Thursday, November 13, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call this House to order. We will proceed at this time with prayers.
Speaker:We will proceed at this time with the Order Paper.
In recognition of Hockey Canada Week
Hon. Mr. Hart:I rise today to pay tribute to the parents, athletes, coaches, referees, timekeepers, governing bodies, team sponsors, countless volunteers and spectators who contribute to the sport of hockey in the Yukon.
November 8 to 15, 2003 is Hockey Canada Week. Hockey Canada Week is a national initiative with the participation from minor hockey associations, amateur hockey associations and other partners across the country. The week aims to bring attention to the sport of hockey in an effort to revitalize and create national excitement for the game.
Hockey has always been a popular sport in the Yukon. Whether itís kids playing road hockey or representative teams gearing up to compete in national tournaments, the sport gets people physically active, teaches valuable life lessons, and brings communities together.
Hockey is played in every province and territory in Canada and is enjoyed by kids, youth and adults all across the Yukon. In this decade of sport and culture, our hockey athletes have several opportunities to represent the Yukon in major tournaments and competitions. Yukon hockey athletes will take part in the 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 Arctic Winter Games and the upcoming 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Who knows, there might even be some up and coming athletes who will get a chance to play for Team Canada in the 2010 Olympic Games in Whistler, British Columbia.
Together with these major sporting events are peewee, bantam, midget and womenís hockey athletes. Parents, coaches and volunteers will also have an opportunity to travel and compete on behalf of the Yukon in annual tournaments like the B.C. Provincial Playdowns and the Western Canadian Championships.
Iíd also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the outstanding efforts of the Yukon Amateur Hockey Association in managing the Arctic Winter Games rep teams. This year the Yukon is sending peewee, bantam, midget and junior female teams to the 2004 Arctic Winter Games in Fort McMurray, Alberta.
We are dedicated to supporting sport and recreation in the Yukon. We have dedicated funding toward the completion of the multiplex, which will house two new ice surfaces. We are also providing team support and directing funding to the host societies for the 2007 Winter Games and the 2004 Senior Games and are supporting Team Yukonís participation at the 2004 Arctic Winter Games.
Minor hockey, womenís hockey, recreational and old-timers hockey is played throughout the year in the Yukon. There are nearly 600 minor hockey players registered in the Yukon, about half of whom are registered outside Whitehorse. Hockey is part of the life of many Yukoners, Mr. Speaker. With the dedication of parents, coaches, athletes, referees, timekeepers, administration and, as mentioned, countless volunteers and spectators, hockey is one of winterís greatest expectations.
Mr. Hardy: I also would like to pay tribute to Hockey Canada Week, November 8 onward. Itís interesting to reflect back on hockey because it can almost be said that almost everybody has been touched by hockey in our country, in many various aspects, whether they played it as a tiny tot, at a very young age starting at, say, four years of age, or they are still playing it as old-timers.
There are people in this room today who I know are still strapping on the skates and stopping the pucks or trying to score, and living and breathing a magnificent sport and a magnificent game. Itís a thread that connects this country. We only have to think of 1972 and the tremendous summit series that happened at that time and how it brought this country to a standstill to watch the game that evolved and the changes it made in the challenge that Russia gave Canada ó and challenged Canada on its own turf as being the greatest hockey nation in the world. Since then, weíve seen a tremendous evolution of hockey and the way it has been taught and the way people have approached the game.
I learned to play hockey in Porter Creek on a little lake called Hidden Lake. I am a pond hockey player. My greatest and fondest memories happen to be on that pond and also happen to be playing road hockey in the middle of winter when itís 20 or 25 below zero, and parents expect you to come in and you refuse to come in. Youíre playing by the street lights until you absolutely have to stop.
Thatís a sense of our hockey that we should never lose and never forget. At times I get concerned about the over-organization of sports. It has a tremendous role to play, and we do recognize it, but there is also the element of play that exists. We have to keep that as an element of what makes this game great.
Canada has been able to take this magnificent game and has spread it throughout the world at various levels. The United States has come to accept hockey to a greater degree. Iíll give you an example of how some of that benefits even the Yukon. Last week in Dawson City there was a film shoot for Home Depot. They went to Dawson City because they needed snow, but they also wanted Canadian children playing hockey for their advertisement for home backyard rinks they sell ó Home Depot, an American chain. They went up there and gathered Dawson children and had them play on an outdoor rink, and that was a film shoot they did in the Yukon.
There are benefits all over the place but, essentially and most importantly, it is the joy of the game, and hockey is a great game. It is so linked with everything we do in Canada. I salute the people who contribute to it: the parents, the officials, the volunteers, the coaches and the players. Iíve been very proud to be part of almost all those aspects.
Ms. Duncan: Canada Hockey Week is November 8 to 15, 2003. Itís a celebration of hockey and of Canada. Canada is Team Canada. Who among us does not remember exactly where we were, listening to Paul Henderson score the winning goal in the Canada-Russia series of 1972? Among our children, 2002 will always be the Olympics where the loonie brought us luck and both our womenís and menís hockey teams came home with gold.
Hockey is about who we are as a country. Itís about our communities. Canadians would be hard-pressed to find one Canadian small town without an arena, without a hockey story, without their own hockey star. Hockey is one of the ties that bind, and it can bring divided communities together. Remember that phrase, "My Canada includes Quebec"? Our Canada included the Quebec Nordiques and, yes, the Montreal Canadiens hockey club.
Lawrence Scanlanís recent book, Grace Under Fire, about the state of Canadaís sweet and savage game, reinforced this point. In it, Mr. Scanlan talks about a Globe and Mail series of articles. They were called "Canadaís apartheid". Part four tells how the Cree and the whites of Le Pas, Manitoba, and I quote: "Two communities that once were the most racially divided in Canada" came together and formed a mixed-race junior team. The team had a 20 and one record and had won the provincial championships the previous three years. That was in the fall of 2001. They mayor said, and again I quote: "I really believe that it was the hockey club that bridged the divide."
Canadians learn important values and life lessons on the ice, playing our national game. Hockey is the only sport that comes to mind that truly reinforces the values and concepts of team play. Think about it. The team all arrives at the arena, they all dress together, in all of that gear, and itís truly a turning point in a young personís life when mom or dad gets kicked out because "I can tie my own skates now, thanks."
Every member in that arena and every person on that team, everybody on the ice, is equally as important. It isnít just the goal scorer; itís also the assist that gets recorded and, in the short shifts of hockey, everybody gets to play.
Thereís no team sport quite like it. As I watch at the arena, my goal for my son ó my daughter doesnít play ó is that he learn not just stickhandling and skating, how to win and how to lose, but also how to sometimes take one for the team and, most importantly, to play as a team. All those skills will serve him well in hockey, in life and in hockey life in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, all the moms, dads, the players, the coaches and the volunteers, to everyone in Canada, enjoy the celebration of the sport that is our national game, the celebration of Hockey Week in Canada.
Speaker: Are there any further tributes?
Introduction of visitors.
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Speaker:Under tabling returns and documents, I have for tabling a report of the Chief Electoral Officer on election financing and other election matters.
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. Hassard:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon, through the Department of Tourism and Culture and the Department of Community Services, to establish a new initiative, entitled "The Decade of Sport and Culture", celebrating the many community-based sport and cultural events that are being planned for the next 10 years, such as the 2004 Canada Senior Games, the 2007 Canada Winter Games, and the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House direct the Standing Committee on Rules, Elections and Privileges to give consideration to changing the name of Question Period in the Standing Orders of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to "Ministerial Accountability Period", and to adding a new rule to the guidelines for oral Question Period, stating that ministers are expected to provide frank and factual answers in the Legislature to all questions related to their own departments.
Ms. Duncan: 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 will completely neuter the act;
(2) there was no public consultation on these changes;
(3) the Premier is on record saying the Yukon Party government would not make changes to the Taxpayer Protection Act,
(4) if these changes are implemented, future governments will be saddled with long-term debt; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to set aside the proposed amendments to the Taxpayer Protection Act until proper consultation has been completed.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Government of Yukon to demonstrate its commitment to openness and accountability to the Yukon people by requiring the Finance minister to issue regular public reports on the current state of the territoryís public finances, based on the monthly variance reports that are compiled for all departments by the Department of Finance.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
Speaker:Before we proceed to Question Period the Chair will give a ruling on a point of order raised yesterday. At that time the leader of the third party argued that the Premier had attributed to her a false or unavowed motive regarding her actions when the leader of the third party was Minister of Finance. What the Premier said was that his government would provide "full disclosure to the Yukon public, unlike that member in hiding the liabilities of employment benefits."
The Chair does find the Premierís comments out of order, though not for the reasons stated by the leader of the third party. It appears to the Chair that the Premier was not speaking to the motives of the leader of the third party but rather to her actions. It is within our rules to temperately criticize other members; however the expression used by the Premier violated Standing Order 19(i) in that it constituted abusive or insulting language likely to create disorder.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act amendment
Mr. Hardy: Iíd like to return to one of the Premierís favourite topics. The former government leader, who was the architect of the Taxpayer Protection Act, calls the amendment the Premier is proposing, "Öthe first step down a very slippery slope." The Premier has tried to dismiss the concerns of his predecessor as just someoneís opinion.
What makes the Premier believe that he is right now and his more experienced predecessor is wrong?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The answer to that is very simple. This amendment changes nothing in terms of what the act is intended to do. Letís go over it and go right to the act.
It says that an accumulated deficit must not be created or increased. This amendment does not change that. We canít go into an accumulated deficit. "An appropriation that would create or increase an accumulated deficit must not be sought from the Legislative Assembly." Nothing changes with this amendment. Thatís still intact. The whole act is intact, Mr. Speaker.
The former leader of the Yukon Party, a former Premier, the government leader brought forward this legislation with the greatest of intentions, and we have maintained those intentions; we have maintained the integrity of the act. We applaud the former government leader for his diligence. Thatís why we are maintaining this act as it should be.
Nothing changes other than that we can get this territory going by increasing expenditures by soliciting investment from the private sector. Thatís a good thing.
Mr. Hardy: I think what he really means to say is that he is going put the territory in debt.
The former government leader has said that he has spoken with a lot of Yukoners who are very unhappy with the proposed amendment. So have I, Mr. Speaker, and so have many of my colleagues.
Yet the Premier insists that this is a benign amendment. It is not benign. It has very serious implications for the territoryís finances in the future.
Will the Premier now withdraw this proposed amendment until the Yukon people have had an opportunity to consider its implications and register their opinions on it?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This amendment does not change the act. The memberís comments about debt are simply incorrect. It has nothing to do with debt. The act itself has nothing to do with debt but has everything to do with accumulated surplus and/or deficit. Thatís the intent of the Taxpayer Protection Act; thatís what itís all about. We are maintaining that intent, that integrity. We still canít go into an accumulated deficit.
But I would put on the floor for public consumption the fact that the opposition ó the official opposition ó when in this Legislature, debated the Taxpayer Protection Act as it still exists today and they opposed it. They voted against it.
So what is the position now of the official opposition? Are they now finally coming to their senses and supporting protection for taxpayers as we continue to do with this amendment, maintaining the act as it was intended in the first place.
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, the members opposite have some accountability to the Yukon public to portray.
Mr. Hardy: Well, isnít that interesting ó more very smart and wise words from our great Premier as he ducks and dodges exactly what heís doing. We are debating on the floor today his actions. I canít understand why the Premier is being so resistant on this matter. He never said boo about changing the Taxpayer Protection Act during the election campaign. Just a few months ago he told this Assembly that he had no intention of doing so. People just donít know what to believe any more. They need facts, not rhetoric that shifts on the ground from month to month. Why does the Premier insist on ramming through a change that will mortgage the Yukonís future, a change thatís widening the obvious split within his own party?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, there is no change to those commitments to the Yukon public, and all we have to do is go to the act itself. Nothing has changed. This is a simple bookkeeping amendment. What it does is allow the government to get this territory moving. Itís completely in context with our commitment to the Yukon public to do something about the economy. It is allowing us to solicit investment from the private sector to complement government spending and increase the cash flow in the Yukon. What is the most important element of any economy? It is cash flow.
This amendment allows us to do that without changing, in any way, shape or form, the very basic and fundamental point that we cannot go into accumulated deficit in the territory. This is a very sound fiscal decision and shows clearly that we are sound fiscal managers.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act amendment
Mr. Hardy:Iíd like to follow up with the Premier on his supposedly benign amendment to the Taxpayer Protection Act.
I can certainly understand the Premierís desperation to do something about the economy. We all know itís a mess. In a year, this government has done nothing to make it any better. Double-digit unemployment when Canadaís jobless rate is falling ó thatís shameful.
The Premier wants to attract investment but he has no mandate to sell off the Yukon to do it. Will the Premier tell us what public/private partnerships his government is already negotiating?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: When it comes to public/private partnerships, if we go down that road, Mr. Speaker, in partnering with the private sector, we will provide full disclosure to the Yukon public, but letís take a look at whatís really happening in the Yukon Territory.
The problem with the members opposite when it comes to the economy is that they focus on one tiny ingredient or statistic instead of looking at the full equation. Yes, itís true the unemployment rate is not good. However, itís better than an exodus of population to reduce the unemployment rate. People are now staying in this territory because thereís hope. Why? Because this government has shown it has a plan and a vision, and it starts with sound fiscal management.
The first step is that we just slightly restrained spending to get a firm grip on the finances of the Yukon. Then we went to work on increasing the surplus ó sound fiscal management. Now we are increasing our options to partner with the private sector to complement government spending.
What does all this equal? Getting this territory moving again and creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners, and we are going to partner with governments and the private sector to do that. There are brighter days ahead for this territory, thanks to this governmentís prudence and its sound fiscal management.
Mr. Hardy: I agree. In three years, itís going to be a brighter day for the future of this Yukon, because theyíll be out.
Thereís reams of information about the negative impact of public-private partnerships from all around the world. Theyíre great for giant corporations like SNC-Lavalin, which get the profits, but theyíre not great for the taxpayers. You pay top dollar for services that should be public. The Premier says he wonít be using P3s for schools, hospital or jails, and we can bank on that, he says. Why should Yukon people believe that, when a few months ago we expected to bank on the Premierís statement that he wouldnít be changing the Taxpayer Protection Act. Why?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíd really love to engage with the members opposite in a constructive debate on what we can do with the options that are being created here, but itís impossible. The members opposite do not understand the difference between debt and deficit. The members opposite do not understand full accrual accounting. The members opposite are now confusing ó confusing ó privatizing government services with partnering with the private sector. Nothing could be further from the case. I urge the members opposite to come to this House to engage in constructive debate.
Letís look at the facts. The facts are that the act doesnít change; it remains the same, other than the fact that we do an accounting amendment that allows us to create more room under the surplus. Thatís a good thing. This amendment also allows us to fully disclose to the Yukon public the financial situation of this territory. That has not been happening in the past. The third party, when in government, did not fully report liabilities. That is a serious issue. Itís serious because the Auditor General qualified our audit because of that. Weíve changed that. We are providing full disclosure, and the most important item is that we are now going to be able to utilize private sector investment to get this territory going again.
Mr. Hardy: Sorry, I couldnít hear you over the thumping from across the way.
I truly believe that the Premier is not telling the whole story. And the trouble with secret agendas is that they eventually come to light. The Premier speaks about branding the Yukon, selling the Yukon to investors. Even his budget tour ads have a big dollar sign shadowing the Yukon.
Well, the Premier isnít selling the Yukon; heís selling off the Yukon ó bridge by bridge, road by road and before long it will be school by school, jail by jail and hospital by hospital.
Will the Premier now stand down on his proposed amendment and put the question to the Yukon people through a referendum or by calling an election?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I must say I have never heard such drivel. Letís look at what this party said in the Legislature when it comes to the existing act. "This bill is a sloppy, ill-conceived piece of window dressing. It is more a piece of propaganda to draw attention away from the poor Yukon Party record." Thatís the position those members have. Now they are changing that position?
I say to you, Mr. Speaker, this is clear evidence of our sound fiscal management. We, the Yukon Party government, are going to get this territory moving again. We do that in many ways: by laying the groundwork for long-term sustainable economic development; and now we are going to increase the stimulus in the territory, increase the spending power by soliciting investment from the private sector.
Weíre not selling the Yukon; weíre getting the private sector to invest in the Yukon and create growth. Thatís a good thing.
Question re: Taxpayer Protection Act amendment
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Finance minister on his plans to run up the Yukonís long-term debt by the Taxpayer Protection Act.
The minister has decided that if you canít live within the rules, well, you just change the rules. The government is changing the rules, because it wants to go on a spending spree. Thatís according to the former leader of the Yukon Party. Yukoners agree with him.
Under the current rules the government has a $60 million or so surplus. If all that money was spent, the Premier would have to call an election. Under the sleight of hand the Premier is proposing, the surplus would be showing around $300 million. In other words, the Yukon Party can spend hundreds of millions of dollars before being forced to call an election. If you donít like where the goalposts are, you just move them.
I donít want my children ó this territoryís children ó saddled with $300 million of long-term debt so that the Finance minister can go on a spending spree.
Will the minister take the act off the table and learn to live within the discipline of the Yukon Taxpayer Protection Act as several other Finance ministers have done before him, of all political stripes?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First, let me point out that the third party didnít support the Taxpayer Protection Act either, and that was very clear in the debate that took place in this Legislature.
Second, itís a scary thought that that member was recently the Minister of Finance. That member does not understand debt and what it means to the Yukon, or as it relates to anything in regard to the balance sheet. Our debt is controlled by the federal government vis-à-vis order-in-council. This is not about debt.
Letís talk about long-term debt. That member committed the Yukon taxpayer to $6 million over 10 years in one of the highest rental rates ever. Do the Yukon taxpayers own that asset at the end of it all? Absolutely not, Mr. Speaker. But that is an expense that certainly can be attributed to debt to the taxpayer. If, for example, that member had gone into a private/public partnership, the taxpayer would have owned that asset at the end of the term.
I ask the public to reflect on that. The public will be the judge. Itís simple arithmetic.
Ms. Duncan: If only everyone understood about paying debts.
The Taxpayer Protection Act makes sure that government spends responsibly. Itís a discipline. This Yukon Party government is changing the act because it wants to run up the long-term debt. If that wasnít the plan, there would be no need to change the act.
Iíd like to quote from the Finance minister. He said: "Now, Mr. Speaker, this government is committed to a pay-as-you-go regime, and thatís important because we believe, on this side of the House, that we should not compromise the future." That was the now Minister of Finance in this House in 1998. What a difference a few years and a change in political parties make.
He also said this: "I believe itís a dangerous game to play to pre-commit future public sector revenues. We must not compromise the future in any way."
Speaker: Order please. Would the member ask the question?
Ms. Duncan: I would be delighted to, Mr. Speaker.
Will the minister be true to his words and take the act off the table and learn to live within the means of the Taxpayer Protection Act? He owes it to our children.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You bet we owe a lot to our children. This amendment does not compromise the future; it brightens the future. The integrity of the act does not change. We still cannot go into an accumulated deficit ó nothing changes.
This is sound fiscal management, by utilizing the tools available to government to engage with the private sector to invest in this territory. If the last decade hasnít shown us anything, it has shown us one very important factor: the government cannot create an economy on its own.
We are now moving in a direction that will ensure the private sector is a major player in the building of the Yukon economy. This is not mortgaging our future; this is brightening the future; this is creating a future for the Yukon. Thatís sound fiscal management; thatís the prudent course for this government and this territory to take.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, the government is changing the Taxpayer Protection Act so it can put capital expenditures on the VISA card instead of paying for them today. The result is that future governments will have to pay.
After this government runs up hundreds of millions to build a bridge in Dawson and a road in southeast Yukon, the spending options of future governments will be limited for years to come. Our children will be saddled with hundreds of millions of dollars of debt.
As the former leader of the Yukon Party, John Ostashek, said, the government is going on a spending spree. These changes are mortgaging the Yukonís future.
The government opposite is desperate to escape an 11-percent unemployment rate, and theyíre willing to mortgage the future of all Yukoners to do it. Will the Finance minister stand by his words and take the Taxpayer Protection Act off the table and end the contemplation of mortgaging our childrenís future?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I will stand by my words. I always have, and I will continue to do that. This has not changed anything. This amendment is a simple, benign amendment. All of the speculative rhetoric coming from the other side does not change the fact that this government is changing the course of the territory. This government is going to ensure that there is a bright future. This government is going to ensure that this territory experiences economic growth. And this government is going to ensure that it will engage the private sector to begin investing in this territory as it should be. We are reducing the dependence upon government, and we are increasing the involvement of the private sector. We are building a future for our children through sound fiscal management. Thatís what this amendment does.
Question re: YDC/YEC, chair appointment
Mr. McRobb: I have a question for the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources about his sole-sourced $175,000 chair. Yesterday, the minister revealed he hired this chair to attend to the power line boondoggle. But that wasnít among the reasons he cited back on May 26, when he fired the previous chair and brought in this $175,000 chair.
We have also since discovered that this chair has experience in privatizing the assets and abolishing public utility watchdogs. Can the minister tell this House why he chose to disguise his real reasons for engaging in this costly firing and sole-sourcing exercise?
Hon. Mr. Lang: As far as the firing of the part-time chair whom we had in the position at Yukon Energy Corporation, when we discovered the problems we were having on the Mayo-Dawson line, we discovered that the chairmanship was a full-time job. We offered it to the sitting member; the sitting member could not do it because he had other commitments.
As far as hiring a man, I took direction from the corporation and, in unison, we hired the best man for the job.
Mr. McRobb: He did not answer the question. He did not explain why he told Yukoners one thing, yet his hidden agenda reveals something quite different.
We ask these questions on behalf of Yukon people who would like some answers from this government. By not answering our questions, the minister is not answering the publicís questions.
We need to find whatís in this jelly donut. Weíre still looking for the information requested from the minister on August 28. I will table some correspondence now.
What we asked for were the terms of reference and workplan for the chair, copies of any and all contracts with the chair and expense records under any such contracts.
When will this minister finally be providing that information?
Hon. Mr. Lang: When we took office in December of last year, I took a briefing on the situation of the Mayo-to-Dawson line. I understood at that point the chaos that it was in. The contractor had walked away from the project; the corporation had lost control of what was going to happen to that line; contractors hadnít been paid for a two-year period. And with the capable management of the third party, we found ourselves in a challenging position, to say the least.
At that point I worked with the directors; I worked with the corporation to fix a problem that that party opposite created. The two parties there ó the conceiver and the executioner ó are sitting right there. They should ask themselves questions on this issue.
As far as hiring someone to fix the job, the contractors are paid; the lights are on in Dawson; weíre moving ahead with the contractor. That is a success story for Yukoners.
Mr. McRobb: Another question asked, another question unanswered. So far, we know there is a hidden agenda. We know the minister is politically interfering in the operations of the utility. We also know this government is wonder-struck by privatization. On top of it all, this ministerís surreal proposition that this chair has somehow reined in the power line boondoggle is beyond belief. In fact, itís a year late and $9 million overbudget.
On April 28, the chair he fired appeared in this House to answer our questions. Since there is a new chair and the minister wonít answer my questions, will he now commit to calling in the board chair before this Legislature in this fall sitting? We will work it into the existing schedule. Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Lang: Again, I have to remind the members opposite that the part-time chair in the position last year was just that. He was a part-time chair. At no point was he fired. So, correcting that error of the party opposite, we found ourselves in a situation in December of last year where a major project of Yukon shareholdersí money was going into a bottomless pit. We bit the bullet, we bit the challenge and we took hold of it and we hired a manager. The manager today is managing the issue. The issue is that the contractors are paid, Dawson has its lights, the contractor and the chairman and the board of directors are working with the contractors to get the final figure, and the Auditor General of Canada has been called in and has agreed to do an audit on the line specific. We are going to get the answers. We did hire a full-time chair. We would have been irresponsible not to with the chaos that we inherited from the third party.
They can hide behind whatever they want. They ó the NDP and the Liberals ó mismanaged a huge project, misspent Yukon shareholdersí money, and we are accepting the challenge as an elected government.
There is good news at the end of this, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Ambulance attendant position
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. The minister is facing a crisis in the ambulance service across the Yukon. Attendants in one community are staying home because they are simply exhausted. Volunteer burnout is apparent throughout this service and across the territory and the volunteers feel they are inadequately trained to face emergencies and are now quitting.
This minister came up with the solution to use highways crews to do a job they are not trained to do. Yesterday he refused to answer direct questions about this crisis. Will the highways crews, which are being co-opted into being ambulance attendants, receive training to deal with the severe medical emergencies?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I stated yesterday, our government has the utmost respect for the volunteers who serve in the communities, not just in the role of ambulance attendants and drivers, but in the role of volunteer fire departments and a number of other areas.
We as a government have the utmost respect for these individuals. That said, there are a number of issues that the members opposite are not considering. When you look at the ambulance services in rural Yukon, the demands are sometimes way up there, and are sometimes very low. The attendants go to a very tragic situation, and itís very, very hard to accept. We have a high burnout rate, and that burnout rate translates into why we have the problems we do today.
Our government is committed to providing training, ongoing training, uniforms and adequate ambulances. To that end, we will continue to provide all of those things, but it is heavily reliant on these volunteers. We respect them and work with them on a continuing basis across the entire Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: The minister avoided the question again. He says that they have the utmost respect for volunteers. How do they show it? By providing adequate training? By addressing the issues that rise from volunteers? No, itís avoidance. In respect for these volunteers, why canít the questions in this House be answered?
I go on to my next question, hoping to get an answer, Mr. Speaker.
This department the minister is responsible for has millions of dollars in this fiscal year over and above previous years. The minister is paying for a new ambulance in Ross River ó great. He is paying for an extra nurse in Teslin because of the mess of the ambulance service. Will the minister also pay for proper, accredited training given to ambulance volunteers in communities? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: The simple answer, Mr. Speaker, is we currently are; weíre enhancing it, and we will continue to do so.
Mr. Fairclough: I think the minister ought to be briefed by his department on this issue, because that is not happening. Proper accredited training is what I asked for, and Iím hoping the minister will go back over the weekend and read his briefing books, and maybe weíll get some answers next week.
The position of a rural training officer for ambulance services has been vacant now for a year and a half. Now there are fears in other communities that they may follow the Teslin example and take a break from the service out of sheer exhaustion and the lack of volunteers.
Will the minister now respond to the crisis in the ambulance service by directing his department to start interviewing immediately to fill this position? And we donít want any excuses.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: As I pointed out to the member opposite yesterday on virtually the same question, there are a number of issues that have to be dealt with by the Public Service Commission.
One is for the individual who is a trainer to be able to work flex time. Subsequent to that, there were those in the bargaining unit who felt aggrieved, and there were grievances filed regarding the trainer and this whole area.
Until those are resolved by the Public Service Commission, weíre pretty well stopped in our tracks. But we are moving forward. We have trainers in place. In fact some communities have accredited trainers already in place, already providing the level of training that is required, and weíre doing just as the member asks, but we need the assistance and the cooperation of the bargaining unit for this area.
Question re: Impaired driving
Mrs. Peter:The latest figures on traffic offences show that impaired driving charges in the Yukon jumped by 20 percent last year while the Canadian figures are going down.
Since these stats are from 2002, I wonít suggest that the ministerís lenient attitude in the tow-truck case had anything to do with this shocking rise. However, it would be interesting to know what the minister is doing about this dramatic rise in the number of impaired driving charges.
What initiatives is this government working on to reduce impaired driving in the Yukon and when will we see some results?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Perhaps the member opposite should refer this particular matter to our Minister of Highways and Public Works, where it is better directed.
Mrs. Peter: I believe my question is directed at the right minister.
Since the minister took the unprecedented step of intervening in a vehicle impoundment case, she has said that she intends to introduce amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act. The deadline for tabling legislation in this sitting has come and gone.
Why hasnít the minister introduced any amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act as she said she would?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I would like to thank the Member for Vuntut Gwitchin for this particular question.
Just for the record, I certainly am not supportive of drunk driving. Our government is vehemently opposed to drunk driving and will continue to be so.
With respect to the proposed amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act, I think that this whole ordeal has shown that there is a certain degree of confusion among a lot of parties with respect to the impoundment provisions surrounding commercial vehicles and all vehicles.
With respect to the review, no, we will not be tabling any amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act this fall. I said that we would undertake a public process, we would be looking at developing a process that would be looking at this particular provision in the Motor Vehicles Act, and it would certainly entail the assistance of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, for example.
Mrs. Peter: The confusion that has been caused around this issue is by the minister not bringing any answers forward for the Yukon people. The minister has said she doesnít think the Minister of Justice should have the discretion to do what she did in July. Amending that section of the act should be an easy answer.
Perhaps the minister is planning a more extensive amendment, Mr. Speaker, and, if thatís the case, I hope she will take any proposed amendments out to the Yukon people for consultation.
I have a question that the minister has had trouble answering, but itís very simple and very straightforward. Will the minister now commit that any amendments she brings forward will not absolve commercial vehicle owners from responsibility if they knowingly allow someone who is impaired or has a notable record of impaired driving to drive one of their vehicles?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Just for the record, as the Motor Vehicles Act is currently written, the Minister of Justice must review cases of wrongful impoundment. I reviewed the very first case ever brought to this government, acted in accordance with the law and made my decision. It was not some pie-in-the-sky decision; it was not a decision that was made on the fly or because I wanted to. The application was made; I made my decision.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the Minister of Justice being involved in this particular area of the act, you bet. I donít believe the Minister of Justice should have anything to do with this particular area over wrongful impoundment but, thanks to the member of the third party and her government, it was in 2000 when she presented amendments to the Motor Vehicles Act that actually took away the discretionary power of the review officer and landed it in my lap, the Minister of Justice.
With respect to proposed amendments, Mr. Speaker, I have committed on the public floor here that we are looking into a process that will look at this particular area within the act.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed, and we will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Clerk: Motion No. 104, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Motion No. 104
Speaker:It has been moved by the Minister of Health and Social Services
THAT this House urges the Government of Canada to recognize the contributions of Yukon aboriginal veterans and provide them with the same benefits that it provides to aboriginal veterans resident on reserves.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, our government looks upon this motion as a very, very important motion, and that is the reason we have brought it forward today.
Iím looking for the full support of all members of this Legislature on this extremely important motion to send a clear message to Ottawa from all of us here for a fair and equal treatment of aboriginal veterans.
Veteran benefits have not been available to many northern aboriginals because of a conflict between the policies of the Indian Act and the Veterans Act. The conflict happened because aboriginal veterans under the Indian Act must live on a reserve to receive benefits, which would normally come to them under the Veterans Act. We all know there are very few reserves north of 60.
The federal governmentís policy in the Indian Act, of "on reserve" and "off reserve," provides for a very unfair treatment of aboriginal Canadians north of 60 and in other parts of Canada. It must be addressed by Canada. This is a long-standing issue; it goes back to the end of the Second World War and prior to that period.
What we are seeking is for Canada to provide our aboriginal veterans the same rights, privileges and services that non-Indians received under the Veterans Act.
What Canada must do is provide fair compensation to First Nation veterans. During the war they fought side by side with non-First Nation soldiers as equals, yet Canada chose not to treat them as equals.
After the war, responsibility for their benefits reverted to the Indian Act and not under the Veterans Act. Non-First Nation veterans justly received many opportunities, such as housing and education, that non-First Nation veterans did not. Parliament must apologize and award adequate compensation to aboriginal war veterans who have not been treated fairly under this policy.
I take you back to a broadcast on October 29, 2003. In the weekly broadcast of Grand Chief, Ed Schultz, he said: "One of the things that I must put out early on is it came to my attention that many of our First Nation veterans were not entitled or were not going to receive any compensation for their time served, simply because of a fundamental flaw in the Canadian governmentís policy dealing with how they are going to allot the compensation dollars."
Now, for those who may not be aware, Canada has indicated in this policy that a First Nation status Indian would have had to return to a reserve to qualify. We have indicated that for northerners, particularly in the Yukon, but this also extends to the N.W.T. Thereís not a very appropriate measure of criteria, simply because there werenít that many reserves in either territory in 1946 when people were being discharged. So, given that all lands were territories and not provincial lands under the Canadian constitutional framework, then the Crown had a fiduciary obligation to all the people in the territory and, in particular, held a fiduciary over all the Crown lands and, in essence, had the same definition based on the 1870 order and the Royal Proclamation of 1763 that they were, like reserves, set aside.
There is also a fundamental flaw in equality here. Many non-First Nation veterans were discharged in France, in England, in India, all over the world, and still werenít eligible to receive benefits from Canada for serving. Now we see that there is a fundamental problem herein and roll out of equality because our First Nation citizens are given onus supra edict conditions on how theyíre going to receive benefits. Thatís not fair and thatís a violation of the Charter.
Thatís the reason for our motion today ó for all of us to request from Canada a fair and equal treatment of our aboriginal war veterans who returned to the Yukon.
The war veteransí allowance is a form of financial assistance available from Veterans Affairs Canada. In recognition of war services, qualified persons are provided with a regular monthly income to meet basic needs. The war veterans allowance is based on income, domestic status, the number of dependants, and recipients are paid at a single, married or orphanís rate. Persons in common-law relationships also qualify for the same rates as married individuals.
The unfairness to some aboriginal veterans is increased when we recognize and realize that aboriginal participation in Canadaís war efforts was proportionally higher than that of any other group of people in Canada. One in three able-bodied aboriginal men enlisted in the First World War. More than 7,000 status First Nations members fought in the two World Wars. Some estimates are that the number would be closer to 12,000 if non-status Indians were included.
Most aboriginal people served in the infantry, partially because this is where the most manpower was needed. Many were snipers and scouts, and the Government of Canada often received letters from the front praising the work of our aboriginal people in these roles.
We have another area where our aboriginal people havenít been treated fairly. Only in 1957 was it realized that, under the Canada Elections Act, aboriginal Canadians were not even permitted to vote. Itís very difficult to fathom that Canada treats those we have fought against better than Canada treats our aboriginal veterans north of 60.
Mr. Speaker, I would ask all members of this Legislature to support this motion, send a clear and very defined message to Ottawa to move forward on a reasonable and fair treatment of our aboriginal veterans north of 60.
Mrs. Peter: I am pleased to speak in support of this motion today. This motion urges the Government of Canada to recognize the contributions of the Yukon aboriginal veterans and to provide them with the same benefits that it provides aboriginal veterans who reside on reserves.
Mr. Speaker, the Yukon First Nations enlisted for many reasons. One was the simple duty of patriotism; another was to protect the land that they cared about; another was to see the world.
Mr. Speaker, more than 7,000 First Nations people fought in the two World Wars and, like the member opposite mentioned earlier, it could have been 12,000 if non-status Indians were included.
The number was proportionately higher than any other group, and this was so even though it meant that they were going to lose their status within this country, their rights within their very homeland.
Mr. Speaker, families waited for their return. Across Canada, many mourned the loss of their son, their daughter, their father and mother. Some performed sacred ceremonies to protect their faraway warriors from harm, even though these ancient rites were prohibited by federal law. Native land was expropriated during the war for military use and was not returned. Native land was sold to white veterans under the Soldier Settlement Act, and the aboriginals did not have the right to buy the land back or obtain other benefits because of the Indian Act restrictions. Many of these issues still fester today.
World War II ended in 1945. Fifty years would pass before aboriginal veterans were even allowed to lay Remembrance Day wreaths at the National War Memorial to remember and honour their dead comrades.
Yukon aboriginal veterans were encouraged to apply for financial assistance ó $20,000 to be exact, and most of them were denied. This is disgraceful; this is discrimination, and this is unacceptable. The Yukon aboriginal veterans deserve equal treatment, for they have sacrificed much. Many of the veterans are elders today in our community. They deserve to live the rest of their life in a good way. The Government of Yukon and the Government of Canada need to acknowledge these people who live in this territory.
I encourage the Premier. He has a perfect opportunity this coming weekend ó he has the ear of the up-and-coming Prime Minister Paul Martin ó to take this message to him, so that the aboriginal veterans of the Yukon can be acknowledged and can pass on with dignity when their time comes.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to address the motion urging the Government of Canada to recognize the contribution of Yukon aboriginal veterans.
My understanding of this issue is that the Government of Canada began a national round-table process in February of 2000 on this particular issue of the compensation for aboriginal and First Nation veterans. We were ably represented at that round table, as was the Northwest Territories, and this point was raised with respect to the on-reserve and off-reserve. Our representatives at this round table received the assurance, on June 21, 2002: the Government of Canada announced $39 million, including administrative costs for eligible First Nation veterans who settled on reserves after the war and had their benefits administered on reserves.
The problem is that, once again, Yukon and Northwest Territories ó and I suppose to some degree, Nunavut as well ó are caught in this position of on-reserve versus off-reserve funding. The federal government uses this argument time and time and time again. They used it with respect to the additional funding announced for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, that was announced in early 2000 as well. Itís this federal policy of what constitutes a reserve and what does not.
The difficulty in this particular case is that we are talking about individuals who have fought for our freedoms on behalf of our country. This gesture of goodwill ó this compensation of up to $20,000, as it has been called ó has been denied to individuals in the north because of this glitch in the federal interpretation of the policy.
I want to be clear that I donít agree with the federal policy of reserve versus off-reserve and itís something that I have in all different locations in this Legislature spoken out against. It presents a real problem for the north in its interpretation.
I also want to ensure that we recognize, at least in our words today, the Assembly of First Nations Yukon regional office and their work in dealing with this issue ó in lobbying on behalf of these First Nation veterans. In particular, Regional Chief OíBrien and his administrative assistant and administrative staff, Nicole Custer, have been very strong advocates on behalf of these individuals. Iím sure they have been thanked many times for their work. I would also like to express my thanks, as Iím sure all individuals in this House do, and a way to express that support and thanks for their work on behalf of these Yukoners is also to support their efforts in urging the Government of Canada to recognize the contributions of Yukon aboriginal veterans. By supporting this motion weíre expressing our support for the work of Regional Chief OíBrien and Nicole Custer.
I would like to add that the current situation, as I understand it, is that recently, following the Kluane First Nation land claim signing, the Yukon region of the Assembly of First Nations hosted a meeting for these Yukon First Nation veterans. A representative from Veterans Affairs Canada was in attendance to hear, first-hand, the appeals and the situation and the injustice that the Yukon aboriginal veterans were suffering.
As a result of this very productive meeting there was only one veteran who had been approved for compensation and had received the payments; however, there are three more veterans who will be receiving their compensation as a result of this work.
The work continues until all of the Yukon aboriginal veterans have appropriately received this compensation. Iím sure that Regional Chief OíBrien will continue his efforts.
Iím pleased to support Regional Chief OíBrienís efforts with this motion, urging the Government of Canada to recognize the contribution of Yukon aboriginal veterans and to ensure that the compensation package is fairly provided to everyone.
Mr. McRobb: We in the official opposition will have no problem giving our full support to this motion. As a matter of fact, we are proud to do so.
The problems with the federal policy have been articulated for the record, so I wonít bother repeating those arguments, but I do believe that it should not matter where the aboriginal lives. What is important to society now is recognizing the important contribution they have made to our country and giving them the full respect they so well deserve.
Two of my constituents are aboriginal veterans, and Iím familiar with their situations. At a personal level, I endorse this motion because the recognition called for in this motion is needed by these people.
I think the motion could have gone further because many motions we have sent to the federal government before had no effect. I recall motions on funding for a railroad study that have gone unanswered. I recall motions on Bill C-68 and other important issues to Yukoners that have gone unanswered.
I think there is more that this government should do to promote this issue to the federal government. In addition, the meeting following the day of the land claim signing ceremony for the Kluane First Nation ó there was a meeting, as mentioned, in Haines Junction. It is my understanding that the Premier attended that meeting and this very issue was on the agenda for discussion with the federal government and our aboriginal leaders. So I am looking forward to hearing an update from the Premier on this matter.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Fairclough: I do have a few comments that I would like to make regarding this motion also.
We, of course, on this side will be supporting this motion. Like my colleague said, we think that it could have been enhanced a bit to show our support for the impact on our aboriginal veterans. Thatís not in this motion, other than the recognition of their contribution and some benefits that are provided to all our veterans in Canada.
My colleague from Vuntut Gwitchin laid out some things that are a bit shocking in our society today that we are finally getting around to. In 1995, the fact that aboriginal people were finally able to lay a wreath ó thatís kind of shocking to me, that it took that long to even recognize them. These are the first peoples of this land that we are talking about.
So, for myself, in knowing some of our veterans and how theyíve been treated, it is truly sad that we have taken so long to get to this point. Many Yukoners recognize that. As a matter of fact, this Remembrance Day, you probably didnít see a lot of aboriginal people attending ceremonies. There were some, but I believe that many people were protesting that very fact.
Itís too bad that we didnít deal with this motion before Remembrance Day to have an even stronger impact on this, and to recognize the fact that aboriginal people did play a huge part in both World Wars. Iíve read some material on this, and itís shocking to know that some of these things were taking place. Members mentioned in this House how aboriginal people werenít allowed to vote, and the fact that they couldnít own land. I know of people in my own community who had land taken away from them because they were aboriginal people and they couldnít hold title to land. Thatís shocking knowing that this was the very spot they made the community from ó Carmacks ó where they traded with the Tlingits, and so on, and then a non-native came in, "Move them out. This is not the right place for them to settle down." And they moved them again ó three times they moved the aboriginal people, and still they were not able to own land, not able to vote, but were good enough to fight in the war.
As my colleague said, per population of any group, aboriginal people had the highest numbers. They were used where manpower was needed. They were used as snipers; as a matter of fact, in some of the really important parts, like coding messages, back and forth, they used the aboriginal language. The Japanese couldnít crack it. This was key to success on our part.
All the while after that, it seemed like, boom, everything just disappeared, and there was definitely discrimination. Weíre pointing out one right here about aboriginal veterans. It is one of many issues and why First Nations in the Yukon went the route they did to negotiate a land claims agreement.
If you think about it, the land claims agreements werenít about aboriginal people owning land. It was all about sharing with other people, like they did for hundreds of years. People donít seem to realize that at all. There are settlement lands and there are shared lands.
We on this side of the House want to ensure that this government, when opportunity arises, brings forth this motion and expresses strongly our support for recognition of the contributions of our aboriginal veterans.
The small part of the whole thing would be the benefits side. Itís dollars, and itís certainly one that we would like to see, but we also want to see the recognition of the contribution and the impact. And many people kind of leave that out ó the fact they took so many years to even gain their status back. Some of them fell between the cracks. Many died in poverty. Those are our aboriginal veterans. It wouldnít happen to anybody else. Like the member said, we give more support to other races in the territory and not to our own aboriginal people, the first peoples of this land.
So we on this side of the House certainly support this motion and we will be onside, of course, in voting for this motion, and we urge government to do exactly what they say in this motion.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I would like to thank the opposition for their support of this motion. I can also tell you that there are many on our side of the House, if not all on our side of the House, who expressed a desire to speak to this motion, but we felt we could get the message out in the best manner if we put up one speaker from our side and move forward with the unanimous consent of the House.
I can assure all here, Mr. Speaker, that the Premier will be taking this message to the new Prime Minister of Canada and probably to the next Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs. Weíll have to just wait and see who that may be or if the present incumbent will be remaining; we donít know. There is a lot of speculation surrounding this.
But I believe there is a new spirit of cooperation between the Yukon government and the Government of Canada, which hasnít existed with prior governments ó that we are going to work on that and enhance it for the betterment of all Yukoners and, in this case, specifically our aboriginal veterans.
I thank all members for their support, and look forward to bringing this to a vote.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results of 17 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion No. 104 agreed to
Bill No. 7: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 7, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Fentie; adjourned debate.
Mrs. Peter: When I left this debate last week, I brought forward some issues that were of concern to my community and also the Yukon public.
It was one year ago ó just over one year ago ó that this government was elected on the promise to be open and accountable to the Yukon.
In the spring sitting we as official opposition brought forward questions and concerns on behalf of the Yukon people. We received very few answers.
Again this fall, in the last few weeks, we brought forward many questions on behalf of the Yukon public. Again we havenít had much response in the way of answers.
People are listening. People are asking questions. People are waiting for answers. This causes uncertainty, and this causes a lot of stress.
We in Old Crow appreciate the dollars that were allocated to the capital projects so that we can finally make progress in that area. Itís thanks to the chief and council and the people in government services at the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation government who did planning, in detail, and did the majority of the work, and came and presented that document to government. They said, "This is our plan for our community. This is the vision that we have for Old Crow, and this is where we would like to make progress."
The Premier and some of the Cabinet ministers were in Old Crow a few weeks ago. It was during that visit that they had an opportunity to hear many of the issues from the people. So I donít think the information that I bring forward today is going to be much of a surprise to the government.
The people of Old Crow have been long awaiting an airport terminal. For the three years Iíve been in office, Iíve been bringing that issue forward on their behalf. Two years ago, it was in the long-term plan. Looking through this budget thatís before us today, it has been bumped so far into the future that I donít see it anywhere.
Mr. Speaker, I have witnessed, on many occasions at the Old Crow airport terminal, people coming and going. People may be amazed to learn that the Old Crow airport is one of the busiest in the Yukon. In the summertime we have Air North flying into our community on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays. The planes that land there are usually 40-seaters. Much of the time, those planes are full.
I have watched elders, mothers and children, and people with disabilities make their way off and on the plane into this building. Itís very difficult for them. There is no wheelchair access into this building. The building canít hold more than 10 people before it becomes crowded and people have to stand outside.
Thatís difficult in the winter months. We also miss out on a great economic opportunity in the summer because of the many tourists who travel through that airport. I believe that if we go back and look at the designs that were first presented or first drafted under the NDP government, there was an area there for an arts and crafts outlet, so that we could try to reap some economic benefits as people travel through. This would be the ideal place.
Another project that we have been long awaiting is the reception centre. This plan has been on the table for the last five years. We have had cooperation from the federal government, and we are still awaiting the territorial government to become partners in that project.
The Minister of Environment was made aware of some very critical issues during his visit to Old Crow. He participated with and met with the renewable resource councils from throughout the territory in Old Crow. There were some requests made ó very specific requests for information ó of this minister. I am hoping that the minister has responded.
Trapping has always been a part of our livelihood, not only in Old Crow but throughout the territory.
It's one of those very, very important activities in our traditional livelihood that is almost at a loss now. Yet there are trappers in our communities who still go out every winter. We have grandfathers taking out their grandsons, grandmothers taking out their grandchildren on the land to teach them so that we can hold on to our traditional values. I believe that that request was made for information from the Minister of Environment in Old Crow.
Education, justice, health and social concerns top the agenda from my community. And I will be addressing those in more detail when we move into the departments.
As the Justice critic for the official opposition, I have been left wondering, as have many other people throughout the territory, about any progress that has been made or any planning that has been made on the Whitehorse Correctional Centre.
Last summer we heard from the Minister of Justice that plans were making progress and we were going to hear of an announcement any time soon. That was many months ago. I appreciate the dollars that have been put toward repairs to this crumbling building. The condition of that building is ó I canít even find words to describe it. There has been money put toward this building time and time again. I call those band-aid solutions.
Last year I mentioned to the Minister of Justice that the people who work in that centre deserve better than that. They were looking forward to having a new building, a new place to work, and now weíre just throwing more money at it. Iím not sure how long that will last.
In the Department of Environment, Mr. Speaker, the relationship that this minister has with the renewable resource councils of the Yukon is questionable. There have been many serious concerns brought forward from the Yukon public, and more especially from the First Nation communities. There are concerns about the Wildlife Act review, or the recommendations that were brought forward by the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. How that was handled by this minister is unacceptable.
The recommendations that were brought forward by Management Board are recommendations from the Yukon public. When the Yukon public is disregarded in that manner, Mr. Speaker, especially by a Cabinet minister who supposedly represents us all and speaks on our behalf in this Legislature, it is unacceptable.
I will again request any financial assistance that we can acquire from this government to help the people of Vuntut Gwitchin to address the protection of the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve. That is one of the issues that was before us yesterday and will be before us today. We look for a commitment for that for tomorrow.
I have heard much about oil and gas development and roads to resources. There has been aggressive energy put forward by this government in those areas. Yet what are we doing to address other environment concerns throughout the Yukon?
What about the cleanups in Faro and Elsa? Are there any developments happening to help us with solar energy or wind energy in the Yukon? What about the Yukon protected areas strategy? Thatís nowhere on the radar screen since it was abolished a year or so ago. There was some money brought forward to address violence against aboriginal women and, again, we are grateful for that. I would encourage those dollars be used at the grassroots level in the community, so they can have a chance to address their concerns. They are the ones in the communities who can address those concerns because they know it first-hand.
Mr. Speaker, in the Yukon Party platform, promises were made to the Yukon people about a crisis line, and I am left wondering again where and when we are going to see that promise.
I will have more questions and concerns in our departments.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: It truly is indeed my honour and privilege to rise today to speak to the supplementary budget. As many have alluded to in the past here, the supplementary budget is, without a doubt, very large. What also remains large, however, is the size of the Yukon governmentís surplus. Despite what the opposition has to say thus far, this is indicative of smart, prudent fiscal management carried out by this government.
This is indeed a large supplementary budget, of which approximately almost $45 million of the $99.5 million is directly attributed to devolution, and that is the transfer of control of Yukonís land and resources to the territory from the federal government under the devolution transfer agreement.
As the Premier said, some 245 federal employees have made their way to the Yukon government. To each and every employee who was part of that transfer, I say "Welcome", and I say, "Many thanks for all your patience and understanding over the last few months." Change is never easy. However, I do feel the transition has gone relatively smoothly, and much of the success can be attributed to the team effort exemplified by each and every employee of the Government of Yukon.
So, again, my hat is off, and sincere thanks to all.
Mr. Speaker, in addition to devolution funding, an additional $23 million in surplus was also created as a direct result of the work completed by our officials in relation to the census undercount.
This was a tremendous achievement for the Yukon, for which again I have to give credit where credit is due: our Department of Finance, Yukonís Bureau of Statistics and the officials within our Ottawa office.
Thanks in large part to this work over these last months, our government was successful in pointing out the deficiencies in the federal governmentís calculation of Yukon census adjustment, dating as far back as 1996.
In addressing the matter of the census undercount, our government was then able to make available the $15 million that had been booked for the census contingency. So, in addition, our government chose to dissolve a number of funds, such as the permanent fund, that were not doing anything to serve Yukoners but simply collect dust.
Add all of this and what Yukon was able to achieve was approximately $50 million in surplus. The surplus, I might add, couldnít have come at a much better time.
Thereís no doubt that the Yukon has seen better times. The sad truth of it all is that our territory hasnít had the opportunity to see better times since 1996, since the time of the previous Yukon Party government. It was quite apparent in the last election that Yukoners wanted change ó change not only by way of government but change by way of an economy.
And while I understand that change does not necessarily come instantaneously, I also understand the urgency for change to occur ó urgency in the sense that Yukoners are tired of waiting for an upturn or some upswing in the economy, tired of seeing high unemployment, tired of seeing their friends and neighbours having to leave the territory to look for work elsewhere.
So my colleagues and I are very much aware of the current realities today. I am also aware, however, of the many opportunities that await our territory and the tremendous potential of what our future holds.
One of the key planks in restoring our economy was to restore investor confidence. While, yes, this may be easier said than done, it is achievable. In fact, we saw it from 1992 to 1996.
Through devolution, the Government of Yukon now has the necessary control and management authority over land, water and resources, thereby helping to create the certainty that the resource sector is seeking today. This is a tremendous stride in the right direction and one that will yield dividends thousand-fold for Yukoners down the road.
Yet another advance toward creating a climate that is conducive to the growth of our private sector is that of the settlement of land claims in the territory. In just one year since forming government, I believe that we have had tremendous advancement in this regard. I refer to the recent ratification and signing of the Kluane First Nation land claim and self-government agreements. I refer to Kwanlin Dun First Nation signing off its claim in September and proceeding toward ratification. I refer to Carcross-Tagish First Nation, which recently initialled its final agreement on October 30 and is also proceeding toward ratification. The White River First Nation is also currently engaged in a process to initial and ratify its agreements.
Elsewhere we have made significant progress with respect to formalizing government-to-government relationships with Yukon First Nations. I refer to southeast Yukon and the situation surrounding the Kaska Nation claim, in which the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development no longer has a mandate to negotiate because of these very unfortunate circumstances, not to mention the requirement as set out in the Yukon Oil and Gas Act stating that there shall not be an oil or gas disposition in an area in which a land claim agreement has not been settled, without the consensus of that First Nation.
Our government has moved forward and has struck a bilateral agreement with the Kaska Nation, an interim agreement that will not only garner access to the many resources in this part of the Yukon, but will provide the resource sector with the necessary certainty it needs to do business until such time as the land claim is settled in this area.
Before I proceed, I should also mention that the Geoscience Forum is up and coming this weekend, and I encourage all members to participate in that particular forum. I was just advised by the Member for Porter Creek Centre earlier today that, in fact, itís looking to be a resounding success in that the Yukon is drawing the largest number of booths to participate in the Geoscience Forum.
So, again, hats off to our Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and to all those who have helped organize the Geoscience Forum to take place this weekend.
Moving on, I would also like to talk about a very exciting industry, one that has sustained our economy through good times and bad, and one that holds incredible promise for our future, that being tourism. The government recognizes the very importance of tourism and the many economic benefits industry generates on an annual basis.
Upon being elected, one of the first initiatives our government set out to achieve was the establishment of a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture, a department that not only incorporates heritage, culture and arts, but one that solely focuses on marketing Yukon as a tourism destination. In keeping with my commitment to the Tourism Industry Association Yukon, the marketing branch now encompasses tourism research, planning and product development, all under one roof.
This decision was based on what we heard from industry. That is what industry wanted. We listened and we delivered. This new structure has created a more dynamic and effective unit to serve the needs of industry and government, enabling the department to communicate more readily with our industry partners and achieve our common goals.
There is no doubt in anyoneís mind that, this year, above all else, resulted in what I have come to label as the "perfect storm". From the war in Iraq, SARS, BSE, forest fires, to a weak American economy, 2003 saw it all. Yet, despite all these hits, I am proud to say that Yukon managed to weather the storm relatively well, compared to other jurisdictions in our country.
In fact, Mr. Speaker, Yukon has much to look forward to and has many successes to promote. Condor, for example, which offers direct air access from Frankfurt, Germany, to Whitehorse twice a week during the summer, was actually up by 18 percent compared to last year.
Fraserway RV Rentals, for example, has purchased their own property and is looking to build their own facility ó again, a show of confidence in our territory. Cruise America, for example, is looking at opening their own operation here in the territory for the first time.
Mr. Speaker, not long ago, our government made a news announcement regarding a marketing partnership between our Department of Tourism and Culture, the Wilderness Tourism Association of the Yukon, Yukon Quest and Columbia Sportswear Company: a marketing campaign worth $300,000 that will not only showcase the Yukon Quest international sled dog race, but Yukon as a winter destination of choice.
Iím also pleased to announce that in addition to this promotional campaign, Columbia Sportswear Canada has just signed a two-year sponsorship agreement with Yukon Quest for its Sorel footwear brand. Yukon Quest, the toughest sled dog race in the world, according to Jeff Timmins from Columbia Sportswear Canada, "presents Sorel with a well-matched partner to increase the awareness of Sorelís excellent performance under harsh conditions and to help reintroduce their Sorrel in Canada and through out the world."
I just have to say a few words about the brand initiative. The Yukon brand strategy was identified as one of the top five priorities according to the Tourism Industry Association Yukon. In keeping with that commitment we are proceeding. We are working closely with our agency of record, working closely with industry to develop a Yukon brand strategy and a corporate partner destination marketing program.
I just wanted to point this out, Mr. Speaker, because the leader of the official opposition obviously has some differences with these priorities that industry has pointed out. And I just refer to Hansard of November 6, in which the leader of the official opposition is quoted as saying: "My fear is that this government will do anything to sell the Yukon, and we have heard the Premier say on many occasions that the Yukon is a brand; we have got to sell this sucker. Those are comments that have been overheard."
Well, first off, the Yukon is not a brand. I take a lot of offence to hear that kind of individual of labelling of my home. I think a lot of people in this territory find it offensive.
He goes on and on and on.
I just have to point out again for the members opposite that there are currently over 2,000 companies that use one of several Yukon brands to label or promote their products. I refer to Yukon fleece, GMC Yukon truck, Klondike ice cream bars, et cetera, et cetera.
Itís very important that we keep this in perspective, because the opportunity to leverage additional marketing efforts through our Yukon brand is a great initiative, and it is one that our government wholeheartedly supports and is working with industry to expand upon.
So I certainly hope that the members opposite will come around and realize that the Yukon brand is not all bad and evil.
Now Yukon has not only a wealth of resources in terms of its land and beauty, we have an even greater wealth of human resources. If it werenít for the hard work and professional service of our front-line workers, we wouldnít have repeat visitation, nor would we have a reputation for delivering warm, northern hospitality.
Thanks to these individuals ó those who make or break our visitor industry ó Yukon continues to be a destination of choice for visitors throughout the world today.
Our government recognizes the importance of heritage and culture, especially as they relate to the growing cultural tourism market. Increasingly, with the change in demographics, there is a growing sophisticated traveller who is looking for an authentic cultural experience.
In fact, recent studies in the United States, for example, show that 81 percent of American adults, who took in at least one trip, took in a cultural, heritage or arts activity or event while on that trip. Of course, the survey also shows a promising wave of opportunity for cultural and historic tourism products with affluent and/or educated baby-boomer households, generating this type of travel and spending more. This was just a quote from the tourism publication put out by Canada Tourism Commission.
For this reason Iím very pleased to highlight a number of initiatives, some of which are identified in this supplementary budget. I refer to $300,000 toward the cost of planning and developing a cultural heritage centre for the Carcross-Tagish First Nation. I also refer to our contribution to the Kluane First Nation for planning dollars to go toward the potential addition of their cultural centre.
These centres will enhance regional tourism initiatives, support heritage and cultural preservation, and generate economic development and job creation in these areas of the Yukon. Highlighted within the budget is also $200,000 toward the decade of sport and culture. Our department is very proud to play an important role in this new initiative.
As the Premier pointed out earlier, Yukonís participation in the 2004 Canada Senior Games, 2007 Canada Winter Games and the 2010 Olympics will provide all Yukon communities with an unprecedented opportunity to celebrate all that is great about being a Yukoner.
A decade of sport and culture will build on these activities to generate excitement and participation that will engage Yukon people and attract participation from Canadians and international visitors alike.
Itís estimated that the Canada Winter Games alone will generate economic benefits of approximately $30 million in the sale of goods and services and will create many, many hundreds and thousands of hours of employment for Yukon people. Some 3,000 of Canadaís finest young athletes will compete in 21 sports over the two weeks of competition. As well, just as importantly, the games will include a major cultural component as part of the games celebration.
It is interesting to note that not only will this be the first Canada Winter Games ever to be held in one of our three northern territories, but it will be the last Canada Winter Games before the 2010 Olympics are held in British Columbia. Itís a tremendous opportunity for all Yukoners, and we want to ensure that these opportunities are fully realized, and not just within the two weeks that the games will be held, but throughout the next four years leading up to the actual event.
I could also ó I see that Iím running out of time here. That is very unfortunate because I did want to go on about the cultural economy, our labour force, some of the initiatives that we are pursuing in heritage and culture today in the Yukon.
We have also very much enjoyed the opportunity to talk about Yukon corrections ó the road forward ó in the amount of $200,000, following up our memorandum of understanding that was signed earlier this year with Kwanlin Dun First Nation and our Government of Yukon.
I could have also spoken about the $100,000 to address issues facing Yukon First Nation women with respect to domestic violence ó violence against aboriginal women in Canada today.
I will wind up now. Thank you to all members of this Legislature for this opportunity to say such great things about our budget.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the opportunity to rise on behalf of the people of Porter Creek South to speak to the supplementary budget that has been tabled by the government.
My constituents were hoping that, having had a year in office and the opportunity and time to fully understand the financing of the government ó well, they expected more. Certainly, as a member of the Legislature, I expected far more from the government, since it had such a length of time to get a complete grasp of the territoryís finances. Fundamentally, Yukoners certainly deserved better.
Iíd like to share with you a comment from the Member for Watson Lake. He said, "Itís quite obvious that the pattern thatís being developed in the last six to seven months by this government is: dismantle everything that the former government had in place, get rid of it, stomp on it, throw it out. By the same token, theyíre stomping all over Yukoners for their own partisan political gain." That was a quote from the Member for Watson Lake, in Hansard, three years ago.
"Partisan political gain", "stomping all over Yukoners" ó Yukoners deserved better in this supplementary budget. Itís no wonder the government didnít want to table it. There is nothing to celebrate as we mark the one-year anniversary of this government taking office. The supplementary budget is just another sign that the government has no idea about whatís going on, and no plan to help improve the economy.
I guess the Finance minister hoped no one would notice how bad the budget was if the government sat on it for five days.
We will have plenty of time to debate the supplementary budget and to debate it line by line.
It certainly is, as we had predicted, the largest supplementary budget ever.
Iíd like to speak for a few moments generally about the financing of the Yukon Territory.
First of all, there is the issue of surplus. Itís the second item on Management Board every week. Management Board used to meet every week; Iím assuming the current government does that as well; however, that may not be the case. But the second item every week is, "Whatís the surplus?" Thatís the question; thatís the information that is given to all those individuals at Management Board.
The logical question that Yukoners have to ask, then, is: thatís taxpayersí money, that should be public information. When did the government fully recognize just how large the surplus would be?
The undercounts are certainly very good news for the territory, and every member of this House has thanked the public servants who have worked with the statistics branch, with Canada and the Department of Finance, on this particular issue.
Iíd also like to express my thanks, on behalf of Yukoners, to my former colleagues who know that the argument could also have gone the other way, who set aside $15 million to ensure and to absorb any shock had the decision gone the other way.
The government has made much of their political work on this particular issue. Just so they donít wear themselves out patting themselves on the back, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to reflect for a moment to 2001 and the letter that I received from Mr. Martin who was, of course, then the Finance minister. This has previously been filed with the Table, so itís not necessary that I table it. I would like to just share it with members, though.
He said, "After a thorough review of the three-year moving average clauses contained in the agreements and the consultations we have recently undertaken on this issue, I am writing to confirm that the methodology used to derive the three-year moving average growth rate for the three territories be revised in a manner which has now been agreed to. The estimated impacts of the revision are attached."
This is just like the undercount issue; this was the three-year moving average issue. And the net gain to the Yukon Territory was $42,156,000. To the Northwest Territories, it was $72,898,000, and Nunavut received $62,249,000. This was a result of the Yukon government Department of Finance officials. They led the way in this charge; they have always led the way, thanks to the efforts of Frank Fingland, Raghu Raghunathan, Charles Sanderson ó individuals who are no longer employed ó and those who are still employed. There are many of them, including Glenn Grant in Ottawa.
These public servants and others I havenít named and who are currently with the government have led the three territories in ensuring that the formula financing arrangement treated us fairly. These officials have also led the way in ensuring that we won the undercount argument. I congratulate them, and I caution the members opposite that it truly is the Yukon officials who led the way in this and who deserve the credit for the work that has been done.
The other discussion that takes place at Management Board is the issue of the disbursement of funds, and this Yukon Party government has made much of their decision to collapse the funds. They said they were just collecting dust. Well, that $10 million Yukon permanent fund had a great deal of public consultation and public input ó opinions, as the current Finance minister is fond of saying. Heís also fond of saying Yukoners are entitled to their opinions. Itís truly unfortunate that no consideration was given to those Yukonersí individual opinions, or the opinion that supported the establishment of the community recreation leadership endowment fund or the teacher mentoring fund.
These funds have been collapsed more than once by the government in this shell game of the financial picture. The fuzzy picture they present is becoming very clear.
There is a complete lack of understanding, despite their full year in office; there is a lack of party discipline in the ability to live and work with the rules that served Yukoners so well for so many years, namely the Taxpayer Protection Act.
There is also no understanding on the side opposite of the surplus and the history of the surplus. We got formula finance funding in 1985. If you factor in inflation and look at the territoryís surplus over the years from 1985 to present, one would understand that the surplus has, by and large ó over the life cycle of the government it has had its ups and downs ó remained fairly consistent. Look what weíve built. Look what governments have been able to do under that formula, living within the rules, living within that surplus. We have incredible facilities in many, many locations in the Yukon. We have an infrastructure that is the best in the north.
Unfortunately, under this government we have a contemplation of debt financing; we have 500 fewer people working, and we have a double digit unemployment rate.
Yukoners have serious misgivings about the financial management of the Yukon Party government ó particularly in the supplementary that has been presented. In the supplementary itself, there is no vision. There is no vision of infrastructure. There is no vision of infrastructure throughout the Yukon, and there is no hope of jobs. There is no vision of healthy communities with clean water and appropriate resolution of waste. There is no broad vision of health care, and there is no hope of dealing with addictions.
Itís a very divisive view presented in the supplementary budget. Thereís one humane society that is funded, but not the other. Thereís the bidding war we have between schools, and the minister playing what has been referred to as Santa Claus.
I do believe that itís also incumbent upon me, as a member of the Legislature, to give credit where credit is due, and Iím very pleased the government has followed up on the suggestion I made a year ago and is dealing with the safety improvements that are badly needed at Porter Creek Secondary School. Itís a recommendation I made in the budget a year ago, immediately upon the election, and they have finally seen fit to deal with the safety improvements. Iím glad thatís in there. Iím also very, very supportive of the winter road construction with the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the private sector, and the winter road construction in to and out of Old Crow. Itís very important when contemplating that winter road construction that we allowed for enough time. That was certainly the message I had received, and my ministers and I were working with the people of Old Crow on the winter road construction so there would be enough time.
Unfortunately, I havenít heard word one, particularly from the Minister of Environment and Minister of Community Services, about money in this supplementary budget to take out YTGís waste. There are five or six vehicles out there that belong to the Department of Infrastructure that need to be brought out. There are heavy waste metals in refrigerators and stoves at the dump that need to be brought out on this winter road. Thatís going to cost money. Itís the Government of Yukonís mess, and the Government of Yukon should be cleaning it up.
There is no broad vision of the environment that talks about cleaning up waste, such as is in Old Crow, such as is in Dawson City and its sewage and water systems ó of providing clean drinking water and safe disposal of waste in communities that donít have that. There are far too many of them in the Yukon.
There is no sense of the necessity of dealing with environmental issues, such as are located at the Recycling Centre in their request for what is, in essence, a very small sum of money ó certainly to a government that is awash in cash ó to deal with the batteries.
There is no big, broad vision that is articulated in the supplementary budget.
We have an announcement from the Minister of Economic Development about some visioning exercise with the Department of Economic Development, but there is a complete ignoring of the taking action plan that was a response to the Yukon business summit in 2001, which was called Taking Charge. Taking action would put in place a partnership between the private sector and government ó no, that opinion got tossed aside. The government took office, and there was a blueprint available. There was a capital budget that would have put Yukoners to work, that would have ensured the steady downward trend of the unemployment rate. Instead, we saw a steady upward trend under this government and the loss of far too many Yukoners.
That is broadly speaking with regard to the supplementary budget. In short, Yukoners deserved better. As a member of the Legislature ó I know the constituents I speak on behalf of certainly expected far more from a government that has had a year ó itís had a year and it could have done far more. It had a year to articulate a vision. It had a year to provide Yukoners with hope, to provide Yukoners with the sense that there was an understanding of needs in the communities, of the needs throughout the Yukon, and a vision of this proud territory ó where it should be and where it could be.
Unfortunately, itís not going to be realized through this supplementary budget, and it wonít be realized under this government.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Thank you for this opportunity to talk to the supplementary budget that this very progressive government has put together as a team. Weíre very proud of the team we have here in government today. Weíve got a cross-section of Yukoners. We were elected 11 months ago to take on a task from probably one of the most mean-spirited governments ever elected in the Yukon Territoryís history.
The last government ó as I listen to the member opposite, she talks about mathematics, she talks in great length. Sheís the member who didnít know the difference between 10 and seven, Mr. Speaker.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Point of order
Deputy Speaker:The Member for Mount Lorne, on a point of order.
Mr. Cardiff: I find the memberís comments very disrespectful to the member. Sheís not even here to defend herself, and I know I shouldnít comment on that but I find the comments rude and very demeaning.
Deputy Speaker: Minister of Environment, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: There is no point of order and I would remind the member opposite that it is considered against the rules of this House to refer to a personís absence.
Deputy Speakerís ruling
Deputy Speaker:Itís the Chairís finding that the comment did in fact breach Standing Order 19(i) in that the comment was abusive or insulting, and Iíd like the member to retract the comment.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Lang:I retract the comment.
Carrying on with my discussion about the supplementary budget, I find it interesting that all of the load of the economics of the Yukon falls on our government at the moment. And when we started 12 months ago, our leader took on the task of being Finance minister and, of course, in that respect, we had a very short period of time to put the mains together.
First of all, it was very important for Yukon that we as a government make a statement by putting the mains together.
The previous government didnít put the time into their first budget. They just read the budget of the previous government. Yukoners voted a new government in. They wanted a new look and a new vision, and our vision was economic security for everybody in the Yukon. So the vision was, first of all, to get our financial house in place. Our "financial house" meant: where was the money, how was it coming in, how much money did we have? Our Finance minister took a look at that and all 11 members here participated in a budget process. We needed more dollars for health care. The undercount was very important. It was important that we bite the bullet and do the undercount. When the member opposite talks at great length about the undercount and how they had the money put aside, and whatever, that is not the issue, Mr. Speaker. The issue is that we did the job. We went to Ottawa with our officials ó and weíre certainly not taking anything away from their capable input into this situation. But our Minister of Finance bit the bullet and said to us, as a caucus, that we had to resolve the undercount. Whether we owe $15 million or $23 million, letís get it up front and do the job.
So when the member opposite talks at great length about how this would have resolved itself, I find that individual dead wrong. We had to bite the bullet, so we went for the undercount. Through the leadership of our Finance minister, we again renewed our partnership with the Northwest Territories which, under the previous government, had gone a little asunder, to say the least. So we revived our partnership north of 60 through the leadership of our capable Finance minister, who went to Ottawa, and guess what? He and the other two premiers stood up to Canada and said that the transfers through population donít work.
Instead of getting $23,000 in the formula ó which is what we would have received as our benefit of the $20 billion ó we walked out of the room, after some negotiations, with a cheque for $20 million over three years.
Now, is that the end of the road? Our Finance minister said no, weíre just putting you on notice. Weíre putting you on notice, saying to you, the Government of Canada, that the system doesnít work. And we, as northerners, in partnership with the other northern territories, are coming back. And over the next 36 months, weíre going to get a package put together that will benefit those living north of 60 and be more realistic for the problems that arise north of 60.
So when the members opposite talk about financing issues and ask how we do this, how we do that, and what we will see at the end of the trail, I say that what you see is vision. Our government, with the capable leadership of our Premier, who not only is Premier, but also Minister of Finance and took the added load of Economic Development, which is another platform promise we made and kept ó he has led on the economic front.
Now, certainly weíre not happy with the unemployment figures. We wonít be happy until we put Yukoners back to work, and thatís why weíre all in this room. And thatís why, when you look at our approach to financing ó first of all, get your house in order and find out how much money you have. Second of all, if youíre short, or find thereís a shortfall, then you have to go and address the issue. We did that. We did that with the leadership of our Finance minister.
So, as far as the supplementary is concerned, we realized the resources we had, and we waited for the Auditor General to come in, as any good fiscal government would do. We got the figures. We understood the $6 million was there ó weíre going to receive $20 million over three years. We understood the undercount, with our officials and our Finance minister working in unison. We pounded that out and realized that we could release the $15 million. We no longer needed that because we bet on the right horse, and that happened to be the Finance minister in this case.
The situation arose where we had some resources. Now the resources in this supplementary, starting from northern Yukon to southern Yukon, are very important for all Yukoners. Another obligation that we took on was to represent all Yukoners. So when weíre talking about fiscal management, we are fiscally managing the resources of all Yukoners. Then we have to take every riding, every area of the Yukon, and prioritize the needs.
When we go to the Old Crow community, we work with chief and council ó again, a partnership. Then we put the capital budgets together. We want this capital budget to work. We put $500,000 together. We put $200,000 toward the access to Old Crow this winter to get the equipment in and what they need to do the job. Next year there will be other issues. There is the airport in Old Crow. The airport in Old Crow needs resurfacing. Those are things that are going to come ahead of us. The Old Crow community is looking at a new terminal. Those are issues that are on the front burner. We are working positively to do that.
Now as far as the rest of the Yukon is concerned ó the school in Carmacks. Itís very important that the school in Carmacks is replaced. That has been debated for years. The Carmacks school has been there in that state for the last 35 years. We prioritized the school in Carmacks to give the people in Carmacks a proper academic centre that the community can be proud of. We put our capable Department of Education ó and our minister put those resources into that, working with the community and the First Nation to build a building that the whole community can be proud of. Thatís a commitment we made to Carmacks.
The member from the third party talks about academics and how the third party, when they were in power, had, I guess, thought about doing the work at Porter Creek Secondary; that was just a debate. We are going to do the work at Porter Creek Secondary.
Thatís a commitment Iím going to make because my riding uses Porter Creek Secondary as a school, and the people in Porter Creek Secondary deserve better. Our government has made a decision that weíre going to bite the bullet and weíre going to build a cafeteria and weíre going to address the problems that the industrial arts department has. Thatís a commitment our government made in the member oppositeís riding, but guess what? A large chunk of Whitehorse uses that school, and it should be held up as an example of the academic strength we have in our communities. Porter Creek is a school that is well-run, well-received by the population in Porter Creek, and the student body is very proud of that establishment.
We have to take our hats off to not only the principal of that school, but to the faculty as well, because they created that atmosphere by being a well-managed institution. Porter Creek Secondary deserves better, and Porter Creek Secondary is going to get better from our government.
Weíre not going to stand in the House, in past tense, and say weíll debate the issues of Porter Creek Secondary. Weíre going to address the issues, and weíre going to start with the supplementary, Mr. Speaker.
So, vision is where weíre going. Now, the last government talked about vision, and the last government was the shortest lived majority government in Canadian history. What does that say about management?
Mr. Speaker, Iím shocked to think that the member opposite can stand up and debate the questions about finance ó again, the shortest lived majority government in Canadian history. Iím not quite sure that it might not be in the Commonwealth, that a government with a massive majority and with the capable management of the leader of the third party went, in 24 months, from that majority to calling an election with a minority government.
I donít call that management. I donít call that good people skills. I donít call that being fair to Yukoners. We as Yukoners went out and voted for a majority government. We put a majority government in place and through bad leadership, I guess, or mismanagement, we ended up, within 24 months, in an election.
The people of the Yukon made a statement about that management. They said to us, "Weíre putting you in the saddle; youíre in charge now." Out of a 17-member House, 12 members were elected, and our job is to be responsible with the finances of this half a billion dollar corporation. Over half a billion dollars is being spent in the Yukon. Thatís a massive corporation, and how are we going to prioritize it? How are we going to make sure we get the biggest bang for our buck?
Our government, the 11 members here, have said we have to have some vision. What is that vision? Where are we going with our vision? Iíll tell you where weíre going with our vision.
First Nations relationship. Full partnership. Weíre committed to that, Mr. Speaker. Again, that was part of our platform and weíre proceeding down the trail of full participation with First Nations ó full economic partnership.
Weíve got to increase the surplus and provide all the options to stimulate the economy. The economy has to be stimulated. We have to work with the federal government and First Nations to realize the money and the obligations that the federal government has and are not meeting today. Itís all very well for the federal government to work with First Nations and finalize land claims. Now letís implement them. Implementing means that we have to have some resources to implement the land claims.
We are going to work with the First Nations to ensure that they get 100 percent of the dollars promised to them when they signed their land claims.
Another vision ó the Taxpayer Protection Act. We have to have full disclosure of books. Weíre not changing the Taxpayer Protection Act. Weíre not going out into debt. Weíre not doing those things. Weíre going to tweak it a bit so it can work in the modern day. We have obligations to the Auditor General of Canada that we run one set of books. So we are proceeding with that and working with the Taxpayer Protection Act so that taxpayers of the Yukon can be assured that we arenít going to put them in a compromising position.
We have to look at regulations. Without looking at our regulations, how are we going to encourage industry? How are we going to encourage the economic development that these people talk about? Well, we have to take a look at the regulations. How can we streamline them? How can we work with the people in our many departments to make sure that they get direction from us? The direction from them is, "Letís limit the regulations to make them make sense." With devolution, it gave us the power to do that ó the power to make decisions over land, water and resources. What a gift that is, Mr. Speaker. We now, in this House, are in charge of our own destiny.
Now, the members opposite talk about months and a year since we came to power, but our vision is starting to work. We put the wheels back on the cart. We put the supplementary out there, and we have some resources out. Guess what? Itís going to create some work. Weíve made some commitments. Weíre working with our blue book on what the commitments were, what we promised the Yukon people we would do.
We look at that book on a daily basis and check it off. We have done fairly well, Mr. Speaker. Out of 207 commitments, we have ó I think the last time I looked at it ó maybe 40 to 50 of those things completed. We have done our job and we have a long way to go.
On the vision thing, we have got to support the infrastructure. We have got to work to make this thing so that we have access to our resources, that the corporations have trust in us that when they make a commitment or they make an investment, that investment is guaranteed. Waterfront ó finally, after all the years that Iíve lived in the Yukon, we have the resources to put the waterfront together. At the end of our term, I hope to be able to say to you, Mr. Speaker, "Job well done." We are working with the First Nation, the city and territorial government. After 35 years of cleaning up the riverfront, weíve finally moved the roundhouse. We are finally getting started on our commitment to fund and get the waterfront up front in Whitehorse. How can you vote against that?
There is so much more in this budget that I could talk about. Iíve got a huge department full of capable people working on a daily basis to give Yukoners a stimulated economy. Mining, forestry, all of those things are going ahead, and we are working positively with the Yukon people to create a healthy economy. Give us some time; it will be done. At this time next year, hopefully we will be able to stand up in front of you, Mr. Speaker, and say that of the 207 issues, we have 100 of them done. Thatís optimistic, but I say to you, Mr. Speaker, that we are on the right track. I give kudos to the Minister of Finance; the work he has done is commendable. These 11 people here represent a cross-section of the Yukon. We hired on to do a job; we are doing it. Work in progress ó down the road in three years, when we go back to the people of the Yukon, weíve got to have product. The product is coming and itís starting with this supplementary.
It will be interesting to see the people vote against this supplementary.
It will be interesting to see the Member for Old Crow stand up and vote against the road. Itíll be interesting, Mr. Speaker, and Iím going to watch across there as they stand up and vote against progress in their own communities. I will talk about that when I go to those communities.
Mr. Cardiff: Itís a pleasure to follow the Member for Porter Creek Centre today and respond to the supplementary budget. Itís interesting to note that itís now two weeks plus a bit since we first got a look at the budget, so Iíve actually had a lot of time to peruse the budget, in my spare time at home, in my office, and to talk to people about it since it was released to the public.
Itís also interesting to note that the Member for Lake Laberge gave the first budget speech reply on November 5. Iíll be bringing up some of the points that he made that day.
Iíd like to speak about a lot of things that are in this budget and that arenít in this budget. Itís interesting to note that a lot of initiatives this government and the members who have spoken on that side of the House have raised so far and hung their hat on are largely things that were done before through the initiatives of previous governments: things like the FireSmart, film incentive programs, the community development fund, the community training trust funds ó theyíre all initiatives that came much before this government.
Itís interesting how theyíre holding these things up as saviours of the economy.
I have some serious concerns though. Being a construction worker for the last 25 years or more, Iíve seen the role that government can play in stimulating the building construction industry.
At this point the Member for Lake Laberge, on November 5, said the private sector is the engine of the economy.
I donít disagree that the private sector can be a major part of the engine of the economy, but I think itís a disservice to say that without recognizing the fact that there are a lot of workers as well. The way that I read it, the way that I understood it and the context that it was used in, I think, was that business is the engine of the economy.
Well, Iíve worked on many construction sites alongside many people who have dedicated their lives and who have put their lives at risk, just about every day, on construction sites. Just recently in the newspaper the other day, there was a story about a settlement, a construction worker climbing a tower ó that construction worker lost his life. This is serious.
These people contribute a lot to the economy. Business goes out and they get the work if itís there and they employ people. Businesses spend money and so do the employees. And if the employees donít have work, itís a lot less money going into the economy. Itís a lot fewer people going down to Food Fair and buying groceries.
There are fewer people going to Home Hardware and buying a new Skilsaw, tool pouch, framing square or a pair of tin snips or going to Northern Metalic and buying a pipe wrench. Well, this winter, those people are going to go south because thereís not much here in this budget that is going to stimulate the building and construction industry here in the Yukon.
Now, there are a few things. Iíll be the first one to admit ó Iíve been looking at budgets for a long time, actually. Iíve been watching for a long time, looking at budgets, both as a member of a volunteer board and as a construction worker, to see what opportunities there are going to be for work.
Last fall we asked that the government table a winter works budget early, right after they assumed office. Iím sure we could have all sat down and thought of something that would have put people to work last winter. If it werenít for the private sector that the Member for Lake Laberge holds up as the saviour of the economy, there wouldnít have been many construction jobs this year either. Look at the buildings that have been built around time: over on 4th Avenue, that was a private individual putting up that building; the Superstore, private money; the strip mall, private money; Yukon Honda, private money; Subaru, private money. What did the government contribute? What projects did the government initiate to employ construction workers? Not very much.
Whatís in this supplementary budget for construction workers? I guess we can start at the top with the biggest one: $8 million for the multiplex, a great initiative. Itís an incredible initiative. In the Yukon Party platform, one of the promises was to inform existing and prospective businesses of incentives of local hire. Well, Mr. Speaker, it took a lot of work; it took our leader, the Member for Whitehorse Centre; it took myself; it took the construction industry and it took organized labour and workers to drag this government, kicking and screaming, into recognizing the economic benefits of local hire and, finally, they did. Both the Premier and the Minister of Community Services, or Highways and Public Works, didnít think it could be done. They didnít think the business incentive program could be used to stimulate the economy and provide benefits to Yukoners. Read the media transcripts ó the puzzled looks on the other side of the House are astounding. Iíll provide them for you, okay? Howís that?
It will provide benefits, but when will it provide benefits? When will construction workers actually get to work on the multiplex? Itís still in the planning stage; it hasnít even been tendered. It will be tendered in January and awarded in March ó when do people go to work?
November 6, the Minister of Highways and Public Works said, "Ö in particular weíre looking at working with the City of Whitehorse in the development of the multiplex and getting it off the ground on the right foot." Itís not even out of the ground; how are you going to get it off the ground?
It hasnít even been tendered. So thatís one project.
The community development fund is another pot of money ó $4 million, according to the supplementary budget ó $4.79 million. For construction workers, thereís one project in there that I can see thatís going to employ construction workers ó people packing hammers, wearing tool pouches, and thatís in Dawson. Itís a substantial project and itís great. Hopefully the plans are ready, and Iím sure they are ready, and construction workers in Dawson will actually have someplace to go to work this winter.
Thereís one other project there that might actually hold out some hope. Hopefully there has been some planning done on this. We saw the jail project go down the tubes last spring. This year we get lip service ó half a million dollars to renovate a dilapidated old building that has some serious problems. It poses serious safety concerns to the inmates, to the people who work there ó and this project was ready to go.
This project would have seen construction workers working right through this winter. But no, thereís nothing there.
Thereís some money in the Education budget for some capital expenditures, but theyíre mostly around planning, architects, engineers and consultants. And they need work too. Donít get me wrong. They spend money in the economy. They go to Macís on Main Street and buy books; they go to the restaurants; they buy vehicles, and I even know some who buy tools, you know. Some of those guys are pretty handy too.
There was an interesting comment this afternoon by the Premier, who said that this new taxpayer protection provision was going to stimulate the economy, weíd be able to get things going, and it was better than the exodus that we saw in the past. Let me tell you that as recently as Monday I ran into construction workers who were talking about leaving this territory. Construction workers are leaving the territory, and they have been for over a year. Where are they going? Well, it used to be that Fort McMurray was the place to go. There was lots happening there. If you were a pipefitter, sheet metal worker, carpenter or labourer, that was the place to go. If you couldnít get work in the Yukon, thatís where you went.
Well, unfortunately, a lot of the people I know who went there arenít coming back. So where are we going to get the people to work on the multiplex? Where are we going to get the people to work on the cultural centre slated for the waterfront development? Where are we going to get the people to build the big hotel complex in Carcross? Where are those people going to come from?
Theyíve gone south and a lot of them arenít coming back.
Now there are even more places to go. Kelowna ó not that the wages in Kelowna are great but at least you can get work and, thanks to the tragedy of the forest fires in B.C., this past year there is a housing boom on and thatís where people are talking about going or even farther south.
Three thousand homes in California were burned. Iíve even heard of people talking about going to California. Some people are so desperate theyíre willing to risk their lives. There are people who are talking about going to Iraq to assist in the rebuilding of that country after it was destroyed by our friends to the south. But this is a terrible situation for construction workers, Mr. Speaker.
New look, new vision ó I donít see anything new. This new look and this new vision that this government is promoting obviously doesnít include construction workers. The construction industry is a sector ó and like I say, maybe Iíve got more experience in that area than anything else and thatís why I can speak to it. But Iíve worked there and Iíve seen innovative, new northern techniques in building construction and how you build things. An example is winter construction.
Construction when I first moved here in 1976 was largely a seasonal thing, but itís not any more. There are new techniques; people are a little bit more innovative. They want to work through the winter.
The Copper Ridge facility was a prime example of that. People worked year-round on that job for two years, and it provided hundreds and thousands of man-hours of employment. Those people made decent wages; they got paid benefits; they spent money in this economy, and that is what helped keep Main Street and the Qwanlin Mall and the other businesses in this town in business.
So I donít see much in this budget that supports construction workers. I think thatís a sad thing, Mr. Speaker. My friends, my brothers and my sisters who work in the construction industry are talking about leaving the Yukon. I donít know, maybe the Minister of Health and Social Services can do as his counterpart in Alberta did. Maybe he will buy them bus tickets to the Okanagan, because that might be the only hope.
You drive down to where there is construction happening, down by the Wal-Mart building, the new strip mall ó that building is just about complete and there is no place for them to go. No construction projects are going to be available. I am almost at a loss for words, to tell you the truth, because I donít see anything. I donít see any sympathy for these people coming from the other side of the House.
So, Mr. Speaker, the way it basically looks ó last fall we asked them to bring in a winter works budget, and they didnít do it. So what was that? Was that a time count violation? They didnít realize how important it was to employ construction workers. They have done lots to plan construction projects, but they couldnít find anything to build.
Last spring this government obviously couldnít even handle a snap because there was not a lot there for construction workers. This fall, I donít know. They tried to run with the ball, but I think they fumbled it. So they have two choices. There are two choices here: you can either drop back and punt, or you can take some direction from the sidelines ó go out and talk and consult. It says right in the Yukon Party platform: consult. Iíll read it: "genuine public consultations on matters of importance". Well, the budget is important, so you can either drop back and punt, you can go out and consult, take some direction from the sidelines and get a plan, and try throwing the ball on third down.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Hassard: It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to rise today and speak to this supplementary budget.
In listening to the responses from some of the opposition, it seems that some of them donít understand the difference between playing a role in helping to keep government accountable and just playing politics ó worrying about their own betterment, I guess you would say.
I can fully appreciate the fact that the opposition is not always going to agree with everything the government does. To be honest with you, if we all agreed all of the time, life would be quite boring. So I think differences in opinion are good.
However, trying to say that they canít find any good news in this budget seems a little bit ridiculous to me. I think the general public would expect the opposition to ask hard questions and get past some of the personal attacks that do little to make government accountable.
On Thursday of last week I was under the weather, and I listened to the Legislature on the radio from my home ó something I never thought I would do, but there I was, listening. Listening to the opposition didnít sound a lot better from my radio than it does in here. Iím very tempted to respond to some of the ludicrous statements made by certain individuals across the floor. It would be quite easy, and actually quite a lot of fun, to attack some of the statements and get drawn into the game of name-calling and laying of blame as to why things are the way they are, but I donít think thatís what I was elected to do. I remember hearing my constituents say they wanted to get away from the heckling, the small talk and get on with doing the business of the government. I believe thatís what we were doing. We were elected to make decisions for the day-to-day running of the government. As a result of some good fiscal management and good decisions, the government has a surplus. To me, that is good news. Iíd like to thank all the Cabinet ministers and government employees for their hard work in ensuring that we do have a surplus.
Mr. Speaker, two of the first issues I was faced with upon becoming the MLA for Pelly-Nisutlin were child care and health care for seniors.
I believe that this government is working hard to improve both of these issues and I think we are being successful in a big way. First of all, we can look at the extra funding that was secured from Ottawa by our Premier, and he should be commended for his efforts, along with the other two northern premiers. The $20 million that is to be spent here in the Yukon ó not in this supplementary budget obviously, but over the next few years ó is, to me, good news, regardless of how young or how old you may be. Iíve talked before in this Legislature about the wonderful care my family received in the Whitehorse General Hospital, and we see extra funding for the Whitehorse General Hospital. This funding to the territory can only help to ensure that that level of care is continued.
Weíve seen an increase of over $600,000 toward child care. Approximately $230,000 of that has gone directly to wages for childcare workers. I see that as a commitment to improve the lives of Yukoners ó more good news.
My riding has three schools in three different communities. In discussions with some of the school council members, I have been overwhelmed with the positive comments that I have received. They are pleased that we are providing the funding they need, as well as providing funding for them to be a part of the Association of Yukon School Councils, if they so choose.
They are also impressed with the Minister of Educationís needs assessment tour. We have allocated up to $1 million to cover the costs of these priority needs. That, Mr. Speaker, is welcome news to school principals in my riding. So theyíre doing fantastic amounts of work on limited budgets.
In Ross River I can think of a specific program called Kaska studies that I am told is a hugely successful program, but it needs more funding. Well, that would be good news if some of $1 million can fund that program.
As well, there is a commitment to increase the number of teachers and EAs in Yukon schools ó again, a commitment to improve the lives of Yukoners. Our students are the future of this territory and we are investing in that future today.
Mr. Speaker, when I drive to Faro and Ross River, it is usually by way of Carmacks, and I quite often stop to talk to the people at the gas stations. Now I can say it will be even more of a pleasure to stop there because Iím sure the people are thrilled with the news that theyíre going to be building a new school there very soon. I say "they" are going to be building a new school because I believe this government is committed to involving the community and making sure that as much local employment and local opportunity as possible happens.
As I just mentioned, I drive to Faro and Ross River on a regular basis. As Iím sure you all know, they are located on the Robert Campbell Highway, and the people of these two communities will be pleased to see half a million dollars being spent on engineering and planning for improvements to the highway. With Faro and Ross River obviously looking to capture more of the tourism market, I think an improved highway can only mean improved chances of increasing their market. As well, the safety of all people travelling Yukon highways is at the forefront of this government.
Now, in the event that someone should have an accident on this particular highway, they will be pleased to know that the community of Ross River will soon have a new four-wheel- drive ambulance. This need was brought to my attention in the past year, and it is nice to see the action taking place in a timely fashion. Thatís what itís about ó working with the people, Mr. Speaker, to try to fulfill their needs.
As the year 2007 rapidly approaches, many Yukoners are thinking ahead to the Canada Winter Games. The people of Teslin, of which Iím one, hope to play a part in those games. With more and more funding being secured, I look forward to discussions with the Host Society as to how we can make that happen.
This government, in my mind, has done its part and will continue to do its part to make these games a success. We all agree that the business incentive policy goes a long way to ensure that Yukoners will have the jobs that go with the building of these facilities, and by working with the City of Whitehorse and the Association of Yukon Communities, I believe that this government is taking the necessary steps to make these games a success.
As for my riding, specifically, Mr. Speaker, I would like to run through some of the good news in that area. In Teslin we have the rehabilitation of the Teslin River bridge at Johnsons Crossing. For any of you who have stopped and had a walk on that bridge, or even looked at it very closely, you would be quite happy to see that work taking place. It will help to ease the fears of travellers crossing the bridge. For many years people in Teslin and the surrounding area have talked about the need to upgrade this bridge, and it is nice to finally see it happen.
In Teslin, the school is undergoing some renovations to improve its usefulness. The benefits of the improvements, as well as the jobs they create, are appreciated by Teslin residents. As well, in addition to the highway maintenance facility for the storage of ó I am going to say "salt" but I believe itís for a different substance used to remove ice from the highway. The people in the community certainly look forward to that work taking place.
Of note, Mr. Speaker, both the jobs I just mentioned were put out to tender, and both have been successfully won by local contractors.
As well in Teslin, a project funded by the community development fund will see a trail built to connect the Teslin Tlingit Heritage Centre with Teslin. This trail follows an original road built by George Johnson, prior to the Alaska Highway being built. I donít recall exactly when, but it was before the highway. So there is some cultural value to go with that.
Again in Teslin we see some more FireSmart program funding, providing employment to local residents while reducing fire risk to the town.
In Faro, the town has taken on a huge project with respect to extending its golf course and beautifying the centre of its town. This project is employing many local residents. I talked to the town manager the other day, and he felt there was almost zero unemployment in the town at this point. This golf course is located in the heart of the town and serves two purposes, in my mind.
The first is that it serves as centrepiece to the town that can be a drawing card to visitors from all over the country. The second is that it provides a recreational facility for the people who live there. I encourage all members of this Legislature to travel to Faro, visit the fine people there, and enjoy the golf course.
Again in Faro, we see people working under the FireSmart program ó local residents making the town safer. As well, in the very near future, thanks to some work by the Department of Economic Development, we will have some quality Internet service, as well as in Ross River.
Today as we speak, in Ross River, their work goes ahead to tear down an old curling rink to make way for a new recreation centre. Not only does the work improve the aesthetics of Ross River, it will make the community safer. In my mind, the building is a fire hazard, and itís good to see it going away.
It is also encouraging to know that the planning for the new building is budgeted for and should be completed this winter. I actually saw in the newspaper the ad looking for someone to do the design.
The community development fund has also provided some funding in Ross River and Faro for work on the Dena Cho Trail between Ross River and Faro. This seems to me to be an important piece of the community. The Ross River Dena Council is also working with the Yukon government to administer a FireSmart project in Ross River.
Mr. Speaker, I just today received a phone call from an individual in Ross River wanting me to extend a word of thanks to the Minister of Highways and Public Works. Her husband was recently hired to work with the highways crew there and she feels that, without a doubt, the money that recently was put forward to hire more casual employees played a big factor in her husband getting a job, so sheís happy. Now I donít know if thatís truly the case or not, but I suspect she may be right.
I can see money in this budget for all communities in one way or another, and I believe the majority of Yukoners will agree with me.
I would like to speak for a minute to an issue raised by the Member for Mount Lorne. He went on at great length about all of the private investment in the territory. He mentioned the Superstore, the strip mall, the new Subaru building and some others.
To me, that shows a high level of faith in people who want to invest in the Yukon. He was complaining the government wasnít investing. Well, I would rather see private investment, and I think we are seeing that. If the future were as bleak as the opposition paints it, I highly doubt these buildings would be going up.
Of course, we would like to see the unemployment numbers drop sooner than later, and we are working on that, but it takes time and it takes more than one year to undo six years of mismanagement.
Mr. Arntzen: It gives me great pleasure to rise in this House today to speak to this good-news budget. Thatís what I call it. Itís indeed good news for all Yukoners.
Mr. Speaker, I do apologize if I end up repeating some of what my colleagues have already spoken of, but good-news stories are worth repeating.
First of all, Iíd like to congratulate the various ministers and their hard-working staff in all departments for their participation in putting together this good-news supplementary budget. First of all, itís good news for economic development ó new dollars injected, some $2.2 million.
The film industry fund ó $825,000. And I donít know if you know the number of dollars that can be leveraged from it that will also end up being injected back into the Yukonís economy.
The business incentive policy ó $862,000. Strategic industries development program ó another $200,000, and another $291,000 as a start-up cost ó good news.
There is also good news in the Health and Social Services department. As you will know, but itís worth repeating, our Premier took the lead in Ottawa when he and his premier colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut challenged the Prime Minister of Canada on the Northern Health Accord. I guess we all know the result as well. Another $60 million was made available for the three territories ó $20 million for each territory. These new monies are already put to good use in our health system.
Iíll go back to the supplementary budget. That was not part of it but it was worth mentioning.
Under Health and Social Services, new money was injected into the Whitehorse hospital ó $1.8 million. Thatís to improve our health services at the hospital. Medical travel ó another $389,000. As already mentioned by my colleague from Teslin, a new four-wheel-drive ambulance for Ross River ó a good investment.
Repairs to the Thomson Centre are another $350 million; diagnostic and medical equipment is another $500,000; tele-health ó very important to our communities ó is another $316,000; the Child Development Centre, $132,000; expansion of chronic disease programs, over $1 million.
New monies just under social services ó family service staffing, $210,000; autistic children and families, $133,000; child residential treatment, $502,000; group and receiving homes, $460,000, and resident group homes, another $298,000.
These are all good-news stories. I also see that another $47,000 has been added to our pioneer utility grant. There is also an additional $675,000 operating grant for childcare.
So there is good news for young and old in this supplementary budget.
Thereís also good news in Education: a needs and assessment tour, another million dollars; support for school councils, $50,000; Association of School Councils, Boards and Committees, another $60,000; Yukon Teachers Association agreement, $649,000; increase of teachers and EAs, $456,000; and indexing student grants, another $100,000; FAS teaching, training and College support, $198,000; these are all good and needed programs, and they are also monies injected back into the economy of the Yukon.
I can go on to the next good-news story, and thatís Tourism and Culture. The Department of Tourism and Culture, in conjunction with the Department of Community Services, is working on a new initiative: the decade of sports and culture. That connects the many community-based sports and cultural events that are being planned for the next 10 years, such as the 2004 Canada Senior Games, the 2007 Canada Winter Games, then on to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, British Columbia. We in the territory stand to gain from the games in Vancouver in many ways.
Tourism and Culture is providing another $200,000 in this supplementary as its contribution to the new initiative of the Department of Community Services, which is contributing another $120,000.
The decade of sports and culture and in particular the 2007 Canada Winter Games will be a major economic benefit to the territory, and we will see the construction of a major capital project: the multiplex of which the Yukon government is contributing $8 million.
Community Services, in this supplementary, is also providing the Canada Winter Games Host Society with $3.6 million to plan for and manage the games. The 2002 Canada Winter Games together with the cultural events attached to them will afford the Yukon a tremendous opportunity to showcase itself on the national stage. We must make the most of this opportunity, Mr. Speaker.
There are more highlights and good news. We are investing another $300,000 in the Carcross-Tagish First Nation Culture and Heritage Centre. We will be providing support for the future planning and design of the culture and heritage centre. This important cultural icon will do much to enhance tourism in the region.
We are putting $50,000 into the Kluane Museum of Natural History ó the Kluane First Nation Culture and Heritage Centre. We will be providing initial planning dollars to address the building code upgrade to the Kluane Museum of Natural History and the addition of the First Nation Cultural Heritage Centre to that facility.
As I mentioned a little earlier, for the decade of sports and culture, the number is $200,000. I have also identified another $329,000 for historic places initiatives.
Mr. Speaker, there is good-news story after good-news story. In Highways and Public Works, we all know road construction has played, and will continue to play, a major role in the economic development of the Yukon. For many years, the Yukon has benefited from the Shakwak project, as we all know, and some of us have worked on it, and the Government of the United States has funded this reconstruction of the north Alaska Highway. We also know there were no provisions for funding the Shakwak project for the next cycle until our Highways officials, with the help of our Alaskan neighbours, managed to obtain $7 million U.S. in interim funding.
This funding, together with $10 million previously allocated Shakwak monies, means that $18.7 million will now be available for our next construction season. This is good news.
In keeping with our platform commitment, the Department of Highways and Public Works has included another $500,000 in this supplementary for engineering on the Robert Campbell Highway, and another $500,000 for highway planning.
There are more good-news stories in this budget.
Under Community Services, the Mae Bachur Animal Shelter has got core funding of $75,000.
I do believe I mentioned that the Canada Winter Games Host Society has received $1.6 million. Just in case I forgot, itís worth repeating.
For the Canada Senior Games, we injected another $100,000 into it.
I mustnít forget that we are also injecting $200,000 in the Old Crow winter road program, which is very important so that we can get equipment into the community of Old Crow so that some of the people in Old Crow who are looking for work can go to work and get the equipment in place so that they can do the work that they are planning on to improve the airport and also to do some work on the riverbanks of the Porcupine River.
I could go on and on. I have lots of good news. I realize that the members from across the floor didnít see all this good news. I guess I am repeating myself, but I am wondering if that copy of the budget that was delivered some five or six days before it became a public document is the same one that I have, because this one is full of good news. And, with that, Iíll say thank you.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíve come to a point in this sitting where we must move on and continue the debate on the supplementary budget. Itís my duty to close out debate on second reading speeches, so I want to be as brief as possible.
I choose not to respond and rebut needless rhetoric coming from the other side, but focus more on the factual positives of what is happening in todayís Yukon as that relates to the expenditures of government in the territory. We have to go back to the beginnings to be able to create the picture of what truly is taking place. It starts with fiscal management. At no time can a government be effective in creating an economy, in dealing with its education issues, in dealing with its social issues, without sound fiscal management.
The first step made by this government was to ensure that we had a clear understanding of the financial situation of this territory before we started making decisions that would commit the Yukon to significant expenditure. We did that. We, with gentle restraint, got a firm grip on the finances of Yukon. We then went to work to address what was a problem.
Now, the former government, in power for some two and a half years, spent lots of money, spent down the surplus, and put the territoryís future in a very compromising position financially. We had to rectify that so we could move forward with what government can do in this territory to turn our future in the right direction, to chart a new course for the Yukon that is about economic growth, social well-being and a positive outlook for our citizens.
With fiscal management, governments have the ability to advance their causes, in particular these causes I just previously mentioned. Once we had a firm understanding of where the finances were, it became evident that we had to go to work on creating and building the surplus up again in this territory so we could begin targeting expenditures and changing the direction of the territory through government allocation of funds.
The evidence is clear, Mr. Speaker; it is very clear. From where we were some 11 months ago to where we are today is a great distance travelled. This government, through the efforts of officials in our statistics branch, through the efforts of officials in the Department of Finance, through the efforts of our officials in the Ottawa office, representing this territory on a daily basis at the national government level, we were successful in doing a number of things. We were successful in making the case that the undercount, the census and the formula, as it relates to the census, was being implemented incorrectly by the federal government. That resulted in $23 million. Thereís no argument or debate about that. Thatís $23 million of new money for Yukon.
With that, it changed what we had to budget for in case the census adjustment was going to cost this territory a significant amount of money. Set aside for the contingency reserve fund on a census was $15 million; however, because of the efforts of those hardworking, dedicated and committed officials, we were able to also dissolve that money back into general revenue because it was not needed.
When you add the $23 million and the $15 million reserve contingency, you now have $38 million injected into the surplus of the Yukon government, of the Yukon Territoryís finances.
We also made political decisions, Mr. Speaker. We dissolved the Yukon permanent fund. Now I understand the intention of a permanent fund. All we have to do is look to our neighbour to the west, the State of Alaska, to clearly visualize what a permanent fund can do, or to our provincial counterparts in Alberta and the heritage fund of Alberta, to what these types of funds can do.
But I submit to this House and to the public that those two jurisdictions ó Alaska and Alberta ó set up funds worth billions of dollars. $10 million is not the necessary investment to create what is known as a permanent fund. It was actually money put aside, doing absolutely no good, providing no purpose to the Yukon public. We made the political decision to dissolve the Yukon permanent fund, adding a further $10 million to the surplus. Now we have increased the surplus in 11 short months by some $48 million.
We also dissolved other trust funds, totalling $1.5 million, which was put back into general revenue, increasing the surplus to almost $50 million in 11 short months. All that clearly spells sound fiscal management.
By increasing the surplus position of the Yukon, we have now increased our options and our ability to address expenditures where needed, and thatís much of what has happened with this supplementary. If you were to go through the supplementary, which Iím sure we will with the members opposite, and debate these expenditures, a picture will start to develop for all on these targeted expenditures and what they mean.
I briefly want to go over some, just to try and capture the very intent of the supplementary budget.
Of course the Department of Economic Development is now resourced under this supplementary budget. Thatís important because to build an economy in any jurisdiction, government requires a department, an agency, a focused unit or group that is dealing specifically with economic development. The Yukon, unfortunately, found itself as a territory in a position where we had no Economic Development department, we had no agency whose duties were solely focused on the economic situation of our territory. That situation transpired because of some misguided decision making by a past government. We have rectified that. Not only have we followed the advice of stakeholders in this territory when it comes to tourism and economic development ó which I would submit, Mr. Speaker, is a clear sign, is testimony to how we consult. We created a stand-alone Department of Tourism. That is something that was required. That is something that was demanded, not only by industry but by the public.
In doing so, we also listened clearly to the public and created the Department of Economic Development. This department is much smaller than the original, but I can assure you that it will be very focused. Some of the initiatives already that we are undertaking as we work with our stakeholders, not only on structure but mandate and strategic direction ó we are looking at industries like the film industry and made the decision early on that the film industry is an economic engine for this territory. In this supplementary we have allocated funds that will allow the creation of a $1-million incentive fund.
Now, letís look at what that does.
That allows industry in this territory to leverage millions more from the broader film industry outside our borders. That provides investment into the Yukon. That provides jobs and benefits for Yukoners. There is an example of why this supplementary is a good budget and is something that the members opposite should, I think, critique with a little more objectivity ó remove the political aspects of the debate and look into what is happening here.
We can also go further into how expenditures not only can help stimulate spending power in the short term in the territory, but lay some building blocks or cornerstones into longer term economic benefit and development.
I want to point something out here and now, and I will be stressing this over and over. When we look at the makeup of an economy, we must all get beyond one set of statistics, such as unemployment factors, or one set of statistics such as wholesale sales. We must look at the full equation and then come to the understanding of what is required, no matter what economic engine we are talking about ó what is required to make that economic engine run? The fuel for any economy ó the fuel that makes any economic engine run ó is cash flow. Cash flow ó spending power ó is one of the most critical statistics that we must really focus in on. In the Yukon of today, spending power is on the positive side ó just look around.
I think itís fair to say that that is a very positive indicator. And there are others. But in this supplementary budget there are targeted expenditures to do what I have laid out in the minutes before in my address.
When you look at the Old Crow winter road, this is all about getting equipment into a community that is not serviced by road. But itís to get the equipment there to do something more, something much more.
What we are about to embark on with the Vuntut Gwichin people and its government is a very, very important element of partnering with other governments, of partnering with First Nations, because once the equipment is in Old Crow there are a number of major projects that will be undertaken, creating employment and benefits for the citizens of Old Crow. It also allows us to leverage more money ó leverage more money from the federal government, for example, for the upgrade of the airport. Some $3 million can be created here in partnering with the federal government on doing a capital project like the airport in Old Crow.
Bank restabilization, the production of granular, both crushed and necessary material for the stabilization of the bank ó all these things are being created by this expenditure of some $200,000 in partnership with the Vuntut Gwitchin to get equipment into Old Crow this winter.
We are very serious about job creation. We have allocated in this supplementary budget an extra $750,000 to the Department of Highways and Public Works to provide more employment this winter. On a future construction project ó I know itís near and dear to the Member for Mount Lorne. And thereís much construction coming to this territory in the next few months, beginning with what is going to be one of the biggest projects undertaken here in Whitehorse: the multiplex. Some $28 million plus dollars of capital investment will be coming right here to the City of Whitehorse to prepare us for the Canada Winter Games.
We also recognize the need in the community of Carmacks and have allocated the necessary money to prepare for school construction in the up and coming fiscal year.
That means jobs for Yukoners; that benefits Yukoners; and that is something that is critical for the education of children in the Carmacks community. We also have put money into an expansion of the Porter Creek Secondary School. That creates jobs; thatís some $200,000.
When it comes to future road and highway construction, a half a million dollars in engineering for the Robert Campbell Highway to pave the way to set up future road construction for our road-building community, and that would be in the millions of dollars of investment for upgrading the Robert Campbell Highway.
We are delivering on another commitment to the roundhouse, some quarter of a million dollars, creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners. On rural electrification and telephone, some $300,000 there does the same thing; security renovations, $955,000, creating jobs for Yukoners; northern housing projects, $186,000, creating jobs; another long-term commitment, the Aboriginal Pipeline Group to prepare the way for Yukonís position and participation in the Alaska Highway pipeline project, a quarter of a million dollars; forestry renewal, a quarter of a million dollars, with jobs and benefits there; forest engineering, laying out timber so that Yukoners can participate in accessing and harvesting timber resources, creating jobs and benefits for Yukoners, some $500,000.
We also recognize, in a community like Haines Junction, there sits not only a very high fire risk, but there is possible potential for us to get some economic benefit out of what is known as the beetle kill. We have allocated a quarter of a million dollars in this supplementary budget to do the necessary work in assessing what kind of economic benefits we can accrue from the beetle-kill area and, at the same time, lowering the risk of wildfire for communities like Haines Junction, Burwash Landing and Destruction Bay.
These are just some examples.
I think if we look at the total numbers and look at the size of this budget and how much of this is going to be circulating in the Yukon, I think you can see why the statement is made that one of the most important statistics of any economy is what drives the economic engine: cash flow or spending power.
In this territory this year, when we complete this fiscal year, some $634 million is allocated for expenditure here in the Yukon. These are all signs of a government with a plan, with a vision of how to turn the territory around, of the direction to take the territory.
Itís based on sound fiscal management and government spending for stimulus in the short term, laying the groundwork for long-term, sustainable economic development. Itís also a government fully understanding the need to partner with the private sector and other governments, to complement and increase the spending power in the Yukon through private sector investment and other arrangements with other governments in attracting more dollars to this territory, over and above what government already spends ó all this increasing our economic fortunes; all this providing jobs and benefits for Yukoners, and much of it is helping to lay the groundwork for future economic development and growth that this territory so desperately needs.
We focus not on just construction, we focus not on just resource access and extraction, but we also recognize tourism as a very important economic engine. The minister is doing an admirable job in taking tourism to another level for benefit for Yukoners and jobs for Yukoners. We recognize the arts and cultural community as a very important facet of any economy. We certainly are working closely with them so that their involvement helps to create a brighter future for this territory.
We have not ignored the social side of the agenda. In fact, this government has shown clearly that it is truly a progressive conservative government because its social agenda is very progressive. All you have to do is look through the supplementary budget. I need not read it into the record, but there is a tremendous amount of expenditure in the social area to help those in need in this territory.
This budget is a reflection of a government with a plan, with a vision. This budget is a reflection of a government that has adopted and implemented sound fiscal management practices. This budget is a reflection of a government poised to partner with the private sector to improve the lives of Yukoners, to build a brighter and stronger future, to lay the groundwork for a strong, vibrant, sustainable, diverse economy for our territory that will provide benefit and jobs, not only for us today, but for our children tomorrow.
I commend this budget to the House.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Disagree.
Mr. McRobb: Disagree.
Mr. Fairclough: Disagree.
Mr. Cardiff: Disagree.
Mrs. Peter: Disagree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 10 yea, six nay.
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 7 agreed to
Bill No. 35: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 35, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 35, entitled Act to Amend the Public Printing Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Highways and Public Works that Bill No. 35, entitled Act to Amend the Public Printing Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. McRobb: At this point, I wish to put our objections on the record. Iíll be brief, but itís important to recount some of the history regarding this bill that was dealt with by the House leaders today.
This bill was not on the Order Paper, nor did the government House leader indicate it would be coming up this afternoon. As a matter of fact, we didnít know until 3:45 this afternoon, when he approached us with the proposition, upon which we, as the official opposition, denied that we would be going into this business.
The reason for that was that, at the House leadersí meeting this morning, the government House leader indicated we would be going into Committee on the main supplementary bill.
Again, we see another example of how this government is trying to throw the opposition off by not being clear in the business the opposition has to deal with in this House. Mr. Speaker, I would close by submitting that that is not a sign of an open and accountable government.
Ms. Duncan: I would like to address the third reading of Bill No. 35. The bill is fairly straightforward and weíve had a good discussion about it at second reading and the necessity for it, and I do believe that this particular act was cleared, clauses were deemed read and carried. I am supportive of that and very supportive of expediting the business of the House.
But Iím having a great deal of difficulty with the fact, and members opposite should be well aware, that I was not advised that third reading would take place on this and several other pieces of legislation until, as noted, 3:45 p.m. this afternoon.
That third reading is coming forward on pieces of legislation without the government responding to questions asked in second reading or deliver information that they had committed to delivering. In particular, the Justice minister had been asked for information that has not been delivered. We are being asked to deal with legislation and, in all good conscience, we are here to do a job. We like to do it. We prefer to do it responsibly with all the information. We are unable to do that when the government House leader completely mismanages the business of the House.
Itís unfortunate that that has to be the record with respect to this piece of housekeeping legislation ó that once again the opposition parties have to stand up and alert the government members of the difficulty and mismanagement by the government House leader.
It impedes all of us in doing our job. Itís truly unfortunate. I do appreciate the reason for this particular act. I have dealt with it expeditiously as an opposition member. I do have a problem with the other pieces of legislation that I anticipate being called next, and I have stated the reasons for it. I would appreciate it if the government would take heed of them.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 35 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 35 has passed this House.
Bill No. 38: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 38, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 38, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 38, entitled Act to Amend the Employment Standards Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 38 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 38 has passed this House.
Bill No. 40: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 40, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Hart.
Hon. Mr. Hart: I move that Bill No. 40, entitled Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Minister of Community Services that Bill No. 40, entitled Act to Amend the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Mr. Cardiff: Much in the same vein as the leader of the third party, I asked a question in Committee about reporting and whether or not weíd still be able to receive the numbers of harassment complaints that may come forward. I received a note, and Iíd like a verbal confirmation put on record that the reporting procedures will still be the same as they were previous to this change in the act.
Ms. Duncan: Yes, there are members in this Legislature who wish to be heard. I would like to record the fact that prior to a bill passing third reading, information requested on that bill should be provided by the government out of respect for their fellow members in the House. Prior to giving assent in third reading, information should have been provided and met with the request.
If the government House leader would manage the House appropriately, we could deal with legislation appropriately.
Mr. McRobb: I want put on the record, once again, that this is another bill of which the opposition was not advised by the government side that would be called for business this afternoon. Once again, we on this side of the House feel ambushed. We are led into a process that is controlled by the government side. They have the majority vote, and I predict that these bills will get passed simply because the government has the majority in numbers.
It deserves to be said that a characteristic of an open and accountable government is the satisfying of requests by the opposition that test the case put forward by the government.
Mr. Speaker, what weíre seeing here is anything but. Our questions on this bill have not been answered. Our information requests have not been responded to. As a matter of fact, as mentioned, we werenít even advised we would be dealing with this, this afternoon. So this government has a lot of learning to do. That sounds like a familiar chorus, because it happened several times in the spring and it has recurred several times again.
I would suggest to the government that if it truly wants to work together with all MLAs in this Legislature and even begin to believe itís a fraction as accountable as it would like the public to believe, then it should start to cooperate with all parties in this House.
That being said, we donít have much difficulty with the bill, but it would have been nice to have had the information so we could make a truly informed decision on it.
Mr. Hardy: Well, once again, weíre in the situation where we are given very short notice on whatís coming before the House, and then weíre supposed to respond to the government in a manner that they see fit for us, and thatís inappropriate.
There is a long standard on how the Legislature works, how House leaders work, how bills are brought forward and voted on, and weíre finding that the Yukon Party government is taking a fairly great amount of liberty with those rules, which is causing quite a bit of distress on this side. It makes it very difficult for us to support a bill, especially when we feel we havenít received the information that has been requested, or we havenít gotten the answers we need in order for us to make an informed decision and an informed vote.
There are some strong concerns we have around this. We do see some of the positive sides of it, but we also have some strong concerns, Mr. Speaker, and we are fairly hesitant about just allowing these bills to go forward in the manner theyíve been put on the floor.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: The Premier says, "Well, vote against it." Yes, that would be his solution to everything. If he doesnít like something, just vote against it. However, there are other ways to work and we are going to try to continue working with this group of people on the other side, Mr. Speaker, but time is running out with the ability to continue to tolerate the abuse that we see in this House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I am somewhat dismayed with the representation made here today by the opposition members. As a government, we have gone the extra mile above and beyond. It is unprecedented to provide briefings to the opposition on a supplementary budget.
We have provided that. We have gone the extra mile. It is unprecedented to provide embargoed copies of supplementary budgets to the opposition. We have gone the extra mile and provided that.
When I listen to the parameters set out on what the expectations are by the opposition, Iíve listened very carefully, and we are supposed to satisfy the requests of the opposition. Well, if itís difficult we usually do it and we do it as quickly as we can. But when itís impossible, we canít do it and that is the essence of the matter that is being debated on the floor of this House.
I, like a number of other members in this Chamber, have been here for the same amount of time, and I canít recall when four bills raised for third reading have provoked debate. Usually, for some of the bills at third reading, there is some debate on them.
Thatís the exception, not the rule. Now, as to the number of days we sat in the spring session, that is determined by the opposition. What I see displayed here is a lot of time that could go to a purpose other than meaningless debate. All these bills went through second reading and Committee in one day ó one day, which in itself is unprecedented. All Iím hearing is that if itís right, it was done by the opposition, and if itís wrong, Iíve done it, as House leader. Thatís pretty far-fetched. Thatís a wonderful stretch of the imagination.
But we have a bill here. We are at third reading. If the members opposite donít like it, they can vote against it at third and final reading.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker: Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 16 yea, nil nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 40 agreed to
Speaker: The ayes have it. I declare that Bill No. 40 has passed this House.
Bill No. 37: Third Reading
Clerk:Third reading, Bill No. 37, standing in the name of the hon. Mr. Jenkins.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 37, entitled Statistics Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Speaker: It has been moved by the Premier that Bill No. 37, entitled Statistics Act, be now read a third time and do pass.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I would like to address the Statistics Act at third reading. This particular piece of legislation was considered by other governments and was not brought forward because it was considered too punitive, particularly to the small business sector. I had a lengthy debate with the Premierís stand-in at the time on this particular piece of legislation and, not wishing to prolong the House unduly ó it was unfortunate, but the Minister of Health refused to budge on that particular issue and stand down a clause. I know the Premier is familiar with that "stand down" phrase, which allows an opportunity for some consultation, particularly with the chambers of commerce, on this particular piece of legislation.
Since that debate, I have had the opportunity to discuss this piece of legislation and that particular clause with several members of the small business community who do find it offensive, who werenít aware that the government was passing it and who would be horrified to learn today that the government is passing it in haste because for some reason or other the government House leader has determined that we should be doing third reading today as opposed to moving into general debate in Committee of the Whole on the supplementary, which we are all quite anxious to do.
Itís unfortunate because this particular piece of legislation should be allowed, following second reading, to sit on the Order Paper. I am in support, in principle, of the territory leading the way and standing on its own two feet, being self-sufficient. I am not in support of government rapidly ramming legislation through, particularly when that legislation should realistically be considered for a period of time by the business community. For that reason ó because the government has not allowed an appropriate time for this to sit on the Order Paper ó I will be voting against the Statistics Act.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Clerk, please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Disagree.
Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 15 yeas, one nay.
Motion for third reading of Bill No. 37 agreed to
Speaker: I declare that Bill No. 37 has passed this House.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I move that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Speaker: It has been moved by the government House leader that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and that the House resolve into the Committee of the Whole.
Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04. Do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Disagree.
Chair: Itís the practice of this House that we need unanimous consent. While it is customary that we take a recess before starting into Committee of the Whole, if members do not wish a recess we will then continue on and weíll move into general debate.
The matter before the House is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04
Hon. Mr. Fentie:It is a pleasure to introduce in general debate the first supplementary budget for the fiscal year 2003-04. This is evidence of a new direction for our territory, and I want to briefly go over some examples of that new direction.
On a gross expenditure basis, this is a very large supplementary budget, amounting to over $95.5 million, of which $63,214,000 is O&M and $32,291,000 is capital expenditure. Generally, supplementary budgets are not this large, but owing to federal devolution, this budget needs to reflect the devolved revenues and expenditures, which, on their own, account for close to $45 million of this supplementary. But there are other major components of this budget.
Before I get into those, I think itís important that we reflect on what has been accomplished here with devolution. First, we must look back and commend all the previous governments, all the officials, all of the officials the federal government ó everybody who has been involved for so long in coming to this very, very important juncture of Yukonís history.
Through all those efforts we have managed to conclude ó though in some cases there are flaws ó an agreement. Itís an agreement that provides us, the Yukon Territory, with an ability to make decisions on its own. We, the Yukon people, now make decisions on lands, waters and resources.
It took a tremendous effort to accomplish this, Mr. Chair, but I think itís important that we recognize how much of this supplementary budget is attributed to devolution. We have absorbed some 240 federal employees and a massive number of programs and services that were originally delivered by the federal government through the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development that are now being delivered by the Yukon government.
There were problems from the outset, challenges that this government had to overcome. The first one begins with the employees. Through the negotiations for devolution, it became evident that there were issues when it came to the federal employees transferring to the Yukon government. Not only is this a different culture and a different approach by government ó here in the Yukon government being much more accountable to the public, being totally committed to being much more open to the public than the federal government and the department ever were. So, that is a bit of a culture change for those employees.
But there were other issues of red circling and things of that nature that created a concern for us as government. So we moved immediately to offer to all federal employees the ability to appeal job descriptions. I think thatís an important signal to send to the incoming federal employees ó that we value them, that we truly appreciate their decision to come on board, to work with the Yukon government, to assist the Yukon government and be part of the team that is delivering a whole new era for this territory.
We think we have been able to absorb a tremendous amount of talent and capacity that has been added to what already was a government loaded with talent, capacity and commitment to its citizens. So it is a good thing, but we wanted to address that concern.
Of course, there are others. There are flaws, for instance, in fire suppression ó a very critical flaw that the third party, when in government, I think, ignored and could perhaps have negotiated a little harder on this issue because of what it means to the territory and its future. That is why, in this supplementary budget, we are taking steps to try to address that. We have no intention of doing it alone. We are already in discussions with the federal people on how we can better address risk areas, like the beetle kill in the southwest Yukon ó an example of what this supplementary budget is doing to improve on devolution.
I could go on about this at great length, but I choose not to, because I think Committee of the Whole is a great opportunity for the members opposite to contribute to the debate. Yes, they can criticize, but when they criticize, they should also have the substance and the rationale for that criticism.
There are other major components, as I said. These are revote items carried over from 2002-03, which amount to $16,293,000. $15.5 million of that is capital, and $763,000 is O&M.
Thereís also another important element of this supplementary budget, and itís the Northern Health Accord funding expenditures of $3,835,000 for the current year. Mr. Chair, we are ensuring that the health and needs of our citizens in health care are being met. A reflection in this supplementary budget of that kind of expenditure is testimony to that.
There is additional funding for the Department of Economic Development, which amounts to $2.932 million. Of course the Department of Economic Development is a major commitment for this government. Itís needed and is going to be the instrument, the vehicle and the agency that will quarterback for the government the building of an economy and the building of a diverse and very, very vibrant economic future. We have the potential in this territory. It has been far too long left untapped. In many cases, the windows of opportunity have been ignored by past governments. We intend to use our Department of Economic Development to ensure that we capture the potential of those windows of opportunity ó go through those windows and beyond ó to ensure that our economy is going to grow as it should, as it does in other jurisdictions.
In addition, this supplementary budget reflects additional expenditures of $9.2 million, which are recoverable, and expenditures of $18.265 million, which are not recoverable. Most of the non-recoverable items were announced when the budget was tabled. A few are worth mentioning again, as these are important ó I repeat, Mr. Chair ó important expenditure items, many of which will help stimulate the economy and others that will fulfill our governmentís commitments to its citizens.
Mr. Chair, I just want to list some of these. Letís look at Community Services, for example. The Canada Senior Games ó we have contributed $100,000 to that. I think itís an important event because it is a precursor, if you will ó a sporting event involving seniors from all over this country, but itís also a sporting event that is before what is coming next ó the Canada Winter Games. So, I think it was a golden opportunity. We recognized it, and we certainly ó certainly ó care about our seniors and believe that this is a tremendous and positive event for our seniors here in the Yukon, and we look forward to all those who will come to visit us and participate in these games.
When it comes to humane societies, there is a core funding allocation of $75,000 for the Mae Bachur shelter, another of what I believe to be a very progressive expenditure. Of course, with the commitment to the Canada Winter Games, this supplementary has an allocation of $1.6 million to the Host Society. The Canada Winter Games have started; weíve embarked on the process that will bring tremendous benefit to our territory, not only in the years leading up to the games themselves but, I believe, long after too.
When it comes to education, much has been done in Education in this supplementary. Fetal alcohol syndrome disorder ó monies are being allocated there. We have to look at the student grant indexing to help our students ó money is allocated there. Special needs and special programming in our schools ó $1 million in this supplementary budget; for teachers and EAs required due to increased enrolment, especially in certain schools, there is $456,000. We have a collective agreement with our teachers ó very important ó and thereís an allocation in this supplementary budget addressing that.
For our Association of Yukon School Councils, Boards and Committees, thereís ongoing funding reflected in this supplementary budget. School councils and committees ó we have monies allocated to those people, who address many needs in our education system, and we are showing we truly care about what they do, we care about them, and we are helping as a government.
Also in Health and Social Services, we must remember the childcare operating grants. This government listened to the rhetoric from the other side while we worked on the issue. The issue was not a new one for our government upon taking office. It has been an issue around for some time. This government acted ó $675,000 allocated to childcare operating grants to improve the childcare situation in the territory.
Our seniors and the pioneer utility grant ó money is allocated for them. Taking care of our seniors is an important aspect of what every government must do, and we are acting in that regard.
The Department of Highways and Public Works, road maintenance of secondary roads to increase employment in this territory ó $750,000 in this supplementary budget; the Quartz Road lease, $215,000.
Community Services ó again, Canada Winter Games, the Host Society, with $2 million; the infrastructure fund for the City of Whitehorse, another $2 million; the Old Crow road, which sets up much more in the community of Old Crow for next fiscal year, $200,000.
Of course, with the Canada Senior Games, with the Canada Games here in Whitehorse, and with the coming Olympics in Vancouver, we have allocated monies toward what is called a decade of sport and culture.
A school replacement in Carmacks, a demonstrated need, we acted. We are going to build a new school in Carmacks ó planning money is in this supplementary budget.
For the member opposite who, on many occasions, admonished the government for doing nothing in her riding, we have addressed an issue, a demonstrated need in the riding of Porter Creek South.
Energy, Mines and Resources ó unlike the third party which, when in government, tried to establish some sort of public buy-in that the Alaska Highway pipeline was going to be the economic panacea for this territory, though many tried to get the former Premier and her government to understand that there was much more to that project than simply the Yukon government travelling around North America announcing that it really liked the project ó much more had to be done in regard to that project.
One of the steps we have taken is a very, very important step ó the formation of the Aboriginal Pipeline Group, and we have monies allocated to that.
Forest renewal, monies allocated to forest renewal ó thatís for jobs and benefits for Yukoners.
When it comes to ambulances, a new ambulance in Ross River. When it comes to group receiving homes, $460,000 allocated there. And of course we cannot ignore the Thomson Centre repairs. Another wonderful political project from a past New Democratic government that ignored many of the requirements for construction, obviously, in their haste to cut the ribbon ó the Yukon taxpayer is now paying that debt ó a significant debt to be sure, but we are not shirking our duty and responsibility; we are allocating the funds toward those repairs.
When it comes to the Department of Highways and Public Works, again Robert Campbell Highway engineering ó $500,000. That $500,000 will provide the precursor, the prerequisite if you will, for further road construction on the Robert Campbell Highway.
That is a commitment by this government, not because we just want to build a road, but because that highway, a secondary highway, accesses a major, major area of resource potential in the southeast Yukon. We are looking ahead, a government with a plan and a vision. This expenditure certainly exemplifies that.
More highways planning ó there is something to be said here. Road construction and what it returns to the Yukon is very critical. It not only provides jobs and benefits, but it also creates a tremendous amount of spending power in the territory.
We are very, very focused and concerned about our road-building community and its future. We are going to ensure, through our budgeting, that they have a future in this territory. We want to see them flourish and grow. They are some of the best in the country, without a doubt.
Mr. Chair, small commitments like the roundhouse ó this Legislative Assembly unanimously supported the saving of a heritage building, the roundhouse. We have acted on this in this supplementary ó $250,000 toward that commitment, not by just this government, but by this Legislative Assembly, this House and all its members. I find it disturbing that the members opposite ignore these types of things.
When it comes to justice, correctional reform is something that is critical to where our justice system will be in the future. We have a duty and responsibility to the tax-paying public when it comes to justice. One example of that duty and responsibility that has been ignored by past governments is the recidivism rate in our correctional system. The time has come to look into that to see how we can improve it.
The Department of Tourism and Culture is also contributing to the decade of sport and culture. Itís contributing to cultural centres and also tourism, which is one of our economic mainstays under the leadership of the Member for Whitehorse West, who is now embarking on even bigger and better things for tourism in the territory.
We donít forget women, Mr. Chair. In fact, we are very conscious of the needs of women. We have reinstated the Womenís Directorate. We have given the Womenís Directorate the necessary power to go to work on womenís issues. One of the areas that is very critical that we work on is violence ó family violence and violence against women. We have allocated funds toward that initiative so that we, the Yukon, can bring forward to the national stage action items and how to address them.
Even with these new expenditures, I am pleased to advise the Committee that this government has been and will continue to remain fiscally responsible. Thanks to our efforts in increasing the surplus through the dedication and commitment of officials to make that happen, we still have a health surplus tabled here today with the supplementary.
A testament to our sound financial management is our prediction for a forecasted accumulated surplus, as I said, at the end of the year, of $61 million. When we took office, the third party, as government, left this territory with a surplus of a mere $17 million. In 11 short months, through sound fiscal management, it now sits at $61 million.
There is much more but I am very, very interested to hear from the members opposite.
Mr. Hardy: Well, we have heard that many times before ó that the member opposite is very interested to hear from the people opposite, but we will see how he responds to some of our questions.
There was a lot ó I shouldnít say "a lot" ó there was some more detail in some of the areas. Thatís good, and this is general debate. Of course, Mr. Chair, we have a caucus of five, and each person has responsibilities to be the critic in each of these various departments. They will want to have their say about some of the items.
Of course, when we get into line-by-line items, we will be talking in even more depth to try to find out exactly what the spending practices of this government are.
As we know, in the public eye there are some concerns already. But there are also some good initiatives and the finances are not all doom and gloom as painted in the springtime by the Premier.
Now, we can go around and around the block on what the actual surplus was in the springtime, what state the former government left the finances in for the Yukon Party government to inherit, and we will always disagree. Itís very obvious that their "sound fiscal management", as they like to say, did not create the surplus that we have today, and most people in the territory know that.
There was a variety of outcomes, such as the census count, which had an impact and that had absolutely nothing to do with any party that is in. That was the work of the department. The Member for Lake Laberge is laughing at the people in the department who did the work and found the right figures to ensure that the territory benefited.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Chair:Mr. Cathers, on a point of order.
Mr. Cathers: Pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), the leader of the opposition is imputing false or unavowed motives. I was at no time suggesting that the Finance officials were not hard-working and, in fact, would refer the member to my earlier comments, stating that they were. But the member is in contravention of Standing Order 19(g).
Chair:There is no point of order here. Please continue, Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Iím sure the member opposite will laugh as we talk more throughout this, and we will make sure that the public is aware of what he does actually laugh at, the jolly guy in the background.
People in the territory are not ignorant of the finances and theyíre not ignorant of the Yukon Partyís pattern of declaring a crisis in the finances when they come in and then, six months later, saying how magically $60 some million appeared. Itís very interesting how they take credit for themselves on this, their sound fiscal management. And yet, you know what? This is the biggest supplementary budget in the history of the Yukon.
That is what weíre here to debate ó the spending priorities in the supplementary budget. Frankly, I canít see this government exercising any sound fiscal management if itís the largest supplementary budget and itís the largest in the history of the Yukon as well. Looking at numbers like that, it looks like they are drunk with power and theyíre spending like drunken sailors.
What weíre here to question and what weíre here to debate is where they are directing that money, and if that money is going to the people. Is it going on to equal distribution? Is it going out to all the communities? Is it ensuring that there is a good recognition and balance in the distribution of the wealth, or is it only going to certain communities throughout the territory and, if so, why? We will question that as we go through it.
It has been interesting over the last few days that there has been a substantial amount of talk about the amount of money they have given to Old Crow. But there has been absolutely nothing said about the other communities. Thatís what we want to find out. Why is it only one community they talk about? Is it the only area that they funnelled a substantial amount of money in for some reason of their own at the expense of other communities?
Now we know in the springtime the Premier was accused of being the Premier of southeast Yukon, and it was justified. We still believe that there is still a substantial amount of interest and direction down there and we hear it in all the speeches given by the Premier. Looking in the supplementary budget, of course, our concern is to ensure that all communities in the Yukon benefit from a budget and a supplementary budget.
So, I am going to ask the question to the member opposite, the Finance minister: at what point did he know that there was a surplus?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We knew there was a surplus upon taking office. That was self-evident, but it certainly was spent down by the previous government.
Now, I think itís time to engage with the members opposite on what constructive debate means and how we can go about accomplishing that.
First off, we have to come to terms with the disagreement on how the finances of the Yukon government are relayed through its budgeting to the public. Thatís important because there is a distinct difference between this side of the House and how itís doing things, and past governments who now happen to be sitting on that side of the House. Itís important that we understand that there was much debate surrounding the financial position of the Yukon government, whether it be the surplus, whether it be where the expenditures were going, or whether it be the liabilities ó much debate. But letís look at some facts.
Past governments did not correctly report the governmentís liabilities to its public and, every year, the government got a qualified audited statement because we were not doing our accounting under normal accounting standards and practices, and we were not doing it because we were holding back from the public true liabilities like the post employee benefit. I would say that there is an issue here.
If the members opposite are saying to this government that we were not providing to the public the true financial picture on the surplus, then I respond by saying, what are the members opposite talking about when it comes to how they presented, when in government, the financial picture to the public through their budgeting? We have been a lot clearer by being open and accountable.
We clearly articulated that there was a problem because the surplus was dramatically spent down, and when we did our first budget ó a budget, I might add, that was constructed in six weeks, versus the normal time frame of five to six months ó we went very close to the line, and we all know that, in the mains, it clearly shows what the surplus is ó just over a million dollars.
Once the final accounting was done and the projections came through for periods beyond where we were at upon taking office, it was evident that lapsed funds and other things helped to bring up that surplus. But nobody can dispute the fact that, immediately upon taking office, this government started to look for ways to address the problem with the surplus.
Why? Because of the Taxpayer Protection Act. Yes, itís true that employees and officials of government in the statistics branch and Department of Finance did the work, put forward the effort. But I can say to you, Mr. Chair, that we, as the duly elected government, also discussed issues like the undercount with the officials. We said, "Letís focus on that to make sure that whatís happening here is the correct thing to happen." Well, as it turns out, through their efforts, we made the case that it wasnít. So, nobody can argue or dispute the fact that we, the government, through the effort of its officials, did contribute a massive amount to the surplus of this territory. And thatís where it sits today.
Thereís no need to hear from the members opposite that that isnít the case. We have made every effort to state publicly, on every occasion, that it was the officials who did the work and brought home the bacon. All we as politicians did was to ask them to do it. And we have commended them. They deserve the lionís share of the accolades.
With their efforts, we are in a much better financial position today. We intend to make sure that, through sound fiscal management, we utilize that financial position to the benefit of Yukoners.
Now, the member opposite asked when we were first aware of what the surplus was. I repeat again: when we took office the surplus was quite low and we went to work on addressing that. Now we have tabled a budget that shows where we have come. We have come from a projected $17-million surplus to, with this supplementary, a projected $61-million surplus for year-end 2003-04.
Now, I donít know how much clearer we can be but I would suggest that the member is also incorrect in an assessment that we preach doom and gloom. Not at all. We preach the fact that this government had a plan and a vision. We were going to gently restrain government spending to get a firm grip on the financial situation of the territory. That firm grip has produced something. It has produced something very positive. It has produced millions of dollars.
Letís just quickly go over and recap those millions.
There is $20 million in new money for health care and almost $50 million in the supplementary ó in the surplus. Total that. Add it up. In 11 months, this governmentís efforts, through its officials and their hard work, dedication and commitment, have produced $70 million more for the territory. Would the member opposite respond to those factual figures?
Mr. Hardy: My question to the member opposite was pretty simple: at what time did he realize that all of his projections, all the words he had used to inform the public about the financial situation that the previous Liberal government had left the territory in, were totally incorrect and that there was actually going to be a substantial surplus? At what point did the Finance officials come to him and say, "This is whatís happening, these are the figures, these are the lapses, this is the money coming in"? I would like to know when the light bulb went on in the Finance ministerís brain that they obviously had a heck of a lot more money than they imagined.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This is not a business of imagination. This is not a business of speculation. This is a high-stakes business. We are the managers of the finances for the taxpayer of the Yukon and we ensure that we get the final numbers from the Auditor General. Like any business, we look to year-ends to produce the final numbers.
If the members opposite canít even grasp that, how can we have a debate on this budget? There has to be an understanding here of what budgets are and what finances are and how we come to final end numbers. Thatís why we have an auditor called the Auditor General. They ensure that we follow accounting practices and procedures and they provide us the final accounting. Thatís an important element in any fiscal management.
I would say to the member opposite that the assessment that we somehow were hiding money and all this nonsense is irrelevant to this debate because the proof is here. The proof is on the pages of the budget. The proof is very public that there was, in the last 11 months, new money brought into the territory. How does the member opposite not agree with that? Itís factual.
It is factual ó no doubt about it. The member opposite canít argue with the fact that the undercount produced $23 million. The member opposite cannot argue with the fact that that also resulted in dissolving $15 million of the census contingency fund. Add it up. Itís $38 million. The member opposite cannot argue the fact that we made the political decision to dissolve $11,500,000 of money squirrelled away by the former Liberal government and now we are putting it to good use in the pockets of Yukoners. Add it up ó thatís $49,500,000. Itís almost $50 million created here in the last 11 months.
Then letís look to the health care fund. We all know what happened there. It was on the national stage. The three territories made a stand on health care. What did it do? It produced $20 million more over the next three years for our territories, but it also opened the door for us to make the business case on the deficiencies and the inadequacies in formula financing for our territories.
Much is being done here. How can the member opposite argue that? These are factual items that bear no dispute. They will stand the test of time and any scrutiny.
Chair: Order please.
The time being 6:00 p.m., the Chair shall rise and report to the Assembly.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order. May the House have a report from the Chair of the Committee of the Whole.
Mr. Rouble:Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, and has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: Youíve heard the report of the Chair. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried. The time being 6 p.m., this House now stands adjourned until 1 p.m. Monday.
The House adjourned at 6:02 p.m.
The following Sessional Paper was tabled November 13, 2003:
Election Financing and Other Election Matters, November 2003: Report of the Chief Electoral Officer of Yukon (Speaker Staffen)
The following document was filed November 13, 2003:
Yukon Development Corporation, letters re: from Mr. McRobb, MLA for Kluane, to Hon. Mr. Lang, Minister responsible for the Yukon Energy Corporation/Yukon Development Corporation (dated August 28, 2003) and from Hon. Mr. Lang to Mr. McRobb, MLA for Kluane (dated Oct. 23, 2003) (McRobb)