Wednesday, December 10, 2003 ó 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: I will now call the 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 International Human Rights Day
Hon. Ms. Taylor:Mr. Speaker, I rise today on behalf of my government colleagues to pay tribute to International Human Rights Day, which takes place on December 10 each year to commemorate the signing of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
In Canada, our rights are guaranteed by our Constitution and by human rights legislation. The United Nations and groups such as Amnesty International work around the world to promote human rights on an ongoing basis.
Sadly, however, in many parts of the world, as difficult as it is to imagine, human rights are not respected and citizens live in daily fear of assaults in many forms on their rights and on their persons. A United Nations General Assembly report, as a case in point, says in the Republic of Congo there are genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes that create a frightening picture of one of the most serious human rights situations in the world.
The United Nations also calls attention to the alarming situation that is occurring between the State of Israel and the Palestinians.
Over the past three years, serious human rights violations surrounding this conflict have been taking place. The whole world has a responsibility to take note of these offences and to condemn these abuses.
Here in Canada we must remain vigilant in our support for human rights.
Since September 11, many in our society say we have a choice between security and human rights. The legitimate objective of strengthening our security in Canada must not come at the expense of human rights, or we will have taken our first steps on a very slippery slope.
This year marks the ninth year in the United Nationsí declared decade of education on human rights. In this final year, I encourage all Yukoners to contact our Human Rights Commission or to research human rights at a public library or on-line at home. Educating ourselves about human rights is a first step and a step that ultimately helps strengthen the fabric of our community.
Here at home there are a number of events to commemorate International Human Rights Day. Yesterday, Yukon College held its own event to commemorate this particular day. This afternoon the Yukon Human Rights Commission will also be hosting its annual open house as a further opportunity to learn more about human rights. And tonight there will also be a storytelling circle on human rights hosted by the Human Rights Commission. The public is welcome to attend all events, and I encourage all members of the Assembly and all Yukon citizens to take part.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to two members of our Human Rights Commission office. With us today we have Lynn Pigage, the office manager, as well as Heather McFadyen, director of our Human Rights Commission.
Mr. Hardy: I also, on behalf of the NDP, would like to welcome our two guests today.
In Article 1, the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights, that we are endowed with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Although the declaration is not legally binding, it has given birth to a large body of international law such as covenance and concerning genocide, racism and the rights of the child and the elimination of discrimination against women. World attention is focused on cases of torture, disappearances, arbitrary detention, summary executions, violence against women and the right to development.
Today, December 10, the day set aside as International Human Rights Day, is a day of congratulations for Canada. We are proud of Canadaís role in promoting and protecting human rights around the world. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, perhaps the greatest achievement of the United Nations, was drafted by a Canadian. Canada was successful in establishing the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and is playing an important leadership role in the International Criminal Court. Today should be a day to seriously review if our human rights are being eroded in Canada by the fear of terrorism. We need to look frankly at the international human rights abuses that have occurred here since September 11, 2001.
The excuse of terrorism has been used far beyond reason in deporting suspected criminals. A national identity card has also been proposed. Weíre considering taking part in American military defence mechanisms and security measures that are very, very questionable. Our officials have been less than supportive of men who are caught in the American security net and then deported, or who are imprisoned in the Middle East. We have citizens incarcerated without any regard to the Geneva Convention in Guantanamo Bay. Do we pass legislation, declarations and acts in support of human rights in the world, expecting other countries to abide by them but knowing full well that we are not going to be able to live up to them, that we are not going to be doing them? The first U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Eleanor Roosevelt, asked, "Where do human rights begin? In small places close to home. They are the world of the individual person, the neighbourhood, the school or the college, the factory, farm, our office; the places where every man, woman and child seeks equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning elsewhere or anywhere."
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is over 50 years old today. If in the next 50 years we still have a cavalier attitude toward hiding and ignoring international prejudices, intolerance and injustice, each one of us will be very badly off. Without determined efforts toward prevention of human rights abuses by individual citizens close to home, we will never have progress toward civilized human rights in the larger world.
Ms. Duncan: I rise on behalf of the Liberal caucus to join with my colleagues in the Legislature in welcoming our guests today and also paying tribute to International Human Rights Day.
On December 10 ó today ó citizens from around the world commemorate Human Rights Day, and today marks the 55th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. Respect for human rights is essential to the development of stable, democratic and prosperous societies. Moreover, cultural diversity is the hallmark of our national identity.
International Human Rights Day commemorates the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the UN General Assembly on December 10, 1948. In simple language, this document describes the rights shared by all human beings and sets what it calls "a common standard of achievement" for all peoples and all nations. Canada has long been a leader in promoting and protecting human rights around the world. Some examples of the Canadian achievements have been spoken of today, including lobbying successfully for the creation of the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and playing a leadership role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court.
The Yukon Human Rights Commission is also an active player in the promotion of human rights. In 1987, members of the Yukon Territoryís Legislative Assembly passed the Yukon Human Rights Act. The objects of the act are to promote human rights in the territory, recognizing the freedom, equality and dignity of Yukonís residents and to discourage and eliminate discrimination. To carry out these goals, the act established the Yukon Human Rights Commission. The act protects Yukon residents against discrimination in several areas of public life. Discrimination is not allowed in providing goods and services to the public, employment or application for employment, membership in trade unions or other work-related associations, tenancy or sale of property and in public contracts.
To mark this day, the Yukon Human Rights Commission has two events scheduled for today, and the Minister of Justice has made note of them. I would also like to encourage all Yukoners to join the Yukon Human Rights Commission at their open house at their office this afternoon and also to join them at the Visitor Reception Centre in Whitehorse this evening from 7:00 until 9:30 for the human rights storytelling circle. I encourage all Yukoners to recognize the work of the Yukon Human Rights Commission and to pay tribute to this day.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Introduction of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
TABLING RETURNS AND DOCUMENTS
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:I have for tabling today the report on the audit of the Yukon governmentís performance under the Environment Act, dated September 19, 2002.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I have for tabling the Yukon Heritage Resources Board Annual Report, 2002-03. I also have for tabling the Yukon Arts Centre 2002-03 Annual Report, as well as the Yukon Geographical Place Names Board 2001-02 Annual Report.
Speaker: Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Hon. Ms. Taylor:I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 17(1) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Jasbir Randhawa and Brian MacDonald to be members of the Yukon Human Rights Commission. They are in the gallery today.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT the Yukon Legislative Assembly, pursuant to section 22(2) of the Human Rights Act, appoint Vicki Wilson and Donna Mercier to the Yukon Human Rights Panel of Adjudicators.
Mr. Cathers: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges Yukoners to give generously to those less fortunate by supporting groups and organizations such as the Salvation Army, Maryhouse, Share the Spirit and Bare Essentials during the Christmas season.
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the Yukon government to support our growing but struggling agriculture industry by adopting a "Buy Yukon first" purchase policy that applies to food purchases made by government agencies, institutions and contractors.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Is there a statement by a minister?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Cardiff: I have a question for the Minister of Community Services. I hope that today weíll get an answer with some substance instead of the stonewalling that weíve been getting lately. Why is the minister spending $800 a day plus expenses for someone from Rossland, B.C. to do what the people of Dawson City elected their mayor and council to do a little over a month ago?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I would like to inform the member opposite that this situation is a situation this government inherited when we came into office. This is not a new problem. Dawson City has and continues to have a difficult financial situation. Even the last government recognized this particular aspect.
This is a difficult situation, and itís going to require prudent decisions for the sake of the Dawson City taxpayers and for all.
Mr. Cardiff: The answer was very inadequate, and the minister is responsible for this situation now. This is a very disturbing situation for the people of Dawson and for people in the Yukon who care about the democratic process. This morning the minister was quoted on the local radio station saying this government is just picking up the pieces of the previous governmentís decisions to provide special funding and to appoint to supervise Dawson Cityís finances.
Is the minister now admitting that this is all about politics and that a respected public servant lost his job because he was appointed by a political party of a different stripe?
Hon. Mr. Hart: We didnít do anything based on the political aspect. He is appointed under the Municipal Act, and thatís where we stick.
Mr. Cardiff: Well, thereís a bad odour about this whole situation. Unfortunately, weíre getting a steady diet of this kind of behind-the-scenes decision making by this government. Yesterday the minister went a little bit further in his message track. He said, "The new supervisor was acting in accordance with the Municipal Act." Thatís reassuring, but itís not very enlightening. The minister has given the new supervisor sweeping powers over Dawson Cityís affairs, including apparently, a free hand to write his very own budget for the town. But the minister wonít say why.
What did Dawson Cityís elected officials do or not do that convinced this minister to take such radical action, and what role did the MLA for Klondike play in that decision?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The Member for Klondike had nothing to do with this particular aspect, and I donít want to get into this debate right here right now. I will repeat what I said on many occasions. This situation has been like this since 2001. It doesnít get any better just because of time.
Weíve asked the supervisor to act under this process and to deal with it as per the Municipal Act, and he is doing that. We have asked for that particular aspect. We want to work with the City of Dawson, and we will continue to do so, where allowed to.
Question re: Dawson City supervisor position
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the Premier. Is it a good public policy to allow someone who is not elected and does not live in the territory to single-handedly write a municipal budget without any consultations with the democratically elected municipal government?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The supervisor is acting under the act, the Municipal Act, and the provisions provided therein.
Mr. Hardy: Maybe Iíll try a different title. This is a question for the Minister of Finance. I canít imagine this minister/Premier allowing this to happen in his town. This is nothing short of an attack on a democratic process. The minister has refused to spell out why he is doing this and I am hoping that the Premier may be more forthcoming in this matter.
So let me try the question again. Does the Premier believe that it is good public policy for someone who is not elected, who doesnít live in the territory, to attempt to deny elected municipal officials the right to seek legal redress for something they believe is wrong?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Again I will reiterate for the members opposite. The supervisor is acting under the full authority of the Municipal Act for the City of Dawson. We are working with the City of Dawson where they allow us to work with them ó okay? And we intend to do so despite their action recently taken. We are working with the City of Dawson where we can on this particular issue. Itís a difficult situation, a difficult financial situation for them. It has been for some time.
Mr. Hardy: It got a lot more difficult with the changing of governments; I can assure you of that.
What is wrong with this picture? On the one hand we have two Cabinet ministers who wonít pay their loans and the Premier may be about to wipe that debt off the books. On the other hand we have a third minister who is reneging on a loan made by the previous government and essentially pushing the borrower into receivership. We have a high priced Outside consultant making unilateral budget decisions that could cost people their jobs and slash public services in Dawson City.
Will the Premier end this charade and direct his ministers to restore the democratic authority the people of Dawson City gave to their mayor and council in the recent municipal election?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I have said many times, the supervisor is operating under the jurisdiction of the Municipal Act. We are providing him with that direction and heís going there. The City of Dawson is in a difficult financial situation and has been for some time. He is working with them in order to try to stabilize the situation for them to operate as a municipality.
Question re: Dawson City financial position
Ms. Duncan: I have some questions for the Minister of Health on the governmentís continued attack on the Dawson City Council. Itís well known that the MLA for Klondike is leading the charge to discredit the current mayor and council. The government hired his old friend from British Columbia to keep an eye on the town. This friend is being paid $800 per day by the Yukon taxpayer. The Yukon Party government recently decided to withhold almost $1 million from the City of Dawson. Will the minister release the money to Dawson so the city can pay all its bills?
Hon. Mr. Hart: Weíre working with the City of Dawson where we can and where they have allowed us to work with them. The supervisor is reviewing the financial situation. Once his review is complete, weíll provide that review for the members opposite. We are dealing with a financial situation ó a difficult situation for the City of Dawson.
Ms. Duncan: My question was for the MLA for Klondike. The MLA for Klondike is directing his attack against the City of Dawson and is now not defending his actions on the floor of the House.
The Yukon Party government is withholding almost $1 million from the City of Dawson. On Friday, the City of Dawson went to court to try to get the government to pay their bills. That makes three ministers in the government who wonít pay the bills. Yukon contractors are not getting paid because this government wonít pay what Dawson is legally entitled to. The Yukon Party promised consensus building, collaboration, compromise in government. Just over a year in office, and now theyíre in court with the second largest city in the Yukon. Will the minister show some leadership and pay Dawson City all the money it owes?
Hon. Mr. Hart: When they were in power, they appointed a supervisor who put us in the situation weíre in today. Iím not going to go about this too much longer. The issue here is that the financial supervisor is in there reviewing the financial situation for the City of Dawson. He hasnít completed his report yet. We provided funding based on the supervisorís recommendation recently to allow them to have $200,000 to cover their immediate payables ó to get them through their immediate situation until the report is complete.
We still have to meet with the City of Dawson and its councillors, and we intend to do so.
Ms. Duncan: $200,000 is not all the money the Yukon government owes the City of Dawson, and itís not paying Yukon contractors. This government is not working with the City of Dawson and, clearly, part of the problem is the MLA for Klondikeís hand-picked supervisor. Even the minister admitted that the supervisor is part of the problem.
Will the minister fire the high-priced help and replace him with someone from the department, from the Yukonís competent, professional public service, who will actually work with the City of Dawson?
Hon. Mr. Hart: The selection of the current supervisor was provided by YTG staff for this particular issue ó okay? The suggestion was "Come". We are going to work with that supervisor until his review is complete and his recommendations are provided. We will deal with that with the City of Dawson when the time comes about.
Question re: Answers to questions
Mr. Hardy: Well, the theme continues in the Legislature today ó we ask the questions, they refuse to answer.
This is a question for the Premier again. Maybe I will hear his voice today. Why has the Premier adopted a policy of allowing his ministers to deny Yukon people information about his governmentís decisions and actions?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, there is no such policy whatsoever; in fact, the problem here for the members opposite is that they donít like the answers. When it comes to the issue of the City of Dawson, the government is acting completely within the confines of the Municipal Act. The reason that we are is because of the financial difficulties the City of Dawson is in. There is nothing more to it and once the supervisor ó who was duly appointed under the confines of the Municipal Act ó concludes his work and provides the information necessary so that informed decisions can be made, the government will act accordingly.
The members opposite continue to speculate; nothing could be further from the facts, Mr. Speaker. Speculation will not add constructively to the issue. Productive suggestions may do so, but I think the NDP should look a little bit into the history here at their role in what has happened in the City of Dawsonís financial picture.
Mr. Hardy: That was an interesting answer. I didnít actually ask a question about Dawson. I asked about a policy of stifling the ability of ministers to answer questions. Obviously I didnít get an answer there.
We have been through this at some length with the Premier. Yesterday we read motions onto the record and asked several questions about why this government stifles debate and avoids answering questions. The Premier denies that this is happening. We just heard it again today, but Yukon people definitely know better, Mr. Speaker.
Let me give the Premier a concrete example: yesterday afternoon during debate on the Public Service Commission budget, I asked the minister no fewer than 66 straightforward questions. They were almost exclusively policy questions that had nothing to do with the personnel issues ó 68 questions and the minister answered five. He gave partial answers to another five; he refused to answer the remaining 58.
Why does the Premier allow any of his ministers to behave in this manner and show such disrespect to Yukon people on the floor of this House?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Again, the member opposite simply does not like the answers. But letís refer back to the 66 questions, every one nibbling around the edges of allegations of wrongdoing. I would challenge that member to take those allegations away from the immunity of this Legislative Assembly, make the allegations out in the public and provide the burden of proof so all the evidence can be brought to bear. We, as a government, will not contravene the confidentiality of our employees and we, as a government, will not politically interfere with personnel matters when there is a duly mandated body and agency to deal with such matters.
Those were the answers. Those are the answers. The members opposite donít like the answers.
Mr. Hardy: Well, Mr. Speaker, that was quite a challenge. I will say to this Premier across the way that every single question I asked in the Legislature yesterday I will ask out there, so where is your challenge?
People who have observed the Legislature for many years are very concerned about what is happening here. There has never been such a degree of a government that refuses to be open and accountable to the degree this government is acting in. The same minister put in an equally poor performance during the Education debate yesterday.
Recently I pointed out that six of the governmentís seven ministers were refusing to answer legitimate questions on public policy. Well, Mr. Speaker, after today I will have to make it seven, after listening to the answers we have heard today.
Now, once again, will the Premier and his ministers abandon this deliberate policy of refusing to be accountable to the Yukon people so that this House can regain the dignity it deserves?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: When it comes to the dignity of this House, there are members across the floor who have the major role to play in that regard. I think they only have to look in the mirror to understand what this side of the House is saying. There is no policy at all in this government not to answer questions. In fact, the questions have been duly answered time and again. The fact that the members opposite donít like the answers and continue to use political rhetoric and gamesmanship to try to establish some shred of credibility in the Yukon public is an issue that this government is not going to enter into debate on.
Our job is to deal with the issues important to Yukoners: the economy, their needs, their health, their education. Thatís what the government is focused on, thatís what the government is doing and will continue to do. If the members opposite donít like the answers, all they have to do is start asking substantive, constructive questions.
Question re: Answers to questions
Mr. McRobb:I have a follow-up question for the Premier on his governmentís policy of refusing to answer questions in this House. Yesterday during Committee debate on the Public Service Commission budget, the government House leader was actively coaching the minister not to answer questions from the leader of the official opposition. In fact, at one point the government House leader was sitting on the floor behind the minister egging him on and directing him not to answer questions. Why does the Premier allow this House leader to counsel ministers to show disrespect to Yukon people in this manner?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The disrespect is coming from the Member for Kluane in making such ridiculous allegations on the floor on this Legislature.
The minister responsible for the Public Service Commission is doing his job as he is mandated to do. Our job as a collective here on this side of the House, understanding what it means to work as a team, is to help each other out.
This is not a case of not answering questions. This is one simple issue. The members opposite are not happy with the answers because it does no political good for them. Weíre not here to play political games. Weíre here to deal with the facts and the issues important to Yukoners. Thatís what the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission has done by not interfering politically in a personnel matter.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, the Premierís rhetoric shows heís in complete denial. Yukoners are very, very disappointed about whatís happening ó especially those who voted for this government. Those people thought they were going to get a more constructive, more cooperative, more open government. Well thereís an old saying that goes, "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me." All those people who feel they were fooled by this government last year arenít going to let it happen again. They see whatís going on, and they donít like it. Will the Premier either instruct his House leader to stop coaching his colleagues not to answer or ask the House leader to step aside for someone who will show more respect to Yukon people? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, the question just asked is what Yukoners are sick and tired of hearing. That is the fact. There is no coaching going on here. We work as a team and as a government and as a collective. Thatís the purpose of why we are elected. Thatís why we were elected as government, because we promoted that very concept to the Yukon public. The members opposite are seriously in trouble on this matter. They have been on the edge of making allegations of wrongdoing. This is no place for those kinds of allegations. Take them out of the immunity of the House, make the allegations, name names, provide the burden of proof so all the evidence can be brought to bear. That would re-establish one shred of credibility for the official opposition.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, Iíll say it anywhere. This government is refusing to answer questions. The proof is in Hansard. All through this sitting, and all through the spring sitting, we saw the same thing. We saw the Member for Klondike coach the Minister of Justice not to answer questions on the tow truck episode. Weíve seen him coach the minister responsible for Public Service Commission on how to turn perfectly valid policy questions about the computer use investigation into personnel questions so he can refuse to answer them. Weíve seen him coach the Minister of Environment to evade questions about captive wildlife ó not that he needs it. On and on it goes. And so with it goes the credibility of this government. Will the Premier make a commitment that the next Yukon Party caucus retreat will come up with a more open, more democratic and more respectful strategy for how ministers behave in this House? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The credibility issue lies with the members opposite by asking ridiculous questions like weíve just heard on the floor of this Assembly today; nothing of substance; nothing in relation to issues important to Yukoners.
As a government, when it comes to personnel matters, we know thereís a policy in place, as the member opposite knows. As a government, we do not interfere in personnel matters, exactly as the members opposite would do if on this side of the House.
There is only one approach the members opposite can take, considering the position theyíve put themselves in, and thatís by making allegations of wrongdoing and supplying the burden of proof. Put up or shut up.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Speaker:Leader of the official opposition, on a point of order.
Mr. Hardy: I believe the Premier mentioned unparliamentary language. Are you going to rule on that?
Speaker: Actually, the member has a point. Iíd ask the Premier to retract the term "put up or shut up". That was unparliamentary.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I will, Mr. Speaker.
Question re: Victim services
Mr. Hardy:Thank you.
I would like to assure the Premier opposite that what we say in the Legislature we also say in public and his spin on it is not credible.
Last Thursday, I had some questions for the Minister of Justice related to a brutal assault on one of my constituents by a young man who was in breach of his conditional sentence at the time. The minister repeatedly stated that an investigation had taken place and that appropriate action had been taken.
As the minister correctly stated, this assault took place more than two years ago. Now, has the minister actually read the report of this investigation, or are her answers based on information supplied by her department?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will reiterate what I said last week ó almost a week ago. An investigation did occur. The members of the Department of Justice reviewed their procedures, and some changes were made to the way they handle these particular cases.
In addition, Iíve also asked the department to be available to speak to the media and, as well, to speak to the opposition members ó those who wish to ó to go over those procedures and reassure them that the safety and security of Yukon citizens is held with the utmost importance.
As far as any reports on staff that are prepared by the department in an investigation, which I possibly may have referred to, the member knows, or should know, full well that they cannot be tabled in this House.
Mr. Hardy: Well, thatís to debate.
Now, we all agree that this is a tragic event that should not have happened. I hope that we also agree that everything possible must be done to prevent such a tragedy from happening again. That includes frankly addressing how the state meets the needs of very troubled children in its care. It also includes making sure that the policies and procedures that are designed to protect the public from people, such as this young man, are strictly followed.
Will the minister now agree to table the investigation report she referred to, as well as any follow-up action her department took internally or with the RCMP?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Again, I will reiterate for the members opposite and for the public at large, as well, that the assault that took place was a tragedy. I will reiterate that again and again and again. I will also reiterate that an investigation did take place soon after the assault took place ó over two years ago. A review of the procedures and policies took place. Follow-up has occurred.
I cannot table that particular report in this Legislature. I cannot do that. Reports that are prepared by staff and reports that have to do with an investigation ó the member knows full well that I cannot table that information.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that again is up for debate.
Now, Mr. Speaker, we have the ministerís word that appropriate action was taken, but that is all we really do have here. The public has a right to know what went wrong. We have a right to know why this young man that the judge called "a ticking time bomb" was wandering the streets of Whitehorse the night of the assault. We also have a right to know what the two departments are doing to fix the problems in our system that allow this to happen.
Once again, will the minister release the investigation report and outline the follow-up actions, or at least outline the follow-up actions her department took. If she says she cannot release the investigation report, prove that to us and we will accept it, but at least outline the follow-up actions her department took so that people can decide for themselves if appropriate action has been taken.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I will make the same offer to any member of the opposition ó as we have, as well, to all media ó to sit down with the members of our department, to have explained the policies and procedures that continue to ensure the safety and security of all Yukon citizens.
Question re: Outpatient subsidy
Mr. Fairclough:My question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services.
On December 4 of this year the minister said in Hansard, "With respect to the current level of coverageÖ" that is the outpatient subsidy, Mr. Speaker "Öwe are one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that pay anything." He also said that the Northwest Territories doesnít pay. What does the minister base this information on?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the record, the Yukon has one of the best funded programs and policies for paying for those who are ill or need to have medical attention. We have some of the best pharmacare programs. We have some of the best funded and most comprehensive drug areas of pharmacare. We have some of the best programs for seniors and elders in care. All of these ó we have some of the best medevac procedures and policies in place anywhere in Canada, paid for by the Yukon.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís a classic example of ministers avoiding the question and skirting around them. Again, I think our listening audience is getting fed up with this.
I will table, Mr. Speaker, the extended health care benefits and medical travel rates for reimbursement for patients. This comes right out of the Northwest Territories. The member said we have the best subsidies and payouts to patients. Well, by far we are way behind the Northwest Territories.
Also yesterday, the minister said that I was confusing the issue with non-insured health benefits and, for his information, the benefits provided under the non-insured health benefit program supplement the provincial and territory insurance health programs. It also finances the first three days and other expenditures that are not provided by the territorial government. In light of the information that I have provided the minister yesterday and today about medical travel rates in Northwest Territories, will he instruct his department to review the rates for the Yukon?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I can reiterate that our government provides some of the highest payments for programs that we have for health care and for the provisions of health care.
Letís just look at what our government has spent in addition to the mains last year for this fiscal period ó another $8.4 million. Let me just break it down for the member opposite: another $1.8 million to the Hospital Corporation; another $389,000 for medical travel; diagnostic and medical equipment, another $500,000; tele-health, another $316,000; expansion of the chronic disease program, $1,093,000.
What is ironic about this is that we are being asked for more money in specific areas, but when you look at the big picture, we are one of the best funded providers of programs for health care anywhere in Canada. Whatís going to happen is that the members opposite will probably vote against this additional funding that weíve advanced in this Legislature.
Mr. Fairclough: Well, again the minister is avoiding the question. He says we have the highest payments compared to our neighbours. Well, letís look at them. $30 a day after the fourth day is what people get when they travel outside the territory. In the Northwest Territories, on the first day, they get their accommodations paid for within the territory or they get $73 a day for accommodations outside the territory, and they get meals and they get their taxis paid for. But this government pays nothing. So do we make the highest payments in subsidies across Canada? No.
So I will ask the minister again: will he show some leadership? Will he be proactive and bring forward through his department ó not through others, through the Womenís Directorate or whatever, but through his department ó a new policy that we can debate in this House in the spring session? I realize he canít do it now.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: For the member oppositeís information, we havenít cleared the Department of Health as yet, and weíre still in general debate on that area. All of the sums of money I mentioned, Mr. Speaker, have been clearly identified.
Letís look at some of the increases that weíve put through. Our government has put through: seniors income supplement, another $220,800 ó thatís the $100 per month to seniors in addition to the $100 per month the seniors receive ó and weíve increased the pioneer utility grant by another $150 per year for our seniors; the pharmacare program covers the cost of prescription drugs for seniors who are not covered by other legislation or private insurance ó no deductible in this program, $1.948 million; extended health care benefit program, $1.050 million, provides seniors with financial assistance to help cover the cost of approved medical/surgical supplies, hearing aids, artificial limbs. It goes on and on and on, Mr. Speaker, as to what we have done as a government to enhance the various programs across the board for Yukoners.
Thatís the issue here. The member opposite is singling out one small area. We stand on our record of providing some of the best programs and the best funded programs here in the Yukon.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
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 the House resolve into Committee of the Whole.
Motion agreed to
Speaker leaves the Chair
COMMITTEE OF THE WHOLE
Chair:Order please. Committee of the Whole will now come to order. The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04.
Before we begin, do members wish a recess?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: We will have a 15-minute recess.
Chair: Order please. Committee of the Whole will come to order.
The matter before the Committee is Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04. We will continue on with general debate on Vote 10, the Public Service Commission.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04 ó continued
Public Service Commission ó continued
Hon. Mr. Edzerza:I would like to start today by stating that I felt very uncomfortable yesterday with some of the lines of questioning that were being asked of this minister. I say that because my own personal opinion is that it was sort of borderline of trying to force this minister into a breach of confidentiality with regard to the investigation that took place.
Having said that, I would like to state for the record that a lot of questions were asked ó and I have no problem sharing with the floor of this Legislature or to all of the Public Service Commission and all of the employees of YTG, that, yes, I did have emotional feelings about the investigation. Thatís what all the questioning was attributed to yesterday. At least two hours of it was with regard to the investigation.
I say today, Mr. Chair, that it was a very hard time, trying time, for everyone involved with the investigation, and the emotional feelings, I can tell you, were very difficult.
As a minister, I certainly seek understanding of what it meant to have this investigation happen. I have regretful feelings for all of the staff who were involved in this investigation. Mr. Chair, that goes right from the individuals who were charged with misuse of the computer ó I have emotional feelings for those people, because they are human beings and, yes, it does have an effect on their families. I sympathize with that. I have emotional feelings for all of the deputy ministers who had to review all of this material, Mr. Chair. It was a horrendous task for them, and I appreciate what they had to go through to come to a conclusion on this investigation.
Mr. Chair, I have personal feelings about all of the Public Service Commission staff who had to be involved in this. It was a task that by law had to be carried out, and I appreciate all the work that they had to do on this. So I know, Mr. Chair, it was a very difficult process, and I know there was an excellent job done. I certainly hope that the citizens in the Yukon Territory do not paint all government employees with the same brush. There was only a very small percentage involved in this, and I sincerely hope now that they can go on and continue doing the good work that they do.
It has been stated on several occasions that this government does not really support the staff of the Yukon government. Well, today I can demonstrate to you that there is goodwill from this government in support of all the staff who work for the Yukon government.
Today, we got the good news that a four-year agreement had been ratified. Now, when we talk about a four-year agreement, that provides certainty for the staff. And I might add that while other jurisdictions are holding their increments at zero, this government has come forward in good faith and put a 10-percent increase over the next four years to the staff working for the Yukon government.
The term from January 1, 2003 to December 31, 2006 will be the extent of the contract. The wages will be a two-percent increase effective January 1, 2003 to a 2.5-percent increase effective January 1, 2004, a 2.5-percent increase effective January 1, 2005, and a bonus on the fourth year, with a three-percent increase effective January 1, 2006.
Itís like a bonus. Itís a higher percentage than the benefits. Some highlights of the benefits here ó and I hear complaints from the leader of the official opposition about the three-percent increase. What is the matter with the opposition? Man, the staff will be delighted with that.
Some highlights for benefits: effective April 1, 2005, lifetime orthodontic coverage moves from $2,000 to $2,500; effective April 1, 2006, lifetime orthodontic coverage moves from $2,500 to $3,000. Secondly, effective January 1, 2004, maternity leave and paternal leave are amended to provide 34 weeks of maternity leave at 93 percent of salary; and 17 weeks of parental leave for the father at 93 percent of salary. Effective January 1, 2004, under extended care, hearing-aid coverage is increased to $600 every 16 months.
Effective January 1, 2004, boot allowance increases from $50 to $100. Other highlights ó prior to referring negotiations to mediation arbitration, the parties had agreed on 64 amendments to the collective agreement. Many were housekeeping changes, but there were several significant and positive changes to the agreement, including streamlining the administration of special leave and that of the grievance procedures.
Other significant changes came under the nurses. There were several new benefits in place for nurses.
Mr. Chair, I say to the members opposite that this government does and will continue to support the staff of the Yukon government.
I will move now to cover some of the discussion yesterday. I want to start again by talking about the misuse of computer investigation. First of all, I acknowledge the effects of the investigation on employees who have been mostly directly affected by it. This doesnít just include employees who were investigated; it also includes the people who had the job of conducting the investigation, sorting and viewing the materials and doing the interviews.
Second, I want to emphasize the point that I have had faith in the Public Service Commission and the process developed by deputy ministers to follow this investigation through to its conclusion.
Third, I want to make it clear that I personally do not condone the actions of people who choose to abuse the position of trust that the employers place in them, but neither will I judge them.
My experience is that we have to take the bad with the good. I believe that before we can heal relationships, we must seek to understand. Thatís the traditional way. And to understand, we must first realize that everything we do affects the lives of many others in some way. We also have to be open to the idea that a lot of what we hear and read is not based in fact.
My fourth point is this: the computer investigation was a matter dealt with by the public service administration of this government. It was a personnel matter. There was no political involvement in this process, and I state that very strongly, Mr. Chair. There was no political involvement in the process, and I will continue to repeat this, because it is true.
Finally, I want to thank all the people who work for the Yukon government for the professional way in which they deliver services and programs to the people of this territory. Letís not forget that 96 people were disciplined as a result of this investigation. That, Mr. Chair, is a very small portion of over 4,000 plus Yukoners who work for the government. I cannot say it strongly enough: Yukon public servants are hardworking and willing to serve the taxpayers.
Mr. Chair, Iíd like to go on now to some of the good work that the Public Service Commission is responsible for.
For example, under training and professional development: (1) the Public Service Commission sponsors staff training and professional development opportunities for Yukon government employees; (2) the commission also offers career counselling for employees, the executive coaching program, as well as on-the-job training and development opportunities; (3) the commissionís Yukon government leadership forum, an executive leadership program, which is part of governmentís succession plan to replace retiring management-level public servants, will graduate its second intake of participants in June 2003; (4) the Public Service Commission manages staffing and employment opportunities within the government for publicity advertising positions.
And we can go on into devolution. The Public Service Commission participated with other departments in the smooth transition of 240 employees from the federal government to the Yukon government.
And we go into the union relationships. Public service staff participated in constructive discussions with the leadership of both the Public Service Alliance of Canada and the Yukon Employees Union component of the Public Service Alliance of Canada to sign a memorandum of understanding to confirm details for these Northern Affairs program employees. The memorandum will be amended to the renewed collective agreement.
Number two, the Public Service Commission staff conducted negotiations for a new collective agreement. We have the award today.
Number three: the Public Service Commission staff negotiated with the Yukon Teachers Association to ratify a three-year agreement.
Number four: the Public Service Commission has worked with the YEU to develop a new grievance procedure that puts the emphasis on problem solving as opposed to adjudication. There are numerous things that the Public Service Commission is involved in and when we talk about First Nation relationships, the Public Service Commission is the lead department working to implement the representative public service plan, which is the tool to meet the governmentís obligation under the Umbrella Final Agreement and First Nation agreements.
Employment equity: I can go on and on about the good things that are happening and I remind that all of this has been taking place within the last year.
Chair: I would like to let the member know that he has two minutes.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There were comments made from the other side of the House yesterday with regard to this minister not knowing anything about the job. I say that I beg to differ with that: the three-year agreement with the teachers and a four-year agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada within the first year ó I would say thatís not bad, not bad averages at all. And I think that there is going to be a lot more production done over the next three years, and the public of this territory will certainly appreciate this government by the time the mandate is up.
Mr. Hardy: You can learn a lot more from a person by what they omit than by what they say. Why doesnít the minister across the way recognize the fact that it was an arbitrator who made a decision on this case; instead the minister across the way has indicated that he was the one who did it. Au contraire ó it is very wrong; it was an arbitrator and it is right on the press release from the Yukon Party government.
Now, interestingly enough, the settlement was a balancing act that the arbitrator did and he seems to be a fairly skilled arbitrator in this matter; interestingly enough, it was the government walking away from the table that forced it into arbitration, which, of course, created a greater degree of expense.
But letís look at what the minister has said ó or not said, as usual. He has talked about how great this agreement is and it can be viewed in many ways as not too bad of an agreement from both sides. I am sure the union did get some issues resolved that they wanted. They were part of the negotiations. Interestingly enough, I noticed the minister didnít even bother mentioning them and their part in the negotiations. Did they not have a role to play as well? Did they not negotiate in good faith, or was it only the tremendous wisdom from the minister that managed to resolve this issue? Listening to his words, it seems to be the perspective that he takes.
Now, he did mention questions that were asked yesterday and he was uncomfortable with them. I think really what the minister should be more uncomfortable with is the lack of answers that he supplied, because I would be very uncomfortable with my performance if it were me whom I heard yesterday from the minister side.
Letís review some of these questions that he found so difficult to deal with, which this minister seems to think are about personnel. One of them was: how many cases so far have been identified for arbitration? Do you know what the answer to that one was, Mr. Chair? "Thatís a personnel matter." No, itís a policy question. He had difficulty with that question.
How about, "Were all the people who showed up on the e-mail trail investigated?" Well, interestingly enough, he had difficulty with that one too, Mr. Chair. Well, guess what? The Public Service Commissioner had answered that question in a news conference. Why canít the minister answer that question? Whatís the difficulty with answering that question?
Why was the Ontario model chosen? Is that a personnel question? No, of course it isnít; itís a policy question, Mr. Chair. What other options were presented? Is that a personnel question? No, of course it isnít. This minister is hiding. This is what he hides behind. These are not personnel questions.
What is so hard about these questions? Why didnít he answer them yesterday? Questions like: to whom does the Public Service Commissioner report? This minister couldnít even answer that question. He could not answer that question in the Legislature. Why? Whatís the difficulty of answering a question like that? What political direction did the minister give the commissioner? Or did he give none whatsoever? If thatís the answer, fine, stand up in the Legislature and tell the people that he gave absolutely no direction whatsoever.
Now, we do know that the minister is on record as saying he knows nothing of whatís going on but itís perfectly fine with him. He tried to convey to the people that he was really concerned about them; yet, when he admitted the investigation was spiralling out of control, did he step in to stop it ó if he was that concerned? When he admits that, did this minister step in and stop the investigation? No. So how much concern was there in this?
Another comment he made just in his preamble here was that not everything you read or hear is based on fact. I would really like to know what the minister is saying. Is he saying that the media does not present facts, that the media is corrupt, that they spin it in a way that is totally wrong? Because you know, thereís recourse to that. The government can take action against the media if they print wrong information. Is he saying the opposition does not present fact? Only the government ó only the words from his mouth are the truth? Is that what heís saying?
If heís going to make that accusation, Mr. Chair, then I think he had better back it up; he had better have proof. Itís not good enough to stand up and say something like that and not show some accurate examples, and then be willing to take action if he has to.
So we ask questions about the protection of privacy of individuals, about breaches of privacy. Thatís actually a question I liked because I did get an answer. The minister said there were no breaches of privacy that have come to his attention, and I appreciate the minister for giving that frank and honest answer.
And it was very clear. However, I asked approximately 68 questions, and 58 of them he refused to answer. We asked questions about the model of Yukon Development Corporation/Yukon Energy Corporation. Had it been considered; he wouldnít answer it. We asked questions about the investigation. Who was investigating the investigators, because there was obviously some trail that kind of went back to one of the investigators. How was that handled? We had asked the Premier that in Question Period. This minister wonít answer it. We tried to find out if this minister understands the role that he plays in his response to being the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. Now under "Administration of Act" under the Public Service Act, it says under (6) "the Public Service Commissioner shall, subject to the general direction of the minister, be responsible for the administration of this act, the regulations and any policies established pursuant theretoÖ."
Reading the act, it states that the minister gives general direction to the Public Service Commissioner. Why was it so difficult? Why is it so difficult for the minister to admit that? What is he trying to hide here?
It also goes on to say, under section (8)(1)(e) "to report to the minister from time to time respecting the operation of this Act or the regulations;
"(f) to investigate and make reports as required respecting any contravention of this act or the regulations;
"(g) after consultation with a deputy head, to investigate and report on any matter respecting the employees of the department of the deputy head;
"(h) to report as required on the organization of the public service or any part thereof."
All those are reporting, and they are all stated very clearly. So whatís the problem here?
Iím going to go back to a few questions, and Iím hoping that the minister has thought about some of the very benign questions we asked, which definitely were not personnel-related, and maybe he will come forward with some more information.
Letís start with costs. On September 19, a press release was put out and it said, "Investigation costs to date come to $127,594." Is that a correct estimate today, or has that price increased?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I would like to start by correcting the record on a statement that was made by the leader of the official opposition with regard to this government being responsible for sending this negotiated package to arbitration. The facts are that the union executive did not even give the membership the opportunity to vote on this package. It was their decision to send it to binding arbitration.
In fact this government wanted to proceed as fast as possible, so that it would enable the staff of the Yukon government to receive this package by Christmas. As it stands now, there is a 60-day period agreed to by the employer and PSAC.
The Public Service Commission will work to process pay matters as quickly as possible but there will be no pay adjustments before Christmas and itís due to the lack of being able to move it ahead.
And now, with follow-up to his question, the cost that the member opposite had stated has changed. The cost to date of the investigation, including bills received to November 21, 2003, is $152,078.10. This includes $81,687.96 for legal counsel, $41,331.90 for communications counsel, $16,400 for computer support services, and $12,658.24 in administration costs, such as interview room rentals, photocopying, transportation, et cetera.
Mr. Hardy: Itís nice to get an answer. I hope we can continue this now. Did this calculate the hours that were spent by the deputy ministers, directors and other people who had to take time away from the work that they normally do in order to deal with this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That is a personnel issue and Iíll leave it with personnel.
Mr. Hardy: Well, there we go again. It didnít take long, did it? Letís just really get broad here. Were all people who showed up on the e-mail trail investigated?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again to the member opposite, this was handled by the personnel department and it will stay in that area.
Mr. Hardy: Well, interestingly enough, the minister obviously doesnít understand personnel, because the Public Service Commissioner answered this question. The question was: were any employees exempted from the investigation process? All names on the e-mail trail were followed. There were no exceptions. Thatís what the Public Service Commissioner said. Why is the minister saying this is a personnel issue and yet the Public Service Commissioner felt this was all right to answer? She obviously didnít feel that it was a personnel issue.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, there appears to be a difference of opinion here between the member opposite and this side of the House. He may be correct that the Public Service Commission answered those questions ó and rightfully so; it is their job to answer personnel questions, and they did.
Mr. Hardy: I would hate to tell the minister once again that he happens to be the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission and he happens to also be responsible for answering questions ó even more so that the Public Service Commissioner ó when it comes to speaking to the public. He just canít seem to grasp the fact that he has a responsibility in this matter.
Now, another statement that was put out was that the courts have defined sexual harassment broadly to include unwelcome remarks, jokes, cartoons, innuendoes, or posters, as well as the obvious pornographic ó or materials of a sexual nature. Was that included in the investigation ó all the points that were made there?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Mr. Chair, I cannot get into any specifics of the investigation on the floor of this Legislature.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, I have to disagree with him. The question was a very legitimate question. I read it directly off the piece of information that was given out to the public, and that was by Bill Craik, Deputy Minister of Justice. How can that be a personnel issue if all I did was just read off what was handed out by the Justice minister, or does this minister believe he has a greater understanding of what personnel issues are, more so than the Deputy Minister of Justice?
So letís try another question. Yesterday we were talking about a meeting that had happened with the president of PSAC. As I said yesterday, this minister had no reservations whatsoever in naming the president of PSAC but seems to feel he must keep secret who else was in the meeting.
Could the minister today inform me whom he met with when he met with the president of PSAC? Who else was in that meeting?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím having difficulty trying to follow the line of questioning of the member opposite. One day itís stated that no names are to be mentioned on the floor of this House. He comes back today and states, "Name everybody on the floor of the House."
Mr. Chair, I apologized sincerely yesterday for that error and, if the member opposite canít accept that, thatís his prerogative.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, the minister did not answer the question and, for his information, you can mention names. Iíve already mentioned Bill Craik, for instance. This minister mentioned Nycole Turmel. There is nothing stopping him from mentioning his own name. Was he at the meeting, or did he send someone else to this meeting?
What it all comes down to ó if I need to refresh the ministerís memory, I will ó is a very simple question about ó it slipped my mind for the moment; hang on a second ó mediation offered to resolve this issue. This minister indicated that there was, and he indicated this was offered to the president. Now, my understanding ó my information ó is that, no, that did not happen to the president. Maybe the minister would be willing to clear up the error around this. Iím quite willing to accept it, if he could explain exactly what was offered, when it was offered and, if it didnít go anywhere, thatís fine, we can move on.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe that question was asked yesterday and answered.
Mr. Hardy: Once again, this minister has refused to answer the question. The question was not answered. I would recommend that he review the Blues. I believe that I did try to find an answer to it. If the minister himself has admitted there was a mediated solution offered, why canít he tell us who it was offered to and who offered it?
So, the crux of the matter ó what we want to know is, since we already identified one person, who happens to not even live in the Yukon ó if the minister broached the subject in a meeting with her himself, all he has to do is tell me that he was the person who offered a mediated response. If it was the Public Service Commissioner, then thatís fine too.
If it was a staff worker, then tell us and we can analyze that from that perspective as well. It is not a hard question.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I will state for the record again for the member opposite that I will not go into any specific details of any meetings I have held in my office with regard to this investigation.
Mr. Hardy: What is the Public Service Commission doing to repair the damage to employee morale resulting from this investigation? What action is being taken at this present time?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There has always been an employee assistance program in place and it is still there to support staff in government.
Mr. Hardy: I could ask a couple of more questions here in regard to this. Who was actually in charge of this investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The Public Service Commission and the deputy ministers.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you very much. That is public knowledge and I really appreciate the minister for responding to that. To whom did they report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The deputies carried out these responsibilities under the provisions of the Public Service Act.
Mr. Hardy: To whom did the deputy ministers report in regard to this investigation? They must have had some form of reporting system. The work that they did, the follow-up, where did that go to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Under the Public Service Act, the deputies had a responsibility to carry this investigation out.
Mr. Hardy: Is the minister telling me that there were absolutely no reports whatsoever given to him by either the Public Service Commissioner or deputy ministers?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iím saying that the Public Service Commission conducted this investigation and I believe they have done their job.
Mr. Hardy: Who does the Public Service Commissioner report to?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the member opposite knows very well the answers to the questions heís asking.
Mr. Hardy: I would really appreciate it if the minister would show some decency and answer that question in the Legislature so we can hear it from his mouth, because weíre not sure if he knows the answer to that question. To whom does the Public Service Commissioner report?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The member opposite knows very well.
Mr. Hardy: We have to assume that the minister does not know who reports to him, based upon that kind of an answer. We also have to assume that he is abdicating all forms of responsibility in this matter and will not be a spokesperson for the Public Service Commission. From my perspective, that means he is not even a minister of this department any more, if he canít even answer a question like that.
I have another couple of questions. There was a firing of an employee. The Dawson supervisor was put in place to supervise Dawson and work with them.
Under section 8(1)(g), it says, "Öafter consultation with a deputy head to investigate and report on a matter respecting employees of the department of the deputy head" ó this is under powers of the Public Service Commission. The commission has the power to do that. Was the Public Service Commission asked to investigate with respect to the person who was fired?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Try as the opposition may, I will not discuss any personnel issues on the floor of this House. I have said it 20 times if Iíve said it once, and itís going to stay that way.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, it was 68 yesterday and probably we are up to 20 by now.
We are trying to find out if the Public Service Commission was doing their job. The minister is responsible to ensure they are doing their job.
The question was not about the firing per se, other than did the commission abide by the Public Service Act or not. So, was the Public Service Commission asked to investigate with respect to this firing?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This issue is dealing with a specific individual and I cannot answer those questions.
Mr. Hardy: Was the minister made aware of the problems though? As the Public Service Commissionís role ó and we donít have to read the whole act out to this minister to inform him of what they do, I hope. Was he at least made aware that there were problems existing and the Public Service Commission was going to ensure that all aspects of the discipline that was being meted out was being done in a fair and just manner?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Again, I will state for the record that this is a personnel issue that I will not discuss on the floor of this Legislature.
Ms. Duncan: I just have a few questions for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.
This morning I received a letter that the minister signed late last week. It is in response to a question I had asked on the floor of the House about the repatriation of the pension plan.
Essentially, the repatriation of the pension plan is a project that was worked on by the government previous to ours. It was worked on extensively by our government as well. All the parties in this House have been very supportive of the repatriation of our pension. Itís an important project for the Yukon government, whatever their political stripe, to be working on. Unfortunately, it would appear that the Yukon Employees Union has temporarily withdrawn from the joint patriation committee ó this is what the ministerís letter said to me ó because of the Internet use investigation.
I understand it has been a lengthy debate about the Internet use investigation and I donít want to get into a lot of details, but I would like to know if the minister has a sense of when YEU might be prepared to continue with discussions on this important project.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: At this point in time, we canít say specifically when the union will get reinvolved with this, and I certainly hope that theyíll see the positive side of doing this. As a result, plans for a January 1, 2004 implementation have been postponed from January 1, 2004 to an earliest possible date probably of January 1, 2005.
Ms. Duncan: Thatís the implementation date that ó as early as possible ó that we discussed and was mentioned in the letter.
Iíd like to take the minister back a couple of steps on the discussion of the repatriation of the pension. As I understood it, before YEU left the discussions ó I should also say that itís my understanding that itís not only YEU, but the YTA too. So, itís the government, the Yukon Teachers Association and the Yukon Government Employees Union officials, for lack of a better word ó the committee ó that are working on this project. Have I got the committee correct? The minister is nodding.
That being said, then my understanding is that their work, once all of the parties were at the table, is that we were going principle by principle by principle. So, all the parties ó for example, one of the principles is that nobody can ever touch these pension funds. That was one of the principles ó and Iím putting it colloquially and not in the proper terms. But that was one of the principles that was agreed to.
So, my question is: before YEU left these discussions, how much progress ó where were we? Had we done 10 principles and were getting to work on legislation? Where were the discussions?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Prior to the YEUís departure, the repatriation committee finalized the framework of principles with the consensus agreement of all parties and substantially completed the drafting of the plan. Drafting work on the legislation has proceeded based on the work completed by the committee prior to YEUís departure.
Ms. Duncan: So, the drafting work on the plan ó thatís the framework of the pension plan, per se. Correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes, they were based on the principles.
Ms. Duncan: So itís not the drafting work on the legislation? I am just trying to be clear on exactly what drafting has been done and what work has been accomplished.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We have done drafting on the planned text plus the legislation.
Ms. Duncan: Is any of this work able to continue with the absence of YEU from the committee? It would seem to me that it couldnít continue, but if itís the background work that is being done, I suppose the draftspeople could be working to prepare the draft for the committee when YEU returned. Would the minister just state exactly what is happening on this?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We are drafting the legislation but it cannot be supported ó for lack of a better word ó until the union is involved.
Ms. Duncan: So the draft legislation canít go to the Cabinet Committee on Legislation until the union is back involved.
Is there any hope of the union coming back in the near future? The computer use investigation has concluded, as I understand from the lengthy debate and the public discussions, although there are a number of appeals and so on currently underway. We have the arbitratorís report now. Is there any sense by the minister or the Public Service Commissioner that the YEU might be prepared to come back to the table, say, in six months? Or are they going to abandon the project until the next election? Do we know?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: To the best of my knowledge, I think the government will encourage the union to get reinvolved in this issue.
Ms. Duncan: I would just state for the record that that encouragement is going to have to come from the minister and itís a very important project. Itís important for the Yukon; most importantly, itís important for all of our employees. Itís not without its issues. There is lots of work to be done yet, I recognize that, but itís a very important project that I would encourage the minister to personally do his best to encourage all parties to remain or come back and work on this particular project. I would hope that the minister would take that recommendation that I have made.
I would just like to discuss the computer use investigation very briefly. I just want to review the information and see if I got it correctly from the minister. In terms of cost, I understood the minister quoted a figure of $152,780 and that $81,687 and change was legal counsel; $41,331 was communications; $16,400, computer support services; and then there was some administration. Was this expenditure local hire, or how much of it did we have to bring in from out of the territory?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Some was local and some was outside.
Ms. Duncan: Perhaps the minister could indicate ó was the legal counsel from outside the territory and the communications from outside the territory? That would be my estimation but, from what he said earlier in the House, I would just like that information.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe the legal counsel was from outside the territory.
Ms. Duncan: And the communications?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: It was some of both.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíll get to the Yukon-hire question in a moment. There was a $30,000 sole-source contract to National Public Relations by the department for public relations consultations. Was this surrounding the computer use investigation, or what was it for?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Yes.
Ms. Duncan: The figure of 96 was stated by the minister earlier in the House. How many appeals or arbitration cases have been filed as a result of the computer use investigation?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Those specifics I will not discuss on the floor of the Legislature.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, can the minister just correct me then; did I not hear him say earlier in debate this afternoon the number of disciplines. The figure I heard earlier was 96. Did the minister not say that figure? If he didnít, then fine. I can go back and review the Blues, but I would just like his clarification. Did he not indicate that figure earlier on the floor?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I did state there were 96; however, I refuse to go into detail on that number of 96.
Ms. Duncan: I am not trying to make the minister uncomfortable here, but what I am asking are legitimate questions. We have often asked on the floor of the House in previous debates, for example, how many outstanding classifications there are. So, my question is: how many appeals are currently outstanding surrounding the computer use investigation? That number is not out of the ordinary or outside of the reasonableness of the minister to answer.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is a difference with regard to the questions from the member opposite. One being that on anything that has to do with this investigation, I will not discuss specifics on the floor of this Legislature.
Ms. Duncan: How many classification appeals are outstanding currently in the Public Service Commission?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Apparently there are currently 513 outstanding classification requests on file with the Public Service Commission.
Ms. Duncan: There was concerted effort to hire additional resources to try to deal with that backlog of outstanding classifications. It was whittled down substantially when we were in government and now I see here that it has gone back up. Have we additional resources in this supplementary budget to deal with the tremendous number of outstanding classifications?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: The answer is no.
Ms. Duncan: Well, letís hope that the minister is going to come forward in the spring budget with additional resources for classification. There were additional resources in the supplementary budget for a harassment coordinator in previous budgets, so perhaps we will also have additional resources to deal with classification.
How many discipline action appeals are currently outstanding?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: We donít have that information available here.
Ms. Duncan: So we know exactly how many people are appealing their job classifications right now, but we donít know how many people in the Government of Yukon are appealing any disciplinary actions. They donít have that information. If an individual were to appeal their job classification now ó knowing there is a backlog of 514 ó how long would it likely take before that classification would be heard?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: That would be a very hard issue to give an estimate on, because the emphasis right now is being put on the devolution issues and renewal issues.
Ms. Duncan: According to the kibitzing from his colleagues down the line, these 514 classifications are devolution and renewal issues. Letís back up: what are the 514 classification appeals related to? What are they a result of?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Those were classification requests and of the total outstanding classification requests, 18 percent are renewal related and 38 percent are devolution related.
Ms. Duncan: What the minister said is that 38 percent are devolution and 18 percent are renewal. The minister has nodded. That still leaves us with almost 44 percent of classification questions. I would put it to the minister that that is symptomatic of a rather unhappy work force. And that number has climbed significantly since that party opposite took office ó climbed significantly ó because this was a major issue that the previous government had done a lot of work on.
Now, is the classification appeal route also being used as a method for a worker to grieve or to make known to the employer issues around their employment and a way of indicating that they consider the discipline that they may have been meted to be unfair or inappropriate?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: In my opinion, itís reflected more toward renewal and devolution.
Ms. Duncan: Well, Iím sure it is. The minister would love to blame the previous government. Itís a habit over there. The fact is that a good portion of these are not related to renewal or devolution ó a substantial percentage. So what are they related to?
The minister said that 18 percent are renewal and 38 percent are devolution. Thatís understandable when you have 240 employees transferring over ó and entirely different classification systems. Thatís understandable. There was an anticipation that there would be a great deal of work required in reclassification.
There are still a large number of classification appeals, or reclassification requests, and there are no additional resources provided by government to try to deal with it. Thatís yet another reason for the opposition to vote against the supplementary budget, because the government hasnít put resources where theyíre needed.
Now, the minister can tell us all of the precise details around the reclassification, the number of appeals and so on. He can tell the number, the broad number, of discipline cases. I would like the broad number of how many appeals are currently outstanding around discipline actions. He has all the other numbers. Iíd like that information as well.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Iíll say again for the record that a lot of these are related to the renewal. I donít have the numbers available that the member opposite is asking for.
Ms. Duncan: Iíll take them by letter then and I will hope that the minister will lift the veil of secrecy that surrounds the members opposite and provide that information to us. He has the other information at his fingertips; does he simply not have that one? In all fairness, itís a question that has been answered in other realms. I would like the information by letter. My precise question is: how many appeals are currently outstanding around disciplinary action, including the disciplinary action of the computer use investigation?
I would like to ask ó itís a bit of an obscure question, two of them for the minister and he may want to get back to me by letter. The Minister of Finance tables a report; itís the joint benefits agreement. There is a committee of employees and management that look at our insurance plan, and what they do is dental insurance, the plan that we have as employees. There is a report filed on it. Itís called the Joint Management Committee.
The problem with it is that there is no way right now for an individual who feels that the plan hasnít treated them properly. Like if they want to appeal their ruling on their retirement or the ruling on some benefits, there is no route of appeal for them. Itís an issue that came up at the very end of our term in office and itís an issue that Iíve given thought to, and it has been raised to me by constituents.
I would like to ask the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission, as he also has some responsibility in this area, if he would consider raising this issue with the Joint Management Committee ó a route of appeal for beneficiaries, if you will, of the plan to appeal a ruling. Could he address that issue for me, please?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Well, thereís quite a lengthy response to that, but Iíll give it.
The Sun Life insurance company administers the contracts on behalf of the Government of Yukon. One of the primary services that Sun Life provides for us is claims processing. We pay Sun Life to provide this service. When there are problems with Sun Life in processing claims, Sun Life will normally refer employees to the employee compensation branch, the benefits administrator. If there is a problem with Sun Life processing the claim according to the planís provisions, then the employee compensation branch will deal with Sun Life to resolve the issue.
If the problem is with the provision under the plan and not with Sun Life, then there is usually a discussion to explain the provision to the employee. If this information is not satisfactory to the employee, then options are given to perhaps talk to the director of the branch and/or the applicable representative on the Joint Management Committee who can deal with employees. Sometimes this includes bringing the issue to the Joint Management Committee to deal with.
In cases where there are problems that continually come forward with the ECB, weíll bring these to the attention of the Joint Management Committee. In some cases, the Joint Management Committee may want to come up with a plan to deal with this problem, if possible, where there is an option to change an administrative procedure or make a change to the plan that will address the problem. In all cases, the Joint Management Committee is trying to ensure that the plans are protected and that any change made keeps this in mind.
Ms. Duncan: I appreciate the minister reading out that answer because it enables me to be of assistance to my constituents on this particular issue. So I thank the minister for that answer.
The last question I have just surrounds the actuarial evaluations of our pension plans. There is a substantial contribution in the last supplementary. There is a substantial contribution in this supplementary, I believe ó I donít have it in front of me. Yes, I do ó $3 million.
When is the next actuarial evaluation? First of all, is the actuarial evaluation tendered? Itís invitational tendered, I believe. Could the minister confirm that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Itís actually sole-sourced to Aon Consulting because it is under $25,000.
Ms. Duncan: When are the next sole-sourced contract and the next actuarial evaluation of the employee leave and termination benefits account due?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I believe it will be next year because the department is working on getting all the material in line for that.
Ms. Duncan: Okay, so if weíre going to get the report in 2004, will the request for more funds come to the Management Board in 2005? It seems to take quite a length of time for the actuarial evaluation to occur and then for the request for the amount to go to Management Board. There is quite a time lag. So is that yet an additional year?
So it would be the budget ó either in a supplementary for the 2005 fiscal year or the budget year 2006 that we would see an additional contribution, if required by the actuarial evaluation. Is that timeline correct?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís fairly accurate, yes.
Ms. Duncan: Is there any possibility of it being expedited?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thereís a lot of work to be done in this area of leave evaluations. If the member opposite so wishes, we could give some of that information when itís ready.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd appreciate that.
The other question I have in this regard is, is it expected to be substantially different as a result of the transfer of federal employees? Is the account likely to be substantially different?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: There is an adjustment in the supplementary now for the devolution people.
Ms. Duncan: Is it all? Or are we likely to see another adjustment yet? Are the calculations complete?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: For the devolved people, yes.
Mr. McRobb: I just wanted to make sure the minister forwards any information he undertook to provide to the third party to the official opposition as well. Just a nod ó I confirm he has nodded; thatís fine, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Seeing none, weíll proceed with line-by-line. For membersí reference, weíre on page 12-3.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Corporate Human Resource Services
Ms. Duncan: Could we have a line explanation for that?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This includes $85,000 for salary and other expenses for one devolved position and $15,000 for classification appeals.
Ms. Duncan: So, there is $15,000 ó there is money for classification, but not a person.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Thatís for the appeals.
Corporate Human Resource Services in the amount of $100,000 agreed to
On Employee Compensation
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíll take the line explanation from the minister.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This includes $134,000 for salary and other expenses for two devolved positions.
Employee Compensation in the amount of $134,000 agreed to
On Staff Relations
Staff Relations in the amount of $85,000 agreed to
On Workersí Compensation Fund
Ms. Duncan: Is this a top-up of ó we have some old cases from when Yukon was self-insured. Is it this money, or is this an examination of Yukon going back again to self-insurance? What was this money spent on?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: This includes the cost of premiums for all devolved employees.
Workersí Compensation Fund in the amount of $213,000 agreed to
On Policy and Planning
Policy and Planning in the amount of $35,000 agreed to
On Employee Leave and Termination Benefits Adjustment
Employee Leave and Termination Benefits Adjustment in the amount of $3,173,000 agreed to
On Staff Development
Staff Development in the amount of $228,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Public Service Commission in the amount of $3,968,000 agreed to
Public Service Commission agreed to
Chair: The Chair understands that we are moving into Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman.
Office of the Ombudsman
Hon. Mr. Staffen: The Membersí Services Board is responsible for the budgets of the Yukon Legislative Assembly and its House Officers. This includes the Ombudsman/Information and Privacy Commissioner who receives funding in Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman.
It is therefore appropriate that the Chair of the Membersí Services Board should provide information to the House on those appropriations.
The 2003-04 supplementary estimates for Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman, show an increase of $10,000 in operations and maintenance. This is due to a retroactive salary increase for the Ombudsman and a retroactive salary increase for the Ombudsmanís staff following a formal classification review.
The increase of $3,000 in the Ombudsmanís salary is due to being linked on a percentage basis to the salary of the Chief Territorial Court Judge. This had been signalled to the Membersí Services Board at its meeting of January 21, 2001, and the need for further funding to this purpose has been identified in the closing 2002-03 supplementary estimates as well as these current year supplementaries.
Also, the Membersí Services Board, at its meeting of January 7, 2003, was informed there would be a shortfall due to a salary increase of the Ombudsmanís staff resulting from a formal classification review. The financial impact of this classification review identified in the supplementary estimates for 2003-04 is $7,000.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, perhaps the member of the House who is responsible would care to indicate, as he is the Chair, when the next meeting of the Membersí Services Board might be called?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: I believe itís called at the discretion of the members, and so we will look forward ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Staffen: Itís at the call of the Chair. I stand corrected. Sooner rather than later ó I understand thatís a terminology well used.
Ms. Duncan: I look forward to that next meeting of Membersí Services Board and in order that we might examine the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman again in the near future.
Mr. McRobb: Iím wondering about the Committee on Statutory Instruments. Can the member responsible tell us when the next meeting of that will be and, while heís at it, when the last meeting was?
Hon. Mr. Staffen: I think that would also fall under the qualification of "sooner rather than later", but not before the last one. Is that a satisfactory answer?
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
Hearing none, we will proceed into line-by-line. For membersí reference, this is page 1-3.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
On Office of the Ombudsman
Office of the Ombudsman in the amount of $10,000 agreed to
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures in the amount of $10,000 for the Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Office of the Ombudsman agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 23, Office of the Ombudsman.
We will take a five-minute recess to allow officials to arrive.
Chair: Committee of the Whole will now come to order. We will continue on with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, with Vote 12, the Department of Finance.
Department of Finance
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iíll be quite brief, Mr. Chair. It is my pleasure to introduce the 2003-04 Supplementary Estimate No. 1 for the Department of Finance.
On the operation and maintenance side of the department, the decrease requested is $426,000, which brings the revised O&M vote for the department to $4,577,000. The decrease is made up of three main components. $461,000 is transferred to the new Department of Economic Development. This is identical to the amount transferred to Finance for the same functions being transferred back. There is an increase of $60,000 in personnel costs required as a result of the additional staffing in the payroll section due to devolution. The position was financed from devolution funds transferred. There is a decrease in personnel costs of $25,000 due to vacant positions not being filled.
On the capital side of the department, the increase requested is $25,000, which brings the revised capital vote for the department to $291,000. The increase is requested to purchase a folder/inserter machine to replace an existing piece of equipment that is approximately 10 years old and is unable to be repaired as parts are no longer available ó in other words, time expired.
The revenues are increasing by $1,153,000 to $52,501,000 in total. This is due to a revised estimate by Canada for the estimated corporate income tax expected to be remitted to Yukon.
I will be pleased to answer any questions of a general nature that this House may have at this time.
Mr. Hardy: I only have a few questions and wonít take up too much time. There has already been a lot said in debate on the budget, and much of it has circled around this and I donít really want to go over too much of it again.
Very quickly, is there a qualification from the Auditor General on the finances?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: No, thereís no qualification. Itís a clean audit, as the term is used.
Mr. Hardy: In regard to environmental liabilities, there are 13 sites that have not been assessed in regard to potential liabilities. Could the minister give me some information in regard to what is happening around environmental liabilities? What is the status weíre at with them? When do they anticipate ó whether there are times or not ó theyíll be assessed?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, first off, as a department we simply follow the recommendations of the Auditor General when it comes to environmental liabilities. We are doing that at this time. Itís an evolving circumstance but we also must reflect on the matter that there are transferred sites where the liability remains with the federal government, such as Type II sites.
Mr. Hardy: Could the minister just give me some figures on how many sites are the full responsibility of the government now, how many are still a shared responsibility, and if it is being transferred over and how many are actually the responsibility of the federal government and shall stay that way.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, that question is much more appropriately asked in the debate on the Department of Environment. We accept information on a financial level that comes from that department, and many of those issues, whether it be transfer of sites, where the liability remains with the federal government or other sites agreed to under devolution where we have received a one-time-only and beyond would certainly be under the purview of the Department of Environment.
Mr. Hardy: I agree and disagree with that assessment. I believe that this is the Department of Finance, and thereís no question that it would be a consideration by the Finance department and especially with the books and that. However, Iíll just move off that, and maybe Iíll just bring it back with the Environment minister, and maybe we can get some answers in that area.
There were some concerns expressed that there was not enough money in the devolution transfer ó Iím going back a little ways ó and concerns about that. Would the minister tell me if theyíre satisfied with the figures that were arrived at to make the transfer work smoothly?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, frankly, what has happened here subsequent to devolution is the government has had to work within the parameters of the money provided. Thatís what weíve done. But we do have a number of job classification appeals going on with federal employees who have been transferred as a commitment made to the federal employees that this is one thing we could try to do to deal with what was seen as another flaw in the agreement itself ó for example, red circling.
So, at this point in time, weíve simply worked within the parameters of what we had in terms of money and resources transferred.
Mr. Hardy: The formula financing ends on March 31, 2004. Where are we at on the negotiations in that regard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are engaged now. The last meeting was September 2003, but there is a hiatus in place until the change in Ottawa is completed and the new minister is in place and orientation and all those other things are gone through. Then we will pick up and commence with the formula negotiation.
Mr. Hardy: Well, the minister has indicated in some of his conversations over the last few weeks that he had some strong difficulties around the formula financing and the disincentives there are for the territory to actually generate its own income because of what they call the perversity factor.
Is the minister pursuing negotiations along that line to try to find a better deal on this? If so, what is he proposing to bring forward?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The issue of negotiating with the formula is something that is ongoing. But we did, when we arranged an agreement with the Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office on the health care money ó the special fund that was established. There was a second part to that commitment because of the recognition and admission by the federal government that per capita funding does not work in the north. Therefore, there was a second part of a commitment to address the deficiencies and the inadequacies in the formula and the transfer, which is work being done on what is called "the business case". Not only is Yukon doing its specific business case, we are doing the overall work in conjunction with the other two territories because of the agreement made by the Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office.
So, all three territories are doing their own specific business case but are presenting and making representation on the national stage as a collective.
Mr. Hardy: Iím just seeking some information in this regard. Are both Nunavut and the N.W.T. under the exact same formula financing that we are under?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The arrangements are virtually the same. There are some variations specific to each territory, but the principles are pretty well exact. We are working and collaborating with the other territories, because we feel we can make a stronger representation on the business case.
Ms. Duncan: I just want to follow up on some of the formula questions. The agreement ó and recognition by the Prime Minister and the other premiers ó that per capita funding doesnít work for the north isnít new. Like all Yukoners, I am pleased to hear that our about-to-be-former Prime Minister recognized that in addition to the health care agreement. In regard to the per capita funding specifically, Iíd just like to follow up on the Finance ministerís comments on that. He said that that was the second part of a commitment to address the inadequacies in the formula, and these negotiations are called "the business case". My first question is: was that presentation made to Paul Martin at the dinner when the Finance minister recently met with him? What I am seeking for the Finance minister to put on the record is: has the second part of the commitment from Prime Minister Chrétien been reinforced with the incoming Prime Minister?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: This began with the outgoing Prime Minister and the Privy Council Office. We are now working with the Department of Finance. Weíve also made representation to the senator and our MP, and itís quite an extensive business case. We can certainly provide the members opposite with what has been put together here. Itís substantial and complex, but it certainly lays out the case weíre making.
In short, itís like a puzzle and putting the pieces together. If you begin with the original base then look at the restraint measures and the revenue limitations of the current base ó which is inadequate, and that admission has already been made by the federal government, and another example of the admission is the $20 million extra in health care ó then you attach that to the economy, other cost drivers, program cost drivers like increasing health care costs, and put it all together, you create the future base. We must not forget that in 1994-95 ó somewhere in there ó when the federal government decided the time had come to address the debt in Canada, they did a reduction across Canada. But when they came to the territories and the per capita issue ó because every other province received a per capita reduction ó it didnít work for the federal government because it didnít give them anything.
Therefore, we received a five-percent cut to the base, and that has been significant. Thatís one of the main elements here of the inadequate current base. Five percent resulted in a huge amount of money being cut out of the territoryís expenditure base.
We can provide this; itís great detail. I think the department has done a tremendous job in putting this together, and we cannot forget that we have officials in our Ottawa office who have been really diligently working on this issue with their federal counterparts and who are very knowledgeable on the formula and all its complexities.
I think the Yukon is fortunate to have these people in place today because the need is certainly here. They have the skill sets and the knowledge and are doing what I believe to be, and commend them for, a very masterful job in dealing with Ottawa and the Department of Finance.
Ms. Duncan: We canít forget also that that base cut ó there was a partial and, in some peopleís minds, resolution of that with the $42-million payment to the territory in 2001 as well. The incoming Prime Minister was the one who negotiated it. Yes, it was part of ó the minister is shaking his head saying, "No, no, that wasnít part of it." Well, we can dig out the correspondence.
There was a payment to the Yukon as a result of those revenue and cost-cutting measures that were taken ó the cut to our base. Money was paid to the territory as a result of that and a substantial amount of money paid to N.W.T. and Nunavut as a result of that as well.
There are issues with the formula. The formula is a contract, as opposed to the transfer payments the other provinces enjoy. The formula is renegotiated on a regular basis. Itís a contract, and we do these negotiations regularly.
The document that the Finance minister is saying he will make available ó is that the 57-page report that was sent to the arbitrator and was used in the arbitration? If not, I would like that as well, please. The arbitratorís ruling released today noted that the Government of Yukon sent a 57-page report, making the business case on the formula to the federal government. So, if itís a different report, could we have them both, please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I canít say for sure that the Public Service Commission used this once the union executive had triggered binding arbitration under the collective bargaining process. That then dictated that both sides make presentation to the arbitrator. We obviously would have brought all the evidence and information to bear in terms of the governmentís case. We are going to provide the member opposite the document known as "the business case".
But let me refer back to the earlier comments. The member has got this confused. The technical quirk in the formula that resulted in a one-time-only payment of $42 million, which the member opposite traded for a Challenger ride instead of hanging in there and working on the base itself and getting a revolving increase in our formula transfer has nothing to do with the business case. Thatís a one-time-only; it has nothing to do with ongoing dollar values based on the five-percent cut to our base. It was a one-time-only, and itís no longer here. The Liberal government spent it.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, Iíll refrain from rising on a point of order about remarks likely to cause discord in the House. There is a comment about taking the high road. The minister has just put on the record, to say the least, erroneous information. To suggest that I and the officials working on behalf of the Government of Yukon did anything less than their best for the Yukon is completely inappropriate on the floor of this House, and the member opposite, who challenged each of us during Question Period to look in a mirror and look at our behaviour would be wise to do the same.
The fact is there were negotiations around the formula. The Minister of Finance stood on his feet a moment ago and said itís a complex puzzle, that there were cuts by the federal government to our formula that were different than the transfer payments. Those cuts were part of the argument ó it was a four-part argument that was presented to the then Minister of Finance, who was about to be Prime Minister. We received a $42-million payment as a result.
Yes, it was one time only. It dealt with past issues in the formula. Now, the minister is making much of his ability to present a business case, as he calls it ó issues in the formula. The formula is negotiated. Itís a constant negotiation in the fact that it is a contract. I would very much appreciate receiving the document that the minister has indicated exists and the document that went to the arbitrator. Furthermore, in the interests of the House, it would have been pleasant if the government opposite had lifted their veil of secrecy and provided it to us in preparation for this debate. However, he has not.
I am glad that another member from Porter Creek finds it so incredibly humorous. Discussing the territoryís finances and the hard work of our officials in this regard is not humorous. It is important business of the House.
The formula financing agreement ó what was the last expiration date? I understand it to be March 31, 2003. Is it March 31, 2004, or was it 2003?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I sense that the leader of the third party is very sensitive around this area. Weíve had a number of engagements in this Legislature, even going back to past fiscal years, that really had nothing to do with a go-forward basis. We all know what the facts are. We know how the past Liberal government dramatically spent down the surplus, even the $42 million, the one-time-only, which has nothing to do with restoring the evolving base, which we are doing with this business case.
They dramatically spent it all down, and then our hard-working officials had to try to address that problem. We all know that when we came into office and tabled the first budget ó a budget that was quickly constructed because of election timing, an election called by what strategy one can only speculate on. It would be difficult to understand why. Therefore, we wound up with a budget that showed an accumulated surplus projected to be only $1 million and change. A dramatic decrease of the surplus by the former Liberal government precipitated the very situation we were in.
Since then, the officials went to work on turning the fiscal situation in this territory around by increasing the surplus by almost $50 million this year, not to mention adding a $20-million, over three-year term, special health care fund to meet the dramatic deficit in our health care budget to ensure that Yukoners could access the standard level of health care that all Canadians enjoy.
Part of what we are doing, and it is a huge part of what we are doing, is creating this business case for the federal government on behalf of the citizens of the Yukon Territory, unlike one-time-only quick negotiations of Finance ministers with, I donít know, maybe little desire to do the hard work and hang in there and deal with the federal government, blow by blow, issue by issue, supplying the evidence, providing the evidence, working with the federal government to break down the barriers and come to terms with what has actually transpired since the five-percent cut. Thatís all happening. The impact is severe; it shows where our current base has gone. Even with the one-time-only, we are far off where the original ó had the cut not happened ó where the original base would have taken us.
This business case is hugely important because itís going to provide the government with more ability to address the issues of today in the Yukon. I think thatís a noble enterprise that has been taken on by our officials in Finance. Itís also important to note that we are not alone in this, that two other territories with dramatically similar, almost mirrored, financial formulas and bases and all the rest of it are involved with us ó full partners.
So I think the member would be well served to look at this on a go-forward basis, not on the inabilities and the failures of the past, but where weíve gone from December 2, 2002, to today, December 10, 2003. I think itís a very positive road map that has been laid out and, through the good works of Finance and others, the Yukon is now in a much better financial situation and, through our business case, we intend to improve it even further.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, when is the government actually going to do something for small business and cut the tax rate from six to four percent?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the department, among all the other things itís doing such as the business case, is working on a broad range of tax issues in the territory, always mindful of net benefit Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the number of small business individuals who asked me that specific question last night, Iíll be sure and let them know the Finance minister responded, "Absolutely nothing."
The cost of the mineral incentive tax credit ó whatís the cost update?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I happened to be at the same function as the leader of the third party, so Iím sure the people who experienced the gracious hospitality of one of our very competent contractors in the Yukon and in this community will be waiting with great anticipation for what the member has to say, especially at that one table that the member was at, while the government side was spread throughout the venue.
Ms. Duncan: Whatís the cost of the one-year reprieve on mineral fees, post-devolution? Mr. Chair, the Finance minister apparently isnít aware that there was a fee waiver on mineral, if you will, put in place for a year, and Iím asking what the cost was. Iím so glad the Finance minister finds this terribly humorous.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, if there was some clarity with the question then the response would have been immediate, but now that we know what the member is talking about ó itís to do with the assessment work and the forgiveness of one year ó itís a wash.
Ms. Duncan: How can he say itís a wash? We forgave the fees for one year. We forgave the amount that would have previously been remitted to the federal government. This year, we said, "No, the claims are coming over to the Yukon government." So, you donít have to remit that money to anybody. How much would have gone in fees to the federal government that we gave up?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Only the amount less the assessment work done.
Ms. Duncan: Iíd like to ask the Finance minister what that figure was.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member asked about this under the federal regime, so we could always ask the feds what the figure was. In this case, itís a wash. There was no cost to the Yukon government ó none whatsoever.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has failed to provide information on that as well. The update on the Yukon government fund ó the Connect Yukon ó there is also money in an additional fund thatís set aside. Whatís the current status of that fund?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To the best of my knowledge, the fund was totally expended through the project. It created a $15-million debt for the Yukon. It was one of those ways, when the opposition was in government, they found to get around the Taxpayer Protection Act. This year, I believe, our lump sum payment is $9 million.
Ms. Duncan: There is also an additional small amount ó I think $1 million or $2 million, possibly as high as $3 million ó in a separate fund that is set aside. I donít have the consolidated financial statements and public accounts in front of me. Itís basic information. What is the amount? I am sure that the Finance minister would have this at his fingertips, particularly in his dual capacity as Minister of Economic Development. If he likes, I can wait until then for an answer.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, you attract a lot more bees with honey. If the member prefers to wait until the Economic Development debate, thatís what we can do.
Ms. Duncan: When was the Premier advised of the census changes ó the exact date?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Somewhere between December 2002 and November 2003.
Ms. Duncan: Clearly the Finance minister isnít going to provide clear, explicit answers to any of the questions pertaining to the use of taxpayersí money or the amount of taxpayersí money, such as the amount of surplus.
Just to refresh the Finance ministerís memory, during the 2000 to 2002 Liberal government, hard-working Finance officials ó the same ones that he and the Member for Lake Laberge and other members continually have given credit to in the House ó were also involved in the negotiations that he dismissed earlier in the debate today. What I remind the member opposite is that those negotiations not only resulted in a $42-million payment, but they also resulted in a $6-million ongoing amount that was reflected in the surplus and in the books that he, as Finance minister, received.
I have no further questions because clearly we are not going to get any further answers.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If it makes the member feel any better, the member can come and sit here and Iíll go over there and ask the questions.
Chair: Is there any further general debate?
We will then proceed with line-by-line.
On Operation and Maintenance Expenditures
Treasury underexpenditure of $426,000 cleared
Total Operation and Maintenance Expenditures for the Department of Finance cleared
On Capital Expenditures
On Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space
Mr. Hardy: Could I get some detail on what this was actually spent on?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I read this into the record in my speech. Itís due to the issue of a folding machine for cheques that is time-expired and needed to be replaced to allow expedient issuance of cheques by the government.
Mr. Hardy: I should have paid more attention at the beginning of that one.
Office Furniture, Equipment, Systems and Space in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Total Capital Expenditures for the Department of Finance in the amount of $25,000 agreed to
Department of Finance agreed to
Chair: That concludes Vote 12, the Department of Finance.
Itís the Chairís understanding that weíre going to proceed into Executive Council Office, which is Vote 2.
As we did not take a customary break at 4:00, do members wish a break to change officials?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Chair: Weíll take a 10-minute break.
Bill No. 7 ó Second Appropriation Act, 2003-4 ó continued
Chair:Committee of the Whole will now come to order. Weíll continue on with Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, with Vote 2, Executive Council Office. The page reference for this is 2-2.
Executive Council Office
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím pleased to table the supplementary budget for the Executive Council Office. This budget provides for an increase of $2,784,000 in O&M spending and an increase in O&M recoveries of $563,000. The majority of this supplementary budget ó $2,421,000, or 87 percent of the total ó is to fund the programs transferred to the Yukon government through devolution.
There is also an increase of $1,829,000 in the capital budget. $1,697,000 is to complete our commitment to the City of Whitehorse for the waterfront land purchase and provide funding assistance for the new heritage and cultural centre in keeping with our land claim commitments. These funds have been revoted from the 2002-03 capital budget.
The remaining $132,000 is directly related to programs transferred through devolution.
The $2,784,000 increase in O&M is distributed as follows ó and Iíll give a breakdown for the members opposite to help move the debate along ó the $2,421,000 increase is to fund the programs transferred to Yukon government through devolution. It includes the environment assessment branch and the Water Board; $563,000 for devolution transition projects being undertaken by information and communications and technology and the records branch. These funds are 100 percent recoverable. $169,000 are the funds received from Canada for implementation of the development assessment process known as DAP; $131,000 is to fund the amended agreement with the Kaska Tribal Council for bilateral negotiations; $100,000 is for increased costs for public hearings into water use applications; $600,000 ó and this is a decrease in funds ó is for land claims implementation as final project funding was not completed until after the main estimates were complete. This reduction will reflect the level of approved funding for the fiscal year 2003-04. Under O&M recoveries, there is a $563,000 increase for devolution transition projects that are being undertaken by, as I pointed out earlier, information and communications technology and the records branch.
In the capital overview, the $1,235,000 increase is a revote from 2002-03 for the waterfront land purchase. The $462,000 increase is the revote from 2002-03 for Kwanlin Dun Heritage Cultural Centre. The $132,000 increase is directly related to the transfer of programs through devolution. Revenue ó there has been a $15,000 increase. This reflects the estimated revenues from water licence fees, and this is a new revenue source as a result of devolution.
In conclusion, Mr. Chair, this provides members with an overview of the supplementary estimates for the Executive Council Office, and I certainly would be pleased to respond to further questions that the members opposite may have in general or line-by-line debate.
Mr. Hardy: Could the Premier give me an overview of where weíre at on the outstanding land claims?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, letís begin where we donít have one, Mr. Chair. Weíre all aware of the fact that there is no land claim in the Kaska traditional territory with either the Ross River Dena Council or the Liard First Nation; and there is no federal mandate to negotiate one.
That being said, ratification proceedings are taking place with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation. There have been extensions in the timelines for ratification subsequent to the signing of the memorandum of understanding over a year ago agreed to by the federal government and committed to by the federal government.
Also, we know that recently Kluane concluded its ratification process and has signed its final agreement and is now the ninth self-governing First Nation in the Yukon Territory, and White River is in the process of advancing its ratification process and has in fact committed in writing to the federal government that it is doing so.
Mr. Hardy: Could the Premier give me some indication where weíre at since he started with Kaska? Could he articulate the holdup on the federal side and what is being done from the governmentís perspective to try to re-establish or kick-start the land claims again?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, part of the bilateral agreement speaks directly to the priority of concluding the land claim with the Kaska Nation, but the circumstances that are in place today between the federal government and the Kaska Nation are ones where there is litigation present. By policy, the federal government will not engage in any way in negotiations if there is litigation present.
We have actually been working both with the Kaska and with the federal government to see if thereís a way to get back to the table. Obviously, weíve been trying to find ways to be helpful and assist in removing the litigation or putting it into abeyance. There has been some traffic between the Kaska and the federal government on possible timelines and a term of abeyance to see if they can get back to the table to conclude the land claim.
One of the areas that needed to be resolved, however, was the situation of the Chief of the Liard First Nation, which has now been concluded with the election of a new chief and one new council member. With the political body now intact, we would hope that both the Kaska and the federal government will immediately re-engage on abeyance negotiations and an agreement so we can pursue and conclude a land claim and final agreement and self-governing agreement with Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation.
Mr. Hardy: Did the Yukon Party government put some money toward trying to resolve the issue around litigation?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The money we have put forward is directly related to the bilateral agreement. The issue of funding for litigation is in the direct purview and responsibility of the federal government. I know that they have made some suggestion of offer for monies. Alhough I canít give the member the exact amount, we must remember that much of this is between Ottawa and the Kaska negotiating team themselves. But I know that there has been some traffic back and forth that speaks to an amount of funding to negotiate abeyance.
Mr. Hardy: Has the government had anybody assisting the Kaska First Nation in regard to their litigation?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: None whatsoever, Mr. Chair. We were successful through the bilateral negotiations to remove the Yukon from any litigation and any challenge against devolution.
That being said, we have assisted a number of First Nations in the area of capacity. We have a member on the caucus Cabinet staff who is charged with those duties. Where a First Nation requests assistance when there is a capacity issue ó and in most cases these are areas that are certainly of grave concern for all of us ó we will act and go in to assist, but we are not involved in any way on the litigation issue. That is between a First Nation and the federal government.
Mr. Hardy: Wasnít that always the case? If I remember right, the litigation was toward the federal government and not toward the territorial government.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: It was not the case. Originally the whole court challenge ó the litigation in full ó included a challenge against devolution, which involved the Yukon government.
Mr. Hardy: Actually, Iíve read some interesting aspects on that. They do, however, differ slightly from what the minister is saying.
The minister just mentioned that there was a person on staff ó Cabinet or caucus staff. Is that the same person who has been assigned to try to assist the people of Watson Lake and area with respect to the closure of the Cantung mine?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, it is. The person in question has experience with this type of thing and its impact on communities. He was the front-line resource we put in to the community. However, today there is much more there, in the whole task force being involved, which includes the federal human resources agency, Economic Development, Education, Health and Social Services, Justice and a number of other agencies in the community, working on ways to minimize the impact.
Mr. Hardy: So we can expect this person not to be able to address his other duties as he tries to deal with a fairly major and significant negative impact to the people who were employed at Cantung and businesses that have relied upon the contracts they would have had with that mine. Is the Premier planning to put someone else in his previous position until he can come back to that position?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not at all. He was the front-line resource that was put into the community. There are now a number of other officials involved. We have enough flexibility, should a First Nation request assistance in issues of capacity, to be able to address the situation with the same individual.
Mr. Hardy: So there are actually more people working on this than the one person who was originally identified by the minister. Is he saying that there is a group of people who are now tasked with this?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes, there is a task force but we acted immediately upon receiving information that the mine would be closing and layoffs would be imminent. We acted quickly. We established first the place where the task force could be, could work out of, a contact point. Our caucus Cabinet staff member was the front-line resource that did all of that. Now the task force is in place, up and running, engaged in the community and with others who are affected by this and we, as I said, have the flexibility, should a First Nation request assistance in an issue of capacity, to address the issue.
Mr. Hardy: Could the Premier tell me how many bilateral agreements or accords or agreements have been signed to date with First Nations?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, there is only one bilateral agreement because there is only one area of traditional territory that has no claim and no mandate to negotiate one. We do have intergovernmental accords such as with the Vuntut Gwitchin, which establishes commitments by both governments, theirs and ours, what we will work on and so on. Itís a framework. We also have our consultation protocol, which is another framework agreement with self-governing First Nations. We also have the final agreements; we have to look at those as living, breathing documents and arrangements.
An example of that is the chapter 17.7 with the Tríondëk Hwëchíin in Dawson City in negotiating that specific issue on education, which is vital to the First Nation and may very well pose some benefit to other First Nations in education vis-à-vis the favoured nation clause.
Mr. Hardy: Would the Premier agree to give me all the ó he has named off a few here ó accords, protocols, the one bilateral agreement. I donít need the First Nation agreements that have already been signed. I do have those. Could he agree to give me a package of all the ones that have been signed to date?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Yes. Does the member want the ones signed by previous governments too?
Mr. Hardy: What efforts have been made to live up to a statement in the Executive Council Office in the departmental objectives, one of the objectives of which is to foster the maintenance, revitalization and protection of Yukon aboriginal languages and support Yukon aboriginal communities in their related activities?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We are getting close to a line-by-line debate, but I will engage with the member opposite. Of course, the member should be well aware of our arrangement on aboriginal languages as it relates to this particular department and the disbursement of funds among all First Nations who come forward with their proposals and desires on how to address issues specific to their language. We have a concerted group team within the Executive Council Office that is dealing with this issue. I would suggest that there are a lot of challenges ahead with this issue, because it is a critical one, and it relates very much to education in the territory. In that regard, I think weíre all aware of the fact that the education issue is of the highest importance and priority for the First Nations in the territory. It has been discussed at length at the intergovernmental forum with the federal government. It is certainly part of the final agreements, and weíre all aware of that, and the Yukon government has been clear and specific on its commitment to work with the First Nations in going to the federal government with solutions on developing an education system in the Yukon Territory that recognizes and reflects First Nationsí desires, needs, culture and language.
Mr. Hardy: Itís definitely not a line-by-line item. Itís an objective. Iím talking about the new initiatives and new efforts this government has been bringing forward to address that. I would have preferred a little more concrete example that would have indicated a development in this area, because there is a fair amount of concern among First Nations in the territory in regard to this, and theyíre quite concerned that the loss of a language would be the loss of a culture.
Thereís a big commitment in the objectives within this department in that regard.
Iím going to move on ó I have a couple more questions and some of my colleagues have questions as well.
There has been a lot of discussion now about land distribution and extra land being offered to help facilitate agreements and settlements. If thereís going to be any extra land distribution in negotiations, would the minister consider ensuring that that will also be available for the settled claims that exist today?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Sure, no problem.
In regard to land distribution, there have been some concerns expressed by some of the First Nations who already have settled land claims in regard to what is happening with the ones that are being negotiated now. Their concern, of course, is that thereís definitely the perception that thereís an offer of extra land distribution. I believe the former government offered a chunk of land ó extra land on top of what was being negotiated ó to encourage one of the First Nations to come and settle.
What weíre hearing and what the concern is: if this is part and parcel of how the negotiations are going, would the minister consider going back to the existing land claims and making that adjustment? So if it averages out to another 50 square miles or whatever, that would also be passed on to those who have settled previously.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: These negotiations concluded with the signing of the memorandums of understanding in March 2002. Whatever was on the table then was presented by former governments. The only First Nations that did not sign off on the memorandum of understanding were the Ross River Dena Council and the Liard First Nation. The other First Nations did ó the packages as negotiated.
We have not discussed with any other First Nation any other issue here. Those were agreements that were concluded by the federal government, the former Yukon government and each specific First Nation, because the feds have shut down land claim negotiations in the Yukon. So whatever was in those packages, we have inherited.
Mr. Hardy: I understand that. That wasnít the question that I asked.
I was wondering if the minister was willing to go back and sit down with the First Nations that have settled in the past, because these were done by what you call "side table". From the land quantum that was identified on a side table, there was extra land that seemed to be put into the pot to sweeten it.
Could the minister inform me which First Nations in their negotiations over the last year were beneficiaries of that?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, I, for one, will never negotiate a land claim in this Legislature. Thatís inappropriate. Those are negotiations of a very high order.
But I would suggest to the member opposite, if the member has a concern here, to write to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development ó the federal agency that has the fiduciary responsibility not only for the Umbrella Final Agreement but land claims in the territory. The Yukon government as a third party was part of the negotiations, but at the end of the day, the full fiduciary responsibility rests with the federal government.
Mr. Hardy: Well, that wasnít the question I asked. I understand where the minister is directing it; however, he does have a responsibility, as well as being a third party in this. Weíre not asking to negotiate at the table because weíre not negotiating. Weíre just asking for some information. Some of it was made public. Itís not private information, as far as I understand, but we donít have a full picture, and we, on this side, would like that, if itís possible. So, Iíll reiterate that if the minister could ensure I get that information, Iíd appreciate it.
The last area Iíll go in is that I believe the minister mentioned $131,000 that has already been spent with respect to the Kaska negotiations. Could the minister tell me what that has been spent on?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Negotiations for a bilateral agreement ó an agreement that has resulted in no challenge to devolution, the bringing back of Teck Cominco, the establishment of a framework to work on consent which, by the way, is directly related to existing law in the Yukon. Itís called the Yukon Oil and Gas Act, where there can be no land dispositions without consent in any traditional territory where there is no land claim present.
Mr. Fairclough: I have a couple of questions, also about land claim agreements.
The four mentioned by the Premier ó Carcross, Kwanlin Dun, Kluane and White River ó did they all receive an economic development package with their agreements, or did just a couple?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As I understand it, the federal government ó and this issue relates to ó how do I put this? Letís go back to the first four. The first four settled received a lump sum. The extended period of negotiations for the others resulted in reduction through the loans for negotiations to the monetary value that would be allocated to a settled First Nation. The federal government, in addressing that issue ó letís say, because I donít know the federal term, they created an economic development fund to address the First Nations issue of the reduction through costs of negotiation over this longer period to their monies that they would receive. As I understand it, in signing the memorandum of understandings, self-governing First Nations, once they conclude their ratification process and their final agreements, would have access to economic development monies from this federal pot.
Mr. Fairclough: Thatís how I understand it also. Itís basically to bring them on par with the first four ó that is, in regard to loan repayment that is taken out of their compensation dollars.
Now, the problem I have is that the first four are supposed to pay back a certain percentage ó I think itís around 25 percent. I think the next three that came on ó Carmacks, Pelly and Dawson ó were quite a bit higher, up around 37 percent ó or I might be wrong on the numbers. And then the rest that came behind are the ones that received this economic development package to bring them on par with the first four. Now, these three First Nations are stuck in the middle and have not gotten this deal. I believe theyíre in the process right now to have some discussions take place, to bring them on par. Is the minister going to be working with the First Nations to lobby ó this is a federal government issue, and I understand that ó them to ensure that the three in the middle are brought up to speed and on par with the first four?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I can assure the member that if the three First Nations in question come forward to ask the Yukon government for its assistance and participation in dealing with this matter, we will certainly involve ourselves with those First Nations in dealing with the federal government. I can assure the member opposite another thing: this is not the only issue when it comes to the implementation of land claims in this territory as it relates to the federal governmentís responsibility and obligation. That is why we are forging ahead with formalizing our relationship so that we can, as a collective, come forward to the federal government with solutions ó solutions between the Yukon government and First Nations governments in addressing the many outstanding issues, even going back to the first four. One of those areas is obviously PSTAs.
Mr. Fairclough: I understand that too. I know thatís a problem area. I thank the member opposite for taking on that challenge, because I believe First Nations are moving forward on that.
There are all kinds of discussion about forgiveness of the negotiation dollars, loans, in the past with the federal government, and one of the ideas was to ensure First Nations are part of the Development Corporation. I think it was $25 million at the time. Is that being discussed now between the Yukon government and the First Nations? Is there anything around that so that at least those dollars that have been spent on negotiations donít have to come out of their compensation dollars?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Is the member speaking to the Yukon Development Corporation? Is that what the member is talking about?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Fentie: There have been discussions in the past around the Energy Corporation and the Development Corporation and a partnership with First Nations. There is a situation here where a couple of years ago, I think ó maybe a little less ó when the federal government placed on the table what is called an "equity fund" for First Nations to access. One of the discussions that is ongoing is with the Yukon Indian Development Corporation, the federal government and ourselves on where do we pursue initiatives that would access the equity fund for investment for First Nations in the territory? This side ó the government side ó believes that one of the areas that may provide long-term benefits to First Nations and the territory as a whole is in the energy sector.
Mr. Fairclough: I am hoping that maybe something can happen because, should the First Nations not have to pay these dollars back, itís more money, of course, for the First Nations and more to look at them having to stimulate the economy and put people to work.
The Yukon government didnít need to pay it back. They got a lump sum, it was used up and nothing really had to be paid back at all.
In regard to the Carcross, Kwanlin Dun, Kluane and White River First Nations, what does the dollar amount add up to for this little package ó this economic development package that was put in place? I understand that it could be significant if you want to bring it on par with the first four. For example, Kwanlin Dun is up around $12 million ó I believe thatís what the figure is that was given to me by a First Nation. I am just wondering what the other three are. Are they up around $3 million to $4 million? I am just wondering what to expect, for example, for the two First Nations that are in my riding.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I canít give the member exact breakdowns for each First Nation. I think the overall fund was $30 million and the affected First Nations would be getting a portion of that pot, based on certain criteria, I guess. This is a very detailed situation that will probably have us having to engage the federal government on exactly what their intentions are because the money is flowing from them to the First Nation.
Mr. Fairclough: I thank the member opposite. We canít get the numbers, but it would be interesting because it would add up to a lot of money that could be focused and directed to economic development. And I know itís in the interest of the Yukon Party.
I asked the minister if he would engage in discussions with the three First Nations, to bring them up to par with the first four. He said, "When they come forward." Is he willing to call them up and start discussions? I do know that they are talking about it now: to find a way that the Yukon government can be involved in speeding this up and helping the First Nations along.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: One of the things this government is very conscious of is that we are dealing with another level of government and, out of due respect for that order of government, we look at it this way: if a First Nation, as a government, has an issue that they deem it necessary to come forward to us, another order of government, then we will engage with them. We believe that out of this respect for their jurisdiction, as they respect our jurisdiction, we allow them to do these things with their government structure, to make their decisions, so we are not influencing, impeding or providing unnecessary confusion.
I think itís best that, as self-governments, they deal with these things and make a decision on whether they want us involved or not. There may be cases where they are not interested in the Yukon government being involved in something like this, and they may want to take this issue on directly with the responsible government which, in this case, is the federal government.
I think itís best left this way. Out of due respect for another order of government, we await their requests, their counsel and their direction on what theyíd like us, another order of government, to participate with them in. Our offer to them is formalized relationships and full economic partnership.
Ms. Duncan: The budget speech made reference to an all-party agreement on a code of conduct and decorum for members of this House. Logically, that would come under ó if there was any funding required ó the Executive Council Office. We havenít seen any action by the government. Are there any plans to fulfill that commitment?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Iím not quite sure what this has to do with the debate of the supplementary budget for the Executive Council Office.
The issue of order and decorum, first and foremost, is the responsibility of every member in this House as directed by the Chair. I think, having said that, there are issues from both sides. We believe firmly that the Speaker is doing a very responsible job in keeping order and decorum. The opposition benches from time to time act up, but the Speaker is certainly managing that situation and we applaud him for it.
Ms. Duncan: I didnít make reference in my budget speech to this; the Premier did.
The Premier also made reference to establishment of an all-party standing committee on appointments to major government boards and committees, an example of another commitment that was made. And there was reference to the creation of an all-party committee to make recommendations for FireSmart and community development fund applications. He said it could be another. I can wait and ask him in Economic Development why there has been absolutely no progress on that.
The internal audit is housed in Executive Council Office. There have recently been advertisements for an additional auditor to be hired. What is the current plan for the internal audit for the Government of Yukon? Does the minister responsible know?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: First let me answer the question, and then Iíll deal with the preamble. In the very near future, this committee will be meeting on the internal audit.
Letís go back to the commitments to all-party committees on the number of issues the member laid out.
In the last year, this government has made countless attempts to work cooperatively with the opposition. I can say that the official opposition, the New Democrats, have shown, on a number of those occasions, a willingness, but I can say without any doubt, Mr. Chair, that the third party has absolutely no intention of working cooperatively with anybody. I would submit that the member opposite, the party of one, even loses debates in her own caucus.
Chair:Order please. The Chair is very uncomfortable with the insulting tone and nature of the memberís last statement, and I would encourage all members, including the last speaker, to increase the level of debate and treat all members in this Assembly in the manner that our constituents expect us to treat each other.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In that tone, I note that you have gone to bat for your constituents very publicly in an area that is under the ministerís responsibility with respect to a land claim issue in the community of Carcross. Would the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office state for the record why he was unable to reach an equitable solution to a situation where constituents were being, to quote the Member for Southern Lakes, treated unfairly and unjustly? Why couldnít the Premier negotiate a solution, a compromise, collaboration?
Instead, we saw helicopters towing away docks; we saw a heavy-handed, high-handed, rather disrespectful, if you will, treatment of constituents. This is under the Premierís area of responsibility. Why couldnít he negotiate a solution?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think this is a matter of opinion. It doesnít mean the opinion of the member of the third party is correct or relevant to this debate. The issue was a long-standing on; due process unfolded. That was a negotiation. The officials involved here and others spent a great deal of time working on this, but, as I stated, due process unfolded and thatís the way things are.
Ms. Duncan: The minister responsible announced to the House that he was unable to fulfill the commitment of collaboration, compromise and consensus-building. Would he indicate to the House today whether or not the contract for Obsidian Consulting is being renewed at the end of this month?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Thatís the problem here. In raising the level of debate, the memberís statement preceding her question on the contract does nothing of the sort. This side of the House, including myself, has never shirked its duty in focusing on moving away from the politics of confrontation to cooperation and collaboration.
The issue the member is relating that particular noble enterprise to has nothing to do with those elements of commitment ó none whatsoever. As far as the contract is concerned, we are working through those issues. There has been a lot of work done by the contractor, a First Nation individual of this territory. We are assessing where we will go from here and we are certainly in no hurry to make any decisions. Weíre more interested in delivering on our agenda with the First Nations of the Yukon.
Ms. Duncan: Would the minister responsible table the work plan for the contract? He has repeatedly stated that much work has been done. Could he table the work plan? Would he table the work plan? Would he also indicate ó the contract, as I understand it, goes to December 31, 2003. I donít have it immediately in front of me; perhaps itís January 2004. In any event, the date is rapidly approaching. Is he not prepared to indicate to the House today whether or not that contract will be extended?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: We will make that decision when the time comes, with assessment of all the facts and the details. The member has been informed time and time and time again on what the contract stipulates. It is broad in scope and it stipulates that the contractor will work on formalizing a government-to-government relationship and also work in areas of full economic partnership with First Nations. There is a list of product that has been repeated in this House over and over and over again, much to the chagrin of the member opposite, who had engaged a couple of First Nation contractors for hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars in a manner that ó what the Yukon taxpayer received in return were Liberal candidates in the last election.
This member also brought to the floor of the Legislature that this particular contract ó there was an expense charge of some $70,000 plus. She put it on the floor of the Legislature knowing full well that that was not the case.
I go back to the ó
Chair:Order, please. A member cannot say in this Assembly that another member knowingly brought forward false information. That is clearly against our Standing Orders and I will ask the member to retract that statement.
Withdrawal of remark
Hon. Mr. Fentie:I will retract that statement, Mr. Chair, having been caught up in the moment. The memberís assertions were incorrect. The total value of expenses to date was $8,400, not $74,000, as the member stated on the floor.
There is an issue here, no matter what, and that issue is about the level of debate coming from the third party.
Ms. Duncan: I do apologize that the minister responsible finds it so difficult to answer straightforward questions. Iíll ask again.
Iíve repeatedly asked for the work plan of the particular contract in question. The background to this is that, when land claims are dealing with the negotiation, are working toward resolution, a work plan is tabled by all parties. It proposes dates as to when certain items will be accomplished. All Iím asking for is the work plan for this particular consultant and contract.
The Premier repeatedly states that it has been fulfilled and these are all the items that have been accomplished. Well, that is a matter of opinion ó whether or not an item has been accomplished is measured against a work plan. May we have the work plan for this contract tabled in the House?
When the minister was on this side, he was very fond of yes-or-no questions. May we have that work plan? Yes or no?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: For the umpteenth time, the work plan is a contract with an individual ó with a First Nation of this territory to carry out duties involving the formalization of relationships at the government level with the First Nation and work in areas of economic partnership.
The Kaska bilateral agreement is an example. The memorandum of understanding with Kwanlin Dun that has triggered correctional reform in the process of reconstruction of the correctional facility is an example. The partnership with Teck Cominco and that mining company coming back to the territory is an example. Discussions around the equity fund, the intergovernmental forum ó the list goes on and on and on ó are examples. The work plan is the contract. The contract is broad. Iíve stated it many times. And we all know what the work plan was for the contractors where hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended by that memberís government. The work plan was Liberal candidates in the last election.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, the fact is that our term in government, working with First Nation governments, First Nation partners, including First Nation caucus and Cabinet employees, resulted in a number of signed memorandums of understanding, leading to signed land claims, an important element in this territory. Iím not ashamed of anything I did in the past as government.
Would the Premier admit there is no work plan, this is an ad hoc ó as a contract, itís very loosely worded. And will he state finally, once and for all, is the contract going to be extended ó yes or no? The date for the current contract will expire when weíre out of this Legislature, when the Legislature has adjourned, and the member opposite wonít have to answer the question until weíre back in whenever they see fit to call the House. Now is the opportunity to ask the question, and now is the opportunity for the member to provide the answer. Will the contract be extended?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I hope the member opposite doesnít lose any sleep over this, because weíll make the decision in due course. The memberís comments about "when in office" and their relationship with First Nations resulting in MOUs being signed are the direct result of the federal government pulling the trigger on land claim negotiations in the Yukon Territory by setting an end date. This is hardly an accomplishment of relationship building ó hardly at all.
Frankly, this debate is going nowhere, so if the member wants to continue, the answers will be the same.
Ms. Duncan: Itís interesting that whenever the questions get to the point, the member either finds the members of the opposition to be somehow uninformed, or the debate is going nowhere when the Finance minister, the Premier, doesnít want to answer any questions.
The issue around the docks and the Premierís inability to provide consensus and reach collaborative solutions ó would the Premier confirm that the government has sent a bill to the dock owners for their removal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Weíve already answered that question, Mr. Chair ó due process unfolded. The issues surrounding the docks are legal issues of a matter between the individuals and the department officials. For the member opposite to somehow connect that to consensus is getting way off track. Itís over; the issue is done; whatever is unfolding is the result of due process.
Ms. Duncan: And the due process is the Premier and the Executive Council Office sending the dock owners a bill for the helicopter mission, because the Premier canít reach solutions.
The Watson Lake contracting economy is, to quote one of the contractors from Watson Lake recently on the radio, "devastated". The deal with the Kaska, the memorandum of understanding, was supposed to be the answer according to the Premier and the Finance minister. Would the Premier confirm that any land ó or what parcels of land ó have been transferred to the Kaska Dena Council?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The only land that has ever been put on the table for the Kaska Dena Council was by that memberís government ó itís 190 square miles ó certainly not by this government. As far as land transfer ó zip, diddly, nothing.
Ms. Duncan: There have been no land transfers. The Premier would, for the House, please outline the amount of funding to the Kaska and Liard First Nations and Ross River First Nations. There has been funding provided under a number of different types of arrangements, some in Economic Development, some in Finance, thereís money to the Kaska Tribal Council, the Liard First Nations. Would he provide a detailed outline of those funding arrangements?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member opposite should know that some of the money was a revote from the economic table that existed under her government. I think a half a million dollars comes from the MOU that the member opposite signed for Forestry. She should know that too. I think weíre up to about $650,000 there. I believe the member opposite has already ATIPPed all of this information so Iím sure sheíll be getting it forthwith.
Ms. Duncan: Well, that would be an interesting change of events for the government to respond with detailed information. I wrote the minister responsible for the Executive Council Office two months ago and asked for a detailed breakdown of travel costs. Has he got those today?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Not right in front of me. I can provide that memberís travel costs. That has been tabulated from the previous year, and ours will be done in accordance with how it has always been done. Itís public knowledge.
Ms. Duncan: It is public knowledge, and it has been tradition that itís either tabled as part of the budget documents or during the session ó the travel costs for the government. It was done by the NDP government, it was done by the Liberal government. It has been done by other governments before. Itís only under this government that we have to write bring-forward motions for production of papers and ask again and again for debate. Iím told itís forthcoming. When might it arrive?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: As it always has ó standard procedure. Itís the member opposite who chose to ATIPP public information ó information thatís made public. Itís the member opposite who chose to bring forward frivolous attempts for the production of papers. Itís the member opposite who chooses to write endless letters requesting public information.
Ms. Duncan: The matter of travel by Cabinet and caucus is, or should be, and certainly from a government that promises consensus, collaboration, cooperation, order and decorum, itís information thatís provided as a matter of course, either prior to the budget debate or during supplementary ó in response to a courteous letter. The courtesy of an acknowledgement of and response to the letter would be nice.
The minister has not provided the information and has not responded to the letter. Would he tell the House today the costs for travel for Cabinet and caucus? Would he provide that information?
He said in his initial response that that information would be forthcoming, as it always has been. Well, it has always been provided well in advance, and under this government itís not. So would he kindly commit that we could have that information? Prior to December 16 would be interesting, a new development, in fact.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: Apparently the minister is refusing to answer that question.
I asked about the internal audit and he said in response to that that the committee would be meeting soon. Is he saying that the internal audit committee hasnít met since he took office? He is the chair of the committee.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, this is a matter, frankly, of limited importance. The committee will be meeting in the very near future, as it should, and all things proceed accordingly.
Ms. Duncan: If the committee is meeting as it always has, then there is a work plan for the committee. Would the minister table the work plan?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: The member is pretty stuck on work plans this evening, Mr. Chair. We donít have one right in front of us, but Iím sure that the committee will be very, very pleased to, at some point, provide the member some indication on what their work plan is.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, have I misheard the minister opposite? Is he no longer the chair of the internal audit group? Is he the chair of this group? If theyíre hiring additional staff, itís part of the supplementaries, part of the general debate.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Ms. Duncan: So the minister is not going to answer that question or to indicate when we might see that report tabled.
Iíve written for the travel costs. Iíve asked. The Premier has said he would provide them but has not. The Premier committed in the budget speech, and it would be funded under Executive Council Office to reference the Constitutional Questions Act, the offshore boundaries and the Crown in right of Yukon. How is that court case coming, and where are the legal costs?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Once we actually have a court case and actually have legal costs, weíll certainly be very pleased to provide them for the member opposite. As the member well knows ó and having signed a devolution transfer agreement ó one of the first orders of business is to work on the management plan for offshore Yukon with the federal government. The member opposite agreed to that, and thatís about all we can respond to in this area.
This side of the House believes it is a huge question. It also relates to the position weíve made as territories in the Council of the Federation with full support that Arctic sovereignty is of a critical nature for the federal government to address. So there is much more to this than the memberís musings around this one particular issue.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, those are not my musings. The budget speech, read by the Finance minister ó the campaign platform commitment committed the Yukon Party to putting forward a constitutional question with respect to the Yukon Act. So although the Finance minister stated that the government was going to do this and read it in his budget speech, there has been no money spent. Yet another item where the Yukon Party has, upon coming to office and actually reading through all the information that had been previously sent many times to the Member for Klondike, recognized that the constitutional question would not be the route to pursue. So this is yet another Yukon Party budget speech commitment that is unfulfilled. Is that what the minister is saying?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Chair, is not the member somewhat ashamed of this tack? So what if itís read in a budget speech? We are one year into a mandate. This is a huge question. It bears a tremendous amount of critique. It requires the involvement of many agencies, of other orders of government, of other jurisdictions. The member opposite, in laughing away, shows her limited knowledge of this issue. There is also an offshore dispute today with Canada and the United States right off the Yukonís northern shore. There are extreme situations here that are vital to Arctic sovereignty, to the Yukon Territory, to the Northwest Territories, to Nunavut and to Canada. The member, in diminishing that issue the way she has here today on the floor of the Legislature, is doing a disservice not only to the Yukon public but to Canadians.
Ms. Duncan: The member gets quite exercised when heís called up on commitments he read in the budget speech. Weíre debating a supplementary budget. This is additional funding to the budget speech. Itís more money being expended on the governmentís priorities, as he outlined them.
The minister simply hates being called on his commitments to the Yukon public ó the fact that he hasnít done what he said he would do and that he hasnít spent the money in the areas he said he would. That was in the budget speech.
The budget speech also said, "Our government will work toward a joint strategy with the Government of British Columbia to promote responsible economic development in this resource-rich area," presumably the southeast. How is that coming along? Intergovernmental relations is in Executive Council Office, so Iím sure the Premier will have no difficulty answering this question.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, the musings continue from the member opposite. Just as a matter of clarity for the member ó I know the confusion runs rampant over there ó we are only in period 8 of this fiscal year. The last I looked, there are 13 periods. There is a long way to go in this fiscal year ó much to be done and many challenges to be met.
As far as the issue the member just asked about, is not the dramatic increase in exploration in the southeast an indication? Is not the fact that the government itself is laying out timber in the southeast Yukon? Is not the fact that we have had a significant seismic project undertaken this summer in the Kotaneelee? Is not the fact that Teck Cominco has entered into a partnership with the Ross River Dena Council and are coming back to explore in the southeast Yukon?
Are not all of these things a clear indication to the member opposite that things are working quite well?
Ms. Duncan: The minister said that there was much to be done and we were only in period 8, that the government was going to do a great deal of work. Well, the question is: when are they going to start?
Under the consent agreement ó the minister has mentioned in discussions the consent agreement worked out with the Kaska Tribal Council ó how much ó and he can give me a percentage if he wishes ó of royalties are going to be paid to non-Yukon First Nations as part of that deal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: At this point in time, the issue of consent certainly relates to the Yukon Oil and Gas Act. If there are to be any land dispositions in an area where no land claim is settled or in place, then consent must be sought. Thatís the law of the Yukon and to date there is no consent agreement. So the memberís question is moot.
Ms. Duncan: Well, there is work being done toward a consent agreement. In that work thatís being done, how much money, whatís the percentage of royalties that is going to be paid to non-Yukon First Nations as part of that deal?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If a consent agreement is concluded, then weíll know if that is the case. First and foremost, when it comes to transboundary issues, the priority is the settlement of the transboundary claim. That means the federal government has an issue of mandate. We are certainly working on those issues, but they are not new, theyíre long standing, and the progress weíve made is all about how weíve turned away from the politics of confrontation toward cooperation. It has resulted in some good things happening. There is a lot more to be dealt with, much more, but first and foremost the certainty provided by a concluded land claim is priority one, and we go from there.
We all talked about this on the floor of the Legislature a short time ago ó that thereís an issue here of litigation that is a problem. That litigation is, hopefully, being dealt with. Thereís a new chief in place with the Liard First Nation, and Iím sure the federal government is actively moving toward trying to engage on an abeyance agreement.
But when it comes to consent and whatever the elements of the consent agreement are, if there is going to be one, that is right now a matter of negotiation between a First Nation and the Yukon government. If there is a conclusion, then all information will be very public, as the bilateral agreement was.
Ms. Duncan: The bilateral agreement was public after the fact. Yukoners were not made aware of what was on the table. The minister is not answering the question, as has been the pattern this afternoon.
With respect to the negotiations in these outside-of-the-box agreements that the minister is so fond of, when is the planned transfer of the R-15 block, as per the deal with Teck Cominco?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: That has already been announced. Itís very public. Cominco announced this issue, I believe, at the Geoscience Forum. The knowledge is out there; the information is out there. The member can ask this question a million times, but I would urge the member to go to whatís already made public ó itís all there.
Ms. Duncan: Once again, thatís not an answer of when the planned transfer of the actual land transfer will take place.
Thereís quite a substantial amount of additional funding for First Nation relations. Would the minister explain what this is for in the supplementary budget? Is it an increase in contracts, additional amounts? Exactly what is it for?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Chair, the issue of First Nation relations and the resources we put toward it show weíre serious about it, and I think the member opposite should be well aware of that. First Nation relations are important to this government, as I hope they would be to the members opposite. Thereís no question that this is an area of high priority, as it should be, and we are expending the resources as we see fit in areas to deal with improving that relationship.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Chair, itís also important as we see fit to ask the government how theyíre spending that money, which was the question I asked. There is an additional $131,000 being spent in this area. I did not say it was any less important than any other area of the government. I consider it to be of very high importance. I also consider it to be of very high importance for Yukoners to know how the government is spending their money. Would the minister tell us how that money is being spent ó the additional funding thatís being requested, how is it being spent?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: You know, Mr. Chair, this question was already answered right here, this afternoon, in this debate. Again, this speaks volumes to the bar that has been set by the third party in the level of debate. The additional $131,000, as stated here, was for bilateral negotiations with the Kaska. We can do something else to help the member absorb these things. It was stated here on the floor not that long ago, and it might have even been that member who asked the question.
Ms. Duncan: I have been listening with rapt attention to what the minister has to say and the details are missing in that answer. So is this additional funding to the contractor? Is it additional funding for another staff person? Precisely how is the money being spent? Is it additional administrative costs associated with negotiating the Kaska bilateral or additional staffing? Is it an increase to the sole-source contract? Itís an additional $130,000 in the line First Nation Relations for the Kaska bilateral. That really doesnít tell Yukon taxpayers how their money is being spent. Would he provide the details please?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, does the member assert that we negotiate with ourselves? The statement here, again for numerous amount of times now, is this was for bilateral negotiations and itís obviously paid to the Kaska First Nation. The government does not negotiate with itself. The First Nation required resources to be able to sit at the table, thanks to that memberís inability to conclude a land claim in the southeast Yukon.
This has been answered and, frankly, the memberís attempt at any level of debate this afternoon in this House is getting to the point that we are wasting time and wasting taxpayersí money.
Ms. Duncan: Itís unfortunate that the minister opposite continually characterizes questions from the opposition benches as a waste of taxpayersí money.
Thereís also a substantial increase to Cabinet caucus and support. Is this increase in staff wages or new computers?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Is the member even on the same budget, number one? Number two, this issue about answering questions of the opposition ó the questions, many of them, have been answered over and over and over again. Frankly, the situation is unacceptable, on behalf of the taxpaying public of this territory, and Iím going to take exception with this memberís conduct in this House because we have, as a government, made tremendous effort to accommodate the opposition, going back to day one of the mandate. This member has shown very little desire, if you will, to be cooperative in any way, shape or form.
And letís go back to recent history, so we can put on the floor of this Legislature some evidence and rationale for the position the government side takes. That member did not deal with her government team or caucus in a cooperative manner, evidenced by the fact that three of her members simply walked away. That is something that should be very, very much on that memberís mind when the member makes assertions that this side of the House is not being cooperative.
This side of the House is very cooperative. This is a new government, a new approach ó by the way, a government with a plan and a vision, unlike the third partyís rudderless ship, void of vision, empty of plan.
And, Mr. Chair, this debate, frankly, is ridiculous, totally ridiculous.
Through the pages of the budget, when it comes to the Executive Council Office, are valid questions. Has the member opposite even attempted to coordinate this debate and the questioning in any way, shape or form that would relate to the budget before us? Absolutely not, and that we can pull out of Hansard without any problem.
The Executive Council Office is the body of government that ensures the corporate agenda is delivered and disseminated throughout all departments in the Yukon government. It also happens to be where land claims and the implementation secretariat are housed. Much work is being done on those fronts, Mr. Chair.
When we talk about cooperation ó and I think itís important to note that this government has taken a step beyond consultation toward collaborative forms of governance in the territory, recognizing that there are two jurisdictions in this territory that must find a way to operate and cooperate and be able to deliver good governance on behalf of their citizens respectively in their jurisdictions.
Mr. Chair, I could go on at great length and admonish to some degree the member of the third party for this very, very shameful attempt at representing constituencies and conducting the public business in this Assembly.
Frankly, if I were to target the exact motivation for what has transpired here this afternoon, I would be out of order. But I will skirt around that motivation because it certainly is there.
Mr. Chair, we as a government are here to conduct the public business. We are here to conduct the public business in a responsible manner, in a manner that they expect. The frivolous questioning has nothing to do with conducting the publicís business in a responsible manner. That is a disservice not only to this House ó this institution, what it means, what its values are, what the principles are that we must work and conduct ourselves under here in the Assembly ó but a disservice to the Yukon public, the taxpaying public. They want something out of this place. They want product. They want to see this territory change direction. They want to see their lives improved. They want to see us address the economic situation, so devastated by past governments. They want to see a turn from government dependence to an investment climate of certainty and positive elements that require the capital investment and expenditure of the private sector to diminish that dependence on government.
It has been a long time since this territory experienced the vibrancy that comes with the private sector involvement in the economy of the territory. Thatís what this government is doing, and letís start listing it off. It starts with our relationship with First Nations ó a relationship that is paramount to advancing this territory in building its future. It is paramount, because there are two jurisdictions in the territory that must collaborate.
It also includes economic partnerships, partnerships so that, as we develop the economy of the territory, we do not exclude the aboriginal people of this territory, who have so much to offer. They have a great deal to contribute. We cannot ignore that any longer. No longer can we develop resources or other areas of the Yukon without the participation, through partnerships, of our First Nations people. They must also share in the benefits as they must share in the burdens of making the decisions. Thatís two areas, two planks of the vision and a plan to turn this territory around.
But letís go beyond. Not only are we doing those things, evidence clear and budgeting with resources in expenditures allocated, we are also working on establishing or re-establishing sound fiscal management in the Yukon ó a must. No longer can we have governments who simply work within the confines, the very limited areas, of a surplus that has certainly been dramatically diminished under the previous government: the member of the third party, the party of one, who has stood on the floor of this Legislature this afternoon in a very, very disturbing attempt at debating on behalf of the Yukon public the merits of the supplementary budget as that relates to the Executive Council Office.
We as a government went to work on those areas immediately and through sound fiscal management have re-established a significant and reasonable surplus for this territory. We have ó and the evidence speaks for itself ó put almost $50 million back into the bank account. We have established $20 million more for health care. Those things happened in less than one year by the government side, much to the chagrin of the third party. But I know that deep inside, the official opposition recognizes the merits of the delivery of health care as it should be ó as a public service through universality within the very parameters of the Canada Health Act and its five fundamental principles. We do that because this government cares. This government has compassion, and we believe that those services are the right of Yukon citizens, and thatís why we do the work necessary to make sure that they receive those services.
We are also working on a business case ó a business case that will help to remove the disincentives and the inadequacies in the formula, to better able ourselves to build our economy, not dismantle it, as has happened in the past.
That is a significant step in the right direction, Mr. Chair. Instead of one-time, simple negotiations, we are taking it beyond so that the long-term sustainable part of the equation is now at play. Thatís what weíre working on with the federal government in the business case.
The member makes mention of 57 pages; well, itís 57 pages of detail ó responsible detail ó put together by officials who also have a tremendous dedication and commitment to this territory and its citizens.
Mr. Chair, these are items of debate. They are in the budget. They are housed in the Executive Council Office. And thatís the kind of constructive debate that would raise the bar here today.
The member opposite also stood on the floor of this House at great length admonishing and berating the government on the Taxpayer Protection Act amendment, a very small operational amendment. Well, we know that, when in government, that member was doing the exact same thing, and the member opposite cannot dispute that fact.
That was ongoing work ó why? Because the public, the private sector, came to the government of the day and made the suggestion. The suggestion resulted in the government of the day, led by the member of the third party, going to work on the very thing that the member now opposes. For what reason? For what motivation? For what purpose does that serve the Yukon public? Is it not the case, if the member a few short months ago agreed that this initiative would be beneficial to the territory? Would it not be the case that the member would stand here on the floor of the Legislature and at least voice tacit support, given the evidence and the circumstances?
I say to you, Mr. Chair, these things that Iím laying out on the floor of the Legislature speak volumes to the level of the debate ó a level of debate that is required on behalf of the public, a level of debate that is necessary to ensure that what we do in this Assembly reflects the priorities, the values, the desires, the needs and the wants of the Yukon public. That is not happening here this afternoon. I, for one, am very concerned about what has transpired. I am very concerned because itís the public who are not receiving full value from this Assembly and this institution.
Mr. Chair, I will openly stand on the floor of the Legislature and in the public and accept my and this side of the Houseís responsibility for the debate in the Assembly.
However, the member opposite has yet to even come close to recognizing her responsibility when it comes to constructive debate here in our Assembly. I could go on and on and on but, Mr. Chair, I am going to challenge the third party. Iím going to challenge the third party to stand down on the politics of conflict; to stand down on the politics of confrontation; to look beyond the interest of that small office that the member has been relegated to and think beyond; think broader; think Yukon; think its citizens; think the public; think the future; think the economy; think the private sector. Think about the big picture and not some limited interest that is expressed here today.
Itís unfortunate, with all that the member could be doing on behalf of the Yukon public, that the member has chosen another route ó a route of conflict and confrontation.
Chair: Order please. The time being 6:00 p.m. the Chair will report progress.
Speaker resumes the Chair
Speaker: I will now call the House to order.
May the House have a report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole?
Mr. Rouble:Mr. Speaker, Committee of the Whole has considered Bill No. 7, Second Appropriation Act, 2003-04, has directed me to report progress on it.
Speaker: You have heard the report from the Chair of Committee of the Whole. Are you agreed?
Some Hon. Members: Agreed.
Speaker: I declare the report carried.
This House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
The House adjourned at 6:01 p.m.
The following Sessional Papers were tabled December 10, 2003:
Environment Act: Report on the Audit of the Yukon Governmentís Performance under the Environment Act by Government Audit Services (dated September 19, 2002) (Kenyon)
Yukon Heritage Resources Board 2002-03 Annual Report (Taylor)
Yukon Arts Centre 2002-03 Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended March 31, 2003 (Taylor)
Yukon Geographical Place Names Board 2001-02 Annual Report (Taylor)
The following document was filed on December 10, 2003:
Extended Health Benefits Ė Medical Travel Rates for Reimbursement (Government of Northwest Territories) (Fairclough)