Thursday, November 6, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
In recognition of Remembrance Day
Speaker:Before the House goes on to the business of today, we will honour the memory of those who gave their lives in the service of Canada.
November 11, next Tuesday, is Remembrance Day. On that day services will take place throughout the Yukon. People across the Yukon and across Canada will pay tribute to the men and women who have died defending Canada.
This year we join with jurisdictions across Canada in paying particular attention to and honouring those veterans who fought in the Korean War.
Since the Yukon Legislative Assembly will not be sitting on the 11th of November, it would be appropriate for us to observe a moment of silence today. I would ask, therefore, that members and all others present rise, bow their heads and reflect on war and peace and those who gave up everything for us.
Moment of silence observed
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Red Ribbon Campaign
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise in the House today as the minister responsible for Community Services, Yukon Liquor Corporation, Yukon Housing Corporation, and Department of Highways and Public Works. Today MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, officially launches its annual two-month public awareness campaign to promote driving sober. The MADD Canada red ribbon flying on an antenna or tied to a rear view mirror has become a familiar symbol of safe and sober driving throughout Canada.
Each year through the Christmas holiday season, MADD Canada volunteers to distribute millions of ribbons to Canadians with the hopes of effectively delivering their donít-drink-and-drive message during the busiest social time on our calendars.
All Yukoners are encouraged to make a commitment to drive sober. The red ribbon is a tribute to honour those who have been killed or injured in impaired-driving accidents. Attaching a ribbon to our vehicle serves as a constant message to people on the roads to drive safe and sober.
The Yukon Liquor Corporation, as in the past years, will continue to partner with MADD in this campaign. Red ribbons are available through the Yukon liquor stores. As well, in those communities where there is no liquor store, red ribbons are also available through the Yukon Housing Corporation offices.
Ribbons will now be available through the motor vehicle branch in Whitehorse. To further demonstrate this governmentís commitment to sober driving, government fleet vehicles will display a red ribbon during this campaign period.
As mentioned, the Liquor Corporation has been a key supporter of this program. In addition to their own efforts to encourage responsible consumption, they also work with licensed liquor establishments to promote this goal.
I am pleased to announce today that in support of this newly established Whitehorse chapter of MADD Canada, the Yukon Liquor Corporation is making a $3,000 donation to assist them in this important endeavour.
We are reminded that while "MADD" is on their ribbons, saving lives is on their minds.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Hart:At this time, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to introduce Mr. Tim Twardochleb, president of the newly formed local chapter of MADD, who has joined us in the gallery today.
Mr. Fairclough: I rise on behalf of the official opposition in tribute to the establishment of the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD. MADDís mission is to stop impaired driving and to support the victims of this violent crime through several initiatives. Its efforts include pressing for legislative changes, education of the public, lobbying for increased support for police, prosecutors and judges. MADD claims that Canadaís laws are shielding impaired drivers from criminal sanctions and discouraging police and prosecutors from pursuing criminal charges.
MADD reviews all provincial and territorial legislation and produces a report each year, pointing to where they are and how they can be improved. The Yukon received a C- rating this year, behind Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.
We are very pleased to give full support to the establishment of the chapter of MADD in the Yukon, and congratulate those responsible for the commitment to making our roads safer and providing a voice for victims of impaired driving. As MADD says, "Please remember: drunk driving is no accident."
In remembrance of John Hoyt
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the late John Hoyt. John came to the Yukon in 1966 after working several years for the CPR. He completed his BA at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick.
Johnís faith was a source of strength for him, and music, a very special joy. His sense of community was focused on the improvement of social conditions, and his love was his family. He and Lorraine married in 1967 and raised their three daughters, Michelle, Andrea and Suzanne, here in Whitehorse.
Lorraine, Michelle, Andrea and Suzanne have joined us in the visitors gallery today. I welcome them and ask that they please accept our sympathies on the passing of your life partner, father and friend, John Hoyt.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors?
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, Iíd like the House to help me make welcome my husband, Ernie Peter, who has joined us in the gallery today.
Speaker: Any further introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Introduction of bills.
Bill No. 42: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I move that Bill No. 42, entitled Territorial Court Judiciary Pension Plan Act, 2003, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Justice that Bill No. 42, entitled Territorial Court Judiciary Pension Plan Act, 2003, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 42 agreed to
Bill No. 39: Introduction and First Reading
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:I move that Bill No. 39, entitled Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services that Bill No. 39, entitled Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 39 agreed to
Bill No. 102: Introduction and First Reading
Ms. Duncan:I move that a bill, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party that a bill, entitled An Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 102 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any further bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of
(1) copies of all correspondence related to the cost overrun of the Mayo-to-Dawson transmission line project regarding the involvement of the Auditor General of Canada;
(2) a copy of this yearís annual report to the minister about the activities of the rate stabilization fund, as set out in Part 3 (e) of OIC 2001/147;
(3) responses to questions asked of officials of the Yukon Energy Corporation during the afternoon of April 28, 2003, when it appeared before the Committee of the Whole; and
(4) a record of all new policy directives given by the minister responsible for the Yukon Development Corporation since January 1, 2003.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb:I also give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the inability of the current government House leader to organize the governmentís agenda effectively or to work cooperatively with the two opposition House leaders has rendered Standing Orders No. 75 and No. 76 inoperative; and
(2) the governmentís domination of the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges makes it unlikely that any satisfactory resolution can be achieved in that forum; and
THAT the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly be amended, in general, by removing all provisions setting limitations on the number of sitting days that the Yukon Legislature may sit, and specifically by deleting Standing Orders No. 75 and No. 76.
NOTICES OF MOTION FOR THE PRODUCTION OF PAPERS
Ms. Duncan:I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of records of all correspondence, including verbal, written and electronic, between the Minister of Community Services, the City of Dawson and the new government-appointed supervisor for the City of Dawson.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of records from the Minister of Finance showing the updated list and repayment progress of all outstanding loans to the Government of Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of the following correspondence from the Minister of Justice:
(1) the letter from the RCMP, which the Minister of Justice publicly stated existed, saying the RCMP agreed with her decision to release a tow truck from impound; and
(2) the legal case that was presented to the minister by the lawyer acting for the tow-truck company.
I give notice of the following motion for the production of papers:
THAT this House do issue an order for the return of records of all correspondence, including verbal, written and electronic, between the MLA for Porter Creek North and Yukonís Conflicts Commissioner regarding the Conflicts Commissionerís investigation into the proposed subdivision on Wann Road and the disposition of Versluce Meadows in Whitehorse, Yukon.
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Cathers:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to partner with other governments and the private sector to create roads to resources to assist in the development of a vibrant Yukon economy.
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to diversify the Yukon economy by the promotion of industries such as film, recording arts, culture and information technology.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Before proceeding with Question Period, the Chair will deliver a ruling on a point of order raised yesterday by the Member for Southern Lakes during debate on Motion No. 54.
Speaker:At that time, the Member for Southern Lakes argued the leader of the third party had imputed an improper motive by saying, and I quote, "The Yukon Party government passed a motion through the House seeking Monday, November 10, off, using a transparent excuse that it would be better for rural members, when in fact it was about the previously planned personal schedule of the Premier."
Standing Order 19(g) says it is out of order for a member to impute "false or unavowed motives to another member." As the Chair recalls the debate on government Motion No. 101, the government House leader, who was the only government member to speak to the motion, did not at any time say that the motive behind the motion was a desire to accommodate the Premierís schedule. Strictly speaking, therefore, the comment by the leader of the third party was out of order in that she attributed to the government House leader a motive he did not avow. The leader of the third party is free to speak to the effect of the motion, but not to attribute false or unavowed motives to members who speak in favour of it.
The Chair would also note that it is not accurate for a member to state that a particular government or party passed a motion through this House. It would be accurate to note which member introduced a motion to the House. However, when motions pass this House they become resolutions or orders of the House as a whole.
During debate on the point of order the Member for Kluane noted that the Member for Southern Lakes did not cite a Standing Order when raising his point of order. It is certainly helpful for the Chair if members refer to a specific Standing Order when raising a point of order. However, it is not necessary. Similarly, it is helpful to the Chair if members raising a point of order are as specific as they can be about what words they found to be offensive.
In a related matter, the Chair would wish to remind members that it is a fundamental principle of parliamentary procedure that members treat each other honourably in this Assembly. Annotation 494 of Beauchesneís Parliamentary Rules and Forms says, "Statements by members respecting themselves and particularly within their own knowledge must be accepted. It is not unparliamentary temperately to criticize statements made by members as being contrary to the facts; but no imputation of intentional falsity is permissible. On rare occasions this may result in the House having to accept two contradictory accounts of the same incident."
Members may use stronger language outside the House if they wish. However, they must abide by the Standing Orders and parliamentary practices while on the floor of this Legislature.
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City animal shelter funding
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier. The Premier has claimed publicly that this government has received no formal funding request from the Dawson City animal shelter. If the Premier and the other ministers across the way have read their education-mails recently, they will know that the president of the Humane Society of Dawson disagrees with that position, and I have for the House some of the correspondence that has been circulated by the president, and I will submit it here.
The rules of this House wonít permit me to repeat the words she uses to characterize the Premierís statement, but the translation is that the Premier misspoke himself. Will the Premier now correct the record and acknowledge that the Humane Society of Dawson has in fact made more than one request for funding from this very wealthy government?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, first I want to inform the member opposite that I prefaced my comment with "to the best of my knowledge". And with the thousands of requests that come into government every day, unfortunately this request did not come to my attention.
However, I think itís important to also point out that we have a solid commitment as a government to work with humane societies in the Yukon. We have taken a step in that direction with the supplementary budget in dealing with the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter, which is providing a very significant delivery to the City of Whitehorse, and we will also work with others. And when it comes to the Dawson City Humane Society, we will be working with them to look at and address their needs where possible.
Mr. Hardy: The Premier and the Member for Klondike have not been shy about writing political IOUs on the community development fund. The Member for Klondike did it again this week by signalling to the community development fund decision makers that they could help the Whitehorse Youth Centre. Since the Premier overlooked the Dawson City animal shelter in his $96-million supplementary budget, perhaps he will correct that oversight with a nod and a wink to the community development fund people. At the very least, he should honour the governmentís existing contract with these people, which the Member for Klondike helped the society get from the previous government, by the way. Will the Premier at least give the necessary directions to pay the Humane Society in Dawson the $5,000 this government has owed the society for the past seven months, and will he do that before the day is out?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, again, to the best of my knowledge, I donít know if the government owes a $5,000 bill to the Dawson Humane Society. But I can tell you this: if, indeed, the government does owe $5,000 to the Humane Society in Dawson City for the delivery of a service for the government, we will move immediately to rectify that account and make sure that we pay the bill.
As far as the Humane Society in Dawson is concerned, I recently had a conversation with them on an open-line show at noon today on CBC and informed the individuals, the proponents of the Humane Society in Dawson City, that weíre more than prepared to work with them, address their needs where we can. Weíve committed to do that with all humane societies with this territory. Weíve taken a step forward with the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter. We intend to work with others, also, and we will address their needs where demonstrated.
Mr. Hardy: Well, isnít that a real solid and strong promise that weíve got from the Premier. Itís amazing how this government passes the buck though. Four separate ministers have had their fingerprints on this file ó four separate ministers ó and to the best of their knowledge, they really donít know whatís going on around this one.
The shelter asked the Environment minister for help. "Sorry," that minister said, "that would be a conflict. I will hand it to the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission." That minister must have thought it was a personnel matter, so he went into stonewall mode.
Then there is the Premier, who says, "What funding request? There is no animal shelter is southeast Yukon." Finally, there is the Health minister, who usually does such a good job of running the daily life of Dawson City.
This buck has passed through every pair of hands except the ones who need it.
Will the Premier now correct this oversight and give the Humane Society of Dawson the same kind of recognition that he gave the Mae Bachur shelter in his supplementary budget? Will he do that? If he is sincere about this, will he ensure that they get the money?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There is certainly a more constructive approach to debate in this House. When we consider the preamble from the members opposite, it sheds little constructive light on the debate in this House. In fact, it is totally unnecessary, considering the two answers that Iíve already provided to the same question. We have committed to working with humane societies in this territory. Thatís a commitment and itís solid. Weíve moved forward in dealing with the issues for Mae Bachur and we will address the needs for the Humane Society in Dawson City, where we can, by working with them.
The rhetoric about which minister had knowledge of this is irrelevant to the debate. The commitment is clear: we are going to work with them and address their needs where we can.
Question re: Motor vehicle impoundment
Mrs. Peter:My question is for the Minister of Justice. She has taken a position that she has no more to say about her decision to release an impounded tow truck. She has repeatedly said she took that action after a legal case was presented to her and to her senior officials, yet she wonít tell this House, she wonít tell the media, and she wonít tell the Yukon people what that case was.
If our courts operated that way, Mr. Speaker, the citizens of the Yukon would have no way to see if justice is being done. Why is the Minister of Justice denying Yukon people their fundamental right to see the evidence she used to make her decision to intervene in this case and to judge for themselves if she made the right decision?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I welcome any additional questions regarding this matter. As the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin is very well aware, the application was made to our office. I acted in strict accordance with the law that provides the Minister of Justice to make a ruling as to whether or not a vehicle has been wrongfully impounded.
As to whether or not I think a Minister of Justice should be involved in this particular provision surrounding the impoundment of vehicles, no, I donít but, unfortunately, that is what the law actually states. I did my due diligence; I made my decision, and I canít be clearer as to how I made my decision.
Mrs. Peter: The minister, Mr. Speaker, continues to avoid our questions about the responsibility of commercial vehicle owners for the action of their drivers. This morning the Premier denied that corporations have such a responsibility yet, just last week, the Senate of Canada passed Bill C-45, regarding corporate accountability. Under this bill, companies can now be held accountable under the Criminal Code for engaging in practices that endanger workersí lives. This minister doesnít seem any more concerned about the workersí safety than his colleague, who refuses to enact the Occupational Health and Safety Act regulations for the territory.
Will the minister commit to amending the Motor Vehicles Act to spell out the responsibilities of the commercial vehicle owners to protect the public and their own employees from danger?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I really thank the member opposite for the question. It is timely. Again, as the Premier has alluded to on an occasion or two, I sincerely do not believe that it was ever the intention of the act to unduly punish commercial operators, business owners who have actually done their due diligence on this particular driver.
I should say that what appears to be missing from this debate is that, with respect to the Capital Towing case, the very fact that the driver who was convicted of drunk driving and who is actually serving time behind bars, Mr. Speaker, did have in fact a clean driving record of 10 years prior to committing this offence.
Again, based on previous debates that took place here, right here in this Legislature back in 1999, it was very apparent that it was not the intention to unduly punish business owners for the wrongdoing of their commercial drivers. If the member doesnít believe me, then I refer her to a debate in April 1999, when the previous NDP government and the minister responsible for the Motor Vehicles Act made such a commitment to do so. I urge her to read it.
Mrs. Peter: The Yukon public is getting sick of the great stone wall this government has placed between that side of the House and this side. The minister represents a government that promised to be open and accountable, a government that promised one year ago to be cooperative and respectful.
The minister has a serious duty to the Yukon people. If she cannot live up to that duty, Mr. Speaker, perhaps she should consider asking the Premier to reassign her. I urge her to give that option a serious thought.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: That is up to the Premier to decide. And I have to reiterate that I have the full confidence of our Cabinet and caucus in my position as Minister of Justice.
Mr. Speaker, I think that what the people of the Yukon are sick and tired of hearing are all the false allegations being thrown from the opposite side regarding this issue. I think that, with respect to the member oppositeís concerns regarding the Motor Vehicles Act, I have to agree with her that in fact what this whole ordeal has shown to all Yukoners is that there a great degree of confusion surrounding the impoundment of commercial vehicles here and that clarity is required among all the roles, including the Minister of Justice. With that said, our government is, as we speak, looking at developing a process that will review this particular area of the act. And yes, it will include organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
Question re: Dawson City animal shelter funding
Ms. Duncan:Mr. Speaker, I have questions for the government surrounding the application by the Dawson City Humane Society for funding.
The Premier was on CBC radio this morning trying to justify why the government snubbed the Dawson City Humane Society. He said that the Dawson Humane Society didnít get any money because nobody applied. Maybe that request went to the other corner office. In fact, the Dawson Humane Society applied for funding in an April 14 letter that went to the Premier, the MLA for Klondike, and it was addressed to the Minister of Environment. And that is where my question is addressed today. They applied again on June 19. The Humane Society received an e-mail from the ministerís staff that said, "Due to the issues raised in the letter, the minister would be in a conflict of interest if he were to proceed in handling the file." Would the Minister of Environment tell the House why an application from the Dawson Humane Society put him in a conflict of interest?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Itís a fairly straightforward thing on that. The letter that was written to me at that time by the Dawson Humane Society stressed a number of different points, one of which was the impact on the veterinarian who shared their space and, in fact, shared their resources there. As a veterinarian myself, this put me in a position of having to answer a letter that could reflect on a very valued and respected colleague and a very special gentleman up there. That was something that I wasnít prepared to do.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:Excuse me, Mr. Speaker. Point of order. Pursuant to section 17(2), when two or more members rise to speak, the Speaker shall call upon the member who, in the Speakerís opinion, first rose.
I ask the Speaker to rule over which side is speaking at this point.
Speaker:On the point of order, there is no point of order. There is a dispute between members. However, I would urge the members of the opposition to not have a lot of extraneous chatter here while the member is speaking.
Would the member continue, please.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do realize that the member opposite asking the question does seem to have a poor understanding of conflicts of interest. But in terms of dealing with this particular matter, I referred the letter to the alternate Minister of Environment, who also happens to be the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. He was not acting in that capacity; he was acting as my alternate.
Ms. Duncan: I need for the minister ó all Yukoners need the minister to be very, very clear on this. The minister said it was a conflict of interest because heís a veterinarian. But being a veterinarian hasnít stopped him from collecting $4,000 in income from the agriculture branch for monitoring chronic waste disease. It hasnít stopped him from receiving money from the agriculture branch to be a meat inspector. Both of those are listed in the ministerís disclosure statement.
Why is it a conflict to be a veterinarian when someone is asking the minister for money ó a request that would have to go to Cabinet or to another funding source ó why is it a conflict when they are asking the minister for money and not in a conflict when the minister is receiving money?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The matter involved in that letter was, of course, it would impact on the space and the economic livelihood of that individual and consequently it was not simply as a veterinarian but on the viability of his business.
Again, the member opposite ó the lonely Liberal ó has a very poor understanding of what a disclosure statement is. I served as a meat inspector before the election. I stepped down as meat inspector. I serve this House on a leave of absence during that term, which is required by territorial law and, consequently, that must be included in the statement.
In terms of continuing as a meat inspector, I invite the member opposite to put that on the table. She is horribly confused as usual, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, forgive me for asking the minister a question and asking him to make it absolutely clear in the publicís mind when he is in conflict and when he is not.
The minister seems very, very clear on these issues. Perhaps he would enlighten us all by sharing his correspondence with the Conflicts Commissioner, as he apparently has cleared it with him as well. Would he share that correspondence with the House?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As I said before, the matter is in discussion on a collateral motion. The Conflicts Commissioner has indicated complete confidence in my actions at that time and, when the collateral issue is resolved, I will be happy to do that.
But again, Mr. Speaker, I have great concern over the member opposite and the leader of the last partyís misunderstanding of how things work in many, many ways. And I still am in great confusion and great awe of her misunderstanding by her motion the other day to ask for an all-party committee to interfere under the Umbrella Final Agreement with the choosing of the chair of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board who, by the Umbrella Final Agreement, is chosen by the board and endorsed by the minister.
The fact that she wants to politically interfere in this process is absolutely unbelievable.
Question re: Game farming
Mrs. Peter:Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment. Yesterday the minister finally released the 11-page Church report completed more than six months ago. He said he needed time to study it. Maybe this minister will enlighten us on why he needs more than six months to study an 11-page report.
This report started in secrecy, was completed in secrecy and was apparently studied in secrecy by two ministers, of Environment and of Energy, Mines and Resources. Why did the minister block access to the report by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and the news media for more than six months and then interfere in the ATIPP process?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite basically defines a question by the number of pages. We on this side would like to define issues by their substance and their content.
It takes time to evaluate these things. It takes time to review all the various permutations and all the various possibilities. We on this side like to take that kind of time and review things. We prefer not to debate on the front page of the Whitehorse Star. We would much prefer to debate through proper channels with proper respect and come to reasonable decisions and at that point release the information, which we did. We hid that information so well, Mr. Speaker, I presented it in the House.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the minister refused to let the consultant of this secret report even talk to officials in his department and directed the consultant to provide copies only to himself and the Energy, Mines and Resources minister. The minister was hiding his secret agenda even from his own department.
Thatís not exactly open and accountable, as promised by the Yukon Party. Whom did the minister share copies of the report with before he was forced to release it yesterday?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: As the member opposite, I would hope, realizes, such a Cabinet document would be shared with the relevant deputy minister, the minister of the two affected departments, and with Cabinet and with the Cabinet secretariat. This is what we mean by advice to Cabinet. Iím certain the member opposite is familiar with the number of people who sit there.
Mrs. Peter: We will soon learn more of this ministerís secret agenda on the canned hunt and the captive wildlife issues. I encourage the minister to get over his fear of making public policy in the open with all stakeholders, legal entities established by Yukon land claims agreements and, especially, with First Nation governments. We need to see a change of attitude in this minister, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister commit to a transparent and inclusive process for all changes in the way wildlife is managed and to end his use of secret reports? Will he make these commitments today?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Certainly we make the commitment, as we always do, to work through proper processes and channels.
I appreciate the member oppositeís frustration for having to wait a period of time, but I do wish to share with the House at this point in time the position of the New Democratic Party when they were in power.
Mr. Speaker, recommendations of the ó and Iím happy to table this document, if necessary, although it has already been previously tabled, I believe ó management plan for the Takhini Valley elk population. The annual calf crop of the captive elk herd is divided equally between game farmers and the program for release into the wild. It goes on: once population targets are attained, this population may provide an easily accessible source of seed stock for transplants. It concludes that the Takhini Valley elk herd may, in the future, provide stock for transplants to hunt farms.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the openness of the New Democratic Party when they tabled that document in the House, but I find it a bit confusing when they now try to argue against their own documents.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff:Letís go back to Dawson City.
The Minister of Community Services has finally been allowed to answer some questions related to his department. I am going to encourage him to continue with that practice.
The minister and his government have also said that they wanted a new direction on how the financial affairs of Dawson City are supervised, but he hasnít said why. He hasnít said what that direction should be. He hasnít provided a shred of evidence that there was any problem with the plan that the previous supervisor had in how he was handling things.
Why did the minister recommend to Cabinet that a new supervisor should be found and that this person should be given more sweeping powers than the previous supervisor?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned previously in this House, we are looking at a fresh approach for Dawson and we are looking at taking a good assessment of what is really happening in that particular community.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, he repeated back to me exactly what I said about a fresh approach but he wonít say why the government feels that they need a fresh approach.
The sole-source contract with the new supervisor suggests that it may be renewed at the end of a three-month period. Is it the ministerís intention to keep Dawson Cityís democratically elected officials and administration under his thumb on a permanent basis, or is this a temporary situation? If itís temporary, whatís the minister trying to achieve?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We are trying to do an assessment of whatís really going on in Dawson, for the perspective of the taxpayer as well as ourselves. At the moment it is temporary. I donít see any reason that it would be changed otherwise.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, there are some fascinating time considerations in this whole story. The change in supervisors was made on the eve of a municipal election in Dawson City. The new supervisor apparently has admitted to the Mayor of Dawson that discussions about this position had begun several months before the previous supervisor was dismissed. I wonder why that was.
Finally, even though the order-in-council appointment had nothing to do with the previous supervisorís day job with YTG, the OIC replacing him as supervisor in Dawson was issued only four days after he was fired from the ministerís department. Was this person fired as senior manager of community affairs in order to facilitate the political desire of this government to take a new direction on how Dawson Cityís finances are supervised?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The member opposite is imputing something against an individual who is not here to defend himself. Quite frankly, that is a personnel matter and I donít wish to discuss it here in the House.
Question re: Computer use investigation
Mr. Hardy:The stone wall around this government keeps getting higher and higher.
Letís talk about another issue. The Premier in this case, I believe, cannot maintain his silence.
Four days before the former senior manager of community affairs was fired, he was accused, in a meeting with his deputy minister and two other people, of giving information to the Yukon Government Employees Union. When he denied this, he was told there were documents to prove it. He demanded to see those documents, Mr. Speaker.
On the day that he was fired, four days later, he demanded to be given those documents before leaving the building. Is the Premier aware that the sole document in question came via the Premierís own office?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I remind the member opposite that this is a personnel issue and will not be discussed on the floor of the Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: The document in question was an e-mail, and Iíll table it today, Mr. Speaker, which included the name of the dismissed employee and the name of one of the key people conducting the computer use investigation. The content is irrelevant. What is relevant is that the document includes a hand-written note that suggested the e-mail had come from the fired employeeís computer. That note had been written by someone in the union office and the e-mail was one of the items the union president gave to the Premier in a confidential meeting in late July.
Why was this document, which was given to the Premier in confidence, allowed to be used in this manner? Why was the confidentiality broken on such a serious matter, Mr. Speaker?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The computer investigation is a personnel matter involving a breach of Yukon government workplace harassment policy and a violation of the Human Rights Act. The Public Service Commission, by law, was required to investigate, and the investigation was conducted with the strictest of confidentiality and respect, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hardy: The employee was handed this document as he was being escorted out of the YTG building by the same senior Public Service Commission officer who was so central is conducting the computer use investigation.
Mr. Speaker, we are concerned that there may have been a serious abuse of authority in this firing. There was a serious breach of confidentiality, and there may have been political interference in the hiring and firing matter.
Will the Premier provide conclusive evidence that the governmentís dismissal of this individual twice in one week was completely free of political influence, and if he cannot, will he establish an independent public inquiry to look into this and other related matters as we have urged him to do?
These are the e-mail documents that I am submitting.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will say to the House that the computer investigation was a matter dealt with by the deputy ministers and the Public Service Commission. It is a personnel matter. There is no political involvement in this process.
Mr. Speaker, when members opposite say that I am not a leader because I refuse to direct the computer investigation, it is important to note that I was not involved, and it was the right thing for me not to be involved because, again, I say again and again, it is a personnel issue. It is not a political issue.
The investigation into computer misuse was a personnel matter ó again I will state ó properly handled by the Public Service Commission and the deputy ministers. In my opinion, Mr. Speaker, the opposition would do justice to all government employees if they would put this issue to rest. It is our governmentís position that this investigation is over, and I repeat, Mr. Speaker, itís over.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed.
Notice of government private membersí business
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Pursuant to Standing Order 14.2(7), I would like to identify the items standing in the name of the government private members to be called on Wednesday, November 12, 2003. They are Motion No. 27, standing in the name of the Member for Copperbelt, and Motion No. 112, standing in the name of the Member for Copperbelt.
Speaker: We will now proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 7: Second Reading
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 7, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I move that Bill No. 7, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 7, entitled Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I am very, very pleased to rise in this House to debate our supplementary budget for this fiscal year. The supplementary budget, in addition to the budget we tabled this spring ó the budget that passed this House ó is all about setting a new direction for our territory, a new direction that not only is required, but a new direction that is vital to turn our economy around, to increase and improve the well-being of Yukoners, to attract people back to this territory and, indeed, to attract investment that is so desperately needed.
I want to briefly go over some facts that we are already, in regard to this new direction, witnessing signs of improvement within the Yukon economy. We can see that some of the indicators ó although we are very concerned about the unemployment rate ó are starting to show signs of upward trends. And it is important that when we come to conclusions about any economy in any jurisdiction, we do not preclude all of the indicators. We must, in the prudent course, factor in the full equation.
Some of the upward indicators that are positive are in real estate sales. Construction spending is up more than $18 million over the same period from last year. There are many jobs listed in the help-wanted ads, and many in the business community are reporting that they are seeing some signs of improvement, and thatís in regard to one of the most important components of any economy: cash flow and/or spending power.
But this does not mean that we can rest. We recognize as a government the many, many challenges that face us. We recognize the tremendous effort and the work that we must put in to meet those challenges, but we as a government are prepared, with the political will, to implement that work, to provide that effort and make sure that no matter what, when we get to the end of this mandate, we have improved the Yukon economy as weíve committed to do.
This supplementary budget is helping us move closer to these very important goals, and it speaks volumes about that very important component of an economy, the fuel that runs any economic engine: cash flow and/or spending power. To that end, the members opposite and the public will see clearly that there is a tremendous amount of targeted expenditures in terms of increasing the cash flow and the spending power in the Yukon. But there are other mechanisms besides that that are very important as they relate to the new direction.
Obviously devolution is one of the most important elements of the new direction for our territory.
I want to commend past governments, hard-working officials and others who toiled for so many years to make devolution become a reality. This supplementary budget reflects the fact that we, Yukoners, are now masters in our own House. We, Yukoners, make decisions on lands, waters and resources. That is vital to changing the direction of Yukon.
No longer are we dependent upon decisions being made thousands of miles away ó decisions made in places with little understanding or little recognition of the needs, the desires and what is required to help this territoryís ability to build its future, to build its economy, and devolution is a vital link in the new direction our territory will be taking. The supplemental budget, Mr. Speaker, of the total of $95.5 million includes almost $45 million of expenditure toward this very important goal ó devolution. It is the money needed to address the taking on of the powers, the services and the delivery of those from the federal government to Yukon.
We are also pleased that the relatively smooth transition of power from the federal to the Yukon governmentís control and the integration, Mr. Speaker, of 245 federal employees into the Government of the Yukon represents a significant accomplishment of which this government and its employees, its deputy ministers and all involved can be justifiably proud.
And I want to thank all of the federal and Yukon government employees who worked so hard to make this transition as seamless as possible. Itís also critical to understand that we as a government care deeply about the employees. We recognize the important role that they play on behalf of the citizens of this territory. When it came to the federal government employees, one of the first decisions made by this government was to offer them an appeal process on job classifications as they were transferred to the Yukon government.
This was a significant decision to be made, Mr. Speaker, because it is clear testimony that this government is very, very conscious of the need for the elected body of government to treat its employees fairly no matter where they come from or what department they are in.
It is important when it comes to the economy of any jurisdiction such as the Yukon that we recognize the need for sound fiscal management. When it comes to sound fiscal management, one of those areas is the governmentís ability to expend money on behalf of taxpayers to deal with not only the delivery of services and programs but to help lay the groundwork for any economy that we are trying to build, but also to help stimulate what is very important, as I stated earlier: cash flow or spending power.
One of the ways that that must take place, and is very much needed, is surplus. The surplus position of the government is vital to our ability to stimulate the economy and lay the groundwork for future economic development. The surplus we have today, as shown and reflected in the supplementary budget ó not only of closing out fiscal year 2002-03, but also this fiscal year that we are in now ó clearly demonstrates the efforts that were put forward in regard to the surplus of this territory by its officials in the statistics branch, by its officials in the Department of Finance and by its people who are housed in the Yukon government office in Ottawa, in dealing with the federal government on some important issues.
The surplus reflects an addition of $50 million that was created under this governmentís watch. We applaud all those hard-working officials and employees who made it possible. $23 million of that almost $50 million came as a direct result of the census undercount ó an effort that ran the course of a number of months. All the way back to 1996, we addressed the census undercount.
It was a difficult job, a job that was handled very well by those responsible, and they were very successful in making the case that Yukon, indeed, knew that the census adjustment by the federal government was incorrect, and the results are we are the recipient of 23 million new dollars. It also allowed us to free up $15 million that had been booked for the census contingency. That totals $38 million, Mr. Speaker, and we as a government made the political decision to dissolve funds like the Yukon permanent fund and other trust funds equalling a total of $11,500,000. Added together, you can see almost $50 million of surplus was created under this governmentís watch, and it is very important to our government to stimulate our economy.
When it comes to restoring the economy, Mr. Speaker, we have made a major commitment, and we will be judged accordingly. Since being sworn into office on November 30, 2002, our government has been working on that commitment through our election platform, entitled Together We Will Do Better. That platform is our blueprint, and there are a number of areas within that platform that speak directly to our plan and vision on addressing the economy of the territory.
It outlines, Mr. Speaker, how we intend to achieve the restoration of what has been, in many cases, a dismal performance by past governments. The Government of Yukon is going to achieve an economic turnaround by restoring ó and I repeat, restoring ó investor confidence in this territory, restoring that confidence into its vast potential and assets. It is through that element that we can entice and solicit private sector investment that is so desperately needed.
Itís in areas like land and resource certainty that are so important.
One of the first steps our government took was to discontinue a seriously flawed Yukon protected areas strategy, a process that was impeding investment because it clearly made the investment climate in the Yukon uncertain. Even in the face of external forces, even in the face of other issues that can impact the interest of the investment community in land and resource sectors, this one process and initiative alone became the main stumbling block. We, as a government, discontinued that process.
What has it done to date in making that decision politically and clearly demonstrating the political will to make the decision? We are seeing investor confidence start to return. The mining industry is experiencing what we consider to be a significant increase in exploration in this territory this year over last year. There is interest in the oil and gas sectors, for example. These are two important highlights that speak volumes about why, when we talk about restoring our economy, investor confidence is critical and removing the impediments to that confidence is a necessity.
Another major step, of course, is what I spoke to in terms of devolution. Resource management decisions are important now because Yukon makes those decisions, rather than Ottawa. That also lends itself to restoring investor confidence.
Another very important element is the strategy toward creating certainty with First Nations, which includes what we call the Team Yukon approach. The settlement of land claims, including transboundary claims, is also very important.
But we also must understand that we are working on a relationship that is critical to providing certainty and that is formalizing our relationship with First Nation governments but also creating what is known as a full economic partnership with First Nations ó a full economic partnership that provides incentive to investment and development because of the very fact of mutual benefit.
The land claim process has been a long one. For 30-plus years we have negotiated land claims. In many cases this has been an acrimonious negotiation. Our government wants to move away from that acrimony. Our government wants to move toward collaboration, cooperation and, above all, working in a partnership for the benefit of all Yukoners.
Some of the recent developments in this area of land claims are important because they show advancement. On Saturday, October 18, the Kluane First Nation celebrated the ratification of its claim and became the ninth self-governing First Nation in the Yukon. We applaud the Kluane First Nation for their efforts. On September 24, Mr. Speaker, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation signed off on its claim and the First Nation is now proceeding to ratification. The Carcross-Tagish First Nation initialled its final agreement on October 30, 2003, and it is now proceeding to ratification. The White River First Nation is currently engaged in a process to initial and ratify its agreements. Unfortunately, there is no land claim in the southeast Yukon.
And that, when it comes to certainty for the investment community, is a major issue.
The federal government has vacated their mandate to negotiate and conclude a land claim with the Kaska Nation. This government acted in that regard. We negotiated, as committed to do, a bilateral agreement with the Kaska Nation ó an agreement that is a business arrangement, an agreement that allows us and the Kaska Nation to work collectively on responsible, sustainable development in the southeast Yukon. On behalf of all Yukoners, an agreement that provides certainty.
All together, Mr. Speaker, on the land claims front, certainty is building, certainty is present, and I think we are starting to see, by the indicators that I spoke of earlier, that that is starting to pay dividends.
Mr. Speaker, we have to recognize that we must work outside of this territory also in promoting our territory. Recently I was in Calgary attending the Resource Expo as a keynote speaker, and I want to say to this House and to all Yukoners that that venue shows clearly what is happening in todayís Canada when it comes to the development of resources, the building of economies and the involvement of First Nations or aboriginal people across the country.
Not only are governments actively pursuing these kinds of partnerships and relationships but so too is the private sector. It is the private sector in many areas leading the charge on building capacity and forming corporate relationships that are advancing and growing economies in other regions. Our government firmly supports these initiatives for First Nations and the private sector to undertake because it will benefit us all and it will lend itself to improving and growing Yukonís economy now and long into the future.
Letís look at some of the projects that are available for this kind of initiative to take place. In the supplementary, we have addressed it where we could, at this point in time, with expenditures that will assist us in moving in that direction.
The Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is providing $250,000 to support the Alaska Highway Aboriginal Pipeline Group. Mr. Speaker, this group is a key element of our ability in this territory to advance the Alaska Highway pipeline project. Our commitment to this area is to ensure that we, the Yukon, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and all First Nations in this territory can work closely with the federal government to make Yukon pipeline-ready, to send the positive signals we intend to send to industry to help solicit industryís decision as a positive decision, a favourable decision, in building the project.
Thereís no doubt that both pipelines ó the Mackenzie line and the Alaska Highway line ó will be needed simply by virtue of the fact that supply and demand says so.
Mr. Speaker, Iíve also discussed this matter with the minister responsible for DIAND, Mr. Robert Nault, and he has stated clearly that what has taken place on the Mackenzie line should also be reflected in the Yukon on the Alaska Highway line. We are working closely with the federal government in this regard and we will soon be travelling to Ottawa to address these issues with the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and representatives from the Yukon government, and visit the related departments on what is a very important initiative for Yukon.
In building partnerships, we also entered early on into an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation when it comes to the Whitehorse correctional facility. Itís all about building relationships with our First Nation people, and itís all about lending itself, through those relationships, to providing a more certain and positive investment climate in the Yukon Territory.
To do this, it is our view that corrections in the Yukon should be addressed. We are working with First Nations through the memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun and all Yukoners in a process that we call "correctional reform". Before we ó in a hurried manner, as the former government was intending to do ó build another warehouse, we addressed the problems, the issues of corrections in the Yukon so that we address the recidivism rate and why we are housing prisoners when in all likelihood there are alternatives for us as a society to be able to manage them with. Thatís important, because it will lessen the cost to the Yukon taxpayer when it comes to corrections. We seek to do the right thing, and in this matter we seek to do it in partnership with First Nations and all Yukoners ó again, improving and building on a relationship that will lend itself to a more positive climate in the Yukon.
Community projects are also very important. Throughout our budget in the mains and in the supplementary, we certainly are allocating funds toward community projects. Itís clear that in this supplementary budget we are going to commit $200,000 for a winter road into Old Crow. We have already committed $500,000 in the mains for a much-needed capital project in Old Crow that relates to the production of granular, the production of rip-rap and the need to restabilize the riverbank in the community of Old Crow. This expenditure creates jobs in a community where jobs are needed. Another commitment made, another commitment delivered on through our budget tabled here today.
$400,000 is being provided in this supplementary by the Department of Education to plan for the replacement of the Tantalus School in consultation on a government-to-government basis with the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation and the people and municipality of Carmacks.
There was a demonstrated need; we acted. The $400,000 is in the supplementary budget, and we are going to build a new school for the people of Carmacks.
We have put $300,000 into the rural electrification and telephone program, so rural Yukoners can benefit from the advances in communication technology and be able to utilize what has become a very standard service for most Canadians and most Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, other areas of commitment that have materialized under this governmentís watch in its first year are all about reinstituting departments. Another exciting new development ó or, as some are saying, "correcting a big mistake" ó is the reestablishment of the Womenís Directorate, the Department of Economic Development, and a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture. These were election commitments. These were issues important to Yukoners, and we have delivered on them.
This supplementary provides the new Department of Economic Development with $2,844,000 in operation and maintenance spending and another $7,956,000 in capital. Most of the funding for the new department is being transferred from other departments. For example, the $4-million community development fund will now be administered by the Department of Economic Development as an economic tool to stimulate spending power in our territory and in our communities.
A new Deputy Minister of Economic Development has been hired, and his first task among many is to structure the new department. He is currently engaged in a process to accomplish that task in partnership with stakeholders in the Yukon Territory. Economic Development officials are meeting with representatives from First Nations, business organizations, the business and industrial stakeholders, labour officials, tourism industry partners and others to establish not only the structure but also the mandate and a strategic direction for this department.
This is one of our main elements to turn the economy around. The Department of Economic Development will play a lead role on behalf of government and the Yukon people in addressing the economic situation of our territory and will be making every effort to improve that situation.
There is no doubt that tourism and culture are an economic engine for the Yukon, and similarly a new deputy minister has been hired for the reconstructed Department of Tourism and Culture to replace the long-serving former Deputy Minister Vicki Hancock, who has retired. We wish Vicki all the best in her well-deserved retirement, and we thank Vicki for all she has done for the Yukon public in her efforts in working for government.
The Department of Tourism and Culture, in conjunction with the Department of Community Services, is working on a new initiative: the decade of sport and culture. We as a government arenít going to sit idly by and watch the Canada Winter Games happen; we are going to engage, involve Yukoners and help and assist where we can to make the Canada Winter Games a tremendous success. That will help spending power in this territory, Mr. Speaker; make no mistake about it.
This initiative connects the many community-based sport and culture events that are being planned for the next 10 years, such as the 2004 Canada Senior Games, the 2007 Winter Games and of course, the 2010 Winter Olympics.
The Department of Tourism and Culture is providing $200,000 in this supplementary budget as its contribution to the new initiative, while the Department of Community Services is contributing $120,000.
Mr. Speaker, we are acting in a manner that is progressive, constructive and positive. We recognize the importance of this particular initiative. We recognize what it will mean to Yukon, and we are doing our part as a government, as I said, to make sure that it will be a tremendous success.
The decade of sport and culture and, in particular, the 2007 Canada Winter Games, will be of major economic benefit to the territory and will see the construction of a major capital project, the multiplex, of which the Yukon government is contributing $8 million. This project will also complement the Government of Yukonís brand strategy initiative. Community Services in this supplementary is also providing the Canada Winter Games Host Society with $3.6 million to plan for and manage the games.
The Canada Senior Games will receive $100,000 for their upcoming event here in Whitehorse. The 2007 Canada Winter Games, together with cultural events attached to them, will afford the Yukon a tremendous opportunity to showcase itself on the national stage. We must make the most of this opportunity. We intend to, and we are allocating funds to make that a reality.
There are a lot of people coming to the Yukon in the next 10 years. Most investors will tell you that that is collateral in the bank. We agree.
Another vital benefit these many sport and rec projects provide us is for our young people. While the games and events provide economic benefits, these facilities will provide much-needed social centres where young people can engage in healthy and rewarding activities and organized sports.
Thereís much more, Mr. Speaker. One of the most critical areas that has contributed to the Yukon economy has been road construction. Road construction has played, and will continue to play, a major role in our economic development by virtue of the fact that it is a major job creator, it is high-end wages and it provides infrastructure that is lending itself to the development of the economy of this territory.
Yukon, for many years, has benefited from the Shakwak project, under which the United States government has funded the reconstruction of the north Alaska Highway. There was no provision for funding the Shakwak project for the next cycle until our highways officials, with the help of their Alaskan neighbours and counterparts, managed to obtain $7 million plus of interim funding. There was no provision, Mr. Speaker, because a past government failed to recognize how important road construction and the Shakwak project were to this territory.
This funding, together with $10 million that was left and unallocated last year for the Shakwak project, means that over $18 million Canadian will now be available for next yearís construction season.
In keeping with our platform commitments, the Department of Highways and Public Works has included $500,000 in this supplementary for engineering on the Robert Campbell Highway and a further $500,000 for highway planning so that we, in the immediate future and beyond, can continue to witness and experience our road-construction community flourishing and contributing to the Yukon economy.
One of our governmentís top priorities is to plan for a resource road in southeast Yukon in conjunction with the Kaska Nation and the Town of Watson Lake in order to maximize economic benefits for Yukoners from development in this resource-rich region.
The Department of Highways and Public Works has also included $750,000 in this supplementary to provide road maintenance on secondary roads with a view to increase auxiliary and casual employment.
Job creation is obviously a main component, and our government is committed to providing jobs for Yukoners for the short, medium and long term. It must be recognized, however, that no amount of government spending is going to create a viable Yukon economy.
This should be self-evident. In order to verify it, all one has to do is to examine the ever-increasing size of the Yukon governmentís budget over the years. The budget increased, yet the economy declined. Itís all about where money is spent. We have increased the Yukonís budget considerably. But let us not forget that the biggest portion of that is contributed to devolution. But our government, unlike others, is targeting expenditures for job creation, and I have previously listed a number of the areas wherein we will be doing so. We have to create an investment climate in the territory that is positive so that government spending can be complemented by private sector investment. That is another key to growing our economy and turning the territoryís fortunes around. Every dollar government spends on capital projects is one less dollar spent on social programs, for example, but if you have a complementary expenditure by the private sector, options for government on delivery of programs and services to Yukoners increase dramatically. We intend, Mr. Speaker, to engage that private sector.
We have tabled here in the Legislative Assembly this sitting a very benign ó very benign ó amendment to the Taxpayer Protection Act to be able to do this, in terms of partnering with the private sector. This amendment does not in any way, Mr. Speaker ó and I repeat, does not in any way compromise the integrity of the Taxpayer Protection Act. This amendment, in place, will still demand and ensure that the Yukon cannot go into an accumulated deficit. This amendment ensures that the government of the day cannot raise income tax, for example, without a referendum. What this amendment does is provide full disclosure to the Yukon public on what the financial situation of this territory is.
What this amendment also does is allow the government more options to partner with other governments and the private sector to increase the spending power in this territory and maintain a strong and healthy surplus. That is another major move by this government to turn the economy around.
We cannot just focus on the economy. There are those out there in need, Mr. Speaker, and social programming is critical to those who are. While our government has been focusing on the economy as a matter of top priority, we recognize that the educational, health and social service needs of Yukoners also demand top priority as well. Achieving a better quality of life for Yukoners fits hand-in-glove with our goal to improve the economy. Our children are our future, and our elderly deserve safety and comfort. We must ensure that our children receive the best education possible. We must be able to meet both their immediate and long-term educational needs, for First Nations and other Yukoners alike.
We must fix the problems in our school system with the partnership of parents, educators and First Nations. The Minister of Education is currently conducting a needs assessment tour of Yukon schools and is seeking approval of $1 million to meet the special needs of our children. Whether it be a hot lunch program or something similar, we will work collectively to make things better. $456,000 is being provided to address the need of more teachers and educational assistants due to, in some places, a higher enrolment than was anticipated.
The newly reinstated Womenís Directorate is seeking approval of $100,000 in this appropriation to address violence against aboriginal women. This is about action and prevention initiatives. The Womenís Directorate took the lead in the recent status of women conference in this area and was successful in encouraging all jurisdictions, including the federal government, to go to work on this very important issue.
Similarly, the Department of Health and Social Services, through its many valuable programs and initiatives, continues to improve the quality of life for Yukoners of all ages. $47,000 is being provided to increase the pioneer utility grant by 25 percent, and is indexing it against inflation because our seniors deserve it.
The Department of Health and Social Services is also engaged in consultation with daycare centres and day home operators about developing a daycare plan and is seeking $675,000 in this appropriation for childcare operating grants ó another commitment made and another delivery on a commitment.
The Minister of Health and Social Services is moving forward on an election commitment to implement a family-centred approach to childcare and has reached an agreement with Yukon First Nations on a process to review the Childrenís Act.
When it comes to another serious concern and issue for Yukon, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is also high on the Health ministerís priority list. $198,000 is being provided in this appropriation for FASD-related work. The Department of Education and the Department of Health and Social Services have been working hard to establish an FASD diagnostic team that is part of our governmentís commitment to implement a five-step FASD action plan.
But there is more throughout this supplementary, as it complements the main budget that we passed this spring. We have allocated $825,000 for the Yukon Film Commission, so that we have established, in total, a $1 million film incentive fund. The important thing is that this investment in Yukonís film industry will result in an investment from the industry outside of this territory, providing jobs and benefits for Yukoners now and long into the future.
Our government recognized early on in its mandate that the film industry was an economic engine. The first step was for us to move it into the Department of Economic Development. Weíve now taken another step and we have allocated resources toward the success of a film industry and its contribution to building a Yukon economy.
$250,000 has been allocated to study the devastating problems associated with the beetle-killed forest, especially in the Haines Junction area. Not only will this study look for ways that we can get economic benefit from this resource but also to recognize that there is a tremendous risk and we must do what we can to diminish that risk.
$200,000 for strategic industries development, Mr. Speaker. Very important.
$210,000 into family service staffing.
$500,000 for new diagnostic and medical equipment.
$460,000 into group and receiving homes.
The hospital will see an additional $1.8 million.
Where there was a need demonstrated in the community of Ross River, a new ambulance valued at $85,000 has been committed to. The tele-health program will receive $316,000.
And thereís a lot more, but Iím sure other members of this House will be able to discuss also.
This supplementary budget works toward the fulfilment of many of our election commitments, and future budget appropriations will continue to add to this growing list of accomplishments. We have listened to Yukoners, and we understand their concerns. We are acting on improving the quality of life for all Yukoners. This supplementary budget is testimony to that.
Mr. Speaker, before I close Iíd like to summarize what it is that is so important to any government to relay to its public.
Itís one thing to budget, but itís another, and itís a very important thing, to have a vision and a plan. And our expenditures reflect a vision and a plan for this territory and its economy. It begins with First Nation relations. Creating certainty and partnerships provides the incentive for mutual benefit to attract investment; examples, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group and the bilateral agreement with the Kaska is all about that, and we have expended money in those areas. The spending power of government in stimulating the economy is important, and we have increased the surplus, and that provides more options for the government to stimulate that economy through supplemental and budget expenditures as we are witnessing here with the tabling of our supplementary budget for this fiscal year.
We are going to ensure that the federal government take their responsibility and live up to their role in this territory. We are making the business case in Ottawa that we must remove disincentives from the formula to ensure economic development in this territory, and we are working in conjunction with the other territories toward an economic development agreement with Ottawa to further help and assist this territory in growing its economy.
We have tabled the Taxpayer Protection Act amendment, which is critical. It will provide the government the ability to increase options in partnering with the private sector. The amendment, as I pointed out earlier ó and I will stress this ó does not in any way, shape or form, compromise the integrity of the act itself. We still cannot go into an accumulated deficit, but what we have is more room under the surplus deficit cap to help provide expenditures and grow our economy in this territory. Obviously, one of those examples is the three Ps, or public/private partnerships.
This is important because this is one way we can complement government spending with private sector investment. Minimizing impediments and removing roadblocks to investment is critical. Thatís another major plank in our plan. YPAS was an early move. We are now creating what is the caucus regulatory review committee. It has been established and is going to work on removing unnecessary regulation and roadblocks. We also have moved signing for class A water licences into the Executive Council Office.
Another main plank is creating a supporting infrastructure for economic growth. Roads to resources, for example, are on that radar screen. Waterfront development in communities such as Whitehorse and Carcross is another major element of creating and supporting infrastructure, and, of course, our highways are another example, and we have money allocated to that end.
Another plank ó and an important plank ó is diversifying the economy. Letís look at some examples to date. We have created the Department of Economic Development. We are creating resource sector certainty through our efforts. We are focused on tourism through such things as a brand strategy. We are focused on the cultural industries through allocations to KIAC, to the film industry, to the sound industry. We are focused on the IT sector ó expenditures there. Manufacturing, of course, is critical. Why? Because as we develop our resources, value-added is what builds long-term, sustainable economies.
We are focused on our small business community. And under the Department of Economic Developmentís leadership, trade and investment will be one of our main mechanisms to help the small business community expand their markets.
These are some of the planks and some of the deliverables to date on our vision. The goal that we are achieving through that vision and plan is a positive, certain investment climate.
I am very, very interested to hear what the members opposite have to say. This supplementary budget expresses greatly our balanced approach to addressing the needs of Yukoners in todayís Yukon. I commend this supplementary budget to the House.
Mr. Hardy: Well, I am not sure where to start. There is already an ending to this budget. It wasnít delivered last Thursday. We were briefed on it in an embargoed session. On Monday, the Premier felt it wasnít that important. He had to be off to his second home in Calgary. On Tuesday, it was finally tabled. Here we are on Thursday. But what happened yesterday?
Well, the budget was actually delivered yesterday by the Member for Lake Laberge. In some ways he did a better job than the Premier, once you sorted through all the rhetoric that he piled on top of it.
So, many people in the Yukon have heard most of what the Premier has announced long before the Premier announced it, partially because he wasnít that interested in telling anybody. When looking at the budget itself, it becomes obvious why he wasnít that interested in delivering it, because it really doesnít address some of the major issues on a short-term basis.
It doesnít address some of the major issues on a mid-term and some of the outstanding issues that will be facing us in the long term if we follow the direction that this Yukon Party government is taking this territory in. He has referred to the Taxpayer Protection Act changes. Iíll get back to that in a minute, because I believe that is extremely significant. No matter how much he wants to downplay it, itís extremely significant to the direction that we will be going in and to the future of this territory.
The Yukon Party government, led by their Premier, has consistently and deliberately downplayed or underestimated the surplus in the spring. This created the perfect opportunity to make the changes that they wanted to, to make the cuts to government services and education, in regard to environmental protection, and, of course, to the capital works projects that are so desperately needed. You cannot cut over $20 million from one sector and not expect a negative impact. You canít do it, especially in a small territory like the Yukon ó small population, small budget.
Every dollar we spend has a tremendous impact, and when you remove it, it ripples through the economy. But thatís what they did in the springtime. And what is this supplementary budget, the biggest supplementary budget ever in Yukon history, tacked to the spring budget, meaning the biggest spending budget ever? What does the supplementary budget mean? It means they made a lot of mistakes in the springtime, and they realized they had to try to put something back into the economy, because they basically starved many sectors of our economy over the spring, summer and fall.
I can speak from a couple of perspectives. I can speak from the industry that I have most closely been associated with ó the building and construction industry ó and previous to that the road construction industry. I can tell you on the floor today that we have lost more workers in this territory ó more workers have headed off somewhere else, to greener pastures because of the budget that was delivered in the springtime.
We have seen a greater increase in unemployment, numbers that have increased not decreased. When they should have gone down they havenít. And the government feels that they are doing a great job.
Theyíve increased unemployment levels, theyíve ensured more people leave the territory, and the Premier stands there and feels that theyíve turned the corner, that theyíve done a good job.
Well, thatís on the ground. Thatís not all this talk of youíve turned the corner, you have instilled investor confidence and they are coming back because of us, because we know what they need. Well, that might be true. I donít think anybody in this House doesnít know what the mining industry wouldnít like, or would like, what the oil and gas industry would like. I think we all know that.
But as a government weíre here to serve a lot of masters and a lot of directions and a lot of pressures. And itís a tough job over there. I donít belittle it at all. The government has a lot of very difficult decisions to make. And they have to have a vision to pull them through it because at times itís going to be a rocky road. Unfortunately, I think the rocky road, Mr. Deputy Speaker, has been a year long now, and Iím sure the government is looking for a bright light to hang their hat on. Well, this supplementary budget is not the bright light.
But the Premier has talked a lot about investment, about instilling confidence in the private sector, about getting those non-renewable resources kick-started again. Thatís good because it is needed. As a person, myself, who has almost always worked in those sectors ó whether itís building or construction in the private sector ó I do know the tremendous impact it can have on peopleís lives and on the communities, if there are assurances in place that they do hire local people, that there are benefits that go into the communities and itís not just a company rolling in with their crew, doing their job, taking our money and leaving again.
Now, the governmentís role is to ensure that that money stays here, that some of the wealth that is yanked out of this territory by other companies that are not based in the Yukon, is kept here.
Thatís why we have regulations, thatís why we have standards set, thatís why we have employment standards, as an example, thatís why we have the business incentive policy, and thatís why we have environmental policies.
My fear is that this government will do anything to sell the Yukon, and we have heard the Premier say on many occasions that the Yukon is a brand; we have got to sell this sucker. Those are comments that have been overheard. Well, first off, the Yukon is not a brand. I take a lot of offence to hear that kind of labelling of my home. I think a lot of people in this territory find it offensive.
To think that this government looks at the Yukon like the Nike Corporation or Coca-Cola, as a brand ó not for me, not for me. I will never look at my home, the place I live, the place I raised my children, my friends, associates, as a brand. But that is the approach; thatís what the Premierís very proud of saying, "Letís sell this place," and that is my fear. How far will the Yukon Party go to sell the Yukon? How far? What will they give away to reach their perceived goals as being successful?
Well, when you talk about the Yukon as a brand, I would say there is really nothing thatís sacred. Because in the end, all youíre thinking about is the bottom line, what you can suck out of this place. I really do hope Iím wrong, but at this present time, with the rhetoric Iíve heard, Iím not comfortable.
We had to fight like mad to get this government to recognize the business incentive policy for a major project in this territory. They resisted. Then all of a sudden they found the money. Itís amazing how you can find the money when you have public pressure on you. And that pressure came not just from the NDP, but it came from the business community ó an NDP program initiative that the business community supports. It came from labour. It was supported, and itís a good program. The Yukon Party government resisted it.
Fortunately ó and I thank him that he changed his mind and that they moved in the right direction and they are going to ensure that the business incentive policy is going to be applied to that project. I do contest the $700,000 price tag on it, but thatís something that can be debated another time.
How about some of the other initiatives? We look in the Economic Development department ó film incentives, excellent stuff ó something that we fully support and we are really, really pleased to see the Yukon Party government put money into it. $1 million is going to go a long way. Well, guess what? It was started by the NDP. So is it a new initiative? No. Some new money ó excellent. Thank you very much. I am sure that the industry will benefit tremendously and that will flow through the territory. Business incentive policy, as I already said; there is an allocation there. Again, NDP.
Community development fund ó CDF ó well, who started that? NDP. This is a bad program. No, absolutely not. Obviously the Yukon Party thinks itís great. So, what is left in Economic Development? What really is the great brainwave of this department? Itís all NDP. They are all programs and initiatives of the NDP over the years that have been moved over into the Economic Development title. This is brilliant? This is a great initiative from the brain trust over there? Well, I am glad they did it. I think itís going to have a lot of benefit. I congratulate them on it. I congratulate them for recognizing the value of these programs that were created or developed by the NDP with labour, with business, that have such a good impact on the territory, and they have kept them. They brought them back now.
Iím very comfortable saying this. The previous Liberal government has a really hard time accepting anything that the NDP had done previously. Every government adds value, I believe. At times, they also make some poor decisions and hopefully those get corrected. Thatís to be expected. But every government does add value in each period; thereís something that comes out of it. The Taxpayer Protection Act for instance, came from a previous Yukon Party government, 1992-96 ó that was a good initiative. Iím sure there were a couple more, but thatís one that was mentioned today, and Iíll stay on that one.
The many, many initiatives for Economic Development ó almost all of them are NDP. The Yukon Party has recognized them and has put money back into them and is supporting them. Thatís wonderful. Thatís almost working in partnership ó not being afraid to recognize a good idea and support it. One problem is that they have a hard time recognizing where it came from, but thatís another story.
The Liberals had a hard time recognizing anything good that was done by any other government, and that was a shame because I believe that kind of narrow-mindedness causes the territory to stagnate or suffer.
When government changes ó and governments always change here on a fairly regular basis it seems ó I would hope that the next government will pick the good ideas, the good programs, the good policies of the previous government and not be afraid to support them and run with them. So my hat goes off to the other side for building a whole Economic Development department based upon NDP ideas.
Now, thereís an ad in the paper right now, Mr. Speaker, and it has in the corner a picture of the Yukon and it has this huge dollar sign kind of propped up there, and itís casting a shadow on the territory. I found that slightly offensive, because I view the Yukon in a slightly different picture. I see the mountains, I see the lakes, I see the wilderness, I see the opportunities ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Money trees. Well, the member across just reinforces their viewpoint. He yells out "money trees", which was expected because this is all we seem to hear from that side.
I see the opportunities to spend time with your family, camping, fishing, hunting. I see the subsistence-style living that is integral to the makeup of many peopleís lives in the Yukon. I see the cultural aspects, First Nations, the people who have immigrated to the Yukon and brought their own cultures. I see health and well-being, a sharing of time in sport. But my picture, if I had a drawing of the Yukon, would have some kind of reflection of that.
What I see more than anything else from the opposite side, the Yukon Party, is dollar signs. Everything has a monetary value. That worries me. As Iíve already said, Iím very worried about it ó brand names, dollar signs, money trees, as the member on the other side likes to mention. Of course thatís economy; of course we have to work for that.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cathers: Iíd like to ask the House to join me in welcoming Bill Commins to the visitors gallery.
Mr. Hardy: There are a lot of other ways to have an economy. There are a lot of ways to value wealth, and it is not just dollars in your pockets, dollars in the bank. There is the wealth that you have from good health. That is something that is priceless. You could have all the money in the world. If you had poor health, you would maybe take every penny you had and hand it over to somebody if they could turn you around, if they could get you in good health again. And if thatís the case, then I would say health is extremely important.
Itís an extremely important element of what you would consider wealth. It means more than property. It means knowledge, to have a strong mind, to have a richness of ideas, to be able to share those ideas and engage in debate, to be able to contribute to your community. Itís a wealth, itís a richness that you have, itís a value.
Culture is wealth. With culture, you have a foundation. With your culture, you have something you can build your life around, build your life on, and it helps you make decisions. It helps you know where you came from and know where youíre going. Dollars donít necessarily give you that. Now, they may help you along the lines.
A clean environment ó we cannot live without a clean environment. Ultimately we would not survive as a species if our environment became so polluted and destroyed that the air we breathed was contaminated, that the water we drank contained contaminants that could kill us, if the food we ate had so many pesticides or supplements in them that they were in our system and started to destroy us or our future generations, passing through our bodies as we had children.
Spiritual wealth cannot ever be underestimated. At times in our past, I believe it has been under assault, but every person has some form of spiritual wealth. Itís just that you may not know it at times and may not be connected to it.
And thatís when you have to become a seeker. And a spiritual wealth gives you far greater satisfaction than dollars, just dollar bills. So those are all wealth. And then you connect that, of course, with how the economy works and the exchange of values and money and the ability to live with dignity, a good wage, a business that functions and a safe working environment that you will be proud to be part of.
These are all very important, and in some aspects this budget has some good points and, though it may not touch on what I said there in regard to wealth, it does address some of those issues. And the money that the three territorial premiers were able to negotiate from the federal government is a tremendous benefit for this territory, and I applaud the Premier for the work on that area.
Of course the question is: how do you divide that money up? And Iím not going to go into these departments line by line. We will get into line-by-line debate and there are four other members of the NDP on this side who have their critic areas, and they will be talking about those particular departments themselves.
But there are some very serious concerns that I have with this budget.
To target YPAS as a faulty process that was crushing investment is a slight exaggeration. Every process can be improved, but to just throw it out was probably a mistake.
There is a lot of talk about the oil and gas sector being interested in the Yukon again. Mining, of course, is returning. There is going to be more investment. Maybe the Yukon Party government has had some influence on that ó maybe. I would hope so. The Premier goes down to Calgary enough to hopefully have some influence over the money tree down there and the people who work in that industry and are looking around for more.
Actually, I would suggest that maybe the Premier should consider opening a Calgary office. He goes to Calgary far more than he goes to Ottawa. We do have two people in Ottawa. Well, itís not a bad idea. Why not have a Calgary office to do some lobbying for us in Calgary, if that is the intention of the Yukon Party, if thatís a real focus. Oil and gas ó if they feel that one of the biggest returns that Yukon is going to get is to get some investment going in that sector, maybe you need somebody down there on a daily basis working on our behalf.
Now, I say this with a little bit of tongue in cheek, but itís an idea. The members opposite donít have to laugh at it. Maybe it has crossed their minds. We might save on our hotel bills down there if the Premier doesnít have to go down as much. Maybe weíll also get a budget released on time if heís not down there all the time.
Now, he has also mentioned the Whitehorse Correctional Centre facility that they put on hold. Of course they blame the Liberal government ó that the whole system was faulty and their way is going to be better. So it has been put on hold and many businesses and construction workers were looking forward to this project. Of course, now they donít have anything to look forward to for awhile. Iím not even sure actually what the outcome of it is going to be.
What it does point to is the changes in the Taxpayer Protection Act. The Premier is trying to downplay it, but thatís a disservice to the people of this territory, because that change will have a fundamental impact on how the books are balanced. It will have a fundamental impact on the future generations, whether itís future governments in this Legislature, our communities, the direction that the public wants the government to go in. That change has the potential to alter that opportunity, the opportunities of another government.
Iíll give you a small example. Weíre talking about mortgaging and entering into deals with private businesses. That was the example that was sent out by the Yukon government. They used the example of the bridge. $20 million ó well, I think everybody knows a bridge is far more expensive than $20 million, but you can book $1 million because, say, youíve got the lifespan mortgage payments of $20 million. So $1 million a year youíre going to pay; the private sector builds it. Of course, itís going to cost more. Thereís no question about that, because theyíre going to have to load in their profit margin. And thereís the question of who will maintain it. Probably they will get that contract. They built it. So theyíll set their prices around that opportunity. Thereís a possibility that there will be a toll on it. Iíve been in countries where thereís a toll on highways every 70 kilometres. So maybe there will be a toll put on that. Thatís a tax. No matter how you spin it, itís a tax. So we have a project that will probably cost more, that will commit the finances of the territorial government for 20 years at $1 million a year, as an example ó Iím just using the example that they passed around. So now you multiply that. Say you do 10 projects and each project is ó Iím sure weíre talking about a larger project, so each project is a minimum of $10 million to $20 million, maybe even $30 million. And youíre finding out, all of a sudden, after three or four or five years of signing all these agreements and getting all these things built at once by all these private businesses, private/public partnerships, that the government is now booked, its finances are now solidly booked for the next 20 to 25 years or 30 years of paying anywhere from $40 million to $50 million a year in mortgage payments.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Member for Mayo-Tatchun just said to me that itís mortgaging our future, and thatís exactly what it is doing.
The next government comes in and has this debt they have to service every single year. That ties their hands for any initiative or any new project they may want to start, because theyíre now servicing a debt for a multitude of projects that were built over a short period of time, created a lot of jobs, created a boom, and all of a sudden went flat because you have to now pay those bills and you donít have the margins left to initiate any new projects, because you are servicing your mortgage. Itís like owning a house: you have mortgage payments, and if they get too close to your income, it limits your opportunities, whether itís to go on a trip, buy the children something nice, buy yourself something nice, even have a savings. Youíre just living from paycheque to paycheque.
Thatís one aspect of the three Ps, as they call them.
Another aspect is that many governments are pulling away from them now, because they find they are not that good of a deal for taxpayers and, frankly, theyíre not that good of a deal for a government that enters into them, because they seem to blow up in their face when it comes to election time. We have seen that on the east coast, where they were going to build a toll highway ó have a company build it, set up a toll at each end and away they would go. The people rose up against that, because the people of that province believed that that was their road; they pay taxes; they have a right to drive down that road, and no company is going to put up a bridge on their property. Theyíre not having their province sold out from underneath them.
So here we go again with another situation where the territory is for sale.
There are other ways to invest, to create capital, to create money flows in the territory. One of them is the fireweed fund. I see a tremendous surplus, but I see no money being put toward the fireweed fund. Itís an excellent fund. Almost all the provinces have adopted it because it works. The federal government kicks in a substantial amount of money with the territorial government. The private sector, the individuals of that territory or province can invest RRSPs in it. There can be investment by local people in it. Itís a local fund used to stimulate business activity to create jobs, to create new business, and itís managed, controlled and owned by the people of that province or territory.
Now, it was an initiative of business and labour. The Yukon Federation of Labour was the lead on it. The NDP government of 1996 to 2000 was advancing that fund, and it looked like we were going to have it. The Liberals came in and wouldnít touch it with a 10-foot pole. Donít ask me why, because they obviously had the money. They had enough money to put aside for the permanent fund. They had other ideas, but this is a winner. Itís one of those where you get matching contributions as well as itís owned by the people of the territory.
So I am asking this government to adopt it, to run with it, go for it. You can stand up there and say you put in place the fireweed fund, and it would be a tremendous benefit. I know that it is very successful Outside. But I donít see it in this budget and I donít see it even with our massive surplus.
There has been a lot said about the presentation that was given once the new government came in about the financial picture being so absolutely bleak and that there was $1 million left in the surplus, and it was going to go into debt and there would have to be another election. I donít think the people wanted that, of course, that soon after. It was a real pie-in-the-sky figure that created a real crisis throughout the territory regarding what the Liberals had left.
Now, itís a common practice by conservative governments to always run on a platform and then plead poverty and not enact a lot of what they do. This government fell right into those same lines. So what we end up with is, of course, six months later, a $95-million supplementary budget and $61-million surplus with more to come. We donít know what itís going to be by the time itís added up. Interestingly enough, I guess we have to wait for the Auditor General to tell the members opposite what exactly they have in their bank accounts, because that was the argument the Premier used the other day, when it was pointed out to him that the Auditor General said, no, at that time, you had $70 million. His argument was, "Well, I didnít know what was going on." He didnít actually say that, but I guess it was implied. He didnít have a true handle on the figures, and so he came out with this nice figure of this crisis-and-doom line, and now that the Auditor General has told him how much he had, it feels pretty good.
Now, we have asked the government to bring in a second supplementary budget on job creation, and there are many, many projects out there. There is no shortage of identified needs in the communities. If they need a little help, all they have to do is look at one compilation of projects on infrastructure works put together by the Association of Yukon Communities on July 2002. It has a massive amount of needs within the communities and Iím sure some are ready to go. Some of them are not that big of figures. Others are quite substantial and may take some work before they can be brought in, but a lot of them are like $15,000, $8,000, $285,000, which would put people to work very quickly and would address some of the needs identified by the communities, the First Nations, and the municipalities.
We would be very, very supportive of a second supplementary budget that was designed to address some of the unemployment numbers that are out there presently and that would have some of these projects ó that are so desperately needed in the communities ó started and finished to benefit them. I hope the members opposite take that in good faith. We would be very supportive of something like that.
Another area is microloans. Iím glad to see theyíve kept the microloan program. They did move it into Economic Development; again thatís another NDP initiative.
There are a couple of areas, though, that I wouldnít mind seeing some work done in, and maybe the Economic Development department can start to work on that, and that is student loans. I feel that students are carrying far too much of a burden in trying to get an education. We often talk the talk in regard to wanting our children and our future generations to have a high education, but we also allow them to carry a substantial debt in order to get it. I believe the territory can go a little bit further in trying to address that.
We have a great Yukon College up here. I believe it needs more support and I believe we need to do some very creative and strong work in the student loans area.
Another area is credit unions. I believe that they have a tremendous value in communities and thatís obviously recognized across Canada by the number of people who are members of credit unions. They have a different approach than banks, and I believe a credit union back in the Yukon would be a benefit.
It has been a long time since there was one here. There were some problems with that one but, like everything, a lot of time has passed and itís time to take a look at something that many people feel very strongly about.
Another area that Iíve been concerned about is consultation. We have gone a year without any major consultation. This budget obviously didnít receive the attention or ó let me rephrase that. The supplementary budget didnít have as much input from the people of this territory as it possibly could have had.
I see the Premier is now doing a little tour, and I think itís for the upcoming spring budget, and Iím glad to see that, but Iím hoping that is just one small part of a full-blown consultation to help develop the next budget, one that allows public input.
We went through a year where we didnít get any, and I think we ended up with a supplementary budget that falls short, and that obviously should be a lesson for the other side.
The distribution of wealth that a budget can ensure, so that all communities benefit, the job creations ó when I say "wealth", I donít mean just dollars. Iíve already mentioned how I view wealth in the broader context. Itís essential for the territory, and one of the ways you can address that is to have proper, full and sincere consultation throughout the territory.
So, with this budget, we end up with a very, very tiny portion of this going to some communities and a substantial amount of it going to other communities. We have Old Crow receiving an extremely small amount ó I know the Member for Old Crow will speak on that ó compared to the size of the supplementary budget. Thatís probably because the members opposite did not get out enough and talk about the shaping of this budget.
So, my recommendation is to do it. Youíll end up with a better budget. You donít have all the answers.
But we have a large surplus. No one person over there can say that they created it. If they do, they are misleading the people of this territory. Itís very obvious where it came from. In six months, it just doesnít happen. As the Premier said, actually in his spring speech, turning the economy around is like turning a super tanker around; it takes a long time and itís very slow. So, using his own words, obviously itís impossible in six or eight months from the spring doom-and-gloom predictions to where we are today, to have seen the economy completely turn around.
Now, there was a question actually asked this morning in the interviews when the interviewer, Dave White, had asked the question to the Member of Porter Creek South, the leader of the third party: should people give this government more time than one year? She said, "no".
Itís just not that easy ó absolutely not. And she went on to list all the reasons why. Iím not going to go into them, because actually at that time I was thinking I was just getting out of my chair.
However, Iím not that cut and dried. I donít think the Yukon Party has done a very good job so far. I have some criticism. In some areas I think theyíve done not too bad of a job, but Iím willing to give them until the next budget, the spring budget, the next big one, to see really if there has been a fundamental change, a positive change for the territory.
And Iím not looking to see if mineral prices have shot up on the world commodities market, because, frankly, the Yukon Party government has absolutely no say whatsoever in that. And we all know what drives the mining industry. The easiest and fastest way to drive a mining industry to excitement is to have the mineral prices go up. Many projects become affordable. Many borderline discoveries become very manageable, profitable, and the investment will come.
But this is the largest budget so far, the largest budget ever ó $649 million or $650 million, with a supplementary. Thereís going to be a huge surplus. And weíre going to see the next one. And at that time, I believe we should really see the stamp of the Yukon Party.
So, after we finish with the supplementary budget, all its negatives and its positives, I really look forward to seeing what direction the Yukon Party is going in. And I am not that interested in the rhetoric about how things turned around because you went to Calgary and spoke at a luncheon. Well, if thatís the case, I think the former Liberal leader would have turned the economy around four times over, because she was down there an awful lot.
Thatís about all the comments I have, other than one last one here on the Canada Winter Games. It will have an economic impact. There have been a lot of figures thrown around out there, but a lot of work has to be done in that area, and there will be a lot of activity. Itís over a period of a few years. Iím kind of correcting the Premierís words on this. Itís not just the Premier and the government on that side who will be involved to make it happen. I am hoping that every person in this House works hard to make that extremely successful and beneficial ó not just for Whitehorse, but for all the Yukon Territory. We have an excellent president heading it up. I think thereís an excellent board thatís working closely together, and Iím sure it will be a strong staff. I know the people of this territory will come together to volunteer to make it extremely successful.
That leadership also has to come out of this House, and we canít turn that into a political football.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This government has done so much in their first year, I donít know if I can sum it all up in 20 minutes. However, Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to talk about our 2003 supplementary budget.
I would like to state that itís good to be a member of a strong, united team. First, I want to thank all the employees who work for the Yukon government ó I mean all staff. We, as political people, cannot accomplish our goals without them, and theyíre much appreciated.
The 2003-04 supplementary budget marks a turning point in the history of the Yukon and will promote the development of a revitalized and healthier Yukon economy.
This is a large supplementary. $44.9 million of the $99.5 million is directly due to the transfer of the control of land and resources in the territory from Canada to the Government of Yukon under the devolution transfer agreement.
Two hundred forty-five federal employees moved from federal to Yukon control ó a transition that went very smoothly and an accomplishment that this government can be justifiably proud of. I want to thank all of the federal and government employees who worked so hard to make this transition as seamless as possible.
This government is able to table this good-news supplementary in part because our government worked hard to create a surplus. The $23 million of the surplus that came as a direct result of the work related to the census undercount, combined with $15 million that was set aside, means a total of 38 million new dollars.
A further $10 million came from the dissolution of the permanent fund and a further $1.5 million that was parked and doing nothing in trust funds.
This leads me to the 2003-04 supplementary budget and how it relates to our election platform entitled Together We Do Better. Our election platform also outlines how our government is going to achieve the restoration of our economy.
The government is going to achieve an economic turnaround by restoring investor confidence in the territory through the creation of land and resource certainty. I am especially proud to say a key component of this strategy is to improve First Nation relations.
On Saturday, October 18, the Kluane First Nation celebrated the ratification of its claim and became the ninth self-governing First Nation in the Yukon. On September 24, the Kwanlin Dun signed off its claim and the First Nation is now proceeding to ratification.
The Carcross Tagish First Nation initialled its final agreement on October 30, 2003, and is now proceeding to ratification. The White River First Nation is currently engaged in a process to initial and ratify its first final agreements.
We are taking a Team Yukon approach to governance. This includes the bilateral agreement with the Kaska which will establish a process to open up this resource-rich area for forestry, mining and oil and gas development. The Kaska Nation is working to re-engage the federal government in land claims negotiations.
I am also feeling proud that this government has entered into an agreement with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation regarding the replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. Prior to constructing a new facility, however, consultations will take place with Yukoners and other First Nations on correctional reform in order to build a proper correctional facility that will meet territorial needs.
$200,000 is being provided by the Department of Justice to conduct the consultations on correctional reform, while a further $463,000 revote is being spent on renovations to maintain the current facility.
This supplementary provides the new Department of Economic Development with $2,844,000 in operation and maintenance spending, and $7,956,000 in capital. Most of the funding for the new department is being transferred from other departments. For example, the $4-million community development fund will now be administered by Economic Development.
This brings me to education. I am very excited about the new money for education that is in this budget. Education is a top priority for this government. We believe that education is critical to success in life, in the workforce and in the community. Through education and training, we can develop a skilled and educated workforce, something we all know to be an important foundation for economic development. Through lifelong learning, people improve the quality of their lives and participate effectively in their communities.
Education helps our communities become strong and healthy. Our government supports education, training and lifelong learning. We are committed to improving student success, to building stronger partnerships in education, and to building a skilled and educated workforce to meet our needs now and in the future, as the economy of the Yukon grows.
Specifically, we will be building a new school in Carmacks. Money to begin planning a new school is in this supplementary budget. Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the school councils, the mayor and council in the community ó I have been involved and will continue to be involved in this planning process.
We are committed to building stronger partnerships in education. We look forward to working with the community on the new school, in order to get planning underway for a new Carmacks school that will reflect the needs and requirements of the people in Carmacks. Also on the capital side, we will be building a new cafeteria and industrial arts wing at Porter Creek Secondary School. This is a much-needed improvement that the school has been asking for and will give our students more opportunity to explore trades and technology as potential future careers.
As we announced several weeks ago, I have recently begun an education needs assessment tour. I am meeting with each school council and First Nation in the Yukon in order to find the top-priority short-term needs in each school. We have allocated up to $1 million to cover the cost of these priority needs, these needs that will have an impact on student success and quality education.
We are also very pleased to announce that we have followed through with our platform commitment to index our two student grant programs, the Yukon grant and the Yukon student training allowance. These grants will be indexed to the cost of living. The increase will take effect as of this past September. All our students can look forward to getting the additional money with their January payments.
Post-secondary education and training are vital to developing a skilled and educated workforce, supporting economic development and building healthier communities. This will ensure that our students continue to receive one of the best financial assistance programs in Canada. Our students are the future of the Yukon, and we are investing in our future. We have also made a commitment to strengthen our partnership with school councils. We have included new money in this budget for school councils to maintain an association in order to ensure that they can continue to be effective and valued partners in education.
This budget includes an additional $100,000 to support what is already an exceptional French language education program in the Yukon. As always, we will be working closely with the francophone school board and the francophone community to implement these programs. We have also invested additional money in support of native languages. Right now the changing demographics in our schools means we need more native language instructors. As well, many of our existing instructors are nearing retirement. We realize that there is an important need here. First Nation languages are a vital part of First Nation culture. We will be funding a program to train new language instructors to ensure that future needs are met.
This will help encourage diversity in our schools, help our education system to continue to be culturally relevant to First Nations and ultimately help preserve our native languages and cultures in the Yukon.
I am very pleased to announce that this government is taking further action on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. There are two key components to our strategy. The first will support teachers in the classroom. We will provide specialized training for teachers to recognize and assist students who many be affected by FASD. In order to give them the best possible learning opportunities, we will be working closely with Health and Social Services on this. Our efforts will be linked to their programs for early diagnosis and transition strategies for students moving into the education system.
The second part of our FASD strategy is a new program at Yukon College to help those who are academically able to succeed but who are socially unprepared for studies. This program will help them develop the tools to succeed in the Collegeís educational and vocational programs.
Finally, on May 13, 2003, the Yukon Teachers Association ratified a three-year agreement with the Yukon government. This was done prior to the expiry of the previous agreement.
The agreement provided for 7.5 percent over the term and within the mandate established by Management Board.
Mr. Speaker, all of these announcements show our commitment to education. We are committed to student success. We are committed to strong partnerships. We are committed to a skilled and educated workforce. Education is and will continue to be a top priority for this government.
Mr. Speaker, as much as the opposition parties would like to downplay the progress of this government over the last year, they did mention the large surplus. And I say today that it is by the good fiscal management of this government of lowering the trajectory of spending that created the surplus of $69.7 million, when we talk $23 million to the undercount, $10 million dissolved fund and the devolution of $42 million.
Mr. Speaker, I also talked in my campaign throughout the election about having a balanced economic side of an equation and also a good balanced social side of an equation to be an effective government. And I believe this government has demonstrated that in the budget. For example, with Economic Development, we have $1.2 million in roads, $1 million into forestry, $825,000 into the film industry, $18.7 million for Shakwak, and $4 million for the multiplex.
Then when we go on to the social programming, weíre looking at $4 million into health care, $675,000 into childcare, $100,000 into the Womenís Directorate, and $3 million into education, with a $1 million needs assessment.
So, Mr. Speaker, this budget speaks for itself, and I am very proud to be a part of this team that cares about the citizens of the Yukon Territory. I can say today that I feel very comfortable that the Yukon does have a bright future with this leadership.
Mr. McRobb: Well, wasnít that something? I would encourage the previous speaker to maybe get his facts straight. There isnít $18 million in this budget for Shakwak. As a matter of fact, thereís nothing in this budget for Shakwak. The minister can check with the appropriate officials, who will affirm that, Iím sure.
Iím really wondering what good this whole exercise this afternoon really does. This is a speech on a budget that really is about a week late in coming. By and large, Yukon people have been made aware of the details of the budget through the local media ó radio stations, newspapers, what have you. This whole exercise is really yesterdayís news.
I echo the opinion that, in reality, the Member for Lake Laberge announced the budget yesterday in his one-and-a-half hour ramble, which really was a stonewall attempt to avoid the other business coming up for debate, which was the unpaid loan motion. So, we really heard the Premier speak yesterday in ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Deputy Speaker: Order please.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the Member for Kluane is imputing false or unavowed motives.
Deputy Speaker: The official opposition House leader on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: On the point of order, there is no point of order. There were no false accusations or motives made.
Deputy Speakerís ruling
Deputy Speaker:Order please. Itís the Chairís finding that the member speaking did put forward a statement that could be construed as an unavowed motive, and I would like the member to retract the statement, please.
Mr. McRobb: I am not quite sure what that statement was.
Deputy Speaker: Order please.
The Member for Kluane suggested that the Member for Lake Laberge spoke at length yesterday to prevent other matters of business to occur, which the member did not state. That is in contravention of Standing Order 19(g), where it is out of order for a member to impute false or unavowed motives to another member. I now ask again that the member retract his statement.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you for the clarification, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I do retract what I said because it certainly isnít clear whether that was the motive or not.
Deputy Speaker: Please continue.
Mr. McRobb: Thank you.
Anyway, we really heard the budget speech announced yesterday by the Member for Lake Laberge in his one-and-a-half-hour ramble, and it called into question the need for the Premier to repeat it all again today.
Of course, the net result is wasting the publicís time and racking up the costs of running the Legislature. Iím sure that if the Premier would have stepped down on the need to read his lengthy speech, or repeat the one given yesterday by the Member for Lake Laberge, we on this side certainly would have stepped down on our replies as well, and thereby saved probably what will amount to about a day and a half of legislative time. Because, Mr. Speaker, there are more pressing issues in the remainder of this 24-day sitting, even though the agenda is pretty thin soup, as I see it.
And Iíll just comment on that for a moment, Mr. Speaker, because all we really have in this legislative sitting is a bunch of housekeeping bills. There are one or two that might be discussed for a bit of time, but the remainder are essentially what are known as housekeeping bills that will end up passing this House very rapidly, as we saw the other day when three bills were passed in about an hour.
So the only other item of business besides last yearís supplementary budget, which I donít presume will take very long, will be debating this supplementary that we have before us. So how much time will the Legislature really have to deal with the supplementary? Well, the answer is probably somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 14 sitting days to deal with a supplementary budget that, really, only replaces some of the spending cuts we saw in the spring.
Mr. Speaker, I would say that, in terms of evaluation time for budgets in this House, this is an extraordinary amount of time to deal with the supplementary budget. If I recall in the spring sitting, which was about 36 days long, there were a number of days devoted to the budget speech and replies. There were a number of motion days. There was even a government motion on the Yukon placer authorization. There were several other days and other business. By the time we got to the actual main budget, Mr. Speaker, it was probably in the neighbourhood of about 14 days. So what we have here is about the same length of time to review a supplementary budget as we had in the spring to review the main budget. So it really causes us to question the pretty thin soup put forward by this Yukon Party government for this fall sitting. Mr. Speaker, itís a darn good thing we took 36 days last spring. I recall the government House leader telling us that this fall weíd be dealing with a busy legislative agenda. He mentioned items like the Education Act and the Liquor Act and, I believe, the Motor Vehicles Act. Well, where are those pieces of legislation now? Theyíre nowhere in sight, not on the radar screen, and they certainly have not been tabled in this House, because today was the final day for tabling legislation for this sitting, and itís not on the record.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:The government House leader on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the member opposite is imputing false or unavowed motives of me. There were never any discussions around the matters that he is bringing forward. It is patently incorrect, and I would ask that the member opposite withdraw his statements.
Speaker:As the members know full well, the Chair has no control over what happens outside of the jurisdiction of the House. It is simply a dispute between members. Carry on please.
Mr. McRobb: Obviously, the government House leader is rather sensitive about these matters, and I certainly hope that sensitivity will turn to some remorse and we can learn from past mistakes and try to brighten the future in the time ahead for the remainder of this governmentís term, however long that may be.
Weíre rather pleased now that we did take an extra six days in the spring ó if you divide the 60 sitting days in half, it comes to 30 ó we took an extra six in the spring because something told us, Mr. Speaker, that we wouldnít have all that much to deal with in the fall, and our hunch was correct. So itís a good thing we didnít listen to the government House leader and we carried on using our own instincts.
Mr. Speaker, there will be lots of time in this sitting to review each of the departments, and I think that will be very timely, and letís hope it will be productive, because there are many unanswered questions that remain. And what weíve seen is really a stonewalling by this government when it comes to providing information to the opposition parties. Weíve seen blockades set up where the government side has refused to provide information.
I see a dumbfounded look on some of the faces, particularly of the backbenchers, Mr. Speaker, more so than usual. I know what theyíre going through. Theyíre in the dark; they know not of the subject I speak.
Itís because they are carrying the Yukon Party flag and they are blind to these types of examples. They are all gung-ho and they think they are the greatest things since sliced bread or something, and they just canít do any wrong.
It reminds me of a military expression that my father still repeats of the poor infantry men on the front lines in World War I and II who used to say, "My only regret is that I have but one life to give." Well, that reminds me of the attitude of these backbenchers from time to time.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(i), the Member for Kluane may not use insulting language. His language is very derogatory to members of this caucus.
Speaker:On the point of order, there is no point of order. However, the Chair is not comfortable with one member referring to another member as "dumbfounded". I believe that that is bordering on unparliamentary and I would ask the member to pull himself in just a little. Just a little self control, please.
Member for Kluane, carry on.
Mr. McRobb: I will pull myself in because I actually referred to more than one at the time. So, I will be more careful.
So, anyway, Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the issue of how the government hasnít been very open and accountable and gracious in fulfilling the oppositionís requests for information. Now, I donít just plan to leave that accusation on the record without providing an example or two. I have already mentioned that some of them appear to be in disbelief.
Example number one: today I read a motion for the production of papers on the record and the motion asked for responses to questions made in this House on April 28. Thatís more than six months ago.
Officials from the Yukon Energy Corporation were in here on April 28. What have I received in more than six months? The answer is nothing ó absolutely nothing. Now, is that a sign of an open and accountable government, one that has nothing to hide, one that is prepared to open the information vault and allow some light to shine in? No, Mr. Speaker, itís just more of an indication of a closed government, one that has the blinds pulled and the doors closed, and itís a dark, back room that doesnít allow any light in at all. It doesnít want to be subject to that type of inspection.
We saw another example of that in the case of the Justice minister not being willing to provide the background information to support her decision made about the tow truck. Well, what is so difficult about a minister providing that type of information? If the government were open and accountable, that information would be provided up front.
Now we hear dead silence over there. Everybody is looking down because itís starting to sink in. Theyíre starting to actually open their minds to the possibility that maybe ó just maybe ó the opposition is speaking quite truthfully on something.
Now we hear some chuckles from the Member for Lake Laberge, but heís still in the front-line trenches. He hasnít even been around here for a year yet. Heíll learn in time that the real enemy is not across the floor; itís those sitting to his left.
I suspect that if he doesnít know it already he will in the next year or two.
Mr. Speaker, also today we heard the leader of the third party, by coincidence, introduce other motions for the production of papers. Obviously there is a need to satisfy information requests that have been outstanding.
Another example ó I look across at the Highways minister and I am reminded of a request I wrote to him about in August asking him for some budget information related to highways camps. Well, did I get it, Mr. Speaker? The answer is no. Why not? Well, who knows, but his reply letter said something about the Legislature is starting soon and weíll be dealing with information at that time.
Well, Mr. Speaker, the Legislature started a week ago today and still not a peep out of the minister about providing any of that information at all. Not a peep.
Hereís another item thatís related to this. The government House leader asked us which departments we wanted budget briefings on for the supplementary budget. Well, I got back to him and said, "We would like briefings on every department. Can you set them up, please." He came back to us the next day and said that there would not be briefings on any departments.
Again, we get the type of situation weíve experienced in the past week on about three other matters dealing with this person where he offers something thatís not really there. The November 10 offer comes to mind, Mr. Speaker, which we debated the other day. I canít figure out where this government is coming from when it insists on preventing the opposition from accessing information, yet it claims to be so open and accountable.
There are lots of other examples but those are just a few that Iím able to name off the top. I think, in all fairness, they do point out how the government is and justify our concern that the government is blockading requests for information.
This supplementary budget, as I mentioned yesterday, in the Highways department does replace some of the money that was cut. Thatís a good thing but it doesnít quite replace all the money that was cut in the highway maintenance budget. There was some 14 percent cut Yukon-wide, if you consider a couple important factors, and $750,000 probably replaces about two percent of that. So there is still something like a 12-percent Yukon-wide cut to highway maintenance in the Yukon even with this extra money. And thatís assuming that this extra money is distributed to the highway camps and not used for other purposes.
Still on the subject of highways ó because thatís my critic area and I follow it closely ó there is some talk about the Shakwak funds. We heard the Premier go on about it, as did the MLA for Lake Laberge, who read the budget speech yesterday. There is no money in this budget, yet we hear a lot about it from this government.
I attended a briefing last week. And maybe the Member for Klondike should have attended the same briefing because I donít think he understands how it is. Iíll put a few facts on the record. The Yukon government requested $104 million U.S. from the United States government for the next five-year appropriation on the Shakwak Highway reconstruction project.
It was quoted back in February as indicating it was requesting about $49.5 million U.S., but that figure was up to $104 million. What did we get? We got $7.8 million. Thatís about 7.5 percent of what the government requested, yet the government is hailing that as some type of major victory. That falls far short, and the numbers used by the government donít reflect the 15-percent holdback either. Thereís no indication of long-term funds from the American government for the Shakwak project, as far as I am aware. I thought there would be a decision by today and ó from what I understood at least a week ago ó if there wasnít a decision today, then we were forced to wait a number of months. So we will be anxiously awaiting any news in that department.
So the uncertainty about Shakwak continues. A few weeks back, I mentioned how a few of my constituents in Haines Junction who depended on Shakwak Highway work for income had already moved, most of them to Alberta, in search of work. That was largely because of the failure of the government to even announce there was the $7.8 million U.S. earlier than it did. People were getting quite concerned and desperate about where the food on their table was coming from for next summer, and they couldnít wait any longer. There was no announcement at all.
I asked the government to ask itself why it sat on the $7.8 million so long? Why didnít it come out in July or August and indicate that there was at least a good possibility of getting some money to continue Shakwak work next summer. That could have prevented the loss of three families that I know of ó there could be more. And we all know how bad the situation is, Mr. Speaker. There are 200 fewer workers in the territory than there were a year ago and 700 fewer than two years ago.
Well, itís this type of uncertainty and lack of confidence that sends people packing, Mr. Speaker. Theyíve got to know whether theyíve got work or not, and I ask the Highways minister to be a little quicker stepping up to the plate when it comes time to letting people know whether they have money or not to look forward to or a job to look forward to the following summer.
On another highway matter, we can thank the federal government for dropping a bundle of money in the territory about a month ago to complete some highway projects. And without that money, Mr. Speaker, it would be rather dismal in terms of capital projects in the next fiscal year, especially with respect to highways. One concern I did have, which I contacted our MP about, was the difference in the language used by the federal government versus the territorial government. And just quickly, the territorial government twisted the language that was in the federal release. The federal government said the money would go to completing the highway section between Champagne and Haines Junction, and it would also upgrade bridges south of Whitehorse. The press release put out by the Highways minister the same day said the work would allow the unfinished sections between Champagne and Haines Junction to be continued ó see the difference, Mr. Speaker? "Continued" versus "completed" ó while the bridges get upgraded south of Whitehorse. So there was a shift in the priorities as announced by the Yukon government.
I would ask the minister if he could clarify that in the days ahead. Does he means the sections of the Alaska Highway to the west will be completed or just continued? And, by the way, I put emphasis on "west," Mr. Speaker, because the Highways minister said in his releases they were north, but if you look at the map, all the sections are to the west.
Another area that is in the supplementary budget is the beetle-kill forest study ó some $250,000. Itís hard to assess this, not knowing any details of what this government intends to do with that money. But letís hope that itís not just another study, because people out my way are tired of these studies that donít go anywhere. If there is a study to take place, letís make sure that it actually prepares for something.
I asked this government in the spring what it would do to reduce the fire threat in the Haines Junction area and for other communities in the territory, and it provided absolutely nothing in terms of substance. Over the summer, when the examples to the south were driven home, I called upon the government again to ensure that it had something in terms of budgeting this fall. That is necessary in order for action to occur during the winter or spring. To wait for the next mains budget, thatís simply too late.
I have since had the opportunity to sit down and talk with some of the relevant agencies about fire protection, and there is a lot of good material out there and good ideas out there for action that could be taken, sooner rather than later.
Also this summer Iíve had the opportunity to review the Ember report, which talked about the fire threat to each Yukon community. I would say, Mr. Speaker ó how much time do I have left?
Speaker: One minute.
Mr. McRobb: One minute. Thank you.
This Ember report is something that should not be allowed to collect dust on the shelf, Mr. Speaker. This is very important to the territory. We need to take a look at it and face reality and start addressing these situations. I wonít lend any more emphasis to that because I think everybody understands it.
There are a number of other items in terms of the Environment department that could be done. Iím sure if the minister stopped in and talked with the local resource council he would find out what I am talking about. And I understand my time is up.
Mr. Rouble: I am delighted and honoured to stand in support of the supplementary budget that is before us today. It continues to turn the government and the territory in the right direction.
Mr. Speaker, we campaigned on the promise that together we can do better, and this budget is proof of that. When we took office we committed to practising good government, achieving a balance between the economy and the environment, and achieving a better quality of life for Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, this budget delivers on these commitments.
The Yukon people want a territory where they can live, work and grow. We all heard that loud and clear a year ago when we stopped on their doorsteps, and we hear it every day when we walk in the supermarket and down the streets. To do that we need an economy.
Mr. Speaker, we donít have a magic economy wand. What we have is a plan. In order to get our economy on track, we will work with First Nations to become full partners in economic development, create supporting infrastructure, diversify the economy, minimize impediments to responsible business, maximize revenue potential without raising taxes. Weíll spend our money wisely and get value for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, about the first point ó about making First Nations full partners in the economic development and the economic future of our territory ó itís important that we all create wealth ó all Yukoners, irrespective of where they live, who their neighbours are, the language they speak, the religion they practise, the colour of their skin. We want all Yukoners to become wealthy, and I share the member oppositeís description of what wealth is, because it can mean many things to many people. But we want to work with all Yukoners to ensure that there is an economic future in the territory. And that means everyone. Iíd certainly like my neighbour to make a million dollars before someone down south does. We need to make wealth in our territory, we need to have economic drivers and we all need to work.
Mr. Speaker, weíve done that by our Team Yukon approach, by working with various groups, various orders of government and with the First Nations. There is money in the supplementary budget for the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, which is an excellent vehicle to, again, get all people involved in building wealth in the territory. Weíve used agreements like the bilateral accord, where existing agreements arenít in place, to help facilitate this growth. Weíre working to create certainty and partnerships.
Now, the second point ó creating supportive infrastructure. Thatís what the government can provide to facilitate the private sector in conducting business up here. That means roads to resources, that means communications infrastructure, and that means Internet infrastructure. It includes things like waterfront stimulus, and the development of areas like the waterfront here in Whitehorse and the waterfront in Carcross.
We can put in the infrastructure to help the territory and to help the territoryís businesses. Now, Mr. Speaker, we need to diversify the economy. Weíve heard the boom-and-bust scenario year after year after year, and we need to diversify it in order to maintain a strong economy.
Well, we do that with our different departments. We do that with the creation of the Economic Development department to facilitate the growth of all industries. We do that with the development of the Tourism and Culture Department to develop tourism and culture opportunities.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to take a moment and talk about cultural industries. They are an amazingly important economic tool for our territory. The territory has a wealth of excellent artists, artisans, musicians, filmmakers; the list goes on and on. And we need to recognize that and support it.
Also, we need to work on things like secondary manufacturing. Once we have access to our resources and once we can utilize them, we need to develop them further, add more value to them. By adding more value, weíll retain more wealth in the territory.
Now, another key thing that we need to do in order to get the economy going, Mr. Speaker, is to minimize the impediments to responsible business. Again, I want to emphasize thatís responsible business. It is an incredible challenge for some people to start, begin and operate a responsible business in this territory. I know. In my past career, I worked with over 100 different businesses to create business plans and launch businesses. Iíve seen these first-hand. Iíve seen the hoops that our entrepreneurs need to jump through. Yes, there is a requirement to have some in place, and Iím certainly not advocating the abolition of all regulations, all rules; but, Mr. Speaker, we need to streamline this. We need to be able to ensure that responsible businesses can start and operate in an efficient and effective manner.
They need to be able to do this without waiting in line for a permit for 18 months or without having to redo an application because they made a minor change. To that end, our government has created a caucus committee on regulations. I am a proud member of that committee, and we are working with stakeholder groups to, again, identify ó but I donít want to say we are going to go out and do a study, because previous governments have done that before. We are going to build on that.
We just heard the member opposite a moment ago speak about doing needless studies. Well, we have lots of studies on our shelves right now that identify where we have red tape that gets in the way. We are going to use those studies. We are going to use those studies and create some action on them, because itís that action that will change and affect the lives of Yukoners.
We also need to maximize our revenue potential ó and again, without raising taxes. Well, what does that mean? Well, that means that we need to go to Ottawa and secure fair funding that doesnít hamper the growth and development in the territory. That means that we need to go to Ottawa again and talk about health care funding. Thatís where the money comes from and we need to maximize on that. We need to work with all of our partners. That includes our neighbours in Alaska. We need to look at every source that we can to maximize the revenues for the territory.
Again, lobbying the federal government for an economic development agreement for the north ó why hasnít that been in place? We have that type of agreement in many other jurisdictions in Canada ó Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, or ACOA, in the east, FedNor in Ontario. Where is the economic development in the north? Thatís something that we need to look at seriously. As well, we are creating the business case to fight about removing the disincentives in our formula financing agreement.
Certainly, last but not least, in order to get our economy going, we need to spend our money wisely, and we need to ensure value for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, in my education, in my business practice Ė heck, when I was teaching business planning Ė one of the rules we always talked about was, "You donít sell the product, you sell the solution." Nobody buys stuff for the sake of just buying stuff. They buy it for what it will do for them, where the value is.
An example of this: why do you buy a drill? Does anybody really need a drill? No, what they need is a hole in something. Thatís the solution.
We need to start looking at buying the solution and doing that in an effective and efficient manner, one that builds value in the territory.
With our plan, we will get the public sector economy back on track, and we will help Yukoners to build wealth ó any way you define that. I agree; itís incredibly important to have healthy people and healthy communities. Our budget is full of examples of that, and I do agree with the member opposite about the different ways of defining wealth. Our budget and our government does support that.
As well as managing the territoryís financial situation in a fiscally responsible way, we have been fortunate that our revenues have increased. This is due to devolution. Weíve seen a tremendous influx of cash due to devolution. We also have a tremendous increase in responsibilities. Our budget had to change to reflect that. It grew, and it grew because of the monies coming from Ottawa and because of our expenditures to look after those responsibilities.
Our revenues grew because of the agreement reached on the transfer payment on the census count. And that means that monies that we put aside in the past ó that we were responsible to do so, because we didnít know how this was going to turn out. We now have the benefit that we donít have to save that money for a rainy day. We donít need to give that money back. We can use that money now to help the territory and to provide Yukon people with what they need.
Our revenues also increased due to the health payments, due to the successful lobbying of our Premier and Health minister. And weíve taken cash that was held in trust, and weíre going to use that now to help Yukoners.
Iíve never really understood why we would take money out of taxpayersí pockets, put it in the bank, try to earn interest on it, only to provide services. Wouldnít it make more sense just to leave that money in the pocket of the citizens of the territory and let them build the wealth with it? So the money that was sitting there ó well, earning pennies in interest, I would expect, going by todayís interest rates ó weíre going to use that now to, again, satisfy the needs of Yukoners. But this increase in revenue doesnít mean we can go out on a wild spending spree. Weíre committed to practising good government. We have a responsibility to the Yukon people to do so, and weíll budget our funds in a responsible way.
Mr. Speaker, this supplementary budget responds to the needs of the Yukon people. Letís take a look at it. One of the key initiatives in here is the creation of the Economic Development department and the budget that went into that. We now have a department ó I never understood why it was dismantled in the first place ó whose focus is to work with Yukoners to develop our economy. And there are funds designated to help do that. Weíve got money in there for the film industry funds, which I believe takes that budget up to $1 million ó $1 million that we can use in the territory to help our cultural industries such as the film industry.
Business incentive policy ó again, a program started by a previous government but, again, a good idea. Thereís money in the budget to help with that. And thatís money that will go to the people who work on our projects, the people who are building the infrastructure for the territory, and weíre helping to ensure that theyíre earning more than a liveable wage ó a proper wage.
Mr. Speaker, the budget has money for an Old Crow winter road. It has more money for snow-clearing, and when I went out and consulted with my constituents, that was one of the things that I heard loud and clear, especially driving in from the communities. Our roads need to be maintained. We have money in the budget to do that.
There is money for the Tantalus School, the Porter Creek school. There is $500,000 in the Robert Campbell Highway engineering plan. Thereís money for rural electrification and telephone. We have significant monies going into security renovations ó again to protect Yukoners. Forestry renewal ó another tremendous project, a project that is not only going to put people to work this winter but will ensure that we get that industry back up and running, employing Yukoners in a responsible fashion for years to come.
Additionally thereís money for the beetle-kill forestry study, almost $250,000. We had a tremendous resource thatís now a tremendous threat. Itís a threat to the community. If there were a fire in there, Iím horrified to predict what would happen. Something has to be done about that. Itís unfortunate that we didnít do something with that asset when it was an asset, but now itís a liability and weíre committed to doing something about that.
Again, Mr. Speaker, more funds for tourism and culture development. The historic places initiative has $329,000 in it, and I am especially pleased to announce that there is money for a Carcross cultural centre ó $300,000. This will go to provide a cultural centre in the community of Carcross, one of the jewels of the Yukon. Mr. Speaker, Carcross is in my riding and it is a beautiful place. I would encourage all members here to stop by and say hello again.
Having a cultural centre there will be just one more reason for all of us to do so, and one more reason for visitors to stop, take another look, stay awhile and enjoy what we have to offer.
Mr. Speaker, our budget includes money for social services, family service staffing, autistic children and their families, child residential treatment and group and receiving homes. There are additional monies for a new residence group home.
There is over $8 million for health. Now, a large part of that is the monies raised and agreed to by our Premier and the other northern premiers when they went to Ottawa and agreed to the Northern Health Accord ó $20 million over three years. Thatís a tremendous amount of cash coming into our government. Itís going to help Yukoners ó to keep them healthy.
Education ó another incredibly important part of our territory and part of our platform commitment. The Minister of Education and I are off to Carcross tomorrow to meet with the school council and others in order to discuss the needs of the community for education. Weíre going out to discuss the needs, and weíve allocated funds to respond to these needs.
There is money here for the school councils and for the Association of School Councils. There is more money for the Yukon Teachers Association. And weíve put in $456,000 to increase the number of teachers and the number of EAs we have. Weíre also living up to our commitment to provide indexed student grants.
This is a budget to be proud of. This is responding to the needs of Yukoners. A moment ago, one of the members opposite commented about consultation. I have personally held six meetings throughout my riding in the last year to meet with constituents, as well as walk down the streets, as well as take phone calls. I know the other members on this side of the Assembly have held regular meetings and have talked to their constituents. This evening, Iím off to Carcross with the Premier to have a pre-budget tour. Again, I mentioned that Iím off tomorrow with the Education minister.
We are a party that goes out and talks to folks and finds out what they need and acts on it. Weíve talked to people, and weíve immediately responded. Weíve responded with our supplementary, and weíve responded with our operations.
Mr. Speaker, Iím proud to support this budget. Itís responsible, and itís in the best interests of the Yukon people. Weíre proud of the work that weíve put into it. Weíve recognized needs, and weíve allocated resources properly. Weíre going to build on this budget, build on the economy and build on the quality of life for all Yukoners.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, I rise in great support of this supplementary budget. This supplementary was constructed after due consideration of the financial position that was developed by our government. Our Cabinet and caucus and our entire government, with the complete support of many, many individuals within government, worked diligently to analyze the financial position of the Yukon government, looking at ways to deal with the issues that we have before us and how we could improve the financial position of the Yukon. And it was through their excellent work and initiatives that the census adjustment was addressed. And furthermore, the amount booked ó the $15 million for census ó to meet back-payments to the federal government was also added into the surplus.
Our government dissolved one of the funds of some $10 million, which was set up by the previous Liberal government, Mr. Speaker, and that went into the fund.
At the end of the exercise, we found ourselves where we were hoping weíd be financially, but when we first took office, we werenít there. Now we can put these monies to work, and our government is committed to doing just that.
In the short time that I have, Iíd like to focus on the areas contained within Health and Social Services. I could probably spend from now until 6:00 p.m. going over the good work that is being promoted, articulated and moved forward on by our government, but Iím just going to focus on the Health and Social Services area.
We had a six-percent increase in the operating budget, and this only serves to support our governmentís commitment to caring for Yukoners by ensuring they receive the best possible health care, ensuring that Yukoners have access to quality, affordable child care services, and focusing resources on fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. These are all matters of top priority.
Some of the other increases are there to make the Yukon a better place to live for all of our citizens. Iíd like to point out some of the highlights over this forthcoming year. We had an opportunity. The Premier of the Yukon, in conjunction with the other northern premiers and by applying a pan-northern approach, was able to increase the federal governmentís contribution to health care in the north by an additional $60 million for all of the three northern jurisdictions.
Now that wasnít done very lightly and credit has to go to our Premier here in the Yukon and his colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.
What that translates into, Mr. Speaker, is $20 million for the Yukon over three years. This alone was an enormous critical advancement.
Our government has ensured that Yukoners will see a $1,537,000 increase to family and childrenís services. Much of this money is committed to supporting children and their families in a variety of ways.
One of our other platform commitments, Mr. Speaker, was to address the issue of the daycares and day homes, and weíre well on our way to developing a four-year plan with the individuals in these respective fields and, up to the implementation of this four-year plan ó which we will anticipate to occur in the next budget cycle ó our government has put in another $675,000. Most of it has gone into direct operating grants. Our total commitment as a government, Mr. Speaker, will be well in excess of $5 million per annum, probably topping out just under $6 million for this fiscal period.
What this will allow is for childcare providers to provide wages and increases to their staff and to help ensure that Yukon children are being cared for by trained and dedicated staff, which I am sure they are today, Mr. Speaker, but we can improve and enhance upon this in that manner.
I look forward to receiving the recommendations from this working group, and I look forward to moving forward in the next budget cycle and implementing these changes ó another Yukon Party platform commitment that has been recognized and that we as a government are dealing with.
Some of the other areas in which we have increased funding are the Child Development Centre and families with autistic children. We have 10 new employees in the department: social workers and family support workers. We have also identified additional capital funds in this supplementary budget for the planning and construction of a new group home.
But letís just zero in on the largest increase ó that is $6,553,000 in the area of health services, as we continue to ensure that Yukoners have the best possible health services and hospital care that we can provide.
Itís not just the fact that we put money into it, but we develop programs; we ensure that they are funded to the level thatís necessary, and we have some of the best staff available to deliver those programs.
One of the other areas where weíve increased expenditures is to the Hospital Corporation here in Whitehorse. Their funding goes up by almost $2 million.
This is to address the volume in price increases, as well as some of the other anticipated expenditure increases over the remainder of the year. Included in this funding to the Hospital Corporation is funding for a health partnership position that will result in better coordination and communication between the First Nation governments and the hospital and our government, Mr. Speaker. We will also be transferring a small amount to the hospital to cover out-patient therapy programs that were previously provided by continuing care staff.
Other expenditure increases in the health area are to respond to price and volume increases we are seeing in some of the other health programs. They include medical travel, out-of-territory hospital services and other drug programs. We want to ensure access to facilities in the south for some of the more difficult areas of medicine, and we are working with officials in both British Columbia and Alberta to maintain, and ensure that we can continue to maintain, access to the health facilities in those areas.
Thatís on the acute care side, Mr. Speaker. But letís zero in and target one of the most difficult areas for Yukon, and thatís drug and alcohol abuse.
It is a very big problem here in the Yukon. We have often stated, and I say it here again, that the resulting outflow from drug and alcohol abuse, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder ó and our meeting this head on is a priority of our government, along with reinforcing the priorities of the department to deal with Yukonís other problem, and that is the drug situation.
I canít say enough about the problems we have here with drugs. Mr. Speaker, Iím given to understand that itís easier to go into some parts of the community and obtain drugs than it is to buy a six-pack of beer. Thatís very, very hard to deal with. IV drug use, crack cocaine, meth ó these are all problems. And our government is committed to dealing with programs that will stop this scourge and, at the same time, to have programs in place that will deal with those individuals who become addicted.
We stand firmly behind our commitment to introduce a five-step FASD action plan, which includes early diagnosis of FAS before the age of six. Work in this area is moving quickly. Funding from the primary health care transition fund and the Northern Health Accord have allowed us to fund the Child Development Centre and allowed them to hire a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder diagnostic team coordinator.
The individual has now been hired and will pull together the appropriate team members that will facilitate the diagnosis of FASD in children. Thatís probably very appropriate that the Child Development Centre lead this important initiative because of the strong support they already provide to families.
There are a number of programs available and, later in this month, I will be attending a conference in Winnipeg with my colleagues from western Canada on FASD. Leading up to the conference closing, which is for ministers, will be information and training sessions, and our government has committed to funding the attendance of a number of individuals at this conference. We have also committed to looking at having other professionals come to the Yukon and provide training for our professionals in the field of FAS.
Now, the action plan also speaks to support for individuals and families with FASD through a wide range of services, and Iím pleased to say we have identified funds for FASSY, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon. Thatís $210,000, or 21 percent of the total budget that weíve earmarked. Yes, it breaks down to $70,000 per year over three years. While these additional funds speak to the focus we are putting on FASD issues, they also show our support for Yukon families and children with difficulties.
This extends well beyond families of FASD individuals. We are also providing, over the coming three years, just over $500,000 for services to families with autistic children.
As we as a government have committed, Mr. Speaker, we are meeting the challenges head on. Two pieces of legislation have come forward this session. The Decision Making, Support and Protection to Adults Act is a piece of legislation that has been requested by all sectors of our society. First Nations have lobbied our government, FASSY, and as the minister responsible I committed to see what I could do to ensure that this bill came forward.
Itís an important bill, Mr. Speaker. Itís necessary to protect those who canít really look after themselves because of many, many factors. It provides a variety of tools to assist adults who need help in making decisions and managing their affairs. It has three components to it: it establishes adult protection and decision making; it establishes the care consent; and it establishes the public guardian and trustee.
Mr. Speaker, we are the last jurisdiction in Canada to have this type of legislation in place.
The second piece of legislation that I, along with my colleague who administers it ó the Minister of Community Services ó is the Health Professions Act, which will allow the government, in complete consultation with the various fields in the health area, to provide certainty by way of regulations to their area.
Mr. Speaker, I could go on and on and on about the good work that our government is going to be doing, has done and will continue to do for Yukoners. Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to thank all of the staff within my department for the job they have been doing in the past and continue to do for Yukoners.
Health and Social Services is the largest department with the biggest budget in the Yukon. It has the largest number of employees. Itís a business, but itís a business of people. Their thoughts, their feelings, and their efforts make us what we are today ó proud Yukoners. And when weíre in a difficult situation or when we require medical attention, theyíre there to help.
Mr. Speaker, I encourage all members of this Legislature to look at this supplementary in the manner itís presented, because this is an excellent supplementary, and it will go a long way to restoring investor confidence in the Yukon and making this a great place to live.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Iím pleased to rise today in support of the supplementary budget that invests in the Yukonís public works, services, transportation, airports and information technology and supports the territoryís potential for its citizensí future. I think that my colleagues have all indicated earlier that the good work of our fiscal management over the past few months has resulted in a positive status for us on the budget side, and weíve gone from a small surplus to a large surplus.
I believe that weíve done a very good job of allocating those monies toward the economy of the Yukon, and I think that we are going to provide some stimulus to get it off the ground. I am very proud of what we have before us and I urge the members opposite to support us in that particular venue.
This governmentís budget builds on our commitments, our successes and our future. This budget invests in our service transportation, again, as indicated before. This budget will see enhanced winter highway maintenance and greater safety and security measures at our airport, so we look forward to that particular aspect.
I think the member opposite spoke earlier, with regard to issues on our highways and maintenance. We are providing some additional funding in our supplementary budget for that particular venue. We have specific issues with the improvement to that area. I intend to put approximately $750,000 into our secondary roads throughout the Yukon for snow removal this winter, which will be a focus toward our auxiliary and our casual workers. I believe the member opposite the other day indicated that he would like to see some additional work in that particular area, and I believe we are addressing that.
We are looking at providing approximately 15 communities throughout the Yukon, where this funding will take place ó basically coming from Dawson to Watson Lake in this particular area. We will be looking at approximately between 19 and 20 FTEs all together in that venue.
I also indicated that we were looking at putting money into the Robert Campbell Highway toward surveying and engineering aspects for future endeavours along that particular route. I think thatís positive. Weíre also looking at putting that out over this winter, between now and the spring, and getting that underway.
Weíre looking at putting out additional work in our communities between now and the spring by looking at right-of-way improvements, probably in the area around Whitehorse, as well as our airports. Most of that will be contracted out.
Weíre looking at providing some development on our resource access policy. Weíre also looking at doing some brushing in the Pelly area, and weíre looking at doing some work along the Dempster Highway.
Weíve gone through our first fire season this year, and I believe that weíve been very successful in the transformation from the federal government to us. I think the devolution transfer is moving along fairly smoothly ó not without some bumps, but we are working them out.
The member opposite inquired earlier if we will be ready for the fire season, given what happened in B.C. this year. Iíd like to assure him that weíre working with our departments involved on just that particular issue. Youíll see that there was money in the supplementary for doing an assessment in the Haines Junction area. In conjunction with Energy, Mines and Resources, we are also doing a development of what the risks are, based on the Ember report and based on what we have.
And we are looking at those particular entities to see how we can reduce that fuel load and reduce that risk to our communities that are at the greatest risk.
In addition, we are continuing to provide support for FireSmart. FireSmart has been a very successful program, and it deals basically with the issues at risk within the community and at the interface between the community and the forest. We were also working closely with our fire people to ensure that the rural communities are putting their priorities in place to get the best benefit from that particular program. Up until now weíve been very successful, and the members opposite have indicated that it has been a successful program too. I think it is a good area. I believe it is something that provides some economic stimulus in the rural areas especially, and it does provide a reduction of the possibility of wildfire risk within the community also.
But we are working on the greater plan, in looking at trying to reduce our fuel load in our higher risk areas. Weíre looking at areas around Haines Junction. Weíre also looking at areas south of Whitehorse and in Watson Lake ó to that particular priority area at the moment. To that end, weíre also committed under our department for developing the community development fund and maintaining it. It provides a much-needed service in our rural areas. It covers many projects throughout the Yukon dealing with recreational infrastructure facilities, social needs, and cultural events and issues. It covers a wide, wide spectrum, and it provides a much-needed economic benefit in the rural areas, where the work takes place usually during the shoulder and winter seasons.
Weíre also looking at working with the City of Whitehorse on a number of issues, but in particular weíre looking at working with the City of Whitehorse in the development of the multiplex and getting it off the ground, on the right foot. I believe we have achieved that particular aspect. Weíll be looking at going to council here shortly and getting approval to go ahead with the tendering of the facility, and it should actually meet its objective of being out on time early in January.
Weíve also worked with the city and the host society on developing the working group thatís going to get the Canada Winter Games underway. We have provided them with some seed money to get started and to help develop that particular process.
I believe that that host society has good leadership. I believe it has a board that is a good cross-section of people from the Yukon and provides a good concept of how a successful operation will get underway. I think itís necessary that we, the government, provide support to that host society to ensure that the success of the games takes place here in 2007.
We are also working with the City of Whitehorse and many of the other communities in dealing with waterfront development projects. And weíre looking at dealing with them to develop them and provide an outline of what their costs are going to be in order to take advantage of the infrastructure funding from the federal government.
Weíre also working with AYC, and they are providing us with direction on a couple of these issues.
I think itís important that we work with these communities to ensure that we maximize the benefit from the federal funding as well as our own, and that each community gets some benefit from the particular program. Under the municipal rural infrastructure program, we are also dealing with the federal government and the communities on developing a structure that will allow them to apply for funding under that program, which is one-third, one-third, one-third. Itís based on projects that are driven from the community and brought forth basically from the bottom up. I believe that there are a couple of projects that have been identified by the Association of Yukon Communities that look like they will be very prominent projects to bring forth under that program, so they will be taking place in that particular view.
Working hard at our relationship with the Association of Yukon Communities, trying to keep our status with them in a cooperative manner, we are working with them on a memorandum of understanding and we hope to have something completed by the time their annual general meeting is held next spring.
We are also partnering with the First Nation on the funding and building of a cat train that will be taken up to Old Crow to work on a project of basically bank improvements: stabilization against the river and the protection of the road. We feel that by working with them and taking the equipment in to do the work, to obtain the rip-rap and the gravel, granular material, we will be able to provide much-needed jobs for that community and also obtain the needed work required for us to take place. We anticipate that project could take part of this year, next year, and perhaps portions of 2006.
Part of our issues of dealing with community services is that weíre looking at providing assistance to our sporting community to assist in development of our athletes to get ready for the 2007 Canada Winter Games. Weíll be working with those communities to ensure that our athletes are getting the appropriate training and coaching to give their best performance possible for them at the time the games take place. Weíre also looking at trying to optimize our ability to draw our athletes from the outlying areas, outside of Whitehorse, and also to provide coaching for that particular entity.
In the budget, there are several issues under Education and many of the other areas that provide important entities for the Yukon. Theyíre covering areas to do with teaching, additional assistance required. On as-needed basis weíre looking at trying to address the needs of the individual schools as required. I believe that this budget is going to allow for that particular aspect to take place.
The Minister of Health has already provided a substantial number of issues with regard to health, and I believe a good result of that is because of the work the Premier has done in conjunction with the other two territorial leaders and being successful in obtaining that additional funding from the federal government that allows us to have this additional health funding take place.
I believe those are important items for all Yukoners in order to maintain the status of health weíre accustomed to here in the north. As has been indicated on many occasions, itís probably one of the better ones in Canada. I think itís important we realize that. I also think itís important that we try to maintain that wherever possible.
I think the budget does provide some other points that are a positive aspect to us and many Yukoners, and I look forward to hearing the response of the members opposite.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: It also gives me great pleasure to rise today to support the budget. I rise today to provide some details in my own area and to review some of the things I find most exciting about this budget, which I think is well-crafted, will serve the Yukon very well in the remaining fiscal year, and aim us in the right direction in the future.
In terms of the Department of Environment, there are a few things in here, and I would certainly like to share some of those with the substantive increase, of course, in the departmentís operating budget relating to devolution and the devolution specifically of the water resources branch to the Yukon government on April 1.
The devolution of this program provides this government with human and financial resources to respond to water management issues at the local level, rather than waiting for an answer from an office 6,000 kilometres away to the southeast. While this is certainly a new mindset, in many ways, for all of our devolved employees, Iím very, very happy to report that theyíve done marvellously well with this.
Specifically for the Department of Environment, the transfer of responsibilities added 19 new positions to the overall Yukon workforce, as well as $2.3 million in federal funds to the Yukon government. Now, I do realize that some members of the House will try to make that look like weíve increased spending. The reality is that it has been spent all along, but the difference now is itís our time and our money to spend, and we can spend it wisely for Yukoners and for Yukon needs.
The addition of the new expertise is also benefiting existing operations within the department, and weíre very happy to be moving forward with integrating the experience and expertise in the water resources branch, so they complement the experience and expertise that already exists within the department. The combination should really prove to be quite exceptional.
The change has led to modest structural changes that will now come under a new branch to be known as the environmental programs branch. The water resources branch and the environmental protection and assessment branch will now report to a single director. The new environmental programs branch will include water resources, along with standards and approvals, monitoring and inspections, and a change of the assessment section name to environmental affairs.
It is our intention that these changes in name will more accurately reflect the valuable role the environmental programs branch plays in this government. Another change in the budget reflects an additional $28,000 in support from the federal government for the Chisana caribou herd recovery project and the ongoing NatureServe project. Iíll mention that further in a few moments.
For those who arenít familiar with the Chisana recovery program, members may recall that the herd had been in decline for many years and various initiatives were considered to help turn that decline around.
The herd is located on the Yukon Alaska boarder near Beaver Creek and has the distinction of being the only woodland caribou herd in Alaska. Truly this international and intergovernmental recovery initiative has worldwide implications. The initiative includes participation and support of the White River First Nation, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the University of Alaska at Fairbanks, the U.S. Parks Service, Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service and, of course, our own Department of Environment.
A challenging and daring experiment was launched this past year to kick-start a population recovery and reverse that decline. The experiment was in fact a variation, Mr. Speaker, on captive wildlife and one of the many options that we have had to review and consider over the past months.
But I am here today to announce that the early reports are now being reviewed by scientists on both sides of the border and generating talk of wonder and amazement as to what may be the potential success of this experiment. The early preliminary results have been beyond our initial expectations, and we will certainly continue to fund this initiative.
There were two groups of 16 caribou cows each that were monitored to determine calf survival and see if the calves would survive to adult status. The most critical period, of course, is in the first weeks after birth and then from that period to the fall. If the calf can make it to October, there is a good change that it will survive and survive the coming winter and add to the herdís size in the coming year.
The first group of 16 cows consisted of free-ranging animals, and their 16 calves were born in the wild. The second group consisted of 16 calves that were born in the corral ó a corral that was created on the Yukon Alaska border ó and they were later taken from this arguable state of captivity and released into the wild in late June.
The surveys have found that of the 16 calves born in the wild, only two have survived. Of the 16 born in the corral, in captivity, Mr. Speaker, 11 are still wandering the wilderness as part of the Chisana herd. So officials are now scheduled to meet in December in Tok, Alaska, to determine the plan for next year. And we will again, Mr. Speaker, continue to fund that activity.
Iíve had a few people mention on the street that it seems like a huge sum of money to pay for what critics might think is just a handful of animals, but I can assure them that it is well worth it.
My concern, Mr. Speaker, and why I tell this story is that the members opposite donít seem to have a particular grasp of where the money comes from to support these programs. They seem to think that the money trees do in fact still exist in the Yukon, and Iím here to say that our previous Liberal government managed to chop that tree down quite effectively.
$44,000 for NatureServe has also been provided by the federal government habitat stewardship fund to help us hire a botanist for the NatureServe program, and theyíll be able to provide more information into the datacentre.
We also have reallocated $18,000 in Inuvialuit final agreement funding to purchase two snowmobiles and an outboard motor for the park ranger crews that need to patrol Herschel Island. The equipment was coming to the end of its usable life and needed to be replaced for the safety of our employees. Funding was also made available to purchase a new cook stove so that the crews can melt snow and have water at their base on the island. And I would remind members and all of us that on Herschel Island, usable life of equipment and safety of employees takes on quite a new meaning.
Back to where this funding has come from ó I continue to shake my head when people seem to think this is something that has been hidden, something that has been secretive. I think enough members on this side of the House have reviewed where that money comes from, but letís take a look at that again. Letís try to connect the dots and try to come up with something on how this occurred.
First of all, there was a major undercount. Now, for those who donít understand, or seem to have great trouble understanding what that means, there was a discrepancy over how many people actually lived in the Yukon. We argued the fact, and our officials ó who did an outstanding job in this ó argued the fact that there were, in fact, more people in the Yukon than were counted. In fact, we won that argument. We won it so soundly that the argument went all the way back to 1996, and we ended up with an additional $27 million.
Previous governments had budgeted an additional $15 million because there was a very good possibility that we might not win that argument and might actually owe money ó that we might owe $15 million. In fact, at one point, it looked like we might owe closer to $25 million. Instead, we ended up with $27 million and freed up the $15 million.
Now, how did this occur? Iíll give just one of the examples. By federal government reckoning, with the great wisdom of the Liberals in Ottawa, they looked at the census and said, "Okay, we think there are some additional people here, so weíre going to call them." Well, there are no phone numbers. "Well, give us a street address." Well, thereís no street address. So, therefore, the federal government concluded that these people obviously didnít exist.
I think any of us who have lived in the Yukon for any period of time see the humour in that. How many people live in remote areas who donít have a phone ó they get their mail through a mailbox. Yet the federal government concluded that these people obviously didnít exist. Our officials worked hard and long and did just an incredible job to come up with all of this additional money. We are very, very proud of what they did with that. But to try to claim that this was money that we knew about is humorous at best.
To go back and say that we are slow in developing an economy is absolutely outstanding from our lone Liberal opposite, when in fact the previous government, the Liberal government, cancelled the Department of Economic Development. How can you claim that you have an interest in economic development and cancel the department? I think this is an absolutely outstanding example of logic.
The economy is absolutely critical and it is critical in so many ways. How can we inventory our wildlife? How can we protect our wildlife? How can we educate our children? How can we look after our elders and our senior citizens? How can we do any of these things, all of which have to be done, and do it with no money?
To me, thatís one of the major arguments, I think, in political divisions. I find that the official opposition does have some exceptional ideas, some of which we have stolen and we thank them for that, and we hope that we continue over the next eight years to be able to steal some of them.
But what falls down in that argument is I begin to have trouble when I see nothing coming from the side opposite that would give me an indication that they have any idea of how to pay for this. Thatís where this completely falls down.
Certainly this government values its employees, its staff. Thatís one thing that, for all of the jokes about government employees, you learn very quickly when you get into this business, that there are some really exceptional people there. And I find it frustrating, I suppose, to come up with what we thought ó and still think ó was a very fair wage package for our employees.
The leader of the official opposition thinks itís not enough. I look forward to some day actually being able to debate the salary of politicians and see if he still thinks that 10 percent is not enough.
Another thing that has come up in this debate, Mr. Speaker, is to talk about branding, and the leader of the official opposition went on at length about Yukon as a brand. Well, branding an item or speaking of something as a brand refers really to marketing decisions, and it is a business concept. I suppose I really shouldnít be confused as to why the official opposition has no understanding of business or any idea of what weíre talking about with that.
Yukon is a distinct brand. We have a lot that we can market: the remoteness, tourism, history, wildlife. There are an incredible number of things that we can brand here, produce information and support our people to show that these are very, very big things in our economy.
Some of the things that surprise me when I look back at some of the statistics that weíve had in here ó for instance, wholesale merchants sales and inventories, August 2003. Canada went down 2.9 percent; Yukon went up 10.7 percent.
Yet somehow that gets twisted into the fact that weíre going way down. Even population ó I look at this for August 2003. In June, the Yukonís population was listed as 29,976, but a year ago, the population was 30,256. My confusion there is that, just after that report came out ó which is often quoted by the opposition ó the federal government found 27 million reasons why those statistics were wrong and, in fact, there is a much larger population today. Housing starts are up. Weíre in a housing boom. Try to get skilled tradesmen to do the smaller jobs; you canít find them.
The only reason I managed to finish a small renovation job that I undertook some months ago is because I found a very kind drywaller who actually slept on the floor after he finished at about 5:00 in the morning and then went back to work at 7:00. Try to find these skilled people; theyíre not there. Theyíre working.
Even in building permits ó in July 2003, it was $7.1 million, but a year ago, in July, it was only $3.7 million. The difference is 87.3 percent for building permits. That doesnít sound quite as depressed as I might have thought in the beginning.
Total retail sales in the Yukon from a couple of months ago are up $1.4 million, an increase of 3.9 percent. In May 2003, preliminary retail sales figures in the Yukon increased 17.7 percent from the final figures from before. Sales increased 23.9 percent.
Itís kind of frustrating when the data and debates donít really come together as much as they should.
Some of the money weíve been able to come up with as well, through the work of departments and the Premier and Health minister, for instance ó $60 million across the north. People should realize that when you work on a per capita basis, we would have gotten an incredibly tiny amount out of that. Instead, through an excellent, excellent understanding of what was going on ó $60 million.
And I agree with the hospital about equipment, for instance. Itís frustrating when, in my own business, I have one of our emergency surgeons come in and express concern that his dog was on better monitors than he has available at the hospital.
In my own riding, Iím very pleased to see that the Porter Creek Secondary School cafeteria is going to continue, and Iím very pleased to see that weíre starting to have this ability, after a year of struggling with the Liberal decimation of our money forest ó let alone a money tree ó that we are finally in a position to start doing some meaningful work on the things we heard about at the door. This is where it starts, and weíre very, very proud of that fact. Certainly I will be supporting that supplementary budget.
Mr. Fairclough: Iíll be short in my comments on this supplementary budget. Iíll certainly be reviewing the departments in detail once we get into them.
It has been interesting to hear comments from the members opposite about how they feel their government is doing, how they feel the supplementary is putting new energy into the Yukon and revitalizing the economy, and how they feel they are bringing new ideas to the Yukon, that theyíre diversifying the economy.
Well, if I reflect back about a year ago, when the Yukon Party got elected, there was a definite need in the territory to address immediate winter works jobs. There was a desire by the public to recall the Legislature to deal strictly with that issue of putting people to work right away. Well, the Yukon Party failed to do that. They say that they needed time to read their briefing books, to get things in order, to understand government, and so on, and we didnít go there. We missed an opportunity, and now weíre a year afterwards trying to address that. Fortunately, weíve run into some money here, and weíve seen this government take Yukoners in many different directions ó not kindly to people, either.
Weíve seen how the Health minister handled the whole issue of Macaulay Lodge, trying to force people out into a facility that they had no say over. If it werenít for public pressure, the minister would have gone down that road. And it seems to me that when it comes ó that so many of these issues come forward to the public, and the pressure has to be put on to change this governmentís mind, and weíve been doing that on this side of the floor. Weíve been asking for the government to take a different direction, and weíve been successful at some of them.
Even rewording motions that have been put forward by the government ó making it better at least, knowing that they are going to ram it through anyway with their majority, at least trying to fine tune it so that it will suit maybe the members in this House better or Yukoners ó thatís kind of how we started out.
Then we get into how government decided to put its own employees under investigation. Thatís not at all an issue to just slough off lightly. People were affected, families were affected. The minister says it has ended, itís over, the investigation is done, but I can assure the minister that it isnít. People are still concerned. This is how things are mishandled. For example, a person gets investigated and the minister decides to discipline the member. They fax out a letter and it goes to the wrong place. Now everybody knows about it. Itís the privacy of the member that has already gone and the minister doesnít know how to deal with that. He says itís over. Thatís it. There is nothing more to it.
But youíll see how short-sighted this minister is in regard to this issue and how they treated their own government employees. They voiced themselves quite clearly ó quite clearly, Mr. Speaker ó after the first day of this sitting.
Thatís how we start off. All the way through from the time the Yukon Party was elected, they told this to the public: we canít fund this $15,000 project because the government is broke; government doesnít have money; the Liberals left us nothing ó nothing, no room to move. Weíve heard that over and over and over again from the members opposite.
As a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, the Premierís budget speech was all about controlling the trajectory of spending, because at that time government was broke. There was none. So they put their minds together and said to the public that we only have $1 million left. I mean, we donít even have room for emergencies. And that was quite shocking, I guess, to many people.
To even paint the future bleaker, Mr. Speaker, in the year 2004-05 they say there is only going to be $600,000 in the budget ó not looking at the possibility of negotiations that have taken place, the fact that the Department of Finance has been working on the formula financing for many years and trying to improve it. We saw some improvements when the Liberals were in government, when the NDP was in government and now when the Yukon Party is in government. And thatís a gift to Yukoners.
Now, I guess what weíll see come this spring is a new set of numbers, I suppose. The Yukon Party is going to go back and sharpen their pencils and try to paint a little better picture for Yukoners about 2004-05 than what we see here today. Maybe theyíll see some revenue generation in the resource sector. It didnít have confidence in that amount of money coming in just six months ago, Mr. Speaker, but maybe they do now.
Iíve heard the Premier talk about how it was YPAS that killed investor confidence in the territory. When that Premier was on that side of the House, in government at the time, he talked about other things, like Bre-X, for example. It just happened to happen just before the Faro mine went down, and this had an incredible impact on junior mining companies.
The investment people are putting money into an investment where they are going to make money, and in mining it didnít happen. The price of gold was down and so on.
Those are the kinds of things we were facing: the price of fuel going up and so on; the activity just dropped in the territory. How quickly does the Premier forget about these types of things happening in the territory? But you talk to the mining community, they know it. So at least theyíre not being fooled by the Premier.
Now, Mr. Speaker, weíve gone from $1 million in the budget ó and we on this side of the House said that there was a lot more money in there than that, but every one of the members opposite said, "No, there isnít: weíre broke; we canít do anything; we canít fund that $15,000 project." Weíve gone, in a matter of months, to $61 million, and a lot more money than that too. What it shows, Mr. Speaker, is how poorly this government read the finances. Itís not about good management, itís how poorly the finances of the territory were read and planned out by this government. So we had to suffer for a year, and now weíre seeing some monies being spent. Itís all about the trajectory, but now weíve got a huge surplus coming forward, and it doesnít seem to bother the members opposite any more about how the government spends money.
When Yukoners read of this $23 million and more ó weíre not even touching the $15 million yet ó and I just heard the member opposite say that it was in case the population went down and the formula financing was less than what we expected, the Yukon Party put that $15 million aside, because they didnít feel that we were going to get that amount of money here. So weíve got $23 million plus the $15 million.
When communities read about this, theyíre hoping to benefit from it, and Iím sure they will on a number of different projects that are brought forward. Thatís what governments do all the time. But what is this government doing, say, for Stewart Crossing? You just draw a blank ó nothing? I mean, there are things that can be done there. Itís a small community, but it doesnít matter. There are kids living there who go to school in Mayo, and yet this government shows nothing in its supplementary budget to address some of the issues.
One of the things it could have done was address the safety issue on the highway ó and I brought this up to the responsible minister at the time ó to ensure they have the street lights down the road to the community. I know the Member for Klondike has gone through that community many times. Itís unsafe for the local people who use the highway, and they tell me there have been lots of close calls with their kids. Itís dark, and they donít see the kids, because theyíre speeding quite quickly through this little community. Theyíve done little things, like setting up radar and such, to discourage people from speeding through, but it still doesnít work. We had to fight hard just to get one school light put up at a school bus stop in that community.
Iím throwing some ideas out. The members opposite can take them whatever way they want. The other thing they are seeking is a sliding hill. Not much activity takes place in Stewart Crossing, but there are kids there, and they need to have some activity. They wanted a sliding hill, and they wanted something done for improvements to their recreation centre.
What about the community of Keno? Itís an even smaller community, but it does play a big role in the territory. When you look at our tourism industry, for example, our history in mining and so on, lots of government money has gone into this community in the past, but it shouldnít be ignored. We should look at things like improvements to their telephone service ó and not just Keno, but places along the way. The Silver Trail Inn, for example, has been asking for a long time for some type of improvements so that they can have a business thatís viable through having good telephone service.
Keno City is known for its mining history and also for attracting tourists. I have to say that because of our weather this summer ó being a little dryer than normal up in that country ó that there was an increase in the number of tourists coming up to that community, coming up to the Silver Trail Inn. There was one point when the road was so bad ó thatís the turnaround point at the Silver Trail Inn where the tourists would turn around because of the road conditions. There was an increase of up to 40 percent in the number of people coming up. In a year like this year, thatís pretty good. I think itís all because of a couple of things. One was advertising. They did some good advertisements. The other is because of the roads. There were probably a few other things too. I am sure that the anniversaries in Mayo certainly helped that too. But it goes to show that if we did some work in those areas, then we could improve small communities like that. Of course, that means there is increased activity in Mayo once there is activity in Keno and up the Silver Trail.
Many things could be done there ó improvements, of course, to the campground facilities, or even improvements to the museum. What they want to see is proper road maintenance up to the Signpost Road and the Silver Trail. That would go a long way.
So, one of these times I would like to see the ministers respond to that and look favourably on this request by the people in Keno and Mayo.
There are a lot of things that I was hoping to see also in other communities. There isnít any money identified for a rec centre for the community of Mayo. They are going to be pursuing this. They talked a lot about exactly what Kwanlin Dun did ó the First Nation trying to move some of their residents away from the permafrost area that they live in now up to higher and more stable ground. They are looking at help from other governments. Certainly this government could show some initiative by identifying some dollars to go into infrastructure ó for example, the building of roads and so on.
Pelly Crossing, for example, is a community thatís not incorporated. Itís an unincorporated community, which means they donít have a municipality with government dollars going to it for things like road maintenance, water and sewer, services and so on. So they rely on the First Nation tremendously. Itís the First Nation that basically runs that community, and they also need the assistance from the Yukon government. Itís the responsibility of this government to throw some money in for road maintenance, to build proper infrastructure in the community, to ensure that there are street lights on the streets. And that community would like to see more happening in regard to roads ó also to tackle some of the big issues.
The Northern Tutchone Council, for example ó and Iíll bring this up again many times ó has been asking for funding for Tatlmain Lake, and they didnít get any. They were told to go to the community development fund, to take their application to the community development fund. It was refused. They were told to put it back in ó put the application back in, revised. The community development fund refused again. Where do you go from here? They were told that this does not benefit the community. This blows me away. Something like that puts people to work, and itís a facility that directly benefits, I would say, communities that are trying to heal.
Mr. Speaker, I do have a lot that I wanted to talk about, and one thing that I wanted to say is that every little community in the territory is looking at how they could benefit from this windfall that the Yukon government got. Why couldnít there be some monies that go to directly addressing the unemployment issue in these small communities?
Iíll leave it with that, and I think the Yukon Party government had an opportunity to address that. I think they missed the boat.
Mr. Cathers: Itís a pleasure to rise in this House to talk about this wonderful, wonderful supplementary budget that weíre dealing with here today.
Iíve sat here all afternoon and listened to comments from members on this side of the floor and the criticism from members on the other side, and I must say that Iím a little bit puzzled and dismayed by the opposition criticism of sound fiscal management.
In what other area of business or other field would someone hire a new management team, put them in charge of a company that is in tight and declining financial straits, and then, when the management team runs the company better than expected, better than predicted, condemn that team for doing better than they predicted ó condemning them for doing more than they said they would? I defy any member of this House to find another field of business, or any other endeavour, where a group of individuals that has done the fine job of getting the finances back on track, of getting the government ó or business, in the case of a business ó headed down the path toward success from a situation that previously had been an ever-sliding slope to bankruptcy, when you see that management team create far better than expected results and you criticize them.
I am baffled by this.
Mr. Speaker, the leader of the opposition claimed in his comments earlier that the surplus our government now has existed in the spring and was simply hidden by this government.
How can the leader of the opposition possibly say that when the numbers very, very clearly show that the vast majority of that surplus was achieved entirely through the efforts of our government and hardworking YTG employees, particularly in the Department of Finance?
Mr. Speaker, if the leader of the opposition cannot read a balance sheet, I would be more than happy to sit down with him and explain to him how to read that balance sheet. I do have to question, from the record of the NDP governments that the territory has experienced before, if they can indeed read a balance sheet, because the fiscal management that has been demonstrated by NDP governments in this territory ó as well as by the sole Liberal government ó that fiscal management record is simply abysmal, in my opinion.
There has been a well-known history that is expressed to me by many constituents. It seems that the Yukon Party gets into power, cuts down on the debt, gets the fiscal house back in order and then an NDP government comes in, spends the money, runs up a massive debt and leaves.
Mr. Speaker, if you look through the past history of the Yukonís finances, I would suggest to you that that statement is not simply my personal political perspective, but is in fact a statement of fact.
Mr. Speaker, our government has made every effort to move forward in a constructive manner, to construct a supplementary budget that will provide real benefit to Yukoners, both in areas of creating economic growth or stimulating economic growth and in the area of social policy ó our social safety net, our health care system, addressing problems such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Not one of us on this side would claim that any budget put forward by any government anywhere has ever been perfect. But we believe that this is one of the best budgets that has ever been put forward in the territoryís history. Speaking personally, which I am quite confident holds true for the rest of my colleagues on this side of the floor, we welcome constructive criticism in any area where this government could improve.
Now, Mr. Speaker, even the leader of the opposition has admitted that our government has some positive plans and initiatives to stimulate economic growth. The leader of the opposition also acknowledged that our government has willingly adopted good ideas proposed by other parties. It seemed to me that he was casting a slight bit of criticism on us for doing that ó appreciative of it but suggesting that, somehow, there was something out of the norm about that or that we shouldnít have been doing that and adopting good policies. I am not quite clear about what he was saying. He seemed to be a little bit confused, in my opinion, in his statement.
But our party was very clear during the election of just over a year ago that, if we were so fortunate to receive a mandate from the Yukon people to form the government, we would adopt any good policy from anyone. We would show no shame in taking a good idea, wherever it came from, and putting it forward into good government policy. I thought that was good sense. Certainly, on the doorstep, my constituents all seemed to think it was good sense. I didnít find anyone who criticized it ó not anyone, even people who I suspect didnít vote for me. They all thought that was an excellent, excellent idea.
So, yes, Mr. Speaker, this government has indeed adopted policies and programs and ways of doing things that have proved successful for other governments in this territory, no matter what political stripe they were. And weíre not the least bit ashamed of doing so, nor do we think we should be. Weíre very proud that we show that willingness to look at a policy strictly on its merits and not get bound in our ideological and political corners. We can simply look at the merits of any policy and move forward for the good of all Yukoners.
Clearly, we are indeed delivering on our platform commitment to work, whenever possible, through consensus and collaboration. The six unanimous motions passed by this House are a testament to that. Thatís a record, Mr. Speaker, as Iím sure youíre well aware.
I heard the Member for Mayo-Tatchun in his reply to the supplementary budget seemingly accuse this government of ramming motions through with a government majority.
Well, Mr. Speaker, I seem to recall that just recently in this House there was a motion put forward to change the sitting day for Monday, November 10, to allow rural members to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremonies in their communities without being forced to drive down to Whitehorse on Sunday night, stay in the House for Monday, rush back to their communities Monday evening, and then again come back on Tuesday evening. It was a sound, solid proposal that was intended to save government money by cutting down on government travel, also providing rural MLAs with the ability and the opportunity to spend more time in their constituencies.
Those of us who are on the government side are very often tied up with business, working together, collaborating. We do things in a committee approach on this side of the floor. We try to work together as a team, and weíre all very involved in the process of moving forward and discussing future steps. There are many, many things that weíre all forced to do that require us to be in Whitehorse, but this opportunity is wonderful to give rural MLAs the ability to go to their communities and spend more time in that area. The opposition referred to it as a long weekend, as a day off. Well, Mr. Speaker, perhaps itís a day off for the members opposite, but I would be very surprised if anyone on this side of the floor would take it as a day off.
So, Mr. Speaker, this motion that we put forward was to change the sitting day from November 10 to November 14. Well, the opposition took exception to that. They put forward an amendment, I believe put forward by the hon. Member for Kluane, to move the sitting day that would have been held on November 10 to December 15.
Well, it had been our opinion on this side of the floor that it would be more considerate of government employees and of the Hansard staff if we finished the sitting on December 11. However, the opposition seemed to feel quite strongly about this so we willingly accepted their proposal and voted unanimously in favour of their amendment to that motion and then in favour of the motion.
It escapes me how that could possibly be government using its majority to ram something through. Yes, voting for an opposition motion, I see how they feel that that is using a government majority to ram that through. It is interesting logic we see coming from the other side of the floor.
Our government has made every attempt to work with the members opposite, even when they make this difficult ó and they do sometimes.
The members opposite, particularly the third party, seem to be focused far too much in this Legislature, in my opinion, on personal attacks and ridiculous accusations rather than on constructive arguments. I would encourage them to try to restrain themselves from that tendency. It may be a useful tool in scrambling for political credit, but it doesnít serve the interests of the Yukon people.
This government has taken the step of putting in place a cohesive vision for getting the Yukon economy going, and we have been very clear that it is not government that is the solution to all problems. It is not government that ever is or ever can be the engine of the economy. Economies are built on the private sector.
I read numbers into the record yesterday, Mr. Speaker, on the amount of money that it takes to deliver one dollar of government programming by running it through the bureaucracy. For those who may not have been listening to that, one dollar of government expenditure costs a minimum of $1.30 or $1.60 to the private sector in taking it out of there. And it goes as high as $3. This is from studies from the World Bank around the world, and from New Zealand, which studied this problem very, very thoroughly when they were on the brink of becoming a Third World country.
I see that the members opposite seem to be appreciating this comment, but Iíd encourage them to take a look at the numbers on this issue. One thing that we believe very strongly on this side of the floor is that the numbers are indeed at the crux of the issues, and the theoretical airy-fairy policies that some may proclaim ó you do need money to pay for them.
Mr. Speaker, the broad points of this partyís vision for moving forward centre around our Team Yukon approach, through which we have been trying to work together with the members opposite. We have been working very hard on our relationships with First Nations, trying to improve that and allow access to resources for development companies that have been held up through unsettled land claims ó working together or no one is going to work at all.
I believe that this increased surplus ó the majority of which was gained through the hard efforts of this government and the Finance officials in negotiating with the federal government on the issue of the census undercount ó is a positive thing. The members opposite donít seem to believe this, and Iím beginning to understand how their philosophy may contrast with ours, because they seem to regard it as a good thing that previous NDP governments have left this territory with a debt.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: Iíd encourage the member opposite who is providing commentary to take a look at the books from previous years. The members opposite do seem to feel that this is a comedy club, which obviously encourages heckling from the audience.
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cathers: With the quality of suggestions that seem to be coming from the members opposite, I find it very difficult to keep a straight face on this.
Mr. Speaker, the focus of our government has been on removing roadblocks to economic growth. That is why we implemented the new caucus committee on red tape review, whose goal is to review regulations and eliminate overlap and duplication, to remove roadblocks to investment and economic growth. Weíve also put in this very fine supplementary budget money for improving infrastructure, because it is critical that, for resources or access to resources or for the tourism industry, there be access to those areas. That is what the physical infrastructure is for.
Weíve implemented the new Department of Economic Development, which the previous Liberal government cancelled as the economy was going down, one of the most interesting and, I would argue, foolish moves of any previous government in the territory. But we havenít hesitated to provide support for cultural industries, to provide support for humane treatment of animals, as evidenced by the $75,000 for the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter which, as Iíve stated, Iím very pleased to see in there. Itís a major issue for many of my constituents.
Mr. Speaker, I think that the members opposite have processed any of the salient points that they are going to process out of my commentary here, and they seem to be spending so much time laughing and telling jokes among themselves that Iím surprised if they can even hear what Iím saying, so I would encourage them to once more have their say on this very fine budget which from their criticism of it, Iím doubting theyíve even read.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mrs. Peter: In my response to this budget, it is my pleasure to once again bring some of the issues forward on behalf of my constituents. This budget is one of the largest budgets that ever was tabled in this House.
Under this government watch there has been much confusion. There are many questions that are being asked by the Yukon public. There are concerns about some of the decisions that were made by a number of ministers, and they are being questioned.
The length of time that it took to make this budget available to the public is being questioned.
The number of calls that I received was amazing. The question that was mostly asked was: what is going on out there? The Member for McIntyre-Takhini is shaking his head; he doesnít seem to agree with me on this.
One year ago, this government made a commitment to be open and accountable. We have yet to see that. We have yet to receive any answers to the questions we asked. We have yet to receive any information that we asked for. Yesterday we saw in this House that the Minister of Environment had to be forced to table a report that has been out for six months ó an 11-page report.
The Yukon public is still waiting for answers from the Minister of Justice.
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m., Wednesday, November 12, 2003.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 7 accordingly adjourned
Speaker: I would also like to ask the members to join me in congratulating Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms McLean on her first day.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following documents were filed on November 6, 2003:
Humane Society Dawson: correspondence relating to funding for (Hardy)
Dawson City Supervisor, dismissal of: e-mail relating to (Hardy)