Monday, March 29, 2004 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 the Yukon Fish and Game Associationís award
Hon. Mr. Kenyon:I rise today to recognize and to congratulate the Yukon Fish and Game Association for its recent award by the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The presentation ceremony was held today in Ottawa to present the 2004 recreational fisheries award to the Yukon Fish and Game Association, as well as four other recipients from across Canada. The award was presented by the Hon. Geoff Regan, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, to three associations, one organization and one individual who were recognized for their efforts to protect and to enhance Canadaís recreational fisheries and their habitat and to encourage increased recreational fishing opportunities, tourism and development. These individuals and organizations have played ó and continue to play ó a very important role in sustaining and developing the recreational fishing experience throughout Canada. The Yukon Fish and Game Association was cited for its involvement in projects associated with the Whitehorse Rapids fish hatchery and the fishway.
That work has included renovations to the fishway viewing facilities, which have contributed to its success as the number one visitor attraction in Whitehorse and over 30,000 residents and visitors walking through the facility each summer.
In presenting the award, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans noted that the association endeavours to ensure the sound management of fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation resources in the best interests of all residents of the Yukon, as well as to educate residents on the value of the local resources, and to promote sportsmanship and outdoor recreation safety in the community.
This government and my department also recognize the important role played by the association and its work at the fishway, and that is why we are supporting the fishway in this yearís budget. We will be providing $10,000 this year to develop a freshwater-fish interpretive program in cooperation with the agencies involved with the viewing and the fishway, and with the involvement of Whitehorse, Tourism, businesses and stakeholders. A priority is to improve the aquarium displays of live Yukon freshwater fish.
I ask the entire House to join me in welcoming in the gallery today some of the executive of the Yukon Fish and Game Association: Mr. Jim Haney, Mr. John Carney, Mr. Barry Drury and Manfred Hoefs.
Mr. McRobb: We too are pleased and would like to congratulate all members of the Yukon Fish and Game Association on this award. We would have been even more pleased to do a tribute today, Mr. Speaker; however, it was decided in the House leaders meeting this morning that only the leader of the third party would be doing the tribute.
Ms. Duncan: I rise today to pay tribute to the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which is receiving a national recreational fisheries award in Ottawa today from Geoff Regan, the federal Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.
The awards are presented to Canadian individuals and organizations in recognition of their work in protecting and enhancing recreational fisheries and their habitat and encouraging increased recreational fishing opportunities, tourism and development.
This is the second national recreational fishing award for the Yukon Fish and Game Association. They also received one in 1993. Fisheries and Oceans gives out five national awards annually.
The Yukon Fish and Game Association is receiving their award in recognition of its numerous projects such as the salmon-viewing area at the Whitehorse fish ladder and the Yukon fish hatchery, along with numerous workshops on the catch-and-release program.
The Fish and Game Associationís efforts have helped turn the Whitehorse Rapids fish hatchery and fishway into the number one visitor attraction in Whitehorse.
A famous quote from a Chinese philosopher reads: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."
Education plays a very large role in the Fish and Game Associationís mandate. The association seeks to teach Yukoners to enjoy and respect this bountiful natural resource that we are so lucky to have and to make the public recognize the place of fish, wildlife and outdoor recreation in our lives.
They also educate residents on the value of local resources, promoting sportsmanship and outdoor recreational safety in the community.
The association also sponsors numerous workshops, forums and events, including the family ice fishing days. One took place this weekend at Fisheye Lake in Faro and there are two more coming up in the territory: at Pine Lake near Haines Junction on Sunday, April 4, and at Wrong Lake, south of Stewart Crossing, on Sunday, April 11.
On behalf of the Legislative Assembly, I congratulate the Yukon Fish and Game Association on their award and wish them continued success in their important Yukon work.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Ms. Duncan:I would ask all Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly to join me in welcoming today Mr. Jim Haney and members of the Yukon Fish and Game Association. Welcome.
Speaker: Are there any other introductions of visitors?
Are there any returns or documents for tabling?
Are there any reports of committees?
Are there any petitions?
Are there any bills to be introduced?
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS
Bill No. 103: Introduction and First Reading
Ms. Duncan: I move that an act entitled the Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the leader of the third party that a bill entitled Heritage Hunting and Fishing Act be now introduced and read a first time.
Motion for introduction and first reading of Bill No. 103 agreed to
Speaker: Are there any notices of motion?
NOTICES OF MOTION
Mr. McRobb: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of the House that
(1) the Government of Yukon has failed to present a convincing business case to justify the expenditure of $25 million or more to build a bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson City;
(2) the Town of Dawson City is under court direction to build a sewage treatment facility before the end of the current fiscal year;
(3) no funds for a sewage treatment facility in Dawson City have been allocated in the 2004-05 territorial budget; and
THAT this House urges the Yukon Party government to set aside an appropriate territorial share of the cost of building a sewage treatment facility in Dawson City before proceeding with construction of a bridge over the Yukon River at Dawson.
Mr. Cathers: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House commends officials within the Department of Finance, Bureau of Statistics and the Yukon government intergovernmental relations Ottawa office, whose hard work and diligence in interpreting the territorial formula funding agreement with federal government officials led to millions of dollars in increased funding from the Government of Canada to Yukon.
Mr. Hardy: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT it is the opinion of this House that
(1) the plan to collect outstanding loans owed to the Government of Yukon, which the Minister of Finance tabled in the fall sitting, fails to ensure that Cabinet ministers with long-standing loans will be required to repay them;
(2) the plan does not provide any assurance that Yukon-owned businesses will not be forced into bankruptcy by a private loan collection agency; and
THAT this House calls upon the Government of Yukon to rescind the loans collection plan previously tabled by the Minister of Finance and introduce a new policy that will not allow Cabinet ministers to evade their financial responsibilities to Yukon taxpayers and that will not have the effect of needlessly forcing Yukon-owned businesses into bankruptcy.
Mr. Arntzen: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House urges the official opposition and the third party to accept the governmentís offer to establish an all-party committee to undertake an in-depth review of the insurance industry with emphasis on the issue of escalating insurance rates and the diminishing ability of Yukoners to obtain satisfactory insurance coverage.
Mr. Cardiff: I give notice of the following motion:
THAT this House calls upon the Liberal Government of Canada to reverse its ill-advised changes to the federal Unemployment Insurance Act, which have had the effect of taking $18.6 million per year out of the territoryís economy by denying unemployment benefits to many hard-working Yukon people who would otherwise have qualified for such benefits.
Speaker: Are there any further notices of motion?
Are there any statements by ministers?
This then brings us to Question Period.
Question re: Multiplex cost overruns
Mr. Cardiff: The Minister of Community Services was on the radio this morning talking about a new agreement with the City of Whitehorse on the multiplex cost overruns. Unfortunately, the minister played coy this morning about the price tag. So Iím going to ask the obvious question: how much of the Yukon taxpayersí money did he put on the table during his meeting with the city on Friday afternoon?
Hon. Mr. Hart: I will indicate that we negotiated an agreement with the city, and weíll let the city bring that forth to the council tonight. I donít think itís provident for us to do so here.
Mr. Cardiff: Mr. Speaker, weíre not talking about commercial confidentiality here. Weíre talking about a territorial government expenditure, and the amount should be announced here, in the Legislature, not at Whitehorse City Hall.
Iím positive that we all support the Canada Winter Games and the jobs that the multiplex project is going to create. The minister should know that I have already had calls from Dawson City asking why he has their mayor and council on a short leash and a choker collar, but heíll hand out to the Whitehorse mayor a cool couple of million dollars just for the asking.
So how much did the minister offer the city, and will it come from existing departmental revenue or will there be a supplementary budget to cover it?
Hon. Mr. Hart: There are so many questions in that particular one itís hard to be sure where we are. I believe that we negotiated an agreement with the city. We indicated we would share in some of the expenditures that theyíre dealing with, and weíll address that after council reviews that agreement.
Mr. Cardiff: The minister didnít answer the question again. Last October, the minister stated publicly that he would backstop any additional cost to apply to the governmentís business incentive policy and the fair wage schedule to phase 2 of the multiplex. We recently learned that the cityís tender did not apply the fair wage schedule to category D workers such as labourers.
After Fridayís meeting in the Premierís office, has that changed, and will category D workers now be covered by the fair wage schedule?
Hon. Mr. Hart: For the member opposite, that issue did come up and we will be addressing that.
Question re: Multiplex cost overruns
Mr. Hardy: Now we all know the Premier is not a secretive type of person; heís a straight shooter, as he likes to say, so my question is for the Premier.
Last Thursday, the Premier tabled a massive budget for 2004-05 that amounted to $23,500 for every man, woman and child in the Yukon. Now weíve learned that this record budget may be out of date already, thanks to a new financial agreement with the City of Whitehorse.
Will the Premier set the record straight? Is the money for the multiplex cost overrun included in the budget he tabled on Thursday, or has the $706 million budget already turned into a $708 million one, or more?
Hon. Mr. Hart: As I mentioned earlier, weíre negotiating with the City of Whitehorse. When they present their case tonight at council, weíll get back to the member opposite on his question.
Mr. Hardy: Well, maybe I have to retract that statement about the Premier being a straight shooter and not secretive at all. Last year, the Premier and his colleagues were so worried about the spending trajectory that they ran around like Chicken Little saying, "The sky is falling; the sky is falling."
Then the poll results started coming in, showing how unpopular this government had become in a very, very short period of time. So the Premier decided to go for broke with this budget and buy back some popularity with a big spending spree.
Does the Premier expect the Yukon people to believe this roller-coaster kind of budgeting represents sound fiscal management?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I think first off ó letís cut right to the issue. Any government must get a firm grip on the fiscal situation of their jurisdiction. Thatís exactly what we have done as a government.
Considering the fact that in the last 12 months, the government has managed to turn the financial position of the Yukon government ó if you factor in the new health care fund, it has been able to turn that position to the positive by some $70 million ó then any logical, thinking person would understand that we now have the fiscal room and options available to increase the stimulus in this territory, which we committed to do at the outset ó that we would increase the stimulus in the Yukon Territory, provide jobs and benefits and more spending power for Yukoners.
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, new question.
Mr. Hardy: Thatís a very interesting spin that this Premier has put on the last ó
Speaker: Leader of the official opposition, that is your final supplementary ó my mistake.
Mr. Hardy: Okay ó I wouldnít have minded more, but thatís all right.
This is a very interesting spin that the Premier has put on it, considering that when the financial statements were presented to us, there was approximately $78 million recognized as a surplus, contrary to what this party said when they got elected. This begs the question: do they really know how to read a financial statement or follow the books?
Now, if the Premier could be caught off guard so easily by something like a cost overrun on the multiplex, it doesnít inspire much confidence in his planning ability. I am sure that the Premier is happy that he changed the bookkeeping system because this kind of reckless spending ó which he likes ó could have easily got him into trouble with the Taxpayer Protection Act. In fact, the governmentís own projections for two years down the road show the territoryís financial assets drawing down to just over $4 million. One more deal like Fridayís and the Premier could have been forced to call an election over the old accounting system.
Now, what other seven-figure items could the government be asking to pay for that arenít reflected in this budget, and how does the Premier plan to deal with those requests?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Well, Mr. Speaker, there is a good deal of constructive measures being invested in in this budget, as it should be on behalf of Yukoners. Itís unfortunate the opposition simply cannot differentiate between a spending spree and an investment in the future of the territory. It is also unfortunate that the opposition ó the NDP in this House ó continue to be mired in negativity, reconstructing the past, while the government side is focused on building a future for the Yukon.
Question re: Fish and Wildlife Management Board appointments
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, I have some questions for the Minister of Environment. In the budget tabled last week, there is $5,000 set aside for something called a "Yukon environment board game". Now, as all Yukoners have learned, the minister loves to play games with boards. His favourite game has been to stack boards with people who agree with him and who hold Yukon Party membership cards.
The minister has been fighting with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board since he was first elected. His solution: stack the board with Yukon Party supporters, and on February 16, he did just that. One of the appointees came right out and said it publicly. He said ó and I quote ó "If Iím a Yukon Party member and it helped me get on the board, so be it." The ministerís hand-picked choice has admitted he was put on this $200-per-day board just because heís a Yukon Party supporter. Does the minister agree with that statement?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: In regard to the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, which the member opposite so thankfully gives me an opportunity to address, that board came down with a number of recommendations on captive wildlife some time ago, and it was my problem at the time that many of the recommendations that were made were not something that the government could do and so therefore they had to be set aside. They were not rejected, Mr. Speaker; they were set aside. So at that point, seven were accepted, seven were accepted with a variation, and the remainder were set aside. Through the good work of our department and through the good work of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board, three remain set aside at the moment. It is our hope that in a very short period of time all of them will be accepted. The purchase of the Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a good example of how I worked with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
I would also point out to the member opposite, the Fish and Wildlife Management Board recently communicated to us that they hoped that those recommendations and the regulations would actively be put in place as soon as possible. We are now in complete agreement ó again, working as a team, Mr. Speaker, a concept that the member opposite, again, shows very little ability to understand.
Ms. Duncan: The minister did not answer the question and he did not agree with the statement, and it is not the first time the minister has disagreed with board members.
Membership has its privilege. The person was appointed because he is a member of the Yukon Party. When a spot came open on the board, the minister received several letters urging him to reappoint an existing member. The minister went out of his way to reject that advice and pick a member of the party faithful instead. After doing so, the minister tried desperately to make it look like the appointment was not partisan. In a Government of Yukon news release, he described his hand-picked choice as: "Öan active member of the Yukon Fish and Game Association". The president of the Yukon Fish and Game Association subsequently said this about the appointment: "Heís not an active member. Heís not a member of the association at all."
Will the minister now admit the information he provided to the public was wrong and that he ignored the advice of Yukoners, which was to reappoint one of the existing board members?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I should point out to the member opposite that the individual involved also has a diploma in renewable resource management and a long-standing radio show on fishing.
Given the problems that we have had with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and our wonderful federal Liberal government, it was important to have someone with a fishing background on that board. In consultation with a wide range of people ó not just one group from within the board itself ó this individual was overwhelmingly recommended to me as a member. He brings a very wide and deep skill set to the board. I would remind everyone that all of these boards, once appointed ó be it a First Nations appointment or a government appointment ó these people are chosen for their ability to analyze a situation and make reasonable and intelligent decisions. They do not represent the appointing party.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Obviously, the official opposition has its own theory on that as they try to talk over me. I look forward to their opinions on this.
Ms. Duncan: The minister has spent a large portion of his time in office fighting with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board. In an attempt to silence the criticism from the board, the minister made a blatantly political appointment. The individual selected has even admitted that the reason he was selected is because heís a member of the Yukon Party.
The minister knew he was going to have a hard time convincing the public that this was anything but rewarding friends and insiders. He issued a news release that contained wrong information, and that has been demonstrated. He has been caught outright.
Will the minister undo the damage he has caused and rescind this appointment? Will he accept the advice of Yukoners who strongly recommended the reappointment of an existing board member? Will he do that?
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Again, the individual has for many years been involved with the Fish and Game Association. Whether heís current or not I think is immaterial. Iím not current either by paying this yearís dues, but thatís another story.
In terms of the individual, I would also point out that the first interview he gave to the media was to attack me. Again, if this is a party faithful and a reward, I suggest that I made a horrible mistake on that one.
The overwhelming ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Mr. Speaker, I believe I have the floor. Do I, Mr. Speaker?
I am just a bit concerned about this, but I do take a marvellous opportunity to discuss the board game that the member opposite referred to. That board game has been on the proposals for 12 years. For 12 years, the department has been trying to get a board game together to educate our youth and to work with the schools and this sort of thing. Through all stripes of government, that has fallen off the table and not been included in the budget.
Mr. Speaker, after 12 years of sitting on the paper, Iím rather happy to announce that that will go ahead and it is in this budget. I hope the member opposite supports that, although I am suspicious that sheíll probably vote against it.
Question re: Probation office computer theft
Mrs. Peter:My question today is for the Minister of Justice.
February 1 of this year, 10 computers were reported stolen from the probation offices in the Department of Justice.
Information on stolen probation files, such as pre-sentence reports, can contain very private information about previous offences, about personal health, about personal relationships, financial information, and is considered completely confidential. We assume that there has been an internal investigation into this serious breach of security.
Will the minister tell this House what the internal investigation revealed?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: I would like to thank the member opposite for bringing this very important matter to Yukonersí attention.
I would just like to reiterate first-hand on the public record that the security and safety of all Yukoners is of paramount importance to me, as Minister of Justice, as well as to this government. To ensure the continued safety of our citizens, the Department of Justice ó like all other departments of Justice across this country ó continues to evaluate and review its policies and procedures on an ongoing basis.
With respect to the particular break-in at the Prospector Building that happened earlier this year, I am very pleased to say that immediate steps were taken to notify each of the affected clients. As well, an offer was made to meet with them to review their individual cases and talk about the information that was retrieved.
A technical briefing for the media was held soon after the incident. Awards through Crime Stoppers and our Department of Justice were posted in our local papers, media outlets, as well as in the rolling ads. Other steps that were immediately taken after the break-in were the changing of locks and the lock system. In addition, the department, as the member opposite just alluded to, is also conducting a review of the overall safety and security of the building and its contents ó
Speaker: Order please. Would the minister conclude her answer.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Thank you.
Mrs. Peter: Internal investigations lead to changes in policy and procedure. It has been two months since the break-in ó plenty of time to implement these changes. What kinds of changes have been made to the ministerís department to prevent another breach of security, besides changing the locks?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: A number of changes have occurred. While itís very difficult to release specific details that have come out of this particular investigation because of security concerns, Iím very reluctant to relay some of those action items. However, the director of community and correctional services just completed a relatively straightforward interview on CBC this afternoon at the lunchtime hour and revealed some of those particular actions coming out of the investigation here.
I have to say that the investigation of the break-in at the Prospector Building was and continues to be handled in such a manner that I believe is both open and transparent, and that itís not only being addressed by our department but by the RCMP. Itís also in the hands of the Privacy Commissioner, as he was also on the radio earlier this morning.
So, working closely with his office, the Privacy Commissioner has been provided with a list of the measures that were in place prior to the break-in, the measures taken in response to the incident itself and the measures planned but not yet implemented, as well as those that have been implemented.
Mrs. Peter: Mr. Speaker, the lack of information around the handling of this investigation is key, and the Yukon public needs answers from the Minister of Justice. Citizens have every right to protection of their private affairs and some may be contemplating suing this government because of the theft of that very private information.
Has the minister obtained a legal opinion on the liability of her department in this matter?
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Mr. Speaker, just, again, for the public record, we have operated in a very open and accountable, very transparent manner, particularly in how this whole investigation was held and continues to be held here. We are also prepared to be accountable, and that is why the Privacy Commissioner is also involved, to ensure that the safety and security of Yukoners and their personal information is held with utmost importance. So by ensuring this particular officerís involvement, we are very confident that we are doing everything that we can to ensure that is held.
Question re: Ambulance contract
Mr. Fairclough: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health and Social Services. On January 30 of this year there was a sole-source contract for two ambulances at just over $224,000. Mr. Speaker, on Thursday of last week, the Premier said in this House, and I quote, "We as a government make those decisions totally within the confines of the policy of the sole-source initiative." Mr. Speaker, contracts over $50,000 must be publicly advertised through a request for bids, or they must invite bids from all sources on an open source list. Did the minister receive a recommendation from his departmental officials to sole-source this contract, or did the minister make that decision on his own?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Now, what the member opposite should have asked, Mr. Speaker, is: what is the government doing for the ambulance service and for emergency medical services?
Mr. Speaker, let me share with you some of the initiatives that we have begun. First of all, there is additional training; there are additional wages; there is an additional clothing allowance for all of the rural volunteers. This is quite an extensive improvement in the conditions under which they work and the remuneration or the honouraria they are paid. This has not been adjusted by any government since the early 1970s. In addition to that, our government committed to a replacement procedure for ambulances well within the policy guidelines. And we have gone ahead and we have purchased two ambulances.
Mr. Fairclough: There must be something to my question because the minister again avoided answering the question directly, so I will carry on. This question will not go away. If the minister thinks he can avoid it now, I will ask that one again sometime soon. In Hansard on March 25 in Question Period, the minister said, "There is one source of this type of vehicle and that source has two branches in western Canada. There is one branch of this firm in B.C. and a second branch in Alberta." So has the department investigated all other vehicle manufacturers in Canada who are able to convert vans into ambulances? Did they do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: All procedures for sole sourcing contracts were followed. As I said earlier, there are not a great number of firms from which you can buy ambulances in western Canada. The same company has two distributors ó one in British Columbia, the other one in Alberta. They provide the same product, so we could go to Alberta or we could go to British Columbia. Traditionally, the Government of Yukon has had dealings with British Columbia, and in the past has sole sourced ambulances to that same firm. Nothing has changed under which the government is conducting its business. The issue is to address the need for Yukon to have ambulances, and we have addressed that need.
Mr. Fairclough: Again, the minister avoids the question, and I am wondering where he is going with this and why information is not being presented in an open fashion in this House. So I will ask another question and see if the minister will attempt to answer it or try to avoid it and talk about purchasing ambulances that were purchased years ago.
We have done some research on companies, and there are many companies out there that are able to supply ambulances or vans that are converted into ambulances to this government and to many other governments. Crestline in Saskatoon was previously contracted and found reliable and cheaper than what was purchased here by this minister, so why did the minister choose not to compare prices from all possible companies and save taxpayersí dollars; why did he not do that?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: If the member opposite had an understanding of what she was speaking about, Iíd be quite prepared to debate the issue. The issue is a four-wheel-drive ambulance. There is the issue of conversion of a Ford van, which is an after-market conversion. The costs and the guarantees associated with that type of a conversion are not very good. This is a new four-wheel-drive vehicle, cabin chassis on which the manufacturer of the ambulance units adds that to the back. The exercise we are engaged in is meeting the needs of the emergency medical services here in the Yukon and providing new ambulances, and we have done that, Mr. Speaker, unlike the previous government. You have to go back quite a number of years to find the purchase of a new ambulance here in the Yukon.
Question re: Whistle-blower legislation
Mr. Hardy: I have a question for the minister responsible for the Public Service Commission. On page 15 of the Yukon Party platform document, thereís a promise to implement effective whistle-blower legislation, which protects the anonymity of public employees who report abuse within the government and provides a clear process for the full and fair investigation.
Will the minister bring that legislation forward during this sitting?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I do thank the member opposite for bringing this question forward. At this point in time, I would like to confirm the value of all employees. This government does have the utmost respect for all employees. This legislation heís talking about is something thatís in discussion within the federal government. This government does intend to wait and see the outcome of that legislation.
Mr. Hardy: I didnít hear a commitment there. I hope that the minister doesnít expect that this matter will just go away. Many public employees feel very vulnerable because there isnít any legislation protecting them when they want to do the right thing and report abuses as they see them.
I would like the minister to be more specific. Will the whistle-blower legislation be presented to this House while the member opposite is still a minister, and if so, when?
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: I guess I would have to say to the member opposite that it all depends. It depends on how fast the federal government moves on their legislation for this government to review it.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:Order please. Order please.
Extraneous chatter ó I would ask the members to just knock if off, please.
Question re: Haines Junction seniors facility
Mr. McRobb: Well, it would be nice to get answers out of this government.
Now, I would like to ask the Health minister a question on a matter that was identified by my constituents as their top priority ó a seniors facility. In fact, the minister will recall that I personally brought this matter to the attention of the Premier shortly after the last election.
First, I would like to congratulate the minister for finally getting around to addressing the needs of the elderly in the Kluane region. In a letter dated November 19, 2003, he commits funds to plan this facility this year. Those funds are apparently in the budget that we will examine in detail this sitting.
His letter also commits to fund the construction of the facility in next yearís budget. We will be looking forward to that, Mr. Speaker.
My question to the minister is a simple one. Is he prepared to go the extra mile to ensure that the design and purpose of the facility will meet the needs of my constituents?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Our governmentís position is that, if there is a demonstrated need, we will do our utmost best to meet that demonstrated need.
I had occasion to meet with the seniors and the First Nations in the member from Kluaneís riding, and they brought to me this issue. They all had concerns surrounding the need for a seniors complex, and I committed to undertaking in the next budget cycle, which we have before us ó which I am sure the member from Kluane will vote against. We identified funds to proceed with the initial stage and review the need for a multilevel health care facility to address the needs of seniors housing in the memberís riding.
Mr. McRobb: Let us make no mistake: I am heavily in favour of this project. That is why I brought it to the Premierís attention as a top priority for the Kluane riding.
Now I should elaborate that a regional facility based in Haines Junction could serve the needs of several smaller communities spread throughout the region as far as the Alaska border on both the Alaska Highway and the Haines Road. There are several good reasons that substantiate a full-service facility to serve the elderly in this region. At the top of that list is the need to provide live-in care facilities that would allow the elderly to continue to live in and contribute to the region in which they live.
Does the minister intend to follow through on his commitment to build a facility based on the needs of the people for whom the facility is intended to serve, or will he insist on continuing to force the elderly to move to Whitehorse?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: There is no secret to what our partyís position is with respect to multi-level health care facilities. We have committed initially to study the situation in Watson Lake and Dawson. In this budget cycle we are into the planning and the first phase of the design, and next year we will be tendering these projects in both Watson Lake and Dawson City. That said, we have also committed to identifying the needs in the memberís riding of Haines Junction to place a multi-level care facility in that community, along with the community of Teslin ó because let us not eliminate Teslin because they have a need that is probably equal to, if not maybe larger than Haines Junction. So, yes, we have identified the need. If there is a demonstrated need, I will do my utmost to persuade my Cabinet and caucus colleagues to put in the budget for the next fiscal cycle money to build this facility.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I donít think the minister was listening when I described how this is a regional facility. Even though it may be situated in Haines Junction, it serves several other communities. If the minister does his math, heíll soon discover that the population is far greater than the community of Teslin.
Anyway, Mr. Speaker, this is a government on a wild spending spree, yet it canít find the funds to allow the elderly to continue living in their home communities. Itís a capital budget with a record amount. The same with the O&M budget; it has lots of money to throw around for expensive pet projects and can afford to write off outstanding government loans. There is growing concern this government will be dictating the type of facility rather than designing it based on the needs of the people. This facility was identified as a top priority by the people in the Kluane region. Doesnít that mean anything? Will he encourage his colleagues to back off on their personal agendas until at least the priorities of other Yukoners are addressed?
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Mr. Speaker, that was a message and a half from the Member for Kluane. I hope everyone is listening to it. Our governmentís position is: if there is a demonstrated need, we will do our utmost and level best to address that demonstrated need. Our governmentís commitment to multi-level care facilities in both Teslin and Haines Junction is exactly that. If the need exists, we will do our level best to construct them. I must add, though, that the member is trying to make the case that everybody shouldnít be moved to Whitehorse, and yet he suggested everybody be moved into Haines Junction. The bottom line is we will only be able to provide level I and level II care in rural Yukon. For levels III, IV and V, we have just one facility in the Yukon ó Copper Ridge Place ó where we are able to provide that level of care. In this budget cycle, weíre opening up another 12 beds in Copper Ridge Place and another six beds in Macaulay. The budget item is another $1.8 million. Itís primarily for wages for these two facilities. Iím sure the member opposite will vote against that money also, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: The time for Question Period has now elapsed. We will proceed to Orders of the Day.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Bill No. 9: Second Reading
Deputy Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 9, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: I move that Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a second time.
Speaker: It has been moved by the hon. Premier that Bill No. 9, entitled Interim Supply Appropriation Act, 2004-05, be now read a second time.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: My remarks will be quite brief. It is a great pleasure to introduce Bill No. 9. The act requests spending authority that in total is not to exceed $328,149,000, and it is for defraying several charges and expenses of the public service of the Yukon, payable over the three-month period of April 1, 2004, to June 30, 2004. The amounts for operation and maintenance expenditures are $234,733,000 and for capital $93,416,000.
The detail of these expenses will be discussed obviously during general debate, which should be quite short as much of the information has been articulated to the public by this government, taking the steps necessary to inform its public on what its government is doing.
These expenditures are certainly investments both on the development side of the ledger and on the social side of the ledger, and we commend the interim supply bill to the House and are quite confident of its speedy passage.
Mr. Hardy: Iím pleased to be able to respond to Bill No. 9 for the period of April to June of this year.
Itís a substantial amount of money ó $328,149,000 ó and there are items in here I really look forward to discussing when we do get into general debate.
But we do have some concerns. Part of it is the method that the Premier has used to try to ó I guess I would say to force this through. I think it really stems from a lack of trust; not just a lack of trust in the opposition but a lack of trust in his own members in many ways.
Just in case he hasnít counted how many people he has over there ó there are approximately 11 people on the other side, as well as the Speaker himself, who is a member of the Yukon Party. There is no doubt about it that they do have the authority ó the voting power ó to pass this bill without a question.
So, what happens in this matter?
Historically, interim supply bills are debated, they are passed, and we move forward and we get to debate the budget that is before us following this. As far as I understand, there has never been a need on behalf of any government to have to put in a special warrant to ensure that an interim supply bill wouldnít go forward. But the Premier believes that he has to use a hammer to try to ram this through. He has to use something he made promises to the people of this territory that he would not do, and that is use special warrants where they are inappropriate.
So, what we have here around the interim supply bill ó following it over and over ó is a special warrant. It really is contempt for the Legislature because there is no history of our times in opposition where we have done something like this.
Now, there is a small history, Mr. Speaker, and it applies to the Yukon Party. When they were in opposition, they played silly politics. That did not stop the bill from going forward but it did cause some concern in here. But that was done at the initiative of the Yukon Party. It has never been done by the NDP.
Our word stands for something. Now I can assure this Premier that we would have passed this interim supply bill ó we would not have been playing any silly games ó but he will not believe that; he cannot believe it. So what do they do? They use the method called "special warrants". Special warrants are not meant to be used in this manner, and it is connected to the interim supply bill.
A special warrant is ó I am going to read right out of the Financial Administration Act of 19(2),
"(a) a report is received from the management board that no provision of an act authorizes a payment from the consolidated revenue fund that is urgently and immediately required for the public good; and
"(b) the Legislative Assembly is dissolved, prorogued, adjourned indefinitely, or adjourned with more than seven days remaining in its period of adjournment."
That is where you would use a special warrant. Where does it apply to the interim supply bill? It does not. Only in the minds of the Yukon Party would it actually apply ó that they would feel that they have to use them. This is not the first time that they have wanted to use a special warrant. The partial reason you will see governments trying to use a special warrant outside the context of what they are originally meant for is to avoid debate, to avoid the scrutinizing of the expenditures.
Now we have some very serious concerns about the spending habits of this government. Last year we were told that we were heading to a precipice that, with the trajectory the way it was going, this government would be bankrupt. Within one short year, all of a sudden there is richness everywhere. And we said that on this side. We tried to point out to them that they were incorrect, but that was the position they took.
And what we did see in the fall was a substantial supplementary budget come forward, because they practically put the territory in a recession by their actions, Mr. Speaker. And now weíre swinging way over on the other side, and we have a fairly large interim supply bill that is being brought forward now. But guess whatís attached to it, or guess whatís hovering around it? Itís a special warrant, because thereís a big lack of trust.
I think the lack of trust does not exist on this side. We will debate, but we will debate fairly. We will question the expenditures of the government opposite. We will challenge their spending patterns. We will try to do the public good. But on the other side, they donít trust each other. They donít trust us, and they donít trust each other. And it is reflective of the way that spending has gone since they have been elected. Itís all over the map.
Unfortunately, with their actions, theyíre trashing the Financial Administration Act, and itís basically based upon actions that they themselves took a few years ago when they were in opposition. They themselves took action that belittled the dignity of the Legislature.
I have assured this House that we would not do that on an interim supply bill. We understand why it is being brought in. There is no question about that. The Premier himself has made that very clear in a press release. Employees will be paid; the government will be able to continue operating; business of the day will happen. We agree with that. We recognize the role and the reason you have interim supply bills. Thatís never a question. That doesnít mean you donít have debate but, at the end of the day, when itís time, you will pass that. There are other issues to debate. There is a new budget to debate. There is spending that we may disagree with, directions that this government may be taking, but we will not play silly politics around something like this that will affect peopleís lives in this territory.
Thatís not something weíre planning to do. There is a certain degree of trust in an interim supply bill. Thereís not a lot of detail. We may ask questions, depending on the departments, of why this amount, why that amount, whatís being spent here, and we will try to come to some sort of summary of the needs to ensure this money thatís being allocated is being spent properly. We will hope the money is being spread throughout the Yukon, and weíll do that in general debate, but it wonít take a lot of time from our perspective, because there is a matter of trust in the interim supply bill.
Historically, oppositions have the exchange and then they go forward, Mr. Speaker. They pass it and they move on to debate the budget of the day, and thatís what we will be focusing on later this afternoon: the budget. Thereís obviously a lot to debate there. We see such a huge contrast from last year to this year that we have to ask questions. We have to do our job, but it also raises serious questions about the operation across the way. How cohesive are they? How much do they really know about the finances of Yukon? From their perspective, how are they going to stimulate the economy and still protect the environment?
Itís all tied together. These are the finances weíre talking about here. From our perspective, given the circumstances we face, we will do our best to provide full accountability of the governmentís actions so the people will know where the government is going, even if they themselves do not. Thatís what we will do over here.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Speaker:I would just remind all members ó during Question Period I asked the opposition to not make extraneous comments. I will ask the same of the government side. Please carry on.
Mr. Hardy: I actually enjoy the debate that we have in here. I enjoy hearing the presentations and ideas that are coming from the other side. I may not necessarily agree with them. We have a huge job ahead of us in debating the budget.
You are right, Mr. Speaker. We donít need a lot of little chatter coming from the other side.
The interim supply bill is $328 million. It is a substantial interim supply bill. But there is a difference in the special warrant, which was, interestingly enough, $223 million. The wording in the press release that came out is quite fascinating, because it said here, "Commissioner Jack Cable signed a $223-million special warrant today" ó this would be March 17, 2004 ó "as a precautionary measure to ensure the government can continue to provide services to the Yukon April 1."
As a precautionary measure ó I mean, what are they saying on that side? That the government was going to stop operating; there would be no money at all left and everybody would have to stop working?
This is the paranoia that we are now witnessing on the other side. These are the people who are in charge of the Government of Yukon ó with such paranoia. Itís shocking, Mr. Speaker, that this is the type of language that they would put out in a press release, and that this is the kind of approach and attitude that they would have toward the opposition ó absolutely no respect for this side.
Now it goes on to say, "We are making use of a special warrant as a safeguard in the event the interim supply bill is not approved by the opposition members by March 31."
Letís see, as I stated earlier there are 11 on that side, there are six on this side. It would be quite a feat for us to be able to overthrow this government on a vote on this floor, I would suspect, unless, as what happened during the budget speech last week, half of them wandered off and the other half fell asleep, and then maybe we could surprise them. But I donít see that happening around the interim supply bill.
The Finance minister goes on to say, "We want to be absolutely sure organizations like Yukon College and Yukon Hospital Corporation get their funding as expected on April 1. In the event the interim supply bill is approved by the end of the month, a special warrant will not be necessary."
Well, was it necessary to even go this far? Did the Premier call my office and say, "This is the interim supply bill. Do you think there is going to be any problem with it, Todd?" I never got a call; he just automatically assumes that he has to take precautionary measures to ensure that this will pass, that he will be able to use a special warrant. And that worries me because ultimately that means there is a breakdown in the Legislature. No matter how hard you try, Mr. Speaker, to try to keep decorum to ensure that the debate is civil, that does not change the underlying principles or the underlying feelings and attitudes toward each other in here.
So you can create a nice environment to have debate, but that does not necessarily mean that there is a fair exchange and a good degree of trust and respect shown on each side of the House. That has to be earned. The government on that side has all the power; they still have to earn our respect.
We hope we conduct our debate, we bring forward our positions and ideas, we challenge them in a manner that ensures they do respect our opinions and we hope, ultimately at the end of the day, some of our ideas, some of our beliefs, some of the positions we take ó whether weíre representing our communities, our ridings, the broader context, whether itís health or one of the departments ó will be considered by the government opposite. Thatís not new thinking.
If you look in the past, governments have made adjustments in their budget to accommodate some of the comments and presentations made by the opposition side. They have adjusted the budget accordingly because, frankly, everybody knows that no oneís perfect, no one has all the answers.
Itís our hope that when we bring forward our beliefs and our ideas, that the other side does listen to our contributions. We applaud them if they once in awhile maybe incorporate some of those ideas instead of feeling like they have to resist everything we do. We do not present that as always a negative. We will talk about other care facilities; we will talk about other projects and concerns we have that individuals bring forward; we hope that those will be responded to in a positive light. We donít expect everything, but once in awhile we do expect acknowledgement of a good idea.
This is a special warrant based upon precautionary measures and lack of trust. That kind of action and the way the interim supply bill has been presented with this hammer doesnít give me a great deal of faith for the next couple of years in the Legislature if this is the way weíre going to operate. I had hoped it wouldnít be that way.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Ms. Duncan: Mr. Speaker, usually these bills pass with little comment. Theyíre very operational in nature. Sometimes the Finance minister has a speech that outlines and highlights some of the interim supply spending, a particular grant or other, but they donít usually engender a great deal of debate. What they do is they allow interim spending authority for the first month of the year until a full budget can be passed; and usually the members save the debate for the full budget and pass the interim supply bill as a pro forma bill. The debate, as I said, focuses on the budget itself.
Now, there was one occasion when that didnít happen, and the leader of the official opposition referred to it. We were both members of this House at the time, and I happen to recall the situation perhaps a little differently than he does. As I recall it, that particular debate toward the end of the month was an Easter weekend in this Legislature. It was right before the four-day weekend. The NDP House leader at the time had a great love of sport, a particular sport. He was known to use such phrases as "ragging the puck," and he viewed this place very much as an arena.
Well, the leader of the official opposition at the time, who was the leader of the Yukon Party, found the play of the NDP House leader rather annoying and thought he would teach the rookie a lesson. In the teaching of the lesson, what he ended up doing was ragging the puck or speaking at great length in an afternoon and holding up the interim supply bill. So the House adjourned over an Easter weekend without the interim supply bill having been passed because the NDP House leader, quite frankly, hadnít done his work.
Well, was that silly politics? Was it a clean check or was it a hit from behind?
The referees will certainly decide. However, the referees are the Yukon public and the fact is that the message got through to the NDP House leader. The arrogance was toned down quite substantially.
Did the Government of Yukon employees get paid? Yes, they did. Did the transfers get made? Yes.
The fact is that there is also a story behind this interim supply bill, and Iím not sure that all the members of caucus have heard the entire story or just portions of the play, if you will.
I would just like to share with them, and share with this House, the discussion I had with the House leader, who has a habit of dropping into my office unannounced. He probably thinks I donít appreciate it.
The fact is that the House leader suggested that the government was looking at March 2, 18, or 25 to call the House back, to which I responded that any of those dates would be fine; however, if they were going in as late as the March 25, he needed an interim supply bill and I was more than prepared and committed ó in front of witnesses ó to pass that interim supply bill on a Monday or Tuesday, but make sure you get the interim supply bill ready because we donít want to be caught in our House rules of having to have it tabled and so on; letís get it done. I absolutely was the first to raise it in that conversation with the House leader and I gave him a commitment that I would pass it, as a member of this Legislature, and I was fully prepared to do the business.
Unfortunately, the way the interim supply bill has arrived in this House ó as is typical with the Yukon Party ó itís not direct. The government has the ability to spend this money because they obtained a special warrant. In other words, they bypassed the duly elected members ó all of them ó of this Legislature.
All the government had to do was do as the House leader requested: get the interim supply, table it with the budget speech, and bring it forward for debate on the Monday. No, the government chose ó Management Board chose to pass a special warrant: $200 million, without any approval, without any discussion from a democratically elected legislature. That is contempt for and that is arrogance toward this Legislature. It could have been entirely avoided if the Legislature had been convened at the normal time of year, late February or early March. One has to wonder why that did not happen. Was it the House leaderís lack of full communication with members opposite? Was it that the House agenda was not ready? Was it that the budget was not ready? Was it the Premierís travel schedule?
However, we have come back on the 25th. We could have passed the interim supply and we could have done it without the special warrant. The special warrant was made even worse ó the bypassing of the Legislature ó by the governmentís press release, media release, that looked for someone to blame for them taking this action of the special warrant. Oh, letís blame the opposition. Well, hello, Mr. Speaker, the opposition had already given the government the commitment that they would pass the interim supply. The government waited so long they ran out of time and then they tried to blame the members on this side of the House. Nice try. It didnít work with the Yukon public and itís not working today.
The interim supply bill is housekeeping legislation. It does not require a great deal of comment. It requires working with all parties in this House. The government has not done that. They have shown their contempt by bypassing the Legislature and passing a special warrant, going ahead and doing it anyway ó we really donít care what you duly elected members think. Thatís what they have said in the subtext of their message.
Needless to say, although I find that the actions of the government and the passing of the special warrant demonstrate contempt for the Legislature and for the members and for the Yukoners who elected them, I do recognize the reason for an interim supply bill. As I have already committed to the government House leader, I am certainly prepared to pass it and get on with the business of the full and thorough debate of the budget.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, he will close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Mr. Speaker, I think we can just quickly cut to the issue at hand; that is, the passage of the interim supply bill. A number of accusations have been made from across the floor, none that would withstand the test of scrutiny. None bear the burden of proof and none are in any way related to constructive debate. The fact is that if the opposition passes the interim supply bill before April 1, the special warrant will be redundant and will not be required. So the challenge rests squarely with the opposition to be constructive, productive and expeditious in their debate.
The information is before them, but there is another important challenge in this House for the opposition today: the government has chosen to inform its public in much greater detail so that the public is much more in tune with the debate that is going on in this Legislative Assembly. The public, being informed as they are today, will be better able to draw conclusions on the debate in this Assembly. Therefore, the challenge rests with the opposition to be constructive, productive and expeditious in their debate. Thatís what this is about. The government side is not in contempt of this Assembly. In fact, quite the contrary: the government has placed the highest regard in this Assembly by informing its public in great detail before we convened, and we will keep doing that as a government.
The opposition benches have accused the government on many occasions of being closed and secretive. How, then, Mr. Speaker, can it be the case when we have been out in the public consistently informing the Yukon electorate exactly what its government is doing? We will continue to do that.
Now we have the scrutiny of the House to complement that dissemination of information to the Yukon public. I think that what we have chosen to do will lend itself greatly to improving what we do in this Assembly.
Speaker: Are you prepared for the question?
Some Hon. Members: Division.
Speaker:Division has been called.
Speaker: Mr. Deputy Clerk, would you please poll the House.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: Agree.
Hon. Ms. Taylor: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Edzerza: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Lang: Agree.
Hon. Mr. Hart: Agree.
Mr. Arntzen: Agree.
Mr. Rouble: Agree.
Mr. Hassard: Agree.
Mr. Cathers: Agree.
Mr. Hardy: Agree.
Mr. McRobb: Agree.
Mr. Fairclough: Agree.
Mr. Cardiff: Agree.
Mrs. Peter: Agree.
Ms. Duncan: Agree.
Deputy Clerk: Mr. Speaker, the results are 17 yea, nil nay.
Speaker: The yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.
Motion for second reading of Bill No. 9 agreed to
Bill No. 10: Second Reading ó adjourned debate
Deputy Clerk:Second reading, Bill No. 10, standing in the name of the Hon. Mr. Fentie ó adjourned debate, Mr. Hardy.
Mr. Hardy: Well, after two budgets and excessive abuse of special warrants, I believe that the public is more confused than ever over whom they actually elected and what this Yukon Party government stands for and, ultimately, where they are going. That is a serious concern, because if the government doesnít really know where they are going or what their spending priorities are, as they lurch from year to year, then how can the public have any confidence in the future? This is a government that, at this present time, hasnít presented any type of cohesive planning or bridging that is so important for people in their daily lives, that they can rely upon. And I use an example, for instance, of small businesses out there. Last year, the government had indicated that there was not enough money; they had to pull back. This year, there is all kinds of money. Next year, they are indicating on the capital side, in the capital expenditures, another reduction. The year following they will lose the election, so where is the stability with a government that lurches from year to year, different types of spending, different types of approaches, and different messaging?
I am going to give you an example of the two budget speeches, because they are only approximately a year apart and they say a lot about this government.
Last year, the title of the budget speech was, "Controlling the Trajectory of Spending". This year, the budget speech says, "Putting our Fiscal House in Order and Setting the Future Agenda."
So controlling the trajectory of spending, as was said and has been said many times by the people opposite, including the backbenchers ó was the spending of the territorial government was going up and that had to be stopped. They had to get a handle on it. They had to get a control on it. And I remember the ministers and the backbenchers all saying the same thing, all standing up and piping the same line. So on our side, of course, weíre assuming that their approach is going to be to pull back from government involvement and participation with the economic might that the territorial government has ó so pull that back and shrink the capital and operating and maintenance budget. A year later, we have "Putting our Fiscal House in Order" as a title. So a year later, theyíre still putting their fiscal house in order, theyíre still trying to figure out, probably, what "fiscal" means, on the other side. And "Setting a Future Agenda" is the second part of the title. That doesnít lend itself to a lot of confidence because they havenít got their fiscal house in order, by their own admission, by their own title, and theyíre just now starting to set a future agenda in this one.
But these titles are misleading, when you start to read. Last year, the Premier stood in this House and informed the people of this territory that the trajectory of spending had to be curtailed. He talked about the territorial governmentís spending leading the territory to a precipice. He talked about controlling that spending. So the Yukon Party government brought forward a budget last year. The total capital and operation and maintenance budget for 2003-04 is $550 million.
They implemented their way of dealing with what they considered a trajectory of spending. Now, people would assume that this is what these people on the other side, the members elected in the Yukon Party government, believed in. This year we have a different view. Twelve months ó it is quite amazing what can happen upstairs. The total capital and operation and maintenance budget for 2004-05 is $705 million. Actually we can round it up to $706 million, but of course we also can keep rounding the darn thing up because, guess what? We just heard an announcement on Friday that there is probably another couple of million dollars being spent.
Now, earlier today I asked the question: was it reflected in the budget that had been drawn up that this was going to be something that happened? I got no answer for it; but we will get the answer, there is no question about it, because it will be reflected at some time. You could make it really, really simple and just answer the question in Question Period but, no, got to keep things secret.
So here we are: $550 million. The Premier is saying that they have to get control of the trajectory of spending. The government was in a very dangerous situation; it did not have money. A year later, $150 million more is being spent on top of this. So what happened to the trajectory of last year? What happened in 12 months? Now, the operation and maintenance budget totalled $451.3 million last year. The operation and maintenance budget totals $543 million this year. Where was the control? Like, which end is wrong here?
They both canít be right. The capital budget totals $98.7 million. I stood in the House and told them what they were doing was going to have a serious impact on the industries, on businesses. And it did have. And Iím sure they heard it from many businesses out there, because I sure heard about it ó many of them are their supporters. Iím sure they called them up, because I said, "Call up your friends. You probably have more influence than we have over here." They assured me that they were going to.
Well ó guess what ó the pendulum swung again, Mr. Speaker. The capital budget totals $162.6 million. Thatís a $64-million difference in 12 months. Again, I have to ask the question: which one is right? Which philosophy is the Yukon Party adopting here? Or do they not know where theyíre going? Because thatís what the people of this territory are starting to wonder. You cannot go and preach to the people that you have a financial crisis looming. A year later, youíre awash in riches. Youíre spending like mad. One year, youíre starving. Itís called a boom-bust type of cycle, the very thing that most people in this territory do not want to see. Many of us have lived through boom-and-bust cycles. They are not good for long-term stability.
One of the backbenchers over there is agreeing with me. Heís flipping and flopping from side to side. I totally agree with him. Thatís the way it feels on this side, watching the Yukon Party try to devise a budget, because it is absolutely nuts. I have heard some people in the public call it bizarre. What do they stand for? No one knows. Where are they going to spend? Havenít got a clue. Next year, are we going to hear from the Yukon Party, "Whoa, guess what, Mr. Speaker? We just blew the budget again. I guess weíll have to pull back the reins. Everybody is going to go into another recession. Weíll create it. But guess what, election year is coming a year later. Weíre saving some money for that one."
So, what was said in these two budget addresses? He said that this budget ó in 2003 ó represents a concerted effort toward lowering the Government of Yukonís trajectory of spending. In 2004 he said, "This is the largest capital budget in the history of the Yukon. It is designed to stimulate the economy in the short, mid and long term."
The Premier had the gall to sit there and say it with a straight face. What a bunch of nonsense.
I will not take a bow when the Yukon Party is clapping. I am only going to point out the facts ó and these are words right out of the mouth of the horse.
What else is said here? It is a simple fact that the growth in government spending cannot be sustained.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Mr. Hardy: It took you awhile.
Speaker:There is no need for a point of order. Everybody understands exactly what has been done. Please retract that.
Mr. Hardy: I will reject it. I am getting a little hoarse myself, so I will take a drink.
It was too hard to resist. Sorry, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: I am waiting for the retraction now.
Mr. Hardy: I did, didnít I?
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Withdrawal of remark
Mr. Hardy:Sorry. Thanks for the correction.
I retract the word "horse" in reference to a member opposite.
Speaker: Thank you. Please carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Okay. I will read some more of his brilliant words that were spoken in 2003 and the absolutely brilliant words that were spoken in 2004 and see if they actually match up, because they sure havenít so far.
"It is a simple fact that a growth in government spending cannot be sustained."
So, I believe the public, when they hear that, assume that the government is going to try to get some control on their spending.
They are going to reconsolidate; they are going to ó depending on their philosophy ó do what they think is necessary to get some kind of control over that kind of spending. That goes on to say, "Öand with our government only having been elected on November 4, 2002, the prudent course of action is to exercise fiscal restraint." In 2004: a $705-million budget; $155 million more being spent. I am quoting from the budget speech of 2004. "In 2003-04, our government was tasked with changing the spending patterns of government, with getting the territoryís fiscal house in order. Our government has done exactly that. Our financial officers have been working particularly hard to bring this about."
I stand to be corrected later on when there are rebuttals, but when you have concerns about your spending pattern trajectories, as has often been said by the Premier, when you indicate to the people that you have to address that by using fiscal prudence, we would assume that a budget brought forward would have that kind of reflection, but it does not. We see $155 million more being spent. So what happened? Where did the change happen?
Well, I would say that there are two things we have to consider here. One is last year when the new Yukon Party government sat down, they figured that what they had to try to do was lower expectations. They had to try to demonstrate to the public that the finances of the territory are in bad shape, and part of it is the old politics style in which you try to blame the previous government for those mistakes. They tried it with the NDP the last time they were elected. They tried it with the Liberals this time. In every case it has been wrong, but that is what they felt they had to present. I personally believe that the public in the Yukon is a bit more intelligent and do not necessarily buy that, and I think we have seen that.
Now, of course, what happened when they did these cuts in the capital and put restraints on some of their spending last year is they caused serious problems within the industry, and I believe the variety of industries that make the territory run ó the economic engines ó took them to task.
The other thing that happened is they realized they were totally wrong in their calculations. Either they were wrong in their calculations or else they knew full well they were wrong and this was just the political messaging that they felt would serve their needs. I would like to think they were wrong, even if it is a pretty major mistake, that they could not identify the fact that there was over $70 million some in the surplus ó weíre not talking small potatoes in the Yukon ó that they could not see the spending patterns year after year after year.
I really look forward to hearing their responses on how they could be so far off target in their calculations. They went on in the budget speech of last year, "Reducing the current level of government spending in the territory affords our government the opportunity to be innovative in our thinking and to explore better ways of meeting our goals. We must become wiser in how we spend our money and strive toward improving the effectiveness and efficiency of our programs." What happened to that?
What happened to that kind of messaging? Where did it change? There are a lot of people in the territory who want to know what happened over there. Was it all of a sudden the realization that they had a heck of a lot more money than they knew, that possibly what they were saying to the public for all those months was totally incorrect? By the time the fall came around, they had a large surplus, came out with a supplementary budget, in many cases too late to stimulate some of the industries that were suffering.
So here we are today, all their trajectories, all their charts, everything they were showing, completely gone ó one year, it disappeared like that. Here we are today with the largest budget in the history of the Yukon, the largest capital expenditure in the history of the Yukon. We have gone from a bust type of budget last year to a boom budget this year. And as they forecast in the budget speech ó as they forecast ó we will see a substantial drop once again next year. So does that mean we are going to see another bust and then the year following that weíre going to see another boom?
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Deputy Speaker: Member for Lake Laberge, on a point of order.
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS
Mr. Cathers: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would like to ask all members of the House to join me in welcoming two visitors to our gallery: the former Member for Hootalinqua, Al Falle, and Mr. Todd Walter of Balanced Power, one of the many fine companies eyeing the Yukonís economic potential.
Mr. Hardy: So now we have a budget that is going to stimulate the economy. There are a lot of areas in here that we are going to discuss. I know many of my colleagues on this side have been looking at it, looking in their critic areas, and are quite interested in talking about some of the spending in those areas, as well as the effect it has upon the communities they represent. I know that within my own community there are some very serious concerns about some of the changes that are happening, the impact the spending habits of government is having, and the future for them as well. I am going to touch on them in a few minutes.
I will tell you what I have a genuine fear of, and that is that the government has, in 14 short ó well, from budget to budget, we can say; I think they have been in power now about 16 or 17 months, I should say. But in 16 or 17 months they have managed to separate Yukon into "us" and "them". I have not seen debate like this in a long time, but I see it returning again. Unfortunately, it is the reality of the privileged that has once again entered our politics. We have seen it now closeted in the Yukon Party back rooms and they are not connected with the real concerns of the citizens. Decisions are being made that do not connect with the needs or the concerns of the citizens of this territory.
I regret ó and I really do regret ó to say that unfortunately this is a government that has divided our communities.
It has divided them into insiders and outsiders ó the few who have the ear of the government and the many in this territory who do not. Some are the chosen few who get to bend the ear, to get their concerns, their wishes, brought forward. Frankly, the rest are the invisible ones.
We are seeing a return to that type of politics. A reflection of that is the way the boards and committees are being stacked, once again. People who have very, very good qualifications, excellent reputations, working on these boards and committees and contributing a lot are being removed from them, and party faithful ó Yukon Party people ó are being put in place. Itís only being done for one reason. It is definitely not ensuring that the best, the brightest and the most dedicated people are being put on these committees. That doesnít seem to be the criteria.
I think that the criteria we are seeing now are not only just that but, "Are you a Yukon Party supporter?"
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Hon. Mr. Jenkins, on a point of order.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am having difficulty with the member oppositeís connection with the boards and committee as being inappropriate members of our community and society. Thatís a slight on them, and they are unable to defend themselves here in this Legislature.
We know exactly who these people are. That is unfair and those statements should be withdrawn by the member opposite.
Speaker: Mr. Hardy, on the point of order.
Mr. Hardy: Mr. Speaker, there is no point of order; itís just a difference of opinion.
Speaker:Itís the Chairís opinion that there is no point of order; however, one should be careful when addressing the Chamber that one ensures that one is not maligning members of boards and committees who, as was pointed out, are not here to defend themselves.
However, there is no point of order. Please carry on.
Mr. Hardy: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I assure you Iím not maligning anyone. I have already ó if the member opposite would have listened very closely, I included all people as having skills and qualifications. But, as is public knowledge, as has already been in the public, as has already been stated, including by some people who have been put on the boards ó they are on there because of their party affiliation. That has already been said publicly. I am only saying what has been said publicly by some people who are on these boards and committees.
Some Hon. Member: Point of order.
Point of order
Speaker:Member for Southern Lakes, on a point of order.
Mr. Rouble: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 19(g), Iím very concerned about the member oppositeís comments, in that I feel he is imputing false or unavowed motives to members of our Assembly. What others might have said outside of the Assembly has no bearing on what our hon. members have said. The line that the hon. member opposite is going down ó it is very distasteful and offensive to me as a member of the Assembly to suggest that there are ulterior or hidden or unscrupulous motives that were used to nominate people to these boards. I find that his continuing on in this vein is putting forward, again, false and unavowed motives to the hon. members who put these people on these boards and committees.
Speaker: Member for Kluane, on the point of order.
Mr. McRobb: Mr. Speaker, I would submit there is no point of order. The rookie MLA is obviously just too thin-skinned.
I would also like to draw to your attention that it is against the Rules of the House to suggest, as the member did ó regarding the contempt for the Legislature. So, in effect, in his own point of order he broke the House rules.
Speaker:I will take this point of order under advisement.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I do find it rather humorous that the House leader of the official opposition is referring to and assaulting the word "contempt" when his own leader of his party used it in his opening address. I agree with the Member for Southern Lakes. It is offensive. It should not be placed in this House. It has no place in this House. I suggest that I think this horse is finally dead.
Speaker: As the Chair said already, we will rule on this point of order. I believe that this point of order that the Minister of Environment is making sprung from the last one. I will give you my ruling tomorrow.
Please carry on, leader of the official opposition.
Mr. Hardy: There are very serious concerns about boards and committees ó very serious concerns about how people are being put on those. This is a view shared by the opposition members. It has been brought forward in Question Period. It was brought forward last year. Part of that concern is because the people who were supposed to be involved in the selection of appointments to boards and committees have not met probably over the course of the last year. Concerns we have on this side of the House are very legitimate, and it is a debate that is out in the public. It is a debate, if it is out in the public, that has a right to be in the Legislature. We are seeing in this budget once again a type of spending that has never been seen in the territory.
But it is reflective, if you go back in history, of 1996 when it was this very same party that went on a spending spree. Itís the same philosophy being applied. Then it was an election year and there was an attempt, of course, to persuade people to vote in a certain direction based upon the type of spending initiatives that were being presented. At that time and period, it was a very large ó well, massive. It was the largest budget ever presented, and we all know what happened: the government lost because the damage had been done over the course of a couple of years and people did not necessarily agree with the type of spending and the way it was being handled.
Weíre saying the same thing already.
Now, the Premier calls this the flagship, and he indicates that this is a spending spree and theyíre spending beyond their means and itís not going to happen again. So what kind of messaging is that that weíre dealing with here?
This year weíre allowed to have a spending spree. Next year, what are we going to have? I think a lot of people really need to know. Is this budget sustainable? Absolutely not. Is this type of spending sustainable? Absolutely not. There are people on the other side who are from businesses. Would they operate a business in this manner? Absolutely not.
But theyíre elected to the government and itís not their money. Itís the taxpayersí money. Why not go for it? Itís somebody elseís money.
Iíve already indicated that this is a boom-bust type of behaviour of this government. We had a bust first, we have a boom this time. Next year we donít know yet because itís really hard to get a reading on what direction this government is going in, especially when they say they have to contain spending, they have to have fiscal restraint and then go out a year later, bring in the biggest budget in history and have a massive amount of spending.
We hear talk, of course, of the bridge, which has the potential of being ó figures out there are anywhere from $30 million. Knowing how these projects go, we could quite easily see $35 million or $40 million. Itís not uncommon to see that.
I have had discussions with the Minister of Health about spending, about some of these projects that have gone on in the past. He has pointed out to me, from his perspective, that often what you pay for, you pay a substantial amount more by the time you finish paying for it. There are examples out there.
The bridge is another example. Has there been any cost analysis on it? What kind of impact will this bridge have? Are there studies we could sink our teeth into ó some kind of analysis that we will understand? Will this really have an impact on the tourist market? Itís questionable because there is no indication it will. What type of financing is being planned around this project? Itís $1.5 million that is identified in the budget. What studies have been done?
I know that the Premier has stood up and said that there have been studies done in the past. Are they applicable now? Are they current? Do they indicate costs? Do they indicate impacts ó whether they are environmental, community, whether itís long term, the impact that the future has on the territory governmentís financial picture? No, of course they are not; they are quite old.
They were feasibility studies. They were looking at the project. What has been done since then? It has been quite a few years.
As I said, what kind of financing? Are we talking about P3s? Iíve already heard from the Yukon Party that this is going to be a P3 project. If thatís the case and thatís the direction that this government is going in, then tell us who theyíve been talking to. What kind of P3s are they talking about? What work has already been done to justify the direction they are going in on this project? What kind of impact will an expenditure on the bridge have on all the other very important and necessary projects throughout the territory, if any?
These are the questions weíre asking. We would like to get some answers on this and have informed debate on both sides. Because weíre not getting it from that side. All weíre getting is P3, build a bridge, and the sun will come up the next day and everybody will be happy. Problems within the community ó they are split about the bridge. There is some very vigorous debate. What has been done to go down and have that debate in the town of Dawson City? Has the MLA hosted a public meeting? I would expect any MLA with a project of this size going into their riding to host a public meeting to have that informed discussion to get the perspectives. Has that happened in Dawson City?
What about the loans? We still have outstanding problems around that. The public is not accepting the final solution of the Premier. Theyíre not accepting it. Theyíre angry over it.
On Thursday, I asked the Premier to pull back, letís take a look at this again. Your solution, what you feel would meet the requirements of resolving these outstanding loans ó and there are not many of them left. Some of them are federal loans; some of them are territorial. Itís my understanding that the feds do not want theirs going to any collection agencies. They will deal with it themselves. So how many loans does that actually leave left? Out of the 1,500 ó I donít have the figure in front of me. I know there were something like 68 loans. But remove the federal component out of it, and it might be 60, 50 ó I donít know, a very small amount. But the solution that was brought forward could put some small, struggling businesses into bankruptcy.
That is not what we on the opposition side want, so we ask: pull back, let us find a solution to this, one that is acceptable to the people of this territory. It is their taxpayer dollar; let us make sure that the people of this territory agree with it. Of course, now there is the problem, the difficulty of having two Cabinet ministers who owe a substantial amount ó $400,000. That is also a very sore point, and that is finances. I believe there is a solution that would be able to address the concerns of the Cabinet ministers as people who borrowed that money, as well as indicate to the public that this is a good solution. What we are seeing is a wrong direction to go in, and of course it is an issue that will not go away. It will not go away because if you walk down the street, if you go into the communities, if you talk to small businesses, if you talk to individuals, if you talk to single mothers, if you talk to people who are struggling on welfare, and you talk to other people who owe money to banks, trying to make their payments, this is the one they bring up. Everywhere you go, this is the one that they are judging this government on. It is the loans, and the failure to address them properly.
The environment ó this is a budget that has indicated that the environment has a very low ranking on issues of concern, and that is why this is a budget with a very short vision, extremely short. In this day and age and with what is happening to our water around the world and within Canada, with our air around the world and within Canada, with our land, with our wildlife, with the illnesses and the increase and the problems in agriculture, with SARS, with all those things happening, you cannot pretend that the environment is not a major part of every single thing you do.
But this is a budget that does. This is a government that does.
I know they brag about their to-do list. I believe there are two to-do lists that the Yukon Party government has and I would suspect one of them is to get rid of any issues around the environment ó to crush them.
You could talk to many industries and they will tell you that they want stability. The budget doesnít give us that because itís a flip-flop type. But they also want to know that the environment is being protected in a manner that they can work with. All I see is a government that has walked away from their responsibilities.
Now this government ó time and time again the Premier goes to many, many economic forums and speaks at them and has many champagne parties for the development industry, but I donít see any when it comes to the environment. Frankly, there is no work of substance on the toughest policy on the table today ó and has been for many, many years ó and that is mediating the differences between a development industry and the environmental community. It is finding the common values and goals of each and bringing them forward together, not taking one and removing them completely from the table and allowing another one free access. Thatís not long term. Thatís not planning for our children and grandchildren ó some of us already have grandchildren and itís quite a shock when you get to that age ó or great-grandchildren, the ones to come. Thatís not planning for them. That is planning for the immediate. Itís short-sighted, negative and dangerous because somebody will have to be responsible.
If you think about it, we are dealing with major contamination sites. We are dealing with mines that historically left huge messes without the ability to clean them up or the financial resources to clean them up. That was an old way of thinking and we are paying the price today.
Iíve heard estimates of over $200 million for the Faro mine to try to clean that up.
And that was because there were not the proper checks and balances and accountability and the awareness about the impact that mining was having on the environment and what was going to be left and put in place: some type of savings account or some kind of plan ó either ongoing or after ó that would allow people to continue working, but doing something to clean up after the extractions ó lessen the impact, walk away, leave a site that has the potential to support the natural environment.
That was what happened to us. We are dealing with those right now. What we are seeing is the same type of shift that caused those messes in the past. We are seeing them return again. What does that mean? It means 10, 20 years down the road, we are going to have a three or four times worse situation. Who is going to be responsible for it? How much is it going to cost them because we donít plan for the future now?
We are allowing the degradation of our environment if we continue in this manner, which is going to cause serious consequences for future generations. It will have an impact on our water. It will have an impact on our air. It will have an impact on the land. It will have an impact on people who live off the land. Of course it is going to have an impact on the First Nations. We are already finding major contaminants within the fish we eat, the animals you hunt. They can be traced very clearly to many of the events and actions of previous generations. And what are we doing? We are going to adopt that whole model again. I, for one, could not sleep at night if I were doing that. All for what ó a quick fix on the economic front? There is no crystal ball. There is no magic button you are going to push that is going to make the economy turn around overnight. I know the Premier said that. I stand to be corrected, but I think he alluded to a super tanker model. That is totally correct. I totally agree with him. It is a tremendous amount of hard work, diligent work, but that does not mean you abandon the environment, that you abandon long-range vision and planning that will have a negative impact on people after us.
And in many cases, it could impact people in here who are younger, if they stay here, as I heard from the member opposite. That is kind of a frightening picture, to think that some actions of the Yukon Party government today would drive people away because of contaminations down the road.
Now what about First Nations relationships, all the agreements that are being signed? Iíve always believed that agreements are not worth the paper theyíre written on if the follow-through isnít there. And in the budget address of March 25, 2004, the Premier admitted to the growing list of agreements, protocols, accords and initiatives that exist that they have been signing with the First Nations: an intergovernmental relations accord with the Vuntut Gwitchin government; a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for the corrections system, including the future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre; the Kaska bilateral agreement on management and development of resources in southeast Yukon; a protocol on consultation with self-governing First Nations; a Kaska Nation and Yukon forest agreement in principle; an agreement with Champagne and Aishihik First Nations on the beetle-killed areas in Kluane, and possibly there are even more that weíre not aware of because, in the Premierís short address, he might not have wanted to list them all because he might have talked for another two hours. That is fine. Signing agreements is great. Thatís actually not the hard part. As the First Nations are finding, once they have signed their self-government agreements, they may have taken a long time, it may have been a struggle, but they are also finding that the struggle continues, and if anything it gets even harder to try to implement them.
My concern is: what has been done? Signing agreements ó some of them I donít have a problem with, but I would like to see what the follow-up has been. I would like to hear the Premier tell me what resources, what direction, where the follow-up is, what about the agreement in here, a memorandum of understanding with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation for the corrections system, including the future replacement of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre? What discussions have happened since that agreement was signed? What work has been done?
That was one of the first ones that was signed, I believe, so weíre talking many months. What kind of dialogue has been ongoing? All these other agreements ó are they worth the paper theyíre written on? I doubt it, right now. What resources are being put toward this? What movement has happened on this?
Thereís a lot of comparison when you look at this budget. Thereís a lot of trying to sort through the messaging that has been put out. I found it quite curious that in almost every budget address you look at, within the first three or four pages, thereís a really strong reference toward the settlement of land claims, honouring the relations around land claims, and moving forward.
With this one, you get up to page 28 before you even start to address that ó pardon me, page 27 is, I believe, the first real mention of it, which is quite a contrast to the positions of every other government that has been in here, where they put it right up front and recognize that land claims need to be settled, the certainty needs to be in place, following through with implementation has to happen and the respect shown to all First Nations and all First Nation governments must be equal and abiding.
Looking at the budget, I see cuts in the First Nation relations and I see cuts in aboriginal language service, and I see cuts in intergovernmental relations. That does not indicate a strong commitment to me. I have to ask if this is just a bunch of words ó is that all this is? I would like to see the action, the real action, in this regard: equal and valuable action.
What about equal distribution for the communities? Many of my colleagues are from the communities and they have some concerns and they are going to be talking about those. We do find some communities that are not seeing much benefit where others are seeing a huge investment. We have to wonder what those reasons are. In comparison, there is $5.8 million for government computer equipment ó how much for a serious crisis that this territory has faced for a long time and needs a very committed commitment, and that is violence against families, against women and children? $5.8 million for government computers but $100,000 for that. Thatís where your priorities stand with this budget.
Looking at it another way: $5.8 million for government computer equipment; $15,000 to deal with computer solid waste. $15,000: youíre talking about a massive influx of new equipment and you only allocated $15,000 to deal with the very serious problem that has been growing around the world of computer solid waste. That is the same thing you can use in comparing education and jobs.
Iíve heard a lot of talk about economic activity that is going to take off. Of course, with the Canada Winter Games, the projects happening there, the investment from all levels of government, First Nations, municipalities, the territory and federal governments all contributing substantial amounts of money for projects all over this territory, how much money is being put for training or retraining? It doesnít match. It doesnít even come anywhere near. So what does that mean? Workers will have to come in from Outside to do these projects because we do not have enough training in place, we do not have programs up and running, we are not preparing the youth of today or other people who need to be retrained in other areas so they can work?
It doesnít match. It doesnít match at all. You can be talking $150 million or $160 million, minimum, that is going to be spent over the next couple of years, and youíre talking about $500,000 for training. That doesnít match. Thatís not planning. Thatís not anticipating the needs. Thatís not looking at a budget in a whole manner. Itís looking at it in pieces.
The Dawson City bridge and a sewage lagoon ó itís $30 million plus for a bridge but we still donít know how it is going to be financed or what is happening, and in this budget, $1.5 million is being spent this year. But we still have a problem with the sewage treatment up there that has to be addressed.
Tax cuts for business ó the Premier makes a big deal out of taking the small business tax base down from six to four, I believe, and matching it with Nunavut, Alberta ó Iím not sure if it includes Northwest Territories ó probably three or four they are matching it with.
There is no increase to social assistance ó zero, absolutely zero. I do not see and I have never heard a single announcement of an increase to the rates being paid to social assistance recipients ó many of whom are struggling and trying to get a foot up and be able to feed their children. Many of them are working poor who need that small amount of assistance just to make it month by month. Now, I have heard the Premier across the way mumbling some figures but I didnít see any increase in the rates.
We have a problem with the jail. Thereís still nothing happening there. Iíve already talked about all these agreements that the Premier loves to wave around and have little press conferences about. What has happened? Where are we at with the jail? Where are we at with the programming? What kind of negotiations are happening with the Kwanlin Dun First Nation as well as with the others that would be involved? There has been no announcement about that, no follow-up on that. It has been practically a year since those announcements were made. What has happened? Instead, the Premier runs off and signs some more accords, protocols, understandings, whatever he can find to get another press release. But where is the follow-up on all these? And the jail is a serious concern. It is not a safe working environment, and it is not safe for the inmates who are up there. When is that going to be addressed?
This is the big, spending-spree budget that wonít happen again. The Premier said that very clearly. He has made a conscious decision to spend a massive amount of money this year, but itís not going to happen again. So where is the jail going to fit into this? Where is the Minister of Justice? Is she not fighting for it? Is the bridge more important than the jail? Weak. In my own riding, we have very strong concerns about what is happening.
There are concerns about the waterfront development. I was looking at some of the plans, and itís very exciting. It looks like there is going to be a lot of activity, but people do have some concerns. They want to be involved; they want to know whatís happening, clear away. They want to know what kind of progress is going to happen and how itís going to be developed, what role the territorial government has in that, what impact will it have on Main Street and the Main Street area, as they continue to try to survive? And they are struggling, thereís no question about it. Theyíre putting up a strong front. I think theyíre working really hard, but there are some serious concerns in my riding about whatís going to happen in the downtown core, and I believe they need help.
I am hoping that the territorial government keeps an open-door policy to them and tries to work with them to find ways to increase activity in the downtown area ó not so much down in the new development area but in the old downtown Whitehorse. If that means ensuring that the government keeps their workers in that area and invests in this core area, that would help.
We have serious problems with crime and we need assistance in that area. I know that many of my constituents talk about that. And they are concerned about the schools and the future of the two schools that exist in the downtown area. There has been a lot of talk ó I know that the Liberals tried to close one of them and make changes to another, and the people spoke. They spoke very strongly, so they had to back off on that.
I would like to hear from the Minister of Education what the plans are for the future of these schools, because they are old. They are quite unique in what they are presenting right now ó both of them. Are there any plans down the road to expand some of the programs, to maybe look at some alternatives in that area? I know theyíve talked about the alternative school idea. Is that even planned to be integrated in the two buildings and some of the activities that already happen down there? If not, I would like to know ó and I know that some people in the downtown area would like to know.
What about the F.H. Collins replacement? Thatís a serious problem that gets talked about year after year. At some point that has to be dealt with.
This is the spending budget. I would expect to see some monies put there for studies or progress reports on that. It has been on the list for a long, long time and it has to be addressed.
There are a lot of concerns. I hear a new economic directionÖ I am going to wrap up here. I had to chuckle to myself reading ó
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Mr. Hardy: Do not worry on the other side. I have no intention of speaking for two hours and 10 minutes.
I did get quite a chuckle in reading the new economic direction and yet all around that it is "re-establish", "re-invent", "re-, re-, re-". Many of these initiatives and ideas are all coming from previous governments, most particularly the NDP. If this is what they think is a new direction, re-establishing many of the very good initiatives or strengthening the great ideas of the NDP, so be it. I know the Liberals did not like it, and they removed some of them. In some areas, I applaud this government for recognizing a good idea with regard to the NDPís initiatives from before and re-establishing them.
I also want to thank the government. I very much support their movement on the funding for the daycares. That is an excellent initiative, as well as the million dollars being given to the College, which is long overdue and definitely needed. Both of those are for the future. They are for our children; they are for education and are very positive. There are some good things in this budget, but along with those, there really are some questionable expenditures, and I think I have touched on them. My colleagues will be talking about them as well. I look forward to Committee debate where we can really get in-depth with the line-by-line items and the spending and have that debate there. As I said earlier, it is really my hope that this government will consider more carefully the debate and our perspective on this side and not just put up the wall and say that we have nothing to offer, only them. That is not the way I believe the parliamentary system was ever supposed to operate and it definitely does not serve all people.
As I said earlier, territorial governments in the past have altered their budgets based upon some of the proposals and suggestions brought forward by the opposition. Iím hoping this group here has the openness to be willing to do that as well.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Rouble: It is indeed my honour and pleasure to respond today to the Premierís budget speech and to recommend that all members of our Legislative Assembly support this budget.
Mr. Speaker, this is a budget for Yukoners by Yukoners. This budget started with the Yukon Partyís platform priorities and philosophies. These were positively endorsed by the electorate. We put forward a vision and a plan, and Iíve stated that vision and plan countless times in this Assembly.
This budget was created with the input of all Yukoners. There were countless meetings in communities all across the territory. In the beautiful Southern Lakes, the Premier came out to meetings in Carcross, Marsh Lake and Tagish, where people contributed many ideas and concerns. Mr. Speaker, we listened.
There were ideas and criticisms put forward by the opposition and other critics. We listened and considered their positions. Mr. Speaker, we have been criticized and accused of stealing their good ideas. Well, as a government we have said, "If you have a good idea, weíll listen to it." The Members of the Legislative Assembly who sit on the other side of the House have presented good ideas on behalf of their constituents, and we have listened. If the biggest criticism that we have as a government is implementing some of their ideas, well, I guess thatís just something weíll have to learn to live with.
Weíve also, as a government, worked on the revenue side of our financial statements.
That certainly had a significant change. There was a change caused by the census undercount. The trajectory of transfer payments changed. There was an increase in health care funding. There was the dissolution of a couple of funds, so our revenue side has changed. This isnít information that we had over a year ago when preparing the last budget.
We looked at all this information and crunched the numbers. Our extremely talented public service examined the situation and came up with options and initiatives. We, again, listened and analyzed the information. We recognize that not everything can be done at once and that there has to be a balance.
Mr. Speaker, we put forward a vision, listened openly to input, considered and analyzed information, and now we are putting forward a budget that responds to the needs and abilities of the territory. Itís an excellent, solid budget. Itís a budget that recognizes our financial limitations and one that responds to the needs of the territory and invests in the long-term fabric of our community.
We have put forward a budget that will build a sustainable economy, improve the health of Yukon communities and achieve a better quality of life for all Yukoners. We are doing what we committed to do.
In the Premierís budget speech, he detailed some of the budget highlights that will have the effect of putting our fiscal house in order and setting the future agenda, building a sustainable and competitive Yukon economy, focusing on strategic industries and projects, building healthy communities and implementing our social agenda, and formalizing a government-to-government relationship with First Nations and building partnerships.
The ministers will be very busy detailing all the programs and initiatives in these areas.
These are the needs of the territory, and we are responding ó and we are responding with the political will.
Additionally, we have heard over and over again: do what you can to get the economy on track. This is a tremendous priority for Yukoners and this budget significantly responds to these Yukonersí concerns. We are definitely taking action and this budget will get the economy rolling.
As we all know, there are tremendous constraints when going through a budgeting process, and this budget balances many of these constraints. This budget considers immediate, short-term, medium-term and long-range needs. There are short-term stimuli and there are significant long-term investments. There is certainly a balance.
There are several highlights in the budget that address many of the needs and concerns of the people from the beautiful Southern Lakes, and I would like to bring them to your attention.
Premier Fentie announced that both the Whitehorse waterfront and the Carcross waterfront projects would qualify under the federal strategic infrastructure program. Now, these are both excellent community development programs, programs designed to revitalize the downtown core. They will have a tremendous impact on the tourist appeal and on the quality of life in living in these communities. Everyone wants to live in a beautiful place. We certainly have the natural beauty around us, now it is time to clean up our yard, so to speak. These projects will certainly have short-term stimuli, short-term employment and long-term increases in the quality of life and a long-term increase in the attractiveness of our communities.
There have been discussions with Governor Murkowski of Alaska that have indicated a desire to see the White Pass and Yukon Route railroad return to Whitehorse, and our government will facilitate discussions with the State of Alaska and White Pass to determine the possibility of how this can be expedited. Again, another program with short-term, medium-term employment and investment in our community with a long-term increase in our infrastructure, infrastructure that our community needs, infrastructure that we can build on to build our economy and build our communities.
The Premier announced major work that would be done this summer on the Tagish Road to bring the road up to standards ó $1.5 million will be spent in 2004, 2005, and additional funds in the next year. Again, short-term investment into economic stimuli and a long-term investment into our infrastructure.
$140,000 has been designated for the planning and design of a community centre in Marsh Lake. Mr. Speaker, Marsh Lake as a community is arguably one of the four largest communities in the territory, and itís a community that has gone largely ignored by past governments. Again, here we are, a situation where weíll have some short-term stimulus, get the economy going, a building project thatís significant for the area, and a long-term investment in the social fabric of the community.
Clean water, which the member opposite was discussing ó itís a fundamental service, and there are a number of initiatives announced in this regard as well as programs designed to ensure that Yukoners have access to safe, affordable, clean drinking water. Weíll also have the well drilling program.
Mr. Speaker, in the budget, it reinstates the community development fund and FireSmart to the original funding levels of $3.5 million for community development fund and $1.5 million for FireSmart ó again, protecting our communities from wildfire and building and investing in the social fabric of our community. Funding of $300,000 is being provided in 2004-05 for the development of the Carcross-Tagish First Nation heritage cultural centre to showcase their heritage ó Iím sorry if I sound like a broken record, Mr. Speaker, but, again, short-term stimuli, long-term investment in an infrastructure, additional infrastructure in the social fabric of our communities as well as living up to an obligation under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Our government is also going to upgrade the hourly rate for volunteer firefighters, recognizing the significant contribution that they make to our communities and demonstrating our respect for all of their hand work, efforts and, indeed, their sacrifices. Specifically, for the Marsh Lake, Tagish, Carcross and Mount Lorne area, funds are being made available to pay volunteer firefighters to be on-site during extreme fire warning days this summer.
A further $65,000 will be made available to increase the contributions available to communities under the winter activities programs. The communities of Tagish, Marsh Lake and Mount Lorne will now be supported throughout the summer activities programs, investing in youth, investing in our education and investing in our communities.
We recognize that this budget will do a lot of good and we recognize that there are still items on our to-do list. We are working toward them. I think that all members will agree that everything canít be done in one budget but that this budget sets the stage for future action.
There are many other good things that I could say about this budget but there are pressing issues in this Assembly ó for example, there is an interim supply bill that needs to be debated and passed ó but I would like to share a few closing comments.
Our economy needs to prosper and our communities need to grow and develop but we canít do it at all costs. We will continue to ensure the protection of the land that we all love. I am sure that the Minister of Environment will have more detail on that.
There are many demands on government and we have to respond to them within our fiscal restraints. We must always be conscious that we are using taxpayersí dollars to build a better place to live. We also have to remember that the Premier said to not expect a budget like this next year because, with our current revenues, we simply canít sustain this level of spending.
We recognize there will be criticisms of this budget, criticisms that we didnít do enough, did too much or did the wrong things. As we have demonstrated, Mr. Speaker, we have listened to the opposition in the past, and it has made a difference. So I would ask all members ó on this side of the Assembly and on the other ó to be specific in their criticisms. What would they like to see changed? What would they add? What would they take out in its place? We canít all just add to this budget; we must live within the fiscal constraints.
This is an excellent, balanced budget, and Iím sure that all members will agree it reacts to the situation of today, plans for tomorrow and will help all Yukoners enjoy a better quality of life. I positively endorse this budget and encourage all members to do so.
Thank you for your attention.
Mr. Arntzen: As my colleague before me has already stated, I agree and am very pleased to recommend this budget to all Yukoners. About a year and a half ago, Yukoners selected this government but its most important job was rebuilding the Yukonís private sector economy. Well, Mr. Speaker, weíre starting to see the turnaround already. It is occurring.
At the end of February, we saw 500 more Yukoners employed over last yearís numbers. Also at the end of February, we saw a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of seven and a half percent ó the lowest rate since 1992.
In addition to this, figures for the third quarter of 2003 demonstrated that the Yukonís population has increased by 293 people.
Consulting and working collaboratively with Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners will continue these trends in future years. There is no doubt.
Some of the items within this budget that I believe have great significance to my constituents are, for example, the $1.8 million that has been allocated to bring 12 new beds into Copper Ridge Place, and also seven more beds into Macaulay Lodge. This will increase the level of care for Yukon seniors.
A mainstay of Yukonís economy is, and has always been, the mining industry. Therefore, in this budget we have allocated $500,000 for the Yukon mineral exploration training program. Also, the Yukon mineral tax credit has been extended for another three years. This can only be good news for the mining industry and also for our youth being able to participate in a training program.
The infrastructure projects in the Yukon are very important to us, such as in transportation and other projects. For my constituents, in particular, the $3.2 million allocated for the Hamilton Boulevard upgrade will not only create jobs but, most importantly, it will improve the safety for the travelling public using that road.
Whatever mode of transportation you use, the fact that there is an upgrade through the bicycle lanes, walking trails and ski trails along Hamilton Boulevard will enhance that safety for all. And, of course, installing the third lane for vehicle travel can only improve the safety and traffic flow.
Also, Mr. Speaker, the $17-million improvement on the Shakwak Highway project and the $4.8-million improvements on the Campbell Highway upgrades will also create jobs for many of my constituents. This is good news.
An increase in the health and start-up of small businesses is expected from the small business corporation tax rate reduction from six percent to four percent. Another very important component of our Yukon is education. It is also a very important component for us in the government. Therefore, another $1.5 million has been budgeted for a community training fund, with $500,000 earmarked for trade training, which some may say is long overdue and I believe that is correct. Also, another $335,000 has been budgeted for alternative path schools to encourage our youth to complete their schooling ó another initiative perhaps overdue.
Tourism and culture is yet another mainstay of the Yukon and Whitehorse economies. Commitments in this area have been demonstrated by this governmentís financial support for Whitehorse waterfront development, aboriginal cultural centres and the 2007 Canada Winter Games.
Mr. Speaker, this budget continues that support. For example, thereís $500,000 for a tourism cooperative marketing fund; another $425,000 for the Whitehorse waterfront trolley expansion to improve downtown visitor levels, and also $200,000 for the decade of sports and culture initiative.
Finally, I would like to point out to Yukoners that this budget has provided another opportunity for this government to fulfill more of its platform and campaign promises to Yukoners, such as no tax or fee increases, $1.5 million for the community training fund that I mentioned earlier; $335,000 has been budgeted for alternative path schools ó I also mentioned that ó additional commitments to FireSmart and the CDF; $370,000 for additional senior housing; increased funding for childcare; $320,000 for an FASD action plan, and also an increase to the Yukon excellence award program and $600,000 for multi-level care facilities in Watson Lake and Dawson City.
Facilitating the Kaska-Teck Cominco agreement on the R15 claim block again demonstrates this governmentís commitment to working with First Nations in improving or in promoting resource development in the traditional territories.
Finally, thereís our governmentís longest standing commitment of $1.5 million for the planning of a Yukon River bridge at Dawson City.
In closing, Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the Premier, my government colleagues and all other government officials for their long and hard work in formulating and producing this very fine budget.
Mrs. Peter: I have brought forward many concerns in this House on behalf of my constituents in areas of social program delivery ó and more ó especially very recently, in the area of dental needs and optometry services for Old Crow. We lack these services in our community, and I will continue to voice those concerns on behalf of my constituency.
Education of our children is one of the highest priorities, and we have always said that. That is one of the reasons that the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has always put our own financial resources toward those needs. In 1997, the physical development plan for Old Crow was completed. This in-depth planning was done by the leadership with direction and guidance from community members, with commitment, patience, consistent messages to the government, and hard work by many good people of our community and outside. I would like to congratulate this government for their dollars committed to the projects in Old Crow. We have finally come around to some progress.
This government now knows, after shouldering some of the costs of the Cat train that recently went to Old Crow, the high costs to address these types of projects planned for our community.
The high cost of living has always been a reality for the people of Old Crow. When these types of projects are completed, then we can look forward to the future.
At the last public meeting that I held in my community before I came down here, I heard first-hand the priorities of my people. The elders spoke loud and clear about their concerns for the future generations. I make sure that when I hold these public meetings in Old Crow I relay the messages and concerns that I have from my office in Whitehorse about bringing the messages of my people to this forum and the challenges that I face in this environment.
We have to be clear, as representatives of our people. I have to do my homework. One of my main responsibilities, I believe, in the Legislature here is to educate my colleagues about our people. Our people are isolated from the rest of the territory. When you hear that word "Gwichíin", I believe you get a vision in your mind about a people who are almost disconnected from the rest of the territory. Yet, we are a part of the Yukon.
We have to build our case constantly to government about what our needs are so that we will be listened to, so that our needs and the priorities of our community will be heard over and over again until one day we can make progress in whatever project we bring forward. We continue to be concerned about the future of the Porcupine caribou herd. While this government enjoys a close relationship with the Alaska government, making huge plans, jointly planning the bridges in our territory, the pipeline that is going to impact and affect our people, the railroads that are going to connect the State of Alaska to the Yukon Territory, the roads to resources that are being planned to access natural resources throughout the territory, to tap into the oil and gas interests and industries that we have, what do I get as an MLA who represents a people who are fighting for their very survival? A letter signed by three party members, three party leaders in this Legislature so that the government can say that they have made and fulfilled their commitment, that, yes, I signed that letter. We are concerned and, in the meantime, we have all these plans taking place that do not include us.
We have oil and gas interests that are going to take place within our traditional territory. The elders of my community spoke loud and clear about that. On one hand, weíre fighting for our survival; on the other hand, we have these interests in our own back yard. Where is the balance in that? Just two weeks ago, we had four people who came back from addressing the Porcupine caribou issue in Washington, D.C. Even though we have no financial support from any governments in this country, weíre still making progress on that front. That has to say a lot for the people of Old Crow.
I bring that forward because I recall very clear commitments on the part of the Yukon Party in the platform that they brought forward a couple of years ago, and weíre still waiting for those financial commitments so that we can continue to fight for the survival of our people with one of the biggest industries in this world.
The intergovernmental relations accord that was signed with VGFN spells out very clearly our priorities. I believe that progress is being made on that front. The meetings that are taking place between our chief and the Premier give us lots of hope.
And I congratulate the Premier on that front, because the people of Old Crow are being listened to when he is speaking to the leader of our people.
If any members of this Legislature, Mr. Deputy Speaker, have ever had the opportunity to witness and to listen to the elders of our community, when they speak in our language about their concerns regarding our land and our animals, their concerns about our people losing our language, when you hear them talk about the environment, the way the justice system is failing our people, how our children today need the best education possible, how we need to take care of our young children, of our youth, the health and social concerns and the impacts of alcohol and drugs in our community ó when you hear that in our own language, and the elders share with all sincerity from their heart, these messages cannot be taken lightly.
This budget before us is the largest budget ever introduced in the history of the Yukon and it is geared toward a boom-and-bust economy. I have heard it said before that we will never pass this way again. With this type of spending and with these types of dollars going toward industry, people are going to make money, yes, and that is a good thing. On the other hand, I ask you: what are we going to leave for our children and grandchildren? We will have lots of improved facilities and lots of huge infrastructure. What kind of legacy are we going to leave behind? That is the concern out there from the grassroots people of this territory.
In the area of environment, there have been some decisions made, some decisions withdrawn, and lots of controversial issues brought forward by the minister himself, yet there is very little to address those concerns.
This causes a lot of uncertainty out there for the Yukon people.
In the last few years weíve talked a lot about climate change. What about the impacts that it has on the hunters and trappers? I believe that our territory is made up of people who love to live out on the land.
What about the parks that we need to create in order to protect some of this beautiful country that we have in the Yukon? What happened to the land use planning processes? I know that there are a few of them that have taken off or are starting up again. Donít we have the responsibility under the Umbrella Final Agreement, under the land claim agreements ó this government-to-government relationship that seems to be out there? What about the issue that has been brought forward by the people about killing off the wolves, just so you can get them out of the way? What about that? Whatís the solution around that?
In the area of justice, how long are the people who are employed at that facility, and the inmates at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó how long do they have to wait to have a half-decent place to work and a half-decent place to lay down at night or to have programs and issues addressed?
We are waiting for a decision.
What about this smoking ban at Whitehorse Correctional Centre that is going to happen fairly soon, if it has not happened already? What about the loss of confidential information that is floating around out there and nobody wants to answer to that? If I were an inmate locked up for 24 hours and had to deal with added pressures like that from outside, I cannot imagine what that might lead to: maybe more outbreaks like the riot they had a couple of months ago.
The Chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation is ready and willing to speak with government to make progress on this front, but there is very little acknowledgement from this government. Those are the areas that need progress, that need to be taken very seriously.
The women of the Yukon made their voices loud and clear on the failure of the justice system in dealing with violence, not only in this territory but other jurisdictions. I attended a rally a few weeks ago that was organized by various groups in the city and the comments I heard shocked me.
Thirty years ó it has taken 30 years and weíre still addressing the same issues that the women 30 years ago were addressing in this territory. I could not believe that, but there it is in black and white. They say silence is one of the worst indicators, and yet we have heard very little from people that we need to. All leaders in this territory, for all levels of government, I believe, need to be outspoken in this area to ensure that our message is out there that says that violence within our society is unacceptable. The impacts that it has on family, on communities and nations as a whole are shocking. The statistics alone send a strong, clear message out there.
We are the role models today for the youth of tomorrow. All too often we like to use that phrase that "the youth are so important," that "the youth of today are our leaders for tomorrow," yet how much time do we give them? When was the last time that we have sat down and actually really spent some time with a young person?
They make us proud. We had a group of young athletes from my community attend the Arctic Winter Games and they all came back with medals. But the experience itself is going to enrich their lives. Imagine coming from a small community of not even 200 people and going to an event like that, experiencing other cultures and seeing how people live. Those are the kinds of positive impacts that we need to have on our young people of today ó to take their hand and say, "Yes, this is how I have experienced it. We know that itís challenging but we know you can do it." The coaches and people who take the time in our community to do that kind of volunteer work are too often not acknowledged. Or there are only a few volunteers that we have in our communities that we rely on for everything.
In a big centre like Whitehorse the challenges are much greater ó they are overwhelming, I could say ó dealing with alcohol and drug problems. Because of their situations, sometimes they become homeless. They have nowhere to go. When they are in that situation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, there are many predators out there who could take advantage of these situations. Where are we? Where are we when thatís happening?
The education system in our territory has always been a good, thick question ó the quality of education for our students. How do the students from rural communities address their issues when they come to Whitehorse? That is one of the biggest questions out there today. Parents are very concerned. The students coming into Whitehorse now are getting younger and younger. I know in my community that the majority of students planning to leave in September to come to Whitehorse are girls, young women. Of course their families are going to be concerned. What kind of juggling and what kind of pressure is put on families in the community so that their teenagers can attend high school? These students need options and choices.
We had a meeting in the community of Old Crow about a month ago, and most of these concerns were voiced to the people involved at that time. While we try to take responsibilities at the community level to address all these different issues that affect and impact our people, we need a government to help us, to partner with us, to step up to the plate.
A lot of the capital projects that are being addressed today we appreciate. That will get the people in the community working. But what about the other social aspect of that? Everything that I brought forward today has been long-standing, and I will continue to bring those concerns forward.
So, in closing, I would just like to say that I will address these issues more in-depth in departmental debates.
Mr. Cathers: It gives me great pleasure to rise today in response to the budget, which our government has just tabled. Mr. Deputy Speaker, I believe that this is an excellent budget. A lot of hard work went into preparing this by members of our caucus, by the staff of Cabinet and caucus, and officials in every department of the Yukon government. And everyone should be commended for their hard work.
This budget is, as all budgets should be, about balance. This is balanced short-term, mid-term and long-term stimulus for the economy. It is balanced spending to create economic benefit and spending to increase the protection and assistance on the social side in matters such as the field of health. The basis for this budget began with election commitments made to Yukoners in the platform that members of our government ran on in 2002, and it continued on with the experiences we had in government with responding to the needs of Yukoners, with the day-to-day operations. Responding to the needs of Yukoners is something that most of us do on a daily basis with our constituents. We take what they have to tell us, and every action we make is based on this ongoing learning experience of how it is affecting the lives of Yukoners.
It also includes budget tour meetings such as were held around the Yukon, including ó I am very pleased to say ó at the Hootalinqua fire hall in my riding of Lake Laberge. Lake Laberge is historically missed in budget tours, and I am very pleased that we had a strong turnout at that meeting. Of course, as you know, I have held a number of public meetings in my riding. I made a commitment during the election to hold a minimum of three per year and, of course, I am very pleased to say that I held more than that in 2003, and my meeting tomorrow night will be the second of this year, not including the budget tour meeting, which was co-hosted by the Premier and me in my riding.
The opposition criticizes us first for stealing good ideas from other parties, and then they accuse us of not listening to them. I believe that the record shows clearly that our government listens to good ideas from others. It is simply a matter that we do not accept every single idea they put forward. But I have enjoyed listening to the comments from the members opposite, and I look forward to the rest of debate on this budget from both sides of the House.
I will be interested to see if the member of Kluane rises during second reading since he tabled a motion on Thursday stating that second reading was unnecessary, and I found that to be an interesting event considering he tabled it as a motion of urgent and pressing necessity, and it was so urgent and pressing that the Member for Kluane apparently could not remember whether he was going to table it or not. But it is good to see that the Member for Kluane has not lost his sense of humour.
On to items from the budget ó I believe that there are a number of very positive initiatives, and to even begin to touch on them would take up quite a bit of time this afternoon, so I will hit on a few of the highlights. I believe that the allocation of $162 million to the capital budget ó the largest capital budget in Yukonís history ó is very important, especially with its focus on creating stimulus to the economy in the short, medium and long term. I believe it is a very balanced and very sensible approach, also important to revitalize the private sector, which is, of course, the engine of economic growth. Not only are there no tax increases, but this budget in fact cuts the small business corporate tax rate from six percent to four percent.
Additionally, it increases the small business tax deduction limit from $300,000 to $400,000, and these are very important initiatives in my view, Mr. Speaker. As well, the ongoing efforts of the Department of Finance, the business case for changes to the territorial funding formula, are very important for the long-term future of Yukon economic prosperity.
Mr. Speaker, an initiative in this budget that Iím very pleased to see is in response in large part to concerns by my constituents and constituents of other members of this House, and this is in regard to the increase in water delivery rates that we were faced with last summer. In this budget there is $700,000 allocated for a well-drilling program.
Iíd like to commend my constituents for their proactive action. A couple of constituents in particular, I know, started out the idea of this type of program around their coffee circles, and this resulted in numerous phone calls from constituents who urged us to take action in this regard. Iím very pleased that, in cooperation with my government colleagues, we have addressed this issue and taken a step toward addressing the problems faced by my constituents and other Yukoners in this area. This will create long-term, safe access for them to their own potable water source.
Another item that is very important to a number of my constituents was the funding of humane societies, particularly the $75,000 worth of annual funding that we have committed to for the Mae Bachur animal shelter. As well, thereís money in there for the Dawson City animal shelter. Iíd like to commend my constituents, a number of them, who continue to volunteer on an ongoing basis for the Mae Bachur animal shelter and have put quite a bit of effort into that and into the Yukon Humane Society. Your work is appreciated; your tireless volunteer hours have not gone unnoticed. We recognize the valuable work that youíre doing and the importance of the effect this has for our community ó our community of the Yukon as a whole is the meaning in this context ó and weíre pleased that we can provide an ongoing contribution in this regard.
The $1-million increase to the funding of Yukon College on an annual basis is another issue that was important to a number of my constituents, as well as constituents of my colleagues. This, of course, ties in very well with the commitments that we made in the election regarding our support for ongoing training and education of all Yukoners. I believe this is a very beneficial and important step that was taken. It has been a long time since the funding has been increased to the College, and I am very pleased that we have been able to do that.
There are other items in the education field that are important, like keeping our schools in place. In addition, $1 million was allocated for addressing immediate needs of the Yukon school system; the Minister of Education embarked on a tour over this past winter to meet with school councils on this issue. In addition to the money that has been spent on that in addressing the needs of schools, including Hidden Valley School ó the school within my riding ó there is money in this budget ó $500,000 ó for improvements to Porter Creek Secondary School. Additionally, there is $335,000 for an alternate path school, which is part of our commitment to providing alternative paths of learning for Yukoners, particularly with a focus on trades.
Additionally, the $1.5 million to a community training fund, with $500,000 directly allocated to trades training, is very important for achieving training of Yukoners for trades. We are experiencing a shortage of workers in this sector and this is only expected to increase. Our government has taken steps to provide Yukoners the opportunity to take advantage of those job openings.
It is also very important, in my view, that weíve continued the support for the Women Exploring Trades Conference to encourage women and girls who have traditionally felt those roles as something that were not open to them to seek employment in that field, because it is a very promising field of employment.
Another item of great importance to my constituents that I am very pleased has recently been announced is the purchase of a new fire truck for the Hootalinqua fire hall. The Hootalinqua fire response district is either the largest or second largest volunteer fire response district within the Yukon, I believe. The members of the volunteer fire department do a stellar job, but they felt they were faced with a deficiency in equipment ó the current truck simply did not have the engine power to address some of the terrain that they were faced with, particularly the steep hills, when fully loaded. These members have on a number of occasions responded to fires, and their response time, I believe, is extremely commendable. Itís important to provide them not only with the support but with the increased ability to get to a fire scene quicker and hopefully to prevent the loss of life and property.
Additionally, the $10-per-hour wage increase for volunteer firefighters is an important step in recognizing the contribution that volunteer firefighters make and the expenditure of their own financial resources that they are sometimes forced to make in ensuring that they are ready to respond to these calls.
For agriculture, Iím very pleased with the announcement made this weekend at the Yukon Agricultural Association annual general meeting by the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources that the agriculture policy framework transition money flowing from the federal government has been increased through the efforts of the Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources and his department from $190,000 to $270,000. Agriculture is a very important sector of the Yukon economy, and I believe that with a few efforts of well-targeted assistance in providing them with infrastructure that it can be brought to become a more mainstream industry that can in the future provide us with a far greater source of our food supply in Yukon stores. One thing that I believe is worthy of note is that the Yukon imports, I believe, 5,000 carcasses of beef per year to fulfill the food consumption needs of Yukoners. I see no reason why, with sensible development of the agriculture industry, a significant portion of that cannot be fulfilled by Yukoners and the money can stay in Yukon hands.
On another issue, the $500,000 for the Yukon mineral exploration training program I believe is a very important step in preparing Yukoners to be ready for the growing opportunities we are seeing that will result from the increase in mining exploration, which of course doubled last year and is expected to increase to $30 million this year.
Forestry agreements with the Kaska and the Champagne-Aishihik regarding their traditional territories and access to wood within there are also important to revitalizing the forestry sector. There are a number of opportunities. We are already seeing increases in building permits, the reduction in the unemployment rate and the first increase in the Yukon population in over six years. There are a number of indicators such as this, which might be characterized as leading-edge indicators of economic revitalization of the economic turnaround. There are a number of irons in the fire that all members of this government are working on. I know that each of us individually has been working to bring in new initiatives and new approaches that will provide economic benefit to the Yukon. I would invite the opposition to cooperate with us, to work together for the collective good of all Yukoners. If they have a good idea, feel free to approach us. Give me a phone call. I would assume that all members of this government caucus are open to meeting with members of the opposition to discuss potential initiatives and opportunities that we can work together on and create economic growth for all Yukoners.
I would be remiss if I omitted some of the efforts that we have done on the justice front, such as the ongoing consultation with First Nations regarding the future of corrections and the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and the family violence prevention programs we have put in place, the victim services worker that has been provided in the community of Watson Lake. There are a number of initiatives, which I am sure the Minister of Justice will outline in far greater detail later, but I believe that these initiatives are very important, that the issue of abuse is something that must be combated, that actions speak louder than words, and that this government is following through with actions rather than political rhetoric regarding the issue of domestic violence.
Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would urge members opposite to put aside partisan posturing and to support this budget and its many excellent initiatives.
Deputy Speaker: The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin.
Speaker: The hon. Premier.
Hon. Mr. Fentie: If I now speak, Iíll close debate, Mr. Speaker.
Speaker: Then why are you standing up?
Hon. Mr. Fentie: To be recognized. Itís now the oppositionís turn in rotation. If they do not want to debate, then I feel Iím compelled to stand and close debate on the issue.
Speaker: If the member now speaks, heíll close debate. Does any other member wish to be heard?
Point of order
Ms. Duncan:It has been interesting observing the antics of the members opposite today ó very interesting. I believe the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin had already been recognized before you recognized the Premier, Mr. Speaker. I would ask that the record or Hansard be examined to determine who in fact had the floor before the Premier stood up. The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin had been recognized.
Speaker:The Member for Pelly-Nisutlin stood up, was recognized, then declined; he therefore has used his position in the debate. The hon. Premier stood up and attempted to close debate. The leader of the third party stood up to make a point of order. There is no point of order. The Premier can stand up at any time and, if he speaks, will close debate.
So it is up to the House who would like to speak next. If the hon. Premier stands up, he will close debate if no other member wishes to speak.
Ms. Duncan: I would respectfully request that we not close debate and muzzle members of the House, that I, or someone else, be invited to speak. If I have the floor at the moment ó
Speaker: The leader of the third party has the floor.
Ms. Duncan: Thank you.
The performance by the members opposite this afternoon does not bode well for the remainder of the sitting, Mr. Speaker.
The Yukon Party government owes Yukon MP Larry Bagnell a big thank you for the 2004-05 territorial budget. Mr. Bagnell made an enormous contribution to the Yukonís coffers, lobbying in Ottawa endlessly with ministers. Without his efforts, the Government of Yukon would not be expending the financial largesse that they are.
Mr. Speaker, we also owe a large debt of thanks to officials, most notably the expertise in the Department of Finance, particularly in intergovernmental relations. Individuals in those offices work tremendously hard in a collegial fashion with the federal Department of Finance and others on the territoryís formula financing agreement ó and I note that we have not as yet signed a new one ó on this relationship and on the work that we have been doing, that has been done on the territoryís finances and in enabling the government to spend what they are. And the government is spending ó spending, spending, spending. Itís up more than $150 million over last year. The lionís share of it is because of Larryís success in achieving more money on social programs and infrastructure.
The Yukon Party, even with this good work, is still managing to spend almost $50 million more than it is going to take in this year. It has been interesting, listening to the Premier crowing about how this is the largest capital budget in history.
Speaker: Order please. To characterize a member as "crowing" is not parliamentary, and I would ask the member to withdraw that, please.
Withdrawal of remark
Ms. Duncan: Certainly, I withdraw that, Mr. Speaker. I meant no disrespect to our territorial bird, the raven.
The Premier has spoken at great length about how this is the largest capital budget in history. Itís equally as interesting, Mr. Speaker, to see the Premier ignore the fact that he has also tabled the largest operation and maintenance budget in history. The government is spending more on itself than any other government has in the history of the Yukon. Interestingly enough, it starts in the Cabinet office. The government has increased spending on itself by 24 percent ó more money for staff to follow around the ministers.
Of course, this increase is not unexpected, because the first thing the Yukon Party did was give senior staff in the Premierís office a 20-percent pay raise. That compares to the 2.5-percent increase that was given to Government of Yukon public servants. It tells you where the Yukon Partyís priorities are.
If you are a member of the Yukon Party or you work for the Premier, you are treated much differently than the average individual.
The increase in staffing costs alone in the Cabinet offices is 28 percent. Membership has its privileges.
During its first year in office, this government spent a great deal of time talking about how it had to reduce our dependence on Ottawa. Under the brave new world of the private sector Yukon Party, we would be more self-sufficient.
Well, Mr. Speaker, despite bold promises from the Yukon Party to lessen our reliance on Ottawa and become more self-sufficient, this budget proves the exact opposite has happened.
The Yukon Partyís own numbers show that territorial revenues make up a lower percentage of the budget than when they took office. So much for the promises of financial independence. If it wasnít for the Liberal government in Ottawa, we would be awash in red ink.
Again, Yukoners can thank our Member of Parliament for his efforts.
It was interesting to hear some of the government backbenchers talk about how the private sector economy is turning around. Donít kid yourselves over there, folks. The private sector in the Yukon is not getting any bigger; government spending is increasing.
Letís go through some of the numbers from Ottawa ó some of the projects our member has worked on: Canadian strategic infrastructure fund, $6.6 million; municipal infrastructure fund, $3.3 million; French language services, $1.3 million; French language programs, $1.2 million; airports, $3.1 million.
Now, Mr. Speaker, I could go on about these programs, and I could go on about ó and I will at a later point ó some of the concerns I have with the budget. I would, however, also like to offer my congratulations to the Yukon Party for implementing the Liberal plan to reduce the small business tax rate from six to four percent. It was a key part of our 2002 election platform ó it wasnít part of the Yukon Partyís. Iím glad they have taken this very good initiative, and small businesses will benefit as a result, and they will become more competitive with our southern and eastern counterparts. The Northwest Territories, British Columbia, and Alberta all have a lower tax rate. With the reduction from six to four percent, weíll be on a level playing field with businesses in those jurisdictions.
I am concerned ó very concerned ó in spite of that kudo to the government, about the fundamental unfairness we see throughout the budget and the details that were absent from the Premierís speech ó the Premierís lengthy speech.
Unfairness. Why was one community singled out in a disparaging fashion over all the others? A whole paragraph was dedicated to it, to the City of Dawson. It is not a secret that there are tough financial times. There are in other communities as well. But for the government opposite to single out one community strikes me as unfair. It also strikes me as unfair, Mr. Speaker, the way decisions were made and the way capital spending was allocated in the budget. Decisions were made for certain ridings at the expense of the whole Yukon. As Yukoners and as legislators in this Assembly, we have a responsibility, an obligation. We have a commitment to the people we serve to ensure that the Whitehorse Correctional Centre ó and the minister has been tripping over the dirt that was turned on that facility for almost two years now ó is rebuilt. The allocation of half a million dollars, which has not been able to be spent, is not enough of an effort ó nowhere close. Somehow the government has ignored that moral responsibility and chosen instead to build a bridge in the Deputy Premierís riding, a bridge over the river.
It is unfortunate, perhaps, given the importance of music in our lives, that whistling is not allowed in the legislature, or we could all have a chorus.
It is also interesting that the lengthy speech by the Premier went on about a number of individuals and a number of initiatives. He took credit for them. The securing of the Canada Winter Games for the Yukon had nothing to do with the members opposite and everything to do with the work of others.
Mr. Speaker, much credit was given to the Klondike Placer Miners Association. Interestingly enough, when we look at the budget we see the Canada Winter Games, we donít have the multiplex funding in there ó the additional funding. We donít know and the ministers wouldnít tell us in Question Period today how much more is going to be put in the budget for that. With respect to the placer miners, the government opposite has cut the funding. They still donít have the necessary regulatory framework in place. The government has cut the funding to that organization ó the important, non-government organization funding that is critical to these organizations in the Yukon.
Itís those details that are going to come to light over the coming days for the people of the Yukon.
The community distribution of the funding in the budget is going to be very interesting when the government finally provides it to the opposition, as has been requested. Unfortunately, weíre finding that all requests for information must be funneled through the Premierís office, and thereís some delay in providing members with that information.
This open and accountable government has not yet provided the community breakdown to members of the opposition. They have not yet provided what the books would look like under the old system. I ask again, in this most public of forums, that that information be provided and in a timely manner.
This budget is entirely about whatís right for the Yukon Party, not the whole context of the Yukon.
The agreements with First Nations, in particular the recent Kaska agreement ó historic agreement, Mr. Speaker ó where is this particular agreement leading us? Where is the full and thorough debate of that agreement in this Legislature?
Mr. Speaker, I was dismayed when I looked at this budget, about the short shrift given to the Department of Tourism. There isnít one new, innovative, thoughtful program ó not one program that is going to demonstrate for Yukoners a return on investment, no new stay another day, no new initiatives in that department. And the funding was always listed in the hundreds of thousands, not the millions we can apparently afford for a bridge. And the Department of Environment? Trapping has always been recognized as a net contributor to Yukonís GDP ó gross domestic product ó always been recognized. I believe the figure is in the $3-million to $4-million range, and the price of lynx fur is at a particular all-time high. Itís not even mentioned once in the two-hour-and-10-minute speech by the Premier ó not once. And there are individuals whom the Department of Environment is very interested in, and the Trappers Association itself is very interested in encouraging individuals in this particular field. Not once mentioned. Itís about the Yukon Party, not about the Yukon, and that is very unfortunate. What could have been done with these expenditures in excess of $700 million? The government could have and should have recognized the importance of non-government organizations to our territory in the health and social services field, in the environment, in industry.
There could have been increases to the agreements we have with those organizations to continue their very good work of building the future of the Yukon. No, those organizations were cut, their advice ignored, if it was even sought at all. There could have been ó there should have been ó recognition of the struggling working poor and those looking for work in our territory, because itís not only about the social assistance rates; itís about the rules.
Rather than $600,000 on the Childrenís Act review, why havenít we had a full and complete accounting of the implementation of the Anglin report and of the Child Welfare League of Canada reports? Why havenít they been fully implemented? There could have been a recognition of all of Yukon in this budget; there wasnít.
With the largesse of funding the government had to spend, there could have been projects that demonstrated a real desire to build the future of the Yukon; there wasnít.
It wonít come as any surprise to members opposite that I will not be supporting their particular budget. It lacks an understanding and appreciation of all of Yukon, and one of the most disturbing points I find also is the abandonment of the responsibility of the government in replacing that Correctional Institute. I know weíll be discussing it at great length. There are other issues as well, but that is one in particular.
As I said, the money could have and should have been spent in ways that would have been far more beneficial to all of Yukon, to give a recognition of the needs of all the Yukon and an understanding of our business community. Most importantly, it could have and it should have, but it does not, build for the future.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Cardiff: I am pleased to rise today in response to the budget speech that was given in the Legislature last week.
We witnessed several records set in this Legislature around the budget speech last week. We had the longest budget speech ever. We also had the largest ever budget delivered in this Legislature, and today we saw more records broken. We probably had the shortest response ever by the Member for Lake Laberge and he was outdone immediately by his colleague, the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin. So, all in all, a whole bunch of records were broken in the $705.7-million go-for-broke budget.
We also had one more ó Iím not sure if itís a record, but very possibly it is a record, to actually have a large budget like that increased the day after the budget. Itís my understanding that the budget is soon to grow by anywhere between $2 million and $4 million in a period of less than 24 hours after the budget speech was delivered. So, that could be another record that was set in this Legislature. So I am sure that the government will be telling the public all about all of the records that theyíve set.
While we are on that subject, the Member for Laberge also spoke a lot about consultation and cooperation. The Premier and his colleague, in this budget and in actions subsequent to the budget, have demonstrated a certain level of cooperation. I am sure they were consulted on Friday afternoon, and it sounds like they even cooperated and are going to comply or assist the City of Whitehorse in its request for addressing budget issues around the multiplex. What is unfortunate is that there is nothing in this budget that addresses the issues of consultation or cooperation in the riding held by the Deputy Premier. We have seen, and we continue to see in this budget, a lack of cooperation. It is a government that is not working with the community; it is not working with the council. Instead what we see is a heavy hand. We see not a lot of work or evidence in the budget to address the pressing needs in Dawson City.
I am looking forward to addressing a lot of these concerns when we do get into the details of the budget. I obviously cannot break the record set by the Member for Pelly-Nisutlin, and I am not sure I can get it all in as quickly as the Member for Laberge, but I truly would like to move along and get into the detail of the departments.
Thatís where weíre going to find out about the governmentís spending plans in more detail. Iíd like to congratulate ó I suppose thatís the word ó the Minister of Education for taking my advice, which was provided to him a little over a year ago, on March 5 last year, when I introduced a motion suggesting that the community training trust be increased, those funds be restored. The motion said to increase the budget to Yukon College by at least $1 million. Well, he went that far. Iíd like to thank him for that, and I look forward to discussing that more, as well, because my motion said "by at least $1 million". He came through with that amount of money. Thatís a good thing, but I donít see anything ó and Iím looking forward to having a discussion with him about what the long-term needs of the College and of post-secondary education are, and how this government intends to address those so that we donít end up in this catch-up situation that we ended up in, both last year and this year.
The money that the Minister of Education has provided for community training trusts and, in particular, the $500,000 for trades training, is welcome and is needed. But the problem is going to be finding journey-level tradespeople who are going to work with those tradespeople who will be coming up through the ranks. Itís great ó letís have more apprentices. But part of an apprenticeship is having a journey-level person to work under.
So letís compare last yearís budget with this yearís budget. The spending trajectory was out of control. There were no capital projects, even though I urged the Premier and the government ó many of us over here did ó to come through with some of those projects.
Mr. Speaker, the problem is that many of those journey-level people have left the Yukon. Theyíre in places like Fort McMurray; theyíre in places like Kelowna; theyíre in Iqaluit. There are journey-level Yukoners who have sought out employment in Russia, because there were no jobs here.
What is the government going to do to attract those people back here now that theyíve settled in other areas of the country, or are we going to bring new journey-level people in? Thatís good for local hire: first you drive them away, then you try to attract them back or, failing that, you have to bring people in from other areas of the country. Maybe the Premier is going to save money on the business incentive plan theyíre backstopping on the multiplex. We know thatís not true because itís a revenue neutral program.
Iím glad thereís support for some of those capital projects out there and that there will be jobs for construction workers this year, but a lot of those construction workers have undergone unnecessary hardships; theyíve been driven from the territory, and now the Premier is basically on his knees begging them to come back through the creation of some of these projects.
Well, I was talking about training and education and capital projects, as well. There appears to be a lack of direction, to some extent. We see money in the budget for planning schools in one community, but there is no long-term plan. And if there is a long-term plan for school replacement in the Yukon, I urge the Minister of Education or the Premier to share that with us, because there are needs in other communities. As was mentioned by the Member for Whitehorse Centre and mentioned by a constituent of mine as recently as last week, there are concerns about the replacement of F.H. Collins.
The Member for Lake Laberge also brought up the well-drilling program and clean water and how the government has worked so diligently on this. Well, I look forward to discussing the details of that program with the minister when we get into that detail, and I want to know how this program is going to address the concerns that I raised in this House last fall on behalf of about 600 water-delivery customers who live in the periphery of Whitehorse ó not just in my riding. They live in Laberge, they live in Southern Lakes. There are probably even some who live right here in downtown Whitehorse and in Copperbelt. They are all over.
These people were faced with a percentage increase in water-delivery costs that are more staggering than the current spending trajectory of the government. Itís more staggering than the budget we have before us. Some of these people were faced with water-delivery cost increases in the neighbourhood of anywhere between ó depending on where you live and the distance travelled ó 30 percent, up to 60 or 70 percent.
Water, as we all know, is something that we all need. Itís a part of our lives that is essential. Itís just like the air we breathe. We need the water. These people are being forced to pay exorbitant prices for the delivery of water that were basically the result of government regulations, with no plan to address those increased costs or the hardships that would be placed on families or people who are on fixed incomes, as well.
This is a great concern in my riding and Iíve already had calls from people about the well-drilling program and what the details of it are. Iíve directed them to contact the ministerís department to get those details.
We will find out more about that in the days to come as we explore the details of the budget.
Other concerns from my constituency about this budget are going to be the level of expenditure for residential land development. We talked about this extensively last spring. There has been much correspondence and there have been some public meetings, but it appears to me that there is money in this budget for the Whitehorse Copper land development in spite of the fact that the residents of Mount Lorne and Copperbelt who live in the area south of Whitehorse have spent countless hours bringing their concerns to the attention of this government. It appears that they have been ignored. They feel like they have not been listened to, and yet it appears in here that there is money to proceed with the development and totally ignore the concerns about the environment, the water quality, the wildlife or highway safety. But no, we carry on. We have money for lots of things in this budget. I am sure that there are good initiatives.
Another one that has two sides to it, I suppose, is the increase in the hourly rate for volunteer firefighters. That is a good thing.
What I donít see in this budget, or I canít identify in the budget ó it wasnít mentioned ó are the wages of the people who fight forest fires. This was brought up in the Legislature previously as well, and Iíd be interested to find out more ó to find out if there is money for forest fires. But, again, it appears to me that weíre ignoring some of the people who put their lives at risk, and we donít pay them anywhere near what they deserve.
The increase ó actually, I donít know if itís an increase. But I believe the money for FireSmart is well spent, and it will contribute to the safety of our communities, and it really will provide jobs for Yukoners. But again, there are concerns about FireSmart and how itís delivered in communities. Those issues need to be addressed.
So Iím hoping that the Minister of Community Services, when it comes time to discuss FireSmart in the budget, will be prepared to address some of the concerns around responsibility and liability issues with regard to FireSmart and how communities are involved in that.
There are two and a half hours of verbatim, or verbiage, or whatever you want to call it, that we could go through, probably word by word, but then Iíd have to talk longer than the Premier did.
I think Iím going to leave it at that and will look forward to debating the details in general debate.
Hon. Mr. Jenkins: I rise in support of this budget. In my opinion and the opinion of my caucus colleagues, this is probably one of the best budgets ever put forth, if not the best budget, in the history of the Yukon Territory.
This budget not only does what we set out to do in our campaign platform of restoring investor confidence, revitalizing the Yukon economy, putting Yukoners back to work, but it also addresses the social agenda, and it addresses that area very well.
Mr. Speaker, one only has to look at the $543.1 million in operation and maintenance expenditures and the capital budget of $162.6 million to see how determined our government is to address the needs of Yukoners.
We committed to revamping the Yukon economy, and we set out to utilize government budgets and their policies to do just that. We started with some of the tools of government that, under a previous administration, had been wiped off the face of the Yukon, such as the Department of Economic Development, such as a stand-alone Department of Tourism and Culture. We have some of the best officials. All that is needed is the budget envelope and sound policies to put them to work. And there seems to be a new sense of enthusiasm here in the Yukon, save and except, of course, for the opposition ranks. But I guess the way theyíre summarizing this budget, I guess itís never let the facts stand in the way.
This new direction that our government is undertaking for revitalizing the economy is being done in conjunction with our First Nation partners throughout the Yukon Territory. Mr. Speaker, when we look at some of the initiatives that have begun with our First Nations, engaging them as full economic partners, it shows our commitment to ensure the future ó the future not just for the Yukoners here now but also for the Yukoners of tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, we just have to look at mining, the potential there, the investor confidence now that is coming back. Exploration is virtually doubling and will probably peak out ahead of over $30 million this year, back from a dismal, dismal amount just a few short years ago under previous administrations ó in fact, two previous administrations that scared everyone away from the Yukon.
This year, our visitor industry is showing tremendous growth. Bookings are up. Yes, we have been saddled with the events of 9/11, but we are a destination and a destination of choice. Our close association with Alaska will serve to benefit us.
We look at oil and gas and the potential in southeast Yukon. We only have one way to go, and that is to get in and develop these industries in an economically sound way, which we are capable of doing and which we will ensure is done. The potential of the oil and gas industry, not only in southeast Yukon but up north in our northern regions, is tremendous. In the northern regions, it will probably be stranded for awhile, stranded oil and gas, but coming into focus are some other great initiatives ó pipelines.
Let us move on to another very strong focal point, which used to be one of the mainstays of our economy, one of the mainstays of the community of Watson Lake, our forestry industry. With our partnership arrangements, that industry should see a rebirth. Overall, Mr. Speaker, I will predict that this summer the biggest complaint we will be hearing is a shortage of skilled workers and individuals who can be employed. I predict that. That is going to occur as a result of this budget, which is meant to ó and will ó stimulate our economy, and as a result of initiatives undertaken by our government in a multitude of areas.
One by one, we as a government are addressing the areas of economic development.
We can go through the IT industry, the retail-wholesale trade. We can go through the potential for a railroad coming into place through the Yukon. We can plan for the future. We have that opportunity now. All of these are very positive, forward-thinking initiatives. At the same time, our government is recognizing the need for additional funding in our educational system. We are putting money into Yukon College. What no one has identified is that, on a student basis, we have one of the best teacher/student ratios of any place in Canada and we spend the most money per student on our educational system. Thatís not to say that there isnít room for improvement, but overall, that is the current situation.
Our government has also identified the planning stage and funds for the replacement of the school in Carmacks. It used to be said that one looked at the ridings as to who was the MLA for that area and identified with the need to support along party lines. But I believe our governmentís commitment is clearly evident with the initiatives we are moving forward in the community of Old Crow, because there are demonstrated needs there and our government is committed to meeting demonstrated needs.
The same goes for Carmacks, and the same holds true for a lot of other initiatives throughout the Yukon Territory, like the examination of the multi-level care facilities for seniors in Haines Junction and Teslin. In fact, that was a question in Question Period today from the Member for Kluane.
When we stand back and look at this budget, this budget is a very positive means of seeing us move forward in the Yukon.
I listened to what the official opposition and the third party had to say, and I did find a few words of praise, but the one area I was extremely concerned about was the leader of the third partyís praise for our Member of Parliament in Ottawa. Now, Mr. Bagnell is an extremely hard-working individual on the part of the Yukon, but if we look at what our government went through to create the budget surplus that we currently have, the credit has to be given primarily to the hard-working officials within the Department of Finance, the statistics branch and our Ottawa office. These officials went the extra mile, and itís due to their tremendous efforts that the bulk of this surplus was created.
Letís also give credit where credit is due, and thatís to our Premier. Premier Fentie went the extra mile, along with his colleagues from the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, to make representation to the Prime Minister of Canada on the need for block funding for health care. $60 million flows to the three northern territories, of which $20 million comes to the Yukon over three years. That was a tremendous effort that was organized by our Premier in conjunction with his colleagues from Nunavut and N.W.T. The first year in office we took the time to examine how we, as a government, would assemble the financial wherewithal to move the Yukon ahead. Yes, it entailed collapsing some of the Liberal funds that were set up to slosh away money that would prove no benefit to Yukon. They were brought back into the existing budget envelope. When we added it all up and identified the need that the Auditor General placed on Yukon to go to full accrual accounting, it made an abundant amount of sense to move forward on the initiatives that we have before the House here today. Now, Mr. Speaker, Iím very proud to be a part of that team that has put together this budget and also the first budget that we brought forward before this House.
Mr. Speaker, it must be said that after the short time we were in office our first budget at least bore the names of the ministers and the departments, and we were associated with that budget ó unlike the previous government here in the Yukon. We were proud to put our name on the document.
Mr. Speaker, this budget here today is a go-forward budget. It will probably set the trend for the next decade of what is going to occur in the Yukon. When you couple that to our five-year capital planning, it will go into our next mandate and beyond, Mr. Speaker.
I also have to recognize the tremendous effort that the Department of Health and Social Services has gone forward with in many, many areas. We can look at one of the problematic areas that was the subject of great debate in this Legislature, and that was our children in care and how we were treating them. Our government has identified the need for a new group home, which is contained in the capital budget, as well as segregating sexes and ages in our various group homes, and this has all been undertaken and is underway. That is not to say that everything is perfect and everything is working 100 percent; there is always room for improvement. We are always examining, and will continue to do so, ways in which we can enhance the lives of the people in our care because a government is not the best of parents. The family unit is most important; it is very critical to any society, but in many cases, when it breaks down we are required by law to intervene, and the department does so.
Moving forward, we have other initiatives ó when we look at the health care situation and what we have done as a department. One of the small but significant areas is our involvement with the Womenís Directorate and the Victoria Faulkner Womenís Centre to bring into place the reconstruction of an apartment that moms from rural Yukon expecting the arrival of a newborn can access and utilize.
There are other service clubs that were involved in this great initiative, Mr. Speaker, but this bodes well for a collective approach to this issue and Iím very pleased to see this come to fruition.
Mr. Speaker, we looked at the volunteer ambulance individuals and weíve addressed that need ó the first time it has been done since, I believe, 1974, or it might have been 1973 ó and weíve increased the honoraria in recognition of the devotion and dedication our rural volunteers display.
We have also established a baseline for contributions in subsequent years for clothing and clothing allowances after we bring these individuals up to the basic level of ó itís kind of a flashy set of coveralls, Mr. Speaker, and the coats. The coveralls themselves are about $250 a set, and the coat is of an equal amount. Weíre talking a significant infusion of capital and ongoing O&M here.
As well, our supervisors throughout the Yukon will have their monthly standby or stipend increased by $100 per month ó and then training.
Mr. Speaker, these are just but some of the initiatives we have addressed and we will continue on an ongoing basis. And we have triggers in our arrangements that will call for a review every three years of the honoraria and the policies we have surrounding our volunteers so they wonít be left standing aside, as they have been for quite a number of years, with no increase in their honoraria.
Then, during Question Period today, about the only effort that the opposition could put forward is that the two ambulances purchased by the government were sole-sourced. The exercise is to purchase the ambulances and get them here. The question should have been: when was the last new ambulance purchased for the Yukon? The member opposite might want to go back and determine when that was. These initiatives are very positive undertakings by our government.
One of the other very important announcements was the Yukon child benefit. It is being increased from $25 per month to $37.50. The annual benefit will be indexed upwards to $450 per child per year. Also, the current threshold of $16,700 will be increased to $25,000 for families. So we recognize the need for low-income families to have some added benefits. This is just but one of the areas that we as a government have addressed.
One of the pieces of legislation that our department is working on in conjunction with the First Nations is a new Childrenís Act. It took quite an initiative to move this project forward with our First Nation partners. There are quarterly meetings that I attend just to keep track of the project and see how itís moving forward.
At the end of the period of time, we are very hopeful of having a piece of legislation that, should a self-governing First Nation so wish, and they wish to draw down the powers under their final agreement ó their self-government agreement ó they can do so and take this piece of legislation as a template for their government to oversee their involvement and their children in care.
This is hopefully going to be one of the pieces of legislation that we can see through this House. In about a year and a half from now, I am very hopeful that the good work of all the people involved will be completed by that time and we will have that for the consideration of this Legislature.
I could go on probably for the rest of the day as to the tremendous efforts that the Department of Highways and Public Works have gone to for highway construction projects, what the Department of Justice is doing, what the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources is doing, what the Department of Environment is doing but, at the end, I am sure there is going to be prolonged and I am sure sometimes bitter debate, given the sentiments I feel coming across the floor of this Legislature. I am somewhat disappointed because there are many parts of this budget that will enhance not just some people in the Yukon but virtually all people in the Yukon, and many of those people will be in ridings that elected members opposite us.
What we can see, though, is that at the end of the day, the official opposition and everyone on the side opposite will vote against this budget, Mr. Speaker ó some with reservations, Iím sure, because they recognize that there are some positive initiatives in this budget.
Mr. Speaker, we can look at the long-term plans of our government that clearly identify where weíre heading and the projects that we have on the drawing board today, and one by one, Mr. Speaker, they will come to fruition. We are very, very determined to meet the needs of Yukon, to stimulate the economy, to get it back on a proper road, so that there are opportunities here not just for you and me but for our children and for a lot of people who will eventually hope to make the Yukon their home. That is the way an economy is developed ó with strong direction from a government ó and thatís the way they move forward. That strong direction and good message is being provided by our government in virtually every area on this budget platform, Mr. Speaker. It is full of optimism. There is a new sense of optimism ó I even recognize it in the facial expressions of the Member for Kluane, who will probably have a very difficult time voting against it, but he probably will.
Mr. Speaker, I commend this budget to this Legislature, and I encourage all members to support it, and thereís a likelihood that it might happen.
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: I rise today to also speak in favour of the budget and some of the most amazing things that are in it. Itís awash with good news, to steal a phrase from the opposition. One of the things we certainly learned going door to door last year, or a year and a half ago, is that we got the chance to find out which issues were very much on the minds of Yukoners. A number of things certainly came about in Porter Creek North, as in most other ridings.
One of the things we learned about very quickly, of course, was jobs, the economy, getting the economy going ó given the fact that when we took office, we really didnít have a lot of money to work with. That was very obvious from day one. But given what we had to work with, and what we could come up with, practising good fiscal management, and treating the government very much as a business in order to accomplish certain things ó I travel around now and find that people have quite a different attitude. People are smiling.
Iíve gone to buy a major appliance, and I was told that the store I was dealing with had brought in 45 units and they were sold in three days. That doesnít sound like a terrible economy to me. I go to a variety of businesses and find that most of them are recruiting employees. Theyíre having a difficult time finding employees, and thatís going to be a problem. But they are recruiting employees.
It doesnít sound like a horrible economy to me.
I opened the paper one night and there were five pages of help-wanted ads. Some were low, entry-level, but many of them werenít. Many of them were very good, high-paying jobs ó very specialized jobs. It didnít really sound like a horrible economy to me.
I just have a difficult time understanding ó outside of certain specialities in certain areas. Yes, we are recruiting new doctors. We are going to have to start recruiting and training very quickly for skilled trades, with all of the work that is going on. I look at statistics coming out every month, with building permits up. Thatís strange, if the economy is that bad.
There are areas to work on, surely, Mr. Speaker, but in general I have a hard time understanding what the problem really is here.
We heard a number of other things at the doors. We heard that childcare was important ó daycare. This government has already addressed child care and daycare and it has already identified money for that. We have identified that families earning up to $25,000 per annum will receive tax benefits up from the current threshold of $16,700. Thatís a good thing. More families with family earnings greater than $25,000 will be now eligible for a Yukon child benefit. This is something I heard at the door. This is something that we have been able to do that with this budget.
This increase will also, of course, benefit the many single parents and the low-income families on social assistance. Again, I am confused. I hear members opposite talking about no increase in social assistance and yet I seem to have no trouble finding that in the budget. Maybe we are looking on different pages, but it certainly is there to me.
We have one of the finest health care systems in Canada in the Yukon, as well as child care: $3.1 million for hospital operation and maintenance; $60,000 for a new cardiac stress testing program. Yukoners take health care very seriously. Outside of the budget, we have had fundraising efforts in specific areas, as hospitals do all over the world. I was very pleased to see us exceed that. In terms of drug programs, and hopefully the good drugs, there is $1.9 million. This is a problem that health care is seeing right now. We have a wider range and more expensive drugs every day to treat disease. Companies, pharmaceutical firms and research facilities have to generate the income to accommodate this research; therefore, the drugs are more expensive. This gets to be quite the situation.
There is $320,000 for the fetal alcohol syndrome initiative. Meconium testing ó we will be one of the first jurisdictions in Canada to get involved in this to identify these children earlier; much more continued support for families with autistic children; the Child Development Center; the internal medicine specialist that has been added ó I look at all of these things.
I enjoy dealing with facts. I enjoy dealing and making decisions with data, unlike some members of the House. When people throw statistics at me, I sometimes like to check that. I got into a debate one day about someone who was very concerned about the poor computer facilities in our schools, and I found that in Yukon we have a computer for every four students and in most other jurisdictions in Canada there is one for every 10. We spend more money per student in the Yukon than any other jurisdiction in Canada. We have one of the lowest student/teacher ratios.
We have one of the finest educational programs. This was brought very dramatically home to me in January when I was travelling to the Ontario Veterinary College to talk about some of the programs we hope to institute with the wildlife preserve. I stopped for breakfast and I happened to have a shirt on that said "Yukon". As I was eating breakfast, the waitress came over quite excited and asked, "Are you from the Yukon?" I said, "Yes". We got talking and it would appear that members of her family had recently moved to Whitehorse.
I was curious in the middle of Ontario. Iím expecting the magic, the mystery and all of the tourism things. Iím expecting the way of life, to a degree. Iím expecting the geography. What I got, Mr. Speaker, was rather humorous. They have a child with some disabilities; they did extensive research throughout Canada and found that, by far, the best quality of life, the best educational system, the best health care for their child was the Yukon. Thatís the reputation that we have.
So I have confusion when the opposition gets up and says this is inadequate. Can we do better? Probably. But to get up and continually say that one of the best in Canada and one of the best in the world is inadequate ó I have a problem with that. It just doesnít make a lot of sense.
One of the things that has really changed the whole thing ó and I have to go back to what our House leader just mentioned: the actions of our Premier in Ottawa, the actions of trying to convince our federal government, which has looked at funding health care on a per capita basis. When you put that on a per capita basis, it simply does not work in this territory. A $300 ambulance ride in downtown Vancouver becomes a $30,000 ambulance ride in Old Crow ó worse in some of the higher Arctic.
It was through his good efforts and the efforts of the other premiers of the northern territories that we were able to identify $20 million over three years. Iím confused when I hear the leader of the last party going on about how our Liberal MP got us all of the money. I find that rather insulting, Mr. Speaker, when it was our own Finance department officials, our own statistics department, our director of statistics ó it was our own officials working in Ottawa on behalf of the territorial government. I think they had something to do with it.
I donít really remember our MP getting too awfully involved in that. And that brought in over $40 million. It completely changed the financial picture for us. It was an incredible thing. It is even more incredible, Mr. Speaker, when the Liberals, over many, many years ó the federal Liberals ó have driven our health care budget into the ground. One estimate is almost $25 billion over many years that has been gradually siphoned out of the health care system so that the provinces and the territories have to respond and increase our amount. What was supposed to be a 50:50 federal/territorial/provincial split, the feds now have a 16-percent contribution to that. You continually siphon that amount of money away, continually put the territories and the provinces into a bad situation, continually force them to try to pick up the slack, and then turn around at the last minute and throw a few pennies at us and say that, "Boy, isnít this good. Look what our Member of Parliament did."
Iím confused, Mr. Speaker. Maybe taking away the money in the first place might have been a better idea. We would have more money over those years to put into other initiatives, into education and into childhood development and all the rest of the things there that are going on and on. I just donít see the logic in that, or, to quote one of the opposition members, I just donít get it.
When you start looking at some of the other things in this budget ó Health and Social Services, $1.9 million in operating and maintenance and $375,000 in capital in the 2004-05 on primary health care. These are additions. In looking at the reforms, there are hopefully more negotiations that we can do with the federal government. Our government will be using its approximately $1.8-million share of that $2-billion federal funding commitment ó but on a per capita basis, we get $1.8 million ó to support the opening of an additional seven beds at Macaulay Lodge and 12 new beds at Copper Ridge Place.
This is good news, Mr. Speaker. These are things that we need up here. People are staying here; people are retiring here. These are definitely things that we need.
Some Hon. Member: (Inaudible)
Hon. Mr. Kenyon: The member opposite is quite right. They will probably vote against it anyway, so what the heck.
One of the things that we also heard at the door a great deal was about education. We heard a lot about the College. The Member for Mount Lorne has spoken eloquently about the need for additional funding for Yukon College. I think itís a moot point whether he stimulated that or whether we were already thinking about it ó which is closer to the reality. But, anyway, there is $1 million for Yukon College. We will be creating a promotional campaign to provide more information on trades and technology career options to students and parents. The government believes that we need to place as much emphasis on the importance of trades and technology as we do on academic university degrees.
Yukon College is uniquely positioned to look after this. Do we need a university here? Thatís a question that we should ask and we should look at. But, what differentiates a university from a college? It is extensive research individuals who simply teach a few courses to justify that teaching. There is so much more going on in a university that I think we can accomplish what we have to with a college and put more emphasis on trades and technology. They are rewarding. They are well paid. They are in high demand across North America and they will be in extremely high demand here in the next few years.
Again, Mr. Speaker, we have a depressed economy and yet I see construction everywhere. I talk to real estate agents who could sell twice the number of homes if they could get the listings. Our population is suddenly going up. Again, I donít get it. Why is this such a depressed economy if this always happens?
I have to condition myself. The leader of the official opposition says that Iím always confused, and I am. I sit here and I listen to what he says all of the time, and I just donít get it. I just donít see what heís arguing, and I donít see why heís likely going to vote against all of these good things. Thatís a real concern to me.
The technology initiatives ó another $85,000 thrown into that. $500,000 of $1.5 million in community training funds will be directed toward pre-employment and trades training. Many of the trades have headed south. Letís get them back here. Letís train more because simply getting back what we lost is not going to be adequate.
Weíll also be seeking legislative approval for a $1-million increase in the base grant. Thatís up to the College to determine how itís going to be used. That hasnít been done in decades. Governments of every stripe have ignored that, and if this was such an incredibly important thing to do, why didnít the NDP do it, either, when they had the ability? I donít get that, either.
In 2004-05, funding for the College will total $14.4 million. That will include a bachelor of social work and the Yukon native education teacher program, or YNTEP. Seat purchases in the College will add another $580,000. I think, when you look at all of these increases in funding ó we heard at the door that Yukoners wanted to increase our commitment to education, and we have certainly done that. The Yukon native education teacher program will be opened to offer six seats to non-native applicants. We pay for them, anyway, so it makes sense to simply utilize those seats. It makes sense to make that kind of First Nations education available to a wider base so that they can go back and use this information in their classrooms.
We wish to reassure the First Nations, of course, that the integrity of YNTEP will be maintained. It is important that that be kept there ó but First Nations will always have the priority ó but to have that continually going through and paying for seats that are empty makes little sense. Again, it does not cost us any more money. The contract with the University of Regina pays for 15 program spaces each year, and in most years less than 10 seats are occupied. We are paying for empty seats. It makes no sense whatsoever.
Since that program began in 1989, the number of First Nation teachers and instructional staff in Yukon schools has grown to 12 percent of the workplace; it has been a very effective program and it does provide us with an opportunity to train more teachers with the knowledge of First Nations history, culture and languages.
In 2004-05, another program that our Department of Education got into was the STEP, the student training and employment program. These are opportunities within government for post-secondary students to gain career experience. It requires that the students be utilized within their field of study, and it is split between the private and public sectors, so private sector employees have an ability to apply for that. It must last at least 12 weeks and must pay a minimum of $11.50 ó the government pays $11.50 ó and some employers, certainly any of the private employers, have the ability to pay more if they wish. We have added $177,000 to this program on top of what would normally be done. This will add new positions that will bring a wider range of students into the program and it will accommodate more and more of our own post-secondary students with jobs for money and for experience, and keep them in the Yukon ó try to recruit them to stay here.
Adult literacy, another problem that has always been here ó we have added another $100,000 to the base funding for adult literacy ó big, big problem ó and I think a good start at addressing it.
In December of 2003, our government announced a plan to save the Yukon Game Farm, and Iíd like to talk about that for a few moments, Mr. Speaker. The Nowlans, who established that facility back in the mid-1960s, had assembled the land and assembled the animals over time and put together what is generally accepted as a worldwide treasure. Facilities all over the world have spent anywhere from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars to create an atmosphere and environment that we have already sitting there and have had all along. One of the problems, of course, with that facility has been a contract, a private contract to bring tourists through, and it was done in such a way that many Yukoners havenít had a chance to really see that facility and to appreciate what is there. One thing that I have learned very dramatically in going around to First Nations and through the communities is that many of its most vocal critics, when you get them talking, actually havenít seen it, and most of the ones that have gone through it have been quite pleasantly surprised. It will open officially to the public, I believe, on June 13. We already have the animals in place. The animals were purchased in December and have been owned publicly, by the government, by all Yukoners, since December.
Mr. Speaker, somewhere in the next few days ó the lawyers are working on the final arrangements now ó that facility will be completely government owned and run. We are in the process of contracting and setting up a private board of directors of a private non-profit society. That non-profit society will manage the facility from day to day, and the government will step back at that point and let the society run it.
By doing that we fulfill the last few things with the Fish and Wildlife Management Board.
Now, some members of the media and some members of the opposition would have you think that this is a relationship that is horrible and there is no cooperation. The reality is that we only have three outstanding recommendations of the Fish and Wildlife Management Board and we hope to have those looked after in the coming weeks. At that point, we will be in complete agreement.
One thing that a lot of Yukoners have forgotten ó and certainly the opposition has forgotten ó is that First Nation people have a wide range of rights ó huge. But there is one right that they clearly do not have. That is they do not have the right to give up those rights. Consequently, in formation under the Umbrella Final Agreement, the creation of renewable resource councils and the Fish and Wildlife Management Board creates a marvellous group of people with appointments from both sides to advise, counsel, to gather public information. The decisions at the end of the day remain between the Yukon territorial government and the First Nation governments involved.
The potential for this reserve to become a world-class conservation centre is staggering. It never ceases to amaze me. I spent a little bit of time at the Toronto zoo and everyone there knew of this facility. They knew exactly where it was and exactly what it looked like, and interestingly enough, had animals from there.
One of the things that we will be doing ó and we are certainly acting now as if it was already done ó is expecting this board of directors to become fully accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria ó CAZPA for short ó affiliated with the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquaria.
One of the things in becoming accredited with this group is meeting all of their criteria. It also means that we donít have to worry about where these animals are going. They will only go to another accredited facility. No accredited facility may put these into the stream where they might be utilized by a hunt farm.
Once an animal leaves the territory, we donít have any control over it. Once it goes only to a CAZPA accredited facility, we retain every bit of control over it. Each one is micro-chipped. Each one is entered into ISIS, the International Species Identification System. This is internationally maintained, so that any of these animals can be traced to any facility at any time for its final disposition. This gives us the ability to keep that completely tied up. It changes the whole game plan of what weíve been trying to do.
Mr. Speaker, Iíd certainly like to take this opportunity to commend a number of officials within the Department of Environment who have worked very hard and long hours on this project. Our assistant deputy minister, director of Finance, and our deputy minister have spent many nights and weekends ó just an incredible effort into this whole thing. And they continue to work on it, as they put this project together.
It will take a couple of months to get that non-profit organization established, and this is what weíre working on right now. Once theyíre established, they will be licensed as a charitable organization, which will open up other funding opportunities. Our governmentís decision at the time was to give it a period of no less than four years in order to prove its worth and to prove that itís not a drain on the taxpayer.
At that point, if it is, we have to make other decisions but, within that time frame, we expect that within two years we will see the whole being self-sufficient, running on its own.
Another example of some of the important things that weíve been doing within the Department of Environment is that we are actively involved in trying to save the Chisana caribou herd. Now this is a very distinct herd that crosses the border between Alaska and the Yukon, so it adds a little bit of challenge to the whole thing, but the herd has dropped from almost 1,800 to 300, and some of the females within that herd are getting rather elderly. So the ability for this herd to rebound is putting us in a bad situation.
People within our department had the ability, or discovered the ability, to bring these animals in and put them into an enclosure temporarily, identify the pregnant cows, bring them in and put them into an area where they are free of predators, allow them to calf, allow the calves to get some strength and some abilities to fend off the predators, and then release them at that point.
It worked; it worked dramatically, and the statistics have shown that it was so far ahead of the ones we watched in the wild that weíre doing it again. So this year we have identified additional money to put into this. $246,000 is the projected total cost of the project. The Department of Environment has identified $146,000 of that and the Canadian Wildlife Service a further $60,000, and the White River First Nation has been a very welcome participant of this group with another $40,000.
So that project will continue, and we have been able to rebound from the theft of a large amount of our equipment with, again, a lot of creativity and a lot of good work on behalf of our staff.
I am also very pleased to note that our government is providing $100,000 for the design phase of the Tombstone Interpretive Centre, which will be built at kilometre 71 of the Dempster Highway. This has been something that successive governments have had on the books and have successfully every year let fall off the table. We are not prepared to let that go any further, so we will be putting the $100,000 in this year. It will be phased over three years, so $580,000 will be provided in 2005-06 for construction, and then another $200,000 will be provided in 2006-07 for staff accommodation. We already have some staff accommodation, again, through some rather good, creative work of people from our parks department and with the kind assistance of the Minister of Highways and Public Works donating a dead ATCO. It has worked out actually rather well for us. The Tombstone Interpretive Centre will be one of the premiere park and tourism facilities in the Yukon. We have always wanted it to be that way and, again, it has just fallen off the table with so many successive governments.
We have also identified a further $10,000 to upgrade the Whitehorse fish ladder viewing facility. 30,000 residents and tourists visit this annually, so it is important that we show this as the premiere tourism location it is.
Speaker: Order please.
The time being 6:00 p.m., the House now stands adjourned until 1:00 p.m. tomorrow.
Debate on second reading of Bill No. 10 accordingly adjourned
The House adjourned at 6:00 p.m.