be remiss not to do the homework, and the previous government should be commended for grabbing that one and actually producing the data.
So, with those answers, Mr. Chair, Iím open.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd like to first say that I do take issue with the tone and manner of the minister, and I find it very patronizing. I would suggest that we stick to our issues in this department, which is addressing the very important issues of the environment and how it impacts and affects our people out there in the Yukon Territory. Thatís the reason Iím here, and Iíve been asking the minister very important questions to hold the minister accountable, not for myself, but for the people of the Yukon. If I can get some answers to those questions, I have done my job today.
I have many other questions, and this is a very important department. With devolution happening as of April 1, we have some new legislation. One of the pieces of legislation is called YESAA. I would like to hear from the minister when that legislation will have an effect in the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I sympathize with the member opposite. I have trouble with that one too. "YESAA" works for me. The implementation of that at the moment is through the Executive Council Office, so itís a bit out of our hands at this point, and Iíd be speculating, so I would direct the questions when Executive Council Office is presented.
Mrs. Peter: Iím sure weíll hear when that will come forward. Iíd like to address the issue ó and weíve addressed it many times on the floor of this House, Mr. Chair. I have some questions around the protected areas strategy. We have that process on hold, and I wondered if the minister would know how long that process would be on hold before we can have all the stakeholders back at the table?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Just before I get into that, Iím told, for the information of the members opposite, that the Tombstone recommendations, the management plan, have come from the steering committee, and they are in the hands of both groups, again, as we speak. The Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in have requested a bit of extra time to reach consensus on that, and weíve agreed to that. So thatís the timeline on that, and weíre really looking forward to getting those plans and that policy in place.
In terms of the protected areas strategy, again, I go back to Fishing Branch being a good example of the flaw in the process. It was done without really talking to all the stakeholders, particularly the poor guy who was caught in the middle of it. We certainly will continue to proceed ó first of all, to preface that, with the implementation of the existing areas and the special management areas and everything else that has been done under the final agreements. It has been put on hold until such time that we can get the stakeholders together and get consensus.
There have been a number of different factors involved in this, not the least of which is the Kaska court challenge, not the least of which is other First Nations reaching their final agreements. There are a lot of these things that have to come together. We wonít, in the meantime, be looking for new areas but we will certainly be working with the special management areas of other First Nations as those things develop.
But to give the member opposite another example of the strange things that come up on that, the federal Liberal government is quite involved in developing a further national park in the Wolf Lake region. Now, that sounds very admirable to most people. I have to wonder if it isnít simply going after carbon credits for the Kyoto accord, but I am a little sceptical sometimes, as all of us are at times.
The problem with that is that nobody talked to Teslin, nobody talked to the village, nobody talked to the First Nation. Thatís an area that many of the people hunt and fish in and itís very important and sacred to many of them. If they agree, this isnít a big problem. But if they donít agree, I donít have the right to come in and drop something in their backyard. I donít have the right to come in and drop something in the State of Colorado and then write letters down there and be taken seriously, any more than somebody from Colorado has a right to write and send a letter here and say that they have a problem and we should be dropping this park in Teslin.
Neither letter has any credence as far as Iím concerned. It has to be locally driven. You have to talk to the people involved. When we get all of those people on the same page, thatís when the YPAS procedure will continue.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to hear from the minister ó how do they feel about the core protected areas ó the goal 1 areas ó and also goal 2 areas?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thereís a variety of different levels of protection and all of these have to be utilized in the appropriate areas. They are often utilized in the same areas and with a radiating level of protection. I think thatís the way we should be looking at all of these, and again I would support these things to be looked at by the First Nations involved, by the people involved.
One of the things that bothered me at the beginning with this ó and unfortunately, other than a few Web sites that Iíve stumbled into, I donít see an awful lot about it, and thatís this so-called Yosemite-to-Yukon corridor. Itís nice. Itís got motherhood and it sounds really Winnie the Poohish, I suppose, but I donít see bears coming out of Yosemite National Park and wandering up and visiting Watson Lake. I mean, what do they do when they hit Vancouver and the Okanagan Valley? I have some real problems with that. Itís a nice thought.
So, to look at corridors like this isnít reasonable. To look at areas that can be protected within a radiating hub to protect areas that are incredibly sensitive ó one that was announced recently, but which I probably shouldnít get into, is an incredibly insensitive area, and we have no problem at all protecting that and I hope there is radiating protection around it, but thatís to be negotiated by the First Nations involved.
We have a lot of tools at our fingertips. We have a lot of different ways that we can do this, and we need to be able to look at all of these tools, all of these ways, and consult with everyone. We canít just drop something in, airlift it and hope it flies, because it usually doesnít.
Mrs. Peter: Iíd just like to get back again to the question about the roads to resources. I heard a hint of endorsement from the minister opposite. I could be wrong. He can confirm that. I have the article in front of me, and his colleague stated in the article that itís good news for all Yukoners. I do not agree with that. There are lots of concerns for many people, as Iíve said before and, in order for such projects to happen, there needs to be consultation with people out there, especially with trappers and people who have not settled their land claim in the Yukon Territory, and areas such as goals 1 and 2 are very important to people. The minister mentioned sacred areas. Many of the First Nation community have these areas in their traditional lands, and those are of great importance to us.
Can the minister just let the House know whether he endorses this report or not?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: First of all, it is difficult to endorse a report that, from my understanding, has not been publicly released. It is good news for the Yukon. Itís good news that the previous government started this and did it. It was excellent. I have no difficulty with that. If thatís the hint of endorsement the member opposite is looking for, then yes, it certainly is.
But Iím confused. Again, somehow we have taken something and we have followed it to its most illogical conclusion. As an example, Mr. Chair, if we are to gather data on the Old Crow flats, look at the animals that are there, look at the wildlife, look at the plants, look at the insects; theyíre all part of the ecosystem there, and it is something that we have to understand to be able to protect it. Iím learning very quickly, Mr. Chair, that unfortunately somebody will stand up and say, "Oh, you did that because you want to build a mall up there." We donít. We want to understand what is there and understand what is to be protected and possibly what could be used to develop an economy. Somehow, the member opposite has taken this roads to resources, laudably looking at whatís there, and turned this into a network ó a checkerboard, Mr. Chair ó of paved roads, that weíre going to pave everything. It was a marvellous cartoon on the paper the other day. It wasnít even close to reality, but then again, most cartoons arenít. Thatís why theyíre usually pretty funny. If I were to listen to what the member opposite is trying to argue here, somehow Iím going to have roads going through Old Crow Flats with a McDonaldís, and gas stations and rest stops. Letís come back to reality. We have to know what the resources are. We have to know what we are protecting. We have to develop that data. If we donít, that would be bad news for the Yukon.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Chair, the elders of our community would never allow us to do that, and thatís how come we have a process in place that helps us protect our lands, which is one of our greatest resources in Old Crow. Some people canít understand that, however.
Moving on to further questions ó the climate change is a very serious issue for us in the north. There have been many conferences. There have been reports. I have just recently listened to a speaker address this issue in relation also to the Kyoto Protocol that Canada signed on to.
Where does the Yukon stand on the Kyoto Protocol, or do we have a position?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I can assure the member opposite that we have no intention of allowing McDonaldís or a gas station to be placed in the Old Crow Flats. She is right; there are processes to look at this and to evaluate it. The process would be worthless if we didnít make decisions with data. We have to know what we are making those decisions on. I am actually rather glad to hear that she is agreeing with me on that point, finally.
In terms of Kyoto, it is the policy of the Yukon government that we continue to support a collaborative approach. We note that we are not a producer of the pollution. Most of the pollution is coming from large plants, from large numbers of automobiles, et cetera. We have very few people ó not a large percentage of them can afford the big, polluting machines and the polluting equipment.
Our concern is that we donít have any control ó or we have very little control ó over the generators of the gases that we are concerned about here.
Before anybody jumps up, does that mean that we shouldnít be concerned? No, we should absolutely be concerned, and we should do what we can, but the reality is that what we can do is woefully inadequate.
We have concerns about what the effects of a national policy are going to be on a small jurisdiction like ours. We have concerns when the federal Liberal government says that theyíre very concerned about this, and they promote it, they pass it, and I believe theyíve exempted auto manufacturers in Ontario. That strikes me as being a very poorly advised decision, but I might be wrong; perhaps the leader of the third party can correct me on that.
There have been a number of calls back and forth. We have discussed this. There was a workshop held in Toronto that was attended by various groups. There has been a report out of that, which I believe is now in our hands, and we do support it. Itís a good idea. Our problem is weíre such a small player on the map that we donít know what we can really do about it except take the brunt of the possibility of increased fuel costs and other costs when we have an incredibly fuel-dependent economy. The best we can do is try to make sure that that fuel is used in the most efficient way, to promote hydroelectric, to try to get away from burning fossil fuels for electricity. There are a number of things we can do, but they are all in the overall national and, in reality, international stage. We are small players, but we certainly support it.
Mrs. Peter: That brings me to the issue the minister brought forward earlier, which Iím very aware of ó the condition of our lands in and around Old Crow throughout our traditional territory. Some of those lakes are drying up, Mr. Chair, and that has been a concern of the people of Old Crow for a number of years. Itís not something we just found out about a year ago or when this government became elected.
There have been several strategies the people of Old Crow have tried, but theyíre not going to work.
And it is very, very alarming for us. And how we address those issues ó we are dealing with Mother Nature. And itís also like the issue with the Porcupine caribou issue. We have to have partnerships with people who make decisions in our territory, and thatís the government. Weíve heard lots of talk about government-to-government relationships. Thatís where we need it ó itís to address those kinds of concerns.
Weíve had a few winters now where the weather is totally, totally different from what weíre used to. It has been warmer for longer periods into the winter season, so thatís affecting and impacting the animals in our area. That has a ripple effect. In the end, it impacts the families that depend on the animals on our land, because the animals on the land are food for our people.
So with the issue around climate change ó and this might sound funny to people out there, but that was one of the issues that I heard about at the door: the Kyoto Protocol, and where Canada and this Government of Yukon stand on that issue, because it makes a big difference for us. And the minister referred earlier to why Iím so concerned about this roads to resources and stretching it a little bit with paving, but a road, even an unpaved road, in our traditional territory does have impact on the environment.
Thatís how come our First Nation government makes decisions on these very serious issues.
With the issue around the climate change, the minister is aware of reports such as the lakes in Crow Flats drying up. If he has any correspondence around that, would I be able to have access to that report? Can I ask the minister for a copy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have no problem sending a copy of that report over ó no problem at all. I agree with what the member opposite is saying. It has been a long-time concern of mine. You donít need a degree in statistics or demography to understand that as populations grow, things change. Our job is to protect areas and to make sure that those changes are minimal in large parts of the area.
I am rather glad to hear that Iím not being blamed for Mother Nature ó thatís a good start.
There are things that we canít control, but there are a lot of things that we potentially can. The best we can do is to control those things.
The member opposite, Iím sure, is aware of the fact that Yukon receives federal money now, and has since 1999, in support of our climate change centre at Yukon College, called the Northern Climate Exchange Centre, or the NCE. We currently fund this in order to leverage federal funding. We fund it to $75,000, and with leveraging that grows to $280,000. This, in turn, employs three people and results in a dozen local climate change related contracts being issued. We are very proud of that, and we are very glad to see that the opposition supports that initiative.
I do agree with the comments in terms of putting in roads. As I say, the concept of paving everything and paving the Yukon is ó well, I wonít call it a stretch of the imagination. Iíll call it really humorous, actually ó but sadly humorous. Itís a very sardonic sort of way of looking at the situation. There always is change, and sometimes we canít do that. We canít influence it. Sometimes we have to make the hard decisions as to what change weíre going to make and how it may impact.
I agree with the member opposite that ó although we are discussing the whole Yukon ó a road within the Vuntut Gwitchin traditional territory would have a severe impact. I have to throw back to the member opposite, wonít a road to Old Crow St. ó which is being promoted by the Vuntut Gwitchin ó have a severe impact on the environment? Does that have so much of a benefit that thatís where the Vuntut Gwitchin and where the member opposite are willing to compromise? There are always areas in which to compromise. Thatís the nature of that report. We can only make those compromises with knowledge, and itís difficult to go out and get that knowledge and then have it twisted into something thatís supposed to be a bad thing. Itís a very good thing. It is a good day for the Yukon with that information. And it was a good decision by the government of the day to commission that study.
Mrs. Peter: The minister referred to the winter access road that our elders and the leadership of Vuntut Gwitchin allows only at certain times and when itís needed, with very, very strict guidelines from people who are involved and people who are affected. And I am surprised that the minister insinuates something different from that.
I feel sad that a paved road into wilderness areas around the Yukon is humorous. I donít find any humour in that whatsoever.
Moving on to other issues regarding contaminated sites throughout the Yukon Territory, I would like to hear from the minister what plans are in place to address these issues throughout the Yukon.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There are many forms of humour, and sardonic humour is certainly one of them. I do ask the member opposite to check the meaning of that.
A winter access road is one way of doing it, and itís one of the compromises that we can make. But I invite the member opposite and anyone in the Yukon to go into a remote area where a four-wheeler has been taken in ó hunters have gone in on a four-wheeler. That scars the landscape for hundreds of years. Anyone can see that, and itís one of our concerns with the promotion of off-road vehicles, all-terrain vehicles, snow machines. Winter roads are a compromise. They are one way of trying to deal with it. Does it solve the problem? No, absolutely not. Look at how many roads and how many trails and how many of everything exists in this territory and you can see where those ATVs went; you can see where the skidoos went. You can think youíre in the most remote area possible, and find a pop can sitting there, because somebody has been there before. This is a problem, and Iím very pleased that the Vuntut Gwitchin are making such an effort to try to minimize the impact. Thatís one of our options. Itís a very good option. We support it 100 percent.
But does that mean that there is no impact? No, it certainly does not.
Mrs. Peter: I had a question for the minister that wasnít addressed. It was about contaminated sites in the Yukon Territory. What are the plans in place to address those sites? Iíll just leave it at that for now.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I suppose the main question I have to sort of throw back at the question is: which sites in particular? Every site is different. There are management plans for each site. We do have an inventory of these sites, and the management plan for each site is quite different. If the member can be more specific ó and we are also one of several departments involved in this ó Iíd be happy to provide the information and not tie up the House, but without that information I donít know how to answer.
Mrs. Peter: There are, I believe, many sites in the Yukon that are contaminated, and some of them we donít want to address right now. There must be a general, overall plan to address these sites. Would the minister have such a plan in place?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, in the absence of specific information, it is difficult. I am not sure if "many" of these sites is larger than "lots", or a little bit smaller than ó probably larger than a "few", but, you know, I donít know how to answer that.
Certainly the plan is to get them cleaned up. The plan is to try to prioritize, and that is sometimes a shifting priority, admittedly. And the overall concept is to try, whenever possible, to make it so the user pays. But again, if I can get more specific information, we are happy to provide that information.
Mrs. Peter: I will be getting back to the minister with those questions.
The concern for contaminated sites throughout the Yukon is also a concern for our rivers and the lands that they affect and impact. There is a program that is monitoring some of these issues, which is called the northern contaminants program. The water testing is provided by the Department of Environment. Will the minister tell me what kinds of plans they have in place or any type of reports that they might have to address the issues around water safety in the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We, too, are very concerned about water quality and water safety. This is a major issue in the Yukon and a major commitment that we made. My problem in answering that is that potable water is not part of the Department of Environment; it is part of Health and Social Services.
Mrs. Peter: Water quality, I believe, is part of Department of Environmentís responsibility. Thatís why I am asking. This is also a concern from the contaminated sites issue. Thatís why I am asking these questions, to find out. So now that I know, I donít need to go back there with that question in particular.
The contaminated sites issue, again, is also a big concern for First Nation people throughout the Yukon. Again, it has a ripple effect. It affects the fish in our streams, the animals ó especially for the trappers, who are very concerned about those issues and would appreciate any kind of help from this department along those lines.
And if we can get some answers to our questions, itís going to be even more productive. I have no other questions at this time. I may come back later to address more concerns.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In relation to the member oppositeís question, to give you a little bit more detail on that, we will certainly provide anything that she requests. Water ó itís a strange division. Water in the environment is Department of Environment. Water as potable water is in the purview of the Department of Health and Social Services.
One initiative that we are looking at is in the remediation of one particular site. There appears to be a requirement for laboratory facilities. One of the initiatives that weíre looking at would be to utilize these laboratory facilities, which would be operated by one of the First Nations, to actually have the capability of testing potable water as well. These are some of the things weíre looking at, for her information. But that matter is in early negotiations, and if it comes to be, it will be down the road a bit. But itís certainly one of the things weíd like to do.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to start the questions in general debate around the issue of parks and the Yukon protected areas strategy.
For the ministerís information, he clearly had not, as he had suggested to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, done his homework, because the previous Minister of Environment in the Yukon government is on public record with the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council respecting Wolf Lake, advising the federal government not to put a national park at Wolf Lake. The position of the Yukon government and the people in Teslin and in the area was made crystal clear in writing by the previous Minister of the Environment and by me, in my former capacity as Premier, with the minister responsible.
Now, I would like to ask the current minister what he has done on this issue.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The previous minister is probably quite correct in the statement that the people of Teslin were not too happy about this. The current feeling, which we get verbally from a number of people there, is that they are still not very much in favour of it, but they would like to see the information; they would like to make a decision with data. They want to know if there are economic benefits to a national park that might outweigh their other concerns. Thatís data that we owe them to allow them to make that decision.
Our position right now is that probably they are not in favour of it, but they would like to talk about it, and we find that a very reasonable thought.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Deputy Chair, the fact is that the previous government, working with the Village of Teslin and the Teslin Tlingit Council, clearly took a position with the federal government that said, "No, we do not want a national park in the Wolf Lake area." What is the current ministerís position? Does he support the establishment of a national park in the Wolf Lake area or not?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To my knowledge, the member opposite is quite correct in that the previous Liberal minister said no, they did not want the park there.
Itís interesting, though, that the federal Liberal government, in announcing their interest in it a couple of weeks ago, has again taken information from the Yukon government ó Iíll draw the analogy of the Yukon placer authorization ó and would appear to have very much disregarded that information and input.
Our policy is that we feel that probably nothing has changed. But it never hurts to talk. My impression is that their continued feeling will be against it. If that is the feeling of the people locally in Teslin, we will certainly honour it. But I donít think that I, or Ottawa, have the right to come in and drop a park in their backyard without talking to them first.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís exactly the point I made. It was that the previous government stood up and, on the advice of the people who lived in the area, said no to the federal government. The minister is now saying, "Well, it never hurts to talk."
The minister has said that there is a new Yukon protected areas strategy ó there is going to be a new and wonderful agreement and consensus reached with all the stakeholders. When are these discussions going to start?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Before I answer that, I have to go back to the memberís previous comments. Based on the advice of the day, that was probably a reasonable choice. A scant two years later, I think itís reasonable to ask again if they still feel the same way. Again, I have to point out that, basically, the government of the day, as the member opposite said, firmly stood up and said no. The federal government didnít listen to them then; why would we think that they would listen to us now?
They have to listen to the people affected. Those are the people who should be making the decision.
Ms. Duncan: The minister didnít answer the question. The fact is that the previous government did listen, because they were told no, and for a time, the discussion ceased. They did listen.
I realize that sometimes government-to-government relationships are difficult. That applies to all governments.
He didnít answer the question. The minister has said that there is going to be a new and improved consensus-building Yukon protected areas strategy process. He has yet to tell the House, in answer to any questions, when it might start. I would appreciate an answer to the question, please.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím happy to give an answer in discussion about that, but going back to one final point, the leader of the third party is correct that they certainly took a stand against what was felt that day. It wasnít the Yukon territorial government that didnít listen; it was the federal government. A scant two years later, they brought it right back again, and they will probably get exactly the same answer.
Iím not prepared to throw that answer out based on two-year-old data when I can simply allow the people of Teslin to get together and make a decision. Nothing is going to happen right away. The very best scenarios and estimates are years down the road, but to make a decision based on old data without talking to the people involved when we have plenty of time to do it, I think, again, is very poorly advised.
The protected areas strategy is, as I said before, a very flawed strategy. We have difficulties with stakeholders. People donít agree. People who are very much involved arenít consulted. It leaves people in the resource sector, in the mining sector ó outfitters who are somewhat involved in this. It is ecotourism; itís everybody who is involved in this. The problem is the protected areas strategy does not take these groups adequately into account. It does not take the people who live in those areas adequately into account. Iíve got a problem with that. It also begins to conflict in many areas with other processes. Itís easy for someone down south to say, "Well, we have a reserve here; we have a reserve there." Weíre in Rupertís Land. With a few minor exceptions ó yes, there are a couple reserves, but for the most part weíre dealing with a land claims process that has a wide variety of ways of protecting land, as the member opposite pointed out. All these are ways to accomplish a goal. We can utilize them in any one of a large number of ways.
But all of this has to be based on consultation, and that has been sorely lacking in the process. So until we get that process back on track, until we have the ability to get people in the same room and talking about the same subject, until we can get the land claims processes settled ó we seem to be very much on the right track to begin that process and get on with it ó and until we have everyone on the same page, it makes no sense to try to think that weíre going to make unilateral decisions.
The Yukon protected areas strategy is interesting, too, Mr. Deputy Chair, when you look at some of the statistics. In New Brunswick, 3.6 percent of their land is protected. Two are tied: British Columbia, 12.5 percent, and Alberta, 12.5 percent. Then you get to the Yukon. I believe weíre over 20 percent with some of the latest announcements, and there are more to come. We are the best in the nation now. Does that mean that weíre going to stop? God, no, of course not. Weíre not going to stop. But does it mean that we have the ability to sit back and evaluate what weíre doing and why weíre doing it? I think we do the Yukon a great service to take the time and think about it. To plow into a flawed process, again, I think, is very poorly advised.
Ms. Duncan: I thank the member opposite for the lecture on the protected areas strategy.
With respect to Fishing Branch, there was no answer, however, as to when he intends to start his own new and improved process.
Iíd like to ask the minister about his comments on Fishing Branch. He was asked about this in Question Period and didnít give an answer. In response to the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, he said that we are "just the broker".
Now, in the Government of Yukonís media release on this, the owner of the mine says there are unresolved details. Well, if the minister and the Government of Yukon are "just the broker", what details are we brokering and whatís on the table?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I used to work for a fellow who had a saying that I always thought was rather funny: if you donít like the answer then donít ask the question. If you donít want the lecture, donít ask the question.
You asked for something ó you asked for information ó weíre happy to give it, even at the risk of being criticized for giving it right after that.
The argument about Fishing Branch is between the First Nation and the miner. The impasse is between them. We got them together, helped facilitate the talk, and they have come to an agreement. That is within the purview of the First Nation government, and they are perhaps the people to ask. The cost to the Yukon government ó I was going to say zero, but I think we bought coffee for a couple of the people that day. Itís pretty minimal cost for a pretty good response.
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is saying that we donít have any responsibility for territorial parks or the Quartz Mining Act.
With respect to his sardonic humour comment about "donít ask the question" ó that is our job in the Legislature, to ask the questions. What I thank the minister for was his lecture on the history of the Yukon protected areas strategy. I asked when his version ó which would be new and improved ó would start. I have yet to receive an answer to that direct question.
With respect to Fishing Branch ó from a Government of Yukon press release, there is clearly far more to this than just buying coffee for two parties at the table. The minister has alluded to such. There is a line item in the budget, Fishing Branch ecological reserve, of $80,000. I would like the minister to be very clear and very forthcoming with this Legislature. Exactly what is on the table on the part of the Yukon government?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, my understanding from all the maps that I have seen is that the mining site involved is not in the park. Itís not within the park boundaries, so perhaps the member opposite would also like to request a map.
She repeats her question: when? When is a difficult thing, and thatís why I try to explain when ó when we get land claims settled, when we can get everyone back at the same table, when we can get them back on the same page, when weíre talking about the same process. When is that going to occur? Mr. Chair, thatís asking, again, a hypothetical question and asking for a hypothetical answer. I canít give a date. I donít know how I can state that more obviously. There is no set date. I canít tell you that on this exact date we will do it. Iím hoping itís very soon, but I donít know.
It took 30 years for land claims to settle. Who would have guessed at that point if somebody had been asked for a date and somebody had said 30 years down the road ó they would have been laughed off the floor. Weíre giving an honest answer, and while I do appreciate the member oppositeís comments that it is her job to ask the questions, I have to also point out to the member that it is our job to give the answers. And if the answer is trying to explain something and thatís not acceptable, then Iím sorry, thatís the best we can do.
The member is correct. If we want to get into the line items with the Fishing Branch at $80,000 ó but Iíll answer that question here. We are going ahead with the management plan. The $80,000 is to initiate and begin the process for the management plan. What else was on the table that day? I think there were muffins.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, these are fundamental questions. I am quite well aware, as is the minister, as is every member over here, that the mining claims in question are outside the park. The issue is access, and the minister knows that. The minister is being less than forthcoming in an attempt to be humorous about what exactly is being negotiated.
The governmentís media release says there are unresolved details ó and I will ask the ministerís forgiveness if he finds my tone somewhat sharp. I apologize if he finds that difficult. Just as the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin found patronizing difficult, I apologize if my tone is sharp. It expresses a frustration in the lack of answer from the minister.
What are the unresolved details, and what is the government doing about being "the broker", as the minister put it? If weíre brokering the deal, it involves far more than simply buying people coffee, and muffins apparently. Now, would the minister kindly be forthcoming and tell us exactly how and what is being negotiated?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Chair, Iíll talk to a few of those points. I certainly donít find the tone sharp. Iíve gotten rather used to it, actually. And while the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin might have taken offence to something I said, Iím sorry if I did that, every bit as much as I took offence at her accusing me of disrespecting elders during Question Period. I find that extremely offensive and I do look forward to her apology for that.
There is a fundamental question, and the best I can do is give a fundamental answer. There are unresolved details.
Both parties to the dispute were content to resolve the issues subject to details that they would work out together. The Yukon government involvement from that point on is to allow them to work. It is between the First Nation government and the contractor involved.
Now, again, at the risk of being told that this is dodging the issue, that is reality. The news report used to say, "That, too, is reality." I donít know what the details are. I donít know what the resolution is. I just know that the two are working together, they are solving problems, and if it cost us a couple of coffees and maybe a muffin, it was a darn good investment.
Ms. Duncan: Will the minister confirm that the Yukon government is not involved in any way financially in supporting any solutions arrived at at the table? Will the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, trying to be as blunt, honest and fundamental as I can be, no. I think we rented the room that we met in, if thatís a financial involvement. But other than that, there are no commitments.
Ms. Duncan: The Member for Klondike is on the record supporting the Yukon government buying the game farm. He brought a motion to that effect to the floor of the House. What is the Minister of Environmentís position on that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That was a pretty good transition there. I appreciate that.
To be totally honest, we have no money to buy anything. It is an option. It is a paper that has been put on the table. It is something that an active local group is looking at. There have been some meetings; theyíve asked for more. Like anything else, we will listen to anything, but we have nothing on the horizon that involves purchasing that game farm.
Ms. Duncan: Given the current financial status, is it the ministerís intention ó should funding become available ó to buy the game farm, to participate financially? He said theyíll listen to anything, so, you know, who knows? There might be more money for health, so they quit taking all the money at the Management Board table. If that money frees up, is it the ministerís intention to give serious thought to this motion brought forward by the Member for Klondike?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím trying to remember the line. Let me recap for the member opposite: Iím happy to listen to any kind of a proposal. If I were to win a huge lottery tomorrow, I might buy it. God knows what I would do with it, but I havenít won the lottery, and we do need to put money into health care. We do have other priorities. Thatís part of government. We donít have a $78-million surplus that we can spend down in two years. We have to be cautious with the money and how we use it.
So let me recap for the member opposite. We have no intention at this point in time or anything on the horizon that would indicate that Iím going to buy a game farm, either for the government or for me.
Ms. Duncan: What is the Minister of the Environmentís position on wildlife in captivity?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, including in here, I notice the member opposite is having a little trouble with the flies opposite, but they are not a regulated species, so go for it.
The matter of wildlife in captivity is under review. It has been taken out to consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I might be wrong in the numbers, but it seems to me there were something like 121 submissions, and that information has been distilled down into a document, which we will be responding to around May 1. At this point, the response is considered confidential under the Umbrella Final Agreement, which we are certainly not going to go against. The information will come out at that point.
Ms. Duncan: What I heard the minister say the Government of Yukonís position is, at this point, with respect to wildlife in captivity is that they are awaiting the advice from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That was the other line I was looking for. What I heard ó let me recap. The Fish and Wildlife Management Board has presented its recommendations. Under the Umbrella Final Agreement, there is a time period for the minister to respond. After that, there is a time period for the Fish and Wildlife Management Board to respond. During that time period, the discussions and papers are considered confidential. When that confidentiality is lifted, our position will come about, but at the moment, I cannot, and will not, violate the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not asking the minister to violate the agreement. Iím asking him what his position was.
Does the Minister of Environment have a position on "canned hunts"? What I mean by canned hunts is the export of wildlife for a set hunt in a fixed area? Does the Minister of Environment have a position, on behalf of the government, with respect to the export of Yukon wildlife for canned hunts?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I was getting a little nervous there, when I thought she was saying "Cantung," which isnít in the Yukon, but thatís another story.
I go back to the member oppositeís comments about her not asking me to violate the Umbrella Final Agreement, but asking for my position. The position will come out as part of that discussion. That is very much a part of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Itís well published. Itís available at the front desk.
In terms of canned hunts ó Iím waiting for the laughter to come out of Hansard in the back room there ó you can use a variety of different terms with that. This is also part of this discussion paper and will also come out at the appropriate time when this paper is brought out in the response and the discussion occurs. It being again part of that discussion paper, it would be inappropriate and in violation of the Umbrella Final Agreement to get into that discussion.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iím not going to get into an argument with the minister opposite.
I asked about the game farm and I have been reminded of the position. The minister has said, "Well, we donít have the money, so weíre not doing anything" ó until such time as he wins the lottery. I would just remind the minister that his quote in a letter he signed, addressed to the previous government ó in fact, the letter was addressed to me ó says, "Should you fail to act now, I can assure you that, after November 4, the Yukon Party government will be taking whatever steps are necessary to save the Yukon Game Farm."
So, what steps did they take?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I have a rough recollection of that letter but I would ask that that document be tabled, since it has been quoted in the House, in Committee.
We will do whatever we can to help save it, as we will any economic enterprise up here. That doesnít mean that, if the corner grocery store is having economic problems, weíre going to go down and buy it. But we will do whatever we can to assist the game farm and all economic opportunities in the Yukon to remain viable, employing Yukoners, generating revenue and generating an economy in this Yukon, which we are sadly lacking at this point in time.
Ms. Duncan: My understanding is that, if youíre quoting at length from a specific document, yes, it should be tabled. That also creates a great deal of paper for Table Officers. It is also acceptable to file when quoting from a public document. I would be happy to send a copy of the letter when I have an opportunity to make it. I am reading from a newspaper.
The minister signed the letter, so presumably ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Yes, weíve had discussions before about the value of a signature and accountability.
The fact is that the now minister said to the public that the government had to act now to take whatever steps. So I said, "Well, youíre the minister ó what steps did you take?" The minister replied, "Well, none."
With respect to the fact that they havenít taken any steps, can the minister confirm that the game farm will continue to operate no matter what? He said that it was important before the election. What does he have to say now?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Since the member opposite made comments that were objectionable ó I think referring to a signature and accountability ó is definitely casting aspersions. I definitely object to that strenuously.
Let me recap. You are going back and saying that weíve done nothing. That is not true. Have we bought it? No, that also is not true.
The new regulations that weíre talking about, and all the various things and the various aspects that would allow that game farm to be an economic entity and allow it to survive under any situation, they come about under the new Wildlife Act.
I refer the leader of the third party back to the month of October, when the government of the day found itself in an unusual situation where the Wildlife Act had passed but the regulations allowing this business and others to operate had not been passed ó big problem.
Contrary to what one member from the official opposition has referred to, they have argued before that there was a report that came down on November 25 ó that it was our fault when we didnít take over the reins until December 2. As the member opposite knows very well, the government can never be left in a position where there is no Cabinet and no Executive Council. The existing Cabinet remains until the moment the new Cabinet is sworn in on December 2. I bring that to all membersí attention. To continue to try to argue that that report was on our watch is not only poorly advised, but I ask them to go back and read the information from the Legislative Assembly Office, and Iím happy to provide that information.
This is a similar situation, Mr. Chair. During the month of October, the government found itself in an embarrassing position where the regulations had not come into effect, so therefore they had to reconvene, pass an order-in-council ó not a difficult task ó and allow this business to continue. Weíre very pleased they did. Weíre very pleased they saw the light on this issue.
But the regulations for the rest of it, and all the red tape that ties this and similar businesses down, are not there yet. Weíre working very hard to get them there.
But weíre not there yet. So are we working to do things that will allow this business to remain a viable business and a viable asset to the Yukon? Yes, we are, but if the member opposite thinks the solution is buying it, again, the attitude over many, many years has been, "Throw more money at it. Hey, just keep throwing money at it." There are other solutions, and those are the things that we have to look at.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the suggested solution of buying it didnít come from our government. It came from the Member for Klondike on a motion on the floor of the House.
The Liberal Party and our caucus were very clear on the record as being opposed to allowing animals to be exported for canned hunts. We were very clear. That was our position. Iím asking what the position of the Yukon Party government is. Recommendations from the Fish and Wildlife Management Board of course play a vital part. Thatís part of the government-to-government relationship. Ultimately, however, the Minister of Environment has a role, has a decision to make and decisions to make. Iíve asked what his position is on this specific issue.
Now, the minister has said that, on the one hand, prior to becoming the minister, the Yukon Party government will take whatever steps necessary to ensure the game farm will continue to operate. He has just said, however, that they wonít buy it. Well, the position with respect to export of animals, whether it be for canned hunts or some other exports, plays a vital role in the continued operation of the game farm.
Now, I would like the minister to state definitively his position on this. And I understand very well the role of the Umbrella Final Agreement and the role of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. I also understand the ministerís role. I would like him to put forward what his position is on these issues.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, I was very glad to hear that last little comment because thatís really what this is all wrapped up in.
We have a process. The process is developing. The process is mandated by the Umbrella Final Agreement. We are happy to follow that mandated agreement. But Iím very happy to hear the member opposite say that she understands the ministerís role. The ministerís role is to speak for the government. So I donít have an opinion. My opinion is that I will take the data that comes in, I will talk to the stakeholders, I will look at the reports that come in, and I will make a decision based on information.
If I have an opinion at this point, which is what the member opposite is asking me to put on the table, then why did I bother to consult with anyone? Why donít I just follow what I want to do? I am mandated to collect that data and make an impartial decision, and I have no intention of violating that mandate.
Ms. Duncan: Iím going to leave that issue. The minister is on the record, prior to the election, on it. I would just remind the minister that I found his support for the Kyoto accord very interesting, as it differs significantly from his national affiliation. The Canadian Reform Conservative Alliance is quite clearly on record as stating that itís a deeply flawed international deal. So Iím pleased to hear the minister indicate that the Yukon Party and he, personally, now are very supportive of Kyoto.
Iíd just like to speak briefly about the waste reduction initiatives and recycling initiatives that are under the responsibility of this department. The minister mentioned the Old Crow road. The Government of Yukon has a graveyard ó and thatís how it is referred to; Iím not casting aspersions because that is how it is colloquially referred to in Old Crow ó of large vehicles by the maintenance garage. I believe there are five or six large vehicles. There is also a need, of course, for a new eduction truck in Old Crow.
Iím very hopeful and supportive of the Vuntut Gwitchin and Pelly Construction in their construction of a winter road. Is the Government of Yukon looking at fulfilling its environmental responsibility and is it prepared to take out these large dump trucks and other waste material that is there? There is also a difficulty with people in Old Crow being able to fully participate in terms of the recycling initiatives, because itís tough to get the stuff out, and a winter road presents an ideal opportunity.
Is the Department of Environment ó the minister ó prepared to financially contribute to ensure we clean up what is the Government of Yukonís responsibility when the winter road is constructed?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíd like to correct the member opposite when she tries to cast me with a federal party. Since the federal election, I have not been a member of any political party, and I support no federal party. Iím a minister of the Yukon government; that is my interest and I have no other interests. So thatís on the record.
The waste reduction ó again, I agree, the road into Old Crow could be a very valuable asset in some regard. My previous comments were to point out that, when the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin pointed out that putting roads in the traditional lands up there would be a problem, well, perhaps some roads might not be a problem and might have a good benefit. Weíre certainly willing to look at those options and discuss those options. Weíre willing to look at a lot of different options on this thing and, as the road develops, we will certainly be looking at the data and making decisions as to whether it will be done immediately or in the future, or what the effect on the environment might be. I can foresee all sorts of scenarios here, Mr. Chair, where the decision is made to do it on a date, and we find out that coming across on a winter road isnít the best for the environment, and then being criticized that weíve screwed up the date.
We will look at the options. I like the idea of getting it out of there, as much as I enjoy and look forward to getting the solid waste regulations put together.
I think this has great potential to clean up a mess. It has a great potential to do a lot of things. But I have had very little ability to communicate with the third party to get their opinion on this. We have provided them with the information. We have sent e-mails. We have had no response.
I am hoping that in the development of what the member opposite requests ó which is laudable and which I would certainly try to promote ó I hope we have better luck in discussing that option.
Ms. Duncan: Thanks to the minister. The fact is the tire regulations ó which he finally provided to me ó and regulations are the purview of the government and they arenít required to have the oppositionís blessing or input. I appreciate the minister finally recognizing that there are, in fact, two parties, and providing me with a copy but, as has been previously noted to him, he was only seeking ó as he, himself, said in his e-mail ó he is only seeking the information so that we wouldnít criticize him when the tire regulations were promulgated ó whatever.
The minister wants to drag that in, which is not germane to this debate. All I asked was: are you going to take out YTGís mess when the road is built? Thatís all I asked. I didnít get much of an answer.
I noticed yesterday I asked the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources for the economic outlook and, lo and behold, it got tabled today. Let me try this for the minister, and maybe we can reach agreement.
When is the recycling club going to be reinstated?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iím pleased to see that the member opposite takes such great pains to notice detail.
We arenít going to reinstate it because it was never cancelled. Itís still there.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís announced each year. Itís paused between October and May, when it goes through Cabinet ó yes, weíre going to have the recycling club again this year. Itís not an automatic. Itís announced each year in the House, usually by the Minister of the Environment, usually in May, and there has been no announcement forthcoming.
Is it going to happen again? Itís a really straightforward question.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I feel much better there. I was getting a little bit worried.
The recycling club has never been cancelled; it is there. We are now in the process of collecting the prizes and getting it organized. As the member opposite says, itíll be announced in May but, when I look up on the wall, it says April 15, so it will be announced in due course.
Ms. Duncan: Sinks to new lows, Mr. Chair.
Is there any assistance forthcoming for the difficulty that not only the Recycling Centre has, but Yukoners have with respect to battery collection? The Raven Recycling Centre and other recycling centres, to my knowledge, have a number of batteries and no way to get them out, no money to get them out and no ability to recycle them or properly dispose of them. Is the minister prepared to provide assistance in this regard? Is he considering this issue?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: That certainly is on the horizon. Itís something weíre looking at. In my way of thinking, it certainly falls within the hazardous waste regulations, the tires being the first part of it.
I must admit to some confusion when members opposite are continually saying that we donít consult, and now we get complaints that we do consult. The regulations are, in the words of the leader of the third party, the purview of the government. Yes, we can continue with them at any point, but weíd like to consult. One has to think that, since they were ó I agree ó promoted and drawn within the mandate of the Liberal government, the Liberal member opposite might be in support of them.
Why she hasnít wanted to say that for the last month confuses me, but part of that proposal is to generate the mechanism to pull things like this out, to pull batteries out, to pull oil out. We are starting a pilot project this summer that I hope will be very quickly turned into a territory-wide project for waste oil. The problem with the waste oil is that, while we had a collection point at one point in time ó I believe it was at Raven ó it was available to home users of oil. The problem is people didnít understand or perhaps didnít want to understand the difference between oil, kerosene, paint, solvents of all sorts. Once the oil is contaminated, it now cannot be burned in waste burners that we have up here. Itís a totally different process to recover it and a much more expensive process for us to recover it. So weíre having to look at that and weíre modifying that. All of these things are tied in together, and this is why we want to get this thing going as soon as we can, to be able to get batteries out of the communities by whatever means we can.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, I can assure the minister that heíll receive my answer on the tire regulations in due course.
There are a number of programs with the government Department of Environment. Thereís NatureServe Yukon and thereís wildlife viewing. It was asked for in February at the budget briefing. Normally the opposition parties are provided with a community breakdown of how much money is being spent in each community in the capital and O&M ó largely the capital portion of the budget. We havenít had that information from the open and accountable government opposite. Normally itís provided by Finance. Why Iím asking in this particular line item, because we havenít had it ó will the minister provide, by either legislative return or letter ó it can be after the House rises ó the breakdown of the programs such as wildlife viewing, NatureServe Yukon and the campgrounds. I would like the expenditures by community.
Just to be clear, we havenít been given the breakdown by community. Iíd like the breakdown by the Department of Environment, since Finance seems unable or unwilling to provide that. And Iíll accept that by letter after the Legislature rises.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We have no problem at all in providing that to both the third party and the official opposition ó before the Member for Kluane bounds out of his chair there.
Mr. McRobb: The ministerís perception is remarkable, Mr. Chair.
I would ask for his continuing cooperation. I do have a few short snappers that I would like him to be expeditious with.
I want to ask about wildlife viewing stations. Could the minister provide us with a list of the priority locations he would like to see developed?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I always enjoy the member oppositeís short snappers.
I have no problem with providing that. We can certainly send that over.
Mr. McRobb: I thank the minister for that.
In the area of bison management, we received a briefing note from the department defending the need to protect the numbers in the herd and to discourage the opening up of hunting. Is that, in fact, this ministerís position, and would he come back and provide us with some expectations as far as numbers go and what he feels numbers would be for next yearís hunt?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I believe the member oppositeís question actually concerns the poor hunt that a lot of our hunters experienced this year, from a variety of circumstances.
I believe weíre on the record with a great deal of the information in terms of the season. Itís the goal of our department to keep the size of the herd to a reasonable level, and this year we do have some difficulties with that, and we will be looking at that process next year to see if there are ways to get around it. The allocation of permits this year and the actual numbers that we got were pretty poor, but I can certainly get the member more detailed information ó not a problem.
Mr. McRobb: I have a similar question regarding the ministerís policy on stocked pothole lakes. Would the minister undertake to return to me a letter setting out his position on stocked pothole lakes? Weíre talking about aquaculture here. How many lakes are currently being designated for this purpose? And any other information that is available to the minister ó would he undertake to return to us that information?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Actually, Mr. Chair, I can speak to that from here. There are 23 stocked pothole lakes that are currently utilized by 16 fish farmers. The concept for those who arenít familiar with this is that we utilize a pothole lake that has no inlet, outlet or natural selection of fish and allow someone to put fish in ó in this case, these are all Arctic char ó and allow them to grow up, so to speak, and then harvest them.
In theory, itís a very good plan. Itís an incredible resource and something that we can develop. Itís something that is worth ó we have seen estimates in the $12 million to $13 million dollar range. Itís a way of utilizing our environment, because these are cold lakes. There is no interaction with other fish species. These lakes have a large abundance of freshwater shrimp. We donít have to go out and feed these fish. We just have to put them out there and collect them later.
There are difficulties with it. There is a question at the present time of ownership of the fish, once theyíre put on to public land. There are a number of other different concerns. The member opposite is pointing at his watch, after heís asked me to give him information on this ó expeditiously.
So you would prefer that I give this in due course?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board is currently doing a consultation on this. They are currently reviewing the situation, taking it to a public consultation and bringing back recommendations that will then go into the system, with time to respond and time for them to respond. But those, basically, are the issues ó the ownership of the fish and the survival of the aquaculture industry. We have a great interest in this and I look forward to getting that report.
Until that time, again, in order to make an informed but unbiased position, I have no position.
Mr. McRobb: Maybe the minister can share with us that report when it becomes available. I would like to ask him about financial support for our renewable resource councils. Will the minister indicate for us what his position is in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I would be more than happy to share that report, which will actually be a public document when it becomes available.
The renewable resource councils are funded at the present time by Ottawa. The money flows through the Department of Environment and we pass it on. I believe that there has been a bit of a problem this year and that federal funding has been a little bit slower coming. We do hope that will have been resolved with all the renewable resource councils by the end of the month. But at the present time, we do not fund the renewable resource councils; Ottawa does.
Mr. McRobb: All right. What about additional money for projects that the councils can be involved in? Would the minister be supportive of granting those requests?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, I will look at anything. I will meet with anybody. Iím usually pretty easy on that.
But the fact of the matter is that he asks a hypothetical question and asks me to respond with a hypothetical answer.
Each renewable resource council is funded. Each one has its own budget for its own projects. If one of the councils were to come in with a joint project ó I donít really care whether itís the council or the First Nation government or a village, or whatever ó we will listen to anything that people want to put on the table. Without knowing what that is, I canít commit to anything.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Chair, this is not a hypothetical question because several RRCs have made such requests to government previously. So if the minister has any more information to offer us, Iíd be pleased to see it rolled up with the rest.
I want to ask him about a specific program that did exist called the environmental awareness fund. This fund provided financial support up to a limit, I believe, of $5,000 to applicants. It was aimed at assisting them toward increasing Yukonersí awareness of environmental matters. Does the minister still support this fund?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes, that fund does still exist. It is, however, restricted to dealing with non-profit organizations. I guess, in the Yukon, we always have to sort of corner that by saying intentionally non-profit organizations.
Mr. McRobb: Thatís good news for the NGOs, Mr. Chair.
I would like to ask the minister about the Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which provides recommendations to the minister. Now, it has been an issue with previous governments of whether a minister should ever disagree with such recommendations. I would like to ask this minister what his views are.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Fish and Wildlife Management Board is an armís-length organization mandated under the Umbrella Final Agreement. It exists as a consultation body. It exists as a body to go out and consult, to hear all of the options and to make recommendations to the Yukon minister, the federal minister, First Nation government, city government. They have a mandate that they make recommendations.
It seems to be a very busy group, always with something to say and, as long as their consultations are fair and equitable, they serve a very great purpose.
Mr. McRobb: I asked the minister what his views were as far as accepting recommendations from the board. Would the minister always accept the boardís recommendations?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, that is a hypothetical question looking for a hypothetical answer. I canít say what I would do in any hypothetical situation. As the minister, it is my job ó as the leader of the third party would like to say ó to look at those reports, to ensure they are unbiased and meet the criteria of unbiased consultation, and give all due considerations and make the decisions with that. Without knowing what recommendation the member refers to, I canít answer that.
Mr. McRobb: All right, Iíll make do with that response for now, Mr. Chair. I would like to ask him what his position is on species at risk. What does the minister intend to do about it, from the Yukon perspective?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thatís fairly straightforward. The federal government has already proclaimed a federal act. If a local jurisdiction does not have a corresponding act, then the federal act always applies, of course. This gives us two big problems ó probably more, but two that come immediately to mind. One is the fact that grizzly bears, which are fairly common in the Yukon, are federally considered an endangered species. The wood bison, which the member opposite just referred to as a hunt, re-established in the Yukon, located in a particular area, and we have a good economic hunt. It drives everything from tourism to look at them, to meat on the table, sustainability, et cetera.
With these two species being right in the forefront, it is definitely to our advantage to have our own act, and Iím pleased to announce that that act will be presented in the fall sitting.
Mr. McRobb: All right. I have one more question, Mr. Chair, and Iíd like to thank the minister for cooperating with brevity in his answers.
This concerns an issue brought to my attention by a constituent who is tired of always buying new propane tanks and throwing out his perfectly good ones to the landfill because of the regulations that require the nozzles to be replaced. According to the constituent, this presents a hazard and a problem at local landfills with these older propane tanks, which sometimes apparently are shot at and so on.
I would like to know if the minister has considered this issue and what, if anything, he intends to do to resolve it.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Thatís one solution. Another solution would be to change the nozzle, retest the tank and refill it. If your constituent insists that itís more economical to simply toss the tank, itís probably more economical in a lot of places to toss the tires too, but there are better ways of doing it that exist right now.
Mr. McRobb: For the ministerís information, the cost of purchasing a new bottle is less than the cost of recommissioning an older one. Thatís the problem. There is no incentive to recycle in this situation.
Iíd like to give him another opportunity to respond to that question.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I suppose there are a variety of ways of approaching this. Itís that way in a lot of cases. I have in my hand a mechanical pencil thatís a lot more expensive to buy the leads for and keep feeding them into it than it is to simply go out and get another 12-cent pencil. But being responsible for the environment, Iíve been using this one the whole sitting, and it works just fine.
Is the member opposite suggesting that we increase the price of the tanks? Or is he saying that we should expend tax dollars and pass that cost on to all Yukoners, rather than leaving the cost with the individual involved with their tank? Thatís a personal decision. I would hope that most people would act responsibly, change the valve and test the tank.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of questions in this department. Theyíre simple ones. I would like to know if the minister has read the Yukon protected areas strategy?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Yes.
Mr. Fairclough: And how does he compare it to other strategies that have been developed across Canada?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: One of the problems with that document is that it addresses a global approach that works, or may work, in a large part of the country when, in fact, it does not work here. It is flawed when you come into the Yukon ó when you deal with Rupertís Land, special management areas, resource extraction and all of these things. We have a definite problem, and itís those flaws weíre looking at.
Again, I go back to some of the early documents revolving around that ó the Y2Y, the Yellowstone-to-Yukon. I read that and had these wonderful images of grizzly bears walking down Hastings Street in Vancouver. I mean, you have to be realistic in whatís going to happen, and you have to look at how itís going to have an effect locally.
The Yukon protected areas strategy, with all of the best intentions, is a flawed document and it needs to be revisited.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister didnít answer the question. How does he compare it to the rest of the strategies that have been developed across Canada?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Well, the member opposite, then, didnít listen to the answer.
It is a strategy that compares with all of them in a way that it does not take into account the special things in the Yukon, such as Rupertís Land, such as special management areas, such as the Umbrella Final Agreement ó on and on and on. It might work in one area. It doesnít work here.
Mr. Fairclough: Okay, I will leave it at that, Mr. Chair. Itís obvious that the minister didnít read the strategy at all.
There was a pilot project for solid waste management in Haines Junction. Other communities were looking at this to have it in their communities ó the community of Carmacks, for example. Some of the equipment that might have been purchased could have been shared between several communities.
What is happening with this whole thing? Is it not moving ahead? Are communities going to see something similar to what Haines Junction has?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I might have to get back to the member opposite on that. I think that what he is referring to occurred before our watch. I donít know that. It certainly makes sense to share and utilize resources in such an obvious way, which brings me back to when the member opposite said, "Itís obvious that the minister didnít read the strategy at all." I have to reply that itís obvious that the member isnít listening to the answers.
Mr. Fairclough: If the minister read it, his answer would be different. Thatís why I said that. I would like information brought forward by the minister on the pilot project and how, for example, the community of Carmacks can benefit from this. It was all about recycling, particularly cardboard and metals and so on. It appeared that it was going in the right direction, and now weíve moved backward on this whole thing. Iíll leave that for now.
I would like to ask the minister whether or not land use planning is a high priority for the minister.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Iíll certainly answer the question, but I do have to preface it with the fact that land use planning is now the purview of Energy, Mines and Resources and not Environment, although Environment certainly has an input in that.
This government certainly gives it a high priority, no matter which department is looking at this. We certainly work collaboratively, and thatís a large part of my job, Mr. Chair ó to allow resource development, land use planning and everything else go on with the constant watch of the Department of Environment to make sure our environment and people are protected.
It is also very important to us in the utilization of our resources ó renewable resource councils, planning, national parks being dumped into or alongside the Village of Teslin, without their knowledge. This is all part of the planning process. It is the highest priority.
Mr. Fairclough: I asked this question. It affects many departments. It affects the whole of Yukon. If it is of the highest priority, then why does the minister allow other development to happen before land use planning takes place?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do agree with the member opposite and again state that it is a very high priority. There are cases ó and Iím suspicious Iíll have to let the member opposite read the next question before I find out where weíre going here ó but there certainly are instances where things are in progress and were in progress when our government took over in December. Some of those have continued. Itís not something, again, where you can turn around and start shutting people down. Thatís a really quick way to get into problems. But certainly now that we have the reins, land use planning is a high priority and we intend to do things differently.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister might be interested in having the environment addressed in all portions of the Yukon. Where land use planning was to take place was with those who had finished their agreements and signed off their final agreements, and we havenít seen much movement there. I realize there is a land use planning council, but there also could be a lot of pressure from government to get things going.
How, then, will the minister address the environmental issues when development is taking place, say, for example, in Northern Tutchone territory, which is basically almost a quarter of the Yukon? How does he plan to address the environmental issues, given that he feels that land use planning is a high priority and should take place before a major development takes place? How does it get addressed then? Through normal processes?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There certainly are processes in place. We have to look at the traditional lands of each First Nation, and although the Minister of Education informs me that part of that land is Tahltan as well ó in all seriousness we give every bit of support to Energy, Mines and Resources, which is the lead department in that. We will work very closely with them, advise them and prod them when necessary, which really hasnít been too often, but we will work with the people who have the lead in this.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím a bit surprised at the answer because this is supposed to be a top priority of the minister and of government ó of the highest priority.
With regard to bison hunts, I would like to ask the minister if there have been complaints about access to areas where bison winter during hunts by First Nations in regard to environmental damage done by ATVs and displacement of other animals, such as moose, for example.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: We certainly work closely with the First Nations involved there, and Iím informed that, to our knowledge, we havenít had complaints, although I do have to admit that the member opposite may have a point that there probably could be.
Iím glad that he recognizes that we do give this the highest priority and I do hope he discusses that with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, who controls that. It is the highest priority and itís something we will take very seriously.
The only complaints to my knowledge that weíve had this year concern the fact that nobody was finding the bison. The low snow cover certainly caused a lot of people problems and it probably did cause additional damage with the low snow cover.
In terms of other complaints, I am not aware of any.
Mrs. Peter: I just have a couple more questions for the minister in regard to comments made by the Minister of Mines, Energy and Resources yesterday in regard to the roads to resources or in the debate around that department.
In that debate, I was made aware that there were going to be land leases or land sales opening in north Yukon in May or June and that will double potential oil and gas exploration.
Can the minister tell this House if that is the case?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís enjoyable ó the tag-team approach to debate, which is actually working rather well.
It is "Energy, Mines and Resources" not "mines, energy and resources." Energy comes slightly before environment, for the benefit of the Member for Kluane, who had his alphabet backward yesterday as well.
I donít know. I have to admit that I donít know. That is within the purview of Energy, Mines and Resources, and it would be a question best put to them.
I know our people have had input and are in contact and are working with them but, in terms of what is to be released and when it is to be released, that is a different department.
Mrs. Peter: Thatís kind of confusing, Mr. Chair, because yesterday when the member in the opposition was trying to address some of these questions with the minister in that department, he said that it would happen in this department. Anyhow, I will leave it at that.
We will address that issue at a later date through other correspondence, Iím sure. I know there is a meeting happening between the leadership of Old Crow and the government fairly soon.
I have just one more question for this minister that I would like to get on record. What is this governmentís position on the over-the-top route?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: My understanding of the over-the-top route has been somewhat discouraged. I donít think it is on the table at the present time. As the minister involved, I think itís something about which we need to look at all of the data. And to me, from an environmental point of view, it would have to be very good data to prove that that has any viability.
Mr. McRobb: Pursuant to Standing Order 14.3, I request the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 52, Department of Environment, cleared or carried, as required.
Chair: Prior to putting the request forward, Iíd like to confirm that there is no further general debate.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I donít necessarily stand against the member oppositeís suggestion, but I do wish to put on record that the members opposite are speculating on passing a $15.2-million budget without debate line by line. I think that is rather strange, when they wanted all sorts of information, and now they donít want any information. But, in general, I wonít oppose it.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Unanimous consent re deeming all lines in Vote 52, Department of Environment, read and agreed to
Chair:Mr. McRobb has requested the unanimous consent of the Committee to deem all lines in Vote 52, Department of Environment, cleared or carried, as required. Are you agreed?
All Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: There is unanimous consent.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Environment in the amount of $15,249,000 agreed to
On Capital Expenditures
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Environment in the amount of $1,449,000 agreed to
Department of Environment agreed to
Chair: That concludes this department. Do members wish a 15-minute recess prior to coming back with the Department of Education?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll reconvene at 4:40 p.m..
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order.
Weíll continue on with Vote 03, Department of Education, and general debate.
Department of Education
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I rise today to speak to the 2003-04 budget requests for the Department of Education.
I would like to start out by talking about a little bit of my traditional beliefs with regard to seeking understanding of whatís before us. When I talk about seeking understanding, I talk about trying to understand, for example, why it would even be necessary to have a reduction in any program.
I have to say that in trying to understand this, I understand that there is a rising cost within the department. I understand that at some point in time, there comes a time when one must address the issues that are going to create any kind of situation for a program or a department to keep on functioning properly.
Having said that, members have heard about the spending trajectory of previous budgets and the shrinking formula financing dollars available to the Yukon. Within this context, I am extremely pleased that my government was able to maintain the same level of educational support and even, in some cases, to expand the support for the students of the Yukon.
As always, in determining the priorities of government spending, there are very difficult choices to make.
I feel that this budget goes a long way to maintaining a high standard of service to learners in the Yukon.
At this time, I would like to thank my colleagues for their support in minimizing the reductions to education. They were very generous by giving the Education department a break by not insisting we meet the same percentage of reduction as the other departments did.
The departmentís O&M budget of $91,791,000 consists of three program areas: public schools, advanced education and education support services. The department provides programs and services through a number of work sites, including 28 schools, Wood Street Centre, Gadzoosdaa residence and the Teen Parent Centre. Of the total operation and maintenance budget, approximately 66 percent is the estimated cost for salaries and benefits. Of that, $53 million is spent in the public schools branch, with 92 percent of that allotted directly to schools.
The remainder of the budget, $31,055,000, consists of two broad areas. The first in the amount of $18,283,000, or 20 percent, is for transfer payments to individuals and organizations. Of this funding, over $11 million is for the base grant at Yukon College, $3.5 million is for the post-secondary student financial assistance, $520,000 is for delivery of the Yukon native teacher education program, and $320,000 is for the bachelor of social work program.
The second area, in the amount of $12,772,000, or 14 percent in the other allotment, is largely funded to support program delivery at the school level, including $2.8 million for busing, $1.9 million for maintenance in schools, $3.5 million for school utilities and $761,000 for program materials in schools.
Before I get into the details of the budget, I want to talk about a significant reorganization undertaken by the department over the last year that is reflected in this budget. This reorganization was not a function of the renewal project. It was an internal reorganization to better align our service delivery to the needs of education across the territory.
To improve our support to our major partners in Education, we have established a new unit in public schools. The partnerships and operations unit brings together staff already dedicated to supporting our partners in delivery of French programs and the resources dedicated to supporting school councils. Through reallocation, we have added resources to support our partnerships with First Nations.
Two units were combined in education support services, and the management structure was flattened to provide the funds for reallocation to the new unit just described.
The members will notice that an increase is shown for public schools. This money ó $453,000 ó is for the merit increase for our teachers across the Yukon. An increase of $136,000 will expand existing programs or introduce new programs, some of which include elders in the schools, kindergarten and secondary screening, mathematics training for teachers and learning through the arts.
Within public schools, we also have $50,000 in funding identified for the teacher mentoring program. I am pleased that this amount is double what was available last year. This will allow us to increase the number of teachers and administrators who will be supported by mentors.
I would now like to summarize the capital budget and what our government intends to accomplish within the education infrastructure across the territory. Mr. Chair, this is a budget that reflects our governmentís commitment to restoring the community training fund to previous levels. This is a budget that ensures school facilities for our young people are wellmaintained and relevant to the learning opportunities offered through the school programs. This is a budget that supports major renovation projects and school expansion projects to meet programming needs. This budget supports both Whitehorse and rural community program delivery and infrastructure.
The capital budgetís request is $10,467,000, of which $7,971,000, or 77 percent, reflects the departmentís investment in school infrastructure. In public schools, we have committed to the completion of the Eliza Van Bibber School addition and heating system. This addition will be open to students at the beginning of the 2003-04 school year. We have also included a number of school upgrades and renovations that will employ Yukon people during the coming summer months. These renovations and upgrades are to take place in Watson Lake, Whitehorse and Teslin.
The investments in school improvements significantly support the economic fibre of the territory. Construction, electrical projects, paving ó all these types of activities at our schools provide jobs for Yukoners. Schools throughout the territory are supported by the investment plan laid out in this budget. This budget reflects careful consideration of all the needs, and priorizes the projects to meet those needs.
Within advanced education, we have the second largest amount included in this budget ó the $1.5 million to restore the community training funds. These funds will be used to provide Yukon residents with the training necessary to take advantage of economic opportunities as they emerge, whether those opportunities are in the resource sector, the non-government sector or growing economic sectors such as cultural industries.
Community training funds promote equality and fairness so that people with diverse needs have support to develop their skills and make the transition to training or employment.
Training is generally guided by the Yukon training strategy, which outlines the Yukon governmentís directions on training for Yukon people.
The other large amount included in this budget is $1.1 million required for the facility management agreement. This level of funding is required to ensure a safe and healthy atmosphere for our children and teachers. These funds are transferred to Highways and Public Works to perform the ongoing maintenance for all 28 of our schools, and cover such things as fixing doors, windows and heating systems.
The Premier, in his budget speech, spoke of small construction projects that create employment opportunities. I would like to mention some of these projects that are included in Educationís budget. There is $300,000 of the planning and design of an addition/renovation project at Teslin school, with construction planned for 2004-05. These funds are to be used to provide planning and design of new classrooms, additional office space, renovations and relocation of the administration area. There is $200,000 for the upgrade of the Jack Hulland School heating system. $200,000 has been set aside for the completion of the Watson Lake Secondary School technology wing upgrade.
Educationís capital budget request also includes the funds necessary to provide funding for upgrades in our public schools, including $600,000 for the capital maintenance and repairs program for all schools, $150,000 for school-initiated renovations, which are managed at the school level, $150,000 for the school painting program and $100,000 for various school facility renovations that support programming changes.
Expanding access to distance learning and Internet-based information use is a priority for our government. This budget includes support for equipment and services necessary at the school level to provide for instructional programs as follows: $425,000 for school-based equipment purchases, $222,000 for Internet-supporting distance learning infrastructure in our schools, $215,000 for distance education program expansion, and $168,000 in school-based information technology for the ongoing upgrading of the computer labs in our schools.
Our investment in adult learning through Yukon College continues to be supported through the allocation of $750,000. The College has full discretion for the allocation of this money to the Whitehorse and community campuses.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, I believe what is important to note is that, after these reductions, the Yukon still has the highest dollars spent per student of any place in Canada, which is approximately $13,000 plus per student. Mr. Chair, it is also important to note that the Yukon also still has one of the lowest student-teacher ratios in Canada.
Mr. Chair, having gone through the above highlights, I am now prepared to answer questions from the members opposite or proceed to line-by-line debate.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have a few questions for the minister in this department. Throughout the whole government, in many departments, we have seen cutbacks. I am certainly going to be asking questions in that regard, but first of all, Mr. Chair, governments usually reflect their priorities in changes in the departments, new spending and so on. What new initiatives did the minister bring forward in this department that reflect his partyís campaign commitments?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to bring to the attention of the member opposite that such things as the increase to the training trust fund ó that in itself is a very significant addition to the education system. As we were all aware, in the last year it was only $500,000, and we brought it up to $1.5 million, which, to the best of my knowledge, when leveraged, can triple. So that is one significant thing we brought in. We also maintained the base grant for the College. That was another thing that was a good, significant thing for the Education department.
We also maintained our partnership while strengthening the education system and ongoing support to programming in schools.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister explain exactly how they are strengthening the educational system? The minister said heís maintaining partnerships while strengthening the educational system. In public schools, which part is specifically targeted?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think one of the best supports we have maintained in the public school system is the financial support. Weíve managed to keep that at the level, plus we are looking at strengthening our supports with First Nations. Also, we have continued our support through the arts program, which is being conducted at Elijah Smith Elementary School.
Mr. Fairclough: Maintaining financial support is not a new initiative. Exactly how is the minister strengthening the support with First Nations in the public schools?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There are a number of ways that weíre trying to strengthen our relationship with First Nations. First and foremost, I would say to the member opposite that even to start having a continuous dialogue is a step in the right direction. To start having a dialogue with the CYFN, for example, with the Grand Chief and with other chiefs throughout the Yukon, is one process that we are endeavouring to do right now.
There are other programs that weíre supporting. I will name a few. One of them is the Yukon storytelling project. For example, this year I opened the Robert Service storytelling festival, and the First Nations component has been added to that festival, so that is a good move. Weíre also in negotiations with the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in in trying to determine what kind of a working relationship the Yukon government can have with that First Nation.
We are having discussions about a curriculum development project with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation around the Tlingit clan system. Weíre also doing some work with the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, and that is in the development of a First Nation governance unit in conjunction with Hidden Valley School.
This project is currently in progress, and the target grade levels are 4 and 5.
Selkirk First Nation approval has been granted to develop a curriculum resource that focuses on rights of passage for boys and girls. The target group has yet to be confirmed. Also, the Department of Education has supported the development of a common curriculum framework for aboriginal languages in cooperation with the four western provinces, Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories. The aboriginal languages curriculum framework is being piloted in four Yukon schools ó Carcross, Whitehorse Elementary, Johnson Elementary and Chief Zzeh Gittlit ó through the work of the departmentís First Nation education consultant and native language consultant.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister tell me when this discussion started? Was it a month ago, six months ago, a year ago? Is this an ongoing dialogue that the department has with First Nations? When did it start?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the member oppositeís information, immediately after taking office I contacted a number of First Nation chiefs. Some who have come to town made appointments with my office and I accommodated anyone who was going through and who wanted to have a brief discussion with regard to education. I also committed to future dialogue with the various chiefs.
I believe that one of the First Nations ó the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nation, for example ó I think that the negotiations were probably started sometime in December.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member opposite for clarification with Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in. With the other First Nations, the department must have had ongoing dialogue for years, and really, there isnít anything new to what the member is saying, although I believe that, maybe in his heart, he feels that there needs to be more support there with First Nations and we need to strengthen the relationship that we do have with First Nations.
The minister also said that he is maintaining partnerships with First Nations. This budget doesnít reflect that there is any support for the First Nation Education Commission. It doesnít reflect any dollars going to First Nations in continuing discussions with the Education Act review.
What new will we see in that area, down the road, since itís not reflected in the budget here ó will we see anything in the fall supplementary, because itís not in this budget?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think, to start with, I will address the first comments that the member opposite made. I believe that there may have been some dialogue previously, but I was received quite whole-heartedly by the people Iíve talked to. I was congratulated and they appreciated the discussions we had immediately after I took office.
I have to say that with regard to strengthening the partnerships, I think that just being the individual I am and my sincerity about having First Nation involvement in education is going to go quite a distance because I do believe that there is room for First Nations to be involved totally with education.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, I have all kinds of questions about that, too, Mr. Chair. One of the things that the minister said was that the Department of Education is working with Health and Social Services and the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon on a joint plan to improve outcomes for students with FASD. How come the First Nations werenít involved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: With regard to this question, I would tell the member opposite that the discussions within our departments are preliminary and these discussions have been going on for a short period of time, and when the appropriate time comes, we will be talking to other stakeholders with regard to this issue. I think itís very, very critical that Health and Education do have discussions in this area because I think the departments can really complement each other.
Mr. Fairclough: If this were at the very beginning stages, then the minister would say that. The fact is, the minister said heís working on a joint plan, and this doesnít involve First Nations right now on what they believe to be the biggest problem, according to the Minister of Health anyway ó and theyíre already cut out of the loop. Iím surprised the member opposite would not even include First Nations at the beginning of these discussions. So, when can we expect First Nation involvement ó after the fact? When we have a plan in place, then consult? We build a plan and consult later ó is that a new Yukon government policy?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: First off, I would have to say that I totally disagree with the opinions of the member opposite with respect to what the Department of Education is doing. I would also state that these discussions are preliminary; however, I also met with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations before I even started talking with the Health minister. The discussions were around some of these issues and the concerns that Council of Yukon First Nations had with some of the issues within the classroom.
So I have already included the First Nations. In my opinion, you would never see the First Nations sit idle and be excluded, and this department has no intentions whatsoever of excluding anybody.
Mr. Fairclough: It wasnít important enough for the minister to mention First Nations when he spoke at the forum this past weekend. If it was, Iím sure the minister would have said so, but theyíre developing a joint plan without the First Nations.
Iíd like to ask the minister: did he have any discussions with the department of education in CYFN? Iím not talking about the First Nation Education Commission, but the department of education in CYFN.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The simple answer to that is yes.
Again, for the record, I want to correct the member opposite that this government is not going ahead and developing a plan for FASD without any input from First Nations. I want to make that perfectly clear because, the way this is going right now, it appears that the department is being wrongfully judged on where theyíre going with any education program with respect to FASD.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, those are the ministerís words, Mr. Chair, and Iím just putting the ministerís words right back to him. If thatís the case, maybe the minister should talk more with the department and come up with some ó
Is the minister aware of whether or not the department of education in CYFN is even functioning? Is there a department or not?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I really havenít had the time to evaluate all First Nation governments within the territory. I believe there must be something there, because Iíve been contacted by a chief who says that his portfolio within CYFN is education.
Mr. Fairclough: I wasnít asking about the chief, Mr. Chair. The member said he consulted with the department. Iím not talking about ministers or chiefs or whatever ó the department. It was interesting that he said yes to that.
What plans does the minister have? He must have an action plan to ensure more dollars are coming from Ottawa. He referred to the Premier bringing more money in for health. What plans are laid out for travel and negotiations? Also, what is the basis on which weíre going to be negotiating more money, and when can we expect Ottawa to funnel this down to the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíd like to let the member opposite know that we do get support through, for example, the Education ministers across Canada. And weíve had letters that were established and news releases that ó the other ministers across Canada have taken basically the same position in education as they did in health. The ministers support the Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories and Nunavut as being higher expensed areas because of their geographical locations. Some of the provinces also have similar barriers as do the territories and Nunavut.
I have previously written a letter to Minister Nault and I will be requesting a meeting in the future, but again, even these discussions are just preliminary right now. One of the approaches that the three territories are looking at is a logical approach to the government to support the request for more money, and to come at it from the approach that the federal government has allocated $350 million to a healing fund for the adult survivors of mission schools.
The federal government has allocated $170 million for a fund to support the adults who lost their languages from the mission school. The three ministers in the territories are saying to the government that they now need to go to the other end of the spectrum. What about the children of these adults? It is my belief that this would be a very good starting point as to how to renegotiate new monies in education.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister said that there is not enough money coming from Ottawa for education. Weíre still in a surplus situation, yet the minister has cut back on many different areas in funding. I would like to know ó the minister said he has traditional beliefs, so why then are there reductions in the department? Can he expand on that and tell us why weíre seeing through his traditional beliefs the cutbacks or the cuts in some of the line items in this department?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: When I talked about traditional beliefs of seeking an understanding, I believe that after looking at the financial situation of this government and where things are at today, itís my belief that we are at a point where, unless there is an awful lot of new funding available, we cannot keep spending at the same rate. I think, again, itís quite obvious that this government really does support education because when discussions were taking place about having to meet a target through a reduction, there were exceptions given to the Education department.
I think that the support is strong in this government. At the same time, we have a lot of things to take into consideration when we are looking at the different issues within education. For example, I believe that it is to the best interest of all Yukon students that the core mission in education would always be that the core subjects are always looked after.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, that wasnít a very clear answer to the question. Maybe the minister can think about that for awhile and come back with something a little clearer on his own beliefs and why this has taken place, because I believe that some of the cutbacks are simply due to the fact that there are less or no recoveries in some of the programs.
The minister said that attendance is poor among First Nation students and that he believes that the impact of mission schools here is a big factor. What is he doing about it? What is the minister doing about that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that the answer I gave the member opposite to his previous question was not really hard to understand. If the member opposite has problems understanding it, then I believe he also has to think about the answer.
With regard to the mission school issue, I have to say that this is not a new thing in the Yukon. What has been done previous to my four months in office ó I think Iíve got a very good start on it by, number one, recognizing the fact and not sticking my head in the sand and believing it doesnít exist. Thatís number one. By having consultation with the communities and different school councils is another approach. I believe that this is not totally an education problem. I believe itís a community problem, and itís going to take a lot of the different stakeholders and the different communities to be able to address this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, nothing new, in other words. If the minister says he is recognizing that and others havenít, well, heís dreaming. Maybe he hasnít been listening to politics for the last 20 years, particularly in education.
I would like to ask the minister a simple question, as a newly elected government and minister: what visions and plans does this minister have over the mandate for this department?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think what I would have to say with respect to this issue is that it would be this governmentís plan to provide good education programs within the Yukon Territory and to continue on with education as a lifelong learning for everyone who is in the education system.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís quite the vision, Mr. Chair. Whatís new in that? Even their platform had more than that. They talked about excellence in education. Certainly thatís not the direction this minister is moving in. Maybe the minister has more to add of his vision of education for children in the Yukon. Letís go with just public schools. Weíre not talking about advanced education yet ó public schools. Does his party have a clearer and new vision and what is it and what can we expect over the next four years? What the minister just laid out is the norm. Weíve seen the norm. Itís laid out. Itís nothing new, so what is it?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I think to start with, Iíd like to let the member opposite know that you donít bust up the education system. Itís a lifelong learning. There are a lot of things that are involved in education, and you canít just take particular areas out of it and start to separate them. After all, in my previous statement, when I said education is a lifelong learning process, that means that you will do a number of different issues, and I think to add to that, one of the things that we will strive for is excellence in opportunities across the whole education system. At the end of the day or at the end of the term, we hope that we will have helped Yukoners increase their knowledge and skills to be able to participate effectively in the workforce within their communities.
Mr. Fairclough: That wasnít much of an answer at all, Mr. Chair. What do you get out of this new vision that the minister just laid out that the Yukon Party has for education? Let me help the member out. He said heís going to be working on a new education strategy, one in advanced education and one with the First Nations education. He failed to mention that or forgot about it. Maybe they dropped it off their to-do list.
What about bringing forward the amendments to the Education Act? Members didnít even mention that, and Iím quite surprised. Maybe weíll have to steer this department and the minister a bit from this side of the House to get things going.
I would like to ask about the First Nation education strategy. Can we have timelines? How will it be done? Lay out the process and give us an end date for when we can expect a product.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state at this time that these discussions that were previously mentioned with regard to the strategies are in the preliminary stage. Again, the stakeholders will be notified and will be involved when the time is appropriate, and it will be before anything is decided.
With regard to the Education Act, again I state to the member that that is not a small-ticket item and itís something again, having said it before, that I totally respect all the work that has been done on this Education Act. I know there was a lot of time put into it by very good people and, hopefully, after reviewing some of the requests of the stakeholders, there will be the opportunity to put closure to that act in the near future.
Mr. Fairclough: There will be an opportunity to put closure to the Education Act ó what does the minister mean by that? Does he mean that partners in education will have another say about fine-tuning the amendments to the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe I stated in the past to the member opposite that when the consultation took place with the stakeholders and there was some sort of a plan or direction that this government is going to follow through with, then the member opposite would be getting a copy of what was going to take place. When I say "to put closure" to it, that means it will be presented to the Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: Certainly, in regard to plans and visions, I believe itís the department that is leading the way, with very little input from the member opposite. He talks about several different strategies. One of them was a First Nation education strategy, and thereís no meat in it at this point.
I would like to ask the minister what his definition is of "consensus".
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite did offer to give some direction to the members on this side of the House. As far as Iím concerned, my opinion is that good advice from anybody is welcome, whether youíre in opposition or not. If your suggestions are valuable, theyíll certainly be taken into account.
I also want to say that, with regard to consensus, in my opinion, consensus means that you are going to work with stakeholders.
Mr. Fairclough: What happens if the minister is having a caucus meeting? Does it stop and then you go talk to stakeholders, who are all Yukoners?
I would think that you would get an agreement from all sides and not have disagreements from all stakeholders, from all members. The Yukon Party promised to seek consensus from all stakeholders about the Education Act review. In my view, this is not being done. It is not being done. It doesnít say one stakeholder ó all stakeholders. So when is this going to take place?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Here Iíll state to the member opposite that there will be discussions among our Cabinet colleagues, and once something is decided you will get the information.
Mr. Fairclough: Can the minister give us some timelines? This is not a satisfactory answer for my constituents who have been asking me to ask the minister ó the minister who is in charge. So I would like some timelines.
When are we going to see this? Next year? In two years? How long of a wait do I have to tell my constituents, who have a lot of interest in the Education Act, there will be? How long do I have to wait until I get an answer back from the minister?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to remind the member opposite at this time that one of the statements that was made by him was that education is more than just an education act. He was right in that. When we have decided on the direction, Iíve also promised that I would table that with the member opposite, and Iíll do that.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, thank you, Mr. Chair, but the decision has been made already. The minister knows that. It was made in the Yukon Party platform. Itís right there, seeking consensus from all stakeholders. And this is a different answer than what the minister gave me when I asked the minister this two weeks ago when we had the discussion on the supplementary budget ó a different answer. So now the minister is going to take it back to Cabinet to get a decision. Why is he putting it on hold?
The Education Act was due to be reviewed in 2000. It went through a process already. Weíre three years behind. Now the minister is taking it back to Cabinet. Why is it going back to Cabinet? Why isnít a decision made to go ahead and finalize this, ensure that all stakeholders are talked to and their input is in the Education Act review? Why are we going backward with this whole thing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To put the record straight here, I believe that what was said previously is that, through legislation, a review of the act is required, and the review process took place. A document was put together that was presented to the Legislature and was not passed. This government is now looking at how to move forward with the fact that it wasnít passed through this Legislature.
I want to mention that with respect to this Education Act, there were eight main themes of non-act comments, and they were as follows: one, communication with and between partners; two, inter-agency cooperation for sharing of information and development of community-relevant solutions; three, First Nations participation in the Department of Education; four, increased accountability and transparency in the Department of Education through regular reporting; five, respect deficit ó students to teachers and classmates; parents to teachers, and teachers to parents for problem-solving; six, special education; seven, continuation of the multi-partner discussions; eight, truancy, absenteeism, sociopathy.
These are just a number of some of the non-act issues that we are having to take a look at.
I can anticipate that this is not going to be a really simple exercise to put a closure to.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member opposite for that. I would like to know how the minister comes up with the fact that First Nation communications are not part of the Education Act review. Why was it listed as not being part of the Education Act review?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To clarify for the member opposite, what was meant by the statements I made previously was that the communications with First Nations werenít as strong as they could be and that they would be improved upon.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, is the minister saying that these eight points are the cause of the delay in bringing forward amendments to the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To clarify for the member opposite, there are actually two issues here. One is the Education Act itself, and number two is other areas identified that require attention. That would be the eight main themes of the non-act commitments.
Mr. Fairclough: These eight points, bullets, and non-act commitments ó what plan does the minister have with those? How are those going to be resolved?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that the way that it is being addressed is to develop our partnership units and to also have discussions with Health and Social Services and with Justice, for example. It has become quite obvious to this government that there appears to be quite a bit of overlap between Education, Health and Social Services and Justice, in that all three departments deal an awful lot with the same clientele. So there are those strengths, and I think those are ones that will assist in dealing with some of these non-act commitments.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, maybe the minister can send me by legislative return the plans in developing these partnership units and how the department plans to resolve these outstanding issues, which I feel are probably bigger than many of the issues in the Education Act.
One more questions in regard to the Education Act. Does the minister feel that First Nation issues were fully addressed in the review?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to state to the member opposite that I donít really believe itís a case of whether or not I believe it happened. I think whatís more important to myself as a minister is that I have the opportunity to talk to the individual First Nations before I come up with any kind of conclusion as to whether or not they have been heard or not.
Mr. Fairclough: It sounds like there is going to be an even further delay. The First Nation Education Commission did not participate at the end of the Education Act review, with the result that some First Nations felt ó Iím sure that the member can recall this ó their issues werenít fully addressed in this review.
Can the minister lay out a schedule, a timeline, for when he is going to go to the different First Nations to ask them whether or not they feel that their issues have been fully addressed in the Education Act?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to make something quite clear for the member opposite. I believe I have mentioned numerous times that this is not a process that one can just sort of lay down the timelines on ó Iím going here today, tomorrow, next day or whatever. I believe it is a process that is going to be quite lengthy, and at this point in time Iím not going to make any commitment to a specific timeline with regard to this issue.
Mr. Fairclough: Iím not looking for a specific timeline. Iím looking for an approximate timeline. The minister said it could take a lengthy time. Well, a lengthy time is three years. Are we going to see something done before the end of the fiscal year that weíre in? Is it a two-year process? The minister must have some idea. Itís not just so vague that we canít even see an end point to this consultation process with First Nations on the issues related to the Education Act amendments.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I want to let the member opposite know again that ó I believe Iíve made the commitment several times to the member opposite ó when there is a program laid out, he will receive what that program is going to be and that, upon talking to First Nations, I think the discussions will be more than just the Education Act. I think we would also have to talk about the other areas that are identified.
Again, I know from experience that when we meet, we have lengthy conversations. So it is going to take a process thatís going to take a lot of time.
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Chair, I have to say Iím not fully satisfied with the ministerís answers. I asked a number of questions about the Yukon Party platform to the ministerís vision in this department.
I asked for schedules and timelines. I asked about involvement in plans that his department is doing. I asked about getting some details in regard to the different strategies the minister laid out ó the Education Act, for one ó and on the First Nation education strategy and the advanced education strategy, I wanted to know more about those. Iím wondering if we can speed up this debate, if the minister can lay out a little more clearly what his plans are in these two strategies. Several times in the House the minister said that the department also has and is working on an education strategy. So it appears that we have three or four of these strategies that are out there, and we donít exactly know where theyíre going. In the meantime, we have an Education Act that people want to finalize and work with in the communities, and they want to know what the changes are. They want to know if itís for the betterment of their community. So far, we donít have any timelines laid out, even with the Education Act, and the minister doesnít even know when he will be going out and seeking finalization to the Education Act review.
So that is surprising, too, simply because this was a commitment and a promise made by the Yukon Party. It wasnít just a promise to bring it forward; it was seeking consensus from all stakeholders. So far, I believe the minister is backtracking on that. In the House here two weeks ago, the minister said that he will be seeking input from some stakeholders, which doesnít make sense at all when the Education Act, when it was first developed, was probably the most extensive consultation that took place on any bill or any act that was brought forward by government. It was a good one ó the Education Act was a very good act. I would say that it wasnít fully understood by many of the school councils or by many people involved in education.
So, maybe by a written legislative return to some of the questions I asked, if the minister could bring forward some to the House tomorrow or before we continue debate in this department, it will speed things up.
Given the time, Mr. Chair, I move that you report progress.
Chair: It has been moved by Mr. Fairclough that the Committee report progress on Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
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 Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 29, Act to Amend the Territorial Court Act, and Bill No. 30, Act to Amend the Supreme Court Act, and has instructed me to report them without amendment.
Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has also considered Bill No. 4, First Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the House do now adjourn.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. government House leader that the House do now adjourn.
Motion agreed to
Speaker: This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled April 15, 2003:
Yukon Economic Outlook 2003 (dated February 2003) (Fentie)
Health Services Branch, Health Care Insurance Programs: Statement of Revenue and Expenditures for fiscal years from 1997-98 to 2001-02 (Jenkins)
The following Legislative Return was tabled April 15, 2003:
Judicial Compensation Commission: costs and recommendations (Taylor)
Oral, Hansard, p. 369