Wednesday, April 23, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will now proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Professional Assistants Week
Hon. Mr. Fentie:Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to a very special group of Yukon employees. Professional assistants are crucial to the smooth operation of any office. They are called upon to keep offices running efficiently, coordinate work calendars and schedules, deal with inquiries and requests from other governments and agencies, private businesses and the public, write letters, take minutes, keep filing systems up to date, arrange office functions, and many, many other tasks.
I canít imagine any organization functioning without them. They are the glue that holds organizations together. From my experience, they carry out their work within tight and sometimes close-to-impossible time frames and do so with professionalism, dignity and good humour. Yet for all that they do, many of them donít often get the thanks and the credit they deserve.
I urge my fellow MLAs to take the time today to say thank you for a job well done. Iíd like to take this opportunity during Professional Assistants Week to extend my personal thanks. Iíd particularly like to express my gratitude to my own staff, who have taken on the rather massive job of keeping my office running smoothly. I have relied on you heavily many times, and you have always come through with flying colours. Your dedication and energy is an inspiration to all of us.
In recognition of National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I rise today to recognize this week, April 20 to April 27, as National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness Week. Last year in Canada, more than 100 people died while waiting for an organ transplant that never came. In the Yukon, we are aware of several individuals who are waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing transplants. The demand for organ transplants continues to outstrip the supply and, with more people reaching end-stage organ failure, the need for organ transplants continues to increase.
The Yukonís organ donor registry was introduced in 2000. This registry gives individuals the opportunity to be a donor. Yukon donors will have their gift indicated on their health care insurance card.
I canít stress enough how important it is to register because it ensures that a personís decision is recorded and saves the family from making a difficult decision at a very traumatic time.
Yukon residents have been very generous. Approximately 15 percent of Yukoners have registered to be donors with some 4,200 indicating their desire to give the gift of life.
Realistically, it is far more likely that we will receive an organ or tissue donation than it is that we will ever become a donor. We as individuals, our families, our friends may be in need one day. A sudden virus could affect the heart; liver disease could strike. Becoming a donor could save a life, just as other donors could save ours.
I encourage all Yukoners in this House and beyond to seriously consider becoming an organ donor and possibly giving the gift of life.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
In recognition of Yukon Writers Festival
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise to mark the opening day of Yukon Writers Festival. The Yukon Writers Festival brings Yukon people together with visiting writers to celebrate community writing and the joy of reading. It is a joint production of government, national and local arts organizations and local businesses. The major partners are Yukon public libraries, public school branch, Nakai Theatre, the Yukon News, and the Out of Service magazine. Iíd also like to recognize the Canada Council for the Arts, Writers Union of Canada, Canadian Playwright Guild, Air North, the arts branch, Westmark Whitehorse, Macís Fireweed Books, and the Riverview Hotel for their generous contributions and assistance in support of the Writers Festival.
All the festival events are free or at minimal charge and are open to all the public.
The library is hosting a reading and reception tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Whitehorse Public Library. Community Services is also hosting community readings at Watson Lake library next Tuesday, April 29, at 7:00 p.m. and at the Teslin library next Wednesday, April 30, at 6:00 p.m. Other events include the poetry slam on Friday, April 25, and the literary cabaret on Saturday, both at 8:00 p.m. at the Backwater Lounge.
Iíd also like to mention the young authors conference tomorrow and Friday during school hours at F.H. Collins for high school students from Whitehorse and the communities.
As a government, we are happy to help make the Yukon Writers Festival possible as part of our commitment to reading and Canadian literature. I encourage all Yukoners to participate in this yearís festival.
In remembrance of Giovanni Castellarin
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Yukon Legislature, I rise today to pay tribute to a long-time Yukoner who left us last year. Giovanni Castellarin was born on September 18, 1931, in San Giovanni di Casarsa, Italy, which is near Trieste in northern Italy. He grew up in quite an extended family, took up the carpentry trade and served in the Italian military before the call of Canada beckoned him. He immigrated in 1951, landing in Halifax. He then moved on to Montreal, Toronto and finally Vancouver, where he stayed with one of the Braga uncles, and he went to work for a construction company there. In 1952, Joe moved to the Yukon. He worked in Keno and Elsa.
Since the days of the Klondike Gold Rush, the historical piece of ground at the intersection of the Klondike and Yukon rivers has attracted some very unique individuals who have stood out from the many thousands who have come and gone over the decades. These are the people who, through their deeds or actions, have made their mark and helped shape the history of Dawson and our territory. Joe arrived in the Klondike capital and went to work for the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corporation on the dredges. He then moved on to working at the hospital for the Sisters of St. Anneís. It was during this time that he met Betty Schumacher, whom he married in 1959. Their union produced two children, Sandra and Mark.
With Joeís background as a carpenter, he taught woodworking at Robert Service School, worked on many projects around Dawson and went on to become the project manager for Parks Canada. With two partners, Jack Cruden and Jim Bierlmeier, Joe started Triple J Cabins, which has evolved into the Triple J Hotel of today.
Italyís gift to the Yukon, Giovanni Castellarin, was one of those unique individuals the Klondike has become so famous for. Joe served on the Dawson City council, Dawson City Museum, the Dawson City Curling Club, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon and its predecessor, the YVA, which he was president of, the Yukon Tourism Marketing Council, the Centennial Society, St. Maryís Church, the Yukon Order of Pioneers, the World Gold Panning Committee and the annual Yukon Gold Panning Championships Committee, but where he devoted a tremendous amount of his time and effort was to the Klondike Visitors Association.
Now, in many parts of the world when you refer to an individual of Italian background as "the godfather", it has many connotations. Joe became known as the godfather of tourism here in the Yukon out of respect and admiration for having been one of the driving forces that created our visitor industry. He was there in the beginning as a founding member of the Klondike Visitors Association. He was there in its subsequent years to supply insight and guidance. He was the longest serving chairman that the Klondike Visitors Association has ever had. The KVA is what it is today because of Joe Castellarin. The legend of Giovanni is all around us. Dawson City and the Yukon are much richer because of him, and we all remain forever in his debt. He is a mentor to many of us.
We often refer to people who make contributions above and beyond the call of duty as being pillars of our community. In order to do justice to Giovanniís contributions, we would have to encase all of the pillars in concrete and call Joe the complete foundation. Joe meant different things to different people but, in the words of his daughter, he was simply someone the family loved dearly and will miss terribly.
While Giovanni has left us, he also remains with us. Everyone who had the privilege of knowing Joe has their own special memories of him. These memories remain and will help temper our loss, for he will always be with us. Our condolences go out to Joeís wife Betty and his family.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. McRobb: On behalf of the official opposition, I also rise to pay tribute to Giovanni Castellarin. His contributions to the life of Dawson City and to the tourism industry in the Yukon are truly the stuff of legend.
Although I did not have the opportunity to meet Mr. Castellarin, I know that one of the highlights of this weekendís TIAY convention in Watson Lake will be the stories that people will share about him and his uncanny ability to be at the right place at the right time with the right skills or the right words of wisdom and humour.
Our thoughts and best wishes go out to his family and to his many, many friends in Dawson and throughout the Yukon and Alaska.
Ms. Duncan: I, too, rise in tribute to Giovanni Castellarin.
Yukoners throughout the territory, especially those involved in the tourism industry, counted on Joe as a personal friend. His advice was fair and frank and he was much appreciated by many, including me. His warmth and generous spirit are sorely missed and fondly remembered.
I join with others in the House in offering our condolences to his family.
In recognition of Canada Book Week
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I also rise in tribute today to Canada Book Week, April 21 to 27.
Every Yukonerís favourite bookstore, Macís, with their branch in Dawson City, Maximilianís, is celebrating Canada Book Week with an excellent display of Canadian literature.
Our schools are celebrating Canada Book Week in a variety of ways, and I would like to pay special tribute to Brenda Morrison and the students at Jack Hulland School. Their theme for Canada Book Week is "Plant a Seed ó Read". It ties in wonderfully with readers of all ages and with spring in the Yukon.
The Minister of Education has read at Jack Hulland, as has our Member of Parliament, Larry Bagnell, and I look forward to Friday, when I will have the pleasure of reading to the students.
One of the starting skills to readers is, of course, the alphabet. I would like to also acknowledge today the work of Michael Brooks and the Alphabet Bears. Their encouragement with music and song for the very young to learn the alphabet, vowels and literacy is an excellent Yukon product.
I would highly recommend, as a parent, the tapes and the CDs; especially as Yukoners, we find ourselves travelling highways at great length with our children, and these are excellent tools for learning the alphabet and for encouraging literacy.
During Canada Book Week, I encourage Yukoners of all ages to read.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors.
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise to table a legislative return regarding the Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, the border infrastructure fund and the infrastructure Canada program.
Mr. Speaker, I also wish to table a legislative return with regard to the winter works project, identifying the applicants who were successful in obtaining funding as well as the amount being requested and approved.
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?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is currently a worldwide health problem with serious consequences for the global economy;
(2) SARS originated in the Guandong Province of China on November 16, 2002, and subsequently spread to Hong Kong, Singapore and Hanoi before travellers carried the infection to Toronto, Canada; and
(3) the SARS infection is now spreading within Canada beyond the Toronto area with probable or potential cases being reported in British Columbia and possibly Nunavut; and
THAT this House urges the federal Minister of Health, the Hon. Anne McLellan, to play a lead role by working in cooperation with provincial and territorial ministers of health to implement stringent health measures to combat the further spread of the SARS infection.
Mr. Cathers: I rise to give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Dawson City Airport normally has the second highest level of air traffic in the Yukon;
(2) the Government of Canada had the responsibility to ensure that the Dawson City Airport was brought up to proper standards prior to its transfer to the Government of Yukon;
(3) the Government of Canada has invested $4 million to begin upgrading the Dawson City Airport to meet the requirements of a fully modern airport to serve the Yukon, and specifically the Klondike region; and
(4) an additional $4 million is needed to pave the runway and bring the airport to modern standards; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to meet its obligations by providing an immediate transfer of the $4 million required to fully upgrade and pave the Dawson City Airport.
Speaker: Are there further notices of motion?
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) many aboriginal students suffered abuse in the residential schools established by the Government of Canada in northern Canada;
(2) the Government of Canada has accepted its responsibility for the impacts on the students of these schools by the establishment of a $350-million healing fund;
(3) although this fund is much appreciated, the abuse these students suffered has resulted in their inability to provide good parenting to their children; and
(4) this results in their children and grandchildren experiencing more incidents of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, alcoholism, drug abuse and lagging behind their non-aboriginal peers in their school careers; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to work with First Nation governments, provincial and territorial governments and aboriginal groups to develop the programs and funding needed to improve the health, social and educational conditions of the children and grandchildren of residential school students.
Mr. Arntzen: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House recognizes that
(1) issues affecting the health and well-being of children cross the boundaries of various government departments; and
(2) the root causes of issues such as children in care, early childhood intervention and FASD are best addressed by coordinating the services of all departments involved; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to coordinate the services of the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Youth Directorate and the Womenís Directorate to best help children in need.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT Craig Tuton, chair of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, and Tony Armstrong, president and chief executive officer of the Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, April 24, 2003, to discuss matters relating to the Yukon Workers' Compensation Health and Safety Board.
I give notice of the following motion:
THAT Lorne Austring, chair of the Yukon Development Corporation, and Duncan Sinclair, chief executive officer of the Yukon Development Corporation, appear as witnesses before Committee of the Whole from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Monday, April 28, 2003, to discuss matters related to the Yukon Development Corporation.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Childcare worker training
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
Many daycares and family day homes are in violation of the Yukon childcare regulations. They are supposed to have trained staff but they donít have them. At least 35 percent of childcare workers are untrained. They are hiring workers who have little knowledge of how to care for children in an institution that this government is funding, and itís frightening to me, Mr. Speaker, that my children are being cared for by someone who doesnít have the proper training.
The Yukon Child Care Association has been asking for training money for awhile now. Will the minister tell us what plans he has for assisting childcare workers to obtain the training that is called for in his own regulations?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. We do have an issue and thatís why our government is undertaking the review that we have underway. We have initially addressed the short-term funding shortfall in the direct operating grants by providing $230,000 of additional funding to the daycare and day home operators. They are making the determination as to how these funds will flow to the workers in the system. Further to that, we are involved in a process extending over the next six months that will conclude with additional funding flowing to these initiatives, in a manner thatís yet to be determined, to address this need.
Currently, Mr. Speaker, $5 million is being put into childcare here in the Yukon. It is one of the highest ó if not the highest ó per capita amounts going to children in day homes and daycares of any jurisdiction in Canada.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, by the sounds of the ministerís answers, it appears that everything is okay in the Yukon Territory. So why are we having the problems? Weíre asking for the plans; lay out the plans. People want clear answers from this minister. An educational assistant working in the schools is paid twice as much as a childcare worker. Even when trained workers are available, childcare facilities have to hire untrained staff because they canít afford to hire the qualified staff. Even people who are trained are receiving less than they do in other jurisdictions. When can daycares and family day homes expect to receive adequate funding from this minister to pay their staff so that our children can be safe and cared for in a proper way?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, Iím very, very disconcerted, Mr. Speaker, with the issue that the children are not being properly cared for now. Thatís simply not the case.
We can improve on the system as it currently exists. Thatís what weíre doing. Iíve already indicated on many, many occasions in this House, Mr. Speaker, that our government has committed another $230,000. The determination as to how this money is going to flow is to be made by the daycare and the day home operators. Thatís a given.
Now, we have underway simultaneously a review, and at the end of that period of time that will probably end up with more funds flowing to this initiative. But currently, if you look at just over 800 children in daycare and day homes here in the Yukon and the over $5 million that is being expended by our government and that has been increased by $230,000 directly, that is one of the highest levels of support for daycare and day homes of any jurisdiction in Canada. And we as a government are going to be improving on that.
Mr. Fairclough: Again, it appears that everything is fine. But letís look at it a little more carefully, Mr. Speaker.
Now, the minister has put up $230,000 to begin to look at this problem. But the childcare workers started this budget year with a reduction of $160,000. Thatís from the previous year. This means that they are only receiving $70,000 from this minister.
Now, there is a committee that is looking into how to get the money directly to childcare workers. Thatís great, but the minister knows what to do. This has been talked about before. There is a crisis and we shouldnít be playing around with childrenís lives. I know the minister thinks that there isnít a problem, but there is and thatís why we are bringing it up.
When we look at the recoveries in the department ó $240,000 from the federal government for the Yukon child benefit. This minister could use this money to begin with.
Will the minister commit to immediately increasing the direct operating grant to daycares and family day homes, as the Yukon Party government promised during the election campaign?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thatís exactly what we are doing.
Now, the spin that the member opposite has put on this is that there has been a reduction of $160,000. That is simply incorrect. What has happened is that the flow of funds go two ways: the direct operating grant and the support. Now, the support uptake is not what it has been because of the deplorable state of the economy and the exodus of individuals from the Yukon caused by the previous two governments ó the Liberal government and the NDP government.
Now, at the end of the period of time, our government is going to have in place a complete review of the programs and funding flowing to the day home and daycare operators, that will ensure that the needs are met.
Currently we have committed to an additional $230,000. The exercise is to get that money to the workers and for their training. That is why we have gone to the day home operators and the daycare operators and said, "Help us. You make the determination as to how best to flow these funds so that they end up for the purpose intended." That is exactly what we are doing, but our commitment now is for over $5 million.
Question re: Pipeline, over-the-top route
Mrs. Peter:My question today is for the Premier. In January, the Government of the Northwest Territories issued a paper titled, "Toward an Energy Strategy for the N.W.T." That paper includes an endorsement of an over-the-top pipeline route from Alaska to the top end of the Mackenzie Valley pipeline.
Since that time, the Premier has signed a cooperation accord with the N.W.T. government on many issues, including pipelines. During the development of that accord, did the Premier advise the Premier of the Northwest Territories that the Yukon opposes an over-the-top route, or does the Premier now support that option too?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, in our dealings with the Northwest Territories government, weíve made it very clear, not simply advised ó made it crystal clear ó that the Yukon will never support an over-the-top route. Furthermore, it must be said that the debate on the pipeline and the issue of the over-the-top route was generated by an ill-advised policy in dealing with these pipelines.
We must recognize who ultimately makes the decision. Itís the producers. North of 60, weíd much rather have $23 billion of capital investment than $3 billion or maybe $20 billion. We want to see the overall access to resources, the development of those resources, the flow of those resources to the marketplace, which is south of us, benefit the Yukon on whichever side of the border they occur, and we are willing to work with the N.W.T. in that regard.
So what weíre saying is no to the over-the-top route. The Northwest Territories government, in our discussions, are very clear on that and are taking steps themselves to address that issue, and we are willing to work with them, as they are with us, to maximize the benefits for north of 60 citizens on both projects.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the N.W.T. energy strategy paper is very clear. It says that there are tremendous benefits to both Alaska and the Northwest Territories by having the over-the-top pipeline built to connect the reserves in both areas. Thereís no mention about the Yukon, either in terms of benefits or in terms of the seriousness of a proposed pipeline under the Beaufort Sea.
The Yukon Party platform talks about securing access to the Beaufort. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is gung-ho on access corridors, including a study that shows an access corridor to the Beaufort Sea. We need to know exactly where this government stands in order to promote his vision of the pan-northern cooperation and jobs for Yukoners in the N.W.T. Is this Premier planning to dismiss Yukon concerns about an over-the-top pipeline route, or will he tell the N.W.T. government that the Yukon is against it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, thatís essentially the same question, and the answer is the same. It has been made crystal clear that the Yukon will never support an over-the-top route. It has also been evident in discussions that the N.W.T. is moving off this. The issue of over the top, for them, was generated by an ill-advised pipeline debate that no longer exists ó not to mention the fact that the State of Alaska does not support an over-the-top route. The federal government does not support an over-the-top route. So essentially, Mr. Speaker, the over-the-top route is something that we will ensure, with the best efforts, that it will not happen.
We want to see maximized benefits for citizens north of 60. There is certainly every reason to focus in on the Alaska Highway pipeline. We do have the Yukon advantage in place. Itís an agreement between Washington and Ottawa. The Northern Pipeline Agency has done its work. Iím sure weíll soon have the report on the status of the ANGTS agreement, and we are doing our work here in the Yukon in generating dialogue and discussions on how to put together a united front to ensure that the Alaska Highway route maintains a priority status with the producers, and we are also willing to share that with the N.W.T., as they are with us, should a Mackenzie line go, in terms of benefits accruing to Yukon citizens.
Mrs. Peter: He still hasnít answered my question.
All parties in this House are on record in support of protecting the Porcupine caribou herd. Weíre on record against drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Now this Yukon Party government is caught in the middle with the U.S. administration pushing for development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the N.W.T. favouring a pipeline through the Beaufort.
What consultations has this Premier had with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Porcupine Caribou Management Board or the North Yukon Renewable Resource Council before signing that accord with a government that is promoting the benefits of an over-the-top pipeline?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, Mr. Speaker, it has been very clear by this governmentís presentation publicly on our position when it comes to the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd on the over-the-top route. Thereís no question of what our position is. Itís clear. As far as consultation with the Vuntut Gwitchin, it wasnít that long ago I talked with the chief, who said clearly that the Vuntut Gwitchin want to maintain a leadership role. We offered whatever we can to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin in their endeavours to protect the Porcupine caribou herd. So, too, has the N.W.T. government, by the way, Mr. Speaker, who are in lockstep with the Yukon in the protection of that herd.
Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, this is an old issue that the official opposition has dragged up stemming from a previous pipeline debate thatís no longer in play.
Mr. Speaker, letís be clear. We do not support, and never will support, an over-the-top pipeline route, and we will continue to support fully the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd as we have in the past and continue to do today and into the future.
Question re: Government surplus
Ms. Duncan:Yukoners are getting used to the sound of breaking promises from this government. Weíre also getting used to a number of excuses for the broken promises. The latest excuse the government has pulled out is to say it cannot afford to keep its election promises because it has no money. For example, it says it canít keep its promise to "ensure government spending on education, justice and health and social services is maintained."
Yesterday the Minister of the Environment said the government canít keep a promise to buy the game farm because it has no money. The fact of the matter is the government does have money in the bank. My question for the Minister of Finance: how much money is in the bank today? Whatís the surplus?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, we deal with projections. The surplus is clearly listed in the budget document before this House. Frankly, Mr. Speaker, thatís the number we have to deal with until the final accounting comes in. The member opposite knows that full well, and Iíd like to point out that this constant discussion about broken promises coming from the opposite bench ó especially the third party ó is simply not the case. We have not broken any promises. In fact, weíve been very diligent in carrying out our commitments, whether they be in our First Nation relationship and the development of that relationship, in dealing with childcare and daycare homes, in dealing with establishing more productive relationships with other governments, like the N.W.T. and Alaska and Ottawa, the health care issue being a clear example of that. We are working and delivering on our commitments. Because it is a very ambitious agenda, all of them canít be delivered in the first four months, but we intend to carry on delivering on those commitments, Mr. Speaker, and have every reason to do so, because thatís what the Yukon public wanted in the last election.
Ms. Duncan: With all due respect, the minister didnít answer the question. We have to ask: whatís the big secret? Itís normal practice across Canada to provide this type of information. Yukoners want to know what they have in the bank. Why is the minister denying that information?
The minister is not answering the question, because it would blow the excuse that the government is using to break election promises. It is very similar behaviour to what weíve seen from previous Yukon Party governments. They told everybody that they had no money, and they had to roll back the wages of government workers. Of course, then we found out later that there had actually been a huge surplus of money the entire time.
I am asking the Finance minister once again: will he tell the public what the surplus is today? As minister, he gets a weekly update from his official. This money, after all, is the publicís money. Itís not the ministerís; it is the publicís money.
How much money is in the bank today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, I have never heard such nonsense.
The budget documents show what the surplus is. As far as money in the bank, that is ever evolving ó daily. The Yukon government, for the first time, had to reduce itself to paying borrowing charges because of a restriction in cash flow. That speaks volumes for the fiscal position that that member left this territory in through the massive spending of two years of Liberal government.
The budget shows that we have a surplus of just over $1 million. Itís also a fact that we are paying borrowing charges because of the limited cash reserves we have in place. We also will be dealing with a serious problem in the census adjustment because of some 3,000 people who have left this territory. We are dealing with a very difficult fiscal situation.
No matter what the third party may say, it is due to their fiscal mismanagement. We are the government that now will be fixing that fiscal mismanagement.
Ms. Duncan: As Finance minister, I said to the Yukon public that there would be a $78-million surplus, and the Auditor General confirmed that. Also as Finance minister, I, encouraged by my colleagues in this House, set aside $15 million to deal with that census adjustment.
This government has $20,000 raises, has money for sole-source contracts, but it doesnít have money to keep election promises. Will the minister tell the people of the territory what the surplus is today so they can decide for themselves whether the government can afford to keep its election promises?
I suspect that the Finance minister is sitting on a $40-million or $50-million surplus, and the government promised consensus, collaboration and cooperation with the opposition. Itís a simple question. Iíd like the cooperation. How much money is in the bank today? What is the surplus today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Maybe this is the problem that we face, Mr. Speaker. The member opposite canít even ascertain the difference between money in the bank and a surplus. Frankly, when the member stands on the floor and says that the Auditor General clearly stated through the final accounting that there was a $78-million surplus, we agree because the Auditor General provided those figures. What the member conveniently ignored and didnít state to the House and the public was that the Liberal government, in two years, increased spending by some $80 million ó so much for the $78-million surplus.
Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, I have stated that the surplus is just over $1 million. Thatís what we have. I have stated that we have to resort to borrowing to meet cash requirements. For the first time ever, weíre paying borrowing charges to meet our daily cash requirements. That speaks volumes for the fiscal situation that the former Liberal government left this territory in. We are dealing with it. We have done so, in what I would say is an admirable way, by reducing spending gently, not by massive cuts, and we show through long-term projections that we are heading to balanced budgets so we donít get into this situation again and are increasing the overall surplus on behalf of the Yukon taxpayer. Thatís what they want, and thatís what weíre delivering on.
Question re: Highway maintenance budget cuts
Mr. McRobb:I wish to follow up with the Minister of the Department of Highways and Public Works on the $526,000 contract award for gravel crushing, announced last week. Apparently this is part of a $2-million project to resurface the Alaska Highway north of Beaver Creek toward the U.S. Customs station. People are wondering why this government has not said much about this project, other than to announce a gravel-crushing contract.
Iíve also heard that this project is only the first of what might be a three-year project, costing some $6 million. The minister needs to shed some light on what appears to be a major capital project. Can the minister tell us what heís doing up there?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As the member opposite indicated, we are providing a gravel contract for the road in that particular area.
Mr. McRobb: Well, unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, that doesnít shed much light. Things are getting darker all the time.
Capital projects include reconstruction of highways, including resurfacing, yet this project was budgeted as a maintenance item. Can we connect the dots with what we learned yesterday, Mr. Speaker? Iím referring to the Yukon Partyís 7.3-percent cut to the highway maintenance budget, or $2.2 million, not counting the extra 20-percent spending in Klondike. Can the minister tell us why this project was quietly entered as a maintenance item? Was it to avoid criticism of what would have otherwise been a 14-percent cut to the highway maintenance budget?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There is no hidden agenda for this particular project. We are processing this contract in the normal process.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, many Yukoners are questioning this governmentís priorities on highway spending. People are outraged at this government for stopping work on the Alaska Highway west of Champagne. This government is only completing the second year of a two-year cost-shared program with the federal government this year. Instead, the government has chosen to start an expensive new three-year project on the Teslin bridge. As a consequence of that decision, a dangerous 6-kilometre original section of Old Alaska Highway will be left sandwiched between the two upgraded, modern sections.
When the rubber hits the road, the spending priorities of this government are in question. Why did the minister decide to upgrade a low-priority area north of Beaver Creek instead of attending to the publicís priority by completing the section west of Champagne?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Just as a point of interest, the section of highway that he is referring to will be reviewed in next yearís budget. We will look at upgrading that particular section.
Question re: Copper Ridge Place, standards of care
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
We have learned that the number of patients in the Copper Ridge extended care facility has increased. The ministerís own budget estimates that it will operate this year at 98-percent capacity, but the number of caretakers has not increased. This means that some patients are not receiving basic care, staff are working 50-hour weeks trying to keep up, some patients go for 10 days without a bath. Is the minister aware that standards of care at the extended care facility at Copper Ridge are not being met?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: To the best of my knowledge, the level of care provided at Copper Ridge by our very capable staff meets the criteria.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, Mr. Speaker, I urge the minister to pay attention to this matter, because itís important. The amount of money for family and childrenís services, social services, health services, policy and planning and administration have cuts in this budget of up to 12 percent. And this is all happening at a time when this department is receiving over $36 million from the federal government over the next three years. Thatís a lot of money, and a huge portion of that money is for health care, and the issue at Copper Ridge is a health care issue.
What is the ministerís plan to correct these problems at the extended care facility, and when will it happen? The minister doesnít even know that there is a problem at this point. Itís an outrage. The minister has to pay attention.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Was there a question?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The plans are to operate the facility, Mr. Speaker, as the facility should be operated. Itís a brand new facility. Thereís one wing that has yet to be opened. Thereís a very high ratio of staff to residents. The department hasnít brought anything to my attention that would give me cause for concern that weíre not meeting the guidelines for the care of our elders.
Mr. Speaker, the elders and the other individuals who are in that facility are, to the best of my knowledge, being well looked after. We have some of the best staff, some of the best facilities. I donít know where the member opposite is coming from.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, itís clear where I am coming from, Mr. Speaker. I am telling the minister that there is a problem and he should check into it. He hasnít even committed to that. The minister, however, seems to have his own secret plans and he refuses to share them with the public ó so much for being open and accountable.
Here is an opportunity for the minister to lay out his plans for people in his care. The minister had all kinds of plans for Macaulay Lodge, the Thomson Centre and Copper Ridge when he first got elected, and we would like to know where they are. Are the plans still in place? Have they fallen apart, or what? Itís a simple question. Now that the minister has had time to think about this for awhile, can he give us an update? All that I am asking for is to be updated ó the questions are getting simpler, Mr. Speaker ó on what his plans are for the Thomson Centre and Macaulay Lodge and how those plans affect Copper Ridge.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Well, for the member oppositeís information, due to the inability of the previous NDP government to control the construction project, we are faced at the Thomson Centre with spending probably approaching $2 million on renovations and repairs to that building. As to when they will be completed and what that will entail, we do not know.
The Macaulay Lodge will continue to be operated and there are approximately 30 residents there, but it has a capacity for 50. In addition to that, the Copper Ridge centre, a brand new facility, has opened. It is staffed to the level that is required for the capacity currently there. All of these areas are constantly being monitored by the capable staff within the department. But I will ask the department if there are any issues at Copper Ridge and if there are some problems there.
I am sure that, in the size of the organization that has the largest budget ó the third highest budget ever in the Yukon governmentís history, this current budget that has been tabled ó and in the $142 million that is being expended in the Department of Health and Social Services, there are bound to be difficulties. But if there are, I will ascertain to uncover what they are. To date, I am not aware of any.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
OPPOSITION PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk:Motion No. 56, standing in the name of Ms. Duncan.
Motion No. 56
Speaker:It has been moved by the leader of the third party
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) two Cabinet ministers in the Yukon Party government owe large sums of money to the Yukon government because they have failed to pay back business loans;
(2) several private sector Yukon companies owe the Government of Yukon money because they have failed to pay back business loans;
(3) the Government of Yukon is currently enforcing a new policy that requires companies to pay back loans when they receive additional income;
(4) the Government of Yukon is allowing Cabinet ministers, who recently received a pay raise and are, therefore, more able to pay back their loans, to continue to be delinquent in their payments; and
(5) this has created a double standard with Cabinet ministers receiving special treatment; and
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to enforce the same standard of payment on loans by garnisheeing the additional wages of Cabinet ministers who are not paying their debts.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. Would the members refrain from making extraneous comments while other members are speaking or while the Speaker is speaking, please. Please carry on.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I am personally disappointed that I have even had to call this motion. Under the business program that loaned this money to Yukoners, over 85 percent have paid it back. You should not need a policy to make people pay back what they owe. Many businesses have had and are having a very tough go. They still pay their suppliers and the banks. This situation is more difficult because it is taxpayersí money, not banksí money, and it should not have come to this.
To quote a famous Yukoners, Robert Service: "A promise made is a debt unpaid." There have been promises to pay, and there are still unpaid debts.
I will make brief comments on each specific point in the motion and then speak to the action item at the end.
First of all, the Government of Yukon has no one to blame but itself for the motion coming forward. If the government did what they said they would do, there would be no need for the motion. Very early in its mandate, the government publicly committed to come up with a new policy to deal with outstanding business loans. This has not happened.
Instead, the government has applied a new policy of loan collection to one group of people and another policy to Cabinet ministers. Itís because of this double standard created by the government that the motion is before us today.
Point 1 of the motion: two ministers owe large sums of money to the Yukon taxpayer because they have not paid back business loans. The Member for Klondike owes $267,000 to the taxpayers of the territory on an outstanding loan related to operations of the hotel in Dawson City. The Member for Porter Creek Centre owes, through three separate companies, almost $130,000. The outstanding amount, then, owed to Yukon taxpayers is almost $400,000.
Point 2: several private sector Yukon companies owe the Government of Yukon money because they failed to pay back business loans. Each year, the Government of Yukon publishes a list of outstanding business loans. It has been publishing these lists and making them public for several years, through Yukon Party governments, Liberal governments and NDP governments. They are a couple of pages long. The most recent one tabled in the House is dated March 19, 2003. It lists the outstanding loans of several businesses, including the $267,000 in loans to the Member for Klondike and almost $130,000 in loans to the Member for Porter Creek Centre.
There are several other outstanding loans on the public document. It should be noted that approximately 1,500 loans have been issued under programs established in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Of these, about 1,280 ó or 85 percent ó have since been repaid.
In financial terms, there is approximately $2.5 million in arrears from overdue loans. Thatís $2.5 million that could be used to fund a lot of daycare worker wages, tourism marketing, rebuilding our roads, or educational assistants. Instead, it does nothing but sit on the books.
Point 3: the government is currently enforcing a new policy that requires companies to pay back loans when they receive additional income.
Under both the NDP and the Liberal governments, there was some policy work done on new loans policies. Thereís obviously a problem in the Yukon where some loans have not been paid back for a number of years. In some cases, the amount owing in interest is more than the original loan. It has become an issue of fundamental fairness, where some companies have paid and others have not.
I know that, under our government, the issue came to Management Board at least twice and was sent back to the department for further work. It is also noted in the accountability plan of the Department of Finance tabled in the last budget.
In the meantime, we also, as a government, as others did, worked with companies who wanted to pay back loans. Some did; others did not. As a government, we did not go out and put companies into bankruptcy. We did encourage companies to pay back what they could, and in some cases companies did pay what they could. After an especially good season, some chose to pay additional amounts. We did not, however, when a company came into a sum of money, tell the company that they had to pay it all back to the government.
Under the Yukon Party, this is what has happened for some companies. In particular, a company recently had to pay over $100,000 all at once. In other words, it was in a better position to pay its loan and the Yukon government took the money. This is a new policy that has come into force under the Yukon Party government ó if a company comes into new money, it has to pay right away. No questions asked.
Point 4: the Government of Yukon is allowing the Cabinet ministers, who recently received a pay raise and are therefore more able to pay back their loans, to continue to be delinquent. As MLAs, weíre all paid a salary. If a member of the House is a Cabinet minister or a leader, there is an extra $21,000 in salary.
There are, as Iíve mentioned, two ministers who are in the additional Cabinet minister salary category. Neither of these ministers, despite having received this pay increase, have been forced to hand over that new money toward repayment of the outstanding loans. There have also not been payments made willingly.
This is not leading by example, and it makes all politicians look bad. I believe that ministers have been advised to make a payment. They have not done so.
This point 5 brings me to the double standard where Cabinet ministers are receiving special treatment. Businesses that have come into extra money have been forced to put it toward their outstanding loans. Cabinet ministers who have received an extra pay increase, over and above their MLA salaries, do not have to pay that increase toward their outstanding loan. That is one set of rules for the private sector and one set of rules for Cabinet.
Two ministers making $80,000, then, are not being accountable to the public by paying back these outstanding loans to the taxpayer. Private sector companies under a new policy have to pay up if they receive a one-time influx.
I began today by pointing out that the government has brought this problem on itself. There has been one set of rules for ministers and one set for private sector businesses. It has done so by committing publicly that it is going to come up with a loans policy and not following up. All we have had from the Premier are promises to deal with this issue and no follow-up. It is very clear that the government is hoping that the issue will go away and that they can say, "Well, we are working on it and that will get us through the session." Well, the government has produced nothing, despite promising that it would, and that is a broken promise.
There is a simple way to level the playing field. If the government is going to apply new rules, it should do so equally.
Ministers should not have to be forced. However, when voluntary compliance is not working, then stronger measures are needed. It has been clear that there is not a willingness to meet the obligation. It is not acceptable to not pay these outstanding amounts.
The motion, at the conclusion, proposes a very straightforward remedy: that the government enforce the same standard of payments ó and it suggests garnisheeing the additional wages of Cabinet ministers. So this is the $21,000 a year. Thatís a straightforward solution to a problem that government has created, and this is a very public issue, Mr. Speaker. A number of constituents ó business people throughout the territory ó have raised this with me and with others in this Legislature. They want to see the government do the right thing. They want to see fairness.
When I say that individual business people and members have raised this with me, this isnít a partisan, political issue. This is a Yukon issue. Itís about fairness.
I know the government will come up with a number of reasons why they canít support this motion, and they will probably come up with a number of amendments. This is about accountability for promises made and debts unpaid. There will also be a whole host of other issues not related to the motion that will be brought up.
I believe there will also be a suggestion that collecting on loans could put people out of business. I am not suggesting that that be done. There will also be suggestions that previous governments should have done something. I have said that policies came before previous governments and certainly before us, and were sent back for more work.
There will be an argument that there is no new policy because of the collection action on the one. As I said, there will probably be amendments. Itís a very tough question and, as I said at the very beginning when I rose to speak this afternoon, Iím personally disappointed that I even had to call the motion.
Itís a tough question. I hope that members will find the courage to vote in favour of the motion, to deal with the motion, and I hope that the MLAs who have heard from their constituents will speak to this motion as their constituents have spoken to them.
I appreciate the opportunity to speak this afternoon and I will listen with interest to what my colleagues have to say.
Mr. Hardy: I seem to have adopted a deep voice, like Brad sometimes adopts. Mine is based on my cold, though, so please bear with me.
Speaker:Itís not appropriate to mention a member by name. Please refrain from doing so. Voice tone is fine; the name is not appropriate.
Mr. Hardy: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I am out of line on that. I thought I was in my living room or something.
This is a very, very difficult motion, and I donít think anyone brings a motion like this forward without a lot of thought and a lot of consideration of the ramifications of what is actually being said.
The situation facing the government is unique, and it is my understanding that hasnít happened in this Legislature before. The previous governments that have worked on and dealt with many of the issues around these loans have continued to work on them to try to resolve them. They never were in a situation where one of the elected members within government was also the one that had not been making their payments on loans they had borrowed from the government many years ago.
There are huge challenges for the government on their side, and we recognize it on this side. How do you deal with something like this, Mr. Speaker? How do you ensure that the public good is represented in this matter? How do you ensure that there isnít special treatment being perceived by the public or by the opposition, and how do you actually collect the monies that are owed?
We had this discussion earlier. I know Iíve had this discussion about these loans with the Premier on this floor, and in the Finance debate we talked a little bit about it. My curiosity was about what was being done, what stage they were at with the options being brought forward by the Finance department, when would the government be looking at those options, what were in those options, if there were any, and who would be making the decisions on how to ensure that these loans are collected and done in a manner that is fair to the taxpayers of the Yukon while recognizing the unique situations of some of these people and businesses owing money, such as the two who are now Cabinet ministers.
There have been a lot of suggestions by people from the Yukon and people in here that the Premier possibly should not have made the two people who owe money Cabinet ministers until theyíve cleared up what is owed. Thereís some justification in that position.
Thereís also the belief that these ministers should not be allowed to run in politics unless they have cleared up their outstanding loans to the taxpayers of the Yukon, which ultimately is the money weíre talking about.
Thatís another suggestion. And then, of course, finally what I think a lot of people would like to see is some type of loan payment, some way to indicate good faith, from both these ministers as well as other companies and individuals who owe this money. But never, never has it been suggested in this Legislature, or out of it, that the government should go after this money and bankrupt individuals or people.
I have stood in this House and talked about this, only to have the Premier stand up on the other side and make that accusation, which seems to be a common reaction to anything he doesnít like to hear. Itís immediately an accusation or interpretation spin that he feels most comfortable with from his own perspective, but I have not ever heard anybody on this side, or outside, suggest that people should be bankrupted to collect this money. So letís get that clear right away.
To me, thereís a bigger issue here in many ways. In one way, itís about the morality of the issue, and itís about the perception within the public. I believe you should not separate morality and politics. If you do, then you have very few guiding principles or values to help you make wise and firm decisions ó the directions that will stand up over a long period of time and direction that is for the benefit of all people in this territory, at least.
The problem that we have here is that the government at this present time ó in the situation that they are in with the two ministers ó is now put on a higher responsibility level to act in a manner that is seen by the public as fair and accountable. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the Premier and his colleagues. I would suspect that this is an issue that has been discussed by the MLAs on the other side ó possibly in groups but possibly as a whole group together ó about what is the proper resolution to this issue that we are discussing today.
The leader of the third party has put forward a motion that lays out one option in dealing with this. It says: "That this House urges the Government of Yukon to enforce the same standard of payment on loans by garnisheeing the additional wages of the Cabinet ministers who are not paying their debts."
I would suspect ó and I stand to be corrected by the leader of the third party ó that she is applying the rules of collection that the government applies to somebody who has had to go and get a loan from Social Services to help pay for some food and to purchase food or school supplies when there has been an exceptional increase in their set salary, their set income.
This is not really that uncommon. People go to Social Services and are able to acquire some financial help, which they pay back. Interestingly enough, most of them pay it back, and they are generally on a very, very small income. They are there because there is a very, very definite need at that point, and there is an arrangement to pay it back over a certain period of time, and they do it under their fixed income.
If they donít, itís my understanding ó I always stand to be corrected on this stuff, because I do not work in these departments and I do not have the background ó but if they do not collect it, my understanding is that, after a period of time of trying to collect it, it goes to a collection agency, and then they go after the money. It could be $300, Mr. Speaker; it could be $600, and itís recognized what assistance it is for ó I used the example, just a minute ago, of school supplies. Iím using that, because I could see how that would happen. If a couple or a single mother with, say, three children ó she works, sheís on a very fixed income, she budgets very tightly ó or it could be a working family, but theyíre budgeting very tightly. Then school comes in the fall, and the cost of going to school, the initial cost of going to school with three children could quite easily be $800 to $1,200.
That increase on a very tight budget is, in most cases, almost impossible to meet when you donít have the flexibility of investments, hotels, or whatever ó youíre not able to access any money and you want to ensure that your children have what other children have. So you may have to borrow this money, and you may do it through one of the government agencies and then pay it back over a set period of time ó this will allow you to do it.
Now, for some reason, that person ó those children ó cannot make that payment and, after a certain period of time, they get sent off to the collection agency and then they come after her. Thatís pretty difficult for a family, pretty difficult for a person.
Iím thinking of that situation. Iím also thinking of the situation where a couple with children breaks up. One side or the other does not make their maintenance payment contributions. What happens? The court can order that the wages be garnisheed and the agency, if involved in some form, can actually garnishee wages. Thatís similar to this. I would suspect that, in some ways, what the leader of the third party was thinking about was that if it happens already within our government, if that is how we collect monies for other people who owe money and if thatís what our method of operation to collect money is, then why doesnít it apply here?
I think thereís another option here as well. The question is: are the two people able to pay the debt they owe? Are they financially well off enough to make the payment on the money that was borrowed in good faith? If they are, the question is why they have not. Why have they not removed this whole debate? Why have they not removed this from the public eye and public discourse that is happening throughout the Yukon?
I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that many, many people in the Yukon are watching very closely how the government handles this, and they are talking about it. It is raised at many functions I attend. I can go into a store and itís asked of me, and I would suspect itís asked of the members opposite too: "When are you going to resolve this issue? How are you going to resolve this issue?" Iíve heard a variety of opinions. Iíve been stopped on the street and business people have said that they should pay it; of course they should pay it; this money should be collected, but not by bankrupting people, not bankrupting businesses. I totally agree.
Iíve heard others say more pointedly that the two ministers should clear this up, and they should step aside until itís cleared up. Thatís more directly pointed toward the two ministers in government, as this motion is, and I agree there too. It should be cleared up. They should clear it up on a moral ground.
Going back to what I said earlier about politics and morality, I also believe that our very actions and how we decide issues and the direction we go in will often reflect the opinions people have of all politicians. Iím a firm believer that we will be judged by how we live our lives in our society. When we run for public office, we must put ourselves at a higher standard. It is expected of us. And where I think it has been failing is that people now run in politics and forget that theyíre now a representative; they are now going to be judged by their personal life, because you donít have the privacy any more. Youíre not a private citizen, so you can be judged by your personal life and your own personal decisions and your own actions as easily as by your public decisions.
A very simple and immediate example of that is the situation that happened with the Premier of British Columbia. We are all very conscious of the huge reaction to a personal decision he made and an action that he took in Hawaii ó I am referring, of course, to the drinking and driving situation. The public outcry that issued from it and the huge debate that happened within our society about the responsibilities of a person in public office and their accountability when they act in a manner that can be considered not acceptable in our society, especially when they are representative of a large group of people ó if a situation like that happened 20 years ago, he would have to resign. There would be no question about it, because they did. They would have to step aside. That doesnít happen any more. You have to question why. Why is there no longer a sense of value placed on us as public people? And why, now, if we have a course of action that is not acceptable in this society and that we stand and speak against it but do it ourselves and get found out about or caught, do we not pay the consequences?
I am not sure what is happening in our politics that has allowed that to happen, but what Iím concerned about is how the public now views us as politicians. Voting has been dropping; everybody knows that. There has been more and more of a disengagement of the public with our democratic process and our institutions that we work in. There is, without a doubt ó and Iím sure everybody has heard this ó a very vocal belief that what we say and what we do are two different things.
Mr. Speaker, thank you for indicating that I only have a couple minutes left. Iíd like to wrap up with a couple things.
I believe that, regardless of our political background, we could agree that the political status quo is simply not morally acceptable in many areas, and it is up to us to make the change. And we have the opportunity to make a change in here. We could all work together to make that change.
If we are to have a moral, intelligent Assembly, if weíre going to govern with decency and responsibility, Mr. Speaker, with sincerity, civility and tolerance, then we also must recognize that it is only through long-term and endless, endless work by us that that will happen. Itís not so much what we do in here. This is important; this is whatís seen. But we also have to have that inside ourselves to know what is right or wrong, what is common decency, what is the common good that we are all working for.
Now, I know I have to wrap up, and I was going to state five guidelines for the government debtors to start loan repayments now. I have five points that I thought were very important, but Iíll allow other people to talk, and if thereís another opportunity to stand up and speak, Iíd like to share that with people.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The Chair awaits your pleasure. Member for Kluane.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I agree with many of the comments made this afternoon. I also believe that this is principally an issue of morality. We all must understand that the standards set by ministers should be above reproach. Above reproach doesnít mean simply meeting the requirements of the law, whether it be the Yukon Legislative Assembly Act or whatever; it is going beyond what is expected by the public. That is what makes it a morality issue.
Now, ministers need to be judged to a higher standard. People across the territory look to us in here for guidance and, in some cases, they see some people as role models. Well, what kind of an example does it set if ministers canít repay their outstanding loans to the government?
Now, I know that, at the municipal level, Mr. Speaker, such practices are not allowed. Why arenít ministers at the territorial government level at least held to the same standards that politicians are held to at the municipal level?
Now, it befuddles me that the ministers havenít paid up. When this issue flared up after the election, I thought to myself, well, the Yukon Party, being a new government and wanting to be seen to be doing the right thing, would come out before the start of the spring sitting with an announcement that something had been worked out to resolve this issue.
As we got closer to the start of this spring sitting, which was February 27, it became apparent that, instead of coming out doing the right thing, the government was defending itself, it was adopting more of a bunker mentality, it was defending its decision to not take action on this matter.
Well, politically, Mr. Speaker, I couldnít believe it. I couldnít believe it because this is one of those issues where a high price will be paid, and the amount of the outstanding debt will seem like a small price to pay for what is ultimately paid by this government. Every member of this government will be wearing this issue of these outstanding loans. Every member of this government will be wearing the fact that this government is hiding behind whatever to avoid dealing with this issue and coming out and doing the right thing.
When we vote on this issue later this afternoon, Mr. Speaker, it will be very interesting to see how all members on that side vote. Will they be voting as a block against it? Will they be voting against it because they believe the ministers shouldnít have to pay back government loans? Is that how theyíre going to feel? Or will they do the right thing and vote with their conscience? I look forward to that vote, and it shouldnít be too far away.
The ministers should go beyond any requirement in law to do what is right, to set a standard of high moral standards. In my riding and in Whitehorse, from people I have talked to in the past few months, I have heard a considerable amount of concern on this matter.
Many of the people Iíve spoken with have, in the past, supported the Yukon Party. In fact, some of them have taken an active role in the Yukon Party, whether it be at the constituency riding level or as a member of the executive in the Yukon Party itself. These people have told me that they will not be supporting this party in the future unless these ministers do the right thing.
Thatís very interesting, Mr. Speaker, and it makes me wonder why this government hasnít done the right thing to date. Is it an issue of affordability? I think not, Mr. Speaker. Just look in the parking lot at the expensive, shiny metal that these ministers are driving, and itís clearly not an issue of affordability.
What about the sacrifice made by entrepreneurs who have repaid their loans over the years? There are plenty of them in the territory. Theyíve done without over the years. Theyíve made the sacrifice. Why should they be unfairly punished for doing the right thing? Theyíre not driving shiny new vehicles, Mr. Speaker. Theyíre making do because theyíre doing the right thing by repaying their debts to the people of the Yukon.
I have a constituent, the owner of Kluane Wilderness Village at mile 1118 on the Alaska Highway who, this very month, will be making his final payment to the government ó this stems back some 15 years. He doesnít drive a new vehicle. His business could have used the money over the years, which, in turn, had it been invested, would have produced more money. He has done without, Mr. Speaker. These ministers havenít done without.
This is not setting an example.
Mr. Speaker, waiting for some internal policy to develop and holding off on doing the right thing just doesnít cut it with Yukon people. These ministers need to resolve this issue at the earliest opportunity. This money is desperately needed. Every day, we hear about how budget cuts are removing much-needed services from Yukon people, whether itís for childcare or nursing homes, seniors facilities, youth centres, highway maintenance. Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on and on. If this money is repaid, it can help address some of those other issues.
So, Mr. Speaker, Iíll be interested to hear the reaction from the government side to this motion.
Mr. Cardiff: I rise today to also speak to this motion. I believe that this is a very important issue that is on the minds of many Yukoners. I know this has been brought up to me by many people, my constituents as well as people on the street. I think itís about perception, to a large degree ó the perception that there are rules for some people and a different set of rules for other people.
I think that, as consumers, most people on the street deal with financial institutions fairly regularly, and my colleague from Whitehorse Centre talked about a couple of instances, whether youíre dealing with Health and Social Services or ó I canít remember what the other one was off the top of my head. But when somebody borrows money or takes advantage of a program through which they receive money and theyíre expected to pay it back, I think that everybody, when they do participate in something like that ó if they go to the bank and they borrow money to buy a car or a house, go on a holiday ó in their mind, theyíre going to pay that back.
I donít see why this situation should be any different. I also think that, when we were elected, people do have the perception that politicians do say many things during elections. And when they get elected, a lot of times they do other things. Itís important that we do make that effort to change that perception in the public and to live up to the highest standards that we possibly can. And I agree: we donít want to create undue hardship for anybody. Most financial institutions will work with clients to set up repayment schedules as well, and I think this was an important enough issue ó I know the Premier has said previously that theyíre working on this, but I think this is an important enough issue for the public ó and Iím sure theyíve heard this ó that it should have been made more of a priority.
Iím not about to try to amend the motion. I think the motion speaks for itself. There may be some other options. One of the other options might be for the Premier or his officials to work out that payment scheme so that they donít have to garnishee the additional wages. If that had been done, then we wouldnít even be talking about this motion today.
Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue. Itís up to us to lead by example, and itís up to the ministers on the other side to lead by example and make some effort to repay or negotiate a repayment scheme for these loans.
This was the publicís money. I have heard the members opposite talk about the budget and the publicís money. Well, this is the publicís money too. This came out of the public purse and was lent to businesses. There is no doubt in my mind that there isnít a benefit to that ó that those businesses create employment in their communities and that that money goes round and round in the economy. That is a good thing, but there is still an onus to repay that money, just like there is an onus for me to repay my mortgage or for anyone in here to repay their vehicle loan or their credit card bill.
I think that is all that the public expects. I think that the Premier and the ministers who are not paying their debts could change the perception in the public drastically by at least making some sort of an effort to address this situation in a positive manner. It would put them and the government and everyone in this House in a more positive light in the public.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I will end. Thank you.
Mr. Fairclough: I have some comments also on this motion.
I would like to thank the leader of the third party for bringing this forward. I think itís an issue that we need to clear up once and for all.
Like many of my colleagues, I hear the same thing from my constituents up and down the highway, from businesses ó that this is not good. It is not good to see Cabinet ministers owing government money and not making an effort to pay it back, especially when we have businesses that are struggling, that were not able to get a government loan and are trying to make ends meet.
Theyíre the ones who are working hard and, when they see government Cabinet ministers who owe a lot of money to government ó which is public money ó they donít see it in a very good light at all. They are the same people, Mr. Speaker, who are controlling the spending of public monies. We want to see that improvement take place, and thatís why this motion has come to the floor.
Itís also at a time when this government says money is important. We donít have the surpluses to deal with the needs and desires of organizations and communities out there, and it is the time when we are seeing some small cuts in departments that mean a lot. The arts contribution was cut by 39 percent. That meant a lot to kids out there.
I can remember the time when the Yukon Party threatened businesses to get them to repay their loans. If that had taken place and they didnít get elected ó even though they threatened to do it ó these businesses would have gone bankrupt. Some of them are in my riding. Itís unfortunate, but the businesses were continuing to pay off their debt with government. The one thing that was disappointing in this whole thing is that we have the Premier here who can make things happen and also ensure that payments take place with these two ministers. The government put out their list of delinquent loans. One of them happened to be the Carmacks Development Corporation. I called up right away, as soon as I noticed this. They have had this loan for almost 10 years, and they faithfully paid every month.
I think they were late one time, and it was through the end of a fiscal year that they didnít have a payment. Well, what happens to that? Itís a corporation trying to get the economy going, trying to get people working ó now they have a bad name. It would be a perception anyway. If you have someone who canít pay their bills, why would you invest in that corporation?
To date, they want more than just an apology from the Premier and from the government about that and to find ways to fix it so that they can have businesses approach them again and use them as a corporation and deal with them and have people working. So thatís an important part.
When that has taken place, nothing has been done on the other side, where we have Cabinet ministers who owe money.
Simply put, I think, out there with the economy the way it is, it is hard for people to take. I guess that is the bottom line ó itís tough. We would like to see it cleared up because we on this side of the House are not exempt from that. When this takes place with elected members, then we are painted with that same brush, too, and, again, put in as the way some people perceive politicians these days.
I really encourage all members on that side of the House to have enough in them to respond to the motion. I hope that they are not given the direction not to speak to the motion if they feel strongly about it. I am sure that many people ó as a matter of fact, I know that many of them in their ridings are saying the same thing. Many of the people who are approaching us are not our party supporters; they are mostly Yukon Party supporters. We cannot leave this alone and let it drag on and on. I am sure that the Premier has thought about ways of trying to correct this, and this motion is simply trying to give some direction to that. I certainly look forward to hearing what the Premier has to say on how we can resolve this and move on, and not have to have this hanging over our heads ó hanging over governmentís head, for that matter ó in years to come.
I feel weíre in a tough position in the Yukon. The government is talking about cutting back spending, focusing on administration and so on, and here we are: we could be collecting some monies that could go toward things like childcare and social services and so on.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward to hearing what the Premier has to say and how we can move on with this whole issue. Hopefully, it can be resolved.
Mrs. Peter: I, too, would like to put on record some of the issues that I have regarding this motion. We are talking about two Cabinet ministers who hold very, very important roles in government, and they make very serious decisions on behalf of the Yukon people in this Legislature and in their own departments. Itís not only a moral issue; itís an issue out there that places public perception on every one of the elected members in this House, and I am very concerned about that.
I was just in my community over the last few days and this issue came up in Old Crow. Not only that, this issue has been brought to my attention while Iím out and about in the City of Whitehorse attending public gatherings and other activities throughout the city.
And to me, that is a surprise, and it also gives me a strong message that the people of the Yukon are not going to take issues like this lying down. They want our government officials to be held accountable. We have high expectations of not only our performance in here but of how we address issues. We have people out there who call us on a daily basis, and thatís how we bring our questions into this public forum. I said it before, and Iím going to say it again: I ask questions in here on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of the Yukon public. Itís not only for my own benefit.
When the Yukon Party was elected ó and it is also printed in their platform ó they committed to change the conduct in this House. Again, Iíve heard it before. This issue of two Cabinet ministers owing a large sum of money to the Yukon government is not only a moral issue, but it also gives the Yukon public a strong message on how we conduct ourselves here.
I have a little bit of experience in this area, Mr. Speaker. I worked in a banking institution before. When you want to borrow money from a bank, there is a process you follow, and by the time you walk out of that institution that has agreed to lend you the money, an agreement has been signed saying that, yes, I will pay back this money ó whether itís on a monthly basis, or by whatever means you can do it. That agreement is a commitment that, yes, you will follow through with it. I believe that holds true not only in a banking institution, but in many other areas.
This money that was loaned out is the publicís money. For myself, that is very serious. We need to set an example. I need to set an example because of the people who elected me to represent them in this House. I am painted with that same brush, and thatís why that issue came up in my community this weekend. What is going to take place with this? How is the government going to go about it?
The reason that this issue arises is the state of the economy. People are struggling. There are very few jobs for families out there.
In my community, people are excited. This time of the year is a new beginning. Young families are starting to come back and take their families out on the land, because the caribou are coming, it is trapping season and itís a very important time of year for my people ó for whatever or however they can get the very basic needs so that they can take their families out on the land and teach them to be self-sufficient, to be responsible out on the land and teach them environmental values. They will do that because of what they believe in, because they know what the true value of having to be a responsible person on this planet Earth is all about.
I have personal experience of living in poverty, of being a single parent and trying to make ends meet, and I am proud to say today that I achieved that. I know that there are many women out there whom I have spoken to and whom I have encouraged and supported, who are struggling along in their daily lives, trying to get an education so they can provide for their children, trying to make ends meet because the price of food is so high in the community, be able to provide very basic necessities so that their children can grow up in a healthy way and to be able to go to school and pay attention and learn so that they can, in the end, be responsible people in our community.
And then I come here and have to address issues like this. We try to teach our youth today, Mr. Speaker, and try to pave the way so that we can leave behind for them a great place to live and to carry on the values and traditions that we hold so dear. They are our future leaders, and yet agreements we make and commitments that we make are thrown to the wayside and not taken very seriously. When Iím painted with that same brush, Mr. Speaker, I take that very seriously and I would encourage the Premier to encourage his ministers to address this issue on behalf of the Yukon people so that we can move on, and that they can govern and have the kind of relationship with the communities out there that Iíve heard them speak of over and over again.
With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Speaker, Iíve sat here and listened intently to the comments made by the members opposite and, for the most part, I entirely agree with them. Loans must be repaid. That is a standard set. When we look at this particular issue, the bar has been set by those companies and individuals who have repaid the monies borrowed through this particular program.
Now, we could go on at great length in regard to the program itself and what it has done in terms of the governmentís ability to actually collect these monies, and I think we can agree that, given the long-standing and outstanding issues we face in this particular area, there are some serious problems with what has taken place, but this is not to make excuses. This is to point out that there is much more to this issue than singling out two individuals who have chosen, by their own free will, to contribute to Yukon society in a manner that is of the highest station in political office, by becoming Cabinet ministers.
Now letís deal with the moral question. Yes, there is a moral question here. No doubt about it, Mr. Speaker. But thereís another side to the moral issue and that is: does this issue, because there are so many others who are in the very same position, preclude individuals from contributing to todayís Yukon in the manner that these two individuals have chosen? Further to that, I would say itís somewhat unfair in this motion to single out the two individuals in question when there are so many other delinquencies when it comes to this program. The motion should have reflected that. First and foremost, all those delinquent loans owe money to the government and to the taxpayer, not just two individuals who happen to have chosen to run for public office, seek election, were elected, and have been charged with duties as Cabinet ministers. We must ask the question: is it fair to single them out when they are taking on these responsibilities and contributing in this manner through dedication and commitment?
Now, the fact that their companies owe money certainly enters into this debate, but should it preclude them from doing what they are doing? Should the situation evolve so that it treats them differently than all the others who are delinquent in monies owed to the Yukon government?
That is the dilemma that the government faces. I, for one, do not agree that, because companies that these two individuals are involved with owe money through these loan programs, it should preclude them from being in public office or that it diminishes in any way, shape or form their abilities to carry out their duties and responsibilities. It doesnít do that.
It leaves a question in the mind of the public, but so, too, should all the other delinquent loans leave in the publicís mind the question: why have these monies not been collected? Our government is seeking a solution to this.
These go back years ó delinquencies for many years. Governments in the past have not dealt with it. Contrary to the leader of the third party, it hasnít happened. We, on the other hand, have directed the department to come forward with the options on how we can deal with this, considering the variances, the different conditions and all that goes with the confusion around this program. And there is confusion, there are variances and there are differences.
Now, there is an issue here when the members opposite talk about the state of the economy, because there are conditions around some of these loans that reflect directly on that ability to pay, based on revenues or profitability and so on, but I am not here to debate that.
What we want to do is establish a fair process for all concerned so that we can move on, bring this to closure, bring these delinquent loans to a current state and, of course, above all, ensure that the bar is being met by those who have repaid their monies.
Itís interesting to note that in one instance ó the Watson Lake Hotel, for example, sits today in Watson Lake with plywood on the windows. Now, the question we have to ask ourselves is this: should an individual who is involved with a company of a hotel that has plywood on the windows be singled out to immediately pay the loan or have his wages garnisheed when we want to establish a fair and equitable process so that all are paid?
Letís look at the member oppositeís idea of garnishee. First, it brings into question if the government can even do this, which I highly doubt, because weíre dealing with corporations, limited companies, and weíre dealing with individuals who are part of or representatives of these particular corporate entities. But it goes beyond that. If the members opposite are not singling out two individuals in the manner that is required from us in this Legislature, that we deal with this issue on all levels and all instances when it comes to the delinquencies of monies owed. Are the members saying that we should garnishee everybody? How, then, can we garnishee NGOs, and the people who contribute their time to non-government organizations, to repay large sums of money that are owed under this program? Weíre not about to do that. Should we proceed down this road and garnishee all the people involved here? I donít think thatís a fair process to undertake.
I think there are other options available, and thatís why we were taking the time to do the necessary work and research, and put together something that will solve this issue once and for all. It has been well over a decade that this issue has gone on and not been dealt with.
The leader of the third party has put together this motion in a manner that tries to establish or imply that thereís some sort of a new policy. Frankly, there is no new policy. At this time, there is no new policy for collections of monies owed to government. Itís the same as it was under the memberís government, the same as it was under the former NDP government, and the same as it was prior to that.
The issue in question here is not an issue of policy; itís an issue of condition of a loan, and the condition is that the loss payee of a certain amount of money for a certain company was the Yukon territorial government. In an insurance claim, the insurance company is bound by that condition, because of the fact the Yukon government is listed as the loss payee, to pay the money out to the loss payee. This is not a question of policy; itís a question of condition of the loan.
Therefore, the argument here is reflective of a very disturbing trend by the leader of the third party in singling out two individuals of this government who, along with many others, owe money.
Mr. Speaker, it goes on to say that there is a double standard. How can this be when the standard remains the same? We are now in the process of trying to change, coming up with options to change, coming up with some process to change the existing policy because it has not worked.
I donít think we have to argue that point. With the long-standing delinquencies here, itís obvious that the policy has not worked. Now, I guess the government could just simply throw these into collections. However, thatís not the preferred route because we do not want to, under the circumstances, place undue hardship on companies and people and NGOs that are already struggling. We want to find a way that solves the problem without adding further to the undue hardship point because this should not, in any way, shape or form, further problems that people are experiencing.
Iím going to totally agree with the members opposite on the fact that we in this House must set a higher standard by virtue of the fact that we are elected to do so. I agree with that. However, there are a number of ways that that higher standard can be represented, and that brings me back, Mr. Speaker, to the moral question.
This is a situation that must include, in the entire equation, what the individuals in question are doing in terms of their dedication and commitment to this territory and its citizens. That does not remove the fact that they are involved in companies that owe money and are delinquent. However, I would expect that, when we have concluded our work and have come up with the solution, they, along with everybody else who finds themselves in this particular situation and this particular predicament, will be treated fairly, equally and become current in payment of monies owed to the government.
We would have supported a motion right away that reflected the full equation, reflected the need for fairness and equality and an equitable approach. I take exception to singling people out because of the choices they make in areas like running for public office. Itís a very, very long stretch to point fingers at delinquent payments and somehow associate that with being completely blacklisted from doing the job theyíre doing. Again, I point out that it does not reflect on their ability to carry out their duties.
Iím very concerned about the issue and have been for some time. I have experienced this issue in the past under the former NDP government and the reluctance to try to deal with it because of the complexities and the problems that go with it. I must point out that we are dealing with it and have set out an immediate course of action to deal with this issue.
Mr. Speaker, there will be a solution and a policy on how to deal with this, but we are going to make sure that we have made every effort to deal with the issues and the complexity of the issues as they are today, not because of two individuals that have been singled out, but because of the circumstances that have led us to where we are today in this particular area of delinquent loans to the government.
There is no double standard, and there never was. It is incorrect to put that on the floor of this Legislature. It dramatically diminishes the memberís ability to argue the moral question, because itís erroneous.
To argue the moral question, we must present the real facts. We must make the case. It is convenient to ignore the flipside of the moral question but it is not correct. We, on the other hand, as government, must consider all sides of the issue. That is what we are doing.
I will not single out two ministers of this government. The Department of Finance will bring forward the options available to the government to deal with this issue, and this government will treat those ministers and all Yukoners who are in this situation the very same ó equally, fairly, not adding burden or undue hardship to their situation, but finding a way to bring this to closure and to make these loans current.
Now, the member for the third party who brought this in has to deal with some serious issues here, because the member was in government and did not address this issue ó no matter what the member said on the floor here today, she did not address this issue.
There is more to it than what transpired here in this House, and outside of the House, when it comes to this issue. It smacks, again, of an attempt to single out individuals, as this motion does.
There could have been a way to couch this motion and structure this motion that brought all parties onside in dealing with this issue as it should be, because a responsibility also rests with the members opposite, who had the opportunity to deal with this issue and collect these monies, but chose not to.
The leader of the official opposition is saying "Blame somebody else." I am not blaming anybody. I am pointing out the issue here for debate, and that the members opposite must, in a manner of full disclosure, point that out to the public.
If their intention is to deal with the issue in its entirety and not single out individuals, then they would have put that on the floor of the Legislature today in debate. They did not do so, so I must, in the debate, in a constructive way, put it out there. I can understand, now that I have gone through this issue in more detail, the reluctance of former governments to try to deal with it. It is a difficult one. Itís not because we happen to have two elected members on this side of the House who are involved in this program through companies they have an association with, ownership with or are directors of.
Have the members opposite done the research on the company structures and on who else is involved here? Should members who are partners or directors of corporate entities be singled out because of their position and be forced to pay something that others involved with them also have a responsibility for? That is why we must look at the entire equation here and not do it the way the members opposite have tried today, though I will stand down in making any point of what the intentions were.
Mr. Speaker, we are going to deal with this issue, as I said. I for one think itís a serious issue. I for one have paid my bills. Past experience has been that, many times, it was very difficult to do so. However, Iíve done that, and I will hold the members on this side of the House to that standard.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin also pointed out banking institutions and made the case that this is how business is done. Unfortunately, it wasnít a banking institution that loaned this money ó it was government ó and therein lies one of the fundamental problems with what we are facing today.
So we will address this issue, as we have been doing. It is going to take some time to work through the complexities and the variances with all these delinquent loans. We are very focused on the standard of where the bar has been set by those who have paid back their loans, and that requires that we find a way to ensure that all others live up to their responsibility, including members on this side of the House.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, she will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to thank everyone who spoke today. Iíd like to begin by addressing the comments made by the most recent speaker, the Premier. First of all, the Premier has said that we did not deal with this issue during our time in office. I think his exact words were "no matter what I said on the floor of the House." Well, weíre going to agree to disagree and only the facts and the opening up of Cabinet documents in the future would ever confirm what I have said. The fact is that the now Premier also said that now that he is in government, he fully understands this issue. Then he should fully understand why a previous Cabinet and Management Board sent a draft policy back at least twice. The suggestion that other governments have not dealt with this issue because itís very complex is not the case. Other governments have dealt with this and have worked very hard at it, as have, if one examines again the 1,500 loans, the 1,280 people and businesses who have paid back ó and as the Member for Kluane noted, those who are struggling each season to pay back.
The now Premier has suggested that itís incorrect to single out two individuals. The fact is that those two individuals are being paid from the public purse. Theyíre receiving extra salary over and above what other MLAs receive, and thatís the point in question. Thatís the moral issue and the high standards we should hold ourselves to that others have spoken about.
The Finance minister has said that garnisheeing isnít the right way. Well, amend the motion. Make a suggestion. On this side of the House, everyone has said very clearly that this is not about imposing financial hardship on anyone. Itís about dealing with the issue at hand.
The Premier has said and taken great exception to the point in the motion with respect to other private sectors that have been forced into or who have come into extra money and have had to pay their loans back, saying that this was simply a condition of the loan. The government had a choice in that respect ó a very clear choice. When the decision was reached, the government could have allowed the business a portion of that money, taken a small portion of the loan, said it was still in question, could have dealt with that in another way. They did not and that is what has forced the issue here. Itís because government, in its very early days, made a specific choice and dealt with the delinquent loan in one way. The individual came into additional money. Thatís the distinction ó again also being paid from the public purse, there is extra salary over and above the MLA salary.
When one business comes into extra money, they pay. When ministers get extra, they donít pay. The government has singled out this other business and made them pay back immediately. The same measures should apply.
The Premier asked if we, on this side, were familiar with the corporate structure. I canít speak for other members on this side, but yes, I am familiar with the corporate structures of business. Itís about choices, and no one said being in government was easy. Itís a very tough, difficult job.
As I said at the outset, Iím personally disappointed that I even had to call this motion. Itís a tough issue. By the same token, each of us was elected, no matter what the political stripe, to deal with these tough issues. Without question, this particular issue is on the minds, and in the conversations, and reflects the views, of constituents. This is a public issue.
Itís also ó I might digress for a moment ó a very recent public issue in Canada with a court case where a government agency failed to take any measures to deal with this issue. As a result, the public purse was out the money ó and thereís no other way to put it.
The other point that has been made this afternoon is that, in politics, perception is reality. And the perception we are all dealing with is about politicians, about standards and the standards we set for ourselves. Itís also about the fundamental issue of fairness. A policy that is applied to one private sector business should be applied to all. Again, of the 1,280 businesses that have paid back their loans ó and the others that struggle to do this, no matter how old the loans are ó I appreciate, as all Yukoners do, the efforts you are making.
We are offering, in a very serious manner, on a very tough issue ó everyone who has spoken has, quite frankly, offered a very clear piece of advice: make a payment, however small; resolve this outstanding issue. There is no disagreement. It has dragged on for far, far too long. Most important, letís put the public money to work for the public.
Mr. Speaker, when you open our House each day, you ask us to speak on behalf of our constituents. You ask us to speak from our heart. You ask us to be truthful and to be fair. The motion I have put forward today asks no less of the government.
Again, I thank everyone who spoke today.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Will the Clerk please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Disagree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Disagree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Disagree.
Mr. Arntzen: Disagree.
Mr. Rouble: Disagree.
Mr. Hassard: Disagree.
Mr. Cathers: Disagree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are six yea, nine nay.
Speaker: The nays have it. I declare the motion defeated.
Motion No. 56 negatived
Motion No. 80
Clerk:Motion No. 80, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) during the past election campaign and since, the Yukon Party government promised to adopt an approach to governing based on consensus, cooperation and compromise, and
(2) a more cooperative approach to governing should include cooperating with elected representatives of the Yukon people who sit on the opposition side of this House in their attempts to get the information they need to examine government policies and spending priorities; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to respect both its election commitments and the proper role of this House by providing information related to government policies and spending priorities in a cooperative, thorough and timely manner, as requested both orally and in written form by opposition MLAs.
Mr. Hardy: In some ways, this motion is slightly connected to the previous motion in that it talks about election campaign promises that were made during October and early November and the positions parties take in order to convince people that they deserve their vote.
Unfortunately, many, many people who do get convinced to vote for a party often are very disillusioned within a short period of time, and I think more so in the Yukon than just about anywhere else in Canada because we seem to have a history, Mr. Speaker, of going from party to party as each party seems to fail to meet the requirements of the electorate or else to live up to their own campaign promises that they make in order to solicit the support of the electorate.
As I said earlier in the previous motion, it erodes peopleís sense of belief in our democratic structures and, as well, it erodes a sense of belief in the people who are actually running.
One of the problems that parties get caught up in is that, as the election goes along, they start to make promises that often arenít ones that have been thought out prior to the election, and that is often driven by a fairly basic principle and human nature ó the desire to win. People do run in order to win. I donít think anybody really seeks to go through a 30-day election period just so that they have their name on a ballot. Everybody does hope that they will be successful in it.
As time goes on during an election ó and if it looks like it is fairly close and the other parties may be taking a position that you feel that you have to, you will find election promises coming out midway to the end of an election are probably, in some cases, not sustainable once the government is elected.
What I think happened in the last election is that there were promises made that are probably not sustainable. Unfortunately, I am not pointing my finger at any one particular party; I believe that this has happened throughout history in Canada and probably in some cases in the Yukon as well.
I think itís essential, if we are going to re-establish a belief in what we stand for, that we are diligent during the election not to be swayed or pulled into making promises that we may regret. If we can distance ourselves during an election ó step back and do an analysis of a promise that may be made or may be thinking of being made, we may find that we wouldnít do it, because we just know that we are not going to be able to live up to it in four years.
We have already heard from the other side ó from the Premier who was speaking to the chambers, I believe ó of course, not the other people of the Yukon, but to the chambers specifically ó that many of the promises made during the election are not going to be fulfilled in this mandate, which begs the question: why did you make the promise in the first place? As I said earlier, you made the promise so you could get the vote and you get the vote so that you can win. Then you win and you donít fulfill the promise and the electorate gets very discouraged with you, and you come to their doorstep four years later with your new pledges of promises, and you get questioned about your own integrity and your own ability to deliver on what you are saying, so you have a record that shows you havenít been able to do it.
Often what happens is you find yourself facing a very different situation from the first time around.
The first part of this motion talks about the past election campaign and the promise the Yukon Party government made to adopt an approach to govern based on consensus, cooperation and compromise. From our perspective in the Legislature, we have not experienced that type of position in the first few months of this government. We have found it to be, in retrospect, just the opposite. We have found that the Yukon Party has adopted a pretty standard type of behaviour: first, in the Legislature around Question Period, where most questions are not answered; and second, in debate, where I cannot honestly believe that cooperation is happening. Weíre also seeing it in some of the committees weíre trying to work on, and SCREP is definitely one of those.
The government is in the position ó not the opposition, but the government ó to make some very, very fundamental, positive changes that would enable all people within the Legislature to participate ó not the opposition; itís the government. Itís the governmentís opportunity and role ó if they made the promises ó to fulfill them.
Unfortunately, since weíve been in here, there hasnít been a single change ó there hasnít been one single change from previously. Thatís quite a surprise because, if the Yukon Party was talking about a new way of governing and one that is inclusive of the opposition, you would feel that some of the changes would be brought forward to allow an inclusion of the opposition members and the inclusion of all MLAs. I wonít just say the opposition members. I should say, "more inclusive of even the backbenchers."
I can speak from past experience, Mr. Deputy Speaker. A backbencher is often not privy to much of the information thatís happening at the Cabinet level, whether theyíre told that or not. They are often not necessarily part of the decisions that are being made. If the Yukon Party government is planning to live up to its election promises and is very sincere about that, one of the places they could start would be within their ranks, restructuring how they work and how decisions are made, and the involvement and participation of all their colleagues ó all the MLAs, the backbenchers and the Cabinet ministers.
I would bet that there has been very little change. If anything, I would suspect that they quickly fell into the same patterns and habits of the previous government. In many ways, I would suspect theyíre similar to the previous government.
Weíre definitely finding that the responses the NDP got from the former Premier when she was in government sound awfully familiar to the responses that the new Premier is giving. As I said, most of the responses are not answers ó theyíre just responses.
So we ask questions, we seek information, and we are getting responses but not answers. Thatís a big point with us. Itís one of the things driving this motion.
Now, if the changes havenít happened within the Yukon Party, the elected members, I guess we canít really expect the changes to happen with us over here as the official opposition. As I said earlier, we havenít seen those changes. If anything, we are still experiencing basically the status quo, which is a huge disappointment not just for us on this side ó because we did make an effort to work together and we worked together initially. An example would have been the community development fund and the FireSmart, in which we were very supportive of the Yukon Party government immediately bringing forward some monies to get people to work in the communities and in Whitehorse. That was a gesture of goodwill; however, that seems to pretty well be the only one, other than many of the motions brought to this House by the government side ó predominantly the backbenchers, of course ó that we have actually supported.
Again, that was an attempt on our part to work collectively and cooperatively, trying to strive for a consensus ó in other words, using the words that the Yukon Party stated during their campaign ó to make this a better place.
Our biggest problem, once we recognized that itís just going to be status quo and that there really is no change and no appetite for change on the other side, is the flow of information relating to government policies and spending priorities and the timeliness.
We have been struggling to acquire the information, partly, of course, to be able to answer questions from our constituents and also to have a better understanding of the direction the Yukon Party government is going in, and definitely to be able to have more informed and intelligent debate on the floor. Without information, it is very difficult to have an informed debate, especially one that may lead to some solutions to problems that exist. When one side has access to all the information and the other side doesnít, what you end up doing is spending a lot of your time and energy just trying to get information that, in most cases, if it were supplied, would probably be a constructive addition to the debate we would be engaged in and might, ultimately, develop a better relationship among all parties.
I, for one, know that our debate would be more productive, and I believe more beneficial, both for the Yukon Party government on that side and for us on this side as well as for the constituents we represent. But nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing has changed. If anything, I would say this government has set the record for closing the doors on the flow of information. I do know already that the feeling among the media is that this has become a government that is not accessible and not willing to answer questions. Some of the ministers have obviously been more receptive to the media and willing to talk to them; others have not, and I know that definitely has created some problems among the media. But itís also the same situation with us.
I have a casework list here, Mr. Speaker. I was talking to the Premier yesterday in Committee of the Whole regarding casework, and he pledged to me that if there were a problem with the flow of information in casework, he would address is personally and deal with it and ensure that there were responses in time. I believe that I informed him at that time that I had the numbers and I do have a problem and I wanted to talk with him about it.
What I will do right now is go over some of the numbers ó some of the ministers and the departments ó and how long it has taken to get answers to some of the casework questions that we have. The Minister of Education ó 10 days, 32 days, 26 days, 53 days, 77 days, and still counting. So, out of five questions, we have one that has taken 77 days and counting ó no answer to a casework question. We have one that is 53 days. We had one that was 26 days, which is close to a month. We had one that was over a month ó 32 days. Then there was one that I applaud the Minister of Education for ó it was only 10 days, which was really good. Interestingly enough, that was the first one. It seems that as soon as we got past the first one, the numbers started piling up to the point where, like I said, we are still waiting ó 77 days and counting and we still havenít got a reply, so he is getting pretty close to the record. I will go down this list and see if he actually holds the record. Maybe there is somebody else who does.
The Minister of Infrastructure has questions from the members opposite here. Iím just talking to clarify something, Mr. Speaker. Iím talking about the official opposition; Iím not talking about the leader of the third party and the questions she may be waiting on. There is: 53 days, 40 days, 36 days, 36 days, 41 days, 24 days. Hereís a good one ó 94 days for a casework question for the Minister of Infrastructure ó 94 days and still no reply. We might set a new record; we may get up to 100 by next week if thereís no reply on the casework question ó and 27 days.
Thatís interesting. These are often constituentsí questions, and theyíre waiting for us to get back to them on the inquiries weíve made on their behalf. Weíre already talking over three months for a response to a question. The 27 days with the Minister of Infrastructure is still not in yet, so that could quite easily go over. Most of his are quite high, actually. Thereís nothing less than 27 days, as far as I can see.
The Minister of Community Services: 51 days, 59 days, 30 days, 51 days ó substantial numbers, Mr. Speaker.
The Minister of Health and Social Services: this one goes back to December 3, 2002 ó eight days; excellent. Looking down this list, I have to applaud the Minister of Health and Social Services. This is the best response weíve had to a question, and we really appreciate that.
Actually, I apologize. There is actually somebody better ó just underneath them. The Minister of Environment, on December 10, 2002, took two days to reply to a casework letter. That is very, very impressive. He is setting a standard that I would hope his colleagues can measure up to, though it may be a challenge ó it may be a challenge. But if he did that, as far as Iím concerned, we wouldnít even have to be debating this motion. Unfortunately, some of the numbers Iíve read already are quite substantial.
He has managed to keep a pretty good record. In March, the Minister of Environment was able to respond in 14 days, which is, I believe, acceptable for a casework response. Thatís two weeks. Departments should be able to respond to a casework inquiry within two weeks. I donít think it should be that onerous. So I have to take my hat off for the response from the Minister of Environment.
The Minister of Yukon Energy Corporation took 22 days for an inquiry. The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources took 29 days to respond, 13 days for another, and 13 days again for another one. Thatís not too bad ó 19 days for another one.
The Minister of Executive Council Office took 27 days. Thatís starting to get up there again. Weíre talking about almost a month.
And then we have the Minister of Justice. I donít know what it is. Whatís the problem with Justice? It took 60 days for one casework and 70 days for another casework. Now itís obvious from looking at this list that some ministers are having a very difficult time dealing with casework questions. Other ministers are not. They are looking at them and dealing with them as soon as possible, and we appreciate that. But for some reason, there are definitely ministers who are struggling with this, for whatever reasons ó I donít know.
But I do know that the Premier assured me yesterday that he would address this issue. So now itís going to be in Hansard. Itís going to be on record, so heíll be able to look at this. I expect him to reply that this is going to be dealt with.
In a nutshell, we have, I would say, the Minister of Justice ó definitely a problem with response to casework, and of course we do pass this back on to our constituents, who talk to other people, that the reason weíre not able to deal with their questions is because weíre not getting responses. So we do keep track of this. Definitely the Minister of Community Services has a substantial amount of time and also holds the record for the longest one ó 94 days and counting. The Minister of Education is also getting up there with quite a few of them. Those seem to be the ones that, I would say, are the biggest concerns. The rest are ó some of the responses have been in what we would consider acceptable time. Others may stretch out a little bit, but there might be reasons for that.
So when, in the first sitting, you expect responses to casework questions and you expect them based upon the promises made during the election ó and it is the first sitting of the government so youíd figure they were going to set a new standard in this ó and when you donít get them, of course thereís going to be concern, because we do not want to be here three years from now, on a case that has 94 days and counting, with me standing here saying, "1,002 days and my constituent is still waiting for a response from the Minister of Infrastructure." We donít want that, and we donít think itís acceptable.
But thereís also, besides the casework, providing information for government policies and the spending priorities.
We would like to see it, as the motion says, in a cooperative, thorough and timely manner. When we make the requests orally or in writing, we would still like to see that type of response. The motion is to bring forward these issues because we havenít been getting much of a response any other way. Hopefully, we will have a productive debate and, ultimately from this motion, have assurances from the ministers that these concerns in regard to the flow of information between the opposition and the government will be improved. We hope that most of our casework questions will be resolved before the sitting ends next week, and also that our enquiries over the summer leading into the next sitting will flow faster and the responses will be better, so that when we sit down in the fall, I donít have to bring a motion like this forward again and have this debate in the Legislature regarding the flow of information.
So Iím looking for some support on this. I hope the opposition side does support it and I hope that, out of it all, more than anything else, we will see some actions that result in assuring us that we have the information so that we can debate with the Yukon Party government in an informative and constructive manner on issues that affect people daily in this territory.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, Iím pleased to rise and speak in support of this motion. The motion as put forward notes that the Yukon Party government promised to adopt an approach to governing based on consensus, cooperation and compromise. I used those lines and that phrase from the platform myself in Question Period today.
I agree that a more cooperative approach to governing should include cooperating with elected representatives, no matter what their political stripe or where they sit in this Legislature.
In order to have informed, constructive, thoughtful debate, one needs to have all the information, not just the perspective as one individual sees it, but the actual information. A very good example of this is the discussion of the breakdown of the budget by community.
Now, for new members in the House, I would outline for you that this is a computer printout, basically. Finance asks for a community breakdown and it will outline, community by community, the amount of money that the Government of Yukon is spending. Now, it is customary for that information to be provided to all members of the House. That information was asked for in the budget briefing ó could we have the community breakdown. We were told this morning at House leadersí that it was going to be tabled today ó some 30-odd days into the session of the budget we are debating. We still donít have it.
That information is important because it says, for example, that in Beaver Creek the Department of Environment is spending this amount in wildlife viewing and there is a fire truck being purchased out of Community Services, and in Health they are going to spend money renovating the nursing station. So you can see that kind of information. Whitehorse is not broken down in as detailed a manner as riding by riding, but the rest of the territory is. Territory-wide is also shown.
Itís a very simple, straightforward request. That information is produced all the time. Itís not secret. Itís available.
For some reason, the cooperative sense where one would think we could have the information has been lost and dropped from the platform because it has been dropped from the behaviour of this House.
Thatís unfortunate, because information like that leads to constructive debate. When people look at something like that, like the community breakdown, you recognize that all the governmentís fire truck money is being spent in a particular riding or not ó and weíre only buying one or two a year. It saves time in this Legislature, it leads to more constructive debate and, quite frankly, itís more useful for the public. Itís unfortunate that we havenít seen that kind of cooperation in providing that information. Thatís just one example.
Iím not going to get into a detailed spreadsheet on unanswered requests. I donít have a lot of casework thatís out, not because Iím not working with my constituents or writing letters to ministers ó Iím sorting out a number of other issues. And I have found, although it has been quite slow ó Iíll cut the government a little bit of slack in that respect in that I can recognize, especially for new Cabinet ministers, thereís a great deal of paperwork to get through, and sometimes it takes a little longer.
Then there are the issues, like the one from a constituent for which I received an answer today from the Premier, although I had addressed it to another minister. So thatís a little odd, but Iíll delve further into that as I examine it. I think itís very important that we do write directly to ministers, not pick up the phone and call other officials in the government. I think that places them in an awkward position.
I know some others have not in the past, and I know that makes it difficult, but ministers can be assured that that is my preferred route and, for the first bit, I will be a little patient in waiting for answers.
I have less patience, however, when it comes to the information we ask for in the Legislature. Thatís public information; it should be public. Thatís about accountability, and members have heard me speak before as to how strongly I believe in accountability and our role as, essentially, trustees of the public purse. I support the motion. I encourage members opposite to support the motion, and I encourage the government to hold up to a very high standard in two- and three-day turnaround, if thatís possible. I realize it takes a little longer sometimes in responding. Thatís very helpful to us in working with constituents, because thatís the bottom line for all of us, Mr. Speaker: weíre working on behalf of Yukoners here. I appreciate the motion and the point that the leader of the official opposition made today and encourage the government to examine closely the motion and the points that have been brought forward and to do their best in responding to them.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cathers: Iíd like to begin by thanking the leader of the opposition for bringing this motion forward. On behalf of my colleagues, Iím rising in support of this motion. This is something that is based on a commitment that weíve been very clear on from before we got elected and ever since. This government has been an inclusive government. Have we been perfect? Of course not, but best efforts have been made, and if errors are made, we welcome the input from the members opposite on what those errors are and how we can address those issues. It is our goal to achieve perfection. No one ever gets there, but weíre doing the very best we can, and I commend my colleagues for their very hard work on this.
This government has been more inclusive than probably any other government in the Yukonís history. From the very beginning, our government has adopted a Team Yukon approach. We spent the month of November, right after we were elected, sitting in daily briefings that the entire caucus was involved in. These briefings were given by senior officials of each and every one of the Yukon government departments, and they were informing us about the situation of the Yukon government.
Coming in as a new MLA, this seemed perfectly logical to me ó well, obvious ó and I think it seemed the obvious thing to a lot of my colleagues. Of course we should have all members in a government caucus briefed on the operations of each department of the Yukon government. How can members adequately and accurately discuss departments in an educated fashion? How can Cabinet ministers in the budget discussions bringing forward the issues in their department understand the relative merits of the financial requests that they are faced with, compared to their colleagues, if they donít even understand how another department runs?
So this seemed like the obvious and logical thing to do. But we sit down in these meetings, and the reaction from the officials was very positive and, frankly, I was absolutely astounded to be told by several of these senior civil servants that this was the very first time that the entire government caucus, of any party, had ever been briefed by their department. To their knowledge, it was the first time that there had ever been a full and entire briefing for the entire caucus.
I feel that this is a very positive step toward inclusiveness. This certainly gave me, I feel, a good foundation for starting in to the early days of being an MLA. And as I said, this approach is obvious and has resulted in an improved understanding of the big picture by all members of our caucus.
Well, Iíve heard some comments and concerns expressed by the leader of the official opposition, wondering what the involvement was of those of us who are private members in the government caucus, whether we are involved in the process and the consultations, and I thank him for his concern.
Certainly in many a previous government caucus, the backbenchers have been wallflowers and have been depended on to stand up and vote the party line and do it whether they agreed with it or not. I appreciate him standing up for our interests. I am pleased to tell him that his concern, fortunately, is not warranted.
As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, I hold the role of caucus whip ó thatís usually the role of the officer responsible for enforcing party discipline and making sure that the members toe the party line. This has never happened in this government. We have never once forced anyone to toe any line. We have discussed the issue. We all support each other. We are a collaborative caucus. We discuss the issues.
If an issue doesnít go quite the way that I ideally wanted it to go, well, I support it because I want my colleagues to support me when my point of view is in the majority. Itís democracy. We are a democratic caucus. We are collaborative and the caucus members are involved to a very large extent on the decisions of government. Obviously there are day-to-day operations and certain details which, legally, members who are not Cabinet ministers cannot be privy to. Well, of course we are not privy to those things that it would be illegal for us to be privy to but, beyond that, we are very heavily involved in the discussions and the major decisions and directions that this government has taken.
Itís something that has been very sadly lacking in many previous governments. The very fact that I and my colleagues are sitting here today on this side of the House is due to the situation the previous government got into when three members of the caucus were so disenchanted with the operations of that government that they walked across the floor ó previous Cabinet ministers among them. They walked across the floor, and this is something ó I mean, itís unbelievable that you see a majority government deprived of its majority because three members could no longer work together with the Cabinet of that caucus.
Perhaps this is a sensitive issue for certain members of this House. Iím not here to point fingers and Iím not intending to. Iím simply stating the facts as we all know them. There was a problem in the previous governmentís caucus that, for whatever reason and through whoeverís fault, there were three members who walked across the floor to sit as independents because, clearly, they felt they were not having meaningful input into the decision-making process.
Now, Mr. Speaker, weíve also heard comments here on the amount of time that takes place in casework. Iím sure that the members opposite, the leader of the official opposition, has been a member in a government caucus before, and Iím sure heís well aware of the problems that have been faced, particularly as a new government, in establishing the lines of communication with the department, setting up your tracking system, your filing system. Perfection has not been achieved. There are certain areas where certainly quicker responses probably would have been appreciated on casework issues, but action has been taken in those areas, and I know that any time I have expressed concern about the length of a casework issue, it has been dealt with. Things inadvertently in government ó when we deal with this massive operation, sometimes to receive an answer to a casework request requires that the request go over several desks, and people are only people. Probably, every person in this House and probably just about anyone who is listening to us on the radio today, Mr. Speaker, has, at some point, misplaced something or hasnít dealt with something as quickly as it should have been dealt with. When youíre dealing with a chain of people, a chain is only as good as its weakest link and errors happen. Weíre humans; weíre not machines.
As I stated before, I know that I appreciate any constructive criticism that is levelled from the other side of the House regarding mistakes that this government has made, and Iím sure that my colleagues, particularly those who sit in Cabinet, are equally appreciative of any helpful comments that come on this. And, Mr. Speaker, I know that the members opposite would like every question that they asked to be answered immediately, but those answers just simply arenít present in the heads of every one of us. Itís impossible for any one individual to be aware of the minute operations of every department or any department of government. Itís simply humanly impossible. So these ministers, as hard-working as they are, do not have supercomputer brains, and theyíre forced to pick up the phone and ask a question, and they get the response when the person they ask is able to give them the response. So we have to do things. If you want a correct answer, you have to be willing to wait the time that it takes to actually get the answer to that question. Sometimes that requires a little bit of research or putting the information together. And I know that the members opposite, as I said, would like the questions answered immediately. But I think, in fairness, every one of them who has been on this side of the House has to recognize that answers do take time to compile.
Mr. Speaker, the official opposition has stood here and criticized us, but I think every one of them has to admit that our approach and our responses are an improvement over what has been seen here previously. We have our hand out offering the opposition an opportunity to work together with us for the benefit of Yukoners. If theyíre expecting perfection from us, they will be disappointed. If they are expecting best efforts, they will be very pleased to see what comes from this government. Our inclusive and collaborative approach, our Team Yukon approach, is a new and radical change from what has for many years, in the history of the Yukon, been the practice of all our predecessor governments.
If there are ways in which we can improve on this, I welcome their input.
Mr. Speaker, once again, I very firmly and enthusiastically support this motion. I thank the leader of the opposition for bringing this forward, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Mr. McRobb: Well, Iím pleased to speak to this motion because it provides an opportunity to put on record some of the concerns of the official opposition with respect to this governmentís approach to providing information and living up to its campaign promise to govern based on consensus, cooperation and compromise.
The experience to date indicates that the governmentís actions are quite different from what it promised the Yukon electorate only a few months ago. Iím prepared to provide some examples to back that up.
Perhaps the examples started rather early in the mandate of this government, even before it was sworn into office, when I made a personal request of the Premier for a signed copy of the Yukon Party platform. Well, Iím still waiting to receive that, even though the Premier indicated that one would be provided. But I didnít put too much stock in that. I categorized it as more of a personal request than one on behalf of our caucus.
But as time rolled on, there were other examples. There were issues related to the all-party standing committee to appoint members to boards and committees. To see how that matter has developed over the past couple of months is rather disappointing.
There are issues related to other committees that, time permitting, I hope to touch upon a little later, but the issue around providing information began to take a rather serious tone on February ó was it the 27th that was the budget lock-up date? ó when I asked the Finance officials for the community breakdown on the budget.
Now, this community breakdown is a standard piece of material that has been provided at each and every one of the budget briefings that I have attended in six or seven years now. It provides a community breakdown of all of the departments and corporations on capital and operation and maintenance spending. Itís an important tool for use by the opposition in scrutinizing the budget, putting spending into context and keeping track of the spending.
For instance, in recent days, as far as the highway budget goes, it has been put on record that spending in the Klondike region has increased some 20 percent in highway maintenance. Well, it took a considerable amount of research to produce that figure but, had the community-by-community breakdown been provided, as is standard procedure, that figure would have stood out without any need for research to produce it.
In addition, there are several other expenditures in particular regions that raise some questions, but that is the primary purpose ó for me, at least, when I look at the community breakdown. Itís a good tool to use to judge the fairness of any government in how it appropriates money to the various communities.
Now, the previous government, I recall, had some difficulties in that area and became known as a government for Whitehorse. I remember the former Member for Ross River-Southern Lakes expressing his concerns that the Village of Teslin had received only $8,000 for a computer in the past budget cycle. Well, Mr. Speaker, itís examples like those that help to bring some flame to the toes, if you will, of the government. We as opposition need that type of information at our disposal in order to do that.
So, by not providing the information, Mr. Speaker, thereís a short list of options left to conclude about the government in doing so. One would be that it doesnít want to be held accountable. Perhaps another is that itís hiding something. Maybe thereís something in the figures that it doesnít want the light shed upon, at least during a legislative sitting when we do have this important forum available to raise concerns and point out anything we donít feel is right.
So those are the leading two options. Neither one looks good on any government.
So, for a government that campaigned so loudly and so boldly on governing with consensus, cooperation and compromise, its actions are a stark contrast to what it promised, Mr. Speaker.
At the minimum, youíd expect a government that campaigned on such things to continue to provide information that was standard in the past. Yet, thatís one example ó and there are others ó of how this government is becoming more closed, becoming less cooperative and how it doesnít want to compromise and is governing based on anything but consensus ó all of this in about four months.
If this is put to a trajectory, one wonders where this government will be at the end of four years, if it survives that long.
Following the budget lock-up and the disappointment of not being provided with a community breakdown, we proceeded into budget briefings the following week and the week after that. As is normal in the course of budget briefings, we request information from the departments.
We were again startled to find that information that was considered standard before was now a luxury, it was now something the government refused to provide. Iím talking about the departmental briefing materials. Departmental briefing materials are very important to the opposition parties, and especially critics for those departments, because they highlight various expenditures and major projects, and provide detail around policies and all kinds of information thatís not provided in the regular budget material.
It brings the level of detail at least a step further than the normal budgets provided. Again, such material is fundamental to our job as opposition members in holding the government accountable. Without that detail, it is practically impossible to understand what is happening in each department to the level required to do our jobs the way the public expects us to.
So, why did the government refuse? Well, we understand that the orders came from the Deputy Minister of Executive Council Office to all the other deputy ministers in government who report to that person. We know the decision wasnít made by the Executive Council Office deputy minister, because that person reports to the Premier. This decision was made by the Premier.
Now, I donít know if it was made by Cabinet or by caucus and, frankly, that is irrelevant. The issue is that this Yukon Party government eliminated the handout of departmental briefing materials to opposition members. That is significant, Mr. Speaker.
I could bring in such materials provided from past governments and you would be impressed with the thoroughness, thoughtfulness and the information contained in these handouts. Quite impressive; however, we have had to live without. Why? Well, we never really got a reason why, Mr. Speaker. We werenít asked. The Yukon Party government didnít ask us. It didnít give us the option of whether or not we wanted departmental briefing material.
It made the decision itself and decided that thatís not something the opposition members should have. "We donít want the opposition to have departmental briefing material. Letís cancel that." Well, Mr. Speaker, as our critics began to return back to our caucus room after these briefings, it became a familiar tune. None of the departments were providing this material ó none.
Mr. Speaker, that was a good month and a half ago and still, to date, that material has not been provided.
A few weeks ago, we, the official opposition, stood up in this House and read motions for the production of papers addressed to each and every one of the departments and corporations, asking for what is essentially the material provided in the departmental budget materials. Despite taking that further action, by producing motions for the production of papers, the Yukon Party still has not satisfied our request for that information. Well, we canít force them to do it because they outnumber us in this Legislature and they could outvote us on anything we do. So we have no power to force this government to provide us with anything.
About one of the only things we have at our disposal for a tool to try to obtain information, Mr. Speaker, is the tool of public pressure to hold the government accountable. Unfortunately, we donít get the opportunity to use that tool as often as necessary.
Opportunities like the debate on this motion this afternoon are rare indeed. I guess the opposition could fire out a press release, or call a press conference, or something. But Mr. Speaker, weíre above that. We want to try to work with the government on these matters, and thatís why weíve asked and asked over again for this type of information at House leaders meetings and what have you. It wasnít until our efforts were exhausted, and we were completely frustrated, that we came forward with the motions for production of papers. But there still have been no press releases or press conferences on this matter, even though past opposition parties would have taken such an opportunity long ago. So we feel weíve cut the government a lot of slack in this area.
I want to go back to information requested during the budget briefings. This is in the absence of the material Iíve been discussing. Weíre talking about information requests made to the officials representing the departments. Mr. Speaker, itís standard practice for that information to be provided prior to the time those departments come up for debate in this Legislature. Well, has that happened? Iím sad to report that when we debated the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources about a week and a half ago, the information I requested at the budget briefing still had not been provided.
Now, that is shameful. And Iím serious ó that is shameful.
This government seems to have no compunction to live up to its obligations to provide the material to the opposition parties so it can be held up to a standard it wants the public to believe it lives up to, but thereís a huge failing there, Mr. Speaker. The Member for Lake Laberge talked about the weakest link in the chain. Well, if you look at this chain, there are some weak links. There are some that caused the chain to fail. Something is not right. Somebody, somewhere in this government, doesnít want us to have the information we need. Thatís a shame.
Now, there are plenty of other examples, but I wonít have time to deal with them all. There are other issues, too, that maybe Iíll get on the record.
But I want to respond to the Member for Lake Laberge, because he told a story that, to the unsuspecting, might garner sympathy toward the government in how it needs time to develop lines of communications with the departments and so on, so the long periods of time it is taking to respond to matters is justified. Well, Mr. Speaker, that completely ignores the 115 days that this Yukon Party government hadÖ
Speaker: Order please. The member has two minutes.
Mr. McRobb: Öbefore it came to office. That 115-day period was unprecedented by any other government, Mr. Speaker.
I recall the Liberal government, how they hurried to get in here, and we had a sitting in early June. It went on until mid-July or something, and how the ministers were rather unprepared and so on. Well, they made do, Mr. Speaker. I remember the previous NDP government ó it was in here in about six weeks, I recall. We made do. We all made do. This government had almost four months before it had to come in here, before it was going to be tested. Four months is a luxury to set up communication lines and procedures and hire staff and all kinds of matters that need to be dealt with.
This government doesnít get any sympathy from me and I donít think it is getting much sympathy from anybody else when it cries woeful tales of how it is hard done by. If it judges others as it is judging itself, perhaps its perspective would change and its outlook would be a little more fair toward us in opposition.
I know that my time is almost up. I wonít get a chance to deal with the all-party committee or the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges, known as SCREP. There are definitely issues there that deserve attention and that I think that the public would be very interested in hearing about, but that will have to wait until another day.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Mrs. Peter: I would like to speak in support of this motion. I feel that it is very important that I get my comments on record so that at least my constituents will know how important it is to have information on the public record and to be able to let them know from this record that I have addressed issues on their behalf.
Isnít that what all this is about ó information-seeking through asking questions in the public forum and through our Committee of the Whole, to ask questions not only on behalf of the people we represent in our ridings but also in areas where we have critic responsibilities. It is very important to give the public a picture of what really is happening in this forum and what issues and concerns are being addressed. That is one of our purposes in this House.
This motion mentions a few of the commitments made in the Yukon Party platform, and three of the words that are used, Mr. Speaker, are not part of my everyday language. So what I have done for myself is that I checked in the dictionary and looked up what each of those words meant. Iíd like to share them with you this afternoon.
"Consensus" means general agreement, maybe between one or two people or maybe between a group of people. Two groups of people who might normally disagree on a given day may agree to agree the very next day, even if they have a difference of opinion.
Part of that could be the government-to-government relationship, and part of that could be a member of the opposition agreeing on a particular situation they could help out a constituent with. Again, I believe thatís part of our everyday job in this forum and environment we work in.
Another word in the Yukon Party platform is "cooperation". That one Iím a little bit familiar with, because thatís something I try on a daily basis: to be willing to work with whomever in your life, in a given situation where you might be able to make a difference for someone. Thatís something I value for myself.
The other word is "compromise" and, in the dictionary it means "an agreement reached by mutual concession". I think thatís pretty straightforward, and I think we all understand the common language here and can actually agree on what this all means; having some understanding around that and reading a document that, for one month, was put before the Yukon people, and making commitments to people, saying this is how weíre going to operate if we become government.
We make a commitment to the Yukon people that weíre going to be different from what weíve seen before. Weíre going to conduct ourselves in a different manner from what weíre used to. Weíre going to be able to bring more information forward, and that is an expectation. Most of the information thatís required on the part of the official opposition is public record. And when we ask for certain information on behalf of our constituents or people in our critic areas, itís because we need to make a difference in someoneís life, or we need to come to an agreement to help someone make a difference in their life ó be accommodating, be helpful.
Thatís part of our role, I believe, as elected representatives on behalf of the people out there. I believe, for myself, thatís a very serious responsibility. When I put my name forward to run in the election, if I win that election, these are my responsibilities. I try to do that. I try to achieve the goals Iíve set for myself, and one of them is working in cooperation with people.
In order to make a difference for someone on behalf of someone, speaking on behalf of someone, we need information. Iím not able to move forward with a certain issue or concern if I am not knowledgeable about it. And I remember one of the elders in my community as I was growing up encouraging me to finish my education in high school, and if I can move beyond that, that will be so great. Because the knowledge and information that we can gain from the outside world and bring back to our community is so crucial because we can address the kinds of issues and concerns that we need to, to work with governments of the day and try to understand how governments of the day work. Because at that time our land claims were being negotiated. There was so much information that we had to grasp at the community level, and to be able to come to an agreement with two levels of government ó one from the territorial and the federal ó and help those people to understand what it is that we need from them. And what is so important for the Gwitchin people of the north took many meetings and it took many discussions. And I remember sitting in those meetings. Many of the elders who took part at that time and took that land claims agreement and said that these are the lands that are very important and never let those lands go. And they didnít say that in English. They said that in our own language.
There was an interpreter at every meeting sitting beside 10 of the elders, relaying the very important message that people needed to hear.
I was sitting on the banks of the Porcupine River this weekend watching snowshoe races with a few of the elders beside me. One of the elders was involved in politics for the last 20 or 30 years and was part of the land claim negotiations. He saw it come to a successful end and now the struggles that we have with implementation and trying to make a better world for our younger people. He said, "I donít know anything about paper. I never went to school." That is the beauty of what the elders bring to us. The elders in my community never had an education. What they had was the care and concern for their people, for their children and for the land.
Then there are those of us who have had our education, and we try to provide the best kind of leadership that we can for our communities. We come to this kind of forum, this kind of environment, and, yes, it was a learning curve for me; it still is. I make my mistakes, but I learn from them. I ask the questions that are of concern to the people who are out there. What do I get back?
I guess perception speaks louder than words. I guess that what people hear on the radio is what they know about the kind of work we do in here, and thatís okay because, for me, I put forward what I can and I do the best that I can. If I can make a difference for one person, maybe today or maybe in this whole week, then I will have done my job. But we need these beautiful words here: consensus, cooperation and compromise.
We canít fool people, Mr. Speaker. We can pay lip service or try to pay lip service to people but the Yukon people are very smart.
We have tools, especially in our communities, to find out whatís going on in the outside world. In Old Crow, they watch us every night on APTN so that they can hold us accountable and hold me accountable, because they do. Make no mistake about that. They listen to the news on CHON-FM every day, and they hear. They hear whatís going on in this House.
They have our newspapers. They read up on whatís going on throughout the Yukon Territory. If they canít get the radio, the newspaper or the TV, they go to the Internet. They are well-informed. Those are the tools that they use. They use people in Whitehorse as resources. I know the people in my community use me as a resource. I donít write letters or ask for information for my own good. Itís all to do a better job on behalf of those who elected me and on behalf of those who are concerned.
Information and knowledge are the best tools one can have to do a good job. Like the elders shared with me this weekend, "You have to have a passion for what you do." Itís a gift that each of us is blessed with; weíre able to pass that on to people out there if weíre all moving in the same direction and have the same vision for our territory. We can live in unity with each other, and we can have those kinds of government-to-government relationships that I hear so much about in this environment.
Itís by speaking to the people who matter the most, and those are the people out there. Theyíre the ones who are asking the questions.
And they are the driving force. They elected us here so that we can make decisions with their involvement. When weíre paid lip service and are told, "Yeah, weíll work with you and weíll be helpful," and then we find out that that wasnít the case at all ó waiting two or three months for a letter. Thatís unacceptable, Mr. Speaker. Thatís unacceptable for the Yukon people because we can make all of the excuses we want ó that weíve only been here four months or however long. Tell that excuse to someone who is walking down the street in my community, waiting to hear about a very, very serious concern. Iím sitting there, two months later, saying, "Well, I still havenít heard."
That puts me in a difficult situation, and when I have the responsibility to debate in this House several departments ó
Speaker: The member has two more minutes.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I find it very frustrating when I donít have the necessary information in front of me. In briefings we have asked for it.
A good example is from the other day when I was in the Department of Justice. Everybody else had the information, except me. We had the briefing, I guess, a month ago, when the information was requested, and that has happened too many times and we cannot operate like that.
The Yukon Party government will be in government for the next three or four years. If we operate at this level, itís unfortunate, but the Yukon people will never get some answers.
With that, Mr. Speaker, thank you.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I wasnít planning to talk to this motion today, but after hearing so many negative comments from the other side, I feel that I need to talk to it. If the opposition feels that theyíre getting nothing but lip service from a minister like me, then in my opinion theyíre not listening and they need to listen a little more than what they are. I would even go so far as to recommend that maybe they should pull themselves out of that negative rut and start looking for something positive.
Quite often, there have been several requests of me that were duplicated to the point of having three of them come at different times ó all the same thing. I think after the second time, I made up my own mind that I was not going to be writing letters repeatedly to someone in opposition, talking about exactly the same thing, so I ended up leaving it off after the second response. In my opinion, I believe the government on this side of the House is doing probably not the best that we could, but we are doing, in my opinion, a decent job of working in cooperation with opposition.
I have not been in government before and I have never, ever watched it on TV either, so I didnít know what happens here on Wednesdays. I never knew what happened here on Wednesdays. I have heard a lot of negative things ó a lot of different kinds of names being called about this Wednesday ó and to the best of my knowledge, after asking questions about this Wednesday, it has been stated to me that there probably have never been so many motions passed in one sitting. In my opinion, what that does demonstrate is that members on this side of the House are cooperating with the opposition.
I recall on one motion day for the government side that a member from this side of the House made amendments to some motions, and the leader of the official opposition really dressed him down for amending a motion. Yet that very same individual made some amendments to the motion himself and this side of the House agreed with him. We never made any negative comments about anybody making amendments to motions.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: What the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is referring to right now about shutting down motions ó well, the very individual has never had the decency to sit in here and be part of it, so thatís their choice.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Ms. Duncan, on a point of order.
Ms. Duncan: On a point of order, perhaps the Minister of Education is unaware that it is inappropriate to comment on a memberís absence from the House.
Speaker:There is a point of order. I would ask the member to not comment on whether a member is or is not in the House.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Okay, Iíll withdraw that comment, but Iíll just say it was rather bare.
Having said that, I believe that a lot of the comments made by the opposition today are unfounded, in my opinion, and itís quite possibly not the best way to get cooperation by thinking that one can be bullied into it, and Iíll leave it at that.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Lang: I would like to speak on this motion, too.
Mr. Speaker, it takes two people to get along in any situation and, as the opposition talks about non-cooperation from this side of the House, the other side of the House hasnít shown much cooperation, so we have a very negative situation.
Now, I donít think itís as negative as it could get, but I, as a newcomer to it, look at it in amazement that this couldnít be more cooperative. We are running a government of half-a-billion dollars a year. Iíve run other little operations. I understand how long it takes to get paperwork together to answer questions. Hopefully, when weíre putting those questions together, theyíre the right questions, so sometimes it takes a little longer than at other times. And hopefully, when we get the information to the member opposite, itís the correct information, and itís important for us as a government to put out correct information ó as much correct information as we possibly can. As far as promises, certainly we can go on and say there were certain issues brought up during the campaign and we had a platform and we ran on that platform and we were successful. Twelve of our members were elected on that platform, so that platform is very, very important to us.
Being organized and sensible people, we on this side of the House understand that itís not possible to answer and to do everything our platform has put out in four months, six months or one year. Thatís why a government usually has three to four years to put their platform together and get some issues out there and, hopefully at the end of the four years, the member opposite can hold the platform up and say, "You didnít do anything on your platform." Then weíre in trouble, because the people of the Yukon are not going to tolerate a group of people not doing anything they said they would do.
We have to look at government as a very constructive operation that takes a lot of time to move in different directions. Weíre talking about 4,000 people; weíre talking about $500 million; weíre talking about small changes to an organization, and we have to consider what we do and when we do it. We have personnel situations, so itís not easy to just go in and change, as people opposite who have been in the government will understand.
Certainly, at the end of our term in office, we hope to have the majority of our platform out there and working for the Yukon people, because thatís what the majority of the Yukon people want. They voted for our platform. Now itís up to us to get it out there.
As far as information is concerned from this side of the House, itís very important that we get information out, not only to the member opposite but, when people from the ridings and different areas and communities want information, then we are responsible for getting that information out. Again, sometimes we can do it quicker than at other times.
The issue is, are we getting the right information into the hands of the opposition?
I think weíre doing our level best to accomplish that ó now. And with respect to the opposition, would the opposition ever stand up in any House and say, "We are doing a 100-percent job, and I think weíll all go home because we arenít needed any more." Their job is to scrutinize what we do.
Now, as an ex-business person ó and I have watched in the House as we pass these huge budgets without debating line for line. I look at that and say if you were running a grocery store on the corner and you went to visit the bank manager and said, "Well, Iím just going to pass this projection over, and I need X amount of dollars." Heíd say, "Hang on, Arch, weíve got to look at this line to see where youíre going to go and how this operation is going to run."
So, if we, as a government, and they, as an opposition ó if they took their job seriously, the way they passed some of these departments was completely irresponsible.
Speaker:Order please. The Chair is not comfortable with those types of terminology. Iíd ask that you not use them.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Okay. With these budget questions and not getting the input from the opposition that we should, I would say, from this side of the House, that the other side of the House isnít being prudent and doing their job properly. I guess those are issues that we are learning on this side of the House and, obviously, they are learning on that side of the House what opposition is about. So this is a learning experience for all of us, and Iím glad weíre all working together. The opposition is working on how to be opposition, and weíre working on how to be government, and eventually this will run like a Swiss watch, hopefully.
Now, Iím praying for that, but Iíll settle for a Timex watch at the end of this session. And maybe in the next session, when the opposition hones up on their skills ó and we certainly are honing up on being government ó we will be working as a team and pulling in the harness and the Yukon will be better for it.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is always a hard act to follow, but I appreciate his comments very much.
Mr. Speaker, I, too rise to speak to this, which I hadnít really planned on doing, but I do have great difficulties with what Iíve been listening to. I appreciate the comments of my colleague, the Minister of Education, my elder, and his concern over some of the stuff that we have been listening to. I do very much appreciate the comments of one of the members opposite, who complimented me on the time to get back on certain things. Actually, to correct him on that, I think it was under five minutes at one point, when the member of the opposition brought the constituent into my office, and we solved it on the spot. Itís things like that that allow us to collaborate, to work together, and it showed me at the time that there was a great possibility of collaboration. One member refers to a dictionary and talks about collaboration and consensus. Theyíre right between assessment and taxation, I believe, Mr. Speaker. It gave me a good hope that this would easily be something that we could accomplish, but I must agree with the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that as we try to develop the skills of working within government, so, too ó and I think his point is well-taken ó the opposition must try to work and develop the skills of opposition.
That has been obviously lacking very, very much.
I have a number of concerns with the things that have been spoken here today. The opposition role in the Westminster style of government ó something that a lot of people in the general public donít fully understand, and to a large degree, I have to admit, I didnít understand completely when I got here. The role of an official opposition is to question the government and to hold them accountable. I agree with the members opposite that this is best done if they have reasonable information. It is best done in a collaborative and a consensual way. But it falls apart when those questions are couched in such a way as to border on offensive.
If I want information, I am very happy to pick up the phone and ask a question or to stop someone in the hall and ask a question. Early on in government I had a concern, I went to my critic from the official opposition ó we had a very good meeting, we solved the problem and we had no difficulties with that.
Since then and since the House has been sitting ó I do realize that some of the language would be considered unparliamentary but the feelings that are conveyed are quite different when someone gets up and says, basically in a full-minute diatribe that starts out with, "Youíre an idiot, we have problems with what youíre doing, we think that you are probably lying about this, youíre breaking every promise in the book, and by the way, are you going to build that building?"
That is going to generate a totally different answer than simply getting up and saying, "We have a concern about this. We are not sure what is going on or what the motives are ó could you explain it?"
I would be very happy to explain that but, having sustained an attack for the majority of the question, why would anyone in the opposition be surprised when they get sarcasm, at best, back as an answer and then say theyíre not answering the question.
My other concern about that, Mr. Speaker, is that on many of these questions ó and this gets to be a very big frustration on this side of the House ó as each member opposite reads their question, we can try to answer. In many cases, we have given a very valid answer. "What is this ó yes or no?" We stand up on this side and say, "No, itís not the case." The first supplementary is: "Well, the member opposite has refused to answer the question." Excuse me? What part of "no" is the lack of an answer? If youíre going to ask a question, at least have the courtesy of listening to the answer. At least give us the courtesy of expending your supplementary questions based on that answer. Donít go back and simply read the next question. Itís a script. It has nothing to do with reality.
People outside listen to this on the radio. They listen to it in the gallery. They watch it on television. And what I tend to get from my constituents and friends is, "Donít these people listen? Why are they asking supplemental questions that donít have a bloody thing to do with what the answer was?" I donít know, but at that point it becomes very difficult to take the criticism that "They donít give good answers."
Well, I think we tend to give very good answers but we do get a real level of frustration out of it, and I apologize for that.
I would like very much to correct that ó I do apologize for my frustration. I know that my sarcasm probably gets me in trouble with great difficulty.
I tend to think that many of the members of the opposition have a very legitimate concern about lack of information. As in most of these things, reality is somewhere in between. If the questions are valid and truly seeking information and are not simply for political gain, then the answers are very forthcoming. But I have difficulty when I hear members of the opposition today getting up and being very critical that they didnít get proper information. "We had to go to questions on the budget, and we did not have adequate information."
They were so concerned about this that they waived debate on the line-by-line budget. Millions ó in my case, Mr. Speaker, $15.2 million ó in line-by-line were passed with a sentence. Maybe I am still confused about this style of government, but my idea of the role of opposition is to hold the government accountable. If I were a different person or had different motives, I could have had a ball putting stuff in that budget. We spent hours, days, months, fine-tuning the budget to benefit all Yukoners, to have it passed in one sentence ó $15.2 million in my case. We will watch even more go, Iím sure, Mr. Speaker. More and more of the departments will pass. There will be some philosophical discussion. There will be a little bit of political grandstanding. There will be a little ó as several of the members of the opposition today have said ó getting on the record. Thatís fair ó thatís politics. But when it comes down to actually debating what is in that budget, it is deemed as read and passed ó bang; in one sentence it is gone.
So, in that case, the opposition is very much falling down on the job theyíre supposed to be doing. To criticize the government and try to couch it in those terms is unconscionable, and it really doesnít stand up to scrutiny at all.
I see no reason to get upset about not getting answers when no one wants to ask the questions. And when they do ask the questions, they donít listen to the answers anyway. One of our frustrations in this has been the amount of time expended on relatively silly ó Iíll risk saying the word ó items. We spent 5.8 days debating money that was already spent. And now, what I hear ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Probably it shouldnít have been spent. The member opposite says it shouldnít have been spent. I tend to agree with some of it. But to spend all of that time ó 5.8 days ó to debate money that the previous Liberal government spent. It wasnít on our watch. Very clearly, it wasnít on our watch. Probably there was some debate necessary in there. But 5.8 days to turn around and try ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Minister of Environment, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun seems to be trying to get the floor. May I ask for a ruling as to who has the floor?
Speaker:The Minister of Environment has the floor. Iíd ask the members opposite to keep the chatter down, please.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: To waste that amount of time debating money that was long since spent, and then turn around and complain about the amount of time that remains to be able to debate what should be spent, we, on this side of the floor, would much prefer to be debating this. It really wasnít very productive in many, many ways.
One of the members opposite also talked about the fact that they were not satisfied with the response to requests ó very valid. I donít have a problem with that. But again, that member was so dissatisfied with the inability to get the information that that department was passed without debate. It was deemed as read and passed.
Bingo, no problem at all ó which brings us back to the same point, that the only mechanism that the members opposite really do have is Question Period, and that comes back to the Question Period. In a discussion some time ago, we were talking about a Roman senator many, many years ago ó and the name does escape me; Iím certainly not a classical scholar ó who always used to get up, and anything that he said in the Roman Senate would always finish with the line "And Carthage should be burned to the ground."
Like most things, once youíve heard that enough times, after awhile it starts giving some credibility. And I find myself and many of us on this side in very similar situations. Questions are couched in such a way that they have no answer. They are couched in such a way as to give the general public an impression, and often an impression that has very little basis in fact, by couching things the right way. So consequently ó the frustration builds on both sides ó the opposition by not getting adequate information, the government by trying to give information and having it completely ignored. So we go right back to the same situation.
I can go on with a number of different examples of things on this, referring to things that were stated in our election platform ó strange, we canít seem to find any such comments in the election platform. The most recent one, of course, is claiming that weíre going back on an election platform guarantee that we would buy the game farm. We donít seem to be able to find that guarantee, Mr. Speaker.
What was said was that, at the time the Wildlife Act had been brought in, regulations had not. The owner of the game farm was unable to sell his animals. He was in financial difficulty. We asked that the Liberal Cabinet reconvene, and the Liberal Cabinet was in power until roughly 1:00 p.m. on December 2, long after the roads to resources so-called report was brought back in. We can refer to the call of the election on October 4. We can refer to the election on November 2 ó 4, Iím getting my dates mixed up here, Mr. Speaker.
The fact of the matter is, on December 2, this government was sworn in. Yukon law does not permit the government to not exist. The Cabinet remains in place. It is a caretaker Cabinet; they are not supposed to make any decisions other than caretaking, to keep things going. They received that report; they reconvened; they passed an order-in-council allowing the Yukon game farm to ship their animals. The comment at the time, as we seem to be getting back to a fair amount of chatter across the hall here ó no one else will talk to them; they might as well talk to each other ó at the time, what was going on was that the comment was made ó and it was made in the paper ó that if the government did not reconvene the Cabinet and make that decision, after we were elected, we would reconvene the Cabinet and make that decision ó our Cabinet ó and that we would do whatever was necessary to retain the financial viability of the game farm.
Retaining financial viability of a business does not include buying it ó it certainly does not. If that were the case, weíd be going out and offering to buy a fair amount of the Yukon, given the economic situation.
Again, we take something that is very explainable. If people want to ask the questions, weíre very happy to answer them, except the members opposite take that information ó or at least parts of it ó and drag it to its most illogical conclusion.
Whatís going to happen the next time weíre asked a question? Why bother? Itís not going to be listened to, so why should we bother making that. It becomes a vicious cycle. I would like to suggest to the members opposite that we break that cycle today, and that we start answering questions if theyíre asked reasonably. I donít see a problem with this.
Basically, Mr. Speaker, thatís where Iím coming from and my concerns. Itís difficult enough to ask and answer individual things. We do certainly realize that, as we try to develop skills as a government, weíre having to give a reasonable amount of slack ó as one person put it, to cut slack ó while the members opposite hone their skills as opposition.
As that develops and ours develops, Iím sure thereís middle ground. We will make every effort to find that middle ground, and we very much hope and pray that the opposition makes the same effort.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, heíll close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím going to lighten this up a little bit. Since Iím the minister most responsible for the member oppositeís lack of tardiness in his response, I feel itís only fair that I get up and make a few comments.
Iíll get up and respond to this motion. Iím enjoying the debate so far. I think this is a good motion. Obviously, most members here are supporting this motion. I will make a commitment to the member opposite that weíll try to improve on his case studies as quickly as possible, and I would appreciate finding out what this 94-day item is, since itís ongoing. Anyway, that can get to me later.
Getting information is important and weíll do our best to get the information to him. When itís available, weíll get it off to him.
I look forward to corresponding with him later.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I couldnít help but get into the debate on this motion. On the surface, this motion is a good motion. Itís one I certainly can concur with, and itís one that probably brings some further clarity to the business of the House and how itís conducted.
That said, Mr. Speaker, when one listens to the backup presentation from the official opposition as to how they see this motion and how they support this motion, I have some serious difficulties with where we are heading. If the members in opposition want to see what the biggest problem is, they only have to look in the mirror and they can see those responsible for the greatest amount of the discourse that is created here in this House.
I am sure that there is room for improvement on all our parts and, as a government, we have committed to improving the way we conduct business in this House. From my short number of years in here, I have seen the great strides and improvements under the current government. That should be recognized.
The leader of the official opposition went to great lengths to spell out some of the times and lengths it took for various ministers in this government to respond to various letters and questions. I can attest to the accuracy of a lot of what he said, given that I also track a lot of the questions, a lot of the written requests for information and when they are responded to. I did so when in official opposition and when in opposition in previous sessions.
I can go back and advise the members now that I still have many pieces of correspondence that were not even responded to by the government of the day, which was then the NDP government, and that flowed through to the Liberal government.
Many, many requests written and in this sitting for legislative returns, and legislative returns that were committed to were not responded to. Now, there are occasions when the information cannot be provided, and that will happen from time to time when itís confidential information. I, personally, have made it a point to convey that to the opposition when the information canít be provided or itís of a confidential nature so cannot be provided for that reason.
Mr. Speaker, on the surface, this is a good motion. It is a motion that I can agree with. But, as I said earlier, if the members opposite in the official opposition ranks and the leader of the third party want to see who is responsible for a lot of the difficulties, they only have to get up in the morning and, when theyíre looking in that mirror, they can clearly identify the reflection of who is responsible for the majority of the problems caused here. And they know full well that that is the case, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker: Order please. No extraneous chatter, please.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iím very glad to close debate on this. It has been quite interesting to listen to the responses. It has gone all over the place. From the government side, 99 percent of what was said was to point the finger at us as being the big, bad problem. Take responsibility on that side? Absolutely not.
It was interesting to listen to the Minister of Environment. He starts off always saying something that, you know, you can nod your head about and think, yes, that sounds reasonable. Then he always puts in "but" and then goes on to criticize us, which kind of defeats the angle heís going on because, exactly like what heís often talking about where he feels the questions may be loaded, he does it himself. I hope he reads Hansard and recognizes that that may be a way of operating that doesnít allow for working together very well. But since they keep talking about this, Iíve compiled ó and there have even been questions about how accurate it is, but Iíll go through some of it again, even though I wasnít planning to.
Some of the dates ó thatís what I should do because they might help. The date the letter was sent ó because we keep track of that, as well, plus the date of the reply that we received. That is how we came up with the time span on the figures. But the Minister of Community Services and Infrastructure, who stood up and did admit that he is tardy in some of these areas and does hold the record of one thatís still outstanding ó Iíll give him the date for that one, just to help refresh his memory. January 17, 2003 was when the request was made; that was the date of the letter. The date of reply is not available yet, so I canít give him a completion on this one. However, Iím sure that we can supply the letter again if it got lost somewhere in, Iím sure, the huge amount of paperwork that he has to deal with daily.
But that wasnít the only one. We do have some replies. Some of them are up to 51 days ó a couple are 51 days, a couple are 59, 40 days, 36 days, 41 days. They are pretty substantial.
For some reason, this minister is having a difficult time dealing with some of the casework requests that weíve made.
The Minister of Justice ó there have been very few requests from us over this sitting; however, 60 days to respond to one request from a constituent, 70 days to respond to another ó I know that if they were on this side and it was taking 60 and 70 days to respond to a casework letter, they themselves would be standing here and saying, "What is the problem? What is going on? Why is it taking so long?"
Itís a casework letter. We are not asking for every single item in the budget. At least they could take the time to respond. If there is going to be a delay ó if there is a real justifiable excuse ó tell the opposition that because of this and this itís going to take us awhile to compile the information. But 70 days before you get a response I think is a little excessive. That minister seems to have a problem with all of it.
Now, looking at these figures, the letters that take 51 to 60 days to respond to make up 21.4 percent of all requests in casework. That is the largest category that we have. The ones that take zero to 10 days make up 10 percent. The ones that take 30 to 40 days make up 14 percent. The largest period takes actually over one month to respond to any kind of casework letter.
I donít know. I donít think we can blame it on Canada Post. So, we do have a concern, and I think itís a legitimate concern. Iíve heard the members opposite say that this is not a motion that theyíre going to vote against. Some of the concerns I have, though, are about where the debate has gone in the last hour from some of the members opposite. We seem to be being told that we donít ask the right questions. However, it actually is the prerogative of the opposition to construct their own questions, and if they write the questions down to be more accurate in their wording, so be it. I donít know if a criticism should be levied because a person prefers to do the work and write their question down.
Sometimes the answers are around language, in which the Yukon Party government says there are no layoffs. Itís not filling positions; there are no layoffs; weíre just not filling positions. However, from our perspective, we view it as a layoff. Sometimes thereís that debate. Are we wrong to say "no layoffs"? Sometimes itís around ó we call it a tax. We look it up in the dictionary. It seems to work. The members opposite donít like the word "tax relief" so they use a different word and that becomes a debate.
Often the response back in Question Period, which obviously the members opposite donít really care for, are accusations back toward us for even asking the question. Itís pretty hard to work together.
The language that is often spoken on the other side can be considered patronizing at times and condescending toward us because we donít know what weíre talking about on this side. Well, there might be some truth in that, and there might be truth in it because we cannot get answers to our questions. So we have to keep asking the questions, and we keep getting non-answers. The members obviously get frustrated and get very patronizing toward us, but they refuse to supply the information. They refuse to give us budgetary details. We have to dig and dig.
Iíve also heard a criticism about the fact that we will not go line by line and will pass $15 million. Well, we cannot do that, Mr. Speaker, unless thereís unanimous consent from the other side. So theyíre actually supporting it themselves, so I donít understand why theyíre criticizing us when theyíre the ones who are supporting it. Do they not like it? If they donít like it, they donít have to vote for it. They have the numbers. They could say, "No, we want you to go line by line." Fine. Then vote against it. We asked for unanimous consent to constructively work in here. We do that to move the debate along. We have agreed, in many cases, to ask many of our questions in general debate, which is historically an agreed-upon practice. The new members seem to take offence with this. They vote to not go through line by line, they support that, and then they stand here and criticize us for it. I canít make heads nor tails of that, frankly ó I really canít.
My colleague beside me has indicated that thereís a lot to deal with because it has been almost a year without accountability to the opposition and the people of the Yukon, and we have a lot of things to talk about. We had a lot of things to talk about in the supplementary budget. I do know for a fact that the member of the third party had many questions in that area, and theyíre legitimate questions.
Whether the government likes it or not, theyíre legitimate questions because the opposition is in here asking them. Theyíre elected, and theyíre there to answer some of these questions. If they donít want to answer the questions, so be it. The public has become very conscious of the fact that many of the questions we do ask arenít answered. Now, some of them are. Iím not saying that all of them arenít, but weíre finding it more and more difficult to get information.
Thatís what this whole motion is about. Itís about information: make the information available, so that we can engage in more meaningful debate. Make the information available, so that when we stand and ask our questions, theyíre based on information they have shared with us, so we can crack the question and have a debate that has some basis of shared information. If the information is not shared, a lot of times we have to dig for it, and weíre finding resistance on the other side in that regard. What weíre trying to do with this motion is to get beyond that.
I use the casework as an example only. This is not just about casework. This is about the spending priorities and information given in budgetary lock-ups and briefings. Itís about giving us some concrete information that we can work with and base our questions on, in order to ascertain where this government is going. And, as members opposite have said incorrectly, we are here to make them accountable by doing that with our questions.
But when you do not get the information, and when itís a struggle to get the slightest amount of information ó in many cases, we donít get any of it. Weíll walk out of this sitting, Mr. Speaker ó I think itís in five more days ó with many, many of our questions unanswered, with many requests for information, with motions for the production of papers not even being addressed, with written questions not even being addressed, with briefings with departments that donít contain the necessary information presented to us ó as it used to be, historically. Of course, our debate, Question Period, and our department-by-department discussions may sound to the people across the way as if itís not as intelligent as they want it.
They have the information. Theyíre not giving it to us. Itís very difficult, so what do we have to do? We have to explore, and we spend a lot of time trying to do that, trying to do a little digging, trying to find out what is happening. If they would give us the information initially, if they would give us some detail in a timely manner ó timely meaning that we get it before the departments are debated ó then maybe we can move along, and we can focus our questions a little bit better. As it is, we spend a lot of time searching.
Iím hoping that we can move beyond the benevolent dictator model that has been described today by a couple of the members over there, get this motion passed, and my understanding is that they are going to support it and, more importantly than whether they support it or not, they are going to act on it so thereís the flow of information between the opposition parties and the government. Then our questions can be more specific and hopefully more constructive. Their answers also can be based more on trying less to evade, more to answer or to clarify.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 17 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 80 agreed to
Motion No. 54
Clerk:Motion No. 54, standing in the name of Mr. Hardy.
Speaker: It is moved by the leader of the official opposition:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the decision by the Yukon Party government to reduce public spending by more than $40 million in the 2003-04 fiscal year will have a serious negative impact on the territoryís economy, which will affect all Yukon communities;
(2) direct spending by public employees is a major contributor to the economic health and stability of every Yukon community;
(3) cutbacks in government spending are already resulting in a loss of income for people who provide services to the Yukon government departments, agencies, or Crown corporations, particularly in the areas of auxiliary, casual and seasonal employment; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to honour both the letter and the spirit of its commitment not to diminish any kind of workforce within the government in order to avoid any further erosion of the territoryís economy.
Mr. Hardy: I would like to start the debate on this motion by just showing the people of the House the cartoon of today ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker:The government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, youíre not allowed to use props in the House. Itís contrary to Standing Orders.
Speaker:The government House leader does have a point of order and Iíd ask the leader of the official opposition not to use props.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Itís always nice to know that the other side is awake and functioning.
I would like to refer to a picture in the paper ó of course, itís not a prop because Iím not holding it. But I would like to refer to a picture in the paper that points toward this motion quite adequately. It demonstrates a very good likeness of the Premier of the Yukon Territory uncovering an economic outlook chart and saying, "Donít worry. Weíre anticipating some movement in the fourth quarter." And the chart has a complete flat line.
Now, of course, I wouldnít have said all this if I would have been allowed just to hold it up, but itís obvious I have to kind of portray this mental picture of what Iím talking about, Mr. Speaker. So, I actually do thank the members opposite for allowing me to do that.
Itís very interesting, Mr. Speaker, because this Premier has talked about trajectories, and I know itís one of his favourite ways of looking at life. He has predicted a trajectory that shows disaster at the end. Thereís no trajectory like a rainbow with the pot of gold at the end. This is a trajectory he has predicted for the government that shows complete and utter crisis and destruction at the end of it through the financial collapse because of the overspending of the government before.
And weíve heard many, many times, Mr. Speaker, the new government ó and they are very new ó blaming the government of before to justify every action that they take for the next six months to a year.
They are running out of time, because there is only so long that you can blame somebody else for your decisions. This is a new budget. This is a budget that theyíre very proud of, and rightly so. But they still are using the language of blaming the previous government.
As a matter of fact, they are getting beyond that. What they have moved to now is that they have included the government before that. Itís very interesting, though. They never include the government before that. They seemed to stop at a certain one. And why is that? Well, itís very obvious. It was the Yukon Party government two governments ago, so they donít want to go that far because then theyíre looking at themselves, theyíre looking in the mirror ó where they are today. But they will talk about the last two and a half years and the terrible chaos the territory has been in, which Iím not going to debate. Iím not going to argue with that. I had some problems with the former government. But they also include a previous government, which the Premier was part of, and Iíve noticed more and more that heís finding fault with that one as well. And he has been able to couch it now in that he wasnít part of many of those decisions. Iíve heard that a couple times, referring to his colleagues who trusted him ó because he was a member of a party in the territory ó and worked with him and shared many of the decisions with him, but he refers to him now as not ó and he is distancing himself. That is quite fine because Iíve always felt that when he did finally join with the Yukon Party, he was home.
Thatís my own personal viewpoint on that one. To be very clear, I congratulated him when he joined the Yukon Party, and I even attended his press conference because I really believed that now he would be happy. Now he is with the people and the philosophies and ideology he holds most dear to his heart, and he could then move forward. And, of course, he did. He moved forward and he is now the Premier and he is now responsible, with his colleagues, for the decisions being made.
It would be nice if we could move beyond the excuses of the previous government. I think everybody in the territory has heard it enough now. It has been five months. We are all aware, throughout the whole territory, that the Liberal Party was in power until November 4. The Yukon Party has been in power for five months. It is now time to take responsibility for your own decisions.
So, as Iíve said before, there are many trajectories and many ways of looking at trajectories. One of the impressions that this government put out was that when they were elected, the economy was going to turn around like ó snap ó that. It was going to be like someone removing the blanket ó kind of like the picture here, where heís removing the blanket from this economic outlook thatís totally flatline, but thereís kind of a bump there and I donít know what that was ó removing a blanket from the Yukon, a Liberal blanket that was stifling economic growth and opportunity, and immediately the sun would shine and, all of a sudden, economic activity would be springing out everywhere.
Well, lo and behold, theyíre in government and itís not as easy as that. It really isnít. Economies donít turn around on a dime. If they did, it would really be nice to be able to spin the economy around and get it moving. It takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of investment, and it takes a lot of insight and thought. But the impression they came out with was one of glorious opportunities immediately.
I remember a comment made by the Premier-elect where he said he would not engage in the type of rhetoric that other leaders have engaged in after they have formed government, which is blaming the previous government. I could be wrong, but I think the philosophy was that people know there are problems. There are problems with every government, and people know there are problems with the Liberal government. Thereís no use dwelling on that. Letís move forward and letís talk positively.
But unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, within a month, that had changed and we started to hear the rhetoric that weíve heard so many times before. Since that time, every question we ask in this House around economic development, around the finances, always seems to get spun to blame somebody else. As I said earlier, not only is it good enough to blame the Liberals now, but theyíre going back five years and six years and reaching, really reaching, to find the reason why the whole Yukon, which has not run a deficit, is all of a sudden in such a precarious situation ó words the Premier used: precarious situation.
Now, today the leader of the third party asked for the amount of money that is in the bank account at this moment. I think she asked for it three times ó I know she asked for it twice; she might have asked for it three times in her question during Question Period, but she never got a single answer.
Maybe she has to have a written question on that one, but by the time we get an answer to that, it will probably be next year. The interesting thing was that the spin was once again to blame a previous government. I am hoping that, at the end of this sitting, we can move beyond it. We have five more days in the Legislature. I see the Minister of Education breathing a sigh of relief. I can assure him that there are many of us who are looking forward to working on many other things besides being in here every day.
However, it is part of our process and we will go through it. But thereís only five more days. I am hoping by the time we come back in the fall and we all meet up with each other and exchange gifts and look forward to a really warm and bonding experience once again here ó and definitely weíre going to wear some same colours again, as the Justice minister and I often do ó that we will be beyond blaming previous governments, and we will just look at whatís before us now and the changes that have happened over the summer, into the fall, which will take us up to 10 or 11 months, probably. So by that time, we should see some results of some of the decisions and actions that the Yukon Party government has taken and have some concrete issues to debate based upon some very clear directions that they have gone in.
Now, one of the things about the budget that I found interesting was that the economic picture in the Yukon does not look good. The media has reported the words of the Premier, and in an interview at 12:30 today, he was responding to the Yukon economic report and said heís not happy about the 2003 economic outlook for the Yukon released last week.
The report says, "An ongoing slump in resource sectors have forced the economy to depend on government spending, a trend Mr. Dennis Fentie says canít continue."
Speaker: Please refer to the member as the Premier and not by name.
Mr. Hardy: My fault. I assumed that when I was quoting something, I had to read the whole thing.
"Ö a trend the Premier says canít continue. The Premier says that although today government and personal expenditures have sustained small growth, thatís not a long-term fix." He goes on to say, "But weíre not satisfied with the economic outlook ó not at all. We want to see much more improvement in that area." Well, of course he does, and I totally agree with him. The report itself does not present a real positive outlook on the future of the Yukon, at least for this month.
One part of the report says, "Government spending has traditionally provided stability for the Yukon economy. With continued uncertainty in the resource sectors and a recent decline in tourism, this is even more the case." So, thatís quite blunt and quite interesting.
However, what has this government decided to do and what has this Premier decided to do with that kind of downturn? He has decided to cut two percent of the expenditures of $451,326,000 ó two percent of that ó from the operation and maintenance of government.
So, the resource sector is in a slump. Tourism is in a slump. Now the Premier has decided to make sure that government spending is in a slump ó just maybe to get all the stars in alignment and make sure there is no argument ó that if one area is going to be in a slump, we might as well make sure that everything is in a slump. It saves debate.
In capital expenditures, the decision was to reduce the spending by 24 percent. Now, that is from $130,112,000 down to $98,693,000. What he has done in the capital area ó which benefits so many communities, so many businesses out there ó is to also depress that. I guess he is trying to make sure that the economic outlook is accurate.
He wants to make sure the depression in the economy ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:The leader of the third party, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan:Iím sorry, Mr. Speaker, to interrupt the leader of the official opposition but on a point of order, we have been joined by guests from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, and Iíd like to ask members to join me in welcoming Dan Kelly and Jeff Nugent.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on Motion No. 54 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Legislative Returns were tabled April 23, 2003:
Canadian Strategic Infrastructure Fund, Border Infrastructure Fund, and Infrastructure Canada Program: information pertaining to (Hart)
Oral, Hansard, p. 547
Community Development Fund/Winter Works and Fire Smart Programs: information pertaining to criteria for applications and projects approved (Hart)
Oral, Hansard, p. 539-540