Wednesday, November 12, 2003 ó 1:30 p.m.
Speaker:I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
Introduction of visitors.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Mr. Jenkins:Please join with me in welcoming to the visitor gallery my wife, Karen, who is with us today.
Speaker: Any further introductions of visitors?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker:Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling the Report of the Auditor General of Canada on the Public Accounts of the Government of Yukon for the year ended March 31, 2003.
Are there any further returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills for introduction?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. Hardy:Mr. Speaker, I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the proposed amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act in Bill No. 36 could have a profound effect on the financial position of the current Government of the Yukon and any future government; and
(2) Yukon people have a right to be consulted on such a significant change in how the territorial government manages their tax dollars; and
THAT this House urges the Minister of Finance to have Bill No. 36 withdrawn from the Order Paper for the current sitting of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and to put the question of proposed amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act directly to the Yukon people, either by calling a referendum for that purpose or by dissolving the House and calling a general election.
Ms. Duncan: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to provide improved training opportunities for residents wishing to serve their community as volunteer members on ambulance crews.
Mr. Rouble: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to work cooperatively with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the Village of Carcross and their citizens to avail itself of Government of Canada infrastructure funding, specifically as it pertains to waterfront development in Carcross.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a ministerial statement?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act amendment
Mr. Hardy:I have a question for the Premier in his capacity as the Minister of Finance.
Since this partyís platform in the last election campaign made no mention of this, what mandate does the Premier have to amend the Taxpayer Protection Act?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The mandate is quite simple. The government of the day is here to stimulate the Yukonís economy, not only by expenditures in the short term but by laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic development for the territory. The member opposite is questioning whether we have a mandate; that is the mandate. But I want to also make mention that what we are doing is providing options for the Yukon and its government to partner with the private sector, to complement government spending with private sector investment.
There is absolutely no way that the government alone can accomplish what is required here when it comes to the Yukonís economy. The last decade has shown that clearly to us. We as a prudent government ó a government with vision and a plan ó are moving forward to alleviate those problems by partnering with the private sector. Thatís exactly what weíre doing. That is the mandate.
Mr. Hardy: That sounds like a lot of bafflegab to me. I hope the Premier is prepared for a rough ride, if and when this amendment comes up for debate. It isnít just MLAs on this side of the House who are vehemently opposed to what the Premier wants to do. In fact, the former Yukon Party government leader, who introduced the act, calls the Premierís plan a betrayal. He predicts that the Premierís plan to go on a capital spending spree could lead the territory into great debt.
Iím surprised to find myself agreeing with the former government leader, Mr. Speaker, but thatís exactly how this Premierís actions look from this side of the House as well. Why is the Premier pursuing a course of action that far more experienced members of his own party consider to be a big mistake?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: All Yukoners have a right to an opinion, but I urge the member opposite, if the official opposition chooses to debate this, to debate the facts. This amendment is a very benign amendment. The amendment does not change in any way, shape or form the integrity of the Taxpayer Protection Act. Quite frankly, even with this amendment, the Yukon can still not go into an accumulated deficit; the Yukon can still not raise taxes, like income tax, without referendum.
And letís talk about debt. Yukonís debt is controlled by order-in-council of the federal government, not by the Taxpayer Protection Act. This amendment is a benign amendment, to provide more options for this government and this territory, to partnership with the private sector to help complement government spending by providing capital dollars from the private sector to stimulate our economy in the short term, while we lay the ground work for a long-term, sustainable economy for this territory.
Mr. Hardy: I consider this to be a sneak attack on the taxpayers of the Yukon. The Premier has stated that both the Auditor General of Canada and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants have recommended changing the Yukon governmentís accounting procedures. I hope the Premier will table those relevant documents so we can see the content and text of those recommendations.
Itís hard to believe that the Auditor General would approve of this government mortgaging the Yukonís future to pay off some political IOUs. This proposal could have a major impact on future governments, not to mention Yukon taxpayers in general. The people of the Yukon should have a say in any major change in the way public projects are financed.
In the absence of a clear mandate from the voters, will the Premier now take this amendment off the table and take the question of changing the Taxpayer Protection Act to the Yukon people through a referendum?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, this government is going to exercise political will. This amendment is a very benign amendment and does nothing in terms of what the member opposite is making inferences of. In fact, this amendment will allow the government to provide to the public full disclosure. I challenge that member to explain to the public why, under the Taxpayer Protection Act, more than one set of books has to be kept to ensure we did not contravene the surplus deficit cap by properly booking the post employee benefits.
Mr. Speaker, those were kept separate and away from the public view. With this amendment, we are allowed to provide full disclosure. We are going to run government like business runs itself when it comes to full accrual accounting. And, when it comes to the Auditor General, we are one of the last jurisdictions that will be doing this. The Auditor General is not recommending. The Auditor General is saying that government must go to a full accrual accounting system. Thatís the long and the short of it ó next question.
Question re: Ambulance attendant position
Mr. Fairclough:I hope that I am not dismissed like the Premier has done to my colleague. My question is to the minist ó
Speaker:I remind the member that it is inappropriate to make comments about a previous question. Ask your question please. Please proceed.
Mr. Fairclough: I hope that I am not dismissed by this Minister of Health to whom my question is directed, Mr. Speaker.
Over the past week the minister has heard, loud and clear, concerns expressed by several communities about the burnout of volunteer ambulance attendants and the training they need.
The ministerís department has an ambulance training position that has been vacant for a year and a half now. Why hasnít this much-needed position been filled yet?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our government recognizes the importance of volunteers across the Yukon. We applaud those volunteers. We recognize the role that they play, not only in the health care system but in the fire departments and everywhere.
The issue surrounding a trainee and the staffing of that position had to be vetted through the Public Service Commission. Thereís an issue surrounding flex time that the union had to agree with. Unfortunately that process has taken longer than normal to get through the system and get the concurrence of the union so that we can move forward with the trainer that works flex time.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister ought to check his facts, because, according to the union, an agreement has already been reached between them and the department on the flex-time issue. The position of a rural training coordinator was finally posted in June, close to six months ago. Several qualified applicants are still waiting to hear if they will be interviewed. In the meantime, the minister has come up with a solution of some kind, using highways personnel as ambulance drivers. I presume that he would use this solution wherever it is needed and not just in Teslin.
This solution seems to have been patched together in a hurry, Mr. Speaker. Has the minister cleared this change in job descriptions for highways personnel through their union?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The other issue surrounding why the trainer hasnít been put up and running is another issue surrounding the Public Service Commission. Itís a grievance that has been filed by those others in the system. Until that is duly resolved, I, as the minister, canít move forward on this initiative.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, the minister didnít answer the question. I asked if the job description changes for highways personnel have been agreed to through the union. The minister didnít answer that question.
There are certainly a number of questions that come up with this temporary fix that the minister has proposed. There are liability issues, for example, not to mention the practicality of highways workers getting from their jobs to an ambulance. The big concern that we have on this side of the House, and that many of the people in the communities have, is the kind of training that the highways personnel will get.
Will highways personnel be trained beyond their basic first aid training so that Yukon people can feel some comfort and safety when it comes to emergencies and having an ambulance service? How will the minister ensure that the training is provided?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: What we are talking about here is the ability to recruit and then train volunteers, and it differs significantly from community to community across the Yukon. Some communities have a relatively stable core, whereas others have considerable difficulty in attracting and maintaining volunteers. These people are a very dedicated group. Our department is endeavouring to provide the highest level of training possible, as well as clothing, as well as vehicles. In fact, our supplementary budget just tabled identifies a sum of money for a new ambulance to go into Ross River.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act amendment
Ms. Duncan:I have some questions for the Minister of Finance regarding his decision to gut the Taxpayer Protection Act.
The Yukon Party is changing the act, and the result will be a huge increase in the long-term debt owed by Yukon taxpayers. The changes will allow this government, the Yukon Party government, to charge millions of dollars in debt to a VISA card, and it will be future governments that have to pay it off.
This spring, I asked the Minister of Finance if he planned to change the Taxpayer Protection Act, and he said no. In fact, he said, "Why would we have gone through this exercise of lowering the spending in government if we were going to amend the Taxpayer Protection Act? We would have just amended it and started spending. Itís the Yukon Party that brought in the Taxpayer Protection Act because of runaway spending by governments."
Mr. Speaker, that was only eight months ago. The minister has broken a commitment. Itís no wonder public trust in government is being dissolved. Why is the Finance minister breaking a commitment he made only eight months ago in this Legislature?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Firstly, we are not breaking a commitment. This is a very benign amendment that does not compromise, in any way, shape or form, the integrity of the Taxpayer Protection Act. Furthermore, this member, in alluding and implying that this is gutting the Taxpayer Protection Act, is doing a disservice to the public by adding negatively to a debate with insinuations and fabrication.
Also, the reference to credit card ó
Speaker: Order please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Sorry, Mr. Speaker, I retract "fabrication".
Speaker: Thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is the memberís opinion, and that doesnít mean an opinion is correct.
And references to a credit card are also not the case. This is not about government going on a spending spree; this is about government finding ways to engage with the private sector, to have the private sector invest in this territory to help stimulate the economy by complementing what government can spend.
The issue here is, Mr. Speaker, even with this very benign amendment, the territory can still not go into an accumulated deficit ó thatís very important. Secondly, the territory still cannot raise taxes, like income tax, without a referendum. Thirdly, the territoryís debt is still controlled by the federal government, through order-in-council. Nothing has changed.
Ms. Duncan: Well, the Finance minister said that the changes are benign. In fact, the changes are malignant, and the cancer is long-term debt. The government is changing the Taxpayer Protection Act so it can run up millions of dollars in long-term debt. Last week a former Finance minister, a former Premier, a former leader of the Yukon Party, John Ostashek, described the proposed changes as a mistake. He also said there was only one reason the minister would change the act ó heís going on a spending spree. Otherwise, thereís no hurry.
Now, the former leader of the Yukon Party ó as a former Finance minister myself, in this case, I agree with him. The government wants to go on a spending spree, but public comments clearly show that the Yukon Party is not united on these changes.
Does the current Finance minister agree with the comments made by the former leader of his once proud party? Does the minister think the former leader of the Yukon Party is right or wrong?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, every Yukoner, including former members of this Legislative Assembly and party leaders, are entitled to an opinion. Now, itís a good thing that that member is no longer the Minister of Finance, given the fact that the member has stated clearly on the floor of this Legislature today that the member does not understand the difference between debt and deficit ó and there is a big difference.
Itís not the government going on a spending spree at all. Itís the government creating options with what it has available to it, to engage the private sector, partner with the private sector and provide stimulus to the Yukon economy with private sector investment. This is not a bad thing; itís a good thing. We will ensure that whatever projects the private sector is going to invest in, the public is very much a part of choosing those projects.
The upside to this, Mr. Speaker, is that we have found a way to increase government options in partnering with the private sector for stimulus ó not debt, stimulus. And I challenge that member to explain to the Yukon public about the highest rate of rent ever in the history of the Yukon, for a rental building that we, at the end of the term, will not own. Under public/private partnerships, that building would have been in the ownership of the Yukon taxpayer.
Who, really, has put the territory into debt ó that member through rent or this issue about deficit, not debt?
Ms. Duncan: The member opposite failed to answer the question as to whether or not he agreed with the former leader of the Yukon Party. It was a straightforward yes or no, and he failed to answer the question.
The changes that the Finance minister has brought forward to the Taxpayer Protection Act were made in the back room. There was no public consultation. These changes are being made so the government can run up a long-term debt that future generations ó future Yukoners ó will have to pay off. That will be the legacy of that government ó long-term debt.
The government is making fundamental changes to the way we keep our books and it didnít bother to tell anyone about it.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Porter Creek North.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Pursuant to the Standing Orders of this House, Guideline No. 7 of the Guidelines for Oral Question Period, "a one-sentence preamble will be allowed in the case of each supplementary question." The previous question, at 11 sentences and two questions, and this one at eight and rising, makes one wonder if there is a question to all of this.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: I submit the member opposite has challenged your previous rulings that that particular clause in the Standing Orders is not firm and it enjoys a great amount of flexibility as determined by past practice in this House.
Speaker: Leader of the third party, on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: The past practice of this Legislature has been to deal with Question Period in a fair and just manner by rulings, such as yours, that allow, in terms of flexibility of questions in supplementary, time limitations as opposed to specific sentences. Perhaps if the member opposite had greater longevity in the House, he would have recognized that.
Speaker: Government House leader, on the point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Why do we have rules for this sitting if we are not going to abide by them, Mr. Speaker? And thatís the question that has been raised here. It appears from the questions raised by the third party and the official opposition that the House rules, the Standing Orders, are not being adhered to.
Speaker:There is no point of order; however, there has been more than a one-sentence preamble, so I have allowed some flexibility. I have also allowed some flexibility on the government side in terms of answering the questions, so I would hope that the House would respect these rulings.
Carry on, please.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The government, in essence, is panicking because theyíve made no progress on a far too high unemployment rate. The government is desperate to change that and is willing to sacrifice the territoryís long-term economic health with these changes that will allow the territory to go into long-term debt. Will the Finance minister address the issue and commit that the divided Yukon Party will not ram the changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act through this House until there has been complete, full, public consultation in this matter of utmost importance?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, to get into a constructive debate, we have to make sure that this member understands the difference between debt, deficit, long-term debt. Furthermore, I did point out in my original answer that everybody is entitled to an opinion, and we donít preclude any Yukoner from having an opinion. However, the point is that this amendment doesnít change the Taxpayer Protection Act whatsoever. What it does is provide government and this territory more options to stimulate the economy.
This government isnít panicked. This government has a vision and a plan. This government all along has stated that we intend to partner with the private sector to stimulate the Yukonís economy, to complement government spending. Thatís what this amendment does.
Furthermore, I would point out, just for the member oppositeís benefit in future debate, that deficit surplus is the same as retained earnings. In a business, full accrual accounting is the same thing that is done in accounting in business. The government is doing nothing different. We are going to run government like a business.
Furthermore, with this amendment, we will provide one set of books ó full disclosure to the Yukon public, unlike that member in hiding the liabilities of employment benefits.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Order. Leader of the third party on the point of order.
Ms. Duncan: The Finance minister has just suggested motives with respect to the public accounting done under our government. He suggested that we had hidden something with respect to full disclosure. That is motives, and that is not correct and not in order. I would ask the member, with all due respect, to kindly withdraw that comment.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I would challenge the member to explain to the Yukon public why the full accounting for the post-employee benefits was not on the books.
Speaker:Order. Order please.
The Chair is going to have to review the Blues on this issue, and Iíll come back tomorrow with a ruling.
Question re: Hydro rate relief
Mr. McRobb:I have a question for the Energy minister on the extended rate relief he announced last week. This program extension will eventually provide only a slight benefit to commercial and municipal customers during the short window from April to September 2004. It does not, and will not, apply to anyone else at any other time.
That could have been different had the minister done his job. The benefit could have doubled had the minister acted in time to engage the extension before this past summer, but he delayed taking action, even though all it would have taken was a stroke of a pen. When I asked the minister to do exactly that on March 25, his response was, "Weíre looking at a new policy, and we will announce it as soon as we can."
My question for this "canít do" minister: where is this new policy that ended up costing those customers their subsidy this past summer?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This was one of the platform commitments made by this government when we were out campaigning. We have met our commitment. Itís good news for Yukon, and weíve done our job.
Mr. McRobb: The minister has not done his job. Perhaps the minister should have been doing his job, instead of letting a $175,000 sole-source contract for a full-time chair. Aside from the ministerís excuses on that matter, we do have other concerns.
In the ministerís announcement, he said that it makes sense to introduce the amendment now, as there is a surplus of hydro. However, in Watson Lake and other communities not connected to the hydro grids, the ministerís announcement will result in more diesel generation and a greater reliance on fossil fuels.
Can the minister explain how this increase to the overall subsidy will send signals to consumers that conservation is a good thing?
Hon. Mr. Lang: My job as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources is to be answerable to Yukoners. Itís very easy for the members opposite to be critical. I guess thatís what their job is. But I will tell you right now that the platform was that we would do this. We did it, and itís good news for business and itís good news for Yukoners. In three years, Yukoners will make that decision.
Mr. McRobb: Well, Yukoners are making their decision now, and theyíre saying that the minister didnít do his job in time.
This government is doing nothing to promote energy conservation. To the contrary, this program extension removes the customer incentive to conserve energy. For the ministerís information, at the time the rate stabilization fund was originally announced in 1998, it was balanced with initiatives to enhance energy conservation, to promote green power, and to install the territoryís first commercial-scale wind turbine.
On the other hand, the Yukon Partyís approach is not balanced. Can the minister explain for us why his unbalanced agenda excludes energy conservation initiatives?
Hon. Mr. Lang: The member opposite is creating wind that will eventually, I guess, drive our wind hydro. But Iím telling you right now, Mr. Speaker, our job is to the business community and to the residents of the Yukon. We have to make the right decisions and we have made the right decision on energy in the Yukon.
When we talk about all sorts of other issues, which are Yukon Development, Yukon Energy ó ask me questions on that, Mr. Speaker. Iíve got a lot of answers on that.
But as far as the rate, itís a level playing field. We did it because it was part of our platform. Itís a job well done, and Yukoners will all benefit.
Question re: YDC/YEC, chair appointment
Mr. McRobb: My next question is for the same minister about the full-time chair he appointed to the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation.
On May 26, the minister suddenly replaced the chair of the Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation with a full-time chair. There are many troubling repercussions from the ministerís unilateral action.
This undertaking came as a complete surprise. It came less than a month after the previous chair appeared before this Legislature. It was not identified in the Yukon Partyís campaign material. It seems it was not an issue to anyone other than the minister himself.
This sole-source contract will cost Yukoners at least $175,000 for the period of his one-year appointment.
Can the minister explain why this exorbitant cost was necessary, and why was it sole sourced to someone outside the territory?
Hon. Mr. Lang: For the information of the members opposite, why did I appoint a full-time chair? They should look to their left and ask the member of the third party, because when we took over in December of last year, this contract ó the line from Mayo to Dawson ó was a month overdue. The contractor had quit and we had a problem on our hands ó a challenge. Anybody north of Crestview understands why we had to take hold of that contract ó part of it was a full-time chair of the board to solve the challenges that we met in December of last year.
Mr. McRobb: Well, itís going to be difficult making sense out of that answer, like the ministerís other answers, even from reading the Blues, Iím sure.
So much for the all-party commitment on appointments to boards and committees.
One of the other concerns was the chairís mandate. The minister announced that the chair would be developing and implementing a revised corporate governance structure to improve the accountability of Yukon Development Corporation and Yukon Energy Corporation. However, the minister said on the radio the other day that the chair is, in effect, dealing with operational issues such as power in Dawson City, paying subcontractors, signing easements and finalizing the line with the contractor.
Can the minister explain for us what changes this $175,000 chair has made to the governance structure of the corporations? Does the chair of the board now have added responsibility for operational matters?
Hon. Mr. Lang: This side of the House took on a challenge in December. The challenge was that we had a huge commitment to finish the line between Mayo and Dawson, and when we hired a full-time chair, that issue was on the front burner. We would be remiss if we didnít put him on that job to get it done. Today, the subcontractors are paid, the contractor is back on the job, and Dawson has power. Those three issues were on the front burner. My job was to get the contract finished ó itís a job in progress ó and I would like to report that itís coming closer and closer to a finale.
Mr. McRobb: Well, the project is more than a year late and $9 million overbudget and counting.
Thereís another interesting problem caused by this ministerís sole-sourcing activities. In the list of credentials identified by the minister when announcing the new chair, an important part of his background was missing ó that was his involvement in the recommendation to privatize the publicly owned power corporation in the Northwest Territories. We know this government is already sliding down the slippery slope of privatization when it comes to public services, like highway maintenance, but that appears to be the tip of the iceberg.
Yukoners have contacted us with their concerns about what appears to be a hidden agenda to privatize energy infrastructure in the Yukon. Will the minister acknowledge that the chairís real mandate goes beyond what he told the public?
Hon. Mr. Lang: I can tell the member opposite that the reason we hired the man we did to be chair of the energy board is because he was the best qualified guy at the time. What he did in another jurisdiction, we have no control over. We had a project that was double its money; it was a challenge, and we have met those challenges as an elected government. It is our job to get challenges like this behind us, and we have to go forward.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Speaker:Before calling private membersí business, the Chair would deliver a ruling regarding notices of motion for the production of papers. The ruling concerns Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. 19, given by the leader of the third party. This notice read:
"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 the Yukonís Conflicts Commissioner regarding the Conflicts Commissionerís investigation into the proposed subdivision on Wann Road and the disposition of Versluce Meadows in Whitehorse, Yukon."
Our Standing Orders make mention of motions for the production of papers but do not discuss them in detail. Pursuant to Standing Order 1, therefore, we refer to the practice of the House of Commons of Canada in determining what is in order and out of order regarding such motions. This information can be found in House of Commons Procedure and Practice at pages 398 to 404.
House of Commons Procedure and Practice advises that the basic purpose of notices of motion for the production of papers is to allow members to request "that the government compile or produce certain papers or documents and table them in the House." However, the documents requested by the leader of the third party are not in the possession of the government.
In 1995, the Yukon Legislature enacted the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act. This act established an independent Conflicts Commission to deal with issues of conflict and potential conflict. The office of the Conflicts Commissioner is not subject to the authority of any minister of the government. The Conflicts Commissioner is subject to the authority of the Assembly as a whole. However, the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act establishes the kinds of information that members may access from the Conflicts Commissioner and the process by which that information may be accessed.
It is clear, therefore, that through the Conflict of Interest (Members and Ministers) Act, this House has already established the procedures it wishes to follow regarding requests such as that made by the leader of the third party. It is not in order, therefore, for the Assembly to attempt to supersede the provisions of legislation by way of a notice of motion for the production of papers. The Chair therefore rules that Motion for the Production of Papers No. 19 is not in order and orders that it be removed from the Order Paper.
GOVERNMENT PRIVATE MEMBERSí BUSINESS
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS
Clerk:Motion No. 27, standing in the name of Mr. Arntzen.
Motion No. 27
Speaker:It has been moved by the Member for Copperbelt
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the Porcupine caribou herd is a vital part of the life, culture and heritage of the Vuntut Gwitchin people; and
(2) drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would endanger the calving areas for the Porcupine caribou herd; and
THAT this House support the Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to prevent oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mr. Arntzen: It gives me great pleasure to debate and speak on this motion today. The Porcupine caribou herd is a world-class treasure that must be preserved and protected for all time.
Where else in North America is there a free-running herd of animals of this enormous size? Only in Africa would you find something equivalent to this wonder of nature.
The herd size peaked in 1989 at 178,000 caribou. Since then it has declined at a rate of three percent per year from 1989 to 1998 and 1.5 percent per year from 1998 to present.
The last count of the Porcupine caribou herd occurred in 2001 and showed 123,000 caribou in that herd. The decline in the herd began during a series of hard winters from 1990 to 1992, which reduced calf production and survival.
More recently, persistent snow cover during May and June of 2000 and 2001 delayed the herd from reaching its preferred calving grounds on the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This reduced several calves so that only 44 to 51 percent of cows were accompanied by calves at the end of June ó the lowest rate recorded during more than 20 years of research on this herd.
As you see, the Porcupine caribou herd has enough challenges to overcome problems presented by Mother Nature herself, without having to face added pressure from the herd caused by actions of mankind.
Successive Yukon governments have consistently supported the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, and this position has been consistently communicated over the years to the Government of Alaska, members of the U.S. Congress, as well as to our own Prime Minister.
Mr. Speaker, that is the purpose of our motion here today ó to carry on this tradition. The second part of my motion states that "the drilling for oil and gas within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would endanger the calving areas for the Porcupine caribou herd."
Now, I would like to give the House a little background history about how the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was established. On December 2, 1960, then President Eisenhowerís Secretary of Interior, Fred Seaton, established an $8.9-million acre Arctic Range by executive proclamation and revoked public land order 82 that opened 20 million acres of the North Slope to potential resource development, including the area around Prudhoe Bay.
In 1964, the U.S. Congress passed the Wilderness Act. Then, in 1971, the U.S. Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which included a provision under section 17(d)-2 calling for 80 million acres of federal lands in Alaska to be protected as a park and wildlife refuge.
In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act was passed, which nearly doubled the size of the arctic range. It was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Nearly all of the former range had been designated as part of the national wilderness preservation system. But in a compromise with the U.S. Senate, section 1002, mandating a study of the oil potential and biological resources of the portion, was omitted from wilderness designation to coastal plain. However, Congressman Moe Udall also ensured inclusion of a provision that closed the coastal plain to oil and gas exploration unless specifically opened by Congress. Today, 1002 lands are so named because of section 1002 of the act.
The present U.S. administration is working actively to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, while both the Government of Canada and the Government of Yukon have made their position abundantly clear that no drilling should occur in the 1002 lands for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
There is another reason for my motion today. The final part of my motion stipulates that this House supports the Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to prevent oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
And I believe every member in this House, and especially the member from Old Crow, agrees with this premise that the most effective and appropriate lobbyists to protect the Porcupine caribou herd are the Vuntut Gwitchin themselves.
Successive governments of Yukon have recognized this fact and have provided funding to support the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation lobbying efforts. Mr. Speaker, our government will continue in this tradition by providing intergovernmental and financial support to assist the lobbying efforts of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
In closing, I urge all members of this House to support this motion.
Mrs. Peter: It gives me great pleasure to be able to speak to this motion today, and I thank the member opposite for bringing it forward. The Arctic Wildlife National Reserve is very, very important to the Gwichin Nation, Mr. Speaker. The people of Old Crow have always relied on the Porcupine caribou herd ó for thousands and thousands of years. Our ancestors have always lived off of this herd and relied on this herd for their food, for their clothing, and for their livelihood ó for 25,000 years or more, Mr. Speaker.
Growing up in our small community of Old Crow, I heard stories about the nomadic way of life of the Gwichin people. They moved throughout the lands in different seasons to harvest food such as caribou, fish and berries.
Wherever the food was plentiful, Mr. Speaker, for that season, that would be where they would live for awhile. Rampart House, which is situated at the now Alaska-Canada border, served as the meeting place of the Gwichin and became a community later on, where supplies were bought for the next trek out on the land. Rampart House today is a heritage site. Itís a designated heritage site, and thatís where, in our own history, a lot of our people started their life in that area.
We talk about the importance of these areas ó the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is situated in northeast Alaska. This is the place where the Porcupine caribou give birth to their young. Weíve heard from successive governments how they support us in our lobbying efforts with the United States on this issue. We have heard many commitments from the previous government and the government of today on how much they support us on this issue, yet we have yet to see any financial assistance come forward.
The travel to the United States is expensive. Our people sacrifice much to travel away from their homes and families for two or three weeks at a time to be able to educate the people of the United States about how important this issue is to the Gwichin people. Our people have been doing this, addressing this issue, for over 20 years.
When they were campaigning in the last election, the Yukon Party of today said in their platform on how they were going to support our people with the Porcupine caribou herd issue. That was only lip service paid to our people. There has been much travel done by the Premier of the Yukon and various Cabinet ministers. They have travelled to Alaska, throughout Canada and to the United States. There has been no mention of how important this issue has been to the Gwichin people in north Yukon.
They play a key role in this area, while attending meetings, whether it be an oil and gas meeting in Calgary or attending a legislative meeting in Juneau, Alaska. They have the ear of key people. They can make this message loud and clear to those people that we are concerned. But did we get that, Mr. Speaker? No, we did not.
Mr. Speaker, our people have lived for thousands and thousands of years; year after year our people get excited when the caribou come into our community so that we will survive for another year. And when we see the caribou on their migration going back to their birthing grounds ó that, Mr. Speaker, makes us happy because the cycle of life is going to continue.
On their way back to the birthing grounds, Mr. Speaker, itís a very, very sacred time for these animals. They are going to give birth to their young and our people have respect for that. We allow them that time because it is needed. They need the peace; they need the quiet and they do not need any stress.
This, Mr. Speaker, has been known by our people for centuries. Itís an unspoken law in the Gwichin Nation, and we respect that. We have been dealing with proposed oil and gas development to the core calving areas in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
We continue to travel to the United States. We continue to educate the people who are mostly going to be impacted. We have thousands of volunteers helping us throughout the Lower 48. They take time out of their lives because they, too, have the responsibility of taking care of their lands. They respect the Gwichin Nation for trying to protect their very way of life, and they do make a difference.
We need, today, a government that will be true partners with the Gwichin people to make that kind of a difference. We need the government of today to be more outspoken, to bring the message loud and clear to their colleagues in Alaska and to the people they meet at conferences they attend, to say that we have a group of people in north Yukon who are very concerned about an issue, and we support them. We need the government of the day to take that risk to actually speak on our behalf.
Mr. Speaker, do we count in the Yukon Territory, that we can be represented in that way? I believe we are all voters in this democratic society, and we do believe that we deserve a strong voice.
The government of the day has that responsibility to the people in north Yukon and the users of the Porcupine caribou herd. We no longer deserve lip service on this issue, Mr. Speaker. Our people have taken the initiative. We have raised money through whatever means so that we can travel to Washington, so that we can travel to wherever people will listen to us and carry our message to the representatives. We need that kind of partnership from the government of the day. Thatís what we are asking for. We have consistently asked for that kind of support.
Today there is another vote before the Senate and the House of Congress in Washington. Over the years, when this happens, it has been too close for comfort.
May I make a suggestion to the Premier of the Yukon and his colleagues? When we need help at these very crucial times, I ask that the Premier, the Minister of Environment and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources accompany a delegation to Washington, D.C. and help us to make that message loud and clear to the people across the border ó that that piece of land is not for sale, that that little piece of land they want so badly is going to be destructive to the culture that you talk about in this motion, to the very heritage of the people of north Yukon and which has been a vital part of our life for centuries.
We are decision makers of today, and the decisions that we make in this House today will affect generations and generations to come. Mr. Speaker, does this government consider future generations?
The elders of our communities have always based their decisions on taking care of our future generations and have never paid lip service to that. Members of the government have travelled to our community and heard that message. Iíve witnessed it, and I wonder if it really sinks in.
I have a granddaughter, Mr. Speaker, who is two years old. She and I enjoy our meals together. Itís a blessing when I can share a meal of caribou with my granddaughter. She has shared a meal of caribou with her great-grandmother.
My mother has sewn a pair of moccasins made from caribou hide for my granddaughter. We talk about our heritage, about our culture ó that is whatís precious. This cycle of life of our people and our animals and the land they walk on.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have four more minutes.
Speaker: My apology to the member. Your time is unlimited.
Mrs. Peter: Earlier, I mentioned that the Gwichin people were nomadic, that a place on the Porcupine River called Rampart House, which is situated on the now Alaska-Canada border and served as a meeting place, is now a heritage site for the Gwichin people.
Supplies were purchased in that community, and stops were made there so that the trappers could again make their trek back out on the land. Johnsonís Village is another place on the Porcupine River that is another area of significance. Herschel Island, on the Yukonís northern coastline, was at one time the only trading post where people were able to trade their trapped furs for food and goods that they needed.
All the travel during that time was done by dog teams. Crow Flats was one of the places to be in the spring. In a time when guns were scarce, caribou fences were used. Fur-bearing animals were trapped, and this was the economy at that time. Survival was what life was all about. The land fed the people, Mr. Speaker ó that was our only resource.
Some winters were hard when the animals were not plentiful. People had to help each other in order to survive. I heard stories when, some winters, people starved because animals were not plentiful.
I want to share a story with you, Mr. Speaker, right now. My grandfather walked on his two legs from Neetsíaii Gwichin, which is Arctic Village, Alaska, today. He walked from Arctic Village area to Rampart House with his two children. He had two dogs and whatever little supplies he could carry on the dog pack. Thatís how he got from Arctic Village to Rampart House.
This was after he lost his wife and his two children to diseases. He made his home at Rampart House and was remarried. My mom was born at Rampart House in 1917. My grandmother passed away while she was very young, and she was blessed with adoptive parents who brought her up at Johnsonís Village.
Old Crow was established close to the 1930s, as it was central to all the travelling that was being done throughout the land. There was a trading post situated there for people who had to purchase their food and what they needed out on the land. The most important thing was it was on the main migratory route of the Porcupine caribou herd. That was one of the main reasons why the community formed in that area.
Through many changes over the years, today Old Crow is a thriving community, Iím very proud to say. To many peopleís surprise when they come to visit our community, we have the best of both worlds. Our First Nation government plays leadership roles in the territory in business ventures, in progress and implementation of our land claims agreement, in protecting that which is important to us: our land and our animals.
The Porcupine caribou herd travels every spring to northeast Alaska, to a place that is known as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This small area of land, Mr. Speaker, is very, very important to the caribou, and I shared that information earlier. This is where they give birth to their young. And how important it is for our people to have respect for an animal when it is in that time of carrying their young. Itís a very sacred time in their life, and we canít cause them any harm or stress.
Our people have never gone to that place. We didnít need to. My mother has never gone there, nor my grandmother or my great-great-grandmother. We didnít need to go to that place to see, because we believe. Our only hope was that they were going to make the trip back so that we could continue to live.
I have witnessed on many occasions their travel back to their sacred place. Many times while I was out on the land with my mother and my sisters, Iíd sit outside the tent and watch them walk by slowly. We knew where they were going.
Our hope was that they would have a sacred journey. These times that Iíve witnessed that and these times that Iíve spent out on the land with my family were the happiest times of my life. That was the foundation that I lived on up until now. It might not mean much to anyone, but we were taught to respect the land, the animals and to respect people. That was the very mandate that we were given in 1988 when the first Gwichin gathering was held in Arctic Village, Alaska. The elders stood and gave that mandate to the young people of the Gwichin Nation who travel to the United States ó to wherever ó to educate people on how important the caribou are to us, to protect their calving grounds and to do whatever it takes until that goal is reached. They asked us to do that in a good way. Thatís the responsibility that we carry today. We have been doing that.
Weíve been asking and asking for financial assistance from successive governments, and it has not come through. I have witnessed, heard and read many news releases on how wonderful our governments are doing and how they speak on our behalf when they travel throughout Canada and to Alaska. Thatís great, Mr. Speaker, but the message my people are hoping to hear is the message thatís in this motion before us today. We want to hear, and would like to see, governments represent us the way we would like to be represented.
I know that representatives in the Alaska Legislature have friends on this side of the border, and if that message were brought to the different representatives, at different levels, it might be heard. And itís not being done.
There are many people throughout the United States who attend the oil and gas conferences throughout Canada, and our own representatives have been at those meetings where thereís a chance for this issue to be voiced, and itís not done.
Mr. Speaker, over the last 20 years, against all odds, the Gwichin people have been successful in protecting the birthing grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd ó against all odds, and against the most powerful government in the world.
I think that says a lot about our people, about the faith they have in themselves, about the hope that they have for generations to come, and how important it is for us to take care of what weíve been given, meaning our land and our animals. If we donít have that, Mr. Speaker, our people will be very poor.
I had a chance to travel down to Washington on several occasions. I was given three minutes in a Senatorís office to defend 25,000 years of our life, our culture, our heritage.
Is that fair? Do we call that fair?
The people who come to support us in our efforts in Washington know very little about who we are, but they believe in us. They believe that they will not stand by idly while decisions are being made in Washington, in their own backyard, that will affect and impact a First Nationís culture for the rest of their life and they have to live with that. They refuse to stand by and watch this happen. And yet, in our territory, Mr. Speaker, we have to constantly, constantly ask for help, to no avail.
We had the Prime Minister of Canada, the Minister of Environment in Ottawa and the Minister of Foreign Affairs ó they have tried to help us in our efforts. Every time they have a chance for the Prime Minister to meet with President Bush, thatís one of the three issues that he brings forward, and weíre grateful for that.
We have the Minister of Environment, the Minister of Foreign Affairs ó they have the ear of key people in Washington, and they bring that issue forward on our behalf. We are very grateful for that. This issue has not only touched the Gwichin people, our brothers and sisters in Alaska and in the Northwest Territories, it is now an international issue. It is on the agenda at the United Nations. That is only because of the efforts of the Gwichin people talking to the right people at the right time.
This government has an aggressive stand on resource development. We hear that over and over and over again. I would suggest to this government that they take that same aggressive stand and voice their concerns on our behalf, that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needs to be protected forever. The Porcupine caribou herd give birth to their young in that area and that area needs to be protected forever.
We need to hear that message loud and clear across Canada so that our colleagues across this country can also help us in this cause we have.
Who is going to pay the price? Is it our great-great-great-grandchildren? Are they going to have the opportunity to witness the beauty that we have in this land today? The decisions that are brought forward by the government of today will have an impact on our children tomorrow. Who is going to pay the price?
We, the Gwichin people, have always had hope and we always will. Weíve moved forward on addressing this issue, whether the government was with us or not. Weíve done that on many occasions, addressing many issues of concern in our community. This issue has touched our very lives, Mr. Speaker, yet we have continued to travel, to talk to people, and our message is out there.
Iíd like to suggest to the Premier of the Yukon that he take this message loudly and clearly to the rest of Canada and in his travels throughout the United States. Iím sure heíll be travelling internationally within the next four years. He should take this message out there and say to the people that Gwichin people in the Yukon Territory have a grave concern and need their help.
We need to make sure that the President of the United States does not ó does not ó go into this sacred area and destroy what is there. Weíve heard lots of statements in our travels that have been made by government representatives from the U.S. about how that land is just a bare nothingness. From the pictures Iíve seen ó the beautiful mountains, the flowers and the wildlife that live there ó it is not a nothingness. The land of nothingness, as they say, has taken care of our people for centuries.
So I ask that this government take a risk and voice our concerns. I know the Premier is travelling to a meeting this weekend with the next Prime Minister in waiting. He can bring that message to that person, who will eventually travel to Washington, so he is prepared. That person has already heard from the Gwichin people in north Yukon.
Mr. Speaker, I ask this government to help us to be the teachers, to help our people so that we will be able to take care of future generations. We ask that you help us, be our ambassadors that you were elected to be. Our people will always be grateful.
Mr. Speaker, after carefully looking at this motion, I think that this House can do more. I think that this House can go further with our commitments to this issue at the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Mrs. Peter: I would like to propose an amendment to Motion No. 27.
THAT Motion No. 27 be amended in the final paragraph by replacing the words following "THAT this HouseÖ" with the following: "Öurges the Yukon government to demonstrate its support for the Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to prevent oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by:
(a) providing financial assistance to members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts;
(b) designating a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter, as requested;
(c) ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. on this matter;
(d) ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
(e) adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications and displays, including the Web sites of both the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources; and
(f) ensuring that all intergovernmental accords related to economic development between the Government of Yukon and the N.W.T., Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, the Government of Canada or the Government of the United States of America include a clear reference to the Yukonís opposition to oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Member for Vuntut Gwitchin
THAT Motion No. 27 be amended in the final paragraph by replacing the words following "THAT this HouseÖ" with the following: "Öurges the Yukon government to demonstrate its support for the Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to prevent oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge by:
(a) providing financial assistance to members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts;
(b) designating a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter, as requested;
(c) ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. on this matter;
(d) ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge;
(e) adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications and displays, including the Web sites of both the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources; and
(f) ensuring that all intergovernmental accords related to economic development between the Government of Yukon and the Northwest Territories, Alaska, Alberta and British Columbia, the Government of Canada or the Government of the United States of America include a clear reference to the Yukonís opposition to oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, you have 20 minutes.
Mrs. Peter: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
It gives me, again, great pleasure to speak to this amendment. As it states in the amendment, a list of six key provisions that we, as the Vuntut Gwitchin, would like to see assistance on, number one being providing financial assistance to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help with the cost of travelling on our lobbying efforts to the United States.
The last time I, or anybody, can recall any financial assistance being given to us was by the previous NDP government. Our travels to the United States sometimes takes about three weeks. There is a lot of road travel. During that time, people are eating on the run, and trying to get to the next place where we hold our public event.
I just want to share with you that when we hold our public events, itís a very, very emotional time for the person who is sharing their life and their culture with people.
Itís a very emotional time because they are giving of themselves, of their time, and of their energy. Itís not just talking to a bunch of people just because itís for their own good. They carry the responsibility because any decisions that are made around this issue impact many people.
Part (b) says "designating a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter." That is only fair, I believe, because members of the present government are ambassadors for the people of the Yukon Territory, like we are ambassadors to the people of Vuntut Gwitchin. They have that responsibility to deliver messages on behalf of the Yukon people, and we are part of the Yukon Territory.
Part (c) is "ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa and WashingtonÖ"
These three areas hold offices of people who help to make these decisions.
The Government of the Yukon has that responsibility to deliver that message on our behalf.
Part (d) is "ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge". Iíve seen the aggressive approach of this government to attract resource development in the territory. I would like to see that same kind of energy put toward delivering this message that the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge needs to be protected, especially the core calving area of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Part (e) is "adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications and displays, including the Web sites of both the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources". There are many people interested in what goes on in these two departments, and they play a key role in the well-being of the land and animals in this territory. I believe that message is loud and clear, not only from the Gwichin people, but all the First Nations throughout this territory. That is one of the most important responsibilities of this government.
Part (f) ensuring that all intergovernmental accords relating to economic development between the Government of Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, the Government of Canada or the Government of the United States of America, include a clear reference to the Yukonís opposition to oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
I think that is only a fair statement to make. We are elected in our offices to be ambassadors for our people, and I donít think thatís a laughing matter, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for anyone, not when our lives depend on it; not when, for the past 20 years, our people had to educate the world about who we are ó and they listened. They listened to us because they care, because they felt a certain amount of responsibility. They might live in another part of the world, but at least they thought a group of people deserves the right to survive ó a people who were here 25,000 years ago. Today we have to deal with successive governments who pay us lip service.
Those are my suggestions for the government of today. I would suggest, on behalf of the people of Old Crow, that this is not much to ask. It has been 20 years in the making, and we would like to see these commitments made.
With that, Mr. Speaker, those are my closing comments.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise today to speak to the amendment to the motion, and have to admit to having a little concern over the numbers that have come out today and some of the intent.
Interestingly, in the history of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, it has been mentioned several times now that it does lie within the United States, and that is, of course, a jurisdiction that, much as we might like to, we donít control. The member opposite refers to "a piece of land that is not for sale". Unfortunately, itís not for us to sell or not sell. But the Government of Yukon certainly supports, 100 percent, the concept of no drilling and the concept of supporting the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, and the Gwichin Nation, in general, in their efforts.
Some of the interesting points that I have to scratch my head about, though, include that a conservative estimate of operations and maintenance and capital costs for the Department of Environment alone in the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation traditional territory is approximately $353,000 in the year 2002-03. And those are actual costs, Mr. Speaker.
These costs include personnel and programs costs for conservation officersí services to protect the herd, parks maintenance and improvement and Porcupine caribou herd monitoring. It does not, for your information, Mr. Speaker, include any portion of departmental administrative costs. So to say that nothing is being put in is an understatement perhaps to the extreme.
Another comment that was made is that over the years no government other than an NDP government has put money into the support of the herd. And yet, in 2001 ó $30,000; 2000 ó $25,000, and even back in 1999 ó $100,000 were all put into the Porcupine Caribou Management Board to continue its efforts to gain protection of the 1002 lands.
Some of that was NDP and some of that even was for the brief stay of the Liberal government, but this has been done for many years so again I have to sort of question the numbers.
With the background of the wildlife refuge, in December 2, 1960, U.S. President Eisenhowerís Secretary of the Interior, Fred Seaton, established 8.9 million acres called the Arctic Range by executive proclamation and revoked public land order 82 that opened 20 million acres on the North Slope to potential resource development, including the area around Prudhoe Bay.
Four years later, in 1964, the U.S. Congress passed the Wilderness Act, and in 1971 the U.S. Congress passed the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which included a provision, specifically section 17(d)-2, calling for 80 million acres of federal lands in Alaska to be protected as a parks and wildlife refuge.
In 1980, the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, was passed, and that doubled the size of the Arctic Range and it was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at that time.
Nearly all of the former range has been designated as part of the national wilderness preservation system. But in a compromise with the U.S. Senate, section 1002 mandating a study of the oil potential and biological resources of that portion was omitted from the wilderness designation ó the coastal plain. However, Congressman Moe Udall also ensured inclusion of a provision that closed the coastal plain to oil and gas exploration unless specifically opened by Congress. Today, those lands are referred to as the 1002 lands and they are so named because of section 1002 of the act.
The present U.S. administration is working actively to open ANWR to drilling; we know that and we address that on a daily basis.
Alaskan legislators ó Congressman Young, Senator Murkowski and Senator Stevens and the new Alaskan governor and former Senator Murkowski ó support them. Senator Stevens is chair of the powerful appropriations committee. Including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on an energy bill can and will be filibustered, and the majority Senate leader plans to get ANWR through the House by including a line item in the budget for the interior department to give it a line item of $1 billion with no funding attached. In order for the department to meet its budget requirements, it will be forced to let permits in order to collect the $1 billion in its budget.
Recently, Senator McCain and six other Republican senators took a stand against this strategy and against drilling in the 1002 lands; however, the Senate majority leader appears to believe that he has the necessary 50 percent plus one. I remind the Speaker that the vice-president of the Senate casts the deciding vote in the event of a tie, and this would then get the budget passed.
Strategists believe that Senator Stevens, in his role as appropriations chair, will use his monetary clout to get reluctant Republicans into line. All of this is an ongoing scenario, of course, and one that we seem to deal with each year.
One of the things we certainly look at in this and any kind of initiative, is that it is necessary for someone to take the lead, someone to coordinate the effort. There are a number of ways to fund this, there are a number of different groups that could do it, but certainly, the feeling over many, many years, and at the request of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Gwichin should have the lead on this, and they should be supported in this.
This can be done in a number of ways ó small amounts of money to the Porcupine caribou herd. And as the member opposite pointed out, much of that was done under an NDP government, and he might be surprised to find me agreeing with him and saying, "Yes, it was a tiny little amount." Right idea ó not very enthusiastic, I might say, but the right idea.
But the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation receives a share of Yukon oil and gas revenues ó which few people seem to know about ó in accordance with an agreement subsequent and consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement. In 2001, for instance, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation received $153,425.65 in oil and gas royalties. A portion of these royalties could be designated by the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation for efforts on behalf of the Porcupine caribou herd. It is, and has to be, a joint effort.
One of the things I have to again scratch my head about is one of the claims by the member moving the amendment that she doesnít know of any speeches that have been given at the Cabinet level in support of the Porcupine caribou herd and against drilling. Well, having delivered two of them myself, I can assure that member that they certainly have been given, and we will continue to make such statements, by all means.
There are a number of different things we have to look at in terms of that herd ó not only the effects on drilling and protecting it, but its size, whatís happening to it, and how are we going to support that herd?
A previous speaker referred to the last count of the Porcupine caribou herd ó and actually it was in 2001 ó and it was an estimated 123,000 caribou. The herd grew at approximately five percent per year from 1972 to 1989, when the herd size peaked at 178,000. I donít hear anyone opposite asking who was in power during that government.
Since then, it has declined at a rate of three percent per year from 1989 to 1998, and that halved to 1.5 percent per year from 1998 to the present.
When you graph this out, it shows a nice bell curve. Where we are today is well ahead of where we were in 1972. Should we be concerned about that drop? Of course. But should we panic at this point and try to lay blame and point fingers? Perhaps thereís a better way to do it, I would submit.
The next survey is scheduled for the summer of 2004, and we certainly will be supporting that, again making decisions with data, Mr. Speaker, however novel that concept is sometimes to some members.
The decline began during a series of hard winters from 1990 to 1992. The weather had a severe impact on the herd. That reduced calf populations and survival. Recently, persistent snow cover during May and June in 2000 and 2001 delayed the herd in reaching its preferred calving grounds on the coastal plains of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Thereís a marvellous Web site that shows where most of these calves are born and while more often than not this is within ANWR and the State of Alaska, some years it is within the Yukon and even, for a couple of years, within the Northwest Territories ó most interesting data.
This reduced the survival of calves, obviously, so that only 44 percent to 51 percent of cows still had calves at the end of June, the lowest rates recorded during the more than 20 years of research on this herd. Thus, we knew the herd was going to be declining.
This wasnít particularly a great revelation. We knew that was going to happen.
There are a number of things that come up in this.
The Porcupine Caribou Management Board does not have a mandate to lobby individuals, organizations or governments for the protection of the 1002 lands. This is something that the Vuntut Gwitchin or the Gwichin Nation should take the lead on and has taken the lead on, and has done a marvellous job of. I suggest that we not tamper with what has been actually quite successful so far.
The primary purpose of that management board is to focus on domestic conservation and use issues ó Dempster regulations come to mind.
One of the things I have to point out, too, in terms of statistics, is that when you look at the hunting and harvest statistics over the last few years, only about 10 percent of the animals harvested out of the Porcupine caribou herd are from licensed hunters. Ninety percent is First Nation harvest. There is nothing bad about that, but it does show to me, anyway, that the First Nation should have the lead and the information on that and be the ones to lead the charge. They are doing a good job.
Specifically to the amendment, there are a number of things that do bother me with this. I find myself unable to support it as it is written.
Providing financial assistance to the members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray costs of international lobbying efforts ó again, Iím confused about this, Mr. Speaker, since our Premier, through the northern premiers, has already agreed to provide financial support to all Gwichin people. That has already been done, and weíve already talked to the Chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin on this and await his reply ó delayed Iím sure because of the election, very appropriately Iím sure.
I have a difficult time understanding why we have to pass a motion to do what has already been done and done better and with a more appropriate group.
Part (c) of the amendment: "ensuring that the Government of Yukon has Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips" goes against everything that has been done in the past. Clearly the Gwichin Nation has the lead, has always had the lead, and it should remain with the lead. Putting a Cabinet-level representative from the Yukon government in the matrix goes against everything, and to my mind may even go so far as to disrespect previous agreements.
Part (e): "adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications, all displays, including Web sitesÖ" Well, first of all, at the oil and gas seminar in Ottawa the Premier included this. We included it in discussions last year at the Cordilleran; weíve included it at meetings in the Canadian Consul of Ministers of Renewable Resources, Canadian Consul of Ministers of Wildlife, Canadian Consul on Endangered Species. But to have to put statements on all relevant documents, publications and displays, Mr. Speaker, what are we supposed to do, put them on presents as Santa Claus goes around with his caribou? I mean, how far are we supposed to take this? Weíre already doing this.
The bottom line really comes down to maintaining the Gwichin Nation and despite, Mr. Speaker, the wisecracks from the opposite side of the floor, from one of the members, even in an NDP government, the Gwichin had the lead. Okay, maybe Iím recognizing another good NDP idea. Itís interesting now that the NDP donít want to recognize that idea, but thatís okay; we can live with that.
One of the things that concerns me and that I would much rather put into this is to look at the funding as is proposed and as is established already through the northern premiers to all Gwichin is to put our money into research on diseases, to find out whatís going on within that herd. We have a small amount of information on that and, as the member opposite continues his heckling ó no, I didnít have anything to do with this. Sorry. And if you have any information otherwise, please put it out. Iíll use this as a good example. I donít know anybody in the Irving family, and I have never been to an Irving fish camp to study salmon either.
But in data done by the Department of Environment ó and my goodness, Mr. Speaker, much of it done under an NDP government. My God, they did a few things right. They came out with some interesting statistics ó no serologic evidence of blue tongue out of 281 animals tested. However, the Porcupine caribou herd does show a relatively high antibody prevalence for bovine viral diarrhoea ó 52 percent tested positive for that.
Now, the members opposite, in other Question Periods, brought up the fact that there was a disease brought in with some illegal buffalo ó bison, to some ó and how terrible it was that we might have introduced this disease. Well, Mr. Speaker, this is many years prior, and 52 percent of the Porcupine caribou herd already had the disease ó data, fact. Know what youíre talking about.
Exposure to infectious bovine rhinotracheitis ó another that appeared through a number of the different herds of caribou. It seemed to be higher in some herds, but thatís consistent with the weather patterns and what these animals go through. That doesnít particularly surprise me. Itís just something that we would have expected.
We should monitor the prevalence of these diseases, know if the population is going up or down and why itís going up or down ó donít just guess; deal with facts. To that end, we will be doing more testing in the future ó and more abilities to try to look at this. Itís expensive to put a helicopter up to try to draw blood samples but, two weeks ago, I had the good fortune of going up to Old Crow and to meet with members of the Porcupine Caribou Management Board and with members of the RRC, to talk further about getting blood samples from their hunters. That is a more reasonable place for our money to go, especially since money has already been put into the project through the northern premiers.
To that end, Mr. Speaker, I find it not possible to support the amendment.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to speak to the amendment that has been brought forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin. Iíd like to express my compliments to the member. She and other members who have preceded her in representing that particular riding have represented people and the people of Old Crow and have spoken eloquently for those who cannot speak in this Legislature.
Personally, as a member of the Legislature and as a representative in this Chamber, I have been to Old Crow on several occasions. I always have been made to feel welcome in Old Crow. There has always been a respectful atmosphere in discussions and, fundamentally, Iíve always been made aware of the part of the life and culture ó indeed the heartbeat ó that is the Porcupine caribou herd to the people of Old Crow and to the Gwichin throughout the north.
As a member of the Legislature, Iíve supported motions and amendments similar to this motion thatís before us today, and the amendment, in the past, both as a member of the opposition and in my capacity as Premier.
In that capacity, I have lobbied American governments, state, attended the Western Governors Association meetings, spoken with both the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada on this issue. At my urging and with the support from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, I also wrote to Prime Minister Chrétien, who lobbied President Clinton on this particular issue as well.
I would just like to say a word about that particular lobbying effort by our Prime Minister. Certainly, the Prime Ministerís legacy in different parts of the country is unique. Here in the Yukon, Prime Minister Chrétien was the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development when Kluane National Park was created. He has been part and parcel of our land claim process and he has, throughout his time, supported the members and the initiative by the Gwichin and the people of Old Crow and supported the Porcupine caribou herd.
Environment Minister David Anderson has done likewise. He has spoken publicly on many occasions and lobbied the American governments ó by that I mean state and federal ó on many occasions in support of the preservation of the herd. When I say "in support of the preservation of the herd", I am also saying in opposition to drilling for oil and gas within ANWR ó the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ó and recognizing that this would endanger the calving areas of the Porcupine caribou herd.
The amendment has brought forward an enhancement to a motion that has unanimously passed this House before.
Itís enhancing the motion because itís challenging governments ó if youíll forgive me the colloquial, Mr. Speaker ó to put their money where their mouth is, to actually dedicate their efforts, to dedicate personnel, to ensure itís a Cabinet-level representative, to ensure that there is reference to ANWR in speeches, to take the time to ensure that this is included on Web sites and, with respect to intergovernmental accords, many governments have lobbied the Government of Northwest Territories to financially contribute to these lobbying efforts, without success.
Now, the Minister of Environment says there has been success achieved. I, for one, would like to see it. Is the Government of Northwest Territories finally going to contribute to the Gwichin efforts and lobbying efforts in Washington? If they do, it will be a first. They havenít in the past, although previous governments of all political stripes have worked at this and have made financial contributions.
In reference to putting money toward demonstrating a commitment, to really and truly express that there is a fundamental commitment to the preservation of ANWR and to the survival of the Porcupine caribou herd, I think, as the amendment suggests ó and I support the amendment ó the government should not only do as the amendment suggests and put a financial commitment to this, but I think ó and I wonít be bringing forward an amendment to the amendment; I would just like to recognize it in my speech ó I believe we should also reach the public on this issue.
Where we should reach the public ó we should also be speaking with our children, in our school system, about the science and the culture of the caribou. I understand we do this, in part, in the Yukon. Education makes some efforts in this regard. I think we also need to reach the Canadian, North American children on this issue.
The Minister of Environment said, Whatís next? Santaís reindeer? Well, Mr. Speaker, zoologically reindeer and caribou are the same species. And itís an important fact in discussing the species with our children, but I donít know how many Canadians recognize facts such as that the caribou are terrific swimmers and have the ability to move across cold, rushing rivers. We know that, we live here and we understand that. Does everyone understand the power of the animals that can travel up to 80 kilometres per hour, that within hours of their birth these tiny caribou calves can stand and within days have the ability to outrun humans?
Facts like that are interesting, not just to children but to adults as well. The more that North Americans understand about the species of caribou, when Gwichin people explain what the caribou mean to the people of Old Crow and also of Alaska and the Northwest Territories, then maybe that message becomes that much easier and that much more readily understood.
I note that children are always interested in different facts. They also travel far and wide in their imaginations, and these days, on the Internet. And I note that the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, as part of what they call their reindeer research program, hosts presentations and tours for elementary school children. Just a suggestion ó why arenít we doing the same in educating North Americans about the Porcupine caribou herd and about the importance of the 1002 lands, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? We should do the same and more. We should pursue these efforts.
In my time away from the Legislature, I happened to come across something of interest that I would like to share with members. Itís of relevance to the debate. The Museums of Canada put out a catalogue, and among their selections for gift giving is something called "Nunavuk caribou pâté." Iím not sure where itís made, though I would suspect the eastern Arctic. Iím not suggesting, by my comments, any commercialization or such of the Porcupine caribou herd. Iím not suggesting that. Iím just noting the interest that perhaps a portion of this consumer good could be used in support of the Gwichinís efforts in lobbying in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.
In closing, I would like to again say that I support the amendment to the motion. I believe that the financial assistance to the Vuntut Gwitchin to help defray the costs of international lobbying efforts has been offered by other governments in the past. There has also been substantial assistance to the Porcupine Caribou Management Board, which has a different role, although they are also supported.
I believe that both the governments of the Northwest Territories and Alaska should be assisting the Gwichin in their efforts to lobby on this internationally.
Designating a senior government affairs officer is good government. We have an individual in the Canadian Embassy in Washington who monitors this situation very closely. There is no reason why Yukon should also not be monitoring developments in this respect. In fact, there are a number of developments in Washington that we should be lobbying on, Mr. Speaker. We should make a significant lobbying trip to Washington.
Including the statement that the Government of Yukon, indeed the Yukon Legislative Assembly as a whole, opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and ensuring such statement is also on our Web site isnít a huge financial cost. There is no reason for it not to be done. Itís a matter of statement of fact.
As far as the intergovernmental accords, I would be delighted to see the Northwest Territories come to the table in support of these efforts. The Government of Alberta has been very supportive of a number of Yukon initiatives, as have the Alaskans. The Alaska State Governors have had a very clear understanding of the Yukonís position, and I see no reason for that to change. I would hope that our current Premier reinforces the message when next he meets with Governor Murkowski.
In short, I support the motion. I encourage the people of Old Crow and the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to continue their efforts, to continue their public education. I encourage them to reach children on this issue ó all North American children ó and to continue to speak with the eloquence with which they have explained the importance ó indeed, the heartbeat and the culture and how important the Porcupine caribou herd is to the Gwichin of North America.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: It gives me great pleasure to rise and speak to the amendment to this motion. Itís quite something to listen to my colleague from Vuntut Gwitchin speak so eloquently about where she lives and about the importance of the Porcupine caribou herd to her community and to the whole Gwichin Nation.
I guess Iíd like to go back a little bit to why weíre here debating this. What is the need for this oil that the Americans want to take from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the 1002 lands? Well, itís because of short-sightedness by a lot of people, I think. Itís because effective conservation efforts arenít being made in other jurisdictions.
Oil exploration and oil development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, plain and simple, is a bad idea. Itís going to destroy the wilderness and the calving grounds forever. Itís something you canít take back.
Over the weekend, I was looking at some slides on the Internet, doing some research, and saw some of the damage that has been done in the Prudhoe Bay area, where oil and gas development has taken place for a number of years.
The fact is that there is a lot of environmental damage. There are waste dumps. There are huge gravel quarries ó gravel mines they call them; they donít even call them quarries. There are quarries up on the South Access here. These are mines the size of what you would imagine a mine like when you go to Viceroy or Anvil Range ó huge gravel mines that have a huge impact on the environment and the landscape.
There is also a lot of air pollution, oil spills, toxic waste that affects the environment. Now, do we want to see that happen in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? Shouldnít we be lobbying effectively like it says in the motion and making a statement as a government? Shouldnít the Premier, when he goes to the Grey Cup, talk to Mr. Martin, the future Prime Minister of Canada, and tell him how important it is that we preserve the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and tell him that the Government of Yukon and unanimously this House is opposed to development and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge? I think that that is very important.
There are a lot of things the Premier and the Member for Porter Creek North, the Minister of the Environment, and the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources could lobby and get the message out about how important it is to save the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and prevent this development from happening.
Providing financial assistance to members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray their costs ó I donít see why the government canít do that. I think it would be a worthwhile investment, you might say, in helping them to get their message out and preserving the Porcupine caribou herd and the calving grounds. There was a comment made that drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would be something akin to drilling on the maternity ward at Whitehorse General Hospital, or rebuilding an engine over in the maternity ward where babies are being delivered. This is a very important and vital piece of the life and heritage of the Gwichin Nation, and we need to preserve that.
I donít think itís too much to ask the Premier or the ministers of this government or, for that matter, members on this side of the House, even, to spend time and ensure they represent the views of Yukoners on this important issue. So I donít see why the Member for Porter Creek North would oppose this.
Adding a message on relevant documents ó this isnít something that would be attached to the Minister of Environmentís letterhead necessarily, but on relevant documents, publications about oil and gas development, about caribou habitat preservation and on the Web site. I think itís not a huge expense to the government to do this.
Ensuring that all intergovernmental accords related to economic development between various governments ó and they are listed ó isnít, I donít think, a huge thing to ask, Mr. Speaker. Itís very important. The Premier sits down with these people and he seems to like to tout all of the accords that he has come to ó the agreements, the good discussions that he has had. Maybe when Iím done here he can get up and he can tell us this: how many times has he raised this issue in his meetings with the Government of the Northwest Territories, with the Premier of the Northwest Territories or with the Governor of Alaska or Premier Klein in Alberta or the Premier of British Columbia? When he goes to the Grey Cup, he will have lots of opportunity to talk to all of the premiers ó because my understanding is that they are all going to the Grey Cup. We are not sure whether "Air Irving" is taking him or how he is getting there. That would be another question, I suppose, that he could throw in the answer, too, if he gets up and speaks to this ó who is paying for the trip?
Speaker: Order please. The member is speaking to the amendment.
Mr. Cardiff: I know.
Speaker: Please carry on.
Mr. Cardiff: So, when the Premier goes to the football game, if he could raise the issue and express our support for this motion and the amendment to the motion, which basically says the Government of Yukon, this Legislature, the people of the Yukon, donít support oil and gas development within the calving grounds of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I think there are actually a lot of other messages that we do need to get out, and one would be more suitable for the Minister of Environment to get out, and that is energy conservation and how that would do away with the necessity to develop the oil and gas under the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Just recently, it came to my attention that the American ó and if you can get this message out there about how wrong-headed this is ó Congress this year decided to allow small business owners, doctors, lawyers, real estate developers, to deduct up to $100,000 from their taxable income for business purchases, including SUVs. So you can go out and buy an SUV and get a $100,000 tax deduction. You might have to buy more than one but, at the same time, thatís what theyíre doing. This is what Washington is doing.
On the other hand, why not promote conservation by reducing fuel consumption in vehicles, light trucks and SUVs. You wouldnít even need to develop oil and gas. So thatís an important message, and I think the Minister of Environment could probably carry that message.
Seeing as how he likes NDP messages so much, federally, the NDP does have a plan to promote energy conservation and industrial development in this area.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Cardiff: Well, the Member for Klondike just said, "Shut everything down." Well, itís about saving the environment, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating jobs ó something ó
Some Hon. Members: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Order please. I would ask all members to quit the chatter from each side of the floor, please, and would remind the member speaking, once again, that you are speaking to the amendment. Please carry on.
Mr. Cardiff: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Iím just trying to give the members opposite some messages they could take out there. As I said, the Member for Porter Creek North, the Minister of Environment, seems to like to talk about NDP initiatives, and here I am offering one that actually helps to save the environment, promotes fuel efficiency in vehicles, and it creates jobs in the auto sector. Itís about building alternative-fuel vehicles. Itís about promoting ó
Speaker: I would urge the member to stick to the amendment as laid out, please. Thank you.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, Mr. Speaker, Iíll send it over to the Minister of Environment, and maybe the Member for Klondike, seeing as he had so many comments about it.
Mr. Speaker, I think adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a minor cost. I think itís something this government could do.
What this is about, Mr. Speaker, is about walking the talk. Weíve heard the Minister of Environment talk about all the good things they are doing and all of the good things that have been done in the past, but they donít seem to want to do any more. They want to rest on their laurels and get by with a Mother Earth-and-apple pie statement about what they believe in. But they donít want to attach any actions, anything that would maybe cause them a lot of work. I donít see anything here that would cause them a lot of ó it wouldnít take a lot to do any of these things.
By speaking against this amendment, I would assume that they donít support international lobbying efforts and they donít want to speak at oil and gas conferences about what Yukoners feel about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and itís sad that the Premier and the ministers of this government donít want to go on record in Calgary or in Ottawa or in Regina, for that matter, and say how we feel here in the Yukon about oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
So, I am speaking obviously in favour of the amendment to the motion. I hope that the members on the other side will reconsider their stand on this amendment, and I hope that more of them will get up and speak to this as well.
Mr. McRobb: Well, I am pleased to speak in favour of this amendment today because what this amendment does is finally bring substance to the Yukon governmentís position on protecting the ANWR lands.
Up until this point, the public has heard rhetoric from governments about what they are doing to protect ANWR and the caribou and everything else that goes with it, but the public has not had in its possession much evidence to support the fact that that goal was being achieved.
So what the New Democratic caucus has done today by preparing this amendment is to bring some substance and performance measures, if you will, Mr. Speaker, into this whole issue as it is handled by this Yukon government and any successive Yukon government, for that matter.
A quick visit to any Web site of the government will produce very little in the way of results on what this government has said to protect ANWR.
Instead, the public has to rely on accounts from the government side as to what actually happened at any meetings with other governments, or any conventions or conferences, et cetera.
Thatís not right, Mr. Speaker, because the Yukon public deserves more than a smokescreen-and-mirrors display with respect to this issue. The public deserves to know exactly what this government is saying. If this government truly wants to be accountable and transparent, and act in the public interest, then it has no real motive to hide the number of action items included within this amendment.
These action items do not carry a heavy price tag. Instead, these action items are simply undertakings aimed at making the governmentís actions more transparent to the public.
Letís take a look at that. Amendment (a) "providing financial assistance to members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts." Mr. Speaker, this is something that has been done by previous governments. Itís something our first speaker on this motion related to that was subsequently misinterpreted by the Minister of Environment. I listened carefully to what she said, and her comments about previous funding were not exclusive to one government.
So I think the minister was a little oversensitive. Perhaps he should focus on what his government is actually doing in this regard, instead of trying to find fault with other governments, as many of the ministers do in this House all too frequently.
There is a cost attached to this but it is nothing out of the ordinary. Previous governments have allocated funds in the neighbourhood of $100,000 toward lobbying efforts, and I would think that something in that order would be a reasonable cost to be allocated on an annual basis, in order to ensure that lobby efforts continue and are prepared in advance and are able to react to any sudden manoeuvre that may threaten the protection of the ANWR lands.
We have seen this numerous times in the past year. I am referring to when the United States Congress, in particular, in bills that it is dealing with, has an inclusion of ANWR drilling and so on. A lot of the debate is focused on whether ANWR is included in energy bills or other bills. We have heard statements coming out of the United States to the effect that ANWR is not part of the energy bill. I remember that announcement on a Monday a couple of months ago. Then, on Tuesday, suddenly it was in the bill after all. I believe by the next day we saw lobby efforts in Washington to protect ANWR.
So, this entire lobby to protect ANWR must be prepared and ready to go at virtually any time of the year and at short notice. And that costs money. Is it fair to place that whole burden on the First Nation from northern Yukon, which happens to be probably the smallest in number of any First Nation in the territory? Is it fair to place that financial burden on the Vuntut Gwitchin without offering some financial assistance on behalf of the Yukon government, which includes Yukon taxpayers and federal taxpayers from across the country? As we all know, most of our annual budget is courtesy of the federal government.
I think itís fair to say that if there were a poll of Canadians with respect to the protection of ANWR, there would be a very favourable reply, in terms of numbers, for the protection of the ANWR lands. That is an important point. Since the Yukon government receives most of its funding from the federal government, is it not right that, in its actions, the Yukon government should also represent this national interest, which happens to support our territorial interest? Well, I would think it does. I see some members nodding their heads. I would agree. It does make sense.
Part (a) is reasonable and it provides funding where itís needed and, after all, who knows best but the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation ó whose very existence is owed to the topic before us today.
In addition, the Vuntut Gwitchin have the experience and local traditional knowledge to best represent these interests. Furthermore, the Vuntut Gwitchin carry the most impact when it comes to lobbying American politicians or anyone else for that matter, because they speak from the heart on this matter, and nobody should deny that.
Part (b) designates a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter. This is an important designation. As we all know, monitoring this matter is pretty well a full-time responsibility, especially with all the curve balls thrown our way by politicians from other countries who are trying to open up the 1002 lands and ANWR to development.
Weíre also talking about big oil here and, when we talk big oil, weíre talking bottomless pits when it comes to funds for lobby efforts.
So we have to designate whatever resources we can to fight our battles. Having someone in the department designated to this cause is a great idea. It could very well be someone who is already under the employ of the Yukon government in that department, who simply takes on this task and becomes known as the point person for the ANWR issue.
It would be delightful if we in this Legislature could call one person we all know who is a point person and find out the latest in terms of ANWR development. It would also be great if members of the Vuntut Gwitchin could do the same. That is the point of (b). I also see members nodding in favour of that, and reasonably so. This is a good amendment to the motion.
That brings me to (c), which ensures that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. Well, this part also makes sense. We are talking about having on these lobby trips either the Premier or a minister representing this matter before the jurisdictions previously named.
Protection of ANWR and opening it up for development are political matters at the highest level.
And it is the elected representatives of Cabinet who must attend any such encounters with other governments, and they are who can best represent Yukoners on these matters in a political forum.
So, this is a reasonable part to the amendment. What it does is prevent any government from sending someone other than the minister or Premier to represent the government on this matter when dealing with other governments, such as in Washington, Ottawa or Alaska. Thatís not to preclude any discussions taking place at a departmental level. Weíre talking about lobbying trips, representing the Yukon government at the Cabinet level.
Part (d) ensures that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in ANWR. This is the one I particularly like and I referred to it in my opening comments before getting into detail. As it stands, Yukoners do not know what governments are saying on this matter in speeches, at various functions or to other governments, or to whomever. We need a transparent process. This particular clause ensures that all speeches will contain a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in ANWR.
So, Mr. Speaker, itís a good aspect, itís a good action item to include in this motion. It costs nothing and itís doable.
So, we have so far four items out of six that are all reasonable. Again, I see members even across the floor nodding their heads.
The fifth item is adding a message opposing drilling in ANWR to all relevant documents, publications, displays and Web sites of two government departments ó the Environment and Energy, Mines and Resources. This is similar to the preceding clause in that it adds an element of transparency and accountability to the message from the government. The cost of this is negligible, yet it achieves what could be great results.
Finally, clause (f), in the sixth of six clauses, ensures that all intergovernmental accords related to economic development between the Yukon and its neighbours and Canada and the United States include a clear reference to our opposition to oil and gas development in ANWR. Well, this brings some life to those rather lacklustre accords that this government has signed during the past year. Again, it brings some transparency. It brings productivity because it will turn these meaningless accords into something that actually does something. Now, wouldnít that be a change, Mr. Speaker?
So, whatís the cost of this? Well, I donít evidently see any costs to this particular clause. It is simply something that the Premier and his colleagues could do when developing any further accords. Itís also something they could do to try to beef up the existing accords, which really do very little.
For your information, the existing accords have very general language, such as "these governments will work together to achieve common goals." At best they might identify some common goals but, again, those goals are very general. The question should ó
Deputy Speaker: The member has two minutes.
Mr. McRobb: The question should be asked: why donít those accords contain reference to ANWR if, in fact, itís that important to this government? Well, I think today the light is shining through and the answer is there for all to see.
The Environment minister indicated he would not be voting in support of this amendment. I think we can connect the dots here. This government talks the talk but it doesnít walk the talk with respect to ANWR. ANWR, to it, is a façade. It wants to appear as if it supports ANWR but, in the back room and in the oil lobbies and conferences it attends, it probably does anything but. Thatís why it fears being held accountable and being held transparent to the Yukon public, because it would expose the true agenda of this government, which is to develop ANWR, and thatís why it doesnít mention it and thatís why it will be voting against this amendment. And for that I say, shame.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question on the amendment?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I have been listening with great interest to this debate, and I can tell you that itís clear that the official opposition is doing something here to avoid being accountable by voting in this House on a motion that clearly outlines what position this government takes and is taking at the request of another government, the Vuntut Gwitchin government. Let me expand on that.
It was quite some time ago when the Vuntut Gwitchin government requested of our government that they be the lead on issues about ANWR and the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. We agreed. Not only that, we also work closely with the Northwest Territories government to ensure that we are committed, when requested by the Gwichin people, to assist in their efforts. But they are adamant: this is something that we are responsible for. This is something that, as a government, we want to take the lead in. And we agreed.
This amendment is, quite frankly, an attempt to not have to vote on this motion because the members opposite have no desire to be cooperative in any way, shape or form. And I want to point some more things out. Iíve heard all kinds of wonderful things about accords. I say to the official opposition: where were these elements of this amendment in their accords with other governments, whether they be with B.C., Alaska or the N.W.T.? What we are doing in establishing relationships with other governments is not a new thing. Past governments have done the same. Nowhere were these amendments to this motion reflected in that governmentís accords when in power. So, there is a problem here. There is a major problem here.
I want to talk about the Member for Kluane and his colleague making the point about fossil fuel consumption in this territory, and I say this because it has to be said.
The Member for Kluane opposed any further reduction of levels in Aishihik Lake under the water licence, forcing the Yukon government to burn vast amounts of diesel in this territory to produce electricity. Thatís a fact. That took place and it cost the Yukon millions of dollars. That member would not support the use of hydro, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Order please. I would urge the Premier to speak to the amendment, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I am speaking to the amendment, Mr. Speaker, and will continue to do so. I just really want to reflect on some of the points made to ensure that the record has a contrast of factual information, because that side of the House has made some serious insinuations of what this motion is all about. Those insinuations are incorrect, and we must put on the record the factual information.
When you look at the amendment itself, it is very clear that we, the government, are already doing a number of the things that this amendment requests. Therefore, why not just simply support a motion that clearly outlines the position of this government ó the same position, I might add, that other governments have taken in the past.
However, on the last particular portion of the amendment, I think that we all understand that we canít dictate to other governments. We donít dictate positions of other governments; we work with other governments. Our position is clear with Alaska. Our position is clear with the Northwest Territories. It has been clear all along.
Recently in Calgary at the Resource Expo, I clearly articulated to the industry and to the public that the Yukon governmentís position is that there be full protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
That was said clearly on the record, Mr. Speaker. Nothing else is involved here other than our position on the protection of this herd in working with the government of the Vuntut Gwitchin people, as they requested. And we will continue to work with them on this very important issue.
In listening to this debate, I am also somewhat concerned that the members opposite have not stated what the Vuntut Gwitchin people, along with others, have accomplished over this long arduous process. They have kept at bay one of the biggest, most powerful industries on the planet. One little community, one little First Nation, has accomplished this. There is a tremendous accomplishment in this territory and from that community as it relates to the Porcupine caribou herd and the sensitive habitat that is necessary for protection.
Past governments in the Yukon have clearly presented that position for all, as this government has ó nothing has changed. Our motion need not be amended; the motion should have been simply voted on in support. When requested by the Vuntut Gwitchin people, we will assist, as we have clearly committed to do, and so will the N.W.T. There is no need to play this political game.
There is a clear need to hear from the members opposite what their real position is, given all the debate that they have injected into this one simple position that government takes. This government, through this motion, has merely requested that we get unanimous support from this House on the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, in working with the Vuntut Gwitchin people and its government, and that we support their efforts ó their efforts, Mr. Speaker. They are the lead, by their very own request.
I think thatís where it should be left. Itís not up to us to dictate how they want to do this. Itís not up to us to dictate when they should do something about this. Itís not up to us to dictate whom they should associate and work with on this issue. Itís up to us to provide support to another government. Thatís what this motion speaks to and thatís what this government is committed to do.
With the amendment brought forward ó though I would suspect great merit is coming from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin ó there is obviously a political bent here, to play games on the floor of this Legislature with an issue so important to the people not only of Old Crow, but to the Vuntut Gwitchin people and the Gwichin people in general.
There was no need for this stuff. Letís read the record. Letís look at Hansard tomorrow and go over what was said, coming from that side of the House, with regard to this motion. Letís have the members opposite clearly state to the public the necessity for the amendment. Outside of the rhetoric, there was no statement of fact that this was required. There was absolutely nothing in that regard. There was no reflection on the fact that this motion mirrors what the Vuntut Gwitchin people and their government have requested we do. There was no reflection on the fact that past governments have done the exact same thing and our position is remaining consistent. There is no reflection on the fact that this issue is a broad issue on the international stage. What is Canadaís position? I think thatís a question that could have been debated in this House. What is Canadaís position?
In Calgary, for example, we clearly stated that this territory would never support an over-the-top route, further compromising ANWR and the Porcupine caribou herd. I didnít hear the members opposite talk about that.
We are taking on Canada. We, as Canadians and First Nation peoples, are making our position clear. The members opposite, on the other hand, have muddied the waters with political rhetoric and needless political debate. I challenge the members opposite to explain ó if there are any speakers left ó what it is about this motion that is unacceptable to support. And what is it about this motion that requires not only redundancy ó because the first five issues they brought forward are being done today ó but how do they expect to dictate to other governments what other governmentsí positions should be? Thatís not called good governance. That is called a very imprudent course to take.
Our job is to work with other governments to show them the merits of supporting the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. Our position was clear with the State of Alaska, for example, in stating to the governor some weeks ago that we have no intention to change our position on ANWR. We were clear. Weíve been clear all along. All weíve done with this motion is to provide clarity from this House. The members opposite chose to play politics. Thatís an unfortunate thing.
Now, letís go through and, point by point, dispel some of the stuff that the members opposite have brought forward. The first portion of their amendment says "providing financial assistance to the members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts." Iím somewhat dismayed that the members opposite would connect a few dollars of assistance to how critical this issue is to the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
We have committed, along with the N.W.T., to provide support when requested. Thereís no secret here. Thereís no confusion here between us and the government of the Vuntut Gwitchin.
Why would this amendment be there if that commitment has already been made by both governments ó Yukon and Northwest Territories?
The next one goes on to say "designating the senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter, as requested". Well, Mr. Speaker, we have, based on the request of the Vuntut Gwitchin, stepped back and allowed them to be the lead government on this. And when they request assistance from us, weíve informed them clearly that we will be there.
The third item ó "ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. on this matter". If we are asked by another order of government ó I repeat "if we are asked to send representatives" ó we will. When weíre not asked, out of due respect for another order of government, Mr. Speaker, we do not. This is their issue to be dealt with as they see fit with our assistance. Thatís all we are doing; thatís what our motion speaks to. What this, the first three portions of the amendment, speaks to is something that is contradictory to what weíve been asked to do by another order of government.
The next item ó "ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Well, recently we did just that. Standing in Calgary in front of the industry at Resource Expo, the statement was made very clearly. There was a member from the Vuntut Gwitchin in the audience who can clearly substantiate what is being put on the floor of this Legislature today.
Again, why is this amendment here when these things are already happening?
Why not, as I pointed out earlier ó as the leader of the official opposition is asking ó is because it is meant to play politics. It is meant to remove their responsibility to vote on a motion that reflects the desires of the Vuntut Gwitchin people.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Point of order
Speaker:Order please. Member for Kluane, on a point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Part 19(g) of the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly clearly says that a member shall ó not "may", but "shall" ó be called to order by the Speaker if that member imputes false or unavowed motives to another member.
We have heard the Premier accuse this side of introducing this amendment purely for political reasons; therefore, I would suggest the evidence is clear and a point of order is indeed in order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no point of order point of order here pursuant to Standing Order 19(g). There is just an interpretation by the Member for Kluane, which is very inappropriate and is disrupting debate in this Legislature.
Further, Mr. Speaker, on the point of order, the Member for Kluane is violating the Standing Orders of this Legislature by displaying a prop here in this Legislature.
Speaker:On the point of order, there is no point of order. The Chair has allowed latitude from each side during this debate. I would ask and urge that each side of this House respect each other during this debate.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I know the members opposite are sensitive and I would make the point that they have, on many occasions during this debate, reflected on the fact that we on this side of the House do not really support the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. I find that a little bit ironic that they would stand up and make the point that the Member for Kluane just did when we make representation on why they are doing what they are doing with this amendment.
Anyway, let me continue.
Part (e) ó "adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications and displays, including the Web sites of both the Department of Environment and the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources".
Well, first of all, ANWR ó any proposed drilling ó is not in the Yukon, nor in Canada. It happens to be in the United States, and specifically in the State of Alaska. Our position has been made clear, time and time again, for years and years. Now, there have been a number of governments before this government, including New Democratic governments, which never did any of these things. Why is it then suddenly an issue for the official opposition when they had before them a motion that we could have taken, through unanimous support in this House, and sent to Washington, Juneau, Ottawa and to industry clearly outlining what the position of the Yukon Territory and its governments are. We are doing this, Mr. Speaker, not in spite of the Vuntut Gwitchin people, but at their behest. They want to be the lead, and I canít stress that enough.
We, as a government ó another order of government ó should not be interfering in what they are trying to do, but we should be helpful, and thatís exactly what weíre doing. We as a government have made the commitment. We as a government have articulated a position. We as a government await requests. We are there to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin people in their efforts to protect the Porcupine caribou herd.
The last one is an impossibility because we cannot dictate to other governments. The same case we are making on this side of the House ó in dictating to the order of government of the Vuntut Gwitchin. Nor could we dictate to Alaska, or British Columbia, to the Northwest Territories, to Alberta or to Washington. But through a motion we have put on the floor, we could certainly have sent a clear message to our federal government and to other governments what we can do in this territory and what our position is ó not to create acrimonious debate between other jurisdictions because we are attempting to tread on their jurisdiction, but by showing other jurisdictions what our position is in a very clear and responsive way.
So itís not a question that we, through not supporting this amendment, do not support the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Government House leader, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, the Member for Kluane continually displays props in the Legislature. This is contrary to the Standing Orders.
Speaker:There is no point of order; however, I do see the messages popping up, and Iíd ask the Member for Kluane not to do that.
Carry on, please.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I want to close by stating that this amendment was needless. A unanimous vote in this House on a motion that is very important to this issue was probably the best route to take. Unfortunately the members opposite chose to play politics.
I say that in a way that I know can be substantiated by simply reviewing Hansard tomorrow. What I am speaking to will be reflected throughout the pages of Hansard, and those members across the floor are diminishing the importance of the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd by playing political games. Itís unfortunate.
We as a government are continuing to support the Vuntut Gwitchin and its government. At their request, we are following their direction. We are awaiting requests from them on how we can assist. In the meantime, we have voiced, time and time again, in venue after venue, our position on this issue, and our support for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I would like to speak to the amendment brought forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin and also respond to some of the comments that relate to the amendments that were made by the Premier.
First of all, the amendments that were brought forward are clear and bring strong direction to government. And itís time that the Yukon Party, if they say that they are truly in support of this, can and should support these amendments. If they do say part of it, for example, is what they are already doing, then they shouldnít have a problem in supporting the amendment.
As a matter of fact, Iíve heard the Premier say about their own motion, before it was amended, that it was all about the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd, which, if you look at the motion, talks about the drilling and preventing drilling and exploration work in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which of course is protection of the Porcupine caribou herd ó but two different things. And this Premier refuses to go there. That Premier cannot see the difference between protection of the Porcupine caribou herd and the drilling that could take place in ANWR, should the U.S. government allow it to.
I am actually a bit shocked about where the Yukon Party is going with this. The Environment minister has made very little comment to this motion and to basically what the motion really means. He went off in some other direction about disease and animals and so on. And the Premier couldnít get off the fact that these are strong amendments and they give good direction, and now he calls it a political game.
Iím ashamed, actually, of that and his comments. I am sure that the people in Old Crow will feel the same way, because this government ó that Yukon Party government ó is running away from its responsibility of giving good, strong direction where it should.
I say this because this is simply an amendment that can be agreed to by the Yukon Party.
Now, who is playing the political game here? The members opposite donít even want to speak to the amendments. Only two people got up and have enough courage to speak to the amendment. The rest of them donít want to because they donít want to be heard. We want to hear from the Member for Lake Laberge on this matter. I hope that he builds up the courage to actually speak to the amendments, because I am sure they would be colourful comments in regard to this.
The Premier asked why the amendment was made, if this is something they are already doing. Well, why did the motion come to the floor of this Legislature if that government felt that thatís what they were already doing? Well, Iíll tell you why ó maybe why, I guess. It was brought forward on the floor of this Legislature by a backbencher who is urging the government to do something, to voice itself finally.
The Premier said that he voices himself every time he has a chance, when it comes to oil and gas development in speeches in Calgary and so on. Well, we donít think so. As a matter of fact, we have heard back from people down there that not once was the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge mentioned in his speeches. Why is that? What is the agenda of the Yukon Party if they cannot muster up the energy to even mention those words at an important and critical time when lobbying efforts are taking place in Alberta?
Why is that? Maybe itís because of the position theyíre taking. I believe that the Yukon Party thought this was a motion they could bring to the floor of the Legislature. It is no different from a motion that was brought to the floor during the last governmentís mandate or the government before it ó very similar. Itís one they could bring to the floor of the Legislature ó "Letís pass it. Everybody is unanimous on this, and itís a feel-good thing. Itís number seven." The government House leader would say itís number seven, and they would pat themselves on the back.
Okay, they bring forward a motion to the floor of this Legislature. We on this side of the House would like to give some meat to it and really ask this government to do a little bit more ó urge this House to do a little bit more than what has been brought here. Thatís why the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has brought forward these amendments. Theyíre clear.
Some of the members opposite who have spoken donít agree with the amendments, but I donít believe all of them take that position. As a matter of fact, it would probably be a split vote on that side of the House. I can see it now.
What was mentioned about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in the speeches at the Cordilleran Roundup ó anything? Maybe in the notes prepared, but certainly nothing was said, other than the positions put forward by the Yukon Party. And weíre seeing it clearly now, when we see the Taxpayer Protection Act come out. We clearly see where this Yukon Party is going, and it isnít clear that they would like ó
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have got to lift my speaking notes and see.
Mr. Speaker, itís clear the positions they are taking are ones that are really not clear, and theyíre not really pushing forward hard enough ó we think ó when it comes to things like lobbying efforts and so on, and thatís why the amendments were put forward.
In January, they met at the Cordilleran Roundup. Itís a really good, feel good type of ó some people say ó a party for talking about mining and so on. There was no mention of the Porcupine caribou herd in those speeches by the Premier. There was no mention of wildlife, as a matter of fact, or habitat or wilderness protection. Whatís up with that? Never mind even mentioning the Porcupine caribou herd.
There was no mention of the high tourism values that are associated with Yukon wildlife and Yukon lands ó none. There was no mention of sustainable development in those meetings. There was no mention at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon.
It becomes clear after awhile, when you donít hear this from the Premier, that they do have an agenda of their own. Itíll come out; weíre working at it; weíre bringing it out, Mr. Speaker.
What about the Meet the North Conference? Was there any mention there? I donít think the backbenchers have researched that in order to say, "Yes, there was," or the Minister of Environment, when he spoke on the amendments to this motion. What about the Far North Oil and Gas Forum? These are opportunities the Premier could have taken to promote this.
Then they bring a motion to the floor of this Legislature, saying that this is the position, or the one the Premier just mentioned, the Resource Expo. He said this was mentioned there.
It was left out of the reply speeches to the throne speech from the members opposite. They donít go to great length in talking about the Porcupine caribou herd. I believe that the Yukon Party wanted to bring this motion forward. It is a line item in their election platform, to continue support of initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin, to ensure the integrity and protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. It just naturally lies with them to bring this motion forward. Again, itís no different than previous motions that have been brought to the floor of this Legislature. Other than that, there wasnít a whole lot that was said.
We wonder where sometimes the Environment minister is going when it comes to protection of wildlife in this territory. We have heard the Minister of Environmentís speech in reply to the throne speech. It would appear that the Minister of Environment was really the Minister of Economic Development and wanted to take that approach when it came to protection of the environment. As a matter of fact, this is what he said: "When we look at projects like ANWR and drilling and such, as we mentioned earlier in the House today, we do have a problem with that."
That was it; they do have a problem with it. What is it? That they are not drilling quick enough in the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd? That they would like to see the pipeline in as soon as possible to see American gas flow down the pipeline?
In the budget speeches, where did the Yukon Party go when talking about wildlife and the protection of wildlife? All they talked about were a couple of things. One was expanding the wildlife viewing opportunities for Yukoners. Well, thatís a line item that has been in the budget for quite some time now. Nothing new.
As a matter of fact, when it comes to new initiatives, one that stands out that the Yukon Party is doing is the amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act, about which their own former leader disagrees with the present leader of the Yukon Party.
When it comes to the Porcupine caribou herd there is no recognition of international boundaries, and the position of the Vuntut Gwitchin certainly hasnít been stated by the Premier. To say that, because an intergovernmental accord was signed by the Northwest Territories, monies are flowing, I think is a bit of a mistake on the part of the Premier. In the past, monies from Yukon government went directly to members in their lobbying efforts for the Porcupine caribou herd down in Washington. I would say it wasnít a huge amount of money, but it was money well spent.
If there is an amendment to a motion that includes that, why not? I mean, why deviate from that and say we do commit to that?
Well, we know about the commitments of the Yukon Party. They are going to turn the economy around immediately. It didnít happen. The unemployment rate was supposed to drop. Well, it rose.
There are items, one after another, that we can probably go through and point out to the members opposite that the commitments that were made verbally by the Yukon Party and through their election campaign are just not being reached.
Many of the things that the Yukon government does on a yearly basis are what are being brought out. We have seen the backbenchers on the Yukon government side put motions on the floor of this Legislature that are basically reflected in the budgets or supplementary budgets.
I am glad that the member opposite had the courage to bring this motion to the floor because it gave us on the opposition side an opportunity to look at it, make improvements to it and present it to the House. We were a bit shocked, though, that the Yukon Party government would take such a strong line in opposing this ó opposing the simple things that are in amendments, like the financial assistance. Make it clear. Make it part of the motion. Itís clear in there.
The approach that the Premier said the previous NDP government took was not what he wanted to do, even though he was part of government at the time. Now in government, he doesnít take that same approach, the same lines. If he did, he would vote for the amendment. Itís as simple as that.
Now, I can go through each point that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin raises, and I may if time permits. But I do want to say a couple things about the Vuntut Gwitchin, the people and its members, and about the caribou herd.
The First Nation negotiated a park in their final agreement. It was about protection and, of course, what did they have in mind? It was the Porcupine caribou herd. And the park borders up against the Alaska border and, of course, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. That was one thing they did that was important to them.
The other that was left for negotiation and development was Fishing Branch. Well, they are the only protected areas that were worked on under YPAS. While the Yukon Party is attributing that to a downturn in the economy and all that, theyíre now going to turn it around by making amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act and the privatization of pretty well everything, including our health care. Thatís their answer.
People in Old Crow depend on this herd. They ask us every chance they get ó if weíre travelling to Alaska, to speak on their behalf, to say something about it, to e-mail and write letters on their behalf ó and we do. We have done so in the past. As a matter of fact, our own MLA was down lobbying hard with the Porcupine Caribou Management Board members and other members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation when 9/11 happened. She was there, in Washington. It was a very emotional time, even for us, knowing that we had an MLA who was down there, and things were not looking right.
Despite it all, it has not stopped the Vuntut Gwitchin from lobbying Washington to ensure that their voice is heard and to ensure that particularly the calving grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd not be disturbed, but be left alone.
Now, because time is so short, Mr. Speaker ó there is so much to go on. I wanted to talk about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the 1002, and the winter grounds of the Porcupine caribou herd. I am hoping that maybe another motion can come forward and we can debate that a bit more ó exactly where the Yukon Partyís position is when it comes to the winter range of the Porcupine caribou herd.
I realize that I am running out of time, and I am urging the members opposite to look carefully at these amendments and not follow the lead voter on this, and to use their own conscience when they vote on these amendments, because they are good ones and they know it, and they should be voting for it. I urge them to do that.
Hon. Mr. Lang: In talking to the amendment to this very important motion, I find it amazing that we would go through these points and we would go over and over this thing and forget about the Gwichin and forget about their responsibilities and also the communities that are involved.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Lang: Certainly, there is one in the House representing Old Crow. We are talking about Arctic Village, we are talking about Fort Yukon. We talk about Old Crow. We talk about Fort McPherson. We talk about Tsiigehtchic and we talk about Aklavik. There are six communities that are involved with this very, very important issue.
For us to be all-consuming ó in other words, the track record of the Gwichin speaks for itself. They have been quite capable of representing their communities, whether itís Arctic Red River, Tsiigehtchic, or Aklavik. All of those communities have very, very astute people who are very concerned about the caribou herd.
We, as the Yukon Territory, are involved, but certainly not at the level of those six communities. When you look at the geography of our situation, Mr. Speaker, weíre looking at Alaska, Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Weíre looking at the communities, and weíre looking at the job theyíve done in the past and, hopefully, the job theyíll do in the future.
The job they do in Washington, D.C., as a unit, is very important. Itís very important that they do it. Itís not seen to be driven by the Alaskan government, the Yukon government or the N.W.T. government ó itís driven by the Gwichin, and the Gwichin are six communities in northern Canada. They have done an exceptional job of representing their communities and their governments.
We, in turn ó as the Premier said ó support that. We support it by communicating with the Northwest Territories, working with the Northwest Territories government on issues pertaining to three of the communities in the Northwest Territories, one in the Yukon and two in Alaska. Itís very important that we as a Yukon government, and the Northwest Territories government and the Alaskan government ó in a smaller way ó have our voices heard and give the support that is due the First Nation.
For us to be seen as a government taking over the issue would be unfair to the Gwichin. The Gwichin have made a move ó as the member opposite said ó over 20 years. If you talk to Chief Peter Ross in Tsiigehtchic, heís as interested in the issue as the chief from Arctic Village, or Chief Wilson in Fort McPherson; they have a common interest. If you talk to Mr. Carmichael, he has very positive issues regarding the caribou herd and the situation thatís in northern Yukon.
For us to be seen in this House, all-consuming as we are in every walk of life in the Yukonís daily life ó for us to be seen to be taking over this project at this time, which is being led very well by the Gwichin, would be folly.
Now as far as supporting it, certainly we support it. We support it in different ways as a government. We support it by (a) capital budgets. We support it by looking at Old Crow and saying, "What can we do in the community to relieve you of some of those responsibilities while understanding that you do these other things?"
So we put a capital budget together of $500,000. The member opposite voted against that capital budget. Again, in this budget I see a $200,000 line item to assist the Gwichin in building a winter road so they can get at their capital projects with equipment and with expertise. Weíll see who is going to vote against that.
Those issues are all pertaining to this amendment. These issues are: what in the community can we do, without taking over this issue, rushing down to Washington to see, leading the charge for the Gwichin in Fort McPherson, in Arctic Red, or Tsiigehtchic, Arctic Village, Fort Yukon? That would be folly. Thatís not our job in this House, Mr. Speaker.
Our job is to work with the Old Crow people, the Gwichin in Old Crow, also listening to the Gwichin in Northwest Territories and Alaska, coordinating things. Our job is government-to-government relationships with Northwest Territories, make a commitment between the two of us that we will address the problem that the Gwichin see they have, whether itís economics or other support we can do ó in other words, backup.
Whether we do it physically, which is perception ó if we are perceived to take the ball and run with it, per se, is that a positive thing to do for the Gwichin? Another political move from a Yukon governmentís point of view, without consulting with the Gwichin ó is it for us to short-circuit six First Nations in northern Yukon and what their wishes are?
Thereís a lot more than that. Weíre looking at a gutting of the amendment. Weíre looking at a point where theyíre going to hamstring us on what we can do in the future, and it will be folly to what the Gwichin are trying to do. They have a huge stake in the Porcupine caribou herd ó a massive stake. The whole of northern Yukon has.
Now, for the American government, understanding that the American government ó if I, as the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, arrived in the Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C. to debate the fate of the Porcupine caribou herd, Iím not quite sure I would get the same reception as if one of the Gwichin of Arctic Village or Fort McPherson showed up, sat down and spoke from their heart and said, "These are the issues we have."
Mr. Speaker, it has worked. They have gone down, and theyíve spoken to the Congress and the Senate. They did have their ears. They have done it on their own. They have shown great backbone in their leadership on this issue. My argument on the whole thing is that for us to turn this into a political football, where somehow, somebody is going to make some points, is not fair to the six Gwichin communities.
Chief Peter Ross in Tsiigehtchic has as much at stake as Chief Joseph Linklater. They all have the caribou herd to worry about and also to work with, so all of those people are part of this scenario of success. And itís successful because theyíre doing it ó not us, as the Yukon government, being seen to be taking over some aspect of this dialogue with the American government. Let us, as a government, for once, step back and let somebody else do something that theyíre good at.
The Gwichin First Nations are very capable of taking the ball and running with it, and for us in this House, as we debate these issues and as the opposition gets up and says that this side of the government is against this and against that ó we are for the Gwichin; donít get us wrong. Weíre working with the Gwichin in Old Crow to make sure their capital budgets are put together; weíre looking at airports; weíre looking at reclaiming the riverbank so the community is a safer place to live in. The money that is being spent on the capital budget is one less dollar they have to spend in their community, because weíre committed to the community. That frees them up to do other things with their resources, which theyíve done with great pride up until now. They like paying their way. They like standing up in front of everybody and saying, "We as a community have funded a trip that sent four people to Washington, D.C."
They have a lot of pride in this question, and for us to sit in this House and debate this and say that we, in this amendment, are going to gut everything theyíve done in the past and weíre going to put unrealistic hobbles on this government so we can work at this at different angles to get the job done, keeping the man in charge ó the man in charge is not us. Itís the Gwichin, and that is six communities. We tend to keep thinking itís Old Crow, but itís not just Old Crow. There are three settlements in the Northwest Territories, as I said: Aklavik, Fort McPherson and Tsiigehtchic ó three very active communities. If you look across the border in Alaska, we have Arctic Village and we have Fort Yukon. Again, the bulk of the Gwichin community does not live in the Yukon.
We certainly support the concept of the Gwichin getting up front and running with the ball, because thatís what they do and thatís what they do well.
Now, as requests for whatever issues are that we can help on as a government, as a backup, as somebody in the back saying, "Look, guys, weíre like the coach, and guys are doing a great job." Our doors are open, our doors are open to capital; our doors are open to whatever the Gwichin people in Old Crow want as help. We will address that issue by issue.
When is a timely time to go to Washington, D.C.? Guess what? We will leave that in the hands of the Gwichin. Theyíve always arrived at the right time. Theyíve been doing this for 20 years, Mr. Speaker. I, as a Yukoner, look at the community and say to them, "Bravo. Hats off to you." Their communication among all of the other five Gwichin communities ó 100 percent. The are all behind this. Who did that organization? It wasnít some government from Executive Council Office. It was the Gwichin. They Gwichin went out and got themselves a common cause ó the most important thing to the community is the Porcupine caribou herd. Itís important in Alaska and itís important in Northwest Territories and the Yukon. Itís an issue that they are very close to, so why would we as a government try to take the ball from them and get ahead of the game when we donít even understand the game in the sense of Washington D.C. Who do they listen to? The Gwichin. When they sit down in front of a senator ó the member opposite said she got three minutes. Well, Iím telling you, thatís three minutes longer than I would have got as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. Iím not sure I would have got three minutes.
So, who was better to send: the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, or the a Gwichin who has a stake in it, who speaks from the heart, who understands that the Porcupine caribou herd is essential for the community, whether itís Arctic Village, Fort Yukon, Old Crow, Fort McPherson, Tsiigehtchic or Aklavik? All of them as a First Nation are very, very dependent on the Porcupine caribou herd.
The Porcupine caribou herd is a resource for food. Itís also a fabric of their community. Itís their being, understanding that this is what they have in their traditional territory. We as a government, and the Premier ó and Iíve seen many occasions where the Premier has stood up in support of the Gwichin people and their request on the Arctic preserve.
So, when the members opposite insinuate that weíre going around and not voicing that on behalf of the Gwichin, I think theyíre wrong because Iíve been with the Premier on many occasions when that issue was brought up ó not brought up, but when the Premier brings it up. He does not have to be prompted, Mr. Speaker. He brings it up, up front because, guess what? The Gwichin have their stake in the Porcupine caribou herd.
Our government has come up with support, and that is that we will support the Gwichin community of Old Crow on the Porcupine caribou herd and, in turn, the Gwichin community will take the ball and run with it so that, at the end of the day, when theyíre not drilling in the Arctic preserve, people will stand up and be able to say to the communities that we did it, we showed the leadership on all those issues, and we came up with the arctic preserve not being drilled in.
Today, Mr. Speaker, the Gwichin have fought the American government to a standstill, and the standstill is ó itís still on the front burner but the American people, the American Senate and Congress, are also saying, as we speak in this House today, that the issue in Washington is: will we drill in the Arctic preserve?
And in fact they won every time. They won because we, as a government in the Yukon, had been working with the Gwichin to make sure their profile is as high as they want it, and they have worked out the game plan. They donít need coaching from this government; they just need moral support from this government, and the moral support that comes with everybody in this House being very proud of the Gwichin, of what theyíve done in the past, and being concerned about whatís happening in the future.
We as a government are concerned that the Gwichin be successful at this, very concerned, but for me ó in my short term as Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources ó for me to take on the mantle on this amendment would mean that weíre going to grab the ball away from the Gwichin and go to Washington, D.C. and make political points, when the best person is already in Washington, D.C. and that is in the form of a Gwichin.
The Gwichin have an interest in this issue, a burning issue, and I appreciate the member opposite. I, for one, in this whole House, have done business and lived in all three of those communities. I understand what Peter Ross is saying in Tsiigehtchic and Chief Wilson in Fort McPherson, because Iíve been there and Iíve debated and Iíve talked to them.
I also understand Old Crow and the need to be seen, not to be seen, but to do the job, to show the leadership, get the backbone up and get down to Washington, D.C. and do the job that has to be done in Washington, D.C.
When you talk to a Gwichin member in our community, they are very, very proud of the fact that they are doing it. They talk to me continually, asking "Do you know what we did? We went to Washington and we talked to the senators and the congressmen." What better situation for us as Yukoners and the six Gwichin nations in northern Canada than to be able to stand up and say that to all of us.
We have something to learn from the Gwichin. We have to learn that these people can do the job. We donít have to sit in this House and play politics with this issue. All we have to do is back up and support them.
Theyíll do the job. Theyíve done it in the past, and theyíll do it in the future. Mr. Speaker, weíre on the right track. Theyíre dead wrong across the floor. The Gwichin can do the job ó donít sell them short ó and it will be done by the Gwichin, led by the Gwichin, and we can hopefully come in behind and work with them.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot back this amendment, because itís a form of control that we donít want to place on the Gwichin. We want them to have access to resources; we want them to be able to go down to Washington and fight the good battle, but we donít want to take it over, and this amendment takes it over.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that was quite a rant. It ranks right up there with some given by a former member of the Legislature ó I believe they are related. They often rewrite history and have a tendency to "talk down" when they talk about the First Nation people.
Speaker:The term "rewriting history" is implying that the member is not telling the truth. Iíd ask the member to retract that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy:I do retract that, Mr. Speaker. Iím sorry.
Well, Mr. Speaker, when this motion came forward, it wasnít a surprise to see a motion of this kind. Itís just that we felt that there wasnít enough substance to the motion. Motions of this kind have been brought forward before, but this is probably the weakest one weíve ever seen, and they have received unanimous consent in previous debates in the House with different parties in government.
However, we feel that itís a critical time for the future of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and for the Vuntut Gwitchin people in the north.
Itís a critical time because there is a growing pressure. Instead of a release of the pressure over the years of the Vuntut Gwitchin and many other people being successful in lobbying to preserve that area, there has been a greater degree of effort to open up this very pristine and valuable land to drilling and oil and gas development. A lot of the reasons for that can be world reasons. I am just thinking of the situation in Iraq, which is one of those that have compelled the United States of America to decide they need to get more oil and gas discoveries and more oil and gas supplies from their own lands, instead of relying upon the shipments they get from the Middle East ó and thatís understandable.
However, many people within the United States, as well as in Canada, feel they would go a lot further if they looked toward conservation and alternative energy sources, and spent the kind of money they want to spend in the north on the development of the 1002 lands and that area. They would get a bigger return, and many studies have proven that.
However, the tremendous amount of lobbying pressure that has been applied in Washington to open this land and attach it to the energy bill has caused a degree of crisis, I believe, that exists today. If there is not a very concerted and strong effort, a very dedicated lobbying effort thatís attached to what has already been happening ó and is still happening ó we may see the loss of this area.
A motherhood motion such as the one brought forward really doesnít say anything. It doesnít have enough direction or meat to it to allow people to see that the territorial government will walk the walk, will put their resources and help and support behind the Vuntut Gwitchin in the protection of this land.
Instead, itís just rolling out another motion that has been already done. One was on November 10, 1999. Actually, I brought a motion forward at that time ó and they can look it up if they want. It was stronger than this one, but it probably could have still gone further. There was another one on March 28, 1996, and another one on February 21, 1996. Pardon me, on March 28, 1996, it wasnít a motion; it was a debate around the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. But there was one brought forward on February 21, 1996, as well, from the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
So these motions have been brought forward, but where do they go? What do they actually say? Now, itís fine, you can stand up and say, "Guess what. We had unanimous consent on a motion that doesnít really give us direction on what we are going to do. We will talk the talk but it doesnít necessarily make us walk the walk."
So why do it? Why go through this effort if it doesnít have enough direction to have an impact, especially on the crisis situation that is growing with the pressure to open up this land.
The Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, the person who is most directly affected, and her people, felt that the motion needed more direction, more strength, so we developed an amendment to the motion. In that amendment we talked about what we feel is necessary in order to send a very clear message that we truly believe that this land should be protected. It should be removed from the whole concept of oil and gas development once and for all. Because, within our caucus anyway, we do believe that there are places that are sacred, and we will do what we can, any way we can, to protect those places.
There are places that are so sacred on this earth that no development should happen ó none. We can accept that and make that statement.
And I believe that this is one of those places. So, with good intention, we brought an amendment forward.
We have already been attacked quite vigorously by the Premier, who is so offended that we would bring forward an amendment to a motion ó never mind what his motion actually says, never mind that it lacks any type of direction whatsoever. He is just so offended that we would even think to have an opinion on this side, that the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin, from the very region weíre talking about, would believe that there needs to be more assistance, that he stands there and rails against her, and us, for bringing an amendment like this forward. He finds tremendous fault with us on this side, trying to contribute to the existing motion with our amendment. And then he says that weíre playing political games.
Well, itís on record already that, when the members opposite get a unanimous consent on a motion, they stand there and say, "This is number six and, once again, we have unanimous consent, and therefore this demonstrates how all parties are working together ó arenít we great?" That is sad because thatís not what weíre in here for ó to brag about our record.
In many ways ó of course, you can vote for this motion, though it has very little substance and lacks direction. But what it was really for was for bragging rights again. And thatís not what this motion should be about. It should not be about bragging rights in this House over unanimous consent.
We felt very strongly when we looked at this motion and the issue it was discussing that it was essential that we have vigorous debate in here ó that we have engagement about what is happening, about the sacredness of this land and about the effect on the people of the Vuntut Gwitchin, the people of the caribou.
And all we have heard on the other side is an attack on our position on the amendments that we feel improve the original motion and that we had assumed the members opposite would be willing to endorse. Because our amendment, Mr. Speaker, speaks to how we can assist ó and itís right in there ó and how can we support, if requested ó and the messaging we send to the oil and gas industries in North America and to the other governments that we stand by the Vuntut Gwitchin people in their fight to protect this area. And itís not waiting around to be asked. We are there to help.
Iím not sure if the members opposite need better prescriptions for their glasses, or maybe they need glasses, but some aspects of this ó
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Speaker.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: The leader of the official opposition seems to be making light of peopleís disabilities, particularly people who are vision-impaired.
Speaker: There is no point of order. I ask the member to carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, we see them trying to detract from the very sincere amendment that was brought forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
Clause (a) says "providing financial assistance to members for the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts". Do the members opposite have a problem with that? Because they are voting against this. I have already expressions of a problem with that.
Clause (b) says "designating a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nations on this matter, as requested".
From where do they come up with the assumption that weíre taking it over? Where? Clause (c): "ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa and Washington, D.C. on this matter." Well, thatís no surprise. We have had our Members of Parliament go down and assist the Vuntut Gwitchin on those lobbying efforts. I know the NDP Member of Parliament spent over two weeks travelling to lobby. I know the present Member of Parliament has also assisted. Why not the territorial government? What weíre proposing is nothing different but to be there ó to be a voice, to add to the voice of the Vuntut Gwitchin, and to show that the whole Yukon stands behind the protection of this area. They have a problem with that one. Why?
Ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge ó well, guess what? We had the Premier stand here and say he does it ó that he has done it at this forum and that forum. Well, I thought, "Okay, I would like to see that." So Iíve got the speaking notes and speeches. I took them off the Internet. There is not one single reference ó not one ó in any of these speeches with respect to the environment, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to the Porcupine caribou herd or to the 1002 lands. I canít find one, but the Premier was saying that theyíre in there.
One, two, three, four, five speeches ó five speeches I have here, Mr. Speaker, from January 27, 2003, to September 30, one at the Cordilleran Roundup, one with the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, one Meet the North Conference and Exposition in Edmonton, Alberta, Resource Expo in Calgary, Alberta, Insight Five Annual Far North Oil and Gas Forum, September 30, in Calgary, Alberta ó none.
Now, maybe I need glasses. Maybe itís in there somewhere; I canít find it. I will stand to be corrected if itís in any of these speeches, but I donít see it. But there is a whole whack of words about development throughout the Yukon. You tie that, Mr. Speaker, to the roads to resources plan and how that has become the language over there, and I donít see any consideration in regard to First Nation lands, to environmentally sensitive areas, to habitat protection, to wildlife.
So, what are we asking? We are asking the Premier or any of the ministers who travel to ensure that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement, because we donít see it in the speeches. No matter what that member opposite says, we donít see it.
Is that so hard? Obviously itís so difficult for the members opposite.
Clause (e) says, "adding a message in opposition to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to all relevant documents, publications and displays including the Web sites of both the Department of Environment and Department of Energy, Mines and Resources".
Weíve already heard the Minister of Environment, and weíve heard the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources already speak. Itís obvious that they have no desire to have that part and parcel of any of their publications or Web pages. Shame on the Minister of Environment that our position would not even be on there.
The representation has not been there, no matter what rhetoric we hear from the other side. The representation has not been there; the money has not been there; the willingness to work with the Vuntut Gwitchin people to protect this extremely important area ó the calving grounds ó has not been there.
It really makes me sad. They stand on the other side and condemn this amendment. They try to turn it into some other kind of argument. They try to belittle the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin as she speaks on behalf of her people, by saying we did this for political gain. They are not even willing to consider the amendments.
I tell you, Mr. Speaker, they are the ones who are playing the political games. The MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin did not bring this forward as a political game. She brought it forward because this is the primary issue facing the people of the north ó thousands of years. This is their connection: the caribou; the people of the caribou. This has been brought forward sincerely.
Weíve heard the rants; weíve heard the accusations; and weíve heard them belittle a very serious and heartfelt amendment to a motion that is not bad or wrong. We donít disapprove of the motion; we just felt the motion needed more.
And we couldnít do it. They couldnít do it. Because we can vote on this amendment, we can put this amendment in, Mr. Speaker, and then we can vote on the original motion with the amendment, and they can get their unanimous consent so they can stand there and say, "Number seven, arenít we doing great." And weíll let them have that. We have no problem with that.
But weíre not going to stand here and not try to contribute, especially when the very member from this region wants to see more help, more support, more indication that the territorial government does stand behind the people, and see it in the speeches.
We need strong language, Mr. Speaker, and we need strong conviction. We donít need more motions in this Legislature that donít speak to a problem and issue, without some direction. There are enough of those motions over the last 25 years, Iím sure.
And I would like to see the motions that are brought forward debated on their merits and not used to attack the other side. And yes, the Member for Lake Laberge is laughing; he finds it humorous because Iím hoping heís going to stand up and I canít wait to see the comparison with what he has to say in regard to this.
But I know ó and Iíll close with this ó that the member who brought this forward, the member from Old Crow, is a Vuntut Gwitchin, and she brought this forward in all sincerity. And they can say what they want, but the amendments in this would help the people to protect that land.
Mr. Cathers: On the amendment, Mr. Speaker.
Since the leader of the opposition and the Member for Mayo-Tatchun have both specifically asked that I stand up and express my comments on this motion, Iím more than pleased to do so ó or, more specifically, on this amendment.
There were complaints from the Member for Mayo-Tatchun that few people on our side were rising to debate this motion. Iím happy to oblige them by standing up and debating this at this point. Our government had been hoping to move forward with an expression of support for the Vuntut Gwitchin people. And yes, as was charged by the leader of the official opposition, we were hoping it would be unanimous because we felt it was important to make it clear to the Vuntut Gwitchin people, to other Gwichin people, and indeed to the whole world, that the Yukon Legislature, regardless of our party affiliations, does stand united in support of the Vuntut Gwitchin people and the other Gwichin people on this issue.
Now, in this amendment to the motion, there are certainly some points that I think I understand the intent of, but the opposition has done exactly what they have accused us of doing on several occasions: not giving them enough advance notice to fully analyze the effect of something that was being tabled. Our government has made efforts to respond to their criticism of this, which was why we gave them the unprecedented briefing on the supplementary budget five days before we intended to table it ó which, strangely enough, didnít seem to be too popular with them.
This amendment to the motion has some fairly major elements to it, and Iím sure the intent of the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin was very commendable. I know she does try very hard to work for her constituents, and I do commend her for that.
This is an issue that has a lot of history behind it. Certainly, there is concern on our side of the House about what effect the clauses of this amendment would have, whether these clauses and actions do, indeed, constitute a change in direction from what has been agreed upon between the Yukon government, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the other Gwichin First Nations. We want to be very careful that we do not go against agreements that we have with First Nation governments, and all governments because, if our word canít be counted on, they donít trust us the next time.
So to have this sprung on us without us having the chance to consult with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and find out if this is a change in direction, in their opinion and, if so, if they concur with this change in direction ó I have no knowledge of what groundwork the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has done on this. Perhaps she has had extensive discussions with the chief and council and with the other Gwichin First Nations on this subject but, in looking at the wording of the amendment, it does appear to me that the Yukon government is being called upon to take a stronger and more authoritative role on this issue, which could undermine the Gwichin peopleís leadership on this issue.
It seems like, rather than respecting the Gwichin leadership on this, that the effect of this motion could be ó or could be seen to be ó YTG taking control of this lobbying effort. And Mr. Speaker, as has been mentioned by several of the members here ó including the Member for Porter Creek Centre and Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources who, as you know, has run businesses in the area and has a number of friends in several of these communities that are affected ó the strategy that has been employed on this issue has been very successful.
The Gwichin peopleís leadership in this lobbying effort has been successful. Certainly the Gwichin people and all Yukoners rising in support of them would feel much more comfortable if this issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge was put to bed forever and that drilling would never take place.
That hasnít been achieved, but what has happened is that the Vuntut Gwitchin people and the other Gwichin First Nations have stood up to the United States government ó the most powerful government in the world ó and they have won on this issue time and time again. They have stalled the intention of several presidents; they have created the issue of drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge into being a major issue on the United States public agenda and on the public radar screen.
Canada isnít a major issue on the U.S. public radar screen and, in some ways, the issues of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may actually get more press in the United States than in Canada.
So, certainly, this issue isnít won. It isnít time to break out the champagne bottles and start popping corks and everyone go back home.
But if a strategy is being successful, I would question why we would massively change that strategy, particularly just here on the floor of the House. As I stated on the wording of this amendment to the motion, those of us on the government side have not had the opportunity, since receiving a copy of this amendment this afternoon, to speak to the Gwichin people, to speak to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and any other First Nations, on whether they do agree with the intent, whether they want us as a government to support this change of action. I donít think itís anyoneís intent on this side of the floor to rule out any of the items that are listed in this amendment, Mr. Speaker.
But simply to do this without doing the groundwork first, to do what seems to me to be a massive ó or potentially massive ó change to the strategy would be, in my view, very ill-advised. As I say, perhaps the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has thoroughly discussed this with all the people she represents, and perhaps it has the support, and perhaps we havenít heard indications from the First Nation leadership of the Vuntut Gwitchin on this because of the election that theyíve been going through. But we standing here donít know that, and we do have government-to-government agreements with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on consultation, on discussion, and our consultation does require direct government-to-government discussion, not going through anyone else, no matter how well-intended their information may be, nor however correct their information may be, but we do have an obligation to discuss things that will affect them directly with that government. Itís very important that we do that.
The original motion is a very clear commitment, in our view, of the intent of our government ó what we are asking the House to support. That has been the support of the Vuntut Gwitchin in their lobbying efforts. It is something that is not a new policy. It is a well-understood and much-agreed-upon item in Yukon politics. The original motion referenced the points of it: point (1), "the Porcupine caribou herd is a vital part of the life, culture and heritage of the Vuntut Gwitchin peoples".
Yes, itís well agreed to by, I would suggest, virtually all Yukoners. Point (2) ó "the drilling for oil and gas within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would endanger the calving areas for the Porcupine caribou herd". This has been a position agreed upon by governments of every political stripe in this territory, and there has been much discussion with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this ó and "that this House supports the Vuntut Gwitchin in their efforts to prevent oil and gas exploration within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." That was the original motion, Mr. Speaker.
The accusation has been levelled by some of the members on the other side of the floor ó I know the leader of the official opposition in particular mentioned it ó the suggestion that this government is trying to avoid specifics and avoid specific actions. That is absolutely to the contrary of what weíre trying to do.
However, the work plan and strategy on how to go forward on these lobbying efforts is properly developed in consultation with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the other Gwichin First Nations, recognizing they have the lead role on this issue.
This government has been very clear that we are willing to support them, that we are willing to assist in defraying costs of their international lobbying efforts, as mentioned in clause (a) of the amendment. Weíve been very clear that, as requested, weíd be more than happy to consider doing whatever we can do on this issue to assist them, but they do have the lead and they have been very successful in their leadership role on this issue.
So, for us to come up with a new strategy, have it tabled on the floor of the Legislature, pass a motion and decide thatís where weíre going, I believe, would be very inappropriate.
Our government has respect for the Vuntut Gwitchin, and all Gwichin, and we feel that it is crucial that we respect their lead on this issue. We will support them. There is no question about that. We are very happy to do that and have been very clear as a government that we will support them, as requested.
But to rip the carpet out from under them and remove the old agreements and well-established practices and replace them with something new would be vastly inappropriate. As I say, perhaps the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin has the full concurrence of her community. If so, thatís wonderful. We can deal with this later, in the appropriate venue. But these issues are something that are appropriately dealt with as part of the government-to-government relationship of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Yukon government.
The leader of the opposition said heíd like to see us debating this motion on its merits. Well, I am certainly attempting to do that, and I believe that my colleagues on this side of the floor have done likewise. The member opposite made reference to this being treated as a political issue ó becoming a political football ó and accused us of going into rants or something on this issue.
Well, Iím not sure that the leader of the opposition is in the best position to be accusing us of ranting on this issue. But Iíd rather not get into that debate. I donít think thatís really relevant to this discussion. Iíd rather stick to a debate on the merits of this issue.
I have made it very clear why I personally have concerns with voting in favour of what I see as a new strategy on the lobbying efforts in opposition to the United States allowing drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or the 1002 lands.
If I can make that clear again, Mr. Speaker ó my major concern is that I have not had the opportunity to be sure that this meets with the approval of the duly elected government of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. There is an obligation for our government to deal with that First Nation government on a government-to-government basis. We respect that and we want to make it very clear to them that at no time will we undermine that relationship. If this does not actually violate the need to consult with them government to government, it certainly could appear to. I think that itís important not to do that. Itís very important to discuss something like this that appears to me to be ó the amendment appears to be a clear outlining of different action items and policies to proceed. Obviously, I would suggest the fact that they feel it necessary to propose these means that they feel that they are not currently being done or not currently being done as much as they should be.
The fact that that is then stated, that this is not the current policy, suggests that for us to accept this new action plan would certainly not be respectful of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government and the other Gwichin governments, which do have very much a stake in this. Certainly they are not Yukoners, are not strictly the constituents of any member of this House or the government, but I donít think that any member would stand on this floor and suggest that we should ignore them or not respect their needs or their interests simply because they fall outside our borders. We want to be respected when actions in the Northwest Territories or Alaska affect us, as indeed this issue we are talking about is land within Alaska. We want to have input when it affects us as well, so we have to exercise similar respect for other people who are not within our borders.
We have made a commitment as a government to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, as requested. Clause (c) of the amendment, "ensuring that the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all lobbying tripsÖ", undermines the Gwichin First Nationís lead on this. As the Premier stated on the floor of this House, we would be happy to do that if requested by the Gwichin, and only if requested by the Gwichin, respecting their lead, the fact they have employed a very successful strategy on this, and that we must respect that theyíve been doing a good job, so why should we tell them how they should change it.
Mr. Speaker, I find disappointing the accusation that has been made by the leader of the official opposition that weíre playing politics. I would wonder on what grounds he would argue to the Yukon public that heís not simply playing politics in the fact that their party put forward a very detailed amendment, knowing full well that we, as a government, had not had the opportunity to consult with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. I wonder what the oppositionís strategy was on this. Being a little bit of a skeptic, I wonder if they were playing politics. They intended to condemn us if we voted down the amendment, and then realized, if we voted for it, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation would be outraged with us voting in favour of that with no consultation.
Before I close, Mr. Speaker, Iíd like to touch on one other point that the leader of the official opposition made, and that is the suggestion that, in speeches made by the Premier, there was no mention of First Nation lands.
This government has placed more emphasis on developing government-to-government relationships with First Nations to work together for the common good of all Yukoners than any other government in the Yukonís history. And I donít see how he can suggest that we are ignoring those concerns when the record speaks for itself.
Mr. Rouble: I rise today on the amendment put forward by the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin.
The amendment changes and restricts and alters the motion put forward by the Member for Copperbelt. Mr. Speaker, the motion put forward by the Member for Copperbelt continues the Yukonís longstanding position on this issue. And itís an important motion ó an important motion to the Yukon Party. It was a commitment in our platform, itís involved in discussions in our caucus, and it was a motion that we, the private members, thought was important enough to bring this House.
This motion speaks to practising good government, achieving a balance between the economy and the environment, and achieving a better quality of life. This motion, this belief ó our whole platform is built on this. The Yukon Party certainly supports reasonable and responsible economic development, but not at all costs. We support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin to preserve and protect the Porcupine caribou herd and to practice their traditions and their culture.
We want to make sure this message is heard loud and clear, as the member opposite has requested. We are saying it loud and clear here today in this Legislative Assembly. The Premier said it loud and clear earlier this month at the Resource Expo in Calgary. He even came back full of excitement and told us about it in caucus.
He said it loud and clear in our budget. I can quote here from Hansard: "In view of developing economic pressures, my government will continue to support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin to preserve and protect the Porcupine caribou herd."
Weíve said it again in this House. On April 23, the Premier stated again: "It has been very clear by this governmentís presentation publicly on our position. When it comes to the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd on the over-the-top route, there is no question of what our position is. Itís clear."
As far as consultation with the Vuntut Gwitchin, it wasnít that long ago I talked with the chief, who said clearly that the Vuntut Gwitchin want to maintain a leadership role. We offered whatever we can to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin in their endeavours to protect the Porcupine caribou herd. So, too, has the Northwest Territories government, who, by the way, Mr. Speaker, are in lockstep with the Yukon in protection of that herd.
Mr. Speaker, we have said it loud and clear in the Assembly, and Iíve heard it again in meetings weíve had. This past fall, when we met with the legislators from Alaska, it was said loud and clear in conversations, around a dining table and again, we think itís important enough to say it loud and clear once more in our Legislative Assembly, which is our most public of places.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon Party is saying it loud and clear, and this motion is one more voice in a chorus of voices, and weíre all singing the same song.
I must add that Iím frustrated with this amendment. Iíve just heard from the side opposite that the words will be immortalized. Thatís true, and thatís something that we all need to remember ó that once we say something, itís written down and recorded. What we say is broadcast across the airwaves and pretty well televised around the planet. If people want to read it from the Internet and read it from anywhere on the planet ó again ó itís immortalized. What weíve said goes on the record.
We put forward a motion that we wanted to put on the record. We wanted to immortalize those words. But I really donít understand the necessity of this amendment or the reasons or the logic of why it was brought forward. We have heard mentioned in this House earlier today the phrase "playing politics". Thatís a phrase that frustrates me to no end.
As a politician, it is now our occupation, our profession ó politics. It isnít a game. I would like to get serious about it. We have a lot of work ahead of us. We have a lot of work ahead of us and we have a lot of good things to look forward to, in addition to what weíve accomplished already. Today could have been much more productive than it might turn out to be.
Now, Mr. Speaker, before we get to the specifics of this amendment, I need to make a comment. This comment is in line with the Member for Lake Labergeís comment. The amendment urges the government to take specific actions but it calls for us to take these specific actions without consultation. Thatís another one of the cornerstones of our party and our platform ó that we will consult.
Before we can commit to these five points, we need to find out if people actually want us to commit to them. Does the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government want us to commit to doing these things?
Now, I put forward a motion earlier today about waterfront development in the community of Carcross. Weíve had that motion sitting in our out-basket for over a week now but we refrained from putting it out. Why? Because we were doing some community consultation.
I have personally sent letters to the First Nation and to the community association seeking their advice on it. Again, the Premier and I were there last week on a budget consultation tour when the issue came up and it was discussed. With the direction of the community, I can now come forward and say, hey, this is something the people believe in and this is something we need to go forward with.
We havenít had an opportunity for that consultation. Maybe it has happened. Maybe when the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin closes the debate, she can confirm that this is indeed what the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government wants us to do.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we had a motion that called for support. Thatís a broad verb ó "support". Very encompassing. It doesnít exclude anything. And instead, itís being proposed that we replace that with some very specific, restrictive points ó points that I would like a little bit more clarification on. Because this doesnít appear to be as inclusive as the term "support", which is pretty all-encompassing and incredibly inclusive.
Mr. Speaker, point (a): "providing financial assistance to members of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to help defray the costs of their international lobbying efforts." I am curious as to why it is restricted to members of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation? If there is a lobby effort going to Washington or Houston or Ottawa, wouldnít it be appropriate to provide all people with support regardless of whether or not they are a member of a First Nation?
The second point, (b): "designating a senior intergovernmental affairs officer in the Executive Council Office to assist the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation on this matter as requested." My question is, why is it limited to the Executive Council? Again, this is an issue that involves Energy, Mines and Resources and the Environment. Was it intended to exclude officials from those departments?
Point (c): "ensuring the Government of Yukon has a Cabinet-level representative on all significant lobbying trips to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. on this matter." Again, I go back to the consultations that the Premier and other ministers have had wherein they found out that the Vuntut Gwitchin government wants to be the lead on this. Sending a Cabinet minister might not be the most appropriate thing to do.
Again, itís limited to Alaska, Ottawa or Washington, D.C. Was it the intention to limit it to those destinations? What about Calgary? We had conversations earlier about how important meetings were going on there. Itís important to lobby in other places as well.
The next point: "ensuring that all ministerial speeches with respect to oil and gas include a statement opposing oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." Now, you know, itís an interesting point. You know, after every speech, do you tag along ó for example, you may be speaking about oil and gas development in the Kotaneelee field. Do you give your whole presentation and discussion on oil and gas and then follow that up by saying, "Oh, and by the wayÖ"
The point that we are making has gone out to those to whom itís important. The people whom we are lobbying know our position. We are reaffirming it here ó or trying to reaffirm it.
Point (f): "ensuring that all intergovernmental accords related to economic development between the Government of Yukon and Northwest Territories, Alaska, Alberta, British Columbia, the Government of Canada or the Government of the United States of America include a clear reference to the Yukonís opposition to oil and gas development in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge."
Again, Mr. Speaker, I have to ask if thatís the intention of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Do they want us to do that? I also find one glaring absence in here. This list is very specific about whom we need to communicate with when weíre signing an accord, but it doesnít include First Nation orders of government. Was it intended that that not be included?
The members opposite are groaning because weíve taken a very broad, all-encompassing motion ó a motion that could be interpreted as the case needed it. Do we need to show support? Of course we do. And now it has been discussed that we should limit it and focus it. Well, I want to find out if it was intended to limit and focus it this much and if something was intended by that ó you know, one of the laws of unintended consequences. When we take an action, sometimes it has unintended consequences. So, I raise that as a point of concern. Was that done intentionally?
In summary, I think this needless amendment proposes that we take action without consultation. It restricts the support we provide and, to a certain extent, it hamstrings the government and it isnít as inclusive as it should be. For these reasons, I canít support this amendment.
But letís get back to the motion. Itís a good motion. Itís a motion that we need to reaffirm, and we need to send that message loud and clear, as was requested.
I think thatís a motion we should all pass unanimously. There has been support for it. The members opposite have discussed their support for it. Theyíve discussed the good things we have already done, but to entrench it and restrict it by furthering refining and defining and constricting it in this amendment ó I canít support that.
Mr. Speaker, I must also make a comment that the character of some have been impugned. Aspersions have been cast upon peopleís character by stating that theyíre talking down to people. I can assure you that thatís far from accurate.
The members on this side of the Legislative Assembly have great respect for all human beings, and our ministers are reminded of that. They preach it to the rest of us as well. Weíre committed to that.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I think this is an important motion. Itís important to put on our books, to write it in Hansard, to put it in the Votes and Proceedings. Itís important to shout out loud that, "Yes, we do want to support the Vuntut Gwitchin people. That is our intention; that is what weíre doing; and those are our actions."
So, Iíd like to get back to the motion, and I trust weíll have unanimous support for it.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: First of all, I would like to thank my colleague, the Member for Copperbelt, for bringing this very important motion forward. It is a motion that is quite similar to other motions that have been raised by previous governments before. I think my colleagues have summed it up quite eloquently, as well as those across the floor, regarding the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd.
I think that it certainly is, bar none, a major resource to the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and to all Yukoners, to all northerners. Itís not simply a northern tradition, but it is a Yukon treasure and certainly a national treasure as well.
Iíd also like to take this opportunity to thank the member opposite from Vuntut Gwitchin for all of her work in paying attention to this very important issue.
I think the caribou is certainly the main source of food for the Gwichin people from Alaska, Northwest Territories, and the Yukon. And I think that, just as important as the caribou is, we have to look at the land itself as well.
I think that the tradition of generations dating back many hundreds ó thousands ó of years of taking care of the lands where these animals feed and give birth still holds ground today.
As I have summed up there, all three parties in this House have on many occasions expressed their support for protecting the integrity of the Porcupine caribou herd, the calving grounds in ANWR. I certainly do commend the representation that has been made over these last years on behalf of the Gwichin people, these efforts that have taken in Washington and Alaska ó all throughout the world. This issue has been talked about at great length by many, not just the individuals in this room today but individuals of the past. As legislators and as representatives of the people of the Yukon, itís incumbent upon all of us to make our views known regarding this particular matter.
So that is why I am very supportive of the motion that was brought forward by the Member for Copperbelt, because I believe that it gives us all an opportunity to reiterate our support toward this initiative. Itís outlined in our Yukon Party election platform. It states that our government has and continues to support the initiatives of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation to ensure the integrity and protection of the Porcupine caribou herd.
With respect to the amendment that has been brought forward by the member opposite, I thank her for the proposed additions. But with that said, many of the points raised are, by and large, somewhat already underway, and some place restrictions on what we were doing today.
I refer to the financial support. I believe the point has been made by members of this Legislature that financial support has been provided by past governments, and this government will continue to do so.
I also have to refer to the Premierís comments earlier as well ó as early as last April, last spring ó when he spoke with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. It became very, very clear that the lobbying efforts, more appropriately, fall within the mandate of the Gwichin First Nations and not simply a board with federal and territorial government representatives. It means so much more coming from the members themselves.
Now, I also refer to the coordination, as the Member for Southern Lakes alluded to. The amendment speaks to Executive Council Office, and I have to agree with him that this is perhaps more of a multi-departmental effort. Itís not just the Executive Council Office. There is Energy, Mines and Resources and the Department of Environment, both of which have important roles to play as well.
I refer to messages in opposition to drilling in ANWR. I think the Premier has also said that messages have been made in various speeches, one of which was just recently held at the Resource Expo in Calgary on November 3, in which our Premier reaffirmed his support for the protection of the Porcupine caribou herd. The Minister of Environment has, on a number of occasions, also spoken to this very issue, whether it be at the Canadian Council on Renewable Resources, or the Council for Wildlife Ministers.
So a number of efforts have been made over this last year since our government took office and by governments past.
The motion also speaks to accords and, as the Premier also relayed, those accords that are struck are, I like to say, struck based on an understanding of mutual respect, a mutual understanding for one another on matters that we deem to hold merit.
So this is simply not just up to our government to set the agenda of the day, whether it be with the Government of British Columbia, Government of Alaska, or Government of Northwest Territories. It is something that we must all agree to and must all sign on to.
Debate on Motion No. 27 and proposed amendment accordingly adjourned
Speaker: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 12, 2003:
Auditor General of Canada: Report on the Consolidated Financial Statements of the Government of the Yukon Territory for the year ended March 31, 2003 (Speaker Staffen)